Posts to the Arlington List

Getting rid of rodents 
> >

> “Does anyone know of a person who gets rid of rodents permanently without using poison?” > > >

There’s a rodent repeller who uses sound, but he takes your children too.

David (“50 Guilders”)

Re:  Uncle Sam in Arlington 

> >

> “Did you know that Troy, NY brags about being the home of Uncle Sam (it’s
apparently where he’s buried)?” > > >

Well, there you are. That’s where he resides.

Eternal best wishes. 2010-05-07

How does acid rain happen?

1. How does rain happen? Up in the air, water vapor, molecules of water, a stable compound of oxygen and hydrogen, condense into droplets under cooling conditions. We perceive swarms of these droplets as clouds. Tiny particles of dust floating in the atmosphere help the droplets coalesce into actual drops. When these are of sufficient size that they can no longer float in the air, they fall as rain. That is why skies are such a clear blue after a rain. The rain has washed them.

2. How does acid form? Water is exposed to gases, and they combine with the water to form acids. Hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere form the acid rain that has turned marble and limestone carved ornament, sculptures, and lettering into sugary ghosts of their original shapes. See, for example, the Robbins Library moldings on the third floor, or visit a cemetery.

Seas and lakes evaporate to form pure water, but they are contaminated by pollutants in the atmosphere.

The ocean is growing dangerously acidic.


Re:  efficacy of distilled water in current crisis 

Barbara wrote: >> > ” i opted for a water distiller this year instead of bottled water or an in-house water filtration system. i know the distillation process includes boiling water— but im not sure >that it’s a ‘rolling boil’— although the process does take 4 hours to complete. ” > > >

Distilled water will not require a rolling boil to be safe to drink. It is pure water, H2O and nothing but (with possible exceptions: see below).

In distillation, a liquid, in this case, water, is vaporized, using heat. The vapor condenses like rain from a cloud, and this is a purified product. If it is water, it is distilled water, and contains none of the substances that it had been combined with, mingled with, or that lived in the source water. Chemicals, such as salts; particles, either mineral or organic; and microorganisms, bacteria, or parasites are left behind when the water turns to steam and cools back into water. 

However, certain compounds in the water that vaporize at a lower temperature than water, such as alcohols or some oily substances, could be present in the condensate.

(To create distilled spirits such as brandy or whisky, wine or beer is heated, and selected alcohols and aromatics are drawn off for aging and bottling.)

It will take much longer than a minute to turn an appreciable volume of water into steam. This can be done by applying an electric or other heat source, as when you boil away a pan of water on the range. But shipboard stills use sunlight in a specially formed glass tube to evaporate salt water. Cf. desalinization.

Best wishes,

David “We be boilin'” Formanek

Re:  Recipes for a bride on a diet? 

mmmm — bride. delicious.

pest control

Cathy wrote: > > >”Thanks to everyone who verified my belief that squirrels were the perpetrator of tulip death. This fall, as Kim Salazar suggested to me, it’s going to be daffodil bulbs instead of more tulips.” > > > 

May I also suggest Monk’s Hood, Hellebore, Digitalis, Nicotiana….
If it weren’t for all those overhead power and communication wires, the tree rodent population could be much reduced.


enchanting new web site: please stop in for a spell 

The Cyrus E. Dallin Art Museum, Arlington’s municipal museum dedicated to the work and life of the great American sculptor and Arlington resident Cyrus Dallin (1861-1944), has launched its new web site. Please visit it, though keeping in mind that it is brand new and undergoing its second round of edits. (Nevertheless, I would not ask you to have a look if I didn’t believe it is a fine piece of work, well deserving of your perusal, and worthy of following links especially toward DONATIONS ya know what I mean.)

Dallin is the sculptor of the Menotomy Indian Hunter in the Town Hall Gardens, (the unofficial symbol of Arlington), the Robbins Memorial Flag Staff, Paul Revere, Appeal to the Great Spirit, and some 250 other works.

The Dallin Museum is entirely volunteer-staffed and donation-supported. Admission is always free, but donations are always welcome.

Please visit the new web site, and please visit the Museum, created by Town Meeting for the amusement and edification of its citizens and anyone from anywhere in the world who stops in for a visit between 12 noon and 4 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays.

One Whittemore Park
(corner of Mass Av and Mystic St)
Arlington Center

781 641 0747.


More on the Marathon — you heard it here first 

The conventional date for the battle of Marathon in the First Persian War is September 12, 490 BC, but it may be August 12. We in the Boston region run ours on Battle Day, when the local colonists chased the dominant redcoats out of our turf. That is my second point. What I mean to say, and it seems to have been overlooked, is that THIS YEAR’S MARATHON IS THE 2500TH ANNIVERSARY.

That is all.


The house always wins 

Re: the gambling argument. I too commend Sean Garballey for his no vote.

Gamblers lose in the long run; those are the odds. Card sharps and the house always win; that’s why they’re in business.

In the case of state-enabled casinos, the state is not the house, it is a chump. The casinos siphon off local moneys to out-of-state corporations. The wages paid to local workers are substandard. Meanwhile, patrons spend their money and most leave with nothing to show for it. Them’s the breaks. And I understand from reputable sources that the casinos make their performing artists sign waivers that prevent them from giving shows at any other venues in the state, driving down the locally owned and operated entertainment clubs and theaters in towns and cities. 

If the Commonwealth wants to invest money and get both a monetary and moral return (and turn its back on ethically questionable and predatory financing), it should subsidize alternate energy research and manufacture, and try to catch up with China.


Toroids and voids 

Howard Johnson restaurants used it as a slogan.

”As you journey on through life, brother,
 whatever be your goal, keep
your eye upon the doughnut, 
and not upon the hole.

Globe publishes letter by Arlington resident 

For a thoughtful, rational, cogent, and compassionate expression of the enduring value of practicing the rule of law in the face of manipulated emotions, see Terry Kay Rockefeller’s letter in today’s Boston Globe.  2010-03-24

The Schenectady Gazette

I had a subscription to The Schenectady Gazette for years in the the early 80s, and friends from long ago have been its critics, reporters, an editor, and even the publisher. It is a family newspaper, in the third generation. It’s a good newspaper.

Best wishes,


ink-stained wretch. 2010-03-20

Rain in Arlington 

The Bike Path is a river from Nourse Rd to Mill Lane, where the Fire Department is sandbagging it to control the flow where Modern Continental has been rebuilding the bridge. Maybe twelve years ago we woke up to a 13″ rainfall that caused considerable damage to apartments in Watermill Place, including ruining former Town Planner Alan McClennen’s carpets. 

That was considered a 100 or 500 year storm, but it occurred a year or two before we learned about global warming, which in the last few years has made 1″ and 2″ rainstorms the new normal. 

Mill Brook is overflowing the culverts at Lowell Street and elsewhere. The wetlands by the cemetery are flooded. Storm sewers are spouting in the valley roads.

I like rain a lot. It makes the atmosphere palpable. It washes the sky, it washes the sidewalks, it fills the reservoirs. I understand that blind people find value in it, because they can hear the sound of water striking various objects in the environment, much as the sighted detect light reflecting in the environment. 

Looking at the bright side.  2010-03-14

The Automat 

By the late 1960s, Horn and Hardart had opened a chain of retail stores across the city, and sold, among other selections, a pretty good pumpkin pie. Their motto: “Less work for mother.”

Peter Schickele, a music historian, discovered amongst the works of P.D.Q. Bach, a Concerto for Horn and Hardart, with the epigraph “minim opus mater.“

On late nights at the Automat you might see an old wino concocting a cup of tomato soup from catchup and the free hot water from the beverages spigot.

My mother brought me to the — you always called any one of them “the” — Automat on a trip to New York in my childhood. Many years passed before I realized there was a kitchen staff behind the walls of dispenser windows.

One of Edward Hopper’s best-known paintings is called “The Automat.” Easy to find dozens of pics on Google images.

Susan and I have been eating oysters nightly since we bought 100 from an old salt at a dock in Westport on Friday. cf.   2010-02-16

Re:  Brand New Engagement Ring Set For Sale 

I hope this isn’t one of those tragic six-word short stories.


Old and New (see below)

I would like to agree with Joe T’s post of  Sun., 7 Feb 2010 14:05:01 -0800 (PST). The issues around Nate Levenson’s activities are too complex to be analyzed, much less make any pretense at trying to solve, by dividing up our community into “old” or “new” or indeed any subclasses. Boston Magazine first introduced it, a thoughtless, cheap, and hurtful journalistic trope. Now the man who, obviously not deliberately but nevertheless is the one responsible for a great financial and personal hurt to our town and to many parties in it, unleashing material for a dozen case studies in ethics and politics, has chosen to repeat the divisive meme. Blather is no substitute for thinking. 

We are all in this together.


Psychic Lessons 

The 200 students were organized by the Young Democrats of Arlington High School. They came home and told their parents they would like to go to Town Hall to lobby their elected officeholders.

A thoughtful, insightful list member respectfully wrote:

> >> “But – I can almost guarantee that the majority of those 200 kids had *no clue* whatsever [sic] as to why they were there.” > > >

I wish I knew where I could go to school to learn how to know that. Maybe they were there because of complex problems in our society that only many teams of sociologists, economists, historians, and philosophers may someday get a vague handle on.


The Scrooge fallacy 
Education is not a frivolity or entertainment. It is the defining factor in whether or not we live in a civilization or a factory. You learn morality from history and literature. Art and music make life livable in spite of all its mundane drudgery and horror, and make your society memorable in an honorable way when centuries have passed. Without math, science, and foreign languages, we will become the peons of the global economy.

If you question the return on educational contributions, ask a realtor how it affects town housing values. 

If you think kids are spoiled with the option to be in school, school programs, or the library, visit a place where uneducated youth self-trained in viciousness lurk on the streets, stalking the weak or unwary: a neighboring city which we fled for Arlington twenty years ago, for example.

Kids don’t stay kids. After four years of high school, they are our fellow citizens.


Please vote for my 2 T shirt slogans 

I submitted two T-shirt slogans to the Typetees website. Please follow these two links and vote for them. (Please click “I’d wear them;” please don’t click “Um, no, stupid.”)

Please excuse the subject matter which is in questionable “taste.” I would be happy to answer any questions explaining other references, which are historical, science fiction, and television.  2010-01-26
filibuster Margaret wrote:

> > > “I want to understand why filibuster is a dirty word 
speaking”? I also want to know why we seem to have such difficulty 
with the lack of consensus on the school committee. Both situation 
seem to slow process down but with the positive outcome of making 
elected officials do their due diligence to present their positions. I 
get that I doesn’t work as well with school committee because 
we only 
need a simple majority to enact some decisions ” > > >

The United States Senate, “The World’s Greatest Deliberative Body,” long ago set a rule that debate could not be curtailed without what we now call a “supermajority” vote against it, so-called “cloture”. In the days of genuine bipartisanship, (or at any rate relative congeniality, because our Senator Sumner, whose bronze monument sits in Massachusetts Avenue in Harvard Square, was savagely beaten with a walking stick by a senator from one of the southern states in the advent of the Civil War) senators who were moved by strong moral feelings could hold up deliberations by refusing to yield the floor for as long as they could continue to speak. In the movie _Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,_ James Stewart defends his bill against skulduggery by drinking coffee and continuing to orate — June Allyson helps from the gallery — until the climax and the restitution of moral order in a fictional cinematic universe.

The filibuster (not long ago I looked up the derivation online, but I 
have forgotten it, a General Filibustro possibly) was a protection of minority rights against the so-called tyranny of the majority, please correct me if I am mistaken. 

In the 1950s, southern senators used the filibuster to prevent civil rights legislation from reaching a vote. They might stand at their desks and read every name in the phone books in their state, for example, citing purported supporters. You may may remember that the Civil Rights Bill was only passed after the assassination of President Kennedy, when President Johnson, formerly the strong leader of the Senate, kept Congress in session until it was passed.

The filibuster was rarely used because it is so obstructive, and though effective, casts a measure of opprobrium on its users. However it was taken up as a strategy in the 1990s to stall Clinton’s moderate centrist agenda, and since then, the Senate, except for the efforts of members like the late Senator Kennedy, who learned to negotiate “across the aisle,” has been hamstrung as a legislative body, unable to carry out the will of the elected majority of the entire nation because of the misuse of its unique vestigial rules of order. 

Remember that some senators represent a population sixty times larger than others, that is, some senators, who have an equal right (not in the Constitution, but in Senate tradition) to roadblock legislation, represent only one sixtieth of the population of others.

I’m afraid I can’t understand the School Committee at all.


“Don’t blame me, I’m from Massachusetts” * 

Maybe the big mistake in American history was not letting the Confederacy secede. Slavery was already abolisheed in the northern states. The midwestern states only wanted to avoid paying tariffs when they shipped industrial products down the Mississippi. Hundreds of thousands of violent deaths might have been avoided, and Europe would not have discovered the virtues of industrialized warfare that led directly from the trenches of WWI to the 45 million murders in the battles, bombings, and death camps of WWII. This country would not have taken on the role of world policeman that Wilson started us on, whose bills for the last century are finally coming due, as we become a target for the people whose petroleum we siphoned off to power “The American Century.” And we would have been spared continuing to fight the Civil War for the last 150 years.

Best wishes. 

Good luck.

* A bumper sticker dating from November, 1972.

Stop this election

Every state gets two senators.

Vermont, population 621,760;
Massachusetts, population 6,593,587; 
California, population 36,961,664.

The Senate is not a representative institution. 

The so-called supermajority is an accident of statistics, otherwise the Senate would resemble the proportional makeup of the House, and conform in spirit to the majority in the last presidential election.

I pray that the good sense of the People will prevail and that they will vote for Ms. Coakley, but I am too old to expect it. 

I will be voting early, in case something bad happens later in the day to prevent it.

Preparing to be stunned, regardless, whatever.

Precinct 19 

235 votes  at 9:30 a.m. 

Steven wrote: > > 
>”I’m voting for civility. I’m voting for representation.
I’m voting for Scott Brown.”

You’ll be sorry.   2010-01-19

local content, liquid measure 

> > > “Why, I’ll bet you still believe in the
glpbal-warming fairy and want to adore her to the tune of a long-running
 jobless recession and crippling energy costs.” > > >

Leaving aside the potential long-term economic benefits of energy independence from the unstable nations who are sitting on the oil reserves in warm countries of both hemispheres, please let me point out the local manifestations of the glpbal-warming fairy’s revenge.

Arlington is located between Alewife Brook (formerly Menotomy River) and Mystic River. Mystic is an Algonquian name and means “big river” or “river that runs both ways,” i.e., a tidal estuary. Until 1909, when the Cradock Dam was built, tides rose and fell on Arlington shores.

Melting polar ice caps threaten worldwide coastal flooding, with a sea level rise of several yards. There can come a time when our river roads and their neighborhoods are under water. Arlington real estate along both those rivers is at risk. In this instance at least, local politics is “glpbal.”

Re:  Governor Patrick Tours AHS 

M.D. wrote: > > > “Gotta Love Gov. Deval, heck were can you….”

I still maintain that right-thinking people should use all people’s last name unless they are personally acquainted with them, and I continue to suspect that this cited instance is invidious in intent.

Yours in civility.   2010-01-06

arlington relevance I forward the link to this op-ed article in today’s New York Times: “A Fish Oil Story,” by PAUL GREENBERG,

because it is about menhaden, the anadromous herring, the original meaning of Menotomy.

(Greenberg cites Prof. Bruce Franklin from the English Department at Rutgers University. He has written the introduction to my mother’s new book of photographs: Ruth Formanek, Fish Factory Ruins of the Atlantic Coast. New York, NY: Pogonia Press, 2009.)

Sledding in New England: literary hazards of :

I noticed a copy of Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome on the book exchange shelf at Johnnie’s Foodmaster about an hour ago.

Curious how after 100 years it has become black comedy.

Snowy trails!   2009-12-09


Glasgow and Edinburgh both have extremely awesome art museums at nation-state level qualities of collection. The Scottish National Museum in Edinburgh will take a day, full of fascinating science and history exhibits. Did you see Venus in the Titian show at the MFA last summer? She is from Edinburgh, the National Gallery, and so are Canova’s Three Graces (1/2 the year at Victoria & Albert in London). The Dean Gallery of the National Gallery shows Modern Art. There’s also a museum of portraits.

Stone circles and Neolithic ruins are all around the country.

Glasgow has the Kelvingrove Art Museum and the Burrell Collection. The Fossil Grove of Devonian trees is indoors, and conveniently located in a park in the city. 
There are also art nouveau buildings by Rennie Mackintosh.

Watch out for Orangemen parades in Glasgow. Stay indoors or get out of town.

Bon voyage!

swine flu vaccine 

There is some question in some listposts about how viruses operate, and whether people who are not ill with a viral disease can transmit it. In one, the term “germs” was conflated with viruses.

Viruses are very simple forms of a protein wrapped in a protein. Some authoritative researchers question whether viruses are even actually alive. Germs are actually living cells with mitochondria, nuclei, flagella, etc. Some cells aggregate into large creatures like us. Others make us sick. Certain diseases — UTIs, STDs, TB, strep throat/scarlet fever, flesh eating staph — are caused by germs. In very rare cases, “carriers”, like Typhoid Mary, can transmit dangerous bacterial diseases without suffering illness themselves.

The viral M.O. operates just like viruses in a computer network: A virus enters a cell, and alters that cell’s genetic equipment so that instead of functioning as it ought, replicating itself when it has to, it becomes a factory for turning out more of the invading viruses. Lots more.

When someone is ill with a virus, their cells start spewing out viruses, and these viruses infect other people. When you have a cold, your body produces antihistamines to try to rid it of alien organisms, causing sneezing and mucus production. Those newly made viruses start leaving your body in a process called viral shedding. Your mucus gets filled with viruses, and transfers onto your hands, and on shopping cart and door handles, and into the air in buses, theaters, offices, and schools.

Flu viruses are even more effective than colds at hijacking your cellular machinery. They go way beyond your nose. Hemorrhagic viruses such as Marburg and Ebola take over your body’s cells to such an extent that all internal organs explode with the viruses they produce, leading to rooms covered with extremely contagious mixtures of mucus, excrement, and blood.

When you catch a bacterial illness, the microbes grow and reproduce inside your warm, fertile environment until your fever and your white blood cells destroy them. With a viral infection, your cells are taken over to produce billions more of infectious viruses.

If you are immunized, you will not become a viral factory that spreads lethal genetic havoc through our community. 

Modern civilized humans are the beneficiaries of two hundred years of vaccination. Our current life expectancy is a statistical artifact reflecting the disappearance of early mortality due to measles, mumps, rubella (German measles) [prevented by M-M-R immmunization], diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), tetanus [ditto for D-P-T], polio, and smallpox, to all of which you have been immunized with vaccine, or you were lucky to survive in previous decades.

Even the so-called childhood diseases (because that’s when we catch them) are dangerous. Measles can lead to death through encephalitis, rubella to birth defects, mumps to sterility.

Those among us who are not Native Americans are beneficiaries of the action of those diseases in removing roughly 90% of the people who lived on the American continents before 1492.

In the words of Lyndon B. Johnson, “Let us reason together.”


Trick or Treating on Halloween? and more… 

I just want to weigh in and state that glorious Hallowe’en, America’s art holiday, when kids learn what they don’t have to be afraid of, including their neighbors, is huge in Arlington, and especially beautiful in the hilly neighborhoods.

People who find they must be absent sometimes leave a bowl of candy on their lit front steps.

I expect that as in 20 previous years, there will be great jack-o’-lanterns in front of my house. I’ll send the address when I confirm.

We will be keeping our cat in a room upstairs. It’s the night when we take the window screens out of the storm door, and she will jump out and tear up and down the sidewalk.

Happy happy!

Davoid 2009-10-23

Re: In all the discussions about the flu vaccinations, there is a big portion missing. wrote:> >
> “Mercury at high doses in some vaccines….
Other ingredients can include, depending on which type of vaccine: the viral
proteins themselves, sodium chloride, egg proteins, two antibiotics,
betapropiolactone, nonylphenol ethoxylate, calcium, taurodeoxycholate, egg
protein, formaldehyde, polyethylene glycol p-isooctyphenyl ether, sucrose, MSG,
pig gelatin, arginine, sucrose, potassium phosphate….

” >>>

OMG! I bet there’s oxygen dihydride in some of them too!


Old and New 

Yugoslavia might still be one powerful, functioning nation today, but in the late 80s and 90s, media outlets discovered there was a world of profit dividing Serbs, Croats, Bosnians, Slovenes, Macedonians, Montenegrans, Kosovo Albanians—have I left anyone out? Now, re-Balkanized, it is so many minor nations, many of them landlocked, or deprived of the industry, agriculture, or natural resources they used to share.

Some reporter needed a hook to hang a story on, and chose “Old vs. New Arlington.” It does not deserve any more validity than we grant it.

Everyone in this country came from somewhere else, even the Native Americans, who were here first. 

Let’s keep this A town for everyone.

Sincere best wishes. 2009-10-05

I call fowl! 

Hi Everyone,

I thought about posting, this evening, that Johnnie’s Foodmaster is now for the first time selling fowl, i.e. large chicken for soup or stew, but now I absolutely must because an infidel has posted a heretical recipe for chicken soup.

The soups I brewed tonight — fowl is 5+ lbs and makes two soups — were truly the best on the planet, but they’re mostly gone now. 

Cut up one chicken and remove the fat from the inside back. Add the meat to a kettle of water cooking on the stove. Add gizzards, heart, and neck if provided, and more if you have saved some in the freezer. Fry the liver in hot oil for a little snack while you cook. Cut up two onions, two carrots, two stalks of celery and add them to the water. Don’t be proud. Toss in a couple-three of chicken bouillon cubes. Cut up a clove of garlic and throw that in. Add pepper and your favorite bouquet garni: thyme, parsley, oregano, marjoram, basil. I chopped up a couple of tomatoes and a half dozen mushrooms into one, for the grownups who eat that kind of thing. Bring to a boil, stop it immediately, and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Season to taste (means add more salt and pepper) and serve.

As they said in Upstairs Downstairs, “A soup boiled is a soup spoiled.” That means, a watched pot never boils.

Bon appetit. 2009-09-22

Cost of Bottle Bill — Walk this way! 

Hi Everyone,

I remember returning bottles for nickels in the 1950s. In the 1960s,
deposits were abandoned. By the end of the next decade, glass shards crusted
all public spaces. 

Some of my friends went camping. They drove for three hours into the
Adirondacks. They arrived at a pristine clearing and spilled out of the car.
One of them was so happy, she began a dance on the beautiful green glass.
She was barefoot. She had to be driven to the nearest hospital, 80 minutes
away, for surgical removal of flakes and splinters.

Plantar, the material of your soles, is tough. Australopithecines walked on
lava flows for three million years before we created a new reason for shoes.


Slang, Latin, manners 

”Tart” is not a cute pastry metaphor. The word has always been slang for whore. 

“De Mortuis nil nisi bonum dicendum est.” Describes a long standing custom: Do not speak ill of the [recently] dead.


Two cars approach each other on a private street… 

”I won’t answer it because it’s a trick question!” — Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny.

The more gracious, cooperative, civilized driver yields first.


One Definitive Answer (Was: Re: Three Arlington History Questions) 

For the Old Men of Menotomy, see David Hackett Fisher’s Paul Revere’s
Ride. There is an interesting parallel in Pausanias’s Guide to Greece,
but I can’t remember what city it took place in. I’ll report back if I find
time to look it up this summer.

As for the meaning of the term Menotomy, the frequently repeated definition,
that “The name Menotomy was a word from the Algonquin
language for ‘swift running water'”, is an outright lie. Menotomy almost
certainly means “alewife,” a variety of river herring. The appropriate
Algonquian survival in English is “menhaden,” another species of river
herring. Alewife Brook was formerly called the Menotomy River. It is an
estuary, that, before the Mystic River was dammed, rose gently up or
downstream with the tides. Menotomy may also have meant the planting fields
that the local Algonkian people fertilized by planting river herring in the
corn/squash/bean hills. See the entry on menhaden in the Oxford English
Dictionary. Sources cited are John Eliot and Roger Williams.

Mill Brook waters are actually swiftly running, but the area of its drainage
is not Menotomy, rather, it is the region known in Colonial times as the
Cambridge Rocks, the origin of the place name “Foot of the Rocks.” The Rocks
are currently known as the Middlesex Fells. Menotomy is the flatlands east
of Arlington Center

Probably everyone in every Middlesex village and farm knew that Menotomy
meant rotting fish; the association with the recently cited “drunken
Menotomy” [because of its many taverns) was an incentive to change the name
of the town, first to West Cambridge, then, to honor the Civil War dead, to
Arlington. The Oxford English Dictionary will also tell you what an arling
is.  2009-07-12


Continental cooking measurements, when more specific than “some” or “a
handful”, are rendered in grams. Grams are a unit of mass (“weight”), and
foods are measured on a kilogram scale. American cooking measurements are in
volume. The only vestiges of the weights system in our cuisine are the
previously cited rhyme “A pint’s a pound the world round” and pound cake,
whose ingredients are a weighed pound each of butter, flour, sugar…. The
rhyme is true for foods with the approximate specific gravity of water, in
which cases 1 oz. wt. = 1 oz. volume. The pint is divided into 16 ounces.

the Metric system, a liter of water weighs one kilo, about 33 ounces.

The easiest way to convert Eurasian cooking measurements might be to buy a
kitchen scale, maybe at a yard sale. Then you can convert grams directly to
ounces and read them off the scale, or know how big was that fish you
caught. 1 about 28.3 gm., so 120 gm. is about 4 oz. (N.B. 500 gm. 
= ± 16.5 oz.)

But you may remember the old, Archimedian, method of measuring butter, by
dropping it into a measuring cup until the level falls by a specified number
of ounces. This will give the displacement, or weight, of the substances to
be measured. (Could be messy with flour.)

I wish I could help more.


May 16, 2009

Contact: David Formanek
781 910 8610


Who’s that lady? In 2003, the Cyrus E. Dallin Art Museum became aware of 
important, and previously unknown, 100 year-old sculpture by Dallin. This
work of remarkable interest and beauty presented several mysteries. A
larger-than-life, nude, sleeping woman holding a bunch of poppies clearly
represented something else—but what and who?  Find out about the art,
mythology, and history behind this masterful sculpture on Thursday, June 11
at 7 PM in the Robbins Library Community Room in an illustrated talk by
David Formanek.

Cyrus E. Dallin (1861-1944) was one of America’s leading sculptors in the
early twentieth century. He created the iconic Paul Revere, The Appeal to
the Great Spirit, and Arlington’s own Menotomy Hunter.

David Formanek, co-founder and designer of Arlington’s municipal Cyrus E.
Dallin Art Museum, is an artist and writer who led the effort to preserve
the granite masonry of the bridges over the Minuteman Bike Trail in 1992.
His most recent artwork is a floor mural of rocks of the Middlesex Fells and
Boston region at the USS Constitution Museum, where he works in the Exhibits
Department. He is currently at work on a memoir in verse about Vienna during
the Cold War.

— 30 —

U-Fall tree removal 

Hi Everylivingbody,

On Saturday, March 21, I rented a truck from Ryder in Stoneham to move some
heavy equipment. I needed a lift gate, so they supplied a larger truck than
we had requested. That truck would not start, so they gave me the key to an
even larger truck. I practiced driving it in their parking lot while my wife
went to get us a breakfast. While we ate, we saw a van with the ominous license
plate OZ.

My son and I spent the morning and afternoon filling the truck with the
heavy equipment and bulky stuff.

Leaving town, it seemed advisable to avoid the low overhanging branches of
trees on Newland Road (where I live), a narrow, steep road lined with parked
cars on each side. I drove south down Park Avenue Extension, thinking that
because it was a main street, it would be more clear of obstructions.

I was
driving slowly, about 15 m.p.h., and well in the center of the lane. My wife
was following in our car.

Park Ave Extension did in fact have overhanging branches, and I struck a
stout branch about 12 feet in the air belonging to a tree in front of 48
Park Avenue Extension at about 3 p.m. The collision broke the corner cap of
the truck, a gray plastic corner with amber running lights.

The branch was
dead, and broke off, falling onto the roof of the truck where it came to
rest, and denting it.

I braked the truck, but heard two more loud bangs. As my wife watched from
our car behind us, the entire tree, a 40 – 50 foot-tall Norway maple,
formerly almost three feet across at the base, slowly fell down along the
sidewalk, its limbs resting on the retaining wall of #48 lawn and landing
across the hood and on top of the cab of the truck.

The entire tree was dead. At the base where it snapped off, the trunk had
completely rotted into nothing except for a section of about the width of a
2′” x 8″ on the south side, which was brittle, dead wood.

My son was riding next to me in the truck. We were not injured.

I called our friend who had planned to help unload the truck, and said we
wouldn’t arrive because a witch had dropped a house on me.

The tree pulled down telephone and communication network cables to houses
across the street.

Police and Fire Department personnel arrived immediately to close the road.

You might have read Jan Freeman’s column in the Sunday Globe next day about
the correct and incorrect application of the term “passive voice.”  I was
apprised that “A citation will not be issued.”

I could not drive the truck away until the Town Tree Department arrived to
cut up and chip the tree and spoil their Saturday afternoon with work.

I had to pay the entire $500 deductible for replacing the corner cap of the
rented truck. The windshield, which was not covered by insurance, was not

You may inspect the hole in the apron between the sidewalk and the street
which is marked by an orange traffic control cone, near the corner of Park Avenue and Branch Street.

Happy trails to you. 2009-04-03

Relining (“Retinning”) a copper pot 

cynthia wrote: > 
> “Does anyone know what to do about a copper pot where the lining is down to the
 copper?”> > >

There used to be a firm in Everett that did that, but now, or at least a
couple of years ago, when I didn’t get around to it, you send them to
Philadelphia. Do a search on “retin copper pans” and lots of sites show up.
The one I still need to use charges by the diameter of the pan.

I read this word the other night: hob. It turns out it is British for a
stovetop — it was an old, coal powered type in my book), but it also means
a projection at the back of a fireplace for keeping pots warm.


I Dispute Hen Stupidity

Robert [Burns]* wrote, “Man was made to mourn.” People who have chickens must
be resigned to not having chickens. They have short lives, and many other
species than ours are fond of the dinners they provide.

But let not the assertion that chickens are stupid go unchallenged. During
his elementary school rebuild, my son rode the school bus. I came home early
from work one day, and found his hens waiting for him at the bus stop.

Chickens do have their intellectual limitations. It is likely that they
cross the road because it is without incident, that they do not recognize it
as a thing-in-itself. It is a void that they can’t perceive.

Human cognition
has its own limits, and we can’t know what they are, by definition. (I
suspect that the workings of coincidence and so-called fate may be one of

Best wishes,


”When God was giving out brains, He said, “All those who want brains, come
forth!” But some came fifth. 

* When G-d was giving out brains (re: I Dispute Chicken Stupidity)

I thought he said “trains” and I went running to catch it.

Astute readers will note that “Man was Made to Mourn” is a poem not by
Robert Graves but by Robert Burns.

People who know me will recognize two of my favorite writers; sorry my error
had to show up in a post about varieties of intelligence.  2009-03-03

Racist locution

It is insulting and wrong to call Governor Patrick “Governor Deval” because
it is a vestige, and a substantial one, of this country’s three centuries of
slavery and a fourth of institutional racism. To call him by his first name
means you are denying him the ordinary respect that you accord to white
people when you refer to them by their last names, with or without title.
Calling black people by their first names is the same as calling them “boy.”
If it is unconscious, get a handle on it and stop. If you are aware and
doing it on purpose, you are revealing your bigotry.

Act right.


Houses like barns 

>On 1/19/09 1:21 PM, “”

> > >”A variation on this theme that from my own childhood was the
 admonisiton “Close that door! Were you brought up in a barn?” > > >

Sometimes I hear my father’s old lines such as this one in movies of the
1930s. It may not be a folk saying at all, but a wiseacre remark dreamed up
by a New York City writer on a Hollywood lot.


Animal Farmton (was: re: where the pedal meets the metal) 

>>> Peter D. wrote: “I’m curious why you assume the bicyclists are at fault in these cases.
Can you enlighten me?
”>> >

Four wheels good, two wheels bad!


My parents were liberal educators. They saw no point in so-called “dead”
languages. As I grew up, my interests gravitated toward taxonomy, etymology,
archaeology and classical studies, so as it turned out, no Greek or Latin
was a handicap. I am ignorant, dammit.

Etymology is not completely fixed;
there is still plenty of argument out there for qualified quibblers. You may
remember Dan Quayle, who did not go to Latin America because he did not
study Latin. Translators of foreign languages, who have to learn many of
them in translator school, all agree that Latin was a great aid for more
easily learning the Romance languages. AHS used to teach German and Italian.
We are all the poorer for spending less money. The more different languages
you know, the richer your English will be.

Oh, and best wishes for a happy new year to all list readers.  2009-01-05

Population out of control

Am I the only one on this list who thinks that the problem with wildlife on
Earth is 6,700,000,000 + people?


Rell G. Francis 1928-2008, Biographer of Cyrus E. Dallin 

The Dallin Museum received sad but not unexpected news yesterday. Rell G.
Francis, author of the standard biography of Cyrus Dallin, died on Tuesday
at his home in Springville, Utah. Springville was Dallin’s birthplace, and
Dallin endowed his home town with a dozen sculptures that became the nucleus
of the Springville Art Museum. Rell Francis had been a director of that
museum, as well as trustee and advisor.

Nearly everything that is known about Cyrus Dallin comes to us from Rell’s
book Cyrus E. Dallin: Let Justice Be Done. It was the product of a
tremendous amount of research, interviews with Dallin family members, and
Rell’s own extremely competent photographs. You may have seen it in the
Robbins Library — or not — it has vanished from the collection in the

If in 1976 Rell did not publish his book, we in Arlington, and anyone
anywhere, would know next to nothing about Cyrus Dallin. We owe him an
immense debt for rediscovering the cultural legacy of our town.

Rell visited the Cyrus E. Dallin Art Museum in Arlington on a number of
occasions. I am glad to say that he was very pleased with it. Everyone
affiliated with the Dallin Museum will miss him. Those who actually met him
will remember a gracious, intelligent, and helpful man whose work made the
Museum’s existence possible and greatly enabled its coming into being ten
years ago. 

Here is a link to his obituary:

David Formanek
The Cyrus E. Dallin Art Museum
1 Whittemore Park, Arlington 02474

Get a kitten on line

You get kittens where you get everything else these days. We got ours
through Select a geographical range and a style of cat and
results appear. You could get a mau from Kentucky or as far as you care to

We went to a PetCo to select ours from a number of candidates. The rescuers
will have a handle on their personalities. (Take the one that purrs.) Then
they’ll meet you outside the store for the actual transaction, once you have
filled out the papers.


Moon & planets in conjunction 

If only we lived in western Europe or northern Africa, we could have seen
the moon pass in front of Venus earlier this afternoon, called an

Tonight’s show is not an annual event, but dependent on the orbits of the
different bodies on the plane of the ecliptic. Think of a vinyl LP record
with the sun at the spindle, and some peas resting here and there. We and
all the planets (Ps) are on that surface. Each band spins at different
speeds, though. (The music of the spheres?) So if you look into the sky, you
might see the planets getting nearer or further from each other on a line,
since you can’t see down onto the plane. Our moon orbits on the same plane.
(If you look at the lesser bright planet, Juiter, with binoculars, you’d see four of
its moons stretched out on a line that crosses it.)

If you extend the plane into the galaxy, the dozen constellations that the
planets and sun travel in front of compose the zodiac, or circle of animals.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac is a great help for anticipating & appreciating
celestial events.

2008-12-01 2

Bow St & Forest St 

Forest Street is one of the earliest streets in Arlington, so I suppose it was
originally a Native American trail. The houses on top of the quartzite cliff
at the ball field all face away from present-day Forest St, which runs along
the edge of what would have been a swampy meadow. Their address, however, is
Forest St. The road they face now is on the top surface of the cliff. Did it
use to be further to the west of the railroad (bikepath?) underpass?

The quartzite rock that was excavated to make the underpass was trucked to
Park Avenue to build up the overpass over the tracks (bikepath). It is
called Westborough Quartzite.

Rock on.

physics Q

I remember an experiment demonstrating that in physics class in ’65 or ’66.
Our teacher, Mr. Rizik, had a gadget that shot a steel ball sideways (with a
spring) at the same time that it dropped another. They landed at the same
time, the horizontally traveling ball landing suddenly and loudly at the
feet of a potential parent visiting the school who arrived at the door that

Try throwing the Frisbee upside-down and see if it doesn’t land


more physics question

When will I leave the house to get to work? No, that’s not my question. It
is that the experiment demonstrated that forces at right angles do not
influence each other.


All bicycles should have bells. Every time someone yells “On your left!” a devil earns his horns.


Real Americans 

To Whom It May Concern:

Keep this idea off list and get it out of your head if you can. There was a
time when people questioned others’ German identify.


Please visit the Cyrus E. Dallin Art Museum on Town Day

Tomorrow at Town Day please be sure to visit the Cyrus E. Dallin Art Museum,
dedicated to the work of Cyrus Dallin, 1861-1944, resident of Arlington from
1900 until his death. Dallin was one of America’s great sculptors of his

The Museum, an agency of the Town of Arlington as well as a 501 (c)
3 non-profit corporation, has quadrupled the collection over the last ten
years since it opened. The galleries contain many larger and smaller works,
chiefly by Dallin, of considerable beauty and interest.

New this year — a revised Family & Neighbors gallery, and the Massachusetts
Charitable Mechanic Association Medal by Christian Gobrecht, engraver of the
Seated Liberty dollars, 1836-1873. It was awarded to Dallin in 1895, and
hasn’t been seen since 1955, when it was placed in the cornerstone of the
Dallin Elementary School.

Wait, there’s more! Learn the truth about the meaning of “Menotomy” in the
Native Americans gallery.

I beg your collective pardons if this is an imposition, but please leave
backpacks in the office or hallway before entering the galleries.

1 Whittemore Park, corner of Mass Av & Mystic St.

I will be in the galleries talking about the art works for much of the day.
Come on in!

Poisonous pokeweed (was: need plant ID)

That ID is correct, it is pokeweed. The berries are poisonous, so it should
be uprooted in the vicinity of children. The root is a taproot and may be
very deeply anchored. I have dug one out that was three feet long and
finally pulling it out, my arm banged against the edge of the sidewalk and
broke a vein open. 

Native Americans use the berries to stain wood a deep magenta-purple.

A big pokeweed makes a nice-looking specimen plant in the middle of a lawn,
but you have to control the little plants that come up from the berries all


Bob Dylan Said It Best 

”Don’t follow leaders. Watch the parking meters.”

Dead Birds

I suspect the decapitated birds on Hathaway Circle are the work of a single
cat exhibiting a behavior. You may recall the cartoon by B. Kliban, a cat
with a guitar, singing ” Love them little mousies, mousies what I love to
eat! Bite they little heads off, nibble on they tiny feet!”

domesticated cats hunt for sport, and lose interest when the prey stops
resisting. Hungry feral cats eat entire insects, birds, voles, etc. Hawks
keep on pecking until only a few feathers are on the lawn. Cats have
severely reduced the small wild population of the continent of Australia,
such that bills have been introduced to neuter all of them and forbid their

On to a different topic. You may recall the documentary Dead Birds from
Anthropology 101. The film’s author, Robert Gardner, was the director of the
Harvard Film Study Center and founder of the Harvard Film Archive. I append
a review and his comments.

“A cinematographic interpretation of the life of a group of Grand Valley
Dani, who are mountain Papuans in West New Guinea (Irian Barat, Indonesia),
studied by the Harvard-Peabody Expedition (1961-1963). This film was made by
Gardner in 1961, before the area was pacified by the Dutch government.” — Karl G. Heider

“Dead Birds is a film about the Dani, a people dwelling in the Grand Valley
of the Baliem high in the mountains of West Irian. When I shot the film in
1961, the Dani had an almost classic Neolithic culture. They were
exceptional in the way they focussed their energies and based their values
on an elaborate system of intertribal warfare and revenge. Neighboring
groups of Dani clans, separated by uncultivated strips of no man’s land,
engaged in frequent formal battles. When a warrior was killed in battle or
died from a wound and even when a woman or a child lost their life in an
enemy raid, the victors celebrated and the victims mourned. Because each
death had to be avenged, the balance was continually being adjusted with the
spirits of the aggrieved lifted and the ghosts of slain comrades satisfied
as soon as a compensating enemy life was taken. There was no thought in the
Dani world of wars ever ending, unless it rained or became dark. Without war
there would be no way to satisfy the ghosts. Wars were also the best way
they knew to keep a terrible harmony in a life which would be, without the
strife they invented, mostly hard and dull.” – Robert Gardner

Now that I read it, this also describes our local electronic society, don’t
you think, a little? As the French say, the more the change, the more it’s
the same thing. (My translation.)

Let it be stated emphatically and for the record, I am a cat person.

A list member wrote: “The issue for me has always been about dog owners being treated differently
than other folks in town.”

Vive la difference! (untranslatable.)

Subject:  “Fender” — Ireland poem terminology query 

You may also recall a fender from the first chapter of _Alice through the 
Looking Glass._ (A looking glass is a mirror.) A fender is a metal barricade 
around the hearth. I found a brass one in a woods once, and the archaeologists 
I was with told me what it was. The base keeps ashes from getting past the 
hearth — onto the hearth rug, I guess — while the metal bars radiate heat 
further into the room.

As for brooming dirt out of the kitchen, in those more septic times, in country 
situations, dirt was everywhere, and floors were often made of it. (I saw such 
floors in the former Czechoslovakia in 1964.) In urban settings, automobiles 
meant a great improvement to public health and private housekeeping. The 
streets were coated with an equine by-product known euphemistically as “road 
dirt.” That is the reason for mud-scrapers at doorsteps.

A stoop, the stairs to the first floor of a house in New York City, is a Dutch 
term, and I bring it up because an old Dutch custom was to sprinkle the house 
floor (often brick) with clean sand, and sweep it into decorative patterns. After a 
day of use, it was swept out the door, taking with it any litter or scraps that 
might have fallen from work surfaces.

Francis Ledwidge’s poem starts with spring cleaning, plus some decorating with 

I am catching up on e-mails and only got so far, so I apologize if this message 
be redundant due to Richard Duffy or others already having posted similar 

“What this world needs is a good two-dollar room and a good two-dollar 
broom. What this world needs is a good two-dollar room and a good two-dollar 
broom. What this world needs is a good two-dollar room and a good two-dollar 
broom. What this world needs is a good two-dollar room and a good two-dollar 
— Captain Beefheart (Don van Vliet)

Please don’t wear your backpack…

Please don’t wear your backpack when you and your friends from out of town
visit the Cyrus E. Dallin Art Museum on Tuesdays through Sundays between
noon and four p.m. Arlington’s municipal museum dedicated to the works and
life of Dallin, the great American Renaissance sculptor, does not have
enough room in the galleries to avoid risk to the sculptures, which a
careless step backwards could knock from their pedestals. Please leave your
backpack in the hallway or the office/gift shop.


I beg forgiveness (was: re: Please don’t wear backpack) 

Please do not visit the Cyrus E. Dallin Art Museum, with four galleries of
sculptures by Dallin and some other artists, In the Jefferson Cutter House,
One Whittemore Park, Admission free, Hours noon to four Tuesday through
Sundays, Under any circumstances, Ever.

Thank you.

David Formanek
The Cyrus E. Dallin Art Museum
781 641 0595

Keep Out. This Means You.  2008-07-16

Kings Philip and Alexander

I write from Tiverton RI, home of Wetamoo, King Alexander’s widow, who, like 
the Squaw Sachem of greater Menotomy, traded the remainder of her people’s 
territory except for a tiny peninsula. 

Some sources say that Metacom or Metacomet, the first American revolutionary, 
took the name Philip for himself, others, that the English called him that, an 
allusion to Philip of Macedon, the warrior king who conquered Greece. By 
analogy with the Macedonian succession, they called his brother, Wamsutta, 
King Alexander, as in Alexander the Great.

Later today I’ll be visiting the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology in Bristol RI, 
near Mount Hope where King Philip met his end.

No witty sign-off to this message. it was their country.


Splittist Nomenclature (was: Re: Arlington Heights Heights) 

Yes, Arlington Heights is a clearly designated historically documented district 
south of Massachusetts Avenue that was created by real estate developers. The 
Reservoir Region, Mt Gilboa, Crescent Hill, and Turkey Hill are the subject of a 
book about their buildings titled Architecture of Northwest Arlington, a useful 
and informative descriptive term.

If you seek more poetic or romantic 
terminology, you might consider two other sources. The Foot of the Rocks 
where fighting was so fierce in April is so called because, when we were 
Cambridge Second Parish (before becoming West Cambridge in ’07), the 
uplands were called the Cambridge Rocks. With the broader geographical 
perspective of subsequent centuries, those are now called the Middlesex Fells. 
So the neighborhoods of NWA might consider themselves the Arlington Rocks or 
Arlington Fells. N.B., the Heights is also a part of that region. As for those hills 
being “lower”, Turkey Hill is only three meters lower than Peirce Hill (“Park 
Circle”). Prospect Hill in Waltham is the highest in the entire range, an additional 
three meters higher than Peirce.

Do the official Heights roads seem steeper? 
They were laid out on a geometrical grid. In the Rocks, planning followed a more 
organic approach to grading. If you walk directly toward Turkey Hill summit, you 
will scale cliffs. 

To paraphrase the old Moxie slogan, Make it Menotomy for mine!


June 30, 2008 

Hi Everyone,

I will be celebrating the centennial of the Tunguska event today.

Look up. Get down.


A difficult logical proposition 

On 5/21/08 8:26 PM, “” wrote:
>>>” If you
 have evidence that *nothing*, happened, please share it.”>>>



Bees & yellowjackets 

Honeybees, which are bees, are kind of honey-colored. You find them in
flowers. Yellowjackets, which are wasps, are a bright chrome yellow with
distinct black stripes. They have a thread-like “wasp waist” between thorax
& abdomen. They like aged wood which they tear fibers from to chew up and
spit out as paper to build their nests under eaves and porches. They love
chicken, mayonnaise, hamburgers, and apple juice, and especially near the
end of the season, they are ravenous for them.

If you see a yellow jacket circling around your food, be brave, and bat at
it with your hand or anything handy. It’s ancient evolutionary mechanisms
perceive risk, and it will fly somewhere else. Otherwise, its AEMs will
perceive food, and it will return with its hivemates to partake of the feast
you provided.

Buzzt wishes.  2008-06-13

Opera Bufo 

I will be walking over to the pond in McClennen Park to see if, as last year
on this date, toads are converging and croaking preparatory to congress.


Pond life

We went to the pond around 6:30. We didn’t see any toads. Maybe they are
waiting for warmer weather. If you see them, please let me know.

We saw a goose on the riprap between the pond and the stream, and a few red
winged blackbirds swooping and chittering. A great blue heron was standing
in the pond, slowly pacing, then standing still. It caught a fish and
swallowed it, then took a few sips of water. It caught a second fish that
was too large to swallow. It carried the fish to the shallower stream and
let it go and caught it again a few more times, but it really was too big.
When the heron crossed the riprap, one blackbird dived it and pecked it.
Maybe it has a nest nearby. On the way back I saw two flickers at the edge
of the marsh on the south east side of the park.

Many amenities of Arlington as we know it are due to the efforts of former
town planner Alan McClennen, including the park, the bike trail, the
restored town gardens, Whittemore Park, and the Cyrus E. Dallin Art Museum. 2008-05-05

Alphaville Animal Names 

Defs from the OED:

Of course we live in Arling Town. An arling (Anglo-Saxon earthling) i=
s a
ground-nesting bird of Britain, also called a wheatear, fallow-smiter,
clot-bird, clod-hopper, or smatch.

True, an earl is a leader’s title, but earling is irrelevant, an obscure
term possibly meaning “wires around a woman’s head”.

(You may remember the classic LGM* command to earthlings, “Take me to your

While I’m at it, Menotomy means menhaden (or alewife or other anadromous
herring-like fish) as well as the planting fields (such as along the Mystic
River and Alewife Brook, formerly the Menotomy River) that people fertilize
their corn-bean-squash hills with the fish. (This too from the OED with
citations by John Eliot and Roger Williams.)

Accounts of the Revolution speak of the Plains of Mentomy. Uptown Arlington,
the Heights and vicinity, a part of the Middlesex Fells, were called the
Cambridge Rocks. That’s why the battle site at Dunkin Donuts is called “Foot
of the Rocks.” Menotomy never meant “fast-flowing brook” or whatever, an
attribute of Mill Creek, which is geographically excluded. Two hundred years
ago, when our town became West Cambridge, everybody in Middlesex County knew
that Menotomy meant fish.


* LGM: an old science fiction classification: Little green men. Cf. also BEM: Bug-eyed monsters. 6-15-2010

Isle of Man, Isle of Mull movies 

Google indicates that I Know Where I’m Going was filmed on the wonderful
Scottish island of Mull. It stars Wendy Hiller, the magnificent Eliza
Doolittle of the film version of Shaw’s Pygmalion,and is one of the
greatest romantic movies. Don’t miss Pygmalion either, if it’s ever

I see a Dark Stranger, released in the US as The Adventuress, starring
Deborah Kerr, begins and ends, ostensibly, on the Isle of Man, via Ireland
and England. Very thrilling and amusing.


New rights for old 

Another lister peddled this notion:

> > > “Anything you do that requires a License is a privilege. It can also be
taken away….
We all have the “Right to Vote”, and only a few things like Incarceration
prevents that. No one has legal recourse to stop that. Its a pretty clear
cut distinction: You pay a fee for a license, you pay nothing to Vote.

”> > >    

Please allow this hater boomer to take issue.

The right to vote is not expressly stated in the US Constitution, it is
merely customary, part of the “unwritten constitution”. Amendments xiv
(1868), xv (1870), and xix (1920) do expand the (expressly stated) “right to
vote” to include persons of color, persons previously in a “condition of
servitude”, and persons of other than the male sex.

Only with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, passed by Congress under the
determined hand of President Johnson, were race- and pverty-discriminatory
poll taxes and literacy tests made illegal.

Certain states who share the history described in the previous paragraph are
now claiming with the aid of suspect statistics that so-called voter fraud
requires that voters must purchase an identity card, unless they already
have a driver’s license. Doesn’t that sound like buying a voting license?

(And lest we forget, it was the xiv Amendment that the Supreme Court cited
to “decide” the Florida vote tally in 2000.)

I have heard, over the course of the current federal election cycle, that
the Creator is responsible for instituting governments to protect the
people’s rights. Curiously, in 1776, every other nation in the western civ
orbit was convinced by a contrary sentiment known as the Divine Right of

So doesn’t it seem as though in this country, new rights are created by the
will of the people as they are recognized and required?

I quote the B-52’s: “I’m just askin’.”



Look for a turntable belt online, if available it won’t be much more than $20 I am guessing, maybe much less. 

Radio Shack has a turntable at either $70 (I hope) or $100.

Records are good for you. You can play them with a needle and a playing card, though quietly, when the electricity runs out.

Cf. Vinyl Junkies by Brett Milano, Boston Herald and former Globe and Phoenix rock critic.

Happy listening. 2008-03-05

Tarring with a broad brush 

Hi Everyone,

Does this mean me?

On 3/2/08 2:22 PM, “” wrote:

> >> “It will be the everlasting
legacy of the baby boomer generation – that they were nasty people who
 believed that division, hatred and bitterness was worth it to fulfill
their agenda.
”> > > 



They write so much better than us (was: Earthquake in the UK) 

Geology has peculiar effects on morals.

I quote: 

”Bev Finnegan, who lives in Market Rasen, Lincolnshire, said: ‘I was
terrified to be honest….'”

Cleaning Silver Right

Looks like this message bounced a couple of days ago, so I resend.

The following is the museum conservation method. Any doubts, confer with
list members who are museum scientists, or search/refer to a Boston Globe
article of a couple years back.

Commercial metal polishes contain abrasives. To remove the tarnish but leave
the metal intact and unscratched, obtain so-called “whiting.” This is not
the large-eyed fish from Alice in Wonderland (cf. “The Lobster Quadrille”)
but powdered calcium carbonate, i.e. marble dust. Pharmaceutical grade costs
about $100/lb, but there are less pure varieties available.

Make a paste of the powder (my son found some in a plastic baggie and asked,
”Uh, Dad—what is this?”) with alcohol or distilled water. Rub the silver
with it, applied with cotton balls, cotton cloth, or Q-Tips to clean
details. The cloth and whiting will become gray, and the silver, shiny and

Rinse with distilled water or alcohol when clean.

The advice about the
tarnish-proof bags is sound. Jewelers should be able to provide you with

Before the Industrial Revolution liberated sulphur compounds into the
atmosphere from burning coal, silver stayed as white as gold stayed yellow.
Now it forms silver sulfide, the black tarnish.

The marble is harder than the tarnish, but not as hard as the silver metal.

It is perhaps not the efficient method, because it takes time. But it
preserves the surface of the silver. Abrasives in other polishing compounds
remove metallic silver itself.


When were Town livestock laws changed? Only a year or two ago, you could
keep anything on two or four legs as long as it did not wander out of your
yard. I thought it was because Arlington expanded so rapidly from a farming
community to a residential one.

You may keep chickens in New York City, but only for companionship or eggs,
not meat. I’ve had chickens in Arlington twice. They are very good for
children to take care of, and I have a lot more to say about that but I have
a cold and instead I’m going back to bed.

We’ve kept chickens in Albany NY and in the deserted reaches of Austerlitz

If you have chickens, there will come a time, usually soon, when you no
longer have chickens. Children adapt to that, though they will hold you
responsible for lapses of judgment, like letting them out when there is a
ravenous nursing vixen racing through the town for nourishment. Hawks and
raccoons must also eat.

To keep chickens longer, they need a secure coop, insulated for winter, and
1/2″ mesh on openings to keep mammalian paws out. If they have an outdoor
enclosure, the wire should extend a foot or two underground to prevent
tunneling by predators.

Buy feed and supplies at Agway on Lexington St in Waltham.

Enough for now. 2007-10-01

2 wheel communication 

That’s right, Peter. Ring on.

A bicycle bell is much nicer than yelling “On your left!”, an ugly locution
and a sentence fragment, too. The ring of a bicycle bell is one of the
sweetest sounds known to humankind, and brings happiness and happy memories
whenever you hear it. New style bells ring a single elegant ding, if the
traditional ones seem too kiddy.

A Harpo Marx style horn is also effective and not too hostile, unlike a car
horn. (Perhaps you read in the Mr. Boffo comic strip last week, that every
time a car honks, a devil gets his horns.)
Most vehicles — ships, locomotives, cars/trucks/motorcylcles are required
to have a warning signal or signals affixed. Are bikes exempted?

Bicycle bells with a sticker of the Minuteman logo on them might be a good
fundraiser for needy trail nonprofits. 2007-07-02

* I’m not making this up, nor do I like to boast, but I said that a few weeks before I read it in Mr Boffo. Sometimes ideas are in the air, and I could easily have overheard it without hearing it. 2010-6-15

Look! Up in the sky! 


No one who knows me would believe it about me even once, but I have washed
both our cars for two days in a row, and plan to do so again tomorrow. On
Wednesday I had to tell my co-workers, DO NOT TOUCH THE CAR, it was a
science experiment. But I’m afraid they all knew I was lying.

caterpillars. They have turned the oak leaves into lace, and spattered the
yard and everything in it with frass, a technical term. Those long-handled
brushes do make it easy to scrub down in ten minutes before leaving for
work, but you have to rinse with a hose, because the bucket fills with the
remains, which swell up and oh gross.

You may have heard that Baltimore (or Northern?) Orioles are in decline.
They migrate about now. I found one roadkill on Fellsway West south of
Stoneham last week. Today a pair were around my yard, feasting away on
caterpillars in the oaks.


War by any other Name — wait, this is OT! 

Well, I dimly remember that the Korean and Vietnamese events were a “police
action” and a “counter-insurgency.” I don’t remember what the Dominican
Republic or Grenada invasions were called. These were deliberately not
labeled wars because according to the big C, “Congress shall have the power
to declare war,” and that has not been since 1941.

Correct me if I am wrong.

Poison ivy ramble 

I would not hesitate to use Roundup on poison ivy, and I am very reluctant
to use poisons on plants. Sometimes I buy stuff but never apply it. (What am
I going to do about those grubs under the former lawn? Make an exception,
if I get around to it.) I am looking forward to walking past a few big tree
vines of poison ivy with a hatchet or pruning saw one day. If they’re thick
and substantial they don’t come back. Birds like the white berries and
transmit them in their droppings. Poison ivy also spreads from its roots. It
has been spreading around Arlington for the last few years. I thank anyone
who destroys some.

My neighbor hated the beautiful violets that infested or infused — take
your pick — his lawn, and rented a huge internal combustion engine driven
mechanical shears that cut off the roots under the sod. Everything was brown
for a year. Later he had a grass lawn. Today it’s gone to onion grass.


Word alert: ARLING 

 Do not be fooled by false etymologies based on conjectural heads of clans
named “Arl.”

An arling is a ground-nesting bird of the British islands. From these habits
derived its Anglo-Saxon name, “earthling”. It is now also called a wheatear,
fallow-smiter, clot-bird, clod-hopper, or smatch. — Oxford English

Our unique town would be much better served by its original Native American
name of Menotomy. 

Some say the meaning of Menotomy is “the sound of rushing waters,” others,
that it is unknown. Both are falsehoods.

Menotomy, derived from “menhaden” almost certainly means the fertile lands
that are fertilized with alewives or other anadromous fish, planted in corn-
bean-squash fields.

Although effective agriculture, this was not a modern, scientific,
chemically based method of composting and nitrogen enrichment. It was most
likely perceived that the fish, swimming upstream in the early spring when
plant began to sprout, themselves desired to enter the earth — i.e., a
religious practice.

Menotomy is cognate with Montauk, Munnatawket (Fisher Island NY), and,
notably, Manhattan.

”West Cambridge” was probably chosen, two centuries ago, because everyone in
Middlesex County knew that Menotomy meant rotting fish connoting

Any further doubts? Note that on Colonial maps, the name Menotomy River was
applied to that body of water we now name Alewife Brook. 2007-03-26

Greek Mythology for Adults 

I have been reading Ovid’s Metamorphoses. This weekend I learned in Book
XII, in much greater detail than the squeamish might prefer, about the
battle of Lapiths and Centaurs. The Lapiths were the legendary inhabitants
of Thessaly, ruled by Perithous, Theseus’s companion. They invited the
Centaurs to a wedding feast. Inflamed with wine, they attempted to rape the
Lapith women. This myth is depicted on the sculptured friezes of many Greek
temples. Centaurs were probably a vestigial folk memory of their first
encounter with men riding horses.

Among those details was the identity of one Centaur, Petraeus, who while
tearing an oak tree heavily laden with acorns out of the ground, was pinned
to the tree with a spear through his chest.



Racism in _Song of the South_ THIS IS A DISNEY TOPIC 

Include also racism in Dumbo (the crows), anti-Semitism in The Three
Little Pigs, (the Wolf) and sexism in just about every production, to say nothing of
making vast sums of cash mashing quality children’s literature from the
public domain into low grade hash, then overseeing legislation extending
copyright for extra decades, and there’s plenty wrong with Disney in the

Not that it’s all completely bad, or that I can’t enjoy it — I do, but in
addition, their corporate practices are horrific.

As for content in Song of the South, about 20 years ago Julius Lester
published the Uncle Remus stories in a PC version that remains funny, but
without the racism of the original. I don’t know if they are still in print.

As for racism in American film of the earlier 20th century, it was
intrinsic, starting well before Birth of a Nation (1915), and was a fair
representation of racism in American life and culture of the period.

Educator teach thyself (Was: Re: Disney…) 

Why the hyphens? The superintendent wrote: “as a matter-of-fact”. I do not
think it is even remotely necessary to refer this to usage columnists.

For the record (For-the-record?), I too am appalled about the creeping
commercialism that exploited and economically discriminated against these
children, a captive audience.

Logic (Was: Arlington principal to leave) 

Supe [School superintendent Nate Levinson] wrote:

”I no longer feel there is a good fit with the district. As the Arlington
Public Schools becomes more of a coordinated K-12 system, rather than a
collection of 9 separate schools, and as the role of the principal evolves
as an instructional leader, the needs have changed. Principal Stavroula
Bouris’ contract will not be renewed when it expires at the end of August

The action does not follow from the stated reason.

”For-the-record,” I am angry. Dr. Bouris is an excellent principal.

Point of grammar (supply your own hyphens?), the possessive apostrophe with
letter s should be used in last names ending in s with the exception of
divinities. Zeus’ thunderbolt, Odysseus’s oar.


Degenerate Terminology 

That term ought to be recognized as a really ugly usage and terminated.
”Degenerate” was an early 20th century euphemism for homosexual, when that
word could not be spoken or appear in print.

As for Godwin’s Law — that an argument is lost when comparison is made to
Naziism — it is useless at best and pernicious in general. What happens
when a police state does clamp down? No argument? Not all Nazis were evil
incarnate. Some were political thugs, but most were ordinary citizens who
believed a set of doctrines — many of which seemed relatively innocent —
that led to horrific evils, or joined the party to keep their jobs.

Persons who value their liberty should always keep in mind those doctrines
and the methods of that party’s rise to power.  2007-02-04

Bomb squad removes suspicious object

Did any of you find it an odd coincidence that a T worker noticed the light
display said to have been in plain view for three weeks on the morning that
the Globe’s headlines trashed the T’s passenger search policy that has yet
to find a single terror lead? Way to rise in the ranks?


Hair and the appearance of culpability 

After 15 hours in a jail cell, threats of deportation and loss of liberty
for 170 years, plus probably a lot of insulting and intimidating talk from
”peace” officers — would you have had the presence of mind to talk to
reporters about hair styles when cautioned not to discuss your pending case?
Or cower and grovel and hide your faces behind your hats?


Dogs are smart. UB smarter 

Dogs defend turf with barks. People and mailmen walk by; the dog barks; the
intruders leave. The barking has fulfilled its purpose, the dog feels
rewarded. Behavioral psychologists will point out that this is positive
conditioning. So if you don’t want the dog to bark at you anymore, stay
around while it barks until its throat gets sore, and condition it
otherwise. (This worked for us with a nephew who made other sounds.)


Insect ID: Silverfish

That critter, an insect, but not of the order bugs, is unquestionably a
silverfish and not anything else. They live in cracks and eat starchy stuff
like books. They’re actually pretty interesting — such a primitive insect
that they do not have larval/pupal/adult stages but grow in the same form
after after emerging from egg. Everything you want to know about them is on
the web. Start with Google image search to confirm.

Am I alone in perceiving the harmless scutigera, the house centipede, a very
elegant animal on the analogy of a twelve cylinder touring car?


I was out of the country when my permanent teeth came in. Now I have
something much better than fluoridated teeth in my mouth. I have lots of

It’s that dangerous oxygen dihydride we ought to be worrying about. Too much
of it will cause a painful death, and lesser amounts can lead to accidents,
sometimes massive property damage, fungus and mold — the list goes on.


I forgot — it’s Hallowe’en 

Hi Everyone,

Good jack-o’-lanterns may be seen
where Newland Road meets Forest Streen.


Modesty is the best policy 2006-10-31

Subject:  Good. Re: (was) Perfection 

Marion wrote:

> ” Subject: perfection
 My thought is:
 The perfect is the enemy of the good.
Thank you for posting that excellent old quote! It’s something I & my
perfectionist, stressed-out friends need to remember!


Conversely, the good is the enemy of the best. (I don’t know why my mother
had trouble understanding this old saw and mocked her college’s president
for using it at commencement.)

Music of 80s, 90s, and Ohs 
WZBC 90.3 FM, one of America’s premier cultural resources, hosts a show of
contemporary radical rock in late-historical context on Friday mornings

The preceeding show is also top: contemporary avant-rock and its French

Where are the shows of yesteryear?


arlington on the Rocks (was: History of Rte. 2) 

Betty is correct, that Arlington Heights, our portion of the Middlesex Fells, was 
called the Cambridge Rocks, in Colonial Times, when Arlington was Menotomy 
Parish, Second Parish of Cambridge. (Arlington celebrates its bicentenary as an 
independent town next year.) Middlesex Fells is a later term. Foot of the Rocks, 
where Massachusetts Avenue climbs the lower slope of Peirce’s Hill, the site of 
the deadly battle in ’75, is named for the geographical setting.

The Fells are composed of about ten, I think, geological units, mixed 
promiscuously. You can see any number of them on selected outcrops, for 
example, the Rte. 2 road cut, or that litle cliff on Summer Street between King 
and Overlook Streets. That last one contains some of the hardest rock in the 
state. It will take D.W. White, the Summer Street contractors, a long time to bang 
that away. Have a look if you can, if you love rocks. The Westboro quartzite 
intruded with pink Dedham granite is really nice to see. At the top of the cliff is 
a bit of dark brown rock that may be the oldest in the Boston area, and the rest 
of them are a billion years old. The Turnpike and I-93 also have road cuts 
through the Fells with dramatic exposures. 2006-07-27

not strange bedfellows 

The URL which alarmed us, 
is a baldfaced Intelligent Design site. Remember that huge trial in Dover PA last 
fall, with the 129 page decision agreeing with the plaintiffs that ID is really 
Creationism and not science? ID is the implacable enemy of the ACLU, which 
supported the suit against it. This post was no ordinary troll, but one rising from 
the deep recesses of the anti-Enlightenment. Could it possibly be a superficial 
ripple indicating cult infighting at deep levels in that ward? Or is it that I am the 
second or third most paranoid on this list?


the real Menotomy Hunter message 

I have not been to see the vandalized sculpture yet. I write now so that this 
thread will not end without action. I don’t want to waste anyone’s time with 
philosophy or sociological theorizing. I am annoyed that the very limited 
resources of the Dallin Museum, our municipal museum charged with preserving 
and promoting the works of Dallin in Arlington, will be wasted repairing this 
sculpture so soon again. Town money does not go to maintaining Dallin 
sculptures, of which this is one of five bronzes in public places. 
The only funds available are individual voluntary donations that have been made 
to the Museum. Donations, I should point out, that have been made in hope and 
good faith.

Jerri Newman outlined the process of cleaning and repatinating the statue, and 
mentioned that deterioration to the object takes place whenever this is done. 
Her husband, Richard, a professional museum scientist, repatinated it a few 
years ago; I believe that he volunteered his time. The Dallin Museum is not 
funded by Arlington town government or taxes, (although it is located in the 
Jefferson Cutter House). Professional art conservators will charge upwards of 
$5000 for this job which is now necessary again because of the busy index 
finger of an ill-bred lout lurking among us. 

The Menotomy Hunter is a unique object by a major American artist. 
Comparable works by Dallin when available on the art market cost huge sums. 
Ask me off-line. The Dallin Museum, in the nearly eight years since it opened, 
has managed to quadruple its — Arlington’s — collection, chiefly through the 
good will of donors, Dallin family members, and frugal purchases with a well-
thought-out plan in mind. To repair this major sculpture sets back that plan by 
the cost of a significant new acquisition plus conservation or restoration of it or 

I do not like to see people punished. A public crime like that will be known to 
someone before the summer is out, or school is back in for a week. I would like 
people to let the vandal know that his behavior was vile, and that the effective 
cost, in people’s enjoyment of the art work, faith in community, and burden on 
the town art Museum, would take up a good lifetime of his wages. He has 
punished all of us, making our town look cheap, trashed, and out of control.

If you would like to do something that will actually repair the damage, please 
make a donation to the Museum specifically directed toward restoring this 
sculpture, (and others if you like. All the sculptures are old, all have had or will 
need conservation.) Damage to this very public work qualifies as an emergency.

The Cyrus E. Dallin Art Museum is a municipal museum of the Town of 
Arlington. It is entirely volunteer-staffed. Meetings of the Board of Trustees, 
(some positions are vacant), are on the second Tuesday of each month in the 
Meeting Rooms on the ground floor of the Jefferson Cutter House. In accordance 
with Open Meeting Law, meetings are open to the public, though they can be a 
little tedious, of course.

Museum hours are noon to four daily. Admission is free, but please consider 
there is no endowment and funding is very limited. Could it be the poorest 
museum in the Commonwealth? Leave a little something extra.

The address:

Cyrus E. Dallin Art Museum
One Whittemore Park
Arlington MA 02474 

781 641 0747



Wasps want what we want: sweet things especially ripe fruit or cider; proteinaceous 
things like hamburger, chicken, or flies; and greasy or oily things —like chicken 
salad. Many species also require wood to make houses to raise their children in. 
Like us, they will defend themselves while pursuing their needs.

Traffic control this day in history 

According to Garrison Keillor, today is Julius Caesar’s birthday. JC closed
Rome to wheeled traffic during daylight hours.

Lightning Striking 2X: Old Burial Ground & Our Liberties 

That is the Monument in Arlington’s Burial Ground, across the street from
Robbins Library. I was there just last week showing it off to a visitor from
our ancient partner in freedom, France. You all ought to know it, and if
not, learn it.

The obelisk is a 19th C memorial to the eleven men who were
shot dead by Regular troops where they sheltered in the cellar of Jason
Russell’s house, after JR himself stood on his doorstep, protesting, “An
Englishman’s home his castle.” (As is also, one tends to believe, his
telephone.) In any case, when you go there tomorrow if not this evening, read
the small headstone on the east side of the monument; it is Russell’s, who
also has a smaller footstone. It is a striking piece of contemporaneous
anger directed at General Gage and his barbarous troops. I wish I could
remember it verbatim.

By the way, note the letter that looks like y, which
is the 18th C form of the Anglo-Saxon letter thorn, such that “ye” is always
to be pronounced “the”. (Aetat means “aged”.) I can’t recall much more in
detail. I suggest that stone get photographed often. Life is fleeting, and
so are small superhistorical artifacts.

Oh, and the literal lightning? Must have been that reported Park Avenue
strike. My screen is the prettiest thing, half of it is random strands of
color with a black zig and a zag radiating from the center of them. Like the
forehead of Harry Potter, the celebrated psychopath.

Yours in cultural patrimony [but is that not a sexist term?]

Re: [arlington] Not an Insult (was: Re: AN [sic] Inconvient [sic] Truth… 

One of us on the list was offended by the terms “complete cynic or
nihilist.” These are not random calumnies, but represent mature philosophies
of some antiquity. A Cynic is not surprised that the world has come to its
present state, given people’s nature. (Given the history of technological
development, it would probably not be sexist to suggest that industrial
catastrophes are actually the result of men’s nature.)

Remember that when
Alexander the Great came to visit Diogenes, who was lounging in front of the
barrel he lived in, and offered to do anything in his power for the greatest
living philosopher in the world, Diogenes asked Alexander to step a little
to the side — his shadow was blocking the sun. Sunbathing — a fitting
metaphor? I suspect that the Cynic’s response to global warming would be
close to the current Republican economic accommodation to it — a shrug.

As for Nihilism, that philosophy is equally alive perhaps in the thinking of
the Earth Firsters and Deep Ecologists.

Going back to my coffee and Thomas Jefferson’s guest editorial in the

Happy 4th!

 favorite anti-itch products I prefer the juice from the smooshed stems of jewel weed or touch-me-not,
_Impatiens capensis_, which grows mercifully in wet places in such as which
you might find mosquitoes and poison ivy. You would probably need a large
supply in case of poison ivy.

Back in the day — the early 1950s — when my mother had a systemic reaction
to the poison ivy she and my father pulled from the woods in Smithtown
L.I., N.Y. in anticipation of their children enjoying country life, she
bathed in oatmeal infusions.

I don’t know what that other couple and their mother who was so handy with a
sewing machine used, who went as Adam and Eve to a masquerade dressed in
costumes made out of the elegant vine they found in their new suburban yard.


Why my neighbor’s renter parks on the sidewalk 

One day, a young driver parked her car up the block a bit but did not secure
it in park gear or set the parking brake and it rolled down Forest Street
and across it smacking into a stone wall and bouncing from it and rolled
across the street again into my neighbor’s renter’s little Toyota. That
might happen again at any moment! So he parks it on the sidewalk where the
curb will protect it I suppose.

Yours in risk management. 2006-06-26

Turtle in people zone, typography in e-mail zone 

It is unlikely that the snapping turtle will stay in the Reservoir swimming
beach because the chlorine will sting its eyes. I don’t recall that they do
much swimming at all, but have only seen them on land. They are fast, but
there will be plenty of time to get away. If it does stray into the area,
you will certainly see it because it is large for a reptile, about the size
of a whippet, though lower slung. They are vicious, but not as dangerous as
an alligator.

I have also heard they are delicious, and have nine different kinds of meat.

Turtle eggs are also considered a delicacy. Unlike bird eggs, the whites do
not congeal when cooked. At least, so says the _Joy of Cooking,_ which also
suggests they are delicious served with a glass of ale. The eggs must be
laid in moist ground.

I use underscores to indicate italic type, and this is reinforced by MS
Word, which will change words with an underscore before and after into
italic. Remember typewriters? We used to underline words in manuscript to
indicate italic when set in type. _Word_ will also transform text with an
asterisk before and after into boldface type. Lynn Truss, in _Eats…_
questions these conventions. They have a concrete origin in word processing


Orgy at Reed’s Brook Park 

It’s frogs, singing and jumping in the pond at sundown. You can walk right
down to the water’s edge and watch them stirring it up.

To paraphrase Thomas Pynchon, “I like to watch young batrachians getting


Hi Everyone,

Yesterday I wrote that frogs were “noisy” in McClennen Park, which I
mistakenly called Reed’s Brook Park. It is the pond edged by Reed’s Brook
inside the park. Today’s _Globe_ shows a picture of one of these creatures,
in Derrick Z. Jackson’s column. I am embarrassed to have to say that, misled
by their presence in the water, I did not recognize one of my favorite
animals, the toad. 


The Robbinseion of Peirce Hill 

Well, now. If you look carefully at the picture of the reconstruction that
David Lewis provided the link to,
jpg, you’ll notice that our magnificent water tower is not exactly the
same as, and differing in various respects from, the Arsinoeion at
Samothrace. Have a look, and please excuse an autobiographical aside. One of
my critics at the GSD told me, in response to a question about how to
improve my presentations, that a problem people from that school had was to
begin with the least important topic and progress to the major theme, losing
interest along the way. Too bad.

1. Ours has a domed roof, replicating the domed lid of the steel standpipe

2. Ours of course has no second set of acroteria at the top.

3. Ours does not have a sculpture at the peak. Instead, we have Cyrus
Dallin’s Allegorical Figure of Massachusetts at the top of the Robbins
Memorial Flagstaff — a fiberglass copy — see the original bronze at eye
level in the CED Art Museum, and make a nice donation when you go, open noon
to four , Wed. — Sun.

4. The drum of our tower is much higher, dwarfing the door.

5. We do not have an ornamented base, but rise directly from the earth in a
more somber, Doric mode.

6. This sixth and last point is the key — the secret meaning of our water
tower, and it takes a little time to unfold. Note that in the Arsinoeion the
columns rest on top of the drum, and the Doric frieze, of triglyphs
(ornamental devices of three vertical staves) and metopes (panels, decorated
with relief sculptures when funding permits) are on top of the architrave or
epistyle, the beam that runs along the top of the columns. This is typical
of all classical structures. The Robbinseion, possibly unique in all of
classical and classicizing architecture in the world*, inverts them. The
triglyph frieze crowns the top of the drum, and the colonnade rests on it. I
want to say again that this is a remarkable construction that so far as I
know, in all the world, occurs only in Menotomy. Why?
The different archaeological sites of the ancient world were excavated by
different national schools. The Acropolis of Athens, for example, is a
German dig. Troy was inherited by the University of Chicago. Corinth is also
American, run by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. One of
the sights of the excavations in the ancient city is the Sacred Spring. The
Spring is the location of the Triglyph Wall, a Doric frieze resting directly
on the earth, It signifes both the chthonic (earth-derived) powers of the
site, and its sacred nature. Vincent Scully suggests, referring to this
context, that even more so than columns, it is the frieze itself that
indicates holiness.

The great genius of the Robbins Sisters’ architect was to unite the themes
of the Town’s water source with the recent (at that time) discovery of the
triglyph frieze in Corinth in a brillian innovation in the language of
classical architecture, at the same time commemorating American scholarship.

Please excuse any extraneous details. Unless I’m addled in my dotage, it’s
not a simple story.


[*For another example of an inverted Doric frieze, see Heinrich Schliemann’s tomb in Athens. 6-11-2010]

New animal behavior 

In spring there are flowers everywhere but no seeds yet and few large
insects so birds are starving consequently they will flock to stocked
feeders where suet cakes are especially attractive providing fat and protein
to the hungry. Woodpeckers are especially fond of suet but we saw on
Thursday for the first time in our lives an Eastern Towhee. This morning
however both suet holders were lying on the patio where they had been
removed from the squirrel-proof Audubon Society feeder pole, and my neighbor
said when I pointed out that this had been done that her suet cakes had also
gone missing. 

We suspect raccoons.

(I am no longer promising to recount my raccoon story but it has been
thirteen years in May and I yet might.)

Enjoy your weekend. The weather looks about right for an old-style Easter
Be-in such as we used to hold in Sheep’s Meadow in Central Park when people
were still allowed on the grass and I shall in the words of the immortal
Frank Zappa “sit and play my bongos in the dirt.”

Best wishes to all.

Less nutty Dallin Museum post to follow.


Work songs 

1. “Work Song” by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, but it is an

2. “Song of the Punch Press Operator.” I have a recording by Pete Seeger on
Songs from Broadside Magazine. Grim. My wife won’t tolerate it.

3. “Fiddler a Dram”. An old Appalachian tune, with the verse, “I work all
night with a bottle in my hand. Now come on, and give the fiddler a dram.”
(A dram is a wee drop of spirits customarily taken throughout the day
starting in the morning in pre-temperance 19th century.) Jesse Colin Young,
now a coffee planter in Hawaii, sang it with his classic west coast folk
rock hippie band, the Youngbloods, recorded on _Rock Concert_, 1971.

4. And this little scrap by Frank Zappa, from Absolutely Free (1967): “Be
a jerk (and go to work) [repeat] Get a job and do it right
[incomprehensible] TV tonight! Do you love it? Do you hate it? There it is,
the way you made it, yeee-owww! TV dinner by the pool/ Watch your brother
grow a beard/ Got another year of school/ You’re OK, he’s too weird/ he’s a
bummer, he’s a bummer, he’s a bummer every summer/ Be a loyal plastic robot
in a world that doesn’t care.”
: 2006-04-02

Work songs redux 

”Working in a Coal Mine” — don’t remember the original artist, but covered
by Devo in 1982

Any doubts about former local resident (1900-1944) sculptor Cyrus E.
Dallin’s (1861-1944) enduring and penetrating influence on American culture
may be put to rest tonight after 8 pm if your TV cable plan includes Turner
Classic Movies. Duck Soup featuring the Marx Brothers will be on. Be sure
to see the penultimate scene (before the battle).

David Formanek, curator, 
The Cyrus E. Dallin Art Museum, One Whittemore Park,
Arlington, Massachusetts
open 12-4 pm Wed.—Sun.
: 2006-04-01

bug juice—soylent red? 

I suspect it may be called bug juice because it is colored red with
cochineal extract, a dye derived from masses of the cochineal beetle of the
tropics. Read ingredient lists on selected fruit punch containers at your

Campari, the delicious aperitif, is also colored red with cochineal.

It’s not kosher.

The paint box term for it is carmine.

I did not plan to write on this topic tonight. See my next post, I hope in
time for action.

How to park in NYC 

Parking garages are indicated by big signs with arrows. When desperate, I
park in a lot called Park & Ride around West 60th St. and West End Ave, but
there are many garages inside buildings, especially on streets near
Amsterdam and West End Avenues. (Many were originally stables.) They charge
about $20 for overnight, plus tax c. 20\%.

That is if I am desperate.

How do professional drivers park? Double park on
a residential street with or without engine running. Put on emergency
flashers if it makes you feel safer. Adjust your mirrors so you can see as
many parked cars as possible before and behind you. Then watch for a
pedestrian to whip out their keys and drive one away. It might take 5-30

Carefully read and interpret the parking signs for alternate side of the
street parking so you do not choose to park where you will be towed at 8
a.m. Call the city at 311 for parking updates and other information.

Break-ins and thefts have not been a problem since Mayor Giuliani began
ethnic cleansing a dozen years ago.

NYC road trip? take AMTRAK instead 

I want to apologize for intemperate and seemingly prejudiced 
remark at the end of my last post. It is difficult for me to sort 
out the so-called thinking that led to it. Perhaps I was 
responding to a comment about auto theft. Perhaps it was that 
as a kind of native, I do not like to hear people malign New 
York. As a kind of native, I want to be the one to malign New 
York, or at least, former mayor Rudi Giuliani. In any case, in 
the vast majority of cases, if a car is not where you parked it, 
the police have impounded it for a parking infraction. 

Under Giuliani, police were instructed to enforce every possible 
little law in the effort to halt the perceived general decline into 
lawlessness and incivility that had been the norm for some 
decades, including those when I grew up. Jaywalking and 
dancing in public places were included among other more 
serious crimes. I do not miss the days when it was necessary, 
and not merely as now force of habit (or obsessive compulsion 
or paranoia) to look over your shoulder and into store front 
reflections and walk well out toward the curb. 

Manhattan is a much less interesting and exciting place than 
when there was a more varied and vibrant street culture, much 
more so than now when it has been Disneyfied, mallized, and 
whitebreaded, and the average price of an apartment is 

I have only had break-ins when I parked in bad places — car 
full of luggage in front of a street corner gang, for example, a 
combination of stupidity and thoughtless provocation. On the 
other hand, that same car was flipped upside down by 
teenagers in an affluent suburb one night.

I do not believe in any way that bad behavior belongs to any 
ethnic or social group — look at the mess white men, and I am 
one, have made of an entire planet.

In any case, I am sorry for my recurrent thoughtlessness.

If you must go to New York City, do take the train for the sake 
of the environment and the opportunity to enjoy a beautiful ride 
in comfort and without driving stress. Leave that parking spot 
for my next visit.

