Archive for November, 2008

The most horrible time of the year

Friday, November 28th, 2008
Jessica Lewis

Whoever decided that we should pick one morning a year to hold crazy sales and go absolutely insane over the possibility of getting items on sale should be beaten with a club.

I don’t know why I did it. Maybe I went temporarily insane, or maybe I wanted to punish myself for that delicious slice of pumpkin  cheese cake I allowed myself the day before, but for whatever reason, I decided to get up at 4 a.m. and drive to town for the Black Friday sales.

I arrived about five minutes after the store was supposed to open, but already, there was not a parking spot in sight. After several minutes of searching and a few near accidents caused by people too excited about shopping to care about courtesy or the rules of driving, I found a spot on the far, far, far side of the lot.

Then the real fun began. I darted into the store and saw more people than there could possibly be in all of Chenango County, all in the same place at the same time, and all of them were pushing carts around the store without a care for who was in there way or how many people they ran over in that mad dash for toys, electronics and sale items.

I was there for a simple purpose, supplies for The Evening Sun’s float for the annual parade. I had to make my way through the hoards of people to get to the holiday decorations. I’ve pushed my way through angry crowds at rock concerts with more ease, probably because they didn’t have shopping cars. It took forever, but finally I arrived, only to find that the decorations weren’t really part of the giant sale. It took another hour to make my way to the front of the store and check out.  Next year, I think I’ll just stay in bed.

Black Friday

Friday, November 28th, 2008
Melissa Stagnaro

I might have been feeling a little sorry for myself as I drove to work this morning. I was convinced that everyone else on the planet had today off and were lying snug in their beds while poor schmucks like me were mandated to appear at their desk at the normal time.

But as I made my way up Route 12, I noticed that there was actually more  cars on the road rather than less. Dunkin Donuts and McDonalds were packed. And it wasn’t even 7 a.m.

It took awhile for my muddled mind to make sense of it all. Then it all became crystal clear. These people weren’t out of bed at this ungodly hour because they had to be. They did this by choice. These were the hoards of bargain hunters stalking, not deer like their camo-clad brethren, but Black Friday sales events.

I’m not big on the whole shopping thing. If I have to shop, I want it to be when the stores are empty and the shelves are full. Not the other way around.

The very thought of searching for a parking spot before dawn, fighting crowds of highly motivated (a.k.a. obsessed) shoppers and waiting for interminable hours on check out lines gives me hives.

Sure, there is the lure of heavily discounted items and unheard of bargains. But is it worth the stress? Some (the female members of my family included) will look at you funny for asking such a silly question and tell you that of course it is. For me? Absolutely not.

Thankfully, I am exempt from making up excuses this year.

“Sorry,” I say, with a totally fake look of disappointment on my face. “I can’t go shopping today. I have to work.”

Food for thought

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008
Tyler Murphy

Some time last week it was National Philosophy Day and since it was my favorite subject in college I thought I might throw some interesting questions of morality and thought at you. Here is some food for thought at the Thanksgiving dinner table.

Example one
If we kill Bob to harvest his organs and save the life of a number of others then why not do it? Why not have a whole class of people for organ harvest?

Too much for you?

Example two
What if there is an out of control train speeding down a track and it’s going to hit five people. You can throw the switch to save them but the track will shift to a different rail and kill a single person who without your decision would have survived. Do you throw the switch?

Still too much?

Example three
What if there are five hostages being held in a room by a man with a gun. He tells you that he will let you go no matter what you decide. He then asked you to choose one of the hostages for him to shoot and if you can’t pick he’ll shoot all of them. Either way you can walk free.

All these questions operate on the same line of logical thought. If you can pick a hostage to shoot, why not throw the train’s switch…. why not murder Bob? Choosing to allow Bob to live will inevitably end the life of several others in medical need… so what’s the difference between the three scenarios. Is there any?

Note: All the above decisions do not require self sacrifice and require you to choose death for an individual (without getting their consent) for the good of the majority.

Can the most good be quantified by the overall impact on society. Where do you draw a line… is there any logical place to draw it. Do you believe in Utilitarianism?

