Google AdSense

Even though hardly anyone was visiting my blogs before they went dark temporarily in 2012, so the numbers are even lower now, I’m going to put a Google ad on each one. It’s because I actually started making a tiny amount of money on my number table concentration grid game, and before that ad was turned off (also in 2012), I had earned $24.60. Now that I’ve reactivated everything, it would be cool to reach Google’s payout threshold ($100) before I die!

MM/New England Trail Section 9

I’ve been very very intermittently section-hiking the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail (now the New England National Scenic Trail) for a few years now. I drop my bike at one end, park at the other, and hike north. This is probably the 11th or 12th such hike, starting at the Massachusetts border, since I split some of the longer sections, but this one is very short and took less than 2 hours. Unfortunately I got confused and ended at Orchard St, missing the last few feet of this section between Orchard and Federal St. (will take 2 minutes next time). Not many views but very beautiful, through young beech and white pine woods. I only saw one other person though it was a lovely Saturday. I heard a hermit thrush and a veery singing at the same time, then another hermit thrush later in the hike, and finally a wood thrush on the bike back to complete the trifecta of singing thrushes that are common around here. On the way back to the car I took a little detour to explore Elf Meadow Conservation Area–took the loop trail, very pretty.

Updated: it worked! (was “Let’s plow the missing piece!”)

Update: thanks to everyone who contacted the powers-that-be, the trail between Pleasant and North King was plowed during the winter of 2012-2013. It stopped after the demise of the BID, but this past winter (2016-2017) it started again. Thank you to the Mayor and the DPW! Now, if we could get the Norwottuck plowed from Northampton to Amherst, especially once the tunnel under the railroad tracks is completed, that would be awesome!

Since we moved to Northampton in early 2012, I’ve been enjoying the incredible network of trails we have here. But some sections are now plowed in the winter, which is too bad. With support from the Friends of Northampton Trails and Greenways, the Northampton Business Improvement District, and various individuals, I’ve started an informal group to try and address that. Initially we’re focusing on the mile-long stretch of the downtown rail-trail parallel with King St. The city’s Department of Public Works plows north and south of that section.


  • Snow turns into rough, bumpy ice (because people use the trail anyway!)
  • Compacted ice takes forever to melt
  • On dry winter days, trail could be used by hundreds of people if not for the ice
  • Plowing the trail will increase:
    • Recreation and fun
    • Physical and mental health
    • Carbon-free commuting options

There are costs (equipment and labor) and issues (fences and bridges). But it is less than a mile, and the benefits are huge!

Will you help?

If you’re a Northampton resident, please contact the mayor and city council and tell them you support plowing the trail! And/or, please download the Plow the Trail PDF (a poster and handout sheet) and distribute it.

The Norwottuck Rail Trail is also not plowed, but that is the responsibility of the Department of Conservation and Recreation. Separate campaign to come!

Binghamton Bridge Run 1/2 Marathon

2:27:00! That fell into my “yay” category (I had predicted 2:30-2:45 as a satisfactory time). My one previous 1/2, on the D&H trail, was a very well-run race but not that much fun for me because it was so flat.

#94 out of 117 in the 40-49 F category (full results), which puts me in the bottom 20%–when I typically think of myself as in the bottom 10%, so not as bad as I thought.

Seeing so much of Binghamton was nostalgic. Since we’re planning on moving away, it felt like a farewell tour. NYSEG Stadium, which we saw built–I’ve seen 4 baseball games in my life, 2 at Yankee Stadium and 2 here. Clinton Street, which long ago held the Guinness World Record for the most bars in one mile, and later became the prime area for antiques in Binghamton; I bought a $2 formal gown there for the fanciest black-tie wedding we ever attended. The many places the food co-op lived. Many locations where I visited clients when I was a home health aide. The old taxi station, boarded up. The old library, where I first started reading seriously about librarianship (the Horn Book and the Trouble in River City books); the new library which we toured half a decade ago when planning our new building (plans which will have to be re-done when it’s finally at the point of being built). The Crowley dairy plant with its iconic chimney. The Park Diner where we met friends.

Things I want to do before we leave: visit the Bundy Museum, River Books…

Jeopardy FAQ

For those who aren’t up for reading the lengthy recap, here’s an executive summary of the questions that seem to crop up the most. Feel free to ask others in the comments!

