Archive for July, 2007

Random thoughts

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007
Jessica Lewis

Maybe it’s because I haven’t been getting enough sleep lately, or because I’m wearing my headband too tight, but these are the random thoughts swimming through my head today. Enjoy your glimpse into insanity!

This morning, as I was driving to work I saw several disturbing things, not the least of which was the surprising number of people who think bathroom necessities make wonderful flower planters. A word of advise, there is no good reason to have a toilet sitting on your lawn. Even with flowers growing out of it, it looks tacky! That point cannot be stressed enough.

On the hill where I live, everything echoes, so when you hear a weird noise, it is echoed back about a million times and sounds even stranger than it is. Last night, I was hanging clothes out to dry when I heard the strangest noise ever. I know it was probably just a couple of four-wheelers or motorcycles driving near my house, but at the time, I swear it sounded exactly like a group of orks were about to attack. Just in case I’m right, be on the lookout for an evil ork army.

Last weekend, I was forced to sit through the “Transformers” movie. I still don’t understand why virtually all of the grown-up, adult men that I know are drooling and saying it is the best movie ever made. (On my list it falls somewhere between “Battlefield Earth” and “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.”) But I do suddenly understand why for the past three years, my husband has been commanding our car to turn into a robot and smite his enemies.

The gift of stupidity

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007
Michael McGuire

If you’ve ever been to a wedding, chances are you’ve given a standard wedding gift, right?

Cards, gift certificates, money, crock-pots, kitchen sets, etc.

Have you ever given a gift that keeps on giving?

I call them embarrassment bonds.

Many of those were offered at a great friend of mine’s wedding that I was in this past weekend.

For example, I left people forever with the image of myself dancing cheek-to-chest with the groom’s strapping father.

Our song: “Unchained Melody.” Our dance floor: made of clouds. Our moment: Indescribable. So are the pictures on Youtube. He’s already lost out on a huge promotion because of them and I’ll never be taken seriously on the net again.

It goes to show, an open bar and an open mind are not a good combo in the information age.

That wasn’t even the worst of it.

I thought it’d be a good idea to throw on some Axe Body Spray from the free amenities tray in the reception hall bathroom during a quick freshen-up. Turns out it wasn’t spray, but actually shave gel. I didn’t notice until after giving myself a thorough hosing. Good thing I had tuxedo insurance – and a good explanation.

“Your dad’s fiancé was so jealous because of our dance that she accosted me in the bathroom and doused me with Nivea shave gel,” I told my newlywed friend. “She was about to give me a swirly before DJ Dave came in and threw her off me. Real mature.”

So much drama. So little time.

Although I enjoyed it, this next scenario turned out to be the holiday fruit cake in my little gift basket:

The maid of honor and I are both huge horror fans. So as a gag, I made a mask out of a piece of prime rib off the buffet, revved up my Stihl saw, and chased her screaming throughout the reception pretending I was “Leatherface” from Texas Chainsaw Massacre. We wrecked a few tables, tweaked some pace makers and ruined a few dinners. In hindsight, doing that during the father daughter dance was probably in poor taste.

The people that matter all laughed.

I call those embarrassment bonds because the stories will only mature – get stupider and more over-the-top – with time.

Who remembers a bread maker?

There is no “they”

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007
Jeff Genung

“The Great American in Oxford will be closing very soon. It will be a big loss to the community. What are people who don’t drive or senior citizens going to do? The town fathers need to get busy to find someone to take their place. They should have been on top of this before it happened.”
Woman from Oxford

I couldn’t disagree more, Woman from Oxford. I’m all for blaming our local, state and federal governments for just about anything, but I can’t count among their responsibilities providing me with a decent grocery store in close proximity.

And yet, every time a business closes, or when a larger chain opens, the knee-jerk reaction of the people seems to be to blame the “town/city fathers” for “allowing” a business to close, or “allowing” a big box retailer to come in and crush the little guy. Someone on our ES Forum a few months back blamed the Norwich BID for “allowing” the sale of Eckerd’s to Rite-Aid!

These issues are not the purview of the government, folks. Familiarize yourself with the concepts of free enterprise and capitalism before you admonish the government for not being more involved in business. Sure, governing bodies can make an area more attractive to businesses, they can enact laws and tax structures that make it easier to actually do business here, but they cannot – and should not – make businesses come here, stay open, or stay away.

The closing of the Oxford Great American is surely a great loss to the community (or, more precisely – the lack of a decent, clean and friendly full-service grocery store is a detriment to the village), but its impending closure is a business decision. For whatever reason, I’m assuming that it was no longer profitable for that business to operate in Oxford, so they’re closing for good in August. The operators of that store were under no obligation to inform the “town fathers;” nor, do I believe, is it the obligation of the “town fathers” to find a grocery store to replace it!

For years I’ve fielded comments to ‘30 Seconds” saying “they” should put in a Target. Or “they” should put in a Ponderosa, Old Country Buffet, Microsoft chip plant, you name it … and I always wondered who the caller thought “they” was. There is no “they.”

Town of Norwich Supervisor Dave Law has enjoyed an embarrassment of riches lately in new business ventures coming to the town, and while I’m sure he aided in the process, I highly doubt that he (or any other elected official) is what “brought” Lowe’s to town. Lowe’s came to town because Lowe’s thought they could make a buck here. Great American is skipping out of Oxford because Great American can’t make a buck there. Stop and think how it works before you go blaming “they.”

My first Lobsterfest

Monday, July 23rd, 2007
Jessica Lewis

Generally speaking, lobster scare me. They’re kind of like big spiders with skittery little legs and huge claws and something about the fact that they are bright red conjures up images of evil little devils and freaks me out considerably.

Having said all of that, I have to admit that my first Lobsterfest went better than I had expected. I’m always a little nervous when I have to interview people who I don’t speak to on a regular basis. They don’t know me and I don’t know them and I always worry that I’m going to make some kind of huge mistake that will ruin my career, my reputation and my ego and make me want to crawl into a hole and hide.

Luckily for me, that didn’t happen. Instead I got to hear a lot of information that sounded like it had been prepared before-hand. A little information that made me think people were genuinely trying to answer my questions, and a couple beer-inspired responses from individuals who will remain nameless.

Despite my nerves, and the vast amount of shellfish that seemed  to be slowly surrounding me, I had a good time. Hearing local and state politicians talk to each other and to county residents about real problems and real solutions was something I never imagined I would see. Who knows what will come of the issues discussed over the country club’s cuisine, or what possible solutions there may be in the future, but seeing republicans and democrats from different levels of government discussing ideas for the future gives me just a little more hope for the years ahead.

Harry Potter band wagon

Monday, July 23rd, 2007
Tyler Murphy

I’m something of a fantasy/scifi junkie so my first impression of Harry Potter was not so great. The franchise was popular with the younger crowd, which isn’t a positive endorsement, and it was released during the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Stepping from the vast battle fields and epic drama of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic master piece to the PG rated, 12 year old protagonist was unbearable.

I’m a firm believer in the “book is better than the movie” cliché but I jumped the gun on Potter. When I heard about the death of some of the main characters the realist in me decided to take a closer look what I had shunned for so long.

Now that I’ve read through the first two books and after I sat down to watch the movies (which only took 3 years of peer pressure) I feel differently. Honestly it’s just too late for me. I missed out on the generational appeal but if I had been a fourteen-year-old I probably would’ve tattooed Harry Potter across my chest.

I like the books and I like that they offer a very original world to an audience that desperately needs more imaginative motivations. The popularity of the books should also be commended because I don’t care if the books aren’t exactly to my tastes or age, J.K. Rowling has revitalized a new generation in the lost art of reading and god bless her for it.

Did you forget about these one-time fantasy studs?

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007
Patrick Newell

Did you forget about Sammy Sosa? What about Jose Guillen or even Derek Lee? Some players look like they’re ready for the scrap heap, and Sosa was out of baseball for a full year before a solid spring training landed him a one-year contract with the Rangers. At this point of his career, Sosa is no longer a high average threat. He has hovered in the .250 average range much of the season, but his power production is plentiful and worth a second look. If you need RBIs and home runs, he could be a nifty pickup. He leads Texas with 64 runs batted in and is tied for the team lead with 14 homers. At his current pace he’ll hit over 25 homers and drive in over 100 runs. Is that something to sneer at?

The there is Jose Guillen. For two seasons now, Guillen has languished with declining stats. In fact, a year ago in Washington, he was a low .200 hitter with minimal production. Much of that was due to a long-term stay on the disabled list. But what about 2007? He is a big reason for Seattle’s surge over the last month, and is on pace for 20 homers and 100 RBI. Not a bad turnaround for a guy seemingly on the downside of his career.

And in Tampa Bay, I’m still flabbergasted by Carlos Pena’s continued streak of steady hitting. He was never a high average hitter, but is currently at .297. He is also among the league’s best with 22 homers and 60 RBI. Pena still strikes out too much, but a .403 on base percentage cancels out those whiffs.

Derek Lee of the Cubs is a couple of years moved from a triple crown threat season. His 2006 season was so poor, though, based on a lofty standard, I personally forgot about him and valued him way too low. He is far off his 40-plus homer potential, yet a .337 average and 90-plus ribbie potential keeps a fantasy owner happy.

Hard to believe Ken Griffey is someone we would consider writing off, but his injury-prone nature in recent years has left many a skeptical fantasy owner. “Kid,” who is now 37, is having his finest season with the Reds since his initial trade from Seattle, and is on pace for over 40 homers and 110 RBI. We like those numbers; we like them a lot.

Among the pitchers who seem rejuvenated or at least vastly improved in 2007, there are Oliver Perez of New York, who won just three games a year ago and had an ERA well over 6.00. This year he is 8-6 with an ERA at 3.13 and a career-low 1.19 WHIP.

Ted Lilly of Chicago has chopped nearly a point off his ERA and a substantial chunk off his WHIP. Oh, and he strikes out about eight batters per nine innings and will likely win around 15 games.

Mark Buerhle’s no-hitter for the White Sox should have been the good sign fantasy owners were looking for. His 2.98 ERA is two full points below last year, and his staff-killing 1.46 WHIP of last year is down to a stellar 1.08. If not for the White Sox’s anemic first-half offense, he’d be an ace on most staffs.

And lastly, AL all-star game starter Dan Haren is perhaps the first-half Cy Young. Barely a .500 pitcher a year ago with an ERA over 4.00, he has dropped that nearly two full points, and his WHIP was below 1.00 until recently. Haren has needed to be good on the mound with the A’s sporting perhaps the worst offense in the big leagues.

Un-Potterless

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007
Jessica Lewis

Unlike Jill, I did fall into the Harry Potter phenomenon. It was entirely accidental, but after reading the first book, I had no choice but to continue and see it through to the end.

I’m one of those people who reads the first book in a series, and even if it’s not very good, I feel compelled to continue, holding out hope that the writer will improve their technique.

With Harry Potter, that wasn’t necessary. I read the first book when I was tutoring my cousin one summer. As an incentive for her to practice reading shorter stories, I promised to read one chapter a day of any book she chose aloud. It didn’t take long for me to get hooked.

I’m not a fanatic who is going to stake out the theater or the bookstore dressed in black robes, thick glasses and a maroon and gold scarf, but I am going to look forward to the release of the book, and I will probably be snuggled up in my house this weekend until I’ve finished the last page.

Relay for Life

Friday, July 13th, 2007
Jessica Lewis

This weekend the Relay for Life will take over the Chenango County Fairgrounds, and hopefully this wave of support and awareness for cancer will last long past 10 a.m. Saturday morning.

As someone who will be participating in this weekend’s event, I encourage everyone to come out and join me and the other countless individuals who are going to be walking the track beginning at 6 p.m. tonight.

This year I have the honor of introducing three ladies who have taken control of their lives and beaten the disease. Their courage and strength is an inspiration to us all. They remind us to value the simple things in life and not to take anything for granted.

The relay will begin at 6 p.m. tonight and last until 10 a.m. Saturday. Come down to support those who are battling cancer and those who have overcome it, and to remember those who have been lost to the disease.

Leave Harry Potter fans alone

Friday, July 13th, 2007
Michael McGuire

I am not a Harry Potter fan.

I am cynical and mean though, and I understand where the people who leak the ending of “Harry Potter and The Deathly Hollows,” are coming from.

But I’ve got to give “spoilers” a thumbs down for basically ruining most Harry Potter fans’ lives – just because they can.

The last wizard book may not be a big deal to some. But for others, a ruined Harry Potter ending is like a Chernobyl meltdown happening inside their little hearts.

Harry Potter fans haven’t hurt anyone. I say let them enjoy their fantasy and let’s not always be raining on their parade.

Wlasiuk timeline

Friday, July 6th, 2007
Tyler Murphy

Hard to keep up with the, five year long, Wlasiuk murder case so here is a breakdown of some of the key events.

April 3-4, 2002
Partricia J. Wlasiuk is murdered. Authorities estimate the time of death between the hours of 11 p.m. and 12:30 a.m.

April 8, 2002
Peter M. Wlasiuk is arrested By the Chenango County Sheriff Department for her murder. He is 33 years old at the time.

April 11, 2002
Grand Jury formally indicts Wlasiuk of a single count of Second Degree Murder.

November 6 to 21, 2002
The murder trial of Wlasiuk. District Attorney Joseph McBride calls 51 witnesses to the stand and Defense Attorney Fred Neroni calls seven. The closing arguments from the DA take one hour and 23 minutes, the defense takes two hours and three minutes.

November 21, 2002
Jury reaches a verdict of guilty after deliberating from 9:40 a.m. to 1:59 p.m., four hours and 19 minutes.

January 17, 2003
County Court Judge Sullivan sentences Wlasiuk to state prison (Attica) for 25 years to life.

January 23, 2003
Neroni files the appeal.

August 31, 2006
After over three years of waiting the case is appealed by The New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Third Judicial Department for a “litany of errors.” The court sends the case back based on prejudice evidence being introduce at trail and finds some “merit” to the defendants claims of misconduct by the prosecution. Wlasuik who is now 37 is sent back to the Chenango County Correctional Facility for retrial.

September 22, 2006
Wlasiuk’ new defense attorney Randel Sharf, motions to have Judge Howard Sullivan recused from the retrial.

September 29, 2006
Sullivan removes himself from the case explaining he wished to avoid even the appearance of bias, even if none existed.

October 2, 2006
Administrative Judge Judith O’Shea of the 6th Judicial District appoints Broome County Court Judge Martin E. Smith to handle the case as acting Chenango County Court Judge.

June 22, 2007
After months of new preparation and hearings, Smith rules in favor of a defense motion seeking the dismissal of the indictment. The original indictment is dismissed because it contained some prejudice and irrelevant information. The ruling echoes the concerns of the original trial appeal and does not look favorably on some of the practices of the prosecution.

What’s next?

DA has to represent the case to the grand jury and the trial scheduled for later in the year may be moved back. Wlasiuk has not been released. He is now 38.