Saturday, November 30, 2013

Sustainable Saturday - Small Business Saturday

Black Friday, the huge shopping day in the United States, is over.

Black Friday, the day after the Thanksgiving holiday in our country, belongs to the big retailers here in the States - Wal-Mart, Target, Macy's, Kohl's, Bed, Bath and Beyond/Christmas Tree Shop, plus online retailers such as  Sales start earlier and earlier each year.  Online, they now start days before.

You can get some real bargains (or some bargains that only seem like great bargains), and sometimes the bargain hunting gets violent.

In contrast - Saturday is Small Business Saturday.  It only dates from 2010 but is gaining in popularity.  Why not spend some of that Black Friday money supporting local businesses?

Ironically, Small Business Saturday was started by a large company, American Express.

Last year, we had a fun time shopping at the "Binghamton North Pole", including Fresh Start Market, Country Additions Gift Shop and got several Christmas gifts at local businesses. At Country Additions we found some gifts made in the United States, including some from right here in New York State.

This year, due to circumstances, we won't have much time to participate but still hope to make it to Binghamton's locavore store, Old Barn Hollow tomorrow, and other local businesses in the coming weeks.  (Full disclosure, I also do shopping on Black Friday.  And, in fact, I had a very nice experience with Amazon Customer Service - I will share more next week.)

If you celebrate Christmas, where will you do your holiday shopping?  Or, will your gifts be homemade?

Friday, November 29, 2013

Best of AM Black Friday-Is Local Always Best?

This is a slightly reworked post I first wrote in December of 2011, three months after devastating floods hit portions of upstate New York. I reran it Black Friday, 2012.  I thought this would still be appropriate for today, Black Friday.  Sadly, the buying dilemma - local business selling imported goods vs. national business selling local goods - still continues.

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.  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 two years ago, 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 2011, 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, 2011; 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.

Is buying local important to you?  If you have the choice between imported merchandise in a local store or local merchandise in a large chain store, what do you do?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Least of Us

Today is the American Thanksgiving. 

My spouse and I have both been busy in the kitchen the last few days. Later today, we will have our son over.  Apple crisp-check. Pumpkin pie-check. Homemade cranberry sauce- check. These are my contributions.  Spouse is working hard on our turkey right now.

Warm home - check.   All three of us employed - check.

But, there are too many people who can't check off these items.  Food pantries are bare. Food assistance programs in our country are being slashed.  My son was laid off from his job just after Thanksgiving, last year. (Fortunately, he was rehired early this year.)

Hunger exists in many places in our world, not just in our great United States.

On this day of giving thanks we should pause.  Those of us who are fortunate enough to have jobs and family, and a warm home should take the time to think of those who don't.
This is taken from a post from 2010.

In a trip several years ago to Americus, Georgia, we visited Habitat for Humanity headquarters.   This worthy organization is well known for its support of decent, affordable housing both in this country and overseas. 

Besides the headquarters, on the grounds, were examples of what can be done with little.

The first two pictures are recreations of representative "before" pictures.  The final picture shows Habitat for Humanity housing solutions.  All solutions are sensitive to native cultural requirements.  For example, where a culture would encourage a family to live in one common room, that is what Habitat will build for them.

Clustered around some of the "after" examples were people visiting from other countries, examining the exhibits closely.

There are many things I am thankful for this year.  Our health. The fact that my spouse was able to have two cataracts operated on using modern technology.  The ability to spend Thanksgiving in a warm house scented with roasting vegetables and turkey.

What are you thankful for?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Fall Fancies - The First Day of Winter and NaNoWriMo Check In

Yesterday, winter arrived-not on the calendar, but in our weather. We've had snow already, but this was the real deal-a winter storm advisory, some accumulation, the threat of icy weather, and scenic beauty.  One storm down, many to go.

We lucked out compared to a lot of other parts of the country.  Today, it is supposed to get nasty later in the day.

Enjoy these pictures from yesterday.  Doesn't snow look wonderful if you don't have to be out in it?

The vacant BAE plant in Westover, near Johnson City, New York. Even a vacant building (what looks like lights in the building is a reflection) can look nice in snow.  With any luck, the remains of the plant may be torn down by this time next year.  Want to bet?  I don't.

In downtown Binghamton, New York, the snow looked nice on bushes.
Snow looked just as nice on a potted evergreen.

It's beginning to look a lot like - winter. And, the end of NaNoWriMo, the 50,000 word writing project that ends November 30.  My "writing buddies", all but one, have "won" (i.e. reached their 50,000 goal). One is even editing her manuscript!

Meanwhile, still fighting distractions, I am now over 44,000 words and now I am running up on Thanksgiving.

Pressure....but I will persevere.  I will.

I will wish all of my readers, no matter where they live, a wonderful rest of November.  I may do a live post on Thursday, for Thanksgiving.

What's the weather like where you live?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Best of AM- A Story for the Birds

We are getting snow this morning, and it isn't even part of a winter storm watch we are under.  It's going to be a mess, literally.

Right now, I am at 42,217 words towards my 50,000 NaNoWriMo goal - so I am featuring (unedited) the story of a local artist I first published in November, 2009- one who, I am happy to say, is still making his art.  (Photos of his art were taken by permission.)  Please enjoy this encore post while I continue to labor on my NaNoWriMo Work in Progress.

Tomorrow, I promise a "live" post.

A story of the Art Studios Open House in Susquehanna County, PA
It took me a while to post this, but I wanted to share the story and art of one the artists I visited this year. 

The artist is Tom Richie  He's a wood carver....and someone alive due to a heart transplant.  He took up carving in the "bad days" before his new heart became available, and still keeps very busy now.  His house is an amazing collection of his art, and Tom graciously permitted me to take pictures of some of his carvings.  (the rooster isn't his, and as I recall, the paintings aren't his either.)  The artistic arrangement of the pieces was as wonderful as the carvings themselves.

This is the point at which I wish I had won the lottery, and could have bought many of these.



What I wasn't able to get was pictures of his bird feeder, alive with several different species of woodpeckers and various songbirds.

What an amazing place to live.

After some wonderful conversation with Mr. Richie, we left, but I hope we will be back one day.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Best of AM -Koinonia Farms and Social Justice in Georgia

Here, with a slight bit of editing, is a post from November 30, 2010.

The deep South state of Georgia.  Land of plantations, flowering cherries, southern belles, a long history of slavery followed by more years of racial inequality, and......

Jimmy Carter?

Habitat for Humanity?

One of the "birthplaces" of the movements for racial equality?

What is special about this area around Americus?  How did it give birth to champions of racial equality, of service to mankind?

Sometimes, things just aren't what they seem to be.  Thanks to owners of a bed and breakfast in Americus, we saw something fascinating.

Off of Highway 49 near Americus is a rural community by the name of Koinonia.   In the 1940's, two families founded a Christian community.  Their neighbors were mainly black sharecroppers and tenant farmers.  At first, the community was welcome.  But later, because of their preaching of racial equality and a seeking of partnership of black and white in active living of their Christian beliefs, they were rejected by their white neighbors.

So rejected that they had to resort to mail order in order to sell their produce.  Even today, you can mail order pecans, chocolate and other goodies from them.

I am told that some of their peanuts go into major brands of peanut butter.  So, you may have eaten their peanuts growing up, and even now.

During the 1950's, Koinonia withstood attacks from white supremest organizations, something that deserves the label of "terrorism".  Many families left.  The story, told from the Koinonia viewpoint, is on their website.

Habitat for Humanity grew from this movement, but I am told that the story is a bit more complex than the way it is described on Koinonia's website.   I will not pass judgment on that.

So what did we see when we visited Koinonia back in March?  We dropped in totally uninvited and after some waiting around were welcomed by a young man.  (If you visit, please keep in mind that this is a working Christian community, not a tourist attraction!)  He gave us a brief tour of the grounds, showing us the pecan groves. We spent a lot of time in the harvesting shed.  We were shown the machinery, including some with modifications created by the group and chatted for a bit.  The young man patiently answered our questions.

Much of the harvesting of the pecans is done by volunteers.  We were invited to come back for harvest time.

I would not call it a "commune"-that word has certain undertones that do not apply here.  This is a very deeply religious community. Their co-founder, Clarence Jordan, wrote what today is called the "Cotton Patch gospel".  (The Cotton Patch Gospel is a retelling of the Gospel according to Matthew, as if it had taken place in Southern Georgia.  It remains controversial in some communities.)  The bed and breakfast we stayed in had a VHS tape which would have given us more information, but we did not have time to view it.

They follow organic practices where possible.  Not all products they sell are theirs but, for example, their chocolate is Fair Trade, pursuant to their beliefs in social justice.

We were invited to stay for lunch with the other farm residents, which we declined.   If I had been more religious I may have accepted.  But we did buy paper shell pecans, which are a treat we can not buy up here in upstate New York.

Koinonia has a nice holiday catalog, and they ship.  If you enjoy nuts, social justice, and a slice of Georgia many people are totally unaware of, please consider looking at their catalog.  You would be supporting a fascinating piece of Southern history.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Civil War Sunday - The Battle Above the Clouds

The Battle Above the Clouds.  Such a poetic name.

Lookout Mountain, in Northern Georgia near the Tennessee border, today is the home of several tourist attractions. These include Ruby Falls, Rock City, and the ride I chickened out of (after seeing how steep it was) in my only visit to Lookout Mountain, in 2006, the Incline Railway.

You can see seven states, on a clear day, from the top of Lookout Mountain:  Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Alabama.   Now, think of a battle being fought on this steep mountain, some 2392 feet tall, near Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Several times a year, a special weather phenomena occurs at Lookout Mountain, where clouds form at the base and travel up the mountain.  This happened on November 24, 1863, and the resulting battle is called The Battle Above the Clouds.

One Union artillery man from Illinois wrote, "It seemed like a fire and cloud capped Sinai". 

You don't think of bloodshed and suffering at all when you think of a battle above the clouds.  You think of heavenly beauty.

Union General Grant wrote in his memoirs:

"The Battle of Lookout Mountain is one of the romances of the war. There was no such battle and no action even worthy to be called a battle on Lookout Mountain. It is all poetry."
A man whose great-great grandfather died in this battle blogs about its personal meaning to him.

Read the descriptions of the battle in the links above, and form your own conclusion.

What I think about is something a bit more personal - what happened on the 100th anniversary of this battle, November 24, 1963. Our President had been assassinated just two days before, and on November 24, the man who was accused of killing him was himself gunned down before he could be tried in a court of law.  Shortly after, the body of our President was moved to our Capital rotunda to lie in state while the public was able to file past and pay their final respects.

I saw it live on television when I was 10, as it was happening, and I was able to see it again today on a livestream of the recorded coverage.  I was struck by TV commentators mentioning how people from all over the country had traveled, some driving for many hours, to be able to see Kennedy lie in state.  Those whose ancestors fought for the Union, perhaps, and others whose ancestors fought for the Confederacy, came together in Washington, DC that day to file past a coffin.

I can only hope our country never faces another War like the war of 150 years ago, nor another national tragedy such as the assassination of a President.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Sustainable Saturday-The Dilemma of the Ginkgo

Last year, some streets in downtown Binghamton, New York were rebuilt and re landscaped. This spring, I noticed that some of the young trees planted were ginkgos.

Ginkgoes are not extremely popular here in Binghamton.  I see more of the trees up in Ithaca, and I saw a good number in Iowa City when I used to visit my late aunt.  This was back in the 1980's and 1990's and I can remember them on the University of Iowa campus.  I've also seen them in New York City.

The ginkgo tree is also called the Maidenhair tree.  It is an almost indestructible tree.  In Japan they are known as the "bearer of hope" as a number of them survived the 1945 atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima. One of the surviving trees is some 200 years old.
The leaves turn a lovely yellow in the fall, too.  But before you rush out to buy this wonderful tree, there is something you should know.

The females produce a seed, surrounded by a pulp.  Fortunately, there is no such thing as "smell o blog" because you would be gagging just about now.  Some people say the smell resembles the smell of vomit.  Others say dog poo.  I tend towards the dog poo camp.

That patch of fallen leaves on the West Side of Binghamton, to be accurate, reeks.

This is what the offending (bare) tree looked like in early November, the offending fruits barely visible.

Yes, dear readers, this is the same Gingko Biloba that some claim enhances your memory, and may have other medicinal qualities.

Many cities were playing it safe by permitting only male trees.  But nature has a way, folks (as anyone who has seen the movie Jurassic Park knows), and it would seem that some of those male trees are now - well, they aren't males any more.

And these cities who planted these wonder trees now wonder what to do.

I wonder if the tree I photographed on the West Side of Binghamton started its life as a male.

Will the City of Binghamton have to face that dilemma in a few year when those small downtown trees mature and perhaps....well, stink?

Have you had this problem where you live?

Friday, November 22, 2013

50 Years Ago, 50 Years Later

Fifty years ago today, I was 10 years old and innocent.

For an entire generation, that day defined us here in the United States:  the day President Kennedy was assassinated.  We can all tell you, we people of my generation, exactly where we were and what we were doing.

So can another generation for December 7, and still another generation who remembers January 28 (the date in 1986 that the Challenger exploded.) For my son's generation, the day to remember is September 11.

So where were we on November 22, 1963?  And how did we find out about the assassination?

We interrupt this blog for an important announcement: The amazing part of technology is that, starting at 1:40 pm Eastern Standard Time (the time CBS programming was interrupted by the first news bulletin), you can all find out, as CBS streams their nonstop coverage through Kennedy's funeral on November 25, 1963.

CBS will also tweet coverage under hashtag #JFK50, and share on Facebook, all methods that would have been science fiction to the people in 1963.

We can read about the events of November 22, 1963 from the perspective of a British newsman.

Finally, a lot of online resources are popping up with source material, including new audio and video, in connection with the Kennedy presidency and assassination.

And now, back to our blog.

For my spouse, in elementary school, the school announced it just shortly before the school bus boarding time.  My spouse was in the school library waiting for the bus.

Me, I was home with a broken leg (being home instructed by the NYC schools).  My mother had left me to go shopping and came back, sobbing.  She turned on the TV and that's how I found out.

