Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 in photos


Ice path




Diamond Notch Falls


Shore Trail

Molten sunset

Top of Wittenberg


Merry Christmas

Monday, December 29, 2014

Hiking Roxy Ann Peak

Rock pitToday I finally hiked up Roxy Ann. It's a mountain in Medford, visible from my parents' house. When I lived there as a kid, I wasn't a hiker. On my trips back since that time, I have other plans or the weather has been bad. Also, I listened to what non-hikers said - it's hot, it's hard, there are rattlesnakes.

I am sure there are rattlesnakes, but the hike up to the top is a maintained dirt road probably 25 feet wide. Rattlesnakes aren't going to surprise you if you stay on the trail. The dirt road also means that the trail is smooth, easy walking, or as easy as possible for a trail that goes uphill. There are genuine trails that you can take to make a loop, but the three-mile trail to the top is simple and straightforward.

The above picture is from partway up, looking down at the rock pit. A side trail goes to the pit, if you want to see a hole in the ground up close. (We passed.) At the top of the peak are two towers, as well as a panoramic view of the valley looking west.

Roxy Ann is located in Prescott Park, named for George Prescott. (Go ahead, follow that link; it's a fascinating story, at least if you like stories about murder, conspiracy, and corrupt judges.)

The weather made for good hiking, too. Look at these blue skies:
Roxy Ann

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Dater Iron Mine scouting hike

Looking backIn what was probably my last hike of 2014, I went on a scouting hike at Harriman State Park. We hiked from the Tuxedo park-and-ride down to Sloatsburg, passing over several mountain ridges and the Dater Iron Mine. The app tracking our distance went buggy about 1/3 of the way through, but the hike was around 14 miles, with substantial elevation gain and loss.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Things only 38-year-old professors who should be grading exams understand

I am tired of your listicles.

No, I'm not "discovering" that there are no grown-ups, that we're all just faking it. All I ever thought "grown-up" meant was an age, and only the unlucky among us escape aging.

There are no things that "only tall people" will understand. I'm a shortie, but I'm not utterly lacking in empathy. Ditto for birth order, intro/extraversion, people from [place name], and "children of the [decade]."

I'm not even going to bother clicking on something built on gender essentialism or something that forgets gay, queer, or asexual people exist.

I'm tired of reading lists that assume we all have the same life trajectory. Apparently a single, childless, non-home-owning 38-year-old is a freak of nature, just like a 70-year-old who has uncomfortable shoes but no grandchildren.

There are now well over a thousand secrets to happiness. I barely have time to read them all, let alone perform them. The only life hack that has really made a difference for me is opening my bananas from the bottom.

"Look how dumb these people are" is beginning to feel mean, possibly because the same few items appear in them over and over.

Listicles of cute and/or funny animals are okay. I will accept more of those.

I am skilled enough to click on the correct "next page" button instead of a cleverly disguised ad, but I don't like being reminded that I am nothing but a delivery system for ad dollars.

Also not thinking very highly of me are listicles that start off with the assertion that I am spelling words wrong, using near-homonyms of the proper words in trite phrases, or using common household products wrong. Am I supposed to be suspectible to negging?

Your listicle has GIFs from bad television shows in it.

Your argument that [x] is "the best" lacks logical rigor.

I am perpetually slightly dissatisfied. It is never true that there is "no [place, age, life stage] I'd rather be." Get back to me when we have solved world hunger, I ride a winged unicorn, and night cheese firms and tones the buttocks, and I will re-evaluate my stance.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Finally debt-free

In April 2012, I decided I had to get serious about paying off my credit card debt. I'd been in New York City for eight months and paid off my moving costs, and I was finally making a real salary after eight years in grad school. Total credit card debt? $22,510.57.

This week, I finally paid the end of it off.

I didn't do anything fancy. I simply put a large chunk of my income towards the bills every month. First, I paid off the smaller of my two cards, then tackled the larger card. (The psychology of having a card paid off was more important than tackling the higher interest rate card.) Finally, about a year ago, I transferred what was left to a new 0% APR card.

I haven't totally sworn off credit cards. One card I've had for nearly two decades has a high credit limit that is good for my credit rating. That is linked to my iTunes account - it keeps it active, and it means my checking account isn't cluttered up with $1.29 charges. It gets paid off every month. The other card I use for purchases that are more secure on credit cards, such as airplane tickets. It gets paid off as well. The third card will be closed soon.

A huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders, but of course there were trade-offs. My savings account is practically empty. In fact, I have a negative net worth overall. My student loans aren't huge (although morbid as this sounds, at least if I die, my family won't have to pay them), but my 401(k) and rollover IRA will let me retire around age 70, if I plan to make it to 70 and a half. I've increased my 401(k) contribution - it should be higher, but first I need a savings buffer. That comes before paying off any student loans or maxing the 401(k).

This is the first time in my adult life I haven't had credit card debt. You know, that's pretty exciting.