Items tagged with 'good to know'
Chris emails (emphasis added):
With all the talk these past few weeks about Uber/Lyft and the state of cab transportation in the region, I have a more practical question. We live in Albany, and we have tickets for the Capital Region Brewcycle Tour in Troy. It looks great and we can't wait to check it out! We want to enjoy it AND get home safely. A DD is always the responsible default option but we're comfortable leaving a car in Troy overnight. All told, there will be 6 of us needing to get back. There would be one pick-up sometime around 12-1230 [at night] in Troy and 1 or 2 stops for drop off in Albany.
If I know when and where I need a pick up a week in advance, exactly how many people I have to transport and where we need to go, what is the best option out there? Is there a private car service that readers have used and would recommend? What was the cost? Is the state of cabs in Troy any better than Albany? Is there a good one that could accommodate 6 people?
Basically we're looking for a service that would get us home:
1- safely- not too interested in some some dude with a van who has a lot of free time
2- reliably- don't want to be stuck waiting on a street corner for someone to show up eventually
3- economically- I know a limo would work, but it seems terribly excessive and expensive for what amounts to about 25 minutes and 10 miles of driving.
With the advantage of being able to make arrangements in advance I'm hopeful we can find something reasonable. I'd be willing to leave a deposit or pay in advance to secure something.
Any advice would be much appreciated. Thanks!
Got a suggestion for Chris and friends? Please share!
I see that you have a few old Ask AOA posts on moving companies (from 2011 and 2010) which may be helpful to me, but was wondering if you'd consider opening that topic up again?
[W]e have some friends who will be moving to Niskayuna from Brooklyn. They're packing up their stuff there and will be driving it up in a truck they've rented. What they're looking for is to hire a few movers to unload the truck for a few hours on a Sunday morning. Based on what they have to unload, and the help of a few friends already lined up, they're figuring to hire two movers for two hours.
So I'd be interested to hear referrals to reliable companies that would do something like this, or maybe trustworthy freelancers. I also would be curious to know roughly what one could/should expect to pay for such a service?
Like most things, experience can make a big difference. We're always kind of amazed to see how experienced movers can maneuver some huge, heavy piece of furniture or appliance with relative ease.
So, got a suggestion for Jason and his friends? Please share!
Could anyone recommend a good, reasonable lawyer to prepare a simple will?
A will is one of those things most people, especially younger people, are probably like, "Me? I don't need a will."
But you might surprised, even for the non-Warren Buffets of the world -- a will can help can help smooth the way a bit for your loved ones after you die. And while there are online services that now offer to help with preparing a will, an actual attorney might be able to ask you better questions for writing a more helpful will.
So, suggestions for Kate? Bonus points for explaining why you're suggesting that attorney. And extra bonus points for mentioning roughly how it much it cost, so Kate and everyone else has a good idea of what they might expect to pay.
Wondering if I can rent a wheelchair somewhere for the weekend. A friend is coming to visit, and she suffered a big knee injury in a car crash, so walking a lot won't work for her. If I can wheel her around here and there, it will expand the activities we can do.
A wheelchair rental doesn't seem like something that should be too hard to find.
Got a suggestion for W? Please share.
Scott asks via the Facebook:
I have a question for AOA: do you know of anyone around here that does battery recycling?
OK, so the answer to this question is: it's a little bit complicated. And you might have a suggestion that could help.
There are a bunch of different conversations that could spin out of this post over at the Awl about a guy who was fired from a food truck after he complained on Twitter about not getting tipped on a complicated order. But we're most interested in this question:
Do you -- yes, you, the person reading this -- tip on orders at food trucks, the morning swing through the line at the coffee place, a pick-up pizza or takeout order, counter service at a fast-casual restaurant, and other similar situations? If so, how much? And if not, why not?
In most situations, tipping is a social custom/expectation in this country. Which means it's one of those things that "everyone knows how it works" except that, you know, not everyone knows how it works. And like any social custom/expectation it's subject to an evolution of views on it, based on shifting attitudes and context.
Food service is currently in one of those shifts. Tipping on sit-down service is a well-established practice -- "everyone" knows you should tip 15-20 percent. But a lot of restaurant business is now headed in the direction of the "fast casual" model, or the super casual like food trucks.
We get the sense that's causing confusion. Just recently we were in a Chipotle (a prime example of fast casual) and the group ahead of us had ordered a long, complicated series of stuff. After it all came together, the woman who ordered it tried to tip the Chipotle cashier to thank her for getting the whole thing straight, but the cashier politely declined.
So what's the new social norm?
More about tipping: A recent Freakonomics podcast focused on tipping -- and featured a Cornell professor who's studied the topic extensively. He argued that tipping might be illegal because it could be considered discriminatory.
That observation -- and many others -- have prompted arguments that a better, fairer way to compensate restaurant employees would be to eliminate tipping and raise the prices on food (say, 15-20 percent) in order to pay employees higher wages not dependent on tips.
Earlier on AOA: New York's highest court on who can share tips at Starbucks
Can anyone recommend software for tracking expenses? I've never in my life made a budget for myself because I always innately lived within my means, whether as a poor student or working stiff. Now I'm a "pensioner" on a fixed/reduced income and I think I should track my spending for a year just to (hopefully) affirm that I'm solvent. I'm looking for simple, free software, maybe something where I can customize the categories to track some of my quirkier spending habits.
This might not be a local question, per se. But we're guessing a bunch of people here have some good insights on this topic.
Got a suggestion for Chris? Please share!
A. asks via Twitter:
Where can I find out what my check engine light is about, without paying through the nose?
This is a good thing to know because:
1) The check engine light can indicate a whole range of problems, some of them serious.
2) Sometimes the problem is a simple as the gas cap not being on tight enough. So if you can get someone to read the problem for a few bucks, you can fix the problem without spending a bunch of money.
