Foto Friday

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Pigeon

Sticky Notes

According to a story in the paper, the most popular fiction book borrowed from Albany Public Library in 2015 was The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.

That’s interesting, but let’s talk about number 12 on the list, Grey, by E.L. James.

Grey is part of the popular  Fifty Shades of Grey series. I haven’t personally read any of these Grey books, but they’re well known for their graphic depictions of kinky sex.

There’s no way to put this this delicately, but here goes: would you want to take book out of the library knowing that the people before you have been… well, masturbating while reading it?

I wouldn’t want to even touch that book, much less bring it home and read it.

This is one of those things that you’re better off not thinking about, but let’s anyway. Many books contain steamy scenes that will arouse the reader, and if you’re a frequent borrower at your library, you’ve most likely held a book in your hands that’s seen some action. This Grey book is a whole different animal, written to be erotic, it’s certain to inspire a lot of solo activity.

But who knows what get’s people hot and bothered?  It could be that someone’s rubbed one out while reading that copy of Doris Kern Goodwin’s Team of Rivals you got from the library. They say William H. Seward had that effect on people.

Lost

Lost might be overstating it, but it makes a much better headline than misdirected or mildly confused, wouldn’t you say?

Anyhow, I woke up on New Year’s Day in a strange house on the edge of Mother Myrick Mountain near Manchester. Our family ski vacation was a bust thanks to the lack of snow, but we turned it into a perfectly fine playing board games and drinking vacation.

So, the dogs and I greeted 2016 with a walk up the path behind the house. It led to a well travelled trail up the mountain, and the gradual climb was the perfect antidote for my throbbing head. We three went along until the human in the group had enough.

It’s not clear when things started looking unfamiliar, but somewhere on the way down it was obvious that we’d missed our turn.

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Rob, where the f**k are we?

We walked and walked, and eventually emerged from the woods, at a point on the road some three miles from the house.

At worse this was an inconvenience.

There are few places in the northeast where you can really get lost these days. Keep going and you’ll come to a road, and if you’re luck you’ll turn right instead of left when you get to that road. Then , perhaps, you’ll have a half mile walk home, instead of a three mile walk. Oh, well.

Times Union: A Place for Racists?

“Let’s hope for some positive discourse on our stories in the days to come.” That’s what Paul Block, the Times Union’s “online executive producer” said when introducing a system for reader comments on news stories.

How’s it going? Well, here’s a comment from Monday 2/1, made on a story about a racially charged dustup on a CDTA bus, so you tell me:

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Thanks to the intrepid Keyboard Krumbs reader who pointed this out; on Wednesday 2/3 they finally turned off the story’s comment area.

Look, you decide for yourself: do they really take comment moderation seriously? Even for a second?

It’s funny that they’ll call out a blog commenter who dares to refer to himself as “Old Fart”, but allow the worst sort of racism to run rampant in the news section. I thought that was supposed to be the grown up area.

It’s revolting.

Maybe they were too busy helping Kristi relaunch her blog to keep an eye on the comments. One must have one’s priorities.

Foto Friday

Hugging Rock

Hugging Rock

In a Pickle

There’s magic happening inside two ceramic crocks at my house, where common cukes are turning into delicious garlic dill pickles. Well, it’s actually not magic, but lacto fermentation, the process where microbes turn vegetables into great things like pickles, sauerkraut and kimchi.

Maybe you’ve made pickles before? You’ve never done it this easily, because five minutes and a handful of ingredients is all you need.

Seriously, if you like pickles you have to try this. There are thousands of recipes online, but this one from Alton Brown is a terrific place to start. My Polish fermenting crocks were a Christmas gift, but it’s not about fancy equipment, but a simple and ancient technique.

Electric Pickle

There have been a lot of interesting food exploits in my house in the last year: smoking meats, making bacon, brewing beer, stuffing sausage and now the pickles and kimchi. I need to have a party where all that stuff is served together.

An acquaitance once scoffed at my wife for making her own jam. Why do all that work, she said, when you can buy that stuff at the store. The poor woman. She’ll never understand what it’s like to create something special fro a pile of raw ingredients. You go buy some jam in the store. We’ll feast on our pickles.

Ink Strained Wretch

Hello, my name is Rob and I pay for news content.

It’s true, for a long time I’ve been a New York Times digital subscriber — and it’s worth every penny. But that’s where I draw the line, because so far I haven’t found anything else I’m willing to pay for online.

A while back I suggested that I’d sign up for a Times Union digital subscription if it were $.25 per week. Without receiving a tangible product manufactured on the paper’s ultra-modern press, should it really cost any more? If you’ve ever tried doing the crossword on your computer, you know that pencils make a hell of a mess of your screen.

They are getting closer. Look here, they’ve dropped their pants price to $1 per week:

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Alas, the deal is only good for 13 weeks; after that, you’ll pay $4.

Here’s the thing, I subscribe (no pun intended) to the broadcast radio and TV model in which I’m paying for your content by way of all the advertising. If anything, the price of your news without a printed product should be dirt cheap.

But Rob, you ask, what about the Times? Good point — but you’re not seriously comparing the two, I hope.

Because I always try to be helpful, here’s a modest proposal: lower your online price to $.25 per week and severely restrict access to your content. If the majority of those who use the product pay at that price, you’ll be rolling in dough. Hell, you might even have enough cash to hand out some raises.

Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me

The Netflix documentary Making a Murderer is another example of how more is more. True crime documentaries used to be confined to the length of a film or an episode of Dateline — now storytellers can go really deep.

Programs like Murderer and podcast Serial highlight a new sort of problem for the audience: you’re just a swipe away from knowing how it ends.

Consider this: I’m 15 minutes deep into the final episode of Making a Murderer. Right now, I’ve got no idea whether Steven Avery will be acquitted — but it would take me about three seconds to find out how the story concludes.

Looking up anything about the case or the show may give it away in an instant, maybe not ruining it, but certainly watering down the suspense. Unlike reviews of movies and books, news headlines don’t bury their spoilers.

Chalk up dramatic tension up on the list of things the internet has changed. We are not meant to know what’s around every corner.

Echoes

Music often carries a connection to a time in your life; maybe that’s why the death of David Bowie affected people so powerfully.

NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts recently featured a performance by Natalie Merchant, and it transported me back more than thirty years to a dingy bar in Plattsburgh, NY. The Rook was holding a show by 10,000 Maniacs, who at the time were an obscure indie band known only to college radio DJs and our tiny group of listeners.

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Ad from Cardinal Points, the SUNY Plattsburgh newspaper, January 20, 1983

The usual suspects attended, a small, ragtag crowd of students that made up the local new wave/post-punk contingent. It was not much of a scene, but as much of a scene as one could have in Plattsburgh, NY in 1983.

Naturally, Natalie Merchant was the center of attention. She was maybe nineteen, and her singing and movement on stage were exotic in a way that left us all deeply smitten. The band was crashing with a guy we knew, and at a post-show party we struggled awkwardly to make small talk. She was wisely having none of it.

So here we are, 33 years later. Look how old we’ve gotten! Personally, I think most people improve with age. Thank goodness.