Category Archives: Potpourri

Only 3% of Men and 12% of their Dogs Could Name these Common Household Objects

Dpbsmith at the English language Wikipedia

Cittadini Pillow Sham with Straight Flange and Royale Embroidery


Okay. I have to get back to work. This isn’t my thing. Gender stereotypes. Guys are morons. But it’s what came to mind when I saw this silly thing on Facebook.

MP3 Experiment

I’m preparing for a talk I’ll be doing at WordCamp – Minneapolis. I’ll be talking about podcasting with WordPress. It’s the old story. When you try to explain something, more questions pop up. In this case I want to take a look at the RSS feed of a post where there is an audio file attached. I’m assuming that it will not have the ENCLOSURE tags required that make a podcast a podcast. But I’m not sure. So let’s see what happens.

Apparently I was wrong. Without doing anything special, the media ENCLOSURE tag is included. I found this in the feed:

<enclosure url=”″ length=”1236639″ type=”audio/mpeg” />


So I read more about podcasting with WordPress at the source. Here’s part of what it says:

Podcasting is seamlessly supported as of WordPress 1.5. Add a link to an audio file in a post and WordPress will automatically add the necessary enclosure tag to your RSS2 feed to make it useable as a podcast.

The example RSS feed given did not work for me: I’m not sure if I am misunderstanding something or if this is outdated information.

In any case, this did work:

The above feed includes the most recent posts of all of them. By making a blog category that only includes posts with podcast media (in my case MP3 files), I can make a separate feed for that. In this example, I used “OurPodcast” as the category. The rest of the URL is generated automatically by WordPress.

What I found especially exciting, again from the WordPress Codex is that I can use the iTunes protocol instead of http://. This will open the feed in iTunes. On my laptop, it was a bit clumsy. But it worked for both the whole site feed and the podcast only feed. In the first case, the non-podcast posts were ignored. I’m not sure what this does if iTunes is not installed.


How will this behave on my iPad that has the iTunes podcast app installed? “Safari cannot open the page because the address is invalid.” Darn!

Did I just accidentally start a podcast?

I think I might have just accidentally started a podcast. I have an episode, a dedicated podcast RSS feed that people can use to subscribe using any RSS reader. Apparently the show is called “Our Podcast – Two People & A Cat”. Had I known what I was doing, I might have given this a little more thought, but I’m willing to let fate take charge and roll with it.

What more is there to do? Do I even need the PowerPress plug-in? I thought the whole point of it was to create a dedicated podcast RSS feed and do stuff like insert those pesky enclosure tags into the feed. WordPress already does this. I mean, when you can accidentally start a podcast like you were falling into a manhole, how much easier can it get?

This is just a guess

In order to submit your RSS URL to podcast directories so that people can find your show, the feed must contain certain information. Here’s part of the feed that PowerPress generated for my show QuOTeD – The Question of the Day Podcast.

To view the whole thing, you can just go to my podcast and click on the RSS link. Or you can download this PDF file to see an abbreviated but more easy to follow version.

So is the idea that even though it’s technically super easy to start a podcast using WordPress alone, plugins such as PowerPress facilitate getting your show into the various podcast directories? Now that I think about it, PowerPress does guide you through the process quite nicely. For example, “This is your feed URL. Submit it to these various podcast directories. To be added to iTunes/Apple Podcasts you will need to have published your first episode, artwork in the following format…” blah, blah blah

In addition the plug-in offers short codes so that you can easily add a player for a single episode, a playlist and podcast subscription options, including a subscription page that can be customized. I also just discovered that you can make an embed link available so that people can embed an episode of your podcast that includes a player on a blog or website. For example here’s an embed link that I got from my podcast site.

How did that painting end up in our living room? A story improvised by dinner guests.

The embed code did not appear to work in a Facebook post. However, I recalled seeing a POST TO SOCIAL link on my Blubrry dashboard, so I gave that a try for the first time by posting something to my podcast Facebook page. The feature creates a video using the podcast artwork and the first two minutes of the episode. I’ll be curious to find out if it will use episode level artwork if it’s available. Up until now, I haven’t tried episode level art, but this might give me a reason do it.

