Archive for November, 2010

Come back, Mister Sandman

Monday, November 8th, 2010
Melissa Stagnaro

Among the random press releases I received last week was one which gave me pause. Rather than heralding an upcoming event, this one announced the results of a sleep study commissioned by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.

Issuance of the report, entitled, “The Facts About the Lack of Sleep Among Upstate New York Adults,” was timely, what with the clocks scheduled to “fall back” over the weekend.

Now, I’m sure it isn’t news that most of us are sleep deprived. According the study’s findings, Southern Tier residents get an average of 7.1 hours of “shut-eye” per night. That’s slightly higher than those in other regions, but still on the very low end of what’s considered optimal – 7 to 8 hours.

I feel lucky if I get 6.

But what surprised me most was the study’s claim that 50 years ago, Americans were devoting 1.5 to 2 hours more to sleep than we do today.

No wonder they refer to them as “the good old days”!

It was a different world back then, of course. Back when there were only a handful of network television stations, none of which broadcast 24-hours a day. Long before cable channels came into being, or the internet was born. Well before the information age, or the rise of digital technology.

Would I trade all that for an extra hour or two of sleep at night?

Thinking about how lovely it felt to sleep in for an extra hour yesterday -
I’d definitely consider it.

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.

Working hard and welfare

Monday, November 8th, 2010
Tyler Murphy

Inspired by the ES forum: Public assistance in chenango county

Think of all those lower income jobs. Just recalling my personal experience, I vividly remember being a gas station clerk as one of the worst, most thankless jobs I’ve ever had.

Every day I’d come in and tell myself that after this experience, I’m never going to work that kind of job again. But I still came in everyday until I found something better. I still took the job when I needed it. I hate to admit it but if I was desperate again tomorrow I’d still rather have it than not.

It’s hard working for a living and I hate it. My family and I grew up in a constant financial struggle which still continues for many of us today. Though eligible for some aid there was a streak of independence that ran deep in our genes. There was always some relative luxury to cut or some cheaper alternative to adopt. Not that people don’t get desperate, after a life time of minimization you just want to scream. But you can at least catch a breath of pride to comfort you. At least you didn’t rely on anyone for what you’ve got. Whatever your life is, it’s yours. It’s yours to fail or to improve, to lose or to live. No one to thank and no one to blame.

Life is a bitch, but in the end no matter who you have to blame, it’s still going to be the only one you’ve got. Other people might be able to set your life back but only you can move it forward.

I know exactly just how much it sucks to come home to a desolate, one bedroom apartment with the heat hovering just above frozen pipes and below the final notice. There isn’t any cable or Internet when you’re struggling to maintain the most basic car liability insurance and functional repairs. But don’t worry, the decade-old cars you can afford have a short enough life span that you honestly don’t need a large investment in either of those two prospects.

One of the hardest things for struggling young adults is coping with the utter lack of a support structure. Both in family and in government. Coming from poverty is a state of being, not just an origin. Poor or low-income families have little, to no financial support, to offer. You are alone and you always will be. No one’s going to take care of you. (Unless you want to take the government’s money.)

Being a regular working stiff means accumulating all the financial responsibilities and none of the entitlement perks. I’m sure there are a lot of jobs out there that are just as much an ordeal. No health care, no retirement (future), little pay, no appreciation and no room for growth. More and more it seems our area offers nothing but these kinds of jobs.

So after working 10 hours at a job where I’m dolling out cigarettes, beer and lottery tickets, which I can barely afford to indulge in myself, to people collecting welfare it can be hard to stay motivated. Hell, its hard at times to have any hope.

I feel bad for people and I have seen the world from that gloomy perspective. Apathy is a solution for those unable to imagine a way out of it.

“It’s easier to lose yourself in drugs than it is to cope with life. It’s easier to steal what you want than it is to earn it. It’s easier to beat a child than it is to raise it.”
–Morgan Freeman

Social mobility takes a lot effort and work these days, more than it has in the past few decades. Improvement is slow, costly and some people fall off the path to something better.

You start to wonder what really separates you and them, besides an apparent abundance of free government money and time. What makes some people in these circumstances rise above and others descend?

