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Blather. Rants. Repeat.
A Møøse once bit my sister ...
Our 29th anniversary is Monday. We celebrated a little early, thanks to circumstances.

A year or so ago, Eleanor discovered the soundtrack to Rent. We both became fans of the story, the music, the drama.  I kept a vague eye peeled to see if it would show up on either the Shea's schedule here or the Geva or RBTL schedule in Rochester- no luck. But then a Marylander friend mentioned scoring tickets to it this fall; no gigs in our immediate or adjacent back yards, but there was a series of shows in Syracuse and one night in a sooner and closer venue- just on the other side of Buffalo in Erie, PA.

Soon as I heard about it, I checked out the venues. Syracuse was pretty much sold out, but I'd have plunged for it through scalpers if the kids had wanted to go. After a call to Emily earlier this week, they begged out.  So, back to Erie- which happened to be a One Night Only gig on November 9th- my birthday.

The theatre did what similar theatres (here and in Rochester) typically do: it initially offered seats only as part of season-ticket packages until "a later date." Thanks to that, scalpers were offering nosebleed seats on Birthday Night for close to $200 per ticket.  But I kept checking to see when the inventory of single-event seats would be released.

Finally, the other day, word came out: Monday the 26th at 10 a.m. sharp.  Our anniversary.  Karma, yo.  But I believe in better things than karma, so this morning, I checked the site again, just for giggles.

There were tickets available- but only as part of a restricted presale.  You needed to enter a presale code to get in.

Ah, but I'd seen this movie before.  Ticketsellers are notorious, and a little odious, for making these presale codes ridiculously obvious: last fall's Met-fan-group offers to their members (which I missed out on) used something like "letsgomets."  So what, you might ask, would be the four-letter code to get early Rent tickets that's so obvious, it's what Jonathan Larson had to open his luggage?

That's right: r-e-n-t.  I was in. And now, so are we: face-value $58 tickets in the fourth row center to see this amazing show, on the night I turn 57 and the night after Drumpf hopefully turns into a pumpkin and is never heard from again.

There are Things still to be worked out. We will likely need overnight accoms in Erie, PA.  I will need to impose on someone to let the dog out after we leave and/or the morning before we return.  But this is a bushel basket of good karma.  Now that fall is finally here, our 29th and my 57th will both be forever associated with Seasons of Love.
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Morning and evening, thy presence my light...

The morning shot is from coming out of court a bit past 10.  It's not often I can gloat in specific financial terms, but I saved a client over $25,000 by showing up this morning.  When I came out, I saw this Drumpfernutter parked next to the Brutalist court building:

Oh, do let's turn in our Field guide to Alt-Righters:
- bigass flag;
- xenophobic stickers about those law breaking furners;
- illegally parked.

Hopefully, Rochester Police towed his hot-wheeled SUV and MADE HIM PAY FOR IT!


There followed an afternoon with a much sadder client story I may get to eventually, and with me home a few minutes before Eleanor got here.  We did have plans for the evening, though: I'd subscribed to the 2016-17 UB Distinguished Speakers Series, mainly to see John Cleese in a few months, but the first lecture was tonight; twin-brother astronauts Mark and Scott Kelly. We planned to go, and did actually get out the door in time.

"UB" is an Urdish abbreviation for "shit parking," so even though the campus is (barely) walkable from home, I suggested a departure time at least 30 minutes before proceedings began at 8 p.m.  Since Ziggy had a decent charge, Eleanor suggested we take the Smart car.  Smart choice, as it turned out.

As we navigated toward Alumni Arena, it was clear we wouldn't find a walkable space for my beloved's increasingly sore limbs.  So I dropped her off at the end of the loop right in front of the venue, and told her I'd meet her once I'd parked in O'Brian 3 (my old haunts) or Ellicott 6, or whatever.  Yet there, 100 feet from where she was waiting, was A Spot.  Not an Illegal Fire Hydrant spot, or a Random You Can't Park Here spot, but a Reserved For Electric Cars Needing A Charge From Our Charging Station spot.


Just one problem:  the charging station appeared to require payment. And not by swiping (the insecure US method) or chip-inserting (the more internationally secure method being dragged kicking and streaming into our economy), but by "tapping."

I have two credit cards with chips, and a third with just a swipe strip. No amount of tapping either did a damn thing to activate the available charging port. But there was a toll-free number on the front of the station. I called it. With under 15 minutes before the scheduled start of the lecture, they answered: they needed a station number, my city and state, and an email.  The charging station came to life, and the cord released from its holster. No credit card required; this station is free.  We plugged Ziggy in, mere steps in front of the arena-


-and headed in for a lovely evening which may be recounted later here.

We were home two hours later, some nice experiences under our belt, and Ziggy was close to being back to a full charge.

Thanks, astronauts! Thanks, Tesla!

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In just one tweet with a simple, stolen (we'll get to that) image of a bowl of candy, the heir apparent to the Orange Numpty Who Would Be King, Donald Junior (aka Donnie the Golden Sperm), managed to reduce the crisis of compassion to a sick joke:

He illustrated it with a bowl of  Skittles® brand candy, in which he violated both copyright and trademark laws in one awkward hitting of SEND: Skittles is a registered trademark of the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, which would much prefer you not lowercase or pluralize the name of its property.  Also: the photo, which I will not plagiarize, is the intellectual property of a photographer named David Kittos, a naturalised citizen of the UK who posted it on Flickr in 2010 and who never gave Donnie or his papa or his campaign any permission to use it.  Which, had it been asked, would have been rejected:

"This was not done with my permission, I don't support his politics and I would never take his money to use it," Mr Kittos told the BBC.

"In 1974, when I was six-years old, I was a refugee from the Turkish occupation of Cyprus so I would never approve the use of this image against refugees."

Because just the math is wrong, for one thing: to approach the number of pieces that "would kill you" and not have them be microscopically small, that bowl would have to be more like a very large body of water.  Even more basic, though, is the wrongness in the underlying logic: Apparently, if the three are "radical Muslims," Donnie's and Daddy's  answer is YES- but if the three are "mentally ill gun purchasers," or "homicidal police officers shooting unarmed motorists of color," or "underground pipes or wells that could leak toxins into our water table," their answer is NO.

Last and not least, refugees are not fucking pieces of candy. They are living breathing human beings entitled to dignity and protection where it is needed.


The bowl of Skittles candy came out, of course, after the weekend's incidents in and around New York City, where at least one of them has been tied to an Afghan-born, American-naturalized (since age 7) citizen of this country who, by all accounts, is a radical Muslim extremist.

There, I said it.  The drumbeat on the right is that we're all too politically correct on my side to call them that.   I do, and Democrats should, as well.  It's a matter of WHO wears that as a badge.  I would have Obama and Mrs. Clinton call this guy out for what he is: a radical Muslim extremist.  And the members of Westboro Baptist Church and the Army of God as radical Christian extremists. (Radical Christian extremists rail against the coming of "Sharia law" while in their other positions advocate for Christian "dominionism" which is the same shit in a different shade of brown.)  As are the most radical of Jews and Sikhs and Hindus.  But I will never, and the candidate I support would never, broadbrush that definition onto the entirety, or even a majority, of a faith's adherents just because it's got some nutjobs who show up for services.  That's what Drumpf is doing demonizing an entire faith and the whole of its adherents because of these extreme acts.

And while many Democrats will not admit it, I posit it: ISIS Daesh, and al-Qaeda, and the Islamic Peoples Front and the Peoples Front of Islam, all want Drumpf to win.  They couldn't have come up with a better recruitment tool if they'd hired Leni Riefenstahl to produce the propaganda. So of course they're going to be stepping up their domestic acts of terrorism over these final weeks.  I don't find it shocking that these volleys were limited in scope (not to belittle the injuries of those caught in them, but we've seen far worse) and poorly executed.  I also expect more, including a fun weekend right before Election Day, when the enemies of freedom and democracy will likely be Wagging the Dog like crazy even though orthodox Muslims supposedly hate puppies.

