July 2, 2007

Trumbull, Christofferson retiring

This morning's Ithaca Journal reports that two members of the Dryden Town Board will not be seeking re-election this November: Supervisor Steve Trumbull and Councilman Marty Christofferson. Both are Republicans, initially elected in 2003.

Steve Trumbull accomplished at least two major things: calming things down after an explosive few years, and getting the Town Hall built. While I've not always been happy with the direction the Town went on various issues, I've certainly had fewer divisive stories to report over the last four years than I expected when I started this site in the wake of the 2003 election.

I'm happy that the article also reports that Democrat David Makar will be running for re-election this fall. (The Democratic caucus will be July 18th - more details soon.)

The Journal also explains how to dispose of fluorescent light bulbs in Tompkins County.

Posted by simon at 8:05 AM Comment

Chickens return home

After an extended summer camp at Town Board member Mary Ann Sumner's house, the chickens have finally returned home. They didn't love the brief journey home in feed bags - "Bright white! Is this chicken heaven?" - but they snapped back to normal chicken-hood very quickly.

Chickens in new enclosure.
Chickens in new enclosure.

The chickens got to enjoy exciting activities like dusting while they were away, and doubled in size (again). They should just about double in size one more time before they're ready to start laying. (They're all hens.)

I've posted a gallery of fence-building and chicken photos if you'd like to see more. The next big project - in August - will be building them a coop.

Posted by simon at 8:25 AM Comment

Garlic scapes

Part of eating locally is trying the strange things that appear in the garden. Angelika planted garlic around her apple trees last year, and at least one variety is producing 'scapes', a sort of curled flowering stem.

Garlic scapes growing.
Garlic scapes growing.

Apparently you should trim the scapes to focus the plant's energy on the bulbs, and they're tasty too. I've seen them at BB Farms (on Route 13/366) and at Greenstar this weekend. Raw, they taste kind of like green onions or scallions with a garlic bite, but they sweeten as they cook.

Here's the first in a series of recipes based on local ingredients. The project starts August 1st, so I'm still working out of Vermont butter and New Jersey mushrooms, but this should all be doable with locally-found ingredients.

Butter-Fried Scapes


  • Butter. to taste

  • 10-12 Garlic scapes

  • 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced

  • Spinach or mallow* (optional)

Melt butter in large frying pan over medium heat. Clean scapes and cut into one inch pieces (or whatever size you find convenient.) Cook scapes in butter for 2-3 minutes, then add mushrooms. Cook for 5-6 minutes, covered if you want. If desired, then add spinach or mallow and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring constantly, and serve.

* - Mallow is a common weed. You may have it in your yard without knowing it. If you pick it, just be certain that it really is mallow.

Garlic scapes cooking with mushrooms.
Garlic scapes cooking with mushrooms.

We have enough scapes that I cooked this without mallow on Saturday and served it over macaroni. Then last night we had it with mallow and served it with fresh bread. I still have about half the scapes left!

Posted by simon at 8:46 AM Comment

HUD loan sorted

I'm behind in covering the June Town Board meeting, and behind in covering the Dryden Courier. Fortunately Matt Cooper reports on the Town Board meeting in the June 20th Courier, so I can manage them together.

The Courier leads with the resolution of what had been a contentious conversation over the HUD loan to Cayuga Press, caused by the company moving the equipment purchased with the loan - as well as the associated jobs - to Cortland. At June's Town Board meeting, Cayuga Press and the Town set terms including a higher interest rate and the possibility of eventual termination if the Town finds other projects to invest the HUD money in. (It's a revolving fund, so money that comes back from the loan can be loaned again to other local businesses.)

The Town also voted to keep its Industrial Development Agency, hoping to reactivate it for a more active role in encouraging businesses to come to Dryden. They also accepted the resignation of Recreation Coordinator Jennifer Dube, heard about issues with the installation of sewage flow monitors in the Cortland Road Sewer District, and agreed to store books for the Southworth Library book sale in the old Town Hall once they move to the new Town Hall.

Cooper also reports on the Dryden Central School District's opening the Freeville Elementary School's cafeteria to anyone 18 and under - free of charge - this summer. Breakfast will be available weekdays between June 25th and August 10th from 8:30am to 9:30am and lunch will be available from noon to 1:00pm. Food will adhere to the same standards school food normally does. (Freeville is eligible for a grant paying for this because 66% of its students receive free or reduced price lunches.) There will also be a summer camp at the same time.

Inside the paper, there's an article on Jack and Jeanine Scott of Dryden, and their cooking together. They include recipes for Left-over Grilled Chicken Salad and Green Beans, as well as a green beans recipe.

In sports, Spencer Hoyt of Dryden made the 2006-7 Finger Lakes Newspapers Baseball All-Stars.

Harry Weldon visits the Dryden Sertoma Club in Anecdotes and Brevities. Matt Cooper reflects on graduation and what it means, and the History House's overflow crowd during Dairy Day.

They have photos of the Dryden High School class of 2007, and an article from the class advisor on the class's accomplishments.

Posted by simon at 5:11 PM Comment

July 3, 2007

NYSEG building prospects

This morning's Journal reports that the County is considering the old NYSEG building as a new home for the Health Department.

As convenient as that would be for me - I need to call them to find out if they know where the old septic tank for my house was - it would be bizarrely inconvenient for people on the west side of the county. I'm fairly willing to go to downtown Ithaca, but talking me into driving to Trumansburg, for example, requires an major event. Putting a Women's Infant and Children Clinic in there sounds like a bad idea for anyone outside of the northeastern corner of the county.

There are some telling statements about what's going on with that building, however:

The western building still contains NYSEG employees, but is close to empty.

The building is still owned by NYSEG, but since the workspace was vacated, little has been done to fill the space.

"(NYSEG) has not pushed renting it out," County Legislature Chairman Tim Joseph, D-Town of Ithaca, said of the building. "They just walked away from the building and ... they really don't care about it. They've got bigger things to deal with."

According to Jay Franklin at the Tompkins County Department of Assessment, the site is the third largest taxable entity in Dryden at $5.8 million, behind two large pipelines that run through the town....

Ellis said NYSEG has no plans for the building.

I know they're a big company, but what kind of management pays lots of taxes on a fortress of a building for years without doing anything with it? How hard is it to call a realtor?

The Cortland woman who led police on a car chase that ended in the Village of Dryden faces charges of reckless endangerment, criminal mischief, and resisting arrest here, as well as other charges in Cortland.

On the opinion page, Nancy Suci writes about Medicare as a model for healthcare, and the editorial revisits making summer easier for people in povery with things like GIAC's programs or the Dryden schools' Solar Express. Jay Gallagher reports on Albany's continuing turmoil.

Posted by simon at 12:20 PM Comment

Helping the Manos family

The Journal's breaking news reports that Marie Manos faces new charges in the death of her niece.

Further down in the article, they note ways people can help the victim's family and remember Grace Manos. Donations to help the victim's family can be sent to:

FBO Gracie Manos
c/o Tompkins Trust Company Marketing Department
P.O. Box 460
Ithaca, NY. 14851.

And there's another fund:

Gracie Memorial Fund
P.O. Box 123
Dryden, NY 13053.

Finally, the Journal reports that there will be a "Benefit for the Parents and Siblings of Gracie Manos" held this Saturday, July 7th, at the Dryden VFW from 2:00pm to 8:00pm. Tickets are $10 at the door.

(The benefit is also noted in the online edition of Briefly in Tompkins.)

Posted by simon at 12:50 PM Comment

July 4, 2007

More on the Manos case

This morning's Ithaca Journal expands on yesterday's breaking news piece with articles on Marie Manos' arraignment and fundraising to help the victim's family.

