IT’S THE GREATEST IN THE WORLD AND IT’S MINE!

DISCOVER CHALLENGE | The Greatest … in the World


I think my camera is the best camera ever, except that sometimes, I use another camera. I think my husband is the best husband I could possibly have, but he might not suit you. I hope not, because he’s mine. Hands off, please.

I’m totally, absolutely sure my dogs are the best dogs anywhere, but I recognize that you probably think the same of yours and that is how it should be. This computer is absolutely the best gaming laptop except for its bizarre lack of sufficient USB ports and an SD card reader. Otherwise, it’s the best. Probably.

Best pictures of dawn taken this morning from my bedroom window

Best picture of dawn taken this morning from my bedroom window

Every person I love is the best because each is unique, so how could they not be the best? I am the best Marilyn Armstrong in the world … except maybe for the artist in Australia of the same name who makes such beautiful designs.

I hate movie critics. When they tell me it’s the best movie of the year, I will probably hate it and feel I’ve wasted my money seeing it.

When you say something is the greatest whatever in the world, how can you know that? Unless you have actually tasted, viewed, used, or played with every other thing of its class on planet earth and possibly beyond? I’m pretty sure vegans would not think that a soup made from mussels is the best in the world. I’m absolutely positive no one can ever prove anything is the best thing anywhere.

The best picture taken by me today of my napping Scotties

The best picture taken by me today of my napping Scotties

There are no absolutes which apply to everyone. There will never be a best camera because what you need in a camera is probably different from what I need. There’s no best food because tastes vary. There’s no best car because “best” is what I need now. In winter, the perfect convertible won’t be the best car in the world. In the summer, in the rain, it might not even be the best car in my garage, if I had a garage. But if I had a garage, I’m sure it would be the best.

The best selfie I've taken of me this month with this camera

The best selfie I’ve taken of me this month with this camera

So lets back up. How about we write about the things we like the most for the particular task or event or situation? How about we recognize that “best” is meaningless unless you narrow the context to mean “the best in this particular batch of stuff and under these particular circumstances.”

You may not love my best friend or wish you were married to my husband or want to snatch my dogs, but in my opinion, they are the best of the best. For me.

STOOPOLOGY

STOOP, Etymology


Originally brought to the Hudson Valley of New York by settlers from the Netherlands, this word is among the Dutch vocabulary that has survived there from colonial times until the present. Stoop, “a small porch”, comes from Dutch stoep (meaning: step, pronounced the same). The word is now in general use in the Northeastern United States and is spreading. 


Not a stoop. This would qualify as a portico

Not a stoop. This would qualify as a portico. Only one step and it’s recessed

Stoops are important. They offer opportunities for creative play, such as “stoop ball” which is a kind of handball, but you need a stoop. With steps. We used to use them as a kind of grandstand where guests could sit while we gave performances. We thought we were almost ready for Broadway. Not all reviewers agreed.

A stoop is a front porch for urbanites. You sit on the stoop to watch the street, meet and greet your neighbors, get some fresh (?) air. Catch up on the local news. Stoop sitting was an important thing when I was growing up and I’m betting it still is, if you live in a neighborhood in the city that’s not too snooty.

Rich people don’t sit on the stoop. More’s the pity. They’d understand the world a lot better if they did.

As the word “stoop” spreads, we will all be able to recognize one when we see it. It’s one of the first architectural features I look for when I’m trying to figure when a structure was built. In cities, most buildings originally had a stoop. When you see a door that is at or below street level, it usually means the original stoop has been buried by erosion, time, remodeling, sidewalk and street repairs, and so on.

It's a stoop, but it leads to a porch

It’s a stoop, but it leads to a porch

Urban streets tend to rise over the years. In older cities, sometimes the level of the street will actually be slightly higher than the door, requiring a dry well and/or drains to keep from flooding.

Stoops on Beacon Hill, Boston

Stoops on Beacon Hill, Boston

A stoop from the 1700s is still a stoop ... even though it's in Upton, Massachusetts rather than New York

A stoop from the 1700s is still a stoop … even though it’s in Upton, Massachusetts rather than New York

A perfect suburban stoop

A perfect suburban stoop

A stoop leading to the tiny post office in Manchaug

A stoop leading to the tiny post office in Manchaug

I can attest to the spread of the word stoop meaning the steps and landing between the sidewalk (or front walk) and the door. Because when i first came to Boston, only former New Yorkers (which comprise about 50% of everyone in Massachusetts) knew the word, but now everyone does. Probably because of that invasive pest species, refugees from New York.

To qualify as a stoop, it has to lead to the front or another main door. It doesn’t have to have a landing to be a stoop. The steps alone are enough.

The stoop should have from two to six steps. More than six steps is a whole flight of steps and a single step can’t be a stoop. If there’s more than a landing at the top, it also isn’t a stoop. If it’s bigger than a landing, the area is a porch, a veranda, a balcony … maybe even a deck. A proper stoop is just big enough to put down your bag of groceries while you dig around in your bag to find your keys.

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There were probably stoops on these doorways 100 years ago, but the city rose. You can also see how many times the building has been remodeled, brickwork changed, and so on. Buildings hold a lot of history

I would call this a stoop, but some would not because it leads to a side door, not the front

I would call this a stoop, but some would not because it leads to a side door, not the front

You now hold a graduate degree in stoopology. Congratulations!

BIRDS IN THE BUSHES

Through the years, the forsythia bushes that form the boundary between our back lawn and the woods have been the favorite hangout of the songbirds. I used to wonder why, but over time, I’ve more or less deduced that these bushes have a lot of edible material in them. They are dense enough so that the predatory residents of the woods can’t reach them. And maybe, it provides some shelter from the cold.

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Little bird in the thicket

Little bird in the thicket

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All of these were taken in winter from my window in the early hours of the morning when it was cold and usually, snowy. In the summer, I know they are there, but the leaves make them invisible. Which, I think, is the way they prefer it.