Friday, September 22, 2017

This Blog Is One Year Old Today

Well, it's been quite a year since I began all this on September 22, 2016. On a personal level, I've been up, been down, and am on another upward swing. On another level, we've seen a lot happen here in the United States Of America.

I'd like to thank everyone who reads what I write. I know that some posts are less interesting to a large audience than others. Some posts have as many as forty views and some as few as a half dozen.

I'm okay with that. If you see a title for a post, or start to read it, and then think that reading the post isn't worth the time it takes, that's fine.

Let me catch you up on a few things.

1- It's been ninety-three days since the last time I had a case management meeting here at the Binghamton Y.M.C.A. and I've filed a formal complaint with the state agency in Albany that handles these kinds of things. The annual review of their paperwork is scheduled for two weeks from today, so it will be interesting to see just what the investigator finds.

2- I made it through the summer without having air conditioning in my room. There were several days that the heat became too much to handle in the room. My method of dealing with that was to either hang out in the resident lounge where there is A/C or to buy a day pass for the B.C Transit buses and ride around in comfort all day on the buses. I usually paired this with multiple stops to eat, to shop for groceries and to do anything else that needed doing. Careful planning of which bus to take at what time meant I usually spent no more than ten minutes in the hot weather outside.

#3- Still no luck finding a job. I even tried several temp agencies, with no success. The staff at one agency told me to my face that I had wasted their time by coming in and filling out an application. They had a very unprofessional attitude.

Wishing you a safe and fun weekend.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Some Personal Sports Memories

Do you know, or have ever known, someone who when watching a sporting event, has a "I could do that better" kind of attitude? Maybe this person just comes across as feeling that way, or maybe goes so far as to say it out loud.

The truth of it is, of course, that most of us who aren't professional athletes aren't anywhere close to being good enough to play our chosen sport as a career. I've known a few who were good enough but didn't quite make it. One was a quarterback who went to training camp with two different teams. He was one of the first players cut with the first team, but was having a really good camp with the second one when he blew his knee out.

He had a degree in sports management and wound up being the substitute gym teacher for the male students my senior year in high school. One day, we were warming up for class and he just stood there watching me.

He watched me throw the ball several times and then shook his head in disappointment. He said that it was just too bad that I was so short at 5'9". He said I had all the tools a QB needs. To this day, I can still drop back, roll out to either side, and throw a deep ball with accuracy. My mechanics, he said, were nearly perfect. and still are; my throwing motion results in a perfect spiral almost every time.

There's just no way I could ever play in college, let alone the N.F.L., at my height. But it's nice to know that that's the only thing that stopped me from being able to.  I did play two years of football as a young man; studying game film and learning game plans were both things I was quite good at.

I had some other good things happen in that senior year of high school in gym class. I hustled all the way from my place at short stop to make a play on a runner at first base. He was called safe but to this day, I really do believe I got the tag on him before his hand touched the plate. Even with his being called safe, I felt good for having shown the hustle that I had.

I also got to play a game at catcher in gym class that year. My team won by a final score of 3-2 and the way I called the pitches was a big part of that. Again, just so nice to do such a good job, even at a high school level of play.

On the basketball court, I made a sweet pass to my friend Mark, who caught the ball and drilled the winning shot. That too, came in my senior year.

Much more recently, I was on the court here at the Y.M.C.A. on a winter afternoon. This was three years ago, when I was forty-eight. A young man who exhibited a rather unpleasant style of behavior walked up to me and said "Get off the court, old man.".

This, I took as a challenge. I had, at that time, a cool looking red-white-and-blue ball. I calmly dribbled it out to the perimeter, stopped and turned around. I checked twice to make sure I was outside of the three-point line. I measured the shot once, and then a second time.

As I let the ball go, one thought went through my mind. Which was "If you're ever going to make a three point shot, which you never have, now is the time.".

I'm proud to say that the shot was nothing but net; a perfect shot that sent the young man off the court in silence.








Sunday, September 10, 2017

Remembered Things

One of the things about being my age, which is fifty-one, is that I've seen a lot of things come and go. Some had such a brief appearance on the stage of pop culture that they're almost totally forgotten. Others were around for years or even decades.

One of these that I would like to talk about are Kiddierama booths. These were small booths that had cartoons kids could watch while sitting in the booth. If I recall correctly, the cost was 25 cents. The cartoons would rotate so you never saw the same one twice in a row. These were an assortment of various cartoons. They included Mighty Mouse, Woody Woodpecker and several other characters.

The booths were usually located in department stores, but you would sometimes see them in other places. According to some sources, the owners of the company that built and serviced them tried to convert them to using VHS tapes in the mid to late 1980s. They had been using Super 8 film prints, it seems. The last time I saw one of these was in the bus station in Syracuse, New York, in 1987.

This, of course, was the old bus station, which was in a bad neighborhood and was run down. It's since been replaced by a very nice and new one in a much better location. I had a long layover between getting off one bus and transferring to my next one, so I watched cartoons to pass the time.

Another thing I remember, and these were around for a long time, were the small television sets located in bus stations. These sets were black-and-white. You got something like ten or fifteen minutes for 25 cents. These had no cable connection, so all you could watch were over the air stations.

Again, it was a nice way to pass the time. I always liked watching local newscasts in various cities to get something of a feel for what each city was like.

These became obsolete when the switch from analog to digital broadcasting was made. Retrofitting them with converter boxes would have been much too expensive to do.

I'll finish this post by talking about something that did not last very long. Does anyone else out there remember cable radio? This was radio delivered over a cable television system. Now, to be honest, I am aware that there are a few such systems still going strong, but for the most part, the whole idea came and went fairly quickly.

The neat thing about this was that usually, the fidelity of whatever you were listening to was quite good. The local company we had in this area, which was named New Channels, offered this at a very reasonable rate as an add-on to basic service.

If enough people read this post and like it to warrant a follow-up, I'll post one.

And as always, thank you for reading.






Friday, September 1, 2017

Labor Day Weekend

We're close to, or at, Labor Day weekend, depending on how you define it. If you have Friday through Monday off from work or school, then to you, it's a four day weekend. Personally, I've always thought of it as a three day weekend. Either way, it marks the unofficial end of summer.

Today, it felt like autumn all day long. When I went out to run errands this morning, I had to wear a jacket. There was a crispness in the air that you only get in autumn or the days leading up to it. I went out again a little after eight tonight to get a sub for dinner, and it was cooler still. I spent a few minutes looking at the moon before I came inside because the clouds that were drifting along made for an amazing sight with the moon as a backdrop.

I have experienced fifty Labor Days, with number fifty-one coming up, Some have been memorable and some have been completely mundane. With the recent passing of Jerry Lewis, I'm remembering all the M.D.A. telethons I watched over the years. I remember the year when several of us kids who lived on Kellum Road went from door to door collecting money to donate. We piled as many of us as could fit in my dad's station wagon (the second one he owned, which was green).

Off to the television station we went, and we got to appear on air during the cut-away to that hour's local portion of the telethon. We got thank you letters from the M.D.A. a few weeks later.

I remember one Labor Day when my mom sent me to our garden, which was on a neighbor's property, to pick carrots we ate at dinner.

 I remember another one when my dad and I went to the New York State Fair. One of the neat things about the fair is that there are so many things to see and to do that cost very little or nothing at all.

The fair has always been affordable, with admission usually about the same price as a movie ticket. We saw a demonstration of equestrians on their horses, which was neat. We played a round of miniature golf on a temporary course set up by a church as a fund raiser. We ate some good food at a food tent set up by another church. And we stopped on Interstate 81 to help some people whose car had suffered a flat tire. My dad and I changed the tire for them, and they were grateful.

I remember the first time we went to the fair, when we spent a whole week attending it. My family went with several other people that belonged to a club that my parents were members of. My brother and I slept in our own tent while Mom and Dad used a larger one they had borrowed. That year was the year that Rob Salamida became the youngest person ever to obtain a food permit for the fair.

I ate lunch at his food stand every day that week. I had a chance to tell him that two years ago when he taught my Marketing class at SUNY - Broome Community College. He got a kick out of that. Rob is a person who worked his you-know-what off to become very successful. He's very down to earth and an all around great guy. And he makes some amazing food products.

Whatever your plans for the weekend are, I wish you a safe and fun weekend.

Also, my thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by Hurricane Harvey.



Monday, August 21, 2017

This Week Is Off To A Good Start

To say that I had a bad weekend is putting it mildly. I'm having some serious issues with the person who oversees the Residential Housing program here at the Y.M.C.A. and the longer things go unresolved, the more upset I become.

For me, getting over a bad couple of days is not easy but it is important. So, today, I got up at 7:30 in the morning and got busy from the get-go. I cleaned the room, took out the trash, showered and shaved, and then put together everything I needed to cook a good meal.

I've had a craving for really good pasta sauce for a few days. I love to make it from scratch. Part of that is because I learned how to do it from my grandmother. She was of Pennsylvania Dutch ancestry but spent several years living in the part of Endicott that was settled primarily by Italian immigrants in the 1920s and 1930s. She learned the way to make truly authentic Italian food and taught me, in turn.

Everything she needed for her sauce came from her own garden, with one exception. She had a former neighbor who for several years had an olive grove in his back yard. She would trade some of what she had for the olive oil he made.

