Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Historic Preservation

     Linda Dickerson Hartsock, former Executive Director of the Cortland County BDC/IDA, introduced Cortland on the Move-- Downtown Revitalization and Historic Preservation, in the Spring 2003 publication by the Cortland County Business Development Corporation and Industrial Development Agency with this lead:                              

     I grew up in a small village. Summer meant riding a bicycle to the library and then ambling over to my grandmother's house where I could read away lazy days, surrounded by pots of pink geraniums on her front porch. We lived across the street from an old school, a stately brick building with imposing white columns and big Sycamore trees.
     That was 40 years ago....

     Readers are encouraged to read the rest of her memories and observations and find out more about Cortland County and its recent past.
     Downtown revitalization and historic preservation are themes in the Spring 2003 publication, with many photos of people and places in the city, towns and villages of Cortland County. Linda Dickerson Hartsock's leadership and vision can be found on every page.
     Depending on your internet connection, it may take seconds or up to a minute to download and open the Adobe PDF format.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Public Business Email FOIL Request Upheld By State Court

     New York Supreme Court Judge Christopher Cahill recently decided against the state Attorney General who claimed the use of personal email accounts by government officials for public business are shielded from disclosure under FOIL (Freedom of Information Law). If this ruling is upheld by the Court of Appeals, Cortland legislators and city council members may have to revert to tin cans and string in order to conceal their secretive public business communications.
     View Albany Times Union article:

Cortland's Past and Present

     In 1883, D. Morris Kurtz published Past and Present, a three-part "historical and descriptive sketch of Cortland, N.Y., and its manufacturing and commercial interests, showing its attractions as a place of residence and advantages as a location for manufacturing enterprises." The book opens with these words of wonder, pride and optimism:

     Lying on a broad and level plain, in the picturesque valley of the Tioughnioga, at the confluence of the east and west branches of the Tioughnioga river, surrounded by high hills through which debouch five rich valleys leading North, South, East, and West, the pretty village of Cortland is a worthy rival of the most beautiful town that adorns the great Empire State.
     Covering an area of two square miles, laid out in irregular squares, with wide and even streets, uniformly shaded by rows of maple, elm or pine trees, and lined with pretty cottages, elegant mansions or handsome business structures, Cortland, especially in the summer time, presents a most attractive appearance. Main street, the principal business thoroughfare, commencing at the foot of the South hills, and running due north for more than a mile and a half, then diagonally northwest until it meets Adams street and forms the Homer road, contains many neat residences, and is lined, with the exception of that portion devoted exclusively to business, with beautiful maples. But even that portion is not entirely devoid of foliage, for right in its heart, set not more than ten feet apart, is that row of noble maples fronting the old brick mansion of the Randalls, and its acre or more or gravelled walks winding through beds of beautiful flowers, rare shrubbery and stately old trees, separated from the public walk only by a low, time-stained wall of stone, with old fashioned high arched gates of iron. And both north and south of this "oasis," are many structures of brick and iron which in architectural appearance and proportions would do credit to much larger cities, and are occupied by enterprising merchants. Then one block east, and running parallel, is Church street, with its extraordinary width, that is not sufficient even, to prevent the majestic trees, full blown many a year ago, from casting their shadows clear across; and here are the churches, the old and the new side by side, the more costly and elegant Congregational edifice, erected in 1882, along side the old fashioned cobble-stone church of the Universalists, erected in 1837; the old frame church of the Presbyterians, built in 1828, between the modern and expensive structures, with their heavenly towering spires, of the Baptists and Methodists; and her, too, near the site of the old Cortlandville Academy, is the tasteful monument erected in 1876 to the memory of Cortland's fallen braves, and which stands like a sentinel on guard in front of the attractive grounds of the Normal School, extending east to Greenbush street, and laid out in tortuous paths, with well kept lawns, neatly trimmed shrubbery and growing trees adding largely to the appearance of the pleasing school buildings. Still further east extends new streets to the banks of the Tioughnioga, where is heard the hum of machinery in busy manufacturies, and are springing up pretty little cottages, while in the southeast is Blodgett's unique park, with its trout ponds, and myriads of "speckled beauties," fountains, romantic lover's retreat, and wonderful maze and all the other delights and surprises the genius of this self-taught landscape gardener has furnished. And on the west side of Main street looms up Monroe Heights, on which are built fine residences, and which in time will doubtless be terraced and form a delightful spot, starting at the corner of Main and Port Watson streets, and running diagonally southwest, Tompkins street, with its handsome dwellings, beautiful lawns and abundance of shade-giving trees, forms a favorite place of residence, while a rippling brook winds its way around the Heights and meandering through the meadows mingles its limpid waters with the Tioughnioga, which, entering on the north, skirts the base of Benham's Hill and being joined by the East branch goes murmuring along the eastern borders of the village to help swell the current of the Chenango, which in turn lends its assistance to the Susquehanna and thus journeys to the sea. And when the surrounding hills are covered with their wealth of foliage and the trees throughout the village are full in their leaf, no panegyric, however glowing, could more than do it justice.

