I don’t need no stinking badges

But I have one. And there are more over at my Credly page where I finally accepted the badges. I’ve been teaching online for years, but now I officially have badges for it.


Chauncey, a new cat

I ended up restarting my academic blog on WordPress.com, so no more academic complaints in this one. This will be the personal blog with cats!

Part of the reason for my lack of posts has been a recent state of cat crisis. I lost two beloved cats in the past two years. Both were senior cats with cancer who had lived with me for over a decade. I was heartbroken, but looked forward to enjoying life with no litter box and no vet bills.

But as the months went by, I found missed not just my cats but cat presence! So in late February, I adopted Chauncey from Street Cat Alumni Rescue. She is about 7. She had lived on the streets for years until someone or something cut her tail off and she needed tending. You can read her rescue story at Meow AF.  She is healed up now (at least physically) and is smart and funny, although also bitey and scratchy when displeased. She is afraid of the sound the USS Enterprise-D makes in Star Trek: TNG when it swoops through space with a galactic SWISHHHH that I guess sounds like a hiss. She has just sauntered out to demand dinner, so I will leave you with a cat picture since it’s Caturday.


late Friday link post

Some New York wildflowers

I’m working on a blooming calendar for the Hempstead Plains on Long Island. It’s part of my ecocomposition course; my students researched information on the various plants. I have been doublechecking their information. For this process, I’ve relied on the Plants Database from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, part of the US Department of Agriculture. Many of the images in the database have been generously placed in the public domain. Enjoy these photos of some New York wildflowers from the database.

The Proclaimers and unrelated events

I went to see The Proclaimers on Saturday night. They were fantastic, as always: pure and joyful. Their set was lengthy and included lots of songs from their new album. I hadn’t even realized they had a new album, which I am now adding to my Apple Music playlists. Last time I saw them (at The Bell House), they were mostly acoustic. This time they had a magnificent full band: Stevie Christie on keyboards, Garry John Kane on bass, Zac Ware on guitar, and Clive Jenner on drums (with drum solo finale!). Terrific show.


They played at the Gramercy Theatre on 23rd Street, and on the way in I thought the security was a little much: bag searching and wanding and wrist banding a crowd of mostly middle-aged people. (The Reid brothers are in their mid-50s.) Afterwards, the security precautions seemed prescient given the bomb that went off a few blocks away. I thought I heard a big boom shortly before the band went on, but no one else seemed to be reacting so I assumed it was an equipment setup sound from backstage, or something connecting to the sound system. Leaving the theatre, the street was blocked off heading west, with lots of police and sirens racing that way, but I assumed it was political motorcades. I didn’t hear about the actual bomb until fellow commuters clued me in on why there were so many subway reroutings. I didn’t even have enough information to be frightened until I was well out of harm’s way. I feel lucky and grateful, both for the music and for my blissful ignorance of the evening’s scary events.

Newfoundland: East coast

This is the second part of my August trip to Newfoundland. First part is here.

We flew on Monday in a tiny propeller plane from Deer Lake to St. John’s to avoid the long driving slog across the island. We rented a car at the airport and drove to Harbour Grace, a former second city that has hollowed out due to job loss. Harbour Grace is also where my maternal grandmother was born. We stayed two nights at the super comfortable Rose Manor Inn. We hung out there a little more than I normally would on a trip because there is not a lot to do in this area. Fortunately, they have adirondack chairs looking out over the harbor and these were a peaceful two days.

We walked around and explored the Conception Bay Museum and the Harbour Grace visitors’ center. These are staffed by polite, charming, but very bored teenagers who obtained summer work grants from the government. There was a sort of palpable sense of “OMG why would anyone want to look at this old stuff?!” It was equally interesting to talk to them and hear what their plans were. We had a couple of beers at the almost deserted bar of the Hotel Harbour Grace, where there were just us and a few locals playing the video slot machines. We ate dinner both nights at the Rose Manor Inn because there literally were not any other restaurants open in the area. Fortunately the Inn’s dinners are fancy and delicious.

