Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Servant or Master

Time for another opinion piece. In this morning's paper George Will laments the return of government "interference" in the economy. In that same morning paper is an article which claims that Charles Dickens characterization of the poor diet of children in workhouses (Oliver Twist) is wrong. Recent studies has shown that the "recommended" diet was significantly more nutritious than that portrayed in Dickens' novel. Less than currently recommended but "adequate". So what do the two have in common? It is a matter of who's holding the reins.

Several years ago Dr David Suzuki, the Canadian scientist/TV host of The Nature of Things, made a TV special called Suzuki Speaks which presented his views on the interaction of the economy and the ecology. In it he makes the case for humans place in and as part of nature and contends that purpose of "the economy" is to serve the needs of people. It is, or should be the medium by which we distribute the goods and services we need to live together as a society. He argues however that "the economy" has become an end in itself, a thing which the people serve through their work and consumerism. An excerpt from his talk is avaliable on YouTube or a slightly longer excerpt at Link TV. A DVD or download of the full talk is available at Avanti Pictures. I believe that this talk is as important to the future of the world as "An Inconvenient Truth".

George Will and other free market capitalists argue that the markets, left to their own devices, are self correcting and that government interference only prolongs the existence of businesses that should go out of business. That's true if, as Dr. Suzuki contends, we are servants of the economy. If the economy is in charge and the role of humans is to feed it through their labor and consumption then market forces should be allowed to run their course unimpeded by government regulation. There are problems with that idea though.

The first problem is like the problem in saying Dickens got the diet of children in workhouses wrong because the recommended diet was actually adequate. Even the authors of the quoted study admit that maybe not all workhouses followed the recommendations. Well, DUH! History is loaded with examples of people not doing things in the recommended way. We've recently been treated to the results of people not following recommendations in the financial markets to the detriment of everyone in society.

The larger problem is, as Dr. Suzuki contends, a matter of putting the cart before the horse. We create the economy to serve us. Free market economists argue that in a free market everyone will prosper, the old "a rising tide floats all boats" idea, but putting the functioning of the economy ahead of the purpose it is meant to serve is backwards. The business world is fond of mission statements as a means of measuring success. We need to find a way to make the economic system serve us, to provide for our needs first and desires after. We need to have the mission of the economy to serve us, not itself. I highly recommend Dr. Susuki's full talk, either the download or the DVD. The download will play only on the computer it is downloaded to (unless they've changed it since I got a copy several years ago).

I will add the caveat that government can be as guilty of putting the bureaucracy or institution ahead of the mission as business. Both are human institutions. Both require some supervision by those they serve to keep them on course. Hopefully the recent election was just such a course correction. I believe it was even if Mr. Will does not. The important thing is to remember that all human institutions exist to serve us, not the reverse. Remember that the next time you are instructed to "go out and buy stuff" or told that preserving the environment will damage the economy. It isn't about the economy, it's about people.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

0ºF and Snowing... Again!

No morning paper today. It comes from 80 miles South of us and apparently the weather is so bad down that way the papers couldn't get out of town. That happens 2-3 times each winter. The title of this post is our weather this morning. Forget the White Christmas part. We already have that. I'm dreaming of a super-insulated house with a garage so I don't have to clean off the cars after every storm.

It isn't snowing hard here (yet) but the forecast is for it to continue into tomorrow morning and to total as much as a foot. The mountains South & East of here could see 14" or more.

There's frost on my windows again and I shot another round of frost pattern photos but decided instead to share a shot of Diane's bromeliad which is in full bloom right next to one of those frost covered panes.

Addendum: We watched "Sunday Morning" (recorded so we can skip the ads) and throughout the program there was a banner streaming across the bottom listing the churches that were canceling morning services. I feel sorry for all those who are trying to travel this weekend. This is shaping up to be a good Christmas to stay home.

Friday, December 19, 2008


We have several bird feeders and this year a pair of cardinals come around occasionally. They are very skittish and therefore difficult to photograph. The wreath hanging over the window on the kitchen door doesn't make it any easier nor does the fact that they seem to feed at dusk when the light is fading but today I did manage to get passable photos of each of them. Meet Mr. & Mrs. Cardinal.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas Card

As I did last year I am posting my Christmas greeting here on my blog for my e-friends. Here's wishing one and all a happy holiday of whatever sort you choose. In about one week's time the days will be getting longer again and a new cycle of life begins. The photo above has been modified from an original I shot last Dec. of Sullivan's barn on the Hatch Rd.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

One friend/reader has asked that I post more often. I have been somewhat lax I confess. I get preoccupied. It is nice getting responses however as it tells me there are people following my blog. One of the features missing from Blogger is a stats page. Aside from comments there is no way to tell how many readers a blog has. A blog is a bit like doing a radio program. You are talking but you don't know for sure if anyone is listening.

Our son asked if we got hit by the huge ice storm that has been on the news. We did not. All we got was a tiny amount of freezing rain mixed into about 4-5 inches of snow. There is some ice on the trees but that is left from an earlier weather system. It did not warm up enough between the two for that ice to melt and this morning it was about -13°F here so it won't be melting soon. It is up to about 0°F now. For those readers who might not know, "here" is near Potsdam, NY, North and West of the Adirondack Park.

No one asked for photos but y'all are getting one anyway :-) The photo above is the frost on one pane of our front hall window. Be sure to click on it for a larger view. There is no storm window on that one and we don't heat the hall so I got several frost pattern photos this morning. Ian, you get to enjoy looking at frost without being cold. Enjoy.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Christmas Is Coming

As usual Christmas is coming too quickly.

I washed dishes this evening. I had been letting the dishes go until Diane would wash and I'd dry because I had cut my left index finger opening a bag of pellets last week. I guess my Swiss Army knife is sharp enough. My finger is healed up but Diane wants me to open the bags with scissors now.

Our Christmas card list is drawn up. We will likely think of 2-3 more after they are done. We always do. I'll print the cards tomorrow around oil changes for both vehicles. I have at least one other print to make and I have to paint the frame it's going in plus another frame to build. I need to make up some birthday and anniversary calendars with my genealogy program but those don't have to be done until January 1st. No boredom around the holidays. Next Sunday afternoon we go to a performance of Handell's Messiah. Diane likes the idea of Christmas Eve dinner out, so it's a go. I'll have to make a reservation. A quiet Christmas Day will be welcome.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

My little friend above has his feast. We put out plenty of black oil seed for he and his friends. We will have turkey and dressing with gravy and pie (pecan or pumpkin) for dessert. I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday in the company of family and/or friends.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Mixed Feelings

I know we have to do something to pull the economy out of its nosedive. Diane's retirement investments are going down the tubes as are many people's. On the other hand it gripes me no end that my tax dollars and the tax dollars of my children are bailing out people who have been financially irresponsible. After a lifetime of trying to live within our means we have to 'help' people who are far richer than we are because the way the economy is set up, if the rich and powerful go broke we all do. It is bad enough that that the share of the pie the average Joe or Jane gets is determined by people who often decide to keep most of the profits for themselves but then when they squander and/or gamble with their inflated share and get into financial trouble it's the little guy who gets to bail the fat cats out. Damned if we do and damned if we don't. Greed wins. There's something basically wrong with the system. I don't know what the solution is (I wish I did) but the system we have sucks big time.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My Big Brother

Monday morning my oldest brother passed away. That's him holding me in the photo. I have another brother but he is only 2 years older. Bruce was 18 years older so he was my big brother. He worked as a fireman and a truck driver. He had a private pilot's license and owned his own light plane, several of them actually, one at a time. Bruce did lots of neat things for me when I was growing up. He took me up in his plane. He took me to NYC the first time I went there. We went to the Empire State Building. He was an avid waterskier. He had his own boat on Lake Bonaparte where he rented a camp and I sometimes stayed with him there in the summer. He taught me to waterski there and in the process taught me an important part of his philosophy. When I'd fail and complain that I couldn't do it he always said "There's no such thing as can't". He'd explain what I was doing wrong and get me to try again. His "can do" philosophy has served me well and perhaps fittingly I spent Monday climbing Whiteface Mt. with a good friend who was completing his last climb of the Adirondack 46 High Peaks. My friend had begun the quest based on my encouragement, a quest I completed 15 years ago but might never have finished myself had Bruce not helped me believe I could do whatever I wanted to to do. Although we were not close in later years with many miles between us, I will miss my big brother.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Banking Takeover?

