Piping Frosting Lace and Other Patterns

Practice piping on the rim of a glass.
Practice piping on the rim of a glass to simulate the side of a glass. Photo from Craftsy.

Piping frosting in lace patterns is one of the ways to create an elegant cake. It also takes much more practice than cutting out fondant flowers.

From and Craftsy: Everything You Need to Know About Piping Techniques

Since piping is most often done on vertical surfaces, practicing on a glass or jar gives the best learning experience. I’m not about to try this but it’s nice to know how if I ever have a few days to practice.


Snuggly Tulip Hat in Red
Snuggly Tulip Hat in Red

Perfect Popcorn

Gene and LynnFor too long had I been popping the perfect popcorn in a hot air popper. Fluffy clouds. No fat! No cholesterol! No taste.

Until I re-discovered the real stuff.

After years and years of this, a friend brought real popcorn to a movie screening: Popped in a pan over a fire with oil. And buttered. Now the hot air popper is reserved for Christmas when we make strings of popcorn and cranberries for the birds.

Tiny But Mighty Popcorn

A few days ago I started hearing about perfect popcorn popping. After reading many news articles and websites, I found this memorable gem: Farmer Gene’s Tiny But Mighty Popcorn. You will want to read the whole page including “way-too-much-detail” section, but here are the basic do’s, the one’s my grandmother fed me:

Recommended oils: sunflower, safflower, coconut, canola, grape seed and vegetable
Note: “expeller pressed” oils are the healthiest and best quality.

  • Heavy pot with lid + 2 to 3 tbsp oil + 3 test kernels + Med/High heat
  • When you hear a test kernel pop, remove the pot from heat
  • Add 2/3 cup kernels, shake to distribute evenly in the pot, and return to heat
  • Leave untouched until popping vigorously (approx 2-3 min), then shake pot occasionally (every minute or so)
  • When there are 2-3 seconds between pops, remove from heat and immediately pour into a bowl. Season with your favorite toppings and enjoy!

And Tiny But Mighty even has a good story:

While no one in his family knows exactly where the seed came from, they believe it came from Indian neighbors. When Richard Kelty returned home from the army in the mid-1970s, he found the last remaining seeds in a fruit jar. He popped some and planted the rest—and a new business was born.

What makes Tiny But Mighty popcorn unique, besides its tiny kernels and disintegrating hulls, is that it is open pollinated. A 128-day corn, TBM is also difficult to raise, process, and keep its integrity. Gene consulted with a popcorn breeder from Idaho, who said TBM was a rare variety. Because it is hard to breed, most people in the popcorn industry wanted nothing to do with it.

The current growers are Gene and Lynn Mealhow and the sons. Gene is a farmer and soil consultant to farmers interested in sustainable practices.

Internet Service in Cohousing

A major conundrum for cohousing and one that warrants a chapter in the next book on building a cohousing community is internet service. To provide it collectively or each to their own? If collectively how to charge, or whether to include in condo fees? Which technology? Who maintains it?

When Takoma Village began planning in 1998-1999, we had several internet-knowledgeable people who insisted that we install wiring for internet connections. Every unit has at least 4 jacks with telephone, cable TV, and ethernet connections. The 3 and 4 bedrooms have more. Basically one in every room, even the kitchen. (We have connected units, not houses on lots.)

Internet service is included in our condo fee so it is paid at the same rate as condo fees, with larger units paying more. When people started using wireless, we installed community wireless connections for everyone to use. And we use each others. All the passwords are the same.

We have an intranet so people can share music and files, and the teenagers play games with each other. Several units collectively bought an expensive back-up drive to share and use our Intranet to backup.

The Set Up

There are routers in the north and south basements and in the common house basement that connect all the wires from  units to modems. For years we only had one modem. Then we upgraded to one modem with business class service. Now we have two business class service modems from two different companies so we rarely have a total outage when one service is down. Service is just a little slower; Netflix spins a bit.

One modem used to serve the North side and one the South side but one side has more gamers than the other. Unfair advantage to be limited to the same modem. Now the traffic rolls over.

Each ethernet jack in each unit is connected to the internet with its own IP address. This has caused a problem with Bluehost, our ISP, because they don’t like our account coming from different IPs all the time. So we have some special connection with them. When I worked on our website, that was a problem because my personal ISP is also Bluehost. Working on websites is upload intensive and with everyone’s email plus connections to our websites caused traffic jams. Now all the connections to Bluehost go through a single IP address.

What Doesn’t Work?

The problems are around the routers. One or the other of them blows a port with some regularity. It’s a long process to test the system and isolate the bad ports. We have internal people—one active expert and one that can be called in, and 2-3 who have training. The trained can get on the phone with an expert and understand how to follow his instructions. Without internal people trained to manage the network, we couldn’t do this.

One person who works professionally installing networks recommends purchasing new routers every year. Install the basic reliable inexpensive router and when you replace the next year the most reliable extra features will be built in and you will always have up-to-date trustworthy technology. No downtimes. Others think this is wasteful so we have downtimes until someone gets a new router, though I think now we always have a backup handy

What Else Could We Do?

Many would like to hire someone who would always be available. Our current expert often goes to very remote places to hike. But it would be expensive and no one is always available anyway. We used to have three experts but two moved. We can still call them but the system changes so their knowledge is not always current.

Some would like an external business class service that is guaranteed to be up 99% of the time. It feels uncomfortable to ask neighbors to go out in the evening or early morning or three days in a row to fix routers but so many people work from home now they are dependent on the Internet. I’m online literally 12-14 hours a day and others are too. (We can almost instantly contact each other—a subculture.)

We bought software so the techies can change settings and check the system from home on their computers, but when it is a hardware problem they still have to go to the basement. Often for several hours. And then they have to go to work, fixed or not.

Education and Warnings

We used to have huge problems with people moving in and setting up all their devices without letting our techs know that hew equipment had been installed. They would guess the settings or use the ones they had before and it would bring down the whole system. Or they would allow their systems to automatically choose an address and often it was their neighbor’s. One or the other would then get kicked off the system whenever both tried to get on online. Because we have an IP address for jack, each device—computers, cable system, netflix, Blueray, etc.—has its own settings. If people don’t have all of them set correctly, they can’t even use all their own equipment.

Now new people are warned before they move in to call the techs to set them up. In the panic of moving, they often forget. And when residents buy new equipment, they still forget that step.

It’s Still Worth It (On Most Days)

A collective system is soooo much cheaper than each of us having our own service and in-house attention is still better than someone who has never been here before—the usual case. Collectively, we can afford service that is four times as fast. It’s slower on Friday night when every one seems to be watching movies or playing games but still faster than the smaller residential modems most cable providers include in bundled packages. That service costs now $35 a month. 43 units x $35 = $1,500 a month. Instead we pay $365—80% less.

When we need repair of the modem, business class service is normally the same day, usually within hours. Residential service is usually a 3-4 day minimum; “next week,” the most common response.

Usage Is Way Up

When we moved in, less than half our households used the Internet at home. Whenever we sent out an email with a request the deadline for a response had to include a weekend for people who only read at home and workdays for those who only read at work. From the beginning, we had a computer in the office for people who didn’t have or need a computer. It is now used by people whose own computer is broken or much slower and by guests. And some just like to get out of their units.

We also have a duplex 3-in-1 printer that is hooked up to out intranet. Residents don’t need a scanner, copier, or fax machine, and can print from home.

When only a few were using the internet at home, it was harder to get attention to the network being down because very few people were dependent on it. Several of us had our own modems because of this. Now every household has at least one device hooked up. I have four and a router to handle them. Some have their own internal intranet so they can share devices. About a third work at home all the time or a significant part of the time. And that number is growing rapidly. I would guess that most people check work email at home though some companies are now not allowing that for security reasons.

A long history but an important one that I think that Takoma Village has handled at a high level because we had tech savvy people from the beginning who were avid about new technology and foresaw the future—even though it still isn’t perfect. Every community will probably be at some point in this evolutionary process. If anyone is beyond it, please let me know!

Spritz: Reading Revolution?

Spritz ad showing a small screen with their tagline "Reading Reimagined."Spritz is a method of reading based on new research. The finding is that experienced readers focus on a key point in a word and spend most of their time looking back and forth from one word to another. The Spritz method, patented technology, is based on the finding that we supposedly read a word by finding the key point in the middle of a word. Spritz shows one word at a time on the screen, centered appropriately. The speed with which words appear can be adjusted.

Background, FAQ, and an example can be found at the Spritz site.

Does Spritz Work?

It didn’t work for me because I find seeing the whole page or several sentences at a time is important to putting all the ideas together and I read in phrases, not words. Listening to books is not very satisfying because it is too linear.

If the example is an indication, I can probably read faster—I don’t actually know how fast I read. I had to go to 600 words per minute in the example just to keep focused on seeing one word at a time, but not sure how much I remember.

Certainly this would be good for iPhones since it is easier to read on small screens. But who reads on small screens?

Staring at computer screens is thought to be the reason they are not good for the eyes. Not sure if this rates as staring but what I’m doing is reading when I stare at the computer screen. Who knows?

A Critique by Annie Murpy Paul on the Time website, The “Brain App” That’s Better Than Spritz.

Converted Bus: A Home for $9,000 in 15 Weeks

Exterior View of Converted Bus by Architectural Student Hank Buttita
Exterior View of Converted Bus by Architectural Student Hank Buttita

Wonderful idea for converting old buses into a tiny house. My son used to watch out the window on regular trips down the Thruway in New York State to see a large parking lot for school buses, some in service and some not. He would have loved this before he acquired a wife and two children.

I often dream of living in a tiny house but then I measure the square footage my books and crafts supplies take. The whole house.

Architectural student Hank Buttita was tired of designing buildings no one could afford so he bought a bus and converted it to an almost elegant modern-style modular home complete with a kitchen, bathroom, beds, and storage, with a wooden floor from an old gymnasium. He bought the bus for $3,000 on Craig’s List, spent $6,000 on remodeling, less than a semester of graduate school. Most of the work was completed in 15 weeks including 7 weeks of design and prototyping.

He has posted a blog and photos from his 5,000 mile trip around the country to show architecture students what can be accomplished in the tiny house and rehabilitation.

interior View of Converted Bus by Architectural Student.
interior View of Converted Bus by Architectural Student Hank Buttita

Hanks website Hank Bought a Bus has more pictures, descriptions, and a video.

Making Public Transportation Better

I used to commute four hours a day round trip, from New Paltz, NY to Manhattan. My community was the commuters who boarded the same bus every morning at 6:50 and again at 5:50, or sometimes 4:50. When I gave up the car and moved to the city, I had more hours in each day but I also had more energy and more money. The hidden costs of commuting are larger than they seem on paper. You compensate for the inconvenience and boredom by spending extra money for lunch or dinner, etc.

Co-workers of a friend who lived in the city tried to convince her to move out of the city to a small town where she would have a house for what she paid for two-bedroom apartment in the city. She did the math. She would have to buy a car, pay commuting and parking expenses, and maintain the house. And miss all the theater and other advantages of living in the city. In the end it would be a lower quality of living and more expensive.

The Pleasures of Commuting

What made commuting pleasurable was having space to think, quiet alone time but with other people like me. On the bus, everyone chatted for a half an hour or so, and then lapsed into silence napping or reading newspapers, returning to sociability a half an hour from the city. Sometimes I drove just to be alone for 2 hours. Cocooned.

But in the city when I commuted by walking 10 minutes to the office, that wasn’t enough. I needed more space between office and home to unwind. I took the long way around so it was 20 minutes.

For two years I commuted two hours a day from an outer borough in New York in a private van that carried 8 people. There were rules. You could say good morning or report on an expected absence, but otherwise, be quiet. It was the solitude people enjoyed. You could drink coffee but not eat. The smells of everyone’s food was intrusive. As soon as we got into the city and people started getting off and saying goodbye, talking and sharing began.

This led me to thinking about how to make commuting on public transportation, even for relatively short distances, more pleasurable. Spaciousness would be a start. The time to read is a major benefit for me and for many. The Kindle is a great commuting advantage thought I like a book. But even that pleasure would be more attractive with the assurance of having a seat. And uncrowded seat. Assurance of not to having to listen to someone else’s music or phone conversations for an hour or even half an hour.

One way to accomplish this would be more divisions like the old railroad compartments, so you not feel like you are riding in a cattle car.

It Costs Too Much

“It costs too much” is the first objection to making commuting on public transportation more pleasurable, but commuting in private cars also costs too much. We all pay for those roads and decreased air quality and emergency vehicles racing to accidents.

It’s really a question of accounting. If we withdrew support for commuting by car and put those funds directly into shared transportation, urban design, and transit route rehabilitation, we would all be richer.

That’s why I don’t favor making it easier for cars to get through streets and intersections, through tunnels and bridges. Make it safer for pedestrians and clearer for traffic to navigate, but discourage making it easier to commute by car.

Death Over Dinner

Death Over Dinner is another let’s have dinner and talk about death movement like the Death Cafe. The introduction by the  founder, Michael Hebb, begins:

On a beautiful June morning in 2012 I boarded a train traveling from Portland to Seattle, and quickly made my way to the dining car. Within a few minutes I found myself in a lively conversation with two strangers, both doctors, and both very concerned about the state of our health care system. What I learned during that conversation was shocking, and the statistic that broke my heart was this:

Nearly 75% of Americans want to die at home, yet only 25% of them do.

I asked the doctors: Do you think that how we end our lives is the most important and costly conversation America is not having?

They said: Absolutely.

And then I asked them this: If I helped create a national campaign called “Let’s Have Dinner and Talk About Death,” did they think I would find support from doctors, patients, essentially everyone?

They said: Absolutely. You must do this!

Death Over Dinner LogoOne month later he and his graduate students in Communications at the University of Washington had signed up over 30 of the country’s healthcare and wellness leaders as Advisors and TEDMED had asked them to take the main stage at their prestigious conference.

His bio on the TEDMED site is very detailed and interesting. He has been hosting dinners on serious topics since 1997. He was described by the New York Times as an “underground restaurateur, impresario and provocateur.” He believes that the dinner table is one of the most effective (and overlooked) vehicles for changing the world.

Michael’s creative agency One Pot specializes in the technology of the common table, seeking to shift culture by using thoughtful food and discourse-based engagements and happenings. One Pot has worked closely with thought leaders and cultural leaders and many preeminent foundations an institutions including the Republic of Gabon, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Clinton Global Initiative, the X Prize Foundation, the FEED Foundation, Architecture For Humanity, and the Summit Series.

Why Dinner?

The dinner table is the most forgiving place for difficult conversation. The ritual of breaking bread creates warmth and connection, and puts us in touch with our humanity. It offers an environment that is more suitable than the usual places we discuss end of life.

Frustrating Website — Not a Model to Follow

The Death Over Dinner website is incredibly frustrating. It is described as “an interactive digital platform linking UW masters program students with many national healthcare leaders.” What?

If  you use the link on the front page that says, “Get Started” you end up in a long string of screens that force you to make choices from menus about what you want to read, which video you want to watch, and which questions you want to ask. You make random choices to go to the next screen hoping for information. When you’ve gone through a seemingly endless number of screens, however, you are asked to sign up and then wait for a confirmation email that is not instant.  You wait because you want to enter the site and actually read something about death dinners.

When the email arrives, the information that you randomly selected is included in the body of an email that is in the form of a letter. You are supposed to use this letter to invite your friends to a death dinner. It is complete with homework. All that stuff I selected are things my guests are assigned to read and watch before coming to dinner. Educated and ready to talk.

Incredibly dumb in my opinion. I tried but I couldn’t even read the email. Who talks this way to their friends:

I would be honored if you would take the time to join me and [a few guests (or) add specific names] for dinner and to engage in this conversation. The folks at www.deathoverdinner.org have created a series of three thoughtful conversational prompts for us to explore.

And there is no place to confirm anything. When you go back to the site, if you want to subscribe, you have to register again. And I suspect confirm again. I didn’t try it.

While I waited for the email I finally found the blog. The link is hidden in tiny symbols in the upper right hand corner. A tweet symbol, an envelope, a Facebook symbol, and, oh yes, three parallel lines. That’s the blog. For your benefit, here is the link to the blog:


Finally at the blog, apparently the only information on the site, you are greeted by the usual (and welcome) list of summaries of blog posts. Well enough, until you click through on one. I clicked through on How Doctors Die and was greeted by the same summary. When I clicked the “Keep reading here” link to get to the full post I was instead sent with no warning the New York Times to read an article called How Doctors Die: Showing Others the Way.

A website design that is an example of a noble idea gone awry when implemented by communications majors. The site is beautiful visually but a classic example of incredibly low usability. It reminds me of a Miss Manners request: Could we stop communicating and have a conversation?



Takoma Theatre: Opening Night

Takoma Theater in 1966.
The Historic Takoma Theatre in 1966.

Takoma Village Cohousing is next door to the historic Takoma Theatre. I’ve been trying to revitalize it since 2003. No luck because the owner refuses to sell. For the last few years it has been unused and is sitting empty. The owner has since died leaving the theater to a trust his children control. They also refuse to sell. They have applied to the Historic Preservation Review Board to redevelop it in residential units. With more than 100 windows it will resemble a motel.

The following description is of the theater on opening night July 2, 1923.

The Takoma Theatre Corporation

In 1920, The Takoma Theatre Corporation was formed with the leadership of W. G. Platt, former mayor of Takoma Park, MD, and in 1922, it commissioned John J. Zink to design a theater on the corner of  4th Street NW and Butternut Streets.

Zinc designed the theater in the early Classical Revival style, which contemporaneous reviews called the “Grecian” or “Greek” style. Though it was his first independent commission, it exhibits many of the elements of his mature style in its perfect acoustics, clear sight lines, concern for safety, and the comfortable appointments “of a downtown playhouse.”

From the beginning the theater was intended for community use and the local schools were invited to hold their graduations there. A lecture series was planned for the following fall and the theater would be “given over to all the activities of a town hall.”

In respect for the religious base of the community, the theatre was only open six days a week. Residents were assured that only the best “photo plays” would be shown immediately following their first-run downtown. This would ensure that the films had the “approval of F Street.” The films changed every two days. Admission was 30 cents ($3.20 adjusted for inflation).

With initially announced costs of $120,000 and $130,000, the theater was built for $150,000. Adjusted for inflation this would be $2,031,586 today —and that would be without state-of-the-art equipment and air handling expected by today’s audiences.

The theater opened on July 2, 1923, at 7:30. The headliner was  The Ne’er Do Well from Paramount Pictures featuring Thomas Meighan, Lila Lee, Gertrude Astor, John Miltern, and “others of like talent.” It was accompanied by “Mermaid Comedy” and “Kinograms.” Admission for the opening night was free for both shows.

The Takoma News of July 6, 1923 proclaimed the theater second to none in the District of Columbia in both appearance and in the manner of presenting the program. A reporter for Moving Picture World attended the opening.

The Auditorium

In the original plan, there were 704 seats and standing room for 300. The size of the auditorium was considered sufficient for 750 seats, but Zink chose to make the side aisles wider than were required. This gave a sense of spaciousness and increased safety; the aisles led to exit doors on either side of the stage. The seats were arranged in three sections with two interior and two exterior aisles. The roof rests on iron columns encased in the exterior brick walls. This eliminated the need for supporting columns which would clutter the space and interfere with viewing.

With no sound enhancement, theaters required expert acoustical engineering. The acoustics in the Takoma have been considered perfect by musicians who performed there.

The stage was deeper than current movie theaters because Vaudeville acts appeared before the film showing because no one thought people would come to see just a film. Though there was no orchestra, a pit was built under the stage to allow for possible future needs. Music was provided by an organ installed in a room to the left of the stage with its controls in the orchestra pit along with a boiler and coal-pit.

The lighting in the auditorium was soft and indirect, in multiple colors. Several switches were placed around the auditorium so in an emergency it could be flooded with light.

The auditorium color scheme was old rose, cream, ivory, and gold. It was illuminated by red, white, and blue lights and candelabras attached to the pillars on the walls. The dome in the center was painted with a “cloud effect” and illuminated with white, blue, and green lights on dimmers. Encircling the dome was an intricate gold and cream grillwork in a Greek-inspired pattern. It covered vents through which air is drawn by two large fans on the roof. Six 18-inch electric fans in the auditorium ensured that the air was kept moving.

In the winter the theater was heated with steam radiators on either side of the auditorium in niches built into the walls. The lobby was also heated, which was not always the case in theater of the period. It was 30-feet square with imitation Caen stone walls, a cornice, a marble base, and a ceramic-tile border. The floor of the lobby was composite wood. The walls had four inset panels in blue and gold. This design continued into the vestibule with the addition of poster frames in black and gold.

The Retiring Rooms

On either side of the lobby were the “retiring rooms.” The men’s room on the right, next to the stairs to the projection room and the manager’s private office, was 16-feet square with smoking stands, a library table, and leather upholstered chairs. The adjacent toilet was spacious and “sanitary to the last letter.” The women’s retiring room was 22 by 16 feet and furnished with a Brussels rug, wicker furniture, a dressing table, and “other equipment.” Each of the rooms contained an “icing plant” which guaranteed  “a continuous flow of iced water.”

Projection Room

The projection room was 23 by 18 feet, large for the day, and furnished with two Power type E projection machines and a General Electric generator.  In 1929, an RCA Photophone was installed and the Takoma became the first suburban theater to show films with sound. The projection room contained a lead vault in which the films were stored because they were highly flammable. Projectionist carved their initials into the door as a mark that they had been there and put their lives in danger for the art of film.

The Exterior and Second Floor

The front section of the building was two-stories high. The façade of this section was tapestry brick of an earthy yellow, sandstone, and marble. The first floor contained the lobby, retiring rooms, and theater offices as described above, and two retail spaces. The lower façade, in front of the retail spaces, was wood with large windows. The second floor also featured large wood-framed windows. It is unclear whether there were offices on the second floor or they installed later. The review of the building in Better Equipment said the second floor space  could be “used for a ballroom or for hall or lodge purposes.” This suggests that it was an undivided room of approximately 65 by 30 feet with its own entrance to the right side of the main entrance.

The Takoma was one of the last theaters to include space for retail shops and offices. These  soon disappeared in the design of suburban theaters.The exterior walls of the auditorium, extending more than 100 feet behind, were of red brick. As recorded on the building permit, the original plans included a stucco surface with low-relief Greek-style columns on the long Butternut Street wall. With approval, this was eliminated before construction. A few years later, an application was filed to install awnings over the front windows.

The exterior walls of the auditorium, extending more than 100 feet behind, were of red brick. As recorded on the building permit, the original plans included a stucco surface with low-relief Greek-style columns on the long Butternut Street wall. With approval, this was eliminated before construction. A few years later, an application was filed to install awnings over the front windows.

The Marquee and Rooftop Sign

A large marquee projected over the sidewalk providing illumination and a panel below it announced programs. The recessed center entryway was designed for a ticket booth. When the theater opened it had not been completed but was to be equipped with an “Automatic Ticket Register.” The plan for what is now a parking lot was an “open air park.”

A very large illuminated ironwork sign on the top of the building that could be seen for miles around, and still an icon, announced “Takoma.”

Based on the opening night review in Better Equipment  provided by local resident Robert Headley, author of Cinema Treasures.

Cake Normalizes Things: The Death Cafe Movement

Death Cafe Meeting in New York
Death Cafe Meeting in New York

Well, not blood sugar but it does help with death.

In 2011 John Underwood, a web designer in London, held an informal meeting in his basement to discuss death. His idea was in the European tradition of informal discussion of ideas and based on that of Swiss sociologist, Bernard Crettaz, who organized “café mortels” to encourage more open discussions of death.

Underwood says, “There’s a growing recognition that the way we’ve outsourced death to the medical profession and to funeral directors hasn’t done us any favors,” The Death Cafe is a place where people can discuss death, find meaning, ask profound questions, and reflect on what is important in life.

The basement idea, with its Halloween overtones, one hopes was about convenience. In any event, one thing led to another and death moved upstairs to become the Death Cafe with tea and cake. Why?

“The consumption of food is a life-sustaining process. Cake normalizes things.”

Underwood put up a website. The Death Cafe became a movement, not necessarily in that order. Small groups led by a volunteer professional are now meeting for discussions of death in cafes around the world. In July of 2013 there were 170 around the world. Since an article appeared in the New York Times this morning, there will probably be 17,000 by tomorrow morning.

The website has announcements of meetings and pictures of members with their tea and cake.



Is Technology Replacing Human Interaction?

Group of Teenagers TextingWhat this photo doesn’t show is that many of these kids would probably be sitting there looking bored and not relating to each other at all. Rather than asking “Is technology replacing human interaction” I would ask what it reveals about being human. For me it makes human interaction more probable and more intimate.

What Makes Us Human?

I think what makes us human is what happens inside each of us, not what others can see happening from the outside. Human interaction is sharing that with others. As every marriage counselor will tell you, there can be extraordinarily intimate human contacts between two people  for years with no emotional contact at all.

My experience is that both I and others have far more human contact with technology than without. I share thoughts and feelings with at least a dozen people every day personally. Then there are the literally thousands on email lists. Before technology it would literally have been none many days of the week.

My daughter is in touch with 2-3 friends moment to moment all day long with text messaging. Literally moment to moment if they are unhappy.

My Facebook page is connecting me with family members I have hardly thought of for years and years, and many more I never knew existed. And I know more about them than if I were still living in the same town with them.

Last Christmas one of my gathered family members asked if anyone else had been able to get beyond level 13 in a bubble burst game. One thing led to another and suddenly there were 6 of 9 people in the house sitting on a corner sectional with iPads and iPhones. The exceptions were a two-year old, the cook in the kitchen, and an 11-year-old on the phone with a peer whose parents were divorcing

That moment was probably the most intimate of the holiday. We were sharing a common interest and helping each other and laughing. It was a modern extended family grouping in which some had not spoken or texted or emailed each other for  20 years, in-laws one had only just met, and people one’s not-present mother had hated for 25 years. The age range was 25 to 75.

Technology Facilitates Human Interaction Like Nothing Else

I know many people share the view that communication via technology is inhuman but I see technology bringing people closer together, integrating the introverts and the extroverts, and un-isolating the isolated. It has been a god-send for many autistic people who cannot read emotional expression in others and often cannot display emotions or do it oddly. Nothing else can do this so well, or even at all.

This quote is often used as justification for criticizing people who email and text instead of making a phone call, which we forget is also technology, or dropping by:

I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.” Albert Einstein.

I don’t think Einstein ever met Steve Jobs.

Cohousing Challenges: Communes and Survivalists

The ongoing challenge of cohousing is convincing town planning boards and neighborhood associations that a cohousing community is not a commune. It is more a cooperatively managed condominium than naked dancers in the woods living on rice and fruit.

But in Utah the challenge is even greater. The disclaimer on the Utah Valley Commons Cohousing home page is: We are not survivalists.

The full statement is:

The Utah Valley Commons has no political or religious affiliation.We are not “survivalists,” nor do we attempt to
impose lifestyle restrictions (e.g., what kind of food you can eat) on our members.  We respect each other’s privacy.  The
UVCC is committed to providing a safe, healthy, and sustainable community for individuals and families.

View of site under consideration for Utah Valley Commons Cohousing
Possible site of Utah Valley Commons Cohousing

Since they were able to get approval from the town planning board for straw bale construction and to cluster the houses instead of spacing each house in the center of several acres, I think they will be able to meet the survivalist challenge. The survivalists are probably not comfortable with the temporal image of straw bale. While it is a very strong and environmentally sound building material, it does have the image of something not quite up to guns and combat.

Spam Watch: Average Spam Messages Per Day

SpamSieve LogoIf you are a writer who is out there on the web, you are a target for spam. Even if you are not out there, you are a target for spam. But as a writer who also communicates frequently by email, shops online, and posts in dozens of places, I’m out there. And spam is the result. You need SpamSieve.

In spite of my best efforts, I receive hundreds and even thousands of spam messages every month. Sometimes 16 identical messages to the same email address. I don’t know who pays for all these messages but it is a humongous waste of money — and cyberspace. I never read any of them.

I download email to my computer using Apple Mail and run it through SpamSieve to automatically divert spam messages to a designated folder. From time to time I browse through the folder to be sure nothing has  gotten there in error. If I find something I do want to see, I tell SpamSieve to train it as good but this rarely happens. Errors happen because a friend has used a trigger word, or several. Or are themselves forwarding a particularly funny spam message.

