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Long Story Short: Tails of summer

illustration by JP Thimot


Dog gone it

Is it my imagination, or has dog barking become more prevalent lately? Probably my imagination, but on my street, dogs are yapping even as I write this. Across the street and a couple doors down is a shrill little furball that acts as an unwelcome 6:30 a.m. daily alarm. The canine wake-up call is augmented by its owner who repeatedly yells at the dog to shut up. Hard to say which is more annoying.


Two tiny dogs recently moved into the house directly across the street, with their new owners. The owners seem nice, but the antisocial doggie pair yap in unison through the front window whenever someone walks by, which can happen dozens of times a day. Recently, there was a dog on a second-floor porch a block away barking continuously for several hours. A retriever resides on the corner, and another one across the street, but they’ve been quiet lately, perhaps believing that the newer yappy models have assumed responsibility for annoying the neighborhood. There are two poodles on the other corner, which bark as they jump almost to the top of their containment fence, though they have calmed down lately. Dog owners walking their pets down the street often set off a cacophony of barks, yelps, and woofs, with an occasional growl thrown in for good measure.


We’re no better

Years ago, my wife and I owned an Italian Greyhound that barked from our second-floor window when I left for work and my wife went to the bus stop with our son. We had no idea it was happening until a neighbor finally complained. We were embarrassed, especially since they thought we were aware of problem and allowed it to continue. It taught me not to automatically assume that your neighbors are inconsiderate assholes. It also taught me that the first step to addressing a nuisance barker is to talk with the owner. Experts say you should offer positive suggestions that might resolve the problem. I think about saying things like, “You know, my friend Tom had the same problem, and he had his dog’s vocal cords surgically removed.”


If constructive suggestions don’t work, the next step is mediation. Child and family Services offers mediation services to “help neighbors restore harmony in the community,” which would seem to fit the bill, but you have to think they might have bigger problems to resolve, like persuading people on Grape Street to stop shooting each other.


In Buffalo, there are laws regarding dogs that disturb the peace. Here’s the specific wording: “Each owner of a dog shall prevent such dog from disturbing the comfort and repose of any person in the vicinity by frequent or long-continued barking, howling or other noise. In determining whether a particular sequence of noises constitutes a violation of this section, other relevant factors, in addition to frequency and duration, shall be considered, including but not limited to time of day, general noise level of the neighborhood, and proximity to residential units.”


I think that covers Fifi and the yappy twins, but it seems mighty unneighborly to call the authorities without first talking with the owners. That can be awkward though. Maybe they’ll see this blog post.



Private vs. public: neither is better

Tomorrow, across the nation and in Western New York, students will return to school. If your kids are attending a private school, maybe at significant cost and personal sacrifice, you no doubt believe you’re providing them with an educational leg-up on children attending public schools, especially ones in urban centers.


You’re not.


The details:

A major longitudinal peer-reviewed study from the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education finds what this and other educators have been saying for years. There is no difference in student success between those attending private schools and public schools, once you account for socioeconomic factors. This may be hard to swallow for families who struggle to provide their kids with what they assume is the best education possible. In simple terms, household income determines student success, not schools. There are lots of reasons for this, which are linked to socioeconomic-related opportunities. And the greatest impact on long-term student success occurs in the first few years of a child’s life, long before they reach school.


The study, which was supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, tracks a large sample of American children from birth through age fifteen (they continue to be tracked). It involves yearly interviews, home, school, and neighborhood observations of academic, social, psychological, and attainment outcomes. The result: low-income students perform the same in private schools as they do in urban public schools; there’s no educational advantage to private schools when you control for socioeconomic factors. 


Locally, and nationally, Republican-led efforts have taken taxpayer dollars from public education and funneled them into private school vouchers and other school choice plans, such as charter schools. U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is a strong advocate for increased access to private schools. Some view this as an effort to privatize public education, but the Curry study suggests that this is the wrong approach.


While not the focus of the study, the results throw into doubt school rankings, such as those published annually by Business First. Since the primary determining factor in student success is family income, school rankings are meaningless measurements of potential pupil achievement.


So, what should we do?

"The assumption that private schools are more effective in educating students and producing higher levels of achievement behavior is demonstrably ineffective and potentially harmful," says Robert Pianta, dean of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia and one of the study's authors, "In order to enable more low-income students to succeed and close achievement gaps, we must support comprehensive education reform of our public-school system."



Whoa, that’s tall

SkyScreamer. That kind of says it all, doesn’t it? Imagine one of those spinning swing rides you find at most amusement parks and county fairs, except this one spins you at thirty-two miles per hour, twenty-four stories over the ground. Well, it’s coming to Darien Lake next summer, and it will be the tallest amusement ride in New York State.


“We are thrilled to introduce the kind of innovative, world-class attraction that Six Flags is known for,” says Darien Lake President Chris Thorope. “This high-flying tower ride will offer guests a chance to soar through the clouds with majestic views of the park and surrounding countryside far below." It will also give riders the opportunity to vomit from 242 feet in the air.


The popular park is also going to have a new name when it reopens in the spring: Six Flags Darien Lake. For dedicated thrill-seekers, the name change to one of the premiere amusement park chains in the country portends even greater thrills ahead.



One great place

Buffalo’s Hotel Henry made Time magazine’s first annual (100) World’s Greatest Places 2018. The list isn’t just another guide to famous locations and attractions; it’s an attempt to identify “relevant destinations [that are] worth experiencing right now.” Sort of like the jetsetters guide to things you absolutely must do, darling. Apparently, Hotel Henry is hot. To arrive at the list, Time considered “quality, originality, innovation, sustainability and influence.”


There are four greatest places categories, and Hotel Henry is included under the places “To Stay” group. As you probably know, the former State Hospital, designed by H.H. Richardson is a National Historic Landmark with a surrounding park originally created by Frederick Law Olmsted. A large section of the hospital has been reimagined as an eighty-eight-room hotel that opened last year. In addition to staying there, you can eat, view art exhibitions curated by Resource:Art, hold meetings, or enjoy the view over drinks.


Included in the same category are such places as Shipwreck Lodge in Namibia, the Santani Resort & Spa on a former tea plantation in the mountains of Sri Lanka, Icehotel 365 in Sweeden (which is just what it sounds like), and Conrad Maldives on Rangali Island. That last one is a rental residence under the Indian Ocean, which will cost you $50,000 dollars per night. You can get a room at Hotel Henry for under $200, making it a comparative bargain. And you don’t even have to leave town to experience one of the 100 greatest places in the world.


Artist and educator Bruce Adams is a longtime contributor to Buffalo Spree.


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