My Facebook profile

About Me

My 15 minutes of fame
"Finding a job you love means never working a day in your life."

My family Idaho roots Seattle European vacation Walking Smartphone Where I stand Living tips Contact me

  My name is Eric Pence, and I am a husband, a father, and a web programmer. I am in the 60s generation—the children of the 1960s now in their 60s (Ellen Goodman, The Boston Globe¹). I could be described as a classic, aging, baby-boomer but I have tried to stay current with the new things that have evolved in my lifetime (in my mind sometimes I am still 20-something), and my career reflects this attitude. Throughout my life I have been fascinated by new and developing things. This influenced me to major in engineering when I went to college, and my active involvement in performing music ultimately led to contemporary jazz, the most experimental form of improvisational music. See my Music page for more on this. In the 1980s I became very interested in another "new" thing—computers—and took up programming. Like most programmers at that time I started out working on a mainframe, but I soon realized that I wanted something more challenging, and my career ultimately led to web development. See my Programming page for more on this.

Having a website is the definitive expression of many of my interests, and I enjoy it so much that working as a web programmer makes me feel like I get paid to have fun!  (See my slogan at the top.)

Besides what's on this page, some of my other interests include reading, programming, music, cities, maps, tennis, and travel, and I expound on these things on various pages on my website.

My Facebook profile

My public listing – if you login you can see more


My iReports

Commuter boat to Boston – this was posted to the topic Show us your commute
My first car, a 1953 Buick Special – this was posted to the topic My first car
Snow in Boston and suburbs – this was posted to the topic Winter weather near you


My YouTube videos

Stanley Clarke - School Days – I made this from a DVD I own
Sunday Night Barbecue – my friend Jim's video of their garage fire, set to appropriate music
The Road To Perdition – my friend Jim's video of their dog Lucy being wrongly impounded when visiting their beach home in Clinton, CT (great song, Jim!)


Some links . . .

MY_WTC – I posted this family photo to this website
Special songs – I was telling someone about songs that were special to Patti and me back in the 70s and decided to share them on a webpage
Cars I've owned – I thought this was an amusing way to express my car history

I wasn't sure where to include this but I couldn't resist putting in on my website. For some reason my wife Patti took this picture, probably in the 70s,
showing a gas pump with a 34¢ a gallon price and costing $3.80 for 11.2 gallons (probably a fill up). Click to enlarge.
 
You can really express yourself with a great bumper sticker. My personal favorite is which I put on my car.

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My family

  My wife, Patti Rosenfield, is a Nurse Practitioner, and we live in Hingham, Massachusetts, a coastal community south of Boston (the South Shore), where we have a beautiful, old, Victorian shingle-style house. We raised our two sons in this house but now they are grown and have left home. Alex graduated from The New School in Greenwich Village, New York City. Ben graduated in Computer Science from George Washington University in Washington, DC. We are very proud that both our sons have finished college and begun their adult lives, and I think it is pretty cool that they have each lived for years in my two favorite cities, NYC and Washington, DC. Alex and his girlfriend Laura have left Brooklyn, NY, where they lived for years, and live in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where they both teach English. Ben worked for 2 years for the Federal government, but is now taking off up to year to travel in Southeast Asia. At home we have two cats, Mandy and Pepper (and Alex's cat Monstar, that we call "Baby"), and a dog, Casey. See the Gallery page for pictures of all of us, including the animals.

I am a web programmer for Safety Insurance in the financial district in Boston, Massachusetts (see my building) and to get to work, I take a commuter boat—a pleasant half-hour trip—during which I usually read or chat with friends (and sometimes have a little excitement!). The Boston Globe did a comparison of commuting from the South Shore by car, boat, train, and Red Line (the subway), and not surpisingly, the boat came out on top. When I arrive at work in the morning or at home in the evening I am rested and relaxed, a very different state than that of many suburban commuters, who drive their cars in the intense, bumper-to-bumper, rush-hour traffic. In my opinion, I have the best of both worlds—a nice, peaceful, safe environment for my home, and the daily adventure of being in a great city.

Times have certainly changed since I was a kid. For several years, my mother used email from her home in Boise, Idaho, to help stay in touch with her children and grandchildren, who all live thousands of miles from her. Family dynamics have changed a lot in my lifetime, and they are affected by much more than just new technology. Here is an article I saw in The Boston Globe, "Raising a Perfect Child," that presents an interesting view of parenting today. There are links to more parenting articles on the Articles page.


   Family news . . .

