A Week At Camp – Day 1

I’m spending a full week at Camp this year.  Let’s see how far I get with journaling it.

I left home around 9am and got to Camp at about 11:30.  Kelly (sister) was there with Mom & Dad.  She and Mom went to prepare beds for our cousins who are visiting later in the week.  Dad and I decided to go check out what was going on at Ausable Chasm.

The water in the river is near its all-time low.  There was some rain today–the first in a long time, but it won’t be enough to bring the water up.  Rafters are not able to traverse the rapids.  Indeed, even a raft with a lone guide had trouble getting through to pick up her passengers who had to walk around the rapids!

Whirlpool Basin is the lowest I have ever seen it.

Dean (brother in-law) and I moved the dock and boat hoist out for the third time so far this year.  The lake level is below 95 feet (above sea level) and falling.  Mission accomplished, Mom, Dad, Kelly, Dean, and I took the boat for a ride down Willsboro Bay and back.  Despite a raininy morning, it was a beautiful day on the lake!

While we were waiting for dinner to cook, we sat on the porch.  Seeing a massive plume of dark smoke on Trembleau Point, I hopped in the boat to investigate.  By the time I got out there there wasn’t much to see.  I suspect someone had started a fire using a serious amount of yard waste–probably a lot of pine needles.  The plume we saw from Camp had settled down to a haze that drifted down the bay and which we could smell back at Camp 45 minutes later.

Me on my way back to Camp:

After dinner, I futzed with the Sea Doos, which never seem to run exactly right for us.  The 3-seater’s battery was dead, but the 2-seater fired right up.  Both needed gas.  I removed the dead battery.  It’s charging overnight.

I put the boat on the hoist and then took to preparing a replacement manifold I had to order for my Dad’s air compressor, having broken it 2 weeks ago while working on his lawnmower.  Fortunately, it’s a standard part and was both cheap and easy to find online.

It’s ready to go.  I’ll install it some time this week, while I still remember where everything goes.

More porch time with Mom while Dad went for a walk.  When he returned he reported seeing a young deer lazing about in the weeds in the ditch next to the road.  He walked past very close and the deer did not flinch.  It was still there on his way back.  It seemed healthy…it just had no interest in being anywhere else.

I went inside to post some pictures on Facebook. Amanda called to say goodnight.  (She stayed home because she has a conference in Boston this week, but doesn’t leave until Tuesday morning.)

That’s it for today.  I’m going to bed (11pm).  Here’s a picture of a fawn I saw on the beach north of Camp shortly after arriving today:

Vegas Vacation 2018 – Day 3

Breakfast at the food court in the casino.  I played cash poker again and set a personal best for profit!  Back to the room for a nap, then over to The Mirage for their 2:00pm tournament.  Didn’t make it to the 2nd break.  I wandered back to the room by way of the Treasure Island hotel where I picked up a piece of memorabilia at the request of a friend;  Then back to the room for another nap.  While I was sleeping, Amanda went in search of pizza.  We stayed in for dinner and watched a movie.  After that, I went for another walk among the Canal Shoppes, stopping for gelato in St. Mark’s Square.  It was nice to just sit there and watch people.  I was at a table for 4 by myself, and was eventually joined by 3 strangers as I finished my gelato.
Back to the room and bed.  I know all of that sounds uneventful, but that’s what we decided we were here for!  As I write this, we are at the airport awaiting our flight to Philadelphia.  (I made another $43 at poker in half an hour before we left!)

