Category Archives: news

It’s time to say “Thank You” to our police officers

(Video of the moving eulogy by Lt. Eric Paul at the funeral of Officer Daryl Pierson)

It’s been more than a week since Rochester Police Department’s Officer Daryl Pierson was gunned down by a repeated parole violator he was trying to apprehend, and just a few days since Pierson’s funeral and the community-wide gathering in his honor. While there was a memorial last night at the East Rochester High School football game (Pierson grew up here, attended school here, and lived here with his wife and two young children) the press has moved on to other, more pressing subjects.

But this morning, a young wife and her children awoke, just one of thousands of days ahead of them as they learn to live without their husband and father.

And this morning, hundreds of police officers across our community pinned on their badges, strapped on their guns, and went out to do the same job that killed Officer Pierson.

For you.

It’s been on my mind this week that while our community has rallied around the Pierson family, the Rochester Police Department and other area law enforcement, it’s only natural that our devotion will wane as we move farther and farther from the event that shook our city just 10 days ago.

That bothers me. I’m the daughter of a police officer; my dad is a retired Gates cop. I know firsthand the toll the job can take on a family, a marriage, a life.

I think the vast majority of people in Rochester understand that the police are the good guys. Are there bad apples here and there? Sure, but they’re a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the family of men and women who wear a badge.

That’s why you hear about the bad ones; it’s not a big news story when a cop goes to work and no one complains, when he serves a warrant and takes the criminal into custody without incident, when he stops a car and apprehends the suspect and no one is killed.

I know that you believe they’re the good guys, too. But even so, I think most people take for granted that when they dial 911, there’s an officer on duty – and what that means for him and his family. Continue reading

Sharing my essay “The Unsung Celebrity,” in honor of Officer Daryl Pierson

In honor of Officer Pierson, who was killed this week in the line of duty, and in support of law enforcement in your area, consider putting a blue light bulb in your porch light.

In honor of Officer Pierson, who was killed this week in the line of duty, and in support of law enforcement in your area, consider putting a blue light bulb in your porch light. You can learn more a or by clicking the image.

This week, a member of the Rochester Police Department lost one of its own when Officer Daryl Pierson was killed in the line of duty. By all accounts, the 32-year-old was a remarkable officer, recognized more than once for his character and exemplary work; he was also a member of the Army National Guard. He was a devoted husband and father, with a 3-month-old daughter and a 4-year-old son, who had just started kindergarten on the day Pierson was killed.

Included in my book, “What The Dog Said”, is a piece I wrote a few years ago about meeting a soldier in an Ohio airport. While this piece isn’t about a police officer, I think the message is fitting in the wake of Officer Pierson’s death, and I’d like to share it with you here. (Note: I recently learned that while serving in the Army, Daryl Pierson spent time in Korea defending the DMZ, which makes this piece even more fitting.)

At the end of the piece, you can find links to ways you can support Officer Pierson’s family as well as first responders in your area.

One last word: If you like the piece, feel free to share the link to this post, but please don’t copy the story and paste it other places. Thanks for being considerate of the copyright.

East Rochester, NY

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The Unsung Celebrity
by Joanne Brokaw

He looked like just another fresh-faced, Midwestern college student heading back to classes after spring break. Tall and handsome, dressed in jeans, a hooded sweatshirt and baseball cap, he was surrounded by what could only be his family, gathered together to send him back into the big world.

I was returning home to Rochester, NY after spending three days in Dayton, OH for the Erma Bombeck Humor Writer’s Conference, where we’d been encouraged to see the humor in the mundane, the laughter in our surroundings and the comedy in our pain.

Maybe that’s why I noticed the young man. A woman who I assumed was his mother was wrapped tightly around his waist, reluctant to say goodbye, a gesture I was all too familiar with whenever I used to send my daughter back to college, an entire hour from home.

I was with two other women from the conference, chatting and laughing, and the young man ended up behind us in the security line. I leaned across our group and tapped him on the arm. “Where are you going that your family is going to miss you so much?” I asked with a smile.

“The DMZ in South Korea,” he responded politely. Continue reading

You have the right to take naked photos of yourself – but should you?

It seems like the subject of nakedness keeps baring itself in the news. A few weeks ago I wrote about a contestant on a reality show called “Dating Naked” who was suing the producers and cable channel because an image of her naked crotch was aired without being blurred out. A few days later, a group called Go Topless hosted a Women’s Equality Day event, in which they urged women to don bikini tops printed to look like naked breasts to protest laws allowing men to go bare chested in public but not women.

And this week, the naked truth hit the headlines again with news that Apple’s iCloud was hacked, and that nude photos of celebrities were stolen and released on social media.

The initial reaction to news like that might seem to logically be “Don’t take nude photos of yourself and you won’t have to worry about nudes photos of yourself won’t be leaked online.”

But a blog post by writer Chuck Wendig got me thinking. He points out that the naked photos of actresses Kate Upton and Jennifer Lawrence that made their way to the internet weren’t leaked – they were stolen. He made some good points about our rights and the way society makes the victim the problem, rather than making the criminal the problem.

There’s nothing illegal about taking naked photos of yourself or your partner (as long as you’re both over 18 years old).  You have the right to take naked photos of yourself and pose naked for photos in which you have given your consent to be photographed (versus being photographed without your knowledge or consent, like the creeper who hides the camera in the shower of your own house).

As for looking at the photos without your consent? Sharing someone else’s nude photos without their consent is illegal and unethical. In fact, in the case of Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney, whose photos were also stolen when the iCloud was hacked, it’s child pornography, since she was under 18 years old when the photos were taken.

You have the right to be naked and be photographed, with your consent. And you have the right to expect that when that right is exercised your rights will be protected by the law.

But here’s where things get sticky. What about reality, where the decision to exercise that right is very risky and carries huge consequences if violated?

Once upon a time, if you took a naked photo of yourself, the only people who might see that photo without your permission would be the guy at the photo lab who developed your pictures. Could he make an extra print? Sure, and maybe he did. So you take it with a Polaroid, and only you and the person who pushed the shutter button had access to the photo, unless you chose to give them the photo or the actual picture was stolen. Risk of that picture being stolen? Pretty slim. And how to you get rid of the photos? A little camp fire for the photos and negatives and you were pretty sure the image was gone for good.

Today, with social media and internet hacking being what it is, the risk is far greater than ever that any naked pictures of yourself will find their way online, without your consent. Servers are hacked all the time. That photo you snapped with your cell phone and sent to your partner could go to the wrong person, or if he gets ticked off, be forwarded to hundreds of people in milliseconds.

Your right to take the photo of yourself hasn’t changed. But man, have the consequences gotten bigger.

I go back to the post I wrote about Jessie Nizewitz , who is suing VH1 over the naked crotch shot, and I think I see now where her expectation of privacy was violated. Yup, she had the right to be naked on a TV show. And yup, she had the right to expect that her privates would be blurred out when the show aired, because that was in her contract. And yup, I still think it’s stupid to go on a naked dating show. But that decision was hers to make, and in the end, her privates weren’t blurred, so the expectation of privacy was violated and she deserves her day in court.

At the same time …

I think that there are times when we have to realize that just because we have the right to do something doesn’t mean that we should ignore the possible consequences when things go wrong, and maybe reconsider our decision to act on that right. We do it all the time.

I legally can leash my dog and leave him in my front yard. But I know that there are several children on our street who don’t pay attention to my admonition not to try and pet the dog (he doesn’t like children). So I keep the dog in the backyard behind a fence, because the risk to a child is great, and the consequences if something happens will all fall on the dog – even if he’s legally in his own yard and the child is trespassing.

I have the right to leave my car in my driveway or parking lot with the doors unlocked and expect no one will take out my loose change, or laptop, or camera. But I lock the doors and bring the valuables in the house, because I’m told a laptop bag on the seat it too much of a temptation for criminals. My right to security in my car is trumped by the reality that I’m going to lose my laptop if I don’t lock the doors.