      2014       2013       2012       2011
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Idaho roots

  I grew up in Payette, Idaho (some of you may be interested to know that Idaho's in the Northwest, not the Midwest, and this map shows you that Idaho and Iowa are two different states a thousand miles apart!) and I lived there until I finished high school in 1966 (see my Payette High School page). My great-grandfather, Peter Pence (read about his life), was one of the pioneers of the town (there is more Payette history here). My cousin Bob assembled a Pence family tree, starting with Peter's son (my grandfather). I have one famous relative, my late uncle Herman Welker (married to my dad's sister, Gladys), who was a U.S. Senator from Idaho from 1950-1956. I don't agree with his politics (he was a Joseph McCarthy supporter) but I was just a kid then so it didn't cause me any distress. Payette's claim to fame is that baseball Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew grew up there.

Here's an interesting juxtaposition, my childhood  home in 1963 and 2005 (the recent photo taken by my friend Barbara Wilson). You can also see it in Street View¹. Following high school I went to the University of Idaho in 1966, where I majored in mechanical engineering, partly because my high school guidance counselor and my SAT scores pointed me in that direction, and partly because I thought that when I got out of college as an engineer I could avoid the draft (more about that here), which was something that all men of draft age (18-26) had to worry about at that time. After my first year of college I went to Atlanta, Georgia, with my brother for a summer job selling dictionaries door-to-door, which I did for about 2 weeks before I decided that where I really wanted to be in the summer of 1967 (the "Summer of Love") was San Francisco. So I went out to the highway, stuck out my thumb, and hitchhiked cross-country to California. I was only in the Bay Area for part of a summer, not really long enough to consider it a place of residence, so there is no San Francisco section on this bio page (but I did experience Haight-Ashbury during its cultural peak). That fall I returned to college at the U of I for another year, after which I came to the conclusion that life would be more fun without the responsibilities of school. In 1968, after 2 years of college, I moved to Seattle, Washington.

The classic Big Potato postard I saw as a child.

Some Idaho links . . .

Official Idaho Vacation Guide see some beautiful Idaho images on this travel and tourism guide
Idaho.gov the Official Website of the State of Idaho
Idaho Commerce & Labor the Idaho Department of Commerce has a very thorough website
State & County QuickFacts from the U.S. Census Bureau
Idaho Genweb Project this site has lots of interesting information
Imaging/Imagining Boise a photographic exploration of Boise's past and present
Idaho Potato Official Website I couldn't resist including this one
You know you're from Idaho when . . . from an email
200 year old copper wire from an email
Payette links
City of Payette the official town website
Payette Chamber of Commerce just what you'd expect
Payette, Idaho - Wikipedia good info here
Payette on City-Data I love the photos
Payette County IDGenWeb Project this genealogy page is part of the IDGenWeb and USGenWeb Projects
Wikipedia: Payette I was surprised to find this
Payette on Google Maps Looking up main street
Payette High School my webpage for sharing things with my high school classmates

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Seattle
  Beginning in 1968 I lived for 5 years in Seattle, Washington, a great city. You might call those my "hippie" years, when I had long hair and lived a lifestyle emulating the values of that culture. I went to many antiwar rallies and marches (see Where I stand), rock concerts and rock festivals (see 60s music). I have many fond memories of my years in Seattle, where I made few commitments and pretty much focused on the here and now, living a lifestyle of hedonism.

Seattle is a beautiful city, bordered on the west by Puget Sound, a salt-water inlet from the Pacific, and on the east by Lake Washington, a fresh-water lake (see map). There are many smaller bodies of water throughout the city and it is known for its boating. I once read that Seattle has the most miles of shoreline of any city its size in the world. There are many bridges and ferries that bring visitors and commuters into the city. To the east of Lake Washington is the Cascade mountain range which includes the beautiful Mt. Rainier, that you can see to the southeast on a clear day (I know, there aren't enough clear days in Seattle, see for yourself on this webcam view) and to the west of Puget Sound is the Olympic Peninsula, which contains the Olympic Mountains. From the city you can look to the East or West and see mountains. Seattle is definitely one of the most scenic cities in the world.

Seattle has gotten a bad label as a rainy city but that is not the way I remember it. Boston, where I live now, has more annual rainfall, and Boston is not thought of as a rainy city. I had a bicycle in Seattle and rode it all over and rain was never a consideration. I think the number of cloudy days in Seattle may have caused this misunderstanding.

I played guitar when I was in Seattle, and since my style was fairly experimental my musical tastes evolved into jazz, so when I decided to go back to school to study music, I chose Berklee College of Music, where I switched to upright bass (see more on my Music page). So, in 1973, I came to Boston . . .

Some Seattle links . . .

Seattle.gov the official website of the City of Seattle; take the Virtual Tour
Beautiful Seattle a site with access to lots of information
Dan Heller's Photos Dan Heller's photographs are always beautiful
Seattle Photo Galleries the title says it all
Seattle Skyscrapers from Skyscraper Picture Collection
A Seattle Lexicon Lingo from the Far Corner
SeattleCenter.com events, attractions, map, etc.
The Space Needle I first saw this at the 1962 World's Fair
SeattlePI.com Seattle Post-Intelligencer
SeattleTimes.com the Seattle Times Homepage
HistoryLink.org The Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History
Lost in Seattle a clickable map of downtown Seattle
Seattle Viewpoints where to see and take photos of Seattle's great views
VRSeattle.com the Quicktime VR Tour of Seattle
Seattle Waterfront 2002-1907 panoramic photos of the waterfront from the same vantage point, taken 95 years apart
Penny Postcards from Washington many vintage scenes
You might be from the Northwest if you . . . from an email


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European vacation, 2010

  The first two weeks of May, 2010, Patti and I and our friend Paula vacationed in Europe. I wrote this description to be put on Facebook, where I have had many inquiries about the trip, but I found out that FB only allows 420 characters on a posting and this was way bigger than that, so I created it here and added a link on Facebook to come here.

London

On Saturday, May 1, 2010, we flew to London. Our hotel was in South Kensington, London, near Hyde Park. There was a Tube stop a block away so it was easy to get around (the P.A. warns you to "Mind the gap" as you step off the train at each stop). On a very rainy day we went to the Tower of London, where Patti slipped on the wet steps when walking on the wall and hit her head breaking her glasses. She only needed a bandaid ("plaster" in London), and fortunately she had a spare pair of glasses! If you take the Tower Bridge across the Thames you will see the fabulous City Hall). We took hop on-and-off double-decker bus tours around London and saw many neighborhoods. We took a boat ride on the Thames from Tower of London that ended at the London Eye, an extremely large passenger-carrying observation wheel across the river from Parliament & Big Ben. We saw the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, toured Kensington Palace where Princess Di had lived, and had High Tea at The Orangery in Kensington Gardens. And of course, we shopped at Harrods, the biggest department store I have ever seen!

Paris

On Wednesday we took the Eurostar high-speed train to Paris via the Chunnel (tunnel under the English Channel). In Paris we stayed in an apartment on Rue Saint-Antoine between Hotel de Ville (City Hall) and Bastille, which on current maps represents the Métro stop and the former location of the prison (that we learned after a fruitless search was destroyed during the French Revolution). In Paris we visited Notre Dame (Patti and Paula climbed the 387 steps to the top), strolled on Champs-Elysées (where the most accessible bathroom was in McDonalds) and climbed the Arc de Triomphe (great views in all directions). We also went to the top of the Eiffel Tower, visited the Louvre where we saw the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo, and took the train to Versailles to see Napoleon and Josephine's palace and gardens. We used the Métro a lot to get around Paris, took a boat tour on the Seine, and several double-decker bus tours (on one we passed by The  Thinker sculpture by Rodin). In Paris we ate some of the best crepes and omelettes we have ever had. Our son Ben, who goes to school in Amsterdam, joined us in Paris and did many of these things with us.

Amsterdam

On Monday we took the train to Amsterdam where we stayed in a hotel on the Amstel River near the Magere Brug ("Skinny Bridge") that had no elevator so we had to climb 4 flights of stairs to get to our room. We walked a lot in Amsterdam and took many trams. I love the city with all its canals and bicycles and bike paths (Amsterdam has more bicycles than cars—the Central Station has a bicycle parking garage). We visited the Anne Frank House, the Rembrandt House Museum, and the Van Gogh Museum. We took boats on the canals and had pancakes (a Dutch delight that also comes in varieties with meat, vegetables, and cheese) at Sara's Pancake House, which we later learned in a review is the best in Amsterdam. We flew back to Boston (via London's Heathrow) on Thursday, May 13. We kept our eye on the news of the Iceland volcano and were relieved it didn't interfere with our flights (both airports closed after our return).

Here are Patti's photos. She has posted some of these on Facebook with comments.

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Walking

One of my main passions is walking. At lunchtime my colleague Margarette and I walk a 3-mile loop from my office that takes us around the Boston Common and Public Garden at a brisk pace, not quite a power-walk but it does help to keep me in shape. I also do daily dog walks.
  I have participated in several fundraising walks, which lets me do something I really enjoy while earning money for good causes. I usually do The Walk for Hunger with my regular walking partner Margarette (we've done this 20-mile walk almost every year since 1999) and at our rapid pace we have completed it several times in just 4 hours (that is walking at 5 MPH for 20 miles!).

Project Bread, The Walk for Hunger
AIDS Walk Boston
Walk to End Alzheimer's
Dog walks – in memory of Lucy
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Smartphone
  I currently have a Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini. I have had a cellphone since 1995, starting with a series of flip-phones, but in 2011 my son Alex gave me my first smartphone, a Droid X. I used it for several years before replacing it with my Samsung (I bought my Mini for 1¢ at Staples!). One of the things I like best about having a smartphone is having Google in my pocket. Before, I would often think of something I wanted to look up, and would have to remember it until I was at a PC. Now I just pull out my phone and Google away! It's also great to have Gmail and the web so readily available. I also love getting notifications when someone sends me an email or text message. Now when I travel I check my smartphone for things like email, Facebook, and news. I still always have my laptop but the smartphone has become the most convenient way to do these things.

Lest anyone think the smartphone has complicated my life—before I had one I listened to music on an iPod and read books on a Sony Reader. Now I do both on my phone so I've done away with 2 extra digital devices I used to carry around—so having a smartphone has actually simplified my life. Since airlines have loosened up on using cellphones on planes I am not forced to shut off my phone and stop reading on flights.

Some notifications require setting a ringtone—but when I don't want to hear my phone ring I use a silent ringtone, silent.wav. For instance, I use this on Gmail, where I still get an icon in the Notification bar for new email but the phone doesn't audibly ring. For text messages, I get a notification icon and the ringtone on my phone is a little chirp. (Get ringtones I have created here.)

You can get airline boarding passes sent to your phone which get scanned at the airport. In Boston (my town) the MBTA (local transit system) has made the passes that previously only came on plastic cards available for smartphones in this fashion. Certain businesses that use cards to scan for purchases now offer apps that do this and you don't have to pull a card out of your wallet every time. I anticipate more and more things coming this way.

One of the best features of this phone is the replaceable battery. I have upgraded the 1900mAh battery that comes with the phone to one that is 2650mAh, and I keep a spare battery fully-charged in a battery charger, so I can swap batteries whenever my battery is low.


My favorite apps . . .
My wallpaper
  For the wallpaper on my smartphone I use this aerial photo of Paris. It appears to have been taken from a helicopter hovering over the Louvre, looking up the Champs-Elysees.
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Where I stand
HRC
  I was raised in a household similar to the one I raised my kids in, where my parents taught me values that I retain to this day (I will always remember the impression that was made on me when my dad took us to see Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee's story of bravery and justice in small-town America) and I have hopefully passed these on to my sons—values like integrity and charity, and a desire to participate in a kinder and gentler world, and help create a more humane and just society.

Coming of age in the 1960s civil rights have always been very important to me. When I evaluate a candidate who is running for public office, the first thing I look at is his stance on social issues like women's rights and gay rights. If the candidate fails on those I don't care what his positions are on everything else, he will never get my vote.

I took this Political Compass test (a brief explanation) and the results show me as "Libertarian-Left", meaning I believe in social freedom and some economic regulation. Not surprisingly, I am at the exact opposite setting on the compass to George W. Bush.
 




Yay! Bush is Gone!
A monument has been erected in Iraq to honor the journalist who threw his shoes at Bush.
This was created after I removed this section and I thought it deserved its place of honor here.


  Rants "People who think they know everything are annoying to those of us who do." — Isaac Asimov
  So far I've said where I stand on some of the important issues of the day. Here are some things that may be less important, but they are still annoying.  
 


  Disclaimer
 
If I sound very opinionated it may be because I grew up in the 60s, the era of the Free Speech Movement, when it was considered pretty normal to express yourself openly. See my Articles page for more in support of my views, or on the lighter side, see Political satire.

 1 Some articles have links that expire too quickly so I save them offline.

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Living tips
  Here are a few things I have learned how to do that I want to pass on. They may seem rather silly but they work for me.

  • Peeling a hard-boiled egg
    After the egg has boiled let it sit in cold water for a minute before peeling. This usually makes the shell not stick to the egg.

  • Popping all the kernels when making popcorn in a pan on a stove
    Follow these steps to pre-cook the kernels . . .
    1. Put the popcorn into the cold oil in the pan.
    2. Turn on the burner.
    3. When the first kernels pop, take the pan off the heat and let the kernels sit in the hot oil for 1 minute.
    4. Then just put the pan back on the heat and make the popcorn as you normally would.

  • Curing hiccups
    This technique sounds like an old wives' tale but it works 100% of the time for me.
    • Sit with your arms unsupported and point your two index fingers at each other about 6 inches in front of your face.
    • Keep your fingertips almost touching but not quite.
    • Hold this position for about 20-30 seconds and your hiccups will stop.
    This may work because of the concentration required to keep your fingers so close but not touching.
    More tips

Tips.Net: Household Tips, Handy Hints, and Thrifty Ideas
Household Hints
Robbie's Handy Household Tips and Tricks
Bob Allison's Ask Your Neighbor: Helpful Household Hints

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Contact me
  To guard against spambots that search webpages for email addresses I am not spelling out any complete email addresses contiguously anywhere on my website.

My email address:
   ericpence(at)gmail.com

Patti's email address:
   pattirosenfield(at)gmail.com

Replace (at) with @ in the above addresses. I have stopped listing our penceland.com email addresses, and while they are still valid, we'd prefer you use our Gmail addresses.