     Past and Present was copied for the USGenWeb Project. It is available at:

Friday, May 25, 2012

How Many Days Off Do Teachers Get?


How many days off do teachers get?

(provided by wiki answers)

The average school year consists in the US of 180 days. Different districts break this down in different ways to come up with their own school calendars.

Using this average, there are 365 (approximately) days in a year. There are roughly 104 Saturdays and Sundays (weekends--no school days), leaving 261 possible days for school (not counting legal holidays of which there are about six), leaving 255 possible school days. Wait, forgot the break between Christmas and New Years, Thanksgiving (the Friday following), and midwinter break (call that three school weeks or 15 days), leaving 240 days.

Now, 180 from 240 leaves 60 days, roughly three months (60 five day weeks = 12 weeks).

Most districts require that teachers be available for a week or more at the end of the school year and report a week or more at the beginning of the school year, so 60 turns into 50 (ten weeks, or two and a half months).

In that 50 days, most teachers schedule the continuing education they must perform (college classes) to maintain their teaching certificate. This isn't usually enough time, and often the classes they need are not available during this "down" time, so they also take classes during the school year. All told then, most teachers really get no time off. That is until it all becomes too much, they catch a cold from one of the little darlings in their classroom, and have to call in a substitute for a couple days.

No one goes into teaching for the money
or the time off. Those who do typically get a very rude wake-up call.

Read more:
Read more about wiki answers author C. Hainsaw:

Veteran teacher to offer children more time to learn:

Monday, May 21, 2012

Senators Grassley and Sessions Write Letter to 9th Judical Court of Appeals Chief Judge

     U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, released a letter today to Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Alex Kozinski concerning a planned judicial conference in Maui, Hawaii.
     A previous Ninth Circuit conference, also held in Maui, cost taxpayers more than $1.1 million in travel and accommodation expenses alone.
     Statements from Grassley and Sessions follow:
     "Technology is so advanced that people are earning college degrees online and soldiers serving halfway across the world use Skype with their families at home," Grassley said. "Likewise, a judicial circuit should be capable of using technology to share information without requiring a trip to an island paradise. It's especially tone-deaf to plan a pricey conference after the GSA debacle...."
     "This conference is further evidence the federal government is in a state of financial chaos," Sessions said. "How can anyone in Washington ask for more taxes when this culture of excess continues?..At this time of fiscal crisis, America needs leadership that will restore accountability and ensure a disciplined budget is adopted at last."
     The conference is being held over four days in mid-August at the Hyatt Regency Maui, where rooms for participants range between $230 and $250 per night, according to the conference website. Grassley and Sessions say it will cost $500,000 alone for hotel rooms for the expected 700 participants.
     Obviously the senators are criticising the planned judicial event based upon the experience of the Senate itself.
     A "senior Senate delegation" travelled to China in April, 2011 for "an informational trip throughout China." It was led by Senator Harry Reid. Other senators who travelled with him were Dick Durbin, Barbara Boxer, Charles Schumer, Frank Lautenberg, Jeff Merkley, Michael Bennet, Richard Shelby, Mike Enzi and Johnny Isakson. They planned "site visits of American investments and clean-energy projects." They intended to discuss "the global economy, security, trade, currency and foreign policy."
     A separate five-member group of senators went for a weeklong trip to South Korea "to discuss trade matters," and then to an undisclosed location in the Far East. This delegation was led by Mitch McConnell and included Rob Portman, Mike Johanns, John Hoeven and Jerry Moran.
     Spouses of senators went along by military jet.
     A constituent of Sen. Grassley twitted: "If the shoe fits, wear it." Sen. Grassley replied: "It does. Sessions and I are planning a Paris, London, Vienna, Rome trade mission for Christmas break."
     A constituent of Sen. Sessions twitted: "Lead by example." Sen. Sessions replied: "We always do."
     New York State $en. $ham twittered: "You have made Senate hypocrisy a noble undertaking, as it should be, under these circumstances."
      View the Grassley-Sessions letter at:
     View the news release of the April 2011 senate junkets at:
     Regional Commissioner Jeff Neely leaves GSA:

Alzheimer's Disease

     There are approximately 27 million people in the world with Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's disease is degenerative, and leads to death. Life expectancy is an average seven years from the time the disease is initially diagnosed. Early symptoms involve short-term memory loss and confusion. As the disease worsens, confusion, irritability, aggression, trouble with language and long-term memory loss occur. Research for a cure is ongoing. There are over 1,000 clinical trials planned for 2012.
     When you gaze upon the familiar face of a spouse, relative or friend who has Alzheimer's disease, your emotions and thoughts are affected profoundly. Often, tears come to your eyes. In response, depending on the stage of the disease, the patient may show an expression of concern for you.
     The patient's expression seems to say, "What did I do to make you sad?" Or, you may be asked, "Why are you crying?"
     How do you answer? What do you say? Your first response is a clumsy attempt to explain it. If it happens at another visit, you skip the answer, change the subject and talk about something that happened long ago. Perhaps you will make a connection. You try old popular songs or church music.
     At a later point in time, the patient's expression of concern for your tears will disappear completely and a blank stare will greet you as you attempt to engage in conversation. If you are lucky, you will get a "yes" or a "no" or a smile in reply to your questions about treatment and conditions at the nursing facility.
     Around this time you begin to realize that you are no longer recognized. It is heartbreaking.

Editor's note:
Please read New York Times editorial: A New Attack on Alzheimer's.
Alzheimer's Association at:
Reference: National Institute on Aging at:
Central New York Chapter of Alzheimer's Association:
The Long Goodbye:
Ithaca Journal article with references:

Friday, May 18, 2012

$enator $ham and Constituent Paine Exchange Emails

Sent: Saturday, February 03, 2007 or thereabouts
Subject: Shakedown

Dear $enator $ham:

     Last night I received a phone call from your Albany office in regard to a certain confidential campaign contribution. Answering the staff member's query, I said, "the check is in the mail." He said, "That's what you told us last time, and we never got it."

     I said, "Really? Listen, you can be sure that I can be trusted. You should believe everything I say."

     He said, "That's what the senator says during his re-election campaigns, and his staff knows that's BS. I suppose that the next thing you will say is that you stand behind your promises and lies? That's what the senator always says--in private--to us."

     I said, "If the senator continues to shake me down, I may have to place him on the Do Not Call list. If you are an influential contact on the senator's staff, please tell him that I may also report the next phone call as an obscene phone call."

     Pay attention. I pay my taxes regularly. I don't expect to be treated like this. It's not right.

Constituent Paine

Sent: Monday, February 05, 2007
Subject: Missing Campaign Contribution

Dear Constituent Paine:
It grieves us to no end to hear that someone pretended to represent this august office in a phone call to you. The fact that we have been re-elected should show you that people realize we stand for honesty and forthrightness in representing your interests here in Albany.
The phone call you received was, we believe, from someone representing Democratic Party interests in an attempt to cast aspersions on your loyal and faithful steward of the public trust.
The fact is that no member of this staff could possibly have made the call you received. At that time, we were all in Nassau County campaigning for Maureen O'Connell. As you know, the election of Ms. O'Connell on Tuesday is critical to the preservation of life as we know it in this state. Therefore, we are enclosing for your use a quantity of absentee ballots which have been properly filled in for your voting convenience. Should you not be able to mail these for any reason, please contact this office and we will be pleased to send a representative to pick them up. There is an adequate supply of these in reserve, should you wish to further confirm your commitment to Republican government.
Please rest assured, Mr. Paine, that this office would never compromise its integrity or yours by making the kind of phone call you described.

Sincerely, Senator Shamus Sham

Sent: December 20, 2010
Subject: proposed State Senate reforms
Dear Constituent Paine:

As you know, the Senate will meet for the final time this session on Wednesday.

At that time, it will be my pleasure to introduce reform legislation that will attempt to correct some of the shortcomings of our house that you and other good government groups have advocated. While we readily concede that these reforms fall short of the extensive reforms you hope for, we do hope to assure you that we are making good-faith efforts toward those goals.

One proposal on the agenda deals with term limits. It will prohibit ANY deceased incumbent state senator from serving any more terms than those to which he or she shall be elected after demise. Any deceased senator who has not been reelected and who attempts to conduct senate business will be subject to peer review. That should be the end of that.

Another reform has to do with accepting gifts from lobbyists. This will make it strictly illegal for any state senator to accept any gift from a non-registered lobbyist in excess of $7,400,000 daily (to be adjusted annually for inflation) without the approval of the majority of the members of his political party, and subject to the final approval of the senate majority leader. While my personal take on this, if you'll excuse the choice of word, is that it will not materially (another questionable word choice) affect lobbyists' influence, I hope the message will be clear that lobbying is of concern to us. To be perfectly honest, some exemptions to this will probably be attached as amendments before the measure reaches the floor for a final vote, but I think this will give you an idea as to how sincere we are in reforming lobbying regulations.

It had been my hope to introduce more legislation to make our body more responsive to the best interests of the voters of this great state, but big movements begin with small--well, never mind.

Sincerely, $enator $ham

Sent: December 21, 2010
Subject: "big movements"
Dear $en. $ham:

     Everything you say or do is a "big movement." It blends smoothly with all the crapola being distributed, hippopotamus-style, by your senate colleagues.

     Beware a surprise visit by the State Health Department, which is looking for the source of an E.COLI outbreak in the Capital area. It has spread very far, to New Jersey and California and other places, usually showing up at state capitals.

     Have a Merry Christmas, along with your fellow legislators who usually travel on Christmas junkets at taxpayer's expense. I would suggest a short terminal trip to Iraq to inspect the troops--theirs, not ours.


Constituent Paine

Sent: Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Subject: attending next session

Dear Constituent Paine:

It has come to our attention that you are interested in the upcoming sessions of the State Legislature.

We are pleased to inform you that we will, indeed, be in session next week to complete this year's work on your behalf, and that of the other taxpayers and, of course, lobbyists. We will be doing this in anticipation of our three-week Christmas break, followed by our pre-New Year's break, which are not really "breaks"at all, but times to be in our districts to confer personally with our constituents--from the Caribbean if necessary.

For more direct information, the general phone number for the Senate is (518) 455-2800, and for the Assembly, (518) 455-4100. Operators at these numbers will be able to transfer your calls to the proper places for your future inquiries.

Thank you for your continued attention to good government in New York State.

Sincerely, Senator Sham

Sent: Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Subject: Re:
Dear $en $ham:
     Sen, Bruno has stated that a pay raise "is not on the senate agenda" for next session. Not that I don't trust the incorrigible snake--but hasn't he already solicited your vote in support of a pay raise???
     Your staff assistant has informed me that the rigged-bid state highway project on Rt.81, which I lobbied for in Albany, will go to Paine Paving. Your tickets/itinerary are in the mail for a company-paid 3 week vacation for the whole family in beautiful sunny Haiti. You can pick up the spending money at the usual drop location, the Adult Book Store on Avenue XXX, Albany. Please destroy this email after receipt.

Constituent Paine

Sent: Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Subject: Re:

Dear Constituent Paine:
It should be brought to your attention that attempting to bribe a public official is a crime. Therefore, I should refer your recent e-mail to the Attorney General for prosecution. Considering, however, that you have been such a staunch supporter in the past, I shall overlook this one indiscretion. (For a little consideration down the line, that is.)
You will also be pleased to learn that I am opposed to any pay increase for members of the legislature. However, should the matter be brought up for a vote next week, I may have to vote in favor of it in order to maintain my good standing in the Republican majority. But I just want to assure you that although I may vote for a pay increase, I am in my heart opposed to it.

Sincerely yours, Senator Sham

Sent: Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Subject: Re:
Dear $en. $ham:
     You say "I am in my heart opposed to it." Should the public expect that you will refuse the pay raise when it is approved, and donate it to charity??? (I have a charity in mind....)
Whatever your position on this matter, be assured of my continued $upport and good will.
     If you copy, forward or save this email, please erase the dollar signs. I wouldn't want anyone to get the wrong impression.

Most sincerely,
Constituent Paine

Sent: Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Subject: Re: Re:

Dear Constituent Paine:
One, "Charity Starts at Home," and Two, don't worry about the dollar $ign$. All of us here in the State Legislature know exactly what they mean. There is no chance of misunderstanding, as this is an international symbol as far as our world goes.
Sincerely, Senator Sham

July, 2006. Dear Constituent Paine:  Thank you for your support.  I do indeed promise that I will never raise taxes, that I will never lie, and will never accept any pork or any illegal campaign contributions.  I also promise you that I will support legislation to require snow on Christmas and sailing weather on Labor Day.  I promise you that I will end the war in Iraq within two weeks of hell freezing over (Christmas is exempted as are Jewish holidays), and that all corporations will refund money they have siphoned off from the share holders to pay CEO's -- except the dead CEO's, who automatically get to keep what they take with them.  How is that, Mr. Paine, as an agenda for the next two years at Versailles-on-the-Hudson?  As to your offer for those votes, we have a new euphemism for it (euphemisms are our specialty),  It is now called "alternative voting," and is a spin-off from President Bush's No Corpse Left Behind.  Sic transit gloria GOP.  $incerely your$, $enator $ham

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


     Triskaidekaphobia is a word that can be found in the Wikipedia dictionary. Translated from the Greek, it is defined as fear of the number thirteen.
     It is a serious, possibly fatal, mental health condition among Cortland County legislators. It falls short of an epidemic--only nineteen people are involved and it is not contagious. Medical experts define it as "a peculiar state of mind."
     Tompkins County (population 100,407) has fifteen legislators and its legislature is currently proposing a reduction to fourteen. Cortland County (population 48,483) has nineteen legislators and its legislature is currently proposing a reduction to seventeen.
     Unbiased observers, and they are few, have suggested thirteen legislators for Cortland County. They argue persuasively that it can eliminate the need for weighted voting.
     What is it about the number 13 which frightens and paralyzes Cortland County legislators?
     From a political viewpoint, it appears several legislators would lose their jobs. The public believes the county legislature could easily remove four or five legislators. No one would notice that they were missing. Democrats are afraid that Republicans would gain an advantage and that Democrats would lose influence. From a political viewpoint, these fears are understandable.
     Does triskaidekaphobia run deeper than this? Let's examine the history of this esoteric phobia. Our reference is the Wikipedia dictionary and other sources.
     Christian tradition has espoused that Judas, who was present at The Last Supper, was the thirteenth disciple. In the Norse pantheon, Loki was the thirteenth god who planned the murder of Balder, and Loki was the thirteenth guest to arrive at Balder's funeral. This relates to the superstition that when thirteen people gather together, one of them will die the following year. During the Middle Ages, French royalty would hire a fourteenth guest because they believed that thirteen diners who sat together would cause the death of one of them.
     To put an end to such superstitions, a group of New Yorkers formed the Thirteen Club in 1881. The first meeting was Friday, January 13 at 8:13 P.M. Thirteen people sat down to dine together. The guests walked under a ladder to the dining room and were seated among piles of spilled salt.
     One of the guests died the following year. An obituary was never published.
     Perhaps this explains why some people are recommending twelve--no, thirteen county legislators.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Tribute to Fred H. Janke

     An obituary usually provides information about a person's birth, death, schooling, military experience, work history, achievements, memberships in organizations or clubs, marriage, family members preceded in death, survivors, funeral services and burial information.
     Seldom does an obituary provided insight to the character of a person.
     Fred H. Janke's obituary was published in the Syracuse Post Standard on November 10, 2005. It was an obituary as described above. He taught at Cortland Senior High School. He was also a professor at Tompkins-Cortland Community College.
     The Cortland Contrarian wishes to take this opportunity to add a singular and memorable side-story to this man's proud history of achievement.
     Hearsay is a poor reference for a serious story, but hearsay in this instance furnished the editor of the Cortland Contrarian with a verified story. A casual conversation in a local restaurant gave us the basic information, which we later verified. A long chain of events and persons was involved.
     Fred had a very strong character and he often stood for principle rather than expediency. He served ten years as a city alderman. During his time in office, there was an occasion in 1987 when alderpersons voted themselves a pay raise a month or so after most or all of them were reelected. The public had not been informed about the intended pay raise prior to elections.
     Fred Janke disagreed on principle and voted against the pay raise. He was the only person to do this. He cited timing and secrecy. After subtracting taxes, he donated his bi-monthly pay increase to charity.
     Members of Congress and state legislators will often vote against a salary increase for themselves (after counting votes) and make a great noise about it publicly. Afterwards, they quietly take the increase in salary.
     Fred H. Janke died at age 77. The Cortland Contrarian offers this belated tribute. His character and principles will not be forgotten.
     If family or friends have additional tributes for Fred, or wish to relate other favorable stories, please leave a comment on this post.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Haunting History

By now you've grown tired of hearing about corruption in D.C. and how good governance is a pipe dream until a cure is achieved. Many of you are caught up in the media circus that passes for politics, and some are engaged in seeking to defeat the evil dim wits running for the 'other' party. Here's a piece that seeks to provide some perspective. Reaching a venerable age (read vulnerable age) does cause one to look back for clues that might provide some kind of insight into today's jumble of frightening possibilities.

From early childhood, I've been obliged to find my way through a constant and ever-changing mine field of crises. The first was the Great Depression, marked by 20% unemployment when households had one wage earner. I saw the beggars, the homes filled with relatives who had no other place to go, and old people sitting on the sidewalk, surrounded by their meager belongings after being evicted from their homes. Then came WW2 when folks on the west coast prepared for invasion and German subs sunk ships just outside New York harbor. The FBI set up a radio tracking station on my street to search for spies. At the start, it was not at all clear that we would win. These crises were marked by clear, tangible, facts that one could judge for oneself.

The Cold-War followed. We saw the Iron-Curtain go up and the Communist invasion of Korea. We accepted Communism as a genuine threat to our country and way of life. A long series of crises followed. We had the Red Scare, Communists in Hollywood exercising mind control, Domino Theory, the Cuban Missile Crisis when many of us built bomb shelters. In between, we had the John Birch Society, Militias, and the Christian Right. And there were others that I've conveniently chosen to forget.

As we learned later, many of these crises were self-inflicted. The Soviet Union and Communism were imploding, rotting from within. Others were media hyperbole and died a natural death. As I look back, there seems to have been very little by way of tangible facts associated with these issues.

And then came 9/11 with an abundance of tangible facts.

The point for me is that politicians, the media, and analysts are a poor guide to what's actually going on, better to look at tangible facts. Make your own list, being sure to exclude verisimilitudes (opinion stated as fact), including your own.

Here are some of mine to start:

1/ The national debt exceeds GDP and is planned to grow as a percentage of GDP for at least several years.

2/ Many states have significant budget deficits, and virtually all, along with a great many municipalities, have large, unfunded, public pension liabilities.

3/ Interest rates have been kept below the rate of inflation for four years, and the plan is to keep them low for at least two more years. There is no, comparatively safe, investment yielding above the rate of inflation. Savers lose, government wins.

4/ Unemployment is high. Our GDP is growing but too slowly to raise employment for years to come.

5/ Europe is in recession, and all but Germany require fundamental economic reform in order to achieve balanced economies. This has barely begun and will take years to achieve.

I could go on but I see my grandchildren getting MEGO (my eyes glaze over). Besides, these things take care of themselves eventually, don't they? Don't count on it. Look to Europe. Somebody always pays; will it be you?

JOSEPH J BAKEWELL, author of STRIKE, currently available as a Kindle ebook and on Coming soon to Nook and Sony. See my blog:

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Who Am I? (Number 6)

     Ever read or hear about Horse Cave Creek in Meigs County, Ohio? Locals know that place, and that's where I was born on June 24, 1842.
     It wasn't long before my family moved away from the place of my birth and resettled in Kosciusko County, Indiana. I attended high school at Warsaw, but left home and school at age fifteen to work for a small newspaper in Ohio.
     In 1861 I enlisted in the Union Army. I was commissioned First Lieutenant in 1862. I made detailed maps for the army. I fought at the battles of Shiloh and Kennesaw Mountain, where I was shot in the head by a Confederate sharpshooter. I survived, but that wound and my chronic asthma would continue to affect me until death. I was discharged from the army in January 1865.
     I resumed my military career in mid-1866 and inspected western military posts from Omaha to San Francisco. I resigned my commission in San Francisco and immediately began working in the newspaper trade for The San Francisco News Letter, The Argonaut, The Overland Monthly, The Californian, and The Wasp. After several years as a reporter, I became an editor and columnist.
     I married in 1871. My wife and I had three children. We moved to England in 1872 and I worked for FUN magazine. I also wrote a book entitled The Fiend's Delight. In 1875 my family and I returned to the United States and resumed life in San Francisco. I also resumed work in the newspaper trade. In 1887, I became a regular columnist for The San Francisco Examiner.
     Every now and then, when not preoccupied with a news story or editorial, I would jot down my unique definition of a word. Here are a few of those definitions:
     Novel, n. A short story padded.
     Bigot, n. One who is obstinately and zealously attached to an opinion that you do not entertain.
     Cynic, n. A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be. Hence the custom among the Scythians of plucking out the cynic's eyes to improve his vision.
     Conservative, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.
     Diplomacy, n. The patriotic art of lying for one's country.
     Corporation, n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.
     Centaur, n. ...The best of the lot was Chiron, who to the wisdom and virtues of the horse added the fleetness of man.
     Bride, n. A woman with a fine prospect of happiness behind her.
     Love, n. A temporary insanity curable by marriage....
     April Fool, n. The March fool with another month added to his folly.
     Academe, n. An ancient school where morality and philosophy were taught.
     Academy, n. [from academe] A modern school where football is taught.
     Liberty, n. One of imagination's most precious possessions.
     Religion, n. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable.
     Magic, n. An art of converting superstition into coin. There are other arts serving the same high purpose, but the discreet lexicographer does not name them. 
     Saint, n. A dead sinner, revised and edited.
     Politics, n. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.
     Idiot, n. A member of a large and powerful tribe whose influence in human affairs has always been dominant and controlling.
     Alone, adj. In bad company.
     My wife and I separated in 1888, and we were divorced in 1904. I was a bitter man before this happened, but I became more bitter about life and people after the separation. Among acquaintances, the word "bitter" was often attached to my surname.
     In 1891, I wrote a collection of short stories, including Chickamauga and An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge. In 1911, I wrote The Devil's Dictionary.
     William Randolf Hearst assigned me to a special muckraking project in 1896. I was sent to Washington, D.C. The Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroad companies, under Collis P. Huntington, were trying to escape repayment of $130 million owed to the United States government. Railroad lobbyists in Washington, D.C. were applying influence on members of Congress when I arrived. Mr. Huntington knew my mission was to expose his secretive influence peddling, and he confronted me on the steps of the Capitol and asked me to name my price.
     My reply to him was published in newspapers nationwide.
     "My price is one hundred and thirty million dollars. If, when you are ready to pay, I happen to be out of town, you may hand it over to the Treasurer of the United States."
     In October 1913, at age 71, I left Washington, D.C. to tour old Civil War battlefields. By December I was in Texas. I soon crossed the border at El Paso and proceeded into Mexico.
     Mexico was in a state of revolution. I joined Poncho Villa and his army as an observer, and I witnessed the battle of Tierra Blanca. I traveled with the army as far as Chihuahua, Villa's hometown.
     Then I, Ambrose Bierce, disappeared.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Gateway Gambit