Utilitarians believe that moral ethics are dictated by a doctrine that a right action is the one that promotes the most happiness, or the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people.

I usually plug in my own opinion on these things but I think I’d ruin the point of philosophy which is self reflection and debate but I am absolutely not a Utilitarian.

The new meaning of Turkey-Day

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008
Jessica Lewis

I don’t eat turkey, or any other meat for that matter. I get picked on a lot for being a vegetarian, and I had no idea why, until I got an e-mail invitation last week from another group of vegetarian individuals.

The e-mail didn’t say that the people sending it were non-meat eaters, but after reading it, I figured it was a save bet. The group invited me, and several other members of the media, to a Thanksgiving celebration for turkeys.

Yes, you read that correctly. Instead of eating turkey on Thanksgiving, this organization thought it would be a good idea to have a party for them. The Turkey-Day celebration takes place at a turkey sanctuary and includes activities like spending shelter time with the turkeys, eating a vegan feast and giving the turkeys their own Thanksgiving feast.

I suddenly realized why I get picked on for being a non-meat eater. I’m sure the intentions behind this event are good, but I think they’re taking it a little too far. If you don’t want turkey to be the main course on Thanksgiving, so be it, but planning an entire event for the turkeys is a little extreme. Assuming that turkeys need human interaction and a feast to celebrate a man-made holiday, seems really extreme, and when you include the fact that the event is very popular and has been sold out for weeks, well, I don’t know what to say. But I’m pretty sure if the turkeys were capable of comprehending what was going on, they would be confused too.

Let it snow!

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008
Melissa Stagnaro

I love it. Flakes of white, fluffy snow pouring down from the heavens. There is nothing better than waking up to a winter wonderland outside your window. Even as I trudged through the snow to brush off my car this morning, I couldn’t help stopping to appreciate the beauty of it all.

The world feels so at peace and comfortable under it’s snowy blanket of freshly fallen snow. It’s just the right weather for curling up with a cup of hot cocoa and a good book. Or don your snow shoes and trek through the fields and forests.

Sure, there’s the downside. I know that the heavy wet snow piled on the branches can have a detrimental affect and it certainly can make the morning commute treacherous. But it still makes me glad to be home.

I know, I know. I just moved back from Colorado. Yes, they have snow there. But other than the highest elevations (where all the famous winter resorts are located), I think Upstate New York still has them beat.

When I first moved to Colorado, I lived in a little town on the Western Slope of the Rockies not far from Glenwood Springs. To put it in perspective, the local school hadn’t had a snow day in something like 20 years. (They finish their school year by the end of May, rather than late June.)

I vividly remember, not long after I got there, telling one Colorado native where I was from. “Wow,” he said. “They get a lot of snow there.” Apparently his son had attended Syracuse University and was intimately acquainted with lake affect precipitation.

And I definitely don’t want to hear anyone complain about the plowing abilities of our county, town and village highway departments. They are certainly head and shoulders above what I encountered out there. Other than the state plows that ran almost constantly on I-70 (spreading that nasty magnesium chloride), it didn’t seem like anyone was ever out taking care of the other roads.

So, yes, I am happy to be home in Chenango County and I’m thoroughly enjoying our first big(ish) snow storm of the season. Hmmm. I wonder if I could round up enough of the Evening Sun crew to have a snow ball fight at lunch.

People’s Sexiest Man Alive (2008)

Thursday, November 20th, 2008
Melissa Stagnaro

When a link to get a sneak peek at People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive line up appeared on my web browser yesterday, I couldn’t resist. I’m not normally a big follower of the entertainment industry or a self-proclaimed “media whore” like some of my colleagues. But once I saw this year’s top pick, Hugh Jackman, I had to delve deeper. I am definitely a fan.

I could also support their second choice, Daniel Craig. Although he is certainly not attractive in a traditional sense, there is something raw and appealing about him. The photo they chose, however, didn’t do him justice.

Nor did I object to the additions of David Beckham and Jon Hamm (don’t know who the heck he is, but he’s cute!) on the list.

