Friday, November 30, 2012


We were there a month before Sandy, and now it is gone.

So many of the scenes were too familiar, 14 months after my neighborhood in Westover, near Johnson City, New York, flooded - except we didn't have the strong winds, or the sea water, or 15 foot waves bearing down on us, like the waterfront neighborhoods of NYC.

It took me a month to search online for the fate of Red Hook.  I already knew it in my heart.

I don't want to show you pictures of the destruction, although the NY Times wrote a heartbreaking article about the Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook that won my heart during two visits this year.  And now it's been undone by the same sea that gave it identity.  Can the community be rebuilt?

The residents now face a hard road back. Many residents of my neighborhood of Westover walked this road over a year ago.  Some still do.

New York City is not just midtown Manhattan.  Its people will surprise and amaze you.  I have confidence that Red Hook will return.

Let us remember the Red Hook of September, 2012 and not the Red Hook of late October, 2012.

The best Key Lime pies in the world - will they be able to recover?

Pre Civil War warehouse.

And a view from afar.

The Fairway, in another historic warehouse building, was flooded with over 7 feet of water, and they lost everything.

One more view of Fairway.  My friend with cancer loved this store and loved the key lime pies of Steve's.  Now what, for her?

In spirit, I walk down Van Brunt Street.  In spirit, I visit the Pier 44 gardens (now that I finally know their name) once again, as the winds of late fall blow against me.

In my memories I return to a day in late September when I walked those streets with my friend.

I will do so again, one day.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Pigeon Commuters

As I blogged about over two years ago, I have never seen the neighborhood of my birth in the Queens borough of New York City.  And now, I never may.

Many of us have seen the "after" pictures of the Rockaways.  The wrecked buildings, the people still without power, the neighborhood that neither the City, the State nor FEMA quite know what to do about.

But, thanks to a MSNBC commentator, I got to see the "before", of families frolicking on the beach, of surfers riding the subway, of pigeons that have learned to ride the A train over Jamaica Bay.  The pigeons commute, the easy way, from the Rockaways to the mainland.

I wanted to share this with you, because this is another New York City the tourist will never know.

And, sadly, perhaps, I will never know it either.
Arverne, on the Rockaway peninsula in Queens, suffered its share of damage from Hurricane Sandy.  And now, it is starting to develop sinkholes.  Part of the neighborhood may end up in a sinkhole.  The other part may mold away.  Sounds pretty grim, doesn't it.

Not exactly. What ever happened to the Arverne by the Sea development I mentioned in my 2010 blog post?

You may not believe it, and this gives a lot of us hope.  Perhaps there is hope for the Rockaways. Arverne, one of the grittier parts of this pennisula, may help show the way.

Destruction or hope?  I don't envy the residents of the Rockaways, but I am glad that I was, in a very small way, part of their neighborhoods once upon a time.

Tomorrow - whatever happened to Red Hook?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Fall Fancies - I Won!

I won NaNoWriMo!

What that means, simply, is that I wrote 50,000 words (almost 50,300 words, to be exact) of what may or may not be part of a novel, in 30 days.  Since this took place in November, I can consider it a Fall Fancy.  Hurray for me!

Right now, I have an Open Office document with 50,300 raw, unedited words.  I have no idea if they are coherent words, or worthwhile words, or even interesting words.  For all I know, the document may never see the light of day.

So, was it worth it?

Yes.  (And many thanks to my long suffering spouse.  I promise I will now clean the house.  On the other hand, maybe I'll just sleep for a week.)

1.  I now have a small idea (a VERY small idea) of just how HARD it is to write.  I will never look at a book in the same way again.

2.  I healed a wound that had dragged me down these past 14 months.  I had felt guilt over being away on vacation when a natural disaster hit my area and left me better off than so many in my neighborhood.  And then I lived through it again when a number of family members lived through the wrath of Hurricane Sandy.  One of my cousins, in fact, just got back into his home this past Saturday.

And here I was, unable to help them.  I could only send them encouragement.

3. My fictional memoir was a liberation.  I brought my Mom, dead since 1965, back to life and got to know her as an adult and as a long-distance caretaker.  I had the daughter I never was able to have.  I interacted with three fictional grandchildren.  (I also had to struggle with whether to kill my Mom off during the course of the story.)

Now I have to decide if I will try to edit this manuscript, or if I should just consider it a one month exercise in self-healing and keep it as a souvenir of recovery.

But, I did win. And now I can sit back and actually read some of the writers forums on the NaNoWriMo site. And bask in the glow of knowing that, whatever else I did in my life, I actually wrote 50,000. words in a month.

Will I do it again? Well, many women know what it is like to give birth.  We lie there on the delivery table and swear we will never do it again.

And then many of us do it again.

Never say never.

Check with me next November.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Smile for the Novelist - Final NaNoWriMo Checkin

Right now, with 3 days left before the end of NaNoWriMo, I find myself at 46,923 words. 

Tonight, after work, we had an unexpected visit to the walk-in.  Two hours and who knows how much money later, my spouse has a sinus infection with ear involvement and a prescription for antibiotics.

Walk ins are interesting places nowadays.  I am very grateful that we have health insurance, because my spouse would not have been seen without it.

As far as the wait - it was interesting, and if I can find a way to incorporate it into my novel, I will. 

Yes, that is what authors do.  Amuse us? You are in our novel.  Tick us off?  You are in our novel.

Smile!  You are being observed!

(and, by the way, if you send chocolate - my address on request - I will write good things about you)

What is the most interesting, or outrageous, thing you ever experienced, which ended up in something you wrote?

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Day So Few People Remember

This post is taken, in part, from a post I made in 2010.  This year, I was so busy due to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and preparing for a trip to my mother in law (150 miles from us) that I never even thought about November 22.  But next year, 1963, will be the 50th anniversary of the event that no one my age will ever forget.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Best of AM - Fathers of the Civil War

This is a rerun of a Father's Day post from this year.  Next week I hope to resume blogging "in person".

 I enjoy writing about people who link us to our past - our elderly.  You never know what knowledge the person next door can hold. Especially if this woman is your next door next door neighbor was a treasure of knowledge but sadly his old age has not gone well for him.  I'm glad this woman is, apparently, still going strong.

