Writog? A writer-photographer. Citizen journalist. Unless indicated otherwise all content, text and images, here at www.writog.com (C) Copyright 2006 - 2014 Luke T. Bush

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Location: Plattsburgh, New York, United States

Writog: writer-photographer.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Welcome To Thrush TV: UNCLE Still Blocked


UNCLE fans still aren't happy.  In fact, they're even unhappier.

As detailed in another post the Plattsburgh MeTV affiliate station has been blocking transmission of The Man From UNCLE for its half-hour Vermont news program at 10 PM.

At first WPUTZ-TV on Channel 5.3 would cut to the last 30 minutes of each UNCLE episode after the news.   Now the station is has even eliminated that on Sunday nights, showing reruns of The Twilight Zone.

Channel 5 simulcasts the same news at subchannel 5.2 .  So people can get their Vermont news fix there.

The odd part is that local news does conflict with another MeTV program on Saturday night, Svengoolie, that features old Universal Studio monster movies in a two hour format hosted by a goofy host.  The last time I checked at 10:30 PM the station threw in another half-hour program but then it broadcast all two hours of Svengoolie, one hour behind its regular schedule.

So why doesn't UNCLE get the same treatment?

Gee, was it something I said, WPUTZ-TV?

I heard from one UNCLE fan who was wondering why reruns of The Twilight Zone ended up on his video recording when he was trying to time-shift UNCLE.

Because Channel 5, despite being located in New York State, is gonna to cram its Vermont news on both subchannels, like it or not.  Your viewership doesn't count as either a New York news watcher or UNCLE fan.

Remember: The public owns the airwaves.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Lost, Seeking A Sign

(C) 2014 Luke T. Bush


Before you explore an unknown Adirondack backroad make sure you have GPS, a good map, or at least a compass.

My friend Jack invited me to take a drive through the regional hinterlands.  It was a rainy day but there was always the chance the clouds would clear, releasing the bright sun.  Either way I brought my camera along.

We traveled to Lake Placid, Saranac Lake and then began to return home on the main drag, Route 3 East.  Around Vermontville I saw a peak covered with a thick low hanging cloud but couldn't get a good shot over the treeline.  We took a sideroad hoping for an open spot to capture the image.

You would think locals such as ourselves would know two basic facts by now:

1.  Backroads out in the wild countryside are usually forest corridors, walls of trees on each side, clear views are rare.

2.  Backroads are hardly marked with signs.  When you encounter an intersection there isn't a signpost indicating the names of the roads or pointing towards the nearest community.  You are on your own.  Limbo.

So Jack kept driving, thinking that if we just kept going we would end up back on Route 3, a few miles past Vermontville.

There was no way to track the direction of our travel.  The sun was reduced to a pale sheet spread across the leaden sky, hardly a useful reference point.

Jack spotted a sign on the side of the road.  It was one of those ancient historical markers, rust brown with raised yellow letters.  The sign said that we were on an old turnpike that ran between Port Kent and a place called Hopkinton.  No details were provided to the present name of the road, even a county road number.

At another point we checked out a "witness post" sign.  The white metal plaque stated that a survey marker was nearby, do not disturb, contact Washington, DC, for more info.  An indication that we were really in rural limbo.  Speculation: if someone removes that marker the area will fade into nothingness.   

Later at one intersection I spotted a sign — not an official state one — that simply said PLATTSBURGH with an arrow pointing to the left.  The sign looked homemade.  I suspect that one of the few people who lived in this area got tired of people pounding on his door, asking for directions back to civilization.

The road took us back to Route 3.  Relieved to see the familiar passageway we drove on, only to find ourselves driving once again into Vermontville.  Despite the fact it seemed we were traveling eastward, we had backtracked miles to the opposite point.  Like I said: Limbo.

But I did get some good photographs on that maze of backroads, including shots of collapsed buildings, forgotten, left to the forces of nature.

My theory: the owner of a pre-buckled structure wanted to maintain his property but couldn't find his way back to it, he kept driving in circles and gave up.  Without proper maintenance entropy did its job.

And with Halloween approaching I suspect that the souls of lost travelers unable to reach their final destination will be seen on those twisty, never-ending Adirondack backroads.

But I won't be one.

One spot did open up during the backroad odyssey so I could capture the low clouds obscuring the mountains.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Bearing The Olympic Pumpkin?

Octoberfest Marathon, Peru, NY.

Monday, October 06, 2014


Consternation at UNCLE headquarters over "The Half-Ass Affair."


They've cut Napoleon Solo in half.

No, the evil organization called Thrush wasn't behind this dastardly deed.  It's a local TV station that stupidly assumes that people won't mind missing the first half of the superspy's heroics every Sunday night at 10 PM.

Tonight I tuned in to Channel 5.3 (Me TV) to watch The Man From UNCLE and found WPUTZ-TV was running its local newscast until 10:30 PM.  Then without any explanation or warning it cut back to the Me TV network feed right in the middle of an UNCLE affair.

For the uniformed The Man From UNCLE is a spy adventure series from the 1960s, TV's answer to James Bond.  Compared to some old TV shows (for example, take MASH — please!) it hasn't been seen around rerunland that often.

There's really no good reason for WPUTZ-TV to chop an episode in two because on its other subchannel, 5.2, it's simulcasting the same news program.  On that channel (the CW affiliate) an hour of Seinfeld reruns are scheduled but that series is formatted in the 30 minute format.  So one episode is blocked but the other can still be seen in its entirety at 10:30 PM.

I don't watch Channel 5 local news.  One reason are the incessant ads that run on all three of WPUTZ's channels extolling the greatness of its news team.  Every ten minutes it's bragging that its news is the best in the business: the best journalism, the best weather forecasting, the best sports coverage, the best humility.

Also, I live in New York State but Channel 5 panders to the almighty Vermont advertising dollar.  Green Mountain State news until you choke.  Its competition across the lake, Channel 3/WCAX-TV, is professional, not a dog-and-pony show.  Sometimes it does a better job of covering news on this side of Lake Champlain.

WCAX's logo: "Vermont's Own Channel 3."

WPUTZ's logo: "Vermont Owns Channel 5."

Before the fall season kicked off the Channel 5 news trio — the two anchorpersons and the weatherman — were seen 24/7 in a promo rhapsodizing that the popular Ellen DeGeneres talk show was moving to their station.  Extreme close-ups showed the TV news team lacing up their shoes.  Why?  Because they were getting ready to dance.

And then the trio danced around, cavorting like coked up clowns, giddy that Ellen was coming to Channel 5.  Big smiles and a hearty "Welcome!"

Yes, happy dance = professional journalism.

So will Channel 5 change its mind and run The Man From UNCLE in its entirety on Sunday nights?

I doubt it.  From what I've seen the station manager will just dance around the issue.  Giddily.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Detail Not Spanking New But Still Fascinating

(C) 2014 Luke T. Bush

PLATTSBURGH CITY, NY - Wednesday 9/24/2014

So I'm glancing at the front page of the Press-Republican, the dead tree format dated Saturday 9/20/14, and notice an article about the 75th anniversary of the Elizabethtown, NY Social Center.

The center stands where its founder, Cora Putnam Hale, used to live.  She donated both the property and funds to build the facility back in 1939 to serve both local youth and adults.

The article includes a photo of Cora's painted portrait (missing in the online version).  Below is copy of the photo and its caption.  

If you're unable to read it the caption states: 

"This oil portrait of Cora Putnam Hale by Wayman Adams hangs over the fireplace mantel at the Elizabethtown Social Center.  Supposedly, this is the location where Mrs. Hale received her first spanking."

The article doesn't mention if there's a plaque accompanying the oil portrait, a bronze marker immortalizing this fascinating historical detail.  "On this spot in the Year of Our Lord..."

Thursday, September 18, 2014




Saturday, September 13, 2014

First Weekend: Lucid

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Getting Hip To Hooping

(C) 2014 Luke T. Bush

PLATTSBURGH CITY, NY - Saturday 9/6/2014

Fortunately the rain held off for most of this day for First Weekend events.  While the local rock band Lucid played in the background this hooping instructor was giving introductory lessons to some of the younger audience members.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Whistling Past The Graveyard

NYS Assemblywoman Janet Duprey (right foreground) listens intently during a presentation at the Oil Train Community Forum.

(C) 2014 Luke T. Bush


When I hear an approaching train blow its horn there's a thought in the back of my mind: Will I have to run?

Statistically speaking I shouldn't have to worry.  But statistics mean nothing if you are in the vicinity of a major derailment and tanker cars carrying Bakken crude oil, anhydrous ammonia, propane, whatever, spills, leaks, or explodes.

