Tuesday, October 26, 2010

John Kokoszka: Humanity In Steel

Inspired by Da Vinci's The Last Supper metal sculptor John Kokoszka has brought that painting to life with his latest welded creation. And despite that it is constructed of cold steel, his work expresses the humanity in each figure, especially Christ with his barb wire crown of thorns.

The unveiling on Sunday afternoon, Oct. 24, was greeted by cool and rainy weather. But that didn't keep the people away: everyone dressed in layers and most popped open their umbrellas.

The full scale work is on display at the Stone Ledge Sculpture Garden, 3901 Route 9, about 4 1/2 miles south of Plattsburgh City. For more information: (518) 561-2683.

Happy (Cough-Cough) Halloween! (GACK!)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Tight Spot? Call In TOD

Carmon Rust and Brian Leighton are big guys. During a paranormal investigation they don't like to crawl around inside a tight attic or basement.

(Note: I'm also a big guy; I know what kind of limitations they face.)

Carmon and Brian are investigators for the Northern New York Paranormal Research Society, a group that checks into reports of supernatural events. When they can't personally eyeball an enclosed area, they plan to call in TOD.

That's Terrestrial Ocular Droid, a remote controlled toy mounted with a small camera that can be operated by a laptop computer or cell phone. Besides an acronym, TOD is also the name of a former NNYPRS investigator who liked to worm around inside attics and basements.

TOD meets the audience during a recent lecture by NNYPRS investigators.

TOD was one of the devices discussed by Carmon and Brian during their lecture at the Second Annual Northern NY Paranormal Expo held Saturday at the City of Plattsburgh Recreational Center, AKA the old Air Force base gym. Both speakers admitted they were geeks during their presentation, The Tools We Have Built. But unlike geeks who jury-rig just stuff for fun, the investigators recycle old parts and equipment to create practical devices that help them with their investigations.

Brian explained that almost any speaker can be inverted in function to become a microphone. One device he displayed as a car bass tube speaker rewired to a small amplifier to act as a low-frequency audio monitor.

Sometimes investigators have to peer beyond the visible light spectrum. A large flashlight was converted into a infra-red illuminator, the IR radiation visible on special cameras. An IR flashlight and camera were passed around the room. The flashlight seemed to be off but when an audience member viewed it through the special camera, the infra-red light could be seen.

Carmon Rust explains how a paranormal investigator can see beyond the visible light spectrum using special tools.

NNYPRS members are on a tight budget but functional investigative equipment can be made for less if one is inventive. A directional microphone to pick up soft sounds was made for a total cost of about five dollars. The case was made from an old six volt flashlight that Carmon was about to toss out when inspiration struck. For a pick-up dome a dog dish from the Dollar General store was attached. An inexpensive sound amp, a few wires, some outputs jacks and Voila! -- a functional mic is born. The device was passed around to the audience; a few heard Carmon sotto voce through its headphones.

It's amazing what you can hear through a dog dish.

Then there's TOD, a recycled toy tank with rubberized treads and a camera eye viewable on a computer monitor. Responding to my follow-up questions, Brian explained via email that TOD communicates via wi fi and can be controlled with arrow keys or a joystick. He added that the device is in the developmental stage. While it hasn't detected anything unusual, it did scare some unsuspecting people during a couple of field tests. When it does go into action in during an investigation, a rope will be attached to haul it back in case it gets hung up or its battery dies.

Someday TOD will go where angels -- and big guys -- fear to tread.

TOD keeps an eye on things at the NNYPRS vendor table. That large black tube to the left is a car speaker converted into a low-frequency microphone.

For more information about the Northern NY Paranormal Research Society: http://www.nnyprs.com/

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Free Spirit

Healer Linda Marie Hill (right) explains what she senses about the energy field of an audience volunteer.

Spirits must be freed from this earthly plane.

That was the theme of Linda Marie Hill's lecture at the Second Annual Northern NY Paranormal Expo held at the Plattsburgh City Recreation Center. Her presentation entitled Spirit Release included the participation of volunteers from the audience who believed they were being negatively affected by attached spirits.

Why do spirits remain in this earthly plane? There are a variety of reasons, explained Linda. After someone dies, he might be afraid to go on to the next level, fearing punishment by God. Such spirits seek attachment to living individuals.

She admitted that her beliefs were unusual to most people. That consensus by society at large didn't make her hold back during her presentation. Linda projected the impression of an independent mind, confident, outgoing, reaching out to her listeners. Her small audience was attentive, open to her thoughts.

When she asked for volunteers come forward and help to demonstrate her skills, three readily volunteered, two women and one man. Using different tools of her trade such as a pendulum and L-shaped dowsing rods, Linda detected the energy field surrounding each volunteer.

A person's energy field should be egg-shaped, she stated, close to the physical body. When there is a psychic imbalance, the turmoil can distort and grow the field. One volunteer stood on one side of the room while Linda moved away, searching for the edge of the volunteer's personal field. Linda's dowsing L-rod didn't turn until she was on the other side of the room, showing the expansiveness of the field, an area invisible to most people.

No one openly scoffed during the presentation. It was obvious that believers were here, individuals who genuinely thought that spirit attachment was real and such healers as Linda could release victims of such attachments. A volunteer's facial expression revealed inner pain.

At one point Linda spoke to a man sitting in the front row, reassuring him that everything was OK, touching him on the arm. She understood his distress.

Linda mentioned that she met someone who had visited the Vietnam War Memorial. The woman ended up with thousands of spirits attached to her, souls that didn't want to leave.

Spirits can attach through a variety of ways. Computers with their electro-magnetic radiation can weaken one's energy field. Visiting an Internet porn site can make the viewer vulnerable, unleashing porn spirits. Spirits are neither necessarily good or bad, Linda said, but they must be released to enter the higher plane and continue the cycle of life.

Feng Shui On The Range

Man, what a weird setting for a lecture.

Like the others in the audience I was sitting on the green in an orange plastic chair. The bright orange created contrasting clashes with the lawn. To my left and right grass sprawled to the horizon, meeting a wall of white clouds beneath the blue sky. Behind me was a serene site, a pond and trees. I was enclosed by expanses of white netting on three sides plus more over my head. Could the netting act as a spirit catcher?

The grass was stiff and crunchy under my feet. There was no breeze. No moving ripples on the pond's surface. The clouds were still.

I didn't have to worry about rain. Neither did the grass. Artificial turf doesn't need water. And I doubted the weather would ever change here, not with the painted scenery on the walls.

In the main area of the building -- the basketball court -- various vendors were set up, including psychics giving readings at folding tables adorned with lit candles. And while that scene was unusual with its sports-supernatural dichotomy vibe, this setting had it beat.

Saturday afternoon at the Second Annual Northern NY Paranormal Expo at the City of Plattsburgh Recreation Center. This year the event featured a vendor showcase speakers area in the indoor golf range

Behind the speaker was an upper level where spots were set up for golfers to whack away. It appeared the driving range was originally a small theatre back in the days when the grounds were an active military base; that explained the stage-like area. If it had been a theatre, what ghosts were lurking about? How scary is a ham actor transformed into a haunting entity? Or an incorporeal corporal? Probably more annoying than frightening.

There was a lot going on at this year's expo. And while the speakers were friendly, they were busy, helping people seeking answers pertaining to the mysteries of the unknown. The speakers didn't need someone asking somewhat spurious questions.

For example, doesn't the feng shui of an indoor driving range affect aura readings? Are L-shaped dowser rods influenced by fake scenery? Could such devices be thrown off by the dowser subconsciously reacting to a painted panorama? Does artificial turf prevent L-rods from detecting water?

And related to the driving range motif, if a psychic yells "Fore!" is that a warning that he's foretelling the future or he's about to hit a golf ball?

Some questions are best left unasked.

And that's no mystery.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Plattsburgh's SOP: Let Leak Become Deluge

Hey, what happened to the ceiling panels?

Oh, I see.

Once again a patch job has failed to stop a chronic leak at the Plattsburgh Public Library. For years -- maybe decades -- Plattsburgh City hasn't spent the money to fix the same damn leak. Well, at least the rainwater didn't come down and blow up a computer this time (that did happen some time ago).

Like the PPL front steps (see here, here, and here), the city has been trying to expend minimal effort in locating the leak source and fixing it for good. The front steps were finally fixed after the city put the time and money into the problem but for some reason it hasn't learned its lesson with the leak. After a while what you save in a quick patch job means nothing because the problem keeps growing, costing much more to correct down the line.

But this is nothing new as many citizens of Plattsburgh are aware. Another infrastructure area that the city ignored in the past were its streets, letting them go to hell, potholes all over. A good deep pothole is beneficial for your car's wheel alignment.

And related to this question of infrastructure, a resident, Francis Ricard, claims in his blog that the city is skimping on the maintenance of its water supply system ("Swimming In my Sink!?", http://francissaysitsso.blogspot.com/.) I haven't verified his statements but I wouldn't be surprised if there was truth to be found in Ricard's claims.

As for the PPL leak, there must be some way of locating its origin. A few spots on the roof must be under suspicion, places where the rainwater pools up. Couldn't non-permanent dyes of different colors be used to trace the leak into the building? But you say those dyes would stain the ceiling tiles. At this point, what difference would it make? Tiles have already been completely trashed.

(And in case someone is scoffing at my idea, here's one hit I found through a quick Google search: Presto Dyechem Co Trace-A-Leak Fluorescent Red Dye Leak. Other similar products are also out there.)

Remember, visitors judge a community by its institutions. Imagine a first-time visitor to PPL walking in and seeing this:

Classy, eh?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Bug On My Desk

Better a bug on my desk than one in my computer.

The other night I was typing away at my computer when I noticed a small black object with orange stripes sitting to my side. It was just sitting there, maybe taking a break or hoping I wouldn't see it.

I was curious. I had seen similar bugs before. The other day a couple of them were hanging around on the siding to my apartment building. Since I was already online, I used Google to learn what kind of insect critter had entered my sanctum sanctorum. The search phrase "black beetles orange stripes" lead me to the answer.

My visitor was a boxelder bug, Boisea trivittata to you Latin fans. Once source says that they don't bite; they do leave after a while so just ignore them. When the weather gets cold in autumn, the boxelder bug (it's not a beetle) heads inside for a place to hibernate. Other sources stated they can be a pest when a horde of them -- 200 or more -- show up in the springtime or early summer and swarm all over a sunny spot. They're pesky when the sunny spot is on the side of your building or on your car.

After IDing my harmless visitor, I set up my tripod and camera with macro lens. I don't like flash as a rule so I used the indirect light coming from my floor lamp. This meant long exposures, even as long as three seconds. So when the bug moved around or cleaned his leg, I ended up with some interesting time exposures.

My gigantic camera and lens did spook him but I managed to wrangle him to more or less stay on my desk. At one point he ended up on the end of a pencil.

I noticed that the bug was missing an antenna. Maybe I accidentally injured him when I moved a pile of papers on my desk. Anyway, there was no reason to kill him -- or to keep him in my apartment. So I carefully scooped him up and released him back into the wild.

Now I can add the description "bug wrangler" on my resume under skills.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

FOIL Foiled: City Losing More Than Saving?

Is the City of Plattsburgh so focused on saving money that in the long run it ends up losing more?

That point is raised in a public response to WIRY radio commentator Ducky Drake by Working Families Party mayoral candidate Kathi McCleery. In her email reply McCleery mentions how the city has been trying to save money by challenging certain terms in contracts with union employees. She writes:

"I know that if a written contract exists, it must be followed. My point? The issues of contract law, Taylor Law and civil service law are apparently not understood by the current administration, which may or may not have large payroll experience. How can I make this statement? The city has lost every PERB [NYS Public Employee Relations Board] hearing (not some, not many, but ALL) for the past four years."

McCleery estimates that a quarter of a million dollars has been spent in losing legal battles with city employees. She did submit a FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) request to get more than an estimate but her request was denied. The reason: there was too much information for the city to provide. It appears, adds McCleery, the city has generated so many legal fees in the last four years that such data is unavailable.

Besides the legal fees, she points out there are other expenses such as travel costs, lost wages, court costs and arbitrators’ fees.

With McCleery's FOIL denied, Plattsburgh citizens may never find out how much of their money has been spent in failed legal maneuvers against city unions.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Latest Fad: Why 2K?

I thought it was just me. I keep seeing a number of cars with two plastic kayaks on the roof. So I decided to do a little research via Google. As soon as I typed in the keywords "two kayaks," these search terms were suggested:

"two kayaks on car roof"

"two kayak car rack"

"two kayaks on car"

"how to carry two kayaks"

"roof rack for two kayaks"

And other search terms, each one with thousands of hits. What intrigues me is how many of these rooftop kayaks ever hit the water. After all, how many yuppies used to drive their SUVs off road?

Decades ago status was established by a home with a two car garage. Now the trend is a two-kayak car.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Doggone It! A New Power Source

In an article headlined "Dog poop has bright side: Powering Mass. park lamp" artist Matthew Mazzotta has created a way to recycle canine crap: use it as fuel for a gaslight lantern at a dog park in Cambridge.

An astute reader [Hat Tip: Kelly Julian Sexton] sent me a link to this story. Why did she do that? Obviously you've never read my bad blog, Dogtown 12901. (Warning: Gross images over at that blog.)

The system set up by Mazzotta has dog-owners picking after their pets with free biodegradable bags. Then the bags are dropped into a steel drum and the dog-owner turns a crank to mix up the deposited Fido feces with water. Microbes do their work, creating methane that is burned off by the lantern.

Considering Plattsburgh's plethora of pooch poop, the city easily has enough potential fuel to create the energy output of a medium-sized nuclear power plant. But I'm afraid that Mazzotta's system wouldn't work here. Yes, some people would be happy to go along with it, they're considerate citizens, but...

Too many people don't pick up after their dogs already, even in places like Trinity Park where free waste bags are provided. Apparently it's beneath these individuals to keep a shared public space clean for others, so don't bother them. If they're that inconsiderate, forget about them taking the time to turn a drum and create bio-fuel. Rude dog-owners in Plattsburgh are too cranky to crank.

Over at Dogtown 12901 you can read how a fed up citizen in a Chicago suburb tried another tactic in dealing with the dog crap problem. (No bad images with that post.)

Friday, October 01, 2010

Candidate Ducks Ducky; Drake Falls On Floor, Pounds Fists, Screams

Throwing a tantrum isn't the best way to open up a dialogue with someone.

That's the impression that media "personality" Ducky Drake gave in his last "Is It Just Me Commentary?," broadcast Tuesday, 9/28/10 on WIRY Radio, 1340 AM.

During his commentary entitled "The Name Game" Ducky states that not many people have heard of Working Families Party candidate Kathi McCleery who is running against Mayor Donald Kasprzak. To prove his point Ducky poses a quiz, asking his listeners to name the lady candidate running for mayor in Plattsburgh from a list that includes McCleery, Nancy Drew, and Sarah Palin.

Such childish behavior for a professional commentator. What provoked this? Ducky is upset that McCleery won't respond to questions he has submitted to her via email. He portrays McCleery as someone who can't be bothered to acknowledge his inquiries.

I'm not going to get into a "he said, she said" debate. Maybe McCleery has taken the wrong tack with Ducky.

But if someone is reluctant to speak with me, the last thing that will work is attacking that person, trying to provoke them to respond. I know I don't like intimidation.

It could be McCleery is wary of Ducky and the way he conducts his "journalism." Maybe she doesn't trust him.

Then again, it's hard to trust someone when they sneer at you for allegedly getting your information from Googling, implying that you're both lazy and unknowledgeable. Ducky claims that's how McCleery got her answers regarding the issue of restarting the compost plant.

So what if someone uses Google? It's a research tool. It does take some intelligence to use it.

Do you know how to use a search engine, Ducky? Maybe you should go Google yourself.

Ducky comes across as an egotist who expects everyone to play his game. And if someone doesn't want to play, he attacks.

In his commentary -- you can hear it at this link -- Ducky wraps up his tirade by saying to McCleery:

"I'll clean this up just a bit. It's time for you to do it or get off the pot. So I'll ask you one more time. Will you answer my questions? Your reply..."

Long pause. Silence.

"I thought so."

Yup, that creates a suitable atmosphere for McCleery to reply, Ducky acting up like a spoiled little boy sprawled on the floor, throwing a tantrum, daring someone to do what he wants.

Ducky deserves a time out. WIRY should make him stand in the corner.

ADDENDUM: Yes, this post is another example of how not to diplomatically open up dialogue with a difficult person. But Ducky has established a track record; his past actions prove that he prefers ad hominem attacks and controversy over reasoned dialogue. It's a waste of time to try to engage in meaningful debate with someone so egocentric, someone who thinks only he dispenses the truth. There are many people like that in the world, too many. For example, Osama bin Laden.

In this case what's good for the goose is good for the Drake.