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Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Clark

The Clark
Last weekend, I got my periodic fix at The Clark, the amazing Clark museum in Williamstown.  I have to pinch myself every time I go.  I find it hard to believe I live in rural Grafton, NY and yet less than 15 miles from this world class art museum.  I never tire of the Winslow Homers, John Singer Sargents, George Inness's and Frederic Remingtons in the permanent collection.  And the special exhibits are always a joy.

If you haven't been there for a while, give yourself a treat.  And if you're on a tight budget, make it on the first Sunday of the month through May 1st since no admission will be charged.

One of my favorites: A Street in Venice - John Singer Sargent

Friends or Foes? - Frederic Remington

Autumn in Montclair - George Inness

Undertow - Winslow Homer

View from the inside of the new Clark Center, designed by Tadao Ando Architects & Associates.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Coyote Flaco

Coyote Flaco - Williamstown

We drove over the Petersburgh Pass to Williamstown recently to try out Coyote Flaco, a Mexican restaurant on Route 7 (505 Cold Spring Rd.) about 1/2 way between the intersection of routes 2 and 7 (bottom of the Pass) and downtown Williamstown. The restaurant has a nice, fun decor with a wood stove blazing at one end. There's a bar, main dining room and secondary dining room. They ALL filled up that night, so do make reservations. Although a complimentary salsa and chips is quickly delivered to the table, Constant Companion and I shared a Coyote Guacamole that was served in two scooped out avocados -- superb!  We then both chose Quesadillas Linda for our entree -- Constant Companion going with the Vegetarian and I with the Chicken. Very good! (large serving -- 1/2 was doggy-bagged to take home). Very good selection of drinks and Mexican beers. Being partial to amber beers, I went with the Dos Equis XX Amber. CC chose a Sauvignon Blanc glass of wine. The meal was completed with a shared dessert serving of Churros -- my first, and not my last (yummmmmy!!!). Good thing we shared too, or I wouldn't have made it out the door. 

Okay... very good food, very good service (a tad rushed at first, but they got the message), very good value. My only complaint: the parking lot needs work. We were parked along the creek and retainers should be placed there so one doesn't inadvertently shift into forward when departing, or slide into the creek which is certainly possible. However, we both loved the place, were thrilled to find a replacement for the closed Rattlesnake Cafe in Bennington, and I would place it now in my "Williamstown Top 3": 1) Mezze for fine dining; 2) Pera Bistro (my favorite) for special "dinners-for-two"; and now 3) Coyote Flaco for "I got the munchies, I don't feel like cooking, I have a yen for a Williamstown fix" days.  

And, speaking of Pera Bistro, there's an excellent review of that wonderful restaurant in Rural Intelligence -- click here.

Coyote Flaco's main dining room

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Welcome to the Rensselaer Plateau

Click the play button on the image above to view the video

The Rensselaer Plateau Alliance just released this video offering a cool drone-filmed, bird's-eye view of their new community forest, accessed off Legenbauer Road in the Town of Poestenkill.

"The Rensselaer Plateau Alliance is happy to announce that the first U.S. Forest Service-recognized Community Forest in New York State is now open to public use, featuring miles of trails and varied recreation opportunities."

Kudos RPA and thank you!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Cascade Trail - North Adams, Mass.

Falls at the End of the Cascade Trail
We recently hiked the short (approximately 1-1/2 hours round-trip) Cascade Trail in North Adams, Massachusetts. Surprisingly, this little gem's trailhead is just off Marion Avenue, a residential street that connects with Route 2 on the western side of North Adams, very close to Williamstown.  There is a small parking area at the end of the street.  The hike proceeds through a very wooded hollow, alongside a creek leading to the cascading waterfall.

The trail is well-maintained by the Trustees of Reservations.  Click here for a map locator of their reservations in Western Massachusetts.

Other Hikes
The Long Trail at the Dyken Pond Environmental Education Center
Mattison Hollow
SVC Trails

See also

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Park-McCullough House and Trails

Park-McCullough House - North Bennington, VT
On a gorgeous sunny afternoon several days ago, we decided to take a drive to the village of North Bennington, Vermont.  We parked the car, started walking aimlessly through the village and stopped in our tracks when we caught sight of the Park McCullough House.  This is an extraordinarily beautiful Victorian House with an interesting history.  Though the house was closed at the time, the grounds were open to the public. Click here for information on when the house is open for tours.

Click on photo to enlarge.

Entrance to Park-McCullough House "Mile Around Woods"
We took the "Mile Around Woods" walk through the Park-McCullough House.  It's a beautiful walk through woods surrounded by bucolic meadows.

Map of the Park-McCullough Estate and Trails

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Oldcastle Theatre Company

Constant Companion and I attended a production of The Lion in Winter at the Oldcastle Theatre Company right in downtown Bennington.  I'm going to make this quick and simple: you have until October 11th to see this fabulous final show of the season at Oldcastle.  We were blown away by these professional actors and the production.  This is a truly first class, intimate performance venue.  We will become frequent patrons going forward.

Click here for Oldcastle's website

Click here for a review of Oldcastle's production of The Lion in Winter

Don't miss it!  

Oldcastle is a member of the Actor's Equity Association.  

Sunday, September 27, 2015

SVC Hikes

View from Carpenter Road just south of SVC
It felt like a blue highway day yesterday, so I motored across route 346, connecting North Petersburgh to Pownal and then wound my way up the back roads to the Fall Fest going on at Sourthern Vermont College (SVC).  SVC is my favorite small, private college.  This little known, funky school is a gem.  Click here for a previous post on it.

While taking a tour of SVC's Everett Mansion, (This mansion is supposedly haunted and will be featured on the October 28th episode of Ghost Hunters on the Syfy channel), I picked up a copy of SVC hiking trails they make available for free in their Campus Bookstore.  I've scanned it, though the resolution isn't the best, so you may want to stop at the Campus Bookstore and pick up a good copy if you decide to go there and hike their trails, one of which leads to the peak of Mt. Anthony.

Other Hikes
Fitch Trail Hike
Grafton Lakes State Park Hiking Trails
Grafton Lakes State Park Trails
The Long Trail at the Dyken Pond Environmental Education Center
Mattison Hollow
Park-McCullough House and Trails
RRR Brooks TrailRobert Frost Stone House and Museum and Trail

See also

Friday, September 25, 2015

Mt. Equinox

View from the peak of Mt. Equinox

Yesterday, a good friend of mine and I took the 5.2 mile drive up Mt. Euinox, the highest mountain (3,848 ft. above sea level) in the Taconic Mountain Range.  The Skyline Drive Toll House is located on Vermont Historic Route 7A between Manchester and Arlington, Vermont.  Click here for their website.

The mountain is entirely owned by the Carthusian order of monks.  Their Charterhouse of the Transfiguration monastery, is located on the mountain, though it cannot be visited.  However, there is a pull-over spot, "Monastery Overlook," about halfway up the mountain where you can get a good glimpse of this monastery.

Joseph George Davidson donated the mountain to the Carthusians.  Click here to read about this very interesting individual.

View of the Charterhouse of the Transfiguration from "Monastery Overlook"

The only Carthusian monastery in the U.S.

The St. Bruno Scenic Viewing Center was built in 2012
St. Bruno started the Carthusian order in 1084!
The Carthusian monks created a beautiful viewing center.

Plaque inside the Meditation/Prayer Room
I didn't photograph the Meditation/Prayer Room, but it is quite beautiful and peaceful.  You will feel God up here -- even if you think you're not religious!

Oh, and yes, Chartreuse liquer is made by the Carthosian monks in France.  Click here for more on that.

If you decide to take a drive to Mt. Equinox, and you're a book lover, I suggest a post-Mt. Equinox visit to the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, just a tad to the north.  This is a wonderful independent bookstore.

Monday, July 20, 2015

NY Walking Trails

According to the Capital District Health Plan (CDPHP), walking 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week will lower your risk for Type 2 diabetes or heart disease by 50%.  Click here for a nice interactive map to New York walking trails. 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Rebirth Day


I've decided that the first sunny spring day (and I use that term loosely in these parts) that has a crystal blue sky, shall be deemed "Rebirth Day."  Find the nearest stream, and soak in its beauty for several minutes.  Best therapy in the world.

The above video, take this morning (April 25), is of the stream off Taconic Lake Road by the Taconic Lake Association pillars.  Its waters derive from rainwater and springs feeding Taconic Lake.  It leaves the north end of the lake and winds its way down to Taconic Lake Road.  Next, it weaves back and forth down Toad Point Hill, crossing Route 22 in Petersburgh, where it then heads north via the Little Hossic River until it joins up with the Hoosic River and evenutally makes its way to the Hudson River.  From there it works its way down to, and past, the "Big Apple" before entering the Atlantic.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Spring is Springing!

Spring's cancellation has been cancelled.

The woodpeckers pecketh,
The lake thaweth,
Spring is springing!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Wireless TV

My college roommate visited me a couple of years ago.  He's from the Big Apple.  He's one of those folks who prints out a yearly letter summarizing his year and tucks it in his Christmas cards.  The Christmas following his visit here, his annual missive noted "I visited Bob, my college roommate, who lives on a lake in upstate New York in the middle of nowhere."  But... I get perfect TV reception, so visitors often ask me:

"Dude, are you on cable or satellite?"  
"Neither: I'm on wireless."  
"What?  What do you mean?  You're taking this off the Internet somehow?"  
"No, wireless?" 
 "Wait... what do you mean?"  
"I mean I have a TV antenna.  It's not an Internet feed.  It's not Time-Warner cable.  It's not Verizon DSL.  It's not DIRECTV satellite.  It's not DISH satellite.  It's free digital, high definition television via wireless. Signals captured via antenna."  
Blank stare
Long pause

There's a standard coaxial cable connected to my TV, routed to my chimney, where a Winegard HD8200U Platinum VHF/UHF Antenna captures the signal.  The free signal.  No monthly subscription.  Perfect HD reception.  When I first installed the TV, I included an antenna rotator (I have the RCA VH12R), but I found it only added Vermont duplicates of the Albany channels I could get without the rotator, simply by pointing the antenna to the Helderberg Mountains where most of the Albany broadcast antennas are.  I do, however, get a nice boost using an HDTV preamplifier.  Both Winegard and Channel Master make quality antennas that can pull in the signal and survive our brutal weather.

The thing is, I get all the TV I feel I need with wireless and avoid the monthly charges. True, I can't get every Yankee game or HBO.  To quote the Rolling Stones, "You can't always get what want, but.. you get what you need."  And with HD TV you get a lot more free TV than these days than in the old analog days of yore.  Here's the lineup of channels I receive:

6.1 CBS (WRGB)
6.1 ThisTV (movies)
10.1 ABC (WTEN)
10.2 WTEN Storm Tracker (weather report)
10.3 Live Well Network (LWN)
13.1 NBC (WNYT)
13.2 MeTV Memorable Entertainment TV (Right, if you consider F Troop worthy of remembering.)
13.3 WNYT First Warning live doppler
17.1 WMHT Public TV  Highly recommended: PBS NewsHour (superb,objective journalism)
17.2 Create TV (cooking, arts & crafts, gardening, home improvement and travel)
17.3 WORLD (programs featuring people and places from around the world)
23.1 Fox (WXXA) FoxNews is biased, not objective, not recommended for grown-ups "journalism."
23.2 Capital OTB Off-Track-Betting (You'll have more luck betting on the stock market...)
45.1 CW Network 
45.2 Grit TV "Television with backbone!"  (Only in America... )
51.1 WNYA (old syndicated "stuff")
51.2 More old "stuff"

The Dish Network and DIRECTV, however, are not believers and are relentless.  I estimate (and this is not a joke) that I receive an average of one mailing per week soliciting their services.  Their computers can't figure out what the heck I'm doing up here for TV.  I received the following four mailings within the past two weeks.  Yes, about one in every four comes from DishLATINO (something about my last name).  It ain't gonna happen.  Why would I want to pay $19.99 per month to complicate my life?  Watching the North Adams SteepleCats live-and-in-person is more fun than watching a bunch of bizzillonaire Yankees on the YES Network.  And $19.99 x 12  pays for the gas plus a lot of hot dogs and beers to add to the enjoyment.  Maybe not at Yankee Stadium prices, but it does at Joe Wolfe Field prices.  "Real" baseball, the way it used to be. Pure and simple.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Spring Cancelled

Taconic Lake - March 27, 2015 at 9:50 a.m.
This just in from the Taconic Lake weather station on the Plateau in the Town of Grafton -- Spring has been cancelled for 2015.  Summer is projected to commence on July 1st and continue until mid-August when winter is forecast to resume.

March 29, 2015 at 6:57 a.m.
(Not Photoshopped.  No.. really)

Friday, March 20, 2015

Live Theatre

'62 Center for Theatre & Dance - Williamstown Theatre Festival Venue
No, I'm not talking about Grafton Town Meetings.  I'm referring to the professional live thespian variety.  I knew about the Williamstown Theatre Festival, but surfed the Web to find out what other nearby venues exist to add to my retirement bucket list which kicks off in June.   I'm excluding those to the west of the Plateau, since I'll be programming my vehicle's computer to avoid that direction whenever suitable alternatives exist to the east of the Plateau.  (We don't need to go there)
  • Oldcastle Theatre Company - Bennington, Vermont:  Formed by five New York actors in 1972.  Entering its 44th season, Oldcastle has put on over 300 productions.
  • Shakespeare & Company - Lenox, Massachusetts: "One of the largest Shakespeare festivals in the country.... past participants include actors from Moscow Arts Theatre, the Berliner Ensemble, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre of Great Britain, The Shakespeare Festival of Stratford, Ontario, the Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble..."
  • Williamstown Theatre Festival - Williamstown, Massachusetts: Honored with the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre.  Draws really big name professional actors and actresses.  Not inexpensive, but most definitely world class theatre. On the campus of Williams College in the '62 Center for Theatre & Dance.

Friday, March 6, 2015

March Madness

Friday, March 6, 2015 at 5:35 a.m. 
p.s. It went down to -12 at 6:50 a.m. after posting this, before edging upward.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Frigid February

Second coldest February on record for this area.  The above graph is from my weather station -- click on it to enlarge.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Snow Stuff

You're looking at three flower boxes of snow-creep.  I haven't touched them, but they are starting to morph into art.  Click on the photo to enlarge to fully appreciate.  Gazing at this, after snow-shoeing to check a neighbor's propane tank gauge, got me thinking about this white stuff.  It's interesting how one year there won't be much of it.  Take the winter of 1912-13, for example.  Total snow accumulation in Albany was 13.8 inches.  The winter of 1970-71, on the other hand, saw 112.5 inches in Albany.  Do you remember where you were that winter (if you were)?  I remember it well.  Heck, I even remember the distinct "crunch!"  I was a sophomore at Plattsburgh State and I had a permanent frozen mustache.  Try going into a German class with a frozen mustache and see if you can pronounce umlauts correctly.

Snowfall's not particularly easy to measure.  Click here to read NOAA instructions to its volunteers on how to measure it.  I don't know how much snow we've had so far this winter, but it's a lot and so thoughts turn to all that white stuff on the roof.  USA Today has an excellent article on this subject: "How much snow is too much snow on your roof?"  A key quote: ""More often than not, attempting to remove snow from a roof is more hazardous than beneficial, posing a risk to both (people) and the roofing structure," the Federal Emergency Management Agency warned recently."

Click here for more on snow.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Blog/News Readers

You're reading this blog, so you know what a blog/feed reader or personal news reader (or news aggregator, RSS reader, Web-based feed reader, and a whole lot more)  Do you access it via such a reader?  If not, I recommend you look into using one.  I use NewsBlur.   There are many alternatives: e.g. Bloglines, Feedly, My Yahoo!.

Here's how NewsBlur works. Go to  Sign up for a free account.  Click the "+" symbol at the lower-left corner of your screen to add a blog/feed (i.e. copy and past the blog's URL address there).  Repeat to add all the blogs you monitor.  Now, instead of your email being flooded with blog postings, sign on to NewsBlur whenever you feel like accessing the content ("pull" vs "push" content) and you can then toggle through all the postings that have appeared since the last time you signed on by simply clicking on the "Next Unread" command button to the right of the screen.

Here's a starter set of blogs/feeds for your reader: 

Saturday, February 7, 2015


One of the items on the bucket list for my upcoming retirement is to write the Great American Novel. I considered Bennington College's MFA in Writing program.  Very tempting, but more than I care to spend at the moment.  I thought about requesting permission to audit courses at Williams College.  No charge, just faculty permission, but then what do I do if I want to travel for a week or more in the middle of the course?  Because of my need for such flexibility, it occurred to me to look into a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), online courses aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the Web.  I'd heard about these but never really dug into them.

Want to learn a foreign language?  Take up creative writing?  Learn how to program?  Learn basic electronics?  How about photography?  Consider a MOOC.  They’re typically free.  With some you can earn college credit hours.  Others are simply for your enjoyment and edification.   Most online classes operate in what is called an "asynchronous" mode. This means that the course participants, including the instructor(s), are not in the course at the same time.  They may not even be online in the same time zone, as is the case in this class!  Because of this, there are communication tools that allow for people to post information at one time and then come back and give feedback at another time.  Some MOOCs are simply put out by individuals who feel like creating one, others are made available by world class universities (e.g.  MIT MOOCs and University of Pennsylvania MOOCs). Click here for a really good search engine to find a MOOC for you.

Getting back to writing the Great American Novel, I figured I’d better first master basic sentence construction.  It was covered at by the good nuns at St. Mary’s Elementary School in Waterford but, at the time, I was too busy sitting in the back row checking out Donna and Jeanne in the rows in front of me.  When I was called on to go to the blackboard and diagram a sentence, I got by but I should have done much better.  So I’ve signed up for Mt. San Jacinto College’s Crafting an Effective Writer: Tools of the Trade as part one of my preparatory program.  I have 28,000 classmates in the course, from around the world.  There's a pin map maintained on the course site, where you can click and see your classmate's name and a short introduction from them.  Now off to the eight parts of speech.....

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Weather and a Wish

From my online weather station.  Note the low of -14 at 6:08 a.m. -- that's right, just when I leave the house for work.  Crunch, crunch, crunch.....  That's cold even in my book!

Also,  a virtual plea to the Rensselaer County snowplow crew: Please plow closer to the mailboxes!  Excavating through mass quantities of County Road 88  snow and ice in front of the mailbox gets old.  Particularly at these temperatures. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Alone in the Wilderness

Twin Lakes, Alaska 
(Credit: Wikipedia)

There's a good amount of peace and solitude to be found here on the Plateau, especially at this time of the year.  However, Dick Proenneke (1916-2003) took it to a much higher level starting in 1968.  It was in the spring of that year, while I was completing my last year of high school, that Dick, a 51-year-old diesel mechanic who learned carpentry skills in the navy during World War II, built a cabin with hand tools on Twin Lakes in a remote area of Alaska.  He intended to stay for one year, to prove to himself he could do it.  Instead, Dick Proenneke turned it into three decades of solitude, leaving in 1999 at the age of 82.  He left his remarkable cabin, to the U.S. National Park Service, at the Lake Clark National Park & Preserve, comprising 4 million acres and several volcanoes..  It can be visited for the $1,200 price of a round-trip flight from Anchorage. 

To learn more, read Dick's book One Man's Wilderness and view the DVD Alone in the Wilderness.  The DVD was put together from splices Dick filmed of himself using a 16-mm camera mounted on a tripod.  Bob Swerer, producer of the DVD, took excerpts from Dick's book, for the narrative.  You'll marvel, as I did, at Dick's skill with the axe in fashioning not only his cabin, but his furniture, bowls, spoons, and more.

Click here for some photos and further information.

Sunday, January 18, 2015


With temperatures hitting minus 11 here yesterday, I decided it was time for the annual Crawl-Space-Crawl.  Once a year, during subzero temperatures, I venture down into that "fun" space known as the Crawl Space.  One half of this place has a crawl space you can stand up in -- an addition to the house that was completed in the early nineties.  The other half, constructed in 1940, and "winterized" several years ago, ranges from 3 to 5 feet high, depending on whether or not you are navigating around/over a substantial boulder of Rensselaer Graywacke, covered with plastic vapor barrier.  Yep, "fun."

So, what I do is go around the perimeter with my trusty Black & Decker Thermal Heat Detector (click here for post I wrote a couple of years ago providing full details), which is the best tool I've purchased in the last 10 years (followed by the electronic stud detector, covered here).  It pays for itself in no time, by locating the most egregious drafty spots/crevices in wonderful, but not-so-tight, Plateau homes such as this one.

Energy audits can be very expensive, but for the $33 this cool tool costs via, you can save yourself big bucks by identifying and eliminating energy sieves.  Every year, I raise the bar on spots I decide need some additional insulation - and it saves me propane dollars.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Subterranean Homesick Blues

Bob Dylan's recording, Subterranean Homesick Blues, turned 50 this week.  Click here to listen and you will hear the first rap song ever -- only this one is good and Bob was smart enough after cutting it to say "been there, done that."

Bob Dylan is the hybrid Shakespeare and Beethoven of our times.  That's poet Allen Ginsberg in the lower left of the video.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Weather Report

My weather station registered a low of -12 degrees at 3:54 a.m. and that, I can attest, lingered through the early morning.  Power went out at our place at 10:10pm and resumed in about two hours.  I felt for the folks who don't have a generator.  I was told, when I moved to the lake 4 years ago, I'd need one and -- sure enough -- that guy turns on at least once a month and several full days a year.

Video of my Kohler generator from 2012