The most fun thing about this little video, other than the song itself (of course), were the memories it brought back. Of Menemsha (in the background) on Martha’s Vineyard. Where we spent so many happy weeks in summers past. Lobster traps. Wrestling with Carly for possession of a clearance sale silk blouse in a favorite shop in Oak Bluffs.
As for anticipation? Isn’t tomorrow being Thanksgiving quite enough? It is for me! And this year … (bring on the trumpets) … I’m not cooking! Oh, yes. Thank you!
America was born bankrupt. We won the revolution, but lost everything else. Our economy was dependent on Great Britain. We had raw material, but it was Great Britain who turned those materials into goods for world markets.
Not merely did we depend on the British to supply us with finished goods we could not produce ourselves, we depended on British banks, British shipping, and British trade routes.
Everything has a price and we had no money. We had hoped we could reach an agreement with England short of war and had there been a less intransigent monarch on the throne at the time, we might have been able to do so. Despite the Massachusetts “Sam Adams faction” who were hellbent for battle, most colonists felt at least some allegiance to England.
We had no “American identity” because there was no America with which to identify. Nor was the yearning to breathe free burning in every heart. What the colonists of North America wanted was simple. They wanted the rights of free Englishmen. We wanted seats in British Parliament. We wanted the right to vote on taxes and other policies that affected colonial life. A deal should have been reached, but George III was not a sensible, reasonable or judicious king.
The result was war, a staggering loss to England of their wealthiest colonies — and birth of the United States of America.
Winning the war was just short of a miracle. The colonies had little in the way of arms and no navy. We were sparsely populated. Existing militias were untrained, undisciplined, little better than rabble. That George Washington was able to turn this into an army was no mean feat. No wonder they wanted him to be the first President. And no wonder eight years of that terrible responsibility was more than enough for him.
French military support enabled us to beat the British. It was a loan, not a gift. We agreed to pay it back, so the French revolution was an unexpected and deeply gratifying development. It was like having the bank that holds your mortgage disappear taking your mortgage with it. It vastly improved our debt to income ratio. When Napoleon came to power and suggested we repay our war debt, we said “What debt?”
Our shipping industry was in its infancy. We had few ships or sailors, minimal access to world trade. The British ruled the seas and being soreheads, refused to share it with us. It would take many years before we could challenge their ascendancy on the seas.
WHAT DID WE HAVE?
Slaves and land. Sugar and rum.
If you who think slavery was an entirely southern institution, you’re wrong. Although slaves lived mostly in the southern colonies, they were brought to these shores by New England sea captains, held in New York, Boston, and other northern cities, sold to slavers at markets in the north, then sent south to be sold again to individual owners. The entire economy of the nascent country was based on slaves and their labor. The institution of slavery could not have persisted had it not been supported by business interests in the north.
The new-born United States had, for all practical purposes, no economy. We were pre-industrial when European countries were well into the modern industrial period. We had no factories. We had no national bank, currency, credit, courts, laws or central government. Our only thriving industry were slaves.
Although there was an abolitionist movement, it was tiny, more sentimental than real. From north to south, slavery made people rich. Not the slaves, of course, but white people. Landowners. Farmers.
In the industrialized north and the agricultural south, fortunes were made selling human beings and profiting from their labor. When it came time to write the Constitution and transform a bunch of individual colonies into a single country, the Devil’s compromise was needed. Abolishing slavery would doom any attempt to pass a constitution, so slavery became law. The groundwork was laid for the bloodiest war America would ever fight.
It would twist and distort American history, shape our politics, society, culture, and social alignments. This evil lives on and its legacy still remains — and probably always will.
HOW COME WE COULDN’T FIND A BETTER WAY?
Question: If our Founding Fathers were so smart, how come they didn’t see that slavery would come back to bite us in the ass?
Answer: They knew it was wrong and knew that it would result in civil war. In other words, they did knew it would bite us in the ass. They could keep slavery and form a strong nation — or eliminate slavery and end up with two weak countries, one slave, one free. They chose what they thought was the lesser of the two evils.
Was it the lesser evil? Hard to say and it’s a bit late to second guess the past. It was obvious from the get-go there was no way we were going to form a nation if slavery was banned. From private writings by members of the continental congress, we know every delegate understood the issue of slavery would eventually be resolved by war. Decades before the revolution that began in 1776, slavery was the polarizing issue in the colonies.
“The Great Compromise” was written into law. The Constitution was approved — and a later generation fought the war. Which, apparently, isn’t yet ended. The right and moral thing went head to head with the bottom line and lost. Sound familiar?
Eighty years later, 630,000 lives (more or less) would be the butcher’s bill for the compromises made in 1789. An ocean of blood would be the cost of ending America’s traffic in human lives. Many more years would pass before this country’s non-white population would see anything resembling justice, much less equality.
When you dine with the Devil, bring a long spoon.
ABOUT THOSE MILLS
Slaves, rum, and sugar — the triangle of trade that kept America’s economy alive — was profitable for plantation owners, sea captains, and other slave traders, but it didn’t generate a whole lot of entry-level job opportunities for average working people. A lot of people needed work, even more needed trade goods and dependable sources of income.
Most people didn’t own ships and if they did, were disinclined to take up slaving. It was never a profession for “nice folks” and a fair number of people found it distasteful. Decent people might live off the labor of slaves, but the actual process of buying and selling human beings was more than they could stomach.
So as great political and legal minds gathered in Philadelphia to draft a document to build a nation, other great minds were seeking ways to make money. It’s the American way.
In one of the stranger coincidences of history, the Constitution went into effect on March 4, 1789 while simultaneously, the American Industrial Revolution took shape on the banks of the Blackstone River.
Moses Brown had been fighting his own war. He was battling the Blackstone. With a 450 foot drop over a 46-mile course — an average drop of about 10 feet per mile — the Blackstone River is a powerhouse. Not a wide river, its sharp drop combined with its narrowness and meandering path give it much more energy than a river of this size would normally generate.
It invited development. The question was how. The river had power … but the area is rough, dense with trees, rocky. And the river is full of twists and turn and drops. The river was full of potential, but it would require inventiveness and planning to harness it.
AMERICA’S INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION BEGAN ON THE BLACKSTONE
Through 1789, as the Constitution was gaining approval throughout the former British colonies, Brown wrangled the river, trying to build a cotton thread factory in Pawtucket, RI at the falls on the Blackstone River. He was sure he could harness the river to power his mill, but as the end of the 1789 approached, the score stood at Blackstone River – 1, Moses Brown – 0.
America had her welcome mat out in those days. We needed people — especially those with industrial skills. We weren’t picky. All immigrants were welcome. This was a stroke of luck for Moses Brown.
In December 1789, Samuel Slater — a new immigrant from England — began working for Brown. Slater had spent years working at an English textile mill. He recognized that Brown’s machinery was never going to work. Slater had fine engineering skills. In under a year, he’d redesigned and built a working mill on the Blackstone River.
By 1790, Slater’s Mill was up and running, the first successful water-powered cotton-spinning factory in the United States. Slater’s Mill proved you could make money in New England doing something other than whaling, fishing, or running rum and slaves. Entrepreneurs hopped on the idea like fleas on a dog. Mills were an immediate success. New England was inhospitable to agriculture, but fertile for factories.
Mills grew along the Blackstone from Worcester to Providence, then sprouted by the Merrimack in Lowell, and eventually, throughout New England. Wherever the rivers ran, mills and factories followed.
THE BLACKSTONE CANAL
On the Blackstone, mill owners urgently needed a more efficient way to move their goods. The features that made the Blackstone a natural for generating power made it worse than useless for shipping goods. Horse-drawn wagons were slow and expensive. The trip from Worcester to Providence took 2 to 3 days over dirt roads and in winter, was often impossible.
When the weather turned bad, the roads were impassable. Which led to the building of the Blackstone Canal. Meant as a long-term solution, it actually turned out to be no more than a short-term temporary fix … but it was an impressive undertaking.
WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH SLAVERY?
Mills brought employment to the north. It created a real industrial base that would give the north the ability to fight the civil war … and win. It started with a river, continued with a canal, expanded with the railroads. Which is why the Blackstone Valley is a National Historic Corridor and known as the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution … a revolution that brought the U.S. into the modern world and positioned us to become a top dog on the international scene.
It also eliminated and further need for slave labor in the north. Why use slaves when you can pay almost nothing to free men who will provide their own food, clothing, and housing? Sometimes the lines between free and not-free are not all that clear.
BUILDING THE CANAL
The Blackstone Canal took 4 years to build, from 1824 to 1828. The main canal runs alongside the Blackstone. In some places, the canal and the river are one. There is an extensive network of small canals, many on tributary rivers like the Mumford. The main canal was designed to handle large barges. It travels in a relatively straight line from Worcester to Providence.
The smaller canals allowed mills to move goods to places not immediately on the Blackstone. Small barges could move cargo between towns and mills.
Big barges were faster and cheaper than horse-drawn wagons. A single barge could haul as much as 35 tons of cargo and only needed two horses going downstream.
The canal system remains largely intact. Trails along the canals where horses towed barges have become walking paths. The barges are gone, but small boats can enjoy the open stretches of canal and river.
WORKING ON THE RAILROAD
Ultimately, railroads were the game-changer. As soon as rails from Worcester to Boston, and Worcester to Providence were built, the canals were abandoned. Business boomed.
The Blackstone River was lined with mills and factories at the end of the 1800s. The Blackstone supplied the hydro power and in return, the river was used to dispose of industrial waste and sewage.
By the early 1900s, the Blackstone River in Massachusetts was horribly polluted. Fortunately for the river, though not necessarily for the valley’s residents, this was the beginning of the end of the textile industry in the northeast. One by one, the mills closed their New England facilities and moved south. By 1923, almost all U.S. cotton was grown, spun, and woven down south — in Mississippi, Texas, Georgia, Alabama. Without the mills and factories, the population in the Blackstone Valley’s towns began shrinking.
The hulking empty factory buildings were left as reminders of the glory days of the American mill industry. Also left behind was massive pollution of the soil and the water.
In 1971, the Blackstone River was labeled “one of America’s most polluted rivers” by Audubon magazine. It was a low point for the region. It was time to clean up the mess. There are also many areas where the soil is toxic, so full of hazardous waste it may never be usable for any purpose.
We’re still cleaning up. Although not as bad as it was, the watershed has a way to go. The river’s tributaries are less polluted than the main parts of the Blackstone. Against all logic and reason, waste-water is still being discharged from at least one sewage treatment plant in Millbury and there are quite a few nuclear generating plants in the area who dump water into the river, too (but the government doesn’t readily admit to it — now there’s a shocker, right?). It’s hard to fathom what reasoning those who favor pouring sewage and wastewater into our river have. Save a few pennies, destroy our drinking water?
The battle to save our world from greed never ends.
Good news? The birds and fish are back. American eagles nest in my woods. Herons and egrets wade in the shallows to catch fish that breed there. The river is alive despite man’s best efforts to kill it. This is a battle we need to win.
I was so tempted to put a pictures of Microsoft’s splash screen up … but I resisted. Sometimes, I am almost overwhelmed with the need to do something stupid. but I wanted you to know … I seriously thought about it.
I know the holidays are really here when my two Christmas cacti bloom. I got both of them as cuttings from a friend years ago. The plants have stayed small, probably because I have not encouraged them to expand … but both of them bloom profusely from November through February … and often throw the odd flower all through the year.
The secret to making them bloom is putting them in a bright (not necessarily sunny) window. Water them only when they are dry. And let them do their thing.
