Ithaca Blog

Friday, December 29, 2006

Weekend Conte$t: New Year's Eve Song

Here's the Ithaca Blog weekend quiz from Small World Music:

Two ex-Beatles wrote songs about Christmas in their solo careers. One ex-Beatle, ever the contrarian, wrote one about New Year's. Name him.

The winner, selected at random from winning entries, gets a $10 gift certificate to Small World Music, 614 W. State St., down the driveway, Ithaca's hometown music store, the Cheapest and Best, the Exclusive Hipster Hangout Where Everyone Is Welcome, etc.

Special bonus opportunity with this week's question: Name the New Year's song in question, and get another 5 semolians tagged on to that gift certificate.

Send your entry directly to Small World Music:

Good luck and a Very New Year! -

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog and Small World Music

Thursday, December 28, 2006

New Year's Eve Weekend Fun

NYE is Sunday, but there seems to be a lot of merriment around town starting on Thursday.

Thurs. In the book world, maybe you've noticed, long titles with even longer subtitles are the trend these days. The reason is website hits. The more words in a title, the greater chance a web search will include it. We don't know if the same reason is behind longer entertainment listings. You can ask the band tonight, at the Common Ground: Colin Smith and Gregor Sayet-Bone Perform as the TalkToMes Acoustic. They play old-timey stuff and are a lot of fun. 1230 Danby Road, 8 pm.

Fri. Or, you can ask the band tonight at the Lost Dog Cafe: Oculus Holiday Party with Guests and Old and New Friends. 106 N. Cayuga Street, 9:30 pm. The party moves up east hill tomorrow night, to the Nines, 311 College Av., at 10 pm. Cornell is out, so there will be parking.

Sat. Nice short name, old familiar favorite: John Brown's Body, at Castaways, 413 Old Taughannock Blvd., 10 pm. The band has a new look, and presumably sound, with Kevin Kinsella leaving, and Elliott Martin handling the vocals. Lots of new material is promised.

Sun. The big New Year's show is at Castaways, with the Sim Redmond Band, recently back from Japan, and boasting (and boosting) a very popular new CD. They will be joined by IY, and the TalkToMes. 9:30 pm.

Another good NYE show is out at the Rongo, with local Americanans Mudbone and the Broken String Band. 9 pm.

And a little more homespun evening is offered by Kitchen Chair, who perform at a contra dance with potluck supper. The food is at 7 pm, and the dancing starts at 8:30. At the Women's Community Building, Seneca & Cayuga Streets.

Auld lang syne, you all -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Ford Legacies: Gerald's - and Betty's

The historical focus on the Ford administration, with Gerald Ford's death, is his pardon of Richard Nixon, which was full, unequivocal, and rapid, given within a month of Nixon's resignation, before charges could be responsibly rendered.

The rationale, which is discussed respectfully now, and probably will be for a period, is that President Ford saved the nation further turmoil and trauma from the Watergate scandal.

And surely he did. But at what cost? Journalists will debate it regularly for a while, and historians for years. Ultimately, we'll all decide for ourselves.

Meanwhile, the issue has an ironic counterpoint in the legacy of Betty Ford, who helped create new understanding of drug addicition by revealing hers, showing how truth heals, and how hiding from the truth is the real cause of trauma, and the inability to heal.

It's too bad Mr. Ford did not have the insight and courage of Mrs. Ford in deciding how best to heal a nation.

Let us pay our respects to Mr. Ford as a man. But let us honor Mrs. Ford as the better example of wisdom and leadership in this country.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, December 22, 2006

"Yule Blog" ??

A faithful reader writes to ask whether we will be posting a "Yule Blog" with ideas for wonderful gifts.

We appreciate the clever name, but we think for the most part we should leave the gift notions to people and their loved ones, and to their gift professionals (i.e. Santa; elves).

