Saturday, November 30, 2013


since my annoyance with little miss thing of last week seems to resonate with some of you other old folk, here's a little tune you can hum to yourself while you sit in your rocking chair balancing your checkbook:

Friday, November 29, 2013

fun in the ER

ok, so last week i made an unexpected trip to the ER.

i've been having a good deal of abdominal pain, lower right quadrant. at some point i thought to ask the internet: where exactly is my appendix? should i call my doctor?

you know, because after four nights awake with it, i thought maybe it's irresponsible not to mention it to a medical professional.

at my doctor's office they said come in tomorrow.

and the nice doctor lady said she thought i had a hot appendix, so she sent me right up to the ER.

at the ER they thought maybe not appendix, maybe kidney.

either way they do a buncha tests, including a CT scan, because that will give a lot of information about a lot of things in a big fat hurry.

and they get me in the room with the machine and THAT'S when they tell me there's going to be an enema contrast.


who doesn't love a surprise enema?

and i'm already in pain and there's all that stuff about breathe now. hold your breath. breathe out.

and on top of all that i have to concentrate on not leaking the contrast fluid all over plus the minute they mention the enema portion of the evening, i suddenly feel like i'm going to be able to give that urine sample they'd asked for.

we have a short discussion about how it's pretty much standard not to mention enema contrast to patients until they get to radiology, except in the case of young men because the effect they're going for - one in which the patient is less worried and tense, and apparently in everyone except young men SURPRISE enemas accomplish this-

apparently in young men the technicians insist that male doctors do the informing about this next part of the program because there's a cultural thing about young men and things being inserted rectally.

my discomfort is offset somewhat by the amusing prospect of being able to say the words "surprise enema".

short version of the story: i have nothing 'splodey. no hot appendix, no giant tumor, no twisted ovary, a whole list of things it isn't.

i still have pain, though. i have to be careful if i sneeze.

the nice doctor ventures a theory that while i was out playing in the woods or something i probably pulled or stretched something and it got all inflamed and angry and it's not stopping its little tantrum. he suggests i take ibuprofen three times a day for two weeks, even if i don't feel i need it. his theory is that eventually the inflamed thingie (whatever it is) will disengage and i'll be back to normal.

in the meantime, i'm ok with discomfort. as my mother explained in the ER, a thing has to hurt pretty much bad for me to even notice. it would just, like, really SUCK to have a 'splodey appendix or a huge tumor or something that was maybe gonna kill me soon and with that off the table i can just get back to the normal stuff.

yeah, normal.

or reasonable facsimile thereof.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

one day's difference

i saw this out on the westford road, and then passing it the next day took a picture of it again.

days go on, seasons change, the idea remains.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

where i stopped reading

i subscribe to the listserve. if getting an email every day from a total stranger is interesting to you, you should also subscribe.

a few days ago we got a message that contained these lines:

I am an 18 year old NYC college student so perhaps I’m too young to be annoyed with society or maybe I’m the quintessential cynical age. For those of you reading who feel a young adult’s opinions are invalid (you’re an age-ist basically) feel free to stop reading and go deal with your more pressing adult matters (go balance your check book or something!). 

that's where i stopped reading.

it's the first listserve message i haven't bothered to read.

it's not because i think young people (and i do not draw the line at young adults) have nothing to say. children can have perfectly valid concerns and observations about the world we share.

but do you see what she did there? 

she gets two sentences in and already it's about who has valid voice and all us old people should go balance our checkbooks or something.

as if i ever balance my checkbook.

but she's made all us old people boring people who are automatically ageist unless we want to listen to her from her cranky little opening.

so i stopped reading.

she doesn't care, anyway.

but i can legally buy beer.

nyah, nyah.

i think i'll go rent a car and buy some craft beers or ask to see the wine list in a nice restaurant.

you know, because i CAN.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

hot stuff

so i was coming along notch road and i saw a big pile of trash or sumthin' and i stopped to have a look.

it was a lot of lab glass.

a LOT.

flasks florence, erlenmeyer, and buechner. retorts, funnels, and all manner of things pyrex that i couldn't begin to identify.

and it's clearly either a dump of stolen property OR it's a dump of stuff somebody was going to use for their drug lab.

maybe both.

because nobody loses a huge shipment of wrapped new-and-used lab glass offrum some rural road.

so i called the police. i figure that stuff is expensive and there's probably a high school chem lab or some other test facility that had to report a mess o' this stuff missing, else some enterprising young people thought the old sand pit would be an excellent location for their new drug lab.

the police did come out to look at it, and very nicely put up some caution tape, i guess on account of the broken glass hazard, but after a few weeks the stuff was still there.

i helped myself to some things. you know, because flasks.

at this point it's just so much abandoned litter and you might as well pick it up while it's still unbroken.

i gave a couple of flasks to my sister (who likes round glass things) for her birthday, but i was very disappointed nobody asked me where i had gotten them.

it would have been fun to say "i stole them from a crime scene!"

you know, optimal sourcing of birthday presents.

Monday, November 25, 2013

plain brown wrappers

a number of years ago i quit buying wrapping paper, mostly. sometimes i will buy a roll or two of black paper for use at christmas, but mostly i go with brown bags.

recently i went to dinner to celebrate the birthdays of my sister and my stepmother.

my stepmother got the one labeled "nearly respectable wrapping".

