Archive for May, 2013

76 Trombones…

Friday, May 31st, 2013
Shawn Magrath

• As a former high school band geek, I feel a sense of obligation to take a moment to promote the 64th annual Sherburne Pageant of Bands, which officially got underway with the jazz band competition Thursday evening. The image of a procession leader and lyrics of “76 Trombones” have been looping through my head all day in anticipation of the big parade on Saturday, which will see a total 28 competitors this year (not quite as many than had attended several years ago, but still nothing to sneeze at). Best of luck to all schools involved.

• On a separate but still school-related topic, it seems more and more likely that student loan rates will double beginning July 1. The current proposal, detested by the Obama administration, is that federal student loans that now come with a 3.4 percent interest rate will raise to 6.8 percent just as most college students start submitting financial aid applications for the 2013-2014 school year. While I agree that students who borrow money should pay the interest fee (after all, higher education, like anything else, is an investment), substantially high loan rates will only prove more burdensome college grads who already struggle to pay back student loans (some believe the failure to pay back student loans will even be the cause of the next recession, so I hear).

• News that seven people, including four children, died as the result of a horrific accident in the Town of Truxton was devastating to say the least. Moments like that make me reflect the brevity of life, as it should, and reevaluate where I see myself in ten years. Certainly my thoughts and prayers go out to all those who have been impacted – friends, family and community, and I only hope that pain for those people will subside with time.

What does that all mean?

Thursday, May 30th, 2013
Ashley Babbitt

“Hey, what does that all mean?!” is a question I’ve been asked far too often. Well, let me put that in context… far too often it’s asked when someone catches a glimpse of one of my tattoos. I usually wiggle my way around the subject, because I like folks to draw their own conclusions.

Every now and then I’ll lay it out for someone who seems genuinely interested, but for the most part I respond with, “Whatever you think it means,” which is an authentic answer.

I’ve yet to come across a representation of a tangible object or visual image that symbolizes something enough for me to want it displayed on my ‘canvas’ permanently. Butterflies, feathers, angels… they do nothing for me. If something of that nature is significant in your life, by all means do your thing.

There have been three occasions thus far on my journey where I’ve deemed it appropriate to add something to my body that will remain until I’m ashes again.

The first time I was 18, living in Buffalo, and it simply says, “Stay Human.” You wouldn’t believe – or maybe you would – how many times I’ve been told how ridiculous that is. “Why would you want that?” “What does that even mean?” “I don’t understand…” …Really? You don’t understand that idea? I guess I’ll break it down in one of the many ways I am able.

I’ll do what I want, you do what you want. I have flaws, vices, lapses in judgement and I understand you do too. I will not berate you for your opinions, or belittle you for your imperfections, so long as you’re not harming anyone in the process.

You are an individual – free to express yourself, be beautiful, articulate, logical or emotional (or an ‘’awkward’’ balance of both), carefree, careful, or any number of possibilities. Never bring yourself to a point where you forget that. In that moment when you’re feeling nothing but pure joy and the urge to dance around when others very well may deem you crazy… go for it. Stand up for causes you believe in, and educate yourself on those you don’t. From there you can take action for change.

There is a whole lot of hate in the world, but an awful lot more good to back it up. If those good folks show love for the fellow good, and work to expose the bad, I think this world could be a better place. Maybe that makes me sound as though I’m living in a dream world… ha, maybe I am.

Tattoo number two came around age 21. At the time it served as a beginning of a new chapter after one that was all too tumultuous. It reads, “One life, one world, one chance.”

Go ahead, make the argument for reincarnation… I’ve heard that one countless times. I really won’t refute it. My beliefs regarding an afterlife (whatever they may be at any particular moment) have little bearing on those words. When I take a look at the phrase on my ribs it prompts action.

If you’re upset about a situation or circumstance, work to make change. Don’t sit idly by while horrible things take place in front of your face. It’s not up to others to make anything happen in your life, it’s up to you. Be the catalyst. Pretty straightforward idea, I think.

