Takin’ It to the Streets

I’ve done it before, shouldn’t be a big deal. It’s just been awhile. That’s all. But the layoff can do things to your mind. I know people who for insane distances, who sport the body hugging ensembles for their 60 mile jaunts. I respect those people. They battle terrific elements in conquering sometimes unforgiving surroundings. I am not one of those people. I’ve been riding a bike casually since I moved into the city, but a combination of age, stupidty and other factors had me off last summer. I don’t go for distance or speed past anybody. I like it for the sake of the fresh air and what not.

But a cool windy day seemed as good as any for the Irish Great Gazoo (check out the helmet) to turn a simple run to the bank into a primer of getting reoriented again to riding into the city, where more car, bus, motorcycle, scooter and pedestrian traffic spends more time staring at their phones then watching out for one another.


Toughest task for an apartment dweller is getting the bike out of the basement. That being done, a little stretch for this short cruise and away we went. Elmwood Ave on a Saturday isn’t jammed with traffic as you get closer to Allentown, but traveling down the incline on Utica into the lake breeze makes you think this will be no problem coming back as you keep an eye for any bumps in the road that could turn the bike seat into a surgical instrument. A turn onto Elmwood heading downtown and I hear Sean Connery‘s voice from the Untouchables in my head: “Everybody’s gotta die of something,” and I hit the actual bike lane. You get reacclimated and it starts to feel good. It’s like the old pool warning “C’mon in, once you get used to it, the traffic’s fine.”

And you remember to keep your wits about you and all’s good. How those folks travel with the ear buds in, I’ll never know. I get down to City Hall for my errand in decent time, take care of business, and because there is part of me who apparently has a little self loathing going on, the new paving job of Niagara Square proves tempting. So, I and a large assortment of cars hit it. A brief moment of “what the hell was I thinking” and I’m 3/4 of the way around the traffic circle of the damned and on Delware headed back to my place.  Remember in the last paragraph where I said the wind would be no big deal on the way back, well, dear reader, in the short time frame that transpired, our lovely Western New York winds shifted a bit. Great! Terrific! Fantabulous!

I take the hill that is Delaware and make it back still able to speak English like it is my mother tongue. So, that will have to settle for today’s big accomplishment.

I have to go back to the site of my errand, by I think I’ll take the car.


A little less conversation

Back in the early portion of this decade, I spent some time as a reboot monkey, aiding patrons with their new “Hi-Speed Internet” Issues. It was a little like running a call in talk show for people complaining about things they didn’t fully understand. After a Florida hurricane, people would call after just getting electricity back wondering where the hell the internet was, and this was 2003. It always struck me as funny because almost nightly you’d get that guy to call in, that guy so empowered that he was just on the phone (and it was always a guy) that he would weave an impressive tapestry of obscenities and threats over what might or might not be happening on his computer. Basically, the dude personified Louie C.K.’s monologue about how everything is amazing, but nobody’s happy.

Almost ten years later and not only is high speed internet a standard home appliance, but it follows us around now. This all came back to me after the column in the link below. Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News is (like myself) a twitter user and being a prominent guy, he gets a wide cross section of folks interacting with him.


The column struck me because it addresses one guy who closed his twitter account because folks were talking at him, about some failures. It was kind of ironic, because I think those of who jump onto all these social media connections do it to learn new mediums, understand more, but ultimately to make connections. And I’m that a byproduct of all the jocks and celebrities on twitter. You want to connect, celebrate the good stuff and all.

Well, can’t really do that without expecting to hear flack about the bad stuff either. Get shelled at home and the open door that is twitter (and the rest of social media) will let you know all about that, just as much as they will for the complete game win. Whoever said “opinions are like assholes, everybody has one,” was spot on, we just have more mediums now

“Declare the pennies on your eyes”

Education should be the Silver Bullet, the great untouchable. It’s how you get employees to come your town as “How are the schools?” is one of the more frequently asked questions. One of the many great dialogues from the early years of the West Wing TV show allowed how “education should be palaces, teachers should get six figure salaries.” I got my start on this mortal coil in Clarence. Clarence has long been regarded a quality school system. At the end of the day, it did pretty good by my siblings and me.

As a former resident, I don’t have a direct horse in this fight, but the school district budget got voted down on Tuesday. That’s pretty sad. I understand tax fatigue, I really do, but the things we chose to care about or vote on without actually knowing what was going on is frightening. While it behooves people to be informed and know where the money is being spent, there are many, many other avenues where perhaps fiscal prudence should play a bigger role.

It reads like a little fear mongering went a long way to achieve somebody’s desired goal. A former classmate of mine figured about $25 a month on her property taxes to maintain all the programs, music, sports, etc that are now in danger in this highly regarded burb. Another friend in the know points out that this increase would still be lower than 2004 rates and that Clarence would still be in the cheap end of the scale among WNY districts.

So, all the masses got their way and created a ginormous p.r. problem and whether you know or it or not, likely created a problem for the residents that don’t have kids in the system. This will slow growth, cause property values to lose a step or two.

Stuff costs money, but maybe we should all be better shoppers of what we pay and don’t pay for. An additional $25 a month, I know my folks wouldn’t blinked at that to maintain good programs. I know the lovely mother of my kids and I wouldn’t think twice.

I suppose we should be glad people turned out to vote, but I wonder if they stopped listening after the word “tax” and didn’t recognize the consequences.

Now, I’m not indifferent to the too many taxes position, as it does make sense. There is a lot of waste in our how our money can be spent. There is a very valid point to be raised in the things receiving public monies. But shouldn’t this investment seem like something worth doing.

Seems like a no-brainer, and I guess that’s what got used.

Ball Four

It had to be in error. I was channel surfing and there were the Toronto Blue Jays on national TV. Over the winter, that baseball team up north threatened to be interesting to watch for the first time in a generation. They certainly did right by the Buffalo Bisons who are an absolute blast to watch these days. I picked up a Blue Jays cap and that might be responsible for the Jays’ start. Maybe they will get it together, but who will notice, as we don’t see them that often.

Major League Baseball has some oddball rules and responses to TV. You’d think they would want to have people see the games even from out of the way places like Buffalo. The screwy blackout rules allow for the Yankees and Mets to be beamed into Western New York. In the case of the Mets, I dunno if that is much of a favor, but I digress. But nary a peep at the progress of the Blue Jays, Pirates or Cleveland Indians, all three of which are essentially unavailable to us.

I know this isn’t the mystery of life being safeguarded or anything, but it does seem a little silly. There was some rule passed a few years ago that prevented duplicate airings of programs on border stations. That meant that if CBS was running over from Football, you couldn’t turn over to CBC to catch the show. It’s the opposite of the way it should be, but explains why the cableguide says one thing, but what’s on the air is something something else. Might have to roadtrip to see the Pirates’ home park which is one of the nicest looking in baseball.


But you’d think the idiots running the asylum at Major League Baseball would want to cultivate more fans, show off what they got, and probably sell more caps, tshirts and the like by letting us see. I mean I read the column in the Buffalo News about the Blue Jays taking two games from the Giants, but it might have been nice to see a little bit of either, but no.

The evil overlords at TSN, MLB, etc don’t want us to do that, when we can see all the Mets we can handle…

Thanks, fellers

Why Policy Matters

I’m tired, tired of the squabbling and bloviating about all the scandal du jour in Washington. Read the mighty buffalopundit who explains on Artvoice  about actual facts from those “facts.”

Why Policy Matters.

and for a boots on the ground perspective, this from the Washington Post

Clap for the Soundman

My son has a thing for old british rock, queen, beatles, etc. And that is pretty cool. To hear some live, through the generosity of a good friend, we took in the show the Buffalo Philharmonic did last year with a rock band celebrating Pink Floyd and it was a lot of fun. Later, we checked in on their collaboration on music of the Who. I think this is a little sneaky for me. He gets to hear some radio hits, (me, too, who we kidding) but a little exposure to just how great the BPO is as well. I know some of these pieces can’t be tremendously challenging for the Orchestra members. There are a number of instances with other orchestras where the music reduced the orchestra to back ups or the sound wasn’t done well enough to hear all parties. A collaboration between the actual Metallica and the San Francisco Symphony had some patrons running for the exit.

But the BPO and the music of Led Zeppelin was a treat. Like any kid of the 70s, I’ve always like them, and to my surprise, the lad did too. The nice part of this is given the number of elements in the Zeppelin records, there was room for a very real collaboration between the rock combo doing the job and the orchestra. In my mind, the real star after the great performances was that of the sound crew at Kleinhans. Mixing all those elements can be a tall order, but the folks at the board last night did nice work.

2013-05-11 19.29.16

It was a nice view, great sound, and no “bustle in your hedgerow”, so I wasn’t alarmed. The son? He thinks the orchestra rocks and if they do Queen, we’re there.

Bubble People

“You can’t reach everybody, because some people can’t be reached.” That is one of the few marketing maxims I’ll actually subscribe to, as most marketing strategy is common sense dressed up by…marketing people.

People are hearing what they want to hear, sometimes in traffic.  I was dropping my son off at school last week and a supporter for one of the school board candidates was working the cars in the parking lot on behalf of her candidate.  That made me a little uncomfortable since it was a charter school and I really question the effectiveness of that. It’s like the people who insist on going into the park and blanketing the windshields of cars with slingers, something I’ve hated since  a local gym did it on a rainy day.

Watch how people make left turns in semi-circles instead of the way our drivers ed teachers taught, or cross the street at a green light assuming that “Heisman trophy” like pose to repel traffic, or better still crossing that street staring at the phone. I think it says something. I’m not entirely sure what. I voted in the school board election, but I was only the tenth person to do so.

After the election, facebook was full of bluster about change of all kinds. I was a little uncertain about all of that. About the only thing for sure is that the decisions are made by those who show up.

We all have a tendency to seek comfort in familiar sources for information. That’s a little tougher to do, but it’s good to read things that you don’t necessarily agree with, to find out the whole story. I need to get better at it, read more, despite the presence of the perfectly good television across the room.

Need to burst a few bubbles

Let’s Be Careful Out There!

So, Election Day for school board in the city falls tomorrow. It doesn’t draw very well, but like a Pirates fan in April, full of fresh season optimism, I’ll get to the voting locale on the way into work. If nothing else, my junk mail will take a turn for the positive for a bit. Whoever wins, actually work for the betterment of the system. The kids deserve that, no?

So, another joy of Spring is to see the Hatch at Erie Basin Marina….under construction? All kinds of great things are planned. Who doesn’t love a patio, bigger this, more that, etc. Buffalo Rising has all the essentials and there is the predictable debate about the price tag. Hey, it’s an election year, but the one question I had was couldn’t more of it have been started last fall so we could be enjoying more of it, um, now?

Glad for the effort, nonetheless.

Watched the Toronto Maple Leafs play a home playoff game for the first time in ages. I think by beating the Bruins in the last match up, they made ’em mad. I kind of like that too.

On the other hand, the Toronto Blue Jays are a hot mess, a bad team made up of good players. I think I know what the problem might be. I’ve been longing for them to be interesting once again, so much so, that I went and bought a cap, the alternative with the red maple leaf on it. It’s like the cap sensed that I’ve followed the Mets, rendering this year’s Jays into a Mets’-like squad, only more polite.

The constant of the baseball schedule allows you to drop in and out, doing a bit of standup comedy on twitter about all the writers who predicted that the Red Sox and Yankees would stink it up this year and the Jays would be invincible. Must have been the musings of NFL Draft gurus, guys who thought the Bills would blow their first choice on Ryan Nassib.

I like EJ. I don’t know if any of this means anything, but it sure isn’t dull that way anymore.

In the meantime, I got to get to Bisons game before they exhaust themselves.

Let’s go get at it, Tuesday, but hey! Let’s be careful out there.

School Daze

So, the lovely mother of my lovely children and I have done our time. One of our three has been in the Buffalo School System since 1994. We’ve done our committee time, our bake sale time, our election time, our meeting time and have more than a few friends on faculties around the city. So, we’re pretty conversant in the ebb and flow of the nuances or lack of them in the kids education. It’s no secret that there are some problems, like there is an district. There are a lot of amazing things happening to, which doesn’t get acknowledged enough. Between the well-intentioned idiocy of No Child Left Behind, and continually emasculated budgets, the tough job of education that much tougher.

So there are two candidates for school board in the city of Buffalo in my neighborhood who’ve decided the truly open seat, the one that matters is the one they are fighting for. To that end, they are each filling my mailbox with 9 x 12 full color post cards, the content of which is just their dislike for each other, not what they would do for the job, ideas for the district. After 4 straight days of this, I got it, you aren’t fond of each other, quit wasting money on glossy postcards that make me hope you both lose.

I don’t know what electorial genius it was who decided that is important. When teacher evaluations, state mandated testing (educating via bean counters), good programs getting ignored, pet programs getting twisted and even other districts sweating the value of Kindergarten, I wish both parties, and the PAC that is sending out anonymous character attacks would just stop and actually talk about what matters.

You get the job: “Now, what?”