Saturday, August 30, 2008

A roadsign you don't see every day...

Marathon Ahead

...unless, I guess, you're a long-distance running enthusiast.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008


I woke up this morning and turned on the news, only to hear that Hurricane Gustav has stalled over Haiti.

I immediately felt sick to my stomach.

No, I don't live in Haiti. In fact, I've never been there. I don't even know anyone there.

But I know what it's like to have a storm stalled over you.

If you have never ridden out a storm or hurricane, this is the basic blueprint: You have lots of warning. As the storm approaches, you get ready -- shutters, supplies, gasoline, whatever. Then the storm arrives and you are suddenly housebound and your uppermost thought is:

"Okay, now you're here, begone!"

Yes, as soon as the storm arrives, you wish fervently for it to leave. And, usually, it does, fairly quickly. These storms tend to move fast.

But when a storm stalls over you, as Gustav is doing in Haiti and as Fay did over us exactly a week ago, it's profoundly depressing. You had expected it to be over quickly, but instead you watch the advisories, one after another, heart sinking further with each one. When will it be over? When will we be able to go outside again? Because while the storm is overhead you are trapped and helpless. There's nothing you can do but wait.

At one point last week, the advisories had Fay moving away from us at three miles an hour. To put this in perspective, my normal walking pace is four miles an hour. I could have literally outwalked the storm.

I feel so sorry for the Haitian people, because I have some inkling of what they are suffering, and I hope Gustav is moving on as I type these words.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Same Ax Twice

Maybe I should have used the title ‘Same River Twice’, as in you can’t swim in the same river twice, but I love the story of the ‘same ax twice’, so there it is.

There once was an elderly farmer. Holding up his ax he once told a visitor ‘I love this ax. I’ve had it since I was a boy, more than 50 years, and in that time I have had to replace the ax head twice and the shaft three times .‘ The point of course is that there is nothing left of the ax the farmer had as a boy even though to him it is the same ax he has always used.

This is the long-lost northern brother of the regular poster to this blog. It has been more than a year since I have posted an entry and a lot has happened in that time. However, since my bro has recently referenced the fact that I have moved back to our hometown I will share a few thoughts about that.

Moving back here has been very strange. I left this town in 1977 pretty well certain that I would never be back. I was profoundly depressed and angry at the world, although I did not know it at the time. Anyone remember Paul Simon’s song ‘My Little Town’? “There’s nothing but the dead and dying back in my little town.” That is pretty much how I felt about this place. And yet…. The decades rolled by and I moved around quite a bit – seven years in southern Illinois, a year in Ashland, Oregon, four years in Fresno, six years in Santa Cruz, and seven years in Vermont. During that time I did quite a bit on the depression and anger fronts. Friends noted that I was something of a nester. Whenever I moved to a place I tried to make it home. I would learn the history, become familiar with the neighborhoods, etc. I once dated a woman who was hesitant to take me back to the town she grew up in because she was afraid that after 2 days there I would know it better than she did. I took that as a complement.

I also visited my hometown from time to time and while I felt a connection to the place that was fairly satisfying at a deep level I couldn’t picture being back here. “When it rains there’s a rainbow, but all of the colors are black. It’s not that the colors aren’t there, its just imagination they lack, everything’s the same back in my little town.” After all, the town I grew up with was a mill town whose main characteristic was diminishing opportunities. Every year the list of factories that were closing or cutting back grew – Scott and Williams, Carpenter and Patterson and Allen Rogers are just three that come to mind. There are no major colleges – just one 2 year technical college – and almost no white collar economy. The area has a fairly sizable tourist economy but what good is that? What was a self-styled intellectual nerd to do? “…back in my little town I never was nothing, just my father’s son, saving my money, dreaming of glory, twitching like the finger on the trigger of a gun.”

So I left, traveled, more or less lost the New England accent that I was so proud of (although it still is very pronounced when I am tired). And then, almost a year ago, I was offered a job in a town about ten miles from here. I had the chance to move back to My Little Town. I immediately knew that I wanted to do it but did not trust the motivation. I was reminded of an acquaintance from the Vermont days. She and her husband had just relocated to Vermont from Napa Valley. After spending many years developing their internet business and enjoying Napa they decided they needed a simpler lifestyle, so they moved their home and business to rural Vermont. A year later she told me that she regretted the decision. “It turns out that we didn’t need a move, we just needed a vacation.” Was that the way I would feel after a few months back in my hometown? Once the novelty of seeing the old places wore off would I be unsatisfied with living here?