My most recent addition was the phrase, “Live for a living.” This idea came from spoken word artist Buddy Wakefield’s piece titled “Pretend.” Look it up on YouTube if it strikes your fancy.

As an individual, find your passion and live it. Don’t let your occupation define who you are. I’m not “Ashley: Staff Writer for The Evening Sun.” I am “Ashley: freethinker, music-lover, solo-dance party enthusiast, lover of anything involving the number seven, and not a fan of bacon.” The actions I take throughout my day are carried out because I have the desire, not because of a preset list of obligations.

I suppose the entire point here – if there even is a point – is that I’ve chosen to add little reminders to my body that assert my self-hood. In case I ever have a moment of weakness I can just step back, take a look at myself, and have that little moment of “Ah, so that’s what it all means.”

Well that’s one way of doing it

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013
Kevin Doonan

I happened upon a rather interesting news story earlier today. This guy in New Mexico was seen having sex with a women while he was driving – allegedly at a high speed to boot – before running a red light and crashing into another car. The unclothed women was ejected from the vehicle via the front windshield. Luckily aside from a series of cuts on her face and head she is reportedly in stable condition. The guy on the other hand was not ejected from the vehicle so naturally he attempted to make his get away by driving away and leaving his damsel – I’m not actually aware of her martial status but one can hope – in severe distress. Fortunately someone managed to get the keys out of the ignition preventing the would be fleet footed Don Juan from making a clean exit.
But did he let a little thing like that discourage him? Of course not! For a man as ingenious as he there is always a way. So in an effort to evade detection he made for a nearby cacti, expertly concealing himself in amongst the prickly vegetation. Unfortunately some loudmouthed witness must have tipped the cops off because they managed to find him despite his brilliant concealment.
As is to be expected, once he was detained the man did what anyone else in their right mind would have done and refused to keep his pants on, much to the chagrin on the police cruiser’s backseat.
During the course of their investigation police found a half empty bottle of vodka in the man’s vehicle and it is also alleged that he really was quite drunk.
Thankfully it doesn’t sound as though anybody was injured too badly but I can only imagine what it most have been like to be the driver of the other car. I doubt they saw that one coming.

Sports Editor’s Playbook, May 17, 2013

Friday, May 17th, 2013
Patrick Newell

Norwich junior Matt Murray may be the most versatile runner in Norwich track and field history. He already has multiple school records in indoor and outdoor track and field. Just this season, his times from 100 meters to 1,600 meters would place him in the top five or six in all of Section IV in every event except the 110-meter hurdles. That is one event he has yet to post a time. What runner can compete on even footing with sprinters and distance runners? I said to myself a couple of years ago – and anyone else within earshot – runners such as Chad Noelle of Greene come around once in a generation. Noelle won state championships in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters, and was also the best 800-meter performer in Section IV. He has the best times in those three events in Chenango County history, and is now competing at the University of Oregon as a standout distance runner. In the distance events, Noelle has no equal, yet Murray is that transcendent athlete with the uncanny tools to excel in any event he enters. Murray, a junior, will be among the favorites to win a state championship next month. Treasure this athlete, folks, as we have never seen a local high school track athlete with his all-around capabilities.

I wanted to publicly bid a fond farewell to one of the classier young coaches and teachers, who is leaving the area at the conclusion of this school year. Rick Mohrein, varsity basketball and baseball coach at G-MU, is headed to Charlotte, N.C. with his wife after accepting a similar job to his current post at G-MU. Rick suffered through a paucity of victories this past year, but he was always upbeat and saw the positives to build on. Rick, who is about 6-foot-4, was a standout basketball and baseball player for Afton during his high school playing days. Although he surely does not remember me, I remember him. Afton had some respectable basketball teams during Rick’s playing days, and Afton’s baseball teams were always competitive, particularly against Class D competition. Best wishes to Rick and his wife in the next phase of their lives.