However, as gift para-professionals at Small World Music, we will advise our faithful readers that we are open on Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. - 6 p.m., and will open for a half-day on our normally-closed day of Sunday. That's Christmas Eve day, and we know from experience there will be a lot of frantic people looking around for meaningful but fun gifts. That's where we (i.e., where music) comes in.

Music is probably the least expensive gift that conveys emotion, and lasts, and everybody likes. Everyone likes food, but you can't have it and eat it, too. Books are nice, but they don't pack much emotional wallop, and they are not really a shared experience the way music is.

Beyond all this touting, we also want to remind our loyal readers that we have a present for you. Just mention Ithaca Blog at Small World Music and we will take 10% off your purchase price.

Our onliest other Yule Blog remark is that this really is the most wonderful time of year, when we all do things for one another, to create joy and light when otherwise it is most dark. Let us all count our blessings, and share them.

Happy holidays to you & yours -

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Jesus Christ Thrown Out of Church

This is an excerpt from a column by Jimmy Breslin a few years ago at Christmas. Breslin was at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York and saw them giving Christ the bum's rush at closing time.

Breslin says he saw it. He says it's not a metaphor.

We would print the whole column, if we had it. Here is a fragment.

- from "Sending Christ Into the Cold", by Jimmy Breslin

Christ slipped into a pew on the side aisle on the left-hand side. He looked like all the others who had nothing. In fact, he had less. At least the other homeless people had plastic garbage bags filled with whatever they owned. Christ sat with nothing.

When he gave up his life for this religion, it was a belief that honored the blind, the destitute, the lame. Now he sat in a church and looked ahead, far ahead, over the many rows, to an altar that sat under a steeple and was dedicated to gold.

They were in a palace away from the cold, the most famous church of the Catholics in America. It is supposed to represent the Lord's religion. On this cold night, one of the ushers said that the church closes at 8:35. Exactly.

"Nobody can stay?", an usher was asked.

"Church closes," he said.

Christ slipped out of a pew and followed the other homeless people out of the church. The ushers and cops didn't have the slightest idea who he is, and nobody running the huge church he was leaving knows anything about him, either.

They claim they do. They say they pray to him and try to act in his behalf. Last night, he was asked to leave and go out into the cold, just like any of the other homeless.


Doing something to ease poverty and stop violence in this world would make a fitting Christmas gift. To be in a position to do it, proves it is more blessed to give than to receive.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Conte$t Answer, & Winner

Nick J. of Ithaca was the randomly-selected winner of our most recent weekly contest, identifying George Carlin as the source of the funny quotes we posted last Friday. Nick wins a $10 gift certificate from Small World Music.

Nobody goes home a loser from Ithaca Blog, however. Simply mention Ithaca Blog at Small World Music, and you will get a 10% discount on purchases between now and Christmas.

Thank you, & watch for new contest each Friday!

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Monday, December 18, 2006

New Life for City Health Club?

Downtown Ithaca's health club, City Health, might not be closing after all.

After reports that poor finances would close City Health after decades of operation, Ithacans stepped forward to try to save the facility, with new and renewed memberships, and outright donations.

As Ithaca Blog reported last week, the news of the closing was met with dismay by Ithacans who enjoyed the casual, friendly atmosphere of the club, and appreciated the club's history of community service.

The response from the community delighted but also surprised the club, which is working on responses for the short and the long term.

The club asks that anyone interested in membership call the club's manager, Frank Henry, at 273-8300.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, December 15, 2006

Weekend Conte$t: Mystery Guest

Identify the source of the following quotes to win this weekend's contest:

- No one can ever know for sure what a deserted area looks like.

- There ought to be at least one round state.

- In comic strips, the person on the left always talks first.

Hints: (1.) He hosted the first broadcast of Saturday Night Live, in 1975. (2.) He will be appearing at the State Theater next month.

Send your answer to A winner will be randomly selected for a $10 gift certificate to Small World Music. Just in time for the holidays.

Beyond the contest winnings possibilities, Small World is currently offering a 10% discount to all Ithaca Blog readers. Just mention it and it's bargaintime for you. See previous posting for details about it, or us (if you are detail-oriented) .

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog and Small World Music

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Weekend Activities, Dec. 15 -17

If you have time to do much recreational stuff this weekend, either you should run an organizing service, or you are dedicated to the arts, or you have the ability to forget things in a benign way. We admire all these qualities.

Friday: The biggest, nicest show of the pre-Xmas weekend figures to be the Three Irish Tenors: A Christmas From Dublin, at the State Theater. These are not the 3 more famous Irish Tenors you might know from TV, but they have large performing and singing pedigrees, beyond being Irish, which actually is generally good enough. Do you know any three Irish guys who will not sing, if the conditions are right? ... You can get a little more better description than this on the State Theater's website. But here is my recommendation: I will be there! 8 p.m.

Local heroes Donna the Buffalo and the Sim Redmond Band have a slightly out-of-town show at the Magic City Music Hall in Johnson City. The hall is located on Harry L Drive, or is it Harry L Drive Drive? You might want to call the venue, at 797-0178. 8 pm until, we imagine, late.

Saturday: Here's what we mean about the Irish and singing: the other gender takes their turn tonight, with those three warbling lasses, the Burns Sisters, in their annual holiday concert. At Club Euphoria, Cayuga & Seneca Streets, 8 p.m.

If you don't have time for anything but shopping, but you are music-minded, come visit Small World Music, and avail yourself of a 10% holiday discount just by mentioning Ithaca Blog. 614 W. State St., down the driveway, 11 a.m. - 6 p.m. 256-0428.

Have fun -
Steve Burke
foe Ithaca Blog (and Small World Music)

Offer for Ithaca Blog Readers from Small World Music

Get 10% off your holiday purchases at Small World Music by mentioning Ithaca Blog!

We want to do something special for you, and we want to know who you are! Mention Ithaca Blog at Small World Music, 614 W. State St. (down the driveway), and get 10% off all your purchases between now and Christmas.

Small World is Ithaca's hometown music store. That means you will find music here you will love. Local, world, reggae, bluegrass, country, blues, gospel, jazz, African, Latin, and more, not to mention rock & pop, including all the latest releases (right now, for example: Tom Waits, Indigo Girls, Yusef (Cat Stevens), Madeleine Peyroux, Bob Dylan, Tony Bennett, Hazmat Modine ... and, need we say, more).

Small World also sells used CDs, and LPs, so there is plenty of music at every price range. We always beat list price on all releases. Best and Cheapest, is our motto (one of our mottos).

Music is probably the least expensive gift you can buy that carries an emotional component. Isn't it? Books are good, but they cost more, and they don't make you get up and dance. Candles are cheaper, but they burn away.

So come take care of some holiday business, and save money via Ithaca Blog. Thanks for reading, and we look forward to seeing you.

Steve Burke
for both

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Micro-Loans and Peace, and Ithaca Efforts

The 2006 Nobel Prize for Peace was notable for going not to a negotiator of treaties, but of loans to the poor.

Thirty years ago, Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh, moved by the hunger and poverty in his famine-struck country, began making small, unsecured loans to poor neighbors.

His immediate motivation was meeting a local woman who borrowed less than a dollar from a money-lender to help run a business. The money-lender required exclusive rights to buy all she produced at a price he chose. Yunus said, "This, to me, was a way of recruiting slave labor."

So, Yunus acted. He gathered the names of other "victims", as he called them, of this money-lender. He found 42 of them, who had borrowed a total of $27. He offered them $27 from his own pocket - in his words, "to get these victims out of the clutches of those money-lenders.

"The excitement that was generated among the people by this small action got me further involved in it."

Yunus went to a local bank to discuss starting a program. "But that did not work," he says. "The bank said that the poor were not creditworthy." So Yunus offered to guarantee the loans. "I was stunned by the result," he says. "The poor paid backs their loans, on time, every time."

