The passing of the pasture

The Georgian style 1835 farmhouse at 208 Myrtle Street finally fell last fall. Having closely inspected the interior construction, I can say that this house appears to have been built up in two halves, perhaps over and over again, starting as early as the 1600s.

Some rooms and features in the old house were distinctly 17th or early 18th century. Like many of the old farmhouses in western Duxbury, they survived intact by habit, settling slowly in place over the centuries. So many families, so many stories in these walls.

This house showed interior finish elements dating back to the 1700s
A better view showing the rear ell

The Rufus Sampson house at 308 Summer Street, another farmhouse, just across from my place, came down just yesterday after another long, vacant wait. This was most recently known by many in town as the Lacosse Greenhouse. Back in the day, some say, there were “extended hours” at the green house for visiting friends.

Today the machine has been rumbling through the foundation blocks for hours. The fella plans to put in four houses on about 5 acres, the maximum allowed on town-mandated, tortured-lollipop lots. Elements of the farmhouse, such as large beams and the foundation blocks, will be recycled in the new construction.

I got a good look at the 1700’s Isaac Simmons house just recently. It seems to reflect a common theme… picking the best spot for a root cellar and hearth, and sticking with it as living standards (and building standards) evolved. It’s hard to say exactly what stood on the site in 1696. It may have been a barn rather than a house at that time. The house constructed at 761 Temple Street contains a main structural beam that is a recycled barn beam. The beam is installed inverted across the cellar, supporting the main part of the first floor. A series of pocket cuts, presumably for the previous rafters, is exposed on the lower side of the beam. The implications for putting a construction date on this structure remain to be ferreted out.

The old houses still stand resolutely, serving their occupants consistently, if quirkily. It takes a certain person to live in an antique house, a person with patience and tolerance. Values we can cherish for sure.

Published in: on February 3, 2021 at 10:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

Threads of History, Wires of Demise

Storytelling in the New Millennium

We relate our stories through word of mouth.  We capture our stories in writing. When we have a particularly compelling story, we might go to the trouble of laboring over a book, developing a storyboard into a screenplay or a pilot, or even putting it to music in the form of an opera or a musical play.  In contrast, today we have so many “live feeds” that video cameras are now capturing extemporaneously unfolding stories which may inadvertently (and often intentionally) gain wide distribution through social media.  The gap between composed narrative and happenstance is a fertile ground for exploitation.

Regardless of origin, the story embodies a dynamic between individual attitudes and knowledge, personal decisions, social interactions, and in many cases, a larger body such as the state, an army, a gang, a school district, the medical establishment, or what have you.  The essential elements and composition are all still the same: some recognizable context grounded cultural assumptions of the reader/listener/watcher, a progress of events, some “surprise” or other emotional experience, and a conclusion (or lack thereof.) A story is a story is a story.

Technical Digression

Postulate: In this information age, all stories can be reduced to a mathematical expression of a sequence of human (and even animal) interactions.  The premise is that behaviors and interactions can be modeled using standardized words… a lexicon of behavioral vectors.

Has anyone actually done this?  I am sure that the major internet companies have.  What do you think a social network is, anyway?  Think about what happens when you click on that “share”, “plus 1” or “like” button.  You are feeding an algorithm that is modeling your behavior, along with everyone else’s.

(Setting aside the technical domain for the moment.)

Back to the Story

In this way, all human stories (whether fictional or factual) weave a fabric of human experience from the threads of history.  The stories we make up today through popular books, music, plays, and movies seem to me to be mostly re-hashing and recasting tales from the past.  There really doesn’t seem to be much innovation or foment in storytelling.

This phenomenon strikes me essentially as an attempt to repackage the canonical tales for consumption by our new society, which receives experiences much differently than any before us.  Recently I’ve seen the heavy commentary regarding the “millennial generation” as essentially being self-absorbed, to use a milder form of the many criticisms that have been leveled against this very technically fortunate, very socially unfortunate cohort. But this is an artifact of the environment of our rearing… heavily machine-driven, fragmented, and tenuous as it is.

Because information technology has simultaneously democratized information (witness wikis, blogging) and thoroughly balkanized knowledge (walled gardens, big data, artificial intelligence) we are living in a time where humankind is losing control of our narrative. In principle, this has always been the case… the victors write the history. The state controls the message. The schools propagate the banal rhetoric and the approved truths.  But now, we have trans-national, essentially anonymous, completely unsupervised entities controlling massive amounts of information.  This is unprecedented, unplanned, and… pretty unnoticed at this point.  The impact is unpredictable.  But I will give it a shot below.

Also, people forget. We rely on entertainment, commemoration, and social rituals as a form of collective memory, as a counter-weight to this institutionalization of our history.

We need stories to remind us of our mistakes, and what we have learned.

But – do people realize that there is now this other major force involved in the narrative?

Big Blind Eye

Who among us sees that we now have multiple massive, corporate-controlled and machine-driven shadow intelligences growing in our midst?  Do we realize that they are processing our every online move?  Sanjeev Aggarwal in EE Times VLSI1271 cropped 183x180 Do we remember that these machines are being continuously tuned and tweaked to find new ways to extract money from our livelihoods?

Everybody is a little paranoid, and perhaps me a bit more than most.  But still, it gives one pause.

Theory: Mechanization of society through computerized interactions institutionalizes social deficits. Machines only serve to enrich the owners of the machines, enabling the exploitation of everyone else.  This occurs on the personal level, and thus by extension on a larger scale, at the social sphere.

Prediction: If left unattended, commercial activity will demoralize society to the least common denominator of behavior and interaction. The higher forms of art will wither and die. Eventually some future generation will recognize that human value can only be created, recognized, and sustained in direct personal relations with another, or through production and exchange of handcrafted goods, without the involvement of machines.


Do you see this?

Am I crazy?

If you agree… what will you do to counteract this trend, and preserve human history?

Published in: on May 4, 2016 at 3:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Demise of the Home Phone

Last weekend as a matter of circumstance which is not relevant to this post, I attended a fundraising event that involved raffles and door prices.  I purchased a few tickets to do my part, and tossed them into the kitty for various and sundry donations on offer, such as spa treatments, artwork, victuals, and the like.  I had a good time, but alas, in the event, my name wasn’t called.  The protocol in this case was to write your phone number on the back of the raffle ticket so that you could be contacted in case your number came up.

Lo and behold, here on Friday night almost a week later, I received a phone call out of the blue from a nice gal who informed that I had in fact won!  This got me to thinking about the fact that I put my home phone number on the ticket, not my cell phone.  I did this because I usually don’t answer my cell phone, and because I figured that if the house number was called, odds are that either I or my dear wife would be home.

This got me to thinking about the landline debate.  Have you cancelled your “Land Line” into your house, even if it is now an ipPhone service from the cable company?

Personal cell phones are just that – personal.  The cell phone embodies the isolated, disconnected, egocentric loner society that America is becoming.  A society is formed by the social interactions of the members.  If the members only interact via asynchronous text messages sent to each other on their own volition – there is no society,  only an attenuated, diminished exchange of tenuously connected fragmentary thoughts.  We don’t even realize how impoverished we are – because we didn’t know that it was supposed to be different, and much richer.

Do you have a home phone?

If you have cancelled your home phone – how do your kids call home?


Published in: on April 19, 2014 at 12:55 am  Leave a Comment  

Very well put together

Very well put together

For those of a software bent, interested in optimal team performance.

Published in: on January 18, 2014 at 9:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

Things You Can Do to save the environment

On May 27, 2012 at 281 Powder Pt. Ave. Duxbury, MA, a gathering was held titled 

Duxbury Honors Olga Owens Huckins and Rachel Carson

Attendees were invited to write down their ideas for things anyone can do help save our natural environment.

Here are the ideas:

  1. Organic Gardening “IPM”!
  2. Consume Less
  3. Drive Less
  4. Conserve Gas
  5. Walk more
  6. Conserve Water
  7. No Ballons
  8. Turn Down Heat
  9. Hang Clothes up to dry
  10. Don’t idle the car engine
  11. Insulate homes
  12. Better light bulbs
  13. Buy organic
  14. Plant a tree in your own memory
  15. Buy locally
  16. Keep Thermostat at 72
  17. Use newspaper as wrapping paper
  18. Recycle old electronics
  19. Compost
  20. Get an energy audit
  21. Say “no” to nitrogen lawn fertilizers
  22. Use eco-friendly cosmetics
  23. Avoid synthetic dyes
  24. Walk in nature and just watch
  25. Use a clothesline
  26. Solve garden problems organically
  27. Have a green wedding
  28. Buy less gadgets
  29. Buy big in season
  30. Buy into a CSA […]
  31. If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down (NYC)
  32. Investigate content before buying
  33. Make your own pet food
  34. Ride a bicycle
  35. Use a reel mower – human-powered
  36. Teach kids to turn off video games when done
  37. Plant a tree in someone’s memory
  38. Just sit and relax
  39. Support Audubon
  40. Recycle all plastic bottles
  41. Don’t use plastic bottles
  42. Encourage power saving
  43. Run car on ethanol
  44. Offer a ride
  45. Bike a lot more
  46. Read more – not watch
  47. Ask caretakers to use local organic
  48. What are the humpbacks singing?  “Save the whales again” Life is amazing
  49. Replace filters on cars
  50. Turn off all electronics before bed
  51. Shop at farmer’s markets
  52. Before you throw, ask “Can this be re-used?”
  53. Save our environment
  54. Consume Consciously
  55. Walk – don’t ride whenever possible
  56. Use eco-friendly building materials
  57. Appreciate plants “skills” and survival mechanisms
  58. Use re-usable shopping bags
  59. Appreciate the capabilities of local fauna
  60. Don’t litter
  61. Keep car tires inflated for fuel efficiency
  62. Use baking soda + vinegar to clean
  63. Read “The Lorax” to a child
  64. Walk, enjoy, unplug
  65. Eat only sustainable fish
  66. Drive a hybrid
  67. Don’t waste paper
  68. Save trees
  69. Recycle
  70. Save polar bears
  71. Talk less
  72. Line dry clothes to save energy
  73. Use less
  74. Replace Tupperware with pyrex
  75. Less plastic
  76. Lights out!
  77. Brush teeth without running the water
  78. Bike more often
  79. Grow some of your own food – make compost
  80. Lobby for green laws
  81. Eat less meat
  82. Educate yourself on cetaecans
  83. Save energy
  84. Be kind like a princess
  85. Cut down on light pollution
  86. Eat mindfully and slowly
  87. Reuse water
  88. Be more quiet
  89. Re-use glass
  90. Clean the beach
  91. Turn off electronic entertainment
  92. Contemplate nature
  93. Meditate in the woods
  94. Save money !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1
  95. Be nice to the birds
  96. Plant new things
  97. Compost your leftovers
  98. Use Earth-friendly dish detergent
  99. Turn off A/C – open windows
  100. Plant new trees
  101. Dispose consciously
  102. Consider train travel
  103. Plant flowers
  104. Buy recycled products
  105. If can walk to school
  106. Reuse plastic
  107. Turn off lights when you leave the room
  108. Help Clean Up
  109. Save trees
  110. Enjoy the free things in life
  111. Protect animals
  112. Leave more space
  113. Slow down
  114. Clean up Duxbury
  115. Re-use packaging
  116. Insulate attic
  117. Brew certified coffee
  118. Copy on two sides
  119. Check out
  120. Use less pharmaceuticals
  121. Stop buying animal tested products
  122. Bring your own coffee cup
  123. Don’t buy water in plastic bottles
  124. Use fabric and yarn to wrap gifts
  125. Turn off your computer when not using
  126. Save the giant pandas
  127. Don’t waste energy
  128. Be aware of political candidate’s environmental stances
  129. Work to protect all living things; everything has it’s place in the balance of nature
  130. Give away stuff
  131. Listen the dawn chorus
  132. Plant a rooftop garden
  133. Be an eco-friendly fashionista
  134. Stay home and rest more
  135. Take a vacation in your home town
  136. Support the aquarium
  137. Meditate on the ocean tide
  138. Recycle cell phones
  139. Spend lots of time by the ocean
  140. Whatever your bring in – bring out
  141. Donate or barter my old things
  142. Try growing some of my own produce
  143. Buy sufficient and not excess food to avoid waste and save money
  144. Wean myself off of disposable items
  145. Use non-toxic house cleaners
  146. Don’t use pesticides
  147. User air, not your hairdryer
  148. Reuse what you can
  149. Have a “vintage” wedding
  150. Eat healthy foods
  151. Don’t waste water
  152. Save animals
  153. Plat native garden and lawn plants
  154. Conserve your energy
  155. Save the birds – save the world
  156. Eat in-season produce
  157. Don’t buy tchotke, disposable items
  158. Join a co-op
  159. Shop less
  160. Resist buying “the latest”
  161. Leave minimal damage to the environment
  162. Build a solar outdoor shower
  163. Have a toy swap
  164. Drink tap water
  165. Spay and Neuter your animals
  166. Walk
  167. Take public transportation
  168. Volunteer for an environmental group
  169. Avoid petrochemicals
  170. Shop local
  171. Recycle batteries
  172. Avoid artificial frangrances
  173. Go green
  174. Turn off your cell phone
  175. Build a solar house
  176. Find out about Duxbury’s community garden
  177. Car pool
  178. Use Tupperware instead of plastic bags
  179. Install a grey-water system
  180. Eat more vegetarian meals
  181. Have a clothing swap
  182. Build a windmill
  183. Be a green power of example to others
  184. Drive a fuel-efficient car
  185. Take the s-t-a-i-r-s
  186. Plant a tree
  187. Teach a child about being green
  188. Turn off water
  189. Wash your clothes in cold water
  190. Eat local
  191. Install green roof
  192. Buy carbon offsets
  193. Don’t’ forget to turn out the lights
  194. Check for air leaks around windows, doors to enhance energy efficiency
  195. Buy products that last
  196. Do outdoor yoga
  197. Don’t prewash dishes
  198. Protect the plants
  199. Take shorter showers
  200. Reduce, reuse recycle
  201. Don’t use dishwasher unless full
  202. Take care of your body
  203. Let nature teach you
  204. Never accept a plastic bag
  205. Pull invasive weeds – especially bittersweet
  206. Join / contact organic association
  207. Buy at thrift shop
  208. Meditate
  209. Use re-usable lunch bags
  210. Plant bamboo
  211. Admit you have more than enough stuff
  212. Use re-usable water bottles
  213. Give up gym / exercise outdoors
  214. Switch to EE light bulbs
  215. Ride GATRA and the “T”
  216. Use air conditioners sparingly
  217. Buy used…

 Video of the event

PACTV filmed the proceedings, youtube:

 Speakers at the event

Roger Payne, Whale Biologist:; and founder of the Ocean Alliance:

Peter Alden, Naturalist:

Rob Garrity, Director of the Massachusetts Climate Action Network,

Sherrida Woodley – Naturalist, Author:

Betty Anderson – Founder of Manomet Bird Observatory: ; Honorary director of Mass Audubon:; Chair of Natural Heritage Endangered Species advisory committee, founding president of Massachusetts Wildlands Trust.

See also…

Sustainable Duxbury: http://www.sustainaUpload/

Video of the event:

Published in: on May 31, 2012 at 1:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Duxbury Election 2009 – Change, but for the better?

Today I learned that slogans can be powerful – and empty.

Local politics is a strange animal.   Today, about 3000 people voted in Duxbury and the 12-year incumbent Selectman was defeated by a 24 vote margin.  Beyond the obvious fact that individual votes do really count at the local level,  lies a more subtle reality that a motivated, but narrow interest group can have a major impact.

So now in 2009, Duxbury will deal with the consequences of a newly galvanized constituency “barging in” on what was heretofore a cozy and collegial political process.  It seems that a majority formed around the idea that this comfortable and stable government wasn’t getting the job done to their satisfaction.  It’s truly unfortunate that Duxbury’s current longest-serving elected offical had to suffer the brunt of the voter’s angst.

“It’s time for a change” was the slogan that carried the day.  We all know the undeniable  truth – that change happens from within.   When an outside force is injected, does that mean change is really happening from within?

Change is traumatic.  …Alas, trauma is not conducive to constructive growth.

Let’s hope that the newest member of Duxbury’s Board of Selectmen can play on the team and execute a constructive way forward for our town in this difficult time.  With only three selectmen at the helm, every move made reverberates strongly.

Published in: on March 29, 2009 at 5:19 am  Leave a Comment