Oct 23

245 years in 1,800 words, AND a glance at celestial mechanics

New license and car tag this morning. Printed out the forms and filled them out. Got to the local state office of collecting money for the privilege to drive your car and a nice woman at the door couldn’t seem to process that my forms were already filled out. These are the forms you need. Those are the forms I have. You need these… You can’t win a logical argument with a low level functionary, it saves everyone time if you just yield to the inability of a thoroughly trained person’s need to dispatch their narrow sliver of duties.

She told me where to fill these forms out. Over there. But not there. No, not there. There. She was most adamant, and that was a real concern for her. The voice rising, the hall monitor tone getting more adamant. You wonder what bad thing had previously happened at those other, empty, tables that made them off limits, especially when you can cram six or seven people around one table during cold and flu and Covid season.

With that first round of paperwork completed you had to visit another woman who looked at those forms and studied some flowchart for an awfully long time, considering this is her part of the job. Supporting documents are necessary here, and they were all produced. More staring and humming, which took place at approximately the same volume as her speaking voice. Finally, all of my supporting materials were passed back through the plexiglass, with some other surely crucial document. I was directed to have a seat in the waiting here, where I would eventually hear my number called.

The good news is that it was called almost right away. Don’t even get settled in that chair, right away. I had to go to window nine. The bad news is that window nine was staffed by a guy they’d pulled right off the street. Nice fellow. Hadn’t yet done the new license do-si-do, but he knew where most of the keys on the keyboard are located, and how to operate that DL camera — and I can confirm this is another state using glass procured from East Germany after the wall came down.

His supervisor came over, a smart, wise cracking woman, to make sure everything worked as it should. Between them, they got it all figured out. Eventually. A new tag, a temporary license — a piece of paper I have to carry in my wallet, but one, I was cautioned, that can’t be used for identification — and I rendered unto Caesar, which seemed a lot. All of this took more than an hour, which also seemed a lot.

But at least I didn’t have to wait aimlessly, and everyone was nice, despite whatever happens on a daily basis at an office like that.

Somehow I didn’t notice this yesterday. Or everything just happened between last night and this morning. This is the biggest, first, fastest quitter on our street.

Also, the comb-over really isn’t working for that tree. Maybe that’s merely a seasonally obvious observation. The street view is from the week before everything popped back to life in April. Once you allow for the horrible realization that the trees don’t bloom or bud until almost May … sigh … it’ll be a while before I stare at that tree to decide whether the green leaffure hides what’s now becoming obvious to all of us.

I have two windows in my office studio. I never open the blinds on this side, but maybe I should. The sun puts on a great show from here in my chair.

After that, I went for a little run, just shuffling through two miles in the neighborhood. The moon was up to keep me company, and at this particular moment, from this particular angle, the moon is nicely framed. Photographing the moon with your phone is a foolish endeavor, of course, but you still try, sometimes. And sometimes, you fire one off from the hip. I’m actually sort of jogging here.

Turns out that house’s beautiful porch is the best part of the picture. Go a bit farther up the street there are houses with Halloween lights. Someone else has cleverly installed solar lights in their trees. They sent their child to the University of Alabama this fall. They have a flag in their front yard. So we hung the Sailor Aubie flag in ours.

This is the 12th installment of We Learn Wednesdays. Basic premise: I ride my bike to find all of the local historical markers in the county. You learn new things, you see new stuff, by bike that you don’t discover at the speed of a car. The bike is the ideal way to undertake a project like this. Counting today’s discoveries I have listed … let’s call it 29 … of the 115 markers found in the Historical Marker Database.

I say 29 because two of the markers we’ll talk about today have been removed and another is damaged almost to the point of illegibility. But there’s still plenty to learn about at Hancock’s Bridge. This figures into what we learned two weeks ago. During the Revolutionary War, in the harsh winter of 1778, the British and the Americans were both foraging the local countryside. The king’s men had established a headquarters in a small town about five miles to the north. The good guys were foraging from the south, opposite the red coats, but we’re on their side of the little creek inlet.

On March 19th, the Brits laid a successful trap for the militia, but reinforcements came just in time to save the day. Determined to wipe them out, the British moved downstream, crossed the creek and fixed their bayonets. They came to this house.

Major John Gaves Simcoe was commanding the queen’s rangers, a well-trained light infantry unit. In 1770, Simcoe entered the British Army as an ensign in the 35th Regiment of Foot and was soon shipped out to the colonies. He was at the siege of Boston. In July 1776, with the atmosphere crackling above everyone, he was promoted to captain in the 40th Regiment of Foot. He went to New York, marched on Philadelphia and commanded the 40th’s Grenadiers, opposite George Washington, at the Battle of Brandywine in September 1777, where he was wounded.

Which brings us to March 1778, Simcoe and his rangers got on flat bottom boats, crossed the creek, and marched two miles through soggy marshes at night until they reached dry land. They soon bumped into two sentries, stabbed them to death, and then attacked Hancock’s house. His guys forced open the front door.

Other British soldiers came in through the back door at the same time, and they almost ended up shooting at each other. But they figured it out, and then bayoneted the Americans. Simcoe reported:

The surprise was complete, and would have been so, had the whole of the enemy’s force been present, but, fortunately for them, they had quit it the evening before, leaving a detachment of twenty or thirty men, all of whom were killed.

The local accounts suggest that a few of them survived, but everywhere the numbers seem a little different.

The house was owned by Judge William Hancock Jr. His dad built it in 1734. Senior was a county judge, and member of the colonial legislature. Junior got the house, his dad’s seat in the legislature and his seat on the bench in 1762. He was a Loyalist, as you might imagine, and he was in the house on that dark, cold night in 1778. Simcoe:

Some very unfortunate circumstances happened here. Among the killed was a friend of the government… old Hancock, the owner of the house… events like these are the real miseries of war.

Above you’ll see the two stone markers. There’s another marker that’s supposed to be at this house, now a museum, which basically summarized what we’ve learned together here, but that sign is now gone. That marker mentioned the previous two days of skirmishes up and down the creek. Another thing to know is that this was effectively the end of combat operations in this part of the state.

Around the back of the Hancock house, you’ll see another beautiful example of the patterned brick style.

Beautiful, isn’t it? There’s a marker about the patterned brick, but the labels are blistered and peeling. It is barely readable, so I’ll quote it directly.

The exterior of the Hancock House is an outstanding example of the patterned brick houses that once dotted the landscape of Salem County, NJ. Modeled after the seventeenth-century building traditions of the Quakers’ English homeland, masons used variations in the color and placement of bricks to create designs, dates and initials in the walls of the house.

In the Hancock House, built in 1734, the masons alternated red bricks laid lengthwise, called stretchers, with blue glazed bricks laid on end, referred to as headers. The result was a checker-board design called Flemish Bond. They used a similar technique to create a unique herringbone pattern in the end walls.

Bricks were made from local clays. They were molded, air dried, then fired in a wood-burning kiln. Those bricks that were closest to the fire acquired a “vitrified” or blue-glazed surface. The irregular features, cracks, and bubbles within the glaze did not compromise the product since the glaze waterproofed the brick.

Salem County has the second largest concentration and variety of patterned brick houses, after Burlington County, in New Jersey and the nation. Often homes to the elite, brick houses comprised one tenth of the late eighteenth-century homes in the county.

And you’ll remember we saw one of the other surviving brick patterned houses a few weeks ago. Nearby … which is to say next door … which is to say in Hancock’s front yard … is the Swedish cabin.

The marker for this cabin has been removed. But the database knows what that sign used to say:

This single-room cabin is a rare remaining example of hand-hewn, white cedar plank construction and reflects a traditional Swedish cabin. This cabin, with its glazed windows, is more elaborate than those typically constructed in the seventeenth-century.

Known as stugas, which translates to “room inside.” These cabins were built in small clusters or stood alone, depending on the size of the farm. Swedish settlers established small communities throughout Salem, clearing only enough land to farm.

This cabin was rebuilt in 1913 using lumber that is over 400 years old. It was salvaged from the property of John J. Tyler in Salem. The cabin’s construction follows the traditional building techniques of the seventeenth-century, with four-inch thick side planks, dovetailed corners, a fireplace and wooden pins instead of nails.

If you hold your face up to the window and peer inside, you can see the cabin is, today, just used for some haphazard storage.

There’s much more to learn. For next week’s installment of We Learn Wednesdays we’ll talk even more about the Hancock lot and the nearby bridge. Miss some of the markers? You can see them all right here. Before that, Catober continues, and more!

Oct 23

The rock videos are at the end of the post

We drove to campus — problem getting to the car on time, no incidents getting out of the house — in good time today, and I’d like to take credit for all of that. I don’t deserve the credit, but I feel it should be mine, all the same. I usually volunteer to take the blame if we’re late (because it’s usually my fault when we’re late) so why not get the upside, right?

We were so on time there wasn’t even a person in the security guard shack to look for parking stickers. We overcame everyone’s expectations today.

The class before my class was not in the classroom, so I got in early and started setting up all of the things that we were going to talk about. Oh, the happy feeling of being organized.

Today we talked about the videos the students shot demonstrating different camera settings for aperture, white balance, ISO and so on. We set up external hard drives. We started organizing the workflow structure that the hard drives will use. And we started talking about the commercials they’ll be producing over the next three weeks. All of this took six hours.

Because, on Thurdays, I do it twice. Two classes, identical, back to back. This is fun in that it presents its own conceptual challenges. I thought the second class would be a better presentation — take two, and all that — but I am not sure which one comes across better. Sometimes the first class. But, then, the make up of the room in each class is a bit different, so class dynamics would have to fit into that, too.

Today though, finally, I stumbled into the thing I feared. There was a problem we discovered in the first class and, given the small 15 minute break in between, there wasn’t enough time to correct it for the second class. Fortunately it is a small thing. Where some settings are in differing versions of Premiere. No biggie. I can update that info in other ways. Just not in real time — which is the universe’s way of really understanding and appreciating my limitations, I think.

Darkness fell as we were driving back to the house, and that was the day. So let’s put some other stuff in this spot.

This plant that the sellers of our house left on the front porch for us — the one that we’ve been diligently watering every day because, despite what the little tag in the soil says about being drought resistant, it needs it — is now showing its gratitude.

No one wanted to go that direction anyway, Department of Transportation.

Here’s a strike you don’t read about much anymore. The Great Railroad Strike of 1877, specifically, in this case, the Baltimore railroad strike of 1877. We saw this on our way to the concert last night, right in the heart of Baltimore, very near where the demonstrations began. This strike involved several days of work stoppage and violence.

The Great Railroad Strike of 1877 was a nationwide series of events, the enough-is-enough point of a global depression and series of economic hits during that decade. Around those parts, in Baltimore, the strike came about because the B&O Railroad was going to cut employees pay by 10 percent.

Four days into the demonstration, violence broke out. Police. The National Guard. Thousands of demonstrators. President Rutherford B. Hayes sent in the army, the locals called up 500 additional police. And for the next two days they were attacked with rocks and bottles and returned fire with rifles, ultimately putting down the protests. Wikipedia tells me Between 10 and 22 were killed, more than 150 were injured, and many more were arrested. Several of those killed were soldiers or local militiamen.

The strike itself, though it seems to have motivated others far to the west, failed. Most quit rather than work for less. The company hired replacements. Under armed oversight, rail traffic began again a few days later. The company made a few changes over the course of the next year. And that’s a pro-argument for unions, I suppose. Indeed, this is considered the first national strike, and labor historians point to the 1877 strike and violence as something that energized labor movements for the next several decades.

