Sunday, June 28, 2009

Peregrine Falcons of Downtown Binghamton

The peregrine falcon is not a stranger to big city skyscrapers. However, in Binghamton, NY this is not a big city and we don't have any skyscrapers. Still, for a number of years we've had a nesting pair of falcons on top of the Security Mutual Life Insurance Company building in downtown Binghamton. At 10 stories, it is the third tallest building in Binghamton.

We can hear them screeching sometimes. Several times I have been privileged to see the young birds.

It isn't all fun-sometimes, walking downtown, you have to dodge pigeon parts on the ground. They love to eat the local pigeons-gourmets of the air, the falcons take the tastiest parts and leave the rest. For example, this morning I had to dodge a (mostly) intact dead pigeon and, a few feet (no pun intended) later, a different pigeon's head. Yuk.

I know a couple of people who have taken pictures of the falcons. This is a photo of a young falcon on the Security Mutual building taken a month or so ago.

A little slice of big-city life in small-city Binghamton.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Binghamton Rising

Yesterday was the 2nd Friday of the Binghamton Farmers Market. As I was browsing for snap peas, the heavens opened. I spent the next 35 minutes listening to a jazz band, sheltered in the tent of the farmer I had bought the peas from. I waited out the rain, joined by two co-workers. Finally it stopped not long before the end of my lunch hour.

Not too many years ago downtown Binghamton was...on the skids, let's face it-full of abandoned buildings. Since then, for many reasons, things have turned around-although it has a long way to go. The Farmers Market is one success story (such as it is-it's on a narrow street, and small, but it is very appreciated.)

Here is one of the success stories: The Press Building, not too long ago musty and mostly vacant-today, renovated.

The first picture is at an angle but it shows a portion of the renovated lobby.

Here is a picture of the building itself, and details of the renovation.

The other pictures are of planters in front of the building-each done in mosaic by a local nationally famous mosaic artist - each with a local theme.

This planter shows a carousel horse. Binghamton is named the "Carousel Capital" of the country for good reason - my son grew up taking the six free antique carousels for granted. I sometimes wish he was young again so I could ride with him.

The second picture, I'm actually not absolutely sure what it is. It could be one of the buildings that hold the carousels. Or it could be an impression of the band shell at Rec Park, another restored Binghamton landmark. (if you are a Twilight Zone fan, Rec Park is a must-see).

This final mosaic is a flower display.
I believe there are seven in all. Hopefully the elements and the street people are kind to them. The law firm responsible for much of this has done a good service for downtown Binghamton.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the hanging baskets decorating downtown and donated by a life insurance company headquartered in downtown Binghamton.

Thank you,all, and may the rise of downtown Binghamton continue.

Friday, June 26, 2009

My Dad and Baseball (Not What You Think) and More Old Timer Photos

Later in this post I will include more pictures of the Cooperstown Baseball Old Timers Game.

It's funny....I go to a Fathers Day game for Fathers Day and....neither of my parents were baseball fans. As a result, I grew up in the Bronx, and never once visited Yankee Stadium. I don't know exactly how I became interested in baseball, but (this was before it was OK for girls to enjoy spectator sports) I used to get a lot of "you sure know a lot about baseball for a girl" comments.

Actually my technical knowledge wasn't and still isn't all that good. I can't tell you, given a certain scenario, if the batter should bunt, try for the sacrifice fly, if the man on first should try to steal, or what. I just always loved to watch good baseball. I was always the last one picked for softball, so I never even dreamed about playing, back in those pre-Title IX days. Dad used to take me on Sunday afternoon walks during the summer. It got both of us out of our hot apartment, as we walked and walked. He used to love to go to houses under construction to watch them go up. It fascinated him. I would tag along, with my transistor radio, and listen to the Yankees ballgame. These walks are a very fond memory for me.

That was many years ago, and my Dad passed away in 1986.

Too bad no old Yankees from that 1960's lineup were there in Cooperstown (although I did get to see Whitey Ford once in Binghamton) but here are some pictures of players at the game. And, THANK YOU, BALLPLAYERS, FOR COMING. It was so refreshing to see ballplayers who wanted to be there. And, I know you had a good time too. So much so that Bob Feller has already announced that he plans to return next year.

By the way, I still don't know who the people were who rode in the "Yankees" car, including the gentleman with the Mickey Mantle uniform who looked so much like him. I have a picture, but there are spectator faces in there so I don't want to post the photo.

And, now for the photos:

Here is Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson
and pitcher Jim Hannan: (both from my era)

This picture was taken seconds before a mob of children and adults followed Brooks Robinson. blocking my view, to get his autograph.

