Judi is spending the weekend – as usual – at her mother’s and that left Dr. Data at 6’s & 7’s concerning meals. Inasmuch as I was not  the least bit inclined to play chef again this weekend, I decided to hop in the truck and head down to Bodo’s Bagels for dinner on Saturday evening. I shared my dining experience

  • Whole-wheat bagel w/ herbal cream cheese
  • Whole-wheat bagel w/ pastrami, e-z on the mustard
  • Iced tea

with a print of this painting by Marc Chagall – one that I hadn’t seen before. Perhaps it put me in mind of Penelope’s wedding in Urban Mermaid but it did make my dinner all the more pleasurable.

La Mariee by Marc Chagall

La Mariee by Marc Chagall

And so this is Christmas . . .

Almost two years ago,my mother passed away at the age of 96 1/2 and the following is the eulogy I delivered at her funeral. You’re probably wondering if I’ve gone barking mad to publish a eulogy during the holiday season but it is all about Christmas and memories of my mother.


A Poet . . . . A Nurse . . . . An Artist . . . . A Mother

Four facets of a highly intelligent and talented woman. We could spend all afternoon relating her many attributes and achievements. This morning, however, I will tell you about only one.

It is no great secret that Lucile Parsons loved Christmas. In fact, if it had been possible, our mother would have married Santa Claus. This means that my brother and I would have gone into the family business  . . . . as Elves.

Her love of Christmas began when she was little Lucile Tench.  She remembered that as the season approached, she would catch my grandmother sitting down to rest and would immediately beg: “Let’s talk about Christmas”. Grandmother Tench must have known what was coming every time as she would patiently explain – step by step – the process of baking,

shopping, and so on down to that exciting morning when Christmas finally arrived.

A perennial story told by our aunts and uncles – as well as Mother herself – relates how one year, Lucile refused to allow her mother to take the Christmas tree down after the holiday was over. Epiphany came and went and the tree remained standing in the parlour.

There was no such thing as central heating at the Tench house on Petersburg’s East Bank Street and in the winter, a fire was laid in the front parlour only when it was absolutely necessary. Those cool conditions kept the tree in a relatively fresh state for weeks, and Lucile would go into that room after school and gaze in wonder at the tree’s magnificence; so beautiful, so fragrant, so tall in its finery.

January was history, February came and went, and still the tree stood in the Tench parlour, and Lucile still paid a visit every day. It was not until mid-March that the tree finally came down and only then because the parlour was needed for a family funeral.

Webster’s dictionary defines Christmas as “a Christian feast on December 25”.  At 208 Oakwood Avenue, feast could be considered to be the operative word, as an avalanche of cookies, fruitcake, fudge – three kinds, mind you – and candies of all sorts poured forth from that tiny kitchen.

My brother and I were gainfully employed carrying plates of these tasty treats to teachers, neighbours, family friends–and I do not once remember anything but a big smile when they opened their front doors, and saw what we were delivering.

The feast was not limited to these goodies. Returning home from the service here at Saint John’s, we were treated to a Smithfield ham baked to perfection, turkey, fresh rolls, the obligatory vegetables, and fanciful concoctions such as Tipsy Squire and Syllabub for dessert.

The day was capped off – at least for the adults – with cups of Eggnog, sometimes made from scratch, and always spirited appropriately. And I should add that on Lucile’s last Christmas Day, she was offered a cup of eggnog and the first words out of her mouth were “Does it have anything in it?”

Lucile was a stalwart of the annual Christmas bazaar here at Saint John’s. Every year, along about March or April, our house was transformed into Santa’s Workshop as Mom began to turn out a variety of items to be sold in Eppes or Ribble Hall the following November. Our mother – as artisan – would try her hand at new painting and handicraft techniques to create holiday trimmings and other decorative items.

Even today, there are Christmas Trees – both here in Hopewell and elsewhere – that still boast Lucile’s hand-made ornaments.

My mother loved Christmas.

They say that spring is less than a month away and today’s weather would seem to bear that out. But for the next few minutes, I want you to pretend . . . and sing “O Come All Ye Faithful” just as if it were Christmas Eve here at Saint John’s and Santa Claus is on his way.


Today was my annual eye exam and I am still recovering from the part I hate most: dilation. Over all, very little change in my prescription and no sign of any of the eye problems that afflict older folks & diabetics. (Huzzah!) Just the same old near-sightedness and astigmatism.

Since I spend a hell-of-a-lot of time in front of a PC monitor, the eye doctor suggested that I get a pair of glasses that have the prescription adjusted for this kind of work. It sounded like a good idea to me and so I started the paperwork to get a new pair of glasses. The hardest part is, as always, choosing the frames. I’ve had wire-rim frames since I graduated from college so I decided to get horn-rimmed frames so I could easily tell them apart. After wading through all the possibilities, I settled on two different frames.

One is a tortoise-shell with thicker arms. The inside of the arms & rims are this funky shade of sea-green. The price is quite reasonable and I won’t have to sell one of the moggies to afford a new pair of glasses.

The other is a black plastic rim with more narrow arms. These frames are a fair bit lighter in weight than the the first ones. The price is . . . well . . . an arm and a leg and it looks like both of the cats will have to go on the auction block.

Guess which set of frames I like!

So, here for your enjoyment are pictures of me in both sets. The ones I like are on the right.

The ones I like

The funky ones.

The funky ones.

The ones I like.

There is nothing new under the sun – or so it would seem with Microsoft. ZDNet’s Ed Bott is beginning to think he’s Bill Murray suffering through his Punxsutawney punishment in Ground Hog Day. He feels this way because just about every Windows 8 story of late sounds eerily similar to stories from 2001 and  the release of Windows XP.

PC sales were significantly down in the third quarter of 2012 from those in the same period of 2011. Way back in the ancient days of 2001, PC sales were also in the toilet and manufacturers were hoping that XP would help to pull them out.

Some of the reasons for slow sales of PC’s – and Windows 8 – are obvious. Tablets like the iPad account for a significant amount of spending from consumers as they decide that perhaps, all they really need is one of these devices. Back in ’01, laptops were continuing to be more and more common than those supposedly in the know were starting to proclaim that the desktop was dead. In those days, however, people were shifting from Windows on a  desktop to windows on a laptop. In 2012, buyers are shifting from Windows on a desktop or laptop to Android or iOS on a tablet. Yes, there are now Windows 8 tablets but it is still too soon to determine what sort of share of the market they will own.

Another factor is that Windows 7 is still fairly new. Compared to XP, it’s practically a spring chicken! And so are the PC’s that were purchased in order to run 7. As long as Windows 7 adequately fulfills the needs of consumers, the impetus to upgrade is relatively small.

Dr. Data will definitely give Ed Bott credit for his observations but believes that things are a bit different this time around. At the end of the day, we won’t really know anything until 2013 when the 4th quarter sales figures are released. Read Ed’s story & decide for yourself.

Source: With Windows 8, Microsoft’s playing a scene from Groundhog Day

Hurricane Sandy was almost a non-event here at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. There was a so-so breeze and a good bit of rain but not quite the disaster that the forecasters had predicted. Things were a bit different in the higher elevations and Crozet – which sits at the very base of the mountains did experience some outages because of the wind but on the whole, Albemarle County just had some spot outages here & there; about what you might expect following a rain storm. On the whole, Sandy was a non-event here.

Storm action at Virginia Beach

Just so I can show you a wee bit of storm action, here’s the view at the Neptune statue on the Virginia Beach boardwalk.

With hurricane Sandy off the coast and VEPCO’s – sorry, just can’t say “Dominion Power” –  track record of responding to outages here on Carrsbrook Drive, it is:

  1. Conceivable
  2. Likely
  3. Probable
  4. Inevitable

(choose one) that will be in the dark for a few

  1. Hours
  2. Days
  3. Weeks
  4. Months

(choose one).

No power means no PC and no internet service and therefore no blog entries. Q.E.D.

Therefore, do not be alarmed or disappointed – not that anyone would be – over the absence of posts. We’re just here, sitting in the dark, eating Vienna Sausages.

Microsoft strutted its stuff today beginning at 11:15 AM EDT. On the whole, it was not a bad presentation. There was a healthy dose of self-congratulation but without the competitor bashing that has come to be a hallmark of Apple announcements/launches. Apple’s leadership may know everything – or at least think they do – but, realistically, they know nothing of sportsmanship. Of course, the announcements/launches are meant to rally the faithful and Microsoft does that as much as Apple or Google. The difference is that Apple events have all the religious fervor of a tent revival. But I digress.

Both outside the auditorium and on stage as well, there was a veritable plethora of Windows 8 devices indicating:

  1. That manufacturers have decided that it’s time to start innovating again
  2. That manufacturers really don’t have a clue as to which devices and form factors are going to be a hit with consumers.

PC makers will be doing a lot of experimenting – and holding their collective breath – over the next 15 months because not all of these Windows 8 devices are going to sell well enough to see two holiday seasons. Dr. Data suggests that if you’re just itching to buy a Windows 8 Device, it would probably best to take a conservative approach and buy something in a traditional form factor – like a basic tablet or notebook – rather than bet the farm on some eye-catching device that will be discontinued before you can say “Bob’s your uncle”. Manufacturers may swear on the proverbial stack of bibles that they will offer first class support for this or that discontinued device for the next three to five years but the reality is that often support of orphaned devices winds up at the back of the bus.

Today’s presentation was more about Windows 8 and less about the Surface RT. While Microsoft has suddenly become a competitor in the tablet arena, Steve Ballmer and Steven Sinofsky were nonetheless quite cordial and complimentary to their Windows 8 partners and manufacturers. Microsoft simply wants to sell Windows 8 rather than create a race of zombies.

A lot was said about Windows 8 on tablets and notebooks and rather less about Windows 8 on the traditional desktop PC. There is no getting away from the fact that Windows 8 was made for touch and while it will work just fine on a desktop, it will simply not be the same experience. What tweaks, adjustments and add-on’s – in both software and hardware – are made available over the coming months remain to be seen.

It’s Digest Time!

Here’s a compilation of articles – mostly from c|net – about Windows 8 and the Surface RT:

  • Don’t Hate Windows 8 – The UK’s Matt Baxter-Reynolds explains that Windows 8 may take some getting used to but it may well be the  best OS ever made by anyone.
  • Windows 8 Forces A Steep Learning Curve c|net’s full review of Windows 8.
  • Innovative tablet stranded in an app desert Eric Franklin believes that in addition to the RT having sluggish performance, Windows App Store is a ghost town with tumbleweed rolling down the middle of main street. It has been claimed for weeks now that there are relatively few apps for the RT and most of them are rubbish. While that may be so, Dr. Data has had experience with Apples App Store and he can attest to the fact that a goodly number of those apps are rubbish as well.
  • Dueling bloggers –Ed Bott and Steven J. Vaughn-Nichols square off over the success of the Surface RT.
  • More Microsoft hardware on the way Steve Ballmer has confirmed that Microsoft plans to introduce additional hardware offerings. Do the include a 7″ Surface RT?
  • And finally . . . – Apple’s CEO weighs in on the Surface RT.

Good Monday all! Here are a few items that may be of interest to you as you start your week:

  • The Microsoft Surface RT goes on sale in just four days. The Windows Club has a Q & A session with the team that developed the Surface RT.  Très Interesting!
  • Dan Costa – writing for PC Magazine – thinks that the Surface RT will put a crimp in other manufacturers (OEMs) tablet efforts. The teams who have developed Windows 8 and the Surface RT are from the same company and have been working so that Windows 8 and the Surface RT and closely integrated; Not unlike Apple. This should mean a better overall experience when one purchases an RT. Read the full story at PC Magazine.
  • On the other hand, David Kingsly-Hughes from ZDNet believes that Microsoft’s less than aggressive pricing of the Surface tablet will not do the product any favours. He cites analyst Shaw Wu who claims that the $499 starting price is too high and that Microsoft is a Johnnie-come-lately to the fiercely competitive tablet market. If Microsoft would set the price of the low-end model at $299 – including the keyboard/cover, then the Surface RT just might have a fighting chance. The upside of this pricing decision is that other tablet OEMs have a golden opportunity to compete with the surface based on a more aggressive pricing structure. Read the full story on ZDNet.
  • Meanwhile, David Cole from CNN-Money opines that sales of Windows 8 will be slow, especially in the business sector. He believes that the radical change in the look and feel of Windows 8 will turn off buyers. It has become common for businesses to skip a release of Windows and because of XP’s longevity, they moved to Windows 7 only quite recently. IT departments will not be in the mood to immediately upgrade to Windows 8 and most – especially those who have no need or equipment for “Touch” – will probably stick with 7 until Windows 9 comes out. Read the full story at CNN-Money.

Just in time for election day, Henri issues his political manifesto.



Food for thought: Henri is a resident of Seattle, WA. No word yet on the whereabouts of the white imbecile.

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