  1. How do you get on Jeopardy?
    They now offer an online screening test for those who can’t get to California or to a city where the crew is traveling. It’s 50 questions, 15 seconds to fill in each blank (you don’t need to frame it in the form of a question). Sign up to get notified of future tests. If you pass the test (they don’t tell you and there’s no confirmation of this, but the consensus on the board is you have to have at least 35 correct), you may randomly be chosen for an audition. If you get the audition, you may get The Call. If they don’t call, try, try again!
  2. Did you study? How can you study when the questions could be about anything at all?
    I studied a lot. “Jeopardy scope” (what they might reasonably ask) is smaller than you might think, but it could still take a lifetime to cover. My favorite tool was SuperMemo on my Palm.
  3. Did you get to hang out with Alex?
    No, there is an iron wall between the contestants and anyone who is involved with knowing the questions. Aside from posing for a photo with each of us, the only time we interacted was when the cameras were rolling. But he is miked all day, so you get a pretty good sense of his personality.
  4. Do they tell you what the categories are?
    No, see #3. Because of the quiz show scandals, they are very careful to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.
  5. Do they try to match up people to particular categories/games? No, see above, and in fact nobody knows who the 2 new contestants are going to be for each show until moments before. They are randomly drawn after the previous game ends. As a contestant, you have no idea which show you’ll be on!
  6. Do they pay your expenses?
    No, but you will win at least $1,000 (3rd place; 2nd place gets $2,000.) Don’t forget taxes, though (California takes 7% off the top, then you also have to pay the IRS and your state). We turned it into an actual vacation so didn’t end up in the black, but it was well-worth it for the adventure of a lifetime and a California vacation! Some people indicate you can subtract your expenses, but I’m not sure that flies legally unless you consider yourself doing Jeopardy as a “business.”
  7. Did you feel very competitive with the other contestants?
    No–everyone was funny and interesting and enjoyable to hang out with. We really bonded. Of course I still wanted to win, but it felt very collegial.
  8. Why did you get ruled wrong for leaving out a word (“The Boy in the Bubble”) when they accept Yeats for William Butler Yeats?
    The rule is that you can use just a last name as long as it’s unambiguous. There is only one famous Yeats. If it were Smith, they’d ask for a first name. But with titles you need to include every syllable. Same with proper names too–poor Wolf Blitzer lost most of the few bucks he had when they reviewed tape and discovered he’d said “Julia Childs” instead of “Child.”
  9. Didn’t you know “Code Pink”?
    Not only did I know it, but watching the game when it aired I expected to see myself buzz in and get it. Your brain works differently when you are up there!
  10. Was there something wrong with your buzzer or your buzzer technique?
    Actually, although my timing may have been off, I was doing exactly what you’re supposed to do. They tell you to keep mashing the button until Alex calls on someone, even if your light doesn’t go on. (You can’t hold it down–that doesn’t work.) You usually don’t see so much buzzer motion because most people can rest their hand behind the podium and just move their thumb. But short people like me are hoisted into the air on an elevated platform so our heads are at the same height as the other two contestants’. As a result, I would have had to bend down to rest my hand, so I had to hold it up.
  11. Can’t you buzz in as soon as you know the answer?
    No. There’s someone backstage who unlocks the buzzer when Alex stops talking. If you buzz in too soon, you get locked out for some fractions of a second–long enough for someone else to buzz in. I felt pretty good about my timing practicing at home, but it fell apart to a certain extent in the studio. (I did well in rehearsal, but Phil and Chris were both crazy fast!) There are lights you’re supposed to be able to use for cues, but that didn’t work for me.
  12. You didn’t think the FJ answer was just “area code,” did you?
    Talk about your brain behaving differently up there–I never would have believed I’d forget to re-read the question, but I was so rattled by the wagering that I did forget. If I had re-read it, I would have put “cell phone area code.” But I don’t think I would have been given it, because it was specifically Telecommunications TERMINOLOGY.
  13. What the heck is an overlay?
    It’s a new type of area code that covers the same geographic area as a previous one. In New York, 917 was the new code given to cell phones (but also to pagers, and possibly land lines) after they ran out of numbers.

Jeopardy report!

Watch Hilary on Jeopardy Part 1
Watch Hilary on Jeopardy Part 2

I’d aged out of the contestant pool in November, 18 months after my audition. I figured I’d take the online test again at the end of January and hope for another chance at auditioning. But on 1/8/2010, Jonathan handed me the phone saying, “It’s Glen from Jeopardy.” He started by that checking all my information was the same, giving me a chance to think, “is he calling for the reason I hope he’s calling? Is this The Call“? Finally he said “Can you be here for taping on February 2nd and 3rd?” I told him I was thrilled and excited, of course, but it wasn’t until I hung up that Jonathan and I started screaming, laughing, and dancing around the living room!

