Archive for June, 2009

Let it rest

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009
Patrick Newell

Working for a daily newspaper, I am privy to what will appear on the pages before stories and news items go to print. Some time this week, the following “30 Seconds” entry will likely appear:
“For the record, in order to be a state-level wrestler, you have to win the sections.” –– Man from Oxford.
Unless you read each of our pages closely, including the obituaries, you may have no idea what the man from Oxford is referring to. I know exactly why this man was compelled to make an anonymous clarification,
Earlier this month, a young man from Oxford died unexpectedly and tragically in an accident. The 20-year-old graduated from Oxford Academy a couple of years ago, and wrestling was one of his extracurricular activities. In this young man’s obituary, he was described as a state-level wrestler.
The man from Oxford is right in the obvious or literal definition of a state-level wrestler. The recently-deceased young man did not win a sectional championship during his high school wrestling career.
I am of the mind to cut some slack here. A state-level wrestler can mean several things, and under a more general definition of the term, this deceased Oxford graduate’s participation in wrestling may indeed meet my basic criteria.
For instance: Did this young man compete in scholastic tournaments that included wrestlers from all parts of the state? Did he participate in offseason tournaments that showcased wrestlers from all parts of New York? Did he, by chance, compete in the Empire State Games or any national qualifiers during his years as a wrestler?
Since Oxford hosts an annual tournament that invites teams from all parts of New York, I know this young man meets at least one of the criteria I set forth. This man’s family is grieving their loss, and it’s not time to nit-pick the semantics of an obituary. Let the young man rest in peace.

A challenge of Olympic proportions

Monday, June 8th, 2009
Melissa Stagnaro

Yesterday was a day of new experiences, physical challenges, confronting fears and working as a team. When I think back, I can’t believe all we accomplished.

We started out the day at the Olympic training center in Lake Placid. We’d already been divided into three teams for our mini-Olympic competition, but we took a few minutes before we got started to choose team names. I am proud to say that I was a part of Team Pup ‘n’ Suds.

Our first event was the biathlon, which usually combines cross country skiing and shooting. (For our purposes, being there was no snow on the ground, we substituted a bit of running for the skiing.)

Shooting a bolt action 22 was something new for a lot of people, but after a few minutes of instruction by the facilities expert instructors, you would never have known it. The first student up (well down, since we were shooting from the prone position) got all 5 targets.

The actual competition was a relay, with each team member running a loop than taking 5 shots at the targets before tagging the next person in line. A 2 second penalty was given for each missed target.

Then it was onto the luge, where we competed on the same course the US Olympic team uses for summer training. I took one look at that wheeled sled (which kind of looked like those things mechanics use to slide under a car) and thought there was no way in h-e-double hockey sticks that I was going to go down the hill in that thing. But, buying into the “challenge by choice” motto, I tried it. Steering, which is done by applying pressure with your legs, was easier than I thought. It was the stopping that freaked me out a bit. But let me tell you, it was pretty cool. After a practice run, I we did it again, this time timed.

After two runs, I was ready to try it from the top (I think we only did a quarter or third of the full Olympic practice run.), but it was time for our next challenge: bobsledding!

Once again, we were on a practice run used by the US Olympic team. In fact it is one of only two locations where bobsledders can practice their push starts during the summer months. We learned how to push off and get into the sled (which is a lot harder to do smoothly than Olympic athletes make it look, believe me) and then did it for time. It was better than any amusement park ride I’ve ever been on.

Competing in three Olympic events would be a full day for most, but not for us. We did it all before lunch. Our next challenge, and believe me when I tell you it was a challenge, was hiking up Whiteface. The first two miles of the trail were intense. It felt like it was straight up and never ending, but around that two mile mark we reached a rock ledge that made it all worthwhile. We paused for some pictures and then hit the trail again with renewed energy.

I was so proud of my team during the hike. There were some that could have raced up that mountain, but they took the time to encourage those who struggled at times. It was tough going at times, but we persevered and reached the summit together. Even though the weather had taken a nasty turn and we were pretty socked in, nothing could damper the sense of accomplishment we all had from reaching the top.

But we weren’t done yet. First we had to descend a ¼ mile trail from the summit to the top of Memorial Highway. On a nice day, that probably would be a breeze. But thanks to the rain, the slip rock was, well, slippery. I’d rather hike up Whiteface than doing that again.

Waiting at the bottom was yet another challenge. You see, our 8 mile descent down Whiteface wasn’t going to be in the bus, but on bicycles. Now let me frame this by telling you that I haven’t been on a bike in about 12 years. And here I was expected to make an eight mile journey downhill on a twisty-turny scenic highway that if I was honest, I’d have been nervous driving down. I conquered my fear, though. Of course I white-knuckled it, riding my breaks the entire way. But I made it. That’s what counts.

