Category Archives: Modern Living

Smile

Nobody’s interested in hearing another opinion about the UAlbany bus donnybrook — especially not from some dopey blogger — but what really caught my attention was learning that there are 12 security cameras on a CDTA bus.

Well, that’s a fun fact!

Think about it for a second. You’ve probably been on a city bus, now imagine 12 cameras keeping an eye on such a small area. One’s probably on the driver and one or two may point outside, but inch-by-inch, is there anywhere with more video surveillance, besides a bank?

The takeaway: CDTA has their eye on you — and that doesn’t make me unhappy. I ride the bus occasionally, and not through Albany’s finest neighborhoods. If cameras make the bus safer, add even more.

Still, it seems interesting. Is there that much trouble on these buses — and are the security cameras a precaution or a reaction?

Where’s the Fire?

A co-worker told me something interesting after learning I was a volunteer fireman.

He lived up in the hills in Rensselaer County. “Oh, yeah,” he said, “I always donate to the fire department’s fund drive. Everybody knows if you don’t, they won’t show up if you have a fire.”

I just shook my head. “Fund drive or no fund drive, if you have a fire, you won’t believe the number of firemen and firetrucks that show up. They’ll be coming from all over.”

It’s true. In the suburbs and country you don’t get that many serious fires, so when there is a real fire it’s a pretty big deal — and the response is sometimes out scale with the incident. It’s different in the city, where paid departments have set manpower.

These days a lot of volunteer fire departments are having trouble recruiting members. There are a lot of reasons for this, not the least of which are the demands on a member’s time due to better training standards. But society has changed too, and people aren’t volunteering or joining organizations the way they once did. There’s a good book about this called Bowling Alone that looks at these changes in our civic involvement.

Even still, you can be sure there will be loads of firefighters if your house actually catches on fire, even if you don’t write a check for the fund drive. But if your basement needs to be pumped out…

Fighting the Fun Police

The orthodontists where I sent my kids are at it again with their Halloween candy buy back program.

Here’s how it works: patients receive $2 for each pound of candy they bring to the braces factory. As an added incentive, for each pound collected the orthodontists  donate $2 to a scholarship fund. That’s nice — they’re putting $4 per pound behind this.

But wait a second, look at this:

Candy will be donated to the Capital Region Food Bank

So let me get this straight: candy is bad for our patients, but it’s OK to give it away at the food bank to kids who are too poor to afford braces.

In defiance of this stupid idea that kids shouldn’t have candy on Halloween, I decided it was time for a gesture: full size candy bars. That’s right, no of “fun size” nonsense at my house this Halloween.

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It’s my sincere wish that none of this  candy ends up at that orthodontist office — and by the way, if you ask me, there is nothing fun about “fun size” candy bars.

When did Halloween become about teaching children not to eat candy? I’m sorry if it means you have a few extra brackets and bands to fix this week, but save your lessons for another day and let children be children.

If you really want to stop the little darlings from munching on chewy treats and ruining  the tooth scaffolding, charge the parents a pile of money to fix the damage. That might work.

Speed Picking

Yes, it’s oh-so fun to pick apples, isn’t it? Apple picking has become the go-to fall outing around here. And why not? It’s the perfect family activity — and hey, single gentlemen: if you want to impress that lady friend, nothing’s better than a trip to the orchard.

But you know what? Actually picking the apples doesn’t take very long, unless you’re pulling them off the tree with your mouth (which I don’t recommend) or doing it blindfolded.

We stopped at Indian Ladder Farms Saturday for some apples, and because dogs are not permitted, someone had to wait in the car with the Scarlett and Maddy. I volunteered for the picking duty and my objective went from take your damn time to get it done as fast as possible.

It ended up taking me longer to pay for my bag and walk to the trees than to pick the apples; I was done in less than five minutes. Look, I’ve spent plenty of time strolling through the orchards enjoying the beauty and bounty of fall. Sometimes you just want some apples.

Science!

My wife says to me, “There’s poop on the front lawn again.”

And says I, “Human or canine?”

Look, in the burbs, letting your dog shit on someone’s lawn is the ultimate anti-social act. I’m quite sure people are peering from their windows when my dogs squat on their lawn, so I don’t just pick up the poop, but go though elaborate kubuki-like moves with the poop bag to make it obvious that I’m cleaning up.

Not everyone feels this way.

Lately we’ve found quite a bit of dog poop on the fringes of the lawn. Hopefully it’s just that dog walkers are lazy and not making a statement about me and my stupid blog.

Well, thanks to science, now you can figure out which dog pooped the poop. Several companies, like PooPrints offer DNA testing of dog sh*t with the aim of matching man’s best friend with your worst enemy. — in fact, according to the New York Times, there are Brooklyn apartment buildings using this technique to identify tenants whose dogs foul the elevators and hallways.

Great idea — but the problem? How exactly will you get a DNA sample from your neighbor’s pet to establish a match? If you live in a community strictly controlled by a neighborhood association or in a New York co-op, yes, you could require members to submit poop samples, but in the suburbs it’s a squishy proposition. Literally.

So, how does one collect a DNA sample from the suspect dog in a typical subdivision? Maybe let the Canine of interest lick your face and then swab your cheek — or sneak into their backyard to collect a sample?

I don’t know — they make it look so easy on CSI Miami. It would probably be easier — and cheaper — to just accept that sh*t happens.

A Nation Divided

Americans were so outraged with the Ferguson grand jury decision that many of them actually tweeted about it.

If only we’d had Twitter during the Vietnam war and the civil rights movement. Who knows what would have been possible with so many people sitting on their couches blurting out their opinions to nobody in particular.

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.

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?

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.