Podcasts Feed

There's a Podcast for That - 2 of 2

Ornament in snow 12172016If you're anywhere in the northeastern United States today, you've either raced to the grocery store to stock up before tomorrow's storm, or seen news coverage of people doing so.  Maybe you were one of the people in the extra long lines at the gas station, or one of the kids desperately trying to get on that website that predicts the likelihood of snow days.  What I want to know is whether or not you've downloaded enough podcasts to keep you entertained in case the power goes out, or to keep you moving while doing all that shoveling.  

In case you have any doubt, here's the second half of my There's a Podcast for That list.  

Social Studies (for lack of a more vague title)

  • How to be a Girl - Procast from NPR. A mother of a transgender child (in elementary school) talks openly about the struggles and joys of their life.
  • The Longest Shortest Time - Procast.  If you have children or spend time around children, you'll probably find something of interest here.  
  • Ear Hustle - Procast from Public Radio Exchange.  You'd think a podcast made in prison by prisoners would be bleak, but Ear Hustle is anything but.  You get to know some of the inmates as people, not the crimes they committed.  It's fascinating and really entertaining.
  • Death, Sex & Money - Procast.  Thoughtful stories about taboo subjects we all have to face sometime.  The host is terrific at asking the tough questions without a trace of sensationalism.  Not surprisingly, this show comes from the talented people at WNYC.
  • The Guilty Feminist - Take a female, feminist, stand-up comedian, put her in front of an audience with guests and see what painfully funny truths are revealed.
  • Only Human - Procast. This podcast from WNYC is billed as a health podcast, but not in the way you'd expect.  There are no stories about the best cardio workout or what superfood to eat this month.  Instead there are stories about climate change denial, the history of Vicks, and what you pass when you shake hands.  It's about being human.  
  • Rough Translation - Procast from NPR.  The journalists look at how issues that are in the news here in the US, are also making news elsewhere in the world.  For example, what does fake news mean if you live in the Ukraine?  

Science and Technology

  • Radiolab -  Procast from WNYC.  I used to time letting my students out of class to ensure I could be in my car at 9 when this radio show began.  That was of course before I knew about podcasts.  This is a show for people who are interested in science but aren't necessarily scientists.  The co-hosts clearly enjoy each other and they ask the questions that everyday schmoes like me would want to know.  One of the hosts was awarded a MacArthur Grant (aka "genius grant") for the way he innovates with sound.  You've got to experience it to understand.
  • Reply All - Procast from Gimlet Media.  Officially the show is about all things related to the internet: memes, twitter wars, hacking etc.  In short, it does not sound like something I'd have any interest in, but the guys who host it are clearly old friends.  The way the pick on each other cracks me up, and when they bring on their boss to explain a tweet to him, it's so much fun.  
  • Note to Self: Procast from WNYC.  This is a show all about what happens when humans interact with technology.  Even though it's a show by radio professionals, the host is willing to share her insecurities and bad habits.  There's been an emphasis on data safety recently which I haven't found as engaging, but go check out some of the older episodes.  
  • Invisibilia: Procast from NPR.  Each episode takes a look at something unseen that affects our lives.  This is science based, so there are no ghosts or paranormal stories, which is fine with me.  Reality is full of strange and wonderful things.

History

  • Black Sheep - Procast from Radio New Zealand.  I'm not exactly sure how I stumbled on this show, but I love it.  I probably hoped it had to do with knitting; it doesn't.  The host devotes each episode to "the shady, controversial and sometimes downright villainous characters of New Zealand history."  Given how little New Zealand history  is taught in the USA, every person, every incident is completely new to me.  It's fascinating.
  • Uncivil - Procast from Gimlet Media.  In response to the division and unrest in our nation today, Gimlet created a show to look at untold stories of the Civil War.  It's fascinating.