In trouble with the law?

Brian and I were in downtown Minneapolis taking a walk and along the way I was photographing buildings. In one case, a security guard told me to stop. He assured me that if I continued to take pictures of privately owned buildings, other security guards would approach me as he did. He said that I was on private property, standing in the green space outside of the building, and as such I needed to get permission to take pictures of the building. I asked him if Google asked for permission to take photos of the building for its maps. With a straight face, he told me that they had. Last year a similar thing happened. Two security guards told me that the skyways were private property and that photography was prohibited. I can’t take a picture of Brian with the background of the city behind him from a skyway? No, according to these guys. Even after joining us in singing “Happy Birthday” to my sister over the phone, they wouldn’t allow it.

As I understand this article, this is off base, but I’ll need to learn more. I’m particularly interested in this:

You can take photos any place that’s open to the public, whether or not it’s private property. A mall, for example, is open to the public. So are most office buildings (at least the lobbies). You don’t need permission; if you have permission to enter, you have permission to shoot.

And this…

Note that the limits have nothing to do with where you are when you take the shots; it’s all about the subject’s expectation of privacy. You can be on private property (a mall or office-building lobby), or even be trespassing and still legally take pictures. Whether you can be someplace and whether you can take pictures are two completely separate issues.

Wouldn’t skyways fall under this definition of “private space that’s open to the public?” Wouldn’t the green space outside of a building that is open to the public fall under this definition? Legal or not, I’m baffled by the objection to photographing buildings, especially from the outside. I could guess at a motivation. My mind goes to the fear of getting sued. There must be more to it.

Moreover, if I did nothing wrong, don’t the actions of the security guard amount to harassment? Shouldn’t there be a penalty for making up laws to get people to do what you want them to do? Had I known that I was not breaking any laws, what would have been my options in any case? Argue with the guy? Refuse to stop taking pictures on principle?

Had I been taking pictures with a smart phone, I doubt I would have raised concerns. In fact, it wasn’t that long ago that I took numerous pictures of advertisements at the Mall of America*. The Mall of America, for crying out loud. No one said a word about it. But take out a real camera on a quiet Sunday afternoon and suddenly the security guards are enforcing phantom laws. Apparently, we can take pictures anywhere we like as long as our camera is attached to a selfie stick.

In the age of surveillance where not even our email is presumed to be private and where there is a security camera on every street corner, who’s getting whipped up over an amateur photographer taking an interest in the architecture of her city? I think it comes down to who has the power.

On the upside, that day I did meet a photographer along the way (this was before the security guard incident, so there wasn’t a chance to get his take). He asked me if I got this building, that building, this bridge or that one. He was full of encouragement and didn’t think to warn me that I might be breaking the law. I wouldn’t have been surprised to learn he teaches photography or that I had been talking to a famous photographer. I regret that I didn’t directly ask. I would have liked to talk to him again.

Here are some pictures I took. I’d like to get better at this. Right now I’m just trying to figure out where the buttons on my camera are.

[Leaving the house. Brian being a good sport.]

[This new housing development caught my attention in Northeast Minneapolis.]

[Mixing the old with the new.]

[They incorporated a lot of rusty relics on the grounds, but I’m not sure what any of it is.]

[Flowers on a wire fence. In this case, I’m focused on the building with the number “513” behind them.”]

[This time I’m focused on the fence.]

[Flowers, wire fence with grain storage in the background.]

[More of the same but different.]

[I have no idea what this structure is. The black and white and the straight against the curved caught my attention. I also like the tufts of yellow in a line in the background.]

[A view from the bottom of a tower. Greens in rusty planter. Sky.]

[A view from the bottom where there are sticky things on the ground. I think they are berries of some kind.]

[Where is Brian? #1]

[Where is Brian? #2]

[Where is Brian? #3]

[Bricks and sky. #1]

[Bricks and sky. #2]

[Brian has posed for a million pictures in this spot.]

