Friday, February 29, 2008

Chalking Up Success Against Underage Drinking

Image from

“Chalking? What’s chalking?”

After asking that question, I discovered that I’m really outta the loop.

The unfamiliar term was mentioned during a recent Campus-Community Partnership meeting. The Partnership is a coalition of various programs to promote safer and healthier environments. A member spoke about a license checker, a device that can’t be outwitted by chalking.

The term chalking dates back to the 1980s, explained one “field expert” at the meeting. Chalk would be used to alter a driver’s license into a false ID, allowing the underage bearer to slip by a bar doorman.

Nowadays IDs are transformed with selective scratching, for example, changing an 8 into a 3. Even though chalk is no longer used, the term chalking has stuck with the practice.

While a false ID can pass visual inspection, the unaltered data contained in the magnetic strip can still trip up the bearer. A license checker scans the strip so that the visual and hidden data can be compared.

A program under the auspices of the Partnership secured grant money to purchase a license checker used by city police. This unit is mobile, so that the police can check IDs at various bars.

Among its features the checker can store information about violators in a database to catch repeat offenders.

Another checker had been set up on a permanent basis at a downtown drinking establishment. The owners didn’t want the hassle of underage drinkers. Someone at the meeting asked if the owners felt they had lost business, albeit illegal trade. The owners said they liked the older, legal age crowd; overall there were fewer problems.

Of course, there’s a trade-off with privacy when such a device is used. Two Partnership members discussed how they tried out one of the $1500 units. During their test it was revealed that someone’s first name – the moniker given by his parents – wasn’t the same as the one he prefers nowadays.

Don’t worry, “G.” Your secret is safe at this blog.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Attention: Human Beings Use Crosswalks

Imagine if this crosswalk sign had been a pedestrian.

A broken arm, maybe?

Signs like this one have been clipped and smashed by inattentive drivers. The signs straddle the center yellow lines, reminding drivers to watch out for people using the crosswalk.

See the bright yellow background? The distinctive silhouette of a pedestrian? How could a halfway awake driver not notice?

The sign imaged above usually stands in the crosswalk near the North Country Co-Op on Bridge Street. During the warm weather it’s bolted to the pavement.

But when winter rolls around, the sign is unbolted, making it easier for snowplows to clear the street. Carol Czaja, general manager of the Co-Op, has the sign placed in the crosswalk between snowfalls. The Co-Op has volunteered to help out the city because a safer crosswalk benefits her customers.

Carol isn’t motivated just by business sense. She knows firsthand what it’s like to be hit by a car after an accident with her bicycle. She wishes the city would spend some time and effort educating drivers, making them more aware of sharing the streets with pedestrians and cyclists.

Carol is right. A series of public service announcements on radio and TV, plus articles and ads in the newspapers, would make a difference. Look at the awareness created through the media regarding drunk driving.

After all, one wonders about some drivers, even those who don’t drink and drive. Carol described one time how a driver hit a crosswalk sign, sending it flying through the air.

The driver was upset, only concerned about the damage to his vehicle. He didn’t see the incident as a warning.

Mount Everest Advisory

Recent snowfall – and snow plowing – have increased the danger of the Court Street approaches on both the eastern and western sides. Make sure to pack an extra oxygen tank and watch out for avalanches.

Any questions? Call the City of Plattsburgh Public Works Department at 563-6841.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Conquer Mount Everest!

Don’t travel to Tibet to scale great heights. Try this snowbank blocking the sidewalk on Court Street. It was apparently created by the bright bulb who plowed the parking lot for the lawyers’ offices.

So strap on your oxygen tank and give it a try. (Just watch out for the nosebleed).

Problem Or Solution?

Why is this school crosswalk ramp on Margaret Street blocked by snow?

The business at this location has been keeping the sidewalk shoveled, just like everyone else on the street. But the sloping ramp that spans the median – the city’s responsibility – remains obstructed.

Earlier this winter I called the city and they cleared out the rampway. But public works or the school hasn’t bothered to maintain this spot. Could it be the city is itself a scofflaw when it comes to the snow removal ordinance? It uses the ordinance to make property owners shovel the sidewalks.

I’ve expended great thought considering this situation, mulling it over for hours. Maybe I’m being too critical, I thought. After all, the city couldn’t be that hypocritical or incompetent, could it?

Then it dawned at me: this problem was really a solution. Why would the City of Plattsburgh force schoolchildren to climb over a snowbank or walk around it to gain access to the sidewalk? Simple. Childhood obesity. The blocked crosswalk ramp forces to the kids to burn off more calories, especially when they dodge traffic in the street.

Once again, Plattsburgh demonstrates that it cares about the health of its citizens, especially the young ones.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Eclipsing My Notoriety

Today I ran into some friends at a downtown coffeehouse. They introduced me to the other people at their table as a photographer who takes shots of dog litter.

The preceding images of a recent lunar eclipse should prove that I engage in other activities besides documenting the lack of proper sanitary attention in Plattsburgh.

The first image - taken with my compact digital camera - is a composite using a photo-editing program called GIMP. While exposing for the clock face, the moon lost all its detail. So I used replaced the glaring moon by pasting in another image – albeit one taken at a longer focal length – with the correct exposure.

The second image is scanned from film, taken with a zoom lens set at 210mm.

So after this post maybe one aspect of my work won’t dog me the next time I’m being introduced.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Smile of a Flower

Artist Ludmila Fishman discovered color after she left the oppressive grayness of Russia.

After emigrating to North America, she was surprised to see people smiling and greeting each other on the street. Back in Russia, during the times of dictatorial control with leaders like Stalin in power, people were grim, withdrawn.

Even art was under the control of the system. Educated in leading Russian universities, Fishman was told that her work had to have political meaning, meeting the approval of the authorities. But there are other colors besides red as her newer works show.

Her subjects, whether it is a Montreal street scene or a flower in a botanical garden, display an intense spectrum. Colors are amplified through her personal vision. As she explains, she not only sees her subjects, she also feels them, transferring her impressions to canvas.

That’s how she can paint the smile of a flower.

Artist painter Ludmila Fishman (right) discusses her work with a couple of visitors during the NCCCA reception for her exhibit, Sketches On Canvas.

[The works of Ludmila Fishman will be on exhibit until February 23rd at the North Country Cultural Center for the Arts, 30 Brinkerhoff Street, Plattsburgh. Gallery Hours: M-F 9-4, Sat 11-4. For more information, contact the NCCCA at (518) 563-1604.]

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Councilor Acts A Bit Too Common

Councilor James Calnon (right) wanted to know why he wasn’t invited to join in any reindeer games.

While writing this post I have to remember that the councilor’s last name is CalNon, not CalGon.

Of course, being a product of the first TV generation, some commercials have permanently imprinted themselves on my mind, even though I wasn’t interested in the product. Calgon Bath Oil Beads was a soap hawked with the memorable phrase, “Calgon, Take Me Away.”

This was best illustrated by showing a harried housewife getting away from her daily stress by soaking in a full tub all bubbly with soothing Calgon soap.

Anyway, things got a bit testy at the last City of Plattsburgh Common Council meeting. During a special session Sylvia Stack, President of the North Country Cultural Center for the Arts, was explaining why the NCCCA should have first crack at the Federal Building when it becomes available.

At one point Sylvia was saying she would be more than happy to present any materials to the council, such as a financial statement or a business plan. She pointed out that the relationship between the council and the NCCCA was a two way street. While she and NCCCA supporters didn’t mind appearing at council meetings, Sylvia said that the councilors should visit the NCCCA and see what the organization was doing to promote arts and culture in the city.

Suddenly James Calnon (Ward 4) erupted. He said he didn’t like Sylvia telling him what his responsibilities were when she never invited him to visit the NCCCA. He acted coarse, petty. And on Valentine’s Day, to boot.

After a brief but heated exchange with Sylvia, Calnon sat there and didn’t say anything else. He just fumed.

Maybe Calnon should try releasing his tensions before a common council meeting by soaking in a warm tub of bubbly Calgon. And if he doesn’t have time for a complete body immersion, maybe just soaking his head would work.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Department of Redundancy Department

Here’s a notice that appeared in the Letters To The Editor, 2/8/08, in the Press-Republican:

OK, the PR is acknowledging a mistake and trying to correct it. But shouldn’t the first sentence be phrased this way: “…appearing in the Dec. 28 edition…?” After all, the letter appeared again in Thursday’s newspaper. Or maybe it’s permissible to drop the “in” whenever an editor feels like it, according to the latest update of the Associated Press stylebook.

Also, it’s unclear what is meant by the reference to “the writer’s intention.” Does this mean he didn’t want his letter to appear back in December or to have it recently reprinted? Considering the self-proclaimed journalistic excellence of the Press-Republican, maybe the writer didn’t want his letter printed at any time.

The PR is notorious for rerunning letters and articles. An article on page A2 ends up being repeated with a different headline on page B9. The article you read on Monday shows up again on Thursday. If there was a captioned photo accompanying the article on Monday, it gets dropped on Thursday. No photo earlier in the week? Then wait a few days and read the same article with a photo and a new headline.

Even comic strips are treated to the rerun fun. Hey, you like “Doonesbury?” Well, if you missed the December 26th appearance, the P-R will gladly run the same one a month later. (In case you were wondering why the characters were talking about Xmas near the end of January.)

Sometimes reading the Press-Republican is like déjà vu all over again.

While serving as unofficial editor-at-large for the P-R, this writog finds déjà vu is a blog hazard.

Dog Watch – Day 53

It’s gone. Finally. Shoveled away with the latest snowfall. Either someone got tired of seeing it on this blog or in meat space. Take it from me, it’s much more disgusting in real life. Especially after 53 days.

The only good thing I can say about such a subject is that when a flash is used, the photographer doesn’t have to worry about red eye.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Dog Watch Day 48 – Does It Have To Sparkle To Be Shoveled?

Snow and ice are cleared away but this pile is still there. Apparently the person who shovels the sidewalk makes sure not to disturb this disgusting dump.

Obviously Plattsburgh has gone to the dogs.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Rude Dog-Owner? You Can Bank On It

Guess what’s hidden behind the Radioactive Rose of Redaction? Well, let’s say a dog-owner wanted to make sure that everyone knew his pet had climbed on top of this snowbank by having said pet plant its flag.

Next time, idiot dog-owner, use the Himalayas, not a snowbank in downtown Plattsburgh. Hopefully a yeti will grab you and rub your nose in your pet’s calling card.

Friday, February 01, 2008

The Mysterious Mr. Waldron

Did a “Mr. Waldron” cause a remodeling boom at the
Koffee Kat?

Who is Mr. Waldron?

The question arises with the final sentence of a Press-Republican article about a car accidentally backing into a downtown Plattsburgh coffee shop.

The article, “Popular downtown coffee house hit by car,” was published online January 28, 2008 at 04:48 pm. You can read both pages through these links: Link 1. Link 2.

Only three people are mentioned by name in the article:

Wendell Castine – Driver of the car that smashed into the Koffee Kat building. He stated he didn’t know why his Cadillac suddenly took off when backing into a parking spot.

Emily Castine – Wife of Wendell Castine. She was waiting for her husband to pick her up from work.

Patty Waldron – Owner of the Koffee Kat. She stated that no one was hurt when the front windows shattered.

Just three names in a short straight news article. Should be easy to follow this cast of characters, eh?

But the last sentence in the article states: Plattsburgh City Police gave Mr. Waldron a ticket for unsafe backing.

So who’s Mr. Waldron? Patty Waldron’s husband? If that’s the case, then all the details previous to the last statement are incorrect. Apparently Mr. Waldron drove his wife’s coffee shop into Wendell Castine’s car. That’s why the police gave him a ticket for unsafe backing.

Or is Patty Waldron a transsexual who backed her shop into Castine’s Cadillac?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Update: Apparently the Press-Republican revised the article at a later time and changed “Mr. Waldron” to “Mr. Castine.” Here’s the corrected article, second page: Link 3 . And after I spent all this time discussing “Mr. Waldron.” But the original version is still up, so unless someone knows about the correction, “Mr. Waldron” is still taking the blame.

So please don’t sue me, Mr. Waldron.

An Infamous Word Choice

Check out the front page of the Press-Republican for January 21, 2008. There’s an article headlined, “Local man recalls Rev. King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech.”

Let me share with you the first two paragraphs of this article:

= = =

While it is considered monumental today, many didn’t realize the impact of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech that day.

Ken Wibecan of Schuyler Falls was present for the infamous
[sic] speech during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on Aug. 28, 1963.

= = =

Infamous speech? I don’t think the interviewee used that adjective. The reporter picked it. Why did he do that? Check out the third paragraph:

= = =

“I don’t think many people knew that day that that speech was going to be famous, [Wibecan] said.

= = =

Apparently the reporter was trying to say in the previous paragraph that the speech didn’t become famous until some time later. But in + famous doesn’t mean “not famous,” as in “not yet famous.” It means something entirely different, as any dictionary will prove.

One again the Press-Republican evinces its high standards of journalistic excellence.

Do any editors work at the PR?

NOTE: This blog doesn’t claim to have any high standards of journalistic excellence. I try to do a decent job. Mistakes are made, but keep in mind I'm an organization of one.

F Outta Luck

It’s almost become a weekly notice. You’re checking the Thursday arts and events listing in the Press-Republican and come up short with this statement:

Due to space limitations 8 days a week was unable to run in its entirety.

Then why does the PR call its listings 8 Days A Week when it only runs five days worth? Check out the end of the latest listing for 1/31/08:

Right in middle of the “F” section and bang! – no more room. Yes, I’ve complained about this in other posts, but after years of the same stupidity perpetrated by the PR – well, enough is enough.

How hard is it to provide a complete arts and events calendar? Talk about being lazy with a layout. All it takes is to make a photo or two a bit smaller and everything will fit. Better yet, put all the listings in one dedicated section instead of trying to cram them as filler among the ads and articles.

People read a newspaper for information. Don’t provide it and they go elsewhere.

Why is such a mystery to newspaper dinosaurs that their audiences are shrinking and their publications are facing extinction? Serve your readers or go the way of the dimwitted brontosaurus.