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Downtown.

Last night I decided that I needed to get back into the routine of riding my bike to work so this morning I was up an extra half hour early and on my bike for my daily commute. I can still remember the first time I rode my bike to elementary school back in the late 1970s and the thrill I felt as a youngster as I got to school under my own power. I still feel that thrill to this day when I ride my bike to work.

There’s a certain amount of planning involved with doing this environmentally friendly peddle pushing. This is the first time that I’ve ridden my bike to this job and there’s a dress code expectation of sorts that has to be met, so prepping for the ride involved planning and packing clothes that wouldn’t get exceedingly wrinkled while in a small backpack, plus I needed to pick the right shoes that would dangle off the bottom of my back pack without creating too much discomfort in that area.

Another first for me today is this is the first time I’ve ever packed my laptop for a bike ride. I usually dash home at lunch but there’s no “dashing” when one is on a bicycle, so I opted to walk our fine downtown and take advantage of the free wi-fi service they recently unveiled. It’s a little slow, but it does the trick.

Downtown Utica has become an interesting study for several reasons. First of all, it’s suffering from the aftermath of a propserous turned disasterous urban renewal plan from the 1970s. During this project of over 30 years ago, many of the historic buildings were razed and cement-chic buildings popped up in their place. Unfortunately some of these buildings, as well as their remaining older counterparts, are currently empty as businesses close down or relocate to the commercially prosperous suburb of New Hartford. What was once a busy downtown retail area has been replaced by an apartment building, several office buildings and countless empty storefronts. There’s also a relatively modern hotel that seems to be holding on, though with the construction of a new Hampton Inn underway, I don’t know how long it’s going to be able to hold it’s own.

It was only three or four years ago that you would see hot dog carts and whatnot on the street at lunch time. I used to be able to walk around the downtown area and see lots of people walking from their office to one of the several lunch counters. Today none of that is to be found. I guess the office workers in this area are brown bagging it or going to one of the newer chain restaurants in the suburbs. There are just a few people on the sidewalk. I’m sitting in the courtyard at the State Office Building. I’m one of five people here. This building has 16+ floors of offices. It’s 12:23 in the afternoon. You’d think there’d be more people out here enjoying the beautiful weather and a lunch.

I’m hesitant to admit it but I hope that Earl and I stick around long enough to see this city turn itself around.

To Dive For.

There was a time when I could easily eat a large bag of Doritos in one sitting and not even think twice about it. In an effort to get this aging body back into shape I’ve kicked that habit for the most part, however I wanted something to snack on once in a while that felt kind of chippy but was rather healthy.

Enter Belgian Endive and Vegetable Hommus.

I’ve taken to eating the leaves from a head of endive and making like they’re chips, using vegetable hommus as the dip. It’s a tasty little treat that helps me keep within my self-imposed caloric confines and gives me the feeling that I’ve had a snack.

When I was a kid we kept our vegetables to the standards: peas, carrots, beans and corn. Once in a while we’d get a treat with beets. Oh, and there’s fried green tomatoes, which I absolutely love. When I ventured out on my own as an adult, I discovered the virtues of eggplant. Eggplant rocks in the summertime, especially when you’re looking for something to grill and you want to fake being healthy about it.

Endive has an interesting taste. It’s slightly bitter. It mixes well with the vegetable hommus I enjoy. I’ve never had endive any other way but I’m betting it would be good with spinach and artichoke dip.

Endive.

Inconvenient.

There’s a certain amount of danger in staying up late on the weekends and then taking a two hour nap on Sunday afternoon.

You end up babbling in your blog about nothing at 1:09 a.m.

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Back On The Saddle.

After nearly two weeks of being off my bike I took the opportunity to hit the pavement this evening. With all traces of my little cold just about gone, I think the ride did the trick and knocked whatever was left completely out. I feel great.

I was tempted to ride this evening until after dusk but I don’t have a light on my bike. When I was a kid I loved riding after dark. I’d be on my Huffy three speed (in startling brown) with my little generator light humming off my tire and the subsequent light only bright enough to make out vague shapes of what was ahead in the road. I’d hang out with the other kids down the street, goofing off or playing some super stealth version of hide and seek and then make the trek home after dark. There was only one street light along the 1/2 mile between point A and point B and it didn’t do a good job of revealing the dog named Barney that liked the chase bicycles. He was always a challenge. I like to think of him from time to time and thank him for my strong leg muscles. He helped them develop early.

The weather looks promising for more cycling this week. It’s good to be back on the saddle.

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Albany, New York.

After a delightful afternoon with family and friends in Syracuse, Earl and I zipped halfway across The Empire State to Albany for a gathering of all thing bear. We’ve returned to the scene of the crime at a Motel 6 for the night. I call it the scene of the crime because this is the first hotel Earl and I spent our first date weekend at. We became inseparable more than a decade ago in this very hotel.

Tonight the tradition continues.

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Not Today.

A story on CNN this morning reports that an ATM machine in Louisiana spit out $20s instead of $5s recently and that over $7000 in extra money was handed out to users of the machine over a two day period.

The authorities are thinking of bringing up charges against those that received the extra dough.

I think that’s wrong.

First of all, the article says that they think someone rigged the machine to spit out the wrong denomination bills. My gut tells me that in reality someone put $20 bills in the $5 slot when they were loading the machine but perhaps someone knew some codes and hacked into the ATM which, by the way, was probably made by the same company that those completely unneccessary but lord and savior electronic voting machines that keep messing up our elections.

Secondly, the problem was reported and the truck stop that owned the machine took action by unplugging it. It was subsequently plugged back in, apparently when no one was looking and so more people received extra money. That’s the fault of the folks at the truck stop, not the customers. The authorities have better things to do instead of tracking down folks from god knows where who got a few extra bucks. In a way, it was their lucky day (though in kind of a morally questionnable way), and if companies are going to be housing bank machines in every last remote location throughout the country then its their responsibility to make sure the machine is working correctly.

Remember the ads in the 1980s when people were all happy because the then brand new ATMs spit out too much money? The big voice said “It’s your lucky day!”

I guess that’s a thing of the past in today’s version of the United States.

The Moral of the Story.

As I mentioned earlier in the week, I was having a difficult time getting my hands on a copy of “The Secrets of Isis”, which was released on DVD on Tuesday. I’ve given up on the traditional brick and mortar DVD outlets in our area and have decided to stick to online when I really need to add a movie or TV series to our collection. My copy of Isis arrived yesterday from Amazon. Earl and I spent much of last night watching episodes and the huge assortment of extras available with this set. I’ve said before that I am a fan of the work of Andy Mangels, who was in charge of putting this set together. Andy is gay comic extraordinaire and appears at conventions and whatnot. He can also be seen on some of the special features on the Wonder Woman DVDs. We’ve corresponded on numerous occasions and he’s a great guy.

“The Secrets of Isis” is a live-action Saturday morning show from the mid 1970s. Usually coupled with the popular “Shazam!” (the version with Billy and Mentor in a Winnebago), Isis appeared in the second-half of the hour in her own program. In response to criticisms of violence in the Saturday morning shows of the era, Isis, like many of her Filmation Production counterparts, included a moral at the end of each episode. These 30 second vignettes reinforced the theme of the episode in an educational manner. Unfortunately, they were all chopped off of the master copies of the episodes in the 1990s, and subsequently discarded by the folks at Hallmark, who owned the rights and property to the show for a number of years. (The rights were sold to BCI Eclipse earlier this decade and that’s why we finally have a DVD release of the program).

I can’t help but think that the United States would be a better place today if some of the Saturday morning programming for children were less about war, strife and violence and more about everyday scenarios with a supernatural twist (for example) and just a touch of a moral message through the show. The moral messages through the Filmation Productions, including Shazam and Isis, certainly had a HUGE impact on me as a child and quite frankly had a big part of the shaping of my adult moral foundation. Isis didn’t tell me how to think but she was an outsider that was reinforcing the basics that my mother and father successfully instilled in me.

“The Secrets of Isis” DVD set includes many of the morals from the first season episodes. These were obtained from fans of the show that were able to capture them on videotape in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The quality of them varies considerably and comes nowhere close to the rest of the DVD set, however, I’m happy that Andy Mangels, as well as BCI Eclipse, decided to include these on the set as they are a very important element to the show.

I could easily post all the morals from the set as I believe that the messages still hold true today, but I’ve decided to include only one for your enjoyment.

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Hazy, Lazy.

It’s lunch time. The back door is open. There’s no movement in the back lawn, aside from a few swoops by a cranky crow. There’s insect type sounds, the constant twitter you’d hear from a cricket and that buzzing sound you hear once in a while. I don’t know who makes that noise.

Tom is parked in front of the door. He can go outside anytime he wants, as he has a cat sized hole in the screen of the patio door, but he opts to stay inside and perk his ears up when the crow chatters. The sky has white, puffy clouds drifting by aimlessly. The sun feels warm.

The weather is perfect for the end of July. It’s all good.

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Not Here.

I’ve been looking forward to this day for a long while. Like a young child at Christmas, I’ve been counting down the days until the release of one of my most favorite television shows on DVD.

“Can I help you with something?”, the young person behind the counter asked, really not interested but making a fair attempt at going through the motions.

I resisted the urge to respond with “No, I’m just browsing”, as said clerk was standing behind the customer service counter at Circuit City and all that was behind her was a running conveyor belt with no items on it. “I’m looking for a DVD set that was released today. Could you tell me if you have it in stock?”

“What’s it called?”, she asked as she fumbled with the ancient text terminal in front of her. I imagined the green characters dancing on her uninterested gaze.

“The Secrets of Isis.”, I replied.

“What?”, she asked, “The Secrets of …”. Gene Rayburn or Brett Somers weren’t around so I played my own version of Match Game.

“Isis”. I didn’t even need a card, a circle or a triangle to fill in the blank.

“Isis”, she parotted. She obviously had no idea what I was talking about.

“Yes, ‘The Secrets of Isis’. It’s a Saturday morning show from the mid 1970s. It was part of ‘Shazam!’.” I put my hands out in a yoga like stance and said “Oh mighty Isis.” I was doing this chant, right there in our Barbie dreamhouse version (think half-sized) of Circuit City. I somewhat hoped that the lightning bolt would strike and I’d turn into Blue Marvel right in front of her, but the gods helped me keep my alter-ego disguise intact.

“How do you spell it?”

“Isis. I-S-I-S.” Becoming quite perturbed, I resisted the urge to shriek out the letters as I spelled out my favorite superheroine’s name, but looking back I think it would have added the special touch to yell like that spelling bee champion did a number of years ago.

“Oh, here it is. We don’t have it.”

“Why not?”

“It’s not a popular item.”

“It was released today. How do you know if it’s popular or not?”

“The computer says it’s not popular”, she retorted. Apparently the ancient text terminal at Circuit City is all knowing.

“Do you expect to have it soon?”

“No. Stores our size aren’t slated to carry it.”

I was going to get all sarcastic about the size issue when I decided to take the superhero route and simply responded, “Thank you for your help.”

After twenty miles and six stops at different Mini-Me versions of the stores in our area, I returned home empty handed.

“The Secrets of Isis” was released on DVD today. Tonight, many fans of the show are reliving memories and watching episodes in glorious DVD quality.

I must wait until Thursday. That is when my order from Amazon arrives.

Back In The Saddle.

So this morning I had to get myself out of bed at 6:30, like most working Americans do, and go through the Monday morning routine of getting ready for work and making it out the door to be at my desk by 8:00 a.m.

I couldn’t be more delighted.

I’m at my old desk, using my old phone and working with the same group of people that I left when I decided to return to school at the beginning of this year. The job is a little different, since it’s a temporary gig and I’m primarily doing special projects. I’m loving the experience. I’ve had to shake a few cobwebs out of my head but for the most part all is well.

The congestion in my head broke last night as well, so I’m feeling much better today. It’s all coming together nicely.