Stuff to do this weekend!

A bunch of photos from this year's Santa Speedo Sprint on Lark Street

Albany Santa Speedo Sprint 2018

People wearing all sorts of holiday-themed attire -- festive speedos, pajamas, costumes, formal wear -- dashed down Lark Street Saturday for charity as part of the annual Albany Santa Speedo Sprint.

The sprint -- now in its 13th year -- is always one of the goofiest, happiest events of the year. It's organized by the Albany Society for the Advancement of Philanthropy, with the Albany All Stars Roller Derby, and is a fundraiser for the Albany Damien Center and the HIV/AIDS program at the Albany Medical Center. Jim Larson -- one of the organizers and the sprint captain -- said this year's event raised $19,000.

Here are many, many photos from this year...

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Farther off, down the block

Albany Central Ave west from Northern Boulevard 1920s APL

Our conversation with Erik Schlimmer this week about his book of Albany street name histories set us off looking through the Albany Public Library's online collection of local history photos.

And we happened across this photo of Central Ave from sometime during the 1920s. It's looking west from what was then Northern Boulevard and is now Henry Johnson Boulevard. Two things that caught your eye:

1. "High grade" candies.

2. The scene off in the distance. If you head over to the New York Heritage site that hosts the image, you can zoom in very close. And the little details are great. The store signs, a man wearing a bowler, a horse-drawn wagon with straw or hay, a man pushing what looks like a carriage, a buttoned-up couple walking arm in arm, kids, and the obligatory guy staring toward the camera with the what-is-going-on look.

photo: Albany Public Library History Collection

Touring the decked halls, virtually

Check it: There are 3D virtual tours of holiday greens show Hart-Cluett House in Troy and the holiday-decorated Ten Broeck Mansion in Albany.

The tours were created* by the local company Hudson Virtual Tours, which has been using the tech to document historic sites. (The company is also marketing the service to the real estate industry.)

These 3D captures can also be uploaded to Google Maps, where it shows up like Google Streetview. The Hart-Cluett House streetview is embedded above. (Here's Ten Broeck.)


* We're not sure of the verb here. Captured?

Not-so-wild salmon, and other supermarket fish stories as detailed by the state Attorney General

Whole Foods seafood counter

More than one-in-four fish samples from supermarket chains around the state that were collected in a state Attorney General's office investigation tested as a variety of fish different from what they were being marketed as. That's from a report that the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) released Friday titled... "Fishy Business."

(Go on, insert your own fish pun or dad joke here.)

Investigators bought fish from 29 supermarket brands (155 locations) around the state and had it DNA tested. From the findings:

While mislabeling affected virtually every tested seafood category, there was rampant mislabeling of certain species. The results suggest that consumers who buy lemon sole, red snapper, and grouper are more likely to receive an entirely different fish. Similarly, consumers who bought what was advertised as "wild" salmon often actually received farm-raised salmon instead. Such consumers had often paid more money--on average 34% more--to avoid farm raised fish.
The substitutes were typically cheaper, less desirable species than the desired species. Snappers sold as red snapper, for example, tended to sell for half as much when properly labeled as another type of snapper. Some substitutes (e.g., lane snapper), had higher mercury levels or came from less sustainable fisheries than the desired species, raising consumer safety and environmental sustainability issues.

Environmental groups and advocacy orgs have been raising this issue going back five years or more. OAG says it believes this is the "first major government investigation in the U.S. to target seafood fraud at retail supermarket chains."

The report highlights that a large majority of the samples that tested as mis-labeled were bought at supermarkets downstate. And it provides a listing of all the supermarkets from which samples were purchased.

Here in the immediate Capital Region, the investigation included 32 samples from six chains: Fresh Market, Hannaford, Price Chopper/Market 32, Price Rite, and Walmart. None of those samples tested as mis-labeled. And the report singles out Hannaford for following some of the best practices in ensuring that the fish being sold is actually the fish being sold (pdf p. 25).

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Heavy Metal: Cast Iron Stoves from the Capital Region at the Albany Institute

Albany Institute stoves

A peek at some of the stoves in the institute's collection from a bunch of years ago when we got a behind-the-scenes tour.

