Leslie's Latest News

Saturday, November 30, 2002


I've been re-reading The Forsyte Saga after watching the latest adaptation on PBS. The last time I read the series was about 30 years ago so I really didn't remember how beautifully written it was. The TV versions emphasize the love story and the family stresses and the battles between propriety and artistic freedom. But from the books you get more of a sense of times and the attitudes of the society they lived in. The first book is titled A Man of Property and that's a major theme of the whole series. Here's an excerpt from the second book, In Chancery. It's in the early morning after the day that Soame's father died and his daughter Fleur was born, and Soames is viewing the river near his home.

Was it possible that this world on which he looked was all private property, except the water - and even that was tapped! No tree, no shrub, not a blade of grass, not a bird or beast, not even a fish that was not owned. And once on a time all this was jungle and marsh and water and weird creatures roamed and sported without human cognizance to give them names; rotting luxuriance had rioted where those tall, carefully planted woods came down to the water, and marsh-misted reeds on that far side had covered all the pasture. Well! they had got it under, kennelled it all up, labelled it, and stowed it in lawyers' offices. And a good thing too! But once in a way, as now, the ghost of the past came out to haunt and brood and whisper to any human who chanced to be awake: 'Out of my unowned loneliness you all came, into it some day you will all return'.

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Yet another cloudy gray day. It's bad enough that the days are so short, but when they're cloudy on top of that, it's just a bit too much. I'm starting to dream about flying to Florida or the Carribbean to lie in the sun. At least it wasn't too cold today, so I did convince myself to go for a good long walk down along the Charles River.

Stocked up on fruits and vegetables again. Made sweet-and-sour cabbage with white beans, green beans with scallions, and baked yams. Still have some poached pears, grapefruit and clementines on hand. Also got another flavor of yummy bread from a local bakery that is sold at my local farmstand. The brand is Nashoba Brook Bakery, and so far I've tried their garlic and rosemary, and a flavor called Harvest, which was studded with dried fruits and nuts. They both were great - rich and moist and crusty. The one I picked up today is 7 Grain "A moist blend of whole grains, wheat, flax, barley, oat, millet, corn, and rye. Sweetened slightly with dates". I got some hummous to have with it.

I've been watching That Thing You Do, a fun movie about the rise (and fall, I guess, although I haven't gotten that far yet) of a rock band in the 60's. It was directed by Tom Hanks, who plays the band's agent, and it has that Tom Hanks sort of sweetness about it. I love the part when the kids in the band hear their song being played on the radio for the first time and just go hysterical with the thrill of it all. And when they are performing live on television for the first time and one guy looks at the other guy and says "How did we get here?".
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Mark Crispin Miller has analyzed Bush's speech patterns and has concluded that our president is a sociopath. That would explain a lot.
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Friday, November 29, 2002


Today's Globe had an article about a local independent FM station called The River (92.5 WXRV). Their slogan is "Quality Rock - Real Variety". I've been listening through the afternoon while working at home, and it's been quite a nice selection of music. It will be a good way to learn about new stuff to add to my iPod collection.
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I had a nice relaxing Thanksgiving with my friends Matt and Amy, their nine-month old daughter Samantha, Ella the boxer and Hamlet and Talia the cats. I'm normally a little nervous around infants and very young children, just because I haven't had much experience with them. But Samantha is a very sweet and outgoing child, and I felt very comfortable picking her up and playing with her. I tagged along with Matt when he took Ella for her walk. It was really cold out, but we actually got to see someone deep frying a turkey in a propane cooker out on their front lawn. Amazing. Then we had a lovely dinner with all the trimmings, followed by desert in the living room in front of a warming fire (not to mention a warm dog and cat who were happy to snuggle up with me on the couch). Finished up by watching Spiderman on DVD. Very nice day.
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Thursday, November 28, 2002


I have mixed feelings about the Christmas shopping season. On the one hand, I'm disgusted by overconsumption and wasteful spending and have no intention of going anywhere near a shopping mall on the day after Thanksgiving. Spiritually, I support the Adbusters: Buy Nothing Day campaign. Yet, on the other hand, from the point of view of my retirement dreams, I'd really like to see my stock investments go up, and the only way that will happen is if people exhibit optimism about the economy by spending more. 'Tis a dilemma.
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Wednesday, November 27, 2002


The forecasts were right. I awoke to several inches of heavy wet snow that is weighing down everything in sight. I hope the trees survive intact. I guess I really need to shovel, as they're predicting a cold snap and if this stuff freezes, it will be bad. I'm so glad I got a chance to enjoy the outdoors yesterday.
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I've been trying a dietary supplement for the past month - a combination of acetyl L-carnitine (a derivative of an amino acid) and alpha lipoic acid (an antioxidant). Some researchers at UC Berkeley have reportedly seen an anti-aging effects in rats with this treatment, and human trials are now underway. I don't know if it's real or a placebo effect, but I do feel like I've had more energy since starting the program. I usually am nearly comatose this time of year due to the shortening days, but for the last few weeks I've been feeling fairly together. I've even started getting back into my walking routine, which I'd unfortunately let lapse over the last few months of pressure at work. So if it's a placebo effect, I don't really care - I'm just glad I'm feeling better. If you're interested, here's another article that gives recommended dosages.
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It was an achingly beautiful late fall day today - sunny and warm for the season - the kind of day that is all the more precious because you know you aren't going to see another one like it for a long time. They're predicting the first snowfall tomorrow and then serious cold for the weekend. I was able to work at home in the morning and then steal a couple of hours in the middle of the day to do some yard work before going in to the office in the afternoon. I raked more leaves and mowed the lawn for the last time. The grass was so lush and green - like plush velvet. It's going to be sad to see it burned brown by the snow and frost.
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Tuesday, November 26, 2002


When I saw my father this weekend, he had two interesting documents to show me. The first was a copy of the earliest record he has found of a Turek in the village of Torysky in 1772. His name was George Turek and he was listed on the roll of serfs of the manor, along with his "obligation" to the lord. The second was information about how to apply for Slovak expatriate status, which he is planning to do. For some time he's been thinking about spending a few months in Slovakia so he could take language courses and really have some time to do geneological research and visit with family. Having this expatriate status is sort of like having a green card, and would make it easier for him to do this.

I got a message a few weeks ago from a guy in England who is organizing rail tours of eastern Europe. He wanted to get permission to use a photo from my web site in his brochure. As it turns out, he used to be the director of the restored steam railway that I rode on when I was in England this spring. It's a small world.

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I drove to Connecticut this weekend for a quick visit with my father at the home of a second cousin who has an annual pre-Thanksgiving family gathering in Winsted Connecticut. It was good to see everyone, but it was a lot of driving for such a short visit. I brought my iPod along, which helped a bit, but today I could still feel the residual tension in my shoulders and jaw.

Alex and I are thinking of driving to Philadelphia in mid-December to go to the Philcon sf convention, but Alex will probably do most of the driving on that trip. We enjoyed our visit to Philadelphia for the Worldcon last year, so are looking forward to going back again, especially since the convention will be downtown, right near Chinatown and the Reading Terminal market.

I've continued with my push to eat more fruits and vegetables. Some recent treats have included broccoli with garlic, steamed parsnips, leek and potato soup, ruby red grapefruit, and poached pears. I'm looking for more recipes for parsnips, as I really like them a lot.

So far Katisha's been eating the prescription food with no trouble. I've been mixing it in with her regular food and gradually increasing the ratio. But so far, so good. I've also managed to deliver most of her ear medication to the right place, I think. She'll be going in for another checkup next week, so we'll see if I did it right.


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Thursday, November 21, 2002


I was searching around on the web to see if I could get the prescription diet for Katisha at some lower price. The answer seems to be "no" - they seem to be quite careful about selling it only to veterinarians. But I did run across a whole raft of web sites about living with feline renal deficiency that are maintained by cat lovers. Very useful stuff, including suggestions for how to get your cat to eat the prescription food if they don't like it at first, pointers to useful supplies, etc. I decided to buy an automatic watering system. One of the things that clued me in to the fact that Katisha has a problem is that she drinks fairly often, and is fussy about her water, frequently asking me to give her fresh water even when there is water available. The automatic waterer runs the water through a filter continuously, so she will always have fresh water available.
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The good news is that Katisha does not have diabetes, which is what I feared most. The bad news is that she is showing early signs of kidney disfunction, which is not unexpected in a cat of her age. The vet has recommended feeding her a special low-protein diet, along with a vitamin supplement. Of course the special diet is available only through the vet at a somewhat exhorbitant cost, but what can you do? She also has an ear infection, so we're going through a twice-daily ritual of trying to get drops into her ears. Such fun.

Yesterday was a gorgeous sunny day (after all too many days of clouds and rain), so I snuck out of work at lunchtime and spent about an hour raking leaves at home. The bright sun shining on my callicarpa bush with its purple berries was quite spectacular. Oh, I hope I can transfer to part time soon. To have one day a week to work in my garden in the spring would be just wonderful.
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Tuesday, November 19, 2002


Both the cats went to the vet's this morning for their annual checkup and shots. Katisha is an old hand at this and was no trouble at all, but Machinka was a bit more difficult. She almost got away from me when I was trying to get her into the carrier, and in the vet's office, she was quite timid and afraid of every noise and new person. I mentioned to the vet that Katisha has been drinking more water later, so he ordered a battery of tests to look at liver and kidney function as well as blood sugar. She is nearly 15 years old, which is pretty old for a cat, so I am expecting the worst. I should hear the results tomorrow morning.
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Saturday, November 16, 2002


