Saturday, October 02, 2010

3112 Walkway

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age,
gender, religion, economic status or ethnic background,
is that, deep down inside, we ALL believe that we are above average drivers.
-- Dave Barry --


Today I joined combined members of the Mid-Hudson and the NYC Mensa groups on a walk across the Hudson River on the "Walkway Over the Hudson".

The walkway is an hundred-year-old railroad trestle, that had been abandoned for many years. Back in the late '90s a group of citizens decided to try to turn it into a pedestrian bridge. I was a member of the original start-up group, sold fund raising T-shirts at various fairs for two or three years. I had to cease my involvement when Jay got sick.

The project limped along because the founder of the group wanted to do it without any tax money, state grants, anything that would bind the group, but the maintenance costs were just too high. He was overruled and eventually ousted as the group got larger. Now the bridge is a state park. It opened last year, and today was the first-year celebration.

The bridge is something like 220 feet above the river. Go here for photos of scenes on and from the bridge - scroll down halfway for a slide show. It's about 1.25 miles across, almost 3 miles round trip from the parking lot to a picnic area across the river and back. That's the city of Poughkeepsie (p'KIP-see) in the background in the photos.

I was a bit frustrated because, if you check the photos at the link above, that very wide railing on the top of the guardrail was exactly at eye level for me. I had to scooch and peer between the railings to see anything. Annoying as it was, the big round railing has a purpose: when the wind blows, and it always blows, it enters the tubes at the gaps, and the bridge "sings". That was kind of neat.

After the walk, a smaller subset of us went out for dinner.

Friday, October 01, 2010

3111 Disturbing News

Friday, October 1, 2010

The most destructive force in the universe is gossip. -- Dave Barry -- --------------------------------------------------------------

I've had cat food on the shopping list for the past two weeks. Jasper needs a food that keeps his urine acidic. He'll eat the canned food from the vet, but he won't touch the dry from the vet or from the special pet store. All he'll touch is dry from the grocery store, and only two of those brands will do.

But every time I've gone to the village family owned IGA grocery store in the past two weeks, the cat food shelves have been almost empty. The only foods acceptable to Jasper aren't there. I've been forced to go to the hated big store mentioned in the previous post.

Yesterday, I asked the cashier at the small store why several of the shelves (pet food, coffee, cheese, bottled water, a few others) look like they haven't been restocked in at least two weeks. She said, "Well, it's like everywhere else, I guess. When the trucks come, the orders are big, and they just haven't been able to pay for the full delivery, so they get nothing."


The village people have been faithful to the small store. Many of us still won't shop at the big one because we're still mad at them. In the small store, you don't have to walk a half a mile just to pick up milk. The checkout registers are well manned - there's never more than one person ahead of you. The aisles always have shoppers. I don't know what's wrong, but it's worrying me.

Even though I am moving away....

3110 The Road to Hell

Thursday, September 30, 2010

You should not confuse your career with your life.
-- Dave Barry --


Becs has a recent post about how this country seems to be going to Hell in a handbasket, with examples. I agree with her for many of the same reasons, and at the risk of joining the tin hat crowd, I think a lot of it is carefully orchestrated - a conspiracy. I've already mentioned what I think is wrong with education - that children are being discouraged from developing anything resembling critical thinking, and are being trained to become worker sheep. An easily managed herd. Critical thinkers ask questions about what they are told to believe. Sheep do not. Sheep are very easy to control.


I paid my school taxes yesterday. The bill says that the state contributes $14+ million to the district, and we taxpayers contribute $27+ million. That's a total of over $41 million a year. This district has one high school, one middle school, and one elementary school. The high school has a hair over 700 students. I couldn't find a total number of students in all three schools, but let's be generous and assume it's about 2500. That's $16,400 per kid. I don't know whether that's high or not, but it's a lot lower than New Jersey.

The local high school brags that 80% of their graduates go on to 2- or 4-year colleges, which doesn't really mean a lot, because I know from my mediation days that young folks gaming county services know that as long as they're "in school", they get money. I knew 24-year-old never-married mothers with three kids from three different fathers who had been enrolled at the county community college for six years, with no certificate in sight. And no plans to actually get one.


