The Degree of Difficulty and The Flip Side of Everything

Golden Class reunion nuggetWhen I’m not puzzling about our political climate, pondering which mosquito-borne illness is most likely at a particular time of day (West Nile by night; Zika and dengue by day) or fretting about The Really Big One, I’m contemplating the flip side of everything for dear Reader. And as I peripatetically examine Vermont’s many splendours, I collect observations and nuggets of solid gold for your reading pleasure in our dark modern tymes.

Such as this gem during a holiday weekend, from a doctor I met lakeside: “My research is online. Google me.” I’ve never heard the verb Google with me as the object of the verb – brilliant! Let’s say it a lot. The world is a mess. We could use the laffs.

The Olympics upon us, I am unable to wax desperate about world affairs. The sweat of many nations* diverts us, joyfully. From the opening ceremony to the first “On your mark!” to the extinguishing of the torch, we are riveted by the athletes’ discipline, costumes, and youth.

opening arenaObservation: when I started watching the Olympics (first televised in the US in 1960) in 1968, the athletes were all older then I. Now they’re all younger. Much. And very different from me. As the official slogan for the first Olympic and Paralympic Games in South America says: A New World. A new world I can no more fathom than I can navigate. The technology alone…there are many, many things now beyond our control. With everything from the car to the toaster computerized, we can’t fix anything that’s busted. Our children and grandchildren know more than we do, for the first time in the history of the world. We’re in a weird place because of it. I’m pretty sure that when we were kids, everything was our fault. We were in the way, we were noisy, we broke things, we cost a lot. Now, as adults, everything is our fault. We destroyed the planet etc. etc.

A term we non-Olympians hear only every 2 years is Degree of Difficulty. As my father would agree, the Degree of Difficulty in just plain living has greatly increased in our part of the world in recent years. We are assaulted by information and images of extreme wealth and extreme poverty, and exposed to waves and rays of all kinds. There is too much bad news televised, too many climatic disasters, too much violence and economic upheaval boggling our beans — and that’s not counting the disappearance of products we loved, the prevalence of fakely famous “celebrities,” and horrible fashion trends. No wonder we can’t sleep.

caldronCan’t sleep? Hell, stay up till midnight every single night watching the O’s. It’s where the degree of difficulty is measurable and finite, unlike in the rest of life. It’s the only place you’ll hear caldron in a non-pagan setting, the term aquatic stadium, and podium as a verb, e.g., ”I plan to podium.”

When life’s degree of difficulty proves too much and you hit the wall, achieving the unfortunate state that psychologists call learned helplessness, just pack it in. Leave the dishes in the sink, the bills unpaid, kick up your feet, and turn on the tube. Gaze at the beautiful youth of earth’s many Lands with their crazy-good feats and grace and energy, with compelling close-ups of their unashamed thrills of victory and agonies of defeat.

And the sounds! The parallel bars. The diving board. The thwaks and panting. The excited sportscasting and cheering of the fans will rouse you. You’ll see people going absolutely nuts because they won the bronze. And with today’s high def TVs, you’ll feel like you’re cycling right along with them, swimming underneath them, vaulting through the air alongside them, or falling off the balance beam despite your finest efforts. It’s like when Bugs Bunny was chasing the mechanical rabbit lure at the dog track. You are right there with them. It’s virtual reality and it sure feels good. We have to take advantage of what slim benefits Modern Tymes offer, indeed.

o-MAN-BUN-facebookNot into sport? Volunteer or hang out with the YP’s.** Despite the hideosity of the man bun, with its possibly samurai provenance, and their disinterest in anything awkward or random***, the YPs are lovely beings of light, so polite and “Howzitgoing?” and “Tell me what’s good!” and “You’re fine.” With them, bigotry and bias and dependence upon fossil fuels will vanish. Miraculous inventions and ways of thinking will solve climate change, restore the polar ice cap, correct water problems, feed the world, and repopulate vanishing species.

bronzeBut for now, dear Reader, give up. Recline on the couch and win the bronze. Leave the future to the YPs. Google yourself silly. Everything will be okay. Good vaulting and good day.

