Thursday, February 25, 2010

Are your fingers sore from typing?

I recently learned a new online term, TLDR, short for "too long; didn't read."  It's a sign of the shortening attention span of internet users, and I'm not entirely sure it's a bad thing, because encouraging concise writing is rather an old concept, and not one that's terribly well-honored in New Paltz.

Al Gore, meet William Strunk
Perhaps he didn't invent something at amazing as the internet, but William Strunk did make a small mark on the world:  he published the most well-regarded book on writing style in the English language.  Long before the click of Gore's mouse (yes, he probably invented that too) made it impossible to keep anybody's attention, Strunk advised to "omit needless words" (see #13 at the link).

Long before Gore or Strunk was the Civil War, first one reported on by journalists in the field with the ability to file stories from afar with the newfangled telegraph.  Because of the unreliability of the wire, a reporter knew his story could be cut short at any time - so the fewer words it could be expressed in, the better.  (Incidentally, this also led to the "inverted pyramid" style of writing news articles; if only half the story made it to print, it had better be the most important half.)

Today web writing is dominated by the inverted pyramid, and a strong recommendation to avoid the need for readers to page down, because that's when they get bored.  The professional writers pick out two or three searchable keywords first, and then build the web page or article around them.

Then there's New Paltz
To be fair, New Paltz is unlike any other small community in this regard, but as a community we're damned long-winded.  I'm not just talking about the sheer length of most of the comments on this blog (which I want any readers we have to understand don't need to be read before you comment yourself), it's anywhere and everywhere we get to offer our opinions.  I mean, have you seen the letters column this week?  There's a letter packed with ideas for the school district that rambles on for well over a column.  How many people are going to read the whole thing?

We (and I choose the word carefully) can take advice that's as old as the Civil War to avoid the TLDR curse of the new generation.  Who's with me?

Got Breakfast?

The bagel. It's sort of like the Switzerland of foods. I've never heard anyone say that they have a strong dislike for bagels. They are vegan, and if you are one of those gluten-free types, I'm pretty sure you can get them in that fashion. They even have low-carb, for the Atkins set. They come with all sorts of toppings, and you can put anything on them.

There is, however, one problem that the bagel faces in New Paltz. No one can seem to get it right! I have been to pretty much every place in this town that makes bagels (key word makes, not sells, as those who sell bagels can get them shipped in from anywhere), and have yet to find one that strikes me as out-of-this-world-delicious. It really is disappointing.

What makes a good bagel? I hear that the higher gluten content, the better. Not such great news for those with an allergy (or those who are so trendy, that they have developed a gluten allergy....). I also hear that it's all about the water. The reason why New York has the best pizza and bagels is due to our water supply. In fact, I hear that places in the midwest have New York water shipped to them in the hopes of making their pizzas and bagels less lousy.

My good friend Layla is pretty much the authority on good bagels. Her favorite place is Goldberg's in Southampton (my hometown, ironically). I think that she is absolutely right. Too bad Goldberg's isn't a chain and can't set up shop in New Paltz! Layla likes Lox and Cream Cheese on her bagels, and says that "New Paltz Bagels suck hardcore. The place by the movies (Hot Bagels) used to put salt on their everything bagels, and now they don't. It's all about the salt". She went on to say that "All the bagel places in New Paltz suck hardcore, I can
t pick a favorite, I'd rather buy a bagel from the supermarket". I agree, Layla!!!!

A good bagel (in this blogger's opinion) is sort of hard and crusty (but not stale-like) on the outside, and warm, bready, soft, and perfectly doughy on the inside. I am going to base this entry around my (and Layla's) opinion of a good bagel.

New Paltz Bagel Cafe (Hot Bagels)-As Layla said, they used to put salt on their everything bagels, and they no longer do. Also, they microwave their egg sandwiches. Gross! The bagels in this place taste like those large pretzels you get at the Fair or in the city, only with poppyseeds on them. They continuously win Hudson Valley Magazine's award for the best bagel in the Hudson Valley, and I can't figure out why for the life of me. People who like this place have clearly never been to Brooklyn!!! New Paltz Bagel Cafe- Always a disappointment. One final point-My brother Jimmy was always irritated that we would order "Flagels", and they would have no idea what we were talking about.

Dunkin Donuts- You would think that you would get some relief from the terrible New Paltz bagel scene in this chain that America apparently runs on. These bagels are always hard all around, and are way too large. But really, what do you expect from corporate America? These bagels obviously lack the key ingredient of love.

Stop N Shop-Actually, these are not so bad. Layla and I like these. Mike, my boyfriend, likes them too. When asked if he liked his everything bagel from Stop N Shop, he said, "Yeah! It was good". They are REALLY good toasted, and are pretty cheap. I'm pretty sure they make them on-site at the New Paltz Stop N Shop, and unlike the Dunkin Donuts bagels, you can taste the love. In fact, my friend Tommy's sister WORKS at the bakery there, and I *know* she puts love in those bagels. They are not exceptional, and cannot hold a candle to a good NYC bagel. At least they stave off the cravings until I can get Mike to bring me a good bagel from the city, or until Ariana's parents visit with the gift of Brooklyn bagels.

The Bakery-These are my favorite bagels in New Paltz, hands down. Many say that they are too doughy, but I like them. I know that my friend Sam likes them too, as I run into her there frequently in the morning. They are doughy on the inside, and have a nice bagel-shell to them. I get them NOT toasted, with cream cheese, with an orange juice. Really, I have no complaints. Ariana, who is also a person I would consider a bagel authority, prefers their Bialy's. However, many people are not satisfied.

SUNY Campus-Sodexo. Need I say more? They will do, but you can't even toast them without waiting on a long line. You pay far too much, and far too much extra for cream cheese. Then, the cream cheese is either warm or watery. It's like eating a hockey puck. Ew.

There are plenty of other places in NPZ to pick bagels up, but none of these places actually make them on premises (to my knowledge), so I don't think they count. Robin says that she won't let mediocrity hinder her enjoyment of carbohydrates, which I admire and agree with. In conclusion, I really, really, really hope that for mine and Layla's sakes, that New Paltz steps it's bagel game up. Because really, I can't keep taking friends who visit from home to Bistro for breakfast.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Perplexed about parking on Plattekill

For the first time since the Village of New Paltz metered the Plattekill parking lot, I had the occasion to actually use it.  I'm fortunate to live close enough to downtown not to need to drive.

I'm completely in support of getting people out of their cars, walking instead of driving, for tons of reasons.  However, whether it be due to lack of time, lack of motivation, lack of physical ability, or lack of a nearby place to walk from, people will continue to drive into the village on occasion, and need to park.  The lot on Plattekill does not meet this need.

Oh, it's got plenty of spaces.  I found one easily enough and then walked all the way back to the Plattekill entrance to pay - I could have saved a chunk of time by leaving through the lot on Main Street, but I didn't realize I didn't have to pay on Sunday.  Why?  Because the only sign announcing the days and hours of operation is on Plattekill.

Good thing I didn't have to pay, because I would have had to return to my car to display my proof in the window.  Must be really convenient for a mother carting around two children, or someone with an arthritic knee, or anyone else with mobility issues that do not rise to the level of a handicapped parking permit.

It's also charming that the unsuspecting out-of-towner who finds the lot by way of Main Street may never know that they have to pay to park. They would drive in through a private, free lot which is likely full and naturally proceed into what appears to be an extension of that same lot, only with spaces available.  Considering the Village Board's intent was to provide more parking for the customers of area businesses, I don't think a surprise parking ticket is the sort of welcome that warms the heart.

I'd have to review the amount of money they pulled in on parking tickets and other revenue since the lot opened to be sure, but I think the village's short-term parking goals aren't exactly aligned with the needs of the Downtown Business Association, visitors to New Paltz, or people who just aren't in a position to walk very far.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Reintroductions are in order

There's been a decent amount of introductions around here lately, and it's made me realize that I never actually said much about myself in my first post here.  The first thing I notice when reading it is that I was wrong; the link to Brittany Turner's column still exists.  The second thing I notice is that the column, in retrospect, looks like the first step towards Brittany's ill-fated run for Town Council, the one that led to any number of accusations that she "stole the election" from one of the candidates by allowing the other one to win.

But I digress - this isn't about Brittany.  Or the stomach-lurching world of political intrigue, either.

So in the interest of people understanding a bit about what makes each gadfly here tick, here's a little bit about what makes this gadfly tick.

To put me in the pigeonhole which is all anyone really cares about, I consider myself a geocon. I like the idea behind the term crunchy con, but honestly it reduces the philosophy to a sound bite that sounds like a criminal snack.  I'm conservative in that I recognize the value in conserving things that can't easily be replaced, like non-human life, real human love, and the money we all work hard to earn.

In New Paltz this generally allies me with environmentalists and puts me at odds with social liberals, because I make it my priority to speak for those without a voice (like trees, animals, and children) and figure the rest (of humanity) gets more help than it deserves from our government.  I'm more than happy to spend tax dollars on programs to help these disadvantaged groups.

There are social institutions which have no value and should not be conserved, like any that are clearly making life harder for a section of the population for no good reason (by enslaving them, denying them the right to vote or marry, or some other clear violation of good sense).  Outside of such glaring cases, I believe that human beings have the right to make choices to govern their lives, even if their choices are poor.

Of late I've been interested in how authority works in our community, be it the many police departments, the school district, or the various bodies writing laws that are intended to alter our behavior in one way or another.  Unlike environmental issues and political discourse, it's an area that fails to get much attention.

My rules of engagement are to be civil even when exposed to a viewpoint I find offensive, to keep an open mind to the probability that I'm wrong, and to learn from it when I am.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

There's An Old Chinese Curse...

...which roughly translates as: "May you live in interesting times"

Not that I actually know many people who hail from these ancient, oriental lands - let alone whose good auspices I may have transgressed so cruelly that they should feel the need to afflict this curse upon me - but I do, in fact, live in interesting times.

It's often said, "If life gives you lemons, make lemonade", but what if life gives you a plethora of 'interesting' events? Would others find them equally 'interesting' perchance?

Frankly I have no idea - but, in the spirit of "nothing ventured, nothing gained", allow me to present myself, Anton Stewart, your humble servant and New Paltz's newest Gadfly.

Having recently received a firsthand education into the innermost workings and machinations of local government, I must admit to finding the nobel ideals of the Gadfly to be somewhat appealing. I honestly believe that we have a civic duty to question authority - that's question, by the way, not flagrantly disobey.

We should question why and how decisions are made - even if those decisions don't directly affect us. We should question the motives, ethics and standards of those whom we have entrusted to make these decisions along with the fairness and transparency of the entire decision making process.

I believe there is no place for autonomy in a democratic society and that elected officials and civil servants should be held accountable. Government of the people, by the people, for the people is a basic principle upon which this great country of ours is founded and it applies just as much today as it did when our founding fathers wrote it into the constitution.

For my part, I promise to uphold the nobel ideals of the Gadfly by constantly seeking answers to difficult questions even if it makes me, in the words of Sean Connery, "a right, royal pain in the arse"

I voted no once, too

I'm not always as supportive of capital projects as I was of the Middle School renovation. I was part of a large majority of people that opposed a massive expansion in the district of my youth. Curious?

The district I attended was much larger than this one, having three elementary and two secondary schools, with three of the five buildings occupying adjacent land. (My best friend's middle and high schools were actually physically connected by a corridor, and our experiences completely discounted in my mind the argument that it wouldn't be safe to build a Middle School next to the New Paltz High School, but I see a lot less danger in the world for kids today than many parents do anyway.) Student populations rise and fall, and when I was quite young they decided to close the smallest elementary school and lease the building to BOCES.

After that lease expired they had a different situation on their hands: the high school was jam-packed! The Board of Ed, knowing that it's tough to float a bond, came up with an innovative solution. They would sell the old elementary school to a condo developer to finance the two extra wings they needed for the high school. The project wouldn't have cost that much in dollars, but it would have added 70-80 homes to a community that was simultaneously losing a lot of potential classroom capacity. It went down in flames.

So yes, I understand that there are two sides to every school finance vote, and in this case the side I didn't support won. Frankly, the way our system is designed it's easier to be on the winning side when you're voting no. But what's done is done, and let's move on. The school district's press release said it best:
While we are obviously disappointed in the defeat of the referendum, we will waste no time in setting the outcome aside in order to work towards finding another solution to address our Middle School’s needs. Throughout the entire multi-year planning and discussion about this referendum, people on both sides of the issue were in agreement that there were severe issues at the Middle School that needed to be dealt with. That fact gives us common ground to work on, and we will gather there--on that common ground--to push ahead and seek a solution that the majority of the community can support. We must waste no time in moving forward in order to get our Middle School out of the horrible state of deterioration it faces and ensure that further, more costly issues are not created. The longer we wait, the more will be needed and the costlier the solution will be.
There's a time for fighting and there's a time for fixing. We need to fix things now. New Paltz is a community with such a diverse set of well-considered ideas that sometimes, particularly in a place like this blog where we can hide behind our keyboards, things get pretty heated. But this isn't just an internet forum - we are neighbors and, for the most part, we all like living here.

Shall we shelve the rhetoric and work towards finding a way to say yes? The problems at the school aren't going away and no one has said they want to stop educating our kids. How about we step outside, take a breath of fresh air, and have a cup of coffee with someone that didn't agree so we can find that common ground? I hear The Bakery is a great place for a lively debate.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The new girl in town

Hello New Paltzians!

I'm Maria (Davila), and the newest Gadfly. I'm pretty amped about it. In January 2010, I celebrated my three year anniversary of living in New Paltz. However, I celebrated by moving to Gardiner. I find myself overly involved in the politics of New Paltz, and involved just the right amount in random community goings-on. I'm a Senior at SUNY New Paltz, Majoring in Political Science (concentrating in Political Theory) and Minoring in Environmental Studies. You'll see a lot of the philosophical influence in my posts. Once I graduate in May, I'm going to stay in Gardiner, and work in my field.

I consider myself centrist. This means that when it comes to local issues, I'm likely to examine all sides (the left AND the right), and play devil's advocate. Chances are, that means every reader will love me AND hate me at different points in our strange internet relationship. It's a roller coaster, baby!

I'm looking forward to engaging in my civic duty here at Gadfly. See you all in the blogosphere!

Gadflies on the horizon

I've been speaking with two potential new Gadflies, and may have gotten them both to agree and start posting within a week's time if all goes well.

New Gadflies mean new perspectives, and maybe even new issues discussed. The New Paltz Gadfly needs a diversity of bloggers in order to properly question all sides of issues relating to this community.

As a reminder, the basic standards for becoming a Gadfly are as follows:
  1. Decent command of written English.
  2. Ability to focus on an issue, rather than individuals.
  3. Disagree with me about something of interest (lest I inadvertently recruit a bunch of yes-bloggers.)
  4. Willingness to blog under your real name.
  5. Desire to blog about issues affecting New Paltz.
  6. Not being a jerk.
  7. Basic technical knowledge: if you have never commented here because you can't figure out how, then posting will only be more frustrating for all of us. Letters to the editor may be your best course of action (and more people will read them anyway).
Feel free to comment here or otherwise contact Terence to apply!