A Fistful of Snow

The first snow came early this year.   It may presage a long and difficult winter.  Usually, first snow occurs up in the hills, with rain in the lower lying elevations and river valleys, but not so this year.  Snow from top to bottom, with mild accumulations of only a quarter inch in the river valleys, where it sticks to the grass and the cars but not to the pavement.  Still, it’s only October 13, a bit early to be brushing the snow off your shoulders.  It has certainly thrown a monkey wrench into the dreams of busload after busload of the leaf-peepers.  They have been coming in droves for the past week or so as Columbus Day weekend is the traditional high point for the foliage season.  With the nearly two weeks of rain that we experienced since October began and now the snow, most of the foliage is on the ground.

On a completely unrelated note, I noticed that today’s Guardian is running a nice selection of stills from the sets of film director Sergio Leone’s works.  Leone, who never rose to a position of respect with American viewers, who treated his works as lower-grade entertainment known as ‘spaghetti westerns,’ is nevertheless one of the more spiritual directors to have graced our screens.

Right from his first work, “A Fistful of Dollars,” (a reworking of Kurosawa’s “Yojimbo,” with a few scenes, in homage, stolen shot for shot), it was clear to this discerning viewer that behind the violence and the stylization was a deeply Christian ethic at work.  Sequences such as Joe’s (The Man With No Name played by Clint Eastwood) meeting with the Innkeeper Silvanito clearly refer to the symbolic.  From the beginning of the sequence, where Eastwood is hanging from a signpost, symbolizing the crucifixion, to the climb to the balcony, where things may be seen from a higher perspective, the juxtaposition of art and faith is deeply entwined.  The entire film, right from the opening shot of a Church bell, which was most likely a reference to Bunuel, has a symbolic layer to it.  This spiritualization is at the root of Leone’s moral ambiguity, and, ultimately, contributed deeply to the long lasting popular success of his works.  If I get to a more stable place in my life, I’ll take some time and do an analysis of this film in which I’ll go into more detail.

The Ubiquitous Cell Phone

They say that art imitates life and life imitates art.  It is sometimes in such an understanding that we must look for the origins of what people perceive that they need.  In this case, the cell phone.  It is near impossible to walk down a sidewalk, drive down a street, or sit in a public place without being subjected to someone nearby blathering away on one of these devices.  They have been embraced by the public in such an enthusiastic way that it hearkens back to the growth of the television industry half a century ago.  Where has the impetus for such a perceived need come from?  What do people envision when they think they must have one of these devices?

I think it goes back to Star Trek.

Star Trek, for the generation that saw it during its first run in the 60’s, was one of the few iconic television shows that bridged the gap between the counter-culture and society in general.  Beloved by fans of many diverse backgrounds, it brought Gene Roddenberry’s vision of anti-war sentiments to American viewers during the divisive period of the Vietnam War.  Although his philosophical messages were often hammered into the head of the viewer without much subtlety, it was always done with a touch of humor.  And behind it all was the belief that science, even weapons science, could be used to support ‘good,’ and that men of noble spirit could thwart the ‘evil’ science of the warmongers. This was still believed in the altruism of the times, although cynicism about the military channeling of science was growing rapidly in America.  The renunciation of violence as a means to an end was a prevalent plot device on many episodes.  The power of that original message was so strong that it resonated through several spin-off television series and several more movies continuing up to the present day 43 years later.

“Beam me up, Scotty,”  and similar variations of that message are found in almost every episode.  And although instantaneous transportation has yet to be realized, the ability to instantly communicate with people by a small hand-held device has become a commonplace occurrence.  This was something that was deemed ‘cool’ back in the 60’s and that perception seems to be behind the wild embrasure of such technology.  We have certainly had adequate phone service for our entire lives, with phones in our homes, our places of business, out on the street, in commercial stores, etc.

So the wildly popular acceptance of the technology seems to have come from, not filling a basic need that was missing, but rather, a desire to have the latest ‘cool toy.’  Unlike the cost of a laptop personal computer, which provided new technological capabilities to the consumer, the costly monthly service plans of the mobile phone industry seem designed to have us paying much more for a basic service that we already possessed, except that it was not sufficiently ‘cool.’  This is why the industry is not limited to a handful of professionals carrying out urgent responsibilities where the matter of a few minutes can make a difference, such as firemen, ambulance crews, or policemen.  This is also why we are now surrounded by constant blather where once there was some semblance of peace and quiet in the public moments of our lives.  Have you ever been walking along, and heard someone behind you say “Hello,” only to turn and see that they were not talking to you at all, but had just started a cell phone conversation?  Such is what I mean by blather.

There are strong cultural connotations and effects which are beginning to come into being from this new technology.  Most notably, the concepts of personal space and privacy are rapidly changing and will produce ripple effects for many years to come.  Personal space is already dramatically different with cell phone technology.  Several people in a confined area (doctor’s office, elevator, bus stop) used to produce some form of interactive social situation.  One could be shy or outgoing or reserved or conversational and it would be noted; it would make an impact (to whatever effect) on those around oneself.

This is already no longer true.  If there are three people situated in a close space and two of them are talking on their cell phones and one is not, it creates a new dynamic.  Each of those on the cell phone takes little to no notice of those around them at all.  They are ‘plugged in’ to the person on the other end of the phone, and ignore those directly in front of them.  All the communication is directed away from their physical location and those who are there with them.  The person in this example who is not talking on the cell phone is also in a new dynamic.  They are subjected to the personal information of the other two individuals without having a voice of their own to contribute.  The societal implications of this are profound, with what is considered polite, what is considered appropriate, and what is considered private all undergoing a new definition.

These societal changes, with their new dynamics of social behavior and human interaction, will most likely serve to separate people.  The current bonding between mankind and technology is being created at the cost of the bonding between people, particularly at the social level.  It has been common for some time now to enter a coffee shop and see people engrossed in their laptop computer and paying no attention to those around them at all.  Now, with the acceptance of cell phone technology, people are able to ignore those around them at all times.

“Beam me up, Scotty!”

Peaks and Troughs

The principle peak is the Autumn foliage, which is resplendent now, or would be if the rain would stop for long enough to get more than a glimpse of the wondrous colors all around us.  It’s a bit earlier than usual, and the rain will make it a short passage to bare trees, but each year has its own nature and flavor to it.  The weather remains relatively pleasant as well, with temperatures still averaging in the mid-50’s, and the sun feels warm and good on the few occasions where it has shown itself.

The principle trough would be the worsening economic situation.  It’s at this time of year that the pundits and analysts attempt to figure out whether it will be a good or bad Christmas season, and the majority of reports that I have seen seem to imply that they haven’t got anything good to say, so they are saying the season will be ‘flat.’  Since this is optimism at its best, I think Christmas this year will not be good for the retailers, which means that fewer people will be added to the seasonal work force.

Behind the rather shallow news of the impact of the Holiday season, economic indicators seem to be worsening in a steady and consistent fashion.  Several bloggers are now moving from ‘things are bad’ to ‘OMG!, things are terrible.’  One such blogger, Ed Harrison, at Seekingalpha.com elucidates a lot of evidence that the recession is over, the depression has just begun.  The thrust of his article is that the debt situation has not eased, but has only been massaged to the point where it doesn’t look so bad at a national level, but the severe impact on the states continues.  It remains to be seen if California will be the first state to fiscally default on its obligations.

Another blogger, Jim Willie at GoldenJackass.com, sees systemic failure approaching.  He foresees “a failed US banking system (as in seizure) and a USTreasury Bond default (as in coerced restructure).”  Many of his themes have been echoed by bloggers around the net for a few years now, and his post is a concise summary of both the pathos of the situation as well as the personal anger that it can create in a thoughtful person.  The tone of his post is revealed in his characterization of the American people: The last people on the globe to comprehend the American condition of failure, corruption, and military aggression seem to be the Americans themselves, who live within the USDome of Perception. They suffer from perhaps the worst education levels in the industrialized world, coupled with a co-opted national news media network, clouded by the grandest drugstore medication in history.

I must confess to sharing many of these views: that America is rapidly approaching some form of economic collapse; that unemployment, underemployment, and ultimately, hunger, will grow at a rate currently deemed impossible for this nation; that the military will be utilized to maintain control of the populace as things begin to break down; and that prison camps will be utilized to control the ‘dissidents,’ who will finally find their voice too late and attempt to bring ‘American frontier justice’ to a failed country, which they themselves helped create.

Although these views seem severe, if not lunatic, it should be remembered that we have been, and still are, rapidly sliding down that slope of economic morass.  The bailouts, which were started by the Bush Administration, have continued and even grown under the Obama Administration.  These handouts to private industry from the American taxpayers are measured in the trillions of dollars.  We toss the term ‘trillion dollars’ around as if we really know what it meant, but we don’t.  To help understand, here is a simple pictorial representation of what a trillion dollars is, if we start with a single $100 bill.  This representation is a critical piece of knowledge which should be seen by every taxpayer.

And with every day that goes by, the number of those taxpayers is lessening.  Since December, 2007, the American economy has shed over seven million jobs.  That averages out to be a loss of 11,000 jobs a day for almost two years now.  Remember the Economic Stimulus legislation?  That was 3/4 of a trillion dollars spent to help the economy recover.  And yet where is this recovery?  Unemployment inexorably continues to rise, standing now at close to 10%.  The housing market continues to flounder, and all indicators point to bigger problems with the reset dates of Alt-A and option-ARM loans now coming into play.  The states, with no ability to print money like the national government and heavily impacted by the loss of revenues from property taxes and income taxes, are already drastically cutting back on all forms of social and educational services to the people, with a direct and dramatic impact on the poor.  And while the banking CEOs smile with their taxpayer-funded bonuses, more and more people, especially in California, the former land of opportunity, are living in their cars, or have become completely homeless.  They cannot find a job, with 6 applicants for every available position.  And a darkening future awaits not only them, but us all.

But, at least the Autumnal leaves are pretty.

Rainy Weather

The rainy weather is back.  It was a very rainy and cool summer for Vermont, and although it only nudged a record or two, still it was a noticeable phenomenon which was commented on by many people again and again.  It was difficult to not see some form of impact via climate instability, better and more inaccurately known as ‘Global Warming.’  The hay farmers were particularly hard-hit as hay needs several days of dry weather to harvest.  It was also rather unpleasant for those with outdoor lifestyles.  One would check the weekly forecast and see day after day after day of rain scheduled and, unfortunately, the forecasts were all too often right on the mark.

But then, finally, in the period around Labor Day, we got our ‘summer,’ as good weather lasted for periods of a full week at a time, which, due to what had come before, was very noticeable.  Alas, that seems to have passed now.  We’ve had rain for two days now, and the forecast for the next ten days shows rain occurring in eight of them.  I get my weather data from www.intellicast.com.  Intellicast also has a neat Global weather page thanks to the wonders of modern satellite technology.  So, we’re back to the summer pattern of rain, rain, rain.  And this time around, we also have to deal with the lower temperatures of Autumn.  It’s 45*F this morning (feels like 42*F), with a high temperature forecast for today of only 47*F.  From here on in, it will be a rare day that we see a day in the 60’s, although I’m sure we’ll have a few more.

This makes the homeless experience more difficult as all the park benches and other outdoor resting places are wet and unsuitable for spending periods of time.  You look at rainy (and, soon, snowy) weather differently when you are unhomed and are trying to pass the time in your day without passing all your money away [yes, I know what I almost, but not quite, said].  So it’s back to the public library.  I am fortunate in that I like to read whereas many of the other people at the shelter do not.  They often doze off in the library and must face the increasing ire of the librarians, who, though they are gentle folk and do not want to push people out into the rain, nevertheless, will not put up with snoring or sleeping patrons.

This type of weather also leads to increasing depression among the more indigent of society, which is perhaps somewhat reflected in the tone of this post.  It is difficult enough to be dispossessed in good weather, but when you feel that even the weather has turned against you, emotions run high and oftentimes tempers flare.  Thus there is always greater drama in the shelter in periods of poor weather.  This was true over the summer and is already raising its ugly head again.  It is almost (but not quite) humorous that people with so many challenges in front of them invest their energy on arguing about what is showing on the television.  During such times, it is simply best to keep to oneself and just go to bed early.

The shelter is always full these days, with the economy being so bad, and the crowding of 22 people into a two story house designed for a large single family does not help matters as there is nowhere to escape and find peace and silence.  But, at the same time, one is grateful for the roof over one’s head and the nightly meal, although I am hearing more and more complaints from some of the guests about hot dogs and mac and cheese, which, when they appear on the table twice or more weekly begins to become tedious, even if one is hungry.  This type of reaction most often comes from those who are refusing or unable to deal with their ‘situation,’ and are still looking for some event to come along and ‘rescue’ them from the trials of having to learn to make your own future.  It also seems to come more from younger people than from middle-aged or older ones, though not entirely.  At 61, I am the oldest guest in the shelter, and try to offer what encouragement and advice as I am able, but some do not want to hear anything which might cause them to think of a long struggle.  They want a quick and concrete answer to their problems, and, clearly, no such answer exists for them.

It is somewhat unfair to characterize these people poorly as there really is a great challenge in finding ANY kind of work at all.  I have already noted in a prior post that there are now 6 applicants for every available job on average in the U.S today.  Competition is high and any kind of disadvantage weighs heavily against the applicant for a position.  And, again, as previously noted, things are only going to worsen for the next several years at least. So, when you look up from the bottom at the situation in America, it is a very scary affair.  And most people, who are cruising along in their life, only confront this from the occasional news headline or sometimes in hearing about a fellow co-worker who has fallen on hard times.  Still, for more and more people, this type of awareness will be coming soon to lives all around you.

First Color

I thought I saw it yesterday, but I wasn’t really sure.  “Maybe just some dryness affected that one there or that one over there,” I told myself.  But, no, this morning it was quite clear.  It’s only in occasional spots so far, just here and there, however, it’s clear that it’s real.  I saw yellows and oranges and even a few reds.  The trees are starting to turn color.

The weather that we’ve had may make for a brilliant display this year.  Much of the summer was rainy and the recurrent wetness caused many a grumble among those of us with an ‘outdoor lifestyle’ [read: homeless].  But in the week before Labor Day, the weather turned to gloriously sunny days and cool crisp dry evenings.  This continued through the first and second weeks of September as well, although it started to cool, and we have just recently had out first bit of rain.  So it should be a vibrant foliage season this year, with the only question being as to when it will start in earnest and then peak.

Personally, it is time to start thinking about winter clothing.  A sweater, a pair of boots, a set of thermal underwear, and perhaps a second pair of jeans would be good to acquire to ward against the immanent colder weather.  And to get anything of lasting quality will be pricey.  There has been little in the ‘free boxes’ and other places of donated clothing this year, or perhaps it just gets snapped up faster.  I’m glad I have this part-time job, although saving money for rent so that I may leave the homeless shelter must remain my highest financial priority.  I fear it will be a long and cold and stormy winter due to the incessant climate instability that we have been seeing, but the weather will be what it will be.

9/11 – Eighth Anniversary

Today marks the eighth anniversary of 9/11, an event that “changed everything.”  And although, for the vast majority of Americans, little has changed, enough time has gone by so that we have had a change in the Federal government, seemingly to no effect, as well as a financial collapse, which is not yet over by far.

The financial collapse centered around the real-estate market, with sub-prime loans being targeted as the cause of the collapse.  And there is much truth to this but it is not the whole story, for the real-estate market was making broad loans across the entire spectra of American consumers.  Aside from the sub-prime loans, there was also a wide distribution of Alt-A loans and option ARMS loans (Adjustable Rate Mortgages).  These two classes of loans both had a much longer ‘grace period’ before they began to reset, and thus, until recently, they have mostly been ignored.  However, the reset date (when the interest rate goes up) is now fast approaching for many of these loans, and analysts, concerned that the ‘recovery’ is still mired down in high unemployment and slow consumer spending, are beginning to put out the word that greater hard times still lie ahead of us.  A recent report on the CBS show “60 Minutes” which has been posted to Youtube.com details this: A second wave of mortgage defaults is about to come.

Note the graph shown about halfway through this report, which details the next several years.  It is clear that a large amount of compost is about to hit the windmill.   With unemployment already high (averaging 6 applicants for every available position), it is doubtful that the American consumer engine, which drives the economy, will be able to pass through this period with impunity.  In fact, it is hard to imagine the consequences of a further turn-down in the national economy, as most State governments are already nearly broke and are cutting back on all forms of social services and income compensation to the needy.

Behind all of this economic pain is the specter of 9/11, which thrust most of our financial reserves and economic strength into the promulgated “War on Terror.”  That 9/11 was an ‘inside job’ has been repeatedly stated by many scientists, bloggers, and websites, and there has been a slow growth among the number of Americans who have come to believe that point of view.  Unfortunately, this has not been reflected in the policies of the American government, who are still wasting American lives in futile Asian wars, and vesting the Defense Department with a budget that reckons the doom of America as a free nation.

The evidence has been slowly mounting that the collapses of the World Trade Center buildings was an engineered feat, and not the result of a terrorist action.  The collapse of WTC 7 was not explained until 2008, seven years after the events, long after all the rubble was destroyed. NIST claims WTC 7 collapsed due to “normal office fires” which created a “new phenomenon” in high-rise catastrophes: collapse caused by thermal expansion of beams. NIST claims this caused the failure of a single column,  the rest just followed.  For a relatively recent summary of the evidence see: Richard Gage article on 9/11 WTC contolled demolitions appears in WorldArchitectureNews.com.

In November of 2008, New Footage of WTC 7 and North Tower Collapse  surfaced on the file-sharing network Veoh.com.  This footage has since been posted on youTube.com.  Of note in the footage is the simultaneous vertical explosions occurring on the right side of the north face of WTC 7.  Also of note in the footage is the sight of the interior structural beams of the North Tower, which are clearly visible after the collapse of the infrastructure around them.  The origin of this footage remains unclear, but it is a valuable addition to the evidence.  A good comprehensive summary of the multiple strands of the evidence involving the many aspects of the conspiracy remains at Michael Rivero’s 9/11 Basic Questions page at What Really Happened. Another recent and noteworthy site is Fire Fighters for 9/11 Truth.

As of March 24, 2008, the U.S. Death Toll due to the conflict in Iraq hit 4,000 and still the deaths mount.  Now, there are plans to increase the number of deployed servicemen in Afghanistan as well.  These Imperialist wars will bring no lasting benefit to America,  and serve only to increase the hatred of Asian peoples toward us.  It is not inconceivable that the rich natural gas resources in Turkmenistan are being strategically considered and may contribute to the basis for the sustained conflict, but with both Russia and China exhibiting strong spheres of influence in this area of the world, this seems to be very ill-considered.

The shadow of 9/11, which, ultimately, has caused a world economic crisis which is not yet over, engendered two wars which cannot be won, and has destroyed the Constitutional liberties of the citizenry of the United States, has stretched very far indeed.

Autumn

It was a beautiful Labor Day weekend in Montpelier.  Sunny with dry air, cool in the mornings and warm in the afternoons.  On several occasions, one could look at the sky and not see a single cloud in it.  The sort of Holiday weekend that a 9-to-5’er dreams of.  The town was very quiet, even the Saturday morning Farmer’s Market was a subdued affair.

On Sunday, I went down to the State House lawn as it is a very pleasant place to read, and I had a book that was keeping me occupied.  I had spent the morning in a coffee shop, but the day had warmed and it was too beautiful to stay inside.  There were only a few people about on the spacious lawn and it promised to be a delightful spot to while away some time.

But as I was walking in the shade under some trees, I noticed something which gave me pause.  My footsteps were making a crunching noise as I walked along.  I was walking upon dry, dead leaves that had fallen from the trees.  As I looked down, I realized that here was the first touch of Autumn.  Although the air was warm and the sky a beautiful summer cobalt, nonetheless I was treading upon the evidence of the change of the season.  The trees knew what was coming and were sharing that knowledge with any who chose to notice.  Autumn is already upon us.

Demonstrators in the Streets

Yesterday, the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) of Topeka, Kansas came to Montpelier in response to recent legislation allowing same-sex marriage in Vermont.  The legislation took effect on September 1, which is why they timed their visit to that day.  They are actually picketing in several cities in Vermont, but they came to Montpelier, the state capital, yesterday morning, protesting at Montpelier High School, the State House and at City Hall.  Although the Church is led by Fred Phelps, recent picket actions have been led by Shirley Phelps-Roper.  This organization became infamous in 1998 for their picketing actions at the funeral of Matthew Shepard in Wyoming, who was beaten to death because of his homosexuality.  They enraged even more people when, in 2005, they started picketing the funerals of fallen American soldiers.  They have also picketed at the funerals of Coretta Scott King, Fred Rogers and Jerry Falwell.  It should be noted that the WBC is not affiliated with any Baptist organizations or associations.

The local community in Montpelier responded with a counter-protest of about 50 to 75 people, overwhelming the 4 adults and 1 child from the WBC.  Both the protest and the counter-protest were well-behaved, with little to no profanity on either side and no violence between the groups, although the signs of the WBC, such as “God Hates Fags” certainly attempted to evoke moral or emotional violence.  In response to this, students at Montpelier High School organized an on-line donation page on Facebook, suggesting that a donation of $1 be given for each minute that the WBC picketed, donations going to GLAD (the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders).  The duration of the WBC’s picketing at the high school ended up at 27 minutes.  So far the group has raised in excess of $5,000.

The counter-protest was well attended by local gays and lesbians as well as by many Vermonters who value freedom of choice.  There was some street theater with costumed individuals; there was chanting, “Take your hate out of our state;” occasional bouts of singing, and all-in-all a rather festive response to the hate-mongering of the WBC.  The picketing action and the counter-protest started at the high school between 7:30 and 8:00 AM, timed to coincide with the arrival of the students, and then moved to the State House and City Hall, ending by 10:00 AM.  The Montpelier City Police handled the situation with restraint, keeping a presence near-by but not interfering in anything and on the whole acted quite admirably, as one might hope for and expect. Footage of the event was captured by ORCA Media, the community access public TV network where I am currently employed. The footage has been posted to Youtube.

It is likely that the picket and the counter-protest led to some lively discussion yesterday evening at the dinner tables and in the living rooms of the community.  Perhaps husbands and wives or parents and children were motivated to discuss their feelings on the subject of same-sex marriage or freedom of speech.  This is the true value of allowing such hate-mongering speech into a community; to make aware the inner feelings of individuals about such things, and to foster new understandings through discussion and reflection.  It is doubtful whether the members of the WBC, with their antithetical approach to such issues, understand the positive influence that they may have on the consciousness and liberality of the communities which they visit.


	

Living Homeless

The last day of August is upon us.  The morning temperatures are remaining in the 40s, making quite clear the promise of Autumn.  Yesterday was Sunday, the hardest day of the week for a homeless person.  This is due to the lack of services on Sunday that are available on the other days of the week.  There is no bus service, the libraries are not open and many businesses are closed.  Even if you just want to wander around and kill time by browsing through various shops, fewer are open, and this, coupled with the lack of the (warm) libraries, makes for an outdoor day.  To be sure, Sunday morning has Church services, but many homeless, having seen little Grace from God in their recent existence, tend to avoid worship and organized religion, deeming them for people who are not ‘outside.’  Outside of society, outside of being homed, usually outside of employment, and oftentimes outside of a viable relationship.  Such isolation does not make the homeless feel welcome in any community, even the community of the congregation of a Church.

Luckily, Winter is not yet upon us and the outdoor existence is not brutal.  Boring perhaps, but not brutal.  If the homeless is fortunate enough to have a little money in their pocket, they can buy a coffee and sit at one of the outdoor tables of the coffee shops and nurse the coffee for several hours, in the anecdotal way that a Scotsman nurses a beer.  It helps, because it is hard to be on your feet for hours on end, either walking or just standing in some sheltered place should it be raining.  The boredom that one feels eventually is realized to be part of the enemy.  Your mind is already filled with unhappiness due to your position in society, and it is not a good thing to have nothing to occupy your thoughts, because you tend to drift into negative, self-defeating attitudes.  So, conversation is in order, allowing you to escape the morass of your own difficulties and chat about meaningless trivialities, which are nevertheless a welcome diversion.  Often, one homeless person, who can afford the coffee, will end end up sitting with two or three others, who cannot, and socialize.  This can be sometimes unpleasant, as someone will usually want to talk about their own difficulties, and this is little better than sitting alone and thinking of your own difficulties.  But it does allow one to be in a position of helpfulness and advocation rather than in a position of self-defeatism.

If one has an especially positive attitude, one can befriend ‘normal’ members of the community.  This is a very fruitful experience, as it allows one to inch back toward a more balanced attitude.  There is nothing like personal validation as a mechanism to engender self-actualization.  This is actually the first halting step on the road to recovering one’s sense of worth after having been through such depressing experiences which the homeless must endure.  Some (many) do not get to this step and after faltering for a bit, move on to some other shelter in some other community.  There is a large mobile community of the homeless who move from shelter to shelter and state to state.  Typically unrecorded, their presence is never felt long enough in any one community to register.  I have seen many of these people in my stays at homeless shelters.  Some of them embrace this lifestyle as a way of avoiding the issues that plague them, while others are already so self-defeated that it seems the only avenue of possibility for them.  It is a sad experience, to watch this parade of the hopeless move through life, and know that there are no societal mechanisms for dealing with them, and no way for those few individuals who do care, to connect with them.  But life has always been unfair and imperfect, and it is important to not lose focus, and to realize that one must take care of oneself before one can effectively take care of others.  And, in the interim, the cold winds of Autumn have begun to blow.

The Wedding Cake Tasting

The New England Culinary Institute (NECI) is located here in Montpelier and they have several retail outlets scattered about the town.  One of them is my favorite local patisserie, La Brioche.  Yesterday afternoon, a selection of 8 soon-to-graduate students had an exhibition of their skills in which they had to to create a wedding cake.  They then presented their creations to the public in a wonderful wedding cake tasting.

Each student had made a mock-up of the whole cake so that we could see the aesthetics of the formal presentation and had cut the actual cake into bite-sized pieces for the public to enjoy.  Each of the cakes was delicious, with various fruit flavors such as blueberry, apricot or nectarine melding with other flavors such as marzipan or flavored honey, all complementing a lovely white cake.  What a scrumptious way to spend a late afternoon in Montpelier.

And it was a cool afternoon as well.  Autumn seems to arrive here before August leaves.  The night before last, we had a low of 44 and last night it dropped to 43.  Of course, the days warm up pleasantly into the 60’s and it’s quite lovely, but since merely a week or so ago, we were dealing with temperatures in the 90s, it seems quite a dramatic change.  And we are forecast to be in a warming trend, but still, the hint of autumn has been felt, and with the school buses on the road and a few of the trees starting to change color, it is clear that the year is turning and summer is on the way out.