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Showing posts from 2008

Cross linked

It has been just over a year from when I opened this blog, and nearly a year from when I started posting to it regularly.

I have gained a lot from blogging. A few real friends, and many warm acquaintances. A greater appreciation for how much I like the act of writing. Technological skills - blogging has spurred me to learn how to better use the Web for my own purposes, rather than just surf it. I think I have also grappled with an internal demon or two, and am a happier person as a result.

The intent of this blog is to open up my writing to members of my family and friends. It has worked well for me. My mother, daughter, my son's GF, and at least one friend regularly read this blog, and my mom especially treasures the opportunity to feel close to me as she reads my words. I also have some readership because the blog is cross-referenced on my Ravelry profile.

Now I have discovered that my blog has been discovered by northcountrynow.com, a popular local news website, and by a woman who…

Christmas Menu

Hello World.

I haven't forgotten about or given up blogging. Lots of ideas have floated through my head during the past week. I've had a hard time finding cracks in the day to write, and my energy levels have been low.

I do have a menu for Christmas Day, so that important task is done. We usually have two official meals on Christmas. The third meal consists of nibbling on chocolate and leftovers from breakfast.

Breakfast:
Homemade Christmas bread
brie
fruit salad

Dinner:
Appetizers:
Artichokes
Shrimp cocktail

Entree:
Venison tenderloin with a nut crust
Baked potatoes with sour cream
Salad

Dessert: Dark chocolate and lime souffle

For wine, we are buying a NY State red called "Hunter's Red". We had it at a friend's wedding, and it was memorable. We also have a gift bottle of dessert wine called "Chocolate Lab" that we may break out later in the evening. I think that it might be a poor choice to drink with a chocolate dessert.

I am looking forward to the cooking and th…

Knitting Blog: Spring Thaw Socks

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I was able to complete these socks over the short vacation I just took. Five days, with much of two days spent in travel. We visited friends in Connecticut, and my dad and stepmother on Cape Cod. I could have used one more day on the Cape, but soon I will have 11 days off in a row, so I am not complaining.

These socks were designed by Cat Bordhi and were in the Summer 2008 issue of Knitter's magazine. They are probably the most perfectly designed pattern I have ever knit.

I knit them in Knitpick's gloss yarn, a 70% merino wool 30% silk blend. The yarn is as scrumptious as the pattern. It's very rewarding to use such a fine material to materialize such a fine vision.

The socks are knit in twisted rib, which makes the raised stitches "pop". It takes more time to knit a ribbed fabric as the yarn is constantly moving from front to back. Some things are worth more time.

The top of the sock is lovely, with embedded leaves, but nothing screams a truly distinctive design her…

I finish grad school. With a speedbump at the end.

It's been longer than unusual between posts. I have been busy finishing the last course of my grad program. As soon as my final is graded and my final grade has been posted, I will have completed all requirements for the degree of Masters in Public Administration from Troy University.

The end did not come easily. Up until this last course, I have been able to fulfill the requirement of one proctored exam per course by having the Executive Director at my agency serve as my proctor. I was able to take my exams at the comfort of my desk at work, with a well-known keyboard under my fingertips. This possibility was eliminated for all public administration students effective with this term, unless you happen to be located in a combat zone. Alas, I was unable to make the argument that given the budget problems in New York, any quasi-governmental agency is in the line of fire these days. So I arranged to take my final at a professional testing center in Rochester.

Make that quasi-professio…

Wrapping it up

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I am almost at the end of grad school.

I submitted my last paper last week. It was a 25 page case study about a school district that couldn't keep its halls and bathrooms clean. I got my grade today - 340 out of 350 points.

A week from today I take my final final exam. I have to travel for this one because the school has changed the terms of engagement, effective this term. It used to be I could arrange for someone with professional credentials to act as my proctor. Now the school gives me three options only. I can take my exam in one of their centers (the closest one is Philadelphia PA) or at a commercial testing center. Or I can buy a machine that plugs into a computer and watches me take the test - a "Remote Proctor".

The fracking thing looks like a Cylon. And it does not work on a Mac.



I am not about to buy such a thing for one test.

I chose Troy University's MPA program because it was cheap (still is), has a reasonable and balanced set of course requirements (still d…

Positives

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There are lots of words being written the past few days about being thankful. I think that I am tonight, or rather this morning. Although I am not thankful for insomnia.

I have sent my last scholarly paper off into the ether. I am thankful that I can now forget how to write a correct APA-style citation and reference.

I had a very enjoyable dinner at my son's house. Just a happy family holiday meal where we all ate too much. Our oldest grandchild was there, too, and she seemed to be glad to be part of the company. I even played Super Smash Bros. Brawl on the Wii with my grandson, and lost every game. It was the first time we have ever done this with Rob and his family.

We had a long phone call from our daughter. She officially changed her program today from pure math to probability and statistics after an hour-long discussion with the head of the department. She sounded happy and relieved. Pure math was turning into a dreadful grind, and she didn't like what she was learning about…

Walking in the Rain in Montreal

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What is the best thing to do on a rainy Saturday? Go to Montreal and walk in the rain. It's even better when you are visiting your daughter, and she has lined up a day's worth of stimulating experiences.

We got to Montreal smoothly, although a little later than planned due to a series of shopping stops made along the way. Once there, we found that rare gift, free legal on-street parking. Almost all parking spots in Montreal are restricted to cars that have purchased parking permits, but we have found a cul-de-sac just behind Ana's apartment building that has about six unrestricted parking spots. One of them was open and waiting for us.

We delivered an early Christmas gift, a rug for her bedroom, that was received with great joy. In return, Ana fed us. Also visiting was Michael, her boyfriend, who helped her install the rug. We then took off on foot, with umbrellas at the ready, and headed towards McGill University.



McGill the place and McGill the man. Ana told us not to go on…

Final Election Blog from '08: Report from a Small Town

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I never thought my little town of Russell, NY would go for Obama.

Some demographic information about my town, from the 2000 census:

* Population of 1,801 in 650 households.

* 99% white.

* Education of the population that is 25 or older, with national averages in parentheses: 76.2% (80.4%) have a high school degree or greater and 10.6% (24.4%) have graduated from college.

* Occupations, with national averages in parentheses: 25.2% (33.6%) are professionals, 23.3% (14.9%) have service occupations, 17.5% (26.7%) work in sales or an office, 2.4% (0.7%) are farmers, 13.5% (9.4%) work in construction or mining, and 19.1% (14.6%) work in factories or transportation.

* 29.7% of us work for the government (National average: 14.6%).

* 15.7% of the town's families are in poverty (National average: 9.2%).

* Median family income is $36,116 (National median: $41,994). Per capital income is $13,530 (National per capita income $21,587).


This paints a clear statistical picture of my town. We are poorer an…

Passing Along a Thought Provoking Blog

Does anyone remember Joe Trippi? The guy who helped Howard Dean use the Internet in his campaign for the Democratic nomination on '04?

I stumbled upon Trippi in Twitter, and started following him. He's a man of few tweets, so he catches my attention when he posts a link. Turns out he has a blog.

Cars, Oil, Entombing the Future, and Reform

Trippi posts a piece written by Joe Costello. It's well worth a few moments of your time. I promise.

Favorite Knit Objects: Going to the dogs edition

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In the absence of a new finished knit object, here is an item I knit several years ago, proudly modeled by its owner. Please meet Zoe, my stepson's half Poodle, half Bichon:








I can't even remember when I knit this, but it was several years ago. It's held up very well, though you can see a small area I had to repair a couple of years ago on the second pic. It's knit from acrylic yarn for washability. Of course, the name of the pattern is Dogasaurus.

Zoe visited us for a couple of days this past weekend, giving me the opportunity to take these pics. Increasingly, peace is reigning in the animal kingdom here. The cats have always detested Zoe, but this time they did not hide from her, and when I came up to bed Saturday night, Zoe was on the bed along with two of the cats! (There was scarcely any room for me.)

I'm still knitting away on the most luscious pair of socks I have ever made. And today I am ordering yarn for several projects. I am smelling the end of grad school,…

The early snow damages an old friend.

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We had a snowstorm in northern NY during the last week of October. Close to a foot of heavy, wet snow fell where we live, causing us to lose power for almost 24 hours.

Clearing snow on the morning after. We were scrambling, because Robert had to go to New York City that morning and power went down the night before while he was in the middle of setting up the logistics for the trip. He had hoped to fly out of Ogdensburg, but had to drive to Albany where he caught a train.



The next day, I woke up alone in the house. No heat, no power. Fortunately the house was still pretty comfortable - thermal mass rocks. The view from the kitchen window:



The view from the dining room window:



You can see that the snow is weighing down the evergreens.

After the snow had melted and the dirt road we live on was open, we discovered that an old friend took some damage.





This may not be the oldest tree on our property, but we believe that it is the biggest tree. This tree has a name - "the grandfather pine&quo…

This was really, really big

he election results were big. Even beyond Obama's win.

First, McCain's excellent concession speech. I saw that as Stringfolks tore down equipment at the close of the St. Lawrence County Democratic Committee Victory Party. It stirred me.

We got home in time to tune into Obama's speech. I listened to it from the dining room table, running in to catch a glimpse now and then, while I livechatted highlights to a dear friend who does not have TV or high-speed Internet. It worked even without the picture. A moving speech at an amazing moment in time.

Beyond that, two very important people won election to the NY state legislature. These two will be champions of the project that Robert heads - they included their support for the project in their campaigns. Because the NYS Senate flipped to Democratic control, the state now will very likely pass the bill needed to take this project one step closer to reality. Robert was following these races even more closely than the Presidential race…

The Vote, and my support of the electoral process

I voted on the way in to work today. The blessings of voting at 9 AM in a small, rural election district: no line, and friendly election workers who know who I am. I was number 75 in my district, and there are two districts in the town, so I would guess that about 150 people had voted so far in a town of about 1,800 residents total. I would have to ask Robert how many registered voters there are - he gets the lists every year.

My first presidential vote was for JFK, in a straw poll held in my elementary school. My first counted presidential vote was for George McGovern. I wear that history with pride.

I live in a town that splits its vote, and that is pretty close to even on the Democratic:Republican ratio, with an edge to the Republicans. Our strongest parties, however, are the parties of the native-born and of the redneck. The people who live in our town tend to work with their bodies - truck drivers and highway workers are many. There is little racial or ethnic diversity here, and …

Thoughts While Butchering Quarters of Venison

Follow the meat. Look at how the leg is put together, and disassemble the muscles. Cut the connective tissue between the muscles, and keep the muscles whole as much as possible.

A corollary to the above precept: the last thing to cut is the meat itself.

I can't get it all, but I have to try. The scraps and small muscles can be ground. It does get tedious, however, scraping tendon off of the calf muscles.

Be thankful. Deer are gentle beasts, even if they eat plants I wish they would leave alone. The deer I am taking apart would surely much rather be in the forest than in my freezer.

Be aware that my act has an impact on the world. And, it might be a healthy one. There are few predators here other than humans, and our forest is overpopulated with deer. There are few young trees except for beech and striped maple in our woods because the deer have eaten the black cherry, red maple, ash, and sugar maple saplings - nature is out of balance. I do not hold the life of a mammal to be superior…

Me at 57

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It's my birthday today. I'm thankful for the really big small things - a warm home that I love, a husband who I love who has arrived home safely after traveling.

I got a few things, too - some mad money, earrings made by my daughter (given to me in advance), a handmade tote bag and a belly dancing hipscarf from my dear friend. The belly dancing hipscarf is HOT. Orange chiffon with three lines of jingly coins. You tie it around your hips, and when you shimmy, everyone knows it.

Time to spend some birthday money online at Knitpicks. I'm dreaming about a sweater...

Snow Storm!

The past 24+ hours have been interesting.

Yesterday morning I was on the way to drop the car off for its annual inspection when I actually listened to the weather forecast. 6-10 inches of snow starting in the afternoon. Holy crud. When I pulled into the shop, I added "install snow tires" to the to-do list. (Our auto shop stores our snow tires for us at no charge, one reason why you would have to drag me over hot coals before I took my car anywhere else when it needs repairs.)

That was the best call of the day.

During the afternoon, the snow began to fall. I'd had a late start, so I worked late to make up my time. Not the best decision. By the time I headed home, there was about 4 inches of heavy, wet snow on the roads, and more snow was coming down fast. It was 19 miles of 25 miles per hour in third gear. As I drove past an oncoming car, the slush it threw up sounded like rocks as it hit the side of my car. Once I got across the bridge in Russell, I had to pick which hill I…

Home Stretch

I am two weeks into my last grad course. It's called Capstone in Public Administration and is intended to tie together everything we have learned in our core courses. I am writing a series of short papers, where I find a current development in public administration and tie it to a couple of concepts from a specific area of study. Each paper is posted on a discussion board, and we are all to read the papers written by others in our group, and make substantive comments. These comments are almost as much work as the papers if done properly, as you have to support your statements and cite references. I also will be writing an extensive case study, and sharing portions of it with my classmates over the next few weeks. The final will be a shorter proctored case study, with a four-hour time limit.

The most disappointing aspects of my grad program have been the uneven contributions by my classmates, and the laziness of a few of my professors. Time after time, I have to read poorly written …

Old Friends

This past weekend we went to Rochester again for a fast visit. We didn't visit my mom - we visited my brother and sister-in-law. It had been a long time since we have been able to spend some time with Dick and Nan.

When we got there, the dining room table was set for 6. Robert asked who else was coming for dinner, and Dick said it was a surprise. OK. That sounded like fun.

The four of us talked, catching up with what our kids are doing, and how we all are feeling these days. All four of us have had health issues during the past year. Dick and Nan each had a nasty fall that resulted in broken bones, I had emergency surgery, Robert had a severe episode of depression. The general consensus was that we were glad to have all of that behind us.

As we talked, my brother cooked. He is a wonderful cook, and specializes in grilling. He put together a Cal-Mex meal that looked very promising. Fancy macaroni and cheese, seasoned corn, and a tri-tip steak for the grill. A tri-tip is the bottom of …

Errors of Omission

When I screw up, I am much more likely to not do something that I should do, rather than to do something that would have been better to have been left undone. Just this week, I forgot to dial up a teleconference on a new ethics policy, and to take my car to the shop to have the emissions system reamed out. Often errors of omission can be corrected simply by doing what should have been done at a later time. The teleconference will be available online, and I made a new appointment with the car shop, after an appropriate period of apology and abject groveling.

When I get really, really busy, I forget things. Simple things like checking my calendar on my Palm Pilot every morning to see what is on the schedule that day.

Sometimes, though, an error of omission means a lost opportunity. That just happened to me.

I've known for months that a very high level accounting position would be opening up in county government. I'm one of the most qualified people in the county for the position. H…

Meme of the Day

I only recently figured out what meme means, so naturally I have to use it.

My mom and I enjoyed this a lot.



I checked my passport, and it does not include the declaration. I guess that I need to write my congressman. :-P

Weddings are meetings of family cultures

Last Sunday, we went to Steve and Yelena's wedding. Steve called us three days before to invite us, and though it was last minute and we had lots of things we needed to do, we knew we had to rearrange our plans to go.

We knew Steve and his wife Penny for years. Steve was chairman of the local Democratic committee at the time I served as treasurer, and he had a hankering to run for office, He made a couple of attempts at becoming a state senator in the 1990's. Later I was his treasurer when he ran for lieutenant governor. He didn't win any of his races, and he faded from the local political scene. He kept some friendships, though, and we saw him from time to time. He is a kind, gentle person, if not very effective as a politician. Penny was always a hoot to run into at Democratic parties - she had a sardonic take on the political scene, and some great stories. I wouldn't hesitate to say that they were happy together.

Then a few years ago, Penny suddenly died. I think she …

The most interesting thing I read today

I have been very unsettled by the reports today of people shouting scary, ugly things at Republican campaign rallies. "Kill him." "Treason." I'm not the only one.

From Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Dish:

07 Oct 2008 07:07 pm
The "Danger" Of Obama

An Israeli reader writes:
Your post on "The Danger of Obama" immediately brought to mind what happened here in Israel in the period leading up to Yitzhak Rabin's assassination. Even allowing for the differences in political culture between the two countries, some of the sounds we're hearing in the public debate around the election have a haunting echo. Here no one would have thought it possible that an Israeli Jew would take the life of a high official. There's little doubt that the crescendo of demonization toward Rabin – including accusations of treason, flyers picturing Rabin as an SS officer – and the difficulty, in a society guaranteeing free speech, of 'civilizing' the public …

A different election

So last night I was traveling to Rochester for my annual appointment with my neurologist. I was listening to As It Happens on WRVO on the car radio.

As It Happens is a Canadian news program. Last night featured a long story about the impending national election in Canada. Prime Minister Stephen Harper called for the election on September 7, and election day is October 14. Between the Democratic and Republican conventions and the US election, Canada is holding a national election. Whew - what has taken us 18 months is taking place in 5 weeks.

And - one of the major issues in the campaign is government support for the arts.

Also, there are two debates with the party leaders - one in English, the other in French. I'd like to see our four candidates for POTUS and VP try that.

It's a very different election, and a very different place.

Proud Mom!

This summer, my daughter was part of a undergraduate research program in mathematics. It was a dream job - she made darn good money and got to do advanced work in applied graph theory. Now, word has come that the paper that she co-wrote with her group and the professor who headed the team has been accepted for publication!

Title: "Mixing of Quantum Walks on Generalized Hypercubes," quant-ph/0808238. Accepted to appear in International Journal of Quantum Information.

Of everyone who checks into this blog, there may be one or two people who have a clue as to what this paper is about. I cheerfully confess that I don't.

If you had asked me many years ago what I dreamed of for my daughter, I would have told you that I hoped she would drink deeply from a well of knowledge. It is a thrill to watch her do just that. I'm not surprised that she has taken off in a direction different from mine. And I'm happy that she respects my particular pool of knowledge. While I don't…

End of the Concert Season

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Stringfolks ended our 2008 concert season with, as our leader would say, "a righteous gig". And we got our name in lights!



On Thursday and Friday mornings, we played a short set of cowboy tunes and a shorter set of old dance tunes for a series of fifth grade classes. The cowboy tunes were interwoven with the story of Frederick Remington (who was born in Canton) and how he observed the end of the wild west. We also gave a short example of how old tunes are recycled by folk musicians to suit their times, as we sang first An Old Man's Lament, then morphed into Git Along Little Dogies.

It was a challenge playing a fiddle part on my flute! I assume that the notes that were chosen in the fastest tune were well suited to be played quickly on a fiddle, but they were an awkward combination on the flute, especially for a person whose left hand is not exactly nimble anymore.

On Friday night, we played a concert that combined history and music. Unfortunately, the concert organizers bad…

Knitting Blog: Gifts for a Baby

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One of my coworkers is also my friend. We came to work for the agency within a month of each other, 7 years ago. There is a generation of difference in our ages, but we have never lacked for common ground.

When I found out that my friend was going to have a baby, I decided immediately to knit a sweater for "Baby Who". My friend decided not to seek out the baby's sex before birth, so I had to plan a project that could be worn by either sex. No way would I go with yellow or green, though. I needed to find a pattern and yarn that were as refreshing as my friend and her husband.

The pattern I chose was first designed for a baby more than 70 years ago - the Tomten Modular Jacket. Elizabeth Zimmerman designed the pattern, and published it in her breakthrough book Knitting Without Tears. She republished the pattern in the Spring/Summer 1988 issue of Vogue Knitting. Both the book and the magazine are part of my knitting library. Zimmerman was a revolutionary designer, who told kni…

Fall blows in

Fall in these northern parts really starts mid- to late-August. Sometimes I am so busy, though, that I miss the signals. And sometimes I close my eyes to the changes, hoping to stretch out the glories of summer just a little bit longer.

I plead guilty to both this year. Much of my blindness to the change came from my wish for another weekend or two of sailing. But then my boss, who lives on the river, remarked that water levels had gone down. I relayed the news to Robert, and we realized that we had to get down to the boat. We remembered last year, when Robert had to winch the boat out of the muck at the end of the season.

