Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dill Weed

Whew, I got worn out by those last few essays. So to recover, I will just clear my head of some random thoughts. Yes, it's time once again for a meta post where I riff off some previous posts, because I can toss one of these together like so much green salad.

Speaking of green salad, here's a good one. Get yourself a mixture of good greens like butter lettuce, romaine, radicchio, like one of those bags of lettuce shreds they sell nowadays. Put some nice Italian dressing on there and mix it with the greens. Now, you drop some real crunchy croutons on top, mixed white and pumpernickel if you can get it. Then sprinkle on some grated parmesan. And the coup de grace: a little dill weed right on top. Wow, that's good. The dill weed is the secret ingredient. It's called a weed, so you don't think you want it, but you do. Like this blog.


Stone House

Enough of that, huh?

The Stone House series is exactly the kind of thing I was hoping to avoid by writing this blog. Sometimes I get onto a topic and it turns into a Thing. My plan had been to confine myself to what I could write in a week, and move on. Oh well. I had fun with it and I hope maybe someone else did. I especially liked part IV, and it needed II and III to lead up to it.

Did the photos of the Old Stone House in Maplewood look a little off to you? They look like faded film prints, don't they? Here's the story behind that.

The house is for sale. I'll tell you, if I could afford to finance $830,000 and pay $18,000 a year in real estate tax maybe I would buy it. That's an amazing price. I wonder what they would want for the joint if it did not have a busy passenger railway fifty feet from the front door. There's a minimum of four trains an hour, twenty hours a day. Maybe the stone walls muffle the sound. In my case, I like trains, so it wouldn't stop me. The slick sales brochure says nothing about the railway. Well, it does say trains to New York are nearby. You could put it that way.

So I walked over there one Sunday when they had Open House hours. The seller's agent was very nice. We talked a little about the house's history, and I took pictures inside and out. The next day when I loaded the photos onto my computer I realized to my horror that I had had the camera on a weird setting. They were all underexposed, very dark.

But some of the outdoor shots could be salvaged. I loaded them into Graphic Converter, a great program you should get if you have a Mac, and started playing around with them. I found that I could get something usable if I did this: push brightness way up, play with levels a little bit, and then really saturate the colors. There's no real black any more, which is what makes them look faded. But on the plus side, you can see details on the house, which was the point.

Here's a pair, showing you what the raw image looked like and (repeating from Stone House IV) the results.

The indoor photos are almost solid black no matter what I do with them. However I was able to get something out of one of them. It shows the 1763 document signed by Timothy Meeker, framed and mounted on the wall within which it was found. It's still pretty bad, even after processing, and I didn't want to take all this time to explain it in Stone House IV. But here you go.

We're standing in the old frame portion of the house, looking at the wall between the two portions. The finish wall here has been removed, so you can through to the stone wall.

I hope the document goes with the house as part of the sale. It was literally part of the house for almost two hundred years.



People. The College Stories are the most creative writing I have done in a dog's age, and what's all I hear about? Where the Kierkegaard quote comes from.

If anything I expected to hear about my uncanny ability to place Kierkegaard and Ed Wood quotes close together on the virtual page and have both of them be relevant. You don't see that very often, do you? In fact, I have Googled +kierkegaard +"ed wood" to prove the point. Steps is the third hit. The second hit is interesting, but hey, look at that first one. Professor Robert Markley at the University of Illinois has written both a book on Kierkegaard and an article on Ed Wood! I salute you, sir. But still, you don't quote both in the same essay, right? I win.

Some day, I will explain how cleverly put together the College Stories are, how lots of little things fit into a peculiarly satisfying whole. I'll give you a close reading. An exegesis. An explication de texte. I threw in stuff you didn't even notice. Inevitably I will make each of my commentaries even longer than the original, so give up any ideas about using them to cheat on assignments.

I should probably get around to that before the exemplars of "Mary" and "Lisa" stumble across this blog and "take care of me", as we say in Jersey. Both of them are on Linkedin. So am I. And I mention this blog in my listing. It could happen. All they have to do is think of me and search, and why would they not do that? But I am a man who lives for danger. All my friends know it.


A Sheep Spoke

Remember I wrote about the radar speed detector? I said it gave my speed as 4 when I was walking, and 6 when I ran at it. But I was running the way I would run if I was going to go a ways, more like jogging. Later I thought, what if I really went for it, and ran as hard as I possibly could? Sadly the device had been taken away by the time I thought of it.

Two weeks ago, the thing turned up again, right along the street where I walk to the station. Here is documentary evidence of my running prowess:

Yes, I managed 9. I ran 9 for about twenty feet while Helen snapped a photo in the fading light. Look, I was so fast I'm a blur!

Oh it was just a long exposure. This time of year, by the time we get home from work, the sun has dropped behind the mountain, but I was afraid that if we waited for full daylight on the weekend, the police might have moved the thing to who knows where. So I got Helen to come with me and grab a shot while we could.

As we walked back to the car she gave me The Look.

Do you realize that those Olympic runners who do a four-minute mile are going 15? And they're going 15 for a whole mile? Amazing. Doing 9 is quite an effort, I can tell you. I couldn't do it for long.

I think Runner Girl does 6 for four miles. That's pretty impressive. I'm getting to where I have an idea of what a workout that is.


I know what you will say. If the speed detector had been gone by Saturday, I could have called and just asked where it was, right? Sure. Right. The audio tape would have recorded something like this:

Hello. South Orange Police.

Hi. You know that box that says "Your Speed" and shows the speed cars are going? Can you tell me where it is right now?

(cautious) Why... would you want to know that?

I just wondered.

(suspicious) Well...

I want to take a picture of it.

(suspicious) A picture of it?

OK. I will explain. I want to get a photo of myself running toward it, to show how fast I can run. It's not where it was a few days ago.

(disbelief) You want to...

What do you think? Would they tell me? If they told me, would they ask when I was going to do it, so they could send cars there to give the hard-working men and women of South Orange's Finest a good laugh?

It reminds me of one time back when we lived in the city. Someone broke in and took a few small things, and Helen and I were in the apartment with a couple of police officers, discussing the case. One of them picked up a jar from the floor and looked at it with a puzzled expression and asked what that was floating in the yellow fluid. "A monkey brain", Helen told him with a shrug, the way you would say it if plenty of people kept a jar with a monkey brain in it on the living room floor.

That really happened.

Next time: Reservoir.

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