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In Oxford, we have a Town Meeting form of government with a Board of Selectmen and a Board of Finance.

We also have a Board of Education. The Oxford Board of Education wants to put a metal roof with solar panels on the Oxford Great Oak Middle School to at least try to mitigate the costs of an electrically heated building. So the Oxford Board of Selectmen established a committee to look into the options available. That committee came back with a recommendation to proceed with the metal roof rather than once again going the route of the standard asphalt roof, which has never successfully kept the rain out anyway.

So far, so good. Deciding which way to go is a valid subject for debate. Everyone performed their responsibilities and the process continued. The next step was to send it to the Oxford Board of Finance to review the finances and make a recommendation to the town. That’s where it gets strange. The Oxford Board of Finance decided to review the options. Not the financing options, the roofing options! Read the rest of this entry »

Growing up, there were things of which we were certain; there would always be 12 possible VHF television channels (only about half in any given market concurrently) including 3 networks. UHF stations weren’t ever very big because they didn’t have the same quality signal, though they had more of an impact away from major markets. You could only watch the programming at times of their choosing. And if you wanted to keep connected to the world you saw there you needed to go through a phone company, of which there was exactly one on the list from which to choose.

Most people get their television from something other than over-the-air broadcast today, making the channel 2-13 selection for higher quality television a thing of the past. Those original networks, plus some others, quickly got into cable/satellite systems with other choices. They’ve also made significant portions of their programming over the internet. But the phone company still seems to be working according to their old way of doing business. Read the rest of this entry »

9/11 seems like yesterday. My office was on Hudson Street just north of Canal, which turned out to be the northern end of the exclusion zone for the next few weeks. Amazingly, even though there were a lot of people in the company who lived near or commuted through there, none of our then current employees were physically injured, though someone who had left the company before I arrived was on Flight 93, which fought the hijackers.

I was just north of the city when the first plane hit and turned around. I was on the phone with a co-worker for a bit who had already arrived at the office and who was watching from a conference room window as the second came in. It all seemed unreal. I turned around to go home. I did think to call home and to call my parents on the way. Both knew I was supposed to be in the city. Fortunately, my wife then thought to call the schools my kids were attending. The schools had put the news on in the classrooms. We live a distance from New York, and there are not a lot of people who commute to New York, so it had apparently not occurred to anyone that there might be direct connections to any of the kids. The front office dispatched people to let my own kids know that I was okay and on  my way home.

A few of us set up a web page for getting information to and from our co-workers who were scattered around the city and beyond and managed to track almost everybody down within a day or so. Our offices were closed until about a week later. Several of us did manage to meet there on 9/14 to see if there was any damage to the offices or systems, which we had managed to keep running remotely until then. We had not lost power or any of our data lines, and somehow it seemed strange to see the quiet desks and running equipment unscathed except for some dust that came through the elevator shafts. Outside, it looked like a war zone.

Sometime later, I was at my desk and waiting “on hold” on the telephone for someone. I idly pulled up the New York Times web site on my computer while I waited. On the side of the front page, they were running a series of brief bios of people that had been lost. That day the first person I saw was a guy I had been in Cub Scouts with.

Another strange thing I remember in the following weeks was the sight of cars scattered through the parking lots of Metro North Railroad that were clearly not being moved at night and beginning to collect dust. It took a few days before people realized that these belonged to people who weren’t coming home.

There was an interesting blog entry on the Fifth Down blog of the New York Times this past week. It seems that the waiting list for New York Jets tickets is now non-existent. It used to be an estimated ten years long, and they charged people $50 a year to stay on the list. It says that you can pretty much sit where you want now by just walking in with the cash. I’m still angry at the way we were taken for granted after over 40 years of attendance, but at least I got to go to games. Imagine paying $500 to stay on a waiting list ($50 times 10 years) without having been to a game, and then learning that once seats were available, anyone could get them for the same that you could (provided they had a lot of cash or wanted to take out a new mortgage)? The main subject of the blog entry was that the Giants were cutting prices and having trouble selling their seats. The blog said that the list for Giant tickets had been an estimated 25 years long and I remember hearing it was 50 years at one point. I wonder when the NFL will wake up and realize that enough is enough. Killing the fan base can’t be good for the league. The money is isn’t going to the league. It’s being spent to pay for a stadium that isn’t needed and which costs $1.6 Billion (with a B!).

I’ve got a basement full of old grills for before the game and a closet of Jet hats and scarves and other paraphenalia that I’ll no longer be using. For years, it’s been a rite of passage around here to go to your first Jet game and get your first hat. Half of our weekends during the season were spent at Shea Stadium and the Meadowlands, cheering for our team even when they were really (REALLY) bad, which has been more years than they were passable, let alone good. On the other weekends,  we made sure to be home or at Dad’s to see the game or hesitated to drive in a direction away from New York in case we got out of range of the radio signal before the game was over.

At least when Leon Hess was alive, the fans mattered a little. Having been told, in so many words, by Woody Johnson that loyalty to the fans was something he and the team don’t have, do they really think we’re going to go out of our way to listen to or watch a broadcast or buy the licensed products they depend on?

Returning to the stadium for one last year before they move across the parking lot is going to be more a nod to nostalgia and one last set of visits with our friends than an expression of loyalty. It might be nice to hear someday that Woody Johnson lost more than he expected on his purchase of the team. That would be fair for a man who took the team from its fans.

I’ve never been a big sports fan. Sure, once it gets to time for the baseball playoffs, I’ll usually watch some or all of the games, but it’s never been something that I’ve arranged my day around. The exception has been that for 45 seasons the guys in my family have followed the New York Jets as season ticket holders.

For the first year or so, it was my father and some work associates, joined by my brother and myself when we could. On a few occasions, by grandfather came, too, and we had three generations enjoy the game together. We had our green and white hats (most people wore the old wool hats rather than the baseball hats that are more popular now) and our green and white scarves. Mom found a new source of ideas for Christmas presents, and we got green socks and similar items in December. We’d pack up blankets and head over to Shea stadium, listen to the New York Jets band play from the open end of the stadium and watch the little guy climb into the little jet and drive up and down the sideline whenever OUR team scored while jets from LaGuardia flew over head and an icy wind blew off of Flushing Bay. Read the rest of this entry »

We’ve been fans of the New York Jets since the beginning. That’s not an exaggeration, either. My dad wandered over to their offices on Madison Avenue in New York and picked up our season tickets before they played their first game at Shea. The only way anyone could have been following the team longer was to have attended Titan games at the Polo grounds. We remember going to Shea with my grandfather, who’s been gone for 35 years now. We remember “bumping into” Ed Sullivan there (literally), who was a fan, and the excitement of the Superbowl win is an actual memory of a real experience rather than something we read about. This year marks the 45th season we’ve been going to games.

After several years at Shea, we discovered that if we left the house 15 minutes earlier, and brought food, we could sit outside the stadium and watch everyone else come in from our folding chairs in the parking lot. We cheered with everyone else in the lot when the temperature display on the billboard near the parking lot dropped another degree and headed inside to endure the wind off of Flushing bay so we could watch our team with friends we only knew from the games. The woman I married met my parents for the first time when I brought her to a game at Shea.

We followed the team to the Meadowlands, where they were a tenant of the Giants, and almost the entire section moved with us. Lenny, who sat behind us at Shea, still sits behind us now. We thought it would be nice if we could actually have our own stadium, but we didn’t think about it a lot.

We learned a few years ago that a new stadium was going to be built next door to Giant Stadium, which would be owned by both teams. The current stadium is still fine, but this one will have luxury boxes, which really don’t apply to us. This year we learned the details. To purchase seats in a similar location at the new stadium requires the purchase of a Personal Seat License for fifteen thousand dollars a seat, which then allows us to buy the same seats going forward for about the same price as we do now. The only allowance being made for 45 seasons of attendance is that seniority will be applied before lotteries are held to allow us to choose licenses for seats at the new stadium. And, since the team records only go back to 1974 or so, we’ll need to compete with with everyone else who has attended for 35 to 45 years, or so. We are also being allowed to compete for seats that are two sections further from the field and don’t require a license or a new mortgage. Either way, there’s no provision we’ve heard of that would sit us near Lenny or all the other Sunday friends we know by face if not name.

I spoke to Lenny last night (after so many years, we do have the number), and he said that this has definitely changed things. He used to live and breathe all things “Jet”. After the way the team has handled this, it isn’t the same. We found out the loyalty only extended one way.

I’m not generally a fan of celebrity endorsements. Somehow, the idea that someone might base their decision on who should be president based upon an endorsement by someone who makes their living pretending to be somebody else, or singing or playing music, or throwing some sort of ball, is kind of scary. But in a blog entry by Paul Reiser today on The Huffington Post, he really hits the nail on the head; John McCain is becoming the schoolyard bully who steals your lunch money and blames you because you brought it. Another, non-celebrity, blog by Kathleen Reardon also says it well when she asks,”Is It Sexist To Want The Person Flying The Plane To Be A Pilot?

I saw an interview with John McCain, yesterday, where he stated that if Obama had agreed to his plan for Town Hall style debates, the campaign would not have taken a negative tone.

So let me get this straight. Most of the mud being thrown over the fence has been from the McCain campaign. But if Obama had allowed McCain to control Obama’s strategy, then McCain would have played nice????

One of the wonderful things about the internet is that it give a voice to a lot of people who haven’t had much of one before and generally enhances the dissemination of knowledge. Knowledge and Voice are an essential ingredient to a functioning democracy. However, the current election shows us that whenever the privileges of a free society are available, someone will abuse them.

Last night, a friend forwarded me one of the viral emails floating around about Senator Barack Obama, attributing a rediculous quote to him to challenge his patriotism. The quote was a complete fabrication. This morning, we received one containing a list of books that Governor Palin wanted banned. It was also a fabrication. The fabrication of so-called information does a disservice to the privilege of Free Speech.

The email about Obama built upon another viral email sent out earlier which took a picture of Obama without his hand over his heart while two of his opponents did and claimed that he refused to honor the Pledge of Allegiance. This also was not true. At the event in question, he DID put his hand over his heart during the Pledge. The picture was taken during the playing of the National Anthem. If someone wants to use that standard, then the question can be asked, though by that standard anyone who’s ever attended a ball game could have their patriotism questioned! Deliberately twisting it into something which it is not is an obscenity.

The Governor Palin thing takes a different kind of fact and twists it. She did, in fact, ask the city librarian a question about banning books. Personally, I think that even consideration of the banning of books is frightening enough. The email states that she also later tried to fire the librarian. This was also true. A quick Google search indicates that she did not think the librarian was supportive. Her reasoning is open to interpretation, and contrary to the Republican attack machine is certainly worthy of investigation and/or consideration. However, adding the claim that she actually followed through with an attempt to ban books, enhanced by a list of books that was completely fabricated, turns a valid set of concerns into an obscenity.

Spreading maliscious rumors is not new to politics. Apparently, Thomas Jefferson himself controlled some of the efforts to discredit Alexander Hamilton and the Whigs tried to do it by tying a Jackass to Andrew Jackson (which backfired, when the Democrats adopted it as a symbol of the working man as well as their party). But, I think the cynical use of this kind of disinformation has become revolting.

In the current election cycle, the “validation” of these attacks rose a notch when Hillary Clinton felt compelled to say that she didn’t know whether Obama was a Muslim which took things to the level of an official campaign comment (by the candidate, herself, no less) and was not acceptable.

Yesterday, the McCain campaign went a step further, releasing an ad which put up the headline “Obama on Palin” followed by a video of Obama using the expression, “Lipstick on a Pig.” Looking at the entire segment from which the expression was extracted shows that he wasn’t discussing anything about Governor Palin at the time, and was using the expression to describe some of the policies of John McCain. The McCain campaign trotted out its surrogates expressing outrage about the sexism of the remarks because the reference to lipstick had to have been a reference to the gender of his VP candidate, and completely ignoring the fact that the expression has been frequently used by McCain himself, including during a Town Hall type of event in which he gave an opinion on Hillary Clinton’s health plan.

The whole thing is an obscenity and should be considered an insult to the intelligence of the voters.

I went to a town meeting in Oxford a couple of nights ago. Town meetings have to be among the more interesting ways of running towns. In general, they have to be a lot closer to the Athenian style of democracy than you have with town councils and other variations of government. Anyone who wants to speak can do so. The meeting was presided over by the elected First Selectman and two Selectmen, one of whom was the last First Selectman. According to the rules, a moderator was elected who then stated that he would attempt to limit peoples comments or questions to 3 minutes so that everyone would have a chance to speak.

There were several items on the agenda, the first of which were dispensed with rapidly. The last one drew a great deal of interest. In an objective world, the elected representatives would describe what they had proposed and why they proposed it. Then the people would have a chance to discuss it. At first it seemed to be going that way until the former First Selectman jumped up and raised a point of order that the current First Selectman was exceeding her three minutes! Then, his backers wanted to limit the Director of Development to the same three minutes for explaining the details of the deal being presented to the public. The whole thing seemed to be more geared towards obstruction than participative democracy. Hopefully, in the future we’ll see rules that specifically state that the rule shouldn’t be applied to the overall presentation of what it is we’re about to discuss.

Whatever position people held on the issue being discussed and eventually voted on shouldn’t matter. The people in front were elected to do a job, and should have been permitted to present that work to the public without this kind of nonsense. It’s not about party (or party faction, which is clearly an issue there). It’s about giving approval or disapproval of a town action. There seems to be a group of people here with the wrong goal.