So, into the kitchen I went this morning. I made the base for the sauce, then added a three cheese blend (Romano, Parmesan and Asiago). I've done this so many times I never measure the amount of cheese. I just add what looks right and cross my fingers. Today, as happens most times, it was just the right amount for my taste. I do measure my spices because over-seasoned sauce is not a good thing.

I turned on the burner and set it at medium heat. I let the sauce come to a simmer and then moved it to the back burner with very low heat. I got the water ready to cook the pasta, adding just a little olive oil and a very small amount of spices. I do not care for large amounts of sodium so I never add any salt to the water. The only salt in the sauce was a small amount added to the tomato paste that I used.

The package said it would take thirteen minutes for the pasta to be "al dente", which is how I like it.

It took just that exact amount of time. I drained the pasta, poured the sauce into a clean storage container, and put the pasta in two more containers when cooled sufficiently.

I did my dishes and cleaned up not only after myself but also cleaned a minor mess someone else had left behind.

The sauce was delicious. It was robust, not overly sweet (I do not add sugar unless it's needed to cut the acidity of the tomatoes, which was not an issue today), and just tasted so good over the nicely seasoned pasta.

I still have things I need to deal with, some of which are routine, some of which are not. But today it was nice to get off to such a good start.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

We Miss You, Elvis

Forty years ago today, the world lost a living legend. A man who had grown up dirt poor wound up making a fortune by being one of the very best singers ever. Elvis Presley burst onto the music scene with "That's All Right" in 1954. Over the next twenty-three years he put together one of the deepest and best catalogs of any artist ever. For most artists, a double-sided hit such as "(Marie's The Name) His Latest Flame" backed with "Little Sister" would be the crowning achievement of their career.

For the King, it was just two more slices of rock and roll that have stood the test of time.

When he was drafted, he was offered the chance to have his duties consist of performing for his fellow service men and women. He politely refused, and was assigned as a mechanic and driver.

Yes, he made several bad movies, movies he wanted desperately to get away from with their bad writing and almost worthless songs. But he also did make some good films, like "Jailhouse Rock". If you want to see him really nail a dramatic role, watch the film "Flaming Star" from 1960.

I've been saying for years and I do believe it to be true, that no other major artist of the 20th Century had the range Elvis did. I speak not just of his singing voice, but of the kinds of material he recorded. Some people call them pop records and some call them sell outs but records like "Are You Lonesome To-Night?" and "It's Now Or Never" thrill me every single time I listen to them.

Even near the end, when RCA had to set up a mobile recording studio at his mansion, he rallied and came up with some good records. I've been a fan of "Moody Blue" ever since my Mom put the 45 single of it on our turntable one afternoon.

He had his own personal demons, ones that challenged him and changed him. We all know about the prescription pills. But less well known, or at least less recognized, is that he had multiple health problems.

In the end, he simply couldn't overcome the odds against him. There is a school of thought that says he might have lived a better life, a longer life, if he had been in a more stable relationship. His marriage was a failure. Personally, I see a man who never stood a chance of making it all that much further than he actually did. He died at the age of forty-two on August 16, 1977.

And we still miss him.




Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Kevin The Caterer, Part 2

Hello, again. I've not posted recently because I've been very busy. Today, however, the only errand I need to run will take just fifteen minutes or so. I'm enjoying the chance to rest.

I've been working on starting my catering business. I've priced out some of the things I'll need, and purchased a few of them. I found a great bargain from QVC on something I really want, but things got so screwed up I may never do business with them again.

First, their website gave me a "this page is unavailable" message when confirming the order online. So I called customer service, who said the order had indeed not been placed. I was transferred to a sales representative who placed the order for me.

It turned out that the first order had been placed. I found this out when I got two e-mails for two orders. I called back and cancelled the second order. Now, at this point, I wasn't the least bit upset. People make mistakes, right?

I was told that the first monthly payments for the two orders ($35 ) had been pre-processed. That means that a hold on my checking account in that amount had been placed. I was also told that the payment for the second order would have the hold released within three to five business days.

Now, at this point, I was still pretty mellow about the whole situation. But on Monday, two days ago, when both holds were released, I began to wonder just what was going on. That afternoon I got a call on my cell phone from an out of state number I didn't recognize.

My standard procedure for such calls is to let the call go to voice mail. I did just that.

Yesterday, I checked my e-mail (regular and spam folders) to see if any messages about my order had been sent. There was nothing there.

So, today, I tried to log into my account on their site only to keep getting kicked back to the page to create a new account. After three tries, I gave up and called customer service.

For the record, this is where I got upset. I was told that my debit card had failed to be authorized. The order has been cancelled. My account has been cancelled. The person to whom I spoke said that the e-mail address I gave her didn't match the one on file. When I asked her to explain how two messages had reached me already, she hemmed and hawed but couldn't explain.

She also said that they tried to call me on Monday. Now I know who the out of state call was from. No voice mail message was left.

Then she said that the address I gave doesn't match what my credit union has on file. Of course, it does. I called and checked just to be certain. So, someone at QVC really screwed up on that.

What really got to me was how this person acted as though everything was my fault. I told her, not in an entirely polite tone of voice that-

#1- This was my first time ordering with QVC in over a decade. I had an account several years ago,  but all of the information associated with it is long out of date.

#2- That I may, or may not, try to create another account.

#3- That I may very well purchase the item from someone else, even if it means paying more money. I do not have a lot of time to waste, and this whole situation had indeed been a waste of my time.

 What really bothers me is that I want the item. The price QVC is selling it for is by far the lowest to be found. And I can split the payment up over six months. If I do buy it, total with shipping is $105. The next lowest price I've found from a reputable source would come to $135 and be due all at once, as well.

So, I have a decision to make. I'll let you know what happens.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Adventures In Getting On-Line

It's been almost twenty years since the first time I purchased a device to go on-line. I bought what was then called a Web-TV unit. This was a unit that connected to a television, when you first powered it up, you received instructions on how to subscribe for monthly service. The unit was originally a joint venture between the Diba Corporation and Zenith; Microsoft bought the rights to it in 1997 when it was about a year old.

It was a very basic web browser that was reliable. Units originally came with just a hand-held remote. I used mine for literally one day before giving up and going back to Wal-Mart to buy a wireless keyboard.

Microsoft, it must be said, really did a lot to improve things as the years went by.  They paid for their users to have access to the chat rooms at Talk City. I'm eternally grateful for that, because I met my late wife in one of those chat rooms.

They upgraded the design of the unit. They developed a second design, Web-TV Plus, that had picture-in-picture technology. You could read your e-mail (Hotmail was the default provider) or look at a web page and watch television at the same time.

My mom's first attempts at getting on-line came with the unit she bought on my recommendation and she was still using it when Microsoft ended the service in 2013.

The way we connect has changed a lot, of course, through the years. Dial-up service over land lines was once the only way to do things. America On Line was once a thriving company, but today they're a shell of what they once were.

The most rock solid connections I've ever had were with Time Warner Cable, using the cable line, and Verizon with their FIOS service. Both were reasonably priced and aside from a few glitches with the FIOS early on, I never had a single loss of service in a combined seven years of using the two services.

Here at the Binghamton Y.M.C.A. the agency has contracted with Spectrum for television, Internet and home phone services.  The only problem is, the building was constructed in the early 1970s and the fourth floor is not suitable to be wired up for those services.

When I was here before, that contract did not as yet exist. Had I been able to get back into the room I had before, I might have been able to use the existing set up that I had installed in 2012.

But I'm down the hall from that room now. I did ask for a waiver but was denied one.

So, for about the first week, I used the free wi-fi offered in the downtown area.  This is something that the city offers as they paid a local company to set things up and pay them to maintain the network.

Unfortunately, the network has not been well maintained. Both connection speeds and reliability range from a little above average to really bad, depending on time of day. Obviously, there are more of us using the network at say, ten in the morning, as opposed to midnight.

To recap:

1- No ability to sign up for and use the cable company's services.

2- No ability to sign up for Verizon's FIOS service.

3- Free, but very hit or miss, service provided by the city.

So, after that first week, I had had enough. I bought a modem and signed up for service through Freedom Pop. This is wi-fi that uses the Sprint 3G and 4G networks.

The service is good, when it works. I once had a three day service outage, for which my account was credited. When I say the service is good, I'm talking about the connection's reliability along with download and upload speeds as well.

However, their customer service is very, very bad. When I first placed my order, I was asked if I wanted a second modem. No cost for this, other than shipping charges. I declined the offer. Sure enough, a few days later, two packages arrive, each with a modem. I wound up having to threaten to dispute the shipping charge with my credit union before that amount was credited back to my account.

As it turns out, getting two modems was a good thing because the first time I dropped modem #1, it stopped working. Modem #2 was pressed into service and was fine, until yesterday (more on that, in a little while).

Using modem #2 with the account for modem #1 was no problem. I called and explained what I was doing and was told that everything was just fine and dandy. Two weeks later, they billed me for a second account. They said I had authorized that second account and that the first modem was shown as being in use at a second location. They had the nerve to tell me that they knew I had given the first modem to someone else to use.

I had done no such thing. Again, I had to use the threat of getting my credit union involved before the agent I was dealing with decided to credit back my money.

Also, I should mention before I forget, is the fact that initially, they were suspending my service when I reached 90% of my data usage. They said this was to prevent me from incurring charges for data used once I got to 100%. I read them the proverbial riot act and got the level  for suspension changed to 99%.

Still with me? Good, because we're almost finished.

Two days ago, I was reading an article in which I learned of the existence of a similar service that Verizon offers. I decided that I would call and inquire about it on Monday. Yesterday, however, the modem stopped working twice. Both times I had to pull up the diagnostics page, and restore the modem to factory settings.

After the first time, I went to the Freedom Pop website, to let them know the modem is going bad after just three months. I decided, "as long as I'm here, let me check my data usage".

I'm glad I did. Because I also checked my billing. When I did, I discovered that they had billed me $5 for goodness knows what, on my debit card. Then I saw they had billed me for my monthly service when I already paid for it this month.

And just to make things interesting, they billed it to my credit card. Which is the card I had used to order the modem. I made the change to using my debit card for monthly service billing and never changed it back.

So, as they say, long story, short, I signed up with Verizon for their service yesterday. The modem will ship on Monday and arrive on Wednesday. I have been paying Freedom Pop $79.99 a month for 10 giga-bytes of data (I listen to a lot of on-line radio).

The three customer service agents (Sales-transferred to tech support-transferred back to sales) I dealt with at Verizon were all great to deal with. The one who actually handled my order took the time to see if she could bundle the new service with my existing cell phone service.

Because I had no outstanding balance from before, and because I had never missed a payment, she was able to convert my pre-paid plan to a regular one. Nothing about my cell phone plan will change. Same coverage, same features. That and the wi-fi with no data caps will run me an even $100 per month.  Savings total $12.39 a month. Not a lot, but enough for a nice dinner out.

As always, dear reader, I thank you for taking the time to read this.


Monday, July 24, 2017

Goodbye Napster

I have long been a subscriber to the service whose current name is Napster. This is a company that came into existence when Rhapsody and the second version of Napster, merged. They changed the name not that long ago.

The service has changed quite a bit over the years. They used to offer the ability to buy songs. I was disappointed when they eliminated that feature. At one time, you could still use older versions of the software, but now, you have to install whatever version is current.

This is a problem for me, because the current version is extremely unstable on my system. I get the distinct feeling that the entire thing is coded to run just fine on newer operating systems. I'm still running Windows 7, for a variety of reasons.

When I say "unstable", I mean just that. It will skip songs randomly that are in a play list. It will play the first few seconds of a song then go to the next one. It will freeze up and then I wind up having to terminate the entire process in Task Manager.

Napster no longer has telephone based customer support, which is just so wrong. I have chatted on-line with a few different customer service agents, all of whom make the same suggestions.

Log out, then log back in. That makes no difference.

Try running it in compatibility mode. Again, this doesn't help at all.

Uninstall the program and do a clean re-installation. Again, this is just a waste of time.

Now, please don't get me wrong. I love the service. There's a vast library of music, much of which I had never been aware of prior to finding it on the service.  It's a real bargain at $9.99 a month...when it works.

My long time work around for the software issues has been to download songs for off-line play. This has worked just fine for as long as I can remember. Granted, the quality isn't the best, as the files are WMA-encoded at just 156 kps. but I use a good audio enhancer that brings everything up to what I consider to be acceptable.

Now, this is where things get tricky. Also, where they get upsetting for me.

For well over a decade, the standard coding for digital rights management was software created by Microsoft. In the case of files from Napster, use of DRM coding is how they make sure that the files will play only for as long as a membership is active. The licenses are set to renew automatically every thirty days.

Until now, everything worked fine. But, on July 14th, Microsoft ended its remaining support for DRM licenses. They had shut down most of the servers exactly two years earlier on July 14, 2015.

No servers means no support for the coding. In turn, Napster shut down its own DRM servers, because there's no point in maintaining something  you can't actually use anymore.

I understand that. I really do. But what this means is that downloading music from the service, which has long been a part of the service, is gone. Files that I have downloaded prior to July 14th of this year no longer play, because their licenses can't be renewed. Files downloaded after July 14th are useless as well, because there is no license to activate.

Now, when I say that what I've long been able to do is something I can't do anymore, there is one thing I do need to point out, in all fairness.

Downloading files to a smart phone or tablet using the Napster app still works just fine. At least, I think it does. I'm basing that statement on what a customer service agent told me yesterday.

But, damn it, I don't own a smart phone. I once borrowed one from a friend for a few hours, just to see if getting one of my own was a good idea.

It wasn't, not at all. I do not have the technical knowledge nor the aptitude to learn such knowledge, that is required.

So, to recap:

1 - I would buy songs individually if I still could. I can't do that.

2- I would still use an older version of the software if that were an option. It's not.

3- The current software is fine when it works properly. Unfortunately, it's very unstable, at least on my operating system.

4- Napster had two years in which to re-encode their files using the new software Microsoft developed to replace DRM coding. Two years, people.

5- For whatever reasons they had, they decided to just leave things as they were. They did this with the full knowledge that some of their loyal customers would be, to put it bluntly, royally screwed.

6- Like some other streaming services, Napster seems to have taken an attitude that boils down to "if they don't have a smart device, tough luck."

I'm upset with all this, as you can see. I am looking for an alternative service but so far, I've yet to find one that offers the option for download and off line use of music files.

If you're still reading this, thank you. I really just needed to vent about this, as it were.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Ads And Trackers On Web Sites

The issue of ads and trackers on web sites is becoming one I really hate having to deal with. I'm well aware that most sites exist to turn a profit, and even non-profit ones need to pay the bills. I'm fine with small ads that are placed in a corner or at the bottom of a page.

But good grief, people. More and more sites, including one of my long time favorites, Pajiba, are increasingly loaded with so much garbage as to be almost unusable. Pajiba, for instance, has just recently added what can only be termed "click bait" ads that are powered by something called Zergnet.

If you're fortunate enough to not yet be familiar with this sort of thing, great. Let me fill you in on a few details.

These ads have embedded links in them. Click on a photo and be taken to another site. Among the current ones on Pajiba are gems like this:

"What The Game Of Thrones Cast Should Really Look Like"

"Movie Bloopers That Were Way Too Good To Cut"

"Actor Replacements That Totally Ruined The Movie"

Oh, and just to make things even more fun, every first letter in each word is in bold. Like this:

"This Is Driving Me Nuts"

On the main page of the site, there are usually six to eight of these on the right hand side of the page.

Open a new page to read an article and you get those plus another eight to twelve at the bottom of the page.

You know, I really hate to be picking on Pajiba. I've been reading it on a regular basis ever since it first came on line. Its coverage of pop culture and current events is really good. But right now, it's the worst offender I'm personally familiar with when it comes to these horrible advertisements.

And don't get me started on the trackers that attempt to track every single move you make on line. I use a great, free service called "Ghostery" that blocks these little suckers and also will show you the names of them if you want to see them.

For the record, Ghostery blocked forty-one trackers when I was on Pajiba just before starting this post. Also, for the record, when I viewed this blog, just one was listed.

Very few things in life are truly free. Most of what is "free" on line will cost you big time in the end in terms of lost privacy. The software used to analyze what we do when we're on line is very advanced. Visit enough sites enough times and someone, somewhere, can and will be able to paint a very detailed picture of who you are.

I know. I'm here, telling you to be careful what sites you visit. But in the end, we all make our own decisions. Personally, there are several sites I no longer visit because of the issues I've discussed today. I hate to think that Pajiba might be the next to go, but it's going to be a close call, either way.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Today I Had One Hour That Felt Exactly Like The 1970s

I got my hair cut today. If you've read previous posts, you may already know that I go to a very traditional barber shop. This place looks almost exactly the same as it did thirty years ago. The barber chairs are the same. The magazine rack and stereo system haven't changed or been moved. There are comfortable chairs and a sofa to sit on that have been there for as long as I remember.

When I walked in, the barber had just started working on someone. He smiled and told me I was next. I sat down and just started to relax almost immediately. For the whole hour I was there, everything felt like I had gone back in time.

The barber's son, who looks to be about 15 or 16, never looked at a cell phone. Instead, he carried on a conversation with his uncle. I just sat in one of the chairs and relaxed. There are some nice paintings of famous places on the wall, and I just kept admiring them. While I was getting my hair cut, someone else walked in, inquired as to the price of a hair cut, and then sat down to wait his turn.

He read a magazine while he waited.

It was amazing. So very nice to have just to have one whole hour with no television blaring. No cell phones being used. People carrying on conversations or waiting quietly and patiently for their turn.

It was hot outside, with the temperature closing in on ninety. The air conditioner was working just right. It was blessedly cool inside. It brought back memories of a time when businesses actually used the presence of air conditioning in their establishments as a selling point.

As I said, it was amazing. It was the kind of thing that deepens my commitment to living a retro lifestyle. 




Sunday, July 2, 2017

Kevin The Caterer?

I'm sorry for the long time between this post and the previous one. I had this post ready to go on Friday, but that afternoon I came down with a mild case of food poisoning that made me just want to sleep. I had purchased and used what turned out to be a bad batch of pasta sauce. I've contacted the company who made it by e-mail to let them know what happened.

Friday night, in the middle of the night, I woke up from a dream in which I was catering a wedding reception. As you may or may not know, going into business for myself as a caterer is something I want to do that I am well trained for.

There are some very good catering companies in this area, and some that aren't so good. I've worked events where the food was very good, and I've worked events where the food was terrible.

I know I can turn out very good food in large amounts. I've done it enough times to be certain of that. The key, I believe, to doing this and being successful involves two main ideas.

Idea number one is that I must offer something unique. Something that people will want more of once they've had it the first time.  I have a concept in mind that I'm working on.

Idea number two is that I will need to hire people who are well trained. This shouldn't be an issue, because the program I graduated from always has people who can be counted on. I know that if I ask the head of the program for recommendations, he will give me the information on some very good guys and gals to get in touch with.

I know that there are people in my life who will support me in this, and that there are people who will second guess me. That's nothing new.

Wish me good luck.




Thursday, June 22, 2017

Thirty-Three Years - Where Did The Time Go?

It was thirty-three years ago that my high school class had its graduation ceremonies. Every year, the debate went on as to where the ceremonies would be held. Outdoors, or indoors?

My class voted for indoors, which was good because June 22nd, 1984 was a very hot day for us.

I remember so much from that day, from the morning all through to when I went to bed. I remember having no idea how I would get to school for rehearsal and being relieved when my friend Anita offered me a ride there and back. I remember my father, may he rest in peace, being upset at how long the ceremonies took. I remember three of my tickets disappearing from my dresser drawer. That was explained when I saw my mother (from whom I was estranged at the time), my grandfather, and my Aunt Jane in the audience.

It remains, to the best of my knowledge, the only time my brother ever went into my bedroom without asking for permission first.

I remember my friend Sherri coming to see me graduate, even though that meant having to stand the whole time at the back of the gymnasium. That meant a lot to me.

I remember asking my guidance counselor, Mr. Defeo, to go into the teacher's lounge and get me a Coke from the machine in the lounge.

Some of my classmates are people I'm still in touch with. Some of them I haven't seen since that night thirty-three years ago. Some are no longer with us, including a friend who was killed by a drunk driver six months after we graduated.

Some of us, like myself, have had several different jobs and kinds of careers. Some, like my friend Jim, knew exactly what they wanted to do and are still at it. Jim always wanted to serve on an aircraft carrier,  He's been doing just that all these years.

That summer night so many years ago, I had no idea of the things that would happen to me. Everything was fresh and new and filled with possibilities.


Friday, June 16, 2017

Summer Time And The Heat Is On

Okay, so it's still spring for a few more days. But here in the Binghamton, New York area, we've had several days in a row of temperatures getting anywhere from eighty to ninety two degrees in the afternoon. Today was a nice break, as we only reached the mid-seventies. It rained on and off, as well. That cooled things nicely and freshened the air a bit.

Tomorrow and Sunday look to be quite warm, and I'm not looking forward to that.

For, dear reader, I have never been able to handle hot weather very well. Even as a child growing up, I had problems. Most other kids would want to be outside enjoying summer, but I would stay indoors as much as I could.

When I say I don't handle it well, I mean that. I've twice had to go to an emergency room to be treated for heat exhaustion. In hot weather, I don't have much of an appetite, and what I do eat has to be very light fare. Think salads and sandwiches, and you're on the right track. I've had a grand total of two hot meals all this week. Both of those were eaten in restaurants that have good air conditioning.

It's worse yet when I don't have air conditioning, which I currently don't. Security regulations in this building prohibit their use, on the grounds that it poses a safety risk. I did look into getting a portable unit, which is allowed. I just can't afford it right now.

I do have a small desk fan, which helps some. And I have a window that lets in a nice breeze when there's one to be had.

But I know what I might be in for this summer, having lived in this building before.  I am looking at a few apartments that are in my price range. So, let's all cross our fingers, please.





Friday, June 9, 2017

Can One LP Change A Life?

I was born in 1966. I received a transistor radio as a Christmas gift from my Aunt Yvonne in 1972. So, I was able to hear the top hits from 1973 going forward. But anything pre-1973 was pretty much unknown to me at that time.

Oh, sure, there would be the occasional oldie here and there, as part of a movie soundtrack, or something might get air play years after its release. But for the most part, those records just weren't a part of my life.

I did get to hear several hours of the 1978 version of the radio documentary "The History Of Rock And Roll" when it aired one weekend across the United States and Canada, but by the time I tuned in, the show was up to where it covered the late 1960s. So, anything from say,  before 1967 or so, was still not known to me.

And then, one day after work, I walked across the street to the Endicott Plaza. The plaza is long gone, these days. None of the buildings still stand, save for the K-Mart that closed in 2011 due to severe flooding.

But in 1986, everything was still there. K-Mart, Grand Union, Endicott-Johnson Shoes, and several other businesses called the plaza home.

I went into K-Mart that one afternoon and headed right for the music department. Now, these days, it's very easy to get music, cheaply and quickly. I can buy an MP3 file from a site like Amazon and have it downloaded in less than a minute.

That's nice. But the way we used to do things had its own unique feel to it. There was no way to preview a song. You bought a single or an album and hoped for the best if it was something you were unfamiliar with.

I bought one album that day, a double length cassette.  I walked home and had dinner. It was nice outside, so I decided to listen to the cassette while sitting in a comfortable chair on the front porch of the rooming house I was living in at the time.

I can not remember the exact title of that cassette, but I do remember it was one of the series released using the name of WCBS-FM. These, of course, licensed the name, and were compiled and released by Collectables Records. That label is still in business, and still puts out good product.  It's one of the few labels still offering oldies on 45 R.P.M. singles.

That cassette changed my life, literally.  There were no tracks by Elvis Presley on it, due to licensing issues, I would presume.  But there were tracks by almost every other major singer, band or vocal group of the late 1950s and early 1960s.

No British artists, of course, but then again, the Brits didn't play much of a role in rock and roll until 1962-1963 or thereabouts.

Every record was a revelation. The pounding piano of Jerry Lee Lewis. The sweet harmony created by Dion and The Belmonts. The New Orleans "sound", as created by artists such as Fats Domino and Ernie K-Doe.

From that day forward, oldies music was, is and shall always be the soundtrack to my life.

Wishing you a good weekend, dear reader.


Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Last Day With Michelle

I will state, for the record, that this post is going to cover some very personal material. Read on, if you wish to do so.

Today is the 12th anniversary of the very last day I spent with my wife; she died the next day on June 4th, 2005. When we first met, she was honest about her health issues. She had five, perhaps six years left to live, at the best. I married her, telling her that whatever time we might have would be enough.

In the almost six years we had together, her health went downhill steadily.

Her weight went from 180 pounds to almost 400. She had a heart attack. She lost part of the hearing in her left ear due to an ear infection. She became diabetic. She injured an ankle and had to have it surgically repaired. She injured it a second time, and it was twelve years ago today that she had a second surgery on that ankle.

She died while I was still at home. I got a phone call from the hospital at 9:30 in the morning telling me I should come to the hospital as soon as possible. Michelle died at 9:45, after a team of doctors and nurses spent forty-five minutes trying to save her life.

In the days and weeks after she died, two sets of thought took hold among those who knew her. Some of us truly believed she had no idea that she might die. Her parents and her oldest friend were in that group. Other people, including myself, were and still are convinced she knew she was going to die.

I can't say enough good things about the staff at Wilson Hospital in Johnson City, New York. They were all so helpful to me and the others who were there. 

The very last words we exchanged were over the phone Friday night, twelve years ago today. I ended the call with these words:

"I love you.".


Friday, May 26, 2017

I'm Hanging In There

The last week and a half have been up and down for me. One day I had a very good day going until I injured my right leg. Best guess is that the pulled muscle will heal just fine and that there's no nerve damage, but that has yet to be confirmed. I'm resting the leg as much as I can.

I had an issue with some things that were said to me in a voicemail message. I had to take a few minutes to compose myself before writing and sending a very long, very detailed e-mail message explaining just what is going on with me. I also did say that if I had truly done something wrong in that person's eyes, that I hoped we could get past it. The situation has been resolved.

It's been almost four weeks since the last time I met with my case manager here at the Y.M.C.A. and I'm upset because she is just not even taking me seriously when I ask for an appointment. I'm supposed to be on a schedule of every two weeks, and every four weeks is mandatory. I'm going to notify the director of housing that as far as I'm concerned, this is not my responsibility. I've asked twice for an appointment and been blown off both times.

On the plus side, I had a good time hanging out with a friend I hadn't seen in quite some time. We met for dinner yesterday. As usual, he was kind enough to do me a small favor.  He took me to the store and back home so I could get groceries without having to deal with the hassle of carrying them home on the bus. Alex, you rock.

Wishing you a good weekend, dear reader.






Friday, May 19, 2017

Star Trek: Discovery - First Thoughts

The teaser trailers for the new Star Trek series are now online. One is CBS-based and region locked for the U.S.A. while the other is Netflix-based and can't be viewed here in America.

I have watched the first version and I like what I've seen.

What amazes me, although by now maybe I should be used it to it, are the kinds of comments I'm seeing on a few different sites (TrekMovie especially). Many people are saying nasty things about the show.

People, really? You're going to state that a series that has filmed exactly one episode is doomed to fail? And you're basing that on a series of clips that total about two minutes?

Can we get a reality check on aisle two?

Nothing I saw contradicts the statements that have been made referring to the series as a "re-imagining".  A lot of people seem to feel that its setting ten years prior to the original series means that the ship, the sets and the costumes must be identical or very similar to those from the original show.

If you want to disagree with what I'm about to say, fine.

It's 2017, people. The look we associate with "The Cage" and "Where No Man Has Gone Before" is a classic 1960s look. I love it. I miss it. But I also accept that with limited exceptions, it just isn't suitable for network television anymore.

There are fan films and fan drawn comic books that nail that look perfectly and I love them for it. Most of these efforts have writing that ranges from average to excellent. There are some things I've seen that, with a little reworking, would make for good viewing on television.

Please note, I said "good" viewing, not highly rated.  I don't think for one second that there's enough of an audience to keep a retro styled "Star Trek" on the air for even half a season.

The new show, from what little can be seen so far, looks as it if uses a lot of the same design elements as the recent films. I'm fine with that. Will the writing or the acting be first rate from the very start?

Maybe, maybe not.  If we go back thirty years to "Encounter At Farpoint", I believe that had The Next Generation aired on CBS, NBC or ABC, it would have been cancelled after thirteen weeks.
Fox might have been willing to take a chance on a full season as they would not have had much to lose by doing so.

On the other hand, I've long held the view that "Where No Man Has Gone Before" set a standard that many of the episodes filmed from 1966 to 1969 never quite managed to live up to. I really feel that if they had expanded the final cut to ninety minutes or so, it would hold up nicely as a feature film.

But part of filming a weekly show is that it's expected to air every week. The sheer number of scripts that were required to film the original series pretty much guaranteed that some weak material would make it to air.

As always, these are just my opinions. 









Friday, May 12, 2017

Many Thoughts To Share

It's rare for me to hold back on how I feel about politics and current events. But right now, there are many other people on many other sites who are saying what needs to be said and saying it better than I ever can. So, I've decided to just talk about a few things that have been on my mind a lot lately.
 
The first time I traveled across America was in 2007, the second time was in 2009, and last month I did it twice in the span of two weeks. From 2009 to 2017 a lot of things have changed. Many of them have changed for the better. We have, at least as of right now, marriage equality as the law of the land.

 I have a cousin who is married to another man. The husband is a person who has never been anything but rude to me, but, I keep quiet and try my best to be nice to him whenever I see them in public. He makes my cousin happy, and that's what matters most to me.

We also have, for the time being at least, have net neutrality as established regulation. If I were to let my manners slip a little, I could say some not so nice things about those who oppose it.  Let's just say I'm all in favor of the current F.C.C. regulations and hope to see them not be weakened or eliminated.

I was admitted to the hospital for the first and so far, only time in my life in May of 1977.  I had a stomach virus that was really bad. I mean, I could have died from this thing. Several doctors who had patients in my age range with similar symptoms literally compared notes and determined we had all attended the same concert. Once they figured out what one of us had and how to treat it, they were able to treat all of us.

I've been mentally compiling a list of the nicest people I've ever met, and the weird thing is, the list keeps changing based on a few things. To say that someone is a nice person can cover a lot of territory. How polite someone is, how pleasant a person they are, and how they behave under pressure are just a few of the things that go into the overall mix. I've known people who in normal situations are a joy to be around but when things get bad, you can almost see them turning into someone you just don't want to be involved with at all.

I'm thinking of someone who I like a lot. I trust this person a great deal. I have often asked her advice regarding matters both personal and professional. But one time, about a year and a half ago, she went on a rampage. She ripped into us so badly that she literally left many of her students, of which I was one at that time, in tears.

The man to whom she answers, to put it quite bluntly, read her the riot act about an hour before a regularly scheduled meeting of our club. I wasn't in the room, and to the best of my knowledge,  neither of them has ever repeated even a single word of what was said. I and several others were setting up for our weekly on campus fundraiser when word came down to shut things down.

What happened next still upsets me.  She called all of us into an emergency meeting.

Don't get me wrong, please. Much of what we were on the hook for, as it were, included
legitimate concerns. But a lot of it also included things that were beyond our control. Things we knew needed to be fixed that we neither had the means nor the authority to fix.

That was bad enough. But when the personal attacks started, that was crossing a line that never should have been crossed. That's when I actually started to stand up to leave the room, fully aware that doing so would end my involvement in the club for good. Looking back, I realize now that I should have walked out, and walked away.

Not because of how I had been attacked personally, which I was dealing with fairly well until someone else blindsided me with something I never saw coming. I should have walked out because it was the right thing to do. I was told by several other people after the meeting that if I had done so, they would have joined me. We were the ones who were always there when called upon, and without us, the club almost certainly would have died that day.

I write all this knowing there's a small but very real chance that the person of whom I speak may read this. Ms. M, I'm so sorry, but that's just the way I see things.

So,  is she on my list for all the good things, or is she not on it for the one really bad mistake she made?

I don't know, right now.

Wishing you a good weekend, dear reader.





Friday, May 5, 2017

Thoughts For A Friday Evening

Hello, dear reader. I would like to apologize for the recent lack of posts. I've been busy with several different things. I do have a rather detailed post that I want to revise and edit before putting it here for everyone to see.

In the meanwhile, here are some odds and ends that really don't fit anywhere else.

1. I had a good workout earlier today. I walked a mile without stopping to rest in thirteen and a half minutes. To put that in perspective, that's just a minute and a half longer than it took me in the spring of 1984, when I was timed in gym class.

2. It was sixteen years ago that I cooked an authentic Mexican meal for the very first time. I did it for myself, my late wife, my cousin, her daughter and her daughter's best friend. The food came out really well, and after we ate, we all went bowling. It was just an all around fun time.

3. The weather in this area has been bad for several days. We've had a lot of rain, with daytime temperatures ranging anywhere from five to twenty degrees below normal. The forecast for early next week calls for light snow on Monday or Tuesday. The latest I can remember ever seeing snow in spring is the third week of April. The rain and gray skies are something I can handle short term, but once we pass a full week, which we will tomorrow, it's just so depressing.

4. I bought a pair of Levis blue jeans six weeks ago and I would like to find at least two other pairs of the same exact design. These jeans are both the most stylish pair I've ever owned and the most comfortable.

5. I was in the Oakdale Mall in Johnson City yesterday at a little after 1 in the afternoon. The mall was so empty it shocked me. That mall has lost a lot over the years. It no longer has a movie theater. It no longer has a McDonalds or a Burger King. The CVS closed last year (or the year before, my memory is unsure) and Macy's closed earlier this year.

 I went there to try to find a good kitchen knife from the house wares section in the Burlington Coat Factory outlet, because I'd been able to do so before. Again, shocked is the only word that fits for how I reacted. Literally half of the store has been walled off and is sitting empty. Their selection of merchandise is not anywhere as extensive or as nice as what I'm used to seeing.

I walked out of the store without buying anything. I walked to where CVS used to be, wanting to buy a copy of our local newspaper. I had forgotten the store was closed.

So, in a half hour at the mall, all I bought was a milkshake from the Carvel stand. It was reasonably priced and tasted really good. But wow, except for that, what a waste of time the whole excursion turned out to be.

They say that the retail industry in America is fading, and I believe it. I'm sad to see that happen, because once upon a time, I made a decent living working in retail.

6.  My wishes go out to you for a good weekend.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

There Has To Be A Market For What I Can Offer

Hello again, dear reader. I've been busy the last week and a half with several different things, but I do plan on resuming regular posting here.

What's on my mind today is something that's related to something else I've discussed here before, which is the way that so much of what we eat and drink has been reduced in quality. The changes are so subtle, and done so carefully, that it's easy to not ever really notice them.

What brings this up in my mind again is the fact that a few days ago, I decided to spend a little bit more money than I normally would, so that I could try a brand of ginger ale I'd never heard of before.

The brand is called "Fever Tree" and is imported from the United Kingdom.

All I can say is "wow". It is the best tasting ginger ale I've ever had, by a large margin. I am looking forward to buying more of it, and to trying the company's other products, as well.

As you may already know, my second and more recent degree is in hotel and restaurant management. You may also know I've had a very hard time finding a job in the Binghamton area. What you don't know, but I'm telling you now, is that I'm becoming increasingly aware that the only way I may get a job is to go into business for myself.

I trained under a very amazing person who is a master chef. But something I've never quite understood is how he accepts the changes in some things and how many of my fellow students follow his lead on that.

For instance, when I was kitchen manager for the mock wedding, several of my class mates questioned my insistence that we use sugar-sweetened ketchup in making the cocktail sauce for shrimp. Ketchup is ketchup, they said.

But when they tasted the final product, each and every one of them acknowledged that the sauce does taste better that way than when made with ketchup sweetened with high fructose corn syrup.

My point is this. I have always had an inclination towards making the best food and drink that I can.

That simply has to include quality product and quality ingredients. Now that I have some very good training, the food I cook and the drinks I mix taste the way such things did forty or fifty years ago.

People love that, and they say so repeatedly.  So, the question is this. Does this area have enough of a market for the best of the best? Can I make a go of things as a private chef and bartender?

I think it's time for me to try to find the answer to that.




Saturday, April 15, 2017

Traveling By Bus-The Good, The Bad and The In-Between

I will post part two of my thoughts about returning to the Binghamton area tomorrow. But in the meanwhile, I wanted to share some of my thoughts about what it can be like to travel across America on buses.

The Good :

1. There are people on the bus and in the station who will be kind to you and look out for your safety. In Kansas City, I lost my re-boarding pass and the new driver had a real attitude about it. Several of the other passengers who I had ridden with all the way from Las Vegas vouched for me, and that was enough to convince the driver I was supposed to get back on the bus.

2. Some bus stations are well staffed and in excellent condition. The station in Kansas City is well maintained, well staffed and has reasonably priced, decent tasting food.

3. The buses themselves have been considerably upgraded over what they were like just a few years ago. Most of them have wi-fi access that's fairly reliable. Most of them have electrical outlets to charge devices. Some of them even have actual toilets that flush as opposed to what are essentially portable toilets in a permanent installation.


The Bad:

1. There is a serious issue with communication (or lack thereof) between drivers and stations.  You are best off if you handle as much of the communications as you can on your own. I really mean that. Call the station you're scheduled to make a transfer at to see if you are on schedule or not.  If you have a serious problem, call the station that is your next stop. If nothing else, you at least can honestly say you reported the situation.
  
2. Some bus stations are dangerous places, or in very poor condition, or located in not so nice areas. May whatever God or Gods you believe in show mercy and not land you in a station that has all three issues going on. Indianapolis, I'm looking at you. Your station is in a location where I didn't even feel it safe enough to cross the street to get a hamburger. I had plenty of time to do so, and I hate to pass up any chance at getting food from White Castle, but one look at the neighborhood convinced me to stay in the actual terminal.

This was especially shocking as the station is just a few minutes away from Lucas Oil Stadium.

3. Those buses that haven't been replaced or refitted are in very bad condition.

The In-Between:

1. Some drivers are very good, some are very bad and some are just average.

2. Fares can vary quite a bit depending on the day of the week. Also, fares go up a lot over holiday weekends. You can find some really good bargains but sometimes you will overpay by a large amount.

Look, I get it. Inter-city bus travel is the last choice anyone wants to make. There's probably not much of a profit to be made, although the fact that Greyhound is still in business attests to the fact that enough of a profit to remain operational is there. The entire system is still designed, in many ways, to operate the way it did thirty years ago. That's not good, but there doesn't seem to be much of an incentive to change things.

It is what it is.





Friday, April 14, 2017

Back In Binghamton - Part 1

Well, the Las Vegas experiment didn't last long, did it?

It did not, by any means. Three days after I arrived in Las Vegas, I had something happen that made me absolutely certain it was not where I should be at this time. I did like it enough that I would consider a second try under the right circumstances.

Having given up the room I had been renting meant that upon my return to this area, I needed something that was available and inexpensive. That led me back to the Y.M.C.A. where I am now, having paid rent for the remainder of April.

I can say that the bus trip back was something of a mixed bag, as it were. The first sixteen hours I sat next to someone who was inconsiderate in the extreme, keeping me awake all through the night. When we had a driver change in Denver, I quietly and calmly explained the situation and the new driver very graciously offered me the chance to sit in the first row where he could make sure I was reasonably comfortable.

So, from Denver to Columbus, Ohio, everything went just about as well as could be expected. I had good drivers that gave us reasonable amounts of time to get off and stretch a bit, and to eat.

In Columbus, however, another driver change didn't go so well. The driver allowed a lot of bad behavior from some younger children and when stepping off the bus for our first rest stop, I was pushed and fell on the pavement.

I tried to get up on my own. I was unable to. I remained where I was for about two or three minutes,
just hoping someone would offer to help me. No one did. The driver was too busy smoking her damned cigarette to even notice what had happened.

I called for help and am grateful that two young men helped me get back up and asked if I was all right.

I injured both of my knees badly enough to be in a fair amount of pain.

The driver never acknowledged what happened. I have reported her behavior to the appropriate
department. I received a truly genuine apology from the customer service agent I spoke to.

More on all this will be coming later today or sometime tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

A Long Trip Ended Yesterday

I am happy to be able to inform you that I made it to Las Vegas safely.  I arrived at 4:40 local time yesterday afternoon.

I spent just a little less than fifty-six hours on the road. My two transfer points were Buffalo, New York and Columbus, Ohio. It was nice to be on the same bus most of the way. All of the drivers I had drove safely. Some of them were friendly and some were not.

I had a reasonable number of rest stops during which I could at least stretch my legs and get a little fresh air. Extended stops to eat came about every three to four hours, which I was grateful for.

Most of my fellow passengers looked to be good people. I sat next to three people at different times. Two were nice, and we had a few light conversations. The bus station that was the nicest was the one in Kansas City. The worst was the one in Indianapolis. That building looks like it hasn't been renovated in a very long time and when the Amtrak trains pull in, the whole building shakes. I did appreciate that food service was available even at the late hour of about three in the morning.

Travel by intercity bus is not the best way to travel. It is, however, the least expensive and relatively safe.

As always, dear reader, thank you for reading what I've written.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Time To Move

I've made a decision to once again leave the Binghamton area. This was not an easy decision. I'll be leaving behind friends and family.

I'm excited, though, at the idea of exploring someplace new. I'm moving to Las Vegas. My trip is booked and paid for and my living arrangements are in place.  I should be able to find a good job
in my field of work.

My bus leaves on Saturday morning.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Nothing Is Forever

A week ago, we had three feet of snow on the ground. Most of it is gone, now. Much of it was cleared off the sidewalks by the state Department of Transportation. A lot more of it melted in today's warm weather.

I'm old enough to have seen things that almost everyone never expected to disappear do just that.

Pay phones used to be everywhere. You would often see whole banks of them, with as many as a half dozen phones lined up in a row.

W.T. Grant stores are another thing long gone. When the company went out of business in the mid-1970s, its bankruptcy was the largest ever for an American corporation.

Radio Shack is just holding on, barely. The Binghamton area once had five stores, but the last one is now closing.

Burger Chef, once a very large chain of hamburger restaurants. They had good food at good prices but just kind of faded away in the late 1970s.

The point here, and I do have one, is that you should take very little for granted.  Also, it's easy to say so, but we all should treasure the good things in life. Especially the little things. By themselves they don't matter all that much, but together, they combine to form a large part of our lives.

Wishing you the best, dear reader.




Tuesday, March 14, 2017

At The Mercy Of The Weather

As I write this, Broome County is under a state-wide state of emergency. Our County Executive has closed all roads to all travel. The snow is coming in bands of varying intensity. Where I am, we have about eighteen inches of snow right now. Just a mile and a half away, they have twenty-three inches. In the Glen Aubrey area where I lived as a teenager, they have just six inches.

By the time all this is over, where I am will have anywhere from two to three feet of snow.  This is the worst snow storm the area has seen since 1993; I remember using a yard stick to measure the snow in my front yard. It was twenty-two inches deep.

I am well prepared for all this as I went to the nearest supermarket last night and bought a week's worth of just about everything I could need or want.  The cashier apologized for the long wait in line and I told her it was fine, as they had every register open. They were doing the best they could.

And, using my store discount card, I got $60 worth of groceries for $45, so that was good.

If you are anywhere where this winter storm is hitting hard, please, just stay indoors where you're safe.

And, as always, thank you for reading.





Sunday, March 12, 2017

As Promised, A Link To The Show

The first show is now published. Here is the link. You may need to cut and paste into a web browser.

https://www.mixcloud.com/WCDC1610/

Also, I'm not sure if I made a mistake somewhere along the line or not, but I'm not seeing a complete track list. So, here it is.

1st Hour
Truckin' - The Grateful Dead
H.I.S. Slacks Radio Spot - Jay And The Americans
Let's Stay Together - Al Green
The Girl From Ipanema - Stan Getz (featuring Astrud Gilberto)
In The Year 2525 - Zager & Evans
Wasted Days, Wasted Nights - Sir Douglas Quintet
This Girl's In Love With You - Dionne Warwick
El Paso - Marty Robbins
Mind Games - John Lennon
Let's Spend The Night Together - The Rolling Stones
Come Alive - Pepsi
Ain't No Mountain High Enough - Diana Ross
Kentucky Rain - Elvis Presley
Hawaii Five-O Radio Spot - The Ventures
Papa Was A Rollin' Stone - The Temptations



2nd Hour
Big Ben Chimes Midnight - Tema Digital Media
Chances Are - Johnny Mathis
On The Beach (In The Summertime) - The 5th Dimension
Texaco Star Theme - Texaco
Cry To Me - Solomon Burke
Your Turn To Cry - Betty LaVette
When You're Hot, You're Hot - Jerry Reed
It's Got To Be A Miracle (This Thing Called Love) - Four Tops and The Supremes
H.I.S. Slacks Radio Spot - Jay And The Americans
For The Good Times - Ray Price
Midnight Confessions - The Grass Roots
Things Go Better With Coke (A Man And A Woman) - Otis Redding
Love Makes A Woman - Barbara Acklin
Just Like A Woman - Bob Dylan
Signs - Five Man Electrical Band
Mr. Businessman - Ray Stevens
Sometimes You Feel Like A Nut - Almond Joy And Mounds
Games People Play - Joe South
MacArthur Park (Parts 1 & 2) - Four Tops

An Oldies Show For You To Enjoy

I haven't posted in over a week because I've been busy with a lot of different things. One of them is
doing the preparation for an oldies show I'm now going to be doing on a somewhat regular basis.

What makes my show any different from all the other ones? A few things, honestly.

I use professional audio processing, specifically, the "Big Iron" preset in Breakaway One. This preset is designed to make the music sound as though it's being played on an AM radio station in the late 1960s, and believe me, it works.

I take a lot of time to find the best mastering of each record. Every single record I play falls into one of four categories. It is the stock mono single that you would have found in a record store,  or the promotional mono single sent to radio stations, or the stock album, or the promotional album. You will never hear me playing a stereo mix nor a mixed-down version of one.

In other words, as a general rule, I insist on total authenticity. If there is a difference between the U.S. and U.K. mixes of a record, I determine which sounds better, and which was more likely to have been played back in the day. There are some exceptions to this rule, mostly in the form of Beatles records, because many of the U.S. versions were remixed with way too much reverb. Also, there are some records where for the U.S. version, the U.S. mono mix isn't available on compact disc, whereas the U.K. mono version is available.

Do you get the feeling I spend a lot of money on music? Because, I surely do.

I use vintage jingles and commercials. I freely admit that I do use some modern public service announcements, because that's something an actual modern day oldies station generally does. I do live reads of commercials for local businesses that either are no longer in business, or are ones I've made up.

I've decided to post the shows to Mixcloud. That covers licensing, and also allows shows to be posted at a bit rate of 320 kilobytes per second. Most of the streaming services have limits of 128 kps. That rate is often referred to by such services as "CD quality", which is just so not true.

The first show is finished. I'll upload it later today and post a link to it here. I really don't want to post a full list of what records I played here, but Mixcloud does allow you to see such a list.

What I will do here is briefly talk about a few of the records in each show.

For this first show, I tried to have a good mix of records almost any oldies fan will recognize and some more obscure singles.

I played "Let's Stay Together" by Al Green, using the promo mono mix. It's a good mix.

I played "Wasted Days, Wasted Nights" by Sir Douglas Quintet. They cut this in 1972, so it was not an attempt to cash in on the success of Freddy Fender's  hit version, which he cut in 1975. Rather, it's a resurrection of Fender's 1959 fairly obscure original recording. I like it!

I played  "It's Got To Be A Miracle (This Thing Called Love)" by  Four Tops and The Supremes. It's a nice record, but it's not very contemporary sounding at all for its time (it's also from 1972). The Supremes, of course, were down to one original member by that time (Mary Wilson) and two replacements (Cindy Birdsong and Jean Terrell).

I also played another Four Tops single, namely, their recording of "MacArthur Park". Sadly, the mono single version of this that's currently available is mastered much too loudly and is clipped as well. I was able to make it better sounding by running it through a good declipper effect and a vinyl record simulation, but even after all that, it's still a little rough sounding. Just letting you know, before hand.

As I say, I'll have the whole two hours uploaded later today and then I will post a link here on the blog. I hope you have a chance to listen, and that you like what I've done. I can, and will, do requests and dedications so, if you have one, shoot me an e-mail at wtba950@gmail.com and I will do my best. I currently have 2000 records in regular rotation, so there's only a very small chance I don't have the record you want to hear.

I had a lot of fun doing the show, and I think that shows.







Saturday, March 4, 2017

Thoughts On Possible Futures

This is an interesting time to be alive. There are so many different things that are changing. Some of the changes are very positive and some are so negative that they literally give me nightmares. In the next ten to twenty-five years, these are some of the things that could very well happen.

1. All antibiotics could become completely useless against so-called "super" bugs. This is because antibiotics are currently being over used and abused. For a long time, the main problem was when doctors proscribed them for conditions not even requiring them, just to keep patients happy. That has become far less of a problem, but agricultural use is a very large problem. Factory farms raise thousands of animals at a time, in insanely crowded conditions and therefore, disease can spread very quickly.

I get it that if your corporation has sunk millions of dollars into such an operation, you want to protect that investment.  But the idea of widespread use of such drugs to keep animals healthy is a bad idea for humanity, because bacteria can and do evolve to resist the drugs.

2. The scientists and engineers who work in the field of space flight think they are fifteen to twenty-five years away from developing faster-than-light travel. Now, the existence of a drive system that would allow a space craft to exceed the speed of light is not, in and of itself, the only component needed for space travel. Someone will need to develop sensors, and shields, at the minimum.

But, the drive system is the key to it all.

3. The technology to transfer human consciousness to some kind of electronic system is very likely to exist within the time frame of these other potential developments. What will it mean to be human when your consciousness no longer resides in a physical body? If my consciousness is in a device of some kind, will that system be able to replicate emotions? Will it be able to give me the physical sensation, or equivalent thereof, of how I get a spine tingling chill when listening to the very best music?

4. Robotics is another field where huge advancements are coming, and coming quickly. The Japanese are on the frontier of all of this, as they work to develop robots that are self-aware and capable of learning. Some of the most intelligent people on Earth believe we will one day have a world in which such robots have control over civilization.

Such a world, these people believe, would have humanity reduced to the status of beloved pets, or worse yet, animals kept in zoos.

Do I personally believe this will happen?

No, not at this time. But I do believe that it's something that could happen.

5. Geopolitics have changed drastically in the 21st Century. Old alliances are being questioned while new ones are forming and evolving. Vladimir Putin is trying to form a new version of the Soviet Union. The United States of America has elected a president who is transforming the nation into a fascist state. The leaders in Japan want very much to be able to reconstitute an active duty military. China is starting to have economic problems but is also doing some great work in the area of solar technology and other alternative energy solutions.

And, that's just a small snapshot of everything taking place across the globe.

In closing, as I said, it's an interesting time to be alive in. I do find great enjoyment, security and comfort in living what is a late 1970s/early 1980s life style. But, I also do make a serious attempt to be as aware as I can be of how the world around me is changing.

As always, I thank you for reading what I've written.
 
    

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

This is NOT Entertainment

I've thought about discussing something for a long time, and the time is right, now. I want to talk about the state of television, which, from my point of view, isn't all that good. There are so many shows that depict things that are in bad taste, and it saddens me that so many people have no problems with that at all.

Take "The Big Bang Theory", for instance. I've never watched the show, so its popularity is something I can't begin to understand. I do, on a regular basis, hear an audio clip that's part of a promotional spot for the show on TBS. That audio has one character talking about needing somewhere to wriggle his naked...well, you know. There's also a reference to his "junk".

I do watch "Family Guy" and "American Dad"; the episode of the latter that is a spoof of the Bond films is one of the funniest things I've ever seen. But, both shows often depict a certain thing that happens sometimes when a person has an upset stomach. I've never seen the humor in that.

It's lazy writing, made all the more painful to watch because the writing on both shows is often so good.

I want to say, at this point, that I'm not one of those people who think that television was perfect in the past. A lot of shows that were very successful in decades long past do not hold up well. But some of them hold up very well. The series M*A*S*H has just returned to the cable network TV Land and I'm having a lot of fun watching it again for the first time in several years.

One of the research projects I had to do when I was in college the first time, getting a degree in Communications and Media Arts, was to study the long term effects of watching television. It was at that time that I really came to believe that, speaking metaphorically, "you are what you eat". Meaning, that if you consume a steady diet of garbage, it does change who you are as a person.

 It changes the way you look at the world. It changes how you deal with people.

I try to limit my television watching to something along the lines of three to four hours a day. The only time I go over that limit is if I find a good movie to watch on Turner Classic Movies. There are days when I sit and watch two or three movies in a row. But what I'm watching is very high quality material.

I hope I've given you something to consider.

And as always, thank you for reading.





Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Last Week Of The Month And Money Is Tight

When a person is on a fixed income, as I currently am, every purchase has to be carefully considered. I make it a point to pay all of my bills promptly on the 3rd of the month. After that, there's not a lot of money left over. It's usually enough, but there's not much of a margin for error when I decide what to buy.

Last month was a little easier because I received a $35 HEAP payment. And this month is also easier because it's the shortest month of the year. After spending $8 today, I have $17 left in my checking account. That amount would be larger but I had to buy a new computer mouse, a new mouse pad, and a new of slippers. With sales tax, that's just over $22 I spent on the three items.

I've talked a little bit before about being grateful for a couple of stores where I can get some really good bargains. The bodega up the street is always a nice place if I want an inexpensive snack. I can get an oatmeal cookie and a soda for $1.25, which is really nice.

I also really am grateful for the Dollar General store that's a few blocks from here.

Today, for instance, I got a national brand of pasta sauce for $2 and anywhere else locally, it's priced anywhere from $3 to $3.50. Add in some green beans and I have a decent meal that's about as inexpensive as a good meal can be.

Let's be honest, shall we? Most people in this country do not have enough cash to do everything they want to. Far too many of us have too little money to take care of the things we need to.

We recently had two more chain restaurants come to this area, and I applied online to both of them. I don't know the numbers for the first, but I saw the manager of the second being interviewed on local news.

He said that for 88 positions, they received 700 applications.

Think that over, for a minute.

I'm sure this area isn't the only one where those kinds of numbers come into play.

Someone very close to me has offered very kindly to help me with moving expenses and so, within the next few months, I will be leaving my hometown area yet again.

This time, I don't see myself ever coming back.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Pink Plastic Cup From Boston

In my life, I've had the good fortune to travel quite a bit. One of the cities I truly enjoyed spending time in was Boston. I went there with several other members of the Communications Club from my school, and I enjoyed exploring all of the city's historic sites with the head of our program and my fellow students, some of which had become good friends.

We were invited to tour the facilities at Boston University where we were treated very well. Afterwards, we all had lunch at a deli that was owned by an older couple. They had owned one in New York City for several years, and then had retired when their only child went off to college. She attended Boston University and told her parents that there was a real demand for someplace close to campus that could serve good food at good prices.

So, they sold their house and moved to Boston and opened another deli.

I know all this because the wife, who was a really warm and welcoming person, told us the story.

The food was excellent, and very reasonably priced.

Other places we went to included the Boston Aquarium, a bar just down the street from Fenway Park, and we also took two side trips to Salem. Salem is spooky at night, when the wind blows and you can very easily imagine being transported back in time to the days of the witch trials. In daylight, it's not nearly as dark and foreboding.

One other thing we did was all agree to go out someplace really nice. Some of us wanted to see a show featuring a so-called "dirty hypnotist". This had no appeal for me, and when we agreed to vote on what to do, I voted in favor of going to a comedy club. The vote went that way and so, we went to the comedy club.

The name of it was "Nick's Comedy Stop" and we saw three comedians that night. Two were very funny and one was a complete failure (her career in comedy did not last very long). I don't need to remember the name of the club because I kept the tall, pink plastic cup my drink was served in.  I rinsed it out in my hotel room and decided it would be something neat to keep my spare change in.

As I type this, I'm looking right at it. I've had it now for close to nineteen years and I'll probably keep it until the day I die. Every time I move, the cup moves with me. It's been placed carefully in a suitcase and it's been tossed haphazardly in a plastic shopping bag. But, no matter what the circumstances of the move, the cup comes with me.

Wishing you a good rest of the week, dear reader.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Recent Random Encounters

Over the last couple of weeks, I've had three encounters with complete strangers that linger on my mind. So much so that I feel a need to talk about them.

There was the new neighbor who knocked on my door at 1:30 in the morning and quietly apologized for bothering me. I replied that it was fine, and he then asked if I might have a cell phone charger he could use. He showed me his cell phone, which did in fact need to be charged.

I asked him to wait a moment while I looked for my charger, and remembering that I had a spare, when I found it I gave it to him. I told him he was welcome to keep it. He thanked me warmly and wished me a good rest of the night. I've since talked to him in passing, as well as his girlfriend. They're young, she's 17 and he's 19. They're lost souls who are trying to find their way in this world, and if I can make things just a little easier for them by being a good neighbor, I'm glad to be able to do so.

Two days later, I was approached by a woman in the supermarket, who very quietly asked if there was any way I could help her and her young son get home. I replied that there was not, as I do not own a car, nor did I have money to put them in a cab.

I felt really bad, especially because if she had seen me just ten minutes earlier, she and her son could have taken the last bus of the night. I would have given them the $3 needed without hesitation. When coming out of the supermarket, I saw them walking up the street. I have no idea what happened to them after that.

 And two days after that, in the same aisle of the same supermarket, there was a man who, I'm guessing, must be in his late twenties or early thirties. Trailing him by a few feet was a little girl who looked to be two, maybe three years old. Her father asked her what kind of potato chips she thought they should get, and in her excitement to look at all the choices, she almost ran right into me.

Before her father could even begin to say anything, the child looked up at me and said very clearly, "I'm sorry". I smiled at her and said that it was fine, and she smiled back before going to her father's side.

I don't want to turn this into a post about politics. What I do want to do is ask a single question, and most definitely, that question is not a rhetorical one.

What kind of a nation are we now creating that the little girl and her father, and the lost but looking teenagers, and the mother and her son, will live in long after I'm gone?



Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Five Television Shows I Will Watch Anytime

We live in a world where there are literally hundreds of channels to view on our television sets. There are so many shows a person can choose from. That said, I'd like to list five shows that I always watch if I see them while I'm channel surfing.

1- "The Golden Girls" - There is a reason this show is as popular as it is, even now. That reason, I think, is that it was so well written and acted as to feel like Dorothy, Sophia, Blanche and Rose were real. They were not perfect. They argued with each other, sometimes to the point of truly being downright mean to each other. But in the end, they always were there for each other.

2- "Cheers" - It's been said by many people that this was essentially a radio show transplanted to television and I agree with that. I've seen every episode, and though each season had something worthwhile about it, I feel that its first season was its finest.

3- "Friends" - Again, one of which I've seen every episode. Does it have weaknesses? Yes, it does. I never cared for how the character of Ross was gradually changed into a much less interesting and less competent person. Also, by the end, it stuffed way too many characters into the cast; I never liked the character of Phoebe's husband. That's no slam against the actor, who I like in other roles. I just feel the character was very generic, one you could drop into any one of half a dozen different other shows.

4- "Seinfeld" - Also a show for which I've seen every episode. The much maligned finale is still something I don't care for, nor is the "clip" episode they did. But for a show that did so many things right, one creative misfire and one money-saving episode are both things I can deal with.

5- "Are You Being Served?" - This classic British situation comedy underwent several cast changes through its years on the air, but even its weakest episodes are well worth the time spent watching them, as far as I'm concerned.


Thursday, January 26, 2017

A Different Sports World

This post ties in with my previous one about rules changes for NASCAR that were announced earlier this week.

Once upon a time, the established sports leagues did not have the almost total control they now have over their respective sports. The possibility of competing with these leagues was real. Someone who challenged the then established order with enthusiasm is a gentleman named Gary Davidson. Davidson co-founded the American Basketball Association, the World Hockey Association and founded the World Football League.

It's worth noting that those first two leagues did well enough to have some of their teams eventually join the N.B.A. and the N.H.L., respectively. The W.F.L., however, crashed and burned, playing a full season in 1974 and then ending the 1975 season on October 22nd of that year. They had played twelve out of eighteen weeks that were scheduled.

The Birmingham and Memphis franchises were financially stable and enjoyed good fan support. Both teams asked to be admitted to the N.F.L. but were denied that option. The N.F.L., of course, had been challenged by the A.F.L. in the 1960s, a challenge that ultimately led to a merger of the two leagues.

Since the failure of the W.F.L., there have been more recent attempts to compete with the N.F.L., most notably in 1983 to 1985 when the United States Football League played three seasons of spring and summer football. A planned move to the fall proved to be disastrous, a move that Donald Trump, as owner of the New Jersey Generals, was the biggest advocate of.

The next challenge came in 2001, when Vince McMahon founded the XFL. McMahon did this after his attempt to buy the Canadian Football League failed. The XFL was widely perceived as not being serious, and though its games were aired on N.B.C, it played just one season.

And, most recently, the United Football League, an entity owned by Bill Hambrecht, played full seasons in 2009, 2010, and 2011. The league played four weeks of its 2012 season and then cancelled the remaining games.

Here is my take on these leagues:

The W.F.L. had several issues. Teams were underfunded, some teams played in stadia that were run down, and the placement of a team in Hawaii created a real nightmare in terms of scheduling. Some teams were caught inflating attendance by giving away several thousand tickets. The whole endeavor was a mess from the beginning.

The U.S.F.L. managed to do a lot of things right. Though there was some instability in terms of teams going defunct and some moving, the league was most certainly sustainable. I believe that it could have gone on successfully if it had continued to play its games in the spring and summer.

The X.F.L. was doomed from day one. It tried to establish itself as a renegade, but that just wasn't accepted by football fans.

The U.F.L. was, well, weird. The teams had coaches like Marty Schottenheimer and Jim Fassel, men who had coached with success in the N.F.L. and were well known to fans. But the league had financial issues from the start. It never had more than five teams, thus causing teams to rotate weeks off. I got to see a few of the games and though the quality of play wasn't up to that of the N.F.L., watching those games was fun.

I should also mention that in 1982, when a player's strike wiped out fifty-seven days of the N.F.L. season, the player's association staged two exhibition games. One game had an announced attendance of just over 5000 and the other had something like 3000 to 3500 fans in the stands. In spite of that, the players believed the games to be worth the time and effort involved.

That's when Ted Turner got involved, in that he was willing to finance a new league and air its games on his cable station TBS. Turner went so far as to make a formal presentation to the twenty-eight player representatives.

They voted the plan down, in what was reported to be a very close vote.

That was thirty-five years ago. What I would very much like to see is a serious challenge to at least one of the established leagues. Such an effort would require a lot of money, so whoever backed it would need to have very deep pockets.  Let's assume that there is someone out there with the money to start and run a league.

The only problem is, as I see it, is that pretty much everyone who has the money either is unwilling to spend it or can't manage to pull together all of the different elements involved in starting a league.

That's too bad, because goodness knows there's an appetite for something better.





Monday, January 23, 2017

The Stupidest Idea I've Heard In A Long Time

So, the idiot who runs NASCAR, Brian France, has come up with yet another idiotic rules change. Beginning this season, all races will be divided into three stages. The first 25% of a race is the first segment, the next 25% is the second one, and the rest of the race is the third. The first two segments will be stopped by a caution flag followed by a restart. Points will be awarded to drivers for each segment.

NASCAR is calling this an "enhancement". What it really is is a very bad idea.

I love stock car racing. I grew up attending races at tracks in the upstate New York area. In the 1970s, it was still fairly rare to have that week's race televised live in its entirety. It was more common to air races on tape delay, or to show portions of it as part of "Wide World Of Sports". The best way to make sure to catch all the action was to be at the track, and if that wasn't possible for a fan, radio broadcasts aired the races live.

My favorite driver on a national level was Richard Petty, and when my Uncle Joe got me his autograph for Christmas one year, I was thrilled.

NASCAR was founded by Bill France Sr. in 1948; he ran it and then his son Bill France Jr. ran it. Between the two of them they were in charge for fifty-five years. Every year for several years, the racing got better, the crowds grew larger and the money got bigger. I remember when Brian France took over from his father in 2003, when I made a prediction that he would ruin NASCAR.

I wish I had been wrong, I really do. But this person has just made every wrong move possible. This latest move may be the worst of them all.

This all ties into another post I'll be putting up tomorrow or the day after. I plan to discuss how much I wish that someone with very deep pockets would take on the N.F.L. or the N.B.A. or Major League Baseball or NASCAR. As I said, look for that post soon.

In the meanwhile, Rest In Peace, NASCAR as we knew it. Year of birth 1948, year of death 2017.