Archive for March, 2009

Music and speed

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009
Jessica Lewis

Maybe it’s just my imagination, but I think there is a direct correlation between the volume of your music and the speed of your car. The sound and beat of the song also plays a role, but volume I think is the key component.

Let me start off by saying I have never received a speeding ticket. (Knock on wood.) That’s not a challenge or a boast, I just never have. I like to think it’s because I’m not a reckless driver, but who knows for sure.

Despite that fact, I’ve found that no matter how thoughtful I am, when a good song comes on the radio and I crank up the volume, my foot automatically pushes the accelerator just a little further toward the floor. It’s even worse if I’m singing along with the song at the top of my lungs.

That may be a problem when I’m driving in the car, but the same is true when I’m exercising, riding my bike or going for a jog. If the song is okay, I’ll go, but probably not that fast. If it’s a great song that I can turn up loud and sing along to, (even if I’m a little out of breath) I go as fast as I can.

I’m sure it looks amusing to the people driving by or those at the gym who see me silently singing along to all of my favorites, but it puts a smile on my face and a skip in my step. I think scientist should research this feeling and put it in pill form, we might end up with the next energy pill, diet plan or maybe just a speeding ticket.

Springing forward

Monday, March 9th, 2009
Melissa Stagnaro

That day each fall when the clocks go back is my favorite day of the year. Having an extra hour to sleep in is like heaven to someone who routinely rises well before dawn. I always experience something of a honeymoon period for the first couple of days after the clock “falls” back, as it is easier than ever to get out of bed when your mind still thinks you are sleeping in.

My least favorite day of the year? The bittersweet day when the clocks “spring” ahead. Sure, the event heralds the coming of warmer days and budding trees, which is the sweet part. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to move beyond the bitter phase.

I’m categorically opposed to anything which deprives me of sleep. I’ve already got something of a sleep deficit, and I don’t need anyone stealing an hour of the commodity my fatigued body holds most dear.

And it’s not just about that one hour of sleep I was cheated out of on March 9. For a couple of weeks, I’ll end up going to bed later than I’d like because of some kind of “time change” lag.

Not to mention that I’m once again driving to work in the dark. The last couple of weeks have been wonderful, with the sky already brightening as I start my commute. Driving in the dark made me cranky this morning, which the pouring rain did nothing to help.

I know the bitterness won’t last for ever. Once I move into acceptance, I’ll be enjoying the extra hours of afternoon sunlight. And gradually the days will get long enough that it will once again be light when I head to work in the morning.

I’m not quite over it yet; I’ll need at least another day or two. But never fear, the process will no doubt be expedited once I’ve mellowed out from going to bed an hour earlier than usual.

But while I was still riled up, I decided to do some research. I had no idea how little I actually knew aboutour country’s Daylight Savings policy. I really was surprised by what I found and, rather than being the sole repository of all that useful information, I decided to share. Lucky you.

Maybe, like me, you thought we’d first adopted the habit of adjusting our clocks forward or back depending on the season during World War I. We did. But did you realize that the policy actually came from the railroad industry rather than the military?

Before the railroad came along, time was determined by local authorities. I can only imagine what a mess that must have been. (Can you imagine towns, counties and states arguing over who got to set the time?)

With the rise of transcontinental rail corridors, the need for standardized systems of time became apparent and, as a result, the railroad came up with our current time zone system near the end of the 19th century.

Not seeing the need to re-invent the wheel (or clock, in this case), the US adopted the railroad’s system in 1918. The piece of legislation also included the observance of a daylight savings time, which was intended to conserve energy and make people more productive by shaving daylight hours off the morning and tacking them on in the afternoon. The initial attempt at enacting the policy was less than successful and that portion of the legislation was actually repealed the following year.

Daylight Savings Time made another appearance during World War II, and after that it continued to be observed in some areas. It was not standardized again until 1966.

Another thing which surprised me was who is actually in charge of Daylight Savings Time. Can you believe it’s the US Department of Transportation. (Once again, it goes back to the railroad.)

