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Blather. Rants. Repeat.
A Møøse once bit my sister ...
About our biggest local problem from the massive snowfall to the south? A lack of entertainment options, due to mail being delayed and Netflixes not showing up. (I know, this is about as First World Problem as it gets.)  Fortunately, we only recently learned that Hulu has finally answered the pent-up domestic demand for screenings of QI episodes, and we've been slowly working our way through last year's Series K.  With the free Hulu site, you get commercials, and while they're not too terribly long and reasonably well placed, we find ourselves totally shaking our heads about the content they seem to think we'd be interested in.

Three of them have been in rotation for most of our recent viewings. The lead one, for the New York lottery, is actually kinda cute (tied to their Monopoly-themed game, with Jimmy Durante crooning under some cute top-hatted images), but the other two, huh?!?

One is for a Type 2 diabetes med called Januvia.  The first thing to screech at you is the generic name they made up for the thing:


Eep. Sounds like a Middle Earth monster, yet that's what every generic maker will have to call it when its patent expires.  Then they run the ad itself, which starts with the happy sight of the diabetic couple swinging on a see-saw -

(click the link above the empty space if there's an empty space and it won't embed)

- but goes on, for more than two-thirds of the ad, to warn in the happiest voice imaginable of the restrictions, side effects and risks, "which may be severe and lead to death."  As they're walking down the fucking beach. Kervorkian himself couldn't make self-slaughter this appealing.

And still, thousands of patients are doubtless going to "ask your doctor" for this shit because a pretty-sounding voice on the tv ordered them to.


We only got that one once. The most repeated advert was for Grand Theft Auto V, which, I'm told, is the current generation of video game. These games have lifelike looking characters, real plots, even movie credits for the tales they tell. And someone at either QI or Hulu thinks a couple of mid-50s farts are going to want to run out for an XBox to play this.


Eleanor knows less of this genre than I do, but to me, "video game" means Pong. Or even something less real-time interactive, like this:


That, you young whippersnappers, is what a video game looked liked in 1979. I became addicted to it on Cornell's primordial IBM mainframe-connected terminals that year, rediscovered it in early PC form toward the end of law school, and have found it a few times in the decades since in quaint corners of the Interwebs. It, too, has a director, and his name is Satan: this game is positively evil. Your mission is to blow up anywhere from 10 to 25 Klingons without dying yourself, and there are infinite ways to accomplish the latter. Since reacquiring it a few weeks ago, I've settled right back to my lifetime horrid batting average at this game -somewhere well below the Mendoza line of two wins out of 10- but at least I pulled off a new way of getting myself killed last week:

I'd successfully knocked out a major Klingon colony using my (highly unpredictable) deathray, managed to avoid Tholian webs and black holes in pursuit of the rest, and was down to just the one positively evil Super-Commander, who I tracked to a spot where he instantly attacked and took out my engines, sensors, communications and sensors....

but not my self-destruct. And that, for the first time in almost 40 years, got me this epitaph:


Now THIS is the kind of game I'd find relevant, Stephen:P


In the end, the last-season episode titled "Keys" was quite fun. Among other things, we learned that a

German Jesuit Athanasius Kircher, one of a number of people given the title of the last person to know everything, along with Thomas Young, Erasmus, Gottfried Leibniz and Alexander von Humboldt, thought cats with different pitched meows lined up together would make a good musical instrument which he called a "Katzenklavier".

They went on to describe this device, but the Internet, of course, has evidence of it actually in use. (Without real cats, sadly.)

We will have five of them plus a dog in the house for Thanksgiving, so if we find the right key, something might be possible here;)
The worst of the snow to the south is over, and there was little if any in this area today.  The Thruway sort-of reopened a couple of hours ago; you can enter and exit eastbound from here, but if you get on going westbound anywhere past the Williamsville tolls, you'll have to go all the way to PA before you can get off.  Most of the other closings and driving bans have also ended where they still were in effect.

So I can get to Rochester next week on the day when I have one appointment there, but today's hearing wound up settling first thing in the morning, so I've been mostly home, with few incoming calls and a butt-ton of junk faxes from roofing companies.  They'd do better focusing on the towns where roofs really are collapsing; one unconfirmed rumor is that the southtowns Wegmans at Transit & Losson had a roof collapse, but their website and other news sources have nothing on it.

Eleanor is still not home, and that's not a good thing; with the bans lifted and their southtowns stores unstocked for three days, I'm sure the crazy people were venturing north. That was confirmed by one of my cardio buds (who had the day off from work), who also said Eleanor's store had gotten deliveries intended for the snowbound stores and they were putting them on massive sale to get rid of them.

This Sunday's Bills game has been moved to the domed stadium in Detroit and postponed to Monday night, so that's one less distraction for public safety officials. Tickets, supposedly, are free, but even with that they're not expecting much of a turnout for two faraway teams where neither has a local following or a winning record.  It beats the alternative of trying to play in this:


I've taken care of a few chores in the relative quiet of the day but had better start investigating dinner options so I can help when Eleanor gets in here as whipped as I expect she'll be.
Day three of storm blah blah we're fine blah blah 2-3 more feet to south and east blah blah court canceled today 90 still closed blah blah blah Bills and Sabres home games both canceled blah blah crazy people still at Wegmans blah blah blah...


I called my sister yesterday to let her know we were fine in the midst of all this meteorlogical madness, and she had some news for us, as well:

She was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan.  Not in person; on the wall.

Donna Winogrand

The year was 1965, and the photographer was Garry Winogrand. No, I hadn't heard of him before talking to Donna yesterday, but he was a fairly famous street photographer in that era:

At the time of his death [in 1984] there was discovered about 2,500 rolls of undeveloped film, 6,500 rolls of developed but not proofed exposures, and contact sheets made from about 3,000 rolls.The Garry Winogrand Archive at the Center for Creative Photography (CCP) comprises over 20,000 fine and work prints, 20,000 contact sheets, 100,000 negatives and 30,500 35 mm colour slides as well as a small group of Polaroid prints and several amateur motion picture films.

Earlier this year, 175 of his photos, including some of the never-seen ones, were exhibited at the Met earlier this year, and Donna somehow got a hold of this picture of her walking in Manhattan that year.  She remembers the dress, the purse, and the Arnold Constable bag in her left hand. (I barely remember Arnold Constable, which was a department store and not a nerdy cop, and I never would have picked her out of the exhibit from this shot.)

Note the almost-catcalling Mad Men to her left. I guess some things in New York never change.

So, yeah. That's our Brush With Greatness for the day, which sure beats anything I might have been doing today with a snowbrush;)
For about an hour this morning, we got a taste of what our neighbors to the south have dealt with for more like 48: Eleanor left a little before 8 in whiteout conditions, with the snow coming down at a good inch or two an hour.  My out-the-window view this morning was much more wintry than at about the same time the day before:


That was taken at 9 this morning. I had a scheduled foreclosure auction of a client's property at 10, downtown, with a mixed bag of reports on whether the building would be open (the court part was closed, the clerk part open). Fortunately, by the time I shot that picture, the snow had stopped and remained stopped until a few flurries began an hour or so ago- and by the time I got coffee and onto the still-open Not Thruway to downtown, the sun was again out.

Nobody showed up for the auction, so I headed home- this time stopping on a bridge over the 90 to get this spooky shot of the completely closed highway:


(In the two minutes it took to part on a side street and shoot that, a guy in a passing pickup stopped, asked if my car had stalled and offered to help. Because that's how we roll around here:)

That highway remains closed, with hundreds in both cars and (like the ones you see here) trucks with noplace to go.  Reports vary on whether they've all been offered shelter, and the usual fingers are being pointed at the usual suspects for not closing the roads sooner.


Those flurries we started getting at day's end are a general snowfall, adding a few inches around the region. But Act II of the lake snow is due to fire up around midnight, and while our northern parts are due to get the first of it, by morning the band is forecast to head right back to the track that got up to six feet of the stuff in the first day of this event.  Travel bans remain in effect in those places, as well as in towns to the immediate east of here. My court to the north tomorrow has already been called off, and I have my doubts about being able to travel as scheduled Friday to Rochester,....

where, as of this writing, they STILL have gotten barely anything.  My office was deadly quiet today, which I attribute to so many locals being off work and so many out-of-towners assuming that I was.

They're still talking about a big warmup after this passes, with temperatures in the 40-50F range by the end of the weekend. And that, earth science fans, means flooding and plenty of it. (We have too little to worry about, and our drainage is pretty good anyway, but lots of places in the worst of the snow area will be treading water by Thanksgiving.)


And, finally, there is sport.

Da Bills are scheduled to play a home game on Sunday- in an undomed stadium that someone estimated to have 220,000 TONS of snow in and around it.  Clueless callers to talk shows are already bitching about the competitive advantage the Jets will have if the game is played as scheduled (due to loss of practice time), postponed, or, egads!, moved to Jersey or worse.

The Sabres, meanwhile, literally told their fans not to show up last night, and yet 6,200 of them did, witnessing their first two-game winning streak of the season.  The game had some weird non-snow-related moments: the game's starting Sabre goalie, Michal Neuvirth, was injured early in the game and the only other netminder on the roster went in. But what would've happened if HE got injured?

This would've:

Goaltending coach Arturs Irbe, who last played in the NHL in 2004 and in professional hockey in Slovakia in 2007, dressed in a No. 35 jersey and suited up for the third period in case something happened to Jhonas Enroth. The Sabres signed Irbe, 47, to a tryout contract between periods. Irbe played for San Jose for parts of five years, including 74 regular-season games and all 14 of the upstart Sharks' playoff games in 1993-94.

"I obviously don't want 'Jony' to get hurt or something bad to happen but if I would have gone in I would have had fun," Irbe said. "I know that. Once a goalie, always a goalie."

Fortunately, Enroth made it through the final minutes without much work, but the farm-team goalies in Rochester suck and probably couldn't get to town anyway. So anyone who knows anyone with a goalie mask- other than this guy-

-is encouraged to apply;)

Today, that could stand for:

*Not Too Decrepit.

With my new age come new aches and pains, but I seem to be working through them.

Sunday morning, I awoke with pretty massive pain in my right knee. It's not totally unheard of, but it's the left one which seems more susceptible to it, and I generally avoid the exercises (step-ups to high steps, jumps, and really low bends) that typically aggravate it. Sunday was weird because Lefty was relatively fine, but the right one came, seemingly, out of nowhere. So I tried, first, ibuprofen and then a new arthiritic supplement Eleanor's been using. Each seemed to help, but neither cleared it. Then yesterday I figured I'd try the indomethacin, which I've used periodically for gout for going on 20 years. Two of those capsules later, the thing seems back to normal, and I've done cardio two days straight without further pain.

Then in the middle of last night, during one of the Parades of the Animals, I realized I had a sore throat and said, shit. People have been coughing all around me for days now and it looked to be my time. Yet, for most of today, no cough- or any other seeming symptoms. Then I remembered- I had soup for lunch yesterday, overheated it and the first swallow burned like a mofo- much of it on the back of my throat.  I'm not totally ruling out illness, but I think this is just a case of Chronic Recurring Stupid, which goes well with my other pending case of CRS.


* Not Terribly Deep.

That's the overall weather report for this, but only this, section of the Buffalo area after the past 24 hours of threatened OMGSNOWPOCALYPSE.  The sight out our back door this morning was positively piffle-ly in the snow department:


It never got much beyond that, and for most of the day the sun was brightly shining overhead Yet a mere 15 or so miles from here, a far different weather tale was unfolding, as shown in this picture out a friend's similar window in Alden:


And late this afternoon, another friend took this picture on her way out of downtown (which itself got little snow but was close to The Wall that separates flurries from feet):


The other blessing, compared to the early-season storm of 2006 here, was that most of the leaves were off the trees, and this was mostly a snow (as opposed to ice) event, so not many people have lost power. It's still pounding parts of the region, but we are home, safe and warm for the foreseeable future.

A second round is forecast for Thursday, and these lake-effect bands are fickle enough that we may not be out of the woods ourselves.
One side benefit of LJ constantly logging me out of my account? I get to see my profile fairly often, and so, after posting last night, happened to notice this:


Which, if I'm doing the math right, would make this one the 5,000th time I've put pixel to monitor and shared thoughts with family, friends and who knows how many spambots.

It's been quite a ride, lasting over 10 years, with Eleanor now on her own journey here, as well.  I've reported elections and emergencies, concerts and conventions, and way more about work and sports than anyone other than a few probably care for.

While I've toed in other waters- some permanently like Facebook, others fleetingly like G+, Dreamwidth and Ello- this has been, and likely always shall be, my blog's friend.

Thank you for being along for it all.


We're both home after a day of OMGSNOWPOCALYPSE preparation today- a lake-effect storm was forecast to dump between one and two feet here between tonight and Wednesday morning. That estimate's come down for our immediate environs quite a bit, but it's still likely to be the first Stick-er of the season, and that always brings out the idiots on the highways and the Chickens Little in the Wegmans grocery aisles.

Annnnd, it's thundering outside.  Maybe this WILL be interesting after all:P
I hesitate to post this a day after reporting on the needless deaths of college students, but a lengthy piece in today's paper dealt with the even more needless death, last year, of a local high school football player. Among the scaries and stupids in the story were these:

* New York does not require scholastic teams to have medically-trained personnel on the adult staff.  The other team at this game had an athletic trainer, but the victim's team did not, and thus they missed key chances to get him into treatment earlier than they did.

* What treatment they did attempt can only be described as Keystone Ambulance Korps: EMTs were present, but wouldn't drive the ambulance to his side, to keep the football field from being damaged. Once they walked the stretcher out to get him, they began transport, despite the first-responders admitting they weren't certified for the needed level of treatment; that ambulance was intercepted and he was put on a second one, with properly trained EMTs, but they transported to a Southern Tier hospital without trauma center. Worst of all, even then, they didn't Mercy Flight him to Buffalo. A Womens and Childrens Hospital team drove the 75 miles to Olean, and then back to Buffalo, to get him the appropriate care, but by the time he got here, he was all but DOA.

* Yet the simplest step in a preventive process, which wouldn't have required trained personnel on the sidelines or in the meat wagon, wasn't taken:

Westfield/Brocton did not use baseline tests for its football players. The tests – also suggested but not required in New York – measure an athlete’s brain function in the preseason to set a baseline that can be compared with scores registered after a suspected concussion. The comparison can help determine whether a player in any contact sport should leave the field and whether they might return to play at a later date.

The recent spate of head injury reports in football- some current, others coming to light only after players' retirements and, in some cases, autopsies- has reached the NFL level. No longer do you just go back in with a pat on the ass when you "got your bell rung;" a protocol is in place to ensure that the player knows who he is, what he is doing and what the game situation is before being cleared.  Not so in this podunk, where he was essentially left to his death.

Such indifference by state officials is even more hideous when compared to the technicalities we've seen used in recent weeks to get players off the field for non-injury reasons. In addition to the one I wrote about in Rochester a couple of weeks ago, we had another kerfuffle here this past week when a star prep-school player was suspended for a school-rule violation. He's pissed, but he's alive. (And ironically, one of last month's Night Vale podcasts prominently covered a game being forfeited because their high school's star player didn't, technically, exist.)  Yet the simple inclusion of baselines and questioning protocols would likely have led to this student continuing to exist, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Both schools lawyered up and refused to discuss the incident, or even release the game films, to the newspaper, but they still got the story pretty (and disgustingly) complete.


That was front-page sports news.  Also sad sports news elsewhere in the paper: the longtime organizer of Buffalo's annual Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot, died unexpectedly yesterday at the age of 61:

Tom Donnelly, a devoted father of four, avid runner, good friend and running community organizer credited with leading the annual Turkey Trot race to its current popularity – including this year’s registration sell-out of 14,000 – was found dead by his wife in his Buffalo home Saturday evening of an apparent heart attack. He was 61.

Mr. Donnelly, who was one of nine children, was known for his sense of fun and his management abilities.

“He was tireless,” said his older brother, Bill Donnelly. “He did so much for the race. He was always in the media making contacts. He knew enough to delegate authority too, so he wasn’t doing everything.”

Mr. Donnelly was marketing manager at the Niagara Frontier Transit Authority, where he worked for the last 27 years. For the last decade he worked with the YMCA’s Turkey Trot, founded in 1896 and one of the nation’s oldest road races.

“He’s been running in it since it was just a few hundred runners,” said Bill Donnelly, who remembers introducing his brother to running in 1976. At the time, Tom Donnelly was overweight, out of shape and wanting change.

“I was running marathons and I gave him a pair of my old shoes and he went out and never stopped,” he said.

That's much the same spirit that got me into running shoes and outside for the first time just two years ago, and into that very race the past two Thanksgiving mornings (I'm signed up for this year's, too). Me, just six years younger than he was.

Godspeed, sir.


Our movie choice last night, which we will finish tonight, is Amour, a Cannes Palme d'or winner from a few years back about an elderly French couple facing the downfalls of their bodies while trying to maintain their spirits and their lifelong love.  It begins with first responders breaking down the door of their Paris apartment because of the immediately apparent death of at least one of them- and flashes back, then forward, from there.  At least these guys didn't care about damage to the door.


So. Anybody got any good jokes?

It's almost 35 years since I covered the death of a fraternity pledge in a horrid rite of initiation, and this weekend brings news, closer to home from a campus further away, that another has died in a similar rite of passage-away:

An 18-year-old college student from Amherst died today, about 36 hours after he lapsed into unconsciousness during an underage drinking party at a fraternity house near West Virginia University.

The death of Nolan Michael Burch, a Canisius High School graduate, was announced this afternoon by E. Gordon Gee, president of the university in Morgantown, West Virginia.

[As reported in a later article:]  Based on conversations with Burch’s family, a family friend told The News that Burch was “challenged” by others present at the frat house into drinking large amounts of liquor at the party. Preston said he could not provide specifics on what happened at the party at this point in the investigation.

“His parents are in a situation that I wouldn’t wish on anybody,” the police chief said. “Nobody who sends their 18-year-old son or daughter off to college should ever have to deal with something like this.”

A second individual became ill at the same event that Burch was attending, Preston said. He said police are trying to determine what happened to that person.

The WVU fraternity in question is one once affiliated with the national Kappa Sigma organization. The national office pulled its charter on account of earlier bad conduct, and now disclaims reponsibility for the death on that ground. UB also has a rogue Kappa Sigma chapter, which the university warns against joining- a red cape in the eyes of any Red Bull-drinking 18 year old I ever knew.

This is not the same as drinking parties on the baseball team or a school club. These are organizations with long-standing traditions of mystery and secrecy. Wikileaks got its hands on and published the text of the national Kappa Sigma initiation document, and it's a Dan Brown-worthy ritual of bizarre mumbo jumbo.   Among other promises, the pledges vow that their "first duty is to God and your family, then to the Fraternity, then to your fellow man in general." That latter group also includes university and police investigators, who will likely have has hard a time with this lot today as their counterparts in Ithaca, New York did 35 Aprils ago.


April 1980 was my last semester of junior year, and my journalist career to date was unremarkable. I had a full class schedule including an Honors program, was working two jobs, and had joined the paper a year behind the eagerer of beavers. This got me the less than preferred city beat, including what little there was to cover at the far less famous Ithaca College across town.  There was the occasional lecture or performance, and a fire or labor dispute here and there, but all that changed after word came down from the other hill about the tragic death of a student there:

In the early morning hours of April 2, 1980, freshman Joseph Parrella collapsed in Terrace 6. He had been participating in Delta Kappa fraternity’s initiation rites, which involved the 14 DK pledges doing 100 pushups, then running up and down a steep hill, doing 100 more pushups and sprinting up and down the hill again. The concerned DK brothers circled around Parrella, who had become severely overheated and was having difficulty breathing, and asked how he was feeling, to which Parrella reportedly replied, “Sucky.”

Sensing the seriousness of the situation, the fraternity brothers carried him into the hallway and removed his clothing in an attempt to cool him off. A brother began administering CPR and called an ambulance. Parrella was then transported to the Tompkins County Hospital, where he later died from hyperthermia, or heatstroke, as a result of the intense calisthenics he and the other pledges participated in.

In June 1980, a Tompkins County grand jury investigation found DK guilty of hazing, murder and “collective stupidity.” This prompted the college to reevaluate the need for Greek life. While professional music fraternities were allowed to continue, social fraternities and sororities were subsequently dissolved.

I was the lead reporter on this story after it broke, getting my stories into national collegiate syndication and ultimately leading to a position with the daily/Sunday papers in Syracuse which almost diverted me from law school.  I listened in pain as the local DA could do nothing with the grand jury's charges (other than the "stupidity" part, which, not surprisingly, is not illegal in New York State). The brothers toed the thin Greek line, all took the Fifth (amendment, this time), and left prosecutors with insufficient evidence to charge anybody beyond some wrist-slapping misdemeanors. As the link above notes, Ithaca College used the incident as reason to shut down its campus Greek system, but numerous fraternities and sororities, including the Delta Kappa brothers who killed Parrella, re-formed unofficially and now have large percentages of students wanting them welcomed back with official collegiate arms so they can host more events and kill, rape and maim again.

Yes, I'm bitter about history repeating itself. No, I was never in a fraternity.  Yes, I was thrilled when our daughter showed no interest in that aspect of college life.  I hope these "brothers" get everything the criminal justice system can do to deter this form of winkingly legalized harm to their fellow students, but after seeing that system fail at that 35 Aprils ago, I'd put that hope in the thimbly small category.

Word has it (word from my sister, anyway) that I saw Billy Joel perform live, in the mid-60s, with his then garage band The Hassles, somewhere on the east end of Long Island when I was about six.  I remember at least one trip out there with her, but him? Them? No recollection of the music at all.

Also no recollection of me ever attending any concert that he put on, anywhere, in the close to 50 years since that forgotten trip.  That's not for lack of opportunity: he was a Cornell regular even in his days before the major success of The Stranger, and he played dozens of tours, upstate and down, in the decades since then. I can't say I was avoiding him any more than my many chances in those years to see Springsteen, another who is still waiting to fall into my (list of) bucket, but for whatever reason, the Piano Man and I have never been under the same roof (or, in the case of his closing Shea Stadium concert, under the same airport flight plan).

In a little over three months, though, that will finally change. I think.


As I'd heard earlier in the year, and as was confirmed in this recent New Yorker profile, Billy Joel has taken up semi-permanent Artist in Residence status at Manhattan's Madison Square Garden (which, per the Confuse the Tourists Act of 1967, is nowhere near Madison Avenue, is round, and has only the smell of compost in common with any true garden).  He has pledged to continue monthly shows there until his voice or the crowds completely run out, whichever comes first.  The voice, at least as of the final Shea show in 2008, was still doing quite well, and as for popular interest, it's there, too. You can read this Forbes piece about the aftermarket average prices for these ducats throughout the first dozen of the MSG monthlies (roughly four times the face value), or you can just take my word for it: Dude's still popular.

I'd looked up tickets for the shows he did this past August and one other time I would, or thought I would, be down in that area earlier this year, with no luck (unless I wanted to consider Stubhubbing my way into insolvency), but I happened to catch word a couple of days ago that the tickets for the first two 2015 monthly shows would go on sale at 10 this morning.  At that very moment, I was here, just waiting for a bunch of return calls/answered emails/promised documents, so I opened the dreaded Ticketmonster site and decided to try my luck.

For close to half an hour, I had none: two open tabs (one for the January show, one for February which I actually preferred), switching between Regular and Citicard Preferred (I have no such preference but the code is the first six digits of any Citi credit card, which I include in about three bankruptcies a month so I knew it). And, amazingly, two February 18 seats in the 200s popped up and said they were mine if I could claim them in time.


If it's not clear from these dullities, we don't go out much. I do have a TM account, but the site was not recognizing my stored password, and when I submitted a change order for it (with about 4 minutes on the clock), it erased all my pre-saved billing, shipping and payment information (which, even if it had the latter, would have been wrong anyway because, FU Homer Depot). So I had to re-enter it all manually, and quickly, because any missed field sent you back to the start of that screen, and I hit SUBMIT with exactly 0:00 left on the clock, getting a browser URL ending in "order_confirm" but a screen that just spun round for close to an hour without advancing to confirmation number OR kicking me out without ticketing.  Finally, tired of the spinning class, I called the 800 customer service number, endured 20 minutes of busy signals, and yet, somehow, came away with no sign of my order (a sign eventually confirmed online which alleged I'd "canceled"), but, nonetheless, with two seats on the other side of the 200s, a little closer to the stage, and for a couple of dollars more, but, all the same, this little tiny corner of Manhattan real estate, for a few hours, was....


Except it wasn't. No, not yet.

I'd been promised tickets by email within five minutes, but nothing showed for close to an hour. (Very little of the work I was waiting for ever showed up, either.)  My Ticketmonster account showed no evidence of the purchase, although the credit card account, now, did, but I still had nothing to give an usher on the way in.  So, back to the 800 number, another half dozen voice prompts, more hideous waiting on hold (Neil Diamond's "Cracklin' Rosie," guys? REALLY?), but, finally, a human being and an explanation:

No actual tickets until December 1st. Confirmation email in 48 hours, not five minutes. And I triple-checked that they had the email address right.

So I think it's a go.  Eleanor and Emily have respective first and second dibs on my left, but if that doesn't work out, check this space as 18 February nears, especially if Billy's in your bucket, too.
Today, we got to the last thing I wanted to do for my birthday, which will be a gift that could keep on giving:

We got our passport pictures taken.

I got my first one before going to the UK for the first time in 1983; Eleanor, before our honeymoon there in '87.  In 2000, when we went back for our second (and most recent) trip together, we got them both renewed for 10 years.  Here's how we looked back then, Eleanor rocking what we fondly referred to as her Celebrated Harry Potter period:

Passport 2000

I still had the beard back then, but the grey was clearly taking over and it didn't last long beyond that.  These documents expired without much fanfare or need in 2010; with dogs in the house and TSA in our lives since 2001, we haven't found international travel that appealing. Still, I thought it would be a good time to get it done, since there's an expedited renewal process if your previous passports were issued within the past 15 years, and that window will close in about five months.  So the first step was today: AAA has a photography service for members, and here's what we officially look like, now, without the greybeard or wizard glasses:

The grey's still there for both of us, if mine's a little further north, but I think we make a pretty good looking couple, still.  It was also a moment on a milestone day for Eleanor, because she was officially discharged from a course of medical treatment that guided her through an amazing journey over the past almost four months- one which we're both better for:)

There are no plans to break out the passports once they arrive here- it'll make Canadian crossing easier, and a return to England or even other places will now be possible- but it's nice to just know that they'll be here if we want them.
I made one of my rare criminal-court appearances this afternoon, for Emily's boyfriend. When Cameron was working north of their new home in September, he got caught in a speed trap and today wound up being the day to dispose of that.

The hearing itself was relatively brief but I still felt out of place. Most places, I have the ticket drill down; get there early, talk to the prosecutor (in most places, attorneys get to jump the queue), get it busted down to an expensive parking ticket, and leave in a cloud of broke-but-happy client. This place, though, had the feel of what I hate to experience: an "old boy court," where the outsiders are made to feel, well, outside.

There was a signup sheet when I got there plenty early, with several attorneys' names on it, but none in the courtroom. Turned out there was a line for them-cum-me to play Let's Make a Deal, but you had to contradict the written instructions and get a special invite to it. Then it turned out that the judge was sitting in on them (a rare-if-ever way of doing it in my experience), and the first one was taking close to an hour to finish. Once that one passed, though, the remainder went quickly, including, soon, mine; no parking tickets in this county, but a better-than-speeding plea was offered with half the points and those easily removed by a boring morning in traffic school. Cam was happy to avoid the packed house that arrived between our gettings-there, and I told him I'd meet them back at their apartment, 11 miles down the road.

"Let's just not speed," I joked, and he laughed.

At that, anyway.


Route 21 runs by a weird route of 99.99 miles from almost the Lake Ontario shore to almost the PA border. Beyond our portion of it from today, the highway passes the Mormon shrine of Hill Cumorah, enters Canandaigua (the city) and skirts Canandaigua (the lake), before ending on a more east-west trajectory taking it through the Southern Tier toward Alfred, Almond and Andover.

Most of that is quite pretty. What we got to see, though, included the following:

* Several low-speed sections, including the one Cam got nailed in the previous time, ranging from 45 down to 30 mph. Heeding my advice, both he and I followed these numbers, but one moron in an old pickup decided to blow by both of us doing well past 70 and crossing a double yellow line to do it.

* Closer to (his) home, I had to slow again for a cat who decided that afternoon rush hour (such as it is out there) was the perfect time to try to cross the road. I missed him, but Cameron saw him, too- and noted that Stupidhead has been seen on that shoulder, playing chicken with cars before.

* But the best (i.e., worst) part was the roadside literature. Dozens of Republican candidate signs still gracing the shoulders, quite a few REPEAL THE SAFE ACT demands on the lawns, and, outside one driveway, the tasteful combination of two flags on a pole- a yellow "DON'T TREAD ON ME" Gadsen flag atop the highly patriotic Stars and Bars of the Confederate battle flag.

In case I haven't mentioned it recently (which I would have no reason to do except around such displays), this is what Cameron looks like (from late May, yet an accurate prediction of how he viewed those flags):


(Ironically, there was a historical marker further up Route 21 indicating a stop on the Underground Railroad. Nowadays I suspect half the redneck residents of that county would've ratted out fugitive slaves if they didn't just shoot them on sight.)

At least I got word while I was out there that their long-time Democratic Congresswoman had won her re-election bid after a scare from a Republican challenger last week.  Hopefully they'll let HER finish out her term without threatening roadside displays.


My on-backorder birthday presents all got accounted for today- the actual Star Trek novel signed by its actual author (from the office there), and a Dr. Teeth bobblehead (from the kids). I needed those after a loong day like this one:)
Holy tangled web of rights! (Or is that tights?)  After decades of wrangling among two behemoth studios, heirs of a production company and dozens of mostly dead Special Guest Stars-slash-Villains, the famed Batman tv series of my youth has, today, FINALLY been released on home video.  This article tells the remarkable Bat-tale of how an ill-fated merch move, all the way back in 1998, led to years of research, negotiation, and finally, redemption for the Camp camp in getting this release of what the fandom now refers to, either fondly or get-away-from-me, as Batman '66.

I totally remember the twice-a-week phenomenon, which was all the rage in second and third grade as we SOCK! and POW! and BIFF!ed our way through recesses and hung on every early-week cliffhanger (narrated, I later learned, by William Dozier himself, the television executive who coursed the campy route for the series). I can remember even the minor-level villains (Cliff Robertson as the faux-western Shame?!?), and the words to the in-series Batgirl theme music (if only because it HAD words, unlike the iconic theme- Where do you come from, where do you go?,....). When the network cut it back to one a week and the Bat-shark had begun to jump, the show became a little too uncool for us 10-year-olds, but years of syndication kept it fresh and fun until DC rose from the ashes of its Bizarro Universe era and pointed the Caped Crusader in the Dark Knight direction that Kane and Finger (yes, there was a second creator who did as much for the franchise as the credited one did) had started with. The Schumacher Administration refused to touch any of the Camp era except for one carefully scripted Robin joke, and Nolan's trilogy was way too Why Too Serious to acknowledge it at all.

But Bat's all, folks, for the current run of trilogizing, with no new film loaded into the Bat-Signal for several more years. So on today's way cool occasion, I repeat the lifelong beg I've been telling Emily about for years (Eleanor just looks at me funny over this stuff):

Batman '66 needs a major motion remake.



(Stop yelling, citizens. Batman wants you to use your inside voice.)

For heavens' sake, make it as a completely self-contained one-off. Give it good production values and a cast that would eat it up. Can you imagine the A-listers who would kill to overact in the thing? Not only are there three 60s seasons to devour, but so many moments from the past decades' movies are waiting to be spoofed. Clooney's nipples alone would be good for a bunch of scenes.

John Williams can update the theme music! Zucker/Abrahams behind the camera! And Adam and Burt need this before they die- the Camped Crusader is 86, already!

Maybe make it a peace offering between DC/Warner, ABC/Disney and Fox, whose rights in the series are still all entangled- a labor of love to a generation of fans who have been dissed by all the dark?


I put in/slid down our storm windows over the weekend. So today it was in the 60F range, absolutely gorgeous outside and sun still streaming in the now-screenless doors.  Cats were lounging in the sunbeams, as they do.

Still, calendars and polar vortices move on- and supposedly by midweek we're getting our first Really Cold One of the young winter. Or not.

I had late appointments today, early ones tomorrow, and am out of town Wednesday, which is when the first burst will allegedly hit. Suppose I better find wherever my one remaining glove is:P

Meanwhile, we got the news today that the Mets signed a quality free agent AND had one of their pitchers named Rookie of the Year, so if any part of Hell is gonna be freezing over, it's likely the one in Queens.
Since I'm  now halfway through my L's, this one was spent Low-key and Lovely. Some of the nicer moments from it:

* Chillin' in the living room for close to an hour in the early afternoon- me reading, Eleanor across from us knitting, and the animals surrounding me: Tazzer in the crook of my arm, Michelle (the cat) on the sofa behind me, and Ebony (the dog) nestled to our left. I attempted a selfie of that, but pixels and pets did not cooperate.  The soundtrack of that moment was a live album that Nanci Griffith did with the London Symphony Orchestra, including several of our favourite songs of hers; I picked it because it was Eleanor's birthday present to me ten birthdays ago, my first one recognised with a blog post here.

* Getting a birthday call from Emily (her pressie to me is also on backorder and I may get it when I go out there midweek), and dozens of kind wishes and reflections from online contacts. Including Michele (the niece), who managed to find what may be the only photo of my entire immediate blood-rel family that ever existed (I'd guess mid-80s on it):

::SCENE MISSING from afternoon cardio and watching Bills game::

* Double feature of the Doctor Who season finale and the final hour of Olive Kitteredge, watched during a homemade pizza and salad dinner. Both wound up being love stories in their own respectively strange ways, and both had rather surprising appearances at their respective ends by famed comic actors who, nope, not saying no more....

The week ahead should be relatively calm; clients to see at least the first three days, but only one court appearance and time to do some catching up.
Since I was all about the Trek yesterday, I suppose I should give equal time to the universe's other most important Star-Star-STARs. Lots of stuff from the past few days, including this week's Big Reveal:

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the title of the J.J. Abrams-directed film, Disney announced Thursday. The studio also confirmed that it had wrapped principal photography, which had been widely reported over the weekend.

Not that others were dissuaded from suggesting their own in the wake of this Republic-wide announcement. There's a perfectly lovely collection of them over at andrewducker's blog, including a few I added to the list, including:

Star VIIars
A Good Day To Star Wars
Star Wars: Dantooine Drift
The Good, The Bad & The Bothan
For a Few Midiclorians More
Twelve Angry Wookies
Some Like It Hoth
Three Men & A Little Hologram Lady
Revenge of the Ewoks
My God, It's Full Of Star Wars
The Mandalorian Who Went Up a Sail Barge But Came Down a Sarlacc
Aliens vs Predator vs Jedi
Bring me the Lightsaber of Alfredo Garcia
Hello Droidy
Sith-Three-Three Squadron
Obi-Wan Way But Loose
Send in the Clones
The Princess With the Dragon Tatooine
The Dark Jedi Knight Rises
The Landspeeder's Guide to the Galaxy
The Bell Jar Jar
We R2 Marshall
Fear and Loathing in Mos Eisley
Fade & Vader
The Seventh SithJar Jar: Year One
I Spit On Your Childhood
Dumb and Dumb
We Didn't Make It For You
Cool Hand Luke
The Luke, The Sith, His Wife and Her Daughter.
Lucky Number C7-PO.
An Old Hope.
Luke, Solo and Two Smoking Arm Stumps.

And the one that ended the thread and essentially won it:

Spaceballs 2: The Search for More Money


We're not the only ones having the Fun with the Force.  Perhaps you've seen this rather viral video of a popular song,

In a move that can be called only Revenge of the Sith Nerds Nerdists, this version then ensued:

The Force is strong with both of them:)
My day ended much better than it began, once my time-travel conundrum worked itself out by late morning. (I posted, and later updated, a friends-locked entry about THAT loveliness.)  The office went out to lunch for my and a co-worker's birthday at a non-Dinosaur rib joint on Rochester's northeast side. Great barbecue, "food coma" portions, and pressies, in my case, one that was not quite here:

The to-be-signing author is a native Rochesterian, and, Kevin Bacon being who he is to me, said author is also Facebook friends with the Star Trek canonical author of my longest acquaintance, East Meadow's own Howie Weinstein.  Said Howie is also the author of the Puzzler I reposted here the other day, for which I am now calling time, and shenanigans, on.  The question was simply: in addition to all the famous New York Yankees honored in Monument Park in their stadium's outfield, which three former Cardinals, who never played for the team, are also enshrined there?

The answer is as easy as pie, or, in their case,[Spoiler (click to open)]wafer: the three former Cardinals all went on to become Popes- Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI. All presided over rather massive Masses at Al-Yanquizera Stadium between the 1960s and 2000s.

We have no winner, which is good, because we don't have prizes or a Shameless Commerce Division, either.


Finished the second piece of Olive Kitteredge tonight, and did it through a newly-acquired Actual HBO Subscription, which will also be good for the final Newsroom episodes that begin this weekend. Eventually, I realized that this also gets me an HBO GO password for my tablet if I want to watch any of those on that device. Or anything else such a password might be useful for....
I spend most of my late afternoons reading while at the gym, and many early evenings watching films or the occasional tv series. These paths are often random and rarely intersect, but this week they did:

After finishing Kate Danley's latest novel(la) about Werewolves in Medieval Combat (loved it but, as with many e-books, had no idea when it would end), I needed to grab something and picked something that looked fairly recent from the cellar stash. Eleanor had read it but I never had; it was, and remains, Preachers Lake by Lisa Vice, and is the 48th read of the year for me. It's mostly set in Maine, where the residents, for good reason, should properly be referred to as Maniacs.  The first two chapters introduce a series of them, ranging from slightly dysfunctional to just plain weird, and one of the characters' lovers is written out of the story off-set in the first chapter in a fairly brutal road accident.  Although that one happened in Manhattan, it does seem fairly common in the state, as Stephen King could certainly tell you.  I'm still working my way through the quirkinesses of all those she brings to us, but it's beautifully written and I'm looking forward to the rest of the journey.


Meanwhile, we'd both heard good things about a new HBO miniseries called Olive Kitteredge, and have watched the first episode of that and a little bit of the second. (The final two parts air this coming Sunday and Monday night.)  This one's also set in Maine, working through a series of flashbacks to life Up Thayah beginning in the 1970s, and it, too, has a cast of characters running the Mostly Weird gamut.  Chief among them is the title character, played brilliantly by Frances McDormand; her Olive is the antithesis of her Fargo persona of Minnesota Nice, slicing through her students, her family members and anyone else who crosses her with a crocodile-sharp verbal bite.  Yet she shows an immense (and often prescient) amount of caring for some who need it the most.  Her opposite is Henry the town phahmacist, played with perfect droll by Richard Jenkins, who played "Late Nate" throughout the HBO run of Six Feet Under despite getting run over by a bus in an early scene of the series premiere.  (I thought for a moment that McDormand was his wife in that, but that was Frances Conroy.)  The rest of the cast is lesser known but well selected and just as well acted.  Among the other television stars homaged in the first hour are Livia Soprano (Olive pity-bombs someone with a Nancy Marchandish "poor you"), and, somewhat spoilery, fellow Maniac[Spoiler (click to open)]Jessica Fletcher, since this Maine town has a homicide rate in the first hour approaching that of Crabapple Cove (two horrific deaths shown, another two, including a cat, done in offscreeen).

The music, the cinematography and even the lighting are Major Motion Picture quality- McDormand herself and Tom Hanks are among the EP's, and they put a clear amount of effort and love into this laib-ah.


A final New England connection should not go unmentioned, as this week brought news of the death of Tommy Magliozzi of longtime Car Talk fame.  His brother Ray is surely devestated but isn't afraid to laugh a little in the end- noting his brother's longtime struggle with Alzheimers, the cartalk.com site quoted him thus:

“Turns out he wasn’t kidding,” said Ray. “He really couldn’t remember last week’s puzzler.”

A longago friend of mine posted a homage of his own to Tommy, referencing the Puzzler that he submitted, and Click and Clack used on the air, during the show's original run. I'll post it below in all its brilliant obfuscatory; see if you can get it. (I did.)

RAY: This was conceived by Michael Freedman, and preobfuscated and submitted by Howard Weinstein ( puppykissesblog).

Baseball fans old enough to have seen games either in person or on TV at Yankee Stadium during the fifties and sixties saw a fairly unusal sight: three monolithic stone monuments on the playing field in the deepest part of center field. Looming like giant tombstones, they memorialized early Yankee manager Miller Huggins, and immortal players, Babe Ruth and, of course, Lou Gehrig. During one game in the fifties a Yankee outfielder let the ball get by him and it rolled between the monuments. As the outfielder scrambled for the ball, Yankee manager Casey Stengel shouted from the dugout, 'Ruth, Gehrig, Huggins. Somebody get that ball back to the infield!'

When Yankee Stadium was renovated in the mid-seventies, a larger monument park was built behind the outfield fence. Many more monuments and plaques were added honoring the great names from Yankee Stadium's long and storied history. Now most of those honored Yankee players. But oddly enough, three plaques honored former Cardinals, men who never played for the Yankees. How could that be? And for extra credit can you name those former Cardinals?
Monday was, for most purposes, dead like a ded thing. Spent most of it waiting for things to happen that didn't, and worried about how I was going to get through the thicket of time conflicts ahead of me.

Somehow, though, I got through yesterday, a ten-plus-hour door-to-door day with two immovable objects of commitments ridiculously close in time and far in distance- and made it with minutes to spare:)  Only problem was my last-minute realization that I could not file a client's document in a third place in the afternoon because state-court offices, unlike federal ones, are closed for Election Day.

This day, so far, has been essentially a rerun of Monday. Things aren't happening, messages are not being responded to, and I'm still worried about how I am going to get, now, through two days of time-conflict thickets. Tomorrow's the easier one: I have to be here in the morning, while the conflicting commitment is either settled or covered by somebody else. And I think I've got Friday sorted: the earlier judge would not excuse me from attending a 9:15 in Buffalo, but I did get dispensation to show up as late as 11 for my almost-simultaneous hearing 70 miles away.

After that, it's barbecue for a birthday lunch for me and another co-worker, and no more time conundrums (yet) (that I know of) until the 20th.


Election results were mostly disappointing, although the redistricting proposition in our state did pass by a fairly wide margin.  Most surprising is that Rochester's nearly-lifelong Congresswoman, who I (and everybody else) expected to win in a walk, wound up in a dead heat in her race with a relative no-name opponent.  The Republicans took a much lower-key approach to the contest, and most of Louise's supporters just stayed home, thinking it was safe.  That's twice in the past two years that county Democrats have underestimated a challenge to incumbency and got caught with their turnout down.

Other than that, my main reaction to the results will be to stock up on pens- because Obama's going to be going through a butt-ton of them vetoing crap over the next two years:

Like it says on the tin icon: for my 37th time out of 37 eligible Novembers, I cast my votes for Congress, state officials and one or two local races. I tell you this because I'm proud of it and I hope it helps set a good example. Not only did soldiers die and suffragists suffer for the right of the franchise, there are too many out there determined to discourage its exercise, if not outright prohibit it, through legislative and media efforts.

But as far as I'm concerned, the secrecy of the ballot box is sacred, and that extends not only to who one votes for but to whether one votes- and that second, more easily determined, fact about a voter has become decidedly in-your-face and controversial in this year's contests.


Both parties have pulled this stunt, but it sickens me, seeing my own party stooping to it.  Multiple sources reported letters like this one being sent to registered Democrats in New York State in the days before today's vote:


Defenders of the tactic replied, Oh, they just want to know your reasons for not voting to improve their chances in the future. Bullroar- this is as close to overt threatening as you can get without using letters clipped from magazine headlines. It screams, "nice franchise you got dere, be a shame if somethin happened ta it."

Locally, they've taken the trick one step sicker:

Apparently these maneuvers date to a 2008 study of Michigan election results where researchers tested the Shame Card and found that it worked. So now, with so many races being so close to evenly divided, both parties are looking for every little edge, and are  willing to intimidate preferred voters INTO voting even as they try to intimidate the unpreferred FROM doing so.

Every minute and every dollar going into such efforts could be better spent making voting both easier and more meaningful.  Although I cast my votes today, there was not a single seriously contested race on the entire ballot. Cuomo and his statewide ticket are ahead by dozens of points, our Congressional districts (save one an hour from here) are all gerrymandered into essential slaughters of challengers (in one case, BY a Slaughter;) our judicial races were almost entirely cross-endorsed; and I didn't even know who was running for Family Court or against our County Clerk until I saw their names on the ballot tonight.  The system desperately needs more ballot access for challengers and limits on the advantages of incumbency, or our votes will mean as little as they do in North Korea's recent 100% affirmation of their Dear If Missing Leader. (There was a ballot proposition here to attempt to limit the gerrymandering in this state, and of course all the "good government" groups opposed it because it wasn't goo-goo enough for them. I hope it passes anyway.)

We also have no early voting in this state, archaic registration rules (especially to be eligible to vote in party primaries), and a "fusion" set of minor party lines that just encourage extremists on both ends of the spectrum to make back-room deals with their respective devils in exchange for promises and patronage.  And it's worse in the increasing number of states using the boogeyman of "voter fraud" to limit ballot access for reasons they largely don't even bother to conceal anymore.

Still, it sucks less than not voting. I only hope I can join with this dude in the morning in saying a nationwide NO to Mitch McChinless:

Nice day, just the three of us yesterday.  Em got home in the wee's sometime before the clock went back an hour and left in the ass-minus-one o'clock of today.  She seems to be doing well in just about every sense of the word, and while early Sunday was for puttering (her), swimming (Eleanor), churchgoing (me) and laundry (all of us;), from 4:00 on we were together and enjoying almost every minute of it.

We picked a late matinee screening of Birdman, and right before it came the only moment that wasn't as nice as the others: getting served up the trailer for the advertised Valentine's Day premiere of Fifty Shades of Grey. (Not bloody likely it will come out then, Emily said; the scenes between master and slave are apparently all being reshot due to bad writing concept CHEMISTRY, yeah, that's it!)  Just as well, because if there's one thing sicker than the nonconsensual BDSM of the book, it's the tone-deaf decision to put it out on 14 February.

That quickly passed, though, and we got into the bizarro universe of Keaton's character and those around him. All did amazing jobs, particularly the DP, whose simulated one-take filming of the entire story should get him an Oscar on the spot. It was also amusing casting to have not only Keaton but the two most cynically anti-blockbuster chracters in the film coming off their prior roles as Gwen Stacy and the Hulk.  Birdman was both funnier and darker than I expected, and it fired on just about every cylinder you can imagine.

The drive home, of course, got the critical eye of the film school graduate, who wants to look into the editing decisions she thought were a little odd.  I'm sure she was pleased to see that the film's relatively short real(?)/fantasy(?) action sequence still managed to employ a hell of a lot of film school graduates named in the credits.


Then home. Eleanor made lasagna earlier in the day and we shared it and a nice night of conversation before the old farts, still on Daylight Savings Time, headed off to bed. Emily carefully put all her traveling pillows/blankets in the living room so she wouldn't forget them- and then forgot them;) (Definitely my child.)  I should be able to get those to her tomorrow afternoon, though, so no harm done.

For the moment, things are quiet with work, but some storms are brewing in various legal oceans and I expect a busy afternoon.
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