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

Making trouble today for a better tomorrow…

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Entries Tagged as 'Cambridge'

Plenty of fish

July 18th, 2013 · Comments Off on Plenty of fish

Plenty of fish by betsythedevine
Plenty of fish, a photo by betsythedevine on Flickr.

We now have three fish again eating up mosquito larvae that try to start new lives in our backyard pond. In this photo you can see two of the three — the two you can see are named Silver and Trigger, for two cowboy horses of our TV childhood.

There was a time when our fish were fancier. A few small koi lived in the pond when we bought his house, years ago. But despite a deep under-rock hole where they can supposedly live all winter long, our koi died in the winter. Koi are delicate blossoms, say the knowledgeable young folk of Uncle Ned’s Fish Factory in Millis, MA (it’s well worth a visit to those true a-fish-ionados.)

So now, we avoid springtime sadness with comets and shubunkin, sturdy small fishlings who survive and even make babies out there in the pond.

Another thing (my) longevity taught me: how to name pond fish. There is a counter-story behind that knowledge. One earlier fishless springtime, I named three small new fish for the three kids’ roles in a play I once wrote — Beauty, Truth, and Justice. But not long thereafter, I had the sad job of telling the family, “I’m sorry to say that for some reason Beauty died…”

It was a sad moment.

So now I name animals after other animals, a practice I recommend to you. And who knows what new wisdom I may discover in my next sixty-plus years?

Tags: Cambridge · Sister Age · Wide wonderful world

Put a little raccoon in your afternoon

September 3rd, 2011 · Comments Off on Put a little raccoon in your afternoon

Racoons by nickhull
Racoons, a photo by nickhull on Flickr.

Just one, not this many, but still an adventure. When I got back today from lunch with Frank, I noticed that the lid had come off our big garbage can. I picked it up out of the driveway and casually replaced it, and was greeted by a hideous angry very long-echoing growl.

Something was in garbage can, and not happy about it.

I went in the house, grabbed a big broomstick, and bamboozled Frank to come help me to rescue … whatever it was. There is a vantage point over our driveway, behind a big fence, where one can poke garbage cans until they fall over without being eaten up by any monsters that might be inside them.

I successfully knocked off the lid and the growls re-began. We could peek into the garbage can. A young raccoon was down in there. A young raccoon with very deep baritone growl: “Rrrrrowwwwrrr. Don’t even think about making me angrier than I already angrily am.” Tipping the garbage can over was harder than I expected. Push–teeter–push–teeter–rhythmic push–teeter–totter–topple.

The raccoon did not even spare us a dirty look as he angrily stomped away from the scene of the crime. Hey look, pal, we did not ask you to rob our garbage!

Tags: Boston · Cambridge · Frank Wilczek · Wide wonderful world

Just exactly what I wanted to happen

October 12th, 2010 · Comments Off on Just exactly what I wanted to happen

People voting in Cambridge, MA, November 7, 2006

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

This is what I wanted to have happen to my photos when I put a Creative Commons license on them — a newspaper published this one and put my name on it, so I got to have the fun of seeing it again.

And if you haven’t registered to vote yet, get out and do so now!

Tags: Cambridge · politics · Wide wonderful world

John Brockman, founder of the feast

December 28th, 2009 · Comments Off on John Brockman, founder of the feast

John Brockman, founder of the feast

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

John Brockman and Katinka Matson were in Cambridge this weekend, throwing (as usual) an enjoyable party… which none of my iPhone pictures came out, but I like this one of John, seen here with just a bit of Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, the author of the (soon to be published) Bursts.

There was quite a bit of talk about the Edge question for 2010 (which remains secret until it gets published there January 1.) I was also very intrigued by the ongoing DNA mysteries that Ting Wu explores in her Harvard Med School lab — and by the diverse places that Katinka Matson finds the flowers for her humongous photographs. I also learned that Frank Wilczek considers evolution a very roundabout way to deliver paltry amounts of information. I am looking forward to reading Connected by Nicolas Christakis and James Fowler, especially the chapter that begins with epidemic laughter. And if I had been sitting closer to Marvin Minsky or Benoit Mandelbrot, I might have learned something novel from them as well.

And then there was the Harvest’s sticky toffee pudding! Thanks once again, John Brockman and Katinka Matson.

Tags: Boston · Cambridge · Frank Wilczek · Science · Wide wonderful world · writing

Harvard unfair to torrid sea vixen, others

February 27th, 2009 · Comments Off on Harvard unfair to torrid sea vixen, others

Harvard unfair to torrid sea vixen, others

Harvard unfair to torrid sea vixen, others

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

Dear Harvard,

Why have you locked up A Sea-Spell? Where are you hiding The Blessed Damozel? You own but are not displaying two of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s best and most famous paintings.

I understand that wall space is scarce with the Fogg Museum closed, but there is no excuse for keeping these two off display when you are devoting a room in your "pre-1900 western art" space to truly horrible "art" by somebody who wasn’t even born until the 1960s.

The Blessed Damozel isn’t happy and neither am I!

Yours sincerely,
Betsy Devine

Tags: Blogroll · Cambridge · E.B. White: How does he do it? · Editorial · Wide wonderful world

What child is this?

