Monday, May 15, 2017

TIL ... (Insuring Children edition)

Reading the comments to a Washington Post article or op-ed can be variously amusing, dismaying, and/or educational.  Today, on the paper's seemingly non-controversial view that Too many children are killed for insurance money (although at least one wiseacre asked what number the Post thinks would be appropriate), commenters weighed in on bona fide reasons to take out life insurance policies on infants and small children.  Here are some highlights:
  • To pay for funeral expenses
  • "Ours have them because I have an autoimmune disease that makes me uninsurable. Thank goodness I had life insurance before I acquired health problems. We took out policies for our kids to protect their insurability, since once you have a policy they cannot cancel it and they also have to allow guaranteed additional purchases when the kids reach adulthood. Since the origin of my disorder is unknown, there may be a genetic component. Buying policies now protects our kids in the future." - mokinsbean
  • "Locking-in the low premium is good, but locking-in insurability is even better. Kids are generally healthier before they hit their teens, so getting a permanent policy while they are healthy can be one of the best moves you'll ever make." - Bastages
  • "[O]utside the rich, developed world, the elderly often depend on their children to provide and care for them. If you live in such a place, insuring your children makes good sense. It might make sense to those Americans who come from such places and have no old-age safety net other than their children." - 99miles
  • "As others have noted, there has been selling of relatively small amount life insurance for children for many decades. One goal was to lock in a low rate per $1,000 of insurance." - Davidhoffman6692
  • "1) the premiums will be very low, so the parent is locking them in for later when the child grows up and wants insurance for themselves, at which time the parent can turn over the policy to the grown-up child, who can then make their spouse the beneficiary; 2) the child could borrow against the policy to pay for education, maybe at a lower rate than other educational loans; 3) if the parent is sending the child to private schools, then the parent would recover the costs of schooling if the child dies while still a minor." - Arise-and-Shine
And of course this all-too-common scenario for the vast number of film-maker parents who insure their own children after casting them in lead roles for a major motion picture:
  • "You are making a motion picture and will incur a major loss if a key (child) actor dies before the movie is finished - you might well want to insure against that risk." - Wal Stir
But ladymidnight2u points out a significant caveat: "I would suspect that in that case all actors are insured, including kids, but only for that one project. Not merely until natural death occurs." 

The op-ed also singled out New York for its maximum life insurance limits for juveniles, which presumably is intended to allow parents and guardians to purchase reasonable amounts of insurance for foreseeable bona fide purposes, while weakening the financial incentives to kill vulnerable children in their care:
  • Newborn to 4½: limit is the greater of $25k or 25% of the applicant's own life insurance.
  • Over 4½: limit is the greater of $25k or 50% of the applicant's own life insurance.
I suppose this allows parents who are very wealthy (or possibly, very worried) to get extravagant life insurance policies for themselves and their children.  If the applicant-parent is, in fact, very wealthy, presumably they won't be motivated by the financial windfall.  If the applicant-parent merely values life insurance very highly, this allows them to put their money where their mouth is, so to speak.  

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Putting on the Tux

Went back to Tuxedo with CLN to redo the hike I'd done with Grace & Bruce:  Ramapo-Dunderberg (R dot) to Tuxedo-Mt Ivy (R bar) to White Bar to Kakiat (W).  It's approx 6.8 miles r/t from the bus or train stop.

The terrain is enjoyable - a few moderate ascents, a mild and easily bypassed scramble, and lots of rolling terrain through the woods.  There are only two scenic overlooks on this particular path, but they are certainly nice ones.  

Also along the way, toward the end, you pass by many large boulders that remind me a little of Pawtuckaway State Park in NH (which I've blogged about once or twice), although the ones here are merely an amuse-bouche by comparison.  

Some trail maintenance may be in order -- there were several little streams or rivulets to cross, and relatively few strategically placed rocks or logs to make the going easy. There are also two tree trunks blocking the path on Kakiat, which we had to climb over.  (Many other tree trunks nearby were cut through for the path, but not these two.)  

