Monday, October 31, 2022

I Like This Picture

 I took this picture when Lynn was with Ed and I. We visited the Vanderbilt summer home, now a National Park. Much of it is being restored as you walk through.

This alcove on the stairs hasn't been restored yet. I took this picture and love it.

Wyndcliffe Manor

In honor of Halloweenie, a haunted Mansion...

Okay, I don't know if it really haunted, but it looks like it should be, right?

On our drive from Hudson to the Vanderbilt Estate, we took a small detour to see Wyndcliffe Manor. It was very cool, even though we were a bit far away due to a security fence. It isn't really listed anywhere, but somehow it showed up on my google maps as we were driving. So we took a small detour.

It was built in 1852 for a New York socialite as a week-end and summer home.

In 1866 it was sold to the Fink family, who passed it around the family until they lost everything and sold it at auction in 1934 and had various owners for two decades.

It was finally abandoned in the 1950s.

In 2016 it was sold for $120,000 at auction. The owner filed to tear it down and built something else here. But here it still stands. Well, stands-ish.

It was a very cool diversion on the drive.

Daily Stoic: October 31

The human being is born with an inclination toward virtue.

Musonius Rufus - Lectures

This is both a very basic and obvious idea, but yet one we forget easily. It does not mean everyone IS virtuous. But it does mean that we are born ready to be virtuous. Most children need to be taught right from wrong - good from bad. 

It doesn't matter if one is born a Christian, Hindu, Muslim, MAGA or Jewish, the same "golden rule" is taught by all faiths. A child is taught not to steal or cause pain by our families and community. But that same child can be taught to hate others, fear the world and resent life.

So we all were born with an inclination to be virtuous. We need to cultivate our own virtue, then look outward. Before we judge others too much, we need to judge ourselves.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Daily Stoic: Oct 30

Aren't you ashamed to reserve for yourself only the remnants of your life and to dedicate to wisdom only that time that can't be directed to business?

Seneca: On The Brevity of Life

This meditation asks us to reflect our values and to honor your commitment to yourself and your studies before the commitments demanded by life. I think we all know this better as live / work balance. The Greeks valued study, particularly of Philosophy, ahead of their time working. It doesn't mean to not work, but it means to make time for your other pursuits of knowledge.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

The Daily Stoic: Oct 29th

"Each person acquires their own character, but their official roles are designated by chance. You should invite some people to your table because they are deserving, others because they may come to deserve it." 


This meditation asks us to look at the character of our associates, not their material success in life. Some people can be rich or powerful or famous by chance and their character was not necessary or displayed.

It is better to associate and honor those with a good character, not those who are successful despite a dishonorable character.

Friday, October 28, 2022

Last Night's Sunset


PS - Our friend Randy lives in the smaller of the two towers in the distance. That is Jersey City, New Jersey.

Visit to Kingston NY

Old Dutch Church in Kingston

Kingston New York is an interesting town with a fascinating history.

It was founded by the Dutch, when they ruled the state. Skipping a lot of Native America conflict, ultimately resulting in the Dutch defeating them, Kingston grew prosperous. It was one of three Dutch communities started, Albany, New York City and Kingston (all had different Dutch names).

They have a Fire Truck Museum we enjoyed.

In 1777, during the civil war, the New York revolutionaries started writing the charter of New York State when New York City was occupied. The authors moved from White Plains up to Kingston and set up state house for the debate, elected the first governor of the state - and named Kingston the capital of New York.

That resulting in the British attacking and then burning Kingston to the ground.

Monument to commemorate the burning and rebirth of the city

It is now made up of a cute historical core and suburban-ish farms inhabited by well off New York City types looking for a week-end house.

But it also made a great stop on our way up to Olana.

The Daily Stoic: October 28

I have been investigating Stoicism for a little while now. It has helped me for the past month or so. I like it.

From the dictionary the definition I am referring to is usually the 2nd definition as shown below:

an ancient Greek school of philosophy founded at Athens by Zeno of Citium. The school taught that virtue, the highest good, is based on knowledge; the wise live in harmony with the divine Reason (also identified with Fate and Providence) that governs nature, and are indifferent to the vicissitudes of fortune and to pleasure and pain.It is repeated in the serenity prayer used by many in the AA and associated groups: 
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. 

Now for "stoics", the prayer thing works, minus the God part. 

I have been using the Daily Stoic* to set me up for the day. I think it is important so I will continue to use it, and today's meditation is:

You will more quickly find an earthly thing cut off from earth than you will a person cut off from other human beings. Marcus Auraelius

The idea here is that humans need each other. There are many ways we can cut others out of our lives, but it diminishes our lives and devalues theirs. When you believe that you can only control your reaction it does NOT mean you ignore others when you disagree.


I will not go through the rest of this crap when I post Daily Stoic updates daily (hopefully).

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Good News


How's the early voting going in the US? (Updated - already)

Well, there are some issues with early voting. They seem somehow ........ familiar.

 Let us compare and contrast against other "elections"...


Ukrainians voting in a "free election" being watched by armed Russians:


Arizonans voting in a "free election" being watchers by armed Republican Poll watchers:


Black Americans voting in a "free election" being challenged by whites 1920 - 1968:


Black Americans voting in a "free election" being challenged by whites 2022:

From the Guardian


So, how's the early voting going then? Not so good....

Once more, these armed poll watchers are filming voters and taking car licenses. You know, normal things in a fascist state.

Just another day in Arizona (one of our more progressive states)

From Associated Press

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Here is the thing about Palm Oil Plantations

 When I landed in Malaysia and took a cab to Kuala Lumpur we passed a long long line of palm trees. Arranged like a general orchard, it was interesting to see, and it stretched as far as the eye could see.

I asked about it, and the driver said it was very very dangerous to go into. Because of the artificial environment, not a lot of animals lived there. There were many many rats, they could eat the crap taht fell from the palms, and pythons that ate the rats.

Turns out he was right.

Leaf Peeping

 Lynn, Ed and I had a good week-end up in Hudson leaf peeping.

Sometimes you just can't believe the self dellusion.

Let us thing about this for 1 moment dick-face. You're whining about a few weeks of feeling scared and having "your life threatened". And yet you outlawed an abortion law that has already caused grievous harm and death as well as jeopardizing lives.

But yeah, it's not fair to you! 

Not fair for someone to actual publish what you said in private. Although you did say publicaly a few weeks later.

Monday, October 24, 2022

Olana with Lynn and Ed - part 1

Old Dutch Reformed church in Kingston

Lynn is up for a few days and this weekend we all went up the Hudson Valley to see the colors and visit. Here are a few pictures from the first day. We visited Olana, but more about that tomorrow.

Historical firefighter museum in Kingston.

There are (hopefully) more pictures with me on Lynn and Ed's cameras. But I want to get a few out.

Are these midterms indicative of American's "temprature"

 There is a lot of Sturm und Drang this year, and much of it by me, around the midterms. And I would like to preemptively try to gain a little perspective.

Despite the outrage and anger on both sides: their side stupid lies about the last election - and the right side of the argument about the death of voting rights, Roe v Wade and gay rights. (See what I did there?)

In any case a lot of weight is ladled on here on these elections. But here is the thing, midterm elections are not usually indicative of anything except "putting it to the man". In lay terms, this usually means expressing how disappointed voters are and checking the results by the levels of voting against the current administration.

Often midterms will change the political power of the House or Senate. This year, it will probably be confined to the House. If the Senate flips slightly, it may indicate nothing. It if flips by a large amount, it means people are really really pissed.

But midterms are also normally driven by extremely motivated voters in a way the general elections are not. Because voting for President in the general, usually drives more voters to the polls. So the midterms are driven by the more politically involved voters who are usually more motivated. 

Summery, the midterms are dreadfully important but not the harbinger of the future we think it is.


Thursday, October 20, 2022

The Frog is Getting Toasty

 It is a disconcerting view to see the Anti-Gay shit being thrown at the wall now. In an effort to win votes, the Republican Party is once again raising the threat of gay people. All of it. The entire play book.

And, for those in my gay community that ignored attacks on trans, well, this is what is next. We did tell you.

It is an effective and common historical attack. Sometimes this is dressed up in new rhetoric, sometimes the same old shit.

Remember how life would end if we allowed gay marriage.

The latest attack is disguised as a Federal Don't Say Gay bill. They know that because of Biden, they have no chance of passing and signing this until 2024, but hey, people hate fags, and this drives their voters.

And remember, this excludes not just some nonexistent classes on being gay. This law prevents some children talking about their parents or relatives (if gay). It outlaws books in school libraries, because something inappropriate might be in a shared library with younger kids.

AND, it allows parents to sue if they think the teacher or school has unwittingly shared a shread of gay information. For example 

"Sarah is having a birthday party and sending out invitations. Sarah's moms will chaperone." Teacher can be fined $10,000. 

"What does the word 'homosexual' mean in this book?" If she says anything but, I can't comment - lawsuit. 

It bans "gay/straight alliance" in high schools - which was starting spontaneously by students, never introduced by staff.

This playbook has been used since people new about homosexuals, until AIDS. With AIDS, people were confronted that their loved ones were gay, and were not the monsters they heard about.

If you thing of these two banging, you wouldn't allow
heterosexuals to teach class either.

And it works. This hatred gets votes because people think "homosexual" and focus on the actual sex act. Which is silly. If I say Judge Clarence Thomas and his wife Ginny are heterosexuals - no one things of them fucking! 

There, get that image out of your brain.

Big Pond and Cabin

Last weekend, Randy and I stayed in a cabin near Big Pond Lake - a lake up on the PA / NJ / NY border. Pictures are below.

First: The cabin:

Second a view of the pond and area.

An odd juxtiposition

These is a screen shot from a recent Salon page.

The problem is two fold. 

First, I totally agree regarding that Cynicism is ultimately supportive of Fascism.  I think they are right, and it is something I am seriously guilty of. When I get frustrated I want to tune out. That is probably the wrong emotion.

But then, the following story is a cynical story regarding democracy and the Congressional hearings.

Pick a lane, kids.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Well, this is one way to addressing school shootings

After the school shooting in Santa Fe Texas school shooting, where 8 students and 2 teachers were killed, Texas passed a law to help identify school children. They will deliver to the parents of all children in school a DNA and fingerprint kit.

You see, they want to address school shootings. Not any gun control. Not any more money. Not even making them "gun free areas".

Nope the DNA and fingerprint kits are to make it easier to identify dead kid's bodies. I shit you not. 

Now, it wasn't quite in place in the Uvalde school shooting and some of the victims could not be identified from others.

Solution: a way to identify dead kids. Not any plan to reduce deaths, but only to identify the victims.

Texan's tax dollars at work.

No link because it is both heartbreaking and pathetic. Search yourself.

Bushkill Falls

In the Catskills, in Pennsylvania is a set of waterfalls made into a roadside attraction. If you ever wanted to see what a successful attraction looks like in 2020s - semi-upgraded, semi-original - you could do much worse than here.

Main Falls.

Gorge above the main falls.

Don't get me wrong, the falls and trails are beautiful and well kept up.  There are 3 or 4 different trails, but the shortest have full handrails (albeit made of wood or faux wood). These are built around the tallest of the Bushkill Falls.

Randy and I went after a rainstorm, so the falls were very full and very cool. We also went after a weekend of not shaving, so forgive the old man whiskers.

