Monthly Archives: July 2008

America’s public toilet problem

This in-depth, well-researched New York Times story about problems with public toilets in Seattle and other cities states everything but the obvious: You can have safe, clean, convenient public toilets in big cities if you have attendants working at them who are decently paid. Apparently nobody in Seattle is willing to work as a public toilet attendant; or, the city would prefer not to pay such people, and finds a $1 million outlay per toilet (!) to be less expensive. I’m trying to figure out why affluent cities overrun with homeless, out-of-work people need toilets that clean themselves.

5 gadgets I’ve never regretted buying

Now that the economy is really looking peaked, and we’re all supposed to have spent our stimulus checks on cool stuff already, I thought I’d take a quick look back at the select handful of electronic appliances/gadgets/doohickies that I once lovingly unwrapped, yet still find useful or cool. I am not a huge purchaser of electronics, but I have bought my share of the usual kinds — and some of them just lose their appeal faster than others, or wind up forgotten in a cabinet somewhere. These are ones that have stood the test of time (youngest to oldest):

5. Digital SLR camera (Nikon D40). I can’t ever see myself getting bored with it or wanting another one although I might want a different lens kit in the future.

4. Mac Mini. Pound for pound the best home computer out there. It’s a shame that Apple is apparently abandoning this line. I’ll be with this one until it conks out.

3. Handheld GPS unit (Garmin eTrex Legend). Incredibly useful for so many things, from navigation (if you have a co-pilot to read it) to mapping Erie Canal ruins, to planning and timing walking/jogging routes.

2. Don’t laugh: Keychain digital camera. They sell these for $20 now at Wal-Mart, but when I bought it years ago, they were kind of a big deal (and I blush to say how much I paid). Still a kick though, and can double as a webcam, for spying on naughty pets during the day. The pictures are tiny, crude and interesting. A little indestructible wad of plastic.

1. RCA 13-inch color TV. Bought in 1992. Works fine. I do not need, or want, another one – one which probably will break after 6 months anyway.

Reasons for leaving New York

Well, this story doesn’t give the reasons (I think we know them well enough) but it does confirm the obvious, which is that Upstaters are feeling very grim.

The Siena Research Institute Poll released Monday finds just 15 percent of upstaters say they will never move out of the state. Twenty-two percent of New York City residents make the same claim. Almost 30 percent of upstaters say they may move after they retire, compared with 19 percent of New York City residents.

Well, that’s OK — we don’t want those un-energized old folks anyway? (How about energized young folks like this guy? I’d say he’s got what it takes to make it Upstate — a Samurai sword and a smile.)

I wonder if anyone has ever done a similar poll about Syracuse or Central New York, though. Or would we be too afraid of the answers?

Highway robbery

I woke up this morning to read a small item in the PS Local section about Holy Family Church being robbed yesterday in broad daylight, right after a service. It appears some punk with a BB gun stole the collection plate. Between this, the Burger King robbery and the rogue bear, maybe they’ll be rethinking Fairmount’s “27th Greatest Place to Raise Kids” ranking next year.

I had been walking near the church almost exactly 24 hours earlier. There are no houses on Chapel Drive, just the church and a few marginal-looking establishments behind the Eckerd’s Rite Aid Plaza. It’s pretty sleepy. You could rob the church, or any of those establishments, make a quick cut through a suburban street or two and be on Route 5 or Onondaga Boulevard within a minute. (Updated: The perp reportedly took off on foot down the hill from the church to Inwood Drive and up the hill to Kimberly Drive, using the shortcut trail, which probably only local people would know about. WSTM video)

Camillus isn’t far from the city, but it isn’t far from the country either. Theoretically, Camillus could be assaulted by criminals from either side. Typically, Fairmount’s only crime problems have been shoplifters at Fairmount Fair, and the occasional midnight spree of teenagers looking for unlocked cars to steal from. All of these recent intrusions (including the bear) had the sort of crazy audacity you usually see only in drug addicts, which makes me wonder just what the meth situation is in Syracuse’s outlying rural areas these days.

Geography bee

The New York State Fair has a lot of competitions for kids, from dance to animal husbandry to even a spelling bee, but I wonder why they don’t hold a New York geography bee for kids at the fair. (Couldn’t be any more boring than some of the other stuff going on!) I was looking over a state map the other day planning another trip, and wow, there are a lot of places that have “twins” in other parts of the state – lots of opportunity for trick questions and competitive geekery. For example: Rensselaer, Rensselaerville, and Rensselaer Falls all being nowhere near each other. There’s a Cohocton, and a Cochecton – again, nowhere near each other. There’s Cortland, and Cortlandt Manor. And West Fulton, which is east of Fulton.

There’s also the curious case of Michigan, which when it comes to placenames, is sort of like a Bizarro Upstate New York. In Michigan, Lansing is a large city, while Ithaca is a small town. Aurelius is directly south of Lansing, as is Onondaga. Central New York is made of largely of placenames cribbed from the classics; central Michigan largely has placenames cribbed from Central and Western New York.