I'm Back

I'm sorry to have left this space in limbo for so long.  I am going to try to rectify that. As I approach retirement I hope to keep myself busy with more writing.  There is nothing like practice.  More soon.

January 12, 2012 in B is for..., Personal | Permalink | Comments (0)


When ML & I moved to the country 13 years ago I acquired the task of keeping about 4.5 acres mowed.  To call those acres a lawn would be overstating the case, but there is a certain amount of grass in the mix. 


Anyway, after the first year with an 18 inch walk-behind mower, I purchased a Honda lawn tractor to handle the job.   It's been a trouper, but this year, after 12 years of abuse, the Honda made it perfectly clear it was ready to retire.


The hardest part of mowing for me has always been maneuvering around the numerous trees, rocks, shrubs and flower beds that dot our property.  So I have been intrigued by the zero turn radius mowers.  Well, I don't have much time for shopping at this time of year, so I just bought what looked like a really solid machine with a Honda engine (they always seem to run well).  It's made by Hustler and called a "Fastrak Mini-Z".  All I can say is, I had no idea what I was missing.


The first time I mowed I found the controls to be  a little squirrelly, and I managed to drive it into a bog, from which  ML and I took half an hour and a load of muddy laundry to extract it.  I was a little discouraged.  But now I've had a couple of more session, and I am completely wowed.  This thing not only turns in zero radius but does so with zero effort.  Moreover, it mows at about twice the speed on the old tractor.  Bottom line - I can do my mowing in about half the time with virtually no effort.

May 23, 2006 in Personal | Permalink | Comments (1)


"She's white now," my mother said. 

I had just shown her this picture.


"Do you recognize her?" I'd asked. 

"Yes, it's Cadenza."  A C&C 39.  She and my father had had her built and launched in 1975. In the 70s and 80s, they sailed her thousands of miles around Maine and from Newfoundland to Bermuda and the Bahamas.

"She's always been white," I said.

"Didn't she used to be black?"

As far as I know my parents never owned a black boat.  My father used to quote L. Francis Herreshoff as having said, "there are only two colors to paint a boat - white and black - and only a damn fool would paint his boat black."

"No, she was never black," I said.

August 29, 2005 in C is for..., Personal | Permalink | Comments (0)

C is for Cat

Let me be perfectly clear - I am not a cat person.  I wouldn't say I hate cats, but I am not particularly fond of them.  If cats can sense at all this distaste of mine, they have a funny way of showing it; usually they will pick my lap out of a group of stranger's laps to leap, purring, upon.  Cat people have suggested to me that this shows the cat's wonderful sense of irony.  To me it's another example either of their stupidity, their disdain for humans, or both. 

People who love cats seem to me to have a not too subtle masochistic streak or inferiority complex.  They love to be disdained and disobeyed.  Dog people prefer to be revered, even worshiped by our, I mean their, pets.  Sure, one might make the argument that dog people have a little bit of a God complex, but , hey, don't the enlightened tell us that God is within each of us.  Cats certainly believe so.

There were no pets to speak of in the home of my youth, neither cats nor dogs.  My first experience living with cats probably had an influence on my subsequent regard for the creatures.  The summer after my senior year in college, I arranged to live in a house with seven women.  If images of a three month idyll of sexual dalliances occurred to you when you read that last sentence, let me tell you we were both wrong.  My role in this harem was closer to eunuch than sultan.  I was relegated to the worst room in the place, a glorified broom closet right next to the only bathroom in the house, without a real bed - just a mattress on the floor.  I had thought my college roommates were slobs, but these women put them to shame.  They did have the miraculous ability to emerge from bomb craters they inhabited perfectly put together, but when it came to any communal cleaning chore, it was pretty much up to me.

Our Cambridge neighborhood

Fortunately, I didn't really have time to feel regret for my lack of success with these women.  It was the summer of '69, and I was chiefly concerned about the Draft.  My student deferment had expired, and I had no intention of getting drafted or serving in the military in any capacity, but I hadn't the courage of my convictions to run away to Canada, and I wasn't sure that fear of death was an adequate foundation for conscientious objector status.

I was pinning my hopes for a deferment on Digital Equipment Corporation which had tentatively offered me a job and promised a deferment as part of the deal.  To keep them happy, I was spending the summer programming interrupt routines for the time-share operating system for a new PDP 9t that was being installed in a laboratory on the 13th floor of the psychology department building. (Those were the days when the customer supplied all the programs including the operating system, which in this case wasn't surprising, because they were inventing the PDP 9t as they went along.)  I was not really doing much of anything, but, wanting to impress the Digital reps, I had to spend most of my waking hours in my office, polishing little snippets of machine code.

Meanwhile, one of my roommates decided to acquire a couple of cute little kittens to entertain herself when she wasn't hanging with her (to hear him tell it) mobbed-up boyfriend.   She was not however of the mood or temperament to exercise any responsibility for these animals.  She did set up a litter box for them, hoping that somehow or other they would intuit its purpose.  Perhaps they did use it for a while, but cleaning it was not on their owner's agenda.  The kittens quickly decided that they wanted no part of no stinkin' litter box and started searching for other corners of the house to do their business. 

The housemates sophisticated response to this behavior was aversion therapy - when a kitten makes a 'mistake', shove its face in it and swat it (the cat, not the mistake) with a newspaper.  The kittens quickly figured that the best way to avoid this unpleasantness was to do their business in a place no human could get to.  The perfect spot was underneath the old claw-footed bathtub that graced our bathroom.  The odor was mild at first, but increased daily.  Housemates recriminated at volume, but no cleanup ensued.

In the end, the cats sickened of the bathtub latrine before the humans.  I discovered this by coming home from a late night pizza and programming session, tiptoeing to my darkened closet, and exhaustedly flopping onto my mattress - right into a steaming pile of cat shit.  Needless to say, I was not happy.  I knew that I had only one course of action, which I plotted while washing my clothes, my bedding and then myself in the bathtub - breathing the while through my mouth. 

The next morning when my housemates had left for their day jobs, I snatched the kittens, installed them in a paper grocery bag, and split.  At the time I had a metallic green Corvair coupe, which was quite reliable except when driving between 45 and 50 miles per hour when it would shimmy violently, sort of like passing through the sound barrier.  In retrospect, i was probably in as much danger driving this machine as I ever was from the Vietnam war, but that morning I cranked the AM radio in the dashboard and whistled happily as I headed for the country. 

I had heard stories of dogs traveling thousands of miles back to their homes, but I didn't really believe them, and i figured thirty miles would be more than enough to keep those kittens from finding there way home, if they were as stupid as I thought.  If they were any smarter, they would head in the opposite direction.

In those days, 50 miles out of Cambridge could be pretty rural.  I found a somewhat dilapidated but still working farm with a couple of big barns and no dogs in evidence.  I parked a ways down the road, hopped a fence, and placed the paper sack under an apple tree in sight of the barn.   The kittens had it open by the time I got to the other side of the fence, but they weren't looking my way and I never looked back as I crossed the sound barrier on that country road.

It took a couple of days for it to sink in to the kittens owner that they were really gone.  She tearfully accused each of the roommates of leaving the door open and allowing them to escape, but kidnapping never occurred to her, and she got over the loss remarkably quickly, probably secretly overjoyed to be relieved of a responsibility she wasn't up to. 

We used a lot of air freshener in the bathroom and went our separate ways at the end of August.  Nowadays, I have friends who are cat owners, even fanatical Friends of Feral Felines, and, as far as they know, I think no less of them.  I'm not sure, though, that I wouldn't have been among the majority in Wisconsin last week who, according to the Economist, voted that feral cats were fair game for hunters.

All in all my view of cats has not changed a whole lot since that idyllic summer of my youth.  I'll keep my distance if they'll keep theirs.

April 17, 2005 in C is for..., Personal | Permalink | Comments (0)

First Flowers

Today was the first real warm day of the season here in Pownal.  Well before noon the temperature passed 70, and the first blossoms opened in the garden...


April 17, 2005 in Personal | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Winter down the stretch

Winter has been putting on quite a finishing kick over the last few weeks.   We have more snow on the ground now on the eve of the ides of March than we have seen in any of our 12 winters in this house.  No matter what karmic credit I might try to take for the weather (see below),  mother nature has no interest in me or any of the rest of us. 

On Friday and Saturday we received another 12-15 inches.  My neighbor's daughter with the usual hubris of youth decided to drive home from college on Friday night.  Of course, she made it half way up the hill at the beginning of our road, where her car became hopeless stuck, and she abandoned it.  She walked the last third of a mile home, and as youth are inclined, fell asleep and slept well into the afternoon of the next day.  Of course, the plow couldn't get by her car, and so none of us on Sweetser Road extension went anywhere on Saturday.

But Sunday was another day.  The first morning sun caught the top of the trees with a breathtaking glow out the bedroom window.


These two shots were taken out our two bedroom windows at just after 6 am.  In the second, I have taken the liberty of removing the reflection on the window glass of a bedside lamp... Click on the images for a larger view.


March 14, 2005 in Personal | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack


Of course, as soon as I dream of summer, winter sends a little reminder in the form of 12" of new snow.  Light and fluffy, to be sure, but 12" none the less.


February 22, 2005 in Personal | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Summer Dreaming

A sunny but very cold day in February and my thoughts turn to summer.
Early morning sun on the lilacs at the back door,


clematis climbing the shed trellis,


and an evening rum and tonic on the twilit deck.


All pleasures to be appreciated more for their long winter absence.

February 20, 2005 in Personal | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Groundhog Day

On my way to my morning workout in predawn Pownal, my car's dashboard told me the outside temperature was -3, about the same as it has been for the last several days. 

Today is the day then Punxatawney Phil sees his shadow and predicts another six weeks of winter.  Up here only six weeks would be great.  I'm fairly sure spring is farther away than that. 

By the time I was done with my workout the sun was up.  There are some stately white pines on the Pineland campus that tower over the restored Georgian buildings.  There tops were bathed in golden light that hadn't quite made it to the ground. 

This is a quality of light I haven't seen since October.  There is no sense that the back of the cold has been broken, but this glow melted my heart just a little.

February 2, 2005 in Personal | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


This morning is the coldest of the year. As I write, the temperature is -14 f.  Wednesday morning the temp was -9, Thursday dawn greeted us with 6 inches of fluffy powder, yesterday was - 13, and today the cold has settled deeper.  Winter won't be denied.


As I write three crows sit in the top of a nearby ash tree.  They seem to be waiting for the sun to rise and warm them enough to start them on their way.


When I see three crows I am reminded of Carlos Castaneda's Don Juan, who warned him that three crows together were an omen of sorcery.  If these be Yaqui sorcerers, they are a long way from the Sonora Mountains...

January 22, 2005 in Personal | Permalink | Comments (0)