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Barbara Lombardo of Saratoga Springs, NY, is a journalism adjunct at University at Albany and retired executive editor of The Saratogian, The Record and the Community News. Follow her on Twitter @Barb_Lombardo.

Friday, October 29, 2010

You can leave Saratoga, but you can't get away from potato chips

The Sept. 28 editon of The New York Times Magazine section on foods featured "Saratoga Potatoes, 1904."
Saratoga Springs, known in its previous heyday for health, history and horses, also claims to be the place where potato chips were invented. Marylou Whitney's ties to the tasty treat are chronicled in her own potato chip cookbook.
The NYT piece by food writer Amanda Hesser briefly recounts the origins of Saratoga Chips. I don't think people really think about potato chips as one of region's claims to fame. But it came to mind earlier this month when preparing to visit my son Joe in Madrid. I wanted to bring something "Saratoga" as a gift to his host family.
So I headed to Putnam Market, where I picked up some of Bill Higgins' fabulous garlic aiolis. And, as an impulse, I also grabbed one of those cute blue boxes of Saratoga chips.
The garlic was something special. The chips, I think, not so much: Almost every bar and eatery we stopped in (and there were several), our drinks and sandwiches were served with a healthy handful of not-so-healthy potato chips. Their country of origin, I don't know.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Quick post on trip to Madrid

That’s pretty much how much Spanish I’ve known my whole life (thanks to Sesame Street) and that’s about how much I know after returning from a wonderful week in Spain. Si! Spain!
Oh, I can also order a beer, a red wine, a plate of fried eggplant, a serving of marinated octopus, a sampling of dried ham, coffee with milk, and a doughnut that you dip in a chocolately pudding-sauce. And I can ask for the check.
My husband and I chose Madrid because that’s where our son Joe is spending the fall semester of his junior year. He couldn’t have picked a livelier, cooler place. Multiply Caroline Street and Broadway by 10,000, replace the perpendicular streets with roomy plazas and narrow, winding streets, and add about 3 million people, and there’s Madrid – teeming with people well into the evening, with countless little restaurants and outdoor cafes to grab a drink and a snack.
The younger drinking age and the fact that they seem to serve a little something with every bar order seems to result in more controlled partying than what we have here “in the states.” I’m glad Joe will turn 21 before he returns home.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Wanted: Saratoga area bloggers who care about the community

Do you have an interest in improving the community – and are you willing and able to dedicate your time to writing about issues important to area residents?
We are creating a Community Media Lab, an informal partnership between you and The Saratogian. Think of it as a stable of thoughtful residents with varied interests who will become regular bloggers on The Saratogian website.
We’ll provide training and feedback on blogging and some of the basics of reporting and writing. We’ll also invite you into the newsroom, to get to know our staff, to learn how decisions are made about news coverage and presentation – and to give you opportunities to participate in that discussion and to bring ideas to the table.
This is, after all, your community and your newspaper.
The Community Media Labs are also being established at other newspapers owned by the Journal Register Company. The company recognizes that we’re in a digital-first world and that the people to turn to for ideas, opinions and news about local issues are the people affected by them. We’ll also have access through JRC to talented people who can help everyone hone their blogging skills, including yours truly.
If you’re interested, send me an e-mail at with you name, contact information, areas of interest, whether you’re already blogging, and any questions you have. I look forward to hearing from you.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Taking time to appreciate the wonders of life, including siblings

In the Oct. 12 installment of The Saratogian's special Breast Cancer Awareness Month special sections (on pink paper, wrapping the regular news, sports and classifieds), breast cancer survivor Lisa Morahan says she hopes everyone takes the time to observe the wonderof a rainbow, like the one that graced the sky last Thursday.

I happened to see it, too, and pointed it out to the workmen on the never-ending construction job next door so they could enjoy it as well. I felt the same way this evening, admiring the sliver of a moon. It is well worth taking the time to appreciate these gifts. After all, life is short.

On Sunday, my siblings and father and I met in Queens for the unveiling of my uncle's tombstone, a Jewish tradition that comes a year or so after the deceased is laid to rest. After some prayers and words of remembrance, as we headed back to our cars, my father and his sister had just enough time to start a little squabble among themselves. Really? At 80 and 81 (they're only 13 months apart)?

Our next stop was down the road, to their mother -- my grandmother's -- grave. My father and aunt were very close to their mother for all of her 88 years, and though she's been gone for 30 years now, I know Dad talks to her frequently. "So," I asked him as we left the cemetery and headed toward my aunt's house. "Did your mother have anything to say to you today?"

"Yes," Dad replied without missing a beat. "She told me not to fight with my sister."

The rest of the visit was as beautiful as a rainbow.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Getting the story without a finger in Paladino's face

When I was a rookie reporter I interviewed a guy in the construction business who, with a wink from people in City Hall, appeared to be averting the requirements for competitive bidding of a project by breaking the bills into smaller increments. I had the invoices from City Hall to back up the story.
But I couldn't get the guy to admit he had done something wrong.
He offered me a drink (which I declined), he tried to tell stories about his business, he did everything except admit to what the evidence showed. I not only didn't get the story, but I missed a family dinner (one of many over the years, it would turn out).
I returned to the newsroom beaten, in tears.
My city editor at the time tried not to laugh. The editor's point was, the guy's refusal to answer WAS his answer. It wasn't the answer I wanted. But it was an answer. And that's what I had to write. The reader would then make of it what they would.
That lesson came to mind the other day when I watched the videos of the confrontation between the NY Post's Fred Dicker and GOP gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino. In my opinion, their behavior was inappropriate as journalists AND to someone who would like to be the top executive of New York state.
My experience in following Dicker is that he's an aggressive, solid investigative reporter who doesn't play favorites. He's broken stories over the years in the Post that I wish we'd had at The Saratogian, his alma mater from before my time here.
He was absolutely right to demand that Paladino provide proof to back up his assertion that Andrew Cuomo had cheated on his wife. Too many journalists seem too timid, inept, part of the herd or co-opted to ask a basic, important follow-up to make a politician accountable for their claims.
So the question should have been asked: Where's your proof?
And Paladino's answer, that he would reveal his proof at the appropriate time -- well, that's his answer. It was a lame answer. And, in fact, he later backed off the accusation. But for that moment, that was his answer.
A finger in his face was not necessary. If it served any purpose, it showed how Paladino responds to aggressive questioning. Kinda scary.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Glad to be able to keep health coverage for 23-year-old son

The cost of providing health care to its employees is a huge expense to business owners, regardless of the employees' share of the tab. It's a cost that has been growing by leaps and bounds year after year, long before the health reform was enacted and before Barack Obama was president.

One of my sons has been working two part-time jobs since graduating college. The part-time status comes with no benefits -- no paid vacation or paid sick time and, most critical, no health coverage. So I'm really glad that young adults are now allowed to remain on their parents' health insurance until age 26.

It's not a perfect situation; it's an expense to the employer providing the coverage. And the law doesn't help young men and women whose parents aren't on a family health plan. But given the economic realities of the job market, and the cost and importance of having coverage, I'm grateful for the age 26 rule. As the very least, it buys some peace of mind and time.