Everything

  • Every Little Thing - Procast from Gimlet Media.  A couple years ago Gimlet introduced a show called Surprisingly Awesome.  In it one host would try to convince the other that something seemingly boring ("concrete" for example) was actually incredible.  I thought it was a great idea but the show went through some growing pains as they played with the format and the hosting.  Eventually they found a version of that original premise that worked, complete with a new host and a new name for the show.  Don't miss the episode on flamingos.
  • The New Yorker Radio Hour - Procast from WNYC.  The editor of The New Yorker hosts.  The content is so varied that I'm having a hard time describing it.  What I can say is that while I've never enjoyed reading The New Yorker, I really enjoy the podcast.
  • Fresh Air with Terry Gross -  Procast from WHYY.  A classic interview show.  Being able to listen to the podcast means never missing the beginning of an interview or sitting in the car in the parking lot to catch the end of one again.
  • This American Life - Procast from WBEZ.  This was the second podcast I discovered.  It has been the soundtrack of countless roadtrips.  It is a classic.  One day I'm sure it will be an episode in Studio 360's American Icon series.

 


There's a Podcast for That - 1 of 2

Foggy horse

Over and over this December, as friends and family came together, the topic of podcasts kept coming up.  Favorite shows were shared, their titles jotted down, friends talked over one another in their excitement at loving the same show, and more than one tutorial in what they are, how to get them and how to listen to them was given.  If you're new to podcasts, they're audio programs available for free from the internet.  Some are simply radio programs made available for you to listen to when you want to.  Many are made by professionals, such as public radio stations or their former employees (think Gimlet), to be podcasts.  These are sometimes called "procasts" because they are made by pros. 

Then there are the shows made in home studios by people who have a passion to share.  These can be harder to find in the post Serial (incredibly addictive procast that introduced podcasts to a new audience) world.  iTunes algorithms emphasize shows with the most downloads, and procasts have greater name recognition so they get downloaded more, but podcasts by the people for the people are out there and some are absolutely wonderful.  One of the exciting things about podcasts made by individuals is that the listeners can become a community, sometimes calling in to leave voice messages that become part of the show.

I've been listening to podcasts for a long time, at least 10 years.  I discovered my first, in of all places, a knitting magazine.  Cast On was a knitting magazine for your ears, complete with the equivalent of letters from the editor, essays, interviews and show and tell.  Though Brenda has moved on to other ventures, you can still find Cast On online.  In fact I think I'm going to relisten to them from the beginning to celebrate the start of a new year.  

If you'd like a new year's resolution that will be a joy to keep, how about resolving to discover the world of podcasts?  Or if you already listen, resolve to try some new ones.  You can listen to them in the car; we listen to them on road trips. I listen to them while I walk.  They help me walk farther without getting board, and unlike music which I'm likely to turn up louder than I should, with podcasts I can still hear approaching cars, bird songs etc.  Podcasts are great company for boring chores (raking, folding laundry, doing dishes, cleaning rabbit pens).  Depending on the content, they are great for falling asleep to.  They give your mind something pleasant to focus on (no obsessing over to do lists), without the blue light that TVs and computers emit which keep us awake.  Many podcast players have timers so they shut off after a certain amount of time.  My iPod (a tiny square barely larger than a postage stamp) has replaced my childhood stuffed animals as my must have for falling asleep. 

Here are some of my favorite podcast.  I hope you'll share yours in the comments section.  

Crafty and Creative

  • Cast On - (see above) 
  • CraftLit - Crafty chat followed by chapters from a classic book, with the benefit of all the insight, context and vocabulary help that a great English teacher brings to the discussion.  Anne of Green Gables will be starting later in January.  I can't wait to see what Heather's research adds to this book I think I know inside and out.
  • CraftSanity- A newspaper reporter started interviewing local artists as a way to bring her two loves together.  Since then she's started a magazine and other endeavors to encourage everyone to tap into their creative side.
  • Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert - Yes that, Elizabeth Gilbert.  After writing about creativity in Big Magic, she started this podcast where she talks with someone who is feeling stuck in a creative endeavor.  She gives them advice and then discussed their situation with a professional in their field (or a related one) and gets their advice.

Language, Literature and the Like

  • CraftLit (see above)
  • The Allusionist - A funny and informative podcast about language.  It's a gem.
  • The World In Words - Procast from Public Radio International.  It's produced right here in Boston.  It focuses on the intersection between language and culture.
  • A Way with Words - Procast.  A call in show where people ask linguists their questions about language.  Episodes are short and light.
  • Studio 360 with Kurt Anderson - Procast from Public Radio International (formally from WNYC).  Kurt interviews people from across pop-culture and the arts.  I highly recommend the Icon episodes in which he delves deep into a work, think The Great Gatsby or Uncle Tom's Cabin. 
  • Levar Burton Reads - If you grew up on Reading Rainbow, you have to listen to Levar read short stories for adults.
  • Audio Dime Museum: Carnivale - This comes from a group called Just a Story.  It's an experiment in telling a serialized story as if you are in it.  You have to try it to see what I mean.
  • 99% Invisible with Roman Mars - Each episode focuses on one story related to design.  That could mean anything from flags to creating the friendliest airport in the world.  The stories are all about how design affects our lives, usually without us noticing.  If Roman ever gets tired of this gig, he could easily make a living in voice over work.

Happiness and Better Living

  • Happier with Gretchen Rubin - Procast. Gretchen has written award winning books that make happiness and habit research accessible to non-science folks.  She is full of tips on knowing yourself better and applying the research to your own life.  She and her cohost sister Elizabeth Craft are wonderfully honest and funny as they discuss the ideas and their own attempts at implementing them.  A great podcast for anyone in the "new year, new me" mindset.
  • Happier in Hollywood - Procast. A spinoff of the Happier podcast, this show is hosted by Elizabeth Craft and her writing partner Sarah Fain.  They've been friends since high school and are now screenwriters in Hollywood.  Their show is full of tips for improving your work life, told through the lens of working in Hollywood.  I listen to this and Happier a lot while crafting.  
  • By the Book - Procast. Two friends pick a self-help book and live by its rules completely for two weeks, then report back.  Their husbands get sucked into the experiments too.  If you've ever read a self-help book you'll love this.  They are painfully honest about their experience.  
  • 10% Happier - Procast. You'll probably recognize the host Dan Harris from Good Morning America.  After suffering a panic attack on national television, he set about changing his life.  Along with facing addiction issues, he took up meditation.  In this podcast he interviews people from all walks of life who meditate.  It's informative, honest and often funny.
  • The Hilarious World of Depression - Procast from American Public Media.  It started with the host (who suffers from depression) interviewing comedians who also live with the disease.  The interviews have branched out a bit to include folks like author John Green of The Fault in our Stars fame.   The show is entertaining, informative and poignant, showing through real life stories that there's no more reason for mental illness to be stigmatized than there is for asthma.  
  • On Being with Krista Tippet -  Procast.  The award winning, beloved radio show is made available for you to listen to whenever you want to.  Krista interviews scientists, theologians, artists and activists about the meaning of life and other big questions.
  • The RobCast - Rob Bell is a little hard to describe.  He went to seminary but found the constraints of any particular religion too restricting.  He explores life, the Bible and God from a Christian perspective while being open to what other faiths and traditions have to teach us.  His energy and excitement is contagious.  I learned about him through Elizabeth Gilbert's podcast.

 

 


North & South on CraftLit

If you've read this blog for any time, you know that podcasts are a key part of my walking experience.  One of my favorites is CraftLit.  It has all the benefits of those literature classes I loved in high school and college, without any of the homework!  I'm really excited that Craftlit is about to start a new book, North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell.  This is not the US North & South (as I found out when I ordered the miniseries through Netflix a couple years back).  This is England and the conflict between the new age of manufacturing and the agrarian society of the past.  Oh, and there's a love story too. 

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How does this tie into walking?  If you're trying to encourage yourself to walk longer or farther, listening to something engaging and longer (roughly an hour) is a great way to keep walking without realizing how long you've been at it.  You can learn the science behind why it works in an episode RadioLab did on Limits.  That's another great show to take along for longer walks.


Exploring New York continued

If you combine the three times I've visited NYC, my time spent there comes to less than a week.  What I know of NYC comes from books, movies and TV. 

In Central Park I tried to find the entrance shown in Mo Willem's book Knuffle Bunny Too, but I think I was on the totally wrong side.  If you aren't familar with the series, each page shows photos of real New York city places, with the characters hand drawn images added on top.  I heard somewhere that a laundromat which plays a central role in the first book is now a common tourist destination. 

I did run into the Central Park carousel that appears in When Blue Met Egg by Lindsay Ward.  The illustrations in this book are made all the more interesting by the fact that Ward appears to have used scrap paper to make her buildings.   You have to see it. 

IMG_5400The carousel was closed for the season when I visited.  

 
IMG_5402As I walked, I listened to The Age of Innocence (Craftlit), set in 19th centure NY.  I smiled thinking of how the characters complain of the park being so remote, and Archer fears one day the island will be connected to the mainland by a tunnel.

From the park I headed south, taking any road that looked interesting or had a familiar name: 5th Avenue, Madison Avenue...  I soon found myself in front of Lincoln Center, watching street venders set up their wares.  Of course Lincoln Center is famous in and of itself, but as a fan of Project Runway, it was exciting to see where their final runway occurs. 

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I passed a diner with a sign in the window that said The Apprentice, no a Food Channel show had been there.  It didn't mean anything to me, so I kept walking.  But I was drawn to all the tiny diners where New Yorkers crowded, bunched shoulder to shoulder to eat their breakfast.   I imagined locals having their spot, whether it's near their home or on the way to work.   How else could so many of these places stay in business?

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I wanted to try every bagel I saw, it was after all NY, but ended up with just one perfect bagel, with a smear of Nutella, purchased from a fellow who teased that Nutella was gross and I really ought to be getting lox. I would have, if I wouldn't have been out $12 if I didn't like it.  That's a lot for a sandwich that might end up in the trash.  My server then had a friendly laugh over my confusion about what 3rd was, a street an avenue?  I still don't know.  I just knew I needed to head in that direction.  I was trying to find Mood, the fabric store featured on Project Runway. 

I never did find it.  I got turned around and didn't realize until I was on the opposite side of the island, but I did stumble upon some other well known spots.

IMG_5506Dylan's Candy where Runway contestants had to find supplies to make wearable outfits.

IMG_5424I used to watch the Late Show religiously.

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Remember when Annie goes to see the Rocketts with Daddy Warbucks?

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I think this might have been a casting call. 

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Do you see the knitter? Red bag, in the center.  She'd wearing gloves!  I was tempted to go over, ask what she was working on and compliment her on being so hard core.  Instead I kept walking.

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Times Square looks much more interesting on TV. 

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I turned a corner and wondered why there were so many policemen and street crews until I noticed the Macy's sign.  They were in full parade prep mode.  The sidewalk was full of tourists taking photos and videos in front of the famous Macy's holiday windows.   Much of the window displays' magic was created with large TV screens.  Compared to the windows I'd seen in movies, a few computer animations were a disapointment.  It was just too easy to create.  The clock across the square, now that was impressive. 

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I headed south and saw something vaguely familiar.  I couldn't place it, so I kept walking toward it.

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I had no idea the new World Trade Center had been built.  I'd seen plans for it on the news some time back, but last I'd heard there was fighting about the design.  My first visit to NY was after 9/11 so I dont have any personal memories of that old skyline, but this was a surprise all the same. 

By now the temperature had managed to drop, rather than rise with the sun.  It was a cool 20 degrees with a biting wind, and the word "frostbite" kept popping to mind.  I considered taking the train back to the hotel, but there was one more spot I wanted to see with my own eyes.  I was so close, it would be a waste to turn back now. 

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I'd always seen her with a soaring skyline as the backdrop.  A working dock full of cranes and equipment was not especially poetic.  It was a bit like seeing the Mona Lisa in person.  The professional photographs I'd seen all my life showed her at her best.  There was no way for reality to compete.

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The must-see spots often as not can't live up to their hype.  It's the unexpected encounters and sights that make travel an exploration and not a to do list.

 

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I can't help suggesting a couple great New York based books for adults

And some YA (Young Adult) classics


Exploring New York

I've finally figured out how to travel.  I don't mean travel for work; I have no idea how those folks manage not to lose their minds with all that planning and packing (the two worst parts of travel).  No, I've finally figured out what to do once I've arrived at the place I've been daydreaming about. 

