Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Curiosity Finding Astonishes Scientific Community

     NASA's Curiosity rover landed on the red planet Mars on August 6, 2012, at 1:32 AM EDT.  It will explore surface features and sample mineral sediments. It will search for the chemical building blocks of life--carbon compounds--and environmental conditions favorable for microbial life. Curiosity cost about $2.5 billion to design, build and launch.
     Many interesting details were provided by NASA in a press release dated August 22, 2012.
     Curiosity was driven about 20 feet from its landing location for a test drive. Scientists working on the NASA project have named the location Bradbury Landing in honor of science-fiction writer Ray Bradbury. Bradbury wrote Martian Chronicles.
     The initial test drive confirmed the health of Curiosity's mobility system. It was driven forward and backward, and in a circle. Tracks were photographed by Curiosity's cameras.

     Curiosity is spending several days in the area of Bradbury Landing to study its surroundings and check instruments. The Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) sampling instrument uses a laser, drill and alpha-particle x-ray spectrometer to examine the composition of rocks and sediment. It has already discovered a startling phenomenon.

plain of mors cavae
     "We found moving rocks a short distance from Bradbury Landing at mors cavae. The movement of these rocks on a surface near the equator where there is no water or ice has our science team puzzled," said deputy project scientist Rod Cerling. "They are too large to be pushed by the wind. We don't have an explanation for their movement at this time."
     Roger Wright of Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico reported that these moving rocks were unlike the rocks in the Bradbury Landing area. "Small rocks and sediment in the landing area were sampled and measured. Most of these samples suggest a basaltic composition. However, we believe that the composition of the moving rocks is far more complex. Curiosity's sensors indicate a magnetic component, possibly magnetite."
     NASA scientists used a 100mm mast cam to image the moving rocks. Many of the revealing photos were not published on the JPL/NASA website. Rolling Stone reported that the Defense Department classified those photos TOP SECRET.
     Cornell University's scientific community received a shock yesterday when one of their colleagues claimed that the moving rocks were photographed moving uphill.
     "Contrary to the law of gravity, these moving rocks were photographed climbing hills on Mars," said astrophysicist Martin Beck. "Gravity on Mars is less than that of Earth, but how can this phenomenon occur under any circumstances? It's strange that the government has classified the photos TOP SECRET and will not acknowledge the phenomenon. Reminds me of the government's classified data on UFOs. There may be an element in these rocks that has military as well as scientific application."
     JPL manages the Mars Science Laboratory/Curiosity for NASA's Science Mission. The rover was designed, developed and assembled at JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California. (Drawings and photos in this post courtesy NASA/JPL-CalTech and Google.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

No Cow Left Behind--Anniversary Post


     Editor's note: No Cow Left Behind first appeared on August 28, 2011 in the Cortland Contrarian. It was our kick-off post. People on the streets of Cortland spread rumors that the "tweeter" in our post was SUCC President Erik Bitterbaum, who is versed in the study of ornithology and considered an expert on bird songs. We will not affirm or deny it.
     We are celebrating this one year anniversary with a "tweet" and a rerun of a light-hearted, bovine romp in the field of education. We wish to thank our many readers for their interest in our blog.


     The Obama administration's new education initiative No Cow Left Behind  is a great success in Cortland County. One hundred cows are registered in the freshman class at SUCC, fifty cows are registered at TC3, one thousand calves are registered in the Cortland City School District, and eight cows are currently in remedial reading classes supervised by the City of Cortland Youth Bureau.
     In an effort to obtain more money for schools, teachers are writing letters to the editor, making phone calls, and carrying signs with the logo "IT'S ALL ABOUT THE COWS."
     Senators Schumer and Gillibrand and Congressman Hanna visited Cortland recently and praised the Obama education initiative.
     "Educated cows are vital for the future of our country," said Senator Gillibrand. This initiative helps us compete in the world economy. It's a job creator. It's all about jobs."
     Senator Schumer added: "Money for this initiative will come from a higher tax on the rich, who don't pay a fair share--damn it!"
     Congressman Hanna said that he voted for the initiative but against the higher tax on the rich. "It puts too much burden on the rich. I would prefer a user fee."
     Several important community officials were interviewed for this report.
     SUCC spokesperson Iwanna Milk said: "This is obviously an investment in the future. That's what education is all about." She added: "New job opportunities are posted. We hope to add farmers to our staff."
     Chamber of Commerce spokesman Eddy S. Freemarket said: "We need an educated workforce. This program will be good for the dairy industry."
     The mayor of Cortland said: "We will have to expand our handicapped facilities. Let's hope this is not another unfunded mandate and I hope the city gets fully reimbursed."
     Campus police say the cows have acquired some bad habits associating with the other students.
     "The cows used to eat grass," said Chief Timothy Weed. "Now they smoke it. To make matters worse, many arrive in class totally wasted."
     School administrators were concerned about bus services and rest room facilities. The New York State Health Department has proposed new regulations, including cow diapers to be fastened by suspenders over hindquarters.
     One high-ranking administrator, who can tweet like a bird, admitted that the new Obama initiative "will be difficult to implement, but we intend to meet the challenge. Currently we are making major renovations to our restrooms. We have ordered massive amounts of deodorizer and hundreds of shovels--just in case. Tweet!"

