I like driving in the snow. There. I said it. I know that makes me a freak by most people’s standards..
At the mere mention of the possibility of more than a dusting of snow, school superintendents furtively consult about if/when to cancel school and/or after-school activities. Since the Ice Storm, even colleges consider the same. Radio stations in urban areas broadcast interviews with highway superintendents talking about how they’ll react to the storm. Folks make sure they’re stocked up on groceries and heating fuel, the assumption being that they’ll be stranded at home for a week or more. And they cancel travel plans.
Good! That means they’re off the road.
And that’s where I like to be. Yesterday I drove from Albany to Potsdam, NY in the thick of a decent winter snow storm. As I left Albany, there was 2-3 inches of fine snow on the interstate—no plows in sight. The traffic was moderate, considering the conditions, but it was moving along faster than I expected; as we maintained 30-40 MPH. That’s not hard to do when there are three lanes at your disposal, even if you can’t see the lines dividing them anymore. The people forced, for whatever reason, to be on the road in these conditions were off to the right, many with their hazard light blinking. Those of us comfortable with the conditions were cruising along in the far left lane, leaving dozens of fellow drivers in our snow dust.
The farther north we got, the thinner the traffic got. Finally, I passed the last tractor trailer in 5 inches of still-unplowed powder. And I was alone. Bliss! There is a post-apocalyptic serenity (if that’s even a thing) about being, for miles and miles at a stretch, practically the only person on the road. And there I was: all alone, comfortably riding along at 50 MPH and not having to worry at all about other drivers. I had, of course, to pay attention to the condition of the road foot-by-foot, and that brings its own special kind of exhaustion after awhile. But for me, that pales beside wondering what everyone else is going to do (or not do). Will they fall asleep? Swerve to avoid wildlife? Text? Simply get distracted? Suffer mechanical failure? Anything could happen at any moment! But not when it’s snowing and you’re all alone. Bliss.
And then there’s the scenery. It is unfortunate that snow and sunshine are almost always mutually exclusive, but the lack of sun barely takes away from the natural beauty of the Adirondacks during a good snow. I drove up through Keene Valley, Lake Placid, and Saranac Lake, stopping briefly to photograph this year’s ice castle. It was gorgeous! Gobs of snow clinging to every evergreen bough. And it was quiet! The snow deadens almost all of the normal road noise. Several times I put my window down just to listen to…nothing, resisting the urge to pull over and walk a hundred yards into the woods and just stand there.
I know this experience isn’t for everyone. I know there’s an awful lot of white-knuckled drivers on the best of days. There are people who are scared, and there are people who don’t have enough experience to drive well in what they perceive as adverse conditions. I am neither of those! I also have made certain that I have a properly-equipped vehicle which is a must regardless of one’s proficiency. But I love winter driving!
PS: Ice sucks, and I’m not stupid. This was “just snow.” I don’t care if you’re driving a tank—if there’s snow-on-ice or sleet or freezing rain and you think that’s fun, well, then I think you have a warped sense of entertainment!
While sorting through digital detritus I came across this, which I must have posted to Facebook in response to someone having tagged me. It’s something I am normally loath to do, and I certainly did not tag anyone else. But this was fun to remember and write, and I want to save it. Here is as good a place as any!
The rules: Copy this and post as your status, but delete my list. List 12 albums IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER that made a lasting impression on you, but only 1 per band/artist. Tag 12 friends to do the same, including me, so I can see what you listed.
In no particular order:
1) The Roaring 20’s – Volume 4; Enoch Light and his Charleston City All-Stars
It’s a good thing my parents had two copies of this. I’m pretty sure I wore one out!
2) Free To Be You And Me; Marlo Thomas & Friends
There’s a whole lot of Empathy and Golden Rule baked into this gem. Lots of stories about how we’re all different and should realize and respect those differences.
3) Cocktails For Two; Spike Jones
My first experience with musical humor.
4) That Was The Year That Was; Tom Lehrer
The man is a genius and left the business when he was on top. I know every song on this album by heart.
5) Pot Luck With Elvis; Elvis Presley
The rhythm of “Kiss Me Quick” was something I just couldn’t get enough of.
6) White Christmas; Bing Crosby
Christmas Morning would not be complete without it!
7) Xanadu Motion Picture Soundtrack; Olivia Newton-John and ELO
My favorite movie of all time, and my favorite soundtrack of all time!
8) Super Trouper; ABBA
I love everything they ever did, but to me this represents the zenith of their career. If you can only own one ABBA album, own this one.
9) The Little Mermaid; Soundtrack
This movie heralded Disney’s much-overdue return to motion picture animation. Menken and Ashman outdid themselves.
10) Uptown Girl; Billy Joel
Since I can only pick one per artist, this is the one I pick from Billy.
11) Delirious; Eddie Murphy
This album re-defined “raunch” for kids of a certain age. Part of the fun and thrill was knowing we probably shouldn’t have been listening to it at our age…
And last, but certainly not least:
12) Allan Sherman’s Mother Presents: My Son The Folk Singer; Allan Sherman
One day while going through my parents’ record collection this cover caught my eye. I don’t know if it was the pretty lady in the cocktail dress or the fact that she was holding a dead chicken; the fat, bald guy standing on the pedestal playing a guitar or the fact that he was barefoot; or the biggest (what looked like) sausage I had ever seen hanging from a tray being supported by a stone statue of a naked baby. But I had to know what was on this record!
The album was 1962’s “Allan Sherman’s mother presents: My Son, The Folk Singer”. The melodies of some of the songs were familiar. I recognized “The Battle Hymn Of The Republic” in “The Ballad of Harry Lewis” and “Greensleeves” in “Sir Greenbaum’s Madrigal,” but the lyrics were different. Many of them were outright funny to me in my pre-pubescent state. “My Zelda found her big romance, when I broke the zipper in my pants,” sounded dirty (though I didn’t know why). Regardless, it made me giggle. Listening to Sherman say “Oh boy…” over and over in the midst of a comical string of pop culture references recorded almost 30 years before Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start The Fire” had me in fits. And listening to the back-and-forth between Sherman and Christine Nelson in “Sarah Jackman” (Frére Jaques) was voyeuristic, like picking up on the party line at our camp and putting your hand over the mouthpiece. But most of the material was over my head and only “funny” because the audience on the album was laughing.
This was my first taste of Borscht Belt humor, though I obviously didn’t know that’s what it was called at the time. Not being Jewish, I didn’t understand most of the cultural references; not that I would at that age anyhow. I have spent my life subconsciously tracking them all down. My research is not overt, but every so often I will hear one and my brain will say, “Ah! So THAT’S what ‘B’nai B’rith’ means!” or “THAT’S who David Susskind was!”
Judging by the reaction of the audience on the album, if nothing else, Sherman is hilarious without working blue. I spent many hours listening, re-listening, and singing along to that record. There are some references to which I am still not hip. In this day of Wikipedia it would be trivial for me to track down each and every one about which I have question. But there’s no romance in that. My subconscious research continues. Though I do wish someone would explain why the line “Stein with an ‘e-i’ and Styne with a ‘y'” is funny…
[SPOILER ALERT – Minor plot details from “Supergirl” season 2, episode 15]
In season 2, episode 15 of the CW’s “Supergirl” (the most recent, as of this writing), Kara Danvers (AKA Supergirl) is fired from her job as a reporter by her editor, Snapper Carr, for publishing a story on her personal blog that he wouldn’t let her publish in the paper because she didn’t follow basic journalistic principles and could not cite two independent and verifiable sources to back her claims. Her information was correct, but that was not the point. Here is what Snapper had to say on the matter:
Kara: “I thought what I was doing was right.”
Snapper: “You weren’t right, you were lucky. Next time, you might not be. One wrong statistic about the stock market, and suddenly we’re in a great depression. One mis-attributed quote from a candidate, and you put a fascist in the White House. The rules are there for a reason: to make sure you get the story right. That’s not luck–that’s being a good reporter.”
Coincidentally, last night I watched Rachel Maddow’s show on which she displayed two pages of a 2005 tax return allegedly representing Donald Trump’s filing for that year. I say “allegedly” because the “source” for this information is a reporter who had those pages anonymously delivered to him. By his own admission, they could have come from anywhere. Hell, they could be forgeries! He went on at some length about where they MIGHT have come from, but he has no idea.
Hours, even days will be spent on speculation about these two pages and what they “mean.” And speculation is all it can be because there are no verifiable facts to back it up. (The White House did release a statement which would seem to corroborate this, but they would have run with the story absent that.) I’m am not a journalist, nor am I student of Journalism. But I question the journalistic integrity of someone who receives information anonymously and decides to publish it without verifying its authenticity. It’s sensationalism at best, reckless and potentially dangerous at worst.
Almost 30 years ago John, an acquaintance of mine, purchased a Macintosh SE computer and an ImageWriter II printer. His need was simple: He wanted to type stuff and print it out. That need has not changed, and his trusty Mac SE is still serving him well in that regard.
In the modern, Internet-connected world, your needs as a User of technology are constantly changing, though you probably don’t even realize it. You might think to yourself, “my computer is the same as it was the day I bought it, and it was fine then; so why should I update or change anything?” And you would be right–your computer hasn’t changed! But the Internet has. And if you are connected to the Internet, then your needs are changing whether you know it or not.
First, let’s talk about code. Computer code is the language that describes and controls how computers work. Code determines how this web page looks. Code determines what happens when you click on something. Code secures your online banking transactions. We like to think of computers as “perfect,” but the reality is that computers can only do what they are told, and it’s computer code that tells computers what to do, and computer code is written by people. And how many perfect people do you know?
Three principle factors drive updates to computer code. The first is flaws. A flaw in code could mean it doesn’t do what it was designed or specified to do. That can mean any number of things–the code was designed for 10 different things and only 9 of them work (it wasn’t tested thoroughly). Or maybe when the code runs for too long the computer runs out of memory. Or maybe it crashes when it runs on February 29th. It could be anything. When a flaw in code is found, it has to be updated. The second factor that drives updates to code is security. Security can mean keeping your data safe as it is transmitted from computer to computer (this is called encryption). But security also means protecting the computer on which the code is executed (or “run”). If a malicious user (frequently, if inaccurately, referred to as a “hacker”) executes code in a manner the author of the code did not anticipate, it could result in the user gaining an unauthorized level of access to the computer on which the code is running and, likely, many/any other computers on the local network to which that computer is connected. These flaws, once discovered, are called “exploits,” and when they are found, code is updated. The third factor is features. People constantly want more and better things, and things produced by code are no exception. Here’s what the SUNY Potsdam home page looked like in December of 1996, almost 20 years ago as this is written:
Compare that to what it looks like today and all the features it offers. It improved. It evolved. It got better. It was updated!
“But that’s not on MY computer, Rom. Why should I care if people have to update code on web servers and internet computers?” Well, you’re partly right. Why should you care if your bank or Google or Amazon.com update their web sites? Frankly, you don’t have a choice. Sooner or later, you’ll be forced to care. Part of updating a web site might be requiring a minimum version of a web browser because previous versions are known to have exploits which could lead to or allow a breach of the web server. Things are fine today, and then tomorrow when you go shopping on amazon.com, you get an error telling you you have to upgrade your browser. If you want to shop/bank/blog/whatever, you must have the software your bank/vendor/blog host/whatever requires you to have. If you don’t believe me, find a copy of Firefox 1.0 and see if you can load any of the web sites you usually visit. (If you can even install it on your current operating system…it’s up to version 50 now.)
But it’s not just the Internet you need be concerned about. The operating system (“OS”) that runs your computer or your phone or your tablet is also code! And developers are constantly making updates for the same reasons: features and security. Again: because code is written by humans, it is inherently flawed and other humans are going to discover those flaws. Once discovered, flaws must be fixed because it must be assumed that some person somewhere will take advantage of the flaw. And that fix results in, you guessed it, an update.
“But geez, Rom; updates are a hassle! They always seem to pop up right when I have something important to do. I don’t have time for this crap!” You are not alone. In the last week or so, I have heard from three separate people complaining about their computer or devices functionality. In each case, a reboot and/or software update resolved their problem. Sitting through an unexpected software update might seem like a hassle, but they really are necessary and should be checked for and applied regularly in order to preserve the functionality and security/integrity of your device. They will also SAVE you time in the long run, even if they are a hassle at the moment you encounter them. If an update notification pops up and you don’t understand what it is or what it is for, ask! Do some research. Type it into Google and see what pops up.
Some general tips for end users:
- Mind the source of the update. Updates in your App Store are usually safe. Windows Updates are usually safe. A window that pops up out of nowhere while you are browsing the web should be scrutinized.
- Inspect links! If you are asked to “click here,” hover your cursor over the “here” and read the link that pops up. The part immediately after the “http://” is most important. Something that says something like “updates.microsoft.com” is likely legitimate, but something that reads “microsoft.updates.thisisreal.co” probably isn’t. It’s easy to be fooled because it says “microsoft” in it. (Or “apple” or “google” or “some word you trust”.)
- When in doubt, ask someone who knows more about it.
- It’s not just you: Adobe Flash and Java do, in fact, update with annoying frequency, and their “updaters” aren’t as automatic as they should be.
- Simply downloading an update doesn’t mean you have installed it. Read and follow instructions. If you don’t understand them, ask someone who does what to do.
I’ve never been the best or smartest person when it comes to managing money. But we have a household budget and we stick to it. I don’t track every penny spent, but there are some things I do track so that we can plan accordingly, most notably groceries.
I have been a Key Bank customer for about 30 years. Recent events have me evaluating that relationship. Earlier this year, Key overhauled their online portal–the web site customers use to view their accounts, pay bills, transfer money, etc. As part of that project, they deleted all of the budgeting and reporting tools that used to be a part of the portal. I had spent hours defining budget categories and applying those categories to transactions so I could run reports, e.g., “How much did we spend on Groceries each month last year?” All that hard work, gone.
I complain to @KeyBank_Help on Twitter and receive an “apology” and am urged to use another service called “Hello Wallet.” So I go and sign up with them. My Key accounts link up easily enough, but Hello Wallet can only show me the previous three months of transactions, which is useless if you’re in need of reviewing a year’s worth of personal finance data. (This was confirmed by their tech support.)
So I suck it up and decide to buy Quicken. (The Windows version, as Intuit has done a pretty thorough job of screwing with Mac users on and off for decades.) When I get to the Payment Information screen, I am informed: “The Quicken special discount offer you’re trying to access has already been redeemed or is experiencing an error. Please contact Quicken customer support specialist at 650-250-1900 Mon – Fri 5am to 5pm Pacific if you need more assistance.” *sigh* So I call that number. It rings 3 times, and then punts me to some kind of error tone/beep I’ve never heard before.
The universe is conspiring against me. I should just keep my money in a shoe box, I guess. If I ever do manage to acquire Quicken, I should probably send the receipt to Key Bank and ask for reimbursement.
#KeyBank #Quicken #Intuit
This was our short day. We had a flight out at around 7, with the bus from the resort leaving at 4:20. We packed up and checked out, stowing our luggage with the valet. Breakfast was in the Kona Cafe at our hotel. Then we headed straight to EPCOT hoping to get there as the park opened. The Monorail was inexplicably NOT running, so we had to cram into a bus to get there. We made it, but the reason we made it STILL had a long line. The Norway ride was closed last year and was being re-tooled t be “Frozen” themed. It was the most popular ride in all of Disney. Despite being there early, we walked into a 45 minute wait. Long, but the shortest we had seen it while we were there. So we went!
Disappointingly, the World Showcase portion of EPCOT didn’t open until 11am, so we waited about 20 minutes and took in the Cinema 360 “Reflections of China.” After that there was no time to see “the rest of the world,” and so we left the park in time to make our lunch reservation.
Lunch was at Chef Mickey’s in the Contemporary Resort. We to some great pics with some characters courtesy of our awesome waitress! After lunch, we went back to take in the Jungle Cruise, which was now running. After that we had just enough time to catch “It’s A Small World” a second time.
Then it was back to our resort and on to the airport! We arrived in Syracuse at midnight with no delays or complications. We arrived home at 3am and fell quickly asleep.
My leg only marginally improved overnight. I upgraded my self-diagnosis from “dead” to “numb” and resigned myself to having a slower than usual day. I could now “feel” it and had muscle control, but topical nerve endings didn’t respond or felt like tingles. I made an appointment to see my chiropractor shortly after we returned home and we headed out for the day.
Breakfast was at the Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom. Buffet style with Winnie the Pooh characters dropping by for photo ops. Then it was off to Adventureland and Pirates of the Caribbean. We had a fastpass, but we cancelled it when we saw there was no wait. After Pirates we headed over to Splash Mountain where riders are admonished, “You May Get Wet.” Right. We took a sun-filled ride on the Liberty Square Riverboat to dry off. Now very hot, we went through the Haunted Mansion again to enjoy the air conditioning.
Lunch was at the Liberty Tree Tavern. Traditional American fare, I had a really good cheeseburger. After lunch we headed to Tomorrowland to ride on Space Mountain. On our way there, we noticed that the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor had no waiting was was about to begin, so we went in. We had never experienced this attraction before and didnt really know what we were in for. It turned out to be an interactive stand-up comedy show in which I ended up playing a key role! A hidden camera focused on members of the audience, but there was one recurring role: “That Guy”. I was That Guy–the camera kept coming back to me, at which point I would pose in comical fashion, pointing both my fingers at the camera. I got a sticker at the end! The whole thing was hilarious!
On to Space Mountain where Amanda got to be FIRST on the sled! (Something she has wanted to do for a long time.). When we came out, it was pouring rain. Being autumn, some of the trees in the park had lost a few of their leaves, which promptly covered over the storm drains resulting in 4-inch mini lakes on the terraces of Tomorrowland. We slogged our way to the PeopleMover and went around twice (didn’t have to get off!). By then the rain had subsided. We headed back to Adventureland hoping to ride the Jungle Cruise, but it was closed because of the rain. So we walked over to Pirates of the Caribbean which had no waiting, so we went through it again! After that, my leg was VERY tired and so I suggested we walk over to Frontierland and take the train back to Main Street USA. When we got there, it, too, was closed. But Splash Mountain had no wait! So we went on THAT again. When we came out, there was a short line for the train, which started back up about 10 minutes later. We rode the train back to Main Street and caught the boat back to our resort.
Dinner was at ‘Ohana in the Polynesian Resort. An interesting concept: they ply you with appetizer fare, and eventually start delivering shishkebobs of shrimp, steak, and chicken. You can eat as much as you want. Next time I’ll know not to load up on the appetizers. I was too full to have very much of the yummy steak! After dinner we returned to our room and bed.
On Monday we woke and took the bus from the Polynesian Resort to Animal Kingdom here we had breakfast at Rainforest Cafe. We then took the train to Rafiki’s Planet Watch where the petting area was open and we got to see and pet goats and sheep and a few other exotic, medium size animals. After returning to the main area of the Animal Kingdom we happened by “Finding Nemo, the Musical” which had no wait, as it was just abut to begin. We went in and were glad we did! It was an incredible performance.
Next was lunch at Tiffin’s, a new “upscale” restaurant right there in the Animal Kingdom. Our dining plan included three meals for each night we stayed. Given that we were leaving on Wednesday afternoon before dinner, we needed a way to use up an extra meal. Several of Disney’s dining venues are so “posh” that they take two meal credits when you eat there. Tiffin’s is one such place. The lobster/Thai curry bisque I had to an appetizer was worth the price of admission! Yummy!
After lunch we took the Kilimanjaro Safari. I applaud Disney’s conservation efforts, but I wish they weren’t so fake about it all. Don’t point to a cast cement “wall” painted to look like clay and tell us elephants were gouging it with their tusks 5 minute before we drove up. Even the mud ruts are cement!
Over to “Asia” for the Karl River Rapids. We used a FastPass for this. We got to the end of the line and got in our “tube”…and waited. We could see the escalator/platform that lifted the tubes to the top of the rapids, but it wasn’t moving and neither were we. We sat there for about 15 minutes. I returned a phone call. Our launch attendant hadn’t been informed abut what was going on. Then we were moving! The ride continued without interruption, and when we got back to the beginning we were told we could go around again! Wahoo!
Now soaked, we wandered into “It’s Tough to be a Bug” (No waiting!). It was a fine source of schadenfreude when Hopper came out and several kiddos were frightened out of their wits and had to be removed by their parents. I don’t like seeing kids cry, but parents should pay more heed to the content warnings! Still soaked, we returned too our hotel to shower and change before dinner.
Dinner was at EPCOT’s Coral Reef restaurant with windowed views of the massive aquarium Disney has. Sharks, rays, and sea turtles were among the undersea dwellers to be seen while we dined. Early for our dinner reservation, we took in the Finding Nemo ride in the same pavilion. (Also no waiting!). After dinner we went on “Soarin’,” which we were not able to catch last year because it was always a 3 hour wait with no fast passes. WOW! Part ferris wheel, part IMAX, it really can’t be described.
EPCOT was closing, so we headed back to the Magic Kingdom by Monorail for one of the last performances of the Main Street Electrical Parade before it is packed up and shipped to Disneyland. As we got to the park, fireworks following the 9:00 performance of the parade were just ending. Tons of people exited the park. Amanda and I planted ourselves on the “downstream” side of a trash can just north of the main street buildings on the east side of the street and waited. About 20 minutes later, the crowd subsided and we waited some more. In short order, Disney’s salute to animation was portrayed on the front of Cinderella’s Castle, which is “transformed” into a projection screen in a way that only Disney could pull off. By now we are tired of standing, so we sit on the curb in preparation for the 11:00pm showing of the Main Street Electrical Parade. (11pm and I couldn’t believe how many strollers were still there.). I live streamed the parade on Facebook, much to the delight of several friends.
Although I didnt feel it, something went wrong while I was sitting on the pavement for those 90 or so minutes. When the parade was over and I attempted to stand, I had difficulty. My entire right leg was dead! I had lost all feeling in it. It was there, but I only knew that because I could see it. I figured it had just fallen asleep, so I turned down the offer of a wheelchair by a cast member. Amanda and I stood there for about 10 minutes waiting for the feeling to come back, but it didnt. We returned to the boat launch, me using Amanda as a crutch the whole way. I went to bed hoping it just needed a little time.
Last Summer Amanda and I took Brady and Kyle (and ourselves) to Walt Disney World as sort of a last Family vacation. Brady was about to go to grad school, and Kyle had one more year of High School left. I didn’t expect to be back so soon! But a few weeeks agao Amanda and I both came to the realization that we needed to get away from, well, everything. Disney was the first thing that came to mind. We are back staying on-Disney at the Polynesian Resort this time. We have no plans part from our arrival and departure. We are making everything in between up as we go along.
Today was Day 1. We arrived dry late last night and went straight to bed. This morning we woke and took the boat transportation from the Polynesian to the Magic Kingdom where we had breakfast reservations at the Be Our Guest restaurant in FantasyLand. After that we went to TomorrowLand and enjoyed the PeopleMover and Carousel of Progress. e then explored Liberty Square and went through the Haunted Mansion. Then it was time for our scheduled FastPass appointment at It’s A Small World.
We had lunch reservations at the Sci-Fi Drive In Diner at Hollywood Studios, so we made our way to the bus stands and caught one to Hollywood Studios. We meandered our way to the diner. A little early, we decided to just wait about 20 minutes. After lunch we enjoyed Star Tours and The Great Movie Ride. We walked down Sunset Boulevard, stopping in a few shops. By then we were both a little tired. So we took the boat from Hollywood Studios to EPCOT, walked through the park t the Monorail and caught that back to the Transportation Center, transferring to the Resort Mnorail and back the Polynesian Resort where we each took a shower/bath.
After that rest it was time for dinner. We decided to g back to EPCOT since it was the park open the latest tonight. We caught the Monorail from the Polynesian, rode it to the transportation center and caught the EPCOT Monorail. As we entered the park we noticed almost no line for Spaceship Earth, so we went on that. We then headed straight for World Showcase, deciding to dine in the Mexican Pavilion–our favorite restaurant at all of Disney World. We had about an hour to kill, so we checked out the Norway Pavilion. The new Frozen ride, despite not having any discernible line extending outside the building, advertised a 2-hour wait! This was confusing as it was 7:30 or so and the park closed at 9:00. We left ant went to kill the hour we had in the Mexican Pavilion, taking The 3 Caballeros ride and browsing in the shops. Dinner finished, we made our way back to the Monorail. When we got to the Transportation Center there was some technical problem with the Resort Monorail, so on a whim we took the express over to the Magic Kingdom and then rode the boat launch back to the Polynesian Resort. (Its actually a very short walk from the transportation center to the Polynesian, but we’re on vacation and had walked enough!)
I must say we led the charmed life as far as line lengths. We waited no more than 10 minutes to get into anything we wanted to do (except Frozen). Hopefully our luck will continue tomorrow!