western new york


Thu January 6, 2011


Fri December 24, 2010
Old tech, new tech

Buffalo firm still produces music for Victorian-era pianos

Foot-pedalled player pianos play music recorded in the perforations on paper rolls.
Paul Narvaez via Flickr

The heyday of the home player piano in America lasted until the Great Depression, when the mechanical piano lost the popular culture race to a miraculous invention called "the radio." A western New York firm, QRS Music in Buffalo, was a big source for the rolls that Victorian families would feed into their player pianos.

Despite the setback wrought by radio, QRS kept innovating. Their new line of work is automation for digital self-playing pianos, the kind more often found in shopping malls than living rooms. QRS now makes downloadable sheet music for the piano.

But, each year, the company produces one paper roll at Christmastime, which they send to households around the country that still own the old instruments. This winter, the 11th year of the Christmas roll tradition, QRS has produced four songs from the classic soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas.

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Wed December 22, 2010

Upstate innovation earmarks laid to rest

Sorry, America. Congress says the pork store is closed for business.
clobby via Flickr

With a renewed Republican commitment to fight them, earmarks are in the news again.

As the Innovation Trail's Daniel Robison noted this morning, the Senate walked away from a catch-all spending bill that had over 6,700 of the pet projects in it last week.

And though they represent less than 1 percent of the entire spending bill, they really rankle fiscal conservatives and small government types.

On today's Morning Edition, NPR had a great piece that looked at the central dilemma of earmarks: What's a shameless pork project to some is a sound investment to others.

NPR's Greg Allen looked at the issue through the lens of several projects in Florida.

Don't you wish someone could do that for upstate New York?

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Wed December 22, 2010

When an earmark fails

Less than a week before she was reelected handily, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter announced millions in earmarks for local organizations.
Daniel Robison WNED

When the U.S. Senate omnibus spending bill was pulled last week, more than 6,700 earmarks from across the country failed to receive funding. Included in that package was $3.6 million for the University at Buffalo, to purchase a high-tech research tool called a cyclotron.

But now UB will have to plot a new course for a research initiative that officials were counting on.

In one of his last appearances as president of UB, John Simpson hailed the cyclotron funding as a game-changer in October.

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Thu December 16, 2010

An upstate economic portrait painted in Census data

One of these New York counties is not like the others.
Matthew Bloch, Shan Carter and Alan McLean The New York Times

The Census Bureau released its treasure trove of American Community Survey (ACS) data on Tuesday. (You can play around with it over at their American FactFinder site.)

But the New York Times did the Census one better. By rolling out their interactive Mapping America feature on Wednesday, the Times turned the unwieldy into the enjoyably informative.

The ACS data set has the kind of granular economic information that's super interesting to us folks tending the Trail. It offers a quick glimpse of how upstate New Yorkers are faring as the region tries to jump start its economic engine.

So how have our upstate cities fared over the last decade? According to the data, not great, but not terrible either. Unless you're Rochester.

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