Saturday, May 31, 2008

Water problems need more study, information

We've got to get real here, folks, and really think hard about what little old Newburyport and its aging infrastructure can support. If you have not already, read the comment from "Pedro" on this post.

A while back I did this story for the Current about the city's water woes. I spoke with Brendan O'Regan, basically the DPW director, about the city's water needs. He started out by saying that he cannot assess Newburyport's water needs 10-20 years down the road because he has no idea of what's coming down the pike.

I also spoke to Nancy Colbert, the planning director, and the mayor.

Apparently Colbert later questioned what O'Regan had said about the water supply and him having to estimate usage based on zero development at Waterfront West, owned by Newburyport Development/New England Development.

While everyone is hailing and lauding Stephen Karp right now, I have yet to see anyone (in print) question whether Newburyport's infrastructure can support a hotel. I also have not seen notice of all these public hearing about upgrading/moving plants to other locations.

In the latest story from the Current about the Newbury development that needs our water/sewer service, the only Newburyport official quoted is Nancy Colbert.

People should demand answers. Don't just cave in to fancy developers whose job depends on them being able to sweet talk their way into our lives. Look at the landfill, look at what the landfill owner is doing in Everett. And then ask yourself, "How did this guy ever get anyone to allow him within the borders of these towns?"

We did not ask Mr. Karp in (despite whatever he says) - he came here because the land was for sale - but we certainly can stick to our guns.

And as for Newbury - they are our neighbors. One day we may need something from them. Can't think what, right off the bat, but we may. But because they are our neighbors, the chances of them really, really screwing us over are minimal.

Oh the humanity!

According to the CNN report, 60,000 pounds of lobster was lost in the early morning fire at James Hook & Co. in Boston.

Firefighters struggled to contain the blaze at James Hook & Co. for several hours after it broke out about 3:30 a.m. Flames burned through rooms full of corrugated cardboard boxes used for shipping seafood, fire department spokesman Steve MacDonald said.

The cause of the blaze was unclear.

Damage was estimated at $5 million, including the loss of about 60,000 pounds of lobster, MacDonald said. No one was in the building, which housed both wholesale and retail businesses, when the fire began.

I used to go there for lunch, when I worked in the financial district. Another Boston landmark gone up in flames. There was, if I recall correctly, some dispute with this place at the time the Big Dig was being planned, or the new bridge there was being built, or something.

I recall correctly. From the Globe story:
"If I survived the Big Dig, I can survive anything. That was like hand-to-hand combat,'' Edward Hook told reporters. "We will set up a trailer, we will set up a tent. I don't know what we are going to do, but we will find a way. Once this mess is cleaned up, we will find a way.''

Friday, May 30, 2008

Landfill executive session

I'm not sure I get why there is an executive session before the special City Council meeting Monday night.

According to Mass. General Law, executive sessions (as exceptions to the open meeting law) may only be called when discussing strategy with respect to litigation. Read the Open Meeting Law Guidelines here, which includes (on pg. 25):

Discussions concerning strategy with respect to ongoing litigation obviously fits within this
purpose, but again only if an open meeting may have a detrimental effect on the litigating position of the governmental body. Discussions relating to proposed litigation are not covered by this excemption unless that litigation is clearly and imminently threatened.21 That a person is represented by counsel and supports a position adverse to the governmental body's does not mean litigation is imminently threatened. Nor does the fact that a newspaper reports a party has threatened to sue mean imminent litigation.

Note: A governmental body's discussions with town counsel do not automatically fall under this or any other exception. (my emphasis)

According to the Daily News, this session is to allow Mark Reich, the city's attorney, to give updates on potential litigation regarding the landfill, specifically the issues stemming from 21E.

Please correct me if I'm wrong about this. What am I saying? I know that you will.

Ward 5 meeting on landfill

It may be a little late in the day to post this (I confess, I've been snoozing on the couch), but Ward 5 City Councillor Brian Derrivan is holding a ward meeting from 8:30-10:30 tomorrow morning, at City Hall. At least I think he means tomorrow; he said "next Saturday" morning in the email, which was sent out at 4:37 p.m. today.

I was earlier thinking about Derrivan's comments as printed in the Daily News and whether Bruce Vogel would not have been meeting with his constituents to get their views, so it was nice to see that the same thought occurred to Derrivan (albeit it a little late).

Reader "Bubba" and I had a little exchange in comments on an earlier post, here, where we talked about the city setting bars too low.

I understand that it's a little late to be setting bars with New Ventures, the landfill owner. But I hope city leaders will continue to think about the impact of increased truck traffic and potential retribution by NV before they take up the issues on Monday night.

Money talks but it's not always saying anything worth listening to.

Newburyport skis

Hey, I have an idea.

Let's give New Ventures permission to raise the height of the landfill and then make a ski slope out of it. Just think of the possibilities: not only light skiing but snow tubing and snow boarding ... why waste a perfectly good pile of rubbish?

And in the summer ... can anyone scream "water park!" Why let Amesbury Sports Park have all the local snow and water business? Their hill will be nothing compared to what we'll get, if the City Council approves the changes to the host community agreement.

What are they going to do with it, once it's capped? Will it be grassy? Will people be able to sit in its shadow and picnic? Will there be a cafe?

It only just occurred to me that kids are going to be all over it, no matter what's on it. Of course, since it probably won't be capped until 2020, it's not an urgent matter.

And finally ... this REALLY stinks

I was driving by the sewer plant this morning, on my way to the laundromat and to run errands, and WOW, what a stink.

I don't think I'd ever noticed a smell there before, but today ... it reminded me of the stench that happened when the guys who hooked this house up to the sewer system were pumping out the septic tank prior to smashing it up.

By the way, I got my hair all cut off (but not as a result of the smell). I miss my hair.

More on Karp

And speaking of the Current, here is its take on the Chamber meeting that featured Stephen Karp.

As always, you read the Daily News account, then you read the one in the Current, and you wonder if the 2 reporters were at the same meeting. When I was THE ONLY reporter with the Current for so long, I knew my report was ... what can I say? I am talking about myself.

In any case, I would have gone with the 'spin' Stephen Tait used, but I would have pointed out the things I pointed out here, in my recent post. He may have done so, in the piece he wrote - there's no accounting for what editors do to the stories we reporters file.

More bitching

I'm an equal-opportunity mocker. I just don't usually read the Newburyport Current since my unfortunate 'incarceration' there. But I was reading it a while ago, on line.

The story I was reading was about Newbury's River at Little Village, or whatever. It has about 3 different names, at least in the papers.

So, I was reading this big, long story by Ms. Buckley, the editor, and trying to stay awake. Then I came to the final paragraph, which reads:

Should the project win approval at Newbury’s special Town Meeting Tuesday, June 24, the final hurdle would be Newburyport’s decision about water and sewer service. Without that OK, the project would be scrapped, Tymon said. (That would be the delightful Judy Tymon, Newbury's town planner.)

The first paragraph, by the way, reads:

With recent approvals from the Newbury Planning Board and Finance Committee and a special Town Meeting planned for next month to approve the plan, Newbury’s Village at Little River mixed-use development project is nearing reality.

I would think that bit about scrapping the project should be one of the first paragraphs, not the last. Maybe I'm being too critical. But I remember being instructed on more than one occasion by said Ms. Buckley on how to construct a news story. I believe that should have been the "nut" paragraph?

This deal smells

Hmmmm, this story in today's Daily News gave me a little pause.

It seems there has been some kind of a deal struck between the city and New Ventures, the company that owns the landfill.

Mayor John Moak said the proposal is the result of "conversations" between the company and city officials. Details of New Ventures' proposed amendments to the host agreement were outlined in a letter given to the mayor and City Council this week.

At the heart of the proposal is to increase the traffic into the landfill — which has been a major point of contention for many of the neighbors — from 35 to 70 trucks a day.

(Me: Does anyone realize how much truck traffic that would be? One truck every seven minutes over an 8-hr. day, going through a residential area.)

In return, the agreement would release the city of some potential responsibility for cleanup, since the state's Department of Environmental Protection last year declared the dump a "21E" contaminated site rather than a solid waste landfill.

So there is potential liability for the city? From what I understand, the city never owned the site. The city contracted with the previous owner to dump city waste there.

New Ventures argues that because of the designation change, all those entities that have dumped at Crow Lane over the years — including the city — must help pay for the closure costs. The company argues that would cost the city $2 to $3 million.

This seems ridiculous to me.