[A million and one.]



[Building on building.]

[I am in this picture too.]
The building is a gem we discovered one winter walking the skyways. We tried out the funky furniture in the lobby and freely wandered throughout the spaces that were open to the public. No one tried to shoo us away until I showed up with a camera. I wasn’t even inside the building.

[Last year’s discovery. Yummy lobby.]

[This is art deco, right?]

[Is that marble?]

[The scene of the crime.]

[LaSalle #1]

[LaSalle #2]

[LaSalle #3]

[On the steps of a sad kind of place.]

* After producing the first episode of QuOTeD, the Question of the Day Podcast where I asked “What does it mean to be grounded”, I started to notice how certain advertisements aimed to counter groundedness. So I took a picture of a bunch of them at the Mall of America.

Photographing a Lamp

Today Brian and I stopped in at Classic Retro @ Pete’s in Saint Paul. I was looking for some possible candidates for wall lighting in the kitchen and found a mid-century table tulip lamp instead. Lamps are a weakness. I used the lamp as a subject as I experimented with my camera. The room where I’m shooting is green. The lamp has red fiberglass shades. The tulip leaves are red on the outside and whitish on the inside. The only light comes from the lamp, which has two 75 watt LED bulbs.


[F/4, 1/60 sec, ISO 100]

This was the first picture. I’m not sure why the settings were what they were. A few more bad photos followed. Then I watched this video to get a baseline. [11-15-2020, Unfortunately the YouTube video that was so helpful to me is no longer available.]


[F/22, 1/2 sec, ISO 400]


[F/22, 2.5 sec, ISO 100]

We’re starting to see that the wall is green. That’s something.


[F/16, 2.5 sec, ISO 100]


[F/16, 1 sec, ISO 100]


[F/16, 1 sec, ISO 100]


[F/16, .77 sec, ISO 100]


[F/16, .62 sec, ISO 100]


[F/16, 1/2 sec, ISO 100]


[F/16, .62 sec, ISO 100]


[F/16, 1/3 sec, ISO 100]


[F/16, 1/4 sec, ISO 100]

So I thought these were generally getting better. Then I realized I had paid no attention to the white balance setting. When I took video classes at MTN, I remember the instructor stressing setting the white balance. I always think of him whenever I see a video where the subject might have an unflattering bluish skin tone. So, I checked my Nikon D3300 for Dummies and made some adjustments. Given that there were no pre-sets for LEDs, I made a guess to get an idea of the effect. I’ll have to look more closely at the instructions to learn how to set the white balance with direct measurement (i.e., using white card stock). As far as I can see, adjusting the white balance brought the green wall closer to its natural color.


[F/16, 1/3 sec, ISO 100]


[F/16, 1/3 sec, ISO 100]


[F/22, 1.6 sec, ISO 100]


[F/22, 1.6 sec, ISO 100]


[F/22, 1/2 sec, ISO 200]

In the end, I think some of the pictures are pretty cool. But I’m not sure any of them really capture how cool the lamp is. I’ll have to keep practicing. Plus, once I start taking pictures in RAW (right now I’m mainly sticking to JPEG), I should have some post production options that might help bring these to life. For now, I’m just trying to get my head around the basics!

Painting the Basement – Part 1

Painting the Basement – Part 2

A few years ago rainwater got into our basement and damaged a finished bedroom there. To address the source of the problem, I spent a summer fiddling with the grading on the side of the house. This year, with the help of a friend who showed me how easy it was to do, I repaired the the mortar of the cement block walls before applying Drylok. Then, we replaced the old fiberglass batting with a rigid Styrofoam product, bringing the insulation up to code. We had considered using a two-part spray foam because we were under the impression that it is the best product available. However, after reading about some negative experiences people had with chemical sensitivities that caused headaches and, in extreme cases, made homes uninhabitable, we decided it wasn’t for us. The decision saved us the hassle of boarding our cat at a friend’s house while the work was in progress. The contractors assured us that it wouldn’t be necessary to do this. However, our veterinarian disagreed.