Don't let them win.  Don't give them the President they want.  Don't give into the fear that turns us into humanity at its worst.  Instead, be a true radical extremist Christian: listen. Get all the facts straight.  Prosecute rather than persecute.  And for Christ's sake, vote.

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I'm just getting to what a long and dreary day most of yesterday was.  Although I had four court appearances scheduled this week every day but today, I thought- and even said here over the weekend- that all but one of them were (a) local and (b) routine.  Yesterday was one of the local ones.  It was not by any means routine.

It was a goat rodeo almost before I got out of bed. I'd gotten a crap night of sleep, awakened twice by the dog, and had Wheels on the Brain going round and round that kept me awake until right before the alarm would've gone off anyway. That's when I saw that both Windows 10 laptops were still merrily cooking away after they'd magically turned themselves on in the night, updating their little hard drives away.  This, it turned out, was one of the Big Ones- the so-called  "anniversary update."  By the time this computer was finally done with it, several of my apps were hidden and feared gone (they weren't- I found their hiding places and got them back), a bunch of new ones including Skype were blinking on and off demanding my attention, and worst of all, the left side of my taskbar was now back to "Ask Me Anything."

I'd previously turned Cortana off- back when you could do that.  Now she was just chomping at the cyberbit for me to talk to her. Sorry, but I don't cheat on Siri.  I eventually found the Sekrit Registry Instructions to smite her again.  So it once again says "Search Windows" down there, my start menu is back to Classic Shell, and everything else seems to have survived.

Well, almost everything:P


Anyway, back to court. It should have been quick and easy, as it was the first civil case on the calendar and was unopposed.  Trouble was, the judge was doing a mostly criminal docket- all managed by one assistant DA and one public defender, who each had about 30 cases to dispose of.  Several of them were wearing prison garb and were brought in, shackled, from the bowels of the building. Several other free-on-bail criminals somehow found the color cool and wound up coming into court wearing bright orange tops, as well.

Finally, well into my second hour of waiting and only after the two civil-servant attorneys had run themselves hoarse, the judge called on lil' ol' me.  After a grilling over whether I'd served the papers at the right address, I finally got the relief sought, and headed back to my office- where another client had just come in to sign papers for that very same court.  Plus I had to write up the order for that morning. I was told someone else was bringing yet another thing down there, but I missed the handoff and wound up driving back down a second time.  No brightly-dressed criminals this time, though.

The last hour in the office proved the final indignity.  Our copier/scanner has been running on toner fumes for weeks, my co-worker who shares it couldn't get a new Mac to connect to it wirelessly, and finally I discovered that this morning's laptop update had also, somehow, changed my entire c: drive file structure so that my scans weren't transmitting from the copier to this computer.  We're STILL waiting for copier guy over a day later:P  I have a kludge to get the scans on here via somebody else's desktop PC, but it gets old having to do that.


Once out of here, the day went better.  I got in a brief workout, then got Eleanor's own laptop over to my beloved guru's place.  It wasn't malfunctioning, but it had literally come apart at the seams and two teeny wires were holding the display to the keyboard.  Lisa tucked them in, electrical-taped the whole assembly to hold until we can find a replacement case for the thing, and ultimately decided to turn it into a piece of performance art:

(Eleanor doesn't usually go by that nickname, but there's only so much tape to go around.  Plus we can use it during the second season of Stranger Things, since apparently we won't be able to attract Eleven with Eggos anymore;)

On a roll at that point, and finding Eleanor out at a Buddhist study, I made a quick dinner (leftover steak- on a roll;), finished mowing the back forty, ran wash of both dish and laundry persuasion, and knocked off a Mr. Robot and a half before finally turning in.


Today's been better. No appointments in or out, got a good night of sleep, and I think I've resolved tomorrow's court so I don't have to go. Once OR twice:)
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The weather around here has continued to be way more tropical than I'd have expected.  A few cold fronts have moved through and given us a day or two of relief, but this weekend has been back to high humidity, the coming days promise to be significantly above normal, and a butt-ton of rain on Friday and Saturday did little to cool things down.

Apparently, though, it has done something to encourage propagation of organic fungi.  I took Ebony on our usual Sunday Bark Park outing first thing this morning, and my friend Ann captured this shot of one of the tree-based forms (that's a bigass tree, if you can't tell):

Then, after I brought the dog home, attended a newer-to-me church experience of my own while Eleanor was doing Buddhist things, and ultimately mowed our front (and more than half our back) lawn while listening to the Mets win, I found plenty of mush all on and around our own yards, including this clump:

No idea if anything is poisonous, so I will need to keep an eye on the dog after she comes in from the back.


We finished the first and so-far only season of Stranger Things tonight. Very well done, with plenty of potential directions for the second season that apparently has begun production in the fake Hawkins Lab sets in Georgia.


Eleanor averted a disaster earlier.  She'd sent me out last night to secure some dinner rolls from the garage freezer, and apparently El Stupido Esposo didn't shut the freezer door, raising the temperature and almost overloading the freezer motor like one of us did last August.  She shut it before the temperature got above dangerous and the motor got beyond hope.  We now have a reminder sign out there, and I've checked out a simple alarm on Amazon that will beep its ass off if I manage to make the same error in the future.


Back to the grind tomorrow. Court on four of the five mornings, but all but one of them are (a) here and (b) relatively cut-and-dry.
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More than half of my biennial continuing legal education went into the can today.  How it did, as usual, is the story.

A reminder, for those new(er) to these dispatches: state regs require that lawyers accumulate 24 credit hours of continuing ed credits in the 23 months before and the 1 month after their biennial birthday.  The easiest way to rack up these credits is to lecture to other lawyers, since you get triple credit for every 50-minute-hour you're "on the clock" speaking, plus credit for every hour you're sitting there in various stages of sentience while the other presenters are presenting.  I'm street-legal as of the end of 2015, and had racked up 2.5 of my 24 credits for 2016-17 before today, leaving me until December of 2017 to rack up 21.5 more hours, at least 4 of which have to be ethics-related. After today, that remaining obligation is down to 8.5 hours, with 3 ethics hours still remaining. My "compensation" for presenting today was a free pass to any of their live or online seminars in the coming year, which will likely account for 7 of those total hours and one of the three remaining ethics hours.  That leaves an easy peasy noontime gig from any number of providers to fill my remaining 1.5 total hours and 2.0 ethics hours, anytime in the next 14 months.  Unless I flake out like I did two years ago and lose track; good thing I'm making note of it here, huh;)

Monday, I got my class list for today's program, along with an invitation to bring a free guest.  That usually means one thing: the room was far from full.  Three of us were scheduled to speak to a classroom consisting of six students. This likely was the result of happenstance: the Bills had a Thursday night home opener last night, so getting people to sign up for an all-day seminar the next day was tricky to say the least. Such a small turnout, in turn, usually means DEATH to the atmosphere of the lecture room, unless you can convince a friend or paralegal or SOMEONE to show up to pad the attendance. I tried; I had a friend in need of the CLE's who took me up on the free offer, but work intervened and couldn't attend, so the ultimate audience was only those six. And, this provider has a strict THE SHOW MUST GO ON policy, which would've required all three of us to all do our schticks even if there'd been one paying customer in the room.


For me, at least, this came at a bad time. I had court or client appointments scheduled every previous day this week, the last two straight requiring a morning drive to Rochester, with yesterday's drive home going much later than expected. That was because we still somehow have an NFL team venued here, and traffic to the Bills home opener was brutal last night (I  bailed off the 90 before it got bad but still was delayed getting home due to taking back roads), and it was almost as brutal this morning on my way to the downtown seminar.

