Forge Of Empires

“In the browser game Forge of Empires you can build your own city and experience all of history from its perspective – from the stone age on through the centuries. Explore new technologies that ring in a new era. Leave a mark with unique, contemporary buildings and establish a gigantic metropolis that is unparalleled anywhere. Increase your empire with sophisticated strategic campaigns and skilled actions in Forge of Empires. Create your own world: Forge your Empire!”

That certainly sounds compelling. I can think of all sorts of features that I would want to incorporate into a Community if I were to create it. I can think of almost as many features that would not be incorporated. Of course, it is all very unrealistic. No one person can create a city or any other Community. That requires the cooperation of countless others, particularly the members of the particular Community.

More than a million people live in San Jose. Each of those people contribute something to society, whether good, bad or both. They all create their own history, and some of it affects others in society. New technologies are occasionally invented or introduced. New homes and other buildings get constructed, with various architectural styles. Perhaps the same could be accomplished by fewer than a million people; but such tasks are impossible for just a single person.

Each individual is a more substantial component of a less substantial populace. For example, each resident of the main part of Felton is more than .00025% of the populace. That may not seem like much, but it is significantly more than one in a million in San Jose. Therefore, the contributions of each resident are more significant.

Again, that can be good, bad or both. The rules are the same for a smaller town as they are for a large city.

Although I may dislike the architectural style of a new home in the neighborhood, others may like it. Perhaps more like it than dislike it. Is that good, bad or both? Does it matter? The residents of the new home must like it, and, within reason, that is more important in a society that is not created by a single person.

Personally, I dislike homelessness within my Community. I want everyone to be accommodated within some sort of domestic situation. Most of the homeless likely need only affordable accommodation. I suspect that most people in any Community also dislike homelessness, but are unable to do much about it. Community is no video game.

Merry Christmas!

Jesus was homeless.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY! to Jesus. Merry Christmas! to everyone else.

For those of us lacking a domestic situation, winter, which started just a few days ago, is the most difficult of seasons. Even here in the locally mild climate, the weather gets cold and wet. It is much worse in cooler climates with snow! It can be difficult to be merry during Christmas.

Many of the unhoused are fortunate that those who are more fortunate share gifts of food, clothing, bedding and other necessities throughout the year, and particularly during winter, like the Three Magi shared gifts with the Holy Family of baby Jesus. The gold that the Magi presented must have been very helpful while the Holy Family was in their difficult situation. Frankincense and myrrh seem like odd gifts, but were presented by Magi who likely did not expect to find that Their Messiah had been born impoverished in a stable, while His Parents were between homes.

The Holy Family was homeless.

Whether depicted as three wise men or three kings, the Three Magi were relatively wealthy and respected within their respective societies, but came from significant distances to present gifts and worship baby Jesus, regardless of His social status.

Later in life, Jesus was homeless for His entire public ministry. He travelled about and procured lodging wherever He and His Disciples happened to be at any particular time. Benefactors must have been extremely generous to accommodate a group of thirteen! Jesus, while homeless, was revered by the vast majority of society who appreciated His teachings. He was, however, persecuted by the few who ultimately had Him crucified.

According to both Matthew (8:20) and Luke (9:58), “Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.’.”

Weather

Rain is forecast to possibly begin after noon on Tuesday, and possibly continue for a few days. Although the forecast is not definite, with only a chance of rain for most of the next few days, rain is likely for Wednesday. It is no surprise. It happens at this time of year.

Within the context of my other blog of horticultural topics, I write about weather as an asset to horticulture. Plant life needs it. Some prefer warmer weather to cooler weather. Others need more of a chill through winter. Some can survive longer than others without rain. Others want more moisture. Various plants require various combinations of weather, but they all need some sort of weather.

People are very different. We do not need any particular weather. We can enjoy weather while it is pleasant, but can choose to not do so. Furthermore, if weather gets to be too unpleasantly cool, warm or wet, most of us can find shelter in which to be more comfortable than we might otherwise be outside in the weather.

A few of us lack the option of finding adequate shelter when the weather gets to be too uncomfortable, such as it will with the rain that is forecast for the next few days. As the terminology defines, the homeless lack homes.

Fortunately, the local climate is relatively mild. The weather does not get as cold as it does in other climates. Cold weather generally does not last for too long. Nor does rainy weather. Nonetheless, just a few hours of mildly cold or rainy weather can be unhealthy or even dangerous.