I have the right to use our credit cards to make purchases online. But even though we all cling to some sort of (real or imagined) security that we can fight the bad guys if it our information is stolen,  we follow the advice of experts and change our passwords regularly, or maybe keep one card dedicated just for online purchases. If someone gets access to your bank account, you’re screwed.

I’ve never taken a naked photo of myself, but I’ve posted my own photos (of dogs, scenery, etc), on my blog, which is clearly marked with my copyright, and had those photos stolen and used without my permission. So I don’t post my favorite pictures online any more and, if I do post my photos, I try and mark them with my name and date.

Does it piss me off? Absolutely. My rights are being violated. But I also have drawn a line in the sand where the risk of my rights being violated outweighs my desire to exercise that right.

Is that an answer to the problem? No, but I think we have balance our right to do something with our expectation that others will respect that right, balance our realistic expectations that we can fight them if our rights are violated with the consequences if it all hits the fan.

I’m not a risk taker, by nature. I know that once something appears online, it’s almost impossible to erase, and having fought that battle before over something far less serious than celebrity nude photos I know where my tipping point is. So I tend to err on the side of caution.

But you might be a bigger risk taker than I am – and you have the right to be. If you want to take a naked photo of yourself, go for it. But maybe consider a Polaroid. It can cause a lot less damage in the back of a desk drawer than on a cloud server.


Happy National Women’s Equality Day! (Did you show your breasts in public?)

The Wave (1896) by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

The Wave (1896) by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Today is National Women’s Equality Day, honoring the anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment to the Constitution on August 26, 1920.

Earlier this week, I blogged about women, freedom and a show called “Dating Naked,” and mused on whether we women have forgotten the fight our foremothers made for equality.

Case in point? In honor of Women’s Equality Day, a group called GoTopless held an event at Venice Beach in California where women were encouraged to show up wearing a Ta Ta top.

Technically, the women were fully clothed, but figuratively? Naked.

Ta Ta Tops make bikini tops that look like a naked breast. How do you feel about seeing a woman wearing this in public?

TaTa Tops make bikini tops that look like a naked breast. How do you feel about seeing a woman wearing this in public? Is the image of naked breasts different than the painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau?

In a press release promoting the event,  Lara Terstenjak, Los Angeles leader of GoTopless, said:

“In this city, as in most places around the world, women still can’t lawfully go bare-chested, although their male counterparts have had that privilege for decades. It’s time to celebrate women’s topless pride in spite of all the silly and unconstitutional restrictions posed by local laws.”

She goes on to further say:

“Imagine if, 100 years ago, women had worn pants with lifelike knees painted on them. Many people in 2014 don’t know it, but women’s knees were considered too indecent to show back then. Today, no one bats an eye at the sight of an uncovered woman’s knee. Soon it will be the same for bare breasts! How silly it is to have to wear painted ones!”

She makes some interesting points. It is silly for a woman to be allowed to wear in public a bikini top designed to look like a naked breast, but not be allowed to bare a naked breast in public. What’s the difference? The Ta Ta Top looks just like a naked female breast (and that’s coming from a man I showed the photo to). Nude beaches are commonplace in other parts of the world.

And why is a naked male torso in public a less sexually charged image than a naked female torso in public? Is it just desensitization? Or are we programed to view the female body in a different light? When does the image of a bare chested woman go from nude to naked, art to indecency? Continue reading

Automated Thanking Machine gives customers gifts – being nice is good business

I’d like to say that this video of customers using an ATM and receiving gifts instead of their expected transaction made me a little teary. But it didn’t. Nope, no misty eyed response for me. I cried. I’m talking giant tears rolling down my face.

The video is from TD Canada Trust, a Toronto-based bank offering a full range of financial services. In short, it’s a regular old bank. But after watching the video, in which they say thank you to some of their regular customers with gifts that show the employees truly know them personally, you’ve got to wonder if there’s something more going on at the heart of the company.

Like … they have a heart?

I recently pulled out the files for the Be Nice Project, the year long mission I was on to try and be nice for 365 days. I got sick soon after and abandoned the whole thing because I was exhausted. (It’s not like I couldn’t be nice while I was sick; it’s just that my energies were so focused on dealing with everything else going on I didn’t think I could keep up with a coordinated project at the time.)

Then I met a few people who’ve been on a similar journey, so I’ve dusted off some ideas, the first of which to spotlight people being nice.

This one takes the cake. And if I was customer, I bet they’d give me a cake the next time I stopped in to make a deposit.

You can learn more about TD Canada Trust on their website.

You can read more about my Be Nice Project in these posts.

I muse about the tragedy in Webster, NY

west webster patch

Early on the morning of Christmas Eve, tragedy visited the small town of Webster, NY, when a madman set fire to a house and a car, luring first responders to the scene and then gunning them down in cold blood. What ensued were hours of confusion and chaos as SWAT teams descended on the small spit of land, a two lane road bordered on one side by Irondequoit Bay and the other by Lake Ontario, chasing the gunman, evacuating neighbors, and retrieving the bodies of shooting victims. Firefighters, unable to enter the area to fight the blaze, could only watch from a distance as seven houses burned to the ground and their commrades lay injured or dead.

West Webster volunteer firefighters Mike Chiapperini and Tomasz Kaczowka were shot to death and John Hofstetter and Theodore Scardino were seriously injured by gunfire as they arrived on the scene. Jon Ritter, a full time officer with the Greece, NY police, was on his way to work; seeing the fire trucks he followed to offer assistance and was injured by shrapnel when gunfire hit his car.

This happened almost in my backyard, figuratively speaking. Webster, NY is a few miles from my house on the east side of Rochester, NY. My daughter went to Christian high school in Webster for three years; I often walk the beaches to take pictures where this event happened. Webster is part of the larger community of the city of Rochester. It’s a small town just outside of the city, but we’re all neighbors.

When things like this happen in other places, the national news media always reports that “it’s a small town where almost everyone knows someone who was affected.” But you never really understand what that means until it happens in your town.

Yes, I know someone affected. Several someones, in fact. (Click here to continue reading on my blog at

The backyard chicken craze is hot news

Seems like the backyard chicken trend is making the news more and more.

The Register-Guard in Eugene, Oregon ran a story about the growing urban chicken market, reporting that since 2007 the demand for chickens in urban areas has grown 20 percent annually.

Some say it’s driven by economic fears; in the story, Bud Wood, president of the Iowa-based Murray McMurray Hatchery, says, “Historically, any time the economy has been bad, poultry has always been good.”

For others, like me, it’s a way to connect with their food, a trend fueled by books like “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”.

The issue of urban chicken keeping is being considered by city councils from New York City to Racine, WI to Vancouver, British Columbia, and all points coast to coast.

If you’ve been thinking about getting chickens, first call your town or city office and ask about their codes for keeping fowl. In the village where we live, it was pretty easy. I had to get a permit for the number of chickens I was going to keep, and the building inspector had to come out and inspect our coop. Even though it wasn’t required, I kept them in the loop every step of the way; right now I’m the only licensed poulterer in town, and I don’t want to screw it up for anyone else who might be interested in keeping chickens.

Depending on where you live, it might be a good idea to talk to your neighbors. It’s not required, but my thought is that it’s easier to head off a problem if you have good communication with the people who live in close proximity to you and your flock. I talked with the neighbors I knew would have to look at the coop, and made sure they knew I wanted to hear if they had a problem or concern about the birds. And make sure to offer them fresh eggs!

Once you’ve got the OK to go ahead, get yourself a copy of the book, Raising Chickens for Dummies. In it you’ll find everything you need to know about chickens, coops, and raising your birds.

Then visit sites like:
McMurray Hatchery

I personally go right to Joyce at whenever I have a problem. She definitely knows her chickens.

So there you go. Backyard chickens aren’t just for crazy neighbors anymore!

Visit my new blog, Notes From The Funny Farm, and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter!