Photopost: Old Sturbridge Village

To celebrate the beautiful weather our autumnal holiday, I wanted to get out of the city, get the kids outdoors, and enjoy some foliage. We go to do all three with a visit to Old Sturbridge Village, where we also witnessed an ox plowing competition, rode on a stagecoach, watched a musketry demonstration, and was amazed by a potter at at work at the wheel, among other things.

Here are some highlights of a most photogenic day.


Massachusetts 351

I’ve lived in Massachusetts for nearly 19 years (and in a bordering state for 15 years when I was younger), but despite it being a small state I feel that I have not seen much of Massachusetts.  I am the stereotype of the Boston urbanite who rarely ventures outside the confines of the Rt. 128 beltway and certainly never go Westa Wistah.

There are 351 cities and towns in the Bay State and with a handy list on Wikipedia, I was able to determine how many of them I’ve visited.  I left out any place I merely passed through – whether in a car, bus, train, or bike – and focus on the places I have a concrete memory of visiting.

In alphabetical order, here’s the list:

New Bedford
North Andover
North Reading
Oak Bluffs
West Tisbury

So there we go, 84 Massachusetts’ cities and towns, about a quarter of the total of 351.  What I’m going to do is try to make an effort to visit all 351 municipalities, take a picture of myself by a local landmark, and post it here.  I don’t know how long this will take (and I’m not even sure how one gets to Gosnold, the smallest community in Massachusetts), but I’ll do my best.

Edit on 1/11/2016: Thinking of some places I’ve been on outdoor adventures in western Massachusetts and realizing I can add a few more municipalities to the list.

Charlemont (Mohawk Trail State Forest)
Lenox (Tanglewood Music Center)
Mt. Washington (Bash Bish Falls)

There are probably others that I will add if I remember them, but this brings the list to 87!

Do you live in Massachusetts?  Tell me about your city or town? What local place should I not miss when I come to visit?

Book Review: Mysterious New England by Austin N. Stevens

Author: Austin N. Stevens
Title:Mysterious New England
Publication Info: Dublin, NH: Yankee Incorporated, 1971

On a visit to Brattleboro this summer I was reminded of the story “Wings Over Brattleboro” from this compilation of stories from Yankee Magazine about the creepy, weird, and unusual in New England.  I remember enjoying these stories as a preteen – although I probably never read the book end to end – so I decided to check it out for some spooky October reading. I was a bit disappointed, as many of the stories are written in the bland, straightforward prose of mid-century magazine writers that don’t do justice to their subject.  But many stories stick out, some I remember from decades ago, and some are new delights.  These include the wandering Old Leather Man,  some eerie ghost tales, Micah Rood’s blood-stained apples, the loss of the Willey Family to a landslide that spared their house,  lots of unusual carvings and structures that predate European colonialism, ghost towns, the Borden family murders, and  of course, a violent bird war over Brattleboro.

Rating: **1/2

Book Review: Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving

Author: John Irving
TitleLast Night in Twisted River
Narrator: Arthur Morey
Publication Info: Random House Audio (2009)
Previously read by the same author:

Another sprawling, epic novel by John Irving.  I haven’t read one in a long time.  This one tells the story of Dominic, the cook at a logging camp, and his son Daniel, who grows up to be an author.  Irving frequently refers to them as the Cook and the Writer.  After an accidental murder at the camp, the father and son are forced to flee and the novel follows them throughout their lives from Boston’s North End to Iowa City to Brattleboro, VT and finally to Toronto.  All through this time they keep in touch with the gruff logger Ketchum, who looks out for their pursuer. Along the way there are common Irving themes of coming of age, sexuality, unhappy relationships, and unpleasant people. Daniel’s life as an author strongly parallels Irvings, and Irving seems to be trolling his readers to make one think that this is autobiographical.  But there’s also a lot of insight into creativity and the writing process as well.  Despite being the putative central character, Daniel isn’t particularly interesting or well-defined (perhaps purposefully).  Dominic and Ketchum and various minor characters  provide a number of entertaining scenes and tangents.  Overall this is an enjoyable novel, but like many of Irving’s works could deal with some heavy pruning and more of a sense of purpose.
Rating: ***

Beer Review: Harpoon Grateful Harvest Ale

Beer: Grateful Harvest Ale
Brewer: Harpoon Brewery
Source:  12 oz. bottle
Rating: ** (6.0 of 10)
Comments: This unique beer pours out amber in color with a foamy head.  The cranberry is definitely there in the aroma and flavor.  The taste is a bit week, with unfortunate overly sweet undertones, but the aftertaste is good.  For a seasonal beer with a unique New England twist, it’s worth trying, but overall this is a so-so beer.

Note: Grateful Harvest benefits Harpoon Helps the philanthropic wing of Harpoon Brewery which supports New England Charities like The Greater Boston Food Bank.  Even if you’re not interested in the beer consider making a donation to GBFB or your local food bank.


Beer Review: Jack’s Abby Smoke & Dagger

Beer: Smoke & Dagger
Brewer: Jack’s Abby Brewing, Llc
Source:  Cask
Rating: *** (7.8 of 10)
Comments: The beer has a dark stout color with a thin, cream-colored head.  The smoke is readily apparent with a sniff or a sip, balanced with a sweet vanilla aroma, chocolate malts and earthy burnt aftertaste.  It’s like a peat fire in a glass.  This beer warms the soul.


Beer Review: Long Trail Imperial Pumpkin Ale

Beer: Imperial Pumpkin Ale
Brewer: Long Trail Brewing Co.
Source:  22 oz bottle
Rating: *** (7.5 of 10)
Comments: Part of the Brush & Barrel series, this beer is an orange-brown and frothy.  The sweet and spicy are well-balanced in the aroma and flavor and there’s a fruity pumpkiness.  Overall this a tasty beer with an alcoholic kick.   Forget what I said before, this is the best pumpkin beer I’ve had this year.


Beer Review: Wolaver’s Pumpkin Ale

Beer: Wolaver’s Pumpkin Ale
Brewer: Otter Creek Brewing Co.
Source: 12 oz bottle
Rating:  ***(7.4 of 10)
Comments: It’s the time of year for pumpkin beer, and this one did not disappoint.  The beer is a deep orange with a thin head and a spicy aroma with sweet hints of cinnamon.  The beer is refreshing and not over the top with pumpkin spice flavors.  Generous lacing lines the glass after quaff.  One of the best pumpkin beers I’ve had this year.

Beer Review: Pretty Things Field Mouse’s Farewell

BeerField Mouse’s Farewell 
BrewerPretty Things Beer and Ale Project
Source: Draft in a tulip glass
Rating: *** (7 of 10)
Comments: This feels like a fancy beer with a golden orange glow and a thin head.  The aroma was sweet and spicy with some fruit, perhaps apricots?  The taste is dominated by bitter hops with a clean citrus finish.  It’s apparent from the complex flavors that this is a well-crafted beer, although I found it too bitter for my taste.

Beer Review: Attic & Eaves Toasted Brown Ale

Beer: Attic & Eaves Toasted Brown Ale
Brewer: Slumbrew (Somerville Brewing Company)
Source: Draught (in tulip glass)
Rating: **** (8.1 of 10)
Comments:  Our local Boston-area breweries continue to duke it out for a place in my beer-loving heart, and Slumbrew packs a wallop with their Autumn offering (and not just due to the 7.5% ABV).  This beer is a dark brown with a thin tan head.  The aromas and flavors are like a chocolate liqueur with burnt, nutty flavors.  The bitterness hits the tongue for a moment but is cleared away for a crisp finish.  This is a rich, tasty beer and I’ll have to try it again as the leaves begin to turn.

Beer Review: Blue Hills Brewery King’s Kolsch

Beer: King’s Kolsch
BrewerBlue Hills Brewery
Source: 22 oz bottle
Rating: ** (6.6 of 10)
Comments: This mysterious beer (can’t find any evidence of it on the ‘net) is golden and bubbly with a thick head.  True to its style, I find it has a musty aroma with a real earthy flavor with hints of chocolate.   The aftertaste is a bit bitter but it’s well-balanced.  Another good brew from some Boston-area beermakers.

For an alternate take here’s a review from the Boston Globe.

Beer Review: Pretty Things/Yeastie Boys Our Turn, Your Turn

Beer:  Our Turn, Your Turn
Brewer:  Pretty Things / Yeastie Boys collaboration
Source: 22 oz bottle
Rating:  *** (7.5 of 10)
Comments:  Our Turn, Your Turn and as the world turns, a collaboration of the Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project of Somerville, MA and the Yeastie Boys of New Zealand.  The beer is a hazy, straw color with lots of fizz.  Aromas and flavors seem to be heavily influenced by the Linden flower, a type of tea that gives the beer strong earthy and floral accents.  The hoppiness packs a wallop, and I generally don’t like the bitterness of hoppy beers, but this one is good enough to make an exception.  All in all, an imaginative and exceptional beer.

Beer Review: Beer Works Watermelon Ale

Beer: Watermelon Ale

Brewer: Beer Works

Source: 12 oz. bottle

Rating: ** ( 6.4 of 10)

Comments: This is clearly a good summer drink, if not clearly a great beer.  The beer is a thin, straw color, inconsistent in tone and very sparkly.  The aroma is defined by the watermelon scent which is also the clear flavor upon first sip.  The flavor evaporates leaving a bland, watery mouthfeel. The head also disappears quickly.  Mind you this is not necessarily a bad thing as many fruit beers can be overly sweet and sticky.  This watermelon ale is clean and refreshing and good for a hot summer’s day.  Serve with a slice of watermelon.

US Open Cup Soccer Comes to Boston

On Wednesday June 12th, the local soccer club the New England Revolution played a game on Boston soil for (I believe) the first time. The match saw the Revs face the New York Red Bulls in the Fourth Round of the US Open Cup.  If you’re not familiar with the US Open Cup, it is a knock-out tournament open to soccer teams from amateur levels to the lower professional divisions and on up to Major League Soccer similar to the FA Cup in England and the Copa del Rey in Spain.  This is the 100th year of competition for the US Open Cup which has a rich if overlooked history.

MLS teams like to schedule US Open Cup home games in alternate venues to allow a more intimate setting in front of fans who may not usually make it to their league games.  The Revolution wisely scheduled this match at Harvard University’s Soldiers Field Socceer Field.  Most Revolution games are played at Gillette Stadium, designed for NFL football for their roommates the New England Patriots, and located in the podunk town of Foxborough* about 30 miles southwest of Boston.  Both the field and cavernous stands of Gillette are ill-suited to soccer.  Harvard’s field veers to far in the opposite direction of being too intimate with seats for only 2,500 fans, but it is a good first step for the ultimate goal of having a professional men’s soccer team call Boston home.

A rainbow crossed the sky before the game and continued to reappear in the first half with the two ends of the bow appearing to reach from goal to goal.  The Revolution’s die-hard supporters groups marched in before the game and filled up a grassy berm at one of the goal ends where the lead the fans with rhythmic chants and flag waving.  Even some Red Bulls supporters came up to occupy the opposing end of the field.  All of this created a wonderful atmosphere for the enthusiastic fan’s in attendance, and most importantly the Revolution won an exciting game 4-2.  They advance to the quarterfinals of the US Open Cup versus DC United, which will be played Maryland on June 26th.  It was great fun riding the MBTA #66 bus home after the game on a bus full of happy Revs fan.  The team is now 1-0 on Boston soil.  Let’s hope we can do this all again.

Some more thoughts on the game from New England Soccer Today.

* Sorry to insult Foxborough, which I’m sure is a lovely town, but the stadium itself is poorly located with no access by public transportation and even auto access is along one road (US 1) that is several miles drive to the nearest interstate.  The NFL has wealthy season ticket holders, corporate interests, and lucrative television deals so they can afford to pretend it is still the 1960’s/70’s and turn their backs on the cities.  Professional soccer (like baseball, hockey, and basketball) needs to tie themselves with the resurgence and growth of the urban core as amply demonstrated by the successful soccer specific stadiums in Portland, Vancouver, Montreal,  Kansas City, and even Houston.  Seattle is even able to make it’s urban NFL stadium a big draw for soccer.  The Revolution or a new team in one of the lower divisions would be wise to settle into Boston and take advantage of an untapped market of college students, young professionals, and immigrant communities with time and money to spend.


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Beer Review: Magic Hat Pistil

Beer: Pistil Dandelion Ale
Brewer: Magic Hat Brewing Company
Source: 12 oz. bottle
Rating:  *** (7.2 of 10)
Comments: This spring beer is all about flowers and fruit.  It’s a golden, bubbly beer with a musty, wheaty, and citrus aroma.  The flavor is crisp and fruity with hints of spice and flora.  The head dissipates quickly but leaves behind nice lacing.

Beer Review: Samuel Adams New Albion Ale

Beer: Samuel Adams New Albion Ale
Brewer: Boston Beer Company
Source: 12 oz. bottle
Rating: **** (8.0 of 10)
Comments: This beer is a recreation of one of the earliest craft beers brewed 40 years ago by Jack McAuliffe whose New Albion brewery had to close up shop in 1982.  It’s a bright golden beer with a thick head and grassy/citrus aroma.  The flavor is sharp with an orange and hints of malt sweetness. The head thins out quickly but leaves some nice lacing on the glass.  This is an easy beer to drink and I hope it sticks around this time.

New England Archivists Fall 2010 Meeting

Yesterday, I attended the New England Archivists (NEA) Fall 2010 Meeting at Keene State College in Keene, NH.  This was the second meeting I attended having previously attended the Spring 2010 Meeting at U-Mass Amherst.

Some general notes to begin with:

  • I enjoyed driving through rural parts of Massachusetts and New Hampshire I’ve never seen as well as the charming town of Keene and the Keene State College.  On a crisp autumn day it felt nice to be surrounded by mountains and colorful foliage.
  • On the down side, I wasn’t feeling my best – tired, a bit feverish and a rattling cough in my chest.  Instead of networking I kept a respectful distance from my fellow conferees.
  • For the first time I tried live-tweeting at a conference.  I found it difficult to pay attention to the presenters, balance my laptop & compose an intelligent tweet at the same time so I didn’t contribute much.  On the plus side, there are many tweets from others that highlighted the very things I found important at the meeting.  You the hash tag for the meeting was #NEAFall2010 and I have a saved search that you may or may not be able to read.  I’m drawing heavily on other people’s’ tweets for my notes below for which I am greatly appreciative..

Keynote Address:

Richard Sweeney, University Librarian, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark, NJ

Sweeney spoke about “Digital Natives in the Archives” on how archives can engage the Millennial Generation. He started by discussing the Long Now Foundation and the 10,000-year library and how each generation will need to take part in preserving the past for future research.  Much of the address was true and false questions about demographics regarding the Millennials.  While interesting I always find such generalizations to be more settling then useful (after all my generation is nothing but mistrustful, ironically detached slackers). I actually found much of the descriptions of Millennials to be true about myself at least until he got to mobile devices and text messaging (maybe I’m a premillennial?).  For a conclusion, Sweeney showed one possible way to engage Millennials in the archives by making photos, yearbooks, etc available on the web for tagging and for additional contributions and information to be added.  It was especially interesting when a Microsoft Surface was involved although that is something I expect that most archives will not have in the budget for some time.  Sweeney’s slide show is available on his website

Morning Concurrent Session – Email Archiving:

  • William Dow, CRM, Deputy City Clerk of Keene, Keene, NH
  • Virginia Hunt, Associate University Archivist for Collection Development, Harvard University Archives
  • Wendy Marcus Gogel, Manager of Digital Content and Projects in the Harvard University Library Office for Information Systems
  • Tamar Granovsky, Head Archivist, Lincoln Laboratory, M.I.T., Lexington, MA

Every archivist knows that preserving email records is important, but a clear method of doing so has yet to be determined.  Three methods serving the interests of the institutions represented were presented here.  Bill Dow talked about how our host city of Keene archives email in the cloud using Google Postini.  Tamar Granovksy and M.I.T. are exploring using Symantec Enterprise Vault.  Ginny Hunt & Wendy Gogel spoke about the Electronic Archiving Service pilot program now underway at Harvard.  A good point was made about how digital media has existed side-by-side with print since 1957 and it isn’t a choice of preserving digital or print, it’s a hybrid world.  There was also a good question about original order in e-mail with file paths being the possible solution.

Afternoon Concurrent Session I – Collections & Managements Systems:

  • Kat Stefko, Director of Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library, Bates College, Lewiston, ME
  • Kate Bowers, Collection Services Archivist, Harvard University Archives, Cambridge, MA
  • Marge Smith, Executive Director, Kent Historical Society, Kent, CT
  • Linda Hocking, Curator of Library and Archives, Litchfield Historical Society, Litchfield, CT

Three collection management systems were discussed all of which have benefits to institutions of different sizes and purposes: Archivists’ Toolkit, Past Perfect, and Archon.  Kate Bowers spoke eloquently on how AT is used at Harvard and even included some statistics of how it’s been used at Harvard Business School.  It felt nice to have my work in AT represented before the meeting however so anonymously.   Bowers mentioned a CLIR Report on Archival Management Software as a resource.  It was interesting to hear Marge Smith’s experience with Past Perfect and see it demonstrated although it appears to more of a curatorial tool for museums and historical societies rather than for purely archival material.  Finally, Linda Hocking spoke about her experience with Archon. Here’s a good example of the public interface for Archon, something that AT lacks (although the Rockefeller Archive Center is developing a reference module add-0n) .  It’s interesting to note that the pros and cons of AT and Archon appear to dovetail and that the impending merger of the two products as ArchiveSpace may be mutually beneficial to all users.  Something to look forward to!

Afternoon Concurrent Session II – Born Digital:

  • Ed Desrochers, Interim Academy Librarian and Academy Archivist at Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, NH
  • Veronica Martzahl, Records Archivist in the Digital Collections and Archives, Tufts University, Medford, MA
  • Jennifer Phillips, Digital Collections Archivist in the Digital Collections and Archives at Tufts University, Medford, MA

The final session was a team presentation by two members of the Tufts University Digital Collections and Archives.  As always the Tufts DCA appear to be light years ahead in archives & records management in the digital age so it is appropriate that they spoke of born digital records.  It was a nice reminder to be told that as archivists/records managers “you already know a lot” about what should be done with records so we should not be intimidated by the digital format.  Other advice included:

  • a four-step program: survey your holdings, document & store, metadata, & workflows.
  • referring to the Library of Congress reference for digital formats website at
  • just because they are digital does not mean that item-level description is necessary
  • there is nothing to be gained from converting PDF to PDF-A so don’t waste your time (Veronica Martzahl was emphatic about the unnecessary nature of this step as what’s lost is lost)
  • don’t go to the effort of conserving a floppy disk if you have already copied and preserved the files, just toss it like an old folder.

Overall it was a good day.  I felt that it was not as well-attended as the spring meeting nor did I feel like I had any real “wow moments” where I heard something I’d never heard before or presented in a new way.  Still, it was all good, thoughtful information that should help inform my work in the near future.  It was great to be there and interact both virtually and physically with the other conferees.

Beer Review: Allagash White Ale

Beer: Allagash White
Brewer: Allagash Brewing Company
Source: Draft
Rating: ** (6.1 of 10)

Comments: This is cloudy, bright yellow beer with spicy, citrus aromas & flavors.  It’s a nice balance although my glass tasted somewhat weak and flat compared to previous tries of this beer.  Perhaps a bad keg or a bad pour?  At any rate, a decent refreshing beer.