But a few of the others kind of lost me. Some of them were just babies and others were too much of a stretch. Some piano player? Penelope Cruz’s boyfriend? Ick. I closed out of the page and didn’t give it another thought.

Until today. When another link appeared. This time it was a review of those who had formerly topped the list, but weren’t quite as dreamy any more.

I was more than a little offended to see Val Kilmer high (or low as it may be) on their bottom 10 list. He’s one of my favorite actors of all time. Everyone always thinks of Top Gun, but I much preferred Real Genius, The Saint and Tombstone (where, as Doc Holliday, he proved that he could actually act as well as look good).

Mickey Rourke, Nick Nolte. They weren’t so much of a surprise. I’m just not sure how fair it is to use their mug shots as the “after” shot.

And really, there is no need to pick on Jude Law.

I did find it rather funny that Tom Cruise is on the “sunken dreamboat list” despite the fact that he looks almost identical in both pictures displayed. He’s just a little paler (and crazier) now.

The whole experience made me laugh. It’s all so subjective. We’ve all got our own taste and who cares, really?

I know who I would cast my vote for, and it is none of the above. Sweet, funny and good-looking. And he’s already mine.

Open Season

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008
Melissa Stagnaro

Hunting season this year just doesn’t feel the same. In the days of yore, opening day was always the Monday before Thanksgiving, effectively heralding in the biggest holiday of the year for my family.

Everyone took the day off from work or school. Scores of out-of-towners made the trek, cars loaded with blaze orange cold weather gear. Our house was always packed with relatives itching to spend some quality time in the woods.

This year is the first I’ve been here for hunting season in quite a while, and I must admit that I was a little disappointed. Opening day should be crisp and cold with a layer of snow on the ground. Not 50-ish and miserably rainy. I’m glad I wasn’t out there. None of the family was up this year. They are either waiting for next week or forgoing the trip altogether.

My father went out to sit in the woods for a couple of hours in Saturday morning’s pouring rain. I think it was more out of a sense of obligation than anything else, but I admire his dedication.

Getting up before dawn to tramp around in the cold, sitting in one place trying to be absolutely still? Definitely not for me. Staying snug in my bed and waking up to the smell of fresh venison and eggs? That’s just my speed.

My Dad will get some company out in the woods this coming weekend. I hope they are more successful. After all, last year’s stores of venison are depleted and I have a craving for venison chili.

If they do get a deer or two, I’ll no doubt be dragged into the process. My place is at the kitchen table with cutting board, freezer paper and masking tape close at hand. Yep. They have all the fun and I get to cut it up.

On vacation

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008
Jessica Lewis

Coming back to work after being on vacation is like jumping into a pool of icy cold water. Once you’re in the water for a while, you get used to it. You might even enjoy it, but when you first jump in, it’s a shock to the system.

I took a mini-vacation last week, and it was awesome. I didn’t go anywhere. I used the time to finish a million projects that I had left half done. I had a lot of projects started, but with the craziness of life, work, parenting and running a million errands a day, few of the projects I begin are ever completed. I spent the week trying to finish the dozens of things I had started. It was a nice, relaxing week, and it went by quickly.

The shock to the system came first thing Monday morning with the vast number of unread e-mails, unheard phone messages and my mental list of events I had missed. After a week of doing nothing, the stress of catching up with everything you missed while on vacation is almost enough to require another vacation.

