Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Sometimes a killer is not all he seems

I have decided to come back to this blog as a result of something I've been paying close attention to for the last year now in the Albany media. Certainly most people who watch the news have now heard the tragic case of the death of Neil Olsen from Lanesboro. This has been a particularly hard thing for me to come to terms with personally because of who the killer was.

Christopher Robinson and I were friends when I attended Mt. Greylock in Williamstown, MA for high school.. When I knew him, he was a funny, sweet boy who managed to cut off the tip of his finger in art class on the last day of school and laugh about it as he put the band aid on. He liked to be with his friends, and talk and relax, and I don't think I ever heard him say anything bad about anyone. He was probably one of the least aggressive people in our group. Sure, he messed around did some stupid stuff, as we all did in high school, but I never saw him act with ill intent and he was always a joy to be around.

I completely disbelieve Mary Olsen's denial of having put him up to the murder. I know he and his sister were not exactly in love with Neil, but I would find it very hard to believe that in a 5 year period Chris became a stone-cold killer all of his own volition. I don't believe that he is heartless even now- very misguided, perhaps, but certainly he still possesses a conscience, as he arguably demonstrated at some points during his trial. I truly believe that Chris would not have done this heinous crime if not for the consistent badgering of his mother, and I find it upsetting that she is not held as accountable as Chris. She didn't pull the trigger, but from what I know of it, she may as well have.

It saddens me to hear that Chris will spend at least the next 15 years in jail before possibility for parole comes up. He certainly made a conscious choice and should be held accountable, but I hope he receives some sort of therapy while in prison and can turn his life around when he gets out. I pray that people will not overly condemn him for what he has done- everyone has a breaking point, and that night apparently he reached his. The crime should not be excused, but I write this in hopes of showing readers the side of Chris that I knew. I'll never forget his smile, or his laughter.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Thoughts on Internet Use Among Those Under 18, and Parental Monitoring has begun to surface more and more often in media reports. This is something that the blogging community picked up on way before news programs and newspaper articles, did, and many bloggers have been frequently putting up mirrors of Myspace pages for victims of crimes such as Taylor Beihl. So many people now in the 16-30 crowd have a Myspace profile, you'd be hard-pressed to find many high school and college kids who don't regularly use the site. Now the site has come under some amount of scrutiny for being a place where child predators are going to find victims, and parents are being encouraged to monitor their child's use of the internet.

Now it's not just this one particular site parents need to watch out for. Myspace is like many other websites, where all you really need is a valid email address to have an account. Beyond that, you can lie about your name, age, location, and even put up a picture of David Hasselhoff and call it yourself, and find a hundred people who believe are you, indeed, who you say you are. Friendster, Okcupid, and many other websites are similar. It's a sad fact of the world that there are evil people who lie and have really, really bad intentions. Still though, I want to know why parents aren't more involved in this stuff. I remember what it was like to be 12, 14, 16- it wasn't all that long ago for me, and it sucked. My mom told me what I could and couldn't do, and if I broke her rules, I was grounded, or appropriate punishment doled out, along with a healthy dose of that classic Catholic guilt trip. It wasn't always fun, but I'm still alive now, so I'd say she did a pretty good job parenting.

Kids today (and I was included in this) seem to think that they have a RIGHT to privacy. I think everyone is entitled to a certain amount of privacy, but I'm sorry, if you're under 18, your parents have every right to know who you're hanging out with, who you're dating, what you do when you go out with your friends, where you go, and when you go. This includes internet use.

So here are a few of things I would do if I had a child, which may also help you out if you're having trouble with this issue: If my child went to a friends house and could possibly use the internet over there, I would have no qualms about asking the friend's parent to monitor any online surfing or chatting done. I would check with the school to make sure they had some security measures to keep the kids away from sites they shouldn't be on, and if the school didn't have any such measures, show up to a PTA meeting and insist that something be done. If I had a child, I would make sure that I had software on my computer to block websites I don't want my child using, a logging system on all chats (which many programs like AIM now offer for IMing), and, of course, physically getting out of my chair to walk over and see what they were doing. Oh yeah, and if you ground your kid from the net, but they're using it anyways, or using it when you don't want them to, take the ethernet cable (the one that looks like an oversized phone cable), unplug it from the modem/router, and hide it. You can't do much online without one, trust me on that. But please, just be aware- if your kid is like me, they will bitch incessantly about you being too overprotective, too restrictive, blah blah blah, but then thank you for it when they are older.

On a side note: The Superbowl is today, I really need to watch it. I missed it last year, which sucked. However, since the incident with Janet's Jackson's nipple, I've been determined to never miss such excitement again. Let me tell you, when your fellow Fire Department members are sitting around talking about the wardrobe malfunction, and you confess you don't watch the Superbowl, all that respect you spent months earning goes right out of the window.

Oh yeah, and just to link that into the earlier topic, know what your kid is watching on TV too. TV can actually be a great way to get your child's opinion on some tough issues, without awkwardly trying to bring up over dinner why drugs are bad and safe sex (or no sex) is good.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Cue the Horror Music- I'm Baaack

After a long break, much house and job hunting, and many days of contemplating the sadness of living out of one's car, I now have not only a roof over my head but also a steady internet connection here in Atlanta. So I have returned to blog on as regular a basis as I can; which is to say, probably not often; I will shortly be starting a new job that will demand most of my time.

I've finally caught up on everyone else's blogs, and am happy to see that Albany stays the same extremely corrupted place in my absence. Oh, wait, is that something I should be happy about?

On that note, I would like to take a moment to say list the things I miss about Albany.

1) Jerry Jennings. I have have to love the irony of him being called "Orange" when he attends local events like Hair of the Dog concerts, but man, that guy needs to learn the benefits of a real tan. However, the days of walking into McGeary's for lunch and seeing him there will be missed.

2) Lark Street. Oh, my god, do I wish we had Lark Street here. We have this place called Little 5 Points, but it's not the same. No place else in this world will ever live up to Bomber's in my eyes, and I got my first tattoo at Lark Tattoo, so it holds a special place in my heart.

3) The Corning Preserve. If you haven't gone for a walk here yet- why the hell not?! It's the perfect place to go on an hour lunch break and forget about work.

4) Channel 13 news.

5) Metroland. I get down here and they have this paper called "Creative Loafing", so I'm like yay! Metroland with a different name. I open it up and flip through- where is the reporting on local music? Where is the article on local happenings gone awry- and OH MY GOD, WHERE IS DAN SAVAGE? Don't take this gem for granted. Trust me, you'll miss it too if you ever leave. Creative Loafing's idea of "Best Of" is three pages of the best movies, CDs, and local clubs of 2005. Not nearly as comprehensive at Metroland's "Best of".

6) The convenience of being able to drive to Bennington, VT, Williamstown, MA, Boston, New York, Saratoga, Lake George, CT, Maine, Buffalo, Montreal, etc on a whim. Just trust me on that here. Down here if you drive long enough to get out of the suburbs, you may find a real life reenactment of the dreaded "Squeal like a piggy!" scene from Deliverance. Oh, and many of the rural counties are dry counties. Not too much else other than what's right in Atlanta unless you want to drive at least 4 hours to Savannah, although I will say, Stone Mountain is great for hiking.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Just popping in..

I just wanted to throw up a little blurb to say that it will be a little longer than expected until I put up another thorough post, as I really don't have time right now. I stopped off in Atlanta on my way to Florida, and decided that this seems like a good place to put down my roots, so until I find a place here to stay with a good WiFi connection, my web usage is going to be pretty sporadic. But I have some good leads, so hopefully, more blogging on Albany to come soon.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Leaving for a while

I'm afraid I'm going to have to put the blog up on the shelf for a bit as I am driving down to Florida this week to take up residence there. I will, however, continue to blog about Albany when I get down there, as I still have plenty to say and will also be keeping up the current events of Albany through the net and friends.

In the meantime, I have several blogs to suggest people keep up on.

Oh, Smalbany! is an excellent blog about various local places and goings on, from where to eat to bits and pieces of interest about Albany. Oh, Smalbany! is currently on hiatus, but the writer of it will, in the interim, be writing a blog on Shaker High Basketball, which avid sports fans should read.

The Albany Eye is focused on the Albany media, from behind the scenes action to current events of interest. It's well written and provides an amusing insight into what goes on in the news scene in the area.

The Troy Polloi
is the place to read up on Troy Politics. The satire is great, and the chronicling of the Troy political scene is exceptional. I would say this site is a staple for Rensselaer County voters.

Capital Region People deals with events going in the Capital region on occasion, but mainly spotlights different bloggers in and around the world. It's a great site for good blogs to keep up on.

Farah's Sowaleef has absolutely nothing to do with Albany, but the author is an extremely thoughtful young woman in Saudi Arabia who is an absolute joy to read and talk to. It's an interesting view into the Muslim world from the eyes of a female Saudi blogger.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Yay! Snow day!

