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Thursday, 12 July 2007
Bike trip, part 2
Topic: travel

NY Route 458 gets two thumbs-up as portal to the northern Adirondacks. I say this for two reasons: Rt. 458 is less traveled and woodsier than either Rt. 56 or 30, it goes through the unspoiled hamlet of St. Regis Falls (a perfect rest stop with a general store/deli), and it has lots of hills and thrills.

Of course, it’s the hills that in a sense exile many of the truckers and – let’s face it, bicyclists, too – to the lowlands and heavy traffic. But it turns out Route 458 is not a corridor of solitude. There’s some local traffic, even an occasional logging truck, and of course the wildlife here has an audible voice (amazing in the modern world!). And then there are the fitness enthusiasts.

All through the northern Adirondacks I ran into triathletes in training and other high-powered cyclists on fancy machines; most of them are connected to the top-drawer training facilities in Lake Placid, which since the 1980 Winter Olympics has become a year-round athletic venue to rival Aspen, et al. But not everyone on the roads is an Ironman champion.

Case in point: On Rt. 458 I ran into a cyclist named John who happened to be doing a training ride; he’d driven his car down from a town near the St. Lawrence and was cranking out some miles uphill and down, all to prepare for more challenging hills like the infamous stretch of Route 73 between Placid and Keene -  a gloriously frightening descent or heart-pounding upgrade, depending on which direction you’re going.

Anyway, John, a North Country college professor who said he had a son studying at RIT, proved to be a great conversationalist as he and I rode along together, mostly side-by-side on the otherwise mostly vehicle-free highway. We covered plenty of bike topics – strangely, though he didn’t hesitate to hit the road alone, he didn’t have a full tool kit, nor did he know how to change a flat – and shared anecdotes about the blackboard, now whiteboard, jungle of academia. (When I stopped at a public library to check my email, as is my custom on the road, I got some bas news about a case I was following: Norman Finkelstein, one of the best and most committed scholars working on the question of Israel/Palestine, was finally denied tenure at DePaul Univ. in Chicago; the denial follows heavy-handed intervention by the egregious Alan Dershowitz of Harvard. It's a complicated story that I'll pursue in another venue. But the take-home message is this: Readers should check out Finkelstein's website,, and send their messages of outrage to DePaul administrators.)

John was riding a Serotta road bike; later, at the Lake Placid bike shop he recommended, I saw Serottas on the sales floor priced up to $8,000. Talk about sticker shock. But the shop did have some good, and reasonably priced, Pearl Izumi cycling gloves; I bought a pair to replace my old Lake gloves, which lost their cushioning power a year ago or more. So with the new PI’s, at least my hands were able to proceed in style.

Speaking of attire, etc.: When the temperatures were in the 70s or 80s, I stuck to my usual road gear: cycling jersey or 50/50-blend long-sleeved tee, plus the mandatory padded cycling shorts. But when the weather turned blisteringly hot, I went back to my canoeing outfit, at least from the waist up: a loose-fitting, cotton-flannel long-sleeved shirt (probably a lightweight Chambray would be even better). When you’re in motion, the loose shirt billows up and acts something like A/C. True, the added air resistance cuts down your mechanical efficiency – but what the hey, touring is not a race.

Another concern: As a melanin-deprived person of Celtic descent, I’m a big believer in bathing in sunblock. But I know that sunblock/sunscreen can’t equal tight-woven fabric for UV protection. And exposing bare skin to the sun also increases solar absorption. Not to disparage fun in the sun, but we’d probably do better to emulate the traditional peoples of the desert in summer from 10 AM till 4 PM – and save the para-naturism for safer hours.

Posted by jackbradiganspula at 17:46 EDT
Updated: Friday, 13 July 2007 11:04 EDT
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Wednesday, 11 July 2007
Back from bicycling, for a bit
Topic: travel

When I told friends I’d be posting regular road reports from this summer’s bicycle tour, I was making one of those fine resolutions fated not to be kept. But now I’m home – at least for a spell, while I get stuff together for another jaunt – so I can sketch out what I saw from the saddle the last two weeks.

After a conversation with Wayne County raconteur-naturalist and inveterate bicyclist Roland Micklem, I left from Peacework Farm (Arcadia/Newark) on June 24. A series of paved back roads took me to Route 104 and then lunch in Wolcott (not-quite-famously the birthplace of “Grandpa” Al Lewis, one-time TV “Munster,” and later, NY City radio personality and Green Party gubernatorial candidate). This lunch was in the grain for my bike trips: bursts of pedaling followed by long stops with the usual small-town “bottomless coffee cup” and a local newspaper.

