Tag Archives: snow

Sloppery

3 Jan

1. I alternated between WBEN 930-AM, the Buffalo news station, and a Torontonian station, 680 News (CFTR) Friday morning. WBEN did the list of closings, traffic & weather, news, and featured several interviews with people who work outside, commenting on what it’s like to work outside (breaking – it’s cold when it’s cold, and hot when it’s hot). 680 went through its repetitive pattern of news, weather, traffic, sports, business news, and commuter issues. There was no talk of school or business closings. Just typical big-city news. It was a fascinating comparison. 

2. Cold feet? The warmest socks I ever owned were marketed in the US as “Swiss Army socks”. They aren’t anymore, but you can buy them online from the Swiss manufacturer, Rohner. The original is CHF 28 (about $32), and shipping is a flat $10.60 for orders under $160. I am still looking for an American retailer who carries them, but they’re worth every penny, IMHO. 

3. Even with very low temperatures, somewhere in Buffalo there will be a guy walking around today in shorts and boots. 

4. I coined a new word yesterday wholly by accident – “sloppery”. It is a portmanteau of “sloppy” and “slippery” and described the super-fine powder causing people with crap tires to slide around the roads Thursday and Friday. 

5. Speaking of which, get yourself some snow tires

6. My predictions for 2014 are contained in this article for the print edition of Artvoice

7. Trina Tardone and Emily Trimper, come on down! You’re the next contestants on, How Creepily Did Dennis Gabryszak Sexually Harass You?! (That makes 6 accusers. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire; but where there’s a blazing inferno, shit’s going down.)

7. Nickel City Chef 2014 tickets go on sale today. They may already be sold out. 

 

Snow: Remediate and Promote

3 Dec

Big lake effect snow events resulting in accumulation measured in feet.  It’s a way of life not just here, but also in Watertown, Rochester, and Syracuse.  Yet for the past couple of years, we’ve had big snow events that have crippled travel around here, leaving motorists stranded for days.

Meanwhile, almost the entire east of the United Kingdom has been pounded by sea-effect snow as unusual Arctic air from Siberia has swooped over the North Sea to snarl movement and commerce throughout that island nation.  It has crippled travel and left people stranded and unable to go to work.

The difference?  Although the UK is at a more northerly latitude, its weather is quite mild thanks to the moist, warmer air blowing in courtesy of the Gulf Stream of the Atlantic. Buffalo is at 42 degrees North, while London is at 51 degrees North – the same latitude as stark and wild Newfoundland and Labrador. Ireland has palm trees – Newfoundland doesn’t.  It is thought that a newly emerging La Nina event is causing the Siberian air to swoop down over western Europe.

It makes sense that England would have a hard time coping with a days-long dump of snow, as “gritters” attempt to keep roads free of ice and plows try to make their way through roads narrower and less straight than those here.  After all, they’re simply not used to extreme winter weather like this in southeastern England.

Buffalo, on the other hand, is almost synonymous with bad snowfall, yet we cope as ineffectively as the British.  I’m not talking about not being able to keep up with snowfall coming down at 2″ per hour – I’m talking about leaving motorists stranded on the region’s main arterial thoroughfare for 24+ hours.  That’s dangerously incompetent.  Then again, so is the fact that it will take the City of Buffalo several days to plow out all of its side streets in just its southern half.  But the Thruway is notoriously inept and a poor value for money.  Its draconian rules about who can and cannot service motorists on that roadway should have long ago been abolished as unfair, and its refusal to modernize its toll collection system is so inexplicable that the only conclusion is that they’re being punitive.

I’m a proponent of the notion that Buffalo needs to stop whining about our weather and embrace it instead.  Swedes, Russians, Canadians, Minnesotans, and residents of other places with big winters make the most of it. Quebec City is known for its winter carnival every February, when the temperature is negative a million.

Celsius.

Efforts like the Winterfest or Santa’s Park or last year’s Powder Keg make the most of our winter weather, but they don’t go far enough.  Since Buffalo is best known for its snow, we should embrace it and market that.  But we won’t, mostly because Frank Lloyd Wright had nothing to do with it and public money can’t be thrown at it.

I have an idea along these lines, which I’ll discuss in a later post.

But in the meantime, it’s stupid that we moan about an integral part of Buffalo life – our messed up weather, and it’s inexcusable that we can’t effectively clear it.  Buffalo Niagara International Airport’s snow remediation facility is the envy of the world.  So should our road crews.