It seems distant enough to be from another planet, but whenever you get to that dramatic moment in a book or movie where the one side says “Are we going to fire on Americans?” the answer has, historically, never been that surprising.

We were, of course, in Baltimore to see Queen + Adam Lambert. This is where they kicked off their North American tour. And you can see them, too, right here.

Bicycle Race! It climbed to number 11 on the UK Singles Chart, and somehow only peaked at 24 in the Billboard Hot 100 in the US.

Lambert really leans into the whole show. It’s hilarious, one supposes, given the various layers involved in that song.

Fat Bottomed Girls went platinum in the U.K. and double-platinum in the U.S.

They all look like they enjoy that song, as do we. And the good news, I have enough videos to make it through most of the next week or so.

Oct 23

‘Living in a new world thinking in the past’

It was class prep during the day, because we had an adventure tonight. You see, there was a rock ‘n’ roll show in Baltimore, and that’s a relatively short ride away.

And so we found ourselves at the North American opener of the Queen + Adam Lambert North American tour. They came out to a Machines, Radio Ga Ga, Hammer to Fall medley.

Oh, and they were great. The building was full, and the crowd was into it, and Queen fans and Adam Lambert fans are going to enjoy this show. Roger Taylor can still beat on the drums and keeps great time. And Brian May and The Red Special are still in peak form.

I have more videos from the show. Figured I would spread them out over a few days. Spread those page counts and video views out as much as possible. It’s all part of a strategy to go unnoticed by the bots and spiders.

Time now for the 10th installment of We Learn Wednesdays, where I ride my bike to find all of the local historical markers in this county. Seeing things by bike is the ideal way to do it. You learn new roads, you see new things. Counting today’s discoveries I have listed 21 of the 115 markers found in the Historical Marker Database.

The two markers we’ll see today have to do with a very small part of the Revolutionary War. A minor battle took place in this spot in March of 1778. The British were occupying Philadelphia at the time.

It was a harsh winter. Both sides were scavenging the countryside for food. They’d been skirmishing and probing one another for a month. In February 19, General Mad Anthony Wayne led his Continentals through the region looking for supplies. General William Howe had sent a few forces out to harass him. One of them was Lt. Col. Charles Mawhood who had about 1,200 men under his command. He was in a town three miles away, learned about the local militia guarding this bridge (OK, not this modern bridge, but it’s 18th century ancestor) and, ultimately laid a trap.

As we ride here, we’re moving from the American side over to where the British troops were waiting. The British lured the militia across the bridge — and this creek, which had been a natural barrier between the two — and attacked. Other American soldiers arrived just in time to hold off the red coats and prevented a larger calamity. The next day the British crossed the river to the south, moved to the bridge just down from this one and bayoneted 20 to 30 people, including a local judge and British loyalist, but we’ll learn about him later.

Here’s one of the markers you’ll find at this little spot.

Col. Benjamin Holme commanded a militia of about 300 that March. He survived the war, and is buried just three miles away, having died in 1792. This man’s great-great grandson was a minister. He died in Michigan in 1989. The colonel’s great-great-great granddaughter died in Virginia, in 2001.

Holme’s house still stands.

It was built in 1729, looted and burned by the British, again under Mawhood’s command. After the war, Holme rebuilt the home and reclaimed his looted Wagstaff clock, which is now in the custody of the county’s historical society.

Col. Elijah Hand, the grandson of a whaler, has been called Cape May’s forgotten patriot. He would have been 49 during this battle. It was Hand who showed up in time to stop the British attack. And it was Hand who responded to Mawhood’s “or else” letter, which asked the militia to lay down their arms and go home, or else he would attack them all, burn all of their properties and reduce their families to beggars. Mawhood listed the names of 21 patriots, the ones who would be first.

Hand wrote back:


I have been favoured with what you say humanity has induced you to propose. It would have given me much pleasure to have found that humanity had been the line of conduct to your troops since you came to Salem. Not only denying quarters, but butchering our men who surrendered themselves prisoners in the skirmish at Quintin’s Bridge last Thursday, and bayonetting yesterday morning at Hancock’s Bridge, in the most cruel manner in cold blood, men who were taken by surprize, in a situation in which they neither could nor did attempt to make any resistance, and some of whom were not fighting men; are instances too shocking for me to relate, and I hope for you to hear.

The brave are ever generous and humane. After expressing your sentiments of humanity, you proceed to make a request which I think you would despise us if we complied with. Your proposal, that we should lay down our arms, we absolutely reject. We have taken them up to maintain rights which are dearer to us than our lives, and will not lay them down, ’till either success has crowned our cause with victory, or like many ancient worthies contending for liberty, we meet with an honourable death. You mention that if we reject your proposal, you will put arms into the hands of the tories against us; we have no objection to the measure, for it would be a very good one to fill our arsenals with arms.

Your threats to wantonly burn and destroy our houses and other property, and reduce our wives and children to beggary and distress, is a sentiment which my humanity almost forbids me only to recite, and induces me to imagine I am reading the cruel order of a barbarous Atila, and not of a Gentleman, brave and polished with a genteel European education.

To wantonly destroy, will injure your cause more than ours—it will encrease your enemies and our army.

To destine to destruction the property of our most distinguished men, as you have done in your proposals, is, in my opinion, unworthy a generous foe; and more like a rancorous feud between two contending Barons, than a war carried on by one of the greatest powers on earth, against a people nobly struggling for Liberty—a line of honour would mark out that these men should share the fate of their country—If your arms should be crowned with victory, which God forbid, they and their property will be entirely at the disposal of your Sovereign. The loss of their property, while their persons are out your power, will only make them desperate; and, as I said before, encrease your foes and our army; and retaliation upon tories and their property is not out of our power. Be assured that these are the sentiments and determined resolution, not of myself only, but of all the officers and privates under me.

My prayer is, Sir, that this answer may reach you in health and great happiness. Given at Head-Quarters, at Quintin’s Bridge, the twenty-second day of March, 1778.

Elijah Hand, Colonel

Hand also survived the war, as did Capt. William Smith. He was the officer who led the pursuit across the creek and fell into the trap. He died in 1820 and is buried about three miles down the road, as are several of the men who died at Quinton’s Bridge. No one knows how many, though, or their identities. The only grave marker there is Smith’s. The marker above is actually on what was Smith’s farmland.

(Mawhood died in Gibraltar, during a siege there in 1780. Apparently it was a gallstone problem.)

And the second marker has to do with the little battle itself.

It was a small thing in the scheme of the war, but apparently the battle of Quinton’s Bridge was the last part of the conflict in this county.

There’s much more to learn. For next week’s installment of We Learn Wednesdays we’ll head upstream to see the next few markers. Miss some of the markers? You can see them all right here. Before that, though, we’ll of course have more Queen videos, a week’s worth of Catober and more!

Sep 23

I’m going to show you something older than the country

Decided to go old school today. I have prepared three envelopes to send to other people. Now I must find a local post office. Let’s look at a map …

Hey, I found the post office. It’s downtown, in an old house. Many businesses around here are in retrofits. In this case, the post office is sharing an old house with a salon and a little garden center gift shop. I guess I’ll stop by there on Friday.

Tomorrow, of course, will be a full day of classes. Today was a fair amount of class prep. There’s not much fun better than practicing a lecture quietly to yourself, to test your slides. There was also an hour-long Zoom seminar. It was the sort that was of course well-intentioned, but could have been summed up in a single sentence.

But at least there was a good handout. A thoughtful How To sort of thing. Could be useful stuff, under the right conditions.

If anyone would like a copy, I can mail it to you. Or we could do a long Zoom call.

We went for a bike ride today, enjoying the first bit of sun we’ve seen since last Friday. We did see a little sunshine this morning. And I think 10 or 11 photos made it down on Sunday, but that’s about the only thing we’ve seen in the sky not shaped like a rain cloud. Until today.

We did the usual loop, which is a pleasant little 21 mile loop. My lovely bride said her legs were dead. I said I need to ride more, because twice a week doesn’t do me any favors. This was about 17 miles into our ride.

We’d just chatted our way through the first three or four miles, and then spent about 10 miles dropping one another. It takes me miles to catch up to her. But, right after that photograph, I got away again, and pedaled furiously, thinking “If I can make it to that T-intersection, she’ll catch me on the next little hill before the colonial-era house” … but I stayed away.

She was chasing me when I found this barn.

At some point, earlier, I managed a shadow selfie.

Some days it is hard to stay on her wheel. It’s always more difficult to get back to the garage door opener before she does. Somehow, all of that led to us meeting another of our new neighbors today, our fourth, setting a new record.

Time now for the ninth installment of We Learn Wednesdays, where I ride my bike to find all of the county’s local historical markers. Seeing things by bike is the ideal way to do it. Learn new roads, see new things. Counting today’s discoveries I have now visited 19 of the 115 markers found in the Historical Marker Database.

The two markers we’ll learn about have to do with churches, and they’re only about 100 yards apart. First, we’ll visit the Old Pittsgrove Presbyterian Church.

Today, the Pittsgrove Presbyterian congregation maintains both its original church, built in 1767, and its current church built in 1867, plus two historic cemeteries. This is the second church.

And the keystone above the door. I think the incongruity of the dates has to do with Civil War-related delays. But that’s just a guess.

The congregation was officially organized in 1741 by the Presbytery of Philadelphia. The original church building was constructed of cedar logs. The land came from a man who is buried in the cemetery out back. I saw his marker. Originally, it had two large stoves and plain wooden benches. In 1767, the log church was taken down and this brick church was built in its place. It’s older than the country.

And so it has earned itself one of these, National Register plaques, just for sticking around. But there’s more to it than just standing.

There are dozens of stories out back. This is a relatively new headstone for Col. Cornelius Nieukirk.

commanded his Company of forty men at Billingsport, under Lieut. Col Josiah Hillman, July and August 1777, and probably saw General Washington when he visited the fortification, August 1, of that year.

I bet he regaled people with that story a lot. A lot of soldiers probably did.

Nieukirk served off-and-on in the local militia, until he finally stepped away in 1794.

Without doubt he saw later service. His military sword, worn during the Revolution, and that of his great grandson James P. Nieukirk of the Civil War, have been presented to the Salem County Historical Society.

His grandson, incidentally, survived the Civil War, having fought in some particularly bloody battles, and was in a POW camp for about half a year. He’s buried elsewhere, having died in 1916. Buring here, you can find the resting place of two dozen other Revolutionary War figures. Two died during the war. One, Jerediah DuBois, would rise to the rank of general during the War of 1812. (He was a drummer boy during the Revolution.) You can also find a Col. William Shute who was, in his younger days, a lieutenant in the French and Indian War. Jacob DuBois, the captain of a company of minutemen organized in 1775 is also buried here.

Now, the DuBois name is well represented. And their descendants lived up to it. One of them was a prominent 20th century man, Josiah DuBois. He died in 1983.

(A) prosecutor at the Nuremberg war-crimes trials and a leader in efforts to rescue Jews during World War II, died of cancer Monday at Underwood-Memorial Hospital in Woodbury, N.J. He was 70 years old and lived in Pitman, N.J.

He spent recent years running a private law practice and lecturing on the Holocaust.

In 1947, Mr. DuBois was appointed deputy chief counsel for the prosecution of war crimes at Nuremberg.

The American Jewish Committee credited him with saving the lives of thousands of Jews during the war. He’s buried about 20 miles away.

One of the more prominent markers where we are visiting, however, belongs to a long-serving minister. For 46 years he tended this flock. His papers are held at Princeton.

I don’t know what you call them, but there are two or three of these floating headstones. From a great distance they’d look like picnic tables or something, but then you get close and you can tell, this is marking the spot where an Isaac Harris is buried.

Two men named Isaac Harris were buried here. A father and son. Both doctors. Both served during the Revolution.

And you can’t see it in this wider shot of the quite little cemetery, because I hadn’t noticed it at the time, but just off the frame there’s something of a message board, and behind the glass there’s a notice that coincides with the last time they fired the cannon we learned about last week.

The message reads:

The members who founded this church were seeking freedom of worship, and were willing to sacrifice whatever the need be. They were members of the Committee of Correspondence and the Committee of Observation as early as 1774. They were in all probability influenced by John Witherspoon, a prominent Presbyterian minister and the only minister to sign the Declaration of Independence. They participated in organizing the first company of Minute Men from Salem County. They served with distinction throughout the Revolutionary War as well as the War of 1812.

They founded a community, founded a church, and then helped create a country.

Also behind that cemetery, you’ll see the 1970s re-creation of the “Log College”, a building used as a school to train young men for the ministry. Here’s a peak inside one of the windows. There are just four of those bench-desk combinations.

And here’s one final look at the old church itself.

Picture that little church in this still-quiet bit of countryside, a community that today preserves more total acres of farmland and actively farms more acreage than anywhere else in the state, and think of this from way back when:

The immigrants who established this congregation came from Europe and were of the Dutch Reformed tradition. Their call to worship was by one of three methods – the sounding of the horn, a drum roll, or the blowing of the conch shell. When they arrived at what is now Newkirk Street in New York about 1644, they had the conch shell with them. … This treasured relic is still used today as the Call to Worship at the occasional worship services at the Old Church.

There’s a great deal more to discover, right there, I’m sure. But we’ll have more places to visit on the next installment of We Learn Wednesdays. Miss some of the markers? You can see them all right here.

Sep 23

Of bricks and cannons

It was just 26 miles. No big deal.

This morning’s bike ride was in no way remarkable. No big speeds, no new PRs, no new roads, but the weather was perfect and the colors of this mini season are dazzling.

It was only remarkable in its unremarkableness. The ability, and the opportunity, to set off for a mid-morning bike ride is not to be underappreciated. I mean, I was still working out some lecture material in my head as I rode — because that never turns off, not really, apparently — but it was a wonderful day for a bike ride, and I was happy we could take advantage of it.

After which I, of course, sat down and went over notes and prepped my slides and figured out how to pace some things out for classes tomorrow.

Then I took a break. I pulled in some tomatoes. I tied up a few tomato vines that have been running wild all summer. I enjoyed a few tomatoes. (They were delicious.) Somehow, this kept work out of my noggin for a bit.

Oh, and then there was the evening’s ironing session. Nothing was percolating in my brain during my de-wrinkling chores.

But now I am back to it. So while I spend doing some class work, please enjoy these videos from Tuesday night’s concert with Pink.

Her daughter, Willow, came out to sing. Pretty great in front of a big crowd.

And here’s the big finish. The stage was in center field of the park, and they had a rigging set in the infield and then some more mounted somewhere above and behind everyone, which allowed all of this fanciness to happen.

It was a good show, though it wouldn’t have been my first choice, but I’m glad I went. The wire act and the aerials and the trampolines were all fun enough; I would have liked to seen more of the act without the over-the-top performance, to see how good it could be. Though I don’t think anyone there minded what they saw from the summer carnival.

Time now for the eighth installment of We Learn Wednesdays, where I ride my bike to find all of the local historical markers. I’m seeking them out by bike because it’s a great way to go a little slower, see more things and learn some roads I wouldn’t otherwise try. Counting today’s discoveries I have now visited 17 of the 115 markers found in the Historical Marker Database.

To find our first location you had to go down a quiet country road, and then turn onto an even more quiet country road. Every little click and noise you could make sounded like an interruption of nature. And then, you round a little curve and you find yourself at the Dickinson House.

The Marker wasn’t up the day I visited, but the database tells us what it said.

Dickinson House – The most ornate of early glazed brick patterns decorate the west wall of this house, built in 1754 by John Dickinson

It’s a one-of-a-kind pre-Revolutionary War-era home, then, and it is still a home today. This is what makes the place singular. This county was the home of patterned brick houses, a style you didn’t find in great numbers or intricacy anywhere else in America. There are about 20 of them that survive (they numbered 43 at the end of the 18th century).

Those bricks get that distinctive color by a firing process akin to vitirification. Extreme heat turns them from red to shiny blue. Usually, you’ll apparently see them installed as dates or initials, but the intricate designs here are something special. The owner thinks that this wall was an advertisement for the builder, John Dickinson. The letters are the initials of the Dickinsons, the original owners.

The house has four fireplaces. One of the original hearths is apparently at the state museum.

About seven miles away on the modern roads, you can see the Pole Tavern Cannon. The marker has been removed, but it said …

The Cannon Il Lugano which was forged in Naples in 1763 weighs 800 Pounds. Il Lugano was used in battle against the Austrians. Napoleon who visited Italy once in 1796 and again in 1800 dragged the cannon over the Alps and Eventually back to France. Napoleon then sent the cannon to his brother Joseph who was the ruler of Spain. In 1808 the Duke of Wellington’s Troops captured the cannon from Joseph and returned it to England. It was then used in Canada during the war of 1812 when American colonists captured it in 1814 in Plattsburg, New York. After the war was over the cannon was declared surplus by the United States Government, and sold to Salem County to Supply the county militia. During the Civil War (1861-1865) the cannon was used by the Pole Tavern Militia in preparation for battle. Since 1913 the cannon has been in the Pole Tavern Area.

The Cannon was restored in 1986 by Jay Williams and David Harvey with tremendous pride in their accomplishment.

This building was constructed in 1994 by Nicholas Hutchinson and fellow Scouts, to house and protect this historic cannon. Nicolas chose this project as a requirement to achieve Eagle Scout which he proudly received in 1995.

The canon, which has city in this small town’s main intersection for ages, was bought by that local militia along with three others, and 287 muskets.

Napoleon, since he’s mentioned by the marker, had also been fighting the British, of course, but he’d abdicated earlier that same year. That allowed more experienced British fighters to be shipped to the new world, and some of the key officers, too. But the Battle of Plattsburg, in August and September of 1814, when the cannon finally fell into American hands in 1814, becomes an important moment in the War of 1812. A combined land and naval engagement, it brought to an end the invasion of the northern states by the British, when the New Yorkers and Vermont men held Lake Champlain. (Having sat out much of the conflict, Vermont came into the fight here was a key piece of the timing.) The British commander knew he would be cut off from re-supply without the lake, so he ordered a retreat to Canada. They were to destroy everything they couldn’t haul back with them, a standard tactic, but there was no follow through. The British left under cover of darkness and, somewhere in all of that, Il Lugano was captured once again.

Three months later the peace treaty was signed, though that battle probably didn’t influence the mood among the delegates at those meetings in United Netherlands.

In May of 1889, veterans from another small town came up and stole the cannon for their Independence Day celebrations. The cannon then somehow wound up in the state capital, where it stayed for almost a quarter of a century, before finding it’s way back to its current location. It was displayed in the town hall, but that building burned soon after, in 1914. So the cannon, apparently, was outside for several decades. That (really great) little building that houses it is almost 30 years old, and is showing its own age.

You might think that the good people of that little town are proud to watch their cannon grow older each year — 270 years old this time around the sun! — but they trot it out now and then. They did so in 2016, when they fired it as part of a festival and parade. I found two different clips, but neither have audio. So I found something better: the time Il Lugano was heard in 1991.

If they keep to that schedule the Pole Tavern Cannon will be about 288 when it roars again.

Miss some of the markers? You can see them all right here.