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captainsblog

I'm told today was National Dog Day.  Here's ours:



During the day proper, before the evening redeemed it, Dog Of a Day was more like it.  I've resumed bimonthly pilgrimages to the Bankruptcy Court's outpost in Olean, reachable by either of two expressways for about half the journey. It's the southern halves that are very different.

Taking the 400 south to its end, as I did on the way there, puts you in the heart of Trump Country. Within a mile or two is a diner with a dozen American flags and a matching number of Make America Great White Again signs in the window. They continue, with the occasional Confederate Battle Flag to break it up, through little towns with strange names like Machias, Chaffee, Ischua, and the far-flung Lime Lake of Langerhans. Eventually, though, you're dumped onto 17 I-86 and your blood pressure drops.

Court was court. Nuthin' special.

The other way to travel the trail is to head west out of Olean, through Seneca Nation territory with their indigenous road signs that could be pro-Trump for all I know, and then onto 219 north.  This road is also two-lane for most of its southern half, but it's a very different world, passing through the village known as


Ellicottville is Trump anti-matter; its lush lawns host fancy wine bars and posh B&Bs and cater to the hoity-toity Buffalo and Canadian ski crowds, who come this time of year for golf and ziplining. Then you make the left turn beyond the village limits, which is a far-right turn in ideology, and you have about 15 more miles of Stars and Bars and REPEAL THE SAFE ACT demands before 219 turns into four lanes of THE 219 for its final 30ish mile stretch into Buffalo proper.

It was somewhere in that last two-lane stretch that I got screwed. Or rather, my left rear tire did.  The CHECK TIRE PRESSURE warning came up on Kermit's screen, just as I'd turned onto the expressway proper after turning up my nose at lunch and possible air opportunities at fine establishments like YELLOW GOOSE and ASHFORD EATS. By the time I got off the eastbound 90 (which THE 219 spills onto) and into familiar enough territory to find a gas station with air, that tire was down to 7 PSI. I refilled it to factory (33 PSI) and headed back to my office.

When I left it to go home, two hours later, the idiot light was back on. I grumbled; for one thing, I'd need to waste much of tomorrow getting it repaired or replaced. For another, I'd planned on going to Eleanor's Friday night chanting session tonight, but then to check out Lake Street Dive, a band I discovered last year and which was in town at a decent hour tonight.  Couldn't take the chance of being stuck downtown with only 7 PSI, so I begged out of the concert and Eleanor drove me in her car to the SGI session- not downtown, but a member's house within a couple miles of our home.

And,... it was wonderful. She was welcomed as a full member in their group, received the scroll she will use in centering herself in the faith here, and we both made meaningful contributions to the evening discussion.  Even before we left, it was clear that the tire was in sad shape, so I resolved to call AAA as soon as we got home.

The guy got there quickly, and with options for dealing with the screw that had gotten into my tread: he could put my donut on the axle, which, last I remembered, was all AAA did. If he did that, though, I could get a free patch at a designated Goodyear joint tomorrow (subject to availability). Or, for just over ten bucks, he could patch the flat on the spot which is guaranteed as to its patchiness for the life of the tire.

Of course I went with the third.  The guy was quick and personable, and as long as it holds, it's a Hamilton well spent.

He had the Bills game on his radio; they were losing, but nobody had been hurt.  I was listening to the Mets; they were blowing an 8-run lead (they finally won 9-4), but more importantly and unusually, nobody got hurt.

Buddhism emphasizes the achievement of a state that eliminates suffering. Clearly this religion was founded before either the Mets or the Bills were.

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captainsblog

In between having religious experiences of various (and no) stripes, and watching the endings of a few things, I've worked in a few other pursuits worth mentioning. One began and ended tonight- for now.  The other will begin next month and run through the academic year.

----

The first, from tonight: I missed recording Braindead the other night because Lewis was opposite it, and neither Amazon nor Time Warner have released it  to timeshifting yet; I needed something to watch during cardio (mine) and chanting (Eleanor's), and this is who I found:



Yes, it's The Tick. I vaguely remember an attempt to televisionize this tongue-in-supercheek character some years back, but Amazon's dangled it as one of several pilots they bought before deciding which one(s) will get greenlit for a full series.  Numbers of views and customer reviews count toward the decision (Jeffrey Tambor's Transparent apparently got past the pilot stage through positive reaction); I'll be rewatching and reviewing, because I love it.

The title character exudes Adam West camp, in voice and dialogue and utter stupidity. Yet the focus is on his sidekick Arthur Everest, a nerd among nerds given a origin story on an Earth resembling that of the "Bicycle Repairman" Python sketch, where seemingly everyone in town's a Superman but the reverse-secret-identity geek is the one who gets things done.  He interacts with Tick, his own sister, a sympathetic shrink, and different Baddies at different times incuding a prequel scene with the Worst of All.  Other than a gratuitous Whoopi Goldberg cameo, I didn't recognize a single actor in the bunch, and have no idea which (if any) comic universe these belong to, but I don't care. They're fun, and poke fun at the dead seriousness of so much of the superhero genre being put out there.  I made it through about an hour of Bat V Supe, which is about as much as you can take of Ben Affleck leading with his angry chin and the Man of Steely Determination red-eyeballing everything in sight.

----

The latter part, and speaking of Python:

On a whim and because of a sale, we now have two season tickets to UB's Distinguished Speakers Series, which will hold its 30th season of speakers throughout fall and spring semesters. It attracts an annual mix from the scientific (Neil deGrasse Tyson in 2009-10) to the philanthrophic (Greg Mortenson, the only one we attended, in 10-11), through sport (Magic Johnson, 14-15), music and comedy (Steve Martin in 12-13), a religious icon (the Dalai Lama in 06-07), and just about every connection to the Presidency you can think of. Both current candidates have appeared at various times, along with a former President (Bush Daddy in 99-00), another former First Lady (Laura Bush in 12-13), a popularly elected President (Al Gore in 06-07), and a fictional one (Kevin Spacey earlier this year).  This year's lineup has no political luminaries of that class, although Attorney General Emeritus Eric Holder is scheduled to speak in February if Hillary hasn't named him to the Supremes by then.  The lineup begins with Space Shuttle astronauts Mark & Scott Kelly next month, brings a Facebook Zuckerberg (Randi, not that other one) to campus in October, and April concludes the series with Roxane Gay (Emily's already called shotgun on her appearance), and actor/Stephen King time traveler James Franco....

And John Cleese about a fortnight before Christmas.  His will be split into two shows in a smaller venue (Center for the Arts- the others are in the biggest on-campus arena).  I saw him perform live-ish in the cinema simulcast of the last Python reunion show, but this will be my first of the Original Six in the same room- with a good chance of asking him a question.

I've got almost four months to improve upon "What makes you think she's a witch?"

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captainsblog
Saturday night was an international celebration with Kingston, Ontario at the hub of it.  The Tragically Hip concluded their 2016 tour with a show in that city of their origin, with the entire nation virtually ground to a halt, the CBC's Olympic coverage put on hold, and pockets of their fans at the Rio games and also here in Buffalo joining in.

All of it was- is- for Gord- their lead singer, lauded on the broadcast as being "Canada's Shakespeare," who revealed inoperable brain cancer a mere few months ago but who was determined to press on with at least one more tour within his home and native land, which ended Saturday night.

I cannot imagine the profit-crazy suits at NBC giving anyone or anything even a two-minute breakaway from their nonstop USA! USA! coverage. Not if it were Springsteen, not if Sinatra rose from the dead for one last encore. Canada's athletes and broadcasters set aside over two hours, and CBC opened its hearts and its digital rights for that time. They not only broadcast it nationwide on over-air television (which we, in Buffalo, are among the few United Statesians blessed to get on cable), but streamed it on CBC2 radio and over their internet channels around the world.

Thousands more joined in public venues for simulcasts on big-screen televisions. I thought about going to the one in the Recently Hip section of Buffalo known as Larkinville; in the end, I was glad I didn't, since the transmission was gorked and many left unhappy.  Fuck unhappy. The man on the screens is dying, and is still playing his lungs and heart out in a tinfoil suit and a Jaws t-shirt-



We got about an hour through it last night, and will finish in time. All still pray for the best and that this will not be what no one wants to call "the last Hip show." But if it is, Gord gave us a lifetime's worth of good memories in a relatively short set.

----

Last night then brought two other endings. Reversing the order for artistic purposes:

PBS ended its 33-episode run of the Inspector Lewis series, sequeling Inspector Morse's run of the exact same number of shows. Although I saw all of the originals and have since caught all the Endeavour prequels, Lewis just never clicked with me the same way. Maybe it was the way they introduced him at the start of the run- newly divorced, rather down, still not over the loss of his mentor. Yet anytime I did watch, I liked how they did the stories, and loved how Kevin Whately continued to evolve the character. (The only Yuletide story I ever did was a short Lewis piece inspired by then-recent real-life events that mirrored a prior ep of theirs.)

While I was out, apparently: Lewis struggled with redundancy, slowed his gait, but did get the girl, or at least A girl, and a damn fine one at that.  He and Hathaway also went out with a bang- several of them, in fact. With a list of potential suspects longer than the Honours List at Christmas.  Yet they, their boss (new guy- like him), their Sergeant (also an excellent addition) and even Lewis's best girl all do their parts to rule everyone out except the one wot did it.

As for The End, and whether/how it connects to "The Remorseful Day," I will spoil only that the M-word only comes up once that I noticed- and that it did not make me cry as the final scene of the Endeavour pilot did.  Suffice it that Lewis proved to be his own man and came to An End in a way that suited him and he was damned entitled to.

----

As for the third ending of the weekend: it was of a brief rainstorm we got right before dusk last night. It was still pouring maybe three houses away, but as I pointed the phone in the other sunnier direction, we ended our full weekend with this sight:

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captainsblog
Eleanor went off before 8 this morning to her Sunday session of chanting. I had to decide  between another Sunday of Dog Church and trying out a different faith practice of my own. In the end, I got to do both.

The day dawned rainy, but our hardy band of humans decided to meet at the dog park anyway. Much less crowded, but also much muddier.  I got Ebony off-leash as soon as we were inside and for the first few minutes, she was fine, romping up to, and being romped up to by, all sorts of new friends.  One was a St. Bernard:

Me: Where's your brandy?
St B's owner: We drank it last night.

We roamed a bit more; not as much time to take pictures, although I did get this one of Ann as The Lovely Carol Merrill, in front of a turtle carving we hadn't seen last time:



Not long past that, we came upon a couple of dogs heading the other way. One was a cute new husky. Ebony was in love- and headed back toward the entrance with them. No amount of calling, or chasing, got her to stop her pursuit.  She finally stopped right before the entrance-exit gate, where I got her back on leash as her lost love headed home.  Ann and Dave came round from the other end of the path and we re-met, but the hour was cut short between that and the rain and Jazz not seeming to be doing so well.  I brought Ebony home, threw on some clean clothes, and headed down Delaware Avenue to yet another station on my path.

----

I've been aware of Unity Church, both here and in Rochester, for years. Both are in the arts neighborhoods of their respective cities, and while calling themselves churches, have always shied away from the dogma and the Scary Jesus shit that I could never stand.  The one here was specifically recommended by a fellow disaffected Methodist; I'd gone through two rounds of lay speaking classes with her, before she became totally alienated from her congregation even as I was being subjected to a death of a thousand paper cuts from the same old bulletins at mine.  As with Friday's Buddhist experience which talked very little about the Buddha, there was talk here of Jesus, but way more about achieving growth and peace in yourself rather than worshiping the guy with his name on the door.

Also as with Friday, there was a far more diverse crowd here than you see in any typical suburban Protestant church.  Older, all in all- but that was part of the fun of it. One of their long-time members was celebrating his 90th birthday this morning, and much of the focus was on his life- not only how long, but how well he's managed to live it. The congregation's only other resident nonagenarian- a feisty African American woman named Georgia- semi-roasted him from the front in a style evoking more Moms Mabley than Grandma Moses- don't you forget, I've got seniority!- and I felt far more joy over this occasion, directed at a guy I've never met, than I have many times at similar celebrations for oldsters who, upon leaving church, turn into the cranky old guy at the bank.

The service itself wasn't as unfamiliar as chanting, but the differences were just subtle and significant enough to be appreciated.  No choir (though that is likely a summers-off thing, as it is with most churches), but one musician alternating between traditional and electric piano.  The second song sung was "Teach Your Children"- meaningful to me, because I just ordered an album by a band which does an awesome cover of it. The soloist's anthem was Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," and there was no doubt that this performance would get the ovation that it deserved, unlike the timidity of the Repressed Suburban White People I've been hanging with on Sundays all my life.  The Lord's Prayer is slightly altered and sung, to a traditional Protestant tune (Hydryfol, number 196 in your hymnal), and is followed by Louis Armstrong singing "Wonderful World."

Today there was beef on weck and cake, but I think that's only on 90th birthdays.

I will speak more with them about their particular visions for how faith can be carried out.  They have outreach programs and classes to explain it all- and today they had a full parking lot, which is always a good sign.

Maybe there's even a cute husky for Ebony to hang out with;)
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captainsblog
I went with Eleanor last night to the Buddhist Center downtown where she's been chanting a few times a week for a few weeks.  It's hard for me not to intellectualize everything, or put it into columns of pro/con, compare/contrast, but I tried, and am trying, to gauge the experience entirely unto itself without reference to known benchmarks- my own, or Western/Christian in general.

It begins with a constant chant of the mantra of this particular sect (their term), Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō- then follows a transliterated text for maybe ten minutes before returning to the mantra.  This all occurs in a sanctuary setting- a leader facing a scroll and candle from an altar/lectern/bimah looking platform (stop, Ray), and the people in chairs either side of a center aisle.  I used this time mostly for meditation, wanting to know a little more about what was being said first.  This was fine, it turned out, although the preferred mode is with eyes open facing the scroll, not closed.  This little point helps emphasize that you are not supposed to internalize the experience totally.

Next, a recent convert to their group received his membership- complete with his own scroll, membership certificate and commemorative photos.  It was clear from his speaking about it that he had reached this point only after much study and experience, which is the sign of a group that cares more about members than it does about membership.  (Another local faith community I'm considering, more in the Christian tradition but with some Buddhist components to its experience, recommends six full months of connection before taking that step. Most Methodists will haul you in after four New Member classes, and the true fundies try to get your conversion and your checking account number as soon as you're "saved.")

After that, those chairs proved they were not pews, as they quickly formed an obtuse circle-like setting and everyone, including Eleanor (still considered a guest) and me (wow! a guest bringing a guest!), just talked for about an hour.  The median age was probably low to mid-30s, but several were younger and a few much older than even us.  Even more striking was the diversity of ethnicity, economics and life experience.  I don't recall anyone talking in Contemporary Issues Sunday School about their brother being murdered- or about attending a comparable chanting session in Milan in one of the most beautiful venues they'd ever experienced.

Then, some brief chants and the time was over. We truly did go in peace.

----

Since the chanting- in general, and the repeating of the Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō mantra- is so central to the practice, I wanted to know more.  The meeting itself, and some materials on their website, explained it in some roundabout terms, but I was looking for something a little more direct.  So, Wikipedia. With some even more shortening of its passages, the phrase works out, more or less, to-

I take refuge in (devote or submit myself to) the Wonderful Law of the Lotus Flower Sutra-

Wanting something that scanned a little better, I looked around some of the other alternate terms in the entry and came up with-


Devoted to the mystic law of the Lotus Flower Sutra.

I repeated it that way to Eleanor. Yeah, she said, that's about right.

A "sutra," generally, is a form of law or rule (yes, pervs, the Kama Sutra is another book of those).  The Lotus Sutra is the handed-down path to enlightenment identified as the highest and purest of the Buddha's teachings by the Japanese Buddhist priest Nichiren around AD 1253.  (There is relatively little talk of the Buddha himself, at least by that name, in these sessions- the focus being more on achieving Buddha-like enlightenment yourself rather than worshiping the fat guy in the statue.)

So devoting yourself to law? Yeah- I've already done THAT in any number of ways. The particular law? Gotta learn it to know.  But I'm okay at least devoting to understanding more about it- which gets me okay with the chanting of it.  Does it have mystic powers in and of itself?  Not from the outside in- but I already can be powerfully influenced by music, and memorable quotes, and even much of Christian sacred music where I don't believe a word of what is being said but am still moved by how it sounds.

At the risk of offending, I listened to my own version of the mantra I'd worked out-

Devoted to the mystic law of the Lotus Flower Sutra-

and realized it had the same meter and internal beating as something silly but, yet, appropriate:

Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey.

You don't understand a word of it at first- until someone or something, yes, enlightens you, that what they're really saying is-

Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy.

And once you "get" that, it suddenly makes a lot more sense.

----

I've tried to keep snark out of both understanding these new things and talking to these people about my lifetime of faith journeying (I did tell several of them last night that I felt I didn't lose my way in United Methodism- rather, that it lost its way in its excessive internalizing and anti-LGBT stances).  I was particularly determined not to bring up an old joke that I've used ever since I first saw it in reference to the Sean Connery-in-a-monastery movie Name of the Rose. A magazine at the time reviewed it with the headline "Hey Hey We're the Monks!"

Until, again, Wikipedia.  In trying to work out the meaning of Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō, I read the explanation above, but also went on to its inevitable descent into "Popular Culture"- where the first entry is this-

The mantra was used in the final episode of the TV series The Monkees, "The Frodis Caper". Micky claims he received it when he sent in a cereal box top.

If that's not karma, I don't know what is. Or what kind.  But most importantly, I saw a room full of kindness, and no sign that these people were going to turn into self-absorbed assholes the next time they ran into one of us outside their holy place.

And hey hey, that's fine.
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captainsblog
Like and share. Like and share. Like and share.

They're the particles which hold the internet together- ranging from sound to fury, usually signifying nothing.

They can be political, inspirational, occupational.

In my lifetime, they've gone from magazine clippings and mimeographs passed by hand, to primordial photocopies, to thermal-paper faxes, to chain emails, to, now, these constant social media shares.  Most are irrelevant to me; many are too smarmy or snarky; some are downright offensive, either in what they say or how they tug at your heartstrings to share them (only 3 percent will, or you'll make Jesus sad if you don't).

But then there was late last night, and this one:



I didn't know who Sidney Hook was (I do now; he was a former Marxist converted to rabid anti-Communism from the 1950s on), but I liked the sentiment, and there was only one logical former teacher to share it with:

Pistol Pete.

That's not his real name, but we all called him that (a homage to a then-famous NBA player), or "Mr. P," and he taught physics at our high school and as an adjunct at a nearby college. He was also advisor to Probe, our school's science magazine, which helped keep the Star Trek brand alive in between TOS and STTMP and even had one of its stories adapted into an Animated Series episode on NBC.

He didn't wow us with the quantity of what he taught us; it was the quality of the learning; hands-on, with humor and respect, both in his fast-track honors and AP classes but also in the Regents-level one I was in during my junior year.  It was Mr. P who invited a whole bunch of us to dinner at his Queens-borough home one year; and it was for him that I got Carl Sagan to autograph a copy of Dragons of Eden in my first year at Cornell.  He didn't even notice the first time through; he was too busy reading the book.

So. I posted that meme on his Facebook page- he's the only teacher from any level who I've reconnected with there- with the following sentiment:

Anyone could've taught the formulas and the principias. It's the rare one who you remember so fondly almost 40 years later despite remembering none of them.

A simple sentiment, which got an appropriately simple thank you from him.  But then the meme went viral, as they do.

----

Another student from those years was Dave.  I remember him from 40 years ago the way I remember a lot of people from 40 years ago- regretting that those particular memory cells in my brain hadn't been written over.  I did  know he's lived a full and interesting life since we left East Meadow's halls, but I did not know the influence Mr. P had made on him and his future (some identifying details are obscured in the next two quotes):

I fondly remember my physics & astronomy teacher. I remember learning about black holes and event horizons from him. I was a lagging high school student, but my teacher taught me as he taught all the others. It made a difference. Despite a class rank of 6** of 6**(or something like that), and having to attend summer school AFTER our graduation ceremony in order to actually graduate EMHS, I came away with enough hope to excel in college and graduate the Medical College of Virginia (MD, 1987), and Quinnipiac University School of Law (JD, 2005). I completed my anesthesiology residency across the street from our high school at NCMC (board certified 1992). Thanks, Mr. P. If you ever come across Tony S., please thank him for me, as well. My favorite amateur science? Astrophysics, of course!

My random meme-ing couldn't hold a candle to THAT (and if I'd tried, one of the Sheehan twins would have burned down the lab with it)  So our mentor's response to Dave was suitably heartfelt:

Wow!! Thank you Dave. I had no idea about your wonderful success story. I truly hope I helped you discover that internal spark which obviously ignited in a glorious fashion.Mega kudos to you.. I sometimes fantasize that the spirit of Christmas past would beckon me to hold his sleeve while he whisked me back to good 'ol EMHS so I could observe some of those wonderful classes with my amazing students. Re: Mr.S: He was a good friend and colleague while teaching Chemistry at EMHS. We kind of lost contact after he left our school to become a Chairman at another school in Suffolk. You have motivated me to try to contact him and if I can I will send your thanks and greetings.

Wow, back. Because I liked and shared one relatively pedestrian thing, a good man learned of the respect of not one but two former students, and may even wind up reconnecting with a former friend.

Can I get an "Amen" for that? (Not from me, or likely from Dave- or just pass on the good karma from the moment.)
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captainsblog
I needed to attend an actual foreclosure sale in Rochester a few weeks ago. It had been a while. This time, it was just to be sure that a scheduled sale of some clients' property had been postponed. Yes, it was; but it gave me a window on one of the seamiest sides of the legal, banking and realty professions- which, for years before, on that day and until just recently, had been conducted in one of the most ornate places of honor in the entire county:

On Independence Day, 1894, community leaders, responding to the continued tremendous growth in Monroe County, laid the cornerstone for the current Monroe County Office Building. Two years and $881,000 later, the four-story granite and marble courthouse was complete. Designed by J. Foster Warner in the style of the Italian Renaissance, the newest County Office Building set the trend for much of the development in Downtown Rochester that would follow. Never content with the building, a decision was made to construct a rear addition to the building in 1924, upping its total cost to $1,201,000.

It is built from granite and filled with marble, but the two platforms adjoining its inside central stairs have been, for decades, the home of the end of homeownership:



That's to the right as you walk up the stairs to the county clerk, executive, elections commissioners and other offices; there's a corresponding platform on the left. It has counterparts in other similar cities; losing title to your home often conjures images of "the courthouse steps," and  in this place there literally are stairs, if inside and covered. In other places, though, they occupy similar corners and keeps; Erie County's is famously known as the "foreclosure alcove," which, like Buffalo, is more pedestrian but just as final to the sense of loss you experience when your home goes there.

Mortgage foreclosure in New York is complex, picky and utterly impersonal.  The few firms that do 90-plus percent of them all do them in the same robotic, locked-down way.  I know, because I helped found the practice in one of them over 20 years ago. (Story for another day.)  Because of the nature of the mortgages and the utter insanity of their ownership- go rent The Big Short if you want to understand THAT- all these firms can do is proceed until they're forced to stop. The legislature and the court systems- state and bankruptcy- can put some controls and brakes in the process, but they can do very little to help a borrower in the face of the endless parade to those very steps or their equivalent.  Once a court-appointed referee announces "SOLD," there is virtually nothing any judge can do that will undo it.

I've trod only rarely on those steps since leaving the firm that became one of the state's leading foreclosure mills. Until recently, there was still an air of decorum over there.  But when I wandered over in June to make sure that my clients' sale had been properly postponed- a needed step, since foreclosure mills rarely accept phone calls, much less return them- I saw that this stately place of history had been turned into something out of the Wild Wild West.

----

By 9:50 or so on the supposedly appointed day, the platforms on both corners of the steps were full with judicial process gone wild.  At least four referees- each a private lawyer appointed by a judge out of some random sort of respect or repayment for a campaign donation- were doing their statutory duty and reading aloud the Terms of Sale for their respective properties.

Simultaneously.

Our state Bar Association (a private organization to which most state lawyers belong- I don't- but which has great influence over the practice) helpfully puts out guides for these things.  You can fill in the blanks and read along with these recitations right here. Now imagine four or more lawyers blabbing this shit out loud all at once.  Each  referee was accompanied on his (mostly) platform by an entourage: a representative of the foreclosure mill lawfirm who has the final figures needed to evaluate how much would be required to outbid the bank; a representative of the bank itself who in theory is the one who should be making the bid; and sometimes other minions to process and deliver documents on the spot if needed.

In between their platforms lay the mosh pit- of vultures and possibly victims.  Occasionally but not often, the soon to be former homeowner shows up in forlorn hopes of saving their home or, more likely, saying goodbye to it. (That process will still take weeks if not months or more from this occasion, but usually they don't know that.)  The rest are the speculators, the bottom feeders, the fans of Flip this House who show up with their freshly-minted Limited Liability Company entities to take title to these properties away from their owners.  Sometimes they compete against each other in something resembling actual auctions; other times, they're there to collude with each other, or blackmail the owners who do show up with some modest amount of cash to entice their bank into not bidding their full "upset price" to take a property back; I've witnessed vultures demanding pounds of flesh from these homeowners so that they won't try to outbid them for their own homes.