Becs worries about loss of privacy. Yeah, I've seen it, too. I had a CVS card which I assumed was the same as the old check cashing cards (remember them? They were just a "we know you are ok" cards), and then I discovered that they were keeping track of everything I bought. You have to use the card to get discounts on various products, but the cashier has a "store card" that she'll use if she likes you. Lately I have refused to use my card.

If privacy worries you, check out this story from Switched: Your android phone is sending information about your location to who knows whom. For money. Which you don't even get a cut of. Betcha didn't know about that one.


Becs complains that people don't go to city council meetings. Yeah. There's no point.

The last time(s) I went to a town meeting, it was about the planned new mega-grocery store. Citizens were concerned about a whole bunch of wasted opportunities, traffic issues, and a historical house the builder planned to raze.

The meetings were huge, loud, and passionate. In the end, the council absolutely assured the citizens' groups that the new store would be connected with the old mini-mall with paths, the historic house would be saved, and the entrance would be through the old mall and NOT off the main street (creating a traffic-jamming intersection where another road met the main road). They absolutely promised that this would be the town's contractual demands before giving approval, and there was no overriding reason for the town to back down, so no, no referendum would be necessary.

Town council approvals were given almost immediately, and the store was built.

It is not connected with the old mini-mall, not even with a footpath. The entrance is not only not through the old mall, but is smack dab at the intersection as the citizens' groups feared, requiring a traffic light, which meant the speed limit had to be lowered. The historic house was not razed, but the land was sold to the grocery store people, and the house has not been maintained, and is now falling down. There are a few 2x4s propping up the porch, but that hasn't prevented the roof springing leaks.

I guess they figure that if 1,000 people in a sleepy rural town show up to object, there's still 2,000 who didn't, so therefore 2/3 of the people "approve". So, verbally appease the loudmouths, and then do what you want. After all, they know best, right?

So yeah. Why bother. Of course that entire council was voted out at the next election, but nothing has changed.


"They" say that travel is broadening, and that much of the problem with Americans is that so few of them have any experience beyond their own borders, and if more Americans visited other countries, maybe they wouldn't be so arrogant, insular, and ... well ... conservative.

Nah. Not from what I've seen of Americans in other countries. They're too thick to learn anything. Most are loud, arrogant, and uninterested in other cultures. Anything they aren't familiar with is "bad", "wrong", or "stupid". Regardless of whether it works or makes sense.

Or maybe realizing that requires critical thinking....


I get angry at politicians who want to kill the health care bill, and "let the free market regulate health care". Um, doesn't that translate as "let the insurance and pharmaceutical companies determine what care you can get, who can get it, and how much you pay for it"? Their purpose is to make money, not to provide health care, and it's not like they would get competition from start-up mom-and-pop insurance companies who could figure out how to do it cheaper, as in a real free market. Their only competition in a REAL "free and fair" market would BE the government!


I am not as angry or upset as Becs, partly because of my life situation, but also because I'm sure we've gone through these cycles before. Past generations saw deterioration. Man, imagine what the 50-60 year olds thought of the beatniks, or the hippies, or various past administrations or legislatures that seemed determined to plow us under. But somehow the wheels continue to turn, things get righted, and we swing another direction.

Somehow it always works out.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

3109 HOTW - Jimmy Smits

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Never lick a steak knife.
-- Dave Barry --


Today's Honey of the Week is Jimmy Smits. Need I explain?

The Company manager I'd mentioned a few times in the past as The Guns of Navarone looks a lot like him. Tall Dark & Handsome #2 from the local gas station looks a little like a thinner Jimmy Smits who's been through a rough life.

3108 Thinking about it

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

All that we are is a result of what we have thought.
-- found in a Chinese fortune cookie --


The above quote is very deep. I thought about it a long time. It's not what has happened to you in your life, not what people may have done to or for you, not your experiences that make you what you are, it really is what you thought about it all, and how you continue to think about it. That's what makes you who and what you are.

