Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Flood of Memories

For too many of us here in the United States, 2011 was the Year of the Bad Weather.  From flooding to drought, millions of people suffered under the lash of Mother Nature, and millions more suffered in other countries.  Especially Japan, where suffering will be long term.

For all of us, 2011 was the year we would rather forget.

Our relatively snowless winter doesn't begin to make up for our year of weather.  In upstate NY, in Vermont, in New Jersey, in many other parts, flooding ruled.

One of my cousins was evacuated twice from his home on Long Island.

Irene and Lee did their work in upstate NY in August and early September.  A good friend's mother lives near the village of Margaretville.  She lives on a hill but the main village was hit by flash flooding.  The CVS was destroyed.  As of right now, they still don't have a supermarket and she (well, her caretakers as she can no longer drive) must travel 21 miles to the nearest supermarket.  A Family Dollar (against zoning  but the local officials thankfully have decided not to notiee) is selling basic food necessities.

A friend of mine visiting Prattsville (even more hard hit), where her mother had once lived, witnessed the damage and it was almost beyond belief.  I even saw photos from that disaster in an English newspaper.

And as for us here in the Binghamton/Johnson City area, I've written about our flood over and over again.  The flooding, the aftermath, in a neighborhood where I was one of the lucky ones (I didn't lose my home).

This is my neighborhood and the immediate area around it flooding.  This photo, also near my house, may spell the end of 1300 jobs in my area.

That employer, BAE, left a parting gift:  a diesel spill.

Now, FEMA is finally agreeing to a buyout but portions of my neighborhood are destroyed. Some other areas:  Twin Orchards, the South Side of Binghamton, Owego. were hit even harder.   And my story is just one of the millions of weather related stories this year.

Yes, all of us would just rather forget 2011.

Ring in the New Year!  May 2012 be kinder to our world.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Today It's Really Tomorrow

Can you imagine if you woke up today and discovered that December 30 had disappeared - and that it was really New Year's Eve?

That is what happened today (or is it tomorrow?) in the country of Samoa.

Poof - December 30, 2011 gone, all because they are moving from one side of the International Date Line to the other.  Not physically, of course.  Just on their calendars.

I find the concept of the International Date Line confusing enough (fortunately I've never had to cross it.) so better them than us.

(By, the way, Samoa is not to be confused with American Samoa, which is not making the switch.)

This isn't the first adjustment the people of Samoa have had to make recently - two years ago they had to switch from driving on the right side to driving on the left side.  Now, just imagine having to adjust to that!  After that, losing a day would feel like nothing much.

Of course, we shouldn't be too smug here in the United States. In 1752 (when we were still a colony of England here in New York) the colonists had to adjust to a major calendar switch.  That switch still creates problems for historians and genealogists.  And that switch creates endless joy for trivia buffs who like to ask people what George Washington's birthdate is.

At least the Samoans only have to deal with one day vanishing and not 11.

Considering what 2011 did to us here in upstate NY, perhaps we wouldn't have minded 2011 being shortened by a day.

(And finally, our big news here in snowless Binghamton, NY:  it snowed last night.  Sigh, back to normal.)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

There's No Santa Claus - So Suck It Up!

As regular readers of my blog know, I have a brother in law with a developmental disability called autism. 

As a result of my involvement with him and a couple of other individuals with autism over the years, I tend to notice when I see or hear someone with an apparent developmental disability when I am out in public.

I should have posted this a week ago when it happened but there was so much going on that I mentally shelved it.  Hence, my last Holiday post of 2011-a few days late.

Last Thursday, I spent my lunchtime in an office building, the Security Mutual building, in downtown Binghamton, NY.  Every year, right before Christmas, they have noontime caroling in their lobby.  I've gone every year for about 5 years now, and it is a treat.

This year, I was standing in the lobby, listening to the caroling, when I became aware of this young man singing along with the carolers. I couldn't help it; he was singing loudly and right in my ear.  Soon, it occurred to me that his voice, while enthusiastic, was also....flat when he wasn't singing.  This can be a sign of autism (and some other conditions).  My brother in law speaks in a very "flat" voice.

As the carolers switched from one song to the next, the young man sang right along, until they sang "Santa Claus is Coming to Town".  In the middle of the song there was an instrumental section - and the young man decided to add some commentary.

"There is no Santa Claus!" he announced to the crowd.  "So suck it up!"

There were a couple of men, and a woman, standing right next to me and all of them were grinning.

It really was the highlight of the concert to me. (sorry, carolers and musicians.)  I don't know if the young man had autism, but he certainly knew how to speak his mind.

Tonight, I went to You Tube to see if there was video of this year's concert.  There wasn't, but there were several videos of the caroling from last year.   (The music selection tends to remain the same).  If you watch the video at the beginning of the post, you'll find the sound quality is terrible but you will get a little taste of the historic lobby and the love the carolers put into their singing.  I hope you enjoy it.

And while you are at it, remember:  there is no Santa Claus.  So suck it up!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Winter Wednesday-The Festival of Lights

Winter is here.  It is 26 degrees but feeling very bitter - wind chill of 9 above.  It's supposed to get down to 18 tonight with some snow flurries.  That's normal weather, here in upstate NY, but after our warmer than normal extended fall, it's a shock.

Another sign of winter- the holidays of Christmas and Hanukkah.  I've been blogging the last couple of days about my recent visit to the Hanukkah House museum in Binghamton (now closed until next November) and I wanted to share, for Winter Wednesday, some of their display of menorahs.

The menorah is a 9 branched candelabrum - 8 candles for the 8 nights of Hanukkah and 1 candle, the shamash ("helper") which is used to light the other candles.
Menorahs can be, and are, works of art.  If the only menorah you've ever seen is the one at the local shopping center (to balance out the Christmas display) prepare for a treat.

Menorahs can come in all sizes (such as the dollhouse-sized one in the center).  The one out in front uses houses as the candleholders.  Some of these are "children's" memorahs - brightly colored.  In many Jewish families, each family member will have his or her own menorah to light.
On this menorah, mounted on a "wall", are pots.
The original Hanukkah miracle involved oil (not candles) and not all Jews use candles in their menorahs.  Some use oil.
Materials vary:  metal, ceramic, glass.

The candles themselves can be works of art:  multicolored, striped, beeswax, or hand dipped.
And, what can be more multicultural than this last picture, taken in a private house near New York City.  This person is not Jewish but many of her friends are, and she holds a Hanukkah luncheon each year for her friends.

And isn't that what our country is all about - respect for the faiths of others.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Hanukkah House Part 2 Madame Alexander Dolls

If I told you there was a museum called Hanukkah House in Binghamton, NY you would expect to see a bunch of...well, things used to celebrate Hanukkah, right?

You'll find these of course. But Hanukkah House exists to tell other stories.  It tells the story of the Jewish people, of course, but the exhibits truly speak to all of us, no matter what our ethnic origin or religion. (I'll touch more on that tomorrow.)   One of these universal exhibits that speak to all of us is the exhibit of:

Madame Alexander dolls.
Madame Alexander (or to be exact, Madame Bertha (later changed to Beatrice) Alexander Behrman) was the daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants and was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY.  Her father ran the first doll hospital in this country.  She founded her doll company in 1923.

She has been gone 21 years now, but lived to the age of 95 - and had a hand in the business she founded until she was 93 years old.

The company is still located in the United States - on West 131st St. in Harlem, to be exact - and is open to visitors.  One day (although I am not a doll collector I know a number of people who collect these dolls) I'd like to visit the company headquarters.

At one time Madame Alexander employed some 650 people to make her dolls, here in the U.S.A.  Apparently, this is no longer the case.

If anyone knows about modern day Madame Alexander Dolls made in the USA I'd love to know about it.

If not, just enjoy them.  You don't have to be Jewish to enjoy Madame Alexander and her dolls.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Hanukkah House Binghamton - Part 1

Christmas is over.  The feasts are eaten, the family gatherings have taken place, and...

It's time for a little change of pace.

While most of us in the United States have been preparing and celebrating Christmas, the Jewish people of this country have been celebrating Hanukkah.

In Binghamton, there is a wonderful museum in a historic mansion that opens for a month every year, from right after Thanksgiving through the end of Hanukkah.  Run by volunteers, Hanukkah House is free (but donations are accepted).  It will be closing in a couple of days. In the next two or three days, I'd like to take you on a virtual tour.  Today, I'd like to show you some of the mansion and in the next couple of posts, some of the displays.

 Entering the museum, you can see both an overview of the museum and one of the fireplaces of the historic Kilmer Mansion, where the museum is located.  The painting over the fireplace is of the mansion. 

More fireplace detail.
Decorations above the painting of the mansion.
And finally, ceiling detail.

Tomorrow and Wednesday, I'd like to treat you to some of the exhibits.  Prepare to be surprised.....

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Civil War Sunday - Civil War Christmas

Since Christmas this year is on a Sunday - the day of my normal Civil War Sunday feature - it is only natural to look back on how Christmas was celebrated during the Civil War. 

Many of you are aware that some of the Christmas traditions celebrated here in the United States during modern times aren't that old, historically speaking - but many of them were in place by the time of the American Civil War (1861-1865).

There is actually a wealth of Civil War Christmas information online, I found.  Way too much to read during this busy season, so I include some of the links below.  Keep in mind that many of the soldiers were away from home for the very first time.  Extensive travel was not the rule in those days for many:  many rural men didn't travel more than a few miles from their birthplace during their entire lives.  So there was homesickness, hunger for family, hunger for decent food - and in the later days of the Civil War, much privation (especially for the soldiers of the Confederacy).  Civilians suffered too, especially in the South.

Some of the sites I found with information include:

Christmas During the Civil War:  posted by the Civil War Trust.

A Civil War Christmas poem written by a Confederate soldier. "Christmas Night of '62"

A Wikipedia article on Christmas in the American Civil War.

If you celebrate Christmas, may you have a very Merry Christmas - to my friends and readers both North and South.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Blue and Purple Christmas

I wanted to share one more Christmas tree with you from the Owego, NY Christmas Tree auction that ended December 17.

This blog post is dedicated to two people I know who were diagnosed with cancer this past November, just before the holidays.  A reminder, in this season of joy, that bad things can happen and those people need the support of their loved ones more than ever.  Sometimes it is so easy to get caught up in the busyness and forget the people who need you the most.

The American Cancer Society says that it fights for less cancer and "more birthdays".  So in honor of that, someone created this tree for the Owego Christmas Tree auction I've blogged about several times recently.

 "Blue Christmas" isn't just a song made famous by Elvis.  It is something real, because Christmas can be a very sad time for a lot of people. To those people in my life (including another friend, and reader of my blog, whose husband passed away from cancer earlier this year), I send good thoughts your way today.

Tomorrow, a different take on Christmas.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Story Trees

As we approach Christmas holiday brightness is especially important to us here in Upstate NY.  Since the floods of September 7 and 8, one just hungers for beauty - and Christmas, this year, is delivering to an area weary of ugly.

 Back on December 14, I blogged about the upstate NY village of Owego, about 20 miles west of here, and a special Christmas decoration auction being held December 17 at the Tioga County Historical Society Society.  It is estimated that some 75% of structures in Owego sustained damage (some unrepairable).  Owego is right on the Susquehanna River and flooding is not unknown to it but this time it was (to borrow a phrase from my younger readers), epic.

So this year the auction (now past) was dedicated to the extensive flood recovery needs of the Historical Society.  On December 17, the last day of the auction, I visited again and took some better pictures.

When I titled this "Christmas Story" the first tree was dedicated to that famous movie that is shown in marathon form every Christmas Eve on a certain TV channel.  I will miss it this year but normally I love to see it at least once-if not twice.  This movie works on so many levels for me - and I'm so glad (spoiler alert) Ralphie got his rifle and did not shoot his eye out!  (I know this may surprise a lot of people who know me, but I could watch that movie over and over.)

Anybody else a fan of that movie?
How about this topper?
A tree doesn't have to be green.,  And it can have decoarations that reflect the cultures of its area.  This tree is decorated with some pysanka eggs, also known as Ukrainian easter eggs.  Yes, a Christmas tree decorated by easter eggs.  Why not?

I own a couple of these eggs.  And years ago, I had the happy fortune of going to an Easter event at our local YMCA where the aquatics director (now retired) taught pysanky at no charge and gave us all the opportunity to make our own pysanky-style egg.  I can tell you, it's a lot harder than it looks, but I wouldn't mind taking lessons again-if I have the patience.  (I seem to be losing patience with age - just the opposite of what you would expect.)  My eggs, alas, blew up (a hazard with decorated raw eggs) several years after I made them.

And finally, another awesome topper.

This is the full list of participating trees (and their people).  I don't know how long the list will be up, so it may be gone if you are reading this after the holidays.

Happy holidays to all of my readers.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Zero Visibility and Eggnog

The Great Buffalo, NY Blizzard of 1977?

Or, one of the most wonderful non-chocolate ice creams ever made?

Take your pick.

Upstate NY has a number of excellent local seasonal foodstuffs and I'd like you all to know about them.

We are continuing our non-wintry Christmas weather here in the Binghamton area of upstate NY.   Last night when I went to sleep, it was 47 degrees. Right now, about 8:30 pm, it is 45 degrees.  The only thing that reminds us of winter are the various holiday decorations, and seasonal foods. Otherwise, you would never know it was December.
Tomorrow, we are supposed to have snow.  But tonight, we can have Perry's Zero Visibility Ice Cream.  It is a limited edition flavor (first marketed in 1997) and when it is gone, it will be off the shelves for five years.  This year's delivery of vanilla/coconut ice cream with just the faintest hint of rum commemorates the 35th anniversary of a blizzard that residents of Buffalo, NY will always remember. 

This ice cream would be wonderful with a variety of toppings, including rum-pineapple.  It probably wouldn't be too bad whipped up with some Purity Eggnog, a local favorite.  Made in Ithaca, NY,  Purity Eggnog is melted heaven.  Once you have tasted this pure eggnog, you will never go back to that stuff in the carton.

Years ago (before you could no longer consume raw eggs) my spouse used to make homemade eggnog with our own chicken eggs.  The only drink coming close to the homemade eggnog is Purity's.

If we showed up at Christmas at our downstate family without Purity in hand, I'm sure they would boot us right out of the house.  Too bad Zero Visibility would not travel, so I can't introduce downstaters to what a true blizzard should taste like.

(and no, no one compensated me for these plugs.  My full belly is compensation enough.)

Tomorrow....will it finally begin to look a lot like Christmas?  Or will our only snow be what comes in half gallon containers?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Winter Wednesday-'Tis the Season for Butterflies and Birds

As I write this, it is about 8pm here in upstate New York.  Today it has been raining most of the day (hard, at times) and right now it is - 47 degrees ?!

Not that I am complaining.  Sidewalks bare of snow and ice are just fine with me.  In fact, it is going to be quite hard to get into the swing of winter once it comes-which it will.  But it hasn't come yet.

I understand that it reached 56 degrees in Buffalo and 59 degrees in New York City.  Just a little hard to get into the holiday spirit if you are a believer in "White Christmas"  (I'm not.)

I wanted to share some "naturally inspired" Christmas tree decorations, courtesy of the Riverwalk Hotel in downtown Binghamton.  In our mild weather, you could almost see some of these creatures flying around.

A bird.....

...and another butterfly.

Seems like I've been seeing a number of naturally inspired tree decorations this year.  I'll try to share some more trees with you between tomorrow and Saturday.

Thank you to my guest photographer friend for these great shots!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Holiday Rerun - Jewish Songwriters and Christmas

Today is the first night of the Jewish holiday Hanukkah.  I am celebrating our borrowed TV (until we can buy one of our own) by watching a Saturday Day Night Live holiday special, which inspired me to republish this Christmas post from last year.  Enjoy! (Incidentally, the New York Daily News featured an article on this topic a couple of days ago.)

Jewish Songwriters and Christmas

No, I don't mean the 2007 SNL TV Funhouse short "Christmas Time for the Jews" although I thought it was very entertaining and a dead-on parody of Phil Spector songs.  (It was, incidentally, sung by legendary singer Darlene Love.)

No, I'm talking about Christmas songs written by Jewish song writers.  My little quest started a year ago, reading a NY Times Op Ed.  There are a number of these songs, and other bloggers and writers have done the research for me:  I thank them, including the wonderful people at Mental Floss and this article. (a must read).

Some may argue that these are NOT Christmas songs, but rather songs about what I would now call the "secular Christmas". True, these are not hymns.  But it is true that the American celebration of Christmas incorporates many aspects of non-religious symbolism - this ground has been covered by other writers.

I consider them Christmas songs.  I think, in particular, few would argue that "I'll be Home for Christmas" isn't one of the most heartfelt Christmas songs every written.

(Note, I have not done any of this research myself.  I am not a musician or a music expert, just someone who likes to listen to well written music.  So if I end up spreading wrong information, I apologize.  I did try more than one source, but - as you well know- you can't trust everything you read on the Internet.)

1.  White Christmas:  Irving Berlin lived to 101, married a Catholic woman back when that type of intermarriage was extremely scandalous (to both families) and defined Christmas for entire generations of American Christians.  (Incidentally, he also wrote "Easter Parade". And "God Bless America") The next time you wonder if you will be having a white Christmas, and if you can't figure out exactly why that should be so important, well....blame Bing Crosby and.... Irving Berlin.

2.  Silver Bells:  this one is another movie song, and talks about the bells of the Salvation Army "in the city". (I always assume it is New York City.)

3.  Winter Wonderland: the author of this song was a Jewish man from Brooklyn.  The air must have been a lot less polluted in those days.   When I grew up a snowy day was more like a Black Crusted Snow Wasteland.

4.  The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire):  The Nat King Cole version is one of my favorite songs, ever.  This brings back so many memories of the holiday season in the late 60's in midtown Manhattan and the vendors who would sell roasted chestnuts.  The fragrance carried for blocks.

Jack Frost would certainly nip at your nose in NYC.  The climate there is so damp, it feels way colder than it really is.

5.  Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow:  the duo, both Jewish, who wrote that song, also wrote "The Christmas Waltz".

6.  I'll be Home for Christmas.  As an almost-history major in college, this song makes me think of my aunts and uncles during World War II.

And last but not least, something I picked up in my research:  the other day I blogged about Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.  It would seem that Johnny Marks, the author of that song (and also "Rockin' Round the Christmas Tree")  was Jewish.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Shopping for a TV

Saturday we turned on our TV....the 19 inch model we bought at Montgomery Wards as a floor model back in, what, 1998?...and Old Faithful showed us just a bunch of weird lines, followed by a funny smell.  When we tried to turn it off it wouldn't turn off. 

