Thursday, July 30, 2009

"C" Day: The 100th Blog Post

What is it about our culture that makes certain anniversaries or milestones more significant than others? Why is the 100th of something important and the...let's say, 78th - isn't.

I'd better make this entry special. What a bunch of pressure. Nah, no pressure. I will forge bravely ahead.

I will call this "C" day for a couple of reasons.

The number 100 in Roman numerals is "C". So, "C" for 100.

Next, an update on an entry of 7/21, about knowing when you have passed into the second half (the downhill half) of summer - the day you first hear the song of crickets. I said it would be any day now.

Last evening I was walking in my neighborhood about 6:15 pm and thought I heard one. Tonight, I was walking in Binghamton and this time there was no doubt. There was the chirp, the tolling of the natural bell crying (mixed metaphor, sorry) "beware the fleeting days of northern summer, and for whom the cricket chirps, this cricket chirps for you". Happy "C" day-for crickets for cicadas, for insert chirps. And for "oh crimminy" "oh crud" and....

I think you get my point.

Happy "C" Day!

Some bloggers give out special gifts to their fans. I'm not going to, except to say "thank you" to my small, loyal audience.

So....where do I want to go with this blog starting with post #101? I have some ideas, and I can honestly say it's been a pleasure posting to...probably not too many readers, but I am truly OK with that. Also, thank you Blogger, for giving me the forum to indulge my love of writing.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Tomato Blight Revisited

The tomato blight continues to spread through the Northeast U.S.

Like some other organic gardeners and growers (we aren't truly organic, but try to be mindful of everything we do), we resorted to an "organic" copper fungicide spray which we have never used before. The results? Some of our plants have survived and are starting to set fruit. The winners in this battle seem to be two varieties: a hybrid variety called Better Boy and a more unusual (I don't know if it is an official "heirloom" variety called Brown Cherry. It was our first year growing the latter. We lucked out.

The question will be (assuming these survive) if the fruit can ripen before the first frost. Today, we are back to the torrential rains.

Fortunately we stopped growing potatoes several years ago, for reasons unrelated to disease.

I'm glad we visited the Union Square farmers market last Labor Day to see the wonderful tomatoes down there because it sounds like we'd be lucky to find anything much there this season.

Next year we will pay especial attention to varieties resistant or tolerant to late blight-and see if it makes a difference. This should be a cautionary note, however, to those who think that commercial agriculture is the answer to everything. We can all survive without tomatoes (sob) but this could have been so much more serious. And interesting that one of our "heirlooms" apparently survived - did other heirlooms survive to bear fruit? I'd be curious to know.

We Americans take so much for granted, including our bounty of food; we must recognize how fragile our food supply system really is and how easily a widespread blight could produce unspeakable consequences. (And now, off my soapbox.)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Binghamton Shooting nearly 4 months later

So hard to believe that it will be 4 months come August 3.

There are no longer any obvious signs of the shooting. The ACA building is still closed, but they are holding classes in a nearby church. I haven't seen a fundraiser advertised recently.

For the family and friends of those who didn't survive, the healing will take a lot longer. This NPR piece is worth reading.

The parents of the shooter have put their house up for sale and moved, supposedly to Florida. They weren't driven out; in fact their neighbors took up a collection for them before they put their house up on the market.

What about our local corporations, in our era of ongoing layoffs by large employers such as Lockheed Martin?

A couple of times now, local companies have brought joy to our community. I don't know if it is because of the shootings, but this generosity benefited and will benefit many people in our community.

The first was back in June, when a local law firm gave away hundreds of free tickets so local people could see the Dicks Sporting Goods Open.

These tickets would have been $25. apiece otherwise. In our current economy, there are people who wouldn't have been able to attend otherwise.

The second will be next Friday, when two local companies "underwrite" the first day of our premier Spiedie Fest and Balloon Launch event.

Thank you, good corporate citizens.

In these days of recession, the Spiedie Fest free admission evening will make a lot of families very happy. This event is family friendly and alcohol free.

So, as always goes on.

Doubleplusungood, dudes

This is not new news. For all that I love buying from, this gives me a bit of that Big Brother feeling.

For all of you lucky enough to study the book "1984" in high school back in the 1960's, there are certain things in this book that stuck with you forever. The present generation would not be impressed but this book was absolutely chilling in its depiction of a world where a dictatorship totally controlled all sources of information, complete with a Ministry of Truth whose bureaucrats labored to continuously revise all written records to reflect the current Party line. To control thought, a new language called Newspeak was introduced. Words and thought were so short in Newspeak that one could spit sentences out without giving a thought to what one was actually saying.

Of course, nowadays we manipulate photos with ease via programs such as Photoshop and can manipulate electronic records with just as much ease.

And, apparently, we can buy an electronic book and download into our Kindle, and Bi...I mean,, can take it back for whatever reason.

When's the last time your local bookstore knocked down your door to grab back a book you legally paid for?

How ironic (not that this is exactly not my original thought) that the book they "vanished" was....1984. (Along with another Orwell classic, "Animal Farm".)

OK, for the record
1. This was due to a copyright infringement issue, not censorship and
2. duly refunded monies paid to the customers affected.

However, when they sent emails with the refund notices, some customers claim Amazon never bothered to explain what was going on. (Disclosure: I do not own a Kindle and was not affected by this.).

But still. This gives me a very big sense of unease especially as I've been thinking about getting a Kindle. Not any more. Who would have thought of a Kindle as a two-way device quite like this? If you buy anything via Kindle, is it really yours? Can take stuff back whenever they want? Maybe we should just stick to the old fashioned books that clutter up the house?

If not Big-Brotherish, it is certainly creepy.

Friday, July 24, 2009

1990's Laptop for Sale!

Yesterday, the local high school (son graduated last year) had their annual "get rid of computer equipment" sale. That would be like a Godiva Chocolate clearance sale for me. Now you have to understand that our house space is a tug of war between my books and my son's obsolete technology collection. I've always been interested in history and he's inherited those genes, but in a technological way.

So what were his finds?

Dear son was looking for a laptop for me. He saw a certain laptop and without looking further knew it was from the 1980's or 1990's- it got into the "regular laptop" (circa 2004) bin and ds saved a woman who was almost ready to buy it. (Maybe she thought it was an oversized Asus EE, who knows.) So ds pounced and got it for $5. I told him they should have offered HIM $5.00 for it. It was an AST 910N laptop, and crammed inside it was a catalog from 1995 which showed the price (then) for this little gem was....well first of course ds made me guess so I tookan educated guess at $4,000. Not off by that far, the price in the catalog was $3,850.

There's an icon for Office on the desktop. Wonder what version it is. Didn't investigate.

It runs Windows 3.1 and I think somewhere ds has a floppy disk with Windows 3.1 on it. (yes. a floppy disk with an operating system on it. What a concept.)

Son's other find was an RCA Camcorder, one of those huge things from around 1988 or so, although I didn't check it out to see what model it was. Right now son is off to try to find tapes for it. Son's comment was "this rocks!" I hope so.

If there is a computer museum somewhere lacking a curator, please write me. Please.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Facebook - the Dilemma and the Virtual Food Fight

Today, right after logging onto Facebook (because I had a message from a cousin) and then logging right off again, I saw this article online from Newsweek on Facebook and its possible future.

I've got the answer. Because I am never an early adapter, the fact that I joined Facebook recently should be a signal that its days (or months) are numbered.

But seriously...I promised my blog readers a post on my experiences. I'm not ready for that yet.

However, the time may be soon. Because when I logged on I found out I have been hit with lasagna and another cousin wants to involve me in a "food fight".

I went to the app, which is something called "Food Fling". This is something very popular. Some 3,000,000. people out there apparently have nothing better to do than to fling virtual food at their "friends" and vice-versa. And if I don't answer in 24 hours (the invite was yesterday) I lose. Two of my "friends" use this app. So here's a cyberdilemma. I come home from work totally fried and just want to relax before my exercise class, and find this. What do I do now? (is the whine in my blogvoice audible?) Do I just wipe the computer lasagna off my face? Do I join this app, which will also draw info about all my "friends" into the app, and strike back?

I know some will tell me to "lighten up", "just do it". In my case...I think I'd rather write about it in my blog. So that's what I'm doing.

Sorry, cuz.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Coming Soon to a Summer Near You

At some time during the next few days, there is going to be a changeover from "spring/summer" to "late summer/fall is coming, alas (because winter is next)." At least it will come soon here in wonderful Upstate NY.

Any day now, I am going to be walking, and instead of birds chirping away I am going to hear this scraping, insect sound...the sound of-crickets, cicadas, or whatever. I'm not an insect expert so don't ask me what they are. All I can tell you is that, it happens. Every year.

I do know what it means even if I don't know what is talking to me.

Did you ever realize there is more than one summer?
There is the fresh part of spring/summer, when foliage is new, when the spring bulbs bloom one after the other, when birds pair up and greet the day, in a well-defined order, with their song, and the early summer bulbs and roses take over.

Then there is the main summer, with hot days, swimming pools, long days and short nights (the further north you are, the longer the days are), daylillies, and Rose of Sharon bushes blooming.

Then one day you look around and the goldenrod and ragweed are blooming. (If you are allergic, you know when this is to the hour) .The birds are becoming, or have become, empty nesters. The green of tree foliage starts to get a bit dull. The days start shortening noticeably, accelerating by the day. And that...insect...sound starts. In insect language they are saying "summer is almost over! Tempus fugit."

Well they could if they could speak and not chirp.

I don't care if you can tell the temperature by their chirps.

It's not the school bus returning to your neighborhood that signifies the end of summer in Binghamton.
It's the crickets.

Monday, July 20, 2009

More on the 40th anniversary of the First Moon Walk

Why are we so fascinated by the First Moon Walk on this particular anniversary?

Is it knowing that this may be the last 10-year anniversary where all three astronauts of Apollo 11 may be alive? (after all, Neil Armstrong is 78). Is it a sense of what may have been (why did we abandon manned space missions out to the moon and beyond?) Or is it because we have so many Internet "toys"that allow us to follow the mission, minute by minute, complete with astronaut updates on Twitter?

(If you are interested in one such site, here's a very good one, run by the JFK Presidential Library).

Or, you can go to "Google Moon".

But the one I really liked was the NY Times "readers' moon memories" . Must be the anthropology major in me. If only I knew where my photos were, I would scan and post them on this blog. Yes, I took black and white (of course!) photos of the TV screen at home. My Dad and I stayed up late to watch Neil Armstrong take his first steps.

However I never thought of taking pictures of us watching TV. That would have been interesting!

And what if we had had the Internet then? Well we could say that about any time of history. Better in some ways that our memories are frozen in those faded photos and home movies. No matter how dated they seem to our children.

Eight months later I would go on a trip with other high school seniors to study a total solar eclipse on the grounds of East Carolina university. (Greenville, NC) If the moon landing was a thrill of a lifetime, this trip to North Carolina taught me some interesting things about life on earth. But that will (perhaps) be a story for another time.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The 40th Anniversary of the Moon Landing

40 years ago tomorrow. Where were you?

Where was I? I was in midtown Manhattan, with my Dad, at a space exhibit. I had followed the space program from as soon as I was old enough to. I don't think I truly remember Sputnik, but I do remember our country shooting dogs and monkeys into space. I remember Telstar, I remember being amazed at a trans oceanic broadcast of - The Today Show? Then came the manned flights. In that day of non CNN, no 24 hour news channels, the early flights, only several hours long, were covered in their entirety by the networks. It was a very big news item. I took lots of pictures at the exhibit. I stayed up to watch Neil Armstrong walk on the moon, along with millions of other Americans.

I remember following all the manned flights leading up to Apollo 11 on television. I was a great science fiction fan from around the age of 10, too, and it all tied in.

Tomorrow I hope I can catch some coverage of the anniversary.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A bad year for Boomer Icons-Now Cronkite on the Eve of the Moon Landing Anniversary

About 6 weeks ago, I had blogged about the rumors of the impending demise of Walter Cronkite.

Now, alas, it has come to pass that Walter Cronkite has passed on to His Next Big Assignment. Three days before the 40th anniversary of the first man stepping forth on the moon. This ending couldn't have been planned better if it was a work of fiction.

When my 19 year old son comes home from work this afternoon I don't know I will even mention it to him because I'm afraid he will ask "who?" Will there be an iconic news person of his generation in the same way?

So, what does the passing of Walter Cronkite mean to me? To me it means a Great Person is gone:
The person who told us JFK had been shot and stayed with us through three days of mourning. The man who, when he told America we were "mired" in the War in Vietnam, convinced presidents that we really should rethink what we were doing.
The man who reported the Apollo 11 moon landing. (and watched as we abandoned our space program.)
He reported during the worst days of Watergate.

They forced him to retire way too young. But even when retired, he was there to speak to us after 9/11.

He was there with his gentle, guiding voice during our best days and our worst.

His voice made you feel safe.

OK, I am going to say it. I can't help it.
"And THAT’s the way it is".