From Wolcott I pushed on to Oswego. In the past I’ve taken Old Route 104 through this area, but this time I went for the new 104: more traffic passing but fewer hills, plus generally smoother pavement. Mostly I wanted to get to the North Country asap.

Oswego was quiet and refreshing that warm Sunday. Of course, SUNY was not in session, so this college town – which, alas, doubles as the capital of regional nuclear power – was in the doldrums. I stopped in the partly gentrified harbor for a sandwich and microbrew. By now you should have a clear idea of my mode of travel, alternating hair-shirt and bon-vivant.

Struggling to be more of a leisure destination than old milltown, Oswego is showing too many signs of sprawl these days. The big-box miasma stretches east of the city center over what I remember as an interesting greenspace that flanked a creek and led to farm fields and woodlots. Now there’s mostly traffic, and not of the nonpolluting kind.

From Oswego I made my way to Route 104 B and then to Route 3, which hugs the Lake Ontario shoreline till it veers through Watertown and heads toward the Central Adirondacks and, eventually, the west side of Lake Champlain. Route 3 has evolved over the last couple decades from a narrow, unpleasant bike route to a fairly nice alternative to the likes of Route 11, which along with I-81 (the latter off limits to human- or actual horse-powered vehicles), carries most of the heavy commercial traffic.

And speaking of horses: All through the North Country I came upon Amish farmers, who’ve relocated to several parts of rural New York because land is both expensive and unavailable in south central Pennsylvania. Indeed, Northern New York still has some of cheapest farmland you can find, and thus is a magnet for anyone who lives outside the mainstream. Here’s to appropriate technology: I enjoyed greeting the Amish families who, relying on their horsecarts and wagons, truly know how to share the road.

Route 3 took me through Henderson Harbor, where you look westward to beautiful islands and the oceanic expanse of Lake Ontario, north to Sackets Harbor. The latter is still a little overwhelmed with its War of 1812 past, in the sense that the town and its historical markers tiptoe around the truth – that the dirty little war almost 200 years ago was launched on shaky grounds (which is not to deny the British were guilty of various crimes, like the impressment of US citizens into the British Navy) and largely aimed at “neutralizing” indigenous peoples who thwarted westward imperial expansion.

But none of this neutralizes the visual appeal of Sackets Harbor, which now hosts a fine, eponymous brew-pub, even though it’s all too close to Fort Drum, home of the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division, since the Reagan Pentagon build-up a big player in imperial “conflicts.” (Disclosure: When I was in the Marine Corps Reserve, I used to train occasionally at what was then the modest, retro Camp Drum, a holdover that should have gone out with spats. It was a shithole, and though the layout and amenities have changed, the character of the place has not. It’s such a shame that Watertown and neighboring towns bring a little bit of, say, eastern North Carolina-style militarism into Northern New York.)

From Sackets I pedaled due north toward the St. Lawrence River, and I soon found myself on a freshly-repaved Route 12 through the Thousand Islands. Long about Chippewa Bay, where there’s a scenic overlook more than worthy of the designation, you can see just how wonderful the region is, especially when you get a good distance from the powerboats and, ugh, jet-skis. I think the vistas around Chippewa Bay are as grand as any I’ve seen on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts – but you have to realize I’ve been accused of being a Great Lakes chauvinist.

The ride along Route 12 was as hot as it was beautiful, though. Ninety-eight degree air temperature on new asphalt: That’s got to translate to 115 degrees. But at least I had a stiff tailwind and thus cruised in style.

I thought I might continue up along the river, but frankly, once out of the Thousand Islands, the scenery didn’t turn me on so much, so I veered southeast toward Canton and Potsdam. Great riding country here, though I was fighting a powerful crosswind most of the way. On Route 56 just outside of Canton I saw a cooperative experiment in progress: local colleges and the state DEC have put up fencing of various types and diversion culverts so that migrating turtles and amphibians can get to the other side of the road without harm. I didn’t see any roadkill on the quarter-mile experimental stretch, so I suppose things are working. Elsewhere on my trip, roadkill – everything from snakes to waterfowl to beaver – was extensive. (Lest you think I’m being a sanctimonious cyclist, here’s a confession: near Saranac Lake a young grouse that was sitting on the pavement shot up as I approached and hit my handlebar pack head on; the impact broke the bird’s neck and it died within half a minute as I stood there, helpless. The mother grouse cried out from the bushes at roadside. A couple days later, a second mother grouse mock-attacked me as I apparently went by her concealed brood. Quick karmic retribution, I guess.)

