Novel way to read a classic novel: Charles Dickens’s 1859 A Tale of Two Cities, can be read in electronic form now. Frank Palmeri sees both good things and bad — the best of reading and the worst of reading — in this.

An e-book is an electronic version of a traditional book that can be read on a computer or on an e-book reader like a Kindle from or a Nook from Barnes and Noble. About two years ago, I purchased a Kindle.

I liked it, but, around the same time, I seemingly became a magnet for regular books; I started picking up cheap or free books from the library, all kinds of charity events, and even my old books from my parents' basement when they moved.

For a book lover like me, this was just terrific, so I rarely used the Kindle. Lately, though, I decided to immerse myself in the Kindle, just to see, once and for all, what the e-book experience is really like. When it comes to real books versus e-books, I think one phrase the kids like to use is appropriate: It's all good.

My Kindle is called the Kindle Touch. There is only one main button on the thing — when reading, you simply tap the screen to turn pages.

If you're thinking of giving a Kindle as a gift to a book lover, the one caveat I'd say is that the person has to be at least semi-literate with a computer to take full advantage of it.

For example, I could take a Kindle, load it up with a hundred books, and give it to my mother, who does not use computers at all. I'm sure I could get her reading on it pretty quickly, but many of its functions and features would be so unfamiliar or unavailable to a non-computer user like her as to make the experience more frustrating than fun.

The last thing you want, when you give someone a gift, is to see it used once and then tossed in a drawer.

E-reader pros

Here are the pros of an e-book reader like a Kindle:

— Anything that gets more people reading is a good thing;

— You can literally carry thousands of books around with you;

— Besides books, there are newspapers, magazines, shopping, all kinds of games, and more;

— You get access to thousands of titles, many free or dirt cheap, at the click of a button;

— Font size can be changed on the fly. This alone is one terrific reason to read on something like a Kindle;

— E-ink (electronic ink) technology is really great. Though currently limited to black and white only, the stark black text on a plain white background looks just like a page in a real book. Unlike a computer monitor or a tablet screen, e-ink is very easy on the eyes, even for long periods;

— E-ink e-book readers have really long battery life (e-ink uses no power when just displaying a page). You can go a month without recharging;

— Just tap on a word to get its definition;

— Think about how much less shelf space you'd need if all your books were e-books;

— E-books are very environmentally friendly since there's no paper required;

— You can take out e-books from the library from the comfort of your home;

— You can lend and borrow e-books from friends with e-book readers;

— A specific word or phrase can be "x-rayed" to show all places where it occurs;

— Passages can be highlighted, and you can share your highlighting and view other's highlighting;

— There is a text-to-speech mode, where the Kindle will read out loud to you. You can choose male or female voices and the rate of speech, but it's so robot-like as to be almost comical; and

  • You can share what you're reading with social media like Facebook if you want.

E-reader cons

Now here are some cons of an e-book reader:

— Even though the battery lasts a long time, you still need to carry a charger around;

— Who really needs to carry a thousand books with them?;

— The user interface is not great: The book title and chapter title should be on each page, and, to read footnotes, you have to tap on the asterisk, leave the page, then use the go-to function to get back to the page or location where you came from;

— With so much storage, you need to spend lots of time sorting books and applications into Collections, or else you wind up with yet one more cluttered mess to deal with;

— It's too easy to use the thing just to play games;

— Any mechanical device can break at any time;

— Be careful how you hold it, because an inadvertent touch can change a page or do something unwanted;

— Like any gizmo, it will become outdated;

— It's not good for technical manuals (diagrams are too small; it’s hard to bounce back and forth between text and diagrams; and it’s not easy to photocopy specific pages);

— E-ink is currently only black and white;

— E-ink is hard to read in the dark (newer models have supplemental lighting);

— Giving or lending a book requires the receiver to have an e-reader as well; and

— It’s harder for older people to use all the features without at least some computer skills.

Book advantages

Of course, there are plenty of plain old books available. The pros of regular books are:

— No battery required;

— Excellent user interface;

— Available everywhere, often free or really cheap;

— Books can be dropped without any problems;

— Easy to copy diagrams or pages from technical manuals; and

— Easy to borrow, lend, or give away.

Book drawbacks

The cons for regular books are:

— You can't change the font on the fly;

— If you lose it, it's gone;

— Highlighting a phrase makes in appear black when you make a copy;

— Some are too expensive, big, heavy, or no longer available; and

— Many don't lay flat, which can be a pain (think recipes or technical articles).

Recently I read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair on my Kindle. This is the classic workers’ rights book from 1906 that inspired the cleanup of the meat-packing industry. Reading this book on the Kindle was seamless and wonderful.

