Archive for March, 2011

Sports Editor’s Playbook, Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011
Patrick Newell

The Evening Sun March Madness Contest appears in today’s edition, as it did on Monday. Look the bracket over, and please read the opening line of the rules: “complete the entire bracket including the four games played before Thursday.”
The NCAA expanded its men’s bracket to 68 teams this year with four of the games serving as play-ins into designated seeds. Two of the games pair potential 16 seeds, while the other two games determine a number 11 and 12 seed.
As I said, these games will count giving our contest 67 total outcomes. A couple words of advice: It is in the best interest of any aspiring prognosticator to increase his or her odds at winning. By submitting an entry on Monday or Tuesday, you’re predicting games that have not been played. If you wait until Wednesday to drop your entry in the mail, you have two outcomes already decided and in the bank. Better yet, if you’re someone who likes to drop off your entry at the last minute on Thursday, you’ll have a 4-0 record before the tournament is in full swing.
If it is possible, take the freebies and increase your chance at winning our $75 prize.

- This is a “30 Seconds” call that will appeared in our print edition this week:

“I thought we fought a Civil War that made it illegal to own somebody? Slavery’s supposed to be over, so what is this nonsense I hear now that the boy wants to come out of retirement and go back in the NFL? The Giants own him? If we fought a war against that, and that’s in fact a law, how can the Giants own him? What’s up with that? Somebody explain that, how the Giants can say they own him and then turn around and say they don’t want him? That’s not right. Somebody please explain that. You can’t own anybody after the Civil War.”

Is this person serious?
Not knowing the tone of the caller’s voice, I cannot discern if this is an ill-fated attempt at facetious humor, or the person was making a straight-up statement, and really doesn’t understand the basics of contracts. I will address the latter of those two choices. I will not presume to understand the complexities of contract law, but I believe the man referenced in this message, Tiki Barber, was still under contract with the Giants. Barber retired from the NFL five years ago before completing his obligations as a player. The Giants still owned Barber’s playing rights, but waived them allowing Barber to become a free agent. Barber is 35 years old, his broadcast career didn’t pan out, and he cannot afford to pay his ex-wife her spousal and child support. So he’s looking to cash in on his past greatness. Barber had a lot of wear and tear on his body when he left the game, and is no surprise the Giants passed on the opportunity to take him back.
I hope this answer’s the anonymous caller’s question, and if this call was a thin attempt at humor, try again.

Editor’s Notebook: 3/14/11

Monday, March 14th, 2011
Jeff Genung

• Seems silly to write about anything other than the unspeakable horror of what’s still going on in Japan, really, but our job is to bring you the news from good ol’ Chenango, so here we are …

• Just when our front page rolled off the press Friday morning declaring that the flooding caused by overnight rainfalls “could have been worse” – it got worse. Right before lunch, we ran up to cover Rt. 12 being closed by floodwaters in Sherburne. Saturday, the same thing happened on the lower end of East Main in Norwich. Thankfully, we have our website and Twitter to keep people informed, but the limitations of print still vex me once in a while.

• Case in (another) point: Our weekly newspaper, The Gazette, is dated (and delivered by, in most cases) Friday – but it’s printed Wednesday morning. Usually not a problem at all in the weekly that serves New Berlin, Morris, Edmeston and communities over in the area. Except for last week, of course, when New Berlin Mayor Schrag decided to withdraw his write-in re-election campaign just hours after we’d gone to press. Grrr. We had a story in The Evening Sun the next day, of course, but Friday’s Gazette was wrong, wrong, wrong. Through no fault of our own, but we’ll get blamed regardless. Hopefully village voters over there are paying attention – don’t write in Wade Schrag! He’s done.

• The Chenango County Historical Society paid tribute to a longtime local tradition with its first-ever Maple Festival on Sunday. There was a picture from the event on today’s front page, and the rest of Frank’s photos are now up in our Facebook gallery.

• I think this is where I should pretend to follow college basketball and insert a plug for our “March Madness” contest. But who am I kidding? For those of you who do, we’re offering a chance to win $75 in a contest sponsored by local merchants. The entry form appears in The Evening Sun’s print edition today and tomorrow.

• On a personal note, I got to meet my great-niece, Indigo, for the first time last night. On the way over to Afton, I was remembering how her mother, my niece Micah, was born during my freshman year in college – which in my mind was about 10 years ago. Yikes. I’ll leave you today with a rousing rendition (in my head, anyway) of “Circle of Life” …

On today’s events in Japan

Friday, March 11th, 2011
Melissa Stagnaro

I woke this morning to the sound of rain on my window, and the dull roar of water rushing in the creek which runs adjacent to my house. Even before the last 24 hours’ rainfall and runoff, the normally quiet brook had long since overwhelmed its banks and transformed into a raging river.