Got a suggestion for A.? Please share!
Earlier on AOA: Capital Region Recommended Mechanics
After hearing about the 2 tornadoes that touched down this week and of course Irene, I was wondering if there were any local storm shelters available for use in a bad situation, especially an underground one for tornadoes? I live in 2nd floor apartment in a building with no basement, so if really bad storm were to come through my area I'd be in a bit of a dangerous situation.
With the storms getting worse each year (or so it would seem) I like having a plan in place even if I never need to use it!
Erin is on the right path here in being proactive about planning. With some types of storms -- like a hurricane/tropical storm -- there's usually some advance notice, often days. Other types -- like a tornado -- the notice could be just a few minutes. So knowing what to do ahead of time is important.
Here are a few guides on making a plan/emergency kit: ready.gov | New York State | Red Cross. And here are National Weather Service guides to thunderstorms, tornadoes, and lightning and how to take shelter in various types of buildings during a tornado. (In a building without a basement, it's get to the lowest floor and find a room in the middle of the building, preferably without windows.) Also: a NWS tornado FAQ.
Another resource: NY-Alert, where you can sign up for text alerts for stuff like tornado warnings.
Got local suggestions? Please share.
Earlier on AOA: Watch vs. warning
archive photo: NOAA Photo Library, NOAA Central Library; OAR/ERL/National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL)
Hello, tax day procrastinators. Hello, people desperately searching Google. Hello, people who just decided they would get to when they got to it -- and that time is now. The last chance post office for mailing your taxes in the Capital Region is...
The Colonie Center post office, at 1425 Central Ave. It closes at 8 pm tonight, its usual time.
Yep, the Capital Region has a new last-chance mail drop. For years the post office of last resort was at the mail processing center at 30 Karner Road. But that location has been rolling back its tax day closing time. In 2010, it was midnight. In 2011, it was 10 pm. In 2012, it was 8:30 pm. And this year: 7 pm -- just an hour later than its usual closing time.
As the post office has been rolling back the tax day closing time, the number of people who file electronically has boomed. As of early April, 89 percent of returns for this tax season had been filed electronically. [IRS]
Bonus bits: Last-minute filing tips from the IRS and USPS.
Financial services regulation fact of the day: starting this week merchants around the country are allowed to charge customers a "checkout fee" for using a credit card (even if many won't necessarily do so), as a result of a multi-billion dollar anti-trust settlement with Visa and Mastercard. But there won't be fees in New York State. [CNN] [NYT] [Consumerist]
No seller in any sales transaction may impose a surcharge on a holder who elects to use a credit card in lieu of payment by cash, check, or similar means. Any seller who violates the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed five hundred dollars or a term of imprisonment up to one year, or both.
What New York doesn't prohibit: offering customers a discount for using cash, as some gas stations do*. It also doesn't prohibit minimums for using a credit card, though retailers have to notify customers of the minimums. And the minimums -- typical upper limit is $10 -- have to apply to all types of credit cards. The allowance of minimums is relatively recent -- a 2010 federal law opened the way for them. [Consumerist]
The structure of the transaction fees that businesses pay credit card companies is... complicated, and there's an argument that it results in a "reverse Robin Hood" effect, with people who use credit cards -- especially rewards cards -- being subsidized by people not using the cards. [NYT]
* There's a bill in the legislature that would prohibit this price difference at gas stations -- but it would also allow the stations to pass along the credit card transaction fee to consumers. (It's aimed at cutting down on large gaps between credit and cash prices -- like a $1 gap in Long Island last year.) [Newsday]
There is no "peg" for this post. And it isn't interesting. It's just that we recently had to replace a license plate and the New York DMV website is... well, there are (somewhat hard-to-find) instructions, but we figured they could be a bit clearer. (Less than helpful: the help line, which apparently had too many calling for help.)
So, good drivers of the Empire State -- mostly those in the future via Google -- here is how you do it...
Jen asks via email:
I'm a fairly new transplant to the Albany area and am looking for a primary care doctor. Can your readers recommend a smart, compassionate, preferably female doctor in the Albany or Troy area?
We've had a similar question before, but it came up more than 2.5 years ago. Things change. And Jen's preference narrows the field a bit. (Also: we heard from Jen that she called a few of the doctors from that old post and they weren't taking new patients.)
So, have a suggestion for Jen? Please share! And, as always, bonus points for explaining why you like that doctor.
I usually get my tires online but picking them up at the UPS facility in Latham is a pain and I'm happy to spend a few extra dollars to support local businesses. Any suggestions for good local tire shops? Selection and customer service are a plus, but evening/weekend hours are the dealbreaker since I have a 9-5 and dropoff/pickup is extremely inconvenient. Proximity to Albany proper a plus.
Got a suggestion for B? Please share! And, as always, bonus points for a little bit of explanation for why you're suggesting the place.
While we're on the subject: A lot of people are probably thinking about snow tires right now, so if you have a suggestion about where to buy them / get them put back on -- this is a good thread for it.
Valerie asks via Twitter:
I have a few projects I need help with. Removal/replacement of deck, shoring up a porch, basement windows, kitchen counters. Also maybe wood window restoration and an indoor painter who can deal with removing lots and lots of nightmarish wallpaper.
If anyone is or knows a good general contractor please share. PLEASE.
This is a question that comes up all the time. And it's definitely worth asking around for referrals and talking with people about their experiences. A lot of contractors do a good job, but there are definitely some out there to avoid.
So, anyone have suggestions for Valerie? Please share!
Jennifer asks via Twitter:
Help! What gift does one get for a bar mitzvah?
Sometimes the gifts for celebrations like this -- weddings, graduations, confirmations -- can vary by what part of the country you're in. For example: at a lot of weddings in the Midwest, people show up with presents (blenders, toasters, and so on). On the East Coast, the go-to gift is usually money. (And at Midwest/East Coast weddings, worlds collide! Thank goodness there's cake.)
