Friday, October 31, 2008

Engineers vs. Management

My story about the balloons that drift over us at this time of year brought this story to mind-

Engineers vs. Management-

A man in a hot air balloon realized he was lost. He reduced altitude and spotted a woman below. He descended a bit more and shouted, "Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don't know where I am."

The woman below replied, "You're in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 30 feet above the ground. You're between 40 and 41 degrees north latitude and between 59 and 6 degrees west longitude."

"You must be an engineer," said the balloonist.

"I am," replied the woman, "How did you know?"

"Well," answered the balloonist, "everything you told me is, technically correct, but I've no idea what to make of your information, and the fact is I'm still lost. Frankly, you've not been much help at all. If anything, you've delayed my trip."

The woman below responded, "You must be in management."

"I am," replied the balloonist, "but how did you know?"

"Well," said the woman, "you don't know where you are or where you're going. You have risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise which you've no idea how to keep, and you expect people beneath you to solve your problems. The fact is you are in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but now, somehow, it's my fault."

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Our New Catalog-

The Book Elves had two new interests this summer- watching the colorful hot-air balloons that drift lazily across the sky above the Cataloging Cave in the afternoons and evenings, and growing pumpkins.

Now, either of those interests would be innocent enough, but both combined, in the hands of the Book Elves, was bound to result in utter chaos and massive property destruction.

It all started one golden afternoon this fall, as they sat and contemplated a dozen pumpkins the size of small Volkswagens, and watched a balloon drift by overhead, and suddenly the idea of pumpkin balloons came to them.

Still, all might have gone well, or at least not gone badly, because even when hollowed out your average pumpkin, even one large enough to double as Snow White’s carriage, will not fly. There are certain things that will fly on hot air- silk balloons & politicians, for instance. But pumpkins, not so much.

Still, all might have gone well, or at least not gone badly, (isn’t it frightening how often that phrase recurs when discussing the Book Elves?) had the Book Elves not made the mistake of confusing helium with hydrogen, and not misunderstood that those gas-powered hot-air blowers are not necessary if you’re not using hot air...

The Daily Hampshire Gazette’s 24-point headline- “Holy Blazing Pumpkins in the Sky, Batman!!” perhaps best captures the ensuing conflagration, and is certainly much more colorful than the 6-page State Police report, or the rather frosty letter we received from the National Guard.

And the FBI van remains parked outside the Cataloging Cave.

But before they immolated enough pumpkin flesh to bake pies for the entire state of New Hampshire, the Book Elves finished our latest catalog-


-which features a new selection of books about decorative arts, fine arts and design.

The catalog is available on our website.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Up, Up, and Aawy...

The prevailing wind in the Pioneer Valley is south to north, so every spring, summer and fall the early morning and early evening sky plays host to colorful hot-air balloons which take off down toward Springfield and drift up the valley over the broad fields of corn, potatoes and pumpkins to land here in Hatfield or just to our north in Whately, short of the rocky prominence of Mount Sugarloaf.


The view from the top of Mount Sugarloaf, looking back down the Valley along the Connecticut River-


In the spring and summer, when the windows are all open, often the first warning we have of a balloon overhead is the "whooooooosh!" of the gas-powered hot-air blower pumping more hot air into the balloon.

The balloons are all followed by chase crews, who are in radio contact with the balloon pilot and drive pickups or vans pulling the trailer that the balloon will be packed up into at the end of the flight. The balloon crew carries a bottle of champagne which they present to a farmer if they land in his field.

Last summer in the early evening a balloon drifted over the house and began to come down in the soccer field of the high school across the street. As the balloon slowly descended an entire convoy of vehicles came down the street, chase truck and trailer in the lead, followed by at least a dozen cars full of people. The balloon drifted left toward some trees, and the pilot "hit the gas", making the balloon bound upward and start to drift north toward a neighboring potato farm.

The convoy of followers turned into the school's long driveway, raced around the circle in front of the school and came racing back out, tearing off down the street in the direction of the rapidly-disappearing balloon.

A number of neighbors were out on the sidewalk at this point, because you never see a convoy of cars that large chasing a balloon, and we were curious about what was going on. The mystery was cleared up when a young woman in one of the last cars leaned out the window, holding a cell-phone in one hand, and yelled to us-

"She said YES!!"


Most balloon fly-overs are far less dramatic, except for the random low-flyer who looks as if he may take the top of our chimney off. Balloons are beautiful at any time of year, but they are especially triking against the colorful fall leaves in the crisp, blue autmun sky.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

And Now for Something Completely Different...

Computer Haiku

A file that big?
It might be very useful.
But now it is gone.

The Web site you seek
Can not be located but
Countless more exist.

Chaos reigns within.
Reflect, repent, and reboot.
Order shall return.

Aborted effort:
Close all that you have worked on.
You ask far too much.

Windows NT crashed.
I am the Blue Screen of Death.
No one hears your screams.

Yesterday it worked.
Today it is not working.
Windows is like that.

First snow, then silence.
This thousand dollar screen dies
So beautifully.

With searching comes loss
And the presence of absence:
?My Novel? not found.

The Tao that is seen
Is not the true Tao until
You bring fresh toner.

Stay the patient course.
Of little worth is your ire.
The network is down.

A crash reduces
Your expensive computer
To a simple stone.

Three things are certain:
Death, taxes, and lost data.
Guess which has occurred.

Out of memory.
We wish to hold the whole sky,
But we never will.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Children of the Corn-

On Sunday morning we made our annual trip with our friends and their kids to Mike's Corn Maze at Warner Farm in nearby Sunderland. Past mazes have pictured Julia Child and Louis Armstrong, and this year's maze is called "Odysseus and Polyphemus, An Odyssey in Corn" -

Ready? Let's go!

Uh oh. Which way?

Um, no, this is a dead end.

A bridge! I wonder where it goes...

Of course, it's everyone's favorite, the spud cannon!

A new feature this year is a gazebo with a camera obscura inside-

For a better view, you can climb the viewing platform-

Our friend Jeff appears satisfied with the day.

For completing the maze, finding the 24 numbered checkpoints, and getting out again, we got a free pumpkin, but not the one Jeff is sitting on!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

So- Who Was He?

The gentleman in question was George E. Ohr (1857-1918), the self-proclaimed "Greatest Art Potter on Earth", also known as "The Mad Potter of Biloxi, Mississippi". Ohr was certainly very talented, and not at all mad, though he was quite annoyed that he never received the acclaim he felt he deserved in his own lifetime.

His pots were ahead of their time, and not at all in keeping with the art pottery fashion of the day. Critics even accused him of "torturing" his clay...

In 1905 Ohr was invited to send four pieces of his work to be exhibited at the annual United states Potters Association convention. He sent the pieces, along with a note stating-

"I send you four pieces, but it is as easy to pass judgment on my productions from four pieces as it would be to take four lines from Shakespeare and guess the rest".

Ohr was also an amateur photographer, and delighted in creating improbable scenes featuring himself-

Potting at the Ohr pottery was a family affair-

Ohr's pottery never sold widely, and his work was largely forgotten after his death, but in 1972 a cache of more than 6,000 pots was discovered, forgotten and covered with dust, in a family warehouse. It was eventually purchased en bloc by an art pottery dealer, who took 3 months to unpack it, and then put it on the market gradually over a period of years, and so Ohr pottery is widely appreciated and avidly collected today.

It's too bad "The Greatest Potter in the World" never got to see that.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Who Am I?

I was the greatest at what I did,
my self-assertion knew no lid.
And unlike some whose talents rot-
my genius never went to pot.

Answer on Monday!