Monday, December 29, 2008

Reading frenzy

I appreciate all the suggestions I got for mystery writers to check out. I'm also grateful that we have not one but two sources of used books in our fair city.

Three, if you count Melanie, the leader of our writing group, who has started a book exchange within the group. So far, I'm not sure any of her books have gone beyond me, but c'est la vie!

My mother gave me this tome (734 pages, counting the acknowledgments) as a Christmas gift. I read the entire book over the weekend. It was that engrossing.

The name of this novel is The Hour I First Believed, and it was written by Wally Lamb.

I'm not usually a big fan of "slice of life" type books - this was more of a chunk, though - or books in which a whole lot of bad and/or miserable things happen to the main character. And man, this book has a lot of bad and/or miserable things, including horrors of the Civil War, Columbine High School and Hurricane Katrina.

But the characters were so wonderfully written that I still was thinking about them at 2:15 a.m. today, 15 minutes after I closed the book on the 734th page and should have been snoozing away.

Back and forth the story went, unwinding this man's present, his past and his future. (This explains the Civil War bit.)

Wow. Now I have to run to one or both of our book stores that sell used books to see if I can find his other novels, She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True. I'm already intrigued, since one of my favorite Guess Who songs is "She's Come Undone," and "I know this much is true" are lyrics from a Spandau Ballet song in the 80s.

This title, I have come to understand, is a line from "Amazing Grace."

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Merry

Happy wishes and thank you to everyone who reads my little blog.

God bless us, every one.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Give me a good (fictional) murder

I'm a big fan of mysteries (as reading material). It's always a challenge to find a good mystery writer because there are so many writers who take the easy street.

To wit (whit?), there is the old "I know something relevant, but for some perverse reason, I'm not going to tell anyone" gambit.

If the person (in the book) actually spilled the information they are withholding, the mystery would only last for 100 pages instead of 274, or whatever.

I hate that one.

Then there's the old, "I knew I was missing something (or had just heard something really relevant), but I just couldn't think what." The character then moves on to sleep, or do laundry and the little something niggling the back of their brain magically disappears until the end of the book.

I know that when I can't think of something, I never let it keep me from sleeping or anything.

I don't buy that one.

Over the weekend, I was reading a mystery by Mary Higgins Clark, a very famous writer.

She employed both these devices, and more. Gee, I know they are relevant, but I just can't think of them right now. Oh, well. I'll think about it tomorrow.

I was very annoyed, especially since these lapses are frequently displayed by a female protagonist.

Personally, I like Ruth Rendell, or her alter ego, Barbara Vine, although even she seems to be on a downswing. My favorite of late is The Chimney Sweep's Boy.

I have been working on a mystery/suspense book for about 12 years now. It's not easy to avoid using these plot devices (or the one used by Patricia Cornwell, where she does not introduce the person who is the killer until nearly the end of the book).

What I can't do is write all that filler - what the sky looks like, what everyone is wearing (heavy cream silk blouses are popular) and other stuff like that. My eyes just gloss over the fluff, anxious to get back to the action.

Except in the Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich. Her fluff is usually pretty funny.

If you're still shopping for someone who's a mystery buff, stick with Rendell (Vine), Evanovich, or Sue Grafton. Old P.D. James is also stellar.

If you have some favorites, let me know. I need my good mysteries as much as I need my lattes.

Goodnight and have a socially relevant day tomorrow.


A bird in the sky

Does anyone know why there was a heliocopter hovering over what looked like Newbury or Rowley this morning? It wasn't the beach, since I first saw it while still on the island.

It was definitely hovering somewhere southwest of PI and east of Rte. 1.

I should have chased it down, huh? Too bad, I needed my latte (and visit my mum).

Monday, December 22, 2008

Weather woes

I just returned from downtown, and I'm still shaking ... the roads out here are better than the ones in the city. The roads in Newbury are better than the ones in the city.

But that's not what left me shaking. It was the 'excitement' of the Green St. municipal parking lot. I mean really, why is it always such a big mess after it snows? If cars park there overnight, they should be towed (as far as I know, it isn't a designated overnight snow parking lot - but I could be wrong).

Several near-collisions later, I fled back to the island where sanity reigns. (Until I got to my street, where my elderly neighbor decided to pull into a side street and then back out again without checking to see if any other vehicle was approaching. That would have been my Jetta.)

And then there are the sidewalks downtown, which are alternately clear and ice covered, especially State St.

So far it's been a bad day. I have no water, the city came out and said the line is clear to the meter, so .... yay.

Dec. 19, 2007

I meant to post this actually on Dec. 19. This is the view from the front door of the cottage, one year ago.

Things look pretty much the same now, except that my car is over there across the street. They never get the drifts that I get, and neighbor has gone out of state for the holidays (she gave me permission to use the spot).


I was outside heading to the car when I heard the bang. I thought for sure the ocean had breached the dunes and was on its way over here.

Soon after, I was on my way into town, and I noticed people driving around, seemingly aimlessly. But since I saw no flood, it kind of went to the back of my mind until much later, when I again wondered what it had been.

I'm not sure whether it's a relief that it was "just" an earthquake. Read about it here, in the Daily News.

Friday, December 19, 2008

New Ventures info from Everett

A message from MassDee, in Everett:

Just a heads up.

Everett's Board of Alderman, on Monday Dec 22nd will be ordering the city's Board of Health to place a Cease and Desist Order on Wood Waste/Thibeault.

Also, at that same meeting, the mayor will be presenting a consent order to allow Wood Waste to move his piles to another location in Everett, to be shipped out by rail to the mid west.

The residents are against this. Wood Waste will then be operating out of two sites in Everett.

If the consent order passes, it would take off the table Wood Waste trucking the debris to Crow Lane for the immediate future.

I will update you after the meeting on Monday.

Thanks, MassDee.

Another Christmas story

Every Christmas Eve we would drive to Aunt Sylvia and Uncle Bud's house. It was the tradition - and the way we exchanged gifts with my dad's family (sister Sylvia and other sister Mildred and families).

It wasn't very far, but every year I would worry that someone would break into our house and steal all the really good gifts under our tree, at home.

Isn't it just too cool that my Christmas memories involve worry?

Anyway ... we'd get to Aunt Sylvia's, where it was always about 85 degrees. I think we wore shorts and T-shirts.

She always had these gigantic trees with equally gigantic ornaments and lights. I recall a string of some kind of plastic cylinder with a whirlygig inside that rotated with the heat from the light. It was kind of fascinating, actually.

She was also the first person in the family to get a color TV. Well, she and Uncle Bud (he was the one who shot his dog in the ass while hunting, from some random story I told months ago).

We always had overcooked turkey and scalloped potatoes from Aunt Mildred that had unidentifiable black bits in it.

Aunt Mildred had 3 children who turned Jehovah's Witness. At first they would appear on Christmas Eve and lecture us about the fallacy of the celebration. Then they stopped coming altogether, which was a drag in one way but not in other ways.

Aunt Sylvia died a few years back - on Christmas Day.

We hadn't had the Christmas Eve get together for years because she and Uncle Bud had moved 'up north' (northern Michigan) and then my immediate family all moved out here. Uncle Bud had died a few years before.

But I do remember a later Christmas Eve, at Aunt Mildred's house. All I remember is watching a video of The Nutcracker ballet featuring Michail Baryshnikov, and Aunt Mildred commenting about his ... well, let's just say it was surprising, but hilarious.

P.S. No one has sent me a Christmas memory. I'm going to have to start making them up soon.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Writers rule, man

What do you actually know about this dude Santa Claus? Do you believe, like many people do about marriage, that he has been around forever?

Is anyone else alarmed by the notion that he "sees you when you're sleeping?" Why does he need to see you when you're sleeping, I have to ask myself?

A long time ago I interviewed an exchange student from Denmark who had exchanged her life in that scenic country for one year in Flint.

It was a Christmas story, but without digging out the relevant issue of East Village Magazine from a box under my bed, I only remember one thing: her family would put out some bizarre food like custard for their version of Santa, and that she said the mice ate it all.

Maybe the life in Denmark wasn't all that great if there were all those mice running about eating the custard.

I find it interesting that a lot of the things people believe, or at least lie to their kids about, come from pagan rites. (I don't blame people for telling their kids that there's a Santa Claus, by the way; I think it's a good thing.)

In the British colonies of North America and later the United States, British and Dutch versions of the gift-giver merged further. For example, in Washington Irving's History of New York, (1809), Sinterklaas was Americanized into "Santa Claus" but lost his bishop's apparel, and was at first pictured as a thick-bellied Dutch sailor with a pipe in a green winter coat. Irving's book was a lampoon of the Dutch culture of New York, and much of this portrait is his joking invention. (Source: Wikipedia)
Oh that Washington Irving - what a jokester.

Santa as the jolly old elf only became popular in the U.S. after the guy who wrote The Night Before Christmas described him, in the 19th century (1823). The word "elf" and the fact that he slips down the chimney implies that he was less than what we consider full sized (no offense intended to my elfin readers).

So if you read the entire Wikipedia entry, you could believe that good ol' Santy is actually quite goat-like.

Surprisingly, not everyone in the world "thinks" Santa lives at the North Pole. Why would you tell your kids that he lives 2 streets over? Hmmmm?

Whatever the origin, or the case, the legend of Santa Claus has become quite the advertising icon. And he's probably been around longer than the institution of marriage.

Wow, wait til you find out about the Christmas tree (if you don't know already).

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas stories

I'm running out of my own Christmas stories, so anyone who has a good one should send it along to me. Please?

I'll publish it anonymously, if you so desire.

"I like the Tinman"

OK, so I've got these three friends that I used to work with at New England Medical Center, in the 1980s: we are each a "Miss," although the others are - or were - married.

Miss Donna, Miss Jean, Miss Katie and me, Miss Gill.

We meet once a year, usually right before Christmas. Our last meeting was Dec. 8. I won't go into the details of my torturous trip to Bedford, where Miss Katie and her family live. Suffice it to say that proximity to Lowell seems to have inhibited my ability to find places that I've been before.

Anyway ... this year, initially Miss Donna suggested we go shopping in Newburyport, which we've done in the past (before I lived here). She was going into raptures over the neat little stores we frequented in the past when I burst her little shopping bubble by telling her they were mostly all gone now.

Instead, Miss Jean and I met at Miss Katie's and carpooled it over to Miss Donna's in Walpole.

I was only an hour late, by the way. It wasn't my fault!

And then, of course, once on our way to Walpole we spotted a liquor store advertising a wine and cheese tasting ... Miss Katie screeched into the parking lot and we entered.

(Remind me to tell you about the 5 martini after-work get together at Zoots, if I haven't already.)

The point of all this is that Miss Katie and I were one day long ago in her boss' office. Her boss confessed to never having seen "A Christmas Story." After we recovered from our shock, we gave her a quick rundown of the plot.

We then informed her that she really should watch the movie.

She replied that she thought no matter how funny the movie was, our little presentation had to be way funnier.

Ah, those were the days ... actually, they weren't ... those were the moments.

These ladies are some of the only people I've ever known for this long (20 years, at least) who have not changed. Or perhaps we're only the same when we're together.

Miss Donna suggested I write a book about our adventures, and Miss Katie suggested "I like the Tinman" as the title of one of the chapters.

Just stick with diamonds

I was today lunching with a friend, and I mentioned that I have these pearl earrings that I never wear.

Why not? she asked.

Well, they came with a whole instruction manual about what not to do with one's pearls. It was scary.

I don't know where the manual is, so I got the following from

Because pearls are an organic gemstone, they are somewhat different from other gemstones and precious metals. They are softer and more delicate, and they can therefore be more easily scratched, cracked, and damaged. In addition, substances such as perfume and hair spray -- and even natural body oils and perspiration -- can dull pearls' luster or cloud their brilliance. For these reasons, your pearls may require a bit of special care.
Good grief.

My friend suggested that we stick with diamonds. You don't have to wipe off body oils, wrap them in a soft cloth, etc. They are indestructible, don't ya know?

The earrings are nice to look at every so often. I've worn them, I think, twice.

There comes a time when our possessions possess us, my friend concluded. Amen to that.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Not a finga!

I would love to have A Christmas Story that is as entertaining as the movie of the same name. (Have you seen it? It's terrific.)

Sure, my parents once fooled me by putting my "most wanted" gift behind the curtains and then, after we opened presents and I was a tad disappointed, asked me to open the curtains.

It was a Beatles album.

I guess it must be a thing that parents do.

But my dad never swore at the furnace, nor did he receive a plastic leg lamp, complete with fishnet hose, as a "major award."

He did, however, 'appropriate' a sign from a Santa's village that read "Santa's Out to Lunch" because he thought it was so funny. It was forever after displayed as part of the Christmas regalia.

"Forever" means until it did not appear anymore. To be honest, I have not laid eyes on it for years. But I still recall it fondly, even though it was an ill gotten gain.

As far as I remember, we never had an Oldsmobile. And we always had - and still do have - roast beast with Yorkshire pudding and roasted potatoes for Christmas dinner. But we did have a lot of meatloaf throughout the year.

Meatloaf, smeatloaf, double beatloaf. I hate meatloaf.

More on paid parking

An interested party sent me the link to this video, which was on YouTube, about parking:

Think about this: how many times are you willing to drive down State or Pleasant St. - or the Green St. lot - before you give up and park on the river (which is also free, for all you non-residents).

With the state projecting a shortfall in 2009 for cities and towns, our city needs to boost its stream of revenue.

Free parking. I love it, but we've gotta leave it behind.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

All's quiet on the eastern front (for now)

Well, I'm back home. WOO HOO

The high tide was this morning, when the marsh was flooded - but I've seen worse. Still, I do believe there is still a storm barreling up the coast.

I drove up Northern Blvd. as far as Mad Martha's, to see if anything was afoot. All was calm, considering the wind and the rain. Pondered parking and going out onto the beach, but ... the rain.

So far in the last few weeks, the fence in the yard has blown down (again) and a window has been blown out in the shed. This is a rough environment.

Was it yesterday that it was 62 degrees? Or was that Tuesday? Whatever, it seems to be still above freezing at the moment.

Life on Plum Island: You never know what you're going to get - but when it comes, it's usually pretty dramatic. Boston was never this interesting.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

City warning via Reverse 911

I received today (Wednesday) a Reverse 911 call telling me that an update for the "Plum Island situation" could be found on the city's website.

I checked the site, and lo and behold, there was a whole memo from the mayor talking about breaches of dunes and interruptions in water and sewer service.

Residents are asked to plan accordingly, considering that it will be necessary for the breach to be repaired before infrastructure repairs can take place.

No water and no sewer, you say? Wow. I guess my neighbor who refuses to be hooked up to the system knows what he's doing. And we've had the system over here for ... what? ... all of 6 months.

Actually, I'm not sure what effect a breach would have on the sewer system over here on this side of the island. I'm not familiar enough with how the vacuum system works - whether we are on a separate sucking section or whether is all one big suck. (Hey, if you heard it in your bathroom every day, you'd describe it as a "suck" as well.)

I'm also guessing that "vehicular access" won't be an issue over here - unless, of course, the ocean comes rushing across the basin, which is really shallow because of the increased sediment. In that case, we may be under water. Vehicular access really won't be an issue.

Astronomical high tides tomorrow, folks. I won't be here for most of the day. I'm praying I will be able to get back home tomorrow afternoon ...

Just a mention

I meant to write yesterday about the bizarre situations I encountered while driving into town: 2 separate traffic accidents.

The first was right around the corner from me, on Old Point Road. Don't see many accidents out here (on this side of the island). This one involved a sedan and a truck towing a trailer filled with firewood.

As a point, the only people who speed/drive recklessly around here are commercial entities. I'm not sure that's what happened here because it looked as if the sedan rear-ended the truck/trailer.

The second accident looked more serious and was on the curve near that clam shack on Water St. You know, the curve a lot of people claim is not dangerous.

Shit happens, but as someone who drives that curve nearly every day, it's a bitch. People coming from the direction of town frequently feel the need to take the curve in a wide arc. Maybe it's the presence of that small hill there on the right. What they fail to realize is that for the oncoming traffic, the presence of the river there on the right is much more daunting.

The good thing is, nobody ended up in the river. Someone did end up in an ambulance, however.

Worth a mention

Has anyone mentioned that the new tax rate in our fair city is $10.93? I haven't been keeping up with these things.

I see where Amesbury's Municipal Council has voted to return to a single tax rate for residential, commercial and industrial. From today's Daily News:

According to figures provided by the mayor's office, by shifting to the single rate, the tax bill for an average commercial business will go down $441 compared to last year. Under the split rate, commercial taxes would have then gone up $952.

Ummm, OK ...

Slim Chiply lives

This is - or was - Slim Chiply (the guy you see on the Paramount Potato Chips bright red pack). I don't expect you guys to understand the significance of Slim Chiply, or Paramount Potato Chips. I think they - and Slim - are long gone.

He is - or was - not just a potato chip; he is - or was - the Flavor Deputy (protecting crispness in every pack).

In the TV commercial, Slim would walk out with this odd bow-legged stride (how else would a potato chip walk?) and sing this song:

I'm Slim Chiply, the guy you see,
on the Paramount Potato Chips bright red pack.
I'm the flavor deputy,
protecting crispness in every pack.
They're delicious, and so nutritious,
yes sir'ee, they're pips!
Paramount Potato chips!!

It's a Flint thing ... just go with it.

Slim Chiply merchandise is now available online, here and here. If nothing else, it's good for a laugh ... where else are you going to see a potato chip dressed like a lawman?

(Thanks to Gordie Young of Flint Expatriates for the heads up.)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

In case you missed it: parking

Newburyport using federal funds for study on garage
By Gillian Swart
Globe Correspondent / October 12, 2008

Newburyport is using a $1,672,000 federal earmark from 2005 to plan for a paid parking garage in a city that has seen only free municipal parking for 40 years.

The Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority on Sept. 24 sent out on behalf of the city requests for proposals for preliminary engineering and site selection study for a downtown parking facility. The sites to be studied are surface parking lots at Prince Place and on Green Street, said city planning director Nancy Colbert.

Mayor John Moak in January told Chamber of Commerce members to expect paid parking, or at least a plan, this year.

The requests were sent out a week after the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority unveiled the latest plans to turn its two parking lots on the central waterfront into mostly park land.

Without 250 to 300 spaces on the waterfront, the mayor has said, the city will have a parking problem. In both plans presented at a public hearing Sept. 17, parking spaces would be reduced to 140 or fewer. Without the waterfront lots, the city has 327 off-street public parking spots.

"It's a considerable decrease in parking," Moak said. "We have to figure out what we have to do to replace parking they are moving off the central waterfront, if they can."

The redevelopment authority has acknowledged that it does not have the funds to pay for the project. Both the park and the potential parking garage are years down the road.

"This is a very preliminary step in a long journey," said transit authority administrator Joseph Costanzo.

The transit authority takes on these projects on behalf of cities and towns because it is a conduit to federal and state funding. "That's part of our role," he added.

The authority is working with Haverhill on site selection for a multi-level facility. Under such arrangements, the community signs a memorandum of understanding with the agency.

A portion of the $1,672,000 is in the transit authority's hands to cover fees for the consultant, Costanzo said. Congress will in 2009 be authorizing transportation funds for the next six years, and the $1,672,000 will cover the study and maybe up to final design of the project, if it moves forward, he added.

Moak hopes this will be the last of 12 parking and garage studies for the city, nine of which have been done since 1996, according to the RFP.

"There is a need for paid parking. We're trying to figure out the best way to do it," he said.
The RFP calls for, among other things, a review of the last nine reports, a land survey of the two targeted parcels, preliminary assessments, and a traffic survey relating to an intermodal parking facility, which is an interface between different transportation systems.

While the authority's plans are a component in planning the city's future parking needs, Colbert echoed the scope-of-work statement in the RFP that identifies a need for a "strong link" between the MBTA commuter rail station, the National Scenic Byway that may traverse the city, and integration of the first phase of the Clipper City Rail Trail, which is under construction.

"We're trying to incorporate as many types of transit as possible, as make sense with this facility," Colbert said.

Costanzo said that the preliminary study will also look at local transit proposals, such as adding a couple of bus routes in the city. "There's a whole lot of little things like that that can fit in the mix."

The central waterfront was cleared in 1968 as part of urban renewal and the lots were opened for public parking in the 1980s. Between the two NRA lots is Market Landing Park, which is operated by the Waterfront Trust. Proponents of an open waterfront, including the majority of residents who responded to surveys, support a park over parking lots.

"The lack of parking management is stifling us," said City Council president James Shanley, who was recently appointed by Governor Deval Patrick to the redevelopment authority.

Shanley supports alternative solutions to a garage that is not fully funded, citing empty bank parking lots that perhaps could be used during off hours or a plan where revenue from parking meters in an area is used to support infrastructure in that area.

Both the redevelopment authority and New England Development, the two major stakeholders on the waterfront, have called for a parking and traffic plan from the city.

The $1,672,000 earmark was part of the highway and mass transit bill titled the Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, according to a July 2005 press release from US Representative John F. Tierney. Beverly and Salem received the same amount for similar parking garage projects

Oh mercy

It appears that people in Detroit have turned to divine intervention for a Big Three bailout. The story is from the New York Times.

We've got an inter-family mini-debate going on about whether the Big Three should be saved or allowed to slip into oblivion.

My one sister, who drives a Toyota Echo (I don't believe they make them anymore), is not entirely sure about a bailout. My second, youngest, sister thinks letting the automakers go under would be a disaster.

I found this interesting story from a January edition of Fortune, which was on It's about so-called Echo Boomers.

Echo Boomers are generally described are those born between 1980 and 1994. There are a lot of them. More than four million children were born in 1989 - the largest number of births since 1964 - and even more in 1990.

Now aged 14 to 28, Echo Boomers are mostly motoring in used cars but soon will be in the market for new ones. Their arrival is driving a lot of planning in the auto industry -- and a fair amount of consternation as well ...

According to Erich Merkle, an analyst for Michigan-based IRN, Echo Boomers want affordable vehicles that are small and fuel efficient, and packed with electronics that can be linked with iPods and laptops.
So American automakers just kept making cars for these people's parents: SUVs, minivans, etc., while foreign automakers ... well, things got tough overseas long before they were here.

Last time I was in England, some 8-10 years ago now, I remember being floored by the price of gasoline (no pun intended).

If you watch a lot of TV, you'll notice that SUVs figure prominently. The only television character I can think of who drove a small, fuel efficient car was Larry David in "Curb Your Enthusiasm." He drove a Prius.

When I'm driving around town here, I wonder why anyone needs a Range Rover in Newburyport. But then, I always wondered why that person on Beacon Hill needed a Hummer.

It was the same 25 years ago, when a Jeep was the off-road vehicle of choice for roads.

Oh the joys of marketing and industry.

(By the way, that Echo is a bomb, in the good sense of the word. It's small but comfortable, has I think 8 different cubbies that are handy to the driver and usable cup holders - things sorely lacking in my Jetta. It's great to drive, too, with a poppy little clutch.)

New planning director

Oh ... and someone named Sean Sullivan has been hired to be the new planning director. Read about it here, from the Daily News.

The Council approved the appointment in one reading, which was an unusual move. Councillor Greg Earls questioned it, saying that in the past the public had the opportunity to question and/or comment such a high-level appointment.

But the Council isn't meeting again for 5 weeks, and the position is somewhat time sensitive (although not so much as when former director Nancy Colbert came on board).

Police contracts pass

What? No one from the Daily News at last night's City Council meeting?

I don't know, for sure ... I wasn't there ... but I did watch it on TV. Not quite the same, somehow.

The Council last night passed the $10,218 for the new patrolmen and superior officers' contracts that it had rejected last month.

I get the idea behind the rejection: it was all about the state health plan (the Group Insurance Commission, GIC) and a tiered Blue Cross/Blue Shield health plan. The latter won't save the city as much money as the GIC.

I thought Larry McCavitt made some interesting points, the first being that only 17% of communities in the state have actually been able to persuade their bargaining units to accept the GIC. Seventy percent of the bargaining unit membership and retirees in a community have to approve switching to the state plan.

But McCavitt also noted, and as is in today's Globe, that House Speaker Sal DiMasi is telling cities and towns to brace for a 10% cut in state aid in 2009.

Perhaps this news would have helped back when people were voting on the debt exclusion ...

Second in McCavitt's points is that the Council needs to re-think rejecting union contracts. As other councillors also noted, the city leaves itself open for potential law suits based on bad faith bargaining.

Plus, the police union is one of the smaller bargaining units, if I heard correctly. In any case, it can't be as large as the teachers' union.

Still and all, the unit members are only getting a 2% raise, which is pretty small, even in this day and age.

Mayor pulls landfill agreement off table

Mayor John Moak did not ask the City Council to consider the proposed agreement with New Ventures at last night's meeting.

Councillor Brian Derrivan told his fellows that it is "time to move forward in light of the DEP and AG's office showing some life."

I saw an email in the chain of emails that are sent around regularly by residents near the landfill to complain about the smell. This one was different - it was from a business on Graf Road (in the industrial park).

I think this is the first time I've seen a complaint by a business. This is even more serious because the city has been trying to lure companies to relocate their corporate headquarters into the industrial park.

Also, the DEP on Nov. 28 cited New Ventures for 12 more violations at the landfill. DEP Chief John Carrigan in his letter to NV attorney Chip Nylen said that he visited the site on Nov. 26 and the landfill gas collection and treatment system was not operational.

The AG's office has also filed for an expedited contempt trial (it was scheduled to begin April 23, 2009) because it says in part that New Ventures is causing damages to the environment that cannot wait five months to be addressed.

The Commonwealth is asking that the trial be scheduled for January. The motion was filed Nov. 26 and NV had 10 days to serve opposition to the motion ...

Monday, December 8, 2008


Here's something I bet you never thought you'd be reading on here - mostly because I never thought I'd be typing it:

I'm going back to the Current!

So now I can't blog about local news because of that, I would guess.

Which reminds me, I'm supposed to be working on a story.

NETCO workers legal, says president

Hey, for any of you who might have bought into reader X's bizarre contention that the workers placing sandbags on the Newbury town beach (Plum Island) are illegals, they are not.

David Lager, president of NETCO, said anyone who questions the status of his team is welcome to come to the office and check all employment documents.

The office is at 21 Worthen Rd. in Lexington.

No, I did not pursue this off the cuff - I met him at a meeting Friday, at PITA Hall. That's the Plum Island Taxpayers Association Hall for the non-locals.

Friday, November 28, 2008

And there she goes

Oh. The. Excitement.

First words from most lips at Thanksgiving (even the lips that had freshly arrived from Michigan): house on Plum Island.
Above is a photo I took of this same house back on May 21. My comment then?
So forget about Jeanne's going into the drink - take a look at this house, 5 or 6 houses north of center.
A few days later, the double-decker porch with the railings was lying on the beach.

This is the narrowest part of the ocean side of the island. I don't know who can stop a breach at this point, since no one is concentrating attention down there, where this house was, instead of at the center parking lot.

The ocean is now just one postage stamp-sized lot away from Northern Blvd. in 2 locations.

If I lived north of this spot on the island, on the ocean side, I'd be considering getting the hell out before we get our first winter storm.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Don't be afraid of your freedom!

I was attempting earlier to bolster my pre-holiday flagging spirits (Is it the Irish in me?) by thinking of that song by the Rolling Stones (I was actually surprised when I looked it up that it was the Rolling Stones - but then I realized I was thinking of the Soup Dragons version).

I'm free to do what I want, any old time. I don't have to get up at a proscribed time, enter a stuffy office at another proscribed time, and stay there for however long someone else needs me to stay.

This explains why I'm in a state of economic meltdown, by the way.

So once I got past that depressing scenario, I continued on to thinking about rules and policies and procedures. It wasn't that big of a leap.

According to my dictionary (the little, paperback one - too lazy to haul the big old Oxford English off the shelf), a rule is much more dictatorial than a policy. A policy just guides you to future decisions.

I don't like rules or policies. I'm fine with most laws, and I obey them even if I don't agree with them, but I think being told how you can dress or that you have no freedom of opinion is just wrong. And while sexual harassment policies have pretty much eliminated the chance of your self proclaimed 'horny toad' boss kissing and touching you, they also have eliminated some of the lighthearted banter and mild, inoffensive
flirting that used to go on in the workplace.

If you get a chance, I again urge my readers to check out the dramatic series "Mad Men" on A&E. What I like as much as the storyline is that I had forgotten how thematic the way people are required to dress has always been.

If I learned nothing else at the University of Michigan, I learned that it was OK to run around in a blue work shirt and jeans. Where is the freedom in whalebone stays (OK, they're wire of plastic in this case), half girdles, nylons, and bras so pointed you could take someone's eye out?

And then I thought, why do I have to strap on a seatbelt every time I get into a car? Don't I have the right to risk my own life? The list went on and on, but still I pondered (I could feel my blood pressure rising).

Why was it, that in school, you had to put your name up in the right hand corner and number your answers outside the red line? This put me in mind of my mother, a teacher, relating a story:

Mom: "OK, class, be sure to put your name on your paper."
Student: "Ummm, Mrs. Swart? Where should we put it?"
Mom: "Put what?"
Student: "Ummm, our name ..."
Mom: "Oh, anywhere - just as long as it's on there."
[Stupefied silence]
Mom: "What is it?"
Student: "You have to tell us where to write our name."

I may be free to do what I want, but I'm still under constraints that have been embedded deep in my brain. And those put on me by others - like, hey, if you write for us, you can't write for anyone else (but we reserve the right to never give you any work so that in six or eight weeks you're screwed).

I love being free to do what I want. But I still put my melange of rice and stew into a china bowl instead of eating it out of the pan (and thereby only having one item to wash instead of two), use cutlery (even when using my hands would be a lot less cumbersome), and brush my teeth.

Don't be afraid of your freedom!

Oh, and universal health care is a good thing.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Is advertising dead?

I read with interest this post on Ari Herzog's blog, about advertising and newspapers.

I want to add my 2 cents into this, because I have become a victim of this whole death spiral.

If the publications for which I work (dwindling every day) don't get their advertising dollars, I have to wait to get paid.

And here is the value of having a long-term relationship with a bank- Bank of America, for all it's a corporate giant, accepts my situation when they call me about my overdue payments on my credit card.

"I'll pay you when I get paid," I tell the caller - after I remind them of my 21-year relationship with them (through previous incarnations, starting with BayBank).

You have to wonder, with the Globe cutting 24 pages from its print edition and laying people off, that Globe North recently hired 3 full-time reporters, thus rendering its freelancers (starting with me, as the most recent) redundant.

I don't know who newspapers are trying to pander to these days, but I suspect it's young people who are reading blogs and other news sources on line. These attempts by newspapers and magazines to appeal to an attention deficit crowd (less meat, more encapsulated news bites) makes me nervous.

It would make more sense, I think, to change the writing style to a less dry, more emotional form. When I say emotional, I mean convey the emotion, not have the reporter be emotional. And include blogs, more personal accounts, and things of that nature.

It's fine to write about our landfill, but of what value is a cold, hard account without the emotion that the whole situation has generated? What about our health director, who spends more time than he should (or even has) dealing with this issue? What about that YouTube video of the mayor of Everett making not-so-nice comments about Newburyport?

This, to me, is hot stuff ... but you don't see it anywhere.

When I wrote that story about the A-frame signs for Globe North, two people told me (in essence) that it was too dry, too lacking in emotion. Well, one emotional part (the owner of Roca's saying she'd parade up and down State St. with the sign on her back, if necessary) was excised from the story.

People want reality, they want emotion, they want to connect. That's why Sarah Palin was so effective. If you trotted someone like that up as the poster person for the landfill, or for the debt exclusion, more people would become emotionally involved with the issue.

As the former editor of a local publication wrote to me a few months ago, people don't want to read about boards and commissions and what they did - they want to know who are on the boards, what was the effect of their decision on real people ... and so on.

Substance always wins the day.

I find that editors, for the most part, are resistant to this.

Weekly newspapers are doing better economically (or so I've heard) because they provide substance, as opposed to quick news hits and briefings.

I don't think people are not paying attention to advertising - they just aren't reading the content with which the advertising is appearing.

Oh my stars

Tom Salemi reported the other day that PI Roasters (what happened to the "Coffee" part?) is not in fact leaving Newburyport - merely opening another location in Amesbury.

Someone wrote a comment to my earlier post about the alleged move (and then asked me to delete it following Tom's clarification) which said something like, "Where in either story did it say they were closing the Newburyport store?"

Well, the headline "PI Roasters moves to Amesbury after all" was kind of an indication, but oh well.

This is what happens when you regurgitate stuff you read - although, you know? A newspaper story should be more reliable than that. The first question the reporter should have asked was, "So ... you're closing the Newburyport store?"

Thursday, November 20, 2008

What the ... ?

A skull and crossbones flying over the landfill? Well yeah, says the Daily News (and people's eyes).

At-Large Councilor Tom Jones said yesterday he can see the flag from his house and that it was put up following an article in the newspaper reporting that the state Attorney General's office is seeking a contempt order against New Ventures, the owner and operator of the landfill, for failing to meet the terms of a preliminary injunction.
I'm not sure of the significance of this move. Maybe it was the guy with the gun, who was a few weeks ago seen in the vicinity of the landfill.

Sometimes rumors prove to be true

Way back when I was still posting like a fiend, I got an email from someone alerting me to the probable demise of Plum Island (Coffee) Roasters in Newburyport.

So when I read the other day in the Daily News that PICR was only looking in Amesbury for a spot to put a roaster (not moving, though), I was like, hmmmmm ...

But lo and behold today's story, in which it is revealed that the specialty coffee shop is, indeed, moving to Amesbury. No mention of the multi-page lease I heard the shop was presented by Newburyport Development and which was the purported impetus behind a potential exodus.

Last Friday, (owner Samatha) Stephen told The Daily News that she "has no plans to move into the former J. Bucks location." She noted the item on the Amesbury Municipal Council agenda was just for approval to rent the space to house her roaster so it would be closer to the Newburyport location. The roaster is currently in Franklin.

After Councilor Jonathan Sherwood asked if the roaster would be at the location, she said no.

Stephen later addressed her previous denial of the move by saying, "I'm sorry I couldn't tell the truth. I didn't want to say anything until the deal had gone through."
Oh, so there's a second thing that made me go hmmmmm ....

And send condolences to Tom Salemi, who loves that place. I wish I could say the same, but - alas, I cannot.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Life on the Information Superhighway

In the last stages of the last election, as I have written about, I inundated myself with seemingly every piece of news there was out there.

Strangely, I have not watched a cable news channel or Googled "Sarah Palin" once in weeks.

But while I was absorbing all sorts of political stuff - useful or not - it was not in a print newspaper. If it was online, I read it.

They've got this thing now, called the RSS feed. I have no clue, but I gather it's the way people gather together what they read on line. I preferred clicking from the Huffington Post to Daily Kos, to, to ... endlessly searching for something.

I don't know what it was, but obviously I found it.

Last night on the Daily Show, Jon Stewart was remarking about Obama's weekly 'radio' address being on YouTube. See it here.

Stewart, of course, was mocking it being on YouTube. But it seems the only way to go nowadays. As of this writing, it had 802,464 views. And that's not counting people who watched it on his website.

And I wonder how many people would know about vice presidential candidates' gaffes, veiled inferences as to patriotism, or clothing purchases, if not for constant scrutiny by web places like those I mentioned above, along with the cable news channels that showed part, if not all, of stump speeches by McCain, Obama, and Palin?

As you may have read (and as the Globe North editor pointed out to me), the Globe recently laid off 42 people. The Flint Journal is in a similar spiral - as someone has said, print newspapers are circling the drain.

It's all been said, ad nauseum, in the obituary of print journalism.

Do you remember when you could pull up your chair to a nice plate of Spam and eggs and read the newspaper while you ate?

Do you remember rock and roll radio?

Sometimes I think I liked in better when I lived in blissful ignorance ... but still wanted to make people not so ignorant (if that even makes any sense).

Spam, wonderful Spam

A couple of weeks ago, I was visiting my mother when I noticed a hunk of Spam sitting on the kitchen counter.

We in the Swart family grew up on Spam. Fried Spam sandwiches ... makes my mouth water; although I haven't eaten any Spam in probably 20 years.

Now I'm reading today in the New York Times how the Minnesota company that makes Spam is in boom country.

The economy is in tatters and, for millions of people, the future is uncertain. But for some employees at the Hormel Foods Corporation plant here, times have never been better. They are working at a furious pace and piling up all the overtime they want.

The workers make Spam, perhaps the emblematic hard-times food in the American pantry.
Hormel says “it’s like meat with a pause button," the piece goes on to say.

Hot diggity dog.

And sales of another product, Velveeta (a Kraft product that bears the same passing resemblance to cheese as Spam bears to ham), is also booming.

Spam as comfort food?

Yeah, well, along with Kool-Aid, Jell-O and boxed macaroni and cheese, it seems people are turning back to foods from their childhood that they may have nixed in times of prosperity.

Or, as the piece suggests, it's all about the pocketbook.

Even as consumers are cutting back on all sorts of goods, Spam is among a select group of thrifty grocery items that are selling steadily.

Pancake mixes and instant potatoes are booming. So are vitamins, fruit and vegetable preservatives and beer, according to data from October compiled by Information Resources, a market research firm.

“We’ve seen a double-digit increase in the sale of rice and beans,” said Teena Massingill, spokeswoman for the Safeway grocery chain, in an e-mail message. “They’re real belly fillers.”

Sure, I'll go back to Spam. Problem is, will I have a pot in which to fry some up? And if I do, will some singing Vikings appear?

And poor General Motors?

As regular readers know, I grew up in "GM Country." Everyone around us worked for General Motors and things were good.

The cars were good and the workers made good money which they in turn spent like there was no tomorrow.

Turns out they were right - only tomorrow was a while in coming.

In the time I lived in Michigan, I saw a GM car go from being the best of the best (don't know much about Fords) to the worst of the worst. As I wasn't in general paying particular attention, I don't know exactly when this started to happen. I suspect it was in the early to mid-1970s.

I never worked in an automobile factory ("the shop"), but I knew a few people of my age who did.

They were not happy campers.

Do unhappy campers make good cars? I think not.

Sure, they made lots of money, had the best medical insurance money could buy, had vacation days up the wazoo and more personal days than I'd bet any of us others got.

But there was something in the culture of the shop that made them feel ... inadequate. I'll get back to that in a minute.

By the time I got out of college and returned to Flint, the only place people my age wanted to work was the shop. Short of being a doctor or lawyer, it was the place to go to make a lot of money.

It was already becoming rather difficult to get in, unless you knew someone. I had a female friend and a boyfriend who got in because their fathers got them in.

My female friend, EA, worked in receiving. She told me herself all the did was sit on her butt all day and read books. Her (now ex-) husband once severed a finger because he was so high he couldn't operate the machine on which he worked.

My ex-boyfriend went into the skilled trades and became a welder. He, too, took a book to work with him. GM gave him an appreciation of reading which he had not enjoyed previously. His cousin, failed at becoming a park ranger (his aspiration), also went into the shop thanks to boyfriend's father. At some later date, he poured boiling water down his legs so he could go on (I think 80%) disability.

EA also ended up leaving on a disability claim. She had a nice house filled with antiques, nice clothes, and lots of leisure.

I don't know what happened to the others. I'm guessing now that boyfriend is retired.

The culture of General Motors was lots of money for little work. I'm not saying no one worked hard. Perhaps it was when the Baby Boomers came on board that things started to slide.

Or maybe I'm just being far too simplistic.

All I know is, when I was a kid we used to have some Chevys and Buicks that ran for years and years. They were built like tanks. Of course, they had 8-cylinder engines and ate gas like nobody's business.

There are some interesting posts about the automaker bailouts on Flint Expatriates and in the New York Times, and I'm sure lots of other places.

One other thing I'll say - living in a car-centric state sure made for good roads. Lots and lots of smooth, pothole-free highway bending and twisting between auto plants on the south side and those on the north.

Poor beach

Last weekend I ran into someone who was lamenting the lack of local blogging going on recently.

So instead of just saying, "Gee whiz, Ed, just write some more!" I thought I maybe should step up my postings. A return to my former glory days of insults and innuendo ... or not.

All I'll say for now is, way back in my personal time machine, I arranged the purchase of sandbags for erosion control for ... well, a company I worked for. Apparently someone has come to the same decision we came to 7 or 8 years ago, about another shoreline far, far away.

From the Daily News:

A five-member crew started site preparation work yesterday afternoon for a long-awaited beach renourishment project at Plum Island Center.

Netco, a Lexington-based erosion control company, will place a network of large, fabric sandbags on the badly deteriorated shoreline from the Center northward for about 500 feet.

If I have the inclination today, I'll hobble on down there to sneak a peek.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


I'm surprised that no one has commented (and abused me for implying otherwise) that you can get from Newburyport to Amesbury via the Rte. 1 bridge over the Merrimack River ... I'm very disappointed!

Anyway ... It will be very good to be able once again to drive down Rte. 1A, especially this time of year. I always see wild turkeys along there ... in fact, I almost ran one down a couple of years ago. It wasn't my fault - the negligent fowl darted out into the road while 4 or 5 of its compatriots watched from someone's yard.

That's not to mention the one or two than roam about the PI Airfield/Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm and the one that wanders the sidewalk near Moseley Pines/Woods (I can never remember what the official name is now).

According to MassWildlife, adult turkeys feed mainly on plant material, including acorns, nuts (especially hickory), grapes, skunk cabbage, barberry and other berries and tubers. They will scratch the ground seeking food. Poults feed heavily on insects during the summer. During the winter, open springs and seeps are an important source of food.

They seem to be around all the time - so why is it I only see them in the fall?

Speaking of seeing birds, I've been seeing a beautiful heron on the marsh the last 2 weeks. The tides have been high (or it's just been wet) and the marsh is frequently very wet. I keep trying to snap a photo of it, but it gets alarmed when I stop the car and rush in its direction.

Contempt order filed against New Ventures

The state Attorney General is seeking a contempt order against New Ventures, says today's Daily News.

State Attorney General Martha Coakley is seeking a contempt order against New Ventures, the owner of the stench-plagued Crow Lane landfill, saying the company is ignoring the 2006 preliminary injunction issued in Suffolk Superior Court.

Jill Butterworth, deputy press secretary for Coakley, said the order was filed yesterday. New Ventures will now need to appear in Suffolk Superior Court on Friday.
According to the AG's office, NV has failed to comply with most of the 13 violations of the 2006 preliminary injunction issued in Suffolk Superior Court, which were cited in an Aug. 26 letter from DEP.

It says in the story that the City Council will not debate the proposed agreement with NV until its Dec. 8 meeting.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Solar panel project stalls

Wow, who could have predicted that something like this would happen? There has to be someone ... let's see ... yikes! I think the answer is: EVERYONE.

From the Daily News:

The panels were expected to be delivered and installed by Nov. 4, but Moak released word yesterday that EyeOn has been unable to secure funding for the $3.5 million project — the result of a general "halt" of projects by the bank serving as EyeOn's investor due to the nationwide credit crisis, Moak said.

"(EyeOn) said (banks) have halted all projects related to PPAs and other types of projects that they haven't actually funded yet," Moak said. "We were told their investor has asked all their clients to hold their projects until they have a better idea of what the financial picture is going to be."
These would be the panels for the Nock Middle School; the ones that generated so many comments due to the rush nature in which the deal was pushed through.

The delay is the latest issue to plague the project since it was first unveiled by the city's lead negotiator and Energy Advisory Committee member Jeffrey Wootan. Questions regarding conflict of interest arose when Wootan helped the city obtain a waiver of Chapter 25A bidding laws and then negotiated a no-bid deal that benefited a company he was being paid to consult with at the time.

And way down at the bottom of the story, this little note:

The Daily News received a copy of a complaint filed with the Massachusetts Ethics Commission charging Wootan and Moak with conflicts of interest in the matter.


Speaking of bridges, here's a blurb from today's New York Times (in its entirety):

Bridge Collapse Is Laid to Design Flaw

Published: November 14, 2008

The Minneapolis Interstate bridge that collapsed Aug. 1, 2007, dropping 108 feet into the Mississippi River and killing 13 people, had cracks in its welds and rust in many places, the staff of the National Transportation Safety Board said. But building up to a conclusion that is not so obvious and not likely to go down well in all quarters, the board’s engineers said those problems had nothing to do with the collapse. Instead, they said, the cause was a design error made in 1965 and a national bridge maintenance system that was not set up to detect such flaws. The design problem, investigators said, was that gusset plates, the poster-sized sheets of steel that tie the girders together, were too thin and gave way when a contractor put tons of equipment and repair materials over one spot.
Need I add that our own Whittier bridge is of the same design? ... Not to alarm you guys or anything ... there's no equipment on there at the moment ....

This is getting good!

I thought this little anecdote, sent in a comment to the post about the Everett mayor .... ummm ... discussing Newburyport in a public meeting, to merit a stand alone:

After Thomas Jones spoke, Billy pointed to the Mayor to get in the hallway and they followed Thomas Jones out there. Everyone in the audience heard yelling and they had to close the doors. Right after that, Mayor Carlo DeMaria tried to wrap the meeting up quick.
(Tom Jones is one of our city councillors.)

Did no news outlet send a reporter to this meeting? I'm assuming it was the one held Oct. 29, in Everett.

I get misty

Oh, how I love the Flint Expatriates blog.

It's an amazing cultural phenomenon. How so many can be so inspired to talk of fries with gravy at an old, beloved coney island restaurant ... I know there's a story in there somewhere ... I think I'm losing my edge.

OH NO! Get me a coney with onions and a side of said fries ASAP. What is wrong with you people out here? You need a good dose of Vernor's ginger ale or Faygo Redpop.

Just kidding.

The pellet with the poison's in the vessel with the pestle; the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true!

I now watch NCIS, just because the writers included the above quote from a classic movie in the script of one episode. By the way, the chalice from the palace was later broken ... can anyone tell me what replaced it?

Bridge notes

Hey, the good news is that the Route 1A bridge is scheduled to re-open next month.

The bad news? I guess some barge hit the Hines Bridge yesterday ... oops.

Not to mention the Whittier/I-95 bridge, from which rusted beams are falling (into the river).

View the photo slideshow of the barge and the Hines Bridge here (from the Daily News). I guess now it's slated for early closing - it was going to close next summer anyway for repairs. This was met with a hearty "A-OK." Or not.

Unlike me, the daily has been all over this. Read about it here and here.

This is from the Oct. 3, 2008, editorial (Doesn't John Macone, the editor, live in Amesbury?):

On Wednesday night, state highway officials announced that the Hines Memorial Bridge — the span that connects Deer Island to Amesbury — must be closed for that length of time in order to rebuild it, rebuild the deteriorating stone buttresses it sits on, and build the complicated swing mechanism needed to open the bridge on the rare occasions when large boats go up the river.

Interestingly, it's the swing portion of the bridge that's now damaged, from the barge.

For all you people who don't live here (if any of you are left out there), the bridge is one of 2 that connects Newburyport with Amesbury, across the Merrimack River. And when I say 2, I mean they are there, at the same place, with an island in between.

So we lucky people get to go to Amesbury via the aforementioned Whittier/I-95 bridge, which I avoid like the plague since I wrote a story for the Current about its decrepit state.

The scheduled repairs to the Hines Bridge were supposed to facilitate the repair of the Whittier Bridge (the former to handle increased traffic while the latter was being repaired).

I guess I won't be zipping on up to Cider Hill Farm (in Amesbury) to buy cider for Thanksgiving dinner after all!

But the re-opening of the Route 1A bridge will make my weekly foray to Gloucester a lot more convenient.

All my travels will be southward from now until ... whenever.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Family connections

So this is where and when I feel like a complete failure.

See these stories, here and here, in the Globe on Oct. 26 and Nov. 2.

I remember when Laura Corser was born ... see, she's my sister's niece (on her husband's side, of course). I know this woman! Now here she is, twice, in the Boston Globe.

Why didn't I think of that? Not sure it would have done me any good, but WHY, WHY, WHY?

A leg up for nice guys

Nice story here in Globe North about a book written by two Port dudes on "How to succeed in business (without being a jerk)."

"They don't want to confront a situation and . . . things go further and manifest through the rest of the organization, and ultimately I think you start to run into problems such as we're experiencing now," Russ Edelman said.

"Maybe as a country we've been overly nice in terms of not setting good boundaries around our spending, about confronting reality on a personal and a national level, and you just kind of inch down this road and before you know it you're stuck in this huge morass," said Timothy Hiltabiddle.

Now the two Newburyport men have penned a book, "Nice Guys Can Get the Corner Office," written with University of Massachusetts at Amherst management professor Charles Manz. It's intended to help overly nice guys - of either gender - stick up for themselves and stop dodging the confrontations that are a natural part of the work day.
Hmmmmm ... not sure how that works. Guess I'll have to read the book.

Anyway, congrats to Tim Hiltabiddle, who was at our last writers group meeting - and who seems to be a nice guy!

(I believe the reporter, Joel Brown, lives here as well.)

Landfill video

Someone sent us all this link to a YouTube video.

That's the mayor of Everett, I gather.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


OK, I'm singin' my little Patriots song ...

Consumer report

My sisters and I bought my mother, for her birthday, this Shark steam mop.

I borrowed it on Thursday to further my fevered cleaning of this place. I don't do spring cleaning, apparently.

Anyway, this thing was like MAGIC. Fill it with water, wait 30 seconds, and steam away the grime. It works! Boy, does it work ... on the wood floor, on the lino ...

I don't think this floor has been this clean - ever. Well, I don't know who lived here 10 years ago, but I know it's not been this clean since I've lived here.

Two big thumbs up.

Friday, November 7, 2008


A belated huge "thank you" to all the people in Everett who keep me up on what's going on in that city, with this issue.

Someone has written to say that Thibeault's Lynnfield house is on the market. And apparently some policeman from Long Island is sniffing around here, asking questions ...

I don't know what will happen now ... if this all means anything.

The proposed agreement seems to me to be sort of "pie-in-the-sky," but who am I to say? Couldn't we use those landfill gases to generate some energy?

We may have an uncapped landfill on our hands soon! Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!

Rant of the day

Harking back to Tom Salemi's post on the election - I don't want to raise trouble on his blog, so I'll rant on my own blog this time.

Black liberation theology???? X, what the hell does that mean?

If you are who I think you are, you know me. You've spoken with me. You think I'm dangerous? I mean, you may not agree with me about a lot of things, but do you think I'm dangerous?

I've written about empathy before. That's where you feel the pain of others.

Until you've been followed around in stores, been stopped numerous times by the police for bogus reasons, or, you know, been considered to be sub-human, I would say ... well, I won't say it.

This election result has done more to forward race relations in this country than anything else could have.

If someone can't see that, then God help them.

And by the way, lots of people sit in church and listen to stuff they don't necessarily believe. Look at all the Catholics on birth control.

In fact, listening to the rhetoric of hate might inspire a person to go out and try to make a difference (or prove it wrong, for the most part) ... hmmmm, now there's a thought.

President Obama: sounds good to me

I direct you all, if you have not been there already, to Tom Salemi's excellent post about the election results.

My sister (the one in Malden) yesterday was telling me about how they let my niece and nephew stay up late to watch the results of the election.

My 15-year-old niece, my sister says, was intrigued by the process but was rather "Okay, he's black ... so what?" about it all. These are my white relatives I'm writing about ... of course, they all live in the highly multi-cultural, multi-racial Malden (which is why my sister and brother-in-law chose to live there in the first place).

See, that's the future comin' at us all.

I find comments about "black liberation" and all the other crap offensive.

I have the same racial makeup as Obama, I'm not even an American citizen, and I'm as American-loving as anyone.

In fact, people who carry on (wasn't it the ultra-white Gov. Romney who insitituted state-mandated health care here?) have given me pause in my vow to institute proceedings to become an American citizen as soon as I ever have extra money again .... if ever, that is ...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Peace and love

I was chatting with one of my neighbors yesterday afternoon, and he brought up an interesting point.

Somewhere way back, when I was still living in Washington, young people took over.

I mean, not me (I was still young then), but people who magically started making lots of money without "climbing the ladder."

Is this bad? Is that the root of all our problems?

Paying ones dues leads to a thought process that a younger person may not have yet achieved.

All of the people in my family (except me and my brother) have worked their way up to the income level that they currently enjoy. My brother and I are just hopeless.

Anyway, my neighbor told me that his 28-year-old son is making money hand-over-fist down on Wall Street. In a way, I guess, it bothers him on some level (or he wouldn't have brought it up, would he?).

I keep looking and listening to all the people - all under 40, as pointed out on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" this very morning - talking about politics and the economy. And I wonder, "Do I trust them?"

They have no historical context.

Take William Ayers, the 60s radical.

I lived on a farm in Michigan, hardly a hotbed of political strife, when Ayers and the Weather Underground were doing their dirty deeds.

But still, I don't care about William Ayers. Most people don't, it would appear.

It seems outrageous now, but back then - well, things were different. For one thing, as my neighbor pointed out, there was a real generation gap then. "Old people" were in charge, and they didn't think like we thought.

Nowadays there are no war protests on TV, young people pouring out into the streets, and no widespread race riots. Parents are "hip." (Although I have to say, my parents were pretty hip.)

It was different. As former Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford Jr. (38 years old) pointed out on TV this morning, he has never really suffered any particular hardship because of his race. I wish I could say that.

It's hard to explain, but we are poised on the edge right now. It's important, because it's what all those 60s radicals (and people like me) wanted way back then: peace and love.

Prosperity is not owed us - it's what we work for.

Laughing through my tears

Ha Ha Ha

I think it's funny how presidential candidates keep talking about capital gains taxes.

I'll let you figure out why.

Don't forget to VOTE

Saving myself

I keep thinking about that place of my former residence, Flint, Michigan.

I don't want to go back there; I just keep thinking about how different my life might be if I'd stayed there.

So I was reading on Flint Expatriates about something activist film maker Michael Moore said recently, in an interview with Media With Conscience:

Well, that distresses me to no end to even think about that, that it’s almost twenty years since Roger and Me, and I was saying this twenty years ago, that, you know, unless we get a handle on this, things aren’t going to get any better. And they didn’t. They just continued to get worse. If you go back and look, actually, at Roger and Me now, Flint, Michigan looks pretty good. Even though 30,000 jobs at that time had been eliminated, there were still 50,000 people working there. I think the last number I saw is that there’s somewhere between 11,000 and 13,000 people working for General Motors in Flint now, so almost 40,000 jobs less in Flint since I made that film. So it’s—I just can’t tell you how distressing that is for me.
It's almost as if I still live there, in some ways. But - if I did, I would maybe own a home (Pedro would be pleased) and have a job. Not the job I love and probably not this blog, but ...

This morning I woke up in tears because of a dream I had about being unfairly (or not) chastised by police officers dressed in band uniforms. Is there a connection?

I've been gone for a while because certain entities that shall remain nameless had a problem with my blog, my writing for "competing" publications ... and I sold my soul for the boost to my resume.

Needless to say, so far things have not turned out as planned. I'm going back to doing what I want to do (within reason, of course) and not what others dictate to me.

Monday, November 3, 2008


Hey everyone,

Be sure to vote for the presidential candidate of your choice on Tuesday!

I've got no particular opinion about the debt exclusion, except to say that things are probably going to get way worse before they get better.

(You didn't really believe I had no particular opinion, did you?)

Good night and good luck.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I'm in the wrong business

Wow, the Christian Science Monitor is going weekly ... or so says the stuff that runs along the bottom of the screen that I don't usually read because it's distracting

I'm watching "The View"

Sorry, I'm in the mode of Twitter and Facebook, with their constant question of "What are you doing?"

Some people actually do say what they're doing - when in reality what they are doing is typing on the computer. Kudos go to those who admit what they're doing is sitting there, at the computer!

Fortunately for me, I have a laptop and I can multi-task. So I'm typing and listening, although as soon as that Hasselbeck woman starts spouting, I'm outie.

I'm outie!

Back to MSNBC - although soon I'll switch over to some version of Law & Order that is shown all day on TNT.

So now you know what I'm doing. Not anything very productive.

Information overload

So I've been so overloaded about this election that I'm not only (slightly) depressed, but I've started packing my bags.

Just kidding.

With this new information age, every word that a candidate makes is scrutinized and analyzed, then some pundit (or "pundint," as McCain says) comes along and makes some pronouncement ... and on and on it goes, all day.

For example, how do I know that McCain mis-pronounces it "pundint?" Because I hear the same stump speech 2-3 times a day. It's an endless loop of Palin, McCain, Obama - with the occasional Biden thrown in, just in case he says something they can say is silly.

To be fair, Lieberman said the same thing in June about the new president being tested. But hardly anyone mentions that. Even on MSNBC, where both Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow have mentioned it more than once, the anchors ignore it.


As I said before, it's all a game. And the public are the pawns. I'm moving one square to the right, thank you.

I did find interesting the press on Sarah Palin being a "whack job." Only because it shows how far we've all fallen with the anonymous slams.

Seabrook siren test

I was going to write about this, but then I got all involved in being depressed (slightly), so this story in the daily gave me the impetus to proceed!

SEABROOK — There were no reports of whales jumping from the ocean or spooked animals running downtown in the wake of the first regionwide Seabrook Station siren test. In fact, many local residents are saying the drill sirens were not even loud enough to hear from their homes.
Hee hee ... a previous story had predicted whale and other animal extreme reactions to the test.

I was at The Tannery Mall when the first regional siren test of the Seabrook nuke plant went off last Saturday. I heard it ... and so did at least one other person who had no clue what it was and kind of freaked out in the parking lot.

I went into a building and then into the Nutcracker Bakery - and no longer was it audible.

"Some siren," I thought.

So it's good to know others also thought it was less than effective.

"All I could hear was a very far away faint whistle," Lynette Leka of Pine Island in Old Newbury said. "I wouldn't hear it at all if I were running the vacuum or mowing the lawn."

Leka noted while growing up in the Midwest, she would hear the tornado warning sirens, which she said "blew her socks off." She said there was no way to miss the tornado sirens that were numerous on streets in her hometown.
I've got to agree. Those tornado sirens were LOUD (civil defense, man).

But does it matter? I don't even know what to do if there is an accident at the plant.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Landfill meeting

Sorry, folks, I did not go to the meeting! I got a report (as did others) that the mayor presented a draft agreement (with New Ventures) to the City Council.

The agreement is 7 pages long, so if you would like a copy, email me and I'll send it along!

Basically, it says that NV releases the city (and all boards, officials, etc.) from all claims, demands, notices, actions, suits and causes of action for any and all response costs under General Laws, Chapter 21E ... regarding deposits made at the landfill regardless of date or origin of materials.

Current landfill owner will maintain the landfill for 1 year after closure and then hand it over to the city for maintenance.

NV shall grant an easement to the city for its use of a portion of the landfill for wireless telecommunications and alternative energy activity, such as a wind turbine it seems. This "portion" would be in the form of a pad or platform. NV will contribute to the construction.

People have already started to complain about this, since a wind turbine has to be anchored in the ground ... which in this case might involve penetrating the membrane that caps the dump.

They get 35 more trucks per day?? (Excluding trucks carrying construction & demolition materials.) For the purpose of closing and capping the landfill.

This is only part of the agreement, but it looks like these are the more salient points.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Mad Men (and women)

I've been turned on to AMC's dramatic series "Mad Men." Thanks, Jennifer!

So I was catching up with the series via On Demand and recaps on Television Without Pity (great for this kind of situation).

Season 2, episode 8 - called "Women on the Verge of Kicking Some Ass" on TWOP or "A Night To Remember" according to AMC - we've got a female office manager (Joan) filling in in an unfunded executive position at an ad agency.

As was clearly built up to in season 1 and season 2 prior to this episode, she performs in an outstanding manner. The ad agency gets all kinds of accolades. The inevitable happens ... the position gets funded ... I'll let TWOP's recapper, "Couch Baron," explain since he does it much better than could I:

Harry introduces Joan to "Dan," and says he's going to be in charge of Broadcast Operations. Joan's face freezes: "Excuse me?" Oblivious to the perfect storm that's manifesting right before him, Harry tells her that he really appreciates her having filled in, and asks if she can train Dan right then and there.
This series takes place in 1962, or thereabouts. What was so hilarious (not) to me is that this - or something of the same ilk - happened to me ... only in, like, 2002.

Yes, as hard as it is to believe, I one day came into the office I had been running efficiently to find a new guy there, who was introduced to me as the "Chief Administrative Officer." And since I did payroll, I knew he was being paid twice as much as was I.

Heh. I had to prop him up ... How far we've come, huh? And by "we," I mean both sexes.

It's a great series, though ... engrossing and disturbing. I didn't realize so many people smoked in the early 60s, but then I remembered both my parents smoked (although I don't remember that much alcohol consumption).

It's also cool to see dresses like the ones my mother used to wear.

Check it out, if you haven't already.

Question 1

Check out City Councillor Ed Cameron's blog, in which he posts about Question 1 (eliminating the state income tax).

Ed points to this editorial in today's New York Times. This is the opening paragraph of the opinion:

Next month, voters in Massachusetts will face a tempting ballot question: whether to eliminate the state’s income tax. This is a reckless proposal that would hurt all taxpayers. Voters should reject the idea.
Ed also has some more information about the question, which surely is of importance to all of us here in Massachusetts, including this:

Please join the local Democratic Town and City Committees of Amesbury, Newbury, Newburyport, Salisbury, and West Newbury at an information session on Thursday, October 23 at 7PM. The nonpartisan event will be at Newburyport City Hall and is open to all voters: Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. Your neighbors and your elected officials will discuss the impacts of Question 1, the ballot referendum to eliminate the State Income Tax.

Thank you all.

Wood Waste/New Ventures - appeal from Everett

I got this from someone in Everett:

Is there any way to post this and is there a way to get this in the Newburyport papers to inform the residents? People from Everett need to hear from the people of Newburyport. I know it's a trip, but it would be worth it. Everett's administration is seriously downplaying Newburyport's suffering and blaming Newburyport for all the problems, to the citizens of Everett.


* It is time for the people to be heard.
* Wood Waste needs to be stopped.
* Wood Waste should be made to come into compliance and be enclosed at
its present site on Boston Street.
* No more Rewarding a company that has no regard for the Health of the
Residents of Everett.

* Please come to the Public Meeting and take back Everett*

For information visit •

Date: Wednesday October 29, 2008
Time: 7:00 PM
Place: Everett City Hall • City Council Chambers

Friday, October 17, 2008

Nancy Colbert

A story I was writing for Globe North about Nancy Colbert's departure from our planning dept. was killed, so I'll tell you some interesting tidbits she told me while I was interviewing her:

She's recently engaged to be married.

She was not looking for another job; a friend pointed out the town administrator in Boylston because the friend knew that administration was Nancy's ultimate goal.

She's having knee surgery right before Thanksgiving, before she takes up her duties in Boylston.

Moak said he hopes to have someone that's "ready to commit" to take the position by Nov. 15 (Colbert's last day will be Nov. 21.)

On a related note - Was it in the daily that Mary Lattime, city treasurer/collector, is retiring at the end of the job?

Incoherent rambling

I was sort of semi-reading columnist Andrew Sullivan's piece on It is entitled "Why I Blog."

I got bored after the first few paragraphs - not because he's not an interesting character, but because I don't really care why he blogs. Besides, it goes on and on and on.

But my point (at this point) really is that we all blog because we think we have something interesting and/or informative to convey.

I haven't been blogging because whatever I have to say about anything that going on in which I'm interested - which would be the presidential election - would be entirely skewed.

Do you need my opinion?

Well, judging from all the watching of cable news I've been doing, and all the comments on other blogs and online editorials I've been reading, people crave reading other people's opinions.

It's all sort of unsettling to me.

Why haven't people made up their decision about who to vote for? Don't people realize that all of the news outlets are playing for the news, not just one particular candidate?

The media, which is largely owned by conservatives, is not "liberal." It's focus is making money, just like any other corporate entity.

It makes me laugh - or would if it weren't so inherently sad - to hear all this talk about "greed on Wall Street and in Washington."

Everyone is greedy. Who amongst us does not want to live the best life possible, financially?

Warren Buffet was writing about buying stocks, but here's what he writes in an editorial in today's New York Times:

A simple rule dictates my buying: Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful.

So that's fine for a millionaire. What about the rest of us?

Who cares about capital gains taxes? Stock portfolios are for wealthier people than I; I used to have one, but not anymore. It was never that large or significant.

Let's talk about getting me a job when newspapers are laying people off left and right and/or going out of business. Some (maybe) plumber in Ohio will always have work because people will always need plumbers.

I don't want to hear anymore about William Ayers, and I couldn't care less about the "Keating Five."

I need a reliable income stream.

Anything else is just pap to me. What is see on the news is fodder that is being presented to other angry, frustrated citizens who are now feeling the effects of our cumulative greed.

And, of course, the random fueling of the more base side of human nature.

I'll try to come up with something more coherent later. For right now, I have to figure out how I'm going to pay my rent this month.

**Speaking of which, I'm sending out a plea for a story idea about someone who is doing something unusual to make money during these hard economic times, or any interesting or unusual businesses.**

Monday, October 13, 2008

Do you believe people can be rehabilitated?

Isn't that a catchy title?

I'm not going to be scientific here; I've just been thinking about this for a few days.

When I was a teenager, the war in Vietnam was the #1 topic of discussion among people in my circle of friends and family. Understandably, since I was living in rural Michigan when I was a teen, there was not much dissent from older people.

But there sure was from people in my age group.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Pray for Atticus

I woke this morning to an email from Tom Ryan, sent to his friends and supporters, that little Atticus was attacked by another (unleashed) dog yesterday.

As of the time of his email (6:15 a.m.), Tom reports that Atticus is heavily sedated and he (Tom) is monitoring him for signs of a pneumothorax and/or a collapsed lung.

Tom and Atticus are due to be honored in Boston next Thursday for their fundraising efforts for other animals.

Pray for Atticus.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Amusement is my middle name

This is amusing: women (and men) who love Sarah Palin's looks and who are trying to look like her and buying 'her' glasses should read the folowing.

Palin referred to the attention her looks garner in an interview with Vogue magazine, before her nomination.

"I wish they'd stick with the issues instead of discussing my black go-go boots. A reporter once asked me about it ... and I assured him I was trying to be as frumpy as I could by wearing my hair on top of my head and these schoolmarm glasses," she said.
The full report is from Reuters.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Yay Helen!

Thanks to Ari for pointing out (on Twitter) this blog by an 82-year-old woman living in Texas, Helen Philpot.

She got 540+ comments on a post about Sarah Palin!

Now, a lot of people think she is not an 82-year-old woman at all. Some young people claim that she's too old to be blogging ...

May I point out that my 78-year-old mother has a Facebook? My nephew thinks it's a hoot, but honestly! Senior citizens aren't what a lot of people think they are ... demented old coots.


Fast talking

Does anyone but me (and my mother) notice how fast people on TV are talking these days?

I mean actual speed of talking. My mother, who is hard of hearing to begin with, has difficulty hearing these people who speed read through their scripts.

I understand that cable news anchors have to cram a lot into the day (never mind how much pabulum is in there that they could easily cut out), but I was just listening to a woman anchor (or whatever they call them) on MSNBC who talks so fast she gives me a headache.

I don't know her name because they never identify themselves, nor does MSNBC - but I think she's Tamron Hall. For an hour, I've been thinking guests were thanking "Cameron" for having them on the show.

Last week the cable news networks spent as much time dissecting the OJ trial as they did the economic crisis, but that's another issue altogether. Does anyone really care about OJ Simpson anymore?

Anyway, TV shows, these news people and whoever else are talking so fast that it's mind bending. Sometimes I have to rewind, when I can, to understand what someone said.

Landfill news from Everett

I had 2 comments from people in Everett to my last post about the landfill, which was a while ago now. I also received an email that said the same thing, so here it is, in total:

Please read here where the Mayor of Everett, Carlo DeMaria said last night that he has a meeting on Wednesday with the AG to reopen the landfill. You may already know this but I wanted to make sure you knew, and there wasnt any back room deals getting made behind Newburyport's back.

Also, the city of Everett is having an open public hearing on ALL matters with William Thibeault, on October 29, 2008 where Chip Nylen is invited to attend, to tell his spin on the landfill. Conveniently, the time and place was not mentioned by the mayor. community-then Wood Waste

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Lying and cheating

I was thinking today about people running for office who have small children.

What do you do, as a candidate, when your young child comes up to you and says, "Daddy/Mommy, a man/woman on TV just said you are (fill in a terrorist, a bimbo, or any other slur that you've heard this election season)?"

What do you say to your child when s/he repeats back to you what YOU said?

"Mommy, you said that man is a terrorist ... is that man really a terrorist?"

What do you say?

This culture is based too much on "acceptable" lies. All's fair, right?

I play this computer game, Civilization, a lot. It would be fair to say I'm addicted to it. This is a game in which to start building a civilization - and if you're playing solo, you are playing against other civilizations run by artificial intelligence, or AI.

The game cheats like ... like ... well, I can't think of anything right off hand. There's even an option for the player to cheat. There's no fair measure or explanation of why you're in last place, even though you have the largest and seemingly most thriving civilization.

You could have 15 military units guarding a city, and it does not matter, because an AI civilization will inevitably show up with 30 units to attack you. It does not matter the number, you can be sure the other civ will have more.

You can even predict it. If you think you're doing well - well, you're not. The creators of the latest version of the game even say, I believe, that it's nearly impossible to beat the AI.

I wouldn't know because I, in desperation, downloaded the game off the website and did not really get an owner's manual that I can access. Thank you, Windows Vista.

Why do I keep playing? Because, like a fool, I keep thinking there's some way that I can make it so it doesn't cheat. I've been thinking like that for more than 15 years now.

I know that because I was playing Civ the day I got the call that my niece had been born in Chicago, 15 years ago on Aug. 28.

What kind of a schmuck does that make me?