Ithaca Blog

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Today (Sunday) Is The Day For Apple Harvest Fest

Yesterday the weather was just too annoyingly nice for the Apple Harvest Festival on the Commons to be anything but mobbed.

Today it is a little more realistically overcast (though not completely) and chill of climate, so the crowds should be diminished somewhat, but by no means entirely. You will have company, but will be able to move.

We walked around at 10:30 and the vendors are ready and music is playing. The air smells sticky and sweet. It will be a good day on the Commons. You should by all means avail.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Fracking Up NY Real Estate Values

The #1 e-mailed story in the NY Times right now is from the real estate section. It reports a drastic decline in the real estate market in upstate New York, from of the threat of  chemical drilling for gas, known as fracking, in the region.

A guy in Hancock can't sell a 5-bedroom house on 14 acres for $107,000. A fellow from Brooklyn looking for a weekend house in the Catskills will only consider properties near reservoirs, where fracking is banned. A family in Delaware County is putting off repairs to their 240-year-old house because it seems a poor investment now.

Fracking might be a good thing for gas corporations whose stockholders don't live here, and for politicians they pay off. For residents, it is a ruinous prospect for our environment, infrastructure, and finances.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Tonight's Football Prediction

The NFL's lockout of its professional, unionized referees comes to a hasty end tonight after an officiating debacle on Monday Night Football, by an amateur fill-in scab crew, horrified and galvanized a nation as few things can do, especially important things.

Tonight's nationally-televised game has real refs. Fans, and especially gamblers, can rest.

Our prediction has nothing to do with the score. The game is in Baltimore, a good blue collar town. (The opponent is Cleveland, another.) Our prediction is a standing ovation for the refs.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Ithaca Hours (and Ithaca) In The Washington Post

The Friday 21 September edition of the Washington Post published a travel piece on Ithaca that focused on local businesses and Ithaca Hours, the local currency.

Melanie D.G. Kaplan writes "The Impulsive Traveler" feature for the Post. She visited Ithaca coming home from Canada. She says she liked the colorful money in Canada and heard that Ithaca had its own currency, colorful both literally and figuratively.

Ms. Kaplan met with Stephen Burke of GreenStar Market and Angry Mom Records (ahem, and Ithaca Blog), and a board member of Ithaca Hours, and bought $50 worth of Hours from GreenStar to use around town.

As she notes, Hours are in a period of transition under new leadership, by Paul Strebel of Strebel Financial Planning, and many businesses (and people) in town are unfamiliar with the local currency. But she spent them for lodging, at La Tourelle, and for food at GreenStar, Ithaca Bakery, and Collegetown Bagels. 

Ms. Kaplan herself catches on to the idea of local currency pretty quickly. She writes, "Wal-Mart and Amazon don't accept them, so the money stays in town." She went to Ithaca Bakery rather than Starbucks because of Hours.

Beyond this angle, Ms. Kaplan writes enthusiastically about "this town as dense with brainpower as it is with composting bins...whose 25-year-old mayor gives up his car and turns his parking space into a miniature park, and whose townfolk are equally intense about saving the planet, killing the chain store, and promoting locally-produced you-name-it."

Thank you to Ms. Kaplan for a laudatory, peppy feature.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

We Like An Apple: Apple Harvest Fest, This Weekend

Ithaca's annual Apple Harvest Festival falls, at the start of Fall, not too far from the trees, on the downtown Commons, this Friday - Sunday.

The festival includes music, carnival rides, street performers, food vendors, beverage tastings, crafts, and a certain amount of what you might call apples.  "Lots of apples," says the festival's publicity, at,which also provides a full event schedule.

We hate to note it, but just as the weather is usually sublime for Porchfest, it is usually ridiculous for the Apple Fest, windy and cold and sometimes rainy. Apples are healthy, but maybe not necessarily lucky.

So, if the weather is good, come out and enjoy, and if it is bad, come out and support. It's the last big outdoor community event for a while.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Monday, September 24, 2012

Unending Little Dramas Of The Coffee Shop

At the Owl Cafe today, what was behind this reply from the customer to the proprietor after an innocent (if silly or pointless) question?