     When that tall statue of Cortland's HONEST POLITICIAN was installed near the I-81 Exit 11--a location called the Gateway to Cortland--Cortland residents waited for the expected influx of visitors from I-81.
     But off-highway visitors, it was reported by other media, continued to do what they always did. They stopped for food, gasoline and quick trips to restrooms and then returned to I-81.
     Apparently they weren't impressed by the huge statue or its name.
     "A big lie," one traveler remarked with disdain. "I'm from Missouri. You can't tie knots in my tail."
     Not wanting to admit failure, a local business group comprised of landlords, lawyers and landlord-lawyers put together a well-disguised health-related business proposal and submitted it to proper authorities. Applications for several city building permits and variances were granted. Shortly afterward, to the surprise of Cortland residents and authorities, the enterprising entrepreneurs stationed female strippers, clad in revealing bikinis and holding signs, along Clinton Avenue, Church Street and Port Watson Street. The girls were advertising the proposed new business venture.
     "It's a promotional stunt," explained Bob Bird, a local landlord.
     Visitors came into the city in droves.
     Local and international travel agencies placed Cortland in their ads for exotic destinations, travel and entertainment deals. Two-way radio traffic among truckers increased dramatically. Restaurants and fast food stores at the Gateway experienced a surge in business.
     Cortland's licensed massage parlors are expected to open soon. They were unwittingly approved by Zoning Board, Planning Board, Board of Regents, Sertoma Club, Zombie Chess Club, American Legion, VFW Post 4, Cortland's retired postal carriers and ultimately common council. Legal papers filed with various boards describe the business as "massage therapy training school." The entrepreneurs are waiting for an IDA PILOT agreement and Empire Zone status before they convert distressed Main Street buildings. They are seeking a grant from the Job Development Authority.They predict fifty-five new jobs in the City of Cortland.
     "It will be a downtown face-lift," said Bob Bird. "Owners of bars and restaurants on Main Street are enthusiastic. Separately, our market studies show that women are underserved by our area retail stores. Our next business proposal may be a vibrator superstore on Main Street."
     Some local resident massage therapists are not so enthusiastic. They promise to keep an eye on the new business venture for any illegal activity.
     "Massage is a hands-on professional occupation," said Mary Martin. "We will report anything illegal that might come up."
     As you probably guessed, there is a growing traffic problem. To make matters worse, those bikini-clad strippers along Clinton Avenue are flashing their breasts at truckers. As a result, truck drivers are slowing down and often stopping to chat with the girls, clogging the flow of traffic on Clinton Avenue. Police have warned the girls that they may be arrested for indecent exposure, and the mayor and common council have directed the police to take aggressive action.
     "We warned the girls last night," said Cortland police Sgt. Pepper. "In spite of the warnings, they flashed us too. These girls could cause a major pile-up on Clinton Avenue if they continue with this tawdry and provocative display. Starting tomorrow, we will not look the other way."
     Sgt. Pepper predicted that parking will be a problem when the new businesses open. Cortland is considering the parking facilities at Riverside Plaza, and the use of county buses to transfer the large number of visitors downtown. 
     "Right now, we are putting all our efforts into keeping trucks on a straight line using Rt. 13 through the city," said Sgt. Pepper. "We are redirecting them when they stray. We intend to ticket drivers if they fail to obey directions."
     The Cortland Contrarian overheard SUCC faculty, including some who are real zombies, discussing the impact of these events on the college student population. We learned that Cortland's flashing strippers and the proposed massage parlors are getting "high 5's" among the male student population at SUCC. In addition, many female students are applying for jobs at the new massage parlors, expecting to pay their way through college without the need for student loans.
     As one might expect, several local churches plan to protest next week. Rev. Farley Smoot from Virgil is organizing the largest protest. His neighbor, Sandy Nice, may join him. Violence Against Women is planning a protest. Attorney Gloria Allgreen has promised a court challenge. A former mayor may sue the city too--"just for the hell of it." The politically popular Save Our Neighborhoods Group--spearheaded by local resident and historian Clay Benefit--plans to present petitions to common council to stop the landlord/lawyer business venture.
     "First we have the student housing occupancy violations, now we get this preposterous proposal. Did you know they had the nerve to request a state grant? Have these greedy landlords and lawyers no decency?" he said.
     Cortland's BDC-IDA is expecting a big boost to the local economy when the proposed business venture gets started. It is not so optimistic about a local newspaper report predicting increases in sales tax revenue, as tipping in massage parlors often goes undisclosed.
     Can't wait for the New York Jets to arrive for summer camp!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Congressional XXX Professional Crybaby

     Commenting on House Speaker Boehner's tearful interview on 60 Minutes in December, 2010, Barbara Walters of The View said:
     "This guy has an emotional problem. Every time he talks about anything that's not 'raise taxes,' he cries."
     Joy Bahar, co-host on The View, called Speaker Boehner "Weeper of the House."
      The LA Times published an opinion piece on December 16, 2010:
The Meaning of John Boehner's Tears. Professor Tom Lutz of UC Riverside was quoted: "...many of us weep because we are overwhelmed by contradictions."
     All of these comments are amusing but miss the raison d'etre.
     This Ohio politician who has studied Rev. Jimmy Swaggart and other televangelists may have an ulterior motive. It's not about preaching the word of God.
     It's about money, and how he can stay in office and get more. Since becoming Speaker, contributions are pouring in. He doesn't own a TV network of his own, or lease satellite transponder time. All of the networks cover him adequately.
     Perhaps he should be credited with a new quotation: "Crying pays." He hasn't said it. He doesn't need to.

Editor's note: Listen to Speaker Boehner's favorite song:

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Improving Cortland's Image

     There have been several suggestions and ideas in the news or floated on blogs recently about improving Cortland's image, especially at the I-81 Exit 11 gateway to Clinton Avenue and downtown Cortland. It took an outsider-now-insider with a different perspective to get the conversation started.
     A big box store like Target would be a perfect fit at Riverside Plaza near Exit 11. But it's more of a dream than realty at this point.
     One of our most esteemed contributors has offered the following observation: "Image without substance does not amount to much. The city needs a healthier economic base, but that's not something that's accomplished by window dressing."
     Cortland Contrarian's staff has a few thoughtful but manic ideas on this subject:
     1) Erect a statue of Cortland's HONEST POLITICIAN at the site of the old gasoline station. Make it over 30 feet tall, very noticeable. Provide a worthy inscription at the base. Keep it obscure but reference the Cardiff Giant. Next to the statue, place a large lighted billboard with directions and a map to downtown places of interest.
     2) Direct visitors to Woodman's Pub for a one-on-one interview with Cortland's finest and most gifted politicians.
     3) Pass out souvenirs of old political campaign statements, and other immutable lies. Show them news-clippings of public employee lawsuits against taxpayers and other unselfish activities. Tell them about the crows. Balance the presentation with a description of the June Dairy Parade, 1890 House and County Fair.
     4) If the first three items fail to astound or impress visitors, unleash the ultimate propaganda tool and show them city/county/school tax rates and fee structures.
     5) As visitors make a quick escape, remind them that Main Street is a one-way street.