Well, I’ll continue the travelogue pretty soon, covering the itinerary through the Adirondacks and on to Vermont. So check in again…


Posted by jackbradiganspula at 13:26 EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 11 July 2007 13:35 EDT
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Monday, 11 June 2007
More on the historian

Nancy Rosin, herself a worthy local historian (cf. her book on the Public Market), has circulated the petition text below, with a request that Rochesterians contact City Councilmembers a.s.a.p. The relevant emails:
Nancy also asks that you let her know you’ve sent an email (contact her at so a tally can be kept.



Mayor Duffy's 2007-08 budget proposes to cut the position of City Historian, meaning that for the first time since 1922 Rochester would be without this important service. The Office not only survived the Great Depression, but hired Dr. Blake McKelvey to assist Dr. Dexter Perkins in 1934. In place of a full-time historian, the City will instead contract part-time with the Rochester Historical Society. Many duties and public functions will not be addressed. Many multi-year projects will be abandoned or stalled.

Rochester has long touted its historical legacy. We have documented the extensive service of numerous citizens who have made outstanding contributions to the city's progress over the past 173 years. Dr. Blake McKelvey, who chronicled Rochester's history for over 60 years, achieved national recognition as a leading expert in urban history. Ruth Rosenberg-Naparsteck, the Historian since 1987 (assistant from 1984), has conducted invaluable research on the Underground Railroad, ethnic history and the impact of the Erie Canal and the Genesee River on Rochester's development. She continues to work with our school students and teachers.

It is unthinkable that the City would consider outsourcing the Historian's function, and reducing by more than 50% the funding that has traditionally supported this function. With thousands of important documents that come into the city's possession annually, it is difficult to imagine how the current workload can be completed with a person performing as a consultant.

Mayor Duffy was faced with many difficult decisions, in finalizing his budget decisions. Even so, money was found to provide for more city-sponsored festivals, to expand services at Durand-Eastman Beach, to expand and enhance technology services, and to increase security in downtown. In order to maintain the City Historian as a full-time employee, rather than a part-time consultant, the city needs to find just $60,000.

We, the undersigned residents of the greater Rochester community, ask the City Council to allocate the necessary funding to restore this position to full-time status. Additionally we ask the Council to insure that this position will be protected in future budgets, as a recognition that the history of our city is valued and appreciated.

Posted by jackbradiganspula at 08:06 EDT
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Thursday, 7 June 2007

Dear DISSIDENT Readers:

Here’s some vital information about bulldozers that are doing great damage – much more serious than what’s happening here in Rochester, of course. Join with outstanding Israeli activists like Jeff Halper and stop the dozers in their tracks - and help build a peaceful and just Middle East.

[from the Israel Committee Against House Demolitions, 01 June 2007]


Announcing ICAHD's Campaign to Rebuild Every Palestinian Home Demolished Over the Next Year

Dear Friends,

As we enter the 40th year of Israeli Occupation, a note of urgency has entered into our struggle to end it and, with that, to press on to a just peace between Palestinians and Israelis. ICAHD has long warned that Israel's unilateral expansionist policies spell the doom of the two-state solution. Given, however, the unwillingness of Israelis, the international community and, it must be said, most of the Palestinian public to entertain an alternative solution, we are lending our unqualified support, on this 40th year, to the global campaign to end the Occupation once and for all, totally and immediately. We fully join the worldwide chorus of voices in declaring: ENOUGH!

The Campaign to Rebuild All Palestinian Homes Demolished Over the Next Year

As part of its contribution to the global campaign against the Occupation, ICAHD is announcing the launch of a campaign, in partnership with ICAHD-USA and ICAHD-UK, to rebuild each and every Palestinian home demolished by Israel in the Occupied Territories in the coming year – about 300 homes, batei sumud, "houses of steadfastness" against policies of transfer and dispossession. With funding coming mainly from Jewish donors appalled by the Israeli government's house demolition policy, ICAHD is able to mount this major challenge to the legality, morality and even self-interest of the monstrosity that is the Israeli Occupation. This represents a timely and appropriate intensification of ICAHD's ten year struggle against the Occupation and its most cruel expression, the demolition of Palestinian homes – 18,000 since 1967.

Returning to the Place Where the Occupation Began

In fact, the very first act of the Israeli Occupation in 1967 was home demolitions. On June 11th, as the Six Day War was drawing to its close, more than 135 Palestinian families in the historic Muslim Mughrabi Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City – the vast majority refugees from 1948 – were roused from their beds in the dead of night to watch in horror as Israeli bulldozers summarily destroyed their homes and the quarter's two mosques, all in order to create an open plaza in front of the Western (Wailing) Wall. It was an operation that had nothing to do with either the war or security, but to create the first of thousands of "facts on the ground" intended to make Israel's control of the Occupied Territories permanent. In the wanton and illegal razing of the Mughbrabi Quarter, Hajja Rasmia Tabaki, an elderly Palestinian woman, was killed when her home was demolished on top of her. She became the Occupation's first victim.

This June 11th, ICAHD will return to this site where the Occupation began in order to announce its rebuilding campaign. Joining with the remnants of the Mughrabi Quarter's residents who remained scattered throughout the Old City, we will together remember the tragic events of that night 40 years ago, an important gesture of Israelis taking responsibility for their government's actions. We will also sign a petition calling on the UN to implement Security Council Resolution 252, adopted in the wake of the quarter's demolition (termed "urban improvement" by Israel's UN Ambassador), which "Urgently calls upon Israel to rescind all such measures already taken and to desist forthwith from taking any further action which tends to change the status of Jerusalem." We will then walk from the Mughrabi Quarter to the site of a demolished home in the village of Silwan, where we will commence our building campaign.

We Need Your Help!

Our campaign will succeed only if we can mobilize world public opinion. We need groups and individuals throughout the world to place ads in their local newspapers, even if it is in local religious or community publications. This can be done before or after June 11…

ICAHD-USA is currently producing an ad for the New York Times which will be ready in the next week. If you would like to have a copy or would like more information regarding the campaign in the USA, please contact ICAHD-USA at, 919-277-0632.

And, of course, we always need financial support, especially for ads and other materials necessary for keeping our campaign in the public eye as it develops.

ICAHD will launch the campaign with help from you, our supporters in Israel and abroad. But monitoring its progress is equally important. This opposition to Israeli government policy will not go unanswered. We will only succeed in challenging the Occupation if public attention is focused on our nonviolent resistance and, at every turn, our supporters throughout the world mobilize public opinion and their governments. Together we can cause the unjust structure of Occupation to collapse, thereby releasing the Israeli and Palestinian peoples to find a just and sustainable resolution to their more than century-old conflict – and the world as a whole to move on to address the grievances of the wider Middle East, thus bringing a measure of hope, stability and reconciliation.

In Solidarity,

Jeff Halper (ICAHD Coordinator) and Lucia Pizarro (International Coordinator)
Israel Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD)
PO Box Jerusalem, Israel
email: info[at]

Posted by jackbradiganspula at 11:04 EDT
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Wednesday, 6 June 2007
No sense of history
Topic: urban issues

The Duffy Administration has opened a new front in its campaign to unravel Rochester’s historical fabric. Along with the real bulldozers taking down hundreds of old houses in the Crescent (“decrepit,” Mayor Bob Duffy calls them, a word never attached to even the lowliest and shakiest structures in trendy areas like Corn Hill), there now are figurative bulldozers taking down the intellectual structure of local history. Specifically, Duffy wants to downsize – effectively, to eliminate – the office of City Historian. To save around $50,000 a year, the mayor would ruin an institution that’s distinguished this city for decades and given the whole Community of Monroe a vital sense of self.

I’ve had my disappointments with this institution, for sure. Neither the late Blake McKelvey nor the current historian, Ruth Rosenberg-Naparsteck, has produced the kind of radical historiography that turns me on. For that, we’ve all looked to the excellent work of labor historians Jon Garlock and Linda Donahue, not to mention primary sources like Emma Goldman’s autobiography.

But really, Mister Mayor! What you’re doing to the Historian is comparable to what the county has done to the parks system: set it up for slow decline. Just as the county saved a few bucks by not hiring a professional arborist, you’re proposing to save a few nickels by demoting Rosenberg-Naparsteck and, in a sense, outsourcing the job. You’ll end up impoverishing Rochester and degrade one of its biggest attractions: a cultural base that’s exceptional among mid-sized cities.

Posted by jackbradiganspula at 10:38 EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 6 June 2007 12:56 EDT
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