Dan Rattiner's Stories

Little Stories: Rubber Snakes, Hardee’s, Death Row, Fertilizer, Riverhead Camelot

Here are some news items I have collected recently, from near and far.

There was an incident over Halloween at the Sag Harbor Whaling Museum. This year, as they’ve done for the last three years, they held a scary haunted house tour, which, for some reason, they describe as the Wailing Museum Tour.

On this occasion, however, a 14-year-old boy who worked, as did others, to dress up in a mask and costume and leap out from behind a wall to scare people as they passed by, got pretty roughed up. He leaped out to scare two men and a woman, then as he was supposed to, he followed a few feet behind them making additional scary noises at them. The trio turned, the woman said he was “stalking” her, one of the men got him in a chokehold, and after that, the woman grabbed a rubber snake and began beating him with it. The group then left. The next day the boy’s mother filed a report with the police.

Scientists went to a Hardee’s Restaurant in Champaign, Illinois to find out if the amount of food a person eats is altered by the moods and surroundings of the place he or she eats it in. They made a nice place to eat out of one dining room of the Hardee’s, decorating it with white tablecloths, candles, soundproofing, soft music and indirect lighting, and they directed every group that came into the restaurant either into that dining room or into a regular dining room with the usual bright lights and loud music. The menu was no different in one dining room from the other.

At the end of the study, they found that those eating in the fine dining room spent more time eating and enjoying what they ordered than those in the regular dining room. (People in the nice dining room ate 86% of what was on their plates compared to people in the regular dining room, who consumed 95%.) They also consumed less calories. It was 775.3 calories per person in the fine dining room and 949.2 calories in the main dining room. The study was published in the journal Psychological Reports.

In another food study, researchers from Cornell University made a study of what condemned prisoners asked for and ate as their last meals. They had the menus from 193 meal requests in the United States.

What they found was that the average meal totaled 2,756 calories, although in the study there were four meals that researchers estimated exceeded 7,200 calories. Most included French fries, ice cream, soda, hamburgers, chicken, steak or dessert. The really really high- calorie requests, in one case, included 12 pieces of fried chicken, two buttered rolls, mashed potatoes with brown gravy, two sodas and a two pints of ice cream, one strawberry and one vanilla. Very few people requested fruit or vegetables, although more than 25% asked for salad.

The study included 245 men and 2 women, but they focused on 193 meals. The average age at execution was 43. When conducting the study, they found that in addition to the 193 people who ordered the last meal, there were 51 who said they didn’t want anything.

Three people ordered dinners with less than 200 calories. One person ordered a single pitted olive. They were also not included in the study.

New York State recently passed a law that puts limits on the use of certain kinds of fertilizers in certain times of the year. It is no secret that many chemical fertilizers make flowers bloom better but also, when it runs off into ponds, the algae in the ponds bloom better thus choking off life in those ponds.

The law passed seems to have been the result of nasty wrangling between people in the landscaping business and the environmental business. Fertilizers which contain nitrogen, phosphorous or potassium may not be applied on a lawn between December 1 and April 1. After April 1, when flowers begin to bloom, you can use it again. This, according to Baykeeper Kevin McAllister, is not going to do as much good as it would if it were a ban year round. But it is better than nothing, I suppose.

There is also in the law a ban year round on using these chemical fertilizers within 20 feet of surface water, but it could be 10 feet if there are plantings near the water or if the fertilizer is applied using a deflector shield or drop spreader, and then it can be as close as three feet.

The law does not affect the use of chemical fertilizers on agricultural lands, flower or vegetable gardens, pasture land, turf farms, or tree or shrub farms.

The State DEC has taken note of the fact that as many as 12,000 automobiles, ruined by Superstorm Sandy, are now in two different parking areas on Long Island.

One area is on private grassland in Calverton at the Calverton Camelot Industrial Park. The other is on the publicly owned Enterprise Park at Calverton—formerly the Grumman industrial facility, where the cars are parked on an unused airport runway.

The DEC has ordered all the cars (and trucks and even a few boats) removed from Camelot, because, on grass, there is fear that oil leaking from them in rainstorms will get into the groundwater. They have not ordered them removed from Riverhead, though, because the vehicles are on concrete.

Richard Amper, the Director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, says it should make no difference where they are. On the runways, the rains will wash the oil off the concrete into the grass anyway.

In any case, Copart, the company that put the cars at Calverton, needs to gather them up and take them away. The DEC is helping them to find a new site.

It was just five years ago, in 2008, that a huge development planned for Enterprise Park in Riverhead was held up because it was discovered that, every winter, endangered short eared hoot owls fly down from far Northern Canada to use the lawns adjacent to the airport runways for food foraging.

Funny the things you remember when you write a newspaper for years and years.

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