Memorial Day

Marine Sgt. Shawn P. Martin, formerly of Delmar. Died June 20, 2007 serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom

Enjoy the picnics and parties today, but if you can, spend a few minutes reflecting on why you have the day off.

Please visit the Military Times page Honor the Fallen and look at a few of the men and women who gave their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. Among those you’ll find there is Shawn Martin. From the AP story:

The last time Marine Sgt. Shawn P. Martin’s family heard from him was the day he arrived in Iraq, May 22. He e-mailed his family that day: “I thank God that I wake up every morning and put on this uniform with the knowledge of knowing that for all that I sacrifice today allows you all to have a safer and brighter tomorrow. Again I thank you all for all the support you give me and my brothers in arms. All my love. Shawn.”

Martin, 30, of Delmar, N.Y., was killed June 20 while conducting combat operations in Anbar province. He was assigned to Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Before graduating high school in 1995, he played football from 1991 until his senior year. After graduation, he joined the same fire department his father and grandfather had been part of.

“He climbed all over the fire trucks when he was a kid. He wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. He always said he couldn’t wait to join,” family friend Tom Heffernan said.

“He wanted to be the guy going in and taking care of everybody. He would do whatever he needed to do to get the job done,” said Elsmere fire captain Rick Zigrosser.

He is survived by his wife Marianne.

Messing With the Shamrock Shake

I read on the Internet that McDonald’s had been fooling with a St. Patrick’s Day classic: the Shamrock Shake.

Reports emerged from Chicago this month that in the Windy City they’re serving a frozen green concoction in dainty clear plastic “McCafe” cups topped with whipped cream and a cherry. This is what they were passing off as the Shamrock Shake. Inconceivable — but photos don’t lie.

I set out to find one of these tarted up Shamrock Shakes. After calling more than 15 McDonald’s restaurants —  some as far away as Plattsburgh — I was unable to locate a single location serving the gentrified Shamrocks.

They were all pumping it out the same way as they’ve done since 1970.

But what about the flavor? I made an unannounced visit to the McDonald’s in Glenmont and discreetly ordered a medium Shamrock Shake. It looked exactly as it should, displaying a gentle swirl of creamy white and spring green. And the taste was just as I remembered: cool, minty, and frosty — like vanilla ice cream and peppermint.

One of the McDonald’s managers I talked to was incredulous. “They changed the Shamrock Shake? That’s nuts, everybody loves the Shamrock Shake.?”


So what the hell is going on in Chicago? All I can figure is that they’re test marketing a new way of serving up the Shamrock. This is surprising from branding masters like McDonald’s who know a thing or two about consistency. They should understand that  you toy with an institution at your own peril.

Don’t do it, McDonald’s. Don’t do it.

BY THE WAY: Can’t find your Shamrock Shake? Consult

“Banned” from the Super Bowl

Web services company Go Daddy has done a great job of drumming up hype with it’s racy Super Bowl spots —some of them so “naughty” that they had to be BANNED.

Brilliant idea. Make something tasteless, have it rejected, then rake in publicity over your outlaw ad. Go Daddy’s spots are awful and stupid —and they’re edgy in the same way a 13-year-old boy finds Hooters provocative.

This brings us to ManCrunch. The marketers at the gay dating site know that getting your commercial banned from the Super Bowl pays big dividends in publicity. Even if you never spend a dime on advertising, you get loads of ink. Peta has played this game several times.

Now, about the commercial. I have no problem seeing two guys kiss. I have a problem with the commercial being a poorly directed and badly acted piece of garbage. That’s what’s disgraceful here.

The jerseys? Adrian Peterson of the Vikings and the Packers A.J. Hawk. If they wanted to be really humorous they would have had both of those guys in Brett Favre jerseys. And then the guy at the end of the spot could have been wearing a Jets Favre jersey. Now that would have been funny.

Ski Report

The Empire Center says New York could save money by privatizing its ski areas.

Not so fast, reformerators.

I enjoy being part owner of the state’s three ski resorts. I had the opportunity to spend some time at one of my properties last week, Gore Mountain, and as one of the principal holders of the complex I have a few suggestions that will make the experience better for everyone.

The first thing we must do is deal with the skiers from New Jersey.

Walk through the parking lot and two-thirds of the cars are from the so-called Garden State. This has the effect of making it feel like Jersey Shore except colder and with more clothing.

While it may not be possible to ban people from New Jersey, we should tie lift ticket prices to residency. Charge Jerseyites more and discount tickets to New Yorkers. This would have the dual effect of discouraging them from coming and offering an incentive for New York skiers to stay in New York. Simple economics.

Another good idea would be to eliminate cell phones. I listened to third party conversations on both the Northwoods Gondola and a chair lift last week. There’s nothing more horrendous than hearing someone yack on their cell phone —trapped on a ski lift it’s enough to turn you homicidal.

Also, if you have more than one lift ticket hanging from your jacket we should throw you out. I realize that back in 1987 it was cool to leave a dozen expired tickets hanging from that over-priced jacket you bought at some New Jersey store. Today it makes you look like a tool.

Finally, a word about snowboarders. Yes, it’s awesome to plop down on the middle of the trail during your shred and smoke a doobie or whatever you’re doing, but please do that on the side of the trail. Many of us are not very skilled and it would be a terrible shame if we skied over you one of these days.

Pieces of Eight (Hundred)

legoshipWhen my kids were little the hardest toys to get your hands on were Legos. Not boxes full of assorted pieces that force children use their imagination —but the elaborate kits where you build something huge. And by “you” I mean mom and dad.

One Christmas the absolute must-find present on the Christmas list was this huge Lego pirate ship. This was long before the days of online shopping so finding it meant hoofing it to five different stores. No luck.

Next step: call every toy store within a 75 mile radius of Albany. Nobody had it.

I finally managed to track one down at FAO Schwarz in Boston. It was December 23 so I shelled out to have it shipped via FedEx. All 865 pieces arrived just in time. Guess how I spent Christmas Eve and early Christmas morning?

These days the hardest things to get your hands on are some of the the Lego Star Wars kits. These are expensive to begin with, so when you’re under the gun and forced to buy them on eBay you know you’re not going to get a good deal. As Yoda might say, “Pay through the a**, you will.”

Now here’s my consumer tip: if you find yourself in a jam with this stuff get on the phone with one of the Lego stores. In the past they’ve had items in stock that were impossible to find elsewhere —and they’ll ship it the same day.

It’s probably been 17 years since pirate ship Christmas. We still have that ship in our house —but unfortunately it’s in 865 different places.

Have a story about finding the unfindable present? Please share!

Measuring the Mother’s Milk of Politics

The Times Union today has a story about who spent what on local elections in November. The big takeaway is that several losers outspent their opponents —but from a marketing standpoint it’s interesting to look at what each vote actually cost. This is unscientific but interesting.

In Colonie, incumbent town supervisor Paula Mahan spent $9.28 per vote to beat veteran pol Mike Hoblock whose votes cost $11.91 each.

Sam Messina ($4.37) knocked off incumbent Jack Cunningham ($7.36) in the Bethlehem supervisor race while spending $3 less per vote. If it seemed like there were less Sam Messina lawn signs now you know why. Now let’s see if he can run the town that efficiently.

Clifton Park? Running for supervisor in Clifton Park is amazingly cheap! Winner Phil Barrett shelled out only $1.76 per vote to loser Bill Casey’s $5.80. That’s like buying each of your supporters a coffee at Stewart’s instead of at Starbucks.

But the most amazing number is the one you find in Albany. The story says that Jerry Jennings spent “at least” $573,000 to win reelection as mayor. A lot of that cash was for the September primary, but based solely on the 10,466 votes he got in November that’s a whopping $54.75 per vote. Factor in the primary results and it’s still $30.81 per vote.

Wow, $54.75 a vote! No wonder everyone’s moving to the suburbs.

Greetings and Salutations

After toiling in the darkest corners of the internet I have finally made it to the big time —but while the Times Union’s web site is a new forum I’m not exactly new to the blogosphere.

For several years I wrote about local media on a blog called Albany Eye. After its Hindenburg-like demise I decided to take a little vacation from online living.

I later launched Keyboard Krumbs, mostly just to amuse myself and several hundred of my closest friends. Thanks to Times Union blogmeister Michael Huber those posts may now be found here, so you can spend all day reading about things like dog poop, the random nature of life, and women’s shoes. I have also been an occasional contributor to the TU’s Bethlehem Blog, Albany County’s favorite spot for hurling anonymous comments at your neighbors. 

Please join me as I write about family life, current events, the media and other fascinating stuff.

Thank God It’s Friday

This is an actual sign stenciled on the wall in one of the men’s rooms at Ralph Wilson Stadium, home of the Buffalo Bills. I’m not in the habit of taking pictures in public restrooms but who could resist this —and if you saw the “sink” you’d understand how men might mistake the sink for a urinal. Particularly by the end of the third quarter.

Speaking of Buffalo, I went out there to haul back the larger items from my son Alex’s college apartment. Because of our crazy schedules the stuff rode around in my car for a couple of days before we got around to unloading it. Even after leaving the windows open I can’t seem to shake the smell of dirty laundry, cigarette smoke, and Milwaukee’s Best. Ah, college.

Danish TV reporter Lisbeth Koelster had the great idea to show the toxic effects of shampoo by dumping some in a tank full of fish. Her demonstration killed most of them —and now Ms. Koelster has been convicted of animal cruelty. Since it took five years for her case to reach court the judge let her off without a fine or jail time. Me? I still think tasering news anchors is a ratings grabber.