Despite the success of the effort, Yunus could not persuade the bank to adopt the program. It was considered insufficiently profitable. Yunus says, "That was when I decided to create a separate bank for the poor, and in 1983, I finally succeeded in doing that. I named it Grameen Bank, or Village Bank."

Grameen Bank made loans to people without collateral. Recipients were required only to supply the names of 5 people who would vouch for them. The idea was that a public declaration by the recipient to repay the loan would suffice.

Today, Grameen Bank has made over $6 billion in loans, to 7 million borrowers, who then become co-owners of the bank. The repayment rate is 99%.

Yunus and the Grameen Bank were awarded the prize for peace, in the words of the Nobel committee, because "lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways to break out of poverty. Micro-credit is one such means." Yunus notes, "Half the world population lives on two dollars a day. Over one billion people live on less than a dollar a day. This is no formula for peace.

"By giving us this prize, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has given important support to the proposition that peace is inextricably linked to poverty. Poverty is a threat to peace."

Ithaca has two organizations that follow the example of the Grameen Bank - less dramatically, certainly, but diligently.

The Alternatives Federal Credit Union mission statement says it is "dedicated to economic justice." Alternatives has many programs and services for those traditionally underserved by banks.

The Individual Development Account, for example, matches savings for education, a house, or business, 2 to 1. When an individual saves $1000, the Credit Union will match the savings with $2000.

Ithaca Hours is a local currency program that addresses the problem of insufficient money in Ithaca by creating new money to be spent in Ithaca.

Ithaca Hours are notes which are used exactly like cash. Members join the organization by paying $10, or one Ithaca Hour, each year. Members receive a listing in the Hours Directory that advertises a service or goods that will be traded either wholly or partially for Hours. Members also receive, for their annual dues, two Hours, worth $20.

Hours thus stimulate local business by creating new money - an actual new stream of wealth - that stays in Ithaca.

At very low cost, the Directory provides advertising for people who moonlight skills or services, as well as for small businesses that cannot afford Yellow Pages or other advertising.

Hours give an advantage to local businesses competing with large national chain stores from out of town that do not accept the local money.

And, in a close mimicking of the Grameen Bank, Hours makes loans of the currency interest-free to members, without collateral or an extensive application process.

For more information about these organizations, see their websites. (Ithaca Hours is Beware of a site called that is not connected with Ithaca Hours.)

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

New York Santa Claus Conte$t Answer

In last week's contest, we were looking for the 19th century literary New Yorkers who helped shape the modern image of Santa Claus.

They were: Washington Irving, who detailed (and adapted) Dutch portrayals of Saint Nicholas in "A Knickerbocker's History of New York"; Clement Clark Moore, a Professor at the Episcopal General Theological Seminary in New York, widely credited with the authorship of "A Visit From St. Nicholas", a.k.a. "The Night Before Christmas"; and Francis P. Church, author of the "Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus" editorial for the New York Sun.

(We accepted "the guy who wrote..." for each of these works, being more interested in the works than the authors.)

The randomly-selected winner is Stefanie N., who gets a $10 gift certificate to Small World Music.

A new contest every Friday!

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Saturday, December 09, 2006

City Health Club to Close

City Health Club on W. Green St. will be closing this month, after 25 years as Ithaca's downtown health club.

Owner Tony Lieb declined to give any reason for the closing beyond a drop in memberships. But two new health clubs downtown, one located to the east and one to the west of City Health, probably contributed.

Finger Lakes Fitness Center in the Commons is a little sleeker, ostensibly with lower overhead costs. At the other extreme, Island Health and Fitness, on the west end, is a huge space, with over 35,000 feet, a swimming pool, a cafe, and a child care service.

City Health seems to have got caught in the middle.

The venerable club will be missed by members who appreciated its convenient location and casual, neighborhood style.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, December 08, 2006

Weekend Conte$t: Santa Claus in NY

Santa might live in the North Pole, but much of his identity, as construed in the U.S., was forged by writers and artists in New York in the 19th century.

We'll mention one prominent example, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon will be there, in your mind, spurring you to think of another:

Thomas Nast, the great illustrator for Harper's Magazine, consolidated details of Santa's appearance to render the version we know today (black boots, big belt, sack on back, sleigh with reindeer).

Think of one other (hint: the three we have in mind are all literary, not graphic), and you will be eligible for a randomly-selected prize of a $10 gift certificate from Santa's helpers at Small World Music. Send your entry directly to SWM at

Ho ho,
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Weekend Action, Dec. 8 - 10

Friday: If winter weather doesn't faze you, the Night Eagle Cafe in Oxford is a great destination for a musical road trip, and tonight's performer, Bill Staines, is worth a journey. The Cafe is a venerable music spot, at 6 Lafayette Pl. in Oxford. Showtime is 8 p.m. Phone is (607) 843-7378.

Saturday: A customer at Small World Music remarked this week, looking at our Bulletin Wall, "How many things can a person do on December 9?". We weren't sure if he meant himself, or Richie Stearns, as Richie is playing at Old Time Dance Night at Close Hall in Jacksonville, with Steve Selig et al., at 8 p.m. ; and at Castaways at 9:30 p.m. Maybe Rich will go on late at Castaways, as the bill also features the M Shanghai String Band, from the old-timey borough of Brooklyn, and Uncle Monk, a punk-bluegrass duo featuring Tommy Ramone, of the Ramones. Yes of course those Ramones!

Sunday: Jennie Stearns has a CD release concert for her new effort, "Birds Fall," which features production help from Gurf Morlix, who also produced Lucinda Williams. 7 p.m., Felicia's Atomic Lounge, 508 W. State St.

There's more great old-time music up the street, at Maxie's (635 W. State St.), at 8 p.m., when members of the Horse Flies get together under the guise of Dorothy's House Flies. It's part of Maxie's Shuck'n'Jive series, and there is no admission fee.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Car Sharing Money Awarded to Ithaca

Ithaca Carshare has been awarded $177,220 by New York state to start a car sharing operation in Ithaca next year.

Car sharing is a transportation innovation that provides access to cars on a temporary basis, without the costs or cares of ownership.

The grant money from the state reflects a growing interest in car sharing as a transportation alternative that will ease traffic congestion, benefit the environment, and lessen transportation costs for individuals.

There are about two dozen car sharing operations in North America. Ithaca will be among the smallest cities to develop car sharing.

Ithaca Carshare applied for the grant money last year and considered the grant crucial to inception.

Ithaca Carshare has developed with the help of private and public organizations in Ithaca, including the City of Ithaca, Tompkins County, Cornell University, Ithaca College, and EcoVillage of Ithaca.

For more information on car sharing, see previous postings on Ithaca Blog, and Ithaca Carshare's website,

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Donut Wars, Round 2

We're trying to be equitable and have a fair fight here between neighboring coffee-and places, Dunkin' Donuts and Collegetown Bagel Express.

Yesterday we visited CTB-Ex, and made a favorable report.

Today we went to Dunkin' Donuts, but come back empty-handed, despite a legitimate effort. We spent over 5 minutes in D.D., but had to split without being served.

There were simply too many people in there. Not, unfortunately, because they were coming in so fast, but because they were going out so slow.

D.D. is not skimping on the staff size. There were 8 people back there, at the counter and the drive-thru window. But - understandably - they seemed a little lost with the products and procedures. It's only been open 3 days.

We will return for another try. Meanwhile, we can report on one dismaying thing, a familiar phenomenon and, if you've seen the movie "Supersize Me", or are familiar with the issues in the movie, a troubling one.

We had plenty of time on line to scan the menu, and D.D. has a pricing stucture that rewards you for ordering big. My planned order, a donut and a small coffee, costs over two dollars. But look up on the menu board, and you see that a medium coffee and two donuts are bundled as a menu item that costs only about 40 cents more. Sp you feel like a sucker not ordering large.

A little insidious, especially for the cheapskate customer (right here). But also a little serious, you know. After all, these donuts are not that nutritious, although caloric. And black coffee (my style) has no calories, but some of the fancy coffee drinks offered are up in the paints for empty calories. In fact, the drinks can be more fattening than the donuts. A medium Vanilla Bean Coolatta, for example, has more calories than three donuts, and more than 5 times the saturated fat. So be careful!

We'll try, try again for a freshly-brewed consumer report.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Donut (and Coffee) Wars: Round 1

In our prior post, we promised a scrutinizing series on the new Dunkin' Donuts drive-thru and walk-in on Meadow Street, and its veteran next-door neighbor, the Collegetown Bagels Express.

Well, we didn't wait long to get started. We took a trip there this afternoon for a preliminary look.

The first thing that struck us was the long line of vehicles at the D.D. drive-thru window. Eight vehicles, in the middle of the afternoon.

We say vehicles because only one was a car. The rest looked like tanks, although we suppose they were only S.U.V.'s, but in that number looked like a sortie.

And our first thought was, people after donuts must be big people. Above-average, big people.

You can probably get that way pretty easily as a drive-thru donut place patron.

We went inside and saw two customers at the counter. So there is no way the service at the drive-thru was faster than service inside. The attraction of the drive-thru seems to be not having to stand up in one's quest of donuts. Which seems like a cause for a good, hard look in the mirror, so to speak.

At CTB, there was one car at the drive-thru. A sedan, regular-sized. There was a young woman at the wheel and she seemed regular-sized, and was smiling.

Inside there were three customers and they were all smaller than me, and I am a Large, but just barely - not a Behemoth. They were also smiling.

We are already seeing a trend.

You can see for yourself at a bargain price this week. The CTB Express has a coupon in the Ithaca Journal every day this month (we think) for a free 12-ounce coffee. No other purchase required. We think it is co-incidental to the Dunkin' Donuts opening. But it is fortuitous for research purposes.

We availed ourselves of a French Roast, and bought a Brownie, so as not to appear cheap. Also, because it is a Brownie. And we took them back to work, and the coffee was cooled down nicely, and went very good with that Brownie, and eased our afternoon work quite a bit.

So, Round One definitely goes to CTB. Tomorow we will see what Dunkin' Donuts has got in its bag o' tricks.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Donut Wars

A new and explosive expansion of Dunkin' Donuts from their New England headquarters made news on National Public Radio this morning, and we are seeing an example of it here in Ithaca.

The angle on NPR was that Dunkin' D. is moving into the southern states, long the bastion of the legendary Krispy Kreme.

You might think you don't like donuts, and you might be sure, but if you have never had a Krispy Kreme, you have not really been put to the test.

I don't particularly like donuts, myself, but I lived in the south for a while, and can tell you Krispy Kreme is scary, like scary drugs.

As with drugs, it's not a question of liking, it's a question of succumbing. Chris Rock has a routine about Krispy Kreme, speculating that their main ingredient is crack cocaine.

As Keith Richards says, it's easy getting in, but it's a hard way out.

The angle here in Ithaca is that D.D. has opened a franchise on Meadow Street, right next to Collegetown Bagels.

It is more approximately a coffee war than a donut war. But it is an aggressive move by the out-of-town interloper.

The CTB location is their one and only drive-thru. With the plethora of good coffee places in town, it seemed like a competitive edge.

Now the edge of their property is a border with this decades-old mega-franchise. With a drive-thru.

Until now, the closest Dunkin' Donuts was in Owego. And it's not even a drive-thru.

A cursory look at the prices at both establishments shows CTB a little cheaper for everything: coffee, bagels, donuts, etc.

Will cheaper prices, hometown status, and a good product be enough for CTB to compete with the clout of a national chain with a huge advertising budget, the legacy of the guy who made the donuts, and very, very bright awnings? With 5 outlets in Ithaca, CTB is not used to the position of underdog.

In the interests of conscientious journalism, this week Ithaca Blog will do a comparison gorge at each establishment, and bring you the report.

Don't worry. We can quit anytime we want to. Just like Keith.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Conte$t Winner

Winner of last week's contest, and $10 gift certificate to Small World Music, was A.N. from Brooktondale.

There is no correct answer to reveal, as the question was about motivational psychology. But we can report the results, that most of our responders tackle tasks they find least odious first, and leave less pleasant ones for later.

We thought it might be about 50-50 between that, and people who like to get the less pleasant things out of the way. Nope. It was about 80-20.

A fresh, pleasant contest every Friday!

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, December 01, 2006

Conte$t: Personality Quiz

This week's contest, sponsored by Small World Music, isn't a quiz question. It's a nosey question, in the interest of personality psychology.

All you have to do is answer to be eligible for the weekly prize of a $10 gift certificate to SWM, Ithaca's community music store, down the Driveway of Winning at 614 W. State Street.

Here's the (2-part) question:

When faced with two tasks, of similar importance and requiring similar effort, which will you do first, the one you don't like so much, or the one you don't mind as much? Why?

Answer in 3,000 words or less for the prize. The winner will be randomly selected. It doesn't matter what your answer is, but you will be disqualified if you correct us by saying that the proper expression is 3,000 words or fewer. We know that, but it is less euphonious.

Send your answer directly to Small World Music at

The Ol' Professor
for Ithaca Blog

Meaningful Holiday Giving

Ithaca has some opportunities to do something beyond shopping for Playstations for the holidays.

The Ithaca Craft Alliance has its 18th annual holiday festival at the Women's Community Building this weekend. They deck the halls with crafty gift items from scores of local artists. There's live music and free admission. Friday 11 - 6, Saturday 10 - 5.

Down the block, at St. John's Episcopal Parish Hall, is something a little different: an Alternatives Gift Fair, where rather than buying anything, you make a donation to a worthy cause. "Honor friends and relatives with donations to causes that fit their values", they say.

There are over 100 opportunities for helping. $20 to Hospicare provides medical supplies not covered by insurance for a Hospicare patient. $10 to the Learning Web provides an hour career counseling session for seven at-risk youths. $25 to the Women's Opportunity Center helps provide dental care for a client (their "Toothfairy Fund").

The Alternatives Gift Fair raised $14,000 last year. You can help raise that figure this year and demonstrate the value of love and sharing. The event is Saturday 2 December, 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.

P.S. Please also see comment linked to this post about the Syracuse Peace Council Craft Fair.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Barring False Imprisonment

Did you ever contemplate being imprisoned for something you didn't do?

Bad, right?

Under the Bush administration it happens not by occasional failure of justice, but as a matter of policy.

Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen, was abducted by the CIA on 31 December 2003. He was taken to a secret prison in Afghanistan and tortured and held for 5 months.

El-Masri still doesn't know why.

He has come to the U.S. for answers. Earlier this week, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the CIA on his behalf.

America has long stood as a country where the rule of law guarantees justice. It's what we work and pay taxes for. Not for the secrecy and brutality of a police state. Sorry, Messrs. Bush and Cheney.

The mid-term elections showed that Americans are waking up and standing up against the subversion of the Bush organization. The doors, it seems, are opening.

Locally, this weekend, there is an important presentation that opens the doors a bit more. "Guantanamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom" is a reading of actual testimony from former detainees at the U.S. prison maintained in Cuba, out of the reach of law.

The event is at the Greater Ithaca Activity Center (GIAC), at Albany and Court Streets in downtown Ithaca, Friday and Saturday Dec. 1 and 2, at 7 p.m. each night.

There will be a discussion with Gita Gutierrez, an attorney and professor at Cornell Law School, who represented one of the detainees featured in the reading.

The event is sponsored by a number of groups, including GIAC, Amnesty International, Ithaca Catholic Worker, and the Cornell Law School.

Call 273-7437 for more information.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog