Coyote Ugly

“The coyotes were after me!”

My wife was out of breath and extremely worked up after rushing back home with the dogs. In the woods along her regular route she’d heard a pack of coyotes — or at least what sounded like a pack of coyotes. She didn’t actually see them, but in the dark, scary noises are amplified; they may not have truly been “after” her, but it seemed that way.

Coyotemania gripped our house for a week, and we were consumed with talk of carrying pepper spray and cudgels to ward off the invaders. Then this.

According to the Times Union, these signs were posted around two adjoining golf courses in Albany and Bethlehem, warning of coyotes (“They are smart and fast”) and cautioning people not to mess with them.

By the way, what do you do if you encounter coyotes on the golf course? Let them play through.

Look, coyotes have been around here for a long time, and now all the sudden we’re freaking out? I’d suggest we all spend time worrying about real animal risks, like the deer who play chicken with your car. You’re much more likely to be injured in a collision with one of those damn deer than you are to be bitten by a coyote.

I much prefer the approach of Frank Vincenti of Mineola. This self-styled coyote defender spends his spare time trying to protect coyotes on Long Island and in New York City. Yes, New York City. From a recent NY Times story:

When he hears of a sighting, he closes his barbershop and heads to the scene. He may spend all night working as a human scarecrow, chasing the coyotes back into the underbrush. The goal is to keep them out of the public view and away from the traps set by specialists hired to euthanize them.

Vincenti believes the coyotes will persevere in the end, citing the most famous coyote of all:

“Wile E. Coyote always loses,” he said, “but no matter how they try to kill him off, he always comes back.”

The People’s Choice

Here’s something interesting: the Times Union has dropped the media category from its annual Best of the Capital Region readers poll.

So what, say most of you — but at local media outlets, winning in the Times Union Best Of — or certainly, Metroland’s annual  poll — was always a big deal. Being named the best is a point of pride, regardless of who’s number one in the ratings.

Lord knows these polls are not scientific, and in recent years, there have been allegations that some winners used social media to unfairly sway the voting. Is that really unfair, trying to win a popularity contest by encouraging your friends to vote? That’s called being popular.

It’s anybody’s guess why the media category was dropped. This whole poll thing does sound like a lot of work, and it could simply be about newsroom resources.

In the interest of full disclosure, my old blog, Albany Eye, won for best local blog years ago. Looking back at my career, I would have been way better off being best local plumber than best local blogger.

Sign of the Times

We’ve been meeting a lot of the neighbors lately, and a few of them stopped to tell me they enjoyed this sign out on my lawn.

trump sign

The sign was a prop from our Christmas card. I had it made online by a company that prints campaign signs, and for some reason, they allow customers to modify the highly recognizable Trump sign. I’d post the Christmas card, but not all of the participants would appreciate that. The inside of the card read, “Finally, a candidate we can all agree on.”

Without context, some people might see the sign as a symbol of solidarity with our new president. Nothing could be further from the truth, but in conversation with the folks on my street, I’ve carefully avoided talk of politics. Good fences aren’t the only thing that make good neighbors.

Fake Take

Oh, fake news. It’s all the thing these days — but it’s nothing new for people to believe anything they read.

Americans have been gullible for a long time, and 100 years ago, journalist H.L. Mencken put it to the test with a story titled, A Neglected Anniversay. Mencken concocted a history of the bathtub in America, filling it (the story, not the bathtub) with fake facts that to readers seemed perfectly reasonable. The story was so successful that it was widely cited for years afterward.

You can excuse the American public in 1917 for not checking its facts — indeed, for most of the 20th century, research meant going to the library or cracking open the home encyclopedias.

Today, checking facts is easy. It only takes a moment to figure out if a story you see on Facebook is real, with a bit of Googling or a visit to Snopes.com.  By the way, Snopes says there are so many fake stories out there that they’re having trouble keeping up.

But this isn’t really about the truth. People who read something they want to believe aren’t going spend time figuring out if it’s true or not. You probably have a few of them on you Facebook feed — and the only truth they care about is the one in their head.

Resolved

It’s time to reflect on the year that was and the one to come. We can only hope to be a bit better by the end of next December.

I made a list of things to work on. This one has seven items, because everybody knows that lists with an odd number of items are better than those with an even number.

  • Stop making that noise when you open frustrating emails. Rather than exhaling hard, breath in deeply.
  • Break the talk radio habit. Tuning in to Talk 1300 — even for just a few minutes — just makes you angry. There’s enough stupidity and intolerance out there. No need to seek it out.
  • Leave more blog comments. A brief comment helps the bloggers know that someone cares about their writing.
  • Learn to meditate.
  • Say something positive. And not in a sarcastic way.
  • Be a good neighbor. New house, new start.
  • Consider your first impulse — and then don’t do that.

We’ll reconvene here next year to see how all this went.

Lost Boys

The lives of boys are fragile.

Maybe you saw this story of the two 12-year-olds accidentally buried in snow while playing outside after a storm. One of them died and the other was rescued just in time. It filled me with such sadness, imagining this child and his family, just weeks before Christmas.

They were just doing what boys do, and it got me thinking of the dangerous world they inhabit.

For boys, even innocent fun can take a quick, dark turn toward tragedy — and as the testosterone takes hold, they grow bolder. The railroad tracks and tunnels and forbidden places. Mischief and trouble gone bad. The cars and other motorized things. The lure of all that burn or goes bang. Alcohol, drugs, great heights, small confined spaces. Then they go off to war at an ungodly young age, because to an 18-year-old risk is an abstraction.

That’s the world of boys. Join me in praying for them this Christmas.

Whistle While You Work

In Voorheesville, it’s hard to miss the sound of the trains. Even
where I live, a mile away from the grade crossings where the trains are required to blast their horns, it’s noticeable. And I like it. Hearing the whistle and rumble of a train as you nod off at night is very pleasant.

Downtown Voorheesville

But to folks who live just a few hundred feet from the tracks, the romance of the train whistles must wear thin — so much so that a group in Voorheesville has been lobbying to silence the railroad.

Their goal is to establish a quiet zone through Voorheesville, which is not as simple as it sounds. For the trains to be exempt from sounding a warning, the two crossings in the village need more gates or traffic control measures that would make it hard for cars to skirt around the barriers. This would cost about $400,000, money that might come from a federal grant.

Rob, you may be asking, who buys a house near the area’s busiest rail line and then start complaining about the noise? That’s a question I can’t answer, but I will say this: during our house hunt, we ruled out more than one property that was too close to the same rail line.

So, who knows? Personally, I would miss hearing the train whistles. If they were right in my backyard? Probably not so much.

When Black Friday Comes

I’m not a shopper, so the whole Black Friday thing makes me want to puke. But for deal hunters, Friday is the Super Bowl of buying and many wild-eyed shoppers will be clutching the gigantic Thursday Times Union.

Newspaper circulars remain an effective way to advertise, so Thursday’s five-pound edition must be a real money maker. The paper has taken to flogging the hell out of the Black Friday special edition, even heavily promoting its release as an “event.”

Marketing newspapers has never been harder, but I must say, five pounds of newspaper does sound attractive. That would get me through a lot of litter box changes.

By the way, if it’s Thanksgiving, that means it’s time for the best side dish ever invented, Albany Eye Sweet Potato Crunch. I first shared the recipe in 2006, so this is an anniversary of sorts. And for those interested in history, it was posted just weeks before Albany Eye would crash and burn in a most spectacular manner. Good times!

The Voorheesvillager

Glenmont was right for us when we moved there, but over the years it changed. If only one of us had changed, I may have stayed – but I changed too, and that meant we could no longer live together.