Thursday, May 19, 2011

wine and aging-sleepless at Logan

well, one of the few good things about missing your connection at Logan from Nantucket due to fog (normal for flights off the Rock) and having a solid 12 hours of quality time to spend at the aiport is that I finally get to catch up on my blog.

My brother kindly got me the newest version of Dragon Speaking Naturally as a Christmas present. Each year he asks me what I'd like (typical family ingrained practicality trait) and I've always wanted to try speech recongition software in order to speed up my writing and spare my wrists from a second set of carpal tunnel surgery.

During the spring, summer and fall, I write a weekly column (1500-2000 words) for Yesterday's Island which is published online and in print on island. Last week's article on wine and aging was my first attempt to use Dragon and I was pleasantly surprised by the ease of use. I was able to speak/type the first 650 words in about 5-10 minutes. I can type about 40-45 words per minute, but I'm not very accurate, so I'll take any help I can get. I haven't had the chance to see how well it works with a lot of noise like a TV program in the background, but I am hoping that I can use it in a variety of ways each week. Like most people, I have my "best" ideas for columns or research or education or whatever in inverse proportion to my distance from a pen and paper, so lately I've taken to carrying around an ancient voice recorder to speak into when the muse strikes. Dragon has a button for transcribing, so my next experiment will be to see how well my static-y recorded voice is transcribed.

This past month, we've been doing twice daily horseshoe crab surveys in the marsh and along the beachfront on the full and new moon cycles and 48 hours before and after each anticipated high tide. Here's an article I wrote two years and many crabs ago. I'll update it soon with some information gleaned from late night surreal surveys.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Weird bone report

Andrew McKenna-Foster, the Natural Science Research and Education Director at the Maria Mitchell Association found this weird bone in their collection a few weeks back. Any guesses as to what it is??

It is very rounded and smooth; no identifying tags or location clues besides being here on Nantucket (which can be a red herring with all the trade and travel initiated by the whalers).

While I was looking around the web for some clues to this mystery, I came upon this site and really liked it, so I thought I would share it with you:

Lots of fun fossils on there, one of my favorites is a member of a family of giant armored turtles called meiolaniid which can be seen at the Smithsonian Natural History museum in DC. If you are ever in the area,  check out some of our greatest national treasures, the various free Smithsonian museums (19 at last count) on the Mall in DC:

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Pump up the volume

Every morning I have been dragging my sorry butt downstairs to the shop to jog on my treadmill. This morning, our Labradoodle, Swegen, decided his new game would be to toss a tennis ball over, under, on, or around me as I am jogging. I'd like to say  a graceful dance ensued, a pas de deux of human and animal, but in reality, it led to a very quick coda with said dog getting to explore the snow outside on his own. 

Like almost everyone else, I enjoy listening to music while I jog. My treadmill has a TV which if connected would be another way to while away the blocks/miles, and I've tried to listen to comedy podcasts and NPR too, but each time, I tend to do much better listening to music. Once in a blue moon I'll forget my itouch or discover I haven't charged it and find out that I do much more poorly without the inspiration.  Even with a somewhat eclectic and not all that "beat happy" a play list (My Chemical Romance, Weezer, LIVE, Cake, U2, David Bowie, Flaming Lips, Muddy Waters, White Stripes, insert 90s grunge band here) my gait increases from one of a dead sloth to a mildly motivated Galapagos turtle.And as a certified geek, I know there is some science to back that up:

“Music is like is a legal drug for athletes,” says Costas Karageorghis, Ph.D., from London’s Brunel University School of Sport and Education, one of the world’s leading authorities on music and exercise. “It can reduce the perception of effort significantly and increase endurance by as much as 15 percent.”

I am not specifically advocating for the following sites, but there are many on the web that let you find a series of songs at a specific beat per Minute (BPM) to help you exercise; try: or of course, Lifehackers.

So get out there or in there, keep the dog out of the way or entertained, and enjoy. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

spelling bee, quentin the quahog and a good blog to read

Many people think that there is not much to do on Nantucket in the wintertime; and for islanders, this is what we keep wanting them to think. But, it's not true, in fact, just the opposite. Winter is our time to socialize, to get out and spend time with friends, to take long walks in the Middle Moors, and to do things that make life on "the Rock" special. This is even more important this winter, when travel to "America" has been a bit more challenging.

Tonight, for example- there are at least 3 or more social events happening on island; all of which have the possibility of being uplifting, entertaining, and educational.

1) Sustainable Nantucket presents a screening of the Film "The End of the Line" with a Q&A with local fisherman:  more info at
2) one of the many "One Book One Island (OBOI): events this week. A showing of "The Tuskegee Airmen at the African Meeting  House; Len is organizing some music and the readings.
3) our normal Friday night event: trivia night at the Rose and Crown; we usually fill up two 6 person teams (boys and girls ;-)) Our team names are BassAckwards and Clueless; tonight's fun is a benefit for Family Planning and includes raffle items. Every week, almost everyone we knows shows up for trivia for a chance to win cash and bragging rights.

Speaking of bragging rights :-) the Civic League Team (Members include myself and Chris Lohmann and Peter Morrison) won our island Spelling Bee last week which is a benefit for the "Friends of the Nantucket Public Schools ( . Here's a picture of our team with our trophy and t-shirt costumes and a link to the story.  It was a hard fought battle- we have some amazing spellers on island, many of whom study and practice and come back every year (21 teams) and we just barely squeaked by Nantucket Bookworks! Example words: lederhosen, nachtmusik, dachshund, perestroika, knish, schloss, quixote (with the hard pronunciation), philhellenism, sayonara, sarsaparilla (both teams- down to two then, forgot the second "a" out of 4 "a"s, and jipijapa (pronounced "hippy-hopa").

the last two weeks have been full of other OBOI events, potlucks, superbowl parties, long chats in the produce aisle, seeing one another at the high school science fair, and competing in trivia and game nights. Quentin the quahog is our version Punxsutawney Phil. This year he squirted to the left indicating 6 more weeks of winter.

For the next few weeks, the political atmosphere will heat up on island as we prepare for Annual Town Meeting and our yearly elections as well as open a brand new public safety facility. Summertime, we become more serious, work 12-16 hour days, marvel/curse at the increase of population from 15,000 to 60,000 people not counting tourists, and while we enjoy the warmth, we look forward to our "social season".

If you have made it this far in today's entry, please go read and sign up for this excellent blog by my friend and colleague, Dr. Greg Smith! [].... today's post covers a recent topic currently circulating among island biologists and conservationists concerning feral cats.

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year's News

Right now I am completely redoing the UMass Boston Nantucket Field station website (    ---- new version live on Friday January 6th). It will be faster, stronger, and capable of leaping tall buildings. I should be able to update it more, just like I hope to update this blog more often.I've had a lot of help with that site and it shows.

Just like many typical Monday after the holidays: we have a very dead whale carcass on the sand on the south side of the island. I think it is kind of beautiful, bleached bone with very old and leathery skin. An observant and helpful beach wlaker reported it and if I get permission to post the pics, I will.

Len's blog has been excellent lately; check it out at
Resolution #7643........ post more often, even if you only have time to post something short. Here is the rest of my New Year's resolution that I posted on Facebook.Note: it sounded better in my head at the time.

my lovely and intelligent friend G *****n (redacted to protect the innocent) asked about resolutions- I am not big on them- but here is my attempt this year:

most days will not be like today (for one thing 8-9 + hours of work makes this harder), but hope to make them more like this everyday. Do 1 thing for each person/entity in your life everyday including yourself. My list for today (1/2 done is)
1. For me- jog/run/walk 2 miles every morning on treadmill- done- bit hard with a wee hangover but I managed- passed the 200 mile mark on the treadmill- goal this year 400 miles
2. for hubby - my part of cleaning the house (1/2), cook dinner (tradition new years day dinner: duck, collard greens, black eyed peas not the band- or maybe the band) and make low sugar choc chip cookies- in progress
3. For dog - nice long walk from mile marker 5 almost to altar rock and back- done and beautiful this morning- did not get accidentally shot by deer hunters a plus
4. for cats - change litter box and order them a new water bowl, extra petting- thankfully they do not need much
5. For field station- meet with birders tonight at 700; organize shop downstairs (day off so only an hour for that - done)
6. For friends - hang out tonight for dinner and drinks at 800 (past Len's bedtime) -done
7. For "Greater good"/world or whomever"- recycle and pass along old clothes I get rid of today to someone who needs them (and has even less fashion sense than me which may be tough) and schedule first urban school trip to field station for 2011- work on blog- hey this is long enough to be my blog entry; even got rid of my old futon
Tada!: My resolution - do something for each of these above as best as I can everyday and don't beat myself up when I can't - should be on resolution list- be less wordy; but I know my limits :-)
okay you can wake up now

I don't know if you are like me, but as soon as I list resolutions, I think of about 100 more I should have listed. Honestly, every day should be a new resolution day; like a self referential form of Groundhog's day. Maybe mine newest new one should be to watch "Zombieland" once a week. I am pretty sure I can keep that one.

last but not least- a cute youtube video of polar bears vs. scientific observation cameras (guess who wins)