I could not find any public parking, on or offstreet, before I was within minutes of the start time, so I pulled into the hotel's paid lot 10 minutes before 9, only to find their ticket machine was gorked.  "We'll settle up on the way out," the dude said. So I got into the lecture room minutes before the first speaker started. Who was speaking to me, the third presenter, and the Original Six who'd signed up.

Yet somehow,.... it went fine.  One of the six was a bit of an eyeroller, but the others were interested, participatory and thanked us for our input in and in between the actual presentations. I was the second one up, and I had to start by making fun of an evaluation I got the last time I did one of these.  Overall, my grades for doing these things are good (they keep bringing me back, yo;), but one cranky millennial got on my case last time about me kicking it old-school by lecturing in, OMG, lecture format. "He didn't even use PowerPoint!," cried the criticism.


I think I PowerPointed one of my CLE lectures once, and it went about as well as any other I've been subjected to as a student: the presenter justs reads the slides, or the projector fails, or SOMETHING goes wrong. So I'd hoped to get there early enough to do a fake PP set to mock the concept, but didn't, because, traffic. The first PRO slide would've been this:

While the second, had I had wifi at the start (didn't get THAT code until almost lunch), would've been this:

Nobody complained out loud after that.

I wound up taking one of my fellow presenters to lunch; he thought the seminar covered the tab,  and he had three bucks in his wallet. I paid the tab and enhanced the tip, but karma was repaid: when it was all done and I left the garage, the attendant no-charged my all-day parking job.

We supposedly had famous neighbors in the adjacent ballroom-

-but none of the six attendees or we three presenters saw any Bills legends we recognized.  We're guessing they were assaulted by Jets alumni in the parking garage and never got into the building proper;)

I got to cardio for the first time in three nights, watched the beginning of the last Mr. Robot I hadn't streamed, and got home at a decent hour for animal-feeding, a nice dinner, and finishing a Netflix.  Tomorrow promises to be rainy and alarmless- the latter, at least, I could use right about now:)
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"Retail therapy."

I am not one to shop till I drop. I'd rather be dropped, from a high altitude, into a burning building rather than check out the latest fashions (or, more Eleanor's thing, the rack of socket wrenches down at Lowe's;).  Back when there were malls everywhere, the only places I could stand to be standing in one were their book and record shops- which of course have been among the biggest casualties of the Amazoning of America.

Fortunately, there are pockets of exceptions.  Some have died at the local level- Record Theater is down to two Buffalo locations from its multi-region peak of 21, while other favorites like Home of the Hits got hit with the realities of the post-Napster era. Yet one goofball owner's dream house of vinyl and other madness still lives on, on the eastern fringe of Rochester's city limits:

I can still hear the jingle, 30 years after I first walked into its former barn of a building near the U of R: The Record Archive is the place to go!

And for me, today, it was:)


My Rochester agenda for the day had five items on it: personal thing, two client meetings, document exchange with another lawyer, court appearance, client meeting-slash-proceeding.  Only the first and third wound up happening as planned, only one of the two early client meetings went off, and  the fourth never happened at all.

The personal thing was my first dental cleaning in almost a year. I refused to set a followup appointment last time because my longtime hygienist had been replaced by Frau Blucher!, who hurt me almost as much as she annoyed me.  Ultimately, I outlasted her, and I had a much better experience with her replacement, who'd actually started her career in this office long ago. (I must not have met her at the time; my teeth would've likely scared her right out of the profession;)  The good news is, my peridontal outlook is much improved; the bad news is, one of my many multi-patched lowers is about to give up the ghost and will have to be crowned later this month.

The dentist wound up being the highlight of my day, which is never a good sign.  The document exchange wound up taking place in an office soon to be featured in an episode of Hoarders, and the final client thing got disrupted by a last-minute bankruptcy filing by the opposing party So by the time I got out of the office, I was rather grumpy, in part because I'm going to have to turn around and head right back there tomorrow for that one client meeting to occur and possibly for a significant piece of business to develop.  So as I started to head home on 490, I saw Richard Storm's yellow prefab house of vinyl and tacky gifts, and decided to treat myself.

One album I hoped they'd have, and they did: I heard this artist on my favorite late-morning radio show last week, right before the night of its official release party at the city's art cinema, The Little.  Sadly, that likely would have been my last chance to see her perform live, since Heather Taylor is leaving town next month to help Keep Asheville Weird.  She also leaves her side jobs as frontwoman for local band the Crawdiddies and as a licensed massage therapist in Brighton (as close to Asheville as you're gonna get this side of Ithaca).  But I'd heard enough of the record during her live studio gig to bring it home.  This is the Youtube of the final track; it says the animation is by someone named Jon Lewis:

The second in my cart was a 2011 release by a guy I've also heard on WRUR. His name's Chris Trapper, and while he calls Boston home these days, he was born in Buffalo and also did quite a bit of work with Great Big Sea ("Sea of No Cares," the title song on the album in the icon? That's his:) The first song from this one, with Rob Thomas adding the backing, is called "Here All Along," but my favourite was this one with former Man At Work Colin Hay harmonizing; it's called "The More I Think," and it's more relevant than ever given the political realities of 2016:

Just what I needed after a long day. Enjoy:)
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Gumby was back at the corner of Sheridan and Harlem at the height of morning rush hour yesterday. By the time I went by a second time (on my bike, this time riding to the office and back for the afternoon), he was nowhere to be seen. I suspect a cop gave him a talking-to about distracting traffic at a majorly deadly intersection.

Before coming home at lunchtime, I scored what it says on the tin of the icon- two tickets to Nerd Prom.  They've been doing annual TED Talks in Buffalo for a few years, but prior years' audiences were essentially audition-only, and I never made the cut. This time, they moved to a slightly larger venue and just put the ducats out for sale. I missed the first round of distribution but got word of more going on offer at 10 yesterday.... which I promptly forgot.  By the time I remembered, the ticket site was consistently saying Too Bad So Sad, but the event itself finally said that a browser refresh might help.

Which it did.  We can now check out the following on October 20th:

Jason Briner
Topic: Major Sea Level Rise in Near Future

William Capozzi
Topic: Visualizing/Revisiting Meaningful and Historic Places Using VR

Jim Cielencki
Topic: Discovering I knew nothing about  my city

Fotini Galanes
Topic: Beauty and Deformity

John H. Johnson, PhD & Mike Gluck
Topic: EVERYDATA: The Misinformation  Hidden in the Little Data You Consume Every Day

Dr. Mark Montgomery
Topic: Retention: The Powerful Hypothetical  Construct

Jamie O’Neil
Topic: Electroskip for Generative Movement

Jonathan Rajewski
Topic: How the Internet of Things is  Making My Job Easier

Allison Sagraves
Topic: Be a Citizen Data Scientist

Don't know any of them. Interested in many of them. Cmon- we're Buffalo; we're not getting Bill Gates or John Hodgman.  But I'll be nerdgasming all the same. And, just as with my abandoned effort to mock The Room, Babeville has a full bar.


The rest of yesterday was uneventful; I biked home after biking back to the office at lunchtime, and watched another Mr. Robot through my tablet while Eleanor was chanting.  We're now doing Stranger Things together:)  But by this morning, I was rendered virtually tech-less under this roof:  my main laptop was still at work, said tablet wouldn't power up, and my backup laptop, which died in the middle of Sunday's LJ posting (all of which, thankfully, saved to the server:), still wasn't showing any sign of life.  So I just left for work a few minutes early this morning in Ziggy; Eleanor had a doctor's appointment out of his driving range, so we switched cars for the day. 

The work morning was relatively busy, but I kept an appointment for a noon workout I'd made when it wasn't, and stopped at the Wegmans near the studio for some beverages, returning home to change back into work clothes. Somehow, my wallet got lost in the shuffle. I searched the car and house high and low, plus any number of other places it might've dropped, and when I returned to work I called the service desk to see if it had been turned in. 

It hadn't.

Oddly enough, panic did NOT set in.  I somehow knew it would be fine. So I finished my afternoon of work, changed out of work clothes to look higher and lower, waited for Eleanor to get home to put her on Wallet Alert, and then headed back to Wegmans for one last look around the register where I'd last used it (and also voted in our one-race primary).

Still nothing, yet still no panic. Partially, because by the time Eleanor got home, both my tablet and the backup laptop, as well as this one, were all up and running fine.

That's when I concluded that Betty was just messing with me.

I checked both active debit cards online and found no hackery.  Then I looked in one unusual place, and there the damn thing was.  So I'm fine for a full rich travel day tomorrow, a workout tomorrow night, and hopefully no more ghosts.

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I dread this day's annual occurrence.  No remembrance is ever going to undo what was done, and in particular it's a day Hillary Clinton should just stay home and binge Netflixes, because between Benghazi occurring on it in 2012 and her OMGFAINT earlier today, it's nothing but bullshit baked into bad press for her.

I began my day today at the dog park- a fitting venue tied to my memory of where I was 15 years earlier.  Eleanor and Em were already out of the house on the morning of 11 September 2001 when our neighbor called and said to turn on the TV. Within minutes, as the one crash turned into two and then the collapse, I remember looking down at Tasha, our first and then-only dog, and whichever of the then-three cats were in the room, and saying You are so lucky you don't understand what is happening on that screen. Likewise, today's assembly of pups large and small didn't care about politics, or religious differences. They just wanted to play and slobber.

I was in this room (that's where the television was back then), 400 miles away from Ground Zero, as those events unfolded on this day in 2001, but do have memories intertwining the two most infamous days in US history:

I proposed to Eleanor on December 7, 1986.

We came to New York for the wedding of two friends and to see a Broadway show my sister had gotten us tickets for. The night before, we stayed in the city at what was then called the Vista International Hotel, between and below the Towers. I had overly romantical thoughts about popping the question from the heights of Windows on the World, but chose the late fall chill of that Sunday morning, out on Jones Beach. We didn't do the restaurant or the observation deck or any of that- although we did do some unauthorized exploring of the still-incomplete Winter Garden in the American Express building around the corner on Vesey Street.  We talked our way in past a sympathetic security guard and got to see the foliage before any ribbons had been cut.

Fifteen years later, the hotel came down, the American Express Tower was severely damaged, and the days of taking unauthorized tours of Manhattan buildings were gone forever.

I'm glad to see the Winter Garden lives on, though. Here's how it looked in 2007:


One of our favorite songs, which a friend reminded me of the other day, is by a singer-songwriter named Beth Neilsen Chapman. It begins with her remembering her childhood, and plants growing through cracks in a concrete playground-

Where there's a will, there's a way around anything

-and ends with her watching her own kid similarly at play, and says-

And I say a little prayer, there's always hope.

The name of, and key line from, that song is "Life Holds On, Given the Slightest Chance."  That's true even in the remembrances of today- maybe especially in them.

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Eleanor and I saw the kids last weekend- first time Mom had been out there since we moved them in two Augusts ago. I'm much closer to them during the workweek and probably average a visit every few weeks and an overnight with them every month or two, but usually they're pretty quick and we tend to stick around the apartment.

Yesterday's workday wound up being something of a wasted daytrip for me- two client appointments, but both very brief, and a more productive one postponed- so to salvage something out of all the miles, I'd told Emily I'd likely come out at the end of her workday, which tends to be between 2 and 3 on Fridays.

The 'rents had decided to pick up a couple of Wegmans gift cards for them, just to take some of the edge off their finances, so I had no plans other than to deliver the card with the cards. Somewhat surprisingly, we wound up making a bunch of spontaneous plans and had quite a nice late afternoon together.  We've done Planned Big Trips together before- mostly to a few concerts- but this is the first time I can remember in ages that she and I just basically did Random Stuff together.

First was not at the same moment but in the same spirit. As I was heading out there, she was checking out one of the two used bookstores which face off Palmyra's East Main Street across from each other.  The older of the two seems more fixated on getting The Cool Kids in-

- but the one she recommended was this:

And yes, there is a dog in The Dog Eared Book- a sweet mostly black 9-year-old who hangs out behind the counter.  Emily picked up a cheap copy of Little Bee, but the first thing that caught my eye (other than the dog) when I went in was this:

John Lloyd is the creative force behind the BBC's long-running QI programme, and since its 2015 debut on BBC America was a klaxon-and-burn that amounted to nothing, it'll be nice to have some additional Quite Interestingness around the house.  More on the first entry in the book to follow.

I did my browsing in the store while Emily was trying to reach Cameron by phone.  She needed to switch out some cable equipment at a Time Warner joint in Webster, north and west of where they live and sort-of on my way home (I needed to detour along 104 anyway for a work venture that eventually amounted to nothing).  Cam was working near Webster, so the hope was that he could pick up Em and the cable boxes when he got out of work.  We made the drive out there, and he confirmed the pickup just as we were pulling in.  The plaza with the Time Warner outlet also included a remote adoption location for the local SPCA ("Lollypop Farm" in the local parlance), so we had some window cage shopping to do while we waited.

Only one of them has her picture up on the adoption website, but she was one of the ones who came close to the cagefronts to play with us- Venus:


She's a tuxedo cat like our evil MEOWy middle-child, but I hope nobody holds that against her;)

One of the older tabbies was the most playful. A momcat and her litter of four were all in one cage. A few were strays, but most were listed as "abandoned."  Both of our homes are all-full-up at this point, but we were happy to get some play and socializing in for them so they feel a little less abandoned in the world.

Cam got there just as we were saying goodbye, and we went our ways- with new things to read and nice memories of some quality time:)


A footnote:

Book of the Dead is arranged, not by chronology or specialty or nationality, but as you would expect with a QI-related product: "interestingness.  The results are unexpected bedfellows: Sir Isaac Newton duetting with Salvador Dali, for example, or Karl Marx singing bass to Emma Hamilton's soprano." The first set of past lives chosen were grouped together under the heading of "There's Nothing Like a Bad Start in Life," and the common thread is "childhoods that were wrecked by a dead, absent or impossible father."  (First up among them is Leonardo- the painter, not the turtle;)  That first chapter is sub-headed with this quote from Nietzsche, who really got a bad rap from Otto misrepresenting his philosophy in A Fish Called Wanda.  This is one I can super-relate to:

Whoever has not got a good father should procure one.

 I've taken that attitude to heart on many a Fathers Day, where I scroll through social-media praises for the fathers of friends and realize, I got nuthin'.  More than once, I've asked to borrow the good sentiments of a particularly blessed son or daughter rather than making shit up about what a "good provider" my father was.  In looking back at those first 27 years of my life, compared to the almost 25 that have passed more recently between this father and his daughter, I'm proud that Emily will not have to resort to such procurement herself.  Yesterday simply brought that home- to her home, and to ours:)
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Our neighbor Betty passed early on Wednesday, but we didn't find out about it until last night.  It may, however, have explained some unexplained incidents from the previous day and evening.

Eleanor and I both had very long days Tuesday. A good night of sleep would have been appreciated. Ah, but tell that to the cat:P  Michelle, the middle child and the evilest animal we've ever owned, has reacted to death previously in weird ways. After Tasha (our first dog) went to Rainbow Bridge a few years back, Michelle began a bizarre mothering ritual- notwithstanding her having been fixed.  She grabs cloth objects in her teeth- typically place settings and dish towels, but occasionally she'll grab something as big as a dress shirt- and hauls them from one end of the house to the other, caterwauling the whole time, like she's moving a litter of kittens from one spot to another.  We refer to them, Orphan Black-Helena style, as her "bebbies."  She'll typically do it in the night or after morning feeding, after we've shut her out of human company, but not exclusively.  Then, after Tazzer passed earlier this year, she just got mucho MEOWier in general. This stupid cat will not shut up. Especially, if you're on a phone call, or as soon as you plant your head on a pillow, there she is- in your face, meowing up a storm. Eventually she settles- for a few hours- but then it randomly picks up again.

Anyway- two nights ago, she was at her absolute worst. Eleanor could not get to sleep for love or money while this cat just harangued into the night. We now know this was just at the time that Betty was beginning her final passing, three or four miles away from us.  Believe it or don't, but I'm not going to rule it out.


Then there was the night after Betty died.

Eleanor usually chants at the downtown Buddhist Center on Wednesday nights. Depending on our work schedules, we'll either plan an early dinner before she goes, or, if there's too short a turnaround, we'll each fend for ourselves either in or out of the kitchen.  Wednesday night was the latter; she worked until 6 and needed to be downtown before 7.  I planned my own foodage for after the workout I did that night, and I came home and fed the animals beforehand while she was still at work. Our paths never crossed.

I got home first, around 7:30.  Our routine, since some unfortunate neighbor events of last year, has been to lock all of our doors into the garage, as well as the doors from the outside to the house proper, whenever we're out and when we turn in. Since we got the new bikes, we've especially made sure that the garage is secure, and that any cars left in the driveway are locked as well.  But Wednesday night, after unlocking the outer garage door, I found the inside door from garage to house to be locked- and bolted.  We rarely do THAT.  I figured Eleanor did it when she came home after work for who knows what reason.

Then she got home, and I asked her why.  She didn't do it.  I didn't.

Now at the time, we did not know of Betty's passing, but could she have been thinking of us in her first moments where her spirit was free, wanting us to be especially safe?

Don't ask me to answer that with a definitive no. And if you want someone else to, I have no idea whoyagonnacall;)
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"The New York Mets have signed Tim Tebow to a minor league contract."

"Sorry, that's the wrong part we delivered; we don't have it in stock."

"Can you meet me at Sheridan and Harlem? I've been in an accident."

"She's gone."

Just an ordinary Thursday for me, I thought- with two cases settled, mail delayed, cardio worked in, a quiet evening at home planned.


First came the first news.  Various Met blogger friends noted it. My reaction was to ignore it to the greatest extent possible, including posting to my baseball blog for the first time since late June to indicate my intent to ignore it.

Then the kid texted about it:

And I still do- but I do wonder about things that have happened since this news broke.


First was the technology clusterfudge.  My co-worker Michelle, who shares our copier, had left me a note about the replacement toner cartridge not working.  We'd ordered it weeks ago, when the copier started tossing off a LOW TONER message, but as with most printer/copier supplies, that's a way-premature warning; by today, though, the old one would no longer print reliably, and the new one was giving a new BAD message when she loaded it in.  By mid-afternoon, the copier guy arrived and confirmed that they'd delivered the wrong replacement model weeks ago, and the real one wasn't in stock.  He did clear a code so the old one would continue to fight on until its real death, but I wound up leaving early so I could do any further mass printing from away from the office.

After all that, and the aforementioned cardio, I was almost home when Eleanor rang my cell. I thought she was home, wondering when I'd be home, but this was something different:

"Can you meet me at Sheridan and Harlem? I've been in an accident."

Good news first: it wasn't a bad one. She'd been on Sheridan heading west when a light turned yellow. The car in front of her stopped for it sooner than Eleanor expected, and Ziggy couldn't jam to a stop in time, so the bumpers bumped ever so briefly.

The message I got was that they were under the overpass of the 290 at Sheridan and Harlem- a tricky intersection at the best of times- and all Eleanor really needed was a copy of Ziggy's current insurance card. So I  found the insurance info, switched out my car for my bike, and headed the less-than-mile to that underpass and slightly beyond, where Eleanor's Smart car and a just-as-friendly-looking Mini were now parked, with an Amherst cop writing the whole thing up.

Also, Gumby.

Nobody claims he had anything to do with this incident, but there he was-a dude in a Gumby suit,  standing on a grassy median on the other side of Harlem Road from where the two cute cars ran into each other, waving his arms and advertising opening specials at the new Great Clips in the Sheridan-Harlem Plaza.  He continued this act for almost the whole time the cop was writing up the accident summary and, unfortunately, the ticket to Eleanor for Following Too Closely. (The town prosecutor is the attorney who represented the Idiots Next Door during last year's kerfuffle- which could result in worse treatment, or a dismissal if he acknowledges that they were the lying sacks of shit to him that we know they were to us.)

Ms. Mini turned out to be a perfectly lovely person- a self-employed attorney herself, with some specialties I occasionally need to refer clients to- and ironically we may have established a referral relationship under these less-than-perfect circumstances.

The Officer gave us our report summaries and Eleanor's ticket- sparing her one for not having her insurance card, and  Melissa P. one for not having a valid inspection- and we headed to our respective homes....

Which is when the Tebowing got worse.


Our 81-year-old neighbor Betty has been failing for months. A few weeks ago, she told us that her surgeon had essentially given up in the face of her cancer.  But she'd been making the best of it, continuing to garden among other things, and just the other day Eleanor rescued a basket full of tomatoes from her back yard before the varmints devoured them all. She saw  Betty's niece's minivan in the driveway when we got home after the accident and wanted to offer her the harvest.

Which Shelly took,.... but only after telling us: her aunt, our beloved Betty, passed away peacefully at a local hospital yesterday morning.

Betty went in Tuesday with an infection. By Tuesday night, she made clear she didn't want extraordinary measures to fight it. By early Wednesday, but only after Shelly managed to get there, she was gone.  Her obituary, one she wrote herself- "short, sweet and sassy, just like she was"- will run on Sunday. Arrangements are incomplete, but there will be a dinner to celebrate her life that we will join.  The house, the contents, the yard- all will be maintained for the time being- because that's what she would have wanted.

Betty will never play for the Mets. But neither will anybody else in the news today- and given a chance to stand up for either of them, you know who I'm supporting.
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* Of conservation of weeks and weekends:  It always happens. Get a three-day weekend to enjoy, it's followed by a four-day workweek that crams six days worth of shit into it.  Every one of the four this week has had, or will have, at least one commitment across multiple places.  Yesterday was an out-before-seven/home-after-five deal with three hours of drudge in Rochester in between.  At least I got to see something cool on the way home:


That's on a piling holding up an overpass of one eastside interstate over another; the term derives from when the intersection was entirely at ground level and can be seen or at least explained here.

* Of thermodynamics. This morning was the first of two straight with hearings in downtown Buffalo.  Today was when the return of heat and humidity really got to me; it broke 90F on the car thermometer several times during the afternoon, and the official high was somewhere upper 80s. No real relief is expected for another week.  I ended the day with an annoyance and some intentional pain. Annoyance first:  I had to pick up some documents for one of two court hearings I have in Buffalo tomorrow morning. They called from Cheektowaga Court and said they'd be there until 4. I hit every traffic light there was to hit on Union Road, including one with a school crossing guard. She yelled at me because I was too close to the crosswalk. Her charge was not a kindergartener, or a little old lady with a cane, but a dude carrying a six pack of Budweiser across the street.   Then I got yelled at by the court clerk because I got there only five minutes before closing. Oh, and they already had my copies ready for me, so it's not that I made them stay late or anything, and I was back on Union, dodging beer drinkers, by 4.

* Of bodies in motion tending to remain in motion. Begrudgingly. But I also know nice people in Cheektowaga. One is a friend, and son of an even older friend, who does personal training.  He was starting a new hourlong bootcamp near me, and I tried it out along with his mom and another client.  He does great work and even though my hamstrings are cursing his very birth, I will probably work one of these in along with the Orangetheory and cardio I've been doing.

* Of equilibrium. Tomorrow, the two aforementioned gigs downtown; then Friday, it's back to Rochester.  The weekend will only be two days this time, but damn if they aren't going to be more restful.
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Another early wakeup on the weekend, again beating the alarm, again out in time for an 8 a.m. commitment. This time, it was back to the dog park.  Ebony did great- off leash the whole time inside the gate, never bolted or got unruly with (or by) any of the many other dogs.  The first time, we saw a cat on a leash outside the entrance; this time, there was an unleashed dinosaur inside:


Once again, Ebony refused to go anywhere near the water, but the sun had no such objections:


And here's the parade of friends ahead of me (only Ursula, Ann's Alaskan husky, was out of shot):


Jazz, she in front of Ebony and behind the other humans, couldn't make the second lap, so Ann and Ursula kept us company for the last half of the visit. When we left, we met this guy coming in- all 208 pounds of him:

I had enough time after bringing Ebony home to return to any number of faith journeys of my own today, but for this morning, nature was nurture enough.


Then, homo sapiens life returned this afternoon, with more than a few annoyances.

I went online to pay a credit card bill, on a site that throws in your credit score activity as a free service.  I was flummoxed to find that mine had dropped ridiculously- more than 100 points. It's still in the "good" range, but it had been stupid high for most of the year.  I clicked around a bit and discovered the likely reason:  the new mortgage.  Not because it's more than the old one (which it is, but not by THAT much), but because the algorithm considers the whole thing to be "revolving credit" (which it also, technically, is until and unless we "lock it" into a fixed 15-year payback). Because we got rid of mortgage insurance, our monthly principal and interest payment is virtually the same as what it had been before with the mortgage insurance being paid for every month, but the algorithm doesn't understand this.  The irony is that it was likely the stupid-high credit score that qualified us for this loan as quickly and easily as we were able to get it.  It shouldn't have any major effect on borrowing in the future, especially since we're not fixing to borrow anything major anytime soon, but it just came as a surprise.

Also, for the second time this weekend, my tire pressure idiot light went off again.  Yesterday, I checked all four tires, including the one which had gotten screwed and patched, and none of the four was showing a low reading. One was slightly above recommended pressure, so I bled a little air out, and the light cleared on the way to the kids' place. This morning, though, it was back and has stayed on- although, again, I can't see any visible sign of any of them being underinflated.

But those are First World Problems.  Ebony didn't even seem to mind a four-hour delay getting fed last night.  I think they've got it right:)
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Saturday, Schmaturday. This was perhaps one of my longest days of the year. Also, one of the nicest.

The sweat came at 8 a.m.  Usually, I go to a 9:00 workout on Saturdays, but  had two reasons to move it up.  Mainly, I wanted to be home by 10, since Eleanor was having a gaggle of Buddhists over for the ritual installation of her personal scroll in the room we have repurposed for that.  It also gave me an extra hour of recovery before a blood-donation appointment I'd made, through the gym, for 11:30 this morning.  I woke up before my fairly early alarm, made it there a little early, and was home when said gaggle began arriving.

All together, there were five members of the group (plus the cute child of one of them) all coming here for the first time. I was tasked with some furniture arranging, making coffee in case anybody wanted it, and most importantly helping to wrangle the animals, who quite possibly had never had six OMGNEWPEOPLE in the house at any one time.  Ebony was fine; she got most of her sniffing in out on the lawn, and by the time the chanting started, she seemed either entranced or bored by it all:


Michelle, the evil middle-child kitty, was her usual self: intrusive and loud-MEOWWWWWy all over the place. But the real surprise was Zoey. She's usually pretty personable around company when it arrives one or two at a time, but this group caused her, for the first time in her going-on-seven years here, to out-and-out hide from everybody. I eventually rounded her up and showed her off, and she wasn't especially resistive of the attention, but it was just unexpected.

As was the upshot of the investiture ceremony itself. The scroll goes in a wall-mounted case with swinging doors; Eleanor is building her own permanent wooden one, but was lent the temporary paper model you see to the left of the lamp and above the blonde head in the front row. Unfortunately, when they began the actual loading, it fell off the wall. Nobody wanted that to happen once it had been consecreated, so it's been postponed until the new, real one is finished. One of the women who came this morning- the one who introduced Eleanor to the practice through a random acquaintance at Wegmans a few weeks ago- told us she'd gone years without taking this formal step, so Eleanor's fine waiting until all things are ready.

Since they were all there, they chanted the morning prayer sequence for a good 10-15 minutes. I'm still just learning the most basic of basics about this whole journey my beloved is on, but I took an evil sort of pleasure in wondering if the idiots next door were home and, if they were, if they'd be skeered by hearing some prayers being recited in a fur-ner language.


I cut out just as they were ending, in order to get back for the 11:30 a.m. blood draw.  I did get to donate, but was one of the lucky ones.  They set up outside the gym from 9-12, and classes were running from before the first appointments until the last one ended at 11.  The result was that many of the people who signed up, especially the ones coming straight from the workout, didn't meet the donation requirements; many had heart rates that were still too high (although mine usually comes down into the 60s pretty quickly after finishing), or because they hadn't eaten before their class were too drained to meet one of the other tests.  Because I'd given myself a good almost three hours before going in, I didn't have that problem. My BP was higher than I would've liked, but it was still okay to donate.


Then, after lunch, some joint afternoon napping and me finishing a lawnmowing job from yesterday, we dealt with the other kind of blood: the kind that's even more thicker than water.

Emily and Cam have been out in Palmyra for just over two years now, and while I've been out there many times and stayed overnight with them on several of them, Eleanor had not been back since our initial move-in trip in 2014.  We planned to go out there tonight, and after some fitting and starting, stuck to the plan and we picked up foodage for all of us and then made the 90-minute trip east.

Great time.  They appreciated the food, did some cat-wrangling of their own so we could both see the younger, bigger and skittishest of their kitties, and we watched, and loved, the new Jungle Book movie with them.  By 8, our respective days were hitting the twelve-hour mark and we headed home, but with the joy that is baseball on the radio to accompany us.

Eleanor's taken to watching a Mets game with me most weekends.  She enjoys the wordplay among the TV announcers, who are among the best in the business.  I think, though, this was the first time she got to hear an extended play-by-play from the very different yet equally thoughtful radio crew, which I have an app for on my phone.

And so, as the miles peeled by, and in between the actual events of a well-played, close ballgame, Howie and WayneO managed to work in references to Mark Twain, Spiro Agnew, "Ye Olde WOR Mets Radio Network," the definition of plugged nickels, a Philadelphia Inquirer report of an 1885 no-hitter, and the Nationals' seemingly endless supply of September relief pitchers.  Eleanor asked a bunch of questions about some of the finer points they were referencing, just as I'd been asking her a bunch on the way to the kids about some of the finer points of her newfound brand of Buddhism.

Despite their injuries and occasional bad managerial decisions, the Mets still make a pretty good team. And so do we:)
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Introductory note: the story you are about to read is true. The names have been mostly omitted to protect the innocent. However, I struggled with whether to retain a fat-shaming term from my 1979 consciousness, and eventually chose to preserve it. I regret it, much as I regret my homophobia that lasted well into the 1980s, as well as my inherent claims to white male professional privilege that remain to this day. Comment if you're offended and let's talk.

In the spring of 1977, I was admitted to a prestigious Ivy League college I had no business affording. To help out, Cornell University offered me a "package" of scholarships, grants, loans and "work study" employment. To my nervous but accepting parents, that invoked images of me shelving tomes in a university library. Yet, after my acceptance was due and returned, my work-study (forever after known as SEMP *) location was revealed to me: I was to be in the lowest rung of the lowest circle of SEMP-Hell:

For most of my first year at Cornell, I was a DMO.

The work-study draft assigned me to the dining hall nearest my dorm. And not to slopping out the mystery meat, or checking the dining plan cards on the way in with a clicker. No, I was assigned to the lowest of the low. For "DMO" stood for "dish machine operator," and our job was to monitor and manage the rages of plenty coming from the famed Cornell Dining all-you-can-eat-but-you-won't meal plans, which came to us in the back from conveyor belts on the edges of the dining hall, and which needed to be grabbed, dumped, carried, stacked, watched (for the inevitably once-a-shift breakdowns of "Hobart" the automatic dishwasher), retrieved, hand-dried and returned to the dining hall so the trust fund babies could fill and partially empty their plates all over again.

I learned more in those five four hour-a-week shifts than I did in most of the rest of the university community- about wretched excesses, and class distinctions, and the reality of how likely "any person" could "find instruction in any study" without having to clean up after other peoples' leavings.  A couple of years later, another fellow grunt, who wound up working with me at the college paper (and, if I'm remembering rightly is still a Facebook friend of mine) posted a column  suggesting that every undergraduate be required to work a DMO shift, if not a semester of it, in order to graduate. He understood, as I did, that you got the clearest view of the world looking at it from the bottom up rather than the top down.  Far as I know, this has not been made a graduation requirement- but they still make freshmen jump nekkid into a pool to prove they can swim three laps, one of them using the backstroke.

Go Big Red:P


Whether through smarts or luck, probably both, I escaped the DMO assembly line before the end of my freshman year.  Cornell Dining decided to compete with the then-nascent local outpost of the Domino's chain by offering their own late-night alternative for the ordering and delivery of pies. It was called Pizza 101- The Easiest Course on Campus.  Somehow, I got into this gig, and spent the rest of my freshman year chopping big blocks of mozzarella, slopping down toppings, and occasionally delivering pizzas to the West Campus dorms in our relatively captive delivery radius. (We also took orders from a limited range of off-campus addresses; my crowning freshman glory came from knowing the obscure Ithaca street address of the student union we ran this show from, and calling in on a night off and having Pizza 101 deliver a loaded pie to the second floor of 635 Stewart Avenue- in other words, to itself.)

Such intelligence and deviousness didn't go unnoticed, so by sophomore year, I had moved most of my SEMP allotment to a small grocery store located on the first floor of 635 Stewart Avenue.  The store's manager Bob was boyfriend to my freshman band friend Ruthie, and he hired me and eventually made me assistant manager.  This gave me awesome powers- to inventory dairy products and Coke bottles and Ken Lin's homemade eggrolls and even make orders for their replacements on the university's own account. They even kept me on, on a non-SEMP basis, for the summer of 1979, the first of three summers I stayed in Ithaca.  By then, I had also joined the news staff of the Cornell Sun, but my class and work commitments kept me from being one of the star-Star-STARS of the News Board, and I was relegated to minor things in minor places.

But then we got traded- and my world changed.


The student union's second floor was the province of the dining department. Most of the rest of the building came under the jurisdiction of University Unions- not the labor kind, but a separate administrative university Thing.  My first two years, UU for that building was run by an earnest African American dude named D'Name Escapes Me; who I'd met, and knew, but who I had no reason to get in or out of the way of.  By the fall of 1979, he'd been replaced by another Last Name Escapes Me, a woman who remains burned in my brain as Jeanette the Fat Bitch.

Sometime that fall, far higher poobahs than us made a decision: our little first-floor grocery store was suddenly transferred from Dining Services to University Unions- and my boss was no longer Bob, or Gary his replacement, but was JTFB- and she no longer needed an assistant manager. I was to be demoted to peon- no reduction in hourly rate, but a likely reduction of my hours and a certain change in how much control I would have over them.

Never mind that I remember only about 20 percent of yesterday- I remember the ensuing events from those moments like they were 10 minutes ago. I raged at Jeanette about the loss of my prestige and her disrespect of my twelve whole months of experience; I told her I would not tolerate any of it; I punched out, tore my timecard in  half, and stormed back to my on-campus dorm (yes, I'd moved back to the largely freshman haunts of West Campus for my junior year); and then, once my brain's temparature returned to approximately 98.6F, I tried to take it all back and resume my hours with whatever she wanted me to do:

Too bad, so sad. You quit. Position's been filled. Have a nice day.

In hindsight, it was a great moment.  It removed any thoughts I might've had about pursuing a career in retail or any other business; it turned around both my English department pursuits and my reporting career, as I dove into the fall 1979 elections and other 1980 stories that rose me through The Sun's ranks; and I found my way back to other comparable Dining gigs elsewhere on campus that made up for the lost income. It also, likely, gave me the impetus to take the L.S.A.T. the following summer, from which everything else since has more or less proceeded.

But it was impetuous, and probably egotistic and wrong.  I don't regret it,  but I'd be hesitant to repeat it.

Today, and a few recent times before today, someone close to me had the chance to repeat it- and didn't. I can't say they shouldn't have- but I'm glad, at least for the moment that they chose not to, more or less on my advice.

*SEMP was Cornellspeak for Student Employee Matching Program, in which the gummint subsidized half of our then-$2.30 an hour minimum-wage salaries. Other regs allowed non-SEMP employees to be paid even less than the then federal minimum wage, but I don't think I was ever subjected to that.
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Plans were made. They wound up being unmade.

I found out the other night that the MST3K-iest motion picture of this century would be playing tonight in the City of Buffalo's only remaining full-time cinema.  Perhaps you've heard of it- if you lived in SoCal, there was a billboard up for it for years, which pretty much constituted the film's entire publicity campaign:


It's become legendary for its badness, inspiring midnight-movie circuit showings and Rocky Horror-style dressups and props (plastic spoons and footballs being the main ones).  The budget was ridiculous, its box office was bad, its reviews worse, and only the bad-is-good reputation has made it a cult thing.

And it was here, tonight, at the North Park. With a craft-beer-stocked bar for One Night Only.  The perfect boy's night out, only it wasn't:(

Eleanor missed chanting two nights ago- we'd planned to see a free sneak preview Monday night of a much better film called The Light Between Oceans, but she wound up in too much pain to do either after working all day- but she did go tonight, and it seemed a better choice than, oh, watching a Sharknado rerun again.

In the end, though, I passed. Even though I thought I got a decent night's sleep, I awoke to a nightmare in full Technicolor when the alarm went off; my day in Rochester was 95 percent total waste; I was hot and sweaty all day despite the temperature finally dropping out of the 80F range for the first time in weeks; and I wanted to be home when Eleanor got home.  So,  no View of The Room this time.

Instead, I caught up on all but about the final minute of this week's Braindead, thanks to the DVR cutting off too soon.  And my other binges now await.  Or I could just throw a football around, I suppose;)


The other weird news of the day was that apparently the Colonel got hacked; the Chicago Tribune has reportedly discovered a handwritten note, hidden among mementos of the Sanders family, containing the exact identities and measurements of the famously secret Eleven Herbs and Spices of the KFC Original Recipe. As a public service, I am duplicating it here:


Nine of them are easy. Good luck with the other two;)
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I spent the biggest chunk of my workday on a single project, then left a little early so I could pick up my tablet to take to cardio.  Over the weekend, I asked for recommendations for a new bingewatch, and wound up settling on Stranger Things, best described as the bastard love child of E.T. and Fargo. I'd really enjoyed the pilot and was looking forward to moving on to Episode 2.

First, though, I resolved to end a Facebook annoyance.  I've always hated their "trending stories" section, which reduced major news items to superficial one- or two-line blips. As of about a week ago, it got even less blippy, reducing each segment to an automated hashtaggy three or four words, tops, followed by the estimated number of thousand or million members "talking about this." Sorry, Zuck, but I've never really cared what the cool kids are doing- and I vowed to get rid of it.

Firefox supposedly had a trender-killer add-on available called F.B. Purity. The F and the B stand for "Fluff Busting" ::wink wink nudge nudge::, and it comes recommended by CNET and several other sources.  Unfortunately, the Mozilla-approved version didn't do the trick with the current build of the browser, so I got it direct from the fbpurity.com website- which, once installed in the browser and with several clicks on the new menubar FBP key, has killed the thing:


(Yes, the Mets just won again. Deal.)

But how I really knew it was working was when I tried sharing the link to the download on my Timeline:

I'm sure the Wack-a-Mole game will continue, but for now I feel accomplished.


Once I got to the gym, I was bummed, because my tablet would not turn on. It had a decent charge this morning, but there was nothing I could do, so I went to see what I could watch on my dumb lil phone. Alas, Stranger Things is a Netflix exclusive, and I didn't want to bother installing that on such a small screen. I started scrolling through the Amazon Video app to see what came with Prime. Several people had recommended a bit of silliness called Bob's Burgers, and I found it, but apparently Prime is only Prime-ish; even old shows have to be bought or rented in order to watch through the Amazon app.

So back to the menu of what did come with Prime membership, and I settled on last summer's pilot of Mr. Robot. Very well written and acted, with just enough paranoia to get you through an hour.  All I'd really heard about it before watching was that one of the writer-producers graduated from Buff State. Yet it's totally a Noo Yawk/Brooklyn kinda show, with plenty of natural darkness and artificial glitz to go around.

Between these two shows, now, I should be set for months.


When I got home, of course, the damn tablet fired right up: the battery was well over 60 percent- and now I think I've figured out why I couldn't get it to turn on.  This ASUS-made and Android-based gizmo is the second incarnation of the model, the first having shit the bed a  month or so ago.  When I got it, all the Google apps on it were "unfortunately.... need[ing] to close" 20 times a minute.  It took yet another hard reset to factory settings, and that problem mostly went away, but so did all of my preferences. Including my preference against apps auto-updating themselves. When this particular model starts updating, it basically shuts itself down so it can meditate upon the new content to its CPU-heart's content.  I found the settings to kill THAT (hidden in Google Play, which I never would've guessed) and now we'll see if it's done taking afternoon naps on me.
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Almost two-thirds done, and 2016 has claimed another legend. This one, though, was more of an act of mercy.  For years, we've seen little of Gene Wilder, and much of what we saw was a shadow of his once-great-performer self. Whether it was illness, or grief over losing the love of his life, was never said. But now we know:

According to Wilder’s nephew, Wilder died from complications from Alzheimer’s Disease, which he lived with for the last three years of his life.

“The decision to wait until this time to disclose his condition wasn’t vanity, but more so that the countless young children that would smile or call out to him ‘there’s Willy Wonka,’ would not have to be then exposed to an adult, referencing illness or trouble and causing delight to travel to worry, disappointment or confusion,” Pearlman wrote. “He simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world.”

According to Mr. Pearlman, Wilder was listening to a recording of Ella Fitzgerald singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” when he died.

His incarnation of Willy Wonka was the first thing I saw him in; I'd loved the book and thought the characterization was a good one.  History hasn't been kind to the version- partly because Roald Dahl disowned it, partly because of the retroactive racism from Dahl's original portrayal of the Oompa-Loompas that was not completely removed by making them orange. Yet generations of kids have gone on to love it, and particularly Wilder's depiction.

He made a far bigger contribution to Blazing Saddles, both on and off the screen. Mel Brooks has told the story many times: legendary actor Gig Young was to have played the Waco Kid, but method-acted the role a bit too well, passing out from alcohol withdrawal on the first day of shooting, and Mel desperately called Gene to fill in.  I somehow can't imagine an old coot pulling off this scene with Cleavon Little:

He of course made Young Frankenstein another classic, long after his Brooks partnership had begun with The Producers; and he had a four-film collaboration with Richard Pryor, all of which had their moments. Yet less spoken of are his contributions to The Little Prince, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother, and a sweet remake of a French film with him, Charles Grodin and Kelly LeBrock as the titular Woman in Red- his second, and second-to-last, turn as a director. His last one was Haunted Honeymoon, a love letter to his Gilda and with Dom DeLuise getting to mug again for the camera; the film was a box-office and critical dud, but that's okay, Gene: you're now reunited with Gilda and Dom (as well as Cleavon and Richard and Madeline), and, well, we'll always have the Transylvania Station to remember you by:

Rest well, Gene.
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An unusual Sunday here for recent weeks, in that we both stayed home.

Eleanor worked an odd-lot Saturday afternoon-into-evening gig at the store, and was exhausted and in pain when she got home, so no public chanting for her this morning.  Dog Church also got excommunicated from my morning schedule, as Ann and Ursula had other plans.  I thought about going back to where I tried last week, but I was in a bit of pain myself from a killah workout yesterday morning and decided to just chill.

There's only one place I was pretty sure I rather wouldn't be than right here, right now- and that's the house of worship I've held membership in for 22 years in a denomination that is lifelong.  The more I see of other experiences, the more hollow it seems.

As I mentioned the other day, the local Buddhist group received Eleanor into membership on Friday night.  An hour or so of discussion followed, including the following reading by Mark- one of the longtime followers of this faith. It's from a poem written by the current worldwide leader of the organization, and the part I'm bolding below is the part that struck a nerve:

Those who can
bring happiness to their friends
are experts in the art of happiness.
Those who can
Bring peace to their society
are emissaries of peace.
Refusing to tolerate bullying is part of the struggle for peace.

Refusing to tolerate discrimination
is part of the struggle for peace.

Refusing to tolerate lies and slanders
is part of the struggle for peace.
Refusing to tolerate the arrogance
of the powerful is part of the struggle for peace.

Absolutely and utterly refusing to
tolerate violence in any form –
that is the essence of the struggle for peace.

Do not remain silent.
Speak out courageously.

Worthy sentiments, all- but the two I bolded, taken together, sounded remarkably like a vow I'd already heard from my own pews, many times over many years. It's one made by, or on behalf of, every person who becomes initiated into the United Methodist Church by baptism, confirmation or reception into membership:

Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?

I've heard that answered yes dozens of times. I've rarely seen it practiced when the rubric met the road, though.  I've seen newcomers made to feel unwelcome in the cliques and cloisters of insular church membership.  I've seen men of the cloth- the same cloth I've been in contact with for almost 57 years- bringing their fellow clergy up on charges on grounds of something they did or, worse, something they are.   I've witnessed indifference, if not subtle resistance, to even the babiest of baby steps to get my one congregation to come out in support of this vital struggle for peace. And I can kinda understand when some bishops from the gold buckle of the Bible Belt stick their collective noses into the ordination of a bishop outside their jurisdiction on the other side of the country; but I'm off-put beyond words or capacity to understand when my own conference's Bishop Mark Webb, in supposedly liberal Noo Yawk and in whose cathedral I have worshiped, puts out an official screed condemning her consecration, saying

I join my colleagues in the Southeastern College of Bishops in viewing the acts of nonconformity as a violation of our covenant and as divisive and disruptive.

You go, Mark.  We all know Jesus never stood for acts of nonconformity, and he certainly never did anything disruptive:P

This denomination's motto is "Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors."  Right about now, I'm feeling that door is open mainly for purposes of showing me the way out.  Eleanor's already told one of the new Williamsville ministers that she has crossed that threshold for the final time.  Me? I'm still searching, and have a bit more Pollyanna in me that keeps me from shaking the dust off my feet and never looking back.  But I can't pretend things are fine when they're not, and I may start just by sharing these words with the new ministers so they will know where I'm coming from.

If it would help, we can meet over coffee.  Hell, I'll even roll on Shabbos if they will.
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