Sunday, August 31, 2008

A mysterious gift

Well knock me over with a feather. You know, Tom Salemi and I, a ways back, had been demanding t-shirts from our readers. (He had proclaimed some unspecified future date as blogger's day in the city.)

Well hot damn, I got this t-shirt in the mail on Saturday - from, I presume, a reader.

I'm not entirely sure if it's in support of my diligent attempts to enlighten my readers, however.

And my sister points out that the box it came in only had "Mr. Y, Newburyport" for a return address, which is surely in violation of postal service policy.

We all had a good laugh about it, though.

Isn't it nice that someone actually took the time and effort to purchase this shirt (in the correct size, I might add), go to the post office, and send it to me priority mail?

Thanks, reader! Should I start carrying a gun?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Take a cold shower already!

I know, I know, everyone is now at home or already out of town for the holiday weekend.

But I had to ask this question: What is it about this Sarah Palin woman that's turning men on? Geesh, from HollywoodNewsroom:

Who cares about Republicans vs Democrats. We’re too dumb for all this political talk, unless it has to do with Lindsay, Samantha, Dina and Michael and…. We just know one thing, Sarah Palin is kinda hot. Yeah, we’re all nodding, we’d tap it.

And this from Craig Ferguson (it had to be before the McCain nod),via YouTube:

Dum dee dum do do ... video taking a ridiculously long time to upload ... dum dee dum, cuz the power you're supplying - it's electrifying! Better shape up, cuz I need a man ... who can keep me satisfied ... do dee dum ...

Fast forward one hour: Naughty librarian vibe?

Comments online: From "easy on the eyes" to "totally doable." I mean, honestly!

Oh ... I wrote that before I saw this.

Well, what can I say? If you want Tina Fey as veep, why not just choose Tina Fey? Or Mia Farrow? Or whoever else she reminds you of?

She reminds me of some girls I knew when I was in high school/college, in the early 70s. Uh-oh. Baby boomers' kids expressing some sexy mommy lust?

Whatever, she seems personable enough, even though she belongs to the NRA (and I don't mean the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority) and is not in favor of reproductive rights.

But that skirt! Those shoes! Whoa, nelly!

The saga continues: more violations at landfill

The DEP has slapped New Ventures with a noncompliance notice relating to the preliminary injunction entered into in October 2006.

DEP cites 13 violations of the preliminary injunction in an Aug. 26 letter to Richard "Chip" Nylen. This is the full text of the letter:

Personnel of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, Bureau of Waste Prevention, Solid Waste Section (the “MassDEP”) conducted seven (7) inspections of the Crow Lane Landfill (the “Landfill”) in Newburyport, Massachusetts between June 3, 2008 and August 18, 2008. In addition, MassDEP has reviewed the Daily Collection System Monitoring Forms submitted from July 8, 2008 to August 22, 2008 by your client, New Ventures Associates, LLC (“New Ventures”) and seven (7) reports of odor complaints submitted to New Ventures between July 14, 2008 and August 13, 2008 by residents in the vicinity of the Landfill.

As a result, MassDEP has determined New Ventures is in noncompliance with the preliminary injunction entered on October 20, 2006 in Suffolk Superior Court, Civil Action No. 06-0790 C, as amended and/or supplemented by orders of the Court on November 1, 2006, February 22, 2007 and September 20, 2007 (the “Order”) as follows. New Ventures has previously been advised by the Attorney General’s Office and the City of Newburyport of some or all of these violations.

1. The maximum concentration of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) gas into the enclosed landfill gas flare exceeded the performance standard of 1.01 lbs/hr (ponds per hour) twice during a twenty-four (24) hour period on at least fifteen (15) days between July 8, 2008 and July 28, 2008. In addition on these dates New Ventures failed to resume the collection of landfill gas samples at a rate of six times per days for five days.

2. Since July 28, 2008, New Ventures has failed to provide MassDEP with the daily landfill gas sampling data for the concentration of H2S gas into the inlets of the pre-treatment system (H2S removal system) and the enclosed landfill gas flare in the Daily Collection System Monitoring Forms.

3. The H2S pretreatment system (H2S removal system) was not operating within the 95% H2S removal efficiency and the concentration of H2S gas into the enclosed flare exceeded the maximum allowed concentration of H2S of 1.01 lbs/hr twice during a twenty-four (24) hour period, as measured by MassDEP personnel on August 17 and 18, 2008 and summarized in the following table.
[There's a table here that did not copy over well.]

4. New Ventures failed to maintain the leachate levels in the leachate collection tanks at less than 75% of the tanks capacities and/or to remove leachate from abutting wetlands, as observed by MassDEP personnel on July 17 and 29, 2008 and August 18, 2008.

5. New Ventures failed to place and maintain tarps over the south slope of the Phase I Area adjacent to the Landfill haul road and to place a minimum of 1 foot of clay and tarps over the Phase IA Areas, as observed by MassDEP personnel on June 3, 4, and 26, 2008; July 17, and 29, 2008; and August 17, and 18, 2008.

6. New Ventures failed to repair erosion of the western side of the perimeter berm including the northern down chute, as observed by MassDEP personnel on June 3, and 26, 2008; July 17, and 29, 2008; and August 18, 2008.

7. New Ventures failed to respond to and to report to the MassDEP odor complaints received by New Ventures from residents in the vicinity of the Landfill on July 14, and 17, 2008; and August 7, 8, 11, and 13, 2008.

8. New Ventures has failed to repair and maintain the enclosed flare including the repair of the digital flow meter since the power outage of June 27, 2008 which resulted in the digital meter no longer displaying the landfill gas flow rate into the flare.

9. New Ventures failed to staff the landfill twenty-four (24) hours per day seven (7) days per week, as observed by MassDEP personnel on June 4, 2008 and August 17 and 18, 2008.

10. New Ventures failed to maintain three (3) pre-treatment vessels at the Landfill, as observed by MassDEP personnel on June 3, 4, and 26, 2008; July 17, and 29, 2008; and August 17, and 18, 2008.

11. New Ventures failed to operate the enclosed flare twenty-four (24) hours per day seven (7) days per week, as observed by MassDEP personnel on June 4, 2008 and July 17 and 29, 2008.

12. The Engineer of Record has failed to submit the weekly inspection reports for the landfill since on or about March 3, 2008.

13. New Ventures has failed to continuously collect wind speed and direction, barometric pressure and temperature from the meteorological station at the Landfill since June 27, 2008.

New Ventures shall take such actions as are necessary to return to compliance with the Order.

Community service message from Mass Audubon

I did a story on this a couple of years ago, for the Current. People have found some really neat stuff on the beach while helping out. Plus, the kids love it.

The COASTSWEEP 2008 cleanup for Plum Island, including the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge and Sandy Point Reservation, will be held on Saturday, September 13, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. We are looking for 100+ volunteers willing to spend a little time to help clean up trash and debris from the beaches, roads, and trails. Bring your friends, family, teachers, students, or your whole community.

Volunteers do not need to pre-register, and may show up at any time during the day. Supplies will be provided by Mass Audubon staff stationed at the visitors’ center at Refuge parking lot #1, however, people are advised to bring their own work gloves. Data collected by the volunteers on cards provided at the cleanup are entered into a database by the Center for Marine Conservation in Washington, D.C. for the purpose of tracking the sources of waste.

Cleanup will be held rain or shine. For more information, please call David Larson, Education Coordinator, Joppa Flats Education Center, Mass Audubon, Newburyport, 978-462-9998.
Background information on COASTSWEEP is at:

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I'm grilling chicken

Oh, sorry, I thought I was on Twitter or Facebook, where I'm supposed to report what I'm doing.

Back to reality - See, this is how it goes:

I goof off for the first two days of the week (see Gillian goof off), then I go into panic mode because I haven't got a story for SeaCoast Scene. Then I go into double panic because I realize everyone expects something from me by close of business Friday.

Want me to go with you to the garden center on a Monday? Sure thing, I'm right there.

Need me to tell you why you can't get Twitter to work on Thursday afternoon? Go away and call customer support, silly person.

It's a matter of on which day you catch me.

So I really don't have much upon which to comment. Except that the Patriots are looking mighty sucky right now.

Never thought I'd be writing this, but ...

Look at what Flint, MI, is doing. (Well, they're being helped along with a certain foreign influence.)

A while ago I blogged about the Swedish biogas project that Flint had lured within its borders. That was in May.

The Swedish king, Carl XVI Gustaf, visits Flint on Sept. 26 and construction is supposed to start right after that, with a target date for operation of about one year from now.

No years of planning. No planning committees. No endless analysis and talking.The Swedish biogas plant is happening. Already.

Read the full text of Joe Lawlor's story here.