In a 2010 feature in the Utah Deseret News - a woman, Bashie Thomander, talks about her father, who fought in the Civil War on the Union side.  Yes, she was 94 when interviewed, and yes, her father was 74 when she was born. Still, she links us with our past.

The story of her father's service is one of the fascinating things about the Civil War that few of us studied in college.  We think of the war as "North vs. South" but it actually was fought, in one way or another, in a lot of far flung areas - including Utah, which was still a territory at the time.  His service was not against Confederates but - well, you'll have to read the story for yourself.  If you read Mrs. Thomander's story, you will learn something about Utah and the Civil War that many people, including me, didn't know about.

Before posting this, I wanted to make sure that Mrs. Thomander was still alive. As far as I can tell through online research, she is. 

Then, I found that, just like Mothers Day (which I blogged about on Mother's Day), Father's Day is also connected to the Civil War.  Why not?

And finally, I found some quick facts about Civil War personalities and the fatherhood part of their lives last year.  In an era of high infant mortality and mortality among those growing up, I invite you to read my Father's Day post from last year, talking about four main players in the Civil War and some little known facts about them as fathers.  You may be surprised and amazed to know these figures more as human beings and less as statues in a public square (or on a battlefield).

Happy Fathers Day to all my readers who are fathers.  It's one of the hardest jobs in the world.  On a personal note, today would have been my parents' 61st wedding anniversary.  Today, I pay tribute to my Dad, and to all fathers everywhere.

Did your father's father or grandfather fight, or otherwise participate, in the American Civil War?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Sustainable Saturday - Small Business Saturday

When is the last time you shopped in a store that wanted your business, REALLY wanted your business, and was grateful when they got it?

For me - that experience was today.

After Black Friday comes Small Business Saturday.  This year, a number of local businesses here in the Binghamton, NY area banded together to cross-promote their businesses at what they called the local North Pole.  The weather matched the holiday mood, with snow flurries and wind.

Thanks to Small Business Saturday I visited several local small businesses for the first time.  At each, I was treated like a valued customer, with smiles and thank you's.  At several, I received personalized service and unexpected discounts. At one, I even was able to take advantage of free gift wrap.

I was pleased to see that many other people were taking advantage of the local shopping day today.

Fresh Start Market is so named because they were flooded out (in September, 2011) of the location in Owego they operated out of for 16 years.  Like so many of us, they managed to survive the floods caused by Tropical Storm Lee.  They reopened, bigger and better and featured (besides the normal "health food store" stock) locally produced foods.

Country Additions Gift Shop pleasantly surprised me with a selection of items made in the USA, including some made right here in New York State. (I also appreciated the chocolate samples - thanks!)

Hillside Garden Center gave us an especially warm welcome and 50% off some of their plants.  We picked up a variegated rosemary plant, not hardy in our zone 5b area (no rosemary is) but we will try to overwinter it indoors.

It's hard to see in this photo but the leaves are gold and green.

And, at Ruby and Sons, a local 3rd generation jewelry store (and, incidentally, owned by a woman), I am going to get a wedding band resized - a band that means so much to me.

Was there a Small Business Saturday in your area?  Or are you a small business owner that would like to share your experience?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Best of AM-Is Local Always Best?

Is Local Always Best?

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

Tomorrow is Small Business Saturday here in the United States. Although we did a lot of big box store shopping today, we hope to participate in Small Business Saturday also.

The Buying Dilemma
It's a very popular thing right now to "Buy American":  we must maintain our manufacturing base, and save jobs for Americans.  I've been trying to "buy local" (or at least "Made in the U.S.A.") for several years now.

But sometimes the choice is hard.

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

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

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

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

Or buy American from a national chain?

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

On Black Friday 2011, we found an area rug in our local Kohl's, on a great sale, and proudly made by Mohawk in the U.S.A.

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

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

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

What about the local Home Depot?  National chain, blocks from our house, hit hard by the flood of September 8, 2011; reopened the day before Thanksgiving.  On Black Friday we were there at 5:05 a.m., passing under a sign saying "Welcome Back, Friends!".  The store was mobbed, and I would bet that some of those employees welcoming us had lost their homes in the flood.  They would have lost their jobs, too, if Home Depot had "hung it up".  (we still try to buy in a locally owned hardware store when possible but some of those Black Friday specials were irresistible.)

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

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

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Best of AM - Habitat for Humanity - Happy Thanksgiving

Habitat for Humanity: Happy Thanksgiving

Today, of course, is the American Thanksgiving.  On this day of giving thanks we should pause.  Those of us who are fortunate enough to have jobs and family, and a warm home should take the time to think of those who don't.  I wrote this post for Thanksgiving of 2010, and I feel it is still timely.

In our March, 2010 trip to Americus, Georgia, we visited Habitat for Humanity headquarters.   This worthy organization is well known for its support of decent, affordable housing both in this country and overseas.

Besides the headquarters, on the grounds is what could be best described as a "slum theme park".

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

 Clustered around some of the "after" examples were people visiting from other countries, examining the exhibits closely.
Our local chapter of Habitat for Humanity has posted examples of the work they have done in our community. (One of their homes, in our neighborhood, was flooded and, I presumed destroyed- in our September 2011 floods - a sad footnote to this post.  And, I can't help but think of all the people impacted by Hurricane Sandy, and other weather disasters, of this year.)

A long way from a small town in Georgia to the Triple Cities.  But in a way, we are all interconnected, are we?

We in this country have so much to give thanks for.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Best of AM - Fall Fancies- 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. (This is a post written before Hurricane Sandy - and, sadly, we learned just how right these words were).

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?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

How to Go Home Again - Part 2 of 2

Yesterday, I started a story about the first few months of my married life, in a run down area of Tampa, Florida.  We lived on the 2nd floor of a two family rental, complete with an old fashioned bathtub.  The kitchen featured a spot in the floor we could not remove, where a palmetto bug had met an untimely end.  Eventually we could afford better quarters, and eventually moved from Tampa in 1976.

(For the entire post, which was originally a guest post on a blog written by author Billie Noakes, please visit her blog.)

30 years later, we returned and.....
Since the day we left in 1976, we had never been back to Florida.  We had a teenaged son.   We had never taken him to Disneyworld like normal parents did. We had never taken him to Sea World Orlando.  We didn’t on this trip either: we were there to show him Old Florida on what became our last vacation taken together.  We took the Auto Train down. We skipped Orlando.  We went to Daytona.  We went to Cocoa Beach. We took him to Silver Springs.  At last, we arrived in Tampa.

Now, enter Billie.

Billie is in a relationship with my cousin Barry.  Barry and Billie decided they were going to give us a tour of Tampa so we could see how it had changed in 30 years.  My son came along for the ride.

Barry and Billie drove us around Tampa. And finally, I asked Barry if he would take us back to that apartment in Hyde Park, where we had started our married life.

Of course he would.

We couldn’t believe it.  We went past what, when we lived there, was a small neighborhood mall – it was now something spanning several blocks called Hyde Park Village.  New construction was everywhere.  The “don’t go there” neighborhood was gone, razed, with condos going up on the site.  Our neighborhood had gone upscale.

The two family house we lived in was still there.  We didn’t recognize the street at all.  It looked really nice.

We parked in front of the house.  And I had to open my big mouth and say “Say, wouldn’t it be nice if we could see the apartment again?”

“Why not?” replied Billie.  She marched up the stairs and knocked on the door.

She came back down.  A young Hispanic man had answered her knock. And yes, we were more than welcome to come in and look around.

So we took our son up and showed him where we had started married life over 30 years before.  The young man proudly showed us around the apartment.  The kitchen had been totally renovated. The palmetto spot was gone.  As I recall, the young man owned the entire house.  He had done a lot of renovation and was rightly proud.  But one room hadn’t been changed yet:  the bathroom.

It looked just like it had over 30 years ago.  That bathtub was still there.

The young man offered us refreshments. At that point, my shyness asserted itself, we thanked him, and left.

Not too many people can “go home again”.  Tampa, and my cousin and significant other gave us that second chance.  I'm also thrilled that Billie visited my blog yesterday, and saw my post.

If I ever end up publishing a book, it will all because of her encouraging me to enter my first blog challenge.  So thank you again, Billie.

Have you every been able to "go home again"?

Monday, November 19, 2012

How to Go Home Again - Part 1 of 2

In May of 2011, I was in the middle of my first blog challenge, and I made my first guest post - on the site of a blogger I had the pleasure of meeting once. She is also the person who got me started in my first blog challenge.  I'd like to share this memory with you on my own blog while I take the rest of this week off for NaNoWriMo and Thanksgiving.

For the entire guest post, please visit Billie Noakes's blog and show my cousin's dear significant other some love.

In 1974, I was living in the Bronx, attending college.  I lived with my Dad in an apartment in a public housing project, a project I had moved to when I was 5 months old.

Over the years, my neighborhood had changed from the neighborhood where no one locked doors (yes, NYC was like that at one time).  By 1974, not to mince words, it was a slum.  I couldn’t wait to graduate college so I could leave.

I wanted out so badly that I didn’t even attend my college graduation.  Right after classes were over my fiance (now my husband of 38 years, I am proud to say) and I got married, and drove to Tampa, Florida, jobless, to begin a new life.

My Aunt had helped us to rent an apartment in the Hyde Park section of Tampa.  It was a one bedroom apartment in the upstairs of a two family house.  At that time, Hyde Park was not an upscale neighborhood.  We couldn’t have afforded the apartment if it was.  Where we lived wasn’t bad but literally across the street, the neighborhood changed and we were warned:  do not cross that street.

Compared to the Bronx neighborhood I had left, it was paradise.  You could sleep at night without hearing gunfire and breaking glass. The apartment was furnished, and even had an old fashioned bathroom, complete with a claw foot bathtub. My spouse, who loved baths, fell in love with that tub.

At that time, the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway had not yet been built.   Houses had been condemned and had been vacant for years, waiting for construction to begin.  When the houses were finally torn down, the rats and the roaches fled.  They fled right into our little part of Hyde Park.

Roaches I could reluctantly deal with – we had roaches (and rats) in the Bronx. But what we didn’t have were palmetto bugs.   One day, a huge palmetto bug made its way into our kitchen.  We were moving the refrigerator.  The palmetto bug wouldn’t get out of the way.  My spouse ran it over with the refrigerator.

We were never able to get the spot out.  We moved the refrigerator to cover it.

Eventually we moved to a different neighborhood.  My spouse joined the Air Force and we left Tampa in 1976.

So what happened next?  Yes, you can go home again, as you will find out tomorrow.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Civil War Sunday - The Mystery of George Armstrong Custer's Son

Did I know a descendent of General George Armstrong Custer, a Civil War general before he went on to fame (and death) fighting Native Americans and dying at Little Big Horn? (I know, technically this happened after the Civil War, but Custer did fight in that war, and achieved the rank of Major General.)

I am reading a wonderful book on Custer, written by Larry McMurtry (who also wrote the Lonesome Dove series and The Last Picture Show, among many other books).  So far I love the book because it has a lot of historical pictures and drawings.  I am a visual learner, and having pictures in a book greatly enhances my experience.

I knew that, officially, George Custer had no children (from his marriage to his wife, Libbie, who was only 35 when she was widowed.)  But, as McMurtry's book discusses, it is possible Custer may have had a child with a Cheyenne captive in his custody. The boy, Yellow Swallow, has been lost to history according to McMurtry, but I have also read about oral legend that the boy, with other Cheyenne, ended up in Montana after the battle of Punished Woman Fork in Kansas.

Now fast forward to 1977.

In 1977, when we lived in Wichita, spouse and I befriended a couple.  The man, whose last name was Evans, once claimed to be a descendent of Custer.  (of course this could be bad memory on my part but it stuck because his wife had native American blood, and the irony wasn't lost on me.).  

We met his wife back when my spouse was in the Air Force and we arrived at McConnell Air Force base in Wichita, KS to start a 3 year tour of duty. His wife worked at the base housing office, which is actually how we met.  (it was like an instant "click" with me and her.)  This man was not a braggart by any means.  He was a very talented magician and artist.  I still have two paintings he gave me, too and they have his name on them.

Several months after we met, he got a job in Hannibal, MO with the Boy Scouts, and he and his wife moved.  At this point his wife was very pregnant with their first child.  We had no address for them, they never wrote us, and we have never had any contact since.

I once tried to do an Internet search for him.  Came up empty.  Well, there actually is someone with a little bit of fame with the same name, but it isn't him.  That person is too young.

So, I do not know if my "mystery man", a man I haven't seen since 1977, could possibly have been a descendent of Yellow Swallow.  In the years that I lived in Kansas, I found that a lot of "white people" had varying degrees of Native American blood, and were very proud of their heritage.  For now, I must consider this a mystery.

And wouldn't it be amazing if the person I knew as an unborn baby read this blog and could tell me more about what happened to his parents.  I so hope their lives were (and are) happy.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Sustainable Saturday - The Pears are Laughing at You

 I hope an author I admire greatly, Scott Westerfeld, won't mind me using a point he made in a "pep talk" to NaNoWriMo participants, as the topic of today's post.

Years ago, when my spouse and I moved to rural Arkansas to pursue the "simple life", we found out that the "simple life" did not exist.  Life is a lot more complex than any of us can dream of.

We found out that (back in the 1980's anyway), the city life was the simple life.  You didn't have to make a whole lot of decisions.  In the rural "simple life", on the other hand, there was a decision wherever you turned. 

We were trying to be what was called "ecological" in those days (I think the closest term today would be "green")  and that made decisions even more difficult.

One example:  how to heat? In the city life your landlord provided the heat.  In the countryside you had to choose rhe fuel of choice:  Wood? Propane? Electric?  Wood was renewable but if you burned wood in a homemade wood stove made from a 55 gallon drum, it was very polluting.  Hmmm, hadn't thought of that....Solar panels? Nice thought, but they were terribly expensive, way beyond our budget.

 City life - you bought a refrigerator and plugged it in.  Country life - was a refrigerator "ecological?" Should we own one, and if so: would we use electric or propane? What were the advantages and disadvantages of each?

Food:  local but not organic?  Shipped in but organic?

(I've blogged about a similar choice many of us make today when we shop: local small merchant but merchandise made in China? Or big box store selling goods made in the U.S.A.?)

Each element of our lives needed a decision, and we quickly learned that what we thought was the most polluting choice was sometimes, overall, the best choice.  In other words, there were no simple choices, and we had to make the best choice for us, even if it wasn't "politically correct".

What Scott Westerfeld told us in yesterday's pep talk is a lesson we all should learn, not just people aspiring to be authors of a novel.  "Here's a funny thing about human beings: we always think too simply. The universe is always bigger, messier, and more complicated than we expect it to be."

As for the title of today's post, it is a paraphrase of something else Scott Westerfeld said, pointing out that even something as simple as a pear isn't simple at all - there are over 3,000. varieties of pears.

Broaden your horizons.  Learn as much as you can about this world.  Wisdom isn't always in the places you expect it to be.  I'm guilty of being close-minded sometimes, and I can probably say, truthfully, that even the most broad minded of us are.

The "sustainable" life involves thoughtfully considering the options and making a good decision that is right for you at that one point of time.

List all your options.  Think of all the possibilities.  When you exhaust your list, try to think of a few more.  If you can't come up with too many, then you may find that


Thank you, Scott.  As far as my writing I will try to remember that  "Sometimes getting to the end of a novel simply takes remembering that the world is more complicated than we know, and then sticking some of those complications into the story."  I sure don't want those pears laughing at me.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Fall Fancies- The Transition

Fall can be amazing.  New York City got snow before we did.  We got more wind in the early morning of November 13 than from our close brush with Hurricane Sandy. On November 11, we hit a record high.  On November 13 we woke up with snow and slush on the ground.

Here are the last few pictures of fall foliage I will most probably be taking this year here in upstate NY.  The winter weather will come before we know it.  These were actually taken at the end of October but both plants in the first picture were still blooming this past weekend - just not as profusely.  I was planning to post these, but then Sandy intervened.
A late white aster blooms side by side with some late goldenrod.  You usually don't see wildflowers here in the Binghamton area at this time of year, at least not quite like this.  A few feet away, purple asters were still blooming.
Further down on this walking trail was a tree that still had yellow leaves on it.

And finally, again from October, a picture taken on the West Side of Binghamton - I loved the shades of color in this changing tree.

Farewell, fall.  Hello, (soon), winter.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - November 2012

Thank you once again to May Dreams Gardens, who sponsors this monthly meme.  On the 15th of every month gardeners from all over the world gather to post what is blooming in their yards.

I almost didn't make it this month.  I am having computer issues and right now am using a laptop with a broken hinge to post this, because for some reason the keyboard on my 2 month old computer has decided not to work. 

But enough of my woes.  In my zone 5 upstate NY garden, we've already had a covering of snow, but we still have a few hardy plants blooming.

But before I share those, I'd like to share a couple of plants blooming in my living room and kitchen:

A lovely Christmas cactus.  This one is a couple of years old, and these blooms will be gone before Christmas - but who cares.
This is one of my African violets.

As far as the blooms still outside-

A Pink Allysum...
A potted petunia...

And an annual I planted for the first time this year - I was too lazy to go out and read the tag.

My yellow bleeding heart is also still blooming.

By next month there will only be my indoor plants, and the cold winter will almost be here. 

We had a winter almost without snow last year (we normally get at least 80 inches each winter) and I can only hope we are without much snow again this year.  But I doubt that will happen.

What is blooming in your garden?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The NaNoWriMo 24445

(If you are looking for Fall Fancies, I will post this on Friday.  Tomorrow is Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, so instead, my NaNoWriMo check in will be today.)

24445.  A magic number. It's just under 25,000!  If it wasn't for NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month which pushes us to write 50,000 words in 30 days, my word count for November would have been - zero. (Well, except for my blog, and except for all those emails I write at work as part of my job.)

I am struggling right now, and, considering this is a fictional memoir with elements of truth, I don't know why the characters in my novel have turned their backs on me.

They aren't talking to me.  For most people, voices in their head means mental illness. For writers...well, it might mean mental illness, but I am told that characters will sometimes take their stories over and take them into new directions. Or so I am told.