Here, from the back, is George Foster: I sure would not have been rooting for him when he was playing for the 1970's Big Red Machine.

This picture was taken after the game: the players in "camouflage" uniforms were Military all stars who played alongside the old timers.

I wish I had a good seat to capture all the clowning around. And, Doubleday Field folks, just a hint-the PA system where we were (all the way in the hinterlands) rivaled the 1970's PA systems in the New York subway for incoherence. Could you at least publish the uniform numbers of the players on the scorecard next year? It was very hard to follow the action with the garbled, echoey narration out there in Section 210.

I also know that there are plans for better crowd control at the autograph tent too, where I understand some adults were pushing youngsters out of the way. I know you will take care of that, and thank you all for giving free autographs out to the youngsters.

Little beefs aside, again a heartfelt thank you for the opportunity. I never got to see the Hall of Fame game but I suspect this was so much better.

Fathers Day with Bob Feller

There are going to be two types of reactions from people reading this title:
a. "Who?"
b. "Wow! He's still alive?"

Bob Feller is a pitcher: he's the second oldest Baseball Hall of Famer and trust me, at age 90, not only was he able to trot out onto the field (and I do mean trot), pitch (AND reach the plate-sort of) but he got a standing ovation and by far the loudest cheers of the game.

I have some pictures of him, but from so far away (we were sitting about as far out as you could get) that it may not be worth trying to put them on the blog.

I was honored to see this game in Cooperstown, NY, at Doubleday Field, on Sunday, along with about 7,000 other people (not quite a sell out, but this is a small, historic, ballpark)

The link above does have a good photo of Bob Feller at the game.

I'd like to talk a little bit more about the game and the parade.

The pre-game parade was small town America at its best - the local merchants, the trolley cars full of local scholars, the Mayor of Cooperstown, some politician running for election, a young man standing on top of two horses (one per leg). There was an older man, maybe in his early 50's, who looked so much like Mickey Mantle, who wore the Yankee #7 (I saw him signing autographs later...who was he?? I can't seem to find out from Internet research.)

Last in the parade came two trolleys, with the old-timers in them. In the first picture, the left most person is Bob Feller, but you can only see that if you enlarge the photo way beyond what I can post here. Guess it would help me to have some photo editing software.

I do have some other photos, including a good one of Brooks Robinson, which I may upload in another post.

I haven't followed baseball in many years. I got fed up back in the 1970's with the greed, and then later the performance-enhancing drug use. I enjoy minor league baseball but I haven't seen a major league game since 1973. This game was a step back to another time (although many of the players didn't retire or didn't play until after I lost interest). The most notable thing was-they wanted to be there. It was so obvious. They clowned with each other. Steve Lyons took a boy out of the stands and let him field alongside of him. That boy had a good arm too, he fielded a ball and started a double play! Some of the players signed autographs as mobs of children followed them along the fences. FOR FREE. (I didn't try to get autographs-I let the children get theirs.)

Would I go again next year? Maybe. But I would sure buy my tickets a lot more in advance. (and maybe even join the Hall of Fame, so I could get the best ones.)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Proof-Death Come in Threes

Shortly after I published the Farrah Fawcett blog entry, I saw the news bulletin about Michael Jackson being taken to the hospital. His death was announced soon after. So now we have our third one in-what, 50 hours?

Just last night, on America's Got Talent, I saw someone perform to the young Michael Jackson (Jackson 5) song "ABC". We all loved the adorable boy then.

But then he grew up.

I won't comment further. As I've said before this is a ramblin' blog not a rantin' blog. Plus, I don't believe in "speaking ill of the dead".

I have long believed in the "deaths come in threes" superstition. This has got to be the most dramatic "proof" of that in a long time.

And now, Farrah Fawcett

I came home from work this evening to find that Farrah Fawcett lost her battle with cancer today.

Suddenly this blog is becoming a chronicle of the death of various Baby Boomer icons. So let's be honest. I never watched Charlie's Angels. But this battle with cancer was so courageous, I rooted for her from the moment I learned of her cancer. At the end we knew it was just a matter of time. In a way it makes me so glad I was never among the rich and famous. Well, maybe anonymous and rich wouldn't have been bad. But not famous.

At the American Cancer Society Relay for Life, we light luminaries each year in memory of those who lost the battle. Another soul lost to this dread disease. May we who live remember this, and remember to cherish every moment of our days on earth.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Your Own Authentic Japanese Golden Poo

I was alerted to this by a blog site associated with Consumer Reports.

Apparently, the Japanese word for "luck" is very similar to their word for...well, poo. So the Japanese, playing on the word, have tiny "golden poo" charms that they attach to their cell phones, etc. to bring them luck. You can buy them here. Except right now, they are out of stock, maybe because of this blog talking about them. These aren't just for luck, at least in the U.S. Hate your cell phone carrier? What about your cable company? Wouldn't a "golden poo" charm be just the thing?

I would have loved to attach one to our glitchy cable box, the one that Time Warner insisted didn't have anything wrong with it....but this is Ramblin' with AM, not Rantin' with AM. Maybe another time.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Goodbye Ed McMahon

Another Baby Boomer icon deceased.

Ed McMahon was part of my life for so many years, Being in my teens and early 20's-30's (especially in the years where I lived in Central Time and could watch the Tonight Show at 10:30 pm) the TV show that entertained us at the end of the day started with "H-e-e-e-e-e-ere’s Johnny!" No matter how outrageous the skits or jokes, Ed McMahon was always there as Johnny's "second banana". (does my son even know who Ed was?)

Ed McMahon was always the perfect gentleman. Even after the Tonight Show ended, I sometimes saw him on "Star Search" and watched him greet lucky winners for Publishers Clearing House. I had lost track of him and didn't even know about his pending foreclosure or his health problems. What a sorrow aging can be.

It is so ironic in a way, I hadn't seen a Publishers Clearing House ad in years, and suddenly, in the last couple of weeks, I am suddenly seeing them several times a day. Maybe they knew something we didn't.

Goodbye, Ed.

Meanwhile...Walter Cronkite is still alive. At least for now.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

MacKenzie-Childs: Not for the Timid

Last weekend we went up to Aurora, NY (in the Finger Lakes) to the annual MacKenzie-Childs barn sale.

MacKenzie-Childs is not for everyone. Their pottery, furniture, and other decorative items are...shall we say, quite bold. If you love checkerboard patterns, this is your place.

Here is an example of some of their furniture.
Unfortunately, photography was not permitted inside their "farmhouse" which was decorated in this style: but this will give you some flavor

Outside, there is a "chicken palace" where normally there is a nice collection of rare chickens - to my disappointment the chickens were removed for the occasion. They did leave some geese, who ran up to everyone who came close-I assume waiting for a handout:

Some metal work was featured. Here is a gate showing the detail put into their garden gates plus a little peak into one of their gardens:

Finally, here is a view of one of their gardens.

One day I may afford one of their artisan pieces. Until then, I will feast on the art.

Memories of Arkansas at the Swim...I mean, Relay for Life

Lots of rain part 2 at our Relay for Life this morning. So it is shutting down a little early and I am home early. I didn't win any prizes but if I had known which number Relay this was for our area, I would have won two nice tickets to an area golf tournament next week. Oh well, my bad.

Last night, at our tent (company team), I heard someone being asked "so you lived there when Bill Clinton was governor"? My ears immediately perked up because spouse and I had also lived (in Arkansas, it could only be one state!) when Bill Clinton was governor. So, after that conversation was all done I introduced myself and we ended up walking together for the next 1 1/2 hours. She asked me where I had lived - we lived in three places in Arkansas but I answered the largest one, Fayetteville. The response was, she had gone to college at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. (soooo......eeeee!) She was too young to really remember Bill Clinton as governor of Arkansas (I'm not!) but we spent our walk time talking about many things. The memories flowed. She has family in several towns we were familiar with We remembered fairs, state parks, streets....

We lived in Arkansas from 1981 to 1986 and she moved out of Arkansas in 1998, but goes back frequently. So I heard firsthand about what I knew from reading. The area (Northwest Arkansas) has grown tremendously. She worked for Wal-Mart while a college student and later was an assistant store manager for a year. Her mother works for Wal-Mart optical headquarters. (Wal-Mart is headquartered in Bentonville, AR). Small nothing towns near Wal-Mart's headquarters are now anything but because of a Wal-Mart requirement that all vendors have an office in the Bentonville area.

We've never gone back but our discussion has whet my appetite for going back, just to see how it has changed. I know that the rural dirt road I lived on outside of Morrow, AR was paved with city water and street addresses and I was happy to learn that the area is still rural. But as for Relay friend told me that every time she goes back, Fayetteville has changed completely.

Even the airport was moved somewhere else.

Will we go back one day? Will we like what we find?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Walter Cronkite Gravely Ill?

A blog reports that Walter Cronkite is gravely ill, and MSNBC seems to have picked up on this.

Say it ain't so (oops, wrong person). An icon of our generation. Meanwhile, I wonder if my son would even know who he is.

Relay Day!

Tonight is our area's Relay for Life. This is an event to benefit the American Cancer Society. Team members, of course, raise money for the American Cancer Society and its various worthwhile programs. The reward is the almost 24 hour event. It's a combination celebration of life and party. Last year the theme was Mardi Gras, so you get the flavor. This year the theme will be "luau".

We know now to bring money because a lot of the teams run Chinese Auctions (hope that one isn't politically incorrect, but that is what they call them here) or other fundraisers so you walk the track, see what you would like to try to win, buy tickets...and of course I have never won. The local Frito Lay team has giveaways of snacks. Most teams have someone who cooks supper. Our cook lost both parents to cancer.

Cancer survivors can attend a Survivor's/Caregivers dinner Friday night and a Survivor's/Caregivers breakfast Saturday. Everyone walks. And, the goal is for each team to have at least one team member on the track at all times. Our team won't but the larger teams full of people in their teens and 20's will. For those who stay overnight, there is music, karaoke, contests, etc. to keep everyone awake.

One event I have never stayed for is the luminary lighting. This is an extremely emotional event. People purchase luminaries in honor or in memory of loved ones, and decorate them. Team members then put them on the track in front of their tents. After sunset, they are lit and everyone walks the track to observe, to honor, and remember. This year there will be a bagpiper too. Quite honestly I have never stayed because it would have been a little too emotional for me but this year I am ready. I think.

The midnight sun it is not but may those luminaries express everyone's prayer that cancer be conquered in our lifetimes.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Just Racin' in the Rain.....

Just got back from the 2009 Corporate Challenge, an annual event in our area (and maybe nationwide). Employees of various businesses compete, in good fun, in various walking and running events. I'm not a runner, so I did the one walking event, the Predicted Mile. In this race, you race the clock, not others. Participants predict the time they will finish the mile in and the person closest to their prediction wins. The key here is that you can't have a watch or any other way of telling time on your person.

This is my third year of participating and it is a blast.

The first year it was held in August and it was in the 90's, with runners collapsing and ambulances responding. Not a pretty sight. Last year the weather was pretty decent. This year, the heavens opened.

It's been raining since last night with a few breaks. At noon, my walking partner and I did 1 1/2 miles, with rain at the end. Tonight the rain started about 5:30 and it didn't let up. The runners loved it. As for the walkers...well, my new walking shoes aren't so new anymore. But it sure beat being in the 90's.

This year's Corporate Challenge had the highest turnout in 10 years, and they had to split the walkers into two groups. 41 companies, large and small. It's a good event and I hope to participate in the coming years, too.

I'll know tomorrow if I (ha ha) won.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Got Twitter? Got a Consumer Problem?

I don't use Twitter but I absolutely loved this article about using Twitter as a consumer tool.

The responses to this article were even more interesting.

Fairbanks has reached Maximum Sunrise-Sunset (Well, not so fast)

The bad news, of course is, that shortly our days will be getting shorter, daylight-wise. Enjoy your 21 hours and 47 minutes of daylight, Fairbanks, in the meantime. In only 6 months you will be down to less than 4 hours.

JUNE 17 2009..........SUNRISE 300 AM AKDT SUNSET 1247 AM AKDT
JUNE 18 2009..........SUNRISE 300 AM AKDT SUNSET 1247 AM AKDT

(note: I was off a little - the actual maximum was 21 hrs and 49 minutes...oh well)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Blue Angels and Flood Memories

Over the 4th of July weekend we are being treated to an airshow. This one features the Blue Angels. What a wonderful treat for our area.

It only seems like a few minutes ago, but it has been almost three years, since our Great Flood of June 28, 2006 caused so many disruptions, loss of property (I know two people who lost their homes and one who lost most of her belongings), and cancelled so many events in late June and early July of 2006. One of the events cancelled, if I recall correctly, was an air show.

There are two nice videos on YouTube that show the flood and its aftermath. I didn't see my neighborhood on either of them but parts of our neighborhood were evacuated - we personally were very lucky but if the river (we estimate) had been another foot higher it would have been a different story.

I hope we have much better weather for the Blue Angels.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Dexter Kefir Cheese

Saturday we made a trip up to Aurora, NY for the MacKenzie-Childs Barn Sale. And found something totally different.

You either love or hate MacKenzie-Childs. In our case...well, I would need a lot more money in my bank account. I will write about this sale another time because I need to pull pictures off my camera. We didn't buy anything but as they say-the pictures are "priceless".

On the way back, we stopped at the Long Point Winery. After a wine tasting, we bought a bottle of wine for that night's supper and noticed a sign offering raw milk Kefir cheese for sale. I know what Kefir is but have never drank it. The woman at the counter explained this cheese was made by a local farmer, who lived a short distance away. She gave us some directions, we bought a small piece without even tasting it, and we were on our way to the creamery.

A very friendly farmer greeted us and asked if we would like to see the dairy animals who gave the milk for the cheese.

The breed he uses is the Dexter, and a handsome breed of cattle they are. These are small and, as the farmer explained, very hardy. They would make a fine milk cow for the small farmstead, giving about 2 gallons a day per cow. They are very inquisitive, too. I am more of a poultry person but these animals had a lot of personality.

Too bad, no milk for sale (and I am not going to get into the controversy surrounding sale and consumption of raw milk as I am not completely knowledgeable on the subject) but we were able to sample some cheese. This cheese is quite legal, incidentally, and in fact Cornell helped them develop their recipe.

The Kefir cheese is a good source of probiotics, but also very expensive. This, however, is artisan cheese and is made in small quantities by a farmer treating his cattle in a very humane manner. So, if you live or visit the Finger Lakes region, consider trying to find this cheese. This farmer sells his cheese at the Ithaca farmers market, too.

Friday, June 12, 2009

I Sing the Job Non-Electric

Two jobs, two days in a row.

June 10: son is at his supermarket job, power goes out. Just what happens when a modern supermarket loses power? Think about it. Electric doors, electronic cash registers tied into computers/ scanners, freezers, refrigerators, air conditioners, misters for the produce,electronic customer-service produce scales printing produce price tags.

In the case of this particular supermarket, they have a back up generator, enough to run the cash registers and other necessities. Otherwise, they might have had to turn the customers away. Luckily, the outage lasted only a couple of hours.

This is a far cry from my childhood, where they would have been able to convert an electric cash register to using a crank. With the prices being stamped on each item, it would have been warm and inconvenient but not critical-until the frozen foods started to melt, anyway.

June 11: I am at my office job, we are experiencing a downpour, suddenly the lights blink and go out. The lights go out along with our computers, and our Internet-serviced telephones. Part of the building is out and part isn't, so our IT department tells everyone to turn their computers and surge protectors off. So we sit and wait as the electric company is called. The rumor is that the power failure is confined to our building. That seems to be true, as there is a baseball stadium near our office, and (a game was in progress) their field lights are on.

The call center near where I sit, well, there are no phone calls. And if customers were calling, they would have been out of luck because our reps wouldn't have had computers or scanned electronic records to service them with. Back at my desk, there is my work, which has suddenly turned into non-work. My job, which was mainly paper years ago, is almost totally e-mail and Internet based now. Even my research, which used to be conducted out of books, is now done on online databases. What we are left with is a whole lot of dead time. Luckily, in my department we have other work we can turn to and we do.

Apparently a squirrel caused this outage, and paid for it with his life.

After about an hour the IT people come by, announcing we can power back up. The socializing ends and back to work we all go.

The power failure scenario is so familiar. I am a "survivor" of the Great Northeast Blackout of 1965, which taught me (at age 12) what happens when the power goes out in November, and you live on the 4th floor of an apartment building. (no water. no elevator. no heat.) Luckily that one lasted, for my neighborhood, only 12 1/2 hours.

I escaped the Great Northeast Blackout of 2003 only because we were on vacation at the time and driving into the driveway of an Iowa relative just about the time it happened. We were in Toledo, OH only a couple of days after their power was restored. My boss was in Toronto and was without power for three days in the middle of a heat wave. And so it goes.

But have we learned anything from these and other blackouts? Have we really?

The two incidents bring right back-just how fragile our life style is.

It can, and will, happen again. And not just for an hour or two.

The 10 Dumbest Tech Products

Another masterpiece from PC World.

I'm proud to say that I never used any of these "dogs" (or, cats).

Almost at the Solstice in Fairbanks and Longyearbyen

The lucky folks in Alaska had a beautiful morning in Fairbanks - 61 degrees there at 2am their time,
nice and daylighty (is that a word?) at 2am their time.

By tomorrow they only have another 15 minutes or so to maximum in Binghamton
I think we have another 2 minutes to go.

JUNE 11 2009..........SUNRISE 308 AM AKDT SUNSET 1237 AM AKDT
JUNE 12 2009..........SUNRISE 306 AM AKDT SUNSET 1239 AM AKDT


Meanwhile in Longyearbyen, Norway, it is actually 39 degrees and the snow is melting!

Thank you, Internet, for allowing me to indulge my Midnight Sun obsessions.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Vintage TV-Goodbye Analog Forever

Now we are finally on the eve of the digital TV switchover. This time it is for real. Your old TV, as of tomorrow night, will not be able to receive the new digital signals unless you have a converter box. Get ready for Channel 12.1!

So now is a good time to reminisce one last time about the analog TVs of yore.

This is a website with lots of old vintage consumer electronics, including TV's.

And, if you need to fix that set, here is the site for you.

There is a site I found this morning that had old experimental sets - I can't seem to find it again-it had pictures of a projector TV from the late 1940's and a TV you could use to watch two TV shows at once. I didn't have time to read it this morning and I forgot to bookmark it. Sigh.

And last, but not least, while searching for the website from this morning I found this....not exactly vintage TV but it is connected with the area where I live.

Goodbye, TV of our youth. Goodbye, VHF! Goodbye, UHF!


The items MacKenzie-Childs makes and sells are gorgeous...and way beyond my budget.

Still, you may be interested in their annual Barn Sale.

This place is an Aurora area institution. Their grounds are gorgeous (I hope they have tours this weekend) and the little village of Aurora is a lovely college town. These are artisan items-not your made in China stuff. Their website is a visual treat, too. If you are interested in American-artisan locally made stuff this is the place for you.

Oreo or Hydrox?

If you are Jewish and of a "certain age" you will know exactly what this blog post is talking about. Oreo or Hydrox?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Binghamton-the Land of Dinosaurs?

My spouse had a slightly different take on the "HART of BC" project related to the BC comic strip character Gronk riding a dinosaur, to be created as public art, as a symbol of Binghamton's revival.

My life partner finds it a bit strange for this project to use a dinosaur (symbol of being out of step with the times) for symbolizing our "rebirth" Considering that several years ago a NY Times article referred to Binghamton as a "burnt out industrial town" (I couldn't find an online link to this article), I wonder if people outside of Binghamton will be more bemused than impressed. I hope my spouse is wrong.

This Smithsonian blog entry had still another take on the matter. In fact, it is what Google came up with when I searched for "Dinosaur Binghamton".

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Sampling the Blue Slate Turkey

I never did post on our experience in eating the young Blue Slate Turkey we purchased over the weekend.

Its only crime was not being attractive enough to be used as breeding stock.

Both my spouse and I have enjoyed true free range chicken, back when we raised our own chickens some 25 years ago. So we know what it is like to eat birds that are full flavored and...let's be honest here....tough, needing special cooking techniques. (there was a reason back in the good old days for chicken soup and chicken stew).

Grilling this turkey was not the best cooking technique. We will know for next time that it needs a gentler cooking technique with moist heat. However, the bird was flavorful. The surprise didn't taste like turkey.

I'm not talking "factory" turkey here but rather the taste of our Bronze turkeys from many years ago, which I could describe at "Turkey +++" Sort of like eating supermarket tomatoes all your life and then biting into one fresh from the garden. You know it's tomato right away. I can't say what this Blue Slate tasted like, however. Which isn't a bad thing. But at $4.00 lb, next time I may stick to this farmer's bronze.

Midnight Sun Festival Time

We are approaching the time when we all (in the Northern Hemisphere) will experience our maximum sunlight.

Today, on the Fairbanks webcams at 2am, it was fully light and 61 degrees. Meanwhile here, at 6am (4 hours ahead of Fairbanks) it was 63 degrees and thundering. In Fairbanks, it even got up to 79 degrees yesterday. Too bad today they are cloudy and it hasn't really gotten any warmer.

So, here is hoping Fairbanks has a wonderful Midnight Sun Festival this year. The Fairbanks News-Miner newspaper has a webcam trained at their parking lot, where some of the festival takes place. I'll be there in spirit. Today, on the News-Miner webcam, looks like they are starting to set up.

The way newspapers are endangered (I have an in-law in the business so know "from the inside"), I hope the News-Miner is around next year to help with this festival.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Those Poor Orphans!

I got such a kick out of this Slate article about people who used Twitter once and quit. What about all those "orphaned tweets?" Do you care? As an anthropology major in college, I found this Slate posting rather....curious.

There's also a blog, according to this article, about orphaned blogs.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Blue Farming-The Blue Slate Turkey and Heritage Breeds

Yesterday we went to the Farmers Market in Otsiningo Park (this is the same park where our community garden plots are) and visited two meat vendors. One was McRey Farm of Glen Aubrey. We wanted some brisket, but they were out. So we splurged on a pound of cruelty free veal cutlet. Cooked it last night. It was thin and was cut the way it should be, and of high quality.

The other vendor we visited was Twin Oaks Farm in Port Crane, where we bought a small, whole Blue Slate turkey. This is a heritage breed of turkey. We are cooking it now, and will report on the results.

I realize some readers of this blog are vegetarian, so ask their patience while I continue with this entry.

What are "heritage breeds"? These are breeds of farm animal that have been "left behind" in our transition to agribusiness to feed our ever growing population. The fact remains that some of the older breeds of animals are better suited to the small farm setting, or may have characteristics that should be preserved. Some of these characteristics include tolerance to heat and cold, leanness of meat, ability to forage. Have you heard the story of turkeys bred so that they don't have enough sense to get out of the rain-and drown? This lack of survival sense is not a trait you will find in heritage breeds.

For birds, this may also include broodiness (the tendency to "get in the mood", so to speak, to sit on and hatch eggs, and rear the resulting young.)

Years ago, before I even knew what "heritage breeds" were, my spouse and I lived out in rural Arkansas and raised various old fashioned breeds of chickens. I won't bore you (in this post, anyway) with the list of chickens we raised at one time or another, but we also raised several other breeds of chickens, ducks and geese that are on a watch list (or even considered critical now) during our 4 year stay in the countryside.

So why should I ask that you care about heritage breeds, and the small producers who are keeping them alive?

Simple. At your local farmers market you will find small farmers who care about their animals, and care about the people who will be eating their animals-because they meet them weekly and talk to them. If you talk to these farmers they welcome your questions They will answer all of your questions patiently and knowledgeably. They know the slaughterhouse their animals go to and can speak knowledgeably about its practices. As a result of these practices, I firmly believe that your chances of getting E. Coli or worse from these animals is greatly reduced. You can also be sure these animals are not being fed anything that would ever result in Mad Cow Disease.

If you must eat meat (and I have been a vegetarian at times of my life, so I am sympathetic to those who do not eat meat) locally grown is ideally the way to go. To put it even more bluntly, if there is no financial incentive to keep these breeds alive, they will become extinct.

I do admit that not all the meat in our house is locally grown. There are reasons-convenience, cost - so I am not always "walking the walk". We will be working on walking this walk more as this year progresses.

Firefly Impatiens and Fittonia

A few weeks ago I bought a pot of Firefly impatiens and decided to move them to my office. These impatiens are a genetic dwarf - I haven't seen mention of them being suitable for house or office plants so this is an experiment.

So far they seem to be doing well, in a brightly lit (but no sun) corner next to my "low light" requiring cardamon plant. The original flowers fell off but now they are reblooming. I am watering them twice a week. This week I will try to remember to bring some plant food in.

Today, on impulse, I bought a fittonia plant ("Red Anne") hoping to bring it to my office too as it said "low light". What it didn't say is that they do best in a terrarium setting, or at least in a very high humidity situation. So I don't think that is going to work in an office situation. I'll have to figure out what to do now. That's what plant growing is all about, after all.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Blue Picasso and River Read

Last night was First Friday in Binghamton, the first Friday of each month event where many downtown Binghamton art galleries and related businesses open from 6-9pm.

One gallery featured items from various private collections, and the collection of Binghamton University.

I got to see a small Picasso painting, from his Blue period. And since I don't know a thing about art, I will just mention it was a harlequin boy, and dated from 1904. I looked on Google images, and there were quite a lot of images from Picasso's "blue" period. (yes, the pictures are mainly done in blue). I didn't find this particular image, which I understand must have been done close to the end of his blue period.

In the same gallery was a Book of Hours from 1497. A "book of hours" is a devotional book popular from the late 15th century to the early 16th century. I am not an antiquarian book expert either, but love to look at old things.

Some of the other things we did (besides going to the web site launch of my last post) included taking my spouse to RiverRead Books. This is an independent bookstore (a dying breed deserving our support) that opened several months ago in a renovated building in downtown Binghamton that (I believe) dates from 1854. The book store is very well set up, cozy, friendly and its web site is well done also. It was crowded, with people awaiting the arrival of local author Liz Rosenberg. Since neither my spouse nor I enjoy crowds, we left just as Ms. Rosenberg arrived.

I must admit I have not been doing my part to support River Read, because if I bring any more books into the house the other occupants will probably rise up with pitchforks and torches. And, with the economy, I admit to frequenting the library more than perhaps necessary.

We also visited the renovated Press Building. I will try to upload some pictures (not of the building itself but something interesting in front of it) and talk about that in my next post. If you go to this article about Binghamton, at least right now, look at the first photo on the right. In that picture, there is a tall red building on the left side of the photo - that is the Press Building. Another web site featuring pictures of this building is here.

The Hart of BC

The late Johnny Hart, cartoonist and creator of the comic strip BC, is one of several nationally known people who grew up in the Triple Cities. Now, his grandson Mason Mastroianni (who took over the strip after Johnny Hart's death) and some other community members have launched an effort called the Hart of BC to help revitalize our community.

The dinosaur "Gronk" from the BC strip has been an icon here for years, decorating everything from our local mass transit buses (BC Transit) to the entrances of our parks. (Since our community is located in Broome County, NY, the association was a natural) Now, the Hart of BC proposes to erect up to 100 fiberglass sculptures of Gronk, as envisioned by area artists, throughout our area, targeted for 2010.

Tonight, I witnessed the launch of the Hart of BC website-complete with free champagne and popcorn. Mason Mastroianni and family were in the audience. After the events of the past few months, our area could use something this creative and light hearted. I wish them the best of luck.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Ads from the Past and Future

A friend forwarded me an email I've seen before, but I still love. It has old ads from the past, including advertising Lysol as an, er, feminine cleansing aid (this is a family blog after all), and another advocating buying sanitized tapeworms to help you keep weight off. The email also contains the usual collection of ads featuring doctors endorsing cigarettes and the ad featuring the happy family that eats lard. (maybe they were happy. No one had ever heard of cholesterol.).

Just think of the ads our grand kids will look at and wonder why those companies are no longer here.

"Enron-Ask Why"
"See the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet" (Oops, not quite yet.)
"Welcome to Circuit City, Where Service Is State of the Art"
"TWA-Up Up and Away" *
"Eastern Airlines-The Wings of Man".

*this was a merger with American Airlines but still, the name no longer exists.

I have told my 19 year old son time and again, that although I may not live to see it, that he may well live to see Wal-Mart or Microsoft file for bankruptcy. Sounds inconceivable now but think of the large corporations of our youth (for those of us in our 50's I mean!) and how many of them are still around. So why shouldn't we be surprised to see what passed as state of the art or common wisdom 50 years ago.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Are Lifeguards Supposed to Guard Lives?

I rarely feel like ranting on my blog but I've had a pet peeve for a while and tonight brought it to a head.

Silly me, I always thought the purpose of a lifeguard at a pool was to watch carefully and make sure no one needed help in the water. That only, no multitasking.

That must not be what they are teaching at lifeguard training nowadays.

I take a water aerobics class at a local non profit agency pool twice a week. There is a lifeguard there. Apparently the lifeguards feel that life guarding is a secondary occupation.
Their primary job duties seem to be (in no particular order):

1. Paperwork
2. Socializing with members of the opposite sex
3. Texting, or otherwise doing "stuff" with their cell phone

Yes, I've complained about it. But after a while the behavior starts over.

I feel like I am the only one complaining. I don't complain often, only when it is really blatant, or when I am in a mood to. And maybe that isn't right. Maybe I should be a pain, but that isn't my nature.

Because I'm not normally facing the lifeguard during the entire class (only when we turn in certain directions) I am not paying attention during the entire class.

I'd love to know if this is against NY law.

This is why this behavior really concerns me:

Back in 1999 my family was enjoying an August trip to a municipal pool in Iowa City, Iowa. Suddenly, all hell broke loose, we were being chased out of the pool, people were shouting and pointing. As I got out of the pool, I looked back, and there was a person lying prone in the pool. Lifeguards (there were more than one; this was a large pool) were speeding their way to the victim and the rescue was made as we watched in horror.

The pool was closed for about 1/2 hour, which my (then) 9 year old son didn't appreciate.

Thankfully, while we were waiting, an announcement was made. This was a drill, there was no victim. Everyone was thanked for their cooperation and for the inconvenience.

As the parent of a teenager, I would not like to see any teen spend the rest of their life in an agony of remorse because someone had a heart attack and died during a water aerobics class, while they were busy chatting or texting.

Monday, June 1, 2009

How do you grow houseplants in Fairbanks?

Fairbanks has a little more than an hour to go before they reach their maximum day length. Now, at 2am, it is definitely morning.

I really don't wonder how people sleep with 24 hour sunlight. That I can imagine. (I imagine they do not sleep well.) What I do wonder about is how they grow houseplants. I know they grow wonderful flowers outside; I've been to southeast Alaska in early September. This is an interesting website that talks about gardening on Kodiak Island, for example.

But I've never been to the true northern part of Alaska. You can't really grow houseplants there without artificial light in the winter, can you?

Or can you?

This article is a bit scientific, but it talks about growing jade plants in Alaska.

How do houseplants cope with the uneven distribution of sunlight in Alaska?