Archive for April, 2006


Prom season is upon us. I have blogged previously about the excess that has become the right of passage known as the Prom. It has become, even for this product of Westchester County, astonishingly decadent.

Joanne Goldstein estimates spending $1,500 on her oldest daughter’s senior prom in 2004. She cringes at that figure, saying that in many parts of the Lower Hudson Valley the amount of money spent on the prom is out of control.

That is higher than the national average. This year prom-going couples will spend between $1,000 and $1,200, according to promspot.com, an offshoot of the wedding site theknot.com.

In terms of its importance and cost, the prom has taken on the air of a wedding rather than a simple teenage right of passage. Like a bride, many girls go for hair consultations to test their chosen style. Some dye their shoes to perfectly replicate the color of their dresses — something most bridesmaids only grudglingly agree to. (Goldstein’s daughter did it to match her bright blue dress.)

"(The) prom was very important to my daughter but (spending that much money) would not have been my choice," says Goldstein, of Armonk. "I sincerely believe as parents that we go overboard. It’s part of the culture of where we live. All of the girls feed off of each other."

As another blogger aptly put it, this must have been what Rome looked like towards the end. If these things are so valuable to these girls, I fear for my children.

One other pet peeve of mine: it is the prom, not simply prom. Ones says "I am looking forward to the prom, " not "I am looking forward to prom." Just my two cents.


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A driver in Colorado caused gridlock for the past 2 1/2 years by using a device only made for emergency vehicles that changes traffic lights green automatically.

The radar detector-sized gadget works by flashing an infra-red strobe light at traffic lights equipped with a special receiver.

The system, which is not in use in New York City, is designed to be used only by fire trucks and ambulances – not late-for-work motorists.

"I drive a lot, and getting through city traffic it definitely helped out there," said Niccum, adding that the device changed red lights to green in four or five seconds. "In hindsight, I’m kind of glad it got taken away."

He was nabbed after Longmont traffic engineers set up a video camera at the intersection after receiving complaints about gridlock. The camera recorded Niccum’s white Ford pickup going through the intersection whenever the light inexplicably changed.

"People think it’s comical, but the amount of people caught waiting during red lights created a long backup," traffic engineer Joe Olson told the Rocky Mountain News. "He was getting to work at the expense of thousands of others."

He was fined $50. For 2 1/2 years of inhibiting the commerce and productivity of others, to say nothing of the additional stress.  Gridlock has a domino effect that can cause people to go from being 5 minutes early to 5 minutes late, or worse. People could have lost jobs because of this troglodyte. He should have been guillotined.

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Germany agreed today to allow access to a vast trove of information on what happened to more than 17 million people who were executed, forced to labor for the Nazi war machine or otherwise brutalized during the Holocaust.

The German government announced at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum here that it is dropping its decades-long resistance to opening the archives in the town of Bad Arolsen. The files stretch for more than 15 miles, hold up to 50 million documents and make up one of the largest Holocaust archives in the world.

I had no idea that there were still sealed records- shows what I know. Germany, to their credit, has done a far better job of showing contrition for their war atrocities than Japan has. While this move is long overdue, better late than never. 

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Square Footage

Fannie Mae guidelines define the square footage of any home as that area which is "above grade," as in  above ground level. This means that if you have a 1500 square foot ranch with a finished basement, then your square footage is …1500 square feet. If you refer to your home as a 3000 square foot home because you put up knotty pine panelling and carpets downstairs, you are lying about your square footage. Why? Because, that’s why. Basement square footage is not considered living space, especially when there is no separate egress for fires. For the record, this is a 3000 square foot house:


As you can see, it has a full 1500 square foot walkout basement that spans the entire footprint of the house, making the usable square footage closer to 4500 square feet. But the owners are too smart to claim it has 4500 square feet, because then people would unfavorably compare it with this one:

This is over 5000 square feet, not including the basement, which, when I first saw it, gave me vertigo.

This house below is a 1500 square foot ranch with a finished basement whose owners think they are clever, but only succeed in antagonizing people who seek 3000 legitimate square feet:

Most people can tell the difference. Moral of the story: don’t lie about your property, because when people (especially the ones who can afford 3000 square feet) actually see it, they’ll know. And they’ll probably be annoyed.

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Why do web log authors feel compelled to refer to their spouse by some cutesy derivative of the blog name? Does anyone really think that Glenn Reynolds actually calls Mrs. Reynolds "Instawife" to her face? Why did he start that trend? From here on in, I promise to refer to Ann as "Ann." I toyed with referring to her as the Red Shmoogly Boogly Cupcake, but I think "Ann" will do. Call me boring. Or Phil.

