Archive for January, 2009

Sudden weight gain linked to Children’s Center fundraiser

Friday, January 30th, 2009
Melissa Stagnaro

When I can’t fit into any of my clothes on Monday, I’ll know who to blame. Martha Ryan. I was one of the many who followed her pied-piper call to the Norwich Fire Station last night for the kick off of The Children’s Center’s annual fundraising campaign. (Martha is the campaign chair.)

“Cookies and Cream” was the name of the event, and it featured a silent auction of cookies baked by local celebrities as well as lots of activities for the kiddies. There were plenty of cookies of the non-celebrity-baked variety as well not to mention glasses of milk to wash it all down.

I arrived only shortly after 7 p.m., but the festivities were already well under way. Kids were dancing to the macarena, getting their picture taken with a cookie monster look alike and loading up on milk and cookies.

It didn’t take me long to find my way to the silent auction tables, where the baking efforts of all those local celebs were on display. Nearly 50 had stepped up to their cookie sheets for the occasion, and they did not disappoint. Chocolate, oatmeal, peanut butter, almond, meringue – you name it and somebody had baked it.

Now, there are two things I’m a sucker for: baked goods and a good cause. So with my checkbook tucked into my camera case, I made my rounds of the silent auction bid sheets.

In hindsight, I’d say I added my John Hancock to more than was probably prudent. Not because of the cumulative dollar amount attached to these bids, but rather the sheer volume of home baked goodness I have been forced to consume.

When the dust had settled after the auction, I was the proud owner of no less than four batches of celebrated baked goods: Peanut butter cups, almond crescents and chocolate truffle (which were all delectable), and one batch of oatmeal raisin gone horribly wrong (no offense).

I have, of course, been sharing my bounty with my coworkers. And my family. But I haven’t been able to stop myself from sampling a few. OK. Maybe more than a few.
I’m going to strap myself into my snowshoes when I get home and trudge through the snow for awhile to burn off some of these calories. And a weekend trip to the gym will probably be in order as well.

But I’m worried I’m fighting a losing battle. There are still more than two dozen of the peanut butter cup cookies left, and they are just so darn good.

Student’s snowday burden

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009
Tyler Murphy

So apparently the State of New York forgot to create a weather contingency plan for disturbed Regents schedules.So all the students who began part one of the English exam yesterday or any part one to any part two part exam will have all their efforts wiped clean.Students needing to take any exam must now take them at the state’s leisure in June, when then next batch of standardized testing comes around. This of course is a stupid idea.For one students will be obligated to wait, for a period of months, with a multitude of distractions and obligations in between, before taking the exam again. Of course any compassionate school will offer review classes for their students, which is unfortunately all local school districts can do.This still is wrought with problems because now students will have to choose between several things including sports, other classes they may need help in, employment or even their free time in order to attend them.Even with review classes, I can’t imagine they’d be as good as regular classes would’ve been, obviously. Is it wrong to assume that in piling on these obligations someone who would have barley passed the test in January would have less of a chance in June, or that, as a standard, students would perform marginally poorer given the length of time and volume of distractions?What if a student is relying on their Regents in a less advanced course to place them in a more advanced one? What do they do then for the spring semester?Not that it’s anyone’s fault snow decided to fall in Upstate New York during Regents week, but should it really be the students who end up paying for it? Couldn’t some Albany crystal ball have foreseen the winter season and created a system to adjust to widespread school closures?I know that the state can schedule a make-up test if it so decides, but is under no obligation to do so.Aren’t there enough controversial issues with standardized testing without having to worry about the logistics of an inept bureaucracy?Couldn’t we have some kind of standard procedure to give schools and students a hint of what to expect?

