Category Archives: snow

Snow emergency

I hate being wrong. Sure, most people do, I suppose, but the librarian in me specifically hates giving out wrong information, especially when it’s not my fault.

We’ve been having some nasty weather around Albany recently. The snow and ice storm that came on Thursday meant that after-school activities were called off, my Bible study and choir were canceled, and it took forever to get home, as one totally full Western Avenue bus drove right by me before I caught another. Generally, Albany calls a snow emergency when the snowfall hits six inches, which involves alternate side parking and towed cars. It was 6.4″ at the airport, but the city demurred, probably in anticipation of a second storm Saturday into Sunday.

So, how does one find out about these snow emergencies? You have to dial (518) 476-SNOW when it seems that conditions are likely. So 11 a.m. Monday, I called and got the recording that there would be an emergency starting Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. This was VERY unusual, for while the city’s webpage said that it COULD start snow emergency at 8 a.m., I have no recollection of this taking place in my 28 years in the city; snow emergencies always started at 8 p.m.

So I sent a blind e-mail to some Albany folks to let them know. One writes back, “How do you know? The 476-SNOW number’s not working, and nothing’s on the city page.” So, I called the main number of the Department of General Services around 11:30 a.m. and the woman I spoke to said that she knew that 476-SNOW wasn’t working, that they were working on it, but that the snow emergency would take place Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. I sent an e-mail to this effect to a couple of the TV stations’ websites and posted it on a blog.

About 12:45, I check the Channel 13 website, and it’s stating that there is a snow emergency in Albany starting at 8 P.M. ON MONDAY. What? I called 476-SNOW, and that’s what the message now said. Sometime between 11:30 a.m. and 12:45 p.m., someone in the Albany bureaucracy CHANGED his or her mind? This meant that I had to re-send an e-mail to everyone I had previousdly sent an e-mail to, with the new information.

Did I mention that I hate being wrong?

The Snowstorm of October 4, 1987

Times Union, The (Albany, NY)
October 4, 1997
Author: MARK McGUIRE Staff writer

It was more than a storm; it was a touchstone. The Capital Region has endured its share of severe weather, from blizzards to severe windstorms to even the occasional tornado and hurricane. This one wasn’t even the worst.

Certainly more snow has fallen at one time than the 6 inches that came down on Albany on Oct. 4, 1987. But the damage it caused, and its totally unexpected fall arrival, left a mark on the region and its psyche.

But we don’t have to tell you: You told us.

The Times Union solicited readers to send in their stories from the storm. And you did, in the form of hundreds of e-mails, a likewise number of calls, a letter from prison, even a drawing from a then-5-year-old.

The stories are uniform and unique, of weddings canceled, cars destroyed, days without power, food spoiled, babies born and camping in living rooms. These tales almost invariably start with disbelief, then spiral into different recollections of perseverance and hardship and compassion and humor.

“The snowstorm was one of those events, not unlike one of those national tragedies (JFK assassination, Challenger disaster) in that, if you were there, you remember,” Roger Green of Albany wrote. “I’ve been to many parties where people compare their snowstorm stories.”

Everybody does have a story. Here are but a few:

Here’s mine – I was living in the West Hill section of Albany, on Second Street, between Ontario and Quail Streets. Since I was home on that Sunday morning, watching CBS Sunday Morning, I must have been having one of my periodic spats with the pastor [who is NO LONGER THERE]. Suddenly, the power went out, and immediately after I got outside, I could tell why. A branch on a tree landed on the power wire leading to my house was pulled out, fortunately along the side of the house so I wouldn’t accidentally get electrocuted.

Later that day, I walked to work at FantaCo, which, a dozen blocks away, never lost power. The weird thing about that storm is that lots of people never lost electricity at all, or only for a few minutes, while some people were without it for days, or even a couple weeks.

Sunday night, I stayed at a friend’s house.

Monday, walking to the store, there was this beautiful disconnect. Sunny weather, this foreign white stuff on the leafy trees. And steam – lots of steam. I remember thinking at the time that it had what I imagined was rather post-apocalyptic. I wish I had taken pictures, for I found it eerily beautiful.

I bought the local newspaper, which looked…different. The Times Union building on Wolf Road lost power because of the wet heavy snow, so the TU and sister paper The Knickerbocker News put out a joint newspaper out of the Troy offices of their rival, the Times Record (now the Record). It was in the Times Record fonts. I still have that newspaper, somewhere in the attic.

Monday night, I stayed at home. By then, I had put my perishable food in the snow outside, and fortunately, the gas stove was working, so I ate some of the food I had purchased only the day before the storm. I listened to TV via my battery-powered radio by candlelight. One revelation: the TV show Cagney and Lacey depend on visuals, as well as dialogue.

Tuesday, after work, I stayed with another friend, and Wednesday, after work, with the first friend.

Thursday after work, I was increasingly excited to see that the light at Central and Quail was finally working, and Clinton and Quail, and Second and Quail. YES! Power was restored to my house! My perishable food was ruined, since it had reached 70 degrees outside, but at least I could safely buy more.

The strange thing about this storm was that it was highly localized. Some of the surrounding area had more than a foot of snow and a federal disaster declaration was issued. Ask people in Syracuse or New York City about this storm and they have no idea. It was more like the Buffalo snowstorm of 2006.


It's All About Me, You, Us

Happy Ash Wednesday! Wait a minute, it’s Lent…somber and reflective Ash Wednesday. (Or is that just a function of post-Mardi Gras hangovers?)
Where are my Requiems? I need to play Requiems during Lent – Faure. Rutter. The German by Bach. Of course, Mozart. Gets me in the mood.
At least in the tradition in our church, we usually end the service with Allelujah, Amen, but during Lent, just the Amen until Easter.
Snow removal in Albany-ha! I’m not talking aboout the street snow, for which the city has justifiably been criticized, but the sidewalks, which after nearly a week of warming temperatures are still often impassable. Yeah, the city can fine people, but I’m talking about the social contract. I’ve been out at least thrice since the snow stopped to continually widen the path in front of our house. Meanwhile, there are people who seem to believe that the spelling of snow removal is s-p-r-i-n-g. We’re Northeasterners, people, we should know how to do this.
In re: this comment: “Two hours of television a week for me, dude! The Net is where it’s at!” – what’s the diff? User-Generated Content on TV (see Doritos’ Super Bowl ads). TV on the web (see the vast majority of newtork programming. It’s the message, not the medium.
And speaking of television, I find myself, disturbingly, agreeing in part, with former Reagan special assistant Peggy Noonan. She has a weekly column in the weekend Wall Street Journal called Declarations. This past weekend, she wrote a piece called They Sold Their Soul for a Pot of Message about the early Presidential race; the title reference is a play on words re: Esau in the Book of Genesis selling “his soul for a mess of pottage.”

The most dismaying thing I’ve noticed the past 10 years on television is that ordinary people who are guests on morning news shows — the man who witnessed the murder, the housewife who ran from the flames — speak, now, in perfect sound bites. They also cry on cue. They used to ramble, like unsophisticated folk, and try to keep their emotions to themselves. Anchors had to take them in hand. “But what happened then?” Now the witness knows what’s needed, and how to do it. “And when she didn’t come home, Matt, I knew: this is not like her. And I immediately called the authorities.”

Why does this dismay? Because it’s another stepping away from the real. Artifice detaches us even from ourselves.
Primary Research Group has published a new edition of The Survey of College Marketing Programs. The 170-page study presents more than 650 tables of data relating to college marketing efforts, exploring trends in television, radio,newspaper and magazine advertising, direct mail, college viewbook and magazine publishing, and use of web ads, blogs, search engine placement enhancement, and other internet related marketing. The report also looks closely at spending by colleges on marketing consultancies, market research firms, and advertising and public relations agencies.

The data in the report is broken out by enrollment size, type of college, public/private status, and even by the extent to which colleges draw their applicants from the local area. Fifty-five colleges completed an exhaustive questionnaire. A list of participants is available at our website.

Just a few of the study’s many findings appear below:

• 17.65% of the colleges in the sample make payments to search engines for higher search engine placement in searches. More than a quarter of private colleges make such payments, but only a bit more than 10% of public colleges do so.

• 15.69% of the colleges in the sample have used podcasts as a way to market the college. Podcasts were used most by the research universities in the sample.

• Close to 86% of the colleges in the sample publish a viewbook; all of the private colleges in the sample and three quarters of the public colleges in the sample publish viewbooks.
The mean number of (traditional print) viewbooks distributed by the colleges in the sample in 2006 was 12,954.

• 29.41% of the colleges in the sample offered a PDF version of the viewbook.

• A shade more than 23% say that they are printing fewer and fewer viewbooks each year

• More than twice as many colleges in the sample said that their volume of direct mail for marketing the college had increased over the past two years than said that it had decreased in this same period.

• About 61% of the colleges in the sample include a virtual tour of the college campus on the college website. Larger colleges were somewhat more likely than smaller colleges to have a virtual tour of the campus on the college website. Only 20% of the community colleges in the sample had a virtual tour of the campus on the college website.

• The colleges in the sample received a mean of 53.5% of their applications through the college website, and this figure ranged from 0 to 100%.

• 20.45% of the colleges in the sample have an employee on the college enrollment, marketing, public relations or admissions staffs who is assigned the role of responding to comments about the college or otherwise providing information about the college to bloggers.

• 13.7% of the colleges in the sample use any form of paid advertising service from Google

• Mean annual spending on advertising agencies was $28,800 with median spending of $5,000.

• More than 75% of the colleges in the sample published their own magazines about the college.

• Close to 80% of the colleges in the sample have advertised on the radio; both public and private colleges use radio advertising and college size is not a major determinant of radio advertising use.

• 26.42% of the colleges in the sample have advertised on cable television within the past two years.
In the same vein as TIME Magazine naming me, I mean YOU, as the person of the year last year, Ad Age named The Consumer as Ad Agency of the Year. So this book review I came across interested me:

Let the Seller Beware by Frank Rose. Wall Street Journal. December 20, 2006, p. D.10

“Citizen Marketers” [By Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba; Kaplan Publishing, 223 pages, $25] offers a solid, sometimes insightful explanation of how the Internet has armed the consumer — which is to say, everyone — against the mindless blather of corporate messaging attempts. The stories it tells are not all negative by any means: For every vengeful YouTube posting there are countless blogs that celebrate products as diverse (and unlikely) as Chicken McNuggets, Barq’s root beer and HBO’s “Deadwood.” The author of a blog called Slave to Target confesses that the thought of shopping at Target stores makes her “simply feel orgasmic.” The point is that in the current era of blogs, podcasts, RSS feeds, mashups, Flickr, YouTube, MySpace and whatever is coming next week, corporate decision-makers are losing even the illusion of control. It’s a buyer’s world. Caveat venditor, as [the authors] note: Let the seller beware.

Last March, the Pew Internet & American Life Project reported that 48 million Americans — roughly one-sixth of the population — were posting something or other to the Web. Given that this is a nation of consumers, much of what they’re posting involves some form of comment on consumer products, none of it authorized by the product maker. As the authors note, business people will find this “either astoundingly cool or somewhat alarming.”

The real story of “Citizen Marketers” is the rise
of the activist amateur — “amateur” meaning not only a nonprofessional but also, in the original sense, one who loves. We’re seeing a fusion — a mashup, if you will — of two formerly distinct spheres, the private and the public. Privately held brands are being defined not by their owners but by unpaid, and often unwanted, public guardians. In an age when most discussion of the public weal can be filed under “commons, tragedy of,” this is a remarkable development.

Walk Under Ladders

FEBRUARY 14, 2007, 9:15 a.m. – I had riding the stationary bike at the Y, rather than playing racquetball, because none of my cohorts bothered to show up. was it because we were under a winter storm warning, that virtually every school in the area, including the always-reluctant-to-close Albany School District, were closed? It wasn’t THAT bad out. The #27 Corporate Woods bus shows up, only about 15 minutes late – I was about to give up on it – and the bus driver transported his two passengers to the office.
9:30 a.m. – I was only one of 5 people present, out of 13 scheduled, and 15 total. My office has a great view of I-90, which looks perfectly clear…where did it go? The highway alternated from being fairly visible to being impossible to see from the snow and wind.
9:45 a.m. – I call my wife to let her know that the there’s rumors that CDTA will be pulling their businesses. That can’t be right. Their website is touting its availability in the midst of the storm:
When the rest of the world is standing still, CDTA is…Your Reason To Ride!

When severe weather hits, keep your car off the slippery streets and ride with us.

11:45 a.m. – We’re told that the main office for the Research Foundation downtown would be closing downtown at 1:30, and that we could do the same, if we chose. I choose.

12:30 p.m.- Call one of my sister. She works for a drug store chain, and as it turned out, I had a related reference question, and therefore a legit excuse to call her in California. I’m lucky.

1:45 p.m. – The last of my hardy colleagues leave.

1:55 p.m. – I’m thinking the bus comes at 2:05, but I check the website, just to make sure. IT COMES AT 2:00! I shut off my computer and run downstairs.

