Category Archives: News

On Gravity

Wednesday was the perfect day for a visit to Thacher Park, but not if you wanted to walk along the Indiian Ladder trail. The trail is closed and it’s not clear when — or if — it will reopen.

The iconic Indian Ladder trail is one of the most popular spots in the Capital Region. It was shut down last summer when a boulder came loose from the cliff above and struck a local woman, leaving her gravely injured. The sad story of how the accident left her permanently disabled was told in a recent Times Union story. Near the end of the story was this sentence:

The family has retained an attorney, who has filed a lawsuit alleging negligence on the part of state parks officials and seeking undisclosed damages.

OK. I’m not a lawyer and I don’t know all that much about cliffs and such, but I’m struggling to understand the negligence part. I’ve been on that trail more than I can remember, and there wasn’t a single time when I didn’t think of what would happen if boulders started tumbling down. I’ve stood under huge outcroppings of rock on the trail and pondered being squished. All this rock will fall some day. Hope I’m not the one standing here when it happens.

Did the park officials know rocks might fall? I don’t know, but anyone who’s ever been there can see there are huge boulders scattered around near the trail. They didn’t get there by rolling up the hill.

Now, in other parts of the park, I’ve seen where huge trees came down across trails. Fortunately, they haven’t hit anyone. I can’t say whether they made a sound, but I can say this: outdoor activities involve risk, even in a tame place like Thacher Park, bad things can happen.

I don’t know what we expect the park to do, send teams of climbers up and down the cliff looking for boulders that might break free? Is that even possible to detect? Then we can have teams that roam the woods looking for dangerous trees. And of course, there will be dozens of signs warning people that the trails may be dangerous.

Or maybe something else will happen: they’ll shut down the Indian Ladder trail forever, and that would be a damn shame.

Random Notes

Quote of the Week
“I’m swallowing news every minute.” – Paul Vandenburgh. He swallows so you don’t have to.

On the Money
I received this $20 bill when cashing in a lottery scratch off this week. Someone saw fit to draw a mustache on Andrew Jackson, but not just any mustache, one that looks like a toothbrush mustache — AKA a HITLER moustache.

OK, Hitler didn’t invent the toothbrush mustache, but he certainly ruined it. Today, you’d have to be pretty ballsy to sport one of those.

But the other interesting thing about the bill was that the number “1120” was written on the back. I could not find any significant connection in Jackson’s life to the date November 20, but there was this: Jackson’s farm, The Hermitage is a 1,120 acre plot.

Hmmmm. This may not rise to the Dan Brown level of mystery, but still intriguing.

Redemption?
John Sweeney was back in the news this week, in a fawning Times Union profile that chronicles the former congressman’s rise and fall and his struggle with alcoholism. It’s always interesting to read about drunks, but this tale Sweeney told the reporter caught my attention:

In the first year of his sobriety, as he pumped gas into his black Suburban SUV at a Clifton Park gas station, Sweeney locked eyes with the State Police trooper who arrested him for DWI for a second time, which sent him to jail. Both men shared a moment of recognition. The trooper’s family was in the car and he looked away. Sweeney walked over to the trooper and said: “I just want to say thanks. You saved my life.”

I don’t know Mr. Sweeney, but I know some drunks, and I’m calling bullshit on that one.

That’s the News from Lake Wobegon

I’ve listened to Prairie Home Companion for more than thirty years, but it wasn’t until a few summers ago that I got to see the show live at Tanglewood.

When I heard the words, “From American Public Media,” in the canned open, chills ran down my spine. Within the first few notes of the show’s signature song, Tishomingo Blues, I swear to god, a tear ran down my cheek.

The show was great – everything I expected – but both me and my wife were struck by something: Garrison Keillor seemed to be unusually intimate with a young women he sang with on several numbers. Watching them, I thought that they were either involved romantically (eww) or he was hopelessly in love with her. Let’s put it this way, his attention wasn’t grandfatherly, unless your grandfather is Roy Moore.

——

I saw sexual harassment up-close once when an employee complained about unwanted attention from an older, male co-worker. This was not he said/she said. There was plain evidence that a line was crossed, and it even extended to outside the workplace.

I took the matter to my boss and it was quickly elevated to corporate HR. The people in that office (the ones who made us take endless sexual harassment training) then made it all go away. They basically told the complainant that she should first go to her co-worker and explain that she was not interested in his advances.

Yes, they told the woman who complained to go deal with the creepy fucker on her own. Good job, HR!

Look, there are no easy answers to all this. Maybe the current climate will bring change. If you have sons, teach them this: Treat women with respect, behave like a gentleman and keep your filthy mitts to yourself.

Some Mother’s Son

Facebook: it’s America’s favorite place for heaping ridicule on people — especially those accused of crimes. But when you combine that with the irresistible urge to make fun of someone different? Well, that’s when you truly get online magic.

All the local news outlets posted this story about Carlos Rodriguez, a Florida man arrested for attempted murder. This is not something that would normally get national exposure, if not for this: Mr. Rodriguez’s lost part of his skull in an automobile accident, leaving him with a profound deformity.

So what do we have here? News outlets posting a story with no local significance, just for the shock value of the mug shot. Then their audience has the opportunity to make cruel remarks about the man’s appearance.

That’s a sick and sad state of affairs.

Maybe before people write stupid shit about Carlos Rodriguez on Facebook they should consider that he is someone’s son or brother. He’s clearly a guy that’s had some trouble, things that most of us can’t even imagine. Empathy, anyone?

I’ve discussed here before how TV stations and newspapers don’t bother trying to moderate comments on their Facebook pages. And why should they? All those little clicks add up.

All Aboard the Albany Gondola

“If there were a museum of stupid ideas, the Albany gondola  would deserve its own wing.”

That’s what a friend of mine had to say about  the proposal to build an aerial tram to carry people from the Rensselaer train station to downtown Albany.

He’s clearly being short-sighted, for who hasn’t craved a better way to get across the river from the train station? Driving is so — old-fashioned, and most people would rather swim across the Hudson than get into one of the filthy cabs that prey on arriving Amtrak passengers.

The gondola would have stations at the new convention center and the Empire State Plaza, but what if that’s not your destination? Well, people going to other places, like the Albany Hilton, could just walk over from the gondola and drag their suitcase behind them — or get a cab when they get off the gondola, of course.

What about some other transportation options?

  • Rickshaws could work. Naturally, you would need all-weather rickshaws for the winter, but rickshaws are inherently fun and eco-friendly.
  • We might bring back the Aqua Duck boats. Imagine how thrilling it would to leave the train station and then plunge into the river — or drive across the river in the winter, if the river ever freezes again.
  • Or perhaps a moving walkway in a climate controlled tube? A tubeway, if you will. This would be like a giant Habitrail that would stretch up from Rensselaer and arc across the river.

At any rate, I would suggest that they add additional downtown stops into the plan to make the gondola more convenient. They might even have a stop at the museum of stupid ideas.

Idiot Watch List

It occurs to me that the greatest danger we face may not be terrorists, but ignorance. Here are five signs to look for that may help you avoid confrontations with people who can’t be reasoned with:

  1. Use of the phrase “mainstream media.”
  2. Discussion of President Obama’s birth certificate. Or suggestion that he is a Muslim.
  3. They have a Donald Trump sign on their lawn.
  4. Include the the word “Benghazi” in any sentence.
  5. Blaming America’s problems on “political correctness.”

I could have written a list as long as your arm, but this should get you started.

Somebody’s Been In Prison Too Long

A lot of us were fascinated by the escape from Dannemora, so the 150 page report on last year’s prison break is like a wonderful gift from Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott.

The report is crammed with minute details about the incident, and much of it is served up by none other than escapee David Sweat. Matt took his side of the tale to the grave.

It’s also contains some funny things, like the instructions Sweat gave Joyce Mitchell about meeting them after they emerged on the other side of the wall:

“I told her you can leave the car running, shut your headlights and stuff off, and you’ll get out of the car, act like you’re talking on the phone, because everybody knows you’re not allowed to drive and talk on the phone…”

Yes, everybody knows you’re not allowed to drive and talk on the phone.

Anyway, I give the report two thumbs up!

Lot’s of people say that the Dannemora escape would make a good movie, and perhaps it would, but I think it needs someone to root for. Maybe we could write in a third escapee, someone forced to go along against his will, a character convicted of something less contemptible than the murderous Matt and Sweat. How about an  art thief? Then he could turn the tables on the evil pair —  and in the end get the girl. We’d glam her up a bit, of course. Hey, it’s Hollywood.

Big Bad Ben

About the murders in Oregon, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson says that if confronted by a gunman, he would “Not just stand there and let him shoot me,” and, “I would say, ‘Hey, guys, everybody attack him. He may shoot me, but he can’t get us all.'”

Really?

Whenever Mr. Carson appears in public, he’s probably accompanied by armed men, so what should we expect if someone shows up at one of his events and waves a gun in his face — that he’s going to intervene?

No, it’s my guess that Mr. Carson will have his ass on the floor faster than you can say neurosurgeon.

It’s some pretty big talk to say you’d take on an armed man. Among all of the people running for president, the only one I’d believe that from would be decorated Vietnam veteran Jim Webb. This is from the citation that accompanied his Navy Cross:

Deploying his men into defensive positions, First Lieutenant Webb was advancing to the first bunker when three enemy soldiers armed with hand grenades jumped out. Reacting instantly, he grabbed the closest man and, brandishing his .45 caliber pistol at the others, apprehended all three of the soldiers.

Read the whole thing for the part about him shielding one of his Marines from a grenade blast. Yes, I’d believe it from Jim Webb — but Jim Webb wouldn’t be stupid enough to say it in the first place.

So, good luck to you, Ben Carson. I hope we never get to see what would happen if an armed man comes for you.

A Tale of Two Headlines

headline

June 11, 2015

oopsy

July 9, 2015

Well, it took a month, but the Times Union finally figured out what other media outlets were reporting from practically day one: that the Dannemora escape was far from the first.

In today’s front page item, the paper blames Governor Cuomo for spreading the “first escape” story; one has to wonder who Cuomo is blaming.

Paul Grondahl writes, “Cuomo’s comments were picked up and repeated, including by local residents.” Yes it was picked up and repeated. Please refer to the photo at the top of this blog post.

Anyway, this makes it all OK:

The Matt and Sweat imbroglio, however, did not eclipse the level of subterfuge in the escape of George Leggins of Coxsackie, who broke away on July 31, 1915, from a farm outside Dannemora’s walls.

Anyone who can use imbroglio and subterfuge in the same sentence gets an A+ in my book.