Lydster: looking at colleges


College AheadBy the end of her junior year in high school, I wondered if my daughter was even interested in looking at colleges. And, I might add, it would have been OK if she weren’t.

Within 48 hours of the conclusion of the semester, she hauled out a bunch of catalogs, pamphlets, and other materials from the past six months or more. She had KEPT those? Her mother and I had thought that she had tossed them out. But what do WE know? We’re just parents.

She created a spreadsheet and soon had prioritized the colleges and universities into four categories. Some of the criteria were based on her understanding of the vitality of their art program. But diversity and other factors I don’t quite understand also played into it.

Having looked at the literature she received, I got a glimpse of what impressed her. For instance, one had a piece of glossy paper with her name; it’s a mail merge, but I’ll admit it was cool. A student from my wife’s alma mater wrote her a personal letter, noting my daughter’s interest in art; that was nice. But neither school was in her upper tier.

She also gets a TON of emails. Or more correctly, I got them and then forwarded them to her. Early on, she was understandably coy about putting her email out into the world. So most things came to MY email, and I’d forward it to her. Some were generally helpful in talking about financial aid, while others touted their institutions.

Only one school did she put on her do not forward list, and it was a school that tried to guilt her. It read like some political mail I’ve received. “Aren’t you interested…” and blah, blah, blah…

Roll up for the virtual tour

Several schools offered visits, some in person, others remotely.

Her first in-person visit, with her parents, was to a college within driving distance of Albany. I had conferred with an alum, an old friend of mine, who was less than enthused by his experience of a couple of decades ago. But the school seems to be a much different place now.

Actually, I was impressed. First, the head of admissions talked with us, a total of eight students and their parents, on a Saturday morning. Then two students lead two groups on a tour. Our student, in her final year, was personable, and specifically appreciated that I laughed at most of her jokes. But she didn’t get it when I told her my bill would be in the mail, though a nearby parent did.

My daughter also visited my alma mater with a friend of hers. She had originally pop-pooed that choice, probably because I went there. But her best friend Kay is interested, so they went together with Kay’s older brother.

I went on a virtual tour at a school with my daughter 1200 miles away. It was as fine as another ZOOM meeting can be.

Only one of her top-tier school choices concerns me, and it’s primarily because it’s one of those states with the most dramatic rise in COVID cases. So she’d be more than 1000 miles away if she were to get sick, although she’s fully vaccinated.

If this process is exhausting for ME, I imagine it’s laborious for her. I need some Tom Lehrer.


Lydster: Boggling Boggle play


BoggleOn our recent vacation in the Berkshires, we brought along the word game Boggle. I described it four years ago here.

We played twice in three days. The first time my wife won. She ALWAYS wins. It’s not that she knows more words as much as she can SEE more combinations. I’ve told her for years that, if luck allowed, she’d kill me on the TV game show Wheel of Fortune.

As I noted, a few years ago, we used to give our daughter an advantage. The parents wouldn’t count any of the three-letter words we found, only the longer ones. We have revoked that accommodation.

And still, she’d regularly beat me, coming in second to her mother. After coming second last time, she started studying the letters. I don’t know how this would help her, since the dice land randomly.

Yet, in the next game, she started with more than a 10-point lead, finding words that were obvious in retrospect, but which her parents just didn’t see. And ultimately, she won the game.

She’s Got Game

I’ve always tried to play games with her competitively at the point when she had a fair chance of beating me. Whether it be Connect Four or another game, she plays to win.

When we play the board/card game Sorry, her strategy hanging around the starting point, hoping for a back 4, and or two 10s that she could use as back 1s, has occasionally been adopted by her parents.

No hearts

But I’ve not yet gotten her to regularly play any of the card games I know. Sure, hearts, spades, pinochle, and the like require more than two players. But I still haven’t shown her the joy of cribbage.

I may try to teach her backgammon this summer. Since I’ve retired, I’ve become rusty, and playing on the tablet is not an adequate substitute.

It’s also true that if/when she goes off to college, this might put her in good stead. Do college kids still play board games and cards? How about Yahtzee online?


Museum of Natural History

day trip to NYC

Natural history MuseumMy daughter wanted to visit the Museum of Natural History before she started her summer job. So we, including my wife, did.

