“I want to do that hill again”

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Cycling Waterford 008I’m super proud of how much progress she’s made in the past year or more. Not everyone who’s going through cancer treatments decides it’s time to start running (and for those who do, good for you!). Not only did she get through that first 5K last year, but she ran the Freihofer’s again this year and has slowly been building back her base, able to do things she couldn’t just a year ago. We cycle together too, and she’s making strides there. When this picture was taken, we had just climbed up Flight Lock Road in Waterford, an easy climb for anyone with hundreds of miles in the legs, but a challenge for someone who has lost some of her wind. When we’ve gone out riding I’ve mostly kept her to the flats so she can go a little farther, enjoy the distance and not worry about having enough juice to get back. But this time we were only on a short jaunt, and I underestimated how much of a challenge the hill, which runs alongside a series of canal locks, would be to her. But she just kept cranking away at it until we got to the crest. Then we coasted down one lock, took a rest, coasted the rest of the way into town and stopped to admire the river at the Waterford Visitors Center.

Then, of course, she hurled. (In the rest room, happily.) We’re blaming virus rather than exertion. And after the hurling, she said:

“I want to do that hill again.”

Which is why she’s cool.

The annual “where did July go?” post

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It is that time, time for the annual “Holy #@&! Where did July go?!” post. The one where I realize that in the month of July I have posted not once, and then try to explain how it came to be that the only thing on my front page for a month has been a celebration of free wheat germ. It’s a million things, really:

  • It’s summer, hot and oppressive until just this week when it became so sweet and perfect. Summer, when one daughter complains that we never run the air conditioning, which has been working non-stop to keep the house at a suitable temperature.
  • It’s the outdoor stuff, biking and running and not nearly enough canoeing/kayaking because of this year’s constantly swollen rivers. But still: some.
  • It’s the summer activities: summer camp in a semi-distant place, special events, outdoor farmer’s markets, arts nights, and many excuses for ice cream.
  • It’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” Joss Whedon’s brilliant take on my very favorite Shakespeare play, which requires repeated watching.
  • It’s events and reunions, including my 35th high school reunion, which was really an unexpected delight as we celebrated the bond of a common point of origin and a brief but very important educational experience.
  • And of course, it’s the Tour de France, which took on a new twist as I figured out a way to get coverage from Eurosportplayer and watch the English (and sometimes French, and sometimes Danish) feeds. Although Froome won early and with way too much power to not raise questions, the individual stages were all exciting this year. Corsica was beautiful, climbing Alpe d’Huez twice was murderous, and as usual, watching the whole thing took up most of the month of July.

I am the King of Wheat Germ

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Wheat Germ 034.jpgSo, two things happened after last week’s rant about how Hannaford was screwing with my breakfast. Well, three, really. First, All Over Albany mentioned my rant in their weekly collection of local blogs, and I learned I was not alone in my appreciation of wheat germ. (I will take validation anywhere I can find it.)

Second, the folks who do PR for Kretschmer noticed my rant, and out of the blue offered to help me out. They just sent me three jars of Kretschmer Original Toasted Wheat Germ, my new holy grail, out of the goodness of their hearts. They asked for no mention or any kind of publicity. (But now I’m beginning to see what all these consumer and food bloggers might be up to.)

Third, and I take no credit for this, a tiny, tiny slot opened up on the cereal shelf at my Hannaford, a slot that wasn’t there for the past few weeks. And a new shelf label popped up, a label that was definitely not there for the past few weeks. And a few, a very few, jars of Kretschmer Wheat Germ re-appeared at Hannaford. I can only hope they’ve been restored (“re-stored”?) permanently, so I don’t have to make good on my horrible threat to go elsewhere.

But we do have another problem, Hannaford: please, please, please, no Hall & Oates on the playlist, okay? ‘Cause the only thing worse than screwing with my breakfast is putting one of their horrific earworms into my brain.

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.

