Monday, January 26, 2015

OJ Report

Interesting, but nothing spectacular to report. I arrived the requested 15 minutes early, looked back down  when I left the elevator – include the picture here just to orient you.

Made my way to the Champagne Room, which was full of scientific-looking white-coated characters setting the place up.

  Directed to the sign-in table, then found myself waiting with  other – we discovered comparing notes – veteran buyers of  fresh orange juice.  My group included 22 citizen scientists, one of whom did not show up.  I believe there were five groups at other times, so more than 100 subjects tested.  The room had a distinct elderly feeling  – who else is free for such adventures in the afternoon? and a well-spoken prosperous aura floating around – who else can afford to buy fresh orange juice?  We even had a mink coat in there, an old-fashioned touch – but it was, after all,  8 degrees out and snowing.

Over the course of two hours we evaluated three different juices, with ritual crackers and spring water to clear the palate between tastings.  Obediently we considered color and answered questions, then in unison we inhaled and recorded our judgment of fragrance before drinking.  And then “please put booklet one aside and turn over booklet two but don’t open it yet” it became apparent what this was all about.  

Eventually they did reveal which had been the just-squeezed orange juice as we knew it -- #321.  Turned out every person in the group had preferred it.  The other ojs were also fresh, but each had been treated for longer shelf life with something called HPP and/or flash-freezing.  Everyone found them “chemical” and  “metallic”, and people complained of an unpleasant aftertaste.  I didn't finish the third one.

Then we spent another hour answering questions in those booklets.  How much would you be prepared to spend for a half-gallon of #321?  #682?  Why? Would you expect to find it in the dairy cases or with the produce?  Why? If it had a longer shelf life would you buy several bottles at once?  Why?  If studies said the treated juice was just as nutritious, would you believe them?  Why?  How much pulp do you prefer – none, some, a lot?  Why? 
We ended up with open discussion, recorded of course.   It  became apparent that even if the flavor could remain the same, nobody in that room wanted fresh orange juice that lasted longer, or would be prepared to buy it at any price.  Evidently – as with a soap bubble or fireworks – evanescence is part of the appeal.

And then I took my $75 gift card downstairs and bought $81 worth of food, including a $10 half-gallon of untreated fresh-squeezed orange juice.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Suspense is Building

Only 24 hours to wait, folks!  So far in my career as Citizen Scientist I've sat in a dark booth with my hair full of gunky electric stuff, looking at what seemed like hours' worth of dumb pictures -- and boy did I need a shampoo when that one was over!
Couldn't find a picture that included the penny.
I've memorized the words Apple, Table and Penny, so I could recite them back when asked ten minutes later -- and I still can today.  When this bit comes up in another study, I have to  suggest the interviewer pick three other words -- last time, I remember, it included a  quarter.  Do you suppose there's always a coin involved?
I've identified the pictures on flash cards.
I've been injected with who knows what (and it turned out to be with nothing; I was in the control group.)
I've fasted so They could take blood (after which I was given a coupon for breakfast and sent down to the Cafeteria; that was nice)
and lots more, but nothing in my career has prepared me for tomorrow's session with the supermarket chain's Survey Service Company and the scheduled session on Orange Juice.  So far they've sent two emails, three phone calls  and two snail-mailings about it.

I'm so excited !!!  What's Gonna Happen???   Don't touch that dial !!!

  P. S.  I re-open this bulletin to share with you -- just looked at their latest mailing, the one with the map and instructions.  Bring reading glasses (that last in bold face), photo identification, re-check name and address for spelling and/or numerical errors immediately "as this will match all documents used for this study."  (See -- it's not just a taste test; it's a Study.)  But what I wanted to tell you is the names of the conference rooms where a hostess will be waiting when I emerge from the elevator -- the Burgundy and Champagne rooms.          
              Hey, what do you suppose are the chances I'll be judging Mimosas?!  

