Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Fall Fancies - The Post Sandy Halloweeen

In the wake of Frankenstorm here in the Binghamton, NY area, I wanted to share some pictures of Halloween decorations with you that I took prior to Frankenstorm/Superstorm Sandy.  But first...

My friends/family in NYC are checking in little by little. They have power (except maybe for one) although I'm not sure if one had to evacuate (I'm assuming he did.)  Co-workers have family in NYC too so we've all been a bit on edge.

We were fortunate to have been minimally affected. After last year's floods from Tropical Storm Lee, our area was on edge, too.  Now, though, we can relax and be grateful we weren't near the coast, or in the mountains of West Virginia, or on the Tennessee/North Carolina line where we drove last month.  (Yes, you can get snow from a hurricane).  Meanwhile this was our world last week....
On the West Side of Binghamton, one of the most unusual lawn decorations I've ever seen.
Another house, decorated for fall, also on the West Side of Binghamton.

On the Vestal Rail Trail, in Vestal, NY.
I had featured this pumpkin previously, but I like it so much that I am posting it again.
And finally, in Yonkers, NY, just north of NYC,another city hit by the hurricane.  (I can only hope it still looks like this now, in the wake of the storm.)

Not everyone decorates for Halloween - I personally prefer to decorate for fall, with scarecrows, leaf garlands, and even multicolored corn.  But these are definitely Fall Fancies.

Finally:  with my participation in the writing competition NaNoWriMo starting tomorrow (which will take a tremendous toll on my writing energy), this will probably be the last "new" Fall Fancy of the season.  I may use Wednesdays as a weekly check in on my NaNoWriMo progress, to keep me going out of shame.

What is your favorite way to decorate for Halloween, if you participate in this holiday?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Under the Full Moon, the Real Boo

Who needs a fake Halloween haunted event when Nature gives you the Real Boo?

(Witch decoration on Vestal Rail Trail, Vestal, NY courtesy of AM)

My home neighborhood, where I spent part of my babyhood (Arverne,in the Rockaways section of New York City) is flooded.  Rockaway Beach is flooded.  Power shut off in parts of Lower Manhattan.  13 feet of water at the Battery. Subways in danger of flooding.  Reading Twitter, some massive transformer explosion, huge green flash and East Village goes dark. But first some one tweeted a photo, with cars floating down the street under an eerie yellow glow.

The Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook, that I blogged about several times in September, is flooding.  High tide came - under a full moon.  Could you make this up?

And then there is The Crane. The huge crane dangling in midtown Manhattan, looking like something melted it.  As of this writing, it's still there.

I'm crying out to NYC friends on Facebook:  are you there? One responds, sending me a map where I can check out power outages.  Looking at this, I think a cousin has lost power and he later posts on Facebook that he, indeed, has lost power.  Someone in Bensonhurst (a neighborhood in Brooklyn) says the downed power lines are putting out quite the fireworks show.

The Daily News (one of NYC's papers) is flooding.  So much for The News.

A cousin in Harrisburg, PA lost power for a while and has water in his basement.

We made the right call in insisting my elderly mother in law and her disabled son, who live in the metro area, stay with a relative.  Power is out where my mother in law lives now, and, knowing their electric utility, it could take days to be restored.  Normally, she doesn't flood and didn't flood during Irene. Let's hope she doesn't now, either.

State of emergency here in Johnson City NY, 150 long miles away from NYC.  But, the weather here is actually less dire than first predicted.  We lucked out.  Hope I'm not too premature in saying that.

I'm prewriting this so I can post immediately upon waking up today, or in case my power is out.  I won't know what I will be waking up to.

To all my readers in the path of Sandy...I hope dawn finds you safe and undamaged.  I know what the family of NYC residents will do.  You will all unite and get things done.  NYC residents are proud, and are survivors.

You will survive.  And I will be with you in spirit.

Monday, October 29, 2012

From the Rear

Saturday we decided it wouldn't be a bad idea to own a kerosene heater., with Sandy bearing down on us  We have natural gas heat, and no secondary method of heating (i.e. a wood stove or fireplace). We didn't realize we would end up on TV.

We had looked the night before on Amazon to get some ideas, but we decided we really needed a bunch of customer service.  There is a local hardware store just a few miles from us where we have experienced the best customer service time and time again.  So we headed out, hoping they weren't sold out.  The "they", by the way, is Kovarik True Value Hardware and I would love to give them a shout out.

The first thing we saw was a display generator with a "sold" sign on it. The second thing we saw was, two news people.  A young woman, and a young man.  The young man was holding a large camera on his shoulder.  That sure got our attention.  But we went over (first things first) to one of their customer service people, got our questions about kerosene heaters answered, and then he had to help someone else while we made up our minds.   So at that point the newswoman noticed us.

The woman asked if we would like to be interviewed, and my spouse volunteered.

So, those of you who know who I am, if you go on the WBNG website and look for my last name, you will find a link. Spouse's interview was cut (I think we were lucky we got on at all) and two small portions were used

My role was (figures) being photographed from the rear.

Have you ever been interviewed on the news?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Civil War Sunday - The Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation

Many people are not aware that the "Emancipation Proclamation" that was effective on January 1, 1863, was preceded by a Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, in the wake of the Union victory at Antietam (near Sharpsburg, MD).

On November 1 and November 2, a museum in Binghamton will feature, from a traveling exhibit, the only copy of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in Lincoln's own handwriting.

Quoting from the article:

" Lincoln’s handwritten Preliminary Proclamation, issued one hundred fifty years ago in the midst of the Civil War, is the only surviving copy of this document in Lincoln’s own handwriting. Lincoln donated it to the U.S. Sanitary Commission, which raffled the document at an Albany Army Relief Association Fair in 1864. It was later purchased by the New York State Legislature."

A chance to view history.  Will anyone come out?

A few weeks ago, this exhibit was in Syracuse.  I was told there were 3 hour waits.

Will I brave the crowds? That depends on the weather.  Between now and November 1, we will go through what the media is calling Frankenstorm.  I hope I can get to see it.  Besides being able to view Lee's "lost order" back in September, this would be a great thrill for me and other lovers of history.

This is the full text, if anyone is interested, courtesy of  I will blog later, this year, about the Emancipation Proclamation itself, which is a document misunderstood by many.

Incidentally, William Seward, Lincoln's Secretary of State, and the man responsible for the purchase of the territory that became Alaska from Russia, was also a governor of New York and both a New York State Senator and a State Senator.  I plan to blog about him at a future date, also.

Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, September 22, 1862

By the President of the United States of America.
A Proclamation.
I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America, and Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy thereof, do hereby proclaim and declare that hereafter, as heretofore, the war will be prosecuted for the object of practically restoring the constitutional relation between the United States, and each of the States, and the people thereof, in which States that relation is, or may be, suspended or disturbed.
That it is my purpose, upon the next meeting of Congress to again recommend the adoption of a practical measure tendering pecuniary aid to the free acceptance or rejection of all slave States, so called, the people whereof may not then be in rebellion against the United States and which States may then have voluntarily adopted, or thereafter may voluntarily adopt, immediate or gradual abolishment of slavery within their respective limits; and that the effort to colonize persons of African descent, with their consent, upon this continent, or elsewhere, with the previously obtained consent of the Governments existing there, will be continued.
That on the first day of January in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State, or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the executive government of the United States,including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.
That the executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States, and part of States, if any, in which the people thereof respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State, or the people thereof shall, on that day be, in good faith represented in the Congress of the United States, by members chosen thereto, at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such State shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States.
That attention is hereby called to an Act of Congress entitled "An Act to make an additional Article of War" approved March 13, 1862, and which act is in the words and figure following:
"Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That hereafter the following shall be promulgated as an additional article of war for the government of the army of the United States, and shall be obeyed and observed as such:
"Article-All officers or persons in the military or naval service of the United States are prohibited from employing any of the forces under their respective commands for the purpose of returning fugitives from service or labor, who may have escaped from any persons to whom such service or labor is claimed to be due, and any officer who shall be found guilty by a court martial of violating this article shall be dismissed from the service.
"Sec.2. And be it further enacted, That this act shall take effect from and after its passage."
Also to the ninth and tenth sections of an act entitled "An Act to suppress Insurrection, to punish Treason and Rebellion, to seize and confiscate property of rebels, and for other purposes," approved July 17, 1862, and which sections are in the words and figures following:
"Sec.9. And be it further enacted, That all slaves of persons who shall hereafter be engaged in rebellion against the government of the United States, or who shall in any way give aid or comfort thereto, escaping from such persons and taking refuge within the lines of the army; and all slaves captured from such persons or deserted by them and coming under the control of the government of the United States; and all slaves of such persons found on (or) being within any place occupied by rebel forces and afterwards occupied by the forces of the United States, shall be deemed captives of war, and shall be forever free of their servitude and not again held as slaves.
"Sec.10. And be it further enacted, That no slave escaping into any State, Territory, or the District of Columbia, from any other State, shall be delivered up, or in any way impeded or hindered of his liberty, except for crime, or some offence against the laws, unless the person claiming said fugitive shall first make oath that the person to whom the labor or service of such fugitive is alleged to be due is his lawful owner, and has not borne arms against the United States in the presen t rebellion, nor in any way given aid and comfort thereto; and no person engaged in the military or naval service of the United States shall, under any pretence whatever, assume to decide on the validity of the claim of any person to the service or labor of any other person, or surrender up any such person to the claimant, on pain of being dismissed from the service."
And I do hereby enjoin upon and order all persons engaged in the military and naval service of the United States to observe, obey, and enforce, within their respective spheres of service, the act, and sections above recited.
And the executive will in due time recommend that all citizens of the United States who shall have remained loyal thereto throughout the rebellion, shall (upon the restoration of the constitutional relation between the United States, and their respective States, and people, if that relation shall have been suspended or disturbed) be compensated for all losses by acts of the United States, including the loss of slaves.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington this twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord, one thousand, eight hundred and sixty-two, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty seventh.
[Signed:] By the President, Abraham Lincoln,
[Signed:] William H. Seward, Secretary of State

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Sustainable Saturday - The Calm Before the Storm

Part of "sustainable" living is attempting to live within the rhythms of nature.  This is a trick our local government hasn't learned yet.

With climate change, or whatever you want to call it, we now face record, fierce storms that are larger than anything we experienced when we were younger.

The Saturday Otsiningo Park Farmers Market near Binghamton will go on today as scheduled - Frankenstorm has not moved in yet on us here in upstate NY.  (I will announce some news about the market later in this post.) But before the storm comes a calm, and I want to share the last bit of upstate NY fall with you before the hurricane moves in.

The last of the trees are starting to turn now. This red maple in Binghamton, NY is a contrast to the bare tree it stands next to.  Actually, with the oncoming Hurricane Sandy, it is well that these trees shed their leaves now.
Nearby, a red bush blooms (picture taken earlier this week).  These bushes have been so red this year, they practically glow.

So, with the beauty of fall about ready to end with a fierce storm, it is time to announce that our Regional Farmers Market is going to be a reality by next year.  It is official.

Construction will begin next January, with a building on the edge of the park that used to be a rest area building (the rest stop closed back in the 1990's) being remodeled.  And at long last, we will have a year round farmers market.  Not very big compared to, say, Asheville, North Carolina, but it's a start.  I'm sure the building will have to be expanded and that will happen come spring, when the ground defrosts.

So what is the problem?  Speaking of potential heavy rains and flooding....

Otsiningo Park is situated along the Chenango River and has flooded several times over the years. The area where the building is has not flooded in the 25 plus years I've lived in this area but the park is closed whenever it floods and if the park is closed, you won't be able to get to the market.

There must be a reason why this park is a park and is not part of the residential neighborhood it adjoins.  So maybe local government had a good reason back when not to develop the area.  Maybe today's local government should give that some thought.

If we gave the increasingly likelihood of flooding in our area some thought, we might want to rethink some things, including putting a year round venue inside this park. Or, if they want to go ahead, make sure the design is in harmony with the fact that the park may flood.  And that our climate is changing.

I'll sure be curious to see, come January, what the design will be like.

In the meantime, I will enjoy this calm before the storm.  And, apart from a bit of anxiety over the coming storm - I can't wait to have a year round farmers market.

Why should Asheville have all the fun?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Will I Let NaNoWriMo Eat My Soul?

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). The name glides from the keyboard smooth as silk.  NaNoWriMo. 

One month, 50,000. words, fiction.  Write till you drop.  Generate record profits for the coffee industry. Hopefully, get something out of a month of sheer terror that can be refined into a novel.  People have written novels and gotten them published. 

Writers hanging around writers, both in cyberspace and (in various cities) physically, urging each other on, sounded great. Sounded scary. So why did I keep thinking about it  Like a throbbing tooth that you just must nudge with your tongue, NaNoWriMo worked its way into my mind. 

At first I said to myself, I'm not going to do it.  Actually it isn't the 50,000 words in 30 days thing that terrifies me.  It's the fiction thing.  I don't do fiction.  Well, I haven't done fiction since, oh, I was a 12 year old writing the timeless novel "Birdmen of Zuma" about canary men with super powers, living in - where else? - the Canary Islands.  Timeless as in "You've Never Seen it At Your Local Bookstore and You Should Thank Me Daily For That." (I even have a timeless friend and blog reader who remembers me pounding out that novel, day after day, after school, on her mother's typewriter.)

I thank those writers who gave me encouragement, with a special shout out to the author Jo Michaels, after I blogged about possibly doing NaNoWriMo.  I pondered and made excuses in my head.  Excuses, I do very well.  Fiction, I don't do well at all.  I even looked at the rules and it said FICTION. You know, character development and plot. I prefer to tell stories about what is or what was, in "real life".

I decided to lurk around the public parts of the NaNoWriMo website. And when I started to dig into the forums, an amazing thing happened.  I was back in the book What Color is Your Parachute, in the cocktail party exercise I blogged about last week.

This exercise involves imagining you are in a cocktail party, where people have gathered in the corners.  Historians in one corner. Mathematicians in another.  Artists in another. Mechanics in another, and so forth.  You can hang out in any corner you want, regardless of if you have the skills or the experience, and listen to the conversations. The corner you end up wanting to be in gives you clues as to what your chosen career should involve.

While in those forums, I found my corner. I'm a writer, after all.

How can I resist forums with names like "NaNoWriMo Ate My Soul"? "The Plot Bunny Day Care Center"? and "What Your English Teacher Lied About"? These people are my kind of crazy.

So now, all I have to do is find a way I can disguise non fiction as fiction,  and come up with (I guess) a title, all in the next 5 days. And register, before Frankenstorm comes and we lose our power.

Novels have power to change the world.  As someone who started out college out majoring in history, I should know that.  Maybe, just maybe, if I write about the right thing, the novel (as Jo Michaels pointed out to me) will write itself.

For now, I still ponder.

Anyone else in upstate NY thinking about NaNoWriMo?

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Be afraid.  Be very afraid.  Frankenstorm is coming to the Northeast United States.

It's not a trick or treat.  It isn't make believe spooky, like the picture above.

My spouse, who is an amateur meteorologist, has been tracking this storm via the Weather Channel for the past 3 days.  Now, we are told computer models are saying there is a 90% chance of the East Coast being hit by this "hybrid" storm.  I'm watching the CBS Evening News right now and it's starting to sound pretty dire.

It's been a little more than 13 months since my neighborhood,and other neighborhoods, of the Twin Tiers of New York were hit by the 1-2 punch of Tropical Storm Irene and Tropical Storm Lee and flooded.  A number of houses in my neighborhood, and others, may never be lived in again.  So I do have an idea of what flooding will be lik.

And that was in September and not at the end of October.  No cold air in the wings, no possibility of snow right around the corner.

My elderly mother in law, further south, and closer to the coast, lost power for five days thanks to Irene.  Family members had taken her up here (to another relative, but with us helping out) but, with the chance of flooding, I don't think we dare to do that, but where my mother in law lives

So - we are far from panicking but it is time to make some preparations, and phone calls.

Are you in the potential path of this storm?  Are you making preparations?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fall Fancies - The Cruelest Month

Fall color has reached its peak here in upstate NY.  In areas, the trees are bare.  Almost all trees that still have leaves are showing some degree of color. 

October can be the cruelest month.  Don't be fooled by those bright yellow or red leaves lighting up the hills.  Don't be surprised when they fall from the trees in showers of debris needing to be raked up.  Don't be misled by fall flowers.  These are the colors of impending death.  You can feel the chill in the air. You can see the weakening daylight.  You can be chilled to the bone.  You know you are seeing the death of summer.

Soon, we will be slipping on ice.  Soon, we will be shoveling snow.  But until then, let us hold onto these last memories of the growing season.
A tree in Endicott, NY near the George F. Johnson Library.
A wildflower clings to life in Yonkers, NY, just north of New York City.
A mystery flower (anyone know what this is?) sends up its final blooms in the Cross County shopping center in Yonkers.
And, in a bed in the Cross County center, flowering cabbages rule along with sedum.

So many people I know love the four seasons.  And indeed, I drink the cider of fall.  I eat the apples.  I drink the first soups of the cold weather season.  But I still think that fall is the cruelest month, because I know what comes next.

The Great Sleep.  Winter.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The World on the Edge of Forever

The world was about to end.  We understood on that at some level, that afternoon in October of 1962 when we walked home from school.  We said goodbye to each other, that afternoon, saying "See you tomorrow - if there is a tomorrow."

We didn't know why we were saying that.

We didn't know what the world ending meant.

We didn't know that our world was teetering on the edge of forever. Thankfully, that knowledge was left to our parents, and the other adults of our world.  You know, those adults who were supposed to keep us children safe.

We didn't know that our President, that handsome President Kennedy, had appeared on TV on Monday, October 22, 1962.  Headlines in newspapers warned that the speech would be of the highest national urgency.

Our young President, in office for less than two years, told the American people that the Soviets had set up nuclear missiles on the island of Cuba, less than 100 miles from the Florida Keys.
For the next week, the world held its collective breath while the two nuclear superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, manuvered, finally realizing they had to back off from the brink. They found a way.

Some historians consider October, 1962, the most dangerous month in the history of the world.

My spouse has memories of walking home from school, to eat lunch (this was common back then), and hearing sirens go off.  He and his friends, in a panic, ran towards their homes as fast as they could.

I don't know if my fellow bloggers, some  of which barely remember the Soviet Union, can imagine what those days in October were like.

50 years ago, the world was a very different place.  We should never forget that, for the Cuban Missile Crisis has lessons to teach us today.

Nostalgia sometimes isn't pleasant. 

Sometimes, you don't want to remember.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Yonkers Before the Zombies

The world is supposed to end in December of 2012. 

 What better time to release what was going to be the zombie film of all time, World War Z?  Based on the book by Max Brooks (Mel Brooks's son, not that it should matter but sometimes it does), I was so looking forward to this. (The film, which Brad Pitt was supposed to star in, is now delayed into 2013, if it ever gets released at all. What a (not) surprise!)

You see, I am secretly into zombie lit.  Not all of it but it does fit into the dystopian future literature, feed upon.

I was so looking forward to seeing the Battle of Yonkers.  Yonkers is a city in New York State that borders New York City on its north.  In World War Z, after New York City falls to the zombies, the U.S. Army makes a stand in Yonkers.  I'll leave it to your imagination how the battle ends.

Yonkers isn't worried, by the way.  They are too busy decorating for Halloween.  I should know - I visited Yonkers a couple of days ago.

On our way to a party yesterday, we passed a house that was incredibly decorated for zo....I mean, Halloween.
It was located on Kimball Avenue, in walking distance of the Cross County shopping center.
After the party, we went back.  It was getting dark, and floodlights had been turned on.
You can't see it in the photos but there was even an animated "dead" figure trying to crawl along the ground.  Not exactly a zombie, but it could have been.
Finally, it got too dark, and we left the house to its fate.

No one ever decorated for Halloween when I was growing up.  Now, it's getting to be almost as big a decorating holiday as Christmas has become.  And zombies are massively popular now, for reasons I could spend an entire week blogging about.

So Yonkers waits.  Patiently waits, for the zombies to come.

Brad, eat your heart out.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Civil War Sunday-"Happy" 151st

Today is the 151st anniversary of the Battle of Ball's Bluff (Battle of Leesburg) in Virginia.

We've been commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War for about a year and a half now, so it is well we take a look back.

In October of 1861, things were still somewhat disorganized - the first major battle (First Manassas) having been fought only three months before.

By October of 1862, two of the bloodiest battles of the war had been fought -Shiloh (Pittsburg Landing) in April 1862 and Antietam in September, 1862.  So Ball's Bluff by then was probably just a footnote. A sad footnote, true, featuring Union dependence on a map drawn without a steep bluff overlooking the Potomac that would be a prominent part of the battle.  A battle that took the life of a standing U.S. Senator; a man who Abraham Lincoln named a son after.  A battle that never should have happened (not that any battle ever "should have happened"). 

Ball's Bluff was also a battle that pointed out the importance of rivers in fighting the Civil War.  So many times we live near rivers with no clue as to why people, back in the "old days", settled near rivers.

Rivers weren't just for pretty or for recreation.  For so much of our history, and the history of mankind, rivers were our main highways, our water supply, and sometimes even the fertilization of our fields through flooding.

To the citizens of Civil War Virgina, the Potomac was a lot more than the river that George Washington made famous.

The Mississippi would become a major object of battle and control in the West.  As I blogged about last Sunday, too many of us think of the Civil War as a war fought on land, and fought only in the Eastern states.

But there's more.

Ball's Bluff, like so many Civil War battles, sat neglected and endangered for many, many years.  Developers almost got it in the 1980's but failed.  Gradually the park is growing in size.  A 150th anniversary reenactment was held last October, one I had hoped to visit but the September flooding of my area and my neighborhood forced us to change our plans.  Still, like so many Civil War battlefields, it is located in a residential neighborhood, from what I understand.

So I will wish Ball's Bluff a "happy" 151st.  May it continue to grow, and may I manage to visit it one day.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Sustainable Saturday-The State of Uncertainty

Interesting mystery.  Where is our regional farmers market? Where is it hiding?  Where is the market that was supposed to revitalize our area?  And should I even hope for it, considering the bombshell recently dropped on our community garden? (more on that at the end of the post.)

It was supposed to be built in popular Otsiningo Park, near Binghamton, New York, where an outdoor farmers market becomes more and more popular each week. But our climate allows outdoor farmers markets only during the spring and summer. A farmers market in Ithaca, New York (about an hour from us) chugs along, on a reduced schedule, until Christmastime.  And last year, we did have an indoor winter market three times a month in downtown Binghamton.

This was supposed to be an indoor market, which would operate year round.  One of its inspirations was supposed to be the Western North Carolina Farmers Market in Asheville, NC.  I've been to that market, and the larger market in the North Carolina capital of Raleigh.

I was really looking forward to having our own indoor market, especially as we are winding up outdoor market season here in upstate NY.   An airy market with a roof on it.

Construction was supposed to start this summer.  Summer is gone.  We are into fall. 
No word in the newspapers.

No word on the Internet.

I talked to a vendor at the Otsiningo Farmers Market last Saturday.  She knew only there was supposed to be a ground breaking before the "end of fall", whatever that means.

And she brought us some bad news.  Right now, there is no winter home for the Farmers Market.  Last winter's site has been sold (again) and apparently the new owners aren't interested in having it.

They are looking into some other locations, but nothing definite yet.

Uncertain winter farmers market.  Uncertain indoor market.  And one more little thing....the rumor is, we are going to lose our Otsiningo community garden.  The ground may be taken for parking.  The head of our governing committee has confirmed this is a possibility.

What a dilemma.  Should I support this market, knowing it may be the end of our community garden?

But for now, we just wait in a state of uncertainty.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Four Seasons Friday

Someone told me that today is the 50th anniversary of the singing group The Four Seasons.  To people my age, of a "certain age", the soundtrack of our lives includes the songs of this group, the inspiration for the Broadway play "Jersey Boys".

I can sing along with so many of them even now, remembering all the words.  They were clean words, too - no songs here that you would wince at if any of your children started to sing them.

I don't know how this 50th anniversary is measured, incidentally- does anyone out there know?

By this date in 1962, the Four Seasons already had their first hit, Sherry, which stayed #1 for five weeks. (this was way before the co-founder Frankie Valli's name was added to the group's title).

After Sherry, they followed up with (sorry, poor quality) another #1 hit that stayed #1 for five weeks, Big Girls Don't Cry.

They would end up with eight number one songs, one of which, Rag Doll, was voted by listeners of a NYC radio station as the "#1 song of all time".

Even my spouse, who favors hard rock, remembers the Four Seasons fondly and loves the song "Rag Doll".  Can you imagine - loving Metallica and Rag Doll?

My favorite?  Walk Like a Man.  Check this video out - like we used to say just a few years later, "Can you dig it?"

Any other Four Seasons fans out there?  What's your favorite Four Seasons song?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

What You Should Do When Discouraged

There are some days when - things are so stressful that you wonder if you are truly just a voice in the wilderness or making a difference, somehow, somewhere.  And, if it all matters.

I'm not quite there yet, but this is shaping up to be one of those days.  So what is the cure?

Positive thinking?

Practicing gratefulness?

Reminding myself (as a friend with cancer says) "The best part of waking up is waking up?"

These are good.  I have one even better.

When you are having a day like this, my friend, if you have a blog, the cure is to visit.....

Your S*P*A*M Folder, assuming it isn't too big.  If it is (and a blogger I know had a MAJOR problem recently, right in the middle of what may have been one of the worst months in her life), it is no joke.  But for  small time bloggers like me, it can be quite entertaining.

Where else will you find comments declaring how great your writing is, how informative your blog is, and just how worthwhile its existence is, because someone is going to try to sneak a link to THEIR business or blog on there. Or a link to an "adult" site, or even worse.  In that folder, you will find some of the best examples of poor English.  Are these people from other countries?  Or the uneducated (shudder) of ours?  Both?

There is good social engineering out there.  I've never seen one in that folder.

I'm pretty lucky.  I don't get much S*P*A*M (It's the good, flip side, of not getting many comments, either).  But if you don't have enough such comments in your folder to cheer you up, the Internet will provide you with some.  One of our fellow bloggers, apparently, was left  the entire library of comments of an aspiring spamblogger. 

Recognize any of these gems?

Are there writing sweatshops somewhere where these are churned out?  Or is some 13 year old on the other side of the world, home from school and bored, producing these?

I'm at a disadvantage, too, because I use Blogger.  If I ever hit the big time, I am going to be in trouble.  Blogger so far is pretty good about blocking these, but for a while they weren't.  If they let their guard down for even a second...and services like Askimet don't work with Blogger, from what I understand.

I sure wonder what (free service) does.  I may have to look one day.

But until then...what was your favorite S*P*A*M comment?  We might as well laugh together.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fall Fancies - Manga Pumpkins and Winter Squashes

Pumpkins - it must be October.  But Manga pumpkins?

Yes. I love the fusion of American and Japanese culture.  And I loved this painted pumpkin that was somehow uniquely American.

Pumpkins rule in upstate NY this time of years.  Pumpkins are everywhere.  There are orange pumpkins, even warted pumpkins.

Small pumpkins and large pumpkins. White pumpkins and orange "Jack Be Little" pumpkins.  These were for sale at the Otsiningo Park farmers market in Binghamton.
Other squashes, too, including these gourds being sold at the Ithaca farmers market.
Sweet dumpling squashes - so beautiful in their variety, and so good to eat.  These were at a local farm stand.
But pumpkins are the king of squashes.

Yesterday I had a pumpkin flavored coffee.  Everywhere, people are munching on pumpkin bread, chock full of pumpkin and nuts.  Pumpkin cookies, even pumpkin ravioli, are available for sale.  If you don't like to eat pumpkin (true confession, I'm not that crazy about eating pumpkin) there are pumpkins for carving, and pumpkins for painting.

Pumpkins in upstate New York equal fall.

What symbolizes fall where you live?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Why did I start cyber-hanging around with a bunch of authors?  Maybe it had something to do with this Author Blog Challenge I did earlier this year. 

I feel like my life has turned into an exercise from the What Color is Your Parachute book - you know, the one where you attend the party where there are groups of people in all these corners.  One corner has mathematicians.  One has painters.  One has writers.  One has geeks.  One has people who love to cook.  And you can hang out with whichever group appeals to you.  You don't have to know anything about their craft.  You can just hang out. (and by knowing who you want to hang out with, you figure out Your Life's Work.  In my case, my Retirement Work, as I am about to enter into my 60's and I do plan to retire one day.)

And that's what I did, sort of, thinking of what I would do in my retirement years.  I hung out with writers and I wrote my blog and I was so proud of myself because I had blogged every day since, oh, late April of 2011.

But then, my hanging out people started to blog about something called NaNoWriMo (or NaNo, not to be confused with what Robin Williams used to say on a long-ago TV show).  This NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month, which takes place every November. 

The Oh No part I'll get to later.

During the month of November these brave souls endeavor to write 50,000 words, which comes out to 1667 words a day.  The purpose, as I understand it, is to get off your sitting part and Write That Novel that has been knocking around most people's heads for years. 

Wow.  Novels get written, and some even get published.  Just thinking of all those people pounding away on their keyboards was dizzy-making.

I said to myself "But I don't HAVE a novel knocking around my head."  And, I suspect, that puts me in a small group, maybe 1/2 of 1% of the American population.  Because everyone is supposed to have a novel rattling around up there somewhere. What I have rattling around in my mental attic is a bunch of file cabinets with overflowing drawers and papers tumbling everywhere onto the floor of my mind.  No novels.

But then I went to the NaNo website and started to read it.  And I saw the part where you could meet fellow writers online. And there would be Actual Published Writers there to lend encouragement through pep talks.  For some reason I started to read through the list of writers.  And came across the name of....

Scott Westerfeld.  My heart skipped a beat.  Because Scott Westerfeld wrote one of my favorite series of all times, the Uglies series. I dare join NaNo with no novel, and just make it up as I go along? (I take it that such a person is called a "pantser". But even a pantser has to start with an idea.)

Or do I just say:  Oh No? And give up the opportunity forever to learn from Scott Westerfeld?

No, I'm not going to do it.  I don't have the needed fire in the belly. I'm not ready. Not yet. But it will stay in the back of my mind.  Why not try next year?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day October 2012 - Second Summer

It's time for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, hosted once again by May Dream Gardens.  Gardeners from all over the world gather to show what is blooming in their gardens.  I'm cheating a bit, because of my schedules today.  Some of these pictures were taken Friday, others Sunday (when it got up to 67 degrees - ahhhh!) but everything that was blooming on Sunday, is still blooming today.

In my Johnson City, NY yard, we had a lot of thing blooming on Friday, despite rain, 44 degrees and a shower of ice pellets. (hey, who turned fall off?). And then, on Saturday morning, without even a frosty morning first, we hit a record low of 26 degrees.  A number of things we covered are in Plant Heaven, brought down by the record low temperatures:  my white marigolds, my red dahlias, my purple peppers, my variegated basil.  Let us have a moment of silence as I remember the joy each plant gave me.

We never covered this mum.  If we had, it would probably still look like this.  Our local supermarket had pots with three different colors in one pot, and I don't think those pots stayed in the store long.

This is the first of two mystery plants in this post.  We were given this as a gift, and have had it for several years, growing in full sun.  It has never bloomed before and the leaves (again, this was taken Friday) were nipped by the frost. I would certainly love to know what this plant, and its mystery blooms, are.  The plant will be back next spring.

This is our second mystery plant.  We covered this and it came through with flying colors.  We bought this last year in a local nursery at 50% off.  We returned this year and they didn't have it.  In a show of our usual disorganization, we now have no idea whatsoever what this plant is.
We didn't even know this viola was blooming.  Surprise!
This yellow bleeding heart didn't miss a beat.
Nature had one last surprise for us.  We had grown a purple sweet potato vine, the ornamental type, in a pot this year. We've tried growing sweet potatoes here without much success in our zone 5b garden.  The plant did very nicely for us and - when moving the pot into the garage for protection,we noticed we had - a sweet potato!  (I wonder if it is edible).  This is what it looked like yesterday.

What a strange gardening year this has been.

I look forward to visiting some of your gardens later today.  Happy GBBD to all!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Civil War Sunday - All Was Not Quiet on the Western Front

The man in the Tennessee welcome center greeted my spouse and I with a smile and asked us to sign their visitor register.  It was the third week of September, and we were on our way home (upstate NY) from western North Carolina.
I had nearly visited Tennessee (for the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Shiloh (Pittsburg Landing commemoration) in late March but we had looked into motel rooms too late.  But, I told the gentleman, I was interested in the Civil War and did he have any material I could use for a future visit.

He looked at me with a smile.  He sure did.  Did you know, he asked, that Tennessee, after Virginia, had the most number of battles in the war?

No - although it did not surprise me.  But it did point to something that I have been negligent about blogging during my Sunday posts about the West.  Shame on me.    I used to live in Arkansas and commuted through two Civil War battlefields on the way to work each weekday for almost 5 years.  I lived in Kansas, the site of a battle few have heard of - Mine Creek (Osage).

When people think "Civil War" they think Virginia, they think Maryland, they think Georgia, and maybe South Carolina.  Next year they will be thinking Pennsylvania, too, as we approach the 150th anniversary of the perhaps most well known battle of all, Gettysburg.

They do not think about how widespread the war was.  It was fought in the then New Mexico territory.  It was fought in Kansas, in Missouri, in Mississippi. There was a small battle fought in Arizona on April 15, 1862, less than 10 days after Shiloh.  The skirmish of Picacho Pass was fought some 50 miles from Tuscon.


All was not quiet on the Western front.  Especially not the state of Tennessee.  Tennessee deserves a lot more than a few words and I promise to blog more about it in the coming months.  In the meantime, know that it was the last state to secede, and many in the state were pro-Union - so much so that Abraham Lincoln's running mate in 1864 (Andrew Johnson), was from Tennessee.
Some bloggers have done an excellent job of examining the western front of the war.  As we approach the 150th anniversary of the two Civil War battles (Prairie Grove and Cane Hill) I commuted through daily, I will feature one of those bloggers.

In the meantime - when you think Civil War, think the entire United States and its territories.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Sustainable Saturday-The Icy Fingers of Fall

Yesterday, ice pellets mixed in with rain, in a mid-40's rain shower.  Today, at my son's house (about 20 minutes from us, in the Southern Tier of New York, it was just under 20 degrees.  Officially, we set a record for the date, of 26 degrees. 

Although we covered plants, we lost our dahlias, our basil and our marigolds.

At the Otsiningo Park Farmers Market, farmers sold the last of their frost-tender vegetables.  We bought our last green beans of the year.  Now, the farmers market will be down to apples, pears, winter squash, chard,and these favorites:  small white and orange mini-pumpkins, and Indian Corn.
Our thoughts go back to last Saturday, when we visited Ithaca, home of Cornell University.  A week ago and an age ago, when somewhat warm weather still favored us.  We knew the sun was getting weaker and weaker by the day, and it was a matter of time.  Time. Just a week ago, the Ithaca market still had
 beautiful, colorful peppers...

...watermelon radishes and black spanish radishes...

....and the gourds so many of us use to decorate.

But now early fall has been replaced by the icy fingers of fall.  As the temperatures dip into the teens for the first time, and ice pellets mix in with rain, we are reminded that it won't be long before our gardens are sleeping underneath a blanket of white.  Sometimes I wish that we humans could join our gardens, in a winter-long snooze that would end when the first buds start to swell next spring.

Goodbye, flowers.  Goodbye, warmth.  It is the natural way of upstate New York, but it doesn't mean I have to like it.  But accepting the cycle of nature is part of sustainable living.

 Today, I sigh.  Tomorrow, I will sip hot chocolate and put up the fall decorations.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The First Ice and the Last Flowers

In 1492, Columbus may have sailed the ocean blue.  But in 2012, on what used to be Columbus Day, we started our day in Binghamton, NY with ice pellets and ended up with a mad dash to get plants under cover for a predicted hard freeze.

A hard freeze - we haven't even had a frost yet!

Ice pellets?

Early spring, early fall.  And there is an old folk belief that the earlier the first hard freeze, the harsher the winter.
(Civil War monument, Courthouse Lawn, Binghamton, NY 10-12-12, photo courtesy of AM)
The last downtown Binghamton farmers market, shrunken down to two booths, shivered in the winds of a day where it only got to 51 degrees.  A few people stopped by to check out the cabbages and apples. 

Goodbye growing season.

On the West Side of Binghamton, a mystery purple flower bravely bloomed in the cold.
And at our house, a rosemary, not yet potted up for the winter (they can't survive our winters outdoors), blooms.  (The flowers are purple - I have no idea why they photographed blue).

Since it was the Columbus Day of my youth (back when Columbus Day was October 12), I thought I would end the post with our local downtown statue of Christopher Columbus  Never mind that he didn't discover America, and that many people already there were sorry he ever found it, there his statue is...

Now I can only hope the folklore is wrong and we have another mild winter.  A winter without ice. A winter without snow.  It almost happened last year.  Wouldn't it be nice if the first ice was also the last ice?

Goodbye, flowers.  Goodbye, summer.  Goodbye, warmth.  See you next spring.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Is Mitt Romney Completely Wrong?

Got your attention, didn't I?

No, this has not turned into a political blog.  Rather, once again, it's time to marvel at this Internet that didn't exist when I was growing up, or for many years after, but rules so much of our lives now.

Welcome to the wonderful world of Search Engines, the entities that allow the Internet to function.  There is a series of valid techniques, which many businesses and business bloggers use, called Search Engine Optimization or SEO. SEO allows bloggers (or businesspeople) to increase the visibility of their blogs or businesses to search engines and, hence, and increase traffic to their site.

But sometimes the way search engines work can lead to what I like to call "unintended consequences". 

The latest buzz is the discovery that searching Google Images under "completely wrong" brings up images of Mitt Romney.

Google says it is not intentional; that it was a result of something Romney said recently that got tied to the photos.

Of course, any young adult (such as my son) has a mental library full of fascinating Google search results.   Good late-night entertainment.  Some of these results are tied into something called "Google bombing", where pranksters intentionally fool Google into giving a certain result.

George W. Bush, Tony Blair, John Kerry and Barack Obama (and, infamously, Rick Santorum) have been victims of Google bombing.

If you do a Google search for "miserable failure", you now will get results pointing to articles about Google bombing rather than George W. Bush.  The "French Military Victory" search no longer results in "Did you mean French military defeats" and "More Evil than Satan Himself" no longer results in a link to Microsoft.  Google has done bomb cleanup well.

 If you have ever wished for 15 minutes of fame - you may want to wish again.  Unless you REALLY want to be bombed...

 As for SEO....this blog is a hobby, and a writing "incubator", for me. But one day, I may have to become serious about increasing traffic.  And if that happens, I will be wishing for my 15 minutes of fame.  At least, I will have many fellow Ultimate Blog Challengers to help me along.

Was your blog ever a hobby?  When did it become serious business?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Fall Fancies - Fall Surprise

After a couple of autumns with drab color, we have some nice fall color, finally - sort of, here in the Southern Tier of New York State.    Because of drought, our fall color forecast originally was for another drab year.


Our trees started to turn earlier than in any year in the recent past here in the Binghamton,NY area.  It makes sense, given our very early spring. And the pattern of turning is a little unusual.  Some hills are green.  Some are full of color.  Some hills, even in the first week of October, are already bare.

Normally, color begins in the hills and moves down off the hills, ending in the river valleys.  Not this year.  Locust trees in downtown Binghamton (in the river valley) are already nearly bare, with some hilltops still green.

Other trees can't make up their mind, with brillant leaves intermixed with plain old green.
Even the leaves that have already dropped have their own beauty, as demonstrated in this West Side of Binghamton yard.  Hostas are naturally mulched by newly fallen leaves.

Not all beauty is due to leaves, either.  Mums decorate yards all over our area.
A blacksmith's sign, near Trumansburg, NY, in the Finger Lakes is decorated by nature this past Saturday.

And finally, the beauty of nature is enhanced with man-made decorations.
Do you have fall color in your area?  Has the color been unusually early for you, too?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

So, How is Your Mental Health Today?

I read earlier this evening that tomorrow is World Mental Health Day.  Interesting, because nearly every day, I pass by a building occupied by a mental health advocacy organization.

Today, I noticed, there was something painted on their window.  It was a question.

"How's your mental health today?"

When I was growing up back in the 50's, asking someone that question would have been unthinkable.  Today, it can still be difficult. How many of your friends have ever underwent treatment for depression, anxiety, obsessive/compulsive behavior or something else considered in the arena  of "mental illness"?  You might be surprised, because most of these friends would never tell you.

But meanwhile, back to the 50's...

Rich people had shrinks.  Poor people had alcohol.  And no one talked about it.  Depressed?  That wasn't an illness, it was feeling sorry for yourself and you could talk yourself out of it!  Anxious?  Have a drink. Did you have a relative with a "problem?"  Well, you hid it away.  If you had a problem, you hid it, too.

Does anyone remember the (ha ha, not) saying "Support mental health or I'll kill you?"  I do.

It would seem a lot of us were "hiding it". How many U.S. Presidents were "mentally ill", just as an example?  A 2006 study claimed almost half of them.

And, of the presidents who "had a problem", almost half of them had depression.

Abraham Lincoln was perhaps the most famous example of a President who struggled with depression, but there were others, along with several very heavy drinkers and, here and there, some individuals who may (or may not) have had bipolar disorder.

So, this question posed by the downtown Binghamton window was very serious.

The good news is, today, the question has an answer.  There is help, and less of a stigma.  For many months after the flood our region suffered in September of 2011, mental health volunteers showed up at community events, at farmers markets, even at the annual home show.  Support groups were formed.  Sometimes, all that was needed was an empathetic ear.  If more was needed, referrals were made.

Mental health is NOT A JOKE. If the body can be ill, the mind can be ill, too. (sometimes, one can lead to the other.)  Getting help and support is not weakness.  Shout it from the rooftops.  How's your mental health today?

Or paint it on a window.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Time in a Bottle

Time In A Bottle. One of my favorite Jim Croce songs.

October 8, 1973. 

The place:  Shea Stadium. The NY Mets and the Cincinnati Reds were playing for the National League championship.

There was a fight, considered one of the "best" brawls in major league baseball history.  Pete Rose vs. Bud Harrelson.  And my now spouse and I were there.

 39 years ago today.....

I realize that a lot of my readers may not even have reached the age of 39.  Or were babies or young child on October 8, 1973.

When I look back at those pictures, I sometimes can't believe I was there, either.

My memories in some ways are so sharp.  We were both in college, and had been able to find time to stand on a long line to get those tickets.  No internet to order tickets from. The game was a day game because in those days most championship games were played during the day.

We were sitting on the first place line, not far from the foul pole.

Pete Rose was some 200 lb.  Bud Harrelson was maybe 140 pounds soaking wet.   When you look at the players, they seem so thin, don't they.  It was a different world, 1973.  We never dreamed there would be a place called the Internet, where we could share memories of things that happened 39 years ago.  We never dreamed of a "You Tube" where we could see those memories.

But in some ways, things don't change.  When the two players fought, both benches jumped into the fray.  And then the Mets fans got into it, throwing things onto the field.  The game stopped, the field littered with the fans' displeasure.  Near us, a Reds fan had his Reds cap snatched from his head.  Someone tried to set it on fire, but didn't succeed.

It was scary.  On the first base line, we were half a stadium away from the action in left field.  The Reds pulled their team off the field.  The PA announcer begged the fans to stop, to avoid the possibility of forfeiting the game.

Finally, a delegation of manager and players:  Yogi Berra, Willie Mays, Tom Seaver, Cleon Jones and Rusty Staub, came out to left field to appeal to the fans. Order was restored, and the Mets ended up winning the game, 9-2.

Catching time in a bottle, the way video can, doesn't prevent us from aging.  Harrelson is 68.  Pete Rose is 71.  I saw Pete Rose's son play in a minor league ball game several years ago.

And Jim Croce?  It's spooky, when you listen to the lyrics of this song.  I guess, when it comes down to it, and we think of our growing up memories, we wish we could save time in a bottle.  But, despite You Tube, and the Internet, we really can't.

 If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I'd like to do
Is to save every day
Till Eternity passes away.....

Jim Croce died, at the age of 30, in a plane crash.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Civil War Sunday - Just A Piece of Paper

It was just a piece of paper.

A 150 year old lost piece of paper, returned to near where it was found 150 years ago.  Big deal.  Well, to some of us, it is a big deal.

The losing and the finding may have changed history, although historians of the Civil War still debate that.

This piece of paper was written on around September 9, 1862, during Robert E. Lee's invasion of Maryland in what is now known as the Maryland campaign.  General Lee's decision to move the war into Federal territory was a gamble.  His goal was to move north, enlist the support of the people of state of Maryland (many of which had Confederate sympathies), and eventually capture Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

With Harrisburg captured, Lee planned to use the capture as a bargaining chip to end the war, with the Confederacy granted the status of a separate country. 

So, around September 9, 1862, Lee formulated plans to split his army, the Army of Northern Virginia, into various parts.  Each part was given a goal.  Lee's adjunct, Robert Chilton, wrote the order, Lee endorsed it, and the orders were distributed to the various generals under Lee's command in this campaign.  Several copies of the order, each handwritten with Lee's plans.

There was just one tiny problem.

An extra copy was made.  There is some confusion concerning why, and who was responsible for losing it, but history records that on September 13, 1862, a corporal of the 27th Indiana Volunteers discovered this piece of paper, wrapped around two cigars (some accounts say three, but it is immaterial), near the Best Farm near Frederick, Maryland.  At first, no doubt the soldier and his companion thought they was greatly in luck in finding some cigars.

Then they started to read the paper.

That is the piece of paper, containing what is known as Special Orders, No. 191, that was quickly moved up the chain of Federal command and finally into the hands of Major General George McClellan, the head of the Army of the Potomac.

McClellan held the dream of any commanding general - the plans of his opponent.

Oops.  (and what happened after that is another story I will not get into today....but the end result was the bloodiest one day in the history of our country, the Battle of Antietam.)

But then, as a famous commentator of the 20th century liked to say, there is the Rest of the Story, the part I really like.

General McClellan kept what historians now call the Lost Order, in his own private collection. After he died, his son donated it to the Library of Congress.

And, this past September, I was privileged to see the Lost Order, on a rare public exhibit, at the Monocacy Battlefield.

You see, that Best Farm ended up in the midst of an 1864 battle, the Battle of Monocacy (named after a nearby river), a small battle that is sometimes overlooked, but although a Confederate victory, prevented a Confederate invasion of Washington, DC.

Photography of the Lost Order was not permitted but if you go to both Monocacy and to Antietam, you will see plaques with pictures of the order.  The handwriting is hard to read, but it is worth the time to decipher it.

I still get goosebumps over the fact that I was able to view this piece of Civil War history.

You can see it, too, but you need to get to Monocacy before October 31.  (I highly recommend a visit to Monocacy and the best part it - admission is free.)

If you can't make it to this Maryland battefield, this is a copy of the Special Order.

What if......