Archive for July, 2009

A break from texting

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009
Jessica Lewis

Cell phones cause distractions. This is obvious from the state laws against talking on them while driving cars. It’s more obvious if you read the CNN article about the teenage girl who fell into an open sewer hole while walking down the street because she was trying to text her friends.

While both of these things could be potentially dangerous, I saw something that seemed ever more dangerous the other day. As I was walking through Norwich, I saw a teen texting while riding his bike down the road. That was almost a week ago, and I swear, I’ve seen several more doing the same since then.

To me the problem with this scenario seems obvious, but maybe I’m just  becoming judgmental in my old age. Once you pass 25, it’s all downhill, right?

I’m decent at texting. I don’t particularly like the texting vocab or the lack of punctuation, but I can do it fairly quickly. But for even the quickest of texters it would seem that looking down and reading the screen is a must. There in lies the problem. How exactly are you supposed to watch where you’re going and text your friends at the same time. While this is dangerous when done behind the wheel, at least in a car you’re surrounded by steel and secured with a seat belt. What’s going to happen if you veer into oncoming traffic while riding a bike? The answer isn’t pleasant.

Being able to talk to your friends any time and anywhere you go can be fun, but no one needs to be so accessible that they can’t take a five minute break from the digital world.

Cooperstown or bust

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009
Melissa Stagnaro

This past weekend people from near and far flocked to the idyllic upstate village of Cooperstown in a pilgrimage to the Mecca of all things baseball to see the game’s greatest players inducted into the Hall of Fame.

For some baseball aficionados making the trip is a yearly event, while for others, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

For my friend Ed, a dyed in the wool Red Sox fan, this was his year. As soon as it was announced that Jim Rice, a childhood idol of his, was being inducted, he started planning the trip.

Since I live closer to Cooperstown than anyone else he knows, those preparations included a phone call to me to arrange accommodations. Of course, I told him, he and his friend Justin could certainly crash at Casa Stagnaro. It had been years since I had seen either of them and I couldn’t wait.

I was, however, fervently hoping I wouldn’t be expected to tag along. Not that I didn’t want to spend the time with them, but because events like that just aren’t really my thing.
Besides, while I love to go to baseball games, I’ve never been a true follower of the sport. And having been dragged to the Hall of Fame more times than I care to remember by visiting relatives over the years, it’s not high on my list of must-sees anymore. Because, frankly, I’ve seen it. After you’ve done it 5 times in one summer, there’s really no need to go back.

But when Sunday dawned, I did indeed drag my sorry behind out of my incredibly comfortable bed to accompany them to Cooperstown.

Once we arrived, I was a little overwhelmed, but found great comfort in the fact that Justin felt much the same way I did about baseball. The two of us were probably the only people in a twenty five-mile radius not fitted out in officially licensed major league apparel.

While Ed wandered through the numerous souvenir stores looking for something he couldn’t live with out for another second, we snickered at the ridiculous array of tchotchke available emblazoned (or bedazzled in some cases) with team logos. Every team was represented on t-shirts, mugs, key chains, hats and the like, but there was plenty of more outrageous merchandise as well. I mean, does anyone really need Chicago Cubs scented candles or a Red Sox stapler? Or, for cripes sake, a Mets garden gnome?

We may have poked a little fun, but the significance of the weekend’s events weren’t entirely lost on either of us. I mean, Ed may have had to repeat Bob Feller’s name twelve times before I could remember it, but once I understood who the man was, I could see why my friend was acting like a kid in a candy store about getting his autograph. It was a big deal.

I just didn’t realize how big of a deal until we arrived at Clark Sports Center, where thousands of people had already gathered to wait for the ceremony. I think what amazed me about it the most was how nice everyone was. There were Red Sox fans and Yankees fans sitting next to one another, clapping together as one baseball legend after another was introduced. Even I recognized the names of some of the greats present, like Whitey Ford, Sandy Koufax, Yogi Berra, Hank Aaron and, thanks to Ed’s tutelage, Bob Feller.