I can't be the only one who gets to point X and says "Now what?"  Some of you may, quite reasonably be saying, well if you planned ahead, you'd know what what to do; I disagree.  Planning is for figuring out the best times to go to must-see spots so you stand in the smallest line possible.  Planning is for figuring out what tickets and transportation it will take to get you to said must-see spots.  Planning does not help you feel like you know a place, that you've really seen it and experienced it.

In my twenties when my friends and I travelled, we planned out our must-sees and then figured we'd wing the rest.  That winging usually became shopping.  Not because we loved to shop, but because we wanted to get out, to explore and we needed a destination.  This was not particularly satisfying.  In my early thirties we tried the go-somewhere-and-relax vacation.  We'd see some sights and then have time for leisurely naps, reading on park benches or beach chairs.  This too was not particularly satisfying.  Not that I'm against naps and reading, but I can't see any reason to travel to do either.  It seems a waste to go so far and do what I could most comfortably do in my own home. 

Recently I tried something different.  My partner Z and I took a little weekend trip to NYC the weekend before Thanksgiving.  No reason.  Just to see some sights, visit friends and break with routine.  Z adores sleeping in.  A vacation is not a vacation for him if it involved alarm clocks.  I on the other hand feel a little gross, like I've eaten a whole chocolate cake on my own, if I sleep past 8.  So I decided while he slept, I would walk.  No, "walk" is too prosaic a word.  I would explore.  

Saturday morning: Chai in hand, I headed for Central Park.  We were staying in the upper east side, a place I only knew from TV shows, so I figured the park would make an easy landmark to start from.  I considered trying to look like I  belonged, not gawking at buildings and not taking a million photos, but soon decided with my mismatched knit wear and down coat, no one was going to mistake me for a local.  This was driven home to me when I saw a local.  He wore an  impeccably tailored suit, gleaming black shoes, perfectly gelled curls, and a bright red leather man-bag.  Oh and he was flossing his teeth while waving down a cab!  My first thought was, yeah, I don't look like I'm from around here.  My second thought was, wouldn't he rather spend a couple less minutes on his hair than be caught flossing in public?  Guess not.

I wish I'd got a picture of him, or the woman I saw wearing fun from head to toe while walking a dog the same color as her fur (yikes), but I'm just not that brazen with my camera.  I couldn't do it without being obvious, and that felt rude.  Here's what I did get pictures of.

IMG_5376Love those doors

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 This old firehouse was now someone's home.  Are those water towers still functional?

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I'm a sucker for lion statues

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The city was getting ready for the holiday

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It was freezing, 25 degrees, yet he was washing away the previous day's grime

As I approached the park the stands were still shuttered and locked up.  The homeless could be seen packing up their meager belongings.  There were no horse drawn carriages waiting for tourists, but there was a group of friends walking their dogs.  As soon as they stepped inside the gate they let them free.  Is that legal?  Weren't they afraid the dogs would run into traffic?  Nope.  The dogs jumped and sniffed and raced ahead to a clearing where more unleashed dogs were having a great time.

  IMG_5386For a moment I thought this was the entrance featured in

Mo Willem's Knuffle Bunny Too, but sadly I wasn't.  I never did find that one.  

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The friendliness of city birds and squirrels was not a surprise,


IMG_5388but seeing a heron was.

IMG_5483This walk was not a workout.  I stopped to read the bench inscriptions.


IMG_5406I may or may not have squealed when I saw Sting's name,

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but this one is the best by far.


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As I walked through the park, I felt surprisingly at home.  I've only been to Central Park once or twice in my life, and I knew I hadn't been to this section.  I looked at this bridge and had my answer. 

IMG_3312It looks quite a bit like this one

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and this one - in Boston.

Both Central Park and the Emerald Necklace chain of parks in Boston  were designed by Frederik Law Olmsted, who believed strongly in the importance of urban people having access to the serenity of nature.   

“We want a ground to which people may easily go when the day’s work is done, and where they may stroll for an hour, seeing, hearing, and feeling nothing of the bustle and jar of the streets where they shall, in effect, find the city put far away from them…”
(Frederick Law Olmsted, 1870)

Even though the city is never far from you, it is easy to feel apart from it in Olmsted's creation.

To be continued... 