December 21st, 2008 · 2 Comments

What child is this?

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

Snow has transformed the Nativity scene at Saint Peter’s School in Cambridge on Concord Avenue.

The man with the lantern will have to look quite a bit harder to find Baby Jesus, because now the manger is under six inches snow.

Or is that Diogenes, looking for something quite different?

Tags: Boston · Cambridge · Wide wonderful world

Yes, we could!

November 5th, 2008 · 2 Comments

We vote in the local fire house

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

And yes, we did! Thank you, America, for electing Barack Obama.

I predict a new surge in American productivity, starting right NOW, as millions of us start to break our time-sucking addiction to political minute-by-minute analysis.

In my case, starting tomorrow. You know, the Karl-Rovians have been running against me personally for so long — East Coast born and bred, married to a professor, driving a hybrid car, and supporting gay marriage–that it’s great to wake up and discover that America’s burning question is no longer whether the Democratic candidate might be a Marxist who wants Bin Ladin to bomb us and hates iceberg lettuce.

Could this finally be the end of the culture wars? The WSJ seems to think Obama found the answer:

What would beat the culture wars was always clear from the pseudo-populist language in which they were framed. In place of a showdown between a folksy “middle America” and a snobbish “liberal elite,” Democrats needed to offer the real deal — the conflict between a public that craves fairness and an economic system that enables the predatory.

…When your mortgage is under water and your neighbors are being laid off, the need to take up the sword against arrogant stem-cell scientists becomes considerably less urgent.

The Republican response, of course, was to double down on the righteous rhetoric of red-state grievance and spin the wheel one more time.

It was sad to see John McCain sink down into the culture war Karl Rove dog whistle politics, like an old dog so thirsty he drinks water out of the toilet. I hope McCain is getting some sleep right now. Obama is the one with tough jobs ahead of him now, and I have more hope than is perhaps rational that he is going to be a great President.

Speaking of more sleep, I really need some more sleep too.

Tags: Cambridge · Editorial · politics · Wide wonderful world

Old Mac user (me): “What is that funny hole?”

September 3rd, 2008 · 1 Comment

MacPaint (and other) nostalgia: 1

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

‘So what is that funny hole?” I asked my kind young Mac trainer, pointing at the front of a big Mac Pro tower. Natalya, an anthropology major and certified Macintosh genius, speaks fluent customer-ese, and explained that the “hole” was a FireWire 800 port, something I’d seen before but left strictly alone.

To my chagrin (although also to my satisfaction, since I know it now) the FireWire 800 would have been almost twice as fast a way to synch my old Mac laptop* to my new Mac tower, a task that took more than 10 hours with FireWire 400. Which just goes to show that having loved Macintosh computers since 1984 is no guarantee that you can’t learn a lot more about them from somebody who was most likely born after 1984.

Here are some other things I learned in my first hour of Apple’s new One to One store training:

  • What’s the top story right now on CNN? Has anything changed on my Wikipedia watchlist? You can make WebClip widgets from bits of webpages you like, then flash them up onto your desktop using the Dashboard.
  • Want to move from a desktop full of writing projects to a desktop full of scrapbooking projects to a desktop covered with email resources? Leopard has a system preference called Spaces that lets you arrow-key around several different monitor screens, even if you have just one monitor.
  • On a laptop, you can set preferences to “Left Click” by tapping your mousepad with two fingers.
  • A new app called “QuickLook” lets you peek at graphics, Word, Excel files (etc. etc.) without having to open the big clunky program that edits them.

They say you are not old until you stop learning. Lucky for me that I still have so darn much to learn — and that Apple Store genii in Cambridgeside Galleria have so much to teach me.

* I dropped my Mac laptop last week. It still runs, but the funny noise of its fan and the very big ding in its casing suggest that it may not be running for very long into the future.

Tags: Boston · Cambridge · geeky · Useful

Allegorical figure of allegorical figure

June 28th, 2008 · Comments Off on Allegorical figure of allegorical figure

Allegorical figure by Bernini in clay

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

Harvard’s art museums are just about to close for five long years, as the dignified public spaces where they have been housed get replaced by some modern architecture I’m sure I won’t like.

So even while racing around to unpack and repack, I did make time to revisit my favorite thing there, a more or less random collection of clay sketches Bernini made for his massively multiplayer baroque marble masterpieces.

If you get there before June 30, you can see them too.

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up an image of Minerva,
Bernini’s quick clay sketch of her has brought
Me more to meditate on than a casual observa might think I deserva.

Tags: Cambridge · Wide wonderful world

Comcast goes out to lunch asks me to hold

January 11th, 2008 · Comments Off on Comcast goes out to lunch asks me to hold

Comcast goes out to lunch asks me to hold

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

I have been waiting online two hours for a Comcast chat service person.

Fortunately, I have lots of work to do at my computer while I wait.

Higher than usual service times? I hope so. I started off as “No. 2 in the queue” and after an hour graduated to my current status as No. 1.

La la la. Still waiting.

Comcast customer service is “No. 2” in my book!

Tags: Boston · Cambridge · Wide wonderful world