Saturday, December 8, 2007

Capital Region Fans Suck

Wow, talk about getting to the point.

What is the deal with Capital Region folk? They have this chip on their shoulder that they don't have any of the big sports or nice stadiums, but when they have something that is good they lose interest.

I've heard this about stores, "we want Macy's to stock the nice stuff." Macy's complies, people don't buy the stuff, Macy's goes back to selling what it had been selling.

When you want something, you have to support it. Albany isn't a vibrant metropolis, it's a 8-4, Monday thru Friday city. Most people living in the burbs of this shrinking city never have a desire to head downtown. The sad thing is, Albany has done a great job revitalizing itself, IN SPITE of the fact that the suburbanites don't support this. Believe me, you won't get shot walking from the car to the TU. As dead as it is, you might not even see another person on your short walk.

The most interesting stat about Albany, a telling tale, is that over the last 20 years the Capital Region population has remained fairly steady while the urban sprawl has increased drastically. One the flip side, the city of Albany's population as dropped like a rock.

I'm guessing the spread out of the population has made it inconvenient for this work day based population to get to the arena. Unfortunately, arenas are designed to put fannies in the seats. When they don't, they stop selling tickets and the team leaves.

Albany does a great job over the summer with various festivals in Washington Park, at the Empire Plaza, and Live At Five at Corning Preserve. All of course free, on weekend days, and always well attended.

I've always defended people of this region. When they chased out the Albany-Colonie Yankees, a team filled perpetually with up and coming stars (Jeter, Williams, Rivera, Petite and many others), I said baseball is a sport that needs a quality stadium to draw the casual fan. Heritage Park was at best a decent high school field and not proper for this region.

Then came the Joe, Joseph L. Bruno Stadium, in Troy and baseball fans have come out every year for the last 5 years. Not only that, they have increased attendance yearly. Of course, you have a beautiful stadium, a team that has won 4 out of 5 years, and if you didn't show up you'd have no excuse.

What I can't understand is why at an arena as nice as the Times Union, with a quality hockey team that is run by an organization that lets the team play to win, cannot draw a decent crowd.

Arenas are arenas, nothing special about any of them. There is only so much you can do to a giant warehouse with a sports court in the middle of it. But the TU is legit pro arena, it seats close to 20,000, and you can fill it when Billy Joel comes, or Hanah Montana. So why can't you show up to watch a few hockey games a year? Maybe support your Albany Conquest as well.

It can't be the ticket prices, because they are fair. Nope it's not NHL, but it's not NHL prices. You can afford to take the family to a Rats game, but how many can take a family of 5 to an NHL game???

Sure the Devils sucked the life out of the River Rats, but Carolina is letting the Rats play, and the hockey is good. The team is winning. It's not a great offensive team but they are physical, and can play defense.

Why can Rochester draw 7000 a night, but Albany only 3000 on a good night. Rochester also regularly sells out it's AAA baseball games. And Rochester is just 1 hour from Buffalo with an NHL team and another AAA baseball team. I use Rochester as an example because it's very similar in size and location to larger cities as Albany is.

Bottom line, Albany-Schenectady-Troy if you don't support your teams you will lose them, and while I'm sure you all fantasize about pro teams and the big city...AHL hockey, NY-Penn League baseball, and arena football are all you are going to get, unless you want to take a 3 hour drive every time you want to watch a live sporting event.

So support your teams (or don't cry when they are gone)!!!!

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Monday, December 3, 2007

Finch-Pruyn Purchase 161,000 acres of Adirondack Biodiversity

I believe back in June 2007, the Nature Conservancy aqcuired the rights to the Finch Lands. The deal allows Finch Pruyn to use the land as a working forest for an additional 20 years which will hopefully keep a lot of people at the paper mill in Glens Falls happy.

This is both sadly and happily one of the last, and perhaps largest, contiguous parcels of private land in the forest preserve.

But as you can read below, 161,000 acres of biodiversity doesn't come without a cost. Lots of hungry mouths to feed including the tax man, the conservationist, the hunter, hiker, snowmobiler and the developer.

Nevertheless, having the Nature Conservancy try to figure out this mess puts me more at ease. Like ANWR, even if I never get to set foot on most of this land, it makes me all warm and fuzzy to know it's there and never going to have a Walmart, strip mall, or some over sized seasonal house built on it.

Well, I can wish about renewing the leases to the hunting clubs for 20 more years, then slowly bringing most the land into the forest preserve.

Conservancy weighs fate of 161,000 acres in Adirondacks

First published: Sunday, December 2, 2007
Albany Times Union

After driving endless numbers of internal roads and an hourlong fly-over in Tommy Helms's 30-year-old Cessna sea plane, what's most striking about the 161,000 acre Finch, Pruyn & Co. property in the Adirondacks is its vastness and continuity.

Or as biologist Michelle Brown of the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy put it, the property's "intactness." Viewed in a global context, which we seldom think of for the Adirondacks, Brown says the Finch, Pruyn & Co. lands represent one of the last, best places on earth to conserve, protect and keep whole a significant temperate deciduous forest system.

What a stunning acquisition this is by the Nature Conservancy, still breathtaking to contemplate six months after it happened.

A meticulously maintained working forest in the pumping heart of the Adirondacks kept very private for 146 years, with 144 miles of river, 70 lakes and ponds, 80 mountains and and a ton of natural wonders only a few eyes have seen.

On very short notice, timber products giant Finch, Pruyn & Co. came calling and Adirondack Chapter executive director Mike Carr and his staff dropped an already full plate of land stewardship issues in the North Country to accommodate. They scrambled, borrowing $110 million from John Hancock Insurance and the Open Space Institute to seal the deal.

But now the madness begins. While an expensive clock driven by the interest on those loans is ticking, Carr has given himself a year to put together a complicated plan for the future of the property that takes into account myriad demands and desires from a broad range of stakeholders, and the Nature Conservancy's own mission statement.

"I'm not going to please everybody, probably nobody completely," the affable Carr said, as we were driving down a private road to a trail head that would take us in under a half-hour to a postcard view of Ok-Slip Falls.

In future generations, this little trail to the highest waterfall in the Adirondacks, and one of the tallest in the state, will become as popular as the trek from Adirondack Loj to Marcy dam -- if it becomes part of the Adirondack forest preserve, or becomes public through an easement. It probably will, because it is very high on the wish list of environmental groups looking to steer about half of the 161,000 acres into the Forever Wild forest preserve.

That means the state will have to make a significant purchase here. But at the same time, local governments, which have a veto if Environmental Protection Fund money is used, will have their demands, primarily centering on economic development opportunities. A snowmobile trail linking the towns from Long Lake to Schroon Lake is a high priority for them. The hunting and fishing clubs with a combined membership of 3,500 that lease 131,000 of the acres now would like a voice in the future as well, even though they may have to settle for smaller leases than they have now, and then there is Michelle Brown's voice, most compelling of all.

The Nature Conservancy, after all, is about protecting nature, biological diversity. Not about guaranteeing public access, or honoring hunting leases, or developing recreational opportunities. Mike Carr is certainly aware of all these other hands out, and wants to satisfy as many as he can, but not at the expense of the fragile ecosystems, the unusual, threatened and endangered.

The Adirondack Chapter has launched a hurry-up $35 million fundraising effort over this property, which tells me in the end they hope to keep a hunk of it. Interestingly, in short order they've raised more than $5 million, most of it coming in far from Long Lake. There are those in distant places who may never see the Adirondacks who understand the global importance of this piece of property.

So Mike and his staff and board will get a chance to decide how best to divvy it up to give it the wisest protection and use, while getting out from under a groaning debt load and a $1 million a year in taxes.

I do not pretend to have an inside track on Mike's thinking. Besides, I think his evolving plan is very fluid at the moment. But here are my impressions of where we'll be when the dust settles on this phenomenal legacy for our grandchildren.

Much of the Finch, Pruyn & Co. property will continue as a working forest. Done right, it works.

Mike Carr is a big believer in the dynamic that currently exists, that's kept the Finch, Pruyn & Co. properties beautifully maintained and conserved. In all likelihood, sexy items like the Essex Chain lakes, the Hudson Gorge, OK-Slip Falls, and maybe even Boreas Ponds will go into the forest preserve, as environmentalists wish. But there will be a place for the hunting and fishing clubs, which have proved to be excellent stewards and represent a strong Adirondack tradition.

There will be a connected snowmobile trail along existing logging roads, and probably named lakes and ponds that Tommy Helms and the other seaplaners can fly into, to keep that old tradition alive too.

Through the manipulation of transferable development rights, struggling towns and hamlets surrounded by forest preserve will get buildable property for growth.

In other words, my hunch is Mike Carr will come up with a complex mish-mash of public and private interests interlocked through easements, leases and fee purchases. A new paradigm for land acquisition in the Adirondacks.

This arrangement will require unprecedented cooperation and respect among parties, and pose a huge challenge for enforcement and all new headaches for the DEC.

But you can be sure the delicate ferns and mosses growing around rare limestone outcroppings, around Pickwacket Pond and up in the higher elevations, around Squaw Brook valley, and elsewhere, will never be safer.

Albany, N.Y.: - Print Story

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Veterans Day Weekend In Washington DC

Not really ready to test my knee on the ice just yet, I've been delaying getting back out into the mountains in favor of more treadmill and weights for rehab. It's a big difference between walking on tacky ground and slick ice. I'd feel foolish if I got hurt because I was in a rush to get out. Of course this is also a psychological barrier that everyone goes through, is it ready? Is it too soon?

My goal is to be mountain ready by Dec 1st and be doing some good hikes and climbs by the first of the year. This time of the year is weird. Lots of ice on the trails, not much snow. Still lots of mud too. Very clearly it's a transitional time of the year depending on altitude. But winter, the time of the year with snow on the ground, seems to get shorter each year and I'd rather make the most of that 3 month stretch than rush things.

So with that in mind we decided to take advantage of the down time and visit my sister in DC at George Mason.

We picked up the rental Friday afternoon, a PT Cruiser, and were on the road by 7pm. Both our cars are getting older, and rentals have free roadside assistance, and after you look at the maintainance cost per mile of driving your own car 800 miles over 2.5 days it pays to spend $70 on a rental for the weekend. Compare that with the government rate of 40 something cents a mile, or about $335 and rental makes more sense. Add in traffic on the I-95/ DC metro corridor and you are really abusing whatever you drive.

After making great time down to Newark, DE Friday night and staying at the Courtyard Marriott for $45 (not a bad price) we got to the National Zoo at 10:30am.

I've been to DC many times but never to the zoo, I wasn't all that impressed. It was at best average. Truthfully, the Memphis Zoo or Bronx Zoo are both better. The San Diego Zoo is one of the best. I'd expect more from the "National" Zoo. I should note though I'm biased, I actually hate zoos in general. Wild animals essentially in prison seems inherently wrong. Sure some of these animals are rescues but others are aren't. So for a zoo to impress me it has to be really good.

As far as the hoopla with the Pandas, these are the most boring bears. The funny part about Panda's is they are actually borderline bears. Genetically, they are closely related to the Red Panda which is more raccoon than bear. Which brings me to the most important part of this little rant...How can the National Zoo lack polar bears?

After the zoo we went to eat at Cactus Cantina a few blocks away. Honestly, one of the best Mexican places I've eaten at recently (actually in the last few years). The fresh tortillas were amazing and the chips and salsa were as well. The prices were very reasonable, and the portions were huge (based on other peoples orders). We just got appetizers (also fairly portioned) and sangria since we were headed to eat crabs shortly thereafter. The Sangria actually had enough alcohol in it to justify the cost (which again was reasonable) of $15 a pitcher.

Crabs!!! It's been a year since I've eaten Blue Claws with Heather and last time we each ate 24 crabs. This time we didn't even get close. Of course last time I was violently ill for hours after and this time I left comfortably stuffed. I was good on our 3rd tray but Heather had to be a smart ass and try to out do me, so she told the waitress to bring another.

Alright, lets play that game, bring it on biotch...Well, when the waitress returned she didn't bring the 10 she had been bringing per tray, but 18. Heather almost cried. We figured the waitress did it out of spite, but actually, after looking around the restaurant we were one of the last groups at 10pm and that was probably what they had left on the steamer.

Until we realized that though we spent quite a bit of time determining the optimal amount to eat to not look wasteful, after all, we were expecting 10 more crabs at most, not nearly 20. So we determined we needed to eat 4-5 each, but sadly after only 3 crabs Heather quit while glaring evilly at the waitress.

I won't go into the details but lets just say Heather was the one violently ill this time around.

Sunday, Aim and Heather got up early and got the Nintendo Wii from Target. It was supposed to be a birthday present from me but little did I know that 12 months after it's release it's still not in stock in the northeastern US. Target in Fairfax had 50 coming in and they got one.

We'll I was crab eating champ for 2007 after a tie in 2006 and I was GMU suite champ of Wii Sports Baseball.

After spending way too much time playing the Wii Sunday morning and eating Aim's birthday cake that Heather and Scott baked, we didn't get to DC till 4pm.

After I moaned groaned, and had cheese and crackers with my whine about missing all the Veterans Day ceremonies, I took a few shots. I didn't have much time and the crowds were obnoxious.

Originally, I intended to go in Saturday night around 2am to get my shots but I was too lazy, and getting around DC is about as inconvenient as any city in the US -at any time of the day. The way most people probably envision NYC is the way DC actually is, only unlike NYC which is amazingly well laid out and convenient and has mass transit 24/7, DC and the suburbs just aren't that well laid out.

The highlight of my trip was actually having a law enforcement officer be polite to me from the start. I had reservations about the rules of setting up a sturdy tripod in front of the White House and no sooner did I have it set up did a very polite uniformed Secret Service agent inform me I had to take it down. No problem, I kinda knew that was coming, and honestly, while most rules make no sense at all, allowing someone to put anything on a stable tripod in front of the White House would be a poor decision.

The trip home was as uneventful as any on I-95 I've ever had. We did the 400 miles from DC to Albany in just over 5:30 hours with 2 refueling stops and 2 pit stops.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Climbing Is Inherently Dangerous: Poke-O-Moonshine Cliff Claims Another Life


CHESTERFIELD, N.Y. (AP) - A man well-known in rock climbing circles was killed yesterday when he fell about 200-feet from a mountain in the eastern Adirondacks.

State police say Dennis Luther of Morrisonville was descending Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain in Essex County when the 54-year-old veteran climber fell while repelling on the mountain's north face. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Troopers say the fall was accidental.

The Adirondacks haven't had a ton of fatal climbing accidents, but certainly many non fatal accidents go unreported. If it doesn't require a rescue there really isn't any reason to contact anyone.

When I went flying down the Trap Dike in March 2006, I was one of 3-4 climbers who took several hundred foot falls on less than vertical technical climbs in the Adirondacks that winter. I was the only one that didn't require rescue, despite my fall being at least as far, if not further than the others.

I was lucky, and others have been luckier. Falling hundreds of vertical feet into deep snow or brush and walking away. Other people aren't so lucky, a 30ft whipper and they're dead. Someone I climbed with a single time, many years ago, had this happen to him a few years later in the Gunks. He fell 30ft, hitting his head and then hung inverted. Though the rescue was rapid, he died from his injuries.

The odd thing about most climbing fatalities is they aren't some NOOB, a slang term for newbie, or someone new at a sport, profession or activity. Heck, even doctors get the NOOB label, it's just classier: resident.

Ironically when a NOOB gets injured it's acceptable because it's expected. The problem with climbing is no one is allowed basic mistakes; gravity doesn't care if you've been climbing 6 months or 20 years.

In spite of the extreme sport perception of climbing, it's really not a dare devil sport. Most long time climbers are the most cautious people you'll ever meet. Climbing is about calculating risk and solving problems, and it's why many of the great climbers in the world are scientist and engineers.

In 2002, a Canadian from Toronto, decided to ice climb on Poko in known bad conditions during a warm spell, and an entire ice pillar came down as he was climbing it. I'd heard he made long drive and decided to give it a shot.
Even though that might sound like a terrible decision, this happens every day all over the world. People take a vacation somewhere and the conditions are terrible, but they spent their money and their limited time offm so they decide to climb anyway. The only time it looks like a bad decision is when you don't go home alive. We are all guilty of it at least once.

On October 8th, 2007 Dennis Luther fell 200ft on Poke-O-Moonshine. It's a steep cliff, highly visible from I-87, and I've only had the chance to climb there once myself. I climbed Neurosis, which is a moderate NEI 3+ ice climb close to where Dennis died. Dennis was an experienced climber with years spent on vertical rock faces.

Climbing is sort of the ultimate rubber necking, arm chair sport. Never has there been a sport where people on the ground think they have the answer to something going on hundreds of feet above them. Likewise, when an accident happens it's written about, and critiqued, and then hopefully learned from. Most of the time, everyone that wasn't involved shakes their head and says, "bummer, but that would never happen to me."

There is even a book that covers all the noted accidents in North America.
Accidents In North American Mountaineering

Thus far I don't think an official accident report has been released about the circumstances of Dennis Luther's accident, but state police said it was on a rappel.

Descent is always the most dangerous part of climbing. And rappelling is when you have the fewest links left in your protection system and it's when most avoidable fatal accidents occur.

There is no way to undo whats done, but hopefully people remember getting complacent means getting hurt.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Albany River Rats Home Opener

A few shots from my coverage of the Albany River Rats home opener versus the Norfolk Admirals. First time shooting hockey in a few years and the pro game is a bit faster than anything I've covered before (collegiate and intermural).

Overall lots of fun...

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Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Going Vertical In The St. Regis Canoe Area

The St. Regis Canoe Area (STRCA) is a pond hoppers paradise. Having 58 ponds in 18,000 wilderness acres, the area has short -but plentiful- portages.

Out of the boat for a weekend we headed for Paul Smith's in the Northern Adirondacks which is just outside the eastern boundary to the STRCA. The goal was either a sunrise or sunset summit and we opted to leave home at around 12pm and watch the sunset.

We had great weather, although it was a bit chilly. Low 40s on the summit with a consistent 10mph breeze.

St. Regis Mountain is on the northern border of the STRCA and offers a commanding view of the "wilderness of waterways" below, as well as a nearly 360* view of the northern Adirondacks.

The hike in is a rolling 3.5 mile walk that goes vertical for the last 1 mile gaining most of the nearly 1300ft in that abbreviated stretch.

Although St. Regis summit has a fire tower, it is neither open, climbable or barely standing at this point.

In the States master plan and Unit Management Plans (UMP) fire towers are a grey area. The state temporaliy grandfathered them into the wilderness areas until the aerial fire survalence and modern communications systems were up and running at 100%. It has been some time since 100% operational status has been reached, and a decade or more since the last fire tower was last staffed. However, the St Regis firetower has been left to be an eyesore and eventually fall to the ground.

My feelings are if the State/DEC/APA feels it needs to go then tear it down and fully remove it from the summit. If it wants to keep it then let a private group restore it as has been done on the other towers in the non wilderness areas.

However, the current state of purgatory this tower is in is a disgrace. Barely standing, and with no lower laddering to even allow people to ascend part way like most closed towers allow.

Personally, I don't believe these belong in wilderness areas. However, I also don't have a major problem with them if they are restored. Regardless, a decision on the status of this tower would be appreciated.

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Monday, October 1, 2007

Meet The Mutts...Head To The Ball Park And Greet The Mutts!!!

The Mets embarrassed themselves and their fans. They played sloppy and without any heart, they seemed like they expected the Marlins and the rest of the National League to roll over for them.

Yes, you are the NY Mets...SO WHAT!!! Historically, you're not the Yankees, you're not even the Redsox. You are only a bit better than the Astros who entered the league the same year as you.

Yet you swagger like you are the team to beat. You laughed when Jimmy Rollins of the Phillies said, "we are the team to beat in the NL East."

Hey Jimmy, congrats on the NL East title, congrats on putting your money where you mouth is, and congrats on the MVP you will be awarded for your monster season.

As far as 2007, you the NY Mutts, were in the lead for the entire season. You had a 7 game lead with 17 games to play, and you finished the season with 7 straight home games, all against teams with sub .500 records.

Why did you lose? Well you irritated every team you played with arrogance that you never even earned. Sadly, even the Yankees don't garner as much hatred from there opponents as you did this season.

You celebrated like you won something Saturday, and then Sunday the Marlins came to play. How'd you like that triple the Marlins pitcher legged out? Did you think he wasn't playing to win when he saw Lastings Milledge dogging it to the wall? Did you think when the Marlins took Dontrell Willis out in the 3rd because he was off his game they weren't trying to win?

Now, after playing one of the worst -perhaps without a doubt the worst- games I have ever seen in person, and with a less than sellout crowd on hand in your franchises most important ever regular season game, the season is over so stick a fork in it, it's done!!

Time for a vacation. Well an official vacation. After all, none of you actually showed up to play for the last month.

Your fans had no faith in you. For weeks they'd been calling sports talk radio exclaiming how you were losers, and sadly, this was when you were still in first place.

NY fans are tough, but you earned the boos Sunday. You actually got off easy. If you were my team I'd have booed from the 1st inning till you walked off the field. Getting beat is one thing, rolling over and playing dead is entirely another.

And as a Yankee fan, you denied me the greatest thrill a Yankee fan can enjoy, besides beating the Redsox. You, the NY Metropolitans, aka. the Mets or the Mutts, intentionally derailed the Subway Series which is the only time we Yankees fans get to win a meaningful game against you.

You squandered a chance to "take over the city", you filled this season with annoying slogans that mean nothing without W's, and you disappointed Mets and Yankees fans alike.

You ruined the possibility of a 4 team playoff for the NL East and wildcard spots which was another reason I was genuinely rooting for you.

Yes, I was at the game genuinely rooting for NY's second team -NY's baseball doormat- to win 1 game against a last place team. I didn't even leave in 6th inning like most of your fans because I held some hope you could beat the Marlins.

In the end, you wasted a perfectly fine Sunday afternoon for the 40,000 fans who showed up to watch playoff baseball while you played like it was a spring training game.

So from someone who really didn't care about the outcome, but would have liked to have seen a good baseball game, thanks for the memories!!! You Suck!!!

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