Author Archives: Daniel Dern

Arisia 2016 – A few words and a first batch of pix

Arisia, one of the greater Boston area’s three annual science fiction conventions (the others being Boskone and ReaderCon), remains my favorite place to bring my camera gear to — and to simply have fun at. Here’s pix of two of the bestest costumes I saw:

Dr. Fate (Nabu) (from DC Comics)

Dr. Fate (Nabu) (from DC Comics) hanging around

DanielDern-Arisia2016-DSC08657-DogCosplay (Armored Polar Bear, from Phillip Pullman’s THE GOLDEN COMPASS (book and movie).)

Hence this first batch of pix. More pix soon!
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A brief rumination on Neal Stephenson’s new book, SEVENEVES

(The title of which, a friend pointed out, is a palindrome.)

I have been reading Seveneves,
The new big book from Neal Stephes[1]:
The moon breaks in seven peaze,
Each piece has seven paths,
Each path has seven maths.
Some maths are delta-Vs, and
The plot has many keys[2].
Characters, sub-plots and lots of peaze,
Many pages is Seveneves.

[1] Stephenson, that is, of course
[2] Including hams doing Morse code, and some, cough, paper pads

Simple? Easy? Ha!

I’ve pilloried Staples for branding themselves with “that was easy,” desktop big red button and all, despite a variety of complexity sins, and that feeling doesn’t quickly go away.

Example: Making an online order from the store. First you have to go to the terminal (now, might be a gimormous touchscreen) to place the order. But no, you can’t complete the transaction there; to pay, you have to have them print something out, take that over to a register, and then pay. I’ve been snookered by this at least once, where I thought I’d actually placed an order, only to learn that I’d missed that “take paper elsewhere in store and do the pre-pay thing.”

Even when I was in the smallish (and now closed) Staples next to the post office, and one of the helpful (I do mean that part) staff was handling it, they still had to start at one terminal/register device, and then step over to another one. Simple? Easy? It is to laugh.

Same lack of simple for Staples sundry accounts, rewards, and so on. I’ve got my Staples rewards number. Then there’s Staples Easy Rebates. And Print Center. And they send hardcopy rewards coupons that expire remarkably soon. I think I’ve switched over to online, but I’m not sure.

To be fair, Staples isn’t the only company guilty of counterproductive complexity. Take Walgreens, for example. Prescriptions, notably. There’s the standard price. There’s the price that’s my health insurance co-pay. And Walgreens has, of course, their own membership/card thingie, costs like $20/year, which can yield somewhat better prices on some things.

But even though their system knows who I am and all this related information, it isn’t smart/helpful enough to automatically offer the best price — and “which is best” of list, co-pay or “member” varies. For most things, insurance co-pay is best. But not always; at least once recently, the co-pay would have been $21, while the Walgreens card price was $11. For one prescription, it didn’t initially go to my co-pay price, and instead burped out a seriously high number. For the prescription extra-flouride toothpaste I use in the evenings, list price is usually slightly better than either co-pay or their “club” price.

It’s not just the inconsistency that bugs me. It’s that often, and particularly for any new prescription, I have to ask whether the price would be better via my card, etc. It’s not just I shouldn’t have to keep doing it…what about all the customers who don’t know or aren’t willing to take the time to ask?

Being easy shouldn’t be this hard.

(I’m looking forward to catching) Stormin’ Norman & Suzy, Live In Newton, Mass (on Monday, August 11, 2014

Back in the 1970’s and early 1980’s, the New England area coffeehouse/folk concert stages (Passim, the Nameless Coffeehouse, and others) were graced with a wealth of local songwriting and performing talent.

Some (as best I know/recall), like Bob Holmes, Pete Kairo, Jill Stein (more recently better known as the 2012 Green Party candidate for president), and Rich Johnson, remained mostly known in the area. Some, like Betsy Rose, Cathy Winter, Paul Geremia, George Gritzbach, and Guy van Duser and Billy Novick, went on to achieve some greater degree of visibility. (Note, if not quite disclaimer: I was doing folk music reviews for the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, and various other local/folk publications, and even got to do liner notes for one album each by Holmes and Gritzbach.)

Among the list of my favorite: Norman Zamcheck and Suzy Williams — known to their fans as Stormin’ Norman & Suzy.

To my happy surprise, I see an e-flyer in my local library (in Newton, Mass.) that the two are doing a performance on Monday evening, August 11, 2014, as part of their apparently annual reunion tour (Zamcheck is a former native Newtonite, it turns out). Continue reading

Cerealizing, Or, You Can’t Get It From Here

I like cereal for breakfast. But as a not-on-meds Type 2 diabetic ALSO on a low-salt diet, even most of the “healthy/health food/oragnic” cereals — heck, even plain old oatmeal — aren’t something I can do a bowl of. I need something that’s low in carbohydrates (sugars and starches), and low in salt.  High in fiber’s good, too.

And even if I didn’t have these restrictions, I’d want something that didn’t use corn syrup or much in the way of whacky chemicals. (Yes, I ate stuff like that when I was a kid, who didn’t? I was also happy to have frozen spinach or lima beans (heated), or clam chowder (the red stuff, not that weird white stuff), but that’s another post…) Continue reading

Our Back Yard, When It Rains A Lot

Our back yard doesn’t look like much, but it’s dry… except during/after rainstorms severe enough that it runs down from the convervation land adjoining on one side.  It doesn’t happen often — we lived here at least a year or two before the first occurrence.  This past weekend’s was the biggest we’ve seen to date.  (But no, this wasn’t what caused the problem on the MBTA’s Riverside Green Line.)  This is one of those cases where a picture — or a video — is worth several hundred words, so… Continue reading

Sukkah 5770, From Start To Finish

One benefit of a back yard is being able to put up a sukkah each year. Here’s a slide show (using the free PictoBrowser online tool) of the key steps in putting it together:


Get the flash player here:

Long-Stem Artichokes!

I saw these last year at Whole Foods, but was put off by the price ($3.99 or $4.99, don’t remember which), and by the time I went back, none were there.


Just saw them for the first time this year, earlier today, $3.99 each, stems somewhat shorter than what I recall from last year.  Have grabbed three, and they’re scheduled as part of dinner.