Thursday, December 31, 2009

December 31, 2009

Completed the new Roofscape cover, dated January 1. Polished the N-E-W-S @ Roofscape, a section with news about the magazine. Wrote all the blurbs for Views @ Roofscape, a summary of new and featured articles inside the magazine. Crafted a new Beans About Boston puzzler and Thought for the Week.

Everyone was away for the holidays so I had the kitchen, in fact the whole house, to myself. Created a broccoli-cheddar soup using freshly made vegetable stock. Made a whole gallon, swirling colorfully in a big green enamel cooking pot. And totally nailed the recipe on take one. That doesn't happen often. It will appear in the January 15 issue.

As I finished the soup and set the steaming pot on the table, Charles and Joanne appeared at the door just back from their trip to Israel. Charles - who's a big broccoli fan - and I sat down and ate the soup while he spun stories of their journey through the Holy Land over Christmas/Hannukah, including fabulous feasts in tents with Bedouins in the desert.

Updated the department and contributor pages related to the new articles and features on the cover, also changing their color, nav bar and title. Made two new contributor pages. Housekeeping chores. Not onerous when done one at once, but five new items is a schlep. And we're not quite out of the woods, but I've had enough for now.

Decided on the cover images for the next two months, all snow scenes.

Now trying to decide two things. First - what should the next new (small-scale and manageable) article be? Second - what article in progress should I focus on? I'm leaning towards Roofscapes 2010 Garden - which would also help us get a jump on actually planning it and Olmsted's Green Ribbon, about FLO and the Emerald Necklace.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

December 29, 2009

Roofscape is back! I'll quote from the new cover of the magazine to explain our absence.

We've been away and we look forward to being back. The recession was rough on Roofscape and regrettably we had to suspend work on the magazine for the latter part of '09.

So where have we been? We took our design and building skills, found a partner and started a new business designing and building interiors and landscapes for private and business clients, mostly in Boston's beautiful South End. And we've been fortunate enough to find some wonderful clients with interesting projects. We appreciate you.

We'll be working our way back to you - gradually, in a manageable manner. By January 1st we'll have a new cover, articles and features inside the magazine and at Roofscape Journal, plus a new, lighter color scheme.

We're working from the cover in, starting with a new seasonal image Along a Northbound Rail Line from Boston. The N-E-W-S @ Roofscape is completely updated, featuring three new articles. The first, Paris Sketches by Charles Thiesen is edited, image and uploaded. Bike Lanes: Promise and Peril by Michael Felsen (which previewed here in November) is now online as well, as is Ciambotta, which previewed a few days ago just below.

The purpose of Roofscape Garden Journal is going to change. Fun as it is, we're going to deprecate it somewhat to focus on the magazine itself. The journal will now be a record of our work and experiences at the magazine - and yes, Roofscape's garden. OK - and maybe cool new images as soon as they're taken, as always. That's just too much fun to let go.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Ciambotta | Cookout . 5

Ciambotta is one of the definitive dishes of southern Italy - on a par with Pasta Puttanesca - a vegetable stew simply using the bounty of the family's kitchen garden or the local farmers' market. Pronounced, this melange of fresh garden produce also figures variously among Italians and Italian-Americans as slang for a big mix-up, mess or an obsession.

Jambot is fairly fast, flexible and forgiving but several things are key. First - using the freshest ingredients picked at their peak. Second - salting and draining the eggplant and tomatoes. Third - cooking some of the vegetables separately to their optimum time before combining them.

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 large (1-1/2 pounds) onions, chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced and mashed with salt
3 large celery stalks, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch slices
4 large (1 pound) carrots, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 large (1-1/2 pounds) eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 pounds tomatoes, chopped
2 large red bell peppers, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths
1 pound zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound turnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 10-ounce bags frozen corn kernels
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
A pinch each of basil, oregano, tarragon and thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup capers, rinsed and drained
6 medium-hot cherry bell peppers, seeded and minced
Parmesan cheese, grated
Garlic bread

Toss the eggplant cubes in a bowl with 2 teaspoons salt. Turn into a colander and let it sit over a bowl for 30 minutes or so to sweat out the bitter juices. Rinse, drain and squeeze dry between two clean tea towels.

Paste tomatoes such as plum or Roma varieties can be chopped and added directly to the cooking pot. Other garden varieties often have a high water content and after chopping should be lightly salted and left to drain in a colander for 30 minutes or so. Save the tomato water for possible addition to the stew at some point if it looks too dry. Some cooks also prefer to seed and peel the tomatoes. To peel tomatoes dunk them in a large pot of boiling water for a few minutes until the skins split then run them under cold water. They'll then peel easily.

Heat the oil in a large heavy cooking pot over a medium-high flame. Add the onions, garlic, celery and carrots. Cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the eggplant and wine. Cook about 10 minutes, with some stirring.

Add the tomatoes, peppers, olives and herbs. Lower the heat and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter over a medium-hight flame in a cast iron skillet. Saute the mushrooms until they're browned.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Cook the green beans to tender-crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer them to a large mixing bowl using a slotted spoon. Add the zucchini to the boiling water and cook until tender-crisp, about 5 minutes. Move them to the mixing bowl with the slotted spoon. Add the potatoes to the boiling water and cook until barely tender, about 10 minutes. Add to the the beans and zucchini using the slotted spoon. Cook the corn following the timing on the package, Drain and add to the boiled vegetables.

Add the boiled vegetables and sauted mushrooms to the stew and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve in soup bowls with capers fried in a little olive oil, hot peppers, cheese and garlic bread.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Our holiday greeting card

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

December 8, 2009

Over the weekend we had both our first frost and snowfall of the season. Together. In my memory that's a first. And the latest first frost that I ever recall. Our typical frost date is in late September and here we are in December, over two months late.

The weather turned on a dime like a damned traitor. From the 50's and up to 70° a few days ago, it's now down in the low 40's for a high and predicted to slip into the 20's. Not funny.

We're still riding our bikes everywhere, of course. Wool sweater under a thick sheepskin jacket, wool hat, fingerless wool gloves, long thermal underwear - with shorts over to preserve that summer feel. I'm in denial about this winter.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

December 5, 2009

The first week of December and Boston still hasn't had its first frost, much less a snowfall. The days have often been bright and warm with temperatures in the 50's. The day before last it hovered just below 70° all day with sunshine and brisk, warm southwest breezes.

A line of waterfowl flying high and fast due south, very late to migrate. Evidently the higher latitudes have been unseasonably warm as well.

Flowers lingering on, still blooming hopefully. The trees stripped bare by warm windy storms, all but the tenacious oaks insisting on their full tenure.

But as the days continue to shrink toward the solstice our endless Indian Summer might soon be over. Cold - 40°, not even sweater weather in some parts of the country - and snow, mere window dressing dustings - are predicted. And indeed the bright white cloud cover does seem to speak of snow. And I feel the familiar lassitude that a snowy day brings with it. Snowbound. No schools, all schools. The only earthly use for snow.

In September I predicted a mild winter. And that the Sox would lose. So far so good. Over the last four years I've called the weather, Red Sox and elections correctly - except for last year's rather rough winter - rough only in terms of the easy ride we've come to expect and deserve. But that was just a blip, an anomaly. The trend continues. Global warming is here to stay. My guilty pleasure. Living in Boston, maybe 3 feet above sea level, definitely guilty.

Orion, the hunter constellation, rising burning and bright in the east at a more convenient and ever-earlier evening viewing hour. Check this out to accompany the Great Hunter through the heavens.

Image: Bottle Glass. The North End, Boston.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Mediterranean Macaroni and Cheese | Cookout . 4

Mac and cheese is a quintissential comfort food and kid-friendly classic. This recipe takes it on a Mediterranean detour with Parmesan, black olives and hot peppers.

You’ll notice that several of the ingredients in this recipe aren’t quantified but indicated as to taste, a phrase usually tacked on in most recipes after the words salt and pepper. To taste means just that. You taste the food, gradually adding a particular ingredient until it is just to your taste.

Chefs are constantly tasting their food, as chef Gordon Ramsey does and continually emphasizes to the contestants of Hell’s Kitchen must always be done. He sees it as a key to cooking. Home cooks frequently just follow a recipe and first taste the food when it arrives at the table.

To season this recipe to taste start with a small quantity of an item. Whisk a teaspoon of paprika into the cheese sauce - then taste it. If you’d prefer a more pronounced paprika flavor, whisk in another teaspoon - then taste again. Continue this way until you’ve got things to your taste (or perhaps your kid’s). Repeat this process with the hot peppers and salt and pepper.

Ingredients ...
2 pounds elbow macaroni
8 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup plus/minus flour
8 cups 2% milk
1-1/2 pounds extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 pound Parmesan cheese, grated
1 large onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced and mashed with salt
3 stalks celery, finely diced
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets, steamed
1 6.3 ounce jar black olives, finely sliced
1 large bunch parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped (optional)
paprika, to taste
jalapeno peppers, finely chopped, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
4 cups fresh bread crumbs

Preparation ...
1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
2. Melt 1 ounce of butter in a skillet. Saute the onion over a low flame for 15 minutes or so to caramelize it. Add the garlic and celery, cooking for another 5 minutes or so.
3. While the onion cooks, steam the cauliflower until it's tender but firm.
4. Melt 7 ounces of the butter in a medium saucepan. Gradually whisk in flour until a thin paste forms, stirring continuously, and cook for several minutes.
5. Gradually whisk in the milk and bring to a simmer, stirring frequently. Gradually whisk in the cheeses.
6. Cook the macaroni per the package directions to al dente firmness.
7. Combine all ingredients, except the bread crumbs, in a large mixing bowl. Transfer the macaroni mixture into two buttered 9-inch by 13-inch glass baking dishes.
8. Top with the bread crumbs.
9. Bake for 30 minutes or so.

Piano Row | On the Cover . 8

Piano Row, Boylston Street. Boston, Masscahusetts.

This is the view to one side of a former building lot on Boylston Street in Boston's Theatre District. The building torn down was called Piano Row. It housed various musical instrument, sheet music and especially piano retailers. It's now an Emerson College dormitory, built after their move from Back Bay down to the Theatre District. Theatre, TV and movies being Emerson's calling card. So I guess that's fitting. It was the site of a terrible crane collapse which killed several workers during its construction.

Observatory | Dot . 10

Astronomical observatory cupola. Dorchester, Massachusetts.

Our office is located on s street in Dorchester, aka Dot, after which this occasional series of photographs is titled. Monadnock, as it's called, is flanked by some classic Victorian houses, each with its own eccentricities and oddities. This is one of the most unusual, a cupola which used to be the 'dome' of an astronomical observatory. The entire turret rotated on a circular track to aim the telescope in the desired direction. My guess is that the little window just below the eaves was the bottom of the opening for the telescope, the roof portion of which was later covered over and shingled. Note the classic lightning rod capping the cupola.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bike Lanes: Promise and Peril | Bikeways . 1

By Michael Felsen

As a Boston resident who’s cycled to work for over thirty years, I'm heartened by all the current interest in, and promotion of, bike commuting in the city. As a mode of urban transportation, it’s fast, efficient, fitness-friendly, and green. And it’s definitely catching on. Two-wheeled traffic on my various routes to my job has notably increased in the last year or two.

One manifestation of the official recognition of cycling as a valid and valued means of transport is the sudden proliferation of bike lanes all over the city. As a bike commuter I appreciate these dedicated lanes, at least in theory. In practice, though, I have a serious problem with almost all of them: the lanes characteristically begin immediately next to the line of parked cars and, hence, leave bikers squarely in range for what's probably the greatest hazard (other than reckless riding) they face: “dooring.” My main concern is that unwary cyclists (and there seem to be many of them) operate as if riding in these bike lanes offers them a measure of safety. Not so: riding down the middle of a bike lane puts the cyclist directly within range of a suddenly opened door.

As most bike commuters can attest, this concern isn’t academic. I’ve been doored twice. Ironically, several years ago I’d just had a physical exam at work, and the attending doctor remarked how I was in pretty good shape, and how I ought to keep doing whatever I was doing. I told him my secret was that I biked to work. The next day, riding to work on Columbus Avenue, I was doored by the driver of a panel truck. I went flying, my front wheel was destroyed, and, thank goodness, I was wearing a helmet. Battered and bruised, I limped back to my office health center, and the physician on duty asked what had happened. I said: “Well, I was just doing what you told me to keep doing.”

Much more tragically, a number of years ago a friend opened his car door and hit a vibrant young woman who was biking, in a bike lane, to graduate school. She was knocked off her bike, slid under an oncoming bus, and died. Devastating, for all involved. Enough said.

Admittedly, many Boston streets just aren't wide enough to allow space for bike lanes that begin at the point beyond the range of a parked car's opening door. But the current practice of placing the lane within range of that door is a dangerous one that will likely contribute to future injuries, and even deaths.

Here's a suggestion: On roads wide enough, full-width bike lanes need to be located beyond the reach of an opening door. On the narrower roads most common in Boston, let’s make the bike lane much narrower, even just a foot wide; brightly mark it "bike lane" still, but make sure its edge that's closest to the line of parked cars is beyond the range of an open door. This way, motorists will still be called on to acknowledge -- and hopefully respect -- a dedicated bike lane; and cyclists riding inside the lane can proceed to work free from the hazard a car door, suddenly flung open, presents.

As an urban cyclist who’s “been around the block” a few times, I ride on the far left edge of existing bike lanes, but I fear for those newer bike commuters who haven’t had the benefit of that experience. Every day I see them riding in the middle of these new bike lanes, well within the span of a car door, and squarely in harm’s way. Realistically, it's going to take years of consciousness-raising before motorists have learned habitually to look for oncoming cyclists before they open their street-side doors. Until that happens, the narrower bike lane beyond dooring range could prove a life-saving alternative to what's out there now.

Images ... Top: Bike lane on Columbus Avenue in the South End, Boston. Bottom: Bike lane in the Phillipines. Courtesy of Vanguard.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Beans about Boston . 6

New beans ... are currently being cooked up. Below is the answer to the previous Beans.

Old beans ...

Malcolm X moved to Boston in the early 1940's, a troubled teenager with a tumultuous past, to live with his aunt Ella on Dale Street in Roxbury. Soon after his arrival, his aunt offered him a piece of advice that Malcolm later recalled as being one of the most important he was ever given. What was it?

1. Go see Boston.
2. Get a job!
3. Go to church.
4. Get some sharp threads.
5. Join the Nation of Islam.

Correct answer ... 1. Go see Boston.

Aunt Ella told Malcolm to go see Boston before he became busy with a job and schooling and had no time to wander around the city. He took her advice and was amazed by all the history on view wherever he went, including the Boston Massacre monument featuring Crispus Attucks, the black martyr who helped spark the American Revolution.

Amazingly, no one got this right. 100% of respondents chose 5. Join the Nation of Islam. Malcolm joined the Nation after being introduced to it by fellow prisoners while serving time in Concord and Walpole.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Willow Leaves | On the Cover . 7

Willow Leaves. Lawrence Street in the South End, Boston.
OTC presents the current image on the cover of Roofscape Magazine.

Autumn | Thought . 6

A few days ago I walked along the edge of the lake and was treated to the crunch and rustle of leaves with each step I made. The acoustics of this season are different and all sounds, no matter how hushed, are as crisp as autumn air.

Eric Sloane. Image: Autumn, Vermont by Eric Sloane.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Mallika Sherawat | Twit-pick . 11

Mallika Sherawat
- Bollywood film star with a degree in Indian philosophy - bustin' some serious hip-hop moves in Hollywood.

Comment: Another pic from the dance floor... @unclerush n hip-hop will never be the same LOL ;-)

MallikaLA is a force of nature on Twitter where she tweets obsessively about her adventures in Hollywood. She's just wrapped her first American movie, Hisss. The film, based on the legend of Nāga, is about a snake woman whose mate is captured by an American hunter. The snake woman decides to take revenge on the hunter. Wikipedia.

Twit-pick is our current favorite picked from the public timeline of Twitpic, the new site hosting images for Twitter.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Waldorf Salad | Cookout . 3

What's in a name? Well, when it comes to food there are several possibilities.

The most common way of naming a dish or recipe is simply by describing its key ingredients - Red Beans and Rice or Baked Artichokes Stuffed with Anchovies and Garlic are two delicious examples.

Often the origin of the dish is indicated - Provencal Fish Stew or Greek Salad come to mind.

Sometimes the title is a fanciful metaphor - Ants Climbing a Tree (Chinese) or Toad in the Hole (English) are on the tip of my tongue.

Then there are the dishes named after chefs, celebrities or groups of people - Oysters Rockefeller, for John D. Rockefeller or Pasta alla Puttanesca, for the prostitutes of Naples.

The humble fresh green salad has four representatives employing this last naming strategy. They are the Caeser Salad, the Cobb Salad, The Chef Salad and The Top - as Cole Porter called it - the Waldorf Salad.

All four are both relatively recent inventions and American in origin, two from the east coast and two from the west. How did this come to be?

Salads - fresh leafy greens and uncooked garden vegetables with a dressing - have been eaten throughout recorded history, but their widespread popularity is relatively recent (the word salad bar only entered the language in 1976). In the past most people believed that eating raw vegetables was a health hazard and that all produce should be well-cooked. This belief was probably well-founded given the generally low levels of sanitation, polluted water supplies and poor farming practices such as the use of night soil (human waste).

America popularized the salad starting in the late 1800's and salads spread around the world with the beginning of the Cold War. Several factors contributed to the salad's rise: improved sanitation in the wake of the Civil War, the home economics and health movements of the 18th century, the railroads which made the distribution of fresh produce feasible and the growth of the restaurant business.

The Waldorf (1893-1896), Chef (circa 1940), Caeser (1924) and Cobb (1937) salads were all created in restaurants, the first two in hotel restaurants or dining rooms, the second two by restaurateurs in their own establishments. The mists of history, or maybe myth, shroud each one to some extent.

Unlike the other three signature salads, the Waldorf was not the work of a chef but created, apparently on the spur of the moment, by the maitre d'hotel of the Waldorf-Astoria, Oscar Tschirky, for a social register dinner with 1500 discerning guests as his taste testers. This isn't as unusual as it seems because in those less specialized times the maitre d' - in addition to playing the gracious host, managing the waitstaff, running the dining room and taking reservations - also boned fish and mixed salads tableside while bantering pleasantly with the patrons. In any case, the salad was an immediate hit and, imitation equalling flattery, quickly copied by other restaurants around the city and soon across the country.

Buoyed by the success his salad and other signature dishes he dreamed up for the hotel, Oscar of the Waldorf, as he styled himself, published a cookbook in 1896 which contains, without prelude, the original Waldorf Salad recipe.

Peel two raw apples and cut them into small pieces, say about half an inch square, also cut some celery the same way, and mix it with the apple. Be very careful not to let any seeds of the apples be mixed with it. The salad must be dressed with a good mayonnaise.

What could be simpler? Not even a leaf of lettuce to complicate things - although the way the salad is now usually presented it's just a bed of garnish anyway. The canonical walnuts? Merely an addition by competitors to differentiate their product (later adopted by hotel itself). No wonder he had a 50 year career at the Waldorf, from its opening in 1893 to his death (in the saddle) in 1943. There is longevity, as well as beauty, in the basics.

That said - times move on, things get more complex and tastes change. The Waldorf Salad which we've developed is a contemporary take on a classic. Some day it will be dated too, but for now it seems to feel of the moment.

Salad ingredients ...
1 head Romaine lettuce, thinly sliced crosswise
1 bunch watercress, coarsely chopped
1 tart apple; peeled, cored, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and tossed with lemon juice
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 pear; peeled, cored, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and tossed with lemon juice
2 pickling cucumbers; peeled, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 grapefruit; sectioned, skinned and segments halved
24 red seedless grapes, halved
1 yellow pepper, finely chopped
6 dates dates, minced
2 scallions, chopped
6 sprigs mint
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/2 cop parsley, finely chopped
Dressing ingredients ...
1/2 cup yogurt
1/2 cup mayonaise
2 tablespoons juice and zest of one orange
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced and mashed
Salt and pepper, to taste
Cajun seasoning, to taste (optional)

Preparation ...
1. Wash, thoroughly dry and prepare the salad ingredients as suggested. Toss together in a large salad bowl.
2. Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl. Allow to sit for 10 minutes.
3. Toss the dressing, in the quantity desired, with the salad ingredients to coat them evenly and thoroughly.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Reflections - Thought for the Week

Methinks the reflections are never purer and more distinct than now at the season of the fall of the leaf, just before the cool twilight has come, when the air has a finer grain. Just as our mental reflections are more distinct at this season of the year, when the evenings grow cooler and lengthen and our winter evenings with their brighter fires may be said to begin.

Henry David Thoreau - Journal of October 17, 1858.

Image: On the Park restaurant, at the corner of Union Park and Shawmut Avenue in the South End, Boston.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Fronting | Rox . 4

This is a detail of the mural under the Purple Line commuter rail bridge over Dudley Street on the town line between Roxbury and Dorchester (Rox/Dot). The bridge and mural are shown in an opening shot of the movie The Departed.

Annie | Twitpic . 10

Annie. Yaroslavl, Russia.

Twitpic is our current favorite picked from the public timeline of Twitpic, the new site hosting images for Twitter.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Who'd have guessed that something as insubstantial as the common reed could cause such conflict? But thanks to Phragmities australis that's what we have now in Boston's fabulous crime-free Fenway {as WBCN FM used to call its location, tongue firmly in cheek). A standoff between cruisers and, well, cruisers.

Like many things in Boston, and the reeds themselves, the roots of the conflict run deep.

The Fenway Victory Gardens have been gay cruising grounds for as long as anyone now alive can remember. Cruising in fact probably preceded gardening, which dates from 1946 when the Victory Gardens were created to aid the war effort. For generations, day and night, men have been milling around the banks of the Muddy River to meet other men.

For sex with Mr. Right Now, of course. And on the spot, unlike most other public cruising areas. The thick stands of reeds have mazes of trampled paths leading to free, if damp on the knees, motel rooms.

Here's the rub. Public sexual activity is prohibited by law in Puritan Boston. And in a few other cities around the civilized world - a figure probably inching close to 100%.

This is where most of the action occurs, in the grassy cruising grounds and the reed sex rooms along the river, but it spills over into the rest of the park and the gardens.

Besides stumbling upon couples in flagrante delicto abundant circumstantial evidence exists. Condoms, popper bottles, KY tubes, feces, underwear and pants (how do they get home?) are strewn up and down the garden paths. Along with other party items - wine and liquor bottles, beer cans and drug paraphernaliia - needles, crack pipes, baggies and vials.

... To be continued.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wind Chimes | On the Cover . 6

Wind Chimes. The South End, Boston. This is the new cover of Roofscape Magazine for September 15, 2009.

The view is into a backyard off the alley that runs along the East Berkeley Street Community Gardens in Boston's South End. The willow tree is cut down, the giant phallus is gone, the wind chimes no longer sound, the whole elaborate devotional garden greatly reduced. It was the work, Sasha once told me, of a blind sculptor. Walk around the block and check the front of the house which is still fairly much intact.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Mission Church | Rox . 4

The Mission Church, the twin spires seen in the distance looking downhill through the trees and triple deckers just below the summit of Mission Hill. The Mission hosted Teddy Kennedy's memorial service this past rainy Saturday.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

August 26 | Garden . 1

Spent the day in the Roofscape's garden in the Fenway getting ready for - although I'm in denial about this - the fall. Fall! Where did the summer go? Well it was here today, the temperature grazing 90° in the heat of the day.

Cloudless with just some high thin overcast, haze hovering over the river, fitful westerly breezes. Crickets in a high, fast chorus with ranks of lower, slower singers; cicadas rising, swelling and fading away against this steady soundscape. A horn heard in the distance across the water practicing in Mother's Rest. A tune I couldn't place, but for once it wasn't Ride of the Valkyries. Bees and wasps buzzing in the flowering mint. Dragonflies the size of your hand beating their impossibly gossamer wings. Birds calling as they glean the grapes newly ripened, many gone straight to raisins, on the vines. Reeds bowing and raising back up in waves. A slight sound of surf. The city far away.

Grooming the garden. Pulling out the summer stuff as it fades and planting the cool weather crops. Often these are the same, but after a summer of production the collards, for example, need renewal. And there's always new lettuce to plant. Most of these will go until they disappear under the snow. The frost brings out their sweetness. Spinach, collards and kale kissed by the frost are utterly different animals, well plants; sweet, round and rich. Something no supermarket will ever supply. You have to grow your own to taste something that good.

The fern brake is weary too, looking sunburned and droopy. I cut them back to the ground and they soon return looking fresh and rested, a bright vernal green that lasts through the more moderate late summer weather. The other reason this year is to finally dig out the rampant multiflora rose which has ressurected in their midst. Maybe. I could feel the shovel about to snap going up against those though roots. The canes bit and lashed against me in protest. We left it at a draw, both wounded, but I was the one retired from the field of battle.

Indeed many weeds. Everywhere but thin air. The three composters are piled high, bulging and groaning. With more to come. I'll shovel out the finished compost from the bottom, then jump on their tops and water them down. Some people don't compost weeds - but if they don't, what then do they compost? A weed being just another word for a very successful plant. Off with their heads and onto the pile.

A quiet day - Peter and Charles the only neighbors, late in the afternoon. Charles said that there were over 40 recent break-ins. A squad car was parked in the middle of the field behind the reeds along the river - all day (unprecedented), relieved later by an unmarked Crown Vic. He thinks that this is retaliation. The reeds were cut down right to the water (apparently by mistake), almost eliminating the open air sex and drug rooms that they harbored. And their denizens are not happy campers.

My wonderful day ended on that note. Had a pad thai and pedaled back home as the shadows fell.

Image ... Geese flying over the Fens.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Old Blake House | Dot . 9

Dorchester was settled in May 1630, one month before the founding of Boston. Over 200 years later Boston would come to annex it as the railroads began to link the city to the still largely rural farming town creating one of America's first commuter suburbs. The original settlement was in Allen's Plain near the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Columbia Road. Today, the oldest house in Boston still stands there, the Old Blake House built in 1648, 361 years old.

