Friday, July 30, 2010

Senseless Crime and Bad Headline

Not a mass murderer this time.  Not a gun this time. Only a 25 something man who happened to kill his friend in an argument.  Two wasted lives.

Another feather in the cap of downtown Binghamton, even if it didn't have much to do with downtown Binghamton per se.  It could have been in a number of Binghamton neighborhoods.

A lot of Fridays (if I am not out walking) I go to the Farmers Market, see if the music is good (this year, nothing in my taste) and if not, to the library I go.  Not this time.  From the Farmers Market I headed somewhere else. The library is only about 1/2 block away from "the scene of the crime".

The apartment house where the murder took place isn't far from a Binghamton landmark, Phelps Mansion, either. 
In fact, it is just steps away.

First Friday is next Friday.  Probably by then the blood of a senseless crime would have been scrubbed away, and First Friday attendees will walk past, some oblivious to what had happened only a week ago.

So it goes.  But first, one other thing:
Our local paper greeted the day with the headline "Binghamton fatal stabbing 'never should have happened".

Takes a bit of thought to think of a murder that should have happened, doesn't it?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Meet the Local Growers

Sounds like a press release (several websites had the same story, almost worded exactly-hmm) but...

Our local Wegmans supermarket is having a "Meet the Local Growers" day.

(Almost Full Disclosure:  I know several present and former Wegmans employees, some quite well.  Also, I've had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with Colleen Wegman (their president) when she visited the Johnson City store last year.  I've been a fan of Wegmans even before they opened a store in Johnson City almost 20 years ago.  Wow, 20 years....should be the subject of another blog.)

One nice thing about Wegmans is that they promote local produce, and have for years. When you enter their parking lot, there is a sign advising of the local produce they are carrying that day.  It takes extra work (according to my retail sources) for a large chain to do this and I applaud any retailer who takes those extra steps.

This sounds like an interesting event, and AM will be there (unless I forget).

Of course, if I dare mention this....every time you shop at a farmer's market, you are Meeting Your Local Grower too.  Still, supermarkets should be given encouragement in this area wherever possible.

Now- one tiny tiny tiny tiny quibble.  Wegmans is also famous for promoting health in general, Strive for Five (they were early adapters of promoting the eat five servings of veggies and fruit thing), and even have an event during Back to School each year promoting healthy brown bag lunches.  So, given all that....why are they also promoting their private label soda with a Fizz Fest truck at this event?????

Seems a bit strange.  Still...come on out.  Who knows, maybe there may be a heritage veggie or fruit. (probably not but one could hope.)  Give your support to Local Food.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Family Visit

My mother in law, sister in law and brother in law (the 50ish year old man who has autism and lives with my mother in law) are going to be visiting some time in August.

We have relatives with a lake home, just a small modest cottage, and they want to have all three of them over for a couple of nights.  I hope that the facilities they have will work OK for her, given her mobility problems.

There is a small "beach" in back of their "camp" but as I recall from the one time we've been there (maybe 4 years ago?) the ground was not very even. I'm not sure she would be able to get into water, a boat, etc.   She'll need to bring the raised toilet seat she uses.   So I hope she can stay otherwise happy.  I'm curious to see how they've fixed up the place in the 4 or so years since we have visited.  And, I am very curious to see her once again (we saw this a little bit at the motel we stayed at a couple of weeks ago) in something not her "native environment".  Her spirit is still strong but her body is less and less able to deal with adversary.  I fear for if she falls again.  I pray there is no accident during her visit.  So my husband is talking to her now, trying to get a feel for what she thinks about going to this cottage and what she may need.

I'm glad she is getting out of the house, overall.  I suspect that although she says she does mall walking (at the slow pace she can walk) that she is really spending a lot of weekday time in front of the TV.  Can't prove it.  On weekends, she has a lot of family events (birthday parties, that kind of thing) but we can see that she is starting to have some short term memory problems.  For example, she confused coming up here with a birthday party and was about 3 weeks off when she gave us the date of the trip up here.  And, she got my son calling her confused with one of her nieces.  Stuff like that.  Hasn't missed any appointments yet according to my sister in law (geographically the closest of the 4 children she raised to her) but that may be a matter of time.  More mental stimulation can't be bad.

I hope I remember all of this when I'm in my 80's.  (maybe Blogger will still be around, and I can reread all of my old posts.)

And also.....

There may be a long distance trip in her future too.  Earlier this year she spent about 10 days visiting relatives in Florida. (she flew down with other family members.)  They all treated her like a queen.  The brother in law stayed with the same family members who have the lake cottage, and both we and they spent "quality time" with him.  And she spent quality time without him.

Well, at the wedding we went to (see the "Cheesequake" post") the Florida relatives she stayed with came up here.  They invited her back for next year.  She didn't seem 100% ready to go.  I hope we have time to discuss this when she is up here.  I want her to be able to go down there with peace of mind.

Her world is getting smaller and smaller and I want to keep my arms wedged in that opening that is closing long enough that she can get out some more.  I'm sure all of us do.  It's such a balance to balance her needs with her desire to stay independent.

More later.

Monday, July 26, 2010

There's a Tornado in the Bronx.....

Yesterday a tornado hit the Bronx, being filmed at Co-Op City (about 5 miles from where I lived when I grew up in the Bronx.)  The tornado left about a one mile path of destruction and injured several.

For all of the urban renewal the Bronx needs, Co-Op City isn't one of those places.  Darn.

The Bronx tornado was caught on camera by a resident of Co-Op City filming from his or her apartment.  Keep in mind that Co-Op City's population is greater than that of Binghamton - and the Bronx has only had two tornados since weather records have been kept.

Even more amusing to me was the coverage given the tornado by KAKE, the ABC affiliate in tornado-prone Wichita, KS.

I hope Co-Op City enjoys its 15 minutes of fame.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Here we Go Round Again (CFJ Park)

Here we go round again, on the merry-go-round called Johnson City dissolution.

Just when I mentioned it yesterday, in connection with our new Wal-Mart.  The vote failed last November and Johnson City remained a village.  But, as a famous governor once said in a movie role, "I'll be back!"  Little did I dream it would be the day after I mentioned it.

Isn't it ironic that the Wal-Mart is across the road from a park with a merry go round?  And, a broken down old factory building.  And, the relatively new Gannett regional newspaper press building.  The old and the new, combined.  The park's name is CFJ park which was named for C. Fred.....Johnson.

So we go around and around, trying to find the ring, or the key, if you will, to the future of this area.

Speaking of that park, a lot of people are going to see it now that they are traveling to our new Wal-Mart. (I finally made it to the new Wal-Mart today:  nice.) If they do, I hope they stop and look at one of the six carousels this area is blessed with.  There is major renovation going on, so you can't ride right now.  But once it is done:  Ride if you want.  It's free!

Here are some wonderful photos of the carousel.

There is another wonderful, quirky building at CFJ Park called "The Pagoda".  One day I may write about it.

But for may be time to rehash the dissolution controversy all over again.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

FarmVille Go Round in Circles

I think Zynga (maker of the game CrackVi....I mean, FarmVille) finally has gotten the hint. (with apologies to you lucky people who have no idea what I'm talking about.)

Briefly, FarmVille is a game you play on Facebook with your other Facebook friends sucke....I mean, involved in playing it.  You plant a virtual farm, you harvest it, you replant it, you get and receive gifts, you find things in your friend's farms while tending them, you collect same for points, you get to buy and decorate with Tuscan Villas, waterfalls, Eiffel Towers and log cabins, you do co op farming with your friends, you have barn raising with your friends...the key here is "with your friends".  Zynga has some very good psychologist designers to make sure you are "hooked" and they have done their job well.

And if you have a friend playing FarmVille, chances are they've already asked you to be their neighbor.


As your farm grows bigger minutes farming become hours....

There are three more things about FarmVille you need to know:
a.  It is supposedly free but a lot of people spend real money on all these limited edition animals, buildings, decorations and what-have you.  Or they get tired of barn raising and spend money to complete construction on buildings and whatever. (the latest is a "beehive".)  The point is, they've spent their own money on this game.
b.  The people in "a" get madder than hell when their real life purchases suddenly disappear in the newest glitch.  Actually, the free playing people, like me, get kind of mad too.
c.   Communicating to Zynga is like...well, like any other software company, they haven't won awards for their "customer service".

You see, FarmVille is just a tiny bit more than a year old.  It became successful so quickly that it is still in beta.  And computer folks know about betas.  Right?  So what has Zynga done the past year?  Tried to fix things?  Of course not!  Instead, they have spent all their time creating even more limited edition stuff, buildings, co op ideas and so forth.  So this becomes like a car crash ready to happen - you are there watching it in slow motion: every time they put on something new the glitches get worse, and worse, and worse, and worse....

Three of my neighbors have quit the game.  Two more tried briefly to play and very quickly decided not to bother.  I'd love to know how many of the 24,000,000. people that supposedly have played FarmVille at least once still do.  Zynga, I think the term here is "losing your customer base".  Not good.  I'm sure Facebook isn't thrilled either.