Not even a bit of rain could dampen the excitement of the more than 20,000 people in the crowd as the Hall of Fame welcomed three latest additions to its prestigious roster: Jim Rice, Rickey Henderson and the late Joe Gordon.

When it was all over, we gathered our things (which wasn’t much since we had forgotten all the important necessities like chairs and umbrellas back at my house) and joined the throng of fans headed back into town.

By the time we got back to the car, we’d already started planning for a return trip next year.

A bitter first taste

Friday, July 24th, 2009
Tyler Murphy

So after spending about 20 hours this week collecting court documentation, off and on the record comments, contacting family members, friends, attorney’s and police I was shocked this morning to discover the Daily Star had the article in their newspaper first.

The alleged murderer of William Lee, Richard Babcock, was indicted Wednesday and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hear it was going to happen before it did, and that I wasn’t aware that it had. The problem is that the court sealed the indictment which means no one can discuss the case until the court unseals it.

I can’t explain the pain of writing a grand jury story the following day over grand larceny and possession charges knowing there was a sealed murder indictment I couldn’t mention.

This morning I was horrified, thinking that I some how screwed up and missed some public access web page tangled somewhere in the state police’s site. Quickly that feeling faded however and was replaced by a getting screwed feeling instead.

In preparing to have the defendant appear in court for the case the New York State Police prepared a document that including the original charges they had intended on arresting Babcock for and forwarded it the Chenango County Sheriff’s Office via their computer system.

Babcock was not arrested by the State Police as was reported. The reason the case was sealed was specifically because he had not been notified or arrested prior to his court appearance Friday morning when the judge delivered the document to his public defender.

So how did the competitor beat us to the punch? Incompetence. Not theirs obviously. Apparently a trooper in the local Oneonta barracks made an human error. He found the document sent to the sheriff’s office on the computer and thought it was a public police blotter to be released. He then handed it over to the Star.

I don’t blame them of course I would’ve run the story in a heartbeat. I can blame the New York State Police though for unofficially unsealing a grand jury indictment before the supreme court did.

It was a single error by a single individual and his commanding officer promptly called our office this morning to offer an explanation and an apology after we sent him an e-mail of complaint over the issue.

Still, it’s hard not to feel bitter, especially since we contacted the state police the same day the Star did but was told there was no information, a credit to the personnel at the Sidney barracks I suppose. But burning bridges in this trade only leaves you stranded and besides it’s professionally petty, so I’m over it.

A lengthy article appears in the Evening Sun today that bear most of the fruits from my week’s labors, hopefully it will still satisfy our readers palette with lots of juicy details even through for some it won’t be their first taste.

http://www.evesun.com/news/stories/2009-07-24/7514/Man-indicted-in-Lee-murder/

Brush with the law

Friday, July 24th, 2009
Melissa Stagnaro

This week’s headlines about Harvard University Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s brush with the law, brought up a long-buried memory of a similar experience I myself once had. While Gates’ run-in was with the Cambridge Police Department, mine took place inside the beltway, when I lived in Arlington, VA a couple of years after I graduated from college.

I should note that, despite my close proximity to the White House, no presidential statements were issued on my behalf when my new neighbors (and Arlington’s finest) mistook me for someone breaking into my own home.

All right. Let me explain.

I think it was either November or December of 1999 when I moved from a house I shared with some friends in the Pentagon City section of Arlington to another located a stones throw off Wilson Boulevard, just a few blocks up from the Courthouse metro station.

The new location was less than a block from my day job as a market research analyst, and within easy walking distance to all kinds of fun and trendy restaurants and bars. At the time I moonlighted at one of those establishments, the Clarendon Grill, and it was through Jeannette, a friend I worked with there, that I ended up with my new digs.

Juggling two jobs meant that I didn’t have a lot of time to coordinate my move. Thankfully, my friends Brian and Ed stepped up to help me. We spent a couple of nights painting my new room (a necessity, I assure you, as the original pepto-pink walls were nothing short of nauseating), but I thought I’d have to wait a couple of nights to make my actual move because of my crazy work schedule.

But once again, Brian and Ed came to my rescue. They enlisted Fletcher, another of our friends, and while I was busy waiting tables, the three of them moved all of my things. It was a total surprise to me. I’d had no idea they were planning it, until they came to pick me up after my shift.

I didn’t have much time, however, to bask in the delight of knowing I had such great friends. You see Ed, who is surpassed only by my father in his attention to safety and security, had double checked to make sure every door in the house was thoroughly locked before leaving after they had delivered the final load of my belongings. That meant he had thrown the deadbolt on the front door and locked the back door, to which no one living in the house had a key.

Which explains why, at approximately 11:30 p.m., I stood on the sidewalk in front of the house which I had only just moved into watching Brian, Ed and Fletcher (who for some reason was wearing a Santa’s hat) try every window in the house to see if one was unlocked.

Just as one of the boys finally found a second story window that appeared to be unlocked, I saw a dark shape move out of the corner of my eye. Before I could make it out, however, I was blinded by a brilliant white light.

Light which was being shone into my eyes by one of the dozen or so members of the Arlington police department, wearing what looked to me like full SWAT gear, who had apparently just crept up a dark sidestreet hell-bent on confronting the robbery in progress reported by a concerned neighbor.

Yep. That was fun.

The situation seemed hopeless. Since I’d only barely moved in, my old address was still on my driver’s license. I don’t think I’d even filled out the paperwork to forward my mail yet. Jeannette, who was the only one of my three new roommates that I knew, was staying at her boyfriend’s that night.  This was probably a year before I got my first cell phone, and his number, along with that of my landlord (who I knew only as “Chuck”) were written in my address book. Which, as you can guess, was sitting in one of the boxes piled inside.

To top it all off, Fletcher (still wearing that stupid Santa’s hat) refused to give the officers either a first or last name to go with the “Fletcher” he kept repeating. He was holding the ladder for Ed, I believe, who was reluctant to come down when he was so close to gaining entrance to the house. Brian, if I remember correctly, had gone around the house to try a side window. The next I saw him, he was being marched back around with his hands behind his head.

My mouth kept moving, as I talked to the officer questioning me, but my mind was on other things. Namely how my father was going to kill me after he had to drive the 6 or so hours down to Virginia in order to bail his baby girl out of jail. The idea of spending a night in the clink wasn’t nearly as scary as having that conversation, believe me.

I don’t remember if I cried, but it is a distinct possibility.

Somehow, it all turned out okay in the end. After a couple of phone calls to CGrill, I was able to get in touch with Jeannette and she came to our rescue. She knew the neighbor who had made the call, and she was able to verify that I did, in fact, live there. They came to their own conclusions about Brian, Ed and Fletcher, who got a bit of a stern talking to about their level of cooperation.

None of us were arrested, thank goodness, but it was quite the adventure.  I think we were lucky to get out of it unscathed, because let’s face it, they would have been justified in making arrests in that situation. It was probably the most drama that quiet little neighborhood had ever seen.

I certainly couldn’t blame our neighbor. After all, if you saw three men (one of them in a Santa’s hat) get a ladder out and start trying to open your neighbor’s second story windows in the middle of the night, wouldn’t you call the police? After I got over the shock of it all, I actually went over and thanked our neighbor. I’m glad he was looking out for us.

And I have to commend the Arlington PD on their response time, which was under 5 minutes if I remember correctly. While I never had cause to call them myself, I always felt very safe living there knowing they could be there in an instant if I needed them.

Having gone through that experience, I have a bit of a different take on the Gate’s incident that my co-workers. It’s obvious that there were wire’s crossed somewhere, but I just can’t fathom why you would be upset that officers would respond if someone reported a break in at your house. Isn’t that their job? Why wouldn’t you cooperate with their investigation? I think that, perhaps, just who “acted stupidly” in this situation could be up for debate.

Memories of Brian

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009
Patrick Newell

Note: The following is an excerpt of Patrick Newell’s column. The full article will appear in the Friday, July 24 edition of The Evening Sun.

The words “senseless accident” were written in The Evening Sun’s obituary section Wednesday, July 22. Those two words completed the opening sentence in our paper’s farewell to former Norwich resident Brian Conant, who was struck by wayward car on the driver’s side of his own car. Conant, a man of strong relIgious faith and a devoted husband, was merely waiting for traffic to pass before exiting the parking lot at his place of worship. Conant’s wife was seriously injured, as was his mother-in-law. Brian, however, took the brunt of the oncoming car’s force, and he teetered on the edge of death before finally succumbing last weekend.
Just saying the words, “Brian Conant is no longer with us” seem implausible and difficult to fathom. On the “senseless scale,” this death rates awfully high for me, especially due to my personal association with the Conant family for at least 30 years.
I was in the same graduating class as Brian’s older brother Eric, Brian was a year behind me in school and graduated with my sister Christina, and another older brother of Brian’s, Mark, was a good friend of mine in my late teens and early 20s. I also knew Brian’s younger brother Dave, who was a frequent participant in our weekly Sunday afternoon sandlot football games. All of the boys, to a fault, were exceedingly polite, respectful, and good-humored. And when it came to pick-up games in which each of us attempted to live our own little moments of glory, the Conants were consummate sportsmen and examples of fair play.

Memories

Monday, July 20th, 2009
Melissa Stagnaro

I took a trip to Riverdale last week, that point in the Bronx just West of where 242 Street and Broadway intersect. It was the first time in more than a decade that I had been back to Manhattan College, my alma mater.

It was a bit surreal, really. It seems like it has been forever since my college days, yet once I set foot back on campus, it was almost as if it was just yesterday.

Sure, plenty has changed since the Class of 1997 mingled on the Quad for the last time on graduation day. A new state-of-the art library encompasses the old building where my classmates and I studied for exams and wandered the stacks searching for reference texts. A new parking garage bridges to campus, easing the commuting woes of those commuter students who make the daily trek to attend class and events. A new East Hill residence hall sits next to the old East Hill, now called Horan Hall, where I spent three of my four years at good old MC.

Even the area around the campus has changed. All of our favorite Broadway watering holes (Characters, the Terminal, Pinewood and Dorney Malone’s) are gone. Three Boys Pizza, which was conveniently located just across the street from Overlook (the slightly off campus apartment-style residence hall where I lived my sophomore year), is now called Goodfella’s. An Beal Bacht, the little Irish coffee house my friends and I frequented, has gone upscale.

Some things, though, haven’t changed. Broadway Joe’s Pizza is still serving up the best slices in the neighborhood. And the bacon, egg and cheese on a hard roll from The Short Stop I used to enjoy at 4 a.m. after a night out with my friends, still tastes just as good. Even though someone other than Tina, everyone’s favorite waitress, was working the counter.

It isn’t just the place, but the people, we remember. As at any institution, there has been a steady ebb and flow of faculty and staff at Manhattan over the years. But I discovered during my brief time on campus that there were still plenty of familiar names and faces to reassure me that not everything has changed.

I met up with two of my friends that night. Mike, who lives in Berkeley, was in town for the week teaching a graduate class at Manhattan. John, now an A.D.A. in the Bronx, hopped a couple of trains to come up to join us. I honestly can’t remember the last time the three of us were in the same city.

We caught up on one another’s lives over dinner at an Indian place on Johnson Avenue. Well, actually, we spent most of the time telling embarrassing stories about one another. It was just like old times.

After dinner we strolled back to campus, still swapping stories. Half way down Waldo Avenue, though, we came to a halt. From our location we could see the cupola on top of Smith, which has irreverently been called “the Nipple of Knowledge” by generations  of Jaspers. Illuminated against the dark night sky, the sight took my breath away. If I had to pick one symbol of Manhattan College, that would be it.

After pausing to check out my overnight accommodations in (the new) East Hill and cajoling a security guard into taking some pictures of the three of us, Mike and John headed out.

It wasn’t until I laid my head down that I realized I could see the Nipple from my room. And as I drifted off to sleep, my mind wandered back to my time at Manhattan College and all those memories shaped my dreams.

In the morning, I met Mike again for a quick breakfast (at the Short Stop, of course), hiked up to Riverdale Ave to pick up some bagels to bring home and packed up. But I wasn’t ready to go just yet. I wasn’t ready to part ways with all my memories.

So, camera in hand, I skirted around Draddy Gymnasium and made may down the steps by Chrysostum Hall to the Quad, which for me was always the beating heart of Manhattan College.

During the first 3 1/2 of my years at Manhattan, the Quad was lined with beautiful old trees. But not long before I graduated, the college was forced to cut them down. Some disease, if I remember correctly. I’m happy to say that the saplings they planted in their stead all those years ago, while still significantly smaller than their predecessors, have since grown strong and tall.

I made myself comfortable on a bench in the shade of one of those trees, listening to the leaves rustling with the breeze. There were a smattering of students sitting on the grass, enjoying the beautiful summer day. An admission’s officer lead a tour of prospective students and their parents in and out of De La Salle. A few faculty and staff members strolled by. And I just soaked it all in.

I stayed on campus each summer while I went to Manhattan, working as a Conference Assistant and an Orientation Leader. Those summer months, when you practically had the whole campus to yourself, were some of my favorite times. When everyone else came back in late August, it felt like an invasion.

As I sat on that bench, watching the world go by, I realized that I still feel that same level of connection to that place and to each brick and each stone, as I did as a student. I felt, not sadness or longing for days gone by, but rather I took comfort in knowing that even after all of this time, on that core level it still belongs to me, and I, to it.

Former NHS gridder returns to field

Friday, July 17th, 2009
Patrick Newell

Note: Ron Whiting, a 1990 Norwich High graduate, has returned to the gridiron for the love of the game. Here is an excerpt of the story that will appear in next week’s Evening Sun:

Former Norwich resident, Ron Whiting, never lost his love for the game of footbal. Nearly 20 years since he last played competitively, Whiting, a 1990 Norwich High School graduate, is now playing for the Watertown Revolution, a semi-pro team in the Northeastern Football Alliance.
The son of George and Joan Whiting – who still reside in Norwich – Ron Whiting was a two-time All-County lineman playing for Norwich, and he played one year at Canisius before giving the game up.
Through the social networking site, Facebook, Whiting enlisted in a fitness program under the tutelage of 1989 Norwich graduate, Steve Yu. Whiting worked himself into shape, and decided to give football another shot. “I have always had the desire to play again,” Whiting said in a recent interview. “Having my kids watch me play was also something I wanted to have happen.”
Whiting is among the “older” players on the Revolution, although he earned a starting role and has started the team’f first three games at offensive guard. He has encountered some of the same aches and pains of any football player, and acknowledges that at 37 years old, it takes a little longer for heal up.
“The aches and pains have definitely hindered me along the way,” he said. “You can get back into shape, but football shape is a whole different story. It’s about knowing how much I can push myself.”

Evening Sun Staffers need your help!

Thursday, July 9th, 2009
Melissa Stagnaro

In this day and age, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who’s life has not been touched by cancer. Whether it is you yourself who has battled the disease or a friend, family member or co-worker, I think we all understand how important it is to fund cancer research not to mention programs for patients and families and educational and advocacy efforts.

By participating in the American Cancer Society’s Chenango County Relay for Life next weekend, my coworkers and I are trying to do just that.

Jessica Lewis, Melissa deCordova and myself are proud to be among the staff members from the Snyder Communications companies who have united to walk as Snyders Striders and Snyders Striders 2.

While we have committed ourselves to this cause, we haven’t been what you’d call diligent in our fundraising efforts. We are being far outshone by our team members “across the parking lot,” as we call the Pennysaver and Circulars staff. That’s why we need your help.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t about saving face. We just want to do our part to meet (and hopefully exceed) our team’s fundraising goal. Last year our team raised more than $3,000 for the event, which helped bring the total raised in Chenango County to $125,600.

We’ve raised the bar for ourselves this year and are shooting for at least $3,500. Unfortunately, with the event only a week away, we’re still well short of that mark.

Jessica, Melissa and I are appealing to you, our readers, to help us reach our goal. We hope you will please consider making a donation, no matter how small, to support this very worthy cause.

To make a donation online, visit www.relayforlife.org/chenangocountyny and click on donate. You can then search for us by name or by team. (Jessica and Melissa are on Snyders Striders; I’m on Snyders Striders 2.) If you would prefer to make your donation by cash or check, call 334-3276 to make arrangements.

Thank you so much for helping us help this important fundraising effort. Together we can make a difference.

Palin’s Folly

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009
Melissa Stagnaro

With the media brouhaha surrounding Michael Jackson’s death, many Americans might have missed Sarah Palin’s press conference on Friday during which she informed the world, and her Alaskan constituents, that she was stepping down as governor of the Land of the Midnight Sun.

I’ll admit, I missed the announcement. But having read copies of her statement, not to mention coverage of the event from several sources, I’m having a hard time sorting out my feelings about Palin’s news.

First and foremost, I’m confused. Palin started off her speech by stressing her commitment to her state and lauding the accomplishments she and her administration have made over the first two years in the state’s top office. Somewhere after that, around the time she compared herself to a point guard facing a full court press on the basketball court, she lost me. In fact, if the headlines hadn’t said she had announced her resignation, I may never have gleaned it from her words.

Why is Palin stepping down from the post? I’m not quite sure, and I’m not entirely sure she is either.

I think she said it was to protect the Alaskan taxpayers from having to pay for costly legal defense associated with allegations of ethics violation made by her opposition. But she also talked about how, since she had decided not to run for re-election in 16 months, she didn’t want to burden the state with a “lame duck” for the remainder of her term. And she definitely blasted the media for taking aim at her family, so perhaps that is why. (Hey-maybe that explains the full court “press” comment!)

Regardless of her motives, or her future intentions, her family apparently is in full support of her decision, based on the chorus of “yeahs” and one “hell yeah” she said they gave her when she asked them their opinion. (Don’t worry, she has promised to tell that story at a later date. I’m sure we’ll all be holding our breath.) But I’m not sure the Alaskan people, who elected Palin for her four year term as governor, are quite as enthusiastic about her decision.

And certainly there are plenty in her own political party who fail to understand the former vice presidential candidate’s latest move, not to mention her motivation. There has been plenty of speculation that Palin planned to position herself as a presidential candidate in 2012. Which will be difficult if, as some believe, she has shot herself in the political foot with her resignation.

Palin ended her statement to the press with a quote from General Douglas MacArthur. “We are not retreating,” she said. “We are advancing in another direction.”

She rephrased the same sentiment on Monday during an interview with CNN. “I’m not a quitter; I’m a fighter,” she (tried to) explain.

It’s a difficult argument to make when you’ve just voluntarily increased the jobless number in your state by one.

For me, her clarification to the press was a little watered down by the fact that she made the assertion is made while wearing hip-waders. But perhaps, as my co-worker suggested this morning, that’s all she was left with after she returned her high priced campaign wardrobe after the last election.

Do it yourself

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009
Jessica Lewis

The faltering economy and a need to become more frugal has led many people to attempt “do it yourself” projects with varying degrees of success.

I’ve always been a proponent of doing things for myself. I often underestimate how complicated something truly is and think I will have no problem doing it myself. This has led me to discover that for some tasks, I’m pretty dang handy, and that others should probably be left to the professionals.

Even with my overconfidence, I still am capable of seeing when a certain task is completely outside my skill set. After reading a story posted on CNN today, I see that not everyone has that same ability. <http://www.ktvu.com/news/19922727/detail.html>

The article was about a woman who attempted to perform her own plastic surgery, at home. Without reading anymore than the headline, I knew this one would not end well. But what really surprised me was that the article insisted, this was not an isolated incident. Apparently, given the current economic situation, many people are under the impression that they too can be their own plastic surgeon.

As money becomes tight for some people, bucking down and looking for ways to save are smart ideas, but there are some areas where you really shouldn’t cut.