I was at “Meet the Candidates” night at Stanford J. Gibson Elementary School in Norwich earlier this week as the public had the opportunity to listen to the thoughts of the seven prospective Norwich School Board candidates. One candidate, Bruce Braswell, presented a consistent theme in which he believed we should not cut any programs (read opportunities) for kids. The extracurricular activities are essential to rounding out the character of an individual. Music, sports, and the arts are also about passion, self-motivation, and often, working well with a team. I wholeheartedly agree with keeping opportunities available to kids, so I was dismayed when I learned that Bainbridge-Guilford plans to cut one of its sports programs – tennis. The tennis program’s inherent cost is a relative blip in any school’s overall budget scheme. Tennis is one of the most cost-efficient programs, particularly at B-G. Kids provide and maintain their own equipment; team members bought their own uniforms this year; the kids self-officiate their own matches, and the coach drives the team bus. The tennis courts require little maintenance at this time, and the same nets have been in place for 10 years. The only overhead is the purchase of tennis balls for the season. The tennis program is also coed, and it is not suffering from lack of interest, nor is it non-competitive. The Bobcats finished with a 6-4 record with the majority of the starting lineup returning next year. Unfortunately, there may not be a next year, and this is a disservice to the kids.

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For the sake of brevity… or not.

Saturday, May 11th, 2013
Ashley Babbitt

Week five has come to a close and it’s been a little while since I’ve written a blog. It’s not for lack of trying… I’ve started and deleted about 17 times now. There are so many things on my mind – even as I type right now – I have no clue where I want to head with this.

For a brief wrap-up of happenings around here – I’m really enjoying things… The flowers on my desk have died because I forgot to water them. I have post-its reminding me about almost everything else though. I’ve finally been able to discard my two notes reminding me to buy new batteries for my mouse.

I met and had the pleasure of interviewing Amy Ridgway, which was an awesome experience. Amy grew up in Norwich. For those who haven’t read the article, she was the brave nurse who worked with detectives to get a confession out of her colleague and friend, Charles Cullen, who has admitted to killing at least forty (but quite possibly hundreds) of patients over sixteen years as a registered nurse. Check out Charles Graeber’s book “The Good Nurse” which tells the entire story. He dedicated a great deal of his time on this work, and is the only journalist that has interviewed Cullen in prison in New Jersey. The story was also on 60 minutes and CBS This Morning. Fascinating stuff. It definitely brings up qualms regarding actions and policies of hospitals and healthcare facilities, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll save that for another time.

As a little precursor to what follows – I try to be as happy-go-lucky, peaceful, “live and let live” as possible. While my opinion below may box me in to a certain category or party of individuals according to some folks, I’d prefer to just keep my checkmark next to the spot that says “human.”

A little more than a week ago, I had the pleasure of attending the Educational Forum on the NY SAFE Act at the Oxford Rod and Gun Club. I say “pleasure” because I was honestly super excited. Now, let me warn you, I’m late to the game. I don’t know technicalities of certain firearms, and I don’t know every legal definition down to a “t.” But, I will share what I learned and some of my thoughts. Bear with me a little, okay?

The NY SAFE Act was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo on January 15, 2013. This was a knee-jerk reaction in response to the shootings in Newtown, CT.

“The SAFE Act stops criminals and the dangerously mentally ill from buying a gun by requiring universal background checks on gun purchases, increases penalties for people who use illegal guns, mandates life in prison without parole for anyone who murders a first responder, and imposes the toughest assault weapons ban in the country. For hunters, sportsmen, and law abiding gun owners, this new law preserves and protects your right to buy, sell, keep or use your guns.” -Governor Andrew Cuomo

Well that’s certainly some dexterous language to make things sounds fine-and-dandy, isn’t it?

Simply put, the SAFE Act will do nothing to make anyone any safer. Law-abiding citizens became felons while they were sleeping. Of course, tragedies including Sandy Hook, Aurora, CO, Virginia Tech, etc. are disgusting and disheartening. However, it’s been said countless times, regardless of laws that are in place, someone determined to obtain a weapon (be it a firearm, bomb, knife – you name it) and use it to cause harm on an unsuspecting or innocent party will do so.

How many criminals do you think will attempt to purchase a firearm through legal means? (Christopher Dorner and the LAPD is deserving of its own attention, so for the sake of brevity -again- I won’t discuss that now). Chances are he/she/they will talk to a friend or a friend of a friend of a friend and have what they’re looking for in a very short while.

Do I get a warm and cozy feeling when I think of a dangerously mentally ill individual with a weapon? Not particularly. Is it going to happen anyway? Absolutely. There is no legislation that will stop that.

Something else that has been given much attention from supporters of the SAFE Act is the specific portion of the 2nd Amendment that states, “A well-regulated militia.” It is imperative to understand the Constitution was written in 1787. “Well-regulated” now does not hold the same definition as it did then. These days, if something is “regulated” it is controlled, supervised, adjusted. However, when the Constitution was written “well-regulated” referred to something being in proper working order. Something that was well-regulated was calibrated correctly, functioning as expected.

Therefore, a “well-regulated militia” could very well be a group of three friends who agree to get together a few times a year, train with one another, and be content in knowing that if something were to “go down,” they would be prepared to take necessary action – be it most likely against a tyrannical government.

Another thing that was brought to my attention at the forum is that ten rounds are still allowed for shooting competitions or recreational shooting at a range. The SAFE Act does, however, limit the number of rounds you can have at your home for personal defense/protection to seven. This raises the question, “Why is sport shooting given more value than personal protection?”

If I understand correctly, the SAFE Act also does not include an exemption for law enforcement. Most police officers in NY carry 9mm weapons with a 15-round capacity. Essentially, these folks are in violation of the SAFE Act – along with thousands of law-abiding New Yorkers.

Questions arise when it comes to the lack of clarification all throughout the legislation. It was mentioned at the forum that you must re-certify your weapon with the State Police every five years. If you fail to do so, your registration will be revoked. It was also stated that it is not currently written that you will be sent a reminder notice around that five year mark, so if this ridiculous legislation holds up, you’ll want to keep track on your own.

As of March 15, all private handgun, rifle or shotgun sales or transfers (with the exception of those sales or transfers to and between certain family members) will require a background check of the buyer. The “immediate” family members exempt include spouses, domestic partners, children and stepchildren. …Okay, I have none of those things. What about siblings? The legislation is incredibly vague, and as I said before, knee-jerk. Questions were raised at the forum regarding grandchildren… they’re not considered immediate family, and are not exempt. Now, I’m not saying the background check is a necessarily a bad idea, I’m saying that the SAFE Act was very poorly written, and clearly not well thought out.

Now, I’m aware I’m jumping around a whole lot here, but I have too much to say so am only going with random snippets as they come to me.

I’ve seen posts on Facebook claiming “I have to have a license for my dog, so you should have one for your gun.” – The majority of the people frustrated with this legislation do have registered weapons and permits to carry. They are legal and were turned into criminals overnight. Other posts have made reference to other groups with limited rights, such as “How does it feel to have your rights infringed, I can’t even marry the person I love.” – I think the idea of the government being involved in “love” and “marriage” has been a ridiculous concept since I was a kid, so even heterosexuals requiring “marriage licenses” makes no sense to me. The government doesn’t need to know who I love. But I digress… I’m on your side, and you should be able to marry who you want to marry. In the same token, a gun owner who wants to protect his/her family/self has every right to do so.

A number of lawsuits have been filed against the SAFE Act, and I am super curious to see how things turn out. Arrests have also been made to folks in violation of this legislation, and people gathered to protest at arraignments of those charged with violating (this happened up in Moreau, NY – near Saratoga Springs – just last week). There have also been instances of gun licenses being wrongfully revoked due to cases of mistaken identity (one man near Buffalo, as an example).

The 2nd Amendment states, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” The NY SAFE Act is clearly in violation of this. Know your rights. Exercise your rights. Educate yourself.

Alright, that is all. I want to go out and dance in the rain.

