Iron Road to Chester

I entered the woods near Chester, New Jersey by stepping over a thin cable slung between two wooden posts and heading up a narrow gravel-covered track that disappeared in leafy dimness. The better part of forty-five minutes later I was barely a mile in, but then I had the camera with me, and had seen many things worth a short delay: a spring from which orange, iron-laden water bubbled; remnants of a 19th century sewage system; ancient stone walls lining a suspiciously regular cut in the earth; century old black cinders born in the firebox of a steam engine. The path I followed was unmistakable as an abandoned railroad right of way: unlike any forest track a railroad cuts long smooth slices through the terrain: no tight curves; no steep grades. It’s why they make such nice walking trails once the trains no longer need them. The starkly artificial features of these constructions remain visible against the fractal chaos of nature long after the rails themselves have been pulled up and melted down.

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Did Microsoft Drop the Ball with Developers?

Peter Bright has written a multi-page post on Ars Technica explaining the myriad technical failures of Microsoft’s tools strategy that have driven him off the Windows platform and over to OS/X. It’s just been slash-dotted and is getting the predictable level of commentary from the nominally MS-bashing crowd over there.

Ok, let’s leave aside for the moment the simple fact that if Mr. Bright was free to drop Windows and move over to OS/X he’s not working on anything that matters very much. I mean that he doesn’t have a lot of people depending on what he’s doing, otherwise he wouldn’t be so free to make that choice. Whatever. If he’d rather work on a Mac then who the hell am I to comment? But along the way he feels the need to rant a little on the “miserable” Windows development experience on .Net, and that’s where he goes straight off the rails.

Not that he was really on the rails to begin with. Before getting to his laundry list of .Net’s weaknesses Mr. Bright felt the need to categorize the world of software developers according to his own schema. In that world, there are three types of programmers: Excel-wielding macro-cowboy pseudo-coders in business suits; lazy, uninspired cube drones writing clunky, misshapen enterprise applications that nobody really cares about; and those conscientious, intelligent, detail-oriented super coders like himself. Hilariously, he characterizes that last group as the people who might use C++ or “whatever beret-wearing funky scripting language was à la mode at the time.” Like anyone who uses C++ regularly considers a funky scripting language to be real programming (“Look, Bjarne! Anything can be an object!”). Hey, if we push hard enough maybe we can cram the mainly gray-haired, uber-serious C++ programmer community into the same can with all those cool, messy-mopped script-slinging web-onauts. Maybe, but I doubt it.

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The Rise of the Rest

Fareed Zakaria has a lengthy but worthwhile article in Newsweek that dissects the current American malaise in terms of the perceptions of a changing world that drive it, and shows that many of those perceptions are flawed at best. According to various polls 81% of the U.S. population believes the country is headed in the wrong direction. This piece is a good antidote to the drumbeat of gloom from media and political elites that have a vested interest in dissatisfaction.

Kittatinny’s Ancient Roads

Join me for a walk North from the vanished town of Millbrook in New Jersey’s skylands, along some ancient roads that lead us through two hundred years of history. This area played a vital role in the early colonial commerce of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and due to unique circumstances is home to some of the most fascinating intact structures and relics of that time. Heading north from the old village along a mountain track that hasn’t been regularly used in 150 years you can see stone walls stretching off through the forest, a reminder of the farmers and loggers who labored here for generations.

“Kittatinny Mountain begins at the place that is truly a water gap, thrusting its granite shoulder to the sky just East of the spot where the slim ribbon of interstate 80 skips across the Delaware River and enters the state of Pennsylvania. For many people this is perhaps all of the mountain that they see, as they speed across and over to the outlet stores of Stroudsburg, or the great expanse of the nation beyond. But the hill stretches more than forty miles Northeastward, well into southern New York’s Orange County, and is but one stony promontory of many in the long range that runs from New England deep into the south. Atop Kittatinny’s knife-edge summit runs the famed Appalachian trail, while at its feet the river lies like a sleepy snake, seeming in places to lap right up against the long ridge, marking New Jersey’s northwestern border in white-flecked silver.”

Read the full article here, or view the gallery of images.

Millbrook and The Old Mountain Road

Kittatinny Mountain begins at the place that is truly a water gap, thrusting its granite shoulder to the sky just East of the spot where the slim ribbon of interstate 80 skips across the Delaware River and enters the state of Pennsylvania. For many people this is perhaps all of the mountain that they see, as they speed across and over to the outlet stores of Stroudsburg, or the great expanse of the nation beyond. But the hill stretches more than forty miles Northeastward, well into southern New York’s Orange County, and is but one stony promontory of many in the long range that runs from New England deep into the south. Atop Kittatinny’s knife-edge summit runs the famed Appalachian trail, while at its feet the river lies like a sleepy snake, seeming in places to lap right up against the long ridge, marking New Jersey’s northwestern border in white-flecked silver.

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