Category Archives: blather

Hannaford, you’re screwing with my breakfast

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wheatgerm.jpg

Hannaford, you’re screwing with my breakfast. It’s time to stop.

Since about, oh, say, 1985, I’ve eaten pretty much the same thing for breakfast every day. A bowl of Grape Nuts, mixed with some form of granola, Kretschmer Wheat Germ, and blueberries, raisins or dried cranberries. All these years, nearly the same thing. It’s what I want, it’s what I like.

For the past few years, I’ve used the Hannaford house brand, Nutty Nuggets, in place of Grape Nuts, which for a while were crazy expensive. In time, I’ve come to prefer the house brand. Just fine. For my granola, I came to prefer something called Chappaqua Crunch. In place of the fairly pricey Craisins, I was perfectly happy with the much cheaper Nature’s Place dried cranberries. And most essential to all this was the Kretschmer Toasted Wheat Germ. Tasty, fibery, and just about the last thing in a grocery store that is sold in a vacuum jar – every time you open a new jar, there’s that satisfying “whoosh” sound and a mini-whirlwind of wheat germ. I looked forward to that.

Years and years and years, all this came from the Hannaford. I’m not one of those people who likes driving all over creation, to Super Saver for this or Peddler Bob’s for that. I want one trip to the grocery store, some other stuff from the farmers markets, and that’s it. Then Hannaford started screwing with me.

First, Chappaqua Crunch disappeared. Or stopped being available on the shelves. It was moved to the bulk section. Okay, I’ll pretend no one sneezes into those bins and just go ahead and get a couple of pounds of the stuff every few weeks. That was fine. Then Hannaford put up a sign promising exciting new changes in the bulk section. Exciting! New! Changes! Which meant, as it turned out, shrinking the offerings by about half, and eliminating the brand of granola I favored. Okay, there are other granola options; I just liked that one. I can deal.

About the same time, the dried cranberries disappeared. It was like a miracle when the Natures Place cranberries first showed up on the shelves – they were about half the cost of the Ocean Spray brand, organic, and just perfect. Came in a bigger bag, too. So I can’t help but wonder if they were threatened off the shelves by the Big Cranberry lobby, because they’re gone, and I’m back to paying what the powers that be insist is fair for dried cranberries. I’m back to where I was, but I can deal.

But now, my precious wheat germ is gone. Kretschmer Toasted Wheat Germ, in the convenient and entertaining vacuum jar, has disappeared from the shelf, and more junk cereals have crowded into its space. It left no trace. Yes, there is another form of wheat germ in the store. It is not toasted. It is not jarred. It makes no “whoosh.” I cannot deal.

Hannaford, if I have to go to another store to get my jars of wheat germ, I’m going to another store to buy everything. That’s how it works with me. And know that I’m serious, because I HATE the other store. But if they have Kretschmer wheat germ, that’s where I’m going. Because you’ve committed several offenses against my breakfast, and, worse than all of those offenses, you’ve turned me into a food blogger. With this, I cannot deal.

The Other Side of Summer

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Last light on the tracks 2Well, it’s that time of year again: the time when the days are growing longer and longer, heading toward a luxurious apex of extended sunlight, after which I panic that the days are shortening and the summer waning before I’ve even started to enjoy it. Even in years when I was relatively unencumbered, workwise, I came up on the end of June with a gnawing sense that I hadn’t made the most of the hours of daylight afforded me. Maybe it’s just something internal to me. But every year I pledge that I will find ways to get out and enjoy the longer days before that balancing point of summer solstice comes, that I will appreciate the gift of light that lasts past eight, just sit out and marvel at it.

And every year it doesn’t happen, and somehow I always forget why. It’s the extensive rains – we had five inches ( allow me to scream that: FIVE INCHES!!!) of rain around here last week, one useable day on a holiday weekend, followed by a tornado that decided to visit my sister’s house. It’s the travel – it’s a busy time of year for me, and some of these pre-summer evenings, such as this one, I’m having to appreciate the long, low light over the Hudson from the windows of an Amtrak train. It’s the academic schedule, with school this night and school that night, tests to prepare for and projects to make sure are done.

This weekend, we’ve got the SAT and the Freihofer’s run in the same morning, followed by a dance recital that will take up all of the next day. Still it’s not that we haven’t enjoyed what we’ve had so far. We’ve eaten dinner outside a number of times already, and have found several excuses for consuming Mac’s homemade ice cream in Watervliet. While the rain has made kayaking the rivers less than enticing, we’ve gotten out on bikes as a family a bunch of times and swallowed every kind of bug the bike path has to offer. And after a nearly year-long massive construction project, my front porch is, while not nearly finished, at least a place where we can sit of an evening and stare into the westering sun (without feeling the heat; the former porch was something of a greenhouse).

So to some extent I’m writing this to remind myself: the days are long, and I am noticing them. Summer is not over at the solstice. Calm down and enjoy. There’s still time before you’re on the other side of summer.

My favorite spam in ages

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So speaking of what’s in my email, today I received this gem. It’s from “Apple:”

Dear Apple Customer, Account has been temporarily disabled.

Then log on to your Apple device carries your account information

For this reason, and limited access to your account

Please make sure your account information so that you can shop from Apple successfully.

Verify Now >

Note: Please confirm your account to verify ownership of your information Apple

We appreciate your understanding for this reason .

Thank you for your cooperation with us
Apple service

C’mon, spammers, it’s like you’re not even trying.

Why I rarely check my email

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There was a lot of controversy about eliminating Saturday mail, the elimination of which would not have bothered me at all. Once my younger one is off to the college of her choice, we’ll receive just about no mail every day. The annoyance of junk mail has been replaced almost entirely by the annoyance of junk e-mail and spam. I may go days without opening my personal email inbox, and rarely miss anything. What I learned from my email inbox today:

  • Alert! Someone has written about the videogame character that shares my name! A lot. And someone else with my name died. It’s sad.
  • There are many discussions on LinkedIn. Not one of them has ever led to anything productive.
  • Funds were left yesterday with a diplomat. Funds for me. It may involve a will.
  • I could get a bachelor’s degree, or train to be a nurse, in less time than I think.
  • Someone wants to date me, sight unseen.
  • Many people want photographs from many local cemeteries. This is a thing I do sometimes, but it is really hard to find a particular headstone in a cemetery, so many people’s wants will go unmet.
  • I could get an extended vehicle warranty at a significant reduction! I’m sure they’re dying to cover two vehicles with 125,000 miles each.
  • I could become a Mystery Shopper!
  • General ADAMS PETERSON would like me to kindly reply urgently.
  • My email doppelganger, someone local who listed my email address as her own, has been shopping at Kmart again. I get her receipts. They depress me.

Need to actually get ahold of me? Better tweet me.

Another one I forgot

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Another sign I’m not of this culture? I have never owned a video camera. There are not endless hours of video of my kids making sand angels and mud forts. There ARE plenty of photographs, though, and if later in life they feel deprived of a motion picture record of their youth, perhaps they can string the frames together into a GIF. Sorry, best I can do.

(That said, I have actually taken video in the past year with an iPad, and my new D7000 has some video capabilities. But that doesn’t mean that video isn’t the devil’s medium, because it is.)

Not of this culture

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The past few weeks have been filled with cultural events that often make me think I’m not of this culture:

  • I have never seen a single “Star Wars” movie. Considering how much the fans say they hate most of them, I can’t understand why anyone would. I’ve seen enough snippets of the first one, and all of “Spaceballs,” to know I don’t need to see any more.
  • Other movies I have never seen: The Godfather, Titanic, The Sound of Music, any Rocky movie. I know what happens in them. I wouldn’t enjoy them.
  • I don’t watch awards shows. I don’t even understand why anyone would. Is there some chance that the Grammys are suddenly going to recognize good music? That might be worth watching. It will not happen, however. ¬†Am I going to receive an award? Also unlikely.
  • I love Superbowl Sunday only because it means the grocery store is absolutely empty (of both people and potato chips). Football’s not my thing, but I get why some people are into it. What I don’t get is why tens of millions more people are into it for one game, the Superbowl, or how this has become some kind of cultural event.
  • I bike to work. I haven’t always, and it’s a huge pain in the ass, but it’s still less of a huge pain in the ass than driving to work, circling for parking spots, waiting in lines to get out of garages, wondering where you’ve left your car, having to gas up before you go. ¬†Biking to work, even though I have to deal with traffic, never produces that anxiety, that rushed feeling that leads to so much road rage. But biking to work often gets reactions normally reserved in our culture for the homeless and/or the insane.
  • I don’t drink. There’s a lot of history, genetic and otherwise, that goes into that decision. It is wearying trying to raise kids in a culture that sometimes seems to be about nothing other than drinking, and in a city where every new business is strictly about making and imbibing alcohol. I’d blame the Dutch, but it seems wider-spread than that.
  • I think tattoos are ridiculous defacements of the human body. All of them, no matter how innocuous or personally meaningful. Scars tell a much more interesting story.

Okay, enough about your rights

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My disappointment over the tremendously self-serving reactions to Newtown and the rash of other shootings in the past few months has started to fade enough that I can think about it rationally. Almost. I’ve dropped Facebook friends, stopped Twitter feeds, and just generally shut off the nonsense that has surrounded this supposed debate about guns and mental health. Drafts one through six of this were incoherent ramblings. Let me just hit the points that are weighing on me these days:

  • Your rights are not absolute. Also, you’re not a constitutional scholar, and neither is that TV commentator you quote and retweet. With rights come responsibilities to society. All I hear about are rights — rights to guns, rights to the road, rights to not be taxed. I don’t hear anything about responsibilities to make society better.
  • We have obligations as members of society. One of those is to raise our children. Another is to keep them safe. In fact, we have an obligation to make society safe in general. That obligation outweighs your right to own military weapons. I can’t have dynamite or plastic explosives; I can’t have rocket launchers. Fuck, I can’t even buy Sudafed without showing identification, and I didn’t hear any outcry when that happened. So, no, you can’t have military weapons for your fantasy uprising league, or to defend against burglars. My father and the founding fathers got by one shot at a time, I’m sure you’ll survive.
  • Yes, something has to be done to improve mental health services. Asking for help is hard enough; actually getting it can take weeks, or months. For those who ask where the parents (well, the mothers) of our most recent batch of psychos were, the answer is they were on the phone, trying desperately to get help. Trying to find a provider who deals with actual problems (because honestly, most of the therapy out there is new-age touchy feely nonsense not aimed at the truly troubled), fighting with their insurance provider if they have one to get any coverage at all. When someone is suffering a mental crisis, the current answer is: hold on a few weeks, I’ll get you in with someone who may or may not be of any use to you, and if it doesn’t work we can get more help a month or two after that. Best healthcare system in the world! Any thoughts to the contrary are anti-American!
  • For those who think the new federal healthcare program is the end of the world as we know it, two things. One, your side had since the Clinton administration to come up with a better plan. You came up with nothing except excuses why we can’t afford to fix the system, while insurance became less and less affordable and more out of reach for individuals. Two, if you think the current system works well, you’re actually out of your mind. Have you paid the full cost of your insurance? It’s crippling. It costs more than housing and utilities every month. Does that make sense? Does it make sense that we have to make career choices based on insurance coverage? Is that freedom? Even with good insurance, the system is awful. You don’t want government bureaucrats making treatment decisions, but somehow having insurance bureaucrats make them is just fine. Well, it’s not.
  • Speaking of responsibilities to society — if you’re a father, you have a responsibility to your children. This crazy experiment of raising children without fathers isn’t working. Take a look at the family structure of nearly every one of these troubled psychotics, not to mention nearly every street criminal, and what you won’t find is a father. Let’s stop pretending this is the right way to go, and that the kids will be just fine. They’re not fine.

It doesn’t matter if you want it back

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Not enough attention to this blog lately, while Hoxsie gets my love nearly every day! It’s been years since we’ve done a Top 10 of Absolutely Nothing here, so here one is:

  1. “Dear Lemon Lima” – what a sweet little high-school-outcast-makes good movie this was. It was quirky, sweet, kinda real, kinda not.
  2. “Brick” – somehow I had completely missed this one, despite my natural acceptance of all things Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and all things noir. Film noir set in a modern high school. “She knows where I eat lunch.”
  3. Amanda Palmer’s “Theatre is Evil.” Well, soon, anyway. I backed the Kickstarter and got the fabulous CD and bonus tracks and all, but am not sure my head is in the space for what she’s singing about just at the moment, so I’ve only listened to the tracks that I had already heard, and even that is a bit much for the moment. “It doesn’t matter that you want it back / You’ve given it away / You’ve given it away.” Fabulous naked video here.
  4. Fresh electricity – 21 years ago I bought a house with somewhat substandard electric service and a scary tangle of wires stapled to a sloppily painted chunk of board in the basement. It didn’t magically get better with time. Work on the house finally forced me to call an electrician to clean up the mess down there, and a fine job they did. Cleaned up a lot of the mess, pulled all kinds of dead wires, gave me shiny new plastic-covered wire outside the house (because cloth-covered wire is just gauche). And now I have a circuit breaker box I feel safe working in.
  5. Awesome new tools. Where do I apply to get back the years of my life that I wasted with poor, ancient hand-me-downs that simply didn’t do the job? How did I get by doing occasional framing work all these years without a laser-guided chop saw? Why did I continue to try to cut with my grandfather’s circular saw, which clearly wasn’t up to the task? And why did I not understand that a Milwaukee hammer-drill is just about the finest cordless drill for everyday use I could want? They just make every single task easier, WAY easier. If a poor carpenter blames his tools, does a good one praise them? I don’t know, but my work is much better for having these new wonders.
  6. Creative vegetables. It was our first season with a CSA (community sustainable agriculture) share. Even at a half-share, it was a struggle to keep up with all the food each week. What do we do with all this kale? And tomatillos? And all these tomatoes? We’re not canners, but we did discover the joys of dehydrating, as well as inventing dozens of new combinations of hot and cold mixed vegetable dishes. Also rediscovered beets. Now, seriously, what was I thinking not eating beets all these years? So much flavor.
  7. Missing the daughter who’s away at college, especially now that the days are shortening and I think of those quick suppers we had together in the kitchen on nights when it was just the two of us, or our little breakfast rituals in the dark mornings. So excited for her, so thrilled that she’s doing so well, and that she goes to the kind of college that has a major career fair just for summer jobs (my day, my school, that did not exist). But missing her nonetheless.
  8. Enjoying the hell out of the daughter who’s still at home. Love coming home to catch her practicing piano, unbidden, and listening to her sort out compositions. She’d rather we weren’t around to hear it, and I enjoy hearing every note. We’re sorting through the college search process now, which is daunting and exciting as we watch another one who can pretty much do whatever she wants, will get into one of the top schools for what she wants, and will have an amazing college career.
  9. Leg bands. This is really a bottom ten, not a top ten. But god, why do bicycle leg bands not work on my pants? Having had several failures, I tried a nice expensive rubber-backed Planet Bike band that is not only reflective, it lights up. Should be amazing. Would be amazing, IF the elastic didn’t keep sliding back in the clip, and if it would stay up on my leg and hold my pant leg in place. It won’t. Going to a full gaiter on one leg, one step removed from spats, just seems like one more thing to manage on a bike commute that is already a disproportionate pain in the ass. I think I’ve decided to just completely give up on purpose-built devices and just use binder clips, which seem to never fail.
  10. I’ve rediscovered my intended epitaph: “I yield to myself as much time as I may consume.”

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Centrally located

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Albany Troy map

Albany Troy map (Photo credit: carljohnson)

This started out as a long, dreary post about why I live where I live, but I thought I’d cut the dreary. The “Non-Urban” part of My Non-Urban Life is that I’m in an early suburb, set just across the river and up a hill from the filth and noise of the city, advertised as a place for healthful living just minutes away by trolley. We’re on little village lots, close to our neighbors (in good and bad ways), on streets that should have had sidewalks but don’t. I live a block from a lovely little lake that has been the center of neighborhood activity since a neighborhood was installed on historic old farmland more than 85 years ago. The schools are good, the politics petty, and diversity almost non-existent. So sometimes I wish I lived in a place where I could tuck down the street for a morning coffee or an evening decaf or grab some groceries without getting in a car (although honestly, there are limited places in the city where that’s true). Since the number one thing I hate about my current location, perhaps the only thing, is one of my current neighbors, going back into a city setting and getting even closer (physically) to my neighbors seems unappealing.

But there are some other parts of the urban fabric I miss. Sidewalks, for instance. Stoops. Looking at the details on the brownstones. Somehow taking a walk through our neighborhood and looking at one sloppy vinyl siding job after another isn’t the same as tripping down Second Street in Troy and looking at the ornate doors and window casings. I miss wondering what goes on in the secluded back patios, what little gems of gardens are hidden there. And I miss being able to walk to work, as I could and did for several years in Syracuse and Albany. While it’s hard to figure out where jobs are going to take you, I’ve worked a substantial number of my years in downtown Albany, and my wife now works in downtown Troy, and it would be nice for one or the other to be able to roll out the door and down the street for a brisk 20-minute walk, rather than having to contend with traffic and bus schedules and the problems of crossing the bridge by bike.

So as we’ve just refinanced and are looking at finally making this into the house we wanted it to be, it’s also tempting to just re-assess and see if there isn’t a better location. I find downtown Troy absolutely charming and have enjoyed the residents I’ve met, but wonder if it could fit my lifestyle. Right now it doesn’t seem that way — I don’t see city houses with off-street parking, room for bikes and boats, and a decent separation from neighbors at a price I can pay. Or where I do, they’re essentially in neighborhoods just like mine, not adding a lot of walkability or diversity; they’re just suburban houses in a city.

So I think we’re staying put in our little slice of non-urbia.

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