Saturday, January 31, 2009

New year resolution

I’ve noticed over the years that I tend to remember what happens on vacations, but that much of my (precious) life between one and another is, alas, a blur.

I am a devoted fan of routine, but it does tend to cause one day to run into the next. There are so many valuable moments that I’m unable to recall in this get up exercise jump in shower jump in car get to office work work work drive back home have dinner watch TV and read a bit before going to bed smudge.

Hence my single New Year’s resolution: to pursue memorable experiences. They can be vaguely romantic (weekend away), athletic (kayaking or rock climbing), or extremely simple, such as making an effort to have friends over for dinner instead of stretching out on the sofa to watch a movie. Don’t get me wrong. Movie watching (and on-sofa stretching) are fabulous ways to end the week - but I can’t even remember what I’ve already seen.

My quest for experiences doesn’t have to be elaborate, doesn’t have to be expensive and must give me joy.

In other words, life needs to be celebrated.

I’m happy to report that so far I turned 40 in Yellowstone National Park, went to LA for the day just to hold my absolutely adorable baby niece, hiked to the top of Montara Mountain, bought tickets to see a play, set aside time to catch up with friends and scheduled a trip to spend time with my family (which is a lot of things, but unmemorable isn’t one of them.)

My hope is this will be a resolution I won’t have a great deal of trouble keeping and that might even stick around long after 2009 becomes just another year.


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Early adopter

I got a Kindle for my 40th birthday. Her name is Sophia.

I admit I was skeptical at first. Reluctant. Shy.  (OK – I looked at Luca and wailed “Why? Why? Why did you buy me this? How could you do this to me?”)

Since that brief, myopic moment, I’ve discovered Kindle is not a gadget for gadget lovers – it’s a gadget for book lovers. It’s sleek and light, yet sweetly unassuming. The screen is sharp, high-resolution electronic paper (so, technically, not a screen but a surface.)

It’s very easy to use. You don’t need cables or a computer. There is no need to do any synching.

If you’re reading a book and come across a word you don’t know the meaning of, you can look it up. This has prompted me to look up words even when I do know what they mean, because it’s so quick and easy I can satisfy my curiosity about, say, their etymology.

My favorite part: If I’m holding Sophia and you recommend a good book, I can find it, download it and start reading it in less than a minute. Although it claims to use cell phone technology I think it’s a combination of pixie dust and telepathy. It’s not that I don’t understand how it works. It’s that it feels like nothing less than magic to see the book you want in your possession in less time than it would take you to find your car keys.

I can receive the New York Times (or any mayor international newspaper, magazine or blog) every morning before it even is available in print.

Kindle saves paper (there is nothing to print), and if yours breaks and you send it back to them they recycle it. It isn’t cheap, but hard cover books cost around $25, and the same book in the kindle version is $9.99. Books that aren’t the latest bestsellers can be yours (in under a minute) for less than that. For example, after running into a great quote (“it's a poor sort of memory that only works backward”), I decided I needed to re-read Alice in Wonderland and paid $2 for it. President Obama’s inaugural address is mine to read whenever I want, I don’t have to carry the newspaper clipping with me, and it was less than half a dollar.

On Kindle, you can not only read, download free samples (roughly the first chapter) of almost every book you’d like to check out, acquire books at the speed of light and carry 200 books in a device that’s less than half the size of a small laptop, you can also take notes, “clip” pages and archive them (in order), and listen to music. You can also use the “search” feature to find anything online. (What are the Seven Wonders of the Modern World? Give me a minute!)

To all you naysayers who insist you must hold a book, turn its smooth pages and smell that clean, new paper smell, I say to you: I understand. Why would such a convenient device and a book be mutually exclusive? Use Kindle for travel, and read books at home.



Sunday, January 18, 2009

The first national park

Yellowstone is a magical, surreal place. It’s the World’s First National Park, an absolutely astounding, visionary move if you consider it took place in 1872.

It occupies 8,987 square kilometers – larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined - and only about 5% of it has paved roads and things like bathrooms or warming huts. The rest is wild. Let me tell you what I mean by wild: Luca and I were snowshoeing not that far from the lodge and saw, less than 50 feet away, a herd of bison galloping by.

Because we went in the winter, we saw a great variety of wildlife, from bald eagles to mule deer to coyotes to wolves. (While I was there, I read a book about the re-introduction of wolves into Yellowstone after their complete and utter extermination - I won’t break your heart with the details - so I know what a privilege seeing wolves was.)

Some aspects of the park are hard to believe even as they unfold before your eyes. Let me tell you about my most favorite: (at the risk of revealing I have the criteria of a 13 year old boy.)

A big area of Yellowstone (72 by 48 kilometers of it) is the caldera of an active supervolcano. The park has more than 10,000 thermal features and more than 300 geysers. This means that you can be walking around (we were) and all of a sudden see a sparkling pool of clear blue water shoot up into the sky (we did).

If you look into the horizon, the view is sweeping and vast and the skies are bigger than anywhere else – but interrupted by tall streams of steam as far as your eyes can see.

There are boiling pools of mud. You hear bubbling, gurgling, gushing sounds and see surfaces where the hot water has splashed and melted the snow and left behind blue and yellow and red marks on the surface of the Earth.

Consider Old Faithful, a geyser that erupts into a huge jet of hot water more or less every 94 minutes. 3,700 to 8,400 gallons of water are expelled each time, and just prior to the eruption, the water temperature at the vent is 204 degrees Fahrenheit (95.6 degrees centigrade.)

If you didn’t already know that all this was there, wouldn’t you think I was making it up? Isn’t it incredible that such a place actually exists? 

Photo by Luca, taken in Yellowstone National Park

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I'm late I'm late I'm late

I know I know I know. My self-imposed blog-once- a-week rule of thumb is…limping. I have plenty of perfectly acceptable excuses, though: the holiday season, a one week trip to Yellowstone – everyone knows there is no coverage of any kind there - in the heart of a historically cold winter (numb fingers, even if there had been coverage), and a momentous birthday. (You try downplaying the fact you’re turning 40!)

On top of all this, since late November I’ve had way more work than usual. Given that many close friends have called me to tell me they have been laid off, I feel incredibly lucky and doubly duty bound.

And, did I mention my cold? I tried to work through it instead of pamper it (partly because I decided I was stronger than the virus, and partly because I was working under deadline), which resulted in my body demanding I sleep practically through a whole weekend (I complied.)

Which brings me to January 15.

I have a lot I want to tell you (and although they are all things I should have already told you, now it will have to be in the following weeks.) Our magical trip to the first national park in the United States. What I got for my birthday and how much I love her. The single New Year’s resolution I’ve decided upon. And, finally, what I’m going to commit to in my continued efforts to be environmentally responsible (it’s big, daring and geeky).

So, don’t give up on me.


Photo by Luca – outskirts of Yellowstone National Park

Monday, January 5, 2009


Maybe what I worry about fret over what I regret the nightmares the suspicions the doubts conclusions it might all be a lot simpler more linear I make too much of everything it’s all in my head