Today’s the Day…

… to enjoy a slice of Pi.

Cherry Pi. Pumpkin Pi. Peach Pi. Banana Cream Pi. Raspberry Pi. Pecan Pi. Blueberry Pi. Apple Pi. Key Lime Pi. Rhubarb Pi. Lemon Meringue Pi.

They all sound pretty good.

Well… maybe not one of those crazy British meat pi’s. Not sure about those.

Mmmmm. Chocolate Pi.

Mmmmm. Chocolate Pi.

Just remember: cake are squared, pi are round. Or something like that.

Happy Pi Day!

Thawing the Pipes

Elsa has been on a rampage in Upstate New York this winter. Or is it Anna? I get those two confused. Either way, things have been freeeeeeeezing over the past few months.

Before you start torturing me by singing, “Let it Go,” I am encouraged that this frozen nightmare seems to be thawing out. And not a moment too soon, especially for some folks in Troy, NY who have been dealing with frozen water lines for the past few weeks.

Sadly, many of these people were without water for far too long. As I understand it, the frozen portion of their pipes were in city-owned sections of their water supply lines. Yet, the city, and in particular the mayor, said that it was not the city’s responsibility to thaw these pipes.

If my recollection is correct, it seemed there were a number of reasons that the city refused to directly help the homeowners. For example, city officials claimed the homeowners were to blame because they didn’t leave a trickle of water running. (This was disputed by some of the homeowners.) I also read that city officials called the frozen pipes an “act of nature,” negating the city’s responsibility. Other reports say the city claimed it could not act according to the city charter, in particular because the situations did not rise to the level of an emergency.

Clearly, the whole situation has been poorly handled by city officials. Even if the frozen pipes are entirely the responsibility of the homeowners, the city is coming across as being unresponsive.

Frankly, I’m still waiting to read the news report that declares the blocked pipes were caused not by ice, but by fish stuck in the pipes. Should that happen, Troy could call it an “Act of Cod.”

(Have I ever mentioned that I love puns?)

Seriously, though, there was one particular case that was especially troubling, and in the end – encouraging. One woman who had been without water for nearly two weeks is undergoing chemotherapy. Her son had been trying to navigate the difficulties with the city, while taking care of his mother.

Enter the plumber. After an exhortation from his mother, he donated his abilities and time to help out this family, free of charge. He did not wait for the city to come to a resolution, or for – please tell me it’s gonna be here soon – spring to arrive.

He fixed the problem. He thawed the pipes. Water flowed once more.

His example is one that I admire: while the city fiddled… he fixed the problem.

It’s another great reminder to listen to your mother!

Positive Spin on a Flat Tire

Sometimes, it takes a flat tire to remind us that small acts of kindness are profoundly important.

Yesterday, after the challenges of a difficult Tuesday, I was looking forward to a less-wild Wednesday.

Still, the new day brought its own set of daily difficulties. It wasn’t out of the ordinary, but a traffic backup delayed my arrival at work. When I finally pulled into the parking garage, my tire pressure warning light dinged at me. I didn’t think much of it, figuring one of the tires was running a little low, and the bitter cold morning had lowered the air pressure in the tires. I assumed that a quick stop for some free air at my local Stewart’s Shop would do the trick.

That's not quite right.

That’s not quite right.

However, I failed to notice the gigantic screw that was buried deep into my tire. It would later prove my assumption false.

Since I was already late, and parked in an obscure corner of the garage, I simply locked the car and headed for the office.

Eight hours later, after trying to remember where I parked the car, I found it, covered in slush and salt.

With a very flat tire.

And of course, I was wearing a suit.

Every time I changed a flat tire, I was wearing a suit. Once I was in my Navy service dress blues uniform. Another time, I stopped after to help a young lady tackle her car’s flat tire. (By the way, it helps to loosen the knot in your tie before you loosen the lug nuts.)

I could have called for roadside assistance, but why wait? So, I put on the teeny-tiny, itsy-bitsy, LEGO-sized wheel that pretends to be a spare.

I grant you, I will not be called up by a NASCAR team anytime soon to join their pit crew. But the job was completed, and I miraculously avoided destroying any clothing in the process.

A minor victory in a challenging week, I suppose.

Perhaps most notably, the whole affair served as a lesson in the importance of kindness.

Three strangers stopped to check on me that evening as I battled my car.

I have never met any of the three, but they all asked if they could help or make a phone call on my behalf. All three expressed concern that I could be stuck in a dim and dirty parking garage. Each refused to go until they were sure that I was okay.

I do not know their names. I have not heard their stories. It is not likely that we will cross paths again. Still, I appreciate each of them. I am grateful for our short conversations and for their caring nature.

Those little acts of kindness… they do make a difference.

Have you made a difference today?

A Better Day to Forget

If I ever come across a DeLorean and a flux capacitor, I’m sure not going to program January 27, 2015 into the computer and drive 88 miles per hour into the past.

Not that the day was tragic. Just awful enough that I don’t want to repeat it.

Technically, this lovely day began the night before. I went to sleep dreading the snow storm that was breathlessly predicted to arrive with a foot or more of snow. New York was awaiting the snowstorm of the century: the “Blizzard of 2015.” (Just imagine James Earl Jones doing the voiceover announcing the “Blizzard of 2015.”)

Well actually, I wasn’t dreading the arrival of snow. After all, I’ve lived in Upstate New York for a long time. A foot of snow… no big deal. I laugh in the face of a foot of snow. I guffaw at everybody who panics. At least until I start shoveling. Then I grumble, but only a little.

Actually, what I was not looking forward to was the lack of snow. The lack of snow that was not predicted by just about every meteorologist. The vaunted “Blizzard of 2015” had shifted to the east, largely sparing New York State.

Sorry Boston.

But why my dread?

I knew I would have to wake up my kids and tell them that school was on. These were the kids who had put their PJ’s on inside-out and backwards. The kids who dropped ice cubes in the toilet and placed cold spoons under their pillows. If any of us had the knowledge and ability to do a “snow dance,” I’m sure that would have been attempted.

No snow day. No sleeping in. It would be a normal day of Common Core and more.

After a fitful night’s sleep, I awoke to the morning I expected. Tears and gripes, at least from the older son.

Off to school for the boys. Off to work for me. And the day got better.

And by better, I mean worse.

Shortly thereafter, my wife texted to say she’d been pulled over and ticketed for an expired inspection sticker.

I guess in the midst of my wife’s major December medical emergency, we forgot to get her piece o’ junk car inspected. So, just as my wife pulled into a medical facility for a blood test related to her previous stroke, she was warmly greeted by a Schenectady police officer.

With a ticket.

And then our day got even better.

Turns out, the big blue lemon needed $500 in repairs to pass its inspection.

But time trudged along, and soon enough I was on my way home from work, negotiating my way through blowing snow that had shown up to the party, fashionably late.

Still, it started as a relatively normal winter commute.

And then it got even better.

I was slowly driving under an overpass on my way to the toll booths at the entrance to the New York State Thruway.

A deep rumble from above startled me. It was followed by a massive curtain of snow falling from the overpass, right in front of me. There was a plow above me relocating some snow. And that snow formed a wall directly in my path.

There was no stopping. All I could do was ease off the gas and cruise straight through.

The snow thumped onto my car. For a heart-stopping moment I could not see a thing.

I’m pretty sure I said a naughty word. (Sorry, Mom.)

I’m not wishing for anymore better days.

Vulture Kitty Wants Your Milk

There’s nothing quite like the glare from an annoyed cat. Or one that wants to steal the milk from your bowl of cereal.

Vulture Kitty

Vulture Kitty is Watching You

Lately, our 14-year-old cat, named Frito, seems to enjoy imitating a famous comic-strip beagle, who in turn liked to imitate a vulture.

It used to be that Frito would pad quietly into the kitchen at the first sound of cereal clinking into a bowl. He used to look up at me, widen his eyes, and mew softly.

It was as if he were saying in his best British accent,  “Please sir, would you kindly share your milk?”

It’s true, he can mew like a character from a work by Charles Dickens. Accent and all.

But these days, he just perches on the end of the couch and harnesses his inner “Snoopy.”

Can’t blame him. It works. Even if it kinda creeps me out.

Extraordinary Farmers

Over the years, I have developed a deep respect and admiration for the farmers who work every day to feed us all.

They are ordinary folks who face extraordinary challenges. Every. Single. Day.

One of my grandfathers was a dairy farmer in Wisconsin. My father-in-law was a beef cattle farmer in Upstate New York. In high school, I had the privilege of working on a produce farm in southern New Jersey.

I’m not sure I thought of it as a privilege at the time.

Yet, in spite of the sunburns, bee stings, mosquito invasions, mud, sweat, and aches – it became an important experience in my life.

I got to see three generations of farmers work every day to grow delicious tomatoes, peppers, squash, cantaloupes, watermelons, corn, and much more.

I saw decades-old tractors coaxed into life on a daily basis.

On occasion, I saw a biplane buzz across the treetops to spray the fields.

I learned to drive. The first time I ever drove a vehicle was when I had to back one of the farm’s pickups into a small barn.

Yes, there were even turkeys, ducks, and geese on the farm.

Frankly, you haven’t lived until you spend a day working with a half-dozen people, herding hundreds of ducks from one pen to another. (It’s like herding cats… only they quack.)

It was hard work. Long hours spent in fields and greenhouses.

And I value it immensely, especially now that I work in a role where I often write about agriculture.

So it is no surprise that I took a moment to watch this video about South Jersey farmers that I stumbled across during the course of my workday:


It turns out that the video creator, Kathleen Poliski, is related to one of my high school friends.

Ms. Poliski’s video is one of ten finalists in the video contest for this year’s World Ag Expo. The other nine videos are definitely worth a view, too.

Take a moment before January 30th, and vote for your favorite.

I’m partial to this one from South Jersey.


Dusty Data

During a dull day at work, the smallest bit of humor can bring relief, even when it’s due to an anachronistic discovery.

But I’ll get to that in a moment. After all, I’ve got to make a short story long.

My current job consists of working in a communications role in a legislative office. Some of the writing I get to do is even quite interesting.

Over the last two weeks, though, it’s been all about getting the office ship-shape. Call it an early spring cleaning. (Not that spring seems like it will ever arrive, as temperatures keep diving far too close to absolute zero.)

You see, my office was supposed to be shut down for a couple days during the holidays for a quick carpet replacement. Instead, it was closed for two full weeks for asbestos remediation.

Fortunately, I suppose, this inconvenience came at the same time that my wife was admitted to the hospital. I was out of the office, so I didn’t have to deal with being relocated temporarily to another office.

Upon our return to the office, we discovered that the new carpeting looked fantastic.

On the other hand, boxes of books were strewn about. Furniture was waiting to be moved. And everything was covered in dust. Even the dust bunnies were sneezing. Have you ever seen a dust bunny sneeze? It’s not as cute as it sounds.

It was an asthma attack waiting to happen.

Still, we decided to tackle the cleanup. Hundreds of law books, three-ring binders, and other information had to be re-shelved.

It was a pain in the neck. And arms. Some of those law books are h-e-a-v-y. Seriously, why do we need a gigantic summary of legislation from 1976? (But then, I’m a communications guy… not an attorney.)

However, relief came when I opened the umpteenth box, and this fell out:

Haven't seen one of these in decades!

The 80’s called. They want their data back.

I chuckled a bit when I saw it, and I’ll admit it brought back memories of the clicks, whirs, and grinding of a disk drive. Or even the unique sound of tapping on the keyboard of the first computer I ever used – an ol’ TRS-80. (Look it up kiddos.)

I showed it to my boss. She laughed even louder.

“We should get it framed,” she said. “Hang it on the wall.”

Sure, I thought. It might serve as a quaint reminder of a technologically simpler time.

I think, though, she meant it should be preserved as a historical artifact.

Geez. Am I that old?

The Nose Knows

After nearly four decades, the bridge of my nose is telling me it’s time to lose the glasses.

For the last week, whether or not I’m wearing my glasses, I feel like I have to push ’em up a little higher on my nose. It is a singularly annoying sensation.

I’ll wake up in the middle of the night feeling the need to push up my glasses. And poke myself in the eye.

Getting rid of the glasses? Sounds like a great idea!

Until I run into the wall. And bang my head on my car door. Or try to drive my car.

I think I'll let the stuffed cow wear my glasses. She's got a bigger nose.

I think I’ll let the stuffed cow wear my glasses. She’s got a bigger nose.

And before you suggest contact lenses, I think I’ve poked myself in the eye enough today.

Stolen Copper

Far too often, we hear of thieves breaking into an older building and wrecking the place. But they’re not after electronics or jewelry. Instead, they rip out copper piping to sell as scrap.

That very thing happened in Troy, New York last week at Sixth Avenue Baptist Church. Reports say that 100 feet of copper piping was stolen, leaving behind a mess and an inability to operate the heating and plumbing systems within the building.

While no one has been arrested as of the date I write this post, I still question the intellectual capacity of the thieves. Certainly, I would not be hacking away at a water-filled copper pipe to steal from a church.

After all, copper is a great conductor. It’s the kind of thing a lightning bolt would really love to travel along. Just saying…

Seriously, though, I was especially saddened to hear about this theft.

You see, my wife and I were married at Sixth Avenue Baptist Church more than a decade ago. It was the church we attended while we were in college. The church family provided us with a home away from home. The pastor, his wife, and their kids demonstrated hospitality every week. They picked us up at college, and they shared a wonderful home-cooked meal with us every Sunday after church.

Outside Sixth Avenue Baptist Church on our wedding day.

Outside Sixth Avenue Baptist Church on our wedding day.

Without a doubt, the church family played a huge role in helping both of us face the academic and social challenges of life at college.

It was why we chose to say our vows at the church.

Sixth Avenue Baptist Church is located in an area of Troy that has seen better days. It is a century-old, large brick building. Beautiful stained glass windows adorn the large sanctuary.

It was our church, and I know I’m just a tad biased, but I it was the site of the best wedding I’ve ever attended.

Not everything associated with our wedding day is still around. The bakery that made our cake: closed. The Hudson River boat that hosted our reception: replaced with a newer model. But the church building has continued to provide space for groups ministering to that area of Troy. It’s not the same pastor or congregation these days, but I’m confident the ministry remains especially important for the area.

So, when another church in the region, Victory Christian Church, stepped up to provide financial help, I was very grateful. I suspect, though, that there is still a large need to replace and fix what these thieves have stolen.

So, my wife and I will be putting a check into the mail. It’s not anything big, but I’m convinced that ordinary folks can make a difference for a church like this. I have faith that it will be used for important things in the local community.

Anybody else want to help out?

The Gift of Distraction

Ah, early January. It is that time of the year again. Time to focus on…

If you thought I was going to say it’s time to focus on your New Year’s resolutions, you are sadly mistaken. Everybody knows that resolutions fall by the wayside faster than that gigantic ball in Times Square.

Nope. It is time to prepare for an important upcoming holiday.

That’s right: Christmas.

Now I don’t want anybody to panic, but there are only about 352 shopping days until Christmas.

I know, I know. It’s right around the corner.

Fear not, though. Black Friday deals are almost upon us. I think they start on Valentine’s Day this year. Try not to get too caught up with the fact that Valentine’s Day is actually on a Saturday.

Not to brag, but I’m just about ready. I’ve even got my outdoor Christmas display set up ahead of schedule this year.

IMG_1112 IMG_1119

Yet, there is one part of the Christmas holiday with which I struggle every year.

Gift wrapping.

Just thinking about it makes me want to grumble. Too often, the gifts I’ve wrapped end up looking a bit ragged. You’d think that I ran the wrapping paper through a shredder first, or cut it with a dull chainsaw.

For all you gift wrapping challenged folks like me, please allow me to offer a solution.


Lately, I’ve turned to battery-powered mini-LED lights to draw the eye away from the wrinkled paper and excessive scotch tape. The brighter the better.

Here’s a classic version:

Gift - Lighted

This past Christmas, (that took place months ago, right?), I even added a little poetry to the mix.

Keep in mind that my idea of poetry consists of epic works like this:

Roses are red,

Violets are purple.

I drank so much soda I started to burple.

Hey… it gets rave literary reviews, and guffaws, from six and eight-year-olds.

But I digress. Here’s a picture of this year’s gift to my brother-in-law, before the built-in switch was flipped.

Gift - Before

And here it is after the switch was flipped.

Gift - After

I suppose it kind of ruined the surprise, but I’m hoping the four-pack of Ommegang Gnomegang beer was a  good choice.

So, just remember: if you can’t wrap, distract. Or befuddle, amuse, divert, and bewilder.

If that doesn’t work, you can always replace the wrapping paper with duct tape. Silver and red are quite festive!

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