Snow Depths 

Snow on the ground differs quantitatively from snow fallen, because
subsequent snow compacts the already fallen snow underneath it. Weather
stations measure the amount that falls each hour, then wipe the surface
clear to measure the next hour’s accumulation. Then they total the hourly
measurements. (I learned this only last year.)

I am troubled by the thought that the underprediction of yesterday’s high
energy and record-setting electrical snow storm is symptomatic of a change
in the nature of weather itself, and of our climate, if climate really
exists, and is not merely an aggregate of prevailing weathers.

That notion of climate is found in the book Chaos, the Birth of a New
Science by James Glieck, from the later 1980s. (Among other things, it
explains why you can’t predict weather in detail for more than a few days

One of the essential discoveries of chaos theory is that when you
add energy — heat, for example — to a chaotic system (like weather),
events increase gradually until their frequency doubles. Then it stabilizes
as another system with a new set of norms. This year there were more than
twice as many hurricanes as in ordinary years, and next year is forecast to
be similar. It suggests to me that until new mathematical models are
applied, the severity of future storms in any season may also be
unanticipated. Alternately, we could be facing a permanent hurricane,
Earth’s equivalent of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot.

”The world isn’t sauna, it’s soup. When you turn up the gas, it boils.” [I wrote that in 1993.]

Some sites and a quote about the reprehensibly termed phenomenon

”2. Thundersnow: Major winter storms sometimes contain “thundersnow”.
Thundersnow is caused by vigorous clouds within the storm. Similar to
thundershowers, thundersnow produces precipitation quickly and in greater
amounts. It is common for locations to receive between 2 to 4 inches of
snow per hour while thundersnow is occurring.”


Astronomy Domine 
<> wrote:

>>” We can see this same symbolism repeated in the December sky when Venus,
 called “Daystar” rises at the darkest part of the night, just before the
 appearance of the sun.

Is the darkest part of the night just before the appearance of the sun, or
is that only metaphorical? I would have thought the darkest part would be
midnight, as Robert Burns terms it, “…of that great arch of night, the
keystone.” But if poetry is to be the determinant, let it be duked out with
the Mamas and the Papas.

But even if you still subscribe to the notion of inter-nesting geocentric
transparent celestial spheres, Venus never rises at midnight —check your
Old Farmer’s Almanac. Venus can only rise or set at most about 2 hours
before or after the sun [because its orbit is inside Earth’s orbit]. This December, Venus is an evening star, that thing
like an airplane with landing lights you might see on your commute home west
on Mystic Valley Parkway or Route 2. That is to say, Venus, which sets after
the sun this month this year, also rose after “the appearance of the sun”.

Planetary movements across the (typically) night skies are independent of
the solar calendar. Venus and Mercury can be morning or evening “stars” at
any time of the year, or entirely absent from view.



The Great Northeast Blackout was 40 years ago tonight. Where were you? I was
waiting for a ride home from school from my dad, the director. I watched a
volleyball game with another school in our gym. As he arrived, the ball
landed on top of the net and rolled all the way across it.

We left the
building and looked south across Central Park to see the windows of the
Empire State Building and other midtown skyscrapers darkened, illuminated
only by the rising full moon. I asked my dad. “Must be some kind of
blackout,” he said, informatively. Our trip across town by car to the West
Side Highway was drastically impeded by lack of traffic signals. We began to
get news on the transistor radio in the car, which did not have its own
radio. Arriving in our neighborhood, we told what we had learned to a few
people on the sidewalks. Arriving at our apartment after walking up five
flights, we found my mother and sisters not home. My dad was worried, then
irate when they returned. He had not registered that they were going out for
pizza, cooked in gas-fired ovens, and capable of being eaten by candlelight.
That marriage only lasted another three years.

Although we heard about
mysterious fireballs over the wires in Niagara Falls, my favorite story is
about the boy walking home, hitting the light poles with a stick, when the
whole neighborhood went dark and he ran the rest of the way with a guilty

Re: yawn of a story 

[Valerie Plame]
Probably not many on this list are old enough to remember the Cold War, The
Spy Who Came In from the Cold, Our Man in Havana, James Bond novels and
movies etc, , but for those of us who do, the immense seriousness of having
an agents “cover” “blown” (i.e., secret identity exposed) is compounded by
the danger of having his, or in this case, her entire network “wiped out”—
(assassinated or murdered often after “interrogation” [enough said]). Hence
the federal prohibition against outing agents of the CIA. It creates risk to
a great number of people, some acting on our behalf and some entirely
innocent (of acting on our behalf — not that there is necessarily anything
wrong with it), and to our national security as a whole — something that
even as a liberal I cannot do without.


long  johns also socks

I have been wearing Duofold brand in cold weather since I 
found a pair in my loft after a Hallowe’en party in 1977 or so. 
Some catalogue sales outfit or other sells them. I have a silk 
long sleeve top in my drawer but it did not stand up well to 
washing and the elbows wore through from friction. I never 
found it as warm as Duofold.

Many people can’t wear them because their skin is sensitive and 
they itch, but I think that woolen socks are the greatest for all 
year around. The Walking Store in Burlington Mall sells 
Smartwool brand and I have been most pleased and 
comfortable in them. Wigwam is another brand sometimes 
found at Sports Emporium or other sporting goods shops in 
hiking and skiing departments but those will be bulkier and may 
seem too casual for work, if you work in a place where people 
inspect your socks. Wool socks are a blend of wool and nylon, 
Lycra, or Spandex. They do an excellent job of keeping the feet 
dry and insulated. The Vikings crossed the oceans in open 
boats, wearing wool sweaters which insulate even when wet.

Subject: [arlington] Menotomy 

I apologize for my cavalier dismissal of Jim Porter’s work on the real
meaning of “Menotomy.”

He is correct when he states that we can never know its real meaning because
the language and the people who spoke are gone.

He has also gone to considerable effort and scholarship in preparing his
work, and uncovered important information in it.


Subject of last post 

I think I forgot to title my last post. The subject line would have been
something like “Apology for intemperate Menotomy remarks.”


“We call them Arlington Potatoes” 

>>From: flutterbye112
Subject: Disposing of Rocks
I am clearing a new planting bed. What does one do with rocks?

Traditionally, you pile them up along the edge of your land in a long heap
as high and steep as you can pile them. In the spring you walk along it with
your neighbor on the other side and analyze proverbs. 2005-09-07

Re: notary, also lethal response to racist leaflets? 

All the banks have anotary. Notarizing costs a nominal fee which is
sometimes waived if you are a bank customer.

Do any of us remember Smokey Stover comics from the 1950s? “Notary Sojac”
appeared on a placard in each of them, to my total juvenile befuddlement.
Does anyone get it?

I respond to this post while I try to compose my thoughts about the
seditious suggestion that people who face discrimination buy guns to protect
their civil rights with a vigilante assault on those who violate them. Even
if this was a satirical suggestion, it is pernicious. But I realize that,
satirical or not, it comes from a hemisphere that believes government in
itself is wrong. 

Certain governments are universally accepted to be wrong—that “theorist”
alludes to US participation in the war against Nazi Germany, as though a
six-years’ world war waged by democratic and egalitarian nations were in any
way comparable to promoting gunfire in the streets of Arlington. Those
governments were born in opposition to the American notion that we formed
and maintain a government to protect each of us from bullying by the rich
and strong. 

Although the Germany comparison is inept, it does pertain. Nazis did not
come to power by revolution but by a sequence of crimes against the state
and the people. They won little battles that no one noticed. They beat other
citizens in the street while the government did nothing. Eventually their
minority party came to national power by way of a senile head of state, a
sequence of declared “emergencies”, and parliamentary procedure.

No, that isn’t the right analogy. I meant that if you listen to
AM radio outside of the Northeast, most of us because of what we believe in
are under attack. It is scary. Talk radio is vilifying our elected
legislators and millions of its listeners are being taught to hate us their
fellow Americans personally. It is like Jugoslavia before the civil war,
when the media stoked the fires that led to ethnic warfare.

Apparently it also pays to pump up hatred in America. But citizens must be
able to count on their government to protect them from armed gangs, even if
those are composed of other otherwise law-abiding citizens, even if they
claim the right to form militias and stuff. The government must do this
because once groups take up weapons against each other, you are in a civil

I don’t know whether to quote William Shirer or George Orwell. Oh, no, it’s
Frank Zappa. “A thing like this could start/On any street/ in any town/ in
any place/ if any clown/ decides that now’s the time to fight/ for some idea
he thinks is right….” _Trouble Comin’ Every Day, 1965.

The last thing we need in Arlington is to abandon non-violent action and the
rule of law in favor of armed struggle. Everybody loses that.

* Sometimes pharmacists are notaries, as also can be social workers, or anyone
who would like to notarize people’s documents.

Market in supermarket (was: ISO specialty butcher) 

Hi Everyone Who Is Reading The Meat Thread,

When I need something special for a special meal, I go to the butcher at the supermarket. There’s 
a button near the counter, and if you press it, he asks what you’d like. Early in Thanksgiving I 
requested a rib roast of specified size. (“It was awful,” my nephew told my sister. “All they served was 
oysters and beef!”)

This spring in Syracuse NY we went shopping to make enough goulash for 
Susan’s parents to freeze. There was only one small package of beef shanks on the shelves. We 
watched the butcher return from the locker and slice our order on a bandsaw, dress it, weigh it, and 
wrap it. Butchers will always be glad to prepare a rack of lamb or crown roast of pork, or to discuss 
sausage-making, or cooking methods. “Tell your son to stay in school,” one told us, “so you don’t 
have to work a job like this.” Nevertheless, they are professionals, and like to be appreciated for it.


shrimp tales from the vienna woods 

I’m back after a trip to three land-locked nations and happy to 
discuss sea food. Removing the shrimps’ tails is kind of labor-
intensive. It’s tricky, takes extra time, and is not always successful.

I usually buy shrimps from the seafood freezer compartment at 
Foodmaster, where you can find frozen chowder and bisque, too. 
Shrimp in the case are the same, but have been defrosted at the 

(The pre-cooked shrimps are not worth the bother.)

I ought to get to work this morning, otherwise, as Arlo Guthrie 
declaims [“I didn’t come here to talk about Alice’s Restaurant. I 
meant to talk about the draft.”] I would change the subject to the 
Override, for which I will be dutifully voting tomorrow. 

One of those three landlocked countries (where I partly grew up) has 
historically had a strong sense of community, such that although it 
had to endure a level of individual hardship after its deserved 
devastation during the war, it is now become prosperous, beautiful, 
clean, safe, efficient, and well-educated. Imagine, for example, a 
functioning public transportation system that gets you where you 
need, buses and trains running only minutes apart, and not an 
assault on the senses, comfort, and air quality.

Unfortunately, the 
expression “It can’t happen here” (title of a Sinclair Lewis novel) refers instread 
to the rise of fascism in America.

The others two land-locked countries, having cast off a system of exploitation of the many by 
the few, are now experiencing capitalism in its rawest form: 
pickpocketing, prostitution, police and government corruption, taxi 
fare extortion,baggage theft, bill padding ….

Oh well. I quote Laurie Anderson: “Every man for himself.”


Cretan Paradox 
Why trust me, should I come bearing quotes to this particular 
writer’s defense? Not that I don’t mind an apparent 
perception of faulty thinking on his part, and not only 
because it is a classical reference, or because my own 
allusions fall frequently on deaf ears, but because the failure 
to recognize it demonstrates this simple point: The reason 
we wonder what is the meaning of the statement that “only 
those politicians from Crete are liars” is because 

quick ref below

The Cretan Paradox is attributed to the Cretan poet 
Epimenides the Cretan says “All Cretans are liars.” This 
statement, because it was uttered by a Cretan, is true if and 
only if it is false.  2005-06-02

Coming soon: Witch Trials? 

You may recall the map of Germany that was published in the Globe 
after Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope. It showed a patchwork of 
Protestant and Catholic states, the result of the Thirty Years’ War 
(1618-1648), a religious confilict which led not only to millions of 
deaths, but the ruination and pauperization of central and northern 
European states for over a century.

Since it was recent history to them, the effects of 
this war and its causes were much on the minds of the Founding 
Fathers. To their good sense, the intellectual product of the (now rapidly 
faltering) Enlightenment, we owe our national unity. Consider that 
Congregational Massachusetts could find itself at war with Catholic 
Maryland or Episcopal Connecticut —what would be the fate of the 
Quaker state?— and their wisdom is revealed.

I am extremely worried that people are laying down their brains to 
follow supernatural orders. I am extremely worried that Taliban-
types should be attacking the personal beliefs of any citizen, elected 
official or otherwise.

Since it was political activity, directed against a set of beliefs that I 
also share by birth and education, I perceive it could easily have 
been directed against me. That it took place in public indicates that 
it was directed against me and like thinkers, who may have to fear to 
go out in public without avoiding aggressive confrontation. 

As a rule, I sit quietly during impositions such as public prayer, not 
wishing to draw attention to myself or ruffle feathers. But holding 
placards is so rude an act in itself, that this could not remotely be 
considered as a comment on manners and politeness. 

Instead, it was a blatant attempt to intimidate someone into 
conforming to their will. 

I am enitirely in agreement with Paul Schllichtman when he wrote 
that “injecting prayer and religion into civic discourse can only be 
divisive in nature.”

Staging an auto-da-fe-type demonstration in Town Meeting is 
reprehensible. Since it was directed at a single person of a different 
faith, it ought to be investigated by Arlington Human Rights 
Commission. This kind of intolerant bullying begins small, and soon 
spreads from village to village all over Germany—oops, I mean 

I hope that if these people try their stunt here again, someone will 
quietly take them aside, and explain, with all the power of our laws 
behind them, that it is UN-AMERICAN.


Markey sponsors daylight savings time 

I wish to go on record and state my support for a measure ensuring 
and promoting year-round time saving time. 

(Some say that our extra busy days and short-sleeped nights are a 
plot to keep us from having time for political activity.)


Niagara Falls 

Hotels on the Canadian side are booked centrally, so if you find, as we did,
that your rooms two blocks from the river had no outside windows, but opened
on the opposite side to the door onto a balcony over an indoor atrium of
brick with iron railing, more like a cell block than a motel, (in spite of
the heavily chlorinated pool and the cage with parrots); and they smelled of
mold and deodorant, you could ask if there weren’t more congenial
accommodations available, and maybe find a place in one of the hotels
looking over the falls with windows that open onto the roar, the evening
colored lights shining on the cascades, and the fireworks; plus gas

The economic contrast between Niagara Falls NY and Niagara Falls ON deserves
thought and discussion. Niagara-on-the-Lake is a kind of Hamptons, L.I. In
summer, check out the G. B. Shaw Festival.

I have brought both of my children to see the Falls. I had the great
pleasure to hear my daughter pronounce, “They were awesome!”

Bring adequate ID.


9-13 Reading matter 

If you can find them, the Freddy series by Walter R. Brooks is a lot of fun
for reading by young people. Freddy and the animals who live on the Bean’s
farm can talk, and have various adventures: They go to Florida, the North
Pole, they put out a newspaper, Freddy is a detective, and provide content
for ten more books.

My son, 11, says, if he were writing a book report about
them, he’d write “I’d recommmend these to many people. They’re great books
and have been for over 50 years.”

They were written from the 30’s until 1954. Topical content includes the
arrival of a dictator in _Freddy the Politician_ (originally _Wiggins for
President_ of 1939.

The illustrations by Kurt Wiese are excellent examples of expressive and
descriptive line drawings.


“Dragon” Best chapter book 2 recs 

Charlotte is right about this one. It’s great for reading aloud, too.

>>”At that age, I *adored* a book called “My Father’s Dragon” by Ruth
>Gannett. And there are sequels which makes it even more appealing. I
>just looked up the author at Amazon and there is a reader review
>calling it “The perfect first chapter book” and I agree!”>>

My son just now went past into the kitchen. I asked him what was his
favorite chapter book in 1st-2nd grades. “My Father’s Dragon.” He did not
see what I was typing.

Oil and Gas 

We forget that gasoline is an explosive substance. Putting it in your car is
like loading a revolver, and that is saying nothing about vehicular

In oil-rich regions, tar used to seep out of the ground, as in the La Brea
tar pits of Los Angeles. In the 1850s, people began drilling for petroleum,
and learned to “crack” or refine the crude oil to extract various compounds:
kerosene, a substitute for the whale oil people burned in lamps*; paraffin
for candles, a substitute for beef tallow, whale spermaceti, and beeswax;
lubricating oils for coal- and water- powered machinery; petroleum jelly
(vaseline) a substitute for animal fat grease, etc. The process was and
remains to heat the crude oil in a vertical tank, drawing off the different
substances at characteristic elevations in the tank depending on their

For decades, refiners were left with a volatile, dangerously
explosive substances at the top of the towers, benzine and gasoline, that
they could find no use for. But by the end of the 19th century, inventors
developed the internal combustion engine to power road vehicles, burning it
one drop at a time.

How much energy is in gas? A gallon can propel a 3/4 ton
vehicle for thirty miles.

Although we have become used to it over the last 100+ years, it is no less
dangerous. Kerosene powers rockets and missiles, and diesel oil brought down
the Murrah Building in Oklahoma. Gasoline is the accelerant of choice in
most arsons, the single ingredient in a Molotov cocktail. You might consider
that WMDs actually _were_ found in Iraq: its oil reserves.

It might be far wiser for gasoline dispensing to be left to professionals.
Self-serve means anyone can acquire any amount of gasoline and no one the

It is also good to have mechanically inclined people working at the gas
stations. Two years ago my friend went to pump gas at self-service in
Cambridge and the nozzle was broken, soaking her clothes in gasoline,
neither a healthy nor a safe condition for the three miles to my shower. The
attendant said, “Gee, that happened to the last person who tanked up here.”

Thinking about Iraq in particular, and the global effects of burning fossil
fuels*, you might recall that Noah used bitumen, an ornamental and building
adhesive in ancient Mesopotamia, to waterproof the Ark. Because of global
warming, so-called “cliamate change”, we are presently looking forward to
another flood over the next century.

*You may have heard on the news Tuesday night that there are now only about
300 right whales still alive in the world.

** “Fossil” means or meant dug up, though we have come to associate it with
the plants that made coal, and possibly the fish and dinosaurs that became

Warm regards. 2004-12-02

A modest cemetery solution 

One evening in 1964, my parents were driving home from a day in the Austrian
countryside. We saw a curious round building with slit windows in an old
churchyard. They parked the car and we peered inside. It was an ossuary. On
shelves running around the walls, the bones of the previously buried were
sorted in most Teutonic thoroughness, skulls on top, arms, ribs, then legs
below. The graveyard was a small one, and had been reused for centuries.

I do not know if this will work for the oldest burials in New England, whose
acid soil can reduce bones to white powder over the course of a century or
three. But it could be a novel and interesting architectural addition to our
town, and might possibly be another national first, like our children’s

(Not that kind of modest!) 2004-11-22

Not OK 

Last spring, the fox, well known to this list, ate my son’s pet chickens. I
saw the fox do so, but if I had not, there were other suspects: the raccoon
and the hawk. I would have accepted a good alibi. Instead, the fox said, you
are only sore because you wanted to eat those chickens yourself.

Let’s face it. Short of losing the election, there is nothing the President
could have done to make some people accept the outcome.


Paper ballots (was: Voting in Arlington; U.S. Election) 

On 11/6/04 03:27 PM, “”
<> wrote:

> >” I didn’t take a look at the links that were sent from either Paul or Rebecca.
> But, by the urls, I think we can safely assume what these site have to say.
> The Winner Take all election process absolutley needs to be revamped. No
> doubt. However, I think when people keep looking back and complaining about
> what happened instead of looking to the future, they do the country a huge
> disservice.
> I applaud Kerry for graciously and expeditiously conceding when he could have
> dragged it out. But I think we learned in 2000 that doing so is bad for the
> country. And I wanted Gore to win…
> This time around the numbers are not close. Kerry lost. You are talking
> several millions of votes difference. No one stole anything.

Hi Everyone,

Lest we leave the last word to an argument from intentional ignorance, I
quote the first line from the second of Paul’s links:

”…on several swing states, and EVERY STATE that has EVoting but no paper
trails has an unexplained advantage for Bush of around +5\% when comparing
exit polls to actual results.”

I think that is easy to understand. Anyone interested in whether we are
going to consider that we live in a society with a representative
government, it must become and remain a topic of conversation at the very
least, and hopefully action within our children’s lifetime — I am

Winner take all is irrelevant to this discussion.

We ought to have learned in 2000 that the votes in Florida should have been
counted instead of discounted. That election is still relevant today, and
will be a topic for historians in the entire future of history.

How do you know that “No one stole anything.”? To quote the B-52s. “I’m just



Hallowe’en in Arlington 

Whatever its origins, Hallowe’en as practiced in Arlington is a great good

1. It is perhaps our only creative art holiday. People make costumes,
decorate their houses and yards, and often put on shows: haunted houses,
music performances. Yes, there is Easter egg decorating, but that is limited
in scope, unless you are Eastern European inclined. While Hallowe’en themes
tend to the macabre, it is an examination of fundamental issues of the
nature of life, death, and reality.

2. It is the only holiday requiring physical exercise. You walk through your
neighborhood. You may go to the beach on Memorial Day, or to fireworks on
the Fourth, but even on those, like most holidays, you chiefly eat and

3. Not only do the people walk, but the parents of children see the owners
of their neighbors’ houses, and look into each others’ front doors, and
approve each other, reassuring themselves that they live in a place with
friendly, neighborly people.

4. Those who answer the door see that the next generation is respectful of
tradition, and as they grow from toddlers to middle schoolers, learn to
speak to strangers, and say “Thank you.”

5. Most important, children learn what they do not have to be afraid of.

Nevertheless, some aberrant souls have not learned that they do not need to
fear the spirit world, and instead of dressing up like werewolves (for
example), pass out printed matter to children threatening eternal torment
for having put on a costume.

As so often claimed, there was once a religious content to what has become a
secular holiday. Hallowe’en was a solar holiday, occurring at the beginning
of the dark quarter of the year, and presumably derives much of its thematic
material and imagery from its deep past. But that past was 1500 years ago at
least, in the Iron Age, a preliterate, prehistoric period: inaccessible. I
question what can be truly known about the its original nature, and the
sources of that information, starting with Tacitus. (For 18th centuryfolk
customs, cf. Robert Burns.) Much has been continually invented, and entered
the literature without being questioned. (Some say the arching black cat is
a 20th century relic of the Wobblies.)

Some see an opportunity to chop logic about religions, to which, of course,
they are not subject. To apply the somewhat fluid definitions of pagan,
heathen, Christian as though they had fixed meanings of the equal of
mathematical terms, and sort out the complex cultures and traditions of
world religions into simplistic categories, is harmful to our list-community
of good will. It seems like logic, but it is divisiveness hiding behind a
hash of sophistry and semantics, a tactic that I can only consider

Keep it for the kids.

Trick or read 

>>”If children are old enough to do this unsupervised, they
>are old enough to read a tract and not be harmed.

>There is NO comparison between children receiving a religious tract
>and children being given drugs in their bag of candy.”>.

Hi Everyone,

If this material were a movie, with its violent fictional content, would we allow our
children to see it?

Is it a religious tract other than by definition or technicality? Might it
not be a hate tract with a religious veneer? Or a kind of spiritual

Like psychoactive drugs, its intent is to mess a child’s mind.

We take our enlightened society for granted, but two hundred fifty years is
like a sneeze in the life of the human race. I fear it is poised for
resubmergence into the murk of magical thinking and superstition it had to
fight its way out of. Salem Village here we come.

Yours in light,

David 2004-11-04

limestone vs. bluestone 

>”Does anyone have opinions about limestone vs. bluestone for the tops of
brick steps? ”

Bluestone will last longer than limestone.

Bluestone is sandstone; most of it is quarried in Pennsylvania, though it
occurs in southern New York State. It was formed offshore of sandy beaches.
In the eastern US, it dates from the Paleozoic period, chiefly middle and
upper Devonian, about 360-320 million years ago. It’s called bluestone
because of its cool gray color. The grit is evenly medium to fine. More
decorative samples may include small fossils or ripple marks or other
sedimentary features. The sand grains are cemented with silica, a form of
quartz, silicon dioxide, of which the sand grains also are predominantly
composed. The gray color is caused by traces of other minerals.

Limestone is precipitated in the ocean from the microscopic and tiny shells
of little sea creatures. If larger critters (technical term) lived on the
sea floor, they may be preserved as visible fossils. Limestone is calcium
carbonate, calcite, chemically the same as marble, but without its
interlocking crystalline structure that makes marble stronger.

Quartz is hardness 7, and calcite is hardness three. The Mohs hardness scale
is logarithmic, but is chiefly a measure of abrasion: a harder rock will
scratch a softer one. It means that eventually the grains of sand that stick
to your feet will wear down the limestone steps faster than the bluestone,
like marble stairs in an old public building. You might expect about a
quarter to a half inch of wear over a hundred years of heavy foot traffic.

At one time one would have called marble more durable than limestone.
However, acid rain falling on either marble or limestone limestone will
dissolve it chemically, releasing carbon dioxide. Drop some vinegar or a
stronger acid on it and it will visibly fizz. Have a look at the the marble
gravestones in the cemeteries, or the detail on (limestone) Robbins Library,
or the fountains of Town Hall (recently restored as well as they could be) to see what
damage has occurred. Chemical weakening leads to loss of strength.

The steps of Robbins Library are granite, and the last century of kids
sliding on the ramping edges have merely polished it.

Rock on!


The Belly and the Members 
I can’t say this any better, so
I quote from Aesop:

One fine day it occurred to the Members of the Body that they were
doing all the work and the Belly was having all the food. So they held a
meeting, and after a long discussion, decided to strike work till the
Belly consented to take its proper share of the work. So for a day or
two, the Hands refused to take the food, the Mouth refused to receive
it, and the Teeth had no work to do. But after a day or two the Members
began to find that they themselves were not in a very active condition:
the Hands could hardly move, and the Mouth was all parched and dry,
while the Legs were unable to support the rest. So thus they found that
even the Belly in its dull quiet way was doing necessary work for the
Body, and that all must work together or the Body will go to pieces.” 2004-10-14

About Prop 2.5 

In response to this quote:

> “your statement ‘only someone
 who does not value public services would even consider it'”,

please let me observe that, nevertheless, and as hard as it is to believe,
that is the stated intent of that wing of the political party which instituted
Prop 2.5 as well as subsequent service cutting and defunding nationally
since the 1980’s. Not everyone has your best interests at heart, in spite of
what they maybe saying about your pocketbook. 2004-09-07

Far out, man. (Was, Nixon in Arlington) 

>>” the 60’s are over
” >>
Can this be true? What about Libertarianism? Five more syllables than that
old 60s watchword, Freedom. A great notion whose ancestry clearly traces
back to Ken Kesey and his cohort, without the funny clothes and the drugs.
No wait, something comes back to me through the haze — yes, the very
Libertarian Party Platform itself — an end to the drugs prohibition!
Politics does make strange days — I mean bedfellows.

”What’s so bad about peace, love, and understanding?” 

Another Arlington resident on Nixon 

It just goes to show that sometimes you have to take some of 
the good along with the bad.

People are very complicated. No matter how well you know 
someone, there is always something that will surprise you. 2004-08-11

“America’s Stonehenge,” the untold story 
Pattee’s Caves, or Mystery Hill in Salem NH, recently renamed “America’s
Stonehenge” is unquestionably a real pile of rocks in a former quarry.

That which is ancient about it has been discounted; that which is claimed to
be ancient is false.

In the later 1700s, a recluse named Pattee lived there and gave his name to
the place.

In the 1930s, William Goodwin, a loony, claimed in his book The Ruins of
Great Ireland in New England, that prehistoric Celts had colonized this
region and built various stone structures here and there. He believed he had
found a sacred pagan complex in Salem NH, and set about “restoring” it.

His “restorations” are more or less all fantastical new constructions.

As an example, consider the “Sacrificial Altar Stone,” with a groove around
the edge and a drain to one side, like a cartoon dialogue balloon,
supposedly to allow the victim’s blood to drain away.

You will occasionally see one of these here or there outside old houses or
farms in New England. They were made to hold a barrel with a pierced base in
the middle. Filled with ash into which animal fat and grease was poured,
soap was produced, and collected at the edge of the stone.

Goodwin only found drystone structures, which may have been built by Pattee,
or may not have been built at all, but were random stacks of quarried or
broken rock.

No pottery or other artifacts of European make, origin, or stylistic
derivation has ever been found there. Pottery and ordinary artifacts are the
only indisputable evidence of habitation and culture. People from a ceramic
culture (i.e., has pottery) know how to dig clay and fire it. No European style ceramics=
no European people.

No metalwork of European make or origin has been found there. At Anse aux
Meadows, the Viking settlement in Newfoundland, the Vikings set up ironworks
at the start. English settlers in New England set up ironworks too, and you
may visit them in Saugus. (New England was at one time a leading iron
producer in the world, smelting bog iron ore.)

A reputable archaeologist performed scientific excavations at Mystery Hill,
and found typical Native American stone artifacts: axes, gouges, spades,
points and the like. The owners exhibit these without much comment. It is
the _only_ evidence of prehistoric habitation. When people live someplace,
they accumulate heaps of broken stones, bones, shells, and other leftovers.
(A region formerly of Arlington, Goat Acres,  was a huge
Native American village in pre-conquest times. Harvard Peabody Museum has
shelf after shelf of thousands of artifacts still labeled “Arlington.”)

The new owners of Mystery Hill stood up a few middling-sized rocks around
the periphery and claimed that it was akin to a Native American Medicine
Wheel, only with supposed celestial alignments that justified calling it
”America’s Stonehenge.”

This claim is based on Gerald Hawkins’s determination that Stonehenge in
England not only indicates the start of summer and winter, but is also a
lunar eclipse calculator. While it does seem to function as such, this has
not been disproved. In any case, the uses and various constructions of
Stonehenge over its two millennia of active history is complex and for the
most part unknown and unknowable. Medicine Wheels, built on the Great
Plains, are verifiable, but this is unlikely to be one, since it is in the
middle of the “forest primeval” making planetary sightings difficult even in

There are drystone structures, the so-called “beehives”, around New England
that archaeologists believe are colonial: “field houses” for shelter from
the sun, or root cellars, though they would not function as such, being too
damp. They do conform to Roger Williams’s descriptions of a Pesuponck, a
sweat lodge built of stones near a body of water. In form they resemble the
temazcali, sweat lodges in Mexico, or igloos. Superficially they are like
Irish “beehives” of stone. One can easily imagine that many of these were
deliberately destroyed by European settlers, used as they were for rituals
involving effigies, (“their devils”) and tobacco smoke. A number of them
survive in Nipmuck territory in Massachusetts.

The Native peoples have
gotten as short shrift from the genuine archaeologists who presuppose
nomadism precludes stone construction as from the pseudo-archaeologists and
fantasists who believe that Celt-Iberians or other western Europeans put in
a great deal of effort building stone monuments but left no trace of
actually living anywhere on this continent.

(And do not be fooled by a minute by Barry Fell, who over the course of
three hardbound volumes, claims to read Ogham, Runic, or Celt-Iberian
inscriptions in the random cracks on local rocks.)

In summary, and I hope I haven’t left anything out, I can only state that,
yes, well, “America’s Stonehenge” is real.

It is a real fake.


Corning (NY) Glass Museum 
In 1995, Town of Arlington and the newly formed Cyrus E. Dallin Art Museum
lent a number of plaster sculptures by Dallin to the Rockwell Museum in
Corning, NY. The Rockwell Museum has three collections: “Western” art,
Antique toys, and colored glass by Steuben before Steuben went to clear
product only.

Some people from the Dallin Museum went to the opening, and to a dinner at
the Corning Glass Museum. I was one, and finally got to the Glass Museum, a
place I had always wanted to go since my childhood in the Cold War. Having
been there, I would say, if you can be anywhere near it, definitely go. It
shows historical, industrial, and decorative glass work, and you can watch
the Steuben craftspeople at work. The museum claims to be the 3rd most
visited site in New York State, though it was quiet when we saw it in April
’95 (the day of the Murrah Building bombing in Oklahoma).

Some highlights: Egyptian and Roman glass, a room full of paperweights, the
failed first mirror of the Palomar Observatory, ca. 30′ in diameter.

The three gift shops are organized according to social class. I shopped in
middle class — Pyrex and Corelle cooking ware.

As Paul points out, I-88 is a beautiful trip (and passes near to the
somewhat hokey Howe Caverns), but then, the landscape is organized quite
differently in New York, and most of its roads are scenic.

Happy trails.  2004-08-02

Your papers, please. (was: T to ID) 

Hi Everyone,

1. “Unlike college admissions, etc., the policy in this area is explicitly
race blind.:

Policy is race blind, police officers are not.

2. In case of a “random” check, you would not only be asked to produce your
identification, but also expected to answer questions about where you are
going, coming from, and what is your business in those places. Cf. the
Globe article — people have already been put off trains for refusing to
say where they are going.

3. I have more to say if I see you in person but not to write on line.

Turkey Hill Fox Raid 

Hi Everyone and watch out!

The fox is faster than you can track him across two back yards and Sunset
Street swinging with a telephoto lens. He is mostly luxuriant tail with
delicate high-heeled black feet. His jaws are huge, like Alien’s, and hang
open and downward wet and expectant when he runs low to the ground, looking
everywhere for more, after eating a bantam chicken in a scant handful of


Raccoons and public health Today’s Boston Globe page A-28 has an article from the _LA Times_ about
raccoon/human coexistence. N.B. that raccoons carry the parasitic roundworms
which, like rabies, also cause brain damage in humans and other species.

Lest anyone think I advocate making the world safer for humans, I’d like to
state clearly and for the record that I believe people should live in
skyscrapers, and not build their houses on top of farmland and wildland.


Ha! Spellchecker stumbles over another neologism.

Saliva and rabies transmission 

A veterinarian told us, when he treated our cat after a remarkable raccoon
incident 11 years ago at the height of the raccoon rabies epidemic, (I keep
promising to tell this story to the list, but apparently not yet), that
saliva from a rabid animal is dangerous. If you have a scratch that it comes
in contact with, then you can be infected. So if you are cleaning up
utensils that the raccoons have slathered over, you might consider using
rubber gloves.

The raccoon population is considerably diminished since then. Skunks were
also affected a few years later. This is probably the reason for the recent
increase in chipmunk population in New England.


lack of intellectual diversity in Arlington (re: > “is there absolutely nothing
to be learned from the anti-Evolutionists? Do they not even have a
point that “evolution” is not a scientific theory in the same way that
”water boils at 100 C” is a theory (because the latter is testable and
falsifiable, but the former is not)?”

Please forgive me if I respectfully remind us that a scientific theory is
quite different from a literary theory or an art theory, such as
Post-modernism, or Push-pull. A scientific theory (please correct me if I a=
wrong) is the best intellectual approximation of reality that explains the
existing evidence, one whose validity has so often been demonstrated in
newer discoveries that only a mass of consistent observations to the
contrary could disprove. Good examples of a scientific theory are Relativity
or Gravity. According to them, we will not anytime soon go flying off the
face of the earth. A theory in science is on a par with a theorem in
mathematics, for example that the the area of the sum of the squares of two
sides of a right triangle equals the area of the square of the hypotenuse.

Evolution by natural selection is a scientific theory because all available
evidence (among that evidence, a planet’s crust full of fossils, i.e.
literally cast in stone) supports it, and only mere human supposition
presumes to opposes it.

Or, as in the example quoted above, water boils at 100 degrees C at standard
pressure, and an isolated population of a species subjected to environmental
stress while undergoing random mutation over time will be survived only by
those descendants who have changed along with the changing conditions. If
the population remains isolated long enough, it will eventually become a
different species. This has been shown again and again in examples all over
the world and the history of earth.

The anti-Evolutionists may have their points, but they are not scientific
points. An example of a scientific point would be to find, consistently, a
sequence of fossil-bearing rock beds consistently demonstrating over the
course of tens or hundreds of millions of years that there was no trend
toward the appearance of more complex creatures from a world of simpler
creatures. The ant-Evolutionist have brought forward a few anomalous
examples, but when the testing and falsifiability referred to above is
brought to bear on them, every one has been shown to be a fake or a
mistake. On Earth, the oldest fossil rocks do contain only single-celled
creatures. Later rocks have fossil worms. Soon there are all kinds of
invertebrates and maybe a a few chordates, then come fish, amphibians,
reptiles, dinosaurs, birds, monotreme mammals, and placental mammals in that

Many words in English have entirely opposite meanings depending on their
context. I am sorry that the old pedant believes this one is worth three

Battle of Menotomy: BIG 

I think I posted something along this line in July. Menotomy 
[Arlington, Mass.] IS actually recognized to be of terrific national 
significance even though it is anonymous in its grandest 
appearance. The list of grievances against King George III in 
the Declaration of Independence states quite baldly “He has 
burned our towns.” That town was ours, where Redcoat 
atrocities extended from Robbins Farm to the Cambridge line. 
Furthermore, the actions of Menotomy citizens would be 
considered remarkable in any account of any war: The quick-
wittedness of the mistress of the Herb Tea House, David 
Lamson leading the old men to capture the arms convoy, Mother 
Batherick’s single-handed capture of six escaping soldiers, 
Samuel Whittemore’s resistance and survival. 

For a primary source document of 18th C propaganda, see the 
slate grave marker on the north side of the obelisk in the 
old town burying ground, between the Whittemore Robbins House 
and Pleasant Street.


Declaration of Independence for us!

I heard this phrase on NPR this morning and suddenly realized that Jefferson
et alia meant Menotomy in specific:

”He has plundered … burnt our towns, and destroyed
 the lives of our people.”

Our town.


Procedure for Wandering Dogs

It’s always best to call the police, 781 643 1212. There is an animal
control officer during regular business hours Mon-Fri.

For uncontrolled animals who are behaving bizarrely on weekends or evenings,
you have to make a strong case for intervention: staggering, aggression,
frothing at the mouth, etc.

On Sunday I saw two lost black dogs who wandered into to the Montrose St.
area. I followed them in my car while I talked to the police on cell phone.

What did they look like? “Well, the truth is, officer, and I am sorry, but
these are genuinely shaggy dogs.”

They were two black dogs with long hair, one with short legs following the
first, both of their tongues hanging out. I thought it was urgent they be
captured because one of them, seeing a young husky on a leash, attempted to
attack it before exchanging sniffs. Saliva was flying all around. I wish I’d
thought to tell the young dog’s owner to bathe it, and wash up himself.

”We’ll send someone out to look at them.”

Now that ten years have gone by I guess it is truly time to tell the rabid
raccoon story I have promised for the last two years. It will be

Help — Carpenter Ants! 
They are called carpenter ants because they excavate their ant cities inside
dead wood: logs in the forest and timbers in a house. They prefer soft,
water-rotted, “punky” wood, such as might be found where a gutter had been
leaking for some years, or there had been a drip in the plumbing. They rip
the wood fibers out with their powerful mandibles to make their tunnels and
nests, in the process turning your two-by-tens into swiss cheese.

If carpenter ants are swarming at your house, they have come from within.
Passive solutions such as boric acid will not work. It is best to consult
and hire a professional poisoner. All living creatures use substances to
repel unwanted species from their environments. One visit is probably
enough, and if I recall, ours only went around the outside of the house.

Probably E. O. Wilson observed that if it were not for carpenter ants, the
planet would be buried deep in dead wood. But outside the hypothetical
realm, it is your house or theirs.



Last year, Uri (I think) suggested washing the parts of the house
where ants enter with Comet cleanser or equivalent. It removes the scent
traces they have been following. One ant wanders into a kitchen, and if it
manages to get out, communicates to its colony that food is at the other end
of its path. The rest follow and you get ants. I washed our threshold and
Lo! No ants.


Butyrophilic Cat Kittens develop so-called “object permanence” at an early 
age. Cats waiting at a mouse hole are an example of it being 
put to use as a survival skill.

What if you kept the butter dish in a closed cupboard? Oh, 
and gave the poor starving beast a quarter pound in her own 
butter dish once a week. 

Butterphilics are Free 2003-04-11

The Itchy and Scratchy Show (was: poison ivy eradication)

>> the landlord hired won’t touch it. I tried burying it under some extra compost
I had last fall. We’ll see if that helped any.
>>; Babs

Oh my goodness that won’t help at all.

The answer to poison ivy is Roundup, a hardware store product. Read label
and follow directions.

Rushiol, the oil that causes the irritation, is at the highest level in the
spring, when the leaves are small, red, and shiny. So it might be wise to
poison it before the leaves erupt, and before they obscure the stems and
roots. But I think I recall that you spray the Roundup on the leaves, so no
matter. It may need additional applications some weeks later.

Wash with plenty of water and soap and more water after exposure. (I feel I
have to wash after looking at the stuff!) Wash clothes separately.

Fortunately we don’t burn brush in Arlington; the poison is carried on smoke
when the plant is burned.

Recent discussion about P.I. pointed out that you can catch it at any time
of the year; even from the stems of the plant (identifiable by its dense
rootlets used for climbing trees.

Rhus toxicodendron (Mill.) Gray
Rhus radicans L. “A perplexingly variable species for which … others have
published more than 30 specific names.” —Gray’s Manual of Botany 8th

Some people think you can develop immunity to it by increasing exposure.
Actually the opposite is true and people can later in life become allergic
to it.

Susan and I once saw a bunch of city people sitting in a huge patch of it at
the edge of a woods on a hot humid day at a folk music festival in Peekskill
NY. They would not believe they were in danger.

 But my parents knew a couple whose mother sewed them Adam and Eve costumes
for a masquerade party from some attractive dark green vines they found in
the woods.

My parents cleared the poison ivy from the woods back of their new house in
Smithtown, Long Island. My mother got a systemic reaction, “auto
sensitization dermatitis”. These were the days before Benadryl. Oatmeal
baths were all she had for relief.

Some years later wandering in their patch of woods I found in the center of
a little glade an old laundry basket overgrown with poison ivy. It must have
been the same basket they had used for their new baby boy — me.

The Athenian sculptor Lysimachus noticed an abandoned basket that had
acanthus leaves growing through it. It inspired him to create the Corinthian
capital. I, however, have nothing to show for my discovery but this bit of

Know your enemy  2003-04-01

Appropriate Soap (was: Re: The Itchy and Scratchy Show) 

No, regular soap works fine with lots of water. Lots of water washes the oil
away. People used to say a bar of brown laundry soap was best, but it’s the
lots of water that does the work.


>;From: “T R” >> Regular soap doesn’t do much for it as I understand. “Fels Naptha” soap
&gt; removes the oil. It is a little hard to find but is generally available
&gt; in drugstores and / or supermarkets if you look. It’s actually laundry
&gt; soap (in a bar) but for some reason is unusually good at removing the
 poison ivy oil. It’s made by Dial.
>>  Tom : 2003-04-01

Woodchucks >>”… they are reported to make a tasty gravy.”

I learned from an old German farmer in the Taconic Mountains 
of New York State (RFD address was State Line, 
Massachusetts,later West Stockbridge, since the farm was on 
this side of the range) that woodchucks aka groundhogs 
(related to the Eurasian marmot or dormouse) which wreak 
utter H. on leaf vegetable plantings are served in a stew, 
and that it is necessary to remove their sweat or scent 
glands before cooking, like poultry.


monopolies. why we “worry” >> “Leftists worry about the free market because they think that it
 collapses down to monopolies which deliver poor value for price.”>>

It is not a worry, it is fact. The US has market regulations because there
were monopolies 100 years ago. New ones continue to emerge — Microsoft, for

It is not that monopolies deliver poor value for price. It is that a
monopoly can charge any price it cares to, because there is no other

Monopoly economy also includes single-company towns, company stores, and
armed guards hired to protect the workers who try to protect the price of
their work.

I don’t think anyone would consider Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson,
who enabled the regulatory agencies, to be “leftists.”

_The Jungle_, Upton Sinclair’s novel about the meat-packing monopoly, is
still on high school reading lists.


 What about Arlington content? I do not want neo-feudalist political
arguments based on false statements and misrepresentations in Arlington.

Please let me clarify ambiguous sentence structure 

>” What about Arlington content? I do not want neo-feudalist political
arguments based on false statements and misrepresentations in Arlington.”>

I have no quarrels with neo-feudalist viewpoints being presented and
discussed in Arlington. But it is important to know when false statements
and misrepresentations are used to support them.

Yours in discourse,



mysterious life 

I have been reading James Thurber’s _My Life and Hard Times_ to my son at
bedtime over the last week, a book I had come to known well since my later
childhood and young adulthood but had not re-read in the thirty years since.
We began in the middle with _The Night the Ghost Got In_, and moved forward
and back, until tonight I read _The Day the Dam Broke_. On the second page
of the story we learned that it took place 90 years ago on March 12, 1913.
Apparently when the curious and usually imperceptible workings of the human
mind are revealed they are not distinguishable from accident.


philosophy in the computoire

When you change the quantity of something, the quality changes too, though
often not noticeably until it reaches the point where you realize you have
something else.* Astronomy, geology, meteorology, for examples, have all been
transformed by the mass of information that computers help us comprehend.
But what about the Arlington relevance? I am talking about our beloved List,
which has become something other than it was — a burden and not a delight.

I believe that e-mail is one of the greatest advances for human development.
All of us can let others know what we are thinking, and by thinking I mean
the directed effort devoted to organization and expression of ideas which is
represented by writing (then editing before sending). Each of us has more
listeners than we could ever reach from a soapbox or with printed matter,
and at what little cost? Plus there is the fun and immediacy of passing
notes in class. Some say that e-mail makes it hard to understand the
non-word cues in people’s voices or body language, but when has that not
ever been the case when reading? I think it is quite plain that when people
write, they are making a record of what they want to have said. They can say
things with full deliberation, and frequently avoid rash statements. There
are only the rarest occasions when anyone on list is misunderstood. (Though
some may mark my last post for orneriness or petulance, and that is why I
am rescuscitating this draft I thought I had no time to write or to ask you
to read.) E-mail is genuine writing. It isn’t the telephone conversations
that disappear so instantly into the void.

Over the last few years that the Arlington List has grown, the postings have
steadily gain in clarity, both in general and individually, as each of the
writers has gained experience by writing every day. I love exchanging e-mail
and list e-mail, and I agree with most people in the flesh world that I do
way too much. But I begin to feel like Porky Pig in Hell. [“So you like to
read, do you. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-hah!”] Now that there are [what was last
count?] 700 of us, lots more reading is generated than I can process. I was
reading in _Fast Food Nation_ about a logic fallacy called the error of
composition. It states that what is effective for one person may not be good
when everybody is doing it. I think it is good we are creating lots of
information and expression, but it has become suddenly unmanageable.

My previous post outlined, with some smart-alecky remarks, a question
whether there existed software to manage over-popular threads. But I sent it
with only a few words in the previous post that I feel might be easily
misinterpreted. Now I feel I have to explain that too-terse text.


David 2002-10-03 <strong>The H word (was: ID for voting) 

</strong>I respect the expression of most political viewpoints, if they don’t depend
for their popular success on xenophobia and murderous race hatred. I had
been entertained by Mr. C.’s postings because he keeps people stirred
up and writes clear English. But his clear English only reveals the murky
mental processes that masquerade as thinking. This latest assault on our
American social compact is an insulting slander. One might expect that those
who wish to preserve the unregimented freedoms they grew up with in the
western frontier states would not expect to inflict yet another occasion to
have to stand in line and show ID, instead of depending on the personal
trust and good will of neighbors and townspeople. Furthermore, it was not a
Democratic governor in Florida who instituted STATE POLICE ROAD BLOCKS IN
POOR NEIGHBORHOODS ON ELECTION DAY last year after pledging to “deliver the
state” to his brother’s column, or judges appointed by his party who
administered a coup d’etat. Well, like they say, everything is different
now. Either accept other people’s voting rights, or learn to steer a


“Fight for your party to right”

I would be a Libertarian, except that Libertarian laissez-faire economics
inhibits the practice of real-world democracy, whose tax cuts only go to
create and perpetuate the plutocracy. Might as well vote Republican.  2002-09-14

debate re: debate

Hi Joe and cc. Everyone,

Your points are all well taken and in fact I agree, to a degree, with them. My post stems from irritation that a candidate who was soundly defeated last election now presumes to speak for me and all voters. I have also watched political debates for forty years, everyone of which has left me infuriated and disgusted with all participants, my own candidates included. Contemporary political debates are not useful for anything more than the hope that one’s opponent will exhibit emotional meltdown in public and lose potential voters. 

1. I think a moderator should keep debaters on topic, otherwise a timeclock would be sufficient. You are right about softballs. There should be hard questions.
2. “Open” sounds to me more like all over the map including outrageous remarks of all kinds, rather than “A to B”. But if “A to B” means the people get to evaluate a candidates’ performance under stress, you are again correct.

 3. I meant only that a failed candidate should not presume to speak for me and all voters. (Sorry to repeat myself.) I am implying the D-word.

 4. You are correct about people’s differences, and also your interpretation that I think some means of gaining information are better than others. 

”There you go again.”
”You’re no Jack Kennedy.”
 These debates have no winners, but 280,000,000 losers. 


Fauna, (was: opposum )

That sure sounds like a racoon, maybe a young one.

Opossums are out these nights. My neighbor said that an opossum and a racoon
were fighting over my grapes. I noticed there are far fewer bunches today
than last week.

Opossums do grow large, but they are more like large, torpid rats. They are
a kind of sickly gray white, with pointed snouts and small black eyes. They
have long, skinny, white tails that they use to hang upside down from trees.
They are marsupials, by the way, a surviving remnant of the indigenous
pre-placental mammalian fauna of Gondwanaland, represented outside of the
Americas only in Australia.

I nearly ran one over except for forthright braking on Park Avenue on
Peirce’s Hill (south of Mass. Ave.) on Saturday night. The car stopped a
foot away from it before it waddled off.

 Someday I will write up my long-promised racoon post, which story I was only
recounting in brief this evening.

Meanwhile I have another assault to rack
up against a huge bristly raccon last week, which would require another
post. It may have seemed huger because I was shining a bright light on it
and criticizing it, and so it had puffed up its fur. Nevertheless it was a
shockingly wicked racoon, even though its murderous behavior was only made
possible by my failure to accurately anticipate the workings of the raccoon
mind and claw and use appropriate technology to thwart it.
I think the raccoon population is up again, after the rabies depredations of
the last decade. A pair of young ones wandered through my yard last week,
chirping and cooing to each other. Racoons are very vocal, and if there are
enough of them next June, the males will make an enormous high-pitched
racket arguing over who will mate with the female up in that tree, scaring
the hell out of first-time human listeners.

Opossum and raccoon are words from Native American languages, of course.

Sleep tight. 2002-08-13

re: use of quotes

Quotes used to indicate that the word or phrase set off by them is taken to
mean something different, if not entirely the opposite, are a standard
feature of English writing.

Quotes are sometimes wrongly used to provide emphasis. An old (1971?)
_Saturday Review_ column uses this example:

Knives “sharpened” here

with the unforgettable comment, “By the time we’re done with them you’ll be
lucky if you can spread mayonnaise.”

Italic text indicates emphasis. In handwritten and typewriter days, words
intended to be set into italic type, such as titles of creative works or
words from other languages, were underlined.

Restricting standard typographic usages that indicate mood or meaning is a
restriction on thought and expression, incompatible with list sensibilities
[e.g., criticism of people’s spelling is discouraged] or Constitutional law.


The Old Pedant

P.S. I still stand by “they” for third person singular of mixed sex, on
grounds of practicality, fairness, logic, elegance, efficiency, and
historical precedent.


P.P.S. This is an slightly edited version of an earlier reply. I have not
been receiving e-mails tonight and fear it was lost in the ethernet.


You repair window sash cord

You can do it yourself, Steve.

Buy new sash cord at an Arlington hardware store: Wanamaker’s, Shattucks,
or Arlington Coal and Lumber.

Unscrew and remove the inner moldings (not the face moldings) to either side
of the window. (The three screws to each side may be deeply painted over. In
that case, strike the screwdriver with a hammer until the slot is revealed.
Further tapping will loosen the screw from the paint and wood.)

After you have removed the moldings, you’ll see a narrow opening at the base
of the window casing, above the sill. Each is closed with a panel held by a
screw at the top. Remove these screws and the wooden panels they hold in

Inside the openings you can find the cast iron sash weights. They were
attached over a pulley to the sashes.

Now that the moldings have been
removed, the window sashes can be pulled forward out of the window casing.

Each sash is suspended from a pulley at the top of the casing by a sash cord
running into a slot in its edge, held in place with a simple knot.
(Sometimes a finishing nail has been driven through the knot into the sash.)
The other end of the cord is tied to the top of the sash weight.

Replace each old cord with a length of new cord. Pass it over the pulley at
the top of the window and tie one end to the sash weight. Estimate or
measure by eye the location of the top of the slot in the sash in relation
to the pulley when the sash weight is down and the window is up. Tie a knot
there and trim the remainder of the cord. Insert the knot into the slot. Do
the same to the other side of the window. (Sometimes people drive a
finishing nail through the knot into the side rail of the sash.) Repeat for
the upper or lower sash, depending on which you repaired first.

Each cord should extend from the raised sash, over the pulley, to the
lowered weight in its channel in the casing, so that when the sash is
lowered, the weight rises, and when the sash is raised, the weight falls.

Replace the sash access panel in the casing, and replace the inside

Cost: 1 hank of sash cord, ca. $8.
Time: 10-15 min.

A rewarding and enjoyable job. I don’t know what carpenter/handymen charge.

An old candle can be rubbed up and down over the unpainted tracks on which
the window rides up and down to reduce stickiness.

A well informed person who lives in Arlington told me that sash windows are
a Dutch invention. And in _A Visit from St. Nicholas,_ you may remember,
”I strode to the window and flung up the sash,” if I remember. The
alternative is or are casement windows, which are hinged something like a
door. Modern varieties may be cranked open. Oh, and I suppose louvered
windows, whose action it is far too late for me to try to describe tonight.

Yes, I had the quote wrong. But my point, which typically I omitted, was 
that it was a tale from old, i.e. Dutch, New York.


>> From: “Jan” 
 It’s: Away to the window I flew like a flash,/ Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash. 2002-08-02

self-serve gas rightly prohibited. Hmmmph.

…to say nothing of protecting the increasing population of the elderly.

If you ask for a fill-up, you are having a human interaction. If you pump it
yourself, you are alone with a networked cash register and fumy hands.

The service economy is a slave economy.


cut it out? what’s left? (Subject: the List per se) 

Minnesota people speak in gracious soft whispers. The two post rule might be
fine for them, but it’s hard to see how it could work here. Longer posts
with multiple subjects might be one result.

We read frequent appeals to limit topics and discussion on this list. For
example: > > > 

”… sometimes it’s a challenge to stay on the list when it doesn’t just
stick to matters Arlingtonan. Posts about grammar, personal observations,
list protocol and the like create so much volume in my inbox, I often just
have to mass-delete–it just has nothing to do with why I am here. I just
want my Arlington news/topic blast. That’s all I, and I’ll bet most others
on this topic-related list, are here for.”
> > > 

Posts about restricting volume or content are list protocol posts in and of
themselves. Let them be heard, but let us also have the good sense not to
act on them.

The great value of the Arlington List is the insight into our neighbors that
their personal observations and views on grammar and politics provide. Yes,
there is local news and bargains, but I read this list for the poetry and

I had planned to say this in a future post, but in case I don’t get to it
soon, has anyone noticed that over the last few years on this list, members
have all learned to write better, clearer, to the point, and to their
audience since they have been on it, penning their daily essays and
responses? A kind of town-wide writer’s workshop.

If you must — as we all do — use the delete keys on your own machines, not
on others’.


math language 

A fraction is a ratio of so much per so much. Numbers which are not ratios, and which can not be expressed as fractions, are irrational: not ratios.

Irrational numbers are not superstitious, or emotion-controlled, or supernatural, or illogical. They are merely not ratios.

I have to agree with Joe T. that MCAS is irrational, meaning not compelled by reasoning (ratiocination). And further in his defense, his remark is undoubtedly useful as a slogan to unite opinion against MCAS, a fascistic tool for upsizing the jail and military service populations.

If anything, however, this particular question illustrates not that students are not learning, but that they have been taught by specialists who do not access other disciplines to make simple definitions memorable. And the fault is not theirs, but of the factory-model system of American public education and teacher education.


postal How exciting to see list dialogue on post office matters.

Benjamin Franklin was the first postmaster general, under the 
Articles of Confederation. You remember that he organized the 
Boston-Philadelphia Post Road, American Auto Club designation 
US Rte 1, (which a web designer I know suggests the internet 
looks like!)

The USPS was set up in 1970 under Richard Nixon, that 
celebrated creeping socialist. It is “an independent establishment 
of the executive branch…” [Columbia Desk Encyclopedia]. I 
understood that the rationale was to semi-privatize the post office, 
i.e. to make it a kind of paper-based AMTRAK.

Yak yak yak. I am so tired. I have Mac hard disk crash, going to 
data recovery tomorrow — any recommendations? until then on a 
strange machine and keyboard.

former publications director, the Cardinal Spellman Museum of 
Philately and Postal History, WESTON MA
N.B. in accordance w/ USPS addressing recommendations, capital 
letters and no comma before the 2 letter state abbrev. 2002-07-09

folk cooling (was: Power outages/backup generator I had begun working on a post of famous farmer quotes (“We eat what we can
and what we can’t, we can.” “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”), but decided
to delete it so that I would not seem to be trying to get the last word in,
although now that I think about it, patrons of the Farmers Market pay 25¢ to park to
shop there for the ten minutes it takes to visit each stall.

But leaving the realm of proverbs behind, I can only repeat what an old
merchant marine sailor from Hamburg, Germany who’d jumped ship in the 1920s
and in 1965 and ’66 told my father about the many things wrong he had done
attempting to maintain the barn converted into a house that he’d sold him in
the Taconic Mountains of eastern New York in a part of the township that
because of its location on the eastern slope of the low mountain I thought
of as the “Fog Hill massif” in my geological days was served by the defunct
post office of State Line, Massachusetts and about each of whose failed
efforts to ameliorate he invariably averred, “That was your first mistake.”

He said, “We never got too hot living there. If you open the windows at
night, and close them in the morning, the house will stay cool.” I later
found this effective in my old loft in Albany NY, and it would work for us
in Arlington, except I suppose for all the accumulated clutter in the way of
the windows and the air path, except, as Rich and Jane note, all but the few
hottest days.

Hottest days have become more numerous because of our reliance on escaped
air conditioning gases and burning of fossil fuels to power air conditioning

I recommend lying on your back in Arlington Reservoir, looking into deep sky
through your polarizing sunglasses.

Controlling IM + Effective Posting 

On the other hand, kids are communicating using the written word. Used to be
we heard “Hang up the phone!” and the nefarious effects of the media-driven
post-literate popular culture.

Do I spend too much time on the Arlington list? But is that time not
well-spent even though it is not what or what I say I ought to be doing? Who
is to say what that is anyway? And, now that I think about it, who is to
say what we ought or ought not to be writing about in or on the list?




Zero Poles

I almost deleted the last post on this thread without adding my own

The entire pole-and-catenary system is hideous, dangerous, and subject to
failure due to weather or collision damage. All the wires ought to run

We should consider reclaiming our common landscape. Until then, we pay our
bills not only with money but with blight.


See Mitt run. Run, Mitt, run!
>>From: “MaryJane” 

> Subject:  The latest Mitt Romney issue
; Guess my question is – what is Romney’s social background ? Guess I need to ask why so many on this list are opposed to him running.>>

Mitt Romney is literally to the manor born. His father was the liberal-moderate Republican governor of Michigan when there was not only such a thing, but an entire wing of the party. New Yorkers remember Nelson Rockefeller, Jacob Javits, John V. Lindsay (before his conversion.) The elder Romney was a contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 1964 before that party’s lurch to the right.

I am not opposed to his running, only to his winning. Mitt not running makes a Democratic governorship more likely.

This is the 4th time I have tried to send this message, so I will now sign off without further philosophy on the roles of individuals and executive agency heads in government, cheap shots at the winner of last November’s coup, the current Resident’s view of his own administration as “bureaucracy”, etc.


lox, other fish

Salmon, from Latin saltire, because it leaps over falls to spawn upstream
(cf., e.g., somersault); lox, from the Yiddish, (Lachs in German), may
also share a prehistoric root with “leap” among western branches of
Indo-European [conjectural]; you may also remember a page of
conversation in Dr. No or Goldfinger about a shipment of refrigerated
tanks labeled LOX, which turned out to contain (I’m not giving anything away
except the joke, which I didn’t get at age 13) not smoked salmon but liquid

In any case, last summer I was down to Brockton bringing a big
inkjet printer back to USS Constitution Museum, and stopped at Spence &amp;
Co.’s offices where a signboard advertised smoked fish for sale. I bought,
from an enthusiastic Scot who appeared to be the owner, smoked salmon — one
of several varieties — and smoked bluefish or mackerel. Very satisfactory.

The year before my family had been travelling in Scotland up to the Orkneys.
Orkney pickled herring is delicious (and so are “spoots”, which we call
razor clams, and you might find one or two of in a heap of steamers, maybe
at Arl. Lobster. They taste a little on the chicken side of the clam
spectrum.) To the point: You can buy Spence &amp; Co. smoked fish *and* Orkney
Islands herring closer than Brockton, at Carey’s Catch, just over the line
into Lexington.

Speaking selfishly, a dependable seafood store in my neighborhood is a
quantitatively significant factor in the quality of life. So I am concerned
that business is maybe not so good for the new owners. The old owners ran
the store as an outlier of the family’s main store in East Cambridge, where,
they told me, you would easily be able to find unusual fish, unlike
Lexington, where people have very ordinary tastes, (“but if you want to try
something special, we’ll get it for you”). I could tell from this, as well
as the excellent fish itself, that they really liked fish. They probably
felt relieved to have sold their business to people who also really liked
fish, who were fish professionals.