So now we are in the market for a TV.

Every year for the past several years, we would play the game of TV Agonization every Thanksgiving Week.  This consisted of looking at every Black Friday ad on the Black Friday tracking websites, selecting one or two sets we might want and going almost to the brink of purchasing.  Last year I literally had the TV order all set up on, then decided to do something else and chickened out at the last minute.   This year I said to ourself, "how much longer is that TV going to last?".

It was almost a point of honor, not going the modern HDTV route.

So now, if we want a TV, we need to shop for one, right in the middle of the holiday shopping rush.  And that shopping experience has changed greatly since 1998.

Shopping for a TV - in the old days - would consist of looking at the pictures at the local appliance store, then reading Consumer Reports and bringing home a set.  Total effort - a couple of hours?

Today shopping consists of answering hundreds of questions....screen size?  refresh rate?  LCD or Plasma?  2D or 3D? Number of HDMI hookups? Internet ready? Store brick and mortar or online?  and then browsing lots of websites, and ending up with one gigantic pounding headache. 

So far I could care less about the lack of TV because I have my trusty computer but dear spouse is having major withdrawal symptoms.  I lost track of the number of complaints about not being able to watch the Giants game yesterday.

Thinking back to our newlywed days when we lived without a TV set for months (more than once) on end for various reasons, it's tempting in a way to do that again...but we are too hooked on instant information, The Weather Channel's Waking Up with Al and watching DVD's.  So we will get that TV.

And maybe we'll even enjoy the experience, once we get over the shock.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Civil War Sunday - Thomas Nast

Thomas Nast is perhaps best known for his post-Civil War accomplishments.  You may know him as being the man responsible for our image of Santa Claus as the jolly old man dressed in a red suit trimmed with white fir.  He was also an editorial cartoon known as the "Father of the American Cartoon" and helped to bring a corrupt New York City political machine down.  He also developed the donkey and elephant symbols still used today by our Democratic and Republican parties.

But before Thomas Nast did all these things, he was a Civil War illustrator.  One of his most famous pictures was this one, picturing a Civil War Christmas Eve.

Nast was only in his early 20's during the Civil War, so his entire career was ahead of him.  A native of Germany, Nast was solidly on the side of the Federals.  Nast worked for Harper's Weekly starting in 1862, and many of these issues are online - a very nice primary source document for those with the time to do that type of research.

Here are some other examples of his Civil War art work.

After the war, it is said that Nast helped get former Union general U.S. Grant elected President. 

He died in 1902.

I personally love to look at art of the Civil War era, such as advertisements, recruitment posters, and the like.  It is a very ornate style, and speaks to a pace of life we can only dream about today.  Someone had a lot of their time on their hands, it sometimes seems, to include the amount of detail in some of these drawings.

Thomas Nast is only a number of people who got their "starts" in the American Civil War and later became famous.  Over the next few months I hope to highlight some others.  Some of them may surprise you.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Country of Cancer

This has not been a good few weeks for a couple of people I know.

Without going into any kind of specifics, in the past week, I have found out that a friend I have had since childhood, and someone I've known locally for a number of years, have cancer.  In one instance, the "patient" knows the cancer will be fatal - the question is when.  For the other person, that "patient" is in the middle of testing to find out the exact details. The question for that person will be if it was found early enough because that cancer does not have a high survival rate. 

Both of these people are highly educated - one has a masters degree. The other worked at one time in the medical field.  Both are taxpayers.

One is a reader of this blog. 

I do not like to get political in this blog, but I am going to make an exception today. And I am going to run a bit longer than I normally do.  Please bear with me.

It takes a village to support someone with cancer, and our country is doing a horrible job of it.

You can have the best of insurance and still find yourself in the position of trying to pay overwhelming medical bills.  If you don't have "Cadillac" insurance, that old Buick insurance isn't going to get you very far.

What your caretaker(s) are going to end up with is an overwhelming pile of paperwork.  There are programs to help pay the bills out there, and those programs are going to require everything short of your firstborn son.  I'm not talking government programs here necessarily - I am talking nonprofit programs for co-pay relief, charities, programs run by the pharmaceutical company, programs run (perhaps) by where you are receiving treatment.

Government?  Well - there's the Department of Health and Human Services and Social Security, too. (and some people want to abolish them, don't they?) There's Medicare.  Just as a reminder, Medicare is a program of our Federal Government.

Need assistance?  You'd better have your income tax returns, your insurance card(s), your checking account statements, your savings account statements, your pay stubs, and about 50 or so other things (or so it will seem), all at the ready.  Make lots of copies because you are going to need them.  Stock up on stamps.  Hope you have a decent computer, and lots of time on your hands when you don't feel like absolute crud.

The caretaker and the cancer patient must struggle to pay those bills while juggling (maybe) a job, (definitely) either chemo, radiation, or both, and lots of issues.  Sounds like a job for the son or daughter of Superman.  If they are only human, and fallible, they are in trouble.  Do you know any of the children of Superman?  I don't.

Suddenly a caretaker?  There are federal job protections but we know how that can work, depending on how decent your employer is.  Cynical?  I personally know someone who was a caretaker for her father, and lost her job because of it.  The person wasn't a resident of New York State but she could have been. It does happen. 

We have a seriously broken system. We expect people to do all these things while fighting a dread illness.  Fighting that illness should be the first priority.  Financing that struggle should not be part of it.

But too many times, it is.

It hurts, but in our holiday season, it hurts more.  In an area recovering from a natural disaster like we are here in upstate NY, it hurts even more.

In the United States, we call ourselves "the greatest country in the world".

But, they and the people who care for them can rant all they want, but that cancer patient and his/her family needs help and ranting won't (so to speak) pay the rent.

So they will buckle down like so many others have done before them,  and walk that path of nails.  If they are lucky they will have a lot of support of family and friends.  But not everyone has that.  There are too many cracks to fall through for the citizens of this "greatest country of the world".

Become politically active, you say? It's hard to advocate for change when you are in a survival situation.

Observe it well.  Educate yourself.  Unless things change, the next time this dread disease knocks, one of us bystanders may be answering that door.

