Category Archives: Rochester

RIT scientist might be the savior of Durand beachgoers

View of Durand Park Beach, courtesy of mjernisse on Flickr.com

Seems like every year, at least once, the Durand-Eastman Park beach closes. This same pattern is echoed around the lake for a variety of reasons, but the biggest and most dangerous reason is the presence of an algae bloom. Algae blooms happen when, for one reason or another, large quantities of algae are produced in a local area. Algae can starve the water of oxygen and poison it for swimmers and wildlife, alike. Minor blooms such as those that close beaches might get you sick. An algae bloom run amok could spell the end of countless species within an ecosystem.

But Dr. Andre Hudson, a professor at RIT, may have found the beginnings of a solution to the problem. Dr. Hudson discovered a means by which the normal photosynthetic process in algae might be short-circuited, eliminating the algae while leaving other life in the same ecosystem intact.

The key to the discovery actually is a key of sorts, specifically the enzyme algae use to produce a protein called Lysine. An enzyme is a molecule produced by a living organism that facilitates and speeds up specific chemical reactions in the presence of another chemical, generically referred to as a “substrate.” Like a lock and key, the enzyme binds to the substrate and in this case, causes lysine to be produced.

Lysine molecule

The algae rely on lysine to continue to survive and reproduce. If a chemical were introduced into their habitat that bound to the enzyme as well or better than the algae’s normal substrate, but did not allow the same chemical reaction to occur, the algae’s ability to produce lysine would be severely inhibited. In short, no more algae.

But lysine is a basic building block of life everywhere on Earth: not just algae but *all* photosynthesizing organisms – plants, algae and some bacteria – produce it. Those of us not fortunate enough to be photoautotrophs rely on eating those primary producers to get it for ourselves. So, how do we not have a massive, pan-species death chemical on our hands, capable of destroying plant life directly and starving animals, casting the entire ecosystem into barren oblivion? That would suck.

The answer is, again, the enzyme: now that Dr. Hudson has identified the enzyme itself, other researchers can pick up the ball and analyze the enzyme as it appears in a variety of species. Enzymes being highly complex structures, chances are that two different species of algae – to say nothing of other plants – will have completely differently-organized enzymes that perform the same function. Every organism is likely to be highly-specialized.

So our anti-lysine chemical could be tailor-made to hit exactly the targets we wish to eliminate. No death for the innocent, in other words.

This specialized means of eliminating photosynthesizers means that the discovery that could end irritating beach closures could have far more widely-spread effects. Any kind of aquaria – from pools to aquariums to drinking water – could be purified in this fashion. Other non-algae plant life could also be targeted, even pathogens that might otherwise be treated by penicillin.

In fact, with the enzyme now identified, the future of anti-algae efforts may not even rely on a synthetic chemical at all: the only requirement is that the chemical be one which fits as well or better with the lysine enzyme, which we may find occurs in nature. It may be just these kinds of discoveries that enhance our ability to be the stewards of the Earth that our Earth requires.

TSA to use “Gingerbread Man” body scanners in Rochester

Very strange the way this MPN article is sort of glossed-over.

TSA debuts new technology at Rochester airport – Canandaigua, NY – MPNnow.

The Transportation Security Administration has selected the Greater Rochester International Airport as the first airport in the state to debut the installation of new software for the Advanced Imaging Technology machine in the Central Security Checkpoint.

Nowhere in this article does it make plain that we’re talking about body scanners in the airport. You know: the scanners that caused such a panic last summer because they scan and display your whole body?

The new scanners have been referred to as “Gingerbread Man” scanners, since what they do is replace the image of your body with a generic avatar that bears a striking resemblance to a gingerbread man.

The article is factually accurate, but misses on emphasis. A person reading the article quickly might never really appreciate what they’re talking about, unless they’re familiar with the story. And a person who reads the headline only – which is most of us on Twitter, most of the time – could be forgiven for not having the vaguest clue.

What a Wonderful Time to be in Rochester!

Excerpt from Main Street Beat by Henry W. Clune, written about Rochester, NY in 1947:

Years ago a group of prominent citizens organized what is known as the Society of the Genesee, a sort of Mutual Boosters’ League in the grand manner. The Society met once a year for an enormous dinner in the ballroom of New York’s Waldorf-Astoria for the avowed purpose of paying tribute to Rochesterians who had achieved notable success, usually in the field of industry.

