Good day

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My advice is that one should always start the day with a therapeutic massage, grab a cup of Starbucks on the way in, then arrive fashionably and casually late to a meeting on philosophical issues (as opposed to actual crises). This will, in my experience of the last several hours, set you up for a very pleasant day.
Transitions around here, which will be going on for a while. Last night was the sendoff for a treasured colleague, of the sort they don’t make ’em like any more (and if they did, they’d be subject to any number of lawsuits, I’m sure), a great person to shoot the breeze with, and one who always reminds me to get home to the kids. Lots of nice tributes of just the right tone. I was going to say a few sarcastic things but I just couldn’t do it. The Governor came for a bit, which was very touching and a real testament to how important this guy has been to our program here for the past several years. Real shot in the arm just to listen to the Gov for a few minutes — he has a tremendous ability in a few words to remind us why we got into this and what we’re trying to do here, the legacy we want to leave for New York’s environment.
AND, even cooler than that, other of my treasured colleagues brought me a signed copy of the bill we got through Congress late this summer, which just blew me away. For one thing, nobody can even remember the last time we got a stand-alone bill through, and it was against tremendous odds, caught up in various national political agendas, and a very tricky thing to craft. But we got it done. And while these days it may not be all that hugely impressive to have something I worked on signed by W, someday the politics of it all will have fallen away and the idea that I was an integral part of that process will be all that remains, and I think that’ll be cool. How many people get their work signed into law? And I got paid to do it… And now it’s hanging up in the dining room — Stephanie had it framed for me. She’s too good to me.
The absolute key moment, when I knew we had the wrapped up, I wasn’t even in D.C. I was at home, talking on the cell phone while herding the kids to the school bus on one of the first mornings of school. I don’t like to divide my attention when I’m with them like that, but sometimes it’s necessary, and since I couldn’t be in DC at the time, it was the only way to get it done. Felt very odd to be negotiating legislation while standing on the corner with the neighborhood kids, waiting for the bus to come on a sunny September morning.

Nutcracker, survived

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Very interesting drive to Taconic Hills, as we did not get the threatened combination of sleet, snow and freezing rain, but instead got plain old rain, which when combined with a big pile of fresh wet snow on the ground creates a tremendous fog in the valleys of the Taconic Parkway — and the fog on the way out, which kept visibility down to about 200 feet in the afternoon light, only worsened once darkness fell. Beautiful, thick, white fog, like a deep snowstorm without the graininess. Got there and back without incident, but as I’ve said, no one falls asleep on the Taconic.
The performance was perhaps the best I’ve seen, and now I’ve seen a few of these. Hannah was good as a pink polchinelle (a clown, for those not immersed in Nutcracker-speak), and the rest of the show sparkled. I took a lot of pictures, of which maybe a dozen came out well, which ain’t a bad ratio considering the limitations of shooting a lighted production from a seat. After the show, Hannah and I had dinner at the Martindale Chief Diner (“A 1958 Silk City Diner”), which is one of those diner landmarks you’re never quite sure about . . . could be great, could feature the original food. Well, it was about what would be expected, but it was fine. Very odd that a roadside diner in Claverack would be hit with a post-theatre rush.
Lee went to my niece’s birthday party with Rebekah while we were out in Taconic Hills, and we all hit the driveway at the same time. Got the girls in bed as quickly as possible and hit the couch together, where we watched, and, I’m ashamed to say, laughed at, “Dude, Where’s My Car?” I just want to apologize….

Kathleen, so serene…

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Kathleen Turner’s in rehab? Well, I know, Mrs. Robinson was a drunk. But I’m shocked. And disappointed.
As if that weren’t enough, Meryl Streep has been forced to appear with Nicolas Cage.
Hmm… and Kathleen Turner has also been forced to appear with Nicolas Cage.
Coincidence?
(Title reference courtesy of Tommy James and the Shondells. Really.)