There are also a few junctions that may be confusing: 

(1) At the trailhead, you have to look carefully for the red dot blazes (red dot on white background) - the official Ramapo-Dunderberg trail is next to (and slightly to the right of) an invitingly wide direct stony ascent.  

(2) A little  ways on, after the R-D trail takes a strong left turn to go due north, the path starts gently undulating.  Then all of a sudden you may start seeing yellow triangle blazes.  This is because the R-D trail takes a sudden, unmarked right turn (almost perpendicular) on meeting the Triangle trail.  So if you see yellow triangles, just backtrack about 20 feet and look for the turn to stay on the R-D.  

(3) From  the White Bar trail, it would be very easy to miss the turn off for the white-blazed Kakiat, although I was lucky enough to spot it both times.  Today, I remembered approximately where it was (not long after a few gate posts and two ranger stands).  For future reference, I noticed there are some biggish rocks at the right-hand side of the trail at that point.  Also, the white blaze on the trail directly ahead at that point bears the letters "W-B" (for white bar).  If you then look into the woods on the right, past the biggish rocks, you may notice a slender tree with a white blaze bearing the letter "K."  That would be Kakiat.  

Green fungi at log-end

These fungi looked like bread rolls

Ironically, we'd originally planned on hiking Saturday, but decided to switch based on the weather reports.  We have never been so wrong, as the old meme says.  Yesterday was by far the nicer day!  Today, we got some longish sprinkles, increasingly as the day went on.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Quick Loop

A  collectable action figure on display at Grand Central Station

I missed the early train, and the weather was a bit gloomy, so I didn't quite have the heart for a long trek.  Just did the quick loop from Cold Spring station: Washburn (white) - Notch (blue) - Brook (red) - Cornish (blue).

Atop Bull Hill

a slightly different angle gives a glimpse of the Hudson
As often in the spring, certain stretches of woods look magical, as if of Faƫrie:

a portion of the Notch trail

I got back to town just 6 minutes before a return train, so I did not dally.  Map My Hike clocked the walk as 6.92 miles, but that includes crossing over to the train station.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Fancy hair and lilacs

pre-bloom wisteria

families on the cherry esplanade

Starting a Cartwheel


anime characters posing for a photo shoot

parasols for a photoshoot

Sheer Joy - throwing handfuls of petals into the air

Prospect Park

redbud outside a children's playground

in the shade of a cherry tree, on a carpet of cherry blossom petals

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Kids' Lit

So, this month I saw The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical  off-Broadway at the Lucille Lortel and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on Broadway.

For both shows, I had front row seats.  This was much more fun for The Lightning Thief, where the first few rows get doused with giant pieces of glitter and streams of "water" symbolized by (happily clean and dry) toilet paper.   By contrast, at the Willy Wonka show, a front center seat merely meant that occasionally the tilt of the stage prevented me from seeing everything clearly.

Percy Jackson was an unmitigated delight. The teenage angst element could easily have been overdone, but they kept it in check.  It worked.   I loved Sally's song "Strong" - she belted it out and moved me to tears.  Creative use of barebones scenery and props gave the show a scrappy energy suitable to the subject matter, and the actors and actresses were likewise versatile in their multiple roles.  I especially loved the actor playing Chiron, who used relatively subtle shifts in posture and musculature to give the right sense of horsiness to his centaur without a full-fledged costume.  (The puppeteers in War Horse at Lincoln Center did something similar too, to good effect - although that required coordination among multiple performers.)

As for Willy Wonka, my feelings are more mixed.  The boy playing Charlie Bucket was quite winsome, and I really liked the early scenes establishing his home life and poverty as well as Mr. Wonka's apparent heartlessness.  Other than Augustus Gloop, the Golden Ticket winners were nicely updated, I thought, and many of their trials were well realized.  The squirrels (BAD Nut!) were great, and the Oompah-Loompahs were performed hilariously with puppets. So much of it worked, that it was actually a little surprising to find it a bit flat at the end.  Perhaps I just didn't buy the sudden familial warmth between Wonka and Charlie, or maybe it seemed creepy to have such warmth suddenly switched on, highlighted and foregrounded while Charlie's well-established loving family is nowhere to be seen.  (Yes, Wonka says they've been settled in the factory.  But we don't see them.  They don't share in this moment; they're not there to share Charlie's triumph or to protect him from this grown man who has granted all the boy's wishes in one fell swoop.)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Cold Spring to Beacon, and an Aerial Show (Turkey Vultures!)

A strangely split tree trunk on the Notch trail
After last weekend's warmup in Tuxedo, NY, it  was time for the first longish hike of the season.  Key motivation?  I'd recently finished up my wonderful bottle of Manzanillo Varietal olive oil, and I could buy a replacement in Beacon!  It started like so many other Cold Srping hikes (Washburn-Notch), with the opportunity to bail out at the junction with the Brook trail. But I thought of olive oil, and soldiered on.

I went past the turn-off for the Casino trail, specifically to hit at least the very first scenic viewpoint  on the Wilkinson Memorial trial.

Though I was tired, I was very well rewarded for the effort. As I stood in the weakening afternoon light, with a cloud of gnats nearby, I saw a smallish bird pop up and attempt to hover like a hummingbird -- presumably feasting on the insects.  It popped up again, and I almost think I got a picture of it, but only if you already know what you're looking at and have a will to believe.  As I was wondering at what I'd just seen, I noticed a turkey vulture flying low and close.  Then another, and another.  And another.  Once or twice, one seemed to be heading toward me!!  I didn't capture them when they were super-close, but only as they zoomed out and around.

I think I counted 7-10 for sure all at once.  I stayed for a while, watching.  It was amazing.  Afterward, I considered going on for the Fishkill Ridge trail, but that was clearly going to be too ambitious.  Instead, I backtracked to the Casino trail.

However, as I approached the cement ruins that lead to the overlook, I decided to take a shortcut to the descent rather than going up to see the mechanism again. As it turns out, that particular footpath, after an initial descent, did not rejoin the red-blazed Casino path.  Instead, it followed the contour lines of the hill to my right and led to this very cool ruined house, which I'd never seen before:

Home, Sweet Home
The footpath I'd followed was in fact shown on my map, but it was not named (or blazed, for that matter).  The house hanging off the hillside, held up and destroyed by trees growing in and through it, was not shown on the map.  They may not really want people exploring this ruin.

All in all, including detours intended and unintended, it was about 12.5 miles.  From Cold Spring train station, I went up Washburn (white) to Notch (blue) to Breakneck Ridge (white) to Wilkinson Memorial (yellow) to Casino (red).  Thereafter, I walked down 9D (Wolcott Ave) toward the Beacon train station, but turned right on Tioranda Avenue after crossing Fishkill Creek to get to Main Street.  This turns out to be the ideal way to reach Main Street, as far as I'm concerned.  You come out right at the heart of the restaurant area - in fact, right across from the Beacon Falls Cafe, where I usually dine.  Unfortunately, it was closed; apparently their Sunday hours are 10-4, worse luck!  I went down toward the train station and bought some olive oil from Scarborough Fare.

a tiny gem of a sunset back in the city

Saturday, April 22, 2017

A Riot of Lilacs, Grape Hyacinths, and Crabapple Blossoms

At the Eastern Parkway entrance, yellow magnolia blossoms have arrived.

Grape Hyacinths By Bench and Pole

Crabapple Blossoms - White

Crabapple Blossoms - Red

Violets and Dandelions - Closeup

Under the lilac trees...

Early Lilac

I kept trying to capture the magical sense of a river of grape hyacinths flowing under and around the lilacs...  Fuzziness in the photo seems to be the price to pay for approximating this impressionistic effect.

The weeping cherries are past their prime, but the trees on the esplanade are in full bloom.

I have no idea why these photos came out as essentially black and white, with flashes of color.  But the effect is kinda cool.

I had planned to take notes on this pale peach  blossom, but somehow failed to do so...

Redbud shrub



Cherries (of course!)


"Common Periwinkle, Creeping Myrtle, Flower-of-Death" (?!)