We got down too late in the day Saturday to go out on the water. There was little or no wind, the clouds were dark gray, and the water levels were on their way down. As we sat in the cockpit, we talked about our schedules, and realized this was it. It was time to take down the sails. We aired them, then lowered them down and stuffed them into their bags before the rai…

Positive Spirit

Still obsessed by the presidential campaign, I was jolted awake by this video that was posted on The Daily Dish:



There is a positive spirit in this video that lifts my spirits. As Sullivan says, "Whatever happens, the McCain campaign could never pull this off. Patience, steel... triumph."

As a denizen of a blue state, there isn't much I can do except give money, though I will do some GOTV in our town. Campaign workers in the swing states are the people who are doing the heroic work, and who will make the difference.

I am off to do some exercises and laundry, then we are headed to Minuet. We hear that water levels have dropped on the river, and we need to find out whether we are stuck in the muck. Yet another cloudy, rainy weekend in store, but Minuet's cabin is dry and cozy.

It's time to breathe some fresh air.

Unexpected consequences from big opportunities

I have no crystal ball, and I don't know how this presidential campaign will turn out. I am willing to make one prediction, though: the citizens of Alaska will find their state budget and their personal pocketbooks are affected by this campaign.

We denizens of the lower 48 had no idea of the extent to which we subsidize Alaska. For every dollar of federal income tax Alaskans pay, they receive back $1.84 in federal spending.

We also pay through higher energy costs. Alaskans not only pay no state income tax, they receive an annual payment from the state funded by petroleum taxes on the oil they sell us. Michael Kinsley says, "The trick is that Alaska's government spends money on its own citizens and taxes the rest of us to pay for it."

Alaskans pay property taxes, but have no sales tax. The result: a state and local tax burden of 3.3%, one of the lowest in the nation. It probably helps when a mayor of a very small Alaskan city can get federal earmarks of $1,000 per year p…

Swimming in blogs

It has been a while since I have been inspired to write. I have been so busy reading. The official start of the election season has taken over all of my free time (and some stolen hours) as I check back continually on what is happening.

I'm hooked on:

The Huffington Post. Though sometimes I get sucked into the celebrity gossip that is rife there, and I'm never proud of myself afterwards.

Politico. This site is relatively new to me. It's a bit stuffy and it works really hard to be even handed. There are some decent blogs on both sides of the election that I check from time to time, but I'm not addicted to any of them yet. I admit, I have a hard time resisting a link.

DailyKos. Liveblogging through the Republican convention was a hoot, and I am hooked on the daily pundit roundup. The optimism that pervades the site is good for my spirits. The optimism here is not based on good feelings, hopes and wishes - it is based on the solid organizing work that progressives have been …

Turmoil, and a happy ending

We got home tonight after four days on Cape Cod visiting my dad and stepmother. A lovely visit, and all too short.

We came home to find one of our four cats was missing. The most important cat - our daughter's cat Q, the sailing cat. Who was supposed to go to Montreal with Ana tomorrow.

We searched every corner of the house. No Q. We went outside, and called and called. No Q.

By this time, I was crying. I've lost enough cats in my life, and I know that to love a pet means that someday your heart will break. I also realized that I was feeling sad about the trip tomorrow. Ana is going back to school. She will stay in touch daily via chat, and come home over Canadian Thanksgiving, but she won't be home. It's been a great summer, and it's over.

Then, suddenly a small noise outside. Ana was up in a flash, and out the door. It was Q, distinctly thinner. We think she snuck outside on Wednesday when we were packing up the car, and was outside the entire time we were gone.

There…

Piloting

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We have a pretty bare-bones set of instruments on our sailboat. We have a logometer, which tells you how fast you are moving and how far you have traveled. We have a compass. We have a depthmeter, which tells us how much water is under a sensor on the bottom of our hull. Currently, the depthmeter doesn't always work - we plan to replace it next year.

That's it.

No GPS.

When we bought Minuet, she had a LORAN receiver and antenna. This is a navigation system that locates one's position using a network of low-frequency radio transmitters. Our system did not work, however, and it turned out it would be difficult and expensive to get our LORAN receiver repaired. It also seemed it was uncertain that the LORAN network would be maintained. We decided to junk the system.

What we did have was a pile of charts for the St. Lawrence River from our sailing days many years earlier. I thought that after that length of time, we would have to replace them. It turns out, though, that they were a…