I’m not crazy about day trips to New York City, which is too much a compression of time. But what tipped the scales for me to go is that my daughter’s beau, Tee, had never been on a train. In fact, he’d never been to The Big Apple, only 150 miles away.

I tied ordering the tickets online. But the Amtrak site, which I’ve successfully navigated several times before was cranky. So I ordered by phone, which involved leaving my phone number until I got an automated call 90 minutes later. I was able to finish the transaction EXCEPT that they were to call me back in “15 minutes” to get my email. They needed to send me not just the tickets but information about COVID protocols, such as wearing a mask in the station and on the train.

OK. This trip meant getting up at 5 a.m. That’s five in the morning, not my natural habitat. Check my blood pressure, then feed the cats earlier than they were expecting; felines, it’d better last you for a while. Pick up Tee, go to the train station, which is not in Albany, but in Rensselaer, just across the river.

The train station is decent, WAY better than the hovel that existed on the site little over a decade ago. As for the trip between Rensselaer and NYC, this article, which I happened to get in my email after the trip. “Winding its way along the pretty Hudson Valley, you’ll appreciate why so many people choose to commute to Manhattan rather than live in the city.” It is a lovely trip, the only civilized way to go to Manhattan.

Oh, the OTHER station

We arrived at Penn Station. Apparently, the brand-new Moynihan Train Hall was across the street, but we never saw it on this trip. For sure next time.

Walking up to Times Square, some vendor guy, unsolicited, put a bracelet on my daughter’s wrist, then wanted her to give him $5 for it. This was a good lesson in negotiating the fact that she did NOT have to buy something just because a stranger foisted on her. A few minutes later, she and Tee were talking at the location where we believe the ball drops on New Year’s Eve.

We take the B train to the Museum of Natural History, west of Central Park. I’m quite good at the subway, even though I use it infrequently. My wife had made a reservation for a noon entry, and we got there at 11:30. It was already a long line when many of us were directed to an alternate entrance because that line was “full.”

We’re in line for nearly an hour, wearing masks. Those zigzag lines give one the false impression that you’re closer than you are. Here’s the really weird thing, though: even people with both a reservation and paid-for tickets STILL had to stand in this interminable line to get a physical ticket.

There were lots of cool displays, though some required an additional fee. We did see the North American mammals, dinosaur fossils, and the forests. The Teddy Roosevelt display is recontextualizing the role the 26th President played in the environment and the culture.

The large whale had a band-aid, maybe a reflection of the COVID vaccine campaign taking place while we were there.

Le deluge

The others in my party decided to return to Times Square. But I headed directly to 34th Street to get back to Penn Station. I’m only two avenue blocks away when I got caught in the pouring rain. The umbrella I had kept in my backpack was of little use. Then the lightning started.

Fortunately, at 34th and 7th, I could go into the entrance for the LIRR, Long Island Railroad. The walk is just as long, but it’s drier. Eventually, I meet up with the others, and we returned home.

The trip back took longer because Amtrak has to share tracks with Metro-North (train from Poughkeepsie to NYC, among other routes) as well as freight lines. Having finished my reading, I pulled out my laptop and checked my massive amount of email. The Wifi was occasionally spotty but generally usable.

After dropping off Tee, we went home after a very long day. I’m glad we went, but I hope not to take another day trip again for a while. And even more happy that we left when we did, for the subway system flooded later that afternoon. 

Lydster music: Olivia Rodrigo

High School Musical

Olivia RodrigoI requested that my daughter share with me what music she’s listening to. More interesting to me is HOW she consumes music. The answer, unsurprising, is TikTok.

I had her read the list of artists on her playlist and Olivia Rodrigo showed up more than anyone else. More on her later.

My daughter does like old-school music, such as Destiny’s Child, Bell Biv Devoe, and the Fugees’ Killing Me Softly. Then there’s the weird mashup of I Feel Good by James Brown with Patrick Star of Spongebob Squarepants. There are actually several versions of this. O-kay…

She’s still a big fan of the Broadway musical Hamilton. On her playlist is The Election of 1800, among other songs. She also has Autumn Leaves, performed by Leslie Odom, Jr., the original Aaron Burr in the musical.

More recent tracks on her list: Transparent Soul by Willow Smith. She’s the daughter of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. Also, Sun Gores Down is by Lil Nas X.

There are some Doja Cat cuts. Though she didn’t specify, I’m sharing Like That and Streets


I didn’t think I knew who Olivia Rodrigo, born February 20, 2003, was, but I was wrong. She played Paige Olvera on the Disney Channel series Bizaardvark from 2016 to 2019. I sat through the show a few times without screaming. It was about two nerdy teen besties – Madison Wu played Frankie Wong – “who post funny songs and comedic videos on the Internet.”

My daughter mentioned Olivia to her statistics tutor, so he Googled the singer. He found a reference to Jake Paul, her costar on Bizaardvark for two years before he was canned. Like any reasonable adult, he despises the Paul brothers.

Before that, she was in High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, which I did not see.

“Her critically acclaimed debut album, Sour, was released on May 21, 2021, and went to #1 in several countries, including the US.”

Driver’s License, a #1 worldwide
Good 4 U 
Deja Vu 
Jealousy, Jealousy 

June rambling: a blow to the head

Sign by LP Green, 2021

How the Wealthiest Avoid Income Tax.

Future-proofing the presidency. How to thwart the next American tyrant.

Trump’s Next Coup.

Chicago’s predictive policing program told a man he would be involved with a shooting.

Far-Right Gang Killed Cop In Plot To Blame 2020 Protest Violence On ‘Leftists’.

Hatred lives in a Nashville millinery shop.

NEJM: Dilemmas of Double Consciousness — On Being Black in Medicine.

John Oliver: Asian Americans.

The Mogul and the Monster. Jeffrey Epstein’s longstanding business ties with his most prominent client, billionaire retail magnate Leslie Wexner. hold the key.

What happens if the U.S. can’t reach herd immunity.

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”
– Anne Lamott


Even though most establishments no longer require mask wearing for the fully vaccinated – and I am – I’ve opted to wear a mask indoors for the nonce. This is in support of the store workers, most of whom are still required to mask up.

Signs Of a Toxic Work Culture—And How To Correct Them.

 Remote Workers Could Quit When Asked to Return to the Office.

Best Websites to Help Kids Learn From Home in 2021.

Amy Biancolli: lessons from a blow to the head.

 7 VA Loan Tips for Veterans, Service Members, and Military Spouses.

 Homeless Oaklanders were tired of the housing crisis. So they built a ‘miracle’ village.

How to Be Sustainable in College: 18 Green Tips for Students.

Eric Carle didn’t want his hungry caterpillar to get a stomach ache.

When I heard that F. Lee Bailey, the “high-flying defense attorney” had died, the first person I told was Paul Rapp. Seriously.

Larry Gelman, R.I.P.

Jack Parker White (1931-2021). He was the husband of my wife’s cousin Diane, who I’d see almost every year at the Olin family reunion near Binghamton. He, my late FIL Richard, and I would test each other over baseball statistics.

Speaking of baseball, Ken Levine on how he’d fix MLB. I agree with most of these, especially getting rid of the abomination of “the stupid extra-inning rule where a runner starts at second base.” But the shift, and fouling off ideas I wouldn’t change.

How ‘One Hundred and One Dalmatians’ Saved Disney.

 Sister Cindy Is a TikTok Star. “Some of those who turn out to see her [said] they question whether her internet celebrity status is deserved.” Is “internet celebrity status” deserved?

Johnny Carson as Reagan, a “Who’s On First” spoof.

15 Clichés To Avoid With a Ten-Foot Pole.

Now I Know: The Buses That Make a Bee Line and The Tribe With the DIY Spies and Evolution, Eyebrows, and the Pets We Love and The Kids Are All Right and Why The NYC Police Darkened Their Blues and Refrigerators that Ribbit?


Nite Ride and Sunrise by Jean Sibelius.

You Really Got Me – MonaLisa Twins.

The Last of England by Nikolas Labrinakos.

In Her Family – Peter Sprague,  featuring Rebecca Jade.

Black Dog –  Robert Plant and Alison Krauss.

Coverville 1359: The Bob Dylan Cover Story VIII and 1360: Cover Stories for Psychedelic Furs, Keane and the Four Tops.

Tiny Dancer – Elton John.