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

Making trouble today for a better tomorrow…

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Entries Tagged as 'Travel'

Did it start with dialup for you?

October 7th, 2017 · Comments Off on Did it start with dialup for you?

Oh those quaint old days of the 20th century! Do you remember them too?

Do you remember the soft creaky groaning of dialup, when you waited for that connection? Do you remember when Netscape Navigator added images to internet pages of text? Did you make your own animated GIF avatar for Compuserve forums? Do you remember why we called it the World Wide Wait?

In 1998 (or thereabouts), our family moved to the Netherlands for 3 months, because Frank had a Lorentz Professorship. About two days before takeoff, I figured out how to sign up for Hotmail, just in case it turned out to be useful. In those simple days, short email addresses were super easy to get.

When we moved to Cambridge, about 2000, I was very anxious to have good internet cables running up through a wall between Frank’s study and mine, so we could both work at our desks with computers online. I also proposed, as a bit of a lark, that we might try something new I had read about in MacWorld, something called wifi. Without much expectation, we bought a new wireless router, which affected our lives in ways we never imagined.

Now you could unplug your computer from your desk and use it in the kitchen to try a new recipe, or even out in the garden on beautiful day. And every time you looked, there was something new online that ysou wanted to try. There were blogs, and anybody could start one! And then Cameron Marlowe made a blog tool tracking which blogs were following certain news stories, and there was a big news story about GOP shenanigans that I wanted to see blogs linking to, so there was a reason for me to start a blog, so of course I did.

Then out of nowhere, there was a guy named Dave Winer at Harvard holding big meetings where amateur bloggers could even meet tech superstars. There was a “social software” from Google called Orkut, where you could ask techy acquaintances to “friend” you, a heady rush of pleasure when they said yes.

Then bloggers got RSS, and then I got a job working for Scott Johnson at Feedster, and then along came Bloggercon and Joi Ito’s chatroom and SXSW, even more connections that put real life and your computer together. Because there were always more web things to try. Things like made by a #joi chatroom friend Joshua Schachter, which we all had to try. Things like Second Life, where a 2003 Newsweek story about becoming a real life millionaire selling virtual stuff there motivated so many people to give it a try. I must confess that although I did make some real-life money in Second Life, it was never enough to cover the real-life money I spent, mostly on “rent” for beautiful places to put the wild buildings I also bought, but also on bubblegum pink hair and beautiful “textures” and other fun things.

So now, just a bit more than a decade later, I can visit foreign countries without learning the important local language sentence, “Where is the nearest internet cafe?” In fact, now I am writing this blogpost while riding an airplane from Shanghai to Boston. There is probably room for another blogpost to cover the time in between, but I want to finish this one before I run out of my airline wifi!

Tags: Go go go · Metablogging · Stories · Travel · Wide wonderful world

“I don’t know where I’m going to be on July 11”

June 30th, 2015 · Comments Off on “I don’t know where I’m going to be on July 11”

When I was a little girl, a sentence like this would have made no sense to anyone in my family. We all knew exactly where we were going to be, just about every day–waking up in our own bedrooms in our own house with our own family all around us.

My sister and brothers and I also knew, just about any day in the future, what we would be doing. Each day moved through a series of stylized programs almost as predictable as (later on in my childhood) a TV schedule. Getting up. Getting clean. Getting dressed. Getting breakfast (mostly bacon plus eggs in various shapes.) A lot of this “getting” by children and my father was the result of “giving” and “doing” by my mother, something we never thought about then, when it was happening.

Today, Frank and I live in such a different world. We’re not little children, or parents of little children, so our lives are full of enormously varied choices, many quite appealing. Our friendship groups link us to time zones around the world, so Skype meetings get scheduled via with friends in China online at 11 p.m., friends in Boston online at 11 a.m., while here in Sweden we’re in the middle at 5 p.m.

We just spent a month living in a hotel in Sweden, where having a private meal by ourselves requires more work than just going out to a restaurant. Our summer is going to be similarly peculiar, because Frank has a new book coming out July 14 (A Beautiful Question, wonderful book if I say so myself.)

The quote that gave me a title from this blogpost is from a friend who is similarly location-challenged… but who DOES know where he will be on July 9, viz. “On July 9, I’ll be stuck in JFK airport for 5 hours, so that would be a good time for a Skype conversation.” How astounded my childhood self would have been by such dislocations!

Our grown-up rootlessness, our freedom to travel and adventure, is both sweet and bitter. It is sweet because our freedom comes not only from financial and personal privilege, but also from a sense that whenever Frank and I are somewhere together, we’re safe inside “family.” (This wouldn’t work, of course, if we weren’t confident that a few weeks will bring us back into connection with actual family back home.)

It is bitter because for us both, the “home” where we set our roots back in our childhoods… those homes are gone. The jolly family dinners that seemed so eternal as they repeated year after year… the houses of grandparents, aunts, uncles, multiple feisty cousins, almost as familiar as our own childhood bedrooms… if we could even find those houses now, strangers live there.

So, I also don’t know where I’ll be on July 11. Sometimes, I’m not even really sure where I am right this very moment.

Tags: everythingismiscellaneous · Go go go · Life, the universe, and everything · My Back Pages · Sweden · Travel · Wide wonderful world

Landscape vs. skyscape: selective appreciation

January 27th, 2015 · Comments Off on Landscape vs. skyscape: selective appreciation

Arizona sunset
Our windows face east, so the best view we get of sunset is the reflection of colorful sky in the high-rise student apartment building not far from us.

I am not a big fan of modern architecture, but I am getting to love the many reflections of sky in the windows of University House.

One the other hand, enjoying a beautiful view may require the ability to ignore less beautiful parts of the view.

Or perhaps I could try to begin to admire the sight of vast acres of parking lot, low-rise cheap buildings, and macadam streets. That would also work.

Tags: Travel · Wide wonderful world

How crazy was this?

June 4th, 2011 · Comments Off on How crazy was this?

Day 12: Just Frank and Betsy IMG_0965 by betsythedevine
Day 12: Just Frank and Betsy IMG_0965, a photo by betsythedevine on Flickr.

How crazy was this project to celebrate Frank’s 60th birthday with a 192 mile hike across England with our two daughters and one son-in-law?

And yet, here we are, near the end, two people who have just spent two weeks of nights in hotel rooms — one man with sore feet and one woman with a lot of experience driving on the left of narrow roads. And we are happy.

And how much less crazy was this crazy trip idea than the project we set out on back in our twenties to get together and start a family despite having little money and little experience and lots of fondness for having our own way? That crazy project back then worked out pretty well too.

Tags: coasttocoast · England · Frank Wilczek · Travel · Wide wonderful world

Day 10: Heather on Yorkshire hills

June 2nd, 2011 · Comments Off on Day 10: Heather on Yorkshire hills

Day 10: View from high moorland by betsythedevine
Day 10: View from high moorland, a photo by betsythedevine on Flickr.

In The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, orphan Mary Craven lives in her strange uncle’s lonely mansion, set somewhere in Yorkshire. The moorland stretching for miles, its lambs and its flowers, the wind that “wuthers” all night, the broad Yorkshire accent — all these made a huge impression on my childhood, and I longed to know them all someday for myself.

It is wonderful to be here, finally. I believe that part of my real job as a grown-up is to discover or do (or refrain from doing) the special things my childhood self vowed to do someday, somehow — or never to do.

It was also funny, both ha-ha and peculiar, to discover just now that Burnett based her book on a house she loved somewhere in the southern counties, not Yorkshire at all. So that house will be a new goal for some new future journey.

Tags: coasttocoast · England · My Back Pages · Travel · Wide wonderful world

Landscape keeps changing and changing and changing

June 1st, 2011 · Comments Off on Landscape keeps changing and changing and changing

Day 10: A beautiful day in Yorkshire by betsythedevine
Day 10: A beautiful day in Yorkshire, a photo by betsythedevine on Flickr.

The walkers are having a glorious time, not too hot, not too cool. Lakeland gales and scree are a memory fading away. Yorkshire sunshine pours down onto cropland, cow pastures, and now they have walked into moorland.

