Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Referring To a Person In the Room With A Pronoun

Apparently this is bad. I did not know this until I was about 22, and my friend Helen pointed it out, but not very clearly. I must have used the word "she" to refer to her when she was within hearing distance, and she said to me, "'She' is the cat." I probably stared at her blankly and she said that when she was a kid, her father would chide her and her siblings for referring to her mother as 'she', specifically if the mother was present in the room. He would say, "'She' is the cat; that's your mother you're talking about."

And if you think about it, he violates the rule in his reprimand by calling his wife 'that'. Whatever.

I told Helen I was sorry to hear she was beaten as a child and blithely lived my life little changed with respect to this usage until I started hearing more and more people speak about it. (About four or five years later when her brother Tom started working where I do, I asked him about this. He said he remembered something about this but wasn't sure).

In any event, it seems that it is rude to refer to anyone present in the room with a pronoun. So if Cindy were in the room and I told Mark that "Cindy just went to Cindy's house to get Cindy's camera bag," in stead of "Cindy went to her house to get her camera bag," I would sound dorky but I would be following the rule.

If you are reading this and YOU have experience with this odd socio-linguistic phenomenon, please post something about it here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Why Vaclav’s Hovel?

Why Vaclav’s Hovel?

Vaclav Havel is a playwright, the last president of Czechoslovakia and first president of the Czech Republic, and a lifelong fan and friend to Frank Zappa, one of my favorite musicians.

He said:

"I understand, especially when one is looking at me from a distance, that I might seem as some kind of fairy-tale hero who banged his head against the wall until the wall fell, and then reigned. It makes me blush slightly, because I know my mistakes. On the other hand, I do not ridicule it because people need these kinds of stories."

As a tip of the hat to the Dada of Frank Zappa, and the wonderful, surreal, unexpected event of a playwright becoming a president, I created the name one day for a sheep shed, and later for my email addresses and blog names. It now signifies all of my creative efforts.

Vaclav’s Hovel is a tribute to the idea that people can be more than what we expect, that they are not bound by titles, education, class, background, race, and so on. It is a tribute to banging one's head against the wall until the wall falls, for sometimes it takes that effort. It is also a tribute to the memory of Frank Zappa.

If Vaclav Havel ever reads this and takes offense to my use of his name as such, I apologize. I meant it only with the greatest of affection for him and Mr. Zappa.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The MacGyver Award

If I own a real hatchet, I could not find it. So I grabbed a lath hatchet and packed it for our camping trip. I also purchased firewood to take with me. I figured I could rive some kindling, using the hatchet, out of the purchased wood.

When we got to the campsite I saw that some previous inhabitants left some wood, and there was a foot-and-a-half round section of a red oak or similar hardwood tree. How would I split that into nice pieces for the fire? With the hatchet.

The handle broke after one attempt at trying to split the section, so now I no longer have a hatchet, but now a small piece of firewood and a wedge. Do I panic? Get upset? No. (See the movie The Edge with Anthony Hopkins; most people die of shame when lost in the woods, his character argues).

I drove the detached head like a wedge into the log with another piece of hardwood.

With it set firmly into the wood, I drop the log and wedge to a large rock, wedge-end first.

This drove the wedge into the wood. Is it lost?

No. Now I drive a piece of wood into the crack.

This drives the two halves further apart, frees the wedge, and gives me more usable firewood.
I did this repeatedly to the log until I had about eight pieces of firewood.

The lesson? Learn to improvise. It impressed the hell out of my son, and made for a much nicer fire that lasted long enough for our trip.

He might actually admire me now!

More Lake George Pictures

One of the sightseeing vessels that ply the waters.

A duck family visited. Did they steal my bread earlier?

Sunrise on Father's Day.

Dinner the night before.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Best Vacation Picture Yet

Speaks for itself.

Father's Day at Lake George

Finn and I took a trip to Lake George for Father's Day. We first drove to Fischer's Marina where we launched the canoe and headed for Long Island State Park, which is in the middle of the lake.

We arrived at the marina about 2PM and unloaded the car.

With the outrigger attached, we headed for the island.
The outrigger might look silly but it worked well. It canceled the roll that annoys some about canoes. It did not stop the pitch but it did keep us a little more level when we took the wake of other boats. Lake George is no small place and the power boats there give little care for small craft like a canoe, so this was a must. About 17 years ago I made this same trip with my friend Carmelo and we had a hell of a time with a lot more weight and a choppier day.

About 45 minutes later, first mate Finnegan looks for our campsite.
The campsite numbers are on the docks. Each campsite has 'half' of a dock.
We have completely unloaded our gear. Time to register and set up.
Here are some views of our home of 20 hours.

The tradition of burning marshmallows continues.

Zonked out after half an hour of potty jokes in the tent.
How to make good coffee at camp: that's an MSR Pocket Rocket for a stove.
Finn is up and ready for a swim and some fishing.

After that we're warming up while the bacon sizzles.

Breakfast is served minus the bread that the animals stole when I carelessly left it out.
Time to leave but we will be back.
That was a tough paddle back to the marina. Finn was out for the whole trip home (2.5 hours).
All of these photos were taken with my Blackberry.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Helping Clearwater Cleanup Camp: IBM Centennial of Service Celebration

IBM Celebrates 100 years as a company this year (today, actually). Yesterday, 900 IBMers in the Hudson Valley alone were taking part in volunteer projects like ours. I participated in a project with 100 other IBMers where we helped clean up Clearwater's camp at University Settlement, just south of the city of Beacon.

Here a Clearwater staff member explains the tasks for our team - making rain barrels and a flow-through planter - and the importance of controlling storm run-off.

All volunteers muster in the morning.

"The White House," where Clearwater's offices are on the property.

The finished rain barrels.

Some of the volunteers work on designing the planter.

Lunch time.

We were entertained by some of the talented musicians from the staff of Clearwater and The Mystic Whaler.

A traditional canoe hangs in one of the buildings.

Retired and renowned IBMer Roger McKnight showed up to snap pictures.

Carrying at HUGE canoe. Many hands make light work.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

More Fun With PVC

PVC is Lego for adults. I decided I wanted an outrigger for my canoe to stabilize it and give it more buoyancy. There are plenty of plans for outriggers, one site that sells them, Cabela's has them - but I had to do it myself. I created these pontoons out of irrigation pipe and tested them today in the river - they hold their air and seem like they are going to work. I will get to try them on the canoe for a real test, soon.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


They're small, but he caught 'em all by himself.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Sloop Clearwater

The Hudson River Sloop Clearwater tied up at Beacon Harbor.


Beef kidney - yet another weird pattern that wigs me out.

Certain patterns in nature weird me out. I recently learned that this is called "symmetrophobia". I first noticed that regular patterns in nature bothered me as a kid whenever I saw a honeycomb or a magnification of an insect's compound eye. One day as a bag boy in a local grocery store as a teenager something came down the conveyor that freaked me out. I picked up the item, noticed what it looked like, and dropped it. "What the hell is that?!" I asked. The customer responded, "Tripe!". I refused to touch it again. I made the man bag it himself. He laughed.

The article I reference indicates that I:
may become anxious in any situation that is symmetrical and may actively rearrange [my] home and work environment so that they are asymmetrical. In extreme cases, [I] may completely withdraw from society as [I] become completely unable to function in a symmetrical world.

and furthermore:

All phobias are the result of a real-life traumatic incident in an individual’s life. Thereafter, that traumatic experience is automatically and consistently associated with symmetry.

but I ain't buying it. I just get weirded out by the stuff.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Memorial Day

We got things together in time to invite a few people at the last minute for a Memorial Day cookout.

Before people arrived we had to prep food and grills. I took a small bench I made and converted it to something useful for barbecuing.

The marble top allows us to use the extra, little grill to do things like roasting peppers or small batches of shrimp, while larger animals can be done on the bigger grill.

Counterclockwise around the table from lower left you see our guests, Capt. Robert, Loredana, Mike (Cara's boyfriend), Cara, Finn, Lasse, and Jennifer.

Jennifer serves up Tuscan style chicken, which is spatchcocked and grilled under a brick.

Capt. Robert and Loredana.