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Talking Chocolate, My Favorite Thing

Chocolate is one of the most popular flavors in the world; it’s certainly my favorite flavor. 🙂 It can be used as a drink, be eaten, used to create scents, and a host of other things. It can also be modified so that the same beginning product can take on many different tastes, textures, and flavors. There are literally hundreds of thousands of recipes that involve chocolate.

chocolate frosted cupcakes

This article isn’t a total love affair about my favorite treat. I decided to mix a bit of history and health into the mix, just to show that I’m not shallow about my love for the stuff. It’s obvious I’m not alone, but it’s also funny that it’s gone through many changes, wasn’t always liked, and in some variations even offer health benefits. Read the rest of this entry »

Parent’s Need To Think About Onondaga County School’s Finances

I read with interest this debate about parents in the Liverpool School District being upset because the school system wants to move sixth graders to the middle school and ninth graders to the high school instead of being in the annex. Those against it seem to think that the best interests of their children aren’t being looked at.

I only went to Liverpool High School for two years, but I did go to schools in other districts in other cities around the country. I’ll admit few are as large as the Liverpool school system, which has around 7,500 and is the 3rd largest district in the state. My graduating class was a little more then 850 students, and there were around 3,800 students in high school when I went.

The reality in today’s world is that it costs more to educate kids than it did in the past. Yet the money coming from Albany has decreased drastically, as has the money the federal government gives to states for education, even while touting the much-maligned and barely surviving No Child Left Behind law. That, along with Governor Cuomo getting a law passed that caps property tax increases at 2% a year (whew; thanks Governor!) doesn’t leave unlimited money for schools anymore.

Indeed, the Syracuse school system came into the year with a deficit estimated somewhere between $15 and $50 million dollars, depending on who you asked, and either figure is scary. Rochester’s schools have an even bigger deficit to overcome. Where all the money has gone is easy to figure out; where new money is coming from is another matter.

So we’re now going to be in a pattern of larger classes because there are fewer teachers and fewer schools, as even in Liverpool some schools have already been closed, and others are being looked at. I can’t remember how many schools have been closed in Syracuse, and I’m sure other districts around the county are looking at the same time.

Things aren’t like they were when I was going to school. Unemployment is much higher. There’s actually way fewer kids across the board than back then; all the baby boomers have aged. New York requires teachers to get master’s degrees, which is a joke because it’s just a way to generate more money for the state without promising teachers that it’ll help them keep their jobs. It’s one reason why teachers need to be paid better, yet that’s being fought, along with health care benefits.

Take a look at what’s going on in South Dakota. This year many school districts will be on a 4-day school week because they don’t have the money to pay for a full week of teaching. This means some parents are going to have to alter their schedules to be home with the kids or pay more for child care so they can stay at work, which will cost them more money they don’t really have. It has happened in many other places across the country already.

One thing that’s always bothered me is that when people say “I don’t want that” they almost never have another plan. It’s easy to complain and say “no”, but it’s hard to think of other ways around the issue. It’s one of the things I thought was unfair in the treatment or our former Governor Patterson, because he at least kept coming up with ideas to raise money, even if some of us didn’t like those ideas. But no one came up with anything better.

If parents really want to have a legitimate say in these matters, they need to think about the ramifications of what they think they want. Sometimes when you get exactly what you say you want, it turns out to be much worse and then you’re saying “I didn’t think that would happen”. Putting sixth graders in middle school doesn’t hurt anyone; it happens all over the country. Putting all the students in high school in the same building won’t hurt anyone if there’s a place for them; when I went there we had too many kids.

This needs to be a joint venture, but if one side just keeps fighting without offering anything, no one benefits.  

My Quasi-Reunion At Oswego State

Two weekends ago it was the 30th anniversary of when I graduated college; well, it was the reunion for it anyway, since graduation was actually in May. The place was the State University of New York at Oswego, also known as SUNY Oswego or SUCO; never liked that last one.

I decided I wasn’t going to pay for all the activities because, frankly, I did that for my 10th reunion and ended up only knowing 3 people there, one being my friend Bob and the other being the Ciotti twins; they won’t see this and they’re both married now so I’m using their names. There was just something about my generation that seems to have brought about a great apathy; my classes high school and college graduations are poorly attended.

What the colleges do now is invite 3 classes to show up; at least they did that this time around. So, along with everyone else who celebrated a deca-reunion of some type, they invited the class before and the class afterwards as well. I know what their thought is, which is to get more people to show up and make it seem like a big success, and I actually think it’s a brilliant idea, except one still might not know anyone.

This time around someone from the class after mine called me and asked if I was going to show up for anything; her name is Christine. We hadn’t seen each other in about 15 years when she had gone up with her husband for some event and my wife and I joined them for dinner. This time around she left her husband at home and my wife was at work, so we decided to go to breakfast instead.

I met her at Hart Hall, which is in the middle of campus, and since she had to wait for her friend to get ready we decided to walk to our old dorms, which she said had been renovated. Man, they were, and they’re super nice! Not only that but the modern dining room was outstanding as well, and the two dorms, which used to be the men’s and women’s dorms separately, Riggs and Johnson, are now both coed, connected, and air conditioned; wow! There’s also major construction projects going on around campus to both class buildings and some of the other dorms.

We got a chance to walk down to the shores of Lake Ontario, which was slightly perilous. The school has let the area around the lake by the dorms overgrow, so you have to find the stairs behind Johnson to walk down; funny, I don’t remember them being so small or the steps being so steep when I was in college. The water was beautiful as always and there were both boats far out and ducks fairly close but it was also higher than normal, probably from all the spring rain, and thus we only had a small patch of slippery rocks to stand on. But I did get a nice picture of the ducks, though none of my other pictures around the lake came out. The very top picture, in case you’re wondering, is of the lagoon on campus.

I got that picture much later. First we decided to go to Wades for breakfast, the famous breakfast place that I had thought was closed and taken over by Byrne Dairy. At least that had been reported a couple of years ago, but it turns out the deal never went through. Anyone in central New York that hasn’t gone to Wades is missing out on one of the classic breakfast events in the area. It’s tiny, which means if you get there too late the lines are long and you’ll have a long wait; ours was 50 minutes. The waitresses remember everything you order, which is pretty neat. And my recommendation is to get an omelet, which comes with real sliced potatoes and onions instead of those hash browns that are dry and cubed, and if you’re smart you’ll also order the cinnamon raisin toast, which they bake on their own. True, at my age now it’s slightly salty, but it’s out of this world.

After breakfast we went to what they’re now calling the west side of campus (we used to call it “new” campus and the side along the like “old” campus) and these new townhomes they’ve put up for upper classmen. We were there maybe 3 minutes before more former students and a guide showed up so we could be part of a tour.

The townhomes fit either 4 or 6 people, and each person gets their own room. They share the living room, and in a 4-person townhome all the rooms are on the second level, in the 6-person townhome there are 3 rooms on the second level and 3 rooms on the third, and each level has its own bathroom. They’re also coed, but so far no issues. And in the overall complex there’s kind of a lodge that contains a game room on the second level, and it looks out onto the lagoon, which is where I took the picture above; told you I’d come back to it.

At that point I took the ladies back to their dorm and I came back home; that is, after chasing Chris down because she’d left stuff in my car, and the people at the dorm wouldn’t open the door and she was on her cell phone for about 15 minutes. Lucky for her, a quick stop at Cold Stone Creamery kept me in town for a little while, as one of the items was her camera.

I love Oswego, and I love Oswego State University as well (oh yeah, another name). And I have to say that if I was 30 years younger, I’d love going there now, especially if I could get one of those townhouses.

Copyright 2011