Monthly Archives: July 2006

East Hopkinton Cemetery

One of the perks of my travels around Massachusetts for the Commonwealth project is that it takes me past a lot of small burying grounds. I like these old cemeteries, especially the way they present cross-sections of place and styles through time. The smallest, which are usually in the middle of nowhere now, testify to the isolation of rural communities before the current age and how much things have changed in the last century.

Beyond the stone walls that demark hallowed ground, farmland returned to forest and now is opening up once again. And above all, these spaces and the memories they contain persist because a family, a congregation, or a community chooses to remember; a chain of care links the generations until the oldest stones fall over to become inlaid memorials that each season fade, until years later they are simply nameless mementos, signifying nothing more than a past life and the will to remember.

Today I stopped at the East Hopkinton Cemetary (on Clinton Road). This is the first of an occasional series of discoveries and reminiscences.

Ana L.
Dau. of L.R. & S.F. Haven
Died Jan. 15, 1868
Æ 7 wks
Of such is the Kingdom of Heaven

On one side of a circular stone shaped like a wheel is etched the lineage of Nathan B. Phipps, Sr. (1892-1970): his two wives, two daughters, three sons (all WWII veterans), and the words “Life is real.” On the other side: “TRAILS END”.

There were a couple of headstones cleft except at the base. One stone said “Mother. Asleep in Jesus.” The other, “Father. United above.”

A small green dragon kept guard over Mr. Hayres’ (Æ 51) black granite tombstone. The father in the photo-quality picture etched into it wears a NIN shirt. “A man unique from all others. Loved so deeply and missed so much.”

Until recently this was not a wealthy town. Most tombstones are modest until the 1970s. The image of an urn in the shade of a willow, which is the principal 18th and 19th century motif, is not as common here as elsewhere. But there are many short elegaic lines and some wonderful names from the 1800s:

  • Amora Eames, Esq. (♂)
  • Zina Underwood (♂)
  • Mehetabel Woolson (♀ – died 1836) — I love this name.
  • Maria (♀)
  • Sarah (♀)
  • Abigail (♀)
  • Bethsheba (♀)
  • Lemuel (♂)
  • Simion (♂)
Posted in Burying Grounds, This is who we are | 1 Comment

Second call

If you haven’t already, let me know what you would like to see inside our house. I’ll be posting pictures sometime in the next week, and would like to have more than just two (2).

It can be anything. Almost.

Leave a comment. It’s quick and easy.

Posted in Photography | 1 Comment

Two exhibits . . . go soon!

Things finally settled down after our vacation, Independence Day, and The MathWorks’ annual summer outing to Mt. Washington, New Hampshire. (Sort of. I’m in Wisconsin right now. But more on that later.) So I finally got the chance to see a couple of photography exhibits with Lisa last weekend.

First up: “In Focus: 75 Years of Collecting American Photography” at the Addison Gallery of American Art. We’ll leave aside for a moment the fact that Andover’s Phillips Academy is larger in area than many undergrad institutions, costs over $35,000 per year to attend, and has a better art collection than many public museums. That’s more or less immaterial to a review of the show, except to point out the resources the gallery has drawn upon to build its substantial collection. The show spans the full range of who’s who in American photography (plus a few foreigners they seem to have adopted) . . . at least until photography went color. So it’s both deep and broad from the old topographic survey folks of the late 1800s through the “New Topographers” of the late 1960s.

So why stop there? The exhibit is well presented, with rooms dedicated to street photography, social commentary, landscape, architecture, modernism, and so on. But the groupings highlight two things: (1) it’s largely black and white, straight photography that ends at 1980, and (2) the body is mostly missing — with the exception of a few Mapplethorpes. (There were exceptions, of course.) Did the curatorial staff arbitrarially leave them out intentionally? Have they been reluctant to buy newer works from comparatively unknown artists? Have patrons not donated new pieces recently?

Still, it was quite a tour of the major aspects of American photography. And a few images really stood out, especially a large Adam Fuss photogram, a three panel screen by Lorna Simpson, and several grids of images related to suburban development in Colorado and Nevada. Try to see it before it closes on July 30, 2006. (That’s Sunday, y’all.)

If you travel just a couple of towns south of Andover to the Griffin Photography Museum in Winchester, you can easily take in the much smaller “12th Annual Juried Show.” It was a good show overall, though different than last year’s show. The Griffin and its jurors have a particular aesthetic, which resulted in a really strong and consistent exhibit. It’s definitely smack in the middle of what’s “hip” in photography right now. I wish I could remember particular artists’ names/titles, but you’ll just have to see it yourself. It’s up until August 13.

After we took a leisurely tour of the small exhibit space, I took another quick look around the whole exhibit. As you might remember, I sent entries to the show, but as I surveyed it I wasn’t surprised that I didn’t get in. There really wasn’t a subgrouping where my images would have fit into this show thematically. But huge props to Newton Camera Club member Marshall Goff for getting into the show (though I can’t find the particular image online.)

Posted in Always the bridesmaid, OPP, Photography | Leave a comment

Dear Mr. President, did you get that letter I sent?

Dear President Bush,

I am 31, and I have a paperweight for a pancreas. Seven years ago, on the Wednesday after Labor Day, instead of getting on a plane to teach MATLAB to researchers at the NIH, I went to my doctor who checked my blood glucose and sent me to the hospital. The first day I came to terms with the fact that I have type 1 diabetes — a chronic, life-long condition. Over the next two days as a patient, I learned how to change most things about my life: what to eat, when to eat, how much to eat, what to do when I get sick, how to avoid problems when exercising — all those things I thought I already knew how to do. I also learned how to test my own blood and how to inject insulin. Since then I’ve learned to spot the signs of hypoglycemia (confusion, sweating, spots before my eyes, the feeling that my brain and eys are trying to change places, the need to physically and mentally hold tight to something) and hyperglycemia (nausea, weakness, irritability, depression).

But I paid special attention to the complications. Blindness, amputation, kidney problems, nerve pain, toothdecay, increased risks of heart attack and stroke, and even . . . er . . . E.D. So I try to follow the rules — which are really more like imprecise guidelines — and watch the numbers (HbA1c 4/year and blood glucose 5-8/day). But it’s hard to reach ideal numbers, and even “perfect” control still has deleterious bad effects on overall health as we age.

So from the beginning I’ve held out hope for a cure. I have to; I can’t imagine living decades with this disease. I could get a pancreatic islet cell transplant; but my body can reject these insulin-producing cells, donor organs are in short supply, and the unknown pathogen might eventually destroy these cells, too. Shortly after my diagnosis I read about a promising clinical trial of a potent anti-rejection drug that had great success with islet cells, but there are two few cells to go around.

Stem cell research is my best hope for a plentiful supply of islet cells and for a vaccine against the virus which destroys the insulin producing abilities of islet cells. Without federal funding, the research institutions that work with stem cells face tremendous hurdles. The time to create new therapies may extend beyond my lifespan and the 171 or so million other people worldwide with diabetes, not to mention alzheimers, parkinsons, and other diseases.

I understand the potential for moral queasiness regarding anything that concerns undeveloped life which might become human. But a zygote, a blastocyst, an embryo — these are not human life; they are potential human life, in just the same way that my DNA is potential human life only when all the right conditions are in place. Embryonic stem cells are not life.

Any moral system that places the unliving over the living, the potential for life above actual human life, and the “protection” of the inanimate above the needs of those who actually suffer — well, that sounds like a corrupted or degenerate moral hierarchy. I suspect that either you or your advisors are smart enough to appreciate the actual moral issues here and the needs of those people who require the compassion of the state. And I know you appreciate these issues because you have articulated that it is possible to perform embryonic stem cell research “without sanctioning the practices that violate the dignity of human life” and by allowing embryonic stem cell research using existing lines and by not outlawing research done to create new cell lines with non-federal funds.

So I can reach no other conclusion than this: You are a dick.

Posted in Diabetes, General | 1 Comment

What do you want to see?

Steve mentioned that he had trouble posting a comment here — something about how nice it was to be honored along with the cat. It has been a little quiet here. Are those crickets I hear in the background?

So I need your help, dear readers. Please try to leave me a comment. If you have trouble, send me an e-mail (jeffmather at verizon dot net).

What should you leave as a comment? How about being part of this photo meme? Leave a comment asking for a photograph of something — almost anything — in our house, and I’ll try to accomodate. Say, for example, you’re my mother in law and want to see the new-ish dining room table; just ask.

Or perhaps you think it would be amusing to see how the cat spends his day. Leave me a note.

So what would you like to see?

Posted in Photography | 4 Comments

Hazel Mae, Hazel Mae

Yeah, this tribute to NESN broadcaster Hazel Mae is creepy. But who doesn’t admire TV anchorpeople?

Posted in Baseball | 1 Comment


I’m going to graduate school!

Unless the Brandeis IT folks are playing a cruel trick on me, I take the e-mail below to be a pretty good indicator that an acceptance letter will soon arrive from the Rabb School’s Master of Software Engineering program:

Dear Jeffrey Mather -

We have created a Brandeis account (aka UNet ID) for you. Your UNet ID is XXXXXX. The account is available now and only awaits your setting your password to become active. [Blah blah blah]

We’re also providing you with a fully functional Brandeis e-mail address. [etc.]

I shall now answer some questions I expect will be frequently asked:

  • Are you quitting your job or taking fewer hours? Absolutely not. I like my job, and I’m getting this rather practical MSE so that I can do it better. The program only has evening courses and is located in a nearby suburb. (Brandeis is where Lisa used to work.)
  • What’s an MSE all about anyway? Why not computer science? Science is the formulation and testing of hypotheses, while engineering is the application of proven knowledge and tools to solve problems. Better software construction and project management has a largely disjoint set of concerns with CS. I was looking for a program that had a healthy mix of theory and practical, tool-based instruction. (For more on the software engineering profession, see McConnell’s
    Professional Software Development: Shorter Schedules, Higher Quality Products, More Successful Projects, Enhanced Careers

  • How long will this take? If all goes well, two and a half to three years.
  • Is this the mysterious, secret project you mentioned earlier? Probably yes, but who can say for sure?
  • Isn’t this just an excuse to be close to the Indian stores along Moody Street? No, but have you tried the chocolate bourbon biscuits?
  • Would you like to thank anyone? Thanks to Lisa for enthusiastically encouraging me to do this, to my manager Steve for writing a letter of recommendation, to Karmi and Matt for letting me print out my personal statement at their Minneapolis home, to The MathWorks for promising to reimburse my tuition if I get good grades, and to the cat.
  • Will you tell us about the things you learn? If you insist. I’ve always wanted to procrastinate have the freedom to post whenever I want and share what I learn like all the other academic bloggers.
Posted in Software Engineering | 1 Comment

Mumbai train bombings

First off, my deepest sympathies to everyone affected by today’s train bombings in Mumbai and my solidarity with all Indians. It’s a terrible event that no one deserves.

But, dear Father-in-Law who is worried about our safety as we travel abroad, there is no need to tell dear Mother-in-Law “I told you so” about today’s carnage. This could just as easily have happened to us in “safer” parts of the world. Say, Madrid or London or even New York or DC, which we visit a couple of times a year.

So, buck up little cowboy. Everything will be all right.

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Worth reading this week

Articles from the print world . . .

At Colleges, Women Are Leaving Men in the Dust (The New Gender Divide)

A quarter-century after women became the majority on college campuses, men are trailing them in more than just enrollment.

Department of Education statistics show that men, whatever their race or socioeconomic group, are less likely than women to get bachelor’s degrees — and among those who do, fewer complete their degrees in four or five years. Men also get worse grades than women.

And in two national studies, college men reported that they studied less and socialized more than their female classmates.

A Job With Travel but No Vacation

Shakedowns in Caracas. Winter travel in Romania. Late trains and broken laptops in Cambodia. O, the glamorous life of a travel writer.

Immigration — and the Curse of the Black Legend

Historian Tony Horwitz argues that Americans willfully ignore the history of Spain in America in order to justify an anti-Hispanic immigration agenda.

The Economist‘s survey of Indian Business and Time’s The Multitasking Generation are oldies but thought-provoking.

Posted in General, This is who we are | Leave a comment

The Midwest in Video, teaser edition

Have you seen the brilliant new Mac commercials with the guy/Mac who talks about all of the fun things he can do right out of the box? Well, that’s me. I’m whittling down the one hour and forty minutes of video footage from our trip into something more watchable. Maybe something like the trailer for Sophia Coppola’s new film Marie Antoinette — but without the Frenchified dames or Kirsten Dunst or sheep or incongruous rock music or France or the 18th century.

Here’s a little something to whet your appetite:

I Want My Mill TV
Milwaukee Sausage Races
Sound of Music
In the Rough

Posted in USA | Leave a comment

The Midwest in Pictures, Part 2

See what we saw and read all about it.

Posted in Baseball, USA | Leave a comment


Carl Crawford just stole home against the Red Sox. The first time I’ve seen that.

Score that a single through the gap. He stole second, advanced on a sacrifice, and stole home.

Posted in Baseball | Leave a comment

A Tale of Two Highways

As I mentioned last week, we drove from Cincinnati to Milford to return home from our vacation.

Why do I mention this again? Not for pity. (No, no. We’ve done many of these long, day-long drives over the last couple decades.) I like a good trip.

Rather, compare how long it took for us to make this 866-or-so mile journey compared to, say, a typical 1,340 mile truck trip between Mumbai and Kolkata in India that I read about somewhere outside Albany.

We left Cinci at 7:30 AM arriving home around 11:00 PM — including an hour delay through Buffalo, New York, because of a really bad tractor-trailer accident. Total time: fifteen and a half hours, for an average of 56 mph.

The Economist tells the subcontinental story better than I could . . . since, you know, they actually have facts and research.

TO ILLUSTRATE the effect of the shortcomings of both “hard” and “soft” infrastructure on Indian business, Vineet Agarwal, of the Transport Corporation of India, a freight firm, describes the 2,150km (1,340-mile) journey of a typical cargo between two of India’s great “metros”, Kolkata and Mumbai.

The lorry is loaded at 2pm in central Kolkata. But it cannot leave until after 10pm, because heavy vehicles can use the city streets only at certain times. By then, there is a jam and it is 4am before the lorry hits the National Highway 6. It takes a good 14 hours to travel the 180km to the border of this state, West Bengal, with Jharkhand. By then the border is closed for the night.

At 5am the following morning, the lorry joins the border queue. It takes two hours for the documents to be cleared, and the same time again to cross a sliver of Jharkhand. After another two-hour queue, it enters Orissa and enjoys a relatively uneventful 200km. But then it has to stop for the night, because the road is closed to avoid the danger of attacks by bandits or Maoist insurgents.

Day four begins again at 5am, and after 12 hours on the road the lorry reaches the next border, with Chhattisgarh. Here it queues for four hours, but at least it can cross at night, making a creditable 350km in one day. So by day five, the lorry is in Maharashtra, the state of which Mumbai is the capital.

However, the lorry still has to pass a further 12 toll booths and inspection points after the 14 it has already negotiated, so it takes another two days to get to Mumbai itself. The driver then has to telephone the octroi agent and get this tax processed, which takes all night. It is the morning of day eight before he reaches his customer in Mumbai, having achieved an average speed of 11km per hour and spent 32 hours waiting at tollbooths and checkpoints.

11 km/h!! (That’s almost 7 mph for the metrically challenged.) No wonder Indian truck drivers have so much . . . um . . . time on their hands.

Posted in Development, USA | Leave a comment

The Banks of the Ohio

In the waning days of our trip, we spent a fair bit of time along the banks of the Ohio River. Our first glimpse was along the bluffs outside Leavenworth, Indiana. That was on day one of a two-day impromptu scenic drive through southern Indiana. The first day we stopped in Louisville, Kentucky, before restarting our journey the next day in Madison, an amazing river town that — while just a shadow of its heyday — has 130 square blocks of beautiful old buildings in its downtown.

It’s hard to think of southern Indiana as a place of enormous wealth, but so it was when the Ohio was one of America’s principal means of commerce. It still is a hardworking river, as we saw at the Army Corps of Engineers’ Markland Locks and Dam (and observation tower for visitors). On our drive — amidst the corn, soybean, and tobacco fields; along the quiet state highways; through quiet downtowns and wide spots with names like “Possum Junction”; and past the Benedictine archabbey — we also saw numerous barges and factories and powerplants and “riverboat” casinos and cities I had never heard of that thrive off this river.

Cincinnati, a city that I wasn’t really able to understand, seems a microcosm of the Ohio River. A history-based caricature of what the river once was: casinos and rust-belt commerce. But it’s also vibrant, wears its multicultural heritage openly, and will likely portend the future of America.

While there, we stopped into the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. In Cinicinnati, the Ohio separated free and unfree by less than a furlong. It’s hard to imagine slavery or understand the depth of the pathology that infects any society which not only uses it but defends the practice. One primary focus of the NURFC is the multifaceted slave experience and its intersection and common bonds with other social justice issues, notably suffrage. But the center also presents how slavery built America, — making all of society complicit in it and underlining how wrong the current imbalance of wealth and opportunity truly is.

The museum is just a couple blocks away from the Great American Ballpark, which fronts the Ohio River. Okay, it’s named after an insurance company, but what a great name! The park is beautiful — despite having a minor league stadium feel — but the game was a snoozer and the fans were mostly there to drink and chat. But hot dogs are cheap (as is the beer) and the game got better in the 9th inning.

Is Cincinnati also a microcosm of our trip?

Posted in Baseball, This is who we are, USA | 2 Comments