A Good Walk Spoiled

Today we return to a theme explored in many blog posts that you’ll find here: dog poop. I don’t consider myself an expert, but I’m certainly an enthusiastic amateur.

Albany’s Capital Hills golf course welcomes dog walkers during these winter months when the links are closed. It’s a terrific place for dogs to run, and this year it’s especially nice because El Niño has deprived us of snow.

But as usual, somebody has to ruin the good time.

There are a certain class of people who feel no responsibility to pick up the piles of poop left behind by their pooches on the course. For the purposes of this blog post, let’s refer to them as assholes.

Seriously, it’s everywhere.

So, on Saturday I’d been doing a fine job dodging the hazards, but in a moment of inattention, stepped in a huge mound of fresh crap that some asshole couldn’t be bothered to pick up. No, not the end of the world, but c’mon.


Capital Hills even has special poop cans located on the golf course.

I’m sure there are no assholes reading my blog, but if there were, I’d tell them this:

Dear dog walking assholes,

Just because nobody’s watching doesn’t mean it’s OK to leave your dog shit wherever you like. Pick it up. Believe it or not, doing the right thing will actually make you feel good, even if it involves something as unpleasant as picking up dog poop.

Thank you. Assholes. 


It was surprising to wake up and hear that a group of workers were trapped in a salt mine — especially since it was a salt mine near Ithaca. Actually, they were trapped on the elevator, but hey: salt mine!

Yes — New York is big in salt mining and has been since the 1700s. Originally it was the area around Onondaga Lake where salt was king. Syracuse was the Salt City and Salina is called Salina for a reason.

Back in the day, the Onondaga brine springs spit out salty water that was boiled down to crystals — but in other parts of Central and Western New York, salt production turned to mining. Today, these mines are deep and vast. The Cayuga Salt Mine near Ithaca goes down more than 2300 feet and covers 18,000 acres, spanning five miles from its origin in some spots

You might think that a bad day at work beats a good day in the salt mine. Yes, it’s just salt, but any work like that is hazardous. Nevertheless, I would love to get a tour of the salt mine, sketchy elevator and all. It would be amazing to go that far below the earth into these caves carved from salt. I imagine you could lick your lips and just taste it.

Foto Friday



The Tossing of the Tree

There’s no big hurry in my house to take down the Christmas tree. Many people believe it should be gone before the Feast of the Epiphany, which is January 6, but we’ve never met that deadline.

My routine is to lop off the branches and reduce the tree to a prickly stalk; it’s a lot easier than dragging it through the house intact.

My cut up tree would be of no use in the Irish Christmas Tree Throwing Championship, where contestants compete to see who can toss a five foot tree the farthest.

Rules are scarce. It’s hard to find information on how heavy should the tree be or whether a running start is allowed. There are also regional variations in these sorts of contests, some of which in Germany and England judge how high you can throw the tree over a bar.

tree toss

John O’Dea’s winning throw. Clare Herald photo.

This year’s winner — and defending champion — was John O’Dea of Limerick. The distance of the winning throw is unavailable, but he’s tied for the Irish record of 10.2 meters, or about 33 feet. German Klaus Pubnaz, holds the world record of 12 meters.

This contest is something we need here. Why just throw out a tree when you can literally throw one out? Come on, America. We can do this.

Must Be Santa

The War on Christmas Signs

It’s scandalous that Bethlehem refuses to allow signs in the town square that wish folks a Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah! I’m never one to take these things sitting down — unless it’s to sit down and pound out an angry screed to our town supervisor, John Clarkson.

Dear Mr. Clarkson,

It’s good to see that you embrace the spirit of Christmas, but most unfortunate that it’s the spirit of Ebenezer Scrooge you embody, shouting out a hardy, “Bah, Humbug,” in the face of Bethlehem residents.

I’m writing, of course, about your decision to ban the Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah signs from the Four Corners.

Yes, there is a Christmas tree, and yes, a menorah — perhaps the world’s largest menorah, actually — but how are we to truly experience the joy of these holidays without printed signs that wish us well?

Indeed, I felt great emptiness as I drove through the intersection on Monday and did not see a sign wishing me a Merry Christmas. Who is it that ruined Christmas for our town, I asked? I was not surprised to learn that it was you, the very same John Clarkson who this fall did not make sure our leaves were collected in a timely manner!

When I saw a photo of the sign that offends you in the Times Union, it only made matters worse. Here is the picture:


How fiendish to deprive our citizens, especially our little children, the experience of seeing this wonderful sign that warms the heart and exemplifies the true meaning of Christmas. It’s shameful, that’s what it is!

What’s next? A ban on residents decorating their homes? A prohibition on displays that you find distasteful? Maybe you’ll outlaw inflatable Santas and only allow us to hang those sterile looking white lights, the ones that are so popular in socialist countries, like Denmark and Canada.

Let me tell you this , Mr. Clarkson: when it comes to your war on Christmas, you can expect voters like me to have our boots on the ground next election day.

I suppose that like Scrooge, you will keep Christmas in your own way and we will keep it in ours, but it’s my sincere hope that on the morning of December 25 you wake up and see the light shining through your window. Then you will dash to the Four Corners and  hang those signs where everyone can see them. Only then will Christmas in Bethlehem be saved. And yes, Hanukkah, too.


An Anonymous Voter

State of the Grinch

For years I’ve complained about journalists misusing the Grinch metaphor around the holidays. Every evil-doer is a Grinch if the crime involves holiday anything. What they miss is this: to be Grinch-like, you must not just seek to ruin someone’s Christmas, but in the end, discover the holiday’s meaning and find redemption.

A few examples of misplaced Grinchitude:

Grinch steals Christmas from multiple Shreveport families

Grinch steals gifts meant for 3 year-old girl

Sparks Grinch Gets Six Months In Jail

This year I noticed another type of Grinch story, people who are stealing Christmas lights, wreaths and other decorations:

Upstate Grinch Steals Holiday Lights

“Grinch” caught stealing holiday decorations

Grinch swipes $800 in Christmas lights from New Dorp home

Consider this for a second: are people who steal Christmas decorations actually Grinchy? Not if they want to use the stolen decorations to deck their own halls. That is absolutely not Grinch-like.

One encouraging note: this story about a school in Missouri that’s using the Grinch tale to teach kids to be better people. As a bonus, these children will grow up understanding the significance of how the Grinch is not just bad, but good. Yes, it’s unfortunate that they’re making the kids watch Ron Howard’s hideous Grinch movie, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Bad Case of the Blahhhgs

Fun fact: about one-quarter of Times Union bloggers haven’t posted anything in a month or more.

That’s not as bad as it sounds, actually.

It’s commonly accepted that about 95% of people who start blogging give it up. Numbers are hard to come by; researching abandoned blogs is almost as pointless as the abandoned blogs themselves. Nobody cares.

It does seem that some people take to it more than others. Let’s look at a couple of recent additions to the TU’s stable of bloggers. Former administrative law judge and author Frank Robinson started blogging in early November. Since then, he’s posted interesting pieces every few days. Good stuff.

On the flip side is Anasha Cummings. His introductory post appeared on November 24 and then he fell off the edge of the earth. He may not be much of a blogger, but at least he has awesome hair.

Some readers think I have some sort of beef with the TU blog section. Well, they’re right. But also, I’ve been making fun of writing about their blog content for nearly ten years, since my days as an amateur media critic.  Why stop now?

But enough for today.  Blog posts about blogs and blogging? Now that’s tedious.

Christmas Tree Index 2015

This year’s Christmas tree harvest at Bob’s Trees bent tradition a little. We couldn’t go the day after Thanksgiving, but instead headed out the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend. Secondly. number two son was not with us, stuck in California with the Marines instead of stuck with us.

Based on those factors, I was leery about our prospects, particularly considering the warm weather we’ve had. Nothing makes the tree cutting more miserable than ankle-deep mud. Was there any way we could beat last years score of 90 on the Christmas Tree Index? It seemed doubtful.

The Index rates the tree cutting experience on a scale of one to 100 based on mood, weather, field conditions, tree quality and transportation. Each of those criteria account for 20 points.

Well, surprise, surprise: this year we hit 100.

20151211104059It was a relatively warm day and ground conditions were surprisingly firm and dry. We got two beautiful trees and tied them to the roof of my car like a boss. Many factors can subvert the mood score, but there was good cheer all around.

Now, all we have to worry about is ticks jumping out of the tree.