Monthly Archives: September 2009

Freshies on the bike path!

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If the celebration of Henry Hudson’s third voyage, the one in which his discovery of the Northwest Passage led to his bottoming out somewhere very close to what I call home a mere four hundred years later – if this celebration led to nothing else beyond some fun days out enjoying the beauty of the river we named after him for folks who otherwise wouldn’t give him or the river a second thought, at the very least it led to this:


After years of announcing new pavement but never actually laying it down, the city suddenly, just before last weekend’s festivities, laid down a long, hot stretch of fresh, smooth, shiny asphalt north of the Corning Preserve boat launch and going as far as the eye can see. Well, considerably farther, for that matter, doing what I thought was impossible and hooking up to the other relatively recently improved section, providing a stupidly smooth passage – the very kind of stupidly smooth passage Hudson was denied – all the way to Watervliet.

This changes my life.

In summer, I avoid bike paths like the plague, because I’m one of the fastest things on them, and everything else is just an obstacle to my pleasure – other bikes, bladers, oblivious runners, walkers treading 3 and 4 abreast, lost in the iPod zone (it used to be the Walkman zone, but I’m hip and with it), absolutely unable to comprehend my calls of “On your left!” or, worse, confused about what to do about them. Add to that the deplorable state the path had been in for the past, say, 10 years – there was a stretch where all you could do was ride the center hump of what had once been pavement and hope you didn’t fall off the edge of it – and it was easier, faster and a smoother ride to come back down through the streets of Watervliet, Menands and north Albany. So imagine.

But now, as dance starts up again and I find myself with time on my hands and a need to be downtown at certain hours of the day, the biggest enemy of my pleasure, the beat-up bike path, is suddenly shiny and new as a puppy’s nose. This makes me so very happy.

Before that sudden discovery this afternoon, I was going to write about my excitement to find that there were freshies in the cemetery (pavement, not bodies), an even more unlikely event and a very welcome surprise, but now they may as well not have bothered. It was only a few hundred feet, and I was happy to have it, but they could have gone on a bit further and made me even happier. Today, Albany bike path wins!

Accidentally video

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Having volunteered to put together a slideshow for an upcoming fundraising event for the high school orchestra, I’m just learning how stupidly complicated a seemingly simple task can be made. I just wanted to turn still photos into a slideshow. iMovie does this in seconds, but degrades image quality on the stills to the point they look like early Soviet-bloc animation. Flash will do this but I’ve got to do nearly everything by hand, I may or may not end up with a universally compatible file, and if I want it in the somewhat-universal .flv format, weirdly, Flash won’t do that. I’ve got to go to another program, Flash Video Encoder. (Adobe, there is no limit to the ways in which you suck. Truly.) Powerpoint will make a decent slideshow, but music is tricky and I’m unsure about whether the document will run as a standalone.

Steeped in frustration, I found out that lowly old Graphic Converter, for which I’ve had no use since I moved to Adobe Creative Suite, does for the price of my ancient license what my $700 Adobe program can’t do, and does it quickly — makes a quick, perfect, standalone Quicktime slideshow with embedded music. Absolutely perfect.

Except that when I wanted to share it here, despite assurances from Youtube that it supported Quicktime .mov files, I was told the file format was incompatible. So back to another format. So back to Flash, to figuring out how to make an .flv file when .swf seems to be the only option (other than the already scorned .mov). Blah, blah, blah. With anger and agitation and the standard array of tinker’s cusses, I finally put together the most primitive slideshow of still images imaginable. Perfectly serviceable, and it only took three days out of my life.

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Happiness is . . .

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  • Fresh pavement on a road I’d just written off as unbikeable.
  • The smell of basil and lavender all through the house as we rush to beat the frost.
  • Having a major shipment of ginger Altoids on the way.
  • “The Prisoner” on IFC – one instance in which I can forgive a channel’s mission creep.
  • Finding out that the perfect slideshow software for a project was already right on my computer.
  • New shocks on my truck – I fear no cornering!
  • Crisp McIntosh apples and Concord grapes.
  • Having made a backup right before one of my hard drives starting making ominous noises.
  • Clients who may actually pay me.

Albany, Dat’s De Only Town Looks Good to Me

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The things you run into when you’re cleaning up your hard drive. I’ve been holding on to this for a long, long time, torn between the campy excitement of a piece of 1904 sheet music that features my hometown (even if any town that rhymed with “me” might have worked) and the embarrassment of a slightly racist piece of ephemera from the era of blackface and exaggerated dialect for comic effect. But ultimately, it has to be shared.

I played a three-night stand
once upon a time,
In a town called Albany,
I met a sun-burnt maiden and
I gave her a ticket free.
Oh, well, she seen dat show, I met her den,
directly after matinee,
She caught my eye, now other towns
Ain’t one, two, six wid me.
We correspond, I know she’s fond
Of letters dat she gets from me
And when dis season closes
I’m a going back to Albany.

‘Cause dat’s de only town looks good to me,
It’s on de Hudson Riber and de N.Y.C.,
I’d rather live in dat fine old place,
Where I know I can see ma baby’s face
I’ve been in ev’ry town from A to Z,
Studied all de maps like A, B, C,
But dat is de one and only town
I’m gwine back to Albany.

I’m gwine to tell you more, well,
here I am out West,
In a town called Kankakee
Dese E flat burgs and water tanks, well
dey never made a hit wid me.
I never did four-flush, I’m in a rush,
Dat gal is waiting now for me,
She said she’d meet me at de train
Dat gets dere just a-fore three,
I’ll feel just right if I land to-night
In Rochester at half past three,
I’ll catch dat Empire express train
A buzzin’ back to Albany.


Summertime blues

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I’m not usually big on lament, but it seems I’m making an exception and moping around about the summer that never was. It’s true that there was precious little warm, let alone hot, and there was an injudicious amount of rain – so much that when it stopped raining every day, it took a few weeks to realize the constant deluge had stopped. And then it started up again. On the one hand, there was little need for air conditioning; I never even opened up the attic windows this year. On the other hand, there wasn’t a lake that didn’t feel like ice, and swimming was more because you just had to than because it was sweet relief.

Still, my displaced seasonal affective disorder aside, it wasn’t a total loss – all those summer things happened. Fewer bike rides than normal, but we got the boats out more. There was rollerblading and frisbee, beaches and camping and one decent road trip. Books were read in hammocks. Food was taken outside to be eaten. And my god were there fresh vegetables, and the ridiculous joy of black raspberry pie. We saw friends and fireworks (though we never did get in a baseball game, again because of the rain). So it’s hard to complain, in retrospect, though a few more days with the sun beating down on me wouldn’t have dismayed me. (Although, if I’m being honest, unless I’m on my bike I never actually put my body in the sun. It’s not for me. I’m a shade boy.)

The bloom is already off the second part of the lament, as the girls have been back in school all week, we’re starting to settle into the ballet schedule, and we’re already getting accustomed to the strains of “The Nutcracker.” Auditions are tomorrow.