massive cloud of solar-generated steam
Thursday, February 15 2007
Using a snow shovel, this morning Gretchen took a stab at the snow accumulation and immediately abandoned all hope that the driveway could be cleared by the time she needed to teach her class at the local community college. She called the guy we once had plow our driveway (perhaps as many as four years ago) but it seemed he was too busy to get to us today. So I went out to see what I could do.
There was less than a foot of precipitation on the ground, but, owing to the various layers of sleet it contained, it was much denser than normal snow. Still, all the wood harvesting I've been doing must have put in good physical condition because I found I was making rapid progress. Eventually I went in to tell Gretchen that I had things "under control." Within an hour I'd dug out a driveable path to Dug Hill Road.
It was cold, but it was a bright sunny day. At some point while I shoveled an explosive hiss issued from the solar panel as the pressure release value coughed out a massive cloud of solar-generated steam. It did this several times before falling silent. The panel has been been fallow since its plastic cover plate tore loose from it in strong gust some weeks ago.
This evening Gretchen and I met up with our friend B at his place in High Falls, and we carpooled from there with B and one his former neighbors to Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, where we'd be attending a reading by the writer Sarah Vowell, whom I know best from her bits on This American Life.
First though we joined up with B's significant other J (who works at the nearby Culinary Institute of America) and ate a quick dinner at a Vietnamese place called Saigon [something], where the food was surprisingly tasteless even when full of hot pepper burn.
The reading was in an auditorium upstairs from one of Vassar's dining halls. Looking around at the Vassar students, Gretchen commented that they looked a little more conservative on average than the students at Bard.
As for Sarah Vowell, the thing that struck Gretchen immediately was how depressingly young she looks for a woman of such accomplishments. In horror at one point Gretchen whispered to me, "She's younger than us!" I think Gretchen was also a little disappointed to discover that SV is actually cuter in person than she'd been on a recent broadcast of the Daily Show, during which Gretchen had turned to me and observed, "She's not an attractive woman."
In the context of This American Life, Sarah Vowell's world-weary wryness and obsession with unassuming details of history are delicious and intoxicating. Sitting and politely listening to her read, though, her attitude felt just a tiny bit condescending, perhaps with a dash of bitchiness thrown in. I don't know, maybe I was missing the powerdrill that I'm usually holding when I'm listening to her read. During the question and answer period someone asked her how her latest book is coming and she responded that it was coming along terribly, so terribly in fact that she had actually found herself enjoying her speaking tour.
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