Items tagged with 'RPI'

From RPI to the NFL

Kicker -- and RPI grad -- Andrew Franks made his NFL debut Sunday with the Miami Dolphins, making a field goal and two extra points. He's the first former RPI player to play in the regular season NFL game. [NFL] [RPI]

As Pete Iorizzo highlighted in the Times Union this past weekend, Franks ended up going to school at RPI because he wanted to major in biomedical engineering -- a choice that some Division I football programs apparently weren't willing to accommodate. [TU+ (link around)]

GameFest 2015

rpi gamefest 2015 posterReturning to EMPAC this weekend: GameFest. What is GameFest? Blurbage:

GameFest at Rensselaer is an annual celebration of creativity and innovation in digital games, with a student showcase and competition, music performances, and presentations from veteran game designers, critics, scholars, and indie developers.
Since 2003, GameFest has grown into a regional event that brings together game design students from schools throughout the Northeast, with a competition judged by industry experts. Talks and panels include topics from serious games and entrepreneurship to deep design questions and the democratization of independent game development. Music performances range from music made with repurposed game consoles to an orchestra performing classical arrangements of music from games.

This year's event, which runs Friday evening through Saturday, includes:

+ A discussion about games for purposes beyond entertainment.

+ A concert featuring "game music, chiptunes, livecoding, circuitbending, beats, and interactive visuals from this eclectic collective of DJ's, musicians, and video artists."

+ The game design showcase with work from students from eight colleges and universities.

+ A keynote by James Portnow, "a game designer and consultant known for his theories on socially positive design."

Here's the full schedule. It's free and open to the public.

Jeffrey Tambor at RPI

jeffrey tambor

Actor Jeffrey Tambor will be at EMPAC April 16 for a talk. Tickets for the event are available to RPI students and community members starting March 16 -- they'll be available free to the general public, pending availability, starting April 1 at the EMPAC box office.

Tambor is probably best known for his role on Arrested Development. But over the last year he's gotten a lot attention for his role as the transgender parent on the Amazon show Transparent -- he won the 2015 Golden Globe for best actor for the role (and the show won the award for best TV series).

Tambor's talk is titled "Performing Your Life," which is described as "part one-man show, part seminar, part question-and-answer session, and endlessly entertaining ... This down to earth conversation is about using life experiences to advise others to face their fears, attain their goals, and break out of their shell."

It's very likely this event, which is in the EMPAC concert hall, will fill up. So if you're interested in going, it's a good idea to tickets sooner rather than later. And be sure to check the Rensselaer Union FB page for updates about availability.

photo via American Program Bureau

Garnet Douglass Baltimore, who was "as much of Troy as the monument"

troy prosepct park c 1910

Troy's Prospect Park was designed by Garnet Douglass Baltimore, RPI's first African-American graduate. This photo of the park is from around 1910.

Each Friday this February we've been highlighting people and stories from the Capital Region's history in honor of Black History Month.

Being named for two noted abolitionist heroes could be a little intimidating, but Garnet Douglass Baltimore was equal to his name.

This grandson of an escaped slave grew up to become RPI's first African-American graduate, a civil engineer, landscape architect, and the designer of Troy's Prospect Park.

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Won't you guide my sleigh tonight?

RPI LRC Rudolph Graph

From Lighting Research Center at RPI some science to go along with the Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer story:

Interestingly, LRC research on perception under headlamp illumination of different colors under inclement weather like blowing snow confirms that the red color of Rudolph's nose was a very fortunate circumstance. LRC researchers John Bullough and Mark Rea measured peoples' ability to perform a driving task while looking through a simulated nighttime snowstorm. The headlights in that study could be red, yellow, white or blue-green, meaning people had to look through visual noise illuminated by different colors while performing the driving task. Performance was best under the red light and worst for the blue-green light. Bullough's and Rea's results showed that the light reflected by blowing snow when driving at night is least distracting when the color is red and that sensitivity to conditions like their simulated snowstorm may be influenced by rod photoreceptors in drivers' eyes, which are more sensitive to "blue" light and less sensitive to "red" light. In other words, the light from Rudolph's red nose could help make rooftops more visible by making blowing snow less visible!

And to think they used to laugh and call him names.

Looking forward to the "Rudolph" setting for the headlights on some future car.

RPI's Shirley Ann Jackson tops rankings of nation's highest-paid private college presidents

shirley jackson croppedRPI president Shirley Ann Jackson topped the list of the nation's highest paid private college president in 2012, according to an analysis by the Chronicle of Higher Education. Jackson's total compensation -- $7.1 million -- was more than 3.38 million higher than that of the second president on the list.

Jackson's base pay for 2012 was $945k. The bulk of her compensation came in the form of a deferred compensation payout worth $5.9 million. (One reason why her compensation in 2012 was much higher than the somewhat-over-$1 million range it had been in recent years.)

The Chronicle's website has a detailed breakdown of the numbers for each president. In Jackson's case, her total compensation also ranked third in the nation when calculated as compensation per institution total expenditures. And it ranked in the 99th percentile nationally for base pay to faculty salary ratio.

The Chronicle collected the info from the RPI's Form 990 filing, which all non-profits must file. You can look it up for free over at Guidestar. (The compensation figures are from page 14.)

To go along with the top spot in the compensation ranking, the Chronicle also added a long article looking at Jackson's tenure at RPI. It notes Jackson will likely be remembered as "a trailblazing president, whose unparalleled vision and determination transformed a respectable regional private college into a nationally recognized research institution" -- but it also includes extensive criticism of her, describing "tales of an imperial air and cowed staff." Here's a clip:

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Alumnus flyby

RPI grad Reid Wiseman is currently on the International Space Station.

It's always nice when alumni stay within orbit of a school.

A miniature version of Troy and its past

Troy Union Station model

Troy's former Union Station as it once was -- and still is, in miniature.

By Lauren Hittinger

Of all the things you might expect to find in the basement of a college dorm, a meticulously-built recreation of 1950s Troy is probably not one of them.

Yet in the basement of RPI's Davison Hall the Rensselaer Model Railroad Society has been constructing a to-scale version of the city and other spots around the region that were connected by rail. The work has been going on for more than three decades -- and it's a sight to see.

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GameFest 2014

RPI GameFest 2014 logoThe annual GameFest at RPI -- a series of events focused on video games -- returns this weekend. And the showcase of student-designed games is open to the public. Blurbage:

The games Rensselaer students will showcase this year are widely varied and include Kajo, a game in which players run and jump their way through a mystical, floating city and use concepts of physics to improve their parkour-style moves. Another game, Space Luddites, features a group of characters fighting back against an oppressive, dystopian future and a powerful company that controls all technology.

The showcase is at EMPAC from noon-3 pm on Saturday. It's free.

The guy who invented the web will be at RPI

tim berners-leeTim Berners-Lee -- who actually has that line in his CV -- will be getting an honorary degree at RPI's commencement in May. Geneticist Mary-Claire King -- who identified the BRCA1 gene -- will also be getting an honorary degree. And IBM CEO Virginia Rometty will be giving the commencement address.

All three will be participating in a discussion led by Shirley Jackson -- "Creating Clarity in Complexity to Enable Transformational Change" -- on May 23.

Berners-Lee created the underlying protocols for the web in 1989 while working at CERN, the particle physics lab, in Switzerland. The idea behind it was to make it easier for scientists and researchers at different institutions to share information (though cat pictures were probably a close second reason). CERN had the first website.

As it happens, the actual room -- you know, the physical space -- where the web was invented is actually in France, just over the border. (There's a plaque there now.)

photo: Flickr user cellanr (cc)

More than a century of RPI, and Troy, online

rpi the polytechnic 1967 the doors

That time Jim Morrison trolled Troy with reference to Virgil and Homer.

Check it out: More than a century of back issues of the RPI student newspaper, The Polytechnic, have been digitized and placed online. They're now available through RPI's online digital collections portal.

It's usually fun to flip through old newspapers, it's true here, too. Here's one example from the archives, a story we'd heard about before, but the sarcasm of the contemporary account adds something to it. From the December 13, 1967 issue, an article by Bob Cunningham about The Doors playing a concert on campus:

It was concert time again at the Field House Friday night. This show, the opening event of Frosh Fling Weekend, began with typical Rensselaer precision a half-hour late.
Following the opening act, there was a 10 minute intermission which was well received by the crowd. A half-hour later the Doors came on and like true showmen gave not quite their all for 45 minutes. ...
Following Rose was the headline group, the Doors. CRAWDADDY MAGAZINE, New York's rock music bible, describes them as "the best the West has to offer" in concert. The audience was receptive to renditions of their hits "People are Strange" and "Break on Through." Also they were intrigued by the haunting tones of "Alabama Song" (Whisky Bar).
Most people were pleased by Ray Manzarek's organ and Robby Krieger's guitar soaring through "Light My Fire" and a few other songs. Unfortunately, much of the impact and fire of Jim Morrison's vocals seemed to be lost in the expanses of the Field House.
Instead of setting the house on fire, Jim failed to even break the ice. He seemed disgusted with the whole scene at the end and showed how he felt when he cried, "If this is Troy, I'm with the Greeks."
For the crowd's taste, the concert was far too short to be worthwhile. Those on the floor felt cheated of space, and all felt cheated out of the best the Doors could have offered.

The online archive of Poly issues stretches back as far 1869, with the bulk from 1885-2001. It includes more 41,000 pages. (We can't imagine how long that must have taken to scan all of those issues.)

Oh, and among the ads in the collection's first issue, from September 25, 1869: "Charles F. Lucas, Confectioner, Ladies and Gentlemen's Restaurant, No. 12 Broadway, Troy, N.Y."

image: The Polytechnic December 13, 1967, Rensselaer Digital Collections

Beijing in North Greenbush

This caught our eye the other day -- and it struck us both as potentially very cool, and very RPI.

The school is working to re-establish its Mandarin language minor, which makes a lot of sense. Being able to speak Mandarin is a very useful skill for all sorts of careers. And, you know, there are only about a billion people in the world who speak it.

So, how to go about that? Hire some faculty, start some classes, maybe an exchange program. Sure. But RPI is also building a virtual reality environment to mimic Beijing so that students can practice Mandarin in context.

From a write up of the Mandarin Project by Emily Donohue on RPI's Approach blog:

In late November, the first class of students taking Chinese at Rensselaer since efforts began to re-establish the Chinese language minor, stepped into the Mandarin Project's hangar-like space in the [Emergent Reality Lab] for a test-drive.
They took seats at café tables surrounded on three sides by massive screens projecting the image of a Beijing teahouse. Facing the students at the front of the room was a woman - a virtual woman - who would serve as their teacher.
The students donned 3-D glasses, the same kind you'd find at a movie theater, and one student was designated the guide and controlled the experience by wearing a hat studded with ping pong-like balls and holding a video game controller.
The lights dimmed and the students traveled to Beijing.
As Sheldon and Chang looked on, with what seemed like equal parts anxiety and excitement, the students were led through a series of questions by the virtual instructor. She taught them about traditional Chinese tea ceremonies and they had to use their knowledge of Chinese - still fledgling at this early stage of their studies - to interpret her questions and select the correct answer. By doing so, they moved on to the next part of the lesson.

That Approach link has a bunch of photos and more details. And the video embedded above is from the virtual reality session.

Whooooo's that?

snowy owl rpi

Wait a second, maybe we're just bystanders to an ongoing owl-crow war. That would explain a lot of things...

Spotted in Troy this week: A snowy owl taking down a crow. The photo, by John Cook, is from the RPI campus and was posted on EMPAC's Facebook.

Snowy owls are very cool birds -- but, you know, they don't typically show up here. At least, not traditionally. But for whatever reason, the last two winters have seen snowy owls popping up in all sorts of locations south of their usual range (the Arctic and Canada, in this hemisphere). [USAT] [Chicago Tribune]

So, why is this happening? From the Boston Globe this week:

"We don't know what's going on," said Kevin McGowan, an ornithologist who has spent 25 years at Cornell University's Lab of Ornithology. "There's no clear signal yet."
McGowan said the increased number of sightings could be a signal of something very good -- plentiful food leading to the birth of more of the birds than ever before -- or something very bad, such as climate change curtailing the food supply and forcing more owls to venture south to survive.

The visits have a caused a few problems. At the major NYC-area airport they were blamed for recent collisions with five airplanes, which had prompted the addition of the birds to airport kill lists. But the Port Authority reversed its decision and says it will now be capturing and relocating the owls. [NYDN] [NYT]

The novelty's wearing off

film novelty research themes Sreenivasan

a) all films b) science fiction films c) science fiction films

The chart above is from an interesting new paper about movie theme novelty by RPI researcher Sameet Sreenivasan in the journal Nature Scientific Reports. Sreenivasan used keyword tags from IMDB to track rise and fall and certain themes -- and calculate novelty scores based on the use or combination of those themes -- for films over the last 80 years. That streamgraph chart tracks popular themes over time (here's a bigger version).

Sreenivasan's paper is full of interesting bits and assertions about films over the years. Maybe the biggest one is that novelty in films increased dramatically after the demise of the old-school studio system and has been slowly declining since. This Wired article is a good write up of the study's findings.

Also interesting (to us): Sreenivasan is a physicist -- but he's a research associate at RPI's three-year-old Social and Cognitive Networks Academic Research Center. From a short bio on his web page:

The topics I work on include investigations of peer-influence driven processes on social networks, studies aimed at uncovering community evolution on dynamic networks, mining the hierarchical relationships hidden within crowdsourced keyword sets and devising metrics that quantify novelty from these sets.

Some of the discussion at the end of his film novelty paper point at some of the future applications of this sort of research -- including "artificial or computer-aided story generation."

Oh, and we learned a new word today: culturomics.

graphs: "Quantitative analysis of the evolution of novelty in cinema through crowdsourced keywords," Sameet Sreenivasan, Nature Scientific Reports

Following Stranger Visions

Here's a short TED documentary about the process RPI grad student Heather Dewey-Hagborg uses to create 3-D "portraits" from found DNA. The video is part science talk/part how it's made/park reflection on the near future. Another thing we liked about it is the way it highlights some of the uncertainty in the work, something Dewey-Hagborn readily acknowledges and folds into her thoughts about the project.

[via Colossal)

Earlier on AOA: Stranger Visions

Bacteria from space (OK, they're originally from Earth, but they went to space)

rpi researchers collins space bacteria

Bacteria were sent into space and they came back glowing green. (OK, not really: these are micrographs of the side view of the unusual structures formed by the bacteria sent into space.)

From the Annals of Didn't This All Go Horribly Wrong in the Movie Version: Researchers from RPI report that bacteria sent into space behave in unusual ways. From an RPI News article:

Recent findings provide important evidence of spaceflight's effect on the behavior of bacterial communities and represent a key step toward understanding and mitigating the risk these bacteria may pose to astronauts during long-term space missions.
The research team, led by Rensselaer faculty member Cynthia Collins, sent the experiment into orbit aboard Atlantis' STS-132 mission in May 2010 and its STS-135 mission in July 2011. Samples of the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa were cultured for three days in artificial urine. The space-grown communities of bacteria, called biofilms, formed a column-and-canopy structure not previously observed on Earth. Additionally, biofilms grown during spaceflight had a greater number of live cells, more biomass, and were thicker than control biofilms grown under normal gravity conditions.

Bad sci-fi jokes aside, this is an interesting topic. Biofilms are common in nature -- That plaque on your teeth? Biofilm. -- and their formation is based on some remarkable bacterial communication (bacteria have been heavily invested in nanotech since, you know, forever). As the RPI article alludes to, biofilms play a role in hospital-acquired infections. In fact, that's probably one of the reasons the researchers picked Pseudomonas aeruginosa -- it's a common hospital infection and is associated with infections from devices such as catheters (yeah, now the urine part is probably making sense, too). A lot of medical devices are already hard to thoroughly clean, and sticky biofilms make the job even harder.

So, sending these microbes into space -- and bringing them back to Troy -- could help scientists better understand how biofilms form. And that, in turn, could help people here on Earth -- or if/when we send people to Mars.

Because spaceships sound kind of germy.

image: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Stranger Visions

Heather Dewey-Hagborg DNA self-portrait

Heather Dewey-Hagborg and her self portrait. (photo: Dan Phiffer)

Filed under... well, we're not sure: Heather Dewey-Hagborg -- a PhD student in RPI's electronic arts program -- has been creating 3-D "portraits" based on found DNA. From the statement for "Stranger Visions":

In Stranger Visions artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg creates portrait sculptures from analyses of genetic material collected in public places. Working with the traces strangers unwittingly leave behind, Dewey-Hagborg calls attention to the impulse toward genetic determinism and the potential for a culture of genetic surveillance.

A press release from this March explains how she creates the portraits. The process, boiled down: Dewey-Hagborg collects discarded hair, cigarette butts, and chewing gum. She then takes it back to a lab, extracts DNA from the sample, amplifies certain parts of it, then looks for certain segments that are associated with various physical characteristics. The info then goes through a 3-D modeling program and the portrait is printed on a color 3-D printer.

Her website has a bunch of the portraits, along with photos the samples and where they were collected.

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Red light, blue light

rpi lighting research centerTwo things from a recently published study by researchers at RPI's Lighting Research Center:

1. That sleepy feeling after lunch has a name: the "post-lunch dip."

2. Light, especially red light, might be able to help counteract the dip.

The researchers hooked people up to EEGs to measure brain activity and then exposed them to red (longer wave length) and blue light (shorter wave length). From the abstract:

While the use of light at night to promote alertness is well understood, it is important to develop an understanding of how light impacts alertness during the daytime, especially during the post-lunch hours. The aim of the current study was to investigate how 48-minute exposures to short-wavelength (blue) light ... or long-wavelength (red) light ... close to the post-lunch dip hours affect electroencephalogram measures in participants with regular sleep schedules. Power in the alpha, alpha theta, and theta ranges was significantly lower (p < 0.05) after participants were exposed to red light than after they remained in darkness. Exposure to blue light reduced alpha and alpha theta power compared to darkness, but these differences did not reach statistical significance (p > 0.05). The present results extend those performed during the nighttime, and demonstrate that light can be used to increase alertness in the afternoon, close to the post-lunch dip hours.

The researchers say the work could lead to better understanding how light affects alertness and fatigue in safety situations.

In the meantime, we've found (unscientifically) that a cup of tea helps address the post-lunch dip.

photo: RPI Lighting Research Center

A future timeline of Watson at RPI

HAL from 2001

IBM announced this week that RPI will be getting a modified version of Watson, the artificial intelligence system that famously put the beatdown on human players on Jeopardy. Blurbage from RPI press release:

The arrival of the Watson system will enable new leading-edge research at Rensselaer, and afford faculty and students an opportunity to find new uses for Watson and deepen the systems' cognitive capabilities. The firsthand experience of working on the system will also better position Rensselaer students as future leaders in the areas of Big Data, analytics, and cognitive computing.

This is a big deal because systems like Watson -- along with other stuff like Siri, and Wolfram Alpha -- are both the future and The Future (you have to say it while looking off into the distance). They hold the promise of helping people make sense of the torrents of data all around us.

Now, via a flashforward, a future timeline of Watson at RPI.

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From the hillside in Troy, in winter

787 from RPI winter venkata

Venkata sent along this photo after a recent snowfall -- it's from the 9th floor of a building at RPI. We like the streaks formed by the traffic on 787 Route 7 as it heads off into the background.

We're a bit envious of the view from his office.

Here's a large-format version, along with one more photo.

(Thanks, Venkata)

RPI's Jackson was second-highest paid private college president in 2010

shirley jackson croppedThe Chronicle of Higher Education has posted its latest analysis of private college president compensation, and RPI's Shirley Ann Jackson is #2 on the list at a little more than $2.3 million. The total is for 2010.

Bob Kerrey -- the former US Senator -- ranked ahead of Jackson for his $3 million in compensation from the New School. Kerrey left the school at the end of 2010. The Chronicle says his compensation total includes a $1.2 million retention bonus the school gave him to stay on through the end of his contract. (Kerrey had been flirting with a job heading up the MPAA -- it fell through). [New School Free Press] [LAT]

If you take out Kerrey's retention bonus, Jackson would hold the top overall spot, though her base pay ranks 8th. (The president of NYU had the highest base pay.)

The Chronicle draws much of its information for this analysis from the Form 990 that non-profits must file with the IRS. You can check out those forms for yourself at Guidestar -- here's the 990 for RPI.

Earlier this year we pulled compensation data for all the college presidents in the Capital Region. Like the Chronicle's report, it's for 2010.

[via @SeanPCollins]

This just in: college continues to be expensive

The website Campus Grotto recently released its annual list of the 100 most expensive colleges -- and, as in years past, RPI, Union, and Skidmore are on the list (table above).

Both Union and Skidmore have been sliding down the list over the last few years. For 2008-2009, they were both in the top 20.

Other schools in the greater region that also made this year's list: Bard College (#10, $57,580) Bennington College (#27, $56,990), Williams College (#33, $56,770).

Of course, these totals are like the list price on a car -- not everyone ends up paying that. In fact, at a lot of schools, very few students end up paying full price because of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid.

Campus Grotto notes this school year marks a new era -- for the first time a school's total cost has exceeded $60,000. Sarah Lawrence -- #1 on the total cost chart again -- checks in at $61,236.

St. Rose, Siena, Sage, and UAlbany did not make the top 100 list. Their 2012-2013 total cost figures are post jump.

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Capital Region college president compensation

UAlbany entrance fountain

UAlbany's uptown campus.

When it was announced last week that Robert Jones will become the next UAlbany president, there were a few eyebrows raised about his compensation -- he'll receive a total of $555,000. That includes salary, money from the Research Foundation, and a housing allowance.

That's a lot, no matter what job you're doing. And given that the SUNY system has faced budget cuts recently, it's understandable that the figure would catch attention.

But is it too high? That's a hard question. And people are going to have different answers based on their own perspectives.

To get some context, we pulled data about presidential compensation at UAlbany, RPI, Union, Skidmore, St. Rose, Siena, and the Sage Colleges -- and broke it down to see how it compares across multiple categories.

Here's the result...

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Meanwhile, on Mars...

laurie leshin rpi dean of scienceAs you probably heard, NASA successfully landed a rover -- called Curiosity -- onto the surface of Mars early this morning. It's so easy to be jaded about amazing stuff these days, but this was truly remarkable -- the plan to land the rover was crazy. We realize the scientists and engineers involved probably don't regard it that way, but they used a robot with a supersonic parachute and a sky crane -- to land on Mars!

Ahem. Well, as it happens, Laurie Leshin -- RPI's dean of science -- is part of the science team for Curiosity (her field is cosmochemistry) . She was at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena for the landing. So, yes, her week is shaping up to be more fun and interesting than yours.

RPI's Approach blog has a quick Q&A with Leshin about the mission and the part with which she's been involved. On what she hopes they find:

I also hope we find a lot of water-bearing minerals that we can characterize very well--carbonites, clays, sulfates--and that can teach us about the aqueous environments on Mars. For most of my career we've thought about Mars as a cold dry place with a potential for a warmer weather past, but not a lot of evidence of it. But that's changing and I think this mission has the potential to really start painting a picture of a more habitable Mars from the past and its potential for habitability in the future.

Bonus bit: here's an op/ed Leshin wrote for the Times Union about the mission -- and its potential for inspiring kids.

And she's on Twitter.

photo: RPI

Adam Oates had a better day than you

adam oates at rpi hockeyRPI hockey great Adam Oates was selected for the Hockey Hall of Fame today. Oates -- who played 19 seasons in the NHL -- is the first RPI player to be picked for the hall. [RPI Athletics]

His RPI career was jammed with achievements: twice set the single season record for points, single season recrod for assists, first in career assists, third in career points. And the Engineers won the NCAA championship his senior year (1985).

In the Hockey Hall of Fame press release today, Oates mentioned his time at RPI:

"Growing up I was a guy who was kind of overlooked and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to go to RPI and have the time for my game to mature," said Oates. "This is a tremendous honour and I look back and realize how lucky I was to have great coaches to help me along the way."

Oates ranks sixth all time in career assists in the NHL. [Hockey Hall of Fame]

But, wait, there's more: Oates was also hired today to be the head coach of the Washington Capitals. (One more career accomplishment today and he would have had a hat trick...) [Washington Capitals]

photo: RPI Athletics

Eight commencement speeches in eight lines

mark sullivan college of saint rose commencement 2012

Mark Sullivan sang during his St. Rose commencement speech. Twice.

We're just about finished with commencement season here in the Capital Region. Pomp. Circumstance. Advice.

Here are eight commencement speech in eight lines (or thereabout):

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Here's your diploma -- and a payment schedule

One of the interesting things in a recent NYT package about student debt is an interactive listing that includes school-by-school breakdowns of the average student debt for each school.

We were a bit surprised by the numbers from Capital Region schools (above). Even though Skidmore and Union College both have expensive sticker prices (both locally and nationally), their average graduate debt figures were among the smallest in this area -- and they had the lowest percentage of grads carrying student debt.

That result probably speaks to a few things about those schools: a) a not insignificant share of the students attending come from families that can help them cover the price and/or 2) many of the students whose families can't cover the cost probably aren't paying the full sticker price. In fact, Union says more than 60 percent of its students "receive some kind of financial assistance."

Contrast that to St. Rose and UAlbany. CSR had the highest average graduate debt -- with 86 percent of its graduates carrying debt. And UAlbany, though having one of the lower debt numbers probably as a result of its relatively inexpensive tuition, had by far the highest debt-to-tuition ratio.

The NYT interactive feature has more info and is worth checking out.

Noted: Americans now owe more in student debt than they do in credit card debt -- the total amount of outstanding student debt in the country is roughly $1 trillion. [USA Today]

Fine print: All the tuition and debt total numbers are for 2010 and via NYT, with one exception: NYT didn't have a tuition number for Union. So we pulled it from College Grotto's rankings for 2009-2010. It appears NYT pulled the numbers from The Project on Student Debt, from which we pulled the "grads with student debt" percentages. The debt:tuition ratio is our own calculation.

Laurie Anderson named EMPAC's first distinguished artist-in-residence


Laurie Anderson will spend the next three years inventing stuff at EMPAC.

Experimental media and performance artist Laurie Anderson will spend the next three years at RPI as EMPAC's first distinguished artist-in-residence. Anderson has a history of using science and engineering to create new artwork, inventing things like a tape-bow violin and talking stick.

This isn't Anderson's first experience at EMPAC. In 2009 she spent some time there working on a piece called Delusion -- a series of stories about longing, memory and identity that incorporated multidisciplinary elements that included music, visuals, altered voices, and electronic puppetry.

You can get a little bit of a sense of Delusion (and Laurie Anderson's disenchantment with rectangles) in a video clip after the jump. Heads-up: it's not you -- the interviewer is speaking Swedish, but you'll understand what's going on.

Until now EMPAC's residencies have been project specific. There's no word yet on what kind of plans Anderson has for her three year stay in Troy, but EMPAC says it's looking forward to working with her to combine engineering and science to find creative approaches to the arts. They also say Anderson will be sharing some of her creative practices with the campus through lectures, workshops and demonstrations.

Photo: Leland Brewster courtesy of Laurie Anderson

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Flipping the Approach

Today's moment of "Hey, look at that...": a backflip off the Approach at RPI. On skis.

Update: As we should have mentioned the first time around, this appears to have happened in January 2011 or thereabout.

[via Reddit RPI]

RPI students send balloon to the edge of space

rpi students balloon near space

The view from about 90,000 feet.

This is great: a group of RPI students sent a weather balloon to the edge of space -- almost 90,000 feet. The balloon was equipped with three HD cameras and the video is remarkable (a few versions are embedded after the jump).

The students are part of a club called "RPI Students for the Exploration and Development of Space" (RPI-SEDS) -- it was founded by Orian Breaux, who recently graduated with an undergrad degree in aeronautical engineering. They launched the balloon from the Class of '86 field on campus -- and it ultimately landed in Maine after reaching 89,777 feet (well into the stratosphere).

So, why? (Other than than the fact it's awesome.) Breaux explains in a blog post:

Let's face it: space isn't sexy anymore. The zeal for the cosmos that once pervaded the American public consciousness has gone flat, and we're not going to rediscover that passion through politicians or NASA administrators. It will reemerge through the efforts of entrepreneurs in the private space industry and through the legions of professionals and students inspired by their actions ...
Our first effort, the high-atmosphere balloon, is an innovative variation on this increasingly common project. The idea that regular students can realize grassroots space projects like this embodies new opportunities to inspire people unlike ever before. That is the central idea behind presenting the high-atmosphere in a 360-degree interactive medium.

Breaux's name might sound familiar -- he's one of the founders of the Swing Syndicate in Troy. As he told AOA last fall about his career plans: "I'm not losing focus on getting into the space industry. I've always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I want to be involved in the movement to privatize space flight. Maybe I'll start a dance studio on the moon -- go back to my roots."

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S[around]OUND at The Troy Gasholder Building


Art + architecture+ music+ inflatables + projection = S[around]OUND

This sounds pretty cool. Art and architecture students from RPI's PIP(Production,Installation,Performance) class have collaborated on a performance art project that will be unveiled next month inside the Troy Gasholder building. S[around]OUND (Surround Sound) will combine art, architecture, animation, hybrid violin, computers and lifts to move the audience around inside the space.

We said it sounded cool.

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RPI's Jackson stays in top 10 for private college president compensation

shirley jackson croppedRPI president Shirley Ann Jackson's salary is the 7th highest in the nation among private college presidents, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education's annual salary rankings. The Chronicle reports Jackson's 2009 total compensation was $1,771,877, up 7 percent from the year before.

The average professor at RPI gets almost $154k/year in compensation, according to the Chronicle -- giving RPI an 11.5/1 president to professor pay ratio. (A few quick comparisons: the ratio is 4.7/1 at MIT, and 3.7/1 at Cal Tech.)

Said RPI's VP of strategic communications and external relations to the TU about Jackson's salary: "[it is] a reflection of her extraordinary accomplishments, and of the desire of the Board of Trustees to have her continue the comprehensive transformation at Rensselaer."

Jackson topped the Chronicle's chart for the 2007-2008 academic year with reported total compensation of $1,598,247. In March 2009, the school announced she was giving 5 percent of her salary to a student scholarship fund.

There have been a lot of impressive developments at RPI during Jackson's tenure. But there also has been what seems like a not insignificant amount of discontent. The most recent sign was a student senate resolution calling for Jackson's removal if "significant changes" aren't made at the school. And a group calling itself the "Alliance for Responsible Governance" has also been pushing for change. [RPI] [Reddit RPI]

The Chronicle also lists compensation for other local private colleges. Those are after the jump.

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Still expensive, but less so (relatively)

nott memorial

Nott as expensive (relatively). (We never get tired of Nott puns.)

The website College Grotto recently released its annual list of the most expensive colleges -- and again Union, Skidmore, and RPI are on the list.

Here's how local schools rank on the list for 2011-2012 (the list for 2010-2011):

Skidmore's ranking has dropped considerably over the last few years -- it was #5 in 2009. RPI has been headed the other direction -- it was ranked #62 in 2009.

Sarah Lawrence topped College Grotto's list this year at $59,170, followed by NYU ($56,787), Columbia ($56,310), Harvey Mudd ($55,998), and The New School ($55,890). Here's Forbes' recently-released list -- it also has Sarah Lawrence #1.

Earlier on AOA:
+ US News ranks for Capital Region colleges 2011
+ Union, RPI in top 20 for "return on investment"

The Paper Battery Company

paper battery company flexible sheetAn interesting Troy company announced today it's gotten a $1 million grant from NYSERDA, the state's renewable energy agency. [Paper Battery]

The Paper Battery Company says it's getting the money to build a pilot production line for its "fully printed energy-storage device that is as thin as a piece of paper."

Yep, the company is developing batteries that can be printed onto a paper-like surface.

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US News ranks for Capital Region colleges

nott memorial

Union will probably Nott be disappointed.

US News released its vaunted college rankings today (not important, of course... unless your school ranked well). Here's how local schools ranked.

(Plus a ranking in which UAlbany tops RPI.)

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You can pry this incandescent light bulb from my cold, dead hand

incandescent light bulbYou might have heard that federal efficiency regulations will soon phase out traditional incandescent lights bulbs. But are you preparing for when the feds come to take away the warm glow of incandescence?

Former RPI professor Howard Brandston has not been sitting back idly as we're cast out into the cold, harsh light of compact fluorescents. Part of the school's Lighting Research Center before retiring, he's been speaking out against the incandescent phaseout. And stockpiling.

From a recent NYT article about the lightbulb switch:

Brandston's résumé includes everything from theater work to illuminating the Statue of Liberty, but lately he has become the Paul Revere of the movement to save the light bulb, giving speeches to industry conferences and a Tea Party rally in front of the White House. In his testimony, he warned of potential problems with compact fluorescents, which contain trace amounts of mercury. "Some of the most knowledgeable people I know," Brandston said, "have begun to stockpile a lifetime supply of incandescent lamps."
A few weeks later, Brandston showed me his own hoard, in the basement of his handsomely lighted farmhouse in upstate New York. "This is the world's greatest marketing scheme," he said. "You get the government to ban the competition." A slight man with an air of gray-bearded grandiloquence, Brandston contends that his root objection to the law, which he calls "immoral," is connected to his professional appreciation of incandescence, which mimics the natural spectrum. "It's what we grew up with -- it's sunlight," Brandston told me earlier on the phone.

Based on the info on his consulting website, we're guessing Brandston's "hoard" is stashed in Columbia County. (Look for the warm glow in the east.)

As it happens, RPI's Lighting Research Center has a bunch of info on its website about how to make the switch from incandescents to other types of bulbs (CFLs, LEDs, halogens).

photo: Wikipedia user KMJ

Phantogram on Jimmy Kimmel

The clip of Phantogram's performance on Jimmy Kimmel Thursday night is embedded above. They played "When I'm Small" and sounded great. And it was good to see Tim Oakely get some TV time.

They performed another song for the show, "As far as I can see," which was posted as a bonus clip online.

Hey, how about this: Phantogram will be playing at RPI Union May 7 (that's a Saturday). The show is open to the public -- tickets are just $5. They're currently only available from the union admin office (room 3702). We've gotten some conflicting info about this, so hold off for the moment. And here's the deal, straight from the club's adviser: 100 tickets will be set aside for the general public. They go on sale Monday. They're $5.

(Thanks, Kevin (not Marshall))

Earlier on AOA: Phantogram on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon

Michelle Rhee to speak at St. Rose commencement

michelle rheeMichelle Rhee, the former chancellor of the Washington, DC public schools, will be the speaker at St. Rose's commencement this year.

Rhee's an interesting choice. She's pushed hard for reform in DC schools during her tenure -- generating attention, controversy, and seemingly, results. She was also was featured in the documentary Waiting for Superman. But a recent investigation by USA Today raised questions about whether the dramatic rise in test scores at one of the DC schools touted by Rhee was actually the result of cheating. Time Magazine named her one of its "Time 100" today.

Admission to the St. Rose commencement is by ticket only. We asked a college rep whether there would be any public events involving Rhee while she's here -- he said there's no word on that, yet.

Meanwhile, over at RPI: U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin will be the main commencement speaker this year at RPI.

But does it have a cupholder?

rpi solar racing team car photon

The Photon.

The RPI solar car racing team unveiled its car today: The Photon. [The Approach]

The team will be racing the Photon as a plug-in electric car in a national competition in Texas next month. After the race, they'll convert it to a solar-powered car. Here's a photoset from the construction of the car.

Update: There are more details about the car in this Troy Record article -- for example, the seat is made out of a basketball hoop.

Speaking of RPI: Peter Caracappa, a professor of nuclear engineering at RPI, was on NPR's Morning Edition this morning talking about radiation exposure from everyday things -- like bananas. (Yep, Peter is also Mr. Mary.)

photo: RPI News

Tour de Troy photos

tour de troy 1

Nine corners. Two wheels.

The photo above is from Neil Grabowsky's photoset of racers in last weekend's "Tour de Troy" events, coordinated by the city of Troy and the RPI Cycling Club. The Times Union called it "one of the largest collegiate bike races in the country."

You can see more photos by Neil, of Through the Lens Studios, after the jump.

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Jeopardy: man vs machine, at EMPAC

This will probably qualify as the nerdiest thing you will do all month: the three episodes of Jeopardy in which the IBM super computer Watson plays against humans will be shown on the big screen in EMPAC's concert hall next week. Before each show there will be a discussion with experts in artificial intelligence.

The team behind Watson is led by RPI alumnus David Ferrucci and includes many other RPI alumni. Watson will be playing against Jeopardy grand master Ken Jennings and all-time money winner Brad Rutter. Watson already won a test match against the two humans (embedded above). As someone said to us recently of the matchup: "John Henry-tastic, right?" (But can Watson answer this important question: why is Alex Trebek such a jerk?)

The shows will air February 14, 15, and 16. There will be refreshments in the cafe at EMPAC starting at 6 pm, discussion at 6:45 and the show starts at 7:30 pm. It's open to the public (we checked), but you do have to register.

Nao Bustamante at EMPAC

s&g sm.jpgPerformance artist -- and RPI professor -- and reality show contestant -- Nao Bustamante will be performing her work called "Silver and Gold" at EMPAC Wednesday night. From a blurb:

Silver & Gold (runtime, 45 min) combines film, live performance, and original costumes into a self-proclaimed "filmformance" in which Ms. Bustamante evokes the muse of legendary filmmaker Jack Smith and his tribute to 1940s Dominican movie starlet Maria Montez in a magical and joyfully twisted exploration of race, glamour, sexuality, and the silver screen.

Here's a trailer for the piece (might be NSFW). It looks... well... we're not quite sure what it looks like. That's probably part of the point.

The performance starts at 7:30 pm in EMPAC's Studio 1.

Earlier on AOA:
+ RPI's Nao Bustamante on Bravo's "Work of Art"

Yep, EMPAC has advertised on AOA in the past.

175 years of making sure things don't fall down

rpi history civil engineering noticeThe first civil engineering degree in the nation was created 175 years ago today at RPI. The school posted a notice announcing the degree on October 14, 1835. The notice also lists what was involved in various courses of study at the school. For example:

During the first 12 weeks, each forenoon is devoted to practical Mathematics, Arithmetical and Geometrical. This is a most important course for men of business, young and old. During the last 4 week of the Winter Term, extemporaneous Speaking on the subjects of Logic, Rhetoric, Geology, Geography and History, is the forenoon exercise. Throughout the whole afternoon exercises are Composition, and, in fair weather, exercises in various Mathematical Arts. ...
Students of the Engineer Corps are instructed as follows:
Eight weeks, in learning the use of Instruments; as Compass, Chain, Scale, Protractor, Dividers, Level, Quadrant, Sextant, Barometer, Hydrometer, Hygrometer, Pluviometer, Thermometer, Telescope, Microscope, &c. ...

That's a lot of ometers.

By the way, among the famous civil engineering alumni from RPI: George Ferris (as in, the Wheel), Frank Osborn (Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, Tiger Stadium) and Milton Brumer (the Verrazano Narrows Bridge).

image: Institute Archives and Special Collections, Rensselaer Libraries, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Ecovative's Eben Bayer at TED Global

Check it out: Eben Bayer's TED Global talk is online.

Bayer is one of the co-founders of Ecovative Design, a Green Island-based startup that uses fungi to produce eco-friendly replacements for styrofoam. His talk -- which he gave this past summer in Oxford, England -- covers the problem with styrofoam packaging and how mushrooms can be used to grow replacement material. There's video of Ecovative's manufacturing process.

Chitinous polymers. Hot.

Ecovative was recently named a "technology pioneer" by the World Economic Forum.

Bayer and Gavin McIntyre, both RPI grads, started Ecovative in 2007.

(Thanks, Jessica R!)

Earlier on AOA: a whole bunch of stuff about Ecovative

Ecovative called a "technology pioneer"

ecovative design ecocradle

Ecovative's environmentally-friendly packaging material.

Ecovate Design, the Green Island-based startup, has been named a "Technology Pioneer" for 2011 by the World Economic Forum (you know, the Davos people). From the WEF brochure:

Over US$ 100 billion dollars of environmentally harmful foams are used each year, depleting finite fossil fuel reserves and causing serious environmental impact during production and disposal. Ecovative's technology has the potential to eliminate a significant amount of environmentally harmful foams, including the expanded polystyrene used worldwide in packaging, automobiles, building construction and consumer goods.

Ecovative has developed packaging and insulation that made with seed husks and mushroom roots. The two founders, Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre, are RPI grads. The company's gotten a lot of attention -- it was even name-checked on CSI:NY.

From 2008 on AOA: A (very cool) fungus grows in Troy

photo: Ecovative Design

Where Capital Region colleges rank on Princeton Review lists

UAlbany walkthrough fountainThe Princeton Review released its annual college rankings this week (party schools, reefer madness, etc).

Here are the lists Capital Region schools made it onto...

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More focus of Shirley Jackson's corporate board memberships

Thumbnail image for Shirley Jackson at EMPAC openingNYT copies follows up on Bloomberg's "college presidents on corporate boards" story -- you know, the one that featured RPI president Shirley Ann Jackson.

Again, Dr. Jackson is one of the examples highlighted:

In the case of Dr. Jackson and her five board appointments, Ms. Minow says, "it is just physically impossible to do the work necessary to be a good director" on so many boards. The Corporate Library estimates that board members must invest 240 hours a year, including meetings and preparation, to do the work properly. But it can become a full-time job if the company runs into trouble. ...
Dr. Jackson would not comment for this article. A Rensselaer spokesman, William N. Walker, said she regularly worked on her board duties through vacation and on weekends. As proof that she was not being distracted from her Rensselaer duties, he cited the hiring of more than 270 new faculty members, $700 million in construction and renovation including four new centers on campus, and a $360 million anonymous donation in 2001 as part of a $1.4 billion capital campaign. Her networking at I.B.M. paid off by helping to bring a $100 million supercomputer to the campus in partnership with I.B.M. and New York State, he said. In June, Rensselaer's board of trustees voted to give Dr. Jackson another 10-year term.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Does Shirley Jackson have too many jobs?
+ RPI's Jackson tops compensation chart

EMPAC, which is a part of RPI, advertises on AOA.

RPI's Jackson: "We try to be a good neighbor"

Thumbnail image for Shirley Jackson at EMPAC openingIn a meeting with the Troy Record's editorial board, Shirley Ann Jackson addressed many of the ongoing story lines that involve RPI and the city: the relationship with city officials, the old Proctor's theater, the new president's house, the proposed public safety fee and the alert siren. From the article by Troy Record Jess:

Jackson was adamant that she didn't understand why city officials in Troy seem to direct so much ire toward RPI and her personally.
"We try to be a good neighbor," said Jackson. "We want to be helpful."
She believes the media's portrayal of her is unfair, and she said she would rather focus on the positive aspects of current town-gown relations.

Dr. Jackson has been the head of RPI for a decade. The RPI Board of Trustees recently "invited" her back for another 10 years.

She topped the pay chart for private college presidents in the 2007-2008 school year at almost $1.6 million, according to the Chronicle of Higher Ed (the school said last year she'd be donating five percent of her salary to a scholarship fund). A recent Bloomberg piece figured that she earned about $1.4 million serving on corporate boards last year.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Does Shirley Jackson have too many jobs?
+ Of loudspeakers and tweets
+ RPI building a new president's residence
+ RPI's Jackson tops compensation chart

Union, RPI in top 20 for "return on investment"

nott memorial

Not(t) a bad deal?

An online service called PayScale has ranked colleges based on "return on investment."

Here are how the schools in the Capital Region stacked up:

Oddly, neither St. Rose nor Russell Sage Colleges were on the list of 852 schools.

Businessweek has the same rankings posted with a few more categories.

Here's the methodology, which is worth skimming. In short: the numbers were calculated using the 30 year median pay for a 2009 grad with a bachelor's degree, in a full time job.

MIT was ranked #1. The highest ranked public school was UC-Berkeley at #16.

(Thank, Fred)

Earlier on AOA:
+ Skidmore, Union, RPI among nation's most expensive
+ Capital Region college tuition

Does Shirley Jackson have too many jobs?

Thumbnail image for Shirley Jackson at EMPAC openingRPI president Shirley Ann Jackson is mentioned prominently in a Bloomberg piece today about college presidents "struggling to reconcile the demands and values of academia with shareholder skepticism about their boardroom commitments."

From the article by Janet Lorin:

Jackson of RPI, in Troy, New York, sits on five corporate boards, more than most college presidents, after stepping down from a sixth in April. She traveled to Milwaukee and Houston to attend shareholder meetings for International Business Machines Corp. and Marathon Oil on two successive April days.
Shareholders at IBM, Marathon Oil, FedEx Corp. and NYSE Euronext filed proxy statements this year or in 2009 questioning Jackson's ability to juggle jobs.
"Nobody should be sitting on that many boards," said Emil Rossi, the trustee for shares who filed a proxy statement with his son to protest Jackson's board nomination at Armonk, New York-based IBM, the world's largest computer-services provider. Of 14 candidates, Jackson placed 11th in the voting and retained her seat. While getting the fewest votes for election at Public Service Enterprise Group Inc., a Newark, New Jersey-based utility, she also held her board post there.

There's more in the article, including comments from an RPI spokesman, a faculty member and reps from a few of the corporations.

Based on proxy statement data, Lorin figures Dr. Jackson earned almost $1.4 million in compensation from her work on corporate boards last year. The Chronicle of Higher Ed reported that Dr. Jackson topped the pay chart for private college presidents in the 2007-2008 school year, at almost $1.6 million.

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RPI's Nao Bustamante on Bravo's "Work of Art"

bustamante silver and gold

America's next top artist? From "the Burgh?" You'll have to watch to find out.

Next week Bravo premiers its new reality TV series Work of Art. It's like Project Runway or Top Chef... but this time the search is for America's "next great artist." Fourteen of up-and-coming artists will compete for a solo show at the prestigious Brooklyn Museum and a cash prize of $100,000.

One of them will be Lansingburgh resident and RPI associate professor Nao Bustamante.

Bustamante is an internationally known performance artist who teaches New Media and Live Art at RPI.

She took a few minutes to talk with AOA about Troy, being an artist at an engineering school, and her reality TV experience.

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"I believe the children are our future...."

Shirley Jackson at EMPAC openingNPR's Tell Me More... recently asked Shirley Ann Jackson about what music is playing in her collection.

On Dr. Jackson's list:

Earlier, Dr. Jackson talked with host Michel Martin about women in science and science education:

... as far as young women and minorities, we can't afford to ignore half to two-thirds of the talent pool and feel weve tapped all the talent. And talent comes from everywhere. So we have to continue to be attractive to those who would come from abroad - very talented people - and have them stay. But we also have to understand we have talent right here.
And whether we're talking the young man from Iowa, the young Latino girl from the Bronx, the African-American youth from Washington, D.C., or the young woman from Scarsdale, these are talented young people and we have to invite them. We have to excite them. We have to prepare them. And we have to celebrate them when they are successful.

Bonus Shirley Ann Jackson item: she was recently part of an Economist-sponsored Oxford-style debate on innovation with Robert Reich, Tyler Cowen and John Perry Barlow. Jackson and Reich "won the debate in a landslide."

Mark Changizi: Alien Vision Revolution

alien vision eye changiziThis could be interesting: RPI cognitive scientist Mark Changizi will be giving a talk about human vision Wednesday evening. From the blurb:

Why do humans see in color? Why do we have eyes on the front of our heads, like cats, rather than on the sides, like horses? And how is it that we find it so easy to read when written language did not exist until a few thousand years ago--a virtual millisecond in evolutionary time? These are just a few of the riddles theoretical neurobiologist Mark Changizi explores in his talk on Alien Vision Revolution. Searching for the design principles behind color vision, binocularity, motion, and object recognition, Changizi suggests what they say about human nature and the circumstances in which it was formed. He also uses those principles to extrapolate how extraterrestrial beings would be likely to see--probably the same sorts of writing but not the same colors, and not with eyes that face forward.

Changizi recently published a book last year called The Vision Revolution, about recent scientific insights into human vision. Commented Melinda Wenner for Scientific American MIND: "One thing is certain: The Vision Revolution will make you wonder the next time you notice someone blush, catch a ball or finish reading a magazine page."

Changizi's talk is at 7 pm at EMPAC. It's free and open to the public.

Of loudspeakers and tweets

twitter birdToday's hunt for an armed robber in Troy and subsequent lockdown at RPI seemed to stir up a lot people. There was the obvious (and understandable) "Yikes!" reaction to the thought of an armed suspect running through the neighborhood near campus -- but there also seemed to be a bit of confusion and frustration with the way information about the situation was communicated.

Thankfully, no one got hurt. And maybe there are some good things that can come out of all this for the next situation.

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Orszag to speak at RPI commencement

peter orszag

Ladies are powerless to resist the haircut.

Nerd sex symbol Peter Orszag will be the speaker at RPI's commencement this year. When Orszag isn't impregnating heiresses or engaging stunning television reporters, he's the director of the Office of Management and Budget for the Obama Administration.

It's very possible that Orszag is a cylon -- what with his sterling CV, rep as a "super nerd" in the White House, anti-charity approach to losing weight, being "way taller than you're supposed to be", marathon running, and genetic ability to metabolize large amounts of caffeine. All that -- and he's putting the "OMG back in OMB."

And check out the lineup for this year's "President's Commencement Colloquy:" Orszag, Robert Langer, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Harold Varmus. That's like a week's-worth of Charlie Rose episodes.

Also: The Albany College of Pharmacy has lined up the US Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin, as its commencement speaker.

[via Kevin]

photo: Marc1022 via Wikipedia

Conflicting reports about what Paterson said, Sararoga paid parking off the table, another potential Gillibrand challenger drops out

The friend David Paterson allegedly enlisted to talk with the woman who sought an order of protection against a top aide reportedly has told investigators that Paterson asked to pass along this message to the woman: "Tell her the governor wants her to make this go away." A Paterson spokesman said last night that it was not the message the governor sent -- and when he did talk with the woman, it was about getting the media off her back. [NYT] [TU]

Harry Corbitt, the New York State Police superintendent, announced last night on Capitol Tonight that he's retiring -- he said the "media fire storm has really disrupted my ability to function in that capacity." Denise O'Donnell, the state official who oversaw the state police, resigned last week after saying she couldn't "in good conscience" remain a part of the Paterson administration. The head of the State Troopers Police Benevolent Society released a statement yesterday trying to distance rank-and-file troopers from "the reported actions of a few people in higher positions." [CapNews9] [TU CapCon] [CapNews9]

David Paterson has called a cabinet meeting this morning at the Capitol. [Daily Politics]

Saratoga Springs' finance commissioner says downtown paid parking is now "off the table at this point." The city's budget had included $1.35 million in revenue from parking. [Post-Star] [Saratogian]

(there's more)

Paterson says budget gap growing, Gillibrand asks Obama question, rabid kitten found, another escaped dog

David Paterson says the state is now facing an $8.2 billion budget gap -- that's up about $750 million from the previous estimate. The state's budget director says the widening gap is the result of smaller than expected tax revenue from Wall Street bonuses. In the increased estimate had member of the legislature criticizing the governor for not providing an "accurate picture" in his proposed budget. [TU] [AP/Post-Star] [NYT] [Daily Politics]

Kirsten Gillibrand got to ask a question at yesterday's Q&A with Barack Obama. That might not be a good sign for her. [NYDN] [PolitickerNY]

The Greenfield man accused of stabbing and killing a tenant last year during a fight pleaded guilty to manslaughter yesterday. The case ended up being a bizarre tangle of allegations. [Saratogian] [TU]

(there's more)

No jail time for pedestrian death, RPI mansion zoning app bounced, Ford and Gillibrand race for donors, Schenectady beckons to Stephen Colbert

The woman who pleaded guilty to hitting and killing a pedestrian -- and then temporarily driving away -- on Madison Ave in Albany a year ago was sentenced to probation, restitution and community service. The victim's family said justice was not served by the sentencing. The judge presiding over the case said the misdemeanor plea deal "on its face, does not look right." Prosecutors say the evidence didn't support a felony charge. [Troy Record] [WTEN] [TU] [Fox23]

Congress Street in Troy between 15th Street and Brunswick Ave will be closed today from 10 am - 4:30 pm for what the city says is the emergency demolition of a building (map). The city's engineer says the front wall of the former Industrial Tool and Die building "could rupture at any time." The building had already been slated for demo. (CBS6 says it will be streaming video of the demolition.) [@TroyMayor] [TU] [Troy Record] [CBS6]

Troy's Zoning Board of Appeals has bounced RPI's application for a height variance for the new president's mansion. [Troy Record]

David Paterson the vetoed the legislature's ethics reform package. The governor said the bill didn't go far enough. Legislative leaders are now talking about trying to override the veto. [TU] [NYDN] [NYT]

(there's more)

Details about Harriman redevelopment, Clinton endorses Gillibrand, college endowments take hit, burglaries in Manning Blvd neighborhood

The two state officials in charge of redeveloping the Harriman State Office Campus in Albany say the redevelopment plan will be incremental. The Harriman Campus board also now says it will release Columbia Development's proposed plan for the site. [TU] [HRTDC]

The US Census will be hiring 1,500 people in the Capital Region. The temporary jobs will be part time and pay about $15/hour. [CapNews9] [Fox23] [Troy Record]

While New York did score some of that federal rail funding -- other states got a lot more. [TU]

Laws banning driving-while-cellphoning don't appear to be reducing the number of accidents. The number of tickets issued in New York State for violating the ban has been increasing steadily. [NYT] [TU]

Bill Clinton has endorsed Kirsten Gillibrand. [NYDN]

Catholic Charities is starting the Capital Region's first needle exchange program in Albany. [TU]

(there's more)

Old school

This looks like fun: the RPI hockey team practiced outside yesterday on the frozen pond in Cohoes' Van Schaick Park.

The Engineers are at #13 Union this Saturday at 7 pm.

[via CapNews9]

RPI building a new president's residence

Shirley Jackson at EMPAC openingWhat do you get the college president who's already the highest-paid in the nation and just had a weekend-long celebration (including a performance by Aretha Franklin) of her tenure?

How about a new house.

In an email sent out to the RPI community yesterday afternoon, VP William Walker announced that the school's board of trustees is building president Shirley Ann Jackson a new residence. From the email:

The members of the Rensselaer Board of Trustees have made a commitment of their personal resources to construct a new building that will serve as a space for entertaining visitors to the university, and as a residence for the president.
"The Trustees have decided to make a unanimous collective gift to Rensselaer in anticipation of our future fund-raising efforts," said Samuel F. Heffner '56, chairman of the Board of Trustees. "The new facility will be an important tool for use in our ongoing advancement programs."
The building will be located on the same Tibbits Avenue parcel of land as the current president's house, which was constructed in the early 20th century. The existing building has only limited space for university events, and is no longer suitable for the types of uses demanded by the burgeoning programs of the Institute, Heffner said.

The full email is after the jump. (Thanks, P)

Here's a bit about the history of the president's residence at RPI, including a few photos. The TU's Chris Churchill reports that the new residence will be built next the current residence, which will become a guest house.

Earlier on AOA: Skidmore, Union, RPI among nation's most expensive

(there's more)

CSI:Green Island

ecovative CSI

Can mushroom insulation help catch the Compass Killer? (cue ominous music)

This is funny/cool/awesome: Ecovative's Greensulate material (you know, the insulation made from mushrooms) showed up as evidence on CSI:NY last night. Here's the episode -- the segment name-checking Ecovative and Greensulate is at 25:20.

It's a pretty great spot for the product. The characters talk about how it's fire-resistant and eco-friendly. But there's a mystery -- how did "cutting-edge insulation get on our vic?" Hmm.

Ecovative, which was started by two RPI grads and is now based in Green Island, has been been getting all sorts of attention recently. Founders Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre were on CNN in September. Bayer spoke at spoke at the nerd-chic PopTech conference in October (here's video). And now they're helping Gary Sinise catch bad guys.

Earlier on AOA: A (very cool) fungus grows in Troy

[via @katerbirch]

screen grab: CBS

Opening statements in Bruno trial, Aretha Franklin coming to RPI, investigation into Paterson World Series tickets, cops say man was wearing a Breathalyzer costume, naked sprint around the Nott

A jury was selected for Joe Bruno's federal trial yesterday. Each side also delivered its opening statement. The prosecution said Bruno used his influence at the capitol to rake in more than $3 million from clients. Bruno's defense said he's "a hardworking, honest public servant" and the feds had made a mistake. As he entered the courthouse yesterday, Bruno told reporter he had been "looking forward to this day." [CapNews9] [NYT] [Troy Record] [TU] [NYSNYS via Daily Politics]

GlobalFoundries has announced that Hector Ruiz is stepping down as chairman of the board. The WSJ reported in October that the feds had identified Ruiz as the AMD executive who leaked news of the impending formation of GlobalFoundries to a hedge fund last year. The new chairman will be Alan Ross, who had been the CEO of another semi-conductor company. GloFo says Ruiz's exit will have no effect on plans for the Luther Forest chip fab. [NYT] [San Jose Mercury News] [TU] [Saratogian]

The Albany County Department of Health reported its first death associated with the H1N1 flu. The ACDoH says the teen had a "longstanding underlying medical condition." The county health commissioner said the news was not cause for alarm and "the vast majority of individuals" will recover. [TU] [WTEN] [Troy Record] [CapNews9]

The Albany County Department of Health says the death of a county resident has been associated with the contaminated ground beef that was recently recalled. The beef was produced by a company in western New York and distributed throughout the East Coast. Locally, the beef had been available at Price Chopper, which has been contacting people to notify them of the recall. [Fox23] [NYT] [TU] [@ChrisRooney]

Aretha Franklin and Joshua Bell will performing at EMPAC in December as part of a celebration of Shirley Ann Jackson's 10 years at RPI (or, as @supraphonic @timesunion called it yesterday; Shirleystock). The performances will not be open to the general public. (Earlier on AOA: RPI's Jackson tops compensation chart) [RPInsider] [TU] [AP/CBS6]

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RPI's Jackson tops compensation chart

Shirley Jackson

The chair of RPI's board of trustees says the board is "extremely pleased with our president."

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported today that RPI president Shirley Ann Jackson was the nation's highest-paid private college leader for 2007-2008. The publication pegged her pay package at $1,598,247.

In a press release, the school pointed out that Jackson's chart-topping total came before the economic downturn and stressed that Jackson gave five percent of her salary to a student scholarship fund this year.

That release also says Jackson's "approach to the economic crisis was clear, decisive, and strategic." That plan included layoffs, which prompted some frustration and resentment on campus.

An editor for the Chronicle told reporters on a conference call that university president compensation has been rising faster than inflation in part because "it's increasingly hard to find these people."

Of Jackson, William Walker -- RPI's vice president of strategic communications and external relations -- told the TU: "She is worth every penny."

Earlier on AOA: Skidmore, Union, RPI among nation's most expensive

Skidmore, Union, RPI among nation's most expensive

nott memorial

Union says 64 percent of its students get financial aid.

So reports the web site College Grotto, which released its annual list of the most expensive colleges and universities (it also ranked the schools just by tuition). As in years past, a handful of local and regional schools are on the list. First, the locals:

5. Skidmore College - $51,196

35. Union College - $49,983

62. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute - $49,245

We did a similar cost comparison for local schools back in April and got somewhat different numbers.

And as we noted back then, a lot of the students that attend these schools don't actually pay full price. For example, Union says that 64 percent of its students get financial aid -- and the average individual total aid award is $25,400.

A list of schools a little farther out from the Capital Region that made the top 100 is after the jump.

(Thanks, James!)

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State flu shot mandate cancelled, charges over ESP man cave, Paterson says Obama Admin cost state $1 billion, a big year for lady bugs

The state Department of Health has rescinded the flu shot mandate for health care workers. The DOH says there isn't enough vaccine to go around and the state would rather see the vax go to at-risk populations (young people, pregnant women). The Paterson Administration said the move was not related to the group of lawsuits filed over the mandate. [TU] [NYT] [NYDN]

The two men accused of being involved with the alleged "man cave" in the ESP have been hit with a bunch of charges that make the cave sound like some sort of stoner's paradise. Both men have pleaded not guilty. The attorney for one of the men said they were "shocked" to face charges over the cave "when there was actually a more publicized and egregious waste of tax money last spring as our state Senate sat around proud doing nothing while Rome burned." [Daily Politics] [AP/Troy Record] [TU]

A special meeting of the Troy city council turned into a bit of display as Democrats refused to show up and people ended up yelling at each other in front of TV cameras. Harry Tutunjian had called the meeting in an attempt to suspend three Democratic appointees accused of being involved with recent case of alleged voter fraud. [Troy Record] [TU]

Two alternate jurors from the Adrian Thomas trial say they would have voted "not guilty." [Fox23]

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RPI's "beer pong" flu: a highly transmissible story

weekend update

The story was mentioned on SNL's Weekend Update this past weekend.

The media are pretty much defenseless against stories like the recent "RPI beer pong flu" story. No journalistic immune system can withstand a story that combines such topicality, weirdness, a health scare and drunk college students. And once stories like this find a host, they're pretty much guaranteed to spread -- often mutating along the way.

The RPI story was no exception. It's spread all over the media world during the last week and a a half. Given that we're pretty sure we know the index case, we thought it'd be interesting/fun to do some media epidemiology.

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Reaction to Paterson's proposed budget cuts, investigators say RPI student's death was homicide, state says it didn't know hotel owner was behind on taxes, Saratoga sued over Taser info

David Paterson has proposed $3 billion in cuts to this year's state budget. He said yesterday that "all of us will have to sacrifice to save the state." Sheldon Silver said Paterson "took the bull by the horns" -- but the governor's proposals were met with skepticism by state senators, and outrage from interest groups. [AOA] [Daily Politics] [NYT] [Daily Politics] [Daily Politics]

The man who was stabbed in Albany's Grand Street neighborhood last week has died -- the city's 8th homicide of the year. [CapNews9]

Private investigators hired by the family of the RPI student found dead of a gun shot in a Troy apartment last year say they have concluded the student was murdered. Troy detectives have said the case was a suicide -- but the private investigators accused the TPD of coming to that conclusion in "a rather imaginative way." [TU] [Troy Record] [Troy Record]

The state's Division of Human Rights has ruled that Saratoga Springs must pay 8 city employees damages of $10k each because the city had not provided sufficient facilities for female employees of the city's police department. The decision prompted squabbling between mayor Scott Johnson and public safety commissioner Ron Kim (who are both running for mayor this year) over who's to blame for the situation. [Daily Gazette $] [TU] [Saratogian]

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Losers get H1N1. Maybe the winners, too.

RPI sent out a campus update this afternoon about H1N1. From the email, which was posted by RPInsider (emphasis added):

Our caseload is still low, but it is steadily growing. It is important to note that we have linked several of the cases to specific social events on campus, such as football games and weekend parties. Please, especially during such events, remember to continue to wash your hands, avoid close contact with others, and NEVER share cups or utensils. Remember, you can get the flu from someone who does not yet appear to be ill.
Unfortunately, some of our current cases were apparently contracted during a weekend drinking game. Do not share drinks. Alcohol does not kill the virus or prevent its spread from person to person. While it might seem fun over the weekend, it will not be enjoyable when you and your friends are sick and missing class or midterm examinations.

Keep that in mind before your next beer pong match.

Reaction to APD shame sign, man found dead near the Egg, Paterson and Ravitch reportedly at odds, Other Guys shoot wraps, local woman on Jeopardy tonight

A spokesman for the APD says the light-up sign on Central Ave that's set to display the names of people arrested for soliciting prostitute is no different from mug shots appearing in the local news. The spokesman says city attorneys don't foresee any legal issues with the sign. Defense attorneys aren't so sure about that. [CBS6] [WNYT] [Fox23] [TU]

A state Supreme Court judge has thrown out 39 of the allegedly fraudulent Troy absentee ballots. [TU]

A man was found dead Saturday morning at the foot of the ESP wall below the Egg near Lancaster Street. Police say they're investigating, though it appears the man fell. [Troy Record] [Fox23] [WNYT]

GlobalFoundries' "Fab 1" in Dresden, Germany -- which was built by AMD in 1998 -- is now at the center of a cluster that employs 35,000 people. [Saratogian]

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Fight over funds for homeless in Troy, Ellis to continue mayoral run, attempted abduction reported in Schenectady, Cohoes goes flashy

A spokesman for Harry Tutunjian says the Troy mayor's move to turn down $845k in federal money aimed at helping the homeless was "politically courageous." The mayor's administration has said the city doesn't have the money necessary to hire someone to administer the funding -- though critics have suggested the move is political payback. [TU] [Troy Record]

It appears that Corey Ellis will continue his Albany mayoral campaign on the Working Families in the general election. Ellis lost the Democratic primary to Jerry Jennings 56-44. [TU]

Leif Engstrom has come out as the winner the Democratic primary for the newly created job of Albany city auditor. There's no general election opponent, so the job is his. [TU]

A Marist poll reports that a majority of New Yorkers don't want David Paterson to run for governor -- but they also would rather not have Barack Obama be the one to push Paterson out. [Marist] [Daily Politics] [PolitickerNY]

In a radio interview yesterday David Paterson basically said that Andrew Cuomo would have bad poll numbers, too, if he were governor right now. [PolitickerNY]

PEF -- one of the two biggest state worker unions -- says it will be lobbying David Paterson to approve more $20k buyouts for its members. [TU]

RPI says it now appears five students have come down with the H1N1 influenza. The school has set up 90 isolation rooms to handle a potential flu outbreak. In an email, the school's medical director said "the number of cases could change very quickly." Sage also reported this week that two of its students have H1N1. [CapNews9] [Troy Record] [RPInsider] [CBS6]

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Fungus is the new punk rock

Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre -- the two founders of local green tech startup Ecovative Design -- were featured on CNN recently as part of the channel's "Young People Who Rock" segment:

Bayer and McIntyre started Ecovative, which grows eco-friendly insulation using mushrooms, based on work they did as students at RPI. During the CNN segment they cited Burt Swersey, one of their Rensselaer professors, for urging them and other classmates to go out and invent things that solve needs, not wants.

The company recently expanded into new space in Green Island.

(Thanks, Jessica!)

Earlier on AOA:
+ Award-winning fungus
+ A (very cool) fungus grows in Troy

Attorney calls ESP man cave allegations overblown, SPAC ticket surchage floated, Tedisco proposes "Madoff Bill," DEC building urinals criticized for backsplash

An attorney for one of the men accused of setting up a "man cave" in the ESP for smoking pot instead described the space as "a break room" and called the allegations "overblown." One of the accused men has a criminal record -- and there are some questions about whether the state knew that before hiring him. [TU] [CBS6]

The Albany Common Council has passed a resolution that calls on public agencies to not ask a person about his/her immigration status if that person is "not posing a threat." The resolution is non-binding. [TU] [CBS6] [Fox23]

Saratoga Springs' finance commissioner has floated the idea of tacking on a $2 surcharge to rock and pop concert tickets at SPAC. The fee could bring in as much as $500k. SPAC's executive director said the venue is "firmly opposed" to the proposed fee and called it "an onerous tax." [Daily Gazette] [TU] [Saratogian]

The Troy Fire Department says mayor Harry Tutunjian has asked it to tour the RPI campus -- EMPAC in particular -- to get a better sense of the layout of campus buildings. The TFD has been lobbying for RPI to pay a public safety fee to fund additional fire coverage of the campus. [TU]

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Don't eat the interface

This is one of the stranger things we've seen lately. RPI student Kyle McDonald built an interface for a synthesizer using a laptop, a webcam and... Skittles.

Here's an earlier version of the setup, which controlled a beat sequencer. One of the problems with the first version, as noted by McDonald: "people like to eat Skittles."

There's more about McDonald's work -- including a tea cup theremin -- at The Approach.

State Senate break reportedly near, Biden coming to area, layoffs at the TU, mouthwash defense surfaces, liquor license denied because of Salvation Army

It's now been a month since the state Senate upheaval started. The two sides are reportedly nearing some sort of resolution. The Democrats known as "The Three Amigos" (that includes Pedro Espada, who's sided with the Republicans) are threatening to do something (it's not clear what) if there isn't a deal by Thursday. Two of the Amigos plus another senator walked out of the Dems' session yesterday -- and apparently other rank-and-file members are feeling "frisky." [Daily Politics] [PolitickerNY] [TU] [AP/Troy Record]

It does seem like something is up -- David Paterson has requested statewide TV time for 5 pm this evening. That's prompted speculation that he might try to dislodge the situation by appointing a lieutenant governor (which would, in turn, probably set off legal throwdown). [Daily Politics] [TU]

If it's any consolation, the senators' pay has been stopped. [NYDN]

Joe Biden will be in Clifton Park tomorrow to tout the federal stimulus effort. He'll be speaking at Shenendehowa High School. This will be the first Vice Presidential visit to the area since 2000. [TU] [WTEN] [Daily Gazette]

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That was a lot of rain, state Senate will meet on 4th, RPI disputes fire department accusations, Rudy Giuliani wants to motivate you, ALB says show up earlier

Yesterday's severe thunderstorms dropped more than three inches of rain in some places (the official NWS tally of 2.76 inches was a local record for July 1). Latham and Cohoes seemed to get the worst of it. There were reports of flooding all over the area. [TU] [NWS] [Fox23] [Twitter]

The state Senate held another of its "extraordinary" in-and-out sessions yesterday. The big issue of the day seemed to be the question of whether the Assembly would accept the bills "passed" by the Senate in Tuesday's V8-fueled session. It looks like the senators will be spending the Fourth of July at the Capitol -- David Paterson has ordered them into session every day through Monday. [TU] [Daily Politics]

Both Senate factions are expected to turn in per diem requests for the last two weeks today -- though whether they'll be paid is apparently up in the air. [NYDN]

Guilderland's supervisor says the town will be pulling its garbage business from the Albany landfill because of concerns about the facility's expansion into the Pine Bush. [TU]

RPI says that its public safety office called the Troy Fire Department just 32 seconds after the first report of a fire at one its chem labs this week -- not 12 minutes as the department has alleged. The TFD says RPI's delay created a more dangerous situation for firefighters. [Troy Record]

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Beverage run sends state Senate into a tizzy, Troy fire fighters at odds with RPI, bankruptcy filings up, grenade threat used to rob drug store, police srsly hope catch you txting

State Senate stand-off Day Number OhSomeoneKillUsNow: The Senate met three times yesterday. Two of the sessions, ordered by the courts, were in-and-sessions. The third involved the Democrats trying to call quorum when a Republican senator, Frank Padavan, briefly walked through the chamber in search of beverage in the Senate lounge. Democrats proceeded to pass a bunch of bills, but David Paterson says he (probably) won't sign them. There have been various reports about the beverage Padavan was seeking -- Coke, coffee -- but Padavan says he ended up drinking a V8. [TU] [NYT] [Buffalo News] [Daily Politics]

Why has the state Senate become such a fight to the death? Republicans say they realize this may be their last shot at being in the majority for a long time -- and they want to make sure things are set so that being in the minority doesn't totally suck. [NYT]

The Troy Fire Department and RPI are squabbling again. The latest flare up was sparked by Monday's fire in a chemistry lab -- the TFD says the school waited to too long to call in the fire, and as a result, firefighters faced a more dangerous situation. There's also the ongoing issue about whether RPI should pay a "public safety fee" to help support coverage of the campus. [TU] [Troy Record]

Two Albany Common Councilman say they're upset that the bond used to pay for the Albany landfill expansion won't be funded by an increase in the fees paid by companies that dump garbage. [TU]

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Judge orders state Senate back to work, Paterson warns of another fiscal shortfall, trans-fat ban adjusted, police get DNA evidence from soda bottle

A state Supreme Court judge ordered the state Senate -- both caucuses -- into session today. The judge scolded senators for their behavior and said they risked appearing "rude, inconsiderate and egotistical." Democrats say they'll show up for the session (though they're promising not to take up anything controversial) and the Republicans have already filed an appeal. If the Senate doesn't take action a handful of measures will expire tonight, including sales tax extensions in many counties. [NYT] [Daily Politics] [NYDN] [TU]

If it seems like the Senate mess would put incumbents at risk of being thrown out of office... well, behold the power of pork. [TU]

At the NY Conference of Mayors meeting yesterday in Saratoga, David Paterson said that state tax revenues "may be down 35 percent this year from where they were projected." [Post-Star]

Police say two men were shot on Kent Street in Albany yesterday afternoon (map). Witness says four people jumped out of car, ran up to a porch and started shooting. [TU] [Fox23]

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EMPAC: a beached ocean liner?

empac exterior

Not everyone's on board.

That's how William Morgan, "a Providence based architectural writer," described the RPI building in a piece in the Hartford Courant:

It is a maddeningly frustrating piece of architecture, crammed with lots of goodies but not a lot of goodness. Granted, the spaces may work well for performances, but few of them inspire forms that sing. There's lots of technological power in the huge building, but not much poetry. Designers pray for clients with a bottomless budget, yet one wonders if a little more struggle might have resulted in a building that was a less ponderous and more taut -- Gregorian chant rather than Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

He also called it "the boldest -- maybe most outrageous -- building to appear in upstate New York in decades."

This isn't the first negative criticism of EMPAC's design. On his Kunstlercast podcast, James Howard Kunstler said of EMPAC: "It's like if you were to put on a clown suit and jump up and down on the highest part of your city and point at yourself and say, 'Look at me, I'm special.'"

Others have been very complimentary. NYT's Dennis Overbye called it "a technological pleasure dome for the mind and senses". James R. Oestreich, also in NYT, declared it "the concert hall of the 21st century." And Cool Hunting said "EMPAC fuses the best aspects of the arts, science and technology" in naming the center one of its top five buildings of 2008.

Earlier on AOA: A photo tour of EMPAC

(Thanks, Duncan)

Just so you know: EMPAC has advertised on AOA this year

Deal to avoid state worker layoffs "expected" today, Albany landfill expansion approval could come soon, Rensselaer County computers being de-wormed, UAlbany getting new building

The announcement of a deal between the state worker unions and the Paterson administration to avoid layoffs is "expected" to come today. The deal will reportedly include $20k buyouts for employees eligible for retirement -- which has some observers asking where the money is going to come from. The deal also apparently includes a new, less generous tier in the state pension system. [NYDN] [TU]

It's looking like the state DEC could approve the expansion of the Albany landfill soon. The dump is projected to be full before the end of this year -- six years sooner than originally planned. [TU]

The search has been called off for the man who went missing in the Mohawk on Sunday. A friend who accompanied the man that day said strong currents tipped their canoe. Rains earlier that week had increased the Mohawk's flow that weekend. [Troy Record] [TU] [USGS]

Among Scott Murphy's first slate of requested Congressional earmarks (pork): $2 million for a new Saratoga Springs public safety building. Murphy has posted his full list of requested earmarks online. [Saratogian] [Post-Star]

Another potential 2010 primary challenger to Kirsten Gillibrand has announced she won't be running against KG. [NYDN]

David Paterson's new top advisor described himself as being "like the 300-pound offensive tackle blocking for the quarterback called Governor David Paterson." [NYT]

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More criticism of ambulance response times, Tuffey's credentials quesitoned, fewer state worker layoffs predicted, students not allowed to ride bikes to school, bear sightings in Troy

The head of the Albany firefighters' union says his members have complained "several times" about slow response times for Mohawk Ambulance. The service is under scrutiny after it took 25 minutes for an ambulance to show up at the scene of a fatal crash between a kid on a bike and a car last week. [TU]

A TU review of records indicates that Albany police chief James Tuffey is not actually licensed to be a police officer -- though, by law, the doesn't preclude him from being chief. Common Council president Shawn Morris -- who's also running for mayor -- says there's "a strong expectation across the board that the police chief is a police officer" and has called for Tuffey to go on leave while the matter is investigated. That TU investigation also turned up questions about whether Tuffey has a permit to carry a gun. [TU] [Fox23] [TU]

"Experts" say only a few hundred state workers will actually be laid off as part of the state budget cuts. The state Department of Budget reports that 1,200 of the 8,700 planned job cuts have already happened because of the hiring freeze and retirements. [Newsday]

A Greenfield landlord has been charged with murder after police say he stabbed a tenant last week. [Saratogian]

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Ambulance delay questioned, Paterson pessimistic about state finances, Rensselaer council doesn't show for no-show vote, Listerine blamed for failed sobriety test, surge of interest in home gardens

Albany mayor Jerry Jennings says he's putting together a task force to investigate why it took 25 minutes for an ambulance to show up at the scene of a fatal crash between a kid on a bike and a car. A spokesman for the ambulance company, Mohawk Ambulance, said "extraordinary circumstances" required the company to pull an ambulance from Troy to make the run. Firefighters who first responded to the scene reportedly called dispatch twice inquiring about the location of the ambulance. The boy -- who wasn't wearing a helmet -- later died at St. Peter's. The site of the crash was a little more than two miles from the hospital. [CapNews9] [TU] [Fox23] [Google Maps]

David Paterson is warning that $3 billion may have to be cut from this year's state budget -- though it seems that prediction isn't based on much more than his own hunch. Paterson's own budget office gently disputed the claim yesterday. [NYT] [NYDN]

Paterson made his comments about the budget at an appearance yesterday to sign a bill that uses federal stimulus money to extend a person's possible collection of unemployment benefits to 72 weeks. [TU]

State leaders are trying to work out a fix for the new bottle bill. It looks like a revised version will not include the New York-only barcode that bottlers said was going to be so much trouble. [TU]

Saratoga Springs police say they found a grenade and a bunch of guns during a domestic violence call yesterday. SSPD -- along with the ATF -- later arrested a man who lived at the residence. The bomb squad was called to remove the grenade. [TU] [Saratogian] [Daily Gazette]

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Here's your diploma and congratulatory wave

hand sanitizerThe no-shake graduation is spreading.

First, it was Sage -- and now RPI has succumbed.

From "A Message to Rensselaer Commencement Participants and Guests" by RPI VP William Walker:

In light of the continued national presence of the H1N1 influenza virus, we will adopt a slightly modified process as we distribute diplomas at the Rensselaer Commencement ceremony on May 16. In keeping with our tradition, graduates will be invited to the stage to receive their diplomas and be recognized for their achievements, but we will not engage in the customary handshakes that typically accompany the presentation of the diploma.

While recent reports on the status of the virus from the Centers for Disease Control are encouraging, we believe that the circumstances warrant an abundance of caution to protect the health of all who participate in the ceremony.

The message goes on to urge people who are feeling ill to not attend the ceremony.

Three schools in NYC were closed this week after another flare up of the emerging H1N1 flu.

(Thanks, D!)

State ethics panel slammed for being unethical and ineffective, UAlbany gets new president, Saratoga Springs mayor running for re-election, giant sinkhole opens in street

After a report from the state inspector general blasted the state Commission on Public Integrity -- an ethics panel -- for leaking info about its investigation of the Spitzer Administration, David Paterson called on all of the commission members to quit. The commission's response: no. Leaks or no leaks, there no indications the commission might not have exactly been doing a great job. [NYT] [TU] [NYDN] [NYDN]

UAlbany has a new president: George Philip, who's been serving as the school's interim president. The university's presidential search took three years and cost $300,000. The selection of Philip -- who had been there all along -- had at least a few students scratching their heads. [TU] [ASP]

GlobalFoundries says the EU's fine of Intel for anti-competitive practices will help the Luther Forest chip fab project -- because Intel's main rival, AMD, is currently GloFo's only customer. An Intel spokesperson says the ruling won't be sorted out for years and probably won't have any impact on the Luther Forest project. (some broader perspective) [Daily Gazette] [Saratogian] [TU] [Post-Star]

The week in murders and shootings: Two brothers have been charged with the murder outside a former night club in Schenectady last month. A man was indicted for the stabbing murder on Bradford Street last week in Albany. And federal marshals in Georgia picked up the guy accused of shooting a woman outside the Playdium in March. [Daily Gazette] [TU] [TU]

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Dalai Lama in town today, Republican steps into Albany mayoral race, KG introduces first Senate bill, famous shotgun wielding-grandma dies

The Dalai Lama is appearing at the Palace Theater in Albany at 2 pm today. He's also scheduled to stop by the state Senate. A critic of the Clifton Park executive training program that's connected to the event's sponsor organization says Dalai Lama's association with the org is "a mistake." [Palace Theater] [Liz Benjamin] [CapNews9]

There's now a Republican in the race for Albany mayor. Nathan Lebron, an IT exec who lives in the Whitehall neighborhood, says the city's Democratic machine is broken and needs to be replaced. [TU]

Troy police say a man was shot and beaten in his home last night (map). His injuries aren't considered life-threatening. [TU]

David Paterson has ordered state agencies to stop buying bottled water for environmental reasons. The ban covers both indivdual bottles and the standup water cooler bottles. [NYT]

Paterson also announced that the state would be spending $25 million on battery research. The center for that research may not be located upstate, as had originally been announced. [TU] [Gannett/TU]

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Trayless in Saratoga

skidmore dining hall

Apparently the food's so good you won't mind juggling a few plates.

Could the nicest place to eat in Saratoga be... Skidmore's cafeteria? From a front-page piece today in the NYT:

For the most part, when students returned in the fall, they were so dazzled by the transformation of the cafeteria that they hardly noticed the missing trays. The renovated dining hall has three slate fireplaces and a half-dozen food stations, including a do-it-yourself griddle for eggs. Three of the chefs are graduates of the Culinary Institute of America, and all the pasta, granola and baked goods are made on site.

The focus of the piece is on Skidmore's status as, in NYT's words, "a pioneer in trayless dining." Apparently trayless cafeterias are popping up at colleges all around the country -- they reportedly reduce food waste and save water and energy.

Skidmore isn't the only school that's tried going trayless. Union has "Trayless Tuesdays" in its cafeteria (a quality dining establishment, as we recently learned firsthand). And according to RPInsider, RPI tried out the idea -- but it didn't go over well.

Earlier on AOA: Capital Region college tuition

photo: Flickr user craigemorsels

Racing to the finish with Shirley Jackson

shirley jackson cartoonRPInsider pointed out this Shirley Jackson cartoon recently. It tells the story about the RPI president's career building soap box derby cars.

We'll just cut to the chase (er, race): she used aerodynamics to win a race against the mean and jealous boys in the neighborhood.

The cartoon is part of a National Academies of Science site aimed at getting girls interested in math and science. Shirley Jackson is listed as one of the site's "10 cool scientists." As the site's cartoon host informed us: "Shirley can explore anything using just math and physics."

image: The National Academies

Paterson to introduce same-sex marriage bill, Gillibrand's absentee ballot challenged, Dalai Lama visit back on, "tea party" in Corning Preserve, local professor salaries ranked

David Paterson reportedly plans to introduce legislation on Thursday that would make same-sex marriage legal in New York State. Paterson says allowing same-sex marriage is "the only ethical way to treat people who want to live together in peace under the civil law." A similar bill has passed the Assembly in previous years, but stalled in the state Senate. Democrats now hold a 32-30 majority in the state Senate, but four Senate Dems say they won't support the bill. The state Senator who plans to sponsor the bill says he thinks some Republicans may cross the aisle to support the measure. [NYT] [AP/Daily Gazette] [NYP] [TU]

The Tedisco campaign has challenged Kirsten Gillibrand's absentee ballot for the 20th Congressional District special election. A Tedisco campaign lawyer said Gillibrand, who appeared in the area with Scott Murphy, should have voted at her polling place in Columbia County. Gillibrand called the challenge "frivolous and without merit." The Tedisco campaign has been focusing their ballot challenges on people who may live part-time in the district, including students from schools such as Skidmore. A attorney for the Murphy campaign says the Tedisco campaign is basing its challenges on whether "the person is likely to vote Democratic." [TU] [Saratogian/Troy Record] [HuffPo] [PolitickerNY] [NYT]

The unofficial count from the NYS Board of Elections had Murphy up 47 votes on Tedisco at the end of yesterday. [NYS BoE]

Albany mayor Jerry Jennings says rumors that he was not going to run for re-election this year were "wishful thinking." He's expected to officially announce his re-election bid next week. [TU]

It looks like the Dalai Lama is coming to Albany, afterall. The Buddhist spiritual leader is now scheduled to appear at The Palace Theater on May 6. [Metroland] [TU]

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Capital Region college tuition

Nott Memorial

Union's Nott the most expensive.

After hearing recently that the cost of attending both Skidmore and Union had crossed the $50k mark, we were curious about how the local colleges stack up when it comes to cost.

So, we looked it up. The list and a few notes are after the jump.

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The economy sucks, shooting in Pine Hills, garbage threatens to topple Schenectady hill, RPI officials in Africa

This just in: the economy really sucks at this moment. [TU] [TU] [Daily Gazette] [Daily Gazette] [Saratogian] [Saratogian] [SRI]

State Senate Democrats are reportedly willing to support raising taxes on households making more than $250,000 as a way to cover the budget gap (they also apparently support an increase in the sales tax). There's already support for the measure in the Assembly. David Paterson has said such move should be a last resort. [NYT]

An Albany man has been charged with the murder of the man found dead in an abandoned Albany building in February (the city's first homicide of the year). Police say the suspect shot the man in a parked car on Lark Street and then dumped the body. Police say the suspect denies being involved, instead saying that he was smoking pot in Troy with a random woman he met that day. [Daily Gazette] [Troy Record] [TU]

More violence in Albany's Pine Hills neighborhood: police say a woman was shot in the arm outside the Playdium bowling alley early Saturday morning (map). Police say the woman told them her sons know the shooters. There was also a reported mugging at the corner of South Main and Myrtle this weekend (map).[Troy Record] [CapNews9] [TU]

The number of bridges in New York State that have been "red-flagged" has more than quadrupled between 2002 and 2007, according to a report from the state Department of Transportation. [TU]

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Paterson says stimulus money will prevent soda and iTunes tax, salt water may have caused manhole explosions, police say guy had pot farm in attic, Troy corned beef factory closes

David Paterson says federal stimulus money will cover the budget hole that was to be filled by new taxes on items such as soda and digital downloads. Of course, now that money won't be able to cover other holes -- and it appears chances are now greater that there will be new taxes on households making at least $250,000. [TU] [AP/Daily Gazette]

The Schenectady School District superintendent says district officials never knew about a letter Steven Raucci, the district employee charged with arson and terrorism, allegedly sent to an employee urging her to be "attractive, sensitive and classy with a touch of sexiness." A lawsuit by a former district employee alleges that Raucci was a friend of the district's HR director. The city's board of education will meet tonight to talk about Raucci's future with the district. [TU] [Daily Gazette] [Daily Gazette]

National Grid says salt water runoff may have corroded the underground transmission lines that caught fire this week in Albany. [TU]

According to the NYCLU, three Albany neighborhoods with six percent of the city's population accounted for 25 percent of the adults sent to prison in 2005 -- and almost half of those people were convicted on drug crimes. The org was publicizing the data to protest the Rockefeller Drug Laws. [TU] [TU] [NYCLU]

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Chip fab company says it's committed, Paterson says he'd take a pay cut, DA says frozen man may have overdosed, Albany High to be delayed for protest

While the paperwork hasn't all gone through, officials from GlobalFoundries -- the new AMD spinoff -- say they are committed to building the new chip fab at Luther Forest. "I don't know how much more formal of a commitment we can make," said the new company's president. GlobalFoundries says it expects to be turning out chips at full capacity by 2012. [Daily Gazette] [Post-Star] [TU]

David Paterson told a crowd in Buffalo yesterday that he would consider taking a 10 percent pay cut -- and he said he doesn't think a similar cut for the Legislature is a bad idea. Paterson also reiterated his support for a high-speed rail connection between Buffalo and Albany. (Earlier on AOA: High-speed rail? Maybe not so fast.) [Buffalo News]

Competition for federal stimulus money is fierce at the state Capitol as the team led by New York's stimulus czar -- AKA Captain Asphalt -- sifts through more than 7,500 projects. Local officials have proposed almost $42 billion in stimulus-funded projects -- the state has been given $4 billion. [NYT]

A bill that would reform the Rockefeller Drug Laws was passed by the state Assembly yesterday. Such reforms have been passed many times by the Assembly, but always died in the Senate. But now that Democrats control both chambers, the odds of passage seem higher -- though it's far from a done deal. [TU] [NYT]

A bunch of downstate Democrats are lining up for a potential primary challenge to Kirsten Gillibrand in 2010. [NYT]

RPI President Shirley Jackson announced yesterday that she will be taking a five percent pay cut. [AOA]

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Shirley Jackson says she's taking a pay cut

Shirley Jackson at EMPAC opening

Dr. Shirley Jackson

In an email sent out Wednesday afternoon to "The Rensselaer Community," Shirley Jackson announced that she and the institute's cabinet are taking pay cuts. From the email:

The President and the Cabinet will take 5 percent and 2.5 percent salary reductions, respectively, or make equivalent givebacks, to Rensselaer in the 2010 fiscal year. Those funds will be contributed to a student scholarship fund.

Back in a January an RPI official told a group of students that Jackson had requested a pay cut -- but, he said, the board had turned down her request.

This most recent email doesn't detail how the cut will be calculated. Jackson reportedly gets $1.3 million in compensation from RPI -- of that, a little more than $900,000 is salary. A five percent cut of the total package would be $65,000. The same percentage of the $900k would be $45,000.

In the email from Wednesday, Jackson also addressed the recent layoffs at the school:

The actions we have taken in recent months to mitigate the impact of the economic crisis on the Institute have been effective. While the reduction in force we implemented in December was difficult for all of us, it enabled us to reduce our budget by the necessary amount. Now, at a time when many other organizations are announcing layoffs, we do not anticipate any further reductions in force.

The full email, which includes details about tuition increases and other initiatives, is after the jump.

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Enjuhneer panel

Nothing says love like "Khaaaaaaan!"

RPInsider recently pointed out "Enjuhneer," a web comic by RPI student Jenny Blanchard. The strip follows Penny, a student at the "Enjuhneer Institute of Technology." From the about page:

Most of the stuff that happens in the strip actually did happen in one way or another in real life. I want to use Enjuhneer to share these stories as well as provide a distinctly different insider view of geek life and culture. Geeks are awesome, and in the strip you'll see why.

The panel above made us smile, because -- as should be clear -- "Wrath of Khan is an awesome date movie."

image: Jenny Blanchard

More charges for alleged arsonist, woman found guilty of lying about cops, pearl found in clam, Jerry Jennings will mess up his hair

The Schenectady County DA, says Stephen Raucci, the Schenectady School District employee who's been accused of arson and intimidation, was indicted yesterday by a grand jury on sealed charges. And the Saratoga DA says State Police have charged Raucci with unsuccessfully trying to bomb a car in Clifton Park. That means Raucci has now been charged with crimes in three different counties -- Schenectady, Rensselaer and Saratoga. [CapNews9] [TU]

A Lansinburgh woman is dead after police found her fatally wounded in the basement of her house yesterday morning. Authorities says the woman's boyfriend had to be tasered after he threatened police and firefighters who arrived at the scene with a knife. Police found two kids in the house, unharmed. A spokesman for the TPD says it was a "gruesome crime scene." [Troy Record] [TU]

The Ravena woman who accused Albany cops of doing a cavity search on her during a traffic stop in late 2007 was convicted yesterday on charges that she lied about the incident. The woman had rejected an earlier plea deal that would have required her to admit that she had lied. [TU] [Troy Record]

A crowd of about 400 RPI students rallied yesterday outside a Board of Trustees dinner on campus. The students were protesting "the manner in which recent administrative actions and policy decisions have been executed." According to that TU story, its reporter -- Marc Parry -- was asked by the administration to leave the demonstration. Apparently it was OK for the Troy Record to be there -- it even shot video of the rally. And here's a photo of the scene (more photos of the rally and the board here). [TU] [Student Senate] [Troy Record] [Troy Record] [unknown]

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Constructing EMPAC in 8 minutes

empac time lapseCheck out this cool time-lapse video of EMPAC's construction. It's a little long, but it's interesting to see how a building like that comes together.

(If you'd like to watch it really quickly, wait for the the video to buffer and then slide the dot on the progress bar ahead.)

Earlier on AOA:
+ A photo tour of EMPAC

Dems pick candidate for Gillibrand replacement race, stabbing in downtown Saratoga, RPI involved with Africa education intiative, local sales of YakTrax up

The Democrats have picked Glens Falls venture capitalist Scott Murphy to run in the special election for Kirsten Gillibrand's seat. Murphy emerged as the choice after former TV anchor Tracy Egan and AFL-CIO official Suzy Ballantyne dropped out. The 10 Democratic county chairman made their pick yesterday at the Gateway Diner in Albany (no, that's not in the district) while, apparently, wearing lots of Gillibrand flair. [Daily Gazette] [Troy Record] [TU] [@pattigibbons]

Murphy will face Jim Tedisco in the special election -- and people are already lining up to replace Tedisco should he win. [Saratogian]

Police say a man was stabbed multiple times early Sunday morning at Club 388 on Broadway in downtown Saratoga Springs. The victim was airlifted to Albany Med. Police arrested two men shortly after the incident -- the cops had been on patrol in the area. [CapNews9] [Daily Gazette] [Saratogian]

Saratoga Springs mayor Scott Johnson says the city's council "has already embraced the concept, but not the details" of paid parking downtown. That's not going over well with downtown business owners. [TU]

As David Paterson's public profile has taken a hit (or, hits) over the last few weeks, it appears that Sheldon Silver is controlling the agenda at the Capitol. [AP/Saratogian] [TU]

Joe Bruno, who's under federal indictment, in a recent memo to employees at the consulting firm he now heads: "If there was ever a time to be righteously indignant, that time is now." [TU]

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Stimulus includes millions for local schools, snow totaled about six inches, new name for MapInfo, dude looked like a lady

Chuck Schumer says the stimulus bill currently moving through Congress includes $84 million for schools in the Capital Region. The Albany City School District will get the biggest chunk of that -- $12.7 (full breakdown). Local counties will also get almost $43 million to help cover Medicaid costs. The stimulus bill passed the House yesterday (Tonko voted for it) -- it's yet to be voted on in the Senate. [Daily Gazette] [Daily Gazette] [TU] [NYT] [CapNews9]

Officials from school districts, teachers unions and advocacy groups testified yesterday before the state legislature that the almost $700 million in school aid cuts in the proposed state budget would lead to thousands of layoffs and service cuts. (By the way: Schumer says that stimulus bill includes almost $2.5 billion in education aid for New York State.) [TU] [AP/Newsday]

The final tally on yesterday's storm: about six inches of snow and ice, a bunch of wrecks, some cancelled Regents exams and more snowblowers sold. [TU] [Troy Record] [Saratogian] [Daily Gazette]

Schenectady police say they're increasing patrols of city neighborhoods that have high levels of gun crimes. Three people have already been arrested, include a young man who has been charged with wearing an illegal bulletproof vest. [TU] [Daily Gazette]

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RPI official: Jackson asked for a pay cut

Shirley Jackson

Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson

So you know all those people who have been calling for RPI president Shirley Jackson to take a pay cut in light of the barrage of layoffs at the Institute? Guess who was among them.

Would you believe Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson?

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Timmons found guilty, Gillibrand says she is a candidate for Clinton's seat, Jackson talks with RPI faculty about recent layoffs, local foreclosures up in 2008

Note: the TU's site was down this morning

A jury found Jermayne Timmons guilty yesterday of firing the shot that killed Kathina Thomas. The teen could now get 15 years to life. Timmons' lawyer says they plan to appeal. Thomas' mother says she hopes Timmons is sent away for life. Charlie Muller, who runs the Albany gun buyback program, says both Thomas and Timmons are victims of the situation. [AP/Daily Gazette] [Fox23] [CapNews9]

Kirsten Gillibrand said yesterday that she is a candidate for the Hillary Clinton's Senate seat and she has interviewed with David Paterson about the job. [CBS6] [Post-Star]

The City Mission of Schenectady says demand for meals and a place to stay was up signficantly last year. And the recent cold weather is also increasing demand -- the shelter laid out mats for extra people last night. [Daily Gazette] [Daily Gazette]

It appears that the Albany area is currently the top candidate for a new IBM research center that would employ 675 people. [EETimes] [Daily Gazette]

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Defending RPI's contribution to the Clinton Global Initiative

The new RPInsider has posted a couple of interesting items recently. The first is an email from William Walker, the institute's vice president for strategic communications and external relations, about the chatter regarding the school's donation to the Clinton Global Initiative. Here's a clip from the email:

The recent news coverage of the involvement of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) lacks a fundamental understanding of the expanding role of Rensselaer in the global education and research arena, and reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the process and purpose of investments in the collaborative educational and research initiatives facilitated through the Clinton Global Initiative. In fact, participation in the Clinton Global Initiative offers exciting opportunities for Rensselaer.

Walker confirms in the email that RPI has contributed $36,000 to the effort.

The other item is about compensation for resident assistants (you know, the students who live in the dorms as organizers and advisors). RPInsider reports that it looks like RAs will only be getting about half their current compensation next year.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Discontent at RPI
+ Layoffs coming to RPI

Discontent at RPI

Shirley Jackson at EMPAC opening

RPI president Shirley Jackson at the EMPAC opening last fall.

The frustration and resentment stoked by the layoffs at RPI appears to be prompting organization. A couple of Facebook groups have popped up to protest the cuts. The biggest (that we've come across) is Students Against Financial Mismanagement at RPI, which is pushing for greater transparency in how the institute manages its budget. From the group's page:

The layoffs are not just harmful to those who now no longer have an income and face a barren job market. They are also harmful for the students of RPI, since they have removed support staff directly involved in the educational process. They increase the workload on a support team that was already understaffed to begin with, which will inherently lead to reduced quality of education at the Institute. Any further reductions in workforce will serve to devalue the education that the undergraduate students of the Institute are investing 4 years and $36,950 in tuition per year to attain. Furthermore, the layoffs were conducted in a callous and unprofessional manner, just days before the holidays and effective immediately without prior warning. The morale drop among the RPI community from such an underhanded maneuver alone, combined with the fear that more will follow, is enough to harm the educational process.

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Paterson budget has everyone complaining, RPI layoffs start, Caroline headed upstate, student found dead, penis guy arrested again

It seems you can't throw a snow ball and not hit someone who's upset in some way about David Paterson's proposed budget. Everyone from hospital groups to beverage companies to county DAs to salon owners to environmentalists to unions to the suburbs took issue yesterday with some aspect of the budget. (A quick read of the proposed budget.) [TU] [TU] [Saratogian] [CapNews9] [Biz Review] [NYT] [NYDN]

About 10,000 homes in the Capital Region are still without power. National Grid is asking people still in the dark to call them. [Daily Gazette] [TU]

The RPI layoffs started yesterday. It's unclear how many people have been let go. The school reported to the state Department of Labor that it would be eliminating 98 jobs -- but a source told the Troy Record the number is somewhere between 100 and 170. A hundred jobs would be about 5 percent of RPI's workforce. The layoffs have been sparking harsh comments about RPI president Shirley Jackson. [TU] [Troy Record] [AOA comments]

Caroline Kennedy will reportedly be in Syracuse today as part of a sort of upstate campaign for Hillary Clinton's Senate seat. [Syracuse Post-Standard] [NY Mag]

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Layoffs coming to RPI

The announcement came in a mass email sent out by Shirley Jackson this afternoon. From the email (emphasis ours):

As the economy has worsened, and we have analyzed how it has affected, and will continue to affect, Rensselaer, we have determined that it will not be possible to reduce the budget sufficiently without reducing our recurring compensation expenses, which make up half of the Institute's operating budget. Staffing reductions will be necessary. We would prefer to rely on attrition, but it will not be adequate to meet our financial objectives. Each vice president and portfolio owner has examined their respective operations for reductions in staff, in a way that will enable greater efficiency, improved performance, and elimination of redundancy. We will manage the required staffing reductions as compassionately as possible. We will take such steps in the coming week.

There's already a hiring freeze in place at the school. According to the email, RPI is projecting downturns in income from tuition, gifts, research funding, and endowment.

The full email is after the jump.

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Home prices holding steady, Jennings starts up re-election campaign, RPI center will focus on extraterrestrial life, family gets Oprah makeover

The median sale price of homes in the Capital Region is holding more or less steady, even as many fewer houses are being sold. The number of sales in October was down 16 percent over the same period a year ago. [Biz Review] [TU]

New York State comptroller Tom DiNapoli is predicting the state could lose 225,000 jobs during the next two years. DiNapoli says about 3/4 of the lost jobs will come from Wall Street -- which could take a big bite out of state revenue. About 20 percent of state tax revenue comes from the Street. [TU]

The Albany Common Council approved a 2009 budget for the city. The budget includes a tax increase of $96 for the average homeowner. [TU]

Saratoga Springs' finance commissioner has proposed a new 2009 budget that takes into account the proposed cut in VLT money from the state. The new budget includes a tax increase of 3.5 percent -- up from 2.7 percent in the previous version. [Saratogian] [Daily Gazette]

Jerry Jennings' 2009 re-election campaign is starting up, apparently with some haste. The Albany mayor's campaign will be holding a fundraiser at the Fort Orange Club in December -- $500/person for the cocktail reception, $1000/person for dinner. [TU]

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A (very cool) fungus grows in Troy

Eben Bayer Greensulate

Eben Bayer with a piece of Greensulate.

By Jessica Pasko

OK, so you've probably heard all about locavorism and the effort to buy locally-sourced, but what about taking that philosophy and applying it to industrialism?

That's exactly what RPI grads Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre are trying to do with their company Ecovative Design.

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State leaders do nothing but point fingers, trouble counting ghost tickets, new city hall for Troy, big increase for bus ridership

Yesterday's special budget-cutting session of the state Legislature went no where as David Paterson frustatedly pointed the finger at Dean Skelos and the Senate Majority Leader responded with political passive aggressiveness. The day culminated in a bizarre public meeting of the state leadership described as "emotional, contentious and playful" and "near-farcical." (Fred Lebrun might have had the best line: "It was as if the leaders were playing themselves in a 'Saturday Night Live' parody.") Commented David Paterson yesterday, "If it looks like a dysfunctional government and it acts like a dysfunctional government, it may actually be one." Of course, this being the Paterson administration, the meeting ended with hugging. (Here's video of the leaders' meeting.) [TU] [NYT] [NYT] [TU] [NYDN] [NYP]

Faced with the prospect of losing VLT money that makes up 5 percent of its budget, the City of Saratoga Springs is trying figure out what to do about next year's budget. Mayor Scott Johnson is looking for city residents to email him suggestions. [Saratogian] [Daily Gazette]

Yesterday's special session cost the state at least $50,000 (and maybe much more) in expenses. [CapNews9]

The Albany Police Department says it might be hard to figure out just how many "ghost" parking tickets were issued -- even though they were computer-generated. [TU]

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Budget session stalling before it starts, Albany ghost tickets stopped, murdered UAlbany student's parents call for info, Saints come out smoking

The Legislature is in town for the special budget session -- though it doesn't seem like anyone is very optimistic that anything will get done. The action -- or inaction -- started last night when Dean Skelos essentially threatened to have the Senate vote down all of Paterson's proposed cuts. Paterson was not happy, calling the move a "a political game." [TU] [NYT] [NYP]

A Siena poll reports that Paterson's approval rating is at highest point so far -- and New Yorkers would much rather see budget cuts than tax increases. [SRI] [TU]

Saratoga Springs city officials were at the Cap yesterday lobbying to keep their full allotment of VLT money, but they seem to think it's a losing cause. Among the obstacles: they don't have Joe Bruno pushing for them any more. [TU] [Saratogian]

After the TU reported that "ghost" (that is, no fine) tickets were being given out to police officers and other connected people in Albany, Jerry Jennings says he's stopped practice. The Common Council is upset and looking to investigate. [TU]

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Yes (Men), it's a fake

fake nytPeople exiting subway stations around New York City this morning were probably a little surprised to be handed a free edition of the New York Times that proclaimed on its cover "IRAQ WAR ENDS" and was dated July 4, 2009.

Obviously, this was a prank -- a very well organized one. And it has a tangential local connection.

Gawker reports that it appears the fake paper and an accompanying website are the work of the Yes Men (both sites are very slow to load this morning -- they're probably getting hammered by traffic).

And who are the Yes Men? It's a group of "culture jammers" led by a duo that includes Igor Vamos, an assistant professor at RPI.

Update: the TU talked with Vamos about the prank in a story posted this afternoon.

Paterson expects cuts to Medicaid and schools, food pantries running low, copper pipe ripped off from church, high-end development planned for Cohoes

David Paterson says cuts to Medicaid and school aid will probably be necessary to cover the state's budget gap. He said he also expected to be renegotiating contracts with the state worker unions. By the way: as of the Friday deadline set by Paterson, state legislative leaders offered the following proposals to help the state cover its budget gap: nada. [NYT] [AP/TU]

It looks like state Senator Malcolm Smith (a Democrat from Queens) has locked up the role of state Senate majority leader come January. Smith, accompanied by David Paterson, sealed the deal this past weekend in... Puerto Rico. [TU]

Albany County DA David Soares says the leaders of the union that represent Albany police are trying to smear him. He also says the leaders organized a protest outside his house. One the leaders is the guy who was accused this past summer of spitting on an officer because of a misappropriated shot of Jagermeister. [TU]

Local food pantries say demand is up and supplies are starting to run short. Local homeless shelters say they're also seeing increased demand. [Daily Gazette] [CapNews9]

Kenneth Lally has died. Along with his wife Thelma, he donated a bunch of money around the Capital Region -- most prominently to RPI (The Lally School of Management) and St. Rose (Lally School of Education). The Lallys also supported local hospitals and museums. [TU] [Troy Record]

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Husband charged with wife's murder, downtown Saratoga Chopper sold, DMV clerk accused of stealing inspection stickers, common councilman gets the boot for unpaid tickets

Schenectady police have charged the husband of the woman murdered in her home over the weekend with the crime. The couple were immigrants from Guyana and police say the two had been fighting over whether to move back therer. [TU] [Daily Gazette]

Albany police say a new witness has reported seeing a third teen on a bike ride away from the scene of Richard Bailey's murder. (Two earlier witnesses reported seeing two teens on bikes.) The APD says it still doesn't have any solid leads in the case. [TU]

Local police departments say they're stepping up patrols tonight for Halloween. Apparently stores will also be watching for teens with shopping carts full of "trickster items." [TU]

A local developer has announced he's bought the Price Chopper in downtown Saratoga Springs -- and promises the site will continue to have a grocery store. Whether it will be a Price Chopper is unclear. An announcement on that part of the plan is scheduled for later today. [TU] [Daily Gazette]

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Local gas prices drop, dog saves elderly couple from fire, Schenectady cops to be re-organized, local company develops fungus insulation

Gasoline prices have dropped below the $3 mark in some parts of the Capital Region -- though there's still wide variation between different neighborhoods. And gas here is still more expensive than it was last year at this time. [Daily Gazette] [Troy Record] [Saratogia]

The two candidates running for the 21st Congressional District (McNulty's seat) debated last night. Paul Tonko, a Democrat, called himself "a problem solver by profession" (he was an engineer). Jim Buhrmaster, a Republican, touted his "real world experience" and the fact that he's a parent (Tonko doesn't have children). Top issue, according to each candidate -- Tonko: energy; Buhrmaster: the size of government. [CapNews9] [Fox23]

The executive committee of SUNY's Student Assembly is a supporting a resolution that calls for modest annual tuition increases. Tuition hasn't gone up since 2003. The system is facing a budget gap of as much as $210 million. [TU]

Firefighters say an elderly couple in Malta were able to escape their burning house early this morning after their dog alerted them to fire. The dog didn't make it out. [CBS6] [TU]

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EMPAC in motion

Updated with another video Monday night

Sebastien has posted a few video clips from the performances at EMPAC this past weekend. After watching them, it's maybe a little easier to get a sense of how the performances spaces are being/could be used. Here's a clip from the studio space with the 360 degree screen:

EMPAC Opening - Workspace Unlimited (Short) - Troy, NY - 08, Oct from Sébastien Barré on Vimeo.

Sebastien also has a photo set posted on Flickr.

More video clips -- including a really weird one -- embedded after the jump.

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A photo tour of EMPAC


The scene at today's opening.

RPI cut the ribbon on EMPAC today. And you know what? It's pretty cool. There's nothing else like it in the Capital Region. Heck, there's probably nothing else like it in the world right now. You should definitely check it out.

A lot of people have already written about all the crazy artistic and technological potential at this place, so we'll leave that to them. We did take a tour today, though.

Here are a bunch of pics...

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What students say about local colleges

UAlbany entrance fountain

Alas, no one reviewed UAlbany's new walk-through fountain.

Unigo, a new site aimed at giving prospective college students the scoop on schools, debuted this week. It uses a sort of Zagat-style approach in which students already at the schools write reviews.

So what were the reviews like for local colleges? We picked out some highlights (and lowlights).

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NYT on EMPAC: "A technological pleasure dome for the mind and senses"

EMPAC.jpgThe science section of today's NYT has a preview of EMPAC (it looks like Dennis Overbye toured it this past summer) and, yes, the phrase "technological pleasure dome for the mind and senses" really does appear in it. Here's another clip:

Within its walls, the designers say, scientists can immerse themselves in data and fly through a breaking wave or inspect the kinks in a DNA molecule, artists can participate in virtual concerts with colleagues in different parts of the world or send spectators on trips through imaginary landscapes, and architects can ponder their creations from the inside before a single brick or two-by-four has been put in place.

It opens for business on Oct. 3 with a three-week gala of performances including classical music, virtual reality rides, symposiums and celebrations. Some scientists dream of eventually using the new center to create a version of the "Star Trek" holodeck where humans can interact with life-size "synthetic creatures" who live only in a computer. Others plan to teach surgery by doing virtual procedures or taking doctors on tours through models of actual hearts and circulatory systems.

A holodeck? Everyone knows the holodeck episodes were the worst.

Seriously, we are excited about EMPAC. We've heard from multiple people that it's going be very cool. It opens October 3.

image: Grimshaw / RPI

Parents steamed about scheduling mix-up, Troy water's brown color "natural," Saratoga brands itself, plastic bag ban falters

Parents continue to be upset about the scheduling mix-up at Albany High, which is apparently still not completely cleared up. District superintendent Eva Joseph says there will be a "full accounting" of what caused the problem -- eventually. [WNYT] [TU]

Meanwhile, off campus, a group of about 25 Albany High students reportedly brawled at the corner of Central and Quail yesterday. One kid got a gash on his head. [TU]

The water coming out of taps in Troy and other supplied towns is still orangish-brown and officials say it's still safe to drink (though not to wash white clothes in). The head of Troy's water operation says the high level of dissolved iron and manganese from the Tomhannock Reservoir is "natural," though he's "never seen anything like this" in his 28 years there. There's speculation the heavy rain this summer might have something to do with it. [TU] [Troy Record] [CapNews9]

How NOT to resolve your disputes with the neighborhood kids: firing a shotgun at them. [Daily Gazette]

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Albany HS still working on schedules, did Paterson "spitzerfy" himself?, Saratoga Lake park plans revealed, talk of Troy Proctor's rebirth, meeting Sarah Palin

Albany High was still trying to straighten out scheduling issues yesterday, its second first day of the school year. [TU]

David Paterson called some state legislators "bloodsuckers" yesterday. Dean Skelos called the comment "Spitzeresque." Richard Brodsky, an Assemblyman, said he's worried Paterson is trying to "Spitzerfy" himself. [TU] [NYDN] [NYT]

The company that owns the Lafarge Cement plant in Coeymans, the state's single largest emitter of mercury, thinks it should get a million dollar tax cut because it's pledged to reduce its emissions. [TU]

The City of Saratoga Springs released plans for a new public park and beach on Saratoga Lake. There are currently no public beaches on the lake. [Daily Gazette]

Bethlehem police are investigating whether a woman was assaulted Friday night for wearing an Obama button in Delmar's Four Corners neighborhood. [TU]

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Unscheduled days off for Albany High, Rensselaer gets money for flood recovery, auto dealer closing because of high gas prices, RPI kicks retired prof's email because of criticism

Classes have been canceled this week at Albany High School after a computer problem messed up students' class schedules. [TU]

The state Senate is giving the City of Rensselaer $1.1 million to help with recovery from the flooding in August. Mayor Dan Dwyer says "hardly anything has been fixed" since the heavy rains. Residents say they're worried about the water rising again. [Troy Record] [TU] [WNYT]

The City of Troy is considering the purchase of a system that can listen for gunfire and then triangulate the point from which the shots were fired. It costs $200,000 for the system to cover one square mile. [TU]

A Rensselaer police car was rear-ended on the Dunn Memorial Bridge while it was stopped to issue a traffic violation. The collision pushed the cop car into the back of the car that had been pulled over. [Troy Record]

(there's more)

Too much rain in Rensselaer, Bruno will be interfacing with officials, YouTube vigilante, tunnel found in Stockade, Curlin owner issues challenge to Big Brown

State DEC officials say it looks like the recent flooding in Rensselaer was just the result of too much rain in too short a period of time. Rensselaer city leaders had been questioning whether development in the Greenbushes had overwhelmed the area's drainage system. The National Weather Service in Albany estimates Rensselaer got up to 6 inches of rain on Monday. [TU]

Joe Bruno has registered as a lobbyist with New York State. By law, he's not allowed to lobby the legislature for two years, but he says he will be "interfacing" with officials in the executive branch for his job as CEO of a computer services company. [TU]

Time on the $100 million Blue Gene supercomputer at RPI will be available free to New York State businesses -- if they can figure out how to use it. [Biz Review] [Daily Gazette]

(there's more)

State agency commissioner's husband fired for fraud, RPI professor helping Olympic swimmers, more roundabouts planned, infamous bed and breakfast going to auction

The husband of a state agency head has been fired from his state job after investigators reported that he took almost $20,000 in pay for work he didn't actually do. Larry Ritter had been an equal employment opportunity and affirmative action officer at the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. His, wife, Diana Jones Ritter, is the commissioner for the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities. Investigators say they didn't find any wrongdoing on her part. [TU] [Daily Gazette]

The Saratoga Springs School Board has officially fired the English teacher who had been found by state ed officials to be having a platonic, but inappropriate, relationship with a student outside of school. [Daily Gazette]

An RPI engineering professor has been working with the US Olympic swimming team to refine swimmers' techniques. Timothy Wei's research has been credited with helping a US swimmer set a world record in the backstroke earlier this year. [TU]

Malta and Colonie are among the towns planning new traffic roundabouts. [CBS6]

The Schenectady bed and breakfast infamous for its swingers parties is going up for auction and everything -- yes, even the, um, equipment in the basement -- is up for sale. [TU]

Bruno's leaving this week, concrete drivers back behind the wheel, poster board broken out in Saratoga public safety building fight, Peerless Pool opening soon

Joe Bruno has announced he will officially leave his state Senate seat this Friday. Bruno says he's not "the kind of guy to retire and just play with horses and golf and whatever else is there" -- he will reportedly take a job with CMA Consulting Services, a firm whose clients include many New York State agencies. [Daily Gazette] [TU]

One more detail about that $1.5 billion IBM chip fab research deal: RPI and its $100 million supercomputer will be involved with research into how to encase the chips and connect them to computers. [Daily Gazette]

A group of concrete truck drivers have ended their strike after their union agreed to a new four year deal. The drivers had been out for a week, which put a snag in a handful of construction projects. [TU]

The owner of steel manufacturing company in Schenectady says a proposed roundabout for Erie Blvd might bump him from the city because his adult video bookstore owning landlord -- who says the roundabout is a plot to get him -- would be forced to take over his space. [Daily Gazette]

Ron Kim, the Saratoga Springs Public Safety Commissioner, has unveiled what he calls a "failure-o-meter" to keep track of how long it takes the city council to issue bonds for the new public safety building. The city's finance commissioner, who ultimately must issue the bonds, says Kim hasn't provided him with all the necessarily details about costs. [Saratogian]

CDTA will stop exchanging tokens at the end of this month. The authority stopped accepting the tokens for fares in January. [TU]

The Peerless Pool at Spa State Park is expected to open Friday, three weeks after its originally scheduled opening. [Daily Gazette]

Pay up or EMPAC gets it?



So there was that story the other day about how Troy wants to charge RPI a "safety fee" of $100 per student per semester. The city says it spends a bunch of money on services for the school and it's looking to recoup some of the expenses. OK, this sounds like a discussion that reasonable people can have.

But then toward the end of the TU story, there was this:

The discussions about a public safety fee come as EMPAC is nearing its October opening and RPI must obtain a certificate of occupancy to use the arts center.

"RPI is noted for saying we're having a grand opening and inviting everyone before they have a CO," [Deputy Mayor Dan] Crawley said. "If the invitations go out for October and their place is not completed, they're not going to get a CO."

And that sounded a lot like, what's the word... oh, right: a shakedown. But, no, that couldn't be right. The City of Troy wouldn't hold the opening of EMPAC ransom over this safety fee, would it? This is a municipality and an institution with 180 years of shared history. That would just be... tacky.

So we made a few calls. Here's what we found.

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Wellington work to start, cops can make a lot of cash, Troy looks for RPI to chip in, more hybrid buses, stack of pancake panned at SPAC

Work to demolish, renovate and rebuild at the site of the Wellington Hotel on State Street in Albany is scheduled to start today. The development company behind the $65 million project says it will be taking apart the historic facade "stone by stone," so that it can be preserved and used on the new building. The project is scheduled to be finished by 2011. [Daily Gazette] [Business Review]

Thanks to overtime, you can make a lot of money as cop in the Capital Region. Example: a Schenectady officer made $115,359 last year. [TU]

The City of Troy is looking to get RPI to pay $200 per student per school year to help fund public safety coverage of the campus and surrounding neighborhood. And it almost sounds like the city's making a veiled "pay up or else" threat related to EMPAC. [TU]

There's a plan in the works for a downtown business improvement district in Troy. [Troy Record]

Ninety percent of graduating seniors from Albany and Troy high schools are headed to some kind of college, junior college or university next year. [TU]

CDTA is buying 21 more hybrid buses, which get an extra 1 mpg (total fuel efficiency: 4.8 mpg). [TU]

The new facade proposed for SPAC could be changed after public complaints that it looked like a stack of pancakes. [TU]

One of the Sculpture in the Streets pieces was moved from the HSBC bank building on Pearl after people noticed that the sculpture was both anatomically correct and not shy about it. The offending statue is now in front of Capital Rep. [TU]

Reward for identity of West Hill shooter, teen saves baby, a challenger for Amedore, homecoming queen election intrigue

An Albany church is offering $1000 to anyone who can identifiy the person who shot and killed 10-year-old Kathina Thomas in West Hill Thursday night. Police think Thomas was hit by a stray bullet. [Daily Gazette]

An 18-year-old was shot twice in the head near Schenectady's Central Park Saturday. The teenager, who was visiting from Maryland, is Schenectady's third homicide this year and the seventh for the Capital Region. [Daily Gazette]

An Albany teenager saved a baby from being run over by a bus Friday afternoon. Tyler Purvis-Mitchell, who's 14, spotted the five-day-old baby after it had fallen out of its carriage while being loaded onto the bus. [TU]

Police say a guy robbed a bank at Stuyvesant Plaza the Town Center Plaza in Guilderland (the plaza at Johnston Rd across from the mall), was then chased through Colonie and Menands, and then nabbed in the parking lot of the VA hospital on Holland Ave. in Albany. [Daily Gazette]

Schenectady city councilman and Democrat Mark Blanchfield announced he'll challenge Republican George Amedore for the 105th Assembly District seat (that's Paul Tonko's old seat). Amedore was elected in a special election last year after Tonko left to head up NYSERDA. [Daily Gazette]

RPI will knock down 13 buildings in the neighborhood surrounding EMPAC. [TU]

Benita Johnson won her third consecutive Freihofer's Run for Women Saturday -- and then found out her dad had just died. [TU]

Was an openly gay student elected homecoming queen at Hudson High? Students say yes, the administration says no. [TU]

A fifth-grader in Saratoga has raised $650 to buy mosquito nets for people in Africa. She decided to raise the money -- she's aiming for $1000 -- after seeing a segment about malaria on an "Idol Gives Back" episode of "American Idol." [Saratogian]

Gambling joint knocked over, texting while driving ban proposed, MoveOn in town, nanoeconomics

A couple of things about the local gambling scene have to come to light over the past month. The first: people have been playing poker at illegal clubs around Albany, including a "members only" club on N. Allen. The second: it looks like a group is knocking over these clubs, in robberies like something out of a movie. [TU]

The state Senate has passed a bill that would make it illegal to text while driving. The bill now heads to the Assembly. [Daily Politics]

MoveOn will be in Albany and Saratoga Springs today campaigning in a somewhat unusual way against John McCain. [Saratogian]

A road reconstruction project has downtown Chatham closed to traffic, maybe for months. [TU]

RPI is moving toward letting students use their school IDs to spend their "Rensselaer Advantage Dollars" at off-campus businesses. UAlbany, Siena and St. Rose already such arrangements. [Troy Record]

UAlbany recently awarded the world's first PhD in "nanoeconomics." [Daily Gazette]

Clifton Park is looking at opening a second the dog park -- and hiking fines for not leashing dogs in its other parks. [Daily Gazette]

Local congressional candidates talk and point, suggestions for downtown Saratoga, big expectations for AMD plant, who needs trays?

The eight Democratic candidates running for the 21st Congressional District (McNulty's seat) showed they could wait their turn Wednesday night. It seems they can also point fingers. [TU] [CBS6]

A group that represents businesses along Broadway has suggested a bunch of improvements for downtown Saratoga. Among them: more trees, more parking, public bathrooms, heated sidewalk, and pocket parks. [TU]

Expectations for the proposed AMD chip fab plant in Malta are becoming, let's say, exuberant. The latest claim: the project could spur the area's population to grow by 400,000 over the next 10-15 years. [Saratogian]

The Troy fire deparment has called off its overtime boycott of RPI's commencement after the school agreed to talk about the department's concerns. [TU]

Two brothers are opening a Vespa dealership in Schenectady. (Yes, someone did that in Saratoga awhile back. No, it didn't make it.) [Daily Gazette]

Among the local measures taken in the struggle against rising food costs: "Trayless Tuesday" at the RPI dining halls. That doesn't seem to have worked out very well.

Cracking jokes not a crime, food costs strain charity, ticked off firefighters, combative legislators, senate-raised pork

Legal experts say it's unlikely that former Schenectady police chief Greg Kaczmarek will face charges related to the busted drug operation in which his wife and stepson were allegedly involved. It seems that cracking jokes about your spouse's drug shipments isn't actually a crime. [TU]

A guy in Halfmoon was sentenced to 60 days in jail for neglecting to treat an inch-deep wound around his dog's neck. Apparently one of his children had put a rubber band on the dog, which led to the injury. (PS: Snowball -- a purebred Samoyed -- is now available for adoption.) [TU]

High food costs and slow business have prompted half of the restaurants originally slated to participage in today's Hunger Action Networks' Feast for Famine to back out. [Daily Gazette]

The firefighters union in Troy has asked its members to not work overtime for RPI's commencement ceremony. The union is ticked off that RPI president Shirley Jackson hasn't met with them to discuss concerns about fires that could pontentially involve lab chemicals or tight spaces. [TU]

Local legislators -- they're just like us! They bicker over money! They call each other names! (OK, on second thought, maybe they're not like us.) [Troy Record] [Troy Record]

Pork is being served up this week by the New York Senate. Among the items once described by Eliot Spitzer as "dripping with fat": $4 million for Skidmore's Zankel Music Center and $6 million for semiconductor training at HVCC . [TU]

SPAC is getting a new $2.5 million facade for its ampitheater. [Saratogian]

Shirley Jackson on Charlie Rose

shirley jackson on charlie roseRPI president Shirley Jackson was on Charlie Rose last week. She joined a group of other science bold-face names at Charlie's oak table in the room without walls to talk about "The Imperative of Science." The discussion focused, in part, on how the US is falling behind in scientific education and understanding among the general public.

Here's a little bit of what Jackson said:

"The question becomes... how did such a mess come about? And it's almost as if we've had so much that has come out of science and the technological innovations built on those discoveries that we've come to take things for granted. Moreover, those technologies have driven almost a kind of information overload. So people are not able to sort through what is fact and what is fiction. I like to say that the Internet does not come with a credibility filter. And therefore, you have to get back to the habit of thought, the way of approaching complexity, that learning science even at a very elemental level helps an individual to do."

Video of the full episode is embedded after the jump.

(there's more)

The scene from the Troy free speech protest

It's a quick clip that captures the scene from the protest in front of Troy City Hall over the code enforcement action taken against The Sanctuary for Independent Media after it showed Wafaa Bilal's "Virtual Jihadi." Uploaded by YouTube user brettuthius.

Harry Tutunjian, the mayor of Troy, has said the code enforcement didn't have anything to do with the Bilal exhibition.

Also, if you'd like to hear Wafaa Bilal talk at length about his experiences dealing with RPI (where the exhibit was originally to be shown), filmmaker Jim Finn has posted an interview on YouTube. Here's RPI's statement about suspending Bilal's work.

Wafaa Bilal update

wafaa bilal protest in Troyupdated March 14 -- see below

A few websites have popped up to support Wafaa Bilal and the exhibition of his work "Virtual Jihadi." has posted pictures and other media from the one-night exhibition at the Sanctuary for Independent Media.

And Free Troy Letters is, well, we'll let them explain:

Sparked by the blatant censorship of Wafaa Bilal's artwork in March 2008, Free Troy Letters illuminates attempts to limit democratic governance and discussion at RPI and in the city of Troy by mapping responses to authoritarian practices.

There are already a number of letters posted there.

And if you'd like to hear (or, rather, read) Bilal at length, here's an interview with him.

By the way, we couldn't find the off-campus RPI College Republicans site where someone reportedly called the institute's art department a "terrorist safehaven." If anyone has the link, please send it along or post it in the comments.

Here's the off-campus RPI College Republicans site that's been playing a role in all this. The site doesn't seem to include the "terrorist safe haven" remark.

(Thanks for the link, skfl!)


More turns in the "Virtual Jihadi" drama, Schenectady cops to be tracked, call for more depleted uranium testing in Colonie, good year for maple syrup

The Sanctuary for Independent Media is discussing whether it should file suit against the City of Troy after the city closed the gallery to public events because of code violations. The org says the action was politically motivated, a response to the gallery exhibiting Wafaa Bilal's "Virtual Jihadi." [TU]

RPI has yanked the school-hosted site of the College Republicans after they called the art department a "terrorist safehaven" for its involvement with Wafaa Bilal. But the site that actually featured those comments is hosted off campus -- and it's still up. [TU]

Police cars in Schenectady will be getting GPS units so dispatchers can track their locations. The geographic info is supposed to help improve response times, but it would also help the department know when one of its cops has gone to Scotia to watch bowling. [Daily Gazette]

A group of activists is trying to get government money to do more testing of people who lived and worked near the old munitions plant on Central near the Albany/Colonie line. There's depleted uranium at the site and tests reported three months ago that some people who lived nearby were exposed to it. [TU]

RPI plans to give out $10 million more next year in financial aid. [TU]

Despite its currently decrepit state, architects and town residents are excited about what the plan to turn the Victory Mill (in Victory, outside Saratoga) into luxury condos. [Post-Star]

It's looking like a good year for maple syrup. [Daily Gazette]

Wafaa Bilal's "Virtual Jihadi" finds a home

wafaa_bilal_virtual_jihadi_characterLast week RPI closed the exhibit of artist-in-residence Wafaa Bilal's "Virtual Jihadi," a video game mod that casts Bilal as a suicide bomber out to kill President Bush. Now the Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy has taken in the work and will exhibit the installation a various times throughout the next month.

The first chance to see "Virtual Jihadi" there will be tonight. Bilal will be there for a reception at 6 pm, followed by a showing at 7. Admission is a suggested $10 donation.

There also seems to be a protest against Bilal's work planned for tonight outside the gallery.

Earlier on AOA:
+ More about that artist at RPI who had his exhibition suspended

image: Wafaa Bilal

More about that artist at RPI who had his exhibition suspended

wafaa bilalAfter seeing the article this morning about RPI suspending the exhibition of "Virtual Jihadi," we were curious about Wafaa Bilal - - the artist behind the work. And it turns out he has quite a story.

(there's more)

RPI pulls art work, Albany on the hook for judgement against cop, no-show crossing guards could get raise, assemblyman gives entire salary away

RPI has suspended the exhibition of a video work in which the artist cast himself as a suicide bomber on a mission to assassinate President Bush. The artist tells the TU that the school feels like "a military camp," while the College Republicans are calling the art department "a terrorist safe haven." [TU]

A federal jury awarded $200,000 in punitive damages to the plaintiff in the civil suit against Albany cop William Bonnani. If the award stands, the City of Albany will be on the hook for the money because of its union contract with the APD. Bonnani -- despite a string of complaints about the use of excessive force -- is still on the job. [TU] [Daily Gazette]

Environmental groups are calling on the Spitzer administration to crack down on mercury emissions from a cement plant in Ravena. The plant is the single largest emitter of mercury in New York State, according to recently released data from the EPA. [Daily Gazette]

State police say there's evidence indicating that the crash that closed the Northway last week was an act of suicide. [AP/CBS6]

After reports that crossing guards in Schenectady weren't showing up in bad weather -- or were sitting in their cars as kids crossed the street, a councilwoman has proposed increasing the guards' salaries. "It's reprehensible we're only paying them $8.50 or whatever -- no wonder they're not showing up," she told the Gazette. [Daily Gazette]

The backers of a plan to open a food co-op in downtown Troy say it looks like the grocery store could open sometime this year, maybe as soon as the Spring. [TU]

For the third consecutive year, state assemblyman Bob Reilly (his district includes Albany and Saratoga counties) donated his entire after-tax assembly salary to charity. This year's total was $73,000. At a press conference introducing the recipients of the money, Reilly cracked that the people there were "the only group of people in New York who advocate salary increases for legislators." [Daily Gazette]

Freaking out at RPI: an interview with Puckman

RPI's Puckman

Doesn't he ever get sick of being slapped around?

Tomorrow is RPI's 31st annual Big Red Freakout. So on the eve of the institute's biggest hockey game of the year, AOA got an exclusive interview with the RPI mascot, Puckman.

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Rules of etiquette for RPI hockey

It's not that RPI hockey fans are very intense about their sport, it's just that RPI hockey fans are VERY intense about their sport. Engineers fans have lots of important rules and traditions for spectators.

You don't necessarily NEED to know all of those rules and traditions to enjoy an RPI hockey game, but if you don't, you may find yourself looking around going, "WTF?" So here's a primer on how to fit in at tomorrow's Big Red Freakout, or any RPI hockey game:

- Wear red

-During the national anthem, yell out the word RED (you know, at the rockets red glare part).

- No matter who's playing , Clarkson still sucks.

- When the phone rings in the press box yell "Phone!"

- When the other team is introduced yell, "You suck!" after every player is announced, and "You suck too!" after the coach is announced.

- When the other team gets penalties: interrupt by screaming "Sucking" and "Sucks" after they announce the players name: "Number 23 John Doe [SUCKS!], has received a 2 minute penalty for [SUCKING!]"

- If anyone asks, "Clarkson still sucks!"

- After every RPI goal be sure to chant, "1, 2, 3, 4, ... , (N) we want more! Sieve, Sieve, Sieve!" where (N) is the new RPI score. (This is an engineering school, of course there's an equation involved.)

- And when there's one minute left be sure and yell: "One minute left, and Clarkson still sucks!"

Morning Blend: tasers, budget shortfall, RPI applications

Saratoga cops are getting tasers, looking to quell Caroline Street rowdiness with them. [Saratogian]

New York State's revenue projections for aren't looking so hot. Estimates are that the state will have more than a billion dollars less next year than it thought it would. "We're very nervous about next year," the governor's budget expert says. [TU]

A clerk in Schnectady's city hall has been supsended after accusing the mother of a boy who was hit and killed while riding his bike in 2005 that she wasn't watching her children. The accusation was sent via email -- from a city address -- after an exchange on Craigslist. [TU]

RPI reports that it's received a record number of applications for next year, more than 11,000 total. The school's application counts have doubled over the last decade. And the number of young women applying has tripled during the last three years. [Business Review]

The Scoop

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