Goodbye, Walter. We will miss you.

Friday, July 17, 2009

So a Starbucks is not a Starbucks when....what?

So Starbucks is testing new names in Seattle because....why? Because they've already lost their way, and lost thousands of customers along the way?

I am one of your lost customers, Starbucks. And offering me a free breakfast pastry on July 21 isn't going to do it.

I am not a coffee addict. I can get up in the morning without a jolt of $3.75 coffee. In fact, I find the Starbucks non-flavored coffee experience to be way too bitter.

My Starbucks purchase habits were certainly not the norm. Spouse and I used to go for exercise walks when my son was younger and time by ourselves was much more limited. If we had a sitter or son was at an activity we did not need to be at, we would do our walk on the walking trail, and then go to Starbucks for a "date". It was nice to buy a fancy coffee drink, sit at a table, and just talk. The atmosphere was somewhat quiet - the Starbucks here aren't super-crowded the way the ones in Midtown Manhattan (for example) are.

Then....I can't quite put my finger on it, but it wasn't just the price increases. There was nothing special about Starbucks anymore. Everything there just seemed overpriced. And the new products like Green Tea Frappuchino and some kind of hot chocolate that was more like chocolate mud (and I'm a chocoholic!) didn't inspire me to try anything new.

After a while, we just stopped going. I have not been in a Starbucks in years.

OK Starbucks, I realize I was not your typical customer. I will give you an "A" for effort but seriously, look at some of your failures. (not the most recent list, but nicely illustrated).

Then there was the little side story of Starbucks and the Clover coffee machine (only $11,000. per.) Apparently (I am taking this from second hand sources) Starbucks bought this machine up so no one else could use it (going forward) but so far they are only offering this allegedly special coffee in four general locations. The closest to us would be Boston/Rhode Island.

Sorry, Starbucks, you are going to have to do better than that. In the meantime, we will be buying our "to go" coffee in the local convenience store, in our local supermarket's coffee bar, or...horrors...McDonalds. (It's good. No atmosphere, but the price is right.)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

New York's Electronic Voting-Back to the Future

Today I experienced the future of voting in NY.

New York, to the best of my knowledge, is the last state in the union to adopt some version of electronic voting. Up to last year, we were using those old dinosaur lever machines with the curtain - you stood there and had 3 minutes to pull levers for your candidates.

Before that (as my 80 year old plus neighbor tells me) NY had paper ballots.

Guess what. We will have paper ballots again. Sort of.

I went to a demonstration of the new voting system at the Broome County Library today and this is how it works:
First, you have to fill out a paper ballot. You do this at a "corral" accommodating four voters. It is on an approximately 8 1/2 x 14 sheet. There is a square box next to each candidate's name. You have a pen, like a fine magic marker, that you fill in the boxes with. Then, you will need to put this in an envelop (so it remains secret) and wait on line to feed your sheet of paper into a machine.

The machine reads your ballot and if all is OK you hear it drop into a box. It is also scanned and there is also a paper receipt (which wasn't demonstrated). The demonstrator emphasized safeguards so the results wouldn't be hacked.

If you "overvoted" (filled in too many boxes) the ballot is spit back out and I assume you have to get back into the line for the corral.

If you "undervoted" the machine will tell you and you can override and tell it to accept your ballot, or have it spit out to correct.

What happens if you start to fill out a box and change your mind? What happens if you put a stray mark near a box? I had a lot of questions but of course I thought of them after I went back to work (this was on my lunch).

I'm not sure if I'm sold on this. I did find an interesting blog devoted to keeping the lever machines.

I'll love to see how this works in the November elections, which are an off year election. I can almost see the long lines other states have complained about.....

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

RIP CompuServe Classic - Another Baby Boomer Favorite Gone

This isn't a funeral for a person but an online service that predated the Internet, and in some ways was one of the first social networks-using a 1200 baud modem.

CompuServe Classic was discontinued June 30, 2009.

I still have CompuServe 3.0.4 on my computer.

I came late to the computer world. I bought my first computer, a Toshiba Pentium with a 1.6 GB hard drive and 16 MB of RAM, and a 14,400 bps modem, in December of 1996. It was sort of a self-birthday gift. With a service plan it set me back nearly $2,000 and I took a loan off my 401K to purchase it.

I had heard about CompuServe from savvy friends, and they told me about certain Forums I would enjoy. So in January of 1997 I joined the online world, using a Mosaic browser and immediately joined CompuServe. It was love at first sight. I stayed with CompuServe for over 6 years but by then AOL and the Internet had gutted it so much it wasn't worth it. I went broadband.

I realize that in CompuServe time no veteran would be impressed by this. I missed the 1980's when the online services like GEnie, Prodigy, and the various local BBS systems, allowed the technologically proficient to get online and communicate with each other. Still, in the 1997 world (this is before AOL bought CompuServe, by the way) this was exciting stuff. In fact, I still have my first email, which was a request for help on how to make a potato battery (my son wanted to know.)

And flat rate monthly service hadn't been adopted yet, so we paid by the hour.

I had one of those all number email addresses - - and kept it for my entire history with CompuServe. I participated in several forums and "lurked" in many more. A couple of sysops helped me through some personal hard times and I met one for lunch when she visited Binghamton.

It wasn't as glitzy as Facebook but I do miss it.
And now it's gone.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Happy Bastille Day - Let Them Eat Tastykake

My dad was born on July 14, 1914. The July 14 birth date made it easy to remember Bastille Day in history class. Dad is no longer alive, but I've always wanted to go to a Bastille Day celebration.

The only I really want to go to is this: I visited the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia around 2000 and it was quite fascinating. It is a very historic prison located in a residental area of Philadelphia - now closed and crumbling, but has a lot of history associated with it. It is well worth a visit.

They even have an Alumni reunion every year.

For those not living in the Northeast, Tastykakes are snack cakes, something like Little Debbies. They are made in Philadelphia but you can buy them in NYC, and upstate like here.

The "Marie Antoinette" impersonator throws Tastykakes into the crowd before she is guillotined (not for real, of course).

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Not-so-Mighty Queen of Williamsbridge

Amy Dickinson is the successor to famed advice columnist Ann Landers, I've been enjoying her column for years because she has such a way with words that you could laugh, but also realize she was being totally serious about her advice. It is good advice too. Personally, I prefer her to the two women who took over Dear Abby's column.

Now I've read her memoir "The Mighty Queens of Freeville" and....
1. I wish I had read it months ago, before she did it a book signing in downtown Binghamton
2. I feel I've known her all my life, although our lives are as totally different as you can be different.

Let's compare and contrast

Where did we grow up?
Amy: Grew up in Freeville, NY pop. 455 (give or take a couple). Part of her childhood was spent on a dairy farm.
AM: Grew up in the Bronx (the neighborhood of Williamsbridge), population approximately 1,400,000, in a low income housing project. The approximate population of my housing project was 1,500.

Amy: Siblings, mother (father deserted family), is related to much of Freeville, including the "mighty queens"
AM: Only child, father (mother died during my childhood), my most favorite relatives were 1 1/2 hours away on the subway

Activities while growing up
Amy: lots of rural and small town activities centering around the local church and family
AM: potsy, curbball, swings, monkey bars, word rhyming games while bouncing a Spaulding, jumprope (although I was never able to do double dutch), riding my bike (especially as a teenager)

High School
Amy: Dryden High School, enrollment about 500.
AM: Thank heavens I DID NOT go to my local high school, Evander Childs. Where I did go, the enrollment was about 2800. And with all its distinguished alumni, I brought paraphrase Weird Al Yankovic in his song "I Lost on Jeopardy" - shame and disgrace to my high school name for generations to come, because I haven't won a Nobel prize yet.

Amy: Once, husband walked out on her, one daughter
AM: married 35 years, one son

Adult Life:
Amy: spent between Freeville, London, Washington DC and Chicago
AM: spent between Florida, Iowa, Texas, Kansas, Arkansas and the Triple Cities of Upstate NY

Perfect Pitch
Amy: Yes
AM: son begged me to stop singing to him when he was about 2

Amy: Yes, and proud of it
AM: Probably not the way Amy means it (activities like joining madrigal choirs-see "perfect pitch" above). In fact I was thrown out of a chorus at my summer camp in 1966.

Amy: Lots, well deserved
AM: Jury's still out on that one

Published Author
Amy: Yes, write more books, please please please!
AM: I do have this blog....

Conclusion: I love Amy! Amy, if you are up here again, will you visit me and have dinner with me? The Mighty Queen of Freeville and the not-so-Mighty Queen of Williamsbridge? There's this nice little restaurant in Johnson City called Caccitore's....

Do Our Tomatoes Have Irish Potato Blight?

Thank you, another blog, for alerting us to this.

We thought it was all the rain and coolness, but our tomato plants at our community garden are dying. It is some kind of blight. Being mostly natural gardeners (but all organic when it comes to pest control-we plead guilty to minor use of artificial fertilizers) spouse applied copper spray-when there was a short pause in the rain.

According to this article, it is widespread...may be impacting prices of tomatoes and potatoes at the store..and it isn't just is all other the northeast.

Now it appears that the same blight that caused the problem with potatoes in the 1840's may be the cause of our problems. Except that what we have looks more like run of the mill late blight. But, it is too early for late blight. Both our plants and the few tomatoes that formed have the blight. If we do have the Irish Potato blight, our plants are goners along with our tomato season.

Gee, a historic blight for someone interested in slow food and heritage livestock. How....somehow fitting.


Tomatoes are a highlight of the gardening season. A very healthy highlight of the gardening season. I can't eat too many but each bite is heavenly. And tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches are a guilty pleasure.

By the way, there's another plant suffering out there. Zucchini. Yes, that's right. We may have to buy our zucchini this year. Say, if anyone has zucchini to dump on our doorstep, feel free. Our address is.....

Friday, July 10, 2009

Let's "Facebook" the Facts

So where have I been recently?

Short answer: on Facebook. I had an account from - last year? but never used it. A friend from high school friended me and I joined. I was spooked when someone with my last name I knew nothing about tried to friend me. She was a young person with about two bazillion friends. Nope. I wanted no part of this.

Over the last several months a very good "real life" friend tried to friend me. Then a cousin. Then another cousin. So I finally reactivated my account. Today I was on there looking at stuff and suddenly a chat window opened and here was one of my cousins, who I had last seen in 2001 (I think it was). So we chatted, for a half hour or more. It was fun. It was nice! It was even nicer (until I had to wake up this morning to go to work) being up late doing this "where I have traveled" map. So I'm sure a marketer knows plenty about me now. Yes, I've been to San Diego! and Toronto! Big whoop. Both of those were back in the 1990's.

I guess this particular honeymoon will last until I get a Facebook virus. In the meantime I am posting some personal info, but nothing about my job. My job doesn't get discussed here and it won't get discussed there. And my profile is set to be seen by friends only. I will probably try to friend more people I know - but don't expect me to participate in food fights, pokes (OK, I did poke someone-now, how do you find the pokes others have given you???) gifts or any of that kind of stuff. Not yet, anyway. And, no pictures of me yet either. Although you may be interested in what I posted instead of my picture.

I'll revisit this topic in maybe a month and let you know how it's going. Maybe, no promises. Maybe then I'll also do one of those "deep web" searches I've written about and see just how private my profile is.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

New York Heatwave on the Way-Maybe

Right now our stormy weather continues. I've almost forgotten what it is like to water my hanging baskets. Our zucchinis are on strike and our tomato plants have been struck by a killing fungus-I think we are going to be lucky to have any tomatoes this year. But on the flip side, we have very happy lettuce and beets.

But hot weather may finally be on the way. How do I know? Because yesterday I went to Eternal Sunset and looked at Fairbanks, Alaska - at 2am their time, it was 70 degrees. So this morning I looked at yesterday's statistics and they had a record high yesterday of 91.

Usually that means that in about 5 days we will have similar weather.
On the other's high was 69. Yikes.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

2009 Binghamton Airshow Pictures

A lovely day at last - we spent it at the Binghamton air show watching the Blue Angels and other acts.

Here are some pictures we took. I apologize for the quality of these-my preview screen's pictures are hard to see in bright sunlight, and the speed of these planes were such that you just "pointed and prayed".

The first picture above is of the Army parachute team, the Golden Knights.

The next picture is hard to see but this was a biplane that featured someone standing on top of the plane.

These next two pictures are the flight line of the Blue Angels with the six planes lined up, and them taxing for takeoff.

Here are the Blue Angels in a couple of their formations. I've seen the Angels once before and it was just as thrilling this time.

In a way I missed having a young
person with me. The last time we saw the Blue Angels my son was young enough to want to go, and get their autographs. Yes, the Angels stay after their performance to do their PR work-and they do a very good job indeed.

So ends our Fourth of July weekend. Tomorrow, back to the grind.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Baseball, Golden Knights and 4th of July Raspberry Smoothies

An interesting, mostly peaceful 3rd and 4th of July.

The weather has finally decided to cooperate - sun finally coming out, cool for July, breezy, almost perfect.

Last night we went to the B-Mets (Binghamton Mets, AA Mets affiliate) game. The B-Mets are not playing well right now but the draws were the Golden Knights (U.S. Army) parachute team (who are also performing at the Binghamton airshow this week), a flyover and fireworks after the game. The stadium must have been half empty but those who were there had a treat as first one, and then five more, parachuters, aimed themselves at the stadium. At one point, two parachuters joined up, with one standing on the other's shoulders. What a wonderful view we had and I could kick myself for not bringing my camera.

The game itself was anticlimactic, with the B-Mets held scoreless through 8 innings. In the 9th inning they rallied and scored 3 runs-way too late. The fireworks were nice though, and will be serving as our fourth of July fireworks. A bit different than last year where we had our Fourth of July fireworks (not really, but they were on July 4th) in Saint John, New Brunswick...but that's a different story for a different posting.

This morning we decided to pick raspberries at a U-Pick farm. The route to the farm intersected with the traffic going to the air show. Luckily we had decided to go early because an hour later, it would have been impossible to get there. The berries were in good condition, considering all the rain we've gotten recently. We got our picking done before the air show started, and left as the Golden Knights did their opening parachute drop.

So we have a lot of raspberries now, which we need to process soon - they spoil very quickly. We'll make raspberry vinegar and probably raspberry liquor...and raspberry smoothies.

Here's a nice Raspberry Smoothie Recipe, courtesy of ingredients I had on hand.

3/4 c fresh raspberries
3/4 c SO Delicious Vanilla Coconut Milk
1/4 c non fat milk
(bananas would have gone good in this, except I can't eat them.)

Combine all ingredients in blender. Blend. Drink.

That's it!

May you all have a wonderful 4th.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Blue Angels on the Cheap

The Blue Angels are in town for this weekend's air show in Binghamton.

Yesterday, while at the community garden, spouse was treated to the Blue Angels practicing. He got quite a view.

I, of course, was at work and missed it. But I understand they practiced for most of the day. The lucky people at Broome Community College got almost an entire airshow's worth.

I did get to see one flyover after I got out of work.

Today, we went back to the garden and no luck. But on the way home we heard them thundering over and saw two of the planes. We also saw a couple of the other planes overhead.

3pm tomorrow - the real deal. Happy Fourth!

Autism and School discipline

Today, since I didn't have to work, I watched a "Dr Phil" episode on school discipline.

Although I like to "ramble on" about various topics, there are some special interests I have due to my life experiences. One of these is the developmental disability called "autism", which has entered my life through my brother in law, through one of my son's friends, and through other children and parent advocates I have met over the years.

I want to write about this and I am not sure if I want to start a different blog for my serious thoughts, but for now I will consider it one of my "rambles". So, "serious subject" alert.

First, a very brief definition of autism so that you can understand what went on here. According to the Autism Society of America, autism is defined as follows:"Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and is the result of a neurological disorder that affects the normal functioning of the brain, impacting development in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. Both children and adults with autism typically show difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities."

From this description, you can tell that those with autism require extensive and skilled special education services from the moment of diagnosis. There is a very wide "spectrum" of how autism affects an individual, so many experts name autism as a "spectrum" disorder. My son's friend, for example, is on the "high functioning" end - he has been a guest at our house many times, and has been a very good friend and companion to my son. He has been in special educational programs that have concentrated on teaching him the social skills needed to succeed independently, while "mainstreaming" him in a local high school as much as possible. (I visited the program several years ago, in another context (on both the middle and high school level), before my son met this young man.)

Special education teachers, on the whole, care about their students, strive to get the proper training, and sometimes deal with behavioral situations many of us not in the education field can only begin to imagine.

However, a child with autism (and also other disabilities) can have "meltdowns" in the classroom for many reasons - and educators have to know how to properly handle this when it happens. In the first case discussed on this show, this did not happen.

The first situation discussed was that of an Iowa couple's 8 year old daughter with autism. The school had met with the parents over discipline problems they were having with the daughter. The parents had signed a permission document allowing their daughter to be put into "time out" for 5 minute periods.Their attempts to deal with this autistic child's discipline problems climaxed with a 3 hour session in the time out room, during which time she wet herself. A tape was shown on the program showing parts of the time out, including a segment where the girl was screaming for help (and no one responded.)

The girl is verbal (not all those with autism are) but was unable to communicate what was happening to her. Well, she did, in the only way she escalating her behavior at home too.

The use of "time out" rooms is extremely controversial among parent advocates and others attempting to get their special needs children educated. The parents never dreamed they were giving permission for something like what the school did.

The point of this entire thing is that a child in a time out room (or in any other kind of isolation situation) for more than a few minutes of time to allow the child to "chill" and then be reintroduced into the educational placement deprives such child of her right to an appropriate education in what is called the "least restrictive environment". To a child with autism, this can be the difference between eventually being able to live independently (with assistance) or....not.

The lesson from all this?
Parents: TRUST YOUR GUT. Always have a good relationship with your school, but YOU are the expert on your child, not them.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Decline and Fall of The Local News Stations

For years, after scanning the local newspaper, I used to tune into Newschannel 34 for my 6:30 fix of local news and weather. When son was in school, I would turn to them first for the scrolling school closings during winter storms.

One Monday about a month ago, I tuned in, only to find everyone I knew was gone. And, the weather (the first thing broadcast as the news show went on the air) was not even the weather in Binghamton. It was the weather in Elmira, an hour west of here. Then, the news proceeded and the first "article" was about something going in in Corning. Corning is even further west.

I then remembered reading an article in the newspaper (yes, I still read the newspaper) over the weekend about the mass firing "to reduce costs". So let me get this straight. Our metropolitan area of around 100,000. now gets its morning news from Elmira, which is an hour away, has very little to do with us, and...let's see, Elmira's population is about 30,000. Corning's population is around 10,000.

Guess what, Newschannel 34. I now listen to our CBS affiliate, seemingly the only 6:30 am news that is related to our area.

One further memo to the news stations: if I hear one more story about Michael Jackson, I may swear off TV all together.

The Decline and Fall of The Local Newspaper

Much has been written about the decline of print media. In our area, it isn't just the print media. Our local TV stations are attempting to go down the same path as the newspaper. Let's take a look first at our local newspaper.

Our newspaper has found new, creative ways to alienate their remaining, loyal audience. What do I mean by loyal? Well, I've subscribed to home deliver of the paper for over 21 years. If that isn't loyal, what is? So let's count the ways our local paper is using to ensure that continued loyalty.

Old Service Method: Classifieds daily, and you could find what you wanted
New Service Method: No classifieds on Monday and Tuesday. I know someone in the newspaper business so I know why they are doing this. There is a logic to this. But what about the other days? Last Saturday I looked fruitlessly (no pun intended) for the listing of local farms who were offering U-Pick fruit. I guess they eliminated that too. News Bulletin: people do read the classifieds for reasons other than purchasing cars.

Old Service Method: The comics were visible without a microscope
New Service Method: why has (and I am going to name names here) "Cathy" shrunk to a size that middle aged eyes barely can make out while "Baby Blues"has panels twice the size? Is there any logic to the big comic/small comic thing?

Old Service Method: Deliver the paper daily, usually by 5am
New Service Method: For some reason, the last few Thursdays and Fridays, the paper doesn't get delivered until after I leave for work, which....well it's way after 5am. I used to sit down with the morning paper while I ate my cereal. Now, sometimes, it doesn't get read at all. Maybe one day they won't deliver it at all. Let's see if I notice.
(and yes, we tip the carrier. My spouse delivered papers as a teen and he remembers it well.)

We won't mention the Incredible Shrinking Newspaper Width (one reduction in December, one reduction this week), the Let's Play with the Fonts so People Can't Read our Paper, and the other games the paper is playing.

I have read newspapers all of my life. My 19 year old son, on the other hand, has barely opened a paper in my sight, ever, in his lifetime. He isn't alone. And if you keep up the not so great service, Dear Newspaper, the 50 year olds won't be reading your paper either., instead of reading the sometimes-not-there-paper-when-I-am-getting-ready-for-work, I decided to depend on the local TV stations. Which leads me to my next post.

The disappearing Car Door

This video has been online since 2007; I just found out about it. The disappearing car door is fascinating and apparently is still being worked on. I wonder how much this feature will cost. Or when we can ever expect to see it in production.

Since it makes sense and is useful, maybe never! (Seriously, though, with the severe troubles the U.S. automakers are in, I really wonder.)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Even More Baby Boomer Icons Move Onward

Two more...
Gale Storm (My Little Margie, among others)
Karl Malden (Patton, How the West was Won,The Streets of San Francisco....)

So, Who Will be Next?