Apr 24 2014

Baseball needs human error

Published by under Baseball

The invasion of the instant replay into professional sports threatens to remove one of the essential components of the sporting experience: the capricious effects of human error on the part of referees and umpires. This spring's baseball season has seen the introduction of a silly system where a team's manager can challenge an official call made on the field and the play is then remotely reviewed at Major League Baseball's New York City headquarters by some faceless judges who look at the television feeds.

Because the technology exists to determine the truth doesn't mean it has a place in a sport that celebrates the feckless and accidental. From robotic line judges in professional tennis to strike zone graphics, yes, we can make sports more precise and ostensibly more "fair" by taking the foibles of a judge or referee or umpire out of the equation. No more cries of a "We wuz robbed!" No more fist shaking at the Gods for punishing the home team so unfairly. The obvious blunders that rob pitchers of perfect games, the miscalls that cause spectators to have conniptions of disbelief as they watch the slow-mo replay and see what the officials couldn't see from the field ....are nothing compared to the bullshit politics of the so-called "judged" sports like figure skating and gymnastics where performance is subjective and evaluated by judges with nationalistic prejudices and even the potential to be bribed (sorry, but any "sport" with judges and costumes isn't a sport in my book).

A huge part of the emotional attachment between fans and sports is the human factor, that indescribable sense of magic when the players transcend the boundaries of human potential and go beyond themselves in a clutch situation and become legends or scapegoats. Sport, like war, isn't about precision and standards. It's about luck and happenstance and umpires who should go get their eyes checked. Baseball is the only sport with the concept of an "error" -- a subjective judgement by the scorer. I think it needs to embrace the misfortunes of fate that happens when an umpire misses a tag, or calls a ball fair that went foul by inches.  Technology has no place in a ball park.

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Apr 22 2014

Put the Tits Above The Fold

Published by under Advertising

Al Neuharth, founder of USA Today, told a page one meeting shortly after the launch of the national newspaper that if the editors ran a photograph of a pretty girl on the front page to, well, make sure her chest was visible above the fold so it would be visible on a stack or inside a vending machine. Using T&A to sell stuff is Advertising 101. After years of wondering why pretty women want to be my friend, I've had enough.

LinkedIn is becoming a cesspool of strange spam, endorsements, clickbait and general vanity. I get three or four requests a day to add a stranger to my network, sometimes really, really weird crap like a upholstery service in Newport Beach, California (who I am as likely to do business with as a cement factory in Malaysia. But what really gets on my nerves is the use of "pretty girl" pictures and cleavage shots for fictitious individuals such as the cute "Sophie Middleton" in the hopes I will accept their invitation to join my "network." Am I really that predictable? I guess I must be. I notice it enough to blog about it.

 

I remember reading Yachting magazine in the 70s and 80s and realizing every single motorboat ad had a babe-in-a-bikini in it, so many that I began to wonder if motorboats came equipped with scantily dressed women as standard equipment along with boat hooks and bilge pumps.

sophieBack to Ms. Middleton who is an "ambitious and driven individual who is passionate about Online Advertising solutions..." (who isn't?)

This young lady was educated at the University of Manchester -- where she earned a "1st" in Economics -- hence her veddy British name. She works for ZingGaming, a London company, and she is looking for "Publishers CPI-CPL." I don't know what CPI means but I infer "CPL" is "cost per lead" or some other digital advertising acronym.

She is doing very well with her networking efforts and has over 500 connections. She is also already friends with a colleague and former colleague (both men) of mine.

Now she wants to join my network.

Ordinarily I trash these requests, but feeling grumpy this morning I grabbed her photograph and ran a reverse image search through Tineye.com.

testcolor

 

There I found twenty-one examples of the cute "Ms. Sophie."  She can be found on a Walgreens Photo site, on "FunnyPix" on a page titled "You'll Get Tongue-Tied Over These Spicy Pics Of Nickelodeon Girls" where she was given the caption: "Cute, Huh? Her Before/After Makeup Pics Will Make You Scream..."

"Sophie" can be found on sites such as The Naughty.com, Polydore, Speed Date, WattPad, Cavemancircus, and so on and so forth. Sophie gets around....

I'm tempted to fill out the contact form on ZingGaming's website and ask to talk to Ms. Middleton. But, knowing full well the world of affiliate marketing, CPL scammers, and the rest of the sordid swamp known as the digital advertising world where content is just so much cheese in the rat trap, I rather hit delete and move on.

I know everyone gets a ton of this crap -- this is like writing about spam -- so what? But I am intrigued by the spammer mindset that use bogus accounts on social networks to weave a web of inbound links and followers around fictitious people (with cleavage) to improve the siterank and visibility of their services. I realize it is a well known phenomenon to steal a another person's photos to create a bogus identity. The imaginary girlfriend of the football player a year or so ago is a classic example. And I know behavioral psychologists have quantified the attributes of the human face that people find attractive -- the  facial characteristics and rations that make people ooh and ahh over cute puppies and babies.

I see this all the time on Soundcloud, Google+, and other networks ... enough to the point where if the "will you be my friend" invitation shows any decolletage or winsome characteristics I ship it right to the spam folder. I wonder if beefcake photos of men are used to trick women into accepting friends requests, or is this just a male phenomenon as old and primal as cave paintings? There needs to be a name for these artificial humans, fake people with names and college degrees and jobs and pretty faces that belong to somebody else.

Anyway, just another digression into the seamy underside of digital marketing where manipulators know that a headline with an odd-number in it, the promise of some sex, and a pretty face will  deliver another click to their pile of pageviews and SEO.

Sophie, meet "David"

david

 

 

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Apr 21 2014

Published by under General

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Apr 21 2014

Getting underway

I launched the motorboat yesterday afternoon after two weeks of working on it in the middle of the yard. Some years the boat manages to go in early, other years it goes in late. This year was late because of the winter-that-wouldn't-end. Some years the boat needs multiple visits to the mechanic, other years I get her running on my own. This year I tackled a few overdue projects and one nasty recurring problem which required a sledgehammer. As my Cousin Pete (who lives across the street in the western half of the Chatfield family compound) likes to to say, watching a Churbuck with an internal combustion engine (lawnmower, pressure washer, automobile, chainsaw, outboard motor) is like watching a monkey with a hand grenade. I know he likes to sit on his front porch with a cocktail and laugh at my best efforts to destroy anything that lives on gasoline and I am sure he noted my application of a sledge hammer to my Honda 40 horsepower outboard for future retelling.

