Yeah, I\’ve been meaning to get around to it, really

Now some two years into the program, and 20 months post surgery, I\’ve lost 120#, and sometimes more. My weight is fluctuating between 220-230 of late, and I topped out at about 351#. More important than the weight, though, is the stark drop in A1C, which is a measure of damage sugar does to your blood cells. I was at an out-of-the-world 9.0 before I started losing weight. Now I\’m at a very comfortable 5.5. I can sit in a booth at a restaurant! I\’m wearing jeans sized 36 or 38, when I had been in a 54. I tried on a sports coat this evening. It is so large it couldn\’t even be converted into double-breasted, even ignoring the pocket placement (it\’s in front now!).


Spinning wheels go \’round and \’round

Not being enough of a geek already, I\’m adding to my bag of tricks. I took a class on spinning fiber into yarn a few weeks ago with Ann Corbey at The Fiber Loft in Harvard, MA. I got to try a couple of wheels that were OK, but didn\’t really enthrall me, but I learned a bit about spinning, and I learned a bit about what sort of wheel I might like to own.

This past weekend Peg and I were in Maine anyway (for another hobby-related event – Lobstercon ), so while in the area I took the opportunity to test drive two spinning wheels in two different shops. At Halcyon Yarn in Bath, ME, I tried the Kromski Fantasia, and at Spunky Eclectic in Lisbon, I tried the dual-treadle Fricke.

I ultimately settled on the Fantasia, and a lot of the reason falls to Peg. She said that the look on my face when I sat down at the Fantasia told her I\’d found the right wheel already.

UPS should be delivering the wheel tomorrow afternoon. I\’m kind of excited.

Of course, one does not need just a spinning wheel. There are all manner of accessories to purchase over time. One of the first is a niddy-noddy, a device upon which yarn is wound from the bobbin to both balance the twist and measure the yarn. Some folks dye the yard on the niddy-noddy as well.

Looking around at various vendors, I found that the durn things range in price from about $28 for unfinished wood to $50 or $75! It\’s three sticks, people. Yes, they are often lathe-turned and beautiful, but I don\’t think so. I read the Wikipedia article referenced earlier, which mentioned that \”budget spinners\” have fashioned them from PVC. A stop at Home Depot last night yielded two 10 foot pieces of 3/4\” rigid tubing and four TEEs. A bit of measuring (two 6\” pieces on either end and a 18\” piece for the main bit), and a minute of assembly provided me with a niddy-noddy for a price I haven\’t even calculated yet. I paid $6.20 for the materials. I have enough tubing left for at least three more, TEEs enough for another, and the TEEs were cheap. I estimate that they are going to be about $2 each – not even in quantity. (I wonder if the local yarn shop might have a market for dead-cheap niddy-noddies?)

Stay tuned!



I have in the past made a number of batches of risotto, which is delicious and rich and creamy, usually overflowing with Parmesan cheese, because I don\’t have to make a profit.

But making \”real\” risotto takes time, most of it right at the stove top. A typical recipe for risotto would include a cup of arborio rice, a half cup or so of finely chopped onion, a cup of Parmesan, four or five cups of chicken or beef broth at a simmer, and some nice olive oil. Oh, and I usually finish it with about two or three tablespoons of butter. (Oh, God, why am I overweight?)

The onions are sauteed in the olive oil, the rice is added and that\’s sauteed as well. Then the broth is added about a half cup at a time, stirring more-or-less constantly, until it\’s absorbed, and the process repeated until the rice is done (al dente), about 25 minutes or so later. Then the butter and Parmesan are stirred in. Delicious, but I\’m at the stove for a half hour or more.

That\’s risotto. Now, fauxsotto is much easier.

I picked up a package of fresh pico de gallo at the supermarket, about a cup or so of coarsely chopped onion, red pepper, jalapeno, and just a touch of cilantro.

Into the skillet went about two tablespoons of olive oil and half of the pico de gallo. Saute for a bit, then add a cup of long-grain rice, and saute that a bit. Then add two cans of chicken broth. Bring that all to a boil, turn the flame down, cover, and simmer for about twenty minutes. Voila.

It\’s not as good as risotto, but about 90% easier and 20% faster. You could probably toss in the Parmesan and butter and get it even closer to risotto, but I didn\’t even bother. There are about a million variations on this theme that could be done, but I\’m just starting.

Until next time, bon appetit!
(love you, Julia!)

13 things your burglar won\’t tell you

I got this in an email the other day. Presumably these helpful hints were gleaned from conversations from some 105 burglars in North Carolina, Oregon, California, and Kentucky. There are actually 21 of them – a list of 13 and another list of 8 that seems to have joined later:

  1. Of course I look familiar. I was here just last week cleaning
    your carpets, painting your shutters, or delivering your new refrigerator.
  2. Hey, thanks for letting me use the bathroom when I was working in
    your yard last week. While I was in there, I unlatched the back window to
    make my return a little easier.
  3. Love those flowers. That tells me you have taste… and taste
    means there are nice things inside. Those yard toys your kids leave out
    always make me wonder what type of gaming system they have.
  4. Yes, I really do look for newspapers piled up on the driveway.
    And I might leave a pizza flyer in your front door to see how long it takes
    you to remove it..
  5. If it snows while you\’re out of town, get a neighbor to create
    car and foot tracks into the house.. Virgin drifts in the driveway are a
    dead giveaway.
  6. If decorative glass is part of your front entrance, don\’t let
    your alarm company install the control pad where I can see if it\’s set. That
    makes it too easy.
  7. A good security company alarms the window over the sink. And the
    windows on the second floor, which often access the master bedroom – and
    your jewelry. It\’s not a bad idea to put motion detectors up there too.
  8. It\’s raining, you\’re fumbling with your umbrella, and you forget
    to lock your door – understandable. But understand this: I don\’t take a day
    off because of bad weather.
  9. I always knock first. If you answer, I\’ll ask for directions
    somewhere or offer to clean your gutters. (Don\’t take me up on it.)
  10. Do you really think I won\’t look in your sock drawer? I always
    check dresser drawers, the bedside table, and the medicine cabinet.
  11. Here\’s a helpful hint: I almost never go into kids\’ rooms.
  12. You\’re right: I won\’t have enough time to break into that safe
    where you keep your valuables. But if it\’s not bolted down, I\’ll take it
    with me.
  13. A loud TV or radio can be a better deterrent than the best alarm
    system. If you\’re reluctant to leave your TV on while you\’re out of town,
    you can buy a $35 device that works on a timer and simulates the flickering
    glow of a real television. (Find it at
  14. Sometimes, I carry a clipboard. Sometimes, I dress like a lawn
    guy and carry a rake. I do my best to never, ever look like a crook.
  15. The two things I hate most: loud dogs and nosy neighbors.
  16. I\’ll break a window to get in, even if it makes a little noise. If your neighbor hears one loud sound, he\’ll stop what he\’s doing and wait to hear it again. If he doesn\’t hear it again, he\’ll just go back to what he was doing. It\’s human nature.
  17. I\’m not complaining, but why would you pay all that money for a fancy alarm system and leave your house without setting it?
  18. I love looking in your windows. I\’m looking for signs that you\’re
    home, and for flat screen TVs or gaming systems I\’d like. I\’ll drive or walk
    through your neighborhood at night, before you close the blinds, just to
    pick my targets.
  19. Avoid announcing your vacation on your Facebook page. It\’s easier
    than you think to look up your address.
  20. To you, leaving that window open just a crack during the day is a
    way to let in a little fresh air. To me, it\’s an invitation.
  21. If you don\’t answer when I knock, I try the door. Occasionally, I
    hit the jackpot and walk right in.

If you see yourself in any of these scenarios, pay heed.

Tip o\’ the hat to Kathy!

What\’s the opposite of Customer Service (reprise – Comcast this time)

user John_ has entered room
( Fri Oct 23 2009 10:38:25 oh, by the way...)

analyst Joanne has entered room

Joanne(Fri Oct 23 2009 10:38:33 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

Hello John_, Thank you for contacting Comcast Live Chat Support.
My name is Joanne. Please give me one moment to review your

Joanne(Fri Oct 23 2009 10:38:43 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

How are you today?

John_(Fri Oct 23 2009 14:38:53 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

Doing well. Yourself?

Joanne(Fri Oct 23 2009 10:39:09 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

I am very glad to know that. I am doing great! Thanks for asking.

Joanne(Fri Oct 23 2009 10:39:25 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

How may I assist you today?

John_(Fri Oct 23 2009 14:39:54 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

I\'m hoping to reduce my cable bill by dropping the digital
premium package (name might not be quite correct)

John_(Fri Oct 23 2009 14:40:47 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

It\'s the Digital Preferred Plus package...

Joanne(Fri Oct 23 2009 10:42:10 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

I would just like to verify if I got your concern correctly,
you would like to downgrade from your current cable package,
which is the Digital Preferred  Plus package, correct?

John_(Fri Oct 23 2009 14:43:08 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

Yes. If my bill is partitioned correctly, the Digital Preferred Plus
package is $39.45. I\'d like to drop just that portion of the service.

Joanne(Fri Oct 23 2009 10:43:31 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

Let me go ahead and help you with that.

Joanne(Fri Oct 23 2009 10:43:49 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

May I have the account number please?

John_(Fri Oct 23 2009 14:43:54 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

Thanks. We hardly ever watch HBO or Starz, and I can\'t really see a lot of difference other than that...

John_(Fri Oct 23 2009 14:44:07 GMT+0000 (EDT))>


John_(Fri Oct 23 2009 14:44:20 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

At least that\'s what\'s next to my wife\'s name on the bill...

Joanne(Fri Oct 23 2009 10:44:30 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

Thank you.

Joanne(Fri Oct 23 2009 10:44:49 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

Can you please verify to me the account holder\'s name?

John_(Fri Oct 23 2009 14:45:05 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

Peggy S Griswold

Joanne(Fri Oct 23 2009 10:45:24 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

Thank you.

Joanne(Fri Oct 23 2009 10:46:24 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

I would just like to verify again, you want to remove HBO or Starz,

John_(Fri Oct 23 2009 14:47:48 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

The bill has this: Digital Preferred Plus 10/16 - 11/15 39.45
Digital Preferred Plus With HBO & STARZ
Includes: Digital Classic, Digital Preferred,
Digital Music Choice, HBO, HBO Plex,
STARZ!, STARZ! Plex, Interactive Program

Joanne(Fri Oct 23 2009 10:48:37 GMT+0000 (EDT))>


John_(Fri Oct 23 2009 14:48:38 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

I want to drop that piece, however it\'s structured.

John_(Fri Oct 23 2009 14:48:55 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

My aim is to save the $40.

Joanne(Fri Oct 23 2009 10:50:16 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

Okay, I understand John.

Joanne(Fri Oct 23 2009 10:52:58 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

What I’m going to do now is to try to remove some of the channels
from the package but let check though if the system will let me.
I f not, I have to transfer you to our sales department because
they have more access to our products\' rate codes. Will that
be fine with you John?

John_(Fri Oct 23 2009 14:53:13 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

Sure - thanks.

John_(Fri Oct 23 2009 14:54:08 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

I thought it would just be a checkbox or something \"wink\"

Joanne(Fri Oct 23 2009 10:56:05 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

It\'s somewhat like what you think but we have to adjust rate
codes though so that the system will allow us the change. We
also have to check promotions that might be applied to your
account.Please give me a few minutes to process your request.
Thank you.

John_(Fri Oct 23 2009 14:56:20 GMT+0000 (EDT))>


Joanne(Fri Oct 23 2009 10:56:53 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

By the way John, what are those channels you want to remove?

John_(Fri Oct 23 2009 14:58:33 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

I don\'t have a listing of the channels specifically. I tried to
determine what the difference between the digital start and
the Digital Classic and Preferred was, but it\'s tough to
navigate the web site\'s lists...

