Aug 16 2013

Saw the Game. Bought the Shirt

Published by under Baseball,Cotuit


One response so far

Aug 16 2013

Dude of the Day – Sir Adrian Paul Ghislain Carton de Wiart

Published by under General,Weird

Tip of the hat to Uncle Fester for finding the best first paragraph of any Wikipedia entry. Ever.

"Sir Adrian Paul Ghislain Carton de Wiart (5 May 1880 – 5 June 1963) was a British Army officer of Belgian and Irish descent. He served in the Boer War, First World War, and Second World War; was shot in the face, head, stomach, ankle, leg, hip, and ear; survived two plane crashes; tunnelled out of a POW camp; and pulled off his own fingers when a doctor refused to amputate them. Describing his experiences in World War I, he wrote, "Frankly I had enjoyed the war."

What is it about English tough guys taking off their own fingers? See Sir Ranulph Fiennes. "He sustained severe frostbite to the tips of all the fingers on his left hand, forcing him to abandon the attempt. On returning home, his surgeon insisted the necrotic fingertips be retained for several months before amputation, to allow regrowth of the remaining healthy tissue. Impatient at the pain the dying fingertips caused, Fiennes cut them off himself with a fretsaw,  just above where the blood and the soreness were."

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Aug 16 2013

That Championship Series

Published by under Baseball

The Cotuit Kettleers won the 2013 Cape Cod Baseball League championship last night in Orleans over the eastern division champions, the Orleans Firebirds, in a two game sweep that ended with a 6-1 score. The win earned Cotuit its 16th league championship, it's second in the last four years.

For the last two months – beginning on June 12 at home against Chatham – the Kettleers put a great team of talented college ball players on the field of "beautiful, pristine, picturesque Lowell Park." Although a mere four players were on the roster for the entire season and a total of 50 or more players cycled in and out of the dugout due to the professional draft, Team USA, and the early opening of the school year, the team, like every team before them, came together with their own unique personality and presence, growing from strangers to adopted sons in a mere eight weeks of intense, daily play.

I'm happy to have seen more than a dozen of those games, most of them at home here in Cotuit where I can walk to the park in less than ten minutes, in bare feet, toting my little Kettleers bag (sons call it my "man purse") carrying my scorebook, water bottle, wallet, phone and bag of peanuts left over from the last game. I divided my time between the home stands along the third-base line and the more capacious and new visitors' bleachers along the first (where I can get a better view of the batters and also slightly annoy the visitors by cheering for the home team in their midst). Any baseball game that I can walk to in bare feet and watch for free (other than a grateful donation tossed into the plastic kettles carried around by Alan Blanchette's squad of little kids) is great baseball, win or lose.

My personal highlight of the season was the July 13 game at home against Hyannis, when Mike Ford, back for his second stint in Cotuit, went four-for-four, hitting a first inning home run, two singles, and another homer in the eighth to drive in a total of five runs. That was probably the best single performance I've ever seen in Cotuit; it was with mixed regret and pride that I cheered the news that Ford had been drafted by the Yankees and went off immediately in late July to play for the Staten Island Yankees for the remainder of the summer season before finishing his education this fall at Princeton. He entered that game leading the league with a .370 average and departed it with an astonishing .420 – a spectacular number if one considers that the Cape Cod Baseball League is one of the few wooden-bat summer leagues, often the players' first introduction to ash or hickory, a difficult transition for some, and the reason so many pro scouts flock to the fields in July to see how well the sluggers can adapt. Ford adapted and left Cotuit a guy to watch in the future.

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The names on the roster in early June seem so familiar now as I read back through the scorebook: Zimmer, Diggar, Rosen, Kiene, Mazieka, Castellano, Cole, Cribbs, Bradley, Walsh … but flip ahead through the stained and tattered pages to last night's game and only one, Zimmer (the MVP of the championship series who left the team to play in Japan and for Team USA before returning) is a repeat. Many of the post-season stars were very recent arrivals, joining in the last two weeks to patch the holes on the dugout and bullpen benches. They will also be remembered for a long time to come.

I've read in the Cape Cod Times that the Kettleer's coach Mike Roberts estimates that 50 players cycled through the roster this year, a level of churn that must be grueling to manage as players come and go due to injuries, the pro draft, and other caprices of the summertime.

Mike Roberts is a constant. This was his tenth season with Cotuit and he's become a beloved figure in the village, peddling his bike up and down Main Street, rolling into the driveway to say hello, raising funds to improve the ballpark and settling into the community as one of its most colorful characters. His style of play – "Roberts SmallBall" the fans call it – is an education in the game itself; a constant strategic game of inches, of bunts and double steals, hit-and-runs, suicide squeezes … there isn't an opportunity that goes unexploited and I imagine for any player fortunate enough to get invited to Cotuit they come away with an intense education in base running and strategy unavailable anywhere else (Mike's son Brian Robert, second baseman for the Baltimore Orioles, was the stolen-base king a few years back and played for his father when Mike was coaching the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill).