Then I wanted to borrow and read the e-book versions of New Yorker staff writer Malcolm Gladwell's latest books, Outliers and Blink, from the Guilderland Public Library. (Anything by Malcolm Gladwell, like his earlier The Tipping Point, is well worth your time, trust me).

For both of these, I was put on a waiting list — just like with popular real books, popular e-books are often all "out" at the same time. When they finally became available, reading them was fine. Getting to read two great books for free simply by using my Kindle, without ever having to visit the library, was great. Can't beat that with a baseball bat.

Since using a Kindle means you can take advantage of the library without ever visiting it, I'll include here a little song I wrote that was inspired by trying to make a left turn onto Western Avenue when leaving the Guilderland library.

If you've ever tried to do this, especially during rush hour, you'll get the drift I'm sure. You can sing this to your favorite blues riff or play along on harmonica:

Left Turn at the Library Blues

The Guilderland Library
is a place I like to be for programs, books, magazines,
seminars, movies, and DVDs.

All's just fine 
'til it's time to leave
'cause then you have to wear
your heart on your sleeve.


Look out left, look out right. Don't jump out
before the time is right!

Look out left, look out right.
Maybe someday
we'll get a traffic light.

A traffic light
would make it right;
hope no one gets killed
before they see the light.

Repeat Chorus

The community gathers
at the library
so coming and going
shouldn't be so scary.

Repeat Chorus

Go west, young man,
is what they say
but at the Guilderland library,
better hope it's clear and OK!

Repeat Chorus

E-book readers like the Kindle certainly have many advantages, and I'm glad I'm finally making full use of mine. Still, there's nothing like the tactile feel of devouring a good old-fashioned page-turner by someone like Tom Clancy or Mary Higgins Clark that you got at a used book sale for a quarter. Truly, it's all good. 

Picture this: You're crossing the street downtown in a big city like New York or Chicago. As you approach the curb, you glance down and see, amid the cigarette butts and beer-bottle caps, a single, spindly weed growing in a tiny crack between the hard, weather-beaten curb and the grimy, sticky asphalt.

The crack is maybe a millimeter wide, yet this weed has the audacity and tenacity to boldly poke itself up into the blustering, windy city, only one misplaced footstep or bad parking attempt away from destruction. Even putrid runoff from dogs relieving themselves at the nearby hydrant and toxic car and bus exhaust fumes can't keep this weed down.

This sucker is more than just a weed; it's a survivor, an underdog, and that's why you have to like it.

Now I live in suburbia, where the landscape consists of widely spaced houses separated by lawns that would love nothing more than to be like the manicured fairways of the world's greatest golf courses. The fact that many are not is only because of the immense expenditure of time (endless mowing, weeding, feeding, and watering) and money (mowers, fertilizers, pesticides, automated sprinklers) that it costs to have such a lawn.

I don't really care that much about landscaping, and I'm not very good at it, but I'm so trained that carpet-like grass and bountiful shrubs are the things to have that often I'll be walking along somewhere and have to stop myself from bending down to pick up a stray stick or pull out a choking vine. Living in landscape-obsessed suburbia does that to you.

That's why you have to love that single, solitary, growing-in-a-tiny-crack weed. It doesn't care about pristine suburbia or lush golf courses. It just is.

When there's a sport I don't know much about, I'll always find out which is the worst team and root for them. It's fun to root for the underdog.

No one wants to lose, so you know the underdogs are going to try hard, plus they may not even be that bad; sometimes, the ball just doesn't bounce your way. There is even camaraderie in rooting for a bad team.

The fans in New Orleans spent many years sitting next to each other in the Superdome with paper bags over their heads. You may not know the person sitting next to you, but, when you're both wearing paper bags with eye, nose, and mouth cutouts, there's a bond there for sure.

It's fun to root for an underdog. With no expectations, there's no place to go but up. Yes, it may take a long time to get there — look at the Red Sox — but, when you do, it's phenomenal. I just hope my favorite team, the Minnesota Vikings, can win before I get too old and senile to actually enjoy it. Come on, guys, I'm not getting any younger here.

Let's get back to the dichotomy of that pesky weed. On the one hand, it's a true underdog, living in such a volatile environment, so you have to love it; yet, on the other hand, it's a weed, something random and not at all attractive or wanted, so (especially if you live in suburbia like me) you have to hate it.

This is rather painful, when you think about it, and I have thought about it quite a bit. It's a classic example of cognitive dissonance — a psychological conflict resulting from incompatible beliefs held simultaneously.

Is it any wonder I don't have a good time at parties? I'm sitting there feigning interest in small talk while mentally contemplating how weeds can thrive in cracks in city sidewalks. Yes, I really do this. Ah, the conundrum of the thinking man.

I've purchased plenty of supposedly squirrel-proof birdfeeders over the years. All of these have some special feature or design that theoretically should prevent squirrels from getting to the birdseed.

Too bad nobody contacted the squirrels first, because, for every one of these I've put up, the squirrels have had zero problems getting seed from it. They do it so cleverly it's hard not to root for them as well.

Talk about underdogs — these fancy feeders are designed specifically to thwart pests, and the pests just find a way to gorge themselves anyway. The crafty squirrels are truly amazing at it; I've seen them eat heartily while hanging upside down, using their little fingers to paw at the seed, while the chipmunks scoop up the spills. If these little *)%!@s didn't make holes all over the lawn and scare the beautiful birds away, you'd have to admire them.

There's one other thing that reminds me of hearty weeds and persistent pests — things you love and hate at the same time — and that's mob movies and TV shows. As an Italian-American, I am saddened that this genre reinforces the stereotype of Italians as mobsters.

There are some people I'm sure who don't know how warm, loving, funny, and family-oriented Italian people are. When they see these productions, they are sure to get the wrong idea about Italian people.

Yet I can't deny that these movies and TV shows make for compelling entertainment; there's not one bad scene in any of the Godfather movies, and many say The Sopranos is the best TV show of all time.

Instead of pulling that weed from the crack in the curb, I admire it; instead of scaring off the squirrel at the bird feeder, I'm amazed by it; instead of scorning the despicable characters mob shows celebrate, I'm endlessly fascinated by them.

It's this conflicting set of emotions that make many aspects of life so wonderful and frustrating at the same time. Oh well, guess it's time to go down to Robinson's Hardware and try to find a better squirrel-proof birdfeeder.

I'd like to use this column to give back in a way by providing some tips on how to write. Though my college degree is not in journalism, I've had much success with the written word:

— I won a New York Press Association award for humor writing;

— I've been published in many different publications including major magazines;

— I've edited several different club newsletters; and

— Around town, I'm often told how well-liked my Enterprise columns are.

I'm hoping that qualifies me enough to offer some tips. Writing, whether for fun, profit, school, or work, can be great fun. It's a wonderful creative outlet, too — you get to build something without getting your hands dirty (unless your quill pen leaks).

If you've never tried it or have and are looking to get better, here are 10 tips that might help:

— 1. Read, read, and read some more. All my life, I've been an avid reader. Reading anything and everything exposes you to so many different styles and words, you can't help but absorb some of it.

I've read interviews with many different authors, and they always say they read everything they can get their hands on in their chosen genre because it helps make them better writers. In your reading, be sure to include The New York Times, because it is considered the paper of record, as well as the award-winning Altamont Enterprise, especially the editorial page, because of the quality of the writing.

Reading for fun and pleasure and learning to write at the same time — it doesn't get any better than that.

— 2. Learn the rules so you can break them. All good writers break the rules now and then for many different reasons, but, before you can do that, you have to know what the rules are — grammar, spelling, parts of speech, and the basic tenets of journalism.

Pay attention in English class or get a good grammar book if you're an adult. (Strunk and White's The Elements of Style is a timeless classic for a reason.) Once you learn the rules, you can then tweak them to your advantage, which will really make your writing stand out.

— 3. Write about what you know. When I was a kid, I wanted to write but didn't think I had anything to write about. How wrong I was. We all know something.

For example, you can write about: what it feels like to get a sloppy wet kiss from a dog, going to the dentist, or locking yourself out of your car.

Quick example: For a writing class, my lovely wife wrote about buying a new purse. In this short piece, you got to know her whole outlook on life, how she was taught the value of a dollar, her value system, and more. Even if you'd never met her, from reading this amazing piece, you'd have a great idea of what a hard-working and thoughtful person she is — and all this from writing about something as simple as buying a new purse.

That's the power of good writing. The point is, there are endless things that you know about that would make for fascinating reading — all you have to do is let them come out.

— 4. Know your audience. Writing a love letter is different than writing a term paper. You have to know who your audience is and write accordingly.

When you tailor your writing like this, you're setting yourself up for success because you know the expectations and can plan and execute properly. Think about who you're writing for and you're on your way to getting great results.

— 5. Grab them in the first couple of paragraphs. As a writer, you are competing for your reader's time, which is precious to her. She has a zillion other things she can be doing. Why should she forgo any one of them to sit and read your writing?

It's up to you to make sure that, once she starts reading your work, she'll want to finish and not put on the TV or update her Facebook status. So do your best to reel her in at the beginning — it's the only chance you have.

Once you "hook" her, you can then make your point or tell your story in your own unique style. Then put the icing on the cake by wrapping up with a strong conclusion and you'll have created something you can be proud of and your reader will be glad she read. Good deal.

— 6. Keep it simple, direct, and flowing. There are writers like George Will who make a habit of slipping in long and fancy words as often as they can. He can get away with it because that's his thing, but, in general, you want to keep it simple.

Now, that doesn't mean you can't have fun with words now and then. In one of my columns, I decided to use the word "factotum" because I really like it and you hardly ever see it.

Just don't overdo it. Keep it simple, moving along, and flowing — almost like you're having a conversation — and you'll be on the right track. Reading your work, no matter the topic, should be an enjoyable experience. Don't make your reader work any harder than is necessary.

— 7. Respect your reader. If you expect someone to give you their time by reading your work, it's only fair that you treat them with the utmost respect. What does this mean? This means making sure your facts are dead-on, you're not BSing them, and that you're trying your best to make your point in as interesting and enjoyable a way as you can.

No one is expecting you to be Ernest Hemingway right off the bat, but they are expecting you to try hard. So respect your reader by trying your hardest to do your best work each time. Don't do it because it's necessary — do it because it's right.

— 8. Find your voice. You can rip a random page out of a book by Kurt Vonnegut, Edgar Allan Poe, Franz Kafka, Henry David Thoreau, and many other great writers and show it to voracious readers like me and we will be able to tell you in an instant who wrote it, because writers like these have a distinctive "voice" that is hard to miss.

It takes lots and lots of work to come up with your own voice, but, once you do, all your writing will be better. The only way to develop a voice is to write, write, and write some more. Practice works for musicians and athletes; why shouldn't it work for writers as well? Once you find your voice, you'll be well on your way to making a real contribution to society with your writing if you choose to.

— 9. Focus on a specific type of writing. The world of writing is as wide as the sky is blue. There are so many areas to focus on, you're sure to find one that you like. Focusing on a specific type of writing will give you the best chance of getting really good in that area.

I like reading and writing non-fiction personal essays in the Andy Rooney style. Others like thrillers, romance, poetry, or keeping up with a blog (a personal journal on the Internet) on any number of topics. The choice of what to write about is truly limited only by your imagination. How great is that?

— 10. Good writing is hard work. Like a simple weeknight dinner, you can slap a piece together pretty quickly if you want to, but good writing, like preparing fine cuisine, takes skill and effort.

I'm funny in this way — it can take me quite a while to get an idea, but, once I get the first sentence, I get the next thousand words pretty easily. Then, again like cooking, you need to allow the piece to "bake." This means you have to allow time to come back and edit it.

Unless you're covering a ball game or something else with a hard deadline, always give yourself time to let the creative juices stew, consciously and, believe it or not, sub-consciously. Editing (and having a good editor) is what can really make your piece great.

Famed sports writer Red Smith wrote: "Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed." Yes, yes, yes. All good writing must come from the heart.

Bonus Tip — writer’s block. Sometimes you hear about "writer's block," where you just get totally stuck. When this happens, you need to get your brain circuits rewired.

Try walking, traveling, sleeping on the other side of the bed, driving to work a different way, or doing a puzzle. Even taking a shower can help (some of the world's greatest discoveries have come in the shower). Just do whatever it takes — or do nothing at all (there's that sub-conscious mind working again) — until you snap out of it.

If you're currently writing, I hope these tips will help you in some way. If you're not writing, perhaps you'll be inspired to give it a try. It's really quite a fascinating hobby or vocation. Just look and listen — material is everywhere.

So don't be afraid to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard; you might be surprised at what comes out. It can be addicting, though — don't say I didn't warn you!

One of the things my lovely wife and I have always wanted to do is visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. Wouldn't you know it the cards fell into place for us to go this summer, which was great, except for my wife still being on chemotherapy for breast cancer treatment. This added dimension made the trip especially interesting.

The museum is situated right on the shore of Lake Erie, a very beautiful location. The building itself, a glass tower designed by architect I. M. Pei, is not the style I would have chosen for a rock-and-roll museum. To me, something more along the lines of a big, funky barn would have been much more fitting.

Also, I would have added some kind of parking close by. You have to park by the science museum next door, which is fine if you can walk, but not everyone can do that.

When you're on chemotherapy for cancer treatment, you have good days and bad days. That's over-simplifying it greatly, but that's basically what it is.

On the day we visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, my wife would never have been able to do all the walking required, so we brought along a borrowed wheelchair. She's wheeled around other disabled people before, but she'd never needed to be wheeled herself, and I'd never used one in any fashion, so it was all new to both of us.

After paying to park in an enclosed garage, I got the wheelchair set-up (took me a while to figure out how to do it). Then I loaded my wife in and proceeded to try to find my way to the hall of fame.

Finding anything for the first time can be a challenge, but doing it while pushing someone in a wheelchair? Now, that's just taking it to the next level.

For example, when we got out of the parking garage and up onto street level, we could see there were several ways to make it to the hall of fame. However, it was impossible to determine, just by looking, which would be the better way to go while dealing with a wheelchair.

All it takes is one link in the chain to be broken — an escalator, say, or a narrow passage or steep curb — and all of a sudden, you can't make it anymore. This is something you never have to worry about when you're a normal pedestrian, but is hugely important when you're not.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is described as being "handicapped accessible," and, sure enough, when we finally got there, there were ramps and wide doorways where the wheelchair could fit. Still, handicapped accessible does not necessarily mean you won't have any problems if you're dealing with a wheelchair. Three issues especially come to mind:

— 1. The museum itself has seven levels. There are escalators, stairs, and elevators. We, of course, needed to use the elevators because we were dealing with a wheelchair. The problem is that not all the elevators go to every floor.

So we found ourselves crossing the rather large expanse of the museum many times, back and forth, in attempting to switch to the widely separated elevator banks so we could see the various exhibits. I eat my spinach so I'm strong enough to do this, but for others who might not be, all the extra walking and pushing could be quite taxing I'm sure;

— 2. There was a long circular display featuring the early legends of rock and roll. Included were many sets of headphones and tablet computers. The idea is you first read about the artist, then put on the headphones and make selections on the tablets to listen to samples of their work.

This is all wonderful — if you're not in a wheelchair. The problem is the tablet computers are mounted waist-high for when you are standing. My poor wife had to sit up stiffly in the chair and crane her neck just to be able to see the display.

Clearly, whoever designed this wasn't thinking about users in wheelchairs, who, let’s face it, paid their full admission price just like everyone else so should be able to enjoy all the exhibits fully just like everyone else; and

— 3. The museum has lots of rooms and auditoriums where films highlighting various artists are shown throughout the day. One of these rooms is gotten to via a hallway where the walls feature signatures of many of rock's greatest performers. The hallway is long, curving, and dark, and there is special lighting that really makes the signatures stand out.

Here's the problem: the hallway itself slopes downward at somewhere between a 5- and 10- degree angle. If you're walking, you can easily deal with it; if you're with someone in a wheelchair, it's not so easy. Going down the hallway, you are forced to pull back on the wheelchair so it doesn't take off; going up the hallway (and it's a long hallway, remember) you are now pushing the wheelchair all the way up.

Again, I'm in shape and my wife is not heavy, but if I weren't in shape, or she were heavy, or if she were alone and had to move the chair's wheels with her hands, this would have been quite the ordeal, believe me.

Consider again that this place is advertised as being "handicapped accessible." Truly, after this experience, I would strongly recommend anyone dealing with any kind of walking issues to call first when visiting a new place. That's the only way to make sure you'll be able to handle it.

Quite frankly, I'm shocked that a place described as handicapped accessible was in so many ways problematic for a person in a wheelchair.

Before taking this trip, I had no idea what wheelchair users have to deal with on a daily basis. After this experience, I have much more respect and admiration for both the handicapped themselves and their caregivers in consideration of what they have to deal with.

All it takes is one un-crossable curb or stairway or whatever to just ruin their day. Long ramps and wide doorways may not be the most architecturally attractive building design features, and I hate walking from the back of the parking lot in the rain when all the handicapped spots are empty as much as anyone else, but we need to support handicapped accessibility in every way that we can — it's the only way to make sure all of us can safely get where we need to go.

Think about this, too — you or I are only one fall, sickness, or accident away from needing to use a wheelchair ourselves.

If you like music, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum is definitely worth the trip. I'm very glad we finally got the chance to go, even though we had to use a wheelchair.

I guess, when you consider some of the bumpy pavement we had to negotiate using the wheelchair, you could say we literally "rocked and rolled" our way through the Rock and Roll museum. How about that.


One time, I had a long-term thing going via phone with a female deejay from a college radio station. I was a big a fan and we'd developed quite a rapport.

Then we decided to meet, and I brought along my buddy. Despite our friendship, once she met my buddy, she was "off me" and "on to" him quicker than you can say "and now for a message from our sponsor."  Strike one.

Then there was another girl that I liked. Again, we'd been friends for a while and I wouldn't have minded if it went further. One day, I introduced her to another one of my buddies and that was it for me. She even wound up marrying him. Strike two.

Finall,y I went to a bar with a guy I work with. There was a barmaid there. Before we even sat down, she took out a slip of paper, wrote down her number, handed it to my friend, and said, "Call me."

Even though I wasn't interested in her, I'll call it strike three anyway just as a matter of principle. I mean, it starts to hurt after a while.

Guess what the common denominator in these three incidents was, and I'll give you a hint it's not that I'm that bad looking or un-funny or don't use deodorant. All three of my buddies who "got the girl" have blue eyes.

Yep, big shiny blue orbs like "Old Blue Eyes" Frank Sinatra himself. If I didn't see it happen so many times, I wouldn't have believed it, but twice is a coincidence and three times is a trend as the saying goes.

What really sticks in your craw about something like this is there's really not much you can do about it. You are what you are, warts and all, including having non-blue eyes.

Yes, you can try and change things about yourself (plastic surgeons, for example, make a fantastic living) but truly you are what you are. The bigger question is, why does something seemingly so trivial like eye color make such a difference to the ladies? I've given it some thought, as you can imagine.

If you walk around any office, you can't help but notice the wallpaper or background on all the computer screens, and the wall calendars and hanging photos. Many times, it'll be a picture of a sunny shore with perfectly blue water, or a cozy blue lake, along with the requisite clear blue sky, of course.

Blue is not only beautiful, but there's something calming about it as well. When your eyes remind a gal of the heavenly beauty of nature, you're one lucky dude, I'd say.

Then there's the scarcity factor. I haven't verified this, but I'd have to think there are many more guys with brown eyes than with blue.

That means that a blue-eyed guy is kind of rare, maybe not as rare as a blue lobster but rare all the same. So, like gold, blue eyes not only look good but they're relatively scarce, which can only increase their attractiveness.

Interestingly, when you're sad, you're said to be "blue," but if, when I was younger, I was getting the kind of action that my blue-eyed buddies were getting, I'd have written to Random House and told them to at least add an alternate definition for blue, for Pete's sake.

They say the eyes are a portal to the soul; must be the soul looks a lot better through a blue filter!

Remember the Bobby Vinton song "She Wore Blue Velvet?” Well, now you know why she did — she was obviously hoping to match up with a guy with blue eyes.

Now, I'm not saying ladies are shallow or anything like that in giving a guy's eye color such high regard. We all know guys can be much more shallow than that

But, as a brown-eyed guy who had better jobs and was funnier than not one, not two, but three guys who, seemingly only because of their annoyingly blue peepers, got the girl, it just gets frustrating after a while. Maybe if Van Morrison had sang about a Brown-Eyed Guy instead of a Brown-Eyed Girl, things would have been different — who knows, but I doubt it.

I know online dating sites are immensely popular. They spend lots and lots of money trying to come up with algorithms that can predict a good match. I can save them a ton of money right now — just add a check box to say if you have blue eyes or not.

From what I've seen, that should streamline the process big time. Let's face it, there has to be a physical connection for two people to hit if off anyway.

Apparently, for ladies, blue eyes is one very desirable trait in a guy. I've seen it with my own eyes, pardon the pun.

Now I'd like to end with some disclaimers, being that this is a sensitive issue:

— If you happen to be married to me, know that none of the ladies involved were as charming or sweet or intelligent or beautiful as you;

— If you happen to be a guy with blue eyes, know that I hate you (only kidding — not!);

— If you happen to be a lady, consider giving a guy with brown eyes a chance. Just like your cat, a guy with brown eyes can give you unconditional love if you'll only let him, and you won't even have to clean his litter box.

Crystal Gayle had a huge hit with "Don't it Make my Brown Eyes Blue." Well, don't it?

One time, when we'd been married about 10 years, my lovely wife and I were in a store looking for window treatments. At one point, my wife asked me if a certain colored curtain would match well with our bedspread.

I looked at her, and, in all honestly, told her I had no idea what color our bedspread was. Her response was succinct and to the point: "You're pathetic."

I know, you'd think I should have known something so obvious, but my male mind just doesn't register some things like it should, I guess.

I bring this up because, factotum that I am, I've again been forced to deal with window treatments on a grand scale. My son and parents both moved into apartments recently and I've been tasked with doing all the window-treatment installations. As taxing as that sounds, in many ways it's the easy part. The hard part is picking out and buying them in the first place.

My wife has really gone above and beyond in this regard, which is totally amazing when you consider she's on a chemotherapy regimen for breast cancer. She's supposed to be taking it easy between treatments, and she does have good and bad days, but the work she's done for my son and parents has been phenomenal. If you've ever shopped for window treatments you know what I mean.

Shopping for window treatments is quite a bit like shopping for cars. You have low end, high end, and everything in between. You can even buy used (think Craigslist), and sometimes a home or apartment's prior residents will leave them behind. Mostly though, buying window treatments involves lots of visits to lots of stores and a lot of standing around talking to helpful employees with a pad of measurements (and you hope you measured right!).

Picture a sunny summer Sunday afternoon. What you really want to be doing is pre-heating the grill and getting the drinks iced and the burgers made.

Instead, you're standing in a packed, narrow aisle under bright fluorescent lights, looking at all manner of shades (wood, vinyl, and more), curtains (tall, short, simple, fancy), and related sundry items like valences, rods, and drapes, in a seemingly unending assortment of sizes, shapes, styles, colors, and patterns.

Here's where I have to give my wife credit — you look at her standing there deep in thought and imagine the almost infinite combinations taking shape in her head, jugging the various permutations of style, color, and cost, while I'm standing there thinking of where the best place to watch opening day of football this year would be.

I just don't have the interest, ability, or desire to work out all the possibilities — what matches what, what's better for this room, room darkening versus room-lightening, etc. I get tired and bored just thinking about it. When you drive around a college housing area and see newspapers and sheets inside of windows, don't be surprised.

Interior design is like chili powder. You can only take so much.

When you finally find something you like, you have to then order them. Many times, this will involve custom cutting or sizing.

You really, really better have measured the windows correctly, because, if you don't, you'll wind up with an expensive mistake for sure (though if you order them too wide they can usually be shortened without too much trouble). Ordering window treatments correctly requires concentration and fortitude.

They should make it an Olympic event, with judging and everything. You know, "The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat" — window treatment shopping has all that in spades.

Once the products have been purchased, it's always my job to install them. Since I've done many of these, I know what tools to bring — tape measure, drill, etc. The goal is to bring just enough tools to get the job done but not so much that you're breaking your back and then have a lot to put away later.

I thought I'd had it covered until I went to install the first bracket. Sometimes you're installing these brackets in the space above the window, which is usually just painted drywall. When you install anything into drywall, unless you're lucky and happen to have a wood stud right at that location, you have to use some kind of drywall anchor for the screws.

If you don't, the screw will simply pull out of the drywall the first time you put any pressure on it, like when you pull the shade open. Always in the past, the manufacturer has included several of these little plastic thingies, often extras, too, just to be safe.

This time, there were none! Is the economy really that bad that they can't just for the heck of it include these little plastic anchors, which probably cost them pennies apiece, and that you almost certainly will need? Give me a break.

So now it's drop everything and run home to get some drywall anchors. That's the problem with doing anything like this on an occasional or part-time basis.

A "good man" would have some anchors with him in his tool belt, tool box, or, at worst, out in the van. Sigh. At least both of these apartments aren't too far from my house.

When I finally got these huge patio-door sliding blinds installed, I ran into another problem: The provided brackets were not long enough, such that, when you tried to open the slats perpendicular to the door, to let the most light in, they would rub on the door casing.

There was no adjustment possible; the brackets were at the maximum length. What's needed is to get those brackets further out from the wall.

The store agreed to provide some wood, but, even with that, now we're into making custom bracket extensions will all the attendant measuring, cutting, fitting, and, yes, swearing. I mean, first they don't provide the wall anchors, and then the brackets are too short? I don't know what gives, but I sure know I've had enough of it.

The window blinds we purchased came with this little plastic thing that's supposed to act as the pull. The thing is, it's split in the middle, and the only thing holding it together is a tiny plastic hook.

You're supposed to insert the three separate cords into this thing in such a way that it stays closed when you pull. Of course, it's so poorly made that it often splits open when you pull the cord.

Again, it would be easy to either purchase a proper pull, or fashion one out of wood, but why should you have to? It's tough enough dealing with this often-flimsy hardware in the first place; when the design is inferior, it makes it even worse.

Buying and installing window treatments is one of the times in a married man’s life when that Talking Heads song with the lyric "How did I get here?" comes to mind, like when you're waiting endlessly outside a ladies’ room, or holding your wife’s purse while she tries something on, or trying desperately to keep your mind from drifting during a "chick flick."

It just comes with the territory, I suppose. I have to admit, though, that, when you're finished, the windows do look nice, so there you go.

One of my heroes in journalism is Amy Goodman, host of Pacifica Radio's "Democracy Now!" heard locally on WRPI 91.5 FM. I've had the good fortune of hearing Ms. Goodman speak in person several times.

One story she loves to tell is when she got invited to appear on the daytime TV talk show hosted by Sally Jesse Raphael. Instead of thinking about the significant implications of suddenly having access to a huge audience, her only thought was: "What should I wear?"

I bring this up because the other day one of my other heroes in journalism, the Enterprise's superlative and award-winning editor, Melissa Hale-Spencer, contacted me about stopping by for a photo and asking me to come up with a name for my column. How exciting!

Just visiting The Enterprise is such a nice experience. Main Street in Altamont is so beautiful. Then when you get to The Enterprise, you see that lovely porch with the inviting Adirondack chair and you just feel like putting up your feet and settin' a spell.

That welcoming and bucolic imagery changes when you go inside and see a busy office with so many journalism awards on the walls. We really are lucky to have such a fine local paper. Being a part of it personally in some small way is quite an honor as well. That's why I really wanted to get the photo and column title right. Let's start with the photo.

My wardrobe basically consists of two things — dress shirts I wear with ties at work, and T-shirts for everything else. The only constraint I had to follow was to not wear anything black, since the photo background would be black.

You'd think this would be an easy choice, but, since this photo was going on the newly revised Enterprise website, it was kind of a big thing. If you know what I look like, you know I'm not working with much to begin with so anything that would give me an edge was called for.

First, I thought about wearing a T-shirt. I have tons to choose from, mostly motorcycle related. The problem is, if I wore a Norton T-shirt, my BMWs might get offended. If I wore a BSA T-shirts, some might think that stood for Boy Scouts of America when what it really stands for is Birmingham Small Arms. Then I thought about wearing one of my Minnesota Vikings T-shirts but, living in Giants country, I opted against that as well.

Why upset anyone, right?

Since virtually all of my T-shirts have some kind of saying or message on them, I quickly realized they would not work. It's not hard to see why Ms. Goodman was so worried about what to wear.

I finally settled on a dress shirt, but without a tie, to appear less formal and more casual. Of course, then you have to make sure the buttons are opened in such a way that you get just the right amount of chest hair showing.

I had my daughter give me a haircut the day before, and I scheduled my dental cleaning that day, in an attempt to look as sharp as I could. If you check out the photo, you can be sure that's about as good as it gets, believe me.

I'm sure glad I'm not on TV or anything like that. The stress of choosing clothes and dealing with grooming would be too much for me.

There are many reasons why some of us are happier behind the keyboard.

What’s in a name?

The next issue was coming up with a name for my column. For years, it just ran with the title "Commentary," which was a little generic but it is what it is. So now I had to think up some potentially good names for my column. Here's what I came up with:

Observations: I liked this one but I think I saw it used somewhere else, too bad;

Running with Scissors: Good name for a rock band, too, but a little too clichéd;

Crank it Up!: I use this one when I write for motorcycle magazines (it ties in with my nickname "Cranky Frankie"), so I decided against it;

The Oblique Angle: I like this but no one except my math-loving daughter knows what oblique means;

Ordinary Things: Has a nice ring to it, but it's too low energy for me;

The Bard of Banality: Wouldn't it be nice to be the Bard of something;

Skipping Stones: Beautiful imagery, but I rarely get to skip stones and, when I do, I'm not even that good;

Carrying On: I like this one a lot but it's a little too British, right Guvnor?;

Just Looking: That's what journalists do all the time, after all;

Memories: I like this but what would I do when my own memory starts to go?;

Serenity Now: Yes it's a Seinfeld in-joke but it's just so good;

 — Watching and Waiting: Nice but it's too tied in to needing to use the bathroom on a crowded plane or train;

From the Park Bench: Too bad the image of a creepy guy in a trench coat comes to mind;

The Side of the Road: Anyone who's ever had a flat tire wouldn't like this I'm sure;

A Bag of Onions: I really like this one. It's about the time when my in-laws brought us a bag of onions from their garden, and I wound up mistakenly taking the bag to work as my lunch. My whole life is like having a bag of onions when you really need pastrami on rye. I only decided against it because I'd hate to have to keep telling the story over and over again.

So to help think up a name for this column, I decided to analyze how I come up with them anyway. What happens is I'll be running, or in the shower, or in bed half asleep, and just be thinking about something.

It could be anything, like why it's so hard to get that last drop of soda out of the can when it wants to hide behind that little lip; or why you go to bed fine and wake up with a cold; or how come, no matter how much space you have in your house, you tend to fill it up.

So that's when I realized my column name had to be Thinking about Things, because that's exactly what I do. In fact, many times it will appear as if I'm either not interested, sad, bored, or rude, but in reality, I'm just thinking. About things. So now you know.

Of course I'm extremely happy to be a part of the Enterprise team as this grand little paper reaches out to cyber-space. What a ride it's been so far, and what a ride it'll continue to be. I think.