We spent three luxurious nights at the Frenchgate Hotel in Richmond — elegant dinners, wonderful beds, awesome and most helpful staff. Tonight we are high over moorland listening to wind wuther outside the Lion Inn Pub and Hotel, many centuries old with the low timber lintels to prove it. What internet there is is best from tall stools at the bar.

One of the curious things about this days-long journey has been watching stone wall vernaculars change. In the lake district, flat fractured stones were stacked in predictable patterns. As we move east, the stones get more rounded and holes between stones get more roomy. This would be good country for
the NH chipmunks and squirrels that haunted my mother’s stone walls and woodpile all winter long.

Tomorrow is yet another day of big changes, some of which I know about and some of which … I’ll know tomorrow. Wish me luck!

Tags: coasttocoast · England · Travel · Wide wonderful world

Day 9: On the road again

May 30th, 2011 · Comments Off on Day 9: On the road again

Day 9: Setting out by the book! by betsythedevine
Day 9: Setting out by the book!, a photo by betsythedevine on Flickr.

Today is the day they walk from Reeth to Richmond. Since we slept in Richmond last night (many thanks to Frenchgate Hotel, which we are all enjoying), I drove them to Reeth this morning soon after breakfast.

It was sunny — it was raining — it was not raining but still cloudy — it was (in a word) England.

We barely got out of Richmond before roads shut down for a bank holiday parade. People were already lining up on sidewalks as we drove by. To avoid driving back into the huge parade-chaos, I walked with Team Wilczek a while, then happily dawdled in Reeth’s Swaledale Museum. More photos on my Flickr pages, of course.

Tags: coasttocoast · England · Frank Wilczek · Travel · Wide wonderful world

Week two of the walk across England

May 30th, 2011 · Comments Off on Week two of the walk across England

Day 8: Rainy day beginnings by betsythedevine
Day 8: Rainy day beginnings, a photo by betsythedevine on Flickr.

As I drove across the Yorkshire Dales to drop my four walkers in Keld, for their walk day to Reeth, cold rain blew sideways and up from the valleys below us. What a first day for the two new arrivals from Boston!

Still, they all set off in good spirits, windbreaking jackets pulled tight over warm layers, hoods up — and at least the main wind was behind them. By lunchtime they had reached the Ghyllfoot Teashop in Gunnerside, which I’d found when I got lost.

Then, as Salieri would say, a miracle! The clouds opened up, the sun came out, and they walked through buttercup meadows all afternoon. So it was a very good first day for two new after all!

Tags: coasttocoast · England · Travel · Wide wonderful world

Don’t look don’t look don’t look …

May 29th, 2011 · Comments Off on Don’t look don’t look don’t look …

Poster in Richmond beauty shop by betsythedevine
Poster in Richmond beauty shop, a photo by betsythedevine on Flickr.

I saw this poster this morning, in a small beauty shop in Richmond. I couldn’t wait to show it to Mickey — and how we both laughed!

A few minutes later, walking along, she remarked, “I’ve experienced that, of course, but I’ve never paid for it.”

Yes, up in NH lakes you can get your toes nibbled by cute little fish at completely no charge!

Tags: coasttocoast · England · funny · Travel · Wide wonderful world

When in doubt, stop for tea and Pavlova

May 28th, 2011 · Comments Off on When in doubt, stop for tea and Pavlova

Day 7 offtrack: When in doubt, stop for tea by betsythedevine
Day 7 offtrack: When in doubt, stop for tea, a photo by betsythedevine on Flickr.

Today, I drove seven miles in the wrong direction on a narrow windy road beset with stray sheep. Oops! Fortunately, I had noplace I had to hurry toward or away from.

Eventually, I saw a place to park with some people nearby, getting ready for hiking. They told me that I had arrived in Gunnerside, in between Keld and Reeth. The working blacksmith shop seemed to be closed that day, the pub would not open until noon, but there was a very nice tea shop just around the corner.

And so there was, the Ghyllfoot Tearoom, where they serve not only tea but amazing strawberry pavlova. That is English thick cream on the top, not American whipped cream.

After tea, I turned around and drove back to Kirkby Stephen, 17 miles on the same winding road to which had been added an 80-mile bicycle race. It was all smooth sailing. One good Pavlova can work travel-trouble miracles.

Tags: coasttocoast · England · Travel · Wide wonderful world