On this annual occasion hordes of the city’s leading people flocked to New York, the soup spots carefully removed from their evening fancy, to indulge in a round-robin of preprandial cocktail parties before assembling at the decorated tables to gorge themselves on a seven-course dinner and listen attentively to stiff-shirted orators declaim on the Horatio Alger theme of rags to riches in a single generation.

In recent years the Society has nearly exhausted its quota of local celebrities worthy of its accolade and in desperation has reached out to bring as honored guests to its dinner distinguished industrialists from other parts who once, as one irreverent cynic remarked, had passed through Rochester on the Twentieth Century Limited.

The implications of this remark are neither sound nor worthy. No man has been honored by the Society who has not resided at least a fortnight in Rochester before leaving town to make his mark. The annual meetings of the Society have not been resumed since being interrupted by the war. When they are it is presumed that they will continue as in the past as fine, brilliant, and lively barn-raisings, the guests carefully selected for their ability to handle three dinner forks.

During one of these occassions a friend of George S. Kaufman, whose late wife was a native Rochesterian, encountered the playwright in front of the Waldorf-Astoria.

“George,” said he, “this is the night of the dinner of the Society of the Genesee. It looks as though everyone from Rochester was down here to attend.”

Startled by this information, Mr. Kaufman bolted forward. As he fled, he called over his shoulder, “What a wonderful time to be in Rochester!”

PAETEC: Just Business

To be clear, there is as yet no evidence of criminal activity in the PAETEC / Windstream deal. Which is not surprising. There is also nothing in the deal which, in terms of gross corporate governance, violates any maxim of ethics. Also not surprising.

But is that and should that be the limit of our concern? The Rochester Business Journal seems to think so:

After Paetec, Rochester Business Journal:

But either way, the first obligation of Paetec’s board is to its shareholders. Anyone who thinks otherwise has forgotten that Paetec is publicly held-and has not been paying attention to what Mr. Chesonis has said a number of times since 2007.

This same basic idea is echoed, ad nauseum, by Rochester’s own Corporate Council Mayor Tom Richards. But is that and should that be the limit of our concern? I’ve made the point in the past that getting indignant about the situation isn’t going to make it any better. But somewhere between screeching about Bob Duffy needing to get involved and the bland corporate boilerplate response is what is probably a better position for the leader of a city about to lose its shirt. Again.

No, there may in fact be nothing wrong here, in terms of the rules of the game that lawyers and judges have setup for lo this many centuries. But this is somebody’s home. This is Rochester. And if Midtown wasn’t what we remember its former glory to be, prior to being knocked down, it is still our pride and the center of the town we call our home… even if we’re really from East Rochester or Gates. Business is not just business for us.

We do not need to be told that we lost fair and square. We don’t need “funeral chatter” about how Midtown “isn’t suffering anymore” or “has gone to a better place” or that the result was always a risk with such a tricky procedure. We need someone to stand up with an ounce of pride and, without groveling and insisting “we’ll do all we can to keep them here,” get in the game and find out what it takes to make the sale. Are we really going to beg a company from fucking Arkansas to stay in New York State? Is that the level of pride we’ve been reduced to? Because our leadership can’t come up with anything better?

And lets be fair: I’m not talking to Mayor Richards myself. I’m not a journalist; I’m not interviewing him or watching him be interviewed or editing interview film. I have no first-hand knowledge of how he feels about anything. Perhaps the news media, in its panic to cover such a big story, is missing the nuance of the Mayor’s position. Maybe the effervescent positivity corporate lawyers are so famous for isn’t coming through.

But then, the news media is hardly anyone’s only outlet, is it? Pretty sure that, even in these hard economic times, Blogger accounts are free.

The Park Avenue Photo Scavenger Hunt: Find Our Sponsors!

Park Avenue Photo Scavenger Hunt! by @S__Hundley

If there’s one thing about Rochester that I think all Rochesterians can be proud of, its our sense of humor, especially at our own expense. This afternoon, Rachel Barnhart ( @rachbarnhart ) pointed outon Twitter that the Park Avenue Festival has a new sponsor and is now called the “Chrysler Park Ave Summer Art Fest.” That got some of us thinking what other groups might want to sponsor the Park Avenue Fest, our most beloved festival. That gave rise to a hashtag, suggested by @Tympanogram , #ParkAveFestSponsors, which was great fun.

And then another friend of the site, @S_Hundley , suggested that we get together a friendly scavenger hunt… so, that’s what we’re doing!

Here’s how it’s (hopefully) going to work: you go to the PAF and bring your camera phone. If you find anyone who matches the descriptions listed in our scavenger list (taken directly from the original hashtag conversation), snap a pic and send it to Twitter with the hashtag #ParkAveFestSponsors. Then we all get to critique your work, laugh at the great time everyone’s having and enjoy the PAF as an online community.

Then we’ll pick ten winners to post back to this site probably Monday morning. We’re looking for funny, interesting and unique pictures of the Park Avenue Fest as only we, its true sponsors, can really appreciate.

Please note: This little hunt is purely in good fun and to show off what’s so awesome and unique about a great festival in a great city. That being said, no one who came up with this idea has any bail money to help you out if you screw up, so please try not to do that. Try *real hard*. And if you do, please know that we love you, but you’re on your own.

The Park Ave Fest Scavenger Hunt List:

Click here to download the PAF Scavenger Hunt list!

 

PAFScavengerHunt.pdf

  • Beer Pong Balls
  • ppl too stupid to read alternate pkg signs
  • The Loft Apartment With Balcony Political Message Sign
  • the douchey guidettes that wear spiked heels to toddle around the fest
  • CDs Lakeshore Will Never Sell
  • “invisible pet on a leash” booth
  • Shirtless bros on roofs
  • Police on Bicycles
  • Children on leashes
  • Bathtub Refitting
  • Kan Jam
  • Corn Hole
  • The guy walking down Park with a 12 of Natural Ice
  • Double or (bonus) Triple Stroller
  • Giant Bubble Making Guy
  • Drink in a plastic coconut
  • Idiots Wearing Fedoras
  • Old dudes rocking fanny packs
  • Actual homeowners who live there fleeing for the weekend
  • Joey Guisto hitting on young girls.
  • Another Soon-To-Fail Business
  • The Amusingly Ironic Party Hat
  • Rednecks Comin’ in to the “Big City”
  • Girlie drinks in those tall funny shaped plastic glasses. (bonus if subject is a dude)
  • Pretending to be sober when running into co-workers.
  • Eric Bauman’s creepy dad.
  • Police Horse Dumps
  • hippies blowing bubbles
  • Obscure lawn ornaments
  • Alcoholics Not-so-Anonymous
  • fat guy on roof
  • Deep Fryer Oil That Should’ve Been Changed Yesterday
  • The Mulletude
  • Solo cups
  • Wilson Farms fresh out of 30 racks
  • Butterfly Fries
  • The family of 8 that walks together and stops at every booth
  • Bros with bulldogs
  • Seriously Dude It’s Not That Hot Put A Shirt On
  • Hipsters in Plaid
  • Spotting Lou Gramm handing out fliers
  • Stuff So Random, They Can Only Afford Tents off Alexander St.
  • That A-Hole Who Parked In Front Of Your Driveway
  • Tramp Stamps
  • Muffin tops
  • Windstream
  • Half naked dancing Festival Guy (Dan Quilty)
  • Shit You Wish You’d Thought Of Because It Looks So Damn Easy To Make
  • The god damn neighbors playing beer pong in the front yard. Again.
  • Passing Out In The Front Lawn
  • “Officially” Alcohol-Free.
  • Creepy Shirtless Guy with a Boa Constrictor
  • Your Friendly Rochester Meter Maids: Thank you for your patronage!
  • Afternoon Naps
  • Bros
  • Anything, Anything, Anything on a Stick.
  • Weird Sprinkler Guy at Park/Buckingham
  • Bros with Sculpted Eyebrows
  • Some dude with a ferret on a leash

So, whose with us?!?

PAETEC: No Deception, They Just Left Us the Bag

Of course we knew: this thing was going to look a whole lot uglier once the SEC filings came out. And indeed it does:

PAETEC, Windstream Agreement Has Headquarters Out – Rochester, News, Weather, Sports, and Events – 13WHAM.com.