Tropic of Cancer

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It seems difficult to believe, but I’m having a bit of a hard time slogging through Henry Miller’s “Tropic of Cancer.” Maybe I’m just not in the mood for it, or the right place in my life. When I was 20, I thought it was brilliant. I read some Miller again when I was about 30, but then I was in much more of an Anais Nin mode. Now a good chunk of it seems like shock for shock’s sake, and more than a little sad. Perhaps it was always that way, and I just couldn’t really perceive the sadness. When I was younger, my affinity for grit, dirt, decay was much stronger. I still like the rough edges of urban spaces, but I know that you can’t live on the edge forever. You stop being edgy and eventually become pathetic. Not that Miller’s brand of promiscuity ever looked attractive to me anyway . . . I’m afraid I’m a little too fastidious to thrill to back-alley acts with Parisian whores (great — now I’m really going to get Googled by freaks).
I’m also a little too fastidious to read “Tropic of Cancer” on the couch at the ballet school, so instead I took a biography of Lincoln with me last night while I waited for Hannah. Ended up sitting out in the hall and nodding off more than a few times. Noticed this morning that the book had won “The Lincoln Prize”, which hardly seemed a surprise at all. I couldn’t seem to find a bio that took the middle-ground on detail, so I erred on the side of too much and now I’m paying for my mistake.
I finished “Dino” last week, a much more interested read than one would expect, and strangely, I find that I now have knowledge of Dean Martin in my head. Knowledge that must be shared. Let me tell you, when you broach the topic of Dean Martin in casual conversation with your peers, here in 2002, you can get some very interesting looks. And then the backing-away thing….

Top Search Terms

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When I started tracking hits on my genealogy and Essex County history sites, I had no idea there would be so many people seraching for information on Nathaniel Mallory, Zadoch Nichols, and the history of Mineville. Granted, in this case, “many” means “more than 5”, but still… I thought I’d get a lot of hits for the abolitionists John Brown or Gerrit Smith, but not so. I get a LOT of hits looking for Mineville, a lot for Keene, some for Jay, and quite a few for North Elba, but it seems they’re actually searching for Elba, NY, which is out in the western part of the state. (No, I don’t know why it’s North Elba.) The most searches come for the history of Crown Point, which is the most extensive of the histories and has the most names, so that makes some sense.
I also get a lot of hits for “old school photographs” or “old college photographs,” which is just what I’ve titled those pages, but it makes me wonder just exactly what people are looking for when they Google those terms. I’ve had several hits for “Bennington College photographs” — I can produce any two of those search terms, but not all three, sorry to say. I had one hit not too long ago for “plastic surgery disasters photographs” — that person went away disappointed, I’m glad to say. And I picked up a hit from someone looking for information on “rosin allergies” — again, I can tell you about rosin (well, about glycerol ester of wood rosin, anyway), and I can tell you about allergies, but if you’re looking for a synergy of those terms, you’re gonna have to look elsewhere.
I’ve also attracted a few hits from people looking for some bizarre porn, but I can’t imagine that when they see a summary of the sites that they would think they’ve found it here. Worried about what kinds of people might turn up now that the words “Nutcracker” and “Mother Ginger’s skirt” are in my blog, but these are the chances you take. Maybe it was better not to know….

Nutcracker trouble

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The snow day yesterday meant the school where Saturday’s performance is being held (and if you think a school is an iffy venue, you haven’t seen the very handsome auditorium at Taconic Hills High School) wasn’t available for the construction of the sets, which means that has to be done tonight, which means NO DRESS REHEARSAL. The kids are just going to go on, have one very quick runthrough so they can get the sense of the stage, and that’s it. We’re going to have the same situation at The Egg next week. Hannah has played her role before, and has been on the Taconic stage twice before, so she shouldn’t have any trouble. But for Bekah and the others who haven’t danced it before, they’re going to come out onto an unknown stage, unable to see anything because they’re inside Mother Ginger’s skirt, go running out from underneath her skirt and then god only knows what will happen. Hope for the best.
Nasty weather predicted for tomorrow, too, which always makes the Taconic Parkway (aka “The Little Highway That Cried”) interesting. It is one of the loveliest roads in the state, but a 55-mile-per-hour road with grade crossings and CURBS makes for an intense driving experience. There is never a fear of dozing off while driving the Taconic. Deer through the windshield is another matter.
My mother is concerned that our Christmas present will be too big to take home in the Xterra. This frightens me.

Big slushy snowballs and The Monkey Trail

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Wet, heavy, perfect snow for snowballs and snowmen. Not so magnificent for sledding, but we gave it a shot down at the school anyway. Lots of snowball throwing and good silly fun. Not much that’s better than giggling girls in the snow.
The best, slickest run on the steepest hill is, of course, right up against the school building, so the whole time they’re on it I’m watching with a parent’s trepidation that they’re going to go headlong into the bricks. They were careful and it didn’t happen. Made me remember our favorite toboggan trail when we were kids, The Monkey Trail.
It was at Collins Park in Scotia, which generally had some good, long slopes — nothing extremely steep, but you could get some nice long rides in the right conditions. What seemed like a million of us guys would drag our rigs — toboggans, sleds. battered flying saucers, and one of the first of the plastic contraptions, known as “The Kitchen Sink” — all the way up across Mohawk Avenue and to the park behind the library, where there was a long ridge that led from the parking lot and picnic areas down to the lake. Local legend had it that this had once been a Mohawk torture ground (no, I’m not kidding). It was a great sledding hill, and it attracted a lot of people, but it wasn’t much of a challenge. We would build ramps and jumps and so on to make it more dangerous. But when those weren’t enough, we would wander down to the extreme edge of the park, to a little space about three feet wide that ran along the park fence, down the hill toward the lake. The trail was a little twisted, quite bumpy, and had some significant tree roots in the way. There was a chain link fence on the left and trees on the right, and in order to deal with the roots we had to pile up snow on them and make little jumps. It was fast as hell. It was The Monkey Trail. It was generally too dangerous for unsteerable things like flying saucers, but with a fully loaded toboggan of boys, you could go so screamingly fast you could almost make it to the lake. It was very cool.
And like any good parent, I’d kill my kids if they ever went down something like it.