The real hero of Cotuit isn't a player, the coach, or any individual. It's got to be the Cotuit Athletic Association, a largely anonymous, unsung collection of volunteers who raise the money, pass the kettles, mow the lawn, sell the 50-50 raffle tickets, staff the t-shirt store, house and feed the players, manage the website and drive the players to-and-from the airport. This isn't a group of folks who want to bask in the reflected glory of the players (Ron Darling, Chase Utley, Joe Girardi are some former Kettleers), these are genuinely devoted fans who work very hard delivering the best, free, family-friendly baseball experience available anywhere. They manage the interns, pick up the trash, sweep out the stands and recruit next year's roster all while working with their backs to the field and the game they love so fans like me can sit in the top row keeping score, talking trash, and applauding.

There's good reason for the myth of Cape Cod baseball in a game drenched in myth, it's a myth earned and deserved and goes far deeper than the usual glib shorthand description of "the best college ballplayers facing wooden bats and a daily game schedule for the first time in their careers under the scrutiny of pro scouts in quaint seaside ball parks." Movies, books, and countless blog posts and tweets have been expended on this league and its alumni, (and here comes one more). But the common theme that has emerged for me over the years is that the volunteers are the constant (see my ode to Ivan Partridge below), the players are ephemeral, few staying more than one season, and the fans are mixture of close family, friends, regulars and hardcore eccentric fans (some of whom have earned nicknames from me and my crew as "The Clapper", "The Fountain of Misinformation," "Bookworm" etc.); and of course the random parade visitors and tourists stopping by for a game to check out the myth and legend of Cape Cod baseball.

With no parade or celebration to mark their victory, this year's Kettleers are doubtlessly packing up their duffel bags this morning and getting ready for a ride to the airport, on their way back to Vanderbilt, Stanford, Concordia, NC State. Lowell Park will go quiet, the snack bar will cook no more, the volunteers will keep mowing the grass and eventually the tarps will cover the pitcher's mound and the place will return to the dog walkers while the weeds keep growing through the cracks in the parking lot. The coach might relax for a few days, but doubtlessly he's already recruiting the 2014 squad, and in a few weeks, at Bruce Hall in the Cotuit Federated Church, the Cotuit Athletic Association will gather to start planning for opening day next June.

For the first time in a few years I'm not in my usual post-season depression. Yes, I'll turn my attention to the Red Sox for the next two months, keep reading a steady stream of baseball books (my guilty pleasure) and continue my Walter Mitty fantasy of one day be sitting in the stands, scorebook in my lap, debating with myself over whether to mark that play a hit or an error, when a call goes out over the PA: "Is there a scorer in the house?"

I'll be ready.


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Aug 15 2013

A fish out of water

Published by under Cotuit,General

I suck at swimming. I sort of flounder along in a feeble combination of side-stroke, breast-stroke, and head-up dog paddle that  does little more than keep me from drowning. A deep abiding phobia of aquatic critters has given me the same attitude towards swimming that many sailors from days of yore had about falling aboard: 'tis better to just drown than suffer.

Shark attacks, feral crabs, electric torpedos, and most recently jellyfish have persuaded me that it is better to float atop the briny deeps than dive in and try to consort with the dolphins. This means I will never compete in an Ironman Triathlon or pose a credible threat to Michael Phelps.

A couple weekends ago I did a cannonball off the deck of the boat and spent some time scrubbing the slime off of the waterline. I'm quite vain about having a dirty bottom, though I don't have the lung capacity to dive under and hack away at the barnacles -- it's just the waterline that I'm vain about.

I finished my scrubbing and climbed up the ladder to towel myself off. Something was wrong. Very oddly and specifically wrong. Wrong in a line that began on my forehead, wrapped under my chin, over my shoulder, around my back and most wrongly -- up inside of the leg of my bathing suit to that area of anatomy colloquially known as the "taint."

Somehow I had wrapped a long jellyfish stinger around my face and body and up inside of my shorts.  Toweling it only made it fire all of its evil little poison injectors deeper into my skin. I half-seriously requested that someone urinate on me (as that is apparently the official lifeguard cure in Australia where they have jellyfish that will kill you in a nanosecond) but there were no volunteers.

I spent the rest of the afternoon sitting in the stands of a baseball game in itchy burning agony, telling everyone in earshot that I had been stung on my privates by a jellyfish. Woe was me.

So it was with apprehension that I walked down to Riley's Beach the next morning to participate in a group swim across the channel to Sampson's Island in a surprise birthday celebration of my good friend Chris' 60th. About 125 Cotusions of all ages snuck down to where Chris performed his weekly Sunday morning swim across the narrow channel, laying in wait to leap out and surprise him. Some Russian-sounding fishermen casting off the beach were overwhelmed by the flash mob, but one started chuckling with approval when we all yelled "SURPRISE" and began singing the Russian version of "Happy Birthday" as we sang the English version.


The plan was to swim the 100 yards across the channel, emerge, eat a donut and drink a cup of coffee, pose for a photo and then swim back. I didn't have the heart to tell everybody that I had been stung the day before in those same waters, so I let the first wave hit the drink and followed on their heels, figuring they would clear a path over the best brown shark fishing hole on the southside of Cape Cod (they don't bite but they are big). I bobbed along, sort of happy to be getting some exercise, but not pacing myself and getting a flutter kick's worth of churning feet in my face from the vanguard of swimmers clearing a path in front of me. All was well until I hit the  current racing out the channel and started to get swept into Nantucket Sound. It was time for every man for himself. I churned extra hard, probing below me with my feet where the brown sharks lived, reaching for some sand to stand on.

Out of the water at last, I sucked in my gut, lost all self-consciousness over my extreme farmer's tan, and hit the Dunkin Donuts coffee before the other 124 swimmers mobbed the table. A half hour of socializing, posing for a group photo, and I was back in the water for the return trip to the mainland.

And so ends my official swim of 2013, to be followed on New Year's Day by the traditional Cotuit plunge.

5 responses so far

Aug 14 2013

Quaking Sands of Technology

Published by under General,Technology

So everyone has heard of Creative Destruction, the phenomenon of change that destroys incumbents and gives birth to insurgents, a repeating and accelerating cycle of technology killing its commercial antecedents while opening opportunity to a new generation of attackers. Richard Foster, a director at McKinsey, wrote a book in 2001 about the trend, finding in his research that the average tenure of the S&P 500 was shrinking from 61 years in the late fifties to 18 years today. Gone are Kodak, Palm, Compaq.

The fall of Research in Motion -- aka Blackberry -- is stomach churning to contemplate if you're the CEO of a technology company over ten years old. According to the New York Times the company owned half of the smartphone market in 201?. That's 50% market share a mere three years ago. Now, as the company dies under the assault of the iPhone and Android, it is "exploring strategic options" ... aka looking for a buyer.

Jean-Louis Gassee, the ex-Apple exec, told the Times that "Buying Blackberry is necrophilia."

From status symbol to relic in only a few years. Obviously somebody at RIM was either:

a) complacent and had the hubris that the market share was eternal or ...

b) blind to the signs of technical disruption that were going to trash their business model (touch screens, app stores, media & entertainment ecosystems) ...

or c) cocksure that IT departments at big companies would see the upstarts at Apple and Google for the insecure, hackable toys they were and stand by Blackberry's vaunted BES secure server technology

Then the President bitched he wanted to use an iPhone and suddenly every corporate drone in America was pounding at the doors of IT demanding iPhone support.

If the Blackberry can blow the dominance of a market in just three years, then who is next? The minicomputer industry wheezed along for at least a decade after the introduction of the PC. The shift to solid state from analog took a decade to crush the old guard in vacuum tube monitors and spinning hard drives.  Intel's fat and happy ownership of microprocessors is getting slapped around by ARM and aggressive competitors like Qualcomm. Microsoft? Well, that's a tale for another day, but don't count out the corporate inertia that is propelling that beast forward (and don't discount the potential of the Xbox, the most remarkable accidental asset in MSFT's arsenal). PCs are dying, just getting diversified and pushed hard into the emerging markets but I think I've bought my last laptop (as I am writing this on a Nexus 7 tablet with a bluetooth keyboard).

The old strategic imperative to keep 70% of the business in the cash cows, 20% in incremental improvements and 10% in bet-the-farm-over-the-horizon initiatives is a death sentence in this days of agile ready-fire-aim startups with nothing to lose and everything to gain. Innovation -- the darling buzzword of management consultants in the last decade -- can't be performed by committee nor Powerpoint. For some of the technically driven behemoths acquisitions are the solution, buying up the Waze's and Tumblr's and hoping the integration process doesn't squelch the spark that made those companies so hot to begin with.

Over dinner a few months ago with the CEO of Acquia, Tom Erickson, he told me he was drawn to the irresistible combination of SaaS, Cloud and Open Source. All three trends are massive disruptors that wiser people than me knew were coming over a decade ago. But the companies making the most of those disruptions are the ones with nothing to lose. As Mitch Kapor once said, the biggest impediment to progress is an installed base.

One response so far

Aug 13 2013

Oyster Pirates of Cape Cod

Published by under Cape Cod,Clamming

Someone in Barnstable has been stealing dirty oysters.

In late July a thief or thieves hit the town of Barnstable's oyster farm up inside of Prince's Cove: pretty much one of the foulest bodies of water one can imagine. They made off with 3,000 clams, doubtlessly for resale, and I pity the alimentary canals of the poor unsuspecting oyster eaters who down one of them. The town's Department of Natural Resources grows the clams from seed and then transfers them to cleaner water so the recreational clamming permit holders can harvest them at their leisure after an appropriate amount of cleansing time (I deride this practice as "grocery shopping" as one basically puts on waders and picks up clams from the bottom, but hey, a clam is a clam and oysters are awesome water filters)

According to news reports, the oysters were valued at a buck a piece, so this was a pretty significant theft. I don't know how any reputable fish market handles the provenance of oysters brought in by the commercial aquaculturists, but someone, somewhere probably tried to fence them. This wasn't the first theft reported this summer. Someone hit an aquaculture grant on the northside in Dennis earlier.

Oyster theft and piracy is a long standing crime. Jack London wrote about the oyster pirates of San Francisco Bay in the 19th century. The Chesapeake Bay area was the scene of some piracy as well.

Waterfront crime has been an issue in the Three Bays area of Cotuit for sometime now. The Cotuit Mosquito Yacht Club's gas tanks have been ripped off a couple times this summer and the town has set up some web cams at the Cotuit Town Dock (which make me homesick when I'm sitting in midtown Manhattan on a bright summer day).

thanks to Tom Burgess for the tip

2 responses so far

Aug 12 2013

Have a Hit

Published by under Baseball,Cape Cod

I thought I heard Ivan Partridge yelling tonight at the baseball game. He used to stand by the gate in the chain link backstop next to the Kettleer's dugout, fingers laced in the green wire, bellowing his exhortation to men at least 70 years his junior to "Have a Hit." I haven't seen him this summer. I hope he's doing well.

There are t-shirts sold that bear that slogan.

Once, in Zebulon, North Carolina, at a Carolina Mud Cats game, I saw an ex-Kettleer come to the plate. He'd spent the summer rooming at my sister's place, an adopted member of the family who loomed over backyard cookouts and exuded the kind of vitality that only a 19 year old in the prime of life has.

As he stepped to the plate, I put down my scorecard and yelled in my best Ivan imitation, "Have a Hit!"

The batter turned, a long way from Lowell Park, and for a moment he searched the grandstands for the tall old man who had urged him on a few summers before.

I thought for a second that I heard Ivan tonight. The Cotuit home stands were chanting "HAVE A HIT" and for a second I could swear I could hear Ivan's tremulous voice above the mob's. It was a good game, a great game, the Kettleers won the western division of the Cape Cod Baseball League and will advance to the finals tomorrow.

But Ivan wasn't there.

I didn't see Ivan at any home games this summer.  He made a few some last year, standing (never sitting) behind the Cotuit bat boys at his place on the fence right by the steps up into the stands. He usually came late in the game, a tall man in a cranberry red Kettleer's windbreaker even on the hottest of days, his eyes wrapped with big sunglasses. When he was really worked up he'd face the home stands and exhort everyone to make some noise and let the boys know how much we appreciate them.

Ivan Partridge is director emeritus of the Cotuit Athletic Association, the volunteer organization that pulls together the entire magnificent season throughout the year. He was a fixture at Lowell Park, past president of the CAA, the man who led the little kids with the plastic kettles through the stands during the fifth inning to solicit donations from the fans who had paid no admission to see the best amateur baseball in the world. My favorite CCBL blog, CodBall, called him a "superfan." They interviewed him a few  years ago here. The Barnstable Patriot wrote a wonderful profile here.

He was a former Episcopalian minister and volunteer fireman.

I miss hearing him call out his friendly offering to every Kettleer as they step into the batter's box, and his hope the other team will "Have an Out." I hope to see him soon.



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Aug 11 2013

Back to the Garage

Published by under General

I've taken a break from organized Crossfit and revived my garage gym where I first experimented with the exercise regimen/cult back in the spring of 2008. Back then I lacked most of the basic equipment, but over time through some investments in weights, an Olympic bar, a kettle bell, gymnastic rings, jump rope, etc. I was able to do most of the workouts of the day posted on the Crossfit main site.

In 2011, after a decent finish at the CRASH-B sprints, I wanted to stay in shape and find an alternative to the monotony of the ergometer. So I joined Crossfit Cape Cod (then the only Crossfit certified gym or "box" on the peninsula) and found that working out in the company of other like-minded hardcore lunatics was a lot more fun that suffering alone in the cold on my garage floor. The husband/wife team of Mike and Sarah Lee did a great job teaching me the essentials of Crossfit, the various lifts and movements essential to good form, strong progress, and avoiding injury.

This past spring, shortly after my second anniversary with Crossfit Cape Cod, I realized my commuting schedule to New York City was keeping me out of the gym for most of the week. So I  let my membership lapse and cleaned out the garage for weekend use when I'm back from the city. (I have a small gym with an erg in NYC, enough to keep me on my toes, but no weights).

I'm fortunate to already own the most expensive piece of equipment: the ergometer. I have about 400 pounds of weight and an Olympic bar -- more than enough for my abilities and a squat rack so I can shoulder the weight from the right height for back squats and push presses. I found some instructions online on how to build my own plywood box for box jumps and glued and screwed one together by myself one morning in June. I don't have a decent pull up bar, but that is no great loss as I try to avoid hanging on the bar after popping my bicep off the bone in 2012 doing toes-to-bars.

 It's been q fun  challenge, to self-motivate and resume solo workouts. I leech off of the Cape Cod website to find the workout of the day, do a quick warmup, then set myself up  out  on the lawn where I can make a spectacle out of myself for the morning pedestrian strollers and dig big ruts whenever I drop the bar. There's a bald spot forming where I do burpees.
And I get to listen to my own music.

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Aug 06 2013

The Car Plane

Published by under Personal

Texas. 1963. I was five years old, wore cowboy shirts with  pearl snap buttons, cowboy boots and a red cowboy hat.  The big kids in the subdivision tried to feed me cat turds because I was a "Yankee" and they were "Rebels." JFK was shot in Dallas but we lived in Houston in a house with a checkerboard linoleum floor and a treehouse built on top of a phone pole because there weren't any trees and my father decided his sons needed a tree house. The Mercury program was putting men into space and Houston had a NASA space center which made me obsessed with John Glenn. I played in a rocket ship at a playground near the Houston Ship Canal. My little brother rubbed a beached Portugese Man-O-War on his chest, went into shock and was placed in a bathtub full of ice at a Corpus Christi emergency room.



There were snakes in the back yard. We owned two Siamese cats. We had art on the walls that I have seen on the walls of rooms in Mad Men.

I was given a Kenner Car Plane because I learned how to read from Dr. Seuss and traffic signs.

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I loved my Car Plane. It was installed in the back seat of the Ford station wagon to keep me occupied during the long trip from Houston to Cape Cod when it was time to leave Texas and return to Massachusetts where my father was going to take over the family business. I flew it through Mississippi which scared me from the television news. I flew the plane past the Iwo Jima monument in Washington DC at five in the morning. And I flew it down the Mid-Cape highway, fighting for the right to play with it with my brother Tom.

It was the coolest thing I owned. I loved it. I mean I really, really loved my Kenner Car Plane. It was my Rosebud. The toy I've never forgotten.

And then it got smashed by an over-exuberant cousin whom I have never really forgiven.


3 responses so far

Jul 19 2013

Editorially – document collaboration

Published by under General

Om Malik invited me into a beta of Editorially, a service for collaboratively editing documents that is a vast improvement over Google Docs or the messy world of Microsoft Word redlining. It offers version control and commenting, but lacks markup for any delta between versions.  I don't know if I'd call it "Atex in the Cloud" but I did like it on first use.

I have three two three beta invites if anyone is interested.


8 responses so far

Jul 18 2013

Crash Reel: The Fall and Rise of Snowboarder Kevin Pearce

Published by under General

HBO Documentaries premiered a great one this week, profiling the rise and fall and acceptance of snowboarding champion Kevin Pearce, who rose to the top of the professional snowboarding circuit only to literally crash and burn with a "TBI" or Traumatic Brain Injury in 2010, only months before the Vancouver Winter Olympics.

I don't snowboard, I don't like skiing around snowboarders, and the culture of blasting music as they half-pipe away on some sylvan slope while wearing baggy pants is lost on me. But I did suffer a head injury myself in 2006 when I was blasted off my bike by a teenage driver, splitting the helmet that saved my life; and while my injuries were no where near as traumatic as Pearce's, I can empathize with his description of a brain injury as a "silent and invisible" injury, one that is pernicious in its effects, disquieting to one's love ones, and slow to recover from.

Crash Reel is a good look inside of the crazed world of extreme sports, one that routinely injures and mains skateboarders, skimobile riders, skiers and cyclists. The insouciant "awesome dude" culture has its toll, and this film peels away the bravado to show the true devastation a brain injury can have on a young man and his family. It was hard for me to watch and I was barely injured, never lost consciousness, and was able to get back to work within a month. But if you've ever had a solid concussion or seen a kid on a bike without a helmet, well, Crash Reel is going to to strike a chord.

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One response so far

Jul 17 2013

My favorite web error message ever

Published by under General

I personally have expressed this same sentiment whilst fleeing Bangalore on Lufthansa  under the influence of a massive overdose of Immodium. Gawker apparently has the same issue this morning.
503 Backend is unhealthy

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Jul 17 2013

On trains

Published by under Technology,Travel

Cape Cod has been served by limited weekend train service this summer, the Cape Flyer, and initial reports are very positive with the operating costs close to being covered and the passengers "liking" the hell out of the thing on Facebook. It's not the fastest train in the world, but it certainly is gaining in popularity after the nightmarish off-Cape traffic on the Fourth of July weekend that apparently backed up 25 miles from the Sagamore Bridge. The Cape has no daily passenger service to Boston or Providence, with commuters to those cities forced to drive or take the bus. The bulk of the train activity seems to be the scenic dinner train out of Hyannis and the trash train that hauls the Cape's detritus to the generators in Rochester.

I would certainly reconsider my weekly drive to Manhattan if there were a dependable and speedy train from the Cape to NYC via Providence, but I won't go into the terrible state of the Acela (over-priced, over-crowded, and too slow) and the general scandal of the American railroad infrastructure along the busy northeast corridor from Boston to Washington.

Two things have trains on my mind this week. First is a book by Tim Parks, an expat living in Verona, Italy who writes about his love-hate affair with Trenitalia in Italian Ways, an account of the Italian rail service he depends on for his commute between his home and his professorship in Milan. I like Italian trains -- I've taken the Cisalpina Eurostar from Zurich to Florence and then Florence to Venice and back again to Zurich -- they are slightly funkier than their French or German counterparts and Italian railroad stations are nicely chaotic. I like train-based travel accounts. Paul Theroux is the master in my opinion, largely because he's so judgmental of his fellow passengers and makes his tales more about the eccentricities of the people on the trains than the scenery out the windows. Parks isn't nearly as nasty and mean-spirited, I suppose because he's lived in Italy for 30 years and doesn't want to give too much offense. He spends an inordinate amount of time carping about the illogic of the Italian ticket/time table system and the atrocious layout and lack of directions in an Italian train station. But when he takes a cue from Theroux and describes his fellow passengers in a Sicily-bound train, all yapping away in their mobile phones, the book becomes interesting.

And the second thing that has sparked my recent interest in trains is Tesla-founder Elon Musk's forthcoming announcement of his "hyperloop" concept -- a combination of the Concorde, a rail gun, and an air hockey table -- that would make travel between Los Angeles and San Francisco faster than a jet.

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One response so far

Jul 12 2013

Kennedy brothers free turtle |

Published by under General

Kennedy brothers free turtle |

Update: my cousin snapped this shot of a dead turtle off of Edgartown. Looks like a Leatherback to me, a very dead, very smelly Leatherback. Such a shame -- these are HUGE turtles and very endangered ones. I found a dead one on  Sampson's in the fall of 2010 and it looked like an upside down dinghy from a distance. There's no way to say this is the same one the Kennedy's saved from entanglement.

Here's the quick story. The Kennedys are sailing in Nantucket Sound and come across a Leatherbill turtle entangled in a lobster buoy. The big reptile is struggling, the synthetic rope is wrapped seven times around its neck and flipper, and it's pretty much a goner unless someone helps it out. So the intrepid Kennedys jump overboard and pull a Doctor Doolittle.

Now NOAA is "investigating" because it is apparently illegal to help out endangered turtles without a permit and the wildlife rescue types are also wringing their hands, saying they should have called for help and let the pros handle the situation. I call bullshit, especially if, as Bobby Jr. claims in the video below, that he and his accomplice are licensed wildlife rescuers. I'm not saying every concerned citizen should rush to roll a stranded turtle or seal into the ocean or dive overboard with a knife between their teeth to cut a poor animal free from some man-made entanglement, but I think these guys did a good thing.

I found a dead Leatherbill on the beach at Sampson's Island a few falls back. It was very sad and obviously had been killed by a propeller strike.

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2 responses so far

Jul 10 2013

Millennial/Net-Gen Focus Group of Two

Sitting on the deck the other evening with my 24 year-old daughter and her boyfriend, a San Francisco entrepreneur working on a real estate/apartment finder app --  while I grilled dinner I also grilled them on social media trends within their social and professional circles. Both are digitally driven individuals who have known a world that always had an Internet. He's on a divided platform of MacAir and Android phone, she's a follower of the Apple Holy Trinity of MacAir, iPhone5 and iPad2.

  1. Both are Gmail users. She left Yahoo. And despite the Apple hardware, does not use Apple cloud services or email.
  2. Both use Snapchat
  3. Dropbox
  4. Are not fans of iTunes
  5. Both dispute the popular myth of twenty-somethings fleeing Facebook as it gets infested by their parents. "Can't survive without it, though everyone disses it and says they are going to cancel their accounts," said he.
  6. Twitter is not a big thing for them personally, but he's respectful of its marketing power
  7. He is a content marketing practitioner and showed me an infographic developed with his PR firm to support his app launch
  8. Both admit to being overwhelmed by the proliferation of social apps, networks, etc.
  9. I didn't ask about Google + usage.
  10. Laptop and tablet use was pretty low during their ten day vacation. Phones were consulted constantly with few phone calls observed.

Interesting points I took away from this survey sample of two are:

  • Both are very concerned about personal information security, hence the quick adoption of Snapchat which makes an image expire and notifies the sender if a recipient takes a screen shot.
  • Facebook is tired, but central to their sharing and personal network maintenance. I  thought they would long gone from there.
  • Both said they are tired of keeping up with all the options and new technology available to them

3 responses so far

Jul 10 2013

There are days when I miss Beijing

Published by under China,General

Maybe it's because of my memories of the summer Olympics in 2008, but for some reason I miss Beijing, even with its atrocious air quality. Such a wildly dynamic city, the most energy I've ever seen and I've seen Dubai and I've seen Las Vegas. Thanks to Bob Page for sharing this:

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Jul 02 2013

The Boston Tech Line | startup dj

Published by under General

The Boston Tech Line | startup dj.


Interesting post by Jay Batson, co-founder of Acquia, on the shift in the Boston tech scene from the Route 128 beltway of minicomputer lore, to a lean startup/downtown culture.

Having suffered the isolation of Route 128 when I was at McKinsey's Waltham office I can attest that technological creativity withers in the burbs.

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Jun 27 2013

Harry Parker God of the Charles

Published by under Rowing,sculling

I never rowed for Harry Parker, but I rowed against him, and I lost.  Since I have written on rowing, I thought it appropriate to remember the most successful coach, or at the very least, the best known, in the entire sport.

In his 50 years of coaching the Harvard men's crew, Harry had 22 undefeated seasons, about 16 unofficial national championships, and most regretfully for me, a Yalie, beat Yale 44 our of the 51 times the two colleges went head to head on the Thames River in New London, Connecticut -- that's the oldest competition in American sports.

I met him several times -- once as an applicant (I didn't get in) -- twice as a competitors (I lost both times to his crews) -- and once as a writer when I was researching The Book of Rowing. He was a difficult interview, maybe it was me, but Harry personified the word "taciturn" and was renowned for his sphinx-like demeanor among those who rowed for him on the Charles.

I'm not a sports statistician or historian, but I don't think there is another coach of any sport -- amateur, professional, collegiate -- with as long and successful career as Harry Parker's.

When I rowed the Harvard-Yale race in 1978 -- still the single hardest thing I have ever done in my life -- I spent close to 20 minutes in an oxygen-starved. lactic acid-soaked near-death state staring straight astern at Harry's craggy visage as he rode along confidently in the coaches launch as his boat pulled away with open water and kicked our ass. I literally lost my shirt.

The Harvard Gazette has a great recounting of the legend that was Harry Parker.

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Jun 24 2013

Tanglewood – The Pops do Garcia

Published by under Personal

I'd never been to Tanglewood, the music venue in Lenox, Mass -- way out there in Edith Wharton-Herman Melville territory off of Exit 2 on the Mass Pike near the New York border -- but got my first chance Saturday night with my good college buddy T____ who invited me to join him for the Boston Pops' Jerry Garcia Symphonic Celebration with Warren Haynes.


Gorgeous countryside, amazing music under the full moon, and me and a gazillion other paunchy Dead Heads arriving in German sedans unsure of whether to wear tie-dye or summer dresses.

Keith Lockhart, the post-John Williams/post-Arthur Fiedler heir to the conductor's baton of the Pops, conducted the two-hour concert in tie-dye. The orchestra was in their traditional formal evening wear.

The arrangements were amazing, especially on Terrapin Station which was originally recorded with a symphony orchestra and thus fit the venue perfectly. As a tribute to Jerry it was very well done, had a very eclectic set list ranging from big classics such as Morning Dew, to more obscure stuff such a West LA Fadeaway and Russian Lullaby. Terrapin was amazing:

The song begins around 2:15 in the clip below:

YouTube Preview Image

I was about ten rows back from whomever captured the clip. Haynes is repeating the event throughout the summer in Philly, San Francisco, LA and elsewhere.


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Jun 13 2013

Strawberry Wars and Earwigs

I've been a casual gardener for the last twenty years, sticking some petunias in a pot, zinnias in the bed, tomatoes in a cage, anything to keep the place from falling into total overgrown entropy -- with some success but mostly due to my wife who has the veritable thumb verte.

I'm learning the hard way that there's a few things you shouldn't put in the ground because they will ruin your life. They include:

  • Morning glories. Pretty blue flowers that self-seed and before you know it start to crawl up the gutters and smother everything in their path. Never again.  Robert Stone wrote in Prime Green: Remembering the Sixties:

"Across the highway, on the far bank of La Honda Creek, were more morning glory vines. They were there because Kesey had taken his shotgun and filled the magazines with all the mystically named varieties of that flower's seeds and fired them into the neighboring hillside."

  • Bamboo. Haven't planted it but have been told it is evil.
  • Horseradish: ditto.
  • Asparagus
  • English Ivy -- this stuff will take down a tree, ruin your house and split boulders if you don't go after it with a machete
  • Chinese lantern: I got this disaster plant as a gift and it is taking over. We're talking Invasion of the Body Snatchers. My mission in life is to eradicate it but I fear it's too late. Pray for me.

And now, I'm adding to the list: strawberries.

For it is strawberry season and my garden is speckled with  lots and lots of little ripening red balls of sweetness, just begging to be picked and sliced and scattered over my Cheerios. I planted two strawberry plants in the garden two summers ago, figuring, "hey, really fresh strawberries = good." Then they spread. And spread. And spread. Now they own 25% of the bed. Yet I protected them with netting two weeks ago when the first berries appeared  so the birds wouldn't peck at them, but lo and behold, whenever I see one that looks ripe for the picking and worm my hand under the net to snare it I discover each and every one has a bite mark. Not the green ones, not the half-ripe ones ... no, the vandal responsible for the ruination of my crop waits until each berry is right at its peak of perfection and it gives it a little chomp then leaves the rest for me. The villain doesn't finish one berry, no, it bites every berry.

Chipmunks are the issue but I can't bring myself to exterminate them. Which gets me thinking about the psychological advantage squirrels and chipmunks have over their brethren the common rat. People don't say "eek!" and climb on chairs when they see a chipmunk stuffing its cheeks with sunflower seeds under the bird feeders. But let a big grey, naked tailed rat appear and the exterminators are called in. It's all about the tails and whether or not your species has been deemed cute by the cartoons. Chip and Dale and Alvin guaranteed the chipmunk would get immunity for life. No one can poison a chipmunk or set up a pellet-gun sniper nest to pick them off. But the rat... the rat gets Willard and that weird cartoon where a "nice" rat cooked French food in Paris. Rats equal the Black Death. Buboes and disease. Chipmunks equal Christmas carols sung in falsetto and good humored Disney mischief.

But my strawberries ..... the insolent little f%*^*^%er stood there the other day, ten feet from me, as if to say: "You looking at something bro? Come at me. Do you even lift?"

After I salvage what I can I'm ripping up the plants. I can't stand the tragedy of watching 11 months of strawberry plants turn into a chipmunk vandalism project ever again. I know I can cut the bitten parts off and make strawberry jam .... but who has time?

I'm sticking to zinnias from now on.  (which are prone to being raped by earwigs, those delightful creepy insects that freaked me out as a kid because I assumed they were called earwigs because they crawled into one's ear canal and made their homes in a bed of ear wax ((for more on insects in ears, see the account of African explorer James Hanning Speke who, according to our friends at Wikipedia: "Speke suffered severely when he became temporarily deaf after a beetle crawled into his ear and he tried to remove it with a knife.")))

"One of these horrid little insects awoke me in his struggles to penetrate my ear, but just too late: for in my endeavour to extract him, I aided his immersion. He went his course, struggling up the narrow channel, until he got arrested by want of passage-room. This impediment evidently enraged him, for he began with exceeding vigour, like a rabbit at a hole, to dig violently away at my tympanum. The queer sensation this amusing measure excited in me is past description.

I felt inclined to act as our donkeys once did, when beset by a swarm of bees, who buzzed about their ears and stung their heads and eyes until they were so irritated and confused that they galloped about in the most distracted order, trying to knock them off by treading on their heads, or by rushing under bushes, into houses, or through any jungle they could find. Indeed, I do not know which was worst off. The bees killed some of them, and this beetle nearly did for me. What to do I knew not.

Neither tobacco, oil, nor salt could be found: I therefore tried melted butter; that failing, I applied the point of a penknife to his back, which did more harm than good; for though a few thrusts quieted him, the point also wounded my ear so badly, that inflammation set in, severe suppuration took place, and all the facial glands extending from that point down to the point of the shoulder became contorted and drawn aside, and a string of boils decorated the whole length of that region.

It was the most painful thing I ever remember to have endured; but, more annoying still, I could not masticate for several days, and had to feed on broth alone. For many months the tumour made me almost deaf, and ate a hole between the ear and the nose, so that when I blew it, my ear whistled so audibly that those who heard it laughed. Six or seven months after this accident happened, bits of the beetle—a leg, a wing, or parts of its body—came away in the wax."

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