The main areas of the attraction:
  1. The Falls: self-descriptive
  2. Miles of Trails
  3. The Nature Exhibit: a diorama of stuffed animals from the local area. This exhibit is int he entrance area to the trails. Bushkill Inc proudly points out that these were not killed for the exhibit - mainly roadkill that was "salvageable"
  4. The Native American Exhibit: A recreation of a native longhouse, with cooking hole. In the corner, there is a few Native dummies (or regular dress dummies, dressed up like Natives). The rest of the exhibit is a shop full of Native American tat: pottery, rugs, and dreamcatchers - so very very many dream catchers.
  5. A "gemstone" store
  6. A manmade "pan-for-gold" experience: Only it is pan for gemstones not gold, because there are a lot of gemstones for sale.
  7. A family maze.
  8. Playgrounds and picnic tables
  9. A full on crap store
  10. A hiking / climbing store
  11. Some food in the store.
  12. A restroom building
  13. Parking for many many cars.

Monday, October 17, 2022

Grey Towers and Gifford Pinchot

Another fun (useless) fact from the weekend. Randy and I went to a Historic Site called "Grey Towers" and learned about Gifford Pinchot.

I figured it would be another stately home, and it was, but it was a lot more. The site was the home of Gifford Pinchot, one of the founders of the National Forest Service (not the National Park Service). He was a conservationist from a wealthy family and had the time and the inclination to start forestry projects in the United States. He grew up wealthy in Connecticut.

He studied at Yale, but there was not a program in his interests, so he went to Paris to study forestry. He was there for a short while before coming back to the states. He decided to build a "summer" home in the same area his family made their first fortunes, Milford Pennsylvania. The area had been completely clear cut to allow farming and he saw the damage to the land and the Delaware River in the area.

He decided to create not only a house, but repopulate the forests around the house and the area. Additionally he created a Forestry School on the property were a class from Yale came out every year to study.

This would be enough for most of us, but he continued. He worked with Teddy Rosevelt and John Muir and others. Once the National Parks were created, including Yosemite, he and his team did a survey of the rest of the public land, particularly in the west. He proposed creating a National Forest system to encourage conservation and intelligent use of the land.

The view from the house. All the trees you see (except the mountains in the background) were planted by the family on farmland that was no longer viable.

The water feature led to his child's playroom. Now a classroom and rentable facility.

Pinchot also worked (and succeeded) in explaining the way conservation would support sustainable growth to farmers, ranchers and miners. Up until then most wealth in America was from extraction of value from the land, leaving it denuded. He explained that conservation wouldn't stop growth and wealth, but it would allow the land to provide more in the long run if tended.

An odd table for outdoor dining with guests, based on one he saw in Italy.
People ate on the ledge, and passed the dishes around on floating balsa wood floaters. 

He also was the Governor of Pennsylvania twice, albeit non consecutively. IN his second term he was famous for paving the dirt roads throughout the state. And this is what he is most associated with in the state. The grounds, house site and some ancillary buildings could be visited. The house itself is only open for 3 tours on Sundays, so we missed that, but it was very cool none the less.

This was one of 30 giant European trees (Myrtles?) that he planted 100 years ago. It was interesting because he actually wrote he "wished he could see them in a 100 years" when they matured.

Goats prevent fires

What started as a practice to clear hard to get at brush, bring in the goats. Goats have been, and still are, used in the east to eat their way through underbrush, invasive plants, and poison ivy type plants.

In the west they are increasingly being used to clear hard to reach hillsides and areas around buildings to prevent fires from advancing. The goats to this in two main ways.

First, they clear almost all the underbrush, ground plants and the lower branches of trees. All of these things, particular invasive species, contribute to fires that have burned out of control. Remember native chaparral has evolved to burn hot and quickly. This allows for the germination of lower plants, and the fire moves so quickly mature plants and trees can survive a quick moving fire.

Second, they are voracious. A "trip" of goats can clear an acre of land a day. The homes at the cliffside in the video are from Anaheim Hills, but they could just as easily be from Malibu, Thousand Oaks or the Mulholland Pass. And they clear the hills as they can traverse areas that are inhospitable or impossible for humans to clear. And they are environmentally beneficial. 

Anyway it is a cute video and goats are always cool.

Yesterday at Bletchley Park

Doesn't look like a military installation does it?  We went to Bletchley Park a few days ago for a second visit. We had gone years ago w...