Category Archives: Modern Living

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.

Netflix Binging

There was once a meeting at the TV station where we talked about the changing way people view our product. This was more than three years ago, the prehistoric age of online viewing, and one mid-level manager blurted out, “Hell, my favorite show is 30 Rock. I’ve never watched a single episode on our station, just on Hulu and!”

This was another one of those times when that mid-level manager should have kept his mouth shut, a practice he never adequately learned, and one that might have helped him advance his career.

Which brings us to Mad Men. For some reason I never watched the AMC hit, despite its reputation as one of televison’s best shows — until I recently discovered it on Netflix. Now I’ve covered something like 60 episodes in less than a month.

It was the same with Breaking Bad, another incredible show that I’d never seen — and for weeks it was all I watched.

Much of this viewing has been done on the iPad — on my phone, even — at unconventional times and now and then in unusual places. Yes, in the bathroom. I know you’re wondering.

Watching online isn’t just about catching up; my favorite new show is The Americans — and I haven’t seen it when it was originally airing on FX.

It’s true that some shows are so compelling or popular that fans can’t wait to see what happens next and tune in for their first broadcast, but the age of appointment viewing is on life support. I’m not sure what this will mean for network affiliates and cable channels; some will figure it out, and others will fail.

God Save the Queen

The theory of six degrees of separation is alive and well.

Take this for example: yesterday I read in All Over Albany about a documentary project that will look at the neighborhood obliterated by the construction of the Empire State Plaza.

They ripped down a thriving section of town and carted it away; now it’s entombed in the area east of Frisbie Avenue. Me and my son, like amateur archaeologists, used to find bits and pieces of the demolition debris as we prowled the site of the former landfill near our house in Albany. We once discovered a half-buried doll’s head. Creepy!

Then, I read of the abdication of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands who, as legend has it, inspired Governor Nelson Rockefeller to spruce up Albany by gutting a huge swath of the city and building the South Mall. She was visiting while still just Princess Beatrix, and Rocky was embarrassed by shabby old Albany, or so the story goes.

Queen Beatrix, directly linked to one of America’s most notorious urban renewal projects — and a new film!

I hope you’ll join me and throw a few bucks into the pot for the documentary, titled The Neighborhood That Disappeared. Among the filmmakers is the talented local actor John Romeo, who worked for years at the NYS Theatre Institute. John was also the voice behind the TV work I’m most proud of, things that would have been quite mediocre if not for his great talent.

If you ask me, the former queen should also pony up some money, wouldn’t you say?

Earth Day

Technology that you once read about in science fiction is now disposable.

Look at this RFID device I saw on the sidewalk. It wasn’t long ago that this would blow people’s minds: a small device that could fit nearly anywhere and track almost anything.

To quote Oscar Madison, “Now it’s garbage.”


And that RFID is a just a small thing. You probably have old computers, cell phones, game systems and things kicking aroung in your house — all miraculous stuff that’s now obsolete. Our trash is now better than any technology of twenty years ago.

When something as interesting as that RFID thingy is stuck to the sidewalk like an old piece of chewing gum, then we must really be going places.

The Berkshire Hotel

Now, I don’t know much about structural engineering, but how long do you think it will be before the shell of the Berkshire Hotel goes tumbling down into the street?

The building is part of Albany’s Wellington Row, a stretch of derelict structures within spitting distance of the capitol. This prime location has been targeted for redevelopment that would preserve the historic facades that line the street, but it seems to be going nowhere. Meanwhile, we can just wait while it all falls to pieces one brick at a time.

Stroll through downtown and marvel at its vacant lots and empty buildings. Welcome to Albany.

Get the Lead Out

We’re all laden down with wires and gadgets and i-this and i-that — but even as the electronic gewgaws pile up everywhere, I cling to my pencil.

pencilGlance around at your next meeting and you’ll find that most people are gripping pens. Sure, pens, like pencils, are an analog tool, but pencils are not merely low-tech, but organic. And renewable. How’s that for a couple of buzzwords? Scratching out your notes with a pencil, like using the tip of a burnt stick to draw on the cave wall, is much more primal than a pen.

My current weapon of choice is the esteemed Mirado Black Warrior, an impressive looking pencil. That name, Black Warrior would not be a great thing to call your school’s sports teams, but it’s an awesome name for a pencil.

Curious about the Black Warrior, I found a tremendous review on Pencil Revolution, a blog that’s all about… well, pencils. And let me tell you, this guy can write. A few excerpts:

Of course, the Black Warrior smells heavenly because of its cedar construction, and sharpening a rounded wooden pencil is a breeze with any quality sharpener.

The Black Warrior, with its black finish, banded brass ferrule and rounded shape, stands out among American pencils when on a desk or sticking out of a shirt pocket.

The round shape allows for holding the pencil in different positions, and I imagine that Comrades who have had the corners of a pencil embedded into fingers will appreciate the gentler shape of the Black Warrior. They fall right off the desk, so angle them carefully.

Now, if I could only make a habit of actually using all those notes I scribble with the Black Warrior, then maybe I’d be making some progress.