I am happy to report that that is not the case. Linda, Evelyn and I have been here 5 months so far and we love it. There are logistical advantages that we all love. Our previous home has on a winding country road. Now that Evelyn is walking we are very happy to live where there are sidewalks. We are within 700 feet of a city park, ¼ mile of a city beach, and it is no longer a 20 mile (each way) drive to a good grocery store. True, it is no longer 3 miles to the nearest streetlight, but that is a sacrifice we have been happy to make. We still have fireflies in the back yard, so I guess we aren’t all that citified here.

And every day I love driving to work on the streets I know so well, passing the high school I graduated from, the library I did so many school reports in, the local grocery store that I shopped in and my parents shopped in before me, the beach I swam at when I was little. While in many ways it is not the same ax, I mean town, from my childhood it is the perfect place for a nester. The factories are gone, but while I was traveling the city fathers (some of whom are people I went to high school with) turned some of them into business parks, condos and a convention center. There is a new life in the little town.

One of the old textile mills has been renovated to include a concert space. We attended a few summer concerts there this year. It just blows me away that my grandparents worked in this mill. The other day I took Evelyn for a walk and showed her her grandfather's name on the local monument to WWII veterans, then took her across the street to show her her great-grandfather’s name on the WWI veteran’s monument. OK, so Evelyn is 2 and was more interested in the steps and fountain, but someday she will know that these names in bronze on these plaques are related to her.

Sunday was the 37th anniversary of my father’s death (see the profoundly depressed remark above). For the first time in many years I went to the cemetery to mark the anniversary. Evelyn and I walked the cemetery afterward, passing not only her grandparents but three of her great-grandparents and one of her great-great grandparents. It feels so good to me to be so rooted to this place that sometimes I can’t believe that I am descended from people who left their homes across the Atlantic to come here. Its good to be back.

It reminds me of another Paul Simon line “He sees angels in the architecture, spinning in infinity. He says Amen and Hallelujah.”


Fay and the Butterfly Gardens

I mentioned in a post a few days ago that I've started a new blog, and that new posts that mention Judi or Princess Sunni would be posted there, instead of here. I've just published a new post there, titled Fay and the Butterfly Gardens. You can read it simply by clicking here. You will need to be approved to read that blog (reason explained in the previous post), but if you would like to be approved, all you need to do is ask. Click here and send me a message. That's all you need to do. I will approve you (as long as you're not Certain Someone). I promise.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Rerun (pun intended)

At first I was shocked and chagrined -- even horrified -- when the US Womens Softball Team, an juggernaut so invincible that the IOC has thrown its hands in the air and deleted softball from the next Olympics, was defeated today in the gold medal game by Japan, 3-1.

But then I became philosophical. No, wait... I was already philosophical. I had been philosophical since at least April, 2006, when I wrote this post:

Gimme a legacy, and make it with mustard, relish, and onions.

I don't usually republish "classics" -- when the day comes that I can't write new content, I'll stop posting. But this one seemed so appropriate.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The times, they are a' changin'

Tropical Storm Fay zipped across the Florida pennisula and then chose to hang out right over the city where I live. By hang out, I mean it's been raining hard for more than twenty-four hours. The flooding is far worse from this tropical storm than anything I've ever seen from the six-or-so full-fledged hurricanes that I've been through. Anyway, as a result, I'm not at work today. My employer (wisely) considered it too dangerous for us to be out driving. There are a lot of roads and intersections under water. So... I will while away my time (and, I guess, yours) with this little story about the place where I grew up:

I grew up in a small city (around 12,000 people) in New Hampshire. It was racially and culturally homogeneous. How homogeneous, you ask? Well, I am not exaggerating when I say that in my town, "cultural diversity" meant French Catholics and Irish Catholics. And, to the best of my knowledge, there was only one non-white family in town: We had a single Chinese restaurant, King's, operated by a Chinese family. My mother sometimes called in for take-out, and although I walked over (it was less than ten minutes away), paid the money, and collected the paper bag, I don't recall ever seeing the "King" family outside the restaurant, or any Chinese children.

It wasn't until I started at a Catholic high school down-state that I saw my first black people in the flesh: We had three black students, two brothers and their sister, in our student body of 400. And it wasn't until I arrived at college in Florida that I actually spoke to a black person, face-to-face, for the first time, or that I saw my first Hispanic.

That's how lily-white my town was.

Fast forward to today. My brother recently moved back to our hometown, and I received this email message from him: of the houses we seriously looked at [buying] was being sold by a family from Bosnia. One of the regulars at Leavitt Park down the street wears the Muslim head covering. I took Evelyn to Tardiff Park the other day and I don't know what the only other family in the park was speaking but it wasn't English (it sounded Eastern European). And, tragically, there was a report in the Citizen [Newspaper] of a Laconia man who was killed while working on his car. His birthplace? Laos.

The old town has changed. The ad for the [Laconia Multicultural] Festival notes that Laconia is now home to immigrants or refugees from 30 countries.
Wow. My little hometown has changed.

The funny thing is, it's still around 12,000 people. Just not 12,000 people who are all practically the same.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Mid-life Crisis

I mentioned in a post a couple of days ago that I've started a new blog, and that new posts that mention Judi or Princess Sunni would be posted there, instead of here. I've just published a new post there, titled Mid-life Crisis. You can read it simply by clicking here. You will need to be approved to read that blog (reason explained in the previous post), but if you would like to be approved, all you need to do is ask. Click here and send me a message. That's all you need to do. I will approve you (as long as you're not Certain Someone). I promise.

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Monday, August 18, 2008


Fay, meet Florida.

Florida, meet Fay.

Wouldn't it be cooler if it was spelled F-e-y instead of F-a-y, as in, Fey: The Psychic Hurricane?

Of course, if the National Hurricane Center only had the sense to listen to me, this would be Hurricane Foxglove, which is way cooler still.


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Announcing changes to this blog

I enjoy writing posts to this blog (as few readers as I have, you know I don't do it for the fame :), but sometimes things don't work out the way they should. And I'm sorry to report that there is a Certain Someone who has used information I've posted about Judi and Princess Sunni to cause Judi harm.

Judi and I have talked about this, and we agree that we can't give Certain Someone more ammunition to hurt her. At the same time, Judi doesn't want to close my blog to surfers of the Internet's Tubes, or cut off any loyal readers who are interested in news about her and/or Sunni. So this is what we've decided:

I will not post about Judi or Sunni on this blog any more. Instead, I've started a new blog, There's No Need to Fear (get it?:), and that's where I'll be posting about these two special ladies. It's at:

However... the new blog won't be public. It will only to open to approved readers. But if you want to be approved to read (be the first approved reader on your block!:), all you have to do is ask. Just click here and send me a message. Everyone who asks will be approved (except, of course, Certain Someone).

But (I hear you say), yet another blog that I have to check? No. You will not have to check the new blog. Any time I post there, I'll also post a notice and a link here, on this blog, so if you're a regular reader here you'll just be able to click-n'-read (registered trademark pending:) there.

Judi and I are sincerely very sorry to inconvenience you like this, but our hand has been forced by. Again, if you want to continue to read about Judi or Sunni, please click-n'-ask (another registered trademark pending:) Everyone who asks will be approved. I promise.

New, Improved Blogroll!

On another blog-related subject, I've cleaned up the blogroll over on the right. I removed four blogs that have been deleted or suspended by their writers (I'm sorry to see you go, Amy, and you, too, Spencer), and also the link the Wen's blog, since she's made it password-protected and I don't have access. And I've added four new blogs that I read and enjoy:
Check any of them out, if my description makes you think it might be your cup of tea. Green tea, of course. Shaken, iced. Venti. Two pumps. You know where.


Friday, August 15, 2008

The Butterfly Garden: A Happening Place

The butterfly garden's been a hopping -- or perhaps I should say a fluttering -- place. Gulf Fritillaries especially -- medium-sized butterflies, so brilliantly orange they almost glow. While we're out there they're flying all around us. One zoomed past me from behind, about six inches from my left ear, making me jump. But most of the time it's soothing and serene to be among so many fragile and incredibly gentle creatures.

These two Fritillaries were joined together, butt-to-butt, and were actually flying all over the place that way. The one whose wings are open in this picture did all the flying -- the other one kept its wings folded and went along for the ride. Were they mating? Is that how butterflies... um... do it? (As usual, click on any picture to see a larger version.)