Oh – you can follow me on Twitter…


You’re welcome, America

Friday, May 10th, 2013
Shawn Magrath

It looks like a busy weekend ahead, with a cruise-in at the Howard Johnson Hotel tonight, the Norwich Merchants Association Spring Crafts Festival on Saturday and of course, Mother’s Day on Sunday (and me without a special Mother’s Day gift idea. I refrain from the customary macaroni necklace and Popsicle stick picture frame).

Kudos to the teachers at the Sherburne-Earlville Central School District for their respectful protest on Tuesday. I’m one who believes testing is a good thing, so long as there’s a clear goal in mind. However, when teachers are testing only to get ambiguous results, not knowing what steps to take next; and not knowing where to go, yet still expected to know when they get there… well to me, it sounds an awful lot like building a plane in the air. I admire any effort to change education for the better, but it’s only appropriate to diligently scrutinize any changes made. Perhaps this new method of statewide assessment isn’t the best alternative. Perhaps it’s time to learn from mistakes, adjust accordingly, and move forward.

Avid readers of The Evening Sun are surely familiar with the weekly “Thumbs” section. Thumbs, for those who don’t know, is a brief opinion piece written by reporters. My “Thumbs Down” this week went to obnoxiously long receipts that have only grown longer in recent years – namely, the 30-foot receipts I get after buying a single pack of gum at the grocery store. When Thumbs was published in today’s paper and I thought I could put it behind me for another week, I received a phone call from a reader who told me receipt paper may also contain trace amounts of the glycogen BPA, which can be absorbed in the skin (a claim backed by a 2011 study reported by the New York Times). I read in the report that BPA can disrupt hormones, cause neurological damage, and even stimulate obesity… and then it clicked. Longer receipts equals fatter, crazier people! I just solved our nation’s most pressing health-related issues and crippling diplomatic affairs: we need shorter receipts! You’re welcome, America.

The golfing gods get the last laugh

Friday, May 10th, 2013
Patrick Newell

Golf stories, like fishing tales, get longer, more dramatic, and heroic with each retelling They also bore the heck out of listeners by the fifth or sixth time they are recounted. Just as a fisherman is wont to exclude those dismal days with nary a bite, the average golfer spends precious little time at the 19th hole regaling his bar mates with the day’s mishaps and foibles. No one really cares, they’ve all been there.
Channeling my inner golf raconteur, here is yet another golf story. If you’re already hitting your mental snooze button, you can bypass the rest of this blog.
A truism of all amateur golfers: You’re never sure what will happen before you tee off. How well – or how poorly – you play is a mystery until you have actually played a few holes. And day to day, the level of play can swing (pun intended) wildly. Another axiom of golf: The higher one’s handicap, the greater (potential) disparity in play from day to day.
So Tuesday night, I was matched in my league against Canasawacta Country Club’s biggest tournament winner, Robert Branham. The two biggest tournaments at C.C.C. are the men’s member-guest and the club championship. Between those two, Bob has between 30 and 35 career wins. No one else is even close to that number of titles. Now in his mid-50s, Bob is still the titular golfer by which all other C.C.C. members measure themselves. This was my opportunity to show Bob that I not only can write a decent game, but also play a fair game of golf. Referring to truism one, my strong tee shot on the first hole was not a precursor of good things to come. In fact, I managed to hack it up pretty good, and Bob took me to the woodshed in a lopsided victory. I think Bob summed it up best late in the round: “This isn’t your best display,” he said.
If Bob could have seen me the next day. Actually, if anyone had seen me play, they would have noted the 180-degree turn. After finishing my morning responsibilities at the newspaper, I had a few hours until I had to return for my afternoon/evening shift. I resolved to make an adjustment in my golf game based on feedback from Bob and my playing partners. For this one day, the fine-tuning worked beautifully. Shots headed in their intended direction, and I even dropped a few putts outside of gimme range. Rain was intermittent on Wednesday morning, and for a portion of my round, the wet stuff held off. Toward the end of my 10-hole exhibition, the misty rain finally took hold. Playing the fourth hole – the number one handicap hole on the course – I resolved to finish up soon, and hoped I could close strong. Teeing off on the 464-yard hole, I hit my best drive of the short round. If you have played C.C.C., you know that if a drive does not reach the 200-yard mark from the green, your second shot is a blind one. Fortunately, I drove it past the 200-yard mark, and could see the flagstick. Pulling a six-iron from the bag, I made solid contact. From that far away, it’s hard to figure the depth of where the ball will land on the green, and my ball hit about 35 feet above the hole. The green slopes heavily downhill from the back to front, and as I walked toward the hole, the ball slowly trickled back down the hill settling 20-25 feet above the pin. A precarious position given the severity of the slope. I didn’t care, it was the first time this season I had hit the green in two shots. I looked around the course as I studied the putt. The skies were heavily overcast and grey, and no one – and I mean no one – was in sight. Later, as I walked back to my car, I would encounter the only other players on the course that day. Those players, however, were on the opposing side of the course.
My next shot was mano–a-mano with my ball and putter up against a fearsome green and a tiny four-inch cup waiting for a ball to eventually drop. Looking at the slope of the putting surface, I estimated a direction to hit the ball, and resolved to just nudge the ball forward, and allow it to trundle downward. I hit the putt softly, and in hindsight, probably had time to pull out my cell phone and videotape the 10-second trip to the hole. Watching my dimpled friend’s travels, it quickly crossed my mind, “hey, I didn’t botch this right off the bat.” The ball was seemingly magnetized to the cup, and into fell into the bottom. As the ball reached the cup, I raised my putter, a la Tiger Woods, and fist-pumped as if I had just holed the winning putt at the Masters. Just as it was 30 seconds earlier, no one saw that putt go in. I hit my two best shots on that hole all year, and capped the hole with my best putt. Fittingly, no one saw it, I’m sure no one reading this really cares, and I promise, I won’t tell this story again.
The golfing gods got the last laugh – again.

