October 13, 2009

HMDB

In the spirit of the awesome imdb there's now the Historical Marker Database , capable of wasting hours of your time. Add your own local markers. But Joe, please don't make up not-so-funny fictional markers that ought to be.
Posted by netrc at 08:49 PM

September 02, 2008

A Maine Travesty

I've been going up to Maine to my Uncle's cabin on Lake Arrowhead for over 25 years; He's had the place since 1965. I was told that the lake was named for the wildflower/plant which was all over the shoreline. I'm here to report that it's all been cover-up. Below is a picture I took last week:

You can compare that to plant A here or here and plant B here or here .

I think you'll agree that the plant on the lake is the pickerelweed not the arrowead .

The clincher: My photo doesn't show the flower, but during summer, the plant has a bright purple/blue cluster of flowers. And there are lots of pickerel in the lake.

Posted by netrc at 06:09 PM

May 23, 2007

Lake Wallenpaupack

Here's the view from the deck of our new vacation home, just off of Lake Wallenpaupack, Pennsylvania. We've just moved in on Thursday; while we had to have some last-minute negotiations with the seller, we're done now.

And now that we've got a place, we're going to be more than happy to share it with friends and family. Please drop me a line and we'll start to fill out the summer schedule.

BTW, our move in date is in no way related to other 30th Anniversary celebrations of the first release of Star Wars. And, P.S: Many thanks for this go to the our agent Beth Derrick of RE/MAX who drove us all over the area over many weekends and Mike Morris of National Bank of Kansas, who managed the e-mortgage flawlessly.

Posted by netrc at 06:54 PM

February 23, 2007

Cradle of Liberty

Our Second Annual President's Day Historical Weekend Adventure.

The theme this time was the Cradle Of Liberty, a road-trip through sites in Massachusetts, from the founding fathers through to the midnight ride of Paul Revere. See pictures at this picassa web album.

Saturday 17th Feb, we drove out I-95, stopping briefly in New Bedford, whaling capital of the 19th century. Just one quick photo-op at the Seamen's Bethel and the "ship's bow" pulpit in that church. Interesting plaques on the wall memorializing fishermen's deaths at sea and a pointer to Herman Melville's pew.

(We would have started out with a drive-by of the Lizzie Borden house in New Falls, but missed the exit. A rare navigational error by yours truly.)

Thence to Plymouth, MA. Quite a nice little town with quick views of Plimouth Plantation (a smaller version of Colonial Williamsburg) showcasing the small houses, logged palisade, and meager existence of the Puritans after their near-disastrous journey to the 'new world'. Half the contingent died the first winter.

Plymouth Rock itself -- which actually has fairly good provenance of being the location of the first landing -- was more impressive than most pictures show. About a mile inland is the 81-foot-tall statue commemorating these forefathers. Wonder why this ("one of the biggest granite statues in the US") isn't better known. Especially as 335 million US citizens can trace their lineage back to one of the Mayflower ancestors. Background material from The Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick, a very good description of the Pilgrims and their tribulations followed by a meandering account of the King Phillip Indian wars.

From there, off to Boston, with drive-by visits to the Adams households in Quincy and JFK's birthplace in Brookline.

Saturday night, we got together with Jeff/Lynne and Shannon/Peter. Excellent dinner at the Rustic Kitchen , fancy food and home-made ("artisanal") pasta.

Sunday, traipsed around Boston in bearably cold weather, following the "Freedom Trail" with special notes made at the "Old Bookstore", previously the home of Tickner&Fields publishers of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the Paul Revere home, and The Old North Church. This begins the Revolutionary War portion of the history lesson: With the British becoming increasingly annoyed with Colonial transigence, the Redcoats planned to confiscate arms and ammunition in Concord, MA, on April 19th, 1775. Learning of this plan, the colonials enacted their plan - Paul Revere (and others) rode out from Boston warning of the impending military expedition, and local Minutemen gathered at Lexington to oppose the them.

However, before following Revere's footsteps, we did stop at the Cheer's bar off Boston Common for a quick pick-me-up!

We drove off from Boston, to Charleston, where Revere borrowed a horse, and then to Medford, his first stop to alert the locals (and also the home of "Jingle Bells", based on the town's wintertime sleigh races). From Medford, to Arlington, and then to Lexington. We camped at our base, the Best Western at Historic Concord.

Sunday Morning we left early and got back to Lexington's town green and "the shot heard round the world". Here, militia, alerted by Revere and others, had gathered to confront the red-coats. This past weekend, wind chills were 10 degrees below zero!! The graveyard in back of the picturesque church (built long after the war) holds several dead from this battle, including some fallen British regulars.

We drove west on Mass Ave, which follows the western edge of Minuteman National Historic Park. As the colonial militia retreated west, several further skirmishes with the British ensued. This park will make a very interesting walk in warmer weather; it was far too cold for us to get out. And we are told that the visitor's center has a great movie presentation on the history -- alas, closed during the winter season when only fools would go to visit.

We continued to Concord: In 1775, the militia gathered there decided to group themselves at some high ground just east of town, across a small river. The British came across "the old north bridge" but were then routed and forced back, and indeed, the rout continued and they were made to retreat under heavy casualties all the way back to Boston. Again, our visit outside the warm car to walk over the bridge was curtailed due to extreme wind and cold. At the North Bridge site is the second of the Minuteman statues.

(We couldn't get in to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery to see the graves of Thoreau, Alcott, Hawthorne - closed perhaps for the holiday weekend?)

We stopped at Concord Museum to see one of the lantern's used by Revere to warn of the British expedition's travel plans ("two if by sea"). Misc other artifacts of the war. And Emerson's original study, moved from his house, still situated across the street.

Off to drive-by Walden Pond, much bigger than we imagined and the recreation of Thoreau's cabin, much smaller.

The gang split up at this point. We drove off to lunch at The Wayside Inn with Kristen's Auntie Anne. This inn was immortalized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "Tales of a Wayside Inn", a nostalgic look at storytellers gathering in the old parlour as remembered by Longfellow and his friends. This Inn has been in service since the late 1600s and so has been a part of all of the previous history noted here. As a literary and historical conclusion to this trip, the first tale told, by the Inn's landlord, is "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere", the publication of which in 1863 re-ignited interest in this part of the Revolutionary War story.

Posted by netrc at 01:27 PM

February 23, 2006

Gettysburg

This will be a long entry describing our tour of Gettysburg. Ready?

We visted the Gettysburg National Military Park . We arrived Saturday night (after checking out Trenton and Valley Forge, q.v.), spent all day Sunday traipsing around, then left early on Monday.

I had spent the previous week downloading maps, etc., of the battle so that we would have some understanding of the events of this critical battle of the Civil War. The best decision was purchasing the "Travel Brains" Gettysburg Expedition CDs. The audio CD tour is great; even those in the car who aren't history buffs were surprised at how interesting and informative the narrated tour was. And the CD-ROM animated maps clearly showed the overall strategy and hour-by-hour tactics of the battle.

(For those following along at home, the National Park Service or Wikipedia have good overviews.)

(A map of our trip is being hosted at YourGMap - Gettysburg Trip )

National Cemetary

Our first stop was at the Visitor's Center - plenty of artifacts to see - and then across the street to the National Cemetary. This is located next to the town's main cemetary and indeed, this elevated north/south ridge-line is now called "Cemetary Ridge", precious high ground for the Union Forces. The picture is of one of the many cannons which have been placed around the entire battlefield showing their precise locations during the conflict.

Seminary Ridge

During the second and third day of the battle, the Confederate forces held the high ridge opposing the Union. Due to the nearness of a Lutheran school, this elevation is called "Seminary Ridge". Here's a shot from the left flank of the Confederate positions on Seminary Ridge. In the far distance are Little and Big Round Top.

Lee

Here's a monument to Robert E. Lee. The various Virginia regiments were aligned here and to the right as they bombarded the Union forces and charged across the fields.

The panaroma shows the fields and Little and Big Round Top. (Little Round Top is the slightly lowert hill with the denuded hilltop -- the parks department has been engaging in a process of returning the battlefield to its 1860s look'n'feel which had far fewer trees than in recent times).

Devil's Den

Here are some shots of the boulders around Devil's Den. The leftmost picture is the classic formation visible in photos taken just after the battle.

The middle picture shows the sniper's view of Little Round Top from the wall at the front of that formation. The right picture shows that this boulder formation is isolated from other rock formations in the area.

The Angle

The panaroma shows, on the left, the "Copse of Trees" - the supposed point to which Pickett's Charge was aiming; in the middle-left is the small monument where General Amistead was killed, the "High Water Mark" of the Confederate rebellion; the rest shows the low wall from which the Union forces devastated the South's desperate infantry's charge on the last day of the battle.

In the distance, through the Copse, you can see (again) Little & Big Round Top. The recent movie Gettysburg was based on the historical novel The Killer Angels ; both used the story of Joshua Chamberlain and the courageous defense of Little Round Top as a main dramatic focus for the battle. (And why, for example, I feature it in many of these photos!) . But just as critical was the defense of the right Union flank on Culp's Hill (upon the front of which our hotel was situated) and also the major calvary battles to the east of Cemetary Ridge (if the Confederate calvary had managed to penetrate to the rear of the Union lines during Pickett's Charge, the Angle may have been totally compromised). Unfortunately, we didn't have time to visit either site.

Lodging

We stayed at the Holiday Inn "Battlefield" Hotel, located between the Visitor's Center and downtown Gettysburg. An adequate, cheap hotel; but probably the best view of any other building in town. Go in the summer and make sure to get a room on the 5th floor to get a great view of the surrounding terrain. This shot was taken moments after arriving at our room, Saturday evening.

Posted by netrc at 10:02 AM

February 22, 2006

Valley Forge

Next on our weekend trip, we made a quick visit to Valley Forge. Frankly, the scenery is pleasant, but there's not much to see. Though the legend of this area is greater than the reality, it is still compelling to contemplate spending a miserable and dangerous winter here, while waiting for the springtime battles to come.

The monumental arch commemorating the soldiers of the Revolutionary War who wintered at Valley Forge. And here's the farmhouse used by Washington as his headquarters, with a troop of boy scouts lined up to visit. (The scouts were camping overnight in the valley - a little too much realism for my tastes.)

Posted by netrc at 02:22 PM

He Saw His Ragged Continentals Row

Over the President's Day weekend, the New York crew visited the Trenton area, in a small way retracing the Revolutionary Army's path from Pennsylvania, across the Delaware River, and on down to Trenton, where the first significant victory in the war was won. It so happened that we drove on a day when the temperature was about the same as it was on Dec 24/25 1776, when Washington's troops crossed the river.

The site of the crossing, at Johnson's and McKonkey's Ferry, Pennsylvania, looking across to New Jersey.

The trip was inspired by the brilliantly researched and written Washington's Crossing, a meticulous exposition of the initial battles of the Revolutionary War, focusing on the pivotal moment of the Battle of Trenton.

At the visitor's center here, there are some modern copies of the Durham boats used for the crossing, now used during annual re-enactments.

In downtown Trenton, there is an impressive monument marking Washington's primary position during the attack. Sadly, while Trenton is the state capital, few New Jersians seem to know of this monument:

Educational notes: You can read the introduction to the book here . Wikiepedia has some info about the famous painting . The title of this blog entry is an anagram of "Washington Crossing The Delaware" - as is every line in this sonnet .

Posted by netrc at 01:18 PM

July 15, 2005

All-Star Game

Last-minute tickets to the All-Star Game came through -- This was my first trip back to Detroit in two years.

Random Notes:

  • Comerica Park - Fantastic. Easy to get to and get in/out; good walkways around the stands. We had seats in the front-row at the left-field foul pole. The guy next to me caught an Ivan Rodriguez foul-ball (I left my mitt at home). Apparently, the upper deck fans are farther from the field than some parks, but the so-called 'cavernous' field isn't unnaturaly larger than other parks. Our seats were right next to the home team bullpen; we had a great view of the players warming up. Here's Jason Varitek:

  • Home-Run Derby - Turned out to be the most exciting part of the sports action. With Abreu hitting 24 homers in the first round, it looked like the Derby would last all night. (One of those was a monster 517 feet into the balcony eating area above the right-field bleachers). As Ivan Rodriguez made it to the final round, we had to stick it out. Happily, Comerica Park is right off I-75, and it only took about 25 minutes to get back to our pad in Rochester.
  • Rivera - The game wasn't too exciting. Best moment for me was the finale, with Mariano Rivera called in to get the final out - one ball, then three straight strikes - classic Sandman. He was also very nice in the bullpen, signing lots of autographs.

  • Steve Garvey - sitting one row in front of me.
  • Ford Field - Right next door to Comerica Park is the home of the Detroit Lions. Looks outstanding. Do any other cities have new, great baseball and football stadia right next to each other? Note to investors: Buy a sports-bar in downtown Detroit.
  • Downtown Detroit - Still getting back on its feet since the '70s recession, but for visitors, downtown was fine. The RenCen is now the home of General Motors World Headquaters; they've redone the interior nicely. The bar/restaurant at the 76th floor is still attractive (though it no longer rotates). Here's a view of the ballpark (Ford Field is the building on the right):

  • Ann Arbor - Spent Sunday in A 2 . The campus looks beautiful as always; we managed to get in to the Daily; and lunch was at Zingerman's Roadhouse at Jackson&Stadium. Great, great barbeque burgers, sandwiches, etc.
  • B-2 - finally, a shot of the B-2 Stealth Bomber flyover during the opening ceremonies:

Posted by netrc at 11:40 AM

July 08, 2004

4-7-2004

I was in Boston for the 4th -- not so bad after the Yanks swept the Bosox the previous week. Kristen's Auntie Anne belongs to the U.S.S. Constitution historical society, through which we were invited out on a cruise in Boston Harbor to watch the "turning" of the Constitution itself. Here you can see our view of that great ship as it is tug'd around.

(picture courtesy of William Hackett)

Auntie Anne also belongs to the Science Museum. From their parking garage roof, across from the Esplanade, we had a great view of the Boston Pops and the evening's fireworks.

Posted by netrc at 06:58 PM

June 22, 2004

St. Martin

Thanks to JPO2, Kristen and I stayed a week in St. Martin, in a three bedroom villa with pool ...

  atop Baie Rouge...

Not too much to talk about. Just sun, relaxation, a little shopping, and more relaxation.

Jim and I went fishing one morning; very few bites, until our skipper Eric took us to a little island off the Western tip of Anguilla. We trolled around the island and picked up two barracuda and a pompano.

Another few island shots from the villa:

 

Posted by netrc at 08:52 PM

March 07, 2004

Lost in translation

Another trip across the pond, another bad cocktail experience. Even when you think you know how to navigate cross-culturally, it's always the little differences which can trip you up.

The background to all this is the definition of a cocktail as the mixture of a base alcoholic beverage mixed with one or more moderating liquors. Without that mixture, you're either having a drink neat, on the rocks, or otherwise diluted (e.g., "and tonic").

Somewhat oddly, the classic base beverages are more northern European -- think Scotch, Gin, Brandy, Vodka -- while the great modifiers are somewhat more southerly and romantic -- Vermouth, benedictine, fruit juices. While there are a variety of exceptions to each rule (Rum and coke?), the fact is that the best cocktails come from a brisk and mouth-watering combination of the two sensations.

Which brings us to the Long Bar at London's Sandersons Hotel.

The hotel itself is a frightening post-modern disaster, Kubrick meets Jeeves. The lobby has scattered Louis XIV furniture in a sterile white room, with shawls draped hither and yon, desperate to convey casual chic. The reception desk is fronted by video-displays, while the elevator has galactic projections and black-light ambience.

Off the front lobby are the two successes of the hotel, its restaurant, Spoon, and the white-marble-on-chrome bar, long, centrally placed, brightly lit, and functional.

Going to the bar to meet colleagues after work, I expect to be ignored by the fashionable crowd and served by a non-traditional bartender. (By non-traditional, I mean as opposed to the crew at the local pub, who know nothing about cocktails at all).

What to order after the second day of an off-site, spent sitting around listening to interminable powerpoint presentations? Something strong, bracing, but not too forward as we'll be heading out for more drinks and dinner soon enough. And someting which is a small reminder of what I've left behind for this trip...

A Manhattan.

The Long Bar doesn't have a great back bar, but a memorable Manhattan does not need a rarefied bourbon or rye spine; smoothness is the key. And so I order a Makers Mark Manhattan.

The waitress asks, "Sweet, Dry, or Perfect?"

I am dumbfounded. These are exactly correct questions to ask, but to have them asked in London, England suggests to me that though our differences are large, our global village is indeed growing smaller and smaller. Due to jet-lag and dehydration, I take a second to answer (and this, it turns out is my downfall.)

The modern school of thought, say since the Truman Administration, is that the Manhattan is a mixture of bourbon or rye whisky with sweet, red vermouth. The alcohol of the former combines with the sweetness of the latter to produce a congenial beverage that simultaneously wakes up the senses and relaxes the mind.

But what proportion of bourbon to vermouth? This is, of course, up to each person. A dash of vermouth, and you're drinking a stiff bourbon; the other way around and it's a very sweet and sticky drink. Rather than shout our fractions or ratios, the common parlance is "dry" for something like a four-to-one bourbon to vermouth stiff one; "sweet", closer to one-to-one for the sweet-toothed.

I respond, "Dry, please."

Alas, London only poses as a modern capital. To be honest, it is still stuck in mid-century privations and misunderstood cosmopolitanism. I should have realized that the bar-staff would have been trained with old cocktail manuals and, worse, their clientele wouldn't have known the difference.

The clue was the reference to a "Perfect" Manhatan. The pre-war definition of this drink permitted it to be made from any combination of dry and white or red and sweet vermouth. This was both wrong and confusing because while sweet and dry vermouth share the same last name, they are utterly different liquors. Any base beverage mixed with one will have a completely changed taste and texture than when made with the other. Once the Manhattan was defined as being made with sweet vermouth alone, the only item to be decided was the proporation.

But the question asked was actually referring to the earlier, pre-war definition: A sweet Manhattan would be made with sweet vermouth, a dry manhattan with dry vermouth, and a "Perfect" Manhattan with a combination of sweet and dry vermouth.

By saying "Dry", I was looking for a stiff after-work drink; What I got was a pale, lackluster, unsatisfying quaff. An objective correlative of the day's presentations and the difficulties in translation between two great nations.

Posted by netrc at 02:21 PM

January 04, 2004

Stowe, Vermont

Skiing and New Year's Eve in Stowe. We stayed in The Green Mountain Inn in the center of the village. Very New Englandy -- and not too many Dean bumper stickers.

Good news: It turns out skiing is like riding a bike. Started on the little bunny slope and found that you can never really forget how to "snowplow". We took a couple trips down progressively more advanced slopes, then headed out to the main mountain at Stowe, Mt. Mansfield.

Never got too adventurous. Even though our preferred "Toll Road / Lullaby Lane" sounds (and is) for beginners, it's length of almost four miles makes up in quantity what it may lack in technique.

Other than that, I'd recommend the "Red Basil", Thai restaurant, the hot chocolate at "The Octagon Web Cafe" at the top of the main lifts, and the "Sunset Grille", local ski-bum bar where we watched USC rip through Michigan's surprisingly lame offensive line.

Pictures:

It's cold here - DSC00160.JPG

DSC00161.JPG

Posted by netrc at 06:20 PM

November 20, 2003

Mockba

Visited Moscow for business Nov 14 - 18. Fascinating, odd place to be.
Lots of construction downtown; many new (expensive) restaurants and shops;
extravagent and bizarre casinos; along with the same grimy, broken down older buildings and courtyards.

Visited the Tretyakov Gallery , the Kremlin, and finally got in to see Lenin, still dead after all these years.
(More info than you may want on the mausoleum.)


Posted by netrc at 06:14 PM