• Fifty-Two Places: Week Seven


    The southernmost point in my town is a place called Gooseberry Island (or Gooseberry Neck if you’re one of those people). It’s connected to the mainland by a small causeway and is as far south as you can get by car in Massachusetts without rolling onto a ferry to Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket. Before the construction of the causeway, which occurred in several iterations between 1913 and 1924, the island was only accessible by walking across a sandbar that would surface at low tide. Even this could be daunting. The island sits right where Buzzards Bay meets Rhode Island Sound, so waves come from two directions.

    There were once plans to develop the island into a resort community, but the Great Depression and the Great New England Hurricane derailed them, thankfully.

    During World War II, German U-boats wreaked near-daily havoc in Atlantic shipping lanes. In response, the Army Corps of Engineers was tasked with constructing a series of coastal defense sites, including a stealthy one on Gooseberry Island. It didn’t house any major artillery. Instead, the site was home to several fire control towers with observation instruments called depression position finders. Spotters would use the devices the triangulate the location of enemy ships and phone in firing instructions to artillery locations protecting Buzzards Bay to the east and Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay to the west.

    The local network didn’t see much action during the war, but the whole setup was kind of wild. The tower pictured above is actually just the skeleton. Along with its two nearby neighbors, it was camouflaged to look like a coastal farm structure during the war. Many of its peer locations along the coast were also disguised to look like water towers, lighthouses, and other non-military structures.

    Life is simpler on Gooseberry Island these days. It’s now part of the Horseneck Beach State Reservation. But unlike the main beach area, it’s more of a place to walk around and explore. In addition to its unique history, the island has a lovely coastline and is a favorite stopover point for migrating birds.

  • I was just looking at the “following” list of a Micro.blog user I don’t know and found my sister on there! A hearty Micro Monday welcome to @fancythatamanda. No more secrets between us, OK? 🤣

  • Fifty-Two Places: Week Six


    I have South Korea on the brain this weekend. It was there, four years ago yesterday, that we became a family of four. Our second international adoption process was longer and more emotionally taxing than the first. But the two trips we took to Seoul in December 2013 and February 2014 are cherished memories.

    The emotional bookends, of course, were meeting our youngest son during the first trip and welcoming him into our family for good during the second trip. But it was also a great joy to bring our oldest son, then five, back to the country of his birth. Making two trips wasn’t the original plan, but the upside was more time to explore Seoul while waiting for things to happen (a recurring theme with international adoption). We even spent Christmas there.

    While we didn’t make it back to South Korea for the 2018 Winter Olympics, as I had once daydreamed about, it’s been wonderful to see the spotlight on the Korean peninsula for something positive this weekend.

    We spent today at Brown University, which hosts a Korean adoptee mentoring program that we’ve been participating in for several years. Korean and Korean-American student mentors are paired up with Korean adoptees for cultural activities and more than a little goofing around. We work hard to make Korean culture part of our family on an ongoing basis, but sometimes there is no substitute for being showered with attention by a bunch of people who look like you.

    We capped off the weekend with a dinner of homemade tteokguk soup, a Korean New Year tradition. We’re five days early, but the Asian market was on the way home, and our nine-year-old is short on patience.

  • Fifty-Two Places: Week Five

    old corner bookstore

    This is the oldest commercial building in Boston. Yeah, it’s a Chipotle now. But it was almost demolished in the 60s to make room for a parking garage. So, it could be worse.

    You could argue that American literature was born at this Chipotle. Well, it wasn’t a Chipotle then. It was Ticknor and Fields, a 19th century publishing house. They had the dream team. Ralph Waldo Emerson. Harriet Beecher Stowe. Nathaniel Hawthorne. Thoreau and Twain coming off the bench.

    Along with the publishing offices, there was a corner bookstore in the building. It became a popular meeting spot for many of the major authors of the time.

    It was still a bookstore when I was a college student in the 90s. I didn’t know the history at the time. It was just the old-timey building with all of the cool travel books and maps.