On the NaNoWriMo website, there are author forums.  One of them has a thread called "Cry, and Apologize to Your Novel."  Right now, my Cry would read as follows:

"Dear Novel,
I don't know why you picked me to tell your story.  I am not worthy of you  My story seems so small now that it is on paper.  My words do not flow like liquid chocolate.  They flow more like sticky pancake syrup.    I have a feeling if I really wanted to make a book out of this exercise in frantic writing (after NaNoWriMo ends) I would end up tossing 80% of my output.  Yet, I am going to perservere.  I am told the rewards are plentiful. And, I will have something I didn't have when I started this journey on November 1.  I have faith in that  So I will keep flinging those words until I run dry. Forgive me, Novel, and I will try to justify your faith in me."

I want other would be authors to have this experience, too.  So I plan to contribute to a special NaNoWriMo fund raising event today.  Some of the proceeds will go to develop talent in young writers, which is a special interest for me.  As for me, I've already won my prize.

24,445 words.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo?  Have you reached the Hour of Despair?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Age of Miracles

I am reading a fantastic book called The Age of Miracles, a debut novel by Karen Thompson Walker.
(Warning:  Spoiler alert)

Participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and, earlier this year, the Author Blog Challenge, has made me more aware and more appreciative, of good writing.  I now have an idea of just how difficult it is.

When I read certain passages in a book I will think "Ah ha! The author had one of those moments when he/she knew the right thing to say or put in."  This book has a lot of those moments.

This is not a young adult novel, although the narrator starts the story when she is 11 years old.  The prose is so breathtaking, I can hardly believe it is a debut novel. There are several gems in the parts I have read so far, including these:

"This was middle school, the age of miracles, the time when kids shot up three inches over the summer, when breasts bloomed from nothing, when voices dipped and dove. Our first flaws were emerging, but they were being corrected. Blurry vision could be fixed invisibly with the magic of the contact lens. Crooked teeth were pulled straight with braces. Spotty skin could be chemically cleared. Some girls were turning beautiful. A few boys were growing tall.” 

And this....

“How much sweeter life would be if it all happened in reverse, if, after decades of disappointments, you finally arrived at an age when you had conceded nothing, when everything was possible.”

And finally this, one of my favorites:

" Who knows how fast a second-guess can travel? Who has ever measured the exact speed of regret?”

The exact speed of a second guess, or regret, is something no science can measure, and science has no explanation, or cure, for what happens in this book.  Yet, the author has taken steps to make sure the consequences of what happened is scientifically plausible.

My NaNoWriMo fictional memoir, I can assure you, will not have prose like this book has. Speaking of NaNoWriMo, I will have my weekly check in tomorrow, as Thursday is Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.

I don't often do book reviews.  I really don't mean this as one - if you want to know more about this book (besides the trailer), this blog has more details.

I know this book has received a lot of mixed reviews, and I don't know if I would have picked it up if it was not an (one of the genres I enjoy) end of the world story of sorts.  The mature narrator tells the story, from her memories. 

The ordinary in the middle of the extraordinary.  What would any of us do if it was the end of the world?

You owe it to yourself to read this gem.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Dig Drop Done - Or, in Hopes of Spring

The gardener is always optimistic.  It take a leap of faith to assume that, at the end of one growing season, you will be alive and well the following spring and early summer- and, to plant some bulbs in anticipation of that event.  To order from seed catalogs.  To dream.

Yesterday, it got up to 66 degrees here in upstate New York with a partially cloudy sky.  What a day it was - being able to rake leaves in my shirtsleeves, being able to take a 2 mile exercise walk (we had to cut ours short, and were going to walk "later" - "later", of course, never happened.) It is the kind of day we treasure at this time of year. On the rare mid fall day like this, we race to beat the clock, as the sun set today at 4:45 pm.

Yesterday, we bought four packages of buy one-get one free - fall clearance bulbs at a local nursery.  This is what we planted - we've never gotten into much more than tulips and daffodils/narcissus, and are trying to branch out a little.  These came from a company whose slogan is "Dig Drop Done." Spouse did the digging and the planting, while I raked leaves.

In the front of our house spouse planted:

6 Nectaroscordum (Mediterranean Bells), an allium, with "Basal green foliage and a sturdy 32-38 inch stem" which "support a generous cluster of bell shaped flowers" that "atract birds and butterflies."  These are supposed to be an early summer bloomer and a good cut flower.

12 "Deer Resistant Tulips" - that I've got to see (although,knock on wood, we don't seem to have deer problems at our house, deer are an increasing urban problem here).  "Excellent naturalizer", these bloom in early spring.

In the back of our house spouse planted:

15 Azureum alliums, an heirloom from 1830, "extremely easy to grow" and emerge in early summer. These can be dried.

And, last but not least, 20 "mountain bells", an allium mix,  late spring.

Gardening - always a gamble. Let's hope for a good payoff this next spring and early summer.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Civil War Sunday - In Lincoln's Handwriting

On November 1, 2012, 150 years plus a little after it was written, Lincoln's Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation came to Binghamton, New York.  I was part of a crowd of people who got the once in a lifetime opportunity to view this document.

This is NOT the "official" Emancipation Proclamation that was declared on January 1, 1863 and freed slaves in all states in rebellion against the Union. Rather,this was a preliminary document, almost a "trial balloon", if you will, released on September 22, 1862 after the Union victory at Antietam, near Sharpsburg, MD.

The New York Department of Education has a wonderful article about Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, a document that is misunderstood by many people. (For example, not all slave states joined the Confederacy, and slaves in those states that stayed in the Union, such as Maryland, remained in slavery.  Of course, the slave owners in the Confederate States of America were not about to free their slaves because Lincoln told them to, so the document was more symbolic than anything else.  But what a symbol it was, as I will blog about as we approach the January 1 2013 150th anniversary.)  The original copy of the 1863 document was destroyed in the Chicago Fire of October 8-10, 1871.

When you think of the old paperback books yellowing and crumbling in your bookcase (I don't know about you, but I have some) the fact that we can view this document is almost miraculous.  What was even more awe-inspiring was being able to see the document at a museum in Binghamton,  and at no admission charge, thanks to the New York State Museum, who normally keeps it in their vault.  This was part of a traveling exhibit that also included a typed speech given by Martin Luther King, Jr. on the 150th anniversary of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

After about 1/2 hour wait, my spouse and I approached the document.  It was in a glass case, with a guard directly in back of it.  Groups of 4 were allowed to approach the case, which was about at my waist level, with the guard explaining certain features and answering general questions. No flash photography was allowed, but, amazingly, we could photograph it.  Out came my iPhone.  The photos aren't the best but we weren't allowed much time to view the display.

Here they are.  I have tried to put these left to right, but I don't think I totally succeeded.
The document, in Abraham Lincoln's handwriting, starts "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 ..." (the entire text of both the Preliminary and Final proclamations can be found on
The printed text, the guard explained, was pasted on the document by Lincoln from Acts of Congress.  One of the smudges you can see directly below the first block of printed text may be Lincoln's thumbprint.
Cross outs by Abraham Lincoln.
Another view of the second block of pasted text in the second photo.
The signature of William Steward, Lincoln's Secretary of State (and the same man responsible for the purchase of the land that became Alaska from the Russians.)

Thank you, Roberson Center, for your excellent exhibit and crowd control.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Sustainable Saturday - Honey and Garlic

November 10, and the outdoor farmers market season in the upstate NY area of the "Triple Cities"(Binghamton, Endicott and Johnson City, plus some other communities) is just about over.

Today, our high temperature was 51, and we are supposed to be in the low 60's tomorrow.  The Otsiningo outdoor farmers market is gone for the years so we visited a market in Vestal, NY that we normally don't go to.  There were only four tables but I encouraged my spouse to give it a try, and I am so glad we did.

Thank you, Sue Garig, of Honey & Garlic in Kirkwood, NY for allowing me to take these pictures. 

Her wares included honey candles (above) and honey Christmas ornaments....
Honey tempting.  We ended up buying..well, it's going to be a surprise for someone so I won't say.

And also honey brittle in three varieties: peanut, walnut, and slivered almond.  (it was very good, but a bit hazardous for people with lots of fillings)
We also got some of the last garlic of the season.

From another vendor, we bought some swiss chard that will be going into a soup.

From still another vendor we bought a dozen eggs.

Other items for sale included apples, turnips and turnip greens, cauliflower, mint, and winter squash.

If you are in a cold clime and still have outdoor farmers markets, give them a shot even if they look sparse.  You'll be glad you did.

Friday, November 9, 2012

"Guest Post" - Eight Years in the Making

I am publishing this post with permission of the author, Peggy Lee Hanson, who featured it on her blog several days ago (see credits below). Today is the 47th anniversary of the Great Northeast Blackout, during which my mother died, my own personal 9/11.

I hope you enjoy this post as much as I did.
Have you seen the movie Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close about a young boy who lost his father in the Twin Towers on that fateful morning in September 2001? He’s trying to make sense of a senseless act.

While watching the movie, memories of that terrible and fateful day came flooding back to me. They were memories of how my boss (I was working for Northwest Airlines who merged with Delta a few years ago) didn’t believe me when I told her a plane had struck one of the towers; of how I walked into the video room and eventually into a coworker's cubicle who had a small-screen television on. Those huddled around watched in disbelief the second plane smash into the other tower. And then for the next five days, hearing the silence in the sky; no planes taking off or landing; no white trails of jets tracing lines in the blue sky above. It was a type of eerie or scary feeling that might occur around Halloween.

As I continued watching the Tom Hanks movie, the title of this post came barreling into my mind. I went to sleep with the words on my mind and I woke in the same manner. I couldn’t shake them, so it was time to get up and write down those words and thoughts to quiet the banging and get them out of my head.

I was amazed at the simple truth it carried; the job loss I experienced took eight years in the making!

But then, logic returned and I remembered that 9-11 wasn’t the beginning of the economic downtown; it was already happening earlier in the year; in fact, March 2001 had been when the first of the layoffs came, and they continued well after Northwest and Delta airlines officially merged in 2009.

My fate had been etched during those years; perhaps yours was too.

I am beginning to believe that events happen to put things right, to put us on our right path. That belief has helped me make sense of the things that don’t make sense, much like Oskar tried to do in the movie. He did lose something very close to him, but he also gained.

I stand with Oskar.

To your success,

“My life story is the story of everyone I've ever met.” ~Jonathan Safran Foer
Want To Reprint this article? You may do so as long as you leave it intact and include this author information:
Peggy Lee Hanson, personal transition guide and mentor, is expert at compassionately helping those suffering loss of any proportion, especially through unemployment. Using proven strategies and support, she teaches how to move quickly and easily through current or impending life-changing moments so that you can have the life you are meant -- and deserve -- to live.
PeggyLee is a Speaker, Best-selling author on, Certified Dream Coach® & Group Leader®, Trained True Purpose Coach®, and CEO and Founder of, a subsidiary of Personal Transition Guidance, LLC. Also, Peggy Lee has co-facilitated mastermind groups and appeared as a regular columnist for online communities. She is a member of Toastmasters International.
Follow her at PeggyLeeHanson on Twitter and Facebook. You may also subscribe to her blog and newsletter.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Pouring a Gas of Milk

NaNoWriMo Weekly check in #1.  The total word count as of bedtime last night is 13,728.  A whole lot to go.

I hope most of those sentences are more coherent than my "gas of water" gem.

One of the biggest challenges of the National Novel Writing Month (writing a 50,000 word novel in the 30 days of November) is keeping your ideas flowing.  It's supposed to be all about turning off your inner editor- you know, the inner editor that all bloggers have.  Write now, edit after November ends.

The second biggest challenge is staying coherent.  Hence the "gas of milk".

I meant to say "glass of milk".  To the NaNoWriMo word count, it doesn't matter. But to me, it does.

My third biggest challenge is shutting up the inner voice that keeps saying "no one is going to care about what you write. Boorrrrrrring! "

After reviewing the NaNoWriMo rules, I decided to turn this novel into a mental health project.  The flood our area survive last year has now been dwafted, big time, by Sandy.  I have friends and family on Long Island, New Jersey, and in NYC.  I'm not even sure all of them have power back. Did I happen to mention that, as I pre-write this post, it is snowing heavily down there? 

But there is something I have to get out of my system.

And so, I am writing the fictional memoir of someone who could be me in an alternate universe. In that universe, my Mom didn't die when I was 12.  She is alive, and 90 years old.  (I have a feeling I am channeling a friend and loyal Ramblin with AM blog reader.  Fear not, friend, she is not your Mom. She is my Mom, if she had lived to 90.).  In that universe, I have the daughter who, in this universe, I never had. (not that I have ever not loved my son.)  In that universe, I am working in a career I changed in "real life" years ago.  In that universe, I am a writer.  Come to think of it, I am one in this universe, too.

I'm working on a book, about something that happened in Binghamton in 1962.

There's one other thing.  In this universe, I was not here when the flood happened, when my neighborhood was evacuated.  My spouse and I were 7 hours away, on vacation.  You can check my blog, posts of September 7-September 11 to see what "really" happened. In this universe, anyway.

About three weeks after the flood, a neighbor offhandedly said to me, "but you weren't here"  I don't think he meant anything by it, but it plunged me into a big bout of Survivors Guilt I've never mentioned in this blog until just now.

I have spent the last 14 months wondering what would have happened if we had been home when the flood came.  And now I know, because I am writing about it.

Fiction with a dash or two of fact. And a project that will put mental demons to rest, at last.  Liberation.  Freedom.

Free at last.

Thank you, NaNoWriMo.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Fall Fancies - It's Not Your Time!

What do you think about this?  It is November 7 in upstate New York.  Fall, thanks to Hurricane Sandy, had taken a cold, dreary turn earlier this week.  I took some pictures on Saturday (November 3) and to my surprise this is what I the Wegmans Johnson City, New York parking lot:
A blooming cherry tree!

Here's a closeup view...

Not exactly what you expect on a dreary fall day.

Meanwhile, a few miles away in Vestal, I saw this:

A forsythia.
This was back on 10-20, but this is not a reblooming iris.

And finally, to ring in our fall blooming season..

A Christmas Wreath! (Wegmans, Johnson City.)

Why not?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Voting in the Post Sandy World

Today, in the United States, it is election day.  We are electing a President, the House of Representatives, 1/3 of the Senate and also various local officials.

This is your choice today: vote or don't vote.  But for many in the Hurricane Sandy zone, voting is going to be just another burden on top of trying to get to work, trying to find a place with heat, and trying to find gas for your car or generator.

If you vote, you are joining people like my mother in law, who was away from her home for nearly a week due to Hurricane Sandy.  When I spoke to her Saturday, the thing uppermost on her mind was - not when her power would be restored (it was, shortly after I spoke to her) but if she would be able to vote.

I assured her she would, but to call her Board of Elections to find out if her polling place had changed.

People here in states that allow early voting were standing on long lines back in October to exercise their privlege.  People in Hurricane Sandy-affected areas today are going to go to a lot of trouble to vote.  A cousin who had to be out of town today voted by absentee ballot.

Haven't made up your mind yet?  Not an excuse.  My suggestion: don't vote based on one issue.  Examine your future carefully.  You are voting for both a future you can imagine and a future you can't.  A future that now includes the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, and if we will learn our lesson.

Vote for the candidates that best express the future you dream of. 

Governors Cuomo and Christie (Democrat and Republican) have joined in a common effort to make voting easier for their citizens.  Quoting from a news report:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has agreed to issue an executive order that will allow displaced voters to cast ballots by affidavit at any polling site they can reach Tuesday.
The order will permit voters to sign affidavits that they're legally registered to vote in the presidential and state races and cast ballots at any open polling site, even those outside their neighborhoods.
But they won't be able to vote for state legislative candidates unless the polling place is within the proper legislative district.
New Jersey is allowing voters to use provisional ballots at any polling site"

Decisions on the fly,to cope with the conditions we now face.  That is true leadership.  Look for that quality in your candidate.

So now, if you are in the United States, make your country proud. Get out and vote.  And, a special thanks if you were impacted by Sandy. You are participating in history. Be proud.

It does matter.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The New Normal- Why You Should Vote

Two weeks ago Saturday, I was partying with some of them at a 60th birthday party on the edge of New York City.  Today, they are recovering from a natural disaster, every one of them.

Two weeks ago, the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area could never dream what would happen next. They have collided with the New Normal.

I have other friends/family in New York City, Long Island, New Jersey and Westchester County.  This is what happened, and why it is important to vote. 

I realize this happens to Florida and the Gulf Coast a lot more, but the extent of this storm was massive - the total area it covered was something not seen often in our lifetimes.  The nature of these storms is changing.  Less wind.  Larger area.

A cousin at the party had water in his house, his car is undriveable and possibly totalled, and he still did not have power as of when I heard of them last

Mother in law, didn't have power 5 days ago; she's home now but had to take refuge with first a family member and later a neighbor's daughter.

Husband's cousin-in-law (is there a better name for this relationship?), without power, expected restoration was November 4, let's hope so.  Her daughter, no power, expected restoration, November 9.  CIL's mother has Alzheimers, and can't understand what is going on.  Speaking of being in the sandwich generation...

Cousin in Brooklyn, without power 55 hours, has it back now but heating system isn't working.  Neighborhood 1/2 mile away is totally devastated.   Gas lines are two to three hours long in some neighborhoods as of yesterday.

New Jersey relatives were without power. One moved down to Florida several months ago and was very unhappy.  Turns out she made the right choice as her former home area is in ruins.

Brooklyn relative talks about New York Marathon and how they took generators that residents could use and used them for Marathon tents. He posted on Facebook explaining  how Midtown Manhattan got their cell phone service restored and the rest of the five boroughs got ignored.  A high school friend who is a runner got involved in the relief effort, and a "helping" marathon was held yesterday.

We saw the best and the worst of people, through the fingers of friends communicating on social media.  Facebook was essential.  Twitter was helpful.  Smart phones, when charging was available, useful.  iPads were better, for some reason.

So, dear reader, what have we learned, as a hurricane hit an area of the country that one would not normally hit?

We've learned that this isn't the first time New York City has been brought to its (figurative) knees by weather.  There was this little storm called The Blizzard of 1888. 

Partially because of the Blizzard, itself a superstorm, the subways were built, and powerlines in Manhattan were put under ground.  The system worked - until Monday.  Times have changed.

