X of the Week, Entry Five

Yet another horrifying article about Big Agriculture. The videos don’t even deserve the word horrifying. Even if this sort of thing doesn’t make you feel horribly sad, it must make you feel so disgusted that you never want to put food in your body from this sort of production system again. Right? I guess not, based on the number of people I know who are both aware that these conditions exist and still eat regular mass-produced meat and dairy. I just don’t get it.

Hudson Valley Ballers is amazing. (The video linked from “Valley” is particularly hilarious.)

A roundup of great board games that makes me feel as though I don’t have a game closet at all. (I do.) (There are just a lot of great games out there.)

Speaking of board games, Vulture’s “oral history” of the Cones of Dunshire is pretty great. (Though I think you’d have to be a fan of dorky board games and/or Parks & Rec to appreciate it.) However, not so great is their “oral history” of the episode of Sex and the City where Kristen Johnston falls to her death after declaring NYC dead. Interesting, sure, but sort of horrifying in its blatant admission that the producers used the character as a way to prove what could happen to you (death!) as a single woman if you refuse to settle down. Eesh.

Blog Picks: Current Events

The overwhelming majority of what I read could be considered “current events,” which makes it hard to narrow this category down. I’ve decided to go with a more traditional definition, so the blogs below have to do with things you might find in the news that do not, on a regular basis, feature anything that could be construed as celebrity news.

So, as with my food blog picks, here are the current event blogs that would make the cut if I ever cleaned up my Feedly:

  1. Feministing is, 95% of the time, a bit too strident for me in that “I agree with your point but not your tone” way that always made me cringe in college and grad school. Still, it’s the best site I’ve found for getting a rundown of news that my other sources might not be covering, and from a different perspective than most other media.
  2. The Dish, obviously. It took me awhile to get into Andrew Sullivan, and I still find him a bit too much from time to time . . . but glancing at the Dish’s posts each day (and/or reading them in full) gives the best overview of online chatter about real things. My favorite threads are those that veer away from the absolutely current, like this one on miscarriage. I also love the experiment of an advertisement free, subscription based business/content model. This is how I think the Internet should work–a penny or two per post (or, in the Dish’s case, less than half a cent per post).
  3. Slog, the blog of the Stranger, Seattle’s alternative newspaper, is amazing even if (like me) you have never been to Seattle. Seattle-specific content only makes up about half of Slog, and the other half ranges from Dan Savage sex advice posts to lengthy national political coverage by Paul Constant. (Paul Constant is a bit of a crazy liberal, and I think I wouldn’t like him much in person, but he is my favorite reporter–by a very wide margin–during national election seasons.) Also, one of their reporters, Jen Graves, is from Albany. So there’s that, too.

Doesn’t seem like a lot, but they’re all prolific and they’re all great. And so, between them and the New York Times, I can avoid clicking on 99% of Slate’s click-baity headlines, which is one of my main Internet goals. Mission accomplished.

Lights in the Park

This is my first holiday season living across from Washington Park, and I love it. It’s all because of Lights in the Park. The cheerfulness of walking my dog amidst a park-wide light display is unparalleled in its winter festivity.

However: ughhh Albany, why do you have to be so anti-pedestrian? There are three days this season set aside for “walkers”–Tuesday, November 26; Wednesday, November 27; and Saturday, January 4. I don’t know about you, but in my family, we consider the Christmas season to start AFTER Thanksgiving and end by, at latest, January 2. So if you want to walk around looking at out-of-season light displays, Washington Park might be for you! And, of course, all of these are charity walks; there are no charity drives. I’m all for charity, but asking only the pedestrians to contribute to charity reminds me of how many restaurants assume that all vegetarians want a side salad instead of fries.

Of course, there’s the organizers of Lights in the Park have made another walking alternative available. From 4:30 to 5:30 (or so) each day, you can walk through the park for a fee. This, of course, is absolutely useless to almost everyone who has a regular 9-5 jobs.

This wouldn’t drive me so crazy if Washington Park wasn’t such a fantastic park for pedestrians. Syracuse has a similar “Lights on the Lake” display that would be truly miserable to walk around, because it’s on a regular road, doesn’t loop around, and is definitely not in an urban center. And, of course, I get it: they’re making a lot of money from cars, and there are lots of people who would be afraid/too cold/physically unable to walk around Washington Park in the winter.

But there are also plenty of people (ahem) who think that walking through the park seems about twenty times cooler (and environmentally friendly) than driving through it. Indeed, some of us walk through the park after work even when there aren’t lights in it–insulting enough that for one month of the year we’d have to pay for the privilege of doing so, but even worse that we’re flat-out not allowed to. Lights in the Park organizers: give us a night or two in the actual holiday season next year, or keep the lights on an extra hour at night one night a week. Have a night where people are encouraged to bring their dogs, or one for families. Encourage people to be a little more active and remind people that cities (and parks) belong to citizens, not cars or criminals. And maybe get my $5 in the process.


A Walk in the Park

We went down to the City this weekend and stayed in our old apartment, currently inhabited by my father, for a night. In the morning, I walked to get a latte at Indian Road, our old favorite brunch place, and then wandered through the park to the Isham Road Farmers’ Market, where I bought us muffins–corn raspberry and pumpkin cranberry.

Inwood Hill Park in the snow. Just out of frame: a few families sledding.

Inwood Hill Park in the snow. Just out of frame: a few families sledding.

Strolling through Inwood Hill Park on a snowy day

Strolling through Inwood Hill Park on a snowy day

Inwood is an amazing neighborhood, and when I’m there, I feel the way I used to feel about the Upper West Side, and the way I imagine most people used to feel about the city as a whole. Inwood is a perfect little neighborhood that just happens to be part of one of the biggest, most famous cities in the world; it makes the city feel small and kind and like a patchwork of important places.

See? Inwood is adorable. And, also, has solid priorities.

See? Inwood is adorable. And, also, has solid priorities.

When we were moving from Albany to NYC (not to be confused with when we more recently moved from NYC to Albany), we had no idea what neighborhood we should live in, and had never really heard of Inwood. We decided we would take one Saturday and travel down the A/1 corridor until we found the neighborhood that suited us best. Within thirty seconds of starting the journey, we were sold. We emerged from the Dyckman Street A stop and were confronted with a temporary closure of Broadway for a Little League parade. There were people cheering on the kids from both sides of the street.

We wandered over to Payson Avenue, which runs along and the base of a long hill (Inwood Hill?) and Inwood Hill Park, and declared it the Most Darling Street In the World. And, though we were already in love, nothing could have sealed the deal more than what happened next: we turned a corner and ran into the Isham Farmers’ Market, which runs throughout the year on Saturdays. The first farm stand we saw belonged to Samascott Orchards, one of the two primary orchards from my home town of Kinderhook. Subsequent farm stands belonged to Our Daily Bread, Ronnybrook Farms, and Hawthorne Valley. It was as if the whole of Columbia County had brought their wares down to this one specific, geographically convenient market.

Apples from the farmers' market

Apples from the farmers’ market

The first view I had of the Isham Farmers' Market, only much snowier.

The first view I had of the Isham Farmers’ Market, excepting the snow.

Later, when we lived there and I was bringing our dog to a playgroup in Isham Park, I learned that many in the neighborhood refer to Inwood as “Upstate Manhattan,” which is just about right.

Exciting Business Opportunity

I flat out do not understand why Albany has such a horrible taxi culture. Coming home from the train station this afternoon, we were forced to share a minivan “cab” with four other people. The two of us, traveling the shortest distance and as a “group,” were charged $18.50 for the grand service of a 2.5 mile ride in a shared car after waiting around for ten minutes in the cold to round up more passengers. Three passengers traveling to Albany Med were being charged $13.50 each. The final passenger was traveling up to an address near St. Peter’s, and, I’m sure, paid at least $15 for the pleasure.

So, to review: the cab company made over $70 for about twenty minutes of driving. Obviously, I understand why they are successful: there is no alternative, so this is an amazing business model. What I don’t understand is why some entrepreneurial 22 year old isn’t taking an Uber-like approach to taxi service in and around Albany. If cabs here are going to be mortifyingly expensive, the very least they could do is also be private and direct. Since that is the point of cabs. 

So, three take aways:

  1. I will support the pants off of any cab driver or company that is reliable and seems to actually value my service/dollars. Others would too. Why isn’t someone making money off of this?
  2. In my compulsive Vietnam research, I’ve read a lot of narratives from people who have had bad experiences with the country because they feel like they are constantly being unfairly scammed; those same people connect that experience to the relatively low rate of return travelers Vietnam gets comparatively to other Southeast Asian countries, like Thailand. Similarly, I do not think there is any way our taxi culture speaks well for us as a city or region. We deserve better, and we deserve to show our guests (the other four passengers in our cab tonight, for example) that we’re not a bunch of hooligans content to scam tourists in a way that is more reminiscent of a developing country than the capital of one of the biggest and best states in the country. My point being: governments and/or Chambers of Commerce and/or Visitors Bureaus, get on this.
  3. Speaking of: while I’m sure the CDTA has its reasons (Ross?) for its meh-at-best bus service between Albany and the train station, I am going to pre-emptively put out there that I think that those reasons are inadequate. There should be a bus waiting (or, at least, arriving) at the train station ten minutes after every NYC train gets in, at a minimum. Furthermore, that bus should run at least as far as South Allen or so on one of the major traffic arteries. The 114 would be fine for this if it ran at all on Sundays. (Does Madison Avenue stop existing on Sundays? It still seems like it’s there, but maybe it’s just an illusion.) Also, if it seemed like the bus schedules had anything to do with the train schedules. And, finally, if there was clear signage indicating what bus to take to get to downtown Albany, and where it picked up. (Right now, you have to be lucky, an extremely good sleuth, or have a friend who manages CDTA routes, to deduce the ridiculous and counter-intuitive fact that the 114 to Albany picks up on the same side of the street that the 114 from Albany drops off.)

If all these factors were in place, there is no way ridership between Albany and the train station wouldn’t pick up. Consistently taking the bus to and from the train station right now is really only an option for those extremely dedicated to the concept of public transportation, whether through financial necessity or ideological commitment. Make it something the public can really use, and we’ll use it. And, oh my gosh please, then we’ll also stop using those horrendous so-called-taxis.