Mating butterflies?

However butterflies mate, this is the outcome of their passion: A Fritillary caterpillar chowing down hard on a passion vine leaf. I like the water droplet in the upper right, too. Clicking to see the larger image of this one reveals some interesting caterpillar detail:

Munching caterpillar

As if it isn't enough to have a crop of caterpillars on the passion vine, something has been pollinating those incredibly weird flowers, and so Judi has passion fruit ripening, too:

Passion vine fruit

But the taste of passion vine leaves wasn't enough, somehow, for one caterpillar, who was observed undertaking what must truly be an epic quest when you are only an inch long: He set out, out of the garden, across the paver walkway, and into the grass. Whatever his goal -- the Holy Grail, Shangrilla, who knows? -- we wish him well:

Caterpillar on pavers
Caterpillar on bricks
Caterpillar in grass

Lest you think Fritillaries are the only butterflies in the garden, they aren't. For example, this is a Polydamas Swallowtail (and here), paying a visit to the garden's pipevine, its host plant:

Polydamas Swallowtail

The Polydamas is a "tailless Swallowtail," which seems like a contradiction in terms, but I'm not a taxonomist. It's native only to Texas and the coastal regions of the Florida peninsula. Here's a picture of a Polydamas in flight, in the butterfly garden:

Flying polydamas

These clusters of lantana (a big attraction for butterflies) are unusual in that they are pure pink:

Pink lantana

Finally, this has nothing to do with butterflies or the garden, but here's Princess Sunni, snoozing, looking beautiful (as always), and doing super:

Princess Sunni

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Happy Birthday!

Judi was born on August 8th, 1958 -- 08/08/58 -- and so last Friday, on the auspicious 08/08/08, she turned fifty.

Fifty! Can you believe it?

The Birthday Girl

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Of Browsers and Men

Where I work, the official Web broswer and the only one that anyone is supposed to use is IE6. Yes, I know.

I loaded Mozilla on my work computer a while ago, and then switched to Firefox back when it was still version 0.9. But a year or so ago the I.T. Trolls decreed that FireFox and Mozilla were banned, because -- get this -- they were security threats. Like IE6 isn't already the buggiest and most vulnerable browser out there. Anyway, the I.E. Trolls set up a regimen through SMS that automatically deletes FF or Moz from any computer where we try to install it. :(

But at that time I found that there was a beta Safari for Windows, so I loaded that. And I liked it. A lot. There were some things that seemed odd -- in an Apple kind of way -- to this Windows user, but it was fast. Fast, as in blazing. And it had tabbed browsing, which was the thing I missed most in IE6. Yay, Safari! Yay, Apple!

Well, this week it looks like the I.T. Trolls' SMS script has been updated to delete Safari. Every morning it's gone and I have to reload it. So... I am trying Opera. I don't know if that will get scrubbed or not. I used to use Opera years ago (Opera 5), but when I upgraded to Opera 7 I didn't like the changes in the the user experience and gave it up. The latest Opera, 9, seems pretty good though. And it's fast. Fast, as in blazing. And it has tabs. Yay, tabs! Let's hope it's still loaded tomorrow morning....

If I have to have tabs, what about IE7, you ask? IE7 is also banned. Yes, in this IE6 shop we are not allowed to upgrade to IE7. Why? Because the I.T. Programmer Trolls have invested countless person-years in writing software that is riddled with the non-standard features of IE6, and their software, much of it critical to our company, might or might not run in IE7. And IE7 replaces IE6 completely when installed.

Q: Can anyone say "standards compliant"?

A: Not in our I.T. Department.

Anyway, I know none of you care about this. On a completely different note, I did learn something last week: That if you average only three visitors a day to your blog, you can really pick up the pace -- to between ten and twenty -- by mentioning the Wein.ermo.bile. But it doesn't last. ;)

I know I've been scarcely posting lately, but posts to come soon about happenings in the Butterfly Garden (including some pictures that might be called scandalous), and something about Shakespeare (you can go ahead and yawn now).

Since this is Tuesday, some Haiku:

No Mozilla. No
FireFox. Tears fall to the floor.
IE6 sucks eggs.

I'm free of colon
cancer, but would rather not
speak of how I know.

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