Blogs > Fresh Ink

Barbara Lombardo writes about journalisml, local news and anything else that strikes her fancy. She is executive editor of The Saratogian, The Record and the Community News, sister papers in the Digital First Media family. Follow her on Twitter @Barb_Lombardo.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Trip to U.S. Open opens possibilities for playing tennis

I have confessed in the past that my tennis prowess … well, I can’t honestly link the words "my tennis" and "prowess" in one sentence. Let me begin again.

I have confessed in the past that I stink at tennis. But, ever the optimist, I think I can get better. Gwen Ritchie has given me new hope.

As a member of a ladies’ tennis league, my greatest attributes are Y membership and appearing on time, Head in hand (although, it turns out, held with way too stiff a wrist). I enjoy the evening of play, though my failure to find my way to a court the entire summer during the league break suggests that tennis is neither my forte nor my passion.

All that began to change, a wee bit, on Sept. 1 when I went on a Y-sponsored day trip to the U.S. Open.

The excitement began a few weeks earlier, when a friend called asking if I’d like to join her on the trip. A hundred bucks for the whole day. The U.S. Open? In person? Sounds like fun. Uh, what sport would that be again? Oh, tennis. Sure!

My husband supplied me with magazine and newspaper articles about who to watch and why, which my friend and I perused on the bus ride, checking off names against the day’s U.S. Open schedule supplied, along with water bottles and energy bars, by the Y’s Rolland Leblanc.

On the bus were some familiar faces, many of whom made this trip an annual outing and all of whom knew from the get-go what sport they were going to see and who they would see competing.

The event was a real education for me. It was fantastic to see up-and-coming and famous tennis players doing their thing right in front of us. We were sweating in the shade-free stands in 90-degree sunshine, yet the players seemed unaffected, serving at 90 mph or faster and playing for hours on end. U.S. Open spectators could walk among the various stadiums and courts to see parts of the many matches going on simultaneously. The site is adjacent to the old planet Earth and towers from the 1965 World’s Fair (and the movie "Men in Black) and the new Mets baseball field, where you could see the impressive memorial to Jackie Robinson through the locked gates.

One of my high points, however, was on the bus back to Saratoga Springs, when Gwen Ritchie of Wilton, well known to local tennis aficionados of all ages, agreed to give me a lesson the following week.

"What do you need help with?" she asked. "Everything," I answered, hearing no disagreement from my bus trip friend, with whom I’d played only once. My friend was unable to teach uncoordinated me how to use my foot and racquet to bounce the ball from the ground to my hand, never mind how to actually play. Rather than strain a friendship, we silently agreed to leave my tennis training to a professional. And this was my chance.

Since then and this column, Gwen and I met twice, which I guess makes me an intermediate. I intend to pick up the pace when she returns from knee surgery.

Meanwhile, my weekly ladies tennis league has resumed playing. The first night, I arrived a full five minutes early, managing to stretch my calves. I didn’t embarrass myself – not too badly. I showed up on time. I didn’t pull anything. And a few times I even remembered how to hold the racquet. The ladies in my league are as fervent as I in wishing Gwen a speedy recovery.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dusting up questions about Saratoga Springs Public Works services

Monday morning started with a clean sweep, literally. The Saratoga Spring city truck with the huge round brush swept along the curb of my street. It was before 8 a.m., and I was out raking and tromping on my newly reseeded strip of front lawn.

What I didn't understand was why another DPW truck, a small dump truck, was parked on the street with its motor running. Just as I decided to ask the driver what he was doing, the truck pulled away. A few minutes later, however, it was parked around the corner, and I could hear the motor. So, rake in hand, I decided to inquire.

A very polite and friendly fellow at the wheel explained that his job is to collect the dirt from the sweeper when the sweeper if full. He said he needs to keep the motor running so that his CB radio will be working when the sweeper driver needs to reach him.

I'm in favor of swept streets, but I've got to wonder: Is this always the way it's been done, and is it the best way? It clearly involves a lot of just sitting there. How much gas is used (not to mention the air pollution created) by the running motor? How often are all of the city streets swept? What does this and other DPW services cost?

These and similar questions are ones that DPW Commissioner Skip Scirocco should be prepared to spell out when the 2011 proposed city budget is presented on Oct. 5.

It was disconcerting to learn the other day that he says a lack of DPW staff prevents the city from having the front of the Canfield Casino in Congress Park swept on weekend mornings, even though smokers at night-time parties dump butts outside the building.

When and where to sweep (or do repairs, or pick up yard debris, and so on) are decisions that relate to human resources, management and priorities. There is no shortage of desired services.

Monday, September 27, 2010

End of summer, beginning of Seeding the Lawn season

Just finished part of my annual Exercise in Futility -- the perennial reseeding of the strip of lawn in front of our house between the sidewalk and the street.
This would probably not be a once-a-year project if we (1) watered the shadeless strip once in a while or (2) filled the space instead with some sort of ground cover that survives drought, neglect and, in winter, a cover of salty, dirty snow.
We did neither. So the dry, hot summer left the lawn looking like hay.
My son David helped rake up the dregs, and this morning after I spread the seed-starting fertilizer and seeds from a bag with the words "sunny" in yellow.
Now it looks like rain. I'm hoping for enough to keep the sensitive seeds moist, but not so much that the seeds are washed into the gutter.
I called Allerdice to ask what I ought to put on top of the newly seeded dirt to keep the seeds in place. An as-usual friendly and helpful man at the store said that he uses a roller, but it also works just to tromp all over the dirt in my sneakers.
"It won't hurt the seeds," he assured me."I've been doing it for years."
Hmmm. OK. But if he's so good at growing lawns, why does he have to keep doing it?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A little Adirondack Mountain with a big reward

Reaching new heights means different things to different people.

The new height for me this past weekend was Kane Mountain, which might have more modestly and appropriately been named Kane Hill. Climbing Kane, at 1.8 miles roundtrip, does not qualify me to start checking off Adirondack high peaks. No competition for Ray O’Conor.

Still, the "I Love New York" guidebook describes the ascent as "moderate," not "easy." And I did break a sweat.

This was an attempt by my six-member book club to exercise our bodies after exercising our minds over a high-carb brunch. I began first out of the gate, striding along in hiking boots that hadn’t seen a trail since 1999. Like the horses I usually lose on at Saratoga Race Course, by the halfway point I went from front-runner to bringing up the rear by more than a few lengths.

But I made it. And best of all, I was first up to the top of the fire tower. The reward was lovely: a panorama of lakes, peaks and rolling hills turning yellow and red. Taking in such a view on a beautiful fall day is one of my favorite things.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A salute to ethics: The boy in the picture wasn't giving the finger

He was not giving the finger.

Really.

Looks are deceiving.

The Neighbors page in The Saratogian on Thursday, Sept. 16 ran a big, bright, happy picture of orange-shirted 8-year-olds in the Northeastern Youth Football League excitedly mugging for photographer Erica Miller at the grand opening celebration of Schuylerville High School’s turf field.

Reactions to the picture started coming in before dawn — because one of the boys appears to be offering the one-finger salute, if you get my drift. The Saratogian’s beleaguered circulation department customer service reps weren’t the only ones catching flak over the apparently devilish digit.

“My brother-in-law texted me at 6:45 in the morning,” Steve Dunkel told me when I called him today to try to put the brouhaha to bed. “It’s big misunderstanding.”

Dunkel is president of the Old Saratoga Athletic Association, which oversees the youth football team. And he was right.

Photographer Miller took a series of pictures of the kids in rapid succession, and turned in for publication the one that was best composed and most appealing — without giving a second thought to the possible misinterpretation of this particular frame. Her pictures clearly showed the boy in question had given the V-shaped peace sign and was in the process of lowering his hand when the unfortunate frame was shot, making it look like he was an 8-year-old wise guy.

“Some kids I could see. Not this kid,” said Dunkel said, who has reassured the boy’s parents.

Despite the inarguable innocence, we removed the picture from The Saratogian website. Even though there was a reasonable explanation, a picture must speak for itself. And this one said the wrong thing. Had we noticed the problem in the first place, we wouldn’t have run it.

Dunkel feels a little guilty about the whole thing: “I was the one who told them to give the No. 1 sign.”

Next time, we’ll have to be sure they hold their hands in place until the final photograph.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Online, forever? Publishing arrests on the Internet

The parent of a 25-year-old who had been arrested in Saratoga County earlier this year for possession of marijuana called me this week to ask about taking the posting off The Saratogian website.

It was, after all, a relatively minor crime. And the case has been adjourned in contemplation of dismissal -- ACOD in court jargon -- meaning that if he stays out of trouble for six months, the charge will be dismissed.

So what should we do? My inclination is to add an editor's note updating the story with the ACOD and then, should the charge ultimately be dismissed, update the story again saying so. This is how we've handled it when a similar issue occurred over the past few months. That's what I did in this case.

Another option would be to completely remove the story from the website upon dismissal of the charge. But isn't that like rewriting history? Isn't the story still floating out there in cyberspace, without the updated news? So wouldn't it be a disservice to not provide the Internet with the updated, correct information.

The father's major concern was that when you google marijuana and his son's name, the arrest pops up, and that when potential employers see the post they will automatically rule out his application. In bigger cities, such arrests wouldn't make the papers, in print or online. Not so in the Capital District.

I'd be interested in hearing from employers if that's really the case. Are you googling applicants? How do you weigh what you find?

Meanwhile, for what it's worth, parents ought to send this file to any kids out there -- almost grown, fully grown, and old enough to know better -- for a warning about the repercussions of getting into trouble with law, even for a relatively minor infraction, in the Internet age.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Hola! Joining Skype to see son Joe in Spain

This weekend I visited my younger son Joe in Madrid, where he is spending the first semester of his junior year of college. Saw him, his host family, the apartment he's living in, and the lovely view from their ninth-floor terrace.
All on Skype.
When I was a kid, this is the way I thought telephones would be in the future. And now it's here.
Some of you have no doubt been Skyping for a while. A few weeks ago I ran into someone on Broadway who told me how she keeps in touch with her grandchildren on Skype. Hey, I thought, if she can do it, I can do it.
All it took was buying a little video camera to hook onto my laptop and then nagging my older son David into showing me how to set it up. We did a practice Skype, with him in the kitchen and me in the the living room.
Then, on Sunday, Joe and I hooked up at 9:30 in the morning here and 3:30 in the afternoon there. Saturday had been the annual "stay up all night" day in Madrid, so he had actually been up until about 6 in the morning and had just gotten up when we connected. It's a real event, he claims.
We're planning on really visiting Joe during the semester to see, as my husband says, how our investment is doing. Emails and telephones are great. But it's pretty cool to be able to see, in real time, the person you're talking to -- on another continent yet. And, for a mom, there's a measure of reassurance that comes from being able to look my son in the eye and see that all is well.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A little Adirondack Mountain with a big reward

Reaching new heights means different things to different people.

The new height for me this past weekend was Kane Mountain, which might have more modestly and appropriately been named Kane Hill. Climbing Kane, at 1.8 miles roundtrip, does not qualify me to start checking off Adirondack high peaks. No competition for Ray O’Conor.

Still, the “I Love New York” guidebook describes the ascent as “moderate,” not “easy.” And I did break a sweat.

This was an attempt by my six-member book club to exercise our bodies after exercising our minds over a high-carb brunch. I began first out of the gate, striding along in hiking boots that hadn’t seen a trail since 1999. Like the horses I usually lose on at Saratoga Race Course, by the halfway point I went from front runner to bringing up the rear by more than a few lengths.

But I made it. And best of all, I was first up to the top of the fire tower.

The reward was lovely: a panorama of lakes, peaks and rolling hills turning yellow and red. Taking in such a view on a beautiful fall day is one of my favorite things.