When you live with three cats with wildly diverse personalities, and then add in four babies of different ages and personalities, you get something akin to a barely contained chemical reaction. The best part though, is how much both species actually have in common.

For instance, the 2-year old granddaughter likes to knock things over, throw things, kick things, and generally cause mayhem, just like our cats. If I build a tower of blocks, Audri will grin widely and promptly send it flying to great guffaws.

Then, without batting an eye, she’ll pick up blocks, hand them to me and suggest I build another tower. Quickly! She doesn’t have all day!

The cats prefer to knock things off counters, desks, and other flat surfaces usually in the middle of the night or in direct proportion to cost or breakability. I think they smile when doing it too.

The handling of food is also quite interesting. The cats will prowl about, meow loudly, and make every effort to trip you as you serve them food. The toddler will repeatedly say, “Snack!” and lead you by the finger to the kitchen and cry uncontrollably if she doesn’t get the correct food in under 1.6 seconds.

The 7-month-old twins are a bit easier as they mostly just eat formula. Of course, if Mila gets hungrier than she likes, she will howl at a volume that has been known to peel paint off walls and send cats scattering faster than using a vacuum.

Miles, Mila’s twin brother, is a little mellower but will get vocal too, just at a lower volume. And their cousin, Sullivan, at 1 year is a very quiet fella but able to empty a jar of baby food in nothing flat.

So both species want food and will let you know it, in roughly the same manner.

Playtime for both species is quite an event. Our cat Romeo will jump halfway up the wall if he sees light bouncing off my watch and reflecting on the wall.

The twins will bounce up and down in a bouncy seat with great panache and Sully has turned the Jolly Jumper into a gymnastic event. Toys elicit similar reactions with Sully attempting to eat or at least taste any and all toys.

The cats just prefer to bat things all over the house until, without fail, the toys end up under the stove. Audri will carry toys all over the house and leave them in seemingly random places. I mean it’s great to find blocks in the couch, puzzle pieces in plants, and small plastic people under furniture.

Of course, one issue that does come up during playtime is when the kids see the cats and want to play with them. The cats do not see the fun in this and generally disappear in ways that would make Houdini proud.

Sylvie can go from asleep on the couch to under our bed upstairs so fast you start looking for a time machine or transporter. Romeo just turns 180 degrees as soon as a baby approaches him. But, to be fair, he has allowed the kids to pet him on occasion. If I’m holding them and I sedate him. Nibbler, our tiny half-feral calico, simply leaves the ZIP code if she spies a tiny human.

Outdoor time is a big hit for both species. The cats love to be outdoors, killing small animals, lying in the sun, and leaving various organs and body parts for us to find. They also enjoy walking up and down the street and hoping someone will feed them.

The kids are all about outdoors too. Sully will attempt to consume any and all objects within his reach be they animal, vegetable, or mineral. The twins just enjoy staring wide-eyed at everything and looking cute. And Audri is queen of all she surveys from the playground on Maple Avenue to our backyard and every muddy puddle, snow drift, or interesting object she encounters. And of course, she also enjoys chasing the cats all over the yard.

And the final area of inter-species agreement is sleep. The cats can and do nap anywhere and anytime it suits them. The babies, well, they do sleep but rather randomly.

Audri is usually good for a solid post-lunch nap as is Sully, but only for us, less so for his mommy. The twins sleep whenever, usually after a meal or a long run in the bouncy chair.

Mila is the worst with an infant case of FOMO (fear of missing out) despite the fact that she’s not even clear on what she might be missing. Miles is a little better, but both twins will fight sleep usually when their parents are the most exhausted.

Oh, I forgot. Our son also has two cats: twins called Fester and Gomez that live on his side of the house and revel in tearing up his apartment, running around the neighborhood, and getting into it with our three.

So, there you have it. Four grandbabies, five cats and a 140-year-old house. It’s never boring on Lincoln Avenue.

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg says he takes time out of the daily madness to feed his Betta fish, Bruce, who seems unbothered by the chaos around him. So far.


By now, you’re probably aware that later this year, we’ll be having a national election that will decide who occupies the White House, who controls the Senate and House, and who gets to address our current issues (world strife, huge deficits, climate change, political polarization, domestic terrorism, racism, financial inequality, healthcare reform, educational funding, the war on women).

But, you ask, what does that have to do with me and my desire to remain sane and not rip my ears off and tear out my eyeballs? Glad you asked.

The current 24/7 news cycle makes it very difficult to stay informed in an even-handed way while maintaining sanity. When I was young and first in the news business, the idea of 24-hour news was just getting started with CNN.

In those days, you got a morning or afternoon daily newspaper, listened to news on the radio or watched the six o’clock news after work, or caught up at 11 p.m. as you were nodding off. Most news was fairly even-keeled and objectivity was in fashion for most news professionals.

What that really meant was that you were not bombarded constantly with information of dubious quality, by hyper-partisan sources with agendas that had nothing to do with objective journalism. So how do you manage to stay informed with today’s spewing fire-hose of daily media insanity? Well, it’s possible with a couple of simple steps.