Cathy Wakeman's Dryden Town Talk reports on the Dryden Beautification Brigade's work on making the Village of Dryden a more attractive place. She also notes the upcoming Rotary Food Run on July 19th, Southworth Library's Family Fun Nights on July 10th and 17th, and the Wednesday night concerts in Montgomery Park starting July 11th. Ellis Hollow Community Center will also have a series of concerts, starting tomorrow night with Phil Shapiro and Carrie Shore at 6:00pm.

It looks like the Town of Ithaca is starting to catch up to the Town of Dryden on the question of backyard windmills.

Posted by simon at 10:18 AM Comment

July 7, 2007

Gracie Manos benefit today

Briefly in Tompkins lists a benefit for the family of Gracie Manos at the Dryden VFW this afternoon from 2:00pm to 8:00pm. Tickets are $10 at the door.

Jen Dube, Dryden's departing Recreation Coordinator, gets a laurel from Dryden Kiwanis for her work on Kiwanis baseball and softball.

Carol Kammen looks at the local reaction to the Gettysburg address and notes Henry Weaver of Dryden who died in the battle and Albert Hollenbeck of Dryden who was taken prisoner.

There's also an article on escalating political warfare in Albany. I doubt it will surprise anyone that I think Albany needs a lot more conflict - not just between the "three men in a room", but among everyone in the legislature as well. While I don't know how this particular battle will work out, it seems painfully clear that it will take a lot of conflict for there to be any chance of democracy breaking out in Albany.

Posted by simon at 11:40 AM Comment

Big step toward an orchard

There have been a lot of times in the recent permaculture work when I've wished for a pickup truck in place of my Saturn sedan. That free manure pile on Game Farm Road calls, and getting machinery repaired or furniture moved has always been a special challenge.

Angelika's going to be starting an orchard in August, however - so now we not only had a reason for a (used) truck, we had a clear need. It seemed like dealers only carried larger trucks, and the small trucks were stripped down, often without 4-wheel drive. We were hiking Thursday on the Jim Schug trail when I suggested we try Stafford Chevrolet in Dryden on the way home.

We did, though it wasn't too promising at first. The trucks that looked promising were too new and expensive, but with Tony Canella's help, we found one on the back lot that fit our needs well. According to CarFax, it's only had one owner, was originally sold by Stafford, and probably spent most of its time around here.

We brought the truck home yesterday, where Angelika celebrated.

Angelika with new truck.
Angelika with new truck.

It's not my dream vehicle (since that doesn't yet exist!), and gets around 20mpg, but it'll do very well to get Angelika going on the orchard. We kept my old Saturn (which gets around 30mpg) for driving around town as well.

It may not be trees or fertilizer, but it's a critical tool for the orchard to come, and there'll be a lot more here on how that goes!

Posted by simon at 5:59 PM Comment

July 9, 2007

Currant power

We're trying to finish off foods that weren't produced locally this month, and last night I created something strange. I had leftover pork from my mother's 4th of July dinner, with some juice, and thought I'd use it to finish off some Potatoes O'Brien that had fallen into an advanced state of freezer burn. I had a lot more potatoes than I thought, so I needed to add something else.

Angelika suggested that I add some of a dessert she'd made, Rotegrütze, which is a delicious mix of mostly red fruits. This one was very heavy on the currants - black, white, and red - which we had in our garden.

Black currants in the garden.
Black currants in the garden.

White currants in the garden.
White currants in the garden.

It turned out to be the perfect choice, because of the currants in it. Currants are a bit like cranberries or lingonberries, tart fruits that are best mixed with other things. They also have a wonderful multi-level flavor. The black ones - which incidentally are nicely deer-resistant - are too tart to eat directly without making strange faces, but they're delicious when cooked into something.

These were just our garden currants. I haven't seen them at stores this year, though BB Farms and Ludgate Farms have both had them in the past. We planted them last year after ordering them from St.Lawrence Nurseries, and Angelika's planning on growing a lot more currants in her orchard. They grow happily in shade, so long as they get a bit of sun.

(New York State used to ban currants because they carried White Pine Blister rust, but that ban has been removed for rust-resistant varieties.)

I've been a little worried about the prospect of introducing currants to Americans, but after last night's pork I don't think it'll be too hard to get people to look beyond Absolut Kurant.

Posted by simon at 8:21 AM Comment

Photos of Gracie Manos benefit

This morning's Journal shares photos of the Gracie Manos benefit held Saturday at the Dryden VFW.

It's not directly tied to Dryden, but there was a permaculture convergence this weekend at Cayuga Nature Center, and Angelika spoke on work we're doing with TC Local. You can see in the permaculture category here that it's informing what I'm trying to do with my own property.

Finally, it's probably not a surprise that upstate residents have a dimmer view of the local economy than downstate residents.

Posted by simon at 12:16 PM Comment

McLean activities, starting tonight

There's a lot going on in McLean this month, with an event every Monday, starting tonight at 6:30pm:

McLean Stuff - July 9th, 6:30-8:00pm

"A night of tools, implements, and artifacts that were made in McLean, found in McLean, or used in the 'old days'."

McLean Schools & Growing Up in McLean- July 16th, 6:30-8:00pm

Where the schools (plural) used to be, and the adventures of growing up in the area.

Women of McLean - July 23rd, 6:30-8:00pm

"Learn about interesting, exciting, hard-working, genteel women from early times to the present."

Your Home's Family Tree - July 30th, 6:30-8:00pm

This one sounds amazing - sharing information about how houses got built, who lived in them, and how they've changed over the years.

All of these are at the McLean Community Hall, in the church basement, except the July 23rd event, which is at the McLean Fire Station.

(I meant to post these a few weeks ago, when Mike Lane sent me a list, but I'm glad I caught it while only one event has already happened.)

Posted by simon at 12:22 PM Comment

Drivers and heat

I generally try to avoid driving between 4:30pm and 6:00pm. I'm never fond of traffic, and would rather not create more of it at a time when roads are busy. Today, however, I came up Route 13 from Ithaca around 5:00pm, and got to see two of the strangest impatient drivers I've ever encountered.

The first was at the merge between Warren Road and Brown Road, where a green minivan raced down the right lane to try to merge as far ahead as it possibly could, even though it wound up pretty much on the shoulder as it did that. I've seen that before, but the strange part was the bumper stickers: "I ONLY DRIVE THIS WAY TO PISS YOU OFF" and "AN ARMY OF ONE". They were driving like an army of one car, and apparently enjoyed advertising that they were a jerk. I hope they didn't think the combination was flattering to the Army.

A little further east, at Hanshaw Road, I was stopped a fair ways from the light, still behind the rude minvan, when I heard a whoomph! noise. A red pickup truck shot right by me in the left turn lane, and then proceeded to go straight down 13, cutting ahead of the other cars at the light. I'm not sure how they figured out the timing, as I don't think the light was green when I heard them shoot by. I've never seen anyone do that to go around more than one car there.

I'm hoping that it's merely the heat driving people crazy, and maybe I'll just stay home for a while.

Posted by simon at 6:35 PM Comment

Dryden Town Board meets in Varna Wednesday

The Dryden Town Board will be meeting at the Varna Volunteer Fire Company on Wednesday night at 7:00pm, for what is probably their last visit to the west side this year before they settle in to the new Town Hall for a little while.

The fire company will have tours of their building and equipment at 6:30pm, which hopefully will draw some people in. The agenda is here. I'm most intrigued by the 7:15pm public hearing on:

Site Plan Review Application of Cayuga Press to establish a simulator golf facility and bar and grill and accessory retail space at 1779 Hanshaw Road

A golf bar, I guess?

The Dryden High School Student Council will also be presenting on the First Annual Dryden Dash to benefit the Make A Wish Foundation , there will be a public hearing about a possible kennel on Etna Road, and the various committees will report.

(Lately, most of the especially interesting issues have come up near the end of the meeting, sometimes in committee reports. I'd like to see the agenda provide more detail on what the committees will be talking about.)