You can't change the experience, but if it's a problem for you, you can change how you think about it.

For example, for more than half of my life, I was damaged by the viciousness and violence of my father, and the lack of care from my mother. I thought his anger and her complicity were somehow my fault, that if I were "better" somehow, that would fix it. I felt responsible for everything.

It wasn't until I realized that my parents, especially my father, were flat-out SICK, that I was able to see myself as I actually am - an intelligent, useful, nice person.

I'm ok. My father was sick. His view of me, of all of us, was warped, and he had no right to impose it on us, but it was his sickness that made him do it.

Simply changing how I thought about it made all the difference in the world. Now instead of anger toward him I feel sympathy. It must have sucked to be him.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

3107 Happy Laptop

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

There is a very fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness."
-- Dave Barry --


On Sunday I had a phone conversation with a high school classmate of Daughter who now has a computer service business local to me. He helped me get Firefox back up off its knees. It doesn't look like I have a virus after all. It looks like all the problems were from the "cleaning" done by Office Depot two weeks ago. They removed the virus, but that crippled everywhere the virus had inserted itself. I had to uninstall and reinstall several things, including all my firewalls, sniffers, virus scanners, and other friendly guardians.

He also helped me change a few settings to speed things up, and make it safer. The system really is faster now, a LOT faster, even IPLing, but there's no browser history, no remembering of ids or passwords. I never allowed the browser to store passwords for sensitive sites anyway, but Bloglines? Google Reader? Blogger Dashboard? Who cares about those passwords? So now I have to log in for all that stuff the first time I use them after every shutdown, and I'm famous for not only not remembering passwords - I can't remember my ids! And with no browsing history, when it's a site bookmarks don't work very well for, I have to remember the full URL of the site. Ick.

Oh, well. It's fast, clean, and safe now, and I guess eventually I'll get used to not depending on the system to remember things for me.

Monday, September 27, 2010

3106 The Landlord

Monday, September 27, 2010

If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved and never will achieve its full potential, that word would be "meetings."
-- Dave Barry --


Judge shows are on TV here all afternoon, background noise and time markers for my day. I happened to catch a piece of one as I wandered through the kitchen a few minutes ago, a tenant/landlord dispute over tossed-out belongings. It reminded me of a situation I had in Gettysburg, in about '66 or '67.

I don't know why I'm still bothered by what happened. Maybe because I didn't object to it at the time, and that bothers me, and I'd like to go back and kick a little ass now, but the landlord is long dead.

I had decided to move. There had been a fire in the apartment building, and the walls were covered in smoke and firemen's handprints. Plus, the landlord's daughter had tried to kill me once already, and still hated me, and she worked in the landlord's store downstairs, and I was afraid she had access to a key to my apartment.

I found a new place, brand new and fully furnished, owned by a friend who offered me the first two months rent-free. I started to move bits and pieces into the new apartment, but I didn't say anything to the old landlord, because I needed to give him one month's notice, and I knew it might take me two or three months to decide whether the new place would work out or not (I was suspicious about that two months free part). Since I wasn't paying rent on the new place, but was still paying rent on the old place, I figured I could take my time, two month's worth, anyway. By the end of the first month, I had moved out most of my clothing, but had left almost everything else I owned at the old place.

At the beginning of the second month of transition, when I was mostly living in the new place, I went to the landlord to pay the rent for the next month on the old place and give him a month's notice that I would be moving out a month hence. Before I could give him notice, he refused to take my check and asked for the key. He said, "I heard you'd moved out."

I found out that:
  • He had been showing the apartment without my knowledge for the past two weeks - strangers traipsing through my things.
  • He had already rented it to someone else.
  • The new tenant had already moved in!
  • They had thrown out everything I had left in the apartment.
I lost photographs, letters, pots and pans, cleaning supplies, towels and bed linens, luggage, off-season clothing, snow tires for my car (before all-weather radials you had to put snow tires on for the winter), financial records and receipts, all the stuff I hadn't immediately needed at the new place.

I tucked my tail between my legs and retreated.

I wish I had sued, I wish I hadn't allowed myself to be taken advantage of like that, and I'm not over it yet.

3105 An Adorable Robot!

Monday, September 27, 2010

"It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine
how we might possibly have gone wrong."
-- G. K. Chesterton --


This is an adorable robot. Awwwwwww.... Poor little thing.

3104 Questions

Monday, September 27, 2010

“In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is stoned to death.”
-- Joan D. Vinge --


After paper was invented, how long did it take to invent paper airplanes? Is that why airplanes are called air planes? They're not really planes. Is it because paper airplanes, made from planes of paper, came first?


Folks in the pre-electric pre-gaslight days are always shown heavily dressed. But cooking fires and even candlelight will heat a room. So what were summer evenings like indoors? Did the people roast, or was the climate much cooler then?


I've seen many uniforms from the Civil War in museums in Gettysburg. They are tiny! I weighed 104 pounds when I lived in Gettysburg, and the uniforms looked too small for even me. Also, they were heavy wool. I can't imagine marching and fighting in the summer in heavy wool. I asked, and the guides said yes, the men were much smaller then, and yes, we were in a minor ice age then. It was colder.

But I keep hearing that many of the founding fathers were over 6 feet tall. Of course, they were the wealthier people, too. So were most people smaller than today because they were underfed?


In movies and TV shows, when someone is shot or stabbed, they die neatly and quickly. Bam, down, done.

It really doesn't happen that way. If you stab someone in the torso, even if you hit the heart, they're going to be able to move for a while. It takes a long time to die from trauma. Even when the head is cut off, the head is alive for like five minutes.

What difference would it make to the story line if the truth were shown? Would it matter to murderers if they knew how difficult and messy it really is to kill someone? You know how in horror movies the scariest part is when the protagonist "kills" the villain, but he/she/it keeps coming back at them? That's what it's really like.


There are lots of ways to decide who to vote for. You can do the research and vote for whomever you think will do what needs to be done, but that's work, and how many people are willing to do the research? I think we know the answer to that one.

You can vote a straight party line, if you think the party will do what's best for you. Again, it's work to decide whether the party will really represent you, or just themselves, and I suspect very few people really understand the issues.

You can vote for whomever you are told to vote for by people who you think did do the research. But how many people research those people? (There's a vicious smear campaign going on here by a group that spreads lies and simplistic half-truths and describes itself as a seniors' group. It turns out they are funded by the pharmaceutical industry.)

You can protest smear campaigns by voting against whomever had the nastiest dirtiest ads.

Me? I watch the signs put up along the roads before the primaries (registered as independent, I can't vote in party primaries) and then in November I vote against the people whose signs are still up a week after the primaries.

(Not really, but it does have an influence.... I figure anyone who doesn't take their signs down is more concerned about themselves than about us.)

I wonder how most people decide.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

3103 Omnipotence confirmed

Sunday, September 26, 2010

“A picture is worth 1000 words -- but only those to describe the picture. Hardly any sets of 1000 words can be adequately described with pictures.”
-- Alan Perlis --


I've been selling off stock over the past four months in a miserable market to pay for the new house.

Yesterday on the financial news, I heard that the market has been in an upward swing for the past four weeks, with healthy and steady gains over the past two weeks.

Of course. I sold the last batch of stock about 10 days ago.

Wouldn't you know. Exactly as I predicted. You're welcome. Any improvement in the economy can be directly attributed to me.

On the other hand, the housing market is still falling. The new house is worth less now than when I signed the contract. By the time we go to closing, the value will be at least $40,000 less than what I have contracted to pay. (I didn't realize it would take this long to finish the darn thing, or I'd have had a renegotiation or delay penalty built into the contract.) The county will use the inflated sales price as the appraisal value for taxes.

We can expect that the housing market won't start back up again until the county decides to reappraise houses.

I am omnipotent. I negatively control everything!