I’m not a worldly person but I’m familiar with the scenes of tragedy in this place I call home. I don’t think I’m better than other people, maybe more idealistic. I believe in positive lifestyle reform through one’s own hands.

“The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done. Now if you know what you’re worth then go out and get what you’re worth. But you have to be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody. Cowards do that.”
–Rocky

Not that I don’t take every chance to quote Rocky that I can but the truth in this remark could have come from the Messiah. He’s absolutely correct. Life on welfare is never going to get any better unless you want it to be. I don’t know about the rest of you, but despite the fact I’m completely broke at the moment, I intend on being a millionaire- or to die trying.

Badly managed, long term welfare subsidizes laziness, depression and then creates a stable environment for those things to fester. People need help but they don’t need the option of never having to care about life. When you have generational poverty and people facing such a host of other issues they tend to have a hard time appreciating the true potential they possess. Bad welfare policy, literally and metaphorically, feed the addictions of poverty. And that’s what we have.

As much as we need to end infinite welfare we need to replace it with a leaner, more efficient form that actually works too. People need real jobs and options more than they need a hand out. As long as working people continue to struggle I don’t see how we can justifly so much spending on the non-working.

Editor’s Notebook: 11/5/10

Friday, November 5th, 2010
Jeff Genung

• So I’m just going to start off today’s blog to bitch about how I haven’t had to work on a Friday since the beginning of June … until today. This working five days a week thing is slavery, I tell you.

• Thanks to Colleen Law-Tefft for allowing me to get a sneak peek at “Merriment, Mayhem and Misinterpretation” at Sherburne-Earvlille Wednesday night. The evening of one-act plays is being staged tonight and Saturday at 7 p.m. You can read my review here. It’s a great show, especially if you have a short attention span like me.

• Oxford had a public info session last night on its latest batch of proposed school improvements. I spent some time this week perusing the floor plans of the Oxford Middle School that were published in this month’s Blackhawk Bulletin. Funny how I recall some of that space – especially on the basement and second floor levels being “undesignated” (i.e. empty) when I was in school in the 80s – and they had a higher enrollment. Guess those new-fangled computers take up a lot of room.

• In another public hearing, the Town of Norwich had one for their 2011 budget – and no one showed up. Except of course, Tyler Murphy. Good boy.

• Congratulations to Tops, for cutting the ribbon on their “new” old store in downtown Norwich on Thursday. Everything old is new again, but I’ve got to say that Tops 2.0 looks a lot better than it did the first time around, and certainly an improvement over P&C. Here’s wishing them much success in their second go-around in Norwich.

Editor’s Notebook: 11/4/10

Thursday, November 4th, 2010
Jeff Genung

Rain, rain go away …

• Congratulations to Norwich attorney Diane DiStefano, who was selected by lottery to run in this weekend’s New York City Marathon. Good thing they didn’t select me; I can barely run to the refrigerator during commercials.

• Went to see the S-E Drama Club’s collection of one-act plays last night (you can read my full review in Friday’s paper). But before that, my friend and I had a nice dinner at the D&D Diner. Hadn’t been there in years. Good food, service and a friendly atmosphere. As I said last night, very Sherburne-ish.

• While I was there, Brian was up in Otselic watching them perform “12 Angry Jurors.” Apparently the former “Men” have gone for equal opportunity anger. He said it was a good show, too. You can read the preview here.

• Remember all those 1950s sci-fi horror flicks with monsters that were insects or other common animals mutated by radiation? That’s what I think about every time I hear the screeching in downtown Norwich. And I hear it a lot. The tortured, otherworldly cries are part of the city’s crow abatement program. What, Warren wasn’t scary enough? In tomorrow’s Thumbs column, Tyler and Melissa take opposing viewpoints on the matter.

Sports Editor’s Playbook, Wednesday, Nov. 3. 2010

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010
Patrick Newell

– I am no stranger to writing about Cinderella stories on the soccer field. Four seasons ago, Oxford’s girls’ soccer team, with all of four wins in the regular season, won three sectional games to reach the Section IV, Class C finals. That group of girls beat three straight teams that were, to say it plainly, decided favorites. I had a great time talking with a couple of the players during that week and a half run, as well as head coach Kathleen Cragle, who I knew off the soccer field quite well as she taught dance to one of my daughters.
A similar story is unfolding at Gilbertsville-Mt. Upton as the girls’ soccer team, seeded 10th in Class D to start the playoffs, has now won three straight playoff games – all by one goal – and is in position to win Chenango County’s first girls’ soccer title since…well since G-MU won a D championship in 2001. And the coach, Kristen Bradbury – as I noted in my most recent blog – is a friend of mine outside our professional relationship. She’s always brought a fierce competitiveness to every sport in which she participates, and I’ll say it again, her team has that same type of identity on the soccer field. It’s a wonderful story for the Lady Raiders, who did not win a game the year before Bradbury took over, and didn’t win more than a game or two her first season as head coach in 2008. I don’t know if Bradbury had a three-year plan, but the third year has definitely been the charm.

– In the Nov. 2 edition, the first section of our paper ran a story on Pires Flower Basket celebrating an anniversary. My mother, Margaret (Pires) Newell has written a letter to the editor providing more history of the business. I urge any readers interested in the history of Norwich’s oldest locally-owned floral business to look for that letter in an upcoming edition.

Editor’s Notebook: 11/3/10

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010
Jeff Genung

Happy Day After Election Day!

• Thank God it’s over. Or has it just begun? I can’t say Election Day 2010 was without surprises – most notably, I think, Richard Hanna’s upset of Michael Arcuri. Andy Cuomo’s trouncing of Crazy Carl Paladino? Not as shocking. And the biggest overlooked news angle of the day? Sandra Lee of Food Network’s “Semi-Homemade” is now our First Lady! Or First Girlfriend, rather.

• Got a letter overnight from Lisa Doughty of North Norwich that I thought was so good (and timely) that I got it right into today’s paper. In it, she talks about how the “new” voting process has lost some of its charm. I couldn’t agree more. Although the elections workers at St. Bart’s Parish Center did a good job of corralling the masses yesterday, there’s just something about the whole filling-in-circles thing that seems less advanced than what we had before. Not to mention less civilized. Hiding behind a tiny paper privacy partition and slipping the sheet into the scanner yourself hardly has the ring of pulling down steel levers behind a curtain. Some how this new process seems less … decisive.

• Two out of my three reporters blogged today! Thanks to Melissa and Brian for not leaving me out here hanging. Earth to Tyler …

• Headed up to Sherburne-Earlville tonight to see a preview of Colleen Law-Tefft & Company’s “Merriment, Mayhem and Misinterpretation,” their annual fall evening of one-act plays. The curtain goes up this weekend; look for my review on Friday. Think I’ll make a Sherburne-ish night of it and have dinner at the D&D Diner first. I’m such a townie.

Studio versus Stage

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010
Brian Golden

Following this past weekend’s Halloween performance in Weedsport, New York, my current band, the Master Thieves, will take a couple of weeks off as we prepare to enter the studio to record the group’s debut CD. Personally, I haven’t been into the studio in years now and I must admit, I’m genuinely excited.

The studio differs from a stage performance in many ways, I’ve always noticed. A live performance is a no-holds-barred affair, at least that’s the way it’s always been for me. You give it all you’ve got and leave it all on the stage. Mistakes, which are typically inevitable, are just part of the gig. As Eric Clapton once said, and I’m quoting him loosely here, sometimes you listen back to your “mistakes” and find they were the best part that particular guitar solo. And he’s absolutely right. It’s all about inspiration.

The studio, on the other hand, is an opportunity to really leave something behind for posterity’s sake, it’s a planned affair. I’ve recorded countless demos – with a number of different bands – in various studios all over New York State, in addition to albums with Fools at Play, Badweather Blues and well, myself. All of that combined experience has had an immense impact on the way my fellow Thieves and I will approach the upcoming album.

What I find truly interesting is the fact that, this time around, I’ll be concentrating primarily on the engineering and production of an album and less on the songwriting itself. My good friend Chuck (the Thieves other guitarist) has a great batch of songs lined up and it makes sense for his name to be stamped all over this disc. It’s his first time in the studio, and in many ways this is his band, and he deserves to enjoy it. I’m simply excited to take a great band into the studio with what I hope is a fool-proof plan.

Rather than attempt to cram as much as possible into as little time necessary, we’ve decided to take our time with this recording. We’ll gather on the Friday night prior to our first session; focus on rehearsing three pre-determined songs; take them into the studio the next day and spend our remaining studio time adding some, hopefully, tasty overdubs and the finished vocals. I thought of this approach knowing we had at least four trips to the studio ahead of us, and it seemed logical to me.

What I’m also excited for, however, is Chuck’s plan, still in the works, to travel to a remote location in Woodstock to master the album, the final step.

In all, what I truly can’t wait for is to hear the finished product. Seeing an album, complete with cover and liner notes, is a feeling like none other. It’s always nice to know that you’ve created something which will represent you long after you’re gone, especially when you get to accomplish that goal with a close group of friends like these.

A case of the blahs

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010
Melissa Stagnaro

I’m having an off week for some reason. I’m not sure if it’s just a general funk or if I’m getting sick, but I can certainly tell I’m off my game. The creative juices just don’t seem to be flowing like they usually do. And while I wouldn’t go so far as to say I have writer’s block – I’m having some serious difficulties staying focused long enough to make a go of anything.

Which really isn’t a good thing considering I’m on deadline every morning.

I’ve been finding myself staring blankly at my computer screen more often than usual. And even checking Facebook obsessively has lost its thrill.

The sun is shining today, so I can’t blame this state of malaise completely on the change of season. But I do know it seemed to set in when, on my drive home from work on Monday, I noticed that the entire world had gone gray. Like someone had flipped a switch to turn off both the vibrant greens of summer and autumn’s golden hues. What was left were just gray skies, gray trees and a whole lot of, well, blah.

And that’s really an apt description of how I feel: blah.

Nothing seems to excite me. Take my daily commute, for example. I’ve written before about my disdain for drivers who can’t seem to bring themselves to press the pedal hard enough to go the speed limit. Everyone I’ve driven behind this week seems to be suffering from this affliction. But has my blood boiled when this happen? Have I used choice words to express my frustration? No. Rather than evoking any strong emotion, it seems to leech my life force. As I follow behind them, mile after mile, I swear I can feel my will to live being sapped away.

The same goes for political discussions in the office. My coworkers and I have someone divergent views on many things, particularly on politics. But this week, as I listened to them express their opinions, I didn’t feel compelled to provide any retort of my own. Which, considering yesterday was Election Day, is rather startling to be sure. My reticence to engage in the office debate even drew concern from one of my colleagues.

Or maybe that was relief…

It probably doesn’t help that my diet over the last several days has consisted almost exclusively of chocolate and coffee. The former being a result of the dearth of trick-or-treaters we experienced this year. And the latter necessitated by the lack of sleep caused by overindulgence in the former. (Someone had to eat all the candy!)

Even my nightly walks haven’t invigorated me like they usually do. It’s just been so darn cold.

Which is probably part of the problem. Just over a week ago, I was wearing shorts when I walked. Now I’m layering up in all my cold weather gear. The days are getting shorter, and shorter and we all know winter is almost upon us. I love snow, don’t get me wrong. It’s the interminable number of gray days stretching out before us which gets me down.

Adding to my despair is the fact that some of those closest to me have been having a tough time of it lately. I’ve been trying to be there for them as much as I can. Unfortunately, the empathy which compels me to comfort them also means I end up soaking in their emotional distress to a degree. I know if I can’t find a way to recharge my own batteries, I won’t be any help to them either.

My life’s not so bad, I know. There’s no need for me to be down in the dumps. And when I start to doubt that, I’ve got two notes clipped in front of me at my desk to remind me. “Every day is a gift,” one says. The other: “Keep smiling.”

Every day is a gift, I know. And I’m going to keep smiling. No more moping around today for me. I’m going to go take a quick walk and enjoy the lovely sunshine on this beautiful fall day.

And when I return to my desk rejuvenated, I’ll turn my attention to the task at hand: Writing tomorrow’s column. About cupcakes!

Now that, my friends, will surely put a smile on my face.

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.

Editor’s Notebook: 11/2/10

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010
Jeff Genung

If you haven’t voted, step away from the computer and do it now!

• Norwich High School held an assembly on Friday to recognize some of the good things its students are doing – things that might otherwise have gone unheralded. We put that story on the front page – because we believe, too, in recognizing the good that local students do. Sure, there’s been a lot of dysfunction going on at school board meetings and it’s our job to print that too, but contrary to popular belief, we like just as much to print the “good” news. That’s why Pat Newell does such a great job covering sports, and I try to make sure things like the marching band and school plays get good coverage. Good news sells just as well as bad, if not better.

• Pet Peeve of the Day: People who get your e-mails, but don’t acknowledge them. In this day and age when we do more and more of our communications digitally, it’s still important not to lose that “human touch” – the simple courtesy of a reply. I get literally hundreds of e-mails per day, but I’d say a good 30 percent of those are from local, “real” people sending in photos or press releases, asking for coverage or commenting on something in the paper. And you know what? I reply to every single one of them. If you look in my Sent box, you’ll see that a majority of my replies are a simple “Thanks!” “Got it!” or my personal favorite, “Will do!” A few easy keystrokes is all it takes to acknowledge receipt and understanding. That’s why it irks me no end when people can’t be bothered with such a routine acknowledgment. You know who you are. Grrr.

• Ah, Election Night … one of my favorite nights to be in the news business. Unfortunately, there’s nothing too exciting going on locally this year. Save for races in Columbus and Guilford and a proposition vote in McDonough, most eyes are on the state races tonight. I’ll be calling in results to the Associated Press, but it’s much more fun when there are a lot of local seats up for grabs. Karen and Jill, if you’re out there reading, this one’s for you: “Bob Dole loves you, Julia!”

Sports Editor’s Playbook, Monday, Nov. 1

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010
Patrick Newell

- A quick amendment to my blog from this past Thursday night about William Thomas Jr. I was correct about his family link to the the newspaper business, but I had the specifics wrong. Thomas’ father was the sports editor of a major daily paper in New Jersey, not his brother. Mr. Thomas seemed to understand my job well – for good reason.

- I see Norwich resident Mike Garofalo around the same time every Monday afternoon at the Norwich YMCA fitness center. Garofalo regularly enters The Evening Sun Football Contest, and we typically chat about his performance from the previous week. Until this Monday, “Garf” didn’t have many positive things to say about his weekly efforts. He told me he finished with 15 right this week (I already knew), but lamented the fact that he didn’t think that would be good enough to win. Plus, he said he got the tiebreaker game wrong (a Greene victory over Bainbridge-Guilford). I was a bit coy in my response to Mike knowing full well that he had the best entry I had received. I told him he was “up there” with the best entries, yet I was still waiting for the Monday mail to come in.
Around a dozen or so entries filtered in Monday, and Garofalo’s entry of 15 right stood up as the best of the week to give him the $25 first prize.

- I first came to know Kristen Bradbury in her senior year at Bainbridge-Guilford High School. I identified her at that time, in the winter of 1995-1996, as a key player on the girls’ basketball team who suffered a bad knee injury. Later on, around seven or eight years later, she was the scrappy young woman who showed up during the noon hour to play pick-up basketball with the men at the Norwich YMCA.
While our games are usually friendly, it can get ultra-competitive when there are extra people waiting on the sidelines, and the winning team gets to stay on the court – losers sit out. Kristen is as competitive and aggressive as any players out there, and despite giving up size (even to me!), she holds her hold.
It is obvious, to me, that Kristen has imparted her feisty, competitive spirit upon the G-MU girls’ soccer team. Two years ago she took over a winless team that had suffered through two or three straight subpar campaigns. The Raiders didn’t win much her first year, but made great strides in the second season, and finished with a winning record this year – plus winning the UV tournament title against three other bigger schools.
The Raiders have been in must-win mode the past two weeks, and Bradbury told her team that it needed to win its final game of the regular season if it wanted to play in the Section IV playoffs. Her club avenged a loss beating Franklin, 3-0, to qualify for the postseason. Then, as a tuneup, G-MU faced Class C B-G last Monday, and played to a tie against a Bobcats team that would advance to the sectional quarterfinals.
A week later, and the Raiders have beaten two higher ranked teams in the Class D ranks, and find themselves in the sectional semifinals for the first time since the early part of this decade when all-time scoring leader Jessica Talbot was leading her club to a Section IV title. Kudos to Bradbury and the Raiders for their impressive late-season run.