Joshua Howes

Memories of the Past

My great-great-great grandfather wrote his memoir in 1916, the year he died. He called it Memories of the Past, and dropped hints throughout that he would like for it to be published someday. Over the past few years, I’ve edited and annotated Memories of the Past in my spare time, and am ready to publish with the generous assistance of the Dennis Historical Society. The project is being funded through Kickstarter. Please back it and get yourself a copy of this wonderful book.

View Memories of the Past on Kickstarter

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aVisitToPuertoRico

A Visit to Puerto Rico

Perhaps you’re familiar with the concept of a babymoon. The basic idea is that an expecting couple takes a trip to a relaxing, ideally beachy destination to revel in each other’s company and stock up on sleep before the arrival of a child. It also gives a very pregnant mom the opportunity to spend a lot of time in the water where the invisible hand of gravity doesn’t press quite so hard.

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It was on this manner of errand that my wife and I repaired to Puerto Rico for a week. In addition to lots of swimming, reading, chatting, watching US Open tennis, and lazing around, we also went on two excursions. The first was into Old San Juan, a charming old city easily covered by foot. The buildings lent a seductive European flavor to the area, while the drowsiness of late summer kept most of the tourist hordes at bay.

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The second outing proved less sedate. We zipped off in a rental car toward Jayuya, the highways giving way to back roads and then to back-back-roads and then to roads that seemed not to be roads at all. Our local guide, Google Maps, seemed unconcerned that Route 530 was little more than two strips of dirt running through the meadow of an abandoned farm. We picked our way through the landscape as softball-sized rocks clattered off the undercarriage of our rented vehicle.

After a mile of this, it seemed foolish to turn around and subject ourselves to the same punishment, so we pushed on into a rutted, muddy track that wound up through a wood. Like a hero in an old book, I asked my pregnant wife to walk ahead and roll away the larger rocks and branches so that our car could safely pass. Even then, there were moments when it seemed we could progress no further.

Finally, we rounded the last bend and found… a chain across the drive, blocking our access to the paved roadway beyond. Proving the theorem that two wrongs can make a right, we decided to prop up the chain as best we could with a bamboo pole on one side and my wife on the other, wrapping that chain in our clothes so as not to scratch the roof as we eased the car under. It was quite a sight, or would have been if anyone else was around.

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This concluded the most adventurous part of our drive, though there were still several hours of rain-drenched, impossibly steep, and sharply curving roads ahead to fray the nerves. In between, we sampled fresh coffee at a plantation and visited a couple out-of-the-way museums. One told the tale of the island’s very brief uprising in the name of independence, promptly quashed by American bombs. The other was devoted to the native culture, which we follow up with a swim in a river, surrounded by Taíno petroglyphs carved into the boulders. When lightning and rain came, we climbed out of the water and lay there, savoring the cool drops falling from above and the sun-baked rock warming us from below.

It was a good trip.

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English Premier League Predictions 2014-2015

Another season of association football is upon us, which calls for another helping of painfully naive predictions. Like many others, I struggle to look past Chelsea for this year’s title, who have strengthened well enough that even Jose Mourinho claims to have no excuse for failure, an unprecedented occurrence that should strike fear into the hearts of rivals. In Cesc Fabregas, they have a wonderful player who Barcelona fans mysteriously failed to embrace, despite scoring better than a goal every three games and providing plenty of ammunition to Messi & co. Manchester United still look lightweight compared to their rivals, while Arsenal are buoyed by their capture of the aforementioned Sanchez, a fine player who nevertheless won’t make quite as much of an impact as Gunners fans hope. Read on for a look into the future of the final standings and key players come May 2015.

  1. Chelsea (Fabregas)
  2. Manchester City (Toure)
  3. Arsenal (Ramsey)
  4. Liverpool (Sterling)
  5. Manchester United (Rooney)
  6. Tottenham Hotspur (Eriksen)
  7. Everton (Baines)
  8. Newcastle (Siem de Jong)
  9. Southampton (Tadic)
  10. Stoke City (Moses)
  11. Swansea City (Williams)
  12. Aston Villa (Weimann)
  13. Queens Park Rangers (Rémy)
  14. Sunderland (Larsson)
  15. West Ham (Nolan)
  16. West Bromwich Albion (Foster)
  17. Crystal Palace (Campbell)
  18. Hull City (Ince)
  19. Leicester City (Ulloa)
  20. Burnley (Ings)

Bonus predictions:

  • Champions League: Real Madrid
  • Spain: Barcelona
  • Germany: Bayern Munich
  • Italy: Juventus
  • France: PSG

 

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Website Redesign

In my day job, I am a project manager for an organization dedicated to fighting childhood obesity. We recently launched a redesigned tool to help schools conduct a school health assessment. It was a challenging and fascinating project, in which I got to work with some great folks internally and at a Minneapolis creative agency. The experience encouraged me to spend a couple of hours reskinning The Cookblog. The main points:

  • Still powered by WordPress, The Cookblog now runs on a child theme of Twenty Fourteen that I’ve christened De Tocqueville.
  • The color palette is still restrained, but with splashes of red (the typographer’s habitual second color, according to Bringhurst).
  • In order to relieve the burden of creating scratch illustrations for each post, the Flickr Commons has helped lend the site a rustic decoration of engravings, etchings and woodcuts.
  • Comments have been turned off. Sorry, spambots!

Based on what everyone tells me, fatherhood should afford me long stretches of uninterrupted time during which to blog. I’m looking forward to it!

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Freedom in Wyoming

A few years ago, for the first time, I consciously limited my packing for a trip to single carry-on backpack. By the time I’d passed through security and was strolling through the airport, my feeling of liberation was palpable. I felt able to absorb delays, change plans, and move freely upon arrival. I had minimized my baggage. Since then, I try to be thoughtful about the items I carry with me, particularly when traveling long distances. Related to that, I attach more value to freedom and to the stimulation of exercising it.

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I’m spending part of this summer in Jackson, WY for the second consecutive year, thanks to my wife’s job. For about a month, we are living in small cabin on a ranch next to the Hoback River, which joins the Snake River a few miles away. Downtown Jackson is 12 miles north of that confluence, and you’re treated to a view of the Tetons peeking over smaller hills as you approach. My job, which I can do virtually, requires a high-speed internet connection, so I commute into the downtown area while I’m here.

Jackson appears homogenous at the first and even second glance: affluent, outdoorsy, white. Art galleries, gear shops and ice cream parlors proliferate, with a streak of cowboy sensibility to remind everyone that they’re in Jackson instead of Vail. But under the money and outside downtown, a working-class and Hispanic population helps keep it all running. Without a car, that’s the group I tend to travel with to pick up groceries on the free town shuttle, and ride beside on the commuter bus in and out of town.

I catch that bus from Hoback Junction after a four-mile bike ride from the ranch, astride the ranch cook’s old Rock Hopper. The mornings are early and cold, but the days are long, with enough light to read by until nearly 10pm. While having a car here would simplify logistics, it would keep me at arm’s length from the place. It would also involve traveling with something large and expensive, eroding the kind of freedom that I’ve come to value so much.

My pleasure in this freedom seems almost absurd. With some research, a bit of planning, and a few small sacrifices, I can get where I need to go and do what I need to do minimally, without adding another car to the road, spending a lot of money, or asking for favors. In a place like this, where I am still new and distances are large, living with a light touch is intensely satisfying. Just as I traveled here with only a carry-on bag, I hope that this lesson will continue to stay with me.

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