In the year of the masks

do I want to know a secret?

Unity MaskIn some way, there was no date more 2020 for me than December 7. I received three packages. All contained masks.

One was a package of 50 disposable items I had ordered about a week earlier. The second was a mask featuring the mustache of John Green, which I had ordered about a month and a half earlier. It was a Pizzamas thing; don’t worry about understanding that, because I don’t either.

The third, though, I had ordered so long before that I had forgotten about it altogether. Ten black masks with the letters UNITY in white silhouette. Within each letter, a message. all in caps.

Healthcare for all. Back Lives Matter. Save the Planet. Protect Dreamers. Ensure voting rights. The image description from Democracy for America: “We believe there is more that unites us than divides us. These issues are not just for the few, they are for all of us.” I hope so.

In my Christmas stocking, Santa brought two more masks. One was a woodsy scene. The other was a black mask with Day-Glo musical notes. I like these.

One more

Finally, in the mail on New Year’s Eve, came a mask with a card, sent ostensibly from my church’s address. The lettering was intentionally designed to obscure the handwriting of the sender. The white mask had a pinkish rectangle that featured a white cross. In red letters:

For the last few years, an anonymous benefactor had left the choir t-shirts and pens, both emblazed with messages about the church, left near the choir loft. Since we haven’t sung since March 2020 – haven’t even been in the building – I was particularly surprised by this largesse. I have a theory about who it might be; my wife thinks it’s someone else. Thanks to the choir Secret Santa once again, whoever you are.


I went to the local grocery store on Tuesday, moving through as quickly as possible. The cashier wore a Pittsburgh Steelers mask. I asked her if her team was going to win this weekend. She said, “I hope so. They only lost by two last week, and they rested some of their players.” I added, “And the Cleveland Browns needed that game. But what about that three-game losing streak?” She sighed, “I don’t know WHAT that was about.”

I mention this because, too often, the mask is a sign of less sharing. You can’t see people’s facial expressions. But at that moment, the mask facilitated a human connection that I too often miss.

Here’s hoping that in 2022, I won’t need the masks anymore. But I keep seeing those newspaper headlines. LA Times, Jan 1.: Spiraling COVID-19 deaths leave morgues overflowing and funeral homes turning away grieving families. And even around here. Times Union, Jan. 1: In Albany County, the mark of 346 new infections in one day is 77 more than the prior record. So know I’ll still have those masks available in 2021. It’s good to have a variety…

At least I don’t have to deal with these folks.

Unbridled joy at church, as it were

readings, prayers, and conversation

First Presbyterian Church. windowMy church had been working toward resuming in-person worship beginning Sunday, November 29. However, based on the upswing of COVID 19 virus cases in the area, the Session (correctly, IMO) doesn’t feel it is safe to restart.

Since we’re talking about Presbyterians, naturally there is an ad hoc group known as the Reopening Coordinating Committee. The group voted to put in-person worship on hold at least until mid-January. I suspect it’ll be later than that.

Now, we have had worship live-streamed on Facebook every Sunday at 10 a.m. since way back on March 22, after the services were canceled on March 15. It is actually a quite decent production, thanks to the technological prowess of a number of folks. But of course, it’s not the same.

There is a team in the church to check-in and connect with every member via phone or email. I’m one of those team members. But it ain’t the same either.

We did a new thing

On November 22, we had an all-church meeting to discuss the nominations for the new Session members. So it was on the church’s ZOOM account. I had seen most of the people present, from meetings of the choir and adult Sunday school and the Bible guys.

But it occurred to me that some of the members had viewed few or none of the rest of us. What I saw were, in some cases, experiences of unbridled joy. It was very exciting.

Then on Thanksgiving at 11 am, we had a Zoom gathering time of readings, prayers, and conversation. ESPECIALLY conversation.

Now, our church is working on trying to do a carol sing close to Christmas. Of course, we’d all be muted save for the performers. It’d be cacophony otherwise. Still, we could at least SEE each other making a joyful noise.

As our pastors like to say, “We may not gather at the church, but we still gather as the church.”