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Weird Citizen Science

Can’t wait to tell you about the upcoming study that will certainly be the high point of my career as a Citizen Scientist.  I hadn’t ever heard that term until recently -- maybe it’s new?  Saw it first in connection with Cornell’s backyard bird count, felt proud.
But first, a brief summary of my scientific career so far:
Norm’s mother died (much too young) from complications with shingles.  So years ago we volunteered for a study seeking a shingles vaccine.  At the initial interview, I was asked if I’d ever had chicken pox. “Never did,” I replied.  “Oh, yes you did.  Everyone does, only sometimes it’s so mild they don’t even realize it.”  Found myself wondering why they bothered to ask the question.  But anyhow, study ended, vaccine developed and approved.  Turns out Norm had received it, I’d been in the control group so I got a free shot.
     That felt so useful I started volunteering for all sorts of studies.  It’s always delightful to talk about oneself, play games, answer questions.  I'm in one looking for a marker for Alzheimers (study ended up in the New Yorker, still going on).   From that one I sneaked enough information so that every time I blunder I can reassure myself -- I don’t have the big A;  I’m just getting old.
      Another “cognition” (yet another new word) study involved  grad students coming to the house to put computer games on my machine – I seem to remember busting balloons with numbers on them for “exactly 25 minutes each day.”  Never could find out if that increased my score on the before-and-after cognition tests at the University.
     Weirdest study involves interviewers coming to the house (that’s a plus already) and, as Boswell writes so happily in his journal “we then talked about ME.”   “In the past three weeks how often have you…” and then, subtly hidden among  the questions, things like several versions of “thought about suicide?”   The study turned out to involve the assignment of an Artificial Friend who visits, invites out to lunch, telephones.  Later the interviews evaluate the effects of treating loneliness.  Thank God I’m evidently in the control group.  I'd have quit before being assigned as Friend or Friendee.  As it stands,  I just get to talk about ME.
     (Off-topic:  just googled looking for "friend images" and found hundreds of illustrations -- puppies, children, teenagers --NOT A SINGLE ONE SHOWING ANYONE OLDER THAN 21.)
     But anyhow, the oddest study of all is coming up.  Several weeks ago I received a phone call:  Would I like to participate in a study at Wegmans’ supermarket evaluating orange juice?  Two weeks later, a phone interview to see if I qualified, and evidently I passed.  Just received a letter confirming my session on January 31 (you can be sure I’ll tell you all about it.)  Map included, showing directions to the meeting rooms above the store I always shop at anyhow.  In the meantime, two confirming emails.  This “Adelman Research Group” seems a lot more organized than those grad students.
     I’ll be given a $75 Wegmans gift card for my trouble.  Do you think this ends my amateur status as a Citizen Scientist?  

Friday, January 16, 2015

One In Twenty

How come? -- lately there's something I need to share with you about almost every day, while other times a week can go by -- at an rate, here's an article from this morning's USAToday.  You're supposed to read it and object to the fact that all the nominees are white, but for someone my age -- well, I'd got only that far at the seniors lunch today when the woman next to me interrupted:
"I know what you're going to say.  You didn't recognize one of those faces, right?"
And she went on to say "Whenever I pick up People magazine" -- and there she hastened to add the usual apology "at the doctor's waiting room" -- "I don't know one of the celebrities they're talking about." 
So we had a good table discussion about the old black-and-white movies on TCM, agreed that we don't just recognize Clark Gable, but also know lesser actors -- that was Franchot Tone, wasn't it?  and Lew Ayres?   
Reading the newspaper's fine print this morning, I discovered that the witch in the lower right corner is Meryl Streep -- but she's such a chameleon that doesn't count.  And full disclosure:  I did recognize one of the 20 actors shown here -- Julianne Moore, who is in Still Alice.  That was one good book; I'll need the captions, so I hope the movie comes available on a Netflix CD pretty soon.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Backyard Mystery

It's painfully bright sunshine out there -- why do these pictures come out so gloomy blue?  But anyhow, here's the question:
What made this weird stuff in the snow?  It doesn't seem to track off anywhere, so I'd guess it wasn't the deer.
I'll include a closeup -- best I can get with this vintage camera and through the window -- to assist in your speculations.
(and no, I don't think it's plops of snow fallen from the trees --  most of these are out in the open.) 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Big Brother is Alive and Well

     You probably know about tinnitus (can be pronounced either way).  I’ve had it for years – sometimes buzzing, hissing or sirens in the ears, sometimes along the lines of people talking softly in another room.  It’s great how the brain ignores it most of the time.  Maybe you already have it – if so, get your hearing checked because it is sometimes an early warning.
     But in the last couple of weeks, something entirely new.   Driving, I found myself wondering if the radio was on very low.  Finally nailed it down – when I turn my head, which evidently happens a lot in driving,  I hear a musical note.  Shake my head back and forth and it’s two notes, chimes, a third apart.  Shake more quickly and it gets louder.
     So of course I immediately diagnosed brain tumor!!  An exchange of emails with my physician, though, convinced me it’s just another form of tinnitus.  And -- this is relevant -- I noted that in my journal, a folder in Microsoft Word.
     Okay, so today when I got on the computer, I immediately found myself facing an ad for a tinnitus remedy.  You tell me – how did They find out about this?  I wouldn’t like to think that fancy medical site is open to any interested ad agency.  Nor is the idea of my journal being snooped a particularly happy thought. 

And as I was writing this, I was interrupted by a phone call from the supermarket.  Would I be willing to join a panel to evaluate fresh orange juice?  Well, at least that one’s no mystery – because I dutifully offer that Shoppers Club card every time I check out, they know that fresh orange juice is one of my biggest extravagances.  

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Maytime Revisited

    I woke before dawn,  clicked on the bedroom tv, and the movie, just starting, was Maytime.  Immediately I was back more than three-quarters of a century, a child in the dark in a little movie theatre in a little village.    
     Would the story of Jeanette Macdonald and Nelson Eddy, their one perfect day in May with those apple blossoms filling the screen, still strike me as wildly romantic?  Would I still cry at the end?  Would those voices still seem marvelous?
     Well, I did notice a few things that had escaped me when I was 12.  He does sing through his nose a bit, and I can't really judge her because I can  no longer hear high notes at all.   I don't know all that much about opera, but I question whether a world-famous prima donna would really star in everything from Delibes to Wagner.  I no longer think "You must give up your career for love" is a valid piece of advice -- that was so 1930s.
     And when Eddy is shot by jealous husband John Barrymore (over-acting with Shakesperean grimaces) I just know we're now going to get that standard Hollywood scene. 
     Yes, here it comes: she rushes to cradle the dying man's head in her arms and yes, she never thinks to stanch the flow of blood or call for a doctor.  Instead on cue she leans into the camera to catch his dying words.  Clearly, with perfect delivery, in that thrilling baritone he says "You'll never be alone.  I'll always be with you."  After which his eyes suddenly close and his head drops abruptly on her arm. 
     I meant to reach for my notepad and jot down the exact words so I could report them to you accurately.  But I couldn't.  I was crying.
     Real tears.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Frigid Morning

Outside my window right now, the kids in the house behind us are skating


and the deer are watching them.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Predeceased Frivolity

Still reading the obits, gang, and I must share with you this one from yesterday's paper.  There's that ugly phrase again -- She is predeceased by -- and if I was sure I knew how to photoshop this, I could narrow your attention to the last pre-deceser mentioned, sister-in-law Joyce Cuva. 

It's just as well Joyce is no longer with us.  She just might resent the typo?  omitted sentence?  dropped mention of a pet?  that refers to her in so frivolous a manner at a solemn time like this.

Thursday, January 1, 2015


For some reason I couldn't find the "comment" icon, and I needed to correct that last post.   Finally did find an "edit" button.  Freddie's father isn't the Duke of Kent, he's the Duke's younger brother Prince Michael.  Correspondent points out that a first cousin of the Queen's seems a bit old to have a son playing soccer with my honorary grandson Ben, but there it is.   Freddie's mother is the one known in some circles as Princess Pushy.