 Bonus observations


It’s like throwing water on a grease fire.


Show up with a wheel of cheddar.


Pretty baby, if they play that song one…more…time….

*Nod to Jon Hayman

**Young People

***Nod to Adam Gopnik on “The Moth”

Night Blooming Cereus 1

Here we go, people. This little beauty was concealed behind my desk. Let the show begin!

An astonishing feat of nature, the NBC blooms for one night a year. The bloom grows right out of the leaf. The fragrance is astonishing, and lingers long after the bloom has faded. People throw parties for her splendour. As it should be.  Stay tuned!

Be Happier and More Productive

Actual fireflyLet’s start with fireflies. These magical beetles (lightning bugs) fire up the woods with bioluminescent abdomens to attract mates or prey. It’s odd they use their glow to attract both of those things. I guess people use money for that.

In some of the 2,000+ species of fireflies, the females are flightless — an unkind world where pedestrian women bugs who can’t get a pilot’s license date flying male bugs that can just take off, lit. and fig.  Females lay eggs on or near the ground. The larvae eat slugs and snails, and as adults become either predators or nectar-guzzling vegetarians. You can’t eat them. They taste bad or, worse, poisonous. It is thought that Caravaggio used a photoluminescent powder from crushed fireflies in his photographic painting process, their powder also used back then for FX in the theater. (No PETA.)

Now I’ve seen a few glowing abdomens in my day, but not like these babies’. In the woods they’ve been going haywire. Glowing and throbbing and luring sexy dates every which way from Sunday; there should be a bumper crop of larvae next spring. And so here Tip #1 to be happy and more productive: glow, lure, frolic, multiply, and be poisonous. Fly if you can!

Wow, everything’s rutting this time of year, seems like. It’s technically productive, but causes a lot of road kill as animals race around the woods and highways with one thing on their minds. The young male moose have been kicked out of their fams by now, so (Tip #2) be careful out there. You will be less happy and productive if you drive into a giant quadruped or even a chipmunk for God’s sake.

Tip 3: Studies have proven multi-tasking to be a crock. If you’re doing 2 things simultaneously, you’re doing only one of them well — if that. My idea of multi-tasking is clipping my toenails while listening to music, or doing the dishes while the washing machine does the laundry. That’s doubly productive enough for Bonzo. As for the rest of it — texting while conversing with a “live” friend right there in front of you, driving while digging something out of the seat crack, smoking while changing a diaper: don’t do it.

Tip #4: Compound words like Brexit, the Chunnel, BritComs, brunch and linnner are effective time-savers, as are acronyms. Acronym is in fact an acronym for all characters represent one notion you MIGHTNOTSINGLYRECALL. By necessity in NYC, I invented 5MPL (5 military police? No, avenues, west to east: 5th, Madison, Park, and Lex.). Feel free to use it.

I dig acronyms, esp. the one in Silent Bob. Here’s an acronym for the iGraphics we insert in email and texting. They’re hard to find on your phone because there are so many of them. This acronym will help you locate, say, the nearly invisible “waste basket.” Categorically, from left to right they are: Favorites Emojis Bodyparts People Clothing Animals Nature Weather Food Sports Music Transpo Vistas Skylines Celestial Buildings Tech Tools Whimsy Mail School/Office Hearts Glyphs Shapes Clocks Flags. Resulting acronym: FEBPCANWFSMTVSCBTTWMS/OHGSCF. That should speed things along nicely. You’re welcome!

SCOBY sleep tonic

SCOBY DO look weird in this sleep tonic.