Branding Buffalo

25 Feb

In a couple of recent posts, I’ve identified the brand of Buffalo as our biggest business and redevelopment challenge, and I’ve established that our culture in Buffalo is holding us back from progress. Today I want to examine our brand, and rebranding efforts, more closely. Why now? More on that later in the post.

Cities have brands the way any other product does. Just as Nike shoes will forever be linked with an image of Michael Jordan sailing to the basket, cities have brand reputations. And this goes beyond “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” (though that is great branding). New York is the Big Apple where anyone can make it, and anything can happen at any hour of the day or night. Los Angeles is the center of glitz and Hollywood. Nashville and Austin have fun music reputations. In the latter two cases, a couple of streets and bars (plus a music festival or two) is all it takes to keep that reputation intact. If you don’t like your city’s brand, you can remake it, a la Balboa, where a new famous museum changed everything. Brands morph and change. Hummer used to be known for rugged strength. Now it is a poster child for everything wrong with the American car industry, and is being shut down.

So, as a review, what is Buffalo’s current brand? I once described our potential logo as “an over taxed rusting factory covered in snow.” Chris Smith, in an article from a couple years ago, described it this way:

I would argue that our current national brand is that of a snowy, dying, heavily unionized, rust belt town that is still reeling from the death of our local manufacturing base.  Marketing organizations like the Buffalo CVB, Buffalo Niagara Enterprise, Buffalo Homecoming and Buffalo Rising have attempted to demonstrate that we are more than that confining description through urban and regional boosterism.

City brands are important because they help to attract (and retain) business, draw tourists, and attract (and retain) population. Phoenix’s reputation as a boom town became self reinforcing at a  certain point. Residents of the midwest, where there are “no jobs,” would move to Arizona because there “were jobs.” Many took construction jobs, building houses for the next wave of midwesterners with the same thoughts.

Buffalo’s snowy, rusting, dying brand is so important because not only does the rest of the country believe it, much of Buffalo believes it too. If Buffalo had a good reputation among more of its current residents, we would be shedding less population. Likewise, if the rest of the country had a different impression of Buffalo’s brand, jobs, tourists and population would be attracted to it, and the reality would change in addition to the illusory brand.

So its the brand boosterism efforts Chris references above that I really want to talk about, because I think the impression of Buffalo (brand) is more important than the reality of Buffalo. And in any case, the impression is much cheaper to change.

The first major rebranding effort I term the Drew Cerza Plan. Drew is the Wing King, of course, and organizes the yearly Buffalo Wing Festival, among other things. The Drew Cerza plans says “What good things is Buffalo already known for? Lets enhance those.” So if America already thinks of chicken wings and sports (Bills and Sabres) when they think of Buffalo, lets do more of that. Cerza himself was spotted in Pizza Hut adds selling more chicken wings nationally, and if you like sports, 2010 is a good year for you to be in Buffalo: the Sabres are winning, NCAA basketball in March, Empire State Games in the summer, and World Juniors Hockey in December. The CVB and new Buffalo Sports Commission have also been pushing smaller events – Buffalo will host the New York State high school swimming state championships soon. Those events add up to a real tourism industry, real jobs, and real visitor impressions changed. The benefit of the Drew Cerza plan is that you are altering the reputation of Buffalo, not completely rebuilding it.

The second major rebranding effort I call the “Donn Esmonde Plan.” This plan says “Everything people know about Buffalo is wrong – lets show them all the great things Buffalo really is.” This plan gives great satisfaction by finally showcasing the “real” Buffalo. But it is also a constant uphill fight because 60 years of Buffalo brand opposes it. So we package up the historic buildings, biomedical research, and a flourishing arts community and try to sell it to a skeptical audience. Every time we are named a Distinctive Destination by a niche organization, or our architecture is mentioned in a national publication, we cheer that America has finally noticed. We count each visitor to the Darwin Martin House, and hang on Cleveland Biolabs bringing 15 workers to the medical campus. One commenter on Chris Smith’s post mentioned above, Nathan Wallace, suggested Buffalo’s brand should be “Historically Innovative.” I love it – we do have great architecture and a great history of medical innovation (like the pacemaker). But you’d have to educate 98% of the Buffalo community on this history before you try to sell it.

Beyond these two major efforts, I find it interesting what major brand resources we have that seem outside of the rebranding process: Niagara Falls, major banking giants, and a huge college population. Note that the Buffalo Niagara Partnership’s efforts and targeted industries (agribusiness, advanced manufacturing, life sciences, logistics, professional services and renewable energy) seem separate from either rebranding effort, or those three resources I mentioned.

For me, I’d be happy to rebrand our image into “fun.” As in, “Oh, you’re from Buffalo? I hear that’s a fun town.” Buffalo is a fun place already. We have enough known commodities (sports, chicken wings, beer), and enough unknown items to share (festivals, food) that staking out a reputation as “fun” should not be overwhelming. “Fun” would go a long way to dismiss some rust belt blues – Detroit is not a fun place.

So, to my original point: why talk about this today. Because a major rebranding effort, in the Drew Cerza model, is taking place this weekend downtown. While local high schools are playing their hockey championships in HSBC Arena, Labatt is hosting its massive pond hockey tournament, and the inaugural Powder Keg Festival is sandwiched in between. This expanding event combines not just our love of hockey, beer, and food, but it adds a little rebranding with a love of winter too. I will be taking my kids downtown to watch a little pond hockey, walk through an ice maze, and do some skating. Despite global warming, Buffalo will continue to have a reputation, and a reality, of long snowy winters. Colorado, Vermont and New Hampshire have long winters too, and yet are seen as winter sports paradises. We don’t have the mountains, but we should be able to find a way to play hockey, drink, ice skate, snow shoe and cross-country ski our way into a “fun” reputation.

Chionophobe!

15 Dec

Here’s a piece that a writer substituting for Andrew Sullivan wrote at the Daily Dish, highlighting art and the Garden Walk.

Yet, I fully expect people to go all hissy-fit because of this rather typical passage:

Buffalo” (NY) and “beauty” do not normally occur in the same sentence. We’re talking about a city ‘belted’ with derelict factories that’s been losing population for a generation. It’s struggling to demolish thousands of abandoned houses. It’s been known to get snowed on for 100 days in a row (I was there — with a long driveway and no snow-blower).

But Buffalo has elements of beauty dear to a few doughty hearts…

It snows.  Embrace it.  The first winter I spent here, we had a 5-day storm that dumped 7 feet on Williamsville, where we were living.  I loved it, and we haven’t had anything similar since.

Buffalo Heritage, a local book publisher, put out this press release yesterday:

Here we go again. Buffalo Charges Ahead into Past  by Rick Hampson in USA Today (Monday, December 14) extols Buffalo’s architectural treasures, but once again manages to perpetuate the myth that Buffalo suffers from unusually awful winter weather. Phrases like “now known mostly for the snowy “lake effect” and the suggestion that Buffalo’s population decline may be weather-related – in an article ostensibly about our architecture! – are the final straw.

Buffalo Heritage and Dr. Mark Donnelly are drawing a line in the slush. At a press conference appropriately located at the Lake Effect Diner (3165 Main St, Buffalo, NY 14214) at 7:30 PM, Monday, December 14, a national campaign to set the record straight on Buffalo’s no-worse-than-average-in-the-northeast winter weather will be launched.

In  addition to Mr. Hampson at USA Today, more than three dozen national news desk anchors, weather channel personnel, and morning and late night talk show hosts will be sent by Priority Mail the following message: “After you shovel away all of the myths about Buffalo, New York’s winter weather, all you have left is an amazing city,” accompanied by a copy of Buffalo’s new, beautiful tool to address this national misinformation campaign: Frozen Assets: The Beautiful Truth About Western New York’s Fourth Season.

This is a public relations war against the national news sources that perpetuate the myths about Buffalo’s winter that are holding the city back, making it difficult to attract new talent and investment to the region. It’s about economic development and prosperity in the Queen City. How better to accomplish this than with facts and humor – on a national scale.

It sounds a lot more passive-aggressive than humorous, to me.

Here we go again. Buffalo Charges Ahead into Past  by Rick Hampson in USA Today (Monday, December 14) extols Buffalo’s architectural treasures, but once again manages to perpetuate the myth that Buffalo suffers from unusually awful winter weather. Phrases like “now known mostly for the snowy “lake effect” and the suggestion that Buffalo’s population decline may be weather-related – in an article ostensibly about our architecture! – are the final straw.
Buffalo Heritage and Dr. Mark Donnelly are drawing a line in the slush. At a press conference appropriately located at the Lake Effect Diner (3165 Main St, Buffalo, NY 14214) at 7:30 PM, Monday, December 14, a national campaign to set the record straight on Buffalo’s no-worse-than-average-in-the-northeast winter weather will be launched.
In  addition to Mr. Hampson at USA Today, more than three dozen national news desk anchors, weather channel personnel, and morning and late night talk show hosts will be sent by Priority Mail the following message: “After you shovel away all of the myths about Buffalo, New York’s winter weather, all you have left is an amazing city,” accompanied by a copy of Buffalo’s new, beautiful tool to address this national misinformation campaign: Frozen Assets: The Beautiful Truth About Western New York’s Fourth Season.
This is a public relations war against the national news sources that perpetuate the myths about Buffalo’s winter that are holding the city back, making it difficult to attract new talent and investment to the region. It’s about economic development and prosperity in the Queen City. How better to accomplish this than with facts and humor – on a national sca

As I said before, because we do get a lot of snow, and we are losing population, and we do have a lot of derelict factories, it hardly makes a lot of sense to complain.  Chicago is the “Windy City” – not the “City that has a thriving arts scene”.  It snows. We have brownfields.  Embrace the former, and push to fix the latter.  But we need to stop whining like some sort of victim.

If I had a lot of time and money, I’d design, build, and sell a line of snow tires that were Buffalo tested, Buffalo approved.  I don’t see Finns or Swedes whinging about snow, for God’s sake.

(Photo via Buffalowaterfront.com)

Snow in Buffalo?

1 Dec

Must be December.

Snow in Buffalo

23 Dec

Is there really an excuse for the city not to have laid a plow down on every single road within its limits by midday yesterday? It’s not like snow is a rarity here.

New York State Thruway Closed

22 Dec

The free-to-use roads around town are all open and the main thoroughfares ought to be passable. After all, they didn’t close my work today, so there must be some way to get downtown.

But the Thruway, which charges you through the nose for the privilege of traveling upon it, has closed from exit 46 in Henrietta all the way to the Pennsylvania state line. Why are the free roads open, but the aspensive road is closed?

That’s 132 miles’ worth of toll revenue they’re missing out on!

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ZOMG! SNOWPOCALYPSE NOW!

19 Dec

Given the breathless reporting about today’s snowstorm, you’d think we didn’t live in Buffalo, NY, or that it seldom snows.

Where I used to live, 3 inches of snow cripples things and shuts down schools and government offices. Here, it takes a foot of fresh snowfall to make people sit up and start to take notice.

It’s That Time of Year Again

4 Dec

About 5 years ago, I discovered that you don’t need all wheel drive or an SUV to safely drive on the snow. You don’t necessarily even need traction control. I grew up somewhere where anything over 3″ of snow accumulation meant widespread panic, while here people don’t get fazed by a foot at a time.

Snow tires. All you need is a good set of four snow tires. I first became a convert when I put a set of Hakkapeliitta 2s on a Jetta Wagon that had no traction control. Those tires enabled that car to stick to the road like glue. A set of Dunlop Graspic DS-2 weren’t as good, nor were the Hakka RSi. Blizzaks are quite good – Revo1 not as much as the WS-50.

This year, I found a set of four studded Nokian Hakkapeliitta 4s on eBay, and paid just over $375 to buy and ship them here from Oregon. (That’s a bargain – those tires probably retail for about $150/ea). They are 17″, so they fit on the existing GTI rims, and were installed about two weeks ago. The studded tires make some noise, but we finally got to try them out in earnest a couple of nights ago when a wet, slushy, heavy snow fell across the region. Those tires were like Krazy Glue keeping that car stuck to the road. It was as if we were driving through a gentle rain rather than the kind of slush that starts to pack down and become almost ice when left untreated, but trodden-on.

The other GTI is rolling on 16″ steel wheels, and I had 2 Revo1 Blizzaks that still had enough tread on them to go on the back, but had to get 2 new tires for the front – I went with what they had, which was the WS-50. Yes, it’s supposed to be bad to not run a complete set of identical 4 tires, but they’re all winter service approved, and the new, better tires are on the front, where it matters. The last couple of days have seen some accumulating snowfall downtown, and the car worked like a champ while others were slipping and sliding around.

We live in a wintry environment, and no matter how great of a driver you are, all-seasons don’t cut it when the snow and ice start blowing. Really prudent, serious drivers will add snows to AWD vehicles around here, and it does matter. Especially for lateral control – all-seasons or just straight AWD may enable you to go from a complete stop on a slippery mess, but when turning, you need that deeply, frequently siped tire to keep from sliding in a turn.

I find that Finland’s Nokian makes superior snow tires, and it makes sense, given that their climate is not unlike ours.

Snow

15 Jan

Standing outside on the back porch, looking at the glow of lights over the low clouds, listening to the muffled sounds of life over a fresh coating of snow. Stillness, with only the gentle snowfall – there’s nothing like that in any other season.