We also took the opportunity to insulate the rim joists with foam boards that are held in place with a one-part spray foam. This had been on the to-do list ever since our first energy audit in ’08. The work required taking some panels out of the drop ceiling and moving everything out from the walls. Result? Boxes of books all over the house. I’m anxious to unpack! However, with the basement largely dismantled, I thought it would be a good time to paint.

The Internet is full of tips for choosing a color for a basement. The short answer for our situation (not a ton of natural light, adequate recessed lighting) was to stay away from pastels. They can look drab without enough light to reflect. Also recommended was a saturated color that doesn’t have too much black in it. After a few false starts, we settled on Behr’s Pure Turquoise.

Here are some pictures so far.

Looking from bedroom to media room.

Looking from bedroom to media room.



A bookshelf will go here. We're going with

A bookshelf will go here. We’re going with “college style” bricks.

I have a fun color picked out for that post.

I have a fun color picked out for that post.





It's shaping up

It’s shaping up

The left is the trim. The right is the

The left is the trim. The right is the “fun color”.

I want to paint a mural on this door.

I want to paint a mural on this door.

This old laundry cart was inspiring...

This old laundry cart was inspiring…

Update: August 18, 2015

I’m still enjoying working on this project and try to make progress every day – even if it’s just to tidy up or re-position the drop cloths to get ready for the next thing. Here is some evidence of progress.

Painting this post was a treat.

Painting this post was a treat.

I like how this turned out.

I like how this turned out. The ceiling tiles have also been freshened up with paint. It made a big difference in how the room feels.

I used the same blue for the cement blocks that will support shelves for books.

I used the same blue for the cement blocks that will support shelves for books.

I spent the morning getting the shelves ready.

I spent the morning getting the shelves ready.

Update: August 25, 2015

I just got back from Al’s workshop where he made me some pine boxes I wanted to try as supports for my bookshelf project. I love them! I’m excited to see the whole thing come together! My plan is to use a clear shellac on the boxes in contrast to the shelves where I used amber. I’m so glad that I asked for Al’s help as he steered me away from some design flaws and added some really nice finishing touches. For example, notice the edges on the face of the boxes are rounded. I learned a lot and that was fun!


10.5″ x 7/5″ pine boxes will be used for shelf supports.

Last week my friend Lucie who was escaping the Arizona heat came by for a look at the project. I took her suggestion and went with the dark blue accent color for the wedge that is revealed on the side of the staircase.  I love how it turned out.

No one would ever see the room from this view, but I still like the effect.

No one would ever see the room from this view, but I still like the effect.

I met this little guy when I first got started on the project and didn’t have the heart to dislodge him. I figured he’d eventually move on. But there he is in the same spot by the window.

Spare the spider!

Spare the spider!

Update: November 8, 2015

I’m not sure I would have ever finished painting the “pink room”, had it not been for my mom’s encouragement. Starting with the discovery that paint was coming off of the wall in sheets, that project turned out to be much bigger than I had expected and to some extent out of reach of my particular skills. We hired someone to repair the plaster. Margo Breivik did great work. Then there was the issue of the trim that had several coats of paint and visible drip marks. Too much paint gives a room the “old baggage” feeling, something that Brian and I noticed when we were house hunting. So I scraped. I used chemicals. With the intention of putting a fresh coat of paint on a clean surface, I took the baseboards down to the maple underneath. Then Brian sees the it. He likes it. Now I’m reading about how to finish the trim with a stain and this adds several more steps to the process.

There were external factors too. There always are. At one point I’m staring into the room and telling my mom that I don’t see how it will be possible to finish. She boils it down. Do something every day, big or small, and eventually it will get done. It might be a week from now or years. But, plug away and you will finish. As for the “years” she says, “It’s your house. What’s the hurry? Do what you want.”

The room turned out great. I felt proud when my dad marveled over it. He has high standards. He always does good work.

So, I’ve been plugging away at the painting the basement. There’s much left to do, but I don’t (and never did) have the feeling that will never get done, despite the delays. Here are some highlights.

Stuck on More Color Decisions

For the longest time I was stuck on the idea of making the stairwell two-toned, turquoise on the bottom like the rest of the basement and something brighter on the top near the kitchen. Answer (courtesy of Brian): Use the turquoise on the top and the bottom. It turned out great, but what color for the ledge? You see it there on the left?

Stairwell: Two colors or one?

Keeping it simple was the answer. Using the turquoise on the top and bottom of the stairwell was perfect.

To what level do you want to take it?

“To what level do you want to take it?” is a question I kept hearing from the same handyman who told me that I do not live in the Taj Mahal. When I’m doing the work, asking the question is more about what I’m capable of doing; it’s about my curiosity. “How would that look?” It’s not usually about who’s on the clock. In this case, I was second-guessing the color I picked for the ledge in the stairway. What was underneath the 80 layers of paint? As I was getting ready to go out for lunch with my friend Santwana, I literally dropped what I was doing (applying mascara) to grab a scraper to find out. Sold.

I’m not going to lie. Prepping for this job has been a bitch. To what level do I want to take this? Way beyond whatever a flipper might do.

Other Pressing Things

Then there are just the other things that need to be done by a specific time. This is the beauty (and I really mean it – beauty) of living in a place that has four seasons. There are real deadlines. In this case, there was a deck that was in sore need of staining and food to be harvested.

Behr DeckOver

Day four of deck staining. I still have time to play with recording some things.

Staining the deck

Almost done with the first coat. We painted the cracks with a brush and then rolled the rest.

Staining the deck

Almost done.

acorn squash

I gave away a lot of acorn squash and still have plenty.

Fun Times

Then there is just taking a break.

Fish Fry

We made it to South Dakota for my mom’s birthday, which was celebrated with my brother-in-law’s famous fish fry. I’m still thinking about that food.

And some actual progress…

Finishing the 12-foot pine boards for the bookshelf I’m making was definitely progress. I applied four coats of shellac and by the end it got a little tedious. It was worth it. In addition to moving a step closer to completing the project, I opened up a parking stall in the garage. And that puts me back in compliance with my rule to always keep the garage clutter-free enough to keep our cars in it. I’m not sure such a rule is necessary. We live in Minnesota! Yet I can see that the threat of winter isn’t motivation enough for some people. So, I made a rule in case I was the sort who needed it.

Painting the Basement – Part 2

In the Zone – or at least near someone who is

Brian and I took a walk this afternoon. He was taking a break from writing a report. I needed to step away from writing this letter. We had made it to the river before I had somewhat of a handle on what I wanted to tell you. My grip is already slipping, so let me hurry up.

A few weeks ago, I was preparing to shoot my friends Jeff and Gita pressing the apples that Jeff had just gleaned from an orchard. It was going to be good action footage for the video I was making for their fundraising campaign. They’re opening a winery in Minneapolis and need to raise $20,000 to do it without taking on too much debt.

The red Lehman’s apple grinder sat a short distance from a swing set. It was going to look great on camera. As the press became harder to crank, Jeff used a stick for leverage and pretended to be a buffalo as he pushed it round and round the grinder to squeeze out the last drop of the juice that flowed into a squat stainless steel kettle planted on the grass below.

“I love this.” He said. “I love this.”

Jeff gets ready to press apples in his backyard.

Jeff gets ready to press apples in his backyard.

I had been working on the video for weeks by the time I had heard this particular declaration of passion. I know the story. Jeff has been making wine for 20 years. He’s opening a winery with his wife. They bought and renovated a building on East Lake Street. He has a crazy idea about sourcing his fruit mainly from backyards all over the City. They’re serious. And even though he didn’t shout or pound on his chest when he said it, Jeff is passionate. Instead, it was a quiet acknowledgment of the moment that called me to be present.

“I love this. I love this.”

