Thursday, August 24, 2006

Third Annual Upper Hudson River Bluegrass Festival in North Creek

The Third Annual Upper Hudson River Bluegrass Festival is being held at the North Creek Ski Bowl this weekend (Fri-Sun). The festival features Smokey Greene, Al & Kathy Bain, Gary Blodgett, Gold Wing Express, Acoustic Blue & others. For information call Sara at 518-251-5842 or Penny at 518-251-2612. See you there!


Thursday, August 24, 2006

Adirondack Pool Balls: The Albany Billiard Ball Company

Here in the Adirondacks local pubs almost always have a pool table. For most of the history of Adirondack billiards, the Albany Billiard Ball Company supplied the balls. The company is believed to be one of the earliest plastics companies in the world.

According to The Smithsonian the business was started in 1868 in the South End of Albany. John Wesley Hyatt (1837-1920), one of the company’s founders, was the inventor of celluloid which was used as a substitute for ivory, from which billiard balls were then being made (before the 1600s, bibilliardalls were made of wood).

According to Brunswick: “Ivory from elephant tusk grows in an annual ring, much like a tree. A blood vessel that goes through the center of the tusk can be seen as a black dot.” The dot served as the center mark of the ball where the ball was pinned while being turned on a lathe.”

The Plastiquariana> reports that:

[Albany billiard ball maker] Phelan & Collander were offering a $10,000 reward for a suitable substitute for ivory, the growing shortage of which was threatening their business. Hyatt spent several years in the search for such a material but there is no evidence that the prize was ever awarded. Indeed, Hyatt set up his own manufacturing company which, a little later, became the Albany Billiard Ball Company. Initially, composition balls were coated in a coloured layer of almost pure cellulose nitrate [called collodion].

According to the Smithsonisn, The “Hyatt” composition ball dominated barroom and pool hall tables until the 1960s, but according to the Billiards Guide:

Unfortunately, the new balls could shatter under hard impact and manufacture of them had to be stopped until a fix for this problem was found. The discovery that solved this problem was celluloid. However, because of the problems with his earlier billiard balls, acceptance of these celluloid billiard balls did not come easily. However, this process did lead to the discovery of Bakelite and cast-phenolic resins which are the main components of billiard balls even to this day.

Thanks for the photo and idea from an anonymous Craiglist Request.

Some Adirondack Pool Links

The Winners of Last Year’s Joss Cues Northeast 9 Ball Tournament at Adirondack Billiards in Glens Falls

The Greater Albany American Poolplayer Association


Suggested Reading

Byrne’s Complete Book of Pool Shots: 350 Moves Every Player Should Know

Byrne’s Treasury of Trick Shots in Pool and Billiards


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Adirondack Region Marijuana Crop Will Be HUUUUUUUGGGGGGE

The Glens Falls Post Star is reporting that there will be a “bumper pot crop” in Washington County thanks to hot and humid weather this summer. “We’re hearing it’s a great crop,” said Saratoga County Undersheriff Michael Woodcock, “It was jungle-like weather, and it is a tropical plant.”

The PS reports: “With its prodigious farmland, Washington County has long been one of the biggest producers of marijuana in the Northeast, though the advent of indoor growing operations has led to a drop in seizures over the past decade or so. In the early 1990s, 10,000 to 15,000 plants were pulled up annually in the county.The agricultural areas of Saratoga County have also been significant pot-producers over the years. This summer, local police will be able to employ a new, old weapon in the search for illicit pot patches.”

It seems that the Iraq War has taken qualified helicopter pilots out of the local pot-busting action, but starting this year the old helicopters will be back thanks to the newly established Northern Branch of the Capital District Drug Task Force which covers Saratoga, Washington and Warren counties.

“We’re hearing it’s going to be a pretty good year,” said Cambridge-Greenwich Police Chief George Bell. Cambridge was the site of the biggest seizure so far this summer, when State Police pulled up 103 plants last month in the hamlet of Center Cambridge.

The question is – when will they start prosecuting all those poppy growers in our region? As Jim Hogshire pointed out a few years ago in an article in The Atlantic Monthly, poppies grown by millions of home gardeners are fully capable of producing opium. Here’s an excerpt from his book Opium for the Masses:

Very potent, low cost opium is available in virtually every town in the country. It is entirely possible that it is carried by your local grocer. It’s even possible that you could walk into a grocery store and come out with all the ingredients you need to make your own morphine and perhaps even heroin if you’re clever.

Look out grandma!


Suggested Reading

Poppies: A Guide to the Poppy Family in the Wild and in Cultivation

The Little Book of Opium

Opium: A History


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

With Pipe and Book: Will Lake Placid Lose The Adirondacks’ Best Book Store?

Although it was reported a couple weeks ago by NCPR, Tigerhawk reminds us that With Pipe and Book, a landmark Lake Placid book store is closing next year after 29 years. We quoth:

While looking around I overheard a conversation between another customer and the cashier, and when my son had finally succeeded in herding me to the register I asked the cashier if what I thought I had overheard was true. Yes, she said. Breck and Julia Turner, proprietors, were retiring and the store will be closing next summer. It was sad news, but I was heartened to hear that, if the store must close, it is the choice of the owners and not due to lack of business or escalating rents. I will miss it terribly, and after it is gone my family will find me far less interested in driving the 35 miles from our quiet lakeside camp to the touristy streets of Lake Placid.

For those who love books and/or tobacco and have reason to be in the region, I strongly recommend you drop by With Pipe and Book in its last year of existence, and enjoy a very special store. It is located at 91 Main Street, Lake Placid, New York, and can be called at 518-523-9096.

A very special store indeed – the Almanack wishes them well. Their moving on points-up us how important local business is, particularly in this case to local book publishers and writers like the late Barbara McMartin who no doubt sold quite a few copies out of Lake Placid.

Three of our favorite local history and culture bookstores:

Owl Pen Books in Greenwhich, Washington County, NY

HOSS’s Country Corner in Long Lake, Hamilton County, NY

Old Forge Hardware, in Old Forge, Herkimer County, NY


Suggested Reading

The “Edge” of Humor and Other Stories of Lake Placid People


Thursday, August 17, 2006

Utica Photo Essay Wins National Press Photography Association’s "New America Award"

Better late then never – congratulations to UNHCR Refugees Magazine photojournalist Vincent Winter for his amazing series of photos documenting immigrant refugees in Utica. The piece was titled “The Town That Loves Refugees: A small American town, Asian freedom fighters, Somali ‘slaves’ and survivors of the ‘killing fields’”

Gotta love this bit:

“Utica loves refugees,” Gene Dewey, the Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration in Washington, told a Senate hearing last year. “Utica has benefited from refugees. The town was going downhill, but it is now reviving because of refugees.”

The piece was also picked up by ABC News.


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Rachael Ray: August York Stater of the Month

We couldn’t resist pointing you to the first Adirondacker to win the highly esteemed “York Stater of the Month” award – Rachael Ray – and you know how much we love RR.


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Local Police Gone Wild: Shots Fired in Lake George


If the Bolton Police Department debacle wasn’t enough – now we have news of a “veteran” Warren County Sheriff Deputy who whips his gun out for a little wild west action:

Officer Jeffrey Clarke committed a “blatant and gross violation” of department policy by firing his department-issue handgun at the fleeing car, Sheriff Larry Cleveland said. Cleveland said the department may seek his termination over the incident.

He hit a tire with one of the shots but still was not justified in firing at the vehicle because he was not in danger at the time, the sheriff said.

“Our policies specifically prohibit the discharging of a firearm at a vehicle,” the sheriff said.

Clarke fired his .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun during a chase that began on the Northway shortly after 4 a.m. Saturday.

The pursuit began when sheriff’s officers and State Police tried to stop a vehicle for speeding. They later learned the vehicle had been taken without permission from the parking lot of a Lake George motel.

The driver of the car led them through Diamond Point and along Route 9 before turning onto Finkle Farm Road, a dead end.

When the fleeing car got to the end of the road, it stopped. Sheriff’s Sgt. Tony Breen approached the vehicle on foot in an attempt to grab the steering wheel, Cleveland said.

As Breen tried to grab the wheel, the driver gunned the engine. The car’s side view mirror then struck the radio on Breen’s equipment belt, spinning the sergeant around but not injuring him, Cleveland said.

Clarke then fired several times at the car as it sped down the road. It was not known how many shots were fired, but it did not appear anything of significance was hit other than the car tire, the sheriff said.

The shot that hit the tire did not stop the vehicle, police said. Instead, the car ran out of gas minutes later, with the driver running off into nearby woods.

He was suspended without pay – a small price to pay for an officer who is obvisouly out of control. He should be glad he didn’t kill someone (an 18-year old no less) and we should be wondering what else he’s been up to that we haven’t heard about.


Monday, August 14, 2006

A Lesson in Killing Business: The Bolton Landing Police Department

It really began about two years ago. That was when the Bolton Police Department began its harassment of local businesses in Bolton Landing, on Lake George in theAdirondacks. It started with slow drive-bys of the local businesses, particularly the only two places left in town that attract locals – the Sagamore Pub and the Brass Ring. Cars leaving town after 11 pm were pulled over constantly. Then, if that wasn’t bad enough,Bolton police began stalking tourists and locals who were walking down the street minding their own business. They asked for IDs and if someone walking down the street was intoxicated, they were automatically arrested – even if they were minding their own business.

Last summer Bolton Police began parking directly in front of the Sagamore Pub and the Brass Ring and waiting for patrons to leave – if they drove they were followed and stopped; if they walked they were asked for ID. A police sting which sent two undercover police into both bars ended in the closing of the Brass Ring after a new bartender, just 21 years old herself, served two people who looked obviously over-age, but were undercover and trying to deceive the bartenders into serving them. The Sagamore Pub is now closed and the Brass Ring is under new ownership (among other issues these changes mean neither establishments have a presence on the web any more).

So the Bolton Police have decided to move on to parking in addition to their usual tactics . Last Sunday night, the most popular night for locals in town, Bolton Police issued tickets and warnings to every car parked in the public parking lot – the reason? No overnight parking. Cars have to be moved at 2 am, never mind the Brass Ring (now called the Lakeside Pub or some such thing) doesn’t close until 4 am. Lots of locals stood by and cursed while their cars were ticketed afraid to confront police or move their cars from a near-empty public parking lot for fear of police intimidation. Of course, anyone who works at The Sagamore Hotel will tell you that they never see the Bolton Police – you see, the super rich of Bolton are exempt from the pestering the locals and “regular” tourist face.

So it’s no surprise that the overzealous Bolton Police have all resigned this past week. The Glens Falls Post Star speculated on the reason:

Earlier this month, there was talk around town of changing the Bolton department’s duties, [Warren County Sherriff Larry]Clevelandsaid. Rather than focusing on making arrests and writing tickets, the officers were asked to make their presence known to business owners during the day and assist people crossing busy streets.

When they can no longer drive away business and hassle locals the Bolton Police resign – I, and a whole lot of residents and business owners in Bolton, say Good Riddance! Until the Bolton Police can perform their job more appropriately, they ought to stick to what they do best – giving directions and helping tourists cross the street (oh, and hunting aliens).

UPDATE 8/15/06: The ComPostStar is reporting more about why the officers resigned. Apparently they “notified the town they planned to resign Friday, three days after a Town Board meeting that focused on an effort to create a written policy outlining the duties of town police officers. Some Town Board members wanted the department — whose officers work a total of 1,200 hours a year, most of them in the summer — to perform more foot patrols, spend more time directing traffic and assisting pedestrians crossing the street, and issuing more warnings instead of citations.”


Friday, August 11, 2006

This Just In: Saranac Lake Wal-Mart Will Pull Out

The Adirondack Daily Enterprise is reporting that:

Wal-Mart’s bid to build a 121,000-square-foot Supercenter on three Lake Flower Avenue parcels is over, and the company has terminated purchasing agreements with the owners of Carcuzzi Car Care Center and Tri-Lakes Auto Mall, Wal-Mart spokesman Philip Serghini said Friday.

There’s more over at the Adirondack Wal-Mart Blog.

UPDATE 8/16/06: The Adirondack Wal-Mart Blog wonders “Has Wal-Mart Really Given Up?” and North Country Public Radio has a full report.


Friday, August 11, 2006

Adirondack Local History Up in Flames

Adirondack landmarks have had a tough year so far – first there was the arson that destroyed the Episcopal Church in Pottersville and then last week the Brant Lake General Store went up in flames.

The Brant Lake General Store was one of those classic places found all around the Adirondacks – part deli, part bait shop, part hardware store, newsstand and convenience store. It only recently changed hands (the new owners added a liquor store) when it caught fire sometime after midnight on August 1. The store’s former owner, Roger Daby, was among firefighters from six local companies and who fought the three alarm fire. » Continue Reading.


Monday, August 7, 2006

Adirondack Birding Google Maps Mash-Up

Thanks to TourPro at Adirondack Base Camp for pointing us to the lastest offering from the Adirondack Regional Tourism Council – an Adirondack birding map!

And while we’re at it – we’ll refer you to our own Adirondack Map round-up from about a year ago.


Sunday, August 6, 2006

Green Candidate for US Senate Howie Hawkins in Glens Falls

In case you missed it – Brian has a nice review of Howie Hawkins recent trip to Glens Falls here.


Suggested Reading: Howie’s Latest Book on Independent Politics


Friday, August 4, 2006

A Sweeney News Round-Up

In case you haven’t seen:

Brian’s recent rant on the 20th Congressional District race

Democracy in Albany – “Someone’s lying

From the WFP Blog: “Sweeney misfires

NY Cowboy Looks at “Sweeney’s claims” he’s an upstater

And while we’re at it:

The Green Party of New York State is in petition mode – help out.

And remember these gems?

Sweeney in a bar fight?
Sweeney in a frat party drunken stupor?

Still have doubt? Check out the Washington Post’s Congressional Votes Database (goes back to 1991)


Monday, July 31, 2006

The Convention Center Parade Marches On

In March. the Adirondack Almanack reported on the proposal to build another Convention Center in Lake George. We pointed out that its been long understood by people who bother to look that:

a highly critical report on the convention industry for the Brookings Institution… found that various factors such as industry consolidation, telecommunication advances and rising energy costs have contributed to a nearly 50-percent drop in convention attendance since the late 1990s. But meanwhile, more than 100 U.S. cities completed or began construction of convention centers, increasing the supply of available exhibit space by more than 50 percent.

Now New York State has given $20 million to a convention center in Lake Placid and the Lake George Forum owners have offered to “expand their facility into a full-fledged convention center with an exhibition hall, ballroom and parking deck to be operated by a new public authority.” We can only hope they use similarly wacky design prinicples.

Once built, Lake George Venture Partners, owners of the Forum, would either sell the facility to the authority for $13.5 million or lease it for $775,000 annually, under a proposal to be presented to the Executive Host Committee of the Warren County Board of Supervisors at 1:30 p.m. Friday [July 28] at the Warren County Municipal Center.

Hmmmm… we wonder who makes out on that deal – certainly not the taxpayers of Warren County we’ll bet.


Friday, July 28, 2006

Adirondack Tourism: Another Study in the Works

The Northern New York Travel and Tourism Research Center has announced that it will conduct another survey of regional tourism in the Adirondacks. According to the Press Republican:

[The study] will measure the local economic impact of tourism in a 10-county area.

The first report, issued in 2003, showed that the average tourist spent an average $63.66 a day while in the Adirondacks — $33 on a day trip and $109 if they stayed overnight, according to Laurie Marr, executive director of the Research Center.

The final results were released in 2004 and showed that tourists to northern New York spent over $1.5 billion in 2003 with a local economic impact of almost $150 million (in local government revenues). It also showed that an estimated 35,000 jobs are supported by both direct and indirect tourist dollars across northern New York, with a resultant $662 million in wages and income earned by business owners in 2003.

Bryan Higgins at SUNY Plattsburg conducted a similar study in about 2000 and reported at that time that only two had been done in the previous ten years:

We are aware of only two scientific assessments of regional tourism issues and needs having been conducted in the Adirondacks during the 1990’s. The first was a brief visitor intercept survey at various attractions and lodgings in the Park, carried out by Ambrosino Research (1993) for the Adirondack Regional Tourism Council. The second was a compilation of available research prepared by Dr. Chad Dawson at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) et al. (1994) for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. A key finding of Dawson’s report is that the lack of accurate and objective data on recreation and tourism use within the Adirondack Park is a serious limitation to any NYSDEC comprehensive recreation and tourism planning efforts and therefore needs to be addressed in the future.

The most recent county reports are interesting reading as was this detail from the Plattsburg PR:

The 2003 study revealed a few surprises to some: just 7 percent of the tourists that year were from the New York City-Long Island area; 6 percent were from Canada; and only about $14 a day was spent on shopping.

It’s not clear if that is just Clinton County or the region in total and unfortunately the combined results are not available on the web. Also, the poverty numbers are still elusive. According to the New Tork Times, in 1992 the only five counties with unemployment rates above 15% were Hamilton, Warren, Essex, Lewis and Jefferson.

The state rate in June 2006 was 4.5% and the county numbers were:

Hamilton 3.6 %
Warren 3.7
Essex 4.9
Lewis 4.6
Jefferson 5.0

Why such a big differnence? They changed the benchmark in 2004 – did that lower the rates considerably?



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