One of the principles in the demolition of the Midtown Plaza site says in the article that he doesn’t believe there was any deception. Funny: I wasn’t told, were you?

So, how many other people were so forthcoming without telling us?

PAETEC: Seriously, Rochester. Let’s Not Do This.

The Midtown Plaza drama continues, picture via DragonFlyEye.Net

I don’t think anyone in Rochester or the surrounding area needs to explain to anyone else why the PAETEC sale is a big shot in the gut. We get it. And somehow or another, things need to be made right. But we don’t start here:

PAETEC head must advocate for city | Democrat and Chronicle | democratandchronicle.com.

Mayor Thomas Richards is absolutely right to say that focusing on keeping jobs here needs to be the top priority. Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy should get involved as part of the state’s economic development efforts.

The second challenge is what will become of the portion of the Midtown plot where PAETEC’s new office tower was envisioned. Here is where PAETEC CEO Arunas Chesonis, who first approached then-Mayor Duffy about moving his company downtown, needs to step up.

Former Mayor become Lieutenant Governor Bob Duffy needs to step up and help out. Former owner of PAETEC and downtown developer become wealthy retiree Chesonis needs to step up…

Holy shit, girl. How many exes are you gonna cling to before you realize you’ve got to handle this on your own?

PAETEC: Rochester is Without a Financial Media Network

As the facts roll in on the PAETEC / Windstream buy-out, the thing that keeps getting under my skin is: Rochester is almost completely devoid of financial or economic news in any real sense.

PAETEC to be sold to Windstream | Democrat and Chronicle | democratandchronicle.com.

The CEO of Windstream says they’ve been looking at PAETEC for “a long time,” and both CEOs seem to know each other. I’m not saying that this deal absolutely would have been sniffed out with a better economic journalism team, but certainly, it would have been less of a surprise. Instead, we have people at the D&C and elsewhere who normally cover completely different topics struggling to understand and digest the details of the merger. That doesn’t bode well for an informed electorate.

What passes for economic news in this town ordinarily is the Rochester Business Journal and the D&C’s Business sections: two resources that might as well be RSS feeds for local company’s press releases. That’s when they’re doing good work. When they’re doing bad work, they’re producing dating videos for local businesses. “NonDescriptCompanyX enjoys long walks on the beach, hot cocoa and providing innovative, customized service solutions to its valued customers.”

But in this deference-rich, politely conservative Hobbit culture of Rochester where nobody’s allowed to ask difficult questions without being branded as a kill-joy, is it too much to ask that someone specialize in picking apart the details of the financial underpinnings of our economy? Maybe.

The Problem with the Fast Ferry Wasn’t the Fast Ferry

The Rochester Fast Ferry, via bobcatnorth on Flickr

Someone wants to try a ferry service in Rochester again. No shit. Really:

Sibley descendant floats idea to restart ferry service | Democrat and Chronicle | democratandchronicle.com.

I love Rochester and I love Monroe County. But the problem with the Fast Ferry was never the Fast Ferry: it was us. It is our legacy and our destiny to be fiscally and socially conservative with a small “c.” I don’t mean that we’re all bible-thumping, anti-tax zealots; just folks who don’t figure anything all that grand is ever going to happen here and anyway… how much will it cost? Will there be loud people having fun past nine o’clock?

Yes, there were huge structural, organizational and logistical problems with the Fast Ferry system. But those problems could have been addressed and improved upon by a community that wanted the Fast Ferry. Instead, every small scandal threatened to shut the service down.. until it ultimately collapsed in the epic failure it was doomed to be from the outset.

Other projects follow a similar suit. The Renn Square project literally shrank out of existence, from a four-theater project with a bus terminal, MCC campus and shops to a three-theater project with a bus terminal and campus to a two-theater project with a bus terminal to a bus terminal to….. blink. Frontier Field, nice though it undeniably is, started out as a larger stadium than its predecessor and ended up as a teacup-sized venue 5000 seats smaller than Silver.

There were good reasons to question every one of these projects. There were perfectly logical explanations for why they shrank. But where other communities would have demanded improvements to the plan, our community cried out for each plan to disappear. So developers made them smaller.

Really, the reason they all shrank is because we lack the capacity to dream big for ourselves. I’m sorry. I love you guys. But you know its true.

The D&C Can’t Find One Health Care Official Who Likes the #HCR Rules

Tom Tobin turns in one of his typical masterpieces. In a three page article on the new ACO rules included with the Health Care Reform Bill, which includes multiple quotes from six different professionals in the health care industry, there is nary a single positive or even modestly open-minded quotation to use in regards to the new regulations. I guess he just couldn’t find a good one:

ACOs get cold shoulder as health reform hits new obstacle | Democrat and Chronicle | democratandchronicle.com.

Now, I’m not saying that there isn’t plenty to hate about the implementation of ACOs. I really don’t know. I’m also not saying that none of these interviewees ever said a kind word about the Health Care Reform bill or the ACOs implemented by it. I’m sure they said lots of things that didn’t make the article. What I am saying is that I’m pretty sure I’m no more informed about the issue as a result of reading this article.

Emily Good: Where’s the Dash Cam Video?

Honest question: do Rochester Police Department cruisers have dash cams like we see on COPS, or not? Because the question of whether or not Emily Good made threatening, “anti-cop” statements to the police or not could easily be answered, if that’s the case. The question of whether she stated that she was a friend of the people in the car or not could be answered. Lots of questions could be answered. I was actually under the impression that dash cams had become standard for this reason, but perhaps I’m mistaken?

The president of the Rochester Police Locust Club asks, “Let’s see the unedited version of the video,” why should that even be necessary?

As always, feel free to contact me if you’d prefer not to leave comments.

Rochester’s Civilian Review Board: Like a Tootsie Roll of Bias?

Rachel Barnhart ( @rachbarnhart ) turns in this article, looking into the Civilian Review Board and its operation. As she notes, the recent arrests of Emily Good and Willie Lightfoot have prompted calls for more scrutiny about the means by which allegations of RPD officer misconduct are investigated. The article does a great job outlining the process (PDF).

The thing that jumped out at me initially is this: the RPD’s Professional Standards office decides when a case goes to the CRB, the RPD officers also train the members of that board, and then the Chief of Police makes the final decision as to the fate of the case. So basically, the beginning, middle and end of the process is either directly result of, or else biased by, RPD involvement. Its like the RPD is a wrapper around the entire process.

Late update: important to note that *all* cases of reported police violence go to the CRB.

And while a closer look at the actual report doesn’t really suggest a lot of bias, it is not without a few clues to systemic problems. In fact, the report actually lists out (page 4) the current outstanding reports, with the verdicts of the PSS and CRB. These are the items left over from last year, still awaiting the Chief of Police’s final word. With thirty outstanding reports from last year, when there were only 32 cases reported in that year, its hard not to agree with the complaint that the process must be very lengthy. On page 2 of the report, the process by which cases are decided seems to indicate a potential endless loop of cases sent back and forth between the Chief and CRB.

Moreover, while some contend that the PSS is generally harder on cops than the CRB, the snapshot of outstanding reports does not bespeak that. There are two cases where the PSS found the claim to be “Unfounded,” but the CRB disagreed. In one case, an alleged act of police violence was found exonerated by the PSS but sustained by the CRB.

Ultimately, though, the real trouble is that these cases are examined by a small group of people entirely outside the public eye. Worse, the process seems to happen outside even the claimant’s ability to observe the process. Nobody gets to see inside the Tootsie Roll wrapper.

As the Emily Good story progressed, more than one person has commented that the appropriate way to deal with an act of police misconduct is to do as they ask, then report the incident later. But if filing a report means filling out a form and shoving it into a black hole for maybe a year before you get any verdict at all, what reason is there to trust that process? Nowhere in the report does the CRB acknowledge any particular requirement to inform the claimant of the status – nor really, even to ask them any questions – until after the process is finished. That doesn’t really sound like justice, even if it is ultimately fair. The fairness of the investigation, or lack thereof, isn’t something that the report can really provide any insight to.

Calls for a wholly new process of handling police misconduct seem to be throwing the baby out with the bathwater, though I’m prepared to admit that I’m wrong. In the meanwhile, the minimum we should be allowed to ask is for regular updates and some sort of public database – even if it is anonymized – of reported incidents.