blog-O-rama archive
november 2002

ann maria bell


first snow on the ground, just a dusting. looks cold too. can't think of a good reason to go out anyway.

yesterday jamie & I went to lisa link peace park to check out 'buy nothing day' in madison. peace park is in the center of downtown on the street that connects the university and the state capitol, but alas, the real shopping action was at the two huge malls on either end of town. buy nothing day' included a free store, free library, free food, and a brief period of anti-christmas caroling. jamie & I took a big stack of books from the front hall closet and checked them into the free library.

here's a list of questions to ask yourself before you buy, brought to you by the 'buy nothing day' folks:

  • Do I need it?
  • How many do I already have?
  • How much will I use it?
  • How long will it last?
  • Could I borrow it from a friend or family member?
  • Can I do without it?
  • Am I able to clean and/or maintain it myself?
  • Am I willing to?
  • Will I be able to repair it?
  • Have I researched it to get the best quality for the best price?
  • How will I dispose of it when I'm done using it?
  • Are the resources that went into it renewable or nonrenewable?
  • Is it made or recycled materials, and is it recyclable?
  • Is there anything that I already own that I could substitute for it?

I read the book Voluntary Simplicity by Duane Elgin a few years after it was published in 1981, I remembered being inspired despite the plodding and pendantic prose. an excerpt of the first chapter of the revised edition (1993) is available online. some of the more recent books on ways to simplify your life strike me as dubious, for example, one suggested getting a loose leaf notebook to organize all the menus from take-out restarants (?!?)

I also recommend Luxury Fever: Why Money Fails to Satisfy in an Era of Excess by Cornell economist Robert H. Frank. Frank documents the tremendous increase in luxury consumption along the same lines of Thorstein Veblen's classic "conspicuous consumption", more importantly, he demonstrates how more and larger consumer items do not lead to happiness in the long, or even in the medium, term. He makes a convincing argument that clean air and clean water ultimately increase our real standard of living much more than larger houses and SUVs. Luxury Fever is engagingly written and well documented, definitely worth looking for. (WSKG has a brief review and radio interview with Robert Frank.) I haven't read Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence by Joe Dominguez & Vicki Robin, but it's highly recommended by the folks at magic. In the spirit of 'buy nothing day' and 'voluntary simplicity', I suggest looking for these books at your public library.


thinking about heading to the mall? think again.

today is buy nothing day.

the day after thanksgiving is traditonally the start of the christmas shopping season --- a perfect day to draw attention to how consumerism lowers people's quality of life. this is the fifth year that adbusters has organized 'buy nothing day' internationally. an interesting wall st. journal article details how television networks have consistently refused to run adbusters anti-commercial commercials. free speech? not unless you own a tv network.

for a few weeks this fall I kept track of everything I bought, to bring more awareness to what I was actually spending money on. I immediately noticed that just keeping track of what I was buying discouraged impulse purchases and gratuitous eating out. not surprisingly, I was surprised at how much I spent on incidentals like haircuts, gas, copying, postage, movies, plays, books, vitamins, shampoo, and so on. overall, including house food and gym/yoga/improv class, I spent about $175 a week out of pocket during the 4 weeks I kept track. and that's not including the $100 I spent on material for the (beautiful purple wool) cloak I made, because everyone knows that fabric expenditures don't count.


last night we had lots of guests at dinner --- to get the holiday off to a good start we went around the table and each person had to say their name and who they thought was to blame. in other words, we celebrated that classic american holiday, blamesgiving (it falls on the other 364 days a year). here are the results: multi-national corporations & bill gates (me); barbara bush (michael); celine dion (ravi); the INS office in new delhi (batav); my mother (barry); myself (orelia); saddam hussein (rick); orelia's mother (matt); sauron (bill). no one blamed the obvious party: the pilgrims.

matt cooked up a storm for thanksgiving. (at least, the kitchen looked like a tornado hit it.) the food was excellent, an actual turkey stuffed with apples and whole garlic for the omnivores, squash (including some heirloom varieties that matt got from seedsavers) stuffed with nuts and brown sugar for us vegivores, as well as a full board of side dishes, starring matt's sweet potatoes topped with brown sugar and jameson's whiskey and pumpkin pie with real whipped cream courtesy of liz & friends. we are collectively thankful for: excellent food and company, family, friends, being alive, being healthy, being free, having a safe, warm place to live (with hot running water & electricity, think how unusual that is on a global scale) and warm, friendly people to live with, and last but not least, for the buffy the vampire slayer marathon that really made thanksgiving a special day.

thanksgiving was a marathon software install for me: I installed OS X directly on wilma's (G3 powerbook) hard drive, before I was running it off an external hard drive. I started by backing wilma up (of course), then I installed OS X, then I installed (& updated) 27 different applications, including the adobe web design suite photoshop, illustrator, golive, indesign, livemotion, & acrobat. the only hitch was the canon software for my digital camera, imagebrowser and remotecapture, which insisted that the software had already been installed, though there was no (visible) sign of it on the hard drive. it finally installed after downloading and unstuffing the archive again and disconnecting all the external hard drives. as a bonus, the printer, which had not been communicating with OS X before, now works perfectly. in terms of software installation, this really was as good it as it gets --- and I have all this new adobe software to play with. at dinner I should have said that I am thankful for educational discounts on software.


on monday it was in the 30's and sunny. I went for a walk, because 30 F really doesn't feel that cold if you stay in the sun and keep moving (the ability to generate this sort of rationalization is absolutely critical to surviving the winter). on tuesday it was in the 20's. after entertaining myself indoors all day (another critical skill for winter survival). I decided to venture down to the lake as the sun was setting.

bare trees against a winter sky fascinate and inspire me. attempts to capture the feeling in photographs usually fall short, but here's my latest (better than average) attempt. trees & sky

what the photos don't show, of course, is the wind whipping off the lake and its effect on my body temperature (decidely negative). time to upgrade from the thin leather gloves I've been wearing for the past few weeks and long underwear season is definitely upon me.

movies add motion and sound to photos, and there have been attempts to add smells to movies, but how about adding climate? picking a movie at random, think about what 'the fellowship of the rings' would be like with climate effects: pleasant summer breezes in hobbiton---icy 20 degree wind at the pass of caradhras---dank cold air at the gates of moria---hot gusts of dry air as the balrog approaches. real snow and rain would be even better. in other words, don't you think it's about time that peter jackson started working on a version of 'the lord of the rings' for the holodeck?


my efforts have paid off! I have climbed to the top of the google heap, at least for my full name, ann maria bell.

searching on 'ann bell' locates a romance writer and librarian, a folk artist and painter, a real estate agent and an actress. previously, searching on 'ann bell' returned a whole list of people whose middle name is ann and last name is bell --- that was one reason I decided to use my full name in my published papers, c.v., website, etc.

alas, googlism has not yet heard of ann maria bell. google junkies can see what google thinks of itself.


we watched another episode of the anime series "serial experiments: lain"---"layer 05: distortion".
we have no idea what's going on but we keep watching them anyway.


another gorgeous sunny day in the 40's, positively balmy by wisconsin standards. I finally found parfry's glen with the aid of a wisconsin atlas and gazeteer that bill found in his office. very nice, pictures coming whenever I get around to it.

okay, here's a picture but it's not of parfry's glen.


my mother loves me more than your mother loves you.

click here for photographic proof!


I'm making the transition to mac OS X --- right now I have it installed on an external hard drive as a test drive. today I imported 10331 email messages from Eudora into OS X's resident mail program (cleverly called 'Mail'). the process was greatly simplified by a program I downloaded called EudoraMailboxCleaner which kept everything intact including my email nicknames file. a huge thank you to Andreas Amman who wrote MailboxCleaner, and to everyone else who provides free software and/or shareware as a public service.

bill has been using OS X for a few weeks now, and has really taken a shine to it. aside from the groovy transparent morphing interface , the big advantage seems to be better backgrounding of programs. we both tend to run large simulations so this is a big issue. the biggest hassle bill had was getting the license verification for matlab to work --- it took 4-5 days of back and forth with the customer support folks to get it working the first time, and 2-3 days of the same to get it working the second time. (sheesh, might as well be running windows at that rate.)

as for me, I can tell that OS X will take a little getting used to --- the mouse seems to move slightly differently and things are in different places, like making tea in someone else's kitchen. I was disappointed with the failure of my Eudora files to import correctly in the Mail program, when I tried the standard "import mailboxes" command about half of the folders were blank, and worse, some messages were left out of imported mailboxes with no indication that anything had gone wrong. but like I mentioned before, MailboxCleaner imported the messages perfectly.

in other nerd news, we finished watching the extended DVD of 'the fellowship of the rings' tonight, the added scenes significantly changed the tone of some of the characters and provided some key information. also, the 7+ hours of documentary about how the movie was made were extremely interesting, covering everything from J. R. R. Tolkien's life to the details of various special effects. like the books, the whole process of making the movie was about fanatical attention to detail.


~ 9:00 AM   it's snowing.


in the morning I attended some talks on "risk and risk perception", as part of a conference on biotechnology and genetically modified organisms. it turns out the conference was for extension agents (at large agricultural consultants in rural areas, affiliated with the university or the government) --- it would have been interesting to see how the issues were pitched in the other talks that focused on the science of biotech.


a beautiful late autumn day in wisconsin, sunny in the high 40's, so I went in search of parfry's glen. after touring the backroads south of the wisconsin river, and after learning that the "bridge" marked on the map was actually a ferry (closed for the season), I ended up in baraboo. a cup of tea and a visit to the used bookstore revived me for my afternoon hike at devil's lake. I'm sure parfry's glen is out there somewhere.


hello & welcome to my new blog and guestbook. I just learned how to add forms to webpages, so humor me by filling out the form. you really can be my friend---but only if you press the "be my friend" button when you're done.

it took me about 6 hours to do the form --- about 1 hour to set up the form and find a server to send the data back to me, and about 5 hours to figure out that I had forgotten to close the quotation marks when I put in the link back to my homepage at the top. ah, the joys of computer programming.

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