Sunday, December 24, 2006

It's a Strange Christmas


It's a strange Christmas. The temperature is in the high 40s and there isn't a flake of snow to be seen. That may not seem strange to folks in more Southern climes but here in Northern NY about 20 miles from the Quebec border, green Christmases are a rarity. Plus there seems to be a dearth of Christmas Joy. I noticed driving around the last few days that only about 1 in 5 homes have holiday lights up, perhaps as many as 1 in 4 if you count non-lighted displays and people I meet don't seem to have that infectious happiness I associate with the season in the past.

Perhaps it is the world situation. In this morning's paper there was a story about a Christmas tree seller in Baghdad. He is a 77 year old Moslem who lives in a mixed neighborhood and has been selling Christmas trees for the past 10 years. Normally the street where he is selling trees would have tree sellers all along it but this year he is alone because Christians are a target for insurgents and he is risking his life to sell trees to those who are willing to risk their lives to buy one.

Two other stories that caught my eye were the one about the huge bonuses on Wall Street this year (average of $300K for Goldman Sacks employees) with an accompanying upsurge in sales of high end cars and other luxury items and a story about how thrift stores are doing a booming business selling used items for Christmas gifts because people are having trouble making ends meet. They were weren't in the same section of the paper but I was struck by the contrast between the two stories none the less. It is a strange Christmas.

For my part I've found it a bit difficult to get into the mood but I did put out some Christmas lights in attempt to cheer things in my neighborhood. As you can see in the photo I had the help of my loyal buddy who supervises all my outdoor chores. May you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Long time, no post

I've been busy. Too busy even to do much Christmas decorating although I have finished wrapping, shipping & card sending.

I thought (briefly) that I might have a PT job to fund my lust for new & better photo equipment but it didn't pan out. A stock photographer wanted someone to manage his database of images part time and I thought that would be right up my alley but he wanted someone to work as an independent contractor for $7/hr. and estimated the work would take 20 hrs/week. Since I have signed up for Social Security I can't work in self-employment over 45 hours a month without losing my Social Security. Combine that with him wanting to pay less than minimum wage ($7.15 as of 1/1/07) and it was a no brainer to nix the deal. I think the insistence on a substandard wage was the breaking point for me. From there it just went down hill. The level of skill he was asking is worth at least $10/hr. Initially I was willing to do it for less than that but when he insisted on $7/hr. I was insulted and got my hackles up.

I do not understand these business people who think that because you have a pension and/or Social Security that you should be willing to work for peanuts. I worked all my life for those benefits. They are mine. Why should I give someone else the benefit my pension by working for less than what I'm worth so they can make more?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Aging

I have a big birthday next Saturday, the 62nd. I start getting Social Security in January. It is a cliche but I really don't feel any older than I did 20 years ago. In fact I feel better than I did just 4-5 years ago. Three and a half years of retirement plus losing 75 pounds in the last year has left me feeling really good.

There was a photo in the Sunday paper of a 105 YO veteran of WWI who attended a Veteran's Day ceremony in Virginia. He is one of the only 13 known remaining WWI veterans and is quoted as saying maybe he'll attend next year too (the last time he went to one was 30 years ago). I think I'll shoot for 105. I'm enjoying life so why not?

Friday, November 03, 2006

Ethics?

I see in the news that a staffer for Republican Senate Lincoln Chaffee has been suspended without pay for using a Senate computer to send emails criticizing the senator's opponent. The news item notes that while not illegal, such use of a Senate computer violates ethical rules.

So what about the president devoting 8-10 days to running around the country campaigning for congressional candidates while being paid by taxpayers to run the country? What about the use of Air Force 1, numerous Secret Service personnel and presidential staffers? That is a vastly larger expense to the taxpayer than sending any number of campaign emails yet no one is suggesting it is unethical use of taxpayer money for partisan advantage. Perhaps we are not supposed to notice.