Snow came!

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Just enough to get me out of my travel obligations for the morning, which was fine with me. Cancelled that, rolled out late to start the shoveling — heavy stuff, but I wasn’t in a big hurry, so it was fine. Girls were out for about two and a half hours messing around in the snow, they couldn’t be happier. Now they’re tired and full of hot chocolate, just as they should be. Wish we could go tobogganing over at Albany Municipal Golf Course later on, but we’ve got dance class in the late afternoon. Well, maybe we can work it out anyway.
Made a great label for the new Christmas CD. Got my final addresses for the Christmas cards (lost my address book in the great crash of Labor Day).
We'll Nuke YouI’m of very mixed feelings about all the sabre-rattling. I think the case is there to be made, but that the administration hasn’t bothered to make it. I think that you can’t threaten to go to war without being ready to go to war, so all the preparations in that direction certainly are necessary to show our resolve. But I’ve gotta say that the message from the administration, as filtered through the New York Post yesterday, was a little alarming: “WE’LL NUKE YOU”. That may not be the message that causes moderate Iraqis to join the fight against Hussein. On the other hand, it’s not ambiguous. And I’m a little sick of people who think this has all happened of a sudden, that Bush was handed a perfectly stable set of circumstances and mucked it up. There were eight years between Bushes, when we essentially acted as if none of this were happening.
That’s my political contribution for the day.

Snow’s coming! Take cover!

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Jesus, people, it’s the Northeast. It snows. Sometimes a whole bunch. Get over it…
I think the media are to blame.
Anyway, freezing rain and sleet, with a bunch of inches of snow on top, coming tonight. Looks like I’m NOT driving to Newburgh tomorrow (field trip to look at some kind of burning technology). We’ll see if it’s possible to get off the hill in the morning or not.
Did I mention that I got ALL my Christmas cards done? Written (pithily and with brevity). Rubber stamped (messily and with Christmas colors). Mailed (expeditiously and with extreme prejudice). Okay, so I’ve got a couple of stragglers, but ALMOST all of them are done. Burned a new Christmas CD last night, too. It was hard to decide if using little snatches of William S. Burroughs narrating “The Junkie’s Christmas” was too dark, but in the end I decided to go with a few of them. I love the story, but others may not quite get it. So I reduced it to three snippets, odd and out of place, such as: “‘Merry Christmas, Doctor.’ The doctor said nothing in return.”
Why couldn’t I just love Celine Dion like everyone else? On the upside, some real new Christmas songs, including Cracker’s kickass “Merry Christmas, Emily” and the long-sought “Sock It To Me Santa” from Marshall Crenshaw.
Gotta run and get home before the storm hits. Panic! Panic!

Zoiks, what a day!

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Non-stop. Running from one meeting to another. Tomorrow I am actually triple-booked at a couple of times, including a meeting with a major famous pain-in-the-ass. Hopefully, he won’t actually show. We’ve gone from zero to sixty around here, which doesn’t bode well for sneaking some days off for skiing. But I’m going to — I got virtually no time off at all last year (and an abbreviated summer vacation), so now there will have to be some give. Mount Snow is pretty much completely open, so I MUST get over there next week.
Ice on the river today, quite lovely — the ice breaker came through and broke things up pretty well, but it looked like it was reforming quickly. (My office has a beautiful view of the mighty Hudson.) Our lake is frozen, and if it doesn’t snow it may make for decent skating, though I’m sure the kids’ skates no longer fit. We didn’t skate at all last winter, mostly because we were skiing, and partly because I really need soft-booted skates and can’t justify the expense to myself. But the old stiff boots do bad things to my heel, and they do it much faster than my ski boots. It’s supposed to warm up on into the week, so who knows if the ice will be thick enough this weekend. The lake was frozen a lot last year, but the surface was never great, and the year before it was constantly snowed on.