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5 Wishes For Central New York In 2016

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I write a lot of posts on this blog that begin with the number 5. Some of them have been on the same topic I’m going to discuss today, that being things I wish for central New York. The last one of these I did was in 2014. I missed last year; oops! Because I want to get to the topic first I’m going to list my 5 wishes for central New York in 2016, then I’m going to list all the other “5-fer” posts I’ve had on this blog to date because… well, I want you to know they exist and possibly go read some of them. ๐Ÿ™‚ Here we go:

1533591. Save Great Northern & Shoppingtown Malls

Back in July I wrote an article about ideas I had for solving the Great Northern issue; I only wish I could have gotten it to the new owners because I think it could be a winner. I wrote in 2012 and asked the question whether Shoppingtown Mall could survive.

I personally think there’s not only a place for both of these malls, but with a bit of creativity both of them could be turned into something special. Instead of always trying to compete with Destiny, which both malls will lose on, they need to establish their own identities and make each of the malls unique, while retaining the anchor stores they already have.

2. Get that hotel built in the Inner Harbor and the full renovation of Hotel Syracuse

Supposedly we’re close to the 2nd one and plans are moving along for the first. Both of these are important in being able to promote the city of Syracuse as a global marketplace for shopping and entertainment and to take full advantage of all that Destiny and the Oncenter are. Of course this comes with the issue of better parking downtown… I know local government had been touting the growth of downtown parking garages, but after a horrible experience I recently had at the parking garage next to Modern Malt I’m thinking they either need revamping or better management.

3. Give tax breaks for businesses to renovate the area from the former train/bus station up to Teall Avenue on Erie Boulevard.

This area is a total mess! I wrote about this area back in 2012 and believed the west side of Erie Blvd East looks like a wasteland. While all this attention is being paid to the area closer to Dewitt, the area close to the city is being left to decay. That’s embarrassing, especially since it’s close enough to the university area that visitors probably come straight down University Avenue and see… that; ugh!

My idea is to offer it up to business development, either small business parks or maybe a medical park. Clean up the area around the bridge so the homeless aren’t driving commerce away, and while you’re at it, take a part of the open space near the U-Haul building and turn it into some kind of nice park where kids can play or people can walk through. Heck, ask the folks at the university to help out; I’m betting they’ll have some ideas.

4. Carrier Circle; do I need to say more?

At least they finally tore down Howard Johnson’s… kind of. This area used to look really nice and was welcoming to a ton of visitors, most of whom get off the Thruway at Exit 35 and now see… what? I think there’s still a Denny’s that doesn’t look so bad but everything else looks horrific. The only part that looks somewhat inviting is when you go all the way around the circle and head towards what I like to call Hotel Row.

I know McDonalds is balking at some of the ideas for this area but just how well could they be doing sitting over there by themselves with little else around them? I have to admit that I don’t have many ideas for what to do with the area because the last thing I believe we want are restaurants right on the circle area. Yet something has to be done, even if all that can be accomplished is clearing away all the trash, taking down a few more decrepit buildings and turning it into a beautiful and inviting green space with maybe some kind of sculpture or statues highlighting the history of central New York. Anything would be better than what’s there now.

5. Set up wi-fi access around central New York lakes

It might seem I’m asking for this one because of how much I love walking around Onondaga Lake and how nice it would be to access free wi-fi instead of having to use one’s data plan. However, that’s not really the reason I have this on the list.

What I’m thinking about is that almost 5 years ago I walked through some pretty scary areas of Green Lake and last year walked through a fairly secluded and dangerous, though paved area of Onondaga Lake that leads to the new Amphitheater off 690 and started realizing that a lot of the areas have so much foliage that it blocks carrier signals and would be hard for someone to call for help if needed. I have no idea if this is a big issue or not but I’m sure I’m not alone in saying it would add a bit more comfort and security.

Still, I’m making this one #5 because I don’t feel it’s as crucial an issue to entertain as the other 4. I take pride in my adopted home for the last 40 years and I only want to see it get better. Who’s with me? Meanwhile, here are other posts you can check out in my 5-fer group:  

5 Things To Address New Yorkโ€™s Financial Crisis

5 Things I Donโ€™t Like About Wegmans

5 Wishes For Syracuse / Central New York In 2012

5 Wishes For Central New York In 2013

5 Things I Wish Would Change At The NYS State Fair

5 Differences Between Food In CNY & The South

5 Takeaways From The Bruce Jenner Interview

5 Thoughts From My Latest Local Blogging Get Together

5 Takeaways From The Asia Food Market In Syracuse


Sunshine Award… Or Something…

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What, again? Back last June I was nominated to participate in something called the Creative Blogger Challenge. This time around I’ve been nominated by the same person, Holly Jahangiri, to participate in something called the Sunshine Award. In essence, there are 11 questions to answer and then you’re supposed to nominate 11 other people and ask them to answer the same questions.


I’m not doing that second part this time around. Last time only one of the 10 people I nominated competed and, frankly, the only reason I’m doing it this time around is because Holly didn’t think I would… kind of a double dog dare, which I rarely respond to unless I’m in the mood. lol Based on what I see, this might be one of my shortest blog posts in history; let’s find out.

1. What is your favorite drink?

You’d think this would be easy but it’s not. I don’t really have a specific favorite drink. I like diet soda and I like sweet tea. That’s as good as it gets.

2. Where is your hometown?

Liverpool NY, a suburb of Syracuse, where I’ve been for 40 years! ๐Ÿ™‚

3. Do you prefer sweet, sour, bitter or savory flavors?

Sweet, every time, all the time.

4. What is your favorite song?

I Want You Back by the Jackson Five

5. Where do you find inspiration for your blog posts?

Life, news… that’s it for the most part.

6. Are you a minimalist or a collector?

I’m definitely in the collector group.

Pictures Two 013

7. What color is your suitcase?

I rarely use a suitcase when I travel but if I do, it’s burgundy.

8. Which trees do you like the best?

I’ve always loved evergreen trees, even though I hate green as a color. They’re always the same wherever you go and I always feel like I’m at home when I’m around them.

9. Do you have a day job as well as blogging?

Of course; almost everyone in the world does.

10. What is your favorite smell or scent?

Chocolate; of course it is. lol

11. Do you prefer to eat meat or vegetables?

Meat, meat, meat… did I say meat?

That’s it; short and sweet.  

Is The World In Danger From Us?

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I’m not a great environmentalist. I do care though, to the extent that I make sure to throw my trash away, I recycle, and I don’t throw things out of my car windows to add to the pollution that already exists. I’m not yet willing to give up my car and go buy an electric one, but I do worry about global warming, the shrinking of glaciers at an alarming rate and the rising of the oceans. Just thinking about New York City possibly not being there in 30 years, when it’s still possible that I might want to visit (possible if not probable) is a depressing thought.

With Love From MarylandCreative Commons License Nicolas Raymond via Compfight

Is the world in danger from us? The debate goes back and forth as to whether anything that man does can really affect the environment, ergo the world, in a negative fashion.

There are many people who don’t believe in the concept of global warming, and don’t believe that pollution has as much of a negative impact on the world as some scientists and other pundits have stated. Even former Vice President Al Gore has come under criticism for some of the green stances he has taken since leaving politics.

The debate stems from the fact that the earth has shown patterns of both warming and cooling throughout its life. The last ice age, which came about 20,000 years ago, came on its own without any impact from humans whatsoever. The Earth’s axis is known to tilt a few degrees here and there every so many millennia, and that can affect the climate of the earth.

So even as we seem to be having some very strange weather patterns lately, some people chalk this up to the normal patterns that the earth goes through from time to time. Yet, only last month CNN had a story saying that the next ice age has been delayed because of humans… and didn’t say that was necessarily a good thing.

There are some realities that everybody has to deal with that are man made. Pollution is an invention of man, and when there are problems with breathing because there’s too much pollution in the air and the air is so warm that it restricts airflow, there can be no debate that man has had an effect on the environment, at least locally. I haven’t even mentioned methane and fluorocarbons.

When we know that there is land that suddenly can’t produce crops or any other plant life, we know that it was man that pretty much overworked the soil and knocked out everything in the ground that it took to raise those types of things. Land doesn’t just go bad on its own, unless there’s a great environmental change to bring it on.

When lakes or the air around you starts to turn funny colors, you can pretty much bet that it’s related to pollution that’s either been put into the air or dumped into the water. Sure, every once in a while water may take on a different color than it normally has, but water usually goes between clear, blue, and green. If water is suddenly brown, yellow, or pink, or even gold, you know that’s the result of chemicals that have been poured into the water. When the sky around you is suddenly dense with white mist, pink mist, or pretty much any other color, and it’s close to you rather than way up in the sky, you can bet that it’s because of chemicals that have been put into the air.

I can talk about some of these things personally. I live in an area that still has what’s called the most polluted lake in America. For decades the company that’s responsible for it produced some kind of toxicity that went into the sky of one particular village and, at least until the mid 80’s, made the sky pink and left most of the houses in the area with films of dirt that couldn’t be removed because it couldn’t keep up with what the organization was putting out.

It’s easy to answer the question then as to whether the world is in danger from us; that answer would be yes. To what extent it’s in danger from us might be legitimately debatable, but there’s no doubt that in many communities the pollution factors can be so bad that it could affect the health of the people living there. All you have to do is spend a week in Dallas when the temperatures are in the 100ยฐ territory and the air is so thick that the city is putting out ozone warnings alerting people that it may be dangerous for them to be outside without something covering their mouths to help them breathe.

This proves it’s better to at least try to keep the air and ground around us as safe as possible for our survival. In my area, they’re working on cleaning the lake; they have a long, long way to go.  

Shoveling Snow At 56

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It’s now almost 2 hours after what I’m considering as my first real snow shoveling of the year. I’ve actually been outside twice this year, but one was definitely in 2015 and the other… kind of dicey in my mind. I guess I could have said I’ve shoveled 3 times this season… oh well.

The start

The start

In any case, those other two times were nothing compared to today. There might have been in inch of snow the first two times. This time, it was somewhere between 5 and 6 inches; I’m not quite sure. The first picture you see is what the driveway looked like before I started. It’s hard determining just how much snow there is when you first look at it because it all blends in. Because we’ve had little snow so far this season, there were no snowbanks on the side of the driveway to measure it against. The second picture shows you a bit more, and hopefully helps people appreciate how much snow I had to remove.

First, some backstory. I haven’t really shoveled snow in 3 years. I was out of town for one winter, and last winter I had paid for snow removal because I wasn’t sure if I would be home or not. I actually did shovel once both years, very minor stuff, just to keep in practice.

I’ve lived in cold and snowy conditions for 45 years. I didn’t have to move any snow when I lived in apartments, but I’ve been in the house for 15 years, and the first couple of years I shoveled, then inherited my dad’s snow blower and used that for 9 or 10 years when I sold it to Howard Triche (yes, THAT Howard Triche) for $25, along with a riding lawn mower. Then I went back to hand shoveling until the day my wife and I tried to remove 11 1/2 inches of wet snow from the driveway and failed miserably until our younger neighbor, with a monster sized blower, came over the bailed us out; whew!

This year, since I knew I would be home for the winter (I’m a consultant so sometimes I travel, sometimes I work from home), I was hesitant to pay for a snow plowing service for a few reasons.

One, I figured I could stay on top of it; I’m not a weakling after all (even though I did just remember the 11 1/2 inches above…).

Two, the price of plowing went up higher than I thought it should have, knowing that before when it went up it was to cover the rising price of gas, and now that gas is almost half what it was last winter it felt like more of a money grab.

Three, all long range weather predictions have said we’re going to get less snow than the last couple of years. To date that’s held true, as we had barely a dusting in November and had less than an inch of snow until the last couple of days of December. Even up to last night’s storm, where it had snowed every day except 2, we’d had little snow.

Snowstorm; pffbt! I’m not scared of snow! Of course I heard the warning of that woman I’m married to: “You’re getting older”; “you’re not used to that kind of physical labor anymore”; “don’t over exert yourself”; “it’s easier to pay for plowing”. Yeah, yeah…

Things have changed haven’t they? Isn’t 50 the new 30? Doesn’t that mean 56 is the new 26, which is almost physical prime? Aren’t I one of the most experienced snow shovelers in history with the time I’ve put into it over all these years?

After clearing the driveway

After clearing the driveway

Today we found out. The snow started yesterday evening and continued falling overnight. Although I ended up having to dress myself a couple of times before I was ready, eventually I was all set for the task. The main thing to remember is to dress properly for both the wetness of the snow and the long term exposure to the cold, as it was under 20ยฐ when I started. For me this meant a pair of regular and thick socks; sweats with pants worn over them; a shirt, hoodie & heavy winter jacket; hat.

Gloves were a part of this also, but there was a minor fail here. I was shoveling okay when my wife called. I took my gloves off to answer the call, which was only a few minutes. When I put my gloves back on my hands felt like they’d frozen. Thus, I had to come back into the house, grab some protective jelly to coat my hands with (major mistake not to start with that; petroleum jelly of some kind is the way to go), then put on nitrile gloves (I’m allergic to latex) and finally my regular gloves. I’ll be coming back to my hands later, but at this point, my hands felt pretty good.

When there’s a lot of snow, you’re always hoping it’s light and dry instead of wet and heavy, because it gives you a chance of pushing a lot of snow instead of having to keep lifting snow. Even if you do have to lift, which I did because of how high the snow was, its much less of an effort and exertion. Truthfully, that would have been dangerous for someone like me at any age because I’m a bulldog when it comes to snow removal. I’m going to push as hard as I can and not take any breaks, for fear that if I stop I won’t start back up again; don’t be like THAT me. lol

The best way to remove snow is to set yourself up so you can walk in small spaces and not have to deal with too much snow at once; the more snow you have to handle, the heavier it gets. You see the image of my driveway; it’s taken from inside the garage. That’s obviously where I started.

clearing space at the start

clearing space at the start

I cleared all the snow away from the garage first, making a space of about a foot so I could move around. Next, I decided to create a path from the garage to the street. That goes against the small space theory, but it’s always smart to have a way for you to reach the street or for help to reach you from the street; trust me on this one.

I had to make that pass 6 or 7 times to clear a space that was also about a foot. The initial passes were heavy, and I had to stop to life and throw snow out of the way. Still, it gave me what I needed, which was space so I could then just push snow to the ends, only having to lift any snow when I got to the end.

That made the job easier, but certainly not any faster; after all, that was still a lot of snow. Including the time on the phone and having to go in and treat my hands before continuing, it took about 2 1/2 hours to clear the snow to the street. I was listening to the 7th Harry Potter book while doing all of that; so I’m a big kid! I left just a little bit of snow down there because I knew the big plow from the village would be coming by and burying the end pretty soon; it came 10 minutes after I was back in the house. ๐Ÿ™‚

When I was done I took that second picture and felt pretty good both mentally and physically. I came back into the house, closed the door, then took off my shoes, coat and hat, all covered with snow. I took off the hoodie in the living room and threw it over a chair; I was sweating a lot but since I had a shirt on the hoodie was somewhat spared.

My first stop was to the bathroom for my hands. The rest of my body felt fine but the tips of my fingers were numb; I hadn’t noticed it while I was shoveling. Here’s lesson two, which I’d forgotten because I’m used to my fingers being cold, not numb. Do NOT, EVER, put your hands under warm or hot water when you’ve come out of the cold and are cold or numb… unless you like pain. Whoa, the pain! I had to make the water cool to relieve the pain; how the heck do you go from numb to pain? It was about 2 minutes before I could get to warm, and both my hands were giving me more discomfort than comfort; that’s why I should have treated my hands before I started shoveling.

The rest of my body started feeling the pain after about 30 minutes. Actually, because of all the walking I do, it’s possible that I’m handling the pain better than I might have two years ago. Either that or my luck in the snow being relatively light. I’ve taken 4 200mg ibuprofen to stem the tide and, by now, 2 1/2 hours later everything is throbbing, including my fingers, but I’m not in enough pain to keep me from doing anything, which is good because my hands are throbbing as I’m writing this.

I’m trying to figure out if I hurt more now at 56 than I did when I was younger. I’m not sure there’s a real way to compare the two things. I didn’t start taking pain killers “regularly” until around the time I turned 40, which was before I bought this house and after going years without actually having to shovel much (not counting the ’93 snowstorm; everyone did some kind of shoveling then). Actually, I feel pretty good because I got it done, all by myself.

One last thing, which also makes me feel good. When I was halfway through the adventure, this young man, maybe an older teen since school was out, came walking by and asked if I needed any help. I told him I was good, but I smiled as he walked on for offering assistance like that. Maybe we will be okay as we get older after all! ๐Ÿ˜€  

Koto At Destiny; Sigh…

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Last Wednesday I had to go to the mall and decided to have lunch at Koto Japanese Restaurant. Three and a half years ago I wrote a review of their restaurant on Erie Boulevard, where my friend Josh & I had a wonderful experience. This summer I wrote a positive article about Koto’s hibachi express in the food court, and that was pretty positive also.

new salmonFor some reason, I thought that would turn into a positive experience for a lunch time meal. Unfortunately, things just don’t work that way all the time, and this time… well, let’s tell the full story.

The reason I went inside was because I was in the mood for salmon teriyaki. I was asked if I wanted to sit at a hibachi table or a regular table and I chose a regular table. Being by myself, it seemed stupid to sit at the hibachi table and watch a performance… whenever they decided to do one.

The menu showed that I could get the salmon lunch hibachi for $12. I’ve been to other restaurants, like Ichiban on Old Liverpool Road, where they say hibachi but they cook it in the back so I figured I’d get the lunch special. Only… it turns out Koto actually means you have to sit at the hibachi table to get it. Instead, I ordered the regular meal at $19, and asked for fried rice.

What I got was what you see in the picture above. Maybe that’s their full size now but look at the picture below of what I used to get at Koto downtown. Maybe the price of salmon is prohibitive enough so that sizes are smaller but it doesn’t mean they need to be overcooked, as my salmon was crunchy and hard along the edges and a bit into the fish as well.

Salmon TeriyakiThat was the first disappointment. The second was the “fried” rice, which, if it was fried, was lame and dry. Truthfully, since I wrote my review from the summer of the hibachi in the food court I’ve noticed that the quality of the fried rice has degraded drastically. Back then, that was the difference in my choosing Koto before Cajun Cafe, whose rice I’ve never liked. Since the rice quality has decreased I find myself bypassing Koto more often because I love the bourbon chicken and I don’t have to wait for my food at Cajun Cafe.

The kicker was when I got the bill and realized they had charged me an extra $2 for the “upgrade” to fried rice; that irked me a bit more and fully ruined my lunch experience. I paid the bill, and I still tipped the waiter my standard 25% or so, but I’m vowing that I will never go back to Koto in the mall again, at least the restaurant part. The food court… well, the chicken with teriyaki will still pull me here and there and, at only $7, is still relatively inexpensive.

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