This is what I'm saying, folks. This is how things get done. And until someone steals all the Swedes' construction equipment, I'm sticking with it.

I'm pooped

Most days I barely need one of me - today I needed three. That one big lump o' me.

Not only have I got - what, 4? - stories in progress all at the same time, but I'm hosting a double birthday party here on Sunday.

This will include my family (mother, father, two sisters with a husband and 2 kids each, a brother) and my one brother-in-law's family (he's the birthday boy).

How am I dealing?

I'm pretending it's not Thursday and that I have all the time in the world. And that the person I called for information 3.5 hours ago did not return my call, and when I just reached him, he told me I have to speak with someone else. Tomorrow.

Couldn't he have called me back to tell me that? Huh, huh, huh?

I'd forgotten what a hassle this reporter thing can be! (I secretly love it.)

Busy bee

I'm a busy bee today!

No time left for you ...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Much ado about something

I direct your attention to this story, which ran in last Thursday's Daily.

Yesterday, Ward 2 Councilor Greg Earls said time is running out for the defiant businesses.

"Unfortunately, I believe the city will begin enforcing," Earls said. "Notice will certainly be given through the clerk's office."

Funny how I have a copy of that notice. No more unauthorized signs, it says, or even ones with stickers placed in an unauthorized location.

I don't know when it was sent out, but it's dated yesterday, Aug. 26.

Did I miss a showdown on State Street?

By the way ...

Apparently, using naughty words and publishing photos of women leaning over are what attracts readers to one's blog.

That, and greenheads (still).

* sigh *

I have to go do something that pays now.

Thank you!

A public "thank you" to the reader who sent me the names of potential interview subjects.

I'm meeting one of them later today, so check next week's SeaCoast Scene (unfortunately not on line) to see who I picked from the list.

I can tell already that this is going to be a good one!

Thanks again.

Aw, man!

There are some things that just break your heart, and this is one of them - the photo to the left, of Tiger Stadium being dismantled.

My sister shot some photos on her recent visit back to Michigan.

Michigan and Trumbull will never be the same again ... oh no!

That was the address of Tiger baseball for 104 years. What a loss to all Tigers fans, old and new.

By the way, Tiger Stadium by Irwin J. Cohen is available from the publisher online at or by calling 888-313-2665. View other excerpts from Arcadia Publishing’s Michigan books at Michigan in Pictures!

Blog stats: Newburyport doesn't love me anymore!

According to Sitemeter, I now get more readers from anywhere else you can name than I get from Newburyport.

I am exaggerating slightly, but I can't help but notice that my Newburyport readership has waned in direct proportion to my other-places-in-MA and/or Michigan readership waxing.

I have no clue whether this is a good thing or not. Maybe my friends (also readers) who are on vacation checked my blog more often than I thought.

Maybe Facebook is at play here, although all my posts automatically go onto my Facebook "wall."

Noticing also that, despite my having written about John McCain's possible running mate being Hillary Clinton, readership did not spike the day of that post.

Ah, who cares? I like blogging; it's fun. So what if it's only the same 5 people ... :)

I said it!

I've been so busy this morning, doing important stuff such as looking up the term "straw man" to make sure I understood the term.

Once I'd done that, I took a peek at a video, in which Miami-Dade judge Lawrence A. Schwartz was issuing some determination to rapper DMX. It apparently was not what the rapper wanted to hear, because as he turned away, he muttered something that included the word "fuck."

"OH, well that just ingratiated you to me," Schwartz commented back, adding that it's not like he hasn't heard that word before. I liked the judge's attitude.

But more importantly, the headline on the front page said, "Rapper drops the F-bomb in courtroom."

I was discussing this very thing with my sister and her immediate family just yesterday. That is, in a couple of years we will be out of letters of the alphabet to signify words that are taboo.

Soon we'll have to double up, as in: "Rapper drops the F(superscript 1)-bomb in courtroom."

Some letters that are already taken as verboten?

A and B: "asshole/a-hole" and "bitch," unless one is referring to a female dog.

C-word stands for a very bad word referring to a part of the female anatomy, unless you're a man using it as a unit of measure, to other men (one presumes)

D and E are clear?

We already know about F

G(od) is iffy

H(ell) ... well, no one I know refers to it as "the h-word"

I, J, K, L, and M are OK for now?

The "N-word" is the worst of the worst

O is free, but

P(issed) is still considered bad by some people's standards (I was once told never to say it again)

Q ... well, what begins with 'Q,' after all?

R now is taken because of the word "retard"

S(hit) used to be bad, but now seems to have entered the popular mainstream

And so on ...

OK, well, it's not as bad as it seems to be, at first glance. But it's getting there.

Some words that have been appropriated as slurs:

Ass (as in, the animal)
Bastard (you could argue that this was always a slur)
Er ... ummmm ... I'm not up on my slurs, I guess.

"Yahoo," on the other hand, has gone from being a slur to a pretty respectable level, as has "geek."

** Joke Alert **

Well, some would say, fuck you all - all you bitches and bastards who are nothing but dillweeds and freaks, jerks and goons and big old lumps for reading this instead of doing something productive.

** End of Joke Alert **

Thanks for reading, mutter, mutter ...

Heroes? Bah, who needs 'em!

A reader calling him or herself Jolly Roger (nice name) wrote this comment to a way-back post about Mr. Taylor Armerding and firefighters and heroes:

How do you do ... a hero.

Lance? Sword, nunchucks?? Gamma-ray laser taser gloves in sky blue???


So what’s the f**king point of heroes, no really? Don’t they just act all morally highbrow saving virtues and looking like dicks albeit better dressed dicks than us? But still dicks though, bequeathed with amour* or a good seamstress. Showing us up to be A typical inept-lings while they swan in (most times un-asked) and mute whatever quite entertaining cataclysm that was descending down your road while stealing whichever apparently distressed maiden is hanging about the place.

Based on that alone, they should not be encouraged, moreover culled. Alas 21st century heroism isn’t so slice and die. Everyone can be a sort of hero, so sit down Fatwoman and Widerman and lets get cracking....

(more on this person's blog, here)

Everyone needs a hero. We aspire to be admired by those around us. Problem is, it's a purely subjective analysis.

Personally, I like Dudley Do-Right as a hero. He's an "inept-ling," right?

I think we can all agree that Dudley Do-Right is a genuine hero, of the 'everyman's' variety.

* I think s/he means "armour," unless the implication is that the person is bequeathed with love, French-style.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I'm loving Facebook

I finally found a social networking site on which I feel comfortable!

So far I've reconnected with 2 long-lost friends, one of who(m) is living in South Africa! Who knew?

Well, my brother-in-law's brother-in-law in Michigan, that's who! But he neglected to tell anyone else, so we were all wondering what happened to Drew-Bob (he had us add the "Bob" to distinguish him from the other Drew we know).

Carry on, readers. I'm off to interview a man and then to Malden to help my youngest sis move into her new house. Her family has been living in an apartment for the last 2 months or so, since they sold their house and didn't have one to move into!

Talk amongst yourselves about this Dreadnought case. I know nothing about this, except what I've read in comments on the Daily's website. Why were the men from NH never identified by police? (When I first read this, I thought that meant they didn't know who they were. Silly me.)

And about Firehouse Director Greg Smith resigning. That's rather shattering for the Firehouse, which for you people who don't live here is an organization that stages plays and musical acts, and occasionally shows a movie. It's housed in the old firehouse, on the waterfront.

By the way, I need a good story about a person for the next SeaCoast Scene. Anyone who has any ideas should let me know ... deadline is tomorrow.

I'm best under stress!

Monday, August 25, 2008

I've let you down

Well, regular reader Bubba has laid down the challenge, and now I have to comment about the Smart Car story in today's Daily.

Leaving aside what readers are saying in the comments about the mis-represented highway MPG of the car (statistics say 41, Daily says 50), what the ... ?

[Danielle] Kakouris of West Newbury bought her Smart Car last week and the car has caused a stir ever since. Made by Mercedes, the two-passenger car gets an astounding 50 miles per gallon highway driving.

I wonder what those two old geezers I've seen zipping around in a Smart Car for months think about the snub?

High gas prices = lives saved?

I found something interesting in the Flint Journal, gods love 'em.

It would appear that there is a direct correlation between the price of gasoline and traffic fatalities, nation wide. (Read the full story here.)

This year, gasoline climbed over $4 a gallon, and the traffic death toll -- according to one study -- appears headed to the lowest levels since Kennedy moved into the White House.

No, Ted Kennedy has not moved into the White House; they mean JFK, if you can believe that.

The institute's study -- which covers 12 months ending in April -- found that as gas prices rose, driving and fatalities declined. The surprise, said Professor Michael Sivak, author of the study, was the huge decline in fatalities in March and April as gasoline prices surged above $3.20 a gallon.

Based on my own observations, I don't see this. It seems to me that people still drive like maniacs, and there are just as many cars on the road as ever.

But then, I'm not on the road as much myself. There are days when I don't drive anywhere.

Sivak predicts that highway deaths this year will drop below 37,000 for the first time since 1961 if the March and April trends continue. The government motor vehicle death count for 1961 totaled 36,285. The number of highway deaths peaked in 1972 at 55,600, then generally declined over the next two decades. For the past several years, the number has hovered above 42,000 a year.

It seems two demographics most responsible for car crashes - teens and senior citizens - are also the most affected by the high prices of gasoline.

Federal data also show that driving declines have been more dramatic on rural roads, which have higher accident rates than urban highways.

A little know fact is that urban highways, unlike rural roads, are built to handle speeding vehicles. *ahem*

Anyway, it's interesting that with all the highway safety stuff that's always shoved down our throats, all it took was some fiscal mismanagement to solve the problem.

So ... does this mean Bush is really a genius?

Well, the reduction in revenue from the gasoline tax is having an impact, but it seems there is/was a lot of pork in there that can be cut out with no lasting or drastic effects.

As long as the Whittier Bridge gets fixed, that is.

Eat beets

Eat them raw.

That's all I have to say.

The Daily is boring today.

I guess that wasn't all I had to say.

Clinton / McCain in 2008 ... wait, reverse that

I read on Thom Singer's blog, or his tweet, or somewhere, that if one wants to generate a lot of traffic, a blogger should write about McCain's impending vice presidential pick of the litter.

I don't know much about the Republican field of candidates he proposes, but since he accurately predicted Biden, I'll go along with his field of likely 'picks.'

And then I will run screaming, "NOT MITT ROMNEY, PLEASE GOD NOT MITT ROMNEY!"

I don't know much about it, I will confess that. All I know is, (1) Please, please, no, and (2) the whole process has been convoluted by race, gender and religion.

Three things that have nothing to do with the ability to be an effective president or vice president.*

Will McCain pick a woman? Will he pick the black person? Will he pick the Mormon?

I suggest only that he not pick the moron.

But seriously, folks, I'm thinking his best choice would be Hillary Clinton.

She might slip him a swift knee to the gonads, potentially in the Oval Office, if they were to be elected, but what a coup that would be, huh?

* Why not throw into the mix "ability to handle guns without inadvertently shooting someone?"

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Take me out to the ball game

Here it is, 11:38 p.m., and I'm posting to my blog.

I was reading Entertainment Weekly today (hate the new format). It's one of the few mags I actually read, although I hardly know any of the 'stars' or musicians they write about. How can this person be a star if I've never heard of him or her?

Anyway, I always like Stephen King's columns. I'm not the biggest fan of his books, but his pieces in EW always make me smile, if not laugh.

Last week he was writing about how TV ruined baseball.

FIRST PARAGRAPH: Yes, it's a column about baseball. But before you click away (grumbling, ''If I wanted to read about sports, I'd subscribe to Sports Illustrated), let me add it's also about TV and greed. Have you ever noticed that those two simply go together like peanut butter and jelly, or ''Cheech? (That's supposed to be "Cheech and Chong.")

LAST PARAGRAPH: I tell myself I'm cynical — hardened to all this — and mostly I am, but I'm still amazed at how corrupting television can be...although there's no doubt MLB has loved being corrupted. Someone ought to give them a pants-down butt whippin'. Except I'm afraid it's already too late. As one ESPN commentator put it recently, ''Commerce trumps conscience every time.''

I had actually forgotten that baseball games used to be on during the day, but when I think back, I can remember clearly that I watched my Detroit Tigers (even World Series games) in daylight. It was summer, and school was out.

That concluding sentence, ''Commerce trumps conscience every time,'' sent a chill down my spine. I know that it's true, but so few people really ever say it out loud.

We should all remember that as the next few days and weeks unfold. I'm hearing rumblings and grumblings.

By the way - Dave's not here, man.

(Literal) Road blogging, a whole new art

Well this will be interesting - you know, as in potentially deadly.

Despite knowing that traffic deaths are up because of cell phone use (or rather, the reduction by tough drunk driving and seat belt laws has been erased because of people who can't wait 5 seconds to pull over before making a phone call*), Chrysler is offering in its 2009 models Wi-Fi access and Internet connectivity.

It's supposedly for the kiddies in the back.

Bad idea, says Randall Stross in this account in the New York Times.

Ya think?

J. R. Peter Kissinger, president of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety in Washington, calls “distracted driving” one of the leading threats to “all of us who drive or walk in this country.” Will drivers exercise good sense and not use their laptops while driving? He is not sanguine: he knows of few drivers who follow the example of a colleague, who locks her P.D.A. in the car trunk before setting out so she won’t be tempted to put it to use while driving.

A laptop will pose a similar problem, even if it remains on the lap of a front-seat passenger. Mr. Kissinger said: “I can picture two teenagers in the front and the passenger pulls up a YouTube video. I can’t imagine the driver saying, ‘I’m going to pull over and stop so I can safely watch what you’re laughing at.’”

Of course, as Stross points out, people can already do this, if they have a wireless card or built-in cellular wireless access on their laptop.

My laptop has wireless access. Just think, all this time I could have been driving along, smoking, applying makeup (when I actually bother) and blogging all at the same time! Oh, and snapping the occasional photo, as I am prone to do.

Heck, I could even download the photos to my Flickr account, if I had one.

Too bad I don't have an automatic transmission. I could add a couple of other things in there if I didn't have to shift every so often!

* I confess to sometimes being one of these.

Hats off to Mr. Taylor Armerding

I'm beginning to warm towards Mr. Taylor Armerding.

I know, last week or whenever that was, I thought he was being totally moronic for railing against what I now consider a certain shady element of firefighters.

But, as my neighbor pointed out to me last night as we were guzzling wine, everyone changes their mind. Some people change their minds a lot.

Anyway, when I read this thoughtful well laid out commentary on the elderly, I just had to smile.
With what admiration I read his latest column in our esteemed daily. Even the title, Elderly don't necessarily need tax breaks, brought a smile to my face.

It's such a shame that the 6 people who commented on this amazing piece did not recognize it as such ... such ... satire. It has to be. Who would believe anyone in his right mind would say some of this stuff - stuff such as:

Yes, there are poor elders — some of them may indeed not have enough to cover the heating bill and their medications. But anybody who is that poor, no matter what his or her age, already doesn't pay any income tax and is probably getting tens of thousands of dollars a year in public assistance.

Ah, yes, I recall vividly how when I made only $9,600 in 2006, that I got tens of thousands of dollars a year in public assistance. Anyone who says I actually had to pay some $1,500 in combined income and Social Security tax is terribly misinformed.

Don't tell me this is a knock on old people. Society shows them respect in multiple ways. But they don't need to be patronized. Old does not automatically mean poor. These days, it is more likely to mean rich. Anybody who aspires to be president ought to know that.

This was my favorite part of his piece.

Yes, I know my parents feel excessively patronized when they get medical bills not covered by Medicare. And respect; yes, the elderly are quite revered. They never are victims of scams or anything like that.

And they especially never have to worry about having to sell their home to pay taxes or for assisted living.

Now I'm confused. Wait, now I'm being satirical. I've caught the bug. ---> Adding this skill to my resume. <---

Friday, August 22, 2008

New entry on blog list

While reviewing my blog list (read cleaning it up), I noticed that there was this x next to Editorial Edifications.

It's gone! Like the wind!

So I've replaced it on my list with Knife Tricks, which is a really neat-o keen blog, in my opinion. (Read I snatched it off Salemi's blog.)

No, really, it's a good blog; lots of interesting stuff that you don't see everywhere. OK, I've never seen it anywhere. That's why I like it.


Can I see your license, please?

Let me talk about licenses and permits. For what do you need either or both of those 2 things?
  • To drive a car
  • To get married
  • To fish
  • To operate a boat
  • To put a movable sign on the streets of Newburyport
  • To build or expand or renovate a house
  • To dump trash or recycling at a city facility
  • To own a dog
  • To operate a business
  • To own a gun
I'm sure there are many others that I've left out - and that's not even mentioning certificates: birth certificates, death certificates, etc.

Now Bubba comments on my other post (here) about the waterways permit suggests that we may not need the old gun permit or building permit. I'm not sure if he was being serious, but I think he was. He makes a valid point.

I'm on the fence about gun permits, because real bad guys usually don't apply for them. Of course, I trend towards outright bans on citizens being armed, but guns scare me. I do understand the 'pro' argument, however.

But building permits? Without building permits, someone could do any old thing they want, such as building a second deck on their home ... I ask you isn't that rather excessive?

Kidding Bubba aside, a city needs to have some control over what the city is going to look like, if there is a building free-for-all. I could tack on a tar paper lean-to out back. I sure could use the added room.

And of course, there is a need for a city to generate revenue in those 'cute' little ways.

Protesters picket movie

Boy, I've been busy since my last post!

But I wanted to comment on the people picketing in Salisbury, outside the Cinema 95, which is showing the new movie, Tropic Thunder. Read all about it here.

My recap:

In this movie, apparently, there is a scene in which the character played (in black face?) by Robert Downey, Jr., uses the word "retard" 21 times.

I have not seen the movie, so I don't know in what context the word is used. But I can imagine.

Members of the Merrimack Valley Self Advocates and Mass Advocates Standing Strong stood behind the guardrail at Route 110 and waved signs reading " 'R' Should Mean Respect" and "The R-Word Is Not Funny To Me" as motorists honked in approval ...

Haverhill resident Joe Canto spent years trying to change the name of the state's Department of Mental Retardation to the Department of Developmental Services. That switch finally happened this year, but Canto said the movie's use of the word is like a step backward, and undermines a system he works for.

As usual, there is a large complement of comments from readers (and no, VWJetta is not me).

This reminds me of people protesting the classic story "Huckleberry Finn" because Mark Twain used the N-WORD in his social commentary.

Nobody gets sarcasm, satire, or just your average mockery anymore. Macy Swain blogged about this here.

Satirizing someone who uses antiquated terms is not the same as saying it's OK to do it. That's why it's satire.

I suggest these people go home, fire up their DVD players, and watch Blazing Saddles for the rest of the day.

That being said, calling someone a "retard" is not nice at all.

So much to write about today!

Well, here we go!

Question: Whose responsibility is it to inform new boaters of boating rules in the city where they live?

In this story in today's Daily News, the saga of Harbormaster vs. Marinas continues. People didn't have permits on their boats, they got tickets.

As boating season begins to ebb, the city's harbormaster is issuing dozens of tickets to boaters who failed to purchase a waterways permit this summer, to the frustration of local boaters and marina operators alike.

Harbormaster Ralph Steele says he's been out on the water since the close of Yankee Homecoming, issuing tickets to any boat docked or moored in the city that doesn't have a blue 2008 permit sticker on its stern. He's handed out between 40 to 50 tickets so far, he said, adding there are plenty more boats he plans to visit in the coming days.

"We're planning on visiting the boats that don't have them, and they will be getting tickets," Steele said. "They're violations of city ordinances."

Kinda makes it sound like it's only a Newburyport thing, huh?

Not to mention the lede, which makes it sound like the frustration for boaters and marina owners is that the boaters didn't get a permit.

Anyone with half a brain knows that if you put a boat in the water, somewhere you owe money to the city administrating those waters. And if you're putting the boat in the water at a marina, the marina should tell you what is your responsibility vis a vis city permits.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that they should not be issuing slips until the boat owner has the proper permit(s).

Many boaters have been taken aback by the citations, however, especially boaters new to the Merrimack River. Newburyport Marinas Dockmaster Jay Larcome says between the company's five marinas, at least a dozen boats have received citations in the past week or so. Since most of those boaters are unfamiliar with the ordinance, he said charging them $100 without warning isn't a great way to welcome them to the city.

"They're mostly new people who aren't aware of (the ordinance)," Larcome said. "In my opinion, they should have been warnings instead of tickets. In the past it's always been (Steele) has put warnings on the boat, because there's lots of new people."

Windward Yacht Yard owner and manager Butch Frangipane said he's equally frustrated with Steele's policy of ticketing first, asking questions later.

"My biggest complaint, and I've brought this to the commissioner, is that we feel they should issue a warning and give people a week or two weeks to comply. Then if they don't comply, go ahead and issue a ticket," Frangipane said.

Well, that works with driving without a license, so I guess they have a point.

The two marinas cited in this piece are both owned by the same entity, so of course the two people are going to say the same thing.

Frangipane explained one of his customers was issued a slip just two weeks ago and received a $100 citation a week later. When Frangipane called the Harbormaster on the customer's behalf, Steele informed Frangipane he should have warned his customer. While most of the time he does warn boaters, Frangipane doesn't feel he should be charged with collecting money for the city...

How about obeying the rules of the city in which you are operating a business, Butch? Just a thought...

Ah, I'm wasting my time. Butch told me when I ran into him at the Post Office that he doesn't read blogs (whatever they are). He's a fiesty dude.

What took them so long?

The Newbury Beach Committee has resigned. All of the members have, or are about to, be history.

Read about it here, in the Daily News.

All six members of a Newbury committee charged with developing beach management plans have resigned.

Newbury Beach Advisory Committee Chairman Paul Ivaska, Linda Wood, Lois Smith, Martin Saradjian, Stanley Liffman and Gay Schoene, either turned in letters of resignation Tuesday night or plan to do so soon, according to committee members interviewed this week.

Charged with developing beach management plans - well, as I said in this post on June 18:

Isn't that what the Newbury Beach Committee was doing before all this started? With little or no funding? How many times do I have to say this? And when is the DN going to point this out? Never - that's my guess.

Seriously, these people gave their time (and lots of it) to try to save this beach (I still can't find the photos I took last year of them out installing snow fence in the cold, on a Saturday morning). And what did they get in return? Nary a mention in the mainstream media, and I imagine no calls to consult about the erosion situation on the beach.

No, instead they were circumvented, the Plum Island Foundation was created, and here now this group of dedicated people is gone. The only one of them I really talked to in depth was Paul Ivanska, but he sure knows that beach.

I only wonder what took them so long.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tweet, tweet

Well, upon speaking further this evening with friend who sent me the mocking vid of Twitter, I learned of how she connected, via the social networking/micro blogging site, with an educational consultant who is interested in looking at her new children's book.

The results speak for themselves - although it all seems very high school, there is merit there, if you're using it not to just say you're eating a hot dog.

Follow up is important

Saw and spoke with Jean Foley Doyle at our special writers' group garden party this evening. Thanks to Anne Easter Smith for opening her home and garden to us all (and happy birthday again, Skye).

She said that the stadium was built before the war, but was formally dedicated as a war memorial after the war ended - in 1946. (Which Tom Salemi previously wrote about, and quoted from her book, "Life in Newburyport, 1900-1950.")

So nothing new to add, but since I said I'd ask, I'm reporting back.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Read all about it (revisited)

I was interviewing Ann Ormond (prez of the local Chamber of Commerce) today, and before we got started on the interview, we were talking about the blog.

This blog. Which she says she reads, so I'd better mind my p's and q's (that's me talking, not her).

But it was not the substance of our conversation that got me thinking, it was how easy it was to write the subsequent story without expressing (I hope) therein any of my personal opinions.

It really is not difficult to be objective when writing a newsy story because if you just stick to the facts, there is no way it will spin away from you (unless the subject is doing the spinning, of course, which is a whole other cup of tea).

But what are the facts?

In my earlier post about the WPA and the stadium at Newburyport High School, I included a paragraph from a story I had written for the Current.

Doing a Google search today, I concluded that most of the background I used for the piece must have come from the website of the group trying to raise money to restore the stadium - or rebuild it, as the case may be.

There was a dearth of information on line about the stadium or the WPA. So now readers come along and sort of challenge what it says on the Restore our Stadium website. Not that they're against the restoration (or whatever), they just don't get why it's a war memorial stadium, when it was built in 1938.

I'm not going to debate the merits of the plan again, I just wonder if I should have trusted so much what it said on the website, as my source for background. Of course, I was not told to write a story debunking the whole project.

Actually, I'm not sure I was told anything. I think it was one of those cases where I said, "Here's a story," and the editor said, "Thanks!"

On the other hand, newspaper reporters are paid so little (especially around here, I think) that there is little to encourage them to scrounge around verifying facts ad infinitum. I once figured out that for a story with an average of 500 words, calculating the time it took me to interview persons or persons, do research, and write the story - it turned out I was making about $8 an hour.

Anyway, does this mean that these days, it's easier for people to get their own spin on things, because they said this or that with authority on their website? I'm not including blogs, because blogs are inherently slanted towards the writers' points of view.

Or does having something you said with authority appear on the Internet leave you wide open to questions about that authority? Macy Swain addresses this in a post on her blog, Night Blind.

She is quite surprised at some of the reaction to her piece about the newspaper industry that was published in The Christian Science Monitor. I must say, I was quite surprised that someone snarked about her writing that she and her husband read to each other from the newspaper!

What couple doesn't do that?

Again (as I'm so fond of saying lately), I don't know the answers to these questions. If people are going to rely on someone else to be their news feed, they need to find someone they can trust, at least most of the time.

But, as Ann kindly noted, we the people who live here and know the players involved in things, are at least fairly reliable. Even when we disagree ... now fancy that.

If you put all us news-type bloggers into one place, you'd get every angle - not only from us, but from our extremely astute readers.

If that's not the whole story, I don't know what is.


Thanks to one of my good buds, who sent me this video from YouTube:

I, like, totally forgot to report that I was eating a hotdog earlier!

Things to be alarmed about

"Richard is alarming me," Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced "bouquet") told her neighbor on "Keeping Up Appearances."

In the last few days, I've posted about 2 alarming things: cyber attacks and global water shortage.

The former appears to be a real threat, but gets little or no attention from the media.

The latter seems to be along the lines of "The beach is collapsing! Oh no! The $22 million water/sewer system is in danger!"

All over the papers, people rushing here and there ... and who builds cities (or any type of structure) in the sand anyway? Oh ... sorry Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada ...

So what does this tell us, if anything? (I mean the hype over one and not the other, not the sand deal.)

The case for the stadium

The high school needs an athletic field, or we can forget about athletics at the high school. What a shame that would be, given The Clippers' success on the football field.

What city of this size does not have an athletic field? I'm sure you guys will come up with some.

OK, it's old and crumbling - but it means something to the city. It was really famous when it was built, as I reported here last year for the Current:

World War Memorial Stadium was built 70 years ago as part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) created by President Franklin Roosevelt. The WPA gave more than 3.5 million boys and men work during World War II. Newburyport’s stadium was one of the more famous projects in the state – it cost $150,000 to build. It will cost $1.5 million to renovate.

I know people love the idea of and want this bike path, but who is going to maintain it? The city can't maintain its existing parks and recreation areas.

Should money from taxes be used? It's all money from taxes, except for what the RESTORE group has raised from private sources.

That being said, it would be a shame if this planned bike trail network from Boston ended somewhere south of here instead of at the border of New Hampshire.

A picture is worth 1,000 words

This is a photo from Nantucket.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Big 6 Good Guys

The year was 1966.

Dave Mann was known as "The Great Kahuna"

Gary Raymond brightened our day.

"Devil with a Blue Dress On" by Mitch Ryder and The Wheels was #1

Good grief, it would be a full 10 years or more before a Flint radio station had a female DJ.

These guys, and "The Jones Boys" from WTRX (aka Trix), were our gods.

I interviewed Denise Carmona, I think her name was, the first female jock on (I think) WWCK, the first FM rock station in the city. Of course, although her name came back to me, nothing else does.

Actually, I can still see myself, unsure, interviewing her in her living room. I think also it was my first feature story, having previously only covered municipal meetings.

She told me something "off the record," and I remember going back to the editor, him questioning me about whether I had asked her such-and-such, and me telling him she told me that off the record.

This was when he told me there was no such thing as "off the record." *Gulp*

I was still following the Fab*40 on WTAC and WTRX when I went off to college in Ann Arbor - where the marching band (the Marching Men of Michigan) and cheerleaders were all male.

After my stint in Ann Arbor, I returned to Flint and WWCK, a radio station that played "Stairway to Heaven" and "Nights in White Satin" so frequently that I still cringe if I happen to hear either song.

My sister recently told me how she was listening to WTAC one day, and it abruptly became a country station. As in, mid-programming. Eeek, she said, eeeeek.

Can you imagine any DJs today wearing suits and ties for a promo shoot?

Boston lettuce

I just came across this photo I took of a perfect Boston lettuce I bought last month at Tendercrop Farm.
It looked better in 'person.'
Here's one of my theories about relations between the sexes.. Or how men deal with things. Or how cowards deal with things. Or bullies.

Take your pick. P.S. I'm not saying that men are cowards or bullies.

OK, so you're in this relationship, and you want it to end.

Instead of just saying, "This isn't working for me anymore," you kind of get demanding.

Damn, that doesn't work.

So you ramp it up a little (or a lot, depending on how much you want out) and get mean. But in a controlled sort of way.

Shit, she's clueless!

Egads! On photography

I just realized that my photo now accompanies all my comments, etc., on other blogs.

It's not that I'm really oblivious (which I can be), but I always click "no" when it asks me if I want to see the content that includes photos, when writing comments.

Congratulations go to Kevin Harkins, photographer extraordinaire for Merrimack Valley Magazine, for taking a decent photo of me!

Many people have tried, and have failed, in this attempt.

Along the way, Kevin was heard to mutter such things as, "I don't get it, you look perfectly fine when I look at you, but ..."

If someone could find some way to make unphotogenic people look good in photos, how much money do you think they could make? About as much as a good photographer makes, I'd bet.

Because I think that is the key.


The most hairy moments as a reporter who also has to take photos occasionally, is when I encounter the subject who is a photographer.

The last photographer that I was shooting said (with a little laugh), "You have a very interesting way of taking photos."

Well, God only knows what the fruits of my labor would be like if I had a decent camera.

Just as the Internet is making everyone a writer, the digital camera is turning everyone (me included) into a photographer - although I did once take a photography class, and I do have an unusually high camera count for the average person (4).

Which do you prefer, color photos or black and white?

I like color photographs, but I was taught (again, by Gary Custer in Flint) a healthy love for black and white photography.

That being said, the photo above was taken by John W. Adkisson of The Flint Journal. Isn't it great? The subject is Byron McCarthy, who was volunteering at his 49th Buick Open (golf tournament). Click on the image to enlarge, somewhat.

Even the Daily News is aghast!

Well, like Bil Silliker of Licorice and Sloe, I don't know who wrote this in today's Daily News, but it's pretty good at outlining the issue.

The issue, again, is A-frame signs.

Which gets us back to the main point. What is it that makes Newburyport's downtown a place that people feel drawn to? Newburyport prides itself on fostering independent businesses that can't be found elsewhere, and that clearly has a lot of appeal. Yet the independent store owner on a side street has a tough row to hoe. If Newburyport truly wants to be a place that fosters independent stores, it should be proactive in supporting them.

The A-frame regulations don't help. They throw up a roadblock. Isolating the side streets in the name of aesthetics is a weak argument.

A weak argument indeed, especially since the ordinance clearly leaves it up to the City Council to issue permits on a case-to-case basis.

There's much hand-wringing in Newburyport over the loss the city's "character" if chain stores proliferate. Here's an example of independent businesses that need help. Is there anyone who will answer?

Yeah, well ... that's the stickler.

The primary landlords already have some (perfectly legal) lease agreements that hinge on profit sharing, and I've heard (rumor alert) that said landlords are hinting that they might ask for even more.

From a June 7 report in the Daily News entitled 'Common ground sought on A-frame signs:'

Chuck and Ann Lagasse, who attended the meeting and manage many of the downtown businesses, said they are in favor of banning A-frame signs. They say they clutter the street, ruin the historic feel and are only growing in numbers and will continue to further populate the brick-lined sidewalks.

"I do believe signage is becoming sign litter," Ann Lagasse said.

"It is out of control," said Chuck Lagasse, who advocated copying sign regulations from another historical city, such as Colonial Williamsburg.

I don't think anyone used A-frame signs in Colonial times, but I could be wrong!

Just kidding; I know there's a city attached. But who could resist?

Blue gold, Canada tea

I find it interesting that in this time of people warning of a global water shortage, there is also a fair amount of buzz about a not new idea, a car engine that runs on water.

Yes, cashing in on reports of imminent doom, money guys are advising people to invest in water, in reports akin to this one on

There is no more fresh water on Earth today than there was a million years ago, writes Jon Markman, publisher of StockTactics Advisor and senior strategist and portfolio manager at Pinnacle Investment Advisors. Yet today, 6 billion people share it. Since 1950, the world population has doubled, but water use has tripled, notes John Dickerson, an analyst and fund manager based in San Diego. Unlike petroleum, he adds, no technological innovation can ever replace water.

The benefits of water investing. I guess that's what it's all about.

Yesterday I was reading about water and war.

Nowhere is this issue more important than in the Middle East, where water is considered a ‘strategic’ resource and tensions between countries in the region over it are high. There it has become a major political issue, and the various peace agreements that have been proposed or signed in recent years all include water. This has led to claims from various sources – attributed (but unsubstantiated) to such individuals as Boutros Boutros Ghali and former King Hussein of Jordan – that ‘the next war in the Middle East will be over water’ ..., wrote Steve Lonergan in what looks like 2003.

India is facing a water shortage, as are China and the United States. Iraq's water supply is dwindling because of increased demand in countries upstream (and, you know, loss of infrastructure).

But again, is it a shortage real, or is it a myth? While reading, I kept thinking, "But it's still raining" ... in the global sense, not that it's still raining here in Newburyport, which it is. Again.

According to Skeptical Inquirer writer, Benjamin Radford, it's a myth. In a recent column for Live Science, he wrote:

No, there is plenty of water. The problem is that the vast majority of Earth's water is contained in the oceans as saltwater, and must be desalinated before it can be used for drinking or farming.

Desalination, as he notes, is expensive.

But nor is the world running out of freshwater, either. There's plenty of freshwater on our blue globe; it is not raining any less these days than it did millennia ago. As with any other resource, there are of course regional shortages, and they are getting worse. But the real problems are availability and transport; moving the freshwater from where it is plentiful (such as Canada, South America, and Russia) to where it is scarce (such as the Middle East, India, and Africa). Water is heavy and costly to transport, and those who can afford it will always have water.

Tussles over water already exist, and have done forever, but the issue is also getting some buzz in the presidential campaign. John McCain, in a statement last week he later "clarified" said he wanted to renegotiate the 1922 Colorado River Compact, an interstate compact setting allocation of water from the river between Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and California.

(People in Colorado interpreted it as a move to steal their water for Arizona, McCain's home state, at least according to the Denver Post.)

Water, not global warming, is likely to be the greatest environmental challenge facing the world in the coming decades and centuries, Radford concludes.

So what about this engine that supposedly runs on water? I wonder about the engine popping up again at a time when everyone is talking about global water shortage, investing in water companies, etc.

Hey, did you know that Canada (arguably) holds one-fifth of the world's water supply? Prepare for battle.

Another look at LinkedIn

I was talking a few days ago with someone, and I said (again) that LinkedIn had done nothing for me, and added that I knew a businesswoman who had said the same thing.

The person responded with something along the vein of, "Then you're not using it correctly."

Finding work, even if it's selling your interesting story to someone, is hard work in itself.

I have not been on LinkedIn in ages and yet I sit here, pondering my future as a freelance writer - or any other kind of writer. Writing is one of those crafts that nearly everyone thinks they can do, and they are mostly right.

But before I digress - I came across this piece in the New York Times. It is entitled "The Social Network as a Career Safety Net." You can read it here.

The problem is, all these social networking sites take up time I should be writing. This blog takes up time I should be writing, and in all likelihood is an obstacle to my getting a job!

If I'm tweeting on Twitter, even if it's only 140 words at a time, am I working? Is looking for work the equivalent to time spent working? Well, yes, probably.

So having said all that, I am going to take another look at LinkedIn. From the NY Times story:

The old business adage that it’s not what you know but who you know takes a twist in the Internet era: it’s what you know about social-networking sites that can get you ahead.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Beach plums!

Not much good for eating, but I hear they have some uses of the jam variety.
This 'tree' is at the back of the house.

Newbury in the news (not ours)

From yesterday's Globe North:

NEWBURY PLANNER SOUGHT - Officials have posted the town planner position, vacant since Judy Tymon's dismissal on July 1. The job description states that the planner, in addition to overseeing Planning Board functions, will assist the board with amending existing bylaws or writing new ones, as well as implementing the town's master plan. The town is looking for someone with at least two years' related planning experience. - Taryn Plumb

If I crack wise about this, do you think it will lure Bubba back into the fold?

Let's see ... how about this? (Sung to the tune of "Who wants to be a millionnaire?")

Who wants to work in Ould New-bur-ee?
I don't
Who has the appropriate degree?
I don't
Who wants to deal with that board and that chair?
Deal with that bunch? Not even for lunch!
Would you do it for a beer?
I won't
Maybe they'd let you do it from there ...
I won't
But if you will, you should definitely click here!

Very interesting, n'est-ce pas?

TOPSFIELD - Border to Boston bike trail supporters are scrambling to fill a $700,000 gap left following cuts made by the Federal Highway Administration last week.

Topsfield Rail Trail Committee chairman Joseph Geller says the cuts might be related to decreased gasoline tax revenues.

"The irony is that we're being encouraged to drive less and we're having to shut down a project that will provide links to public transportation," he said.

The 26-mile bike path was to have been built along an abandoned rail bed stretching from Danvers to Salisbury.

That's the story in its entirety. (Globe North)

What's the deal with all the pizza, anyway?

I can't help but notice a singular lack of creative thinking going into new businesses downtown.

Two pizza places ... a flower shop going in across from a flower shop. At this rate, the old Newburyport Lighting space will become a laundromat.

While I think people will (and do) travel to Newburyport to dine at Oregano, who's going to come here for the Upper Crust? Well, there doesn't seem to be one north of Salem (and still in MA), so maybe if you build it, they will come.

But why not something new and different, like a barbeque place (I long for a place like Redbones), or Ethiopian (I miss the place we used to go to in Boston's south end). How about a Greek restaurant? Opa!

We now need another Irish place, and one that serves (Irish) breakfast on weekends, thankyouverymuch.

But I think the space is too small to fit these suggestions. Upper Crust seems to like small spaces. Mixed bag of reviews on line. Bags of flour that rats were into?

Video killed the radio star

Back when that song (by the Buggles) was the first video aired on MTV (August 1, 1981), I had scant knowledge of the computer, and a PC was right off my radar, never mind the Internet.

Today, of course, I practically live and breathe on line.

So, reading this report on, I wondered if this is a real threat, or just more alarmist news?

U.S. at risk of cyberattacks, experts say

(CNN) -- The next large-scale military or terrorist attack on the United States, if and when it happens, may not involve airplanes or bombs or even intruders breaching American borders.

Instead, such an assault may be carried out in cyberspace by shadowy hackers half a world a way. And Internet security experts believe that it could be just as devastating to the U.S.'s economy and infrastructure as a deadly bombing.

Experts say last week's attack on the former Soviet republic of Georgia, in which a Russian military offensive was preceded by an Internet assault that overwhelmed Georgian government Web sites, signals a new kind of cyberwar, one for which the United States is not fully prepared.

"Nobody's come up with a way to prevent this from happening, even here in the U.S.," said Tom Burling, acting chief executive of Tulip Systems, an Atlanta, Georgia, Web-hosting firm that volunteered its Internet servers to protect the nation of Georgia's Web sites from malicious traffic.

It happened last week in Georgia (the country), and it happened last year in Estonia. What's the (brief) scoop on all this? Read on to be alarmed, scared, but then pacified.

No, don't be pacified.

Are computer geeks our new saviors (as well as the 'new' menace)?

Here's a story I wrote earlier this year for the Current, about the Newburyport company, which tries to stop this kind of thing from happening here. "This kind of thing" being cyber attacks.

“We’re just trying to stay ahead of these guys,” says Rich Person, CEO of Newburyport-based “This is unfortunately only going to get worse.”

Person gave me an issue of Wired that talks about "the foot soldiers of the digital age." (Read the August 2007 story in Wired here.) These foot soldiers are not nice, and they sort of rely on taking over computers that belong to other people. Yours and mine, for example.

Writer Joshua Davis describes the first day of the attack, as Estonia's minister of defense, Jaak Aaviksoo, discovers the web is no longer working in the country:

An aide rushed in with a report. It wasn't just the newspapers. The leading bank was under siege. Government communications were going down. An enemy had invaded and was assaulting dozens of targets.

Outside, everything was quiet. The border guards had reported no incursions, and Estonian airspace had not been violated. The aide explained what was going on: They were under attack by a rogue computer network.

It is known as a botnet, and it had slipped into the country through its least protected border — the Internet. Ministers of defense develop strategies to combat the threat of missile attacks, naval bombardment, air raids, and tank advances. But a digital invasion? Estonia is a member of both NATO and the European Union. Should Aaviksoo invoke NATO Article 5, which states that an assault on one allied country obligates the alliance to attack the aggressor?

Davis describes it as Web War One.

"If the computers don't work, the bombs don't strike their targets," writes Ralph Peters, a retired Army intelligence officer, within the same piece.

Peters points out that the digital assault on Estonia was largely dismissed in this country. But he begs to differ, seeing the attack as a trial run. Seems he was correct.

Is the United States ready for a similar attack?

"If you follow defense-budget dollars, funding still goes overwhelmingly to cold war-era legacy systems meant to defeat Soviet tank armies, not Russian e-brigades," he writes.

But yes! Finally, he says, "A digital assault today would outrage and inconvenience Americans, but we'd pull through" ....

But oh no! "Tomorrow could be different."

This ain't no disco

Just about 12 hrs. ago, I was crossing the street to go home from my neighbor's house when out of the corner of my eye, I saw a small-ish animal running down the street.

I thought it was my cat at first (he's a big cat).

But no, it was a fox.

He was running along at a fair clip, perhaps having something to do with running unexpectedly into me. While sitting out on the neighbor's deck earlier, I thought I had heard a fox barking, down on the marsh.

Although the fox had nothing in its mouth, I immediately feared for my cat. He hangs out in the general direction the fox was heading. So I grabbed my flashlight and headed that way, too.

No sign of fox or cat, so I turned around to head back up the street. My flashlight caught the eyes of another animal, which I could easily identify as my furball. He was sitting at the edge of the street, looking very nonchalant about the whole deal.

I couldn't help but wonder if it was he that the fox had been barking at, and perhaps even running from! He does, however, now have a scrape mark above his eye.

We 'lost' a lot of cats out here last summer.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

On the rocks

My family gathered today to celebrate my birthday and my youngest sister's birthday (hers is tomorrow).

One of my brothers-in-law was sitting across the table and I pointed to his Cape Pond Ice t-shirt and indicated that I should have asked for one of those for my birthday.

So then he was forced into telling me how Cape Pond Ice, in business for 160 years and an icon on Gloucester's waterfront, is in trouble because of the water rates in that city.

Gloucester citizens pay a whopping $7.52 per 1,000 gallons; if the business were here, it would pay $4.99 per hundred cubic feet. What the heck?

Scott Memhard, president of Cape Pond Ice, writes on June 30, 2008, to the Gloucester Daily Times (sister to our own Daily News):

Without a reliable source of ice — one of those core "hub" services for the fleet — there will no longer be a fishing industry in the port of Gloucester. Cape Pond Ice was founded 160 years ago specifically to be a reliable source of ice for the fleet.

Cape Pond Ice is in the frozen water business. Water is not only our main ingredient, but we also use water in our refrigeration and manufacturing processes. We use a great deal of water, and we pay the same rate as a homeowner filling an ice cube tray in the fridge ...

Cape Pond Ice Co. competes with the ice company in New Bedford to serve the commercial fishing industry. The water rate in New Bedford was increased last year for the first time in a number of years, by 20 cents per 1,000 gallons, from $1.40 up to $1.60 per 1,000 gallons. This compares to Gloucester's current $7.52* per 1,000 gallons, which is up from $3.03 in 2000, and up from 78 cents per 1,000 gallons in 1983, when I got into the ice business, and rates were discounted to support Gloucester's industrial water users.

Gloucester's water rate is proposed now to increase $1.59 to $9.11 per 1,000 gallons — a 1,200 percent increase over 25 years. My cost for water now is 470 percent higher than my New Bedford ice company competitor, and about to increase to some 570 percent higher.

*From the City of Gloucester web site, it looks as if the FY09 water rate is $7.83 per 1,000 gallons. Complicating matters is this paragraph in a July 8 report in the Gloucester paper: [Public Works Director Michael] Hale said the cost of the water system was not significantly changed, leaving the need for a rate of $9.11, up 15 percent from the $7.92 rate for this year.

Let's ignore those 3 different quoted rates, shall we?

First of all, what a shame that a city can't help out its businesses (and yes, there is innuendo in that statement) and second, why does Newburyport go by cubic foot when many other places seem to go by the gallon? What, what, what?

Oh, OK, scrolling down the appropriate page on the city's website, I see that 100 cubic feet is equal to 750 gallons.


So, that comes out to .... roughly $6.65 per 1,000 gallons (for usage greater than 6,000 cf semi-annually). Plus there's a service fee on top of that, of ... what, nothing for non-residential?

I hear from family members who live in Gloucester that water quality is "variable" at best (I've seen it running brown myself), and Memhard notes in his letter to the editor that he also has to pay for filtering the city water.

Whatever the case, the closing of Cape Pond Ice would have an impact on not only the Gloucester fishing industry, but whoever else buys ice from there, including a lot of (non-fishing) businesses here.

Supplying municipal water is a complicated business, and it's bound to get more so as we go forward.

Roll out the red carpet ... Hey! Come back here with that carpet!

Yes, Sweden's King Carl XVI Gutav will visit the beleaguered city of Flint next month, the Flint Journal announced today. Full story can be read here.

While we are all worried about A-frame signs and bike trails, the king is visiting the potential future site of a biogas plant.

Kettering [University] has been working with state and local officials on plans for Swedish Biogas International of Linkoping to build a plant in Flint.

The biogas plant would convert human waste for use as vehicle fuel and generate heat and electricity.

"He's a cutting edge kind of king," Flint Economic Development Director Suzanne Kayser said.

State officials are being tight-lipped about the king's itinerary (he is also visiting Detroit, to talk with automakers) ... gee, I can't think why!

A beautiful mess

Ooooooh, Ann Arbor, Michigan. Home of the University of Michigan (go blue!) and, for a short time, me.

Take a gander at this documentary video, Insights into a Lively Downtown, made by Michigan graduate student Kirk Westphal, about what makes Ann Arbor's downtown a success (note that the downtown proper is a few blocks away from the campus; the State St. he mentions borders the campus). WARNING: it's 19 minutes long.

Right off the top, Westphal quotes photographer Walker Evans, who once described a great downtown as "a beautiful mess" - which, by the way, includes A-frame signs. He goes on to give a shout out to A-frame signs - or, as he calls them throughout, placards.

The signs give people the opportunity to pause, as they are another form of communication with the public. Note the huge A-frame right in the middle of the sidewalk! No one seems to mind.

My reaction, of course, was "Wow, Ann Arbor sure has changed!" I usually went to Main St. to go to Sears, which is no longer there, and to the bus station, which is.

Ann Arbor, of course, is much larger than Newburyport, has wider streets to accommodate narrowing them to make sidewalk seating, and possibly more buildings (although if you add our State and Pleasant streets together with Inn St., that might not be the case).

But Westphal validates my impression of Oregano (on Pleasant St.) - I like seeing people sitting in the windows. Our State St. doesn't afford much of that nature. Maybe the shoe store and the restaurant should switch locations!

And a lot of what he says explains why people seem to congregate on Inn St., where there are places to sit and watch people walk by.

What have we got on Inn St.? The backs of buildings facing State St., a small play area (very popular), a non-functioning fountain (about to be fixed), a small restaurant, a barbershop (that's my favorite - may the Force be with you, Esther!), a women's clothing shop, 2 places that sell prints (one of them focused on children), a real estate office (is that still open?), an ice cream shop ... and I can't recall any other place or places, until you get to the Brass Lyon.

Keep in mind I worked downtown for several months.

Westphal says you have to leave a visual impression with the downtown. If you asked me a few weeks ago what was in downtown, I would have included the Irish place - which I found out a few weeks ago is long-gone.

That was one place that I don't recall ever entering, or if I did, it was just once. Same with that sports memorabilia place, Dyno Records, and Cool Jewels, although I see their value to the downtown, and that place on Pleasant St. that is decamping to Amesbury.

I once bought something from Milieu, when it was downtown, but that was during a sidewalk sale.

What I see is that people congregate where there is an open space; Inn St., that little area by the Unitarian Church - but oddly, not in that little courtyard by the Chinese place, where there are actually benches.

We need some restaurant to put seating out there and get people in there. It's kind of far from all restaurants but the Chinese place, though, and they would need to put in a side door ...

People walk up the west side (?) of State St. because there are businesses there, but not the other side, where there are insurance agencies and banks.

I know that everyone trusts there is some grand vision for downtown that is going to work, but I don't think that sanitizing it is the way to go. I love Davis Square, for example, which is kind of grungy, but vibrant.

It has kept its spirit alive for the whole 20+ years I've lived in MA.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Real men don't wear spandex

Funny how the bicycle started out as a 'toy' for wealthy people, then became the ride of choice for less wealthy people, and now is again a toy for wealthy people.

The wealthy aspect of it has mostly been the special garb that is required.

Yesterday I was startled when some Lance Armstrong wannabe came out of nowhere and swooped around me and down Federal St., ignoring me and my little Jetta and nearly getting smooshed for his efforts.

He was decked out in all the regalia: the shirt, the shorts, the shoes, and the pointy helmet. You know, the one that's designed to make your head more aerodynamic.

This regalia rage is also true of riding a horse.

We had horses, when I was in high school. I rode my horse wearing my regular jeans and whatever shoes I had on my feet. So did everyone else. (Just like we did our bikes.)

A few months ago, I was equally startled when my neighbor's friend arrived at her house wearing jodhpurs and knee-high riding boots. Her small son was similarly attired.

"Oh," she breathed, pulling her hair back with both hands, "(Son's name) had his riding lesson today."

She then looked at my shoes and said, "Are those Crocs? I don't like Crocs, they're Socialist shoes."

I looked at her quizzically and asked, "Do you even know what Socialist means?"

I was kind of gazing at her own attire as I spoke (not that I believe clothing can be Socialist, but I hadn't seen anyone decked out like that since I was actually in a Socialist country - or West Newbury, now that I think about it).

Next I expect that people won't be able to swim without those spandex outfits the Olympic swimmers wear.

I'm just saying all this because, if I appeared riding my bike in spandex, we'd all be sorry. And my jodhpurs will be at the cleaners, now that I know where some are. They look kind of silly with my red cowboy boots, though ...

And by the way, bicycles are Socialist. I was going to make a quip about them being the main ride of the proletariat, when I Googled said phrase and found THIS - The Proletariat Bicycle Co.

Oh, man.

How green is my city?

So with everyone from City Councillor Donna Holaday to State Rep. Mike Costello (who lives here) touting Newburyport as a model for green initiatives (not saying it is not), it brings to mind an encounter I had a couple of weeks back.

I was somewhere doing something, and there was a DPW crew also there, doing the same thing. They had parked their vehicle in front of mine.

So I walk back to the Jetta, and notice all the time we had been doing that thing (not what you're thinking), their vehicle was left running.

The crew ambled over and I said to one of them, "Hey, you left your engine running all this time?"

The person shrugged his shoulders and replied, "It's the city's money, not mine." He seemed to find his 'bon mots' quite amusing.

"Not a good thing to say to someone who lives in Newburyport," I replied. I was tempted to add, "And who has a blog, and who writes for local newspapers."

Doesn't that just warm your little cockles?

Read all about it

Ari Herzog has drawn some interesting conclusions about family connections of New Ventures/Wood Waste owner William Thibeault.

Read his post, entitled "All in the Family."

I won't comment on the likelihood of these being actual family connections as theorized by Ari, but I did receive an email a couple of weeks back that referred to "Thibeault's brother Ernie."

Interesting reading.

I might add this from the BNET Business Network:

ATLANTA -- Video Display Corporation (NASDAQ:VIDE) is pleased to announce the appointment of Ernest J "Ernie" Thibeault to the Company's Board of Directors. He will replace a seat vacated by Carleton E. Sawyer who retired from the position after 20 years of service to the Company ...

Mr. Thibeault is currently the CEO and President of Thibeault Corporation of New England, a company that he founded and built to become one of New England's largest site contractors employing in excess of 200 people and operating throughout the Northeast. Mr. Thibeault also serves as the CEO of R. C. Hazelton Co., Inc. operating dealerships in NH and Maine as well as CEO of T-Quip Sales of Orlando, Florida and Thibeault Properties, a real estate investment company currently involved in the development of large scale residential condominium projects.

How come we're not doing this? What? Oh!

Well, we don't yet have a wind farm, but we (or Amesbury) does have a farm using wind energy.
This report in the green tech gazette talks about wind energy in Michigan, and Flint in particular:

According to [a man named Steve] Smiley, part of the infrastructure to build the needed wind turbines exists in Flint, Michigan which will make the residents there plus Michael Moore very happy people. I’ve talked in the past about combining wind and water turbines in one platform where both the air and watery currents would support it.

Gordon Young talks about this on his most recent post on Flint Expatriates, so let's forget about Flint and move east to Newburyport.

This week, the Zoning Board of Appeals granted Mark Richey Woodworking a special permit to build a 600kW wind turbine on its property in the industrial park.

From the Daily News:

Passage of Richey's turbine proposal represents the first permit of its kind to be granted by the ZBA under the City Council's newly adopted ordinance governing wind turbines, and garnered mostly support from those attending Tuesday night's second public hearing on the matter.

This is really good news for our city.

As for concerns about noise, one only needs to mosey up the road to Cider Hill Farm and check out the turbines there. They really are quite beautiful and relatively silent.

I found some wind energy FAQs here, in which I found this: One 600kW wind turbine at a reasonable site would produce enough electricity to meet the annual needs of 375 households.

Holy moly! The ones at Cider Hill Farm are 10kW each.

The good news is, through green energy initiatives, the energy goes onto the grid. We all benefit.

Also check out this story from June, also in the Daily News, about the WindWing, which the developers say is simpler and more efficient than the turbine. Not as pretty, but it looks like it has merit.

This if from an Aug. 2007 story in the Ventura County Star:

The up-and-down flapping hints at one of the system's benefits over its propeller-equipped kin -- that it is less likely to kill birds.

I think it's kind of funny how everything old is new again. We used to have a windmill on our farm, when I was a kid ...

Thursday, August 14, 2008


I am now gathering that all the baby cardinals have grown up, since there are at least 5 cardinals twittering outside my windows (they wanted to use my laptop, but I refused). Finally remembered to pick up some birdseed on my way home from Gloucester.

In the photo, a Monarch butter(fly) found its way onto my porch. I had to hurry and snap a photo before certain furry co-inhabitants of mine snapped it in another way.

My porch windows need a good re-paint. Tell my landlord, willya?

In a bit, I am going to PIG with Triple-D because it's my birthday today! This arguably happy event is brought to you by the letter "B," for boring (cuz that's what it's been so far).

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Downtowns near and far

Congratulations to blogger Gordon Young and his blog, Flint Expatriates, both being the subject of a story in today's Flint Journal.

Young is just two years older than my brother and one year younger than my youngest sister, so I know that Flint was already in its downward spiral when he was growing up. I'm sure, though, that he has heard from his parents how it was in the 60s and early 70s, when he was just a mite.

The downfall of downtown was the Genesee Valley Mall, or Genesee Valley Center as I guess it is now known.

Years ago, a friend of ours from Flint came to visit us when we lived in Boston. We took him to Downtown Crossing, and he commented how weird it was not to be inside (as in, a mall).

I can't shop extensively in malls - I get 'mall head.'

As Tom Salemi writes about in this post from today, our downtown (in Newburyport) has a nice hum. But it's the hum of tourists bustling about. We've got a lot of well-off people who shop elsewhere, it would seem.

I don't agree that there is nothing downtown for residents, although there could be more. As I have said before, last December I bought most of my holiday gifts from downtown shops. Admittedly, two of them are gone now ... (Hog on Ice and Mary Jane).

But I also don't get Tom's comparison with Malden. Malden's 'downtown' is basically one street that dead ends at the (new-ish) municipal complex. I suspect that Malden's downtown was ruined not by the nearby Square One Mall, but by extension of the Orange Line - 20 minutes or so into Boston, from Malden Center.

There are still a few 'mom and pop' type places there, in the neighborhoods. But with the arrival of a Super Stop & Shop, a Staples, a Target, and other big box businesses, residents of Malden can get anything they need within the confines of the city limits (or next door in Everett, as the case may be).

If they want that small town feel, they can pop west into Medford, where my sister and brother-in-law are living until they can move into their 'new' house in Malden. It's like a Chicago neighborhood there.

A downtown should serve primarily its resident population. On one hand, I see the need for A-frame signs, for example.

On the other hand, if residents were patronizing these businesses with any regularity, the businesses wouldn't need signs with the primary intent of telling tourists where they are located (Licorice & Sloe, which features musical acts, being a possible exception).

On the third hand (I have one of those), if rents weren't so high, then perhaps prices for goods wouldn't be so high ...

Sign of the times

Today's Daily News has a story about the A-frame decision by the City Council. In reading the comments, I see that Bil Silliker of Licorice & Sloe (tea shop on a side street) points out the exact wording of the city ordinance that covers movable signs:

a) One (1) movable sign and one (1) display of merchandise are allowed for each public entrance to a building, subject to the standards and criteria herein.

(b) All movable signs shall be placed within one (1) foot of the building and within four (4) feet of the public entrance. No movable sign shall exceed two (2) feet in width or depth or four (4) feet in height. In the event that said sign does not meet that above size and location requirements the applicant may petition the city council for relief.

Note the last sentence - the applicant may petition the city council for relief. Well, it does not say the City Council will grant the relief, but it seems from the report in the DN that the Council merely denied the requests en masse.

Several councilors advocated for granting Silliker a variance, saying he is the exception that the ordinance is meant for.

"If we're going to follow the spirit (of the ordinance), we need to approve it," said Earls, who represents the downtown area. Earls noted the application for the Licorice and Sloe sign states a specific location and a specific size.

Councilors Derrivan, Ives, McCavitt voted to reject the petition and Cameron, Earls, Jones, Holaday, O'Brien voted in favor - or against denial at first, then for approving it second. Steve Hutcheson recused himself from the votes (his wife owns a downtown shop).

They needed a 2/3 majority.

I wonder if the Licorice & Sloe petition will re-surface, once Shanley and Connell are back from wherever they are?

Wouldn't that be opening a can of worms?

Who just cruising Newburyport knows that Jewel in the Crown is back in that courtyard, or that Stella's is even further down Middle St. than L&S?