Monday, March 10, 2008

Athletic Scholarships

The New York Times has a good piece today on scholarships and youth athletes, pointing out how great the odds are against a kid getting a decent sports scholarship in college. It mentions, but not enough, in my opinion, the extreme demands on college athletes--really, how much value does a $2,000 scholarship have if a kid is playing a sport virtually full time for a college? And why are high schools holding "signing ceremonies" for students signing letters of intent? When did that baloney start? And why are high schools demanding kids spend so much time--practicies six days a week, for example--to play even jayvee ball?

Sunday, March 9, 2008

A Waldbaum's Closing?

This could be interesting: there are rumors that the Waldbaum's, on Jericho in Huntington Station, might be closing and turning into a Hispanic-oriented market. More--but not a lot-- here.

Proposal on Parade

OK, I've been really neglecting this blog. Got too busy with other things.

I just got back from the Huntington St. Patrick's Day parade (Go Wildcats marching band!). The best part may have been the young firefighter who jumped out of line, dropped to a knee and proposed to his girlfriend, to applause. She spent a long time kissing and hugging him, so I'm guessing the answer was yes.

It was pretty cold to be outside for any length of time, when the wind was whipping around. But the weather could have been worse. Like Saturday's.

There were lots of soldiers and vets. It was very tempting, when Congressman Steve Israel went by with his bullhorn and asking for cheers for the soldiers with him (from the famous 69th) to shout back, "Bring them home, Steve." I bit my tongue but man, it's getting harder and harder.

Another amusing moment was the older veteran in a car bearing the sign from the Jewish Veterans organization. He was merrily waving an Irish flag.

I felt a little sorry for one little pipes band stuck on the march between a very long and loud line of firetrucks and a Civil War group that kept firing their weapons. And was it my imagination or were those guys wearing Confederate gray?

Here's a tip. If you're a company sending people down the street to hand out promotional materials, maybe you ought to make sure they're dressed at least a little decently. I saw one guy go by, touting a major Long Island company, who looked as if he and his clothes had just been rousted out of a Dumpster.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Post Office Passport Hell

I really hate my local (Huntington Station) Post Office and its lack of customer service. This is aside from the worst-designed parking lot in history; the removal of stamp machines so that you either have to buy them from the APC--which takes only credit cards and doesn't sell individual stamps--and including the elimination of outdoor machines; the surly attitudes of a number of workers, etc.

It is hard to describe how awful getting into this lot can be. One of these days, I'll try drawing a map of the one-way entrances, the one-way exit that puts cars directly into the path of people entering and leaving the main lot; the narrow space left for cars to pass each other around the one-way traffic lanes, etc. It is horrible.

The latest stunt is a small note posted on the passport room announcing that appointments are required on Saturdays in order to get any passport assistance. Of course, there's no phone number to help you do that. Good luck getting the attention of anyone working there to find out, short of standing in the long lines that literally reach the exit many days. I was standing in a fortunately shorter version of that line this morning watching as the passport line grew; none of the first three people realized they needed an appointment but one of the clerks took it upon himself to yell over to them that they needed appointments; when a few indicated surprise, he marched into the room to point it out to the passport crew.

As far as passports, there are new requirements and new fees as of yesterday. Some days it seems as if the system is designed to keep people from traveling rather than helping them. There are new rules involving minors--it used to be that one parent could show up with a notarized letter from the other parent saying it was okay for the kid to travel. Now apparently both have to show up. Don't know how divorced parents or people separated by thousands of miles handle this. As far as the federal passport system itself--good luck. I sent for some certified copies of documents I'd submitted earlier; the check was cashed Nov.1. Still no papers.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

And Oakwood, Too

The Oakwood Primary Center is taking over the Barnes and Noble store on Rt. 110 in Huntington on Feb. 8 for its after-school "fun"draiser.

A percentage of all books and food sold during this time will go to the PTA to benefit the children of Oakwood.

Fun activities include a Valentine's Day craft, story time with some of our favorite teachers, stickers, games and prizes. Plus there will be a children's art show and the Oakwood Chorus will sing.

Please join us between 3:30 pm and 7:30 pm and support the Oakwood Primary Center.

Whitman Fund-Raiser

South Asia Fundraiser Night is scheduled for the Performing Arts Center on Friday from 7:30 - 9:30 p.m. There will be henna tattoos, delicious South Asian food, gorgeous South Asian jewelry for sale, raffle prizes including gift cards worth over $200, a fashion show, and much, much more. Tickets are only $4 in advance and $5 at the door. All proceeds will be donated to Mercy Corps to help to rebuild a school in South Asia destroyed by the 2005 earthquake.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Regents Heck

Teenager survived her first Regents exam, ever, in an honors class. Did pretty well, actually. She doesn't do really well with tests--there's always some sort of sloppiness that cuts into her grade, for reasons I can't fathom since she has, as her teachers always say, an organized mind. I really think she doesn't know how to study for a big test and that's something she has to work on. Talking with a co-worker with a daughter going through exactly the same thing at Huntington High, we realized we were more worried for them than they were.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

'Idol' Contest at Whitman

"Whitman Idol Contest" on Friday
The Whitman High School Lamplighters and the Junior class of 07-08 will are presenting a “Whitman Idol Contest” on Friday at 7 p.m. at the Walt Whitman Performing Arts Center.

Finalist performers in three age categories who auditioned earlier will compete for a $100 cash prize. The finalists were notified Friday, and the age groups are:

Newsday has more.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Oil Heat

Interesting: look at how much higher gas prices are in Huntington.

Also, I've been chatting with someone about home-heating oil prices. He, and others have recommended keeping a little kerosene as a backup for emergencies, such as when you run out and need a little fuel while waiting for a delivery. It started with a question about using diesel fuel as an alternative to home heating oil--apparently it stinks to high heaven. Here's the explanation about kerosene:

Just 2 comments on the diesel/heating oil etc. Diesel is heating oil -- only a different grade (No. 1 through No. 6 -- with No. 1 cleanest, No .2 the typically delivered home heating oil down to No. 6 for large industrial oil furnaces with "scrubbers" to preclean and precondition before it will actually burn). In fact, the same filters are used in large trucks as are (or at least should be) on your burner.

If you run out, you're better off to get kerosene instead of diesel and add it to your heating oil tank. It works the same -- only much, much cleaner. And, you save money because you do not have to pay as much in the taxes on the kero. Diesel is $00.185 cents per galls (CPG) in federal tax and typcially another 30+ cpg in State taxes THEN add the sales and gross receipts tax. WHereas kero pays only the sales/gross receipt tax. Personally, we keep 10 gallons of kero stored in the garage through the winter -- that way if the we run out unexpectedly, I can get through 2-3 days with the kero. But more importantly, if the electric goes out for any long period, we can drain the heating pipes and use the kero in our old reliable kero heater. If all goes well through the winter, we just use up all the oil and add the kero to the tank to clean and condition the system in the Spring.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Shopped at Sears?

If you have shopped at Sears and signed up for its "community" online, you might want to get hire someone to clear away the spyware. Like, now.
Security guru Bruce Schneier reports on Sears and its very disturbing spyware.
Is Sears Engaging in Criminal Hacking Behavior?
Join "My SHC Community" on, and the company will install some pretty impressive spyware on your computer: is distributing spyware that tracks all your Internet usage - including banking logins, email, and all other forms of Internet usage - all in the name of "community participation." Every website visitor that joins the Sears community installs software that acts as a proxy to every web transaction made on the compromised computer. In other words, if you have installed Sears software ("the proxy") on your system, all data transmitted to and from your system will be intercepted. This extreme level of user tracking is done with little and inconspicuous notice about the true nature of the software. In fact, while registering to join the "community," very little mention is made of software or tracking. Furthermore, after the software is installed, there is no indication on the desktop that the proxy exists on the system, so users are tracked silently.
Here is a summary of what the software does and how it is used. The proxy:

Monitors and transmits a copy of all Internet traffic going from and coming to the compromised system.

Monitors secure sessions (websites beginning with ‘https'), which may include shopping or banking sites.
Records and transmits "the pace and style with which you enter information online..."
Parses the header section of personal emails.
May combine any data intercepted with additional information like "select credit bureau information" and other sources like "consumer preference reporting companies or credit reporting agencies".
If a kid with a scary hacker name did this sort of thing, he'd be arrested. But this is Sears, so who knows what will happen to them. But what should happen is that the anti-spyware companies should treat this as the malware it is, and not ignore it because it's done by a Fortune 500 company.

Here's some more:
CA Security Advisor Research Blog Another privacy issue for Sears

"Hey Dad, did you guys by any chance buy a new sewing machine from Sears on September 30th?"

"We did. How did you know that?"

"I just found it listed on a Sears web site. It looks like they have another privacy problem."

We were informed about by Heather, who left the following comment on Benjamin Googins' last blog entry:

OMG. It gets worse! check out a sears site Once you register, you can look up major purchases for ANY address. All you need to do is enter a name address and phone number and if the person attached to that info has made a major purchase at sears you get that info!! They have no real controls in place -- you have to enter an onscreen code and they say that keeps your info safe, but that does not stop someone from entering other people's contact info to see their product purchases. This brings casing someone's house to a whole new level.