But the new owners had learned their fish in Japan. The learning curve gets
steep when over a weekend you start doing business under alien cultural
standards concerning the treatment and aesthetic appearance of food. We in
this country are used to buying a whole fish cleaned and scaled, for
example. (You would get that there, now.) They demonstrated their love of
fish and seafood by displaying in the ice cases a magnificent octopus, or
varieties of fresh clam and oyster — these did not survive the conservative
consumer cull. But you can get fresh sushi at their minibar.

Unfortunately, over the last few months this store has not been at all busy
enough — I mean that business seemed to fall off steeply when regular
customers were impatient or grossed out. There is supposed to be a line
for take-out and fresh on Friday nights, to say nothing of the Lent crush.
But customers were few and there weren’t more than half a dozen lobsters in
the tank last night.

I fried such delectable shrimp and scallops fast and
hot in olive oil with garlic and shallots, sprinkled with salt and thyme and
served with thin spaghetti. Future meals like that are at risk unless more
of us find the excellent (though of reduced variety) smoked, pickled,
fresh, and cooked fish and seafood at Carey’s Catch.


cost of living

We frequently encounter a corollary of the fallacious Trickle-down Theory:
because a thing pays for itself, that makes it OK, while if it is not
self-supporting, it is corrupt.

1. Some things cost more than money, such as education, science, and
culture, i.e., the arts by which civilizations are judged.

2. School is where children ought to be able to learn to make independent
judgments [the residing principle in American education]. The schools must
teach them to analyze messages for truth. Therefore they should be
unencumbered by advertisements.*

3. Attacking taxation is a sneak attack on the idea of the state itself.
Suppose there were no effective state. We’d be at the mercy of bullies.

4. North Station is a perfect example of the effects of surrendering the
public domain into the hands of commercial interests.

5. The duty of the legislature is not to create opportunities for businesses
to raise money — although it does — but to regulate the laws of the state
and apportion the money that it has the right to raise for its citizens by

6. Creating a place for ethical, cultural, and educational values means that
the place itself, in this instance, the Commonwealth, gains in value.

7. No one ever expected the temples of Greece, the Cathedrals of Europe, or
even the national universities of the civilized portion of our world to
survive on turnstile receipts.


*Schools _and_ children, for sentence diagramming fans! 2002-05-21

Dog Bites 

All of you
probably know at least one dog bite victim, probably from a friendly dog. In
Vienna, where I lived in grade school, dogs wore muzzles in public, partly
as a rabies safeguard. I recommend the short and readable “Dog Meets Man” by
Konrad Lorenz for an understanding of our two genera interacting. It’s
useful to know how to behave around an alien intellect. I also made it a
point to instruct my children, when they were old enough, (the first,
unfortunately, only well after a head bite by a friends’ family poodle), in
dog attack prevention or damage control.

Do not run. Kneel with head to
knees and hands to chest to protect face and belly from bites from above.


selective enforcement of law

Hi Everyone,

Selective enforcement is a euphemism for a very bad bad thing. Obsolete or
trivial laws makes everyone criminal, but are used to keep selected
populations from functional citizenship because they have been arrested and
convicted of offenses that members of other social classes routinely get
away with. Otherwise, why would the jails be so utterly disproportionately
full of African-American and poor people? And if the wrong wing of the
wrong political party gets hold of an administration, anyone might find
themself* in serious trouble for acting upon their* philosophical beliefs.


My deepest apologies to the grammarians, but English will change with its

Robber barons, crocodile tears. (was: re: mbta econ) 

Travis wrote: “economics of the MBTA
> the
 original MBTA precursor system met such criteria, as evidenced by the
 fact that private people put up their own money to build, and then
profit, from running a system (until the state seized it).

Does eastern Massachusetts railroad history differ all that much from
anywhere else in the country?

1. Railroads were built with liberal allowances from the states and the
federal government. I mean great oodles of cash, vast huge land grants, and
rights-of-way, and outright payment for building the lines, often at
scandalously larcenous overcharges.

2. Railroad owners were the leading capitalists in the US for over a
century, and invented many of the forms for stock market manipulation. They
built the railroads on stocks and promises. Early on, they learned to print
their own. In various attempts to buy each other’s roads and loot them for
cash, they precipitated numerous stock crises, panics, and depressions. They
brutalized their workers, and hired uniformed thugs who shot them. Railroads
made a point of owning the coal fields that powered them and the whole

3. Railroaders built their roads where the money was coming from, not for
the logic of where there services would be most useful, in the long run,
frequently, to themselves. They did not build rapid transit systems in
already major cities out of the goodness of their hearts, but so that they
could make money. Public and private motives may coincide, but they are not
the same.

4. Railroads, even under private management, never cared for passenger
service, which is high maintenance and complains. It was always subsidized
by freight revenues.

5. Did Massachusetts actually seize the railroads? It is hard to think of
another case like that, and hard to think that we would not for the last
many decades have been hearing about it over and over in the newspaper
columns instead of here for the first time. Hard to think it would not still
be debated in the courts.

6. The history of public transit funding in the city I know better is that
the two private subways lost money. (The owners, curiously, didn’t seem to
lose their money.) The city built its own line, and bought the other two.
They ran well until their revenues and budget allotments were given to
highway and bridge construction over the rest of the last century.

7. In the years after WWII, General Motors bought all the streetcar lines,
and tore them up so that it could sell buses.

8. Alone of all forms of transportation, AMTRAK is supposed to turn a
profit. Yet airports, the airplane industry, highways, and the automotive
industry are heavily supported with funding, staffing, air traffic control,
maintenance, military and police safe-keeping, that project in Boston with
the stupid name, and cheap gasoline.

9. If you go to Paris, London, Vienna, you would not bother with a car at
all, but find public transportation reliable, convenient, and not more
expensive than ours. (They are quieter, too — many have rubber tires!)

10. Perhaps the reason people may not take the train is that they been
socialized into isolation, commuting by auto between cubicle and tv, driven
mad by talk radio.


”If they mean to have a war, let it begin here.” 2002-03-26

The Virtual Consensus 

Well, I am like 50, and along with most of my cohort, free speech, free 
press, freedom of religion, and freedom of assembly are not sufficient
protections to say publicly what we were up to then, or continue to believe,
even in an east coast liberal town such as Arlington.

David, obviously never running for public office, 2002-03-22

incendiary gardening supplies 

I didn’t know why it’s good for gardens, but this is what I do know about
diatomaceous earth, and some other things:


”Diatoms are minute plants that have siliceous skeletons. They live in great
numbers in the sea and in fresh water lakes. When they die, their skeletons
accumulate to form diatomaceous earth. At many places their accumulations
form papery gray to white layers interbedded with shales. Such beds have
high porosity and may contain much water, but when dried, they will float on
water. At Lompoc, California, and elsewhere, thousands of feet of
diatomaceous shales are found.”

–Geology: Principles and Processes, by Wm. H. Emmons et. al., 5th edition,
1960, p.157

“Diatomite. This is a white porous rock formed of the siliceous shells of
microscopic pelagic plants called DIATOMS. It has extensive use in industry,
for insulation, as a filter used to purify water, alcoholic beverages,
antibiotics, sugar, oil, and solvents, and as a filler in paper, paints,
plastics, and soap. All of it from is from Cenozoic deposits and the chief
American sources is in the Miocene formations near Lompoc, California. In
1967 the production in the United States amounted to 580,278 tons worth over

–Historical Geology, Carl O. Dunbar & Karl M. Waage, 3rd edition, 1969

Diatoms look like ornate geodesic domes. In the 19th century, beautiful
engravings were made of these microfossils, republished by Dover (I’ll try
to find it in this house and report back if not under interdict by then.) I
think I recall that Haeckel (“Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny”) did much
work with them. They are useful as _index fossils_, which accurately
correlate sedimentary rocks of contemporary age at distant locations,
because of their wide distribution (they drift around the oceans) as their
forms evolve over time.

Confusion frequently arises in public discourse and even in schools over two
meanings of the word “theory”. In art, music, architecture, literature, and
to a degree in the social sciences, theory means opinion. Such theories may
be based on observations but these are frequently subjective. They are not
disprovable, but depend on taste and feeling, not science.

In science, you remember, conjecture based on documented observation is
termed a hypothesis. Scientific inquiry attempts to support or tear down
hypotheses. Those which survive repeated testing and experimentation are
considered to be as close as one can get to truth. They explain and predict,
like theorems in mathematics. They too are called theories.

You may have learned Tuesday that the Ohio School Board is debating whether
their public schools should teach the doctrine of “intelligent design.” I
will now state for the record that ID is an entirely fallacious doctrine
undeserving of serious thought except by folklorists and anthropologists.
Intelligent design “theory” counters the last two hundred years of field-
and lab-verified evidence with specious analogies by laymen to “explain” the
variety of living creatures.

No evidence refutes evolution, and no evidence supports “intelligent
design.” ID’s pernicious intent is to subvert the demonstrable fact of
evolution and pave the way for legislating the supernatural beliefs of
militant religion.

You can read useful quotes about the identity of the ID Designer in this
month’s issue of Skeptical Inquirer, and about the real significance of the
human genome sequencing project. Find it in the periodicals room of Robbins
Library (Bigfoot on cover).


”Sculptor and former classical music critic” — the Boston Herald, 3/1/02, 2002-03-13

diesel cafe — the big picture 

 Linda: “order sandwiches from a counter and wait for them…. and then you bring it to your table, bus your own table and then they 
 expect a tip from you. interesting, huh?

The service economy is a slave economy. 

I haven’t heard this from anyone else yet but me so you are all welcome to quote me.


English not required 

I have no argument with, i.e., against, non-English posts to this list. That
is to say, other-than-English posts are OK by me.

(Sometimes English is difficult enough to understand. That is to say, it is
sufficiently difficult to lead to misunderstanding.

Wrapping vs. Removing [asbestos] 

If you don’t smoke, asbestos’s not so dangerous. We had ours removed. It 
was thrilling. They wrapped the cellar in plastic and sprayed water the
whole timem hwile wearing containment suits. Te delete keys and the forward
cursor key on my mac ketypodbord are not working. oOne day the whloe
keybodar wad whacked and i took it apart as well as i as able which was not
competent. Perahpas that erpatirend is somtehwath but the forears kcursuAs
you cand see I depended on those keys a lot for comprehensibility. Alsoo my
hands are kind of a mess i beccause I have been laboring late house -hours,
opnthat is – in stuido — studio– making sculptures for a one-artist show
down toward new yorko opens Friday deliver tomoroeew i am tired I dnt careo
was messaed thence oncwards and now the delete key is not functioning ?? /

wh had the old converted gas boiler wrapped in theick asbestos removed for
a new efficient Burnahm one ,

The cellare used to be nice and dry and warm due to the all year long pilot
light in the old boiler.

Now ist tends to cold and damp due to efficientvy of hight teck boiler.

The boiler iteself was not doing too well for quite a qbit die due thjat is
== to a broken 10 cent sensoree.

call me if y ou have any quesiotionsoios’itl; questions/.

anuy pone else with theat mac key boeard probelm?



Hi Everyone,

No place outside of the City has New York pizza. I now believe that pizza
taste and consistency is not subject to human intervention: it is dependent
on the yeasts in the dough and the cheese. The climate is different here,
therefore, New York microorganisms will not thrive. 2001-12-04

Spinach Yes, people, the subject of this post is spinach. For the last two dinners,
I have had the most exquisite spinach, which I bought at Busa’s Farm on
Lowell Street; their own spinach. I know spinach is an acquired taste, that
we have to be educated to it by threats and cartoons, that it has a
reputation for the ordinary at best, and if cooked in the old style, for
yuck. Yet this spinach, if one were to have it for the first time one had
ever had spinach, would cause him or her ever after to question the unlucky
vegetable’s benighted reputation. I bought some last night; I asked Susan to
pick up some more tonight; we have enough — or nearly enough! — for
tomorrow night. This spinach is fresh, flavorful, and this is the real
surprise: sweet. I recommend steaming it for about five minutes or until it
wilts. I did not dissect the bunches, but threw them whole into the steamer.
Of course I washed it well with running water in a deep pot, because spinach
is often sandy.

I yam what I yam. 2001-12-04


Hallowe’en is a really important holiday. 1. Children learn what they don’t
have to be afraid of. 2. Parents walk around the neighborhood and look in
each others’ front doors, see that everyone is being friendly to all the
children. 3. It is an art event, for people to make costumes, scenery, and


Noon Whistle 

I dig out my old contribution to the town whistle story:

From: “Meg”  “Did I miss the explanation of why the horns were set up in the first place?

A cool book on this history of time in America in the 19th Century was
published about a dozen years ago. Rutgers dissertation. It’s quite possible
there is a copy in my house.

Knowing the time was a civic virtue. People gained respect for being seen to
check and wind their watches at a regular time each day. So that everyone
would be able to keep the same time, every town had its own signal to
announce noon daily. (Every town also determined its own noon. Before
standard time zones, noon in New York City was four minutes later than
Boston, for example.) Towns used whistles, horns, bells and cannon. (USS
Constitution still fires a salute gun at dawn and sunset.) Many towns used a
time ball, which dropped from a rod on top of a tall building. The Times
Square New Year’s time ball is a vestige of a formerly ubiquitous

David, who never wears a watch


New copy:

1. I don’t remember the author’s name, but my sister was a contemporary in
the history department, and my friend reviewed it for the Chicago Sun. It
may be in my house, but I still haven’t seen it. It was a dissertation. He
explores the time-telling habit with the need for industrialization,
mechanization, regimentation of the work world. He does not tell enough
about the actual details of how all school clocks tell the same time, though
you get some idea of it. The account of the time-zone fiat is worth a read.

2. I don’t wear watches because — why bother? they won’t survive. I
thought I’d give one a try again last month. I told my daughter, away at
school (goodness! she’s a /grown/ daughter!) that I’d bought one and been
wearing it for ten days. It stopped the next evening.


Mouse arrest 

Our veterinarian ordered our last cat indoors forever after a rabid racoon
chased her, (a story I have promised to tell this list but must postpone yet
again). A week later, she had lost all interest in the outdoors.

Cats are wild animals from the desert, where they might not stray far from a
rocky sheltered area analogous to our houses. So wild or domesticated is not
much of a distinction to them.

Cats are well-maintained in the more affluent modern nations. Skinny,
independent cats in Italy and Greece skulk about outside restaurants and
catch insects in season.

House cats, like their close cousins the great cats, are extraordinarily
efficient predators. Humans could not have a better ally in reducing species
diversity. There is a movement in Australia to rid the continent of cats, if
they can’t be kept indoors, to prevent them from exterminating all the
smaller native marsupials.

We resisted many vets’ urgings to keep our cats indoors, but it makes no
difference to the cats. Or maybe it does: We have also lost several (“wilder
gene” cats) to speeding cars.


Who’s in a name? 

[about anonymous postings] H.D., 
George Eliot,
George Sand, 
Lewis Carroll,
George Orwell,
Mark Twain.*

All these people would be welcome to post to my e-mail list.

* N.B. Mr. Resident, that the author of Huckleberry Finn and To the Person
Sitting in Darkness is unquestionably on the Marx and Lenin side of the
British Museum Reading Room.

Town Reservoir swimming philosophy and delight 

Count me in with you on all these points.

It is one of the best places to experience the heavenly wonder of living on
earth, floating, watching blue skies, white clouds, green trees, and a flock
of mallards touches down around you with a drumbeat of splashes.

The res is open space, which we desire. A concrete pool is a submerged
parking lot, which we scorn.

Rich wrote: Speak for yourself, please.”

We always speak for myself.

David 2001-06-18

The Origin of Speeches 

Carol wrote:
”the fact that the tickets said in big letters ‘FREE LOVE’.” Ron wrote: “That sounds more like a slogan from the late 1960s, than anything
having to do with religion!

Actually it’s decades — almost most of a century — older than that. A
euphemism, it meant sex entirely unrestricted by legislature, religion,
marriage, “middle class morality” (G. B. Shaw) or anything but the lovers’
volition and desire.

It was a very strong term in its time, libelous and scandalous.

I’d be very embarrassed if my organization were to use it unwittingly.


Lions and tigers and bears on Marathon Street 

So little time to contribute to the snake dialogue. 

Dangerous animals, not only the defenseless, are especially at risk from
people. We are short of wolves and mountain lions and bears in these parts
too. (Their cubs are cuddlier and less alien than a parcel of snakes.)

I like people, nearly every one I’ve met, and I admire their works. It’s the
great ravenous, procreating, intolerant, exterminating mass of us that
irritates me. It would be best if we could all migrate to Mars and evolve
there, and leave this paradise planet to the rest of the species we used to
share it with.



That word makes me feel very ill too in a post-1984 kind of way, 
specifically, I always think of it as a site for a particicution, for those
of us who read The Handmaid’s Tale, which by the way takes place in
Cambridge. 2001-04-17

Word misuse [was To moot or not to moot!] 

OK I admit I have my own conservative tastes and “utilize” is definitely on
the strike list, as is that current and probably future extra-syllabic
mindless horror, — I can hardly bring myself to type it — still working up
to it, give me a minute — typing one-handed while holding nose and gagging
– another minute has gone by, all right, Heaven forgive me for what I’m
about to do, “societal.”


Playing Fields: Patriot’s Day Forever! 

In the 1968 Soviet invasion of the republic formerly known as 
Czechoslovakia, Prague citizens removed street signs to foil the Red army. I
have come to believe that the origin of unmarked major thoroughfares in the
Boston region is a vestige of the British occupation of the 1770s.


local flooding, global problem 

Stuart wrote “This is the third ‘100 year’ storm in five years and the MDC
 is claiming it is doing all it can do (which seems to be nothing by my

It is caused by global warming. The world isn’t sauna, which gradually gets
hotter and drier; it is more like a great kettle of soup. When you turn up
the gas, it boils. It storms. Over the last few years, western Europe has
been damaged by anomalous super storms. We have recently had winter
hurricanes and perfect storms, and can expect more.


Earthquakes in New England in brief 

There will someday again be, as there have in the past (1755, e.g.) a strong
earthquake in this region.

New construction codes recognize this. New buildings will be relatively

Frame houses are also one of the best constructions for earthquake

Brick masonry is one of the worst.


Horns & Arlington Heights 

A cool book on this history of time in America in the 19th Century was
published about a dozen years ago, Keeping Watch: A History of American Time, Michael OMalley, Viking, 1990. It’s quite possible
there is a copy in my house.

Knowing the time was a civic virtue. People gained respect for being seen to
check and wind their watches at a regular time each day. So that everyone
would be able to keep the same time, every town had its own signal to
announce noon daily. (Every town also determined its own noon. Before
standard time zones, noon in New York City was four minutes later than
Boston, for example.) Towns used whistles, horns, bells and cannon. (USS
Constitution still fires a salute gun at dawn and sunset.) Many towns used a
time ball, which dropped from a rod on top of a tall building. The Times
Square New Year’s time ball is a vestige of a formerly ubiquitous

David, who never wears a watch,

many broken limbs 

Trees in this neighborhood took a lot of damage from the storm. Many wires are still on the sidewalks and streets.

Last summer I spent horrible hours on my roof, pruning oak branches that
overhung it. And a good thing: comparable limbs fell next to the house.
Nearly every tree here lost branches, including the what I supposed to have
been more structurally stable limb of the shagbark hickory, two houses down

Hurrricane Bob — was that in ’92? [when did those numbers get so high?]–
blew out the weakwood mostly on the east side of Turkey Hill-Symmes Hill.

hope we’ll be spared the worst of the next inevitable major
Quebec-power-outage-disaster ice storm, especially with the 1888
Blizzard-scale of cables that were strung along most of our roads over the
last few years. The skies look ugly. Let’s get them underground where they
and we are safe.


Trash and Glass 

I’d hate to see too much glass be in circulation in between uses. Do you 
remember how in the savage seventies, when bottle deposits had been done
away with, and before recycling was the norm, there’d’ve been broken glass
of all sorts in all public spaces: sidewalks, parks, playgrounds, parking
lots, the edges of driveways, lawns, and in streams, lakes and on the
beaches, a deadly shimmer in the sun; otherwise, green, brown, or clear,
invisible. There’s still a zone like that under one of the upper cliffs in
Turkey Hill preserve. (That would make such an amazing park! Well, at least
it would make an educational design school competition.)

My friend Carol (not
on the list) went camping with her friends, and climbed out of the car to
dance barefoot in the charming Adirondack glade. They spent the next while bringing her
to the distant hospital for severe dressing. Can we reduce recycling bulk by
requiring that cans and plastic containers be crushed, and trade that off
against continued glass collection?



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