Customer: "Large black coffee for here."

Proprietor: "For here?"

Customer: "Well, not right here. Around here. I'll move somewhere else when I get it."

There are lots of possibilities, aren't there?

Steve Burke
reporting from over here
at the Owl Cafe
for Ithaca NY Blog

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

"Streets Alive!" in Fall Creek, Sunday 23 Sept.

Last Sunday, Porchfest celebrated music and the streets, in equal measure, with a hundred bands playing in Fall Creek, and many hundreds of people watching, riding bikes and walking, but no cars. It was nice.

This Sunday there's a similar event, called "Streets Alive!", on Cayuga Street. The street will be closed to car traffic between Court Street and the high school from noon til 4 p.m.

The event is sponsored by a bunch of local organizations. There will bikes provided, and bike repair demonstrations, and a raffle with prizes from bike and sports shops.

Alternatives to car transportation is clearly a theme. But so is simple fun. There will be an appearance by the local roller derby team, hula and hip-hop dancing, and street hockey. Spontaneity is also planned.

Let's hope the weather is as good as it was for Porchfest.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Porchfest This Sunday, 16 September

Porchfest, Ithaca's ultimate do-it-yourself musical event, has its sixth annual run this Sunday, 16 September, 1 - 5 p.m., in the Fall Creek and Northside neighborhoods.

There are lots of musicians in Ithaca, and at Porchfest they celebrate themselves and one another. It's just bands playing on their front porches and in yards and neighborhood parks.

111 performers are listed this year, the most yet in a growing event. They include such audinaries as Gunpoets, Richie Stearns and the Evil City String Band, Sim Redmond Band, the Grady Girls, and Tenzin Chopak. (Tenzin, one of the rising stars of the local music scene, got his start last year at Porchfest.)

Schedule and map are available at

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

A New Season, and More Toilets For Women, at the State Theater

Doug Levine, of the State Theater, was just here at Angry Mom Records/Small World Music, and we congratulated him on what looks like an excellent new season at the State starting this month.

He said thanks, but what he is really excited about is improvements to the women's bathrooms.

Doug explained (we were rapt) that the bathrooms were designed in 1928, and there have been changes in women's bathroom needs since then.

In the old days, Doug said, they were called lounges, and they were lounges. There was a lot of room for what Doug called "primping," which certainly sounds old-fashioned.

"Today, what you need are toilets." He looked at us meaningfully. "More toilets," he said.

We understood, and were happy for Doug. "Congratulations again," we said.

Meanwhile, the roster of shows, as we say, is pretty exciting too. This Sunday is Mary Chapin Carpenter. Two weeks later is the Carolina Chocolate Drops.

In October, shows include Judy Collins, Cat Power, Glen Campbell, aznd the Indigo Girls. In November, Citizen Cope, Bela Fleck with Richie Stearns and others in a "banjo summit," Matisyahu, and John Hiatt.

See the State's websites for more details and ticket information.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Canada Seeks Missing Maple Syrup

If, sometime soon, someone offers to sell you some maple syrup at a price that seems too good to be legit, you're right.

Canadian authorities report a "significant" theft from a major maple syrup plant in rural Quebec.

It reminds us of a story by Roddy Doyle, the Irish author of "The Commitments" and other books about working-class characters in Dublin.

A few guys who are basically honest family men, but desperate, steal a truck they believe contains thousands of bottles of olive oil.

Instead, it contains thousands of bottles of barbecue sauce. Needless to say, barbecue sauce is a much tougher fence anyplace, but particularly in Ireland, where barbecue cooking is not especially rampant.

The guys decide they must convince restaurateurs - their prospective customers - that barbecue sauce goes good with something people in Ireland like. They settle on tea.

The scene where the guys prepare tea with dollops of the sauce is hilariously winning. My recollection is that nothing gets sold.

Back to our original warning: if, sometime soon, someone mentions to you how well maple syrup goes with coffee, call the Canadian FBI.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog