Dec 31, 2007

Odds & Ends

A few random (useless?) observations on this, the final day of 2007:

Mystery Quarters: In roaming through unfamiliar neighborhoods during this holiday season, I noticed that no one puts their name on their mailbox any more. This, combined with the fact that new homes are typically constructed as far back from the public road as possible, lends us to think that modern Americanus Everyman feels less and less a part of the community; perfectly comfortable sliding into anonymity.

Good Portal, Bad Portal: Two local newspapers have re-launched their web sites, with varying degrees of success. The Saratogian (yes, a favorite whipping target here) has a screwed up site that is still (after three weeks) taking about 95 seconds to open. Once it does, it becomes apparent that it was a wasted minute and a half. The Gazette, on the other hand, has launched their new site, which reflects their new policy of offering a more substantial amount of content online, free of charge, than in the past. Their product is, in fact, both timely and efficient.

Deep snow, deep pockets
: Anyone notice how outrageously priced lift tickets have become? Only if you're a skiier, of course. Case in point: go take a peek at nearby West Mountain's rates. Whereas in the past, a nighttime lift ticket could be had for the spare change in your pocket, it now requires a bank loan. Notice also that most mountains are on the 4-hour/8-hour routine.

Rachael here, Rachael there: It seems like Dunkin Donuts branches are popping up all over the place. New standalone shops as well as mini-shops inside of convenience stores. That Rachael sure is a hustler.

Jared is Da Man: On the other hand, notice how just about every Quizmo's sub franchise has a For Sale sign on it? Two years ago, everyone was predicting these guys were going to put Subway out of business. It ain't happening.

Is it me, or? Anyone else notice how the questions on Jeopardy seem to be getting eassier? Another sign of the dummy'ing down of our society.

Sinking Fast: The Yahoo portal seems to be deteriorating into an old school, old media, broadcast-style piece of garbage. Proof: go take a look at it at any randomn time, and you'll see that it's loaded up with pop-culture kitsch. Britney this, Angelina that. Top Ten things to do to make him/her notice you at work. Holiday decorating tips. I thought the web was supposed to offer something different to this push-down approach, where the big corporate players tell us music to listen to, what movies to watch, what clothes to wear, what ideas to talk about? In Yahoo's case, all that is off the table and it's just business as usual.

That's about all I got today.



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Dec 28, 2007

Look out, Fidel

The Bhutto murder is certainly a cause for concern.

Let's just hope Bush doesn't use it as an excuse to invade Cuba. Don't laugh: after all, we do have a track record here, don't we?

How's the old saying go: "Fool me once...."?

Dec 20, 2007

It's a Festivus miracle!



Although you might think it's too late to get your Festivus pole up, remember this: the Festivus celebration doesn't end until the head of the family gets pinned.

So, unless you've witnessed such a feat of strength, get moving. We have!

There's even a company that specializes in the manufacturing (?) of these poles -- just click on the photo of Ms. R. to hit their website and place your order. Feel confident that you'll receive a quality product; as the company's tagline states:

Made in Milwaukee--A city known for its Very High Strength-to-Weight Ratio

For the uninitiated -- a briefing on this important holiday:




Someone make a note to remind me to toss a Festivus gathering next year at this time.

The kind of nostalgia I will likely regret

In making arrangements to hook up with some friends at Friday night's local music showcase at Revolution Hall (with the Kamikaze Hearts, Super 400, etc), one of them made a suggestion that brought a chuckle:

"Let's do warm-up's next door at Brown's Brew Pub before the show."


I guess attending a nightclub concert is such a taxing physical challenge that a pre-show routine of sorts is in order. I wonder if we'll be doing stretching exercises?

It reminded me of college days, when we would prep for the keg parties with six-packs. Heaven forbid we show up unprepared, after all.



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Dec 19, 2007

More on Old Media, part 365


The Saratogian is generally considered to be the Capital Region's best example of the worst aspects of corporate media consolidation. The paper's recent foray into the world on blogging serves as yet another proving point.

Managing Editor Barbara Lombardo had this to say, in her second entry:

----------------------------------

"..... When I do talk with someone, though, I like to know who I'm talking to.

That's why I'm not exactly leaping into the world of blogging.

Would you answer your telephone and then get into a conversation with someone who not only was a stranger, but who had no intention of identifying himself? If you received an anonymous letter in the old-fashioned U.S. mail, would you write back?

As the managing editor of The Saratogian, I hope to use this space to converse with you. I like talking about the news business and explaining how and why things work. But I don't intend to engage in lengthy defenses with any single, anonymous, would-be pen pal."

-----------------------------------

Two points here:

1) This diatribe was in response to someone actually taking the time to leave a comment to her intial "here I am" blog entry. You know: the ole give and take conversational feedback loop that the Net is known for being, like, real good at?

2) Though she apparently has some problem with the "anonymous" option that is generally afforded to those making such comments, we must remember that this person's primary product (a daily printed newspaper) includes within it a section called Sound Off, wherein the public can have their opinion published, um: anonymously.

The local rumnor mill has it that the Saratogian's out-of-state parent company is looking to unload some if not all of its dailies. Although we would prefer to see it land in the arms of a locally-owned group of professional media types, the odds are that such a scenario won't happen , given the current economics of the game. The prediction here is that it will become part of the Hearst Corp (Times Union) empire.

Still, the day this rag changes hands -- to anyone short of Fox / News Corp -- will be a good day at The Spa'aaaaaaaa.......


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Dec 18, 2007

Breaking news: a receptionist is hired

I kid you not; but what follows is an incoming Press Release to our editorial office today:

Schenectady, NY, December 18, 2007 – LeChase Construction Services, LLC is pleased to announce the addition of Bree Torres as Receptionist for the firm’s Capital District. In addition to her responsibilities as receptionist, Torres will also provide administrative support.

(..etc..etc...)

Now, we certainly wish the young lady well in her new career. But is this truly worthy of "press release" status?

Note to the good people at this firm: the problem with this is that the recipient newspapers and news services will tend to flag you as being one who sends non-newsworthy pieces. So, when you DO actually have something important to declare, they might no even bother opening up the email from you.

Just trying to help...



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Dec 17, 2007

Why broadcast news sucks; part 213

CBS News' talking perky-face Katie Couric, launching into each of the presidential candidates with her highly-promoted key question:

"When was the last time you lost your temper?"

Uh-huh.

At the local level, of course, all we've heard about for the past three days is the stupendous winter storm we just received. I'm afraid to pick up today's papers to read the death toll. It must be in the thousands.

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Dec 13, 2007

Fast take on the Harriman announcement

A quick reaction to yesterday's press conference in Albany, where Governor Spitzer unveiled his new plan for the Harriman Campus, a footprint long touted as being a key componennt to the region's economic development future and fortunes:

To this humble observer, it looks like a step backwords from previous visons for the campus. It now appears that the state offices (and workforce) that have long beeen planted there will remain, whereas the original game plan was to relocate the vast majority of them elsewhere.

Bad move.

This space, being physically located within a shout of both UAlbany's main campus as well as the Albany Nanotech / College of NanoScience / Sematech facility needs to become an extension of all those, and be dominated by private sector businesses involved in the commercialization of the IP associated with them. It's time we called some of our own bluffs here and went for the gold. State offices should not play a part in this vision.

Move them out of Harriman; get them out of the way. Just don't make the typical mistake of moving them into the downtowns throughout the region.

Dec 11, 2007

Farewell to an Old Warrior

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Stan Wright today.

Stan The Man was the founder and lead pony of PinPoint Communications, which is where I knew him from. I think it was back in about 1998 or so that we were intro'd -- the company I was involved with at the time has been engaged by him to do some coding work, I think.

Stan didn't look the part of your typical software startup entrepreneur -- he was twice the age of his fellow tenants at the RPI Incubator; a gruff old-school kind of guy amongst the diploma - carrying fresh faces.

But his baby, PinPoint, is what the game is all about--a narrow, vertical niche player that offered a very specific set of solutions in a very focused field. In this case, it was "grassroots lobbying" software; or that was the company tagline at least. He ran it as basically a one-man band, fighting the good fight trying to keep it afloat on a day-to-day basis.

My favorite remembrance of Stan was when I tossed him what I thought was a curve ball during an informal conversation. It was at a techConnex mixer at Brown's Brewing Companyy, circa 2000. I asked him whether he felt any guilt over the deployment of his software, which I opined "was just basically flooding the in-boxes of Congressman with junk mail." But he was ready for me on this one...

Stan's reply was simple: "Hell, these are the idiots that let our mailboxes get filled with unwanted junk mail, I'm just giving them a taste of their own medicine."

Well put, Mr Wright.

Bon Voyage.

Nov 27, 2007

It ain't necessarily so

Mr Andrew Brindisi, who runs a fine restaurantt with his own name on the door in downtown Saratoga Springs, is apparently a bit concerned with the rise in online shopping and its "devestating effect" on local economies. He is quoted in today's Saratogian as saying such.

Such a statement is not necessarily true.

For example: what if a huge portion of those online purchases were being directed to a net-retailer that is located within one's own 'burgh? In that case, the local economy is in fact GAINING from the trend to shop remotely, with new outside momey flowing into the city's money whirlpool. So, one would hope that there are an increasing number of virual retailers within those city borders as a way of taking advantage of this new age method of retail commerce, right? Maybe a forward-thinking economic development department would even initiate programs and incentives to encourage that sort of thing, right?

Unfortunately, the gentelman's comments just show the old school "Main Street" economy way of thinking that dominates the local mindset. Such a persepective will harm the future outlook for the well-being of Saratoga --- or any other community, for that matter.

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Nov 16, 2007

An Exorcism in Saratoga -- election analysis



Dealing with Rabid Dogs

Plus: A political and sociological history


I am a lifelong member of the Democratic party, an example of what was used to be called an Apple Democrat: a believer in the party’s traditional mantra of level playing fields and equality while at the same time comfortably embedded in the global free market.

My family name appears in the earliest party rolls in the city of Saratoga Springs and I have consistently pulled the donkey lever in local, state and national elections. I have been serving on the re-election committee of one of the local party incumbents and have given informal advice to two others in recent months. I gleefully celebrated the historic 2005 sweep of all seven city offices, which gave controlling power to the Democrats for the first time in the annals of my native hometown.

So there I was on Election Night two years later, mingling amongst two hundred party faithful cheering on the mayoral hopeful as the results came into the room, district by district. Joining in, for sure, but at the same time feeling a sense of unease, disappointment, sadness and just plain weirdness. What’s wrong with this picture?

I was at the Republican's party on that evening, that’s what!

Six years into the Bush insanity, standing in John Sweeney’s former turf, surrounded by the sprawl & t-shirts crowd that I so despise, listening to them talking up their newly revitalized empire building plans, there I was. So, how could such an “it’ll never happen” moment actually happen; who or what is to blame for this craziness? That answer is very simple:

Valerie Keehn.

The incumbent mayor, allegedly a member of my very own party, succeeded in my doing the personally unthinkable. However, that is my burden to bear and one that I do not take lightly. I will get over it, I am sure.

But, Mrs. Keehn, who campaigned as The People’s Mayor, did much more than just drive this conflicted individual into the Holiday Inn to slug down some Heinekens with a bunch of guys he used to make fun of in high school. Indeed, she did much, much more damage than that. This political newbie single handedly (well, with her handlers) hit the Big Enchilada of city political mischief:

Control of the city council was handed back to the Republicans, reversing the 2005 sweep and the decades of momentum that was built up by the party’s progressives.

Quite the accomplishment, is it not? When this woman decides to get something done, she certainly knows how to leave her mark, which could be felt for many years to come. Unfortunately for the citizens of Saratoga Springs, this was her only real accomplishment during a two-year term in office that can only be described as an outright disaster.

To best understand the why & how to all of this, it is necessary to step back and take a brief look at the history --- both political and sociological – of the Spa City:

Saratoga's Changing Tides

• Saratoga Springs long operated as a small, stand-alone outpost in northeastern New York. Its local economy supported local families who in turn supported the local businesses and built deeply rooted neighborhoods.

• Its Health History & Horses motto best exemplified another core economic base -- tourism -- with the race course being a key driver.

• Political power in the city has long been held by the Republican party, which tends to be the case in towns that rely heavily on tourism and its related sectors of Main Street retail, lodging and real estate. Public policy has long been centered on supporting that focus.

• The waning status of the race course (and horse racing in general), which began in the late 1960’s, resulted in an overall economic downturn in the city’s fortunes. Buildings that played a role in earlier decades fell into disuse and disrepair and retailers abandoned downtown. The city’s population actually declined at tone point.

• A major federal highway infrastructure project – called the Adirondack Northway – played the primary role in reversing that damage. Completed in 1967, the four-lane road replaced Route 9 as the main artery in and out of the city. From that point on, it played an increasingly important role in Saratoga’s fate, specifically in two areas:

- By providing 30+ minute access to Albany, it became a ‘commuter’ option for workers to now reside in Saratoga.
- It shortened the drive from NY, NJ, CT and Montreal, thereby making the race course and the other tourist attractions more desirable to a wider audience

• The ‘commuter’ aspect is important, because it signaled the end of the city being a predominately localized economy. In a trend that continues to this day, more and more of the city’s professional class work outside the city boundaries.

• Despite Republican dominance, an occasional Democrat would win election to the five member city council. One of them was Thomas McTygue, who followed his father into heading the Public Works Department in the early comeback years of the early 70’s. While light on big-picture policy making motivations, McTygue did succeed in effectively managing his operation. While his beautification projects get the popular play, equally significant initiatives were undertaken and accomplished. For example: prior to McTygue, most of the city’s major road construction projects were farmed out to outside contracting companies. Beginning with the Grand Ave project in 1974, these efforts were brought in-house.

• In the early 80’s, another government investment –this one by New York state – would have a significant and impact on the city. This was the I Love New York tourism campaign, which included a huge Capital – Saratoga branding initiative featuring photos of the race course front and center, distributed around the world. The positive influence of this program is unquestioned, as the track reclaimed its former glory as the showcase of the Sport of Kings and attendance and visitor counts soared.

• As happens to many tourist destinations, the more people that visit, the more decide that “this little town might be a nice place to actually live in.” The stage was certainly set for that.

• This demand, combined with the financial enabler of hyper-rising property values in the metro New York region and elsewhere, created a new immigration into Saratoga. A predominately 50+ demographic sold their (or their parents’ estate) properties in the city and used the funds to buy the relatively cheap homes in Saratoga and its surrounding areas. The city and county population soared.

• Politically, this influx of new blood narrowed the head count between the two parties, as these new residents tended to be independent, liberal leaning or Democrat.

• This newly empowered independent/left/liberal/Democrat coalition shared one outstanding concern: that runaway real estate development (i.e., sprawl) at both the city and county level was threatening the city’s highly prized quality of life. For that, it increasingly blamed the local Republican machine, its influence and its membership.

• The flash point / rallying cry for this showdown occurred in 2004-2005, as the county Republican apparatus pushed through its massive water project, a huge public investment that would run a north-south pipe down the center of the county. All hell broke loose.

• The point person that put this issue front and center was Mr. McTygue. In council meeting after meeting, the long-time commissioner would recite the arguments against the city joining into the county project. In speeches lengthy enough to make Castro jealous and which became legendary among senior citizens that would gather around the audio casts, McTygue called this plan for exactly what it was: a taxpayer subsidy to the local real estate industry, giving them the green light (financially and otherwise) to put the county’s sprawl growth into hyper-drive. Granted, McTygue’s motivations may have been motivated from a city vs county ‘water control’ perspective (of which he admitted), but the overriding power play aspect -- highlighting the worst aspects of what Republicans are typically blamed for -– was not lost on the citizenry. It stuck.

• By the time the November 2005 elections came around, McTygue was so popular that the Republicans didn’t even dare run against him. A slate of newcomers rounded out the Democratic ticket, and lo and behold, they all won easily. With one exception, that is; the previously unknown candidate for Mayor, named Valerie Keehn, who barely squeaked into office along with her party running mates.



Such was the stage as set for the Democratic party to finally be handed the keys to the city of Saratoga Springs on New Years Day 2006. A fine day it was, complete with parties, toasts and celebration. After that, it was time to get down to business.

Folks, we have a problem

Right out of the gate, problems surfaced. The most visible was the fact that Mrs. Keehn knew nothing about properly chairing a meeting, which is her primary responsibility in the city’s so-called weak mayor format. The city council meetings became uncomfortable to even watch, and she struggled with procedural details. Being new to such a stage certainly gives some leeway, but she never seemed to get better at it. Amplifying the problem was the fact that Mrs. Keehn is not a confident public speaker, with a slight droning voice that sounds like she is about to weep at any minute.

Next was her appointment to the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Racing, certainly an important issue to a city with the premiere racing facility in the world within its confines. This should be a good thing, local representation by the city’s mayor. But then she opened her mouth and admitted something to the effect that “she really doesn’t have a real understanding of the thoroughbred racing industry.”

So, the city’s introduction to Mrs. Keehn in the first weeks of her administration are: a) she is incapable of fulfilling her number one on-the-job responsibility; and b) she knows nothing about the city’s most valuable asset. Maybe she really didn’t expect to win the election, some asked? But wait, it gets worse.

Those two governance mistakes were quickly followed by two political mistakes. The first was to remove Bill McTygue (brother of Tom and DPW deputy) from the planning board. Although certainly within her right and powers to do so (proposing of board appointments are the only powers held by the mayor that other council members don’t have under this form of government), politically it made no sense to exhibit such naked ambition against the fellow party member on whose coattails she was dragged into office in the first place. But as we were to see, it was a signal of her true ambitions.

The next blunder was to make a call for Charter Change, which if successful, would have converted the city to a more typical strong mayor system with a supporting legislative body put into place. Besides not being able to voice a rationale for such a change (the spin was “It’s what every other city does”), the fiercest criticism centered around the fact that Mrs. Keehn never mentioned the desire for such a referendum at any point in her campaign. Regardless of the merits of such an issue, the public take on the matter was Naked Ambition, Part 2, and it was easily defeated at the polls.

Next came the wild card of good old personality conflicts. Many observers viewed these misguided political actions as an affront to fellow council member Mr McTygue, including Mr. McTygue himself. McTygue, having a colorful and vocal personality reflective of his mixed Irish and Italian heritage, wasn’t going to let this nonsense sit. Given that the mayor had no policy initiatives to shoot at, his only target was to berate her publicly at the council meetings, at times in a rather demeaning manner for such transgressions as the inability to keep order and (again) the inability to actually conduct meetings in a proper fashion. This act had played before, as McTygue used the same script with previous mayors, so Keehn shouldn’t have been surprised. Then again, staging a public spat between yourself and a fellow Democrat is not good politics on McTygue’s part, either.

Simply put, Mrs., Keehn didn’t appreciate the street fighting man reaction from Mr. McTygue. Unable to match his verbal volleys and without seeing the need to concentrate on effective policymaking initiatives, Mrs. Keehn decided it was time for a Plan B; and it wouldn’t be pretty.

So was laid the groundwork for twenty months of conflict that would unravel the party. The blame game is in now full swing, with the popular consensus being “they’re both to blame.”

The Two-Year Trance

There is, in fact, plenty of blame to go around. But that’s too easy an explanation. One must call it like it is and point the finger right at the root cause of this fiasco. That finger goes to Keehn and her people, without feeling any need to be polite about it on this end.

Valerie Keehn was put in office for one simple reason: because her name was not Michael Lenz, the former Republican mayor and vocal supporter of the county water plan. The guy playing the bongos in front of Lillian’s could have accomplished the same thing if given the chance. No one heard of her before, and in fact no one needed to. She got a free pass, which most of us were glad to hand out.

But her opportunity was lost; lost in an ugly haze of power grabs and vindictive hate. The message of smart development and transparent and open government was exposed as the scam it was, all hat and no cattle. No brave new programs were ever proposed by Mrs. Keehn during her term. No definition of smart development or smart growth was ever given, so how could a vision of the city’s future even be put into action? Affordable housing never advanced. Open space land money sits in the bank. Downtown’s health is questionable, and nothing is being done about it. Ditto for the related parking issue. Ditto for anything else of consequence.

The only thing on her ledger is those precious board appointments. Get rid of Bill McTygue, and let’s clean it all up here, was the mantra. What we got was the appointment of an unqualified individual to a board, based solely on the fact that his father was the major campaign donor. She accidentally admitted to clearing it through the Senior during a debate!

Not to mention the little detail of her Ethics Chairman being of questionable – ethics - getting kicked off a few posts for ethical violations. She adopts the Village Idiot -- a Republican, retired military officer known for confrontational raids at council meetings, pro-choice rallies and anti-war protests – as a supporter, all while chanting the “We are the Progressive Democrats” message. Citizen particpation is held up as a banner; unless you question the mayor. At that point, your banner defines you as being part of a good old boys conspiracy. So goes the Keehn Paradox.

The Plan B -- Thanks, Karl

With this record of accomplishment – or lack thereof -- to run on, it’s time to go to the Karl Rove playbook. Ah, the Plan B arises. The mission: if you have weaknesses in your own portfolio, simply destroy your opponent‘s character as a way to compensate.

Does it work? Just ask John Kerry if it works: he’s no doubt still wondering how his Medal of Honor service in Viet Nam gets him branded as a traitor when compared to some rich kid draft dodger in Texas that actually went AWOL from his Air Guard troop during the same timeframe. Yes, it works.

So, after the perceived enemy (McTygue) Keehn and her attack dogs went. A 30+ year popular incumbent was now deemed a political machine. An oil spill in a garage is now likened to Love Canal or Bhopal as far as environmental consequences. Supporters are dispatched to hiding behind bushes, snapping photos of city workers coming and going . Not to mention the under-the-radar tactics of feeding rumor and innuendo of the most personal nature into the community’s newspapers, online forums and gossip mill. So they went, following the Rove playbook to the letter; except for one little mistake.

A Detail Overlooked

Unlike Mrs. Keehn, any good Saratogian DOES understand horse racing. If so, we know the meaning of the phrase “pace makes the race.” This notes that if two horses come out of the starting gate and proceed to fiercely go eyeball to eyeball, neck to neck and nose to nose with one another, they will both slow down dramatically towards the end.

In a match race, with just two horses, this strategy works -- one horse will put away the other and stagger cross the finish line to win the prize while the other usually gets pulled up.

Here lies the Keehn mistake. She went into match race mode, but she was in the wrong match race. Her Rove playbook served her well in putting down McTygue – it usually does. But she was ineligible for that race, and was then told to go run in her own match race against Scott Johnson, her actual Republican opponent for her actual seat. Johnson had no need to go into crash & burn mode on Mrs. Keehn; she had already spent herself in the previous race. He won, handily (to use another racing reference). So did two other Republican council candidates and one supervisor, all victims of the Hurricane Keehn. City power shifted, the worm turned.

The insanity of this strategy is mind boggling. But then again, so is the perspective on politics, government, business, economics or any other important subject of Mrs. Keehn’s most ardent supporters. I know that for a fact; for I have actually sat down with several of them and had that conversation. They haven’t a clue. No sense of the city's history, it's current dynamics, cause & effect of public policy -- none of it registers.

Where To?

What’s next for the Saratoga Democratic party? More bloodletting, no doubt, as Mrs. Keehn’s people refuse to go into the night while others will think it is necessary to somehow find a place for all factions within an organizational group-hug lovefest.

But, the task ahead should instead be viewed as what happens when you find a pack of 50 dogs that were not properly cared for and they are brought to the nearest animal shelter. After helping the animals lick their wounds, it’s time to make some tough decisions. Most of the pack can be put back into service, but only after the administration of some productive discipline. Others, however, are determined to be rabid and have no such prospects. They are pruned from the herd.

Such is the case for the party. Many individuals, from all the various camps, are in need of some of that productive discipline in order for the party as a whole getting back on track and moving forward.

But at the same time, a handful people -- that poisoned inner circle of the Keehn campaign; the ones responsible for this scorched earth campaign -– must be sent packing. Just like the rabid dogs.

It’s our only hope. Please, spare me any more nights out with a bunch of noisy elephants.


RM


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Nov 15, 2007

Big Night Out for Congressman Kick Ass


Oh yeah: two things on the John Sweeney deal:

1) Surprised? Ha!

2) Why isn't the 24yo female passenger facing charges? For those of you unaware; certain media outlets are reporting that she was allegedly found placed on former Congressman Kick Ass's lap when they were pulled over, possibly the cause of the lane-swerving episode. Conflicting reports raise the issue of what specific portion of her body was on Mr Sweeney's lap.

Now, I have no objection to this type of activity going on in a car, mind you. My only problem is that it should't be happening in a MOVING car.

So, why isn't she being cited with some sort of endangerment (or similar) charge? Any lawyers out there want to help us out here on this?


-------- Follow-Up to the Above (Nov 19) ---------------

We posed the following to the NYS Troopers'Public Information Officer on 11/15/07:

Dear Sir/Madam:

In relation to the recent JOHN SWEENEY arrest, we propose the following question:


* If, as reported, Mr Sweeney's passenger was discovered to be sitting on his lap when pulled over by the NYS Troopers, are there not any charges that SHE could / should receive?

After all, such an action on her part creates an incredibly dangerous situation.


Comment?


The Response, received today:

These purported actions were not witnessed by our Troopers and are not part of our official report. These unsubstantiated allegations were never reported to the media by our agency.

NYSP - Public Information Office
1220 Washington Ave., Building 22
Albany, N.Y. 12226
(518) 457-2180
(518) 485-7818 fax



Now this raises some interesting questions, does it not? Hence, we submitted this follow-up question today:

Thank you for the repsonse

Final questions:

- If the word "sitting" is taken out of my query, would that effect your repsonse?
- Specifically; was the woman in any type of contact with Mr Sweeny when pulled over ?
- What is the official reaction, then, to this report by The Times Union?:


Ever since reporters first learned about Sweeney's arrest, there has been a lot of curiosity about the account of state troopers that a woman was on Sweeney's lap when he was pulled over. The troopers hadn't seen her at first, they said; they were startled to realize there was a passenger in the car, along with the driver.

Regards



We await...
















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The unfortunate demise of SEDC's CEO


I have long been viewed as a 'critic' of the AMD @ Luther Forest chip fab project. Such a characterization is an over-simplicifcation of my opinions on this complex subject, but then again, we live in a world of simplification and sound bites.

In a nutshell (look, even I can over-simplify), here's where I have long stood on the matter:


- A chip fab being built and located in the region, employing many hundreds of people, is a good thing. A VERY good thing.

- Working to attract such a project is a worthwhile endeavor.

- Such an endeavor is well within the mission of Saratoga Economic Development Corporation.

- But the goals of a Saratoga - based economic development organization might not necessarily be in the best interests of the greater Capital Region or New York state as a whole. Hence, the question of whether the location of this plant at the designated location being a good example of proper regional planning or not is a legitimate concern to be raised and discussed. But it wasn't.

- Furthermore, I believe that while it is proper to direct economic development incentives towards target industries, I get concerned when they are directed and granted to individual companies, as is the case with AMD.

- I also believe that a chip fab -- while having a "high-tech" image in the public mindset, is in reality, primarily an old-world type of manufacturing business. Such businesses/industries are driven by technologies and processes that were developed elsewhere and therefore do not play into the 'Innovation Age' economic world order, which is where we need to be directing our regional development efforts.

- While the economic multiplier benefits of a chip fab are indeed significant (again: I'm all for a local chip fab), they are insignificant when compared to more enlightened and proper regional development inititatives.

- Given that POV, I get concerend and disheartened when the AMD chip fab is held up as the poster child of the Captial Region / Tech Valley / NYS's economic development initiatives.


That's been my position since Day One. I've taken hits for it (public and private; business and personal); but I have also learned that I am far from alone in this thinking within the Tech Valley business community.

I know that this stance has put me in disfavor with the good folks at Saratoga Economic Developement Corporation over the past couple of years. That's fine, and I can understand why. I also believe that if they better understood my reasoning, such divisiveness would be minimized. For that, I take the blame.

Which brings us to this week's news; of the group's longtime CEO resigning just days after his arrest on a well-publicized DWI allegation in the Spa City. Given the popular theory that our two camps are philosophical opposites (which we aren't), many have asked for my opinion on these related events. Again, my over-simplification:


- The gentleman's tenure at SEDC should be considered a grand success; given the very specific group mission and his charge from his own managing Board of Directors. As said, even though I raise certain concerns about his landmark project, that project fits squarely into SEDC's wheel house -- and SEDC is his Report-To, not a know-it-all like me.

- This week's unfortunate incident should not become part of his historical legacy. It is for that reason I elect not to even mention the gentleman's name in this posting; thereby doing my small part NOT to connect him with the phrase 'DWI' in search engine directories that will last deep into the future.

- Furthermore, I am disappointed that the gentleman felt obliged to resign from his position because of his arrest. Would he have felt the need to do the same, if he had been arrested for speeding 85 in a 35 mph zone, for example? Would the public be expecting of such in that scenario? After all, excessive speed is a larger cause of highway deaths than alcohol impairment. But that's a discussion for another day, on another forum.


For now, let us conclude that no one feels real good about this week's turn of events. Certainly not his alleged chief critic.

RM

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Nov 7, 2007

Customer Pricing --- fad or trend?


Some detailed data is starting to emerge on The Grand Experiment of digital music delivery. I refer, of course, to the "pay what you want" system put in place for Radiohead's In Rainbows release of superb progressive rock.

Here's what we think we know:

- Approximately 2/3 of those that downloaded the offering paid nada -- zip.

- The remaining 1/3 paid an average of $6 each.

Success? Failure? It's being played up as the latter, but we're not so sure.

The math says that the average purchase price for ALL the downloads is $2 each. That doesn't seem like much, but consider this:

a) This isn't the physical deliver world we're talking about here. There are no costs for creating, packaging and shipping the jewel-cased CD's to retail stores around the globe. Or paying the freight to ship back the unsold copies, either.

b) How amy of those 'freeloaders' were not really interested in Radiohead to begin with, but instead just caught up in the hype and in the "gimme somehting for free" aspect? The guess here is that this subset is huge, and therefore should not be considered as 'lost paying customers.' In fact, many of them are now turned on to a roup of which they were not familair, and are now prospects to by the back catalog of the band.

The above data is strictly 'percentages' -- we dont yet know the total numbers of people involved.

Regardless, it is very interesting. Could it be the start of a widespread trend? Could be; today we noticed that one of our favorite magazines -- Paste -- is now on board with a similar program.

This bears watching...


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Oct 11, 2007

City of Saratoga Springs debate series

County Board of Supervisors (the two city members): Keyrouze (D,I,WF) vs Veitch (R,C) vs Yepsen (D,I,WF)





Commissioner of Public Works: McTygue (D,I,W) vs Scirocco (R,C)


Commisioner of Public Safety: Kim (D,I,WF) vs Wirth (R,C)


Commisioner of Accounts: John Franck (D,C,I,WF) - Unopposed


Mayor: Boyd (C,I) vs Johnson (R) vs Keehn(D,WF)
October 9, 2007


(post-debate continuance (audience Q's)coming shortly; upload in progress

Here is the post-debate Q&A Mayor session (not available on the TV broadcast)




Commissioner of Finance: Weihe (D,I,WF) vs Ivins (R,C)
October 9, 2007




Presented by: The League of Women Voters - Saratoga County
Produced by: Word of Mobile
Support from: Tech Valley Times

Cable TV Schedule: Times Warner Gov't Access Channel
October 9 Session: Airs Oct 16 & 17 @ 8PM
October 15 Session: Airs Oct 19 & 23 @ 8PM
October 17 Session: Airs Oct 24 & 25 @ 8PM



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Oct 8, 2007

AmyTV


Here's how our live music shows usually work:

Pre-Show: "I never heard of this band. Must be pretty good if you're putting it on, though!"
Post Show: "Wow, that was fantastic. Where do you come up with these?"

Continuing with that time-honored tradition, may we present the Memphis-based Amy LaVere, set for The Parting Glass in downtown Saratoga on Saturday, October 20th, with Palatypus (Metroland's Best Acoustic Duo 2007) opening up at 8PM:





Tickets $8 Advance / $10 Door. Be there, so you can do the old "I saw her when..." routine.

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Oct 1, 2007

Time to step up to a bigger home?

An interesting tidbit floated in through the news wire today at Action Central...

Llenroc Estate, the 20,000+ square-foot mega mansion in Saratoga County, is for sale. The asking price: $12.9 million. Sounds steep; but such a figure is a fraction of the estate's rumored 1992 construction cost of $32 million.

Located near the Mohawk River in Rexford, the ornate castle was constructed by the ultimately - disgraced insurance magnate Albert Lawrence, who modeled the elaborate home after the campus center at Cornell University, his alma mater. Llenroc's name is Cornell spelled backwards.

Crafted from 1,200 tons of Ithaca's Llenroc Stone (the same material used to construct the Llenroc dormitory at Cornell), the elegant home has a first floor master suite with his and her bathrooms, 15 fireplaces, $3.5 million worth of imported Scandanavian marble flooring, hundreds of unique hand-painted Portuguese tiles, a formal dining room featuring 24 karat gold guilded ceilings and moldings, walnut design inlaid hardwood floors, miles of mahogany moldings, a five-floor glass elevator, four galleries, and a servant's kitchen with its own elevator.

Other distinguishing features: a sailboat-shaped indoor pool with separate hot tub, a four-story solarium encased by a teak balcony, a mermaid bar with see-thru views of the pool, sauna, a radiant-ready heated pavers stone driveway, and dancing opera, water and tulip fountains.

Ken Lay of Enron fame would have loved it--but he's dead, too.


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Talking shop -- on a nano level

Last night was interesting...

An enjoyable dinner for two at The Pump Station was extended for a few additional minutes by a gentleman at a neighboring table, brought on by the standard "I couldn't help but overhear you talking about..." introduction on his part.

It turns out that this fellow is with International SEMATECH, freshly relocated to Albany from Austin as the chipmaking R&D consortium continues to increase its local presence. He related how the balance of his week will be dominated by his playing the role of tour guide, showing the Capital Region to a 40-person contingent of associates as a way of assisitng each one individually determining if they wish to make the same relocation as he did. An estimate of "about 50%" was the reply to a question of "how many seem to be saying 'yes' so far?"

The balance of our chat was devoted to nano topics including the current state of lithography (EUV vs immersion); the history of SEMATECH; leakage issues; wavelenghts; yield rates and similar subjects that are near and dear to all those folks toiling at the busy corner of Fuller Road and Washington Avenue Extension.

Good stuff, especially with it taking place between three strangers on a random Sunday night in the Ole Towne. But this is the kind of thing we're all hoping for; right?


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Sep 19, 2007

New journalism and local commentary

Now Showing over on our main portal..

The latest Eye on the Valley column takes a look at a couple of local bloggers and how they have are filling the gap left by Big Media when it comes to local journalism.

Hear our take on I-Saratoga and (Dis)Utopia of Saratoga Springs at Tech Valley Times.

Sep 13, 2007

Saratoga Springs Mayoral Debate - Democratic Party Primary (Now Showing)

We needed a little practice doing a "guerilla webcast" (aka our one-man/one-camera shoot) for our new multimedia initiaitve, and there just happened to be a political debate going on in town. Heck, Saratoga politics has been pretty entertaining as of late, so why not?

So, without further ado, here is the complete 90-minute version of this week's Saratoga Springs Democratic Party's Mayoral Primary debate between Valerie Keehn and Gordon Boyd:





A Community Service of TechValley Times and Word of Mobile



Parting Glass Show Info, Previews and Tickets: RIGHT HERE


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Sep 6, 2007

Rocky Velvet

A retro time warp indeed! Rocky Velvet brings their Wild Rockabilly! act to The Parting Glass in downtown Saratoga Springs on Friday, October 19 at 8PM. Come on down and catch the Metroland 2007 Best Band in the Capital Region.



Get your ADVANCE TIX here for $5 and save a deuce.


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A tale of two city halls

In what might be a new trend that we haven't caught on to yet, two local municipalities are debating the merits of abandoning their downtown city halls.

The city of Troy has floated the idea of demolishing their current structure (after all personnel have been relocated, we assume) while a Saratoga Springs council member has suggested selling that city's place of business to a private developer.

One is a good idea, one is a bad idea. Let's give a reason for each:

Good Idea: Troy

As expressed in this column previously, the Troy City Hall is the poster child of everything that was wrong with the Urban Renewal programs of the 60's, 70' and 80's. This building resembles a cement fortress that it totally out of place with the Monument Square neighborhood and would look more fitting if it were the Allied Base HQ in Iraq. Bullozing it and starting over is the smartest thing that could be done to assist in the Troy revitalization movement. Let's just hope that good planning and design efforts go into the new retail & residential structure that is planned for that lot and that the nmew city hall finds a home within the downtown core. If this works out, maybe they will set their sights on demolishing that other nearby disaster: the Atrium.

Bad Idea: Saratoga Springs

The Spa City's City Hall, on the other hand, is an old-school buidling that, like the city as a whole, was fortuante enough to avoid most of the ravages brought on by Urban Renewal. Its design elements fit in perfectly with the Victorian and post-Victorian architecture of downtown, and it is one of the prettiest buildings in all of town. Doing business in City Hall serves to give residents a feeling of civic engagement and a link to a great past. Turning it into high priced condos would exemplify everyting that is bad about the recent trend of Saratoga Springs becoming a suburban ghetto. Let's drop this idea now, before it gains any kind of traction.

Waiter, there's a lien on my steak!


This Joe Greco character is a real news hog.

The not-so-affable owner of the overpriced and underwhelming Golden Fox restaurant in downtown Troy made some noise last week by announcing his intent to open up a 400-seat performance venue a mere block away from his current digs. Keep in mind that this location would put the new enterprise within walking distance of both the Troy Music Hall and Revolution Hall, both of which are established plyers in the ultra-competitive live-music field.

But Mr Greco's claim that he had verbal commitments from such artists as Norah Jones, Harry Connick and Spyro Gyra made anyone even remotely connected to the music business scratch his or her head. These artist are all lined up to play this 400-seat lounge (his words), remember. This guy was either totally out of his element, was living in a fantasy world or he was outright bullshitting. We'll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume it was one of the first two.

Yesterday comes some interesting details about other events that were taking place in Mr Greco's life at about the same time he was letting the world know all about his grand plans of becoming the Mr Vegas of The Collar City. The Times Union reports that he was caught -- twice--- attempting to wheel meat and fish out of his local supermarket without bothering to undertake the normal compensation process.

Maybe Norah Jones has a big meal clause in her performance rider?

Sep 5, 2007

Elizabeth Cook

Pop country? Americana? New traditional? How do you classify Elizabeth Cook?

Come find out on December 1, when we bring her into The Parting Glass for a live show.

Powered by AOL Video


Go get your advance tix.

Who'dathunk? It's NYRA


In a comeback story rivaling the Rocky Balboa saga, Governor Spitzer announced that he has worked out a memo of understanding with the New York Racing Association that would extend that group's franchise to operate the three major horse racing tracks in the Empire State.

Such a notion would have been inconceivable two years ago; or even one year ago, for that matter. After being rocked by internal scandals (albeit for relatively minor offenses such as shaky teller accounting), general mismanagement and a questioning of whether a nonprofit business model was the best option for the sport (or better yet: businesss) of thoroughbred racing, NYRA's prospects looked bleak as a slew of racing industry contendors swooped in like birds of prey circling a dead woodchuck on the Northway.

But several things happened between then and now, including a new management group reporting for duty under the watchful eyes of court-mandated watchdogs to clean house. At the same time, the contending groups became a field of moving targets, with each week bringing a new collaboration announcement or some dirty laundry being uncovered. Maybe Magna Corporation would ruin Saratoga the same way it ruined Gulfstream Park, some knowing minds began wondering.

NYRA's biggest ace in the hole was its threat to basically shut down racing statewide by claiming ownership of the actual racing faciltiies. In other words, "if you dont give us what we want, we're locking the front gates and hiding the keys" became it's chief strategy. It argued that since it's been paying property taxes on Saratoga, Belmont and Aqueduct, it therefore must own them. NYS said 'phooey,' and most legal scholars agreed.

But, regardless of who's right, Mr Spitzer knows -- better than anyone -- that the issue could throw a three-year monkey wrench called litigation into the festivities. True to form, the Governor took a long hard look at the landscape and decided that it wasn't worth that legal hassle and decided that NYRA could be made to work -- as could the nonprofit model.

This deal isn't 100% done, however. Senator Bruno is already making noise about not being pleased and is promising to be his usual obstructionist self. But Uncle Joe might better be careful on this one: NYRA was always the popular choice amnong the local Capital Region crowd and he might not have all the votes needed to stop this one from going through.

Without getting in to an opinion of whether NYRA was the right choice or the wrong choice, let this be said: the political leadership of Saratoga Springs didn't come out of it looking real good. Sure, most of them jumped on the NYRA bandwagon at the end, but the local NYRA support is strictly a result of greedy, short-term self-interest. "Saratoga Race Course rocks, and is making us all happy, so why fix it if it ain't broke?" So the Spa City thinking goes, at least.

What most of them don't understand, however, is the big-picture issue of a sport/industry in major trouble. While the Saratoga meet is a success, it is one of only three exceptions to the rule (along with DelMar and Keeneland) among dozens more that are empty shells of what this sport used to be--which was one at the forefront of the American psyche a half a century ago. Whereas Belmont used to draw 40,000 sports-minded citizens on any given Saturday, they are hard pressed to attract 4,000 hard core gegenerates today. Would a corporate CEO have his contract renewed after that kind of report card?

So, when the local politicains chimed -- in unison -- that the three New York tracks should not --under absolutely ANY circumstances -- be broken up and awarded to different operators at each one, it simply highlights their ignornace of the big picture. Running a combination race track/ casino/ real estate development business in metro NYC is a different project than running a country fair meet in upstate New York. Good business principles dictate that you realize such, and treat them as separate businesses with properly skilled management being dedicated to each one.

This is the type of thinking that the local set seems incapable of engaging in on this issue. As well as on most issues.

It looks like horse racing in New York is still NYRA's game. Let's just hope that the Big Scare they've been given over the past couple of years will do some good. Horse racing is just too important to screw up.

Aug 28, 2007

Panic on the Homefront

As would be expected, today's headline has everyone in a panic:

NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. home prices fell 3.2 percent in the second quarter, the steepest rate of decline since Standard & Poor's began its nationwide housing index in 1987, the research group said Tuesday.

Reality Check:

Let me put my economist's hat on for one of those rare occasions -- I need to justify that degree, after all ---- and explain why this development is a GOOD THING:

First,....... (well, never mind: if anyone really cares, send me an email and I'll carry on.)

Aug 13, 2007

Wolf Road dumps: one down, one up

That old abandoned gas station on the corner of Wolf and Albany Shaker Roads in Colonie (right across from the Times Union) has long been labeled as an "eyesore." An underground fuel tank ruptured many years ago, turning the property into a mini Love Canal. No one would touch it, given the cleanup and liability costs.

Apparently, those concerns have been laid to rest and a developer is ready to roll with his new plans for the now-valuable land. The old garage is being torn down as I write this, all to make way for.......

TWO FAST FOOD FRANCHISES!

Great; just what Colonie needed. Maybe we should have left the original toxic dump instead of just replacing it with a new one.

Aug 8, 2007

Albany man finds head in Burger King whopper!

It's always good to see Albany on the national news wires. After all, there's no such thing as bad publicity, right? After all, look at what it did for Pee Wee Herman's career.

Check this locally based mega-buzz story about some fat guy finding a human head in his Burger King double whopper, right here in The Ole Town, courtesy of the Onion News Network.



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If it's a news broadcast, it has to be true, doesn't it?


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Aug 4, 2007

The cult of Marylou

I decided to venture down to Congress Park in Saratoga to witness the people at Marylou Whitney's annual gala. No, I wasn't interested in the Queen's party guests--those are the same old has-beens, year after year.

Instead, I had to get a look at these people that actually go down there to do the above! What exactly do these individuals look like? Are they the kind of people we see in our everyday goings-on, or are they a different breed entirely? Any similaritities to the crowd you see in a WalMart at 2AM? Any parallels to be drawn to the worshipping of Eva Peron in a different era?

But, a problem arose: I ran into someone I know. When's the last time I actually ran into a fellow native Saratogian while downtown? But it happened last night. Great timing, right? They likely thought I was part of the gawker set; a full fledged member of the Cult of Marylou.

That'll serve me right for venturing out of the house in August.....

Jul 27, 2007

Burgh to Bruno: Move It

A lovely time at Opening Day of the Saratoga races on Wednesday. Clear skies, lovely fillies, good company in the box. Everything was perfect.

Well, almost perfect. This guy ruined it. Actually, the first thing I saw upon entering the hallowed grounds this year was Uncle Joe Bruno standing at a podium, hammering away at the Governor for all the nasty shenanigans he's been up to.

Someone please tell me WHY the New York Racing Association feels obligated to host this type of event? It would be one thing if the Majority Leader had some breaking news on the racing franchise agreement or major changes to the state's breeding incentive program. But he didn't. He' just pissed off that someone else is pissed off at the way state resources (planes, helicopters, security) are used for political campaign efforts.

Memo to Mr Bruno: move the next press conference down to road to The Horsehoe Inn. Some of us are trying to enjoy a simple day out of the office with friends.

Jul 18, 2007

Things that drive me crazy; part 54

Our team and two oustide companies are pitching a three-way project to an out-of-state business. Everything was progressing smoothly and we were almost there----until a few minutes ago.

Yesterday, the prospect requested that our final proposal be in her hands the next morning (meaning today). Sending it by e-mail wouldn't work because it included various physical exhibits. FedEx Next Day to the rescue. Real simple, right?

So I start the wheels in motion: an email to our two project partners that stated: "get the proposal overnight'd to the XYZ Corporation in Baltimore and label it attention Mary Smith." Included in my correspondence was a prior communique from Ms Smith, thus displayng her email address and company web site domain. Done deal; it was off to series of appointments I went.

This morning, I awake to an email that says this: "we couldn't FedEx the package because you didn't tell us their shipping address."

Now, both of these parties are in a constant-online mode, mind you, courtesy of broadband connections.

A quick phone call to my hapless and helpless friends this AM had me asking both "couldn't you have just typed the company name into Google and found it? Or e-mailed the lady and asked? Or called them up after asking an operator to assist you?" In both cases, I was answered with silence.

The deal is dead--they HAD to have the stuff by 9AM, and not even a plane ride can get it there by then.

The only satisfaction I got out of it was my early morning phone calls woke both of them up. But that doesn't quite do it. Maybe I'll program my phone to ring them up every morning at random times for the next three months...

In the meatime, I think I will go buy myself a bicycle helmet. It will come in handy throughout the day as I bang my head against the walls.

Jul 16, 2007

Good news: Albany now has a REAL radio station


Every once in a while you get lucky. The Capital Region just got collectively lucky.

Radio station WEXT has just launched its new broadcast / webcast operation -- 97.7 on the FM dial. Its format is an eclectic one, echoing the wide range of GREAT music from MANY fantastic artists that ARE out there in the world today. Unlike all of the conglomerate-owned stations in this market, WEXT is actually playing them! It now joins WEQX up in Manchester as the local rays of hope in that department -- along with some pretty good college stations we have around here.

What's unique about WEXT -- and therefore what makes us the aforementioned lucky ones -- is that it is part of the WMHT family. Now, it's fairly common for a so-called public broadcasting organization to be owning and operating an FM radio stations. But what is odd (in a good kind of way) here is that this particular station is in the middle of the FM dial (as opposed to the left hand side) and that it is playing a non-classical format.

But no canned formats here, folks. So far, the people involved are playing--well, whatever they want to play! Within the past hour, I have heard a varied playlist that included Cat Empire, Graham Parker, John Prine, LCD Soundsystem, Spoon and Wilco. Not their "best known hits' mind you--but they are diving deep into the albums and pulling out all sorts of gems.

Doubly good is the fact that the station is supporting the hometown music community by playing them through its Local 518 initiative! I've heard our friends The Kamikaze Hearts, Super 400 and even Lonesome Val--now she brings back some memories!

This station has the potential to revive the local live-music scene, taking a role similar to that of WQBK-FM back in the 80's.

Give them a listen, and do what you can to support them. TechValleyTimes will.

Jul 11, 2007

Top 10 Ways to Handle Jehovah's Witnesses


Guest Submission
from
Albany Rants

It seems like this past weekend was peak annoyance season from our favorite walking zombies here in the Capital Region. I betcha I must have seen them in five different neighborhoods. They kind of remind me of scenes from Night of the Living Dead, the way they march down the street looking for prey.

As a public service to my readers, I hereby submit ten suggestions on the best means of handling a visting Jehovah's Witness the next time one or more of them rings your doorbell on a Sunday morning:

1) Answer it naked. If able; be aroused

2) Be smoking a joint

3) Speak in tongues

4) Ask if they've run across any hot chicks in the neighborhood who look like they could use a little 'wake up call'

5) Ask if they'd like to come in and watch some gay porn

6) Tell them you used to be a Witness yourself, but you're "doing much better now"

7) Tell them that the last two Witnesses that were here ended up staying for a few weeks

8) Offer $10 for a BJ

9) Offer an "I'll buy if you fly" on a cold six pack of Budweisers

10) Ask how they feel about the Bible passages that seem to encourage incest and bestiality.

There you go--this should take care of your problem. Let me know how you make out.

Jun 27, 2007

A Pine Bush tick museum?

We hear that there is a new Visitor's Center of some sort at Albany's Pine Bush Preserve.

That has us wondering whether or not it includes a deer tick display, considering that seems to be the dominant creature in this particular habitat.

Free Advice: if you ever dare to venture into T he Bush for a leisurely hike, do a thorough once-over inspection and the kids after, looking for these nasty things dug into your skin, sucking blood out of you and pumping disease into you.

Personally, I've taken three hikes over there. Twice, I've found ticks on myself; the other time my companion did the same.

Tread carefully.

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Jun 22, 2007

Two club shows booked for July



TechValley Times presents...

July 20 (Friday): The Sarah Pedinotti Band
(CD release show)

Fast-rising local phenom Sarah Pedinotti offers a surprising change of musical direction with her new City Bird release. Moving into more Americana and roots-rock territories, Ms. Pedinotti and her crackerjack bandmates appear to have unleashed their breakthrough album, sure to gain national attention.
Be the first to hear it at this show, set nicely in Saratoga's favorite music room.
$10 / 18+ / 9PM
(Advance Online Purchase Recommended)

July 21 (Saturday): The Everybodyfields + Robinella
(Double-bill)

Two of the southeast's most popular and acclaimed young musical acts team up for a very special double-bill in Saratoga's favorite music room.
The Everybodyfields have become the darlings of the festival circuit, with their deeply moving and poignant songs of heartache, loss and the longing for home. No act captures the modern day rural experience like they do.
RobinElla, who has been flirting with stardom for three years, brings her eclectic 'twang over jazz' mix to the party.
This is must-see show for anyone curious about the current state of the alt-country and Americana genres.
$10 Door - $8 Advance / 18+ / 8PM
($8 Advance Tix Online-only)


More info, audio and video previews and tickets HERE.
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Jun 20, 2007

Final 'Alive at Five' rant--we promise

Yes, we have done a whole lotta railing about Albany's Alive at Five after-work music series in this column (or whatever you call this thing). To recap our opinion; the consistently shitty booking of mostly third-rate musical acts year after year is a black eye to the city's image and the waste of a tremendous goodwill opportunity.

Apparently, many of you feel the same way--- as shown by the incoming e-mails in response. But most of them are written in a spirit of resignation, with a common theme being that "a public sector agency such as the city's Office of Special Events is inherently incapable of producing a quality show." We disagree.

Exhibit A: the 2007 schedule for the City of Rochester's equivalent series:

- Max Creek and the Park Avenue Band, June 14.
- Blues with the Robert Cray Band, and locals, June 21.
- Retro zoot suiters Cherry Poppin’ Daddies and local Latin bands, June 28.
- Reggae-groove with Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad and Revision, July 5.
- Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes, Steve Forbert & the Soundbenders, July 12.
- Lucinda Williams and Charlie Louvin, July 19.
- Donna the Buffalo and Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers, July 26.
- The North Mississippi Allstars and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Aug. 2.
- New Riders of the Purple Sage and String Theory Bluegrass Band, Aug. 9.

That's right: no Chicago tributes, American Idol also-rans, old Motown acts with only one member that played within the first 20 years of the group's existence or headlining local cover bands straight out of the bars around the corner. Good job out there in Rock-chester. Anyone out here interested in taking over Alive at Five over here?

Sorry, but the one good show per year that the Albany series averages isn't hacking it.


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Jun 16, 2007

Vapor's da bomb (the bad kind of bomb)

We haven't been there ourselves (and don't really have any plans to), but the early reviews on the new Vapor night club at the Saratoga Racino complex are not so hot. Actually, they are downright brutal.

The room was a part of the facility's recent multimillion dollar expansion and is an attempt to add a little buzz to the joint--as well as attract the regional Young & Beautiful crowd, dressed to the nines and ready to suck down some $300 bottles of champagne, Vegas style.

But it looks like it isn't quite working out that way. From what we hear, attendance has been sparse and that Y&B demographic has been non-existent. The few curious folks that have wandered into this lovely room are instead the already firmly-established, slots-addicted clientele that has been built up over there since this place opened a few years, back: casually dressed (i.e., shorts, sandals and Don Ho shirts) middle aged types whose idea of a hot night out is hitting the karaoke bars. Not a pretty scene, from what we're told.
It sure isn't that major league blonde in the $1,000 dress that appears in the commercials, anyways.

Things will only get scarier: we see KC and the Sunshine Band and some sort of Abba tribute on the upcoming events calendar. Shake, shake, shake--shake yer booties, Grandma!

Here's our prediction on what will happen over there..

- Management (who are no dummies) will start to get nervous about this huge investment they made.

- At the same time, they will start asking themselves how they can utilize this spacious and valuable floor space during the daytime hours.

- Plus, there will no doubt be demand for more slot machines.

- So, the upstairs horse racing simulcast area will be converted into an additionl VLT room, and the racing action will be moved into Vapor. The operating model that will be copied: the club house section of the OTB Teletheater in Albany.

- The nite club will continue, but won't kick in until after the racing action is turned off. And without the current dress code--which they don't seem to be enforcing anyways. Live music will be de-emphasized.
- Don't be looking for the latest in house and EDM music getting spun; look for more of the current soundscape, which is sounding like some sort or 80's disco jukebox (so we're told by people feel obligated to that track that sort of thing, at least).

Remember, you heard it predicted here first.

Jun 14, 2007

Rent this space -- cheap!

It seems like every physical space is for sale (or more accrurately, for lease); as long as it has the potential to attract eyeballs for the purpose of planting some sort of commercial marketing message. Examples abound: sports arenas, concert halls, basketball floors, dasher boards at hockey games --- Billboard Marketing, 21st century style.

More proof: Capital Communications Federal Credit Union has bought the naming rights to the WGY broadcast studios. I'm sure there is some fine print to this deal requiring the station to always toss that fact into the mix when announcing the locale of various on-air shows. Not that WGY does a whole lot of show-production anymore , mind you. Most of their content is fed via satellite.

There's another unique twist on this concept here in the Albany market -- naming rights to invidual passenger cars! That's right, MyCarMyCar.com will let you plaster your company's name and logo onto somebody else's auto for about $400/month. What's the car owner get out of the deal? A $100 gas debit card for each month he or she participates.

I've seen this concept in other markets around the US, but at a lower dollar figure. I predict we'll see a price adjustment soon on this local attempt.

What's the bid to put your name on my forehead?

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Jun 13, 2007

Online grocery shopping eyes its comeback

Remember a few years back when the concept of buying groceries online was pushed? A cick-click, and delivery of that big box of Cap'n Crunch, right to your door.

A few national startups took a run at this business model and did big time crash and burns. Locally, Price Chopper even took a shot, but very quickly pulled the plug, cut its losses and no doubt started sending out internal memos asking "just whose stupid idea was this, anyways?"

We see now that this dead horse is back from the grave. Online retailing magawonder Amazon is in the grocery business.

Its Amazon Grocery now offers over 22,000 non-perishable items including "some of your favorite brands, shipped to your door," just like any other Amazon.com purchase.

This will be interesting to watch. You think Price Chopper's nervous --- or chuckling?

Jun 12, 2007

Senecas to NYS: you owe $28K/day

I don't know what the exact points of contention are between the Seneca Nation of Indians and the Empire State, but some sort of arachnid has obviously gotten up the butts of our Native New Yorker friends to the west.

Here's a portion of the press release we received today:

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SENECA NATION, CATTARAUGUS TERRITORY (June 12, 2007) – The Council of the Seneca Nation of Indians announced today that the Nation delivered to New York State officials its first bill for vehicular passage on I-90 through Tribal lands.

The amount, $28,000 a day, is based on state Thruway Authority official figures listed on the agency’s Web site. The Council voted May 12, 2007 to charge the state for tolls retroactively to April 14, 2007, when the Council determined that its Thruway right-of-way land agreement was voided, in accordance with Tribal law.
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No real comment from this end: just thought I'd share....

Jun 8, 2007

Goodbye new friend

My guess had been correct. When I asked if she were a Rolling Stones fan, the answer came with a quick "of course I am, silly" and a great big smile. "That album was my theme song way back as a little kid," she said. Without further prodding, I knew she was referring to the Some Girls release, 1978.

So began my first chat with one Diva de Loayza. The setting was the morning coffee portion of our February TechValleyTimes FORUM session, where she had come to learn about the topic de jour: Guerilla Marketing in the Digital Age. All in support of her burgeoning mini-empire of funky fashion boutiques sprouting up in the Capital Region and beyond. Each one named Some Girls, as per the soundtrack of her youth.

Diva left this earth on Wednesday, the tragic result of a car-meets-bicycle incident near the UAlbany uptown campus the week prior.

The inititial news of the accident came but one day after my sending her a gift. While perusing e-bay's rock & roll memorabilia section, I ran across an original show poster from the Stones' Some Girls USA tour. This was an easy one: wouldn't that look kewl in one of Diva's local shops? Of course it would, so a quick PayPal transaction sent it here, and a quick re-packaging sent it to Troy.

It's rare to find a young, single, high energy individual -- as per Ms D -- having hit the pause button in the middle of a major business expansion initiative to put together a business succession plan in the event disaster strikes. So, it is unknown whether Some Girls will have a life beyond that of its founder and guiding spirit.

I hope somehow it does, for that would be the perfect tribute to her. If so, I also hope that poster makes it up on the wall as well.


RM
Photo by Melissa Ann Argay, Expressions Photography

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Jun 1, 2007

Taking a scalping

The word out yesterday is that the Empire State will soon take the actions necessary to toss what are commonly known as its "scalping laws" from the books. The result will be that it is no longer illegal to markup and re-sell an admission ticket to a sporting or concert event at whatever price the original purchaser so desires. Previously, one could only re-sell it at a minimal add-on; now the sky is the limit. You just can't physically make the transaction within X feet of the venue.

While I can understand the "let the market run its course" logic on this, let me present a scenario that might give second thought to such an approach. The following is based on a real world situation that recently occured:

- A popular artist was booked to perform at a venue.
- Ticket sales were announced, beginning at a certain time on a certain date: for this example, let's say it was 10AM on June 15.
- At 10:01AM, the show was Sold Out

Within a day, tickets for this show were appearing on Craigslist and various other online sites at prices that were 3x-10x the face value. At the time, such action was illegal; in the near future, it will be legit. All is cool; this is just the average Joe making a quick buck for himself, right?

Well, not quite. Here is the dirty inside scoop of what actually transpired here:

Prior to that 10AM ticketing start time; the promoter of this show personally bought one-half of the tickets. How? He told the ticketing agency that the actual start time was 8AM; the locally advertised 10AM was a ruse. They were bought 'at the box office', thereby avoiding those dreaded and costly convenience fees.

So, guess who the Craigslist seller of those marked up tickets was? Yep, our promoter friend. A huge sum of money went directly into his pocket.

The band gets screwed here, because their performance fee is based on the advertised ticket price, and their initial price point. They got no portion of the markup. Of copurse, the public is screwed as well.

The ticketing companies love it, and they want to play in this sandbox too. They are already kicking into high gear by setting up their own aftermarket ticket exchanges. One has to ask whether or not any of these markup'd tix were actually "bought" by the ticketing companies themselves? Wouldn't it be nice to find out? Someone get me Mr. Cuomo's phone number.

File this one under Unintended Consequences.


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May 25, 2007

Tonight's lead story (no doubt)

Let's see; it's about noon here on Friday, Memorial Day weekend. Here's a prediction on what you'll see as the lead story on at least one of our crackerjack local broadcast news stations tonight:

A live remote from Exit 24, with a breathless "wow-- look at all the cars!" spin.

Followed, of course, by a "gee, gas prices really high; let's interview this guy over here about how it effects his vacation plans this year."

Those crews not there alongside the Thruway will instead be up on the main drag of Lake George village, interviewing a shop owner about the coming tourist season.

We've never seen this stuff before, have we? Just the latest example of 'lowest common denominator' lifestyle-journalism at its worse.

Any wagers?


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May 17, 2007

On AMD, Luther Forest, SEMATECH - and readers like YOU!

A big THANKS to all the folks that were nice enough to send us the kind words on our recent round of e-newsletters and editorial columns, specifically the AMD at Luther Forest and International SEMATECH at Albany Eye on Tech Valley features of the past couple of weeks.

Heck; here's another round of THANKS to the two of you that wrote in with the not so kind words! We actually DO appreciate them just as much -- we're all about supporting an Open Source dialogue; so keep it flying.

A third THANKS to all of you that made financial contributions to Tech Valley Times through our new Tip Jar. The comments attached to each one were just as valuable as the funds themselves. Alan Chartock and the WMHT people have it right after all!

Yes; we WILL dedicate a good chunk of that incoming wave of support to finding an editor that has a little more use for a good old fashioned spell-checker!


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May 16, 2007

Hello, neighbor

Ok, it's QUIZ TIME, kids!

Today's question: what famous rock & roll star has just taken up residence in the Spa City (that's slang for Saratoga Springs, for all you recent transplants to the region)?

Thirty-first correct answer wins a two dollar voucher for opening day at the track.

May 15, 2007

What's a half-billion among friends?

We didn't hear it ourselves, but the Times Union's Eric Anderson reports this statement from the lips of a featured speaker at yesterday's Summit in Tech Valley:

Doug Grose, formerly of IBM Corp. and now with Advanced Micro Devices Inc., said this morning that AMD’s most recent quarter, when it lost $600 million, comes after 14 quarters of consecutive gains, adding that “one quarter doesn’t make a year.”
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Someone alert Mr Grose to take a look at his portfolio; he might be in for a surprise. In fact, AMD lost $574 million in the preceding quarter (4Q '06). Granted, most (but not all) of that figure represents the acquisition costs of the ATI deal, but a loss is still a loss as far as the financial fig's are concerned.
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May 14, 2007

One plus, one minus for the local biz media

I'm the first to beat up on the local 'mainstream' media (both print and broadcast) for failing to ask the tough questions on business and economic development issues locally. The term "Chamber Cheerleaders" is a popular phrase used to describe their usual softball approach. After all, there's no need to be ticking off your advertising base, right?

That's why I have to give a thumbs up to CBS 6's Jack Aernecke for his surprise questioning of Mr Silver, Mr Kaloyeros and Mr Spitzer at today's news conference designed to advise everyone that the SEMATECH funding is making good progress in its rush thru the legislature. Jack's question asked the trio to justify a $300 million public investment for "just 500 jobs."

Although he needn't feel like he has to cover his butt by prefacing it with a "many people think this / so I have to ask it" type of intro, he's right in asking it. Maybe there's hope yet for an open source community around here that is willing to have an honest and healthy discussion with itself.

Some observers might think that Jack is pulling an Imus by daring to say what's on his (and others') mind. But heck, Jack is retiring -- he can say whatever he wants and doesn't need to worry about this nonsense anymore!

Also in the 'local media' department:

Why is everyone claiming that the company tours this year are a first for the Summit in Tech Valley? In fact, this was done at 2003's edition.

How do I know? Because I distinctly recall that as being my first visit to the UAlbany-East campus and getting a great tour of the Center for Functional Genomics from Dr Paulette McCormick and Gene Schuler; that's how!

Health living = healthy memory!


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May 13, 2007

Not so Alive at Five


The summertime Alive at Five series on the Albany riverfront has long been known among local music hipsters as the "Fair Employment Act for Washed Up Nostalgia Acts and Cover Bands." Sad to say; but this year's edition looks like further proof of just that.

We have Felix Cavaliere's Rascals (but not the Rascals Rascals, mind you), the latest variation of Jefferson Starship; Charles Thomas' Drifters (who may or may not include any original Drifters, as if anyone knows or cares), a Chicago tribute band (why don't they just hire a karaoke DJ?), a local cover/bar band and a couple others. Oh yeah, I almost forgot: and the ORIGINAL Asia. I know, you're all asking the same question: But why?

The sole highlight will be Los Lobos with Los Straitjackets on August 9th. Catch this one if you can.

But Alive at Five is free of charge; and like any local free event, it will be filled to the rim with people anxious for something-- well, free. And that makes it all OK, I guess.

But the City of Albany's events people, in their role of trying to brand downtown as the happening place to be, should re-consider its booking choices on this long running series.

Unless it's all just part of a grand plan to steal the Elvis Weekend away from Lake George. If that's the case, well: never mind
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