Friday, October 20, 2006

SNOW!


I did my daily exercise and after showering I looked out. It's snowing! I shouldn't be surprised. They've already had 2 feet way down South in Buffalo but it wasn't forecast for here today. They only mentioned rain.

I went out to record the scene for posterity and Ace came running when he saw me outside the fence so he got into the picture too. It's kind of pretty as long as it isn't deep enough to need shovelling. :)

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Daily Walk

I live in a small hamlet of a few dozen houses and for exercise (of the body & soul) I often walk the country roads that are to the East of town. Today the wind was blowing with gusts to 55 mph and thunderstorms were forecast. I decided to take my walk before the storms arrived and set out on a 4 mile route past the beaver pond on Old Market Rd.

As I walked toward the pond with the wind at my back I had no need to swing my walking stick forward. Each time I lifted it from the ground, the wind took care of that for me. I passed the pond and headed to my turn-around point. As I approached the last hill a clap of thunder sounded off to my right... downwind. No need to worry. That cloud bank is being blown away from me.

On my return past the pond I stopped to admire the sky. The cloud bank was now to my left, curving across the sky, bright white on the top and Southern side shading to dark blue grey beneath. The right half of the sky was a brilliant blue. If the leaves of the trees on the far shore had been wearing their autumn hues the scene would have made a great photo but so far this year the colors have been very muted.

I was startled from my thoughts by a large flock of geese which took wing to resume their journey South. In the strong gusting winds they had difficulty assembling into flying formation, repeatedly breaking up into smaller groups headed obliquely to the Southwest wind they were trying to fly into. One goose, unable to reach any of the groups, struggled directly into the wind only to find itself moving backward in spite of flying as hard as it could. Finally it started tacking into the wind like a sailor and managed to join one of the groups which ended up going only about a quarter mile to another wetland across the road before surrendering to the wind.

Another dark cloud approaching convinced me to continue on my way but about a mile from home it began to rain. I was glad I had brought my raincoat. A bit farther on a neighbor offered a ride but I was out for exercise so I declined and thanked her for the offer. It was a beautiful day for a walk.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Logic? What's that?

Yesterday I was listening to a talk show (On-Point) about the Saddam links that the current administration made to Al-Qaeda. One person was quoting evidence that the administration knew prior to making their claims of a connection that the sources they were relying on were not credible while the participant who was defending the decision was arguing that since they didn't *know* for certain that the information was wrong, they had to assume it might be accurate and act upon it in order to protect the American people. So if some flake says that another country has a nuke aimed at us, even though we know he's a flake and/or a liar, by this logic we need to take out that country just in case it might be true. I guess they consider it 'erring on the side of caution'.

I wonder why the administration doesn't apply the same logic to global warming? In fact they apply exactly the opposite to the possibility (a majority of climatologists would say "probability") that global warming is going to do bad things to the whole world if we don't act to limit our contibution to the greenhouse gasses. When it comes to global warming, a lack of total, absolute and incontrovertable proof is quoted as the reason for *not* taking any action. Could it have to do with the fact that friends and supporters of this administration are making big bucks from federal contracts resulting from the war but steps to curb global warming would cost them money? Or am I just being cynical?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Lean-to Trip


I adopt a lean-to in the High Peaks area of the Adirondacks and yesterday I went in to do one of my maintenance trips. Basically I just inspect the lean-to for damage, make minor repairs, refer the larger repairs to D.E.C. for the rangers or trail crews to do and clean up the camping area. Picking up the trash is much less of a problem since they banned campfires but there are still a fair number of campers who insist on 'doing their business' in the woods rather than the privy, then leaving the TP lying about. I carry disposable rubber gloves for the clean-up part of the job. The largest piece of trash was a wine bottle by one corner of the lean-to. It had about 1.5" of yellowish liquid which may have been wine or something else. Some people do strange things in the woods. It was firmly corked and I carried it out without investigating to determine what it was.

The register was missing so I'll have to make another trip to replace it. It was in a zip-lock bag with pencils and one pen. The whole thing was gone, bag and all. Someone must have decided to take it as a souvenir of their Adirondack camping trip. When they are full I return them to ADK where they are kept in a archive but I had one stolen once before when I was tending a different lean-to

It was a beautiful day to be hiking. Mostly sunny with temperatures in the high 60s/low 70s. After the clean-up I wandered up to Scott Clearing and took some photos that I haven't downloaded to the computer yet. My hard drive is too full. I need to do a major back-up and cleaning of the HD before I can do any more work on my photos.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Bicycling encounter

I went out for my bike ride this afternoon. Lately I've been riding a 21 mile route that is a loop within a loop over mostly country roads. On Tuesday I set a new personal best time of 77 minutes. That is slightly more than 16 mph average. :) Today I had a different experience. I was riding along through a reforestation area and saw something on the road ahead near a clearing. At first I thought it was a dog (there is a house near there) but as I drew closer I realized it was a doe. She had her back to me and I was downwind from her so she neither saw nor heard me coming. I waited until I was about 20 feet from her then said "you'd better move". She turned and looked at me then bounded into the woods. There was another doe just in the woods and the 2 of them disappeared into the forest together. I didn't set any speed records today but I'll probably remember today's ride longer than I remember Tuesday's.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Theft!


I am a photographer and since I have more time & photos than money I give a lot of my work free to organizations I like to support. The donated work is copyrighted with a release for the organization to use it in their own publications/publicity but reserving all other rights. Yesterday I got a copy of a local weekly paper in the mail and discovered one of my photos on the cover of a supplement that was enclosed. The photo (above) had been submitted with a press release some months before, the paper had evidently retained it in their files and reused it.

When I contacted the paper, the editor claimed that he was unaware that the photo was copyrighted and that most people "are glad if we run their photo a second time". Well, the photo did have the copyright information in the EXIF data and I probably would have been happy to allow them to reuse it IF they had asked and IF they had given me credit. They did neither. Nor did they reference it to the organization I had granted use of the photo. They just used it for their own purposes. I suppose I should be flattered that they chose it as a cover shot but I'd like their respect too. At least enough to ask and give me credit if not pay me for it.

Follow-up: It was a case of sloppy, unprofessional work by the paper's editors. They tried to pass it off as "well, we had no reason to think it was copyrighted" and a plea of how tough it is to be an editor "we have to go over 300-400 photos per week". Yeah, right. I feel so sorry for you getting paid a regular salary to publish other people's work while paying them nothing.

Anyway they have agreed to print an "Opps!' and give me credit for the photo. I'll drop it there. Newspapers don't pay worth crap anyway. I did newspaper photography in college and quit when I figured out I was making 40 cents/hour by the time I took out my expenses.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Women in Religion (Irony Revisited)

It seems that the Catholics heirarchy aren't the only misogynists. The 1st Baptist church in Watertown, NY has booted a Sunday School teacher of 53 years on the basis that the Bible prohibits women from teaching men. The irony here is that my mother was a member of that very same church when she lived in Watertown. She later spent over 25 years as a Christian minister (Methodist), serving 10 churches in 4 parishes across the North Country.

Aside from the irony I can only observe that Mr. LeBouef (I can't bring myself to dignify someone that ignorant of his religion with the title "Reverend") needs to study the history of the Bible and his religion. For starters both 1st and 2nd Timothy (the source Mr. LeBoeuf quotes for his dismissal of Mrs. Lambert) are believed by many scholars to be later forgeries, attributed to Paul by their authors in order to lend authority to what they were saying. The content of those epistles, particularly in regard to the status of women, is in conflict with other writings of Paul that are of undisputed Pauline authorship. Add to that the facts that women have always been the backbone of most Christian churches plus the observations in my prior note (Daily Dose of Irony) and I find the level of bigotry by Mr. LeBoeuf to be incomprehensible.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Marcy Dam

As I approached the dam
the planks of the deck steamed,
last night's rain evaporating in the sun,
creating a swirl of mist
around the feet of hikers
standing on the top of the dam.

As I drew closer I realized that
those standing on the dam
were unaware that they were standing
ankle deep in a cloud of flowing vapor.
From their position, without backlighting,
it was invisible.

How many times in life
do we stand in the midst of wonders,
great or small, unaware...
because of the limits
of our point of view.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Forty Years

Today is our 40th anniversary. I joked to my wife that we got married on a shoestring and after 40 years we've worked up to a bootlace. Back then I drove to the wedding on a charged tank of gas with 30 cents in my pocket. This evening we celebrated by eating out. I paid with a credit card. Some things haven't changed.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Daily Dose of Irony

There is plenty of irony in the world and I got my daily dose early today. I woke up with the sun and decided to read for a while before starting my chores. I've been reading PETER, PAUL & MARY MAGDALENE by Bart Ehrman and I was reading the section on Mary Magdalene.

There is precious little known with any certainty about Mary Magdalene. She is mentioned only 13 times in the New Testament and 6 of those are "parallel" (same story, different source) plus a few more mentions outside the accepted gospels. Despite the rumor (or should I say slander) started by Pope Gregory five centuries later, there is no evidence that she was a prostitute to be found in any of the sources. There is one thing however that is probably historically accurate. That is that Mary Magdaline was present at the crucifixion and was the one (though possibly accompanied by other women but no men) who discovered the empty tomb and reported the resurrection to the apostles. The author accepts this as accurate because her presence is recorded by every one of the sources, even those that are independent (i.e. not using one another as a source).

Prof. Erhman notes that she was arguably the first Christian in the sense that we mean the word today because she was the first to understand the meaning of the event. Prior to that event, the followers of Jesus were simply followers of a reformist Jewish teacher. It was the resurrection that set Christianity apart from the other sects and religions of the day and Mary Magdalene was the first to bear the "good news" or gospel of that event to the apostles, all of whom had gone into hiding after Jesus' arrest.

So where is the irony? As I was reading this I had the radio playing the news and there was a story about the women who have said they had been ordained as Catholic priests. The Catholic church has declared them heretics and threatens to excommunicate them. It seems that despite the fact that the most important point of faith upon which Christianity was built was first declared by a woman rather than any of the male apostles, the Catholic heirarchy still believes no woman is worthy of the role of priest. One wonders whether, without Mary Magdalene, these church leaders would even have a religion to rule over. Without Mary's news of the resurrection, Jesus might have been considered by history as just another wisdom teacher and his life would have been a footnote, rather than a major force.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Escaping close to home

Because gas is getting so dear I decided to escape to the woods close to home on the Tooley Pond Rd. yesterday. One advantage to living North of the Adirondacks is that the woods aren't far away. The Tooley Pond Rd. runs through a tract of state conservation land and follows the South Branch of the Grasse River. There are a series of waterfalls along the river. I visited 3, one I hadn't been to before and 2 that I had been to. I took my cameras and spent between 1 and 2 hours at each. This photo is of the smaller falls at Twin Falls. The larger falls is not as picturesque. After a day in the woods my atitude was greatly improved.

Friday, August 11, 2006

D- in Blogging

I guess I'm not much of a blogger. I haven't posted anything since April. I haven't even opened the site since then. I'm not sure today is a good day to be posting either. I'm bummed out. I'd like to go wandering in the mountains but this morning's paper had a photo of a gas pump that had $3.85 for regular. At that price I'm not sure I want to drive into town much less to the mountains. The oil companies are taking all the fun out of being retired. :-(

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Why do I hike?

