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News of Otsego County

Columns

Take precaution, but don’t rush to judgment

Take precaution, but don’t rush to judgment

“Virologists will tell you that predicting how a new virus might evolve is a fool’s errand. Predicting that it will evolve is money in the bank.” – The Economist.

Since the genome for Covid-19 was first sequenced in January 2020, there have been 5.6 million sequence variations added to the database. Obviously most variations do not make much difference, but a very few do so spectacularly. The Omicron variant is different than others seen up until now.

One week ago, we reported that the new variant was seen in three countries and predicted that it was pretty much everywhere but unknown at that point. Today it has been identified in at least 40 countries and growing, some with significant numbers of infection, but in none except South Africa has it yet pushed out the Delta variant as the most prominent.

Let’s verb again, like we did last Christmas

Let’s verb again, like we did last Christmas

By Ted Potrikus

Do you remember the classic comic strip “Calvin and Hobbes”? It was my daily must-read back when it ran in newspapers; it remains a go-to in its various printed collections or online.

My favorite among the strips finds Calvin telling Hobbes this: “I like to verb words.”

He goes on: “I take nouns and adjectives and use them as verbs. Remember when ‘access’ was a thing? Now it’s something you do. It got verbed.”

“Verbing,” he says, “weirds language.”

Hobbes responds: “Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding.”

It was funny back then, but I’m not laughing any more. In fact, if last week I went all Bah on the overuse of Christmasy music in seasonal advertising, this week I’m opening up a giant can of Humbug on the verbing of nouns that comes around this time of year.

It’s a little game I play with myself that began a few years ago when A Big Worldwide Coffee Shop Conglomerate invited me via a sticker on its door to “Autumn.” “Let’s Autumn,” it said, and, after I rolled my eyes a lot I decided that it was time to find someplace else for my caffeine fix. It seems like Autumn is about the time that commercial noun verbing begins in earnest, so like some out there who time the seasons by trying to guess when retailers will break out the Christmas decorations, for me, it’s not truly Autumn until some store verbs a noun.

The practice shifts into high gear, though, in tandem with the annual outbreak of too-early Christmas displays. And this year, there are two prime offenders.

One started in early November: a Giant Worldwide Discount Retail Conglomerate (we’re establishing a pattern of culpability here) introduced window statics and small signs reading “Let’s Joy.” I was not aware that one could actually joy.

But as Christmas itself approaches, they’ve upped the annoyance factor with a whole slew of commercials urging me to joy, fully.

Oh I see what they did there! Ha ha! Yes! But, no. No thank you. Not that I don’t want to be joyful, or fully feel joy. It’s just that I am not going to joy to any extent.

As bad as that is, though, there’s another commercial out there that tells me to “Happy the Holidays.” What the what, now? One cannot happy anything. I won’t belabor the point.

It’s another shopping outlet to boycott and, yes, I realize I’m beginning to shrink my available universe of places to shop simply on account of my aversion to their utter abuse of the English language. I’m certain, too, that their crackerjack creatives have come up with similar ways to butcher languages around the world.

And it’s yet another reason for me to shop locally, slogan-free, and joyfully.

Bound Volumes 12-09-21

Bound Volumes

185 YEARS AGO

Man is so constituted, that when he directs all his energies to a single employment, the products of his labor are far more abundant and excellent, than when he follows several employments. By confining both body and mind to a single operation, a degree of skill and dexterity in that operation is acquired, which could not be attained if the same, or even a much greater amount of labor had been bestowed on several direct objects.
December 12, 1836

Hometown History 12-09-21

Hometown History

110 Years Ago

At about 8:30 o’clock last Thursday evening, while a double rig from the livery of Dr. Hamilton at Delhi was being driven from that village to Oneonta, the wagon was struck by a light engine at the Ulster & Delaware crossing between Sherman Lake and West Davenport. Both horses were killed and the wagon entirely demolished. All three occupants of the wagon, Emery Young of Calicoon, Henry Young of Scranton, and Carl Bartholomew of Delhi,
were injured. Emery Young sustained a fractured skull, and though the men were at once taken on the engine and hurried to Oneonta, he died at about 9 o’clock as he was being lifted from the ambulance. Bartholomew was
badly bruised, but his injuries were not serious. Henry Young, who was hurled nearly 40 feet on impact, though painfully bruised, was able to be about the city the next morning. The engine was apparently running rapidly as portions of the demolished vehicle were carried more than fifty rods from the crossing.
December 1911

Bound Volumes 12-2-21

Bound Volumes

210 YEARS AGO
Advertisement – The co-partnership of Cory & Cook is, by mutual consent, this day dissolved. All persons indebted to said firm are requested to make immediate payment to said Cory, who will attend to said business at the store of Mssrs. Goodsell & Cook. They do not forget to offer their sincere thanks to all those who have been their good customers. O.L. Cory, Seth Cook, Cooperstown.
November 30, 1811

News from the Noteworthy: Prepare against holiday disappointment

News from the Noteworthy:
Prepare against holiday disappointment

Deck the halls! Light the candles! Hang the lights! Prepare the feast! And then wait with excited anticipation of family and friends coming over to share the celebrations of the season.

Whether you observe Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, or a blend of traditions, the hopes for joy and peace are high in the hearts of most.

Then, for some of us, there are the thoughts of “that” guest or “that” situation everyone knows can turn delight into disappointment. We hope it will be different this year, and sometimes it is. For the most part, though, the disruption is fairly predictable. This is a real circumstance that many families deal with year after year.

How do you break that cycle? Can anything be done to increase the chances of a peaceful, happy gathering?

Gratefully, there are ways to disrupt a disruptive pattern. Because it is so common, a lot has been written on it. You can find lots of suggestions beyond the ones listed here. Generally, within families, a few themes can set off uncomfortable interactions. You probably know what they are: discussions of controversial topics, intoxication, and old family disputes.

Knowing that, here are a few strategies that you can try. They take a little planning, you will need to be vigilant for signs of trouble, and you will likely need some allies.

But remember, the goal is a joyful, fulfilling gathering.

1) In an upbeat way, create a family agreement about non-festive topics and turn it into a game. Before the gathering, make a “swear jar” (or a Krampus jar?) and list the non-festive topics like politics, religion, vaccines, social issues, etc. You may want to pre-arrange to have a few allies who will quickly agree to the game. And when someone brings up a topic on the list, they get to put a dollar (or a quarter) into the jar and come up with a new topic. It can be fun if everyone buys in and quickly catches someone veering off into controversial territory. At the end of the gathering, draw a name for who gets the contents of the swear jar.

2) If you plan to serve alcohol, do so in limited quantities. For some people, alcohol consumption results in a relaxed, jovial response. For others, it can result in a more emotional, agitated, or aggressive
response. So, put away the alcohol in the house to limit access and make delicious low-alcohol punches or festive drinks. Be sure to include alcohol-free options as well. Actually, serving no alcohol at a gathering is perfectly okay. No need to explain yourself — it’s your party. You’re allowed to serve what you wish.

3) Have a strategy in place for heading off a conversation that might be drifting into the red zone. Announce that you are honoring the spirit of giving and that you have some surprises for the gathering that will be handed out at unexpected times. Have small grab-bag gifts for guests and at random times (or when the mood starts to shift), have one of the kids pull a name from a basket for who gets to pick the next gift. Be creative. Sometimes even small redirection strategies can help stop an uncomfortable situation before it starts. They’re also fun.

These are not the last word in ways to keep spirits bright. They are just a few suggestions to start new traditions and slightly change the dynamics of potentially explosive situations. Taking a bit of our control back in what has felt like an out-of-control situation is a major step forward.

May your holidays be merry and filled with peace.

Julie Dostal is executive director of The LEAF Council on Alcoholism & Addictions, Oneonta.

Poor “Carol of the Bells”

Poor “Carol of the Bells”

By Ted Potrikus

It’s a lovely melody, to be sure, one that indeed invokes the pleasures of the winter season. It’s easy pickings for advertisers, though, because it’s in the public domain. No one has to pay royalties for its use, so it’s fair game. And every year, there’s some honcho at an ad agency thinking he or she is the first one ever to shout out during a brainstorming session, “Hey! Let’s use ‘Carol of the Bells! That’ll grab ‘em!”
Selling a car? “Carol of the Bells.” Selling jewelry? “Carol of the Bells.” Selling, oh, I don’t know, appetizers at your chain restaurant? “Carol of the Bells.”

That’s the problem with Christmas music, or, in many cases, just sort of generic wintery music like “Sleigh Ride” or “Winter Wonderland” or, please stop playing it, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” By the time we get to early December, we’ve heard a lot of holiday music.

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst

In 24 months, we have learned many things about responding to a pandemic of a dangerous disease.

Don’t ignore it.

Take reasonable precautions to prevent the spread.

1918 is still relevant.

Work on treatments and immunizations and use them when available.

And more: Lessen our travel. Wear a mask if it’s transmitted by air. Avoid any behavior that promotes spread.

Work hard to do all the above. Don’t panic. That won’t help.

Life sketches by Terry Berkson: Too stuck up for Thanksgiving

Life sketches by Terry Berkson:
Too stuck up for Thanksgiving

Several years ago, two friends from Richfield, Tiger Goodale and Rootie Marriot, came up the drive with what they thought was a good story for me to write.

They had been in the Genesee, one of the local watering holes, when this guy came in and told how he or some other one-legged man — they didn’t make it clear — was up in a tree, building a stand for hunting, when his prosthetic leg fell off and landed on the ground right under the nose of his Saint Bernard.

It sounded like a good story. It reminded me, in fact, of celebrated writer Flannery O’Connor’s tale where a man romances a woman in a hay mow just so he can run off with her wooden leg. When I pressed them for details, they told me I had better get them straight from the horse’s mouth and gave me a phone number to call, which I did, but there was no answer, so I just left my name and number on the answering machine.

Bound Volumes 11-25-21

Bound Volumes

210 YEARS AGO
Education – Mr. Bond offers his services to the
inhabitants of Otsego Village to give Lessons in a new and fashionable style of Dancing. Mr. B. proposes to give his first Lesson on Friday Evening next, at Stephen Fitch’s Hall in said village, where he solicits the patronage of the Parents and Guardians of Young Masters and Misses who may wish to encourage this accomplishment. Satisfactory references will be given by applying to Mr. Isaac Williams. Terms Three Dollars, to be paid at the close of the School.
November 23, 1811

COVID and kids: disparate strategies point to need for vaccine

COVID and kids
Disparate strategies point to need for vaccine

By Richard Sternberg M.D.

The amount of information regarding COVID in children and the risks and benefits of vaccination is overwhelming and as reported even varies from country to country.

There is no clear-cut consensus on anything in the younger age groups other than that the risk of developing a case requiring treatment, hospitalization, or leading to death is lower if the patient is younger. Still, the risks of vaccine complications in the very young have so far been trivial, with no deaths or hospitalizations in pre-clinical studies reported in the United States.

News from the Noteworthy by Leaf: Audacious Gratitude

News from the Noteworthy by Leaf:
Audacious Gratitude

Definition: An intrepidly bold and daring willingness to appreciate even the smallest things of life in the face of difficult circumstances.

When I write guest editorials for this newspaper, I typically write as Julie, the Executive Director of LEAF. When I was asked to write this one, I decided to write it as just me, Julie. I am a wife, sister, dog-mom, public speaker, problem-solver, musician, photographer, and a woman in long-term recovery from addiction.

It is that last part of who I am that taught me about the wonders of audacious gratitude. I will tell you that there were times in my journey that if just one more of my recovering peers told me to write a
gratitude list, I would have been tempted to throw the nearest solid object at them. Fortunately, I never did that. There was a lesson to be learned in the sage advice of those who cared about me.

Opinion by Ted Potrikus: A string of Merls: … puzzles that entertain

Opinion by Ted Potrikus:
A string of Merls: … puzzles that entertain

It’s not just a crossword puzzle, it’s a Merl Reagle crossword puzzle.

Mr. Reagle stole the show — unintentionally, I’m sure — in the 2006 movie “Wordplay.” It’s a documentary about crossword tournaments and the people who compete therein; The New York Times crossword editor and NPR star Will Shortz take up a lot of space in the movie, which also features former President Bill Clinton, Baseball Hall of Famer Mike Mussina, and comedian Jon Stewart waxing poetic about their love of the Times crossword.

But it’s Merl Reagle who outshines them all, constructing another masterpiece puzzle from scratch using only a blank grid, a pencil, and his uncanny wit. We meet him when he’s driving past a Dunkin’ Donuts.

“Unkind Donuts,” he says. “You just take the ‘d’ from the beginning of the word and move it to the end.”
I’m delighted that beginning this week, and exclusively to our print editions, The Freeman’s Journal and Hometown Oneonta will publish a puzzle from the giant stack of Mr. Reagle’s “best-of.” Sadly, he passed away in 2015; mercifully, his puzzles remain, filled with zip and fun and humor. Sometimes tough, but always entertaining.

Opinion by Ted Potrikus: Fiona and Bob had to make way for the AG

Opinion by Ted Potrikus:
Fiona and Bob had to make way for the AG

I didn’t want to think about politics last week. My wife and I were on a brief vacation, planned long before the opportunity arose to join the staff here at The Freeman’s Journal and Hometown Oneonta.

We kept our plans — it was a drive to Cincinnati to see Fiona the Hippo at the zoo (really — look her up, because it’s a very sweet story and who knew that hippos were so entertaining?) and to see Bob Dylan in concert. Both were magnificent.

Oh, but New York’s political scene doesn’t give much rest to those of us who find some sort of interest or odd entertainment value in its inner workings. It’s when the inside baseball spills out into the public that it becomes far more serious than “entertainment value.”

I wrote last week about the kerfuffle to come in the Democratic primary for Governor and touched on the equally important race for Attorney General. The office of New York’s ‘AG’ — an abbreviation sometimes expanded as “Aspiring Governor” — assumed a far more public policy leadership role back in the days of Eliot Spitzer. Andrew Cuomo rehabilitated his flagging political career when he took the AG post in 2006; Eric Schneiderman was well on his way to greater political office until his career imploded in the wake of scandal in 2018.

Opinion by Richard Sternberg: Hey Aaron Rodgers, Man Up!

Opinion by Richard Sternberg:
Hey Aaron Rodgers, Man Up!

Last week a friend told me a story that should have surprised me, but unfortunately I was inured to. In fact, you could say I had been immunized to the situation.

Her friend who she had worked with frequently over the past few months, came up to her smiling and announced that he had finally “bit the bullet” and had gotten vaccinated against COVID. He had refused up to that point because of concerns he heard about, mostly from the internet. My friend was a bit shocked because the other person had previously told her that he was immunized when they first started working on a project together several months previously.

When questioned about that, he said that he was sure that she would insist on wearing masks and even working remotely from each other if he told her that he weren’t vaccinated against COVID-19. He really hated wearing a mask and wanted to work together. He was immunized, just not against COVID. He had, after all, been immunized as a child against measles, mumps, chicken pox, diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus. He finally acknowledged that he knew he was misleading but insisted he had made a true statement.

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