I used to actually click-through to unsubscribe from any emails that contained an unsubscribe option. Sometimes it worked, but most often only until the next month. Unsubscribe links often go nowhere or just tie up my browser with pages that eventually load but are “Busy now. Please try later.” Or don’t even exist. Once an address is in the system, marketers must add it to all their client lists—past, present, future, and potential — and 2-3 days a month I receive 4-5 new ones that SpamSieve hasn’t yet identified. I would have to unsubscribe to all these messages each month to even possibly, a very big “possibly” here, eliminate spam from even “legitimate” marketers. And then there is China. I think it’s China. I don’t read ideograms.

My next best option is to log the numbers, which are easily available from my spam folder. Maybe these numbers will be more useful than the messages.

Daily Spam Average

(I rush to calculate the averages because new ones come in every 10 minutes. Totals and the averages don’t always match. Six have arrived since I started writing this sentence.)

125 — 13-16 December 2012. 4 days. Total: 499

209 — 17-18 December 2012. 2 days. Total: 418

65 — 19 December 2012 – 4 January 2013. 16 days. Total: 1049. Someone must have taken a vacation.

68 — 5 January 2013-15 February 2012. 41 days. Total: 2781.

I’m resisting the urge to stop clicking the unsubscribe links that take a lot of time to load and often don’t work.  I can save time by training SpamSieve to treat a message as spam and send off the next one before I even see it. The figures would look even more atrocious. The numbers, however, are significantly lower than in December. December was definitely Spam Month.  An average of 68 spam messages a day is only ~ 3 messages an hour.

65 — 16 February – 12 March. 24 Days. Total  1,561. Settling down to a pattern.

77 — 13 March – 29 April. 46 Days. Total 3,522.

82 — 30 April – 28 June. Total: 4611

Along time between counts — I used a date calculator so I know the number of days is accurate. I don’t make this stuff up. For two hours in August, I made a special effort to unsubscribe to as many as I could. Still there is this much spam out there and I read none of it. It just clogs the system.

58 —29 June − 13 October 2013. 115 days. Total: 6637.

This 58 spam messages every day. And those are just the ones that make it passed my ISP. As the holidays come closer the numbers will be even higher.

76 —14 October – 18 November 2013. 36 Days. Total: 2756.

Christmas is coming. Numbers are up!

Spam in a CanI wonder if Spam in a can would be less environmentally toxic? At least with ads in magazines and newspaper the ads support actual content. And ratios of ad words to content words there are very different.

Originally published 16 Dec 2012

Building Codes & Tiny Houses

Book Cover: Cracking the Code
Building codes in towns and suburbs are a major obstacle for people interested in forming cohousing communities and ecovillages composed entirely or partially of tiny houses. Ryan Mitchell who writes the Tiny Life blog and builds tiny houses has now published a book of tips on how to address code issues called Cracking the Code.

This guide is designed to help you navigate all the red tape when it comes to tiny housing. I have designed this manual to help you quickly familiarize yourself with some of the key bureaucratic road blocks, suggest possible pathways to building your home from the legal perspective, and several strategies to make it a success.

If you are hoping to build a tiny house, this is information that you will need. For those who purchase this they will also get and additional 180 pages of reference materials and free updates on future versions.

For those unfamiliar with tiny houses they can be as small as 90 square feet but are typically more like

Tumbleweed Tiny House Company for plans and prefabricated houses beautifully designed.

DesignBoom for images of tiny houses in all shapes and sizes around the world.

Tiny House Listings already built houses for sale. A super energy-efficient 400 SF modern design for $65,000. A 400 SF log sided home for $49,900.

The Tiny House Swoon for beautiful photos of tiny houses. Interior and exterior.

Effective Viewing Distance for Sculpture

During a discussion about placing a sculpture in the small park at Fourth Street NW and Blair Road, referred to as the triangle park, I was sent this diagram of the effective viewing distance for sculpture in relation to its size. It may be from Jan Gehl’s paper “Close Encounters with Buildings.” Apologies if posting it violates any copyrights. Our decision is approaching and this information might be helpful.

Chart of Optimum Viewing Distance for Sculputure

A meter is a bit more than 3 feet. If the sculpture in question is 10 feet tall, it would be  3+ meters. Effective viewing would be about 5 meters or 15+ feet. If it were placed against the Barack building to the south, it could be viewed comfortably from the front of the park or the street. That’s if it’s 10 feet tall and if could be placed there without affecting the one remaining tree which is close to that wall. How close can a heavy object be placed to a tree without damaging the root structure? How will be sculpture be affected by birds in that tree?

The sculpture may also be on a base when it is installed. Sculptures are often put on bases not to make them taller and more impressive but to protect them from casual vandalism. A three-foot base would mean an effective viewing distance of an additional three feet of viewing space. We could be up to 20 feet. Anyone sitting or standing in the park would not have the most effective view of the Hand.

Retaining Human Scale and Honoring the Sculpture

If the goal is to eventually have a park in which a variety of people can sit and enjoy the flowers and, hopefully, new Cherry Trees, the Hand could be a pretty overbearing presence. The Hand would also not be well served by being hidden behind Cherry Trees. An oasis of green at that corner isn’t compatible with that size sculpture. It and the neighborhood would be better served with a placement in front of the Takoma Recreation Center.

Discussing Race in Washington, DC

This post is my response to discussing race in Washington DC, specifically to a discussion on my neighborhood email list, takomadc@yahoogroups.com. There are those on the list who believe that not discussing race means something but what it means varies. No matter what they think it means race is always raised in terms of discrimination and oppression.

This is my response to the current discussion. Or my response of the day. If I were to spend another two hours rewriting it, I might replace “culture of victimization” for “culture of oppression.” Tomorrow I will probably be sorry I took the time to write this but so be it. Pass the Olives.

Obama’s Speech on Race in Philadelphia, 2008

To begin, I believe Obama’s 2008 speech given in Philadelphia during his campaign for election in response to his continued relationship with his controversial minister and the place of his church in his life will become a classic on the meaning and influence of culture on who we are. I believe the issue of race for all of us is more the culture we grew up in and the one we choose than our skin color. Discussing the cultural difference that our many races give each of us, whether it was chosen or forced upon us, will produce a richer discussion than focusing on oppression.

Obama’s speech is worth rereading in this context.

Perceptions of Race and Culture

I’ve been discussing the issue of cultural discrimination and racial discrimination with an African Jamaican British Canadian American neighbor who has considered jobs in foreign countries. As a European, I pointed out that these countries were populated by people of color and this would be a good experience for her daughter — immersion in a culture that is populated at all levels by people of color than in the US. She says that is not true because there are so many distinctions in Africa and the Middle East that have nothing to do with shared skin color. The discrimination is both huge and more subtle than she thinks, as a “white” person I could even perceive. She would still be excluded as different. “People would know.”

I have an African-American son and a European American daughter. At a gut level I perceive a difference in their place society. When as a teenager my daughter went out to a party on Saturday night, I worried about her being sexually compromised in some way. Raped or made to feel her own body was not hers. When my son when out, I worried about him being killed.

But growing up in a generation very different from my own, in an educated upstate New York suburb, they are unaffected by the cultural expectations that I grew up with. Now in their early 40s they lead very different lives, one a Manhattan Yuppie and the other a police officer in the town he grew up in. They both believe these are personal choices. They still deny that there were any events in their lives that had anything to do with their skin color or facial features. They share a common culture and speak a common language.

Culture Changes and is Changeable

During Black History Month my Dutch American granddaughters, with the reddest hair and the whitest skin, were learning and singing Civil Rights songs at Shepherd Elementary School, which has a veteran Civil Rights Movement protester for a music teacher. They corrected my singing because they learned all these songs with a touch of Gospel and lots of body language. When I sing that way, I feel that I’m crossing the boundary into a culture where I would be viewed as an interloper.

In the course of these discussions about singing, I discovered they had no idea who Rosa Parks was or why they were singing about her. She was just a famous African American like all the other famous Americans they study. They had no knowledge of the history of discrimination. The lessons they were learning didn’t have that deeper significance. They were “only” about being famous. About heroes. At ages 4 and 7 they had no beliefs that needed to be corrected or negative experiences that needed countering. Are there cultural differences amongst their friends that they notice and either reject or admire? Yes, but they are cultural, even if they are sometimes described as “black” or “African American.” They are not seen as inherently defining or attached to skin color or family history.

When I explained that Rosa Parks had defied the law by sitting in the front of the bus they gave me blank looks. When I explained that there used to be laws that said where “Whites” and “Negros” could eat or sit, and which drinking fountains they could use, or movie theaters they could attend, they didn’t believe me.  “That would discrimination,” they both objected, looking at each other for confirmation. To them, this could never be.

Moving Beyond the Culture of Oppression

In two generations, the cultural changes in relation to perceptions of race have been enormous. I believe that it is too easy to dismiss them. To carry forward the culture of oppression even when we could let it go. Accept the past as a reality, and even the present as a reality, and focus on that which is culturally rich and nurturing.

It was a shock to move to Washington DC in 2000 and experience not in the Federal enclave people refer to as Washington but in the general culture of the city that the culture of oppression is so dominant. I would never encourage my son to move to DC even though there may be more and higher paying jobs for police officers here. I don’t want him or my grandchildren to absorb that culture. The same way I don’t want my European American daughter with the Jewish father to absorb the culture of oppression that many Jews live in.

In two generations, cultural oppression isn’t no longer a determining reality in the lives of my family and I don’t want it to be. Understanding and recognizing the influences of our past is not the same as keeping the culture of oppression alive.

Resources for Artists and Writers: Inspiring, Curious, and Useful

This is where I store and recommend resources on, obviously, art and design, broadly defined. I often forget where these are or that I even knew about them so I put them here. The category is very broadly defined because it includes any resource I value as an artist and writer—anything I use or recommend or wish I used in my creative work, including website design.

Some are inspiring, some curious, and some extremely useful. The choices are entirely idiosyncratic. Inclusion reflects only my interests.

Nothing comprehensive but I hope you discover something new.

[catlist ID=480]

The Day After My Birthday

Images of the Number 70Today is the day after my birthday. I turned 70. I had planned to start daily entries partly because I had an artist friend who wrote a book on her 70th birthday and published it in the days when no one did that. No blogs or on-demand printing in the 1980s. I had been planning my big start for days. I missed it because I was on Lynda.com learning how to do a child-theme in WordPress. My goal was/is to once and for all find a focus for my life. Or at least limit my focus to 3 major obsessions.

I use writing to figure out everything except my own life. I kept a journal for 20 years and then stopped. It seemed a waste of time since my life kept getting screwed up anyway.

Even on my birthday resolution, I’m a day late and dollar short. Actually since the big non-depression, more than a dollar short. I lost almost a third of my IRA and half my income. The two are not equal, one half and one half, because the whole damned thing made me more aware of the need to save, and earn. So the biggest loss was my sense of security. A real bummer.

My Birthday

Anyway, for my birthday, I had such a nice day. I didn’t do anything special but more people remembered it  than have remembered in all of the last 20 years. I kept forgetting why they kept saying to have a happy day. Why are all these people so cheerful? And on the phone? And it wasn’t just because I live in cohousing. Other people remembered too.

I’m more used to people forgetting. To their credit, I also don’t remind them. My mother always forgot and I don’t think my brothers and sister ever remembered except the year I was 52 and we all happened to be together and I mentioned it. They scurried about and put together a party. A very nice one with presents and everything. I was very touched.

My son never remembers, or if he does I don’t hear about it. My daughter always does and goes out of her way to buy a not-just-nice present but one she thinks I will enjoy. This year it was late because it is electronics and she wanted to take advantage of Black Friday. (Why is it called Black Friday and not Green Friday?)

Turkey Day

Cartoon-Style Drawing of an AngelThe year I was 22, I even forgot. Sometime the next year, filling out a form in graduate school, I was trying to remember how old I was. I stopped to think because it seemed like I had been 21 for a very long time. My birthday often falls on Thanksgiving and I’m usually cooking a big turkey. (I have not a clue why anyone would cook a small turkey.) That year I was very nervous because it was the first time I had either cooked a turkey (of any size) or cooked for several people who were not family.

The meal was fine. My birthday got lost—for months.

Domino Toppling

Gretchen's Domino Forest, September 2012
Gretchen’s Domino Forest, September 2012

Domino toppling is a wonderful community and team building exercise. I’ve collected 2,000+ dominos — a small collection by any serious standards—a box of foam blocks, a box of small wooden blocks, realistic animal figures, Disney characters, and finger puppets to build scenes. It helps to have a common house so we can build on the tables. This works very well for all ages, particularly mine. It also helps keep the dominos and assorted props from walking away. Even the smallest can pull up a chair and practice knocking things down.

Some focus on building towers, others racing ramps for cars, and others scenes of fantasy worlds like the one here by Gretchen.

This is fun but not easy. More work than you would think.

Videos and Information

At the very bottom of this LOOONG message of video addresses and ideas, there is a link to a company that does team building exercises and makes commercials. A Wonderful commercial on their site that runs all over a South American village.

Learn many tricks from the link below — an 8 minute video of one person’s 68 individual projects. You will be very surprised even if you haven’t seen domino toppling before:




Basic tips from the Circus, includes making template out of Legos:

The Circus

BIG PROJECT BY A GROUP OF TEENS IN GERMANY CALLED THE CIRCUS. They take over a school gym for two weeks and build night and day. Sleeping, eating, and showering at the school.

Watch the preparation days for how to tricks. Posted by IIIIIDominoIIIII


Preparation Day 1 — painting dominos

Preparation Day 2 — 3.21 — Sorting, diagramming. tests, weighing,

Preparation Day 3 — shopping for wood, the preparation area, making props, testing

Preparation Day 4 — 3.27 — truck deliveries, tests, building bases.

Behind the Blocks–7.00–In German. Not terribly interesting in spots but you can meet the guys behind this and see how they set up the dominos. They have some tricks.


CDT 2012, The Long Version — 57.41 — The smaller ones are really more interesting but here it is.

Includes set up, tests, screw ups, fails, footage from preparation day videos, 1 year of preparations, many diagrams. The building begins on 9 August 2012, Cologne, Day of the event, Dramatic lighting and long. 23 builders, 200,000 dominoes, Group started in 2007 with 70,000 dominoes. Videos on the last 5 years. Explanation of records set. Special Guest arrives at 27:45. Countdown at 29:50. 41:15 See the ones that didn’t fall. 177,414 fell. Took two weeks to build. Literally lived in the school gym.


Just the fall down–9:41– Includes the Clean Up.


Ideas for Designing and Building

–Planning: Draw diagrams. newsprint colored paper.
–Paint one side of black dominos so when fallen make a different pattern. Put them in a corner brace so can paint all at one time.
–ball is released and flips over to knock down the next flow.
–Dominos fall through a grid to the ground.

Toppling cards stacked in /\/\/\/\ shapes.
Cards against dominos

Up and down furniture and all through the building. Indoors and outdoors.

Something dropping off a high ledge onto a trigger.

–Small figure in the middle that is only revealed when all the dominoes fall.
–Dominos falling to turn a horizontal bar like a gate that knocks over the next row.
–Putting out the last section before the cascade gets to it.
–Ball released into a pit by one string and then anther string falls over the ball.
–A flower with purple in the middle and green rows coming out from the edges. The purple falls straight and pushes the greens our to the side forming the final picture of the flower.
–Dominos crash increasingly larger blocks until the are knocking down large blocks.

Team Building

Cooperation and Communications in Team Building:

Team Building

Domino Day 2009. 1.5 hours in Dutch? 4.800,000 dominos. 4.491,863 fallen. Many ideas.

How to Build a Major Project

Tips and Tricks

Diversity of Another Sort

One of the aims of developing cohousing communities is diversity — in age, gender, ethnicity, marital status, household composition, sexual orientation, etc. You name it, we want it. Recruitment focuses getting more but groups feel they have failed if those who come forward are not different from themselves. Both forming and built communities are proud to say, “We have 2 of these and 1 of those and 3 more of these are considering joining.” They cite their diversity statistics in order to convince city councils to approve their zoning requests.

Diversity of Another Sort in Washington, DC

World Bank Meeting 2012
World Bank Meeting 2012

A few months after move-in, all our diversity quotas met or met to the extent we could meet them, I realized we had met a diversity standard that none of us had considered that would probably be impossible to meet outside of Washington DC. Doris had called together a cookout, one of our first, by announcing fried chicken in the piazza on Sunday at 1:00. Everyone else who was around brought this and that and a bunch of us were soon settled around a big round table discussing the events of the weekend. In DC, that often means demonstrations. This one, a very big one, would be at the World Bank.

Always at the center of any protest, Herb was prepared to leave early in the morning to meet protesters from out-of-town at the end of the Metro line to escort them to the protest site. He started talking about other things he would be doing.  Anna was delighted because the demonstrations meant she had the day off since she worked at the World Bank and had been ordered for her safety not to come to work. She thanked her new neighbors for her good fortune.

Carol said, “Please. Don’t thank me. I have three proposals that I’m waiting to hear back on. I need to know if we have money to go back to Africa or not, and things in India are not so great if I can’t put more into the next phase than we put into the last one. I doubt if any of those offices took all their grant applications home with them on Friday.” Doris said that she would be off work that day too, but on duty with the Guard. Doris said, “It’s no vacation for me. I have to report for duty at 4:00 am and I have no idea when I will be home.

Everyone laughed and the conversation resumed discussing the last World Bank demonstration and the casualties that had resulted. The promise was more National Guard presence and more planning. Herb asked Doris what they had planned this time and where she would be positioned. Doris said, “I won’t know until I report for duty because that — ”

Silence. Everyone looked up.

Doris continued in a studied tone, “That would be confidential.”

Herb apologized, and we changed the subject. A perfectly innocent question on Herb’s part, serious interest in an event we were all watching but no intention of playing sleuth with his neighbor.

True Diversity

Army Officer UniformWhile the diversity points for that conversation would have been about a 10 on the basis of age, race, marital status, parental status, and a few more things I can’t remember, the ones that no one had probably even considered before that conversation were military status, activism, and opponents and beneficiaries of World Bank monies. When I told this story on the Cohousing-L email discussion list, one person contacted me privately to ask how we even live together. “Do you really eat at the same table?”

I receive similar questions when I report that we have an Army General who appears in camouflage fatigues and another resident who “works for Army Intelligence assigned to the Joint Chiefs of Staff” who comes home in his green beret.

In all honesty, just like our other diversity points, they are just like everyone else. The differences are in personality, not age, skin color, background, occupation, or sexual orientation.

Against Signs

This is a rant against signs. If you like signs, beware.

The origin and purpose of most signs: someone is irked so they post a sign to irk someone else. Give an irked person a wall, or any surface actually, and they will slap up a sign with sticky tape or nails, usually big, and irk everyone else. But the only people who read signs are those for whom they are not intended. Thus the irk cycle continues as the irkers piss off the needlessly irked, and the irkees continue as they always have, ignoring the irked.

Signs are the least effective and most practiced means of communication. Visually and emotionally, and in their manufacture they pollute the environment — and have no effect on the behaviors they are intended to control.

The only useful signs are those that post information that people need — the name of the street, the hours of operation, emergency numbers — or warn of hidden dangers, like “Touch This Fence and You Will Be Fried.”

Have you ever seen a park close at dark? Or no one drinking alcoholic beverages? Or no radios (or the latest equivalent). Our local park, a triangle at the intersection of three streets, very small, now has signs larger than itself. it has made no difference whatsoever. (Update, 2012: The park has been destroyed, cherry trees and daffodils uprooted. Because the vagrants who liked to drink there wouldn’t read the signs.)

In my next life I’m gong to be an invisible sign stealer. Sell them at Flea Markets for interior decor.

Steve Jobs Has Died

I turned on CNN expecting back to back coverage of Steve Jobs but there was nothing. I was shocked. That’s how much a part of my life he has been since 1982 when I purchased an Apple IIe. In 1997, it was still working. Though I had moved on to a Macintosh, one of my students who knew how to find adapters for new printers used it daily.

In 1997 when Apple was trading at $3.42, I couldn’t find anyone who would invest $10,000 for me. I had never bought stock and didn’t know how to do it. None of my friends would tell me nor would broker friends do the purchase themselves. Today one share, after having split more than once, it is trading at $387.

2,500 shares purchased for $10,000, including broker’s fees, in 1997 would be worth $967,500.

(Based on figures from CNN “In 1997 when Steve Jobs returned to Apple, 100 shares would have cost $342. Today it would be worth $37,900.”)

Today I have too much to do to think about it,

Lot Development or Build All at Once?

What are the benefits and detractors for the standard cohousing model where you plan everything out then build it all then move in vs an alternative model of only selling lots to members and then people build their own houses?

Developing a community lot by lot isn’t the standard so much as the only way some communities could get started, both because of funding and because of the real estate expectations in some areas. In the early 1980s condominiums were still highly suspect in many small cities and particularly in rural areas.

I personally prefer the attached unit model and believe it makes the most sense economically, environmentally, socially, etc. One attachment to free standing homes arises from the desire for privacy. This is a serious concern. One way to address it is with the very best soundproofing materials you can find.

Amplified music, screaming children (and adults), game playing devices (weird repetitive noises), love in the afternoon (and night), cats rolling marbles overhead all day, widely varying sleep/stomping schedules, etc., are what drive people to the “give me space” options on both sides. It’s both the fear of being spontaneous and the fear of listening to others be spontaneous. Some sounds and people you get used to and others you don’t.

While I prefer attached dwellings, I still don’t like not being able to rearrange furniture at midnight or allow little feet to run around happily chasing each other. The pre-war buildings in Manhattan that were built of cast iron are still prized because there is absolutely no sound transfer from one unit to the next. And it is because of the cast iron.

Before researching this, I thought sound dampening came from soft surfaces. It does but only for reverberations inside a room. The important sound transfer stuff is the result of the density, or lack of density, in the construction materials that transfer sounds throughout the walls and floors. That two-year old running across my wood floor becomes a thundering elephant to my downstairs neighbor.

Cast iron is now prohibitively expensive unless you are building a huge building or a parking garage but there are other methods and materials that can be used.

Take sound transfer seriously and you can build the kind of buildings that will support a close, conveniently social, multi-generational community.

Food & Diabetes Type 2

I’ve given the following information to dozens of people carefully typing it out each time. It finally occurred to me that I could post it here and both share it more widely and save myself some typing. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, baker, or Indian chief so take it for what it is worth to you.

I have been diagnosed and undiagnosed with diabetes for over 20 years in several states. The geographic location is important because doctors in one place have no faith in doctors in another place. Even if they all use the same national lab to run the same standard blood tests, the results can’t be trusted.

In 1995, the result of a five-hour sugar syrup test at Robert Atkins’ clinic in Uptown Manhattan was a blood sugar reading of 323 after two hours. I started their below-40-carbs-a-day diet. I had no blood sugar meter and didn’t know if the diet was working. After a few months I mentioned it to my internist in the West Village and asked him to check it. His two-hour-normal-food test produced an 84, perfectly normal. I didn’t have diabetes at all. A follow-up fasting blood sugar test confirmed it at 90. “You should be eating normal food. Low carb diets will kill you and don’t work anyway.”

In 1999, routine test results in Florida showed a fasting blood sugar of 175. Medication was prescribed. Because of side effects from the medication, I secretly followed the Atkins, Eades, Heller, and Bernstein diets and used a blood sugar meter. In Washington DC in 2000, ignoring all the earlier testing, my new internist said I didn’t have diabetes at all, and probably never did. My fasting blood sugar was normal and my A1c was 5.1% which some people consider below normal. “You’re not taking medication and the low carb diet doesn’t work so you can’t have diabetes.” I changed doctors again.

It is now 2011. We are still in Washington DC but a few blocks away. My current diabetes physicians assistant — I’ve had six in the same hospital clinic — says, “An A1c of 6.8% is perfect. You need medication and insulin because the low carb diet is not healthy and doesn’t work. But if you take medication and insulin, you risk a low blood sugar episode which can cause brain damage and kill you.”

An A1C reading of 6.8% translates to an average blood sugar of 149. Anything above approximately 140 is causing organ damage. So at 149, even if it is minimal damage, is that a healthy target? If 6.8 is an average, my blood sugar will be lower (good) and higher (very bad) at other times.

I still go to the office for tests but I draw my own conclusions and follow my own plan. I may still die from complications of diabetes but one thing is certain, I won’t die as fast as if I listened to these doctors.

Steak and salad is nice but when everyone else is eating carrot cake it’s hard. I’m still trying to get back to the 5.1% on my A1c.

Best Resources

Most available and comprehensive site: Blood Sugar 101 by Jenny Ruhl. Includes basic beginner information as well more detailed analysis of research studies and news reports in her blog (link in the top menu). She is especially good at examining research results and explaining how the news reports or the studies themselves are flawed or misleading. She sorts out the numbers and gobbeldy-gook language.

Front Cover: Blood Sugar 101 by Jenny Ruhl
She now has a book out that summarizes the information on her website. Concise and clear: Blood Sugar 101: What They Don’t Tell You About Diabetes
. Her bottom line is that diabetes is an impaired ability to manage carbohydrates and you need to eat as few of them as will maintain your blood sugar below 140 AT ALL TIMES. You cannot listen to the American Diabetes Association and eat 50 carbs at every meal and assume you are doing the right thing. You have to test. It’s your blood sugar levels that count, not the diet that anyone prescribes. Foods affect everyone differently.

Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution: The Complete Guide to Achieving Normal Blood Sugars is the book that provided the information I needed when I was in Florida in 1999 and the doctor said, “There is no remedy for this illness. You will die of it. Even if the diet worked, you won’t be able to stay on it. The medication only works for a while and then you will have to take insulin. Your life expectancy is greatly reduced already.” He said this as if he were doing me a favor so I wouldn’t stress about it. Just relax. There is nothing you can do. Have fun. Take these pills.

Front Cover Image of Dr. Bernstein's Diabetes Solution

Dr. Bernstein was a very sick Type 1 diabetic in his twenties when he realized he was dying and would have to help himself when his doctor thought he was doing very well despite numerous complications. Over several years he was able not only to normalize his blood sugars but reverse most of the damages. He explains precisely the connection between diet and diabetes and details the carbohydrate control methods that are rapidly being adopted by everyone. Contains more comprehensive technical information than Blood Sugar 101 and more extensive medical advice but not everyone wants this much information.

I also subscribe to a weekly newsletter, Diabetes in Control, that is a summary of the research reports in newspapers and professional journals. Jenny Ruhl analyzes research reports on her blogs so after you read her blog for a while you can begin to sense which reports are off the wall. This newsletter is also intended for professionals so the gibberish isn’t always clear.

And saving the best for last, Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It
by Gary Taubes

Cover Image for Why We Get FatThis could also be titled Why We Get Heart Disease, etc. His last book surveyed all the diet research over the last 200 years and was 500 pages and hard to read. It didn’t get wide circulation. So he wrote this one to summarize. I read a library copy and then bought it because I need regular reinforcement of the research data that say the source of weight gain, high cholesterol, etc., is carbs.

This isn’t a diet book, but Taubes includes the diet plan from the famed Duke University weight loss clinic. Basically it is animal source protein with no limit on fats. You can’t eat lean protein and feel good. The body can’t handle it. Desire for fats will adjust itself once your body adjusts to burning fat instead of carbs. At least two cups of leafy greens each day. At least one cup of cooked vegetables (measured uncooked). Limited dairy (contains carbs) and various other limits on particular foods — basically these limits allow you to eat without counting carbs. I find carb counting easier, but even Diet Coke contains carbs.

That’s as much as I know. Let me know if any of this works for  you.

Nonsexist Language More Often Lives On, Kate Swift Dies

Handbook of Nonsexist WritingKate Swift died 7 May 2011. As the alphabetically second author of the first popular guide to nonsexist language, she and her partner changed the world of writing. No more could the male pronoun be universal or taken for granted or justified.

In 1970, she and Casey Miller formed a partnership as editing consultants and were asked to edit a sex education textbook for junior high school students. The author was attempting to be bias free but the language was anything but. Unbeknownst to the author, it was perpetuating all the stereotypes the author was trying a to avoid.

The Handbook of Nonsexist Writing At Amazon

it was because of Kate Swift and Casey Miller that I realized how limiting and discriminatory the use of “Miss” and “Mrs” were. Do you have to know whether a man is married or not before you can say good morning? Before the 1970s all women had to be addressed in terms of their relationship to a man. They were not honorific titles that recognized anything other than that a man had honored you with his presence — and could easily rescind it.

Words and WomenThat was followed by Words and Women in 1976, revised in 1991. There were lots of failed new words suggested along the way to gender neutral language. Linguistic change will always be hard when not attached to a rock band, which are no longer exclusively male by the way, but gradually the awareness they championed is taking hold.

Words and Women at Amazon

Sometimes I feel that we are moving backwards because women are again changing their names when they get married — the right not to being a hard-won battle — and social organizations are continuing to call women by their husband’s names, Mrs. Alexander Washington, on lists of donors and on invitations. Does her only halo come from Alex? I had a flaming conversation with a woman who asked on a writers and editors list how she should address an envelope when the woman was a “Dr.”and the man was not. Mr. and Dr. Alexander Washington was clearly not acceptable. For her neither was Mr. Alexander Washington and Dr. Melinda Andrews, or even Dr. Melinda Andrews-Alexander. But because of woman like Swift and Miller, we at least stop and think.

My Life in a Harem

Book Cover, Some Girls: My Life in a HaremJust when you thought you knew everything, I’ve come up with my life in a harem. No, it’s another book. The title, Some Girls, is not as interesting as the subtitle, My Life in a Harem. If all I had seen was the title, I wouldn’t have picked it up and you wouldn’t be reading this either. Some Girls: My Life in a Harem is Jillian Lauren’s autobiographical story about her foray into the sex business and ultimately a real life harem in Brunei. I had never read a real life account of life in a harem and I haven’t got one friend who has ever lived in one so when I saw it mentioned in New York Magazine, I snapped this right off the shelf, or out of the library’s online catalog.

While it was promising that the library had a copy, I expected either a sensationalistic account of the wonders of a harem, a political call to action to save the world from the sex trade, or a defense of women’s rights to live in harems if they wanted to. At minimum, I expected to learn something about life in a harem. What is a harem? I actually didn’t know.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a literate and insightful account of the author’s life from her late teens when as a New York University drop-out and aspiring actress she drifted into the wonders of pole dancing and the life of an American call girl, and then to a harem in Southeast Asia on the island of Borneo — where the royal family has an unbelievable amount of money to spend. The number of sex acts described in the whole book is less than in single episode of “Desperate Housewives.” And that few are essential to understanding the people as well as the relationships between the harem girls and the royal family and their employees.

The harem is just what the pictures show it to be, parties every night with the Prince and his chosen few with a lot of beautiful women sitting around. Dancing, music, food. Attentive but contained adoration. Hours of rather sedate partying punctuated with one or two carefully arranged sexual encounters for the prince. And outside the parties, as well as during them, hours of boredom. And incredibly expensive gifts. No torture or extreme humiliation or suspicious disappearances. Living in a mansion, under constant surveillance, even in the bathroom. “A camera behind every mirror and a king around every corner.”

The picture of a different culture is well drawn. Several different cultures, actually, as she portrays her life growing up in New Jersey, her life in the art worlds of New York and Los Angeles. The lives of the people around her. Her life as an adopted child, finding her birth mother. The book reads like an epic but ends when she is still in her early twenties. In the end a coming of age story.

She chronicles her shopping trips in Singapore where two girls have to take separate limousines because all their purchases won’t fit in one car. It requires 15 suitcases to take them back on the airplane. Chanel, Versace, Dior, Armani, Gucci — as many dresses as her driver could grab — he was in a hurry. Efficient management is prized and well rewarded in all aspects of harem life.

The book is actually literary — I hadn’t believed the reviews so I was surprised. Definitely recommended. I don’t think I need to know more about harems but would certainly read another book by Jillian Lauren.

Some Girls: My Life in a Harem by Jillian Lauren. NY: Plume, 2010. At Amazon.


Multi-Tasking & Solitude

A link from my daughter to an article on multi-tasking in the American Scholar prompts this post — or rather congealed it. I’ve been struggling with a life that has become so complex I wake up thinking about taking long road trips in a small car with impersonal motel rooms, or moving to a Tumbleweed House of 200 square feet. Calculating how can I reduce the size of my apartment so life will be simpler. Each pile of things, each object reminds me of tasks unfinished. Lack of focus. Ambitions unfulfilled. Good intentions failed.

And then I get up and start the race to fix my  body, get in shape, cure my brain, think faster, walk faster, be happy, get rich — all so I can do more. Do it all. Prioritization is still a task to be mastered. Another time consuming activity that demands a decision about whether to use a spreadsheet or a database. Remember pen and pencil, I ask?

But how to find the right list under all the piles of magazines and downloaded and printed out articles to read. The un-filed bills and notes of things to look up on the web. Piles of books read, but waiting for notes to be made.

Multi-Tasking and Leadership

William Deresiewicz’s Solitude and Leadership is a reprint of a lecture delivered to the entering class at the United States Military Academy at West Point in October, 2010. His subject was leadership, a connection that presents a view of multi-tasking that is apart from the usual modern angst of having too much to do, lowering stress levels, or wanting more leisure or family time. His focus is not that we try to do so many things we do none of them well, but that we can’t be leaders, of ourselves or others, unless we take time to reflect and find our own reality. This requires solitude.

Leadership & Solitude

Great books don’t reflect the conventional wisdom of their day, the kind you get on Facebook and Twitter. They were written in solitude and present ideas and insights that are revolutionary. “Without solitude—the solitude of Adams and Jefferson and Hamilton and Madison and Thomas Paine—there would be no America.”

Solitude is necessary to maintain the deep friendship of intimate conversation. “Long, uninterrupted talk with one other person. Not Skyping with three people and texting with two others. … Instead of having one or two true friends that we can sit and talk to for three hours at a time, we have 968 ‘friends’ that we never actually talk to; instead we just bounce one-line messages off them a hundred times a day. This is not friendship, this is distraction.”

Solitude is what is necessary to think about “doubts you aren’t supposed to have, questions you aren’t supposed to ask.”

And especially for speaking to future military leaders: “How will you find the strength and wisdom to challenge an unwise order or question a wrongheaded policy? What will you do the first time you have to write a letter to the mother of a slain soldier? How will you find words of comfort that are more than just empty formulas?”

The Multi-Tasks & Living a Long Time

I was pleased to read Deresiewicz’s account of a research study showing that even college students, our brightest and best young peak performers, do not function well when multi-tasking. I have always considered myself to be a good multi-tasker but at 68, I’m multi-tasked out. While some of the reason may be age, I don’t feel a similar decline in ability to think. While I do take on too many projects to complete in a live time, it isn’t because I take on too many projects. I’ve always had this many projects.

What has tipped my life over the edge seems to be that living a long time makes one’s life more complex.

I used to have two simple little children but children and grandchildren keep multiplying. With no further action on my part, I now have a big family. I have to have a calendar to keep track of birthdays — and I’m still not doing it well. What made me realize this truth in children was reconnecting with my best friend in high school who had her first child at 19 and now at 69 has great grandchildren who are in college. Family history and modern medical miracles predict that she will live to be at least 90. I can’t do the math on that many generations with the addition of her children’s and grandchildren’s spouses (and ex-spouses) and variations of 2-3 children in each constellation. I’m glad I stopped at two and started late. And am less healthy.

I no longer live in a single family home or an impersonal condominium where my friends lived elsewhere and we arranged to meet on a regular basis. I live in a cohousing community, a place where we not only know each other’s names but most of our problems as well. Our pantheon of cohousing relationships continues to grow in every household with marriages, births, adoptions, and one single person moving out and 2-3 moving in. I can’t even count the people as I think about this. I actually do have a database to keep track of them. And they knock on my door and walk in. Welcome, but a very different relationship  to the world than I had 20 years ago.

Finding Solitude

All these people — family and friends — are in addition to my own writing projects, art projects, and just plain interests — film, books, history, polities. I was once warned that as one grew older life would become more narrow as I stopped teaching, children became independent, friends died, and so on. I’m finding it hard to find that solitude that I was warned against as loneliness.

Deresiewicz may have pointed his finger well for me, reminding me that enforcing some solitude on myself is what I need to sort it all out. In addition to long road trips and tiny houses, I’ve been fantasizing about becoming a hermit. An odd old lady in a black dress that never opens her door or speaks to anyone. Walks hunched over so she doesn’t have to make eye-contact and lives in a cave with her books.

William Deresiewicz was formerly an associate professor at Yale University, sat on their admissions committee, and a noted and controversial critic and essayist. This article is too long and a bit rambling but worth the effort. It would be nice if the American Scholar was better edited  but it is easier to skim the online version than it is the bound version that does not lie flat.

NYTimes Reports: Women Do Not Die

In August of 2008 I began saving the obituary email alerts from the New York Times when I noticed that almost none were about women. Since the NYTimes is infallible and comprehensive to a fault, the only conclusion I could draw from this was that women do not die, at least, rarely.

This file now includes 1300+ email alerts that include links to an estimated 3000+ obituaries of which an estimated 99.9% are of men, assuming the Times has accurately assigned pronouns.

Preliminary statistical analysis reveals that compared to men, there are fields in which women never die and others in which they die in very small numbers. Women who marry famous men, for example, die far less the famous men they marry but far more than women who do not marry famous men. Men who marry famous women never die unless they are themselves also famous in which case the women are not mentioned and the men die of their own accord.

If a woman marries a famous man and is blonde, sings, and writes a book about the famous man, she is certain of death. Her obituary will be long and detailed, with pictures, often of her smiling admiringly at the famous man holding a copy of the book.

Being athletic is correlated positively with death, although women who win Olympic medals are much less likely to die than men who win Olympic medals, a significant portion of the women who die were Olympic athletes. Further analysis is required to determine if the medal metal influences death rates significantly but preliminary analysis shows that when women earn silver or brass medals their death rate falls to roughly zero. Men who win even one brass medal, still die at the same alarmingly high rate that heads of state, Nobel Laureates, and brothers of former United States presidents die.

Women who play football, basketball, or baseball do not die.

It also appears that when women do die, they die young because the only photographs on file at the New York Times show them full body with exuberant smiles in the unwise fashion choices that are characteristic of those under forty. When men die there are many photos of them on file showing them as mature and distinguished citizens, in suits, looking pleasant but serious, as shown in head shots. Since so few women die, however, this may be a statistical anomaly. More complex analysis is required.

This is very rich data; this report only skimming the surface. Due to other constraints on my time I am unable to do the analysis required to determine in what ways the New York Times could be more helpful to women. For example, given that women have reduced their death rate to 10%, could it go even lower if they avoided writing books, winning medals, assuming responsibility for parenting world leaders, having blonde hair, etc.

To aid in this cause, I am offering my files to anyone who would like to build on my research. Please email me and I will send them along.

Elbows and Puzzles

I learned in my family that jigsaw puzzles were worked by turning all the pieces right side up, sorting out the border pieces and putting the border together first. Then you start on the most obvious parts and put those together, putting them into the frame as they seem to fit. Then you work the hard, all-one-color or random pattern areas last — if at all.

Living in a diverse community, however, reveals more complex patterns, or personalities. At Takoma Village, we have a jigsaw puzzle set up all the time in one corner of the common house sun room. I have learned that not every family starts with the border, some people prefer the freedom from interference they find in working the less obvious plain shapes first, some consider looking at the end-state picture too easy, some quit as soon as it is clear that even one piece is missing, and some won’t put any pieces together until all the pieces are sorted into little baggies of similar color and texture. Some want a hard puzzle that that will last forever, and others love a puzzle that can be finished in one sitting.

At first there was shock over this, then arguing, sometimes logical. Then there were elbows and  midnight reconfigurations. Over time, we have informally worked out a pattern. We alternate hard (complex subtle colors with 1000+ pieces) and easy (bright multi-colored images of 500) puzzles. The sorters no longer insist on sealed baggies filled first but the border constructers respect their piles and bowls. When the first one there starts with images the border people stand aside for a few days until they can’t take it anymore. Those who do well with the one-blue sky don’t waste their energy on the faces, leaving the simpler parts to those who enjoy less challenge. Those who like birds don’t complain about the buildings again until it’s been three in a row.

A person who wants to pick the next puzzle puts it on the table when the current puzzle is almost finished. If someone doesn’t like it, they complain to someone else. The telephone tree goes into operation and the puzzles get switched.

It works until a new person moves in who learned to work puzzles another way or who totally misses the importance of the puzzle sitting on the corner of the table or the  pile of cherry-red pieces next to the pile of tomato-red.

With all this, we finally finished the 9000+ Tower of Babel we started years ago. It’s been done for a few weeks but with the holidays, we wanted to wait to celebrate until it could be the center of attention. More later.

Sharing the Microwave

We are having the wood floors in our dining room and the cork floors in the corridors connecting the rooms on the first floor refinished. When the workers arrived yesterday morning, I showed them where the restrooms were and took them to the kitchen to locate the microwave and refrigerator. They looked at me quizzically.

I said, “I realize you probably want to go out for lunch but you’re welcome to use them anyway.”

“Us?” If they have been smoking, their cigars would have been on the floor.

We have a resident with parents in Florida who send him a case every year. He can’t possibly eat all of them so he puts them on the counter for the taking. I offered both workers oranges. They looked at me like, “What are you up to?”

Living in cohousing creates a kind of blinders to the way the rest of the residential building world works. Then a little thing like this reminds me. We offer the same amenities to our mail and package delivery people. They have few places where a restroom is available—a clean one—and they sometimes stop in just to pee. A former postal worker used to have her lunch here everyday. She read her newspaper and listened to music. One used to watch TV on his break.

One brought us a stack of puzzles his family had finished because we always have a puzzle table out next to the window in the sunroom.

We put out cookies during the holidays, too, but lots of people do that. One year we put out a big bag of popcorn and it was rejected.

How to Slow Cook a Turkey (Fail Safe)

By Popular Demand

To slow cook a turkey is the only way to cook a turkey and still be happy no matter what. I’ve cooked turkey this way since I had an oven. Remember Adelle Davis? This is her recipe for slow cooking meat and poultry. It works. One reason I remember how long I’ve been cooking the turkey is that Thanksgiving is my birthday and for most of my life I’ve spent it cooking.

And Soup

Thanksgiving may be the first reason to cook a turkey but soup is the second. Soup made from real stock is something that many have never tasted. The decline of soup is the result. Soup is well worth the effort because it is totally easy and makes a one-pot meal.

Slow-Cooking Turkey

The slow cooking method ensures that the fat will not boil and the meat will be tender.

And second major plus for large turkeys and early dinners, you can put the turkey in to cook the night before. It can be held a long time in the hot oven before being served. It can’t overcook although a few hours after it is finished cooking it may begin to dry out.

Slow cooking works for all meat and is the best method for meat and poultry, particularly if it is free range and grass fed, with no artificially induced fattening up.

Special order your turkey weeks  before Thanksgiving or purchase it 2 DAYS IN ADVANCE from the supermarket. The large turkeys will be gone if you wait. The largest turkey  you can find is the most special. I look for 23-24 lbs no matter how many people I think will show up. It makes a splash on the table, smells good cooking longer, and provides lots of bones and plenty of left over meat for soup.

If you want a small turkey, or it isn’t Thanksgiving, allow 2 lbs per person for dinner and soup.


Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Wash and stuff  the turkey. Coat surface with oil or butter or nothing. I stuff the turkey and also cook the turkey on top of a bed of stuffing in a large enough pan. If you want to make gravy, cook the additional stuffing separately so you can save the drippings. The stuffing in the turkey will be moist; the stuffing in the pan, dryer with brown crispy edges.

I use Pepperidge Farm Herb Stuffing and add onions, butter, and sometimes cranberries or celery. You can add anything you like. You can also make your own stuffing, of course, but why duplicate the masters?

Cook the turkey at 300 for one hour to kill surface bacteria and seal the surface.

Turn the temperature down to 165, the done temperature for turkey. This is the key to slow cook a turkey. The dish will never be over-cooked. All flavors and texture will be unharmed. Some ovens will only go down to 170 so use an oven thermometer and crack the door if necessary. But 170 will work too, just check the turkey so you know when it is done.

Cook 1 hour for each pound. The oven may only turn on for a few minutes every hour or so.

SOME OVENS TURN THEMSELVES OFF IN ~12 HOURS, so may have to restart it. Only the slow cook a turkey method is fail-safe. I can’t control your oven.

Use a meat thermometer to ensure that the turkey is done. (The pop-up button, if your turkey has one, may overcook or undercook using this method — or any method, actually.

Turkey Soup


After dinner: Do not let people take all the left-over meat and dressing. (You may need help. Weapons are usually not necessary.)

If you are cooking soup later, refrigerate or freeze the turkey. Save the stuffing so people can put it in their soup or eat as a side dish. Save pieces of turkey meat separately to add to the soup after the stock is done.

If you are cooking the soup immediately after dinner, put all bones, skin, etc.— in a large pot and add water to cover. If some bones are sticking up, just push them down periodically while cooking until they stay down. Add 1-3 tablespoons of vinegar depending on the size of the pot to leech calcium out of the bones. The vinegar will cook off so no taste will remain or what does will blend with other flavors.

Put onions, parsley, celery, etc. in with the bones. You can cut them into large pieces, just small enough to fit in the pan.

Strong simmer until the  connecting tissue is soft and the bones just begin to fall away — about 4 hours or so.

Put the whole pot with the bones and vegetables in the fridge or if it is cold enough, outdoors. Put  a stone on the cover outside if you have raccoons or large cats. Leave it for 12-24 hours to leech more calcium out of the bones and allow the flavors to blend.


Scoop off the big globs of fat on the top. You don’t have to be meticulous about this. You want plenty left for taste and nourishment. Remember, this is a one pot fills all meal.

Warm the pot so the soup stock is completely melted.  Cool until safe to handle and pour the soup through a colander into another pot.  With the solids now in the colander, pick out the loose pieces of meat and any remaining on the bones.

Mush the meat carefully by hand to be sure there are no small bones.

Set the meat aside and throw out all the solids. The vegetables will be cooked to a mush of tasteless fiber but don’t cry over them. All the taste and minerals stay in the broth. You can add more celery, carrots, etc., later.

If you want to remove more fat, you can put the pot of liquid back in the fridge so it floats to the top and becomes solid. Or use a baster to siphon it off. But remember, a lot of the flavor is in the fat. Don’t over do it. This is one day a year. Maybe two if you do both a Christmas and Thanksgiving turkey.

Boil the liquid down until it has a rich taste, usually reducing it by 1/4 to 1/3. This depends on how much water you used on Day One and how many bones you have.

Relax. The soup is almost done. Season and add whatever else you want in the soup — carrots, celery, beans, rice, noodles, etc. — and cook until they are done. Add left over turkey just in time to heat it thoroughly.

I use soy sauce instead of salt because it gives a richer color. Soup stock can be really ugly and I’ve never been successful in the clarifying techniques recommended in cookbooks. (You probably lose flavor anyway when you swirl eggs around in it.)

I like Old Bay for poultry. Then I just smell stuff on the spice rack and decide if I want it or not. Sage is good in turkey soup. Some butter gives a nice aftertaste. It doesn’t have to be a lot. A very small amount adds flavor.

Heat stuffing separately if desired. (I like cold stuffing.)

That’s How to Slow Cook a Turkey

It sounds like a lot of work but it isn’t. Most of the time things are just cooking by themselves and you can go read a book.

It’s fail safe.