Step one: Decide if you’re interested in actual facts or you just want your current world view reinforced.

Step two: Choose a news source or sources that, by the standards of most sane people, achieve that goal. If you’re happy with the world as it is, stay tuned to Fox News (an oxymoron for a foreign-owned propaganda organization). If you’re upset or frankly scared poopless, then go for CNN, BBC, CBC, NPR, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, MSNBC, CBS, or maybe The Altamont Enterprise.

If you notice that I included two foreign news sources, you’re paying attention. The reason is that both organizations are historically pretty objective and also have no vested interest in skewing news about the United States, which to them is a foreign country.

Step three: Take small doses. Read no more than a story or two at a time or view no more than 30 to 40 minutes of a broadcast. Afterwards, think quietly about what you just learned and take many deep breaths.

Ask questions. If you’re still in the dark on an issue, try researching it on the internet, but again, watch your sources and don’t spend more than 30 to 40 minutes at a time online; it can rot your brain pretty fast.

Step four (final step): Form a tentative opinion based on what you learned. But, be prepared to possibly modify that opinion, as things do tend to change as stories develop and issues become more fully explored.

Congratulations. You have now gathered information, thought about it, and formed an opinion. This is what people did in the old days before people shouted at them 24 hours a day and told them what to think.

This set of steps, repeated over the coming months will allow you to remain reasonably sane (though medication might also be in order for some). By the time the actual election comes, it will allow you to vote in an informed and conscious manner. A few other tips are in order though.

First, ignore all campaign advertising, even from candidates you think you might want to support at the voting booth or, Goddess forgive, financially. All campaign rhetoric is suspect as it is meant to further ambition, not truth.

The problem is that there is no such thing as an honest politician. No matter their party affiliation, sex, orientation, color or flavor, they are interested in winning at any cost.

I realize that’s a harsh and cynical stance, but I’ve been in the journalism business in one way or another since the 1980s and can honestly say no politician I have studied, has ever been truly honest. Many have been decent people (Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama, FDR, Ike, Ted Kennedy to name a few) but even they had many flaws and faults, and made lots of mistakes. Sadly, all politicians share a common trait: They’re human.

Next tip. If a story comes out, or a photo or video surfaces that is just startling, shocking, or hard to believe, chances are it’s been faked or taken out of context. Examples of these stories (look into the term “deep fakes”) and images, are already popping up and being debunked on a daily basis.

Be prepared for a lot of propaganda from all sides and especially from sources that actually originate outside this country. Make no mistake, we have enemies in the world, and they are waging war on us via social media and regular media.

They did in 2016 and it has never stopped. So, as we approach the next major election, foreign influence will be a real issue and the current administration has done little to stop it, and some say, much to encourage it.

Final tip. Keep your eyes on the prize. Distraction is a major weapon of anyone who would keep people from the truth.

Don’t get distracted by the silly stories that always pop up about a candidate that have little or nothing to do with the current state of things. Be wary of stories that ignore real issues or that smell of a set-up.

Much of what was printed and broadcast in 2016 about Hilary Clinton was based on distraction. Here we are, four years later, and nothing she was accused of ever came out as true or real. Keep that in mind as this election moves forward.

The only truth I can give you is this: 2020 is going to be a truly historic election and a truly challenging one. Many forces are at play here; more than usual, and it will make our job as media consumers and more importantly, as voters, very tricky. Just stick to basics, sip at the media fire hose and for the sake of all that is still good in this world, do one thing: VOTE.

Editor's note: Michael Seinberg notes he is a trained journalist, award-winning columnist, ex-newspaper editor and photographer, and all-around professional cynic. He also votes. Every. Damn. Time.


In the last year, we went from having two grandchildren to having five. Of that number, four are under age 2 and all four of those spend more than a little time with us every week (some every day). It’s what you might call higher-order grandparenting.

When you spend that much time with tiny humans you’re related to, you begin to understand any number of things except one: time and its fluid nature. For instance, when a five-month-old infant with a touch of colic is screaming at you because her tummy hurts, it seems as though time pretty much stands still. Of course, once she burps, poops, or otherwise rights her innards, you soon discover about three minutes have passed, not three hours.

Conversely, when said persnickety person is happy or sleeping, you get the impression time’s fleeting only to discover she’s been out for two solid hours. I guess you get so focused on their situation, you forget your own, which is not a bad thing these days. Tiny humans are incredibly helpless compared to most baby mammals and you never really consider that until you have to care for one.

Now, I have raised children before and dealt with babies, but it’s been more than 25 years since it was a daily thing. A lot has changed in that quarter-century from what are now termed best practices, to my energy level. Let’s face it, I can’t pull off at age 55 what I did when I was 30.

And my lovely wife, who recently retired as a teacher (librarian) is actually the lead in all this grandparenting, so she’s the one who gets up at 4 a.m. to help with a certain screaming banshee (as she has been named by her father).

Oh, and just to be clear, we have one granddaughter who will be 2 in February, a little guy who is 10 months old and twins who were five months old on Jan. 1. Happy New Year!

The twins live with their dad and his fiancée next door, the toddler is with us five days a week, and the middle guy is here at least one day per week, so like I said, we’re hip deep in diapers, bottles, cribs, strollers (we currently have five) and baby clothes. And rolling those strollers around the village, we see other grandparents doing the same. We should form a club.

I’m not complaining, but it is a great deal of work to deal daily with that many little folks. The truth is, we’re frequently outnumbered, which also contributes to the time dilation effect.

I recall having the toddler solo one morning as my wife was out and her dad was occupied with the twins. I was scheduled to have her for about three hours, which felt like an entire day by the time it was over. I mean, keeping someone two feet tall with unlimited energy and no fear alive becomes quite a challenge. And did you know toddlers have Olympic-level speed?

It turns out that ,if you look away from a toddler for 1.7 seconds, she is fully capable of going from one floor to another up a full set of stairs or from the back porch to the front of the house. It’s certainly helped improve my sprint speed and also my research into leashes for toddlers.

She is fun though, and endlessly happy when she’s not screaming in frustration because you won’t let her eat an entire cake or six dozen cookies. She also can’t fathom why you won’t allow her to dive into a mud puddle or snowbank. Thus is life at 23 months.

But when all the dust, diapers, and dirty laundry clear, and they’re all asleep or gone home, you can rest easy knowing you did something useful with your day. I was never a huge fan of children, probably due to being bullied and having less than ideal memories of childhood.

But being a grandparent is a very different role and a very nice one. When I was growing up, my grandparents on both sides lived far away, so I maybe saw them once or twice a year. These little ones will grow up truly knowing us and I think that’s a good thing.

We’re able to help their parents and enrich the lives of the little beasts. We’re calmer, more experienced, and less stressed than young working parents with not enough time in the day.

Let’s face it, childcare in this country is a joke, like so many things that have to do with helping normal people. Having family nearby is now almost required for young families to do well. But I’m not going to get all political here; that’s for another time.

As I write this, my granddaughter is asleep in her little chair here in my office. She’s snoring quietly, perfectly happy, safe and warm. Her parents are happily asleep with her twin brother next door and all is right in their world. And isn’t that the whole point of being a grandparent?

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg has been a grandparent for the past 13 years. The fifth one is 13 years old, lives on the west coast, and visits once or twice a year.


Well, by the time this gets into print, it will be really 2020 and folks will be all into their resolutions and big plans for changes, improvements, upgrades, new lives, and maybe some post-holiday napping. It’s natural. We always treat the start of a new year as an occasion to try new things and make life changes, but the irony is that, for all that effort, we’re still us, no matter what changes we try for.

That’s not to say people can’t change or shouldn’t, but I sometimes wonder if we get caught up in the ever-present urge to change just for the sake of change. In our current excuse for a society, we tend to worship the new, the young, the hip, the fresh — and have little to no regard or respect for the old or the current. But there’s an old saying I tend to live by: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

To put it more simply, before you jump into some radical change or new life, stop for a second and examine the current situation. Why do you want to make a change? Will it make you happier? Will it make you healthier? Will it make you a better person? Will it improve the world around you? Or are you just bored and want to spice things up?

Years ago, my wife and I used to belong to a gym and we tended to go pretty regularly all winter. Once spring, summer, and fall set in, we both preferred to be outdoors, she running, me on my bikes and skateboards, or both of us walking.

Each January, the gym filled up for a couple weeks with folks I referred to as “resolutionists.” You know them. The folks who join a gym to get in shape, lose weight, and feel better. They come in with a sort of grim but determined look on their faces and gamely try to make it into a habit that sticks all year. The vast majority were long gone by February first and the leftovers usually either succeeded or left by March.

I applaud their intentions but, like most people who make new year’s resolutions, they approached things the wrong way. They say you have to do something for 21 days straight to change it from an intention to a habit.

I never tested that theory, but I suppose it makes sense. But on the trip from intention to habit, I have noticed that many bumps appear on your path. Those bumps are real life. I have a feeling that’s where people make the biggest mistakes in trying to go from one place to another.

If you join a gym with the intention of going several times a week, but you also have a full-time job, a family, and a spouse you like to see with some regularity, then something has to give elsewhere to make it possible to find gym time.

If you need to change your eating habits to one less likely to land you in the cardiac unit for a triple bypass, but your family has a frequent flier plan to every fast-food chain on Route 20, you’re going to have a problem.

If you want to keep you living space cleaner but you share it with three cats and four children under the age of 2 and your partner is allergic to using a vacuum cleaner — well, you get the picture.

I guess what I’m getting at is that, if you really want or need to make a change in your life, chances are you can find a way to do it. But you also need to give yourself a break along the way.

One of the recurring memes I see on social media these days is to remember the need for self-care while you’re caring for others. That’s good advice, no matter how trite it might seem.

As we move into 2020, think long and hard about where you want to be at this time next year. And make sure that destination is reasonable, possible, and ultimately helpful for you. If so, chances are you’ll make it. I wish you luck.

And as for me? Well, I don’t do resolutions. I just kind of stick with general ideas. In 2020, I want to write and paint more, ride my bikes a bit more, as long as my body can take it, and continue to remain sane and happy.

And in between, I have four grandchildren under the age of 2 who need a lot of supervision, so they don’t take over the world before they’re ready.

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg has been writing for The Enterprise for more than 25 years. He says it never gets any easier.


As you might have noticed, the news pretty much sucks these days. Hatred, thievery, corruption, anger, division, and puppy-kicking dominate the airwaves and smartphones of early 2019.

So, what’s a humor writer to do? When my editor recently suggested she’d like me to write more often, I admitted I was having trouble coming up with much humor.

I mean I’m happy to laugh at the sheer absurdity of the antics in Washington and Albany these days but that’s more black humor and cynicism than anything. And then I realized something.

I knew a happy person. We’re talking seriously thrilled here. Just blissfully happy about even the smallest things. And so, I decided to ask her what the secret is.

My little happy person is Audrianna Rae or Audri. She’s 11 months old and our newest granddaughter. Audri likes everything pretty much. When you say hi, her eyes go wide, and she grins and wiggles.

When you set her on the floor, she immediately starts crawling in pretty much every direction, exploring the carpet texture; the toys we set out for her; the cats, who give her a very wide berth; and the little solar critters we have around the house.

Nothing makes Audri happier than the solar hula dancer and flamingo on the kitchen windowsill. She stares, in rapt baby attention, at the wiggling hips and flapping wings as if they are the coolest things she has ever seen. And to her, they are.

They’re colorful and move for no apparent reason and just make quiet little clicking noises, and that’s all they do. And for Audri, that’s good enough. That’s great, in fact.

When I stare at them, I like the movement too and the sheer silliness of a pink flamingo and tiny hula dancer just wiggling away. They’re kitschy and silly and have no real purpose except to entertain small humans and anxious writers. And it works.

Have you noticed that the world is filled with textures? Audri has.

She loves to rub and grip and grab at carpets, couches, my beard, blankets, cane chairs, and pretty much everything else. Her tiny fingers explore and feel, and she stares intently, trying to figure out what it is she’s touching. Try that sometime.

Food is huge these days. Audri loves to eat. But she most definitely has her own tastes.

When she sees a full bottle, she is ready to rock. She reaches for it, squeals happily, and sucks at that puppy like it’s the center of the universe. Of course, I see similar reactions from adults when confronted with a cold beer, a glass of wine, or those amber-colored rust inhibitors (hard liquors) people like to rave about too. So even some grownups kind of get this.

After a bottle, the real fun begins. Audri likes crunchy puffs, applesauce, and various multi-colored baby-food concoctions. She no sooner gets a spoonful in her mouth than she’s looking for the next one. This kid eats with purpose and dedication, grinning all the way through and making happy noises.

She’s like a baby foody in a gourmet eatery as the waiter brings out each exquisite course. When was the last time you enjoyed a meal that much? You could. You just have to slow it down and savor. Just focus.

Ignore calories. Just be there, and savor and munch and slurp and become one with the meal. Get all Zen on it! The marketers would crow about mindfulness at this point. Audri doesn’t do marketing, she just lives it.

And there, I think, is the real secret. Audri doesn’t multi-task. She doesn’t anticipate or worry and hold grudges or analyze.

She is right there in the moment at all times, laser focused on whatever it is that’s in front of her. Well, at least for 15 seconds or so. I mean, when was the last time you were in the moment like that? Totally focused. Doesn’t matter what you’re doing, just actually try and be there.

At the moment, I’m typing. I feel the keys under my fingers, hear the sound of the keyboard, and see the words appear as black shapes on a white field. I’m trying to get something from my brain onto the screen and eventually into print.

I’m just writing. I’m here. Where are you? What are you doing? Are you actually there?

So, do you want to be happy in 2019? Take a tip from a baby. See the world through new eyes. Laugh at it; it’s pretty damn silly. Savor it all. Stay present.

And the news? The hell with it. It’s all fleeting anyway. Are you furious over some moron move in Washington? Some horror overseas? The economy? Expanded rights for some group or other?

Sure, many of these stories and issues are important. But, can you fix them by being angry? Maybe spend a little more time trying to understand what’s getting you riled and maybe see about doing something concrete.

And then, go enjoy your favorite snack. Really get into it. Take a walk and look at the color of the sky. That is some serious blue some days.

Sit and read a really good book or story and lose yourself in the words and images. And if you can, read to a baby or a child or someone else and share the moment. You only get a certain number.

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg says he is doing his best to take his own advice. Mostly. Audri says he needs work.


Roughly 25 years ago on a warm May day (Garage Sale Day, actually) I moved permanently to Altamont and found my first real hometown.

I grew up moving and by the time I settled here at age 29, I’d moved at least 10 times. My dad was a corporate attorney, so we moved for his career. It was like being an Army brat but with better benefits I suppose.