Mapping Home

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The lights are easily one of my favorite things  in the days leading up to Christmas.  Before the Thanksgiving turkey carcas has been made into soup, the first lit up house will appear.  Within 24 hours there are a few more; parents taking advanatge of kids home from college to reach those highest spots.  By the second weekend in December every street has something to show, whether its the classic candles in window or an inflatable Snoopy snow globe.  

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In the evenings, light spotting makes even the most boring of outings a bit more fun.  There's the giant peace sign that appears among a stand of trees on my commute home, or the stone sculptures that have been wrapped in twinkling white on the Lincoln green.  The trees of Burlington are a crazy riot of primary colors, like a giant splashed glowing acryllic paint across the park.  Then the restrained joy of Lexington's wreaths, greens and star-like lights.  One one side of the street a neighbor has made grand loops across her bushes, reminding me of a string of cursive "e's".  Just around the block there's a house where every eave has been traced in glowing icicles, like a giant gingerbread dripping icing.  

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This year I considered making a photo-map of my neighborhood's Christmas lights.  I got the idea from a story I heard on This American Life about Denis Wood.   Mr. Wood has been mapping his neighborhood in Raleigh, North Carolina since the 70s, but not in the usual ways.  He's made maps of what you would see underground (pipes etc), of who appears in the newspaper, pools of light  cast by the street lamps and my favorite, jack-o-lanterns.  Wood then layers these maps to see what connections he can discern (he shares some of them in the This American Life story).  It got me wondering about the houses I pass each day.  Are the people who decorate with lights the same ones who make jack-o-lanterns?  Do people without kids (at least outdoor evidence of kids)  decorate for the holidays?  Have more people been planting vegetable gardens lately?

I've decided I probably shouldn't do a photo-map.  To shoot in the dark would require setting up a tripod and that simply calls too much attention to myself.  If you saw someone with a tripod in front of your house, wouldn't you wonder what she was up to?  Yeah, that doesn't sound like a fun conversation.  But I do love the lights, and as they start going dark over the next couple weeks, I'll miss them.  Why is it that just as winter gets its nastiest and the dark feels the most foul, we take down our amulets against its depressive influence?   There are always a few folks who don't care ab0ut the expense and keep them lit throughout the deepest winter.  And to them I say a silent "thank you", each time I pass. 

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Photos in this post were taken in York ME, Portsmouth NH, Cambridge MA and Lexington MA.


The Walk n' Talk

The West Wing TV show was well known for many things: complex story lines, an incredible ensemble cast, really fast dialogue and the walk n' talk (scenes where a conversation happens as two characters walk through the halls of the White House).   The creators created this as a way to keep up the energy of the show, even when characters had to pass a lot of information along to the audience.  It worked.

I recently heard a TED talk on the walk n' talk, only this time the goal wasn't audience attention (though it's a lot harder to play Angry Birds while walking than sitting in a meeting), the goal was health.  It's a really short talk, just a few minutes, but it's a big idea. 

 

While you're at it, here's a PSA on the health benefits of walking, in which the cast of the West Wing spoofs their famous walk n' talk scenes.


Camping - at home

Two and a half days of camping in my own home taught me a few important and several not so important things about this modern day life.  I'll leave the categorizing up to you.

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  1. The hardest thing about losing electricity is dealing with food: how to keep it from spoiling, how to heat it up (cold food is not fun when you're already cold), and how to keep to a reasonably healthy diet.  My breakfast of Cheeze-Its fell a bit short on a couple of these.
  2. Time stretches delisciously in a world without clocks.  A morning feels twice as long when you're not aware that you've already "used up" half of it.  
  3. Quilting and knitting are perfect activities when there's snow outside and no source of heat inside.
  4. You really can light a gas stove with a match without losing your eyebrows.
  5. I owe Jenna of the Cold Antler Farm blog a debt of gratitude.  Her posts about storm preparation and trying to live on as little outside power as possible lead me to buy wind up flashlights, a batter free radio/mp3 player and a solar powered lantern (that also happens to be a water bottle).  Knowing I had these at hand and didn't have to worry about running out of batteries felt luxurious.
  6. Washing up with cold water has more rejuvenating power than a trip to Starbucks.
  7. When the sun goes down and there are no screens, time moves at the turtle pace of childhood.  
  8. While the dim glow candles produce makes reading and needlework painful, there's no better backdrop for listening to Bram Stoker's Dracula!
  9. New Englanders are known for their reserve, but that's just because it only snows 1/4 of the year.  There's nothing like bad weather for creating opportunities to meet the neighbors.
  10. The comforting power of a hot water bottle is underrated.  Curling up with Cozy Bear (my own pattern) in a cocoon of blankets was pure bliss.

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In the Bleak Midwinter

These days the sun makes it just over the treeline and then sighs in exhaustion and starts to set.  The short hours of daylight make me eager to follow the sun's lead and head for bed early...say 5 o'clock.  But in the weeks leading up to the winter solstice,  it was the seemingly endless, impenetrable darkness that made the Christmas lights' glow all the brighter. 

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I love the traditional New England, understated candle in each window look, but I couldn't capture one with my camera.  So here are a few houses that are classic, in a slightly more lavish way.

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This house is in Winchester.  I assume the garland of fruit above the door must be fake, but from the sidewalk it looked quite real.   It made me think of the historic homes of Portsmouth NH, where citrus was used as a sign of wealth and hospitality, especially in the cold of winter. 

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This house made me want to just stand and stare.  And I did, until I started to worry that someone would notice.    I love the child-sized toy soldiers guarding the entrance and the Christmas tree filling those floor to ceiling windows.  I wonder what it's like to be on the inside of a house with that sort of window.  Do you feel like you're in a fishbowl or do you become oblivious to it?  They're absolutely lovely from the outside.  

I've only seen such windows on historical homes, which makes me wonder how the original inhabitants ever stayed warm through a Massachusetts winter.  The only thing I can imagine is that it was a symbol of wealth, the sort of thing that says "I'm so rich I can afford to be wasteful", just like owning a Hummer today. 

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I get nostalgic at the site of the big, orb-like Christmas lights (like the ones in the first picture in this post), but I'm happy to say that a couple years  ago our town took up a donation to change all the town holiday lighting to more efficient LED bulbs. 

IMG_3988 The trees on Mass Ave appear draped in fairly lights.  I was walking under them last week during a snow shower and it was like walking through a snow globe.

Mass Ave
Just take a look at the beautiful holiday display the newest addition to downtown created.  Don't you just want to spend a wintry afternoon in there surrounded by books?  At the time they hadn't even opened yet, but thanks to this display (and my love of children's books) I can't wait to make The Elephant's Trunk a walk destination.  I've found having an enticing destination can be the difference between putting on enough gear to face the cold for a walk, and staying inside quilting with a mug of hot cocoa. 

Elephants Trunk
Early each December Lexington has a shopper's night where the stores stay open past dinner (the usual closing time for all but the restaurants and the movie theater), Santa arrives via a firetruck, the symphony does a great holiday concert and carolers stroll the streets and shops.  Here's a quick video of one performing group.  I couldn't quite decide if it was rude or not to tape them, so I tried not to make it too obvious.

 

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One of my favorite walks I took this holiday season was through a residential area while listening to A Christmas Carol.  I've seen quite a few plays and movie adaptations of the story, but the original text has such wonderful description it's almost a new story.  Take for example this line from a description of the Christmas party Scrooge's first employer gave. "In came a fiddler with a music-book and went up to the lofty desk, and made such an orchestra of it, and tuned like fifty stomach-aches".  Who would think to compare a sound to a stomach ache?  Yet it works, I heard it and I knew just what a racket was being made.  If you'd like to hear the story (and get some great insight into why it's called a carol and other things you may never have considered before), check out Craftlit.

I think I've mentioned before that I often associate a certain place with what I was listening to when I walked there.  A Christmas Carol, and specifically Marley's chains will come to mind each time I walk past this grandstand.  You might recognize it from my post about summer music.

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And this lovely home is now connected in my mind to the party the Ghost of Christmas Past has Scrooge revisit.

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Now Christmas is past, and once the new year begins the lights will slowly disappear from people's homes.  Officially the days are getting longer once again, so I suppose we don't need those lights quite so much to brighten our days and nights.  But it was truly a feast for the eyes while it lasted.  I'm looking forward to next year's.

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