(Mayor John) Moak also said New Ventures' proposal would release the city from liability on some of the issues from 21E but not all.

So there IS liability. This is useless. Guess we'll all just have to wait until Monday night. The public part of the meeting doesn't start until 7:30.

But wait, I just got this email, from Ron:

Just a little rough calculation to help understand how much more volume the landfill owner is asking for.

I heard the approximate volume increase is 70,000 cubic yards. If you remove the roof from Newburyport City Hall and fill the building with construction trash, I estimate it would hold 7,000 cubic yards. So the landfill volume increase is 10 city halls (70,000 divided by 7,000).

Picture 10 city hall buildings side by side. That's the additional volume we'll be trucking into Crow Lane in exchange for a promise that the landfill owner won't sue the city.

Good deal? You decide.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Another evening out: PIG

I just returned from the Plum Island Grille, which luckily is a 5-minute drive from here. You know that island people (the non-tony ones) called it PIG, right? There's a funny story related to this - and here it is:

I was recently talking to a woman who works at a local establishment. She was telling me that one of the owners of PIG came into the establishment before the business opened and told her what the name was going to be, and asked her what she thought.

"Great!" she said. "We can call it PIG."

He was not happy with this revelation. She didn't say which owner it was. But we had a good chuckle over it.

Anyway, I went to PIG to meet Triple-D, who has requested that I remind everyone that the nickname stands for "Deep-Dish Diva" (because in a previous post I was talking about a debate about pizza and she was saying she preferred the deep-dish variety).

Apparently people have taken it to mean something else. I would not be that rude. I've got rather huge tracts of ... land ... myself, so I'm sensitive to this stuff. Minds out of the gutter, readers.

I drank two drinks, had some (mediocre) fried calamari and left her there, chatting up some dude. I needed to barf, or lie down, or both. Bleeccch.

She wanted me to chat up the dude's friend and tried to push me into it by insisting that I talk to him about this company GREENPUPPY.ORG, which is all about planting trees to compensate for one's carbon footprint. The dude's friend, it turns out, is in the lumber business.

She had earlier introduced me to the proprietor of She meant well, but I'm not good at chatting men up.

Don't know why I drink. Don't know why anyone drinks.

Developing story

Under the headline "Developing Story," has this announcement: Comic actor Harvey Korman dies at 81.

I'm sorry about Korman (although he was never one of my favorites), but really, is this a "developing" story? The other day it was a "developing story" that Sydney Pollack died.

The man is dead; the story says what he died from, what films/TV shows he appeared in, who his survivors are - what more is there to develop? Is there going to be a resurrection?

Ride sharing

Now here's something else we should consider. The Globe is just full of stuff today!

This is about ride sharing, which is gaining in popularity in NH (also check out the story above it, about a planned parking garage in Haverhill).

Ride sharing is also becoming more attractive in the Bay State. "We're seeing an increase in interest daily, both in car pooling and van pooling [a program where a group of commuters lease, drive, and maintain a van]," said Jennifer Walsh Carroll, a spokeswoman for MassRIDES, the executive office of program that provides free assistance to commuters and employers interested in organizing car and van pools as well as exploring public transportation options.

Carroll said she is unable to determine how many new commuters have signed up to the registry because of skyrocketing gasoline prices, but she said there's plenty of incentive. According to figures compiled by MassRIDES, the average Massachusetts household spends more on transportation than it does on food: 15 percent of its income. Of the 3 million people who commute in Massachusetts each day, 74 percent of them drive alone.
Carroll said there are now about 13,000 commuters registered on the MassRIDES

How about that? We spend more on transportation than we do on food. And I've got to drive back down to N. Billerica on Mon. morning. Maybe they'll give me food at the place I'm writing a story about.

Bottoms up! has posted the 25 perfect beaches, rated on a variety of reasons. Need I say, no beach here on Plum Island made the cut, although the Refuge did get a mention.

I think Newburyport should consider this:

Avoid the $22 parking fee -- and a full lot after noon -- at Ipswich's popular Crane Beach by taking the Newburyport commuter rail line to Ipswich Station. Catch the Ipswich-Essex Explorer shuttle bus, which runs on weekends and holidays in the summer between 10:20 a.m. and 5 p.m.

And I mean both parts, the hefty parking fee for non-residents and the shuttle. The way it is right now, the city charges everyone the same parking fee (not sure what it is this year, but it's not even close to $22).

Why don't we get resident stickers? And what about a water shuttle as well?

The southern tip of PI is so close to Ipswich, we could cash in on the popularity of Crane (isn't it Crane's?) by offering rides over to the island, and then a shuttle into town. Or a fishing boat. Or anything.

This to me just shows that this city, this island and our beaches are too far off the main beat to rate. That and the rip tides, greenheads, nowhere near the beach to eat (except for Newbury's Mad Martha's ... hooray for Brad, the owner, but it's not near the Newburyport beach).

Is that man with the hot dog cart out there at the point again this year?

Finally, although I'm mostly fine with officials looking the other way about light scofflaws, I don't think it should be broadcast in the media:

Town rules prohibit dogs between May 1 and Sept. 15, but many owners quietly observe their own rules -- most of all the scoop mandate, which they follow yearround.

No wonder those underage drinking kids don't consider that they're breaking a law. In every little way, we adults send a message to the younger set.

More landfill news, just in

From Ron Klodenski, of the ad hoc advisory committee dealing with landfill issues:

The owner of the Crow Lane landfill is proposing to release the City of Newburyport from environmental liability claims related to the contents of the Crow Lane landfill if the city will allow an increase in volume being trucked in and an increase in truck traffic from 35 to 70 trucks a day. (See letter; click to enlarge images.)

If you think agreeing to this is folly, be sure to say so at the Monday (June 2) city council meeting, 7 pm at City Hall.
So Jim Stiles was right on in his assessment, stated to the City Council on Monday night. We cannot allow these people to hold capping the landfill as ransom. You let us do this, we don't sue you.

Drive 60 mph, save gas!

Speaking of driving on highways, which I just was, replying to a comment from Dick Monahan, I noticed that Mass. drivers have really latched on to the saving gas regime by driving slower.

That's sarcasm.

Despite all kinds of advice about how driving 60 mph uses less gasoline, it was speeding as usual down I-495 yesterday afternoon.

I kept to the right lane and drove 60 mph. A few cars around me were also driving more moderately (including a VW Beetle that was behind me for miles, cruising at a like speed). But just about everyone else was barrelling along, including big old trucks.

Now, we hear that food prices have gone up because of the cost of transporting food across the country. Why isn't someone making the truck drivers drive slower? I saw trucks hauling products, a FedEx truck, you name it ... all going at least 75 mph since they were blowing by me.

Literally, I was left in the dust, my little Jetta shuddering in their draft.

Karp "a little more bullish" on waterfront hotel

Well, of course, since I was in Tyngsboro last night, I was not at the main event. That would be Karp speaking at the Chamber of Commerce annual meeting. Not that I was invited, or would have paid to go, in any case.

This first paragraphs in the Daily News story say a lot (in fact, they're the only paragraphs that really say anything at all):

GEORGETOWN — Developer Stephen Karp yesterday signaled that his company is moving forward with plans for a hotel along the Merrimack River, saying the firm, Newburyport Development, has "become more aggressive" in that area since his last visit to the city in March.

Karp said the main catalyst is the result of a market study of Newburyport regarding a hotel. He said in most cases, such a study would compare similar businesses, but none exist in the area, which caused the company doing the study to underestimate the potential.

"I think we are becoming a little more bullish on it," he said.

Since I thought he was pretty bullish about a hotel when he was in the city in March, I really have no clue what this means.

Unless, of course, he backed off when a study confirmed that the city could not support a hotel, but now he's discovered that big meetings/events have to be held at the Georgetown Country Club?

Well, I'll tell you, I've been to a lot of Chamber of Commerce meetings, gala events and whatnot for the Merrimack Valley Magazine in the last few months and only one of them was NOT held at a country club in a neighboring town. That one was held at a hotel outside of Andover, just off 495.

Not that we shouldn't have a big fancy function space here, since we're so convenient to everywhere else and all and we have those big, wide streets and ample parking ... oh, right, he's willing to work with the city on parking.

Did I mention that when I went to the YWCA of Greater Lawrence event a couple of weeks ago, held at the Andover Country Club, it took me almost a half an hour to drive a half mile because of the traffic jam from attendees exiting the country club? If not, I'm telling you now ...

That event I went to last night was at a country club in Tyngsboro (it was a Lowell event). I did not stay until the end so I don't know what the traffic was like afterwards. But the parking lot was jammed when I left, so I can only shudder at the thought.

Let's get real. You have a function space that holds 400-500 people, you've got at a minimum 350 extra cars navigating the narrow streets of Newburyport. Parking is not the only issue here.

Most rational communities apparently understand this phenomenon and use country clubs that are in a more rural setting for big meetings, galas, and whatnot.

Hey, but you know what? Amesbury has a lot of empty land that is very convenient to 495. Why not build something there, New England Development? A nice big golf course with a nice big country club.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Green Line collision

Well here's something you don't want to see when you go on the CNN website. Yes, those are Green Line trolleys.

More details, such as they are, here (from WCVB, Boston).

The story says the Green Line is the heaviest traveled light-rail line in the country.

Oh, dear. I have probably been on both those trains at least one time or another. Apparently there are no serious injuries, so that's a blessing.

Oh, I forgot: update on one accident

This is the whole story, per the Daily News:

WEST NEWBURY — A Pentucket Regional High School teacher is in stable condition after surgery for injuries suffered after a car accident Friday afternoon.

Gregory Kunkel, 58, of 28 Kinsale Drive, Rochester, N.H., was transported by MedFlight to Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston after the accident. Kunkel teaches English at the high school.

According to police reports, Kunkel was driving a 2002 Pontiac Grand Am east on Main Street when he veered left off the road shortly after Garden Street and drove down an embankment into a tree. Emergency responders needed several minutes to extricate Kunkel from the car and had to use the Jaws of Life hydraulic tool, according to reports.

Police are still investigating the accident

My evening out

I headed off this evening to Tyngsboro/Tyngsborough to cover a fancy function for Merrimack Valley Magazine. Nothing really to report about the event (since I'm reporting on it in the magazine) but once again, it was me vs. The (Evil) City of Lowell.

Why, you ask, is it evil? Well, it's probably only evil to me. Every time I go there, I ... ah ... cough ... end up taking the scenic route. (That means I get lost.)

I only had to turn around once on the way to the Vesper Country Club, but coming home ... well, let's just say I forgot how lovely Boston looks in the early evening.
Actually, it wasn't that bad. After missing the exit to get back on I-495 (it was NOT clearly marked that you had to take the exit for Rte. 110), I decided that rather than turning around, I would just go to I-95/Rte. 128. I knew it was there somewhere.
And it was - just a tad more southerly than I wanted to be, of course. I had to go through all those "W" towns - Woburn, Winchester, WrongWay ... wait, that was me, not a town.

When I finally arrived at home, my neighbor (with who I had briefly discussed my anxiety about going anywhere near Lowell before leaving for this event) was outside and asked me how I made out.

"Oh," I replied, "I missed the exit for 495 off Rte. 3 and had to go all the way to 95."
"You mean 128."

I always forget that people who grew up here think of that piece of road as 128, as of course it has been for years, before it became also I-95. I remember when I first moved to Mass., being very confused about signs that alternately identified the highway as 95 and 128.

Since I frequently end up in Gloucester (staying on 128) and not Newburyport (exiting to 95), I tend to exit onto Rte. 1 at the earliest opportunity. Plus, there's a McDonald's on Rte. 1, in Rowley. It's almost a straight line to right where I want to be.
And that would be home. In Newburyport.

P.S. I did not drink that cosmo, I just photographed it.


I was intrigued by City Council President James Shanley's comment at last night's meeting that, "Word on the street is that (the food's) quite good."

Not the most ringing of endorsements, so I asked a person I met with today what he thought of Oregano's, our newest (but by no means last) pizza place. He is the only person I've come across who's actually been there.

"We didn't really have a lot of food," he began.


"I was not impressed out of my mind, but it was OK ... The service was excellent!"

He went on to say it was kind of cramped but that "adds to the charm."

Most important, about the pizza: "The overall mechanics of the pizza were good - the crust, the seasonings, etc." He thought there was too much garlic on the pizza, but conceded that it was a garlic pizza, after all.

Newbury to rekindle water commission

I muddled my way through this story, posted at 3:50 a.m. on the Daily News website, and which (only now?) is telling who is running for water commissioner in tomorrow's election in Newbury.

I'm trying to ignore Newbury, since I don't live there and as far as I can tell, nobody from Newbury actually reads my blog. Wait, I lie, I know one person in Newbury who does. It's not easy, though (the ignoring part, that is).

In the story, it says that Newbury is considering bringing water and sewer service to the area around its town hall. Is that on Newburyport's dime, too? I don't know; it does not say.

The water district appears to have held its last meeting in July 2003, according to newspaper archives, when residents voted to approve a memorandum of understanding with the Newburyport Water Commission over water rights for the Plum Island water and sewer project.

The district had been revived the previous winter, in the midst of residents' dissatisfaction with an agreement between Newburyport and the Newbury Board of Selectmen.

Now, Newburyport Mayor John Moak has said Newbury will have to help find new sources of water if the city is to supply The Village at Little River commercial-and-residential development at Route 1 and Middle Road.

The Newbury Planning Board has also raised the possibility of bringing water and sewer service to the area around Town Hall and the Upper Green.

I found this piece of information to be interesting (although I knew about the school):

Newburyport supplies water to 466 Newbury customers, not counting Plum Island, according to Water Department figures. That includes Newbury Elementary School on Hanover Street.

I have a question: why did these 2 communities ever split?

The law won

It would seem that nothing generates more ire around here than the police and court system trying to enforce laws that have to do with drinking.

First there was Billy White and all those people commenting on the Daily News online about how he made a "mistake" by running down two teenagers while driving drunk, and killing one of them (Trista Zinck). Well, it was a mistake - it's also called reckless endangerment, or manslaughter in some states.

Didn't any of these people watch "Oz" on HBO? One of the characters was in the maximum security facility for doing just the same - killing a youngster while driving drunk. I know, that's fiction. But it resonates.

Anyway, now people are incensed because some high school seniors were having a 'harmless' drinking party on private property in West Newbury and some of them got busted for underage drinking. Read about it here and here.

Every year it's the same damn thing. But I am surprised by the reaction to all these incidents. It's against the law, people! You get busted, you take the responsibility. Whether anyone intended, or even was able, to drive is beside the point.

Now I'm the first to agree that the West Newbury police are ... ummm ... ultra vigilant. As in, watch your ass while driving through West Newbury. And I'll also admit that there was a certain amount of drinking at the time of my graduation from high school. (Not much, though. I think I recall one bottle of schnapps being passed around. Put me right off drinking.)

But still, the police got a report of underage drinking and they HAD to respond. Too bad the law had to interfere with the fun times these kids were having. Evil, naughty law.

For more on this topic, check out Ari Herzog's blog, which I only realized has a post on this same issue. Oh, well.

Wardrobe watch

OK, so this has to be one of the most ridiculous things I've ever read (from the Boston Globe).

Does Dunkin' Donuts really think its customers could mistake Rachael Ray for a terrorist sympathizer? The Canton-based company has abruptly canceled an ad in which the domestic diva wears a scarf that looks like a keffiyeh, a traditional headdress worn by Arab men. Some observers, including ultra-conservative Fox News commentator Michelle Malkin, were so incensed by the ad that there was even talk of a Dunkin' Donuts boycott. "The keffiyeh, for the clueless, is the traditional scarf of Arab men that has come to symbolize murderous Palestinian jihad," Malkin yowls in her syndicated column.

Following what the Globe calls the right-wing drumbeat on the blogosphere, Dunkin' Donuts caved and yanked the ad. This apparently has satisfied Malkin.

So now we've got to worry about what scarves we wear. I actually own a scarf that has a fringe on it like that. Guess I won't be appearing in it anytime soon.

I think we should just yank Fox News off the air and have done with it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Landfill lawyer addresses City Council

Well it's all for nought because there is a special public meeting scheduled for next Monday, in which a formal presentation will take place by Richard "Chip" Nylen, attorney for New Ventures, LLC.

The special meeting was set for Monday, June 2, proposed time 7 p.m., pending being officially called by Mayor Moak. All Nylen did tonight was formally submit the letter which you can read here, if you haven't already.

Five citizens stood and spoke against amending the host community agreement that the city entered into with New Ventures while a clearly engaged Nylen idly gazed out the window.

Just to recap, New Ventures is saying they need to truck more materials into the landfill in order to proceed with capping and permanently sealing said pile. They are appealing to the city, which they have screwed over at every opportunty, to amend the host community agreement.

Not sure why the City Council did not tell Nylen to get New Ventures to stop thumbing its nose at the city and send him packing tonight. I guess the mayor wants to give Nylen the opportunity to state his case, some time other than as soon as possible, which is what Nylen asked for in the letter.

As Ron Klodenski, who is on the ad hoc landfill advisory committee, said to Council, once NV ships all the materials they have been contracted to dispose of into the landfill, there will no longer be a financial incentive for the company to actually cap and seal the landfill as agreed.

By the by

I was going to attend tonight's City Council meeting, but then I got ... er, sidetracked. yeah, that's the ticket - I got sidetracked. So I'm tuned in the municipal cable channel.

I'll try to bring you a cohert account of the proceedings a little later. NothatI'mnotcoherent/at the moement.

Blogging, Part II

A story appeared this weekend in the NY Times Magazine, and it's all about blogging. Well, one person's blogging. Her name is Emily Gould. You can read it in its entirety here. Warning: It's very long.

In the piece, a young former professional blogger rambles on about blogging, exposing her life on a blog, why she did it and why she doesn't do it so much anymore.

In essence, it's about waking up with ideas or stories you yearn to share and having the opportunity to do so. Only it can go too far.

I started this blog to kind of offset what I saw as a dearth of good news reporting but it has become more like an online diary with some newsy stuff thrown in.

She is a lot younger than I, so I think she kind of went overboard - although I saw a lot of me in her. I, too, wrote parodies of teachers and classmates in a notebook and passed it around during study hall. I, too, have the impulse to mock people for the world to see.

Emily says, Of course, some people have always been more naturally inclined toward oversharing than others. Technology just enables us to overshare on a different scale. Long before I had a blog, I found ways to broadcast my thoughts — to gossip about myself, tell my own secrets, tell myself and others the ongoing story of my life. As soon as I could write notes, I passed them incorrigibly. In high school, I encouraged my friends to circulate a notebook in which we shared our candid thoughts about teachers, and when we got caught, I was the one who wanted to argue about the First Amendment rather than gracefully accept punishment. I walked down the hall of my high school passing out copies of a comic-book zine I drew, featuring a mock superhero called SuperEmily, who battled thinly veiled versions of my grade’s reigning mean girls. In college, I sent out an all-student e-mail message revealing that an ex-boyfriend shaved his chest hair. The big difference between these youthful indiscretions and my more recent ones is that you can Google my more recent ones.

But I sort of keep it in check. As she says, she became a professional blogger and it came back on her - and it wasn't pretty.

Aside from the people who blog to keep friends and family apprised of their activities, I think we bloggers are all most akin to professional comedians. Who else is so willing to expose themselves and their inner circle to such derision?

Catch this band, if you can

Among Criminals, the band that you can see and hear on the video bar to the left or on their MySpace page, is playing at Capt. Carlo's in Gloucester this Sat. night.

If you go on MySpace, play "I See" first. It's my favorite - although I still maintain they are better live than recorded. They are damn great live.

I went to see them earlier this year when they played the Paradise in Boston, and they got a tremendous response, even as much (if not more) than the band for which they were opening.

The lead singer, Ryan Gaughan (middle guy in the photo), is nephew to Newburyport's Dominique and Ken Dear, and he feels a strong affinity to the waterside and our fair city.

They'll also be playing an all-ages show at the Sad Cafe in Plaistow the night before and an 18+ gig at The Grog July 10.

Oh, Newbury, Newbury, Newbury

I read with interest this story in today's Daily News, which states that the Newbury Planning Board is backing the proposed Little River Development, or whatever it's called.

NEWBURY — The Planning Board has formally endorsed a proposal for a mixed-use development at the corner of Route 1 and Middle Road.

The five-member panel voted unanimously earlier this month (my emphasis) to recommend the approval of two zoning overlay districts at a special Town Meeting next month that would allow for the development of the Village at Little River.

Earlier this month? No date was available? Was it so long ago that we're ashamed to print the date, Daily News?

Anyway, I was thinking that perhaps Newburyport had slipped in approval of this development using this city's water and sewer service, seeing as how Newbury has little or none. Way down in the story (I think it's the ninth paragraph) comes this tidbit of information:

In addition to the zoning overlay districts, the developers need to know whether Newburyport will provide sewer and water service to the project. City officials are studying the developers' proposal for sewer and water improvements.

I assume by "city officials," they mean the ones here in Newburyport.

So ... people in Newbury will be voting on zoning changes related to this development come June and yet nobody knows whether the project will get water & sewer service from Newburyport?

Maybe they think that if they build it, Newburyport will come (bearing municipal services). Sort of like when they engaged a lobbyist to fight for funds to fix the Newbury town beach and THEN came to Newburyport asking for a donation.

Yes, well ... I'm restraining myself ... there will be an informational meeting with said Planning Board and the Board of Selectmen on Saturday, May 31, from 9 to 11, in the Newbury Elementary School auditorium.

Landfill on Council agenda

I just got word that the landfill is on the agenda for tonight's City Council meeting. Every last stinky bit of it.

OK, it's an agenda item.

We have been generating some chatter on the Everett Average Citizen forum, here. People in Everett are suffering somewhat more than we here in Newburyport because our city officials are all over the landfill owner.

Or were. I'm still worried that some kind of deal has been struck.

Someone, I forget who (it may have been Mary Eaton) advised marching on the State House to get some real action against this Thiebeault guy. And never forget that New Ventures, LLC, is the company he set up to do business here. He can walk away at any time.

It's not in his best interest to do so at this time (Why should he? He's making mega-bucks off disposing of questionable materials for the state.)

Tonight, 7:30 p.m. Be there, or watch it on local access cable, channel 9.

Stop Mt. Stink from getting even higher!

SO, where's the rest?

Last Friday there was a brief story in the Daily News about two accidents that required MedFlights for the victims. This is the entire story:

The holiday weekend got off to a dangerous start yesterday when two major accidents snarled traffic and left drivers with serious injuries.

A black sedan drove off the road and hit a tree in the area of 900 Main St. in West Newbury around 2:30 p.m. yesterday. One unidentified male passenger, who according to police is a local teacher, was taken by MedFlight to a Boston hospital. As of yesterday evening, police would not release any details of the crash or the name of the victim.

At 4 p.m., State Police as well as Rowley and Georgetown police responded to a serious accident on the on-ramp to Interstate 95 from Route 133 in Rowley.

The vehicle overturned multiple times, and the driver was ejected from the vehicle. The victim was taken by MedFlight to an area hospital. State Police did not return phone calls seeking additional information.

OK ... so a local teacher (which community?) and at least one other person were apparently injured seriously enough to have to be flown out of the area for treatment ... so where is the follow-up?

I've been scouring the online edition of the DN and haven't seen any, yet. My mother (who lives in Gloucester), however, told me yesterday she saw video of the accident at the on ramp, on the TV news. According to her, there were no serious injuries.

It would be nice, especially for the people who wrote comments of concern (and some of who witnessed the accident) if there were some follow-up. The following was posted yesterday, on the DN website:

I have been anxiously looking for word on the identities of the 2 victims, especially the "local teacher" involved in this horrible crash. Anyone know?

But, alas .... the term "follow-up" has no meaning for our daily.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Tail vs. claws

According to this AP story, there is a long-standing debate between people who think the tail meat in a lobster is the best and people who prefer the claw meat.

Let me say right now, the former people are correct. I am, of course, one of these people.

This makes me a "tourist," per the story.

(Melissa Bouchard, head chef at DiMillo's Floating Restaurant in Portland) thinks people from Maine prefer the claw meat, while people from other parts of the country like the tail.

"It's the tourists vs. the locals," she said.

Actually - I don't really give a shit about which is the best meat - I just go straight for the most gratification in the shortest amount of time. And that would be the tail.

So fitting right in with this theme, I have an anecdote.

Yesterday (Sunday) I was over at Triple D's place, where there was a clam bake kinda thing going on. The eating of a lobster became he subject of another kind of debate, between the people who eat the tail meat first and those who go for the claws first.

Triple D was claiming that she read somewhere, once, that people who went for the tail first also go for sex before people who go for the claws first.

Well, semantics of "tail" aside (this is the English in me), and although I argued with her (as usual), I guess I can see where someone would come to that conclusion.

Impatient people want to cut to the chase. But that refutes the argument that the claw meat is tastier.

So I believe that it's about control (which is what I said last night). Easing into the big payoff puts the lobster eater/potential sex participant in control.

