The Quest for a Prescott Piano

Some time last year while doing some Googling for tidbits on my family history, I became aware of The Prescott Piano Company.  I thought that was neat and made a mental note that it would be neat to own one some day.

Last week, while at bowling and bored between frames, I Googled “Prescott Piano For Sale” and was pleasantly surprised to see one advertised on a web site called  For the purposes of moving a piano, the location was relatively “local”: Ithaca, NY!  There were only two pictures posted, but it looked to be in good shape.

A Prescott Piano!

The posting was only a day old.  I used the web site’s messaging feature to send a message to the owner, inquiring about the price.  She got back to me the next morning: It was FREE as long as I came and got it.  I asked her how long she would hold it and she said one week.

Amanda and I were going to be in Buffalo/Niagara Falls for the weekend, and so we decided to reserve a U-Haul truck in Ithaca and stop on the way home to see the piano, confirm we wanted it, rent the truck, load it up, and head home with our prize.

After confirming on their web site that they are open on Sunday, I called the Ithaca location for U-Haul and reserved a 15′ truck–the smallest they had with a built-in ramp.  Saturday morning I received a call.  The gentleman with whom I had made the reservation had, for some reason, put me down for a 20′ truck; and they only had the one 20′ truck due back that day (Saturday) and it had not been returned.  They were not going to have one for me on Sunday.  I told the fellow that all I needed was a 15′ truck, but they didn’t have one of those either.  So he looked in the U-Haul system, couldn’t find anything, and transferred me to U-Haul Location Services.  I was on hold for about 10 minutes when finally a nice lady picked up.  But she was in Connecticut (they apparently pick up when New York’s queue gets too full).  She told me there was a 15′ due back in Cortland on Sunday morning (perfect, since we didn’t need it until late afternoon), but that the U-Haul location in Cortland was an “On Call” location.  I didn’t know exactly what that meant, but surmised that on a Sunday, it meant they were closed unless you had a specific appointment.  She even offered to call the renter to see if they wouldn’t mind returning the truck to Ithaca instead of Cortland!  (That didn’t happen.)  I hung up believing I had a reservation for 3:00pm in Cortland and that someone would be there to meet us and get us into a truck.

We left Niagara Falls and took a leisurely drive across western New York state on a gorgeous day.  We got to Ithaca at about 2:00 and tried to call the owner of the piano.  No answer, left message.  The piano was on the front porch (as we could see in the picture)–10 steps above the sidewalk!  Oh no.  Did I mention it’s a PIANO?  Pianos are heavy!!  I wasn’t sure how we were going to get it off the porch, ramp or no ramp.  It was just the two of us, after all.  Still, there was a lot of pedestrian traffic due to a festival that was going on.  I thought perhaps we could rely on the generosity of strangers (or offer to pay them) and we’d get this done.

Having looked over the piano, we decided we did, in fact, want it.  So we took off for Cortland to get the truck.  (Did I mention that about half way to Ithaca our car’s exhaust system somehow disconnected from the exhaust manifold?  Yeah…it was a LOUD drive home!) There was no one there.  I called the direct number I had been given for the location and got voice mail (closed Sundays).  I called U-Haul and finally spoke to someone in New York state who was very confused as to how I was directed to an On-Call location on a Sunday, particularly in Cortland which she knew for a fact was never open on Sunday!  I took this as a sign and thanked the lady for her help and told her to cancel the reservation.  Amanda and I had discussed it–we will be in Rochester next weekend and will try this whole thing again.  I will confirm a full week in advance with U-Haul that they have a truck available.  I will attempt to arrange to hire some strong backs to help us get the piano off the porch.  And Amanda won’t have to drive a car that sounds like it might blow apart at any moment.  Best of all, the owner of the piano is very nice and has agreed to hold onto it just a little longer!


PS: If you know of anyone in Ithaca with nothing better to do next Sunday afternoon, we could use some help loading a piano!

Babylon 5: Comments on Power

I’ve been re-re-re-watching Babylon 5.  In season 4 (Episode 16, “The Exercise of Vital Powers”), Mr. Garibaldi, former security chief has a conversation on Mars with William Edgars, one of the 4 richest men on Earth/Mars/Colonies. They talk about Power.  I stopped and re-watched the scene, because while written almost 20 years ago, it sounds very eerie today.

A little background: B5 takes place in the not-too-distant future of humans, around the year 2260.  Telepathy is a thing.  Most races have telepaths.  Telepaths can do just what you think: read other people’s minds.  An organization called the Psi Corps exists and all telepaths are members and, when in public, wear a badge and black gloves.  The Corps was a powerful organization before the series, and while it’s not a main plot point, there are hints that a war between telepaths and “mundanes” (non-telepaths) is coming. You also need to know that President Clark had his predecessor (Santiago) killed with the aid of an alien race called The Shadows.  The Shadows have been dealt with by the time this conversation is had (not much of a spoiler). Also, this show aired in the late 90’s, so the dates mentioned after that are future science fiction–who knows what they think the Russians did in 2013 or what the Jihad party is? Last, Nightwatch was a political organization of “patriots” charged by the President with ferreting out sedition.  Merely mentioning that you don’t like the President’s policies counts as “sedition.”

I read/watch this and I think of The Internet as an analog for telepaths and loss of privacy.  The Shadows could be the Russians of today’s headlines.  You can decide for yourself who Clark seems like.


Edgars: Humans have always struggled to find the outer edge of what’s possible. And that’s our strength. But what kind of world would we have, what options for happiness would we have in a society run by telepaths where ordinary humans are considered second-class citizens and privacy is something you don’t even risk dreaming about? Would you like to live in that kind of world, Mr. Garibaldi?

Garibaldi: No. No, I wouldn’t.

E: But you know it’s coming, don’t you? There are a few Psi Cops who think they should run the show but they don’t have the power to do anything like this. Not yet, but that’s changing.

G: Come on. Even if they tried something, they’d be outnumbered 10,000-to-1.

E: You’re thinking in old terms, of force of arms. But times have changed. We’re talking a war of information. A war of secrets. A war of intimidation. Once they take off those badges, can you tell a telepath from a normal? They don’t have to be everywhere to make people believe. They might be next door.  You want your secrets exposed, your most private thoughts broadcast for the world to hear?

G: No, but they can’t…

E: How many people actually belonged to the Nazi party? The Communist party? The Jihad party? A very small number. But there were plenty of other people who were happy to do the work for them and others afraid enough to let it happen.

G: In order for them to take power they’d need an army.

E: You’re still laboring under the notion that people take power. Nobody takes power! They’re given power by the rest of us, because we’re stupid or afraid or both. The Germans in 1939. The Russians in 1917 and 2013. The Iraqis in 2025. The French in 2112. They handed over power to people they thought could settle scores; get the trains running on time; restore their prestige. They did it because it was what they wanted. Afterwards, like children who have eaten too much candy after dinner they denied it was their fault: ”No, it was them.” It’s always ‘them.’

Today, President Clark has the power, and we gave it to him because we’re afraid of the aliens and afraid of ourselves. And now he’s giving it to the telepaths. Clark wants complete and total loyalty. When he was vice president, he instituted loyalty tests. But you can fool a test. You can’t fool a telepath. So he started bringing them into the process. President Santiago objected but he underestimated the opposition.

Clark wanted power. I don’t have a problem with that. No one but a fool ever walked away from real power. But he began taking unacceptable risks. He eliminated Santiago with outside help. I don’t know the full story; only that aliens were involved and they promised him all the power he could want. But he wanted an ace or two up his sleeve. He knew they were interested in the Psi Corps, and if they were interested, then he was interested.

They were his insurance policy against the aliens and his means for gaining more power. He created the Nightwatch started putting his people into important positions with telepaths alongside for security. He gave them unprecedented authority. And if you think they’ll let go of that power once he’s gone you’re gravely mistaken.


A Week At Camp – Day 4

Forgot to post before bed last night!

Not a lot of time spent actually at Camp yesterday.

In 1963 when Dad moved out of the dorms at Clarkson, he realized he didn’t have a comfy chair.  He went downtown Potsdam and bought one–a really nice La-Z-Boy recliner.  He kept it and it was in our living room until the upholstery started to rip. I took it from my parents who didn’t want it anymore.  It is the most comfortable chair in which I ever have sat.  I used it for some years with a fitted cover on it until it mechanically broke.  It occupied the tiny foyer of our home for the better part of the last decade until I finally, about 2 months ago, took it to Fleming’s Fine Furniture in Malone to be repaired.  Al, the guy in charge of the repair shop, was almost giddy when I dropped it off.  I don’t think he had ever seen one that old!  Several weeks later he called to say it was all done and ready for pickup.  Yesterday Dad and I took his truck to Malone to pick up the recliner.  I’m not going to share the amount I was charged for this service, but let’s just say I was VERY happy and very impressed!  If ever I am in the market for new furniture, Fleming’s in Malone will be my first stop!

We took the chair straight to an upholsterer in Ausable Forks.  He probably won’t get to it until October; but I’ve waited this long!  Amanda and I will visit him in a couple of weeks to pick out fabric.  From Ausable Forks it was up to Peru to pick something up for Mom and then back to Camp by way of Ausable Chasm where we stopped to watch the work being done on the hydroelectric dam.

It was late afternoon and we all got ready for dinner–our cousins took us out to dinner at Dana’s Rusty Anchor in Valcour.  Always delicious!  We got back to Camp around 8:00.  I enjoyed a beer and a cigar on the porch and went to bed early.

  1. An appropriate running board for a plumber’s truck!
  2. Dana showing off his new stemware.
  3. Work on the Chasm dam
  4. The new choke “knob” I put on the Sea Doo yesterday #RedneckEngineering

A Week At Camp – Day 3

Woke up around 8:00.

The cousins decided today was the day to see Ausable Chasm.  A good choice, given the weather forecast for the rest of the week.  I gave them a personal tour.  We opted for the riverwalk, as the youngest was not quite tall enough for the Adventure Trail.  I had forgotten about the accompanying adult requirement for the tubes, and so designated myself as such for the kids (9 and 13) who wanted to take the tubes instead of rafting.  Just as well, as I had never done it before.  But I wasn’t dressed for it.  Oh well!  Also, I should have had a heavier breakfast.  I ran out of calories about 2/3 of the way through the hike.  Hooray for fat reserves! (?)

I suggested Clover Mead Café for lunch, but they aren’t open early in the week.  So back to Camp for lunch it was.  After lunch I took a swim/bath. (Ivory: The Soap That Floats!)  Then I went into town to pick up some odds and ends at the hardware store, Red Stripe at Arnold’s Grocery, and gas. The odds and ends included plumbing for a custom toilet paper holder, zip ties to repair the flag pole that hangs our Canadian flag on the boat house at Camp, and a small collar with a set screw to jerry-rig the choke handle on one of the Sea Doos.  (Or, as the guy at the hardware store called it, “Redneck Engineering.”)  It worked!

I played banjo for a bit and then prepped the boat for an after-dinner ride.  I took the kids and their grandpa over to Port Kent.  LCT has been storing the Valcour ferry there this Summer, which is odd.  We looked it over and then I took them out to Ferris Rock and told them the story of how the Valcour ran aground there in 1975. We returned to Camp. I covered the boat because of the rainy forecast.  While we were out, Kelly and Dean came down to visit. (Happy Anniversary!!) I did the dinner dishes, tried new ink cartridges in my portable printer (they “fixed” it), and am heading to bed at 11:30 after publishing this post.


A Week at Camp – Day 2

Slept in until 9:30!

Breakfast…waiting for the rain to come.  Watched the lake go by for awhile and eventually picked up my stuff in preparation for a scholarship luncheon my parents hosted today.  As guests started to arrive, I realized rain was also about to arrive and ran down to the dock to cover the boat.  While the luncheon was in progress, I called into a meeting at work.  By the time that was done, most of the guests had left and we had Camp to ourselves again.

I waited for the rain to stop for a bit and put the battery back in the Sea Doo.  Success!  It started right up.  I decided to make sure it was okay and went for a ride around the bay.  🙂

While dinner was cooking, our cousins arrived from Toronto to spend the week.  We ate while they got unpacked and situated, having stopped at Clare & Carl’s on their way in.  Then Family Time on the porch for the rest of the evening!

Sorry…I wasn’t much of a shutterbug today!  But here’s a picture of cousins Jaqueline and Ashton exploring the beach.

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.

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.

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.