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Happy Easter

I suppose I should announce when I’m not going to post for a while, but that strikes me planning spontaneity. Regardless, I appreciate the thousands of emails sent this past week asking if I was OK.

OK, so nobody emailed me! Andrew Clem did email the last time I was en absentia.

I hope you had/have a Happy Whateveryoucelebratethisweekend, and promise that the next time I get caught up in business that I’ll at least acknowledge it. For the record, our taxes aren’t done yet.

Incidentally, if you’ve been vaguely aware of this Gospel of Judas business and didn’t see the recent National Geographic special, Andrew Clem has a good, concise post on it which more or less echoes my thoughts on the subject.

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Dead Babies

It takes almost a year to adopt a baby. We attended some informational meetings on adopting a baby from China, supposedly an easier route than most, and it was packed. There aren’t more unwanted babies out there than adoptive parents that want them, not by a long shot. Yet the news lately is filled with tragic stories of abandoned babies, some of whom do not survive. This one from this a nearby town especially disturbed me.

MOUNT KISCO — It could take several days or a week to get the autopsy report of a newborn girl found in the debris cleaned from a village storm drain, the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office says.

"It is presumed that the baby was extracted from one of the catch basins that were cleaned by the Highway Department," Louis Terlizzi, Mount Kisco’s acting police chief, said yesterday. "That is what it appears to be right now, but we’re still investigating."

The baby was found about 2 p.m. Wednesday near a pile of sediment that had been sucked up by one of the village’s vacuum trucks.

A Highway Department worker had cleaned out catch basins with the truck a couple times on Wednesday and returned to the department yard off Columbus Avenue to dump the sediment, Terlizzi said.

The employee saw the body when he returned to the yard a third time to clean out the truck, the chief said.

"He initially thought it was a doll," Terlizzi said. "Upon closer inspection, he realized it was a baby."

Investigators hope the autopsy will determine when the baby died — and whether it was stillborn.

"The best-case scenario would be if it was a stillborn baby but, any way you look at this, there’s just no happy ending here," Terlizzi said. The highway worker was "visibly shaken" by the discovery, the chief said.


The baby girl’s discovery comes less than three weeks after a newborn boy was found alive in a plastic bag left in front of a Yorktown home. The baby was in a basket and covered with a blanket inside the bag, which had holes cut in it. He was treated at Hudson Valley Hospital Center in Cortlandt and released to child welfare officials.

His mother, Krishnia Schiaffino, 30, of 470 E. Main St., Jefferson Valley, was charged with felony child abandonment.

Schiaffino is not some destitute, at risk individual living on the fringe of society. She’s married and the mother of an 8-year old. Her husband was possibly unaware of the pregnancy. But it isn’t just that.

NEW YORK — A woman whose premature daughter died minutes after birth, and whose tiny corpse was later found mixed in with hospital laundry, has filed a negligence lawsuit against the hospital, her attorney said Thursday.

Verna Uptigrow, 35, of Queens Village, says she suffers from nightmares and depression following the death of her baby, named Isabella Rosa Pickney. The infant weighed less than a pound and only survived about 30 to 45 minutes after she was born on Feb. 19, said Uptigrow’s attorney, Dan Flanzig.

"I did get to hold her, I got to feel her breath on my lips," Uptigrow said at a press conference announcing the lawsuit. "I told her I loved her, I told her happy birthday, and then they took her…"

Days after arriving home from South Nassau Communities Hospital, Uptigrow was told by her obstetrician that the infant’s body somehow ended up mixed with the hospital’s dirty linens.

Shouldn’t someone have kept their eye on the ball so that a woman who just lost her newborn can give the child a decent funeral, or to at least dispose of the remains in a respectful way? I know what we went through when we suffered a miscarriage at 11 weeks. I cannot fathom the mother’s grief. I’m sure that nobody meant for that babies body to go out with the dirty laundry, literally. But what does this say about our society?

Pro choice advocates probably view these abandonment stories as a reason why we should keep abortion legal, but believe me, in New York it is easier in some ways to get an abortion than it is to buy cigarettes or use a tanning booth.

This may be a very predictable thing to come from a pro life guy like myself, but is this not symptomatic of a society where forces have tried for decades to convince us that babies are not human until the cord is cut? If you have that mentality, what’s five minutes, one way or the other, especially if you are desperate?


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