John_(Fri Oct 23 2009 14:59:33 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

So if you just remove the HBO and Starz components, that would
probably be the bulk of it. There aren\'t clearly-defined packages.

Joanne(Fri Oct 23 2009 11:07:16 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

Okay, John. Let me give you a link that you can look over to
compare packages available in your area and find a package
that will suit you.
< link to the basic obtuse Comcast offerings page >

John_(Fri Oct 23 2009 15:07:44 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

OK going there now

Joanne(Fri Oct 23 2009 11:08:49 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

However John, I would have to transfer you to our sales
department so they can better assist you with your change
of package. Will that be fine?

John_(Fri Oct 23 2009 15:11:17 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

OK. Thanks for your help

Joanne(Fri Oct 23 2009 11:11:37 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

You\'re welcome.

Joanne(Fri Oct 23 2009 11:11:57 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

Please stay on the chat while I transfer you. Thank you.

analyst Carol has entered room

Joanne(Fri Oct 23 2009 11:13:41 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

Please wait, while the problem is escalated to another analyst

Carol(Fri Oct 23 2009 11:13:49 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

Hello.  Thank you for choosing Comcast.  My name is Carol
and I will be processing your order today.  Please stay
online while I create the work order for your request.
It will take me just a few minutes to pull up your
address in our system.  Please hold for a moment.

John_(Fri Oct 23 2009 15:13:50 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

Thank you

analyst Joanne has left room

Carol(Fri Oct 23 2009 11:15:01 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

Be right with you

Carol(Fri Oct 23 2009 11:17:14 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

I just read your request

Carol(Fri Oct 23 2009 11:17:32 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

so sorry,  I will need to have you call in  for a downgrade,

Carol(Fri Oct 23 2009 11:17:55 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

Is there anything else I can help you with today

John_(Fri Oct 23 2009 15:18:17 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

If only Joanne had told me that a half-hour ago... No, I
guess that\'s all I need. Thanks for the phone number.

Carol(Fri Oct 23 2009 11:18:50 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

Thank you.

Carol(Fri Oct 23 2009 11:18:56 GMT+0000 (EDT))>

Analyst has closed chat and left the room

analyst Carol has left room
(Fri Oct 23 2009 11:18:56 Oh, by the way - 41 minutes!)

The postscript to this story is a quick five-minute phone call to Comcast at the above number, where I had to select English (were are we?),  enter my home phone number, navigate a 27-level triage menu, and finally be told by a nice lady that she couldn\’t help me because the account is in Peggy\’s name…

What\’s the opposite of Customer Service?

Please just follow along…

I used my debit card at dinner last night, and my wife used hers at a grocery store later in the evening. This morning at breakfast, my card was denied. I went to the local ATM a few hours later to get some cash, and again, the card was denied.

I communicated on-line with one of your reps and got cards reissued
(yes, my wife\’s card was no longer active). The rep (\”Desmond\”, if
that\’s of any matter), informed me that there was no indication that
there were debit cards associated with the account.

I can understand if the magnetic stripe gets damaged the card won\’t
work, but I do not understand how your system can \”forget\” that we have debit cards. My sister, who also banks with BoA, claims this same thing has happened to her three times in the past two months.

Can you provide an explanation for how your system can \”forget\” that I
have a debit card? That would seem to me that an incorrect database
update occurred, and I don\’t know how that can happen in this day and age.

Thanks for any information you can provide.
Dear John A. Griswold,

Thank you for your inquiry dated 8/8/09 regarding the debit card. We
will be happy to assist you.

We understand your concern about the debit card. Allow us to apologize for any inconvenience that you may have experienced in this matter.

However, Please be informed that at your request, we are sending you a new debit card ending in – ****. You should receive your card on 8/17/09 through U.S. Mail. The card is being sent to the following address:

34 Cambridge St
Ayer MA 01432-1361

If the mailing information is incorrect, please provide us with an
updated address to which the card should be mailed and we will update
our records. The card mailed to the incorrect address will be cancelled
and a new card will be sent. Please remember to activate your new debit card at any Bank of America ATM by using the new PIN , which is being mailed to you separately.

You may now activate your new debit card in Online Banking. Just click
on debit card settings located in the Checking and Savings section on
the Customer Service tab and complete the information requested.

For your reference, to find the banking center nearest you, please use
the ATM and Banking Center locator on the Bank of America Web page at It is located on the lower left hand side of the page.

Please remember, Bank of America offers Total Security Protection. This
service is free and automatically available for all Bank of America
consumer credit cards and debit cards. It features zero liability if
your card is lost or stolen. For extended information on this service,
please visit (some web link)

For more information regarding the old debit card ending in – ****, we
recommend you to contact at 1.877.833.5617. We are available twenty four hours a day and seven days a week.

We value you as a customer and appreciate your business. If we may be of further assistance, please contact us again by e-mail. Thank you for choosing Bank of America.


Harley K
Thank you for your response, but you didn\’t answer my question.

Desmont, the first agent I contacted, said that your system showed that my wife and I didn\’t even have debit cards. Yet, less than 24 hours earlier, we used them. That would indicate that sometime between 8PM on Friday and 9AM on Saturday, your system \”forgot\” that we had debit cards.

I want to know how this can happen.

Thank you again for your quick response, but I really would like to have
my question answered.

John Griswold


Dear John A. Griswold,

Thank you for your inquiry dated 8/9/09 regarding the debit card. We
will be happy to assist you.

We apologize for any confusion regarding the debit card transactions.
Our records indicate that your debit card ending in -**** was closed on 8/8/09 and a new debit card ending in -**** was issued. You should received your card within 8/17/09 at the following address:

34 Cambridge St
Ayer MA 01432-1361

Our records indicate rejections on your transactions on 8/8/09 as the
card was blocked. However, up to 8/7/09 the transactions were

Unfortunately, we cannot provide information on the debit card for your
co-owner because the owner of the debit card and the owner of this
Online ID are different. The Online ID provides you with security and
verification to perform updates on an account you own by e-mail through Online Banking.

Please have your co-owner sign in using her Online ID and send us an
e-mail requesting the updates. We will be happy to assist at that time.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. If we may be of further assistance, please contact us again by e-mail. We value you as a customer and appreciate your business. Thank you for choosing Bank of America.


Adrian D



Once again, thank you for your quick response to tell me that my old
debit card was rendered useless and a new card has been issued.

However, once again you have failed to answer my primary question –
Why did my card become useless? How did this happen?

There has to be an explanation.

You are doing nothing at all to convince me that Bank of America is
where I should do my banking.

Please escalate my question, along with the trail of queries and useless
responses, to a supervisor.

John Griswold

John C:

Thank you for your inquiry dated 8/10/09 regarding the debit card. We
will be happy to assist you.

Allow us to apologize for the inconvenience you have experienced in this regard.

Our records indicate that you are listed as a Private customer.
Regrettably, we are unable to complete your request through e-mail for
security reason. In order to assist you better, we request you to us at
1.877.556.2171. We are available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, Eastern Time.

We once again apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. If we may be of further assistance, please contact us again by e-mail. We value you as a customer and appreciate your business. Thank you for choosing Bank of America.


John C

That\’s just bullshit, Mr. President

OK, I was ready to hold my tongue on this one, but Mr. Obama just pissed me off in supporting Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

The police officer investigating a report of \”a black man breaking into a house\” went to the house and found a black man inside. Said black man, when asked for ID, spouts off with \”Why, because I\’m a black man and you\’re a white police officer?\” The correct thing to do would have been to politely produce ID and explain how you\’d had difficulty getting the door open. Calling the cop a racist and mouthing off isn\’t very likely to start off a good encounter. Assuming Crowley was a racist simply because he was white is racist in and of itself. Sergeant Crowley came out to protect Gates\’s property, for Pete\’s sake, and had a half-way reasonable chance of getting shot at. Had the report been for a white man breaking in, or someone wearing a hockey mask breaking in, and Crowley found a white man or goalie inside, chances are pretty good the cop\’d ask for ID there, too! I\’m pretty sure I\’d have Tasered his ass and then asked for ID while he was still twitching.

To continue to call Crowley a racist, and to continue to mouth off is, in my estimation, a damn fine way to get your ass dragged down to the station, I don\’t care whether you\’re black, white, green or plaid.

To have the President then come on TV and remark that the Cambridge PD (the entire department?!) acted \”stupidly\” is just insulting to the Cambridge PD and to my intelligence. Watching the early news in Boston that day made it pretty clear who was acting \”stupidly\”. It was the oh-so-learned Professor Gates.

So how about showing a little respect for the Sergeant Crowley? And for that matter the rest of the Cambridge PD – and the rest of the police no matter where? You don\’t see Gates humping around a Kevlar jacket and twenty pounds of other gear all day, nor do you see Gates risking his life every day to protect the citizenry of Cambridge. No – but that cop is out there five days a week, in the heat, in the snow and the rain, standing between Gates and that part of \”society\” that is intent on taking his property and/or life.

I do think an apology is in order. Professor Gates needs to apologize to Sergeant Crowley. And he needs to introduce himself to a few of the neighbors. The 911 call that started the whole incident came from a neighbor – who apparently didn\’t know who Gates was.

And Mr. President, stay out of it.

As a post-script, President Obama called Sergeant Crowley and \”expressed regret\” for jumping to conclusions about what had happened at Professor Gates\’s house… ( )

Thank you, Mr. President for being a stand-up guy.


Wasn\’t it Thomas Wolfe who penned \”You Can\’t Go Home Again\”? I think so. That point was made clear this past weekend. We\’d been out to my sister\’s house for Easter, and rather than take a direct route (moi?) home, I decided to drive through my old home town. While much of it has retained its forlorn, dog-eared early-60\’s patina, there have been notable changes.

For one thing, two of the schools I attended are no longer there! That\’s rather shattering, even though they were old, old buildings when I attended fifth and seventh grades, respectively. One was a four-room school, the other eight. As time passed, these buildings, with their high ceilings and huge, light-inviting windows, became dinosaurs to heat in the winter, and there was (believe me!) no air conditioning. So I see why they went away. The four-room building where I attended fifth grade was replaced by two homes. In the early 70\’s it had been converted into a youth center, where the miscreants of my day went to play a little pool, sneak a little beer (or pot), and wedge my mother\’s Volkswagen Beetle between a couple of telephone poles conveniently spaced about a Volkswagen and three inches apart. (I had to execute a 27-point turn to get out of that bailiwick!).

One of the homes in which I grew up, just over hill from this school, was still there (I didn\’t even look at the other this trip), but has been modified to no longer fit my recollection. In the forty-some years since we moved out of there, it\’s no wonder. My parents had converted it from a two-family to a single prior to my memories – that\’s why my brother had kitchen cabinets in his bedroom, and my sisters\’ room had French doors…
The other school was gone altogether. I had just been reminiscing about that school with a reconnected friend of the era a few weeks earlier. She lived close enough to that school where she could, and did, walk home for lunch.

As we drove out of town, I took an even further indirect route through the south side of town into another adjacent village, and saw a lot of roads that I recognized, but a number that, for some reason, I\’d never been on, or could recall. Thirty five or so years is a long distance to bridge.

You can\’t go home again.

Somebody thinks I\’m a complete moron

Well, there might be more than one, but I got this email today:


Even to the casual observer, there are a number of things wrong:

  1. From: \”\” but email is from \”\”
  2. To: \”dear friend\” – somebody sending me a card might know my name
  3. Card link is \”\” an EXE for Pete\’s sake! Can you get any more transparent in your evil intentions?
  4. Various typos and misspellings (\”aviailable\”, \”enjoy you eCard\”) sure put that \”professional polish\” on the presentation

Needless to say, I didn\’t click on the link (though with Thunderbird as my email agent and Firefox 3 as my browser, I\’d likely get out of it OK).

If you should happen to find an email like this addressed to you, just discard it. It\’s only going to cause you problems in the long run. Really.