Have any of my readers been advocates or in this type of situation?  I would love to know what worked for you.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Kenny Rogers for Flood Relief

Kenny Rogers was the latest singer to visit our area and hold a concert for flood relief.  (Maureen McGovern had performed earlier, and had even visited my neighborhood.)

He had come to Binghamton, New York last year for a concert.  He was not planning to come this year, but changed his mind and performed last night.  Several people I know attended the concert.

According to them, the venue was almost full.  Some of the concert was devoted to his hits, and the rest to Christmas music, performed with singers from area schools. (he did much the same thing last year-in fact one attendee told me she had gone last year, and the two concerts were virtually identical.  Not meant at all as a put-down:  just a statement of fact.)  The attendees told me Kenny Rogers gave a very heartfelt performance.

About 1700 tickets went to people either registered with charities as impacted by the flood that hit our area due to Tropical Storm Lee in September, first responders and flood recovery volunteers.  Proceeds from the concert will go to three charities helping flood impacted people.

"The holidays" can be a stressful time just in a regular year.  This year, many people here will struggle to have a joyous holiday season.   I hope that the Kenny Rogers concert lifted some hearts and gave people several hours of relief from their troubles.

There have been a good number of flood related concerts here since the floods of September 7-8 - many local bands have stepped up (some of the musicians having lost their homes themselves). 

I'll write more about the status of the flood recovery at the 3 1/2 month mark later this month.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - December 15 - Still Blooming!

Thank you, May Dream Gardens, for once again hosting Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.

In November, I thought my blooms were gone until spring.  But then came totally unseasonable weather here in upstate NY.  The day after I posted in November, I found alyssum and pansies still alive, and my hanging basket petunia (that basically drowned in torrential rains in September) was trying to come back!

Temperatures higher than normal....sunshine....and NO SNOW...until last Thursday.

We didn't get much snow, and it hung around a few days.  We had some cold nights too, into the teens.  But guess what?  The alyssum that was covered by snow is still alive, and so are those pansies.

As it is almost dark when I go to work and when I come back home, these are not the most recent photos but will give you the general idea of my pansies....

 My alyssum looked this good until a few days ago.
And it isn't an official flower, but my flowering cabbage is looking pretty good, too.

As I write this, the temperature is 50 degrees!

When I read today's May Dreams Gardens post I just had to need to post pictures of brown, dead plants this month.  Or houseplants. (I'll save the story of how I killed my Christmas cactus until next GBBD.)

And one more thing...reading about May Dream's flowering hellebore, I ran out into the night to check my plant out.  I had planted a hellebore, for the first time, this past spring.  Alas, no flowers or buds.

But the plant sure looks good.

Will I actually have an outdoor flower to post in January?

Happy GBBD.  Do you normally have snow and are snowless right now?  Is your late fall weather unusual?

I can't wait to virtually visit some of your gardens.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Winter Wednesday - Oh Owego O Tannenbaum

Back in November, we visited Owego, the "Coolest Small Town in America", which was devastated in the floods caused byTropical Storm Lee in early September.  Owego is about 20 miles west of Binghamton and is noted for a number of things - historical homes, a lovely town square, some pretty cool gift shops, and just plain friendly people.

At the Tioga County Historical Society, there is a yearly display and auction of Christmas trees in an event called O Tannenbaum.  This is a silent auction of donated trees, wreaths and more.  (This year, due to the flood, only the tree decorations were supposed to be auctioned-not the trees themselves-although that is not what the website is now saying, so maybe that has changed.)

This year the auction closes on Saturday, December 17, and proceeds will go towards the museum's flood recovery.
Some of my pictures are a bit blurry, because I didn't want to use my flash inside the building.
How would you like to win this tree?

Or these?

Or this.

(the one wreath picture I took was just too blurry-sorry about that.)

Many people volunteered in the flood recovery and their hard work made it possible to have the auction this year.  As far as salvaging the museum contents, a lot of hard decisions had to be made and, quite honestly, a lot of items were lost.

But with this auction, flood recovery will continue - and, it is not too late to put in your own bid.

Happy holidays!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Recovery and the Seeds of Renewal

Our flood here in upstate NY vs.....the tsunami in Japan.

No comparison.

I read this article in the Wall Street Journal with total disbelief and awe....and admiration.  And a few other feelings.  Read this article and see greatness in action.  Love, sacrifice, trust, unbelievable hard work, faith, and a comeback against unbelievable odds.  If someone had written this story as a novel, no one would have believed it.

And, on another level, I connected with this mayor's children.  I lost my mother when I was 12 (and not from a horrible disaster, either.)  My heart goes out to them.  I want to reassure them that things will be better one day.

So much work left to do.  But, Mr. Toba, you have a fan in Westover.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Land of the Midnight Dark

We are almost at the winter solstice.  We have about 4 more minutes to lose here in upstate NY.  But thankfully, we have an actual day - a sunrise, sunshine (sometimes) and finally the sun goes down.

I've always wondered what it is like to have no sunlight at all, for perhaps months on end.  I don't think the 24 hour days of late spring and early summer would ever make up for it.

And what about the native people in these areas?  What are their lives like?  What are their hardships, their joys?  How does the long winter, the swing between lots of sun and lots of dark, color their lives?

In August, I got a small glimmer of that life, in a YA book Blessing's Bead by Debbie Dahl Edwards. 

This is where a post that started out talking about the midnight dark turns....much darker.

The author of Blessing's Bead has now written a YA sequel called My Name is Not Easy.  The story, which has some biographical elements from her husband's life, takes place in the early 1960's.  The book shows that coping with the long dark is the least of the worries of a teenaged boy growing up in Alaska torn between two cultures.  Some of his experiences are harrowing and others are hard for us to understand.   But they all happened to natives of Alaska during that time period, a shameful period in our country's history.

The dark of their lives was not caused by the midnight dark.

What happens, for example, when a growing boy is prohibited from speaking his native language during the school year at his boarding school (beaten if he is found speaking his native language) and then goes home for the summer?  What happens when his younger brother is taken from his family by those same school authorities and sent to Texas to live with a white family?  What happens when the boy is the unwitting subject of a medical experiment performed by our government?

The story ends before the boy is grown, but a quick search of the Internet gives a peak into what happened to those men and women as adults.  It isn't pretty.

Once again, a YA book tackles a subject that deserves to be more well-known.

I will never think of the midnight sun in the same way again.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Civil War Sunday - Soldier Monuments

So many towns and cities in the United States have these monuments - the Binghamton, NY area of upstate NY is no exception.  Our local paper ran an interesting article on local monuments today.  So, inspired by that....

I don't have a good photo of the Binghamton Soldiers and Sailors monument on the lawn of the Broome County Courthouse so instead I will link to someone who does.

In Owego, NY, about 15 miles west of Binghamton, is one of the better known monuments.

This is another angle of the Tioga County Civil War memorial.

This is part of the Civil War monument in downtown Portland, Maine at 1 Monument Square.
Another angle of the Portland monument.

I plan to expand my collection of Civil War monument pictures in the coming years.  Stay tuned.....

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Buying Dilemma

It's a very popular thing right now to "Buy American":  we must maintain our manufacturing base, and save jobs for Americans.  Most of us, in this Christmas shopping season, have received email pleas from friends and relatives.  I've been trying to "buy local" (or at least "Made in the U.S.A.") for several years now.

But sometimes the choice is hard.

When we visited the State of Maine back in September, we were impressed by the pains the people of Maine took to promote items "made in Maine".  There were a number of stores in the Portland and Brunswick, ME areas specializing in Maine-made merchandise:  everything from mustard to Poland Springs water and vodka to blankets to balsam pillows to toothpaste.  Supermarkets featured local foods and beverages in special displays.

But we also found that enough of the merchandise in a Maine institution, Renys, was not made in the U.S.A.

Too many times now, people who want to do right by their fellow Americans face a choice:

Buy merchandise not made in the United States from a local business?

Or buy American from a national chain?

I've wanted to "buy local" in light of the devastating floods that hit our part of upstate NY in September but I am finding that choice isn't so simple.

On Black Friday, we found an area rug in our local Kohl's, on a great sale, and proudly made by Mohawk in the U.S.A.

But in a local gift store in nearby Owego, a town hard hit by the flood, we tried our best to replace Christmas ornaments destroyed in the flood - and found that the majority of the ornaments - and all the patriotic ornaments - were made in China.

Should we have skipped the rug because it was being sold by a large national chain? (no, we bought it.)

Should we have passed on the China-made Christmas ornaments? (this one was harder but we did buy some.)

What about the local Home Depot?  National chain, blocks from our house, hit hard by the flood of September 8, reopened the day before Thanksgiving.  On Black Friday we were there at 5:05 a.m., passing under a sign saying "Welcome Back, Friends!".  The store was mobbed, and I would bet that some of those employees welcoming us had lost their homes in the flood.  They would have lost their jobs, too, if Home Depot had "hung it up".  (we still try to buy in a locally owned hardware store when possible but some of those Black Friday specials were irresistible.)

These decisions come nearly every day.  Today, I needed a new dish drainboard - and I ended up buying a made in U.S.A. product from Sterlite, in a national chain store (Target). The price was slightly higher than the Rubbermaid (made in China) but I gladly paid it.  But still, it wasn't from a small business. 

In other words, this decision - like so much in life - isn't that simple.  All I can hope is that I make the right decisions with my hard earned shopping dollars.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Berlin Boxing Club

More and more, as the years pass, I find myself gravitating to young adult fiction.

It just isn't the stories of boys and girls "coming of age".  It's that I find an amazing range of literature, from the now-popular dystopias, to historical fiction.

I usually don't do "book reports" in my blog but when a book really moves me, I have to write about it.

Right now I am reading a historical fiction piece called "The Berlin Boxing Club" by Robert Sharenow.  Once I finish this book, I am going to hunt down other books by this author.

"The Berlin Boxing Club" works on so many levels.  The amount of research the author did is obvious.

On one level, this is the coming-of-age story of a teenaged Jewish boy growing up in 1930's Berlin.  Hitler has consolidated his power, and every day comes new horrors and new challenges for the Jews of Nazi Germany.  As a student of history, I know what is going to happen, and can hardly restrain myself from jumping to the end of the book and seeing if the boy and his family survive.

The teenager finds himself thriving in the world of amateur boxing (although he wisely hides his Jewish identity) he entered after a bullying incident.  Again, the author has done his homework.  All the details of the boxing world ring (no pun intended) with authenticity.  A historical figure, Max Schmeling, moves in and out of the book as one of the characters.

On still another level - the boy is a talented cartoonist, and the book features his illustrations and cartoons.  He keeps detailed notes on the boxers he fights against, and draws their moves.  He also draws cartoons to keep the spirits of his younger sister high.  But his father, an art dealer, does not approve of this "low" form of art.

On a final level, the book deals with prejudice within the world of hated minorities, as the Jewish boy must work through the hatred of homosexuals he has picked up through the attitudes of society around him.  To his disgust, he finds that one of his father's best customers is a homosexual - and must face the possibility that his father is one, too.  Or is he?

I have confidence that however this book ends, I am going to enjoy every minute of the experience.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

National Brownie Day!

Today's thank you is to the blog Depression Cookies, and a post about brownies and National Brownie Day.

Did you know December 8 is National Brownie Day?  I didn't.

Brownies are my favorite baked good.  I am not noted for my cooking or my pastry chef skills. But I can whip up a pretty mean brownie.  So can you.

Brownies forgive almost everything except overbaking.  You can sneak whole wheat flower in and no one will ever know.  You can substitute applesauce for some of the butter.  You can add walnuts, pecans or almonds.  Or, you can add chips.  Both chocolate chips and peanut butter chips will work.  Add some pureed banana?  Sure!  Mint?  White Chocolate?  Why not?  Either frosted or non-frosted works (I prefer unfrosted).

(and, of course, you can even use a ......mix!)

I treasure memories I have of baking brownies with my son, who is now a young adult.  Years ago, I was able to send away for a paperback of kid-friendly recipes from Gold Medal Flour. (I seem to remember it was free with some proofs of purchase).  I latched right onto the easy brownie recipe.  It's been years since I've made it but I seem to recall that all you had to do is melt chocolate chips and butter in the microwave.  You added your flour (I used 1/2 white unbleached and 1/2 whole wheat) and an egg, some vanilla, a pinch of salt.  You mixed, and then poured into an 8 x 8 cake pan and baked at 350 degrees.

It was a one bowl recipe, which I appreciated even more.

When he was really young , my son would do the measuring with my help (and, of course, try to steal chocolate chips behind my back.)  As he grew older, he was able to make this with little help. 

And, he still does some baking - although, he does use mixes.

I've lost the cookbook and I can't seem to find the recipe online.  But what I did find was this:

There are thousands of brownie recipes.  And even blogs devoted to brownies.

Does anyone remember this Gold Medal kids cookbook?  Does anyone have a treasured brownie recipe they used to make with their young children?  Or for their families?  Please feel welcome to post them in the comments.  Let's all celebrate.

Happy Brownie Day!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Learning About History and the 70th Anniversary of the Pearl Harbor Attack

I have blogged before about my belief that it is vital that our young people learn history.  For too many students, history is dead text in a deadly boring textbook.

It doesn't have to be that way.

One of the best ways to learn history is visiting the actual site, walking it, and listening to well-educated tour guides if they are provided.  Another "one of the best ways" is to talk to people who experienced the event.  Putting the two together is golden.

When I grew up, it was common for our fathers to be World War II veterans (my Dad was one).  Today, I can barely go a day without seeing a World War II vet's obituary in the newspaper.

Too soon, the last veteran will pass on, as will the last survivor of the Holocaust.  We are running a race against time.  Too many young people will never talk to an eyewitness of World War II. 

Today is the 70th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the event that caused the United States to enter World War II and shifted our foreign policy, perhaps forever. 

I've never been to Hawaii but a number of college students are getting that opportunity-traveling with veterans in a program that has been matching students with World War II and letting them visit battlefields together.

What a wonderful opportunity to experience history first hand.  These students will be some of the final ones who will be able to take advantage of this opportunity.  And the veterans benefit greatly too.

I know a couple of people who have been to Pearl Harbor, and visiting the memorials there have been a highlight of their lives.

Observe this anniversary well.   It will be one of the last where we can honor members of our "Greatest Generation".

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Change in Wildflower Wednesday

As we are out of our wildflower season here in upstate NY, I had several choices of what to do during the winter months for my Wednesday feature.  It's been fun taking the pictures that highlight each Wednesday post, but I think my readers are going to get awfully sick of pictures of bare trees and shriveled berries. (My photography skills aren't up to bird and mammal photography - not quite yet, anyway.)

What I've decided to do is change Wildflower Wednesday to Winter Wednesday.  In this way I can concentrate on anything that is related to Winter - including Christmas and other seasonal holidays of the winter.  Topics could include decorated trees, snow, blooming witch hazel, essays about nature or anything else that strikes my fancy and is related to winter.

The new format will be effective with next week's Wednesday post.  Tomorrow, I will write a post about the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  As someone with an interest in history, I just can't resist.

Come spring I may (or may not) return to wildflowers.

Happy winter (to us in the Northern Hemisphere).

Monday, December 5, 2011

We Can Run from Nature But We Can't Hide

In the Northeast United States, we now have another consequence of climate to deal with.

We try to insulate ourselves against Nature.  But we can't.  Try as we might, we are still a part of the natural world, even as we hunker down for winter in our (hopefully) well-heated homes.

Something that seems so insignificant to us - a terrible acorn crop - actually may end up having some pretty dire consequences to us living in the Northeast U.S. - and the newspaper sounding the alarm is the newspaper of the most urban city of the Northeast, the New York Times.

Get ready for an epidemic of Lyme Disease.

I've met two people (and the husband of another person) who have battled Lyme Disease.  It is amazing (and extremely frightening) to consider the havoc one tiny tick bite can cause.  One of these people, a former nurse, had to give up her profession and go on disability because of Lyme Disease.  Lyme Disease is no joke.

And if you think you are immune to ticks because you live in an urban environment - well, those people did, too.  If you are in the suburbs, or small cities like we are here in upstate NY, you are even in more danger.

My mother in law's lawn, in suburban NYC, is visited all the time by deer, as their visible droppings show.  And your yard may be, too.

Deer, hungry for food, may wander close to roads.  Some experts are fearful of increased deer/car collisions.  This is a concern for us when we travel NY 17 to and from my mother in law.  As winter draws to an end, we always see fair number of deer up on hillsides, trying to browse on what is left from the winter.  This year, it will be worse.   Hopefully we won't have to go down there too often, or at night.

Danger does not mean panic.  But, it will be interesting to see how this plays out.  Everything is interconnected in nature.  Even the human beings who try to insulate themselves from her.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Civil War Sunday - Lincoln's First "State of the Union" Address

150 years ago yesterday, December 3, 1861, was the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's first Annual Message.

The term "State of the Union Address" was not yet used.  And, the address came at the end of the year, which, in a way, is more logical than the way we do it now.  (How can you review something at its beginning?)

The actual contents of the speech can be viewed here.  Unlike the Gettysburg Address of November, 1863, this speech is rather long and rambling.

What did Lincoln talk about?

Well, the state of the Union was pretty dire.
11 states had seceeded and formed the Confederate States of America.
These states were at war with what was left of the Union.
The rebels had won a major victory back in July at Manassas, Virginia and another victory at nearby Ball's Bluff, VA in October. 
Jefferson Davis, a native of Kentucky (like Lincoln), and a former Secretary of War of the United States, had been elected the President of the Confederacy on November 6 of that year (although he had given his inaugural address back in February, it took him until November to be officially elected.) and on November 18, had issued his own President's Address. 
The Trent Affair brought the remaining United States to the brink of war with Great Britain (although it was resolved peacefully late that December.)

If sometimes the challenges of our present day seem overwhelming, we need only go back in time to 1861.  This NY Times blog (who also provided a couple of the links above) has a wonderful analysis of Lincoln's Annual Message.

What did I find impressive about this address?  The fact that Lincoln continued to look forward even as the Union was in great peril of staying divided.  We needed a Department of Agriculture and Lincoln proposed one.  Our judical system had outgrown our country, and circuit courts either needed to be provided to all, or abolished all together.

The Union budget was balanced (in fact, there was a surplus.).

Lincoln had some interesting comments regarding labor and capital, comments that have relevance today.

Lincoln also proposed a solution to the slavery problem which will surprise some.

What Lincoln was fighting for was a future where the population of the reunited United States had reached 250 million people (noting that Lincoln believed that event would happen in the lifetimes of some in the audience.)  This didn't happen until sometime in 1991

Regardless of your political views (and I try to remain neutral in my writings although I am a Northerner) one must ask:  How many of our present day politicians can look forward that far ahead with that type of vision?

We count ourselves fortunate that Americans of the 1860's could.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Dear Gardens in Winter

May Dreams Gardens gave me the inspiration for this open letter to my gardens as we head towards winter here in upstate NY.

Dear Gardens (both my flower garden at home and spouse's veggie garden at the Otsiningo Community Garden) in Winter:

This has been the strangest, mildest November and now December I've experienced in some 25 years of living in the Binghamton, NY area.  The outside beckons with frosty mornings, followed by (sometimes) sunshine.  And then....the sun goes down at 4:30 pm.  Darkness.  At least in December we have the Christmas lights to brighten those nights. 

Don't you feel the strangeness of the weather, too, in some way?  Things just aren't right.  And I hope that we can weather this together.

It is so tempting to plant something but I know it is the time for my gardens to hibernate.  At least it is according to the calendar. 

Please be gentle to my sleeping plants, Winter.  If really cold weather comes, please cover my gardens with a blanket of snow first.  Let that cold also keep the insects that feed on my plants from multiplying too rapidly.  The ecology in this area demands snow, although I personally would be most happy if I didn't have any to shovel or to walk/slide in.

And no ice.  Please.  My sister in law fell on the ice last year and hit her head.  I fell and hurt my back.  Ice is beautiful and deadly.  It hurts my garden plants.  Please, no ice.

Please do not allow my shrubs and trees to wake up too early from their winter sleeps.  Don't let their tender buds be frozen.  We need those flowers and leaves to brighten our spring.

Please let the Old Farmer's Almanac be wrong about our coming spring.  If it is right, we are going to have a cold, miserable spring.  Please do what you can, Gardens in Winter, to make sure that doesn't happen.

Preserve my tulip bulbs from the rabbits, too.

And finally, Gardens in Winter, please send many seed catalogs my way. (I know that isn't part of your job but please help me out here.)  In the dead of winter, before the later sunsets start to kick in, and when the wind blows and the snow swirls, those seed catalogs will keep me going with their promise of spring.

Yours truly,

Friday, December 2, 2011

Recovery, Westover Style

Recovery lifts the spirit.  Slowly but surely, recovery in my neighborhood hit by Tropical Storm Lee September 8 progresses.  I feel so much for those in California and elsewhere being struck by weather disaster this week; my heart goes out to them because I know how much work is ahead of them.

To them I say:  it will be hard, but many people are pulling for you - and trust me, many people here know so much better than I do.

When your neighborhood is no longer filled with closed businesses, it makes the holiday season brighter.

Last Wednesday, the Home Depot in my neighborhood of Westover near Johnson City, NY reopened.

Wednesday, the Greek House restaurant in my neighborhood reopened.  For three months a sign reading "Sam Will Be Back!" was in the front window.  Sam is back, and the parking lot is crowded.

Yesterday, the Number 5 restaurant in nearby Binghamton, in a historic building, reopened.  The Advance Auto Parks near the Vestal Rail Trail, where I exercise walk, has also reopened.

This, of course, isn't to say all is rosy.  For example, close to the Wegmans supermarket in Johnson City (about a mile from the Greek House), there was a lot of flooding.  One of the casualties was a storage facility.  (This picture was taken a month or so after the flood, which is a sign of just how bad the damage was.)

Today I found out some of the units (not necessarily the ones I took a picture of from the Wegmans parking lot) were rented by Binghamton's Toys for Tots, and some $20,000. worth of toys were destroyed in addition to $10,000. in other supplies.

Tomorrow, there will be a benefit concert for our local Toys For Tots.   The bar the concert is being held in is located in one of the worst hit areas of Binghamton.

And finally, there is a tiny mystery at the former BAE plant across the street from the Greek House restaurant in my Westover neighborhood.  In November, BAE announced they would not be returning to the flood stricken facility that employed some 1300 people..  But in the past several days, people are obviously working there again.   One end of the building has some activity, there are cars parked in one of the parking lots, and yesterday I saw (on my way to work) a Pepsi truck parked in front of the building, with a man unloading cases of something.

In my November post, I called the BAE "recovery" the Long Goodbye that started September 8.  Looks like, although there is no permanent recovery, that particular goodbye is not yet final.

Life goes on.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Adventures in Spam

Sometimes depending on my mood, I just plain enjoy spam-email spam, that is.  If it is safely caught in my spam folder, that is.  I use a "junk" mail free address for anything where I have a suspicion spammers will get hold of it.  So, I check in there every several days just in case something legit is in the spam folder. 

So, shall we check into today's spam folder catch?

Let's see.  Amazingly, no "male enhancement" type emails.  Since I'm not a male, I have no idea why spammers, for years, have thought I'm a "he".  Or, the invitations to join Facebook, but the "a" is a different vowel and the "e" is a "k".

6 spams hawking Swiss replica watches.
1 spam specifically hawking Rolexes.
(must be holiday time).

Someone wants me to "Escape to Cancun!"  In another month, I may want to.....

Still another email implores me to "Burn Away Fats!"

There's an invite for me to join a senior dating community.  OK, my age may contain a "6" (and I don't mean the second digit)  soon, but I am not ready for Seniorhood.

And, last but not least: There's a  "Money Transfer Notice" beginning "Dear Beneficiary".  That's so 1996!  Better try harder!

But, what I am NOT enjoying is blogging spam.  I'm not hit that hard by commenting spam - knock on wood, Blogger right now is doing a pretty good job on the obvious ones.  For less obvious ones, this blog post has a collection that will bring tears to your eyes if you don't blog, and knowing nods if you do. I don't seem to get too much of that, either, but I may have accidentally deleted a genuine comment or two that seemed to be that kind of spam.  If one of those was your comment, I apologize.

But even worse is a relatively recent development - referrer spam.

I never click on links in my stats - and you shouldn't either.  Ever.

This type of spam isn't funny at all.

Are you having problems with referrer spam?  Or have any email spams that have tickled your funnybone?