Bad judgment

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009
Jessica Lewis

Okay, so it’s 2 a.m., and after a long night of drinking and partying, you start to get the hankering for some fast food. Who hasn’t been in that predicament?I can understand that part. I was never much of a hard core partier, but on occasion I have drank more than my share and had the desire to hit a local restaurant before heading home.Sure, that much is understandable, but I’m pretty sure even at 17, I knew better than to smash the window of said restaurant, break in and try to get what I wanted all on my own. In fact, I think I knew better than that at age 10. The fact that the kid in question left the restaurant with only a few hamburger buns and a couple injuries for his trouble shows you how well thought out that plan was.Unfortunately, that lack of common sense has been demonstrated amongst area youth several times in the past few months. The student at the Norwich Snow Ball who allegedly came to the dance intoxicated showed the same lack of judgment. Not only did the student have to be removed, but she also reportedly spit in the faces of two police officers in the process.In recent months, there have also been incidents with students vandalizing the Chenango County Council of the Arts, the Jewish Center and the Oxford Cemetery among many others, and while reasons weren’t given for all of those incidents, in many cases, it seems like the teens were just bored and looking for something to do.At age 26, I look at these incidents with disgust and disdain, just as I’m sure do most of the residents of Chenango County. I guess when you have free time on your hands, it’s easy to come up with bad ideas and get yourself into a little trouble, but these incidents take normal teenage trouble making to the extreme. I hope that the kids acting in this way, and all of those who possibly could take a minute to realize that these are serious incidents, and they carry serious consequences.

Yogurt junkie

Monday, January 26th, 2009
Melissa Stagnaro

I’m not really a health food nut. Don’t get me wrong, I like most fruits and vegetables. But normally if I’m going to get truly hooked on a food product, it is going to involve chocolate. A lot of chocolate. (Just ask Sharon Jeffer at the Parson’s Daughter, where I go for my coconut haystack fix.)

So it came as a bit of a shock last week when I began to crave yogurt. Now this isn’t just any yogurt. It’s a very special Greek-style yogurt and it happens to be made right here in Chenango County. One taste and I was hooked.

Last week, I had the opportunity to tour the Agro Farma outside of New Berlin. (Yes, I know it is technically in the Town of Columbus, but their address is New Berlin.) My tour guide was none other than the company’s president, Hamdi Ulukaya. He is the man behind the magic that is Chobani.

Little did I know when he handed me a 12 count variety pack on my way out that I’d become a veritable Chobani addict.

I was singing Agro Farma’s (& Hamdi’s) praises when I returned to the office. Feeling a bit generous, I handed out a few containers for my fellow reporters to try. Then I sat down at my own desk to try the peach fruit-on-the-bottom variety.

It took only one spoonful to realize my mistake. I should not have been sharing this creamy, rich ambrosia with anyone let alone the ingrates I have as coworkers. But it was too late. They had already licked their spoons clean and were greedily eyeing the rest of my stash.

Not that I blame them. Chobani is, in a word, amazing. It’s Greek-style yogurt, so its thick and creamy. It’s rich in all things good (like protein and probiotics) and low in all things bad (like lactose, which does not do my body good.) It’s non-fat, all natural and contains no artificial sweeteners or preservatives.

My fruit-on-the-bottom variety pack included blueberry, strawberry and peach, but it’s also available in honey, vanilla, plain and a couple of low-fat options. So far, the peach and strawberry are my faves. But I’m looking forward to trying the banana Hamdi told me they’ll be rolling out some time in the near future.

Needless to say, I made short work of my variety pack. Lucky for me and my budding addiction, Price Chopper has recently started stocking Chobani.

In fact, I’ll be swinging by on my way home from work to replenish my supply.

In reruns

Friday, January 23rd, 2009
Melissa Stagnaro

I’m not much of a television watcher. For the most part, I’d rather spend my rather limited down-time doing something more productive, like reading or writing. And when I do watch TV, I’m usually looking for a movie.

But occasionally, I get sucked into some series. Not when it’s on its original network though, but when its heavy into reruns. Preferably when the show reaches the stage where it’s picked up by one of those cable channels which run multiple episodes back to back several times a day. They can condense a whole season into a little over a week, and then start all over again.

The first such show I got sucked into like that was Charmed. I got hooked when a particularly bad case of bronchitis laid me up for a week. The bewitching series provided a much needed distraction from all the phlegm. After watching at least 20 episodes in a 5 day period, I was hooked.

Over time, my interest in the show waned. (They lost me when Leo became a bad guy.) Since then I’ve found myself equally absorbed in CSI, Monk, an obscure BBC series called Father Ted and a few others.

And while I’ve never been a reality show fan, I have made one foray into that genre: Project Runway. The drama, the fashion, the emotional breakdowns…what’s not to love!

There was an unfortunate period when I was strangely addicted to Walker, Texas Ranger, but I don’t like to talk about that time of my life. I save it for support group meetings.

Recently I’ve become hooked on NCIS. It’s all my father’s fault. Thanks to the USA network, I can now get a triple dose each time I need a fix. That’s right: three episodes a night!

I’ve noticed I’ve started drawing parallels between my own life and the show. Jeff is definitely a dead ringer for Gibbs. Jessica, a close approximation of the lovably ditzy yet brilliant Abby. Less the bad dye job, of course. MdC? Definitely a blond version of the Israeli Mossad agent Ziva David. Tyler would like to be DiNozzo, but he’d have to be a little smoother with the ladies.

As for myself, I’m not really sure. We can eliminate Ducky and McGee right off the bat. (I’m too squeemish for the former, and not good enough with computers for the later.)

I guess I see myself as kind of a Kate Todd when she was still a rookie. But considering the fact that she got killed off in season 2, I’m not sure that bodes well.

One thing my job is

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009
Tyler Murphy

There are many things my job is not but one of the things I find most appealing is that it’s interesting. Very interesting. Example?

6:30 to 9:30 – Write, write, write.
9:30-Chenango County Court to cover sentencing in sex crime case.
9:45 – Argue in lobby with father of said sex criminal over publishing it in the paper
11:00 Meet with CEO of a 300 million dollar company at 11:30
Noon – Heading to lunch until a concerned relative of a murder victim came in for an unscheduled heart to heart
1:00 – Chow.
2:00 – Head to SPCA to take pictures of a puppy and kitten
3:00 – Write, research, read
4:00 – Home?

Not that all this happened exactly this way but often enough a day can be filled with the strangest recipe of events. You never know when you might have to head out to a crime scene or a car accident or what might be on your desk in the morning. It can be stressful but it’s also a lot of fun too. A day could take you to any place found in Chenango County.

Most of the time you can plan out your next day’s events but at least twice a week an X factor occurs that lays all your best plans to waste. Adapt quick, get used to a looming deadline and prioritize.

I appreciate an interesting job because I feel a great sense of personal growth on a day to day basis. So many interactions with so many different people from the professional to the criminal, I think it’s what I love most about my job.

Adverse work conditions

Monday, January 19th, 2009
Melissa Stagnaro

I have a new appreciation for flood victims and others displaced from their homes because of Mother Nature. I find myself among them today. Well, on a smaller scale anyway.

Shortly after 7 a.m., I was sitting at my desk working diligently on my articles for today’s paper when I was rudely interrupted by a stream of water from above.

My first thought, I’ll admit, was that somehow Tyler was responsible. But he was innocent (this time.) It was actually a leak that had made its way around a fluorescent light fixture through the drop ceiling before finally ending up on my head.

At first, the drip was intermittent and no one was really too concerned. But by the time I had returned from an excursion to Greene, it had gotten a bit worse. So bad, in fact, that I was forced to temporarily relocate to an unoccupied cubicle. There just wasn’t room for me AND the three strategically placed garbage cans and other receptacles that had been positioned just-so to catch the drips.

It’s been a bit weird, working on an unfamiliar computer at a barren desk. I’m not nearly as comfortable as I am surrounded by all my little doo-dads (like the “Have you hugged a farmer today” bumper sticker gifted to me by the CCFB) and pictures.

Of course I wasn’t organized enough to bring everything I’d need for the afternoon on the first trip. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to run back and forth.

And the dripping is actually pretty noisy. It’s been more than a little distracting, which hasn’t helped with my productivity. I keep worrying if anything else will get destroyed. And anticipating an even greater deluge at some time in the future.

My fingers are crossed that it will all be taken care of tomorrow, so I can get back to work as usual. If not, I may be looking to relocate to my temporary digs on a more permanent basis.

In the meantime, I’ll do the best that I can under the adverse work conditions. And send my sympathy to all of the people who are victims of floods and hurricanes each year.

Can’t always be your friend …

Thursday, January 8th, 2009
Jeff Genung

One of the toughest lessons I have to teach my reporters is that you can’t be all things to all people – and you can’t be everyone’s friend.

 

I think we all have an innate desire to be universally liked and respected, but reality is usually quite different. That’s a tough life lesson in general, but in the journalism business, it goes with the trade. I grew enormous shoulders many years ago, and am fully aware that I am both loved and hated in this community, sometimes by the same people.

 

What I try to instill in the minds of the reporters is that while it’s necessary to develop healthy relationships with the sources you depend on for information, you shouldn’t make the mistake of trying to be their friend. Ultimately, we publish the newspaper for the reading public – not for the ‘powers that be’ who certainly would rather us slant the news their way, or not print it at all. 

 

That’s why I was proud that Jessica Lewis put the mayor on the hotseat in her column Wednesday. When she discovered that Mr. Maiurano’s 2009 “State of the City” address was a nearly a word-for-word regurgitation of his 2007 address, I told her, “You can’t let him get away with that.” And she didn’t.

 

Joe’s a nice guy. Busy, too, I’m sure. And while I’m still not clear on whether you can plagiarize yourself, I do know that putting out a piece like that for public consumption is lazy, at best. As Jessica pointed out, the repeat didn’t do the city justice – there’s more going on than what is indicated by a rote retelling of something written two years ago.  It was dumb, and she called him on it. Sometimes, that’s just what we gotta do.

 

Of course, the mayor’s not too happy about being called out on that one. But, as I told Jessica, sometimes our job doesn’t make us very popular – and with good reason.  All of my reporters are pretty good at making both friends and enemies, and that’s exactly how it should be. And here’s where I trot out a journalistic gem I heard long ago: “A journalist whose writing does not stir up either a duel or a lawsuit is a bad journalist.” – Hippolyte de Villemessant.

 

 

Make that a decaf, please!

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009
Melissa Stagnaro

I came to a rather startling realization this week. Apparently I drink too much coffee. I guess the signs have been there for awhile: the shaky hands, jumpiness and general feelings of wonkiness. But the actually quantity of coffee I consume on a daily basis was masked, at least to a certain extent, by those around me.

Now, thanks to New Years resolutions and an emphasis on living healthier, it seems that my co-workers have all decided to cut down on caffeine. Now no one else is drinking out of the communal pot each morning and I can no longer deny how many cups (OK, pots) I drink every day.

The first couple of hours of each morning we’re on deadline. Except for the frantic clacking of keys, it’s incredibly quiet in the office. (Just the way Jeff likes it.) I need a little more stimulation than that, and welcome an excuse to get up and walk around every once in awhile to keep my brain functioning. Frequent trips to the coffee pot, and consequently the little girl’s room, gives me an excuse to get up and move around. Rather than keeping me awake, drinking all that coffee has become almost an unconscious habit. Part of that mindless morning routine that gets the work done.

I could make a pot of tea, I suppose. But that would require a little more effort. And I’d still have to contend with the caffeine overload.

Tea doesn’t have the same sensory impact, either. There is just nothing like the delicious aroma of a fresh pot of coffee being brewed.

I love a cup of plain coffee, with a healthy dose of cream. But I’m not afraid to toss it up a little bit. My favorite is to add a dash of cinnamon when I’m brewing a pot, just to give it an extra zing.

Give me a coffee shop over a bar any day. My standard order is a latte. All that frothy milk, yummm. Toss in a packet of that sugar in the raw, and it’s heaven. Chenango County is lucky enough to have quite a few quality establishments serving up java, so I guess you could say my coffee addiction helps me support local business. My current favorites are La Maison Blanche in Norwich, Clachan Coffee House in Oxford and the new Village Bakery in Greene. And I have to give Cafe, Inc. another try, now that they are under new ownership. There are plenty of others, I know. But these are in my daily drive path.

I am also favorably disposed to iced coffee, something I know many coffee aficionado’s turn their nose at. Not me. I could drink it by the gallon during the warmer months. Have you ever had a Thai iced coffee? I’m not sure if you can find it locally, but I highly recommend one if you have the chance. I think they’re made with that sickeningly sweet condensed milk. Regardless of their ingredients list, they are absolutely delightful.

I read a thread on our online forum earlier this week, about someone who was giving up caffeine cold turkey as part of a New Year’s resolution. I remember thinking to myself how thankful I was that I didn’t have a caffeine or coffee problem to contend with. There is a high probability I was in denial.

While I admit that I need to cut back on my caffeine intake, I can certainly not give up coffee. I don’t have the willpower. But I guess I could  switch to decaf. I’ll do that. Right after I finish this cup.

Honey, I Shrunk the Newspaper

Monday, January 5th, 2009
Jeff Genung

 

 

As we kick off the new year, it’s a scary time for the newspaper industry. Maybe not quite as messed up as the auto or banking sectors, but still interesting times, to say the least.

 

Today’s my first day back from a week-long vacation (here’s why I always vainly remind readers that anything that was messed up in last week’s papers wasn’t my fault!), and since I try desperately to stay unplugged from mass media while I’m out of the office, suffice it to say I was genuinely surprised to see that Monday’s Binghamton Press is a mere two pages bigger than our own Evening Sun. It took me a while to get caught up on our southerly neighbor’s corporate rationale in downsizing, but given the current state of affairs in my chosen profession, it’s not much of a surprise.

 

A depressed economy isn’t good for anyone’s business, obviously. In our industry, it leads to decreased advertising from retailers and merchants – and that’s where we make the majority of our money. Combine that with an ever-increasing reliance on the Internet for its immediacy (if not accuracy), and you’ll see why many newspapers are in trouble. Binghamton’s not the only one to shrink – several large metro dailies are giving up print entirely a couple days a week and moving to web-only delivery. Others are lopping off staff, entering into cooperative news agreements and decreasing page counts. All are trying desperately to remain relevant – and survive.

 

How are things in Norwich, you ask? You know how we often complain that Chenango County is behind the curve on just about every trend imaginable? Well here’s an instance where that’s a good thing, for us at least. Print media is still viable in the land of the Bullthistle, if not as profitable as it once was. While larger newspapers strain their reporters to produce what they call “hyper-local” news … well, that’s what we’ve always done. Like my favorite tagline says, The Evening Sun has always been “the only newspaper in the world that gives a damn about Chenango County.” But that’s not to say we’re immune to economic struggle. In December, we had our first-in-a-decade price increase; revenue from that will go a long way toward helping us keep our heads above water – and I’m pleased to report that while we’ve lost a few subscribers, we’ve managed to keep newsstand sales comparable with last year, even gain, depending on the headlines. 

 

Of course the business picture isn’t all rosy here. We’ve made cutbacks where we could – tightening our corporate belts and taking a harder look at expenses – but our enduring goal is to ensure that you won’t see that reflected in the product. We’re not laying off reporters or reducing the size of the paper, and you’ll still get it five days a week, like always. And while we’re always looking at ways to innovate and stay competitive in the marketplace, we’re mindful of the fact that our bread and butter is, was, and always shall be local news, sports, opinion and entertainment. Do that well, and the rest will follow.

 

And if it doesn’t, I will take the corporate jet down to D.C. and ask for a bailout.