So, what's an appropriate gift for a bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah in the Capital Region? Please share! And if money is a typical gift, please include a range. (It can be hard to guess these things.)
After a few walks in the rain and mud had left Otto looking (and more importantly, smelling) not so fresh, we knew what it was time for: a good Shampoodling.
Shampoodle is a do-it-yourself dog bath/grooming place with locations in Delmar and Clifton Park. It's come up once or twice before, but we figured it's worth its own standalone mention. Because it's the best way we've found to give Otto a bath.
When we retrieved our recycling bin from the curb last week, we noticed that a milk carton had been left behind -- with not a can or bottle to keep him company. Hmm, we thought -- aren't those recyclable?
We mentioned the question on Twitter -- and the consensus was: yes... no... maybe. Other people had the same question.
So we did a little research.
As a new homeowner, I've been hearing rumors about a certain day / week in May where folks can go downtown and challenge their property tax amount. Would the editors or other AOA readers have any knowledge about this upcoming event, any tips for when to go (I imagine it's a zoo...) and what to come prepared with for the best possible outcome (i.e. lower taxes!)?
We're guessing the day Sean is referring to is Grievance Day, typically the fourth Tuesday of May in cities and towns in New York State (May 22 this year). You can submit the forms necessary to "grieve" the assessment of your home before that day (probably the best course). The day in question is when it's possible to make an oral argument before the board of assessment review, if you decide to do so.
OK, so let's use the city of Albany as an example. It recently posted the official notice that's it's completed its tentative assessment roll for property tax purposes. The assessment information is online -- it's as simple to look up as plugging in your address. From the city's website:
Complaint forms and a publication containing procedures for contesting an assessment are available at the Office of Assessment & Taxation Room 302 in City Hall. It is a prerequisite to review an assessment that the official complaint forms be used and that said forms be filed with the undersigned or the Board of Assessment Review on or before May 22nd, 2012.
The board of assessment review will be hearing grievances May 22 from 9 am-1 pm and 6-8 pm in city hall.
Of course, some details will vary from one municipality to another. Here's a NYS website with info on how to contest your assessment.
So... Have you ever contested an assessment? If so, got any tips or advice for Sean? Please share!
photo: Flickr user woodleywonderworks
Laura asks via Twitter:
Any ideas on where to search for a roommate other than Craigslist? Coming up blank for 1st time.
We can understand understand not wanting to dip into the Craigslist pool (really). But it's pretty much become the place for this sort of thing.
So, other ideas for Laura? Please share!
Earlier on AOA: Short term housing rentals?
photo: Flickr user Menage a Moi
2013 update: This is no longer the last-chance post office. It's now at Colonie Center.
Hello, tax day procrastinators desperately searching Google for the last post office open in the Capital Region.
The answer, as usual: the post office at 30 Karner Road in Colonie, which is attached to a mail processing facility. But the deadline has been rolled back yet again this year. That location will only be open until 8:30 pm this year.
Why? Electronic filing. The e-filing rate is now 77 percent for individuals -- up from 16 percent in the mid-1990s. (And with good reason -- it's way easier than printing all the forms out and mailing them.) [IRS]
Bonus last chance spot: The Colonie Center post office is open until 8 pm, its usual closing time.
Bonus bit: Last-minute filing tips from the IRS.
A Loyal Reader emails:
I need to have a medical procedure done and can't drive myself so I want to take a cab. Every single cab company in Albany has terrible reviews. Any idea which one will show up on time? I'm going from downtown Albany to Latham.
We hope there's an answer for LR -- but we have to admit we've never heard a "I had a great cab experience" story in the Capital Region. Usually, it's just the opposite.
Got a suggestion? Please share!
photo: Flickr user Ben Fredericson (xjrlokix)
Kaitlin asks via Twitter:
I am in need of good auto body places in Albany. ... I just need to get my bumper repaired/replaced, rather than something mechanical, I suppose?
Got a suggestion for Kaitlin? Please share!
By the way: Here's our Capital Region Recommended Auto Mechanics list, if you haven't seen it before.
Just wondering if you could ask readers if they have any suggestions for tax preparers/accountants who are familiar with small businesses/sole proprietors? Thanks!
We've had a question before about accountants, but that was for personal taxes. Things can get a bit more (or a lot) more complicated when you have a small business.
Got a suggestion for Rebecca? Please share!
photo: Edinburgh City of Print (Flickr user edinburghcityofprint)
My husband and I are getting ready to move and need some small handyperson type jobs done around the house like fixing a small hole in the detached garage roof, putting some trim on our laminate floors (a DIY project which got waylaid), and small painting projects.
Know of a good handyperson or contractor who might be able to help Gretchen and her husband? Please share!
Jessica asked via Twitter:
Where can I get a good, non-grocery store birthday cake? Bakery in Renss has let me down for the last time.
But there are many places to get a birthday cake in the Capital Region. Got a favorite? Please share!
Earlier on AOA: A good local bakery for cookies?
photo: Flickr user Will Clayton
Earlier this week Mindy asked on Twitter:
Can anyone recommend a place to rent chairs near Albany?
We retweeted. There were a handful of helpful suggestions. So we've collected them for the next person with that question.
The suggestions after the jump. And, of course, if know of a good place, please share!
Michael asks via Twitter:
Does anyone have any reco's for a residential electrician in Albany?
Got a suggestion for Michael? Please share!
Brian asks via Twitter:
Help! I need a vet in Albany / Troy area! My pup needs to see the doctor. Please recommend a good veterinarian.
This question has come up before for cats, but not dogs -- which is a little surprising given how many people seem to have dogs.
Got a suggestion? Please share! And please include why you like going to that vet.
From everything we've been seeing, it's basically only a matter of time before the zombie apocalypse is upon us (it would explain a lot). And, if you're anything like us, you're totally unprepared.
But fear not, fair citizens. We have drawn on the wisdom of your fellow Capital Region residents to compile a quick primer on how to survive the zombie apocalypse here.
With an eye toward the change of season, Jen asks:
How about a cheap furnace cleaner person (besides the big companies like DA Bennet) &/or who does home energy audits?
We'll tag general furnace tuneup/maintenance onto Jen's question (that reminds us, we need to get someone to do that...).
Got a suggestion? Please share!
photo: Flickr user C Jill Reed
Jen from Hounds on the Hudson emails:
I'm gearing up for another long winter outdoors and need to get my wool coat relined and boots resoled. Can anyone recommend a good dry cleaners and/or cobbler in the area?
If there's anyone who needs to make sure their coats and boots are in shape for winter, it's the people at a dog walking company.
So, anyone have suggestions for Jen? Please share!
Earlier on AOA: Suggestions for a good seamstress?
I have two boys, ages 2.5 & 6. We all currently visit a very popular family practice in Slingerlands, and while we like a couple of the practitioners there, it's a hike for us to get there, we wait forever once we are there, they don't answer the phones between 11:30AM-12:30PM, etc.
We'd like to hear about some good practices or specific doctors, whether they are pediatricians, internists, and/or general practitioners. We live in Wynantskill, and our preference is within 15-20 minutes drive. Pleasant office staff, realistic scheduling, thorough doctors (NP's or PA's are also fine)...
Thank you! I really appreciate the input of AOA readers.
Showing up at the doctor's office on time and having to wait seemingly forever is frustrating. Having to do it with a sick kid? Eek.
Got a suggestion for Sara? Please share!
photo: Flickr user a.drian
I know you covered mice issues a while back but we have a wasp nest we can't reach with death spray and we're trying to find a good exterminator to come and destroy the little yellow jacketed ninjas who keep creeping into our house. Any suggestions?
A ninja infestation? Could be tricky.
Got a suggestion for Miriam? Please share!
photo: Flickr user DGriebeling
A question from AOA Greg:
We have a 1996 Corolla for which we're trying to find a final home. It's been a great car, but it's finally reached that point where the repairs would cost more than it's worth. (Steve at Larry's Foreign Auto advised us it was time to find a new car. Yep, his advice probably cost him work. Yet another reason why Steve is the best.)
So we're thinking there are three possibilities here:
1. Try to the sell the car on Craigslist. Maybe there's someone who'd want it. Might be tough, because it needs significant repair and it's old. Not the option we'd prefer.
2. Sell the car to a junk car service.
3. Donate the car to a charity.
Our preference is to donate the car -- sure, we'd like the money, but the sum would probably not be large. If we can help out a charity, great.
So, suggestions for local junk car services or charities looking for car donations?
Got a suggestion for Greg and Mrs. Greg? Please share!
Going a little batty, Kim (@kimmieoftroy) asks via Twitter:
Anyone in the capital region have any recommendations for bat removal/bat-proofing?
Eek. Bats serve an important role in the ecosystem (and help humans) by eating insects. And bats in the greater Capital Region have been hit hard by White Nose Syndrome. But, still... it's probably better that they not use your house as a home office.
Got a suggestion for Kim? Please share!
photo: Flickr user GregTheBusker
I have a broken record player that I would like to get repaired. It is one of those old school 70s types. Not sure where to go around here.
Got a suggestion for Susan and her record player? Please share!
photo: Flickr user stevecadman
Daniel B. emails:
Mrs. Fussy needs to be fitted for contact lenses and could probably use a new pair of glasses too. She's looking for an eye doctor, and was hoping to get some recommendations. Given the bespectacled nature of the AOA staff and readership, I thought you all would be good people to ask.
It's a well established fact that the most beautiful women wear glasses, so Mrs. Fussy is in good company.
Know of a good eye doctor? Please share!
photo: Flickr user schrierc
Looking to help her mom, Sara emails:
One of my favorite AOA tags is "good to know". I need to tap into the collective brains of AOA readers to find a new primary care doctor for my mom. She's in her 50's, lives east of Saratoga, and for various reasons, requires the care of medical professionals more than the average patient. It seems too obvious to say that the doc (must be an MD or DO, not a PA or NP) should not be patronizing, or in the habit of scolding their patients, but that is the problem that leads to this question in the first place!
It's hard enough navigating the medical system without having a doctor who's not a good communicator or condescending or just a wrong fit personality-wise.
Know a good doctor who might be right for Sara's mom? Please share! And if you do, please include a comment or two about why you like that doctor.
Earlier on AOA: Know of a good doctor near Albany?
photo: Flickr user a.drian
I'd love to find out if your readers have dealt with a tree removal service they felt did a good job for the right price. We have a half dead tree in our front lawn that's going to come down one way or another.
A few years back, we were happy with the service we got from a company out of Schenectady called TreeCo. They worked remarkably fast (while hanging from a tree, using a chain saw), cleaned up nicely, and all for what seemed like a fair price.
TreeCo doesn't appear to have a website.* Its number is 356-4177.
One thing to note: not all tree services offer stump grinding. Be sure to ask about it if you want the stump taken out, too.
We're guessing there are at least a handful of other local tree service options. Know of a good one? Please share!
* Small businesses of the Capital Region: please get a website -- even just a single page with your contact info. It will help everyone, most importantly you.
I know you all have covered movers locally before, but I'm curious if anyone has tips for cross-country movers.
Got a suggestion for Carrie? Please share!
Earlier on AOA: Local moving company suggestions?
Last fall Shannon asked about finding a good oral surgeon -- and people had a lot of suggestions. (Who knew people were so passionate about oral surgery?)
Well, Shannon -- now minus four teeth -- emailed us today with an update:
Way back in October, I wrote to All Over Albany to ask readers for recommendations on area oral surgeons. To my surprise, I received a lot of great suggestions and not any "Whatever you do, don't go to _______ !". Well, I finally took the plunge and I am now minus four wisdom teeth. Overall, the experience was much less painful than I expected. I just wanted to express my thanks to All Over Albany and its many readers who provided suggestions. This is one of several cases where AOA has helped guide me to trustworthy local establishments or service providers.
FYI - Many readers suggested the doctors at Capital District Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons, and that is what I went with. Dr. Beck and the nurses were all very nice and they explained things well. It's only been 4 days, but I seem to be healing well and haven't had any unusual problems, so I'd strongly recommend Dr. Beck to others as well!
Stories like this make us happy. Thanks, Shannon!
photo (not of Shannon): Flickr user Betsssssy
Update for 2012: This is still the post office of last resort, but the closing time has been moved up to 8:30 pm.
Hello, procrastinating tax filers desperately searching Google for the last-chance post office in the Capital Region. Here's your answer: the post office at 30 Old Karner Road in Colonie is the post office of last resort for procrastinating tax filers. The branch, which is connected to the mail processing facility there, will be open until 10 pm tonight.
Yep, 10 pm. In previous years, it was open until midnight. Perhaps it's changed because about 70 percent of tax returns are now filed electronically (more than 100 million returns this year).
Bonus spot: the Colonie Center post office is open until 8 pm today -- its usual time.
I'm interning in Albany this summer and was wondering if you had any tips on to where to look for 1br sublets. I've been browsing craigslist for a few weeks now but really don't know of any other options.
I would like an area thats safe but I'm not too worried about how quite it is. It would be nice to be near bars and places to eat. I'm interning with the Devils hockey team (June through August) so you have an idea as to where I'll be everyday.
I've browsed craigslist but with not much luck. Do you know of any other sites to use to look for sublets?
The local Craigslist is kind of thin on sublets. And, you know, these days -- if not Craigslist, then where?
Got a suggestion for Brad? Please share!
photo: Flickr user Genista
A few months back I asked everyone if they had tips on how to keep my hands from getting all dry and cracked this winter. And you did! There were a bunch of suggestions (you might even call it a handful).
Well, it's mid-February now and I'm happy report that my hands are in good shape -- the best they've been in many winters. And I have you to thank. So give yourself a hand!
In the spirit of lending a hand (last one, probably), here's what's worked for me...
Wednesday is shaping up to be a snow day for many people. Here are few things you might find useful for the day (and the rest of the winter):
Taking care of yourself
+ Stocking up for snow storm (don't forget the Nutella)
You and everyone else
+ Death by icicle (It happens.)
Help AOA! I received a letter today from the property manager of my apartment building [regarding upcoming apartment inspections to review the condition of units] that rubbed me the wrong way. This in particular, "we will note any cleanliness or excess clutter issues that need to be addressed."
It gave me the feeling they are going to snoop around my unit looking for things they don't approve of. I have already had a few issues with privacy; such as entering my unit without notice. Is this legal or even reasonable according to the Right to Privacy Public Service Law § 228?
Well, we are not lawyers. We don't even play one on TV. But here's a tenants' rights guide published by the state attorney general's office.
Anyone have suggestions for Anonymous about how to proceed? Please share.
photo: Flickr user Menage a Moi
Snow comes with its own set of chores and activities -- and social obligations. Manners, you might say.
What are they? What rules should we all live by in the winter?
Last year we considered the ethics of the shoveled parking spot. But there are plenty of other ways to be a force for good -- or not -- when the snow start to fall.
Toward that end, we've put together a few guidelines for Capital Region winter etiquette. Because good manners help everyone have a better day, no matter what the weather does.
The rules, after the jump. And we'd love to hear your suggestions.
Now that Christmas is over and all the festivities have come to an end... I was wondering if All Over Albany had suggestions as to how to dispose or re-use the no longer needed christmas tree.
Does the city come and pick up your un-wanted tree to use for composting? Do we need to call the city to schedule a pick up? If so, who do we call? Or are there other clever ways to re-use the trees that don't require it to be thrown on the sidewalk?
Shadi isn't the only one who has this question. We've heard a few people lately wonder about it.
Well, here's the answer for the City of Albany. If you put out your Christmas tree on your regular trash day (the tree should not be wrapped in anything), DGS will pick it up and compost it.
If you're not in Albany, give your town or trash hauler a call. They should be able to answer your question right away -- it's sort of the trash question of the moment.
photo: Flickr user julio.garciah
With what we can only guess is the sound of running water in the background, Chrissy emails:
Does anyone know a good/trustworthy plumber in the Schenectady area or one is Albany that will travel a bit?
I have 2 toilets that are running constantly, a broken faucet, and a crappy old sink that needs replacing. After a crazy high water bill I am finally going to stop procrastinating about it but I don't really want to just pick a name from the yellow pages. The last time I did that I got a drunk Jerry Garcia look-alike that told me the reason my water suddenly smelled like rotting garbage was because I live in Scotia. Not entirely untrue, but I need someone with a more scientific? approach to plumbing problems. Any recommendations?
We called Crisafulli for an acute plumbing problem (broken pipe) awhile back. They responded promptly and fixed the problem, at what seemed like a fair price.
But there are a lot of plumbers out there. Know of a good one for Chrissy? Please share!
My tenant downstairs is victimized by one very persistent mouse. We have tried poison traps, glue traps, good old fashioned spring-loaded-*smash*-in-your-face mousetraps, to no avail. Either this mouse is a mensa-certified mutant, or I'm doing something wrong.
In any case, it has to go (please). Besides carefully storing food away, I'm considering an exterminator or letting my tenant adopt a cat; pets are a responsibility, but she would like to have one and found a feline online that could be a non-carpet-destructing mouser.
Any recommendations on exterminators? Or "exterminator vs. cat, the smackdown"?
The Capital Region has a lot of old buildings. And old buildings very often have mice. There's gotta some serious collective wisdom out there for dealing with the critters.
So, any tips or suggestions for Sebastien? Please share!
photo: Flickr user coxy
My laptop got hit with a fake anti-virus. I can't get rid of it myself, but I don't know who to call for repairs in Albany.
Do the AOA readers have any recommendations?
A similar question came up last year -- though it was more of "my hard drive died, who can help?" situation.
Got a suggestion for Carrie? Please share!
I'm one of many people in this area who don't have dental insurance and i just paid $221 for my 6 month cleaning and bitewing xrays. My previous dentist, who recently retired, was significantly less expensive, so I'm wondering if any of your readers know of a dentist in this area who isn't quite so expensive and isn't retiring soon?
Or do I need to just start saving now for my next cleaning in 6 months?
Julie's in the Saratoga area, so she's interested in dentists there. We'll also open this up to (good/affordable/combo of both) dentists around the Capital Region (we've had a few people ask this question).
So, know of good dentist? Please share?
Earlier on AOA: Ask AOA: A good oral surgeon?
photo: Flickr user Betsssssy
A bit freaked out, Anonymous emails:
I'd like to ask readers about local resources for getting rid of bedbugs.
Mostly looking for companies who will diagnose and get rid of them once you've identified that you have them. For example, are any bedbug sniffing dogs in the area? (That is the most absurd sounding question I've asked in awhile!)
Wondering, too, how anyone locally has dealt with the experience of having them, how they approached getting rid of them, and what they wish they had done differently.
We had a feeling this question might pop up eventually. And, frankly, it kind of gives us the willies.
In October, the Times Union declared that "bedbugs have officially infiltrated the Capital Region." The article mentioned a business in North Greenbush -- Northeast Pest Control -- that has used a bedbug-sniffing dog. (Just recently, the New York Times reported that people are starting to doubt the effectiveness of some of these bug finders.)
So, anyone have suggestions for Anonymous? Please share.
This question comes directly from AOA Greg:
Every winter the skin on my hands gets really dry, and often cracks. It's uncomfortable, unsightly and generally unpleasant.
I figured this was just an unfortunate quirk of the skin on my hands, but a few people have mentioned recently that the same thing also happens to them each winter.
So, any suggestions for soothing dry winter skin, especially hands? I've tried the general purpose moisturizing lotions like Vaseline Intensive Care -- they don't seem to be up to task.
Eric asks via the Facebook:
I'm looking for a good small appliance repair place in the district. I've got a couple of 40's-50's Mixmasters that are in fine working order except for bad cords. In this throwaway society is there a place to go get something fixed?
We we first saw his question, we pass along an earlier Ask AOA question about appliance repair shops for items such washers
Semi-helpful, but it's easy to find repairmen for "Major Appliances"- what ever happened to the little shop around the corner with an old guy who'd repair your pop up toaster? No such place- these days most appliances cost less that $100 and if they break they're disposable.
We fear that the modern world -- for better or for worse -- has made this service hard to find. If it costs $25 to fix a $30 toaster, most people are just going to buy a new toaster.
But we hope there are still places like this. Any suggestions? Please share!
I know a few weeks ago you had a post about where to find an accountant in the Albany area but I was wondering where the best place to set up an LLC locally was. Any suggestions? I'm totally lost!!
An attorney who specializes in commercial law could definitely smooth the way here.
So, any suggestions for Jeff -- either for a good attorney to help him, or some other resource? Please share!
photo: Edinburgh City of Print (Flickr user edinburghcityofprint)
With two dogs, a LOT of travelling, and a summer of sand, mud, and yard work, my car is just too filthy to do myself. I'm looking for someone else to handle the dirty work.
I've so far come across expensive dealership "clean it to sell it" operations and sketchy garages that offer the service but are also littered with discarded cough medicine bottles.
Anything in between with recommendations?
A similar question came up a while back, but as Martin points out, most of the answers were (helpful) suggestions about how to do it yourself. And Martin is looking for something non-DYI.
We'll also expand this question to include good car washes (especially since winter is almost upon us).
So, any suggestions for Martin and his filthy car? Please share!
Earlier on AOA: Dawn got the scoop on Colonial Car Wash's salad bar
photo: Flickr user badjonni
I need to look into having my wisdom teeth removed but know nothing about area oral surgeons. My dentist gave me a list of recommended surgeons, but a list of names doesn't mean much to me. I've visited some websites searching for feedback with little luck.
I'm hoping readers may be able to suggest some surgeons for wisdom teeth removal (or let me know which ones to avoid!). This is not really a minor thing so I'd like to not go into this blindly.
Totally understand the desire to go into this eyes open (well, and mouth, too).
Got a suggestion for Shannon? Please share!
photo: Flickr user Betsssssy
My mother is need of a new passport photo that fulfills the rules and regs of the British Embassy. This sounds fairly straight forward, but in fact there's a 12 page PDF of how to do it properly.
Can any of the readers suggest a person/studio that will be able to help her?
We're guessing that any place that does a lot of passport photos could probably handle the requirements of the UK. (Then again, we sometimes have to turn on the subtitles during films with heavy British accents.)
Any suggestions for Abby? Please share!
photo: Flickr user hjl
With an eye to the future, Ewan emails:
We're thinking that it might be good for at least one year to get some professional tax advice. Has anyone had a good experience with a local tax-oriented CPA?
photo: Edinburgh City of Print (Flickr user edinburghcityofprint)
Any suggestions for Ewan? Please share!
Earlier on AOA: A good divorce attorney?
The National Weather Service issued a tornado watch today for large parts of eastern New York, including parts of the Capital Region, until 6 pm.
We noticed a bunch of people mentioning this on Twitter today, and a few people were getting it not quite correct. That's understandable -- a tornado watch is rare here (if you lived in the Midwest, you'd know this by heart).
OK, a quick review with lightly edited entries from a National Weather Service glossary:
Tornado watch This is issued by the National Weather Service when conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes in and close to the watch area. The area can vary depending on the weather situation. The watches are usually issued for a duration of 4 to 8 hours. They normally are issued well in advance of the actual occurrence of severe weather. During the watch, people should review tornado safety rules and be prepared to move a place of safety if threatening weather approaches.
Appropriate reaction: Oh, OK, I'll keep it in mind.
Tornado warning This is issued when a tornado is indicated by radar or sighted by spotters; people in the affected area should seek safe shelter immediately. The warning can be issued without a Tornado Watch being already in effect. The warnings are usually issued for a duration of around 30 minutes -- they will include where the tornado was located and what towns will be in its path.
Appropriate reaction: Near here? Head for cover! (You know, calmly, but with purpose.)
(Severe thunderstorm watches and warnings work the same way.)
Here's a NWS brochure on severe weather safety, including what to do in the event of a tornado (not just a watch, an actual report of a tornado). The short story: head for the basement, or -- if you don't have a basement -- an interior room without windows on the first floor (bathrooms are often a good spot).
Curious about how many watches end up including tornadoes, we looked up the stats on the NWS site. According to one study of data from 1980-1999, about 56 percent of watches ended up having at least one tornado somewhere in the watch area.
Bonus: The Tornado FAQ from the NWS' Storm Prediction Center.
archive photo: NOAA Photo Library, NOAA Central Library; OAR/ERL/National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL)
Chances are you have stuff around the house that you'd like to get rid of -- but shouldn't put in the garbage. Stuff like all-but-empty cans of paint, old compact fluorescent light bulbs (they contain mercury), a hasn't-been-used-since-2002 TV (those cathode ray tube sets have lead in them), and so on.
Well, here's your chance. The City of Albany has four "Household Hazardous Waste & Electronic Drop-off Days" coming up: September 2, October 7, November 4, December 9.
On those days you can drop of these items at the city landfill from 4-7 pm. It's free, but you have to pre-register (call 800-494-2273) and provide proof of residency. Here's a pdf of the informational flyer.
We dropped off an old CRT monitor at one of these days a few years back and were impressed by how smoothly it all went. We pulled into the line, gave the guy our name, waited for the car ahead of us, pulled up, popped the trunk and handed the monitor to a guy waiting to take it. The whole process lasted all of three minutes.
These drop-off days are only open to Albany residents.
Don't live in Albany? A lot of towns around here have these days. Give the town a call -- or check with your garbage hauler -- and someone should be able to tell about the next one. And if you're just looking to get rid of old computer equipment, Goodwill has a free recycling program.
photo: D'Arcy Norman (Flickr user D'Arcy Norman)
We got email from Ashleigh this week looking for an auto mechanic recommendation. She's new to town and needs a place to take her Volkswagen.
The auto mechanic question has come up before on AOA -- we got so many responses that we compiled them in one easy-to-scan list/map. That was more than a year ago, so we figured now was a good time to mention it again (especially since a lot of people are new to AOA since then).
We really need to put together some place to index all this kind of stuff...
Living on a busy street in downtown Troy, a certain amount of grime drifts through the windows. Though I'm a reasonably tidy divorced dad who was taught how to do cleaning chores as a kid, it'd be worth X dollars to bring in some pros a few times per year and pick up my slack. Folks who do this for a living and can catch everything up in a couple hours.
I know they're out there, but don't know how to find a good one or what it should cost. Natch there are mass-market franchise providers ("The Maids," others), and maybe they're fine. But I'll bet there are truly local, honest providers doing the same thing in Troy. I'd prefer that.
AOA-ers: What occasional maid service do you use in Troy? I'm not fussy and don't care so much about bonding, theft-safeguards, etc. (I'd stick around), just want good value for money. We're talking a ~1100 sq. ft. apartment.
Got a suggestion for Lou? Please share!
My dryer just died. Any suggestions for a good appliance repair place?
Anyone have a suggestion for Fred? Please share!
Update: Fred emails again:
Went with Bob's, as it was the only one with any web presence. $55 to diagnose, and they'll be here tomorrow, no extra charge. YaaaayOA.
photo: Charles Henry (Flickr user Amarillo Chuck)
I bought a used car from a friend who had a dog, and the car smells like dog...which isn't too great when it's hot and the windows are up because the AC is on.
Two different friends of mine have said I should get the car detailed, which I guess is an extra thorough washing, but I have no idea how to find a place...I am willing to throw down a few dollars to make the car fresh again, but would like to make sure that my money is well spent.
So maybe some of the AOA readers have some experience with this? Also, if they think a vacuum and some baking powder is the way to go, I welcome any DIY tips (although this is definitely one of those things that I would rather pay for).
Oof. We hope you have some suggestions for places Sue can get her car de-dogged. The Otto-mobile has also been kind of doggy lately -- so we could also use the tips.
Got a suggestion? Please share!
I know you've done posts in the past asking for reader suggestions about good haircuts, doctors, etc, and since travel season is coming up, I was wondering if you could do a post about pet sitters?
I definitely don't want to hand the keys to my apartment and the care of my cats over to someone I've randomly picked without recommendation.
We totally understand where Kristin is coming from -- knowing the office dog is well cared for makes one less thing to worry about when traveling.
This might not help Kristin's exact situation because she has cats, but Otto has vacationed at Happy Tails in Altamont. The facilities are nice and the owners were very friendly. They even got one of Otto's favorite toys back to us after we left it behind. As far as we can tell, they don't have a website, but here's a pdf brochure with contact and other info.
Anyone have suggestions for Kristin? Or even some good boarding, pet sitting, or walking experiences that might help other people? Please share!
Laura asks via Facebook:
I'm still somewhat new to the Albany area and having a difficult time finding a really good doctor. I'm looking for a general practitioner or even better, an internist. ...
Anyone have any thoughts? Any doctors they love and would recommend? Thank you!
This has always seemed like a hard question to us. Obviously, you want a doctor who's skilled -- but it also helps to find a physician with whom you feel comfortable.
So, anyone have suggestions for Laura? Please share! And if you could include a little bit about what makes the doctor good, that would be helpful (example: "good listener").
Also: here's New York State's doctor profile database, which includes info about all licensed doctors who are registered to practice in the state. And the state's Office of Professional Medical Conduct also has an online database of all physicians, physician assistants and specialist assistants who have been disciplined since 1990.
photo: Flickr user a.drian
I need to have some tricky alterations made to a bridesmaid dress. I saw your posts on shirt and suit tailors in the area, and am hoping you and your readers can hook me up with a talented seamstress. Any ideas?
We wonder if maybe there are seamstresses (or tailors) who specialize in dresses. We know next to nothing about sewing, but we suspect that altering a dress is more complicated (and perhaps more of an art) than hemming a pair of pants.
Anyone have suggestions or experiences to share with Meg?
Earlier on AOA: Where to find suit tailoring?
Elsewhere: Kristi recently got a question about where to get pants hemmed.
photo: Flickr user d3b...*
Update for 2012: This is still the post office of last resort, but it's only open until 8:30 pm.
The post office at 30 Karner Road in Colonie is the post office of last resort for procrastinating tax filers. The branch, which is connected to the mail processing facility there, will be open until 11:59 Thursday night.
Bonus spot: the Colonie Center post office will be open until 8 pm -- which, as it happens, is its normal closing time.
AOA's annual comparison of local supermarket chain prices is back. Walmart is the two-time defending champ -- and it hasn't even been close.
Can Hannaford or Price Chopper close the gap this year?
A crowd member approached us -- in real life! -- recently with a question about places to hold a small wedding ceremony in the Capital Region. She's looking for a pretty place to gather about eight or ten people for a small, quiet ceremony.
A few places that came to mind are after the jump. We're hoping you'll have some suggestions, too.
Amy tweeted last week:
I need to get my ring re-sized and my jeweler retired. Who do you like/trust around here?
She was nice enough to share the responses she got -- they're after the jump. Got one to add? Share, please!
A few weeks back AOA heard from Quito via Twitter about a problem with trash trucks in her uptown Albany neighborhood.
"The DGS fleet usually hits up my house anywhere from I believe 3am to 4am. What is the reason behind this? What happens at SANE hours like 7am and later?"
Quito says she's often awakened by the noise, and that neighbors have complained about it as well.
"it starts with the trucks backing up...the beeping. Then Team Garbage or Team Recyclable launches either garbage/recyclables into the truck. Occasionally there is some yelling/communication going on between the thrower and what I assume is the driver. Then comes the launching of containers back onto the sidewalk/street/neighbor's yard/driveway in the house down the block. All of this is repeated usually 30 minutes later by the next Team Garbage/Team Recyclable. Basically lots of crashing, booming, yelling, etc. This would be understandable and I would not be angered if it were occurring at some normal hour."
She asked AOA to check into it, so we called Albany DGS.
Tori emailed us this morning:
I am moving apartments yet again, and am thinking of having movers carry my stuff instead of me this time. Do you have any recommendations for the best/cheapest moving company in the area?
I don't want them to pack up my things, just to carry them from my current apartment to the truck, drive them to the new place, and carry all the furniture and boxes up the stairs.
Anyone have suggestions for Tori? We're hoping she doesn't have to move in the snow.
Ahead of last year's Super Bowl, we checked a bunch of stores to see who had the lowest beer prices.
Well, this year's Super Bowl is just a few weeks away -- and you know what, we're feeling thirsty.
So let's go beer shopping...
To New York City and back is a pretty common trip for people in the Capital Region. So... what's the fastest way? What's the cheapest? What's the best?
We ran the numbers almost two years ago -- but things change. So we did the math again, this time with even more detail.
The full breakdown after the jump.
Update: So, apparently we somehow missed an absolute wonderland of vacuums. Be sure to read the comments.
It's not exactly the most fun purchase, but at some point we all need to buy a vacuum cleaner. And thanks to ample fur produced by the office dog, that point came for us last week. Oh, the excitement.
In our search for a new vacuum, we didn't end up going all over town. But we did look a few places. And we feel pretty confident that we found one of the best (if not the best) places to buy one.
People posted a lot of good suggestions to last week's car mechanic question. There were so many good suggestions that we decided to collect them all in an easy-to-skim listing/map. Check it out -- if there's a way we can make it better, please share.
Thanks to everyone who posted a suggestion. And watch out for potholes.
The United Way is launching the 211 phone service in the Capital Region today. The three digit phone number is intended to connect people with services related to child care, employment and crisis counseling.
Of course, 411 (for directory information) has been around for years. NYC has an interesting project going with the number 311 -- it's using the service as
The post office at 30 Karner Road in Colonie is the post office of last resort for procrastinating tax filers. The branch, which is connected to the mail processing facility there, will be open until 11:59 Wednesday night.
Bonus spot: the Colonie Center post office will be open until 8 pm.
Check it out: we've put together a map and listing of free wi-fi spots around the Capital Region.
Know of a place we missed? Share in the comments please.
This is sort of a first draft of this map. If you have suggestions about how to make it better, we'd love to hear them.
Thanks to Liz Paola for her help in compiling this info.