The vultures on the day I was there weren't paying attention to which Terms of Sale affected which property. All they cared about was where their portfolios would stand when the bidding was done.  I milled around all of them, and up and down the platforms, to ensure that my clients' property wasn't being mistakenly sold that day- and left, disgusted that this is what our legislators and judges have done to the dream of home ownership.

Not that they haven't tried. There have been well-intentioned efforts.  A foreclosing lender in New York is now required to put extensive warnings and disclosures into their legal documents to give borrowers some information about the process; in general, though, they do not stop or slow down the process and merely add to the fees (for drafting them) and costs (for publishing them) that they will be required to pay if they even get a chance to save the property through payoff or bankruptcy.  New York also added a mandatory "foreclosure conference" process to most routine residential foreclosures, but their court officials have no power to impose anything on lenders; they can only delay the process while they consider "modification" proposals that are Sisyphusian in their demands for information from unsophisticated consumers.

What they haven't done is substantially change the game, to use the booming real estate market to work in borrowers' favor. A law professor I knew at Cornell ages go came up with a proposal to do just that all the way back in 1985, to require banks to expose foreclosed properties to something similar to the Multiple Listing Service before they went up for forced sale.  Pages 892-93 of that article (Fuck the Bluebook Cornell L. Rev) contrasts the actual blinding black type notice of an actual 1979 foreclosure sale notice-

No, I"m not going to make you read it....Collapse )

with what would be a far more effective method of maximizing the value and exposure of the property if this kind of notice was published instead:



But that would upset the applecart, which a handful of foreclosure mills and post-sale realtors are making a whole lot of applejack off of.

Apparently, though, the hue and cry of these recent crazy sale dates did get the attention of the Powers That Be.  I went over there again today to file some unrelated documents, but I was mindful of the same clients; they'd put substantial effort and money into getting a modification of their mortgage approved, but they'd received a notice that their house was rescheduled for auction.  I later found out this has again been postponed, but it reminded me of this previous trip and of how unsettling it all seemed. I wanted to get an establishing shot of the ornate foreclosure platform for this very post, and possibly to encourage some media to head over there some morning to expose the cockroaches to some light.  It was mid-afternoon, so no sales would have been scheduled, but I saw new signs surrounding the two traditional platforms, and this is what they said:



My guesses for the reasoning behind this covered the following:

(a) One of the vultures tripped and fell on the stairs and is trying to sue the county for personal injury;

(b) A fight broke out among the vultures, or with a former homeowner involved, and the county decided to minimize the potential for this (Buffalo has had experience with this, too; bailbondsmen trawling the floors of Buffalo City Court came to blows over who was going to bail out a potential criminal defendant, and the courts responded by kicking them all out, resulting in them all bringing 24/7 vans which now hog prime parking spaces around the building all day);

(c) Some high-power county official got tired of the yelling and screaming and wanted it out of his (likely) sight; or

(d) A borrower actually questioned the decorum, and protocol, and outright fairness of a system in which title to a lifelong home can be extinguished in under 20 minutes of yelling and screaming and possibly collusive/extortionate bidding.

I was just kidding about the last one; it's one of the first three.  So now it's down in the basement. Out of sight, out of their fucking minds.
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captainsblog
So angledge asked me to explain Dog Church.  This was my first time in this particular novitiate, but I think I sort-of understand it.  The idea is not far off from a retreat, or a monastery weekend, or other experience where you simply get away from the binds and bonds of everyday life and just breathe in the simplicity and quiet of a solemn and separate experience...

It's just done with a bunch of friends who poop outside.

Our sanctuary was Ellicott Creek Park- more particularly, "Bark Park"- the Island portion of it that is controlled by a single bridge and airlock-style entry point for the pups:



The whole park's history is fascinating:

The Park originated in 1926 with an area of 40 acres of land. The majority of the original park was acquired through the purchasing of private land and County tax foreclosures (1936 & 1937). As with the other three original parks WPA crews built structural construction. The WPA structures included the Boathouse & concession stand (1939), shelters, recreation facilities, and the boat dock. Ellicott Island, A.K.A Island at "three mile bend" was constructed to make the creek more navigable and divert canal traffic. Charles Ellicott, a Landscape Architect, heavily influenced the island in the design process. The spur in development in the late 30's through the 40's created the peak popularity with boaters and families.

When this portion of the park "went to the dogs" in 2014, it was the perfect place: the limiting of entry to the one bridge (barring serious doggie-paddling) ensures that the pups can't get completely away.  And all those structures you see on the pre-Bark map have been either repurposed or are just big playrooms for the dogs who pass by.

Here are Ebony's companions at the start of the walking round the island: Jazz, the brownish one on the left, nine years old or so; and Ursula, the darker Alaskan husky in front of her, who's closer to Ebony's almost 14 years:



But other dogs quickly joined the party; this was early on when I still had her on leash, lest it all just overwhelm her into mayhem (august-hem, I guess):



Jazz's daddy Dave, approaching one of the former boathouses on the island...



...where Jazz had already let herself in....



Our dainty dog, meanwhile, wanted nothing to do with the water all around the island.  Even offleash, this is about as close as she ever got:



And this was kinda hilarious on a morning where it was 80F before 9 am and we might never actually see ice again outside a freezer:



Somebody put a Little Free Library inside one of the old shelters:



Ann and Dave from the Dogs Eye View, with Ursula a bit up the trail....



.... and Ann from the front, setting up her own shot of a carving being done on a dead tree in the middle of the park:



with provenance:



I'd asked if I'd need to bring water for Ebony on a hot morning. No worries, Ann assured me; there are bowls and a fountain, plus it's on an island.  Tell that to Miss Snob, though: Ebony wouldn't go in the creek, wouldn't accept from my own stash of Wegmans spring water poured into a bowl, and when she got to this after Jazz-



- she turned her nose up again and just kept panting.

Should've just put an open toilet bowl out there; THAT, she'll drink from:P

The friends of the Park are trying to attract more than just the dogs:



And here are two of our tuckered congregants right before the end of the service (Jazz, the youngest, actually has the bigger leg issues and needed some encouragement to get back to the exit):



This being Dog Church, we finished with communion, as treats were passed out for the Very Good Girls.  Despite the "Bark Park" name, we heard very little barking and almost no aggression from anyone for the entire time.  Unfortunately, Ebony associates unconventional treats with OMGTHEVET, so she turned her nose up again, I'll bring Beggin Strips next time- for all of them.

Few words were spoken, and there was a distinct aroma to the air inhaled, but we all had a blast. Ebony was unconscious for most of the afternoon, enjoying everything she saw, heard and smelled.

Praise Dogs.
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captainsblog
We'd planned to see the pirated-up version of Taming of the Shrew in Delaware Park last night.  At about 6, Eleanor begged out.  Our friend who we met for the rained-out-halfway Winter's Tale last month was to meet us me there.  It had been humid-windy and threatening all day, but come on. Now is the summer of our no-water-content.  The Bisons haven't had a single rainout (or snowout, or powerout, or anyout) all season.  Besides, it rained the first time; in this weather, what are the odds?

Quite good, apparently.

Ann had the right idea; she texted me as I was staking my space, to say she wasn't coming, either- but would, if I thought the weather would hold.  It was just a light drizzle at this point, but I did not hold out high hopes.  She did her laundry; I got mine wet.

Not the biggest crowd to begin with, between the darkening skies and the Bills being home for the first pre-season game:



You can see the tropical theme on the set- and the cute puppy almost under the blue umbrella.  As pirate music played (including Great Big Sea's "Barque in the Harbor"), I headed over to the merch stand to pick up the memoir from last time. This was right before we had to boo-boo:



Sure enough, they made the opening announcements, brought the actors out for the introductory pirate reel-



- and, maybe twenty lines into I.i, they called everyone off the stage. Again.

I don't know if they restarted; I just grabbed my chair and headed back up the hill. At the merch stand, just for fun, I asked my shirtseller how many rainouts they'd had before this night.  "None," she said, "... no wait. We had one, when we called it off at intermission."

Right. Good thing I wasn't imagining that one.  I figured their chances would improve if I just left, so I did.

Getting home earlier meant being able to get up earlier. I was determined to do one of two new spiritual things this morning, and the early rising meant the earlier choice: Dog Church.

----

Our friend Ann has mentioned this before, but this was my first time getting Ebony out there with them. There had been more people doing it, but recently it's just her, one friend and their dogs,. Now, though, we are three (each).

She takes some awesome pictures, so I'll save the photo essay from inside the dog park for later, but it was a mellow and surprisingly meditative experience, just sharing an island of nature with friends who are very forthcoming and kind- and with dogs off-leash who are even more forthcoming when it comes to the sniffing of each others' butts.

Yet before Ann (and Ursula) and Dave (and Jazz) got there, the first friend-on-walkies I saw was not a dog:



(He thinks she's got some Savannah in her.  All I know is she hissed at Ebony and that was that.)


And the last I saw, fittingly, were on the dog-park bulletin board on our way out:

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captainsblog
I told an inspirational story here, and on Facebook, the other day. It was about how an act of post-Halloween vandalism turned into a garden full of punkins.

Shows you what I know; Eleanor re-examined the evidence earlier today and concluded that the gourd patch was, in fact, sprouting a massive inventory of spaghetti squashes.  Which are far more useful for eating, at least a few of which are already ripe, and at least one of which is on the menu tonight before we head off to the second-half local Shakespeare in Delaware Park production of Taming of the Shrew.

With pirates.

I arr-pologize for getting it wrong.

----

Ah, but that was merely not a factual statement.  In the past couple of hours, I again proved that I have the visual skills of a mentally challenged snail.

We've enjoyed the new bikes, but so much of my exercise experience is tied to statistics (or as they say in Indiana, sadistics). So I indulged the other day and picked up a tiny onboard computer thingy to track the miles I done rid, among dozens of other potential stats.  The CatEye brand (ewwww!) that they recommended came in both data-to-a-display and data-to-your-phone versions, but I went with a slightly cheaper and very French model.  I waited until today to install it, when work wouldn't be distracting.

Didn't matter.  There were two main pieces to be installed, both with zip ties (included, but just enough): the display to a handlebar, and the sensor to the frame adjoining the front spokes; then there's a magnet to secure to one of the spokes that will pass by the frame sensor.  I did the handlebar part first.  Everything that could go one of two ways went the wrong way: first, I installed the mounting bracket for the display upside-down, and didn't realize it until the zipties had been tightened.  Then, after Eleanor cut them off and  found me some replacements from her stash, I got it installed right-side-up, but had put the ties on backward so they didn't engage.  Plus I completely left out a "mounting pad" that helped secure the bracket, but once I untied and retied the not-fully-tied ties, it seems secure even without that.

That left the sensor, and a mishmash of tying, pliering and screwing (shut your dirty mind) those pieces into place on the front wheel. I had several hundred of the replacement zipties to cover my mistakes, so naturally I got THOSE right the first time, but once I got Alonzo* on the road (after programming- stay tuned), of course it wasn't registering anything. Fortunately, I didn't totally tie and tighten everything, and through trial and error got the monitor to start picking up the signal from the sensor.  I took just the most basic of rides- enough to now know that Ebony's basic round-the-block walkies comes out to around two-thirds of a mile.

Before the ride, though, the Programming of the VCR. Now THIS is in my wheelhouse (see what I did there?). Remember me mentioning I went with the slightly cheaper French brand?  That meant that all the defaults- km, kg, 24-hour time- were in Euro format and had to be forced back into miles and pounds and 12-hour increments. It's also all done through a dance of two buttons that control all the adjustments- but since these are numerical and not visual, I did fine with them.

So now I can track miles, and calories, and the price of tea in China after each excursion. Go me.

----

* Yes, he's been named. The brand of both our bikes is Electra. Mourning Becomes Electra is a play by Eugene O'Neill. And the most famous Mourning I know is this one:



Bet HE could've gotten the parts on without screwing up the zip ties:P

ETA. Oh, and the Bisons finally recorded their first rainout of the season at the same time.  They swept the resulting Sunday doubleheader, so they've got that going for them, which is nice (and a 300-game deficit in the standings, which isn't).
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captainsblog
Two nights removed from my third ballpark visit in nine nights, and I'm finally getting round to the recap.  First, though, some notes from today on the road in Rochester:

I had to pick up a document from a lawyer in Irondequoit- once famously named on the expressway passing through it as "Home of Irondequoit Mall."  That sign came down as an illegal roadside billboard, and the mall itself has gone completely dead in the years since; its redeveloper, promised tax breaks up the wazoo, failed to meet its targets, and the rebranding of the mall as the "Medley Centre" finally died at a  recent tax foreclosure auction.  The big signs came down earlier this year-

XMedley

- but the street signs leading into the dead-mall access road are still there on East Ridge Road, across the street from the lawyer's office. In the same strip mall as his office is this place, recently opened to provide the finest in Asian cuisine:



This was a Pizza Hut, now it's bondage-domination.....


I held my tongue and headed back to my local office, but there, on a similar road to my Tuesday encounter, was my second turkey of the week. This one was just stopped in the middle of Five Mile Line Road; I honked, to say, it's too soon for Thanksgiving!, and Tom got out of my way. But really- I don't know what kind of omen it is, seeing two of these in three days.

----

Anyway: back in time to Wednesday night.

Eleanor was chanting again, and I was determined to do something more meaningful than Sharknado, so I headed downtown myself for my third ballgame in just over a week, at the place I've been attending since the late 80s and have called home since 1994.  This was another bobblehead night- not of an organist, but a former player now up in Toronto:



I got there plenty early, but I'd had a ticket malfunction online: I picked my seat and paid, and chose the "print at home" option, but that printed not a ticket but a receipt.  I hoped the box office lines wouldn't be too bad when I got there, and they weren't, and despite me providing a rather rude fake email address to keep them from bombing me for the next 20 years, I had a ticket and a Sanchez in hand by almost an hour before first pitch.

Their video board runs rings around the Wings-



- and they maintained their tradition of using beer vendors to indoctrinate the younger generation, from the Earl of Bud to the current Conehead:



I love AAA stadia compared to their MLB parents: once past the entry turnstile, nobody, ever, checked either my Red Wing ticket last week or my Bison ducat the other night, so I sat with friends or where the action was, without any usher interference.

My food that night was poutine, followed by pizza logs (the bastard child of mozzarella sticks and egg rolls), both washed down by local craft beers (Frontier Field excels in  these, too).  The game was low-scoring and fast, the final out coming barely two hours after first pitch, in part thanks to the AAA use of a 20-second clock in between pitches.

Yes, the Bisons have at least one charging station-



-and yes, they retire numbers from my own lifetime, as well as Jackie Robinson's-



I've reviewed both games in an email to Rochester's GM, who is known for being responsive. I've yet to get that response, but I don't need to; both nights were lovely.

----

In the end, Buffalo won 1-0, after the Mets won 4-1 and the Red Wings won 6-3. I'd love to continue my lifelong-record winning streak if you want me to show up at your ballpark after tonight;)
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I need another day or so to get the latest baseball-pic post up.  So I'll just offer one complaint and one minor miracle:

- I am officially sick of this summer.  Just walking out between the garage door and the car, and the car and my office, is a sweatfest.  It was supposed to have rained significantly this week; it did night before last, but nothing steady enough to soak.

- And yet, things are growing.

We don't decorate for Halloween. But after last year's, some idiot decided to re-enact the Smashing Pumpkins' eponymous hit and tossed a rotting one at our front door.

We composted it. And now, despite heat and drought, there are at least four of them out there:)






A friend responded to my Facebooking of those with a quote:

"You did your best to bury me, but you forgot I am a seed" (loose translation of poet Dinos Christianopoulos)

Seven weeks until All Hallows- if we don't totally melt before then.

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captainsblog
Spent my third night of the past nine in a third different ballpark. This may be the first three-game winning streak of my life (four if you count Opening Day so very long ago). Stories and pictures will follow.  Most of today's media was devoted to analyzing what sounded awfully like a call by the Republican nominee for the assassination of his Democratic counterpart.

It was a joke. He meant something else. The media is making something out of nothing. Hillary did the same thing once. Those are all the responses you'd expect.  What is unchanged, though, is the unbridled vitriol this candidate, and his supporters, all have for his opponent. They spent much of their convention chanting "Lock her up!" and I've seen "Hillary for Prison 2016" bumper stickers around here.

In these times, I am mindful of the words of the first-ever Republican president, who was shot dead by one sympathetic to the losers, and who presided over the most bitter division this nation has ever seen.  He ended his first inaugural address, shortly before all hell broke loose, with these words:

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

It took four years and thousands of lives before that dream could even begin to be realized. One wonders if it ever has been.  With shit like this going on, it seems more distant than ever.
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As expected, the bike ride home was way faster, given that the biggest hill on the way here was now a downhill coast.  I have also apparently made a new friend. The ride's relatively quiet except for the roughly three blocks you have to spend going past and under the 290. That relegates you to the sidewalk, since Sheridan and the butt end of Harlem are death traps for cyclists.  And so it was, just before going under the 290 overpass on the way to the office, I discovered a fat-cheeked woodchuck in the field between the bridge and the westbound off-ramp.  On my return, there he was again. 

You know me- you hang around, you get named. So he's now Wallis the Woodchuck.  As in Duchess of Windsor Wallis. Don't ask me; ask him. Or her.

The local fauna continued in its oddity when I headed out this morning.  There, on Klein Road in East Amherst- not as dense-suburban as our neighborhood but still plenty developed- was a turkey just grazing in front of a house.  I tried to get his picture, but the cars on that stretch are pretty deadly, also.  Then I got to my destination, where the business owner had put a life-size cutout of Donald Drumpf in his showroom.  Ah, I thought, it's a neighborhood theme.

----

In between, last night, I encountered another life form- for the last time.

Eleanor was out at the Buddhist Center downtown. She'd met one of their members at work, who invited her to try it, and she thought it would be a good idea to see if chanting will bring the spiritual lift that's been lacking in our church.

In other words, the perfect time for me to watch the DVR of Sharknado 4: The Fourth Awakens.  I'd recorded it when it aired on the Skiffy two Sundays ago, but was, you know, a little absent for most of the ensuing week.  So I figured, why not?

Let me count the why nots.

I'll try not to spoil the specifics (at least one friend is planning on a "hate watch" of it with his kid), but this predator's fifteen minutes of chum are up as far as I'm concerned.  The first one, which I never saw except snippets, was just stupid and outrageous enough to become a Thing.  The first sequel was the one I did see, and it had the right formula to work, I thought: they brought in Robert Hays from Airplane! and riffed on that film's own absurdly so-bad-its-funny story to get laughs. Plus, Wil Wheaton, bunches of Jaws homages, and scenes at Citi Field.

The third I never saw or heard much about, but this one is just scattershark.  The only thing I'll spoil is the thing that wasn't there to be spoiled: despite the clever title's Star Wars reference, you get the parody of the opening-crawl at the beginning, one sight gag in the middle and, far as I could see (and I was fast-forwarding a lot at the end), nothing else. There was no original humor in any of the references; every time they homaged a past film, or tv series, or place (and they were literally all over the place with all of these), you could see the sight gag coming or quote the line before it ever appeared onscreen.

Likewise, the casting call just seemed to have involved a trip to the Hollywood Washed-Up Actors' Home. Seeing a former Best Actor Oscar nominee reduced to mad scientist was sad. Having to listen to Gilbert Gottfried's voice for more than 10 seconds was torture. The rest of the cast is mostly former supermodels and 70s show stars- except for NBComcast (which owns Syfy) pimping out Al Roker and Natalie Morales and putting the Today logo at peril for being associated with this crap.

What they did with Tara Reid's character was probably the best the film had to offer, but that's not saying much.  I never made it to the final chomp, but I've heard there's a final-scene preview to where the next Sharknado will take place.

Please, Syfy. Take the Fifth. And shove it.

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Bad, to start: woke up with a bug. Not sure if it's the bug Eleanor finally got over; it's just as likely some monster Bronx virus I picked up in the cheap seats. "YO! I got your loogie to hock right heah! Gimme that codeine!"  I downed a water bottle's worth of Emergen-C and have been hydrating all day, so it's been bearable.

Worse: Saw it was a co-worker's birthday, so I decided to get some birthday goodie thingie for her from the Manhattan Bagel across from my office and put a candle in it. No candles. Also, no Manhattan Bagel. (Apparently they closed while I was away and one of the former-owner Bagel Brothers is taking it over. Just not today.) Fortunately, our other co-workers brought pizza and cheesecake and she knew the sentiment was there. If not, you know, the goodie.

Trying:  Walking back from Not Manhattan Bagel, I found some guy's debit card on the side of the road. I googled him and found a phone number that doesn't work and a Facebook page that does, but sending messages on that thing is an exercise in futility unless the recipient is already your friend. 

Improving: Work itself went okay for the first day back. Did my first billing for a large new client, got another new client's work set up, but forgot one stupid piece of paper at home. Since I had to go there to retrieve it, I decided to make lemonade out of the forgotten lemon: I changed into jeans and sneakers and rode my bike to the office for the first time.  It's a beautiful day, I now know it's a 12-minute ride (just around two miles), and the only literal hump in the road is a crest on Harlem Road about halfway down to Main Street, or as I now know it, halfway UP to Main Street.  At least it'll be a nice easy ride home.

Good: Pizza and cheesecake. Om nom.

Silly:  Someone took this picture at the Olympics-



And with that, I'm riding home. At least there won't be a crush of traffic coming out of the bagel shop:P
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In hindsight, I'm way glad I made Friday my return-travel day and yesterday one for recovery. Lots of good things all around today, including one sigh of relief.

I must've still been pretty Outta It yesterday. Just ran a few errands around lunchtime, then went back out and got a few groceries right after 5 in the afternoon. When I reached for my wallet, it wasn't there; I'd left it in the blue hand-held shopping basket that I'd stacked in front of the register.  Good thing I caught THAT, huh. Came home and made an early evening of it.

This  morning, I arose even before an early-set alarm to get to a workout at 8 a.m.  Once again, though, my wallet was AWOL. I grabbed Eleanor's shopping card to use for breakfast and a few other things we needed at the store, and figured I'd find the wallet when I got home.  Then I saw an incoming call on my phone- from Wegmans, made at 9:30 last night. Sure enough, I'd managed to drop the damn thing a second time after leaving the store, and this time it took almost four hours before it got turned in.  And my faith in humanity is restored, since my IDs and even 20-odd in cash were all still in there. That puts me up about 13 bucks for the whole long weekend if you count the stolen Yankee Stadium beer;)

I'd picked the early workout time because I wanted to actually set foot in church for the first time in almost two months.  Our wife-and-husband pair of new ministers took over at the start of July, and they had a meet-and-greet with them after today's.  They're both fairly young, and the lead pastor is extremely pregnant, but I think I will have sympathetic ears if I can put up with the BS long enough; in the first sermon of hers I heard, Heather spoke about privilege and inclusion  and used the term "black lives matter" without sneering.  I told them I'd been making efforts with the previous pastor to get us officially on board as a Reconciling Ministries church within United Methodism; and while they didn't pin a medal on me, send me down the hall and say "You're our boy!" I think they're with me on the cause.

----

Then we just got back from our first real spins on the new bikes. 

Eleanor wasn't entirely sure how much she could do- after two days sick last week and a full day scheduled tomorrow- but she kept to our plan to leave about 2:30 this afternoon.  We're lucky to have an extensive network of bike paths beginning barely a mile from here, but it's safest to load up the bikes and start the ride there, so we did our first full drill of loading the new rack and then the bikes onto it.

I wanted to take the lead on this, since I'm not the visual one and wanted to be sure I could do it without screwing things up. And for the most part, I did- one piece didn't seat quite right, but I'll remember that next time. The only other snag is that hers, being a ladies' bike, needs an extra attachment to be inserted between handlebars and seat so there's something straight to attach to the rack. We bought the part when we picked up mine, but we'd never tried it out with hers until today- and it kinda gets gorked when bumping up against her rear reflector. So it's going to require a screwdriver and pliers to come with us every time we load and unload it.

Once all that was done and we were on the path, it was all good.  We took the fork in the road that comes up to the edge of UB, then returned along Ellicott Creek to the point and place of beginning- probably about five miles in all.  We both still need to relearn how and when to shift, and my ass hurts more from the hot sun on a black seat than anything else.  The path is lined with memorial trees, which are decorated with the usual American flags and angels but also distinct mementos at many of them (a coffee cup here, a pinwheel there).  I also saw a guy in a "Ride for Roswell" shirt; that's the annual fundraising race for our local cancer center, where riders always honor a specific survivor or memorialize a victim of the disease.  Its fun-run equivalent is only three miles, wot we did, but the shortest real distance is ten, much of it along the same path, and it looks eminently doable next June. (There's also a 40-mile course that goes into Canada, but I'm not going to get bigger than my britches just yet.)  So look for me to start begging for money in about nine months, and it'll be Betty, our beloved and tough-as-nails 83-year-old neighbor that I'll be riding to honor. Yes, honor, dammit.

----

Back to our Simulated Normal tomorrow:)
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captainsblog
Just a few things I forgot to post here from the past few days:

* An actual selfie:

I took it through Facebook Messenger (sending to a never-met friend who might've seen me at the Thursday night game), but you need to give your phone permission to add it to your camera roll:



That was on the southbound ride.  I was pretty exhausted on the return, but I did notice one oddity just before detraining: when the Poughkeepsie train reaches Beacon station (my stop, as it happens), everybody cries out "BACON!"

----

* Comfort in a plastic glass:

Friday was uneventful.  I'd worked out a route through the backroads to get to Cooperstown- home of the Baseball Hall of Fame, probably the most significant tourist attraction in a 100-mile swath of upstate New York but located in the middle of nowhere.  The most direct route to it from downstate has you exit Route 17 at Roscoe.  No problem there; the Roscoe Diner is the talisman of my college travels, and yesterday brought the prettiest addition to my usual order there that I've ever seen: a genyoowine Noo Yawk egg cream.  I posted a couple months back about finding a place that made them here, but it came in a paper cup and just didn't have the look. This, my friends, is the real deal, properly presented in a plastic shake glass:



From there, I started following the signs to Oneonta, until there warn't none.  You're on Route 206 for miles without it even telling you it IS Route 206. Siri was no help, since much of this swath of the state is NO SERVICE land.  By the time I intersected I-88, I'd overshot the turn by a good many miles, so when 206 finally dumped me out onto 81 just south of Cortland, I resolved to just head home- which I made, in pretty good time. 

Once I was back in Bills Mafia range, the biggest sports story, if you could call it that, was this, um, parody done by the team's coach Rex Ryan and his twin brother Rob.  It's ESPN-only for now, so I can't embed it, but I surely can embed this response to it:



I know. Don't call you Shirley.

----

I think that's about it. Mostly a recovery day today, with lots of things being rearranged and disposed of.


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captainsblog
ETA before posting: This is part one of a post for which I posted part two close to 12 hours ago. It was frozen in time on a dead tablet that didn't come alive again until lunch at the Roscoe Diner. I'm now home and can link in the pics. It will show up in your feed long before part two, which will make it chronological if you're reading top down.  Also: I never made it to the HOF; between bad road-signing and miles of NO SERVICE in the 845 and 607, neither Siri or I could find our way to Cooperstown until I was almost back onto 81.  Some other time.

Quite a day. Quite a game. Tons of good experiences.

I decided before leaving to cut the trip in half. Had I not, by now I'd be winging over a bridge and crashing for the first of two Long Island nights. I just couldn't: Eleanor came down with a bug yesterday and called in sick today. Plus, I'd already had two longer than usual workdays and a Rochester overnight with a ballgame in between, so adding an extra night away from home and a longer travel day Saturday just wasn't making sense.  My only real reason for the second night was to see Harry Chapin's daughter Jen in concert out in Suffolk Friday night, but she's played nearer to us before and likely will again.  Plus, I'll have more of a chance to tell her the whole story of why I wanted to see her perform.

So it was out the door yesterday at about my usual worktime, a quick stop in the Buffalo office, no stop in Rochester, and making Syracuse around noon: I had an obituary to look up: her father's.

The central library there is in a newer-looking building on the onetime main department-store drag; it may have even been Sibley's ages ago. Reference is on the third floor, ladies lingerie, and I rode up with an old-school security guard. If you remember Curtis, the Blues Brothers' mentor played by Cab Calloway in the film? Yeah, pretty much him. He was just flabbergasted by the dude he had to shoo out of the computer room: Man! He was so-o-o-o hi-gh-h-h-h!

Once on three, they showed me how to access the newspaper archive. Took a few narrowings- I did know Harry's date of death, but not how long thereafter before it got published- but there it was, in the pages of the Oswego edition, two days after he passed.

Why do I care? Because I wrote it...Collapse )

I'd forgotten how many quotes I'd been able to get on such short notice; Harry hadn't lived there a full four years of college, and the years he'd been there were over a decade before. But I got things in from people who did remember him, including WVBR people who'd booked his final Ithaca show barely a year before, and I hope Jen appreciates the memories in this the 35th summer since.

Going to and coming back from the library, I passed a busker on a corner- playing Beatles on violin. I wanted a sense-of-place picture, and resolved that if I didn't get ticketed (I'd gone a few minutes over, a crime punishable in Buffalo, even during blizzards, by death;), I'd go back, take her picture, and feed her tip jar.

They didn't, so I did. Here she is:



-----

From there, it was a nonstop shot to the train north of the Bronx. For 30 bucks train fare and station parking, I saved about that much in tolls, parking and Deegan delays, and got to read rather than curse on the trip south and, now, north.  I pulled into Yankees-153rd Street not quite two hours before first pitch.  I'd been by the Death Star via car and train many times, and almost walked in once around maybe 2010, but this was my first time with a ticket and a commitment.

It was time to explore- and take pictures.

-----

Unlike Shea Stadium, which was paved over for needed parking and is remembered only by embedded plaques for the four bases, the original House Ruth Built (and Steinbrenner cookiecuttered) is now a park with a city-run baseball diamond on it.  The only in-place signs of its long history are this sign, not from the original ballpark but the script of Bull Durham, based on the experiences of former Rochester Red Wing Ron Shelton:

BullD

Next to the field is this piece of the distinct latticework from around the old roof:

Lattice

And nearby, you see this homage to the most famous speech ever given on the grounds:

Gehrig

I did this trip in full-on enemy gang colors, but I was hardly alone, and almost everyone in home blue-gray pinstripes was kind to me and my brethren/sistren. I'd been told that one bar across River Avenue- Billy's- was a neutral ground for both tribes, and this proved true. It had a welcoming, if loud, vibe- with plenty of dancing, largely Latino, and mixings of all persuasions. I thought sadly of Orlando's Pulse club as I saw such acceptance all around:

MetsAndYanksTogether

All it lacked was food, so I decided to head in a little after 6. The phone-only ticket worked fine, I found a wing bar and ordered a beer, found a stand to eat at, went back for more napkins, and came back to find my almost-full 12-dollar pale ale had been swiped.  Did I mention Eleanor came down with something that I could have picked up as well? I hope you get it, whoever you are:P

No matter, though. Everything from there went just fine, and since we're not far from my station stop, I think I'll save the rest of this for a Part Deux: Yankee Boogaloo.
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captainsblog
Part One of this tale is sitting on a dead tablet, written on the train last night. Yes, I let my devices all die again. No, they didn't have a charger in the room; I asked for one this morning when I was more sentient.  I think we left off where I'd just entered Camp Georgetuanamo and somebody had stolen my beer.  Still almost an hour to game time, so I had one more errand of history: Monument Park.

The Yankees have a lot of heroes and a WAY lot of championships. Just ask any of their fans, particularly if they've been drinking. (We'll get to the star of THAT show in due time.)  Far as I could see, they didn't even bother to put up banners or huge placards for their 27 World Series championships, much less a Wild Card post-season win like the Mets do. They couldn't; it would block out the sun.  But they do like their players. We just retired our second player number in 55 seasons, shown among three other numbers from team or baseball history.  The Yankees have an entire section for theirs-

TooManyNumbers

-and that doesn't count Jeter's (I sense a ticket-selling weekend coming up) or the as-big-as-them-all monumental wall to "The Boss," convicted felon George Steinbrenner.

Plus there's a whole Monument Park behind center field. Here, not only do the number-retirees get a plaque and a place, but Hall of Very Good former players like Jorge Pasada get metal.  Plus, you know, Ruth and Gehrig and Mantle- and two I did want to see, from our teams' shared heritage.  Signs point the way- to a door reading

ClosedMan

Oh well. I approached the Premium Seat Entry in the adjoining section; the Mets guard their equivalents of these with nuclear weapons, and and no amount of pleading or cajoling will usually get you in even to say hello to a friend. But their security lady waved me right through- and through a chain link fence, I managed this:

MonumentsNoBanners

Hell, I probably could've sat there the whole night and waved to Marlins Guy across the diamond, but I don't repay kindness that way. Instead, I went back out to the hall, where anyone can pose with the retired crooked numbers.  I chose Casey Stengel, our original manager from when he was funny (and retired by these guys from when he was actually good)-

Casey

-and Yogi Berra, their longtime catcher (ours for maybe two days in his final year) and manager of our famed Ya Gotta Believe comeback team of 1973-

Yogi

Much as I hate the Steinbrenners, I can't question their class. George feuded with Yogi for years after firing him as manager for the umpteenth time, but finally let him back into the fold for his final years. We'd fired him, too, but only once, and we always stayed on good terms with him. But after he died over last winter, the Mets did nothing- 8 remains unretired, and no acknowledgement on the walls or unis.  Every Yankee had an 8 on their sleeve last night. Well played.

----

Then it was time for the nosebleed pills.

Cheapseats

Granted, New Yankee Stadium is not nearly as high or cavernous as its predecessor (neither is ours), but section 328 is still a haul. I did not order in time to join the official 7 Line section-


7Line

-a group of fen who root together at home and (eventually) every road ballpark, plus invading the Bronx every year on the two or four available opportunities. But they were nearby, and I was in the company of majority Met fans up there.  Also plenty of mixed-marriage families. I told one such mom that the place reminded me of my first year of high school; we'd come in from separate junior highs, and spent the first half of the first year on opposite sides of every classroom, because we'd heard that the McCleary kids were a bunch of shiv-carrying, short-tempered punks. Oddly, they'd heard the same things about us.

Whatev. The weather was perfect, the game a close one for the first half, and we even had overhead coverage:

Goodrich Blimp

Unfortunately, this was about the time the Drunken Bros showed up. Maybe they fell out of the blimp. Their leader was wearing a McCann 34 jersey; his number is not retired, nor will it ever be. But I bet he knows how many World Series rings the Yankees have; Head Bro sure does. For most of the game, he was good natured if a little anal (Bartolo Colon threw maybe 30 pitches for balls all night; Head DB cried out "GOOD EYE!" to the Yankee batter 3 miles away at least 60.)

No matter. Then something happened that shut even HIM up.

----

For the record, I hate KissCams and staged marriage proposals at ballgames. Too contrived, and the risk of her saying "no" is always so great that you always know she already did say "yes,"  kindasorta. But Ima sucker for the spontaneous, and it was during the inning when the Mets scored all four of their runs that the Yankee Fan Guy right behind me popped one question and one rock on Yankee Fan Gal next to him.

She cried. She melted. She waved rockage. And just as on the best and worst of occasions, we were all New York.
Propose


That even shut up Head Drunk Bro (DB).  For the most part before that moment, it was mostly banter. A typical exchange:

The Head DB's chant to Bartolo: "You're fat!"
Me, to the DB: "He knows!"
Bartolo: Retires the side leaving two men on.

But after the third or fourth overserved beer (I'd had two all night, plus a sip of the stolen one), he started counting off the 27 Championships as if they were on the evening's scoreboard; then, once he began getting abusive about 7 Line members in section 330 and their mothers' sex lives and was threatening throwdown with them, we "saw something and said something," and New York's finest escorted him out. Too bad for him- the Yankees mounted an almost-comeback bottom nine before Familia Put It In the Books as a 4-1 Met win.  I followed the crowd out to a multicultural row of buskers on the way to the train (no violins, though), and eventually made it to sleepage.

Which my still-charging tablet is still doing, so Part I of this series will be later than Part II. Cope.  I'm slightly detouring to the Hall of Fame on the way home, to see a real plaque for a catcher who was better than Posada was and McCann and his fan ever will be:

PiazzaHOF
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captainsblog
This is essentially a re-post of a scare piece I wrote almost a year before the 2012 election.  I've updated some of the references to be appropriate to the current set of facts, the scariest of which set concerns the absolute shitshow coming out of Drumpf's mouth.  There are serious rumblings that he will drop out of the race rather than have his brand tarnished any further by attacks from Gold Star families and crying babies- and that the resulting scramble to replace him on 51 separate ballots under 51 separate sets of rules (the deadlines for some of which are coming up later this month) may make this an impossible task.

The scenario I wrote of in December 2011 is more plausible- and, Emily tells me, has already been used as a plot point on Veep.  So here- read it and eeep:


We must consider the possibility of a serious third-party candidacy for President. There's already a libertarian ticket with a former Republican moderate as its veep, who could result in Repubs going rogue and siphoning votes off the eventual GOP nominee, be it the Orange Numpty or his ballot successor. It also wouldn't shock me if Bernie Sanders came back into the game from his far left field position.  In a bitterly divided electorate, those potentially spoilery votes could have a serious impact.

At first, I thought, yay! A libertarian thirdster would definitely hurt the Republicans more, and most Democrats are smart enough not to risk wasting their vote Nader-style again after the clusterfudge it produced in 2000. (I think you'd see a lot of vote-and-trade protest vote deals going, where a swing-state Bernie voter would hold her nose and vote for Hillary in exchange for an unneeded New York voter checking Bernie's ticky box.)

Yet, hey! Let's be careful out there. For if any of these candidates were to mount a serious enough race to win an entire state (such as the libertarians taking a place like Utah), even a small one (such as Bernie, or his Comrade-by-a-Different-Momrade Jill Stein, outpolling Hillary among the Moosemonters), we could wind up with a scenario not seen since the days of powdered wigs: no candidate having an electoral vote majority.  And this doesn't even account for the never-decided issue of "faithless electors;" despite vetting and pledging, at least one elector has cast a vote for someone other than their state's designated "winner" - or at least withheld that vote from the winner- in seven of the fourteen Presidential elections occurring in my lifetime.

Be it spoileriness or faithlessness, it doesn't matter. If no candidate gets 270 electoral votes in December, that, in turn, would bring the Twelfth Amendment into play, possibly the most important piece of Constitutional content of our lifetimes that nobody has previously ever thought or cared about.

RTFC:

The person having the greatest Number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. And if the House of Representatives shall not choose a President whenever the right of choice shall devolve upon them, before the fourth day of March next following, then the Vice-President shall act as President, as in the case of the death or other constitutional disability of the President.

This is what is always, and I mean ALWAYS, referred to in political speculation as the election of our leader being "thrown" into the House of Representatives. And it has only been thrown there once in the post-amendment history of the nation: in 1824, when Andrew Jackson won the most, but not enough, electoral votes in a four-way race and wound up losing to John Quincy Adams in the House vote.

Note two key points, one clear and one un.  Only the top three finishers get to be considered for the job. So in a Hill-Trump-Libertarian-Green scenario, House members could only choose among the three leading finishers (not necessarily those with the most popular votes or even the most states "won," since the electors themselves can, and occasionally do, go "off the board" and vote for someone other than "their" candidate). The House would be limited to that field, and the votes would be by state, producing a much different scenario than the mostly all-in tallies of state majority popular votes for their electoral vote distributions.

Ah, but which House does the voting? The one still technically in office on the day the electors vote in December (i.e., the current Class of 2014, which has thus far accomplished nothing but voting to repeal Obamacare 8,000 times and shutting down the government once), or the new and presumably more reasonable Class of 2016, likely to be more Dem if not majority-Dem after Drumpf drags down the party with his toxic coattails?

You'll love this: the 12th amendment doesn't say.  In the only precedent, that of 1824, it was the lame duck House that gave Quincy, Jr. the job his daddy used to have.  Although at least one analysis says that the amendment was passed specifically to prevent a House election contravening the Election Day expression of popular will, the amendment itself doesn't bother to leave in that date-ish detail.  You can bet the loser will go all the way to the Supremes over that one- and that said lineup will still be short a Pip (if not more than one) since the Senate's not confirming Scalia's replacement no way no how.

But wait- there's more. The last part of the amendment goes on about the contingent procedure to be applied if no Vice-Presidential candidate secures a majority:

The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice. But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.

Note the subtle differences there: Senate voters rather than House ones; no state-bloc voting (the thinking, likely, being that Senators already represent their entire states); and only the top TWO finishers in the electoral voting are eligible.  Now, double back to the previous paragraph: if the House remains deadlocked in its choosing among three, and the Senate finishes its seemingly easier work and names a Veep, either Kaine or Pence becomes the President on the 4th of March, and stays there until and unless the House names a winner. (That March 4 date ties in to the old inauguration date of the POTUS, which was changed by the 20th amendment to the current January 20 date, but which amendment did not adjust the date set forth in the 12th.)  Worse, if the Senate manages to deadlock on its task, we're looking at, you guessed it- Commander in Chief Eddie Munster:



So if the majority of the House member delegations decided to do it, they could permanently disenfranchise a majority popular vote of the people of this country, by being dilatory, politically motivated and determined not to accomplish their Constitutional task.  I am shocked, SHOCKED to hear you say that this current incompetent bunch of Teabagger-led morons would even consider such gambling within their establishment!

I pray this whole post will go down as an obscure footnote to speculative history and that we'll never have to worry about any of these issues. But until and unless Hillary saves from all this speculation in January, though? I'm gonna be getting even less sleep overnights.
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