But my generation is fading away and the December 7 "greatest generation" loses more and more of its members daily. The January 28 generation also will fade.  And yes, even September 11, 2001.  Time is the one thing common to all of us mortals.  It moves too quickly, the older you get. 

The sad thing is, for my son's children, is that there will come a day to remember, too.

So today and this weekend we can relive that not so wonderful day of yesteryear.  

(Speaking of reruns: This is a partial rewrite of a blog post from a past November 22 anniversary, updated.)

What day defined the childhood of your generation in your country? What terrible thing happened that day? (It is sad, isn't it - we don't remember the wonderful things the way we remember the terrible things.)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Best of AM - One Day I May Dance

This post is from December of 2009, when I was recovering from a back injury.  I still suffer from back injuries, but I have been doing well recently - let's hope that continues.

Now, my post:

This holiday season I have been granted the gift of movement.

I am back to water aerobics, 2nd class in a row, although I still can't do all the movements. I do the best that I can and it is so wonderful to move in the water once again.  The exercise class is almost empty this time of year, which is good for me.

 My physical therapist has now given me a number of exercises to do, to relieve pain, to start the process of strengthening my abdominal muscles, and now, to try to stretch my right leg so I can straighten it without pain.   She had me on the treadmill today, and had me do a stretching exercise with a long belt.

January 6 I get results of my MRI and maybe then I will know why I am still having the issues I am having.  Or maybe the surgeon will tell me that the MRI didn't show anything.

I remember the joke about the man asking his surgeon if he'll be able to play the piano after his surgery, the surgeon says "of course you will" and the man says "that's funny, I can't play it now".  I have never danced.  I was born with two left feet.  I envy the people on Dancing with the Stars who can turn and spin and do all those movements.  But maybe, when I emerge from this back problem stuff, I will be able to dance.

Or maybe regular moving around will feel like dance.  Because now I know what it is like to be in such pain one can barely move.

So now I am grateful for my everyday walking, and for being able to get back into the pool.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Fall Fancies - A Rare Weekend

We had a rare weekend in upstate New York this past weekend. Saturday, we had a day in the mid 50's (about 12 Celsius) and sunny.  Sunny days are not common here in November, as lake effect clouds tend to dominate the sky.

The remaining patches of snow were melting as we walked.

By next weekend, this mild weather may be a distant memory.
On the Vestal Rail Trail, apples against a clear blue sky.
This picture was taken near my home in upstate New York, in Westover, near Johnson City.  Little Choconut creek, like the local rivers, was a still mirror.
On the Vestal Rail Trail, berries against brown starkness.
A woolybear catepillar headed across the walking trail.  I wonder what it is trying to say about the upcoming weather, if anything. Research now suggests their coloration comes from what happened the winter before.
And Sunday, dandelions were blooming in Binghamton.

Our weekend weather forecast is for highs in the mid 30's (1 or so Celsius). But at some point, winter will establish itself.

What is your weather like this week?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Best of AM - Back to Remembering the U.S.S.R.

One of my favorite pastimes is finding magazines from the World War II and Cold War era (especially World War II). This was a nice find at the Ithaca, NY library book sale in 2009, my first year of blogging. 

The Ithaca, New York book sale, held twice a year, is one of the largest in the country.  They usually have some boxes of old Life, Look and other older magazines.  Sometimes they are musty, but they are always a treat for people like me to read.  The next sale is in May, and I hope I can make it up there.

The original post can be found here.  Here is the post, slightly reworked.

Twice a year, I make my pilgrimage to the Ithaca Friends of the Library Book Sale.

If you aren't of a "certain age" you will not remember Life magazine (except maybe in the name "Time-Life" ). If you are of a certain age thinking of this magazine will bring back memories.

In a corner of the sale, I followed the musty smell and found a stack of old Life magazines. Many were heavily damaged but several were still in pretty decent condition. The subscribers (the mailing labels were still on the magazine, and they didn't belong to the same person) seemed to have a common interest in the space program - and in the Soviet Union.

Remember the Soviet Union?  The monolith that was the scariest part of my childhood - and crumbled in time for my son to be born?

The magazines were $1.00 each.  Pretty cheap history.

After some digging I found my little treasure - the March 29, 1943 "Special Issue USSR" with a picture of Joseph Stalin on the cover. Now keep in mind that I grew up during the Cold War, and did my share of Duck and Cover.  To this day, hearing the sirens calling out the volunteer fire department make me cold and scared for a quick second before I reassure myself that they aren't air raid sirens announcing the atomic end of the world as we know it.

Well, my inner historian reminded me that at this point in time the U.S.S.R was our ally (against Hitler). And sure enough I paged through the magazine and saw this article "Red Leaders. They are Tough, Loyal, Capable Administrators". Not exactly the, er, party line I would hear in my growing up. Other articles praised the accomplishments of the Soviet Union, and even the accomplishments of the Russia of the past 1,000. years.

Remember the U.S.S.R? Remember the Reds? Remember Communism? My now 22 year old son doesn't. He wasn't even two years old when the Soviet Union fell on Christmas Day, 1991. As for my generation, the Red Menace dominated our childhoods. What a difference a few years makes.

To my Cold War amazement, there was even an article "The Soviets and the Post-War" subtitled "A Former Ambassador to Moscow Answers Some Perplexing Problems". The author is one Joseph E. Davies, who famously supported the Soviet government even back in the 1930's, before we became allies.

One question asked of Mr. Davies was "Is Russian determined to pursue the cause of world revolution?" His answer began "In my opinion, no."

Seven years later, in the Joseph McCarthy era, this article may have been unprintable. The story of Joseph Davies is quite interesting, if this article is accurate.

For anyone interested in history, this was a great find.

Do you remember the Soviet Union?  Duck and Cover?  The Cold War?  Do you like old magazines for their glimpses of a world now gone?

Monday, November 18, 2013

NaNoWriMo Check in 11-18-13 - Never The Same Way Again

I am a little more than halfway through my NaNoWriMo memoir, An Insignificant Life: 26,306 words towards the goal of 50,000.

It hasn't been an insignificant struggle.  thought it would be harder to write fiction (like I did last year) than a memoir. I was wrong.

First, there are the constant distractions.  The second week is always hard, but it has been a nonstop fight with distractions I did not have in writing fiction.   I keep wanting to fact check and, although I know that now is NOT the time to fact check, there I am doing it. 

Some of the fact checking has been fascinating, but, again, now is not the time for that.

I am mentally exhausted.  My memory has so many holes in it, it is like a piece of disintegrating lace. The "why" of "why should I examine my life" is slipping just beyond my reach, laughing in my face from a safe distance. 

I try to listen to the inner voice when it whispers "you need to write about this particular memory" but other times, I just think of my NaNoWriMo writing buddies who have completed their 50,000 words, and feel a little bit of envy. I shouldn't, and I know this isn't a competition against my buddies.  So I will need to find a way to remotivate myself.  Even if I have to start a new WIP, that counts against the total.

I will never read a memoir again in the same way.  Last year, I said the same thing about fiction works.  I haven't even done all the work that goes into a novel yet.  I have never put any of my WIPS (works in progress, but I might as well call them Whips) through even the first editing process.

Until last year, I never knew writing was so much work.  I am not even reading the NaNoWriMo pep talks or going into the forums right now.  If I wanted to distract myself, I should at least be doing that!

So, I am behind where I should be - on day 18 I should have had 30,000 words written. My spouse's cataract surgery, and the four day Thanksgiving weekend, are almost here.  Last November, I even got sick and couldn't write for a day or so.  If that happens this year, I am finished and not a winner.

I haven't depended much on past posts for this blog yet, which I was going to do.  So I must implement "Plan B".  Be prepared to read some of my early posts.   I hope you enjoy them.

Are you in NaNoWriMo? How are you doing?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Civil War Sunday - Those Silly Words

On November 19, starting at 10am, there will be a ceremony at Soldier's National Cemetery, at Gettysburg Military Park, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

James Getty, a native of Illinois who is a Lincoln look alike and has been a Lincoln reenactor (if that's the right word) for years, will make the same short address that President Abraham Lincoln made 150 years ago November 19, at the dedication of the Soldier's National Cemetery.  There, some of of the 8,000-odd people who died at the Civil War's Battle of Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863, are buried. 

There are five known copies of the Address. Each is slightly different, and each has a slightly different word count, from 268 to 274 words.  The version below is the one most used.

These words speak for themselves.  There is nothing for me to add.

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

My one major disappointment, besides being unable to come to the commemoration myself, is that President Obama will not be attending the ceremonies.  Not all of us know that President John F. Kennedy turned down a similar opportunity to attend the 100th anniversary ceremony.  He went to Dallas, Texas instead.  However, our President participated in this video of various famous people, including all five living Presidents, reciting the address.

We Americans can poke fun, though, at even the most serious of things.  This week, a Pennsylvania newspaper retracted its 1863 criticism (calling the speech "silly remarks") of what may now be the most famous speech in U.S. history, and a satirical Saturday night program jumped right on it.

Here are a couple of Internet resources if you want to learn more:
Ken Burns
Civil War Trust

The world did "more than little note". Let us hope we long remember.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Sustainable Saturday - Binghamton's November Tomatoes

Come the beginning of November in Binghamton, in upstate New York, the outside Otsiningo Park Farmers Market moves indoors to a venue in downtown Binghamton. It's too bad on a day like today, sunny, with temperatures in the 50's (11 or 12 Celsius). (Don't worry, weather will turn more to the wintery side Monday.)

This morning, we needed eggs, so we made the trip downtown.
Metrocenter, where the indoor market sets up two Saturday mornings a month in the winter, has had a fascinating history. When I first moved to this area in the mid 1980's this was an indoor shopping mall.  It's changed owners multiple times.  In its current incarnation, it is mainly offices.  At least it is occupied, which it hasn't always been.

The entrance of Metrocenter, with an old historic church mirrored on the left side, beckoned.

As we entered, and looked for eggs, we saw.....tomatoes?  The merchant was Old Barn Hollow, our local locavore store, so we knew these were true local tomatoes.  The young lady who sold us several told us that Lone Maple Farms, outside of Binghamton, had closed for the winter and had sold their stock to the store.  Years ago, we would have grabbed a flat. But, we have too much going on this week in advance of my spouse's cataract surgery later in the week.  We did buy two tomatoes - something I would never do in August, but this isn't August.

Also available for sale in the market were lettuce, sunchokes, brussel sprouts, homemade breads, crafts, herbs, jellies, pork, stewing chickens (might have gotten one but our freezer is stuffed), beef, lamb, and goat.  A couple of vendors were taking turkey orders for Thanksgiving (November 28 this year in the United States.)
On of our favorite bakers had English muffins, in multigrain, honey whole wheat, cranberry, and wheatless.
Three seed crackers, made with whole wheat flour.
Winter squash-Carnival, Spaghetti, Butternut, and Acorn.

We will be enjoying those tomatoes later tonight.  Yum!  We have a lot to be grateful for, as Thanksgiving approaches.

What local foods are in season where you live?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - November 2013 Second Summer

November in the Binghamton area of upstate New York. A couple of days ago, there was snow on the ground and we also had a hard freeze earlier in the week. I was thinking to myself, "Well, there goes the chance to show off my outdoor flowers. Winter is here. Time for the indoor stuff."

Wrong.  And not wrong just because it got into the 50's (approximately 11 Celsius) today.  No, it's also because we said goodbye snow and hello to...
A sole survivor pansy...
...and some blurry alyssum.

But I do have some nice indoor flowers to show you!

Red Christmas cactus. 

Variegated leaf geranium from a hanging basket I am going to try to keep alive.


And one of my year round houseplants,Swedish ivy.

This is what my yard looked like on Wednesday.  The first snow of the year is gone but it won't be forgotten.

There will be lots more to come.

Happy Garden Bloggers Bloom Day! This meme, brought to you on the 15th of every month by Indiana blog May Dream Gardens, allows you to see gardens from all over the world. Please give their website a visit, check out the links, and see all of today's beauty worldwide!

What's blooming for you?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Best of AM - The Good Old Days That Never Were

A rerun - a post from November 8, 2009 with a different title. I'm working on my NaNoWriMo manuscript, so I apologize that not all of the links work.  I am writing a memoir, so...time to remember.  (My NaNoWriMo weekly check in, this week, will be Saturday.)


If you are the typical 50-something, you pass various joke emails back and forth....about aging, weight gain, and "how good it was in the 1950's". (Or, maybe in 2013, you use Facebook.)

There are the pictures taken from old black and white TV programming.

There are the quizzes you pass only if you know about Black Jack gum, wringer washing machines, and The Lone Ranger.

There are the "we got raised fine despite (name hygienic measure of your choice that didn't exist in our childhood)" stories.

Ah, those good old days.

Like memory, nostalgia is selective.

And the 1950's weren't just Howdy Doody, skate keys and green Coke bottles.  There's the stuff we forget.  And the stuff we don't really want to think about.

I sure remember the always present sores on my nose from those heavy glass framed glasses.  How thankful I am for modern technology. And for the blood pressure pills that save me from the fate of my grandmother.

My spouse remembers the boy next door, the one close to his age, the one who had a heart defect and never made it to adulthood.  As an adult I found out how his mother carried him to school because he was too big for a stroller, she didn't have a car and the school refused to provide transportation for him.  You see, there was no law protecting his rights to a free and appropriate public education.  That's just the way things were.

I remember when I was young, my parents (and me, indirectly) being discriminated against in housing because of our religion.  And how, as an adult, I got to read the papers of a house I was purchasing in Wichita, KS, and seeing how there was a pre-civil rights act "restrictive covenant" that would have prohibited a person of color, certain ethnic origins, or a Jewish person from purchasing it.

I remember how girlfriends interested in playing school sports were just plain out of luck.

I remember employment ads in the paper separated into "Help Wanted Male" and "Help Wanted Female".

I remember my father telling me about being stationed in Biloxi, MS during World War II and seeing the colored drinking fountain signs and worse.

I grew up knowing that my father, who suffered from epilepsy due to a head injury suffered in service to his country, found himself time and time again discriminated against when trying to look for work.  (Of course, this continues today, but at least there are laws that intend to protect against this.)  You see, in the early 60's his job was moved 700 miles away and he didn't want to uproot his family.  Yes, that stuff happened even then.

I know now that, in certain states, he could have been sterilized (although perhaps not by the 1950's), and you would not be reading this blog today if this had happened to him.

I remember that a former co-worker lost her mother in childbirth due to a health condition I was successfully treated for in my pregnancy, and my son and I are both alive today.  But her mother isn't.

I remember the man I met last month, alive because of a heart transplant. [2013 update-as of October, he was still alive.]

I won't even get into some of the "adventures" of my brother in law growing up, because people then just didn't understand (or care) about autism.  Nope, that wouldn't have made it to Leave it to Beaver.

Yup, those good old days of black and white.

Do I sound bitter?  If I do, I don't mean it.  I will be the first to admit there are things about the 50's that we would do well to still practice.  Like common courtesy to our fellow man.  Like patience, like not expecting things "instantly."  Like respect.  Like children being able to explore on their own, being able to spend time just daydreaming, not having every minute of their day planned and regimented by adults. 

But, we should not live in a past that never existed.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Fall Fancies - The Fall of BAE

Yesterday, here in Westover, near Johnson City New York, we had the first snow that stuck to the grass.  It's all part of a normal fall here in upstate New York. Today, we have snow on the sidewalks, our first measurable snow.  It's 21 degrees at the airport in Binghamton. With the wind chill, it feels like eight above.

I've taken many pictures around the former BAE plant in Westover, once one of the largest woodframe structures in the United States, empty of its 1300 workers, since a flood September 8, 2011.  This building, slowly rotting away, has become a favorite target of my photography, for some strange reason.

We will all be thankful when they finally tear the building down and eliminate what has become an eyesore in our community. (that will happen "one day").  But for now, here it is as a photography subject.

Yesterday morning, snow. (The trees are Bradford Pears.) I'm electing not to take pictures this morning-too cold!
Monday, by the light of the rising sun, and a different weather system.

Also yesterday - featuring the sun just rising above the building.

BAE had some nice landscaping, which is now being lost to weeds. But burning bushes still shine in the front.   They are bare now, but on Monday, this is what they looked like.

Finally, this is what one looked like the previous Monday, in the golden early sunlight.

Before fall turns into winter (this doesn't happen according to the calendar around here) I will bring you some more memories of fall color. 

What's happening with your weather?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What's in a Date?

11-12-13.  11-12-13.  I love it.

Apparently, a lot of other people feel the same way. Today was a day for getting married.  In Chinese culture, or so I've read,  today was especially lucky as the sum of 11, 12 and 13 is 9. Nine is a lucky number, and thousands of couples were supposed to marry today in the United States.  Normally Tuesdays are not a big wedding day.

Our last chance for this kind of sequential day for a while is 12-13-14 - December 13, 2014.  But, we have to keep in mind that not everyone writes dates the way we do in the United States - month, day, year is our style.  It isn't everyone's.

I learned that the hard way when I asked my then-manager, a Canadian citizen living in the United States, to buy me some Canadian food on his next trip home.  At the time, I was in love with ketchup flavored potato chips, easily available in Canada, but not (they are now, but not then) here in upstate New York.  I also asked him to pick up a box of Canadian Special K cereal.  At the time, American Special K factories had changed what the flakes looked and tasted like, but Canadian Special K cereal had the same look and taste that I remembered from my childhood.  My boss, used to my sometimes strange requests (I'll have to relate the BBQ incident one day-or maybe not), obliged.

When I got the box of Special K, I saw, to my horror, that it had expired.  The date was "8/10/06" (August 10, 2006 in U.S. notation) and it was already September.

I felt duty bound to tell my manager, who stared at me for a few seconds.  Then the light bulb went on and he hastened to explain.

I learned that the Canadian 8/10/06 was our 10/8/06 (October 8, 2006) and the box was fine.

But it could have been an international incident. 

So, if I told you today is 11/12/13, how would you read it?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day

Yesterday was the 48th anniversary of the untimely death of my mother.  I was raised after that point by my father, a single Dad who had to cope all the rest of his life with the aftermath of a head injury suffered (not in combat but in support) in his service in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II.  I've always been aware of how badly we sometimes (well, too many times) treat our veterans here in the United States.

Today, let us all take a moment out of our busy schedules to think of those who made this day possible for us.

Our veterans, past and present, deserve our thanks, and so much more.

As you look at these monuments, please take a moment to ponder the poem at the end of this post.

These are some memorials in our area of upstate New York.  I took the Endicott photos this past August - I wish things were that green here now!

 Endicott, New York, just down Main Street from where I live.

Veterans Memorial statue.
Plaques commemorating the war dead.  An American flag is kept,fresh, on each one.