While I sometimes envy those who stayed in one place their whole lives, living in different places gives you a great deal of perspective. That’s why I think of Altamont as my adopted hometown more than any place I’ve ever lived.

One of the things that has always meant a lot to me about living here, is the real sense of community we have. We’re a small place with 1,500 or so residents, far smaller than Voorheesville and a mere flyspeck compared to Albany or Schenectady.

Walking around, you see familiar faces and you get to watch people come, have kids, raise them, send them off to college, and start talking retirement. Some old neighbors have gone, some new ones have joined, and many others have stayed. It really does take a village to raise a child and a family, and we have that here.

Years ago, I wrote a column I think I called “The Altamont Wave” in which I waxed poetic about the fact that we all tend to wave to one another around here, even if we’re not sure who we’re waving to. In a divided, angry, and frightened world, that means something. It really does.

Why do we all fondly remember when they all shouted, “Norm!” in “Cheers?” Because we want to live where everybody knows our names.

All that being said, I find one thing about living here to be a real problem. Change. And I don’t mean change like storms, floods, houses falling down, or being attacked by roving bands of angry chipmunks.

I mean greed-driven change. When I first arrived, they were just building Kushaqua and I remember riding my mountain bike through the muddy construction sites. Since then, we watched Brandle Meadows blight a pristine stretch of green space and the new development out on Bozenkill inflicted on another green buffer. Though, in fairness, 10 homes and most of the trees left intact is a lot less of a problem.

In the past couple weeks, we’ve watched as our elected officials bowed to the wishes of Stewart’s instead of listening to the residents who elected them. And now the same developer who schemed (gift basket, anyone?) to erect Brandle Meadows is intent on adding more apartments right in the center of the village on another green buffer (replete with 50 parking spaces). Has this person ever met a piece of virgin land he didn’t want to pave over? That’s a rhetorical question; we already know the answer.

I know change and growth are part of life, and I generally accept that. But not when the change involves upheaval and destruction that will only benefit one person or a small group of people whose driving force is greed.

Every time you build another residence, it means more stress on our water and sewer systems, more work for emergency medical services and firefighting folks, and a small-but-never-adequate increase in the tax base. And the fact that the village boundaries have been extended to the benefit of the developers just reflects that our elected officials don’t have the interests of the residents at heart.

Anybody who attended the Stewart’s meeting recently knew the fix was in from the very start. A bigger Stewart’s with a massive parking lot and surface-of-the-sun lighting doesn’t fit into our quiet little village. Neither does the destruction of an old, occupied, and architecturally correct home (comprehensive plan, anyone?).

Our mayor should have recused herself from the vote due to her prior public support for the project, which rendered her utterly biased and incapable of rendering an objective decision. That a recently-appointed board member who has yet to be elected also voted in favor certainly gives the appearance of impropriety. In our current political climate, optics are everything, as they say.

But enough of that. Altamont is still a small village made up mostly of people who moved here for that reason. They didn’t want to live in the suburban wastelands that surround us in Guilderland.

For many people, the suburbs are a perfect place to live and raise their families. More power to them.

But for those of us who are looking to live in a functional community, the character of Altamont is something precious and worth preserving. I want to live in a place where people wave, ask after the kids and the cats, and tell you how they’re doing. In a world full of problems and worry, it’s nice to know your neighbors and care about them.

Consistently giving in to commercial pressures serves only those who benefit financially. I don’t want Altamont to turn into Guilderland. But for developers, the character of a community doesn’t matter when there’s money to be made.

Let’s all remember why we moved here, why we live here, and why we stay here. Next time someone suggests building, tearing down, or changing things, let’s ask them a simple question: Who will this really benefit?

I want to live in a place where people know my name. During our short time on this little blue ball, that’s something that really matters.

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg points out that he and his wife have lived in Altamont a combined 85 years and they have also walked thousands of miles through the village in that time. Remember to wave, he says; they’ll wave back.


There has been an ongoing debate about whether dogs are smarter than cats or if other animals are as smart as people. I grew up in a household with dogs and then had cats later in life, so I have some thoughts on the subject.

But, to be fair here, I am not a behavioral specialist, animal psychiatrist, crazy cat person, or dog-centric pet aficionado. I like most animals (generally more than most people) and find them all pretty pleasant.

But is any given animal smarter than another? And how do animals, in general compare to humans? I suppose that depends on what you think indicates intelligence.

In my younger years, I had gerbils, hamsters, mice, fish, and even a chinchilla (yes, they really are that soft). In all cases, they exhibited behaviors that might, or might not, constitute various levels of intelligence.

But this raises a question. Is it fair to compare animal behavior to human behavior? For instance, have you ever watched a dog sniff at a vertical surface before peeing on it? According to experts, the dog is smelling and getting information from the dogs who also peed in that spot and then leaving his or her own message to add to the urinary bulletin board.

The thing is, we have no idea if your dog is leaving the next chapter of “War and Peace” or a snotty comment about the grooming habits of the beagle on the next block. But for a human to do the same thing would require pen and paper, a computer, smartphone, or a can of spray paint.

In other words, dogs can naturally communicate in ways that require us to use advanced technology. So, who is smarter?

As I sit here at the computer, peeing on a virtual signpost in cyberspace, one of our cats inevitably climbs into my lap and curls into a classic cat loaf. I oblige with a little ear or neck scratching, and purring generally commences.

So, without using any form of technology, the cat has attained a state of utter bliss and relaxation. Most humans spend money, energy, and time in a futile attempt to reach such a state. A purring cat has attained oneness with the universe without Ambien, weed, booze, meditation, yoga, travel to exotic lands, a hike in the woods, or a lengthy bike ride.

Dogs seem to be able to achieve the same state with a simple belly rub. So again, who appears more advanced intellectually?

So, which is smarter? A cat or a dog (drumroll please)?

Well, I’d say they’re about even on average (though science suggests dogs have the edge). If you look at the behavior of the average cat or dog, you find they have simple needs (eat, sleep, poop) and are generally in a pretty good state of mind.

They own nothing, owe nothing, desire very little past the aforementioned basics, and generally glide through their lives in a pretty effortless manner. They play, wander about, nap with great frequency, and wait for us to take care of their basic needs. Overall, they have us pretty well trained.

So, as you drive your over-engineered gas guzzler to your bland, unpleasant office through dangerous traffic, all in an effort to earn money that you hope will allow you to buy things that bring you happiness, think of your cat or dog napping in the sun.

While you answer the phone; sit through endless, pointless meetings; do work that, in many cases, is boring or downright unpleasant; and then return home tired, and frustrated, what suddenly makes you feel better? When someone crawls into your lap and purrs or jumps up happily to greet you at the door. Of course that could be a kid, pet, or spouse.

Maybe the real answer is that animals are way smarter than humans because, for all of our technology, we’re just watery meat sacks full of angst and insecurity while animals are more self-actualized and content on a bad day than we are on our best day.

I have no idea if dolphins have already come up with faster-than-light travel or if Chihuahuas nailed the unified field theory 1,000 years ago, but they all seem happier than we are, and they also do a lot less damage to the planet than we do.

So again, are animals smarter than people? I suppose, if we ever develop the technology to actually communicate with them, we might find out. But I doubt it.

I suspect most humans don’t really want to find out that the Basset hound next door cured cancer before lunch and left the formula sprayed on the stop sign at the corner of Main Street. It just wouldn’t make us feel very smart.

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg says he believes that all animals are likely smarter than humans. Evidence? No animal has ever been observed watching Fox “News” voluntarily. Any questions?


I recently learned that there are techniques for driving a hybrid car that actually improve the gas mileage (as if 50 miles per gallon isn’t enough). They also tend to have the effect of improving the whole driving experience and many of the lessons transfer over to everyday life.

Now, please stay with me on this as I’m not, as you may suspect, under the influence of mind-altering substances.

To begin with, a hybrid car is basically a car that has a gas engine plus one or more electric drive motors and a big battery pack that gets recharged as you drive. The electric motors take over for the gas engine periodically, or totally depending on conditions, and thus, you get very good mileage compared to a car with just a gas engine.

This is all controlled by a bunch of computers and sensors so all you really do is just drive the car. But, as noted, there are ways to drive that make the car run even better.

One of the first things you learn to do is glide periodically. The car will actually run if you take your foot off the pedal once you have some momentum built up or are on a downhill. The battery will charge as you glide down a hill or step on the brakes as you approach a stop.

Gliding in a car seems odd but then so does gliding in life. Our society is always telling us to put the pedal to the metal and blast through at high speed. Gliding is quieter, slower, and more calming. It makes driving an act of kinetic mindfulness.

Another skill is coming up to speed slowly. In a hybrid, if you mash the pedal to the floor you invariably cause the engine to run, burn gas, and kill your mileage (but the car does actually accelerate). If you build momentum slowly, allowing the electric motor to help you and then use the gas sparingly to get up to speed, you save gas and find the trip more peaceful.

Granted, you have to deal with the realities of traffic; nobody suggests taking your time on the Northway getting up to speed. But on many roads and at many times, you can, and should, take your time. It’s like waking up or starting some new task. If you start slowly and work into things, it’s just a better experience all around.

When most of us learned to drive, we were taught how to use the brakes. The driving instructor would help you learn to apply the brakes steadily and soften at the end so you didn’t come to a jarring stop. The instructor told you not to jam on the brakes as you’d possibly skid or lose control plus you’d burn out the brakes prematurely.

In a hybrid, braking early and steadily recharges the battery, thanks to regenerative braking. In life, slowing down gently is always a good idea as coming to rest is important on a regular basis.

One of the oddest things about most hybrids is that, if you are running on gas and then come to a stop, the engine usually shuts down. This saves gas while you wait for the light to change or you’re at a stop sign. When you touch the pedal, the engine starts up again or the electric power kicks in, depending on conditions.

But shutting down when you come to rest is a good idea. We’re always so busy keeping in motion and worrying about where we have to be next. Many of us forget to shut down when we come to a halt at different times during the day. It’s good to shut down and save a little energy here and there and let the internal engine take a breather.

Overall, the real key to driving a hybrid is to take the whole experience in a more mindful way and with a slower approach. You plan your moves, your glides; you brake with intention and accelerate with care.

As in life, being in the moment, seeing what’s coming or just slowing down the process and going with the flow is generally a healthier way to approach things. We’re all here for a finite period and the key seems to be to make the most of it by paying attention. Too many of us jump in the car, hit the gas, engage cruise control, and zoom to the next destination — but miss the trip itself.

Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but there are many times when I step out of my car and feel relaxed even if I’ve just traveled through heavy traffic. Can you say that?

Now, I have to go see a client but I’m taking the motorcycle today. It gets even better mileage than the car and leaning through a turn is really going with the flow.

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg has been driving hybrids for two years now. He’s hoping the next car will be a pure electric. Maybe it will fly too. Talk about gliding…



My wife and I recently went through the semi-traumatic process of replacing a car. We had the car for 13 years, so it was like saying goodbye to a mildly-liked pet that drinks really expensive food and gets sick periodically requiring very expensive trips to the vet.

Ever replaced a fuel pump on your cat? Serious money there.

As we went through the process of research, test driving, and fending off rabid sales pitches, I began to notice something about the new cars we were looking at. They all had varying levels of technology that I found variously to be silly, interesting, intimidating, frightening, and overwhelming.

There’s a lot of talk today about distracted driving and rightly so. But here’s the funny thing: We keep blaming cell phones, makeup, food, and other external factors. Has anyone looked at just how distracting a modern car is, by itself?

Take the “infotainment” systems in today’s cars. They offer everything including a wireless interface with your phone, satellite radio, AM/FM (for nostalgia buffs), CD players (for Luddites), backup cameras, front-facing cameras, navigation systems, and enough driving and environmental information to write a book.

If you ignore that, just the traditional dashboard is enough to make your brain ooze into overload. Our hybrid cars have screens that look more like video games that tell us how we’re doing mpg-wise, how charged the batteries are, what our range is, and whether or not we’re charging when we put on the brakes.

Most cars now tell you your speed and some still sport tachometers to give you a read on the engine RPMs. There are also lights for tire inflation; inside and outside temperature; time; date; time zone; your current blood pressure; stock-market reports; and. of course, a video system to keep the kiddies in the back seat entertained (unless they’re busy staring at their smart phones).

There are buttons everywhere. The driver’s side door on my car has more buttons than my first car had in total. My steering wheel looks more like the control yoke on a fighter jet what with remote buttons for the phone, the stereo, and the environmental controls.

The center console that controls most of the car looks like those desks NASA guys sit at to launch a rocket into orbit and there are sockets strewn around to plug in phones, iPods, iPads, computers, and probably hair dryers, for all I know.

New cars now have fobs, not keys. The fob has multiple buttons to lock, unlock, set off the alarm, start the air conditioner (seriously) 10 minutes before you get in on a hot day, open hatches, close doors, and there’s even a hidden key inside in case you get locked out.

To start the car, the fob simply needs to be with you and you just touch an on/off switch. Oh, and if you lose the fob, it only costs one or two mortgage payments to replace.

The sun shields now sport lighted makeup mirrors and a panel above the rearview mirror has lighting controls and storage for sunglasses as well as controls for sunroofs, moonroofs (not sure what the difference is), and just random buttons that you need an owner’s manual the size of “War and Peace” to figure out.

Our new car has a 600-page main manual plus four or five other smaller ones. It’s like it came with its own version of “Encyclopedia Britannica.”

Even the lowly windshield wiper stalk now has built-in controls for speed, fluid, rear wiper, front wiper, and piano metronome (to make better use of the beat). And let’s not forget seat controls, heated seats, cooled seats, and a joystick plus buttons to control the side-view mirrors.

We won’t even get into the new features such as self-parking, out-of-lane alarms, radar, sonar and an aiming screen for anti-ballistic missiles built into a heads-up display that shines data onto the windshield just like a fighter jet (really, well, maybe not missiles).

In an effort to make cars safer, they’ve now jammed so much technology into them you literally have to take lessons at the dealers in order to get the car home safely and not start a world war just trying to adjust your seat.

I like technology, possibly more than most people in that I make my living through and with technology. But there should be limits. I think maybe car-makers should back off until they’re ready to just give us a true self-driving car. Until then, cut back on all the gizmos and shiny lights and switches and leave all that to the fighter pilots.

If you’re older than 40, think about what your first car was like. Mine had no air, no power windows, no door locks, or anything else. It had a stereo that played the radio and cassette tapes. It got decent mileage and didn’t cost more than a house.

It lasted me 10 years till I sold it still running and, oh yeah, it had a stick shift. Nowadays, I’m told that less than 20 percent of the United States driving population can handle a vehicle with a stick shift. Pretty sad, as the popular saying goes. Of course, back in the day, we were too busy driving to tweet.

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg says he has has been driving a computer since 1977, a motorcycle since 1979, and a car since 1981. His current motorcycle is 21 years old and has no technology. His current car is smarter than his first computer.


I’m not totally sure when it all started. What? The camera/phone fetish. The constant documenting of every single, bloody, sweaty, boring, intimate, private, public, silly, and otherwise superfluous aspect of our lives.

Once upon a time, you took a picture of your new baby peacefully sleeping when you first got home from the hospital. Nowadays people shoot 4K video of the actual birth and then immediately upload it to the web so everyone can share the joy (or nausea).

Now don’t get me wrong here. I appreciate a good photo as much as the next guy. So, I truly understand the urge to document or capture important moments in our lives. But therein lies the key to the insanity: Important moments.

People now have the ability to record still images or video 24/7 and so they do. And that’s become a problem. I mean, handing someone a scalpel doesn’t make them a surgeon, so having a camera does not make you Ansel Adams or Steven Spielberg.

A great photo or video is great because it represents a singular moment or event. If you are always shooting everything you encounter, chances are many of those photos or videos will not qualify as great. Probably, many will qualify as trash. So, in essence, you’re cluttering up the world with trash. Think of it as digital littering.

The main reason for this, of course, is the ubiquity of the smart phone. In the old days, you had to carry a real camera, and then pay for film, developing, and printing. Unless you were very well off, or a professional photographer, most folks took photos only on special occasions. That’s one of the main reasons why looking at old printed photos is fun; they mostly represent truly special moments.

Another problem with the constant recording is that it’s an invasion of privacy for anyone who happens to be nearby or in the frame. If you’re having a quiet meal with your wife or friends and someone is six feet away taping a drunk friend who is stumbling towards your table, you likely want nothing to do with it.

If said video goes viral, do you want your face or those of your companions as the backdrop to some drunk person’s 15 microseconds of drooling fame? Probably not; especially if the video ends with the drunk falling on your table or vomiting in your lap.

A very creepy issue with the constant recording is that we’re creating generations of children who are way too comfortable in front of a camera. They calculate every move and word because they know there’s a good chance they’re being recorded by their crazed hover parents.

All kids start to look like those obnoxiously precocious kids you see on Disney TV shows. Why? Because once-normal kids see those TV kids and emulate them.

And what is done with these gigabytes of video and still images captured by said parental voyeurs? Not much. Most of this stuff gets uploaded to the cloud or downloaded to personal computers. That means your darling little ones are now out there on the wild and woolly interwebs along with lots of digital flotsam.

There’s also an actual cost, too. I have spent many hours cleaning up people’s overstuffed hard drives or installing extra hard drives. I’ve listened to sobs as I tell people their drives have died and they have no backup of the thousands of photos they’ve shot, including the touching birth video when mom was screaming bloody murder.

Then they really lose it when I tell them it’ll run $2,000-plus, to have a professional data recovery company attempt to salvage their precious photos — those same photos they’ve never really looked at. Guess how many people opt for that?

The final straw is that, for all this recording, people are less present than ever. Have you been to a concert; sporting event; or, goddess forbid, a school function, recently? Watch the people around you and see where their attention is riveted.

I once observed a teenage girl walk through a once-in-a-lifetime museum exhibit of Van Gogh and never look up once from her phone. People show up and spend the entire event glued to their phones, moving for a better shot, tweeting about the event, uploading to Facebook, Instagramming, or texting about the event. Do they ever actually just sit and watch or consciously attend?

If it’s your kid’s school play, do you recall their lines? Their big scene? Their actual part? Probably not. Although my guess is you have footage or stills buried somewhere that you’ll likely never look at again.

One other thing you might want to consider is how silly this is getting out here in the real world. On occasion, I’ve watched professional photographers try to shoot an event and one of the biggest challenges is to try and get the requested pictures while every shot is continuously blocked by people with cell phones. Seriously.

They’re standing there, holding several thousand dollars worth of cameras and lenses, trying to get a shot that will end up in the paper or online but they have to dodge a dozen crazed fans or hover parents deadset on getting the lead singer at the concert or little Ashley as she belts out some pop hit during the school talent show, or crosses the line at the track meet. And we won’t even mention the silliness that takes place at most weddings.

So, folks, feel free to grab a shot now and then, when it really matters. More power to you. But instead of trying to be the next Spielberg, try just being present. If you paid to go to the concert, dance, sing along, listen, applaud, cheer, and maybe take a quick picture but, most of all, just be there. If you’re at a school event, put the stupid phone away and just bask in your little one’s performance, no matter what. Take a picture before or after if you must, but mostly just watch.

Social media and over-sharing have turned many people into the most connected but isolated people in the history of mankind. Try being present more and I’ll bet the mental pictures you get will far exceed any digital picture you could possibly snap.

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg says he has appreciated pictures all his life. But he really doesn’t like being in them.