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Was Abraham Lincoln a Master of Logic?

     Abraham Lincoln was an extraordinarily talented man. Much has been written about him and his era. He was praised by members of the new Republican Party, and detested and vilified by opposing factions before and during the Civil War.
     Lincoln was a self-made lawyer, a congressman, a statesman, and 16th President of the United States. He was an excellent writer and an effective communicator; his Gettysburg Address was a stunning example. Lincoln had the ability to comprehend the most difficult and complex details and reduce them to understandable and manageable elements.
     When Lincoln decided in 1854 to run as a Whig for the senate seat held by Stephen A. Douglas, conditions for the first series of debates between the two men were agreed upon and the debates began in the fall of that year. 
     Was this "self-made" lawyer and former one-term congressman prepared to debate a seasoned senator? What did Lincoln know about the history and formation of the United States, the Constitution, statutes and resolutions passed by Congress?
     His young law partner, William H. Herndon, watched with admiration as Lincoln prepared for the scheduled debates against Senator Douglas. Lincoln frequently visited the State Library in Springfield  in the summer of 1854. He took notes and recorded historical, legal and political information for his arguments.
     The passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Acts of 1854 allowed settlers in these territories to determine by popular vote whether or not slavery should be established. John Brown was one of those settlers but he and others opted for violence. Passage of these Acts meant the end of the Missouri compromise of 1850, and the end of inadmissibility of slave states north of the Missouri Compromise line. Senator Douglas of Illinois designed, promoted and voted for these acts.
     Lincoln opposed the Kansas-Nebraska Acts. Preparing for the debates, he carefully developed his arguments as an attorney would develop arguments intended for a court and jury.
     Here are selected excerpts from his speech delivered at Peoria, October 16, 1854, including a controversial--by today's standards--passage about slavery:
    The repeal of the Missouri Compromise, and the propriety of its restoration, constitute the subject of what I am about to say....
     And, as the subject is no other, than part and parcel of the larger general question of domestic slavery, I wish to MAKE and KEEP the distinction between the EXISTING institution, and the EXTENSION of it, so broad, and so clear, that no honest man can misunderstand me, and no dishonest one, successfully misrepresent me...
     In order to [get] a clear understanding of what the Missouri Compromise is, a short history of the preceding kindred subjects will perhaps be proper...

     Here Lincoln laid out the history of slavery in the United States. He mentioned Jefferson's influence on the Northwest Ordinance, and he talked about the Louisiana Purchase, the trading of territory between France and Spain, Texas and the war with Mexico. He spoke about the Wilmot Proviso, the Missouri Compromise and the Kansas-Nebraska Acts.