Posted by simon at 7:25 PM Comment

July 10, 2007

East/West at Tompkins Weekly; coming elections

This week's issue of Tompkins Weekly offers not just its usual one, but three stories on Dryden.

The first, on page 3, examines the continuing divide between the east and west sides of Dryden, looking at the question of recreation as a key breaking point. I'm not quite sure why Supervisor Steve Trumbull thinks that 75% of students are on the east side of town, as that seems way out of balance with the rest of the demographics, but it's a story worth reading.

The next Dryden article is on page 7, looks at the state of local campaigns for November. On the Republican side, both Supervisor Trumbull and Town Board member Marty Christofferson will depart at the end of the year, and Town Board member Steve Stelick seems to be planning a departure at the end of his term in 2009. I'm quoted a bit on the Democratic candidates. Those who have announced so far include:

  • Town Board member Mary Ann Sumner, running for Supervisor.

  • Town Board member David Makar, running for re-election. (His election last November was for a one-year term.)

  • Jason Leifer, who will be running for Town Justice.

On page 14, Railey Jane Savage writes about the June 30th Freeville United Methodist Church barbecue.

Posted by simon at 12:43 PM Comment

Black caps

Strawberry season is ending, but there are other opportunities to enjoy.

My parents' house in Corning had a row of arborvitae with a steep slope behind. It wasn't every year, but many years there were great black raspberries back there. When we moved into this house, there were some signs of berries, but mostly it just seemed like hugely overgrown brambles.

I think last year's clearing into the forest edge made a huge difference for one set of brambles along the edge of the front yard - they're now producing lots of berries.

Black raspberries growing.
Black raspberries growing.

Black raspberries in cereal.
Black raspberries enriching my cereal.

I could talk about how they're nutritious and good for you, but the exciting part is that they're tasty. A little different from the cultivated ones, but all over Dryden and ready to pick!

Posted by simon at 1:00 PM Comment

Local Iraq war perspective

This morning's Journal has a letter from David and Christine Bravo-Cullen of Dryden, reporting their daughter's perspective on what's happening in Iraq.

The Monitor reports on a Dryden man's arrest in Ithaca for DWI.

There are also a few stories that aren't about Dryden, but which are still relevant. There's a piece on yesterday's heat, one on county plans to reduce the costs of employee benefits, and another on a stormwater management discussion just west of the town line. The last one is a scene we'll be seeing a lot more in Dryden as state-mandated stormwater management regulations move forward.

Posted by simon at 5:33 PM Comment

Rotary Food Run, Presbyterian descendants

This past week's Dryden Courier leads with articles on the Dryden Rotary's Food Run through Clark's ShurSave grocery store. Tickets are $5, with the winning ticket drawn tomorrow night at 6:00pm. The run itself will be held the 19th, and proceeds will benefit a Dryden student studying overseas.

The Dryden Presbyterian Church is preparing for its bicentennial, and is looking for descendants of its thirteen original founders:

  • John and Julia Terpening,

  • James and Sara Wood,

  • Stephen and Rebecca Myrch,

  • Benjamin and Isabel Simmons,

  • Derek Sutfin,

  • Elizabeth Topping,

  • Abram and Asenath Griswold, and

  • Jerusha Taylor.

They're also, of course, looking for any information or memorabilia from the church, and planning a picnic celebration for June 15, 2008. David Smith is preparing a book on the church, the second-oldest in the county after Etna.

Inside the cover, there's an article on Brian Colbert, a fifth grader who just received an award for his help dealing with a fight on a school bus.

Matt Cooper's Inside Dryden reports on successful sales of the Dryden Barbershop Cookbook, which has gone in for a second printing. He notes the Music in the Park and Music in the Hollow events, and reports on Ithaca College's providing hot meals to the Freeville Food Pantry. He also lists a Fish or Steak Dinner at the VFW on July 20th, and mentions enjoying July 4th with "a group of fencers from the Varna Community Center."

In sports, Rex Hollenbeck of Dryden made the Finger Lakes Newspapers All-Star Team for Track, on the strength of his 100 meter and 200 meter dashes.