    Now, it’s a study in compromise. That sweet Chipotle money allows the building to be preserved on a very valuable piece of real estate. There’s even a little extra left over to throw at other preservation efforts around the city. And the non-profit that owns the building even commissioned an augmented reality app to help people pretend that it’s not a Chipotle.

  • Successfully matched my Apple Watch band to my new backpack. Serendipitously hit my move goal while snapping a photo to brag about it. Everything’s coming up Doug today.

  • Even though the Celtics came up short, I really enjoyed the NBA Finals preview tonight. 🏀

  • Fifty-Two Places: Week Four

    DSCF2015 jpg

    I’m working on something new that brought me to Wayland Square in Providence, R.I. multiple times during the week. It’s a cool little corner of Providence. Sure, there’s a Starbucks and CVS Pharmacy. But you can still find some an authentic spots like the barber shop, tailor, and bakery if you look hard enough.

  • Fifty-Two Places: Week Three


    When I was a kid, I didn’t need to build an imaginary fort. My neighborhood came with a real one.

    If you’ve studied American history, you’re probably aware that the first military engagements of the American Revolutionary War occurred in the Boston suburbs of Lexington and Concord. Less than a month later, on May 14, 1775, the first naval battle of the war occurred within sight of the shoreline less than a mile from my childhood home in Fairhaven, Mass.

    In the weeks following the battles around Boston, British General Thomas Gage dispatched the HMS Falcon to the islands off of the Massachusetts coast to find supplies. When the local militia spotted a couple of the Falcon’s tenders off the coast of Fairhaven, they set out in a whaling sloop and engaged. After some small arms fire, crashing of boats, and brawling, the militia captured both British tenders and took 25 British seamen back to Fairhaven as prisoners.

    But General Gage got the last laugh a few years later in September of 1778 when he mounted a successful retaliatory attack and burned the fort at Fairhaven to the ground.

    The fort was quickly rebuilt as soon as the British left. This “rising from the ashes” earned it the name “Fort Phoenix”. It was manned through the Civil War, but these days it’s part of a state park.

    For me, it was the best childhood playground ever. My neighborhood friends and I would ride our bikes to the fort nearly every day after school. We could climb the natural rock formations on the site, look for anything interesting that may have washed up on shore, and hang out on the iron cannons. And it was a great spot to watch fireworks on the Fourth of July and shoot off a few bottle rockets of our own.

  • Feedbin’s new capability to follow Twitter accounts is very well done. It’s the first approach I’ve tried that doesn’t require constantly clicking through to the Twitter site or app. Bonus: the developer just added share to Micro.blog as well.

  • Fifty-Two Places: Week Two

    Beacon Mural

    We’re visiting my sister-in-law and her family in the Hudson Valley region of New York State this weekend. We squeezed in a little side trip to Beacon, a small city about 60 miles north of New York City.

    It’s interesting place. It played a role in the Revolutionary War. (The name “Beacon” refers to the signal fires that were set on a nearby mountain summit to warn of British troop movements.) It later evolved into a manufacturing city. When manufacturing dried up, it fell on hard times for a while. In the late 1990s, it reinvented itself as an arts haven, including the transformation of a former Nabisco box-printing facility into a major contemporary art museum.

    The main drag has a number of funky murals, including the pictured “Songs of the Hudson,” painted by Nestor Madalengoitia in 2007.

  • On this first Micro Monday, I’ll note that Micro.blog has a better @jack than Twitter.

  • Liza Goldberg talked her way into NASA at age 14. Now, at age 16, she’s working on significant research.

  • Fifty-Two Places: Week One


    When I was a kid, my grandmother used to watch me after school. Since my grandparents only had one car, we would drive into downtown New Bedford, Mass. to pick up my grandfather from work at the end of the day.

    We would park and wait for him next to a lighthouse. It wasn’t a real lighthouse. It was a miniature lighthouse in the middle of a downtown business district. I learned years later that it was built as part of the New Deal. I heard once that a guy used to sit up there and point out where the open parking spaces were. That didn’t happen anymore when I was a kid, but it was still a cool lighthouse.

    One day, when I was eight years old, we arrived to find a group of city workers labeling each of the stones that made up the lighthouse in chalk. In the days that followed, they tore it down to make room for a bus terminal.

    What a bummer that was.

    Sometime later, we were driving into the city’s busiest intersection (known less-than-affectionately as “the Octopus”) and found the city workers sorting through a pile of stones. In the days that followed, they rebuilt the lighthouse in a small park behind the intersection.

    They didn’t take my lighthouse away. They turned it into a giant jigsaw puzzle. Awesome!

  • “I’m just going to do a quick pass before the snow gets too high for the snowblower.”

  • I set a new personal audiobook record by completing The Power Broker, which clocked in at a whopping 66 hours and 11 minutes. I feel like I should be awarded a master of city planning degree now.

  • Morning Papers

    In November, I wrote a post about my post-Twitter news consumption workflow. Less than two months later, I cringe at how comically over-engineered it was. It served a purpose. I got over my Twitter news FOMO. But I was still pumping way to much information into my brain every day.

    I’ve abandoned pretty much everything I described in my November post. No more RSS feeds from newspaper sites. No more breaking news push notifications. No more email digests. No more Nuzzel.

    My current approach is much simpler.

    Most newspaper sites update their home pages frequently throughout the day, but many also have a single “Today’s Paper” page with a list of articles from the current day’s print edition tucked away somewhere. I’ve bookmarked three of these pages as Safari favorites.

    When I sit down at my desk in the morning, I open Safari and hit ⌘-Option-1 to pop open the day’s edition of The Boston Globe. I scroll down a single web page and right click to open anything that looks vaguely interesting into a new browser tab. I then hit ⌘-Option-2 and repeat the process the day’s edition of The New York Times. Lastly, I hit ⌘-Option-3 and repeat for The Washington Post.

    This sounds like a lot, but it takes me less than five minutes to do this initial triage by scrolling down three self-contained web pages. I also try to be fairly selective, so I end up with fewer than 10 article tabs open most days.

    As I go through my article tabs, there are generally at least a few articles that I skim quickly and decide not to read. I read most of the others in the moment. If there are longer pieces that I don’t have time to read in the morning, I will sometimes send them to my Kindle (using the excellent Push to Kindle Safari extension) to read in the evening. But I try to be pretty selective about this. After all, current events aren’t the best way to unwind these days.

    I’m pretty happy with this approach. By focusing on the “Today’s Paper” pages rather than using RSS feeds or checking news site home pages throughout the day, I cut down the noise and avoid derailing my thought process during the workday with weighty or disturbing news.

    The whole process usually takes me less than 20 minutes over coffee in the morning, but it allows me to feel engaged with current events without overwhelming my mind.

  • I’m on my second attempt, and once again I’m struggling to get through the second half of Deep Work. If you’ve read it, I’m curious whether you found useful insights in the second half once you got the general concept.

  • Fifty-Two Places

    A few years ago, I completed a “Project 365”, taking and sharing one photo per day for a year. I was a beginner at using a “real camera” at the time, and the push to take a decent photo every day really helped me improve my skills. But there were downsides to the daily cadence as well. I always had to be thinking about the next photo, so I never found the time to work on more advanced shooting and editing techniques.

    I’m going to see if I can achieve the best of both worlds this year by attempting a weekly photo challenge. I considered following the Dogwood Photography prompts, but I decided to keep it simple and do my own thing.

    Each week, I’ll simply take a photograph of a place that I like or find interesting. Along with the photo, I’ll include some words about why the place is significant to me, as well any shooting or editing techniques I worked on during the week.

    Hopefully, this approach will apply just enough pressure to get me out with my camera regularly, while also giving me enough breathing room to have fun and develop my skills.

    Feel free to play along if you’d like, either with the “fifty-two places” theme or your own subject matter.

  • A Christmas Story

    flag pole

  • I just clicked to unsubscribe from an email list, and the unsubscribe web page it landed me on asked for Safari push notification permissions. 🤦🏻‍♂️

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