Or, you could see it as savoring the foreplay before getting the tail.

In the end, however, the tail still gets eaten (oh, groan). So what's the big deal?

Two down, one to go

Eschewing my usual "stay at home and do nothing" holiday weekend habit, I attended two cookouts yesterday. Luckily, they were both within walking distance.

I do not believe I have ever consumed as much alcohol over a 7-hr. period as I consumed yesterday. I feel like just lolling on the couch with my book.

But family tradition (and love of family) dictates that I drive off to our annual Memorial Day cookout. If even one glass of wine passes my lips I think I'll throw up.

Last year, upon returning home from the family cookout, I found that my cat was missing. He was gone for 3 days, during which I and a neighborhood child roamed around calling his name, to no avail.

So despite the fact that it could happen again at any time, I am worried about it being Memorial Day and leaving the beast behind. Those of us with anxiety disorders worry incessantly about situations that we cannot control.

Have a good day, everyone!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Caught in the mob

I went to the laundromat this morning, under the belief that the madness surrounding the Spring Fest! would not be in full gear at 10:30 a.m. Silly, silly me.

Hoards of people were milling about downtown and the traffic was a monster, even at the laundry mat. I had to wait on line for my latte at Souffle's!

I did, however, notice that there is a new shop in the space where Hog on Ice Galley used to be. It is called "Box and Bow."

I grilled the server at Souffle's and got this information: It JUST opened and it is the second Box and Bow, the first being in West Newbury. (click on image, etc.)

You read it here first, folks. I think; haven't checked any of the other blogs today.

There goes da judge: RIP Dick Martin

Oh my, the second of the duo that gave us such a kick when I was a kid has passed away. Dick Martin died yesterday of respiratory failure. Well, he was 86.

This report, from CNN, sparked some memories:

"Laugh-in," which debuted in January 1968, was unlike any comedy-variety show before it. Rather than relying on a series of tightly scripted song-and-dance segments, it offered up a steady, almost stream-of-consciousness run of non-sequitur jokes, political satire and madhouse antics from a cast of talented young actors and comedians that also included Ruth Buzzi, Arte Johnson, Henry Gibson, Jo Anne Worley and announcer Gary Owens ...

Against this backdrop, audiences were taken from scene to scene by quick, sometimes psychedelic-looking visual cuts, where they might see Hawn, Worley and other women dancing in bathing suits with political slogans, or sometimes just nonsense, painted on their bodies. Other times, Gibson, clutching a flower, would recite nonsensical poetry or Johnson would impersonate a comical Nazi spy.

Verrrrry interesting ...

"Laugh-In" was responsible for bringing Goldie Hawn and Lily Tomlin into our lives.

I never did get the "Here come da judge" gag, until I read this, today. And who can forget Richard Nixon portentously yelping, "Sock it to ME!"

Anyway, the fickle finger of fate finally pointed in Martin's direction. His comedic partner, Dan Rowan, died in 1987.

I am disillusioned

It seems our little ex-friend Mahatma has been busy. This is from a BBC News "Have your say" page from November 12, 2007:

Shut the borders. Make all immigrants complete Form SC/CTC (this is the MoD 21-page security/counter terrorist application) + DSTL Form 066/3 (1 page) + DSTL Form 105/05 (2 pages). These will take weeks/months to process. All those positively verified are then issued with a work permit for two years during which time they must learn to speak, read, write and comprehend English (by examination) failing which they will be deported. Those who pass can stay. Tighten up. Toughen up. Get real.
Mahatma Kote, Islamaville, England

Also see this, from the Sunday Express, also in England (second comment).

And this is also somewhat enlightening, from the Sydney Morning Herald (Dec. 2003):

Australian cricket could become embroiled in a race row following the news that the former Test cricketer Greg Ritchie will be performing as his Punjabi parody figure Mahatma Cote at the second Test between Australia and India in Adelaide next week.

Ritchie has been booked to perform his routine, which has been criticised as culturally and racially insensitive, during the lunch break on day one of the Test next Friday, a spokeswoman for the South Australian Cricket Association (SACA) confirmed yesterday.

I'm beginning to believe that Bubba-in-flannel is correct about our Mahatma Kote not being entirely on the up-and-up.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Port biscuit booted by Nabisco

It would appear as if some cracker invented in Newburyport is off the market. From the (AP) story in the Daily News:

For the second time in a little more than a decade, Nabisco has halted production of its Crown Pilot Crackers, the hard, rectangular biscuits that were invented in Newburyport and that generations of New Englanders loved to crumble into seafood chowder.

Has anyone ever actually had one of these crackers? Every time I get any kind of chowder, it is accompanied by those obnoxious oyster crackers.

Without disclosing specific figures, the manufacturer said sales of the regional brand had declined sharply, to the point where they were half of what they were about a decade ago.

Well, no wonder. Nobody knows what the hell the thing is.

The large crackers, known generically as ship's bread or hardtack, have been a staple along the New England coast and were first made commercially in 1792 by a Newburyport company that became part of the National Biscuit Co., or Nabisco, in 1898.

If I'd known such a thing existed, I might have bought the damn biscuit. Nevertheless, I miss it already.

More on being single

I've been reflecting on being single in Newburyport, especially in light of the experiences of our now long-lost friend, Mahatma.

I know a lot of single women here, many more than I knew while I lived in Boston. They all drink and to varying degrees reveal flesh. (For the record, I wear turtle neck tops as much as possible and shower wearing a cotton shift, just in case someone is watching.)

I also know, or at least know of, numerous single men here, also many more than I encountered in Boston.

You would think all these people would join together and form enduring bonds of love. Instead, it seems they form short-term bonds of lust. And then complain about it a lot.

I don't get it. Is there too much desperation in the air? I'm fighting men off with a stick. OK, so it's a twig.

For example, my neighbor, who it turns out is only 82 years old, said to me today, "If only I was 10 years younger ..."

I did not point out that 10 years less would still be closer to my parents' age than mine. He meant it as a compliment, after all.

It's not easy being single. We singletonettes have no one to fix the odd mechanical/electrical failure around the house, to install and remove the air conditioner, no one to tell us why our car is making that strange noise and no one to send out to buy feminine products when we just don't feel like doing it ourselves.

Very frustrating.

No longer lingering on my blog

I've had a busy and tiring day, capped off with ice cream from Haley's. Moose tracks. With hot fudge.

Anyway ... earlier I received an interesting email from an alleged friend of Mahatma Kote, the fellow who has been commenting on my post about middle eastern men and western women.

This friend feels that we have had enough fun at Mahatma's expense and says he will make sure that Mahatma does not any longer "linger" on my blog.

He also references Mahatma's search for a "Koran-abiding mate" in Provincetown, white-knuckle furniture gripping and "FleshPots."

Ordinarily I would not repeat info sent to me in an email. But I thought everyone might want to know what happened with Mahatma.

What a shame; he seemed like such a nice guy. I was really looking forward to his reporting back following his trip to Provincetown. Or Ogunquit.

Dueling banjos

Not quite banjos, but I have 2 neighbors, who each have half a house near me, who have been engaged in one-up-manship (never typed that before; not sure how it goes) with music for the last hour or two.

One half of the house regularly blasts Dave Matthews out into the neighborhood (sometimes for hours - I think they have it on a loop) and the other half tries to drown out the neighbor with whatever is in the CD player, usually Christian-themed music.

You know, as in, I'm humming along to what I think is the song "My Girl" and then it registers that the singer is warbling "God" instead of "girl."

I fled to the great indoors. Only now I notice the Dave Matthews has been shut off, leaving some distortion of Billy Joel's "It's Stilll Rock and Roll to Me" as the victor.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Alone by the phone

So, once again I tune in the Red Sox game and am only vaguely paying attention. I notice that Jacoby Ellsbury makes another spectacular catch. Very similar to the one he made the other night.

Jon Lester is pitching, again. Then they show the full moon and I'm thinking, "WOW, another full moon ... hey!"

Once again, I have been deceived by one of those "Red Sox Replay" games. They aren't identified as such. And what busy blogger can keep track of the fact that the Red Sox are in Oakland tonight?

Which begs the question, if I'm so busy, what am I doing home on a Friday night, tuning in to 'old' Red Sox games?

That is a rhetorical question, by the way.

Landfill questions

It seems that, all of a sudden, the city is backing down on the landfill. Brian Derrivan, the ward councillor concerned, seems to be indicating as much. The mayor was out of town this week, so I guess Derrivan is filling in.

From the Daily News (same story I linked to earlier):
Derrivan said New Ventures is likely coming to the city before signing a deal with the state.

"New Ventures doesn't want to sign an agreement with state unless there are assurances from the city," he said.

But Ron K wrote this on April 22:

According to Public Health Director Jack Morris, the Mass. Attorney General announced in court this morning that he, the Crow Lane landfill owner and the DEP had come to an agreement that will probably allow the landfill owner to resume normal operations -- that is, trucking more demolition debris into Newburyport for deposit on Crow Lane. When operations might resume is unclear.

As I noted before here, the city has allowed asphalt grindings into the landfill, and per an email from Ron Klodenski: To start doing this, the landfill owner had to fulfill several conditions, including payment of some funds due the city.

I totally agree with Tom Salemi that everyone needs to know the deal New Ventures has apparently already made with the AG and DEP before granting any concessions at all. Maybe there is more than one deal/agreement/whatever you want to call it on the table.

But it seems as if at least some city officials know something that no one is talking about. Perhaps someone can shed some light on this.

Or maybe we all have to wait until Tuesday.

Beach update: Friday

And here is the emergency entrance mentioned in yesterday's Daily News. It seems as if the beach is not closed any longer.

In the far right in the second photo, you will notice it looks like something has fallen of a house, possibly the one I feared for the other day. I only just noticed after I downloaded the pic. (click on images to enlarge)

40 truckloads of sand later ...

Here it is, the center town parking lot restored to its former asphalt glory.

Landfill: City Council meeting is Tuesday!

Ron Klodenski, as he always does, sent out an email alert to concerned neighbors of the landfill alerting them to a story about said landfill in the Daily News.

This one was amusing:

NEWBURYPORT — New Ventures, the company that owns the embattled Crow Lane Landfill, is set to ask the City Council Monday [should be Tuesday] to allow more material to be dumped at the site as part of efforts to cap the landfill this year.

The red indicate's Ron's input.

I like how Stephen Tait characterizes the landfill as having grown to the size of "an impressive hill."

Anyway, I thought that the Attorney General, New Ventures and the DEP had reached, or were about to reach, an agreement about a month ago. It certainly seemed that way in the emails and in the Daily News.

April 24, 2008
Newburyport: Landfill settlement near; city in dark about contents
By Stephen Tait
Staff Writer

NEWBURYPORT — The Department of Environmental Protection, the attorney general and New Ventures are close to reaching a settlement over citations and a preliminary injunction issued against the Crow Lane Landfill owner in 2006. But city officials remain in the dark about what that agreement may be and will remain on the outside looking in until the settlement is signed and officially approved by a judge.

Whatever! I have to go do some productive work (as in, the kind that generates revenue).

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Spring Fest

This weekend the long-anticipated Spring Fest takes place in town. (Actually, I had forgot all about it until just now.)

What does the Spring Fest mean to me? Avoid downtown at all costs.

But I'm antisocial.

All of you should go out and enjoy yourselves. Encourage all your friends to visit you and take them downtown (preferably on foot or by bicycle; better yet, think pedicab, and call ahead for one, 978-465-1496). Spend lots of money at the 'upgraded' vendor booths. Make the Chamber happy.

I will not be seeing you there, but I'll be thinking of you.

Landfill letter: thanks, Ben!

With grateful thanks to Ben for his assistance, here is the letter.

Click on images to enlarge.

Beach update

According to the Daily News, the sand is being moved off the center parking lot per an order from the DEP.

But the Department of Environmental Protection also wants a large pile of sand in the Center parking lot returned to an Olga Way storage area from which it came, a DEP spokesman said yesterday.

Police Chief Michael Reilly and Highway Superintendent Tim Leonard met Tuesday with a DEP representative to get the agency's approval to build up enough sand to create a rough incline from the Center parking lot to the beach, DEP spokesman Joe Ferson said. The dune had been scoured out by tidal action so that there was a precipitous drop to the beach.

The ramp was constructed, and as of yesterday, about half the remaining sand had been moved back to Olga Way. Front-end loaders were parked next to the pile at Plum Island Center, presumably to move the rest of the sand ...

(Newbury Selectman Vincent) Russo said Leonard had asked to be allowed to leave the extra sand at the Center, to avoid the fuel expense of transporting it back to Olga Way, but had been turned down by DEP representative Ron Stelline. (Hey, they must have read this post.)

Funny I don't see anyone squawking about moving sand that has been sitting on an asphalt parking lot for weeks back to Olga Way (also on the island). I seem to recall a local developer being criticized for dumping on his property in Newbury snow plowed from an asphalt parking lot in Newburyport ... must have been a bad dream.

Landfill lawyer to (try to) make his case

This alert came in over the email while I was out today, from Ron Klodenski:

The lawyer for the Crow Lane landfill may speak to the city council at next Tuesday's (5/27) council meeting to ask the council to approve an increase in the volume of the landfill. It's not clear yet whether he will appear in person or if his letter alone (attached) will do all the talking.

Meanwhile, please read the attached letter in case it has misstatements, errors or anything else that should be pointed out to the councillors. If you can make the meeting next Tuesday (starts at 7:30 pm in City Hall), that would be great too.

The letter is in .pdf format so I can't figure out how to show it to you! Bummer. Anyone have any ideas?

I'm back on the couch

I just got home from a long-ish day ... down to Gloucester and then back here to interview someone for Merrimack Valley Magazine.

It only just recently occurred to me that I should not say on here who or what I'm writing about. Little Eagles have big eyes. I see you on my blog, Eagle-Tribune newspaper peeps.

So I don't know what's going on around here. Haven't checked the Daily News online yet ... but of course I did have time to stop off at the Nutcracker and pick up cinnamon buns and latte. The former I added to my bowl of 'goodies,' which was enhanced yesterday by chocolate chip cookies from Praline's.

So I needed the buns like I need more inches on my ... buns.

Speaking of food - which I've been doing a lot lately, have you noticed? - we got lunch in Gloucester from Turner's Seafood.

"Why do we ever go anywhere but Turner's?" my sister asked as we munched our haddock sandwiches.

Good question.

My paranoia is explained (sort of)

I lived in Boston in September, 2001. I won't dwell on how eerie it was to not hear a plane for the time all planes were grounded.

One day I came home from work and there was a package lying sideways on the floor of the lobby of my building. Standing over it were 2 of my neighbors, roomates.

They had called the police, the more talkative of the 2 informed me.


A policeman duly arrived and inspected the package. I have to give him credit - after a careful look, he picked it up and opened it. After telling us to step outside, please.

It was a watch, with a packing slip indicating that someone in the building had, in fact, ordered it.

A few days later I was approaching the building and I saw a mailman open the door to our building and sling a package in while he stood on the front steps.

What, me paranoid?

I ran out to the mailbox in between innings of the Sox game and found a package stuffed in there.

Well ... you know me, readers. Or you should by now. I had not ordered anything.

So I gingerly carried the package, which had some bizarre return address from Georgia stamped on it - and then threw it in the sink. My heart was pounding. I pictured some kook in Newbury assembling a bomb, stamping a phony return address on an envelope and sticking an address label onto it.

Standing back as far as I could, I got a sharp knife and slashed it across the mailing address. It was one of those mailing envelopes with bubble wrap. Through the bubbles, I could see that it looked like it was a book.

Note: if you want to get me, send me a bomb disguised as a book. I eagerly ripped it open.

It was, indeed, a book. Ordered for me by my mother, the packing slip informed me. "Certain Girls," by Jennifer Weiner.

Cool. I've been wanting to read this. My mom is psychic.

I love getting books. I love books. Period.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The hazards of being single (and dim)

I clicked on and was browsing through the headlines when this one caught my eye:

Woman slaughtered for being single

Well, you can imagine my alarm. Before clicking on the link, I was wondering if I needed to run out and propose to my 85-year-old neighbor poste haste.

Turns out it was a crime spree in Basra, Iraq. Some 'industrious' fundamentalist Shiites decided to go around and enforce Allah's will themselves.

Women bore the brunt of the militias' extremist ideologies. The militants spray-painted threats on walls across Basra, warning women to wear headscarves and not to wear makeup. Women were sometimes executed for the vague charge of doing something "un-Islamic."

Apparently, being a single woman and living alone is "un-Islamic." Actually, I know it's considered such by many Muslims.

An anecdote:
When I worked at that Kuwaiti place I wrote about here, we had a receptionist who was - well, dim. She had a second job, working at the music pavilion in downtown Boston, and she wore shorts and a polo shorts at this job.

One day she did not have time to dry this apparel after washing it and laid said items on the radiator in the window of someone's office. Again, she was dim.

The Kuwaiti man (an intern from the home office) who came later into his office freaked out. He came flying out of his office, almost in tears, at finding women's clothing draped around his office.
"Gillian, what is this?" he asked me (my desk being the first one he came to).

Being this woman's supervisor at the time, I had the task of explaining to her how inappropriate her actions were, even if the office hadn't been occupied by a Muslim.

The man went home to Kuwait well before his internship was over, explaining to me that he could not accept the "decadence" he had encountered in the U.S. He was a nice, gentle man.

And that's not even mentioning the office driver, a guy from Southie, who would run into an office filled with people celebrating Ramadan by fasting until sunset and wave platters of bagels or donuts around.

Of course, they were sitting around socializing in an office while drawing huge salaries and while everyone else working ... they also almost to a man breezed in at about 10 a.m., took 2-hr. lunches and left at around 4 p.m. (in addition to socializing).

These guys did nothing in response - well, except leave as quickly as they could. It was better for all concerned.

P.S. It is not my intention to defend the killer of the single woman; or any other killer, terrorist or anyone of that ilk. I detest violence and intolerance at all levels.

Happiness is a warm gun?

For deeper reflections on the arming of all citizens, as proposed in an opinion in today's Daily News, I refer you to Ari Herzog's blog and the comments on the article itself.

Only two of the comments are rational, in my opinion, however.

Let me just say that anyone can always find some statistics/a study that backs up any theory they want to propose. I can give you a study or two that say smoking is good and makes people sharper and better workers.

Get my point?

Anyway, one of the commenters on the DN site puts these points (among others) forth to bolster his/her argument:

[3]* Citizens shoot and kill at least twice as many criminals as police do every year (1527 vs. 606).

And this is ... a good thing?

[9]* Currently, there are about 150,000 police officers on duty at any one time to protect a population of more than 250 million Americans -- or almost 1,700 citizens per officer.

Er, yeah, that's a swell argument for arming the citizenry.

When I was a teenager, I was babysitting for a family down the road. They had 2 small children, a boy and a girl. When it came time for them to go to bed, the boy objected. I insisted and he disappeared into a bedroom. I went into the kitchen.

A couple of minutes later I came out and found the boy - Ricky, his name was - standing in the doorway to the living room holding a shotgun that was aimed at me. He could not have been more than 7 years old.

I don't remember if I talked him into giving me the gun, or if he pulled the trigger and the gun was not loaded. I remember trying to talk him into giving me the gun.

The gun was not the problem. It was the parents of the kid who were the problem in this case.

I grew up in a state where everybody and his brother had at least a shotgun, for hunting. I don't think any of these people - the ones I knew - ever killed anyone with a gun (although my Uncle Bud once accidentally shot his dog in the ass, while out hunting; it survived).

It's those people filled with rage that I did, and still do, worry about. As Ari points out, take away the gun and these people turn to a crowbar, a hammer, a knife ... whatever they can get their hands on.

Arming the citizenry is not going to stop the flow of illegal guns into the country nor will it stop violent crime. That is the purview of the law and the guys who wrote the Constitution understood that: To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions (Article I, Section 8).

More beach, taken today

The first photo is to give you a sense of the crap that washes up on the beach.

Of course, I came home laden with the usual assortment of driftwood and even a golfball. Don't golf.

The trash included numerous shotgun shells, parts of footwear and gloves of all description - aside from the usual plastic bottles and aluminum beer cans.

The second shot I took while standing right next to the north side of the 'groin.' You can get a sense of how high it is now by those people who were standing on top of it. It's hard to describe how massive the boulders are.

Happiness is a warm gun

Yes, by all means, let's all carry guns.

I am referring to this opinion published in today's Daily News. The author of the opinion disputes a contention earlier made, I gather, from one Mr. Shirshac.

The truth is just the opposite. This will undoubtedly startle many, including Mr. Shirshac. The facts are that the armed citizen stops more than two million crimes per year. That's 2,000,000. And that is not an opinion; google Professor Kleck and study his more than two decades long research which proves my point. There was a case a few years ago of a shooting in a college in the South, where two students rushed to their cars and retrieved their handguns and rushed back to the classroom and the situation was quickly ended.

Another extensive study proves the fact that where the gun ownership is high, crime is low. (Duh, really? And nothing at all to do with the socio-economic status of the gun owners.) Do the research; google John R. Lott Jr. Statistically speaking, the rate of crime among gun owners as a group is less than that of society taken as a whole.

I assume he means people who own guns legally. So, that does nothing to help the fact that criminals can get guns illegally.

And what about gun crimes in countries with strict gun laws? How about them, huh?

In recent years the right to carry a firearm has been made law in over 38 states. The blood path feared by such as Mr. Shirshac did not occur. Indeed, the opposite was the result: Crime declined. The fact is you are 1,000 times more likely to be killed by your doctor than by an accident with a firearm. Do the research.

Ever been to Flint or Detroit, Michigan, Mr. Emmith? (Not that I think he reads my blog.) Good grief! Why not just get rid of police departments altogether? Won't need 'em if everyone is armed, right?

How about just ignoring the NRA (as in, the National Rifle Association as opposed to the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority) and imposing stricter gun control, especially the flow of illegal guns into this country?


First shot is looking south from where I entered the beach, second is looking north. You can see the south jetty, owned by Newburyport, in this photo. I just don't know why my camera is leaving that brown smudge on some of my pics.
So, because I had parked across from Mad Martha's (where you're not supposed to park unless you're going into Mad Martha's) before going on the beach - I went into Mad Martha's after coming off the beach.
You know, it takes a lot out of one to tramp along a beach and one needs nourishment.
Had my favorite menu item there, the salmon getaway. Yum. Methinks, though, that I'm eating out WAY too much!

More sand dollars

(click on images to enlarge)

So forget about Jeanne's going into the drink - take a look at this house, 5 or 6 houses north of center. Also, as you can tell from the first photo, they are taking the sand away from the center parking lot.

"A thousand bucks in diesel fuel today, that's costing Newbury," commented a neighbor of mine (who, I believe lives in Newbury although he only lives a quarter mile away from me) that I ran into in Dick's Variety.

All you need is love

I woke up this morning not feeling anxious but rather, feeling a little depressed.

So it was really nice to see there was a comment waiting to be moderated that said, "We love you too! Good going!" - until I realized it was a comment to Jennifer Karin, not me.

But even with that, it made me smile - Isn't it good to know that any kind of expression of love, even that expressed to someone else, can help raise you out of a funk?

Thanks sykebluelake and thank you, Jennifer, for spreading the love around.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Wetlands by-law repealed in Salisbury

So according to the Daily News, Salisbury last night voted to repeal its wetlands by-law.

Proponents of the bylaw, including Conservation Commission Chairman Tom Hughes, said the removal of the bylaw would leave property owners at the mercy of the state Department of Environmental Protection, which will oversee wetlands development issues without the buffer the local Conservation Commission could provide.

I'm not clear on what the citizens think will happen (but I'm also not up on rulings by the town's Conservation Commission), but Town Manager had this to say in an earlier story in the DN:

"Eliminating Salisbury's bylaw means that everything at the beach would have to conform to the state's standards," Harrington said. "In the case of paving at the beach, for example — which is a big bone of contention with some people at the beach — if Salisbury's bylaw is eliminated and the Conservation Commission's authority is effaced, paving issues at the beach would go straight to the DEP. And its standards on paving at the beach are more stringent than Salisbury's."

Well, I think folks in Newbury would agree with Harrington's view. The town tussled with the DEP over paving side streets on Plum Island as part of the water/sewer project. It seems that this is the central issue: paving at the beach.

Either way, it's kind of disheartening how put-upon local conservation commissions are. My guess is that once residents realize that the DEP is not going to cave, they'll be sorry. And I would think the state will not be happy to have these matters thrown back on the DEP.

But I could be wrong.

Oh no

Oh dear, I am so saddened by the news that Sen. Kennedy has a malignant brain tumor. I was just thinking the other day that he almost universally represents me exactly how I want to be represented.

I'm not religious, but I am keeping him in my version of my prayers.

My trip into town

(click on image to enlarge)

Just went into town to do some laundry. This is my strategy for laundry in the spring: I stockpile it until the weather is good enough that I can hang it on the line to dry.

So I had, as of Sunday morning, 4-5 loads of laundry to do. Keep in mind they have to be small because I only have one strand of clothes line (just in cash you were thinking my house was full of dirty laundry). I've done one every day so the pile is really diminished.

There is a washing machine in the shed in the yard, but since it was never, and still is not, hooked into any kind of waste disposal system, I can't use it.

While my clothes were in the washer at the Village Washtub, I sauntered over to the bank, had a brief exchange with Ann Lagasse about the new pool at the YWCA and how beautiful it is, and then I went to the post office.

Now, this involved me entering what I think of as "the danger zone." This would be anywhere that I can see Grand Trunk. Because if I see the place, I'm in it. And if I'm in it, I'm spending money.

Today I purchased a sandwich I tried for the first time on Sunday: brie, fresh fig and walnuts. I won't dwell on how good it is. I also bought a bottle of wine to replace the one I bought on Sunday and which Triple-D and I drank down later in the day. Good golly Miss Molly; good thing the reason I went to the bank was to deposit checks!

I resisted the temptation to go into Greta's - had my hand on the door and everything - then, passing Ann Lagasse again, I walked down State St. and took the picture. The shirt is hanging outside the British import shop (a place you'd think I frequent but don't for some reason).

By now I was regretting my decision to not go into Greta's for a latte. Praline's was closed so I could not get a cinnamon bun, but a sign on the door informing customers that the buns are available on Saturday and Sunday confirmed their popularity.

Stopped at Souffle's instead. They were out of the delicious conga bars (made in Amesbury at Dough Raise Me).

Well that was my circuit. Noticed a few people enjoying early lunch or whatever at Oregano's; noticed that Starbuck's is still pretty torn up, despite the fact they are supposed to re-open on Thursday; and came back home blasting The Clash on the radio.

Is there a better tune than "Rock the Casbah?" I don't think so - there are some just as good, but none better.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Avon Walk: from Jennifer Karin (link works now)

Here I am at the start of the Boston Avon Walk for Breast Cancer held this past weekend. It poured the first hour, then the sun came out for the remainder of the weekend.
It was the most amazing, edifying, shin-ailing, butt-breaking experience, and I loved every step. The walk was just under 40 miles in two days. 2900 women and men participated; a record $6.9 million was raised.
Although I have met my financial obligation, there is still an opportunity to give.
For those wishing to give to the Avon Walk, click here to get to my page.

Oh, man! Lester pitches a no-hitter

What a game! Is Jon Lester a miracle man, or what?

For those of you who don't know, a 22-year-old Lester in Sept. 2006 was diagnosed with a rare form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a blood cancer. Read about it here, from the Boston Globe.

He is the first Red Sox lefty to throw a no-hitter since 1956.

"I've been through a lot these last couple of years," Lester understated immediately after the game. He said later, in the post-game press conference, that it takes a while to set in.

"You don't feel tired in that situation at all," he also said, in answer to a question from the press. (Why do they always ask, "What was going through your mind when ... blah, blah, blah?")

And congratulations to Jason Varitek, the only major league catcher to catch 4 no-hitters.

"You need a catcher who will take it to the house." - former Red Sox ace Dennis Eckersley, in post-game comments.

This is what I love about baseball, football ... sports: I think his teammates were even happier than was Lester. There is nothing like a team.

Go Sox!

RIP Gavin

I killed my neighbor's fish, Gavin. At least that was the gist of the message she left on my phone and which I retrieved when I got home from the YWCA event.

Last night I was at her house and peering into Gavin's new home - this small bowl with dirty water. He looked logy.

So I commented that I did not think she fed him enough (she was feeding him every third day). She replied that that feeding schedule was what had been advised to her. Being me, I argued with her.

I had kept Gavin for her while she was out of the country for a month last year. I noticed that, by the end of the second day after being fed, he was lounging around on the bottom of his bowl. I consulted with my brother, who used to work at a tropical fish emporium.

He told me to feed the fish more, which I did. He (the fish) was happy. I also cleaned his bowl out as soon as the water got cloudy.

So she fed the fish last night, based on my argument, and he died in the night. His stomach was all distended, she said in the message.

I don't know how to approach this with her (she also told me in the message that she was very upset and had a little ceremony to honor Gavin).

The whole time I had that fish last year, I worried that I would kill it. Now it has come to pass.

I killed Gavin. Or not. I guess I should have told her to change the water in his bowl. Then maybe I wouldn't feel so guilty.

More musings on food

Psssst, you heard it first here, folks - well, maybe.

I heard today that there's a new deli coming soon to Merrimack St. I hope it's a "real" deli, with big old hot pastrami sandwiches. No slimy cold cuts.

Speaking of which, I recently went for the first time to a popular eatery on Merrimack St. I was not that impressed - but I only had one menu item, of course.

Speaking of impressive, the other day I purchased an excellent cinnamon bun from Praline's. It was small and rather expensive ($2.25) but it was - well, excellent.

I love seeing the people (still) standing in confusion at the closed doors of Starbuck's. The antithesis to BuyLocal is scheduled to re-open on Wednesday, I believe. I wonder how many people have switched permanently to some local purveyor of coffee/espresso drinks in the meantime?

Oregano's is open. I understand that another local blogger is having dinner there this evening, so I look forward to the review. Still awaiting one of River Merrimack Bar & Grill, anyone else but me.

Now I'm sounding like the Port Planet. Must not imitate other people's clever shticks.

YWCA unveils new facility

The YWCA of Greater Newburyport, with much fanfare, unveiled its new pools and fitness facility this afternoon.

With a bevy of dignitaries ranging from Mayor Moak to State Rep. Mike Costello (middle, with Nancy Peace) who said he learned to swim in the old pool, on hand, Martha Bower (left) dove into the new pool and took the first lap.
Bower won the first lap opp in a raffle held last year.
The YWCA, now in its 125th year, has been developing plans for this renovation over the last 10 years, said president of board of directors, Nancy Peace.
The whole reception area has been remodeled to be more space efficient and the new locker rooms are spiffy (at least the women's one is; I did not go into the other).
There is also a new fitness room and the cumbersome hallway into the executive offices and other new rooms has been upgraded. All in all, a good job!
Mary Haslinger took the first dip into the new therapy pool.

Little news, except about beach

I've been busy today, actually writing for profit. The mind boggles.

But I'm taking a break before I head off for the re-opening of the YWCA pool facility and looking at the Daily News online. Just three new stories since Friday? Can that be true?

One of the three stories, of course, is about the beach at PI Center. The first paragraph of the story pretty much says it all:

For much of the island's history, its oceanfront was lined with small, cheaply built shacks. When storms washed them into the ocean — which has happened to dozens of cottages over the years — there was hardly anything of value to claim.

Why, when "for much of the island's history" houses were washed into the ocean did anyone continue to allow building along the ocean? What, $1 million homes are immune from erosion and damage from storms? Well, the situation today proves that point, right?

And I dispute the "cheaply built shacks" crack. Many of them are still standing. The Daily News has said so itself.

The rest of the story has little value when prefaced with that paragraph, except to show that once again, people think they are privileged.

The story is about the National Flood Insurance Plan, which kicks in when private insurers think something is too risky to insure.

But if the house falls victim to the ocean due to what the government defines as "anticipated cyclical levels" of erosion, it's not covered, the story continues.

"Gradual erosion is not covered; however, damage caused by the collapse of land along the shore as a result of erosion of waves and current is," FEMA spokesman Bryan Hvinden said, noting the waves and current most likely have to be from a storm.

(Newbury Selectman Vincent) Russo questions how the government can predict erosion to begin with.

Well, let's see ... it's an ocean and it's a beach. Nearly every other place on the east coast where there are those 2 things has been in the past and is now suffering from erosion. Hmmmm .... nah, I don't see it, either, Dr. Russo.

Perhaps he should have read this March 31 story, reprinted from the Eagle-Tribune, which is about Salisbury Beach, right across the river from Plum Island.

"I think it's time for CZM to gather more data on the beach for years after 1994," (Chairman of Salisbury's Conservation Commission and owner of Hughes Environmental Consulting Tom) Hughes said. "We can't use short-term data to predict long-term erosion rates. You need long periods of time to estimate the long-term erosion rate."

I think this reporter (the one from E-T) had a better handle on what she was writing.

Back to the DN: Information wasn't available on the amount of Plum Island erosion the government considers as "anticipated."

Do we need that information, really?

Again, the first paragraph says it all.