2020 Year in Review: Memorable Events


I started a tradition back in 1996 of making a list of the most memorable events of the year.  I always say that memorable does not mean it is necessarily positive, and this year more than most will include some negative experiences.  That first list in 1996 had exactly twenty items, so I’ve made the list a top twenty every year since.

Here is my 25th annual list.

When considering 2020, there are three memorable things that for good or for ill (mostly ill) affected just about everyone.

  • The COVID-19 Pandemic hit the United States in March and life was turned upside down. Apparently the monkey paw’s finger curled when it heard me say that I wished I didn’t have such a long commute and could spend more time with my kids. We’ve all been home together every day since St. Patrick’s Day. Family togetherness has its plusses and minuses but we will surely always remember this time. And working from home is kind of boring, but I did get to make use of my back porch as an outdoor office for five months after neglecting it for most of the 13 years we’ve lived here. Of course, I am very grateful that we have a home, my wife and I are still employed, and no one we know has succumbed to COVID. We are extremely privileged.
  • 2020 also saw an uprising in the Black Lives Matter movement that’s been developing since at least 2013, after the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers. The mass protests touched every corner of the country and the world, even our neighborhood, and we were gratefully to see so many people out in support. It feels like something changed for the better this year in America’s reckoning racial inequality and violence, although there is still significant progress to be made.
  • Finally, there were the 2020 Elections. The defeat of Donald Trump, who never should’ve been president in the first place and should’ve been removed from office long ago, was a positive outcome. As unenthused as I am with Joe Biden as president, at least we have a chance to steer the country away from full-on fascism. Early in the year, I actually attended a presidential candidate rally for the first time when I saw Bernie Sanders by happenstance on Boston Common (back when standing in crowds of people wasn’t scary!). Through the year I’ve been trying to do my part to support progressive candidates and causes throughout the country, including the upcoming Georgia Senate runoff elections. I also got to vote in Fenway Park!

With that said, here are 17 more memorable things about 2020.

  • Boston By Foot – I spent most of the first two months of this year researching and writing a walking tour of Boston Common that I hoped to debut this year about indigenous people and early European settlers on the Shawmut Peninsula prior to 1630. That tour will hopefully go out in 2021. Instead of walking tours, this year I did presentations online, including a 10-year anniversary retrospective of our trip to Amsterdam, some storytelling events, and a live presentation from Franklin Park.
  • Myrtle Beach – On February break, we traveled to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Visiting a seaside town in the offseason was an odd preview of the empty streets and eerie silences that would become familiar once the pandemic hit the next month. But we also got to go go-karting, tour the beautiful Brookgreen Gardens in the rain, see sharks and jellyfish up close at Ripley’s Aquarium, and play the links at the home of the Professional Min-Golf Masters tournament.
  • Games, games, games – For the past five years or so, I’ve joined some fellow Boston By Foot guides for team trivia at bars in Boston once a month. Early in the pandemic, we tried virtual trivia through Zoom instead, and without even discussing it began playing weekly. Sometimes we even won! We also kept in touch with some college friends in Virgina by playing Jackbox games online. At home, my daughter made it a goal early in the pandemic to play every board game we own. I think we did it, maybe?
  • Another one of Kay’s accomplishments while we were home a lot this spring, was learning how to ride a bike and becoming quite adept at it!
  • Being home meant spending a lot more time in our back yard which was always an underappreciated luxury in the city. We even got a hammock, a pool, and occasionally a homemade slip & slide.
  • Father’s Day was warmly celebrated with cards, a walk in the woods, and turkeys.
  • Crane Beach – I took Kay, our beach-loving child, on three visits to Crane Beach in Ipswich. The first visit in July was really the first time we did anything that felt normal in this pandemic year and the stress of daily life melted away for a few hours. The other visits were cooler and gray, but we still had fun building in the sand and jumping in the waves.
  • 4th of July – Sometime in mid-May, people in our neighborhood began launching fireworks on a nightly basis. We knew that this would be a big year for homemade artisanal firework displays on Independence Day and there’s something to be said about being able to watch from the porch rather than schlepping to the Esplanade. The kids and I also went to a drive-in movie for the first time.
  • Baseball – I didn’t pay much attention to Major League Baseball’s shortened season (and I’m going to pretend it wasn’t a real season so I don’t have to acknowledge the Dodgers as World Series Champions). The biggest heartbreak in our household this spring was the cancellation of the youth baseball season. Not only do the kids love parenting baseball, but hanging out with the other parents during games is a big part of my annual social activity. During the summer, Peter was able to play games with two teams, and then in the fall played in a tournament and on a Fall Ball team on a full-sized diamond. He even hit his first home run! Meanwhile, Kay got to have some practices and pick-up games to scratch the baseball itch.
  • Susan’s father has been ill most of the year and had major surgery in July. We had to adjust to Susan being away for two weeks, and then she surprised us by coming home early. On the sweet side of things, Peter has showed his support for his grandfather by talking with him about Florida Gators sports.
  • The absolute highlight of our year was our visit to Grand Teton and Yellowstone. I made all the reservations for an exciting expedition in January and February, and then worried for six months about whether we should actually go. Luckily everything worked out and we spent a week in the great outdoors of nature’s wonderland! I published seven blog posts with a travelogue of our adventures, starting here: https://othemts.wordpress.com/2020/09/10/day-1-salt-lake-city-to-grand-teton-national-park/
  • Kay embraced Halloween with great enthusiasm this year including delivering treats to her friends at the beginning of October, making thematic art, carving pumpkins, and dressing as Darth Kayder with a dark chicken apprentice. We also enjoyed seeing the Zoo Lights at Franklin Park Zoo.
  • Peter spent his last day as a 12-year-old in the emergency room as he broke his clavicle after a fall while playing flag football with his friends in the first snowfall of the season. He was impressively resilient in dealing with a painful and inconvenient injury to begin his teenage years.
  • Plymouth – Typically, 3rd grade classes visit Plymouth, MA on a field trip but Kay only got a virtual version. So on Veteran’s Day we met up with a classmate and visited Plimoth Patuxet and the Mayflower II, coincidentally on the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower Compact.
  • Kay celebrated a socially-distanced 9th birthday party in our backyard with a Star Wars theme, complete with decorated cupcakes and lightsaber battles.
  • The first big snow fall of the year lead to some great sledding for Kay and her friends.
  • Finally, we embraced Christmas whole-heartedly by getting a gorgeous tree, three different advent calendars, and opening gifts galore. We also enjoyed meeting up with Kay’s buddy again for Christmas by Candlelight at Old Sturbridge Village.

Previously:

Fourteen Candles


My blog, paraphrasing Samantha Baker from the John Hughes movie Sixteen Candles, to me:

“You fucking forgot my birthday!”

It’s true. This blog turned 14 on December 4, 2020. And I completely failed to commemorate in the usual style. Sorry, blog.

I don’t have much to say in reflection other than to marvel that 14 years is a long time for me to consistently do anything. I think the only things that surpass me are working on this blog are 1) my marriage to Susan (15 years), and 2) my employment at the same library, albeit not in the same job (20 years).

So congratulations Panorama of the Mountains for being a consistent part of my life for an extraordinary time!

Previously:

Coming Soon: Classic Movie Project, Part II


Last year, and the beginning of this year, I gave myself the project of watching 93 highly-regarded films that I had never seen before. I had so much fun that like many a great movie, I’m making a sequel.  This time I will be watching a mix of movies I’ve seen and never seen before, but I haven’t reviewed any of the movies on this blog before.

I will be working off the following two lists of “greatest movies of all-time.”

Between the two lists, I have 109 movies to watch and review, so this may take a while.  So grab a bucket of popcorn and meet me at the movies!

UPDATE ON 9/28/2020: I’m adding an additional list to work off of for this project:

Now I’m up to 146 movies to watch and review!

25 Years Ago Today: I Graduate From College


On May 14, 1995, I completed four years of undergraduate education at the College of William & Mary in Virginia (that is its official name).  In many ways, it feels like yesterday as the years since I went to college have gone by much faster than the years leading up to college.  And yet, I also feel that I have changed quite a bit in the intervening years.

Me with W&M icon Ernestine Jackson.

I was so anxious then but more confident in myself now.  Conversely, I was more social then but much more comfortable spending time alone now.  Even when it comes to learning, I look back and am appalled at how slapdash I was in studying and research. And yet I learned things at the time that I could expound upon at length, that I can’t remember anything about now. Oh, and that whole thing about getting more conservative as you get older? Not true.  I’ve moved much farther to the Left as I’ve become increasingly cognizant of the woes of the world.

A very wet but memorable procession across campus.

Anyhow, here is what I remember about that Sunday (which was also Mother’s Day) when I officially became a college graduate:

  • It rained.  On the traditional walk across campus from the William & Mary’s historic Wren Building to the William & Mary Hall arena, the heavens unleashed a deluge of biblical proportions.  Graduation gowns provide absolutely no protection from the rain.
  • We were warned about increased security because of our commencement speaker (see below), but no one really checked us at all.
  • Former President George Bush spoke.  I’ve always been grateful that he kept his remarks short, not least because it was uncomfortable sitting in damp robes.  He mentioned “a kinder, gentler nation” and “a thousand points of light,” castigated the NRA (to great cheers, even in Virginia), and told a joke about a long commencement speech at Yale. In this yarn the speaker expounded on a word starting with each letter in YALE for 30 minutes each.  The punchline is a student praying to “thank God I didn’t go to The College of William & Mary in Virginia).
  • After the main ceremony, we went to the diploma ceremonies hosted by each discipline. I double-majored, and chose to receive my diploma at the English department ceremony rather than History (I can’t remember why, but it was a good choice, because my friend who went to History said they bungled the ceremony).
  • My mother hosted a reception for friends and families.  My sister had too much punch and introduced herself as my brother.

And that’s about all I can remember about that day. I was a college graduate.  Four months later I started working as an historical interpreter at Colonial Williamsburg. Three years later I moved to Boston.  Five years later I started working in a library.  Nine years later I received a master’s degree in Library and Information Science.  Ten years later I got married.  Twelve years later I became a Dad.  Sixteen years later I had two kids.  And now, here we are twenty-five years later!

Related Posts:

2019 Year in Review: Memorable Events


I started a tradition back in 1996 of making a list of the most memorable events of the year.  My definition of memorable can include both the positive and the negative, but generally it’s the good things that make the list.  That first list in 1996 had exactly twenty items, so I’ve made the list a top twenty every year since.

Here is my 24th annual list.

February 18-24: Walt Disney World – We returned to the Most Magical Place on Earth, spending a day at each of the four parks.

March 2: Met up with my long time internet friend Jim for the first time in person.  We drank a lot.

March 15-18: St. Patrick’s Day in New York – I joined my mom for a walking tour of Irish New York, a bit of the parade, and attend a traditional Irish seisiún in the Bronx.

April 3: Slipped out of work to go bowling with some co-workers.

April 5-6: Attended the New England Archivists spring meeting in the lovely town of Burlington, Vermont.  It snowed.

April 15: Patriots Day – watched people playing baseball and running down the street.

April 16-17: Cooperstown – a short pilgrimage with Peter.

April-July: Youth Baseball – Kay played her first season of coach-pitch baseball and her team won their division! Meanwhile, Peter played on his spring league team, the Mayor’s Cup team, and a new summer league team!

May 4: Wake Up the Earth – we marched in the parade until the Earth woke up.

June-July: Women’s World Cup – another entertaining tournament (won by the US!)

June 14: 5th Grade Moving On Ceremony – Peter completed elementary school and moved on to middle school.

July 4-6: Independence Day in New York – we visited my mother for the holiday, saw the fireworks, and counted many butts at the Metropolitan Museum.

August 24-26: Visit to Nana – I took the kids back to see my mother and we attended a Mets game (and saw a Polar Bear homer), visited the American Museum of Natural History, and sailed boats in Central Park.

August 28-31: Camping at Wolfe’s Neck – another outing to our favorite oceanside campground (with goats) in Freeport, Maine

September 29: Cataan with Craig at Turtle Swamp – good game, good beer, good friends.

October 14: Pumpkin Picking – took the kids to get some gourds at Ward’s Berry Farm.

October 27-28: CEDWARC Workshop – I took a day trip to Washington to learn about web archiving.  As an added bonus, I got in a nice walk to Lincoln Memorial and across the Potomac.

November: Kids’ birthday parties – Peter celebrated by racing go-karts with his friends.  Kay hunted horocruxes and fought Voldemort the pinata at a Harry Potter-themed party.

November 24: Learn to Curl – I got to experience the joy of sliding a big stone across the ice and vigorous sweeping.

Previously:

2019 Year in Review: Favorite Books


Here’s my annual list of my ten favorite books read in the year.  As always, this is merely the best books I read this year and not necessarily books published in 2018  For previous years see 2018, 20172016201520142013201220112010200920082007 and 2006. You may also want to check out My Favorite Books of All Time or see Every Book I’ve Ever Read cataloged in Library Thing.

  • The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert Caro
  • American Passage: The History of Ellis Island by Vincent Cannato
  • Dylan Goes Electric!: Newport, Seeger, Dylan, and the Night That Split the Sixties by Elijah Wald
  • Fault Lines : A History of the United States Since 1974 by Kevin Kruse
  • The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle by Lillian Faderman
  • Kindred by Octavia Butler
  • One Giant Leap: The Untold Story of How We Flew to the Moon by Charles Fishman
  • Solar Bones by Mike McCormack
  • Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory by Raphael Bob-Waksberg
  • We Gon’ Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation by Jeff Chang

Books Read in 2019

The books are rated on a scale from 1 to 5 stars with links to summary reviews. (A) is for audiobook.

Here’s a thumbnail of what the ratings mean:

  • 5 stars – all-time classic (I’m very stingy with these)
  • 4 stars – a particularly interesting, well-written, or important book
  • 3 stars – a good book from start to finish
  • 2 stars – not a good book on the whole but has some good parts
  • 1 star or less – basically a bad book with no redeeming values

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

  • The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. Vol. 11, Call Your Squirrelfriend
  • Ms. Marvel. Vol. 7, Damage Per Second
  • Ms. Marvel. Vol. 8, Mecca
  • Ms. Marvel. Vol. 9, Teenage Wasteland
  • Ms. Marvel Vol. 10: Time and Again
  • Star Wars: The Weapon of a Jedi by Jason Fry (A) – ***1/2
  • The Second Amendment: A Biography by Michael Waldman (A) – ****
  • Star Wars Vol. 1: Skywalker Strikes –
  • Star Wars Vol. 2: Showdown on the Smuggler’s Moon –
  • Star Wars Vol. 3: Rebel Jail –
  • Star Wars Vol. 4: Last Flight of the Harbinger –
  • Star Wars Vol. 5: Yoda’s Secret War –
  • Star Wars Vol. 6: Out Among the Stars –
  • Star Wars Vol. 7: The Ashes of Jedha

 

Baker’s Dozen (13 Years of Panorama of the Mountains)


Hey, did you like how this blog turned into a Movie Review blog?  Thirteen years ago, I decided to start a blog but couldn’t figure out a topic to focus on.  Hence the name “Panorama.”

3,456 posts later and this blog still has no focus.  I’ve gone through trends where I posted a lot about librarianship, Catholic saints, links of the day, photographs, routine baseball updates, so very many book reviews, so many memes, beer, travelogues, so many podcasts, favorite albums of all time, favorite books of all time, favorite songs by year, my efforts to watch more soccer, A to Z Challenges, biking and transit issues, public school activism, and some general navel gazing.

I’m not sure if this blog is ever going to have a point, but I do enjoy taking the time to write in it whatever the topic that comes to mind. I’ve never been sure who, if anyone, is really reading this blog.  There are of course viewership states from WordPress, and sometimes I find my blog mentioned in odd places, such as a citation for a Wikepedia article (which is weird!).  But if you’re out there and reading this and at any time found Panorama of the Mountains interesting or helpful, I thank you!

13 years down, and it looks like I will keep blogging until I run out of things to write about.

Previously:

46


46 years ago yesterday, President Richard Nixon delivered what became known as his “I am not a crook” speech.  This went down as a key moment in the downfall of his presidency, and Nixon would resign less than 9 months later.

There are a couple of things that fascinates me about this historical event.  One, it took place at Walt Disney World, specifically the Contemporary Resort where the monorail passes through, which strikes me as a strange place for a president to deny his crimes.  Two, on a more personal level, I was born the next day so the headlines of the newspapers on the day I was born were all about the “I am not a crook” speech.

Here’s a couple of examples from New York Newsday and the New York Times:

 

After looking back to a highly-relevant past, I also look towards the future.  I have high hopes for 46 in more ways than one.

As always, happy birthday to my November 18th fam: Mickey Mouse, Steven Moffat, David Ortiz, and Chloë Sevigny!

Related Posts:

2018 Year in Review: Memorable Events


I started a tradition back in 1996 of making a list of the most memorable events of the year.  My definition of memorable can include both the positive and the negative, but generally it’s the good things that make the list.  That first list in 1996 had exactly twenty items, so I’ve made the list a top twenty every year since.

Here is my 23rd annual list.

  1. December 30 2017 – January 1, 2018 – New Year in Vermont

Technically, this partially occurred last year, but since I wrote last year’s list before it happened it didn’t make that list.  Anyhow, we finished out 2017/began 2018 with family and friends in Vermont which involved snow tubing, Anomia, Cataan, and a lot of Kathleens.

2. March 1 – New couch

We got a new couch.  It folds out into a bed.  It’s really fancy. We’re not used to fancy furniture.

3. March-September – Fantasy baseball

My son really wanted to play fantasy baseball so we put together a laid-back league of adults and children and had fun playing all season.  (my team finished third).

4. March 23 – NYBG Orchid Show

Flowers, flowers everywhere, even if it’s chilly outside.

5. March 23 – “Weird Al” concert

I saw “Weird Al” Yankovic in concert for the first time at the Apollo Theatre, of all places.  Also dined with good friends at Sylvia’s Restaurant.

6. Apri1 1-30 – I watched a ton of documentary films for the Blogging A-to-Z Challenge

7. April 15-20 – Great Wolf Lodge and North Carolina

We had a lovely spring break at the Williamsburg water park and then visiting family in North Carolina.

8. April-July – Youth Baseball

Once again my children had an exciting baseball season, my daughter in teeball, and my son at kid-pitch Junior level.  He even participated in the Mayor’s Cup Tournament!

9. June 10 – Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon

This fundraising ride is always a highlight.

10. June 17 – Father’s Day

As a whale of a dad, we celebrated the special day on the Stellwagen Bank on a whale watching journey.  We even saw a baby whale, bro!

11. June 28 – July 1 – Wolfe’s Neck Campground

A lovely weekend camping on the Maine coast with the added bonus of a goat hike!

12. July 21 – Janelle Monáe

We saw 2018’s top artist perform live and it was amazing.

13. August 14-18 – SAA Annual Meeting

I attended the Society of American Archivists annual meeting and even presented at the Archive-It Partner Meeting. When not learning about Archives, I got to enjoy some time in Washington, DC, and in the evenings I went to a DC United game and a Nationals game.

14. August 28 – September 1 – Chicago

Our summer vacation to Chicago included museums, parks, art, architecture, a Cubs game, a White Sox game and time spent with some fun cousins.

15. September 4 & November 6 – Primary Election and General Election

This was an important election year and I was pleased that Massachusetts candidates Ayanna Pressley, Rachael Rollins, Nika Elugardo, and Jon Santiago all won challenging primaries and eventually the general elections as well as the passage of Yes on 3 to protect equality for transgender people.  Not every election went as I liked, but significant steps forwards were made.

16. October  – The Red Sox win the World Series

It was another exciting Red Sox season, and we attended several Red Sox games.  Oddly, they lost a number of them including an 8-0 loss to the Mets in September (who I secretly cheered for while my children elbowed). But the Red Sox won when it counted, including the ALCS Game on October 14 that I attended with my son, and eventually the World Series.  We celebrated at the Red Sox Victory Parade on Halloween

17. October 31 – Halloween Trick or Treat

Recently on Halloween, I’ve stayed home to hand out candy, so I had the delight of joining my children – or should I say Bigfoot and a Ghost Chicken – as they collected loot in our neighborhood.

18. November 24 – Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

I took my family on their first visit to these national monuments which included visiting Lady Liberty’s crown and finding the name of my great-grandmother on the Wall of Honor.

19. November 30 – December 2 – Birthday Celebration in New Hampshire

I turned 45 this year, but my kids – also November babies – had bigger parties.  So we celebrated late by staying in a cabin in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.  We enjoyed snow-shoeing and riding the Santaland Express.

20. Following up on last year, I had an ongoing activity that I can’t speak of online, but came to a joyous resolution this year.

Previously:

2018 Year in Review: Favorite Books


Here’s my annual list of my ten favorite books read in the year.  As always, this is merely the best books I read this year and not necessarily books published in 2018  For previous years see 20172016201520142013201220112010200920082007 and 2006. You may also want to check out My Favorite Books of All Time or see Every Book I’ve Ever Read cataloged in Library Thing.

In alphabetical order:

Books Read in 2018

The books are rated on a scale from 1 to 5 stars with links to summary reviews. (A) is for audiobook.

Here’s a thumbnail of what the ratings mean:

  • 5 stars – all-time classic (I’m very stingy with these)
  • 4 stars – a particularly interesting, well-written, or important book
  • 3 stars – a good book from start to finish
  • 2 stars – not a good book on the whole but has some good parts
  • 1 star or less – basically a bad book with no redeeming values

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October 1918

November

December