Monthly Archives: April 2009

Wisdom of the commentariat

A few good comments I’ve read lately, hidden deep in other people’s blogs:

Our friend Robinia writes at TAP on local higher ed as entrenched interests, and also wonders who died and left Robert Wilmers boss.

Celebrating the recent tea parties on Fault Lines, a funny and telling exchange about a “lack of turnout” in Utica.

Joebass123 explores the nature of urban congestion as community dialogue on Route 81 moves forward on Sean Kirst’s blog.

April 22, 2005: Missing the point on Earth Day

Over the past five years, NYCO’s Blog has gone through a couple of databases, some of which are now offline. This is a former post which is being restored to the database via public reposting. An update is below.

Today is Earth Day. I was surprised to read recently that Onondaga County apparently has one of the biggest Earth Day participations in the country in terms of how many area groups pitch in to whatever the county puts on.

Friday is also my grocery night. (What an exciting life I lead!) I frequently ask for paper bags at the grocery store. Evil, tree-killing paper bags. Why? Because I hate the recyclable plastic bags. Hate them. I don’t know why we’ve been subjected to them, probably because they’re cheaper to produce, more compact for storage and perhaps recycle easier. But boy, they sure suck. They are just plain difficult and awkward to carry in large amounts.

And there are always large amounts. What takes only two well-packed paper bags to carry in one trip from the car, usually takes 7 or 8 plastic bags, with just a few items per bag. Furthermore, carrying plastic bags is a pain in the ass, they’re uncomfortable to carry, and after a long day of the rat race, I find it actually a pleasure to carry my groceries into the house in one trip with some ease and dignity. Paper bags make me feel human. (And aren’t they recyclable too?)

Unfortunately, most grocery employees these days (yes, even at Wegmans), trained to throw 2 or 3 items into a single plastic bag, don’t know how to pack a paper bag. Which means that they throw just a few items into each paper bag, leaving me with 7 or 8 paper bags, and defeating the purpose of my asking for them.

It seems to me that the big problem today is not a lack of desire to recycle, save trees and so forth, but the simple lack of being able to think and plan ahead. Thinking and planning ahead is the core of wise use of our resources; it’s not just about saving trees at all costs.

When I see a 16-year-old who doesn’t know how to properly and efficiently pack a paper grocery bag, but just wastes as many plastic bags as she can because “they’re recyclable,” the point is being missed. In a huge way. For all of our slogans and policies and enthusiasm over recycling, we still believe that technology can relieve us of the responsibility to simply use our brains and be mindful.

* * *

Two years later, Wegmans would introduce reusable bags. Don’t have anything new to add to this… except that I now go to the grocery store on Saturday mornings.

Same old story

CNY Speaks has an article today inviting the community to critique an action plan that touches on crime, economic development, the arts and (of course) parking.

Also highlighted recently in the Post-Standard was the Sibylline TXT SYRACUSE project. This is a deal where you take your cell phone, go to various locations around the city, punch in a code and get parts of an ongoing short story. This has been done in other cities around the world and someone thought it would be interesting to try here, ostensibly as a way to lure people to explore the city.

Neat idea, but unfortunately, the “story” appears to be just what I feared: it reads like an advertisement for the same revitalization initiatives we’ve been hearing about for five years, plus Armory Square. The map of planned thread release locations doesn’t give me much optimism that the story is going to take any unexpected turns, either. Excerpts:

the day kim got on the connective corridor bus to break up w her bf was the day the bus changed its slogan to “we will always love u.” that was awkward.

it was hard not to fall for eric at first. they met on comstock on halloween. the devil, the vampire, red plastic cups. ha. yea. that couldnt last.

now its the day aftr graduation and k is on the bus to go drinking @ salt, a new bar that has everyone in the cuse buzzing and buzzed.

But I can already read stuff like this from the comfort of my own home via Facebook or Twitter. Why go downtown for it?

Memorable encounters with wildlife

I recently started a little side project, a Twitter stream called @OutdoorsNewYork. It’s an outgrowth of my camping hobby (it includes news about the state park system and the DEC). But I’m also interested in reporting items about our increasing awareness of and contact with wild animals in New York’s more urbanized and suburbanized realms. After all, we all have to live together.

This winter, we had the amazing experience of realizing that bald eagles had once again taken up seasonal residence on Onondaga Lake. Last year, there was the wandering bear in Geddes. Those are the most memorable communitywide encounters with animals we’ve had recently. (Downstate, there are persistent reports of a mysterious “black panther” surfacing, which could be a melanistic bobcat.)

There are two personal encounters I recently had with wildlife that come to mind. One was funny, the other profound.

The funny one happened a couple years ago when I was en route to a Christmas party in outer Strathmore, just below Woodland Reservoir. There I was, navigating the icy sidewalk in the dark, and I looked up to see a large deer walking toward me on a collision course. The fact that it was courteously using the sidewalk just cracked me up. (And, this is not exactly the booneys. Just another reason why I like living around Syracuse’s wild southwestern quarter, the only one not chopped up by a bypass.) Even funnier was my reaction: I crossed over to the other side of the street, like the deer was a shady character not to be trusted.

The other memorable encounter happened in my back yard. My neighbor has a chain-link fence. The smaller birds like to use it as a communal perch sometimes. One day I looked out and saw a bird struggling on the fence. I went out to investigate. In a freak accident, a male sparrow had somehow slipped down between one of the links, and now his leg was hideously caught, jammed between the metal wires right up to his body. He had beaten his wings bloody trying to get free. My neighbor was able to hold him still so I could work on getting him loose (and to prevent the total destruction of his wings), but his little leg was stuck in there tighter than you could imagine (and in a way that would have made using wire cutters impossible). And we couldn’t give up, because it would just have been a horrible way for him to slowly die.

I suppose that if we were guys, we would have had the guts to just break his neck and put him out of his misery. But finally after about 15 minutes, I was able to pop his leg out of there (which must have been double agony). Immediately he was off like a shot, fluttering on the ground and making for the bushes, before we could do anything else for him.

It was sad, because I knew he wasn’t going to live much longer. Even if a predator didn’t get him, he would soon starve. But at least he was now free to meet his own fate in a place of his choosing, not strung up like a free meal for any passing cat. In the end, that’s why freedom matters – it’s not how you live, it’s how you depart.

What have been your most memorable meetings?

Quote of the year

And probably next year, too.

Wobbly future for NY Dems?

A few years ago, a friend explained to me that there really wasn’t a State Democratic Party. There were several: one for the Assembly, one for the Senate, another for the Governor, and then others focused on Senate races. Any time those often conflicting pieces had to interact, even sometimes within the same person, chaos ensued.