Category Archives: blather

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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The fine print

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Not fitting in the neighborhood

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I’ve been lucky enough to have Hoxsie’s educational chewing gum featured frequently on All Over Albany’s “What’s Up In the Neighborhood” feature. I appreciate the attention from Mary and Greg, and it gives me a nice way to graze through some other area blogs that I may not read often or be aware of. But with all the local blogs and tweets I’ve read lately (yeah, I’m on Twitter — I’m hip to the 21st century, baby), I’m coming to realize that there are some things that people around here care about, deeply and importantly, that I really just don’t get.

  • Let’s not even start with Trader Joe’s, because it will just lead to a long-form rant I’ve been working up to for a long time about corporations sucking the wealth out of our communities, , and how we need to be creating wealth, not jobs, and how every chain we welcome into town and wait in line to hand our money to is one more flesh wound that destroys our . . . okay, I’ll stop now. To be resumed.
  • But even without that, there’s a vigorous discussion of what is the best grocery store in the Capital District, and it’s a discussion I just don’t get. Are there things I wish I could get in my local store? Yes. Am I willing to drive all over three counties to find those things? No. So it doesn’t matter what people think is the supreme grocery store, because to me, the only store that counts is the one that’s within five minutes of my home.
  • There’s also been an unbelievable amount of ink spilled over the closing of the Miss Albany Diner, which apparently was a very special place etc., etc. Don’t know, never ate there. Or any of the other places that people are writing about. You people go out to eat way, WAY more than we do. Eleven of the neighborhood blogs were about restaurants. How do you do it? It’s expensive.
  • Also, I’ve lived in this area for 39 of my 51 years. I’ve never seen or even heard of these mini hot dogs that you claim to be a Capital Region delicacy. I think you’re just fucking with me on that one.
  • I freely admit to being willfully ignorant of sports that aren’t bicycle based, and I have to squint to remember who was in the Super Bowl last week. I do get some level of fandom. But I don’t get the part where you think “we” won. Massively paid, massively doped athletes won (over other massively paid, massively doped athletes). It was probably exciting to watch, but you watched it from your couch or barstool. You probably don’t ever play the game you’re watching. Keep it in perspective. (I don’t hear cycle racing fans saying, “We sure showed those Omega-Pharma-Lotto bastards!” It’s not that kind of sport.)

Don’t misunderstand . . . I’m not trying to put anybody else down. I’m just saying I feel a bit apart from my fellow local bloggers.

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Turning into our parents

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Yesterday the blogotwittofaceosphere was all abuzz over the
Oscar nominations. Over the past couple of years, I’ve gotten completely away
from going to the movies, something I used to love. Part of that was economic –
a night at the movies for two cost more than a month of Netflix and Hulu
combined. While we enjoy the experience and the movies at Spectrum8, the other
theaters around are unpleasant experiences, and the few times I think we should
go out, there’s never anything I want to see. (How much do I sound like my
parents now). And so while all this Oscar buzzing was going on, I realized that
once again I had not seen a single movie they were buzzing about. In fact, I
think I had only even heard of one of the movies.

Ultimately, this is how we turn into our own parents. It’s
partly accidental, as over time there are just too many new things to keep up
with, too many things to pay attention to, and too few that we actually need
to know to get through life. So things like texting emerge, and we ask, “Isn’t
that just email to your phone?” and the kids shake their heads. (It is, by the
way.) Or the latest thing that replaces that last latest thing comes along, and
you’re just not ready to move on (“I just got ON Facebook!”)

It’s also partly intentional, because, as always, so much of
pop culture is just crap that fills the time. And there are so many gems
from the past that need to be read, watched, listened to, it seems like there’s
no time or room for the cascade of the new, which is unculled and untested.
Occasionally something marvelous suddenly catches my eye or ear (Florence +
The Machine) and I’m actually a little bit plugged into the zeitgeist, and
sometimes I hear something at the skating rink that doesn’t actually offend me, and I’m forced to ask the main (or perhaps emergency backup) teenager
who it is, and it turns out to be someone with actual talent (Adele) that I chose to ignore because she was just one more one-named singer.Again and again I hear the names of actors and actresses whose work I’m absolutely unaware of, and I find that I don’t really care to figure it out. I know there are such things as Ryan Reynolds and Megan Fox, and that’s exactly as much as I know.

My willful ignorance, however,  cannot overcome the absolutely
insidious omnipresence of  Khardashians, which I view as truly a sign of the
end of days, or at least an admission that we no longer require our
entertainment to be in any way entertaining, just that it be on and
omnipresent.

So, this is how we turn into our parents. Turns out it’s not
entirely accidental.