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Memories.

I consider myself very lucky in that I inherited a magnificent (albeit, convenient) memory from my father. When a customer came into the family store, my father could tell that customer what they bought the last time, even if the last visit had been a decade ago. There was no need for a computer or a contacts tracking database, my father kept it all in his head. I found this amazing. I remember key details of people when I meet them, but unfortunately their name isn’t one of those details. But other things remain. My sister is always amazed when I can relay an event from when I was preschool age. She says she never remembers these things.

I spent the evening with my sister and my mom looking over old photos, some of which included photos from my mom and dad’s wedding day and from their “pre-kids” era. One photo of mom and dad locked in a playful embrace was particularly enjoyable. They were both 18 or 19 and looked very happy. Jennifer remarked that she doesn’t remember any other photos of mom and dad embracing. Despite my memory skills, I don’t remember one either. It’s not something that was commonly photographed. They hugged, we just didn’t film it.

Even though my mom and dad separated and later divorced, I still vividly remember the last time I saw my dad lovingly gaze at my mother. It’s a memory that brings a smile to my face and it makes me feel like a happy kid again.

There are little random things here and there that stir up a memory or two from my childhood and it’s a good feeling. I was a pretty happy-go-lucky kid and I think, like my dad, that when I tried I could find happiness in just about any situation. I need to remember how to do that more often. That’s a memory I need to hold onto. The ability to be happy.

I like looking through old family photos and coaxing more memories to life. It keeps me grounded and helps me remember my roots. I am who and where I am today because of all the influences that built those memories and that’s an awesome thing.

Baggs Square Café

So a few months ago I met up with our friends Shirley and Christine (whom I used to work with) at a local eatery, Baggs Square Café. They were offering a weekend brunch buffet that I found a little unique for this region. Instead of going up to the a buffet area to fill your plate up with food, you paid one price and you could eat as many items as you wanted off the menu, in whatever quantity you were in the mood for. So, for $19.95 you could order eight servings of prime rib if you wanted, which of course would be preceded by 14 servings of shrimp cocktail, a dozen bagels and to bring your meal to a satisfying finalé, a cupcake.

Of course I’m being extreme here, but they had it setup so that servers were constantly coming to your table to check on your happiness and to see if you wanted more food. It was kind of a nifty way to eat and it made for a great way to enjoy the company of your friends; you didn’t feel rushed and if you were in the mood for more, you could always order it.

Today I met up with our friend Mike (more on that in a future blog post this weekend) and I took him to the café for this fantastic brunch experience.

Except the experience was no more. Baggs Square Café was back to their standard, workday breakfast and lunch menu. You ordered at the counter and then they brought it to the table you selected. It’s not a very busy place so they didn’t bother with the likes of numbers on a tall stand or anything like that.

The food was delicious as always but when I asked why they had discontinued the brunch buffet they didn’t really fully answer the question. The counter attendant simply told me that this was the first week that it they were back to the original way of doing things but if I wanted to come back next week they were having a one-day offering of the brunch for Easter.

It’s a shame that this didn’t really catch on because I enjoyed the different eating experience on a Saturday morning. Perhaps we should have visited them more often.

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Labels.

I’m not a fan of being labeled. I don’t like being perceived to act in an expected manner. I believe that labels restrict us and establish a possibly unwarranted expectation for our behavior. One of the reasons that I dropped out of the semi-finals for becoming a Big Brother contestant was because they were clearly trying to herd me into being the “gay one”. Since this was relatively early in the Big Brother history, a man by the name of Bunky had established the gay baseline for behavior on Big Brother (he cried a lot) and that didn’t really appeal to me. I don’t want people to think I’m going to be an emotional wreck just because I’m gay. I’d rather people find out why I’m an emotional wreck without figuring any labels into the equation; that’s when they’ll find that I’m more eccentric than an emotional wreck.

Over the past month or so I have stopped eating meat for the most part. I have had a meatball or a piece of pepperoni here and there but other than that, I have enjoyed a pretty much meat-free diet. I have also stopped drinking milk, instead opting for rice milk with my morning cereal. I have done this before but back then I always called myself a vegetarian. Now I didn’t go running into a steakhouse screaming “murder!” with a look of indignation on my face back when I was labeling myself a vegetarian. I wasn’t militant but when offered a piece of meat I would say, “No thank you, I’m a vegetarian.” I labeled myself. And that made me kind of militant about it not eating meat, even though I didn’t think I was being overly militant. So now, when offered a meat dish of some sort, I simply say, “No thank you.” And that’s that. If pressed for a reason, I would simply say, “it looks delicious, but I’m just not in the mood for (insert offered dish here) today. Thank you, though.” I don’t want to be known as a vegetarian. I don’t feel the need to proclaim being a vegetarian and I don’t want the label applied to my permanent file. It’s bad enough that my penicillin allergy is on that permanent file because that shows the world that I have a weakness and I don’t like that sort of thing.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with calling yourself a vegetarian and if that blows your skirt up in a pleasant way then I am all for blowing your skirt up, but it’s just not my thing. It’s kind of like “gay marriage”. I like it better when it’s called “marriage”. I have been accused of being homophobic about myself because I don’t go running through the mall screaming “I’m gay!” (the neon light of my personality does that for me anyways) but I believe we should respect one another enough to the point of respecting the labels (or lack thereof) that we choose to identify with. Do I identify as a “gay”? Of course I do, but I don’t want to be singled down to being “the gay one”. If you want to get on a really bad side of me, mention my sexual orientation when introducing me to someone. At least one person in attendance is going to be mightily embarrassed and I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that it’s not going to be me. It’s not that I’m not proud, it’s just that I have bigger things to be proud about.

– Proudly posted using BlogPress from my first generation iPad

Synapse.

So today we are making huge forward motion on the next phase of The Big Project at work. As team leader for the site, I am fielding a lot of questions from users, coordinating conference calls and trying to avoid the flames and pitchforks of discontent.

Like my college days, when I get bombarded or start feeling overwhelmed I start to see the synapses in my brain start misfiring or making misconnections. I hear birds chirp to cover the awkward silence and I start seeing sparkly lights like someone pulled a live wire out of a socket. If someone was to hold a seashell up to my ear, they might hear my brain firing off a recording: “I’m sorry, that line has been disconnected.” This feeling is fleeting and lasts for only a few seconds at a time, but in these brief moments I feel like my mouth has become disconnected from my brain, which has completely lost the ability to form a reasonable thought. I don’t know if this is normal; I know that very few people that I know have ever discussed such a feeling, but there it is in my little world. I suspect that something has been wired wrong since birth and the defect only shows up under extreme load conditions, but it’s a weird feeling. I don’t like not feeling like I know what I’m doing and I don’t like not being able to convey the words or thoughts that are formulating to the question being asked simply because I can’t get the message from point A to point B in my brain and the out the shoot of my mouth into the rest of the world. And I feel like such an idiot when I feel this sort of thing.

I’m through it and back on track, albeit tired as I’ve been up since 0430. A bit of iced tea from my favorite Dunkin’ Donuts and on we go. Now if I could just keep my synapses firing on all thrusters.

Cheap.

The Dunkin’ Donuts I haunt on a daily basis proclaimed to me yesterday that iced tea was now 99¢, no matter what size I ordered. This is a savings of $1.66. The ladies behind the counter were very excited to give me this news as they handed me my pre-fetched large, unsweetened iced tea with lemon.

Hear hear to saving money!

I casually mentioned that the Dunkin’ Donuts closest to the house, which is 55 miles away and obviously owned by a different franchisee, has been doing the 99¢ thing for quite a while. I smiled while I said it but they had a look of panic and then shock, like I had just peed in my tea or something. This concerned me because I felt like I had just told them that I had been cheating on them by going to another DD and like a typical man, I kind of like having my tea ready when I walk into the Dunkin’ Donuts. It’s an ego thing. It’s kind of like having supper cooking when I get home from work except it’s at lunch.

No worries though, everything was on schedule today when I walked in; tea was poured, no looks of shock and $1.07 with tax.

They didn’t ask about the other DD. Sometimes we need to celebrate the little things.

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The Facebook.

There’s a lot of negativity in my Facebook news feed (from others) today. Some people seem to be having a bad day, others are dealing with misconstrued gossip and yet others are having smack said about their family members.

What an abuse of technology.

Though I tend to tweet more than I FB (and I don’t G+ at all anymore), I still read Facebook on a regular basis, even if it’s just to catch up on birthdays and wish people good tidings on their day of celebration. Sometimes I write witty things here and there, other times I might post a few pictures of randomness. There are quite a few things about Facebook that make me insane, hence the reason that I’m not as invested in the platform as I used to be.

One of the things that absolutely amazes me about some folks on Facebook is how seriously they take things on there. Folks can post something absolutely random that sounds like it could be true and they take it as 100% accuracy and don’t bother to research to see if it’s really true or not. For example, I could go onto the Utica page and post something like “Olive Garden is coming to New Hartford! It’s moving into the old AT&T building on Commercial Drive” and probably within two days I’d read something about Olive Garden moving into the old AT&T building via Twitter or the Topix boards.

Ridiculous.

Why would Olive Garden move into the old AT&T building, especially since said building was vacated after an irate customer went in and shot some customer service reps because he was pissed about his account? And why would Olive Garden need a big tower in their parking lot anyways? And why would Olive Garden even move to Utica, New York, where good, traditional Italian restaurants are plentiful and the folks here don’t want an Italian restaurant that amounts to boil-in-a-bag.

I’m digressing.

My point is, like anything and everything on the Internet, you need to check and cross check the facts of anything you read, including the stuff on Facebook. It’s kind of like relying on one news source for your news; compare what you hear from Fox News with what you hear from MSNBC with you read in your local newspaper and there’s a better chance you’re going to get a better picture of what’s going on with whatever they’re all talking about. If you see something on Facebook about a family member or a friend that seems startling, do something crazy like pick up the phone and speak with that person to see if the facts are true or not. And for pity’s sake, don’t bring people you don’t know into the equation and start speculating or being rude or obnoxious just because Facebook has decided to show updates from people you don’t know on something that you might have an interest in.

The progression of technology seems to be fueling a regressing in common sense these days when we need more common sense than ever to keep track of it all. People need to remember how to think.

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Roadtrip Report: NY Route 12 Utica to Watertown

So today I decided to drive old NY Route 12. I tried to follow the path of Route 12 between Utica and Watertown before it was upgraded sometime in the mid 20th century. I think I was pretty successful at my attempt.

Oneida County makes following old Route 12 fairly easy by labeling it with a county route number that is “out of range”, as the county routes in Oneida are numbered sequentially by location and since old 12 was numbered after the rest, it’s number sticks out a bit. I started out on County Route 91 and followed it north. I passed by an old-drive in theatre, a couple of 40s style gas stations that have been abandoned and several old motels and motor lodges that are still open but have mostly been converted to low rent apartments. Signs of the driving age of the 50s when this was the main route between Watertown and Utica.

Heading north but just south of the hamlet of South Trenton, old 12 used to open up to a four-lane highway with at-grade intersections. This section was converted to a two lane country road a few years ago, making for an extra wide right-of-way that affords the folks that live on the road bigger lawns.


Existing Route 12 maintains the four lane expressway configuration north of Putnam Rd. and I have to jump onto the freeway at that interchange with the Route 12 freeway to get to it, as old Route 12 now makes a 90 degree turn onto Powell Rd (or you will run into a big pile of dirt separating old Route 12 from current Route 12).

I followed existing 12 through the Mapledale Business District and from what I can tell, this is the original roadway that was just widened. From there, Route 12 followed Mappa Avenue into the Village of Barneveld. Quick aside, until 1975, the village’s popular name was “Barneveld” but it’s legal name was “Trenton”. The village’s name has roots in Oldenbarneveld but was incorporated as the “Village of Trenton”. Residents didn’t like that, though, because Trenton, N.J. mail and freight was always getting delivered to Trenton, N.Y. by mistake so that’s why they changed the name. The post office was called Barneveld but the village was called Trenton until the legal change in 1975.

Whew.

Back to old 12. This part took a little exploring today. Old 12 followed Mappa Ave. onto what is now Route 365, where old 12 then followed up what is now the off ramp from now-12 SB to Route 365. From there it crossed over existing 12 and went along the railroad tracks to what is now Plank Rd. From there it veered to the west of the railroad tracks onto what is now an old roadbed that was not suitable for driving but quite comfortable for geese, as there were a ton of them hanging out on there today. Old 12 continued along this old path onto Main Street in the Village of Remsen. In Remsen today I found an old Super Duper grocery store. There used to be a ton of them in these parts, but now they’re mostly gone, including this one.


My Grandma Country once told a story about talking with a woman down south and mentioning that “Piggly Wiggly” was a funny name for a store. The southern woman retorted that it wasn’t any odder sounding than “Super Duper”. I don’t know what happened after that, that’s where the story always stopped.

Old 12 is easy to follow through Remsen and north, because it’s marked “Old State Route 12” though it’s also County Route 82.

Old 12 and current 12 meet up a few miles north of the Steuben and Remsen Town Lines where evidence of old 12’s former routing can be seen along current 12. Old houses are a little off-alignment with the current road due to the removal of curves, trees still form the former front boundary of lawns and there’s a ditch here and there. This motif continues through the hamlet of Alder Creek, where Route 28 leaves Route 12 to head off into the Adirondacks.

This type of routing of 12 continues up to Boonville. I couldn’t quite figure out how 12 used to get through Boonville. The alignment looks like it used to go into Boonville and meander around the village center before heading out, but I couldn’t figure out where it came back out of the village. I picked old 12 back up after crossing into Lewis County, just south of the Village of Port Leyden. Here old 12 parallels current 12 as Canal Street and then Mechanic Street and Kelpytown Rd. until the Village of Lyons Falls, where it meanders through the village and ends up on Cherry St., before joining up with it’s current counterpart. North of here, remnants of old 12 can be seen from current 12 (old bridge structures, abandoned road beds) and it continues like that through Lowville and up to Watertown.

Speaking of Watertown, the city’s downtown has a pretty impressive “square” that still seems to be somewhat busy. There have been many efforts to make it easier to navigate. As a young driver at 16, it used to make me nervous.

From there I let Route 12 do it’s own thing up into the Thousand Islands area, as I did some shopping in Watertown and some other exploring before heading home.

I can imagine that in the mid 20th century when the interstate system was being built and the United States was becoming the land of automobiles, where “happy motoring!” was commonplace, that folks were excited about the straightening of these old country roads. Shoulders were widened and more direct routes were built from point A to point B. As a kid I used to get excited about construction, heck as an adult I still do. (I went and checked out the construction on Future Interstate 781 near Fort Drum today). But there’s a good part of me that enjoys finding the roads that once carried the bulk of the traffic; the predecessors to the high speed roads we enjoy today.

The drive was a good exercise in road geekdom today. I look forward to doing the same someday along the old famous Route 66. In the meantime, I’ll continue to explore upstate New York.

– Proudly posted using BlogPress from my first generation iPad

Roadtrip Stop: Maple Ridge Wind Farm.

So as I mentioned in an earlier blog post today, I went on a road trip like I sometimes do when I have a weekday off from work. Along my travels I passed by the Maple Ridge Wind Farm, which is located near Lowville, New York along NY Routes 12 and 177.

Here is a shot of the wind farm from Route 12 as you’re headed north about three miles outside of Lowville.


And here’s a shot looking towards the tiny hamlet of West Lowville, which is actually four corners where Routes 12 and 177 and one other road meet. The road that is headed up the hill is Route 177, which is one of my favorite roads to drive. You can click the photo to embiggen.


I decided to drive up Route 177 a little bit to see if I could get relatively close to one of the turbines. It was a windy day and I wanted to hear just how loud these turbines were. I have heard reports of people saying that they’re so loud that they can’t sleep. I’ve also heard reports of women having five periods in one month because of the turbine, but I think that’s just a symptom of being cantankerous. As I got to the top of the hill shown in the previous photo, I reached the Eagle Factory Rd. and noticed a little gazebo and trash can sitting in a field alongside the side road. Curious, I decided to go to it to see if it was some sort of information booth.

It was!

Fenced off on three sides so you can’t get to the turbines that are close by (at least without a Six Million Dollar jump), the gazebo has two little display panels explaining that the Maple Ridge Wind Farm generates enough electricity to power about 64,000 homes.


Maple Ridge Wind Farm didn’t have to put up a lot of powerlines; the turbines are connected together via underground cables that come to a common line that runs through the farm. That line then jumps onto a bigger line that runs about a dozen miles to a nearby line, which happens to be one of the highest voltage lines in the United States. Maple Ridge ties into that line, which runs from the Mohawk Valley (where most of the Upstate New York power is switched) to HydroQuébec near Montréal.


Looking northeast off of Maple Ridge Farm. The line near the row is the line that connects the turbines together.


The turbine marked “235” nearest the information center.

I recorded the video you see in the previous blog entry, took the photos and then continued on my roadtrip.

I can understand folks thinking that these wind farms may be intrusive on their land and their scenic view. Sitting atop the Tug Hill Plateau does afford one a beautiful view. And I don’t really believe that wind power is the ultimate solution to the energy needs of the United States, but I do believe that a combination of all the technology available to us (now and in the future) will build us the brightest future as technology progresses and we move towards cleaner energy and away from the older stuff that could be doing damage to the environment.

I have relatives that live not too far from where I stopped today. I’ve seen pictures of family gatherings up there and I have to admit that I found it a little startling to see these turbines in the background, however, I do believe that today’s technology allows us to do everything we can to make these turbines as nonintrusive as possible; they’re relatively quiet, they don’t add to pollution and these guys seem to be located away from areas where birds would seem to migrate (lakes and woods and such). Would I want to live near one of these? I probably wouldn’t protest the building of these if they wanted to put one in the field behind our house. I would see it as a reminder of American progress and our attempts to secure our energy future.

– Proudly posted using BlogPress from my first generation iPad

Video from Maple Ridge Wind Farm.

I tried to capture the sound of the turbines but I wasn’t successful. They’re not loud at all. They make a wispy sound every time one of the blades comes by but they’re surprisingly quiet.

Here is someone else’s video that captures the sound I heard perfectly.

I’m also off on the number of turbines. It’s actually around 140.

Easy.

So today I am off from work because I worked over the weekend, per my once-a-quarter responsibilities of on-call at work. I have to admit that I prefer this way to enjoy a Monday instead of getting back into the weekly work routine, but I don’t know that I enjoy working over the weekend to achieve this type of Monday. Nevertheless, I will enjoy it for what it is. The next time I’m on the on-call is in mid June. I can’t complain about that!

I am currently in the northern New York village of Lowville, sitting in a Wal-mart parking lot eating a Subway sandwich. I’m taking a break from my little project of the day. I am attempting to drive what used to be NY Route 12 before it was upgraded to a more prominent road in the mid 20th century (I think some time in the early 1960s, but I’m not certain on that). There are a couple of reasons that I am doing this but the primary force behind this is that I’m just a geek, especially when it comes to roads. I’ll be writing a separate blog entry about my findings of the original Route 12 once I get my facts straight and am able to look at some satellite imagery to confirm my findings today. So far I have driven through a couple of villages (Port Leyden, Lyons Falls) that I had never been to before, even though they’re less than an hour away from our home. They’re small and what I would call “industrial quaint”.

I have always enjoyed two others villages along Route 12, the Village of Boonville in Oneida County and the Village of Lowville in Lewis County. Boonville is home of the Oneida County Fair each year and still has a quaint business area that appears to still be doing well. I have family that lives near Lowville, which is a cool little village supported by the agricultural goings-on around it. I enjoy the rural charm of this area; there’s no freeway exit leading to the village because there’s no freeway within 30 miles of this place. Lowville is home to the largest wind farm in New York State, Maple Ridge Wind Farm. That’s the wind farm that my favorite road to drive in the summer, NY Route 177, passes through. Lowville is also home to one of a half dozen men I call mustache heroes, a well liked veterinarian named Dr. Peter Ostrum. I saw his picture on television once and his mustache made an impression on me. Google his name to find out why he’s the “most famous man in Lowville”.

Tomorrow my schedule is back on track and your Tuesday is my Tuesday. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy my Sunday, which is your Monday, with a nice Sunday drive.