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And Other Useless Gadgets
I am not a QVC shopper or even a watcher of any note. Out of boredom and inertia, I have paused on that television channel a few times, but not with the intent of actually buying anything.
I must say that I am intrigued by the wizardry of the makeup artists. They do make plain people look very attractive. But that’s a talent I don’t have and an expense I’m not willing to bear, as their makeup seems very expensive to me.
Having said all that, I must admit to succumbing to their pitch one night and buying a most expensive, useless piece of junk. I just happened on to the attraction as I was flipping channels. A man and woman were turning out these delectable-looking edible creations from what looked like a two-sided omelet pan. With seemingly no effort, but much enthusiasm, they were making cakes, sandwiches, soufflés – I can’t even remember all the different foods. I thought that was the perfect appliance for a hearty-eating one-person family. And it would do away with those days and days of leftovers.
Without my usual hesitation, I grabbed my credit card and headed for the telephone. What one might expect to be a one-minute conversation went on and on. No, I did not want a six-month free subscription to Better Homes and Gardens, with the privilege of renewing at half price after the initial time limit. No, I also didn’t want the next sixteen magazines we went through one by one.
"I only want this cooker," I finally interjected at one point.
The salesman then wanted to know if he could send me the accompanying cookbook on approval. No, I didn’t think I needed the cookbook, as the demonstrators had shown how easy it was to make anything with this clever gadget. And I already have forty-nine cookbooks, while what I’m now looking for is simplicity, not more recipes.
We went through several more categories of things I might need, which I knew I didn’t need. I kept interjecting, "All I want is the appliance." He was a broken record. Actually, now that I think of it, maybe he was a recording!
Finally we were getting to the nitty-gritty of my credit card number and the final cost. Here was the shocker! What they had advertised so enthusiastically at $39.95, was now hitting my credit card at $56 and change. Postage and handling are very expensive. At this point, I didn’t even flinch. I chalked it up to experience and left the phone poorer, but wiser.
A few days later I found this huge box on my porch. Opening it and digging through the packing, I unearthed a most unusual display of kitchen utensils (of which my kitchen drawers are already crammed), brochures, and other miscellaneous stuff.
Eager to try my new wonder appliance, I whipped up something "eggy", hit the Teflon coating with a spray of Pam and filled both wells of what looked like an electric omelet pan. Then I waited for the $50 magic to happen. The trick turned out to be a dirty trick, with me literally digging the food out of those wells with one of the handy Teflon scrapers they had included. With great effort I got this self-cleaning wonder cleaned up. It sat on the table a few days while my coffee-drinking friend admired it.
"It’s yours," I said. "Take it home and try it. If you like it, keep it. I don’t want it."
She didn’t take it, and it has sat in my already-cluttered house for months. Its next move is to the church rummage sale. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Another of life’s lessons learned the hard way.
MONTROSE: A meeting of the Directors and the Building committee of the Susq’a Co. Historical Society and Free Library Assn. was held Saturday evening. For the past year it had been planned to proceed early the coming summer to erect a building and a motion was adopted to proceed as early as practicable. H. A. Denney, Esq., F. A. Davies and Dr. J. G. Wilson visited the libraries at Wyalusing, Towanda, Sayre, Athens, and Waverly on Wednesday and Thursday, in the interest of our society. Mr. Davies secured blue prints of nearly all the buildings, and Mr. Denney and Dr. Wilson gathered information in regard to purchasing books and cataloguing the same. These energetic fellows also investigated the concrete block, as are manufactured and used at Waverly and Sayre for building purposes, and will have something tangible to report at the next meeting of the committee, and we may feel sure that the historical and library building will be a certainty in the near future.
LATHROP TOWNSHIP: William Walker met death by freezing, the latter part of last week. A coroner’s jury empanelled by Justice Swartz, of Glenwood, rendering a verdict to that effect. He lost a leg in a railroad accident several years ago, and the supposition is that fatigued with walking he sat down to rest and succumbed to the intense cold. His little dog was still waiting faithfully by his side when the body was found. He was last seen alive Thursday evening. There was found in his pocket, $7 in bills and silver and a jack knife.
LANESBORO: Traffic on the Jefferson division was blocked for several hours Sunday evening by a wreck, which took place between Jefferson Junction and Lanesboro. Two D & H coal trains were involved and while no one was badly injured the wreck was a very costly one, one locomotive having been badly damaged and a number of coal cars demolished. The wreck was caused by Conductor Edward Ruch’s train crashing into the rear of Conductor George Kelley’s train. The members of the crews were saved by jumping. Both the D & H and Erie wreckage crews were called out to clear away the debris.
WELSH HILL, Clifford Twp.: The entertainment given by the pupils of Welsh Hill school on the evening of Washington’s birthday was a decided success. Gaylord Jones as George and Miss Robert Morgan as Martha, acted their parts creditably and the interesting talk by Rev. Garretson, of Clifford, was much enjoyed by all. AND: Wm. Jones has purchased a farm near Elkdale and has commenced moving.
SOUTH AUBURN: A runaway horse attached to a cutter, belonging to Warren Tewksbury, was stopped at this place. Although it had run two miles, neither horse nor cutter was injured. The presence of mind and bravery of a woman, combined with the usefulness of her apron, prevented further disaster. AND: At Auburn Four Corners, E. T. Smith returned from Buffalo, bringing a herd of 19 steers.
HEART LAKE: Two sleighloads of young people went to Brooklyn last Wednesday night to hear the Welsh singers. AND: Heart Lake is to have a base ball team the coming season
SILVER LAKE: Letters are daily received from Col. J. West and Edward Kernan, who are at Hot Springs, Ark. They are much pleased with the effect already noticed from using the baths, and Edward says he hopes to bring Mr. West home entirely cured by the treatment, also to be benefited himself by the use of the baths, which he says are truly wonderful.
SPRINGVILLE: E. L. Button, who has charge of the Lynn milk station, is walking to and from his work every day, his horse having been sick a long time.
HARFORD: There will be no graduating exercises at the Harford High school this year. An extra year’s work is now necessary to bring a student up to the standard for graduation, the curriculum having been correspondingly enlarged. The students, who would have graduated this spring will have the benefit of the higher standard, and do the honor in 1906. Prof. Stearns leaves nothing undone for the promotion of education.
FOREST LAKE: A large number of logs have been received at Booth’s Mill and more are being drawn all the time. Messrs. Booth have an enviable reputation as first-class sawyers as is shown by the large share of patronage they receive.
ALFORD: J.S. Marean will attend the inauguration of President Roosevelt and also visit his sisters in Washington.
DIMOCK: The Dimock Literary Society will give a supper, called the Feast of Seven Tables, at their room, March 4, Saturday evening. It is the only pay entertainment that the Society will give this winter. Supper, 20 cents for adults and 15 cents for children. Come and enjoy a rare treat. The chicken pie supper that was held at the home of Mr. and Mrs. A.C. Mills was a social and financial success. Proceeds, $21.76, number present, 95. Everyone spoke particularly of the excellent supper served. AND: Singing by the Sheen brothers treated the Literary Society at the home of Mr. and Mrs. George Halderman.
RUSH: The new basement of Trinity M.E. Church will be christened on Friday evening, March 10, when the young people and the intermediate department of the Sunday school sill hold an orange fete and serve supper. A cordial invitation is given to all. Come and pick oranges right off the tree and enjoy their finest flavor. AND: A large number of the elite attended Nella Hibbard’s birthday part on Monday evening.
GREAT BEND: Chas. Hamlin was confined to his house a few days as the result of a run-away while delivering groceries for P. H. Lines. He was badly bruised about the body and his face badly cut above and below the right eye.
MESHOPPEN, Wyoming Co.: On Wednesday evening the parties interested in building a telephone from here to South Auburn and West Auburn met at Hotel Kennard and formed a temporary organization for carrying out the plans. The name of the company will be “Meshoppen & Auburn Telephone Co.”
School Boards Make Own Rules
If memory serves me right, I covered my first Board of Education meeting as a reporter in Northern New Jersey in 1956. I believe it was the Roxbury Township Board of Education in a then little community called Succasunna.
They had a really neat law relating to school board meetings in those days. I would imagine the law is still in the books although it has been years since I covered a school board meeting in the Garden State.
Simply put, the law required board meetings to start promptly at 8 p.m. They were not allowed to begin a minute before 8 or a minute after 8. If there was no quorum present at 8 p.m. there was no meeting.
It is too bad that law was never picked up in Pennsylvania. If it was ever needed any place, it is in the Keystone State where clocks or, more specifically time, means very little to school directors.
The biggest violators of time are the school directors in the Forest City Regional School District where the meeting time is 7 p.m. But at the last meeting, called a day late because the regular meeting date fell on Valentine’s Day, the board held a private session while visitors waited in the hall for the meeting to begin. In fact, two school directors approached the door into the meeting room, saw the board in executive session, walked away, and returned for the start of the regular meeting that finally convened about 7:22 p.m.
It is not an uncommon occurrence in Forest City. Seems there is always a reason for a closed-door session prior to the start of the regular meeting. Oh, the board president usually makes some sort of apology for the delay and the meetings do get started. But generally, the state’s Sunshine Law, which is about as useful as a burned-out light bulb, appears to have been ignored.
And another thing!
Something happens to individuals who are elected to boards of education. When they are campaigning for the seat, they are gung-ho, filled with energy and enthusiasm. But when they find they are outnumbered on the board, there is an attitude adjustment.
For the most part, new board members become timid. They quickly fall in line, accepting the status quo and following suit like card players in a pinochle game. Gone are the ideas discussed with the voters prior to the election. Gone are the campaign promises to seek reform. Gone are the promises to challenge the methodology of board meetings.
Ever talk to a new school director about his/her position on an issue or why he/she sat quietly through the discussion and simply voted with the majority? Nine times out of 10 you will hear something like, “I knew they had enough votes to pass it so rather than start an argument I couldn’t win, I went along with it.”
Wow! How’s that for quietly surrendering your freedom of speech?
The wish here is that residents of the Blue Ridge School District will stand behind their tax collectors who are facing an 80 percent pay cut by an intimidating school board.
As said here last week, the commissions of one tax collector in the school district will shrink from $1,600 to $295. Being paid $1,600 to collect thousands and thousands of school tax dollars certainly does not appear to be out of proportion. Obviously, the school directors are not familiar with the time and effort put into the job of tax collecting.
And a thank you....
To the volunteer firemen who called and wrote kind words about a recent column we did on the need for volunteers. Ironically, the edition in which the column appeared came out the same day a daily newspaper carried a front page article about the fact that only three volunteer firemen answered an alarm of fire in a Lackawanna County borough.
In last week’s column, I discussed some of the difficulties involved in prosecuting a child pornography case. Over the past week, the Pennsylvania Superior Court considered a sentence for a man convicted of possessing child pornography. The offender, James Charles Klueber, pled guilty to 134 counts of sexual abuse of children relating to his possession of child pornography. He had been charged with over 400 counts resulting from Klueber’s sending 134 images of child pornography to an undercover police officer.
The lower court considered the particular offenses, as well as a prior conviction for open lewdness, where Klueber had been convicted of fondling himself at a urinal in a high school locker room as he watched 20 to 30 boys shower after a wrestling match. Furthermore, the court noted that the local authorities had documented multiple complaints regarding Klueber’s staring at young children in his neighborhood. After considering this evidence, the lower court sentenced Klueber to a period of incarceration of 33 years to 67 years in a state correctional facility. To the credit of the lower court, the judge ran 134 sentences of three months to six months for each count consecutive so as to create a long period of incarceration and supervision.
The Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed the sentence. The Superior Court was disturbed that the sentencing judge noted that Klueber lived with his 83 year old mother, and that the sentencing judge had called Klueber a “sponge” and a “parasite.” The Superior Court stated that the evidence only indicated that Klueber was fascinated with child pornography, not with actually harming a child. In fact, Klueber himself testified that he viewed child pornography as an “art form” and that he would never personally hurt a child. Thus, the Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed the sentence stating: “the trial court’s willingness to equate looking at photographs with actual physical abuse [along with the comments concerning Klueber’s living arrangements] create enough of a question to be a concern to us.”
Justice Correale F. Stevens dissented from the reversal of the sentence, noting that Klueber had downloaded child pornography onto his computer while he was under supervision for the open lewdness charge. Justice Stevens also noted that Klueber admitted to viewing the child pornography approximately 5 hours per day on his computer. There was also medical testimony that Klueber was a high risk to offend again. Thus, Justice Stevens indicated that he would affirm the sentence, and disagreed with the decision of the majority to reverse the sentence.
The local District Attorney’s office has sought review of the decision from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. If they are not successful, then Klueber will have to be sentenced again to a lesser period of incarceration. Klueber’s neighbors are concerned that he will be released and that he will be back in their community leering at their children. As noted last week, the prosecution of child pornography offenses is difficult, and, even when a conviction is successful, the appellate court, at least in the Klueber case, seems to downplay the possession of the material.
If you are interested in information to keep your children safe, Blue Ridge High School is hosting an event called Kid Safe Night on Thursday, March 3, 2005, from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., at the Blue Ridge High School. The Susquehanna County District Attorney’s Office is proud to be a part of this event, along with the Susquehanna County Sheriff’s Department, the Pennsylvania State Police, the Juvenile Probation and Parole Office, as well as numerous other agencies. I invite all parents to take the time to come to this event. There will be a wealth of information available for parents to assist them in understanding and handling the myriad of dangers that your children face on a daily basis. I look forward to seeing you there.
Please submit any questions, concerns, or comments to Susquehanna County District Attorney’s Office, P.O. Box 218, Montrose, Pennsylvania 18801.
The weather hasn’t stopped some Starrucca residents from getting out on the main highways. Paul and Bridget D’Agati took a ride to Toronto, Canada recently to visit her brother, who was celebrating his seventieth birthday.
The money earned by the Girl Scouts selling their cookies will help with expenses when they go whitewater rafting on the New River in West Virginia in July.
Shannon Williams, daughter of Steve and Virginia Williams is a sophomore at East Stroudsburg University, majoring in Biology.
Nathan Williams, brother of Shannon, graduated from Broome Community College in December and, after taking a practical and written state board exam for paramedic, he is now a member (in good standing) with the Montrose Minute Men.
Pete and Vicki Downton entertained at an old fashioned sleigh-riding party in honor of their son, Dan’s tenth birthday recently. Pete, Vicki and Dan also flew to Florida to visit Disney World and some relatives last week.
Tuesday of last week, Steve Williams and Matthew Piercy flew to St. Louis, Missouri to check on some packaging machinery that has to do with Matthew’s packaging company.
I was surprised by a visitor last week who was a cousin of my husband’s. Russell May was looking through a box of photos his mother had and found some of our family, so he thought he’d bring them over. I didn’t remember him. I guess he wasn’t home when we visited his mom and dad. Kept me guessing for awhile.
Doris Davidson came home a week ago Friday, after another stay at Barnes-Kasson. Helen Parsons, who lives in Deposit, came to cheer her up last Monday.
Congratulations to Caitlin Piercy, who took pre-auditions for District Band and won first chair which enabled her to audition for Regional Band, winning third chair which made it possible to try for State Band in April at Hershey, PA. Caitlin is proficient on the French Horn.
Dear EarthTalk: What is “sprawl” and how do we keep it in check for the sake of the environment?
G. Korchowsky, Yardley, PA
Sprawl is the tendency of cities to expand into outlying agricultural and rural lands, creating developed suburbs where there was once open space. The negative effects of sprawl include the loss of parks and farmland, clogged highways and urban decay as people abandon metropolitan centers. It is usually driven by human population increases and--ironically--people’s desire to escape the “concrete jungle” to quieter and more natural surroundings.
According to Tim Frank of the Sierra Club, sprawl in fact destroys more than two million acres of parks, farms and other open space each year in the U.S. alone. Further, by spreading development out over large amounts of land, sprawl puts longer distances between homes, stores and job centers, making people more and more dependent upon driving. This reliance on driving in turn leads to more roads and highways that churn up natural landscapes and bring increased smog and pollution.
Staving off sprawl is a complex and often contentious endeavor, with real estate developers pitted squarely against preservationists. The good news is that an association of organizations called the Smart Growth Network (SGN) is working to promote development that boosts the economy while still protecting the environment and enhancing community vitality.
SGN was formed in 1996 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in partnership with several other government agencies and non-profit organizations, including the Sierra Club. Promoting public transportation, keeping farms economically viable, preserving open space and restoring urban centers are key elements of SGN’s fight against the negative impacts of sprawl. “What we are doing is carrying out activities to educate people about the consequences of sprawl and help them realize that steps can be taken to create smart growth," says Frank.
Even the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is lending a hand. The agency’s NAUTILUS project provides city planners with satellite data to help with decision-making regarding zoning and development. In test regions throughout the northeastern U.S., city planners are working with NASA on developing growth projections based on satellite maps and historical growth trends.
Whether these efforts are any match for the frontier ethic that still dominates American culture is yet to be seen. And with many less developed nations building up their industrial infrastructures, on a global scale the sprawl problem is likely to get worse before it gets better.
CONTACTS: Sierra Club, www.sierraclub.org; Smart Growth Network, www.smartgrowth.org; NASA NAUTILUS program, http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2002/11oct_sprawl.htm.
Dear EarthTalk: Are there any environmental benefits to diesel-powered cars?
Bill Darcy, Concord, NH
The high fuel economy of a diesel-powered vehicle, such as the Volkswagen Golf GL TDI, might seem like a no-brainer choice for anyone looking for a new car that will consume less gas and money. But although the TDI gets far better gas mileage than a similar gasoline-powered Golf, its diesel engine emits considerably more harmful pollutants into the air.
In fact, a Swedish study found that diesel-powered cars in India had twice the cancer potency level of gasoline-powered vehicles in that country, results supported by German research. And the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) reports that, in California, diesel exhaust accounts for 70 percent of the cancer risk from that state’s polluted air. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the particulates, or soot, in diesel exhaust cause a host of health problems, including: irritation of the eyes, nose and throat; heartburn; headaches and lightheadedness; and asthma and lung disease.
The EPA’s Green Vehicle Guide rates cars and trucks on a scale of zero to 10 (10 being the best) based on their emissions of smog-forming pollutants per every 15,000 miles driven. While the gasoline-powered Golf received a rating of seven, emitting just under 12 pounds of pollutants, the Golf TDI got a one, spewing out 44 to 59 pounds over the same distance driven. The gargantuan Ford Excursion and Hummer H2--with gas mileage in the single digits--each received just a two.
Some diesel proponents claim that the increased fuel efficiency of diesel engines could significantly reduce the carbon dioxide emissions responsible for global warming. But, according to UCS, widespread adoption of diesel-powered cars would yield less than a five percent reduction in carbon emissions, while significantly increasing air quality problems.
Under current EPA regulations, diesel vehicles are allowed to emit 16 times more particulates into the air than gas vehicles. However, California is taking the lead in phasing out loopholes that allow diesel cars to out-pollute their gas-powered equivalents, and other states are sure to follow. While pollution from diesel cars has been cut by 80 to 90 percent over the past two decades, it must be reduced another 75 to 90 percent within the next few years just to meet pollution standards in California. Additionally, the federal government recently adopted new “Tier Two” tailpipe standards that will require significant cuts in diesel vehicle emissions nationally.
Drivers looking to minimize their pollution impact while maximizing fuel efficiency would be smarter to ignore diesel offerings and go for a gasoline-electric hybrid like the Toyota Prius or Honda Insight. And once auto makers can resolve refueling infrastructure issues, zero-emission hydrogen-powered fuel cell cars should provide another cost-efficient and environmentally friendly alternative to the gas-guzzlers dominating the road today.
CONTACT: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Green Vehicle Guide, www.epa.gov/greenvehicles; Union of Concerned Scientists, www.ucsusa.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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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