Nest

I’m pleased to report the addition of a Nest Thermostat to the DiDonato home! While perusing the local papers a few weeks ago, Jen found a remarkable deal to get a free Nest with any solar consultation. We’ve been thinking about solar anyway so it seemed like an obvious choice. We signed up, enjoyed our consultation, and waited patiently for the mail.

This week the Nest arrived. It’s sleek and sexy on the wall and so far? I can’t decide if it’s better art or thermostat.

Honestly, I love the idea of the Nest but I’m not entirely convinced that it is worth the high price-tag. It has some potentially awesome features which could certainly prove their value: auto-away, adjustment of temps according to local weather conditions, and the peace of mind of never forgetting to turn down the thermostat during a vacation. But $250 is a LOT to spend on a Thermostat, especially if you’re already pretty good about keeping an eye on your utilities. Perhaps the most notable thing about the Nest is that I’m excited about the Nest. The Robot-ification of any device in my home is bound to get me excited, but perhaps the elegance of this tool is really its greatest attribute.

I’ll keep tabs over these next weeks/months and provide continued feedback.

Hooded Merganser

Jen and I are up to our ears in bird feeders. The current collection includes:

Shucked Sunflower Seeds
Peanuts
Thistle
Suet
and a special Bluebird mix

Our five feeders reside just outside our breakfast nook window and we’ve taken great joy in our daily feathered visitors. For the most part, these visitors are recycled. We see the same seasonal birds over and over.

This past weekend, however, our eyes were diverted to an unexpected source: ducks.

I have never been interested in ducks. I think it’s because of their size. They don’t have the endearing smallness of a Pheobe and they don’t have the impressive grandeur of a heron or a hawk. Ducks are pretty middle of the road. This weekend that lackluster appeal took a dramatic turn.

Our backyard is framed by a large water hazard. It falls somewhere between the characterization of pond and marsh. On Saturday a flash of white coasting across the water caught my eye… it was a hooded merganser.

The hooded merganser has a giant bright white hooded head. It’s so odd-looking that it ignited in me an immediate deep interest in ducks. I pulled out my telescope, found my camera mount, and desperately tried to take pictures – but was grossly ineffective. Every evening since, I’ve been looking out trying to spot the return of the hooded merganser with no avail.

Even if it doesn’t return, I’m grateful that the hooded merganser has inspired me to delve into the ducks chapter of my Peterson’s Field Guide.

Dataless Day 25

On one of my carpool trips from work a few weeks back, Sander and I had a great idea. It’s an event that would occur once every few months – perhaps quarterly. The event’s title:

Interesting Evenings.

The idea came about we discussed Sander’s experiences with his debate team in high school. Then it dawned on me: we should have a debate! We could invite people over and have a formal debate with judging and the whole thing! Sander cleverly recommended that in order for it to succeed it would be best to mix seriousness and comedy. For example, we could have one debate on the death penalty and another on Miracle Whip vs. Cains.

Other ideas for interesting evenings? Perhaps a craft evening, an auction, or a series of lectures. Anyone else have a good recommendation?

Aside: Three days left of datelessness. Stay tuned for the March recaps.

Calligraphy

One of the products of no-technology February was a new interest in calligraphy. I took a book out from the library and started going through the exercises. It’s unexpectedly challenging. There are a lot of very subtle recommendations to go from terrible calligraphy to decent calligraphy. It’s much more than pen angle; it’s balance of white space, line width, crisp intersections and perfect consistency. To start, I made pencil guidelines and then struggled through the alphabet with a pen. Just trying to learn the proportions before even considering line width.

alphabet

Suddenly I made a beautifully proportioned g. The bowl and loop feel balanced. The width and height feel right. It’s a masterpiece.

I proudly showed Jen

“Jen! Look at this g!”
“oh, good for you!” she said, her voice tinged with the slightest thread of pitying endearment. She followed sharply with “but what’s wrong with your a?”

It’s occasionally hilarious to be struggling to write lowercase at 33 years old.

Welcome back to the 21st Century!

Ahhh, the joys of lazy internet usage! We have completed our 28 days without technology.

How’d it go? Pretty good for the most part. Looking back, both Jen and I consider this experiment a positive one. We got a fair amount accomplished; Between the two of us we read 15 books (Jen: 13, me:2), went on a ton of adventures (most of which were previewed in automatic posts), cooked loads (over 250 raviolis!), played games, and had a handful of friendly get togethers.

The biggest surprise? I expected way more time to come out of not using technology. The biggest sudden increase in time was my work lunch. For not one day in February did I take a break during lunch. Without the internet, there really was no reason to stop working. The only semi-breaks were business lunches. The biggest area where I expected gains was at home, and here Jen saw a bigger gap open up from no technology than I did (Hence her triumph over 13 books). In general, the evenings remained much the same.

The hardest part? My week long trip in Houston. It was tough to use up dead time without internet. I did bring my travel guitar, so I got a little practice time in. And I admit, I cheated once to rewatch the patriots victory. Jen cheated once to watch a Modern family when the house was a bit too quiet in my absense.

The best part? Jen and I remembered how to play spit, and we had more than a few card games. Right at the end we came up with a fun vocabulary game, going back and forth trying to define challenging words – very fun.

What will I carry over? A few things.

1. I moved my phone from my nightstand to the bureau for nighttime charging. This was a good move.
2. I like game nights. Hopefully Jen and I will do more of these.
3. The vocabulary game was awesome. This will be repeated
4. In general, I’m going to try and keep going with resisting internet except for productive ventures. We’ll see how well this goes. Keep your fingers crossed.

More recaps to come, but suffice to say this was a unique month.

Dataless Day 27

Whew. One more day. March 1st will likely have me fully immersed in the florescent glow of devices. I hope to post updates to the events previewed here over the next week or two. Thanks for sticking it out with me through these automated posts.

Dataless Day 23

This is yet another automatic post for the month of February as Jen and I try and achieve a full month without electronics abuse. This weekend’s fun events included a bald eagle watch with the local Audubon group. It’s a 5 hours watch with a number of different stops concluding with a tasty lunch in Essex.

The Connecticut river is known for its bald eagle roosts. I’m eager to check it out. I’ve only seen bald eagles on a few random occasions here in CT. Once flying over the highway, and another time at a great distance from the shores of Madison, CT.

Also scheduled for this week? A Houston business trip. This will be especially challenging to survive without any electronics. Business trips with my company are often huge pendulums swinging between EXTREMELY ACTIVE INSANE and jaw numbingly boring. It’s those boring minutes where I will struggle.

I’ll be bringing some books with me from the library. Hopefully those will keep me occupied when things aren’t crazy at the job-site.

The Cheese Files Vol IX

Fontina. Simple straightforward Fontina.

Traditionally Italian, Fontina is an earthy flavored cow’s milk cheese that originates in the alps. Officially, Fontina can only be Fontina if it’s made in the Aosta Valley. The Aosta valley is in the north-westernmost corner of Italy north of Turin and abutted to Switzerland and France. The cheese’s texture is a bit more spongy than some of our more recent trials (my amateur tooth would put it in the same texture universe as an un-aged gouda). The mildly pungent woody taste is enjoyable but for me not overly rewarding.

Note to the pregnant: This cheese is unpasteurized.
Note to Kurt: Don’t overanalyze that last sentence.

Taste: 2.5/4
Price: $
Independence: Medium