After the latest episode of glitches (farms turning into fields of giant unintentional crop circles, constant "Saving Farm! Don't Close Your Browser" messages [translation: better reload fast, anything else you do on your farm if you believe he message will go into cyberspace] interrupting harvesting, plowing and planting, Zynga FINALLY announced they were going to...get ready for this one:  concentrate on fixing the glitches!

Why does computer software do this to people?  Why do we, the end user, put up with "improved" software that doesn't work as well as the last version?  Why do we accept these products that really are betas (at least Zynga is honest about FarmVille being in beta) where we wouldn't accept a car that was worse than your last car?  But it's always been like that since the advent of computers.

So let's hope that those people in Zynga land actually fix their game before they introduce anything else to said game.

Maybe, though, I should hope they don't succeed.  Because it may be the only way I (and many others) will break that addiction.

Life in a Day AM style

I don't have a video camera so why not blog about highlights of my day?  Will anyone care?

Today is July 24, the official date of the Google "Life in a Day" project.  Maybe they thought blogging was too static.  Or too old fashioned.  Or, that they would get a bunch of  "I got up.  I trimmed my three face hairs. Then I ate some cereal.  Then I hung out on the streetcorner for the next 12 pointless hours" kind of thing.

Well, just wait until you turn 30. Or 50.  Or 60. Thenitisallgoingtoruntogetherandyourblogwon'thaveenoughroomtohandleitall. 

Many adults are crazy, burnt-out busy.  I am fortunate not to be (at this point in my life).

So rev up your imaginations, pretend this post is a You Tube clip......

Woke up, knew it was going to be hot and humid out.

Harvested virtual crops on FarmVille.  Have FarmVille go glitchy on me about 5 times.  Replant a four hour crop, organic blueberries.  (YES!  They posted organic blueberries for planting: for a week only.  But still.)

Went to get bloodwork.  Then spouse and I had breakfast out, one of our luxuries (we do it once a month or so.)

Then we took an exercise walk.  Were we soaked when we ended it!  Did a bit less than three miles.  During the walk, we talked about my mother in law coming up here next month.  She is staying at my brother in law's house.  We have various concerns about whether she will be able to manuver in the house, meaning:  will she be able to get up the stairs?  She'll have to bring this or that....etc.  In some ways it is once again almost like planning a visit with a young baby.  Bring this, bring that, bring whatever, they may not have it, etc. etc. etc.  Into the car, out of the car.  Somehow walk to where you are visiting with baby in one arm, diaper bag slung across shoulder, something else in the other arm, and the spouse walking besides you empty handed.  No wonder I have a bad back.

But I'm ramblin'.  I know this is just the beginning of trying to plan for travel with my mother in law's various limited movement concerns.  Going to that wedding with her last week was an eyeopener because she was outside of her home, and we don't see her in those kinds of circumstances as often as we should, living three hours away.  So we know we have to plan this visit this time (she comes up here once a year) with a lot of things in mind..   You know what though, walking is a good mental exercise and you think of stuff like that.

After the walk, back home.   Stop sweating.  Prepare to pick blueberries.

Stop at Wegmans (supermarket) to pick up a couple of items, and munch on their samples.  Today they are sampling salad greens with chopped avocado and shrimp. Give shrimp to spouse.

Go to blueberry farm with spouse, about a 20 minute drive each way.  Hot, humid, but breezy.  Pick blueberries.  Ignore wasps.  Ignore young couple who brush by me- the woman has enough perfume on her to attract every bee and wasp in Broome County.  Sinuses start up immediately.  The blueberries are plentiful but a bit waterlogged.  Still, I love blueberries and it's hard to beat $1.70 a pound.  Ignore said couple, woman now talking about all the poison ivy in the rows.  (I hope not-I've been coming to this place for years and never got a rash-but poison ivy can be mistaken for a lot of other things.)  Couple leaves, leaving the usual crowd of couples, mothers with children, and the fun three generational groups with child, parent and grandparent sharing the experience.  Fill buckets finally, weigh out, exchange pleasantries with the cashier, pay, leave.

Discover we forgot hot dog rolls.  Stop at another supermarket. Watch teen cashier be nice to grumpy customers.  The air conditioner isn't working the way it should.  At least (knock on wood) we don't get brownouts here.

Come home.  Harvest virtual blueberries.  FarmVille goes glitchy on me during the harvest and replanting about 8 times.  Decide I'm about ready to master the organic blueberries so after they ripen in four hours that will be it for FarmVille today. (except, I do intend to write a post on it.)

Blog.  Rest. Repeat.

Actually, in the middle of those activities, I did a lot of research on a possible trip to Eastern NY later this year.  "More on that in another post".

More FarmVille.  More glitches.  Food for another blog post.

It's almost 7pm. Spouse is finishing up a BBQ and then hopefully we will settle back with either the movie "The Terminal" (saw part of it, long ago, would now be nice to see the rest) or a DVD of episodes from Season 4 of the 90's TV show "Northern Exposure".

I am going to publish this blog post before the end of the day, so here is hoping nothing unexpected happens.


Friday, July 23, 2010

Wal-Mart: The White Knight of Johnson City?

I've been watching a developing situation with a bit of bemusement.

I remember the days when Wal-Mart announcing a store building in your community resulted in protests.  Of course, as we learned recently from the Wall Street Journal, some of these protests were financed and otherwise aided by....hmmm, the competition.

Isn't capitalism wonderful?  (remember the old classic movie CasablancaRound up the usual suspects!)

Sorry for the sarcasm.

Now back to Johnson City.  Johnson City is not a thriving community.  I would say it is a dying community (just search my posts from last year on how it nearly ceased to exist as its own governmental entity) but I'd probably hear it from the locals. Still, few would disagree that its glory days were a long time ago.

So how did Wal-Mart get cast into the role of hero white knight?

Glad you asked.  Let's take a short trip down memory lane.

Years ago, Johnson City was an Endicott-Johnson company town. (Does that have anything to do with Johnson City being called Johnson City?  Umm, yes.) Endicott-Johnson manufactured shoes.   If you are of a "certain age" you may remember Endicott-Johnson or Father and Son shoes.   And it manufactured local jobs, lots and lots of jobs.  As employers went, Endicott-Johnson went way above and beyond.  If you have a 40 hour work week, you (in part) have Endicott-Johnson to thank.  If you know a native of Johnson City, they had family member(s) working for Endicott-Johnson.  It is a fascinating story, one I encourage everyone to read about.

Then came...well, its a long story.

Endicott-Johnson ceased to be American owned years ago, and it no longer manufactures any of its own shoes.  And, it hasn't had any facilities here for many years.

Now those factories, what are left behind of them, lie vacant and rotting, inhabited by....let's not go there.  Meanwhile, downtown Johnson City (which I travel through five days a week) deteriorates.  The key is, few people are going there to shop.  Some that go, go to gang-bang, but not to shop.  (this is true of so many other small city downtowns, I realize. Well, I'm a blogger, not a sociologist.)  It's (truth time, and the truth hurts) A DUMP.  A dump abandoned by time.  Oh, does it kill me to say that.

When I moved here 22 years ago I was told I could live anywhere in Johnson City, even downtown, and it would be somewhat safe.  How times have changed.

So here comes Wal-Mart.  Almost 20 years ago it rode into nearby Vestal (nearby, but on the other side of the Susquehanna River) and the next thing you knew, one shopping center arose on the particular road they chose to locate to.  Then another.  Then another.  Then another.....

...Taking local shopping from that other side of the river with it.

So now, Johnson City looks to increased traffic like a stranded motorist in the desert looks to water.

Let's see, it's over two years ago now?....Wal-Mart proposes a second area store, tearing down one of those factories.  Wow!  An eyesore gone.  And remember all those shoppers who abandoned our side of the river.  Well, they are going to come back, lured by Wal-Mart.   Aren't they? And guess what?  Maybe, just maybe, they will drive down Main Street, back into the welcoming arms of downtown Johnson City!  And you know the Weis Supermarket on Harry L. Drive (Harry L. who?  Johnson, of course!), which is next to dead and buried?  Well maybe the Wal-Mart customers will stop there too.  Why not?  How about the Oakdale Mall?

So, in a most amazing turnaround, local businesses on "this" side of the river are (in many cases-not all) welcoming Wal-Mart.  Or if not welcoming, not dreading.

The Johnson City Wal-Mart opened two days ago.

We'd all better hope there is water there, and not a mirage.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Crickets of August

I'm confused. This is still July.

Every year crickets are a sign that late summer has arrived.

The problem isn't time.  This is still July.  Only now are the decreasing days becoming quite evident.  The weather is still warm.  (at least it wasn't hot this week.)

We had an early spring.  We've had an early summer.  And now we are having an... early fall?

I actually started hearing crickets about two weeks ago here and there.  Now there is no doubt about it.

What message are the crickets chirping?  Will we also have an early winter?  Will we have almost a foot of snow in October, like happened back in the "bad old days"?

Have our relatively mild (snow-wise) winters ended?

Only time will tell.  But I have a sinking feeling nature is giving us a message.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Today's trivia question:  What is a Cheesequake?

a.  What Wisconsin natives yell when the earth moves under their feet.
b.  A San Francisco boutique cheesecake producer
c.  A Washington State cheeseburger
d.  A New Jersey toll road service area.

If you answered "c", you've taken too many "How to Ace the SAT" review courses.

The correct answer, of course, is b, c and d.  And thereby hangs a tale.

b.  San Francisco Cheesequakes ("Cheesecakes that Rock") has the most intriguing sounding cheesecakes.  (not that I've ever had one, so this is not a plug.)  Candycap Mushroom Cheesecake, anyone?

They also have all kind of chocolate cheesecakes.

Birthday present, anyone?

c.  How about a Double Cheesequake at the X Earthquakes Biggest Burgers in Pullyap, Washington?

d.  The New Jersey Cheesequake.

Last Friday, spouse and I traveled to the Jersey Shore from the Binghamton, NY area.  This involved travel on the Garden State Parkway, known as the country's busiest toll road.  We had been warned about the traffic and we already knew how aggressive and high speed the driving would be, so neither came as a shock.  We proceeded through The Oranges and The Amboys when to our wondering eyes did appear, near exit 120....

The Cheesequake Service Area.


Spouse and I turned to each other simultaneously.  What was a Cheesequake?  We pondered various answers.  A strange New Jersey restaurant chain?  A former cheese factory that had exploded and was now a historical site?  Some kind of corrupted Native American word?

Our wonder grew as we passed by a sign for Cheesequake State Park.

Turns out spouse's guess of a corrupted Native American word was correct.  My spouse, however, speculated that "Cheesequake" came from the same word that Chesapeake (as in Chesapeake Bay) derived from.  That apparently is not the case, according to what I was able to research.  If my sources are correct, Chesapeake comes from a Algonquian word meaning a village "at a big river" while Cheesequake comes from a Lenape word for "upland village".

Drawing from my years back anthropology courses, I am aware that the Lenapes (formerly known as the Delaware) are part of a much larger Native American groupage called the Algonquians.  So, there may still be some truth to this speculation.

At any rate the word has nothing to do with either cheese nor earthquakes.

The State Park does sound fascinating.

The service area, apart from the full service (mandatory in NJ) gas it sold for 20 cents less a gallon than Binghamton gas when we left, was not at all distinguished. 

But still, it left us with a desire to go back and visit the park. Cheesequake!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Blasted Back

Hurt my back again-this time, off all things, by getting out of a chair.  Not the most imaginative way. 

So I spent yesterday with ice packs and a lot of discomfort.

I do back exercises but obviously it isn't enough.  I have a feeling this is stress related sometimes.

A couple of friends have suggested acupuncture.  Needles creep me out but I may be desperate enough to try it.

In the meantime, I will keep this post short-need to start on those exercises for today.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Conversing with Computers-Old Style

Being a fan of old technology (must be where my dear son got it from) I found this posting about a conversation with a Univac fascinating.

Years ago, when son had a couple of Apple IIe's, I remember him writing programs (well, learning to write them from books we found at garage sales and library book sales) to do this kind of thing, but not so sophisticated.

And yes, this conversation is pretty sophisticated.  For years ago.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Otsiningo Park Farmers Market

Whoever suggested putting a Saturday farmers market in Otsiningo Park (and routing the bus so it would stop there) should be praised.  May it continue to succeed.  From what it looked like today-food was flying out of there.

I had been there several times last year-it was a good start with a good variety of vendors.

I went today, for the second time this year (I normally visit the downtown Binghamton market) - and to my delight, there were a number of organic vendors.  Summer has kicked in with produce of every description from kale, broccoli, garlic, zucchini, to cherries, blueberries, plants, cut flowers, and (not produce but local ) eggs, chicken, beef, pork, cheese and even goat.  Additionally, herbal tea, organic pet products and a cupcake booth rounded out today's selection.

A local organic cheese producer, Englebert Farms, was there sampling some of their cheeses.  The smoked Swiss was heavenly, but a little softer than I would have preferred for swiss.  So we, instead, bought smoked cheddar, and a mozzarella.

Spouse had tried his hand at cheesemaking  many years ago and knows mozzarella can be difficult to make, so he is eager to try it.

Not only that but one of my favorite cuts of beef (sorry, vegetarian friends), brisket, was being sold by two different producers.  We jumped on that.  The vendor I bought from used to frequent the Binghamton farmers market downtown, but no longer does, for some valid reasons pertaining to difficulty in maneuvering large trailers on the narrow side street it is located on.

Now all we need is some wine tasting (we do have a local winery) although this being in a county park may not make that possible.

This is a wonderful location, right off the Interstate, with potential for a lot of room for expansion.  Not only that, it is close to our community garden just in case we need to stop by for a little harvesting.

What we Did Not Do Today

Too many things and so little time.  The battle cry of the middle aged person.  Yup, that toilet roll keeps spinning.

We just can't be everwhere at once anymore.

It would have been nice to go to Ithaca today.  A couple of things would have been on our agenda:

1.  The Ithaca Dragon Boat festival.  I was in Philadelphia several years ago (gee, it has been almost 10 years!) and they were having practice rounds for a great Dragon Boat race.  I always wanted to see one.  I didn't know Ithaca had been having one.  Awesome!  I just couldn't be there. (If you don't know what dragon boats are - the name is somewhat descriptive.  But you have to see them to believe them.)

2.  The Ithaca Scottish Games. 
(memo to the web site designer, not trying to be critical here, but please reconsider your use of color on the website-much of it was difficult to read - please consider those who are middle aged or have visual impairments-Thank You!)

I haven't written about Ithaca in a while and it would have been nice to.

Oh yes, one other thing- the Finger Lakes cheese trail had an open house today.  We didn't go but we did the next best thing-went to our local farmers market.

More on that in my next post.  (I haven't been talking about some of my favorite topics lately, and I need to be getting back into that groove.)

Friday, July 9, 2010

JulyFest and the Greening of Binghamton

Today was JulyFest, the annual festival in Downtown Binghamton.

I am so happy to see that JulyFest, after being in a funk for several years, has worked its way back up to being something worthwhile to visit.

I was even happier to see various nonprofit (or nonprofitlike) booths advertising themselves.  The ACA (American Civic Association, site of the tragic mass murder shooting of April 3, 2009) was there and I spoke to one of their representatives for a few minutes.

Then I saw the booth for something called VINES.  This is short for "Volunteers Improving Neighborhood Environments". I wasn't able to speak to anyone there but I got their brochure.  The website is part of the City of Binghamton website.  Believe me, Binghamton can use all the greening it can get.

(Flashback: the newspaper never offered to print my letter on how a flowering tree festival could benefit Binghamton visually and perhaps even financially.  Oh well.)

But back to this booth:  VINES (quoting from their brochure) "has a vision of a system of community gardens and parks which are within walking distance of every resident and strong communities where residents care for community spaces and each other."  Right now they have 5 garden sites and many of these (if not all) are not...let's say, in Binghamton's better neighborhoods.   This is certainly admirable.  Of course, like any other nonprofit, they are going to need to get a lot of donations, apply and get grants, and so forth.

Their meetings are held monthly on the 2nd Tuesday at RiverRead books (located in one of the buildings featured in my recent blog post on the downtown mosaic.).  Of course let's see if I "walk the walk" and show up at one.  Seems like, by the day the work day is done, so is my energy.

But back to JulyFest, it was fun, even though it was hitting 90 degrees with a lot of humidity.  The good news is, the heat wave should be just about over.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I Apologize to the Northeast

I jinxed our weather.  I blogged about the record high at LaGuardia Airport July 3, 1966 - a record that still stands.
So the weather took that as a challenge.  The heat poured on.

It's all my fault.

The good news is that tomorrow should be the last day of heat.  Hopefully the 103 degrees at LaGuardia yesterday won't repeat itself.

Of course you may recall what happened in the winter of 1966-67 in New York City.  Very snowy.

I'd better not have that tornado discussion now....

Monday, July 5, 2010

Downtown Binghamton Sparkles with Mosaics and History

Even though I wasn't able to take pictures of the Dinosaurs as I had planned to do on July 2 First Friday, I got some other good pictures.  There has been renovation going on downtown the past several years.  And a week ago, local mosaic artist Susan Jablon, whose mosaic dinosaur was vandalized, nevertheless took a Saturday last week to gather community young people together for a mosaic project.  This is on our Riverwalk.  Here is a picture "as a whole", with a renovated building behind (more on that building a little later).

Here is a closeup shot.  Since this doesn't face the public sidewalk, maybe it will be "more safe" from vandals.  Let's hope.  It isn't too far from a Binghamton University building downtown, so that might help also.

Susan has some coverage of the building of this mosaic wall on her blog.

I used to make "mosaics" using kits when I was growing up years ago.  This is real "grown up" mosaics.  One day, I hope to have the time to perhaps learn this art form.  I don't know if I have the patience, but I bet it is a lot of fun.  And, it will keep my mind (and small muscle dexterity) active! 

As far as the Riverwalk itself here is one shot.  Many of the "speckles" in this photograph are ducks; others are rocks.

Here is another view, showing hanging baskets donated by Security Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York, a company headquartered downtown that has done a lot to improve downtown.

 Here is a closeup of a metal "marker" on the Riverwalk.  There are several of these, highlighting history of our area - The Bundy Manufacturing Company, for example (which eventually became IBM-yes, IBM originated in Binghamton).  The one I chose to take a picture of was the famous race horse Exterminator, winner of the 1918 Kentucky Derby and many other honors, owned by a local patent medicine manufacturer, Dr. Kilmer.

Finally, here is another view of the renovated buildings shown behind the mosaics.  Unfortunately a bus came by just at the wrong time, so part of the view is blocked.  I haven't looked up the history of this particular block of buildings, but I promise I will.

I will post some more photos later in the week, if I have time.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Today's Fourth of July

For us in the Triple Cities of upstate NY, it is hot, and somewhat quiet.  We took a short walk, did some food shopping, picked up something at the pet store, watered our community garden, came home.  Tonight we will be going to a B-Met game.  Right now spouse is doing the BBQ thing while I blog.  Son and his friend (the one I blogged about a couple of weeks ago) are listening to music-too hot to work on cars.

Thank you, those who have gone before us, for making this day possible.

But before the friend came, my son and I had some interesting conversation.

It started when I mentioned our local paper had published the Declaration of Independence.  Good for them.  It should be required reading for us.  It merits more than a one time a year glance.

My son started asking questions about when the Revolutionary War ended (and why it took so long for the Treaty of Paris to be signed) and ended up asking about how people dressed in those times, and about powdered wigs.

Son ended up doing some research on powdered wigs.  The story behind them is quite interesting.  I invite you to read about it.  You'll never think about our Founding Fathers in the same way again!

Happy 4th.

My Official 4th of July Post- Read it Quick, Before the Vandals Come

Several other people I know have posted 4th of July thoughts on Facebook, or in their blogs.  I don't promise mine will be a masterpiece of writing but here goes.  (if it rambles...well, that's my name.)

Many of us are thinking way past the BBQ- hot dogs and apple pie-setting off of illegal fireworks/terrorizing your neighborhood dogs-traditions of the 4th this year.  This is a sober year for many of us:  continued unemployment, struggles getting decent health care (health care reform notwithstanding) but most of all, watching the continued polarization of our country into two camps, neither willing to compromise, creating a paralysis while the American People suffer.

I'm rarely serious in my blog, but these are serious times.

What I want to say to both of these camps is something that isn't that original.  "We've become a nation of fearful people, a nation of angry people, who just lash out at each other while parroting the slogans of the  radio and television political commentators of our choice.  Is that what we want?  Is that what we have come to?  You are drowning out the voices of the common people, the "man in the street" and the "woman in the street", taking advantage of their fears to gain power for yourselves."

The American People, the true American people, need to take their country back.  I'm not talking Yes We Can here.  I'm not talking Tea Party.  I'm not talking red, or blue, and I don't care which color you support.  This isn't a sleepaway camp color war, folks.  This is our very lives.

I'm talking pride in our country, our community, and taking responsibility for their success or failure. 
I've traveled this country.  I've been to 46 states in a span of about 40 years.  I've met many different people, from many different cultures and "walks of life" during this time.  I lived in a liberal city of New York, and a conservative rural area in Arkansas.   We are a good people.

Many people have called Binghamton, NY, my adopted hometown area, a "burnt out industrial town".  Well, there are worse places.  Places such as Flint, Michigan (where I remember passing huge auto plants, so many of them now closed, deserted, the same as the former EJ (Endicott Johnson) plants here.  Their people out of work, wondering where the American Dream went.

No wonder they are angry.  And lashing out.

Meanwhile, and for some reason my thoughts keep circling back to this, someone tries to beautify this industrial town.  He brought the art of his late grandfather to life, starts a movement called the "hART of BC".  Artists were commissioned.  Dinosaurs were decorated.  Other cities have done this kind of thing.  It wasn't original.

But, what happened next is something that everyone in this city should ponder.

The vandals struck.  They struck again and again.  Measures were taken, and still they struck.

Now, the City of Binghamton has given up fighting the vandals.  The dinosaurs have been moved to our area indoor mall in Johnson City. (the same Johnson City that was almost dissolved last November.)

Sometimes, folks, we deserve what we get.

Circling back to my original point do we deserve to have our country destroyed by the people who take advantage of the rage of the American people?  Is it time for us to suffer the invasion of the Vandals, like the invasion of the vandals of downtown Binghamton?  I think not.  There is still a lot of life left in the American Dream.  We are not ready to go down the path of the Roman Empire.  I think we can still learn from history.  History's lesson #1 is: pay attention/educate yourself/ take responsibility.   Remember who the original Vandals were, who we name our small letter vandals after.  With other tribes, they toppled one of the strongest civilizations ever, because that civilization was rotten to the core.

Read your history.  Don't get it second hand from some mile-a-minute blabbermouth of the media, just because he/she sounds good or is entertaining.  Don't obsess about rock or TV stars, who married whom, who just got pregnant.  Obsess about what is happening in your home town.  Don't let others do it for you.

It isn't too late for us.   Yet.

And with that...may you have a happy and meaningful Fourth of July.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Highs of July 3, 1966

Two things happened on July 3, 1966, during my childhood in New York City.

44 years ago today.  The saying "time flies when you are having fun" gives me chills when I think of things I can remember so well being from so long ago, when I can barely remember what happened last week.

I subscribe to the toilet roll theory of aging-time goes faster as you get to the end of the roll.

Anyway, back to those memories.
First, LaGuardia Airport hit a record high of 107 degrees.

Second, I took my first ever plane trip, to Tampa, Florida, to visit family.  So ironically, I was not in the City by the time the record was broken.  (the record, by the way, still stands.)

I can remember the night before so clearly.  Air conditioning was pretty nonexistent in homes and apartments in those days, and we sweltered.  Boy, did we swelter.  I can still remember that night, between the heat, the suffocating heat, and my combined excitement and apprehension.  (Ironically, 107 degrees on July 3 would not have been a personal record either-that would come in 1980, in a major heatwave in Wichita, KS.)

Air travel was not quite as common in 1966 as it is today.  This was a big deal.  My Dad had flown, back in his World War II days in the Army Air Force.  In fact, he had been an airplane mechanic.

 I seem to recall the flight was on Eastern Airlines.   It was a breakfast flight, as I recall, with a totally tasteless breakfast meal.  But otherwise, the flight stuck in my mind for a number of reasons.

-the airline was happy to have us. We were treated quite nicely.
-I lost my fear of heights that day.  On the other hand, I am more and more a very reluctant air traveler.  It's been years since I've been on a plane.
-I had never been out of the NY metropolitan area, and Tampa...well, it was so different.  It stuck with me for years and years.  I ended up living in Tampa as a young adult, for nearly two years, partially due to the impression it made on me.  I still love being around palm trees and clear blue skies.
-Finally, when we got off the plane (on an exterior staircase thing, whatever they are called) the Florida heat was such a relief - it was cooler than New York!

One other thing I remember-Tampa was on standard time (NYC was on daylight savings time) so we didn't cross a time zone but still lost an hour.

We didn't fly back, because the airlines went on strike on July 8, a day or so before we were supposed to come home.  We ended up taking the train, the Atlantic Coast Line, for my first long distance train travel experience, back to New York City.  (it would take 40 years for me to make my way back to Florida on a train-which I blogged about last year.)

Ironically, the Atlantic Coast Line railroad ceased to exist on July 1, 1967.  Eastern Airlines?  Well that doesn't exist any more either.

But the cousins I visited on that day, they both are still alive, and they both still live in Florida.

As for those impressions of Tampa, so different from New York City?  Those will have to wait for another day.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The hART of Disappearing Dinos

Tonight was First Friday in downtown Binghamton.  I wanted to take some pictures and hoped to get pictures of a couple of new dinos that had appeared the last two weeks downtown.

One of the newer "Gronks" was there this morning.  I saw it on the way to work, with two of the older dinos.

This evening, there were no dinos to be found in downtown Binghamton.

What's up?  The newspaper didn't seem to say.  There was nothing on Binghamton's official website either although there was an earlier article outlining some of the measures being taken to protect the dinosaurs.

I was disappointed.  I'm sure other people were, too.

I did take some other pictures of downtown Binghamton highlights, though and hope to have them up this weekend.

UPDATE 7-3-10:  The dinos have been found.  More later, perhaps tomorrow.