Fun With Dick and Jill
visits since 011030; last updated 051225.


Abe, on TV "State of Maine"

June 23rd, 2005: Jill and I visit my nephew, Abe McKenney, who in turn is visiting the Port of Boston's AutoPort in Charlestown on his first-year cruise on Maine Maritime Academy's Training Vessel, the "State of Maine". Abe is a few days from ending his almost-two-month training cruise to the Caribbean, Quebec City, and more. He says he's doing well, and loving it.

Abe on gangplank Abe demonstrates "Learning the Ropes" to Jill.

Left: That's Abe on the gangplank. Right: Abe "showing the ropes" to Jill.

Abe follows in the footsteps of his brother Ben, who graduated from MMA and, in 2005, has been bringing his new deep-water drill rig from its shipyard in Singapore to its working location in the Gulf of Mexico.

Pete Seeger's 86th Birthday Songfest:
May 8th, 2005: With friends Jay and Ricky Ball, we joined Newton Dialogues on Peace and War at one of many singing celebrations of activist and folk-singer Pete Seeger's 86th birthday. We had a great time.

The four of us are old friends with Peggy Seeger, who will be celebrating her Big 70 with a concert and party in London later this month. We'll send along these photos for Pete!

(The photo of Pete Seeger, featured at this party and in some of my photos here, was taken by Ellen Shub in Boston Symphony Hall in December 1984, "
In Concert with Arlo Guthrie.")

Songfest for Pete Seeger Party for Pete Seeger From left: Steve Nathanson, Dan Shaw and ??
Ricky and Jay show off Pete's picture Party for Pete Seeger

New England Folk Festival 2005:

NEFFA 2005April 8th-10th, 2005: NEFFA returns to Natick High School, and so do we. This event has been occuring annually since 1944. For decades now, it's been held at Natick High. It's huge, wonderful, and run by volunteers. Like us; Jill posted highway direction signs, and I ran sound systems in music rooms. So many thousands attend (from all over the northeastern U.S. and beyond) that parking space for cars soon runs out. TJX kindly donates parking facilities at its corporate headquarters near the Massachusetts Turnpike, and a free shuttle bus service stays busy all weekend. Some smart people come by bike.

At the school, there's plenty going on in the front courtyard: jam sessions, people sunning themselves, and a steady parade of rapper groups -- English Morris Dancers.

NEFFA 2005 NEFFA 2005 NEFFA 2005

And inside, of course, much more. Dancing, singing, story-telling, workshops simultaneously running in ten different areas (plus the courtyard)
. Plus crafts sales and exhibits, international foods in the cafeteria, music sales and musical jamming in the halls. For three days, always something new around every corner!

In the first photo below, Jill is examining the hundreds of fliers announcing other folk activities to come. (It's morning; by evening, these halls are full of people!) Center, one of of the music-sales booths. And, below right, she examines marvelous hand-puppets
at a stuffed-toy booth, and makes friends with a toothy golden dragon. (In the large picture above, you can see where it bit her just under her mouth. Okay, I'm kidding; the bruise is from a parrot bite a few days before, but that's another story.)

NEFFA 2005 NEFFA 2005 NEFFA 2005

Performing artists -- all donating their talents to this volunteer event -- include old hands like the New New Orleans Jazz Band, and rising young stars like Canadian fiddler Katie Avery. There's lots of singing along. When one Latin-American music group played "La Bamba", the audience made a conga line and weaved in front of the stage (below right).

NEFFA 2005 NEFFA 2005 NEFFA 2005

NEFFA 2005Here is one jam session, typical of dozens that form and re-form in the halls throughout the weekend.

NEFFA 2005We  visited a few of the dance performances in the auditorium, too. Shooting with a telephoto in reduced light blurred my pics, but they're still interesting. Most of my dance photos are of children's groups: Filipino girls dancing with large flowered wreaths.
NEFFA 2005Filipino couples hopping nimbly between long sticks that are clacked together in rhythm.

NEFFA 2005NEFFA 2005Chinese lion dancers.

One photo of a Ukrainian children's group is followed by two of its adult division.
NEFFA 2005 NEFFA 2005 NEFFA 2005

Some of the Chinese boys surprised and delighted the audience with a dance featuring Chinese yo-yos: dumbbell-shaped, and whirling quickly or slowly along a string manipulated with two wands. They soon were flying high in the air, back and forth between performers, one trick after another!

NEFFA 2005 NEFFA 2005 NEFFA 2005

NEFFA 2005Performances, sing-alongs, crafts, it's all fun. But it's hard to beat hundreds of people contra-dancing (short video, a 1.8MB .avi file) and square-dancing to the beat of a live country orchestra!

This series ends with proof that NEFFA is exhausting.

But it's worth it. We can hardly wait for NEFFA 2006!

Spring Migration to a Vernal Pool:
April 2nd, 2005: Late yesterday, Jill and I received one of our personal signs of Spring: on our Middle Pond of Lake Cochituate, Ice-Out! It arrived just one day later than the traditional day for ice-out here, April 1st. We moved to the lake in 1968, and the next year it was exactly on April 1st. That, and a date of January 1st  for a full ice cover) continued for nearly ten years. But then the ice cover started later and ended earlier, sometimes by a month or more. Our guess is that this April 2nd ice-out is due to an unusually-cold spring, and not a re-establishment of that remembered pattern. But for us, Spring has sprung! (And our clocks spring forward this morning, Daylight Saving Time. Coincidence, you say??)

This year we witnessed another, simultaneous celebration of Spring. Weeks earlier, we visited
Eastern Mountain Sports in Natick for a good slide lecture by Michele Grzenda, Framingham Conservation Administrator -- and we signed up for the Framingham Conservation Commission's "Big Night". That's the big night for the little amphibians that inhabit our local vernal pools (temporary spring ponds that dry up by summertime). Friday, EMS phoned to say, "Tomorrow's the night!"

Frogs and salamanders had been scattered about the dry, then snow-covered, terrain uphill of last year's vernal pools, waiting out the seasons until their big night.
Now the awaited weather (raining at night, temperature above 40 degrees Fahrenheit) called to them. Once again they were on the march, drawn back to the magically reformed pond which will be their habitat for creating a new generation of their kind.

We were on the march, too, some fifty kids and adults who car-pooled to a limited-parking area near the wonderful Garden In The Woods. Its road is closed to cars during these important migration nights, but
Michele Grzenda was our special admission to this off-limits place. First, she taught us how to walk ever so slowly with flashlights, and warned of various dangers we posed to the little critters -- from stepping on them, to touching them with our dry skin. Then we started up the road into the dark woods. The woods were quiet, except for the distant trilling of spring peeper frogs and the occasional rustle of trees in a breeze. Soon we were spotting a few six-to-eight-inch salamanders with bright yellow spots. Then, a half-dollar-sized wood frog with his easy-to-spot black eye-mask. And, smaller than your little fingernail, a tiny spring peeper. More of each appeared, and small groups of us took turns ooh-ing and aah-ing over each. We even saw two blue-spotted salamanders - a relative rarity, sadly now on the endangered species list for Massachusetts.

Along the road, the amphibians were few and, for the most part, far between. But then, in careful groups of ten, we picked our way down a path to the dark, calm and clear vernal pool which is their goal. Our flashlights soon picked out a salamander moving along the bottom. Then more. And suddenly, a flashlight beam illuminated a virtual orgy of yellow-spotted salamanders, perhaps fifty of them, tightly packed and with some twisting and twirling their way up to the surface and back!

What mysteries live, within these parallel worlds we share! What a pleasure, to learn a little more.
Yellow-Spotted Salamander Blue-Spotted Salamander Wood Frog

I wish my night-time, tiny-flash photos into that exciting vernal pool had succeeded. But these are the best I managed: a fairly good Yellow-Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum), a poor photo of a (pale, anyway) Blue-Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma laterale), and a Wood Frog (Rana sylvatica; note its characteristic black eye-mask). I've added links to more information on these, and the Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer).

New Car:
Ford Escort w/snow Ford Focus w/snow Ford Focus revealed

Feb. 24th, 2005: With the lure of a great Presidents Day (week) car deal, we trade our good old 1996 Ford Escort LX Wagon for a good new 2005 Ford Focus ZXW SE Wagon. After a night of snow, the difference wasn't obvious. But the driving is!

LinuxWorld/Boston LinuxWorld/Boston LinuxWorld/Boston
LinuxWorld/Boston LinuxWorld/Boston LinuxWorld/Boston - Dick Miller, Warren Woodford, Milad Edenensis

Feb. 17th, 2005: Immediately following our return from Florida, we catch the tail end of the three-day Linux conference and exposition at Hynes Auditorium, Boston. It's BIG, and big companies are joining the smaller ones to strut their Linux-flavored stuff! We welcome this event as a very significant step toward corporate acceptance of Linux in the workplace. In the last photo, Dick poses with principal Warren Woodward and associate Miladus Edenensis who have been previewing SimplyMEPIS Linux v3.3.


Feb. 10th-16th, 2005: Snow-break! Dick's brother Bob and wife Sandy are wintering in a roomy house in central Florida, just west of Orlando and Disney World. "Come on down, it's a sunny 80 degrees today!" Here in Natick, it's cold and it's snowing. Southwest Airlines sweetens the deal with $49 seats to Orlando, and we're packing!

An early-morning drive to Providence - in the rain. We like that rain; a major snowstorm had been predicted. By take-off time, the rain has stopped. We're in a posh new 737, on the P.O.S.H. side for its coastal view. The SW Air stewardess announces, "It's a Boeing, and we're going!", and we're airborne. In a minute we're in the clouds, then o'er top, and we have a cotton view instead of a coastal view for the first half of our trip. We see plenty of coast later, and are struck by how very many homes now populate the barrier beaches along the Atlantic Ocean. Hurricane Alley is crowded.

Florida trip Florida trip Florida trip

A little before landing, as our jet is slowly and quietly descending, I take this center photo. Note how the older communities are tightly packed, while the newer ones have expensive homes clustered around newly-excavated ponds. Ever-decreasing orange groves, cattle pastures and cypress swamps await the next building projects.
[Techie details: Weeks later, we analyze this air photo and find that I took it just south of  Daytona Beach - where some of our fellow travellers were going to catch the qualifying races for the Daytona 500 race-car spectacular.
Cartophiles (not the shopping-mall sort) can enlarge this air photo, and then open this map of the same area in another window or tab. The photo is looking east-southeast. Its foreground (lower right) is toward the upper left in the north-oriented map; note the "S-shape" crossing of Rte. 4009/Williamson Blvd. over Rte. 95, and the highway exit at Rte. 421/Dunlawton Ave., in South Daytona. The causeway over the Halifax River at the photo's top left (Rte. 421/Dunlawton Ave. at Port Orange Causeway Park) is at the upper right of the map. The Atlantic inlet at the top right of the photo is New Smyrna Beach Inlet, toward the lower right of the map.]

Orlando's busy main airport has added separate, parallel facilities connected by this monorail, which carried us to the main terminal where our hosts greeted us.

Bob and Sandy have spent winter vacations in that region for several years, and are good guides. They'd come from near Albany, New York in a small car brimming with
one small dog (Bella, a miniature poodle retired from her show days), one very large dog (Maggie, a seven-month-old great dane puppy), and a large and loquacious parrot named Jezebel.

After unpacking at their shiny-new home away from home, the four of us walked their dogs - our first tour of a new Florida development. Their street looked real if empty. Soon we were in a street of almost-completed houses, then frames, foundations, lots of construction workers pounding and lifting and bulldozing away, and - white sand marked for house lots, many already marked "Sold!". Between two of the framed houses-to-be, we found an already-lawned new pond and, across the pond, a trail into "unimproved" woods. The trail was long, through a cypress swamp to the construction turmoil at the edge of a neighboring development. A taste of what had been, before it too becomes new streets.

Florida trip Florida trip Florida trip
Florida trip Florida trip Florida trip
Florida trip Florida trip Florida trip
Florida trip Florida trip
Florida trip Florida trip Florida trip

[More photos will replace the final ones above, along with more text. Soon...]

I hadn't visited Florida since I was an aerospace engineering-physicist visiting the Kennedy Space Center (on Cape Canaveral, before it was renamed Cape Kennedy) and Fort Lauderdale in the mid-1960s. Jill hadn't been to Florida since she was an infant. Florida hasn't changed; it's just filled in. The swamps, that is! They bulldoze them flat with the local white sand, cover them with pond-bottom muck and turf, reshape plenty of shallow round ponds (and, in upscale developments, more imaginative canals, islands, etc.), install "Don't feed the alligators" signs, and then add roads and costly, tightly-packed houses. These new developments look nice, but they start devoid of community and many will stay that way. It doesn't matter. People crowd down for winter warmth, and to share in a booming economy which creates home values that start high and appreciate 20-30% per year! People buy the houses as investments, even if they won't be using them. It's a never-never land of the best developments and the worst, but developments are everywhere.

Skiing at Hamlen Woods:
Dick Skis Jill Skis Atomic Skis

Jan.. 30th, 2005: After the storm, some fun. On a lovely afternoon, Jill and I visit the nearby Hamlen Woods conservation area in Wayland. Behind Jill, Rice Pond. Two boards upon cold powder snow, yo ho! Notice the warm red glow from under our "atomic-powered skis". That never ceases to amaze the kids - until we show them the bottoms of our skis: white, with bold lettering in day-glo orange.

Snow Job:
Jan. 23d Blizzard Jan. 23d Blizzard Jan. 23d Blizzard

Jan.. 23rd, 2005: The blizzard started Saturday afternoon; by mid-afternoon Sunday, Natick had received nearly two feet of snow. Our driveway, tall-walled (particularly back from the street) and with a parked car, is always a challenge to shovel, but we eventually cleared the cold powder snow. No power failure. We stayed warm, enjoyed good food, a quiet day, and a very good night's sleep after all that shoveling!

Boston Symphony Orchestra:
Symphony Hall, Boston Symphony Hall, Boston (Beethoven Shield)

Jan. 6th, 2005: Jim Gerow invites us to use a friend's spare tickets, and drives us in! What a great evening: Seats front row center in the 2nd balcony, Sir James Galway on flute, and good and expert company!

Symphony Hall was designed about 1900 by Harvard physics professor Wallace Clement Sabine, the man who invented acoustics. It is one of the top three concert halls in the world. The only composer named in its acoustically-styled decor is Beethoven - on the shield in the center of the proscenium, high above the stage.

And now for a little levity (so to speak):
Later, the same Sabine worked in Geneva, Illinois...
...with THIS wealthy eccentric, to build an working model of Francis Bacon's marvelous acoustic levitation machine. It didn't work; but if it had, everybody would have wanted one! Curiously, that was not a wasted effort; it did a reverse lateral arabesque into modern cryptology:

2005 New Year's Day walk in Boston:

Jan. 1st 2005, New Year's Day: We join the annual American Volkssport Association's New Year's Day walk in downtown Boston, Massachusetts. Good idea! Sixty showed up, a small turn-out, and the weather was crisp and clear. These walks are all 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) in length, and tend to be in town rather than in the woods. Some are scheduled, like this one; others can be done anytime on your own, using nice trail instructions.

Boston Walk
Boston Walk
Boston Walk
Boston Walk
Boston Walk
Boston Walk
Boston Walk - "Cheers"
Boston Walk
Boston Walk
Boston Walk
Boston Walk
Boston Walk
Boston Walk
Boston Walk
Boston Walk
Boston Walk
Boston Walk
Boston Walk
Boston Walk
Boston Walk
Boston Walk