October 30, 2003

Blogging considered hazardous to your job

At Microsoft anyway.

According to this article from the PI, Microsoft fired Michael Hanscom after he posted a picture of three pallets of new Mac G5s being delivered to the Redmond campus.

The article says "the post was considered a security risk because a careful reader could decipher from his description the location of the shipping-and-receiving department."

Boggle. Wouldn't having people know the location of your shipping-and-receiving department be sort of required in order for said department to actually do its job?

Sounds like they were looking for an excuse to fire poor Hanscom and came up with a really stupid one.

Posted by jeffy at 05:53 PM in Bloggage | Comments (1)

October 24, 2003

Support the troops

Except when they die.

Electrolite has the story.

Posted by jeffy at 04:11 PM in Soapbox | Comments (0)

October 22, 2003

The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

This is the first volume of Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events which are books for children about the Baudelaire orphans, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny.

The story consists, as the title proclaims, of a series of unfortunate events which befall the hapless children. Their parents are killed in a fire. They are subjected to the custody of extremely unpleasant people who further subject them to even more unpleasant depredations (a word which, here, means "unfortunate events"). What makes this tolerable (and it is questionably tolerable, even so) is the humor with which all these misadventures are related. Snicket writes in a consistently sardonic voice that somehow makes the appalling palatable.

I didn't actually read the book, but instead listened to the unabridged audio book. It is read by the wonderful Tim Curry who does a marvelous job with giving each character a recognizable voice.

While I did enjoy the book after a fashion, the things that happen to the Baudelaire orphans really are horrible things, and I liked the characters enough to be hesitant to read about any more completely undeserved torture befalling them. If I change my mind, there are nine more volumes in the series so far.

Posted by jeffy at 06:56 PM in Book Reviews | Comments (0)

October 21, 2003

Theorist Eats of Mealtime

The Eater of Meaning munges the website of your choice into provocatively meaningless gibberish. Here's what its default mode does to this page.

(via Making Light's Particles)

Posted by jeffy at 04:13 PM in Bloggage | Comments (0)

Open Source Switching Success Story

The Business Software Alliance (BSA) is a trade group that helps enforce copyrights and licenses for big software companies. They decided to make an example of the company Ernie Ball, a maker of guitar strings. They found that of all the software on their 72 desktop systems, about 8% was being used without a proper license. Most of it Microsoft products.

Rather than request that the company pay up their licenses and change their processes so they wouldn't drift out of compliance again, BSA took them to court where they finally settled for $100,000.

In response to this extremely bad treatment, Ernie Ball's CEO told his IT people to end their use of Microsoft software within a year. They did it with open source software and are going strong three years later.

Great interview (with a FUD flash ad from Microsoft on the same page)

(via Absolute Piffle (who doesn't do permalinks))

Posted by jeffy at 01:41 PM in Bloggage | Comments (0)

October 17, 2003


My local public radio station is streaming live on the web again!

They're in pledge drive mode this week, but even so, to my ear this is the best thing happening on the radio in the Puget Sound region. Folk music, alternative media (Democracy Now!, Free Speech Radio News, Jim Hightower), jazz you won't hear on KPLU, Ellen Kushner's wonderful show Sound & Spirit, bluegrass, Brazilian music, Afropop, and on and on.

We've been members of the station for a number of years. Give them a listen and if you like what you hear, Send them some money.

Posted by jeffy at 01:47 PM in Bloggage | Comments (0)

October 16, 2003

old sign

old Owl Cigars sign 5 cents?!  Nothing costs 5 cents! old wood, old paint layers
The city of Issaquah actually owns this old building if I'm not mistaken. Not sure why they were taking off the newer siding which operation revealed this cool old sign.
Posted by jeffy at 11:37 PM in Photo Log | Comments (0)

The Lord of Castle Black by Steven Brust

cover picPaarfi cracks me up.

For anyone not familiar with this series, Brust is writing in the spirit of Alexandre Dumas's The Three Musketeers and its many sequels. Brust has made the story reasonable by setting them in his Dragaeran universe, the same milieu as his Vlad Taltos books, though much earlier in that world's history. In order to make the style reasonable he has introduced the conceit that the books are written by a Dragaeran historian, one Paarfi of Roundwood. Paarfi writes popular history conveniently in a style similar to that of Dumas. This translates into a very stylized sort of exposition which you will either love or hate. I think it's hilarious, but judging from Becky's reaction every time I read passages to her, she might not.

This is the second volume in a three-part novel called The Viscount of Adrilanka. As a second volume, it predictably consists of lots of character positioning and one really big battle, all of which gets everyone into place for the exciting conclusion. Of course since this is by Brust, the inventor of the "cool" theory of fiction writing, it's a lot more fun than that sounds, but it really is the nature of this book, and even his cool flourishes aren't quite enough to make the book shine on its own. As part of the series, though, it's a fun read and leaves enough things unresolved to make me look forward to the final volume: Sethra Lavode.

Posted by jeffy at 02:50 PM in Book Reviews | Comments (0)

October 13, 2003

chronological trip report

I've created a chronological version of our trip to the northeast.

go here: http://tomecat.com/madtimes/ne2003.html

Posted by jeffy at 01:00 PM in Travelogue | Comments (0)

October 12, 2003

Back to normal programming

Well, that was the last of the notes from the trip. I'm working on a final summing-up post which will hopefully include a map of our ramblings, but it won't be back-dated like the rest have been.

It kind of boggles my mind that I wrote over 13,000 words about the trip. I have a hard time imagining that it could be very interesting reading to anyone but Beck and me and our closest friends. It was fun doing it, though, and it's helping me keep the trip straight in my head.

Anyway, stay tuned for the usual reviews, rants, and ramblings.

Posted by jeffy at 10:25 AM in Administrivia | Comments (0)

October 07, 2003


Confession time. From the point that my dad reminded us that Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpiece house Fallingwater was just a couple of hours from Pittsburgh, our starting and ending point for the trip, we'd been hoping to squeeze in a visit. I checked out their webpage and saw dire warnings that reservations were a near necessity. We barely made reservations for anything on this trip, and even though the day we'd make it there had been fixed from the moment that we started on our clockwise turn around the region, I never managed to get on the phone to them until yesterday outside the Hershey Museum where I was told that their earliest open tour slot was at 2:30pm. That time was completely useless to us since we had to return the rental car at 3:30 and it's a 2-hour drive from the house to the airport. I knew that they had the option of a grounds pass where we'd be able to at least see the exterior of the house, but we figured we'd try to get there as early as we could in the hopes of slipping into a tour if there were cancellations.

Got up bright and early. Loading the car was super easy with only four bags instead of our usual 6 or 8. We backtracked over the territory we'd covered the night before in search of a motel and got to the Fallingwater park right at their supposed opening time of 10am. At the admission booth I told my tale of woe and asked whether it might be possible to sneak into a tour group without a reservation. They said that it was possible and probably only about 45 minutes away. Yay!

We put our names on the standby list at the desk and read through the exhibit about the house at the visitor center. The visitor center is kind of a cool structure in its own right. It's a big grid of hexagonal platforms held up on concrete pillars so that it sort of hovers over the landscape. It had a nice feel of being there, but not interfering with the site, which fits very well with the mission of the operating organization.

We figured we had to leave by 1pm at the latest so we were a little worried, but apparently a tour bus cancelled out because they had a completely empty tour group that we and the rest of the standbys filled up. It's a five-minute walk from the visitor center to the house itself. The last part of the walk is along the original drive to the house. We ended up on the bridge across the stream whose falls give the house its name. Here we were met by our tour guide.

Fallingwater viewed from the drivewayThe house was commissioned by Edgar J. Kaufmann and his wife to serve as a vacation spot. The waterfall was one of their favorite parts of the property and they asked Wright to design a home for the site. Wright was in his late 60s when he designed the house and integrated all of his experience into the project. Rather than place the house in a position to view the waterfall, he put it right on top of the falls. There is actually no view of the falls from within the house, it can only be seen from the terraces and then only by looking straight down over their edges. The sound of the water is omnipresent.

The Kaufmanns had one son, Edgar Jr. who lived until 1989, but the family's wish was that the house should never be sold, but be given into the public trust for enjoyment by everyone. To this end, the land, the house, and all its contents were given to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy on Junior's death.

On the tour (no photography inside the house again, though they do offer a 2-hour extended tour on which photography for personal use is allowed) you walk through all the rooms and terraces in the main living areas of the house. If the house weren't such a marvel, it would be worth the tour just to view the Kaufmanns' art collection which includes works by Picasso, Diego Rivera, and many other notables. Wright actually consulted with the family on appropriate locations for much of the art.

It was really thrilling to go through the house in person. I've seen multiple tv programs on the house over the years, but there's no substitute for seeing it with your own eyes. Everything is both bigger and smaller than it seems on tv. Many of the rooms in the house are small so that when filming, wide-angle lenses are used which make the rooms look much larger. Fallingwater from downstreamThe actual scale of the house is very human. Each room feels like it should be lived in. The architecture, dramatic as it is, fades into the background and you are drawn through the space. In the rooms with terraces, it's almost as if you're pulled physically to and through the doorway and onto the terrace. But the rooms themselves have a gravity that calls out for you to linger and live in them. It's almost like magic, really. I think my only regret of the tour is that there is never the opportunity to sit in a room and just be in it.

When our tour was over we were getting close to our departure time so we buzzed through the gift shop (lots of crap, but they did have some interesting looking books and cool (and expensive!) reproductions of some of the light fixtures from Fallingwater and some of Wright's other buildings.)

We grabbed some lunch for the road and headed out. 381 north to 711 west to 119 north to 76 north to 376 and west into Pittsburgh. We attempted to go to Point State Park which is on the point between the Allegheny River and the Monongahela where they join to form the Ohio. We overshot and went across the Allegheny on the Fort Duquesne Bridge then we went to the Steelers' stadium where Becky asked a gentleman for directions which he gave (lots of right turns and one surprise left) and we followed, going back across the Roberto Clemente Bridge and into sight of the park where we choked and overshot again, this time going straight into a minor traffic jam on the Ft. Pitt Bridge across the Monongahela.

Time was running out so we decided to drop back and punt, heading on to the airport. Filled the car up with gas, and ditched it back at the rental drop off. Checked in for our flight and shepherded our checked bags through x-ray (little bottles of maple syrup look suspicious on x-ray, FYI). Got all our carry-on bags and our persons through the security checkpoint and took the train out to the concourse. We had an absurd amount of time before our flight so we hiked out the moving sidewalk all the way to the end of the terminal just to see what was there, then grabbed some snacks and sat at a table in a food area. Becky wrote some postcards and I started yesterday's writeup (wrote this one back at home in Issaquah).

The flight back was uneventful, and Rachel met us outside baggage claim and brought us home to our kitties.

Posted by jeffy at 03:31 PM in Travelogue | Comments (0)

October 06, 2003

Hershey, PA

When we arrived in Hershey, it was Sunday evening and the factory was not working. When we left the motel this morning, work was on and you could tell by the fact that the whole town smelled of chocolate. Strongly. Becky kept kind of spacing out from the pungency of her favorite aroma.

How could Becky resist going to Curves in Hershey? We found our way to the local Curves (on Chocolate Avenue), and to no one's particular surprise, it turned out to be the biggest one Beck had ever been in with the full complement of 12 machines and very active use. I sat in the car and wrote yesterday's log. It's gotten harder and harder to get them written the same day they happen as the trip has gone on. This one is actually being written in the Pittsburgh airport as we wait (and wait and wait) for our boarding time to arrive for the flight home.

After Curves, we went to Chocolate World, the visitor center of the Hershey Corporation. Here we took the simulated factory tour ride complete with piped in aroma of chocolate. The walkway to the ride had displays about the growing of cocoa and its processing before it's shipped to the Hershey plant. At the end of the ride we got a little sample of Mr. Goodbar bites, which were yummy. The ride lets out into a gargantuan gift shop with various fresh chocolate-oriented products as well as glassware and t-shirts and other stuff with Hershey products emblazoned across them. We managed to restrict our consumption to a bag of dark chocolate kisses, some chocolate-filled caramels, and some postcards.

There was no opportunity to ask questions on the "tour", so I went to the Chocolate World Information Boothinformation desk and asked why the recipe is so different for Canadian KitKat bars vs. the inferior product sold in the US. The woman working the desk looked a little startled and said "I've never heard that question before!" She wasn't able to answer it either, but gave me a phone number for their Nutritional/Consumer Information hotline (1-800-468-1714). I haven't called them yet.

The other thing we got at the gift complex was the day's milkshake special, a Special Dark shake. Oh. My. God. Serious religious experience milkshake. Yum.

Right next to Curves we had noticed a hoagie restaurant called South Philly Hoagies and decided to get a cheesesteak figuring Hershey is close enough to Philly for authenticity. We split a small (12 inches long) with mushrooms and were both stuffed therefrom. Good stuff too.

Hershey Public LibraryHershey Public LibraryOh, I forgot that in between Curves and Chocolate World we went to the Hershey Public Library. As you might expect from such a prosperous and civic-minded burg, it was a big new facility with an impressive collection and what seems to be an active Friends group.

Before leaving Hershey we wanted to see the Hershey Museum. The other thing in town is a Hershey-themed amusement park with multiple roller coasters and other rides. It seemed to be shut down while we were there, but we still had to negotiate our way through the extensive parking and queueing areas to get within walking distance of the museum.

Chocolate World was free (as long as you resisted the multitude of commercial temptations), but the museum was $6.50 a head. The museum details the building of Milton Hershey's chocolate fortune and various events in the history of the company and town that he created. The museum also shows some of the treasures that the family accumulated. Hershey seems to have been a collector of collections so he'd buy a collection of clocks or a collection of Pennsylvania Mennonite or German items or Native American artifacts. I was hoping for a little bit more about the social aspects of the company and town. The town was basically engineered as a Hershey company town, so fit in well with the semi-utopian theme of some of the other stops on our trip, the Women's rights convention site in Seneca Falls, the Canterbury Shaker Village, and the Transcendentalist concentration in Concord. Unfortunately, there was very little in the exhibits about this aspect of Hershey's work. Or rather there were a number of statements about how he planned things with his workers in mind, but very little about how it actually worked and works in practice.

From the museum we headed west once again, getting back on the Pennsylvania Turnpike to make time towards our final tourist destination of the trip. We hit Somerset where there were a bunch of motels right on the freeway, but we continued on through hoping to find something farther off the beaten track and maybe closer to Fallingwater. Well, it turns out that Fallingwater is way out in the middle of nowhere and there really isn't anything very close to it so we actually ended up going past it and getting a motel (the Blue Mountain Inn if I remember correctly) 15 or 20 miles away in Hopwood.

We spent the evening watching television (caught The Big Lebowski halfway through, then hung around to watch "The Daily Show", but, my gosh, there's a whole lot of crap and advertising. I forget how bad it is in between these occasional binges on trips). But while watching we also worked on getting all of our stuff back into bags that could be successfully checked or carried onto the airplane. We brought a big suitcase with us and packed inside it a second suitcase and a collapsible ice chest for food on the road. Most of the increase in volume was due to the mountain of flyers and pamphlets and maps and guide books and postcards and things that Becky or I (mostly Becky. I call her the paper magnet.) had collected along the way. We actually managed to keep the purchased paraphernalia pretty limited on this trip. Maple candy, the stuff from Hershey's, a few books. We managed to get it all apportioned to two checkable bags and two carry-ons.

Posted by jeffy at 02:59 PM in Travelogue | Comments (0)

October 05, 2003

On the road in CT, NY, NJ, and PA

We're continuing in head-back-to-the-barn mode here at the tail end of the trip. That coupled with the fact that we didn't have a whole lot of destinations in mind between Connecticut and Pittsburgh means we're spending more time on the road these last few days.

Today, from Cheshire, CT, we took 70 to I-84 into NY and across the Hudson all the way to Port Jervis on the other side of the state (the lower part of it anyway. Getting across the whole state of NY in its midsection is more than a few hours). Port Jervis is right at the corner of NJ, PA, and NY. We had breakfast there at Arlene and Tom's Diner where the food and service were quite acceptable, but the music was simply dreadful (muzak versions of pop classics. Ugh.)

We crossed the Delaware on 209 south to Milford, PA, then crossed the Delaware again into New Jersey on 206. 206 took us all the way down to I-80 at Stanhope, NJ then I-80 across the Delaware again into Pennsylvania, then south on 33 from Stroudsburg down to I-78.

New Jersey was a new state for both of us. Not that just driving through it really counts as a visit. We pulled off at a couple of scenic overlooks off the freeway. The first wasn't very scenic as the trees seemed to have grown up since they created it. NE New Jersey sceneryThe second had a nice view of an interesting geologic formation. The highway went right through that gap when we continued. I think that was on I-80.

The landscape of central Pennsylvania is extremely dramatic. You can tell this even looking at a map. There are all these sharp ridges in parallel curves across the state like ripples. I-76 cuts across the ridges and has several mile-long tunnels to get through the ones that don't have convenient breaks. It's beautiful country, but it's hard to get a picture of it that tells its story.

Our destination in PE was the town of Hershey, home of the chocolate company. We got in pretty early and got situated in the Cocoa Motel just south of town. While driving we'd heard a review of the movie School of Rock on Fresh Air along with an interview with its star, Jack Black. The theatre in Hershey was playing the movie so we went to dinner (at Froggie's, a sports bar and grill that makes a pretty good burger (and showed signs of being a chain, but since we'd never seen one and weren't sure it was a chain we decided it didn't violate our no-chains pact)) and saw the flick (at the Cocoaplex on Cocoa Avenue just a long block from our motel). The movie wasn't quite as good as the gushing review we heard, but it was cute and fun. It was also fun watching all the fidgety teenagers who shared the theatre with us. It was actually one of the better-behaved movie audiences we've encountered recently.

The other thing we did on the road was to finish listening to the audio book of The Bad Beginning, the first volume in Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events". This first book is read (or rather performed) by Tim Curry and his voicing of these characters is a hoot. I'll write a separate review of the book (School of Rock too), but suffice it to say that the doom and gloom of the title is entirely accurate. The book starts off with dire warnings about the fact that it details extremely unpleasant events in the lives of three small children and is not redeemed by a happy ending. This is no joke. (Kate, don't even think about reading this book!) I haven't decided yet whether the witty presentation, great characters, and page-turner-ness of the book is enough for me to want to read about further disasters in the continuing volumes.

Posted by jeffy at 11:06 PM in Travelogue | Comments (0)

October 04, 2003

Concord, MA

The StromgrensToday we bid adieu to Ann and Jeannie and John. And I keep forgetting Spencer!Spencer lamenting the mass exodus

We're starting to reach the end of this trip. We're running out of time, but we're also running out of energy. It's been a lot of time on the road and hunting lodging every day and seeing cool sites (and sights), and we're tired.

So we looked at our map and evaluated where we might get the best bang for our spiritual buck. The answer: Concord, Massachusetts.

Concord must be some kind of historical harmonic convergence zone.

We started at the Concord Museum. Here we learned about the various events and personages that distinguish the area.

The first is the Old North Bridge, the site of one of the first skirmishes of the Revolutionary War. It was this bridge that witnessed the first colonial victory in that war. The British were in Lexington and Concord to search for a supposed cache of weapons of mass... well, they thought there were weapons and supplies to support the colonial rebellion. They didn't find the weapons, but they did find some pissed off colonists. War never really changes all that much, you know?

Concord's other main claim to fame is that it was home to The Transcendentalists. Alcott, Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, all lived and worked there. Walden Pond is a mile from town.

Replica of Thoreau's Walden Pond CabinThe museum has a replica of Thoreau's cabin on the grounds. I paced off 14 feet by 9 feet with a door in one short wall and a fireplace on the other, and windows in the long walls. Pretty nice, actually.

The other thing at the museum while we were there was an exhibit called "Degrees of Latitude" consisting of a bunch of maps from the collection of Colonial Williamsburg showing the progression of the mapping of the new world. I was especially amused by a couple of maps that showed the eastern colonies with their north and south borders extended in a straight line off the western side of the page as if to say "we don't know what's out there, but it's all ours."

Becky contemplating the Alcott homeFrom the museum we went to Orchard House, the home of the Alcott family. Patriarch of the family was Bronson, Transcendentalist and educator, but the most famous was to be his daughter Louisa whose memoir thinly veiled as novel, Little Women was a huge success as soon as it was published in 1868. The girls in the novel correspond to the Alcott girls with eldest Anna being Meg in the book, Louisa herself being Jo, Elizabeth as Beth, and May as Amy.

The house is open for tours and has a gift shop. The tour begins with a video giving background on the family and the book, pointing out all the places where art diverged from life. After the video, the tour moved from kitchen to dining room to parlor to Louisa's room to May's room to the parents' room and finished in Bronson's study. The house is furnished in the style it must have been back when the Alcotts lived there, and contains numerous items that were actually owned by the family.

Many of the more visible touches left by the Alcott family were those left by May. May was the visual artist in the family and drew on the walls and windowsills and breadboards. When Louisa made a fortune with her book, she spent part of it sending May to Europe to study art, and much of the work she did there has found its way back to the house and is on display in the tour. My favorite piece is a kind of mural painted on the beam from which Louisa's original writing desk is cantilevered. The painting shows calla lilies and nasturtiums twining up the column lending an air of summer to the room where Louisa did her writing.

One of the more interesting divergences between the book and the Alcotts' lives is that their father was not the one to serve in the Civil War. That duty actually fell to Louisa herself who served as a nurse in that conflict.

From Orchard House we went to Sleepy Hollow cemetery where we viewed the graves of all these people. Didn't see any headless horsemen.

the Thoreau family plot.  Henry's has the stuff on it the Alcott family plot.  Louisa's is the one with the flag recognizing her service in the Civli War. Emerson is planted under that big old rock.  The lettering on the plaque is worn away to illegibility. Writer Hill at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery

A whole busload of tourists on the old north bridgeThen on to the Old North Bridge where the residents of Concord have placed a number of memorials to that skirmish, the most conspicuous of which is the statue of a minuteman sculpted by Daniel Chester French (famous also for the Lincoln Memorial in DC).French's statue of a Concord Minuteman French actually has a link back to the Alcott family: his first art lessons came from May Alcott, Louisa's artistic sister!

Finally we took a spin past Walden Pond. We probably would have stopped, but they wanted $5 to park and we could see from the road that it was, indeed, a pond, and it was getting on towards 5pm so we skipped town without even stopping in to the Walden Pond gift shop, though we did snicker about the existence of such a thing. What would Henry have thought?

From Concord we headed west on 2, south on 495, south on 290, west on 20, west on 84, and south on 10 passing through Worcester, MA and Hartford, CT before ending up in Cheshire, CT at the Welcome Inn. We ate the salads that we got at the Hannaford grocery store salad bar in Portsmouth this morning and finished our day with two pieces of carrot cake from the kitchen of Jeannie, Ann, and John. Yum!

Posted by jeffy at 10:29 PM in Travelogue | Comments (0)

October 03, 2003

Strawbery Banke

This is the only day of the whole trip where we weren't travelling. Our main tourist destination in Portsmouth, NH was Strawbery Banke.

In the 1950s, the Puddle Dock neighborhood of Portsmouth was slated for "Urban Renewal" which meant knocking down all the old houses and erecting apartment buildings. History buffs in the city rallied and managed to save the area as a historical park.

There seems to have been extensive, rigorous, and tedious archaeology performed to bring the various buildings and archives back to certain periods in time. The area had been constantly reworked and remodelled over the decades of its existence (the original settlement was in the 17th century), so rather than bringing the whole area back to a single period, they have concentrated on representing certain periods with each house as appropriate.

The Sherburne House shows 17th century construction techniques by highlighting the remaining portions of the original structure. The Shapiro house shows it as it was in the early 19th century when it was inhabited by an immigrant Jewish family. The Shapley-Drisco House shows the abode of a 17th century sea trader side by side with the 1950s household that it became 200 years later. A building that had served as a general store in WWII has been restored to its condition in that era, complete with shelves stocked with reproductions of the products available at that time. There are a couple dozen more buildings all with different focuses.

Many of the houses have docents whom we found to be uniformly well-informed and helpful with questions. Some of them were in character for the site with canned speeches, but even those were very natural and eager to interact with visitors.

There are also various gardens on the site, including an herb garden and a WWII Victory Garden.

The parts I personally enjoyed the most were the Lowd House, where they had displays of the tools used by various trades including cutaway displays of furniture construction, but the best of all was the Dinsmore Shop where a gentleman who works on the site as a cooper (maker of barrels and other stave-built objects like buckets) was out splitting red oak with a froe and talking to the people who came by. It was great fun to watch him work and talk about the wood he was working with and the process and history of barrel-making. Hand tool cooperage was basically dead as a craft by the mid- to late-19th century with automation taking the place of the craftsmen who had provided storage and shipping containers for centuries.

I didn't take any pictures at Strawbery Banke (at least none worth posting here) since they discourage indoor photography and there wasn't much to the buildings themselves to my eye. Plus my batteries were all dead.

We returned to Ann & John & Jeannie's place for another lovely meal and evening of conversation.

Posted by jeffy at 10:13 PM in Travelogue | Comments (0)

October 02, 2003

Canterbury Shaker Village

It was co-o-o-old out this morning! We left the Pilgrim Inn and headed off on a Curves hunt. If you find yourself in Plymouth, NH, beware that their traffic circle requires people on the circle to yield to people entering instead of the other way around. Very odd, very dangerous. Anyway, we found the Curves after negotiating the curves. I sat out in the car and read (re-read, actually) Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep. I had to start the car and run the heat to keep from turning into a popsicle, though.

Last night we decided that today we would go to Canterbury Shaker Village, and if we had time go on to Concord, NH before heading to Portsmouth to see our friends John and Jeannie and their multi-talented daughter Ann.

The last practicing Shaker to live in Canterbury died a number of years ago so the place is more of a time capsule of what it was like when there were Shakers than an actual living community.

Canterbury Shaker Village, NHThe site is operated as a non-profit museum and education center. We took the "Shaker story tour" which was a good overview of the history and beliefs of the group. They're another one of those religious orders based on a divine revelation to a single charismatic person, in this case Ann Lee who had a vision of a heaven on Earth consisting of men and women living to worship and work in preparation for Christ's second coming. A vision of men and women living together in celibacy. There were a number of questions on the tour about how they expected their ranks to grow if they weren't going to procreate. The answer was that the grew through recruiting whole families, and by taking in orphans.

Despite the staid image the celibate community implies, their worship practices sound to have been particularly raucous with speaking in tongues and singing and dancing. All with men and women separate, but still it sounds like they had some fun.

The group was amazingly progressive for its time and for a fringe religious order of any time. The governing of the community was conducted by elders, both men and women. They accepted members of all races. This is in a community founded in 1780!

The Shakers were also no Luddites. Their mission was "Hands to work, hearts to God," and any modern convenience that would make their work in God's name more productive, they adopted. They were the first in the area to have electricity, the first with telephones, the first to have automobiles. They're credited with many inventions related to the automation of work including the modern industrial-size washing machine. Flower garden at CanterburyThis particular village made much of its living in the production of medicinal herbs in dried, seed, and pill form which they sold by mail order to customers all over the world.Becky check's out the Canterbury vegetable garden

But while they changed their methods of work with the times, the growth of their communities failed as times changed. Now, the Shakers are nearly extinct. They leave behind a legacy of their way of life preserved in museums like this, and an enduring design sensibility in furniture and other useful crafts.

The Canterbury Shaker Village has a number of buildings with rooms arrayed as they would have been when the village was at its height with furniture, clothing, and other artifacts available for viewing. They also have some craftspeople on site demonstrating some of the work that the group did including broom making, spinning and weaving, gardening, building. They seem to have been fairly rigorous about reconstructing buildings in the way that they were built originally, right down to using the same kinds of materials gathered on the site. newly-raised barn at CanterburyIn particular they had recently rebuilt an old barn when we were there and all the lumber they used was harvested from trees on the site. It's almost shocking to see 2-foot-wide boards in use in construction in this day and age.

My only gripe about the site, and it's a mild one, is that they don't allow any photography inside the buildings so I was unable to capture the interesting furniture they had on display. I was able, of course, to buy a book in the gift shop showing representative designs, but it's just not the same as having a visual reminder of a specific piece you've actually been in the same room with.

In addition to the story tour, there are a number of other tours investigating other aspects of Shaker life more deeply. You could easily spend a whole day here.

We headed off towards Portsmouth on highway 4 where we were able to spend our first night in a private home since our trip started. Conversation, entertainment, a wonderful meal, a real bed, and high speed internet access. Bliss!

Posted by jeffy at 09:54 PM in Travelogue | Comments (2)

October 01, 2003

The Kank

Today saw us driving back across Maine and into central New Hampshire.

We started at Bucksport on highway 1 west, then 3 then I-495 at Augusta and wiggled about west of Lewiston (202 to 122 to 26 to 11 to 302 into Conway), then 112, which is the Kancamagus Highway through the White Mountain National Forest. From there we took I-93 south to Plymouth, NH.

Frankly it's all a blur.

I know that we saw some fine forested coastal areas in Eastern Maine.

I recall Becky marvelling over the innovation at the paper mill that keeps it from being at all smelly such that you'd never guess there was a paper mill there.

We stopped at one antique tool store in Maine that was sadly only open Thursday through Sunday, and another that was open and having a sale, but didn't offer up anything I couldn't live without.

We drove back and forth and back and forth through the town of Conway looking for a place that wanted us to eat there, and miraculously ended up in probably the most convivial place we could have. The Chinook Cafe is named not for the Northwest Indian tribe of that name or the salmon species named for the indians, but instead for Chinook the dog who belonged to Admiral Byrd. This dog was brought to their attention due to the fact that some highway in New Hampshire is named after the dog. Or something like that. This is all from Becky's sketchy, low blood sugar recollection of the story on the menu. In any event, the cafe is a place with unique natural food and an extensive tea and coffee menu. Their molasses ginger and oatmeal raisin cookies are world class. On the minus side, they have established to Becky's satisfaction that a shot of espresso introduced to a quantity of steamed chocolate milk is not a mocha.

They had a poster for an upcoming performance in the area by David Wilcox. We saw Wilcox at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle this summer as the opener for Suzanne Vega, and while that was decidedly not the ideal venue for his performance style, it was enough to show us that we'd like to see him in a more intimate setting. But anyway, the poster pointed out that the show was co-sponsored by the Chinook Cafe and the local radio station, WMWV whose signal we invited into our vehicle with considerable enjoyment as we departed on the next leg of the day's journey.

Conway is the gateway to the Kancamagus Highway (referred to as "The Kank" by locals if the woman who told us that is to be believed ;-) which runs through the White Mountain National Forest. It is a notorious locale for observing "the foliage", and, indeed, many "leaf peepers" were in evidence. Unfortunately it seemed like "the peak" has not yet occurred, so while there are quite a lot of trees with bright reds and oranges and yellows, the overall effect on distant hillsides is more subdued than the endless postcards and posters lead one to expect. Color along the KancamagusBut as I've said before and will undoubtedly say again, we didn't come for the color, but for the experience of areas we've not seen before. The Kank is a beautiful drive regardless of the color of the leaves. It parallels a mountain river that rushes over granite boulders between wooded banks. There are many camp grounds, hiking trails, and viewing points along the way. We stopped to hike a quarter mile through light rain showers to Sabbaday Falls (named for its discoverers' habit of returning to visit on the Sabbath). We tried to take a picture of the two of us kissing in front of these falls as requested by Becky's sister Rachel, but as they were not especially wide or tall in extent, and as my arms are not long enough to hold the camera far enough away to keep our heads from completely filling the frame, our success was limited.

kiss picture attempt #1 kiss picture attempt #2 kiss picture attempt #3 kiss picture attempt #4

Plymouth, New Hampshire is the home of the aptly named Plymouth State University, a fact we became aware of when we found ourselves driving through the campus on our nightly rambling search for suitable lodging. The campus looks agreeable, and they're playing host to a show by David Sedaris, one of the funniest people alive, on Saturday.

We're in a cottage at the Pilgrim Inn and Cottages, and once again are without a phone. (Last night's place had phones but also had dire warnings about the phone system being incompatible with use by computers with modems.) I am now so far behind on posting these missives to the blog that I will never die.

Posted by jeffy at 09:35 PM in Travelogue | Comments (1)