Back in March, in a fit of optimism, I dragged the boat out from behind the garage, cut off the useless blue tarp that collapsed during the first snow storm, noted that the trailer's ten year-old tires are still hanging in there (which is good because the wheels are rusted onto the axles forever), and started the familiar recommissioning process which is becoming second nature now that the boat is twenty-two years old and on engine #3.

springlaunch

The calm before the failure

The battery went onto the charger.  I grabbed a broom and swept out the sticks and leaves, sand and shells, dragged out the clam rakes and baskets, and winced at the beard of dried slime along the waterline and the crust of barnacles on the keelson -- proof I didn't do much of a job last fall when I yanked the boat for the season. I had a feeling my neglect would mean the boat would bone me so I drove up to see Dow Clark, my mechanic and asked him if he could tune things up. He pointed out that there was a blizzard coming (this was last month), and he wouldn't work on the boat if the temperatures went below freezing because he needed to run a hose through through engine's water intakes in the parking lot and didn't want to turn it into a skating rink for the other tenants in the little row of garages behind Peck's and the Domino's Pizza place.

The blizzard came and went, I returned to the boat (glad I hadn't launched her in time for an evening of 60 mph gusts out of the north), replaced the battery, and lowered the engine. The first boat problem of 2014 emerged immediately: the steering was frozen, a common occurrence which meant the push rod system that pushed and pulled the motor on the transom was seized. Inside I went to Google and YouTube, read about the problem, watched about a dozen different possible solutions, and returned armed with a propane torch, a hacksaw, a length of rebar, a cold chisel, a ball-peen hammer, a mason's hammer, a grease gun, and a spray can of white lithium grease, another can of "PB Blaster, and finally, a can of carburetor cleaner. I disconnected the motor from the steering assembly, got rid of all nearby gasoline, lit the torch, and started heating the steering tube. For the next six hours I feebly tapped at the end of the stainless steel ram with the hammer, tried a 2"x4" lever, reapplied heat, sprayed various fluids, and finally, in a fit of total despair and destruction, broke out a sledgehammer and started whaling away at the end of the pernicious steering gear.

That did it. If it is stuck, whack it. A couple applications of the precision tool and the ram started to budge a tiny bit with every smack. I finally drove the thing all the way into the tube, then continued the brutal repair with a piece of rebar, clocking my knuckles so hard when the sledgehammer missed that I was convinced I'd broken my hand.  After countless attacks on the piece of precision Japanese machinery, the steering ram popped out and I performed a little Dave Dance of Happiness on the brown lawn. I reamed out the tube with brushes and carburetor cleaner, cleaned the ram piston off and regreased it, then reassembled the whole mess until the steering wheel spun back and forth with silken, greased ease. Success. I spared myself a new $125 steering cable and a trip to the mechanic.

A past winter launching which ended in a rescue after water in the gas killed the expedition.

A past winter launching which ended in a rescue after water in the gas killed the expedition.

Then to the greasy manual for a refresher in changing the engine oil and lower unit lube. I siphoned whatever water I could find out of last year's gas and drained the fuel lines, changed the fuel-water separator, and tightened the drain holes on the three carb bowls. New spark plugs followed, a change in the fuel filter and I was ready to test it. Professional mechanics use these "headphone" sort of clamps that attach to the water intake of the motor and then run a hose through them so they can work the running motor on dry land. The last time I did that I melted the water pump. This year I hooked the trailer up to the car and drove the boat down Old Shore Road  and backed the trailer in deep enough to lower the motor without launching the boat (I have learned that launching prematurely always means the boat will not start and will need to be paddled back to the trailer, winched back on, and taken up to Dow Clark two miles inland on a trailer with no lights and an expired registration that is one flake of rust away from collapsing.

I climbed aboard, lowered the motor, inserted the key, said a prayer, and started cranking. It astarted after 15 seconds, a feeble, barely combusting ignition that I nursed to life like a freezing man lighting a fire in a Jack London story. I let it strangle and shudder, then dared to give it a bit more gas, let go of the choke and it LIVED! Do another Dave Dance of happiness, feel like a master mechanic.

I let it run for 15 minutes on the trailer, relishing the opportunity to hog the entire boat ramp by myself on a Saturday afternoon ; a ramp that in three months would have a line of impatient boaters waiting for their turn to launch or haul their boats while some ass clown clogged things up by deciding to clean his Bayliner while everyone waited and honked their horn. The off-season in Cotuit is the season of the Townie Prerogative: when those of us stupid enough to live here from January to April get to put out our dinghies on the prime spots, get to hog boat ramps for as long as we want, drive fast in areas of the harbor usually confined to 6 mph, and then clam in places that get closed on May 1.

I let the motor run for a quarter hour because the second rule of Churbuck Outboard Failure is that a motor that runs well near the beach will fail as soon as it is about 500 feet away from the beach -- generally because of water in the system, or a failed water pump that sets off the dreaded alarm sound which means a $500 repair bill is coming soon. A sub-rule of Churbuck Outboard Failure is that failure in the off-season means there aren't any other boaters around to come to one's rescue and the possibility of being stranded and having to swim in 40 degree water is very real. These are the lessons learned over 22 Cape Cod Springs, proof that wisdom is nothing more than the accrual of repeated failures.

I resisted the temptation to back off of the trailer and bomb around the bay. The bottom was unpainted and there was more work to do. Driving an unpainted boat would definitely draw the curses of the Gods of Maritime Failure and I only get superstitious when I am on the water.