Sunday, November 24, 2013


between seasons at catamount they do two things: they rest the trails which helps curb erosion during mud season and stick season and they mark the new season's trails.

side note: in vermont we have six seasons: the four regular ones, and mud season and stick season. mud season is the time between snow melt and when the ground dries out between winter and spring, and stick season is the time between when the leaves fall down and when the snow comes.

at catamount the trails are closed during mud season and stick season, as well as for parts of spring and fall.

the winter trails are different than the summer trails, and the summer trails of one year are different than the summer trails of another year. 
of course, you can use all the same trails every year and just add the new cut, but the marked trails change seasonally which gives people some variety if they like to stick to what's marked.

wen you get right down to it, though, that means that in addition to preparing trails for summer or winter use, old arrows have to be pulled so new ones can be put up. someone has to walk each trail with a screw gun and a pack basket and bring in all the old ones.

sometimes that someone is me.

sometimes i kind of think that what i'm really best suited for is norwegian television, where long-running documentaries about firewood or knitting are extremely popular.

the trails are closed, but the trail designer gets to ride his spiffy fat-tire bike anyway. take a look at his back wheel and showy cutouts!

technically, they're meant to reduce the weight of that huge wheel, but they look cool.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

mountain road closed: so what?

the mountain road (vermont route 108) closed for the winter a couple of weeks ago.

one saturday morning recently i decided to park my car at the gate and walk up the road. i did not realize that a closed road equals an instant rec path.

hard to get a parking place.

have a look at the google map if you like.

if you'd like to see a cute little streetview player of this route in google maps, it's here. i really, really recommend looking at that because cool.

it was a crowded place. there were families out with kids, people walking dogs, people walking,
running, traveling by ski, snowshoe, snowboard, sled, snowmobile, people carrying rock climbing gear, and people on horseback.

apparently just because it's going to be a few months before we can  once again travel conveniently in our automobiles between stowe and jeff is no reason to be sad.

here's my full set of pictures:

Friday, November 22, 2013

apple forage

i know, i know.

i keep telling you all that i'm going to show you my forage bags with some of this year's apples, but i never do.

here are apples that i gathered along the forest road near somerset landing.

and here they are sorted. there's a BRIGHT RED apple, a red-orange-pink stripey apple, a yellow apple with hot pink spots, a yellow orange stripey apple, and a yellow-orange stripey apple with red spots.

they all taste different.

in my kitchen: apples, apple butter, apple bread pudding.

off to the far right? michelle bachmann.

no, seriously. it's pad thai. smarter and more practical.

apple bread pudding.

mmmmmm, pudding.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

free pumpkin!

ok, so i made this thing.

i needed recipes to use up pumpkin because halloween day i was driving down route two and at conant farm they were giving away the last of the season's pumpkins on the lawn for free.

now, you maybe see free pumpkins and think "decorations!" but i see free pumpkins and i see food.

so i found that recipe and pretty much made it.

when i say "pretty much", there are some differences in how it got executed in my house.

for starters, even though everyone tells you that for cooking you really want to use darlin' little sugar pumpkins and not field pumpkins.

that's all fine and dandy, but what i have to work with is one enormous misshapen FREE pumpkin.

free, as in "there's a few more dollars i'll have to spend on heat or something later on."

second thing and along the same lines: while i know onions are not interchangeable with shallots, they come close and i HAVE onions that i'd like to use before they go soft and shallots have to come from the grocery store.

so if i adjust the recipe, the only ingredient i have to buy special is the goat cheese.

and i know you are all dying to know: is it good?

why, yes.

yes it is.

it is very, very good.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

october road 2013

here are the photos.

hey, professor! could you turn off the lights?

let's roll the film.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

signs you're a hatwipe.

ok, so maybe you don't like diane feinstein.

maybe you think she's a dangerous and corrupt tool of the surveillance state.

i do.

but the second you include in your criticism words that are uniquely associated with women or comments on her appearance, you are being a sexist asshole. it's amazing how often you guys think it's ok to call some woman an ugly cow when you don't care for her politics, as if her failure to be sexually available and attractive to you is somehow part of her unsuitability for office.

you will notice, perhaps, that news stories about rob ford center around his crack-smoking and his blackout drinking and his threats to have people killed.  i have not yet heard him referred to a fat/old/ugly/cow, which is a criticism that usually gets tossed on the pile when we are talking about women.

because really, the greater crime is not bad behavior or bad politics. the greater crime is being a woman, and a woman who has bad behavior or bad politics is fair game for being evaluated in terms of her use as an object on which to fulfill men's sexual desires.

i have news for ya, pal: you're an asshat.

moving on to race: maybe you think the president is a lying mealymouthed two-faced scumbag of a corporate shill masquerading as a populist.

that wouldn't be an unreasonable criticism.

but the second you include in your criticism the hint that he is a shiftless watermelon-eating monkeyman you are a racist asshole.

maybe you just want to pile on as much invective as you can, but the fact that you think any woman's sexual attractiveness or availability is part of what you consider to be fair game informs the rest of us that this is really how you consider all women and that you are a sexist asshat to be avoided.

likewise when you are discussing criminal behaviors and you just HAPPEN to mention that the actor in the case is black, because obviously there's a causality.

out here we notice that you are never without your dog whistle. we hear your feeble little aggression and we are not amused. and not only will i not be kind to you, but history will not be kind to you, either. you are a relic of a bygone era already.

i would like to invite you to catch up to the 20th century.

the 21st seems like too much of a stretch for you.