Posted by simon at 5:42 PM Comment

Neighborhood nursery news

There's been a lot happening this summer at the nurseries near my house. At The Orchid Place, they've added a huge fenced and trellised area where they're growing squash on the trellis and other vegetables below. The squash is growing like crazy, and just started flowering.

Squash, a few weeks ago
Squash, a few weeks ago.

Squash, yesterday
Squash, yesterday.

I think they'll be able to harvest the squash as it hangs down from the trellis. For all the gardening we've done here lately, it's still hard for me to imagine doing things on that scale.

Across the street, I'm sad to see a for sale sign at Saunders' Greenhouse.

Saunders' Greenhouse, up for sale
Saunders' Greenhouse, up for sale.

You can see more details in the listing. I did talk with Mr. Saunders yesterday, and he didn't sound like he was in a rush to leave. He wasn't excited about selling, but was excited about a dwarf Koster Spruce in front of his store.

Spruce in a border edge
Spruce in a border edge at Saunders' Greenhouse.

On the way home I also had to take a picture of the sunset amidst the crazy storm clouds.

Sunset along 366
Sunset along 366.

Posted by simon at 6:45 PM Comment

July 11, 2007

Varna Fire Company tour, Town Board meeting

Need something exciting to do tonight? The Varna Volunteer Fire Company will be having a tour of their building (14 Turkey Hill Road) and equipment tonight at 6:30pm, followed by a Town Board meeting at 7:00pm. The Journal writes about David Makar's efforts to get the board to the west side of town to hear more from west-side residents.

Posted by simon at 12:25 PM Comment

July 12, 2007

Summer reading for kids; federal funding for sewers

This morning's Ithaca Journal editorial cites Southworth Library and the Dryden schools' Solar Express bookmobile as key programs for helping ensure that kids read during the summer.

There's also hope that the federal government may (eventually) help pay to rebuild the Village of Dryden's crumbling sewer plant. Senator Chuck Schumer has proposed funding grants from 2008 through 2012 - the bill just has to pass and get signed, and then Dryden will have to apply and hope.

It's on the other side of the county, but the article on traffic issues on Route 89 sounds a lot like the concerns and approach the county had for the Route 13/366 Corridor Study. Comments are interesting too, though unsurprisingly polarized.

Posted by simon at 5:49 PM Comment

July 13, 2007

SPCA loaded with cats

This morning's Ithaca Journal reports that the Tompkins County SPCA has 900 cats in their care right now, 300 more than last year. They're looking for people to adopt or foster cats. (I've also heard complaints from someone who tried to take cats left behind by student neighbors to the SPCA, that they're charging a lot to take in cats. The new SPCA director, Abigail Smith, will be at a Dryden Town Board meeting soon, so I guess we'll hear more on the situation.)

A Dryden man faces unsafe driving charges after an incident near Dryden Lake.

In college news, two Freeville students were inducted into honor societies at Grove City College.

The county is taking a closer look at tax-exempt property, determining whether it really should be.

At the state level, Assembly Republicans compare themselves to an endangered species. I know everyone expects the minority to complain, but I'm afraid that both the state Assembly and Senate are so severely gerrymandered that it's hard to call them representative bodies.

Finally, the Journal's editorial calls for calmer discussion on their Story Chat comments system. The first three comments responding to it aren't exactly encouraging.

Posted by simon at 9:01 AM Comment

July 17, 2007

Dryden Democratic Caucus Wednesday night

The Dryden Democrats will be meeting tomorrow night, July 18th, at the Dryden Town Hall, 65 East Main Street (Route 392), Dryden (map) at 7:30pm to hold a caucus and select candidates for:

  • Town Supervisor,

  • Town Board (2 seats),

  • Town Clerk, and

  • Town Justice.

All registered Democrats in the Town of Dryden are welcome to come and participate. If you'd like to be a candidate but aren't a registered Democrat, you may also come and present yourself as a candidate at the beginning of the caucus.

