Vin Crosbie's Personal Blog

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Volcano Erupts in My Wife’s Native Islands

In the south of La Palma, one of Spain’s Canary Island of La Palma, a volcano has erupted between two village in Cumbre Vieja national park. Elsewhere in the Canary Islands is the sites of Spain’s highest point, the dormant volcano Teide (3,715-meter or12,188-foot), which is also the highest point along the Atlantic Ocean. Off El Hierro island, an undersea volcano has been erupting during recent years. And the island of Lanzarote is the site of more than 30 extinct or dormant volcanoes (as well as a restaurant that use a volcanic vent to grills meat).

Flying into Lisbon (4K video)

FOR MY FRIENDS WHO ARE ‘ARMCHAIR’ TRAVELERS and need a scenic, seven-minute breaks. Although the weather in this video is so perfect that it looks more like a Microsoft Flight Simulator artificial view than reality, it is the actual view outside the window of seat 1A while TAP Air Portugal’s Flight #1117 makes its final descent into Lisbon’s Humberto Delgado international airport.

It starts with a view of the Atlantic Ocean and the ‘Portuguese Riveria’ where the resort towns of Cascais and Estoril are located, with the Sintra Mountains in the background. Then the mouth of the Tagus River (Portuguese: Rio Tejo) appears as the aircraft steadily descends. At the 1:45 mark, the 16th Century Belém Tower (Portuguese: Torre de Belém) monuments rises above the northern bank of the river, with the Jerónimos Monastery (Portuguese: Mosteiro dos Jerónimos) two blocks behind it. The flight path then passes over the heavily-forested Monsanto Forest Park (Portuguese: Parque Florestal de Monsanto) at the center of the city. I regret that this descent doesn’t the old parts of this ancient city, only the new parts of the Portuguese metropolis. The airliner lands at the four-minute mark, then taxis to the airport terminal.

If you ever have the chance, visit Lisbon. It is a lovely, charming city, full of friendly people, history, and excellent cuisine. I’ve loved it ever since my first visit in 1970.

The State-of-the Arts in Robotics

A 16-minute overview. It has a bit of snark, but overall is good.

Speaking of which, Toyota has built a robot that can score more basketball shots than any human player. For its full story, click here.

I wish that New York City provided the live subway information that Tokyo does.

Tiempo en Las Canarias

I’m spending most of this month in my wife’s native Canary Islands, doing videography for a project she and I are undertaking later this year. Most of the past weeks have involved shooting ‘B-roll’, which are short background scenes designed to be used beneath narration or other contents. This is an example from a farm in the highlands of Gran Canaria island.

This is the Hubble Space Telescope’s photograph of Arp 195, the collision of three galaxies.

The Outrageous Increase in Sheepskin Costs

I cannot justify the increased costs of a U.S. college education during the past 40 years. Although the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that although the overall costs of everything in the United States increased by 236 percent (i.e., inflation) between 1980 to 2000, the average costs of a U.S. college education increased by 1200 percent: five-times more than inflation. Yet has the education received increased five times as much? I very much doubt so.

Inherited Paintings

Julian Alden Weir’s ‘Early Fall’

All are by early American or late 19th Century American Impressionist artists.

A minor work by J. Alden Weir (1852-1919). Year unknown. It is basically the view in back of his home in Windham Center, Connecticut, looking west towards the hills of Lebanon, Connecticut. Signed in lower left corner. 12-¼ by 16-¼ inches. Professionally appraised in 2013 at $17,000.

William Glackens

A minor work by William Glackens (1870–1938). Year unknown.

Reynolds Beal’s ‘Noank’

My late brother Kevin’s favorite was this painting of Noank, Connecticut, by Reynolds Beal.


An artist about whom I’m trying to find the file.

Walter Griffin’s ‘Maine’

‘Maine’ by Walter Griffin (1865-1935). Signed in lower right. 10 by 12 inches. Professionally appraised at $3,500.

Charles Foster Ryder’ Hot Springs, Virginia’

‘Hot Springs, Virginia’ by Chauncey Foster Ryder (1868-1949). Signed in lower right corner. 8½ x 10⅜ inches. Professionally appraised at $5,000.


An unknown and unsigned oil painting that has been in my family since at least 1950.


View from the west bank of the Hudson River to Breakneck Ridge on the east bank. An unknown and unsigned oil painting that has been in my family since at least 1950. Hung for many decades above the living room fireplace on the second floor of the family homestead at 215 Church Street, Willimantic, Connecticut. Known to have been purchased at an estate sale. By coincidence, this viewpoint, just south of West Point, New York, is the same that young J. Alden Weir and his father Robert Walter Weir (1803-1889) had each painted when the latter was teacher and professor of Drawing at the U.S. Military Academy there. Wikipedia notes that Weir senior “created many unsigned paintings that may never be attributed to him.” This could be one such painting, but remains unsubstantiated.

A Painting on Glass by an Unknown Artist

This view of the Connecticut State Capitol building in Hartford, Connecticut, hung for decades in the publisher’s office of the daily Chronicle newspaper in Willimantic, Connecticut. It was likely purchased by publisher George August Bartlett (1873-1919) during the last two decades of his life. I thought it might have some value, but recently discover that it was mass produced and today worth approximately $100.

One Painting No Long in Possession

Charles Courtney Curran’s ‘A Sunny Morning’

A Sunny Morning’ (1916) by Charles Courtney Curran (1861-1942). Signed and dated in lower left corner. 18 by 22 inches. Exhibited at The William Benton Museum of Art in Storrs, Connecticut (1989). Professionally appraised in 2013 at $71,000. I regretted selling this work, as I liked it myself but co-own it with my sister-in-law, who wants to sell these paintings. So, I reluctantly sold it because it was the most salable. We sold it in 2016 for $28,000.


Take a Foreign Virtual Walk

Stuck at home? Would you rather be taking a walk or a drive or a train through Istanbul, Kuala Lumpur, Stockholm, Hong Kong, or some other foreign city? Then take a break with this app/website. Pick a city, pick a time of day, then watch. It doesn’t let you control where you go, but you can control whether or not you hear street noises. You can also hear local radio stations from that city.

Early U.S. Presidents in Today’s Suits

Digital artist Magdalene Visaggio uses her iPhone to transplant the portraits of U.S. Presidents into photo software and gives them modern clothes and haircuts as if they were U.S. politicians today. See her Twitter feed and meet George Washington (above) and others.

Scot mountain biker Danny MacAskill is arguably the best bicyclist of any type in the world. Here are two video clips [each six minutes long] of proof. In the clip above, MacAskill treats mountains the opposite way rock climbers do: finding new and challenging routes to descend the peaks. And in the clip below, a tour de force, he cycles down the rooftops to the sea in my wife’s hometown of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

The Greatest Mechanical Invention in History

Wired magazine notes, “The oldest axle ever discovered is not on a wagon or cart, but instead on a potter’s wheel in Mesopotamia. These may seem like simple machines, but they’re the first evidence that anyone anywhere recognized the center of a spinning disk is stationary and used it to their mechanical advantage. It’s a completely ingenious observation and so novel that it’s unclear where the idea came from—perhaps from a bead spinning on string?—as it has no obvious corollary in nature. The pole is called an axle, and many scholars consider it the greatest mechanical insight in the history of humankind.

“Yet there exists another great intellectual leap between the potter’s wheel and a set of wheels on a rolling object. The full wheel set appears to have first been invented by a mother or father potter, because the world’s oldest axles are made of clay, are about two inches long, and sit beneath rolling animal figurines.

“The first wheeled vehicle, in other words, was a toy.

“In July 1880, the archaeologist Désiré Charnay discovered the first pre‑Columbian wheel set in the Americas. It was on a small coyote figure mounted on four wheels, and Charnay found it in the tomb of an Aztec child buried south of Mexico City.

“As Charnay presumes in his book The Ancient Cities of the New World, the toy was a memento of ‘a fond mother … who, ages gone by, buried [it] with her beloved child.’

“The Aztec child lived thousands of years after the inventor in the high steppe but before the Europeans arrived with their wheels in the Americas, which suggests that in both the New and Old Worlds a mother or father potter independently invented the wheel and axle to make a toy.

“The archaeologists I spoke with are hesitant to believe such a remarkable insight could have been made in the pursuit of something as frivolous as an object for play. The engineers, however, are not. Instead, they believe it would be far more remarkable if the first wheel and axles appeared on 500‑pound wagons. Small versions of inventions—modernly called models or prototypes—nearly always precede larger ones. They are far easier to build, take far less time, and allow an inventor to quickly discover potential problems and find solutions.

“Yet as ingenious as this inventor was, their toy did not spark a societal revolution. The person who scaled it into a full‑size set of wheels a few hundred years later did. The full‑size wagon first appeared approximately 5,400 years ago, and it may be one of the the first inventions in history to go viral. Archaeologists have discovered full‑size carts from southern Iraq to Germany within a few hundred years of each other at a time when cultural barriers were particularly impermeable. The wagon, it seems, was irresistibly useful.

“When I asked David Anthony, an anthropologist and the author of The Horse, the Wheel, and Language, what explains this viral growth, he believes part of the reason may be the wagon’s sheer size: ‘These were probably the biggest wooden machines anyone had ever seen,’ he says. They would have been loud; they would have been slow. And they were powered by teams of oxen, which were by themselves some of the largest animals in the steppe.

“The invention of the wagon was the prehistoric equivalent of Sputnik; it did not go unnoticed. Because the two oldest wheels archaeologists have found vary significantly in design—one has an axle fixed to the wheel as it does on a modern train, the other spins freely on the axle like on a modern car—Anthony suggests that at least some wagon builders copied what they saw from afar without being able to inspect it closely.”

Newsstand/travel-convenience retailer Hudson will introduce Amazon‘s cashier-less Just Walk Out technology in its North American outlets (which are mostly in airports and railroad stations).