     Before proceeding, let me say I think I have no prejudice against the Southern people. They are just what we would be in their situation. If slavery did not now exist amongst them, they would not introduce it...
     When Southern people tell us they are no more responsible for the origin of slavery, than we; I acknowledge the fact. When it is said that the institution exists; and that it is very difficult to get rid of it, in any satisfactory way, I can understand and appreciate the saying. If all earthly power were given me, I should not know what to do, as to the existing institution. My first impulse would be to free all the slaves, and send them to Liberia--to their own native land. But a moment's reflection would convince me, that whatever of high hope, as I think there is, there may be in this, in the long run, its sudden execution is impossible. If they were all landed there in a day, they would all perish in the next ten days. What then? Free them all, and keep them amongst us as underlings? Is it quite certain that this betters their condition? I think I would not hold one in slavery at any rate; yet the point is not clear enough for me to denounce people upon. What next? Free them, and make them politically and socially our equals? My own feelings will not admit of this; and if mine would, we well know that those of the great mass of white people will not. Whether this feeling accords with justice and sound judgment, is not the sole question, if indeed, it is any part of it. A universal feeling, whether well or ill-founded, can not be safely disregarded. We cannot, then, make them equals. It does seem to me that systems of gradual emancipation might be adopted; but for their tardiness in this, I will not undertake to judge our brethren of the south...
     Another fact showing the SPECIFIC character of the Missouri law--showing that it intended no more than it expressed--showing that the line was not intended as a universal dividing line between free and slave territory, present and prospective--north of which slavery could never go--is the fact that by that very law, Missouri came in as a slave state, north of the line. If that law contained any prospective principle, the whole law must be looked to in order to ascertain what the principle was. And by this rule, the south could fairly contend that inasmuch as they got one slave state north of the line at the inception of the law, they have the right to have another given them north of it occasionally--now and then in the indefinite westward extension of the line. This demonstrates the absurdity of attempting to deduce a prospective principle from the Missouri Compromise line.
     When we voted for the Wilmot Proviso, we were voting to keep slavery OUT of the whole Mexican acquisition; and little did we think that we were thereby voting, to let it into Nebraska, laying several hundred miles distant. When we voted against extending the Missouri line, little did we think we were destroying the old line, then of nearly thirty years standing. To argue that we repudiated the Missouri Compromise is no less absurd than it would be to argue that because we have, so far, forborne to acquire Cuba, we have thereby, IN PRINCIPLE, repudiated our former acquisitions, and determined to throw them out of the Union! No less absurd than it would be to say that because I may have refused to build an addition to my house, I thereby have decided to destroy the existing house! And if I catch you setting fire to my house, you will turn upon me and say I INSTRUCTED you to do it! The most conclusive argument, however, that, while voting for the Wilmot proviso and while voting against the EXTENSION of the Missouri line,we never thought of disturbing the original Missouri Compromise, is found in the facts, that there was then, and still is, an unorganized tract of fine country, nearly as large as the state of Missouri, lying immediately west of Arkansas, and south of the Missouri Compromise line; and that we never attempted to prohibit slavery as to it. I wish particular attention to this. It adjoins the original Missouri Compromise line, by its northern boundary; and consequently it is part of the country, into which, by implication, slavery was permitted to go, by that compromise. There it has lain open ever since, and there it still lies. And yet no effort has been made at any time to wrest it from the south. In all our struggles to prohibit slavery within our Mexican acquisitions, we never so much lifted a finger to prohibit it, as to this tract. Is not this entirely conclusive that at all times, we have held the Missouri Compromise as a sacred thing; even when against ourselves, as well as when for us?
     Senator Douglas sometimes says the Missouri line itself was, IN PRINCIPLE, only an extension of the line of the ordinance of 1787--that is to say, an extension of the Ohio river. I think this is weak enough on its face. I will remark, however, that, as a glance of the map will show, the Missouri line is a long way farther south than the Ohio; and that if our senator, in proposing his extension, had stuck to the PRINCIPLE of jogging southward, perhaps it might not have been voted down so easily...
     A word now about the Judge's [Douglas's] desperate assumption that the compromises of 1850 had no connection with one another; that Illinois came into the Union as a slave state, and some other similar ones. This is no other than a bold denial of the history of our country...To deny these things is to deny our national axioms, or dogmas, at least; and it puts an end to all argument. If a man will stand up and assert, and repeat, and reassert, that two and two do not make four, I know nothing in the power of argument that can stop him.... 

     Lincoln lost the senate election after the two senate candidates debated in 1854. At that time, senate elections were conducted by a state's legislature. They debated again in 1858 with the same result.
    Was Abraham Lincoln a master of logic? Clearly the evidence presented in a small segment of a major speech is inconclusive to support the proposition. The gems of his genius are evident in the segment, but one needs to read the whole speech to arrive at a judgment that the proposition has merit and should be affirmed.
     To read the entire Peoria speech and a preface,  go to speech at the Lehrman Institute and Lincoln Institute website.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Abbott and Costello Remastered

Abbott and Costello

     This artful parody appeared in email on the Internet in February 2012, or earlier. It has continued to circulate because of its subject matter and humorous content. In addition, an extra line--the last line--was added since it first appeared.
     Greg Mankiw, chairman of the department of economics at Harvard, posted it in his blog on February 25, 2012. It was sent to him by Allen Sanderson, a senior lecturer in the economics department at the University of Chicago.
     The parody is a remake of the original Abbott and Costello routine about baseball: Who's on first? Creative substitutions were made in the rewrite. The author's identity is unknown.

Costello: I want to talk about the unemployment rate in America.
Abbott: Good subject. Terrible times. It's 8.3%.
Costello: That many people are out of work?
Abbott: No, that's 16%.
Costello: You said 8.3%.
Abbott: 8.3% unemployed.
Costello: Right 8.3% out of work.
Abbott: No, that's 16%.
Costello: Okay, so it's 16% unemployed.
Abbott: No, that's 8.3%...
Costello: WAIT A MINUTE. Is it 8.3% or 16%?
Abbott: 8.3% are unemployed. 16% are out of work.
Costello: If you are out of work you are unemployed.
Abbott: No, you can't count the "Out of Work" as the unemployed. You have to look for work to be unemployed.
Abbott: No, you miss my point.
Costello: What point?
Abbott: Someone who doesn't look for work, can't be counted with those who look for work. It wouldn't be fair.
Costello: To whom?
Abbott: The unemployed.
Costello: But they are ALL out of work.
Abbott: No, the unemployed are actively looking for work. Those who are out of work stopped looking. They gave up. And, if you give up, you are no longer in the ranks of the unemployed.
Costello: So if you're off the unemployment rolls, that would count as less employment?
Abbott: Unemployment would go down. Absolutely!
Costello: The unemployment just goes down because you don't look for work?
Abbott: Absolutely it goes down. That's how you get to 8.3%. Otherwise it would be 16%. You don't want to read about 16% unemployment, do ya?
Costello: That would be frightening.
Abbott: Absolutely.
Costello: Wait, I got a question for you. That means there are two ways to bring down the unemployment number?
Abbott: Two ways is correct.
Costello: Unemployment can go down if someone gets a job?
Abbott: Correct.
Costello: And unemployment can also go down if you stop looking for a job?
Abbott: Bingo.
Costello: So there are two ways to bring unemployment down, and the easier of the two is to just stop looking for work.
Abbott: Now you're thinking like an economist.
Costello: I don't even know what I just said.
Abbott: Now you're thinking like a politician.

