Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Happy Summer 2015!

The widest point of the Hudson river, frozen
Today the sun began its southward journey so the days are going to get progressively smaller, and this makes me unhappy as I enjoy the outdoors and sunlight. It's been a brutal, long winter here in the northeast; I had cabin fever and got sick of dealing with bad weather, the mountains of snow, slush, and bitter cold. I like all seasons, but this kind of winter would be fine if I didn't live and work where I do. 

Anyway, I also feel bad because it was one year ago to the day that I wrote my last post here. Of course lots has happened in one year's time, but didn't get around to posting. It also makes me realize, again, how fast time moves. I know time is relevant to the physical environment--did you see the movie Interstellar? it deals with this concept--but also its subjective nature as to how we experience it. They say as we get older time moves faster, damn it!

The Mid-Hudson bridge over a frozen river. Only a thin navigational line is kept open
Even though the sun is moving south, there's a lot of summer left and I intend to take advantage of it. I've got extra time--ha, time--as I decided to work less this summer, a lot less. And, when I work, I'll do mostly interesting stuff. I'm so lucky to be able to do this. I mean I sacrifice money for leisure and choose to not do work that's stressful. OK, I understand, realistically speaking 99.91% of the jobs people do aren't ideal, but there are huge variations in personal satisfaction, stress, and difficulty.

There have been many days since the better weather arrived around here that I've been taking day trips around the gorgeous Hudson valley, NY. I've put several thousand miles on my motorcycle already. Riding is more engaging experience, not only because there's more to do and watch for, but it's like being in a movie instead of watching it through a glass. Convertible/open air cars come close to this kind of experience. We bikers totally understand why dogs who ride in cars put their heads out of the window!

Speaking of dogs, I'm thinking of getting one. I've been approved by the local pound/shelter as a responsible person. But, it's is a big responsibility and I do like the freedom to roam around without having to come home by a particular time to take care of a pet. They're fun though and they're great companions, if they're trained and are kept in an conditions appropriate for their breed and needs. I'll let you know. I'm sort of postponing visiting the shelter, because I know I'll be tempted right away....

Awaiting for the solar company to finally get their act together and show me some progress. We've been going back and forth since February; everything, they say, is in order.... 

Here are a couple recent pictures from the annual Mermaid Parade in Coney Island. They hold the parade rain or shine on the closest Saturday to the summer solstice. It was a very humid, cloudy/rainy day this year.
It was a hot day...
 This is worth attending if you're in NYC; every year is different and fun for the whole family. Coney Island has been undergoing lots a transformation. It used to be a happening place many years ago, then if fell into tough times and much dilapidation. It has gotten a face lift in the last few years. I think it beats most other attractions by the sea in the tri-state area. OK, it's tacky, but so are the other places that cater to summer crowds. At least, CI doesn't pretend, and it has free access to the beach!
Less than a mile away on the eastern, Brighton Beach is now home to many Russians, Ukrainians and some other groups from the former Soviet Union.


Coney Island at night; it was a humid, foggy one. [click on the pictures to ..embiggen them]

Monday, June 23, 2014

Colorful Start of Summer 2014

Happy Summer Solstice and may all have  a great summer ahead. It was a beautiful weekend here in the northeast with great weather and events happening all over. The summer solstice fell on Saturday this year, so the longest day of the year had to spent outdoors as much as possible, especially with this gorgeous weather of temps in the 80s but with low humidity. 

Ah, Coney Island!

It looks like a parade of something...

Mermaids on land?!

Where are these two happy maidens going? Hey, nice conch!

They're looking for some good seamen

A mermanish and his four maids

I know spring and fall are also very pretty with their colors, but summer is colorful too. Part of it is colorful attitude I see in people. Longer days make more opportunities to do stuff outside. I think creating memories--even small ones--is what life is about. The more chances we have, the more creative we are, the better. Find opportunities every day to do something interesting, fulfilling, memorable.

I'll be back here this summer as I've dusted off my dslr, got a new zoom lens and will be shooting.  See ya soon.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Holidays, 2013!

Merry Xmas! There, I said it. And, happy holidays to all. This is a nice time of the year to be spent with friends and family, as there are several common days off. I hope you had a nice winter solstice (Dec. 21st). Festivus, Humanlight, New Year, Kwanza, and whatever else you desire to celebrate may all come with good times and health! Let's eat, drink, hang out with the good people around us, and enjoy.

Humans have tried to make sense of the natural world but in the absence of knowledge they made up stories about spirits, gods, and thought they knew the order of the universe through revelation. Slowly, we grew up--well, some people who asked questions, sought evidence, applied reason, and were able to revise in the face of conformity and tradition.

Why so many humans are still in the dark ages after dawn of the Enlightenment is amazing. We have a modern state, with relative stability, affluence, education & access to information, plus a good amount of scientific knowledge, and yet, so many choose to live by edicts and observations of small-minded ancestors of the bronze age!  Why isn't obvious that the god in the Bible, Koran, and any other "holy text" is so outdated.  It's so clear that what's in those books came from the mind of people who were ignorant, superstitious, homophobic, genocidal, misogynistic, slave holders, and fearful of nature.

It bothers me to high heaven when modern people have their opinions informed by those ancient texts. And, they draw some perverse morality from those. The vile rant of the clan leader of Duck Dynasty, the reactions of conservatives against same-sex marriage (the same cons who applaud Uganda's capital punishment for homosexuals), are all informed by passages in the Bible.  Ridiculous, simply ridiculous.

But, I love the federal judge's ruling that Utah's banning of same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. This is a strike at the heart of a very religious state and against the efforts of the Mormon church that has spend lots of money, even out of state, to defeat equal treatment under the law. It is about equality. Progressives aren't threatened by this change of tradition, only the conservatives are. 

Back in 2004, I wrote in this blog that there would be a clash between the progressive forces and the reactionary conservative/religious forces. I hoped that the former would prevail, and I'm happy to see that it's happening. Not at the pace I'd like, but we've come a long way in the last quarter of a century, indeed in some 10 years since I wrote that post.

So, let's celebrate our progress and look forward to a new year ahead when we can do much more; we do have to keep fighting for a system that delivers for the 99%, and for a society that promotes the good life, access to opportunity and conditions that allow for an individual to fulfill their own potential.



Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Spectacular Autumnal Colors on Full Display this Year in the Northeast

While the political world in our nation's capital is very dysfunctional these days, we're having a wonderful season here in the northeast. The weather has been great, with warm days and cool nights, but the most important aspect is the beautiful autumnal colors. It's shaping to be a great Fall this year.

I've been taking day trips in the surrounding areas, but I'm hoping this coming weekend I can drive up to the Berkshires in Massachusetts if the weather holds.  These pictures are from last weekend as I rode my motorcycle in Harriman Park, NY. The Seven Lakes Drive goes through some of the most gorgeous landscapes.

The Foliage Network has frequent reports on the leaf/color situation. As of Oct. 11th, we're in "high color" which is a tad below "peak color".  Depending on the weather, dramatic changes can take place within a couple days. So get out and enjoy, especially if you live in an area that offer such a spectacular natural display. The northeast US is great for this. We're so lucky, for the most part, because there have been several years that the display isn't as magnificent due to weather conditions. Sometimes the leaves fall before they go through much of color change, or that the colors aren't as bright and diverse.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Summer's Gone (for practical purposes) But Memories are Reinforced by Pictures (isn't what many pictures do?)

Marconi Beach by the Atlantic ocean where erosion from last year's storm ate lots of the cliffs. The Marconi station is long gone, swallowed by the sea, but the pavilion was removed earlier this year as it hung close to the cliff. Cape Cod has been shaped by the retreating glaciers (23,000 and 19,000 thousand years ago) and by the ocean currents and the fierce winds.

Very few places on the Eastern seaboard of the US get to experience sunsets over water, but Cape Cod has it. This is Rock Harbor beach at high tide. At low tide you can walk for a mile or more from this vantage point.

These "trees" mark the channel into the harbor but it's passable only when the tide is high enough.

Rock Harbor



Lots of places to kayak all over the cape. You'd need several summers to say you've done most of them.

Some of the rustbuckets in Wellfleet harbor. Fishing and clam harvesting is a staple on the cape.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Summer 2013 Continued... [I don't know how I got into politics here]

The widest point of the Hudson river. There are many places around where the night sky is visible as light pollution isn't bad.

This summer is fleeting as far as I'm concerned. If I were a lifeguard, I'd be having the winter blues about now. OK, I promised myself to take any opportunity available this August, which just started, to do something interesting and create memories. Yes, we are who we are to a great extend by the experiences we have and our memories. Even if all else remained the same--disposition, character, intelligence, etc--without the particular memories I have, I wouldn't be the same person, for better or worse.

Anyway, I've been engaging in all sorts of projects and thus haven't taken many pictures, which is one of my favorite hobbies.  But, I do keep my eye on the surroundings and I make frames in my mind. Much of photography is about framing. The focus, the emphasis, the point of view. 

From a recent gallery exhibit in Beacon, NY, titled "the XXX show" or something like that.
Photography has changed humanity, because this technology has enabled us to capture moments that many can't be replicated. A camera can be seen as a time machine. Recording, documenting, and ultimately reinforcing our memories.

The visual often has a greater impact on people's minds. Human rights abuses, civil rights movements, natural phenomena & catastrophes, for example, sensitize a greater number of people.

It's the generations after the late 1980s or more likely the 1990s that have their lives documented so much in pictures and videos, oh, and emails, and other social media. The older among us know that it wasn't always like this. We don't have many pictures from our earlier life. I grew up with film photography. I learned the art working with a totally manual camera--all the settings had to be adjusted depending on the conditions--which meant I had to understand what aperture, speed, ISO, clouds, sun, flash, etc, all did. The film had 24-36 frames and it had to be developed; no instant feedback nor gratification. 

It got to be very expensive and my Olympus SLR was getting old. Needed new expensive lenses. I dropped this hobby for many years until the new digital technology arrived.

I got my first digital camera in the early 2000s, and a good one (for its time) in 2004 while working for a US presidential candidate in Cleveland, Ohio, as part of the media team. Once I made the transition I was elated I could take up my old hobby and enjoy it even more. So many more options and possibilities. Easier to share too.

We've heard how the TV played a major role in the election of 1960. By that time almost every household in the US had a TV set. That period marked the transition from party politics to media politics. The candidates increasingly relied on TV images to get their message out and attract votes. The party power decreased as a result. Nowadays, it's the candidates themselves that raise most of the money, decide when to run and on what issues. 

Under the George Washington bridge on the Jersey side
By the way, one of the problems in our system is gridlock, divided government is often the norm, that is, different party blocks control power; one the Executive and another the Congress (or one of its Houses) so there's gridlock. 

What's stranger is that the members who can cause dysfunction come from areas of the country that are far from the mainstream. For example, the Senate Minority leader--whose stated priority has been to make Obama a failure under any cost--comes from very conservative Kentucky. His political fortunes depend on representing this brand of backward conservatism, because the votes for his (re)election come from there. As conservative as he is, he'll have an even more conservative [I say, a wingnut tea partier] challenger in the Republican primary!

I shouldn't have started on politics, but maybe there's no free will as Sam Harris (among others) contends, so I steered into the political sphere inadvertently.

The Bear Mountain Bridge I cross often

Looking south from Bear Mountain, NY. The Hudson river is very interesting!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Glorious Days of the Beginning of the 2013 Summer

There many things I like about the summer and one of them is the long days. I like it when I have to wear sunglasses past 8 pm! Even though it's been oppressively hot and humid the last several weeks, the summer days are enjoyable. I have more free time to do so many activities that create worth-while memories. 

I haven't been keeping up with this blog, but I've got lots of new pictures from some new places and some new places. If I like something, it doesn't get old for me. I'm there, immersed, experiencing, living the moment.

There's time to read books, peruse scientific journals and posts, listen to favorite podcasts, and work lots around the house. As a homeowner there's no perfect state--always there's something that needs fixing, improving, and just being busybody around the house.

Oh, the earth just reached the farthest (perihelion) distance from the sun in its orbit. But we're having the hottest days of the year. I know. It's not the distance but the angle of the rays hitting the surface. Our planet is wobbling like a drunkard, some 23 degrees off the axis. Oh, and the moon is going away at about one inch a year. Even though most of the galaxies are moving away from each other, our neighbor Andromeda is on a collision course with our milkyway.

Before I become too philosophical, let me show some pictures from this summer so far.

New York harbor, looking north. Lady Liberty on the left and the new WTC tower almost complete.
The above picture is from a recent (and almost frequent) sailing around the harbor. This is one experience that won't get "old". The harbor is busy and this picture doesn't include the areas of Brooklyn and Staten Island. 

There are strong currents with the tides. The navigation channel that goes up to Albany is deep, 50 feet and more. Yet, outside of it, the waters are shallow. We're probably floating on 12 feet. Even by Coney Island it's 12-18 feet. And, yes, there are lots of wide and high waves past the Verrazano bridge.

The Main Stage of the Clearwater festival in June 2013.
The two-day Clearwater music festival was well attended, even though its pricey--some $80 a day--at the Croton Point park. Lots of music, and, as expected, progressive activism. I saw several bands and of course a national treasure--Pete Seeger. I feel fortunate to see him 3-4 times a year, performing. He lives nearby, a few miles north by the Hudson river.

Clearwater Festival
Speaking of the Hudson and summer, here's what I see many times a month as I go down by the river, a stone's throw from my house:

Notice the bench were I sit frequently (bottom left)

Hudson sunset at the widest point of the river
On the closest Saturday of the Summer solstice, the annual Coney Island Mermaid parade takes place. This event began 32 years ago as an improvised event. It kept growing. Now it has grown to some one thousand marchers and 700.000+ spectators. There were fears that it wouldn't happen this summer as CI was devastated by Sandy. But, it did happen and here are some pictures.

This is a fun event for all ages. Get your shades, lots of sunscreen, comfy shoes and loose clothing, and enjoy the colors, the costumes, the socio-political commentary, and inhale some ocean breeze. Coney Island is getting better I think. Give it a try.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Day At Coney Island in March 2013

Devastating storm Sandy hit Coney Island particularly hard. That was many months ago and the damage is still visible as many establishments are still boarded up. Yet, there's life as I discovered a few days ago.  

Coney Island has changed over the decades, but more rapidly in the last 10 years as more modern-looking buildings, new businesses move in replacing the very old and crusty one. 

I never lived near CI so I don't know what's better. For most of us, CI is a destination a few times a year. Yes, it's nice to see the very old and "traditional" but I don't know what experience the people who live there have. To put it another way, I do find it interesting when, say, visiting remote village somewhere where its inhabitants basically have a daily life unchanged for hundreds of years. I never assume they should play the part or remain as such for the tourists. It should be their choice.

As for Coney Island, there has been an ongoing debate in the last decade as to how to proceed with revitalizing the area. For many decades CI didn't change much.  [Here's a link to CI pictures through the ages]

The CI museum and place of odd attractions (it's the blue building with the face on it) has been one of the few old edifices still operational. It's worth the small price of admission to see artifacts and an occasional freak show.

CI is in Brooklyn, which is one of the 5 boroughs that comprise New York City. Yes, NYC isn't just Manhattan, but Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Staten Island.

Brighton Beach
About a mile east, it's the Brighton Beach community, where a strong population of Russians, and I suspect many others from the old Soviet Union, have settled. Most of the language heard on the boardwalk and in the adjacent streets is not English. The area under the elevated train looks very similar to other neighborhoods in Queens (that I'm familiar with) like Jackson Heights and Astoria where there is a strong ethnic flavor.

A portion of the boardwalk in Coney Island, looking West.
On a good summer day, especially during holidays and weekends the boardwalk is mobbed by people. It's many miles long and connects CI and BB.

Brooklyn is the westernmost part of Long Island [see map]. I can't say I know this borough well, even though I spent many years of my youth in Queens and the rest of the "island." I intent to revisit some of my old haunts this summer, and venture all the way to the "forks", the easternmost part of LI. It's a different country over there, though it's very familiar to me. Staten Island is the most ..remote borough and the oddity in NYC as it leans Republican.

Luna Park opened for the season a few days ago. Very thin attendance though.

Next to the new Luna Park there are a few old establishments for cheap entertainment

The beach, which is still free and open year round. I expected much more beach erosion. Sandy Hood looms in the distance.