Now we have to rethink our cities near the coast.  Sandy showed us just how vulnerable we are.  Our lifelines of gasoline and cell phones were cut.  Storms aren't storms any more, they are super storms.  Perhaps weaker winds, but the storms now cover huge areas.  Imagine - this storm affected the weather in Chicago while it was tearing up New Jersey!

We must adapt or die. Maybe NOW we will no longer think our lives are "business as usual". Too many people have had their lives disrupted for too long.  Will we finally wake up and realize we must adapt to what is going on around us?  That we have to spend the money to rebuild and improve our infrastructure to cope with the changes in the weather?

We have mixed politics and meteorology too many times recently.  This must stop.  Hoping the affected people can get to a voting booth and express what they feel.

If we don't face the facts, our lifestyles won't be sustainable for very much longer.

My thoughts continue to go out to all those affected by Sandy.

And, the final lesson of the past week?  VOTE TOMORROW.  Even if you think it won't matter.  Even if you think your candidate will lose.  Haven't been paying attention? Pick up today's newspaper, if you can. You can read newspapers without power (at least during daytime hours.)

Exercise your right to vote tomorrow.  Or shut up for the next four years.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Civil War Sunday- The Weapon to End All Wars

I was torn between a famous military anniversary today and my visit Thursday to view the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.   I will go with this anniversary, and blog about the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation next week.

So, what is important about this day in history, 150 years ago?

On November 4, 1862, the Gatling Gun was patented.

This weapon became the Civil War version of a "weapon of mass destruction".  We know it today as the forerunner of the machine gun; as a rapid fire gun that was supposed to be such a terrible weapon that mankind would be convinced to give up war.  Or so the inventor, Dr. Richard Gatling, a North Carolina native, said.

At various gun demonstrations at the Antietam reenactment and the Antietam battlefield back in September, we saw how warfare was waged prior to the Gatling gun.  The typical Civil War soldier of 1862 used a single shot rifle, which was loaded by a complicated process including using paper based cartridges. The soldiers got quite good at it but it was still a relatively slow process, as this demonstration shows.

The Gatling gun patented was a 6 barrel gun, mounted on wheels, which could be loaded and fired quickly, and could be quickly reloaded and then replaced by the next barrel by use of a crank.

It could fire some 200 shots a minute.  Compared to the guns in the video above, this was a great leap forward in the technology of killing.

The irony is that the Gatling Gun was invented by a medical doctor, a doctor who was more interested in inventing than doctoring.

His agricultural background gave him the inspiration to create a rear loading device that would load cartridges at regular intervals, somewhat like an agricultural seeder.

Did the Gatling gun prove to be such a terrible weapon that the Civil War became the War to End All Wars?  Not exactly.  It actually didn't play much of a role in the Civil War at all.  And, it certainly did not end the horror of war.

But the design survived, was improved further in the years after the Civil War, and Gatling guns are used by the military even today.

Are you surprised by 150 year old technology still being used today?  Don't be.   You would be surprised to find out what else in your life is that old.

Next week - a timeless document.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Who Cares About an Elderly Woman with a Heart Condition?

NYSEG, doesn't, that's who.  And all those who have elderly parents in the Sandy Zone, or relatives with autism, should take note.

NYSEG is the electric utility that services counties directly to the north of New York City, especially northern Westchester, Putnam, and Dutchess.  All of these counties were impacted by Hurricane Sandy.   Power outages are common with storms in this area, with NYSEG known to drag its feet.  Their response time to disasters is legendarily slow.  My mother in law lives in this area.  She has a 50-something son with autism.  I would not be able to calculate how much money my mother has saved the taxpayer with her efforts on behalf of her son.  MIL is an old time woman, sometimes stubborn to a fault, who believes in self-reliance.  She's a two time breast cancer survivor and suffered a stroke several years ago. She also has a problem with her heart.  To maintain her privacy, I will not elaborate further.

MIL, who was staying with family outside of NYSEG's service area (ironically, closer to the storm), knew her power had been out since Monday.  She heard on the news that NYSEG was giving priority in restoration to people with heart conditions.  She called"somebody".  To be fair I am not sure she called NYSEG, as I received this story third hand.

She was told, dear readers, to call the Red Cross.  Not NYSEG's problem, apparently,  No offer to give her street, which is usually one of the last to have power restored, any priority.

A shelter is not an option for her, because of her son with autism.  A shelter would be total sensory overload for him.  I don't know how he would react, but other adults with his conditions have been known to tantrum, which can be perceived by shelter workers unfamiliar with developmental disabilities as violent, dangerous behavior.  So, she will continue to seek shelter with friends/relatives who have had power restored. In a way, she is now homeless.  That is no way to treat an elderly woman. (If you are curious, she was offered shelter up here, 150 miles away, and turned it down.  But it is always an option.  So is a fully automatic generator, but she is a widow on Social Security, and we aren't floating in money, either.)

NYSEG's lack of service is not just my opinion. It is NY Governor Cuomo's opinion, too.  Quoting from a newspaper article provided by AP, "Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday threatened utility companies' rights to operate in the state if they don't immediately put power restoration work into highest gear."  He noted that Con Ed (NYC's utility) is hard at work.  Where was NYSEG?

The government in NY State holds utilities to certain standards of service.  At least they have to TRY.  Apparently, NYSEG was fast asleep - again.

I will get political for a moment.  Sometimes, you NEED government.  Sometimes situations are just too much for local governments to handle.  There are reasons why we as people have chosen the state form of government.  When it works for us, it works.  Curious, after this statement, some power started to be restored in the counties I've mentioned. 

Just coincidence, I'm sure.

My mother in law's neighborhood? They were assessed for power back on today at 11pm. Then it was changed to tomorrow at noon.  Now it is 11 pm tomorrow.  Do I hear Monday? Do I hear Tuesday?

(UPDATE 11-3 at 2:15pm. Estimate of power turnon in my MIL's neighborhood is now November 6-I must have jinxed her. )And, I confirmed she did talk to someone at NYSEG. She called a complaint number,was switched twice, and doesn't know who she talked to.  I am going to follow up.

Shame, Shame, Shame, NYSEG.