Because I like it.
I like feeling the sun, the wind, the rain.
I like smelling the sweet scent
of new growth on the balsams in June,
of blackberries in August
and the distinct odor of autumn
as leaves fall around me.
I like hearing the songs of the birds,
leaves rustling in the breeze as I walk
and water bubbling over rocks as I rest.
I like seeing the million shades
of green from mountaintops,
the bright color accents of wildflowers
sprinkled on the forest floor
and the glittering highlights of sun
through drops of dew.
I like being there,
in a universe that belongs to me
and I to it.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Face-to-Face with Homeland Security

Recently I accompanied my wife on a trip to get her "Green Card" renewed. She's a Canadian and has been in the US for 40 years. She's proud of being a Canadian and doesn't wish to change her citizenship. It's her choice and I respect that.

Back when we married she had only to report her current address annually using a postcard she could get at the local Post Office but even that requirement was dropped after a few years. Ten years ago the Immigration Service decided she needed a new card. That's a long tale of bureaucracy in itself. Suffice it to say that it took them 18 months to produce a simple laminated ID card at a cost of $100. I used to make the military ones when I was in the US Army. It took us about 10-15 minutes. The card she got 10 years ago is expiring so she applied early for the new one which now costs $260 to process.

The Immigration Service is now under the HOMELAND SECURITY DEPT. Unlike 10 years ago, photos can't be taken locally nor can the local police or even the immigration service agents at the border (only 20 miles away) take her fingerprints. These things are now called "biometrics" and they have to be done at a Homeland Security office where they have the latest high-tech biometrics equipment (AKA digital cameras & scanners). That office just happens to be over 3 hours away.

When we got there I couldn't go in. I guess my past military service with top secret security clearance is insufficient to rule me out as a security risk so I sat in the hallway while they scanned my wife with metal detectors to insure that she wasn't armed before proceding with the biometrics. The folks working there were pleasant according to my wife. Not being allowed inside, I wouldn't know. They had trouble taking her finger prints with the digital equipment, requiring multiple tries and ending up saying that they wouldn't know for 2 hours whether the ones they got were "accepted" and if they weren't she'd have to come back in 2-4 weeks. If a second try wasn't accepted she'd have to get the police to certify that she wasn't a criminal before they would issue her a new card.

I guess the finger prints they took 40 years ago or the ones they took 10 years ago are no longer acceptable and apparently they have trouble with a lot of peoples' high-tech digital fingerprints meeting the strict standards of clarity that the new rules require. The others there at the same time as my wife were having similar or worse problems and the agents told of a 94 year old woman they could not get satisfactory prints from. Apparently older folks prints are worn off their fingers to the point that the new high-tech equipment can't read them. I can just picture a 94 year old lady going into the police department asking them to certify that she isn't a crook.

So... now we are awaiting a letter that tells us whether she has to go back to try again. If she does that's another 6 hour round trip (are they in partnership with the gasoline companies?). As we walked back to the car from the Homeland Security office I thought about the people working in there behind locked doors with metal detectors and armed guards in the name of keeping us all safe. The image reminded me of the NYC Police Dept. depicted in the Heavy Metal Movie and it occured to me that some in this country are safer as a result of the hundereds of millions spent on Homeland Secrurity. I'm pretty sure though that I'm not one of those who is safer. I wonder what they are doing about all those people who came into the country illegally.

P.S. The fingerprints were accepted by the FBI and she got her card without a second trip to Homeland Security's Syracuse 'castle keep'. Who knows what another 10 years will bring.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Arabs, the US ports and George Bush

The president can't seem to grasp why people are so upset over the idea of an Arab company running 6 major US ports. It doesn't seem to dawn on him that his own repeated mantra over the last 4 and a half years ("9/11 changed everything") created that mass attitude. He has been drilling into the American public that we have to protect ourselves from terrorists even at the price of surrenduring our liberty yet he can't comprehend why 70% of that same public sees the running of 6 US ports by the country 2 of the 9/11 terrorists came from feel threatened by that. I feel threatened by having a clueless president in the White House.