Category Archives: Modern Living

Thinning the Herd

As of this morning I had 283 Facebook friends. Next week at this time I’ll have fewer.

Facebook has value and provides some good things. I’m genuinely interested in much of what my Friends post, but lately I’ve noticed there are lot of people on there that I was never really friends with — and honestly, I can’t imagine they’re very interested in what I post there.

So, one by one I’m picking people who have to go. It’s not personal, just that I don’t care much about them and they seem not to care much about me, so why not?

For the others, I make it a habit to hit the Like button  a few times a day. It’s important for people to know that you’re interested in what they’re posting, especially is you want to carry the title Friend.

If not, it’s like that guy you meet for coffee who can’t stop talking about himself. You say something interesting and they act as if they didn’t even hear you. That’s what Facebook can be like, as hundreds of people go on about their favorite subject: themselves.

This century’s existential crisis is posting things online and wondering if anyone has bothered to read it. If you’re going to take the time to fool around with Twitter and Facebook, spend a moment to let people know that you’re not just talking, you’re listening.

Under the Knife

Nurse: You have acute appendicitis.

Me: Thank you!

That old joke was the first thing to run through my mind when they’d told me I’d be spending the night at Albany Med. That hospital is a tremendous place, and within hours they whisked me from the emergency department’s waiting room to surgery.


President Johnson shares his appendix scar with America.

Typically these days there’s no Lyndon Johnson style scar; routine appendectomies are done laparoscopically with just three small incisions. It’s a common procedure, but it wasn’t that long ago, before the advent of modern surgical techniques, that your appendix could kill you. That remains the case in parts of the world where people don’t have adequate medical care.

This is probably something that my surgeon, Dr. David Kuehler could tell you about; he spends half the year in Africa treating people who don’t have great hospitals and health insurance. Many of them are lucky to see a doctor at all.

I was rather disoriented when I woke up.

I was rather disoriented when I woke up.

Considering the state of current events, it was an interesting week to have an intimate look at health care in America; what kind of country would this be if everyone couldn’t get the same sort of care I received?

By the way, there will be no picture of my scars, which are pretty boring compared to Johnson’s.

Farewell to Woodworth Lake

You don’t have to drive far into the hills outside Gloversville to be in the Adirondack Park — and just within the park’s boundaries is Woodworth Lake Scout Reservation.

Woodworth Sign

 I’ve spent many chilly nights in cabins at Woodworth, nights punctuated by breathtaking trips to even chillier latrines. The days were filled with sledding, hikes, games of Risk and meals prepared by the scouts. Some adult leaders — and I’m not naming names — would bring their own food to avoid the scout cuisine. O ye of little faith!


Those winter weekends are a thing of the past now, as the Twin Rivers Council has quietly sold the 1200 acre camp to an undisclosed buyer. And I can’t say I blame them.

Nationwide, scouting has faced declining membership and skyrocketing expenses. Add to this the damage the Boy Scout’s public image has suffered in recent years, and you’ve got a tough situation. When Woodworth opened in 1949, scouting was in its heyday. Today, they have too much property and not enough scouts.

Consolidation like this, while painful, will help the council survive.

In the cabins and dining hall at Woodworth, generations of Boy Scouts have left their mark and memorialized their visit with inscribed plaques. Some are very elaborate, and others crudely etched in scraps of wood and bark. Many of those scouts are now grown men who have children of their own; I hope that their kids get to experience the same great things as the thousands of children who have passed through the gates at Woodworth.

Metaphorically Speaking

It’s been a few years since I was a regular at the Bethlehem Town Pool. Now that I read that they’re having a problem with  people pooping in the water, I can’t say I’ll be back any time soon.

Meanwhile the rhetoric is heating up over Wemple Corners, a sprawling and ill conceived mess of townhomes, multifamily units, senior apartments and retail space planned for Route 9W. A small number of residents have shown up at public meetings to voice their concerns, but this is a runaway train that can’t be stopped.

So when is poop in the pool more than just poop in the pool? When it’s a metaphor.

Hoop it Up

The area that I consider my neighborhood covers about 60 acres — and has 38 basketball hoops.

There are basketball hoops everywhere; some of them the portable type you can wheel around and others set in a footing of concrete next to driveways and along the road. And only very rarely have I ever seen anyone playing basketball.

