Comments on life, the universe and everything from an aging Sixties survivor.

Location: Massachusetts, United States

Ummm, isn't "about me" part of the point of the blog?

Monday, October 31, 2011

When I was a boy and other dull stuff

Where I was born and edjumacated, they had 22 inches of snow over the weekend. I won't say "that's nothing: when I was a boy we had to trick or treat on July 4 to keep from getting snowed out." Because it ain't true. My town was the flatlands by New Hampshire standards. It was cold on October 31 evenings more often than not. It did snow once or twice, but nothing like 22 inches...nothing like two inches.

Watching the blundering utilities try to spin their third inept response to emergency in eight months does raise an intriguing question or two. First, is this their idea of lobbying against reforms that would enable communities to run their own municipal utilities? Second, is this supposed to be a GOP demonstration of the always-superior efficiency of the private sector? Or third, should we just say "thanks for the yucks?"

Speaking of yucks, there's Herman Cain's denial du jour. But seriously, I think the denial is more plausible than his tax plan.

In just a few minutes, I can ethically turn off the porch light and pig out on the remaining candy.

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Deja news

More and more, I've noticed that coverage of the Occupy movement is a step into the WABAC machine. Destination is, say 1968. So is the coverage...status quo prejudices and all.

I make almost no exceptions to the observation.* I follow Tom Wolfe in thinking that nearly all media exist to defend the established order. There is a spectrum of sorts. Media that wear their conservatism on their sleeve (q.v. Fox and the Boston Herald) are obvious in their contempt for Occupy's challenge and its people. (The Tea Party, of course, has been exempt from such negativity.) Centrist and left-leaning enterprises have been more guilty of benign neglect of the story, and to some extent of retailing stereotypes of protest.

We'll see what happens. It is a world where McLuhan's observation has been eclipsed. The medium now is all. On the other hand, it's a world where the rage of the people has, in the past year, shown a promising capacity for outrunning and embarrassing the media's cultural strictures. That is the newer phenomenon and my money's on the new.

* I followed a Facebook link to a Mother Jones story and got severely stuck in a loop demanding I subscribe. Capitalism has its tentacles eveerywhere.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Slow output

The actual hiking is interfering with writing about hiking. Since I'm way behind, I'll satisfy myself with the observation that sending John Lackey for Tommy Johns surgery is an adequate, although expensive, way to keep the SOB out of circulation next year. Both that, and Theo's inauguration in Chicago, come on the the 25th anniversary of the Buckner Ball. If you want to make something of that, you're too late.

I want to know if the Cubs are going to feed Theo stewed kid as a reminder to go after the goat.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Once in a while...

,,,I find myself on the side of the online commenters. The tale of the witless family who became so panicked in a seven-acre cornfield maze that they called 911has elicited actual humour and wit from a segment of the population chiefly known to grunt. That is nearly as astounding as the story itself.

I'll cut only a small bit bit of slack. Maybe one has to be country-raised to be able to walk into a cornfield at dusk and know how to walk out again: namely, pick a direction and walk. The easy walk, of course, is between the rows. It can also be the longest way out. Most farmers up my way plowed and planted the long way, so it was nothing to have a cornfield 200 yards wide and two miles long; even in New England. However, this is a seven acre field: that's about 500 by 600 feet, about half a city block. From the middle, one could walk five minutes in any direction and be out. Anyone could, that is, but people who might well get lost in their own living room. (Be sure to follow the link and take note of where in the field these people actually were.)

Here, next door to hysterical Salem, it is already the crazy season. Danvers, where the cornfield maze lies, is not only equally infected by seasonal nuttiness, it's where the witchcraft delusion actually happened. Hmm.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Those old names

Somewhere in these musings there may be some snarky comments about the origins of some so-called old Native American names. The name in play today has no such pretensions. The Wapack Trail, and the range it follows of the same name, is a contraction nearing its 90th birthday. The features run roughly north-south. It begins in the south, from Mount Watatic in Ashburnham, MA, to Pack Mount Monadnock*, in Peterborough, NH. One way, it's something over 21 miles, with a couple of thousand feet total climb (one goes down as well as up). From a distance (Monadnock) and a slightly higher altitude it looks like this:

So the name lacks ingenuity. It was coined in an inn in the 1920s. Ken Burns notwithstanding, we'll assume they had nothing but coffee to lubricate their creative faculties during Prohibition.

Although this is on my spouse's native sod, we've never done the Wapack. Its chief appeal has always been to hard core hiking and back country skiing groupies. However, last week we said "yes" to Em's proposal that we go back to Yosemite. Since we have a mere 11 months to get into shape, it seemed like time for an alpha test. We chose the Wapack section running south from NH 101 in the general direction of New Ipswich.

When one is on a one-way trail, the art of back-timing becomes very important. Recalling a Yosemite occasion when back-timing didn't go over so well, I got ironclad commitments to stop when we could still get back.

