Monday, March 29, 2010

Don't Just Take My Word

In my previous post, "Is Ducky Quacking Up?," I responded to his recent commentary, "You Knew What The Deal Was All Along."

I wanted his commentary available so that others could compare what I have written but doesn't archive Ducky Drake's "Is It Just Me?" program, either as a transcript or as an audio file.

Sorry, I'm not going through the agony of transcribing his words. Even if I was really careful, someone would still claim I was distorting his points, reworking them in my transcription. So I've taken the other option and provided a link below to a MP3 copy of his commentary. Now you can contrast my previous posts, "The Drake Equation" and "Is Ducky Quacking Up?," to his own words.

Notice how Ducky doesn't name "the blogger." You'll have to ask him why.

Ducky Drake commentary 3/27/10

NOTE: If you click on the above link and it doesn't automatically play, click on the file name, select OPEN, and choose what media player you want to use.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Is Ducky Quacking Up?

Until now I didn't have a chance to listen and record Ducky Drake's latest WIRY Radio commentary that mentions my previous post entitled "The Drake Equation." In that post I questioned Ducky's math skills. Now I find his overall mental skills smack of dubiosity.

In "The Drake Equation" I discussed how Library Assistant Karen Ricketson wondered how Ducky Drake came up with an approximate 30 percent raise for PPL employees affected by a new contract. She represented the union in the contract negotiations and wanted to see on paper how he made that calculation.

So Ducky this week responded to what was written in my blog with one of his "Is It Just Me?" commentaries. Ducky leads off his piece, "You Knew What The Deal Was All Along," by stating he read my blog and found "things that just aren't true." Then Ducky makes erroneous or untrue statements.

Read my previous post. Ducky says I stated in that post Karen Ricketson wasn't present during negotiations regarding her raise. Really. I reread all 335 words and I want Ducky to show me where I said that.

Ducky wonders if I actually interviewed Karen Ricketson. Yes, I did. But why not put in a passing dig like that to portray me in an unprofessional light. By the way, Ducky, have you ever interviewed her?

Ducky also claims that I stated he wanted to close all of the libraries. I never said that. I stated he thought PPL should be closed because other libraries in the city provided the same services. He did say that. The "closing down all the libraries" crap is the result of poor reading skills or a ham-fisted effort to cloud the issue.

I think what threw Ducky for a loop was the statement I made that it was "news" to Karen Ricketson that she was getting around a 30 percent raise. Apparently sarcasm is too much for Ducky to understand, even such a cliche one as "That's news to me." Anyone with a modicum of discernment would know that the statement didn't mean that she was unaware of the raise. It just meant that Ducky's approximate 30 percent raise claim was dubious to her.

Then again, it's just you, ain't it, Ducky?

Clownmentary: Tea Party Circus

By Guest Commentator Plattsy

Hi ya, kids!

There's been a lot of bloviation lately about the recently passed health care bill and a new grassroots movement, the Tea Party. The Plattsburgh area has its own group, UNYTEA, Upstate New York Tea Party. Some of these people get really worked up. In fact, a few of them might think this commentary is dis-UNYTEA.

The other day UNYTEA held a rally against what they call Obama care. The Tea Partyers think such legislation is leading the US down the road to Communism.

During the rally some liberals gathered across the street to counter-protest. The UNYTEA gang noticed that the liberals didn't have any American flags and made sure to point that out through the medium of polite discussion, shouting. Of course, UNYTEA showed up with plenty of flags, big and small, to stop our country from going commie. I bet as good Americans they bought their flags at a great discount at Wal-Mart. A lot of stuff sold at Wal-Mart -- like American flags -- is sold cheap because it's made in China. Good to know all those Tea Baggers are doing everything they can to avoid funding the Red Menace!!!

Now I don't want to repeat unfounded rumors -- or God forbid, bad jokes -- but I heard an interesting story from an unreliable source.

If you've been following the news, there's been reports of some "patriotic" Americans across the nation throwing bricks through the office windows of those congressional members who voted in favor of health care reform. Now this source says one of the UNYTEA party leaders had a few drinks one night and really got upset about the commie takeover. After he left the bar, the Tea Bagger was staggering along and almost tripped over a brick on the sidewalk. He took this incident as an omen.

He picked up the brick, drove over to someone's office, and hurled it through the front window. Glass shattered.

The Tea Bagger stood there and happened to notice the address of the building.

"Wait a minute!" he said. "This is MY office!"

Comment Spotlight: Anonymously Erudite

Sometimes a comment is worth its own post.

For example, consider this comment regarding my previous post, "The Drake Equation," from a person who bravely identifies himself as Anonymous:

Dear Writog,

I think you need to find a new hobby other than blogging about random garbage...literally taking pictures all over Plattsburgh. Man you need to get a life or a job because your blogs are assenine. In plain English ans as Ducky would say, "Time to stick a fork in are done."


Dear Anon,

Thanks for the vote of confidence. Your comment has inspired me to rededicate myself to this blog.

I gather from your erudite remarks that you must be an English teacher. Look at the way you spelled asinine. Why bother using a spell checker program when you're a genius?

But let me wrap this up so that you may return to your busy schedule. Besides teaching English and creating such astute typo-free commentary, I know you're also involved with community service. It's nighttime. Time for you to hurl a brick through the office window of a politician who voted in favor of the new health care bill.


Luke T. Bush

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mystery Leak Plagues Library For Nth Time

Drip. Drip. Drip. Into the plastic wastebaskets. Watch your head or keep your umbrella open.

It's back. The leak that won't go away after decades of roof repairs at the Plattsburgh Public Library.

So far the origin point of the leak hasn't been located but the water keeps coming down in the same area of the library, near the front entrance by the elevators. At least the front desk has been moved away from that spot. Many years ago when the front desk was still in that location a leak came through and hit one of the computers, frying it.

This time no computers were destroyed. But such leaks still mean trouble. Worming its way inside the library structure the water can end up creating great places for mold to grow. And mold isn't good for either books or humans.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Polarization In Plattsburgh

What better way to celebrate the first day of spring than shouting, exchanging barbs across a street?

"Where's your American flag?"

"We don't need a flag!"

Saturday, March 20, after 2 PM. The intersection of Broad and Durkee streets, downtown Plattsburgh. You could call it North versus South.

The north side of Broad Street: the pro-Obama-healthcare demonstrators. The south side: The Tea Party/anti-Obama-healthcare crowd. A double yellow marks the division between liberals and conservatives. City street as DMZ. A police officer directs traffic.

"Have you read the bill? Read the bill!"

A woman and young girl (mother and child?) chant: "No to healthcare, no to healthcare..."

But not everyone is into the schoolyard taunts. On each side people just hold up signs and respectfully disagree.

A woman from the south side wanders over and says hello to a woman she knows on the north side.

The northsider asks the southsider: "Oh, you belong to the Tea Party?" The southsider replies yes, the two women exchange pleasantries, and then say goodbye. No need to argue.

Hope for common ground?

But the vocal participants keep at it, hurling remarks back and forth over the dividing line in the middle of the street.

Up above, no sunshine, just gray skies on this cold spring day.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

I Enjoy A Good Story

Case in point: the full page advertorial placed by Treasure Hunters Roadshow in the Wednesday, 3/10/10 edition of the Press-Republican (page A12).

Headline: Hundreds of People Cash in at the Plattsburgh Roadshow Yesterday.

Story: A gentleman (unnamed) ended up with a check for over $1250.00. Interviewed in the motel lobby, he is quoted: "I am so happy I decided to come to the Roadshow. I saw the newspaper ad for the event and brought in an old German sword I bought back from World War II and some old coins and here's my check. What a great thing for our community." The happy man was heading home to see what else he had lying around that he could cash in.

It's too bad that satisfied customer remains anonymous. I would like to interview him. If I was a reporter at the Press-Republican, I would follow up on the story. It would make a great human interest article.

Smoking Gun Photo?

A photo of some business reps and the Chamber of Commerce president sitting around a restaurant table. So what's the big deal?

Some Clinton County citizens are upset over the decision to change air carriers at the Plattsburgh International Airport. They question how the deal was made. Garry Douglas, President of the Plattsburgh-North Country Chamber of Commerce, backed the switch to the new carrier, ending up as a lightning rod for criticism.

Even though the decision was made some time ago, there were a couple of details I wanted to check out online. My Google search revealed a few intense remarks regarding the deal and Mr. Douglas in particular.

In a Cheers and Jeers column dated 2/15/10 the Press-Republican noted the Chamber's newsletter "Vision" announced that Colgan/Pinnacle would be flying out of PIA. The newsletter was sent out Thursday, Feb. 4, the morning after the CC Legislature spent a couple of hours debating whether to drop Cape Air for Colgan. The PR editor adds: "Obviously, the piece was written well before the vote."

The editorial also says that Douglas's successful "prediction" was giving "rise to speculation that some kind of deal had been pre-arranged, which we find unsupportable."

Unfortunately that POV isn't unsupportable to some readers who responded to that Cheers And Jeers item. Keeping in mind the comments were made anonymously, a few had their own "jeers" for Douglas. The commenter Anonymous @ 10:46 AM wrote: "...there defintley [sic] was a some sort of backdoor deal. The night of the council meeting, Feb 3rd Garry was cheering it up at the Irises Cafe with the representitive [sic] with Colgan/Pinnacle airlines. Along with some other croonies [sic] they wher [sic] acting and celebrating like the deal was set in stone. There is even a photo of happy gang at the table."

Other commenters mentioned the same image. One reader suggested someone should submit the photo to the PR to be published; so far no one has submitted it or the PR hasn't bothered to run it.

I dug a bit and found the photo in question over at . Here it is:

The caption reads: "Here are our local representatives prematurely celebrating following the Feb 3 legislative meeting at Iris' Cafe. A representative from Colgan/Pinnacle Air joined our leaders here. Picture posted by Plattsburgh Air Service on Feb 16 '10"

Despite the poor quality Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas can be seen in the background "prematurely celebrating."

The photo page includes three pseudonymous comments about Douglas, all negative, especially this one: "Surely he got more than just dinner for this deal. Anyone find out what the 'Deal' was yet?"

As far as I know Douglas hasn't responded to such negative remarks. Maybe he thinks that acknowledging such "trash talk" would end up validating the criticism in some people's minds.

In the meantime the criticism hangs there in cyberspace.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Rough Road For Treasure Hunters Company

News or faux news?

Treasure Hunters Roadshow is in town. Paying top dollar for gold coins and other collectibles.

At first glance it looks like a news story. There's a byline with the words in bold print, STAFF WRITER. But look closely. The "STAFF WRITER" works for the company featured in the article. Across the top of the full page display the words "Paid Advertising" are repeated.

According to the Better Business Bureau (Link) the BBB asked THR And Associates, the company behind the Treasure Hunters Roadshow, to modify its advertising because originally the "advertorial" appeared to be an article of interest. I suspect the "Paid Advertising" iteration across the top of the page and the notice, "Paid For By THR And Associates, Inc." on the bottom reflect those modifications.

While the BBB has given THR a rating of A minus, on a scale from A plus to F, it does note that it had to ask for the removal of the BBG logo from THR's website because the company is not a BBB Accredited Business.

Normally I'm indifferent to full page ads that appear in the Press-Republican. For three days such ads have been really pushing the services of the Treasure Hunters Roadshow. But the company also got a news brief -- what appears to be a real article -- under Home And Garden Briefs in the Monday, March 15, 2010 edition of the PR (Page A6). For someone like me, I could spot that it was nothing but a canned press release from the company discussed in the "article." One clue: no byline by a PR staff writer.

When it comes to newspapers, the separation of church and state is supposed to be editorial and advertising. That news brief was a breach to me.

So time to log on to the Net and Google the keywords "Treasure Hunters Roadshow." When typing in those words Google offered other search phrases:

-- treasure hunters roadshow rip off

-- treasure hunters roadshow scam

-- treasure hunters roadshow checks bounce

Of course, just because someone complains on the Web doesn't necessarily mean what they say is valid or still holds true. For example, THR manager Tony Enright has stated that the bounced check situation was due to an error by the accounting firm his company had been using. (Link)

There's a wealth of material out there, good and bad, about THR And Associates / Treasure Hunters Roadshow. One newspaper article that caught my eye was an investigative piece by The Examiner, The Independent Voice of Southeast Texas, dated 1/14/10. (Link)

The article by News Editor Jerry Jordan, "Treasure hunters or gold diggers?," details how a month-long investigation by the Examiner revealed that the Treasure Hunters Roadshow wasn't paying "top dollar" for coins, antiques, and other similar items. Newspaper employees went to various TH Roadshow events in the Beaumont, Texas region and found the offers were only a "small fraction of the actual value of precious metals and other items." The Examiner presented the same items to a local pawn shop that "offered three times what THR was giving as its best deal."

My admittedly brief investigation via the Web can't begin to address all the issues and complaints regarding the Treasure Hunters Roadshow. But it does lead to a couple of questions:

1. Does the Press-Republican know how to use Google?

2. Is the Press-Republican in dire financial straits to the point where the separation of editorial and advertising has broken down?

Maybe I'll have to use Google to find out.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Drake Equation: Outer Space Math

Library Assistant Karen Ricketson is getting a 30 percent raise.

That's news to Karen Ricketson.

In a recent commentary on WIRY, radio "personality" Ducky Drake offered his take on the wrap up of negotiations between the union representing the Plattsburgh Public Library staff and the Library Board. These negotiations have been dragging on for over three years. Why so long? Part of the problem is that a new negotiator would become involved in the talks, restarting the process.

One would think the City of Plattsburgh would try to avoid such a overextended process which means more expense in the long run. That's not to say the City should hand over anything the PPL staff wants. But efficient, consistent bargaining saves money compared to dragged out deliberations involving retroactive pay that keeps accumulating over the years.

Ducky contends that the city is now stuck with an extra $86,000 it has to cough up since the negotiations ended. But shouldn't the city have anticipated a retroactive payout instead of assuming a zero percent increase over the period the staff worked without a contract? If you think a bill is going to come due, you should set aside some of your money to cover that eventuality. That's Budget 101.

But Ducky's main point is that union representative Karen Ricketson is getting a 30 percent increase in pay -- or so he claims. Karen would like Ducky to put his calculations down on paper. She suspects he used a dubious method in arriving at 30 percent.

Writog wonders if Drake channeled his figures from deep space; Bizarro World math.

Also in his recent commentary Ducky declared he really isn't against the Public Library, that he thinks he provides a valuable service.

Keep in mind that this is the same man who a few months ago wanted to completely shut down PPL, saying that it only provided a duplication of services offered by other libraries in the city like the one at Plattsburgh State.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Plattsburgh: Still Cheesy

Yes, this is the same objet trouve that I photographed over a week ago on Miller Street near Elm. As you can see, since my first image the decaying grated cheese is trying to make an escape. Even bad cheese can't stand Plattsburgh.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Reflecting On The Abstract

No Photoshop SFX with this shot. All I did was crop and sharpen it a bit. The image was created in camera, not on my computer.

How did I do it? Sitting at a table at a coffeehouse, I noticed a tiny mirror hanging on the wall near me. Since it was dark outside, most of the light was provided by the interior lighting, making it easier to color balance.

The image in the mirror is detail on the ceramic coffee cup on my table. Took a bit of lining up, waiting for the mirror to stop moving after someone opened the front door, creating a breeze.

Professionalism: A Comparison

Over the years I've had letters published in Plattsburgh area newspapers. After submitting a letter via snail mail or email, I never had a phone call from any local paper verifying that I wrote the letter.

Recently Seven Days, the alternative weekly newspaper across the lake in Vermont, has published on two different occasions letters of comment I had emailed. Both times the 7D editor called to verify that I was the author of the submitted piece.

It didn't surprise me when I spotted this editorial statement in the letters department of the Press-Republican in its March 2nd, 2010 edition:

This isn't the first time such a mistake has been made. And it probably won't be the last. Why? Notice that the editor states that the PR verifies a certain percentage of letters, not all of them.

When I submitted my second letter to Seven Days, the editor there still called me long distance to verify its authorship, even though she knew my email address from my first one. After all, maybe someone was "spoofing" my address.

OK, so the PR is understaffed and can't verify all letters -- well, until a lawsuit forces changes. But if I called a phone number and it was out of service, I would pass on the letter.

But what do I know? I'm just a blogger.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Design By Happenstance

Back To The Mall

One reason the Music & More shop decided to move to downtown was because the mall kept relocating their store, moving it to different spots, according to a newspaper article. I would guess lower rent downtown was another reason to bail out. But since the shop is returning to the mall, it can be assumed that low rent can’t compensate for low customer traffic and the lack of parking.

Friday, March 05, 2010