After reading all of that, I’m more confused than ever. I’m starting to think Arizona, which is the only state which has chosen to opt out of the whole Daylight Savings Time thing, might have the right idea.

Maybe if I sleep on it, it will make a little more sense. I’m a little short on that now, however, but I should have an extra hour around 2 a.m. on Sunday, November 1.

Role Models

Friday, March 6th, 2009
Jessica Lewis

Role models

It’s a common fact that when someone is in the spotlight, kids are going to see them as role models and look up to them as an example of what they want to become. That’s why the actions of those role models are so important and often so disappointing.

The recent headlines about the altercation between Chris Brown and Rihanna was one of those horribly tragic and disappointing events, and while many may now find fault with Chris Brown, I have to wonder what kind of example Rihanna is setting for young girls.

Today, new testimony was released, explaining in detail what occurred between the two musicians on the night of the alleged incident. To sum it up, Brown viciously beat Rihanna after she confronted him about a text message from an ex that she found on his phone.

The reasons for condemning Brown are easily apparent. His behavior showed his lack of respect for women, a cruel nature and a scary temper. But today, I also found reason to question the actions of Brown’s alleged victim. Pictures of Rihanna were leaked to the press, showing the extent of her wounds, reportedly suffered at the hands of her boyfriend, but when Brown appeared in court recently, a lawyer for Rihanna said she didn’t want the judge to keep Brown from being in contact with her.

The choice of course is hers and hers alone. It can’t be an easy one and I don’t envy the woman having to make it, but I think the example her actions sets for young women is appalling. It teaches girls to put up with the cruel treatment and physical abuse the singer suffered. No one can blame Rihanna for what her boyfriend reportedly did to her, but by staying in that situation she is not only putting herself in danger, she is also showing a generation of girls that it’s okay to allow this type of behavior.

Homeland security

Friday, March 6th, 2009
Melissa Stagnaro

While I was in Albany at the beginning of the week, I had a chance to sit in on a panel discussion involving New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker.

As the session was part of the New York Farm Bureau’s annual lobbying day, I wasn’t surprised most of the topics discussed were related to farming in one form or fashion. But one thing Commissioner Hooker talked about did surprise me.

Our nation’s food supply, in which our state’s largest industry of course plays a part, is considered a potential terrorist target. Which means that Hooker, therefor, is involved in Homeland Security discussions. It’s something that is constantly on his mind, he told us.

According to the commissioner, he and the governor had met with Homeland Security just that morning, which happened to be Tuesday. The Feds were talking about the top three threats our country faces.

Number one was, of course, al-Qaida. But I never would have guessed the next two in a million years. You see, Homeland Security doesn’t rank any other international terror group in the top three. The next two spots are held by domestic terrorists.

I immediately thought of homegrown militia groups stockpiling weapons in the Oregon woods, and racist white supremacists, but I was wrong. No, it is radical anti-abortionists and animal rights extremists that rank second and third on the watch list.

At first I found it hard to believe that these types of groups could pose such a threat. Shouldn’t groups concerned about the well-being of unborn children and defenseless animals be opposed to violence? Wouldn’t murder and mayhem be counterproductive to their cause(s)? It just sounded crazy.

But after a little reflection, I could understand at least to a certain extent. I remember the bombings that used to occur at abortion clinics, and doctors who were murdered for performing the procedure. Apparently, with Democrats holding the majority in Washington as well as many state capitals, there is a fear that radical right-to-lifers will return to that level of violence.

I’m not sure what the expectations are for the animal rights activists. There always seems to be a radical fringe group doing something crazy.

While I firmly believe everyone is entitled to their opinion, I’ll admit that I started to get a little nervous when I began to see the anti-abortion issue popping up on our online version of 30 Seconds. Don’t get me wrong, I realize it isn’t all people who oppose abortion or advocate for animal rights that are a threat to our national security. (The real threats, of course, are the extremists. Those are the ones who will stop at nothing to further their cause.)

I’ll have to ask you to excuse me if I get a little jumpy over these topics for a while. Because just the fact that we could have people living within our borders that would rank that high up on Homeland Security’s list, scares the heck out of me!

Milking the system: Whose fault?

Friday, March 6th, 2009
Tyler Murphy

 

According to the New York State Department of Labor, one in every ten people who are eligible for employment are unemployed in Chenango County. At first glance I thought- “wow that’s a high number,” but as I dwelled on the thought I started to wonder – are nine out of ten people actually seeking employment? Are nine out of ten people actually employable?

 

The answer I come to is maybe. I hear a lot of complaints over the welfare and social programs sponsored by our government, and I hear even more groaning over the types of people that utilize them.I’m not sure where I stand, but it’s a fact that some types of personalities are prone to settling into state-sponsored lifestyles as a choice instead of hiring themselves out as labor.

 

I wonder, can we really blame these people who milk the system? Imagine: I’m getting $200 a week without working from the government, but if I got a full-time job then maybe I could get $300 or more a week –  oh, but wait, I’d be losing my eligibility for all those other medical and assisted living programs, which would probably fall at an expense greater than the $100 extra I’d collect.

 

Not to mention that adapting one’s lifestyle from social program dependency to productive member of society in a competitive workforce can be very intimidating and a blunt force culture shock.

 

The system certainly needs to be reviewed and revamped.

 

I get it, so can we blame some people? Of course we can.

 

This point of view is interesting, even practically understandable but let’s not forget the part about being a social parasite. If you can work, if you are able, and you choose not to simply because it’s too hard or it’s just easier not to, fine … but accept the fact that you’re essentially contributing nothing to our society; in fact you’re an active handicap to it.

 

If you want a job, you can find a job. The limits of employment are often restrained by only two factors -both attributed to the job seeker: what job can I do and what job am I willing to do? The latter is the largest inhibitor for most people.

 

Since I was 16 years old, I’ve been a baby-sitter, gas station attendant, video store clerk, department store cashier, waiter, bus boy, press operator, teacher’s aide, lab technician, bus monitor, fork truck operator and a newspaper reporter. Don’t get me wrong, life sucks when it’s 2 a.m. and you’re mopping floors at a gas station, but at least when you get home at the end of the night, you’re making a living. 

 

The only true way to measure one person against another is by judging their relative level of potential against their commitment of effort.

 

In this regard those milking the system, even to small degrees, fall last. It hurts society, it hurts the perception of those individuals who actually need the aid and worst of all, it’s a signature mark of an individual lacking any sense of honor or community.

Wrong number

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009
Melissa Stagnaro

I’ve dialed a wrong number or two in my lifetime, as I’m sure everyone has. I’ve even called the wrong person by mistake when trying to reach someone else. But I can honestly say that I’ve never dialed a wrong number that turned out to be someone I knew. Or at least I hadn’t until yesterday.

I spent the first part of this week in Albany with the Chenango County Farm Bureau. It was all part of the New York Farm Bureau’s annual Lobby Days. (I promise you’ll get to read all about it between my column and a few articles this week.)

The trip was coordinated by Bradd & Rainy Vickers, who head up our county chapter of the organization. Naturally, I ended up calling them a time or two. So often, in fact, that I committed Bradd’s cell phone number to memory. Or so I thought.

The number I actually committed to memory, and at which I left several messages, actually belonged to someone else entirely. I didn’t find that out, however, until I gave the number to another member of the Chenango County contingent, Sue Evans from Evans Farmhouse Organic Creamery.

Sue tried the number and came back laughing. You see, the number didn’t  belong to just any random stranger. It belonged to a guy I went to high school with. He graduated a few years before me and now lives down south. I haven’t seen or thought of him in nearly a decade. And I’m sure he hadn’t given me a thought in at least that long.

I can’t imagine what he thought when he started getting voicemails from me. Thankfully, he was a good sport. (And yes, he did actually remember who I was.) We all laughed about it afterwards, me probably more than anyone. I mean, how entirely random, right?

Sorry for all those calls, Scott. It was good talking to you.