Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Some other quotes

Okay, I'm uploading a bunch of pictures to my Flickr.com account to get them online and, so, usable on the blog or the website (as well as available to view instead of being buried on a dusty disk drive). I've got 2 GB/month of uploads, which I am in no way anywhere near using up. While looking for pictures in some of the other directories I don't normally lurk in, I've found a few other quotes and things to pass on to you.

I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and do not find in our particular superstition [Christianity] one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology. --Thomas Jefferson

Father Leo Booth wrote a great book entitled When God Becomes a Drug. It's aimed at people who are suffering from religious addiction, which would appear to be a common problem in this country these days.

A few of the signs of religious addiction

  • Using Bible to calm nerves

  • Secret irritation when religious practices are discussed or criticized

  • Thinking world or body is evil

  • Sexuality is perceived as dirty

  • Refuse to think critically, doubt or question information or authority

  • Nonreligious family or friends judged or avoided

  • "Messages" from God

  • (The complete list of the signs of religious addiction from the book appears here. For information about the book itself and to order a copy, go here.

    Say, have you ever heard the revisionist idiots flatulating about how this is a "Christian" country? It isn't and the Founding Fathers said as much in so many words. Read about it here on Gene Garman's very well-researched website.

    Finally, I commented on Boston drivers in a few recent blog entries. Here's something that gives some background on the subject.

    I suppose some of the variation between Boston drivers and the rest of the country is due to the progressive Massachusetts Driver Education Manual which I happen to have in my tip desk drawer. Some of the Tips for Better Driving are worth considering, to wit:

    "When competing for a section of the road or a parking space, remember that vehicle in need of the most body work has the right-of-way."

    Although it is altogether possible to fit a 6' car into a 6' parking space, it is hardly even possible to fit a 6' car into a 5' parking space."

    "Teenage drivers believe that they are immortal, and drive accordingly. Nevertheless, you should avoid the temptation to prove them wrong."

    "When traveling on a one-way street, stay to the right, so as not to interfere with oncoming traffic."

    "Learning to change lanes takes time and patience. The best recommendation that can be made is to go to a Celtics game, study the fast break and then go out and practice it on the highway."

    "Never bump a baby carriage out of a crosswalk unless the kid is really asking for it."

    "Directional signals are generally not used except during vehicle inspection; however, a left-turn signal is appropriate when making a U-turn on a divided highway."

    "When paying tolls, remember that it is necessary to release the quarter a full 3 seconds before passing the basket if you are traveling more than 60 MPH."


    A quote I've always loved

    There's a quote from, of all things, Night Court, that I've always loved and that I heard again on during a TV Time "Night Court" marathon:

    Beyond a man's limits is a place that God just doesn't want us to be alone in.

    That was all. I just like this.


    Moonlight in Vermont

    We spent the night in Northampton, MA. Before we left town, we went for a grand breakfast and then stopped at WEBS, the most amazing yarn store I've ever seen. They snagged the domain www.yarn.com, which alone shows a great deal of forethought, but that's not what makes them so cool. The storefront has a large retail space, about the size of a Joanne's Fabric or similar, and it's got a great selection of yarn, needles, patterns, and accessories. All well and good and a lovely place to munge around for yarnish things… but what makes the place really cool is that there's a warehouse in back that's probably 3000 square feet of 6' shelves of yarn that's on sale for one reason or another. It's so big that there are signs above the aisles saying "100," "200," and so on, like a library. I understand that knitters all over New England drive there to make obeisance. The Babe spent about an hour there and got some lovely fabric and a pattern for a shawl.

    Equipped with blue and green wool/silk blend and replete with lots of good coffee and a large breakfast, we headed north to Vermont. There wasn't a lot about the trip, really, except that it's very pleasant to see how heavily forested Vermont is, too. (We've just gotta get back to New England again!) We stopped at the Visitor's Center right past the Vermont border for a pit stop and got a few tourist brochures, then headed north. We turned left at Ascutney and eventually arrived at the home of the Babe's high school friend, Nancy.

    Nancy's retired now after a career in civil service doing some pretty interesting stuff. Her husband is going to be retiring shortly and moving up to the new house with her. Meanwhile, she's been staying with Zach, who is a charming dog (and you know that I don't much care for dogs usually, so trust me when I say that he's a really charming dog). Zach is very well trained (Nancy did an exceptional job) and has a very sweet disposition.

    We got settled in and had a quiet evening playing cards. The next morning, we set out for breakfast in town and to do Tourist Things. (Sadly, I left my camera at home, so I didn't get photos of our day out, which was a real disappointment to me.) Nancy said we should go to the Calvin Coolidge birthplace in Plymouth. The Babe and I were a little unsure of this at first but Nancy said we should go, so go we did.

    I'm glad we went. I knew very little about Coolidge prior to this and I learned a lot. I'd known about his legendary devotion to hard work and a sober attitude, but I hadn't known much else. There was a timeline of his life with a number of pictures, stories, and mementos. I'd never really looked at his pictures before and I didn't realize that he'd been quite a handsome man. Since the pictures of him were almost always black-and-white, I'd also not realized he was a redhead. His wife was quite a beauty as well.

    One of the stories told about Coolidge is that a guest at a White House dinner bet her friends that she could get Coolidge to say at least three words during the course of the meal. When she told Coolidge about the bet, he replied "You lose." However, unlike Coolidge's tight-lipped personality, his wife Grace was fun-loving and rather effusive woman and they had an exceptionally happy marriage. Not long after they were married, Coolidge approached his wife with 52 pairs of socks that had holes in them. She asked him if he'd married her to darn socks. He replied, “No, but I find it mighty handy.”

    Coolidge became president when Warren G. Harding died. He was sworn in as president by his father, who was among many other things a notary public, in his home at 2:47am by the light of a kerosene lamp. (The house didn't yet have electricity or a telephone.) He was an able administrator who did a pretty good job of holding the country together and keeping things going, but I don't get the impression he was much of a leader: Coolidge was not the dynamic sort.

    Coolidge stayed at the homestead for one summer (the Secret Service men slept outside in tents!) and conducted the business of the country from there. There's a small post office station there at the homestead. The postmistress's salary was $50/month plus a percentage on the postage she sold, which brought her $1500/month with all the mail.

    One other memorable thing of Coolidge's history: his son, Calvin Jr., died tragically about a year after Coolidge become president: he'd been playing tennis at the White House and gotten a blood blister on his foot… from which he developed septicemia and ultimately died. It was a great sadness.

    The homestead itself has a number of buildings including a pretty church that's still used by the townsfolk. We saw the house Coolidge was born in. The bed was decorated with a hand-sewn quilt that Coolidge had made himself at the age of 10. It started raining about the time we'd made the tour through all the buildings. We ducked into the café that's on the premises and had tea and pie while the rain poured down for the better part of half an hour, then headed off.

    Our next stop was the Billings Farm Museum. The Billings Farm Museum is a working dairy farm that's been in operation since 1871. Frederick Billings, the founder, was also an early conservationist and planted more than 10,000 trees in the area in a successful effort to reforest Vermont (which had been logged off very severely by 1840). The museum is fascinating, with exhibits of farm tools and farm machinery, even dioramas of activities. There's also a video tape loop showing a carpenter making a large water tub (which is on display nearby) using water-powered tools of the time. There was also a quilt show going on the week we were there (the Babe was particularly pleased about that). We spent a couple of hours looking at everything and then left.

    It had been a remarkably edifying day already--I felt a bit like I'd done two school trips without the schoolbuses or having to keep track of a trip buddy--but we wanted to stop at a maple sugar farm, so we went to Sugarbush Farm. The gift shop was very large: they sold a wide variety of cheeses, lots of maple sugar goodies, and tons of jams, chutneys, preserves, mustards, and the occasional sausage, all of which presumably comes from the neighborhood. There were several dozen jars of assorted this and that opened for sampling in one room; I stayed there and grazed for a little while. The Babe and I ended up getting a selection of maple syrup gift tins and maple sugar candies to take home with us, but a 72-month old preposterously sharp cheddar came with us for nibbling on the trip. (You can buy this stuff off of their website; if you like a sharp cheese then this one's for you.)

    We got back to Nancy's, enjoying the Vermont hill scenery along the way. We did dinner there and then popped out to a church rummage sale that was well worth the trip: the Babe and I got a couple of lovely sweaters for 50 cents each, as well as a few other items. (Great rummage sale!) We returned home and curled up for the night.


    Monday, October 03, 2005

    Andras and Deirdre

    We could easily have spent a couple days exploring Lexington and Concord. It's charming there and we'd have loved to see the inside of the Wayside and there was plenty of touristy stuff worth doing in the towns from the look of it. Add another thing to the list for the next time we're in Massachusetts.

    We headed west to Worthington. Andras and Deirdre (et al.) live on a farm out there. It was a longer drive than we thought it'd be (Massachusetts is a lot wider than I thought it was and the roads weren't necessarily as traversable as I might have expected), so we got there around 6:00pm.

    I've known Andras and Deirdre since 1982, when I met them at an early Pagan Spirit Gathering. They were head of Earthspirit then (and now) and they did lots of good things for the pagan and Wiccan communities back then (and still do, from what I can see). I was also blessed with the chance to work with them in Covenant of the Goddess for a number of years. They are fine people, wonderful singers, well-read and thoughtful, and they have a delicious sense of humor. They are also delightfully pretty. All these traits have been passed on to both of their children. The last times I saw them was in 1989 at their old house in Boston and then a couple years later in Seattle, when they came out to visit us. Donovan was very young and Isobel hadn't been born yet. They have long since moved from the Greater Boston area and are living on 135 acres in as pretty a valley as you've ever seen.

    Having braved the roads and heading out to roughly the middle of nowhere (but a very pretty nowhere, I hasten to add!), we made it to the farm. There were many hugs and introductions. I introduced the Babe to them (they'd not met her before) and we both met Donovan (who wasn't talking much when I'd seen him many years before) and Isobel (who hadn't even been born the last time I saw A & D). It was amazing: 15 years and Deirdre hasn't changed. I'm of the opinion that she's never going to show her age.

    It being later than we'd hoped to arrive, we took a tour around the farm while there was still light. The first thing we saw was the stream. There are several streams on the property; this one is the biggest.

    The stream was running low when we saw it (although we heard tales of the flood a few years back, when the stream was auditioning for a role as "The Gushing Torrent"), so we could see the bed easily. As we got closer to it, we saw that there were a number of rock sculptures sticking up on the banks.

    A friend of theirs comes by and creates rock sculptures. I didn't find out how. When the stream is fuller, I'm sure that some of these are sticking out from under the water, Andy Goldsworthy-style. (If you're not already familiar with Andy Goldsworthy's work, check out some sample images here.) I really like what he's done.

    In a field near the stream, there's a maze in the making.

    The maze is currently laid out with stones. I've always thought that a large parcel of land is enhanced by the addition of a maze somewhere.

    Not far from the maze is a Peace Circle.

    In the Peace Circle is a pile of rocks brought from all over the world and deposited here.

    We headed back up from the Peace Circle towards the house and the animals.

    We'd seen the chickens (some of whom were stretching the concept of "free-range" to its absolute limit) as we drove up. They're a good-looking bunch of birds and fresh free-range eggs are a culinary bedazzlement, but, honestly, I've seen chickens and there's not to say about them but, "Yup, Maw, that's a fine-looking bunch o' chickens!" Goats, on the other hand, have character--usually on the pugnacious side, but character nonetheless. The billy has an amazing set of horns.

    We then went up to see the llama, whose name is Sinta.

    The llama lives in a pen with a bunch of the goats. The goats and the llama are reasonably friendly and tolerate people getting into the pen with them.

    Quite apart from the convenience of corralling the llama with the goats, the theory is that the llama will protect the goats from coyotes should any show up. "Has it done so?" I asked. "Well, no, but there is a llama nearby that stomped a porcupine to death when it got into the pen." "How did they know for sure?" "They had to pull quills out of the llama's feet." Hokay….

    The Babe didn't get too close to Sinta. She doesn't have a fear of big animals, but she has seen llamas spit on two different occasions (they do spit every so often). Both times, it nailed one of her brothers, so I guess that counts as a draw.

    I got close enough to pet Sinta a little. Llamas are rather adorable animals, generally, and I have always enjoyed the fact that they hum.

    We then hiked up the hill. The Babe's knees were bothering her so she didn't join us. We passed the back of the farm house and could peer into Andras's office, which looked to be about the level of hoorah's nest that mine usually is.

    We also went past the remains of the old sugar shack, which from the looks of it remains standing mostly out of force of habit at this point. Donovan told me that up until a year or two ago, you could still smell the lingering aroma of maple sugar in the shack.

    The sugar shack was up the hill from the house. The sugar shack was on my right as I headed up the hill. Looking straight up the hill, there was a large clearing. I heard stories about sledding aaaaaaall the way down the hill, navigating the path at the bottom of the hill onto the road by the house, and then going all the way down the road to the stream: about 1/4 mile! Quite a ride, I must say! (I tried enhancing the picture as best I could, but the light was fading at that point and it was tough getting a good shot. Next time, next time.)

    Facing away from the sugar shack to the left was more field. Although the picture doesn't show it, there's a much sharper drop-off that leads down to where the llamas and goats and bunnies are. Isobel and Donovan were telling me about how they liked sledding and skiing on that part of it best.

    A little ways above the sugar shack on the right was another clearing, in which was a standing circle of stones that Andras and Deirdre had created.

    Andras told me that they'd gotten stones in place in three different ways:

  • Sledging them in with rollers--The kids had been responsible for picking up the rollers and running them around to the front again.

  • Dragging them by ox-team--A team of oxen pulled them in. Andras said that it was amazing watching them work because they did everything together: when the ox on the left put a foot forward, the ox on the right put the corresponding foot forward. He said they looked like they were thinking with one brain.

  • Dragging them with a small tractor--The modern way, yes, but it works, too.

  • All three ways were fun. And the circle is standing, so they were all effective.

    One of the stones looked very much like the Barber stone of the Avebury circle. It's a fine stone circle, as good as any contemporary stone circle I've seen. Of course, the surroundings and company improve it, too.

    We went back down the hill, snagged the Babe, and went inside. Dinner was fantastic and there were several other people in the community joining us. Afterwards we dug out songs that we hadn't sung in ages and new gems that we hadn't had a chance to share with each other.

    Andras reminded me of one song that I'd completely forgotten that I used to do, entitled "You Can Sing Anything You Want to 'Alice's Restaurant'." Andras, Deirdre, Donovan, and Isobel all joined in for two songs with harmony. We were thrilled.

    Sue was also able to join us later in the evening--huzzah!


    We kept singing and telling stories until 11-ish, at which time we bade sorry goodbyes and headed off for the evening. I'd had a grand time and was very pleased with having been able to share some of my favorite people with my favorite person and vice versa.

    The Babe was vastly impressed with Donovan and Isobel (me, too) said as much. We'll be visiting again and not in 15 years. We got to our hotel, crawled into bed, and fell asleep almost immediately after a rich, happy day.