Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Berry-Pickin' Time

One relatively blustery afternoon we decided to head to the next valley over and do us some berry pickin'.

This valley was too shallow to hold a lake for more than a few hundred thousand years, so instead we have nothing but a fertile valley perfect for farming.

Although there were still a few strawberries on the vine, we decided to go for the rasp:

I wasn't keeping a real close tally, but I'd guess that the ratio of berries picked to berries eaten was someplace around the 20:1 ratio--not too bad, really, considering how many we ended up taking home.

Here's the best reason to pick raspberries when it's a bit breezy: the yellowjackets stay closer to home:

My camera was about five inches away from the wee beasites when I took this picture. It was hard to keep the nest in the center of the frame because of the breeze. The nest was pretty deep in the bushes, too.

After we paid for the berries, we got ourselves some ice cream and sat on a swing in front of the store for a spell

I love this shot. The roof had all these little fan thingies. I'm guessing they're there to prevent humongous snow slides in the winter. Anyone know if that's true?

I can see why Heidi loves farmland. Although, truth be told, I'm happy just to visit.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Rainy Day

When the rain came to the lake, it came fast. The sky would darken before the clouds would arrive.

As you can see, it worried my daughter quite a bit.

The storm came from the north. Here's two shots taken about an hour apart.

It was pretty interesting watching the solid white wall of water sweeping down the lake. And it rained hard.

Forcing us to play inside. We had Games (Skip-Bo, Mille Bornes, Yahtzee, and Cadoo) and DVD's (Arthur, Ghostbusters, Galaxy Quest, Ghost Rider, and The Holiday)--but sometimes a well-placed set of stairs was all that was needed:

Tomorrow: our boat ride.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Solids, Liquids, and Gasses

...were arrayed quite pleasingly at the lake.

It was nigh unto impossible to take a bad shot.

This one's my desktop image now:

I could have filled my camera with images like these. And these are just a few of the ones I took. Especially at sunset, it was gorgeous.

One evening, I spotted our neighbor sitting in his Adirondack chair, camera in hand. He's had his cabin on this lake since 1975. "Does it ever get old?" I asked him. "These sunsets? Do you ever get tired of them?"

He chuckled. "Never."


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Portland and Starburst

That's the closest I could get my daughter to the proper terminology for right and left on a boat.

I'm back from vacation and wish I was still there. I bought a lottery ticket, and if I had won I think I would have called the owners and asked them how much would it cost for them to just not come back.

At any rate, I think I'll post a few pics per day, making this the worlds longest vacation slide show.

That's the view from just above the dock, stitched together by the free software that came with my camera. I think I'll repost it after I photoshop it. And if I wasn't such a Luddite, I might even put this picture up as a masthead for the blog.
testing the waters
Took this one about ten minutes after we arrived. They couldn't wait to get into the water. I just noticed they aren't wearing their swimming shoes. Those are now required footwear in the finger lakes, due to the growing infestation of razor-sharp zebra mussels.

Outside of that, the water was great.

The water was about 15' deep at the float. The lake goes down about 240' at its deepest points, which starts about 50' further out. The lake's about a mile wide here.

They're both excellent swimmers, but they liked playing with the noodles. They invented dozens of different dives and falls.
the evening begins
We regularly swam right up to (and sometimes past) sunset. Sometimes the only way to get them out of the water, though, was the promise of S'mores around a campfire.

The firepit was a regular nighttime hangout. It came with a thick plywood cover. Our first night there, I waited until I was sure the fire was out, and I placed the cover over it, and went to bed.

The next morning, there was little but blackened bits of plywood lying on the scorched firebricks.
Oops. Luckily, the folks next door are the parents of a co-worker, and he had a nice piece of plywood that he cut down to replace the burnt one.

More pics later.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

You Can Never Stay Mad at Ice Cream

The kids and I will be at a secure, undisclosed Finger Lake for the next seven days, and I will be unavailable for comments. So I thought I would end this week with a few pictures of what I did last weekend.

My Uncle turned 80, so we all went down to his little town just outside of Pittsburgh for a party. My mom came up from Florida, and my brother went down from his Upstate NY home, along with his two youngest daughters.

That's my bro. As I've mentioned before, one of us got the looks, one of us got the brains.

He pissed me off quite a bit on this trip. On the way down to a place I've been to maybe three times in the past 15 years, I got lost. Actually, I didn't really get lost; Google Maps gave me the wrong directions. I called my cousin for help (I was just a few miles away from his house when this happened), but he didn't answer his phone, so I called my brother, who was staying with him.

ME: Is [Cousin] there?
HIM: Yes. What do you need?
ME: I need to speak to [Cousin]. Can you get him?
HIM: Is there something I can help you with?
ME: Yes. You can give the phone to [Cousin].

I had to explain to him that, had I been lost in upstate NY, I would certainly ask him for directions, but since I was a few miles from my cousin's house, I would prefer to ask him for directions. Why the hell can't he just do what I ask, just once in his life?

Enough about him. Let's move on.

That's m'uncle (it's how it's pronounced), macking on the fruit salad. I told him this is how I will always remember him.

Mom. This is the first time her hair's been its natural color since 1969. I still remember when she started dyeing it. That's another story.

My cuz and my daughter shooting hoops. She's four days short of two years younger than her brother, but only 1" shorter. I'm thinking scholarships already.

The morning before the party, my kids and my brother's kids were put to work slicing the buns for the cookout. My son remarked that he was only going to eat hamburgers, since the last time he had a hot dog he threw up. My daughter pointed out that he also threw up one time after eating ice cream, but still eats that. My son's response is the title of this post. It was either going to be the name of a blog post or a country and western song, and I'm not a songwriter.

It was quite breezy in the pavilion, and the plastic tablecloths were billowing up and blowing off the tables. The grownups were running around, jamming thumbtacks into the sides of the tables, trying to keep them from blowing away, but the wind would quickly rip the thin plastic away from the tacks. We started looking for more tacks, but then I saw my son, calmly poking holes in the tablecloth at regular intervals, allowing the air to escape, and keeping the tablecloths on the tables. I'm thinking scholarship already.

I wonder if Harvard has a water balloon team?
I discovered that I had a plethora of relatives.

Here we are assembling for the family photo.

See if you can spot the Pirate.The white-haired gentleman in the chair is m'uncle Roy. He's had some physical problems, but he's still quite a charmer.
But these were my favorite relatives there:

They're so white. But I love 'em.

See ya in a week.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Blame It on Jeff Zaslow: Why Modern Reporting Sucks

Jeffrey Zaslow
c/o The Wall Street Journal

Dear Mister Zaslow:

I have been a critic of modern reporting techniques* for several decades, and I have noticed a trend among those whose job it is to interpret and disseminate the events of the day. As the years have gone by, reporters are increasingly disinclined to objectively evaluate and filter the news in a dispassionate, disinterested fashion, and more likely to simply repeat the 'talking points' of a particular person or organization. Further, reporters also seem to go out of their way to grab an easy 'hook,' a person, action or event that they feel encapsulates the zeitgeist, regardless of how accurate that hook is.

In other words, I'm seeing less and less skepticism, and more and more laziness in the newsroom. This laziness and desire to titillate the audience by reporters is reflected (or perhaps spawned by) the former reporters who have risen to the positions of columnists and pundits, such as you.

Mister Zaslow, I have finally discovered the root of this laziness, and thought I would share it with you.

The fundamental cause of this sad state of affairs in our nations newsrooms is:


You, Jeff Zaslow, are the reason modern reporting sucks.

I have come to that conclusion by using the same criteria that you used in your recent column placing the blame for self-absorbed college students squarely at the feet of Fred Rogers from Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, namely: taking something the man said, willfully misinterpreting it while ignoring everything else the man said and did that was contrary to the point you are trying to make. The main difference between us is that your jumping-off point is something someone else said about the man, while I'm just using my own observations.

Let's take a look at this column, shall we?

First, you conflate the borderline racist** ramblings of a Professor of Finance at one university with a study led by a psychology prof at another. You mention neither the context of Prof. Chances' remarks, nor the name of either the study, nor the lead professor. Why bring one professor's name into it, and not the other? Was this a deliberate attempt to juxtapose a scholar and a scholarly study, or just poorly-vetted writing? Was this a scholarly opinion, or just a rant from a bitter man? If it was the former, why no attribution? If the latter, why take such pains to surround the remarks with the trappings of academia?

Next, you have Prof. Chance damning the man with faint praise, saying "he's representative of a culture of excessive doting." How? In what way did Mister Rogers do this? Because he ended his program by telling children they're special? Does this then mean that every stroke of good fortune, every crisis avoided, every Bingo game won between 1940 and 1958 should be attributed to Edward R. Murrow, who ended his programs with the phrase "Good night, and good luck?"

Later in the column, you write:
On the Yahoo Answers Web site, a discussion thread about Mr. Rogers begins with this posting: "Mr. Rogers spent years telling little creeps that he liked them just the way they were. He should have been telling them there was a lot of room for improvement. ... Nice as he was, and as good as his intentions may have been, he did a disservice."
Great. Now you're quoting a semi-anonymous poster on an open website to back your claim. Were all the other comments in the discussion as disparaging? What was the question asked? I just spent 10 minutes trying to find which of the dozens of Mister Rogers questions on the site you were referring to, with no luck. Out of curiosity, why didn't you include the ones who posted comments about the tattoos on his arms that his sweaters covered? Those comments are just as illuminating and have the same degree of factual information as the one you featured.

It's astounding to me how tremendously you misinterpreted the man and what he did. Later on in the column, you question how wise of a decision it is for adults to be overly familiar with children, specifically: children calling adults by their first name. Come on, now, sir--did you notice that his television program was NOT called Fred's Neighborhood?

Similarly, you then quote from a Manhattan psychiatrist who encourages parents to "talk about their passions and interests; about politics, business, world events." On nearly every single episode of his program, Mister Rogers would either have an adult come on the set, or go on location, and give a demonstration about the adult's passions, interests, or business.

My God, Mister Zaslow, have you ever actually watched an episode of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood? Did you ever hear the man talk about children? Fred Rogers did not dote excessively on children. He did not play to the whims of a child. You misinterpreted the mans gentleness as weakness; his willingness to accept a child as he or she is for permissiveness. Neither is the case. He talked about responsibility; and more importantly, he demonstrated it with his actions. He would devote a weeks' worth of programs to topics such as discipline.

He had certain expectations of children, and he let them know what they were. In return, he would deliver exactly what he promised to deliver, and he would do it with gentleness and good humor. He also had expectations of adults, especially parents. One of those expectations was that a parent would watch the program with their child; he never envisioned his program, or any television show, as a babysitter. I imagine that idea apalled him.

Yet, there you go, creating a pop-culture hook upon which we can now hang some blame. Problem kids are the fault of Mister Rogers. Oh, sure we parents had some hand in it too, but it's really that guy in the sweater's fault. Did you know he was a Navy Seal in Viet Nam, too? Oh, sure--that's why he wore the sweaters. His arms were covered in tattoos.

It's already starting to circulate, Mister Zaslow. Fox News did a bit on it. Use the Google and you can see bunches of bloggers all chiming in on it, with so many of them parroting and agreeing with you. And even though Prof. Chance has gone on record stating he has no qualifications to make such claims, it's too late. The noise machine has picked it up, which means it will join such disproven talking points as
with a certain group of lazy, fear-filled people when they need to make a point about America's youth.

And all of it is your fault.

Wow, it really is nice to have someone to blame for this. Well, it's nice for me.


The Balloon Pirate

*By this, I mean that I watch a lot of TV.
**Or maybe this, too is your fault. Either way, your paraphrasing his comments on "Asian-born students...accept[ing] any grade they're given" seems to be just on the PC side of classifying them as 'a hard-working bunch of little yellow people.'

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Spin and Shoot

One of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite movies is unavailable on youtube.

The movie is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and the scene is the pentultimate moment in the film.

So I'll have to use words instead of pictures right now to describe it.

Butch and Sundance are eating at a little cafe in Bolivia, when a shot rings out. They've been discovered, and the local police are out in force to get them. Almost all of their guns and ammo are hanging on their horses, so Butch runs out to get it, while Sundance provides cover.

Sundance, at least in this movie, is an expert marksman, fast, and deadly, and the two men rush out to get the ammo. As Butch heads for the horses, Sundance goes out and covers him.

A bullet hits near him, and he spins and shoots, and down goes a man. Another bullet. Spin and shoot. And another. And another. And another. And Sundance spins and shoots. Diving this way, dodging that, spinning and shooting.

Spinning and shooting.

As anyone who's seen the film knows, it's not enough. There's more bullets, more targets, more of them than there is of him, and it ends badly. He was doing everything he could, and it wasn't enough. Too many targets, not enough time.

Right now, I'm trying very hard not to relate to Sundance.

It would be easy to do. I've got targets everywhere I turn. More than I think I can handle right now. And the realization that I got here through my own decisions.

Spin, shoot. Spin, shoot.

Self-pity comes easy. Playing the victim would absolve me of my role in all of this. Except that's not true. Or, I could spend my days kicking myself for getting myself into this situation--which comes even easier for me.

I'm trying to steer a third course: I'm trying to believe I'm doing enough. That I have enough in me, and enough external support that I will be able to work through this. A hard part of this is the actual asking for help. After all, Sundance didn't ask for help.

And look where that got him.

All this is my way of saying that I've got a lot on my plate right now, and so my blogging time may be even more sporadic than before. But I'm not going anywhere.

Just spinning and shooting for a while.