According the news I’m hearing on the radio the president’s bill for bailing out the banking industry contains no provision for Congressional oversight. That is the same kind of hands-off policy that got our economy into this mess. If we hand over the $700B or more to the banks with no oversight, the taxpayers won’t be taking over the banks, rather the banks will be taking over the US Treasury. Congress needs to have oversight authority.

Also according to reports the banks say that if oversight and limits on executive compensation then they won't sign up for a bail out. How dire an emergency is it if they can walk away from the deal? The way this situation has been presented to the public is that we either bail them out or they go broke and take all our retirement plans down with them. The executives should not be given seven figure (or any) parachutes as a reward for running their institutions into the ditch. The average citizen is not rewarded for screwing up on the job. Why should they be rewarded? Fire them and let them apply for unemployment benefits. Let them try living on that for a while and maybe they’ll learn the value of a dollar.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Broadband Beavers

We went to the annual watercolor show in Old Forge yesterday at the Art Center. The show was good, as usual, with watercolors from all over the country. I had a hard time which to vote for as "viewer's choice". I ended up voting for "Backwoods Highway", an Adirondack scene but there were two others I really liked as well. One, "View from the Courthouse" was a whimsical village scene looking down on a street corner with bright colors and distorted perspective that gave it the look of an illustration for a children's book. The other was "Winter of '07", a view of two houses with a man walking by in the snow. Actually there were others that were equally good. It was hard to choose.

We bought the catalog. An older man ahead of us complained about the $12 price of the catalog comparing it unfavorably to a subscription to American Artist. Evidently he does not understand that the magazine has the advantage of scale. When printing editions that run to 6 figures in size and are supported by advertising the cost per copy is much less. I did not point that out to him but later thought perhaps I should have.

Going and returning from Old Forge we passed through Racquette Lake where some prankster has planted a satellite dish atop a beaver house that is in a marsh along the road. The idea of beavers passing the winter watching TV and surfing the Internet amused me so I took a photo, one of only 3 I shot yesterday. There wasn't much fall color and the light wasn't good for photography but it was a very nice day for just living and enjoying the day.

Friday, September 12, 2008

There Should Be Outrage

I hear this morning that the Associated Press has objected to the McCain campaign's distortion of things they reported about the Obama campaign. What the McCain campaign did was to cut & paste words and phrases from articles in the same manner an extortionist clips words from a newspaper and glues them in a different order and then plugged them into TV ads to give the impression that AP was saying something about Obama that it did not. A search of the headlines on-line this morning however reveals that AP's protest was apparently low key as there is virtually no mention of it. There should be outrage. In distorting their words to discredit Obama McCain has also discredited the veracity of the AP.

For a candidate who pledged at the start of the campaign to stay positive and deal with issues, the recent ads run by McCain are shameful. If a candidate will lie and cheat to get into office, how can we trust that person to be honest and trustworthy in office?

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Tonight on the news Charles Gibson interviewed Sarah Palin. She continues to present herself as a change candidate, a Washington outsider, but when asked questions with a request for a yes or no answer she repeatedly answered in 273 word sentences that avoided answering either yes or no. Even when the question was repeated and the request for a yes or no response was repeated she continued to evade giving a direct answer. Different? She sounds exactly like the current president and VP to me.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Art is Art

In this morning's paper there was an article about a robotic chair that autonomously falls to pieces and then reassembles itself. It is being exhibited around the country in galleries and after the tour will be sold to a collector.

This is an example of what bothers me about the state of the art world today. "Art" is a broad term that covers many areas of creative endeavor but it seems me that its meaning is being broadened too far. Communication through language depends on words having meaning. They tell the listener or reader what something is and, by default, all else that it is not. In recent years I have heard almost everything including politics, sports and cooking described as "art". There are books on the Art of War and the Art of The {business} Deal. An Amazon search for books on "The Art of..." returns 1,293,083 matches.

Then there are those galleries, museums & grant foundations that exhibit and/or present awards to "installations" such as a folding table with overflowing ash trays and empty beer cans. Think Damien Hirst in a London Gallery. If a thing contains any one element, even peripherally, of the definition of art then it is deemed "Art". Worse, the distinctions between the various forms of art are being demolished. The dark scribblings of a drug addict trying to work through his/her addiction via art therapy are held on a par with the work of a trained professional painter, indeed in some venues they are valued higher because they are untrained and the "Art" they produce is therefore not derivative, a bad thing to be in the art world but inevitable to some degree for those artists who made the error of actually studying art.

With the robotic chair we have an engineering project hailed and exhibited as a work of Fine Art, worthy of exhibit in galleries and collection by an art collector. It is novel, creative in a mechanical sense and probably fascinating to watch it do its thing, but is it really "Art"? It seems to me that when the meaning of the word art stretches to include anything and everything we choose to apply it to, it no longer has any meaning. If it can be applied to anything, it describes nothing. A word that describes nothing is useless for communicating what something is. OTOH using the same rational by which the article concludes that the robotic chair is art, "It has no utilitarian value," D'Andrea said. "It is an art piece", one could argue that the word "art" itself is art. The ultimate self-referential work.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Two Viewpoints on "The Wall"

One of my e-friends is Darrell Bohlsen, a retired art historian. We correspond about art and recently discussed a NY Times article about an economist who claims to have determined the "Top Ten" works of modern art based on how many times works appeared in art history books published between 1990 and 2005. We both agreed that was pretty silly for reasons I won't go into here but my friend decided to make his personal Top Ten list just for fun.

Today Darrell sent an email with his #1, The Vietnam Veterans Memorial by Maya Lin 1982. He wrote "Although the AIA (American Institute of Architects) has honored it as Architecture I consider it a memorial sculpture qualifying for my list."

"Ms Lin has come up with a concept (at age nineteen) of a war memorial that rejects the traditional Manneristic, larger than life, solutions of dictatorships. Think, Moscow-Soviet Union, China, Cuba, or Saddam Hussain's Irag. Indeed, think Washington DC with Frederick Hart's Korean Veterans War Memorial, adjacent to Ms Lin's work."

"Ms Lin's work with its delta shaped granite rising out of a depression in the earth sets the tone for meditation on war and its dark polished granite surfaces reflect the observer and his/her involvement. I have been to the monument four times and have always been moved. Moreover the people I observed there have been also. Most I assume have no formal association with Art."

He went on to detail the history of its "improvement" (not in his opinion) by the addition of two additional features both in the historical style and concluded by recommending "Should you visit the monument in the future I strongly suggest you follow the wishes of Ms Lin and first walk to the wooded knoll that faces the monument on the opposite side of the site and walk over it to the other side. Then turn around and experience what the designer intended by going back up and over and through the trees you will encounter this powerful sight of mother earth opening up and accepting her sons and daughters home."

I responded that his choice for #1 is interesting and thought provoking. Memorial, architecture or art? All three? I have not seen the original but I have seen the "Traveling Wall". As a Vietnam Era Vet with friends who went to Vietnam (I was notified I was going to go but the orders never came and I never asked where they were) "The Wall" has associations to me that overwhelm the mere form of the work. When I went to see the traveling version, art was not on my mind and I'm sure Darrell is correct in assuming that most who visit it have no formal association with art. They don't go to see art. They go because of what it represents in terms of personal loss, a friend, a child, a brother/sister, a father or mother, a wound on their soul.

I agree that a traditional "heroic" memorial would not have been appropriate. Those things are propaganda designed to make us feel good about the sacrifice of young lives to settle political disputes. It is refreshing that we finally rose above that tradition with "The Wall", putting the price of war ahead of the false glory, but pathetic that so many had to die to do it.

As an Army photographer I used to photograph the ceremonies in which they awarded medals, photos to be sent to hometown newspapers. It didn't take long for me to note that if the soldier was still living the Commanding General always awarded the medal. If the award was posthumous it got relegated to the Deputy Commander, a Colonel. The General never did those ones, the spineless (expletive deleted). Burned in my memory is one ceremony where the young widow and a small child of 2 or 3 got dragged out to the ranges for a ceremony in the field because someone thought it was an appropriate location for a posthumous award to an infantryman. As the 20 something widow balanced on her toes to keep her high heels from sinking into the sand and the Colonel was handing the widow a folded flag with medals pinned on it, the child was pulling on her skirt and asking "Where's Daddy?".

My friend Darrell explained that he feels that "The Wall" has aesthetic merit that will continue to attract many visitors even in future when those directly affected are gone. I'm sure he is right. Maybe someday I will be able to step back emotionally and examine The Wall objectively as a work of art, but not yet.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Shifting The Ground

I'm not talking about earthquakes. It's time to post some opinion again. This is about the "quaky" stats that the media keeps feeding us. This morning on one of the news broadcasts the commentator said that fatalities in Iraq were "way down" in July. Only 11 US troops died compared to 80 military & civilian deaths a year ago.

Did you notice the statistical shift in that statment? 11 US military deaths vs 80 total (combined US, coalition military, Iraqi forces plus civilian) deaths from a year ago. Talk about comparing apples and oranges. Maybe they should have thrown in how many expatriate Iraqis died of cancer while outside the country a year ago to inflate the comparison further.

Those figures are bogus anyway. The devil is in the details, the details in this case being which deaths get counted. The iCasualties website lists 13 US military dead in July 2008 and I distinctly recall reading only a week or two ago about bombings that killed at least 80 civilians. And then there is the practice of not counting as war deaths those US soldiers who are air lifted out of the country for treatment and then die in a military hospital in Germany or the US.

Is violence down in Iraq? Are the number of deaths from insurgent attacks down? When we can't trust the numbers we are being fed and there is limited to no reporting on such events as the Iraqi Christians being driven out of the country or into hiding, it is hard to agree that the surge has really "improved" the situation and stability of Iraq unless you consider an ethnically purged society a stable society. I fear that all we have done in Iraq is changed one bad situation into a different bad situation.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

15th Anniversary - ADK 46er

On the 17th of July I observed the 15th anniversary of completing the Adirondack 46 High Peaks by driving up the Memorial Highway to the summit of Whiteface Mt. For the original ascent of course, I climbed on foot including an ascent of Esther on the way and I considered repeating the climb for the anniversary but I really wanted to take my cameras and large tripod. I couldn't see carrying 25+ pounds of gear in a backpack so I postponed the re-climb until the 20th anniversary at which time I hope to have a party of sorts on top. I'll have some of the invited guests drive the photo gear up and meet me at the summit for that trip. :-)

Meantime I did shoot a lot of photos including a panorama of the summit (above) that I just got around to stitching together from 6 frames. I had planned to spend only about an hour on top but it was a nice day and I met some neat people including a fellow who was doing an insect survey. We had quite a chat and he pointed out a Luna Moth that was on the window sash of the summit building. I ended up spending considerable time photographing that moth. It was a very patient subject. You'd like to see the moth too? Here it is...

Friday, July 25, 2008

A Piece of Adirondack History

I finally got around to scanning my Grandfather's glass plate negatives (the few that survived and got passed down to me) and among them are images of an Adirondack trip he took with my Grandmother. The surprise was finding a photo of the Nehasane steamboat which was named for the private camp of William Seward Webb who built the first Adirondack railroad.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Stroke of Luck

I subscribe to Ancestry.com's on-line services and I received an e-mail yesterday about updates to their site. One of the updates was a change to the user profile section so I decided to update my profile. Then, since I hadn't visited the site in several months, I ran a search on GGGrandpa Stephen, the major dead-end in my genealogical research. I do that as a matter of routine when I visit genealogy sites in the hope that someone, anyone, has posted something new that would give me another clue to where he was born and who his parents were. I got a whole list of stuff, the first being what I already knew and had posted myself and most being about other Stephen Bullards all over the country. The second was the 1850 census (been there, seen that) but the third item was an Army enlistment record. Awesome. I knew he was in the VT Militia during the War of 1812 but the enlistment record tells me when he enlisted, where, who recruited him, that he was 5' 10"" tall with blue eyes and brown hair, a fair complexion and the bit that I have been frustrated by for about two decades, where he was born, Jeffrey, NH. It was like reading the LOTTO numbers in the paper and finding that they matched the ones I played.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Hazards of Garden Photography

Today while I was bending over to shoot this photo of some iris blooms in our garden I felt something land on the back of my neck. It felt sort of hard and bigger than the usual bug.

"A big beetle?" I thought brushing it off with my hand.

As I looked up a house finch flew away.

Why a bird would land on my back, I don't know. I've never been a landing strip for a bird before.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

What's in a Name?

I'm in Canada visiting my wife's parents. Yesterday I took a walk along the river in town and met another photographer. His name is Jim as is my friend from Vermontville who is a photographer and my grandfather who was a photographer also. I still have some of grandpa's negatives including a few glass plate negatives. Is there some sort of connection between the name and an interest in photography? Probably not but it is an odd coincidence.

This most recent Jim and I had a long conversation about cameras and the changes that have occurred with the introduction of digital photography. It is always enjoyable to spend some time with people who like the same things you do.

Monday, April 28, 2008

New Phone Numbers Travel Fast?

Two days ago I got a new cell phone. I immediately sent the phone number to family & friends via email. The first call I received was from my brother in Mexico. He has a Skype account and was calling me in Northern NY via his computer for .021¢/minute. That's cool. Since then I have gotten three more phone calls on my new phone, all computer generated tele-marketing calls. You know, the ones that start out "there's nothing wrong with your account but it is very important that you call us back at..." or "please hold the line for an important message". If it is so important why didn't a human being place the call? I occasionally get those same calls on our land line too even though that number is on the NYS and national 'Do-Not-Call' lists. I used to wait to get a human then give them a hard time "Don't you know you can be fined for calling a number on the Do-Not-Call list?" but Diane thought I was being excessively rude so now I just hang up before the human takes over from the computer. If it rings again immediately I just ignore it.

So what's the story here? Is Verison feeding new phone #s to tele-marketers as fast as they issue them? If so, that sucks. Somebody must be since there is no directory of cell numbers. We're paying for this service so I can be in touch with family and friends, not so that there will be a new channel for shoving advertising at me. I guess I'd better get this number listed on the Do-Not-Call list as well. I don't want to spend my day hanging up on computers.

P.S. If you are a friend I neglected to send the number to, email me. I'm not posting the number on a public blog for obvious reasons.

10 minutes later: My new phone is now on the Do Not Call Registry. The registry website (www.donotcall.gov) says it takes about 31 days to take effect. Too bad they can't do it as fast as those who are feeding phone numbers to the tele-marketers.

P.P.S. I tried a reverse phone number lookup on the web to see who it was that was calling. It was an 800# and the reverse lookup wants $14.95 to tell me who it is. Pretty cagey. If you answer the call they get a chance to pitch to you and try to sell you something. If you don't and want to know who it is so you can complain they charge you to find out who is harassing you. I think that is called a win-win situation in business circles except that both wins are for them.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Signs of Spring

Spring has really arrived. How do I know? It isn't because the temperature is rising, or because the snow is melting, or even because the sap is running, although all those things are happening. The problem with those signs is that some or all of them happen even during mid-winter thaws if it gets warm enough for long enough.

The reason I know spring is really here is because when we came home yesterday afternoon there was a bird in the chimney. We have metal chimney that is very tall (20+ feet starting at the 1st floor ceiling) and 8 inches across on the inside. Every spring a young Starling (for some reason it is always a Starling) lands on top, sticks his/her head under the rain cap and wonders "what's down there?". It then proceeds to fall down the chimney. Since it's wing spread is wider than the diameter of the chimney it can't fly back up and out so we hear it scratching around inside the chimney.

If we're lucky we can open up the lower end (which is inside the house) with plastic bag over it and catch the bird which we then deliver to the great outdoors. Yesterday we weren't lucky. The Starling managed to escape the bag inside the house after which a game of 'chase the bird out of the house' ensued. We opened both front doors (can't open windows yet, the storms are still on) and repeatedly prodded the bird from a series of hiding places behind furniture until it spotted an open door and flew out.

Most years that gets repeated 2, 3, 4 or more times before the juvenile Starlings get old enough and smart enough not to fall down the chimney. If we are fortunate however that may be the sole occurrence for this year. We did have one spring when it happened only once. We bought a new pellet stove last December which does not use that chimney so I plan to take it out this summer but then I'll need a new way to tell for sure when spring is really here.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Spring at Last?

Three weeks with no post to the blog. Tsk, tsk. By way of excuse I have been busy though. I've been remodeling, tearing out walls, building new ones and wiring. Wiring is tedious work, figuring out what outlets/switches/etc. you want where and the path the wire needs to take in order to do it.

Friday I was hanging sheetrock. Why do they call it "hanging" sheetrock? It doesn't hang. It's nailed in place. Clothes hang on a line, pictures hang on a wall, both can move. Wallboard can't go anywhere. It is part of the wall. Anyway, I came to an inside corner that needed only 9" to complete that wall and I thought to myself 'If I measure very carefully, I wonder if I could score the sheet from the backside fold it forward and just have it go around the corner with the front paper still in place so I wouldn't have to tape the corner?' I allowed for the thickness of the wallboard plus a 16th of an inch for safety and voila', it worked! I have a perfect corner without taping. Too bad I can't do that with all the corners.

The weather is finally showing signs of breaking here. We had 2 days in the mid-40s this week and there are more coming up next week. The sap is running and the maple syrup producers are all boiling away. I thought this evening that I would see how much snow we had left and I took my aluminum yardstick out to check an average spot in the yard. Unfortunately the snow is like rock (temperatures in the 20s today). It not only holds me up anywhere I walk, the aluminum stick couldn't break through it. I bent it trying. After checking along where I had shoveled I'm guessing about a foot is left. I had thought it was less but now I think a foot is probably about right. There is a pile across the road where it was plowed up from in front of the church that is still about 8' tall.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Is Jack Frost's Wife a Fat Lady?

If so she hasn't sung yet and winter isn't over here. After a relatively mild day yesterday (45ºF) we got 3 or more inches of wet heavy snow last night which I spent about 90 minutes snowblowing/shoveling this morning. It has continued to snow off and on today. It is snowing again as I type and the forecast for tonight is more snow than we got last night. It is projected to end tomorrow morning but snow is forecast for Tuesday & Wednesday of next week as well as Friday & Saturday.

Last night's snow stuck to the trees so that was a good opportunity for snow photos and I took a drive this morning after cleaning up the driveway and walk. The photo at the right is the best of this morning's shoot. I have modified it in Photoshop using various filters.

Addendum at 6:30PM.
We are now having thunder and lightning with our snow and sleet. March is such a lovely month.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Catching Up...

It has been a whole month since I last posted. I've been tearing out the walls of the middle bedroom and am now in the construction phase of turning that floor space into 2 walk-in closets and more floor space for the remaining bedrooms. The 3 bedroom arrangement I had built 30 years ago was functional for us at the time but we'd like to sell the place in the next few years and it was a little too funky for the average home buyer. This change will fit our current needs better and be more sale able down the road.

I began a new blog dedicated to photography where I will post photo tips, reviews of software/books and the like. I'll still post photos with reports of my wanderings here. The other site is more an instructional site for those interested in learning new photography skills.

March 3rd edit: I forgot to give the URL for the new blog. It is http://jimbullardsphotoblog.blogspot.com/

Friday, February 01, 2008

What's the Difference?

In the latest debate Hillary Clinton emphasized her experience again while Barach Obama said that being right on day one was more important than being experienced and ready to take charge on day one.

According to the analysis that I've read there is roughly 5% difference in their positions on the issues so Obama's argument is that, for the sake of that 5%, we should sacrifice experience in handling the other 95% where they are in total agreement. Considering that who's right (in a political discussion I really should say 'who's correct') that other 5% of the time is a matter of opinion, I think Obama is making a pretty feeble argument for abandoning experience in favor of hope.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

What's hap'nin...

Yesterday we tore the wallboard off the walls to the 3rd bedroom. I had spent several days getting stuff out of the room and creating space to work. I still have more of that to do but I needed to do the wallboard on the weekend while Diane was here to help. When the job is done there will be 2 bedrooms and each will have a walk-in closet. The remodel will (hopefully) make the place more salable. The 3 bedroom over & under closet arrangement was a bit too much on the funky side.

I went to Home Depot this afternoon to buy some more storage containers, the plastic type with top flaps that interlock. I wanted a small shop vac for sucking ash out of the pellet stove when we clean it but the choices were a $110 one and a $26 one. $110 was more than I cared to pay and the $26 one didn't look up to the job. It had only a non-woven fabric bag for a filter. I'm sure fine ash would go right through that. I checked Sears and they only had a cheap one.

As long as I was t the mall I decided to check the new Steve & Barry's store. It is aimed at the younger crowd, a lot of sweats & tees with logos etc. but they were having their grand opening celebration. For the occasion they had priced everything in the store at $8.98. Yup, everything. I didn't need any clothes but when I saw a down jacket for $8.98... I bought it.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Campaign Coverage

Bill Clinton got it right when he told CNN reporter Jessica Yellin "You live for this. This hurts the people of South Carolina... the people don't care about this," he added. "They never ask about it". Recent media coverage of the democratic campaign reminds me of my high school days when provocateurs would run back and forth between two guys who were antagonists saying 'do you know what so & so said about you?' then run back to the first guy with the response until they got a full fledged fight going. Then they'd stand around the fighting pair in a circle yelling "fight, fight".

That's our media, a bunch of juvenile provocateurs.

I'm all for investigative journalism, for speaking truth to power in the tradition of Edward R. Murrow, but that is not what these people are doing. They are engaging in petty muck raking for the purpose of promoting controversy because it makes 'good TV' (or radio, even NPR's On-Point is guilty) that pumps up ratings. It's time our media grew up and stopped promoting controversy solely for its entertainment value.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Flip-Flop Weather

After getting near record snow in December and into the first few days of January it turned warm. REALLY WARM! At least two days have broken the records for high temperature on that date. Yesterday's low was higher than the previous record high for the day. The snow is virtually gone. Today it is raining off and on with very high winds. If we have any snow left when the next cold front comes through, it will be very little.

The winds took down a cedar that was in our back fence line. It didn't hit the house and caused no damage to anything else. A gust of wind popped a pane of glass from one of the upstairs window sashes and I had to put in a piece of plywood as a temporary sash while I make repairs. The windows on the second floor are all as old as the building (1876) and the glazing compound was all dried out. I'm working on re-glazing the old sashes but haven't gotten to the second floor ones yet. I guess that should be a priority project.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Watching the Debates/Thoughts about Obama

A couple of days ago we watched the back-to-back Republican & Democratic debates on ABC. Apparently from the NH polls since a lot of people were taken by Senator Obama's performance which seemed lackluster to me but watching them did clarify what bothers me about Obama.

When pressed about the 'change' he advocates, instead of making concrete proposals, he responded to the effect that his message inspires people to press for change and he will continue as president to inspire people with the result that the people will be empowered and change will be inevitable. His message is very short on what he has done or will do beyond inspiring people.

This notion that 'if everyone believes, it will happen' is what I call Tinker Bell politics. In the old Peter Pan movie when Tinker Bell is dying Peter looks out of the screen and pleads with the audience to clap saying if everyone believes and claps Tinker Bell will be well. Tinker Bell survived in the movie of course because the movie was following a script and the result was fixed on the film for all time even if no one in the audience clapped. The Bush administration has tried the same philosophy urging everyone to support his war plans and believe even when they are failing, contending that if only everyone would get behind the president it would work. Unfortunately in the real world there is no script and no future outcome is already frozen on film to be played back to reassure the skeptical that belief was justified. To allude to another movie, in Return of the Jedi when asked about the future Yoda replies that "the future is constantly in motion" meaning that it depends on what happens in the present. While belief that change is possible is indeed essential to changing the course of events, to change the direction events take requires more than belief, it requires effective action. We need a president who can not only inspire, but also write the script and direct the action.

When pressed further for an example of the change he advocates from his past record he presented his support for a bill that prevents lobbyists from buying meals for members of congress. As the moderator immediately pointed out however, the ban only applies to sit down meals. Members of congress can still accept meals while standing, so the net effect is that, in future, members will have to be served wine and hors d'oeuvres by lobbyists instead of soup or steak.

Presenting that slight of hand as a serious change strikes me as very Washington insider, old fashioned, political spin, BS. For all his charm and rhetoric, which is admittedly inspiring, I have yet to be convinced that Obama is the candidate who can or will take the action needed.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Oh the weather outside is frightful...

It has been snowing AGAIN! I sure picked the right year to buy a snow blower. I have used it almost every day since buying it and now I hear there is another winter storm on the West coast that is headed our way. The snow is already almost over the fence by the driveway. Today we also have cold. It got all the way up to 7°. It was below zero last night and will be again tonight. It will sound like the Grinch but "the thing I hate most" is the cold. Winter would be tolerable if the temperature never went below 20° but we can get as low as -40° around here and -20° is not at all unusual. It is cold days like this that 'almost' make me want to move South. OTOH I don't like heat over 85° either.