If one bones up on the route from something like Maptech Mapserver, one encounters a bright shining lie. Somewhere along the line, they moved the damn thing. The trail once went merrily up the slopes of the former Temple Mountain ski area, then followed valleys and contour lines along the ridgeline for several miles. Now the trail climbs each rise on the ridgeline, including two considerable peaks. Fortunately, everything is well marked, with blazes as well as the sweat of its hikers.

It's no wonder the groupies kind of keep this thing a secret. It's a lovely walk in the woods. The added climbs somewhat add to the delight. The tourist toys are totally absent; so are the privies. Despite the somewhat brutal peak climbs, hikers share the trail with mountain bikers. There seemed to be adequate mutual courtesy.

That was the weekend before last. Obviously we survived, ready for more, because yesterday it was back to Monadnock. Here we have another allegedly and perfectly apposite translation, which has morphed into a technical geological term: also the holy mountain of southwestern New Hampshire.

But this was not an occasion for my spouse, reared in view of the mountain, to worship it. We were there for a conditioning climb with an elevation gain of 1500 feet. (not much, you say? Go thou and do likewise.) We went up our standard route, the Cascade Link to the Pumpelly Trail. We were warned at the base that the Link was "wet." Well yes: actually, it seemed as if the mountain was leaking.

Observe the scenic flowing brook to my spouse's left. That is the trail. The State Park encourages hikers to stay in the trail no matter what, to avoid environmental damage, but there were moments that called for exceptions.

All of the lower sections were sodden, and all but the highest of the trail's six scrambles more nearly resembled waterfalls. This confirmed us in our choice of return routes. We'd never been on the Red Dot and so fulfilled our curiosity. It's busy, ledgy, and this day was also wet.

This was also no day to linger on or near the summit (we stopped about a quarter mile away and 200 feet below the summit), even though it was one of those legendary days on which one could see from Boston to central Vermont. The price of admission for that was temperatures hovering around freezing and a Force 8 gale. As we ate lunch I saw the inevitable naive young person clambering up in jeggings and a royal blue tank top. I supposed her skin would match her top in a few minutes.

Satisfactory trip. Our total height gain was nearer 1600 than 1500 feet, and we covered 5.2 miles in just under 5 hours, breaks included. And we're (sort of) mobile. If the weather cooperates, we should either do a slightly longer trip of the Wapack variety or a 2000 foot climb before winter drives us to his and her Stairmasters. Then we have to pick it all up again in spring and get ready in earnest for the Big Yo.

* If "Monadnock" means "mountain that stands alone," how does one account for Pack Monadnock, since it stands not alone, but at one end of a range of hills over 20 miles long? Monadnock may actually be Abenaki for " that big hill over there." Pack Monadnock might be "that other big hill over there."

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Friday, October 07, 2011

Guess I can't do this

A couple of days ago, Mass Equality asked for people to share their school bullying stories. So fine, I have a corker. I thought about it and started to offer my story.

It's still in my drafts file because, so far, I haveon't been able to tell the story as it should be told in this context. I've told some of it before, some of it here. But never all of it. It's one thing to summarise what happened. It's another to reveal the very loaded nickname stuck on one by the bullies. And it's another to admit to the barely controlled rage that I live with more than half a century after the fact. I had a vivid reminder of that today. Three of us leaving a modest collation were unwillingly drawn into a street confrontation that didn't involve us. In such situations, my brain automatically identifies an aggressor in such a situation as a bully, and prepares me to respond very, very violently to the provocation. It may be fortunate that the would-be aggressor in this situation backed off.

I would like to tell my story, simply because it might help some young person to bear up under treatment that is, indeed, unspeakable. It just doesn't seem possible to muster the necessary separation.

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Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Centre of attention

Time and more to add my flood tale to the mix.

Lucky me: Tuesdays I work afternoons, so I just rolled over when the thunder and lightning showed up. When I finally got up, the worst was over, but my spouse pointed out the roof leak in the back bedroom. This defect is something of a weather prophet, since it only leaks under extreme conditions. Thus we knew, before anyone announced a figure, that we had had four inches of rain in under two hours.

The cellar was not so bad. We have one corner, yet untiled, which is the habitat of useful junk. There was just enough water to turn some of the useful junk into useless junk.

But now we turn to my workplace. Although the office sits atop one of Salem's highest hills, the file room next to my office has always shown a talent for attracting leaks. I arrived expecting the worst, but was pleased to find my carpet dry and the leaks not so bad.

Except except except.... Early in the morning, there was enough leaky water to interrupt power very briefly. That short interruption was enough to set off the backup battery alarm.

The backup battery is a noble idea for networks. Trouble is, many of the associated alarms don't have the mother wit to SHUT UP after the emergency is over. The geeks who build these things seem to take a fiendish delight in pitching the alarms at the outer limits of human hearing. Our backup battery alarm was running when I arrived at work early yesterday afternoon. It was running when I got there this morning. It was still running when I left. It is still running in my head, with tinnitus that is becoming quite impressive. It will probably be running when I go in tomorrow, unless someone takes the battery out and shoots it. The tinnitus may last longer.

This probably doesn't rank with the lake at Peabody Square, and the ponds in many other places, but I submit that it is collateral damage.

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