Monday, November 18, 2013

down the reservoir road

i wanted to make some kind of photo tour of a trip down somerset road so i went up just at sunrise and started taking pictures all the way down of the structures on the road, with the exception of the buildings and fenced-in structures on the underside of the dam.

i like to imagine the lives of the buildings along the road; some of them are year-round residences, some are fixer-uppers, some hunting camps or fishing camps or just a family's summer residence. you can sort of tell which ones will be occupied only as a deer camp and which ones will host whole families, extended family, and friends in their seasons.

they are all off the grid. there's no city water, no city sewage, and the electricity made along the river does not come back up here on lines.

the morning i was taking pictures along the road the owner of this house came out to ask me what i was doing. "taking pictures of all the buildings down the road, as sort of a photo essay".

he wanted to know where i was from, and he seemed to be satisfied that i'm from west bolton, and the unsaid conversation that passed between us was that while i was an outsider to this place, i had a proper understanding of small hilltowns and i was acceptable even if i am from chittenden county.

he told me that he is in the process of ripping off the siding and reinsulating the whole house and installing solar panels, because it's an old house and it costs a bundle to heat. he was in the process of pouring concrete pads for the panels behind the house and he took no small pride in telling me he was doing all the work himself.

then he said he had to drive his granddaughter to school and wished me a happy day. i wished him  good luck with his work and good weather for it, and i went on down the road.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

roberts cemetery

there isn't a lot to say about this backroad hill cemetery, because there aren't that many of the stones that can still be read.

here are two stones that crumbled away long ago, probably someone in the town office has a record of who he is. he's been dead a long time but somebody still keeps a flower planted on his grave.

and i looked up david tottingham to find out maybe where he came from and why he is here, but he remains a mystery.

david tottingham
oct. 11, 1831:
aged 76 years.

how strang. o; god, who reigns on high
that i should come so far to die,
and leave my friends, where i was bred
to lay my bones with strangers dead
till i do hope when i arise
to dwell with them up in the skies.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

davidson cemetery and down the rabbit hole

sometime last month i was in the davidson cemetery in whitingham, vermnot.

if you've been following my story you know that i am often in old cemeteries and i often come home and look up what i can about the people buried there because, you know, history. remembrance.

here are some of the shumways.

i say "some", because here is amasa shumway's stone with mary and betsey, his third and fourth wives.

by my awesome powers of deduction i know that somewhere there are two other wives.

if you look this guy up, though, there's a lot of information that tells you less about him and more about the founding of the state of vermont and life in this place at that time.

he was  a soldier in the revlutionary war and as such entitled to some land grants. he spent a lot of time, apparently, petitioning the newly-fledged united states government on behalf of himself and other settlers for land in the whitingham grant, which in itself took a lot of petitioning from the king of england and came up against some claims by the then governor of new hampshire, benning wentworth, who has been described by some as a greedy land-grabber.

no doubt.

there's a very long read about it in the cornell university library, which you can find in its glorious entirety online. it carries the unassuming title of "some facts about the early history of whitingham, vermont", but it begins with the precious sentence "COLUMBUS discovered some islands
of America in 1492
." and goes on to explain briefly the decision by the pope to divide lands in the new world between spain and portugal. eventually it is revealed that

"Vermont at this time was an unknown wilderness, inhabited by savage beasts and still more savage Indians, except a fort or two had previously been builded, and a small settlement around each in the southeast part of the state, then supposed to be in Massachusetts, and along some streams, lakes and ponds where wild grass grew."

you get that? "still more savage indians? the author has just completely glossed over the whole concept of terra nullius, or vacant land. you know, because. savages.

after a while the tone settles down mostly and the author begins to present the record of grants, letters, and meeting minutes, along with some hearsay regarding documents that used to exist, but were lost in a fire.

there is an interesting item from 1780 in which amasa shumway and nineteen other men took the freemen's oath.

it's an interesting item to me because i have taken the freemen's oath, and my parents had to make a special trip to an eccentric local justice of the peace in the 70's to take the freemen's oath, which was of great amusement to them because apparently in new jersey where my parents are from, you don't have to show up before a justice to take the oath before you register to vote.

see, in the state of vermont we all have to take the freeman's oath in order to vote. women have been permitted to vote in vermont since 1920, but the oath was still called the freemen's oath right up until 2002.

so yay, women's suffrage!

but i was just talking about a visit to a cemetery, right?

yeah. i get like that.

here's the headstone of mr. isaac chase, whose inscription is notable:

isaac chase
30 march 1825
in the 51st year of his age.

ninety-six hours before his death, he was seized
with an inflammation on the lungs, he bore his
disstress with christian fortitude, and seemed to
be humble resignd to the will of god, leaving a
wife and six children soon to follow him.

there's a lot i want to ask about this. "seemed to be humle resignd"?  politeness of phrase? hinting at what seems against what is? rage with the no-good son-of-a-gun for leaving the widow and children who will DOUBTLESS DIE SOON WITHOUT HIM?

it may be noted that his wife susannah did not follow him immediately into death and that his daughter lucy lived a handful of years past, as well.

there are a truckload of isaac chases in this area of the world in the early history of vermont; there are at least two in this cemetery alone.

this isaac chase s one of the first settlers of whitingham. the isaac chase buried a couple of rows back (visible in frame as the leaning headstone behind and to the left) is almost certainly a relation.

it is not clear to me if these isaac chases are completely unrelated to the isaac chases of stratton (well-known baptist folk) or the mormon isaac chase who lived in central new york but was close to brigham young, who is from HERE.

let's just say there's a very high density of isaac chases in specific, and chases in general.