The second oldest Boston house is also in Dorchester, the Pierce House on Oakton Avenue, dating from 1683 and recently (2003, very recently given its age of 326 years) carefully restored. The Blake and Pierce are also two of the five oldest houses extant in New England and Dot (as Dorchester is known) also lovingly preserves more than a dozen other pre-Revolutionary residenses.

Image ... The Old Blake House. From a postcard, circa 1905.

Thunder | Go Figure! . 1

Last night I awoke to the sound of thunder. How far off I sat and wondered? ... Night Moves, by Bob Seger.

The question as posed by Mr. Seger is an idle late night musing about time and memory, but sometimes the answer to how far off? can be an immediate matter of life or death. Lightning can be lethal and we need to know how close it is and/or if it's moving our way. The answer involves counting and a calculation.

You'll recall that we first see the lightning and then - sooner or later - hear the thunder. That time difference - shorter or longer - tells us the distance of the storm - closer or further away - from us.

Light, the visible part of lightning bolts, zips by at a brisk 186,000 miles per second. But sound, the thunder from lightning, pokes along at a mere mile or so every 5 seconds. Given that speed difference, a factor of almost a million, we can assume for our purposes that the speed of light is instantaneous.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Warren Avenue | South End . 2

The palette of the South End is brick, iron, stone, wood and the shifting shadows cast over everything by the thousands of trees lining the streets, flanking the secret alleyways and privately surrounding backyards like watchful sentinels.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Stars | Oh Snap! . 7

These are ... well they must have a name, but I don't know what it is. They're used in conjunction with iron reinforcing rods to hold brick buildings together when the walls begin to bulge outward. Joanne is collecting them for their decorative rather than practical value is my guess. But you never know.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Martha's Gallery | The Hill . 1

Don and Martha Bailey had a lush Italian-style rooftop garden overlooking Cedar Lane Way on Beacon Hill in Boston. It was filled with flowers, shrubs and bamboo groves, bordered with tangles of grape and ivy vines, and showcased their extensive collection of sculpture, fountains and other objects d'arte / trouve from their extensive travels in Italy. We had many happy times out there in that most pleasant of places. Martha later converted the roofhouse into a gallery for her indoor stuff, primarily paintings and prints. This photograph was taken just after it was finished but before the art was installed. Then it was just a museum for shadows.

Banned in Boston . 2 | Boston News-Letter . 4

... continued from August 10.

If Mr. Clemens cannot think of something better to tell our pure-minded lads and lasses, he had better stop writing for them.

Louisa May Alcott on Huckleberry Finn. Twain quipped that her comment would boost his sales by 25,000 copies.

Watch and Ward was anachronistically named after the old English quasi-police forces mandated with maintaining law and order, but such groups were neither new to the city nor unique to Boston. Vigilance committees - unofficial groups of citizens concerned with monitoring and controlling certain aspects of public behavior and welfare - were a tradition stretching back to the first settlers.

In the works ...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Circles | Oh snap! . 6

Circles. Back Bay, Boston.

Diana | Twitpic . 9

Diana Cardona, Miami.
Comment: WOW ii l00k GR0WN iN DiZ PiK lol.

Twitpic is our current favorite picked from the public timeline of Twitpic, the new site hosting images for Twitter.

Malcolm's Aunt Ella | Beans About Boston . 5

Then play on! | Thought . 3

... it appears probable that the progenitors of man, either the males or females or both sexes, before acquiring the power of expressing their mutual love in articulate language, endeavoured to charm each other with musical notes and rhythm.

The Descent of Man, Charles Darwin, 1871.

Wind Chimes | On the Cover . 5

Wind Chimes. The South End, Boston. On the cover: August 15, 2009.

This is a view into a backyard garden in Boston's South End. It's along the alleyway that paralells the East Berkeley Street Community Gardens, just off Shawmut Avenue.

Part of the garden still exists but not this. The giant phallus, which was topped with a swinging bell sounded by pulling on a cord, and the wind chimes suspended from the surrounding willow trees are now all gone. What music they must have made together. Absent also is a very well-endowed David who held court below to ranked choirs of angels, saints, cherubs, skunks and songbirds. Some of their much-thinned and expurgated ranks still soldier on announcing the good news that god's in his heaven and all's still very strange with the world.

The story I heard when I first saw this minor masterpiece in the 70's with Sasha, who taught art at the South End Children's Art Center, is that this was the work of a blind sculptor. If so, I see. The front of the house, which is also vibrantly decorated and still mostly intact, is also well worth a visit.

Fortune Teller's Shop | South End . 1

View into a fortune teller's shop on Tremont Street.

Jupiter | Starscape . 1

Jupiter unmistakably rules the nightime skies in August. This gas giant - composed mainly of hydrogen but with a mass 2-1/2 times that of all the other planets combined - makes its closest approach to earth and burns its brightest on the 14th. It reaches its highest ascent in the heavens around midnight, glowing large and slightly orangish almost due south with little competition from the waning moon which will be new on the 20th.

Sky chart courtesy of Stellarium. South and the line of the horizon is at the bottom of the chart. Photo of Jupiter, to the left, is an EOS infrared telescopic image.

Perpetual Care | Dot . 6

The maintenance house of the Upham's Corner burying ground.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tony - Shanghaied with the Blues | Soundscape . 1

Got an email from my buddy Tony Curtis Hall this morning - from Shanghai! I'd been wondering where he was at. I usually run into him off and on over by Berklee (College of Music), an area that seems to be our common stomping ground, but I hadn't seen him in months. That's Tony, above, seriously addressing his drums during a live gig at Lucky's Lounge in Boston a few years ago.

Turns out that he and the Greg Luttrell Band have been playing a summer-long residency as the house band at the House of Blues and Jazz in Shanghai, China from May to September, 6 days a week. Now I know Tony from his tenure with Greg in Blacksnake, a kick-ass band that played the entire spectrum of music, covers and originals, all expertly. For the HOB gig they've focused on the blues - from different eras and styles - a wild ride through Delta, Chicago, Jump and Modern blues. Below is a video sampler from their Shanghai shows.

The delta that they're rocking now is at the mouth of the Yangtze River, in one of the world's most populous metropolitan areas (20 million). Hopefully they'll return to rock the delta of the Charles once more in our provincial capitol (4.5 M). When they do - either as Blacksnake of the Greg Luttrell Band - be there. I can't imagine how fierce they must be after playing on stage every night in one place for three months. It should be like the Beatles returning from Hamburg. Tony's a soulful singer too, check him out at Radio Roofscape singing Teach Me live.

Big Brother is Watching You | Rox , 3

Big Brother is Watching You. Roxbury, Mass.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Banned in Boston . 1 | Boston News-Letter . 3

There is a city in our world upon which the light of the sun of righteousness has risen. There is a sun which beams in its full meridian splendour upon it. Its influences are quickening and invigorating the souls which dwell within it. It is the same from which every pure stream of thought and purpose and performance emanates. It is the city that is set on high. "It cannot be hid." It is Boston. The morality of Boston is more pure than that of any other city in America. Bronson Alcott, 1828.

Banned in Boston sounds like a quaint phrase from the distant past. Today it's hard to imagine anything being banned in Boston, or almost anywhere else in America for that matter. But that past is none too distant and still alive in the memories of many older residents in the Puritan city on a hill.

For nearly a century - roughly from Walt Whitman to William Burroughs - the morality of Boston, the purest in America according to Bronson Alcott, was closely monitored and censorship imposed by a private society known as the Watch and Ward. The name was adopted from an English institution rooted in the Middle Ages, that of citizen police forces charged to watch for and ward off miscreants.

Image ... Bullseye Glass, the North End.

Continues on August 22 ...

Monday, August 3, 2009

Rewarding Bad Actors | New York Times . 3

Cheeck out the current article in today's (August 3) Times by Paul Krugman. And read some of the (current) 350 responses. The outrage he speaks of is certainly out there.

Americans are angry at Wall Street, and rightly so. First the financial industry plunged us into economic crisis, then it was bailed out at taxpayer expense. And now, with the economy still deeply depressed, the industry is paying itself gigantic bonuses. If you aren’t outraged, you haven’t been paying attention.

But crashing the economy and fleecing the taxpayer aren’t Wall Street’s only sins. Even before the crisis and the bailouts, many financial-industry high-fliers made fortunes through activities that were worthless if not destructive from a social point of view.

Curiously he doesn't seem to really cut to the chase, but the readers don't beat around the bush or mince words.

Continues here ...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Cityscape . 2

Rooftop Farms.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Kiwis | Oh snap! . 5

Kiwis, a self-portrait by KS, edited by SB. Boston.

Raccoons | Wild Lives . 1

The raccoons are back. And not scrawny, skimpy specimens like the one above captured from Wikipedia. Big, fat, lumbering coons.

I knew they were around and was just waiting to see a bandit mask in my window around 3 AM. Raccoons are nocturnal of course and the one's in our neighborhood, being city slickers, seem to favor particularly late night hours for visiting. After all the trash cans close perhaps.

Anyway, I knew they were around because raccoons sing, although that may be a kind assessment of their vocal abilities. In any case, they vocalize, as the shriek of hawks is described in bird books. They speak, and often they seem to have lots to say. They say a lot anyway.

How would you describe it? Well the first time I heard them I was absolutely nonplussed and had no idea what I was hearing. It sounded like an unleashed symphony of jungle fauna, from monkeys to macaws with a blues-like call and response thing happening back and forth across the yard. Later that night they were sitting and chattering in the grape vine that runs up the side of the building, stuffing their fat faces as fast as they could and I figured it out.

Coons, first described by Christopher Columbus, are now successful urban strivers much like Canada Geese and Red-tailed Hawks. They are co-dependants of our ecological niche and one of the most versatile animals in their food tastes and shopping habits. Although reportedly fastidious in washing food stuffs, essentially they'll eat anything that moves - or doesn't. The dictionary definition of omniverous has a raccoon face next to it - or surely should.

My favorite raccoon story goes as follows. I got a call from a client - back when I was a designer and builder - about a foul liquid pouring in through and collapsing their kitchen ceiling. Inspection below the roof deck above revealed that a coon had made the spot his bathroom and, being a careful creature as mentioned, tried to bury the poop by scraping his sharp claws through the rubber roof.

... To be continued.

Launch | Roofscape Reflections . 1

Today is our official launch. But there will be no big party, fanfare or champagne breaking over the bow. In fact, I feel it's a time for some quiet reflection. Which I'd like to share, if you'll indulge me. To look back on where we've come from and and perhaps see where we might be headed.

Our soft launch, or rather re-launch as I'll explain, was on June 1. To me that feels like years ago, so much has happened so fast. At last.

I began working on Roofscape roughly ten years ago in 1999. This is also the time, I'd like to note, that Shoestring Magazine got its start, so I don't feel like such a total loser for taking so long to get things together. We've been through every imaginable up and down - and a lot of it down.

Our first launch was on New Years Eve, December 31, 1999 at 12:00 mindnight at Boston's First Night celebrations, the culmination of about a year of work. Here's how it happened.

Through the grace of a wonderful client, Ronni Casty, I had a little rooftop office on Beacon Hill overlooking the Fiedler Footbridge (spanning Storrow Drive to the Hatch Shell) and up the Charles River. It was probably about 36 square feet, but the roof must have been about 2,000 square feet, over part of which I built a deck.

I used to sit out there staring over all the rooftops and think ... there's a whole other city up above the city and it's mostly empty. As a designer and builder, one of my favorite projects had always been roof decks and gardens, so I decided to write a book about developing and settling this demanding environment to be called Roofscape. Except the Web intervened and I immediately knew that's where I wanted to be.

The original concept was Roofscape - the magazine of rooftop living. But I was pitching the project to Ronni one day over coffee at Panificio and she said, I like it, but it's kind of limited. See if you can open up the idea. Great advice, thanks girl!

Anyway, we got taken down in the great Web wipeout early in the century, came back and got slammed again, this time by being diverted from our main mission and getting involved with music - as if I shouldn't have known better. Thanks Brian!

Meanwhile, I moved to Dorchester, started a new business - designing and building again, this time in the South End - and got a life beyond sleeping on friends' floors to get this thing going. And that consumed two years of doing nothing but thinking. Which wasn't all bad, but way too long. And here we are ... again. Which is where?

Well, an absolutely gorgeous first day of August on a Saturday in the city on a hill for starters. That alone is reason to rejoice. Plus the raccoons visited late last night, someone's moving the lawn with the push mover (probably Freddie), dogs are barking and church bells ringing. But tommorow?

... To be continued.

Image ... Snowhill Street. The North End, Boston.

Sox, Skip, Songs | Boston News-Letter . 2

Somehow the news out of Boston just keeps getting worse. At this rate we may all get invited to the White House for beers and Kumbaya.

The Sox, sure it's disappointing. But did you think Big Papi got that big by showering in Miracle Gro? They've all been juicing. And no doubt still are. Drugs in sports is like slime on fishes, it will never go away and always be slippery. Money talks and BS walks the bases.

Now that B.U. physics student who has to pay $675,000 for downloading what ... Nirvana and Beck? Please, the poor kid should have gotten paid. Naturally this will be tossed out on appeal. For better or worse the nature of the Web is that it's for free and the greatest exposure that artists (using that term loosely) have ever had. Go play out and stop whining - or for the bands cited above just get up on stage and start whining some more.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Satchmo Club Strut

Sruttin' today in NOLA.

Love - MLK | Thought . 3

Love is creative and redemptive. Love builds up and unites; hate tears down and destroys.

The aftermath of the 'fight with fire' method which you suggest is bitterness and chaos, the aftermath of the love method is reconciliation and creation of the beloved community.

Physical force can repress, restrain, coerce, destroy, but it cannot create and organize anything permanent; only love can do that.

Yes, love - which means understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill, even for one's enemies - is the solution to the race problem.

Martin Luther King, Jr., 1957. As always - now, again, today, forever.

April | Twitpic . 8

Sandy Williams.

No clue who she is, but girlfriend is obviously rockin' out. And plays GTR behind her back under the full moon. Gotta love that.

Twitpic is our current favorite picked from the public timeline of Twitpic, the new site hosting images for Twitter.

Yummy Yummy | Cheap Dates . 3

Now I know that Cheap Dates might suggest some sort of place to take a date to, you know, a destination of some sort. Not so far, the operative word here is cheap and will continue to be. If it's love you don't need no stinkin' fancy surroundings and tony decor. And if it's just plain lust, well ditto, maybe double ditto.

None the less, we're stepping up our game. We're going to a spot that actually has tables. Triunfo had counter space for six, Ideal for three, unless you want to sit on the cases of snowmelt stacked by the door. This place has two actual tables, one for each of its names ... Yummy Yummy. No, for real, that's the name.

Yummy bills itself as authentic Chinese take out. What that means I'm not quite sure, but the place is clean and bright and well-scrubbed.

For such a small spot the menu is vast, which is always sort of ominous. But we're not here to fine dine, we're here to dine fine on a dime. And anyway our choice isn't even on the menu. To the right of the counter you'll see a price list of Daily Specials. Go for the two items for $2.50 (no tax) and choose the fried rice and orange chicken from the steam table (they conveniently sit side by side). You will not be disappointed.

Although this place does have tables - don't. Take it to the street. Go sit in Dudley Station and wait for your bus home. Believe me, you will not be bored and probably even have a good old dose of drama with your dinner.

Yummy Yummy. 2360 Washington Street, Roxbury, MA 02119. We are inside Dudley Square. Phone: 617-983-8811. Cash only. Hours: M-T,11-11. F/S,11-12. Sun.1-11. Stars: * * *.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Mission Hill Mural | Rox . 3

This image was made on the backside of Mission Hill in Roxbury. The mural may have some relation to the Charles Stuart murder case. Who knows? It's quite cryptic. Or right on the spot?

Boston accents | Street Scene . 2

Finally someone's gotten something right about the Boston accent. Namely that it's not. Actress Amy Adams, working in Lowell on The Fighter with Dot-boy Mark Wahlberg, fills us in ...

The thing I've learned in being in Boston is that no two people sound the same. Even people who grew up in the same town don't talk the same. Half the people sound like they're from New York, but they're not because I can hear a slight difference. Some people don't really have any accent except the r's.

Beans About Boston ... An item that pulls out from below a counter or desktop is called a what?

Answer ... It's called a drawer, pronounced draw-er. But no Bostonian ever born could possibly repeat this. It will always be a draw.

Ideal Sub Shop | Cheap Dates . 2

Our search for the ideal cheap date leads inevitably to the Ideal Sub Shop. This would have to be a lunch date, however, as they're only open until mid-afternoon - and never on Sundays. The Ideal is a long-standing uptown institution, black owned and run, with great food and prices, a true value for money proposition. The only thing that's less than ideal is the service. It's friendly enough and they get the orders right but it's so s-l-o-o-o-w. The line's always out the door and it crawls. You will wait - and wait - and wait some more - then wait again.

My pick here is the small Fish Sub for $3.50. Don't get the large, for $4.60, unless you're going to split it with your date, you won't be able to finish it, good as it is. The fillets, haddock I think and no doubt frozen, are correctly deep fried and oil-free. A toasted bun, some mayo, lettuce, tomatoes and onions - what more could one want? Well, except maybe less of a wait.

The menu includes about two dozen cold and a dozen hot subs. Breakfast, for $2.75 (coffee extra), is served until 11:00 am, but it's strictly out of the tasteless McDonald's playbook. Anyway, who goes on breakfast dates?

Ideal Sub Shop. 522 Dudley Street, Roxbury, MA 02119. Phone: 617-442-1560. Fax: 617-442-0053. Hours: M-F, 6-3:30. Sat., 6-3. Closed Sundays. Stars: * * * *.

Michelle Miszczuk | Twitpic . 7

Michelle Miszczuk.

Twitpic is our current favorite picked from the public timeline of Twitpic, the new site hosting images for Twitter.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Forgotten | Dot . 8

Flag in the window of the Upham's Corner firehouse.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Sunset in Beirut | Cityscape . 1

By Danielle E.
Things I love ... argileh, books, Arabic script, LOST, baking, Spanish literature, beaches, photography, snow, dictionaries, basil, making jewelry, Manchego, nutella, white and black truffles (fungi), the color green, Boucheron, red wine, quenepas, chocolate.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Information | Oh snap! . 4

Glass bus shelter on Dudley Street in Roxbury, Massachusetts.

Triunfo | Cheap Dates . 1

Boston's pretty pricey and cheap dates are hard to come by. But love, or lust, can't be contemplated, much less consumated, on an empty stomach. Those are not the growls we want to hear when getting it on. Plus, as Bernard Shaw said, "Our truest love is that for food." So we'll cut right to the chase in our Cheap Dates series and go out to dinner, starting with one of both the cheapest and best.

Triunfo is a tiny hole in the wall Mexican cantina on the downtown edge of SOWA in the South End. It seats maybe six at the counter in the front window. It does, however, appear to be expanding into an adjacent storefront. Meanwhile, plan on takeout - pleasant Ringold Park is a block away across Washington Street. And they do deliver.

The standout bargain here is the Steak Taco for $2.75, a crispy tortilla stuffed with grilled steak, cheese, salsa, hot peppers, lettuce and sour cream. There are nine other tacos ranging from the humble bean at $1.50 up to the high end salmon, shrimp or swordfish for $3.25.

The 75 item menu offers all the other Mexican staples - burritos, quesadillas, fajitas and enchiladas. Dinners run about $10 for a grilled steak up to $14 for grilled swordfish. The salads are all about $5.

Triunfo Mexican Food. 147 East Berkeley St., by the corner of Harrison Ave. Boston, MA 02118. T - Silverline, East Berkeley stop. Phone: 617-542-8499. Fax: 617-542-8497. All major credit cards accepted. Hours: Monday - Sunday, 10am - 11pm. Delivery is available, including late nights on Thursday through Saturday. Stars: * * * * *.

Hotel Lobby, Dehli | Twitpic . 6

Twitpic: exjetsguy.
Name: Richard Oliver.
Location: San Antonio, Texas.
Web: mySA.
Bio: Senior Writer, San Antonio Express-News.
Comment: Here is the view of the hotel lobby from our 17th-floor interior balcony. Breathtaking.
Photo location: Dehli, India.

Twitpic is our current favorite picked from the public timeline of Twitpic, the new site hosting images for Twitter.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Skip | Boston News-Letter . 1

Everybody and your mamma, as Skip reportedly put it, has an opinion about the Henry Louis Gates incident. From the get go, then the president, to his later regret, on down, everyone's been mouthing off in the heat of the moment. Let me wade in the water with my 2 cents.

Basic training. You - black or white - do not cuss out a cop. Skip, freshly back in the PRC from China where no doubt anything goes, forgot his basic training. I had a very similar thing happen to an employee of mine and the outcome was totally different. Why? He kept his cool. And in a possibly far more dangerous situation.

Josiah, an African-Bahamian, was doing a job for me in tony, all-white Beacon Hill. He was standing on a fire escape using a caulking gun to weatherproof a window. Similar to the Gates case, a white neighbor evidently looked out her window and called the cops saying that there was a black man with a gun breaking into the house across the street.

The cops came screaming in from both ends of Brimmer Street, jumped out with guns drawn and yelled, "Put the gun down motherfucker!" Jo put down the caulking gun, then respectfully talked to the cops, explained what he was up to, showed some ID, they all had a laugh and the incident was over. End of story. He used his basic training.

Now there's a lot that's screwed up around this country and plenty to get mad at, especially the exploding prison-industrial complex and black incarceration, but in general I would say it's not the Cambridge or Boston police. They usually aren't the most pleasant people, but look at what they have to deal with and the danger they face day in and day out on these city streets. So remember - or quickly learn - your basic training. Always talk calmly and politely to the police. They're just doing their jobs, usually the best that they know how and want to live another day to go home to their kids ... just like you.

Image ... Obama lost his cool too. Alex Brandon/Associated Press.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Antiques Row | Cityscape . 1

Another antique shop gone, one more down - Christopher Anthony's at the corner of Chestnut and River Streets. A fairly large one too, made up of two conjoined shop spaces. Gone and won't be back - passed down in the family, repopened under new owners or taken over by a former employee. When they go now they're gone. Antiques are dead.

Charles Street has, or had, always been Boston's Antiques Row. In the 90's over 40 antique shops lined the street at the foot of Beacon Hill and adjacent River Street. Now the fingers of one hand or fewer will do. Many of their names escape memory.

Russell Alberts (many were named for their owners) was always a favorite - an impeccable, courtly, affable gentleman specializing in high-end Asian antiques and art, dealing with major collectors and museums, who really know his stuff and always had great windows in his shop at the corner of Revere Street.

Marika was the doyenne of the street, became one of the few dynastic successions - and one of the few that just keep going, on the corner opposite Alberts, seemingly with the same stuff in the window that I saw decades ago.

Image ... Paul Revere (in drag), I assume.

... To be continued.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Hawks on the Wing . 5 | Bird News

Coupling completed and the nest built, the female lays a clutch of 2 - 3 eggs (more unusually, 1, 4 or 5). As with most birds clutch size is related to the current feeding conditions - more eggs are laid when food is abundant and fewer in lean times. The eggs are about 2.5-inches long, white or bluish-white and spotted with brown or unmarked.

Brooding, or incubating, begins after the first egg is laid rather than when the clutch is complete. This strategy allows the eggs to hatch asynchronously in the order that they they were laid. Incubation habits differ among bird species, but in most hawks both males and females seem to share the brooding duties equally as they do nest building.

Almost all birds brood, generally by sitting on their eggs, whose shells are specially designed to bear the weight of the parent's body without breaking, often with some support from the raised side of the nest. When brooding a bird transfers its body heat to the eggs to develop the embryo. Birds are warm blooded animals, of course, with normal temperatures of 104° F (they have to run hotter than us because they're smaller). Some heat is lost in the transfer, so it turns out that the ideal avian incubation temperature is actually around the human norm of 98.6° F. But feathers make the bird, so how is this heat transfer accomplished with all that high R-factor insulation in the way?

Just before brooding most birds develop a brood patch, a temporarily featherless area of bare skin lined with swollen blood vessels on the abdomen which will come in contact with the eggs. Hawks, both male and female, have one large patch, other species may have several strategically placed patches. In hawks the patch develops naturally before brooding due to hormonal changes. Other species such as ducks and geese pluck out the feathers to make the patch and use them to line their nests. In addition to brooding, the eggs are turned frequently to assure even development of the embryo.

Incubation takes about a month and the eggs hatch out in 30 to 35 days, one after the other following their 'laying order'. Red-tails are born with no means to walk or fly, covered in down, with eyes wide open and must be constantly fed by their parents. Following the lore of falconry, for which Red-tails are often the current raptor of choice, the young before they fledge - fly and leave the nest - are called eyasses. They quickly resemble cute little ruthless, hook-billed killers, which will soon be their instinctual career path.

Bird species vary widely in their stage of development at birth. The spectrum spans from the precocial to the altricial. Precocial species are, well, precocious - competent from birth, to various degrees. Altricial young take time to develop competence.

Image ... Red-tail with a pigeon.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Number Detective . 17 | Kid'scape

Hey kids! I'm the Number Detective and my numero uno job is to track down numbers all over the city and find out what they're up to.

My first find wasn't an easy number and even sort of hard to see ... 17. It was above the side entrance of a church off Hanover Street in Boston's North End.

Here are three possible ways of seeing seventeen ...
17 = 3+3+3+3+3+2 ...  +  +  +  +  + .
17 = 4+4+4+4+1 ...  +  +  +  + .
17 = 5+5+5+2 ...  +  +  + .

Fun facts
Seventeen is the seventh prime number. A prime is a number which can only be divided by one and itself. The first seven prime numbers are 2, 3, 5 7, 11, 13 and 17 (1 is not prime since it only has one divisor, itself). It's also the result of adding the first four primes together, 2 + 3 + 5 + 7 = 17. For some mysterious reason, 17 is also considered to be the least random number, that is the most likely to be picked as a number chosen at random. We chose it by chance as our first number.

Vampires in Boston | Oh snap! . 3

There is, or maybe was, an odd funky store, actually more like a rambling, dusty two storey warehouse, in the North End that sold classic movie posters. This was how the wall outside the store looked one day. Oh Snap! is our scrapbook of casual, amusing snapshots.