Hubble IMAX 3D

March 21, 2010

Go See It.

The movie is only 45 minutes long but contains more science than most American school children receive in a year.  (And if they’re in Mississippi or California or Hawaii,  more than they will probably get from K-12).

Avatar and Alice in Wonderland have given the world a new appetite for big screen effects.  Done right, 3D adds immersion unapproached by flat projection.  Hubble 3D combines those effects with reality in a way that the imaginary worlds of Pandora and Wonderland cannot.  Yet so many Americans will ho-hum this because it’s about science.

Go See It Anyway.


Viewing The Winter Olympics in 30-Second Glimpses

February 14, 2010

If Lindsey Vonn wasn’t blond and pretty, would she get any coverage at all?  Really, NBC would have us believe she’s the second coming and is trying to set us up for a Lake Placid-like Miracle on Ice.

Half the figure skaters don’t look old enough to drive.  The speed skaters’ outfits are so form-fitting they leave little to the imagination.

NBC and CNBC are covering different events.  Yay!  Too bad they are both being produced by NBC.

Bob Costas shouldn’t dye his hair; or maybe he just needs a better rug on top.

Canadian coverage (CTV) puts NBC’s coverage to shame.  If only CTV was high-def.

The altitude in Mexico City; the heat in Atlanta; and now, the rain in Vancouver.  Aren’t there metrics that the Olympic site selection committee should use to eliminate venues not conducive to the sports being run?

Oh yeah.  Olympic athletes are amazing.


New York State’s Executive Budget

February 8, 2010

Every year the Governor publishes the Executive Budget, the starting point for further negotiations with the State Legislature that results in a finalized state budget.  Rarely – if ever – does the Legislature reduce the size of the budget.  I am positive that this year will not be any different.

The Comptroller’s office is required to review the budget and provide opinion (but not authority).  Comptroller DiNapoli’s analysis reveals that the budget is unrealistic, relies on questionable assumptions, balances this year’s budget by moving even more debt (mainly, your state tax refunds) into next year’s budget, and over the next four years has a projected structural imbalance of $61 billion.  And that’s just the first page.

• The Executive’s anticipated growth in revenue from the Personal Income Tax and other sources is based on an economic recovery, the timing of which remains uncertain.
• The lingering recession adds to fiscal stress by increasing the demand for programs and services such as Medicaid.
• Several revenue producing measures (sugared beverage tax, wine sales in grocery stores, Video Lottery Terminal and Quick Draw expansions) have similarly been proposed in the past, but not enacted.
• Numerous programmatic cuts have been proposed previously, but either were not enacted or were not fully realized. School aid, higher education and health care reductions are notable examples.
• Tax audit recoveries, new Medicaid audit recoveries and abandoned property transfers are budgeted aggressively at $1.1 billion.

Debt Service is the largest-growing budget category. It is growing even faster than both Medicaid and Education.

The growth in spending outpaces the growth in revenue, 7.7% to 2.9% – indicating that little if anything is being done to reduce the state’s structural imbalance.

On the upside, the state does plan to trim its workforce from 196,375 to 196,701 – a reduction of 674 positions (I’m being sarcastic).  And under current law, our long-term debt cap cannot exceed 4% of our residents’ combined income.  This won’t cause problems until the 2012-2013 time frame when our collective income is expected to fall and we exceed the cap.

The 34-page report is a pretty easy read.  Recommended if you have an hour to spare in your busy day and prefer something like this over hitting yourself with a hammer.

The Executive’s anticipated growth in revenue from the Personal Income Tax
and other sources is based on an economic recovery, the timing of which
remains uncertain.
• The lingering recession adds to fiscal stress by increasing the demand for
programs and services such as Medicaid.1
• Several revenue producing measures (sugared beverage tax, wine sales in
grocery stores, Video Lottery Terminal and Quick Draw expansions) have
similarly been proposed in the past, but not enacted.
• Numerous programmatic cuts have been proposed previously, but either were
not enacted or were not fully realized. School aid, higher education and health
care reductions are notable examples.
• Tax audit recoveries, new Medicaid audit recoveries and abandoned property
transfers are budgeted aggressively at $1.1 billion.

Sabres Fans are Hockey’s Best

January 19, 2010

…or maybe Phoenix fans are the worst.  I’m not positive, but when the away crowd outnumbers the home crowd you know the home time has a problem.  And when the away team is from 2,000 miles away the home team has a real problem.

That was evident last night when Buffalo fans succeeded in turning the Jobing.com Arena into a sea of blue and yellow, and out-cheered Phoenix fans by roughly the same ratio with which the Sabres beat the Coyotes.

Sabres Fans at Coyotes Game

Whether it was hanging out in front of the arena…

Sabres Fans at Jobing Arena

…lining up as the gates opened…

Fans in the Crowd

…or inside the arena, Sabres fans were everywhere.

It was an impressive exhibition of fan support that I’ve ever witnessed firsthand, and an example of why the Coyotes will shortly be playing in Winnipeg or some other city.

I didn’t get the MSG feed so I don’t know how much they talked about it, but having been there I can readily say that in the NHL, Buffalo has no equal when it comes to supporting their team.


The Ohs Get a Sendoff

January 1, 2010

Today is the first day of the new decade (well, not technically but that’s okay).  The Buffalo News wishes us a Happy New Year with these three front page headlines:

  • Colgan pilots fault stall training (describe method as ‘Joke’)
  • A Year of Tragedy
  • Brown ousts Gipson as city’s top cop

The first article that one might construe as “hopeful” (albeit unlikely) is found on page 4North Korea makes a commitment to a nuclear-free peninsula.

This is a depressing, depressing newspaper.  Even Esmonde’s New Year’s wish list is nothing more than whining about what will prevent his wishes from happening.  There are good things worth reporting, aren’t there?  The News always surprises with their slant toward the forelorn and depressing. I just couldn’t get through today’s paper.  I think it will be the last Buffalo News I try to read.

So, my response to what the News does not provide is a list of some of the really neat things that happened last decade.  They give me hope for a Happy New Year and the start of a great decade.  Here goes:

  • Lance Armstrong.  He never gives up.
  • Planets Everywhere.  The odds of finding intelligent life elsewhere in the universe keeps going up as we discover just how common planetary systems are.
  • …and related to this, Water on Mars.  The odds of finding any kind of life elsewhere takes a giant leap forward wherever we find water.
  • The Human Genome Project, and the hope that it brings to understanding the genetic framework for many diseases, including cancer and diabetes.  I may not live long enough to reap the benefits but I think my children will.
  • The 2008 Olympics.  Beauty, form, grace, and grandiose settings.  Amazing what a country with a limitless supply of low-cost labor can do for a few billion dollars.  [Anecdote:  Today the Bird's Nest is barely used and needs a bit of a paint job.] May Rio de Janeiro be so successful in 2012.
  • Globalization.  New markets, new opportunities.  Fear mongerers spew nonstop about cheap labor overseas destroying America, but we saw that in the 70′s and got through it.  America is still the land of innovation and so long as we continue to innovate we will continue to be an economic powerhouse.
  • Extreme Makeover, Buffalo.  ‘Nuf said.
  • Alternative Energy.  Finally, government and industry are taking notice.  Even if we can’t eliminate fossil fuel use (until it’s gone) we are rapidly approaching cost-effective alternative energy.   At that point – I predict it happening this decade – the alternative floodgates will open.
  • Going Green.  Even if global warming turns out to be more hype than substance, awareness of how we are polluting our environment has raised our efforts at conservation.  We see it in everything from simpler packaging to more efficient building construction.  Clean Technology grew almost 20-fold last decade to a $10 billion industry today.
  • The Internet.  The awakening of an online generation to the power of a tweet and a blog.  Social networking now wins and loses elections and drives the direction of government and industry faster than ever before.

I wait with excitement for what the 10′s will unveil.


Another Feel Good Story

December 29, 2009

Mike Madonia, UB alumnus and now Director of Development at the School of Engineering, writes about the impact that everyday Buffalonians – and everyday Buffalo – has on him and the people around him.

If only the Buffalo News could replace any one (of their typically four) alarmist and/or depressive tone-setting front-page reports with one of these every day; we’d all be smiling just a little more, holding our heads just a little higher, and seeing good PR about our area spread just a little further.


Buffalo Dreamin’

December 14, 2009

Andrew Sullivan from The Daily Dish had this article today.  Its references contain many more compliments about the Buffalo region.  Funny how often I sense more optimism for this city from sources that live outside the area, than those who live within its boundaries.

Thank you, Andrew, for a great article.


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