Fortunately, not many people lack homes or shelter locally. Nonetheless, one person without shelter during potentially unhealthy or dangerous weather is one too many.

Weather often contributes to the unpleasantries of homelessness.

4.4

Google Reviews assigns 4.4 of 5 stars to Felton Covered Bridge Park. That is the average of the ratings of 480 reviews. Only 18 of these 480 reviews, which is less than 4%, mention ‘homeless’. Regardless of such mentions, these 18 reviews generate an average rating of more than 3 stars, with only 3 assigning 1 star, but 3 assigning 5 stars.

Haters prefer to portray Felton Covered Bridge Park very differently. They neglect to consider its innate assets that others appreciate, but complain almost exclusively about a few mostly minor problems, and blame such problems on homeless people. Haters are merely a scant few of the thousands who live here, but believe that they represent the majority.

Incidentally, haters seem to have generated few, if any, of the current 480 Google Reviews that mention ‘homeless’. These review seem to have been composed mostly by people who visited from other regions, and generally expressed legitimate concerns, even if somewhat exaggerated.

These are the 18 current Google Reviews of Felton Covered Bridge Park that mention ‘homeless’, arranged from least stars to most, with commentary:

1 STAR – a year ago

We decided to take the kids to the park near this covered bridge. I curiously started walking thru the bridge and ran into a few homeless people who were mumbling and saying strange stuff, so I walked back to the park and sat and started seeing a number of homeless people in the area. I won’t be back anytime soon.

* Fortunately, this unpleasant person ‘won’t be back anytime soon’. When this posted a year ago, most of those who lacked domestic situations here had lost their respective homes to the CZU Fire. Most of the previously ‘homeless people’ had secured domestic situation by that time. If they all had gathered together on Felton Covered Bridge, there would have been only a ‘few’, as described, but with none remaining to appear within the Park afterward. Perhaps a few too many were misidentified as ‘homeless’ because they did not conform to the discriminating standards of the observer. Perhaps it is still impolite to eavesdrop.

1 STAR – 2 years ago

Unfortunately I have to give it only one star.i used to love it there until the homeless took it over. Don’t get me wrong there always have been homeless people there, unfortunately some of them are very vulgar and loud. It’s very hard to take your kids or grandchildren their without them hearing vulgar words and seeing things they shouldn’t see.

* Children hear more egregious language and see more egregious activity online, on television and in movies than they experience at Felton Covered Bridge Park. Even the spelling, punctuation and capitalization of this review could be considered to be slightly egregious. Although a few people who are not necessarily ‘homeless’ behave inappropriately on occasion, their activity is no justification for depriving children of a Park that is intended for everyone to enjoy. There are less people who are ‘homeless’ here now than there had been. They have not taken over Felton Covered Bridge Park.

1 STAR – 3 years ago

Love it except for all the homeless taking over! Feels unsafe to walk around!

* As mentioned above, the ‘homeless’ are not taking over. It is only unsafe to walk around because of gophers.

2 STARS – 3 years ago

Nice place but there is a homeless population that uses the park quite essential they keep to themselves but occupy picnic tables and benches through out the park

* Punctuation would have been useful within the context of this review. Apparently, or seemingly, someone feels entitled to the exclusive use of all of the picnic tables and benches within Felton Covered Bridge Park, and does not want to share with others within our esteemed Community. There are more benches and picnic tables than there are homeless people. They could not occupy all of them if they tried.

2 STARS – 4 years ago

This park was small and disappointing. It has a lot of potential but it is dirty and filled with the homeless. It is clear that Felton is not keeping food place up or providing better services for the unfortunate people who find themselves sleeping in the park.

* It is unfortunate that someone is disappointed with Felton Covered Bridge Park. It is actually dirty, but only because it is constructed on top of . . . dirt. It is not filled with ‘the homeless’ though, and was not so filled even four years ago when this review was composed. No one sleeps there. Food is readily available, but irrelevant in this regard.

3 STARS – 2 years ago

The covered bridge park is a place I have been coming since I was a baby. It is a nice spot to have a picnic, and it is right across the street from safeway. The bathroom situation is a little sketchy, being only porta potties that are also used by junkies and homeless.

The park in general is kept clean and safe. But there is an uneasy drug presence at the end of the park where the houses all are. This is a great spot to go in the daytime, and the bridge is beautiful, majestic and historic. I would try to avoid it past sundown, but the park is closed anyways so there is no reason to go…

The county is good at keeping the park equipment updated and clean, I have never come here thinking it was old and out of date.

* This review is not so bad. The only oddity is that it expresses a concern that ‘junkies and homeless’ use the ‘bathroom situation’. The situation would likely be worse if they did not do so. Vandals who vandalize the ‘bathroom situation’ should be more of a concern.

3 STARS – 3 years ago

I love this park so much, and I’m very sad to say that it’s becoming unsightly and dangerous due to the homeless encampments in the wooded areas around the park. Trash, illegal bonfires, drug dealing, and fights are commonpiece these days and I no longer feel safe walking to my neighborhood shops through the covered bridge due to harassment from occupants drunk and/or high on meth and heroin. Almost every morning I pick up the trash strewn about the dumpsters by scavengers looking for cans… I wish the local law enforcement would take steps to restore the safety of this beautiful neighborhood.

* Of these 18 reviews, this one features the most fallacies, and blames them all on those who lack domestic situations. No one camps ‘in the wooded areas around the park’. Trash is not exclusive to homelessness. If bonfires, drug dealing and fights were so common and attributable to homelessness, than at least one of the other 480 people who composed reviews should have made similar observations. Credibility is too compromised to sustain claims of harassment by people who are impaired by alcohol or illicit narcotics, or that scavengers scatter trash. This Community is very safe.

3 STARS – a year ago

The bridge itself is very nice, but in the bridge there was a homeless person sleeping and two others in the entry

* This review does not explain how the ‘two others in the entry’ qualify as ‘homeless’. If they were also asleep, then they were likely also ‘homeless’. Otherwise, they may have merely been mistaken as such because they did not conform to the discriminating standards of the observer.

3 STARS – 4 years ago

This is a great park for taking a stroll, or a nap, but not for sleeping in overnight if you’re homeless or a crusty traveler. Get a bagel across the street and try to make it up to SF or down to Santa Cruz.

* This review is just weird.

3 STARS – 3 years ago

Small park…beautiful historic covered bridge to walk over..Lot of homeless hang out and sheriff runs them off…

* Even when this review was composed three years ago, there were not a ‘lot of homeless’ here.

3 STARS – 2 years ago

This is a good family park. There is a play area for children, and large lawns to run and play. The Redwood trees, the river, and Felton Covered Bridge add to the special ambiance here. It is a place where one can put down their phone and experience some of the other important things in life…. if one would want. There are sometimes homeless here. They seem to enjoy the nature of these woods also.

* That seems to be accurate.

4 STARS – 2 years ago

Gorgeous bridge and nice playground but the drunk homeless looking folks getting arrested kind of brought the mood down. The police seemed to make a lap around the park rousting anyone who looks homeless or are drinking, like they do it all the time. Would have been perfect if not for the police presence and arrests (they were peaceful arrests).

* Actually, the deputy sheriffs do not roust anyone merely for being or appearing to be homeless. Although this review attributes nothing directly to homelessness, it does not describe what ‘homeless looking’ is either.

4 STARS – 4 years ago

Nice park, great historic bridge, but Santa Cruz is famous for homeless, and this place is no exception.

* That is credible.

4 STARS – a year ago

Very historic (but there was a homeless dude in there lol)

* This is also credible. Homelessness should not be so amusing though.

4 STARS – 4 years ago

Nice park but to many homeless.

* Perhaps even just a few homeless people are to(o) many for some observers.

5 STARS – 5 years ago

Great park for the kids to play at. You will have to over look the homeless that like to hangout there. They really are ok people, kind and respectful for the most part.

The kids will have a great time playing there.

* How nice!

5 STARS – 2 years ago

Felton is a place to go covered bridges where I go to walk my dogs everyday or every other day if I can homeless people are no bother well mannered and polite

* This review is nice also, even without punctuation.

5 STARS – 5 years ago

Beautiful and peaceful. I love the homeless that live around there.

* Ah!

Winter 2021

Autumn will capitulate to winter in about two weeks. December 21 will be both the Winter Solstice and the shortest day of the year. After a month without rain and only slowly cooling temperatures, the weather will continue to cool and likely get cold at times, with significantly more rain, as the days slowly lengthen. A bit of rain is possible after midnight tonight, with more rain possible after Saturday. It is unlikely that winter will be as mild and dry as autumn has been until now.

Winter is a necessary season in nature, and allows the Southern Hemisphere to get a turn with summer. Many of us enjoy the cool weather, rain and change in scenery as deciduous trees defoliate. Unfortunately though, cool weather and rain are uncomfortable and potentially dangerous for those who lack shelter.