Well, the time of year has come when the white stuff is dumped out upon us. Parents frantically try to find last-minute babysitters while the kids run around and scream in glee, traffic pileups on 787 and I-90 speckle the news, and some call into their jobs citing fear of crashing their cars or inability to find someone to care for our children.

However, this does not have to be the bad situation it may, to many people, seem to be. In honor of this wonderful event , I would encourage people to get out and have some fun. If you have little ones, take them sledding after work (if it's not too dark out), or, if you are fortunate enough to be able to stay home with them, bake cookies. If you don't have children, have some hot cocoa, sit back with a book when you get a few minutes by the window and read, occasionally glancing to watch the way the light gleams off of the snow. It's days like these that the beauty of the Northeast really comes out, and it's days like these that, beyond the driving, I'm happy I live in a place where we get snow.

*I have a charity event this weekend as well as some other obligations, so I will back posting on Monday. If you have to drive today, please be safe, and I hope you all enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Fun on the Hudson

*Disclaimer* The activity described below is not recommended, and although it was loads of fun, I'm sure it's probably dangerous. Although I think it beats Duck Boats...

Ahh, the Hudson River. I was taught as a child that it was truly a thing of great beauty... until you read about it or got close enough to the water to see what's floating in it. Nonetheless, I've always appreciated having it so close to the city; I think the planned riverfront developments for the cities of Rensselaer and Troy, as well as the projects already done, such as the Corning Preserve and Riverfront Park, really give the people who live here a great place to go exercise, hear a concert, or just relax.

Which brings me to about a year and a half ago when my ex came up with a great idea for summer boredom; tubing. One would think that with the Adirondacks not too far away, we'd go there for our water adventure. But as a young college couple often is, we were broke, desperate for amusement, and far too lazy to drive an hour or more for good rapids. So we went to get our inner tubes, and set off for the closest river: the Hudson.

When we arrived, we parked in the lot and walked up the path in the Preserve a ways until we found a good place to launch off of. Tying our tubes together, we got into the water and set off, talking and sipping soda as we drifted downwards. A garbage barge went by, and I think it's the first time I really got an appreciation for just how big they are. People walking by on the trail above who noticed us shouted anything from "Having fun?" to "You must be crazy!" (which I think we must have been, a little bit, although frankly as long as I'm not drinking the water I'm not terribly worried). We also saw some ducks, which was pretty cool. I'm a big fan of the duck population.

After about an hour and infinitely more relaxed than we had been in weeks, we were down around the riverfront park, and spotting a dock, we paddled our way over to it. Soaking wet and with me giggling, we got out of the river to disbelieving looks and a few grins, hauled our tubes into the cars, and headed back for "Rent'ler".

That was the day I first decided that maybe the Hudson River wasn't so bad after all, and I still can't look at it or stand by it without remembering and smiling.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Dancin' up a Storm

So for the last week or so, I have desperately been finding someone to go swing-dancing with me. I recently discovered that Albany seems to be a pretty hot spot for this; a search turned up a bunch of places between Albany and Saratoga where people could go, not just swing dancing, but also Salsa dancing, ballroom dancing.. the list goes on and on. And the best thing is, you don't even have to know how. Many places such as the Fuze Box (Central Ave) offer an evening of dancing for $8, if you include the fee for the lesson beforehand. I'll be affirming whether or not this Friday night activity still exists, and if it's any good, as soon as I find someone who also has two left feet to go so that I'm not alone in my bad dancing.

But it just goes to show that if you aren't a big fan of sports, or a big drinker, there are other things to do in Albany.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Tearing down another block... maybe

So, when I was out on a date the other night, I heard a rumor that a section of Albany around Delaware Ave was set to be torn down under imminent domain for a school or state buildings. Does anyone know if a) such a rumor is true and b) if so, what block they are planning to do this to? I'm going to try to contact some friends who know the higher-ups in Albany, but I'm not terribly patient, so if anyone has info, please email me.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Back after a long slumber...

I apologize to any readers for the fact I haven't been able to update consistenly since the 7th. I was having router problems, so I was unable to post.

I wanted to write a blog about Albany shows in hopes that more people will realize what a gem we have here. Valentines (New Scotland Ave) provides the perfect outlet to thse in the punk and hardcore underground scene who want to experiance a show environment that can be rough, cramped, and some great fun. With groups like the Adicts and the Casualties, Valentine's draws local and national bands that are of growing notoriety on the underground scene; and one of the major draws is that in such an intimate setting, one normally has the chance to actually talk to band members before and after they go on to play. Valentine's is not for the weak of heart though, as the crowd can get ready and moshing is allowed.

Northern Lights (Clifton Park) offers a great draw of bands that get frequent radio play. The Dresdan Dolls, CKY, and many others have graced the stage here, and the price of tickets is very reasonable (generally under $15).

However, the Pepsi (South Pearl) and the Palace (North Pearl) offer the biggest shows in terms of the area. The Pepsi recently had the Rolling Stones, and has had bands like Tool, and upcoming shows are the likes of Bon Jovi and Lenny Kravitz. The Palace recently hosted Trey Anastasio, formerly of Phish, a Perfect Circle, and also occasionally hosts comedy shows.

Up and coming is the reopening of Proctor's theatre, which will probably be the jewel of the next two years, having confirmed performances of Phantom of the Opera (a play I would recommend to anyone) and the hit play the Producer's. Any Broadway fan will be pleased to be living in the Albany area when these shows start running, although I would not expect tickets to these events to be cheap.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Reporting at it's worst.

For a long time I've been trying to pinpoint exactly what bothers me so much about the reporting on Fox 23 news. However, tonight Fox made it easy to determine exactly why their news show leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth: apparently tomorrow night at 10 PM the reporters for the network will be bringing Albany viewers a story entitled "Zombie Dogs"! The story seems to be about animal testing. Now at least to me, sensational reporting and some amount of professionalism should go hand in hand. But with stories with titles like that- well, let's just say I'll be sticking to Channel 13 for a while.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Albany's Best Hidden Place to Grab a Pint

Well, tonight I'm off to a benefit at the Lodge in East Greenbush instead of hitting up downtown Albany, but one of these Saturdays I need to hit up the Fuse Box; a good friend tells me it's a great club to go to on Saturdays.

Since the benefit I'm attending this evening is very loosely connected to one of the members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) in Albany, I thought I'd take a minute to write about the AOH, seeing as how it's one of my favorite places in Albany. It's normally a members-only club, although they definitely have never checked my credentials, and is one of the hangouts for the Irish-Americans in Albany. The AOH (Ontario Street) is a pretty drab building other than the bar, but boasting bingo, cheap beer, and and a very low-key and friendly atmosphere, it's a great place to hang out after a long day of stress at work. The first time I went into the AOH bar, I met half the regulars, and I kept going back. It eventually culminated in my trip to Ireland, as I think I learned more about Irish history in a half hour from the people down here than I would have by reading 3 books on the topic. Although it is an Irish American club, I can say that pretty much anyone would be welcome here. I've brought several friends in the past, and the regulars are only to happy to have new people to talk to. The new hardwood bar has space for about a dozen people to sit, and there are tables directly in front of it for any groups to gather at. When these get crowded, there is also another room that can be opened up to provide more space for customers. I think a Guinness here is around $3, and if you keep your eye out, there are some pretty good bands every few weekends. If you're looking for a more intelligent and talkative crowd than the average Pearl Street bar would boast, AOH is probably the place to check out.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Boozin' and Cruisin', Albany Style

The bars in Albany I've been in are, admittedly, few and far between. Most were in my SUNY ghetto days, when I relied on my older friends to tout me as the Designated Driver so that I could truly experience the Albany Bar scene.

My first bar ever was Sutter's (Western Ave). I have yet to actually drink there, but man, talk about a hoppin' joint! College students crowd around the bar, seeking juicy burgers and beers of all kind, testifying to the popularity of the place. I especially love the fact that you can take all the pickles you want- condiments are more of a "do it yourself" thing there. On a weekend it can, at times, be difficult to find a parking space, although Sutter's boasts one of the bigger parking lots I have seen in Albany so far. The music is of the jukebox variety, which I rather like- it's a good mix when you want a relaxed night. I'm also told that this bar has deals for sports events, although since I haven't been down there during Monday Night Football, I'm not going to swear to that. Overall, this was a really nice place- perfect for a first date if you don't want to go all out, but you still want to have good conversations over some good burgers and brew.

A few months after I moved to Albany, I ventured for the first time to Hughes Tavern (Yates Street). I got in easily, as there was no bouncer at the door, and I have to say that to date this is by far the grungiest bar in Albany I've been in. Underage friends had no problem getting served, and most of the bar was inhabited by men in their mid forties who made lewd comments to me and the girls in my party. I'm not quite sure how the drinks were priced, but however cheap they may have been or may be, this is one place in Albany I will in the future avoid like the plague.

Since turning 21 though, I have had my fair share of good bars. I find Jillian's (North Pearl) to be nice on a weeknight- but that's more out of personal preference than anything else. The bar on the main floor generally has a few regulars and passer-bys who stop in for a drink; service is generally quick. The game floor, which is where I normally go, is often almost bare- one or two people may mill about, leaving you free to enjoy your drink, dinner, and the game of your choice. The food here is alright, but, as it is with alcohol, a bit more pricey than you may want to pay. I would recommend Jillian's for a night out with several friends. There is also a room with billiards on the first floor, as well as a dance floor on the second.

About two weeks ago my mother brought me to Waterworks (Central Ave), a gay bar which I found that, while a little crowded, was a great place to just hang out and chat (at least if you are a bi girl- I'm not sure how a straight man would fare, but I'm certain if he chatted with the right people, he'd have just as much fun as I did!). The second floor boasts dance music and a nice floor, where you can easily get down and get your groove on- there is also a bar, and nice-looking shirtless men walking around with $2 test tube shots.
The first floor is more of your normal Albany bar atmosphere, with karaoke and another bar. There are plenty tables to sit at, and the staff down here was exceptionally friendly. I found Waterworks to be pretty fun- any shot straight up or a mixed drink was a bit more than I'd pay for in my local bar, but I would certainly go back again.

The true gem of Albany that I have found so far is probably only for the more adventurous and openminded though. Billy Jack's Bar (Central Ave, across from Waterworks) houses some of the best Friday night entertainment I have seen in the area. Every Friday, Miss Carmie Hope, Drag Queen Extraordinare, graces us with her presence at this bar. Now, it's basically your normal karaoke, except Carmie doesn't just host; she actually sings, and beautifully, at that. The drinks are moderately priced but be careful if you are planning on driving later; the bartenders are extremely generous with alcohol in mixed drinks. Billy Jack's can get a little crowded, but with no cover charge, and very good entertainment, I would have to rate this as my best find so far.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Halloween, Albany Style

Well, even though I've been back in Albany for a little over two years, I experienced the "joy" of my first Halloween in Albany. Being freshly 21, what do you think was my chosen destination?

Nightmare on Pearl Street. Big mistake for a first-timer.

I left my house, located in the cozy town of East Greenbush, to head for Nightmare at about 9:30 PM Saturday. Radio ads and various internet hype made it seem like the place to be for all the Saturday night Pre-Halloween festivities. Well, everyone else seemed to think that too.

As the idea of a short, defenseless girl like me walking alone to Pearl Street through back alleys and unpopulated streets accounts was unsettling to me, I drove around the immediate vicinity of Pearl Street for about 45 minutes before giving up and parking down in front of Union Station (I am also excessively lazy, especially when wearing an extra small corset and stilletos, which was most likely another driving force). However, about a minute after getting out of my car, an unkempt looking man came up to me to ask for change. He said it was for beer though, and being honest, I gave him $2 instead of the $1 he was asking for. Hell, it was money I would have spent on booze myself anyways.

So, zoom ahead 10 minutes. I am in Jillians, and the place is packed by the likes of the Doublemint Gum girls, Michael Jackson (with the mannequin of small child attached to his crotch), Professor Chaos, and a few dozen pimps. Pushing my way through the sweaty group of fellow costumed drunkards, I am finally at the bar, albeit the smell of spilled beer now clings to my costume.

After some time I order a drink from Andy, Albany's best bartender, which I quickly consume and head to the dance floor that has been made between the restaurant and billiards area of the main floor. A cover band soon begins to play; God forbid, of course, we have a band that plays something other than the few of the top 40 they can cover. The most annoying thing was, I never did see any one dance in the area that was cleared. Probably because the band SUCKED.

So, because I can't walk around much without bumping into someone else, and the music is too loud to start a good conversation, I went downstairs to the game room to buy a game card. After a few games of pinball, I gave up and went back upstairs to the main room. I was promptly approached by a seemingly intoxicated man in his late 40s who thought he was complimenting my breasts when he said "Wow, your tits look great in that." The hand descended, and I turned around and fled. Wonderful. Just what I needed.

At that point, the environment was just too reminiscent of certain bars in Ireland I'd been, so I grabbed my coat from the coat check and flew out the door back to my car, this time unhassled by bums and strong in my resolve that the next time I'm in Albany for Halloween, I'll pass on Pearl Street and throw my own party. At least then there will be room for the drunk people to dance.