Greg Mankiw's Blog  --On Mankiw's blog, please click on Monkeys reject equal pay, a YouTube video featuring Emory University Professor Frans deWaal, a primatologist.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Good Morning, Cortland

     Good morning, Cortland.
     SUCC students are arriving for the start of school year 2012-13. Landlords are keeping busy--with student rents and legal actions against the City of Cortland--smiles and grimaces all around.
     Contractors will begin work in October on a controversial Student Life Center at the old SUCC football and track location. Neighbors who live near the proposed building site tried unsuccessfully to have it relocated. The initial cost of the building is $56 million, exclusive of borrowing costs and any modifications. The Cortland Contrarian commented on this building project in a post dated November 29, 2011: SUNY, Where is the Money Tree? (Click on highlights to view.)
     The construction of a flood containment berm at the Cortland Water Works is in progress. This project will cost $61,000, according to DPW Superintendent Chris Bistocchi.
     Former Mayor Susan Feiszli pushed for the berm project, and it was implemented by current Mayor Brian Tobin and common council after a funding delay.
     Parents in the county are preparing their children for school. Last minute buying of school-related accessories and clothing has spiked. Store ads blaze: "Back to School Savings" and "Great Savings."
     Do you really save when you spend?
     View "Back-to-School Spending" at Ithaca Journal.
     The City of Cortland continues to expand its fee structure. Have you noticed?
     Since leaving Cortland training camp, the NY Jets have lost two pre-season games. They play again on Sunday. Wish them success.
     High temperatures and humidity are moderating as autumn approaches. Look for cooler mornings and a coating of dew on car windshields before the end of September. 
     People are still talking about inadequate rainfall this year. The corn yield will be less than last year's yield. Due to an early spring warm up, followed by freezing temperatures, New York's apple crop is not expected to exceed 50% full yield. For apple consumers, higher prices are inevitable.
     There are persistent rumors among Mexican farm workers that the Mayan god of rain--Chaac--has promised to send tropical rains north. Soaking vestigial effects of hurricanes may be appreciated by those affected by the long drought.
     Going into autumn, skunks and crows are searching for gourmet snacks. An experienced homeowner keeps garbage in covered containers.
     Open your bedroom window, allow cool air to circulate, and listen to the repetitive exit songs of crickets and cicadas before you go to sleep at night.
     Before starting your daily routine today, listen to Good Morning Starshine by Oliver. A catchy song that you hear in the morning has a tendency to linger and work on your senses. You may even find yourself humming or singing it during the day. Enjoy your day. 
     Remember, life is a one-time experience--no second chances. Hindu and cats are exceptions, of course.
     Image of cats in boxes courtesy of free-extras.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Dakota Uprising 1862

     On August, 1862, a Dakota hunting party killed five white settlers along the Minnesota River in southwest Minnesota. A war between white settlers and the Dakota broke out. The Dakota, under Chief Little Crow, cited broken treaties. By the end of November, 1862, an estimated 800 white settlers had been killed.
     President Abraham Lincoln sent General Pope to put down the uprising. The Dakota were defeated and more than a thousand Dakota were captured by the U.S. Army.
     On December 26, 1862, after President Lincoln signed the order, 38 Dakota were hung in the largest single day execution in American history. The following year, Chief Little Crow, picking raspberries with his son, was killed by Nathan Lamson, a white settler. Lamson also killed Little Crow's son.
     Lamson received a $500 bounty for the scalps. 
     For readers who appreciate history's side notes, especially about Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, here is a revealing article by Ron Soodalter at the New York Times:
     View complementary short history of the 1862 Dakota war at Wikipedia:
     (Siege of New Ulm painting courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Marl Ponds Near Lime Hollow Road

     The largest bodies of water in the county are a series of small lakes in the northern part of the Town of Homer and extending into Preble, and two lakes in the northern part of the latter named town. In the southwestern portion of the Town of Cortlandville, about three miles from Cortland village, are three small ponds, fed by springs, and furnishing in their bottoms an almost inexhaustible supply of marl of excellent quality. These deposits have been worked and a vast amount of superior quick-lime manufactured, since the locality was first settled. Marl is also found in smaller quantities and of an inferior quality in the Town of Preble and the northern part of Homer. 1885 History of Cortland County, H. P. Smith.

    A little s.e. of Cortlandville are several small lakes, containing deposits of marl, from which an excellent quality of lime is manufactured....In the s.w. part of the town are three small ponds, fed by springs, and furnishing an almost unlimited supply of marl, from which an excellent quality of lime is manufactured. Crandalls Pond covers an area of 15 acres; Swains 6, and Chatterdons 4. The marl is generally of an ash color when first taken out, but the vegetable matter which it contains whitens upon exposure to the air. When partially dried, it is molded into the form of bricks, and these are thoroughly dried and burned. The greatest known thickness of these deposits is about 20 feet. 1860 French's Gazetteer of the State of New York, Cortland County.

     On the south side of Lime Hollow Road, near the Town of Cortlandville Water Station, is a sizable marl pond which is bleached white in late summer. Most of the runoff and sparse spring water evaporates by August.
     Marl is a clay-like substance rich in lime.  It is mostly calcium carbonate leached up to ground level from bedrock below. Marl also contains calcium from algae that has decayed over long periods of time, and may contain shells of fresh water mollusks. Water in a marl pond can have a pH of 8 or 9. Cattails and water lilies don't grow in marl ponds with high pH levels.
     The marl in this pond was mined by farmers during the 1800's. It was spread on fields to "sweeten the soil," or it was reduced by baking to make lime powder used in iron ore blast furnaces. Often marl was spread after trees and brush were cut and a new clearing was plowed. Marl acted as an acid neutralizer. Marl mining was seasonal and usually it was performed in August when the water levels were very low.
     Marl ponds are formed when chunks of ice break off retreating glaciers and leave permanent holes in the earth's surface. Smaller vernal ponds, fed only by runoff water, are formed by the same process. Both marl and vernal ponds are called kettle ponds.
     There are several marl ponds on the south side of Lime Hollow Road in the Town of Cortlandville, New York. They can be seen easily when walking along the old Lehigh Valley Railroad track, which is now a walking trail with tracks removed. The trail is incorporated within the Lime Hollow Nature Center. 
    Additional marl ponds are pictured below, including close up photos of plant life and decay. Click on the photos to enlarge.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Political Junk Mail

     To the Editor:

     Today I received a letter from Vice President Joe Biden. The return address is DSCC, 120 Mayyland Avenue, NE, Washington, DC 20002. Postage on the envelope is 8.6 cents and it was mailed from ZIP code 08057. That looks like a non-profit postage rate. Wouldn't you know it?
     I didn't open this letter. I tossed it in my recycle bin.
     There's a pile of "political junk mail" already there. The return addresses have names like State Senator James Seward, Assembly Member Barbara Lifton, Senator Schumer, Senator Gillibrand, and Congressman Hanna. Mitt Romney and Andrew Cuomo are in there too.
     I throw political junk mail in my recycle bin because these politicians have already taken a large portion of my retirement income, directly or indirectly, by imposing income taxes, sales taxes, or property taxes and associated fees. Add inflation, which is a flat tax on everyone, rich or poor. So why should I give them more money?
     Do these politicians and their campaigns think that my wife and I are related to Fort Knox, George Soros, or the Koch brothers? We are not.
     My wife and I manage to get by without low income assistance on a meagre mix of social security and two small pensions. We don't have a second home on Skaneateles Lake or in Florida or in North Carolina. We can't afford that life style.
     So why do these politicians and their campaigns keep sending us their requests for more money? Why are they trying to dig the hole deeper or gouge us more? What is the rationale?
     Are there other people who do contribute, and encourage more of this?
     I can't speak for others, or even for my wife, but I wonder how many people share my distaste and aversion to political junk mail. Don't get me started on those robo telephone calls.

Wilbur Buffett

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Sherwood Applies For A Real Job

     Writing a blog has its difficulties and rewards, and a good share of surprises.
     When our simian satirist Sherwood told us about his latest adventure, it was a surprise. It was also a confession of sorts.
     Apparently Sherwood was paging through Monday's edition of the Cortland Standard and he saw a "help wanted" advertisement in the daily newspaper. It was a large advertisement for a news reporter position, and it immediately appealed to Sherwood's ambition.
     At this point in the story we have another confession of sorts. Sherwood is not paid for his writing contributions to the Cortland Contrarian. We give him all the bananas he craves, we provide him with room and board, and we protect him from warrantless searches by police. He is on the lam, as readers of this blog already know. For those unfamiliar with Sherwood, read these posts: Has Anyone Seen Sherwood? dated October 1, 2011, Reporter Interviews Cortland Contrarian Editor dated November 13, 2011, and Sherwood's Photo Released dated April 7, 2012. (Click on highlighted titles to read posts.)
     It is understandable that Sherwood should attempt to elevate his lifestyle with a respectable paying job. He hasn't the money to purchase a vintage Chevrolet Corvette convertible that he selfishly covets. He also wants a house of his own. And he is looking for a mate and he must impress her with more than a tree-top flourish or cacophony of mating calls. Female chimps often demand security for love.
     Sherwood answered the Cortland Standard's "help wanted" advertisement with five samples of his best writing and a cover letter with his resume. It was on the basis of his five writing samples--none of which ever appeared in the Cortland Contrarian--that he was given an interview with publisher Kevin Howe.
     On the day set for his interview, Sherwood looked elegant. He was dressed casually and fashionably for summer weather--no tie. His red shoelaces were neatly tied.   
     He could frighten people who don't know him, but he has a wide smile, speaks fluent English--he has a way with words--and he simply disarms people who are suspicious of bow-legged, long-armed hairy chimps.
     Sherwood entered the historic brick building which is home to the Cortland Standard, introduced himself to the receptionist with his name and purpose for visit and was allowed to pass, and then he proceeded upstairs. At the top of the stairs, he spotted staff writer Scott Conroe, and Sherwood thought that Scott looked just like him except that Scott is very white and not nearly as hairy as Sherwood. Scott smiled back at Sherwood, as if he could read his thoughts.
     Kevin Howe may have been surprised when Sherwood walked into his office--the door was open--but the publisher greeted Sherwood with a hand shake and a friendly smile, and asked him to sit down. The discussion was businesslike but time-limited. The publisher noted that Sherwood was short on experience but that his writing samples were excellent.
     "You did write these, didn't you?" he asked.
     "I did, and all of them are my original work," Sherwood replied.
     At the conclusion of the interview, publisher Howe got up from his desk and walked Sherwood to the door.
     "Have you met Kevin Conlon or 'Skip' Chapman?" he inquired.
     "No," Sherwood answered.
     Publisher Howe then introduced Sherwood to the executive editor and the managing editor.
     "This is Sherwood," said Kevin Howe. "He has applied for a job as a writer."
     Both editors were preoccupied at a computer station in the news room. They glanced up and acknowledged Sherwood, then resumed their work.
     Sherwood wanted to share a little secret with the publisher and editors, that Sherwood was named after executive editor Sherwood "Skip" Chapman. But he wisely decided not to.
     Shaking hands again with Sherwood at the top of the stairs, publisher Howe said:
     "I need a few days to make a decision, Sherwood. If you are approved for the job, I will let you know within a week."
     Sherwood bounded down the stairs, walked briskly past the receptionist and exited the building at the corner of Tompkins Street and Main Street. He was optimistic.
     But as Sherwood explains it, he wasn't called or contacted for the job. He waited more than a week, and then he made his full confession to the editor of the Cortland Contrarian.
     He also wrote this confession--every word of it.

Editor's note:
We have increased the allotment of bananas to Sherwood and now he receives an allowance of five dollars each week. We love him and we want to keep him with us.
(This also was written by Sherwood.)
Watch Debbie Reynolds and Carlton Carpenter perform "Abba Dabba Honeymoon" at YouTube.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Who Am I? (Number 11)

     Our marriage situation was getting worse. My husband was a philanderer, and we were thinking about getting a divorce even though we were both Roman Catholic.
     I wonder how the Pope would react if he found a strange woman's bra among his bed sheets?
     My husband was shot to death, leaving me a 34 year-old widow with two young children to raise and send to school, and I did not have a job. We had to move out of the house we were living in, and I decided to move to another city.
     My late husband did not leave me as well off as I needed to be, so I married a second time. There were no illusions about this marriage--I needed the money and he was rich.
     If I do say so, I was quite pretty and stylish, which is what he wanted. So it was a trade off.
     But even so, this marriage wasn't working. We probably should have gotten a divorce, but he died before we could. I did not mourn him at all, but again I did not inherit as much money as I thought I should receive. So I sued the estate and got a decent settlement. I should add that all my friends were shocked at my choice of a second husband, but I didn't care. Money was more important than anybody's approval.
     Following the death of my second husband, I got a modest salaried job while my two kids were growing up. I never lived long enough to know that my son died in a tragic accident. 
     I never married a third time but had an affair with my next door neighbor, who was still married. Some track record, eh? One marriage for love, one for money, and an affair for a combination of both.
     Who I am?
     My name is Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Remember Their Duplicity

To the Editor:

