Author Archives: Rob

Foto Friday

Reenactor at Stirling Castle, Scotland

I Don’t Like Tuesdays

My EMS shift on Monday evening runs from 6pm until midnight. Sometimes we’re on the go all night. Other times we sit and sit. You pass the time reading or watching TV. I’d sleep, but when I try to nap, it’s never satisfying.

One thing is certain, Tuesday morning can be tough, especially if you get a late call that keeps you until after midnight. Four hours of sleep or less is the routine.

My strategy for Tuesday is simple: try to be agreeable, and to accomplish this, a good strategy isto say as little as possible. I even have a list of pre-approved phrases that help me get through meetings:

    • Great idea!
    • Let’s talk more about that.
    • I hadn’t thought of it that way.
    • Maybe we should bring that to the team.
    • Can you send me more information about that?

By the way, if you say these things, don’t do it with a sarcastic tone of voice. Not good.

But the real problems start when you go off script. Sleep deprivation can impair you in the same way as alcohol. And like with alcohol, if you start running your mouth, the results can be bad.

So, here’s my workplace tip of the day: Tired? Say less, smile more and stick to the script. Or just consider calling in sick.

Witless

I’ve figured out why AMC’s The Walking Dead is such a bummer: the show is completely humorless.

And what’s so funny about brain eating zombies?

Nothing — but horror aficionados know that the best work has some laughs to diffuse the tension. Without that, it’s just a relentless downer, but mix in some funny bits with the scares and you have a winner.

Right wing talk radio is like the horror genre in that regard. You may hate Rush Limbaugh’s politics, but he can be entertaining. Even while you disagree, it’s fun to listen.

You can’t really say the same for Talk 1300’s Paul Vandenburgh. I’ve been listening to him for years and never once heard him say anything that’s funny. Not a joke, never a witty remark, no humorous observations. Never. Not once.

Some people think humor is related to intelligence, but not always.

Vandenburgh’s obviously smart enough to pull in some listeners with his angry guy schtick — and smart enough to be 13% owner of his radio station — so he must be smart enough to come up with a zinger now and then.

Right?

Maybe not.

I think there’s something else going on with humorless people and those with no appreciation for irony: they are missing a certain part of their brain. Whatever little node or fold that makes a person funny is absent or undeveloped.

In the interest of science, I hope we can get hold of the brains of some of these humorless people when they’re gone. — not in the zombie sense, but for research. We must find a way to help them. God knows, we’d all be better off.

Candy Left Over From Halloween

A sack of candy on Halloween is a small thing that makes children very happy.

You remember dumping out that bag on the kitchen table and sorting through your loot. You’d carefully guard the good stuff, separate out the second-tier items (I’m looking at you, Smarties) and throw out the crap that looks sketchy. In my day, you’d sometimes get apples, which we discarded immediately.

But why do people insist on making this a bad thing with candy buy-back programs? I’ve written about these fun cops before, and how they tempt kids to trade their sweets for a small reward, as if having some Snickers bars is like keeping an illegal handgun tucked under your mattress.

This year a local mall is behind one of these schemes, offering the worst deal ever: for each pound of candy you bring in, they give you a gift certificate worth… one dollar. One dollar. But, wait — the offer is good for up to five pounds of candy, so kids could net a $5 payback. What a haul.

“But, Rob,” I can hear you saying, “They say the candy will be donated to ‘local organizations’.”

That’s certainly a nice idea, but here’s a better one: just take the funds you were going to pay those kids and give these “local organizations” something that will actually help them: cash.

The whole thing is beyond dumb.

Kids, you worked for that candy. Don’t be part of someone’s ill-conceived public relations scam. And parents? If you want to turn this into a lesson, here’s an idea: have the kids donate a little money for each pound of candy they wish to keep. Then, everybody wins.

Wordless Wednesday

Big Candy

When it comes to Halloween candy, it’s my policy to overbuy. Don’t be cheap; running out is a real rookie move, and whatever excess you have can go to the office the next day.

Last Halloween was my final one at the old house in Glenmont, so I decided to treat the kids to full-sized candy bars. It was a huge hit and made me feel like the King of Halloween.

But I wonder if it will bring unintended consequences.

There is a chance that kids will return to my old house expecting big candy bars, and the children — being by nature half-wild and unpredictable  — might not react well.

Imagine scores of kids looking into their bags and saying, “What? This was supposed to be the place with the big candy bars?!”

Who knows what tricks could befall the owners of my old home? But I’ll tell you what: Based on their behavior on the day of our closing, I do sort of hope that the little ghosts and goblins go into full fun-sized outrage.

But enough of that! Give generously on this spooky night and spread a little simple joy — or else risk tempting the dark spirits that reside in all of us.

Ink Stained Retch

Oh, Times Union. Here’s the latest development as they creep toward full paywall:

Indulge me as I tell a story.

Years ago, the Times Union’s marketing director, Bob Provost, invited us TV station people over for a meeting. I can’t remember what we talked about, but I remember that he gave us a tour.

We saw the vast, bustling newsroom, rows of busy graphic designers, phones ringing off the hook in the sales office — and most impressive of all, the production plant where the massive presses sat.

Everything was was spotless and impeccable and unfailingly professional.

And it was intimidating.

Even my boss, the general manager, seemed a bit overwhelmed. We looked around and saw a leviathan that sucked in ad dollars. Who could compete with this? They might as well be printing money on those presses.

How times have changed.

I’ll repeat something I’ve noted before: local TV still doesn’t charge you a penny for their content. They sell advertising and the advertising pays the bills. Newspapers charge you for their product and fill it with ads. And isn’t that like making you pay for it twice?

On Their Own Terms

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein firestorm, two Times Union bloggers wrote brutally frank #metoo accounts about being sexual assault victims.

The newspaper took down the posts and suspended their accounts.

Yes, you read that right.

Chuck Miller, who had his own trouble with the Times Union, re-published the posts by Heather Fazio and Fran Rossi Szpylczyn on his blog. The paper put Fran’s post back up when she agreed to change the term “cock-tease” to “c*ck-tease” — as if that makes a difference. According to Chuck Miller, Heather Fazio has refused to change what she wrote.

Both bloggers were notified of their suspension by Tena Tyler, who’s listed on the masthead as “Senior Editor, Engagement.” Here’s how she engaged them:

Sorry about your sexual assault, but you violated our terms of service.

And what terms are those?

“You agree not to post, e-mail or otherwise make available content: – that is unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, lewd, defamatory, pornographic, libelous or invasive of another’s privacy or harms minors in any way”

OK, so a woman’s story about being attacked — in one case as a child — is “lewd” and “pornographic.” That’s fucking sick, Ms. Tyler.

Look, I’ve complained about the Times Union’s blog page for a long time, especially about the way they manipulate people and the one-sided relationship between the paper and the bloggers– but this is too much.

Any writer who continues blogging with the Times Union is out of their mind. Maybe you enjoy the opportunity to reach a large audience, but at what cost? A deal with the devil often seems like a good idea until the bill comes due.

Park at Your Own Risk

This isn’t about me wanting special treatment, it’s about common sense.

I recently parked my car downtown so I could move a bunch of boxes from one office to another. I figured I’d be out to fetch the car by 8:30, but I built in a little padding.

After being delayed, I went out to the car, where an Abany Parking Authority meter attendant was writing me a ticket — and this was at 8:51. Three minutes after my fee expired, I’m getting a ticket.

“You’re in violation,” she barked. “I’ve already written the ticket.”

Seriously? Three minutes?

After a bit of back and forth, the woman relented, but gave me a fuck you look as she stalked away. Yeah, you have a nice day, too.

So, let me ask you a question: should they ticket people the second their meter expires or allow a five to ten minute grace period. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems like bullshit to pounce on violators the moment their time is up.

And pounce is what they do.

My co-workers claim that Albany Parking Authority’s pay stations and parking app alert officers of expiring payments. Think about it. If they know a car is expired in their patrol area, they can just stroll over and write a ticket. Or stroll over and wait for it to run out.

That sounds a bit conspiratorial — but why wouldn’t they do this?

I’m not suggesting that people shouldn’t pay to park — or that rules should be ignored — but being overly aggressive may be bad policy. Welcome to Albany.