From the chef at my favorite restaurant to my piano tuner to the guy who’s going to reupholster a chair that has been sitting on our porch for the last six years, it’s a charge to be around people who are deeply engaged in their life’s work. So from the beginning I have wanted Jeff and Gita to succeed because it’s just cool when people get to do what makes their eyes light up. And like packing a lunch for a visitor who is about to hit the road again, there is purpose in taking care to help a person get started on the journey and it feels good to do it.

“I love this. I love this.”

I believed him. I was there to believe him.

As much as “being present” is a lovely idea and a popular subject according to Google (12M hits), I suspect that most of us don’t do this very well because giving something our full attention requires skill. We blame smart phones and texting for our inattentiveness. We used to blame television. These distractions are challenging. But, the main culprit is a simple lack of discipline. Who practices paying attention? I don’t. Would these blissful moments of heightened awareness be less random if we did?

Showing no signs of fatigue after a full day of picking apples, Jeff remarked on the color of the juice. Beautiful. He sent me into the house for some glasses so that we could sample it. By the time I returned from the kitchen, the sound of traffic had been turned up again and in the distance I could hear construction and the whirling of a leaf blower, where before there was nothing but the smell of apples and leaves and the awareness that I was standing next to a man who was internally driven. Jeff was in the zone, a rich deeply human zone. And for a second, I got to be there too.

The Urban Forage Winery & Cider House touches on a lot of things that I care about. Good wine, for one thing. Locally produced wine. That’s really nice. Gleaning fruit that would have otherwise gone to waste? Making better use of resources? Engaging our imagination as we think about how to localize food production? Inviting all of us to play a role? To become an urban farmer? A contributor in the land of the real as opposed to a cog in an abstract system that gives us no satisfaction let alone something we can drink? Now that’s where it gets exciting for me.

It was a pleasure to make a video for Jeff and Gita’s fundraising campaign. I’d like to see them have a chance to demonstrate a new model for making good products using locally grown “crowd sourced” ingredients (It makes me think that another good name for their business would have been “Stone Soup Winery and Cider House”, although Urban Forage is perfect too!). I like to think that supporting this endeavor is an affirmation of the human spirit that increases the probability that we all will be surrounded by more people who love what they are doing and – with any luck – will be one of those people ourselves.

While I know that Jeff and Gita would be thrilled to have your support, maybe you don’t have $5-$50 to help them get going on their winery. Don’t sweat it. But, please do me this favor. Practice giving the thing in front of you your full attention. Make it a point this week to really notice the person who needs help and help him or her however you can. Listen. Notice what is needed and give it. And see what happens. I would love to hear about your observations!

Thanks for giving this your consideration. If you know of others who might get a charge out of Jeff and Gita’s idea, by all means let them know about it. Most of these Kickstarter campaigns are funded by hundreds of backers with $25 donations. So, spreading the word where it makes sense would be helpful.

To see the video I made, learn more about the Urban Forage Winery & Cider House and to make a donation, see Jeff and Gita’s Kickstarter page.

Precast concrete steps

We are having some repairs done to our porch and will no longer need these precast concrete steps with sturdy wrought iron handrails. They will be available for free until Thursday. On Thursday, it may be possible to get help loading the steps onto whatever you’re using to transport them. Since taking the pictures, the steps were moved and one of the handrails was bent in the process. I think they could be bent back into place. Otherwise, the steps are in good condition with no visible cracking.

4 steps with 7″ risers
Height= 29″
Width= 59 1/2 ”







Wanted for Video: gardens, fruit trees

AppleTreeI am shooting a video for a new start-up company to use as part of a Kickstarter campaign. This new business seeks to make wine and cider using fruits and vegetables from local sources, including the yards of volunteers who have a surplus. To help tell their story, I would like some footage of vegetable gardens, fruit trees, raspberries, blackberries and even bee hives from area homes. If you would be willing to showcase your apple tree, garden or anything else in this video, I would love to hear from you. I would initially need:

  • An address
  • A description (e.g, apple tree in front yard, vegetable garden in the backyard)
  • A picture would be helpful, but not necessary

I’m also interested in people’s opinions about public areas that beautifully highlight the bounty within our city limits and might be worth including in the video. If you have ideas about places I should check out, please let me know.

Taping is scheduled to take place over the next few weeks.

Any help or insights you can provide would be sincerely appreciated. I’m happy to provide more information about the start-up upon request.

Thank you.


[Image: “Malus sylvestris (inflorescence)” by (Hans Hillewaert) – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –]

Waste and Appreciation

ErnieWatching the Wolves take down the Spurs got me thinking about waste and appreciation. It’s fitting given the team’s marketing slogan this year: “Don’t Miss a Moment!”

Sitting in the lower deck facing the home bench, I noticed three Black teens who were looking sharp and passing for 20 something. Six and half minutes into the game, they got the boot when a pair of ticket holders on what looked to be a second or third date showed up to claim their seats. With the Wolves out of the playoffs and the game being a make-up for the Mexico City cancellation, a thin crowd emboldened these nomads and a host of others to negotiate their way from as far as the nosebleeds to a better view. Spoiling a cloak of confidence, our youth would get bounced two more times before they would finally settle in the row in front of us where they enjoyed the game in peace except to shrink in the shadow of trickling latecomers who would block our view as they scanned for their seats.

By the fourth quarter a game well in or out of hand will prompt an exodus of fans driven to be the first to line up at the parking pay stations, of parents getting a jump on the bedtime routine or of smokers tamping packs of cigarettes as they go. As hordes of deserters flee to do whatever is next, our transients bounce again – this time voluntarily to the best seats of the night, if only to be enjoyed for the last crumbs of the game, 163 seconds.

Season ticket holders arriving deep into the first quarter and leaving before the final buzzer is common. Even with a fraction of a second left in regulation, we could be down by two with K-Love at the line for a chance to knot it up and still flowing steadily toward the exit signs will be the half-hearted, preoccupied and the self-inflicted hurried.

scoreAs if to invite a dance, pressed shirts will prod their companions with the pressure of two fingers applied to the small of the back. With feigned self-detachment, fresh manicures and cruel shoes are guided passed an imaginary sea of the envious. Shared with hot mini donuts and cotton candy, a final trip down the runway is savored.

Cut with enough Wolves gear, Ken and Barbie are bearable. With the primary exception of the deplorable bandwagon fans of major market teams who will rub it in given the chance, the arena has a good vibe. From where we sit, every age is represented. Every color is there. It’s common to hear foreign languages. Unlike the Democratic National Convention where I saw the staging and the coaching of multicultural “delegates”, the game naturally attracts diversity. It’s an elusive goal for a lot of organizations that fret, “Look around this table! Everyone is white!” The easy criticism is often hurled by the well-meaning politically correct or an especially unimaginative resume-builder. While these detractors couldn’t articulate an organization’s mission or get excited about it, they’re certain that offering “culturally appropriate” snacks will fill their insufferable meetings with the disenfranchised.

While the game doesn’t have this particular problem, it can highlight some of our worst embarrassments. Wealth radiates from center court, to the corporations that occupy courtside, through the first eight rows of first class fans who are guarded by diligent ushers and who are afforded the dignity of ordering their French fries off of a menu, while the rest of us lowlifes have to flag down a hawker who’s balancing peanuts on his head. Then it’s passed the private party rooms and up to rafters where the cheap seats bring to mind the economic disparities of the Titanic. Radiating further out into the streets, beggars make a pitch for diapers, a way home or a night at the shelter.

Combative language is used to describe the game, while its fans are frisked at the door and told to report cussing and any other non-family-friendly behavior. Here players are weapons who penetrate the paint and attack the basket. While we had him, with exception of the week following the Connecticut school shooting where 26 elementary students were gunned down and for whom there was a hollow moment of silence at the Target Center, whenever Andrei Kirilenko would score, the in-arena announcer would yell “A—- K—- 47!” Hundreds of fans formally complained about it. But the franchise couldn’t convince the player to ditch the nickname and had no power to compel him or the equally clueless and inaccessible announcer to do it. It was a relief when the Russian signed with the Nets. He was making a moral dilemma out of what should be simple pleasure: Being part of a crowd that erupts when Love knocks down a buzzer beater, or when a stealthy Brewer cuts in for another steal, or when Rubio makes a no-look pass through traffic to Dieng for the dunk. It’s hard to appreciate the game when you’re getting kicked in the gut, especially when you’re already sucking up a bunch of other infractions, such as the absence of any fully clothed women who play anything but support roles.

