The Hudson by train

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The Hudson River along the Amtrak corridor from Carl Johnson on Vimeo.

Over the past 20 years or so, I’ve ridden Amtrak down the east bank of the Hudson River a couple of hundred times, looking out at the same views, and almost never having a camera. It’s one of the most scenic rides in America, and I hadn’t a single good shot of it. Once I tried to get some shots on my compact digital but the tint of the windows destroyed the color balance, and they were worthless. So one sunny day last fall I remembered to bring my D70 and snapped out the window on the way down. Of course, the sunny didn’t last and by the time I got to Poughkeepsie the light was so gray and flat that I gave up. But here for amusement and posterity are some of the scenes along the Amtrak rail corridor between Rensselaer and Poughkeepsie. (The musical accompaniment, it should go without saying, is not mine, and subject to original copyright.)

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

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


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Home ImprovementBusy. Not all good. Winter’s finally here, or at least the cold and blowy parts of it, and I’ve been off the bike, which is fine because I always need a break from it. Been on the skates a bit though,which has been fantastic for my old broken knee. Turns out to be just what I needed to finally, after a year, get it back to feeling normal. I can even kneel again, which I proved over the weekend by installing a new floor in the hallway. Usually when I finally get around to a project that I’ve put off for 20 years, I find out exactly the reason I’ve put it off — they prove to be nightmares. This one wasn’t like that, it proved to be a dream, especially with my new laser-guided chop saw. That thing’s a frickin’ dream, and for the first time ever I got the trim exactly perfect, everywhere.

Things I left behind in 2011:

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  • An umbrella that I KNOW I brought home.
  • A balaclava that I am absolutely positive was hanging by the heat register with my other cold weather biking clothes just a couple of weeks ago, and yet is nowhere to be found.
  • My favorite winter hat.
  • A stuffsack that was filled with other stuffsacks. We have torn this house apart looking for them, and they are nowhere to be found.
  • Elvis Costello’s “Imperial Bedroom,” as far as I can tell the only CD I have lost since I bought my first one in 1985. I have it on digital, but it still bothers me.
  • My left knee, though I think it’s coming back to me.
  • A certain sense of financial insecurity.
  • And, apparently, a certain sense of a different security.

Successful Christmas

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Of course, it hasn’t happened yet, so there are no reactions, no “present faces,” no “you shouldn’t have’s” yet. But I’m ready to call this the most successful Christmas in quite some time. For starters, we did a huge amount of our shopping in local stores, particularly Troy, particularly Pfeil Hardware, which is one of those treasures we all wish would exist. Small, friendly, bursting with just about everything for the home. Go there and be amazed, and then go back again and keep buying stuff there. (Our nearer hardware store used to be like that, but they gave in to terrors of Walmart and Home Depot and gave up carrying a lot of the household items that made them such a great local resource.) Also did a lot of business at Market Block Books and a number of the great little galleries and stores nearby. If Rebekah had her way, she’d spend every dime she gets at DesignIt Together, which does some wonderful designs and carries a lot of local music. Everything we didn’t get in Troy we got from Amazon, and a few things from Target. So in the end, there was only one trip to the mall during the entire Christmas season, and it was a bust, so not a dime was spent at a place that I hate with a resounding passion. I consider that success.

Also, the roast squash, pear-cranberry pies, and panettone pudding are all made and cooling. Tomorrow, we pop the local ham from Rolf’s Pork Store in the oven (and rinse and repeat on Monday), and all is done. I was in a position to treat people for Christmas, and to keep a lot of the money local. What could be better than that?

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Another one gone

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440 Odd Fellows Hall 2

Apparently, this lovely, graceful building, formerly the Odd Fellows Hall on State Street in Schenectady, just a few steps from Proctor’s Theater, needs to come down. Not for structural reasons, but because a company wants a new building (and business downtown is a good thing), and they couldn’t work with this one. Is there any chance that what replaces it will ever be so lovely? No.

Ruling things out

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Surgery for the Eye and Ear

Image by carljohnson via Flickr

I don’t think I’ve had medical treatment in the past couple of years that wasn’t primarily designed not to treat the problem, which has usually already passed of its own accord, but in order to rule things out. It’s a good thing to do, it’s the way to keep from being caught by surprise, and I have definitely known some people who were caught by surprise, but five hours in the ER, a nice little dose of radiation and ripping off the IV tape seems a high price to pay to learn, once again, there’s nothing wrong with me. But ruling things out comes with the over-50 territory, doesn’t it? So I rule things out. But at this point it would be nice to find out something is actually wrong and be able to fix it. I was actually excited a few months back when it looked like my nagging knee problem was a torn meniscus, something that could be surgically corrected. I don’t want surgery, haven’t ever had anything major, and there are definite risks, but I actually got excited that there could be a quick fix. I had to draw the honest surgeon who looked at it and said there was nothing for him to do. And so it goes.

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