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Blather. Rants. Repeat.
A Møøse once bit my sister ...

I had two court hearings back to back today in downtown Buffalo.  The first involved a pro se (unrepresented) litigant with a documented history of suing anyone and everyone (including lawyers, judges, DA's and so forth) unfortunate enough to get in his way.  It took over an hour, featured much positioning and occasional yelling that at one point prompted a court deputy to come in and shush everybody, and ultimately led to yet another day in court next week.

The other involved a new to me client who I was righteously indignant about what the opposition did and how it did it.  Every fellow lawyer I recited the facts to agreed with me- I was righteous in my indignation! Unfortunately, the judge did not join in that reaction, and we are now facing some unpleasant realities about where things stand and, what else?, another day in court in two weeks.

Neither was pleasant, neither was productive, but they had one other fact in common: both had prior proceedings (two of the cases before the first judge today, and an earlier incarnation of the second case before the second judge) which had been previously assigned to one particular Justice of Supreme Court in this county.

"Supreme Court" is a misnomer; it's the lowest court of general jurisdiction, the judges of which are elected by the voters of the state. Appeals from its decisions go to something called the Appellate Division of such court; it's a hybrid of elected and appointed, as the Guv elevates sitting Supreme Court Justices to this branch to sit in judgment over both their former peers and, on the disciplinary end, over the lawyers in their quarters of the state. Appeals from those decisions are rarer and not automatic, and go to the Court of Appeals in Albany, which is filled solely with Guv-appointed nominees.

In the larger upstate counties, somewhere between 10 and 20 different Supreme Court justices share the caseload.  Many of my cases here and in Rochester go to designated "Commercial Division" judges; others do just matrimonials or entirely criminal dockets and I rarely have anything before them.  But smaller, or non-commercial disputes including mortgage foreclosure cases, get randomly assigned to the rest of them. The subject of today's piece, formerly the Commercial Division judge for this county, has been one of them for the past 4-5 years, and his number's come up on probably half a dozen of my cases in that time.  It has not been the best of experiences; I've lost decisions I expected to win, even when taking note of his thinking in one case in preparing my position in a later one.  His courtroom always had a weird blend of flippancy and fear; most decisions from the bench ended with a pronouncement, "Okay, guys, that's it."

About a month ago, we started hearing Things. A downstate US Attorney, working with the state Attorney General, has been probing state corruption since mid 2014.  Last year, it led to indictments against the leaders of both houses of our state's Lej- one Democrat, one Republican. Here, also last year, a lawyer and very politically connected former Democratic official had his townhouse raided by the FBI.  Little word got out until late May of this year, when word started leaking that this connected lawyer guy- whose last name, which I am not making up, is Pigeon- was being investigated specifically for potentially criminal dealings with this very judge. There were allegations of quid pro quo transactions where Pigeon would "put in a good word" for a relative of the judge seeking employment in political circles; there was talk of this judge suddenly getting assigned a case Pigeon was involved in as an attorney and then ruling in his favor.  The judge lawyered up; the court system began reassigning his pending cases, including the pending ones that were the subject of my first hearing today.

And then, by this afternoon, the bomb dropped:

Bombshells fell on Buffalo’s legal and political circles Wednesday when it was announced that Supreme Court Justice Michalek would plead guilty to charges relating to bribery and filing a false instrument.... On May 28, 2015, state and federal law enforcement executed search warrants at the homes of Pigeon, former Buffalo Deputy Mayor Steve Casey, and Chris Grant, former chief of staff to Congressman Chris Collins. The raids stemmed from allegations of campaign finance illegalities arising out of a failed political committee run by Assembly candidate Kristy Mazurek in 2013 called the “WNY Progressive Caucus” ....

A huge cache of emails from Pigeon’s computers revealed a scheme to engage in bribery:

    State prosecutors will contend that an “understanding” existed between Michalek and Pigeon that the judge would engage in “official misconduct which advanced Pigeon’s interests,” according to the source who is familiar with the felony charges. The charges will accuse Michalek of “accepting and agreeing to accept benefits from Pigeon,” the source said.

In exchange for Pigeon’s help in finding jobs for two of Michalek’s relatives, and Pigeon’s help recommending Michalek for a seat on the Appellate Division of the 4th Department in Rochester, Michalek would make rulings on cases that were favorable to Pigeon’s interests, and went so far as to have Pigeon appointed referee on an Amherst foreclosure, which would have netted Pigeon a few hundred dollars.

Here, it should be noted that it was Pigeon’s once supposedly tight relationship with Governor Cuomo that likely would have prompted Judge Michalek to reach out for help getting an App Div appointment in 2012, and Pigeon responded, “I will start talking u up.”

Remember how appointment to this hybrid court works: the state posts job openings for the vacancies that result from death, retirement and the rare failure of an incumbent to be re-elected, but they're bizarre to read on the Civil Service bulletin board:

Qualifications: Must be an elected sitting State Supreme Court Justice.

Increasingly in recent years, judges who graduated in my law school class and even later ones have been getting these appellate appointments.  (One from my year is now on the state's highest court. Good guy.) Most of the other appointees from recent years have also been stellar jurists, but there are at least a few who I wondered about. Of those few, I knew some as practicing attorneys or appeared before them in trial courts and was less than impressed.  I would not have been impressed with having my ultimate disbarment hearing ended on the record by an Associate Justice of Appellate Division saying, "OK, guys, that's it."  But this is how close he came to getting there.

Pigeon is a known Friend of Cuomo. In his earlier times as a party boss, he was (and maybe still is) a Friend of Billary.  I'm not going to hold that against the Missus as she remains our only hope against the clueless numpty, but I do hope she has the good sense to disavow him now.

Meanwhile, assuming the plea goes as reported, this will open up a vacancy on State Supreme. I have no interest in such a job, but the time seems better than ever to get involved in the nominating process.  I'd need to come up with 1500 unchallengable signatures by mid-July, and I'd need to do it without offering any bribes.

How novel.


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Abalone! You're just being shellfish!

-from the worst collection of fish puns ever

Yesterday, we just kept swimming. First, it was time for me to do the roughly biweekly cleaning of our main aquarium.  For over a decade, this has involved changing the filters; dragging the tank into the kitchen; thoroughly cleaning the algae and other detritus out of the equipment and floor and walls and decorations; dumping the two tenants into a milk jug for the duration; refilling and dechlorinating the (now) ten gallons; dumping the tenants back in and dragging the whole assembly back.

Now, though, come to find? You're Dory-ing it wrong:

The main takes from that:

- Don't change all the water at once any more than once a month; a partial change every few weeks is better for them.

- Don't change the filter even if it looks dirty, as long as it's still circulating water at the normal speed.

- Don't do the partial water change (half to a third is fine) and the filter change at the same time.

- Do use a suction-vacuum thingie to remove the water that you do remove which will also get waste out of the gravel on the bottom.

- Do let the algae remain; it's a sign of a healthy ecosystem. If it's excessive or blocking your view, scrape it only to the extent necessary.

Once Eleanor got home with the $16 new part, these steps cut the time by more than two-thirds and the physical effort by even more. No shlepping the whole 10-gallon tank to and fro, or shocking the fish by moving them into nets and a jug and back again into colder than usual water. They kinda freaked when the vacuum hose went to the bottom, but they're fish; they won't remember a thing in five minutes anyway. Replacing the suctioned water took four dechlorinated gallon jugs and about three minutes, versus five times that for the complete emptying. And the tank/filter/heater/air hose all mostly stayed put.

Now I gotta get that aquarium guy to start working on catboxes;)


This effort came in the middle of our Day At The Cinema, where I wound up getting an unfortunate schooling on online ordering.

We'd been wanting to see Finding Dory, and since yesterday was projected to be utterly beastly in the heat department in the afternoon, that's when we shot for. I went to the ticketing site; I clicked the pretty blue fishy icon; Eleanor confirmed the late afternoon time; I picked two seats in mid-auditorium (AMC does reserved-recliner seating here, and wow there were lots of choices of where to sit); I paid; I printed our tickets....

to the wrong film.

And not anything we'd want to see, either, but a scary shark attack film:P  Too late to back out of the online order, I printed the ticket and took it to the box office, four hours early.  Good: they'd let me switch it out. Better: the Dory time was almost the same.  Not so good: only second row seating was available.

Still, we went, and it was fine, even if close enough that I didn't need glasses. (Besides, there was a beluga in the film to help with nearsightedness;)  Well done, a different enough story than Nemo but still well connected to it, and lots of in-jokes to other films, Pixar and otherwise.


Then, today, every little thing in life seems to have tanked.

A first-thing email from a longtime client (sent at 1:something in the morning) complaining about things going back to 2005.

First hour in the office producing calls from more out-of-left-field clients than I usually get in a month.

Then a call from the kid in a moderate panic over something (we think we've worked it out, but it's still not 100% certain).

It's gotten better since then. A potentially deal-breaking condition on our refi turns out (probably) not to be; I got two major piles of paperwork off my desk on time; and I may have settled a relatively small but painful-for-client case.

Now if only I can get used to the water in my tank tasting a little funny.
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Maybe it's just presidential election years that make things weird.  But it's a pattern of panic now.  Facebook Messenger fires up, and there's someone in trouble.

On a Saturday morning, a bit earlier than this in 2012, it was Coop. On her way to see the Mets in Toronto, she'd flown into our airport instead (because, way cheaper) and expected to get on a Megabus at the Buffalo airport for the final leg of her journey. No bus.  First, I tried to help her find one.  No luck. So I shrugged, pointed at the Peace Bridge and said, "Let's roll."  I got her to the Dome on time, and then had the schadenfreudish pleasure of seeing the bus she would've been on finally rolling toward the stadium long after I'd left and the game had already started.

Then, yesterday.  No game directly involved, although my friend Scott from Rochester, and his newer and more reliable car, were on a road trip to see the Reds in Cincinnati this weekend.  Mid-afternoon, I get a message from his wife; she and their two pre-teen kids were stranded at a Goodyear shop on the north edge of downtown Buffalo, with a blown radiator that wasn't going to get unblown until Monday at the earliest.

I met them. We made a plan; Scott's sister would head west from Rochester, I'd haul them east, and we'd do the handoff in the middle.  Not quite two hours later, I was home, and not long after that, so were they.

We'll see what befalls us in the summer of 2020. Assuming we still have cars and baseball by then, anyway.
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It's back.

It always is, this time of year- occasionally, other times, if inspired by some random sound or measure of music.

It's an earworm of Hamiltonian proportions- the "Independence" movement of a musical. No, not anything as vapidly bad as a High School Musical.  Worse.  We performed this one in elementary school.  Fifth grade, I'm almost certain (I'll get to why in a moment).

Prospect Elementary was a hotbed of crime. Not anything as bad as murder (although I did have a future serial killer in my kindergarten), but plenty of copyright infringement.  A few afternoons a week, we had chorus; that was the default for music education.  Our "faculty" included a band teacher who was a probable devout Communist; it was Mr. LoPatin who taught us that "USSR" was "CCCP" in the Cryllic and it transliterated into Soyuz Sovetskih Sosalistichiskih Republic. (Yes, I still remember this. No, I do not remember what my schedule is on Monday. Get off my lawn.) 

But it was Miss Walsh who was really down with the revolution when it came to the intellectual property rights of The Man.  Rather than trouble us with boring old folk songs, she mostly let us sing what we wanted- and she basically took our handwritten lyrics of Beatles, and S&G, and Joplin songs- Janis, not Scott- and mimeographed them off, mondegreens and all. 

Those were just for fun, though.  Our annual concerts- where it was our job to overcome the nail-on-blackboard efforts of Comrade L's band and Mr. Somebody's orchestra- were among the bigger infringement jobs we had going.  In sixth grade, we performed the entire soundtrack of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, that sortof debut effort by Lord Baron Lloyd Webber.  We were ahead of our time in more ways than one: for one thing, Donnie Osmond at the time was just about our age (still is, I imagine;), and more importantly, there was no public performance of the thing until the following year. Miss Walsh simply made mimeographs out of the lyrics from the concept album and pounded them out. To this day, I can remember the names of the twelve tribes of Israel from that plagiarism.

But that's going too far back in time- at least in terms of the material.  It was fifth grade that brought the musical of my current earworminess- a toe-tapping history of our beloved US of A!  From the stirring overture, through earlier times into "Goin' West!" into FDR, is givin' us all a brand New Deal!, right up to Miss Walsh updating the mimeographs- of course it was mimeographed, paying for 120 parts is expensive!- to reference Nixon's inauguration the previous January. 

Those aren't the earworms, though.  This is:

"Connecticut, are you for independence?
Are you for the pursuit of happiness?
For life and liberty and Freedom?"
Votes YES!"

Every damn Fourth, when I see the flag-draped paper plates and Independence Day bunting come out, that song comes back. I'm almost certain I'd googled it in the past without success, but this time round, a bunch of references came up- including to iTunes and CDBaby sites where you can preview and even purchase this fabulous piece of Americana:

There's even a place to buy the actual, original score and voice parts- you know, like we should have.  And it's from that site that I learned an even more amazin' fact about this piece's provenance: it's listed there as being written by "Ruth Roberts and William Katz."

The huh?!?  Unknown to me in fifth grade, Bill Katz was the chair of my future high school's music department and would, for three later years, be my conductor in marching bands and wind ensembles; he retired not long ago and remains an active Facebooker among music alums from back then.  Did he WRITE this thing?

Erm, no. But.  The East Meadow alum who straightened me on that point made an even cooler point about who these authors were:

NOW I had to listen to "Connecticut." I'd resisted, fearing the earworm would take over my entire frontal lobe.  But yeah, the beat, the repetition, the generally lovable hokiness?  That's the Mets' fight song, yo!

So come on over for the Fourth. If there's enough liquor, I might play the whole thing. If there's any left over, maybe we'll even watch the Mets game;)
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When I went to bed last night, the Mets were leading the worst team in the league, and the voters of the UK were projected to be remaining in the EU.  I even posted a joke about the latter:

By the time the midnight wakies got to me, the Mets had lost their game, and the Brits had lost their minds.

It's scary to contemplate.  One paper is reporting that today, Brits are massively googling terms like "what happens if we leave the EU"- after a 52-ish percent voting majority voted to do just that.  It was a campaign where all factual evidence simply got left on the (wrong) side of the road- Leave champion Boris Johnson drove round in a bus citing a "pants on fire"-factchecked figure for the cost of the nation's EU membership and simply ignored assertions it was false.

Sound familiar, Orange Haired One?  He stepped in it himself after the vote, putting out this tweet-

and immediately getting this response-

Not that anybody in his voting bloc will care about THAT factual inaccuracy, either.

Making it weirder is that the referendum excluded something round 5 million expat British citizens, many of them living in the remaining EU, who didn't get a say in whether they will continue to have free trade, free travel and other freedoms as a result of this.

Most of the opposition came from the same places that fill our own reddest of red states- the elderly and the rural. The ones who habitually vote against their own self-interest- hating Obamacare despite being stuck in states with no expanded Medicaid and thus the very high medical costs they complain about, and despising "Washington" without realizing that almost all of the red states receive far more in federal aid than they pay in. I'm in one of the US states that pays in far more than comes back- and it's okay. That's what makes us a nation, not a confederacy of fifty or 300 million teeny sovereign states occasionally tripping over each other.

Now, likely, Scotland will redo its own exit vote, and just as likely will vote this time to secede from the UK and return to the EU.  Meanwhile, Wales presents as clear a case of the stupidity of this xenophobia as anything:

And Northern Ireland, the only UK component with a land border with the EU, could just as likely be next.