It was on to Rock and River in Keene Valley after that, our accommodations for the rest of the trip. It is amazing. We grabbed a quick bite to eat, and then it was time to listen to Jeff Blatnick, an Olympic Gold Medalist. After a great talk, he handed out the medals from the day’s competition. (Was that really only one day?)

Team Pup ‘n’ Suds took the bronze. Even I got a medal, which come Wednesday will be hanging proudly back at my desk in the Evening Sun.


Thank you for sharing

Sunday, June 7th, 2009
Melissa Stagnaro

With several vehicles taking different routes to Lake Placid yesterday, not everyone arrived at the same time, so some schedule adjustments were necessary. When Mr. Maiurano got the word that the kids who participated in the Sherburne Pageant of Bands wouldn’t be arriving until even later than the rest, he did some shuffling. Instead of playing mini golf at the end of the day, the social event got bumped to the forefront which, considering everyone was a bit wound up from all those hours of driving, was a good thing.

I wish I could say that I impressed everyone with my superior putting abilities, but that wasn’t the case. I definitely enjoyed the diversion though, and the views. It is absolutely gorgeous here.

I’d expected to spend the rest of the night in some common area at the hotel, but I was wrong. After mini-golf, we hopped into the bus and headed into downtown Lake Placid. We parked behind NBT’s branch which backs up to Mirror Lake, and with the slightly haunting cries of a common loon in the background got our marching orders.

The students’ first assignment took them onto the streets of Lake Placid to find items that represented their own values, as well as something that represented Norwich High School to them. Believe me, in a place as clean as Lake Placid, this wasn’t an easy task. A great deal of creativity was required.

After about 30 minutes (and some Ben & Jerry’s) everyone reconvened in their committees (food, safety and site) to “debrief” from the exercise. Each of these committees consists of students from different backgrounds and interests, who probably say hello as they pass one another in the halls, but that’s about it. Yet here they were, having active, involved discussions. It was amazing.

The next portion of the group session was lead by Kurt Edwards, who began by talking about the people and factors which influence us in our daily lives. After taking a few minutes to jot down their thoughts, the kids gathered at the edge of the lake to share. It was emotional for some as they talked about how their parents, friends, teachers, sports and even their own past decisions and mistakes influence their lives.

Then Edwards read an excerpt from the book Uncommon by Tony Dungy. It was about the decisions two young men from very different backgrounds made which ended with them in prison. He asked each of the kids to write down something they had done which they wished they could change. Again, everyone split off to write their response. But this time, instead of sharing what they had written, the sheets were collected in an envelope and destroyed. This was to signify that the past was just that, the past. And it was necessary to put that behind you to move forward.

Mr. Maiurano said several times that “time was irrelevant” during the evening, but by my body clock it was awfully late by the time we returned to the hotel and gathered for one more brief chat before turning in the night. It had to be about 1 a.m. before we got to sleep, and morning came early.

Today will be a big day, and we’re on a tight schedule.

Greetings from Lake Placid

Saturday, June 6th, 2009
Melissa Stagnaro

Well, I made it to Lake Placid, thanks to the help of my trusty GPS. It was so efficient, in fact, that I beat the bus. So right now, I’m spending some quality time in the lobby at the Swiss Acres Inn, the hotel we’ll be staying at tonight.

I thought I’d have a quick look at the schedule while I wait, just so I know what to expect. It looks like today we’ll be laying the groundwork for the rest of the trip. Once everyone gets here and settles in, we’ll eat a quick dinner (outside—it’s gorgeous!) and then get right to work. We’ll be going over the Full Value Contract all the kids had to agree to, talking about values and doing some goal setting. Then there will be some trust activities before we all get a little bit of “solo” time to reflect. Tonight, the focus during this solo time will be reflecting on the Norwich High school.

The outlines for each activity, as well as the schedule, are in a bound leadership log each student received before the trip. It’s become kind of a bible for me already.

At some point I’m sure we’ll do an icebreaker or two, they are usually par for the course at any kind of retreat. I love it, because people always reveal such random things about themselves.  

After all of that, if we’re lucky, we’ll have a little time to socialize with one another over mini golf. (I’m definitely looking forward to that. I need a little work on my putting.) Then it will be time for the evening wrap up and off to bed.

Tomorrow will be a full day. We’ll be up by 7:30 a.m. (which, considering I’m usually up around 4:30 a.m., will be sleeping in for me) and start off with a morning session to plan for the day. Participants will be given their team assignments for their day, and we’ll review the goals we’ve set. Then we’ll head to the various Olympic venues around Lake Placid. We’ll do a biathlon competition as well as luge and bobsled. And that’s just before lunch!

The afternoon will be even more physically challenging. We’ll start off by hiking to the summit of Whiteface Mountain, stopping at different points along the way to compete in different Project Adventure activities. Once we get to the top (on the schedule the hike looks like it will take about 3 ½ hours), we’ve got to find our way back down. This time we’ll make the EIGHT MILE trip on mountain bikes. Thankfully, it’s downhill.

After all of that, I’m sure I’ll be ready for a nap, but no such luck. Once we get settled into our new accommodations at Rock & River in Keene, we’ll be treated to a talk by Olympic Gold Medalist Jeff Blatnick focusing on competing through adversity.

We’ll spend the next couple of hours in another group session, debriefing from all the day’s activities and having our evening talk. After that, we’ll spend some quality time around the camp fire (weather permitting) before hitting the hay. I’m sure I’ll be wiped out, I don’t know about everyone else.

Well, it’s time for me to check into my room. I’ll check back in with you later.

On Assignment

Friday, June 5th, 2009
Melissa Stagnaro

While my colleagues and I at The Evening Sun attend an awful lot of school and town board meetings and other events in and around Chenango County, it’s not often that we get to venture out into the world outside our domain for a story. My first chance to go out into the great beyond came earlier this year when I spent a couple of days in Albany with the Farm Bureau. Well, this weekend I’ll be on assignment once again. Only this time, instead of business suits, I’ll be packing hiking gear.

The Norwich High School students participating in The Leadership Project will be heading to the Adirondacks tomorrow for their four day retreat, and guess who will be tagging along? Moi. Yep, I’m going to see first-hand what this program, which has sparked such controversy, is all about.

I’m not going to lie: I’m excited about the trip. I’ve never been to the Adirondacks before and I love outdoorsy stuff. But this isn’t going to be a walk in the park by any means. The itinerary reads more like a boot camp than a relaxing long weekend in the woods. Hmmm…maybe I should pack cammo.

All the participants are setting goals (both individual and group) for the trip, so I’ve set a few of my own as well. First and foremost, I don’t want my presence to be a hindrance of any kind or a distraction. I want to observe and participate as much as I can, but be unobtrusive at the same time. That might be difficult, given the fact that I’ll be armed with my notepad and furiously snapping photos every step of the way.

While the student participants aren’t allowed to bring their cell phones or iPods with them, I’m keeping all of my technology handy. I’ll be bringing both my phone and my laptop so that I can blog and tweet as often as I can. I’ll even be able to post some of the photos I take through twitter, which I think is pretty cool.

Now I don’t mean to rush off, but I still have a few last minute things to pick up (namely bug spray) before tomorrow. And considering the tight schedule we’ll be on until Tuesday night, I better get all the sleep I can now while I’ve got the chance.

Wish me luck! And don’t forget to check back often to hear the latest.


Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009
Melissa Stagnaro

Anyone who has used a GPS has probably been reprimanded by the device for failing to make a turn as instructed. “Recalculating,” it will say, in whatever voice you’ve programmed it to speak with.

Mine is a woman’s voice with a somewhat snippy British accent who always manages to sound vaguely annoyed by my inability to find the way to my destination without her assistance.

I have to bite my tongue sometimes when she tells me off for not having turned down an imaginary route, or rutted truck path she has mistaken as an acceptable means of transport. I mean, who does she think she is?
Sometimes I’ll refuse to follow her directions purely out of spite, which I always end up regretting.

I know I’m not the only who has a love hate relationship with their GPS. My friend and her husband consider theirs, which they call Gypsy, to be the “other woman” in their marriage. It’s an older model and a bit out of date, and is often a bone of contention between them. Liz says Kent always sides with his electronic mistress against her. I witnessed this first hand on a road trip earlier this year. It wasn’t pretty.

Last week a woman in my golf league had us rolling on the floor telling us about her travels with “Miss Nuvi,” as she calls her Garmin. Peg is, apparently, notoriously bad with directions. It doesn’t help that she’s also a bit of a speed demon, not to mention a tailgater of the worst kind, so she often misses important signage. (After listening to her stories, I don’t think I’ll be risking my neck getting in a car with her anytime soon. I feel for her husband.)

Even with the assistance of Miss Nuvi, she often has a hard time arriving at her destination without lengthy detours. I’ll bet she hears “recalculating” a lot when she’s on the road.

Kathie, another golfer in the league, has a TomTom, which she calls DickDick. (I’m not enitirely sure, but I don’t think she’s really a fan.) “He” never seems to learn from his mistakes, she explained. I can understand her frustration.

Despite the occasional misdirection and cranky demeanor of my GPS, I do enjoy it’s company on long car rides. It’s a heck of a lot easier than mapping out my own trips, and eliminates the need to juggle maps when you’re either driving solo or your co-pilot has decided napping is a higher priority than navigation. She actually reminds me a bit of taking road trips with my dad, especially the way she complains every time I need to make a pit stop.

Now that I’m getting better at taking what I consider constructive criticism about my driving, we get a long a lot better. Sure, she sometimes gets confused, but don’t we all? If I could program her to sing along to the radio with me, she would make the perfect traveling companion.

In fact, I think I could use similar guidance in other aspects of my life. Wouldn’t it be helpful to know immediately when you’ve taken a “wrong turn” with your decision making and have assistance mapping a new path to your “chosen destination?” I think so. It would save you from making costly or embarrassing mistakes that side track you from your goals and always seem to come back and bite you when you least expect it.

Sure, there’s your own moral compass. But wouldn’t it be easier to follow if it had a colorful LED display and whenever you made a questionable decision said, in a slightly condescending English accent, “Recalculating…”

Sheriff, passing of the guard?

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009
Tyler Murphy

With the decision of Steven Dutcher not to run for Chenango County Sheriff there are few others on the “short list” and of those few I’ve spoken with in private corners, none seem very enthusiastic about the prospect of running.

Require by the federal Hatch Act, all candidates would have to abandoned their current jobs to run in an election.

Many do not enjoy the prospect of leaving their positions and currently enjoy their law enforcement roles. Although argumentative, the office of sheriff is also more of a political role as it is any other.

I hate a democracy which functions on a “lack of options” algorithm. So as it has looked for nearly a decade now the old guard is simply going to appoint its next representative.

Undersheriff Ernest Cutting is an incredible candidate for the office, with the backing of the republican party, his administrative experience and family roots in the local community, it is difficult to imagine a more intimidating opponent.

Dutcher is adored by his local constituents and seen as a popular, personal public figure by those who know him. His apprehension over leaving the Greene Police Chief’s post, which he has helped to define, is a serious political sacrifice for just for an opportunity to run. His decision not too is an understandable to say the least.

After the last round of local elections, two years ago, both the Sheriff, DA and a number of other incumbents ran totally unopposed.

I’d just like to see more political options for the voters in the area, not because I ‘d like to replace our current leaders, but I like the idea of keeping those in power on their toes.

My standard disclaimer

Monday, June 1st, 2009
Melissa Stagnaro

When I was hired for my job at The Evening Sun nearly a year ago now (wow, how the time flies!), there was only one thing that truly gave me pause. I had a reasonable amount of confidence in my ability to write, or so I hoped, so I wasn’t really worried about the meat and potatoes of my job. But when I found out that I’d be responsible for taking most of my own photos, I got a teensy bit nervous. And with good reason.

As most of my friends will attest, I have been a poor documentarian (this may not be an actual word, but it fits my purposes precisely) of my own life. My friend Liz was always the designated photographer. I relive my college years almost exclusively through the extra set of prints she routinely ordered for me when getting her utterly amazing photographs developed. (She is still a somewhat obsessive shutterbug. Have you ever seen a bride taking pictures on her wedding day? Liz did, despite the presence of the professional she and her husband Kent had paid extremely well to document the occasion.)

On the rare occasion when I could be bothered to actually take photographs, I usually failed to follow through to the next step. Consequently, I have very few photos and a large stash of undeveloped film and disposable cameras. Occasionally I take them out and wonder what could be on them, but even my insatiable curiosity isn’t enough to inspire me to get them developed. “One of these days,” I think to myself before returning them to the box that has become their permanent home. They fit nicely on top of that empty photo album.

I also have a bad track record with the equipment itself, so for several years I confined myself to using cameras of the disposable variety exclusively. That all ended when, during my first week at The Evening Sun, I was handed a piece of expensive camera equipment and sent on my merry way.

If I had expected some kind of tutorial or instruction, I was sadly mistaken. Someone showed me what to look through, how to use the zoom, which button to press and then let loose. Thankfully, the equipment made up for my inexperience, at least in part.

I’m still not 100 percent comfortable around a camera, even after all of these months. I usually give my standard disclaimer, saying that I was hired for my writing ability and not my photography skills.

Now that I think about it, I wonder if that’s why my subjects often look vaguely uncomfortable in the images I capture. Hmmm…maybe I should wait until after I take the picture to give the disclaimer from now on.

Despite my obvious insecurities about the photos I take, most turn out OK. Occasionally I even manage to take a photo which surprise both Jeff and myself in a good way.

Unfortunately, there have been a few that have gone the other way as well. The picture which accompanied this morning’s article about Greene Police Chief Steve Dutcher is, sadly, one of the later. We’ll just say it wasn’t a flattering picture, and leave it at that.

Ummm, Steve, did I mention that I was hired for my writing skills?

Apparently, I need a remedial class.