It is difficult to exclude rain and retain warmth without roofs and walls. It is difficult to recover from illness without a warm and dry situation. Our Community is so very fortunate that so few remain unsheltered nowadays, especially after so many lost homes to the CZU Fire two summers ago.

Winter can be somewhat difficult for those who inhabit homes as well. It is the time of year that leaks in roofs are discovered and need to be repaired. The cost of fuel or electricity for heating increases, especially for those who lack the option of burning wood for heat. Even those who use only wood for heat must have purchased it at one time or another. Evacuation below the CZU Fire burn area may be necessary prior to heavy rain. 

It will not last forever. We know that it can be uncomfortable, difficult and expensive, but it is only one of four seasons. Spring begins in three and a half months.

Thankful

There is so much to be thankful for. It sounds cliche, and it is easy to forget while there is obviously so much to potentially be unhappy about. Fortunately, neither is contrary to the other. For example, it is quite normal to be unhappy about the loss of a stable domestic lifestyle. However, those who are houseless here can still be thankful to reside within such a compassionate and proactively supportive Community.

There is no shortage of friends here. Those who temporarily lack employment here are often hired by neighbors and friends, even if merely for minor tasks, and even if merely temporarily until more appropriate employment becomes available. Neighbors and friends sometimes provide temporary shelter to those who need it, and were particularly generous about doing so after the CZU Fire. Neighbors and friends here are innately gracious with sharing their resources with the less fortunate who would likely experience very different reception within the context of another Community.

There is more than Community to be thankful for. The mild climate, which is pleasant to those who inhabit homes, is more of a major advantage to those who lack shelter. The availability of free resource, such as food and clothing, prevent those of us who temporarily lack personal resources from experiencing unfounded hunger or becoming uncomfortably shabby. Tents and bedding are available to those who need them.

We should also be thankful for the rare but aberrant haters. They remind us of some of what we should be thankful for. We should be thankful that we are not so disdainful of humanity that we are compelled to disregard that which we should be thankful for in the diligent pursuit of dehumanizing others. We should be thankful that we are not like haters. We should be thankful to be thankful.

Misconceptions

“Hola!”, was an unexpected greeting from a notably pallid bank teller in Santa Cruz with whom I expected to deposit a check. I paused briefly, and before I could ask if he could speak to me with English, he asked, “Hablas ingles?”. I paused again, and replied, perhaps with a Californian accent, “Yes; do you?”

As he efficiently adjusted his linguistic obligation and conducted the transaction, I felt compelled to mention that, on rare occasion, my complexion generates such misconception. I probably should have said nothing, and avoided the subsequent discourse.

“Where are you from?”, he asked.

“Here.”

“No, I mean where are you parents from?”

“Here, . . . Sunnyvale and Santa Clara.”

“Where were they originally from?”

As I wondered why white people believe that they were here before anyone else, I briefly explained that my very distant ancestors came to North America from Europe while all sorts of other Caucasians were doing the same; and that my complexion was inherited from ancestors who left Italy a very long time ago. None of my ancestors spoke Spanish.

“Do you know people in the ‘Old Country’?”, he invariably asked.

“. . . Well, . . . since just about everyone I know lives in California, YES!”

Misconceptions associated with homelessness are much more bothersome, and are sometimes used to justify potentially serious discrimination and mistreatment. ‘Homeless’ simply describes a lack of a home. It does not describe reasons for such lack. Nor does it describe symptoms of such lack.

Although some stereotypes of homelessness are more likely to apply to some who are homeless than those who are not, they are neither exclusive to the homeless Community, nor inclusive of everyone within the homeless Community.

For example, addiction is more common among the homeless Community merely because so many who are addicted to some sort of ‘substance’ are more likely to become homeless as a result of such addiction. However, many and actually most who are afflicted with addiction inhabit homes. Furthermore, many who are homeless are not afflicted with addiction.

Only a few residents of Felton are presently homeless. If all of them but no one else were afflicted with addiction to some sort of ‘substance’, then such addiction would involve only a few residents of Felton. Obviously, such addiction is a much more significant problem, and the majority of those afflicted with it inhabit homes. Yet, those who inhabit homes are not necessarily stigmatized as addicts simply because they inhabit homes as the majority of addicts do.

Generalizations generally do not apply to everyone they are intended to apply to, and can initiate inaccurate misconceptions. Everyone has a unique story.

