Big day in Albany for gas and money

NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg's in the capital, telling state legislators how bad the governor's proposed budget is for Noo Yawk.

Meanwhile, citizens from across the state are rallying both for and against natural-gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale, an issue that's particularly pressing here in New York City's watershed. We'll be posting more about the rally later in the day. If you have photos, video or anything else you'd like to share, send us links or media at [email protected].

In the meantime, you can follow along with the rally on Twitter. Damascus Citizens for Sustainability is tweeting at @stopgasdrilling. On the other side, the Independent Oil and Gas Association of NY is tweeting at @IOGANY.

Soap for Haiti

[img_assist|nid=16156|title=|desc=|link=url|url=http://chickenhillfarmhandmadesoap.blogspot.com/2010/01/we-are-donating-...|align=left|width=213|height=320]Delhi soapmakers (Soapmasters? Soapeteers? Sudscraftisans?) Chicken Hill Farm Handmade Soap report that their soap odds and ends are going to a good cause.

We will be donating our excess soap to "Clean The World" an organization that collects soap from hotels, soapers and other organizations. They put it through a special cleaning process, repackage it and deliver these recycled product donations to domestic homeless shelters and impoverished countries suffering from high death rates due to acute respiratory infection and diarrheal disease. Right now, Clean the World is concentrating on moving hygiene products and medical supplies into the Haiti Relief Effort.

Soapers. That's it.

Full disclosure: That Chicken Hill soaper in the photo is my cousin Quinn Kelley. Photo by me.

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Sheep farmers and Scots, rejoice

Haggis, long outlawed, is soon to be legal again.*

Hope they're busting out the Laphroaig at Livingston Manor's Snowdance Farm, where the Guardian's Ian Williams hied himself last year in search of that supremely unobtainable foodstuff, an authentic American haggis. Williams's account is a marvelous read, though not for the faint of stomach:

The sheep's stomach looked like an alien sex organ, and it had a pervasive cloacal smell, as I everted it and scrubbed it thoroughly, over and over again in cold running water. The lungs were a bit of a trial: the recipe points out that they should be boiled with the rest of the pluck, but with the windpipe over the edge of the cauldron so any mucus would drip out into a bowl.

Many hours of pluck-grinding, oatmeal-toasting, stomach-stuffing and cauldron-steaming improved things considerably, and the evening ended in haggisy jubilation:

Fifteen minutes of fame at the ShopRite

Coming soon to a breakfast table near you: The face of Sullivan County blogger Jennifer Desroschers (a.k.a., Momma D And Da Boyz), which appears on special-edition "Blogging Against Hunger" Cheerios boxes at ShopRites across the Northeast this week.

Illustration: Detail from photo posted on Momma D And Da Boyz.

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Biking through the snow

It may be the middle of a Catskills winter, but the weather was nice enough for diehard local cyclist Michael Wentland and a buddy to hit the road from Bovina to Andes and back today.

I pulled up to Pete's place with a good smile, a nice chilled sweat on the skin, tickler cold toes, and a real hunger churning in my belly.  In hindsight, it was really sketchy in places.  But it was also incredibly fun!

Photo from the Catskills Cycling blog, courtesy of Michael Wentland.

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Livetweeting a calf birth

Sometimes it pays off to sit at home on your computer on a Saturday night like a big dork. Because awesome things happen. Like dairy farmers posting live pics on Twitter of their cows giving birth. @NYFarmer tweets:

http://twitpic.com/zh719 - Calf is starting to pop out, hooves showing

http://twitpic.com/zh7wk - Wow, cow is ready to pop calf, hooves out

http://twitpic.com/zhadm - Cow contractions beginning! Will let her push 4 while

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New website: RochesterPolitics.com

Adama Brown, a regular contributor to the Albany Project, announces that he's now the new editor and lead writer of another New York lefty politics blog, the recently launched RochesterPolitics.

Most of the coverage of RochesterPolitics will eventually focus on local items--city council, assembly, mayoral, etcetera, with a very healthy dose of statewide coverage, all in a more news-based format, and supported by local advertising, out of which a commission goes to keeping me fed, clothed, and equipped with enough gas in my car to see my girlfriend on the weekends.

Looks like they're doing their part to dispel "Upstate Red/Downstate Blue" stereotypes.

From the other side of the aisle, Ulster County libertarian Mitchell Langbert reports that a new Young Republicans club is forming.

Priscilla, queen of Poughkeepsie

[img_assist|nid=16147|title=Drag Directory|desc=Let your stilettos do the walking|link=none|align=left|width=231|height=210]Hazy about where you saw that fantastic Joan Rivers impersonator? Want to know who does the best Lady Gaga routine in the Tri-State area? The answers will lie in the brand-new Drag Directory, which is based in … Poughkeepsie. Really.

Big Gay Hudson Valley reports that Jimmy Prada, the enterprising Poughkeepsie resident who launched the site, came up with the idea in a bar. Of course.

The concept for the website started when the Poughkeepsie-based Prada and Hilton discovered Shequida Hall – a drag performer and opera singer with a 5-octave range – in a New York City bar. “We realized that there’s some major talent waiting to be discovered,” said Prada. “Hopefully, our website can bring queens to places they’ve never been before.”

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Open-government wonks, rejoice: Feds release gobs of data

I'm ridiculously excited about today's big news in the (admittedly geeky) world of open government and sunshine law: Federal agencies had to release at least three large data sets online today, in compliance with the Obama administration's recently issued Open Government Directive. The data can be found at Data.gov, a new federal website designed to improve public access to government data.

There are hundreds of datasets here. A small taste of what's available:

From the SEC: Public Company Bankruptcy Cases Opened and Monitored for Fiscal Year 2009

From Veterans Affairs: 2009 VHA Facility Quality and Safety Report - Population Quality of Care

From the Department of the Interior: Lightning Caused Fires and Acres from 2001 to 2008

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