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Metro Ink - 1.4.06

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They've got game

Walk into a roomful of tournament chess players and one thing is clear: these guys are serious. | Players hunch over chess boards while nearby several other players watch games and talk in whispers. A few players fidget, but it's hard to tell if it's because they're winning or losing. Their opponents, in a zone of their own, are taking no notice as they plan their next move. Occasionally, someone will let out a long-held breath, stand and shake out his arms. Game over. Welcome to another Saturday night at the RochesterChessCenter. | The center, founded in 1989 by Ron Lohrman, is a mecca for local chess players. There are about 150 members, but the center has taught many more through its outreach programs. | "There are several hundred players at the junior and high school level," says Lohrman, "and thousands of kids in grade school." The center is unique in offering tournaments, tutors, a chess camp, as well as a well-stocked store (with over 400 chess sets) all under one roof. | Despite the intense competition, there's an air of camaraderie at the club. Opponents generally shake hands after a game while other players gather around to dissect it and offer advice. | "It's fun," says AndreyKozitsky, one of three Rochester players rated master. "You get to compete with other stronger players." | "Chess involves practice," says Lohrman, "and those who don't do that don't progress." Even people at the top of their game have to keep playing. "Take two months off," says Kozitsky, "and you'll get rusty." | "You can never master it," says Darrell Phelps, who's been playing for 20 years. "It's about getting better, not just winning." | Rochester Chess Center, 221 Norris Drive, 800-ON-CHESS, www.chessset.com

--- Joseph Sorrentino

Voter tryouts

It's not every day you get to take the basic building blocks of democracy for a test drive. You can do that this week, though.

The Florida debacle during the 2000 presidential election spawned the Help America Vote Act. As a result, the old lever voting machines many of us are used to have become as welcome as a hanging chad. Beginning this year, New York voters will have to learn to use a new kind of machine, though exactly which one remains uncertain.

If you want to, you can help make that decision.

The State Board of Elections gets to decide which machines the state will allow, but within the list of approved equipment, counties can choose the particular type they want to use. And Monroe County Elections Commissioners Peter Quinn and Tom Ferrarese are seeking input from the public.

On Thursday, January 5, they're hosting an exhibit of new voting machines to give citizens a chance to try them out and give their opinion.

The fun gets started at noon and lasts until 6 p.m. at the Dome Arena, Minett Hall, 2695 East Henrietta Road. The presentation is free and open to the public, but groups should call ahead; 428-5884.

Gordon RIP

It really wasn't a shopping trip down Monroe Avenue without a stop into Mercury Posters to give the shop mascot, Gordon, a ride on your shoulder.

The feisty cockatiel passed away quietly Wednesday, December 28, in his owner Jim Malley's hands. Gordon was 15.

The bird was an institution with visitors. "They would just come in and have a little moment with him," says Malley. "He touched so many people."

Gordon was buried in a quiet ceremony in front of the shop.

Birth of the cool

After a few false starts, a coalition of seven Northeastern states has taken the lead in curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

With the federal government downplaying the problem of global climate change and all but ignoring industry's role, the governors of seven states decided to take things into their own hands. The result is the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which uses a market-style "cap-and-trade" system to create economic pressures on industry and government to reduce their own emissions. Sources that emit more than their fair share of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases must buy credits from others that emit less than their allotment.

Environmental groups are welcoming the move. But there's also a political side to the agreement negotiations. Notably absent from the pact is a major state smack dab in the middle of the region: Massachusetts. At the last minute, Governor Mitt Romney backed out of the accord. A few hours later, he announced he wouldn't seek reelection, prompting speculation that his withdrawal from the agreement was meant to bolster his right-wing credentials for a presidential bid.

Apparently on this side of the Berkshires, our own presidential wanna-be didn't see the liability: New York joined Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut, New Jersey and Delaware (Rhode Island, which had been a participant in the talks, also demurred for now). Pennsylvania, Maryland, and the District of Columbia have been closely watching the process, but haven't been a part of it so far. A group of West Coast states and another of Canadian provinces are also keeping tabs on the agreement, with an eye toward copying it.

The plan goes into effect in 2009, "so there's time for Massachusetts to come along if the leadership changes," says Christine Vanderlan of Environmental Advocates of New York. You can find out more about the pact at www.rggi.org/agreement.htm.

Ringing in the New Year

There's nothing like waiting till the ball drops. In a sparsely attended press conference at 5 p.m. Friday --- the day before New Year's Eve --- then Mayor-elect Bob Duffy announced his last 2005 appointee: Edward J. Ciaschi as human-resources director.

Ciaschi, a long-time vice president of human resources for Xerox, was one of four appointees named during Duffy's frenzied pre-inaugural week. The others were Molly Clifford as Neighborhood Empowerment Team director, Jean Howard as chief of staff, and Timothy Hickey as interim police chief.

Clifford, the former head of the Monroe County Democratic Committee and chair of Duffy's mayoral campaign, also worked as a public affairs manager for Rural/Metro Medical Services from 1998 to 2002. Howard most recently served as the executive director of the WilsonCommencementPark, a self-sufficiency and life skills organization. Hickey has been deputy chief of operations in the Rochester police department for the last eight years. Hickey buys time for Duffy, who hinted earlier that he may not fill the police chief position for several months.

No more free love

Like every newspaper in the country, the Democrat and Chronicleis looking for ways to save money. One way to do it: print fewer articles and other items, and thus print fewer pages.

Late last month, the daily dropped its stock tables. It was an obvious hit: the internet provides more accessible, and more current, stock-price listings.

A more interesting decision: wedding announcements. You can still tell the world about your marriage --- if you pay for it. The D&C isending its practice of publishing free wedding announcements in its Wednesday "Our Towns" section. Replacing it will be a page called "Celebrations," on which readers can buy ads to tout weddings, engagements, anniversaries, births, promotions, "state championships," bar mitzvahs, "and," as the D&C puts it, "more."

The price: a minimum of $10, plus $20 for a color photo.

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