Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Farewell, 2008

Two-thousand-and-eight was a wonderful and strange year. We welcomed the arrival of Child Three (wonderful!). Something that I'd thought would happen in 2009 happened right at the end of the year. It is what it is and we're moving on. I'm looking forward to 2009 and excited about the possibilities. Mainly, I'm eagerly anticipating watching my children grow and change and helping them as they do. My family is what gives me the greatest joy in this world and if I make any resolutions this year (which I usually don't) it's to be a good husband and a good father and always work to get better at both.

Happy new year to all.

Ever onward.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Death With Your Cornflakes


My little ones saw this morning's Globe front page and asked why the girl was wrapped up. I said that she was dead. "How did she die?" "From a bomb." "What's a bomb?" "A thing that explodes." "What comes from the bomb?" "Metal." I've got to be more careful with the paper. This is the second time in the past 4 months or so that there have been dead children on the front page of the Globe. I support the right of papers to print what they want, but it's tricky when you have to explain to children about dead children -- particularly when they die in a conflict the roots of which confuse most adults.

On a political note, why do the American papers never publish pictures of dead Israeli children above the fold?


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Tradition Continues

The decorated version of this year's gingerbread house. Mainly decorated by the kids with minimal parental oversight. Last year's, pre-decoration.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

First Haircut

I took Child 2 for his first haircut, ever, today. I have to admit that I was a bit sad to do it, but he needed it cut. He looked like a kid who'd been raised by wolves and been living in the wilderness for his first three years. It was fun, but it was time. He cleans up very well. He endured with minimal fussing and zero tears. It really feels as if he's moved into the realm of big boys now.

I don't like to put pics of my kids on the web, you'll just to trust me.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Too Spicy

I made dinner the other night and forgot my audience. I grilled some salt and pepper crusted chicken that was a bit too peppery for Child 1 & 2. Child 2 frequently says that things are "too spicy." This can be anything from salt-and-pepper-crusted-grilled chicken, to certain NECCO wafers. He stated, as I peeled the nicely cooked crusty outer layer of the chicken off of the pieces on his plate, that "we're kids. We don't like pepper."

Point taken.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Disaster Redux

In 2006 our tree fell within hours of being decorated. This year, the tree fell two days later. It happened just before heading off to school with the kids. I was upstairs helping C2 get dressed when he heard a whoosh and a smash. We lost a bunch of our nicest and prettiest ornaments -- the danger of hanging near the top -- as well as the tree topper that Mrs. Agricola and I bought just after we got married. It's such a drag when this happens because then you need to un-decorate and un-light the tree and start all over. I also invested $50 (that I really didn't want to do this year) in a tree stand that will hopefully keep our tree upright for the remainder of the season.

If a crashing tree and shattering ornament aren't bad enough, poor C1 thought that the tree had fallen as the result of a little, but heavy ornament that she had just gotten. She was weeping and saying "it was the ornament's fault . . . it was too heavy . . . " "No, the tree fell because it's a bit heavy to one side," we told her. She's so sweet and tenderhearted.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Tree Trimming

We decorated the family tree this weekend and it was quite fun. Typically we light the thing in the evening and Mrs. Agricola and I end up trimming it after the kids go to bed. This year we switched things around and decorated it in the morning. The kids had a blast taking ornaments out of the box (that might have been more fun than actually hanging them) and hanging them on the tree. Child One looked and thought about each ornament, and considered to whom it belonged, and "Could this reindeer be me and this one be Child Two and this one be Child Three . . . " Child Two hung ornaments in clusters and Child Three just looked -- it's what you do when you're 10 weeks old. Pater & Mater Agricolae joined in the festivities and it was an excellent couple of hours.

After the fun ornaments were on I spent some time filling in holes with small shiny balls. These are the workhorses of tree decorating in my book. I hang them in the gaps, and try and set them back from the outside of the tree so that they sit inside of the branches and shine out. Their reflective surfaces lend brilliance to the tree and help to intensify the lights. In a post-tinsel and post-garland age the small, cheap, shiny ball is what makes the tree. While sitting in front of the tree this evening Mrs. A commented that the tree is really shining and shimmering this year -- and it is.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Happy Birthday!

Happy birthday Child Two! I can't believe you're three today. Where does the time go? You roared into our life on a cold and blustery Thanksgiving Day, arriving well before dinner, and you've been bringing smiles to us ever since. I'll never forget eating my Thanksgiving dinner that evening in the cafeteria of Brigham and Women's' Hospital. Despite the fact that I was eating alone, in a hospital cafeteria and wolfing it down to get back to the room to see you and Mumma it was one of the best Thanksgiving meals I ever ate.

Happy birthday, and many, many, many more.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Exit

My father's sister-in-law's father died today. He was 95 years old. He lead a long, interesting and good life. He made a decision after a recent hospitalization and recurrence of an infection that became pneumonia not to go back to the hospital and not to fight the illness. "It was time" he said to his family. He faced up to his mortality, took control of the end and made what I think is a wise and brave decision. To me, that's not sad that's powerful.

Rest in peace George, I raise shot of Scotch in your honor.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans Day, 2008

The other night I was watching "Saving Private Ryan" on one of the cable networks. I'd seen the movie before, and seen the scene in the US cemetery at Normandy before, but it got me thinking.

In 1993 I did the obligatory post-college European backpacking trip. a friend and I toured European capitals and the country side. One of the best destinations was the Normandy coast and a visit to the beaches of D-Day. We hitchhiked out from Bayeux and got dropped off at the exit for the beaches by a lawyer going to an interview in Calais. We walked from the exit to the beaches, along country roads boxed in by the huge, infamous hedgerows where undoubtedly Americans, Brits, Canadians, Poles, French and Germans died. It was a lovely summer day, 6 July, 1993.

We came eventually to the US cemetery at Coleville Sur Mer. A beautifully manicured and maintained piece of America, paid for by the blood of our soldiers, along the French coast. We walked down a path on a hill to Omaha Beach and looked back up at the ridge where the cemetery sits. I thought of the troops who came ashore there; considered their landing and how downright terrifying and awful it must have been to cross the ground we'd just crossed. Kids played somewhere down the beach, their laughter floated towards us on the breeze and an F-16 flew along the coast, low and slow -- a weapon that signified how what had happened on 6 June, 1944 would most likely never happen in the same fashion again.

My friend and I made our back to the cemetery and walked along the paths, looking at row upon row of white marble crosses, and Star-of-David-topped markers. I walked up to one cross, at random, and looked. The man buried there had died 49 years to the day that I was looking at his grave. He was about my age (in '93) and from Louisiana. I'm sorry that I can't recall his name now, but I'm sure that his first trip to Europe ended in Normandy. I'd already been to Europe about 4 times by this time in my life. It was at that moment that I understood what it meant to be an American.

That Louisiana man came far from home to fight and die and help people in a land far-away. We're Americans. It's what we do. It's who we are. We are an amazing people, and I consider myself so fortunate to live in this country populated with folks like the man whose grave I stood before 49 years after his death. I thanked him, rubbed the top of his marker and committed the experience to memory, glad that I could pay my respects to him, his family and their sacrifice, yet, not their sacrifice alone. I honor the sacrifice of all of the men and women and all of their families who served and continue to serve, in our armed forces to protect and defend the ideals for which this country stands.