Friday, November 15, 2013

road diary october 2013 part 2

i don't have the pictures all organized yet, but if you want to read the geocaching logs, you can start here.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

maps in winter

well, it's winter here. for the past three days it has been snowing some for part of every day. smuggler's notch (the road)  is closed for the season, but smuggler's notch (the ski resort) won't open for skiing until november 29th, they think.

vtrans has a cool map of all the state road information here, so if you need to know about vermont road information or you just like, maps, you should go look at it.

otherwise if you like etymology and maps, there's this, and if you have a LOT of time to kill and you would like to plan your travel in ancient rome, there's this.

and if you're a big fan of rocks (and who isn't?) the vermont geological survey has a collection of maps and they are so juicy that i got lost in there one morning last week because it's really, really important to know whether those slates you were looking at were part of the gile mountain formation or the waits river formation.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

captain's log: supplemental

go there. sign up to watch.

varying degrees of unwelcome

out in the national forest, private landowners coexist with users of public land.

most of us are polite passers-by and realize that just because someone has a home or a camp in the national forest does not make it public property nor a public recreation area.

but besides the occasional bozo who will decide to camp on your lawn because it's convenient, people out there also have to deal with agents from companies who want to use the land for mineral rights, logging rights, fracking exploration, hydro projects, or wind farms.

many of the landowners are less than deeee-lighted at this intrusion into their land and property rights.

or if they welcome, say, the wind project or the fracking exploration, they maybe are sick of having activists against it come knocking on their door.

if these people wanted a bunch of visitors, they'd live IN TOWN and not all the honk out in the national forest and so far off the grid, you know? i think setting up your household so far out of the middle of nowhere that you have to drive a half hour to get to the middle of nowhere is a pretty good signal that you would like to be left alone, mostly.

the people in those houses have a variety of signs to indicate this, and they vary in tone along a continuum of exasperation. here are two of my favorites.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

number freaks

hey, all you number freaks!

today is 11/12/13 if you're in one of those countries with the silly month/day/year format that nearly nobody uses but you're emotionally attached to or jus or just 'murica, yeah.


i am conversant in both date formats and also don't pitch a hissy fit if you write "honour" or "colour" or "programme".

but any excuse for a festival, eh? today is a good reason to read dates in m/d/y format, because 11/12/13!!!

hello! how cool is that?

so today i am going to celebrate by making bread pudding - ok, i make a lot of bread pudding anyway this time of year, plus it is one of my favorite things to have for second breakfast.

yes, i eat second breakfast in my house. it has nothing to do with hobbits and everything to do with having eaten a light first breakfast at around 0400, so i simply do not last until noon without an intermediary meal.

anyway, i'm going to make bread pudding.

and then later i am going to make coconut rice pudding with mango, because i have a ripe mango.

i loves me some pudding.

so THAT'S what i'm doing to celebrate 11/12/13, and i will be making my official observance at 14:15, because.

11/12/13 14:15

i may die from delight.

you'll get another chance next year on 12/13/14, but after that you're done for another 987 years.

so make the best of it.

let's blow things up!

i love new hampshire. really, i do. i have no idea why prostitution and heroin aren't legal in new hampshire.

when you're on the bratlleboro road in hinsdale new hampshire, it is very hard not to notice the FIREWORKS STORES!!!!!

because COME BUY FIREWORKES IN NEW HAMPSHIRE and we don't ask you if you're taking them back to your state where they're not legal.

see, now, i love fireworks. i even like 'splosions. i just don't like the way "consumer" fireworks are handled and marketed.

"lighting up backyards of america from coast to coast"? how, bout "bringing drunk guys into emergency rooms near you"? or "you didn't need those fingers, anyway"?

one company is even advertising right now that backyard fireworks "honors our military".

yeah, because the thing you neighbor who's home from the wars really wants is an evening of explosions and the smell of gunpowder over his garden. you know, because that makes him feel relaxed and comfortable and you getting drunk and setting off a bunch of explosive things in bright packages with names like "auburn touchdown","delirium", or "call the law" bring a tear to his eye with the depth of your caring and respect for his service.

so don't work toward improving veterans' benefits or anything. honor the military by buying consumer fireworks and setting them off at home.

because honor.

and penises.

really. have you LOOKED at some of that packaging?

none of that packaging is about cool chrysanthemum shells or the purity of the color of the display or the many awesome things that combine to make a really first-rate firework.

that packaging is all somehow made to make the purchaser think of manhood. james bond. football. gangsta life. apaches.

yep, there's a firework called "apache firedance".

me, i just go here.

Monday, November 11, 2013

on the fort hill branch rail trail

last month i did some geocaching in new hampshire, and rode and couple of rail trails over there.

often when you cache in this fashion you are stopping every 550 feet on average, so while you don't go anywhere fast, if you take pictures along the way every time you stop you get a really nice portrait of the rail trail.

so here's my slideshow of the fort hill branch rail trail in hinsdale, NH.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

open letter to that boy who asked me on a date back in 1980

dear boy who asked me out on a date in 1980,

i know you went to the trouble of asking me out and everything and i don't know if you'd actually bought tickets to a concert by a band i'd actually heard of or if you were just going to buy them, but pretty soon after i said i'd go i called you and said i wasn't going to.

i don't know if you were heartbroken or not.

from where i'm sitting now i know that probably it was no small thing for you to call and ask me on that date, in terms of resources and courage.

and vulnerability!

i didn't break the date because i liked someone better. i didn't break it because you weren't cool enough.

i broke it because i was flat-out terrified.

going on a real date with a real boy who has purchased real tickets for something is kind of a big deal the first time you do it and it's not like a school dance, not even a fancy school dance and it's not like the sort of date where a boy takes you to a thing that a group of your friends might have gone to anyway.

i was so scared because it was so foreign that i totally did not know what to do and THAT'S why i cancelled.

i do not know if this makes a difference to you, but to this day i still have not gone on the kind of date where someone who wants to get to know you better calls you up and says "i have tickets to a thing- will you go with me?"

i think our paths have crossed since then; i think i did not recognize you when i saw you more recently, which i would like to blame on brain damage.

you have a wife and kids as old as we were then and you have a house a few towns over from where i live and we have friends in common, so i guess you turned out ok.

i'm sorry about that date. i hope someday it will come up in conversation and i'll get to tell you that it was because i was scared and not because you weren't cool enough. the 1980 version of you would probably appreciate knowing.


Saturday, November 09, 2013

a trip to the vault

i am not telling you the name of this geocache, nor where it is.

it's been around for a long enough time that if you're really looking for the solution, you can find it. likewise if you really really want to know where this is you can go all stalkery on me and figure out which one i'm talking about, but if you're reading my blog looking for geocache spoilers, this probably isn't the easiest way to do it.

but this is so cool i want to show you this.

if for some reason, dear reader, you are a geocacher, you may want to look away now rather than see a spoiler about a cache you might someday visit.

otherwise, roll film.

Friday, November 08, 2013

horse chestnuts and pears

one morning out in the hector national forest (which is on the maps as the "finger lakes national forest", but the locals all seem to call the "hector national forest")-

-and i was on one o' them roads that don't go through.  on the corner where i was there were horse chestnut trees and a pear tree.

horse chestnuts are wildly interesting to look at, and the nuts themselves are very pretty. they look like you should be able to eat them, but they contain alkaloid saponins and they will make you sick. they will also make your horse sick if he eats them, so i don't know why they get called horse chestnuts.

but pears are good to eat, and there were ripe pears on the tree and on the ground, so i picked up some o' them, making a mental note to come back and see if there were any left when i got ready to come home.

happily on the day i left there to come back home there were indeed a whole buncha pears lying around and i did gather them and i brought them home and made jam with them, along with an apple-pearsauce.

you know, because i'm into foraged foods. every so often a thing i like becomes trendy and popular. for a while it was stylish to say you were into a thing before it was popular, but that's not popular anymore.

anyway, i have come to know a fair amount about apples and feral apples in particular. on any given autumn day i usually have a pile of apples waiting to be peeled for something or an empty forage bag and an apple tree in mind.

but i don't know much about pears. i'd always thought of them like, you know, a different sort of apple?

well, it turns out that pears are their own thing. who knew?

i went to look up the differences between apples and pears and the first thing i learned was that the phrase "comparing apples to pears" exists and is equivalent to "comparing apples and oranges".

the second thing i learned is that when you google "pear", the first things that come up in the search are about pears, but when you google "apple" you have to specify "fruit" else you get pages and pages about ipods and iphones and ipads.

i can't say i've always known that apples properly belong to the rose family, but i don't remember a time that i didn't know it so let's just say always, ok? given that i never really considered pears as something not apple-like, it's not really a surprise to me that pears also belong to the rose family.

and while i was looking up what kind of pear that i picked up (probably a bartlett pear, because there just don't seem to be as many wildly divergent varieties of pear as there are apples) i learned that avocados belong to the laurel family along with cinnamon and sassafrass.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

international susan youens day


i know, i know, you've had your decorations up for weeks in anticipation of the most awesome holiday on the calendar: INTERNATIONAL SUSAN YOUENS DAY!

it's here, it's here, everybody, so let the festivities begin! you may now put on small impromptu performances of music of any era or instrumentation. you may now go out and explain something about which you are passionate to people you barely know. most importantly, you should drink several cups of very fine coffee, light and sweet. eat some chocolate. read some books.

ok, ok. let's get serious for a moment. you want to know who susan youens is? she's a lot of things, but the things she is best known for is that she is one of the world's foremost schubert scholars, and she is a professor of music.

if you've been paying attention to my story and you care to scrutinize susan's resume, you will be able to guess fairly easily that i crossed paths with her during the time she was teaching at ithaca college.

it's hard to speak of her talents as a group because aside from the way that undergrads can be star-struck, susan is the kind of person who, if she had been shortlisted for nomination to the supreme court, if you met her at a party and you asked what she did for a living, she might vaguely refer to "working in the courts" and change the subject.

you know that before my retirement i was a teacher. what is invisible to you is how much of my teaching was influenced by susan's example.

she wasn't the one who taught me that any one particular discipline is just another lens through which we can look at and gain understanding of our world and the events that shape it and the patterns that govern ALL OF CREATION.

no, i sort of figured that out by myself.

but until i fell into susan's classroom, i had not realized that you could teach history without being overly concerned about memorizing strings of dates and be instead more concerned with learning the organization of the trends and relations of the people and their stories and sequences of events.

she was teaching the BIG PICTURE by connecting the dots and also by coloring it in a little and then handing us the crayons. i had never seen a teacher so in love with why a thing was so awesomely cool, which ostensibly is why teachers go into the business anyway: to light that same fire under students, to get them to look at historical events or molecules or mathematical progressions and realize it is amazing and worth knowing about.

her example to me  had another aspect: we wanted to do well for her. we wanted to do well for her because she showed us that she believed we would do well. if she gave a review session, she stayed for as many hours as we had questions. she was demanding in her expectations of us, but at the same time flexible in her requirements, as if treating us each like whole people trying our best might actually draw our best work out of us.

i know it worked for me.

so that's worth celebrating. it's worth celebrating susan's work and it's worth celebrating susan herself and it's worth celebrating the work of transformative teachers.

on a smaller level, it is worth celebrating the small delights susan and her work brought into my life both directly and indirectly.

and it makes be giggle to think of the bemused expression that probably plays on susan's face when she reads, every year, the words "international susan youens day" because it is as full of silliness and light as it is of honor and gratitude.

so this is what i'm going to recommend to you, dear reader: find in your memory one of those important people who caused your life to be better. declare it to be the international holiday in celebration of them and send them a card for it, even though you maybe haven't seen them in thirty years.

i never cared for coffee until i found myself in susan's first class of the day one semester and sat in the front row, watching her drink cup after cup of it. i could smell her thermos from where i was sitting, and to this day i cannot smell coffee without being reminded of it.

there is a strand of culture that tells you if you are a real coffee drinker you must take your coffee black and strong. susan drinks very fine coffee, light and sweet.

there's a metaphor in there.

go get yourself a cup of coffee. really good coffee.

drink it however you like it best.

happy international susan youens day.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

spoiler alert

if you are a geocacher and you would not like to read any spoilers about a certain well-known puzzle cache in central new york, you should not read this post.

i would like to tell the story so it's not spoilery, but there's no way to tell you anything about this without giving WAY TOO much away, so i'm just going to tell the story.

then again, if you're here reading through my blog to try to find clues to this cache, you are doing WAY MORE WORK than you need to.

there's my disclaimer.

ok, so it was a nice afternoon and i'd spent my morning at the enfield harvest festival and i needed something to do for the afternoon and i thought: why not drive out to veteran and have a look at that puzzle cache?

i have only been beating my head against it since the previous MAY.  double spoiler: because nearly nobody who reads this blog is a geocacher, i'm going to link you to the cache and you can look it up if you want.

right, ok. you know where to look for it now, right?

five months.

five months i worked on that thing. i got nowhere. and i kept looking at that hint and thinking: so what? why do i care what honkin' time he put up a hint? it;s not like i'm in a rush to be the first one there or anything and it's a little late for people to be gloating about when they find it. this thing has been out for a while. it is famous.

but then all of a sudden i thought: wait a minute. there's no 1340 AM on the clock, but there is one on the radio dial. and i am coming up SO COMPLETELY BLANK that i think i will just drive out there and see what i can find.

so i get to the intersection and it looks totally useless. there's a house on one corner, a house a little down from another corner, and a town garage.

but LOOK! there's a little yellow cabinet where (presumably) the people from that house over there are selling honey from!

and i am out of honey at home! and i stop and i look at the cabinet and i'm like, hey, wait... that honey cabinet has coordinates printed on the side.

so now i'm excited. i tune my radio to 1340 and i hear ...something... it's staticky but there's something weird. so i drive all over that intersection, parking in all the available spots, trying to get the best reception.

and this is what i hear:

ok, so now all the little hairs on the back of my neck are standing up, because THIS IS A BIG DEAL.

i still do not, however, have the information i need to turn this into anything i can use to find the cache.

so i go over to the little cabinet because 1) there might be more clues and 2) i need honey.

and i open it up and it SO amazing!

because it is beautiful. and the honey is at a good price. and beautifully laid out.

and there's that thingy with the combination lock. is that the cash box only, or part of a puzzle?

and that thing? that is definitely a surveillance camera.

creeeeeepy. spy stuff, beautiful workmanship, and honey. i go to my car and i get my clipboard. i write on it:


and i hold it up in front of the camera. i put five dollars in the slot and i pick a jar of honey. but which one to take?

so i finally make up my mind and stow the jar in my bags and i'm standing there taking pictures of the beautiful garden and the beehives when a lady comes out of the hedgerow by the house and asks if i need help.

what i have not realized is that every time i have opened and shut the door of the little cabinet, an alarm has been going off in the house and with all mu poking around and picture taking that alarm is going off WAY more than the average honey purchase.

so i tell her who i am and exactly what i'm doing there and we make some lovely chitchat about geocaches and bees and things and she's about to give me a hint to help me find the cache because i CLEARLY have not gathered enough information to know where it is yet and i tell her, "no, no! just tell me where the nearest public library is!"

so i go into horseheads (which is kind of a famous town in my personal mythology) and i get a spot at the library computers and FINALLY i am able to figure out what i need to only i write down the numbers wrong and after a lot of flailing about mrs. cache hider sees me still out on the corner and comes over with her smartphone and the cache page loaded up and i realize my mistake but even with the proper coordinates i still don't find the cache and have to come back another day.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

averell cemetery

every vermont schoolchild knows that the vermont republic was founded in 1777. it was not one of the original colonies, but it was claimed variously by england, france, new hampshire, and new york.  the iroquois and abenaki people who lived here prior to european settlement probably also felt they had some sort of claim on it as well.

you know, just probably.

but early vermonters were frontiersman. they were patriots, abolitionists, smugglers, and independent thinkers.

in southern vermont the main settlements were at bennington and brattleboro, near main roads and navigable rivers. between the two were mountains, but about halfway across the mountains is the deerfield river valley, and that valley up there is where wilmington is.

it's sort of a town between things, and back when it was a big deal to get from bennington to brattleboro or from vermont down into massachusetts, you really NEEDED that stopover and a town flourished.

the old cemeteries in southern vermont are full of the pioneers of that early statehood, and the averell cemetery in wilmington is particularly interesting.

while it has the usual headstones in the style of the day, it has a higher percentage than usual of people who are called on their headstones "mr." or "mrs.", titles that in the day were used to denote social position but are usually left off of headstones.

apparently poetry was all the rage in wilmington as well, because while new england headstones often contain a few lines of verse, usually they are the same lines of verse from place to place. in wilmington, however, there is a great deal of lesser-known verse and also some very distinctive fonts and ornaments.

i am guessing that either there was a fair amount of wealth in town or the local stonecarver worked for cheap.

maybe a little of each.

i like these headstones; they give information about the people and who they were and how they wished to be remembered.

in memory (of)
jesse cook e(squire)
who died febr(uary)
ye 13th 1790
in ye 49th year
of his age

when this my grave you do stand
remember you must also die
for death's a deat to nature due
which i have paid & so must you

in memory of
mr. george fox
who died may 23d
1797 in the 27th
year of his age.

gad alvord
mass. mil
rev. war

in memory of
rev alvan tobey
who, having faithfully
discharged the office of
pastor to the chh in this
place for 7 years, ceased
from his labours. oct. 18th
1810 in the midts of
increasing esteem
and usefulness
aged 32.
remember them who have
spoken unto you the word
of god whose faith follow
considering the end of
their conversation.

in memory of
mrs. sally smith,
wife of
reverend marcus smith
who died april 16th
1822 in the 27th year
of her age.

tell horace it is a pleasant thing to die.
              her last words.

item from boston recorder, 1822: Died, at Wilmington, Vt., Mrs. Sally Smith, wife of Rev. 
Marcus Smith, in 27th year of age. (Her husband absent 
preaching at Rensselaerville, N.Y., expecting to return in a 
few weeks and take her to R. Left infant son.

detail of typo.

stone carvers had it rough.

in memory of
mr. amos morse who died
february the 12th AD 1824
aged 46 ys
this man has ceast
he speaks no more
his troubles are past
his fears are ore
then speak no ill
ye men of spite
for god's a god
that judgeth right.

in memory of
mrs. damaris miles formerly
wife of mr. john upham~
who dies november the 10th
AD 1821 (aged (illegible) years &)
((illegible) months)

friends and physicians
could not save
my mortal body
from the grave
nor can the grave
confine me here
when christ shall call me
to appear

daniel doherty
born in
richibucto kent co. n.b.
died in wilmington vt.
oct. 27, 1900
ae. 38.

tax records suggest that even though mr. doherty has been gone over a hundred years, he has at least one living descendant in wilmington, which is probably who comes to keep his lantern lit and his fishing pole handy.

Monday, November 04, 2013


a long time ago someone i know wanted me to proofread a draft of a new children's book she hoped to publish. she described herself as "ecliptic".

"i think you mean "eclectic", i said.
"no, ecliptic. like clipping things from different places."
"'eclectic' would be a better fit. 'ecliptic' is a word that refers to the path the sun takes across the sky."

she would not be dissuaded.

it is hard for me not to think of this conversation when i think of this word, or when there is an eclipse.

yesterday morning there was an eclipse. it was supposed to have been a big thing because if you were standing in the right place at the right time, you would get to see the super-rare occurrence of an eclipse that starts annular, goes total, and finishes annular.

of course the most awesomest place to be standing for this would have been equatorial africa.

as it was where i live, the best of the eclipse was to have happened at sunrise.

that would be no biggie for me, as i am in the habit now of waking between 0400 and 0500, but there's a little thing about the topography of my home: i live pretty close to downtown west bolton vermont (go ahead and google it) and it is pretty much right where the spine of the green mountains rises up suddenly.

on one side of my road it's flat wetland and generally a downhill slope toward the champlain valley but on the other side of the road -whoosh!- the mountain goes right on up.

it is very dramatic.

now is probably a good time to remind you all that i keep a gallery of pictures of the view from my desk. it is just what it says it is: pictures of the view out the window by my desk.

yes, it is very pretty. i can't take credit for that.

anyway, that very dramatic change in elevation directly to the east of my house means that at no matter what time commonly accepted civil sunrise is supposed to occur here, ACTUAL sunrise can happen here an hour and a half later because my horizon is so close to me and so far above me.

so in order for me to see some of that eclipse, i had to go somewhere with a view east and a low horizon.

that's not all that easy to do unless you want to do something strenuous like walk up to the top of camel's hump or something.

and here's the kicker: the weather forecast was for a sky partly cloudy. technically this means there might be some clouds. in reality this means the sky will be clear except for that place where a solar eclipse is happening. there will be a big cloud there.

but i went out anyway, in case i could see part of it at some point.

i'm going to pause here and remind you that you should not stare directly into the sun. that will totally burn your retinas and you will go blind. most of the time you CAN'T stare directly into the sun because the light in the visible range of the spectrum makes it hurt way too much, plus your pupils contract and restrict the amount of light going in. during an eclipse, however, there's less visible light so your pupils stay wide open to let in all those burny wavelengths and that would be bad.

so you should only look at an eclipse through special protective lenses or through a projection viewer. in terms of protective lenses, your sunglasses are not good enough. a welder's helmet will be fine. there's a specific rating of protection you should look for, and if you're going to go that way, you should look it up.

me, i have a cute little pinhole viewer.

so it's six-thirty in the morning and i'm standing on a hill in duxbury vermont at thirty-four degrees looking plaintively into a strip of clouds behind which the sun is supposedly in a VERY COOL ECLIPSE.

but then when the eclipse is nearly over, the sun POPS out from behind the cloud and i get to see a little of it. i took a picture of the inside of my pinhole viewer and sadly even though i could clearly see the disc of the sun with the little chunk bitten out, it is difficult to focus my camera on the inside of the little viewer with sufficient detail for you to see what it looked like to me.

it's possible to mess with it in manual mode but you have to spend a lot of time getting the focus just right while also lining up the tiny pinhole with the sun and the camera with the viewing hole in the box and quite frankly i prefer to spend that two minutes looking at the thing i came to see instead of desperately trying to adjust my camera focus to the last perfect millimeter while juggling a shoebox.

so. here's  a pretty good view of the inside of my viewer. you'll have to take my word for it that when your EYE is stuck up against the hole, you can make out the tiny little eclipse image pretty well.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

stonework at treman state park

there's a guy i know through his blog and he's got a project about ccc works in parks and he put out a call for photos of the stonework in watkins glen state park which is a park from which i happen to have a truckload of photos.

but then i was recently in ithaca and i thought: hey, i should go over to treman and take pictures of the ccc work there so stan can see that!

so i did.

but right at the upper entrance there's an old mill which is now a museum and i hung out there and i was looking for any information i could get on the ccc work and then in the last room...

...a whole big display on the enfield ccc camp! because it was one of the big ones! and based RIGHT HERE!

so i studied that and then i went out on the trails and took a lot of pictures of the stonework and stuff and even a video of the walk around lucifer falls, because while still pictures are nice, you don't get such a great idea of the HUGE-itude of the stairs unless you see them in motion.

that's you in motion, not the stairs. the stairs do not move, except when being damaged by wear and erosion.

here's a map of the park trails.

if you would like to see my whole photo set on flickr, it's here.

here's the video of my walk through the stonework from the place where the gorge trail is closed down to the creek and then up the cliff staircase.  i tried to get the walk up the cliff staircase in one take and on the five minutes of memory space i had left on my camera, but i couldn't do it.

i was making good enough time, but i got to the last turn - the LAST TURN!- and i thought my heart was gonna 'splode so i rested a few minutes before going up.

roll film.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

harringtons in south burlington

back in july i went to the shelburne road cemetery in south burlington vermont to look up and photograph the headstone of hiram h. harrington.

i grew up a couple of miles from that cemetery, but back in my day you could see the cemetery from shelburne road. there was wasteland on both sides of it, and it was dark and overgrown and spooky.

today it is hidden behind a hedge, surrounded on all sides by shopping plazas and car dealerships and the curb cut is barely visible and it's just out
of range of any of the turn lanes, so you better drive lively.

i had a hard time finding it.

but it is pleasant and green inside, a quiet place hidden back there. i had a little lunch and i got down to the work of finding not just hiram harrington, but every harrington buried under a marked stone in that cemetery.

it's taken me a while, but i have sorted them out and made a diagram of where they are and (mostly) deciphered the inscriptions.

there's one obvious row of harringtons. the rest you have to walk around to find.

there are two hiram h. harringtons:

hiram h. harrington
july 16th, 1889
aged 48 years

hiram h. harrington
oct. 15, 1879
ae 75 yrs

there is a broken headstone next to this older hiram. the top reads

rhoda (unclear)

and if you turn over the middle section on the ground, you can see she is the wife of hiram h. harrington.

this is a little odd because there is a second stone next to this, also marked rhoda, wife of hairam h. harrington. the two stones have the same dates.

if you'd like to view the whole set on flickr, it is here.

and the diagram of the locations of the stones is in a googledoc here.


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