Regarding those photogenic cute puffins

Photo by OscarV055 via Wikimedia Commons

The distinctive seafaring bird is on any serious bird-watcher’s bucket list. Here are some things to know.

  1. They don’t make muffins, contrary to the children’s ditty.
  2. Apart from their nesting time on North Atlantic or Pacific cliffs, they spend all their life at sea, resting on the waves when they’re not flying. They’re essentially an arctic bird, though they come south to breed. Considering where I’m living, maybe I’ll take the boat tour and see some, too, if the outings aren’t already booked solid.
  3. These birds can dive underwater for a full minute and are fabulous swimmers.
  4. As a group, they’re a colony, a puffinry, a circus, a burrow, a gathering, or – get this – an improbability.
  5. They’re quite social, with one colony in Iceland reported to have more than a million nests.
  6. They can flap their wings in a blur of 400 times a minute, reaching a flying speed of 55 miles an hour. At least they’ll evade cops with radar guns.
  7. Two opponents in flight can lock beaks and then beat at each other with their wings and feet. OK, that’s ugly but still impressive.
  8. They generally stay with the same mate for life, returning to the same burrow nest.
  9. Sometimes they’re called Sea Parrots or Clowns of the Sea.
  10. A puffin’s beak changes color during the year.


Other red barns out there

Somehow, a red barn is iconic. Little wonder I latched onto it in naming this blog. My posts have already mentioned Tuttle’s and Red’s Shoe Barn in Dover, New Hampshire, and the Red Barn Motel in Millbridge, Maine.

As for others? Not all of them are on farms.

  1. There’s the fast-food restaurant chain that originated in Springfield, Ohio.
  2. A market and deli in South Burlington, Vermont.
  3. A feed and pet store in the San Fernando Valley of California.
  4. A flea market in Bradenton, Florida.
  5. A home décor store in Wisconsin.
  6. A convention center in Adams County, Ohio.
  7. A trailer dealership in Texas and New Mexico.
  8. A medical marijuana producer and dispensary in New Mexico.
  9. Amish in Maine, who not only allow them but make them their bright signature color while keeping the houses plain white.
  10. And let’s not overlook Tom Waits, singing “There was a murder in the red barn” as the chorus.

America’s largest cities in 1790

Working on a big history project, both my own and in some discussions with a good friend who’s immersed in writing a book that’s all his, has had me reflecting on the growth of America. Just where was the economic and political power centered? The findings can be rather surprising.

  1. New York City (33,131 population). That’s all? It’s about the size of Dover, New Hampshire, or Bangor, Maine. Places we’d call small cities or towns.
  2. Philadelphia (28,522). As you’ll see, that’s a bit misleading, but still small by today’s standards.
  3. Boston (18,320). Well, it was also surrounded by some thriving towns, especially along the Charles River and around the harbor.
  4. Charleston, S.C. (16,359). So this was the belle of the South and diversely sophisticated, too?
  5. Baltimore (13,503). Less than half the size of Philadelphia.
  6. Northern Liberties Township, Pa. (9,913). Of course, had these suburbs been included with Philadelphia, the influence of the City of Brotherly Love would be more apparent.
  7. Salem, Mass. (7,921). Here’s where the New England picture changes and winds up taking up half of the Top Ten list.
  8. Newport, R.I. (6,716). Harbors were key factors for cities.
  9. Providence, R.I. (6,380). As I was saying?
  10. Marblehead, Mass. (5,661). One of three Bay State cities named for a single governor, as the saying goes. Peabody and Athol rounded out the honor.

Fact: Only two cities have ever held the distinction of most populous in the United States. When the Declaration of Independence was signed, it was Philadelphia. But by the time of the first Census, 1790, New York had taken the top spot, a rank it’s held ever since.

Is bassist Ron Carter the most recorded jazz musician of all time?

I found myself asking that several times after hearing radio announcers rattle off the performers’ names on jazz recordings and thought, “Carter again? Isn’t he everywhere?” And I’ve finally looked it up.

The answer? Yes! Though usually as a side man. He started recording in 1960 and by 2015, at last count, he had 2,221 issues on that instrument. There were others on cello. And he’s still plucking away.

While we’re at it, we should acknowledge the Wrecking Company, a loose affiliation of studio musicians in Los Angeles who are credited with being the most recorded, though not all at the same time.

As for most recorded, period? That honor goes to two sisters in India, Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle, who turned out more than 25,000 songs for Bollywood.

Now, how does a song compare to an LP or CD?

Comparisons do get tricky.

Signs that the Summer People are about to descend

  1. First boat on a trailer bouncing down the street. Usually soon followed by another.
  2. Lights on in a seasonal second-home.
  3. Double the number of cars at the IGA from what’s been normal.
  4. Rain rather than snow.
  5. More than one vehicle parked overnight at the motel. And then international flags flying from its deck.
  6. Out-of-state licenses plates from other than a random New Hampshire or Massachusetts or Virginia vehicle. Beginning with Iowa, Wisconsin, Tennessee, but soon followed by Oregon, California, Texas, New York, New Jersey, Ohio. Somehow, Florida doesn’t flood in initially.
  7. A change in the quality of daylight, from bright crisp to buttery.
  8. The first Mercedes in town since October. Or BMW, Audi, or Volvo.
  9. Green grass and dandelions.
  10. Somebody actually moving within one of the seasonally closed stores or galleries downtown.