Vegas Vacation 2018 – Day 2

We found breakfast at a restaurant in our own resort this morning.  We got their buffet because it had all the foods we wanted and if we added up the costs of any single entree, coffee, and juice, it was more than the buffet!  (The buffet was cheap, for Vegas!)
After breakfast, I played cash poker (and lost the money I won yesterday).  Amanda had better luck with the slots and treated herself to a Spa package (and myself to a neat electronic gizmo I had been ogling yesterday!).  Back to the room for a little rest and then back to The Mirage for their daily 2pm poker tournament.  I made it to the final 9, but then busted out.  On the way back to the room I explored a little bit.  This resort is comprised of three massive towers.  I went to the “Pool Deck” of one of the other towers.  8 stories up, it’s a huge collection of 8 different pools surrounded by lawn chairs, misted private cabanas, and bars.  The opulence and decadence are staggering all on their own, but one has to appreciate the architecture and the engineering that goes into the creation of a place like this.  The gondola “canal” in which we rode yesterday, for example, is hundreds of feet long and 2 stories above the street!  Once minor earthquake—one small crack in almost any place—and the amount of actual splash damage to a place like this will be the stuff of insurance adjuster nightmares.
We found dinner at a joint just up the strip called “Strip Burger.”  Not much in the way of ambience, but the food was delicious!  We walked through the Treasure Island casino on our way back to The Venetian, watched a movie, and went to sleep.
More coughing fits at night.  Not at full energy levels during the day.  Am seriously wondering it I actually have mono.  I’m listening to my body, am not overdoing it, and am drinking lots and lots of water.

Vegas Vacation 2018 – Day 1

This Winter Amanda and I decided that we needed a get-away with no purpose other than “getting away.”  We hadn’t been to Las Vegas since our honeymoon, and so 5 days were booked.  We selected The Venetian Resort Hotel and Casino and Amanda booked our flights.  Here we are!
Day One
We arrived late Saturday.  We gambled on a generic shared shuttle service and lost, time-wise.  The price was right, but the driver didn’t know the city very well and neither, apparently, did his navigation system.  It took us almost an hour to get from the airport to our hotel.  There are no “rooms” at The Venetian.  We have a palatial “suite” with a large bathroom, king-size bed, and separate, semi-sinken “living room” overlooking the interior intersection of two towers and the “pool garden” associated with our tower.
Sunday we went across the street fo The Mirage for their breakfast buffet.  Overpriced, but delicious.  We returned to explore The Venetian.  Holy cow, is this place HUGE!  I daresay you could spend at least a week just in this resort without going outside and still not see and experience all it has to offer.  We took the inside Venetian Gondola ride first thing after walking through the shoppes.  The inside is made up to look like Venice, including the ceiling which is painted and lit like a sunny day with white/fluffy clouds against a bright blue sky.  But the lighting isn’t very intense, and so you have the illusion that it is perpetually late afternoon with the sun just having passed beyond the next building—somewhere between actual sunset and twilight.  It’s surreal.
After that lengthy walk (and getting lost—a first for me in a hotel!) we returned to our room for a rest (and a nap for me).  I woke in time to head back across the street for a poker tournament at The Mirage.  I took 4th place ($$$!) out of 30 or so buy-ins.  Not bad!  I returned to our room and joined Amanda as we went in search of dinner.  She had done some more thorough exploring of the casino and other areas we had not covered earlier and discovered a food court where we had a bite to eat.  After that it was another walk around “Venice,” then back to our room and bed.
We have no “plan.”  We are simply be here and away.  It’s an escape.  We might just sit in our room.  We might leave and explore somewhere else.  I might do nothing but play poker.  Who knows?  Who cares!  This is vacation.  The last time we were here we were exhausted when we left.  We did not rest.   It will be different this time.

Webinar Etiquette

If you’ve led a charmed existence and never had to suffer the pain of “participating” in a webinar or a web conference/meeting, you can stop reading now and consider yourself lucky.  Go buy a lottery ticket.

For the rest of you, I’m sorry.  A well-run and -moderated webinar is a rarity.  As participants, we are subjected to legions of peers who have no concept of “mute,” and thus suffer an endless barrage of dogs barking, babies crying, doorbells and phones ringing, food chewing, drink slurping, and open-mouth breathing.  Here are my tips (pleas?) for both hosts and participants of webinars to avoid all of that.

Hosts:
Consider using the right tool for the job.  If all you need is audio, then a webinar is overkill.  There are lots of free conference call services.  Sign up with one and just e-mail your participants the access code.  Use a webinar tool only if you or your participants need to share non-audio information as part of the conversation, e.g., display a PowerPoint or share your desktop in order to show/demonstrate something.

If you do decide a webinar is the right tool, seriously consider forcing all participants to use webinar/computer audio instead of telephone audio.  Why?  Because it forces them to actually join the webinar!  I don’t know how many times I’ve seen it: an invitation is sent out.  The invitation specifies in the details of the event that there will be stuff to be seen.  A dial-in option is offered.  Users inevitably dial in.  When the stuff is put on screen, SOMEONE will pipe up, “wait wait…I only dialed in!”  The worst for me is joining a webinar, headset/mic at the ready, only to find that the only way to get audio is via phone.  Ugh.

Participants:
If someone has requested your participation in a webinar, then you should have the appropriate tools.  This includes a headset with a microphone.  Your computer’s built-in speakers and microphone are fine for personal Skype/Facetime, but on a webinar with more than 2 (possibly dozens of) people, it’s not going to cut it.  In order to be properly hear and be heard, you must have a headset and microphone.

If you are participating in a conference call, do NOT use a speakerphone!  Pick up your handset or use a headset.  There is no such thing as a good-sounding speakerphone, at least as far as the people on the other end of it are concerned.  This is especially true if you are the presenter.

No matter how you participate, the mute button is your friend!  All participants should remain muted unless they are speaking.  This prevents feedback, buzz, and everyone participating from being assaulted with every belch, fart, slamming door, and ringing phone in the background.  If the moderator/host of your webinar does not inflict muting upon you by default, have the courtesy to check your own control and make certain that it’s active unless you are speaking.

I sense I’ve lost this battle.  People seem to be in love with their phones even when a phone is not the most appropriate tool for the job at hand.

Winter Driving

I like driving in the snow. There. I said it. I know that makes me a freak by most people’s standards..

At the mere mention of the possibility of more than a dusting of snow, school superintendents furtively consult about if/when to cancel school and/or after-school activities. Since the Ice Storm, even colleges consider the same. Radio stations in urban areas broadcast interviews with highway superintendents talking about how they’ll react to the storm. Folks make sure they’re stocked up on groceries and heating fuel, the assumption being that they’ll be stranded at home for a week or more. And they cancel travel plans.

Good! That means they’re off the road.

And that’s where I like to be. Yesterday I drove from Albany to Potsdam, NY in the thick of a decent winter snow storm. As I left Albany, there was 2-3 inches of fine snow on the interstate—no plows in sight. The traffic was moderate, considering the conditions, but it was moving along faster than I expected; as we maintained 30-40 MPH. That’s not hard to do when there are three lanes at your disposal, even if you can’t see the lines dividing them anymore. The people forced, for whatever reason, to be on the road in these conditions were off to the right, many with their hazard light blinking. Those of us comfortable with the conditions were cruising along in the far left lane, leaving dozens of fellow drivers in our snow dust.

The farther north we got, the thinner the traffic got. Finally, I passed the last tractor trailer in 5 inches of still-unplowed powder. And I was alone. Bliss! There is a post-apocalyptic serenity (if that’s even a thing) about being, for miles and miles at a stretch, practically the only person on the road. And there I was: all alone, comfortably riding along at 50 MPH and not having to worry at all about other drivers. I had, of course, to pay attention to the condition of the road foot-by-foot, and that brings its own special kind of exhaustion after awhile. But for me, that pales beside wondering what everyone else is going to do (or not do). Will they fall asleep? Swerve to avoid wildlife? Text? Simply get distracted? Suffer mechanical failure? Anything could happen at any moment! But not when it’s snowing and you’re all alone. Bliss.

2018 Ice Castle

And then there’s the scenery. It is unfortunate that snow and sunshine are almost always mutually exclusive, but the lack of sun barely takes away from the natural beauty of the Adirondacks during a good snow. I drove up through Keene Valley, Lake Placid, and Saranac Lake, stopping briefly to photograph this year’s ice castle. It was gorgeous! Gobs of snow clinging to every evergreen bough. And it was quiet! The snow deadens almost all of the normal road noise. Several times I put my window down just to listen to…nothing, resisting the urge to pull over and walk a hundred yards into the woods and just stand there.

I know this experience isn’t for everyone. I know there’s an awful lot of white-knuckled drivers on the best of days. There are people who are scared, and there are people who don’t have enough experience to drive well in what they perceive as adverse conditions. I am neither of those! I also have made certain that I have a properly-equipped vehicle which is a must regardless of one’s proficiency. But I love winter driving!

PS: Ice sucks, and I’m not stupid. This was “just snow.” I don’t care if you’re driving a tank—if there’s snow-on-ice or sleet or freezing rain and you think that’s fun, well, then I think you have a warped sense of entertainment!

 

12 Albums

While sorting through digital detritus I came across this, which I must have posted to Facebook in response to someone having tagged me.  It’s something I am normally loath to do, and I certainly did not tag anyone else.  But this was fun to remember and write, and I want to save it.  Here is as good a place as any!


The rules: Copy this and post as your status, but delete my list. List 12 albums IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER that made a lasting impression on you, but only 1 per band/artist. Tag 12 friends to do the same, including me, so I can see what you listed.

———-

In no particular order:

1) The Roaring 20’s – Volume 4; Enoch Light and his Charleston City All-Stars

It’s a good thing my parents had two copies of this.  I’m pretty sure I wore one out!

2) Free To Be You And Me; Marlo Thomas & Friends

There’s a whole lot of Empathy and Golden Rule baked into this gem.  Lots of stories about how we’re all different and should realize and respect those differences.

3) Cocktails For Two; Spike Jones

My first experience with musical humor.

4) That Was The Year That Was; Tom Lehrer

The man is a genius and left the business when he was on top.  I know every song on this album by heart.

5) Pot Luck With Elvis; Elvis Presley

The rhythm of “Kiss Me Quick” was something I just couldn’t get enough of.

6) White Christmas; Bing Crosby

Christmas Morning would not be complete without it!

7) Xanadu Motion Picture Soundtrack; Olivia Newton-John and ELO

My favorite movie of all time, and my favorite soundtrack of all time!

8) Super Trouper; ABBA

I love everything they ever did, but to me this represents the zenith of their career.  If you can only own one ABBA album, own this one.

9) The Little Mermaid; Soundtrack

This movie heralded Disney’s much-overdue return to motion picture animation.  Menken and Ashman outdid themselves.

10) Uptown Girl; Billy Joel

Since I can only pick one per artist, this is the one I pick from Billy.

11) Delirious; Eddie Murphy

This album re-defined “raunch” for kids of a certain age.  Part of the fun and thrill was knowing we probably shouldn’t have been listening to it at our age…

And last, but certainly not least:

12) Allan Sherman’s Mother Presents: My Son The Folk Singer; Allan Sherman

One day while going through my parents’ record collection this cover caught my eye.  I don’t know if it was the pretty lady in the cocktail dress or the fact that she was holding a dead chicken; the fat, bald guy standing on the pedestal playing a guitar or the fact that he was barefoot; or the biggest (what looked like) sausage I had ever seen hanging from a tray being supported by a stone statue of a naked baby.  But I had to know what was on this record!

The album was 1962’s “Allan Sherman’s mother presents: My Son, The Folk Singer”.  The melodies of some of the songs were familiar.  I recognized “The Battle Hymn Of The Republic” in “The Ballad of Harry Lewis” and “Greensleeves” in “Sir Greenbaum’s Madrigal,” but the lyrics were different.  Many of them were outright funny to me in my pre-pubescent state.  “My Zelda found her big romance, when I broke the zipper in my pants,” sounded dirty (though I didn’t know why).  Regardless, it made me giggle.  Listening to Sherman say “Oh boy…” over and over in the midst of a comical string of pop culture references recorded almost 30 years before Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start The Fire” had me in fits.  And listening to the back-and-forth between Sherman and Christine Nelson in “Sarah Jackman” (Frére Jaques) was voyeuristic, like picking up on the party line at our camp and putting your hand over the mouthpiece.  But most of the material was over my head and only “funny” because the audience on the album was laughing.

This was my first taste of Borscht Belt humor, though I obviously didn’t know that’s what it was called at the time.  Not being Jewish, I didn’t understand most of the cultural references; not that I would at that age anyhow.  I have spent my life subconsciously tracking them all down.  My research is not overt, but every so often I will hear one and my brain will say, “Ah!  So THAT’S what ‘B’nai B’rith’ means!” or “THAT’S who David Susskind was!”

Judging by the reaction of the audience on the album, if nothing else, Sherman is hilarious without working blue.  I spent many hours listening, re-listening, and singing along to that record.  There are some references to which I am still not hip.  In this day of Wikipedia it would be trivial for me to track down each and every one about which I have question.  But there’s no romance in that.  My subconscious research continues.  Though I do wish someone would explain why the line “Stein with an ‘e-i’ and Styne with a ‘y'” is funny…

On Journalistic Integrity

[SPOILER ALERT – Minor plot details from “Supergirl” season 2, episode 15]

In season 2, episode 15 of the CW’s “Supergirl” (the most recent, as of this writing), Kara Danvers (AKA Supergirl) is fired from her job as a reporter by her editor, Snapper Carr, for publishing a story on her personal blog that he wouldn’t let her publish in the paper because she didn’t follow basic journalistic principles and could not cite two independent and verifiable sources to back her claims.  Her information was correct, but that was not the point.  Here is what Snapper had to say on the matter:

Kara: “I thought what I was doing was right.”

Snapper: “You weren’t right, you were lucky. Next time, you might not be. One wrong statistic about the stock market, and suddenly we’re in a great depression. One mis-attributed quote from a candidate, and you put a fascist in the White House. The rules are there for a reason: to make sure you get the story right. That’s not luck–that’s being a good reporter.”

Coincidentally, last night I watched Rachel Maddow’s show on which she displayed two pages of a 2005 tax return allegedly representing Donald Trump’s filing for that year.  I say “allegedly” because the “source” for this information is a reporter who had those pages anonymously delivered to him. By his own admission, they could have come from anywhere.  Hell, they could be forgeries! He went on at some length about where they MIGHT have come from, but he has no idea.

Hours, even days will be spent on speculation about these two pages and what they “mean.”  And speculation is all it can be because there are no verifiable facts to back it up. (The White House did release a statement which would seem to corroborate this, but they would have run with the story absent that.) I’m am not a journalist, nor am I student of Journalism. But I question the journalistic integrity of someone who receives information anonymously and decides to publish it without verifying its authenticity. It’s sensationalism at best, reckless and potentially dangerous at worst.

Why Updates Are Important

Almost 30 years ago John, an acquaintance of mine, purchased a Macintosh SE computer and an ImageWriter II printer.  His need was simple: He wanted to type stuff and print it out.  That need has not changed, and his trusty Mac SE is still serving him well in that regard.

In the modern, Internet-connected world, your needs as a User of technology are constantly changing, though you probably don’t even realize it.  You might think to yourself, “my computer is the same as it was the day I bought it, and it was fine then; so why should I update or change anything?”  And you would be right–your computer hasn’t changed!  But the Internet has.  And if you are connected to the Internet, then your needs are changing whether you know it or not.

First, let’s talk about code.  Computer code is the language that describes and controls how computers work.  Code determines how this web page looks.  Code determines what happens when you click on something.  Code secures your online banking transactions.  We like to think of computers as “perfect,” but the reality is that computers can only do what they are told, and it’s computer code that tells computers what to do, and computer code is written by people.  And how many perfect people do you know?

Three principle factors drive updates to computer code.  The first is flaws.  A flaw in code could mean it doesn’t do what it was designed or specified to do.  That can mean any number of things–the code was designed for 10 different things and only 9 of them work (it wasn’t tested thoroughly).  Or maybe when the code runs for too long the computer runs out of memory.  Or maybe it crashes when it runs on February 29th.  It could be anything.  When a flaw in code is found, it has to be updated.  The second factor that drives updates to code is security.  Security can mean keeping your data safe as it is transmitted from computer to computer (this is called encryption).  But security also means protecting the computer on which the code is executed (or “run”).  If a malicious user (frequently, if inaccurately, referred to as a “hacker”) executes code in a manner the author of the code did not anticipate, it could result in the user gaining an unauthorized level of access to the computer on which the code is running and, likely, many/any other computers on the local network to which that computer is connected. These flaws, once discovered, are called “exploits,” and when they are found, code is updated. The third factor is features. People constantly want more and better things, and things produced by code are no exception.  Here’s what the SUNY Potsdam home page looked like in December of 1996, almost 20 years ago as this is written:

Compare that to what it looks like today and all the features it offers. It improved.  It evolved.  It got better.  It was updated!

“But that’s not on MY computer, Rom.  Why should I care if people have to update code on web servers and internet computers?” Well, you’re partly right.  Why should you care if your bank or Google or Amazon.com update their web sites? Frankly, you don’t have a choice. Sooner or later, you’ll be forced to care. Part of updating a web site might be requiring a minimum version of a web browser because previous versions are known to have exploits which could lead to or allow a breach of the web server.  Things are fine today, and then tomorrow when you go shopping on amazon.com, you get an error telling you you have to upgrade your browser. If you want to shop/bank/blog/whatever, you must have the software your bank/vendor/blog host/whatever requires you to have.  If you don’t believe me, find a copy of Firefox 1.0 and see if you can load any of the web sites you usually visit. (If you can even install it on your current operating system…it’s up to version 50 now.)

But it’s not just the Internet you need be concerned about.  The operating system (“OS”) that runs your computer or your phone or your tablet is also code! And developers are constantly making updates for the same reasons: features and security.  Again: because code is written by humans, it is inherently flawed and other humans are going to discover those flaws.  Once discovered, flaws must be fixed because it must be assumed that some person somewhere will take advantage of the flaw. And that fix results in, you guessed it, an update.

“But geez, Rom; updates are a hassle!  They always seem to pop up right when I have something important to do.  I don’t have time for this crap!” You are not alone.  In the last week or so, I have heard from three separate people complaining about their computer or devices functionality.  In each case, a reboot and/or software update resolved their problem.  Sitting through an unexpected software update might seem like a hassle, but they really are necessary and should be checked for and applied regularly in order to preserve the functionality and security/integrity of your device.  They will also SAVE you time in the long run, even if they are a hassle at the moment you encounter them.  If an update notification pops up and you don’t understand what it is or what it is for, ask!  Do some research.  Type it into Google and see what pops up.

Some general tips for end users:

  • Mind the source of the update.  Updates in your App Store are usually safe.  Windows Updates are usually safe.  A window that pops up out of nowhere while you are browsing the web should be scrutinized.
  • Inspect links! If you are asked to “click here,” hover your cursor over the “here” and read the link that pops up.  The part immediately after the “http://” is most important.  Something that says something like “updates.microsoft.com” is likely legitimate, but something that reads “microsoft.updates.thisisreal.co” probably isn’t.  It’s easy to be fooled because it says “microsoft” in it. (Or “apple” or “google” or “some word you trust”.)
  • When in doubt, ask someone who knows more about it.
  • It’s not just you: Adobe Flash and Java do, in fact, update with annoying frequency, and their “updaters” aren’t as automatic as they should be.
  • Simply downloading an update doesn’t mean you have installed it.  Read and follow instructions.  If you don’t understand them, ask someone who does what to do.

It Shouldn’t Be This Hard.

I’ve never been the best or smartest person when it comes to managing money.  But we have a household budget and we stick to it.  I don’t track every penny spent, but there are some things I do track so that we can plan accordingly, most notably groceries.

I have been a Key Bank customer for about 30 years.  Recent events have me evaluating that relationship.  Earlier this year, Key overhauled their online portal–the web site customers use to view their accounts, pay bills, transfer money, etc.  As part of that project, they deleted all of the budgeting and reporting tools that used to be a part of the portal.  I had spent hours defining budget categories and applying those categories to transactions so I could run reports, e.g., “How much did we spend on Groceries each month last year?”  All that hard work, gone.

I complain to @KeyBank_Help on Twitter and receive an “apology” and am urged to use another service called “Hello Wallet.”  So I go and sign up with them.  My Key accounts link up easily enough, but Hello Wallet can only show me the previous three months of transactions, which is useless if you’re in need of reviewing a year’s worth of personal finance data. (This was confirmed by their tech support.)

So I suck it up and decide to buy Quicken.  (The Windows version, as Intuit has done a pretty thorough job of screwing with Mac users on and off for decades.)  When I get to the Payment Information screen, I am informed: “The Quicken special discount offer you’re trying to access has already been redeemed or is experiencing an error. Please contact Quicken customer support specialist at 650-250-1900 Mon – Fri 5am to 5pm Pacific if you need more assistance.”  *sigh*  So I call that number.  It rings 3 times, and then punts me to some kind of error tone/beep I’ve never heard before.

The universe is conspiring against me.  I should just keep my money in a shoe box, I guess.  If I ever do manage to acquire Quicken, I should probably send the receipt to Key Bank and ask for reimbursement.

#KeyBank #Quicken #Intuit