The war memorials - World War II, which my father served in (in the Army Air Force) as did one of his brothers, and one of his sisters.

The Korean War. When I grew up it wasn't a "war", it was a "police action". But the people were just as dead.
The forgotten war, Vietnam, where our dead were dishonored and our veterans were mocked - a sad thing I will never forget. Both of my next door neighbor boys (growing up in the Bronx) served in 'Nam, as did other young men I grew up with.

Binghamton - part of the Korean War monument on the Broome County courthouse lawn.

And the Revolutionary War monument, also on the Courthouse lawn.

I am not a "poetry person" (although there are a couple of poets I do enjoy) but this poem always touches my heart. Written by a Canadian soldier in 1915 upon the battle death of his friend in Flanders, Belgium, during World War I.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
      Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie
         In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields.

John McCrae

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Civil War Sunday - The Civil War on Ice

Next Sunday, I will blog at length on the Gettysburg Address, possibly the most famous speech ever given in United States history.  We are coming up on the November 19, 1863 anniversary rapidly.

Which brings us to the...Bakersfield Condors?

The Condors are a ECHL (a tier below the American Hockey League) ice hockey team. It's been pointed out that Bakersfield didn't, technically, exist until after the Civil War (incorporated as a city in 1873). Tonight, the Condors will take to the ice, wearing team jerseys that commemorate the Gettysburg Address.  The jerseys were originally meant as a fund raiser. The team-worn jerseys will be auctioned off tonight after the game and they also ran a promotion for discount admissions if you donated a coat to a coat drive.  Veterans also can get into tonight's game free.

The jerseys are on reorder, and it isn't too late to order one. (Yours, for only $140.)

I don't quite know what to think, but this has made some sports news in our country in the last few days. I haven't followed major or minor league ice hockey in years, although was proud when Binghamton's team won the American Hockey League Calder Cup in 2011.

I think the jerseys are pretty good looking but I do groan at this ditty that will be published, supposedly, in tonight's game program: (to my foreign readers, I suggest you do a quick Internet search for the "real" Gettysburg address. It's just slightly more elegant.)
Four years and a dozen more ago, Jonathan Fleisig brought forth on this city, a new hockey team, conceived in family entertainment, and dedicated to the proposition that the greatest game on Earth could succeed in Kern County.
Now, we are engaged in a great battle with rivals throughout the West, testing whether Condorstown or any Condorstown so awesome and so passionate, can long endure. We are met on the great sheet of ice of that battle.
We have come here today to dedicate the game today to those who have played here and reassure our commitment to this community by raising money for the Bakersfield ARC, coats for the Bakersfield Mission, and honoring our military with free tickets. It is altogether fitting and proper that we, as Condorstown, should do this.
And that hockey team, of Condorstown, by Condorstown, and for Condorstown, shall not perish from this Earth.
What do you think? I think I'm...speechless.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Sustainable Saturday-The Shocking Ginger Harvest

Earlier this year, we read a blog post about growing your own ginger (and other crops, from food scraps), and had to try it. 

My husband, sometime in the late spring, bought a large hand of ginger and planted it (not cutting it up first) and planted it in a large pot, with where leaves would grow from pointing up.

It took a long time to germinate, and we were discouraged. Perhaps, we should have cut the hand apart.  But finally, we had little sprouts coming up.  Then, in May, my friend who lives in Brooklyn gave us several tiny tomato seedlings, and into the pot they went.  And then some volunteer basil joined the party.

By August, this was our ginger pot.  (the ginger is the tall, broad leaves).

Last Saturday, a hard freeze threatened the following day, so it was time to harvest the ginger.
The basil and tomatoes were long harvested, but the ginger was still growing.

Then the harvest began, as my spouse tipped the pot over, and started to dig through the soil.  Would we find anything?

We thought maybe we would have a little handful of immature gingers, which look like this.
But our shock...this was the harvest.
And, this is what it looked like once it was cleaned up.  We let it sit for a week to dry out a little, and then froze it last night.

Not bad, for an area where ginger "can't be grown to maturity because it won't mature in our short season". We figured we got a $10 harvest from around a $2. investment. As to the immature ginger, it runs about $12.00 a pound at the farmers market. 

Our shocking harvest could be beginner's luck.  Or it could be because it was in a pot on our porch, where the soil temperature would reach 80 degrees consistently before our ground would.

Want a recipe for candied ginger?  Try this one. Or zucchini ginger bread?

Our own ginger certainly came in handy last weekend, when I accidentally got myself motion sick while viewing Google Maps. (Don't ask).  I slowly chewed some of the raw ginger, and it helped a lot.

Next year, we are thinking of two pots.  One, we would harvest in September for the baby ginger we have grown to like.  The other, we'll keep going until a freeze.

Have you grown something that "wasn't supposed to grow" where you live?