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Sports Editor’s Playbook, May 3, 2013

Friday, May 3rd, 2013
Patrick Newell

Congratulations to Greene varsity baseball coach Steve Burghardt, who won his 300th career game last weekend against Whitney Point. Burghardt is in his second stint with the Trojans. In his first go-around, he won multiple Susquenango Association championships, and to my knowledge, at least three Section IV titles. Burghardt was his typical understated self when asked about his achievement earlier this week. “I’m 60 years old, so what’s that, five wins a year? No big deal,” Burghardt said.

The baseball and softball regular seasons are drawing to a close within the next week-plus. And it’s a darn shame as we’re now approaching the best weather of the spring. Thursday was a sunny 80 degrees with a light breeze, and Wednesday was carbon-copy weather. Since the beginning of April, local clubs have taken to the diamond in chilly, windy, and usually inclement weather conditions. One coach told me that his team played half of its season over the previous two weeks, and his regular season will end next week. For schools whose record does not qualify for the postseason, their 2013 baseball/softball season will be over before May 10. Total length of season for those clubs, according to my records: Five weeks.
The first baseball and softball games reported in The Evening Sun this spring were played on April 4. Along the way we have seen numerous postponements and rescheduled games due to poor weather. Figuring in rescheduled games, we’re 28 days removed from those first games, and the season is nearly over. Does that feel like a real varsity sports season? Especially in comparison to the length of the fall and winter sports seasons? The season is shoved down our throats as if it is a sprint to the finish line. Meanwhile, only the best teams get to enjoy some of the better weather that is heading our way the next few weeks. Let’s analyze this year’s spring sports season: Practice began in early March – indoors every day – running nearly four weeks until the start of the regular season. The regular season lasts five weeks, and the postseason (league, sectional, and state playoffs) will last approximately another four weeks. Over those 12 or so weeks, one-third of the time kids are not even practicing outdoors, and in the final third, most of teams are either ineligible to play based on record or are eliminated from the postseason in the first week. In the end, baseball and softball players are getting short-changed in the spring sports season.

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