Nice job, guys. From United Kingdom to Untied Kingdom in a fucking day.
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This was my only day this week with no specific commitments to court, clients or travel.  For the second straight day, I worked at home for the morning. It just seems silly to sit all morning in a suit when there's nobody to see it. The setup here's the same as it was for over a decade: I can make and receive calls and emails, look stuff up, produce work and do billing, and print at least modest amounts of material.

Yesterday, I was in the local office for maybe an hour, all dressed up, before court; I went home straight from that.  Today, I barely made it through the office door, and they were lucky to get me in long pants for that.  Before that, though, I went on an adventure in process service.

We sued a company and got a judgment against it without ever having formal process contact with its owner.  In this and most states, you can do that; as a tradeoff for the owner(s) getting limited liability from creditors, the Secretary of State in Albany is authorized to receive legal process on the company's behalf; they then mail it to the company's last known address.

Now, though, I need to serve the owner with post-judgment paperwork.  He has a relatively vanilla name (not quite "John Smith" but far more common than, say, mine), and I'd been flummoxed in tracking down an address. But a friend has a relative who had a tip: Not John Smith lives barely a mile from our house, and it was on my way to something else.

So Siri and I looked him up, and at 11:25 a.m. I was on his front steps....
and his Doberman was looking out the front living room window at me.

Now this could be a sweet adorable Dobie; I've known more than a few of those.  But way, WAY too silent- like the ones in Boys from Brazil who had their larynxes removed so they could eat you in peace and quiet.  Undeterred, I approached the door and rang the bell. Killer did not move, and nobody answered- but then I got an even bigger scare.  On the front door was one of these stickers:

Two was the number of dogs to which it did count. But.

Take a wild guess what the cat census was:

101 ticky boxes!

The answer is...Collapse )

So what's worse? Mauling by a mad dog, or tackling by a Crazy Cat Lady?

I'm giving it one more try before I call in the professional process server- and only if Not John is outside, with no four-legged ones in sight.


In the few minutes I was at my desk, I wound up with only one ridiculously busy moment. The other office had just left a voicemail, I was on a call with one of my Two Degrees of Kevin Bacon people (an opposing party who has completely independent dealings with three different clients of mine), and that is when the local bank officer called about our refi.

Yes, we're doing it again. No, I haven't turned it into a Very Secret Diary series here because they were asking for surprisingly little. The plan is to use the extra equity of the past few years to pay off the entire current mortgage, my car, and one credit card that just jumped interest rates on us- plus leaving some money on a credit line that we can access as needed. The interest rate will be slightly higher than we're now at, and the term will be 15 years rather than the balance of 30 we're now scheduled for, but we will not need to carry mortgage insurance anymore and that alone will make up much of the payment difference, and the No Car Payment should take care of the rest.

I kept waiting for Underwriting Hell, of the kind we got three years ago about proving every penny of my self-employment income, my receivables, even my very existence. The call today, though? None of that- it's approved, and all that remains is to get payoffs on the three loans being paid off and we could be done by the end of the month (key, because our current mortgage is FHA and has a quirky Thing where you have to pay the entire next month's interest if you don't close by the first of a month).

No extravagant plans for the remaining credit line- getting ahead on taxes for once, and funding retirement accounts, are my initial goals.  But no sudden infusions of hundreds, or thousands, or millions or billions of cats.
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I began yesterday getting scheduled for my own session with Mister Doctor Peepers. Saturday, July 23rd, what would have been my sister's 77th birthday. Maybe I can get WABC Musicradio in the waiting room.

Assuming all goes well, I've been invited to a Mets game that next Monday night with a group from UB Law School. Not sure if it'll work, since the Schedule Gods immediately slapped me with a bankruptcy hearing in Buffalo on the following Tuesday morning. I don't mind driving straight home after a day game, but an all-nighter would be pushing it.  I'll check on options for covering my hearing that following day.


Finally, a list of eligible concerts appeared today.  Nothing of any great interest.  Not even Huey Lewis ::runs like hell::

Supposedly, they've released lawn seats to a number of Darien Lake shows, including the Goos and Heart/Joan Jett (different shows).  I've yet to see formal notification of that, and I've already offered one of my two-ticket vouchers to friends who I know would like the latter. If you learn of any in your area, let me know; I have more than I'm ever likely to use.

Meanwhile, a big whoop six-and-change-dollar credit showed up on my Amazon account, perhaps over an Apple price-fixing settlement. You might want to check your account with either Apple or Amazon, to see if you have any unexpected booty.


I settled a case today. The stress in the hearing related not to inside the courtroom, but outside.

We were scheduled for 1:45.  My opponent was still texting his client well past 2. Finally, we had the structure of a deal. But the judge had another matter by then, and then my opponent needed to go feed his parking meter. By the time the court reporter showed up and he came back, I was worried about being overtime at my own meter. Fortunately, when I got back,....


That's all the news there is. I found myself in weak resignation over the Not News of yesterday- that the U.S. Senate once again blocked any meaningful reform of our gun laws because 53 of them are bought and paid for by the Nuts Running America and refused to allow even temporary restrictions on documented terror suspects like the dude in Orlando.

There's no point getting mad about it. Better to get even. If you're in a swing state like Pennsylvania, where a supposed moderate Republican conspired with this insanity, get your butt out and vote him or her out of office in November.  Maybe that will start the process of change. 
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I posted last week about the weirdness of online voting.  Some similar shenanigans are in play when it comes to online ticketing.  There's been news in the past week about it, but I am not holding my breath about any of it being of any real use.

Before the internet became the main medium of ticket exchange, there were basically two ways to get into major music and theatrical events: the box office, and Ticketsomethingorother.  They had various names in different places- Ticketron was the one connected with Madison Square Garden in New York, while a whole generation of Western New Yorkers knew where all the "Central Ticket Outlets, States and Canada" were.   They were typically in bank branches and mall stores, and offered simultaneous access to tickets without having to wait in a single line at the box office.

By the late 80s, Ticketmaster had largely bought out these competing outfits and theirs was the name on the terminal at the Kaufmann's service desk. Eventually, though, the internet removed the need for physical presence anywhere on the day tickets went on sale.  Now you can be anywhere to have no chance whatsoever of getting a good seat.

The blame goes to the "bots"- those rapid-access computer apps which let scalpers bomb the ticket sites within nanoseconds of the opening bell.  But don't you have to "prove you're a human" with some kind of CAPTCHA?, I hear you cry.  In theory, you do- but the bad guys are always one step ahead on these things; some use technology countermeasures which solve them or otherwise mask their robotity in instants, while others simply farm out the data entry to sub-Saharan wage slaves every time one of the bots gets in to the purchase queue.

The results have been depressing: I tried getting Mets World Series tickets through a limited fansite sale, and even their allotment got botted so they were all gone in seconds. When Springsteen put the entire River tour on sale one December morning, nobody had a prayer of getting more than a random single seat (which is how I managed, secondhand, to get a ticket at face value).  In both cases, sites like StubHub already had the scalped tickets for sale before the purchase door even officially opened.

Last week, New York upped its consumer protections. Supposedly.  Bots had been banned before, but with no penalty attached; now it's a misdemeanor to use them, and there are civil penalties that will allegedly be attached to anyone who knowingly resells a botted seat.  That's not as strong as what the Ham-man himself, Lin-Manuel Miranda, had wanted to see:

Staten Island Senator Andrew Lanza's version of the bill would have made the use of ticket bots a felony, punishable by more jail time, and also would have required ticket reselling platforms like StubHub to post the price that they initially paid for the tickets, so that people could see just how much more they would be paying. But that Lin-Manuel Miranda-endorsed legislation didn't make it through the assembly.

"Unfortunately we are not fixing the market," said Brooklyn Senator Daniel Squadron, who supported Lanza's stricter bill.

And given how many of these resellers are operating out-of-state or offshore, they're probably just pissing into the ocean, anyway.  One thing New York did not do was mandate so-called ticketless entry; on the contrary, we remain the only US state which outright prohibits it.  In ticketless entry, your credit card is essentially your proof of entitlement to the seat; you present it at the venue and you and only you, as the original purchaser of the seat, gets in.  The device is not foolproof- scalpers have evaded it by using Visa-or-Amex-branded gift cards to make the actual purchases and then send them to the scalpee, and in some high-roller cases the scalper has literally accompanied his marks to the venue to get them in. And others expressed concern about lines at will-call. Still, it would seem to be a start to at least make ticketless entry an option, requiring presentation of the credit card with the original purchaser's name on it, and allowing exchange for something like a "boarding pass," say, a day or two before the event.

Also contributing to the problem is just how relatively few seats are available for public sale.  The performer(s), promoter, radio stations and "exclusive deal" clubs or credit cards often wind up with close to half the ducats for any given event.  And even though Lin-Manuel came out for the little guy in Albany, his own famed show always holds back "house seats"- so that Bernie Sanders, that famed Man of the People, could just show up at the box office on the Friday night before the New York primary and get an orchestra seat.  Yes, he paid (face value) for it; and yes, house seats often go to more deserving or underprivileged patrons, but it was an extremely tone-deaf thing to have done.


The other scourge created by internet ticketing is the monopolizing of the market and of the expenses associated with the Ticketmonsters of the world.  If you are lucky enough to "get in" to one of these events, once you select your seat, you are typically bombarded with garbage fee after garbage fee. 

Let's say you want to add Weird Al to your bucket list. He's at Fleapac- the Finger Lakes Performing Arts Center*- which has a combination of covered-reserved and lawn-general admission seats.  So far, they're only offering the ones under the roof, at $35 a pop. Not bad, right?  Next, you're offered delivery options, one of which is free. Yay! Still at 35 bucks.  But now they add a "processing fee" that takes it up to almost 45 per.  Many other venues add a "convenience fee" on top of the "processing fee," and some (including the evil New York Yankees) do not allow print-at-home ticketing, so it's not unusual for your final total to be double the alleged cost of the actual seat.

Last week, I started seeing friends posting on Facebook that Ticketmonster and Live Nation- the actual concert promoter they merged with several years back- had settled a class action lawsuit which claimed these fees were improperly calculcated or disclosed.  The headlines on last week's stories all said, Yo! You may have free tickets in your account mailbox! And lo and behold, I did!  Four pairs of general admission entry to "designated concert events at Live Nation owned or operated venues, subject to availability and limitations," along with four $2.25 discount coupons you can supposedly use on any of their events.

Just one problem: not a single event is listed on the website as being eligible.  So I tried using one of the free-pair voucher codes anyway. First, with Weird Al; maybe the lawn price would be deducted from the inside price?  Nope.  Then I found a Fleapac event that does have G.A. on the lawn for sale, for another event with bucket list potential: Bob Dylan, who I've never seen live. And still won't; it's not available, either.

Before I'm reduced to checking on Styx and Huey Lewis shows (more sandpail than bucket), I've decided to chill on it. The vouchers are good until 2020, assuming we're still allowed to assemble in public for concerts by then.  You can go on a notification list which will tell you when new eligible shows are added, and I just did. After messing up with multiple CAPTCHAs.  Maybe when something comes out, I'll actually beat the bots for once.


* They rebranded the place a few years ago, naming it after the corporate sponsor and its founding family member, who own the Canandaigua Wine Company, maker of Wild Irish Rose and other classy fortified brands. I refuse to acknowledge it.

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Mostly, it was hey hey hey just an ordinary day. I did a morning workout. I went to the office for mail. I killed shit in the back yard. We finished a movie, and then watched the aftershow for Orphan Black's season finale.

Oh, and Eleanor was unconscious for close to two hours.

That worked out okay, too.  Today was her colonoscopy.  I drove her Up The Transit for her 9:45 rendezvous with diverticulosis.  I then hit every light you could hit on the way back to the workout joint, but I got a full session in despite being a few minutes late. Then I grabbed coffees for both of us on the way back north, and got back to the surgery place right on time. 

Procedure went fine for her. No polyps. And less waiting, along with friendlier surroundings and nicer staff and doctor, than the idjit who did us at the nearby horsepital five years ago.  I'll be scheduling my own with them on Monday.

After we'd been home for a bit, Eleanor went round the corner to chat with a neighbor who put a "for sale" sign on her house. It went under contract very quickly.  Turns out she's just moving locally, to a smaller townhouse which will be easier to maintain. Glad she'll still be around the general vicinity.

Both mother and child have already passed along their Fathers Day cards and gifts. Nice sentiments, and cool things to read.  I still have queasy recollections of my own father, but reminders like this help immensely.
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Right. THAT was a week. I was scheduled to have five court appearances in four different places in three cities in the past three days; one got postponed, but the times and places of the remaining three of them amounted to sheer suckage. I wound up having to be in Rochester late Tuesday, early Wednesday and then again late Thursday, with just the one chance to save a round-trip by staying with the kids. The cases were also filled with weird coincidences, unexpected delays, and general bullshittery.

And speaking of shittery: Eleanor has her colonoscopy tomorrow, and today's the dreaded Prep Day. We did the his-and-hers drill for the first time each, five years ago; her screen back then had some minor but mandatory re-check stuff, so it was clear (see what I did there? you will when you do prep) that she'd be on the five-year schedule.

Me? Not so much. Mine, when done the following week five years ago, was okey-dokey, and there's no family history; but that didn't stop our previous but now discharged (did it again) G.E. from trying to schedule me for a five-year recheck, as well.  When Eleanor moved to a new practice, so did I- and I, in time, got the call to schedule.  But the new guys thought long and hard about it, and actually got the doc with me on the phone who was almost ready to call it off.  Only after I gave him a couple of TMI answers to some current-colorectal-condition questions did we decide: yeah, let's schedule it.

We haven't- yet. I'll probably do it when transporting Eleanor tomorrow.  And I do need to be sure it's covered by my insurance and to what extent.  But the prep, bad as it is, is never as bad as some make it out to be- I did it for a separate kidney-related procedure a few years ago that wound up being called off- and given how busy the Grim Reaper has been this year with both friends and famous, it seems to be a better safe than sorry call.


Back to that last court appearance:  Buffalo is known as the City of Good Neighbors. Apparently, we're a little too good.

Downtown street parking is regulated by meter receipt machines. You pay for your time and it prints out a receipt that you put on your windshield. Many times, I've given and received receipts with unused time on them- when I/they either had to overpay for time (credit cards require an hour minimum), or something or other just wound up going quicker than expected.

No more. Parking Machine II: Electric Boogaloo has arrived. You have to key in your plate number, and it prints it on the receipt. No more sharing.  How petty.  Also, in my case, how stupid: I was so flummoxed by the new tetch-naw-luh-gee, I could only figure out how to pay for the hour minimum.  The hearing, alas, lasted just over that, and by the time I got back to my car, Stanley the Butch Meter Maid had already slapped a $30 ticket on my windshield for being six minutes over.

Of course he did.  Shiny new machines, plus the chance to ticket people who forget to put in their plate number or are the recipient of a random act of kindness.  But it's okay- yesterday, I told a client I'd pay a ticky-tack $30 filing fee for him, but he insisted on sending me a check for it. So the ticket winds up being a wash.

I'd tell the City of Buffalo to kiss my ass, but I think I'll wait to do it on my own Prep Day:P

Meanwhile, out here in the burbs, I got to witness some idiot doing this when I was at the gym late in the day:

No parking ticket for HIM. I think I'll fart in his general direction, too, when the time comes.

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At the kids' tonight. I was in Rochester most of the day, most of it unproductive. Including a crosstown trip to meet a client and a mutual attorney, neither of whom showed up. Then downtown for filing, where I discovered where at least one of the sloths wound up getting work after Zootopia wrapped:

And finally got out just in time to miss a possible midweek workout at my chain's Pittsford location. But 'saright. Ate dinner with Em and Cameron, started bingewatches of something new (Grace and Frankie) and something old (West Wing, continuing the Martin Sheme), and talked with Eleanor, who among other things posted today with a picture of one of the orioles we've been courting:

Oh, and the hearing at 9 tomorrow morning I'm staying over for? The guy running it emailed me within the half hour with a list of 13 different things he wants us to produce.  I have, or can get, most if not all of them- just not on twelve hours notice.  Between the quickness he expects and the sloth I encountered, that about averages out to one normal human being:P

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Such a passionate response, and deservedly so, response to the senseless murder of 50 members of Orlando's LGBT community. Accompanied, unfortunately, by an outpouring of xenophobia and stupidity- based solely and instantly on the name of the killer.  A Muslim. Muslims bad. Just ask the almost certain nominee of the second biggest party in the country, who took the opportunity to tweet an #IToldYouSo; all but blame the current President for the attack;and then have a snit and revoke the press credentials of the Washington Post for translating the dog-whistle into English and reporting that Drumpf did say that.

Meanwhile, early yesterday- a continent away and the morning after-  police stopped another and potentially even bigger threat to the LGBTs of Southern California: James Howell of Indiana, that hotbed of Fundie Christian Sharia Law, was caught with a cache of weapons and bomb-making materials on his way to Santa Monica's gay pride parade.  While pundits were quick to state that this terror incident was not connected to the Florida one, I have yet to hear a peep of protest of how he is emblematic of radically terrorist followers of Jesus- the guy's named after one of His apostles!- who are just as dangerous and destructive in response to the dog-whistles of hate that they hear coming out of the New Testament.

It's a common thread, and these days an all-too-common one; as I posted on Facebook earlier:

Before putting a "hate" label on any religion or ethnicity based on the events of the past weekend- from Orlando to Santa Monica to God knows where the next one will be- just remember that hate is universal. Every religion preaches against it, yet every religion embraces it when it suits its dogma- and the only way to prevent hate of the "other" is to love them instead. Unconditionally.

Accompanying that was a link to this sadly still-relevant song from 1965 by Tom Lehrer.  At least back then we made at least a token effort to put away our prejudices for at least the occasional occasion:

The observance he's singing about was begun in 1934 by the National Conference of Christians and Jews- an odd confluence at the time when the former were still blackballing the latter in business and society and, not long later, actively keeping them out of our country as refugees. (Sound familiar?) It was also before the Fundies fell in love with the Jewish people in general and the State of Israel in particular, which they've done mainly because of apocalyptic prophecies requiring Christians to make nice-nice to them until they can rebuild their Temple and start the timer on the Book of Revelation.

Alas, even by my becoming sentient about such times in the 1970s, it was no longer even a big enough deal to make fun of, and by the end of the Reagan Administration and its institutionalization of dog-whistle politics, the observance was gone.

The political climate has certainly deteriorated since the demise of National Brotherhood Week - although the hatred and vitriol aimed at most of the Presidents during that period has nothing to do with bias, bigotry or racism.

Most?  Yes, my friends. Some (but by no means all) of the Obama hatred we see today is the result of racism.  There cannot be any doubt about that.  Birtherism, demands for school records, calling him and his ideas "foreign" to America - these all come from subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) racism.  Did you think that electing our first President of color would bring us closer to the color-blind society about which Martin Luther King Jr. prophesied?  Sadly, it seems to have brought us further from that dream.  Further from the goals of the NCCJ and National Brotherhood Week.

He then ends with the Lehrer song, too, because in those times, and even more in these, we need that kind of humor- to cut through this bullshit and remind ourselves that laughter and love are a combination that can overcome most anything.
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Plenty of bad news to wake up to and fall asleep to, from the world of violence and LGBT equality. It needs and will get its own commentary, but not now.

I tried for distractions.  More garden extractions and mowing.  Time in the office.  Time in the liquor store.  By afternoon, though, we each tried distractions of the video kind. Toward the end, we eventually got to stream Zootopia- delayed thanks to DRM bullshit coming on account of Emily being the source of the stream. Even this one had more violence and play on "predator" stereotypes than I could've used today.  But overall, a well-drawn and well-voiced (largely by lesser-knowns) contribution to the Disney legacy.

Earlier, on my own, I finished my binge of the six-episode third series of Peaky Blinders.  That's not going to put you into a Kumbaya mood, either. Its final 50-odd minutes took the several plotlines of the previous episodes and even seasons (Grace's death, the mysterious right-wing conspiracy, the boys' connections to both sides of the Russian/Soviet snit of 1922, Polly being painted by DS9's Doctor Bashir, and assorted plans to steal, kill and blow up stuff) and wove it into a virtual nonstop thriller with twist after turn after quiet but deadly cliffhanger at the end.  At the heart of it was Tommy's young son Charlie- who gets kidnapped in a Captain Obvious setup in the first few minutes, witnesses a Dexter boxcar-style murder that will likely turn him into a sociopathic serial killer by Series Five, and finally coos his way through his Da's double- and triple-crossing of family members in the final scene.  Before the screen goes black, Tommy hints at the return of/to his alternative horsey-set girlfriend in Series Four; and I half expect Sam Neill to show back up as a zombie or something because I can't seem to watch a show these days without the dead coming back in one form or another (Danny, Bloodline; various, Orphan Black).

Speaking of the latter, only one more of those, then I'll need to find something new for the summer. BBCA is heavily pimping Thirteen, but I'm not buying- yet. Maybe Grace and Frankie, the Lily Tomlin/Hane Fonda series I've heard good things about. Any other ideas? Bueller?
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No, not this guy:

(I'm kinda getting sick of him and his wading round in DeNial.)  No, it's the one in our back yard.  This afternoon, I gave it one of its periodic haircuts with the weedwhacker-

This, after several hours of clearing even bigger overgrowths of weeds from in and around our compost heap, and performing root canals on several backyard trees- one of which was literally growing out of an older, more established one.

I be sore, particularly from glutes to hammies.  But it's always a feeling of accomplishment.

Also, some swag came today.  One, a onesie- for a coworker about to have her second bebbie:

Wow, that thing is small, but then so are bebbies when you first have them.  Also, some sunscreen Eleanor wanted, but best of all, this:

The third novel from a longtime LJ friend of mine. And the title really works:)  I started it before dinner tonight, in between re-watching the penultimate Orphan Black and continuing our binge of old Moonlighting episodes on Youtube.

Tomorrow there will be mo'. And, of course, mow.
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When I first started a post with "stuffing" in the title fairly late on Thursday, I was referring more to the stuffing of online ballot boxes than anything, but I wound up too tired to finish the post- and then Friday, after spending much of the late day stuffing trash cans with dead garden bits, I put it off again until I'd know what the results were.

Internet voting is a strange phenomenon.  Voter fraud is not only legal but actively encouraged.  Poll sites love ballot-stuffing, because it gets their clickrates up and their advertising revenues go up with them.  It becomes almost comical when sports leagues limit your votes for an all-star team or some similar award to X per day (X usually being a stupidly high two-digit number).  If they have the technology to cut off your email or IP address after X attempts per day, why not make X "one per day," or even just "one, period," huh?  Instead, these votes turn into feats of stamina among fans of whatever team, or contestant, or other worthy-causer is behind them.

I generally stay out of the big-league efforts, because even maxing out my daily limits would have little effect- but I just finished participating in a successful effort, by a friend of mine from the gym, to win an online radio-station poll that will have her singing the National Anthem at a major local concert event this coming weekend.

The gym put up a sign about it, and the trainers mentioned it at the end of a couple of classes.  The singer herself put a few mentions of it on her Facebook page- as did some other friends of hers on theirs (including me on mine). That was about the extent of her campaigning.  I scrolled through the dozen or so choices, agreed that her Youtubed performance was deserving, and voted for her. Times X- and then some. 

Initially, when you voted, the "thank you" screen revealed the current totals- and she was juxtaposing between first and second place through Memorial Day weekend with only one out of all the other contestants.  By early last week, our singer's total was starting to pull ahead....

and then it got a little weird.  Miz X, the only other one close to the lead, started throwing shade at our friend in her own public Facebook posts.  How can that girl be getting so many votes? She must be cheating! Yeah, that's it- being kind to people you work with and for, being the kind of person who you want to go out and support! Can't have any of THAT in an internet contest, yo!

Miz X, on the other hand, started posting about her own entry in the contest multiple times a day. She even took to passing out flyers in front of her office building, asking people to go to the radio station site and vote for her.

This only made us on Team R more determined- if there's one thing you learn in a gym, it's how to do high reps. But a few days before the voting ended (or so we thought), they stopped showing the totals.  That, too, is merely a bigger challenge for the OCD-ers among us.  We went into the final weekend not knowing for sure when it would end or who would win.

When? Well, yesterday- when the votes started showing a "thanks for voting-poll closed" notation.  As for who?  I guess some Cheers are in order:

Miz X, for her part, also Wendt- went a little mean.  She learned of her second-place finish from our gym's posting congratulations to our friend and their co-worker on its own Facebook page, and she took this as the explanation- that we were a "huge company posting about her that had a ton of followers. Well thank you once again to everyone who helped and spent so much time voting for me. Maybe one day I'll catch a break."

Not a word of congratulations to the winner.  I am completely sure that Miz X would've been congratulated by her opponent- even by me- if the results had gone the other way.  This contest was not won at the ballot box but in the hearts of those who know what really matters.  And as for huge?  Our fitness group has maybe a couple dozen employees and several hundred active members; Miz X works for one of the largest employers in the region.  It's not how many of us there are, Miz; it's how much we care.

I won't be at the concert, but I'll be thrilled to see a recording of it.


And again I've run out of steam.  I was going to segue into the other kind of internet-stuffing that goes on, concerning sold-out shows and plays and sporting events, which have been overrun by "bots" and scalpers.  Another time for that.

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Two Sundays ago, I bought a freezer.  I did not cause hell to freeze over.  This is about the road not taken that day.

As I wrote the week before that journey,  the big-C Church denomination of my lifelong membership has been going through turmoil, over something that I can't see a reason for being very turmoily: Do we treat all of our members and clergy like equal human beings, or don't we?  After dogmatic bans on LGBT conduct, ordination and marriage (courtesy of our 1972, 1984 and 1996 General Conferences, respectively), the 2016 edition merely postponed ultimate change for at least a couple of years.  Meanwhile, more and more small-c churches in United Methodism are taking sooner and braver action; hundreds of ordained clergy came out during the May 2016 proceedings, risking their robes and their guaranteed paychecks in the same of obedience to the spirit of the Dude in the Back Part of the Book.  More and more individual congregations are also declaring themselves as formal participants in a movement within the big-C denomination called the Reconciling Ministries Network.  Three years ago, I began an effort to get our humble little patch of piety to join that movement.   Two Sundays ago, I considered making one final pitch to end that effort.

I cannot fathom why we haven't taken that step yet, but I can and will tell you here why I chose not to- and it wasn't just because I was in a House of Ware rather than a House of Worship.


The Saturday before Memorial Day weekend, I spent four full hours in our church parlor, with about 20 active members of the congregation, our current minister (leaving, as Methodist pastors traditionally do, at the end of June), one of our incoming ones, and the "director of vital congregations" from our bishop's office in Syracuse.  I don't know his job description by sight, much less by heart, but in essence, he's a "fixer"- going into declining churches and trying to set them on the path to regrouping, rebirth, or possibly realization of the futility of it all.

It was a difficult but well-intentioned examination of how this 150-plus-year old religious institution- occupying the oldest continually-used sanctuary of any denomination- in this entire county- has declined to a barely double-digit pew count and a usually single-digit Sunday School attendance.  Members are dying, moving or just becoming disaffected- and the usual proposed solutions resorted to over and over, are to conduct surveys, write mission and vision statements and church profiles, send postcards to nearby residents, and occasionally hold high-profile events to get peoples' attention. 

The fixer had a different idea- get back to the real basics of what a church is really all about. Musical performances and food pantries are all well and good, but what should separate a church (Big-C or small-c) from a company picnic or an atheistic Sunday Assembly is, once again, the Dude in the Back Part of the Book.  The best way to get people in the door is to be as kind, as accepting, as self-sacrificing as Jesus himself was by all accounts. 

I'm no Bible-thumper, as you may have noticed- but I can get down with that Golden Rule shit any day of the week and especially on Sunday.  So I started to cogitate on an event scheduled for the then-following Sunday: a routine bit of small-c church business known as a Charge Conference.


In theory, small-c churches within the Big-C United Methodist denomination are self-governed, and these duly-called "conferences" at the local level are the means by which it's done.  The members who show up elect leaders: some run committees, others (including, for a few unfortunate years, me)  make non-clergy hiring and firing decisions and contribute to the top-down decisions concerning appointments of clergy; they approve the church budget (or increasingly, the lack thereof); and they can vote on just about anything from acquiring/improving/disposition of church property to, at the end of the road, dissolving and desanctifying the church and returning its assets to the higher-up level of United Methodism.

It's also a visible-yet-sneaky way for those in the know to pretty much get their way on just about any decision. These tend to occur either toward the end of the year, sometimes in faraway venues, or as in this case, on a summer holiday weekend with attendance almost guaranteed to be sparse.  It might explain how so little has changed in this place in my almost 22 years in membership- because a central core of around a dozen people have been holding and/or rotating almost all of the greatest positions of influence among themselves.

I am not and have never been one of them- but I know enough about how it works to be dangerous, and even as I was leaving to buy that freezer on that May 29th morning, I had a sneaky plan of my own.  Any member can get anything on the agenda of this conference, as long as it has a second.  I know enough like-minded people who were likely to be there. And even though I was still stuck in the Temple of Cool when the 10:00 service started, I had plenty of time to get there for the 11:00 meeting to follow.  I even had the resolution worked out in my head:

Whereas, this congregation has considered, debated and implemented a Welcoming Statement that affirms the sacred worth of every person entering our doors and promises openness, acceptance, and support to enable all persons to participate in the life of the church, and

Whereas, the record of acceptance of that statement makes specific reference to the United Methodist Church's recent historical non-acceptance of LGBT individuals in their practices, marriages and ordinations and offers welcome to all such persons, and

Whereas, the actions and inactions of General Conferences call for boldness in standing behind our pronouncements of welcome and equality, and

Whereas, the Reconciling Ministries Network ("RMN") is a means by which a congregation of the UMC can express its support for, and identify publicly with, the goals of true welcome and equality for all persons, particularly those LGBTs who have been made the subject of specific doctrinal opposition,

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Welcoming Statement of Williamsville United Methodist Church together with this Resolution, be sent to the RMN as an outward and visible sign of our support for its goals and its means of achieving them.

Okay- there's nothing traditionally Methodist about that language- just something we’ve been kicking around the office-but look at it. Doesn’t it pop?

And by the time I had to turn either left or right on South Cayuga to either present it or go home? I went home.


In the end, it was because I decided to be a different kind of kind.  Our current minister just preached his second-to-last sermon; his last one was yesterday. He will be spending this week packing his office, and will then be leaving the pulpit in the hands of the laity for three Sundays before the new ministers get here.  Yes, plural- we haven't had two for the last four or five years, and they will be splitting their time between our congregation and a bishop-y initiative to "seed" new places and possibly forms of Methodist meeting in the area.

I met one of the two at the session with the fixer; she seemed thoughtful, but quiet, and if she has formed opinions about anything, particularly about this issue, I have no idea what they are. Her co-pastor (also her husband), I've yet to meet at all. It seemed unfair to pull such a guerrilla move on the Powers that Be right before a pastoral transition- and that explains why I didn't.

But stay tuned.  I hope to get that sense of their sentiments even before they begin their ministries here on July 1.  If there's support for it, or at least an acceptance of it as the right thing to do, it's a very easy thing to call another Charge Conference if that's what is needed.

And if it causes our humble little home to go to hell in a handbasket?  At least I can truck over a shitload of ice from the new freezer.
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For years, we've had a simple system for gardening at this home: Eleanor creates, I kill.

There are exceptions.  Dave, our backyard pin oak, was mine all the way- creating his hole, selecting him, planting him; he's now the tallest or second-tallest tree on the lot. Likewise, this morning while I was out working out and then briefly adulting, Eleanor was in the whacking mode, scraping vines off the back garage wall and clearing a big trash can's worth of wisteria crap out of Dave's crown.  But for most of this afternoon, we were in our usual roles.

As Eleanor herself has recently posted, it's difficult getting me to limit the collateral damage from my weed-killing runs. Her latest, and mostly successful, solution is to spraypaint the specific items she wants whacked.  A pie tin helps with the directional directions.  And on Friday, four cans worth of such leavings from last weekend got picked up by the town.  Yesterday and today, though, I turned to a patch in the back corner of the lot, where only the front row was marked with the Blue Paint of Death.

No, that did not mean that was all there was.  There was salvagable foliage in the back of the left side of the patch; but everything else, including a couple of small self-seeded trees, needed to be shoveled and raked and implement-of-destructioned out of there.

By mid-afternoon today, and with several t-shirts soaked through with sweat, this is how it looked:

That whole patch was filled with the weeds you see along the right side and still taking up much of the space on the left; there is a plant in that latter space needing to be saved, so I stayed away from it.  But everything in front of and to the right of that spot is now clear-cut, and two more full garbage cans stand as proof of that.

You get kinda obsessed as the work goes on, never being sure quite when to end it for a day.  Perhaps you hope for A Sign- and today, I got one.  As I dug in that rightmost back corner near the fence, my dirty hands noticed a Shiny.  There should be no shinies out here, so I stopped to investigate.  This was the Shiny Signy:

Yup.  Over a year ago, the stupid cat got out, and when she finally came in, she was nekkid.  I rooted round those back grounds for weeks trying to find where she'd managed to slip her collar and tag, without success.  Of course it was in the furthest corner of the entire yard not patrolled by an enemy dog, where no foot other than hers would have been able to tread until it was all cleared today.

Eventually, I replaced her ID:


Since the Mets won again today, that one's not coming off- but at least now we once again have a backup;)


I know I said something about a "stuffing" entry- the denouement of that story has been delayed until the end of Monday, so that post will also be delayed.

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I just finished the first of the Netflix late-May series drops- the second series of Bloodline.  Just ten hour(ish)-long episodes this time, compared to thirteen for the first season; one of the advantages of on-demand television is the writers can fit the length to the arc rather than feeling forced into a 13 or 24-episode shoebox of exactly 44 minutes.  Overall, I loved the performances and casting (one character's son is amazingly well-cast for him), liked the writing and the uses of flashbacks, but ultimately had trouble with one of Eleanor's standard litmus tests for anything fictional: I just don't like these people.

The tag line for the first series was, "We're not bad people, but we did a bad thing."  Going into the probable third season, the new moniker should be, "No, we're bad people. Every one of us."  You don't want them to be. For crysake, Sissy Spacek is the matriarch of the family, and it goes against every fiber of your being to dislike her.  By the end of these episodes, you will. Maybe not completely- she suffers from the most withholding of information and likely has some PTSD from spousal abuse- but the bad things she did know of, mostly from long ago, she supported or suppressed or at least acquiesced in.

Likewise, Linda Cardellini's lawyer character, played by an actress who I love (she briefly showed up as Hawkeye's wife in Age of Ultron), makes me want to blow her in to the attorney grievance committee about three times an episode. Her brief Escape to New York B-story was as inaccurate as it was inevitably doomed to failure.  The remaining Rayburn sib is the baby brother Kevin, who runs through recycled plotlines from Nurse Jackie (failed recovery) and The Sopranos (the mob moving in and taking over his business).  They use his wife's pregnancy to give him something to hope for, and it's that hope which motivates him until (and possibly into) his final scene in the season which will give the inn's roaming janitorial crew yet another mess to clean up.

Oddly, though, as his living relatives continue to stoop again and again to their late son/sibling's levels of fuckeruppery, Ghost Danny becomes perhaps the noblest and worthiest character of the entire season. He's again played with a perfect South Florida accent by Aussie actor Ben Mendelsohn (and he may have even sung over the final episode's closing credits- waiting for a confirm on that), and while his role is limited by the character being dead and the actor having just come off  a lead role in the Star Wars 7.5 short project, he remains one of the finest to watch.

Not only are the cops in this series no better, in this season, at least, they're clearly among the worst if not taking up the top three spots. Eldest Rayburn son John, who we saw get in such trouble last time out, spends this entire arc trying and failing at different ways to get out of it- and the course he selects, at least for cliffhanger purposes, is to go against the spirit of the Florida Keys and head north.  His boss and partner are just as bad: the former, new to the series and played by David Zayas of Dexter fame, has some major skeletons in his closet and seemingly adds more bones to the coatrack before the season ends.  Meanwhile, John's partner Marco severs all connections with the Rayburn family by the final episode, except for what by then is an almost Ahab-like desire for revenge; as usually happens with such obsessions, Marco pays for it dearly in the end, with this season's Tschocke of Death™ being leveled on him.

Probably the only redeeming character in the entirety of Monroe County (FL) is the one played by Chloë Sevigny, who can appear as unredeemable trailer trash in one scene and a heroic medical professional ten minutes later; who can go from timid to badass in ten seconds when needed; and who is the only one who always does the right thing and only breaks the rules if it's to stop a greater injustice from occurring. Everybody named or related to a Rayburn could learn a lot from her.

As for the probability of that third season: nothing is yet confirmed, and apparently Florida is ending the film studio tax credit that let this show use the lush on-location beaches and aerial shots of real Keys beauty, which often muted the violence and tension of the closeup scenes.  A lot may turn on how much hardware this cast picks up at the next round of Emmys and such.  Plus, as at least one prognosticator said, It's Netflix- they don't care what shit costs.

Neither do the Rayburns, which can be unfortunate for people who get on their bad side:P Now it's on to Season Three of Peaky Blinders- another family drama where the blood is as important and visible as the bloodlines.


The second part of this post about "stuffing" was to have been about the internet ballot-box variety- but (a) I'm tired, (b) the subject deserves its own post, and (c) I may have a thrilling conclusion to report to the story to be told. 

So y'all come back now, hear?
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This is an experiment with audio blogging while I am driving to Rochester. We'll see how it goes.
ETA. It went okay, but there were some interesting Siri-isms that got corrected below, which I may share in a separate post.

There are certain things you never want to hear from your significant other. Here are a few of them:

"Do these jeans...."

No. There is no way that sentence is going to end well, even if it doesn't include the word "butt" or the word "big."  I have no fashion sense whatsoever and this is not something you want my opinion on.

"Honey, do you know where Zoey is?"

That probably means the stupid cat slipped outside, where she shouldn't be, or she's hidden in some corner of the house that will take us hours if not days to find her.

And then there's the one I heard yesterday:

"The gutters are going to need cleaning."

It's not that difficult a job, but it involves working, to one extent or another, from on top of a ladder. I can fall off a ladder. I can fall off the treadmill – even if it isn't turned on. One of the trainers at my current gym likes to say, "You can't fall off the floor." Ha. You're talking to an expert here.

So I brought a ladder out there last night, just to do some reconnaissance. I cleaned them last year, for the first time in ages, using our shopvac to suck the disgust out of there. I'd started doing it with a small red – handle trowel, but there was just too much and too far to reach, so I improvised with a second ladder and got Hymie to do the dirty work.

When I got up there yesterday, it didn't look that bad. In fact, it'd been a pretty good winter for stuff not overflowing the gutters; there was just this Onnnnnne space that was seeming to spring a leak all the time. I saw no need for the heavy equipment, and started cleaning out, by hand, what little detritus was in there.

I moved the ladder along the front of the house, first on the left and then on the right of the front steps. I couldn't do it where those steps are, because there was no place to anchor the extension ladder. From the right side of the steps, though, I could see a particularly big pile of crap stuck right at the dead center of the steps.

I got down, went into the garage, and found a long plastic tube, which I used to fish through the pile and bring it closer to where I was. It felt heavy. I hoped I wasn't going to find something dead in there.

Nope. What I found, and what it been causing the leak in that one spot all winter, was that small red-handled trowel that I'd used to start the job a year ago.

And so, not quite a week after Towel Day, I hereby proclaim May 31 as Trowel Day.



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Three full days away from the clients only meant that they would return today with a vengeance.  One result of that was I wound up with an unexpected dead wait of over 90 minutes in downtown Buffalo- with no computer, files to work on, or much to do in the present.

So instead I went into the past.

In the first not-quite-third of my rememberable life, lived on Long Island, neighborhoods were closer and more predictable. Your supermarket was within walking distance of your home, and you, with either your mother or your friends, would walk there as often as getting in the car.  It was smaller, dirtier and way less fancy than the W-arehouses of Wonder we now take for granted.  Almost always, it was in a plaza- with a bank, a drugstore (rarely a chain but always an old-fashioned one with the big platform in the back and a delivery car), a specialty store or six,.... and almost always, an ancestor of today's fast food chains known as a luncheonette.

There were at least six in East Meadow I can remember, by location if not name. Bob's and Braun's were the closest, each within a mile west and east of our childhood home- Bob's in the Lakeville Plaza with the supermarket and specialty stores (including a hardware store and the Ding Dong Chinese Kitchen); Braun's, run by the family who lived across Powers Avenue from us, in a smaller strip next to a deli and a bar.  Another small plaza on Prospect across from the pool had one; another was further up Newbridge Avenue toward the library; the Food Fair plaza at Merrick and Front also had one (Moe's, maybe?); and closer to Levittown, on Newbridge Road (kitty-corner from Dino My Discount Orthodontist), was Haven's.  That one made a comeback under a later retro name to get its own Yelp review, which preserved a picture of the inside from it, showing the distinctive luncheonette counter we all knew:

Johnny B"s Coffee Shop - East Meadow, NY, United States

(Okay, not the lottery screens or the surveillance camera warning, but still.)

These were our general stores, our Mickey D's, our hangouts.  This is where we'd buy our baseball cards and sneak peeks at the girlie magazines on the top shelves of the newsstands in front.  (Moe, in particular, could stare you down into oblivion if your eyes even began to look up from the newspapers on the bottom rack.)  Their menus were short and simple: eggs in the morning, burgers in the afternoon, maybe a sandwich if the Boar's Head truck had them on their delivery route.  Washing it down was most likely a Coke; almost all of them were branded outside with the red script, like this one still preserved in amber in Brooklyn-
 time-machine one from Brooklyn

-or, if you'd made some money selling or scaling your baseball cards and you wanted a treat, you could order up a sundae or an ice cream soda from that counter. In between, though, was a cheap delicacy- that fountain of false advertising, good to the last spritzy drop, known as an egg cream.

Try explaining that to a non-native: an egg cream is a drink containing no egg and no cream.  This piece from 2014 will tell you everything you need to know about the name, the tradition, even the secrets of the recipe. In particular, it commands you to keep your grubby little mitts off those hoi poloi Nestle Quik syrups, or even the fancier-schmancier Dove-type things we likely have somewhere in our own fridge.  Can there be only one choice for the critical ingredient?


Syrup of choice: Fox’s u-bet 20-oz. Syrup Chocolate 22-oz. A Brooklyn original. Now here is a little tid bit that not too many people know. The time of year when you buy this syrup makes a difference. All year long Fox’s u-bet syrup is swettened with corn syrup…except during Passover. That is when they use 100% real cane sugar to sweeten the syrup. And that makes all the difference in the world to the taste of your egg cream. Is this too extreme? Not for egg cream lovers. You can’t use Hersey syrup or Nestle powder or bosco. So when Passover comes around it’s time to stock up on your Fox’s u-bet Chocolate Flavor Syrup. And how would you know it’s the right time to buy and your not getting the other stuff? At the top of the bottle is a shrink wrap plastic safety quality seal. And printed on that wrapper is the Kosher for Passover seal. Don’t buy it with out it.

There are similar warnings about the quality of the milk (whole only) and seltzer (real Looney Tunes pressurized stuff, none of that Canada Dry bottled club soda shit), but the U-Bet is the true mark of excellence. 

It's been years since I've had the experience. In the late 80s, Wegmans in Rochester carried a Chicago-based flavored chocolate soda which came as close as anything, but its name and provenance are lost to memory.  For years, I'd get my fix at Hal's Deli in Ithaca- not a luncheonette in the Brooklyn/Long Island sense, but they had the counters and stools and the recipe; alas, my last two trips, I've had to settle for a can of Dr. Brown's original cream soda.

And yet today, 400 miles away from Haven's and Moe's, I found it.


Downtown Buffalo has been declining since I got here- urban renewal and an ill-fated subway/transit mall project killed off most of Main Street's retail and traffic- but it's finally begun a turnaround. Inspired by major medical developments at the north end of downtown and by sports-entertainment pockets at the south end, apartments are popping up in old stores and lofts, share-the-road cars are returning, and within the past month I learned of a small storefront across from the Hyatt trying out a beloved concept:

Black and brown cows. Wet walnut sundaes. Black and white ice cream sodas. New York Egg creams.

These old-fashioned soda fountain favorites are among the menu offerings at Jerk’s Soda Fountain & Ice Cream, Buffalo’s first downtown ice cream parlor in decades.

The ice cream shop, which opened April 16 at 523 Main St., joins newcomers Raclette’s and D’Avolio on the revived 500 block of Main Street. Just Fries, which like Jerk’s is owned by John Volpe and Don Warfe, and Martin Cooks are also planning to open just around the corner on Genesee Street.

Make no mistake: this is not the luncheonette of my misspent Ute.  No stools, no baseball cards or magazines, dirty or otherwise.  But a real egg cream? I'd wanted to check this out, and today's layover gave me my chance:

John, in t-shirt and shorts and not the bowtied look, was cleaning the patio when I got over there after court- and sadly, I had a half-hour wait before they would open at noon.  I managed.  Once inside, I ordered up the advertised product (which clearly discloses on their menu that it has no eggs in it #asif) and watched as the counter grrl did the drill:

Whole milk from the fridge? Check.

Spoon in the glass? Check.

Plenty of syrups behind that counter, but I could tell that the key ingredient was the essential U-Bet.  (I didn't pry to see if it has the kosher-for-passover mark on it. One does not tempt one's fate that much.)

The seltzer, from a pressurized bottle.  Portions, measured with fingers, not measuring cups.

Two dollars and twenty five cents, plus a substantial tip.


The 12:30 hearing was pedestrian. The rest of my afternoon, ordinary.  How was I gonna beat that? Not with a stick, and certainly not with an egg;)

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