To cope with the crammed escalators and the insanity inducing congested parking ramps, our strategy hasn’t been to ditch early but to stick around until security gives us the hook, usually after DJ Mad Mardigan packs it in. Nevertheless, while squandering enviable seats is weirdly elitist, it also makes me wonder. How have I wasted? How have I rushed? How have I failed to appreciate what I have?

When I was working at a French group home, I recall jumping up to clear the table and do the dishes after a meal with the residents at “La Garenne”, our beach home on the English Channel. Abandoning 30 dinner guests to scrub pans was taken to be rude, not helpful. Kitchen duty was a conspicuous price to pay for a minute to myself. We were expected to linger.

A trip to Missoula presented another “Don’t Miss a Moment” lesson. I was joining my friend Chris for his college reunion and was late meeting him for our departure from his Newcastle home. Construction in the southern Black Hills jammed me up for almost an hour on a dirt road with a lost New Yorker who had never seen a buffalo; at the age of 30, he had never left Manhattan until then. Over the apology I offered upon my arrival, Chris popped a TV dinner – one for each of us – in the oven and offered me something to drink. After a leisurely bite, we took his golden retriever to the sitter. Bob obliviously launched one subject after another as we kicked rocks in the driveway and the dog politely listened without comment. Somehow, after securing our bikes to the top of the car, we finally set out only to stop but fifty miles down the road where Chris insisted that we get a “real milkshake” from an “authentic soda fountain”. He acted like I was a refugee who had never seen ice cream before. As dusk came and went, we opted to sit at the counter instead of enjoying our frosty treat like normal people – in a speeding car. It turns out that “making time” is overrated.

I don’t always fail.

Trying to catch a nap under buzzing fluorescents in the hard melamine chairs of a Greyhound terminal while guarding my wallet has enhanced my appreciation for good bed, specifically the feel of a mattress pressing against my back, a generous pillow cradling my head, the smell of clean pressed sheets, and a blanket holding it all together with its perfect weight, a barrier between my skin and a cold draft; I am keenly aware of the roof and the elements from which it keeps me safe.

Staying for the movie credits is another relished small act of resistance in a world that keeps telling me to hurry up. It’s also a nod to my brother who is an actor. After taking in a show, it seems rude to sneak out just as we are about to recognize the creators who must be thrilled to see their names scrolling by. I only wish that such courtesies would enhance my trivia knowledge. I’d like to be the sort who can whip out the answer to questions like “Who played ‘Bus Driver #1’ in It Happened One Night?” It was Ward Bond and I will never be a trivia buff.

Ironically, McDonald’s marketers have detected a collective discomfort with our neurotic multitasking and they’re using it to endear us to their brand. In one commercial a travelling businessman is encouraged to enjoy his coffee unplugged. In the sequel (the sequel?) with only the ambient noise of a train station, we see that our businessman has learned his lesson.

In a separate “slow it down and unplug” ad campaign, Sports Authority holiday commercials tell us to “Give the gift of sport.” We’re promised that our soccer balls will never need an upgrade and this is somehow the most refreshing thing we’ve ever heard.

It’s unlikely that corporate marketers hold the answer to a call to dial it down. But these ads could indicate our creeping unhappiness with being herded and rushed and constantly plugged in. Will our dissatisfaction eventually inflate us with the resolve to live at a human pace? Or will the humble luxury of a McCafe or some similar product calm our yearnings as promised, keeping us just happy enough?

In the meantime, I’ll take to heart the lessons of the uninitiated, youth who scramble for a better view to savor what so many of us dismissively toss out.