2:09 p.m. – The bus was late. I’M LUCKY. The normal pattern is that it comes by our building, makes a turn at a circle down the road, and then it comes back and the passengers from my building get on. For some reason, though, the other passengers and I went out to meet the bus. Since the circle wasn’t plowed , the bus didn’t turn around. I would have missed it had I waited. I’M LUCKY, because I’m not sure another bus came out to Corporate Woods that day; they were pulling their buses off the road, except for the core routes, because they kept getting stuck.

2:25 p.m. – I’m waiting at the corner of Washington and L;ark for the #10 bus to come home. There was a supervisor vehicle at the stop. I asked him when the next #10 was coming. He said I had to go down another block (to Central and Henry Johnson) to catch it. I’M LUCKY I asked.

2:55 p.m. – The masses huddled at the kiosk were trying to get more info from CDTA from their cell phones. Only one could not reach CDTA by phone; I had tried twice when I was still in the office. I’M LUCKY that I lived near two of the core routes. Took the #12 Washington Avenue bus, which got stuck for about five minutes, trying to make a right turn onto Washington Avenue. Some doofy guy was laying on his horn, AS THOUGHT IT WOULD MAKE A DIFFERENCE. (Doofy, BTW, is a portmanteau from goofy and doofus.) I’M LUCKY we did finally get around the corner.
This bus meant a three-block walk. It’s technically illegal to walk in the street, and I scowl when people do it when we’ve had an inch or two of snow, but with a foot of the powdery stuff impossible to walk through, I was road-bound as well.
3:25 p.m.- Trudge home, drink hot chocolate. Carol and I watch an old Gilmore Girls.
4:50 p.m. – I’M LUCKY that I waited. My neighbor Dino plowed a path on our sidewalk and up to the steps. I still had plenty of shoveling to do, but it was made infinitely easier.

February 15

7 a.m. When i read on the CDTA website that only the core routes are guaranteed to operate, I decided to stay home.
8:30 a.m. Start a half hour outside, half hour inside regimen to dig out the car.
9:30 a.m. I’M LUCKY that my neighbors helped me with the digging.
11 a.m. Read the Times Union online: “Capital District Transportation Authority buses clogged the intersection of Central Avenue and Henry Johnson Boulevard, making it impossible for cars to get by.” That’s my route to work. I’M LUCKY I stayed home.

I’m lucky
I’m lucky
I don’t need a bracelet
No salt
For my shoulder
I don’t own a rabbit
No clover
No heather
No wonder
I’m lucky

Picture from Thursday’s newspaper. Check here for a Nightline segment with the Albany mayor.

Does Valentine's Day Make The Month Feel LONGER?

I’ve discovered that most people fall into two groups: those who love Valentine’s Day and those who hate it. Interestingly, it does not seem to be determined by whether is in a relationship or not, sexual orientation, or race.

I’m mildly indifferent to it. This not to say that I didn’t get my wife something, only that I couldn’t tell you, if you gave me bills in large denominations, what I gave her LAST year. Or what she got me.

My favorite Valentine’s Day song is this one. I recommend the album.

Valentine’s Day/ Artist: Steve Earle
Album: I Feel Alright

I come to you with empty hands
I guess I just forgot again
I only got my love to send
On Valentine’s Day

I ain’t got a card to sign
Roses have been hard to find
I only hope that you’ll be mine
On Valentine’s Day
I know that I swore that I wouldn’t forget
I wrote it all down: I lost it I guess
There’s so much I want to say
But all the words just slip away
The way you love me every day
Is Valentine’s Day

If I could I would deliver to you
Diamonds and gold; it’s the least I can do
So if you’ll take my IOU
I could make it up to you
Until then I hope my heart will do
For Valentine’s Day
Then again, there is a specific recollection of Valentine’s Day five years ago. Five years ago, on Lincoln’s Birthday, my eldest brother-in-law, John Powell, died of colon cancer at the age of 41. He was a technogeek, in the best sense of the word, generous in spirit and in fact, and the biggest cheerleader of Carol and me getting back together when we were apart in 1996-1998. Yes, the funeral was February 14, 2002. Good thoughts to his family, especially his widow Cindy.
I just heard that John Scott, a member of my church’s congregation, died recently. He was a very dear man, I was quite fond of him, and I will miss him.
180 miles WNW of here, in Oswego, NY, they had 100 inches of snow in less than a week. For the whole winter, Albany has had less than 7 (Nov-trace, Dec-0.3, Jan-3.9, Feb-2.3). That will change today, when the forecast says we’ll get 12 to 24 inches, or more, between 11 pm last night through 6 am tomorrow.