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And Another Year Passes
Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree, you’re looking a little " scraggily." But you were a beauty. Long sweeping branches set far apart so the ornaments and icicles actually had a place to hang. All nine feet of you fresh and alive, standing straight, and taking up the whole corner of the room. You are a cover over Mrs. Morris’ head, supplying amusement as she swats at the ornaments. Some have long ago hit the floor. Lucky for all of us the low-hanging ones are not glass.
However, because of your grandeur, the rest of the room is wall to wall furniture. No chance to spread out in the lounge chair because it’s hitting the corner of the couch and the footrest won’t unfold. Mrs. Morris likes the new position of the couch because she can sit on the back of it and look out the window where the birds are flitting in the rhododendron bush.
And then she’s found a clear spot under the tree where she can lie close enough to the electric baseboard heat that I can actually smell her warm fur. Is this perfection or what? And it answers the question of why I turn off the heat in that room when I go to bed at night!
But let’s not even talk about the soft cozy bed her "mother" got her for Christmas. There’s no way she’s going to be caught in there, asleep or otherwise. She did try to eat it when someone sprinkled catnip on it as an enticement for her to explore it. She would have gotten it torn apart if I hadn’t intervened. And she would climb in a minute or two to consume the treats dropped in there. But sleep in there? No way! The closest she came to that was to lay her head on the side of it for a minute or two. Someone told me that the only time you see cats in one of those beds is in the movies. They may have a point there. But I guess I wish they would have pointed that out to me before I spent big bucks for this luxury.
Mrs. Morris got several Christmas toys, which she is also ignoring. They are on the floor for her mother to trip over, but not for her to enjoy. A visiting dog made short work of one of last year’s toys that also had seen no action before the dog arrived. It makes me wonder who dreams up all these cat toys. And do some cats actually play with them? Morris will bat around her little gray mice once in awhile, and chase her red yarn when her Auntie Gail comes to play. But that’s about as far as she goes with amusements. It’s much more fun to climb up my leg and yowl at me for more food.
Someone sent me the cutest e-mail photos of overdose victims, which were all animals overdosing on food, of course. One of the pictures looked exactly like Mrs. Morris when she sits back on her haunches and washes her fat belly. Even the coloring of the cat was right.
Soon it will be time to take down the Christmas tree, put the furniture back where it belongs and convince Mrs. Morris that all is right with her world. There will be no more evergreen poisoning from drinking out of the Christmas tree stand, no more necklaces of tinsel, no more ringing bells as she swats them, and no more broken glass glittering on the floor. We’ll go back to looking for the summertime door and standing expectantly at the cellar door, only to walk away when I open it. We’ll take up our post at the food dish and stay there stubbornly whether the dish is full or empty. We’ll follow the sun from bedroom to bedroom as it moves from east to west. And we’ll count the days until the next Christmas tree arrives, remembering how much fun it was.
Thank you, Christmas tree from all of us.
SUSQUEHANNA: Walked Ten Miles to Marry: The Romance of a Susquehanna Young Couple Who Over Ruled Parental Objections. Married, at Windsor, N.Y., Dec. 29, 1904, by Rev. J. C. Langford, Harry Kent and Miss Bernice Tiffany, both of Susquehanna, Pa. Within the compass of the above four lines there is contained an episode of human interest--a romance to tingle the heart-strings of the coy maiden, embolden the spirit of hesitating youth, to cause remonstrating papas to bounce the locksmith and hire one that Love won’t laugh at. “Ran away and got married,” is a familiar caption. Not so with Harry and Bernice. They walked. What, to them, were ten long miles, darkness, mid-winter, fifty cents in cash, and the folks at home raising strenuous objections? Nothing. Their one thought was of each other. They wanted to wed and they did wed. Mr. Kent and Miss Tiffany reached Windsor via foot-path at a reasonable early hour on Thursday morning. Meeting a mutual acquaintance, they were taken to his home for dinner and there gradually imparted the information that they wished to get married. The groom-to-be was a little short of funds, but the mutual acquaintance loaned him another half-dollar, his whole fortune being pressed into the hand of the clergyman following the solemn words, “I pronounce you man and wife.” The newly married couple staid over night with the mutual acquaintance. They decided to go to Binghamton and Rochester the next morning, but at the last moment changed their minds and went up on Kent street to visit friends. On Friday afternoon a horse and carriage moved rapidly into town from the direction of Susquehanna. The carriage bore the male parent of the new made bride. He manifested much impatience and irritableness, while inquiring the whereabouts of the young couple. Then the mutual acquaintance hereinbefore mentioned, deserted his colors, for he gave it dead away to the M.P., who pursued and overtook them, tracing hurried footsteps near the summit of Kent street hill. Denunciation, protestation, reconciliation (add a few tears}. Then all three came down the hill and drove away together. Meantime the groom’s male parent had telephoned his forgiveness and told them to come home. Felicitous circumstance. Mr. and Mrs. Kent are numbered with Susquehanna’s most estimable young people. The chief objection made to the match by their fathers and mothers was a difference in their ages. Harry being 18 and Bernice four years older. But they think these few years really make no difference, for they truly love each other and they should do so always. Heaven bless them. May they live happy ever after. (From the Windsor Standard.)
MONTROSE: On Sunday night three prisoners escaped from the jail and up to time of going to press only one of them had been apprehended. They were Charles Ploutz, George Lucatz and Robert J. Sands. Ploutz was captured in Binghamton and returned to the jail. $50 reward has been offered for Lucatz and $75 for Sands. The manner of their escape is more conjecture than anything else, but it is supposed that George Reasch, a boy of 12 or 13, who was indicted for larceny along with Ploutz, aided them in getting out. The boy was not confined with the other prisoners, but was allowed the freedom of the corridor and assisted about the jail. It is thought that he secured the keys in some way and let the three men out into the jail yard, from which they escaped by means of their bedding, which they tore into strips and scaled the wall.
ARARAT: Mr. and Mrs. Silas Sartelle celebrated their Silver Wedding, Dec. 20, and were presented with a set of China dishes.
HARFORD: Winfield VanBuskirk has gone west for his health. He is in Oklahoma, filling the position of station agent and telegraph operator.
SILVER LAKE: There are only three children of age to attend school in the Sheldon district; this number not being enough to keep the school open, they all attend different schools, none of which is nearer than one and two miles. A graded school in this township would be a great improvement.
SPRINGVILLE: The Grangers have rented their hall to Crescent Lodge Coming Men of America, which meets every Tuesday night. This is a patriotic and fraternal order, composed of the best young men of Springville and neighboring towns.
AUBURN CORNERS: Frank Riley, of Auburn Corners, who was stabbed by Ulysses Emmons, near Stevensville a short time ago, and was taken to a Wilkes-Barre hospital, is improving.
FOREST CITY: The proposed bridge across the Lackawanna river is again a dead issue for the time being. The Grand Jury refused to approve the viewers report in favor of the bridge. One reason for the failure was probably due to the lack of interest shown by our citizens at the crucial moment. Of those appointed by council only Atty. Carpenter and J. R. Budd went to Montrose. Mr. Carpenter should be commended for the efforts he has put forth, and it was through no fault of his that the project failed. The county is certainly not playing fair with Forest City. The next court should be asked to appoint viewers to go over the ground and report on the necessity for a bridge at this place.
GLENWOOD: The three Wescott brothers spent Xmas at the old homestead and caught a fine string of fish through the ice. AND: C. W. Hoppe has a fine new cutter.
CLIFFORD: R. H. Wells died Dec. 27th, 1904. He was born in Orange county, N.Y. in the year 1820, being at his death nearly 85 years of age, having been a man of very little sickness, although frail in appearance. He was one of those honest, hard working Christian men; a true Christian, not by pretense, but by acts and deeds. He was one of a large family but has now living but one brother and two sisters. AND: Thomas Morgan, our old Supervisor, is now proprietor of the Royal Hotel. Travelers and teamsters will find everything O.K. He is a fine fellow.
KINGSLEY: Rev. T. L. Drury will deliver a Temperance address at the M.E. Church here next Sunday evening. Subject: “The Saloon as seen by a news paper man.”
RUSHVILLE: It is reported that there will be a telephone line from West Auburn to Rushville in which John Power expects to furnish poles.
ELKDALE: Joel Stephens, one of the oldest residents in Elkdale, died very suddenly Monday evening. He was past 90 years old. He is survived by three sons, John, James and Grant and one daughter, Martha.
An Interest-ing Story
At its meeting on December 22, the Susquehanna County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution authorizing the county to obtain a Tax Revenue Anticipation Note (TRAN) in the amount of $1,620,000. The county will use the money to stay financially afloat until its real estate tax revenues start pouring in sometime next Spring.
While the amount appears to be unusually high alongside the $850,000 the county borrowed last year, TRANS are commonplace in counties and municipalities this time of year. Most counties and municipalities approve budgets that are fine-tuned to the enth degree and by the end of the year treasurers are scraping the bottom of the barrel to get operating money. TRANS are allowable by state law under the condition that the money be paid back in the same year it was borrowed.
There is no law that requires counties to seek bids on TRANS but Susquehanna County is fortunate to have Cathy Benedict, a conscientious county treasurer, who believes competitive bidding will get the county a lower interest rate. Generally, she is right.
Despite the fact that the paper work required to be completed in conjunction with the loan application is voluminous and very time consuming, generally banks that are awarded the loan do the paper work for nothing.
The county received quotes from five banks with interest rates as follows: Community Bank & Trust Co., 2.07; PNC, 2.25; Pennstar Bank, 2.4; First Liberty, 2.95; and, Peoples National, 3.22. It was, as the expression goes, a no-brainer. CBT’s blew the competition out of the water with its 2.07 rate of interest. The county acted accordingly and the decision to borrow money from CBT was unanimous.
The county commissioners are pleased with the interest rate and, as the saying goes, all is well that ends well. Well, almost! Advised that it is expected to do the required paper work in conjunction with being awarded the TRAN, CBT delivered an envelope to the county courthouse with an unexpected change. The bank increased the interest rate from 2.07 to 2.17, a move that did not go over too well with county officials.
A quick review of the bids revealed that, while PNC quoted an interest rate of 2.25 percent including the required paper work, it also advised the county that if the money was left in the bank and drawn out on an as needed basis, the bank would pay the county 1.95 percent interest on the money that remained in the bank.
And so, PNC gets to loan the $1,620,000 to the county, the county need not concern itself with the required paper work, and the taxpayers come out of it with a few bucks in interest that helps defray the .08 difference between PNC’s initial quote and the adjusted interest rate from CBT.
As someone would constantly repeat in an old television series, “Veddy Intellesting.”
Oh, yes, there is a footnote to all of this: An official of CBT declined to comment on the subject.
The last I heard about the Susquehanna County Economic Development Department was that it would be abolished and the county was aligning itself with the Central Bradford Progress Authority (CBPA) in an effort to induce commercial and industrial development into the county.
The CBPA is a municipal authority that was created in 1993 and is comprised of four adjacent municipalities, Towanda Borough, Towanda Township, North Towanda Township, and Wysox Township. According to its Internet site, the authority is directly responsible for the “encouragement and facilitation of commercial development activity within the Central Bradford Commerce Zone” which is defined as a commercial/industrial corridor on Route 6.
Besides serving as a municipal authority, the CPBA is an Industrial Authority in Bradford County and is the agent for Central Bradford Industrial Development Corporation.
All this having been said, one cannot help but question where CPBA’s oath of allegiance lies and how effective it can be for Susquehanna County. There probably is more to this than meets the eye and I am sure our county commissioners will explain it all at the proper time.
War Driving. I had never heard this particular phrase until David Yulke, the Susquehanna County Computer Operation Technician, provided me with information concerning this phenomenon. In essence, “war driving” is a new high-tech form of burglary. The target, however, is not your home, but your computer. For those of you using wireless networks, the potential for “war driving” exists.
A wireless network allows a user to share internet connections without the need for running wires throughout the house. The wireless network does this through the use of radio signals that travel throughout the residence, and beyond the walls of the residence. Apparently, some wireless equipment does not contain any security mechanisms. If your wireless network is not secure, the radio waves can travel outside your residence and be intercepted. Thus, the term “war driving,” or activities of hackers driving around with an antenna searching for vulnerable internet connections. Once a hacker has found an unprotected network, he or she could sit outside your home and access your computer, searching for private information, such as social security numbers or credit card numbers.
Recently, in North Carolina, a group of men engaged in “war driving,” intercepting the wireless network at a Lowe’s store. The men were able to obtain massive amounts of credit card information by breaking into the network and installing a program to capture credit card information, which would then be sent to the culprits. Although the program had been installed, the scheme was fortunately uncovered before any damage was done. One of the hackers was sentenced to nine years in federal prison. If a national chain such as Lowe’s can be vulnerable, the potential for “war driving” should concern us all.
If a hacker were to gain access to your computer through “war driving,” and obtain your private information, and thereafter use that information, there are a variety of criminal violations that could apply. The arrest and conviction of the offender may not solve the economic or credit problems caused by the high-tech theft. As with your home, it is better to take preventive measures to stop the potential criminal activity before it even occurs.
Mr. Yulke suggests that you have your wireless system evaluated by a professional to determine potential security risks. There are cost effective means to protect your computer against “war driving,” such as access codes for your wireless system. Although any security system has the potential for being bypassed, a hacker will be less likely to choose your computer as a target if there are security hurdles to overcome.
In short, the convenience and ease of wireless networks pose a potential security risk for your home in the form of “war driving.” The purpose of this article is to simply make you aware of this phenomenon so that you can take any preventive steps that you deem necessary. Based on my conversations with Mr. Yulke, the danger of “war driving” is remote in Susquehanna County. However, it would only take one incident to cause potential financial loss and serious inconvenience.
Please submit any questions, concerns, or comments to Susquehanna County District Attorney’s Office, P.O. Box 218, Montrose, Pennsylvania 18801.
Dear EarthTalk: What is being done about arsenic contamination in drinking water?
Erika Maxel, Cleveland, OH
Arsenic occurs naturally in our environment, and there are trace amounts of it in all living matter. In fact, arsenic is part of the Earth’s crust, and as a natural component of underground rock and soil it can work its way into our groundwater in amounts that pose little or no threat to human health.
However, arsenic is also a by-product of industrial activity, such as coal burning, waste burning, copper smelting, and mining for gold and other metals. It is also an agricultural byproduct as it is a component of some pesticides and feed additives. U.S. smokestack and agricultural industries release thousands of pounds of arsenic into the environment each year–and as a result arsenic can show up in public water supplies in amounts that do pose health threats.
According to a 1999 study by the National Academy of Sciences, excessive arsenic in drinking water can cause bladder, lung and skin cancer, and may cause kidney and liver cancer. The study also found that arsenic harms the central and peripheral nervous systems, as well as heart and blood vessels, and causes serious skin problems. It also may cause birth defects and reproductive problems.
The U.S. government regulates arsenic content in drinking water by setting a maximum contaminant level which, for many years, was 50 parts per billion. After further and more recent study, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommended in 2001 that the maximum level be lowered to just 10 parts per billion. Initially, the Bush administration rejected the recommendation, arguing that there was no scientific consensus to justify the $200 million it would cost to change the standard. But pressure from environmental and public health organizations convinced the White House to change course and adopt the stricter standard, which will take effect in 2006.
Although few if any municipal water systems in the U.S. exceed the present limit, it is estimated that many will have to install or upgrade treatment processes in order to meet the new stricter standard. Research by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) indicates that more than 34 million Americans drink tap water supplied by systems containing average levels of arsenic that pose unacceptable health risks.
Consumers can determine the arsenic levels, if any, in their drinking water by reading the Drinking Water Quality Report (also known as the Consumer Confidence Report) issued in July every year by each municipal water utility. Individuals can reduce their exposure to arsenic in drinking water by using a water filter certified by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF). Consumers should also beware that bottled water is not necessarily any safer than tap water. According to NRDC, bottled water is often nothing more than tap water that may or may not have been filtered–so filtration is the only way to be sure that drinking water is arsenic-free.
CONTACTS: U.S. EPA Arsenic in Drinking Water page, www.epa.gov/safewater/arsenic.html; EPA Consumer Confidence Report page, www.epa.gov/safewater/ccr1.html; Natural Resources Defense Council, (212) 727-2700, www.nrdc.org; National Sanitation Foundation, (800) NSF-MARK, www.nsf.org.
Dear EarthTalk: What is the modern meat industry’s impact on the environment?
Jeremy Smith, Bellefonte, PA
In E - The Environmental Magazine’s January/February 2002 cover story, “So You’re an Environmentalist – Why Are You Still Eating Meat?” author Jim Motavalli wrote, “Just about every aspect of meat production–from grazing-related loss of cropland and open space, to the inefficiencies of feeding vast quantities of water and grain to cattle in a hungry world, to pollution from ‘factory farms’–is an environmental disaster with wide and sometimes catastrophic consequences.”
Indeed, according to the Sierra Club, producing one pound of grain-fed beef requires about 16 pounds of wheat and – as staggering as it sounds – 2,500 gallons of water. Furthermore, millions of acres of forest have been cleared worldwide to make room for the large areas of land needed for cattle grazing. In the United States, more than 260 million acres of forest have been cleared to grow crops to feed animals raised for meat, and an acre of trees disappears every eight seconds.
Tropical rainforests are also being cut to create grazing land for cattle. Fifty-five square feet of rainforest may be destroyed to produce just one quarter-pound burger. Since trees absorb carbon dioxide, the leading “greenhouse gas,” this significant loss of forest contributes to global warming as well.
Soil erosion is also mostly due to the meat industry which, according to the Worldwatch Institute, is directly responsible for 85 percent of all soil erosion in the U.S. because so much grain is needed to feed the animals. Livestock is fed more than 80 percent of the corn and 95 percent of the oats grown by American farmers. The world’s cattle alone consume a quantity of food equal to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people–more than the entire human population on Earth.
A recent report prepared for the Senate Agricultural Committee concluded that animal waste is the largest contributor to pollution in 60 percent of the rivers and streams classified as ”impaired” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The report states that food animals produce waste at a rate of roughly 68,000 pounds per second. Major waste pollutants that make their way into our waterways include nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus that can cause massive fish kills, harmful bacteria and viruses, and toxic heavy metals, which are present in some commercial livestock feed.
Critics also point to the fact that meat-based diets exacerbate world hunger. Harvard nutritionist Jean Mayer estimates that a 10 percent reduction in U.S. meat consumption would free up enough grain to feed 60 million people. Some 40 percent of the world’s grain harvest is fed to livestock, while nearly a billion people go hungry each day.
While environmental groups recognize the benefits of vegetarianism as an alternative, few recommend it for everyone. Meat-loving environmentalists can look for small farms that feed livestock natural, organic diets, treat animals more humanely, and practice more sustainable land use.
CONTACTS: E Magazine, January/February 2002 issue, www.emagazine.com/view/?142; Sierra Club, (415) 977-5500, www.sierraclub.org/factoryfarms/ ; Worldwatch Institute, (202) 452-1999, www.worldwatch.org.
GOT AN ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTION? Send it to: EarthTalk, c/o E/The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; submit your question at: www.emagazine.com, or e-mail us at: <mailto:email@example.com>firstname.lastname@example.org.
I want to thank everyone who was concerned about my misfortune and sent cards (more than enough to cover my room door), flowers that took my breath away, telephone calls that helped brighten up the day, visits that were so encouraging. My family and friends, especially Madeline Thorn, who showed up almost every night to play “Quiddler,” and last but not least were the nurses and aides giving me wonderful care. Even though I was in four different hospitals, they couldn’t compare with the care at Barnes-Kasson. This goes for the O.T. and the P.T.
Some of the things that happened I was not witness to were Ivan and the destructive flood left in his wake, like Buck cows being floated downstream with only one casualty. The new bridge was dedicated. The nuns have a picket fence surrounding their property in town. There was a large auction at the Nethercott Inn and the former owners are now living in Georgia. A new family has moved into one of the oldest houses in Starrucca, vacated by the Corrigans who had made it livable again, and Millie and Don Haynes have finished putting vinyl siding on their home. The senior citizens again lit up the village with luminaries.
There will be more local news next week when I have a chance to call people. I was visiting Nelson and family, spending two weeks with them over Christmas and New Year.
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