As you'd expect, the collection of the Albany Institute of History and Art has its fair share of art.

But it also has all sorts of other items -- clothing, furniture, documents, various local objects, even stoves. Yep, stoves.

Well, they're not just any stoves. They're intricately-designed and decorated cast iron stoves from the time when Albany and Troy were manufacturing centers for the hot items. And the institute is putting a bunch of them on display.

The exhibit Heavy Metal: Cast Iron Stoves from the Capital Region opens this Saturday. Blurbage:

During the nineteenth century, Albany and Troy, New York, manufacturers were considered to be among the largest producers of cast-iron stoves in the world. Stoves made in these cities were renowned for their fine-quality castings and innovations in technology and design. The strategic location of Albany and Troy, located nine miles apart on opposite banks of the Hudson River, afforded easy and inexpensive transportation of raw materials to the foundries, and finished stoves to worldwide markets.
Cast-iron stove making reached its highest artistic achievement and technological advancement between 1840 and 1870. Flask casting and the advent of the cupola furnace permitted more elaborate designs and finer-quality castings. Stove designers borrowed freely from architectural and cabinetmakers' design books, a process that resulted in the use of Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Rococo revival motifs, patriotic symbols, and lavish floral designs, all reflecting current taste and sentiment. Stoves were given romantic names like "Venetian Parlor," "Gothic Parlor," and "The Temple" to enhance their allure and help the buyer identify them when ordering from a catalogue.

The exhibit will be on display until next August. And the Albany Institute's Tammis Groft will be giving a talk about the exhibit February 24.

Rensselaerville supervisor resigns, community response to Albany shootings, Tedisco calls for governor to pardon Luna, remembering the South End Santa

Rensselaerville supervisor resigns
Thursday night Rensseelaerville's town board announced that supervisor Steven Pfleging had stepped down after being confronted with evidence from an audit that he had written multiple checks to himself without town authorization. Another supervisor resigned after a 2012 audit, and board members say they're going to change procedures, including bringing in an outside payroll service. [TU] [WNYT]

Community response to Albany shooting
Community members gathered on Judson Street in Albany rally against gun violence following the city's latest fatal shooting there earlier this week. [TU]

Arrest in attempted abduction in Albany
+ Albany police say a Guilderland man has been arrested for attempting to abduct a 16-year-old girl near Robin and Sheridan earlier this month. APD says the man is a registered sex offender on parole -- he's been previously convicted of two crimes involving teens. [APD] [TU]
+ The teen in this most recent case says the man threatened to shoot her, and she was able to fight him off while he tried to drag her to a car. [CBS6]


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Today's moment of winter

Tivoli Preserve Albany 2018-12-13

Tivoli Lake in Albany's Tivoli Lake Preserve.

The Swinburne Skating Rink is open for the winter

Swinburne skating rink ice

The city of Albany's Swinburne Skating Rink is now open for the winter season.

The rink is in Swinburne Park (surprise) and it's covered, so it can operate in all weather. It's open for ice skating Monday-Sunday (see the schedule below), and it also offers learn-to-skate, stick-and-puck, and hockey sessions.

Admission is $1 / 50 for under 18 / 25 cents for seniors. Skate rental is $3. Skate sharpening is $5. And the rink is available to rent for parties.

If you haven't been to the rink before, it's located just to the west of Bleecker Stadium. And if you're looking for a place park, there's a lot off 2nd Street. (That street runs one-way west, so the the closest cross to head up that block is Ontario.)

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Stuff to do this weekend

Santa Speedo Sprint

The Santa Speedo Sprint returns to Lark Street this weekend.

Thanks for tuning in. Cue the theme music for Stuff to Do This Weekend.

Coming up: Holiday music, scantily-clad Santas, Elf with all the popcorn you can eat, and much more. But first, a word from our sponsors.

And remember, if you're doing something exciting that's missing from our list, be sure to add it in the comment section. It's the season of sharing.

Whatever you're doing, be sure to bundle up, drink something warm, and have a fantastic weekend.

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Family business

New York State has a prohibition on chain state liquor stores and sales of wine and liquor in supermarkets. As it happens, members of the Wegman family -- of the famous supermarket chain -- collectively own a group of liquor stores in the state, some of which are located next to Wegmans supermarkets. And the State Liquor Authority recently accused the liquor stores of operating in concert with the supermarket chain, and fined them $1.1 million. [ x2]

First Day Hikes

One of the best ways to make winter more enjoyable is to actually get outside for some sort of activity. And here's an opportunity to do so...

A bunch of New York State parks, wildlife areas, and historic sites are hosting "First Day Hikes" on January 1. "Staff from State Parks and DEC, along with volunteers at many sites, will lead these family-friendly walks and hikes, which range from one to five miles depending on the location and conditions."

That's a State Parks map of the various sites offering First Day Hikes. They activities are free, but some of them require pre-registration.

Here's a quick overview of the hikes at sites around the immediate Capital Region...

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Guilty verdict in murder-for-hire trial, pedestrian identified in fatal crash, Schenectady fire leaves 5 homeless, body cameras for Schenectady police

Schenectady fire
An early morning house fire on Rugby Road in Schenectady has left five people homeless. [TU][WNYT]

Pedestrian in fatal crash identified
Police have identified the 61-year-old pedestrian who was killed in a Tuesday night crash at Swatling Road and Route 2 as Janet A. Nittoli, a New York City resident who moved upstate in the past few months and is believed to have been homeless. Police say there have been 36 crashes at that intersection in the last four years.[TU][Spectrum]

Guilty verdict in murder-for-hire trial
A jury found contractor Tarchand Lall guilty of hiring hit men to kill Charles Dembrosky in Schenectady two years ago. [Gazette][TU]

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Gawking at the @HudsonPark residential conversion in Albany

At Hudson Park residential conversion 160 Myrtle

At the corner of Myrtle and Swan.

This week we got a chance to gawk at the still-under-construction residential conversion of the former Long Energy building at Myrtle and Swan, right across from Lincoln Park in Albany.

It's an interesting project, in part because of the design challenge of reshaping the complex of three historic buildings -- they were originally used in association with breweries -- into apartments.

The project also represents a significant addition of residential units -- 75 -- to the neighborhood.

Here's a look around, along with a few more bits.

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Albany winters have been getting warmer

A lot of people seemed to enjoy last week's post about when it's "actually" winter here -- that is, the part of the year here that tends to have the coldest temperatures rather than the standard definitions of the season. We looked at it two ways, and the best way (in our opinion) pegged winter in the Albany area as being from December 1 to March 20.

So here's the B side to that track: On average, winters in the Albany area have been getting warmer over the last century (plus). And not by a little -- the average December-March temperature here has been trending up by .4 degrees Fahrenheit per decade.*

That graph above was generated by an interactive tool on the website for NOAA, the federal agency. It shows the trend for average December-March temperatures in Albany between 1896 and 2018.

Here are a few more bits.

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What's up in the Neighborhood

The NeighborhoodAmong the topics in this most recent spin around the Capital Region's online neighborhood: Phelps Mountain in the snow, ice on the lake, donating children's books, Albany Cake, Utica Club, Greenway, Kirsten Gillibrand, John Sweeney, judging chili, pizza, Two Birds Marketplace, Gracie's Kitchen, and a big goal.


Albany Barn in post ad 2018


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"I'd rather have cities doing the right thing badly (at first), than continuing to do the wrong thing better."

This is an interesting way of looking at how cities attempt to change, what former Vancouver chief city planner Brent Toderian calls the learning curve for cities: from doing the wrong things (new highways), to doing the wrong things better (nicer parking lots), to doing the right things badly (bike lanes that aren't part of a network), to doing the right things well (continuous learning and improvement). [Fast Company]

The New York State Writers Institute is getting two large gifts for its future

NYS Writers Institute offices

Many of the walls in the offices of the NYS Writers Institute in the Science Library on UAlbany's uptown campus are covered with posters touting appearances from the history of the visiting writers series. It's a remarkable a list of well-known and notable authors.

The New York State Writers Institute announced this week that it's received two large financial contributions from UAlbany alumni that will allow it to continue and expand its events.

Gregory Maguire -- the author of Wicked, an Albany native, and 1976 UAlbany grad -- is giving the institute $500,000. The The Maguire Family Endowment will support the institute's hosting of writers. And it says the gift will also allow it to grow the Albany Book Festival.

Marc Guggenheim -- a screenwriter, author, co-creator of the TV show Green Arrow, and 1992 UAlbany grad -- has pledged $100,000 to the NYSWI Classic Film Series endowment.

The Writers Institute is one of the area's most prominent and important cultural institutions. And it's been going through some big changes over the past year.

Paul Grondahl took over as director, and with assistant director Mark Koplik they've been working to widen the field of writers brought in as part the popular visiting writers series. The institute staged the first Albany Book Festival, which included a ton of high-profile authors and drew thousands of people. The institute also honored William Kennedy, who founded the institute with money from his MacArthur "genius" grant, for his 90th birthday. It also made day-to-day changes, like launching a new website.

And, as Grondahl told us earlier this year, part of laying the groundwork for these transitions and the future of the institute is finding the funding to keep it all afloat. These gifts sounds like an important step toward that goal.

Earlier: Here's how the NYS Writers Institute gets all those great authors to visit

Pedestrian killed in Latham, Kaloyeros sentenced, jury deliberating in murder for hire trial, Cuomo urges Dems to oppose funding for wall

Pedestrian killed in Colonie
A 61-year-old woman was struck and killed by a car on Tuesday night at the intersection of Swatling Road and Route 2 in Colonie. Police are investigating but they say alcohol was not a factor in the crash and the driver called 911 immediately. [TU][Spectrum]

Alain Kaloyeros
A federal judge sentenced Alain Kaloyeros to 3 1/2 years in prison on Tuesday for his part in a bid rigging scheme connected to the Buffalo Billion initiative, and for trying to cover up his crimes. Kaloyeros will remain free pending his appeal. He told the judge, "Your honor, I stand before you with a heavy heart. I feel enormous responsibility for the hurt and loss I have caused others. ... I feel enormous sorrow and pain. I take full responsibility for their struggle and will spend the rest of my life trying to make amends."[NYT][Spectrum][TU]

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A few of the 700some stories about the street names of Albany

Morton and S Hawk Corning Tower background

Morton was named after Washington Morton, husband of Cornelia Schuyler Morton. (He was the son-in-law of Philip Schuyler.) As for the other street... is that Hawk or Hawke?

There are 785 streets in the city of Albany. And Erik Schlimmer has figured out the backstory for the name of almost every one of them.

That monumental effort -- it took him four years -- is collected in the new book Cradle of the Union: A Street by Street History of New York's Capital City. (Mentioned earlier.) And the result is like a bag of local history potato chips. Once you snack on a few of the street name histories it's hard to stop.

"In all place names -- street, the town they live in, a mountain range, a stream, a pond, a building -- there's usually a story behind the name," Schlimmer told us this week when we met up with him. "And the story is usually pretty good."

Here are a few of those important or funny or surprising or sometimes dramatic stories...

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Trey Anastasio's new band Ghosts of the Forest is playing The Palace

trey anastasio 2018

A new band headed up by Trey Anastasio -- Ghosts of the Forest -- is set to play The Palace April 9. Tickets go on sale this Saturday, December 15 -- they're $45 and up. (There's also a presale that starts December 12.)

Ghosts of the Forest includes Trey Anastasio, Jon Fishman, Jennifer Hartswick, Celisse Henderson, Tony Markellis, and Ray Paczkowski. The Palace show is one of seven the band is group in April.

And, of course, Anastasio was just recently in town for two shows at TU Center with Phish.

photo via Trey Anastasio's website

Looking for more? Check out the last week's worth of posts or the archive.

And you can always try searching for it:

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Recent Comments

I just learned about the Woman's Club of Albany yesterday, during the Holiday House tour. It's a really large space that is chock full of character, and they rent it out for parties of the type Maureen is interested in.

A large, interesting party space in Albany?

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Today's moment of winter

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Gawking at the @HudsonPark residential conversion in Albany

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Family business

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First Day Hikes

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