What Were They Thinking?

Our public radio station, WAMC, has a pretty serious commitment to local news. They do a good job covering serious topics — so when I heard the story, College Community Shaken by Student Death it really got my attention. The piece was about the tragic passing of UAlbany student Trevor Duffy. You can read or listen to the story here. A couple of thoughts:

I can excuse that the headline has nothing to do with what’s in the story — and that the reporter, Dave Lucas, didn’t bother talking to a single student or UAlbany staff member.

It’s also understandable that he would rely so heavily on information from other media, referencing stories from WNYT, Time Warner and “some reports” as his source of quotes and points of fact.

And the story’s tortured attempt to paint this as a town and gown issue, summoning up the Kegs ‘n’ Eggs riot of 2011? I don’t agree with the premise, but it’s a harmless idea.

But what’s truly atrocious — in fact, one of the most revolting things I’ve seen recently — is how the reporter cites several items from “an account on Twitter that appears to be Duffy’s.” He uses these tweets, presented without any legitimate context, to try making a point about the student’s state of mind. That’s just downright sleazy.

Look, I understand that sometimes you need to throw something together. Every story isn’t going to be a finely cut gem — but where are the editors who are supposed to keep crap like that off the air? That’s a mystery.

The Vomitory

Well, I’m heading to Ralph Wilson Stadium Sunday for the clash of the AFC East titans as the Bills host the Jets.

I’ve got a pretty good idea what I’ll be cooking for our tailgate, but I haven’t decided yet on whether I wish to be mildly mocked by the Bills fans or severely mocked. My Joe Namath jersey will bring mild but respectful mocking, but the Mark Sanchez jersey I recently bought for $10 will certainly bring a cascade of derisive (and potentially lewd) commentary.

Buffalo’s being walloped with snow this week, but weekend temperatures will be in the 50s. If it doesn’t rain, it will be a nice day for November — and to be fully prepared for the trip, I took a look at the stadium info on the Bills website. That’s when I found this:

Wait for the Whistle Policy
To ensure the enjoyment of the game action for guests, The Buffalo Bills
enforce a “Wait for the Whistle” policy for guests returning to their seats.
Guests are asked to stay behind the yellow line in the vomitory until the
officials have halted play on the field, at which point guests are permitted
to return to their seats.

WTF? The vomitory? Having been to games at “The Ralph” I’ll tell you this: it would be difficult to define any single area as tyhe place where people vomit.

Naturally, I looked this up, and a vomitory is defined as “an entrance piercing the banks of seats of a theater, amphitheater, or stadium.”  Wikipedia offers a deeper dive into vomitory:

The Latin word vomitorium, plural vomitoria, derives from the verb vomō, vomere, “to spew forth.” In ancient Roman architecture, vomitoria were designed to provide rapid egress for large crowds at amphitheatres and stadiums, as they do in modern sports stadiums and large theatres.

So, there you go, you really do learn something new every day — but just in case, I’m going to avoid standing in the vomitory.

Proverbially Speaking

Church on Sunday featured one of my wife’s favorite readings. You may know it, it’s from Proverbs 31, and begins,  When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls. It goes on to list some virtues of a worthy wife:

She brings him good, and not evil,
all the days of her life.
She obtains wool and flax
and works with loving hands.
She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her fingers ply the spindle.
She reaches out her hands to the poor,
and extends her arms to the needy.

This naturally caused her to beam and nudge me and look very pleased, until I muttered, “She changes the litter box now and then…”

This caused her to reach out her hand to me and poke me hard in the soft spot under your ribs. That may not be listed as one of those virtuous attributes, but I suppose it’s an important part her job anyway.

Walk this Way

The roads around my house have never been more dangerous. More cars, greater speed, less focus on driving — it’s all made things very tough on pedestrians.

I’ve complained about the lack of sidewalks in my end of town, and years ago the powers that be claimed they would be doing something about it. Well, years later the powers that be acted. For the past few months, a crew from the Town of Bethlehem worked to lay down nearly a mile of beautiful new sidewalk. This fills in a gap that now allows you to travel all the way from Delaware Avenue to Route 9W without walking in the road.

sidewalk

It may not seem like a big thing to have a sidewalk, but this has already made me safer. For years I’ve run on the road, usually before dawn, and while I’ve done so with reflective gear and a very bright headlamp, it always feels dangerous when a car passes.

I’d say this is better for drivers, too. Now they won’t be startled by some nut out running on the road at 5am, distracting them from their eating, drinking coffee, texting, folding newspapers, reaching into the back seat, smoking pot — whatever. Yes, the aroma of weed often wafts out from passing cars at that hour.

Now, if the motorists can manage to stay on the road, I have nothing to worry about.

Attack of the Sample Zombies

Since I first attended the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival, the event has grown to monstrous proportions.

What was once a quaint celebration with a small town feel has grown into a behemoth and the two-day affair seems at risk of becoming a victim of its own success. The vast remote parking lots, shuttle busses and hordes of garlic hungry sample zombies were almost too much to bear.

Yes, sample zombies.

You’ve seen them. They’re the folks who shuffle mindlessly past every booth at farmers markets and food events, not in search of brains to eat, but cheese, relishes, exotic olive oils and dipping sauces — and in this case, many different varieties of raw garlic. They lurch from table to table stabbing at tidbits of food with toothpicks, elbowing past other sample zombies for their share of the bounty.  Mmmmmm… foooooood… gooooooood…

The most patient and persistent sample zombies can make a meal of the tiny morsels, one small nip at a time. Me? I prefer to feed in large hearty bites and find sampling to be exquisitely annoying.

The sample zombies do not drink blood, they drink free shots of vinegar.

Sample zombies are attracted to free shots of vinegar.

And how about that garlic? Some varieties were noticeably sharper than others and a few had a taste that snuck up on you, the way hot sauce sometimes takes a minute to really hit home — but overall, the different types of garlic all tasted very much the same.

I couldn’t begin to guess how much raw garlic I ate, but I will say this: I stunk of garlic the next day. The fragrance oozed from my pores and orifices like nobody’s business; while sample zombies may have been a problem over the weekend, vampires were not an issue.

Bears 1, People 0

Holy crap! Did you read about that bear attack in New Jersey!?

Yes, earlier this week a 300 pound black bear killed Darsh Patel who was hiking with friends in the Garden State’s Apshawa Preserve. Reports say that Patel and his four friends split off in different directions when the bear appeared to be stalking them — and when they found the victim, “Officials said it appeared that the bear was guarding the body and may have considered Patel a food source.”

As the old saying goes, sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you.

It’s rare for bears to attack humans, but when they do, Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection (on their very terrible website) advises “If a black bear does attack, fight back!”

OK, bear, put up your dukes. But maybe you can head off an attack as follows:

Avoid direct eye contact, which may be perceived by a bear as a challenge. Never run from a bear. Instead, slowly back away.

Hopefully, bears are not aroused by the odor of human urine or feces, because there’s a very good chance it will be coming from you.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see if this bear incident triggers some sort of irrational response from us humans. And you know what will inevitably follow: Bear Week on Discovery.

Ironweed 2014

This is highly unscientific, but it sure looks like there are more people on the street in Albany these days. More people panhandling, more people living in ragtag camps and more people who are obviously on the fringe.

Recently I noticed a guy sleeping tucked away under 787. That couldn’t be a great place to get any rest, what with all the traffic a few feet over your head, not to mention the nighttime construction along that stretch of highway.

But now it doesn’t really matter, because someone piled rocks all over the little shelf where this guy was camping out.

overpass

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying people should be sleeping in a place like that, but it seems a little cruel to mess with somebody’s spot.  It’s very likely that there’s more to this story, but isn’t there more to every story of all these people you see wandering around town?

Cover Your Ears

“That kid’s a terrible dancer!”

When I said that to my wife I was just kidding, but only a bit. Many of the little kids wildly dancing around in circles at this month’s Irish 2000 Festival, really were terrible dancers.

But could it be that some of them couldn’t hear the music?

A number of parents had outfitted their little squirts with earmuff style hearing protection to guard their wee ears from the Screaming Orphans up on stage.

I’ve seen this before, but never have I seen so many kids with the colorful protective devices. And they were side-by-side with just as many (or more) young kids without them.

Now, this is not the place for my observations about the parents. It would be wrong to make snap judgements based on their appearance, and I would never suggest that the ear muff crowd looked like insufferably annoying people. That would be wrong, wouldn’t it?

Anyway, I trust that the ear muff children will grow up enjoying the benefits that come with having better hearing: they will be more attentive in school, get better grades, go to more prestigious universities, earn more money and subsequently be better citizens.

In the end, the ear muff parents will have the last laugh against those fools that allowed their kids to enjoy themselves bare-eared without the encumbrance of those ridiculous looking but extremely practical accessories. The rewards in life will not go to the best dancers, but to the ones with the clearest hearing.

Spacing Out

I shared an elevator earlier this week with an older woman who was visibly flustered.

“The parking here! It’s horrible!”

Yes, I agreed, it’s never good on weekdays in Downtown Albany. I suggested she use a nearby garage next time; it’s a longer walk, but much less of a hassle.

The parking downtown stinks, and that’s why this caught my eye:

Park(ing) Day

Yay, a mini dog park!

These folks are part of an event called Park(ing) Day sponsored by Parks & Trails New York. The idea is to raise awareness of the need for open space, and the way they’re doing it is setting up temporary “parks” in actual parking spaces. In a press release they say it’s “an excellent way to remind ourselves of the importance of having natural areas that are accessible to everyone.”

Well, that’s certainly interesting  — and I do get it — but it has to be one of the most poorly thought out things I’ve ever seen.

There was a fellow standing nearby when I took the picture above.

“What do you think of this?”

“Oh, it’s pretty cool!”

“How would you feel if you couldn’t find a parking space?”

“Haha.. I guess I’d be pretty pissed!”

Look, nobody can argue against green space, but within a mile of that parking spot are the Corning Preserve, Washington Park, Lincoln Park and half a dozen smaller urban parks.

Maybe inconveniencing people is a good way to make your point. Albany seems to think so, because the city and Downtown BID are among the event’s sponsors. Me? I’m not sure that the elderly woman  who couldn’t find a parking space would agree.