Trail Mix

Plenty of talk about the Albany County Rail Trail on social media recently.

On Facebook, a group called Bethlehem Resident News claims that thieves are using the trail as an express lane into Delmar from Albany. There have been a rash of car break-ins, so according to them, the perpetrators must be from Albany. They call the path the “Ho Chi Min Trail,” but I don’t think they’re suggesting it’s the Vietcong breaking into cars, do you? No, they’re saying it’s blacks from the South End.

Over on Twitter, there was a lively argument over whether these rail trails should remain unpaved green space, instead of developed into slick super highways for speeding bicyclists.

There may be something to that.

If you’ve been on the paved section between Albany and Slingerlands, you know how fast people ride. I made the mistake of running on the trail a few times, very early in the morning, and had to dodge careless cyclists who were ignorant of the common courtesies of sharing a trail with pedestrians.

The extreme end of the trail is in Voorheesville where I live. I’ve been running on the rough, unpaved surface recently, early in the morning when my only company have been deer. There are puddles and ruts, but I hope it’s never paved over.

Let’s not forget that bicycles are vehicles and they’re going to be on these trails they should travel at a reasonable speed — and if that means we don’t pave the paths, so be it.

Beaverville

The beaver are busy.

Just off Johnston Road in Guilderland, you can see where beaver have been working on a couple of substantial trees along the Normanskill. Many people are saying it’s part of a plot to cut off Voorheesville from the rest of the Capital Region. One never knows.

The beavers are eating these trees.

I don’t have to remind you that America’s largest rodent casts a long shadow here in ye olde Beverwijck.  Christ, they named the place after the beaver. Albany’s seal shows a beaver felling a tree as a white man and Indian look on, presumably saying, “WTF is up with these beavers?” Stranger yet, is the coat of arms of the Albany Diocese, which shows a beaver holding a bishop’s staff. Bishop Beaver, I presume?

But look closely and you’ll see lots of beaver activity around streams and swamps, and to learn more DEC’s excellent website has much information about beaver – including an extensive page on “nuisance beaver.”

Meanwhile, I’m interested in seeing how long it takes for those trees to come down. The beaver may have their revenge, yet.

Newspapermen Are Such Interesting People

Let’s recap: over the weekend the Times Union squashed an April Fools’ post in their blog section. Truth be told, they squashed the blogger, too.

But is there a double standard at play?

Chuck Miller wrote an over-the-top satirical piece about Kellyanne Conway being invited to speak at the University at Albany commencement in May. He also wrote, even more outlandishly, that the school was naming its journalism program for Conway. It was obviously a joke.

Meanwhile, blogger Rich Guthrie wrote a rambling April Fools’ post about how bird watchers are sapping birds of their color with cheap binoculars. It was an inspired bit of quackery. Pun intended. Like Chuck’s post, it was obviously a joke.

Miller’s post was deleted and he was blocked from using his account. Editor Rex Smith himself published a retraction and declared, “Even on April Fools’ Day, there’s no place for fake news under the Times Union banner.”

Well, I guess there’s a little room for fake news, because Guthrie’s bird post is still up. Here’s the question: what makes Chuck Miller’s blog post fake news and Guthrie’s post acceptable?

Maybe the outcome would have been different if the newspaper’s publisher served on the board of the Audubon Society, instead of the University at Albany Foundation.  Your guess is as good as mine.

April Foolery

Times Union blogger Chuck Miller posted something new every single day since August 2009. That streak was broken today because the paper suspended him and locked him out of his blog.

What happened? The area’s biggest newspaper didn’t like Chuck’s post for April Fools’ Day, an innocent prank that implausibly suggested that Kellyanne Conway was scheduled to speak at the UAlbany commencement. They deleted the item, but I was able to save it from my news reader if you’d like to see it.

And the TU didn’t just take his post down and suspend him, they issued a retraction, from no less than the paper’s vice president & editor, Rex Smith:

A community blog hosted by timesunion.com falsely reported Saturday morning that Kellyanne Conway, a senior advisor to President Trump, would be the commencement speaker at the University at Albany. As soon as we were alerted to the post, we removed it from our site and suspended the blog. We apologize to anybody who was misled by this post, which was not written by a Times Union staff member. Even on April Fools’ Day, there’s no place for fake news under the Times Union banner.

Rex Smith, editor

Fake news? That’s not just crazy, it’s Trump crazy.

Chuck’s had this sort of fun on April 1 for as long as I can remember — it’s sort of a tradition. I’m sure he didn’t expect this violent, knee-jerk reaction from the paper, especially not after serving them faithfully, without a penny of compensation, for so many years.

So what made this April Fools’ Day different?

I suspect that somebody, maybe even somebody at the University at Albany, got hold of Rex Smith and complained. Or — and this is very likely — it came down from his boss, who is president of the University at Albany Foundation.  For Smith to step up early on a Saturday morning and intervene in something so trivial is extraordinary — but so is a call from your boss early on a Saturday morning.

I’ve been critical of the way the paper treats its bloggers. Times Union bloggers get nothing for their efforts, even though they provide free online content to one of America’s most powerful media organizations, Hearst Communications. The paper gets clicks, the bloggers get nothing.

It’s not merely that they don’t pay, but they also have the bloggers sign an onerous contract in which they surrender ownership of their content. We don’t pay you, but we own your work forever. Nice deal.

When all this went down, Chuck decided he’d had enough and quit. He’s started up a new blog on his own, and while he won’t have the audience the Times Union provides, at least he’ll have his dignity.

Foto Friday

State & Broadway

Jumpin’ Jack’s Flash

I’ve made it very clear how much I hate the annual “Jumpin’ Jack’s Drive In is opening story” done by every local TV station and newspaper.

They will all show up today and do the exact same story as they did last year and the year before that, and the year before that. The theme: spring must be here, because Jumpin’Jack’s is open. They started early today:

How many times can you do the same %$#@ story? Oh, nevermind.

As a service to local newsrooms., here are a few new ideas to spark up your annual Jumpin’ Jack’s coverage:

  • Bring a nutritionist Jumpin’ Jack’s and do a calorie estimate for various combinations of food orders. Get lots of b-roll of fat people. Include cardiac disease stats.
  • Send some samples of Jumpin’ Jack’s food to a lab for bacteria counts. Follow up when results are in. Swab the doorknobs to the restrooms and condiment dispensers, too.
  • People who can stand on line at Jumpin’ Jack’s in the middle of the week are obviously unemployed. Find someone with a particularly bad hard luck story and hear how Jumpin’ Jack’s brings hope to their bleak lives.

See — if I could come up with three great ideas like that in two minutes, imagine what the incredibly smart and talented people in our local newsrooms could concoct? Right?!? Go for it producers and reporters — show us that your not followers, but leaders.

All the Young Punks

I do try to avoid indulging in “when I was your age” stuff.

A young lady who works at the coffee shop was bopping around as she did her chores, decked out in punk regalia that would have fit right in at a Sex Pistols concert 40 years ago. By young, I mean young enough to be my daughter. She was rocking out to — wait for it — Green Day.

Waiting for one’s tea to steep, it’s hard to resist the temptation to strike up a conversation and say things that would make you seem like a ridiculous old geezer — or worse yet, a creepy middle-age guy trying to make time. So, one keeps one’s mouth shut.

But how would that go?

“You know, I was really into punk when I was your age. I was just unpacking my records and came across my copy of Never Mind the Bollocks on vinyl. Oh, and the Clash? I saw them live. Me and my friends at the college radio station, everybody hated us because of all the punk we played. Do you ever listen to X? Los Angeles and Wild Gift are like the best albums ever. You know, a lot of people slam Green Day, but you can really hear a lot of what influenced them if you listen to blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”

Yes, pathetic. We thought we were so cool back then.

But it is interesting that there are still punks, isn’t it? The rock era may be unique in the enduring nature of  its genres and music. A record from the late 70s might interest a lot of 21-year-olds — but could the same be said in 1970 of music that was popular in 1930?

So, ridiculous old geezers, feel good that your music survives. But please do so quietly.

Foto Friday

Connemara

Connemara

The Secret Ingredient

Someone asked about my soda bread .

“Rob, you must be holding out on us,” he said.  “Your recipe isn’t that much different than all of the others. How is it that the judges at the Irish Soda Bread Competition always seem to enjoy yours?”

I looked around and lowered my voice.

“Well, truth be told, there is a secret ingredient. I’ll tell you — but please don’t share this with anyone.”

He sat up and paid attention.

“Here’s the thing: take a big handful of Lucky Charms and put them in your food processor. Pulse them until they’re reduced to a fine powder. Then sift that in with your dry ingredients, and I think you’ll see a big difference.”

“Lucky Charms?”

“Lucky Charms. Your soda bread will be… magically delicious.”

He thanked me and shook my hand, and somewhere this morning there are people eating soda bread with a curiously different flavor. A certain tang that they can’t put their finger on, but one that seems seems oddly familiar.