Friday, August 22, 2014

This Season's Best Picture

Burlington, VT

The water In the background is Sloop Cove, Valcour Island, New York. It is one of our favorite places. I love this picture.  I'm going to name it as my snapshot of the year.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Zoom Out, A Life Lesson

 South Burlington, VT

We're visiting Jen again.  The past several day's weather makes it feel like late September.  This morning is a splendid day, clear, cold.   The valley fog in the picture below shows the view from the airport.  This weather puts me in a good mood and makes me wax philosophical.

The valley fog follows the Winooski River out through Exxex, and through the mountain pass visible on the horizon.   How do I know that?   It is because I know that rivers always do (and must) flow through gaps in the mountains.  In the valley, you can always find a river, highways, local roads, railroads, power lijnes, water/gas pipes, communications links, and lots of houses.  That is why river valley floods are so devastating.

I didn't always know that, because I hadn't thought about it.  I was taught to do that years ago by a young flight instructor, half my age.  We were flying one morning on a day like this.  We were on the other side of the lake near Plattsburg, NY, and ready to head back to Burlington.  The instructor then covered up all the instruments, and said, "OK Dick, how do you find your way back to BTV?"

Being a sailor, and knowing Burlington primarily as a port of call, I peered at the lake trying to locate Appletree point, and Shelburne Point.  I couldn't see them.   Exasperated at my failure, the instructor said, "DICK  Where is your head?  There are two huge mountains on the horizon and you know well that BTV lies between them."  Whoops, I failed because my attempt to concentrate made me zoom in rather than zoom out.

I believe that to be natural.  When people need to concentrate, they tend to focus in rather than out.  [I might be totally wrong to attribute this to all people.  Maybe it's only a minority of people.  Post a comment if you disagree.]   Sometimes, zooming in is the right thing to do, sometime it's better to focus out.

Reading the account of the explorations of Samuel de Champlain, I learned that he was told by the natives that the area of Vermont shown in the above picture was mostly unpopulated. Imagine yourself a lone pioneer lost in that wilderness.  You need to find fresh water to survive. (Never mind that fresh water is plentiful in Vermont.  I'm just trying to make a point.)   You would need to be accustomed to zooming out to be aware of your environment.  The gap in the mountains is visible from up to 100 miles away, and you know that heading for that gap is guaranteed to lead you to a river.   My point is that the primitive man did not need science, or high intelligence to survive, but he did need the ability to zoom out and appreciate the big picture.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Jen Had A Fit

Burlington, VT
A package arrived for us. When Jen looked at it, she thought, "WTF." It contained 20 tiny bits of plastic, 1/4" x 1/4" x 1/2". The invoice said $36; $1.75 each bit!!! She thought that we must have been hoaxed or gypped or were just plain stupid. Not so.
There's a real story here. For nearly 10 years, we struggled with methods of marking the lengths of our anchor chain.
We started with cloth tags, sewn on. They didn't last and they were hard to see at times.
We tried plastic wire ties. They didn't last and they were hard to see at times.

We. Tried painted markings. They didn't last and they were hard to see at times.

Nothing worked well. All this time, I was aware that one could buy commercial chain markers made of bits of plastic. But they were far too expensive. Now, after ten years of trying all alternatives, I threw in the towel and bought some of the expensive bits. You can see a picture of some of them installed below. Time will tell. Will they work or will they not last and be hard to see?

Here's our marking scheme. We mark our 5/16" chain every 20 feet, and use Red and White markers.
20 W
40 WW
60 WWW
100 R
120 RR
140 RRR
160 RRRR
180 to the bitter end: unmarked.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Where People In Each State Were Born

I just found an amazing article from the NYT.  It is just data, no editorializing.  Looking at that data for different states is extremely informative about the differing personalities of our 50 states.  I recommend it to all of you.  Spend 20 minutes browsing those graphs for different regions.  It will make you more intelligent and better informed.

Just to get you started, look at and compare NY and NC and VT.  The differences and the timing of those differences are startling.  I think that those differences also have an enormous effect on the culture and the politics of those two states.   Then check out your own state.  Fascinating.

Kudos NYT.   Great journalism.

Read it here.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Why Blog?

Burlington, Vermont

Why do I blog so persistently?   It doesn't make us rich; in fact we've never earned a penny in income from this blog.   It takes work, about 30 minutes per post.   I'm sure you can guess the answer -- because I enjoy it.   Nobody would write so much stuff unless they like doing so.

Another reason is that from time to time, I get a nice little note like the one below from a reader. (his name/ and address I redacted)  To know that my blog makes other people happy is sufficient reward.
Just want to tell you/remind you how much I get from, and enjoy your blog. Perhaps some days you write and wonder "does anybody read?" "does anybody have interest?" I'm here to tell you...year after year...I benefit both from your "tales of the road" as well, by far, as your examination of things, of life, of reality.

Well done, well done! Thank you!

I'm certain you've heard this from others; those of us who have not embarked on such a path (yet) are "stacking away fuel" to do it, fed by the real-ness of what you write, and remind me/us of. Thank you, Dick Mills.
A secondary question is "How do you do it?" and I don't mean the technical details.  Well, perhaps because of my training as an engineer, or perhaps because of my personality, I'm pretty observant of thing and of people around me.   I observe, and I wonder about things I see or hear or read, and I form independent theories or opinions. I'm a skeptic at heart. The majority of my posts are based on those observations.

A minority of the posts, simply chronicle where we are and what we're doing.  Those are of interest to family, friends, and loyal readers.  We need to do that to keep people involved, but if that was the only thing that I wrote on the blog, readership would fall swiftly.

Of course, Libby and I have the advantage of living an exotic life style.   If we lived in a condo and watched TV, we would see and do fewer interesting things.