Just looking

Most of the Coursera video lectures Alene has been watching are rather dry — an audio narrative accompanying a slide deck. But every now and then you get treated to a view of the narrator’s office — and it’s our idea of fascinating! (I should remark that she’s taking a programming class.)

We find ourselves being drawn to everything but the person speaking — books on shelves, especially the ones not shelved vertically — coffee mugs, how many and decorated with what — where the telephone is located, and if there are lights flashing on it — knick-knacks such as figurines, stuffed animals and paperweights — and the wallpaper or screensaver on the monitor — and whether the computer is a Mac, which it almost always is. (Funny — when Alene was in academia back in the 1990s, hardly anyone used a Mac — now all the screenshots she sees in video lectures are from Macs.)

Alene likes to remember the various office spaces her ex-husband has occupied. If there was a dry-erase board, it always had a few lines of pseudo code on it — usually just a simple loop. She thinks it was just his personal “Kilroy was here” because she never saw anything else appear on the dry-erase board — ever.

Equally interesting are video segments of documentaries filmed at people’s homes. If there’s a fish tank in the background, we like to watch the fish. We study the pattern of the blanket thrown over the back of a couch, or try to guess the vintage of the computer monitor on a desk (really fun when it’s an old documentary.) We enjoy looking at flower arrangements and house plants — and sleeping cats.

After Alene’s get-together with her ex last weekend, I remarked that I think the pair will be friends for eternity — one reason being that he thinks rather like us in some ways. When they were first married, they visited Warwick Castle in England and took a guided tour. In one rather impressive hall, the tour guide talked about some suits of armor. But Alene’s ex noticed something on a nearby wall and had to investigate it. When the tour guide was done with his presentation, he jokingly asked them if they had any questions about the fire alarm system! Well — you don’t expect to see a fire alarm switch in a medieval castle — so you have to check it out! I’ve done that one too. I was once in a museum of modern art and mistook a piece of the HVAC system for an exhibit.

We have yet to venture into the world of Periscope. People-watching at Starbucks is enough entertainment for us!

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