Still, we have men and women in the field and under arms, being Americans and doing what we do -- defending our ideals in the hope that others may experience and live with the liberties we increasingly take for granted in this country. Today, I pay special mind, and pay honor to all those who have served, do serve, and will serve. Thank you and God bless you all.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Proud, Indeed

From an article by Jeff Jacoby in the 5 November, 2008 Boston Globe about the gray cloud of the 2008 election.

But the most lustrous silver lining of all is the racial one. As a politician and policymaker, Obama distresses me; his extreme liberalism is not what the nation needs. But as a symbol - a son of Africa elected to lead a majority-white nation that once enslaved Africans and treated their descendants with great cruelty - Obama's rise makes me proud of my country. The anthem of the Civil Rights Movement was "We Shall Overcome." Impossible as it might have seemed scant decades ago, we have.
No matter what, for now, we do live in the greatest country in the history of the world and proved it again yesterday.

I Am In Charge

Speaker of the Stepford Wives

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Civic Duty

On my way to the train today I stopped into my neighborhood polling place to vote. The line was longer than usual today and turnout seems heavy. It's good. Regardless of the outcome of this election it really has seemed to drive some turnout and gotten people to engage in the process and in the issues.

Though I'm not sure if I will agree with the outcome (based on last minute polls), I'll accept it as will most of us and wait to see what our elected officials wreak. I'll concede that the possibility of a black man as POTUS is a big deal, and for this reason alone, this election is historic. What is more interesting to me, and perhaps of greater historical importance is that if Obama wins, then this country has taken a huge turn from its history. Bigger, more intrusive government is definitely on the way. The United States seems to be swinging towards Socialism as it never has before.

Granted, many among us are war weary (though impending victory in Iraq should be curing that), scared by the near collapse of our financial system (precipitated in no small part by the Democrat party and their liberal allies) and annoyed at the stupidity of the Republican party (has a party been more inept at the PR game than the current makeup of the GOP?). These things, however, are not reason for me to hand the keys over to the Democrats. I don't see how more government is going to help us -- name one large event of the last three years helped by large government. The Democrats are certainly not free from special interests (labor unions, greens, abortion rights people, welfare-statists). Sadly, more government is what we're going to get if the Republicans can't hang onto the White House -- losing congress is a foregone conclusion . . .

It's our decision, we'll live with it, we (though not I and many close to me) chose to go this way, and though I neither agree nor understand why, that's the great power of our system and our society. Change happens, we have a say in it and we can enact change. I'm just not sure we truly understand what we've asked for.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Child Three

Child 3 a boy born 10-4 606 am 8Lbs 4oz 20ins mom & baby r fine!

(sent from my mobile, in the hospital)

Friday, October 03, 2008

Micro-climate

Late yesterday afternoon a cold front passed through the area and brought some rain with it along with some nice cool air. As I walked across the wet parking lot to my car after getting off the train I noticed that my car windows were covered in condensation. After I hopped into the vehicle and started the engine I turned on the wipers to clear away the moisture from the windows. The condensation however was inside the car. The warm humid air that was trapped in the car condensed on the windows as the temperature dropped during the afternoon. This is not a major event nor an earth shattering insight, but rather an interesting little science moment, and another indication that fall is well underway -- as if the beautiful foliage and the fact that inside the house is chillier than outside (another micro-climate) were not enough.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Capt. Bruno de Salenni

I got this article, A letter from Afghanistan, from a hero, through my feed reader and had to share it. I link to it in my shared article widget too, but feel it warrants special mention.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Recovery

I was kicking around the house one morning about a week-and-a-half ago, before leaving for work, when I heard a clunk at the front door and looked in time to see a bird flutter away from the storm-door window. I looked out the door and saw a little bird, resting splay-winged in a holly bush that sits next to our front step. It recovered somewhat and pulled itself together so that it was not all akimbo, but it was definitely dazed. I watched it move through stages of recovery, thought that it might die when it started slow blinking and, then watched it as it began chirping.


I managed to snap a few decent shots of the concussed bird and pulled out a couple of my bird books and identified it as a Yellow-bellied Fly Catcher. It's not native to my neck of the woods but must have been passing through on its migration south. Before I left for work the Flycatcher had flown into the holly bush and I thought that might be a bad sign, until I heard him chirping more and more as I walked around the bush. As I moved around the front of the holly I noticed that he was sitting on a branch, up high towards the front hanging onto a swaying branch. He was long gone by the time I came home.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Volunteer

In late spring we were at Costco and bought some Cana bulbs -- Child One thought they'd be pretty so we went with her selection. Cana are large, tropical looking plants (the plants in the below photo, with orange flowers). We planted the bulbs in the bed at the front of our house, around our light post and an azalea. I used home brewed compost to fertilize them. Within a short time the bulbs had barely sprouted but something else had burst from the ground -- a volunteer seed in the compost.

At first blush the volunteer appeared to be a squash plant -- the leaf shape and size was right and it had a large yellow flower. It started as one sprout but quickly spread, growing larger and larger. We nearly picked it early on but I got curious to see what would come of it. Once the plant was probably 5 feet from tendril-tip to tendril-tip Mrs. Agricola agreed that we had to see what it was.

The plant in mid-summer glory
The plant shot out shoots from the sprout that grew in opposite directions from each other and soon it started to fill in with more shoots, leaves and flowers. I was fairly convinced that it was a squash, or perhaps a pumpkin and many of our neighbors would swing by and ask us about it -- it was big doings in our section of the neighborhood. By mid-July the thing had taken over nearly half of the bed in which it sprouted. It spread probably 6 feet in length and probably 4 feet from the original sprout area to the tips of its cascade -- it overran the sidewalk. One day, I took a good, close look at the thing and it had several smooth, green, ovoid-shaped fruit hiding within its foliage. I had no idea what they were and picked a large one -- I thought it was some sort of strange, hybridized squash.

Who knew cantaloupes start so smooth?

The one that was picked too early
had hints of cantaloupe flavor and some sweetness

As soon as I picked it and held it close I realized that I had a very large, very healthy cantaloupe plant -- the skin at the end of the fruit was just beginning to take on the appearance of a mature cantaloupe. At the time of the first pick there were 6 other fruits on the vine. The early picked fruit didn't ripen but it's brothers and sisters ripened beautifully and we enjoyed a bumper harvest of homegrown cantaloupes -- all in all we probably harvested 10 melons off of this plant.

I didn't expect much from the cantaloupes -- after all they are from commercial seeds that grew in a bed in a suburb of Boston, many of them ripening on asphalt. I have to say however that these are some of the best melons I've ever eaten. They were juicy beyond belief, sweet and as fresh as you can get. Letting them further ripen on the window sill only made them better (though eating a still sun-warmed cantaloupe is pretty amazing). If ever there was a poster-fruit for eat-local this is it -- picked at the peak of ripeness and carried 50 feet to the kitchen there is nothing better!

Can't beat fresh cantaloupe!

This past weekend we pulled up the plant -- it was starting to recede into itself and looking really funky as it died with oncoming fall. The leaves and stems and flowers that never fruited were recycled in the composter. I saved a bunch of seeds from one particularly good melon and am going to plant one intentionally next year, though those fruit will probably not be able to compare to the cool experience of this year's volunteer cantaloupe.

Friday, September 19, 2008

David Foster Wallace, RIP

David Foster Wallace, one of my favorite writers, died last Friday, an apparent suicide. I wish I could say I was surprised, but I'm not and am, at the same time. He was an immensely talented writer. Sometimes the immensely talented bear a burden we the mortals don't understand. I can't say that I've loved everything that he wrote or that everything he wrote was really great -- I didn't, and it wasn't. What it was, to me, anyway, was incredibly (post)modern and of this moment yet so seemingly old-fashioned and absolutist. I saw a quote, in one of the many obits that I read bout Wallace, that called him a fiercely moral writer, and I agree with this. From his writings you got the sense that he didn't approve of what he saw and expertly skewered. He couched his observations in irony (that vestment of modernism) but beneath the veneer laid a strict moralist, an old fashioned guy who knew right from wrong. A friend sent me a link to an excerpt of his Kenyon Commencement Speech 2005 in the WSJ. I quote the last paragraph and a half. The penultimate line about water refers to a story about two young fish who don't realize that they're swimming in water until told by an older fish.

Would that Wallace had been able not to choke out his life at age 46, and heeded his own advice to be aware of what is everywhere, and essential, and simple -- though he does admit that it's hard to do so.

But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talked about in the great outside world of winning and achieving and displaying. The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default-setting, the "rat race" -- the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.

I know that this stuff probably doesn't sound fun and breezy or grandly inspirational. What it is, so far as I can see, is the truth with a whole lot of rhetorical bullshit pared away. Obviously, you can think of it whatever you wish. But please don't dismiss it as some finger-wagging Dr. Laura sermon. None of this is about morality, or religion, or dogma, or big fancy questions of life after death. The capital-T Truth is about life before death. It is about making it to 30, or maybe 50, without wanting to shoot yourself in the head. It is about simple awareness -- awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, that we have to keep reminding ourselves, over and over: "This is water, this is water."

It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive, day in and day out.

I Am My Solution

If we're going to ask questions about who has been promulgating negative ads that are completely unrelated to the issues at hand, I think I win that contest pretty handily. -- Barack H. Obama
No other quote from Barack Obama quite encapsulates his vapidity as does the above. No other quote shows the pass the guy has received from the media. I first saw the quote earlier this week and have been thinking about its stupidity and the fact that if Bush had said it he'd be lambasted as a moron. Barry just sails on by, takes his free media-pass, collects his millions and whines his way to November 4. Parse the words, pay attention to the sentence, Barry just admitted that he's churning out more negative ads than McCain. Now, in campaign time, it's a minor thing, a malapropism, an awkward turn of phrase, an incorrect use of pronouns. But, wow, you've got to love the use of promulgated, what a verb!

Fast forward however to late 2009 or early 2010 if/when Barry is chatting with Mahmoud Ahmadenijad or Hugo Chavez and he says:
If one considers the war of words between our countries over the past 24 months and who has promulgated more negative and damaging stereotypes of the other country I think the US wins that contest pretty handily.
Great, he just blamed us and it's our fault -- though maybe, coming from the left as he does, this would not be a malapropism nor necessarily viewed as untruthful -- and now we've got make concessions about Iran's nuclear program, or Venezuela's hostility to its non-Bolivarist neighbors. Maybe my example is not good, we kind of know what he was trying to say ("I'm a victim!") maybe he really did just misspeak (solipsism gets confusing after a while) but such mistakes have different consequences in different situations.

Barry enjoys much acclaim for being intelligent, yet remove the man from the teleprompter and he can't formulate a coherent sentence. He misspoke about "lipstick on a pig," no doubt he misspoke about who is running the more negative campaign. One can sort of interpret what he meant, but it's not crystal clear (perhaps it's a ploy, to play both against the middle, he is brilliant, after all). This man is the Democrat hope for the presidency of this country. A bit more seasoning may be in order, don't you think?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Constitution Day, 2008

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

-- Preamble to the U.S. Constitution

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Remembrance

Today marks the seventh anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington DC and the downing of United Flight 93. The below list contains the names of the people on American Airlines Flight 11. Regular people, doing regular things, on a beautiful morning 7 years ago who never came home. The list of the murdered is long, the locales varied, this is but a sampling.

May they never be forgotten, and may their families find comfort as the years go by.

Anna Allison
David Lawrence Angell
Lynn Edwards Angell
Seima Aoyama
Barbara Jean Arestegui
Myra Joy Aronson
Christine Barbuto
Carolyn Beug
Kelly Ann Booms
Carol Marie Bouchard
Robin Lynne Kaplan
Neilie Anne Heffernan Casey
Jeffrey Dwayne Collman
Jeffrey W. Coombs
Tara Kathleen Creamer
Thelma Cuccinello
Patrick Currivan
Brian Paul Dale
David Dimeglio
Donald Americo Ditullio
Alberto Dominguez
Paige Marie Farley-Hackel
Alexander Milan Filipov
Carol Ann Flyzik
Paul J. Friedman
Karleton D.B. Fyfe
Peter Alan Gay
Linda M. George
Edmund Glazer
Lisa Reinhart Gordenstein
Andrew Peter Charles Curry Green
Peter Paul Hashem
Robert Jay Hayes
Edward R. Hennessy, Jr.
John A. Hofer
Cora Hidalgo Holland
John Nicholas Humber, Jr.
Waleed Joseph Iskandar
John Charles Jenkins
Charles Edward Jones
Barbara A. Keating
David P. Kovalcin
Judith Camilla Larocque
Natalie Janis Lasden
Daniel John Lee
Daniel M. Lewin
Sara Elizabeth Low
Susan A. Mackay
Karen Ann Martin
Thomas F. McGuinness, Jr.
Christopher D. Mello
Jeffrey Peter Mladenik
Carlos Alberto Montoya
Antonio Jesus Montoya Valdes
Laura Lee Morabito
Mildred Naiman
Laurie Ann Neira
Renee Lucille Newell
Kathleen Ann Nicosia
Jacqueline June Norton
Robert Grant Norton
John Ogonowski
Betty Ann Ong
Jane M. Orth
Thomas Nicholas Pecorelli
Berinthia B. Perkins
Sonia M. Puopolo
David E. Retik
Jean Destrehan Roger
Philip Martin Rosenzweig
Richard Barry Ross
Jessica Leigh Sachs
Rahma Salie
Heather Lee Smith
Dianne Bullis Snyder
Douglas Joel Stone
Xavier Suarez
Madeline Amy Sweeney
Michael Theodoridis
James Anthony Trentini
Mary Barbara Trentini
Pendyala Vamsikrishna
Mary Alice Wahlstrom
Kenneth Waldie
John Joseph Wenckus
Candace Lee Williams
Christopher Rudolph Zarba, Jr.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Palin Power

It's been months since I posted on this blog. It's not that I don't have ideas anymore -- I've jut not had the time this summer. I must say though that Sarah Palin's speech at last night's Republican Convention has brought me back.

I will admit that I watched the speech on YouTube, not live, but it was a terrific speech and she is a terrific pick. She puts the liberals in a quandary -- female, over-achiever, mother, successful living the feminist dream of doing it all but a conservative. How wonderful. She is one of us -- an honest to goodness, hard working American who speaks plainly, humorously wonderfully about the life that we all know and love. Her best lines have been repeated and reprinted all over, I'll not go into them here, but she has energized the conservative base and the entire Republican party.

Fun has been returned to this election which was pretty dreary up until now. Way to go John McCain, way to go Sarah Palin.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Regarding July Fourth

John Adams to his wife, Abigail, 3 July, 1776*:

“It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Day’s Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.”

*The Patriot Post published this quote as part of a larger essay on July Fourth on 7/2/08 vol. 8 no. 27

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Demolition Derby

Sunday was a lazy day around the Quarter Acre. We spent the day lounging on the porch, and I smoked some ribs and a pork butt (along with a couple of cans of baked beans and two hot dogs -- which were really delicious). Child Two went down the street for a play date with some friends and I hung around, drank a beer and chewed the fat before returning to the smoker to add coals.

I returned to the neighbors' house with some ribs and beers and enticed them and their four kids to come down for dinner. We ate the smoked meat, drank some PBRs and had some blueberry pie and vanilla ice cream for dessert -- a great summer meal and my best smoked meats yet. After dinner the six kids, ranging in age from 2 to 8 years old went out to the yard and ran around. The two two year olds started playing a game where they pretended that they were race cars.

They would stand on the hill, at the edge of the lawn, stick their arms out and then start running after saying "ready, set, go . . . " Within a few minutes the older kids (a pair of nearly-5-year-olds, a 6 year old and an 8 year old) joined in. They'd all line up, stick out their arms, say ready set go and then run pell-mell all over the back yard. Eventually, they started crashing into each other, and knocking each other over. There were some hits-from-behind, but by and large the contact was clean and hard. It was very funny to watch and referee and and the two year olds were so proud that they'd invented a game of such fun.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Banner 17

Truly, Boston is in the midst of its golden age of sports. Last night the Celtics destroyed the LA Laker 131-92 at Boston Garden in a dominating display of team-first basketball. I'm not really a hoops fan, but I'm a Boston Sports fan and I followed the Celts all year on the sports page, though I didn't watch the games. Come playoff time I watched them intermittently -- typically during road losses so I stopped watching them for fear that I was a jinx.

I watched most of the Finals games -- a couple of losses, but not the improbable game 4 24 point comeback. I turned it on at the half and saw the Celts were down by 20. As the third quarter started I said to myself "if I watch this they'll lose, if I don't they'll come back." I was prophetic. I put aside my irrational jinx fear last night and watched the game. It was was as dominating a performance as I've seen in any sports championship game. It was a great pleasure to watch the Celtics put their feet to the throats of the Lakers and never take it off until they climbed the podium at center court to accept their hardware.

Boston, as I've written elsewhere on this blog, has long been a town of also-rans. The Krafts changed that when they got serious about their ownership of the Patriots and hired Bill Belichik (who sat courtside with a hotty last night). The success of that franchise has spread to the Red Sox and the Celtics. It is amazing how the and desire to win seems to be infectious amongst the owners groups -- except for the Jacobs brothers who year after year put a mediocre product on the ice.

This, however, is not about those teams this is about the Celtics and their terrific season and their dominating performance in the finals. Watching this team was reminiscent of the great teams I watched as a kid with Bird, Parrish and McChale. Now a new generation has Garnett, Pierce and Allen, and banner 17 will be raised to the rafters at the start of next season.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Team Spirit

Mrs. Agricola recently bought the kids some Red Sox gear. Child One got a pink Pedroia shirt and Child Two got a blue Matsuzaka shirt. Each got a hat, one pink, one blue for C1 and C2 respectively. To state the obvious, they are very cute when decked out in their shirts. C1 now claims her favorite player is Pedroia and C2 says he wants to wear his "Mazooka" shirt.

What's interesting to me about this is that with these little purchases my kids have embarked on an affiliation with a team. That the team is the same team that I follow, my father follows, my grandfathers followed, and my great-grandfather followed is very cool. There is no guarantee that my kids are embarking on a life of Red Sox-fandom but it's interesting to be a father and see the seeds of this planted. It starts with a shirt and a hat.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sunday, May 18, 2008

What The . . . ?

One of the other reasons for my hiatus has been this:

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When short on time, not near a machine, or witnessing something interesting on the spur of the moment I'd snap a shot with my phone's camera and send it to the QA. Every picture on this blog, with the exception of a few that I've bounced in from elsewhere, is a camera phone shot. It was an easy way to blog, and add some visual interest to my posts. Easy, that was, until I noticed, while in Atlanta, that Verizon was appending the above junk to my photos. The last time that I checked, they were not paying me to drive traffic to their site nor to Apple's; nor have I added them to the contributor's list of this blog. This appendage has curtailed my use of my camera phone to do mobile picture blogging and really annoyed me.

The real drag of this whole thing to me is that some marketing wiz at the above mentioned phone company must have figured that this was a god idea. Sadly, it sort of is. By appending this garbage to an emailed photo they get instant "viral marketing" (all the rage these days with marketers). Even if the emailed shot does not go to a blog, it can still be passed around via email, so either way this nets them free publicity. For photos sent to blogs, the appendage increases the number of links extant on the web, and thus makes them more visible to spiders; virally sends itself through feed readers and is basically a cheap (free) way to get some rather large text ads. Now, my blog, with its three readers is certainly not going to do them much good, but it's still annoying and, I believe, improper for this phone company to do this. If they asked my permission and paid me, it might be a different story, but this is my blog, and I don't want to do any marketing for my wireless provider -- they are merely a vehicle for data transmission, not a contributor, or participant in this space.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Kubrickian

I took this in NYC at the Helmsley New York Hotel but never sent it to QA though I liked it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Hiatus

I've been on a long hiatus from this blog -- starting a new gig, being a dad, training for a marathon have eaten up lots of my time. A hiatus isn't always a bad thing, there are some ideas that I've been kicking around in my head that I'll write about, and I feel energized to start writing again.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Monday, April 07, 2008

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Monday, March 31, 2008

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

THE WIRE Finale, 2

Two great articles appeared during the week after THE WIRE finale. One was in American Spectator, the other in the Wall Street Journal. I've been trying to write this post since then and it just has not gelled for me in any sort of satisfactory fashion until this afternoon. The articles quoted below resonated with me because they highlighted the chameleon-like nature of THE WIRE and its ability to appeal to a broad range of viewers regardless of their ideological positions.

Conor Friedersdorf wrote in "The Wealth of Baltimore" in American Spectator on 12 March:

The Wire is a show that one can throw on after a politically mixed party, confident that Republicans, Democrats, and libertarians nursing nightcaps will all find scenes that seem to them to confirm their worldviews; art that expertly mirrors society reflects its disagreements too.

I argue that this pan-political appeal arises from the fact that the show's creators are old newspapermen from a time when papers -- and the media in general -- despite political allegiances, felt a much stronger obligation to tell the story straight.

Friedersdorf contiuned, that that the liberal press seemed to have misunderstood THE WIRE:
What's bizarre, as the show comes to a close, is the preponderance of commentators who agree that The Wire is a searing attack on capitalism, for that analysis -- echoed in Slate, the New Yorker and the Atlantic, among many other places -- is plainly wrong. The Wire is brutal in its critiques, as any viewer knows. Its most thorough dissections, however, concern the least capitalistic institutions in Baltimore.

Julia Vitullo-Martin wrote in "Urban Decay" in the 14 March WSJ that:
. . . conservatives may see in it a lesson that liberal viewers are unlikely to take to heart. Set, written and produced in Baltimore, "The Wire" aired 60 episodes, with each of its five seasons focused on a different subject -- drug trafficking, the port, local politics, public schools and the city's newspaper. From the series' opening sequences filmed in "The Towers" -- huge public housing projects whose courtyards serve as drug bazaars -- through its depiction of the continuing devastation of neighborhoods by violent crime and unemployment, the Baltimore of "The Wire" becomes the poster child for six decades of failed urban policy.

She quoted disheartening statistics about Baltimore and crime:
. . . Surpassed only by Detroit in CNN/Morgan Quinto's 2006 ranking of the country's most dangerous large cities . . . With 282 homicides last year and a population of about 641,000 . . . a homicide rate six times that of New York and three times that of Los Angeles . . . highest per-capita heroin consumption in the country . . . . public schools deteriorated, graduating less than half their students.

THE WIRE was a work a rare work of art that drew you in, regardless of your viewpoint or politics, compelled you to both watch something that was not pretty and to think about it. What you took away was directly connected to your personal politics/world view, but it started a dialogue amongst its aficionados about causes of the problems that afflict urban America and possible solutions.
It strikes me that season 5 seemed to be screaming the question: What if the modern press just told the story? Erstwhile City Editor, Gus Haynes wanted his writers at the fictionalized Sun to write their stories well, beautifully, tightly, interestingly, and, finally, truthfully. While I and others may not agree with the liberal take-away of the show, and the liberals with mine, at least we're talking about it because we were informed by beautiful, tight, truthful storytelling.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Good Stencil

Canal St Boston

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Signs

The tulips and daffodils are sprouting in one of my side beds.

The forsythia and magnolias have really large buds and are ready to burst.

Some mornings I can smell the earth again.

I can smell my composter when I'm near it.

One of the neighborhood crows had a big stick in its mouth for a nest.

The Juncos are less frequent visitors to my feeder.

Red Winged Blackbirds returned to the feeder today.

The sun is actually warm even though the air is not particularly so, right now.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

THE WIRE: The Finale

Sunday night marked the series finale of The Wire on HBO. It did not disappoint. They compressed a tremendous amount of action into 90 minutes and tightly, nicely and neatly tied up the story line that had been building all season, but that had really begun 5 seasons ago. There were times this year, I must admit, where I felt that the show had jumped the shark. The whole serial killer story line didn't ring entirely true nor did the fact that McNulty and Freamon could work the system as they did -- though after the plan was hatched and had matured over a couple of episodes it became more plausible.

Last night's episode tied it all together. It ended as I anticipated it had to -- a systematic effort of butt-covering, deal-making and political machinations. It played true and validated the entire season (the whole series, really). Much of what I read about prior to this season said it was all about the media, newspapers in particular. The media, and the Baltimore Sun in particular, played a much larger role in this season and it helped to round out the portrayal of the power-players in the modern urban environment.

Whether depicting street level dealing, working class woe or faltering schools THE WIRE was always about "The System." The way The System works is ugly, and THE WIRE shone a bright light right up its backside. The show never delivered the expected -- in terms of mass-media-entertainment-consumer expectations -- resolution because that would been neither real nor logical. The creators once said in an interview that the logic of the story must be played out; and, it was each week, and brutally so. Favorite characters got done -- both at the business end of a gun and by The System.

THE WIRE was a show with a POV -- it was angry, it pulled no punches and it didn't always tell you what you wanted to hear. Unlike most shows it didn't lionize one political party over another; it didn't offer bromides that everyone and everything will be OK if you believe in yourself; it did not get behind one solution over another. It was a show that was descriptive rather prescriptive. As show creator David Simon mentioned in a letter on HBO, dated 10 March, 2008:

We tried to be entertaining, but in no way did we want to be mistaken for entertainment. We tried to provoke, to critique and debate and rant a bit. We wanted an argument. We think a few good arguments are needed still, that there is much more to be said and it is entirely likely that there are better ideas than the ones we offered. But nothing happens unless the shit is stirred. That, for us, was job one.

The problems that grip Baltimore, as depicted in THE WIRE, are the problems that afflict many American cities. The problems appear intractable given the self-sustaining nature of The System and the human beings who comprise it. To truly clean up The System and make things right, would compel the players to give up much of what they have striven for -- corners, donations, stars on collars, literary prizes. Each of these things translate into power, and power is the name of the game within both the world defined by THE WIRE and ours.*

Dealers deal. Police police. Lawyers lawyer. Politicians politic. Media reports. Each feeds off of the others, and requires the others to survive. The System is a system because it perpetuates itself. There will always be someone to fill a void created by the departure of another -- whether mortal, or merely physical. That is why, in the coda, as the theme song played and McNulty gazed out on the Baltimore skyline, Daniels stood as a Public Defender, Pearlman sat in judge's robes, Michael became a stick-up boy, Dookie tightened the strap and loaded his spike, Slim Charles sat with The Greeks, and Bubs . . . Bubs sat at the table with his sister and her child to eat (the only happy ending in the series).**

The episodes always started with a quote and from what I can observe and recall the previous 59 quotes came from the episode itself. The finale's quote came from Baltimore's own H.L. Mencken:

"... the life of kings."

It seems that Mencken is a fitting a patron saint for this show that laid bare the structures of power, money, ambition and ultimately human weakness that shape and mold the modern, American, urban experience. THE WIRE told the story of a great American city, and the people who live in it honestly, openly and with great verve. The characters were human, fallible and venal but they were not all bad even when they were monstrous. They characters knew and played their role in The System, even when it required them to be their worst. Baltimore is any city, and the people who occupy The System live in every city, and the people who stand by and watch live in every city. Never before, and perhaps never again, will we, the TV-watching-public witness such an honest depiction of ourselves.

*See Peggy Noonan's column last week for a related view on power.

**The show synopsis on HBO.com contains a similar litany, I wrote this before I read that -- I was looking for the quote on the wall of the Sun offices that appears when Gus & Alma are speaking as Alma clears out for Carroll County. This may be over-think, but my academic background compels me to credit sources/mention similarities to the thought of others, even on my unread blog.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

A Couple of Things to Note

I was kicking around today over on BlackFive, and found a couple of interesting things.

Woodrow W. Keeble: Medal of Honor Recipient
I found this story on the blog, BlackFive. It's the story of the
Woodrow W. Keeble, the first and only Sioux to be awarded the MOH.
He received the award for gallant service on 20 October, 1951 near
Sangsan-ni Korea. Definitely read the citation, and the background, they are amazing. The presidential comments are interesting too.
The medal was awarded 3 March, 2008 . . . how come I didn't see this
in the papers?

BlackFive post

173rd Airborne Brigade

Also on BlackFive, but via Michael Yon, I saw this call for support for the members of the 173rd Airbirne Brigade, currently serving in Afghanistan, and recently suffering a hatchet job in the NY Times. You can send a letter of thanks/support to them via this email address (adjusted in an attempt to avoid spammers): skysoldiers173rd[at]gmail[dot]com

BlackFive post
Michael Yon

Monday, March 03, 2008

Fast Tracks

Last Wednesday night a healthy dusting of light fluffy snow fell on the Quarter Acre. In the morning there were quite a few animal tracks in the yard and Child One and I followed some cat, rabbit (C1 identified them before I did) and crow tracks before heading off to school. The cat and rabbit tracks went from the back yard to the front, and the crow's tracks were especially entertaining and loopy on the sidewalk. In the afternoon I took both Child One and Child Two into the yard to follow the rabbit and cat tracks some more. We also saw the tracks of a frenetic small bird on our patio.

My interest in tracks was piqued when I found some coyote prints in the back yard the week prior. Though I didn't show them to my kids I made a mental note to bring them out and look for tracks after a snow. Mother Nature obliged and so did our wild and semi-domesticated neighbors. Both kids got a big kick out of our investigation and it was a fun way to kill some time on a cold winter day.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Leap Year Shmeap Year

As if February is not already interminable, this year it has an extra day. I understand that the earth's orbit around the sun takes 365.25 days . . . I understand that this physical reality necessitates the addition of a calendar day every four years and that since February has but 28 days it has room for the extra. Could we not add the extra day to one of the months with 30 days? The end of April can be lovely, as is the end of June and even September. But, no. We add one more day to February, the longest month.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Suburban Demographics

The below is quoted from "The Search for The Next Soccer Mom" in the Wall Street Journal (2/28/08). The article highlights several trends being watched by demographers that may play a role in the 2008 Presidential Election. Given that I'm a suburbanite, this portion of the piece, among others, caught my eye:

The suburbs are the contested terrain. According to Robert Lang of Virginia Tech, Thomas Sanchez of the University of Utah and Alan Berube of Brookings, Republican voters used to dominate the suburbs, but "with these areas becoming larger scale, quasi-urban environments, they are highly contested spaces that contain some of the nation's most important swing districts."

"Density equals Democrats," they argue, because the social environment and housing types in these areas tend to draw more Democratic leaning voters. Conversely, the farther out you get from the urban core, the more voters lean toward the GOP. Hence, strong Mr. Bush and GOP performance in the emerging suburbs and exurbs that lie on the fast-growing metropolitan fringe (52% growth between 1990 and 2005, compared to only 11% in the innermost suburbs).

But in 2006, the Democrats were more competitive in the metropolitan fringe and dominated the rest of suburbia. As Messrs. Lang, Sanchez and Berube put it, "The metropolitan political battle line is not neatly split between city and suburbs, but instead now mostly lies in the transition areas between mature and emerging suburbs." In 2006, the Democrats pushed that battle line fairly far out into the emerging suburbs. In 2008, the battle may turn on whether they can hold that line or whether the GOP can push it back into the mature suburbs.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

William F. Buckley, RIP

William F. Buckley, father of the modern conservative movement, founder of National Review and a major player in twentieth century American literature died this morning while working in his study. By all accounts, he was both a brilliant and a good man. Many of the paeans I'm reading this afternoon and evening all speak of his gentlemanly nature, his command of language, his wit, intellect, and his joy -- an emotion nearly extinct on Terra Politica. I read a 2005 interview with him in the Wall Street Journal in which he offered his interlocutor a cocktail before lunch, and went on to say "mischievously," that "[t]here's a certain wholesomeness to the Republican Party." The interview certainly showed his joie de vivre, but also explicitly highlighted the difference between being conservative and being a conservative -- a point Buckley made in reference to the president.

William F. Buckley's founding statement for National Review:

Let's face it: Unlike Vienna, it seems altogether possible that did National Review not exist, no one would have invented it. The launching of a conservative weekly journal of opinion in a country widely assumed to be a bastion of conservatism at first glance looks like a work of supererogation, rather like publishing a royalist weekly within the walls of Buckingham Palace. It is not that, of course; if National Review is superfluous, it is so for very different reasons: It stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.

National Review is out of place, in the sense that the United Nations and the League of Women Voters and the New York Times and Henry Steele Commager are in place. It is out of place because, in its maturity, literate America rejected conservatism in favor of radical social experimentation. Instead of covetously consolidating its premises, the United States seems tormented by its tradition of fixed postulates having to do with the meaning of existence, with the relationship of the state to the individual, of the individual to his neighbor, so clearly enunciated in the enabling documents of our Republic.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Omar Got Got

We're very big fans of The Wire on HBO. Without a doubt, it's the best show on television because it is what TV can be at its best: engaging, enraging, entertaining, disheartening, honest, raw and real. The arc of the story lines have been developing for five years, the characters growing, changing and getting more real each season.

There are only two episodes left in the series and last night, Omar (Little) -- the stick up king of West Baltimore, feared, revered and reviled by those in the game, a homosexual, a sociopath but a moralist who never turned his gun on someone not in the game -- one of the best, most charismatic and interesting characters in the show took one in the back of the head while buying a pack of Kools, soft-pack, in a Korean Grocery.

The scene was masterful: Omar hobbled into the store, on a desolate street. There was a sense of dread in the desolation. As Omar bought his smokes, the bell on the store's door rang and he looked at whoever just entered the store, didn't deem that person a threat and went back to his business. Just as my nerves were calming down (jangled by the bells)there was a bang, blood and gore spewed out of the top of Omar's head and onto the bullet proof glass at the checkout counter. The camera cut quickly through the space where Omar once stood to show a little corner boy standing behind Omar, looking terrified and confused. He reached down to touch Omar's body, pointed the gun at the proprietress, dropped the piece and bolted.

It was taughtly rendered television -- proving once again that there are no throw-away scenes and details in The Wire, and that your favorite character will buy it rapidly and violently if the logic of the story requires it. Just as the show started last night I told Mrs. Agricola that I had a feeling that Omar was going to get Marlo before the cops did (it's a 2+ season story line), and that all of their hard work was going to be for naught. I guess I was completely wrong.

Omar got got.
No one on the street even knew who got him.
The Baltimore Sun didn't even deem his murder newsworthy.
A county ME saved him from being mis-identified in the morgue.
The episode closed with the body bag being zipped over his face.
Life is tough in West Ballmer.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Inside Out Job

I took advantage of some beautiful, but cold, weather to do an inside out job. Like many of my neighbors my garage had become a repository for all sorts of stuff -- but not actually a motor vehicle. There are plenty of bikes, trikes, scooters, jogging strollers, snow shoes etc. etc. as well as stowed detritus from last fall's yard clean-up and just generally junk. I attacked it today and cleaned it out and I think that my car will fit. It's not a big deal, not a big job, but it's a good thing to get out of the way. The garage cleaning is the sort of project that for which the winter is made. Next on my list is my workshop/storage area. It really is the little things in life that make me happy -- and taking control of stuff and its spread is a big source of joy -- it's cathartic.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Concerning Obama's Ascendancy

Currently, I'm between contract gigs. I'd had something lined up but it fell through as so often happens when contracting with small, interactive-inexperienced agencies. I've been beating the bushes and reading a ton of stuff about the presidential primaries. I did my civic duty and voted last week, casting a meaningless vote for a once-hopeful but now former candidate (who was still in when I voted).

Things have certainly changed quickly over the past week and now, in light of the VA/MD/DC primaries it looks increasingly as if Barack Hussein Obama has a pretty legitimate shot at the Democrat nomination. I qualify "legitimate" because it's not apparent that the Clinton Machine will actually acknowledge the ground rules of the primary to which they agreed before all of this madness started. Who would have thought that BHO would give Ms. Rodham such a run for her money, and actually beat her? I've had a feeling since late summer that he would -- she's too strident, too divisive and, frankly, too unappealing -- but I'm not sure that I would have wagered my kids' college savings.

He's a heck of a speaker, and charismatic but listen to what he says. He doesn't say much except to say how lousy, how unfair, and Dickensian the whole country is. When he's not being negative he's speaks vaguely of what he stands for and showers his crowds with bromides about "change" and "yes we can!" First of all, he's taken a page from The Commonwealth's very own Governor Deval Patrick, and his campaign motto of "Together we Can." As I wrote after Patrick's election in 2006:

It's a terrific marketing line. It says much and says nothing. It's brilliant and permits the reader to finish the line and therefore believe that the coming administration will fulfill his or her governmental dreams. The Patrick campaign never permitted itself to be defined, to take a stand or to declare its beliefs. Instead, it used its brilliant slogan to make the electorate believe that anything is possible. It's a great message, it's a great slogan but unfortunately the lack of substance, and the apparent lack of a plan behind the slogan don't bode well. . .


To be fair to Gov. Patrick, his campaign motto was better than BHO's. As the father of a toddler-boy I get my fair share of "Bob the Builder," whose motto is, "Yes We Can!" Just like the Democrat front runner for that party's presidential nomination Bob is not overly deep. Despite BHO's willful opacity, and his pseudo-positivity the more he speaks the more his true, negative view of America, his absolute lack of knowledge about foreign affairs emerge from the shadows. During my recent, unfettered, stroll around the blogosphere I've found some scary things popping up -- video and photographic evidence of, if not his true colors, then his lack of patriotism (I know, I know, don't questions the Democrats' Patriotism -- though the below pictures can only make one do so).

Here is BHO refusing to salute the flag last fall in Iowa.


Here is a shot from his newest campaign office in Houston.


He won't wear a flag on his lapel. He won't place his hand over his heart during the National Anthem, and Che's face and the Cuban flag fly in one of his offices. Once the people who sought the office of the presidency seemed to have some sort of love for this country or were compelled to serve out of some sense of duty. What inspires BHO, and what is it that inspires his followers to such levels of enthusiasm? There is a definite cult of personality around the man and that is not a good thing in my book, especially not given his seemingly ambivalent view of America.

Monday, February 04, 2008

The Wisdom of Fandom

"Thank you for coming . . . the visiting room is ahead, and to the right . . . please be sure to sign the guest book . . . "

The undertakers rolled into every living-TV-Rumpus-dorm-bed-den-barroom in New England last night around 11:00 PM EST -- just after Eli Manning and the NY Giants committed regicide on the presumed-kings of the NFL, our New England Patriots -- and welcomed us to the funeral parlor. The Giants dispatched the men from Foxboro brutally, ruthlessly and with the utmost professionalism -- qualities we'd come to expect from our own team of football-Gods. It wasn't personal, except that it was, and always is, when you make your living imposing your will on other men. When it was over, we were all reminded how personal and painful fandom can be.

I've been around sports and Boston Sports (capitalization is intentional) for a long time. We've long supported teams that were whipping boys and also-rans. Historically, Boston Fans are die hard, stubborn, bitter-enders who pray to St. Anthony, the patron saint of lost causes. The past seven years have been the Golden Age of Boston Sports -- the Celtics 80s notwithstanding. Super Bowl XLII was meant to be the crown jewel amongst a ridiculous trove of treasure: 3 of 7 Super Bowls, 2 of 4 World Series, the best record in the NBA, a highly ranked D-1 college football team, a pro hockey team that's currently playoff eligible, and as I write this, BC and BU just tore it up in an OT of the second game of the opening night of the Beanpot -- one of the best college tourneys of any kind.

Super Bowl XLII, however, showed how fragile the line between pleasure and pain, success and failure is, and how emotionally devastating fandom can be. I go about my day-to-day, and try and not get overly fired up about sports, though I do like them, I follow them, I derive pleasure from them. I loved this Patriots team -- not in the latently homosexual way that so many "dudes" around here "love" Tom Brady. It was a distinct honor to watch them play, and go along for the ride. Yet, as a friend wrote on his blog "Why do I get so emotionally invested in something that is out of my control?" I wish I knew because Super Bowl Monday was a drag. There is no energy in the area, everybody is down and I've heard more than once that people were up all night; that they thought that what they'd seen was a bad dream. No such luck. It was all too real, and now many of us are questioning why we are fans; is the sort of pain we feel in the wake of a loss like that in XLII worth it in the long run?

Dreams of 19-0 ended "oh . . . no . . . " as Plaxico Burress hauled in the winning TD with 35 seconds to go. Perfection was thwarted. A tremendous, record setting ride has been written off as meaningless. That seems a bit harsh to me, and not entirely fair but never forget the aforementioned, razor thin line between pleasure and pain, success and failure. A miserable 2:24 at the end of XLII, wiped out the previous 18 hours 57 minutes and 36 seconds of superiority, and now the Patriots are judged failures and now their fans, me included, suffer an existential crisis, as we contemplate the wisdom of fandom. I've long said though, that regardless of the team, win or lose, I've got to get up and go to work, pay my mortgage and feed and care for my children. Today was no exception, and, looking ahead, pitchers and catchers report to Ft. Meyers in 9 days, and Patriots mini-camp is only about 6 months away . . .

"Hi, my name's Agricola."
"HI, AGRICOOLA!"
"I'm a fan . . . "

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Kitchen Repaint

We repainted the kitchen in January and I can' believe how much it's changed my perception of the house, and how come it took so long to get around to it. We went from nasty burnt umber walls and bone colored trim and cabinets to nice bright silver-blue walls with bright white trim, doors and a new coat of kitchen and bath paint on the ceiling. Everything is done in a semi-gloss and it looks awesome. We also changed the hardware on all of the cabinet doors and took the opportunity to reorganize all of the shelves.

I started the job grudgingly -- I'd wanted to paint Child Two's room and the entry-front hall first, but Mrs. Agricola and then Mater & Pater Agricolae got on me and I knew the jig was up. We originally intended to paint only the walls and ceiling, but the cabinets and trim looked so beat that we gave the whole room a total makeover and it looks great. Pater Agricolae helped tremendously in hanging the cabinet doors, which proved the trickiest part of the job, and Mrs. A got her reorganization fix in a huge way. The kitchen is not perfect, but it's a huge improvement and with the addition of a table from and bar stools from Ikea it's completely more useful. This was another good, family, project on the Quarter Acre that has improved life and fed our handy-people nature.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Raptor Dance

I was sitting in a meeting the other day (1/28/08)and saw a pair of Bald Eagles starting their mating dance. The male was striking with his white head and tail, and the female was larger and duller in coloration. They were wheeling around one another and soaring about over Joppa Flats in Newburyport. I was witnessing the flirtation stage and did not get to see the spectacular and death-defying talon-locked-tumble portion of the ritual -- no doubt, they moved out of view for some more privacy.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Disenfranchisement Rejected

Following up "Change, Right . . . " a Nevada court rejected the suit brought by Clinton supporters and the NV Teachers' Union to ban casino-based caucus places. This ban would have disenfranchised Black and Latino employees of Casinos and other companies along the Las Vegas Strip. The suit was filed on behalf of the Clinton campaign in the wake of the powerful Service Workers' Union endorsement of Barack Obama.

How is it that the Clintons get away with this stuff, and why are they such darlings of the main stream media? Are there any less attractive people than these people (and I'm not referring to physical appearance)? They are rotten to the core. Is the country really ready for at least four more years of ugliness?

I have only questions, and no answers.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Change, Right . . .

Lest anybody think that the current election, as currently campaigned by the Democrats, is about changing government and saving the working and middle classes of America, read John Fund's opinion piece in today's WSJ.

. . . [I]t was only last week [the Democrats] argued before the Supreme Court that an Indiana law requiring voters show ID at the polls would reduce voter turnout and disenfranchise minorities. Nevada allies of Hillary Clinton have just sued to shut down several caucus sites inside casinos along the Las Vegas Strip, potentially disenfranchising thousands of Hispanic or black shift workers who couldn't otherwise attend the 11:30 a.m. caucus this coming Saturday.

D. Taylor, the president of the Culinary Workers Union that represents many casino workers, notes that legal complaint was filed just two days after his union endorsed Barack Obama. He says the state teachers union, most of whose leadership backs Mrs. Clinton, realized that the Culinary union would be able to use the casino caucuses to better exercise its clout on behalf of Mr. Obama, and used a law firm with Clinton ties to file the suit.

How lovely, is the nakedly aggressive pursuit of power.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Shaking the Trees

Monday, a Nor'Easter dropped about 8-10 inches of snow on the Quarter Acre. the snow was an odd, pasty consistency that stuck really well to trees and shrubs and really bent them over but it was not that heavy to shovel. I went out just after dinner to move some snow from the end of the driveway, after a late plow run, and noticed that the trees and shrubs in front of the house were seriously laden.

The beautiful Kusa Dogwood just outside of our front door was in serious danger of collapsing from its snow cover. For some reason, neither Mrs. Agricola nor I had noticed during the day how bowed and very much in danger it was of losing one of its main leaders. In order to prevent losing this tree I started shaking it with my shovel to knock the snow out of it and lessen its load. Snow was falling all around me, and I had a slight worry, in the back of my mind, that maybe, just maybe, the shaking would break the tree and I'd get nailed by a big snow-covered branch. The shaking seemed to work, caused no further damage, and this morning the leader seemed to regain its more typical, vertical alignment.

I also shook a Rose of Sharon right in front of the house that typically stands about 12 feet high. With it's snow cover it was bent nearly in half. Now, Rose of Sharons are tough, willowy trees that grow like weeds. I'm not a huge fan of them, but this one is pretty large and shields the house from the sun so I gave it some good shakes to release some weight. It too returned to it's normal verticality.

I've shoveled lots of walks and driveways in my day but never actually shoveled trees. I've got a thing for trees though and the Kusa, in particular, is an attractive and valuable specimen that would would have been terrible to lose due to storm, or more accurately, post-storm damage. Add tree shaking to the list of homeowner's responsibilities,

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Snow Day

Taken 1 14 08

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Sunset Quarter Acre

Taken by Mrs. Agricola.

Monday, January 07, 2008

US-1 & The Modern Lovers

When you are a contractor you follow the money and take the gigs where they are (within reason). Since moving back to Boston I have taken two gigs at agencies north of the city. Since I live just west and a bit south of Boston I've had some decent commutes. The ability to write off the gas makes them profitable, and I've had the opportunity to traverse many of the north/south highways and by ways of The Commonwealth on my way to and from work.

Recently, after a meeting in Boston, I shot over the Tobin Bridge and headed up US-1 North to get to my current gig. Each time I drive this road I feel compelled to blog about it, but have not until now. This road is a throwback to the earliest days of the American interstate highway system. Two lanes in either direction, lined with motels, retail stores and restaurants, and occasional traffic lights it recalls an era when people took their time going somewhere and made a day of the motor-car outing. Today, the road can be a real nightmare of traffic and it is hard to imagine taking it from Boston to Florida, as people once did, when, prior to the opening of I-95, US-1 was the highway for North-South travel on the Eastern Seaboard. As is fitting for a road that is no longer a major route, US-1 has drifted into that netherworld of faded glory that befalls so much Americana.

To say that the road is ugly is an understatement, but it also does not do the route justice. In fact, US-1 is so ugly that it is beautiful. Steak Lovers' Beacon It runs through some scrappy little towns and cities like Everet, Chelsea and Saugus and probably boasts more cell phone stores, Dunkin Donuts and auto body shops per mile than any road in the country. These establishments occupy shoddy mid-60s strip malls and old cinder block buildings along both sides of the highway. There are some classic signs along this road. One of the greatest is the giant cactus, (with fiberglass cows grazing beneath it) of Hill Top Steak House. Another iconographic sign of US 1, complete with rounded, space age design, made from painted tin and recently refurbished in the least sympathetic way possible belongs to the Ferns Motel

There is also some excellent highway architecture along this road:

No doubt The Ship Restaurant in Saugus (now a mall I've read) once served seafood baked beneath a mountain of buttered bread crumbs and garnished with parsley.

Baked Stuffed Schrod Special $9.95
The Leaning Tower of Pizza

When the moon hits your eye

The mini golf T. Rex.



All of this brings me, finally, to a quintessential Boston-band, Modern Lovers, and their most famous song, Roadrunner:

Roadrunner, roadrunner
Going faster miles an hour
Gonna drive past the Stop 'n' Shop
With the radio on
I'm in love with Massachusetts
And the neon when it's cold outside
And the highway when it's late at night
Got the radio on
I'm like the roadrunner

Originally recorded in 1972, and released in 1976, this song still gets (deservedly so, in my opinion) air play in Boston.Modern Lovers Frist LP, 1976Written by a local kid, Jonathan Richman, from Natick, MA. It un-apologetically describes what it was like to grow up in suburban Boston where, once of legal driving age, each weekend was an extended, auto-based peregrination through your hometown and neighboring communities looking for something to do.

So, on this cold, winter day, after a meeting, driving my car up US-1, soaking in its sights Roadrunner came on the radio and transformed the drive into a classic Massachusetts moment. It was not one of those "I'm depressed, and every song on the radio speaks to that angst" moments. Instead, it was a perfect confluence of one of the most local of local songs (far more local than overplayed, tired Dirty Water, which was written by The Standells of California)about a place that you know, by a person who knows that place too, while you are in that place.
I got the modern sounds of modern Massachusetts
I've got the world, got the turnpike, got the
I've got the, got the power of the AM
Got the, late at night, (?), rock & roll late at night
The factories and the auto signs got the power of modern sounds
Alright

Right, bye bye!