     Did you hear the one about the 212 state legislators voting themselves a pay raise right AFTER the November elections? Oh, wait, that's not funny.
     The press is reporting compensation for the 212 state legislators who prosper on the public dole: $79,500 per year salary for a part-time position, $165 per diem for just showing up in Albany, more cash for sitting on a committee (we know how much power these committees have-zilch) and, if you're nice to Papa Silver or Uncle Skelos, you get to make even more money as a committee chair--which exalted title simply means they still have very little say in legislation but they're richer.
     In addition, they can bill restaurants, car leases, hotel spas and all manner of luxuries to their election campaigns. Many have run up restaurant tabs in the tens of thousands. But the all time winner for hubris is the sterling character who billed his campaign $2,900 for steak sauce. Gold dust on his filet mignon?
     I don't want to be picayune--oh, what the hell--but these legislators fired a lot of people who did the real work policing, teaching, saving lives, serving the public, and--to add insult to injury--cut benefits and pensions for those still employed. Did they cut their own benefits and generous pensions (some are double-dippers, getting pension and paycheck)? Not a chance! 
     As a gesture to beleaguered citizens who are suffocating under a mound of property taxes, did they decide perhaps that legislators serving jail terms really shouldn't receive a pension? HA!
     Of course they didn't.
     These 212, including Governor Cuomo, have been heard to say that even school superintendents and other administrators make more money than they do. That only shows that superintendents make too damned much money, not that legislators make too little.
     State legislators have pampered themselves while the public sweats out these difficult times. So tell your state senator or state assemblyperson you want a vote against a pay raise and you want property tax relief and reform instead.
     There's no guarantee that they won't lie to you--they have been known to do so frequently. But if they do lie you can stress--in whatever language seems appropriate and that will not alert the FBI--that you will remember their duplicity at the next election.

Gioia Shebar

Editor's note: View related article in Albany Times Union:
Buffalo News editorial:

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Cash And Carry Larry

     A society of sheep must in time beget a government of wolves. Bertrand de Jouvenel.
     It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress. Mark Twain.

     Bronx city councilman Larry Seabrook was a taker. He funneled thousands of dollars from a city council member-items slush fund to family and friends and phony non-profits, according to the New York Daily News. He was convicted of corruption in federal district court.  
     Larry Seabrook is going to prison. Brings back memories of former State Senator Pedro Espada, who is appealing his conviction.
     Seabrook was convicted on nine of twelve counts at his second trial. His first trial ended with a hung jury.
     It was alleged that he bought a diet soda and bagel for seven dollars near City Hall, altered the receipt to show $177, and was reimbursed by the Seabrook-run North East Bronx Community Democratic Club. He was charged with taking more than $44,000 in bogus expenses from the club and using it for flights to Florida, flowers, and gifts.
     Seabrook was also charged with collecting over $200,000 in illegal rents, and extorting $283,000 from a boiler company executive for work performed at Yankee Stadium. Also, it was alleged that he gave $322,800 to his girlfriend. On the street, he was known as "Cash and Carry Larry."
     "Councilman Seabrook basically operated his own corrupt, city-council-funded friends and family plan," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.
     While it is comforting to know that Seabrook is going to jail, what about that $50 million New York City Council slush fund?      
     How many political parasites are feeding on this slush fund? Readers can focus on NYC daily media reports. If the story isn't carried on the front page of a newspaper or in the police blotter, look in the entertainment section.

Editor recommends:  Hall of Shame.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Tebowmania and the Press

     Tebowmania hit Cortland like a Hollywood Academy Award event. News coverage, photos in the rain of a shirtless handsome football player, interviews with coach and players--all seemed to concentrate on a single player, and more or less ignore the rest of the NY Jets team as it perspired and practiced in rain and summer heat.
     The New York Daily News changed the focus with sharp comments on training camp brawls and minor fights between players caught up in competition.
     But training camp fights are common in football and other professional sports. Fights between players happen. Usually other team members intervene, separate the engaged players, the coach takes control, and practice and drills continue.
     When all is said and done, sensational news is replaced by journalism basics--personal interviews and background stories.
     The Cortland Standard has done an excellent job covering the NY Jets. Interesting front page articles about players and events are supplemented with specific details in the Sports section. Kudos to the person responsible for the caption: Jets Display Fighting Spirit.
     Readers appreciate good news stories, especially local coverage of the NY Jets. 
     Go Jets!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Fish Story With A Flying Twist

