Monday, May 31, 2010

End To A Smoky Memorial Day

"I smell smoke."

Early Monday morning, May 31. My apartment windows are wide open. Is something on fire? Smells like wood burning.

Turn on the TV and find out that smoke pollution is rolling through the Champlain Valley from wildfires up north in Quebec, Canada. Thousands of acres are burning.

Later on as I walk around there is that ubiquitous smell accompanied by persistent haze. But not as bad as years ago when similar conditions made the sun a peach color during the day.

Evening comes and I try to capture some of the colors from the wildfire tinting.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Downtown Cycle

Spelling isn't important when it's time to fold up your sales operation. Women's wardrober Watcha Wearin' went west
apparently after shutting down its Clinton Street shop.

They come and go. Little shops and businesses trying to make a go of it in downtown Plattsburgh. One day it's there, the next day it's gone. Then someone else sets up shop and the cycle continues.

This Brinkerhoff Street spot -- the future home of Baxter's Bagels -- was at one time Nick's Restaurant, a diner that had a long successful run that no one else has duplicated in the same location. If you visited Nick's back in the day, early in the morning, the place was packed. You would see the Police Chief and Fire Chief holding a meeting at one table. After Nick's closed, other places tried to offer their own special menus: Enzo's, Something Cool, Taco Loco, On The Brink, just to name the ones I can readily remember.

The owner of Lake City Treasures, a flea market shop on Margaret Street, told customers that he couldn't compete with Wal-Mart. Apparently "Wal-Mart prices", low prices on new items, undid his business in used stuff. Now a cafe, My Cup Of Tea, is going to try to draw a crowd after it opens. Pizza shops at one time were the craze but over the last decade or so cafes are the fad. Anyone remember Pianissimo on Clinton Street or Unique Blend on City Hall Place?

I think the city should install programmable digital signs over each location. That way when one shop closes, the new one just has to key in its name to get it up in lights.


It was a hot day, especially for May. The high for Wednesday the 26th was 93 degrees F in Plattsburgh, a record breaker. This dog took a siesta in the shade in the entrance of the Plattsburgh Shoe Hospital on City Hall Place.

The next day was cooler. These guys were keeping an eye on Oak Street from their second story vantage point. Apparently someone over at the public library across the street caught their attention. Maybe they've been trained to sniff out people with overdue books.

Beware. Suspicious characters -- like a guy with a camera -- can accidentally provoke loud barking.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Goodbye, Plattsburgh Street Sale

It's not an unusual sight in Burlington, Vermont but in Plattsburgh, NY? Things will change but for now two guys holding a street sale might appear to be too bohemian.

Dan Sturrock and Michael Morgan are leaving the Burgh and they wanted to raise a bit of money by having a street sale. They set up an array of items, original art and personal stuff no longer needed, by the laundromat on the corner of Oak and Clinton streets. They asked the permission of the laundromat owners; no problem.

Then they also checked with someone in the mayor's office to make sure it was OK. They were told they didn't need a permit.

Respecting the sidewalk space, they left plenty of room for pedestrians to pass by. It's one of the few times I've seen the wide sidewalks in downtown used to a good advantage. After all, it's not like the wide sidewalks are needed for the throngs flowing through everyday.

But Dan and Michale had a bit of a problem when someone from the building inspector's office saw the set up. They explained they had done everything neat and proper, by the book.

With all of the problems that need attention in the Burgh, two friendly guys holding a street sale should be given low priority. Wouldn't it be better to pay attention to buildings that aren't being maintained, especially ones with pieces dropping off? I think a falling chunk of concrete hitting someone in the head is more dangerous than spraypaint art being sold on the street.

Hey, why not do something about the soiled diaper in the city parking lot on the corner of Margaret and Court that has been sitting there for 12 days?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Diaper Watch @ Dogtown 12901

Over at my "bad" blog you can see my photographic documentation of a soiled diaper at least eleven days old in a downtown parking lot. (I wonder how crusty that's getting in the hot sun lately.) Also, see fire hazard squirrels and yummy stucko. All for your viewing displeasure at

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Alfresco Cat Napping

This cat sleeping on its pillow was left by the curbside with some trash. Apparently its owners couldn't afford to spay or neuter it.


Check out this electrical box in Trinity Park. Evidence of work by radicals. SDK: Society for the Defenestration of Kangaroos. Apparently some of its agents have snuck in from Australia.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

How Dirty Is Your Dining?

Arnie’s Restaurant in downtown Plattsburgh scored an A
during its last health department inspection.

So how safe is the restaurant where you eat? Should you worry?

Fox 44 TV News in Burlington, Vermont, has been featuring a series called "Dirty Dining." The reporter gets info from the local health department and then highlights places that didn't rate too well. Recently the reporter visited this side of Lake Champlain for a special story, "Dirty Dining in Clinton County," using reports from the Clinton County Health Department (CCHD). I found out that some of the CCHD inspection info was available online and so I checked it out for myself.

It took a bit of digging at the CCHD website to find the page I was looking for. Eventually I ended up at the Food Safety page and after scrolling down I found the link I wanted under the heading of Food Service / Establishment Inspection Reports Online in the left hand column. But if you don't want to bother with all of that, here's the direct link to the report (PDF file).

The report lists restaurants or FSE's –- food service establishments, to use the official lingo. It explains that there are two categories of violations, Red Zone and Blue Zone. Red Zone are critical violations such as food not protected from contamination by other sources, a high risk factor. Blue Zones ones are kinda critical, involving “establishment sanitation, design, and maintenance." When an inspection is completed, the establishment is rated by a letter grade: A, B, C, or D, just like when you were in school where A students were at the top of their class and D students were borderline dropouts.

When covering a story like this one, there can be a problem with a TV news segment -- or even a blog post that clocks in around 600 words. Subtleties can be missed.

No, I'm not saying food poisoning is subtle. So far in my lifetime I've suffered through two bad bouts. But taking a report that rates over 400 FSE's and highlighting a couple of offenders can distort the public's view. Yes, two local establishments -- Pizza Bono in downtown Plattsburgh and Sandi's Kountry Kitchen in the town of Mooers -- did get D's. But if you scan the listed restaurants in the report most of them rated A with a few B's and C's. I don't think Fox 44 mentioned that during its "Dirty Dining" reports. Highlighting the minority of offenders can color the situation the wrong hue (red in this case).

Also, as CCHD stresses, an inspection is a snapshot, what was found during the last visit. Things may improve at a D restaurant while an A might slide into a D rating. Also, mistakes can happen even at a A listed restaurant just one time. While the rating indicates good compliance, it can't assure that something can't go wrong at some point. For example, Sandi's Kountry Kitchen rated an A on October 28th, 2009 but ended up with a D on February 17th, 2010.

But overall I'm reassured that most of the inspected restaurants are rated A by CCHD and that its inspectors are on the job, keeping an eye on things.

I do appreciate Fox 44 TV News raising this issue, even if I do find their approach too much, using the fear factor. At times TV news has been criticized for playing up the danger angle to attract viewers and hold their interest.

When food is stored under a leaky sewage pipe, as Fox 44 reported, there should be concern. But not sensationalism and irrational fear about restaurants in general.

So don't be biting your nails over Clinton County FSE's. (And if you do bite your nails, please use a hand sanitizer beforehand.)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Project READ 2

Still haven't heard anything from the local Literacy Volunteers about their photo contest. Maybe someone there will have a chance to reply to my email.

In the meantime, even though I haven't entered, I went ahead for the fun of it and created two more images.

UPDATE 5/19/10

I received an email reply from LVCC in regards to my questions about rights:

"We will not be seeking any copyrights. The pictures are for our Facebook page.

"There may be a possibility that some pictures may be put in our local newspapers for publicity. We would seek permission to do that from the photographer."

Arthur Menard
VISTA Volunteer, NY Reads/ NY Works
Literacy Volunteers of Clinton County

So I posted my images at the LVCC Facebook group page. The contest is pretty much open to a variety of images and styles. If you have the free time I would recommend sharing an image. Info at or telephone 518-564-5332.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

City Beach Observatory

A concerned citizen mentioned to me that there was a hole in the roof of the pavilion at the Plattsburgh City Beach. The huge perforation had been there for some time. I went to the scene to investigate.

After conducting a thorough survey I decided that the hole was evidence of a work in progress. The city wasn't ignoring the structure, treating it like a backwoods shack in Appalachia. The hole indicated that the pavilion was being converted into an observatory. Apparently the telescope is on back-order with Bausch & Lomb. One wonders how practical the observatory will be for stargazers. The antique streetlights in the downtown area are known for pumping garish urine-yellow light pollution into the night sky.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Project READ

Literacy Volunteers of Clinton County is sponsoring a photo contest. Each photo submitted must have the READ logo prominently displayed. You can pick up a READ bumper sticker at various locations including the Plattsburgh Public Library.

I haven't officially entered the contest because I would like to get a few details regarding copyright. In the meantime I've created a couple of images to see how creative I can be with the contest's concept. For now it's a personal project.

For more info on the contest, call (518) 564-5332 or email .

Thursday, May 13, 2010

ATTN: Press-Republican Idiots

Shoving ads into a reader's face at your website ain't gonna move any product for the advertiser.

As the following three screencaps evince, when I tried to view the photo and cutline of Mayor Donald Kasprzak announcing that he was going to run for office again, I had to deal with a pop up ad that wouldn't go away. The more I scrolled the more the ad obstructed my view. Apparently the only way to get rid of it was to click on the image and be sucked into your stupid contest/survey. Do it today? I'll never do it.

No wonder newspapers are dying out. You idiots still think you have a monopoly on news and can pull crap like this. Forget it. New media is eating you alive, you dinosaurs.

Don't explain this way as a "computer error." A computer error is a human mistake by a jerk using a computer. And the "glitch" explanation ain't gonna fly. If you were unaware of this ad blockage, then you obviously shouldn't be running a website.

Offerings At The Shrine

On the Broad Street side of the building that used to house Kriff's Furniture is a rusty door. Apparently there must be some sort of primitive religious significance to that location because food offerings have been left there. It appears whatever pagan god lurks on the other side of the corroding barrier enjoyed an orange but passed on a chocolate muffin after one bite.

If there's anything I like it's Lovecraftian litter.

May Snow: So What?

My favorite description of winter: "cold, white misery." Especially after six months of it in this neck of the woods.

Here in the Lake Champlain / Adirondack region some people are upset or surprised by seeing snow in May. This year it snowed on Mother's Day, May 9th. There was that damn white stuff on springtime tulips in the higher elevations, places like up dere in Vermontville.

So far May 2010 has produced a good share of cold, wintry weather. And it won't surprise me if we have a repeat of May 1996. Back then we had a double whammy -- it snowed on both Mother's Day and soon after Memorial Day. Here's the evidence (click on image to enlarge):

The excerpts above are taken from the book, Adirondack Weather by Jerome S. Thaler (2004). Page 60 lists the recorded extremes for May from all available records. May 12th, 1996 -- Mother's Day that year -- saw 5 inches of snow in two days in Wanakena. And the next day, May 13th, Raybrook was greeted with half a foot of the powdery nuisance. I think the word "Mother" was invoked a few times back then but not in observance of the holiday.

And to round out a perfect month, May 29th, 1996 was the day for two inches to drop on Lake Placid. Memorial Day weekend was the 25th - 27th that year. Maybe this year the snow will fall during the holiday weekend. What a way to celebrate: snowflakes sizzling on your outdoor grill.

Not to say that this area is the only place for May snow and the ensuing extension of the hibernation habit. Years ago I was student at SUNY-Morrisville, a two year college located in the middle of nowhere between Syracuse and Utica, central New York State. One day in the first week of May I got up and opened the blinds in my door dorm. The sun was glaring, intense from the layer of snow that covered everything. Bright but cold. No melting snow. I closed the blinds and went back to sleep. Class wasn't that important.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Specialty Food For Dumb Blondes?

It's amazing what you can find at the grocery store down the street. But isn't this bread company stereotyping? (Not that I would ever stoop so low.)

It's Here! Iron Man 2: The Litter

Why The Taciturnity?

The Press-Republican is still pursuing the story of a man who was allegedly beaten at the residence of a local fraternity. But there's an impression from the latest article that the Plattsburgh Police Department is holding back on details once again.

Headlined "Fraternity linked to assault has history of problems," (4/7/10) the article mentions new information provided by Michael C. Viscosi, an Albany attorney representing one of the suspects:

"Viscosi said Thursday that another arrest had been made in the case. But City Police Chief Desmond Racicot said the incident remains under investigation and that no further information would be released Thursday."

If another arrest has been made, shouldn't that be public knowledge? Why is the PD so tightlipped at times about information it possesses that should be available to the public ? As far as I know, there is still the concept of the public's right to know. Or did that get tossed out with the passage of the so-called Patriot Act?

Don't Pooh Pooh These Ideas

Gee, someone gave me this Press-Republican classified ad (4/6/10, P. B11). I wonder why?

And also a Hat Tip to Dean to sending me the link to this article:

The Adirondack Daily Enterprise article, dated 3/31/10, is headlined "Police give the scoop on River Walk dog poop," but the warning from the Saranac Lake police chief is no joke. Chief Bruce Nason wanted to remind every dog-owner that there was a village ordinance that required picking up after his pet or face a fine of $75.

$75? Hey, come to Plattsburgh and save money. It's only $25 to crap in the park or anywhere else, according to the city charter.

The ADE article also mentioned that the village police have been asked to increase patrols on the River Walk "due to complaints of a higher-than-usual amount of dog feces." Also, there was the possibility that police might install cameras to catch scofflaws.

I'm no fan of cameras on every corner but if a couple could help to cut down on dogshit, then go ahead.

The Saranac Lake village police are taking a proactive role about the local dogshit problem. Plattsburgh's mayor wants to save the city money. So if city police officers are too busy to enforce the law regarding dogshit, to handle their job doody, maybe the city could hire Dr. Doo on a part-time basis. After all, privatization of services is supposed to save money. And in this case, it could also save on shoe-scraping.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

That Watchdog Don't Hunt

News media are supposed to be watchdogs, protecting the public from abuses by the government. But sometimes the watchdog acts like an obedient bitch, rolling over and playing dead, hoping to get a treat.

I won't rehash the whole Judith Miller-New York Times-Iraq War Jingoism mess. You can find plenty of info elsewhere on how the Cheney White House used NYT as a propaganda whore. I'm just mentioning it as an extreme example of how a watchdog can fail big time to bite or even bark.

Local news media are also supposed to be more than mouthpieces for the authorities. Sometimes I wonder how much dogged pursuit is given to seeking out information by entities such as WPZT-TV News and the Press-Republican.

Cynics question how WPTZ anchor Stephanie Gorin can maintain journalistic objectivity while married to City of Plattsburgh Police Chief Desmond Racicot. Last August I posted at this blog about a woman who claimed that her son was the victim of police brutality by Plattsburgh officers. I don't know all the details about what happened to her son. But the mother was so upset that she publicly protested. One of her signs pointed out the Stephanie Gorin-Police Chief connection, the possible conflict of interest.

As far as I know, neither WPTZ or the Press Republican ever looked into the allegations by the distraught mother.

For years I've heard that the Plattsburgh PD is too tightlipped at times and the Press Republican just plays along. That must be why I see lame articles in the PR about crime in the city.

Under certain circumstances I can understand a police department being guarded about giving out info. For example, there's been a traffic fatality and the next-of-kin haven't been notified. It's better for the PD to make the call than have an eager reporter out for the scoop break the news to the relatives. Also, some investigations require some secrecy: the police don't want to tip off someone that he's the target of a probe, giving that person the advantage to destroy evidence or flee.

And when a story is just breaking, the police are trying to piece together all the details, then it's understandable the PD doesn't want to make any premature statements.

But what about a case where the crime happened days ago, that a victim and suspects have been identified by the PD? Is there a need for secrecy?

OK, I should say alleged crime, alleged victim and even alleged suspects. The Press Republican can report on alleged stuff, get the alleged details, can't it?

Apparently not. Take this PR story, "College frat members suspected in severe beating of local man" dated May 4, 2010. Amazing how many details are missing.

The victim isn't named. The suspects aren't named. Even the exact address of where the beating supposedly happened isn't mentioned. Even the time and day are unknown. Police Chief Racicot is quoted that the assault happened sometime last week.

The PR gets most of the details from unnamed "sources." Is this news? I get the impression that there would have been no story at all if not for the sources.

Chief Racicot was asked for the address where the crime allegedly happened.

His reply: "We are not disclosing the exact address... At this point, it is under investigation."

Sources say the man was so severely beaten that he was transported to the medical center in Burlington, Vermont. That indicates serious injuries. So what were the injuries?

Racicot's reply: "We cannot disclose the extent of the injuries."

So with some details from "sources" and evasive answers from the Police Chief, the PR offers an alleged news story.

Why the secrecy? Is the PR going to push and probe or just roll over for a treat?

The Soviet Union had Pravda. We've got the Press Republican.

UPDATE: 5/4/10, 4:10 PM. Well, some breaking news over at . Arrests have been made and suspects have been named. Good follow-up. But once again I wonder if unnamed sources made the difference in getting attention to this story sooner. So I’ll retract my simplistic Pravda-PR comparison… for now.

Bagging A Term, Limiting Free Speech

So the Press-Republican has tightened up the rules for posting online comments to stories published on its web site. And guess what term is considered not PC? Check out this screencap:

"Tea bagger" is a profanity? If so, why can the PR print it as a verboten term but I can't use it in a comment? Double standard, eh?

Like they say, bagness is in the eye of the beholder.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Copyright Kerfuffle

Image --

Ask a question, poke a wasp's nest. And maybe you'll get an answer.
provides commentary and discussions on high tech news including copyright issues that arise from the use of high tech. A reader can submit a question and Techdirt experts will provide an answer.

The Clinton County Historical Association has been making digital copies of glass negs dating from 1897. Most of the negs are portraits of local people taken at photography studios. The portraits are arranged in alphabetical order by last name. When you go the CCHA glass negative galleries and click on a particular galley, you encounter this statement before entering:

"All photographs in this gallery are the property of the Clinton County Historical Association and are protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) and by the Berne Convention. Reproduction, storage or transmittal by any means, of any image on this web site, whole or in part, is prohibited without express prior written permission. Prints purchased from this gallery may not be reproduced or scanned for any reason and may only be used for personal display. If you wish to publish or reproduce the materials in any physical or digital form or use them for any commercial purpose, including display or Web page use, you must obtain prior written permission from the Clinton County Historical Association.

Do you agree with these terms? YES NO"

To see the images you have to click on YES.

I'm not an IP attorney but it seemed to me that CCHA couldn't put a copyright claim on images so old. The images should be in the public domain. I had no trouble with CCHA charging for prints made from the glass negs. Obviously the digital scanning was labor intensive and so I had no qualms about CCHA being compensated for the work, raising money as a nonprofit organization. I just questioned the way the organization was trying to prevent unauthorized copying by putting up a copyright click agreement.

So I submitted some details and links to Techdirt. One of the experts, Dennis Yang, said that CCHA couldn't claim copyright. He explained:

"As ruled in Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp. 36 F. Supp. 2d 191 (S.D.N.Y. 1999), exact photographic copies of works in the public domain cannot be copyrighted. So, the question then extends to whether or not those photos are in the public domain yet. The copyright is owned by the photographer and lasts for life plus 70 years. Since the photos in question were taken from 1901-1905, it is likely that many have already passed into the public domain."

Yang also noted that even if CCHA had the copyright to the images, it was limiting itself by "hiding" them from search engines.

But in the comments that followed a few readers argued whether or not Yang's answer was correct. So while I appreciate Yang taking the time to reply, I still don't know if the issue is that clear cut.

I am familiar with the concept of fair use. Notice that at the top of this post is an image I took from CCHA of a digitalized glass neg, complete with an ugly watermark. I didn't ask for permission in writing to use it to illustrate this article, despite the click-through agreement. I am only using the image to show what kind of images are archived at the CCHA website. My use is journalistic, noncommercial.

Maybe I'll hear a knock on my door from the Copyright Police.

Defenestrator's Heaven

Saturday, May 01, 2010

The True Origin Of Cinco De Mayo

Many years ago an American mayonnaise company decided to build a factory in Mexico. The local villagers warned the arrogant Americans that they shouldn't locate their factory on swampland. No matter how much landfill was trucked in, said the locals, the property wouldn't support such a large building.

The American businessmen laughed at the villagers, thinking they were ignorant.

The factory was built and was soon up and running. But one day it suddenly sank, breaking up, a total loss.

The local villagers celebrated that event as a special holiday: Sinkhole Of Mayo.