So yes, I was curious enough about this to go through the neighborhood and count them. In my days as a Times Union blogger, some helpful reader would have inevitably commented, “Don’t you have anything better to do with your time, Madeo?” Well actually, no. No I don’t.

Anyway, we had basketball hoops when I was a kid, but let me tell you, there were a lot fewer — and those we did have were usually attached to the front of a garage, something you rarely see anymore. Maybe because of all the broken garage door windows?

There’s certainly no harm in every kid having his own hoop, but here’s the thing:  if there were less of them, maybe our suburban youts would play basketball together more often.

Of course, one could devise an amazing game with so many hoops. Imagine a contest where two teams go on a loop through the neighborhood and stop at each of the 38 basketball hoops. The team in possession of the ball gets to shoot until they make a basket or lose possession — and then it’s a race to the next hoop. By my reckoning, it would be a 1.75 mile course.

It would be a spectacle — but I suppose I’d be satisfied with just seeing a single ball being tossed up at any one of those 38 baskets.

Google Summer

I was looking up an address in the Bronx and stumbled across this Google Street View image that really says summer. Cooling off in the spray of a hydrant seems like something from the distant past, but here it is!


Here’s a news flash: iPods are not water resistant.

ipodI sort of ruined my iPod at a party we hosted recently when the skies opened up and drenched us (twice) with torrential rain. The iPod was feeding some portable speakers, and it seemed to be in a safe spot, but not safe enough as I realized when it fritzed out.

Yes, it went into the bag of rice, which is what everybody on the internet says to do with your wet electronics. I briefly considered prying it open to dry out; there are a lot of YouTube videos that show how to do this  — with a guitar pick of all things — but I chickened out.

So after the rice treatment it turns out that the darn thing still works, except the screen doesn’t light up. You can read the screen, it’s just very dark.

Serves me right for being careless, but it could have been worse; for example, I could have dropped it in the toilet. No bag of rice can fix that.

My Little Town

So, I read in the paper we’re getting a Moe’s around the corner — and another frozen yogurt joint. Terrific. You can’t have enough burritos in my neck of the woods. Or enough frozen yogurt. But what I have had enough of is the traffic.

Anyone who was in my end of Bethlehem before Wal-Mart, Lowe’s and the construction of vast new residential neighborhoods will tell you that things have gotten worse. We’ve gone from being at the edge of the country to being in the middle of suburban sprawl.

The people who run things in town tell me that our roads can accommodate all this growth, and to that I cry “bullshit.” Try driving on 9W during rush hour. Other roads, leading to the shopping centers, never intended for such heavy traffic, have become a nightmare as well.

The most recent scheme developers use to maximize their ROI is having their property rezoned as commercial hamlets, which allows for a brew of apartments, town homes, and commercial/retail space. One so called hamlet near my house is an abomination.

As for the impact on traffic, here’s a line I pulled from a commercial hamlet proposal being floated:

“The existing traffic during peak hours is 5,600 trips, and the expected number of trips following the build out of Route 9W would be 14,600.”

Awesome. That’s only a 9000 trip difference!

So enjoy your frozen yogurt and burritos. I’m looking forward to the final day I have to beat the traffic out of town. Sayonara, suckers.

Data Cleansing II

sdcardMy policy at home is if I find money in the wash, it’s mine. But the kids aren’t the only ones who don’t empty the pockets of their dirty clothes.

A while back I washed and dried a USB stick, and to my surprise, it worked just fine afterward. This week, I conducted another accidental experiment and ran an SD card through the laundry.

This one had me worried, because there were some important pictures on the card — and when I realized it was missing I knew exactly what had happened and raced for the basement.

It was in my shirt pocket, a very stupid place for an SD card, so it would have served me right to lose it or ruin it — but thank God it still worked. Somebody up there likes me.

I worry about digital media constantly and I’m trying to figure out the foolproof solution to keeping it safe. Sure, these little cards are precarious, but so are the hard drives where we keep things permanently. Do we trust cloud storage? Should we have a copy online and keep a hard copy? Who knows.

Nothing is is forever. Do what you can to protect things, to keep them from being washed away, but try not to let it make you crazy.