     "George, did you ever go fishing at Owasco Lake?"
     "I've heard all of your fish stories, Sam. Don't tempt me to leave this diner early before I finish my breakfast."
     "It's not a fish story I have in mind. It's about a plane crash."
     "What plane crash?"
     "There was a Cessna 180 that crashed in broad daylight into Owasco Lake near Long Point in autumn of 1955. The pilot was never found and it was reported that he drowned. Some of the debris was found near Carpenter Point in Skaneateles Lake."
     "That's impossible!"
     "That's what I thought when I first heard about it. I thought--that stuff must have fallen off the plane when it passed over Skaneateles Lake and before it crashed into Owasco Lake. But nobody saw the plane over Skaneateles Lake."
     "Then how did the debris get there?"
     "There was a lot of conjecture about that. Most of the local residents claim there's an underground tunnel that connects the two lakes."
     "That's nonsense."
     "I'm not so sure it is. If there are underground or underwater cave entrances at Long Point on Owasco and at Carpenter Point on Skaneateles, nobody has ever found those entrances and people have looked. Swimmers, skin divers, and the U.S. Coast Guard have all investigated, especially after the 1955 plane crash. They looked again one year later when that Air National Guard T-33 jet trainer crashed into Skaneateles Lake. The pilot was killed instantly in that crash."
     "I remember reading that story. Didn't he perform a barrel roll or immelman and stall the engine?"
     "I think so. Now, where was I? The underground tunnel. If an underground tunnel exists between the two lakes, nobody has ever found it. But the evidence for it exists, at least in theory."
     "What kind of evidence?"
     "For one thing, there's the geological evidence. As I recall, both lakes at bottom are about 535 feet above sea level. Owasco is smaller than Skaneateles, holds less water. There's no record of whirlpools near Long Point or Carpenter Point, although some fishermen claim to see them at night under a full moon.
     "Are you talking about those hairy-faced fisherman who howl at the moon, Sam?"
     "I'm trying to be serious, George. The farmers who live between the two lakes claim that natural gas drillers have found evidence of a channel of water between the two lakes. It's proprietary information, I was told, and that's the reason why it hasn't been made public."
     "Sounds like your typical rumor."
     "Yes, and there was a doubting Thomas after Christ's Resurrection."
     "I've been near Long Point on Owasco Lake in my fishing boat. I was there one evening in summer using a crankbait for smallmouth bass. The water at the east shoreline looked lower than usual. I had just crossed the lake from the west side. I hadn't noticed low water at the west side. It was a quiet evening. As I was fishing on the east side, I was thinking about that 1955 plane crash and about how the debris got into Skaneateles Lake about 9 1/2 miles away. My fishing boat seemed to be sliding slowly toward the east shore and there was no wind over the water. That's when I noticed the gradual slant. Near as I can figure, it's the slant of the lake from the west shore to the east shore that does it. Don't think anybody ever measured it. Most of the fish in the lake congregate near the east shore because of that slant. You see, George, the water near the east shore gets pulled down slowly by that underground tunnel that nobody can find."
     "Sam, I asked you at the start of your story if this was a fish story and you said, No, it's about a plane crash. Somehow I get the feeling that I've been listening to a fish story with a flying twist."

Editor recommends: The Mouse with Three Legs.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Future School

     An old French postcard depicts education in the year 2000. The author/artist may be Villamard (if 1910) or Jean Marc Cote (if 1901). Reference: Wikimedia Commons.
     View more of these incredible and exquisite postcards at:

Teacher feeds books to processor/converter which produces sound waves.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Drones Spotted Over Jets Training Camp in Cortland

     On Wednesday morning, August 1, staff members of the New York Jets spotted at least two drones, possibly more, circling high in the sky over Cortland, New York. The sightings were verified by members of the press and various television crews. 
     Everyone is guessing, but no one can explain why these drones are positioned over Cortland.
     Drones are remote-controlled unmanned aircraft operated by the United States Air Force. They are usually deployed at international 'hot spots' or along the borders with Canada and Mexico.
     Coach 'T. Rex' thinks the drones came from Buffalo, New York, home of the Buffalo Bills.
     "I wouldn't put it past them," he said to his staff. "The Bills have been known to use electronic devices the size of crickets to steal our signals and game plans. I have found cricket cameras hidden in stadium seats and in VIP rooms at topless bars in New York City."
     Meanwhile, the frenetic media are making phone calls, sending and receiving emails, and searching the Internet for answers.
     There is a drone base at Hancock AFB in Syracuse, New York. The Cortland Contrarian knows someone who works there, and we conducted a telephone interview this morning. Since drone deployments and operations are classified Top Secret, we will protect the informant's name, rank and serial number.
     Informant: "We are operating unarmed drone surveillance flights over Cortland."
     CC: Why?
     Informant: "The general ordered us to deploy drones over Cortland, so we followed orders. We don't ask questions."
     CC: "We will ask the questions, if you don't mind. When did the Air Force start these surveillance flights over Cortland?"
     Informant: "Since the Jets arrived at training camp in Cortland."
     CC: "What is the purpose? Who at Hancock AFB is in charge?"
     Informant: "I can't tell you about our mission. However, Captain Homer Pigeon is in charge."
     CC: "The general--can you tell us his name too?"
     Informant: " General Manning."
     CC: "Is he related to the Manning brothers, professional football players?"
     Informant: "I don't know. But Captain Pigeon's hometown is Indianapolis, and General Manning's hometown is Denver."
     CC: "Thanks for the info. We will file a report this morning."

Editor's note: Read more about drones and drone pilots operating at Hancock AFB: and
Visit The Long War Journal.
Domestic and foreign deployment of drones sparks Senate filibuster: