DUKE SAYS “I’M NOT A DOG!”

This week, Duke rejected a meal — which all the people in the house had happily eaten the previous day — because it had potatoes in it. Duke, who claims he is not a dog, does not like potatoes. Any potatoes. Not even salty, curly, spiced French Fries!  “But,” said my son, “ALL dogs love fries.” Not El Duque. He used to like potatoes, mind you. In fact, he used to beg for them. Now? He puts a fry in his mouth, carries it to a corner where he drops it, then comes back to beg for another. Because the new one might be better than the last.

 

Having him reject the same chicken stew we all loved was my final straw as a chef.

“It’s dog food for you,” I announced. How spoiled is your dog when he gets picky about human food? I had actually begun to carefully pick out the cooked peppers from food since Duke refuses to eat them. Clearly, a few weeks of dog food should clarify his position in the food chain. For the first time in recent memory, he didn’t get any leftovers last night. There really weren’t any leftovers anyhow, but I usually save my last bite or two for him because he’s a good boy. But good boys do NOT reject my chicken stew (which had actually been a pot-pie, but humans ate the crust).

I couldn’t help myself. I was insulted by my dog. As permanent full-time cook, his rejection of my chicken stew — good chicken stew — was more than I could handle. I am convinced before the week is out, Duke will start to recognize his doghood. He is not a person. He is a dog because he is eating dog food. Which is probably better for him anyway, though frankly, all that chicken with onions and mushrooms and tiny cut-up (by hand!) potatoes looked pretty good to me.

MASKED! A PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGE

A PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGE: MASKS

The other day, I was looking at the sales on one of my favorite clothing sites and realized that they now sell masks to go with every outfit you own. At least a dozen colors plus lots of patterns. This COVID experience has been interesting in a lot of ways, but for some reason, I didn’t expect fashion changes. I don’t know why. I suppose, like most people, I thought this would come and go in a couple of weeks or maximum months. Who knew it would become part of our lives for so long? This change in what is a pretty conservative clothing collection seemed so odd to me. It also means that they — clothing manufacturers — think we are going to be wearing masks for a long time to come.

Masked and ruthless!
Wisdom from Bizarro and the giant heads on Easter Island.

BETRAYED AND SEEKING NEW HOME

Like many others, I’ve found the “new” WordPress block editor to be clunky and awkward to use. It doesn’t matter where I use it. It’s equally difficult on my 15.6 inch PC laptop as it is on my 14-inch Mac. I’m not a phone blogger, but that’s because I don’t see well enough to be able to edit on anything that small.

Some people feel their problems are linked to trying to use the block editor on a phone, but the real problem is the poorly thought-out software design. It has made it difficult to work with images and impossible to use when having written text, you now want to add graphics. Why such a massive failure? Because whoever designed the software doesn’t use it and doesn’t understand what writers and photographers need to produce satisfying results. Good software disappears when you use it and you don’t “feel” the software. Using word processing software isn’t supposed to be the issue. Your words and pictures are important. The software is not.

I always hoped WordPress would fix their editor to make it more responsive for writing and editing, to provide us with a better, smoother integration of fonts and images. Instead, they did exactly the opposite. I don’t think I would willingly use this software for anything — not creative or commercial. It is as hard to work with as Framemaker without its power or elegance. Granted Framemaker was not easy to learn, but once you set it up, it stayed set up. And the results you got with it were amazing — and worth the effort. There was almost nothing it couldn’t do. This block editor lacks even the basics which ancient versions of MS Word used 20-years ago. It is NOT worth the effort.

My dislike of it is not that I can’t figure out how it works but why I should bother? It pushes you into working in a very specific way which cuts off creative freedom. What’s more, the elementary school crayon colors are annoying and look terrible with photographs or any art. They don’t add quality. Some of the layout designs for graphics look pretty, but you can only make them work when you are writing a first draft. They are non-editable after insertion. Once you have put them together, you can’t move the pictures around. You have to delete and — if you are still in first draft — redo the gallery. If you have moved along, all you can do is delete it and later, add a picture. One picture. Maybe some people only write a single draft, but that ain’t me. Maybe other people are able to get it all done in one go, but I have never been that person.

A good writing application leaves you alone. If it requires set up, you do that when you get started. After that, you write your story, add pictures where you feel you need or want them. If you’re me, you go back and move everything around, rewrite sections, copy and paste text and graphics often many times. How else can you write and come out with an intelligent, well-written and properly edited post?

Meanwhile, I’ve spent a lot of money over the eight years I’ve work on this blog. I resent having WordPress strip away most of what I paid for. I’m not thrilled with any of the alternatives which are all even more costly though they give you more for your money — at least so far. Do I trust they will continue to do so?

No. I don’t know how many platforms I’ve worked on that either folded up, sold out, or went fully commercial. So to start over from the beginning? Again? I don’t think so. Having spent eight years powering through this blog, I resent being forced to abandon it. For no valid reason. A lot of my life is bound up in Serendipity and I should be supported in continuing to use it. Of course, that is not what is happening.

I will never like the block editor — unless they completely revise it, which they are obviously not intending to do. I could force myself to figure out how to make it more or less work for me — but I don’t want to. This is my hobby, not my job. Like many others, I now find myself pushed into a corner. I can abandon all the work I’ve done and start anew elsewhere, or throw in the towel. Neither option is appealing.

I have to remind myself that nothing lasts forever, especially not blogging platforms. But this is different. In every other case, the whole platform closed, often with little or no notice. This is more like being forced out of your rental apartment because they’ve decided to “go condo” and you are a mere renter. I guess that was what we all were. Mere renters.

KINDA LIKE BIRDS OF MANY FEATHERS

Kinda like Birds of Many Feathers

I have to admit, I have taken a lot of pictures of birds. i know this because when i look for pictures — any kind of pictures — the page is dominated by photographs of birds. I hadn’t realized I’d become so obsessive about taking birdy pictures, but the evidence is hard to ignore.

That for the past 7 months we have rarely left this property probably has a lot to do with it. The birds — and associated other small wildlife — are the only interesting things to take pictures of.

SIX MYSTERIOUS STONE STRUCTURES OF NEW ENGLAND – NEW ENGLAND HISTORICAL SOCIETY

Everyone knows that stone walls cover the New England landscape like honeycombs. But far fewer people know about the region’s hundreds of mysterious stone structures. In the 1930s, someone estimated that New England had 250,000 miles of stone walls. In the following decades came inventories of the region’s stone structures, which some believed to be ancient. Some of those ancient stone structures are oriented to the stars and planets. They also stand near megaliths, cairns or dolmens. A few have what are probably stone beds or sacrificial altars.

Ancient stone structure in Leverett, Massachusetts

Speculation now runs rampant about the origins of the mysterious stone structures. Did medieval Irish monks, American Indians or Vikings build them? Or did the English colonists just built them as root cellars? Most noteworthy, just three Northeast counties account for the majority of stone structures in North America: Putnam County, N.Y.; New London County, Conn.; and Windsor County, Vt. Massachusetts has the densest concentration of beehive-shaped stone chambers like those built by Culdee monks in Ireland. The state has 105 sites containing stone structures.

Connecticut also has quite a few at 62, New Hampshire has 51 and Vermont  has 41. Tiny Rhode Island has only 12 stone structures, but still more than Maine, which has only four. Some speculate that perhaps ancient voyagers frequently traveled the Merrimack, the Thames, and the Connecticut rivers.  They then built their stone structures along those routes.

Ancient stone structures — Gungywamp

Here, then, we bring you ancient stone structures (or maybe colonial root cellars), with at least one in each New England state. New England colonists found many stone buildings, when they arrived. Typically they were one story high, circular or rectangular and as long as 30 feet. Many had roof openings that allowed a little light to illuminate the interiors. As a result, early mercenaries to the Northeast wrote about ‘Indian stone castles.’ Furthermore, John Winthrop the Younger in 1654 received a letter from John Pynchon of Springfield, Massachusetts. Pynchon heard “a report of a stone wall and strong chamber in it, made all of stone, which is newly discovered at or near Pequot.” The 100-acre Gungywamp archaeological site in Groton, Conn.,  contains such stone structures as beehive chambers, petroglyphs, a double circle of stones, cellars and walls. All date back hundreds of years. Some of the structures are thought to be Native American and perhaps had ceremonial functions. Colonial settlers built others with purposes such as root cellars and birthing chambers. Some features of the site suggest they were originally built as fortifications.

There is plenty of speculation about the purpose of the Gungywamp stone structures. Some theorize that 8th-century Irish monks built certain structures. They argue ‘Gungywamp’ means ‘church of the people’ in Gaelic.  Others say it is an Indian word. Gungywamp’s most famous chamber is the so-called ‘calendar chamber.’ Archaeologists suspect the colonists originally used it for storage for a nearby tan bark mill. A vent at one end of the chamber aligns with the spring and fall equinoxes. It thus allows a shaft of sunlight to fall directly on a smaller chamber within the larger structure. Gungywamp is preserved, but many of the structures stand on private land. It can be toured virtually here. Visitors can tour the Gungywamp through the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center. More information is available here.

The Red Paint people of Maine once settled in the Hirundo Wildlife Refuge, a wetland preserve. Archaeologists discovered artifacts from the 7,000-year-old village along the Wabanaki Trail. Among the bogs and ancient burial grounds are at least 18 curious stone piles, clearly made by humans. But by whom and for what? And when? No one know. Most are 6-1/2 feet in diameter and a foot and a half high. The University of Maine owns the Hirundo Wildlife Refuge, which is open dawn to dusk all week long.

The largest and probably best known stone chamber in Massachusetts is the Upton Stone Chamber near Worcester in Upton. It includes a tunnel that connects to a roundish beehive room. A stone slab sits on top.  In 1989, two archao-astronomists concluded that people used the chamber between 700-750 A.D. to study the Pleiades. Around 670 A.D., they used it to view the summer solstice. To see photographs from 1944 of the Upton Stone Chamber, click here. The Upton Heritage Park is at 18 Elm Street.

Upton Stone Chamber — Upton, Massachusetts

Thirty miles away in Acton, an underground stone chamber in the Nashoba Brook Conservation Area is known as the ‘potato cave.’ Residents had long assumed the structure was a root cellar. A 2006 excavation found evidence people stored food in it in the 18th or 19th century. Some argue Indians built it before the colonists arrived. Still others say railroad workers lived in it during the 19th century. You can visit the restored chamber at the Nashoba Brook Conservation Area in North Acton on the easterly side of Main Street (Route 27), toward Westford and Carlisle.

During the summer solstice, a procession of people banging drums softly come to America’s Stonehenge. They aim to honor Mother Earth. America’s Stonehenge is a 30-acre complex of standing stones, underground chambers and stone walls in North Salem, N.H. As the largest collection of stone structures in North America, it includes dolmens, or horizontal stone slabs on vertical stone uprights. It also has cromlechs, or circles of standing stones and barrows, or tombs. There’s a secret bed, an echoing oracle chamber, a sacrificial altar stone and a stone-lined speaking tube that gives the impression the altar is talking when someone speaks into it. Radiocarbon dating confirms that pagans built the structures as many as 4,000 years ago.

America’s Stonehenge – North Salem, New Hampshire

The written record doesn’t mention the ancient stone structures until 1907, in History of Salem, New Hampshire by Edward Gilbert. He wrote that a family named Pattee owned the land, called Mystery Hill, and had many of the stones carted away for construction in Lawrence, Mass. A retired insurance executive named William Goodwin bought the site in 1937. He had it excavated and became convinced Irish Culdee monks built the site about 1000 A.D. The monoliths are astronomically aligned, leading to the conclusion the stones were used as a prehistoric calendar. Mystery Hill was renamed America’s Stonehenge and as a result gets 15,000 visitors a year. The site can still be used as an accurate yearly calendar.


There is much more to read. I subscribed to this site a while ago and it is fascinating, especially since many of these structures are much older than European occupation of North American. One of them, the Upton Stone Chamber, is literally about 10 miles up the road in the middle of Upton — right here in the Blackstone Valley.

Please do check out the original site. If you think North America lacks its own ancient history, this will be an eye-opener.

Source: Six Mysterious Stone Structures of New England – New England Historical Society