Random notes keep springing up in no particular order

Here are a few more.

  1. Attempting to bridge many unanticipated combinations.
  2. Classical music is a connection to history of social thought and imagination.
  3. In the face of Covid-19, are we facing the death of dining out? And face-to-face shopping?
  4. You treated fame the way you treated me, which may explain everything.
  5. I didn’t really want to be a swami. Now, now I see, I wanted to be a rabbi!
  6. The misapplication of “culture” to be norm rather than higher learning and other downfalls, as in “classic rock”
  7. Cool beans, eazy-peezy.
  8. Chickens in the garden.
  9. What we transplanted last week looks happy, and the rats are gone.
  10. Practice & Devotion. In either order.


See how my mind and heart work? Really?

Imagine what Marx would have said about Putin

Or even Stalin.

The revolution was supposed to be about liberating the people, not obliterating them. Well, we have seen more than a few of them run amuck. The guillotine was one example.

As for wealth being the cause of war and class oppression?

It’s time for a devoted Marxist to stand up and expose the old spymaster. I was going to say “from the left,” but that distinction loses all meaning in our time. He’s going to brush off any criticism from capitalist countries, in part because of his Communist roots.

The tyrant’s grounding and career, let’s be clear, were largely party-line Communist, which claimed to be based on the teachings of Karl Marx. So somewhere in that philosopher’s matrix imprinted in Putin’s mindset may be the key to turning him around. Maybe even call him to repentance.

Just what manifesto is today’s czar wannabe following, anyhoo? Does anyone want to remind him what happened to the last one?

Pantry items I consider staples

No, not the usual listing of milk, bread, eggs, butter, potatoes – those are givens. Rather, the things special to me you’re not likely to pick up if you’re doing my grocery run.

  1. Olives. Big green stuffed ones, though I love ripe ones as well, elsewhere.
  2. Gin. Where did you think those green olives were going?
  3. Bagels. Or breakfast pastry.
  4. Craisins. They go well in yogurt or on a salad.
  5. Sunflower seeds. On that salad, too.
  6. Cookies and pretzels. Something to snack on.
  7. Garlic. Rather than onion.
  8. Lemons. And limes, for someone special.
  9. Orange juice, or grapefruit. Perk me up in the morning.
  10. Not as frequently but all the same: miso, sesame oil, rice vinegar, almonds.

What’s on your hidden list of essentials?


Ways American democracy is increasingly at risk

Spoiler alert. This is a rant. Here are some of the places I see us as American society being in deep doodah.

  1. Out-and-out lies, delusions, and false expectations “Making America great again” has done the exact opposite. And ideological preconceptions block any reality of what needs to be done. It’s a great sales pitch, but if you’re promising to fix something, you better master the details. Think about making your car or computer or anything else run better and who you’d trust doing the job.
  2. The center is coming apart, along with the breakdown of face-to-face community. Who belongs to a lodge or bowling league or even a church anymore? Without those, just how are our opinions tested and refined? It’s part of a decline of civic awareness and participation.
  3. Refusal to give and take, i.e. compromise, to work out solutions for the common good. Health care is a prime example. Any faults with “Obama-care” can be laid at the feet of those opposed to any health insurance for Americans who didn’t have union jobs or the like. And we know who’s opposed those unions.
  4. Disproportionate representation by rural states. Not just the Senate, either, but especially the Electoral College, which was a faulty way of accommodating Southern slaveholders to begin with.
  5. Disenfranchisement of voters, one way or another. Want to talk about “stealing elections”?
  6. PACs and other big-money corruption, leading to the undermining of the middle class. It’s why the rich are getting richer.
  7. An uninformed electorate, along with the economic collapse of responsible journalism coupled with the tainting of “liberal media” by certain self-interests. Where on earth have the left-wing editorial page columnists been in the past half-century, anyway?
  8. Blaming the victims rather than the super-rich. Talk about “entitlement”? Add to that the myth of the “self-made man.”
  9. The collapse of the tax system. I’m no fan of the Internal Revenue Service, but it’s been gutted to let those with the most to get away scot-free.
  10. Without excusing the left for its too-often sanctimonious airs, I’d say the real threats are coming from an increasingly barbarian right-wing. Or should that be “anarchists”? They’re not conservatives or patriots, OK?

Look, unlike many, I’ve read the Federalist Papers closely, the arguments behind the American Constitution. I can say definitively that MAGA is dead-set against its principles.

Your turn to weigh in. Just be polite.


It’s mostly a downward slope, right?

Ten things I don’t like about growing older:

  1. Fragile skin and easy bruising.
  2. Moles and stray hairs.
  3. Balding and graying.
  4. Forgetfulness.
  5. Sexual withering and incontinence.
  6. Slowing down in general.
  7. Inability to sleep in late. Worse yet, apparently I snore more … and louder.
  8. A receding gum line.
  9. Declining stamina.
  10. Lessened agility and equipoise, too. As for balance?


What’s hitting you? No matter your age.