Statue of Amelia Earhart in Harbour Grace, where she began one of her transatlantic flights
The Conception Bay Museum features this figure of pirate captain Peter Easton, who had a pirate fort in Harbour Grace in the early 1600s.
Shipbuilding. Lots of model ships about too.
Harbour Grace harbor
The now decommissioned Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

On Tuesday, we drove to Harbour Main. We visited Sts. Peter and Paul Roman Catholic church and looked at the house where my maternal grandfather was born. (We didn’t knock, so I don’t know who’s living there now.) Finally, we drove up a dirt lane and into someone’s back yard to visit the old “Irish” cemetery where my great-great-great-grandfather Vincent Costigan from Co. Tipperary is buried. We had lunch afterwards at Crooked Phil’s in Carbonear which served the platonic ideal of a ham sandwich and curried chicken soup.


Sts. Peter & Pauls. The vaulted ceilings reminded me so much of boats’ keels.
Costigan house where my grandfather was born.
Harbour Main harbor, view from in front of the Costigan house
“Old Irish” cemetery; Vincent Costigan’s stone is the tall gray one on the left
Wider view of the cemetery

On Wednesday, we went back to St. John’s and visited The Rooms. There was a very moving exhibit focusing on the 100th anniversary of the Beaumont-Hamel offensive in the Battle of the Somme, where the Newfoundland Regiment had an 85% casualty rate. I am not a military history person but this exhibit was amazing. They even had an area devoted to the keepsake photos that soldiers took before they left, including the original camera from the main photo studio. I have one of those photos from my family history files. The Rooms has an online exhibit about Newfoundland and WWI.

Ignatius Furey (left) died at Gallipoli; Bernard Cleary (right) died at Beaumont-Hamel
Ignatius Furey (left) died at Gallipoli; Bernard Cleary (right) died at Beaumont-Hamel

The whole museum was great. There was an exhibit about the influence of Irish culture and I learned that Waterford crystal was founded with money made in Newfoundland and was extremely popular in Newfoundland. I had never realized that my mother’s and grandmother’s fierce brand loyalty to Waterford crystal had any connection to their Newfoundland roots. We had a great lunch (crab cakes and salad) in the museum cafe, which has amazing views of the harbor.

Inuit ivory cribbage board, made for tourist trade
St. Johns harbor

After The Rooms, we returned the rental car and checked into the Quality Hotel in St. John’s, which was conveniently located downtown. We rested a bit and then embarked on perhaps the most expensive activity of the entire vacation: dinner at super fancy Raymond’s, one of the top ten restaurants in all of Canada. I had the charcuterie platter (shared), the fresh pasta, and the salmon. Also wine and some kind of lemony dessert. It was festive and fantastic. We had drinks beforehand at the The Fifth Ticket where there was a cheerful but inexperienced bartender. Nevertheless, my Blow Me Down Blueberry Mojito was delicious.

On Thursday I visited the offices of the Family History Society of Newfoundland and Labrador, where I confirmed that there are no sources I am overlooking and other people are reaching my same conclusions, so I’m not wildly offtrack in my family history research. After that I went to the small Fluvarium, which is basically a wall of windows built into the side of a river so you can watch the wild fish. I have never seen such enthusiastic aquarists as the Fluvarium staff. We had dinner with a friend of my brother’s at Chinched Bistro, more charcuterie and pasta, absolutely delicious.


On Friday we ended up walking around downtown because the weather cancelled our whale watching plan. We wandered along the harbor and did some souvenir shopping. We had fish and chips at the Duke of Duckworth pub. We had tea in the crypt of the Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. We visited the Peter Lewis art gallery which had some terrific abstract pieces by Susan Doyle. In the evening I met up with a potential 4th cousin at Bernard Stanley Gastropub, which serves an excellent cheeseburger.

Duke of Duckworth
Duke of Duckworth

And then vacation was over and I had to return to Brooklyn and the new school year which has prevented me writing this up until now. I loved this trip. The people are friendly, the vibe is very laid-back, the air and water and streets are clean. There are local problems with unemployment and the government seems to be cutting services like libraries and schools. So I can’t really say it’s actually paradise. It seemed obvious that many people make most of their money in the tourist season and survive off that the rest of the year. But a lot of places in New England are like that too. There was not much diversity outside of St. John’s. The high prices were offset by a favorable exchange rate for the US dollar, but that exchange rate could change and has in the past. Most of all, the Canadian government has prioritized tourist services which makes it easy, for the most part, to travel around and see things: there are logical schedules and good signage. I would love to go back and see more of the province and also spend more time in St. John’s.

Here is a google map of the trip: