Month: June 2017

House Arrest

The Dark Horse
The Dark Horse

Where I live it’s not unusual to see horses in the Walmart parking lot, but they’re always tied to a hitching post. I went there to look for some Cogswell cogs this morning and saw two beautiful horses grazing in the tall grass all alone, freer than a jailer, or so I thought.

It seemed odd and I figured maybe they escaped from a local farm or just lived on their own, until I saw the ankle straps. All I could think of was that for some reason they were under house arrest, but what could they have possibly done to deserve this?

Once came up to me to say hello and let me pet him, contrary to myth they don’t all bite your fingers off. They he looked at me with those big brown eyes as if to ask why? I had no idea until a woman walking her dog came up and said that the straps prevent them from running away, and they were taking a break from a long ride in the trailer.

It just goes to show that things that seem crazy at first might be completely normal. The girl at Walmart actually thought I was crazy when I told her if they were out of Cogswell cogs I’d be happy with Spacely sprockets. They didn’t have either; maybe Target has some in stock.

Desktop to Instagram the Easy Way

Mowing the lawn
Mowing the lawn

The Amish don’t care about Instagram but a lot of people do. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to get on there but I don’t have a smart phone believe it or not, and I looked into the workarounds.

Most are complicated and involve either setting up a Dropbox account or using an app to mimic a mobile device. But I found a Firefox add-on called User Agent Switcher which impersonates a mobile device, takes seconds to install and works perfectly.

After installing the free add-on you’ll see an icon on the toolbar with a dropdown menu to choose your preferences, choose Android / Crome 40 before signing in and you can upload, crop and caption. Use hashtags with abandon but the maximum allowed is thirty per post.

Instagram used to insist on a square format but now lets you upload landscape and portrait-oriented photos, although not with this method. So either crop to square in editing or change the aspect ratio on your camera to 1:1.  Photos should be 1080 x 1080 pixels but can be less if necessary.

If you’re already on Instagram this can save you a lot of time, but if you’re thinking of starting ask yourself why. I met a guy named Steven Maerz who owns thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment, posts absolutely stunning shots of bald eagles among other things, and has 464 followers while Love Food has 6.9 million followers.

So if you’re the competitive type consider posting a lot of photos of your lunch, because not surprisingly, a grilled cheese sandwich is much easier to compose square than an Amish man mowing his lawn.

Check out the User Agent Switcher Add-on for Firefox here. You may want to check out Love Food for inspiration but not if you’re on a diet, there’s a lot of cake.

Reincarnation in the field

Sunflower Reincarnation
Sunflower Reincarnation

I passed by a field today that was covered with beautiful sunflowers last summer. I met the owner and she told me they only plant them every other year, this year they planted corn. But I thought I saw some on the edge growing in between wheat and wildflowers.

I stopped to take a closer look and as sure as birth and death there they were. They weren’t planted but must have come from last years stray seeds, for all practical purposes they were reincarnated.

So I asked myself if they were reincarnated, what were their plans for this summer? Were they going to try to be better flowers, were they going to do things differently this time, were they going to savor every minute they were alive and just be themselves?

And my self answered that it wanted more coffee. Then it answered that it didn’t matter because once again they would stand there and be beautiful for a while, and eventually die and start all over again.

The Buddha (allegedly) said: “Every morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.” So I took a few photos, got more coffee, and remembered the most important thing I’ve ever read by Charles Bukowski: “What matters most is how well you walk through the fire.” Yes.

The Places That Scare You

The Reading Pagoda
The Reading Pagoda

Reading, Pennsylvania is a beautiful place to visit, during the day. Around 3:00 this morning I decided to go see the Pagoda all lit up and take some photos. I was hesitant, possibly a little scared about going there alone at that time but I went anyway.

I headed up the steep, curvy road to the top and was pre-visualizing the composition (you’re supposed to do that). What I hadn’t pre-visualized was the twenty five, let’s say derelicts, let’s say, behaving badly.

I got out to look around and suddenly they all began to leave. One guy looked at me and said; “Yo you snitched!” I didn’t answer because I wanted to see if he was going to shoot me, but he didn’t, obviously. So far so good I thought, now I have the whole place to myself.

Then thirty seconds after I got my tripod set up two cop cars pulled in with lights flashing. “Parks closed-these people don’t know how to behave-it happens every night,” one announced. I considered arguing with him but the last time I fought the law the law won.

I asked if I could just take a few photos, he sighed and said to make it quick in his best Joe Friday voice. Then I told him that I wanted to climb up the path to get a better view and he just laughed.

Luckily I got a decent shot, and luckily the cops came when they did because I really wanted the gang in the photo for foreground interest, although that probably would have ended badly.

The lessons I took from this are to go to the places that scare you, except for the Reading Pagoda alone in the middle of the night. And to bracket, even with angry cops waiting for you to finish and go home.

Non Parallel Parking

Buggy Parking
Buggy Parking

It’s hard to appreciate the effort it takes to park like this with such precision until you’ve seen it. First they convince the horse to back into a spot, then they unload the family and send them ahead. The driver now has to unhitch the horse and tie him up to a post, ideally in the shade.

The second horse and buggy driver goes through the same procedure, lining his up perfectly next to the first, and the next and the next. It’s a beautiful thing really although I’ve never seen the reverse procedure, which must be a lot harder.

It seems like an overly complicated way to park, and I’ll have to ask them one day, but they’ll probably tell me: “Sell kann ennichpepper duh.” Which means anyone can do that.

Auction Hunters-Lancaster

Lancaster County Carriage and Antique Auction
Lancaster County Carriage and Antique Auction

I stopped at the annual Lancaster County Carriage and Antique Auction in Bird-In-Hand this afternoon. This is a big deal here for the English (non Amish) and the Amish with a separate area for horse and buggy parking.

The auction was in full swing and everyone seemed excited to be there, except for the horses of course. Fortunately it was cloudy and breezy so they weren’t roasting in the sun. They knew it was going to be a long wait as auctions tend to drag on, and most made the best of it.

Some sulked and hung their heads waiting patiently, and some were literally chomping at their bit to get the hell out of there. But others, the more outgoing ones, told each other stories and discussed the parable of the Chinese farmer. Maybe yes, maybe no.

The Lesser Vehicle

The Lesser Vehicle
The Lesser Vehicle

Hinayana is a Sanskrit term literally meaning the smaller or lesser vehicle. So how does this affect me, the average spiritual seeker you might ask? I’ll give you a simple yet crystal clear example, none of that finger pointing at the moon stuff.

Yesterday I was at the Strasburg Rail Road where hundreds of people gathered to ride Thomas the train. Compared with the larger steam engines, Thomas was clearly the lesser vehicle (no offense intended).

Or so I thought until I saw this miniature steam engine which actually runs on coal. There seemed to be a serious debate going on, probably about the vehicles or paths known as Hinayana, Mahayana and Tantrayana Buddhism.

Chögyam Trungpa once said: “We must begin our practice by walking the narrow path of simplicity, the Hinayana path, before we can walk upon the open highway of compassionate action, the Mahayana path.”

I didn’t ask if this lesser vehicle was headed for the open highway of compassionate action, but with all those little train fans running around I think it probably was.

Out of a compost heap, a sunflower blooms

First Sunflower
First Sunflower

So I’m driving around this morning thinking about Zeno’s Paradox of the tortoise and Achilles, when out of the corner of my eye I see the first sunflower of the season.

Back in April I discovered that from the withered tree, a flower does indeed bloom, but this was different, kinda-sorta. There, in a compost heap in front of an Amish barn was a single, beautiful four foot sunflower all alone smiling at the clouds.

I took several photos trying to find the best composition, but eventually decided to get up close and personal. What better way to celebrate the first day of summer than with an amazing flower growing up in the middle of dead grass and weeds?

Now if I can just find a tortoise to race that will give me a head start I can rest easy, once I win.

Breakfast with the Dead

Breakfast with the Dead
Breakfast with the Dead

“The Master gives himself up to whatever the moment brings. He knows that he is going to die, and he has nothing left to hold on to; no illusions in his mind, no resistance in his body.

He doesn’t think about his actions; they flow from the core of his being. He holds nothing back from life; therefore he is ready for death, as a man is ready for sleep after a good day’s work.” Tao Te Ching

Note: the Master may be ready but I’m not.