Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Historical Anatomy Question

Did Samuel de Champlain have a tail?

Bending TheK nee! ?

Maybe I'll go to the "hurch" and ask if they want me to vote or veto on "November6 th."  (See how the Press-Republican has improved so much with the extra quarter being charged per newsstand copy?  Even display ads get the special treatment.  It seems the PR outsourced its layout to Bizarro World.)

Newshole Follies

"Quick -- we got a blank spot on page A2, nothing to fill it with, no ad or story!  Hey, let's just copy and reduce the some of the articles already on the page and plug the hole that way.  No one will notice..."

(Click on image below to enlarge.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

PPL Board Talks In Circles

PLATTSBURGH CITY, NY - October 23, 2012

Ever see a blind dog chase its own tail?

After sitting in for over two hours at the Plattsburgh Public Library Board of Trustees this evening I felt I had witnessed a lot of circling around issues, the same points repeated ad nauseam, but no decisive action.

Yes, it’s not easy working with others in a group setting.  Various viewpoints have to be considered.  That’s how the democratic process works.  Unfortunately at times the process is inefficient.  Group dynamics twist upon themselves.

I can’t criticize every individual on the board.  Each one cares in his or her own way but in the end the PPL Board of Trustees comes across as dysfunctional.
There are problems the Board must address, especially in the area of the city budget process.  Mayor Donald Kaszpzak’s proposed budget for next year includes cutting out $60,000 from PPL.  If this action does proceed, certain undesirable matter will strike the air circulation propeller.

As I detailed about a year ago at this blog there was a lot of controversy about how to address a budget shortfall at the public library.  The trustees decided to take the simple way out and lay off staff.

Fortunately city Councilor Tim Carpenter came to the rescue with an alternative plan that meant no layoffs, just hours cut and other concessions.  It seemed that this would be the set-up for the next four years, the city contributing $60,000 per year to keep the library going.  But the catch is that contribution has to be approved every year.

This evening at the PPL Board meeting there was discussion, more discussion, and even more discussion how the trustees should present its case on behalf of the library to the city council.  As council liaison Tim Carpenter pointed out, the mayor proposes a budget but the council has the final say.

After Carpenter left the meeting John Prim (Ward I) proposed that the Board should act as if the $60,000 wouldn’t be approved, going back to the option last year to lay off people.

Board Vice President Sally McSweeney (Ward IV) mentioned that if the $60,000 contribution from the city didn’t continue, the new agreement made with the PPL employees union would be null and void, thus the old contract would kick in.

As one observer familiar with the situation has mentioned to me such a scenario doesn’t bode well for the city.  Besides the public backlash over PPL employees who made concessions in good faith and still end up being tossed out in the street, other city unions could also raise a stink.  The city has been pointing at the PPL contract, telling other unions that if PPL had to make concessions then they must also.  A return to that old contract wouldn’t give the city anything to point at.

For some reason trustee John Prim acted as if he shouldn’t be an advocate for the library, its patrons and employees.  He had admitted defeat, ready to cut jobs.  Ward III trustee Harold Brohinsky pointed out that it seems that the mayor won’t fight the council over the $60,000 to avoid another public relations war.  But Prim didn’t pick up on that.

The meeting spun around and around.  A consensus couldn’t be raised about how the Board should present its case to the city council.

A couple of trustees said that the Board should have a united front, advocating for the best on the part of PPL.  On the other hand John Prim was ready to wave the towel as a white flag before throwing it into the ring.

The Board then went into executive session to secretly discuss who knows what.  I had to leave, walk away.

I didn't mind.  It was a relief to my sore ass.

Disability Advocates Address PPL Accessibility Problems

Disability advocate Debra Buell shows a keyboard after an inexpensive fix that makes it more usable for someone with vision limitations.

PLATTSBURGH CITY, NY -- October 23, 2012

Sometimes as the solution is as simple as putting high-contrast stickers on a computer keyboard.

Other solutions involve much more work.

At the Tuesday evening meeting of the PPL Board of Trustees disability advocate Debra Buell pointed out problems that disabled patrons face when using the Plattsburgh Public Library.  She offered suggestions that would help those patrons with wheelchairs or walkers and those with vision or hearing limitations.  She was accompanied by Andrew Pulrang, Executive Director of the North Country Center for Independence.

Debra mentioned that she had been trying for around a decade to work with various  library directors on resolving issues affecting disabled patrons.  She provided the PPL Board an informational CD with videos and photographs documenting areas that needed attention such as the public computers and the photocopier.

She also included a video of the difficulties she encountered with her wheelchair fitting into the handicap stall in the women's restroom.  The stall wasn't long and deep enough, meaning that the door couldn't be closed for privacy because her chair stuck out.  Also, the set-up made it problematic for someone to ambulate out of a wheelchair by using the handrails; the grab bars were too far away.  With a measuring tape in hand she showed that the stall at its narrowest point -- where the paper dispenser was attached to a wall -- was about 29 inches wide, not 6 feet wide to be ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant.

In her video Debra noted that money had been spent on making the stall more accessible but the renovations didn't go far enough.

She and Andrew suggested to the PPL Board was making a restroom unisex and handicap compliant, no stalls.

Suggestions were also made how to modify the public access computers so that people with vision and hearing difficulties would have less problems using them. Debra held up a netbook computer with high-contrast stickers on its keyboard that made it easier for the visually impaired to type.  The stickers, she said, were less than three dollars.

Interim PPL Director Russell Puschak said he was willing to work on improving accessibility.

This photograph by Debra Buell shows how her wheelchair is too big to fit into a bathroom stall at Plattsburgh Public Library.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Frankie Pops The Question

 MORRISONVILLE, NY  - October 20, 2012

At a Halloween-themed barn dance Saturday night the Frankenstein monster (AKA Frankenstein, Frankie or Jimmy Dolan) joined the Blind Owl Band on stage to make a special announcement.

Attending the event was the Bride of Frankenstein (Erica Exner) who had met Frankie a year ago through the Blind Owl Band.  Frankie mentioned this during his announcement, saying that once again the band was providing an opportunity for him -- this time to ask her for her hand in marriage.

 As you can see in the above photo, the Bride was stunned as if hit by an electrical jolt.  Behind her a vandyke-bearded man couldn't contain his own surprise as evinced by his agape reaction.  (Hey, is that Skitch Henderson or "Sing Along With" Mitch Miller?)

The Bride said yes and this Frankenstein story had a happy ending.  Congrats to Erica and Jimmy.

Friday, October 19, 2012

ROTA: Best Of The Best

PLATTSBURGH CITY - October 19, 2012

ROTA Gallery And Studios, located at 50 Margaret Street, kicked off its first annual juried art exhibit this evening featuring various works by local artists.  Gallery hours are usually 12 PM to 5 PM daily depending upon volunteer staffing.  More info: rotagallery (at) gmail (dot) com; Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/rotagallery .

Readers Stock Up For Winter

Sponsored by The Friends of the Plattsburgh Public Library, a bargain book sale wraps up on Saturday, Oct. 20th, starting at 9:30 AM with paperbacks at 25¢ each and hardcovers at only 50¢ each.  From 2 PM on fill up a grocery bag for only $1.00.  
Videos and CDs are also for sale.   The sale is being held in the PPL second floor auditorium.   One way to get through a long North Country winter is to have a stack of good books on hand.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


PLATTSBURGH CITY - October 13, 2012

Prepping for participation in a zombie walk can be a bloody mess.

Zombie Walk 2012

Click below to activate slide show.

Or you can view the entire set without the slide show: http://flic.kr/s/aHsjCsQBPq

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Country Cub Finds City Life Unbearable

PLATTSBURGH CITY, NY – October 11, 2012

A day for man interfacing with nature.

Before I left home this afternoon to shoot some photos down by the river and lake I noticed a report on the Press-Republican Website that a bear cub had been seen in the city but had left the area.

The 60 pound cub had been wandering around the Plattsburgh State campus in the morning but according to the news report the Plattsburgh Police Department thought it was leaving the city via Rugar Woods.

Apparently the cub had its own plans.

When I was crossing the footbridge over the Saranac River I noticed a fisherman standing in the water motion to a second one at something on the shore.  I spotted a black shape – about the size of a large furry dog – dash across the tree-lined pathway running parallel to the river, diving for cover in the brush.  I’m guessing it followed the river down from Rugar Woods; I doubt the timid visitor took a shortcut through the city proper.

The police chief and DEC (NYS Department of Environmental Conservation) officials soon showed up, asking people to leave the area.  I was able to take a couple of decent shots of the shy cub before moving on.  At one point the bear was out in the open by the sewage treatment plant roadway, good lighting from the sun, but I was too slow to get the image before he scrambled back into the brush.  Call it my fish-that-got-away story.

The young bear limped; apparently one of his paws was injured.

Later I saw police and DEC vehicles in the area of the boat basin, probably trying to coax the bear cub away.

So maybe it followed the lake shoreline back into the countryside.  Or it could’ve been making tracks on the railroad tracks.  Or maybe it was going to circle back through Rugar Woods and pay the college campus another visit.

Sometimes it’s not easy herding nature.

Sunday, October 07, 2012


Les Across The Lake

Les Cosgrove (right) responds to a question from Stuck In Vermont vlogger Eva Sollberger.  Behind Les is her work, "Gluttony," part of her Seven Deadly Sins series.  

BURLINGTON, VT -- October 5, 2012

Plattsburgh area artist Les Cosgrove and 49 other artists from the region are sharing images in tune with the Halloween season in the exhibit, "The Art Of Horror," on display until October 31st at the S.P.A.C.E. Gallery.  Info about the  gallery can be found at www.spacegalleryvt.com .  More details about Les's work can be found at http://lescosgrove.blogspot.com/ .

Two patrons of the arts visually feed on the work, "Gluttony," by Les Cosgrove.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Looking For Lamprey

PLATTSBURGH CITY - Sept. 28, 2012


A man wades through a shallow pool near the mouth of the Saranac River, the boxy device strapped on his back emitting distinctive electronic sounds.  He appears to be a cross between a fisherman and a Ghostbuster: cap, waders, rubber boots, and what appears to a crude knock-off of a proton pack cabled to a long white pole he uses to probe the water.

Wading next to him is a woman wearing sunglasses, her dark hair up in a bun, holding a plastic bucket in one hand and a pole topped with a  mesh net in the other.  When there's a long beep, the woman scoops up something from the water and dumps it into the bucket.

OK, so what's this all about?  I just have to ask.

The man is a technician from the University of Vermont, Alex Sotola, who graduated last May from Plattsburgh State University College.   The woman, Aude Lochet, is a student from the Rubenstein School (UVM) working on her post doctorate.  They're soon joined by George Maynard, a student in the Master's program in Natural Science at PSUC, who also grabs a bucket and net.  The three slowly walk around the shallow pool created by a stretch of ground and rocks near the shore, one person beeping, the other two netting and bucketing.

(Left to right)  George Maynard, Alex Sotola and Aude Lochet net another baby lamprey in the Saranac River.

Aude explains later that she's working on a project involving sea lampreys, an invasive lake species that spawns upriver.

According to my online research the offspring from those aquatic honeymoons work their way downstream into Lake Champlain, later becoming adults to continue the cycle.

Also from my online research I learn that adult lamprey die after spawning but the thousands of eggs laid by the female -- up to 100,000 -- drift downriver and burrow into the riverbed, feeding on algae, microscopic organisms and detritus, growing into wormlike larva.

An adult lamprey -- which can grow up to 24 inches long -- looks like an eel with a circular sucker mouth ringed with teeth.  The parasite attaches itself to a fish, boring in to drink its blood and fluids.  Most victims are species like trout which have commercial value.

Aude and her companions are looking for young lamprey as part of her study.  The pack that Alex is wearing emits a shock similar to the charge given off by an electric fence.  The long beep is a warning that current is being generated and that no one should reach into the water during that time.

The purpose of the shock is to jolt the young lamprey to the surface from their ensconced safety in the muck at the bottom of the pool.  Aude will take the lamprey back to the lab to determine where they have originated from upstream.  George explains that a water source can be tagged by the chemicals (pollution) and minerals peculiar to that source.

A baby lamprey looks cute but it will grow up into a blood-sucking multi-fanged killer.  At this point this one is a transformer -- so-called because it's transforming into an adult, developing eyes and a round disc of teeth.

Aude says that she will examine each lamprey for water source traces.

Because my hearing isn't the best at times, I email Aude later because I thought she was going to examine "ear bones" for those traces.  Fortunately she responds before I make a boneheaded mistake.

In her email response she talks about ear stones or what are usually called statoliths. 

"Statoliths," she explains, "grow by accumulating elements from the surrounding water and I want to make sure that the statolith chemistry of sea lamprey transformers differ among streams.  If true, I'd like to analyze the chemistry of statoliths from sea lamprey parasitic stage found in Lake Champlain to determine the river they were born."

The objective of this project, Aude adds, is to improve the efficiency of lamprey control.  

So if you see someone wading in a river with a beeping box strapped to his back, sticking a pole in the river bottom, he's not a sea monkey herder.

Fingers Of Eos