They shouldn’t be called bike paths

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It’s that time of year again, when it is finally warm, the body is finally working, and it’s time to get some serious miles under my wheels. And because I often have to be in downtown Albany on certain afternoons and weekends, it makes sense to just take off on the bike path for the first few kilometers of my ride — there’s convenient parking, a porta-potty and a flat path out of town. Which is great in the off-season, but by this time of year, the path is simply overrun with people, and trying to bike on it in good weather is just an exercise in frustration. This is meant less as a complaint than an explanation. People often ask if I ride the bike path, and I say that I try to avoid it whenever possible. I’m not being snobbish, I’m just trying to have a good fast ride, and that’s hard to come by on the bike path. Here’s why:

  • The people I’m coming up behind are generally oblivious and/or unable to hear. They’ve got headphones or cell phones, or they’re just tuning out. Calling out “on your left” is useless. Ringing my bell (yes, there’s a bell on my commuter, as required by law) is similarly useless. Or worse than useless, as 90% of the population doesn’t appear to know which side is its left, or thinks that I’m commanding them to make a sudden jump to the left, and directly into my path.
  • People take as much space as is available. Two people or twelve, they will spread out as wide as possible, pay no attention to whether anyone is coming from ahead or behind, and often act indignant or surprised when they need to move aside.
  • Dogs. I love dogs, and in fact most of the dogs I come across on the path are under good control. But my greatest fear on the path is hurting someone’s dog, so if I come up on one that is unleashed and not under control, I’ve got to slow way down to make sure we’re not going to have a bad interaction.
  • Kids. People say kids are unpredictable. That’s crazy. I predict that every single one of them will put himself or herself right where you don’t want them to be, and I’m right 90% of the time. It’s not their fault — they’re kids. Most parents try to get them in line on the path, but they’re slippery little devils.

There are some sections of bike path around here that are unavoidable, often because it’s vastly safer than the nearby road alternative (such as much of Rosendale Road in Niskayuna). And the newly paved section running from Aqueduct to downtown Schenectady is a delight, and no longer feels dangerous and abandoned (imagine that: they made something nice and nice people started using it). But in general, once the paths are clogged up with people doing things other than biking, you’ll see me on the road.

In some parts of the country there is acknowledgement that paths with a lot of use really need to separate the cyclists from the rest of the multi-users. Maybe someday that attitude will have some effect here, but in a region where money spent on something other than the automobile is generally derided as pure waste, I don’t hold out a lot of hope. The $18 million that was spent on the Fuller Road debacle sure could have paved a lot of bike paths for a very long time.

Seek alternate routes

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I’ve come to think of routine as a tremendous aid in every day life. While you want to avoid getting into a rut, some routines just make life easier. I get up at pretty much the same time every day. I eat the same breakfast almost every day. I buy the same soaps and shampoos. There’s great efficiency in not having to work through those problems every time.

But there is one area of my life where I have never been able to abide routine: moving from Point A to Point B. From the earliest age at which I was getting myself from one place to another on my own, I was seeking out alternate routes. Although I lived a block and a half from my elementary school, I would sometimes go around the school’s block, just to see different scenery. Going to junior high, I found as many different ways to get there as possible. In high school, I’d rarely go up the same streets two days in a row. Once I was driving back and forth to college, this hyperlocal wanderlust extended to long-distance travel; I couldn’t abide always taking the Thruway between Schenectady and Syracuse, and was instead always getting onto Route 5, or 5S, or even 20 for at least part of the way to break up the terrible monotony of the highway.

This especially extends to bicycling. Some people are able to settle into a circuit or two that they do every day, and that’s a good thing. They get to build power and speed and judge themselves against a known course. But if I had to do that I’d go out of my mind, or at least get off my bike. I can’t even stand to do circuits; the second time around just bores me stiff. And the chance that I’d ride the same route twice in a week is slim indeed.

Once we get further into the season, I can stand a little repetition in my rides. For the sake of going farther and faster I have to use some common roads just to get out of my neighborhood, and I get okay with that. And there are definitely some favorite country roads around here that I enjoy riding a couple of times a month; whenever my daughters want to visit a school friend who lives out in the boonies, they’re sure to hear me say that I bike past that house all the time.

But at this time of year, I tend to stick to the cities (at least in part for the flatness), and use my hatred of geographical routine to discover parts of the Capital District that I’ve never seen despite having lived here for so many decades. Just last week I ventured into a section of Albany I’d never seen before, and found new side streets that somehow I’d never been down, and some passable alternatives to Washington and Western. I’ve been finding hidden pieces of Troy (it seems as if there are a lot of them), and trying to ride most streets in Watervliet.

The upside is that I’m never bored. The downside is that whenever we’re going somewhere by car, my family has to put up with my cries of, “But wait! There’s a better way!”