Monthly Archives: November 2011

Tiptoe Through the Tulips


An article in the Amsterdam Recorder today (written by Jarrett Carroll) describes yet another incident of unnecessary discretionary spending of taxpayer money by Mayor Ann Thane.

Thane held a volunteer tulip planting event November 5, 2011, at the intersection of Guy Park Ave and Route 30 near Kirk Douglas Park. Many viewed this event as a last-minute campaign ploy by the Mayor to garner public support for her reelection. The public was led to believe that the tulips were donated by the Wrestling Hall of Fame.  We learned from the Recorder article that the majority of the tulips were purchased with taxpayer money. Since the amount ($379.16) was not included in the approved budget, the Mayor needed approval from the Common Council for the purchase. The proposal went to the Council well after the purchase was made and was rejected by the Council.

We also learned from this article that taxpayer money was also spent on the murals painted on the rose garden wall next to City Hall and in Kirk Douglas Park across from the Police Department.  We were led to believe this was an all volunteer effort at no cost to the taxpayers.  My pet peeve about the murals is that they were intended to improve blighted areas of the City that serve as our gateways (East End).  The East End was not adorned with these murals; again the effort went into beautifying City Hall.

At this years Mayoral Debate, Thane described her office as an “open book”, however that book can only be checked out by select individuals.  The rest of us must rely on what is presented to the general public. From my view the two are not on the same chapter, causing the divide between the citizens of Amsterdam to widen even more.

These incidents detract from what the Council should be accomplishing, like approving the proposed Zoning Ordinance changes or the Ward redistricting that was completed by Montgomery County Planning.

Categories: Amsterdam, Politics | Tags: , , , ,

Siri


Voice recognition technology has made major advancements over the past few years.  Early models that explored the ability to recognize single words were studied by IBM for military applications. The continued development of microchips and computer processors evolved simple one word recognition into a system of pattern recognition that understood phrases but required training the system to the individual users speech pattern. This was accomplished by reading a series of predetermined words into a microphone, enabling the program to learn an individual’s unique pronunciation.

Today we have Siri, the first commercial marketed artificial intelligence model that can recognize voice with uncanny accuracy without training.  Siri takes it a step further by being able to understand and respond to those commands using a voice of its own and a sense of humor.

Apple included Siri technology in its latest iPhone 4s. This voice recognition technology is also made available wherever keyboard input is required on the phone.  Trying to type on an undersized smartphone keyboard is no longer a problem. You just tap the keyboard’s microphone icon and speak what you need to type and the text is input for you.  This makes language translation simple and very useful on foreign trips.  Just pick a language, speak a phrase into the phone and the translation is played in seconds.  A personal interpreter with you whenever you need one.

You activate Siri by pressing and holding the center button on the iPhones’ face. After the tone you can start speaking. You can also activate Siri by just holding the phone to you ear.


Siri is also a personal assistant. It can execute a host of commands on the iPhone, like dialing numbers, composing and sending mail or text messages, playing music, finding stores or websites, mapping destinations from where you are now (GPS locator). The one I find most useful is making appointments on the calendar app.  Not only is the appointment placed on the calendar it is also synced with your computers through Apple’s iCloud technology.

As I mentioned before, Siri is programmed with a sense of humor.  Siri’s responses to certain questions are quite entertaining. Here are some examples of responses I experienced.

Open the pod bay doors Siri!

We intelligent agents will never live that down, apparently.

Beam me up Siri!

3G or WiFi?

Talk dirty to me Siri!

Sorry, I’m not able to do that. I’m pure as the driven snow.

Talk dirty to me!

Humus, Compost, Pumice, Silt, Gravel

In addition to Siri, the iPhone 4s also sports an upgraded processor and 8 megapixel camera with increased light sensitivity, face recognition and 1080p HD video recording.  All of the photos on my last post Change were taken with the iPhone 4s.  I also find the new camera to have increased color accuracy and exposure metering. iCloud technology makes your photos available on all of your devices just minutes after taking them. There is no longer a need to physically connect the phone to the computer. All software updates are now done wirelessly.

Siri technology exceeded my expectations. I upgraded to the iPhone 4s for the new camera but was pleasantly surprised to find just how useful (and entertaining) Siri could be.

Categories: Photography, Technology | Tags: , , , ,

Change


Change is inevitable, we can’t control it. Change does affect how we view, interpret and react to our environment. Whether it occurs rapidly in minutes or slowly over years, we learn to accept it or reject it.

A Tuesday night snowstorm turns to Friday morning fog over a period of days as temperatures gradually rise. When the sun quickly rises the fog  burns off in a matter of minutes.

The Thanksgiving holiday marks another year in our ever-changing lives.  We reflect on our families and notice how we have aged and how changing family dynamics affect our relationships.  Changes occur within ourselves as we respond to the progression of time.  Some people age gracefully and like a fine wine become more refined.  Others tend to  fear the changes that come with age and cling to any remnants of youth with a death grip.

I celebrated the holiday with my Dad this year in Hudson, NY.  Change was the major topic of discussion.  What was once a large gathering has morphed into just the two of us (and his dog Casey).  We discussed changes in the political climate,  our homes, our pets and our relationships with others.  We took Casey for a walk after dinner and talked about changes in the neighborhood.

Frank Skrocki and Casey

Columbia County Courthouse, Hudson, NY

East Court Street, Hudson, NY

St Mary's Church, Hudson, NY

St Mary's (rear view)

Court House architecture

Some things never seem to change, yet undergo changes that are so subtle they are barely noticeable. Other changes are so all-encompassing that they affect every aspect of our being.

My father has lived all of his 82 years in Hudson with a brief stint in the US Army during the Korean War.  He was born during the depression,  the first generation of Polish immigrants. He worked in the cement factories that were once the fabric of this industrial river town.  He learned to adapt to the changing industrial climate as the factories shut and Hudson began a downward spiral resulting in blight and poverty.  He watched Hudson’s rebirth as an Antique Center for the Northeast. Although resistant to that change, he again learned to adapt to a huge increase in the economy and property values.  With a downtown train station and close proximity to New York City, Hudson transformed into a weekend getaway.  Many blighted Victorian homes are now thriving bed and breakfast locations. The City’s main street (Warren) is now full of restaurants and shops. The arts and culture are now celebrated with pride.

The house my father bought in 1969 and remodeled over the years is hopelessly stuck in the 70’s, but that’s the way he likes it. The City he grew up in has changed all around him. I used to think my Dad would never change but over the years, found that was not the case.  The truth is, we have both changed and somehow found a middle ground that is surprisingly familiar and for that I am very thankful.

Categories: Family, Hudson, Photography | Tags: , , , , ,

Vandalism


I woke today to find this thoughtless act of vandalism perpetrated on the Goddess of Mercy Temple across from my house.

The World Peace and Health Organization made its presence known in Amsterdam, New York in 2010 when the Buddhist Order bought a number of abandoned properties including two former Catholic Churches.

The former St Michael’s Church was painstakingly restored by the order after the Catholic Diocese hired a private firm to strip the church of anything of value including stained glass windows, altars and pews doing much damage to the interior.

Goddess of Mercy Temple

The newly restored building was named The Goddess of Mercy Temple and the WPHO did a wonderful job building new altars and importing valuable statues from China that symbolize their faith.  They celebrated the newly restored temple in June 2010..

Goddess of Mercy Temple Interior

Goddess of Mercy Statuary

There has been much controversy surrounding the “occupation” of Amsterdam by the WPHO, some of it can be attributed to Xenophobia while the rest may be an issue of faith.  Although they live in a restored Jesuit dormitory in Auriesville, they maintain a presence in Amsterdam by holding classes in the former Lithuanian Catholic Church on East Main Street (Five Buddha Temple) and services in The Goddess of Mercy Temple on Grove Street.

WHPHO Headquarters in Auriesville, NY

Five BuddhaTemple

Several documented instances of vandalism to the properties owned by the WPHO over the past year and a half with two break-ins occurring this summer to the rectory building adjacent to the Goddess of Mercy Temple, have strained relations with the City of Amsterdam  The WPHO take these break-in personally, as an affront to their presence in the City which in turn (they claim) caused financial backers to withdraw from their ambitious project to transform Amsterdam into a city of peace and health.  This plan was revealed through several press conferences held in 2010.

WPHO Press Conference

The World Peace and Health Organizations continues its mission of wellness through a health dharma (Guang Huan Mi Zong) taught by their leader Holy Master Ziguang Shang Shi

Holy Master Ziguang Shang Shi

The WPHO owns 48 City properties and several other properties in surrounding communities. They continue to move forward with their mission, often at the cost of property maintenance and oversight.  This winter the majority of the group will be traveling back to China where they continue their mission of recruitment and finance, leaving only a skeleton crew to maintain the properties.

Categories: Amsterdam, Law, WPHO | Tags: , , , , ,

Last of the Leaves


Just about all the leaves are gone on Grove Street. With the unusually warm weather this year they seemed to cling on to the trees longer than last. I’ve been snapping a few photos with my iPhone for the past few weeks during the morning catwalk.

I find it ironic that my house is sandwiched between two churches.

 

My hedges produced these blue berries this year.

Ok this next photo was taken in August, but wouldn’t this rectory building from the former St Michael’s Church make a great homeless shelter? I know the City and Interfaith Partnership are looking for a place. Maybe a deal could be worked out with the Buddhists who own the building. It would help curb the urban decay here and bring some life back to the block.

All photos on this page taken with the iPhone4 are Copyrighted.  In fact I spent the better part of last weekend  organizing, registering and submitting copies of ALL my original blog photos with the US Copyright Office.

Categories: Amsterdam, Pets, Photography | Tags: , , , , ,

Four Years Seem Like an Eternity!


I find it ironic that the Ann Thane campaign is using the goals created for Amsterdam’s Comprehensive Plan , as uniquely her ideas for the future of Amsterdam,
without crediting the original authors of the plan.

The Comprehensive Plan was created under Mayor John Duchessi Jr.’s administration that included a Common Council composed of Joe Emanuele III, Anthony Pallotta, Vincenzo Nicosia, William Wills and James Martuscello.
The Comprehensive Plan Committee was composed of Michael Chiara as Chairman, Bob Fetterly, Vice Chairman, Mark Zumbolo, Bob DiCaprio, Anthony Duchessi, Doug Nadler, Mike Palmer, Joe Emanuele III, Fr James Gulley, Dr, Ronald Marsh, Walt Curran, Diane Hatzenbuhler and Todd Fabozzi.

Ann Thane was not involved with the plans creation or any other part of public service until elected Mayor in 2008. Mayoral candidates Joe Emanuele III, William Wills and 4th Ward Alderman candidate Diane Hatzenbuhler CAN claim the goals of the Comprehensive Plan as theirs.

My personal experience with Mayor Ann Thane’s censorship  is chronicled here:

http://gskrocki.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/censorship-rears-her-ugly-head/

I am not alone in this opinion, it has occurred with others as well. Government Officials should have a policy of open communication that supports our Constitutional right to Freedom of Speech.  Any citizen who emails or writes their elected representatives should have their questions or comments respectfully answered, not ignored.

Receiving no responses, my inquires were literally ignored by Mayor Ann Thane. This was a factor that contributed to establishing The Grove Street Grumble to speak for me.

Freedom of Information and Freedom of Speech are ideals that I hold dearly as should any American citizen. I expect the person elected the next Mayor of Amsterdam will also recognize their importance. Censorship should never be an act of an elected government official sworn to uphold the Constitution and laws of New York State.

http://gskrocki.wordpress.com/2011/02/17/transparency-in-city-government/

http://gskrocki.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/freedom-of-speech-2/

CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?

Unfortunately Ann Thane cannot handle controversial questions or issues, preferring to ignore them in hopes that they will just go away. As critical as she has been about local blogs and WCSS radio, she participates in both to further her agenda, using her position to help silence the Bob Going and Mike Chiara radio show on WCSS as shown in the following link.

http://rgoing.livejournal.com/456725.html

Bob Going, Mike Chiara, Gavin Murdock and Jim Nicosia now broadcast live every Friday morning from 10am-12n at the Go Where I’ve Bean Coffee Shop on Church Street in Amsterdam, NY, run by Mayor Ann Thane’s first executive assistant Sue Blazejewski.  The show is re-broadcast from their website so you can listen at your leisure.

Did anyone forget the Uri Kaufman debacle, or Mayor Thane wishing her fellow Common Council members’ demise at the bottom of the river? That doesn’t say much for her ability to work as part of a team.  Refusing to let go of the Chalmers development scheme after the public repeatedly said no, reflects an inability to listen to will of her constituency.

http://gskrocki.wordpress.com/2011/02/08/a-chalmers-lovehate-story/

How about the time Ann Thane tried to raise our water rate by 37%?

http://gskrocki.wordpress.com/2011/04/25/30-pieces-of-silver/

http://gskrocki.wordpress.com/2011/05/16/the-people-speak/

Or failed to address the socio-economic concerns of our ever-growing Latino Community?

http://gskrocki.wordpress.com/2011/03/26/jesus-take-the-wheel/

Still Doesn’t Know the Job of Mayor

http://gskrocki.wordpress.com/2011/06/09/queen-ann-makes-another-appearance/

 

Cited by NYS Department of Labor for Serious Workplace Violations and Ordered to Comply with remedial action by 12/05/2011.

 

PDF download of the violation is available in the following link (note only the odd numbered pages were posted to employees):

NYSDOLviolations

The Recorder got it right Four Years Ago

http://gskrocki.wordpress.com/2011/10/28/prediction-or-prophecy/

When you vote today, just say NO to four more years of the same dysfunctional lack of leadership.

Categories: Amsterdam, Law, Politics | Tags: , , ,

Show Me the Money!


There is bound to be last-minute drama as the clock ticks down to Election Tuesday. The slugfest has already started. The current Mayor must be fuming over the Recorder, the City’s official newspaper, endorsing  her opponent Joe Emanuele III for Mayor of Amsterdam.  Ann Thane came out of her corner swinging as she accused Joe Emanuele of campaign finance fraud in her blog Amsterdancin’. In the post sleight of hand, Thane states:

I am baffled by the claim that Joe Emanuele is paying for his materials, when his NYS Board of Elections Campaign Finance Reports do not show this activity or the resources to produce them.

She goes on to suggest that we check the campaign finance reports and see for ourselves. So I did.

The latest reports listed on the site were the 11 Day Pre-General Election reports

Friends of Joe Emanuele, 49 Coolidge Road, Amsterdam, NY 12010, listed as the committee managing the Emanuele campaign finances.  (Joe Emanuele’s address)

The Emanuele campaign took in a total of $13, 607.40 with $95.00 unitemized.

His largest contributor was CCS Telecom who donated $5,000 ($4,000 of that contribution is listed as being returned).

$2,518.00 from a fundraiser

$1000.00 from Hayes & Wormuth, Inc, 207 Wallins Corners Rd, Amsterdam, NY 12010

$500. from Theodore J. Danz

$100. from Casale Public Affairs who was later hired to manage Emanuele’s campaign eventually earning a total of $2,000 (so far reported)

Friends of Ann Thane, 2 Norris Street, Amsterdam, NY 12010, listed as the committee managing the Thane campaign finances. (Philip Lyford’s address)

The Thane campaign took in a total of $12, 192.00 with $4,792.00 unitemized and $1,500. owed to Phil Lyford her campaign manager.

Thane’s contributions came from a variety of sources:

The largest contributor were 4 members of the Raeburn family from Balston Spa and Lockport, NY who’s combined donations totaled $3,500.

$500. from Paul Tonko.

$300. from Legal Focus Consultants, 12 Stuyvesant Oval Apts MA, New York, New York 10009. Gee, who could that be?

$100. from RB Catering LLC, 3 Boulder Bend, Scotia, NY 12010 who soon after were awarded another 3 year contract for the Riverlink Café without going out for bid.

$150. from CT Mall ASS PC another contractor that does business with the City.

It looks like you have to give to a campaign fund to get hired. There are several examples of this on both candidates financial disclosures. I’m more uncomfortable with the unitemized contributions than what the candidates did or didn’t pay for advertising.

Categories: Amsterdam, Politics | Tags: , , , ,

Barbara S. Wheeler 4th Ward Supervisor


With determination and assertiveness, Barbara S. Wheeler has a driving passion to serve the people of Amsterdam. She truly cares about her community and is dedicated to overcoming obstacles, producing results. Barbara believes in shared services and consolidation of county government to save tax dollars.

Barbara is working to help reduce crime in the 4th Ward through a series of Ward meetings with the Alderman and the community.

Supervisor Wheeler is keeping her pledge to never vote for a tax increase.

Amsterdam is rich with cultural heritage. From the Chuctanunda Creek to the Mohawk River, our people reflect the same diversity that makes up the fabric of our City. Barbara S. Wheeler is working hard to preserve that heritage so it can be celebrated by her 8-year-old son Gabriel. Only a few credits away from a Bachelor’s Degree in History from SUNY Albany, Barbara earned an Associate Degree from Fulton-Montgomery Community College in 2009.

In addition to serving as 4th Ward Supervisor, Barbara S. Wheeler has served the public in the following ways:

• YMCA Board of Directors (2+ years)
• Cornell Cooperative Extension Board of Directors
• Law Review Board Committee
• Chairman of the Education and Government Committee
• FM Board of Trustees (2009)

Barbara S. Wheeler is running for reelection as Amsterdam’s 4th Ward representative on the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors.

Categories: Amsterdam, Politics | Tags: , , ,

Karl Baia 5th Ward Supervisor



Young, energetic and enthusiastic, Karl Baia has served Amsterdam’s 5th Ward with pride and dedication. He understands the needs of his constituency and has never voted to increase taxes. Karl Baia’s service has helped influence a new generation to stand up and make a difference in their community.

This year Karl pledges to adhere to the State mandated 2% tax cap and is committed to reducing spending by consolidating services.

Amsterdam’s 5th Ward is full of rich cultural heritage, from its turn of the century architecture to the Mohawk River. Karl Baia needs your vote to ensure these treasures will still be around fo his 8-year-old daughter Gabriella to enjoy.
In addition to serving as 5th Ward Supervisor, Karl Baia has served our citizens on the following committees:

• Montgomery County Planning Board
• Citizen’s Review Board and Charter Review Committee
• Former Chairman of the Amsterdam Civil Service Board
• YMCA Board of Directors
• Government Study Committee focusing on consolidation
• Chairman of the Economic Development Committee
• Worked to create local jobs

Supervisor Karl has always been there for me when I needed information or wanted to voice my opinion. He cares about the 5th Ward residents on both sides of the river and truly has our backs when it comes to issues that directly affect our Ward.   When the Thane administration befriended Uri Kaufamn and fought the scheduled demolition of the Chalmers Building, Karl had our backs by organizing a petition drive that helped stop Kaufman. Karl Baia was also one of the main organizers of the anti-graffiti drive that helped paint over damage done to our city buildings and homes.

Karl’s enthusiasm and willingness to stand up and make a difference for our City is commendable. Not may people of his generation have that fortitude, choosing instead to move on to other destinations.  Karl chose to stay in Amsterdam and make a difference by serving on the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors.

As a homeowner and resident of the 5th Ward,  my vote is going to reelect Karl Baia 5th Ward Supervisor.

Categories: Amsterdam, Politics | Tags: , , ,

Joe Emanuele Needs a Lesson


I have not received any campaign related material in the mail this year. However, it was recently brought to my attention that one of my photos was used in election campaign material without my knowledge, permission or license.

I was first made aware of this by Ann Thane’s blog entry where she described the image of her as “unbecoming”.  Owning a rather large collection of unbecoming images of the Mayor, I looked into the matter and confirmed it was, in fact my image.

The photo in question was a photo of Mayor Ann Thane that I took during a public meeting at the Riverfront Center on May 16, 2011, where the proposed increase in water fee and elimination of the 3% tax cap was being “discussed” by outraged Amsterdamians.

My intellectual property was illegally obtained from my blog and can be found here.

The Emanuele camp maintains that they legally used the photo because there was no Copyright notice on my blog. WRONG!

The posting of Copyright notice is not required, though often used by people in an attempt to ward off thieves.  Copyright is automatic and inherent when a photographer snaps that shutter and takes the photo. The registration of images with the US Copyright Office is also not required to enact Copyright law. It is helpful for tort action against violators.

The Emanuele camp is also not aware that all of my images contain owner information including Copyright notice embedded with each electronic image that can be seen with any photo editor.

These photos are someone’s work product. You wouldn’t think of stealing from a bank or department store, but somehow think it is OK to steal from the internet. It is NOT OK to use images from the internet for your own purposes. It is against Federal Copyright law.  Those images are the intellectual property of the photographer (yes even unbecoming images are intellectual property).

A link to the US Copyright Office can be found here.

I will be sending Joe Emanuele a cease and desist and letter along with a demand for payment (temporary license) for using my intellectual property in his campaign literature.  Consider this public notice.

Update:

Reporter Jarrett Carroll covered this story in todays edition of the Recorder. His story can be found here.

In his story, Sparks Fly Over City Mailer, Carroll identifies Vince Casale, Emanuele’s campaign manager as responsible for using my photograph to create the flyer.

Vince Casale, Emanuele’s campaign manager, said the photograph was taken from the Internet and falls under public domain, claiming permission was not necessary.

This is a common misnomer that is totally false. Public domain does not equate to “the Internet”. Public domain refers to items produced prior to 1923 or those who Copyrights have expired (Copyright has an initial lifespan of 70 years). Public Domain may also refer to works created by the government, like published laws.

But Vince Casale said the image was found online and is fair game.

There was no copyright on the photo. I checked for one because I deal with this sort of thing all the time,” he said. “There’s nothing there, there is no reserved rights or anything like that.

Thanks to the Berne Convention of 1988 a Copyright statement is not required.  At the moment of creation, when the artwork is “fixed” in some tangible form, copyright applies automatically. For a photographer, when you press the shutter release you are making a photo and gaining copyright to that photo at the same time. You don’t have to declare copyright or file any paperwork.

My camera provides additional protection by embedding a Copyright statement in each photo I take, including my name and year.

It looks like Vince Casale also needs a lesson.  Maybe Joe Emanuele should deduct the fee I am imposing from his salary.

 

Categories: Law, Photography, Politics | Tags: , , , ,

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