Dec. rambling: Fact-Resistant Humans

Lyn Lifshin was a great American poet

Prayer for America.

The real lesson of Afghanistan is that regime change does not work.

This is what Cambridge protesters said about Boris Johnson’s general election win. Roger Green, 73, convener of Stand up to Racism Cambridge, said the election result was greatly disappointing. He said: “It’s a knockback for people that we’ve ended up with a racist prime minister.”

Throwaway Kids: We are sending more foster kids to prison than college.

Living through the era of school shootings, one drill at a time.

My own private Iceland re: tourism.

Misusing ROMANS 13 to embrace theocracy.

Wars waged by ostentatiously Christian leaders in Washington have done enormous harm to their co-religionists half a world away in the Middle East.

Frankly Speaking: Child Marriage in the US.

Emotional Baggage. The Verge delivers an inside look at the working conditions at Away, every millennial’s favorite luggage brand. The picture ain’t pretty.

Borowitz satire, still true four years later: Scientists: Earth Endangered by New Strain of Fact-Resistant Humans.

3 Ways to Make A Difference: Changing The World With Political Awareness.

“Education is a human right with immense power to transform. On its foundation rest the cornerstones of freedom democracy and sustainable human development. ”
– Kofi Annan

CBS features the Baha’i Faith in “World of Worship” series.

Helping the homeless: Australian charity turns empty parking lots into safe pop-up accommodation.

Church says it wiped out over $5M in medical debt, but healthcare costs remain big-picture problem.

Answers from an actual lawyer: Can I use that music, image, or clip?

Hank Green reading the First Chapter of A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor.

Malcolm X.

Sesame Street characters do impressions of other Sesame Street characters.

Now I Know: The Postal Workers Who The Kid Who Wrote on the Walls and Didn’t Get in Trouble and Not Even Baby Yoda Knows How to Drive and The Day It Accidentally Rained Flying Whale Blubber.


‘Not Mere Misers, But Actively Cruel’

With yet another Mar-a-Lago trip, the bill for his stays at his own resorts tops $118 million.

His Personal Pathology Is America’s Foreign Policy.

The Evangelical Deal with the Devil.

In his America “Christian” is no longer a religious faith.

Lyn Lifshin

Lyn Lifshin’s obituary. She was a great American poet who passed away on December 12th, 2019. The Albany Public Library Foundation honored her with a Literary Legend award in October 2019.

Please read an excerpt from LIPS, BLUES, BLUE LACE: ON THE OUTSIDE, an autobiographical essay. She was cremated in Virginia. There will be a memorial for her at the Unitarian Universalist Society in Schenectady in spring 2020.


The Queen’s Christmas Broadcast 2019

50 Years Ago, the First Internet Message Was Dispatched from UCLA.

What did this year mean for civil rights and liberties? Four ACLU attorneys tell us.

TCM Remembers video.

The best films of 2019 according to Wired and Vogue.

Rotten Tomatoes: The 200 Best Movies of the 2010s. I’ve seen about 80 of them, at least two of which I actively dislike.

The Decade in Content. The memes, viral videos, social media phenomenons, and TikTok zombies that defined the 2010s as much as movies, TV, or music did.

Saturday Night Live: home for the holiday.


Coverville 1290 and 1291: Coverville Countdown 2019 part 1 and part 2.

When a Scandal Stinks Like a Whale on the Beach – Mangy Fetlocks

One Voice: A Holiday Presentation by The USAF Band.

How Sweet to be an Idiot – Neil Innes

Hold My Hand – THE RUTLES

Linda Ronstadt isn’t just a legendary singer. She’s also a fierce defender of migrant rights.

Zone Improvement Plan or ZIP Code

Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is 09360

ZIP Code

On July 1, 1963, the United States Post Office introduced the Zone Improvement Plan, or ZIP Code. This was back in the day when postage for a one-ounce first-class letter cost five cents, rather than 55.

The country was carved into 10 sections, 0 to 9. From there, 5-digit numbers (codes) were developed to identify each post office associated with an address. It was also the time that the two-letter state postal abbreviations were instituted.

I was fascinated by this as a kid. Just from the first digit in the ZIP Code, I knew where a letter came from. If it started with 0, it was from New England, New Jersey, US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, or military addresses in the European theater; Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is 09360.

In New York State, 100-102 are Manhattan, 103 is Staten Island, 104 is the Bronx. 105 is suburban New York, with the places listed alphabetically, 106 is White Plains and so forth through 119, on the tip of Long Island. 120 and 121 are suburban Albany, 122 is Albany and 123 is Schenectady, up through 149 in western New York.

Certain businesses or other institutions have their own ZIP Codes. The State University of New York in Albany is 12222, while the SUNY campus in Buffalo is 14222. ZIP Code 12345 is General Electric in Schenectady. 10048 was the zip code assigned to the former World Trade Center in New York City, but is no longer used.

When I worked at a store in Albany in the 1980s, I decided to figure out where the orders for a horror film book was coming from. A decidedly large plurality of the requests, for some reason, were from 480 and 481, wealthy suburban Detroit.

and more

In 1983, the US Postal Service began using an expanded ZIP Code called “ZIP+4.” “A ZIP+4 code consists of the original five-digit ZIP Code plus a four-digit add-on code. The four-digit add-on number identifies a geographic segment within the five-digit delivery area, such as a city block, office building, individual high-volume receiver of mail, or any other unit that would aid efficient mail sorting and delivery.” It is not mandated, but businesses use it often and there are savings to be had for bulk mailings.

On rare occasions, a place is assigned a ZIP code that does not match the rest of the state, e.g. the place is so remote that it is better served by a center in another state. “For example, Fishers Island, NY, which is off Long Island, NY, has ZIP code 06390 and is served from Connecticut, while all other New York ZIP codes begin with 1. Some Texas ZIP codes are served from New Mexico and have codes beginning with 8 rather than 7.”

“Returned government parcels from the District of Columbia are sent to ZIP codes beginning with 569, so that [they] are security checked at a remote facility, put into place after the anthrax scare.”

The Census Bureau does not tabulate data by U.S. Postal Service ZIP Code. Instead, it created a new statistical entity called the ZIP Code Tabulation Area (ZCTA) to meet requests by data users for statistical data by ZIP Code. ZCTAs are close area approximations of USPS ZIP Codes service areas. For more information, go here. Find a ZIP Code by entering an address here.

There are ZERO more weeks of ABC Wednesday. Au revoir, Melody, Denise, Leslie, Beverly, et al.

Book: Six and Eleven by Ed Dague

Ed Dague was a consumate professional newsperson

six and eleven.ed dagueIt was a Thursday in mid-November. I was looking at some quiz and realized I had read but two books all year. So I scanned my bookshelf and picked out Six and Eleven: A Television News Anchor’s Story by Ed Dague.

I’d known who Dague was since the mid-1970. I was going to college at New Paltz, in New York State’s Mid-Hudson region. On cable, we got the stations from both New York City and Albany. I’d watch the NYC news during the week, generally WABC, Channel 7.

On Saturdays, I found myself watching this Dague guy from WRGB, Channel 6 out of Schenectady. He had such a command of the stories that I didn’t know why he was relegated to the weekends. He moved to the 6:00 and 11:00 pm weekday newscasts in 1976.

Channel 6 had a woman on sports named Liz Bishop, who is now the lead anchor at the station. If memory serves, the “weather girl”, a term they may still have used, was Linda Jackson, who later, as Linda Jackson-Chalmers, became a respected educator.

Eight years later…

Anyway, I started reading the book, which I had gotten for my birthday in March 2011, a couple months after it was published. I realized that I had read chapters from it before, but not the whole thing. I finished it in one read and thought I’d review it in due course.

Three days later, Ed Dague died at the age of 76. That rather weirded me out. It wasn’t that I was shocked. He had retired in 2003 when a painful and progressive form of arthritis forced him to stop working.

The book, written in a series of short chapters, relayed his great antipathy toward his brutal father. Ed was an engineering student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in part because that’s the only major his dad would pay for. He eventually segued into local radio, eventually landing at WRGB.

But he wasn’t just an anchor. He was the chief political reporter, and he had a thirst for all of the nuances of state and local government. In 1982, he was the only broadcast reporter to interview Albany mayor Erastus Corning in his hospital room.

In July of 1984, Dague left WRGB, the top-rated evening news in the market, to become the Managing Editor and Anchor for WNYT, Channel 13. Fairly soon, WNYT became the region’s top-rated news station.

Local news’ decline

ed dague.nysbhof
In the book, Dague is direct in his criticism of the dumbing down of local news. Covering fires and accidents are easy. Discussing the nuance of what a particular piece of legislation might mean is far more complex.

Ed was rather pointed in his assessment of a few former colleagues. His antipathy towards religion clashed sometimes with some of his more devout colleagues, and he mentions them by name.

Watch Ed Dague talk about the book when it first came out. And coverage of 9/11. Listen to his former co-anchor Chris Jansing talked about him shortly after he died.

The one thing about the book that is obvious is that he wrote the chapters not necessarily in order. Occasionally, there’s a bit of repetition. Also, there’s a couple of typos. I mention this only because I had wanted to contact him about this. I imagine it probably bugged him a little.

Ed Dague came to my church in the fall of 1993. I must have impressed him enough that he invited me to stop by to see a broadcast. By the time I took him up on the offer, I suspect he had forgotten.

Still, I hung out with him from about 8 pm until the end of the 11 pm news on April 18, 1994. I remember that he’d heard that Richard Nixon was sick – he’d die four days later. He said to someone, “Is he dead?” It was not a matter of spite but of newsworthiness.
Somewhere, I have a transcript of that night’s broadcast.

Ed Dague was one of the smartest, most self-aware people I had ever met. No doubt he was the best newscaster from this market. He was inducted into the NYS Broadcasters Hall of Game in 2007.

I loved his blog. Here’s when he hosted Answers Please. And did the weather.

Albums in everyone’s collection (?)

14 of 15

elton john greatest hitsThe late Dustbury linked to a video called “Albums that are in everyone’s collection.” Lists like that usually generate lots of comments, mostly in the “What about album X or Y or Z?” mode. The compiler’s response was, of course, “Well, I had to save SOME for ROUND 2 down the road.” Which he has since done, but that will be for another time.

The guy from “For the Record” says these are albums you probably picked up if you were buying vinyl music in the 1970s or 1980s.

Business As Usual – Men at Work. I have on LP. I’ve since seen Colin Hay, the lead singer, on the TV show Scrubs. Down Under.
Thriller – Michael Jackson. LP, CD. “I don’t know anyone over the age of 25 who hasn’t gone through at least one copy of Thriller,” Dustbury opined. He was corrected. Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’.
Brothers in Arms – Dire Straits. CD. In fact, this was among the very first CDs I purchased. After receiving four Beatles CDs c 1987, I bought a compact disc player. I needed more CDs, and went out and spent $50. So Far Away.
Invisible Touch – Genesis. CD. Land of Confusion.
The Best of Blondie. CD. Dustbury: “There was a time when I had a marked aversion to Greatest Hits sets.” When I started getting CDs, it was quite the opposite. I owned a couple Blondie LPs, so buying the greatest hits CD made sense.

IV – Led Zeppelin. LP. I must have bought this nearly a decade after it came out. My Stairway to Heaven OD was THAT great. Black Dog.
Breakfast in America – Supertramp. LP, b. Take the Long Way Home.
Greatest Hits – Elton John. CD. Another album I bought in that first purchase. This is the FIRST greatest hits album for the artist, but there are LOTS more of them, none as good. Daniel.
Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd. LP. I bought this much later, certainly after I bought The Wall. It was on the Billboard album charts for more than a decade and a half. Time.
Bat Out of Hell – Meat Loaf. I do not have this album. Well, unless someone gave it to me when they were dumping their vinyl. Paradise by the Dashboard Light (duet with Ellen Foley).

Born in the U.S.A. – Bruce Springsteen. LP, CD. My late brother-in-law John bought me the CD. Glory Days.
Abbey Road – The Beatles. LPs (US/UK), CD. Here Comes the Sun.
The Stranger – Billy Joel. LP. I had all of Joel’s albums up to that point. So it wasn’t MY fault that he was almost dropped by his label before this album, his fifth, became a hit. The Stranger.
Boston – Boston. LP, b. More Than A Feeling.
Hotel California – Eagles. LP. Dustbury: “I went out of my way to avoid Hotel California, and still do.” I actually can appreciate that. Wasted Time.

The b next to a couple albums means that I went to the library and burned a copy of the CD. Hey, I ALREADY own the LP. I was fighting what Mark Evanier called W.W.C.T.G.Y.T.B.N.C.O.S.Y.A.O., the World Wide Conspiracy To Get You To Buy New Copies Of Stuff You Already Own. Note that I DID succumb to that more than once.

Movie review: Dark Waters (2019)

Hoosick Falls, NY water used for drinking is contaminated with PFOA

dark watersMy wife and I went to see Dark Waters at the Spectrum Theatre in mid-December. As we came home, we realized we were both really ticked off. But it wasn’t a flaw in the movie. Rather, it was too damn effective.

Robert Bilott (Mark Ruffalo) is a defense attorney for large corporations who just made partner at the firm. A neighbor of his grandmother’s, a West Virginia farmer named Wilbur Tennant (Bill Camp) shows up at Bilott’s office. Wilbur thinks something untoward is killing his cattle.

Negotiating with the managing partner Tom Terp (Tim Robbins), Robert decides to take a quick look see at the case. Soon, he’s conversing with duPont bigwig Phil Donnelly (Victor Garber). Donnelly buries Bilott in discovery, and other stalling tactics. Eventually, this process becomes an environmental lawsuit against the major chemical company that was creating PFAS chemicals that pollute the water and much more.

Robert’s wife Sarah (Anne Hathaway), a lawyer who retired to raise the family, tries to be supportive, but the cost in Robert’s time and their lifestyle begins taking its toll.

This is a very steady, credible film. In some ways, it reminded me of the 2015 movie Spotlight, in which Boston Globe reporters were investigated alleged sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church. No one wanted to believe that narrative either.

In Dark Waters, one of the young women who was getting her blood tested said, “But you won’t find anything . DuPont is good people.”

A better example might be The Firm, the movie based on the John Grisham novel, or maybe a low-key Erin Brockovich. Dark Waters is engaging and informative about corporate irresponsibility that affected millions of lives.


When my wife and I got home that very night, we saw on NBC News a story about PFAS chemicals in the drinking water of a seemingly well-to-do Philadelphia suburb. I didn’t find that specific report, but note that PFAS chemicals have contaminated 17 sites in Pennsylvania. See also the NATIONAL map.

It’s a problem in my neck of the woods. The water depended upon by the people of Hoosick Falls, New York, for drinking and cooking is contaminated with PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid). PFOA is a subset of PFAS, one those C8 “forever” substances.

As the farmer Wilbur noted, you can’t count on industry or the government to protect us. We have to count on ourselves.

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