Kevin Galvin, the Herring Counter of Marstons Mills

Sad news in Marstons Mills, as Kevin Galvin, 63, owner of the magnificent red colonial on the mill pond at the herring run on Route 149 and Route 28 and the blogger who’s maintained the Marston Mills River herring count blog, has passed away from rabies contracted from a bite from a brown bat.

He was a big friend to the herring, along with my former Latin teacher and his wife, Tom and Pieter Burgess.

He’s the first person to die from rabies in the state since the 1930s according to the Cape Cod Times.

I like this post of his on how he knew when to check the run for herring in April:

“I’ve lived right beside Mill Pond for 10 years now and have developed a pretty good sense of the events and cycles that occur at the pond and the behavior of the swans, the blue herons, migrating birds, osprey, turtles, frogs & toads, owls, etc, etc.

I learn more and more as time goes by, but one thing I’m certain of is this: the only time of the year that the aptly-named Herring Gull is on Mill Pond is when the herring are running – and the gulls arrive on Mill Pond exactly when the herring do.

What’s even nicer about this is that I don’t even have to look for the gulls, as I can simply just listen for them. And that unmistakable screech is notice to me to get the folks out to start countin’.

Now sometimes the gulls will show up a few days early and kind of just poke around, but there isn’t any noise, because there’s to nothing to fight over. But when the herring arrive (yum!) the fighting and associated screeching begins, because as with many animals, the easiest way to find food is to try to steal it from one who’s already found it.

So we have a few gulls poking around the pond today, and they’re quiet as expected. But my guess is that within a couple of days two things will happen: there’ll be the sound of screeching gulls and we’ll be counting herring…”

The Quicksand and the Dead

It’s been while since I’ve had cause to commit a clamming post. This recent CapeCast tells the tale of one unfortunate Provincetown clammer who stepped into some sucky mud and lost his boots. I did the same thing years ago on Sandy Neck while cruising around for steamers and years ago my youngest, while wearing waders, got seriously stuck in the muck inside of Seapuit River and needed to be pulled out of the waders to be released from the suction.

Cape Cod muck is horrible stuff, especially the black goo up inside of the bays that smells like the clams that live in it. This is Jurassic muck, black as night and has the consistency of entrails.

The video is notable for the guest star appearance of Provincetown’s shellfish officer, Tony Jackett.

I, Cyborg

Finally I’m back to typing, the voice recognition thing wasn’t doing it for me.

The surgical dressings came off Tuesday at Mass General, where the surgeon pulled the sutures out of the incision on the back side of my elbow, and then had me fitted into a tron-like Range Of Motion brace that the physical therapist can add a few degrees of flexion and extension to every week. No gym induced sweat for another ten days (which is causing me to climb the walls in frustration), and no real weight on the arm for another three months. But I can type and no longer have to disturb the peace with my slow-paced, head injury dictation. “Open parenthesis. And then the quick brown Flax … strike that … Frack …. strike that ….. Fox. Close parenthesis. New paragraph …..” Dictation has to be the godawfulest form of writing in the world, a last resort for the era of Mad Men with Dictaphones and winsome stenos who took shorthand and batted their eyelashes. I realize I think through my finger tips and not my mouth.

 

Fishing boat lost off Nantucket washes up in Spain three years later

This is pretty amazing. I’ve heard of messages in bottles travelling long distances, but never abandoned boats. This tale of the little center console that could is going to be some lucky boat builder’s dream advertisement very soon [update, it’s on the manufacturer’s homepage]. Thanks to Joe Nick and Charlie for figuring out it is a Regulator 26.

Link to video

Link to story

Talking to myself

Voice recognition software has been around for at least 20 years. I first played with the technology in the 1980s but was very unimpressed by its abilities, horrible set up a process, and general applicability as a technology of last resort for the handicapped were truly keyboard allergic.

I’ve tried to use the technology transcribe dictation made during long car commutes, but that never worked either. A combination of too much background noise, a lack of discipline on my part to stick with the process of correcting and training the software to recognize my voice and my peculiar way of dictation, and voice-recognition software joined they heap of otherwise optimistic stuff that science fiction promised would be useful but practice proved otherwise.

This post is being dictated with Dragon NaturallySpeaking version 11 running on a ThinkPad T410s and using a phone headset as a microphone. Since my arm surgery on Tuesday, I’ve dictated about 2000 words and so far am pretty impressed.

Dictation is a foreign mode of writing for me. I’ve used a keyboard in one form or another since I was about 10 years old and my atrocious handwriting condemned me to a typewriter. I never learned how to touch type, but over the years got up to what about 100 words per minute using a frantic index finger/thumb method that over the years as developed a sort of muscle memory of the keyboard which permits me to type without looking at the keys. When word processing technology first emerged in the late 1970s, some writers complained that the electronic ease of deletion, cut and paste, and general speed of composition reduced the value of the word put on the page, and led to a certain compositional laziness that had been moderated by the penalties of working with paper, white out, carbon paper, and the other manual vestiges of writing in the early 20th century. One can writers said the same thing about the typewriter in the 19th century, claiming it made writing “too easy” compared to pen and ink on paper.

Voice technology has come a long way in recent years, especially on android phones where Google’s voice-recognition technology in its maps and search tools are excellent. In the pre-android era, if I wanted to set a destination on the cars GPS, I needed to tediously punch in numbers, cities and states before I could put the car in motion. Attempting to set an address while underway was a recipe for a head-on collision. Now, if I want to get to my office, I simply press the microphone icon and say “go to W. 39th St., New York, NY” and Google does the rest. Voice-recognition is a lifesaver, literally, when I need to respond to a text message while driving, yet my son is fond of a pending the word “bitch” to my dictation.

My biggest complaint with voice-recognition is it forces me to enunciate and be choppy and my diction, where as when typing, I am able to pound away with relatively fluid ease and no concern over misunderstandings and goofy transcriptions. That said, I am a terrible typist and spend a huge amount of time on the backspace key correcting typos and mess ups. Another drawback of dictation is lack of privacy. I hate it when someone looks over my shoulder while I’m writing, and now my voice bellows through the house making me very self-conscious of whether or not I could be overheard by my wife or son. If I were in a cubicle in a typical office I would literally be dumbstruck.

I have no choice but to continue dictating for the foreseeable future, until my doctor gives me the all clear to start typing again.

But at least I can blog and work on memos and have some productivity that otherwise would be completely lost due to surgery.

(This entire post was dictated straight through with nothing corrected)

An unexpected experiment in disabled computing

A 45-minute MRI inside of what felt like a 110 degree microwave oven, and an examination by the guy who does Tommy John surgery on Red Sox pitchers, and it has been confirmed that I ruptured my bicep tendon on Dec. 30; the muscle was ripped off of the bone in my forearm by my messing up a move in the gym called “toes-to-bar” and now needs to be surgically reattached as soon as possible before the tendon retracts too far up inside of my upper arm.

This is what happens when 53-year old men try to do things meant for 23-year old men. It happens to 3 out of 100,000 people, mostly men who lift weights in their 50s or 60s, and has an elevated risk for smokers (which I am not) or anabolic steroid abusers (which I am also not). There is some suspicion that anti-cholesterol statins may also play a role in weakening the tendon, but I have ceased taking those in a three month experiment to see if I can hold my HDL/LDL levels where they are today with a strict paleo diet.

Yes, I am depressed that this happened right on the eve of the annual indoor rowing season. No Cape Cod Cranberry Crunch at the end of January, no CRASH-B sprints in February. I’m looking at four months of rehab and another five months of work before I can return to 100%. The good news is I will return to 100%. Eventually.

Fortunately for me, there is a great online forum of distal bicep tendon rupture survivors with a lot of amassed wisdom on how to cope with the procedure and ensuing rehab.  And I am also lucky not to make my living through manual labor, but I won’t be able to drive while in a splint/sling and I am going to have to adapt to life with one arm, my non-dominant one at that.

I anticipation of being out of commission, I’ve installed Dragon Naturally Speaking on my ThinkPad to allow me to use the PC and continue “writing” with my voice. I’ve never had much luck with voice recognition software in the past, mostly because I haven’t been willing to put in the time to adequately train the system, and because I am such a fast typist. Blogging will either be drastically reduced for a month, move to Vlogging (I don’t like cameras), or be voice driven. We’ll see next week following Tuesday’s surgery.

Thanks to YouTube I can watch some orthopedic surgeons narrate examples of the procedure. I’m not squeamish, but it looks like pretty delicate and major surgery involving two incisions on my forearm and the back of the elbow.  The severed tendon is cleaned up and then anchored into some pins drilled into the forearm. The bone grows back, the tendon is re-anchored, and I’ll be doing heavy deadlifts by summertime.

With five days remaining I need to figure out how to clothe myself, put away enough meals in tupperware to sustain me until the splint is removed seven-days post-op, and clear my decks for the nasty, pain killer filled fog  that always follows surgery. My iPad and Kindle will be key to fighting off insanity. I’m already putting together a training plan to keep me in semi-shape during the recovery — lots of air squats, box jumps, sit-ups, and one-armed work for my good arm — but was advised by the surgeon that I would not be running or lifting much of anything for a while.

 

 

A Tour of the Land of the O’Neill, the Pequot, Mohegans and Nuclear Submarines

My interest in native American issues has grown over the past few years, fueled in part by Nathaniel Philbrick’s account of the King Philip Indian War in The Mayflower, and because of my close proximity to Mashpee and the efforts/strife of the local Wampanoag tribe to achieve tribal recognition and restore their language.

Until this past weekend I’d never visited the southeastern corner of Connecticut, home to the Mohegan and Pequot tribes and their better known casinos — Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods. Both have been in operation for more than a decade and are excellent examples of sovereign indigenous rights and, to some poetic extent, ironic revenge for past atrocities by the English settlers and their descendants.  Fleecing the locals and using the cash to better themselves and buy back their ancestral lands seems fitting once you put into context the events of May 26, 1637.

My interest in the Pequot followed a visit to the site of the Great Swamp Fight in Kingstown, Rhode Island during the winter of 2009. Philbrick brought this neglected piece of American history to light in the Mayflower, telling the grim story of the battle when an army of colonists massacred hundreds of Narragansett Indians in their hidden swamp redoubt one cold December evening.  My post on that visit is one of the most visited and commented on this blog.

The Great Swamp Fight of December, 1675, while interesting because of its senseless violence (it drew the peaceful Narragansett tribe into the bloody three-year war between the whites and the Wampanoags), was not the first nor the worst of the colonial era massacres.  Forty years before and only 20 miles to the west, near what is known today as the village of Mystic,Connecticut an English force (which included Mohegan and Narragansett warriors) led by Captain John Mason attacked and massacred an encampment of Pequot Indians inside of their fort on the western shores of the Mystic River. I’ve rowed on that river at the annual Mystic Coast Weeks regatta hosted out of the Mystic Seaport Museum of American maritime history, unaware of the atrocity that took place only a half a mile away. That 400 to 700 women, children and old men died there has been a source of macabre curiosity and is definitely not something on the typical Mystic tourist’s agenda between the aquarium and its beluga whale and ye olde quaintness of the Seaport (which is an excellent maritime museum and experience).

 

One recent January weekend, with the prospect of nothing to do but sit on the couch and watch football,  my son and I woke early and drove the 125 miles from Cape Cod to New London ostensibly to visit the submarine museum in Groton where the first nuclear submarine Nautilus is moored. We talked about zombie issues during the drive, remarking about the relative attractiveness of various structures as being zombie-proof or not, and listened to internet radio kludged through his iPod and an FM radio adapter. Our first stop was in downtown New London, home of my favorite playwright, Eugene O’Neill, for a healthy organic brunch at a crunchy little café off of State Street recommended by Yelp.

My son, unimpressed with my dietetic eccentricities, extracted a promise that the day would end with a hamburger from the nearby Five Guys in Mystic.

We recrossed the Thames River and found the United States Navy’s submarine base off of Route 12 in Groton. This was familiar ground to me as I had spent one grueling May in the 1970s rowing on the Thames with the Yale heavyweight crew preparing for the annual Harvard-Yale race, the oldest collegiate competition in the country. My father sent me a new Laser sailboat as a birthday present, having it delivered to the crew house at Gales Ferry. One day I decided to try the Laser out by myself and tacked it downriver towards the Route 95 bridge. It was very breezy day and I capsized in front of the submarine base’s sub pens. As I drifted perilously close to the warning line marked by a string of orange buoys I tried to right the boat and get going again as a group of alarmed shore patrolmen jogged down the dock, white rifles in hand yelling that I was invading off limits territory. A friend who attended Connecticut College on the other side of the Thames told me once about getting arrested for bird watching in the woods with a set of binoculars. A car pulled up, some Navy personnel hopped out, and he was questioned.

New London and Groton were definitely high on the Soviet missile target list during the cold war. The fact that General Dynamics, the shipyard that builds the massive nuclear submarines, is sitting right on New London Harbor and that New London is also home to the Coast Guard Academy makes it a very attractive target.  There’s something strangely functional and sad about a military base. I felt it on the Presidio in San Francisco during the recent holidays, and again last weekend in Groton as we drove past the gates of the sub base, the rows of enlisted personnel barracks, the retired Polaris missile standing sentry.

The museum was fantastic, a relatively new museum that I’d never seen before. We toured the exhibits, marveled at the display of American military technology and heroism, and eventually boarded the Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear powered “vehicle.” My claustrophobia immediately kicked in, making me realize I would make a neurotic submariner.

We took a left out of the museum and continued north on Route 12 along the Thames to Gales Ferry, home of the Yale crew camp. I felt very old and blue and nostalgic and boola-boola standing on the old croquet pitch looking down at the boathouse (trivia: the saying “paint the town red” was uttered by a traitorous mayor of New London who exhorted the Harvard crew to paint his city Crimson if they beat Yale)

Junior was impatient, honked the horn, so we hit the road and continued north in search of the mystical Mohegan Sun, casino of the Mohegan tribe in Uncasville. I’m a moron when it comes to gambling, so I have no affinity for casinos (and am profoundly happy not to be in Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show this week) and the alleged glamour associated with them.  We used the GPS to find the way, and suddenly astride the Thames, was the most out of place building I’ve ever seen — a shining metallic rectangle looming above the brown sere winter woods.

Good for the Indians, I thought. Getting back at the civilization that boned them and using the proceeds to better themselves and buy back their ancestral lands. The Mohegans and Pequots had been screwed, utterly so, and their history is fascinating, particularly in the 20th century as they struggled to preserve their language (banned by the state of Connecticut at one point) and culture. But they did, and by the 1990s had achieved Federal recognition, investors, and eventually prosperity.

We didn’t stop to visit, just drove through the valet area and back to the highway and eventually the creepiest place I’ve seen in years, the campus of the abandoned state mental hospital in Ledyard and Norwich. This place was amazing. You can get a great sense of it at the website, Forbidden-Places, a catalog of abandoned factories, hospitals and power plants hosted out of Belgium. I’d film a horror movie here in an instant. Make that a zombie movie.

We drove silently through the edge of Norwich, past the tired millworker housing and shuttered mills, Asian groceries and check cashing stores. The place was sleepy and stagnant and so evocative of the death of the industrial revolution in countless other New England mill towns. It made me think of my friends the Lotuffs, and their efforts to revive the American manufacturing tradition with their high-end leather working company, Lotuff Leather (whose briefcase I lust for). What will restore manufacturing to America? A drive through Fall River or Pawtucket or Norwich is like going to a drive-in wake.

We gazed upon the Pequot casino, Foxwoods, just as garish and out of place as the Mohegan version, and taking a back road, happened upon the actual reservation where the surviving Pequots live in a gated community with very nice houses in the middle of the glacial moraine crossed by rows of colonial stonewalls snaking through the Connecticut woods. Given that the Mohegans under their sachem, Uncas, participated in the Mystic Pequot massacre, I wonder how cut-throat competitive the two casinos are today.

The Five Guys burger ended the adventure — me eating mine like a caveman out from in between the paleo-forbidden bun, Junior inhaling his along with a massive greasy paper bag of fries. All was well with the worlds, the Pequots and Mohegans were making bank, our Navy is keeping us safe, but nowhere in Greater New London can one find a Eugene O’Neill play.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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