Numero 5: Last season’s antioxidant is this year’s pro-biotic. All the rage, Dear Reader. These li’l critters allegedly prevent everything from bloating to depression, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s via the gut-brain connection. Check out kombucha and other SCOBY-based, cold-pickled foods and vinegars. Ferment and pickle your heart out. SCOBY sure beats “symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast.” PS SCUBA is “self-contained underwater breathing apparatus.” My brother taught me that 20 years ago when my memory worked. Let’s hope SCOBY can DO my memory right. Please read online warnings about DIY kombucha, though. Just buy it on tap in Woodstock, I say.


jungle boogie - Move. Get up from your chair 20 times a day like we did when there was Telex, interoffice mail, lunch hours, and disco. The physical ailments we got at age 40 now show up in 30 year-olds who sit all day and night.  Lets groove tonight. It’ll save you a mint in chiropractic and Advil®.

Naturally, I close with #7: laffs. If you laughed or moved even once during this Upper Valley divertissement, you will be happier and more productive for the next five minutes. Glow, frolic, rut, monotask, abbreviate, probioticize, groove, and snicker. Pay it forward as you choose, for the happiness hog and efficiency monster in us all. Good holiday, and good day.

Ann can be reached at Twitter handle: @uvgvt.



I Love a Parade


As did millions across the Land today, in celebration of our independence, beer, and mayo.

A Little Light Reading

These are in my building’s book swap area. I wonder what’ll become of them in this liberal-leaning dwelling. I thumbed through the tiny book. As with an issue of Cosmopolitan, I came away somehow knowing even less than when I started, despite provocative chapter titles (e.g., Building Connected Thoughts ends with: “Creative thinking is a must these days. Make it work for you.”)  Yawn. The paperback was a NYT #1 bestseller formerly titled “Surviving at the Top.” Not something us rural folk will ever need to know, but someone will read it. Moi? Shh!

At the Top, you get a sandwich named after you. And you can put on your eponymous country club’s signs, well, whatever you damned please!

Oddities from Siri



I don’t know why I was thanking God, but Siri overheard me. So I Googled  “Questions to Ask Siri.” — a truly awful  way to waste time. And wicked old hat. Everyone has asked her by now if she’s hot. Or rich. Kinky. Etc.

Surely Siri has gotten people into trouble. Philandering people. People messaging bosses by mistake. The possibilities are endless in Modern Tymes. Not that we need Siri to screw up; she just makes it more asinine when we do.

Waking Windows ~ 3 Days of Music & Love

YachtThis spring event held in Winooski is wowzafoofoo. I did not look at the roster, nor did I purchase a pass. Next year I will. Because as I biked around town on 2 flat tires, looking for a gas station air pump that worked, I randomly found (mostly local) bands playing at every turn…outside my building, in Winooski’s indoor venues, on the tiny back porch of a salon. And then there was YACHT.

I was at home on the last night and some crazywow beat began literally waking my windows. What the #$@! is that?  I went outside and, alas, caught only the end of YACHT’s performance before the cops shut it down. I’m not sure why they didn’t just let YACHT play with less volume.  The time?

One, their name is YACHT. Two, they captivate. Three, they have an incredibly out-there bio — and speaking of bio, front woman Claire L. Evans is a science writer among, apparently, 27 other things. I introduced myself to her knowing nothing ~ super nice vibe. Then I read up on them. They are nutters. They embody cool without being annoying. They make me feel incredibly lackluster and unaccomplished, as well they should.

WW a music lover’s paradise. Look into it in 2017. And check out YACHT.

Reflections upon the Passing of a Vermont Friend

hole popsugardotcomA cherished friend left our plane recently, taking his himness with him. His passing leaves a vast hole we look into and ponder. Am I living life as richly as he? Do I spread joy like that? With whom will I now discuss the peculiar appeal of sherry? Prince was not the friend, but he’s also left a giant void.

Fact is, in your 20s and 30s you’re pretty much the same. In your 40s you begin changing. In your 50s: boom. You’re different, inside and out. I told a friend, “Suddenly we’re older than the parents of school children.” His response: “Way older.”

Earth too is rapidly changing, her creatures with it. The YPs (young people) — my lord — they’re self-assured, clever, upbeat. And TALL. Especially the girls. Like herds of longhaired gazelles. Their male panther counterparts greet each other with, “Hey bro, what’s good?” or, “Tell me what’s good.” One parent says that because the world is so screwy, they specifically request good news. I like it. I like them.

kanye awesomeluvviedotcomAs Kanye designs ugly velour tracksuits and Teletubby-like outfits and Taylor Swift’s haircut eclipses real news, I feel like an old dino. But as a Baby Boomer, I am not outnumbered. I enjoy baffling the YPs by singing, “I’m so glad we had this time together,” or the theme to Gigantor. The YPs are like, “Huh?” – a “word” my generation considers gauche, much as our parents did the word “like” as used here.

Try dropping pearls such as “the old switcheroo”; “Oh, Miss Crabtree”; “Your muffler: fix it!”; or “The agony of defeat.” These and the hook used in Vaudeville are lost on the YPs, akin to our parents’ referencing Your Show of Shows. We can’t memorize phone numbers and we know little about social media, gaming, graphics, or the actors with three names, but we remember like yesterday how every time Rob Petrie opened a closet, a snowshoe fell out.

dr evilIt’s a lot of work to avoid becoming hopelessly out of touch. My chiro’s daughter said recently, “Mom, instead, could you wear, like, leggings and boots?” So twice a week she does. When did pants become foolish? Our mothers didn’t want us to wear pants in public; now our kids don’t. Hell, we fought to wear pants. I’m wearing them. Corduroys, painters pants, cigarette pants … bring it awn. Let’s bring back knickers. Bloomers.

seniors dance viraldotusAlas, we’ll have to keep up or give up – in planned communities, retirement villages, or facilities designed for people who can’t climb stairs. Considering this is depressing. But mostly we don’t think about it. Like old jalopies, my People have seen a lot of road and have hit some motherless potholes. So we’re kind to each other. We still see each other as we were: vibrant, sexy, hilarious, relevant. Who cares how the rest of America sees us? Our People’s opinions are what matters, right?

And we’re losing our People. With them goes our inside jokes, our shared memories, who we are. So with the (still many) friends yet here, we toddle off into the future. We’ll floss our receding gums to Physical Graffiti and snort about wattles, jowls, Portosan® waiting line etiquette, air raid drills, Mystery Date, fake ID’s, and Match Game ’76 as we MacGyver our walkers. We’ll know we’ve become pathetic, but we’ll have the sun and the moon and each other. We won’t have to be 5’11”, we’ll be the right height to see each other without hurting our necks. We won’t need mirrors, we’ll have our People’s chortling visages to reflect our own. We won’t even need our minds any more; we have what a friend calls his “external brain”: the smart phone. Or whatever that device evolves into by then. Some sort of implant.

The world seems worsening with miseries, often monetary. Following, dear Reader, are causes for hope: 1. As financial experts report, the market is turbulent during presidential races; after the election, regardless of who wins, the market soars. 2. My hunch is that once the economic inequity that has plagued Earth for so long balances out some, ISIS et alia will wither from lack of interest. 3. As the races and creeds intermingle throughout the Lands, there is ever less fear of Other. The earth becomes more diverse locally, breeding a new level of understanding (the Age of Aquarius, YPs!). When we work or play with someone unlike us, we see them as a person, not a type. This, of course, if there’s any land left after the glaciers melt.

And so, in what time you have left, what do you most want to do? Of your many possible contributions, what is your best choice? What gets your groove on? What will matter in the end? Do that. If you’d like to discuss it over a glass of sherry, ring me up. I’d like that. Good day.

Departed friend, we’ll miss so your wit and empathy, wisdom and cheer. Safe travels. ann.aikens.7 on Facebook. Twitter handle: at @uvgvt.

I Dare You to Watch This Only Once

Aunt Napper’s Easter Egg Tree

napper easter treeSome things are perfect. The old tymey songs you sang with your aunt in Bellows Falls, the laughs you had together doing so, and the Easter egg tree on her piano.

No room for improvement.

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