Lydster: Back to school regimen

my daughter is thriving

The new back to school regimen seems to be going well. My daughter’s high school eased into the new school year with online orientation with the principal and other school leaders on Day 1.

Further orientations for each grade and academy/school division followed. The parents were supposed to participate in this, though we had some technical difficulties.

On the third day, students attended their advisory period, got their regular schedules and the like. The following Monday, students began their schedule of virtual classes. For the next two weeks of class, they had a shortened school day, first in the afternoon, then in the morning.

That last week, students went to the high school to pick up materials and supplies. To keep everyone safe, students were assigned specific days and times to come to school based on their grades and last name. My daughter’s arms were sore for days with all the books plus two different calculators that she carried home.

Change of plans

The City School District of Albany had to change its plans for in-school learning for most of its ts older students. This was a function of “devastating anticipated reductions in state aid that could total as much as $23.2 million for the 2020-21 school year.”

Then the Board of Education confirmed a bunch of administrative changes for virtually every school in the district in early September. It was “part of district-wide staffing reductions.” Principals and assistant principals were either let go or reassigned, effective September 25, after the school year had begun. Imagine the disruption to the schools and to the people’s lives.

Ironically, the students from Myers middle school whose families have selected in-person attendance will attend classes on the first floor of Albany High’s new academic building. Apparently, there are mold and structural problems at my daughter’s former middle school.

With a little help from her friends

When school suddenly stopped in spring 2020, then restarted remotely, this was not a great time for my daughter. She largely tuned out after a few weeks, and only got through the school year because of the work she’d already done to that point. The death of her grandfather on April 22 did not help.

This semester, she had hoped to go back to in-school learning. Still, she knew what she would be facing by late August. The salvation is that a couple of her friends, Tee and Kay, have come over to our house and worked with her.

It is not without risk, I suppose, especially to me. I suppose I fall into that immuno-compromised group for COVID now, though the NYS infection rate is low. But my daughter is thriving when she had not been. THat’s critically important to me. I don’t want her flunking out of 11th grade.

June rambling: And They Lynched Him

1600 Black Lives Plaza

goofus and galliantMia Birdsong is the host of More Than Enough, a Nation podcast that uses the concept of universal basic income to start a conversation about dignity, deservedness, and the country America can and should be.

UMBERTO ECO: a practical guide for identifying fascists.

In Memoriam: Duane Ivan Todman.

Sudan: Anatomy of an internet shutdown.

People Who Tried New Quarantine Hobbies Tell Us How That All Worked Out.

Deciphering appliance error codes for washers, dryers, dishwashers, and ranges.

A Stroll Along State Street in Albany, New York, a stretch of road I know extremely well.

Kurt Thomas, U.S. gymnastics’ first world champion, dies at 64.

Triangles vs. Rectangles: What’s the Better Way to Cut a Sandwich? (it involves math)

She Gets Calls And Texts Meant For Elon Musk. Some Are Pretty Weird.

Ain’t it the troooth.

If you can’t find self-rising flour, just add 1.5 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp salt per cup of all-purpose flour.

Why Is It ‘Eleven, Twelve’ Instead of ‘Oneteen, Twoteen’?

Race in America

George Floyd’s Autopsy and the Structural Gaslighting of America.

The cascade of crises in black America.

The Mimetic Power of D.C.’s Black Lives Matter Mural.

Why The Small Protests In Small Towns Across America Matter.

The protests bring on a Me-Too reckoning and media reckoning on race.

This Is How It Feels To Be Racially Profiled.

From 2018, and still unfortunately relevant: Before You Call the Cops – The Tyler Merritt Project.

The Schomburg Center’s Black Liberation Reading List and Anti-racism books (NYT).

CNN/Sesame Street town hall on racism.

Lots of resources here and here.

What You Should Keep In Mind About COVID-19 If You’re Protesting.

Fox News apologizes for segment linking stock market gains to the deaths of unarmed Black men.


Iowa Republicans Vote Out Rep. Steve King, the most overtly racist member of Congress.

Ella Jones Elected to Serve as Ferguson’s First Black Mayor.

The myth of the kindly General Lee.


Blessed are the poorIf He Goes Even Lower, We’d Better Be Prepared.

The Regime Is Beginning to Topple.

History Will Judge the Complicit Why have Republican leaders abandoned their principles in support of an immoral and dangerous president.

Cockwomble (noun) – A person, usually male, prone to making outrageously stupid statements and/or inappropriate behavior while generally having a very high opinion of his own wisdom and importance.

This is your America.

NYTimes Op-ed warns of a ‘vaccine’ October Surprise.

The unemployment rate is really 3% higher than claimed.

Lincoln Project ads: Leadership and Steps and Mattis.

An idea: buy a postcard, send it to Temporary Occupant, 1600 Black Lives Plaza, Washington, DC 20500 (ZIP Code should get it there), and send your message of disdain. (Postage is 35 cents, but hey, spend 20 cents more, slap that first-class stamp on it, and support the USPS.)

The Bunker Boy – Randy Rainbow.

Now I Know

The American Civil War of World War II and Giving a Word a Different Spin and They Called it “Massive Resistance” and A Step Too Far? and Cherries, Helicopters, and Hair Dryers and High Altitude Flatus Expulsion and It Doesn’t Stand for “Eradicating Dangerous Mosquitoes”.


And They Lynched Him On A Tree by William Grant Still.

Lift Every Voice, Karen Briggs violin rendition.

Rise Up – Andra Day.

EK Ellington, W Marsalis, O Wilson.

No One – Kevin Flournoy ft. Rebecca Jade.

Jungle Love – Morris Day and The Time.

People Get Ready.


Coverville 1311: Cover Stories for Outkast, Lauryn Hill, and Jack Johnson.

Took The Children Away – Archie Roach.

Flivver Ten Million by Frederick Shepherd Converse, performed by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.

Let The Sunshine In from HAIR Virtual Corona Version | 2020.

Sound of Silence – Dana Winner.

21st Century Schizoid Man – Toyah & The Humans, A tribute to Bill Rieflin.

Smile – Voctave A Cappella Cover.

Once in a Lifetime – Kermit the Frog.

Mr. Ed Theme Song, in German.

Albany has fine cultural offerings

the walk signals

Albany culturalThe blogger Jaquandor has more questions for Ask Roger Anything.
Do you like the cultural offerings in your area?

I LOVE the cultural offerings in the Capital District of New York State. The Albany Symphony Orchestra received two more Grammy nominations this year. They often perform contemporary, challenging pieces, not just the old warhorses. Although they do those very well.

Proctors Theatre in Schenectady offers a panoply of performances. I have season tickets to see the shows that were on Broadway and are now touring. But there are a lot of other things going on in the former vaudeville venue with 2700 seats.

Capital Rep does very fine theater with mostly Actors’ Equity performers. In the past, I’ve had season tickets. There are many fine other theatrical venues in the area, such as Mac-Haydn Theatre.

Free shows in the good weather include Alive at Five, performances on the Empire State Plaza, the Tulip festival, Larkfest, and many more.

The New York State Writers Institute offers name authors and challenging films throughout the year. The Underground Railroad history project always has informational and educational events.


I can’t forget the Albany Institute of History and Art, since we are members. The New York State Museum is another of the many museums and galleries in the region. I must mention that the Albany Public Library, which offers over a thousand events each year, including a weekly book review at the Washington Avenue branch.

My friend David Brickman writes about a lot of these. Check out Nippertown for more events than I could possibly attend. My theory: if you’re bored here, you’re not trying very hard.

What’s something completely mundane that bugs you or freaks you out? For me, it’s the fact that the buttons on the drive-thru ATM have braille on them. It’s clear why (they probably don’t bother making multiple sets of buttons for those machines), but it still always strikes me as really odd.

It’s the walk signals in Albany. Some of them do nothing except mirror the street lights, so what’s the point? Some of them you press and you get extra time to cross the street – important crossing Madison at West Lawrence. Without, it’s about five seconds, and you’ll probably die.

There’s an intersection a block from there. It has five spurs. The walk sign lights up only if you hit the button crossing Madison at South Allen,. If you cross Western at North Allen, the walk sign lights up regardless of whether you hit the button. But the sequence of when you can cross and when you can not is unchanged.