Off Folly Cove

I went diving with my friends Jack and Jane yesterday. When we left the dock, the fog was starting to burn off, but there was still a high overcast. Jack chose to anchor between Lanes Cove and Folly Cove, predicting correctly that we would be sheltered on the northern side of Cape Ann. The water was a smooth as glass.

Perhaps a better simile would be as smooth as a bowl of soup. Whether it was the overcast above, or simply an abundance of plankton below, the visibility was pretty crummy, at only about five feet or so. For the first dive, I was diving with Karen and Rich. For me it was pretty much starfish and sea urchins.

I tried staying pretty close to them most of the dive, but at 25 minutes in, I turned aside for a moment, and immediately lost track of them.  I tried circling around looking for them, I tried swimming into the silt, thinking they’d stirred it up to no avail. Finally, I decided to surface to see if I could see their bubbles, but no such luck. Since Karen had the homing transponder, I decided to call it a dive. When they got back to the boat, they reported seeing some anemones and lobsters.

For the second dive, I went down with Jack and Jane. I’d lost the connector for the strobe at the end of the first dive, so I was just looking this dive, which of course, meant I saw an anemone this time. Most of the time I was just enjoying being neutrally buoyant and looking around, but there wasn’t much to see. I stuck pretty close to Jack and Jane most of the dive, but at the end, I turned my head for literally 3 seconds and they were gone. Fortunately, we were back at the boat.

It was so nice out on the surface – flat and calm, no pitching or rolling, that we just hung out at the surface for a while before heading back. As I was leaving the marina, I noticed the fog starting to settle back in.

 

Painted Turtles

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I took the kayak for a 7.48 mile round trip from Dover to Natick and back today. I started off by Bridge Street in Dover — fortunately grabbing the last parking spot — and took the boat downriver to just short of the Natick Dam. Along the way, in several spots, I saw painted turtles basking on logs and boulders in the river. Usually, they would slip into the water as soon as I got close-ish, but these little guys stayed put just long enough for me to get their picture:

Painted Turtles on log

Painted Turtles on log

Quabbin via Motorcycle

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Around the start of the last century, water shortages in Greater Boston caused the state government to look to Western Massachusetts for supplies of clean drinking water. The Wachusett Reservoir was completed around 1908, and in the Twenties, the people of the Swift River valley lost their battle against eastern Massachusetts, and construction of the Quabbin Reservoir begun. The towns of Enfield, Greenwich, Prescott and Dana were disincorporated, their citizens evicted from their homes, and all structures in the way of the future reservoir razed. Construction took place during the thirties, and the reservoir filled during the forties, becoming the largest inland body of water within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Today, it supplies most of eastern Massachusetts with water. To protect the water, the area around it is a reservation. Yesterday, I took the motorcycle out for a ride around there. The roads around the reservoir are great for motorcycling — curvy, and not too crowded.

I took the fastest route out there, via the Massachusetts Turnpike to Palmer. From there, I took Route 32 north to Route 9, and entered the reservation through the eastern entrance.

My first stop was Hank’s Meadow, a long grassy meadow with a view down to the shoreline. The reservoir is at about 86% capacity right now, so there’s a small band of exposed rocks at the water’s edge.

View from Hank's Meadow

View from Hank’s Meadow

Water's edge at Hank's Meadow

Water’s edge at Hank’s Meadow

From there, I got back on the bike, and headed towards the Enfield Lookout. From the lookout, you can look north out over the reservoir, to where the Town of Enfield used to be.

Sign for the Enfield Lookout

Sign for the Enfield Lookout

Enfield Lookout

Enfield Lookout

View from lookout, before and during construction

View from lookout, before and during construction

What used to be Enfield

What used to be Enfield

From the outlook, I rode to the lookout tower, then past the Winsor Spillway, where excess water is allowed to rejoin the Swift River, parked, and walked up to the Winsor Dam — since the 9/11 attacks, you haven’t been allowed to drive near either the dam or the Goodnough Dike, which impounds the rest of the reservoir.

Quabbin Lookout Tower

Quabbin Lookout Tower and high clouds from the remains of Harvey

Windsor Dam spillway

Windsor Dam spillway

Winsor Dam, which is a high earthen dam impounding the Swift River

Marker for the Dam

Marker for the Dam

I only walked a short distance over the dam; by then it was getting close to 3:30 and I was getting hungry, so I exited the reservation and took Route 9 to 202 south, and had a hamburger and ice cream at a local restaurant. Then I headed back north on 202 towards the actual goal of the ride – the roads around Quabbin.

The roads around the reservoir are great for motorcycling – curvy, scenic, and at least yesterday, not too crowded. They’re also in good condition. From the restaurant, I headed north on 202, past Route 9 where I’d come from (Route 9 in this area is itself a fun, scenic ride – nothing like the honky-tonk of Framingham and Natick), north along the western edge of the reservoir. There are turnouts at various places along the road, but the reservoir is only visible in a few spots along the road. What you mostly see is the woods.

Once I reached Route 122, I turned right onto it, and started heading east. Route 122 is another great road – curvy, little traffic. There are a couple of turnouts that would allow you to hike into what were once Dana and Prescott, but by this point, I wanted to get going. In Barre, I switched onto Route 62 for the ride home. I’d been a little worried about finding it, because the last time I’d been this way I’d gotten a little lost, but I picked it up in the center of Barre without any trouble.

Most of Route 62 is pretty scenic too. It’s a lot hillier than the other roads — there was one long steep downhill, and then a steep uphill. There were also a couple of sections where I got stuck behind someone driving under the speed limit.

Route 62 also runs through a couple of towns; I went through the centers of Hudson and Clinton, and passed along a bike path along the way. As I was exiting Clinton, I saw a big dam up ahead; it was the Wachusett Dam, with Wachusett Reservoir behind it. Of course, I had to stop to look and take a couple of pictures. The dam is tall and imposing, blocking a narrow valley with a narrow river and fountain below, and the reservoir above.

Panorama downstream of the Wachusett Dam

Panorama downstream of the Wachusett Dam

Wachusett Dam

Wachusett Dam

Wachusett Reservoir near dusk

Wachusett Reservoir near dusk

Wachusett Reservoir

Wachusett Reservoir

From Clinton, I followed Route 62 back to Route 2, back to Route 128 and home. All in all, a good day’s ride.

 

Long Walk

I did something to my back last weekend, and have been hobbling around since. It’s not been too bad during the work week, as sitting itself hasn’t been too painful, though walking after sitting can be a pain. It’s put a distinct crimp in my weekend though; I daren’t use the kayak, I had to cancel a dive with Andrew today, and I don’t really want to use the motorcycle, both because of the back, and for reasons that I’ll relate later.

While yesterday morning was rainy and muggy, yesterday afternoon, the afternoon turned sunny. I wanted to do something, something that wouldn’t make the back worse. That basically left walking, so I drove into Boston with the camera, parked by the river on the Cambridge parkway, and went for a long walk.

The Longfellow Bridge is being reconstructed, so I walked over the bridge to see how it was coming. The bridge affords an awesome view of Boston, and I was particularly fascinated by the reflections off the John Hancock building.

After I crossed the bridge, I continued on through Beacon Hill, doing a little window shopping. Then I decided to visit Ward Maps in Porter Square, because they have a large collection of MBTA signage and maps. I could have hopped on the Red Line at Charles Station, but I was wearing my sunglasses, and wanted to swap them out for my regular glasses. So I walked back to the car, changed glasses, and walked to Kendall Square where I saw this sculpture:

Sculpture/Fountain in Kendall Square

Sculpture/Fountain in Kendall Square

I took the Red Line from Kendall to Porter Square.  Once at Porter, I turned left onto Mass Ave, and started walking toward Ward Maps, only to find them closed due to some sort of electrical problem. They’re a little less than halfway between Porter and Harvard, so I decided to just walk to Harvard Square. I’d never walked this neighborhood before, and it was very interesting — a bunch of small shops, interesting old homes, a colonial cemetery, and a couple of parks. After a quick tour of Harvard Square itself, I got back on the Red Line and took it back to Charles Station. Before I headed back to the car, I got a picture of the bridge reconstruction and the alignment of the temporary tracks the Red Line is running on:

Longfellow Bridge construction

Longfellow Bridge construction

So how was I feeling after all the walking? I was definitely feeling it in my legs last night. My back felt a little better, except a couple of times when I jarred it when I unexpected had to step down over a height difference I didn’t see. This morning I was feeling better — I’m still feeling it, especially after sitting — but better. I’m hoping it’s on the mend.

Flowers

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I just love this picture. I bought a box full of gazanias and lobelias Sunday, and took this with the phone before planting.

I’m now using it as my desktop of all three screens of my work computer.

Odds & Ends

A few little items:

I’ve been working from home for the past month or so. We’d been in a co-working space in Boston for the past year, and it was decided that since most of the developers are remote from the main London office, we should work remotely too. I’m still not sure how I feel about it. I’m finding that I personally end up working very late. On the flip side, I did pick up two lovely 27″ Thunderbolt monitors which work just as well with my personal Mac as they do with my work Mac.

There’s been a nasty strain of what’s probably the flu going around this week, and I managed to pick it up. I was fine on Sunday, with just a little cough, Monday, I was a little achy over the course of the day, and I was pretty much out of it the rest of the week. Tuesday and Wednesday I managed to get up and get dressed, get some code reviews done, do some minor work, and then fall back into bed. I haven’t felt this crummy for so many days since grade school. No appetite, achy and feverish all over, chills, headaches, the works.  By Friday I was starting to feel a little better, but I’m still feeling a bit light-headed. It’s also run through my brother’s family, my sister’s family, the family across the street, and my friends report being sick too.

We’ve had a pretty strong nor’easter Friday and Saturday. Rain and snow Friday, heavy rain yesterday that turned back to snow. And then today, I noticed the first of my new planting of crocuses had blossomed.

New crocuses

First of the new crocuses

Spring time, and better days, are ahead.

Making of a Christmas Card, 2016

This year was a bit unusual in that I actually had two competing ideas for a card, and I was able to do them with a minimum of stress. The first idea was to get some pictures of Christmas lights at night, and I actually brought the tripod with me into work, and went out shooting afterwards at the Faneuil Hall Marketplace. I did get some good stuff there, but in the end, I decided to go with my second idea.

I’d gotten a “Table Top Studio” kit the previous Christmas. Essentially, it’s a small square tent with white nylon sides to soften the light coming from the included pair of quartz lights. It came with four backgrounds: red, white, blue and black, and I decided to pick up a small snow globe and photograph it.

My initial thought was to use the red background, because red’s a Christmas color. I shot a number of frames. The snow globe lights up and has a small impeller to stir up the glitter inside, so I shot a a number of pictures with the globe both on and off.

I found that the moving glitter didn’t really read as glitter (or snow) but rather as noise.

I also decided, more or less for the heck of it, to try it with the white and black backgrounds:

I found I really didn’t like the black ones at all, and the white ones were underexposed and the white background was wrinkled, so I decided to shoot a few more with more exposure. I also got the idea to hide the bottom of the background with some fluffy cotton, to make it look more like snow. I shot both red and white versions:

The cotton balls in both are a little too obvious, but I figured that would be easy to fix in Photoshop. The red one was more in line with my original conception of the shot, but there was something about the white one that I liked. The red one was a little cleaner; the white one had some color casts that needed cleaning up. The snowmen in the white one were a little easier to read, and the reflections of the lights on the globe were a little less prominent on that one too. It would also take less ink to print. After some hemming and hawing, I decided to go with the white one, and took it into Photoshop.

All these steps took a lot less time than it usually does. The photography took maybe 45 minutes, and I had the Photoshop work done in less than an hour.

Next, I imported the picture into the card template in Pages. This was a little ticklish since I had to rotate everything 90°, because the template is designed for horizontal pictures. For the text, I used Museo Slab, the same font I use here for headings. I ended up choosing golden text with red rules above and below.

All in all, pretty simple, but I’m pleased with the result, more so than I was with last year’s card.

Final Result

Final Result

Merry Christmas everyone.