There was a chemical spill on Route 128 north last night which made me about 3 hours late getting home, even though I don't need to take 128. The problem is that there are only 3 roads leading away from the place where I work and all of them were clogged with cars getting off Route 128 to try to avoid the backup. There are no roads going south; and the road east that I normally take wasn't moving because the intersection with Lexington St. where everyone was turning left got backed up because the left turn signal only lefts through about 6 cars at a time at long intervals. So even though I was planning to turn right, I was still trapped in the 1-mile backup getting to the light. After creeping a hundred yards or so, I decided to turn around and go back to the office. I told everyonewho was still there about the problem, but they didn't believe me at first until someone got a cell phone call from someone who'd left 45 minutes earlier and hadn't gone a quarter mile. So we did the only sensible thing - we all walked down to the local bar, and sat around drinking and snacking for a couple of hours until things cleared up. The place was packed with lots of other people who had the same idea. I talked to one couple who had turned in there for dinner because the couldn't get to the restaurant they had been planning to go to (which was just the other side of 128). I must admit that although I tried to make the best of it, it gives me a terrible feeling of claustrophobia when I feel trapped like that. I just kept reminding myself that I was capable of walking 4 miles home if I had to. It made me think a lot about how vulnerable our cities are to small disruptions, and how easy it is for evil people to take advantage of that fact.
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Wednesday, November 13, 2002


Boston has just been announced as the site of the 2004 Democratic convention. That's interesting, because I am on the committee that is running the World Science Fiction Convention in Boston in 2004. Luckily, we are about a month later than the DNC so there should be no direct conflict. And there is oneother interesting little fact. We happen to own the rights to the web addresses Boston2004.com and Boston2004.org. That could be profitable. We shall see.
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It's been gray and cloudy for the past six or seven days now, it seems. That's too bad, because the thing I like best about the fall is the way the sun lights up the trees. We've passed the foliage peak - about half the trees have lost their leaves and the colors are now the more subdued bronze and russet. I hope we get a few sunny days before the leaves are gone entirely.

I turned that fennel into a nice salad with white beans and shredded carrots, seasoned with garlic, fresh chives and thyme from the garden, orange zest, and balsamic vinegar. Came out very nice.

I've switched my net DVD service from RentMyDVD to Netflix. The problem I was having with RentMyDVD was that all 25 items on my wishlist seemed to always be unavailable. I guess they just didn't stock enough copies. When I tried the same list on Netflix in their 10-day free trial, they were able to send me the top 3 items right away, and only 2 of the titles are flagged as requiring a wait. I chose RentMyDVD because their lowest-priced service was cheaper, but I guess you get what you pay for.

One of the movies I enjoyed recently was Dangerous Beauty the true story of a high-class courtesan in Venice in the late 16th century. It was sexy and romantic and very beautiful to look at. It took a reality that could have been treated as something sordid, and turned it into an uplighting story of female empowerment. Probably not very realistic, but fun nonetheless.

About a month ago Alex recommended a firewall for my home computer and helped me install it. So now I can connect multiple computers to my cable modem, and so I often bring my work laptop PC home to use. It doesn't have wireless network, but I bought a 50-foot ethernet cable, so I can work anywhere in the house - on the living room couch while watching TV or even in bed. It also means I can play Magic Online at home instead of having to stay late at work - a definite advantage.
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A friend recently recommended a PBS show called Rough Science , a kind of scientific version of Junkyard Wars. Five scientists are put on an island with a rudimentary set of tools and are given three days to solve various scientific and engineering problems. I've watched two episodes so far, and the challenges have included mapping the island, predicting the weather, making paper and ink, a sound recording device, an antibacterial cream, and a microscope. Some of these were more successfully accomplished than others, but they've all been interesting. (In Boston it seems to broadcast on Saturday at 11 am and Wednesday at 1am - TiVo was really helpful in tracking it down.)
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Saturday, November 09, 2002


I've been keeping onto my resolution to eat more fruits and vegetables. I've found a nice little nursery/farm stand that is somewhat on my way home from work, so I've been stopping by on Friday nights and stocking up. Then I cook up batches of stuff on the weekend and eat it through the rest of the week. This week they had red peppers on sale, so I've made peppers stuffed with rice cooked with leeks, garlic, carrots, fennel, apples, walnuts, baby spinach, and v-8 juice. This was a totally made-up recipe based on what I had on hand, but I think it came out pretty good. I also got some tiny french beans and cooked them with a few small red onions I was able to find in the garden. Fruit choices for this week are honeydew melon and pineapple. I still have a delicata squash left over from last week, and more fennel that I'll make into some sort of salad.
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Meeting News has a very complimentary article about the organization behind the World Science Fiction Convention: The Science of Unconventional Planning. Ben Yalow, who is quoted extensively in the article, is a New York fan who is a member of our Noreascon 4 committee that is planning the 2004 Worldcon in Boston.
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Wednesday, November 06, 2002


And if I weren't depressed enough already, then we have the election results. Republicans take control of the Senate and Mitt Romney elected governor of Massachusetts. And 46% of the Massachusetts voters vote to eliminate the state income tax. What are people thinking? In a year when big business has completely screwed over the public, people vote for the party that protects and supports big business? It makes no sense to me.
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Monday, November 04, 2002


Well, someone has solved the problem of preventing the cat from bringing small dead animals into the house. (See The Flo Control Project). Where can I get one?
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Something you can do with all those unwanted AOL CDs you get. I sent them this picture of a lovely Y2K prayer wheel a friend of mine made back in 1999.


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Saturday, November 02, 2002


Machinka came home last night, none the worse for wear, but hungry for food and cuddling. That was a relief!
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