UV-E football season ends on a downer, part 2

Monday, November 17th, 2008
Patrick Newell

It’s fair to say my commentary on the behavior of select fans and players after the final home football game touched a nerve or two. A losing season is a tough pill to swallow, failing to win any games is a horrible legacy to leave on the program. Let’s do the numbers quickly: It’s the second winless season for the UV-E Storm over the past four years, and in that time, the team has six wins and 29 losses. In spite of that inauspicious mark, I believed the program was about ready to turn the corner. In 2007, UV-E was in contention for a winning season until losing at the tail-end of week nine’s game against Delhi. The staff piloted a club that was statistically among the best defenses in Chenango County giving up less than 13 points a game. With so many solid players returning from that club, head coach Jack Loeffler had reason for optimism. As a bit of background information: I went to grade school with Mr. Loeffler’s son Aaron over 30 years ago, and I’ve known the family most of my life. Speaking to him during the preseason, I had never heard such upbeat, positive words come from his mouth. My first day visiting Loeffler, I was on site strictly to shoot pictures of practice and individual headshots of players. Without asking a question of his team, he was giving me headline-like quotes. I told Jack, “save those for my interview.” There was no question in his mind: He sincerely thought he had one heck of a group of players. Many times he told me, “we’re stinkin’ tough.” I had no reason to doubt him, and I picked the Storm to beat Bainbridge-Guilford in week one. B-G’s head coach was unsure of his group, whereas Jack was confident in his corps. That final went the Bobcats’ way by touchdown. With the advantage of hindsight, B-G ended up a playoff team. The Bobcats were better than expected, and in fact, half the teams UV-E played this year were playoff teams., Seven of the nine UV-E opponents were in playoff contention until the final week of the season. It was, by no means, an easy schedule. Still, the unrealized expectations of this 2008 season was such an affront to some people, it led to immature, rude behavior by a select few following the game with Oxford. You would think Mr. Loeffler and his staff had no idea what they were doing. May I remind readers, last year’s UV-Edmeston club had one heck of a defense. This staff didn’t suddenly forget how to coach. Since I used a quote in the previous blog that seemed appropriate, another one seems to apply here: “Coaches get far too much credit for winning, and way too much of the blame for losing.” Should the coaching staff at UV-E get a free pass for this past season? No, and I don’t believe those gentlemen would want one. It is incumbent upon the staff to address mistakes made this past year, and then correct them. My first suggestion: Hire another full-time varsity assistant coach. The benefits of an extra set of eyes – and ideas – is extraordinary. Not to mention, it would allow more attention to detail and individual coaching by position. Reader responses note that UV-E has a good group of young men stepping up to varsity next year. The best thing going for the newcomers: The slate is clean, and the program has nowhere to go but up.

UV-E football season ends on a downer

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008
Patrick Newell

The last day of the football season for UV-Edmeston was one that I will always remember – although, preferably, I wish I had selective amnesia. UV-E hosted Oxford on a Thursday evening in a non-league matchup to round out each team’s nine-game schedule. The two clubs had exactly one combined win, so as expected, we saw some good moments, and plenty of bad ones. The Storm looked to avoid a winless season, and Oxford hoped to salvage a rebuilding year with its second win. At the outset, I told Evening Sun photographer, Frank Speziale, that I expected a tight, competitive game. It was. Statistically, there was little difference, and each team scored three touchdowns. The final difference – two points – was the Blackhawks’ success on one more two-point conversion. What followed the game was plain ugliness and disrespect – from an unruly fan/parent or two, as well as a couple of players. No one, and I repeat NO ONE finds a winless season acceptable. That includes all of the players, coaching staff, along with the program’s supporters. The time to air grievances is not in the middle of a playing field. What I observed first was the loud berating of the UV-E coaching staff as it prepared to go through the handshake line – in full earshot of the players. Subsequently, a couple of players walked away – spurning their teammates in the post-game huddle. The discourse that ensued is not printable here. It’s easy to pass the blame on to someone else rather than take responsibility for one’s actions. Sure, a player may not agree with every tactical decision made by a coach, but the coach isn’t on the field missing blocks, missing tackles, dropping passes or fumbling the ball away. I am reminded of a quote from Remember the Titans: “We will be perfect in every aspect of the game. You drop a pass, you run a mile. You miss a blocking assignment, you run a mile. You fumble the football, and I will break my foot off in your John Brown hind parts, and then you will run a mile. Perfection.” As most people know, the movie was based on a true story, and the man who uttered the quote, Coach Herman Boone, ran a fairly simple offense with just six plays – six! Even the most basic of offenses I see today are more complicated than the one Coach Boone used to win championships. Perhaps more than any other sport, proper execution is the key to success in football. And football is an ultimate team game where the success or failure of the team may hinge on any particular player on the field at any time. It is unfortunate that the emotions of the moment override good sense. It is even more unfortunate that my final impression of the UV-E team is one of the more sour moments in my 14-year career covering football.