I knew without looking that the water would be higher and running faster than the night before, and my mind turned to the flood warnings and watches which had already been issued. I wasn’t concerned about our little creek, since it doesn’t pose a threat to our house, but rather to all those who aren’t so lucky. Particularly those who live in the low-lying areas along the banks of the Chenango and Susquehanna Rivers.

I wasn’t here to witness the devastation of the floods in 2006 first hand. And based on the first-hand accounts I’ve heard and pictures I’ve seen, I hope Chenango and the surrounding counties never have to endure such a catastrophic event again in my lifetime.

Those thoughts were wiped momentarily from my mind however, when I learned of the events in Japan. It started with an 8.9 magnitude earthquake more than 15 feet below the surface of the earth and 80 miles off the coast of Honshu. The largest quake in the country’s recorded history. Then, as if the damage from the quake itself wasn’t enough, there was the tsunami which followed in its aftermath devastating areas in the Northeast region of the nation. And then a nuclear emergency declared as a result of damage at one of Japan’s nuclear facilities.

The images I’ve seen are surreal. Oil refineries and office buildings in flames. Factories in ruin. Roadways buckled. Houses washed out to sea. Cars and planes tossed around like match sticks.

One of the most haunting photos, though, was one which looked to have been taken on a cell phone: a couple huddling together as they watch the ceiling cave in.

That was the one which made it all real to me. For the true devastation isn’t about buildings and infrastructure (as horrific as that may be) but about the people. Millions of lives changed in an instant, all because of a shift along a fault line deep beneath the Earth’s crust.

All morning I held my breath as I viewed the images coming out of Japan and waiting to see if what havoc the tsunami would wreak on the rest of the world, including Hawaii and the West Coast. I was engrossed in the live video and Twitter feed coming out of Hawaii. (Did you know the Pacific Fleet is on Twitter?) I even briefly tried following the #tsunami trending topic, but it was flying so fast I couldn’t make sense of all the posts, many of which were in other languages.

Interspersed with all of that, I was seeing constant Facebook updates as people confirmed their family and friends in Japan were indeed okay.

But then everything I was seeing and reading seemed to slow to a stop as one Facebook post made this cataclysmic event suddenly very personal. It was my cousin Peggy’s status about her son Sean’s wife Ai, who is from Japan. You see, her family lives in Sendai, the capital of the Miyagi prefecture. While she had heard briefly from her father, there were many others from whom she still has not heard.

Sendai should sound familiar. According to news reports, the tsunami which hit the city’s port was 10 meters high. That’s over 30 feet. Many of the worst images we’ve seen have come from this region – the airport underwater, houses and cars washed out to sea, some of them in flames.

All I can think of is Ai seeing those same pictures, waiting to hear about her family. My whole family shares her pain as we send our thoughts and prayers to her and all those affected by this catastrophic event.

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.

Editor’s Notebook: 3/11/11

Friday, March 11th, 2011
Jeff Genung

• First snow, then floods … I anxiously await the plague of locusts and river of blood this weekend.

• All kidding aside, we’ve got it easy compared to our friends in Japan – and the extended reach of the tsunami. Our thoughts and prayers going out to them, for sure. You can’t tell me we haven’t done something to throw this planet off balance … but now’s not the time for environmental lectures.

• Oh wait, actually it is. If the road ahead of you is submerged in water … don’t try to cross it! Seems like common sense, but some people in Sherburne learned that lesson the hard way this morning. Check out Brian Golden’s video on our Facebook page. Love the shot of the young lady with the toddler wading through the water to get to the grocery store. Insert presumptuous comment here.

• Headed to the Chenango County Council of the Arts tonight to see the alt/country band The John Henrys. Looks like a good show. I hear it on good authority that tickets are still available. Curtain’s at 7; get there early and get a good seat.

• Pat Newell keeps close tabs on Chenango County high school wrestling throughout the season, of course, and today he’s revealed his picks for the 2011 Evening Sun Wrestling All-Stars. Read the story here.

Editor’s Notebook: 3/9/11

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011
Jeff Genung

• So today’s big story was a real pisser, eh? A little girl up at S-E got $75,000 because her teachers wouldn’t stop a school bus on a field trip so she could go potty. I don’t mean to make light of it, really (I’ll leave that to “30 Seconds”), but come on. Was it stressful? Sure. Painful? Yep, been there. Poor judgment on the part of the teachers? Ehh, probably. Worth $75,000? Umm, nope. That’s a teacher’s salary, and then some. Ridiculously litigious country we live in.

• Got your tickets for The John Henrys at the Arts Council on Friday? I do. Looks like a good show, if you’re into that whole alt/country thing. Want a chance at free tickets? Check ‘em out on Facebook … chenangoartscouncil.

• Today’s Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent for various Christians and out-of-practice Catholics like myself. I’ve long since given up “giving up” anything for Lent, but residual Catholic guilt (thanks, Mom!) still prevents me from eating meat on Fridays. Along those lines, there’ll be a picture in tomorrow’s paper for the kickoff of Holy Family’s Lenten Fish Fry this Friday. Yumm.

• In his column today, Brian Golden laments mainstream media attention given to the likes of Sarah Palin and Charlie Sheen. Six pages later, I put in a quarter-page story on Mr. Sheen and speculation on how “Two and a Half Men” might go on without him. To each his own. Be careful of biting the hand that feeds you, Brian. If the people want bread and circuses …

• Thinking about running for school board? The Chenango Foundation has a couple seminars coming up designed to show prospective school board members what to expect. I hope somewhere they include the constant haranguing and rudeness of the general public, because while I certainly admire those who serve, that is truly a thankless job. Not unlike being a newspaper editor, I suppose. But at least I’ve got “30 Seconds” on my side. Cough, cough.

Psychological bliss, snow days

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011
Tyler Murphy

I remember the days when a heavy snow fall lifted the hopes. A snow day is one of the few dependable blessings of our long winter season. Most districts keep a reserve of five or six every year just in case. As an adult the work force requires a more dire circumstance than most mere snowstorms can muster. Not very often though a state of emergency and road closures offer us a taste of what it was like being a kid again.

While the harsh weather certainly has draw backs, being snug in your home with Mother Nature between you and the rest of the world leaves you guilt free to indulge in just about any in-house activity desired. No matter how lazy or unconstructive it might be there’s never really a better time to waste. I think the true moment of psychological bliss comes when you suddenly realize this for the first time. The fact that such workdays off happen so rarely only adds to the thrill. Without our consent or prediction all that work we were getting up to do has instead been transformed into a day free of all those responsibilities and obligations. Like I said it’s a beautiful moment.

Or at least that’s how I remember it.

I’m not sure how but I’ve fallen into one of those occupations that’s hardly ever spared a snow day. It just sort of happened. I mean if tomorrow the apocalypse of all snow storms swept into Chenango County my editor would be calling me to cover it. I’ve discovered an employment dimension where: The worse the weather, the more work is demanded. Sort of like emergency workers and public service employees. So while most hopped back into bed earlier this week when a state of emergency was declare I was walking through the two foot drifts at 6:45 a.m. I stepped outside and the first thing I noticed was the four foot drift between my car and the roadway. (I’d rather walk the two blocks to the office.)

Being in the middle of the city in the worst kind of storms happens often and I’m usually charged with taking photographs of the weather and its effects. This leaves me with the feeling I’m one of the only people left alive on the planet apart from an occasional plow operator or police officer. The city streets in the early hours of a fierce storm are vacant of both sound and presence. I love these times. I wander around taking pictures of anything interesting, and during the storms there’s plenty of intrigue around.

But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy working in the storms in some ways and even coworkers at the office (those that make it in anyway) seem less tense. After all there’s no meetings, calls or routine obligations associated with a regular workday. There is a deadline though (there always is) and actually a few calls made to emergency officials but there’s little to worry about besides the weather. (And we did get to go home after lunch.)

The weather itself is absolutely beautiful if not dangerous. The drift of falling snow causes a peaceful blanket of silent stillness to land all across the relative world. Even while I’m working it’s hard not to feel some strange sense of tranquil comfort. The Evening Sun hasn’t missed a regular day of publication in 120 years, come rain, sleet or snow and on the day it ever happens it won’t be on our watch. So I expect I’ll be making my way through many more local storms.

Snow days have taken on a whole new meaning.

Editor’s Notebook: 3/8/11

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011
Jeff Genung

• As one of the few who made it into work Monday (thankfully I’m within stumbling … err, walking distance), I decided to take off a little early in the afternoon to shovel some Fair Street snow, hence the lack of blog.

• And speaking of “Snowmageddon,” I’ve had enough, thank you very much. Spring, you may start now. And go easy on the flooding.

