• Overlayers

    I just got back from the Canal Museum’s Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon, and am now waiting for our snow/non-snow weather event to come down.

    Things have been pretty quiet around here otherwise, though we did host the CAT holiday party last weekend, and saw If Beal Street Could Talk, followed by a stop at Bonn Place, with John and Donna last night. (Tonight we’re seeing the new RBG movie with Shari and Rick –two movies in a row!)

    What have I been up to? I’ve been practicing and playing my cello, doing some reading and historical research — I’ve been on a “history of Bethlehem” kick lately, and have been obsessed with the old settlement at Christian’s Spring — and have also been working on an updated map of the trails at Walking Purchase Park.

    This map has been long overdue, but I’ve been waiting on the trail guys to finish their reconfiguration/re-blazing/renaming project. They’re pretty close to done now, trail blazes all over the place with the new names posted, so I went up and photo-documented the trails and then re-did the trail maps. I’m not too happy with some of the choices they made, but hey — it’s not my circus anymore.

    I also downloaded some old aerial photos of the Valley, taken about 1938. I took one that showed our neighborhood and part of Sals, georeferenced it, and put it on my map as a partly transparent overlay. For some reason the photo looked almost like hieroglyphics when I zoomed in, at other times like a blowup of some still from German Expressionist cinema, and in the end seemed just plain creepy. The overlay was almost like a ghost.

  • Resolve To Stop Procrastinating

    Hi! I’m back! Welcome to 2019!

    I’m sitting in the living room right now, listening to the radio on a rainy day — WXPN has a program going in right now, “50/50,” where every Saturday afternoon (for 50 weeks) they play the songs from a different year. Today’s year is 1979, a weird and transitional one musically, and we’ve heard everything from punk and New Wave, to disco, to what eventually became good old classic rock. An interesting mix.

    Some Lists:

    Places We’ve Been This Year

    • Montreal with John & Donna
    • Jamestown and Colonial Williamsburg, VA
    • Durham, NC to visit Emmi & Kyle
    • The Adirondacks with the Felker clan
    • Montpelier VT, for Ben’s graduation
    • Michigan (Ann Arbor and the Upper Peninsula)
    • Sudbury, ON, and Niagara Falls
    • Nashville, TN for Brian & Heather’s wedding
    • Columbus, OH


    • Wissahickon (VMB )
    • Merli-Sarnoski Park (VMB)
    • Philadelphia via the Schuylkill River Trail
    • Road Scholars Rides
    • Road and MTB in the Adirondacks
    • Wildcat Ridge, NJ
    • Tahquamenon Falls & Indian Lake Road Rides, MI
    • Marquette and Calumette, MI
    • Wissahickon (with Hope & Renee)

  • Cognitive Drift: Avalon

    The Roxy Music song “Avalon” just started playing on the radio, just as I was drifting through Wikipedia from Arthurian legends (mentioned as a 13th-century development in that Medieval Europe book I’m reading), to Celtic Languages, to Hallstatt and La Tene cultures. I was looking at the city of Hallstatt, Austria and thinking “what a lost paradise that must have been,” when the song came on, and it reminded me of the scene in World War Z where the college students held out against 10,000 zombies. Nothing really special or insightful, just some things that came together to make a moment.

  • Out and About

    I’m over on Southside now, blogging from Sagra Beans, the new coffee house in the new building, basically where the late, lamented Wildflower Cafe used to be. Well, “lamented” might be too strong of a word: I pretty much never went there, hadn’t been inside for years before they closed (years ago), but still.

    I have to say though, that this place is pretty nice. They have the usual coffee shop problem — they don’t lack the manpower, but they do lack a system for quick customer throughput when things get busy: they had four people on line when I got there, and the place was shut down while one worker worked the espresso machine. Not a good situation for a caffeine-deprived queue!

    This problem is not unique though; in fact I know of few coffee shops, ones worth going to, where this does not happen. On the plus side, these guys have plenty of space and plenty of seats, including several spacious bar-type seating areas — I was originally going to go to Lit, but their space was all taken: one or two people at each four-person table and a bunch of empty couches, unsuitable for laptops. I have all the room I want now, and the people here are also very friendly. They’ve got my recommendation!

    What to do while I’m here? This place so new nobody put them on OpenStreetMap yet, so I went on and added them. (For “information source” when I uploaded the data, I was tempted to put “I’m there now.”) Then I did a little browsing, and a little blogging, and now my coffee is done and I’m ready to go.

    Actually, I think I’ll stick around for a bit — they’re about to roast some coffee in this huge machine right in front of where I’m sitting, and it looks pretty interesting. I do have to get out of here soon though: I’m ready for rain, with raincoat, umbrella, waterproof laptop bag and all, but I still want to try and beat the storm. I’ll be driving over to Easton for my music lesson later, but I’m on foot for now.

  • Philadelphia Birthday

    We went in to Philly yesterday to celebrate Ben’s birthday. We met Ben & Candace at Penn Books (where we did a big chunk of our Christmas shopping), visited the Institute of Contemporary Art (where we saw awesome exhibits by Ree Morton and Cauleen Smith), and finally had dinner at Mercato, a little Italian place on Spruce Street. I was exhausted when we got home, but what a fun day!

    UPDATE: This is what I wrote ten years ago.

  • Some Photos

    We got out for some walks a few weeks ago, and one of the walks took us through Nisky Hill Cemetery. This is one of the places where our friend Deb does her “walkabouts,” hiking around town and taking photos — she’s a prodigious walker with an enormous stride, and she has an incredible, artist’s eye for great shots. I might not have her skill or her eye (I don’t even walk that fast), but if you put me in the right place with a camera, even I might come home with a couple of keepers. Here are my favorites from that walk:

    The old Bethlehem Steel mills and blast furnaces look like they’re practically on top of the cemetery, but they’re on the other side of the Lehigh River. (By the way, this “looking down the hill at a giant industrial site, in a valley by a river” is a very Pennsylvania thing for me.)

    We took another walk a few days later, up the hill and through the University, up stairways past ancient stone buildings and frat houses, and at the top we explored Mr. Imagination’s sculpture garden, now starting to fall apart in the woods.

  • All My Dreams Come True

    This morning, after years of procrastination, I got my chipped front tooth fixed. The dentist decided not to use any novocaine, or any anesthetic at all, and it was the most painless bit of dentistry I ever experienced. And now I have my smile back…

    When I got home, the town leaf collector truck was just in the process of cleaning up our leaf pile, which had been sitting there, mocking me, since late October. My day was complete.

    Actually, it was just noon, but the rest of the day was gravy: I rode down to the Museum for a few hours and got home just before dark, then I hung out, played my cello and did a little reading.

    I went to my old boss’s retirement luncheon yesterday, and saw many old friends and co-workers there, which was strangely bittersweet (many were looking much older and less hale, and there was much talk of a vanishing past), and for the rest of the day I was kind of — not somber exactly, but maybe a little bit, maybe a bit nostalgic, a bit reflective, a bit Mais ou sont les neiges d’antan?”

    Today I was back on my game.

  • Wissahickon

    We were at an afternoon/evening holiday party on Saturday where I ran into my friend Renee; she gave me grief about my being AWOL for recent bike rides, and having more excuses than rides lately. She had a Sunday ride planned with Hope at Wissahickon, and after being called out I couldn’t come up with an excuse so I said I’d join them, and so it was decided… I got up early yesterday, and carpooled down with Renee to the Chestnut Hill parking area where we met Hope. We then proceeded to have the most awesome, pleasant ride.

    We got in about 15 hilly miles on the dry and frozen trails — the place drains well, and surface conditions there were primo, about as good as it gets in winter. Hope (who rides there regularly, and actually was there the day before) and Renee were both strong, but we rode sociably, with plenty of stops and bull sessions, and despite my recent reduced fitness it was not the beat-down I was expecting.

    It was a busy day in the park, many other bikers out, and hikers and dog walkers, especially near the trailheads — deeper into the woods and it was just us and the occasional other cyclist.

    Hope, me, Renee and fallen tree at Wissahickon

    That’s us, pretty close to the end of the ride. We were getting back to civilization, and saw this fallen tree that had been cut into pieces near a trailhead. Renee counted rings and estimated it to be 120 years old.

    And then we were done! Once again, I went on a ride and did not regret it — there’s a lesson in there somewhere!

  • WTF, Facebook?

    I’ve been getting more and more disenchanted with Facebook lately, as it seems to be getting less useful and more intrusive as time passes. The kicker was when I was talking, in the real world, about a product with someone, then later got ads for that product when I clicked on a FB page — coincidence? (Granted, this may have been Google’s work…)  Since I also found myself acting like a Facebook addict with it on my phone, or maybe more like some Pavlov dog, obsessively checking every notification (which in the meantime were becoming less relevant — so-and-so was live, or added to her story!), I decided to quit cold turkey. I logged out of the Facebook app on my phone, did the same for  Facebook Messenger, and removed both from my home screen so I wouldn’t be tempted. Life started getting better…

    I also found myself around the same time, ticked off by a peripheral friend who got into a political comment war (on a news page) with someone and, seeing that I was a mutual friend of that person, attempted to drag me into it. (The worst part of it is that my peripheral friend was basically right and the other person really is an ass, but this was straight up cyberbullying as far as I was concerned.) Unfriend. Unfriend them both! And that’s exactly what I did — then I went through my friend list and unfriended another 50 people, and did another 40 the next day. (There were people in there who had passed away — that was tough to do, but necessary — and  people who I know but don’t particularly like or communicate with, and many I didn’t even recognize.) I also removed myself from a bunch of groups. Suddenly FB seemed a lot more manageable, and life started looking even better. Until…

    We were out the other night, and I happened to mention FB and how I had logged out, when all of a sudden I started getting Facebook push notifications again! This time I’m sure it was a coincidence: the app, which I had not actually removed from my phone, got updated, and probably logged back in on its own afterward. But: Zombies! Facebook push notification zombies! I un-installed the app, and also Messenger.

    So now I went on FB on my laptop, and saw what these notification actually were — they had nothing to do with me or my interests; they were basically clickbaity come-on’s. It’s almost like every time I tried to push them away, Facebook ramped up their desperate, annoying attempts to stay in my face.

    This may hurt me in the end, since I’m sure there’s FB stock buried somewhere or other among our mutual funds, but I can’t help feeling a bit of schadenfreude over their recent, and no doubt well-deserved, stock slump.

  • Pastorale

    Kind of a mellow day: I got up and continued learning GNUCash while sampling some experimental croissants Anne made, got some easy chores done, dishes and laundry and so on, then rode over to volunteer at the Museum for a few hours — I got home just at dark. Finished some more chores, played my cello for a bit, and now I am back at the computer, listening to Polish Prog Rock over the internet. A nice day, a mellow day. It’s the simple things…