Back to the yard and then off to the marine supply store for the annual BOHICA* (nothing will trash a bank balance faster than a can of bottom paint or any sort of marine hardware). The harbormaster nearly wrote me a ticket last August for being on the water without navigation lights.  I had to invest in a new sternlight and green-and-red bow light, wire, connectors, switches, etc.. Back to the boat and my favorite liquid after a smoky peaty single malt scotch -- Hull Cleaner -- an evil solution that is swabbed around the waterline of the white hull which turns brown over the course of a summer like a smoker's lungs. Hull cleaner must be washed off, so down into the cistern under the grape arbor I go -- through a manhole cover into a dank dirt floor chamber under the birdfeeders to turn back on the outdoor faucets. Then back into daylight in search of the hoses, replacing washers and finding a working nozzle while the birds act inconvenienced because I dare interrupt their springtime binge diet.

Hull Cleaner magically bleaches everything  away like a blessing from the Pope, but it also eats into the trailer's galvanized frame one whiff of the stuff and the disconcerting sensation of burning lungs makes me believe it is an evil fluods. I hose it off, get the bottom wet, and drag my 55-year old ass under the boat with a scrub brush and scraper to vanquish 2013's barnacles and slime. This results in my being crippled later in the evening, forced to lay on my back on the floor while watching 60 Minutes and moaning that I have strapping sons who should be crawling under boats on wet grass littered with stinky evicted barnacles.

The next day my son thoughtfully volunteered to crawl under the boat wearing a set of disposable Tyvek overalls to paint the bottom with antifouling paint while I masking-taped the boot top line. When we were done the boat looked about as good as it did the day in 1992 when I picked it up from the builder in Vineyard Haven (the best $7500 I have spent in my life).

The wiring of the lights was a sobering reminder that I am a terrible electrician. My first attempt succeeded in turning the new lights on, but my mis-wiring also  turned the circuit into one big electric stove top that started to turn red, smoke and melt the plastic insulation off of the wire. Back to the Internet for assistance, but finally I figured out enough 12V electrical wiring theory to get the job done correctly.

By this point in time it is noon on Easter Sunday. Easter dinner starts at four pm. I look for volunteers to join me for the maiden voyage and a  quick clamming expedition to secure enough littlenecks for appetizers. No takers, everyone is occupied with deviled egg construction. So I break out the new waders, find the VHF radio, cellphone, clam license, buckets, oarlocks, oars, temporary mooring float, throw it all into the boat, insert the drain plugs, connect the gas tank, back up the trailer hitch, and off I go under bluebird skies and a nice spring day.

The boat started on the first try. I backed off the trailer, brought the boat into the beach and left it there while I parked the trailer on the side of Old Shore Road. Back to the boat, off the beach, restart, back away and head for the winter stick that marks my mooring near the yacht club's beach to tie on a temporary painter until the mooring guy can get out there and swap the wooden winter stick for the regular rode.

The alarm horn goes off just as I pull up to the mooring. SHIT! Off with the engine before heinous amounts of destruction occur. I tie the boat onto the winter stick before addressing yet another spring launching spoiled by Honda. I turn it back on. No alarm. I note the engine "pisser" is not squirting water. Proof the water pump isn't work. Off with the engine, find the hidden paper clip, tilt up the engine, and ream out the little piss-port under engine cover. Restart, long satisfying stream of pee and no alarm horn.

I headed off to Sampson's Island to clam, and opened up the engine all the way as I skipped across the chop of Cotuit Bay, the wind chill plummeting the temperature and bringing wind blown tears to my eyes. No alarm horns No surges in power as the carbs drink in water. Just a well working boat on a sunny day. One month of weekends and one boat is in the water in time for the first stripers, squid and bluefish. Now to start on the big sailboat and another month of messing around.

 

 

*Bend Over Here It Comes Again

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Apr 19 2014

Fencing Clams

Published by under Cape Cod,Clamming

The Cape Cod Clam Caper appears to have been solved. A spate of thefts last year  from commercial and municipal oyster grants from Dennis to Marstons Mills meant someone was stealing tens of thousands of clams and finding a way to fence them.  Which meant someone was selling the public "transfer" clams being grown in polluted water before their transfer and cleansing.

Now comes the sad news that one familiar Upper Cape institution, Joe's Lobster Mart in Sandwich, on the bulkhead of the Cape Cod Canal allegedly bought the clams from the alleged clam pirate, one Michael Bryant, 38.

The owner of Joe's, Joe Vaudo, has run the place for the past four decades  (I am an occasional customer) and is chairman of the Sandwich Planning Board. He's been fined and is at risk of losing his lease from the Army Corps of Engineers who manages the canal.

Here's an article about the case.

More reasons to dig your own shellfish.

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Apr 10 2014

Every Litter Bit Hurts

Published by under Cotuit,General

In the 1960s there was an anti-litter campaign led by Lady Bird Johnson, First Lady of the United States. It was the first of its kind. People started hanging little litter bags on the dashboards of their cars. Public service ads with crying Indians and the message "Every Litter Bit Hurts" were part of the culture. In some regards the anti-litter movement and highway beautification efforts led by Lady Bird were a precursor to Earth Day and the beginnings of the ecology movement in the early 1970s.

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When I moved to Cotuit in 1991 I was impressed by the example set by Professor James Gould -- a retired college professor who is the village's historian and a dedicated force behind the Peace movement on Cape Cod. Jim would take his daily constitutional from his house overlooking Little River, down Old Post Road past Mosswood Cemetery, and on into the village to collect his mail from the post office and stop by the Cotuit Grocery Store when it was run by his son Steve.

When I drove past him I noticed he was carrying a plastic grocery bag, the kind you feel guilty about throwing out, the kind that festoon tree branches around New York City. I figured at first it was for carrying the mail. But then I saw him bend over, pick up a piece of litter and drop it into the bag. A simple act done as a matter of fact as he walked along on his daily stroll. Usually you see the roadside litter crews in yellow jump suits followed by a Barnstable County Sheriff's van, or the Cub Scouts earning a merit badge, not a guy getting his mail and cleaning up as he went along.

His example got me thinking about altruism and the notion of the unsung, anonymous donor, especially in a village like Cotuit where there are so many causes looking for money -- from the art center to the Cahoon Museum, the library to the Kettleers -- and a long standing tradition of charitable good works from buying open space to preserve the rural character of the village to banding together to ban piers, chase out commercial marinas, or trying (unsuccessfully) to have a historical district implemented to slow down the tear downs of the old houses.

A few years ago I took a plastic bag along with me for a walk and came home wishing I had brought four more. It became a bit of an obsession and I started crawling into the underbrush to fish out beer bottles or styrofoam coffee cup. The amount of empty nip bottles were staggering, indeed most Cotuit litter can be categorized in descending order of frequency:

  1. Empty nips (this season's most popular brand is "Firecracker," some cinnamon flavored thing I guess)
  2. Dunkin donuts coffee cups, lids, and straws
  3. Beer cans
  4. Poland Spring water bottles
  5. Cigarette packs
  6. Snuff boxes
  7. Empty pints of vodka
  8. Six pack rings
  9. Random paper
  10. Builder's trash, eg pieces of shingles, plastic shutters

The nips are easy to explain -- they are cheap, they are easy to conceal and drink, and if they are tossed into the bushes there is no incriminating open containers should you get pulled over. The prevalence of schnapps, vodka, and cinnamon flavored shots points to the mouthwash qualities of those flavors, as opposed to the reek of whisky. In fact, scotch and bourbon nips are very rare.

The pay off is a clean walk and not that slightly shitty guilty feeling I was getting as I stepped over yet another yellow labeled empty shot of Firecracker during my constitutional. Beach clean ups, especially on the outside of Sampson's/Dead Neck are far more rewarding, with a lot of washed up fishing lures in the wrack line which can be buffed up, given new hooks, and save me $10-$15 a pop during bluefish frenzy (in a month).

 

 

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Apr 08 2014

Seals are actually mermaids for dogs

Published by under Cape Cod

Beautiful video of Monomoy Island filed from the air last weekend. Want to know why I don't bother surfcasting out there for striped bass anymore? Say hello to a solid mile of pinniped Great White Shark snacks.

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Thanks Marta for the link.

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Apr 07 2014

Peter Matthiessen

He died on Saturday. He wrote my favorite novel: the Mister Watson trilogy that culminated in Shadow Country. He lived a remarkable life. The first striped bass of 2014 will go back with a kiss and an ave atque vale for Peter, who thankfully has one more novel at the publisher, his final words.

Here is the remarkable New York Times Sunday Magazine profile, published the day before he died.

I've blogged here about Shadow Country and I am very proud that my Amazon review of the novel is ranked #1 by other readers. I have pressed more copies of Killing Mister Watson into more friends' hands than any other book with the possible exception of Barry Hannah's Geronimo Rex.

Here's what I wrote on Amazon:

"For nearly twenty years I've been obsessed by Edgar Watson, the Everglades Planter known as "Bloody Watson" and "Emperor Watson" for the 50-odd murders attributed to him by a century of legend and myth.

Peter Matthiessen was way more obsessed than me, writing four novels about Watson. I read the first in 1990. The last just this past December. It, Shadow Country, won the National Book Award for Fiction in 2008. It is Matthiessen's masterpiece, and I have no qualms saying it is among the top novels in all of American literature, a book I would stack against Moby Dick, Gatsby, The Sun Also Rises, Gravity's Rainbow, White Noise ....

Matthiessen does several important things that won my admiration. First, his voice, his writing, is a very spare, zen language that is short on embellishment but poetic in its nature. Second, the structure that he brings to the narrative is very inventive. The first part of the novel is the tale of Watson's death at the hands of more than two dozen of his neighbors who gun him down after a hurricane in the fall of 1910, hitting him with 33 bullets. That part, which formed the basis of Killing Mister Watson, is an succession of reminiscences by those on that Chokoloskee beach, a backwater Rashomon that bring some amazing vernacular, history, and drama. The book starts with the killing -- and what follows is an utter mind-twister of why Watson was killed.

The second part of the novel is the story of one of Watson's sons, Lucius, who tries to reassemble the facts and seperate them from the myths about his father, who, among other legends, was the reputed murderer of outlaw queen Belle Starr. Lucius compiles a list of those on that beach, a list which makes him a very suspicious figure to the survivors and their descendants, back-water plume and gator poachers who would prefer that Lucius not be asking so many questions. The detective work, the sheer genealogical complexity of Lucius' quest is a reminder to the reader -- this is a true story. Matthiessen's research and attention to detail would shame a historian.

And finally, the true masterpiece in the three tales is the first person account by Watson himself, a story that begins with his childhood in the post-Civil War Reconstruction of South Carolina (in the most violent county of the state), and his subsequent abuse at the hands of a drunken white trash father, his flight to north Florida and from there a descent into the American frontier, and Watson's lonely home on Chatham Bend, the only house between Chokoloskee and Key West, literally the end of America.

Read it. Matthiessen won my respect decades ago with Far Tortuga, The Snow Leopard, Men's Lives, but Shadow Country is my candidate for the Great American Novel."

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Apr 07 2014

Stuffies

Published by under Clamming,Cotuit

Every place has its native culinary specialties. Buffalo, New York has beef on weck; Cincinnati was five-way chili; New Orleans the Po-boy; North Carolina the pulled pork barbecue sandwich with coleslaw, and on and on and on. Turn on a food channel and there will be some overenthused fat guy on a culinary tour of the backwaters looking for the regional speciality.

Stuffed quahogs from Marguerite's in Westport - taken from roadfood.com

Yet what of Cape Cod? What are the classic items that every tourist should seek out? Frankly the place isn't famous for much -- certainly not on the level of a Philly cheesesteak -- and even within Massachusetts there are foods that get mixed up with Cape Cod but which aren't really Cape Cod born. Take the fried clam for example -- that's a North Shore/Essex County speciality born in Essex at Woodman's where in 1914 Chubby Woodman fried some soft-shelled "steamer" clams in batter at the suggestion of a customer. Sure, one can obsess about the best fried clams and search the Cape for the best examples (personally I used to favor Sandy's in Buzzards Bay, but crave the ones from The Bite in Menemsha, even if you have to own a hedge fund to afford them).

Clam chowder is pretty Cape Cod, but apparently the dish came down from French-Canada and the word is derived from "chaudière" after the stove the stuff was cooked on in the Maritime Provinces. They serve Legal Seafood's chowder at Fenway Park -- frankly a kind of disgusting thought on a steamy humid day when a guy comes trooping up the stairs in the bleachers hawking what is essentially clam-flavored hot milk thickened with corn starch or flour. No one makes the clam chowder I grew up with, but if you want a sense of it, read Melville's account of Ishmael's dinner at the Spouter Inn in New Bedford.

One very Cape Cod dish is Portuguese kale soup, especially around East Falmouth where there is a big population of Cape Verdeans, Azoreans, and other descendants of the Portuguese sailors who settled on the Cape after sailing on New England whalers in the mid-19th century. Take chicken broth, a lot of torn up kale (the miracle food of the paleo-Hipster movement), some kidney beans, diced potatoes, sliced chorizo and you have a bowl of goodness.

If I had to nominate one dish as the official Cape Cod specialty I would have to go with the stuffed quahog, also known as the "Stuffie."

Take big quahogs -- the bigger the better, like ashtray sized monsters -- grind up all the meat and clam juice and mix with some sort of bread crumbs, diced onion, celery and whatever feels right, mix into a filling like a turkey stuffing, pack into the open shells and bake until golden brown. The restaurants serve them with a pat of butter, a lemon wedge, and a bottle of tabasco.

Stuffed quahogs are big among Cotuit cooks for bragging rights. My step-sister, mother, aunts, brother-in-law .... everyone has their own take on the stuffie. Green bell peppers? Maybe red pepper flakes? There is no great restaurant stuffed quahog. Most bars that serve them as bar food get premade ones from New Bedford -- nasty, very processed pasty things with no big clam chunks. Do not confuse a stuffie with Clams Casino -- different thing altogether.

I confess I like a homemade Cotuit stuffed quahog, and even will go with a mass produced ones if I'm at the right bar and want something to go with a beer. My favorite recipe -- which is total heresy because it is "gourmet" to some critical palates-- is Chris Schlesinger's "Ultimate Stuffie" from the Back Eddy in Westport. These suckers have ground Portuguese sausage, a ton of sage and oregano, and kernels of corn. I discovered the recipe in The New England Clam Shack Cookbook, (probably one of my most used books on my kitchen bookshelf.)

 

 

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Apr 04 2014

Friday Randomness

Published by under General

  1. I spent the morning with the Cape Cod Technology Council and delivered my third "First Friday" presentation -- this one on local marketing and local digital media. I get more from the Q&A then they do, each and every talk gives me more fuel and thought fodder than I arrive with.
  2. David Ortiz and his "cha-ching" selfie with the Commander-in-Chief was an awesome marketing move by Samsung and the genius who came up with their celebrity #selfie program deserves a raise (personally I loathe the word selfie, and am now going to use it as a synonym for onanism,  as in "Hey Fred, I see you have the new Victoria's Secret Catalogue! Time for a selfie?" It worked on me, I am definitely going to a Galaxy Note 3 when my current phone is up for renewal this summer.
  3. Cotuit buddy and US Ambassador to the UK, Matthew Barzun's Twitter account  should be studied by any public official. The US Embassy's Timberline blog on Tumblr is fascinating reading, to wit: "Never stay in a hotel with the word Palace in its name and never build a road."
  4. Red Sox open at home today v. the Brewers. World Series rings will be handed out. Moment of silence to mark last April's evil events. Read the transcript of President's Obama's remarks on Tuesday's White House visit by the Sox, an excellent speech that had to have been written by a Bostonian.
  5. 5. April is the month where the most important man in my life is my outboard motor mechanic.
  6. 6. I am not into getting my boats ready for the water. This winter trashed the yard, gutters have been ripped off of the roof, the north side of the house needs painting and the lawn is scabrous.
  7. 7. Google + pissed me off by spamming everybody I know when I posted a picture of last week's blizzard. Oversharing is a sin and I am sick of services that think I am an attention whore by default.

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Apr 02 2014

The unclimbed

Published by under Baseball,Cape Cod,Cotuit

I was way too wimpy to ever climb a Cotuit water tower as a kid. I know those who did. One went on to feel perfectly at ease jumping out of airplanes. I am so freaked out by heights that I get weird thinking about heights.  (A Cub Scout expedition to the top of a fire tower in Georgetown, Massachusetts in 1966 ended with me clutching the bannister of the open metal-grate stairs and having to have my fingers pried off by my mother the Den Mother). Anyway, I went for my daily constitutional behind the ball park where the land is at risk of being developed unless the Barnstable Land Trust can raise enough $$$ to buy it and save the Kettleer's home field, Lowell Park, from having some starter castles in the outfield.  Give today.  The pink surveyor ribbons are in the woods!

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Apr 01 2014

Whan that aprill with his shoures soote…

Published by under Baseball

A. Bartlett Giamatti was the president of Yale when I was a student there in the late 1970s. I had lunch with him once and the conversation was unfortunately about comparative literature and the poetry of Spenser, one of his many academic specialties. I was bitching about my experience in English 101, a prerequisite for English majors at Yale which ran both the fall and spring terms of my freshman year and was without a doubt the most frustrating class I've ever taken -- sort of an evil bootcamp designed to weed out the wimps from what was arguably the best English literature department in the US. I made a wisecrack about a student who wrote a dreary paper about reptile symbols in The Faerie Queen and he shook his hand in the universal gesture of beating off (or so I interpreted it) and went back to asking the rest of the table about how they felt about college life in general. I wanted to tell him I found it highly strange that I had to spend time in the Yale language lab with a set of headphone on my stoned head, listening to someone read Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in a sing-song voice like a parody of a Scandanavian when I was in school to read the King's English goddammit, and not pick through some mongrel predecessor that opened my education with these familiar words:

Whan that aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of march hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
Tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the ram his halve cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye
(so priketh hem nature in hir corages);
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
And specially from every shires ende
Of engelond to caunterbury they wende,
The hooly blisful martir for to seke,
That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke.

We didn't talk about baseball. I had no idea he was into baseball. I didn't watch the game in college. I never once went out to the ancient Yale ballfield where George Bush and Ron Darling had pitched (Ron was a contemporary and also a renowned Cotuit Kettleers). I barely passed English 101 and quickly shifted to American History after a disastrous freshman year.

Giamatti, a Bostonian, was a life-long Red Sox fan. He  declared once that his life's ambition was to become president of the American League. In 1986 his wish was almost granted and he became president of the National League, graduating to the top job of Commissioner of Major League Baseball in 1989-- a job he held less than six months -- long enough for him to banish Pete Rose -- before dying at 51 of a heart attack on Martha's Vineyard (he smoked).

Of course his son, the actor Paul Giamatti, was a Yalie.

So back to yesterday, March 31, Opening Day. The reigning World Champion Red Sox opened the season down in Baltimore's Camden Yards  and lost to the Birds 2 to 1 in a nice game under sunny skies while up here Massachusetts endured another day of "wintry mix" and "thunder snow." Watching the last two innings, I thought about Giamatti's finest contribution to baseball, his written love letter to it: The Green Fields of the Mindthe oft-quoted poetic elegy to the national pastime.

"The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone."

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Mar 29 2014

To the Snow Plow Driver who thought he was in a corn field:

Published by under Cape Cod,Cotuit

Dear Mister Snow Plow Driver,

I know you have a very hard job. You have to drive your big truck with the big plow through the blizzards, trying to see out your windshield in near white-out conditions. No amount of Firecracker Schnapps or DeKuypers Peach Brandy can keep the cold from penetrating into your lonely cab, but at least there aren't any many civilians out driving that you need to avoid.

Might I suggest an eye exam? That lazy eye can be corrected you know. You just need to bring in the right side of your plow about a foot or two. Then you won't plow up all the roadsides of Cotuit from CVS to Oregon Beach by slicing off at least a foot of everybody's front lawn and depositing it in a nice furrow on the sidewalks and lawns.

We so look forward to raking it back and trying to reseed it. Because if we don't, and if your boss at the DPW decides you need some help staying within the lines of the coloring book known as the roads of Cotuit, then my tax dollars will be spent installing ugly curbstones that will take away the nice grassy soft shoulders that make the village look like Cape Cod and not suburban Waltham.

Maybe you thought you were Richard Burton in "Where Eagles Dare":

YouTube Preview Image

Yes. We stick out little reflective sticks on the side of the road to tell you where the pavement ends and the grass begins, but you managed to pick off most of them this time through the town. I know it has been a nasty winter -- this spring blizzard was the last straw and it probably pissed you off as much as the rest of us -- but it was the one storm that managed to do the greatest amount of damage to the village because you need an eye exam.

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Mar 27 2014

A Sunday Stroll in Cotuit

Published by under Cape Cod,Cotuit,history

I'm trying to walk off some weight and hit the road on Sunday to take a stroll through Mosswood Cemetery and around Eagle Pond. Winter is the best time for marching around in the woods. No leaves have sprouted to obscure the views and few if any people are out on a grey afternoon. First stop was the hill atop Old Shore Road at the bend on Putnam Avenue. In behind the old Ropes property is this sad barn. The cupola crashed in during Sandy in the fall of 2012. A tarp was hauled over the hole, and you can see some strapping on what remains, so who knows, it may get rebuilt or it may vanish like so many other old sheds and barns around the village.

The Ropes Barn

Onwards to Mosswood Cemetery,  to look at the Churbuckian headstone, all covered with lichens, the plot littered with winter's blown sticks. Always strange to think that my name will get stuck there in the ground some day. Only my grandfather Henry is actually buried there. Grandmother Nellie and my father were cremated, so all that remains of them are the stones. I reminded myself for the umpteenth time to visit the cemetery office and see what the deal is with the family plot.  It's interesting to see the changes to the cemetary and the graves that get extraordinary attention, with little solar powered lights, bunches of plastic flowers, ornate laser inscribed tombstones with pictures and poetry. Nothing like the old Yankee practice of sticking up a name, a birthday and death date and then moving on.

I went up the hill to the old section, where the 19th century family plots are. The Chatfields and Fishers and Fields and Hodges -- the old unmet names of great-aunts and uncles gathered together. The oldest stones are pretty beat up, with some interesting information that belies the nautical past. "Died in Rio de Janiero" or "Drowned, Cotuit Bay 1842." One of the oldest stones is of one of my oldest ancestors, Azubah Handy, wife of Bethuel Handy, mother of Bethuel Handy Jr., the Cotuit whaler who spent a winter stranded in the Siberian ice of the Sea of Okhotsk until my great-great grandfather Tom Chatfield could sail back from San Francisco and rescue his father-in-law.

 Azubah was one of the first to be buried in the cemetery (1819) (I don't know where the colonial graves of Cotuit are). Her inscription is one of the most wordy in Mosswood, a poem that was oft quoted to me as a kid:

"My bosom friend come here and see
Where lays the last remains of me
When I the debt of nature paid
A burying yard for me was made.
Here lays the body of your bride
The loving knot is now untied
A loving husband you have been,
To me the dearest of all men.
Husband and children here I lay
Stamp on your minds my dying day
Come often here and take a view
Where lays the one that loved you."

Onwards to the gate in the fence between the boneyard and Bell Farm, the old turkey farm that was nearly turned into a subdivision in the 1980s before being saved by the Barnstable Land Trust and preserved as a gorgeous meadow with my favorite tree in all of Cotuit.

Then out of the meadow and into the woods where the box turtles live and risk the walk across busy Putnam, remembering the old Bell Farm barn with the roof that was painted with "GREEN ACRES" in homage to a television series from the 1960s that had something to do with a Hungarian countess (Zsa Zsa Gabor) living on a hillbilly farm. The roof of the barn in the TV show was used in the title, and some vandal wit decided to paint the abandoned barn so everyone driving into Cotuit would catch a glimpse. Every so often the owner of the barn would pay someone to paint the shingles black, which was tantamount to erasing a blackboard for the next vandals to climb up there and do some nocturnal graffiti.

Eventually the place was knocked down and now the village has a great meadow.

Anyway, down the trail into the woods and over the planked bridge over Little River, one of Cotuit two "rivers" as the Cape is fond of calling it's glacial streams Rivers in lieu of having anything truly big and wide and flowing. (the other river being the Santuit River). Little River runs from Lovell's Pond in Newtown, the northernmost part of Cotuit adjacent to Santuit. A pretty little pond that is stocked with trout by the state and has one of the town's fresh water beaches. I've never seen any evidence of Little River other than its delta on Handy's Point into the bay, the glimpse next to Bell Farm, and a pool in back of my cousin's workshop a little further to the north. I'm sure it was a herring run at one point, probably holding smelt too, but the cranberry industry killed off most of the runs when the bogs dammed up the flow and diverted the water to flood the cranberry vines.

I walked around Eagle Pond at a fast pace, working up enough of a sweat to need to unzip my jacket. I popped back out on Little River Road and followed it to one of Cotuit's nicest little neighborhoods, home to the Cotuit Oyster Company, and Handy's Point, the promontory where my oldest Cape Cod ancestors once lived, having come to Cotuit in the late 1600s from Mattapoisett to build ships. I'll scan some of the old black and white photos eventually, but Little River, also known as the Inner Harbor, was a bit of a separate village within a village in the 18th and 19th centuries, connected to Cotuitport by the Old Post Road, but separated by Little River. According to Chatfield's reminiscences, he left for a Pacific whaling voyage with his wife and young family living in the Handy home on Handy's Point, but his wife Florrie, isolated from the village by the river, sold the place and moved the clan into the village center. On his return three years later he rushed home to the old place, only to find the family gone. He hitched a ride into town on a wagon and was pointed to his new home in the center. Shame, it is a pretty piece of waterfront and in the 19th century was the home of Mark Anthony DeWolfe Howe, a prominent Boston editor and winner of the Pulitzer prize. That house has been reskinned a few times over the year and now looks like the typical non-Cape wedding cake temple to the gods of plate glass and rococo railings, faux widow's walks, and brass lanterns with plastic adirondack chairs that no one sits in arranged in a row on the Chem-lawned grass.

One big hurricane and the place will be underwater. There was a reason the oldtimers considered waterfront living to be a questionable thing, and I suspect the Chatfield-Handy exodus from Handy's Point to the village center was viewed as a climb up the social ladder, just as getting out of town in the 1950s to live in suburban Boston was viewed as a good thing by my grandparents.

I walked down the beach, past the pissed off "PRIVATE BEACH! NO CHAIRS!" signs -- one of the "signs of the times" of modern Cotuit and the Hedge Fundification of the waterfront that has brought us evil looking security cameras and warnings to keep moving -- and around the peat bank to the terminus of Little River. Some old pilings give proof of an old bridge there, but, alas, I had to ford it Taras Bulba-style, and wound up with a wet leg.

 

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Mar 22 2014

Meanwhile. Over in London. Dave finds a pub.

Published by under Travel

This is what passes for humor when the wife and I are walking along the Thames.

horniman

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Mar 21 2014

A made man

Published by under Baseball

2014-03-21 13.24.00

 

2014-03-21 13.38.19

 

So I cleared the US Customs "Global Entry Program" which means no more lines when I go hither and fro from the UK to the States. One of the customs officers asked if I was a Red Sox fan, a safe question to answer in a National League city, and he waxed poetic about his ambition to see the inside of Olde Fenway. I told him I was a season ticket holder, which is like wearing a pinkie ring and driving a Caddy for the Gambino Family when it comes to being a made man in Boston. I passed the background check which means I get to be that douchebag you hate. That guy who can breeze through the TSA with his belt and shoes on, laptop and liquids safe in his bag. Tis the season of being licensed and ticketed. I feel highly important as a result.

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Mar 20 2014

Remembering Pat McGovern

"Boston, MA – March 20, 2014 – International Data Group IDG announced today with great sadness that its Founder and Chairman, Patrick J. McGovern, died March 19, 2014, at Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto, California."

via Remembering Pat McGovern | IDG.com.

I worked for Pat McGovern for eight months in 2005 when I was running online at CXO -- the branch of IDG publishing that published CIO, CSO, CMO Magazines. I competed against his publications in the early 80s when I worked for PC Week, the arch-rival of IDG's InfoWorld.

There are going to be a ton of Pat McGovern stories told over the next few days. Here's mine.

While Pat was a lion in technology publishing he was also one of the first and most influential western businessmen to operate in the People's Republic of China.  His presence in China, his reputation there to this very day, is legendary and made him the most well known and respected Westerner sin the Chinese tech sector. His VC investments in the likes of Baidu were early and massive successes. The man even spoke Mandarin.

During the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics I was surprised to find myself riding in the back of a bus with Pat on our way to a private dinner with Lenovo's senior executives and some heavy hitting senior execs from Qualcomm, Google, Microsoft, Intel, AMD, etc.. I saw him sitting alone in the back of the bus, so I sat down beside him and started chatting him up, thanking him for the opportunity to briefly work for him before quitting to join Lenovo. He was legendary for his photographic memory and immediately made the connection and started peppering me with questions.

As the bus crawled through traffic it was apparent that most everybody sitting within six rows of us was eaves-dropping on the conversation, most of them unaware of who Pat was. He was a big man but a soft spoken one; not at all brash or loud.  So I introduced him around  to the people in the adjacent seats as the first Westerner to do business in Communist China, well before Deng's market reforms that led to "capitalism with Chinese characteristics" and unlocked the Chinese growth we marvel at today. I urged Pat to tell the bus the story of how he infiltrated China in the 1970s. The story went roughly like this: Pat was on a flight from Japan to Russia and figured out he could make a "connection" in Beijing. This is back in the era of Nixon-Mao and PingPong diplomacy. Let's just say there were no princelings drag racing Ferrari's around the third ring road back then. Anyway, the plane lands, Pat looks out the window, amazed he's this close to the mysterious closed country. So he gets off the plane. The plane leaves without him. The Red Guard are confronted with this American standing in their airport essentially saying "Take me to your leader."

Pat humbly regaled the bus for 30 minutes with the story of how he invaded China, set up the first Chinese tech publications, and earned the trust and respect of the Chinese government. When we arrived at the restaurant it was my Chinese colleagues who really lit up at the sight of him, hustling him away to a place of honor next to the chairman and CEO of Lenovo as befitted the father of Chinese computer journalism.

He was a genuinely great man. Here's his story of how he entered China as captured in the official IDG oral history:

Continue Reading »

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Mar 11 2014

Spring Fever Baseball

Published by under Baseball,Cotuit

The Red Sox better mail me my season tickets soon or I'll begin to panic and start stalking them. I even checked my online bank register the other day to make sure the check I mailed in cleared last December. Season tickets are now my second worst non-renewal nightmare, up there with the falling-off-the-cliff and underwear-in-the-highschool-hallway dreams.. The first nightmare of non-renewal will always be my mooring permits from the Town of Barnstable.

My first game will be April 8 vs. the Rangers. Something tells me after this winter that I will not be wearing my "Thaw Ted" t-shirt and shorts that Tuesday evening but will probably have more layers of wool going on than a Yukon prospector.

So, randomly, here's the first bright sign of spring: one of my favorite Cotuit Kettleers blew everyone away during a recent Red Sox spring season game down in Jupiter, Florida.   I'm talking Deven Marrero, the Arizona State phenomenon my Cotuit baseball buddies and I adopted as most-likely-to-succeed in the 2010  championship season when he hit .306 as a freshman, returning the next year to play 12 games in the 2011 season and hit .346.  The guy is an incredible fielder.

Gordon Edes wrote last week that Marrero is the Red Sox rookie to watch this year and a strong candidate for the Sox's future shortstop:

"The beauty of spring training is that you never know when or where the next coming-out party will be, and who will emerge from the shadows to declare themselves a major leaguer-in-waiting.

Last spring it was outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., grabbing us with the virtuosity of his all-around play in Fort Myers. In 2005, it was a cocky Class A reliever named Jonathan Papelbon, who responded to a teammate being hit by a pitch in Fort Lauderdale by buzzing slugger Sammy Sosa with a high, hard one.

And Thursday afternoon here in Roger Dean Stadium, with the Red Sox leaving nearly all of their regulars back in Fort Myers, 23-year-old shortstop Deven Marrero, who went to high school about 70 minutes away from here (American Heritage School in Plantation), became the latest Red Sox rookie to seize his moment.

[+] EnlargeMarrero

AP Photo/Mike JanesShortstop Devin Marrero (above, coaching first base in a spring training game last year) flashed impressive defensive ability against the Marlins.

Marrero did so with a fielding exhibition worthy of Cirque du Soleil, one in which he displayed spectacular range diving for a ball up the middle, showed off his aerodynamic capacity while completing a double play and handled everything else hit his way with soft hands and a strong arm.

"My gosh, he put on a display defensively," manager John Farrell said after a scoreless game between the Sox and Miami Marlins that was shortened to 7 2/3 innings by a late-afternoon deluge.

Which brings me to this year's Kettleer's roster which is live on the team site.  I'll get off my butt and do the usual OCD Google-Baseball America scouting report but past experience tells me that a good number of these names won't make it to Cotuit due to the usual Team USA/College World Series conflicts. It is always nice to see returning players and this year's squad had four alumni from last summer's championship team.

PHOTOS # NAME POS B/T HT WT YEAR SCHOOL
Barrera, Tres C R/R 6'2 195 2017 Texas
Bozoian, Vahn OF R/R 6'5 210 2016 USC
Carmichael, Jay RHP R/R 6'2 175 2016 Florida
Copping, Calvin RHP R/R 6'3 180 2016 Cal St Northridge
Duke, Travis LHP L/L 6'2 220 2016 Texas
Eicholtz, Nick RHP R/R 6'4 180 2017 Alabama
Fisher, Jameson C/INF L/R 6'2 180 2016 SE Louisiana
Fulmer, Carson RHP R/R 5'11 190 2016 Vanderbilt
Haynie, Will C/INF R/R 6'5 225 2017 Alabama
Henderson, Spencer LHP/1B L/L 6'3 215 2016 UC Davis
Holder, Kyle INF L/R 6'1 185 2016 U. San Diego
Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4 10 Jackson, Drew INF R/R 6'2 195 2016 Stanford
James, Logan LHP L/L 5'11 185 2016 Stanford
Leftwich, Luke RHP R/R 6'3 200 2016 Wofford
McClelland, Jackson RHP R/R 6'5 220 2016 Pepperdine
Melton, Hunter INF R/R 6'2 225 2016 Texas A&M
Minter, A.J. LHP L/L 6'0 200 2016 Texas A&M
Parks, Adam RHP R/R 6'2 220 2016 Liberty
Photos: 2, 3, 4 2 Schrock, Max INF L/R 5'9 180 2016 South Carolina
Photos: 2 14 Stubbs, Garrett C L/R 5'10 160 2015 USC
Taylor, Jeremy OF L/L 6'2 178 2016 East Tennessee St.
Taylor, Logan INF R/R 6'1 200 2016 Texas A&M
Tewes, Sam RHP R/R 6'5 205 2017 Wichita St.
Vogel, Matthew RHP R/R 6'2 185 2017 South Carolina
Wingenter, Trey RHP R/R 6'7 195 2016 Auburn
Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4 8 Wiseman, Rhett OF L/R 5'11 190 2016 Vanderbilt

And being all springlike (since the clock did its thing and make it at least sunny at 6 pm albeit a balmy 20 degrees), I'll drag the boat to the boat guy next week for a pre-season tuneup and start stalking those wily clams awaiting me. I was in London the past two weeks and they have full daffodils and crocuses (Crocii?) which was nice to see. Otherwise, mud season approacheth and I need a baseball game to get me out of this spleenish winter funk.

One response so far

Mar 08 2014

A month without a post….

Published by under General

Since beginning this blog in 2001 I don't think I've gone as long without writing as I have recently with a case of blogger's-block. I noticed my last post was January 29 and consisted of a simple notice that I'd finished a historical society paper.

I plead business travel, winter ennui, and general overwork. I'm in the middle of two big projects and haven't had time to lift my head up from either one of them to attend to my personal writing obligations.

Mea culpa accomplished, now to deliver something half-way interesting.

4 responses so far

Jan 29 2014

Compiled Woodlot Revolt Paper

Published by under Cape Cod,Cotuit,history

The complete story of the Mashpee Woodlot Revolt of 1833 is here: The Mashpee Woodlot Revolt of 1833

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