• Thank you, home delivery subscribers, for your patience with yesterday’s State of Emergency. I know a lot of you got Monday’s Evening Sun late, or in the worst cases, today along with Tuesday’s. Remember that our motor route drivers are independent contractors – and not required to risk their lives to deliver your paper, unlike yours truly. OK, maybe I didn’t risk my life, but it was a really rough three blocks!

• Speaking of home delivery, people are starting to take advantage of the print and online subscription deals we have going in celebration of The Evening Sun’s 120th anniversary serving as Chenango County’s Hometown Daily. We’re trying to get 120 new subscribers on board in March, and we’re offering some great discounts to do it! See the ad in our print edition for details or call our Circulation Department at 334-9086 and ask for the “120” deal!

• Two candidates are on the ballot for mayor in the Village of Earlville, that sprightly little municipality we share with Madison County. That sleepy burg never lacks for news – it was just about a year ago that then-Mayor Toni Campbell was accused of stealing a boatload of money from her employer, and resigned as mayor in the ensuing melee. Now, her successor Mark Doeberl is up for his first election as mayor, challenged by newcomer Vito Bolognone. What, no Chicken Man? Like the one in New Berlin, it should be an interesting race on March 15.

Snowed in

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011
Melissa Stagnaro

I knew I was in trouble when I looked out my friend Julie’s kitchen window on Sunday night, and saw a traffic jam of sorts on the stretch of County Road 3 we Tyner folk refer to as Nicholson’s Hill.

Julie and her husband Lyndon live at the top of that hill, and from our vantage point, we had clear view of the havoc Mother Nature was wreaking on the roads. More than one vehicle was in the ditch after failing to make it up the incline, and a couple of more dotted the opposite ditch, having unsuccessfully navigated the downward slope. Still more vehicles -trucks, mostly – were engaged in trying to rectify the situation.

It was about 6:30, and I’d been at the Gates’ for an hour or so. (I find it hard to resist a dinner invitation to their abode, since they are both culinary wizards – LJ with his smoker, and Jules with her ability to whip up basically anything from a few simple ingredients.)

I glanced at my half-eaten curry chicken salad and then back to the spectacle downhill and the chicken won. After all, I thought, I’d be better off waiting for the plow to make another swing by then to head out in the current conditions.

By 8, I was anxious to get on the road. Particularly when I stepped outside to find a full six inches of heavy wet snow on my car, all of which had fallen in the brief time I’d been inside. It briefly crossed my mind that I’d be lucky to get out of the driveway at all, let alone home, but I quickly shooed away that notion.

A few moments later, as I ineffectually spun my tires trying to crest the hill, I was wishing I paid more heed to that startling bit of insight. Never one to give up easily, I tried a few more times before deciding it was time for an alternate approach.

Well, more of a retreat, actually. I figured my best bet was to back down slowly and return to the driveway from whence I came.

It didn’t exactly work out as I planned. The backing down part went smoothly, but when it came time to actually turn into the Gates’ drive, I found myself with zero purchase and not enough forward momentum to get the job done.

Just as I prepared to call in the cavalry (i.e. Julie & LJ to push my sorry behind back into their driveway), I noticed a set of headlights behind me. Crap, I thought, there is no way this guy is going to be able to get by me.

But, as it turns out, the driver in question wasn’t approaching my car in order to berate me for blocking basically the entire roadway, but rather to offer his assistance.

I didn’t recognize this knight in slush-covered armor, but he knew me.

“You’re Melissa, right?” he asked, inquiring politely about my family before offering his services to help me back into the aforementioned driveway.

I had a chance to express my gratitude for his kindness, but just barely, before he drove off into the night in his four wheel drive. (Thank you, Eric!)

It still took Julie, LJ and I a few attempts (and some shoveling) in order to get my Avenger the rest of the way up the driveway. By the time she was safely parked, I decided to take them up on the offer of their couch, figuring that, depending on road conditions, I could either run home in the morning or commute to work from there.

But, of course, I didn’t have to worry about that, thanks to the State of Emergency our county chairman declared. Oh, how I love a good road closure. Most days my 26-mile roundtrip commute to and from the Evening Sun newsroom is an annoyance, but yesterday it was a God send. Because I was the only ES reporter to get a full snow day as a result.

And since I was still snowed in at the Gates’- who have two Middle-school age boys, it truly was a snow day. I spent the day baking cookies, playing in the snow (of which they got 21” or so) and watching movies. All in all, definitely a good time.

Sure, there was lots of snow removal, too, but I managed to avoid the worst of it. (I think LJ’s name may actually be “Fred.”)

By the time I returned to my own house, around 5:30 or so, I was pretty tuckered out. I fully expected to find plenty of snow with my name on it, but to my great surprise and relief, one of our neighbors – Jim Pollard – had already done the honors with his tractor and plow. (Thank you so much, Jim!) The pops did a fair share of shoveling, too. Let’s hope he’s none the worse for wear because of the experience. We did get over 24″ in our neck of Smithville Center, a.k.a. Southwest Tyner.

Thank you, Mother Nature, for the lovely snow day! As for your efforts to give me a second day off in a row – by saddling me with a fever, sore throat, congestion and all the other fixings for a sick day – not so much. I’d rather pass.

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.

Not again

Monday, March 7th, 2011
Brian Golden

Unfortunately, those who make their living forecasting the weather have a nearly impossible task – accurately predicting something that’s relatively unpredictable on an hourly, daily and weekly basis. It can’t be easy knowing that, nine times out of ten, you’re going to be wrong, even if it’s only by a couple of degrees or a few inches of precipitation. And then there are storms like last night’s, which continues to dump snow on our fair city, leading to a state of emergency and the closure of all roads (at least until noon).

Yet it’s really not their fault, these forecasters. From hurricanes to floods, tornadoes to violent thunderstorms, the weather is a fairly complex system (to put it mildly) when you get right down to it.

This most recent storm of ours is a great example of this.

Sunday night, when I took a moment to peruse the climatic situation from the shelter of my front porch, I realized the powers that be weren’t kidding when they said we could expect 10 to 12 inches of the fluffy white stuff. So, planning accordingly, I set my alarm an hour early (4:30 a.m. to be precise). With weather predictions foretelling that the snow would dwindle to flurries around midnight, I figured it was probably in my best interest to get up and around a little early, grab the old snow shovel and perform some preliminary sidewalk clearing.

I should’ve known better and stayed in bed.

No, as it happens, the snow didn’t taper off around midnight. Instead, it just kept on coming throughout the evening and into the morning hours. As for my efforts at cleaning up the walk a bit before getting ready for work, let’s just say I had no such luck. After an hour of grunting, sweating and shoveling, I’d barely made a dent. And thanks to the gusting winds, any area I successfully cleared was snow-covered once again almost immediately. As I said, I really should know better after three-plus decades of winters here in Chenango County.

So now, as lunchtime rolls around on this particularly snowy Monday, I suppose I’ll head over to my apartment and attempt some snow removal once again. The snow seems to have lessened considerably at this point and the sun is even trying to make an appearance. And to think that, just last week, most of this year’s accumulated snowfall had melted off, a tantalizing tease that spring was just around the corner. Unfortunately, it seems we’re still stuck in the midst of winter, at least for a little while longer. You’d think we’d be used to it by now, those of us who’ve spent years – not to mention decades – dealing with our area’s well-known winter weather.

This reporter, however, is more than ready for some warmer weather. Personally speaking, it just can’t come soon enough.

Editor’s Notebook: 3/4/11

Friday, March 4th, 2011
Jeff Genung

• Did I come across too harsh in my review of S-E’s “Oklahoma!” today? I hope not. Hate the show, love the cast! Definitely worth the price of admission, even if you don’t have a kid in it. Another standing ovation from this reporter for the S-E troupe.

• Good luck to the final contestants in this weekend’s last round of Park Place’s “Idol” competition. Seems like just yesterday I was a judge back when Grove Park hosted the contest. There’s a lot of great talent out there in Chenango – can’t wait to see who wins!

• Also interested to see who wins the “real” American Idol, of course. Yes, I was reticent about committing to the show after the departure of my beloved Simon Cowell, but I managed to get sucked into it once again (and signed up a new recruit!). Long story short: Love J-Lo, creeped out by Steven Tyler, rooting for James Durbin and Thia Megia. Always fun to see how that plays out.

• Headed over to the Arts Council gallery tonight at 5 for the opening of “Artistic Discovery 2011,” the Congressional art show for Chenango high school artists. Must be so cool to have your art displayed in a real gallery – the most mine ever garnered was the fridge.

• Looking for something fun to do Sunday? Head up to Sherburne for the annual wearin’ o’ the green – it’s the town’s 10th annual St. Patrick’s Day parade, starting at 1 p.m. Intrepid ES photog Frank Speziale will be on the scene – check out Monday’s Evening Sun (and Facebook) for al the photos!