What I heard from a panel of experts at the Oil Train Community Forum doesn't reassure me.  The forum, held 8/28/2014 in the City Hall Auditorium, discussed train shipment hazmat issues with the emphasis on Bakken crude oil.  Public agency representatives talked about the training given to emergency responders to deal with derailments.

At the start of the forum New York State Assemblywoman Janet Duprey briefly spoke to the SRO audience.  She repeated a disturbing fact I had heard before: when it comes to safety the feds usually trump local concerns.

She said: ""I agree wholeheartedly that we need to increase safety standards for oil tanker transport.  Unfortunately the federal government controls a lot of these regulations."

"The governor," Janet continued, "did issue earlier in the year an executive order directing the assessment of safety procedures and emergency response preparedness related to crude oil shipments. But that doesn't stop the problem."

My take: what corporations want, corporations get — even if means citizens are being endangered for the sake of maximum profits.

If the feds want to allow shipments via rail of Bakken crude oil in DOT-111 tank cars with substandard safety standards, so be it.

Last year a derailment of Bakken crude oil devastated the town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec.  Tanker cars exploded, fiery blasts.  45 confirmed dead with five reported missing, presumed dead.  (Those reported missing were most likely reduced to carbon smudge.)

The risk is still there, up to 120 cars of Bakken crude per train passing through the North Country.  So how does a CEO or government official responsible for such shipments sleep at night?

Probably soundly.  Why worry when you don't live near the tracks?

Anyway, Lac-Megantic, the CEO or guv official probably justifies to himself, was bad luck, a fluke.  It won't happen again.  The unconcerned CEO or official just whistles while he works.

After all, good emergency plans are in place.


One of the speakers at the forum, Claire Barnett of the Healthy Schools Network, talked about a derailment drill that was held at the Saratoga Springs Middle School, using the standard evacuation plan.

Claire Barnett, Healthy Schools Network, speaks at the Oil Train Community Forum.

She explained: "The children were marched under the [railroad overpass] to the fire department.  If there had been a derailment you wouldn't want to go under the rail pass and you wouldn't want to go to the fire department because that's where all the equipment is in motion [to deal with the derailment]."

Time to dust off those old plans and take another look.

During the comment part of the forum people in the audience vented some of their frustration and anger.  They wanted prevention of, not preparation for, a disaster.  Ban the shipments until safety standards are improved, they declared.

At the forum's end Dan Plumley, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, said nothing will be done by NYS DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) unless Governor Andrew Cuomo was behind it.

He said: "We have a de facto moratorium on potential fracking in New York that the governor has supported, all the while this threat is rumbling through our towns, over our watershed, aquifers.  Today he kicked the can to the federal government in the press, saying basically his hands were tied.  We need to tell the governor that he has to take action."

Sure.  Like fighting Albany corruption with the Moreland Commission.

In the meantime I keep my ears open, not just for a train horn, but for any crash and boom that might follow.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Luge On The Loose Downtown

(C) 2014 Luke T. Bush

PLATTSBURGH CITY, NY - Saturday  9/6/2014

So how do you luge in September with the temps way above freezing?

Substitute a sloping dry city street for an icy run and slap wheels on the sleds.

As part of the First Weekend events a Slider Search was held on Bridge Street for young tyros from 9 to 12 years old.  The street was blocked to traffic from mid-afternoon to evening, a ramp set up near Margaret Street intersection.  Straw safety bales lined both sides of the street; orange and yellow traffic cones served as markers for the course.

USA Luge was in town looking for future Olympian lugers.  Only one of the competitors had training so it was a real challenge for most participants to steer the sleds downhill between the cones.

Trophy shirts were awarded after the event wrapped up.

(Click on each image to enlarge view.)


Saturday, September 06, 2014

Pick Your Poison? Not Really

People for Positive Action held a rally in Trinity Park before the Oil Train Community Forum.  Darlene Waldron [L] and John Andrus pose with a PFPA banner while in the background tank cars pass over the Saranac River trestle. (Click on image to enlarge.)

(C) 2014 Luke T. Bush

PLATTSBURGH, NY - 9/6/2014

It's not just flaming Bakken crude oil burning people alive we should worry about.

The Oil Train Community Forum held in the City Hall Auditorium Thursday evening, 8/28/2014, focused mainly on the potential dangers of Bakken crude oil being transported via rail through the North Country.   And for good reason.  The explosive substance is being shipped in tank cars — up to 120 at a time — not intended when built to safely haul such material.

On 6/6/2013 a runaway train derailed in the town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, its shipment of Bakken crude exploding with fiery blasts.  45 people were confirmed dead with five missing, presumably dead.

After the forum wrapped up I spoke with one of the panelists, Eric Day, the  Director of Clinton County Office of Emergency Services, about other hazardous materials being shipped via the Canadian Pacific (CP) rail lines.  He is involved with the training of emergency responders to deal with hazmat events.

Eric explained: "Crude oil — although there are a lot of cars of it in a train — there is a lot of other bad stuff that moves through here everyday and has for years."

On the list:

 -- Chlorine.  Eric: "Chlorine gas is moved through here now and then, not too often.  We got training on those wrecks, kits to seal leaks on chlorine cars."

One incident that shows the great danger with a chlorine tanker accident occurred in Graniteville, South Carolina on 1/6/2005.  According to the accident report published by the National Transportation Safety Board chlorine gas was released after the chlorine tanker was breached.  Nine people including the engineer died from inhalation of the lethal gas.

 -- Ethanol.  Eric said that as a burn hazard it is probably the same as Bakken crude, also having a low flash point.  "It burns invisibly, you can't see the smoke, you don't see the flames because it is an alcohol."  On the environmental side if there is a spill ethanol floats on water and will evaporate.  It's not as damaging as a crude oil spill.

But ethanol still can be explosive and deadly.  An Associated Press article published 6/20/2009 reported on a derailment involving a Canadian National Railway Company (CNRC) train in Rockford, Illinois that resulted in a fiery blast that killed one woman who had been just sitting in her car at a crossing, waiting for the train to pass.  She died while running away.  Three people who also fled from the car were hospitalized after being burned from flaming ethanol.

CNRC was nailed with a lawsuit, ordered to pay a total sum of $36 million in damages, according to an article dated 8/18/2011 at WIFR.com.  CNRC was found negligent because it had been warned by the Winnebago County (Rockford) 911 center of a washout on the tracks 20 minutes before the derailment.  The engineer ignored water conditions and sped up instead of slowing down.

Eric Day, Director of CC Office of Emergency Services, shares information on hazmat issues during the Oil Train Community Forum.

-- Anhydrous ammonia.  Eric said that this substance moves through in small quantities compared to Bakken crude so the potential for an accident and disaster is not as great.   "When it escapes it becomes gaseous, there is a potential for a plume."  Depending upon factors such as wind and temperature anhydrous ammonia could affect an area up to a quarter mile.

The site Anhydrous Ammonia Health Information reveals that a high dose exposure can result in coughing and choking — and even death from chemical burns to the lungs.

-- Propane.  This one is could be really scary, said Eric.  "There are propane cars rolling through here all the time."  He continued: "From watching trains [as a train buff/railfan] it's not uncommon to see ten to twelve propane cars hooked together in a train.  That's not a 120 of them [like the Bakken crude trains] but I can tell you if one of those babies blows up it leaves a crater and depending on how the whole incident occurs a car might become a missile, it might fly a ways."

On 2/12/1974 there was a derailment near Oneonta, NY in which one propane car split open, the escaping gas igniting.  According to the Railroad Accident Report published by the National Transportation Safety Board: "Four of the remaining tank cars ruptured about 30 minutes after the derailment. The ensuing explosions and fire injured 54 firemen and members of the press."

So what should I do, I asked Eric, if I hear a derailment on the railroad tracks less than 40 feet away from my back door?

He replied: "Don't go out to see what happened.  Go the other way... Don't stop to collect $200."  (OK, so Eric's easygoing and likes to joke a bit.)  He added there was no time to gather a lot of personal possessions, just grab your car keys and wallet if they're readily available.  If your wallet is upstairs, forget it, just run.

Of course, maybe running away would be just fanning the flames.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Free Newspaper, Free Donut

Gee, it seems that the weekly alternative newspaper from Vermont, Seven Days, was running a special offer on this side of the lake the other day.  What goes better with a free newspaper than a free donut?  By the time I got to the newsbox there was only one left.  Where else would you see something like this except Plattsburgh, NY (AKA Dogtown)?