Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Election Day Sketchpad 4


Hotel Saranac. Hoffman HQ. TV outlets have been jockeying for preferred tripod positions on the press platform all afternoon. By 7:30 all the good spots are claimed.

. . . At 10:19 p.m. all those here who had said the race would be declared by 10 watch the TV quietly as Owens leads slightly in early returns. The candidate made a brief appearance in the lobby at 9:35, after a live interview with Sean Hannity, then went back to a room upstairs.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Election Day Sketchpad 3


Lunchtime. In an act of symbolic aggression, Democrat Bill Owens orders tea in the backyard of Conservative Doug Hoffman.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Election Day Sketchpad 2


Noon. Main Street. One of Saranac Lake’s endearing and enduring traditions is the Election Day bake sale benefit for St. Bernard’s Elementary School. Scheduled to run until two o’clock, the sale closed about an hour and a half early this year, perhaps having been eaten out of business by the hoard of national reporters and photographers covering congressional candidate Bill Owens’ lunchtime visit just up the street.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Adirondack Youth Summit’s Zachary Berger

Zachary Berger takes a few moments to answer additional questions regarding his involvement in the first annual Adirondack Youth Climate Summit.

Q: When you attended the Adirondack Climate Conference, held at The Wild Center, in November 2008, what inspired you to initiate an Adirondack Youth Climate Summit?

ZB: Last November’s conference was truly a success. I was very honored to have the opportunity to attend it, but I felt it was under represented by young adults. At this conference there were over 175 community leaders, business owners, and others, all with a concern for the environment, but there were only about 10 students, representing only one university, and one high school. From my point of view this under representation led to things being overlooked such as the lack of environmental education in public schools and the opportunity that schools have to set a model for their communities. The other students who attended the conference and I wanted to have our voices heard so we talked to Jen Kretser, Director of Programs at The Wild Center, and the planning process began.

Q: Though from Lake Placid you are now a freshman at RIT. Will you be attending this conference and if so what role will you take in this summit? If not, will you be attending the live stream and have you organized a group at your school to attend? What have you learned from this yearlong process and wish to pass along to others?

ZB: Yes, I will be attending the conference! I wouldn’t miss it for my life. Over the past year I have been part of the amazing team of people who worked endless hours putting this conference together. I will be at The Wild Center over the weekend doing last minute preparations, and during the conference I will be volunteering to keep things moving as planned.

If there was one thing I could tell others it would be: If you want to be successful in planning an event like this, find people with the same motivation and drive that you have. Having people to work with such as Jen Kretser from the Wild Center, and Mrs. Tammy Morgan from Lake Placid High School, really made this whole event come together.

Q: Why is it important for youth to have a voice on climate change?

ZB: Youth play a vital role in confronting climate change. We are investing years of our lives into our education, and will be entering the workforce very soon. Youth need to know the consequences of continuing to be carelessly affluent, what we can do both in our personal lives, and in our work lives to be more environmentally responsible. This summit will help students expand their knowledge on climate change while helping create carbon reduction plans for their schools.

Q: What is your own carbon reduction plan? What would you recommend for other young people that may inspire them to make a difference or to get involved in climate change?

ZB: Living at RIT has helped me to continue in reducing my personal carbon footprint. RIT provides every room with recycling bins for every room for electronics, plastic, paper, and cardboard. It is calculated that RIT’s recycling rate is over 70%. RIT also provides public transportation from campus into the city. Also, RIT is developing a new, web-based, rideshare website which helps those looking for rides and those who are willing to provide rides coordinate their schedules.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Adirondack Family Activities: First Adirondack Youth Climate Summit

Registration for the 2009 Youth Climate is closed but schools, universities, parents and children can follow the two-day event via a live stream. Conceived by then 17-year-old Zachary Berger of Lake Placid after attending the Adirondack Climate Conference last year, this year’s summit illustrates to all young people that their opinions and ideas can make a difference.

After much anticipation the Adirondack Youth Climate Summit will be held November 9th and 10th at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake. The 24 attending high schools and colleges will each send a team of students, educators, administrators and facilities staff to develop a feasible carbon reduction plan that decreases energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions to bring back to their schools and communities.

Zachary Berger, inspired by the Adirondack Climate Conference held at The Wild Center in 2008, contacted conference planners to organize a similar gathering exploring climate change and its effect on the Adirondacks for the youth of the region. In early 2009, a steering committee, comprised of students, educators and The Wild Center staff, formed to bring Zach’s vision to fruition.

Berger says, “At the [Adirondack Climate] Conference there were over 175 community leaders, business owners, and others, all with a concern for the environment, but there were only about 10 students, representing only one university, and one high school. From my point of view this under representation led to things being overlooked such as the lack of environmental education in public schools.”

The Youth Climate Summit’s goal is multilevel, according to ADKCAP (Adirondack Climate and Energy Action Plan). The Summit will hold educational plenary sessions where research-based information will be presented about the economic and ecological effects of climate change. Participants will learn strategies to address climate change in the Adirondacks and how, when applied, communities will benefit monetarily.

Workshops are scheduled throughout the two-day event pairing students with experienced personnel to develop training skills to inspire participants to engage others to “green their schools and communities.” Through hands-on activities members will learn team-building skills in the hopes to engage classmates and coworkers in a grassroots effort to make their schools energy-efficient. During this process teams will develop a carbon and cost reduction plan to bring back to each school.

The following high schools and colleges are attending this inaugural year: Chateaugay Central School, Clifton-Fine Central School, Colton-Pierrepont Central School, Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School, Green Tech Charter High School, Heuvelton Central School, Keene Central School, Lake Placid High School, Madrid-Waddington Central School, Minerva Central School, Moriah Central School, Morristown Central School, Newcomb Central School, Northville Central School, Ogdensburg Free Academy, Plattsburgh High School, Potsdam High School, Saranac Lake Central School, St. Regis Falls, Tupper Lake Central School, Clarkson University, Colgate University, North Country Community College, Paul Smiths College, St. Lawrence University and SUNY Potsdam.

These institutions will serve as models in energy efficiency, sustainable energy usage, building maintenance, landscaping & grounds management, school & community garden planning, and how to affect the current science curriculum in schools. (The Summit is aligned with NYS Commencement Level MST Standards.)

The Adirondack Youth Climate Summits are scheduled through 2011 to monitor the success of each climate action plan. There will also be the opportunity for those Adirondack schools that watch the live web stream to participate in future summits. The complete schedule information is available here.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Election Day Sketchpad

Check in throughout the day for scenes from NY-23 in Saranac Lake.

On what was supposed to be a sleepy off-year election day, many counties across upstate New York’s 23rd congressional district rolled out new optical scan voting machines. A considerable departure from the old gray crank and ratchet machines that looked like something some glacier deposited in the town hall countless millennia ago, the new models are squat, lusterless black, cyclopsed affairs that look like the dog that ate your homework in second grade. Like that dog, these don’t appear to give receipts either, according to the poll watchers.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Election Day in the North Country

And the focus of the national media focuses on the mythic character of the region. . .


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Last Days of John Brown: A Speedy Trial

Following the capture of John Brown and his associates at Harpers Ferry they were first held in the armory’s guardhouse. The next day, October 19th, 1859, they were taken to the County Jail in Charles Town, about eight miles away. On October 25th (after being questioned by Virginia Governor Henry A. Wise, Virginia Senator James M. Mason, and Representative Clement Vallandigham of Ohio) John Brown was led into court for arraignment. He was manacled to Edwin Coppoc and escorted by some 80 militiamen with bayonets fixed. Brown was still suffering from his wounds and needed to be supported at the bench. » Continue Reading.


Monday, November 2, 2009

Gearing Up: Snowshoe Season is Almost Here

Winter is nearly upon the Adirondacks and it’s time to blow the dust off your cold-weather gear including your snowshoes. Snowshoeing has increased in popularity and practicality in stride with technology. Gone are the days when the only choice was hand woven wood frame shoes. The framing, decking, cleats (crampons) and bindings are now made with high tech materials specialized for various conditions and preferences.

The first question becomes one of purpose. What environment will they be used for? Deep powder snow and packed trails are drastically different underfoot. Designs with increased length and width increase surface area and offer more stability and flotation in unpacked conditions. They are a bit less maneuverable, however, it tighter areas. They can also be used on packed trails in many instances. More compact models save weight and increase maneuverability when snow depth is minimal.

Specialized conditions sometimes require specialized shoes. Ascending to higher elevations via steep grades may require traverse through changing conditions: packed trail, unbroken powder, steep inclines with ice flows, summits with mixed conditions where, perhaps, crampons would be most valuable. Most models offer some crampons with varying degrees of aggressiveness for traction. MSR, for instance, offers a very specialized and maneuverable line of shoes that include aggressive crampons, metal “teeth” either around the circumference or in rows, a heel elevator to alleviate leg fatigue on inclines and an optional flotation tail to increase length and thus versatility across terrain.

No matter the environment, it’s also important to know which shoes perform best for your personal traits as well. Manufacturers usually have a weight chart to help choose between models or sizes of a particular model. Forums and product review sites can offer guidance on the positive and negative aspects of each.

As an aside, please remember that in the High Peaks Wilderness area, you “must possess and use skis or snowshoes when the terrain is snow-covered with eight or more inches of snow”. This helps reduce preventable rescues and protects both the wearer and other hikers alike.


Monday, November 2, 2009

New York State Supreme Court Elections Guide

Buried by the hoopla surrounding the 23rd congressional district special election, New York Supreme Court races have gone largely unnoticed this year. The Adirondack Park is divided between two Judicial Districts: The fourth, comprising Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, St. Lawrence, Saratoga, Warren and Washington counties (with Montgomery and Schenectady outside the Blue Line); and the fifth, comprising Herkimer, Lewis and Oneida counties (with Jefferson, Oswego and Onondaga outside the park). Links to Supreme Court candidate websites after the jump. . .

The slate of candidates competing for two seats in the 4th District includes: Acting Supreme Court Justice Barry D. Kramer from Schenectady running on the Democratic and Conservative lines, Brian S. Stewart from Lake Placid and Bellmont (inside the Blue Line), running on the Democratic line, Acting Supreme Court Justice Richard B. Meyer from Saranac Lake running on the Republican Line, Justice Thomas E. Mercure of Ft. Edward running on the Republican and Conservative lines.

Candidates for the two seats in the 5th District are: Acting Supreme Court Justice James W. McCarthy of Oswego running on the Democrat, Republican, Conservative and Independence lines, County Court Judge Walter Hafner, Jr. of Hannibal running on the Democratic line, and Supreme Court Justice James C. Tormey of Syracuse running on the Republican and Independence lines.

New York State Courts offers an impartial voters’ guide on all judicial elections (worth a visit) here.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

23rd CD Web Watch: Friend for a Day

Over the course of an eventful weekend in New York’s 23rd CD, Lake Placid resident and congressional aspirant Douglas Hoffman showed the flexibility of a skilled politician in declaring two significantly disparate feelings for his former Republican rival. On Saturday, Hoffman’s website displayed a heartfelt tribute to Dede Scozzafava.
Sunday brought a new week, a new month, a new clock setting, and a new emotion from the Conservative Party Candidate (click right image to enlarge)


Sunday, November 1, 2009

23rd CD: Scozzafava Endorses Democrat Bill Owens

In a last minute move Republican Candidate Dede Scozzafava, who only yesterday withdrew from Tuesday’s election for the 23rd Congressional District, has announced that she is throwing her support to her Democratic opponent, Bill Owens. Scozzafava withdrew after garnering only 20 percent in the latest poll—she has said that she does not have the money to wage the all-out media effort required to close the gap. In endorsing Owens over Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman, Scozzafava cited the Democrat’s independence.

“I have been always been an independent voice for the people I represent,” Scozzafava wrote to her supporters today. “I have stood for our honest principles, and a truthful discussion of the issues, even when it cost me personally and politically. Since beginning my campaign, I have told you that this election is not about me; it’s about the people of this District. It is in this spirit that I am writing to let you know I am supporting Bill Owens for Congress and urge you to do the same.”

Following Scozzafava’s withdrawal on Saturday the National Republican Congressional Committee, who had backed Scozzafava, announced that it would put it’s full efforts behind Doug Hoffman.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Analysis: October Surprise in the 23rd Congressional District Race

On Saturday, when Dede Scozzafava’s campaign bus turned into a pumpkin, it came as a shock but not a surprise to North Country political observers. The unpredictable five-month, three-party campaign to fill the vacated House seat of Army Secretary John McHugh was elevated in its early stages to a war of surrogates for political forces both at the state and national levels, according to a close observer of New York GOP politics.

The source—speaking on background—said Scozzafava’s attempts to court organized labor (specifically her support for the Employees’ Free Choice Act) was responsible more than any other issue for attracting the political action committee Club for Growth to the campaign of Conservative Party candidate Douglas Hoffman. The money and advertisements that followed “put Dede in a position where she never had a chance to define herself.”

Former Democratic Rural Conference Chairman Stuart Brody, who lost a bid to become his party’s nominee in this election, agrees that outside attention and campaign contributions had a distorting effect on the race: “Money often obscures the message.”

While the National Republican Congressional Committee (which took charge of the Scozzafava campaign in September) was framing the contest as a referendum on Democratic policies and leadership in Washington, and the conservative media were building the Hoffman campaign into a referendum on both Democrats and centrist Republicans, New York State Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long was using the insurgent Hoffman campaign to bend the State GOP ideologically to the right. “Mike Long feels he has something to prove,” according to the Republican Party observer.

And if Thursday’s defection to Hoffman’s camp of former Governor George Pataki notched a victory for the Conservative Party leader, Stuart Brody believes that “what Mike Long thinks means nothing. . . . Ultimately, the North Country is moderate. Folks think for themselves.”

Asked how he sees Scozzafava’s withdrawal effecting Tuesday’s result, Brody departs from the conventional wisdom that Hoffman will benefit. In step with his faith in the independent mindset of the North Country electorate, he feels that a portion of Scozzafava supporters, particularly those driven by organized labor interests, will find their way to Democrat Bill Owens.

Our Republican Party observer points out that it may be too late for the move to produce a large-scale change, citing the layout of the ballots on which Bill Owens holds line A, followed by Scozzafava on lines B and C, followed by Doug Hoffman on line D.

As for Wednesday, the lack of a Republican candidate does not guarantee any less intense an effort to impound and count and recount the ballots. With so much at stake from every angle, a close outcome at the polls will assuredly give way to a recount phase as long as (and exceeding the cost of) the campaign itself. Ask any of your next door neighbors of NY-20.

And the day after a victor finally emerges? The seat will be up for grabs again in less than a year; a mid-term election is already well under way in most districts. Former candidate Stuart Brody anticipates that a Democratic winner will be immediately challenged by Republicans. In the event of a Hoffman victory, Brody expects that a number of Democrats will step forward to challenge the Conservative—a number which may include himself.


Saturday, October 31, 2009

23rd CD: Dede Scozzafava Drops Out of the Race

In a move that has the potential to shift the outcome of the coming election for the 23rd Congressional District spot once held by fellow Republican John McHugh, Dede Scozzafava has announced that she has suspended her campaign. Scozzafava, a state assemblywoman, has not yet given her support to either of her opponents, Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman, or Democrat Bill Owens. A Siena poll released today has Owens at 36 percent of likely voters, Hoffman at 35 percent, and Scozzafava at 20 percent.

“In recent days, polls have indicated that my chances of winning this election are not as strong as we would like them to be. The reality that I’ve come to accept is that in today’s political arena, you must be able to back up your message with money,” Scozzafava wrote in a statement to supporters.


Saturday, October 31, 2009

Galls Revisited: It’s Not Hard to Be Humble

When one is a practicing naturalist, one must always be willing to say two things. One, “I don’t know.” And two, “Hm…I guess I was wrong.” Y’see, Mother Nature is always ready to send you down the wrong path by making some identifications tricky. And, let’s face it, we can’t all be experts at everything. In fact, as a friend of mine once put it, I don’t consider myself to be an expert at anything, for an “ex” is a has-been, and a “spurt” is a drip under pressure. So, I’m admitting here and now that I stumbled and fell on the ID of the makers of the cottonwood galls posted 24 October. In fact, thanks to a recent post I read elsewhere, these cottonwood galls are caused by the Poplar Vagabond Gall Aphid (Mordwilkoja vagabunda). So, let’s revisit this post and set the record straight.

The clue I should’ve seen right away is that the galls made by the eriophyid mite occur along the affected stem as well as at the tip of the branch; those created by the Poplar Vagabond Gall Aphid (henceforth referred to as the vagabond) are located only at the tip.

The vagabond actually uses multiple hosts over its lifetime. Its life begins as a black egg, which the female has laid either in old galls or in the crevices of the poplar’s bark. Apparently the females have a preference for trees that already have galls on them, a likely indication that these trees are good hosts.

Eggs remain in situ throughout the winter. When spring rolls around, they hatch and the tiny wee nymphs migrate to the tips of their twigs, where new growth is starting to emerge. Here they pierce the tender plant tissue and commence feeding, sucking out the plant’s juices as only aphids can. It is this feeding action that ultimately results in the creation of the distorted hollow “thing” that would’ve normally been new leaves. The nymphs move into this newly formed gall and take up residence while waiting to mature.

Maturation comes with summer, and the now fully-grown adult aphids leave their snug home for greener pastures. While confirmation is still in the wings, scientists think that these aphids possibly spend their summer feeding on the roots of certain grasses. Fast-forward to autumn, and the aphids fly back “home”, taking up residence once again within the hollow chambers of the gall.

Some mating must take place here, because soon wingless females are born inside the gall, and by early November the males appear. But perhaps these two generations are produced via parthenogenesis (females reproducing without the aide of males – it’s more common than you think). I haven’t found any data to confirm either mode of reproduction. Regardless, once we have these wingless females and the males, mating takes place (again?) and little black eggs are once more laid in old galls and the crevices of the tree’s bark. The cycle continues.

When the rumply galls are first formed, they are green, no doubt the result of their original goal in life of being leaves for the tree. By winter, however, they have turned brown and are quite hard. These galls persist on the trees for many years, becoming obvious to the eyes of the curious as autumn claims the tree’s leaves.

The next time you are walking near some cottonwoods, or quaking aspens, or some other member of the poplar family, keep your eyes peeled. You might even bring a gall or two inside for the winter and see if anything emerges come spring (I’d suggest keeping it in a jar, with a lid). Gall watching can be a fun and interesting experiment for the whole family.