Monday, September 22, 2008

I've been sooooo sick

This could be a deal breaker between me and Plum Island: allergies.

If allergies are what have laid me so low since the end of last week. I've been coughing so much that it hurts.

This means I've had endless hours half snoozing on the couch with cable news channels playing in the same room, pretty much non-stop.

I want to know where all the money is coming from that will supposedly "rescue" the financial institutions!

Who was there to bail me out? I didn't even take the offer of a sub-prime mortgage because I knew I could not afford it ...

Dropping in to congratulate Ari (update)

Ari Herzog has been named Blogger of the Week by the founder of Social Media today.

Read all about it here.

I did not have time earlier to say something on my own part, but I have personally recommended Ari to two different parties who wanted to expand/enhance their social networking capabilities or create a personal brand.

These are words with which I had little or no familiarity a scant year ago.

So there you go!

Congratulations, Ari!

Friday, September 19, 2008

As you might imagine, I'm having difficulty negotiating what I say on here with issues I may be writing about for Globe North.


I pepper that poor editor with pitches - but then, he did tell me to do so!


But Tom Salemi pretty much sums up what I think about the solar panel deal in his post of this morning, here.


On another note, I don't think I saw anything in the DN about the man from the Swampscott School Committee and the group he has organized to pool school districts together to fight for Chapter 70 reform. He made a presentation to our SC on Monday.


You can read about his proposal here, in the


I've been up against a deadline all week so maybe I missed it.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Merrimack Valley Hospice House

I just returned from the opening of the public phase of fundraising for the hospice house, which (hopefully) will open in Haverhill next spring.

It was no surprise to me to see Richie Eaton of the Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank there. I know community banks have to give to non-profits as part of their charter, but everywhere I go, Richie Eaton is there as well (and most of the time so are Mark Welch and Charlie Cullen).

Also there was Robert Balletto, president/CEO of the Georgetown Savings Bank (also a community bank) and Janet Sheehan of the Newburyport Society for Relief of Aged Women.

Sheehan told me funds from her society were joined with those from a similar aid society for men (she couldn't recall off the top of her head which one) to fund one of the 14 rooms. That sponsorship guarantees that residents of Newburyport will always have one room in the house, if needed.

It was very inspiring and a little sad.

By the way ...

Question:

How on Earth can you regulate greed?

I remember for years hearing the sentence, "As goes General Motors, goes the country," or similar words.

Well we all know how GM goes - it done went (to Mexico).

This whole bank/mortgage/investment firm deal is freaking me out.

I'm back! Briefly ...

I've been really negligent this week, but I have an excuse.

Her name is Sarah Palin.

I don't want to go into national politics on here, unless something really vital takes place. You know, other than what's going on.

So, I did not attend the NRA meeting last night at the Firehouse. Despite the DN headline, "Praise, questions greet waterfront plans," it sounds like the proposed plans were more questioned than praised.

I'm just going by Katie Farrell's story, which can be read here. My esteemed blogging colleague Tom Salemi lends his perspective here.

Whatever happens with the plans, I remember the NRA saying that nothing will appear at the two sites for "years."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

McCain and the BlackBerry

OMG! Like, ummmm, I'm giggling over here ...

(CNN) – McCain senior domestic policy adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin said Tuesday the Blackberry mobile e-mail device was a “miracle that John McCain helped create" ...

He added, though, that McCain — who has struggled to stress his economic credentials this cycle — did have experience dealing with the economy, pointing to his time on the Senate Commerce Committee. Pressed to provide an example of what McCain had accomplished on that committee, Holtz-Eakin said the senator did not have jurisdiction over financial markets — then held up his Blackberry, telling reporters: “He did this.”

“Telecommunications of the United States, the premiere innovation in the past 15 years, comes right through the Commerce Committee. So you’re looking at the miracle that John McCain helped create,” said Holtz-Eakin. “And that’s what he did. He both regulated and de-regulated the industry.”

Does the BlackBerry qualify as a "miracle?"

UPDATE: The BlackBerry was invented by a Canadian company, Research In Motion. Should have mentioned that before!

Man drowns in PI Sound

My sister just called me to say that NECN is reporting in a crawl about a body being found in Plum Island Sound ... I found a report on Boston.com, but it was an AP report, and the AP no longer allows us to copy their stories.

It was an 81-year-old sailor, Bryan Denman from Hamilton. who fell into the water while trying to board his "sailing sloop."

A lobsterman found his body at about 1:30 p.m. yesterday.

Three blind mice

This morning I have been watching cable news channels. Yes, even FoxNews.

I usually watch CNN, out of habit. But the annoyance level went over the top this morning, and I switched over to MSNBC.

Funny how on all these channels it's the same mouthpieces saying the same old stuff about both candidates. Neither side can find anything they like about the opposition. Surely there is one thing Obama people like about McCain, and vice versa.

I'd like to see someone new, thank you.

Now I'm watching Fox and Bill Hemmer, who I used to like when he was on CNN. Now I don't know what to believe because whereas he was fairly moderate on CNN, he is towing the partisan Fox line now.

Speaking of which, didn't that MSNBC woman (Chris?) used to be on Fox?

It's hard to tell anything about Hemmer right now, though, because he and his co-host (Megyn Kelly) are talking about Paul McCartney, or will be once they come back from commercial.

Switching over, CNN is talking to some guy in Galveston and MSNBC is also on commercial.
CNN has been pretty much all Ike, all the time the last couple of days. Not a bad thing, but I am craving politics.

I switched CNN off earlier because they had a sound bite from McCain about the economy and not the rebuttal from Biden (which I had seen earlier). Yesterday, they showed clips of McCain and Palin's campaign appearances and then cut from Obama to go to another story.

Now Fox is also talking weather and a "disturbed system" in the tropics. I hope it works out its issues.

Oh, apparently "downtalking" the economy is not presidential, says Fox paraphrasing McCain.

What happened to Paul McCartney? OK - he's the tease to keep people watching?

Enough!

My rating is that MSNBC is being the most "fair and balanced" of the 3 this morning. But that's not saying much.

Monday, September 15, 2008

I can't believe I watched the whole thing!

Ooops, I hit something that published this with just a title.

Must type quickly.

Anyway, I actually missed the beginning of the School Committee broadcast on local access cable because there were technical difficulties? Who knows.

Anyway, the board voted (with two nays) to approve the mayor to proceed with the contract for a solar array on the Nock Middle School, with the caveat that Superintendent Lyons has to review it before the mayor signs it.

There was some amount of debate about the city locking itself into an escalating rate over the 20-year contract (the city would most likely take a buyout of the system at year 12).

The contract calls for the city to pay $.14 per kilowatt which as I heard it would increase by 4% each year after that.

Tim Brennan, NRA member and employee of National Grid, speaking as a private citizen cautioned the group over entering into the contract due to the fact that electricity rates might actually flatten out since they are in a peak right now.

Brennan said that the city could end up paying hundreds of thousands of dollars over market, but Mayor John Moak said the city will save $110,000 in the first 3 years and as much as $2.7 mil overall.

He noted that the state was "extremely pleased" with the project.

The state did grant a waiver of the mandatory bidding process in 2 days, after all.

I confess

Yesterday I was at my sister's house, and she mentioned that she found it kind of amazing that I was able to write a balanced story for the Globe, about A-frames.

You know, given that I have expressed my personal opinion about the signs on this blog.

I've written about that to some extent, but this isn't about me.

I watched Gov. Sarah Palin the other day being interviewed by Charles Gibson. She said she was "pro-life," but insisted that that is her personal opinion. Later I saw on CNN a report about how she has never tried to inject this personal opinion about abortion into Alaska politics.

And I thought ... OK, so if I can do it, so can she.

I don't know if she could/would put aside her personal feelings, but I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. On that issue. For now.

Scary

What seems like ages ago now, I worked at an investment company. The economy was impressive (Clinton was President).

I had some income that I was actually able to invest. My boss, the president of the company, told me not to invest in stock market because it was too high.

I did not listen to him.

The guy in charge of stock investments at the company told me to buy, buy, buy. Buy CMGI, he advised me.

Him I listened to.

Years went by and I contributed to my IRA like a dutiful person bent on having a secure retirement. And I kept buying stocks.

This year I had to cash in my IRA, and as it turns out, it was probably a smart move. God knows what it would be worth today. It was worth only 2/3 of what it started out when I cashed it in. I still have most of the stocks, but I have not looked at their value for about 6 months.

I cried last time I looked.

I am not an economist (I actually dropped economics in college because it bored me to tears).

I don't care whose fault it is that stocks are plummeting.

I just want to know that I have some kind of future that does not include living in the home of one of my married sisters.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Oh no ...

22 people are stuck on a freighter in the Gulf of Mexico. Nobody can rescue them because of the conditions.

From KansasCity.com:

Ike's 105-mph winds and potential 50-foot waves initially stopped the Coast Guard from attempting a risky helicopter rescue of 22 people aboard a 584-foot freighter that broke down in the path of the storm about 90 miles southeast of Galveston, Chief Petty Officer Mike O'Berry said. The ship was hauling petroleum coke used to fuel furnaces at steel plants.

But midday Friday, the Coast Guard changed its mind and decided to stage a rescue. Petty Officer Tom Atkeson said rescue swimmers and Coast Guard and Air Force aircraft were on their way to reach the ship.

They have since aborted the rescue attempt.

The Cyprus-flagged freighter Antalina issued a distress call around 0900 GMT after it lost propulsion 90 miles (145 kilometers) southeast of Galveston, Coast Guard Petty Officer Tom Atkeson told AFP by phone from Texas. (Source: Africasia.com)

The crew cannot anchor the ship because they are in deep waters. According to a transmission CNN earlier played from the captain, the freighter is on buoys.

Also in jeopardy are the petrochemical plants and oil refineries in Houston. Someone just said that one quarter of the country's gasoline supply is refined in that area.

This is more scary than Gov. Palin. Just.

I'm outraged

Yes, I'm outraged, angry and upset.

No, it's not about Gov. Palin, or Bubba being a moderate.

It's about people on the Gulf Coast of Texas who did not abide by the mandatory evacuation and now are calling for help to leave the area.

I don't understand this mentality, or lack thereof. CNN a few minutes ago showed some guys surfing and riding around on jet skis. They were apprehended. They were being cocky and commenting about the wild ride.

As CNN host Rick Sanchez just said, these people are putting emergency responders at risk. A Texas policeman is now announcing that they have to evacuate themselves, so these people who decided to stay will be on their own.

People who make the decision to ignore a mandatory evacuation should be fined after having to be rescued later. Period.

Republicans do want change

I get really peeved when I read the same old lines trotted out by both sides of the political fray. Election season shows how intolerant many people are to opinions that are different from their own and also how gullible people are.

And I don't mean just conservatives, even though that's who this post is about.

The notion that Democrats grow up to be Republicans as they get wealthier is fast becoming more myth than fact. It seems that wealthy people are also being turned off by the hard line of the GOP, "do it my way or you're the anti-American," as well as a few other trends in the Republican party over the last two decades or so (I blame, as always, Ronald Reagan).

I found this Sept. 5 piece by David Frum, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, on the NY Times website. Its title is "The Vanishing Republican Voter."

As a general rule, the more unequal a place is, the more Democratic; the more equal, the more Republican. The gap between rich and poor in Washington is nearly twice as great as in strongly Republican Charlotte, N.C.; and more than twice as great as in Republican-leaning Phoenix, Fort Worth, Indianapolis and Anaheim.

In other words, once people are exposed to other lifestyles, points of view, socio-economic status, etc., they either stay or become Democrats? Yeah, well, that is what democracy is all about. Being exclusive has always been the bastion of the - dare I say it - elite conservative.

At the same time, conservatives need to ask ourselves some hard questions about the trend toward the Democrats among America’s affluent and well educated. Leaving aside the District of Columbia, 7 of America’s 10 best-educated states are strongly “blue” in national politics, and the others (Colorado, New Hampshire and Virginia) have been trending blue. Of the 10 least-educated, only one (Nevada) is not reliably Republican. And so we arrive at a weird situation in which the party that identifies itself with markets, with business and with technology cannot win the votes of those who have prospered most from markets, from business and from technology. Republicans have been badly hurt in upper America by the collapse of their onetime reputation for integrity and competence.

The piece continues:

TO WITNESS THE SLOW-MOTION withering of the G.O.P., drive a little farther west into the Washington metropolitan area, to Prince William County. Here is exurban America in all its fresh paint: vast tracts of inexpensive homes, schools built to the latest design, roads still black in their virgin asphalt.

Whether in Virginia, Missouri or Illinois, there are no more egalitarian and no more Republican places in the United States than these exurbs. The rich shun them, and the poor can find no easy foothold, but the middle-income, middle-educated, white married parents who form the backbone of the G.O.P. are drawn to them as if to a refuge ... Yet in the past couple of cycles, the once-tight Republican hold upon the county has loosened. Prince William voted (very narrowly) for Gov. Tim Kaine in 2005 and then (slightly less narrowly) for Senator Jim Webb in 2006. A big vote for the 2008 Democratic senatorial candidate Mark Warner seems almost certain, and a victory for Barack Obama seems very possible.

So there you have it, or at least one version of it. What does this have to do with us, here in little old Newburyport?

Well, I seem to recall last year when a whole lot of parents cried real tears when the school district said it was taking their tots out of the more or less exclusive small neighborhood schools and mixing them with kids representing a true cross-section of the city.

I have no idea if this is what caused the tears, but certainly the parents never thought about how this (limited, since this is Newburyport, after all) exposure to poor and/or non-white kids might actually benefit them as the U.S. trends towards current minorities becoming the majority by 2042. (Read about it here, at the Voice of America online.)

Maybe they have thought about it by now.

Obsession in any form is bad

I confess that I'm obsessed with this political election.

Long ago I abandoned watching CNN, yet there is Heidi What'shername, on my screen.

It's not just me, either. I was speaking yesterday with another woman who said the same thing.

I hardly sleep, eat or - really bad - do real work!

Between the hurricane heading for Texas and the one in Alaska, I'm parked on my couch full-time.

Actually, it's not really that bad.

OK, so it is.

Help me.

Oh give me a break!

I'm getting really sick of reading about the "liberal media."


Do you know why I think people bitch about the media? Because the media is supposed to tell both sides of the story. Denouncing the press has become the surest way to whip up the crowd, on both sides (but the Republicans are best at it).

Read this, from Walter R. Mears, who has been reporting on national politics for the AP since 1960, according to the Seattle Times online.

Steve Schmidt, McCain's senior strategist, used the ploy with a reverse twist at the Republican convention to accuse the news media of dealing in gossip, innuendo and personal matters about Palin, Alaska's governor.

In the process, the McCain camp has promoted rumors which, in another era, would not have made print or serious TV reporting. Standard procedure then was for the campaign involved to ignore such stuff, knowing that to address or deny it would only draw unwanted attention. But when a supermarket tabloid produced a vague and undocumented story that Palin once had an affair, Schmidt issued a news release threatening to sue - and guaranteeing that there would be at least brief mention of the story in mainstream media. Then he attacked them.

It was not the news media that first reported that Palin's unmarried, 17-year-old daughter was pregnant. It was the McCain campaign, blaming its own disclosure on Internet rumors that Palin's youngest child actually was her daughter's baby. The timing of that news release, on opening day of the Republican convention, made certain that it would draw maximum coverage.

So it did, and Schmidt then denounced all the personal matters as a "faux media scandal."

Furthermore (switching gears slightly), Barack Obama, little experience or not, was nominated fair and square (well, more or less, depending on how you feel about the caucuses) by Democrats, through their votes, to be their nominee for president.


Sarah Palin was hand picked by the Republican nominee. She was not chosen by voters - her selection is on McCain's head alone, for good or bad.


The fact is, most of the media is giving Palin a lot of publicity. You know that old saw, any press is good press.


The fact is, the so-called liberal media has given George Bush pretty much a free pass for 8 years, on some of his more "creative" initiatives.


As Mears says at the end of his piece, There'll be more of this (what he talks about, not my rant), on both sides. And if it inhibits questioning reporters, the media bashers will have done their work.

A-frames (again)

OK, well I guess I'm the one who has to point out the story about our A-frame situation here in Newburyport, that was in Globe North yesterday.

You guys comment, and I want to know if it was obvious to you from reading it that there are A-frame signs all over Melrose. If not, I'm telling you now that there are!

We also made it in with this one about bullying.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Progress vs. inertia

I received the following in an email. I thought it was interesting, if nothing else. I neither endorse nor condemn the following (rather inflammatory) conclusions - I offer them as food for thought.

Anyone who wishes to offer their own thoughts is (as always) most welcome to do so. I will copy your comments into a post, if you so wish.
________________________________________________________
Obama and the Palin Effect
* Words from Deepak <http://www.chopra.com/taxonomy/term/62> by Deepak Chopra

Sometimes politics has the uncanny effect of mirroring the national psyche even when nobody intended to do that.

This is perfectly illustrated by the rousing effect that Gov. Sarah Palin had on the Republican convention in Minneapolis this week.

On the surface, she outdoes former Vice President Dan Quayle as an unlikely choice, given her negligent parochial expertise in the complex affairs of governing.

Her state of Alaska has less than 700,000 residents, which reduces the job of governor to the scale of running one-tenth of New York City. By comparison, Rudy Giuliani is a towering international figure.

Palin's pluck has been admired, and her forthrightness, but her real appeal goes deeper.

She is the reverse of Barack Obama, in essence his shadow, deriding his idealism and turning negativity into a cause for pride.

In psychological terms the shadow is that part of the psyche that hides out of sight, countering our aspirations, virtue, and vision with qualities we are ashamed to face: anger, fear, revenge, violence, selfishness, and suspicion of "the other."

For millions of Americans, Obama triggers those feelings, but they don't want to express them.

He is calling for us to reach for our higher selves, and frankly, that stirs up hidden reactions of an unsavory kind. (Just to be perfectly clear, I am not making a verbal play out of the fact that Sen. Obama is black.The shadow is a metaphor widely in use before his arrival on the scene.)

I recognize that psychological analysis of politics is usually not welcome by the public, but I believe such a perspective can be helpful here to understand Palin's message.

In her acceptance speech Gov. Palin sent a rousing call to those who want to celebrate the irresistance to change and a higher vision. Look at what she stands for:

* Small town values — a nostaligic return to simpler times disguises a denial of America's global role, a return to petty, small-minded parochialism.

* Ignorance of world affairs — a repudiation of the need to repair America's image abroad.

*Family values — a code for walling out anybody who makes a claim for social justice. Such strangers, being outside the family, don't need to be needed.

* Rigid stands on guns and abortion — a scornful repudiation that these issues can be negotiated with those who disagree.

* Patriotism — the usual fallback in a failed war.

*"Reform" — an italicized term, since in addition to cleaning out corruption and excessive spending, one also throws out anyone who doesn't fit your ideology.

Palin reinforces the overall message of the reactionary right, which has been in play since 1980, that social justice is liberal-radical, that minorities and immigrants, being different from "us" pure American types, can be ignored, that progressivism takes too much effort and globalism is a foreign threat.

The radical right marches under the banners of "I'm all right, Jack," and "Why change?Everything's OK as it is."

The irony, of course, is that Gov. Palin is a woman and a reactionary at the same time. She can add mom to apple pie on her resume, while blithely reversing forty years of feminist progress.

The irony is superficial; there are millions of women who stand on the side of conservatism, however obviously they are voting against their own good. The Republicans have won multiple national elections by raising shadow issues based on fear, rejection, hostility to change, and narrow-mindedness.

Obama's call for higher ideals in politics can't be seen in a vacuum. The shadow is real; it was bound to respond. Not just conservatives possess a shadow — we all do.

So what comes next is a contest between the two forces of progress and inertia. Will the shadow win again, or has its furtive appeal become exhausted?

No one can predict. The best thing about Gov. Palin is that she brought this conflict to light, which makes the upcoming debate honest. It would be a shame to elect another Reagan, whose smiling persona was a stalking horse for the reactionary forces that have brought us to the demoralized state we are in.

We deserve to see what we are getting, without disguise.

Let's face it, I'm beat!

*Yawn*

I've been breaking my own rules about avoiding potential head explosion from watching cable news channels.

But more important - check out the Globe North tomorrow. There's a story in there about the A-frame debacle going on in our city.

What do you all think about this business directory sign the council approved on Monday night? The license and permits committee rejected the earlier location, which was on the bull nose.

I was downtown today, and there are still some A-frames out there. Apparently there's some debate about the signs at Tracy Place, or whatever it's called, and whether the ordinance speaks to courtyards ... let's see what happens, shall we?

Yee-haw!

CNN just announced a SEX scandal between 10 or so people in the Interior Dept. and oil companies. Federal investigation ... criminal charges ...

Ah, when Rick Sanchez explains a bit, it's more about golf trips, gifts and some alleged sexual impropriety between the department and bigwigs from oil companies.

What a tease; he's saying they're waiting for more information. Oh, ooops, there's going to be a press conference "any minute."

Rick Sanchez is interesting. He checks people's comments on Twitter, Facebook and MySpace while on the air.

Drill, baby, drill!

What happened to the "No call" list?

A number of people have commented to me that, despite being on the National Do Not Call Registry, they have started receiving telemarketing calls again.

I notice this myself.

According to the website, your registration should not expire. And yet, I am receiving calls from unknown entities asking me to participate in surveys.

I did not register my cell phone, on which for about two years I have been receiving calls from someone speaking a foreign language. I think it's Arabic, which was kind of disturbing at first. Then my dad told me he was getting weird messages in foreign languages on his cell.

I guess telemarketing companies found a way around the 2008 law.

The memory fades?

Tomorrow, of course, marks the 7th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center.

So it's with dismay that I read that the day is fading in the public's memory. This headline from today's Daily:

Sept. 11 events start to fade from public eye

AMESBURY — On Sept. 11, 2002, almost 4,000 people jammed into Landry Stadium to remember the one-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks.

Since then, the town has paused each year to do the same. The ceremony is much smaller — and so is the crowd. Last year about 20 people joined the police and fire, and town officials, at a brief memorial at the Huntington Square gazebo. But the memorial — which includes a prayer, bells and candle lighting — gives citizens a chance to reflect and remember for a moment, organizer Rosemary Werner said yesterday.

Is this true (the fading part)? I have never attended any formal memorial service on Sept. 11, but I always pause and reflect on that terrible day each Sept. 11.

I would hate to think that people are becoming complacent, especially now that there is a presidential election upcoming.

This from Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of the Future of Freedom Foundation, on his blog (July 9, 2008):

The political world has been abuzz over McCain advisor Charlie Black’s statement that another terrorist attack on American soil before Election Day would benefit McCain’s chances for winning the election.

Political rhetoric aside, the possibility is real. So let's not ever forget, even if none of us ever attends an official memorial service again.

Mystery man revealed (even more)



OK, so all the time I see this guy walking along the PI Turnpike, and I wonder, "What's his story?"

Apparently, a lot of other people wonder about him, too.

So the other day, I finally parked at the airport and tackled him by the side of the road. Well, I mean I didn't physically tackle him - it was more of a verbal attack.

"What's your story?" I demanded to know, and he obliged me. You may even have seen me out there, talking to him by the side of the road. Triple-D did, and she demanded to know why I was talking to "the tan guy."

His name is Tom, aka "the guy in the red shorts," or, as I just said, "the tan guy." He was born in Salem, but he grew up in Newburyport.

He lives on Bromfield Court, and he is diabetic. He has limited vision, so he cannot drive or ride his bike.

So he walks to the beach nearly every day, even in the winter. That's 2 miles to the Newbury town beach and another half-mile to the Point. He gets back home around 4 p.m., just in time to take his insulin before supper, he said.

A lot of people seem to be concerned about the tan, but he said he wears plenty of sun screen. In his bag he carries a sandwich, some fruit, and water. Hooked to his shorts is his Walkman, on which he listens to talk radio.

"I'm in a daydream walking along," he told me, so don't bother honking and waving because he may not notice, and he definitely can't see who you are. "It's just a blur."

He also walks to Shaw's and Market Basket.
Mostly, he said, he hates it when people stop when he's trying to cross the street because he can't tell if they're stopping for him, or what. He's had some near misses.

It's better if he just waits to cross when he can tell for himself there are no cars coming (he can see the blurs approaching).

And, oh yeah, he doesn't wear his shirt because he gets too hot and the shirt gets all sweaty.

It's like a scary movie over here!

I woke up this morning to the sound of multiple pitter-pats on the roof and the twittering of many birds. Not to mention the one bird pecking at the window next to the bed.

My yard has been invaded.

The many grasses that sprang up after I a couple of years ago used marsh hay as mulch on my little garden are offering up tasty little seeds for the birds.

There are hundreds of sparrows, all over the ground and in the scrub. There is one bird I've never even seen before (it's not in my guide), and I don't have a clue what type of bird was pecking at the window. All I could see without my glasses was that it had a crest.

And what a beautiful day it's shaping up to be!

Go forth and follow your passion, Bil

I was talking with Bil Silliker, manager at Licorice & Sloe (the downtown tea bar that's closing), before the City Council meeting on Monday.

We weren't talking about the reasons for the store closing, but it was equally sad.

I asked him what teas he had left because my sister wants me to get some for her.

Bil began reciting names of teas, properties of each, blends of each ... and while he did so, his body language changed, his voice changed, and his eyes got a light in them that wasn't there when I first approached him.

This man loves his tea.

It's sad that he can no longer do what he loves doing. It's sad when anyone can't do what they love doing.

I hope he and Meg can pull together the resources and start anew. It may have to be somewhere else, but I hope that Bil gets to share his expertise with tea drinkers from near and far again real soon.

Bil said he was surprised at how few people had come in over last weekend to sit around and sip tea. Everyone was buying bulk tea. His business spiked, but only because he's going out of business.

Who knows? The way it's going, a tea bar will probably appear as part of all these high-end plans for the city. Tealuxe on Newbury St. (Boston) is still alive and well.

I wish I had patronized Licorice & Sloe as much as I did Tealuxe, when I lived in Boston. But then, I had a lot more income when I lived in Boston.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Finding old friends and family

So far through Facebook, I have hooked with some dude from high school, some of my relatives on my mother's side that I rarely, if ever, communicate with (not because I don't care), and one relative in Barbados that frankly I did not know existed.

I also got a surprise communication from the woman who lived with our family for a year as an exchange student. Both my sister Sarah and I had left the family homestead by that time (and were living together in Pontiac, between Flint and Detroit), but we all became good friends with Veronique.

She was a little more "fast" than the other students at our younger sister's high school, and the photos of her on a topless beach in France raised a few eyebrows ... but now I look back and think how parochial we must all have seemed to her.

She also gained about 20 pounds in the year she lived in the U.S. She lost it all after she returned to France.

I spent a day with Vero when I went from England to Paris for a day (a surprisingly hassle-free expedition), and my sister Sarah and I stayed with her in France a couple of years later.

After that, there were a few letters, a couple of birth announcements and then nada.

I still remember standing in Detroit's Metropolitan Airport and tearing up as Vero's plane took off to take her home to France.

Glad to be back in touch.

More public comment needed?

Our friend and my fellow blogger Ari Herzog stood up at the City Council meeting last night and asked the council to consider having two periods of public comment instead of just the one it currently allows.

The School Committee has two periods of public comment - one before they start discussing stuff, and one later in the meeting. It gives the people in the audience a chance to comment on the agenda items after hearing the board speak.

Anything the City Council talks about after the one period of public comment is obviously not open to comment for 2 weeks.

I don't know if this will work for the council, but I think it's a fine idea.

Oh it's too hard to install your cable boo-hoo

So I was just talking with my sister (the one who lives in Malden again).

She mentioned the electrician had put a hole in the wall she just painted. I asked why she had an electrician there ...

It seems that a Comcast installer came to install and then said he couldn't do it because the house is too old, or some such crappola, and that my sister should get an electrician.

The electrician told my sister that there was no reason the Comcast installer could not have done the job. (Note I used to live in a much older house and no one ever had a problem installing anything in there.)

I ask you - what the heck?

My sister is planning on getting something from Comcast to make up for the extra expense they incurred by having to hire an electrician.

I think the guy who installed my allegedly digital cable out here told me he worked not for Comcast, but a contractor hired by the cable giant.

Lazy or sleazy business? You be the judge.

Tacos and obliviousness (is that a word?)

Does everyone know about this $2 taco thing at Agave on Monday nights?

I only found out about it from, I think, former City Councillor Gary Roberts, who told me last fall that the council heads over there after their meetings.

I witnessed this phenomenon last night as I and a bunch of them wandered down Pleasant St. and stopped to admire the A-frame signs. I kid you - we were making sure none of them had current permit stickers.

Why were we doing this? The answer is a secret.

So back to tacos. I really like Agave, although it's a bit pricey. People try to steer me towards that other Mexican place in Salisbury, but I'm not a fan. I think it's called La Chaquita. (I only drive by it, you know, five or six times a month - why would I remember what it's called?)

Speaking of being oblivious and structures on Rte. 1, I used to look at this old broken down house when stopped at the light at .... errrrr ... the last light before you cross over into Seabrook.

The other day I noticed that it's not only gone, but there's no trace of its having ever been there. Which leads me to believe it must have been gone for some time since the scrub covers the whole area.

*Sigh*

I'm too sexy for my running mate

Just yesterday, if you Googled "Sarah Palin," you got the #1 return of news results.

Today you get image results for Sarah Palin, her Wikipedia entry, her official website, and two YouTube videos before the news results.

I'm reading that Palin is getting a lot of support from men. This I would guess explains the popularity of the pics and probably the vids.

Were the pantsuits Sen. Clinton's downfall? If she had sexed it up a bit, would she have won the nomination?

I mean, let's face it, Barack Obama is also good looking and kinda sexy, if you're into string-bean types. Which I am, I might add.

So, instead of being about the issues, this election could well be about who is the sexiest. Forget McCain and Biden, they don't even register on the Sex-o-Meter.

Obama better start showing some chest and leg. He could play that Rod Stewart song about "if you think I'm sexy, and you want my body" whenever he appears.

I am very afraid.

And I've now got that stupid song stuck in my head.

Be forwarned

The City Council last night also authorized a stop intersection at Ferry Road and Spofford Street.

They even waived their rules and voted on the order with only one reading.

If you know that intersection, you know that it's tricky. But I thought they did this last year, at this time, in the name of the school children who probably are not walking to school anyway?

Whatever, there are no city sidewalks there, and it's the same general area where Trista Zinck and Neil Bornstein were run down 5 years ago, so it's a good thing.

(On a related note, a man was cited for hitting a woman with his car in the crosswalk by the Chamber's information booth. He said he was blinded by the sun. Read the full story here. That crosswalk can also be a problem when you're pulling out of the Green St. lot.)

Now for the sidewalks ... well, the Council also upgraded an ordinance about sidewalk maintenance to allow $60,000 for maintenance, instead of the previous $30,000 ... I was a little confused on this one, since I did not have the full package they give to the councillors, so I'm assuming they upped the yearly allotment for sidewalk maintenance.

There was also something about $7,500 for the health dept. to buy a used pickup truck ($6,000 for the truck and $1,500 for associated expenses). Councillor Barry Connell, for reasons he did not state, and I did not ask, voted against this.

GIC update

The City Council last night authorized the mayor to conduct an "extensive search" for other options to the GIC and the current insurance coverage to put "more on the table."

The quotes are from at-large Councillor Tom Jones, who proposed the amendment to the original resolution ordering the mayor to investigate the MA law regarding the GIC.

The attempts to get the city's union employees to agree to switch to coverage under the state's Group Insurance Commission "didn't bear fruit" last year or this, Jones said.

What a coincidence that I had just yesterday posted about the GIC!

Blogger and psychic.

Monday, September 8, 2008

No GIC again?

Incredibly, it's been a year since the mayor was unable to get the city's unions to join the Group Insurance Committee (GIC).


Since I've not heard word one about it in several months, I'm assuming it's a non-issue again this year.


It's going to be difficult to convince people to vote for a debt exclusion when the appearance at least is that the city did not push the GIC in to the hilt.


Did I mention that I used to be on a bargaining unit, when I lived in Michigan? Well, I was.


The place I worked, a community college, had a professional negotiator up against us little non-professionals.

Maybe the city should consider such a person, if they don't already have one. I haven't a clue.

Downtown slowly changes

Been busy again today ...

But I went downtown earlier and saw something I had not noticed - a store called Petite Bijou, on State Street.

Where did THAT come from? Guess I should have remembered this story (from May 26) in the Daily News:

Brigitti Coco, a woman with retail experience, is opening up a store called Petite Bijou, a women's accessory store. [Ann] Lagasse said that store should open by July.

(That is at 10 State St.)

Next month, Lagasse said a women's clothing store called Nicole Marie will open at 12 State St., the space Valerie's Gallery vacated recently. The owners, David and Marissa Fundot, have a store of the same name in Concord.

I thought for a second I was on Newbury St. in Boston, but never mind that.

So where the hell is the Upper Crust going? 42-44 State St. I was confused!

Irked on the island

Yesterday I was watching this interested and spirited exchange on CNN's Late Edition, between CA Sen. Barbara Boxer and Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson.

I can't find any kind of video of the exchange, but that's not the point.

I was kind of enthralled by these two women "duking it out" on national TV.

But ... as always ... Wolf Blitzer cut in to say that was all the time they had, thank you, buh bye.

This is why I usually don't watch so-called news channels. You'd think that extra time would be allowed if someone or something is getting really interesting - but no.

"Unlimited" news with a time limit; how lovely.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

I rest my case

I think ... you decide if McCain is checking out Palin's bod.


video

I just recovered from a dead faint

I read this week's column by Taylor Armerding in the Daily, and I (mostly) agree with him!

When I was a kid (I know, that was before the internal combustion engine was developed), my mom neither drove me to school, nor to the bus stop. The school bus only stopped every half mile or so, not every bloody block.

Granted, we lived out in the boondocks of Genesee County, MI, so in actuality there were no blocks, just crossroads every mile.

The school bus for junior and senior high (told you I am old) didn't even come down our road, which dead ended at the county line, so some kids had to walk a full mile to get to the bus stop.

None of us were fat. We got a lot of exercise, running for the bus. The driver was not inclined to wait very long for us to get there, and if we weren't there, we were told off. George Pickle was his name.

Sometimes I can't remember my Social Security #, but I remember George Pickle.

I think I've mentioned before how living out here on Plum Island, with sand and beach within easy walking distance, you'd think the neighborhood kids would be outside all summer. Not so.

Of course, I don't think I've mentioned the registered pedophile I've heard lives somewhere across Old Point Road. I could never find any listing for such a pedophile living out here, but perhaps the talk of one is enough for parents to keep their kids close.

Not enough to make them move, mind you - but that's another story altogether.

Anyway, I agree that the school district should at least consider (which I believe they do) ending all non-mandated school busing. That would be anyone closer to school than, if I recall correctly, 2.5 miles.

Still, parents would be in their cars with the kids, and on the streets. Have you seen the parking frenzy at the Bresnahan school when it lets out for the day? Buses idling, cars and SUVs idling ... it's a nightmare for anyone who likes to breathe.

If there were ever a time for your kids to walk to school, parents, the time is now. School departments think they have found a vulnerable spot in your wallet. Maybe you won't vote for annual budget overrides, but they figure you'll pay whatever they want to charge you to keep your kids riding the bus. Those fees they're charging won't have anything directly to do with busing - they'll be used to "preserve jobs," not to mention pay and benefit increases but if they call it a busing fee, they figure you'll do anything, pay anything.

I don't agree with this, however, at least in the case of the Newburyport schools. The fees cover the cost of leasing the buses, and have nothing to do with preserving jobs.

And I liked his concluding sentence: Save the children. Make them walk to school. Just don't make me walk to work.

Lying and satire and why did McCain kiss Palin?

I'm getting a lot of fodder for posts off Oprah.com, via CNN.com. (I'm not sure what that relationship is all about, but who cares?)

This week's entry is a piece by one Lisa Kogan, who, it appears, is from Detroit. That does not make me predisposed to endorse her position, although I think she's a clever writer.

From the very headline "Lies are good for family and friends," you knew there was going to be trouble.

The bottom line is this: Life is short, time is precious, and I don't want to spend Saturday night watching my friend, the would-be actress, do a walk-on in "Tartuffe." It's not that I don't love my friend, and it's not that I don't love "Tartuffe" (okay, that's a lie, nobody actually loves "Tartuffe"). It's just that I reserve Saturday night for slathering my reptilelike feet in Vaseline Intensive Care as my daughter shampoos her Polly Pocket doll in the toilet.

Aside from the alleged lying (we don't know if this is just her using creative license to be humorous; see below) to her child that Toys "R" Us is only open when her (author's) parents are in town, I find advocating lying to your family/friends to get out of attending something that relates directly to them to be fairly hideous.

Friendship is about support and sure, you may have better things to do, like soaking your reptilelike feet, but what about when you want your friend/family member to read your new book, for instance, and provide feedback?

"Sorry, I have to groom my parrot, and it takes up the whole weekend!"

Fibbing is a fairly accepted means of preserving people's feelings, but usually it's done to save the person from hurt, not because you're an unsupportive smartass.

But then - maybe it's all a joke. I know people can't tell when I'm joking on here.

I once wrote on here in response to a reader who thought maybe he had offended me with a comment, that I had resolved my issues with him by kicking my cat around the room.

I have never kicked my cat, at least not intentionally (he will get under my feet anytime he thinks canned food is is in offing).

Should I have to explain that?

I usually write stuff and post it on here to inform, but sometimes it's to provoke people to think about something. I'm not trying to change the world, I'm just offering the proverbial food for thought.

And I've learned so much from comments. You know, like that because I rent I'm less than human - stuff like that.

I'm kidding!

Should I have to explain the post (here) about John McCain kissing Sarah Palin after her speech at the Republican convention? I could just as well have said, "How sweet, he kissed her. Men are always planting one on a woman's cheek in a professional situation - and how cute is that?"

OK, that second sentence reeks of sarcasm. Clearly, I was being serious in that post. I have never had anyone kiss me before, during, or after an interview.

But I did once have a boss/editor-in-chief who kissed me (and almost every other woman in the office) whenever he got the chance.

Palin clearly did not appreciate it, and I notice that yesterday, there were a lot of "man hugs," but no kisses from McCain (at least that I saw).

McCain could have simply hugged her, like the men do, and moved on. It's not even as if they are old buddies.

Kissing Lieberman would have made more sense.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Palin fever

I was watching CNN earlier, and Wolf Blitzer announced that coming up was what Obama, McCain and Palin were up to today.

No mention of Biden.

Of course, it's always possible Biden wasn't up to anything today. Seems rather unlikely, though.

So the (liberal elitist) media is just as much all over this woman, in a positive way, as I'm assuming is Fox News (I only watch Fox News when I'm in a masochistic frame of mind).

I just don't get it. I have the same reaction to Palin as I have to the Mitten: shiver.

I was kind of shocked to read this sentence in a Patrick Healy piece in the (elitist liberal rag) New York Times: Mrs. Clinton can seem harsh when she goes on the attack; Ms. Palin has shown a knack for attacking without seeming nasty.

I wonder what Sen. (liberal elitist) Clinton thinks? I never really felt that way about her, although she was constantly criticized by others in the (elitist liberal) media for being shrill and whatnot.

This is the concluding comment in a piece on StarTribune.com (Minneapolis-St. Paul):

Whatever appeal gender has for female voters, Obama's campaign is not about to let McCain corner the market. Clinton herself, along with Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano and Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, all are scheduled to campaign for Obama in the coming weeks, particularly where they can vouch for Obama to large female audiences.

Well, we'll see. It's a great study in YIKES and OMG and WHAT THE ...?! - on both sides.

** What can I say? There's nothing this exciting going on around these parts! **

Federal highway fund in trouble

As in, it's running out of money. I don't know what impact, if any, that will have on repairs to our Whittier/I-95 bridge and even the Rail Trail.

Let's keep the good times rolling by electing another ... oh, never mind.

An important account in the federal Highway Trust Fund will run out of money this month, which could hamper completion of road and bridge construction projects across the country, Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters said on Friday.

Because the fund is draining away so fast, the Transportation Department will have to delay payments for the local projects, or reduce their amount, Ms. Peters said at a mid-day news conference.

The fund is funded by the federal gasoline excise tax.

Read the full story from the NY Times here.

"... a clogfest of cliches and bowdlerized biography..."

Thanks, Tom, for the shout out.

Now I'm paying it forward.

Macy Swain, on her blog Night Blind, does a much better job than I in describing the recent political conventions and the effect on her. Not that I described the effect on her. Oh, you know what I mean.

Check it out, if you have not done so already.

By the way, I caught the last 45 minutes or so of that movie "Pay It Forward" the other day. What a downer (but I should have seen it coming).

Jumper Classic, anyone?

Message from my neighbor, Lisa (aka Triple-D):

I have a number of tickets to this weekend's Jumper Classic in Hampton Falls. These are general admission tickets valued at $20 for tomorrow, Saturday (Family Day), or $25 for Sunday (AGA Grand Prix). They're yours for $10 each ticket.

Call me at 617-803-0447 if you're interested.

Lisa works with the Jumper Classic, in you're wondering ...

Another law suit for the city?

I received this (anonymous) comment on my post of last week, "The saga continues: more violations at the landfill." Thought it deserved to stand on its own also.

I have no idea who sent it, or if the claim that Everett is considering suing Newburyport has merit, as I was not at the Everett meeting. I did, however, send the comment along to Jack Morris, our health director.

You would be very interested to know that we here in Everett have been trying to get an open public hearing on Wood Waste and Everett's Mayor Carlo DeMaria has been procrastinating.

Tonight he had to answer to the common council yet again and while he makes up all sorts of excuses for William Thibeault he was actually getting angry and said our situation here is in the hands of the AG and Newburyport.

He claims Newburyport for one hundred years had the landfill and Newburyport dumped catch basins and chemicals in it and now Mr. Thibeault has it for one year, and you are blaming him and he is blaming you.

Mayor DeMaria made mention that he spoke with his City Solicitor and he is ready to take out a class action suit against Newburyport the AG and Wood Waste of Boston.

We know that taking out a class action suit against William Thibeault means nothing. In the same breath, he was trying to tell the people of Everett how Mr. Thibeault wants to be a good cooperate neighbor and clean up out islands that are DCR Property.

Never one mention of Mr. Thibeault's plan he had back in June to truck his waste to Ohio and Michigan that he never kept his word on.

People still can't breath near Wood Waste, the trash piles are still outside, uncovered and stink. A lady across the highway hung her sheets out to dry and she had to rewash them because she could smell the chemicals from Wood Waste. He was supposed to enclose this facility thirteen years ago.

Shame on the DEP and the AG for letting this go on for so long and do nothing about people's sufferings. Thought you might find that a little interesting.

I did not change this, except for inserting paragraph breaks and an apostrophe or two.

Wood Waste is Thibeault's facility in Everett, and the AG is the attorney general, who has slapped a preliminary injunction on New Ventures, LLC, the owner of Thibeault's facility here.

Shades of "Fargo"

The part of the movie where the chief's hubby was hoping his duck painting would be on a postage stamp.

It seems that customers calling in to order duck stamps are getting a phone-sex line. This, the AP report (read here, in the Flint Journal) says, is due to a printing error the government said would be too expensive to correct.

It also seems people are reaching 1-800-TRAMP24 instead of 1-800-STAMP24.

The stamps in question are not postage - they're required to hunt migratory waterfowl and cost $15. Which is about how much you might get charged if you listen to 1-800-TRAMP24 for very long.

McCain's low voltage speech

I once went to a wedding where the groom remarked, "It's really bad when the bridesmaid looks better than the bride." He said it to the bride.

Needless to say, that marriage did not last long. If I had been the bride, I would have walked as soon as the words left his mouth.

So I'm not sure comparing John McCain's lackluster speech last night to the vitriol-filled one delivered the night before by his choice for vice president would be fair (especially since I've only seen excerpts from hers). I guess it depends if you prefer what I guess was speaking from a position of unity or what was spewed in order to divide.

I can't analyze the motives here (I would say "if there were any," but I have no doubt there were).

I just think McCain did not come off well, and some part of me feels bad about it. I think that somewhere, back in the days before he was trashed into near-oblivion by the Bush machine, he might have made a decent, if not great, president.

And I kept being distracted by all the makeup. It made him look like a plastic model of himself, and it was too yellow, or something.

Remember when Ross Perot had that poor old military guy on his ticket? This wasn't as bad as that, but it's trending in that direction. I would say he should have picked someone who looked older than does he, but that would have been a disaster.

On the other hand, Bush was elected based on his alleged down-home charm and bumbling banter (he's rich, did you know?).

I can't believe how much people hate well-spoken, educated people. I blame "Forrest Gump" for that. Yeah, a movie made it popular to hate intellectuals.

I suspect that McCain is an "I-word."

'Nuf said.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Don't kiss me, you fool!

I did not watch Sarah Palin's acceptance speech, but I just watched a snippet of video on CNN of McCain after her speech.

He went along the line of Palin family members (one young man chewing gum - ick), then got to Ms. Palin.

He kissed her.

She clearly did not like being kissed. (Actually, now I'm seeing video of her kissing her family. She's an "air kisser," even with her family.)

But would McCain have kissed a man? NO.

Note to the wise male politician: don't kiss the female politicians.

George Bush is always kissing women also, and we all know he irked the German chancellor by acting like she was a woman, which she is - but hell's bells, she's also the German chancellor.

So my guess is, McCain got some kind of negative feedback about the kiss. It was inappropriate, and it was sexist.

Helpful advice

Here is some good advice from Thom Singer, which is posted on his blog, Some Assembly Required. He appears also to be a SOB.

It's about what to do when a friend sends you SPAM. And we're not talking the canned meat, Spam Spam Spam Spam Spam Spam Spam, glorious Spam.

I get some amount of SPAM from friends, but it doesn't really bother me. Yet.

Thom responds to a woman who wrote to him about the husband of a friend who was SPAMming her with a newsletter, via ConstantContact, an "email marketing solution":

We all know "takers" and those whom are part of our life, but whom we do not respect in a business environment. While this is annoying, in the end you want to be respectful. I don't think you can just tell him to "buzz-off", so in my opinion you have three choices:

In short, he told her she could just delete the annoying emails, set up another email account for "junk" mail and tell the guy that she's redirecting his newsletter there, or find something positive in what she received and then tell him although she found that helpful, she's much to busy and explain how bad she would feel just deleting his newsletter.

It's not easy for people, especially those who are self-employed, to make a 'go' of it these days (I point you in the direction of downtown Newburyport), and people feel they have to market themselves constantly.

But some really take it too far. A member of my writers group told me at our last gathering that she felt she was being stalked by another woman she met casually at a meeting of local business women. The second woman runs a consultancy business here in town.

There really is a fine line between promoting yourself and scaring people.

"It takes 6 or 7 calls before I get someone to respond," a woman I know recently told me.

Well ... maybe I'm not good enough at promoting myself, but my feeling is, if what you have to offer is of interest to them, people will jump on it right away.

And boy, can't we all relate to people we know and like, but who we don't respect in a business situation? Or vice versa.

What do you think?

Check out some facts over there

Speaking of successful blogs, Tom Salemi today points out some facts about our escalating clam shack debacle on his blog.

Looks like someone is, in fact, attempting a bit of land grabbing.

I wish people around here would wake up and smell the something rotten in Denmark, if you get my drift.

Congrats to Ari on being named an SOB

That would be a Successful and Outstanding Blogger, as named by Successful-Blog.com.

He gets to put this SOB tag on his blog now. Seriously, he was, like #6 on the list of 260.

Congratulations, Ari! Give that man a t-shirt, please.

Save Flint and buy a house

Gordie Young, the Flint expatriate who authors the eponymous blog, has had some thought-provoking posts recently.

There are a lot of houses up for grabs in Flint (and in Detroit, for that matter, where I hear mansions are going for $1 - but you have to pay the back taxes).

It seems that other Flint expatriates are actually buying houses in Flint, from afar, to help stop the blight of absentee investors, slumlords and urban decay.

Yesterday's post on out-of-town property owners in Flint looked at some of the negative aspects of absentee investors. It prompted Flint Expatriate Sarah Swart to comment: "I'm wondering if any of these out-of-towners (which, remember, are only one of numerous OOT options, including bank ownership) are actually expats. Personally, I am tempted by the $900 home in Carriage Town and by one on Forest Hill Ave listed for $4,000. I'm not a real estate investor, I'm pro-local and -civic action, and I'm very tempted.

You're not alone, Sarah. I've been tempted as well. And in the past week I've had the chance to reconnect with another Flintoid who has already taken the plunge ...

Yes, that Flint expatriate Sarah Swart is my sister, the one who lives in Gloucester. If I had the money, I would do it.

Consider this: the University of Michigan has a branch in Flint. It was just a tiny satellite when I lived there and shared buildings with the community college, but now it is a huge presence.

Add this (also from Flint Expatriates, but reported in the Flint Journal): Although the count won't be official until September 10, UM-Flint is on pace to have the largest first-time freshman class in school history. With 890 freshmen, the class is 42 percent larger than last year.

A 42 percent jump in freshman enrollment. Flint could go from being a blight on the landscape to being a 'real' college town, such as Ann Arbor! Imagine that.

Where General Motors abandoned Flint, my alma mater (go blue) is picking up the slack. Or at least that's how it looks from over here.

And don't forget the Swedish biogas facility and the factory under consideration to build engines for the new Chevy Volt. (The location of the biogas facility, by the way, was suggested to Swedish officials by yet another Flint expatriate, the U.S. ambassador to Sweden, Michael Wood.)

The Concept Chevy Volt, with its revolutionary E-Flex Propulsion System, will be different than any previous electric vehicle because it will use a lithium-ion battery with a variety of range-extending onboard power sources, including gas and, in some vehicles, E85 ethanol(1) to recharge the battery while driving (from the website).

I'm taking heart that Flint is poised on the brink of an upswing. Sadly, the city leaders seem to be asswipes.

But look at the expatriates turning out to help the city. I did not grow up in Flint - we moved there after I graduated from high school and then I took off for Ann Arbor - but my Swart siblings did.

And yet, I would do it, if I could.

It's alive!

I pulled the battery out of the phone and let it dry - and it mostly works again. The * and # keys don't work, though.

Ah, who needs those? When I call, you know, like everyplace in the universe, I'll pretend I have a rotary phone.

I mostly do that anyway.

I want one of these!

Wow, my dream house ...

A guy in Wisconsin built for his kids a 200 s.f. treehouse. Check it out the video here, on CNN.com.

I've always been fascinated by treehouses. I've always wanted to live in a tree, because I love trees. First thing I notice about any property is what trees there are on it.

This place, here? There's a big evergreen tree on the other side of the fence, that provides shade for my yard. It's not my optimal tree - that would be an oak - but it's big and it's old.

So hooray for this dad. Give that man a t-shirt, please.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

I killed my phone. Again

OK, there are two things I've never had luck with: dentists, phones, and men.

Three things.

So my zeal for killing flies led to the death of my phone by water. I drowned it.

I was talking to my sister on the phone. While chattering, I noticed two flies on the screen of the window in the kitchen. You know, the one over the sink.

When we were done talking, I put the phone down next to the sink, picked up the swatter, and ... knocked the phone into the sink with my elbow. Unfortunately, I was soaking some dishes in said sink, so it was full of water.

Ooops.

Speaking of swatting, I found this cool article on the NPR website about why it's so hard to swat flies.

They are apparently alert to things coming in their direction by air. Who knew?

The trick is to swat where you think they will fly to when they see the swatter coming. It works, most of the time.

Anyway, this is my second phone this calendar year. People just aren't buying anymore my excuse ("My phone is f***ed up!") for why I don't return calls.

But it's true. I'm a phone klutz.

You may be right - he may be crazy

Like Tom Salemi, I am a bit surprised at the amount and intensity of "McCavitt" hate being demonstrated by some of our populace.

I guess my perspective is skewed, owing to having covered Amesbury's previous Municipal Council. Some of them make Ward 1 City Councillor Larry McCavitt look like an adult version of Harry Potter.

Which, come to think of it, is not a bad comparison.

Remember how, in all the Harry Potter books except maybe the last, no one would believe him that Valdemort was still alive and plotting a comeback? His fellows turned their back on him, called him names, etc., etc.

As someone said to me today, what she loves about Newburyport is that everybody she meets loves living here.

I think that McCavitt loves living here, he loves the state regulations governing public waterways, and he sees it as his mission to preserve and protect said regulations.

So he's a little wacky and a lot opinionated. I didn't see anyone running against him in the last election.

Amesbury residents in the ward represented by a certain ex-Municipal Councilor got a recall vote - and it failed. I think it emboldened her even more.

Honest to gods, I covered a number of Municipal Council meetings for the Amesbury News, and this woman actually once got right up in my face. She was trying to intimidate me. I just looked at her for a few seconds, said nothing, and turned away to continue the conversation I had been having with someone else, before she interrupted.

Then again, all these people may be right.

The "Duke of Lemonade." hee hee, that's funny. (Disclaimer: I live in Ward 1)

The Republican convention

As you know, I try to stay away from political issues, but I just have to comment on what I saw last night.

First let me say that I did not watch even one second of the Democrat's convention, and I only tuned in to the Republicans last night because the Red Sox game ended and there was nothing else to watch.

It was really lame.

I'm not saying this because I have a liberal bent - it was just lame. McCain needs to do a whole lot better.

What I saw was this: Laura Bush, who I think is pretty genuine (but misguided), introduced the President, who spoke from the White House. She said, among other things, her husband has kept the country safe.

I'm not sure if that was a good thing to bring up, since the attacks on Sept. 11 happened on his watch, in the first place. Fodder for the Dems to jump on there.

The President came on the giant screen and proclaimed that McCain will lift the ban on off-shore drilling - you know, the ban his father put in place. I was surprised the TV cameras did not flash to 41's face when his son said that.

The rest of his speech was the usual.

Fred Thompson, former senator and actor, took the stage and bummed us all out in describing McCain's 5 yrs. as a prisoner of war. The convention hall was totally silent.

Again, I'm not sure that pointing out that McCain can't raise his arms high enough to salute his country was the best thing to say. People have an image of the President saluting military personnel in all situations, including when boarding or leaving the presidential aircraft.

Thompson made him sound really decrepit.

Then former Dem Joe Lieberman invoked the name and claims to fame of former President Bill Clinton. Yikes!

I thought the whole thing, after Bush spoke, was as much Bush bashing as it was Obama bashing. That may not be a bad strategy, but they really need to say why McCain is better than Obama, not why he's better than Bush.

Cuz that bar ain't set very high.

Land grabs in the news

Two stories in the last 2 days, in the Daily News, have caught my attention because they are basically about the same thing.

Yesterday, the Daily ran this story about how Ward 1 City Councillor Larry McCavitt is suing - I guess the Zoning Board of Appeals - over its decision to grant a permit to the (disputed, by him at least) owner of a former clam shack on the Merrimack River.

In the filing on Aug. 22, McCavitt and the other plaintiffs asked the court to "order the city to judicially recover public land and property from a private individual."

As far as I can tell just from reading the stories, the ownership of the shack is up for debate. Mark Roland, however, purchased it from another private individual and wants to live in it. I have never seen in all this reporting if he, or the previous owner, paid/pays taxes on the property.

Today's story is about encroachment by abutting property owners to the old rail bed, which is being developed into the Rail Trail. Port native Peter Nichypor, who lives in New Hampshire, was planning on putting together a book of photographs with images of Newburyport, including the railway bed, when he discovered that uh-oh:

There are fenced-in yards, foot paths, flower beds and shrubs, gardens — and even a pool, Nichypor said.

"It's a land grab basically," Nichypor said. "It's really not their property. I'd like the city to be able to take it back."

The Planning Office had this response:

Geordie Vining, senior project manager for the city, said the Planning Office is aware of some encroachments and has spoken to homeowners in some cases as the Clipper City Rail Trail project got off the ground.

"I have pursued these issues and worked with abutters on a pretty cooperative basis for the Rail Trail that we're looking to construct," Vining said. "I was working with a number of folks on the phase of the Rail Trail that's under construction right now."

He expects the city will do the same for encroachments on the old city branch rail corridor, Vining said, as the design and building of the multiyear Rail Trail project progresses.

"There are, there were, several encroachments on the rail corridor," he said.

As Plum Island and other areas continue to be developed and people are selling their properties at alarming rates, these types of encroachment (or alleged encroachment) will likely be in the news more and more.

People just don't know where their property lines are, or they think it's OK to move a little over here and maybe just a nudge in this direction because nobody is using that old rail bed, or that public right of way to the beach.

It's a problem everywhere, not just here. I suspect it's been a problem ever since the first human owned some property, whenever that was!
This is a comment to my post about the landfill, but I thought it should stand alone:


You would be very interested to know that we here in Everett have been trying to get an open public hearing on Wood Waste and Everett's Mayor Carlo DeMaria has been procrastinating. Tonight he had to answer to the common council yet again and while he makes up all sorts of excuses for William Thibeault he was actually getting angry and said our situation here is in the hands of the AG and Newburyport. He claims Newburyport for one hundred years had the landfill and Newburyport dumped catch basins and chemicals in it and now Mr. Thibeault has it for one year, and you are blaming him and he is blaming you.


Mayor DeMaria made mention that he spoke with his City Solicitor and he is ready to take out a class action suit against Newburyport the AG and Wood Waste of Boston. We know that taking out a class action suit against William Thibeault means nothing. In the same breath, he was trying to tell the people of Everett how Mr. Thibeault wants to be a good cooperate neighbor and clean up out islands that are DCR Property. Never one mention of Mr. Thibeault's plan he had back in June to truck his waste to Ohio and Michigan that he never kept his word on. People still cant breath near Wood Waste, the trash piles are still outside, uncovered and stink. A lady across the highway hung her sheets out to dry and she had to rewash them because she could smell the chemicals from Wood Waste. He was supposed to enclose this facility thirteen years ago. Shame on the DEP and the AG for letting this go on for so long and do nothing about peoples sufferings. Thought you might find that a little interesting.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Evangelical drug dealers

I was just reading that Sarah Palin, McCain's pick for vice president in case you've been living under a rock for the past week, is Pentecostal.

OK, well, no reflection whatsoever on Ms. Palin (I mean it), or the movement itself, it just reminded me of when I was in college and there were about 10 Pentecostal women on the same floor of the dorm that I lived on as a freshman.

They sold LSD to make extra cash.

And I mean they did it as a group, not just one or two of them. A couple of them kept the stash in their room, in one of those dorm-sized fridges that was just full of LSD in every form ...

It was an open secret at Alice Lloyd Hall - plus, one of them who lived across the hall from me showed me the fridge for reasons I can't remember, but had nothing to do with me being a customer. She might have thought I was a potential customer, but I was pretty goody-two-shoes at that point.

It always made me snicker.
My sister took this picture of the house we lived in, when we first moved from Clio to Flint (Mich.) in 1971. This would be the house with the ghost.

It seems to me to be basically the same, except for the fences and maybe that evergreen tree at the corner of the house. Oh, and the evergreen bushes in front of that wooden fence.

Strangers used to feel free to trounce through the area between the house and the garage, which was a brick patio, as a short cut (or for a more nefarious purpose). I guess that explains all the fences in the front (there always was one at the back of the house).

You can't see it because of the tree branches, but my sister said the roof was not in good repair. Otherwise, it looks as if the current occupants are keeping up the place.

I really loved this house. In fact, when we walked in as prospective buyers, I made the pronouncement, "This is the one." My sister the other day surprised me by saying she always thought it "funereal," in appearance at least.

I forgot to add that this weekend, I also received gifties brought back from Michigan by my sister and her husband. Thanks, guys!

Ummmmm, Faygo Rock & Rye. I had not had this excellent beverage for God knows how many years - probably at least 25. The recipe is top secret, so no one can match the taste. Horehound, perhaps? I can't quite get it ...

They also brought back Koegel's Viennas and Vernor's ginger ale (haven't dipped into that yet).

Hey, where's the Halo Burger, with olives?

As my dad noted, "There aren't that many things that are good about Flint, but Halo Burger is one of them."

More Rhina love

Thanks to a reader, my attention was drawn to the fact that our own Rhina Espaillat is today's featured poet on Garrison Keillor's "The Writer's Almanac."

As you may or may not know, Rhina lives in the Port and was co-founder of the Powow River Poets.

She was also the honoree at this year's Newburyport Literary Festival.

While I was interviewing Rhina a little more than a year ago now, when she was being honored by the Powow River Poets with that cherry tree in front of the library, she told me that the Internet has done more to popularize poetry than anything else or anyone else could have done.

So hooray for Rhina and hooray for the re-birth of interest in poetry!

Seventy-five cents?

I guess this reflects the state of the union:

Effective Monday, Sept. 8, the newsstand price of The Daily News will increase to 75 cents. The increase is due to higher costs for newsprint and transportation.

I was reading that older and/or retired people tend to read weekly community papers more than daily papers, in part because weekly papers are often free. They are usually also more comprehensive, by design.

This move by the Daily is not unusual. This from the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

The new buyout offer is the latest in a series of steps by the paper's management to reduce expenses and increase revenues. On Monday, the paper raised its newsstand price from 50 cents to 75 cents.

I'm willing to bet, though, that the Cleveland paper has much more actual content than does the Daily News.

Speaking of dailies, weeklies and content, I heard that my 'nemesis' at the Current, is or has been switched over to the CNC paper in No. Andover.

The new editor of the Current, I am told, is a woman with actual experience on a larger paper under her belt. Before becoming the editor of the Current, the departing one was editor of the Georgetown paper.

"I could do that with my eyes closed," she used to tell me.

Don't be fooled by the fact that it's a weekly - it is a HUGE task for one person to get that paper out every week and maintain the website.

I still have a soft spot for the Current and it was sad for me to see it declining over the past few months - with the exception of a sprinkling of good stories by my pals Elizabeth Rose and Johannah Spero, of course.

Anyway, I was happy to hear that finally the powers that be recognized that they needed experience sitting in that chair.

I wish the new editor much success.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Licorice & Sloe to close

I just got the email from Bil Silliker telling his - well, interested parties, I guess - that he and his wife have decided to close up for good on Sept. 28, or sooner. They have to sell off their tea inventory.

Unfortunately a recent decision by the city council of Newburyport to deny us the use of a sign that has been vital to our business has had an even greater impact on our bottom line than we had anticipated. We’ve watched August’s numbers fail to meet those of recent months and more specifically one of our greatest weekends of the summer has typically been Labor Day weekend and this year it has been abysmal.

My recent departure from the business as an attempt to support our family through what we expected to be a tough time has forced our labor costs up to a point where we can’t possibly sustain the needs of the business
.

Licorice & Sloe was a one-of in Newburyport, a tea bar. I know it was on the expensive side, but that's life here now.

It's a shame when any business closes down, and I'll feel this one. I really liked it there.

Name that governor

Well I confess that I did not go to journalism school, but I'm pretty sure one of the basic elements is to know how to spell the name of the governor of the state you're in.

This story in the Daily News about proposed solar panels on the Nock Middle School was interesting, content-wise, but this sentence was kind of stunning:

It's Moak's belief that new guidelines written into Gov. Duval Patrick's Green Communities Act are not the most efficient means to get a good price and value.

Someone wrote in an online comment, "psssst... you spelled the governor's name wrong...."

Well, Deval is not the most common of names, but geez Louise ...

As for the content, I agree with the other comment on the story, that anything you have to do NOW might be suspect.

I do know, however, that (as School Committee member Bruce Menin says in the story) this is something the School Committee has been talking about for some time. Since the mayor is the chairman of the School Committee, I'm sure he or someone else has been looking into it all this time. Well, it says so right here, in the story:

"We had to step this up really quick at the end of the summer," said Moak on Friday. "We had no intentions of coming around to a decision this quickly, but it became an acute time frame and we chose to make the administrative decisions to go with the power purchase agreement."

Moak explained that under the terms of this power purchase agreement, the city would agree to purchase energy created by the panels from EyeOn at a cost of 14 cents per kilowatt, escalating 4 percent each year for the 20-year life of the agreement. EyeOn energy would pay for the panels and installation, and offer Newburyport an opportunity to purchase the panels in seven years at a depreciated cost of $687,000.

Moak explained he's been looking into various "green" energy alternatives for the city for more than a year, but the process was accelerated when a member of his Energy Task Force Committee — one of 11 members brought aboard last February to evaluate various green energy options for the city — pitched him on the idea of making Nock Middle School a host site for a system of solar panels it wouldn't have to immediately pay for.

Let's see if the city gets the waiver from the state because there was no bidding process, which is required under MGL Chapter 25A. There's also some lingo in Gov. Patrick's new law, the Green Communities Act. You can read a full summary of the act here, from the Conservation Law Foundation.

"I used to bid projects when I was in business," Moak added. "Bids were not always your best price or your best service."

Well, perhaps he learned a lesson from the mangled PI water/sewer project.

Really neighborly

On Saturday I went over to the home of the people who live directly behind me, for a cookout.

As you all may be aware, the next day, Sunday, I hosted my family and my brother-in-law's family for a cookout here.

Let me say first that I don't know my neighbors behind me that well. They are a married couple, without children, and we share a fence. Every once in a while, as I'm hanging clothes on the line, Vincent's head will pop up over the fence to say "hi" and every so often Janice and I chat briefly.

Anyway, they offfered me use of their tables when they found out I was having a cookout the next day. On Sunday, with the help of another neighbor, the (fortunately light) tables were handed over the fence.

Then Vincent asked me if I could use some marinated steak tips left over from their cookout. They gave me not only the tips, but a bag of macaroni salad, a package of corn on the cob, and a significant quantity of rice and beans because I had told Janice it reminded me of my childhood in Barbados (Vincent is from Jamaica, and his mother made the rice and beans).

A cooler appeared in my yard, filled with iced beer.

So this weekend, not only did I get the cool t-shirt, but I got a whole lot of neighbor love. Plus their cookout was a blast - and mine wasn't so bad, either!

This was a good weekend. I'm going to be paying it forward.