Sunday, April 26, 2009

View of the Charles River

Yesterday it was 80 degrees F. in April, and for Boston, that's like heaven!

So, in part encouraged by a reader of this blog, and in part because I just had the urge to get out there, we went for a bike ride along the Charles River. We're fortunate in the Boston area to have a long series of bike and walking paths that follow the river from Boston all the way out to Waltham, about 7 miles.

The river has many faces, in some places a placid pool with bordering marshes, in others passing old factories (like many an old New England mill town), and others with more formal development next to the river. Here's a few of the faces of the Charles on a warm spring day.

Below: Two Canada geese swim in the river near the Moody Street bridge in Waltham

Above: Rapids in the river below the falls. Though the banks are wooded, urban development lurks nearby, hidden by the buffer of trees.

Below: A towering stack rises above an old factory in Waltham. Note the silhouette of an abandoned railroad trestle crossing the river.

Above: A restful scene reminiscent of a lazy summer afternoon as a mother and small child (too small to see in photo) relax on the river bank under willow trees. In the background is a footbridge and another abandoned railroad trestle (part of the same rail line). [What can I say, I'm an engineer and I love bridges!]

Below: My all time favorite footbridge - the Blue Heron Bridge. It's a beautiful example of a slender graceful arch with cables supporting the walkway. And the greatest thing: if you're not walking or riding on the trail, you'd never know this little gem existed!

Above: The path in Newton snakes through woods next to the river. The trees just have a touch of their early spring light green foliage.

Below: The falls at Watertown, looking upstream at the early spring foliage along the banks. And, yes, another footbridge.

Above: One of the many arch bridges that cross the Charles.

Below: The dead tree and bording marshes present a natural foreground (pay no mind to the high-rise apartments in the background).

Saturday, April 25, 2009

What is Beauty?

The phenomenon of Susan Boyle singing on Britain's Got Talent brings back to focus a question close to my heart: What really is beauty?

In a previous blog, I asked What is Ugly? A New York Times article on Oct. 29, 2009 ("Move Over, My Pretty, Ugly Is Here ") examined how "beauty" and "ugliness" is defined with societies. Maybe folks have overdosed on the skinny, young, and pretty which left room for unlikely heroines like Ugly Betty.

But despite a few exceptions like Ugly Betty, the media gives us a constant stream of what is supposed to be "beauty." Be it on TV, in ads on web sites (particularly dating services), or pop music stars.

Freelance web writter Julie Neumann has a recent blog post "Flaws & Fame: Susan Boyle vs. French Elle Magazine" which is a wonderful examination on the issues of beauty and body image, especially for women.

Interestingly, she notes that because Susan Boyle sang so beautifully, people take away the lesson "you can't just a book by the cover." But Julie also asks, what is Susan did not sing so well? What is her singing was ordinary or even bad? Would everyone just laugh at Susan and consider her of no particular value?

That is the saddest reflection I've heard.

Why do we have this societal idea that the beautiful are admired and have value, and that the ugly are avoided and have little value? This is what is closest to me. Having never had great looks, in the past I've tended to "stay in the shadows" and be less social, assume a lower social standing, and generally view myself as less interesting than the beautiful and popular. However, the joy of middle age is becoming unencumbered by these value systems and gaining confidence in your professional and other abilities. And just not really giving a shit about what people think about you.

But my point is not to focus on me. My concern is that so many will devalue others who do not possess what society defines as beauty. How many people are there that may not be the most attractive on the outside, yet have great talent, intelligence, and/or inner beauty.

And, are we not so much poorer for never knowing these people?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Do You Want Cheese on That?

So, what’s the deal with pushing cheese, cheese, cheese, anywhere you go?

Remember when the server at McDonalds always asked “Do you want fries with that?” Well, every time I order a sandwich, the order clerk asks “Do you want cheese on that?
“No thanks,” I say.

But I can’t simply just say “no” once. At Subway, if I say no thanks to the first order person, the next two workers in the sandwich production line ask again! (Do they get a bonus per slice?)

They’re like drug pushers: “Pssst, hey, want to do some good Gorgonzola?” “You really need some Cheddar on that.” Or Scientologists: “You really do want to have this cheese on that sandwich.”

Oy vey! Has no one heard of kosher? You know, not serving meat and dairy at the same meal? I can’t be the only person out that who eats cheese-less sandwiches?

Not that I keep kosher -- actually, I’m not even Jewish – but my New York roots have given me the occasional craving for a tasty sandwich from a great Jewish deli! Where they never ask me if I want cheese on that!!!

My cynical self suspects that the Cheese Institute, not unlike organized crime, has made a “deal they can’t refuse” with all the sandwich and fast food chains. “Sell cheese, if you know what’s good for you!” Why else would I get asked “do you want cheese on that” about 2.7 times per each sandwich order!

What do you think? Do you long for a good Jewish deli where they never ask you “Do you want cheese on that?”

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Walking on a Rainy Day

Usually a rainy day is a depressing: stuck inside, getting your clothes wet if you go outside, the sun isn't shining, so why bother? It's weather only a duck can enjoy!

But walking home from work in the rain this evening was actually pleasant. It was quite warm and the rain was gently falling on my head. It was more a mist than a rain, gently refreshing, and not getting me all soaked by any means.

I was thinking of last summer. I was a big downpour, but I went out to the store in shorts and flip flops with an umbrella. I didn't mind getting wet walking through the puddles. It was all quite refreshing.......

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Open Toe Season Is Here!

Another sure sign of spring in the northern climes is the start of Open Toe Season! It's April and women are beginning to expose their toes on the way to work.

Now in places like LA where it's always warm, Open Toe Season lasts all year long. But up here where we have a thing called winter with snow and slush and ice and really cold temperatures, the sensible woman invests in a fashionable pair of boots. Along with a long, warm coat, gloves and a hat, a reasonable woman can avoid freezing for the sake of fashion.

On the other hand, if you have someplace really nice to go, or you have a big date, and you have that perfect pair of open toe heels, many a northern girl has been spotted braving winter snows and freezing temperatures forgoing sensible boots to look great.

When is Open Toe Season in Boston?

I've noticed that Open Toe Season is now running from about April (first warm days) to October (first frosty morning). This is not counting college students who can be seen with flipflops and shorts even in the middle of winter. I'm counting only women obviously going to work. For me, I prefer truely warm weather from June through August.

So why do women enjoy Open Toe Season? One younger woman coworker says she enjoys "sockless summers" or one less item of clothing to wash. Others may enjoy showing off their pedicures.

And there's the simplist reason: it's just easier to get to get dressed and out in the morning. No stockings to slip into. Getting dressed can simply be finding a nice top and skirt or a dress. Then slip into sandles, flipflops or other open toe shoes and you're good to go.

Are Flip Flops Appropriate in the Office?
Where there are "business casual" guidelines, they often say flip flops are not appropriate. But with a nice skirt or dress, I think a simple pair of flip flops works -- they don't distract from the overall look. Besides, who's looking at your feet instead of making eye contact?

So, what do you think about flip flops in the office? And how long is Open Toe Season where you live?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

More Signs of Spring!

It was almost feeling like spring this morning, especially when I saw most of the jonquils (or daffodils as some call them) were out.

My favorite is the “non-conformist” in the photo below – some out-of-the-flower-box thinking, perhaps?