After the caucus, we'll be having an issues meeting to discuss the issues facing the Town.

Posted by simon at 8:15 AM Comment

July 24, 2007

Catching up

The last week has been the busiest one I can remember for work, a crazed mix of deadlines and travel. Unfortunately, that's left me way behind here. So, to catch up, this will be briefer than usual, but I hope to return to normal tomorrow.

In the past week, the Ithaca Journal has reported on:

On the opinion page:

Dryden's a busy place!

Posted by simon at 9:55 AM Comment

Dryden Ambulance wins award

I just got a press release from Dryden Ambulance, announcing that they had won the 2007 Central New York EMS Agency of the Year award:

This award was presented to Dryden Ambulance at the Central New York EMS annual awards recognition ceremony held July 17th, 2007. The Central New York EMS Program serves the regions of Cayuga, Cortland, Onondaga, Oswego and Tompkins Counties in Upstate New York.

Award Criteria for EMS Agency of the Year
Any agency which strives for consistency in EMS excellence and exhibits exemplary performance when providing or supporting pre-hospital emergency medical care.

Congratulations, Dryden Ambulance!

Posted by simon at 1:09 PM Comment

July 25, 2007

Journal gets it wrong

I know there are a lot of local races in Tompkins County to keep track of, but I was startled to see this false line in this morning's Journal:

In Dryden, town board members David Makar (D) and Marty Christofferson (R) are keeping their names off the ballot...

True, Marty Christofferson is retiring, but David Makar is very definitely not retiring, as the filing for the caucus makes clear.

In brighter reporting, the 4-H Youth Fair is happening now on Lower Creek Road just north of Route 13.

On the opinion page, William Clay of Freeville writes about the possible effects of a consumption tax.

Posted by simon at 10:30 AM Comment

July 26, 2007

More on 4-H Fair, local races

This morning's Journal has a photo from the 4-H Fair that's happening on Lower Creek Road north of Route 13.

I'm glad to see that the Journal issued an updated article on candidates for local races, this time including candidates nominated by caucuses. (Dryden Democrats nominate local candidates by caucus, while some other Democrats and all county Republicans use petitions.)

The Journal's editorial praises Paul Banfield's donation of his Dryden Food Run prize to the Freeville and McLean food pantries.

Posted by simon at 11:27 AM Comment

July 28, 2007

Lightning strikes Etna, Harford

It was a busy day for area fire departments yesterday, as lightning strikes in Etna and Harford destroyed a house and a garage. Both in areas without fire hydrants, so firefighters used tanker trucks to collect water from streams and far-away hydrants.

I can't tell for certain, but this ladybug blitz looks to me like it was in the Cornell fields on Hanshaw Road near Ludgate Farms. it was either in Dryden or just across the line in the Town of Ithaca, though.

A fascinating if depressing story of a steamboat tragedy involves the Genung family and talks with one of their Freeville descendants.

There's an article on Empire Zones, looking at past controversies and local hopes. Vanguard Press is listed as a beneficiary, but there aren't any details. So far the Dryden pieces seem pretty quiet.

The Dean's List and College News highlight some Dryden residents' accomplishments, and the Monitor reports another burglary, this one at Fingerlakes Stone.

The Health Report has good news and bad for local restaurants.

Posted by simon at 12:22 PM Comment

July 29, 2007

USeless Airways

I don't normally blog on Sundays, but since I'm stuck in Philadelphia Airport and US Airways is clearly uninterested in hearing about it, I may as well share it here.

I booked a flight out of Ithaca Airport back in June, buying my ticket directly from US Airways. It was a bit trickier than usual, with stops in San Francisco and Portland, OR. The flights to San Francisco all went smoothly, and the first leg of the flight to Portland was delayed - but I made it because my next flight was using the same aircraft I'd just flown in on.

I flew out of Portland last night on a very slightly late flight. The flight coming in was late, and they turned it around faster than I've ever seen. It wasn't the cleanest plane to get into for a long flight - candy wrappers were sticking out of the seat in front of me - but we got out of there in pretty good time, I thought. I didn't expect the flight to arrive late, certainly.

I woke up to hear the message that connecting passengers should get off the plane and make their transfers as quickly as possible, so I scrambled, as far as you really can scramble. I charged through the airport, caught a remarkably timely shuttle to the F terminal, and arrived just in time to find the plane sitting there, not yet having started its engines. The door, however, was closed and I was already rebooked on a flight six hours later. There were three of us from the Portland flight, and another passenger arrived about five minutes later, but the message was simple: there's nothing anyone can do or should do.

I asked to talk to a manager about why they'd closed the flight when it was clear connecting passengers had arrived and was rewarded with a man who seemed to consider it his primary task to say he was listening - without doing anything. I asked for the next place to contact, and was eventually rewarded with four pages of mostly repetitive phone numbers and addresses, none of which work on Sunday anyway. There's no one else to talk to - and the manager's main job in this situation seemed to be getting people to go away, perhaps after making them feel bad for being angry.

The flight delay is annoying, though maybe my expectations have been raised by airlines (I think including US Airways) that actually did manage to hold flights for a few minutes when there were rushed connections. It doesn't help that US Airways itself sold me a ticket with a 45-minute connection - apparently they thought the odds were good enough to sell it.

The worst part, though, is the utter uselessness of the company. There's one layer of people beyond the folks at the counter to complain to, and their main job seems to be explaining how there's absolutely nothing they can do except listen. Now that's customer service! In light of that, the notes in the printout they gave me aren't particularly promising either:




And of course, the complaints phone number is closed on the weekend. They really want to listen, though! There isn't even a complaint form you can fill out at the airport, and it's really strange to me that they don't have something nicer like a card to tell people where to file their complaints. Printing these directions out isn't exactly impressive. Apparently I'm not the only one who's unimpressed.

My expectations for airlines are pretty low, but every now and then they still disappoint those expectations. I know other people have stories that are a lot worse, but this strikes me as awful mostly because it demonstrates how little US Airways cares. I guess I'll be glad that Northwest provides another option out of Ithaca, though I doubt their customer service is that much better. The only sane option seems to be to find creative ways to fly less generally.

As a side note, the contrast between Portland and Philadelphia airports is pretty striking. Portland provides areas in the terminals with desks and free wireless; finding a quiet desk in Philadelphia means going to Laptop Lane for $8.99/fifteen minutes. (Since I can buy wireless access for $9.99/day, I guess you're paying for the quiet and the phone calls.) I get to enjoy six hours after a redeye flight in a generally noisy place that's mostly designed to get me to spend money while I wait. Wonderful!

I guess I'll write them a letter, and share whatever response I get back.

Update: It got worse. My 1:57pm flight turned into a 5:20pm flight through the usual excruciating set of delays. If I'd known that I had that much time, I would have wandered around Philadelphia instead of bumbling around the airport uselessly, but of course it couldn't be that simple. And then, of course, they finally got the flight to Ithaca but left most of the luggage behind. Perhaps 10 hours isn't long enough to move some luggage?

Second update, July 30th: I just ran by the airport and picked up my baggage. Other than the fact that I had to call them to find out if it had come in, the Ithaca Airport folks at least seem to be on top of things. They also gave me a $25 "Air Check", good toward travel within a year on US Airways, but I can't say $25 makes me excited about flying on US Airways again. Reading the terms on the back, it also seems to need to be used in person, and I can't remember when I last bought a ticket at a counter. Who knows.

Posted by simon at 8:37 AM Comment

July 30, 2007

McLean throws a party

This morning's Journal reports on McLean's Happenin' in the Hamlet party, which celebrate McLean with a special focus on Fall Creek, whose waterpower first encouraged the hamlet's development.

In broader news, the Tompkins County economy expanded a bit in June and higher milk prices should help local farmers.

On the opinion page, Brooke Howard Greenhouse of Dryden writes about state programs helping make homes affordable.

Posted by simon at 12:37 PM Comment