Betsy Devine: Funny ha-ha and/or funny peculiar

Making trouble today for a better tomorrow…

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Entries from June 2007

All the world’s a perch

June 29th, 2007 · Comments Off on All the world’s a perch

All the world’s a perch

Originally uploaded by carpe icthus

A flock of ungendered sparrows–ungendered to me, that is–swooped into my back yard this evening. One female cardinal, already taking a bath, seemed content with their company.

Male and female cardinals look to an untutored eye like two different species–he metrosexual red, she muted soft buff colors with just that subtle hint on her beak of scarlet. Her bright-red lipstick, my mother used to call it.

Sparrows have gender-signs their mating partners decode–but they don’t broadcast their mating preferences out to the parts of the universe they don’t want to mate with. Energy that could have gone into scarlet feathers or lipstick is leftover for sparrows to do other stuff they care about–seed-crushing muscle maybe, or louder cheep-cheepers.

Now my personal dress-style is much more like Mrs. Cardinal’s than like Ms. Sparrow’s–but one of the things I’ve loved about the Web is that it’s let me try on gender-neutral identities. In places like Slashdot or an IRC chatroom, a woman can jump into the conversation using some “nickname” that doesn’t yell “Hey, I’m a female!”

I’m told that Jane Austen never wrote a scene where men were talking together without any women–because she herself could never witness such happenings. If she could have hung out in IRC, posting as “darcy,” just think how much more fun and trouble she could have created.

Tags: language · Reputation systems · Science · writing

Clam chowder (aka chowda) fest this weekend!

June 28th, 2007 · Comments Off on Clam chowder (aka chowda) fest this weekend!

Boston Clam Chowder

Originally uploaded by japan-vincent

On July 1, 2007, 11,000 enthusiastic chowderheads will pay $10 a pop to sample contestants for New England’s signature dish–that hot, milky, salty, potato-ful, tomato-free, and clammy paradise known as New England clam chowder.

That and more will be going on in celebration of Fourth of July over at the big Boston Harborfest event.

I am delighted to learn that one earlier chowderfest winner is named Devine! Clam chowder recipes have gone through a big shift in the fifty-plus years I’ve been enjoying them–most notably starting in ’70s California when chefs began to add more and more thickening to the earlier just-milk-with-clam-juice-and-a-wee-tad-of-bacon broth.

My unprejudiced blogger verdict is that the clam chowders served at Legal Seafood and Jasper’s Summer Shack are way over-rated. The most delicious clam chowder in Boston, better than either of those and also much less expensive, is served at the little fast food outlets called Boston Chowda. There’s one inside “the Garage” at Harvard Square, another at Fanueil Hall.

If you go to Jasper’s or Legal, get just about anything except the clam chowder–and the chowder’s not bad, it’s just less good than Chowda’s. Both have great lobster rolls, and Jasper’s has awesome Rhode Island calamari.

One more local Boston-Cambridge-seafood-touristy note about Legal Seafood–their chain is so popular that most locations have people waiting for tables as soon as it’s mealtime. The Legal Seafood in Harvard Square (on the plaza with the Charles Hotel) is a welcome exception to this annoying rule–you can almost always get seated right away.

Hmmm, for some reason, I’m starting to feel very hungry!

Tags: Boston · Cambridge · Travel · Wide wonderful world

Adventurers and advertisements

June 27th, 2007 · 1 Comment

Jim Clash posted an interview with Frank to his charming online “Adventurers” TV series at

Jim Clash’s work deserves much wider notice for his quirky and quick-witted and very short incursions into the lives of interesting folks–e.g. Roger Bannister, Joe Frasier, Buzz Aldrin, and my own adventurous husband Frank Wilczek.

It’s a shame that the Forbes “video network” seems maniacally determined to tax your patience and interest to the limit before letting you access the content you came to see. Blaring and obnoxious video ads just don’t quit! Have an ad for Microsoft–now have an ad for–now have another ad for Microsoft.

Do you need to search for the content using Forbes’s search box? New search results page–new ad for Microsoft! Click through from search result to content–sorry, first you have to watch another long pre-ad for some extraneous Forbes content before the video you want to see.

Still, none of this slogging should overtax the courage of a real Adventurer!

Tags: Frank Wilczek

Ronni wants your stories and so do I!

June 25th, 2007 · Comments Off on Ronni wants your stories and so do I!

My great-grandfather is smiling here because Ronni Bennett posted his story today over at her Elder Storytelling Place. Well, maybe he’s smiling also partly because he was a sweet good-humored man, somebody I would never have had a chance to know if his “blog” hadn’t been preserved in my dad’s Baby Book.

I’ve been enjoying reading other people’s stories there–for example, Frank Paynter’s childhood coverup–but it turns out to be even more fun to see my story there, because Ronni’s story-reading community leaves so many comments and such warm-hearted ones.

Stories already published in your blog are fine–help keep this site going!

Tags: Blog to Book · Metablogging · My Back Pages · Wide wonderful world

Convalescent bichon is to Betsy as….

June 25th, 2007 · Comments Off on Convalescent bichon is to Betsy as….

Convalescent bichon

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

A. Therapy dog is to mopey doped-up patient.
B. Cute sailor dog look is to my glamorous Hollywood pajama look.
C. Patient with lots more to complain about but still wearing happy face is to patient with much less to complain about who is actually also feeling pretty good.
D. All of the above.

My little sister’s beautiful white dog had a whole buncha little lumpy things removed, so that she (the dog, not my glamorous sis) now wears a coverup on lots of bits she shouldn’t be biting. I have just a few stiches under my chin and thereabouts, but Marie and Bill and Dreama the Wonder Dog droved down to Cambridge to help Frank babysit me anyway.

I so much appreciate it. They’re so darn nice. And I still keep falling asleep. And I feel so lucky. Good night, I’ll be back to blogging at you soon.

Tags: Wide wonderful world

Stepping away from the keyboard….

June 21st, 2007 · Comments Off on Stepping away from the keyboard….

…because I’m off to a few days of no web access.

I’ll miss you, all my internet companions! Keep on blogging and Twittering and Wikipedianizing on my behalf until I get back.

xxxx to all of you guys,

Tags: Metablogging · Wide wonderful world

Why is quantum mechanics so beautiful? And …

June 19th, 2007 · Comments Off on Why is quantum mechanics so beautiful? And …

"Wait–I see a square foot of empty space in the corner!"

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

…who are all these folks in my living room?

These two questions are strangely connected because our living room is getting each moment more crowded by crew members from the PBS TV show Closer to Truth, visible online via The Research Channel.

Having now Flickred some photos of them, I’m headed back downstairs to enjoy all the chaos, including free brownies!

Tags: Frank Wilczek · Wide wonderful world

Pearls of PR-speak: When bigshots make big mistakes

June 19th, 2007 · 1 Comment

Bad news about the Smithsonian’s path under now-ex-director Lawrence Small has been leaking out for years–as early as 2001, scientists started raising red flags about his leadership. In 2005, Congressional audit deplored the “underfinancing” of museum upkeep. In 2006, a sweet but secret 30-year pact signed with Showtime. But the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents, which doesn’t seem to read the New York Times, had no clue that their oversight of Lawrence Small should include some actual–what’s that thing called again?–oversight.

Which brings us to this morning’s NY Times story and the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents “taking responsibility” for failing to keep on eye on Lawrence Small. The Board’s response is such a gem of PR-speak it bears reprinting:

“It’s never easy to do this kind of self examination, and we wish we’d been doing it on an ongoing basis.”

Step one: We are already suffering, please don’t be mean to us.

“But it is what it is,” she added. “Certainly the importance of assuring the public trust — and the Congressional trust — is why we moved at such a pace. We met every week since Larry’s resignation to try to make sure we brought forward this set of recommendations so that we can turn the page.”

Step two: Talk about what we did right–even if what we did right was mainly cooperating when forced to take a look at what we did wrong. Step three: Describe future goals with metaphors that imply your forgetting our misdeeds is a necessary prelude to making things better.

Ms. Stonesifer said the governance committee’s report was aimed at ensuring accountability. “There is a need for ethics and transparency in everything we do,” she said.

Step four: Talk about “accountability” as something that will happen in the future and to people other than the current wrongdoers. Step five: Give lip-service to ethics and transparency and any other virtues that sound good.

“Yes, we had a problem,” she added. “The Regents accept responsibility, and we’re ready to move forward.”

They accept responsibility! Not guilty, your Honor! Let’s give that brave, honest, already-suffering Smithsonian Board of Regents a hearty handclasp of thanks and “move forward” and “turn a page.”

Time for all us taxpayers to stop being mean to these so-sorry millionaires and reach deep into our pockets for some tax money to start repairing seven years worth of misgovernance of the Smithsonian, which is or was and hopefully will be again a proud national treasure.

Tags: Editorial · language

Best ethanol in Cambridge, MA: West Side Lounge

June 18th, 2007 · Comments Off on Best ethanol in Cambridge, MA: West Side Lounge

Rob at West Side Lounge, Cambridge, MA

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

Because Suw’s blog is “Chocolate and Vodka“, I wanted to introduce her to Cambridge’s reputedly best bartender–Rob of the West Side Lounge, also home to Cambridge’s best chef.

(In fact Rob is most famous for his mojitos, including (his own recipe) Mexican mojito, but that’s a different story.)

Consider this blogpost just a bit of local knowledge offered up to Google and you concerning a very good place to eat and drink in Cambridge, MA–well, at least a place I like a lot, and so now does Suw!

Tags: food · Metablogging · Wide wonderful world

Suw Charman in photo destined for many Flickr notes

June 18th, 2007 · Comments Off on Suw Charman in photo destined for many Flickr notes

Suw Charman in photo destined for many Flickr notes

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

Suw is in Cambridge, bringing joy and also swag from ORG.

Geeks love free stickers and stuff aka swag. This photo contains many examples, including a Tucows cow we got from Joey DeVilla, Mr. AccordionGuy.

Tags: Metablogging · Wide wonderful world