Continue reading “Jeopardy report!”

Moved to WordPress

Because Blogger is dropping FTP support as of May 1st, I’ve finally been motivated to switch all my blogs to WordPress.  I’m using the great Virtual Multiblog, which seems to work perfectly; I’d be done except that the Blogger2Wordpress converter is having a buffer problem right now, and this is the only blog I’ve managed to send over so far.

Then I get to start messing around with themes!

Weekly run

Trying to get back into the writing (of any kind) habit!

Another incredible day, 60+ and sunny. My indoor/outdoor thermometer is currently at 99.9, but clearly there’s a problem there… I heard a raven off to the west and wished I could take off after it. The black lab with the purple collar who lives along my route and is usually on a chain came with me for about half a mile. He is quite well-behaved–doesn’t bark, jumps up but doesn’t make contact–and his joy in tearing past me is infectious. He’s lanky with a big head, which according to our friends Alex and Rani means he’s of the field type rather than the show type. I met up with my running mate Kris, who worried about the dog getting too far away from home, but I predicted that he would come as far as the timid border collie and then stay with her or go home. That’s exactly what happened. We both alternated running and walking, but my brief interval run on Thursday seems to have helped me do a little better than last week.

Wyoming Valley Striders Summer 10K

I’ve now completed the Wyoming Valley Striders Triple Crown and have a cool (if large) Frank Shorter shirt to show for it. The 10K was in Kirby Park again (like the Cherry Blossom run, which I didn’t blog but in which I placed for the first time EVER because there were only 3 women in the 40-44 age category!) This time we got to run over the bridge into downtown Wilkes Barre and along the new river walk, which is gorgeous.

The race was at 9am. I got there around 8:30, a little later than I had planned because I always underestimate the length of the drive, bearing copies of the two checks that had been cashed for the Cherry Blossom (there was a mix-up and I had to pay again at the last minute). An envelope was already made out for me, marked “FREE,” so no hassle at all. I got a nice denim blue WVS hat in addition to the shirt (technical fabric, not yet another cotton T-shirt I wouldn’t wear.) The race start was on top of the dike, and before the start I walked down to the swampy natural area between the dike and the river. There was a forest of yellow jewelweed, many plants a good 8 feet high, with a little path into the heart of it so I could walk in (stems crunching under my feet). Very cool to see them towering over me.

I was quickly at the back of the pack, near a guy I recognized from the Cherry Blossom. Not a lot of training going on this summer, but I have been doing Tabata intervals regularly so I was curious to see how I did. Two related problems: it was very humid (although overcast, thank goodness), which normally slows me down, and I ended up taking advantage of two water stops, which also increased my time. I should have been more careful about my fluids and especially electrolytes (they only had plain water at the stops, which didn’t help). My final time was just under 1:10–not great but not terrible.

The course was very complicated, with a total of 5 separate loops that kept crossing each other. At least it was varied. Instead of seeing the fastest people coming back, I got passed by just the leader (he was so fast and I was so slow that we intersected). It was amazing–he passed me like I was standing still. It felt like seeing the RoadRunner go by, except that he was so smooth and quiet that I didn’t hear him come up or even go past–a barely-noticeable breeze and then he was speeding ahead of me, short blond hair flying out behind his head and green dots on the base of his shoes bobbing up practically to his waist. It’s thrilling to watch the people who run like the wind, effortlessly.

The coolest part of the race was crossing the beautiful Market St. Bridge and running along the new RiverCommon. It’s gorgeously landscaped, with wildflower banks on the river side. I just attended a fascinating presentation on wildflower meadows yesterday (with expert Larry Weaner, who was brilliant and down-to-earth), so I was excited to see them and notice the black-eyed susans which will be gone next season, as I learned.

Post-race I spoke again to Dr. Armillei of Active Performance Chiropractic. He told me why he’s not covered by our insurance (applied twice and was rejected because they have “enough specialists”), but his rates are reasonable and I might just go there on my own ticket. It’s far away so needs planning, but I do think it might help me.

Plus yummy oranges, potato chips, and “the best whole-wheat pizza in NE PA” according to the race director. It was delicious.