The less you mess with them, the happier they are. If you have a window in a room where you don’t use much artificial light, all the better. These lovely cacti are sensitive the natural changes of light through the seasons. These natural changes in light will trigger flowering.
The reason so many people have trouble growing these is that they fuss over them. Cacti are not fond of fussiness.
I got my first camera when I was 22. I’m not counting the Brownie camera I inherited from someone when I was a kid. It had a lens that I think was made from the bottom of coke bottle, but was not as sharp. My father took a lot of pictures, all of them awful. My mother painted, but I never saw her pick up a camera. In those days, cameras were either very expensive or junk. Typical, middle class families didn’t usually have “real” cameras, but everyone had a Brownie box camera. The quality of which might be okay or horrible, depending on luck of the draw.
I had a friend who was a photographer. He even went to a real photography school. I got interested in pictures. Started looking at books of photography. I learned how to process film (though I never learned to like the chemicals) and make prints in a dark room. As I was about to leave on my first vacation to Martha’s Vineyard — before it was “the hot” destination it later became — my friend gave me a camera.
It was an old Praktica with an f2.8 Zeiss lens. No automatic anything. Manual film loading. No light meter. There were three settings: film speed (now ISO), shutter speed, and f-stop. Since the lens was a fixed focal length, telephoto meant running forward for a closeup, and back the other way for a wide-angle view. Agility and speed counted, especially because focusing was manual too.
That trip to Martha’s Vineyard with that first of many 35mm cameras was the beginning of everything. You can read more about it on ALFRED EISENSTADT AND ME.
I’m amazed my pictures came out at all. But they did. Not only did they come out, they came out amazingly well. From that point on, I was hooked. Throughout the 48 years since then, I’ve stayed hooked on photography. I have a decent eye for casual portraits and landscapes. I’m getting better at other things and modern equipment makes experimenting with various types of pictures easy. Which is good because running back and forth would not work for me these days.
Even relatively cheap modern cameras have more technology packed in them then the most expensive cameras had “back in the day.” The only thing that has not changed and cannot change (because there are physical laws that apply) are optics. Lenses. Glass. There are properties attached to a lens that are immutable. Optics are. You can’t negotiate them. They are a physical fact.
No camera, no matter how advanced, will ever be better than the lens through which you take the picture. That’s why your phone is not as good as a real camera with a good lens.
It doesn’t have anything to do with software or any of the bells and whistles modern photographic technology tries to sell you. Bottom line, it’s all about the lens. If you have a good eye and a sharp lens, you’re in business.
I work at photography, but mostly, I play at it. It’s fun. I know many photographers who are better than me. Some of them are not merely a little bit better, but a lot better. I am awestruck by the work they do. Most of them have far better technical skills than me and frequently, better equipment than I can ever hope to afford.
But I really love taking pictures. Photography has been my hobby my entire adult life. It has saved my sanity when everything else in my life was going horribly wrong.
Of all the hobbies I can think of, it’s the only one for which you will never grow too old. It never gets boring. You can take it with you wherever you go. These days, you can share your pictures with the entire world online. It gives you a reason to get out of the house when you ordinarily wouldn’t bother. It’s a way to be creative without needing a special room or expensive equipment. Because even if all you have is a cell phone, you can always take pictures. A good eye can overcome mediocre technology … and no amount of great equipment or software can make up for a poor eye.
THE OPERATOR, by Kim Harrison, is now available online and in bookstores.
It’s been a long wait since the first book in the series. I have missed Kim Harrison. After reading so many bad books, picking up this one was like a breath of fresh air. Good prose, realistic, natural dialogue. A complex plot without a million dangling loose ends. A professional, dedicated author at the top of her game. A really good book.
While you read this, pretend you are in the bookstore of your dreams or maybe your childhood. In one of those old leather chairs, tucked in the corner. With a little table and a standing light by which to read. I’m going to hand you the book. It’s new and the binding crackles when you open it.
Kim Harrison, whose series “The Hollows” produced a long run of best-sellers, has a new series. The first book in the Peri Reed Chronicles was released in 2015. That was “The Drafter.” It introduced a dystopian near-future world without magic, but with technology indistinguishable from magic. A science fiction thriller that feels real and now.
Science it may be, but there are people who are born with a genetic ability to use it. Such people are called drafters.
Drafters can manipulate time. Not like traveling through a wormhole or time machine. More like making a precision adjustment of as much as 45 seconds, or as little as a blink. Just enough time to undo a fatal bullet or catastrophic error.
Peri Reed is a drafter. She used to work for the ultra super secret (and thoroughly corrupt) government agency known as OPTI. Now, she’s free and alive — and trying to stay that way. Peri has lost many memories. Years worth of memories. Some memories have been replaced by false ones. Some are just gone, leaving holes in the continuity and fabric of her life. She wants her memory back, but not if the cost to get them is going back to work for OPTI — or any other agency. How to win freedom and control of her life? Regain her memories without selling herself to whoever makes the best deal?
Peri Reed isn’t just any drafter. Peri is the drafter. The best ever. Which is why everyone wants her — and she wants none of them. Yet, she needs help. There’s no way she can reconstruct her past without assistance from at least a couple of the people hunting her. Dare she trust anyone?
Everyone is making her an offer. Everyone is lying.
The Operator is not merely good. It’s a great read set in a dystopian future world. Fast-paced. Elegantly written with an underlying ironic wit and refreshingly natural dialogue. The plot and characters are layered. Complex. Everyone has a secret agenda. Behind that are more secrets and even darker agendas.
In The Drafter, Peri and the gang had promise.
In The Operator, they fulfill that promise. Peri is brave and brilliant, dangerous and vulnerable. Passionate, with scary, lethal fighting skills. She’s had bad relationships. Lost everything that mattered to her. Made terrible life choices. Lives in a brutal world of danger and duplicity through which she must navigate alone, or depend on treacherous people with dubious motives.
If you love science fiction thrillers and are tired of reading the same tired stories, this will be a treat. This is a fresh story with an intriguing, original plot, full of Kim Harrison’s wonderful writing to sweep you into another world.
THE OPERATOR by Kim Harrison is now available on Kindle, paperback, limited edition hard cover, and on Audible.com. This is a great book, one of the two or three best I’ve read over the past few years. Exciting. Action-packed with a complex twisting plot I dare you to guess.
Every clue Ms. Harrison drops is a real clue. The characters are mad and complicated, embodying his or her own mystery. Not only is “The Operator” worth reading, it’s worth reading twice.
Here’s a link to its page on Amazon. I’m looking forward to the Audible.com version which should arrive in my library today. I’m will happily read it again. Probably at least once more after that. There is a lot of depth to this story and back stories to the back stories.
I can hardly wait for the next book. It’s not over for Peri Reed. Not by a longshot.
“The time has come,” the doglet said,
“to talk of many things;
Of tennis balls and squeaky ducks,
and sneaky bees with stings;
of why the sparrows fly so fast
and if that cat has wings.”
“Just wait a bit,” the writer said,
“I’m busy with these things.”
“But writer,“ said the small dog then,
“The sun will shortly set,
the pheasants will be playing out,
and rabbits too, I bet.
I really should be practising,
I haven’t caught one yet.”
“Hmm. Never mind, it’s raining
and you don’t like getting wet.”
“Ok then,” sighed the little dog,
“We could consider, please,
the therapeutic benefits
of sharing Cheddar cheese.
Or why that spider’s sitting there,
Or why do you have knees…”
“You scratch a lot,” the writer said,
“You sure it isn’t fleas?”
The clouds were turning dusky pink,
Upon the fading blue.
The writer sighed, put down the pen
another task was through.
“Come on, small dog, go get the leash,
your walk is overdue.”
The small dog answered sheepishly,
“Tough luck, I ate your shoe.”
With apologies to Lewis Carroll…. But none at all to her. She should come out more.
The flowers that bloom in the spring (tra la). Roses smell wonderful, but daffodils? Do they have a scent? Hyacinth is powerful … but columbine? It looks aromatic, but …
Inside, there’s coffee, always coffee. The smells of anything baking. Bread, cookies, brownies. It makes you hungry. When that grubby mutt pups up into your lap, now that’s an earthy aroma. Makes you … yeah … want to call the groomer. Immediately. “Do you have room for an emergency? Because I have two of them …”
Over the years, I have become almost unconscious of some of the smells around me, especially the dogs. I can still smell food. I know when the pizza’s done by the smell. I know when that turmeric shrimp and rice is ready to eat. My nose knows.
Has anyone been on a New York city subway recently? Now that is an aroma you can get your teeth into!
The Cardinal has announced that this challenge will run again through 2017. I love this challenge. It’s my favorite, first and foremost, because living here in the country, the weather is our calendar. It surrounds us, engulfs us. Regulates what we do and where we do it. It has presence and power in our lives. But the other reason is that I know it’s coming and regardless of the weather or my mood or plans, I have to go out and take some pictures. Sometimes, it’s the only thing that will get me into my boots and overcoat and outside with the camera. It’s a wonderful motivation for a lazy photographer.
If you’d like a challenge that will actually challenge you — in a fun way — this is a good one. It’s also a challenge in which many of the participants are so much better photographers, it pushes me to try to be better, more creative. Find something new to say about a scene I’ve shot many times before.
It’s the final month of shirtsleeve weather before winter comes. It’s the month where you may get snow, but the roses continue to bloom. Autumn leaves have lost the bright scarlet and yellow of October and transformed to the dark red, rust, and bronze of November. Leaves still cling to oak and maple trees. The quiet waters of the river reflect the gold of the trees.
The late afternoon sun is amber and casts long shadows. The strange sunlight changes the colors we see, turning bronze to yellow. Our eyes do indeed deceive us … or the camera’s eye cannot capture the November hues.
Super moon – November 2016
The stores are advertising Christmas while families are still organizing their Thanksgiving invitations. Hurrying the seasons has become the standard. I understand the merchant’s need to sell, sell, sell. I hope they are equally understanding of how much we would like to get through one holiday before being battered by the next.
From Cardinal Guzman:
What’s this «Changing Seasons» blogging challenge?
«The Changing Seasons 2016» is a blogging challenge with two versions: the original (V1) which is purely photographic and the new version (V2) where you can allow yourself to be more artistic and post a painting, a recipe, a digital manipulation, or simply just one photo that you think represents the month. Anyone with a blog can join this challenge and it’ll run throughout 2017.
It doesn’t matter if you couldn’t join the first month(s), late-comers are welcome.
These are the rules for Version 1 (The Changing Seasons V1):
Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons
Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery.
Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.
These are the rules for Version 2 (The Changing Seasons V2):
Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons
Each month, post one photo (recipe, painting, drawing, whatever) that represents your interpretation of the month.
It’s a black and white kind of day. Grey and chilly. Almost the complete opposite of the weather of yesterday and the day before. It’s the end of the best of the season. Cold is seeping in through all the cracks.
adjective: Characterized by vulgar or pretentious display; designed to impress or attract notice.
Synonyms: Showy, pretentious, conspicuous, flamboyant, gaudy, brash, vulgar, loud, extravagant, excessive, too fancy, ornate, overly elaborate, more.
This is it. A building that is purely ostentatious. No apologies. Just gaudy and over-the-top, designed entirely to impress. It’s just one of many such buildings all over the country. Let us hope he will not paint the White House with gold and glitter. No one, apparently, ever told the man that “All that glitters is not gold.”
Making My Home A Haven is important to me. Sharing homemaking skills. Recipes and food. Bible Studies. This is a treasure chest of goodies. So take a seat. Have a glass of tea and enjoy. You will learn all about who I am.