The Good Life

We have it good here. It is not always easy, and it sometimes gets difficult, but generally, we have it good.

That is not much consolation for many of those who formerly inhabited homes that were destroyed by the CZU Fire more than a year ago. Nor does it seem like much help to those who were deprived of their former domestic situations for other reasons, or are currently involved with such processes. It might not become apparent until after recovery. 

The potential for recovery might be an early clue to how good the situation here is. The Community is so remarkably compassionate and supportive. That is why so few of us lacked domestic situations prior to the CZU Fire. The Community commonly assists the unhoused with procurement of habitation, even if just temporarily. Also, the Community sometimes assists the unemployed with employment to sustain such habitation.

Furthermore, no one goes hungry for long here. Food Distribution (between 11:00 a.m. and noon on Thursdays) at Community Bridges provides supplemental sustenance for those who have need for it, and is remarkably generous with surplus produce. Although it can not supply all necessary sustenance, it assists those with limited resources by offsetting their expenditure on particular grocery items. Although Felton Presbyterian Church and Saint John’s Church are still (temporarily) unable to serve Community lunches at noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays respectively, both continue to provide bagged lunches at the same times.

Not all Communities are so compassionate or accommodating. Some Communities are unable to accommodate everyone who is in need and receptive to assistance. It is saddening to observe the substantially more deplorable situations that some of the unhoused of Santa Cruz, Watsonville and San Jose must contend with. However, it does remind us that we have it good here.

Summer House

Because so much of my work is online, I can do it anywhere. Therefore, for the past many years, I have considered the acquisition of a so-called ‘summer house’ in another region, where I can live for parts of the year when I do not need to be here. Of course, and contrary to the seasonal designation, I would be more likely to go there during autumn or early winter rather than during the busy summer season. Such acquisition has always been delayed by local obligations, as well as other unrelated travel. There is no need to work remotely when I already work remotely.

Nonetheless, the investigation of real estate in other regions has been interesting. Although many of the properties that appealed to me were very small and isolated homes in (horrid) desert regions (because such regions lack vegetation that is so distracting to horticulturists like me), some of the properties could have been useful for other purposes. Several were more ‘normal’ homes that could be inhabited by a few people. A few were quite large buildings that could have been subdivided into a few or even several apartments. Such apartments could have provided homes for any or all of the unhoused residents of Felton who would not mind relocation, even if merely temporarily.

For example, I investigated an abandoned Methodist Church that was about as big as a large apartment building. It could have been divided into a several studios. I only desired a single small studio within the building. There was also an industrial building that was much larger, with seven floors that could have been divided into two spacious apartments each. Real estate listings make it seem so simple.

Sadly, it is not so simple. Renovation of such buildings is expensive. So is maintenance. Furthermore, the properties that I investigated were not local. They were nowhere close to such. Anyone who chose to relocate to them would be a very long way from home until he or she were able to return, if returning were even an option. It would be easier to merely not leave. For most of us, it would be better to be homeless at home than stranded in a home away from home.

Personal Aversion

As much as I want to go, I also slightly dread returning to Los Angeles next February. I have more than four months to plan my trip, in order to accomplish what I intend to do while there. It will be a vacation of sorts, with only limited professional obligations. There are a few touristy follies that I have somehow always neglected, which I will now prioritize. I should be completely pleased with anticipation. I almost am.

However, I do not want to observe the situation with the unhoused Community there. It has become so prevalent. It can be oppressively saddening to see so many people in such unpleasant conditions. Although most other social conditions of many regions of Los Angeles have improved since I first visited in about 1986, homelessness has increased substantially. It can not be ignored.

Some encampments of the unhoused have become somewhat perennial within their respective situations. Some have been established long enough for vegetable gardens to produce vegetables for more than a single season. Although most encampments are reasonably neat, some that are inhabited by those afflicted with severe mental illness are deplorable and hazardous. People should not live like that.

Furthermore, those who work and inhabit residential buildings (such as houses and apartments) in regions where homeless encampments are established should not need to contend with such hazardous and unsightly conditions, especially since living there requires such significant expenditure.

As difficult as homelessness seems to be in our Community, it is overwhelming in more populous Communities. There are no simple solutions.

That is the source of the slight dread associated with my return to Los Angeles. I intend to enjoy my vacation, but I also expect to be somewhat saddened at times. Society should have evolved enough by now to remedy such problems.