Sunday, July 16, 2006

A great neighborhood

I spend summers in a wonderful area, in and around Amherst, MA, where I lived and worked for nearly 30 years. We`have a home I built myself in Shutesbury, nestled in the hills next to Amherst, on the campus of Sirius Community. My wife is a long time Sirius member.

The local region (Amherst, Hadley, Northampton and surrounding small towns) is known far and wide as a center of higher education with a rich history and a wholesome blend of sophisticated modernity and rural, forested charm. Five world-class colleges (Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, Smith, and the University of Massachusetts) flourish, surrounded by performing and graphic arts, a variety of crafts, productive farms, and industry.

The region supports excellent restaurants and coffee houses, movie theaters,
internet cafes, and shops of all kinds. But for me the most alluring feature is the natural world that surrounds and lends special character to it all. Adjacent to the fertile farms of the Connecticut River Valley are verdant forests that teem with wildlife.

Yesterday, driving along a main road in Pelham, we spied a large coyote loping across the road, through a large lawn, then into the woods. Our local community newsletter, the eCricket, has been abuzz in recent days with reports of sightings of deer, porcupines, black bears, and moose. One evening in 2002 I had my own close encounter with a moose: she cantered alongside my car for perhaps 50 yards, hoping to cross ahead of it, until she fially decided she didn't like the odds, and veered off into the woods from whence she came.

And just
5 minutes up the road, here in Shutesbury, neighbors have developed a small herd of 16 alpacas. These wondrous beasts produce high quality wool, as well as much pleasure for those of us who are privileged to visit them. I thoroughly enjoyed looking into their luminous eyes, petting their soft fleece, and having them nuzzle pellets of food from my hand.

Yes, llfe is good in this blessed part of the country!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Cheaper isn't always inferior

For years I have used a terrific Internet Service Provider (ISP) - - Highstream.Net - - that costs me $8.95 a month and delivers unfailing good service. Before I found Highstream I paid as much as $23.00 per month and grumbled often about poor technical support, rigid email rules, and uncertain local access numbers when I traveled around the country.

Good old Highstream has friendly, competent, FREE tech support 7 days a week, unlike most other inexpensive ISP's which either offer no tech help or charge exorbitant rates by the minute. It has over 7,000 local acccess numbers around the nation that always seem to work well. And it offers 4 email addresses per account. I strongly recommend Highmstream! Try it: you'll like it. Tell them sent you.