Still Waiting

How many people woke up to Carl Kasell? To public radio nerds, like me, Kassel was royalty, not just because of his years doing the news on Morning Edition, but for his quirky turn as announcer on Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me.

Years ago, I appeared as a contestant on Wait Wait — so long ago that WAMC didn’t even air the show at the time. It was 2001, and though streaming was still a crude and unreliable technology, I’d manage to hear the show online. Anyway, I called the toll free number and within a few weeks I was playing Bluff the Listener.

The show aired that weekend. My segment was heavily edited — which I managed not to take personally — and like most contestants, I won.

The story of not collecting on the prize, Carl Kasell’s voice on my answering machine message, is more complicated.

As it happened, this episode of Wait Wait aired on the weekend right before September 11. Most of us were stunned by that day, and in a lot of cases, trivial things suddenly seemed a lot less important. Getting my prize just fell off the radar.

It’s a tiny thing, of course, but interesting how the shock and horror of that day affected people.

It felt like that was the week when news stopped being funny, but thank God we were all wrong. Wait Wait and other shows help us deal with difficult times, now more than ever.

I like to think that Carl Kassel may be standing next to St. Peter when (if?) I make it upstairs. He’ll offer up a wry remark in that sonorous voice of his, and maybe I can still get him to record my voice mail message.

Just Breathe

So there I was, sitting on a pillow in a quiet room, meditating. Well, trying to meditate. The instructor told us that we may find it hard at first, quieting our busy minds. He was right. We could expect to drift in and out. If something distracts us. Just go back to it. It’s OK.

He knew we all wanted a trick of some sort, a gimmick to push it along. He described that approach as aggressive. Hmm. Forcing your mind to do something is aggressive. That is… interesting.

Now If you’re my age, you hear meditation, and think of the Beatles sitting on a rug with a bearded yogi. Sitars, incense, chanting mantras — you get the idea. So I’m not sure what put the idea in my head to give it a try.

Maybe because the workday routine was rubbing me raw.

Oh, I could have talked to my doctor. That’s the advice you hear in so many drug commercials, and there’s a pill for everything these days.

But instead, I went to Albany’s Shambhala Meditation Center and took an introductory class for $5.

It’s more than a month now, and I’ve come to crave the time out that meditation brings to a busy day. It’s a discipline that will take time to develop, but it seems to be make a difference. It may all be in my head, though I suppose that’s the point.

Quieting the busy mind ain’t easy. Just ask Don Draper.

Slice of Life

Local TV news descended on Gloversville last week when word went out about a standoff police described as “armed barricade involving an emotionally disturbed person”  The situation concluded when the man was discovered dead in an apartment. A rough time for all involved — but not so bad for reporters, because they got to have a pizza party.

I’m curious what the man’s friends and family would make of this tweet. What happened Friday was a big deal to them — it may have been one of the worst days they’ve ever had. And there are the reporters, enjoying a slice between their live shots.

TV stations are drawn by the spectacle of cops and armored vehicles. Stuff like this makes for good video, and good video is the name of the game. Stories about complicated things? Boring and hard to do. Fires, standoffs, accidents, murders? Easy peasy.

So, there you have it. An isolated event a small town ends tragically — but how about that pizza?

Fake Promo

By now, you’ve all seen this amazing montage of the “fake news” promo that Sinclair Broadcast forced its local affiliates to record and air. It’s especially interesting around here because WRGB’s Liz Bishop is prominently featured reading the Trump-inspired propaganda.

A lot of people are angry at the local stations over this crap, but as much as I dislike WRGB, I can’t say I blame them. When your boss sends you a script and says he wants it on the air, you do it. And Liz Bishop? She’s got bills to pay, just like you and me — but I bet now she wishes that she made Greg Floyd do it.

Everybody walks away looking bad here, but mostly Sinclair. Are they really so stupid that they didn’t realize that this would blow up in their faces? Yes, I suppose they are.

Getting Baked

There was something wrong with my soda bread.

Over the course of a week, after baking about ten loaves, it was obvious we had a problem. Not to get all technical, but it didn’t have the usual oven spring and the crumb structure was denser than it should have been. It was still delicious, but not quite right in its texture.

Was it the oven temperature, the kneading, the water? Maybe I was not paying enough attention to detail. Perhaps I’d just lost my knack — or it could be something darker. I joked last year of using Lucky Charms in the recipe — and this may have stirred the fairies or little people, who in turn cursed my baking.

But as it turns out, it was the baking soda.

I don’t know how old a can of baking soda must be to be beyond the sell-by date, but my can was expired. Does baking soda actually go bad? Yes — and it was confirmed by a simple test I found online.

A number of factors can ruin baking soda, and generally, it should be kept in a cool, dry place. The cabinet above my stove certainly gets warm — and the steam from cooking can’t be helpful.

I baked a final loaf Sunday night with a newly opened container of baking soda and the results were back to normal. Mystery solved — but just in case, never take any chances with the fairies and little people.

Click It Or Stick It

Late one night a little over year ago, a BMW sailed off the road in Saratoga County and hit a fire hydrant and a tree. Three of the car’s occupants walked away — and one suffred a back injury that left her a paragalegic. Now, the driver is on trial facing charges that include DWI, vehicular assault, and reckless driving.

Killing or injuring a friend or family member in an accident is not uncommon, and it adds another layer of tragedy to a terrible, life changing event.

But here’s the thing: According to a story in the Daily Gazette, the victim testified that she was in the back eat and not wearing a seat belt.

In New York, the law does not require backseat passengers to wear a seat belt, but regardless of the law, my opinion on this is black and white: If you don’t wear a seat belt in the backseat, you’re a moron. Driving? Then it’s your responsibility make all the passengers wear their seat belts. If they won’t wear it, tell them they can get out and walk.

Unrestrained passengers are more likely to be klilled or injured in an accident — and they’re also more likely to injure you as they bounce around your car.

No, sometimes a seat belt won’t help, but is that a gamble you’re willing to take? If so, ride with someone else.

Random Notes

Quote of the Week
“I’m swallowing news every minute.” – Paul Vandenburgh. He swallows so you don’t have to.

On the Money
I received this $20 bill when cashing in a lottery scratch off this week. Someone saw fit to draw a mustache on Andrew Jackson, but not just any mustache, one that looks like a toothbrush mustache — AKA a HITLER moustache.

OK, Hitler didn’t invent the toothbrush mustache, but he certainly ruined it. Today, you’d have to be pretty ballsy to sport one of those.

But the other interesting thing about the bill was that the number “1120” was written on the back. I could not find any significant connection in Jackson’s life to the date November 20, but there was this: Jackson’s farm, The Hermitage is a 1,120 acre plot.

Hmmmm. This may not rise to the Dan Brown level of mystery, but still intriguing.

Redemption?
John Sweeney was back in the news this week, in a fawning Times Union profile that chronicles the former congressman’s rise and fall and his struggle with alcoholism. It’s always interesting to read about drunks, but this tale Sweeney told the reporter caught my attention:

In the first year of his sobriety, as he pumped gas into his black Suburban SUV at a Clifton Park gas station, Sweeney locked eyes with the State Police trooper who arrested him for DWI for a second time, which sent him to jail. Both men shared a moment of recognition. The trooper’s family was in the car and he looked away. Sweeney walked over to the trooper and said: “I just want to say thanks. You saved my life.”

I don’t know Mr. Sweeney, but I know some drunks, and I’m calling bullshit on that one.

No Free Parking

It’s been a long time since a parking attendant has been seen at Thacher Park — and I reckon you’ll never see one again. It’s not because they won’t charge you for parking, but because of these kiosks springing up in the lots. The parking stations provide a convenient way for the state to collect your $6 “vehicle entrance fee” without actually providing the service rendered by a human attendant.

The park told WNYT that the fees help pay for maintenance and for park employees. That’s interesting, because without the pool and parking attendants, they probably employee fewer people than ever before. As for maintenance, I’m all for that. In recent years, it’s not been uncommon at Thacher Park to find broken picnic tables, busted grills, and trails in need of attention.

I love Thacher Park and I’ll gladly pay to use it, but the cranky old man in me requires that I ask the following: “What about all that tax money we pay?” And my cranky old man does have a point.

But pay we must.

And by the way have you been to the new visitor center? It’s pretty cool — and I hope that in coming years we see as much attention to the little things in Thacher Park as we’ve seen to the big things. A picnic table may not have the governor’s name on it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important.

Media Weak

Quote of the Week
“I don’t want to give out any misinformation here.” – Paul Vandenburgh

What?! Vandenburgh is constantly giving out misinformation on Talk 1300. This guy gets things wrong even when he’s reading them directly out of the newspaper — and a lot of what he says comes directly out of the papers. I’m not sure how that’s even possible. Someone should keep a tally of how many things he gets wrong every morning, but who has that much time?

Lame
I used to hate WRGB because they were so smug, but the truth is they backed it up by being good. Not so much anymore.

Last night the station ran a story about Cohoes Mayor Shawn Morse delivering his “state of the city address.” Yes, that’s absurd in itself — but WRGB failed to mention the recent domestic abuse allegations about Morse. OK, just allegations — but what’s absolutely true is that numerous prominent members of his own party called on Morse to resign, including Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy, and Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan.

I know who’s working in these newsrooms, and I can excuse some inexperienced producer over this — but what about Greg Floyd who lined up the story? C’mon man.

By the way, Cohoes, the state of the city is that your mayor is a thug.