Thursday, June 29, 2006

"Live Blogging" 7 News

11:00 -- Live from Boston, it's Seven News, on the News station..and we're off.

11:00 -- Relentless Rain, Fleeing the Floods, Record Rain, Rivers Rise, Fierce Flooding. Wow, we're not even a minute into the news cast and we have five alliterations. To Dan Housle for more...

11:01 -- Dan the Man likes tan in a can.

11:02 -- Another "Fierce Flooding" graphic gets us to Pete Bouchard, who tells us we won't have any flooding here.

11:03 -- A two-for-one. Christa Delcamp describes Pedro's return as a "Horrible Homecoming." The graphic over her shoulder reads Horrifying Homecoming.

11:03 -- To smiley happy Joe Amorosino, with Pedro Pounded on the video wall behind them. Fan with the obligatory Napoleon Dynamite sign "Vote for Pedro" in the montage.

11:05 -- Despite the happy talk from Pedro, smiley happy Joe assures us that he was "terribly embarrassed." How would he know that?

11:05 -- A "Tragic Turn" for two guys who met on the internet for rough sex and ended up dead. To Nichelle King, live from the house of ill repute: "this time, S&M turned out to be...Suicide and Murder." Oh brother.

11:07 -- A deadbeat dad is arrested in...wait for it...a Funeral Home Fiasco. I wonder if the anchor ever looks at the graphic on the video wall and has the urge to stand in front of it, trying to block the foolishness from our view.

11:08 -- Whenever I see or hear a reference to Braintree, I get the old Dave Dinger Ford jingle stuck in my head: "Come to Daaaave Dinger Ford, in Braintree (in Braintree)." It's in there now.

11:08 -- And we have our first story without an alliteration as part of the lead...and it's about the guy whose penile implant malfunctioned. If ever a story cried out for a snarky, sing-song headline, this is it. And nothing.

11:08 -- Jeff Glor tries to tell us this story really isn't funny.

11:09 -- You have a plastic tube loaded with springs implanted in your penis and you're shocked that it's painful? Seems like that would be the default position, no?

11:10 -- Back on track. Police find Cocaine in the Crib. Those two don't at all look like druggies.

11:10 -- Quick mention of break-ins at a Lawrence Boys and Girls club. No "Lawrence Larceny"? "Gang Grab," maybe? Someone's slipping.

11:10 -- Osama is releasing a "Terror Tape." Not very terrifying video of a smiling Osama plays.

11:11 -- Segue to updates from the "Crisis in the Middle East." As though there is only one.

11:12 -- And here is what we have to look forward to in segment two: Star Jones is out! Creepy robots! Weather! Vladimir Putin...ewwww! Nerds with Video Games! Stay tuned.

11:12 -- Am I the only one bothered that the news announcer guy reads a tag line for Mercedes Benz and points people to the their website for more info. It's not as bad as it used to be. There was a stretch where the news was sponsored by Chrysler and the little blurb point people to go to the website for more information. I guess I don't think a news organization should be lending it's credibility to shill for it's sponsors.

11:15 -- And we're back, with a story on Star Jones firing. I'm a little surprised that an NBC station is reporting on the changes at an ABC talk show, but I guess that's the only celebrity news of the day.

11:16 -- Randy is voicing over a story on these robots MIT is creating that essentially look like Cartoon faces on mechanical arms. Looks like the faces can move their eyes to follow the subject, can smile. Is that one moving in for a kiss? Are these the sex robots people were talking about last week? Randy throws in a "seriously smart".

11:17 -- Nerds falling prey to video game addiction. Risking Reality. Byron Barnett reporting, should I count that as an alliteration too?

11:18 -- So they're doing a story on video game addiction, they are talking to a woman who purportedly ruined her life playing video games and is now being treated for her addiction, and they have video of her at her computer, headset on, playing the game. Doesn't that undermine the story a little? If you had a story about a recovered alcoholic, you wouldn't film them drinking because having a drink could cause a relapse. So if this is a real addiction, how is it that they film a recovering addict doing the exact thing she is recovering from?

11:20 -- Pete Bouchard tries to save the segue by proclaiming that he's "addicted to weather maps." OK.

11:21 -- Pete is a good egg. I don't miss Todd Gross at all, but if you do, be sure to tell him just how much.

11:22 -- And here is the video of Vladimir Putin greeting children, pulling up a young boy's shirt, and kissing the youngster on the belly. Yuck. And Christa hits it out of the park: "I'm sure he's going to be talking about his eccentric Uncle Vladimir to all of the other kids." Randy Price laughs nervously.

12:23 -- Smiley happy Joe coming up next, with Sox highlights.

12:24 -- I hate these Toyota commercials. Come on for a drive, Feel the sunshine, stab hot pokers in my eye.

11:26 -- Sox win. Lastings Millidge is bad. Pedro taken deep by "soft-hitting" Alex Gonzalez. Whatever. On to Dave Briggs for more.

11:27 -- Cookie Cutter Dave (can you tell I don't like the 7 Sports guys? Didn't know if that was clear) tells us that the Sox ownership must be "privately ecstatic that their golden boy (Josh Beckett) was shining while the one the let walk struggled." Twice now, the Sports guys have told us that someone must be this or that despite what they said. That's absolutely wrong. If you want to get someone with knowledge of a person or situation to tell you that they believe "X" despite the fact they say "Y" to make your argument then do it. That's called reporting. But don't tell me what you think someone must be feeling. If I want that kind of groundless speculation, I'll tune in to talk radio, thank you.

11:29 -- Commercials. Did the Yanks win? Blue Jays? We didn't get any scores from around the league, so I have no idea. But at least I've been assured by Dave Briggs that Sox brass felt vindicated.

11:31 -- Back to the Studio for a good bye. If you're looking for a final tally, we had 14 alliterations (excluding "Byron Barnett") in 14 stories during the news segment, for a slugging percentage of 1.000. Highlight of the show, er, newscast: Christa's fantastically snarky comparison of Vladimir Putin to a sexual deviant.


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Let's Roll

So, I've got Jackson on the table this evening getting ready to change him. He's hungry and soiled, and he's all worked up. As I sit down, he rolls over onto his side, teeters, and ends up rolling onto his stomach.

I found this unexpected sense of pride filling me. Like he had just pitched a shut-out or won a spelling bee. It was very strange.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Cats that look like...

Hitler. (Really.)


Friday, June 23, 2006

Remembering the Bridge Diner

Michael's Bridge Diner, the most popular breakfast spot in Lancaster, burned to the ground this morning, most likely the work of an arsonist who also destroyed a nearby Agway business.

It was a classic townie diner, where the same group of regulars would be there each day for breakfast . For a while, I would join my father for breakfast there on those occasions when I had to be in to school early. I must have been 13 or 14. After a couple of weeks of eating there nearly every morning, I felt like I was one of the regulars and when the cook asked me what I wanted, I asked for "the usual," which would have been scrambled eggs, home fries, and white toast. I ended up with over-easy and bacon. I guess two weeks wasn't quite long enough to have a usual.

I haven't eaten there in years, but I know a number of people who still go there (or went there) nearly every morning for breakfast. Losing the diner will be quite a blow to the town. News reports today suggested that the owner will rebuild. That would be a good thing for Lancaster.

The Telegram and Gazette posted an article on the fires this afternoon. News 4 New England, NewsCenter 5, and 7 News all have video. (Photo from the Telegram and Gazette).


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Telegram editor calls NHL terrorists

Bud Barth, assistant sports editor at the Telegram and Gazette, compared the NHL leadership to al Qaida in an ill-fated column looking ahead at the Bruins' off-season. After trotting out the standard rants about the ineptitude of the Bruins front office, he turned his sights on the NHL and inexplicably finished his column with this:
If this were the Professional Female Mud-Wrestling Association, maybe [the NHL] could hold my interest for 10 months of the year. But this is ice hockey, which ranks fifth among the four major sports, and is even less compelling when the temperature outside is 90 degrees.

Which is why, as long as the NHL has a hand in the Bruins' immediate future, it sure feels like the spoked-B limousine is being chauffeured by al-Qaida.
Are you kidding me? Comparing NHL brass to an organization that has killed thousands of innocent people in America and around the world just is not funny. Bud Barth should retract his lame attempt at humor and apologize.


Leominster's last local pharmacy closes

The Sentinel and Enterprise led with some sad news today. Adams Pharmacy, the last locally-owned drug store in Leominster has been bought out and became a Brooks Pharmacy as of this morning:

"I just sold it out to Brooks because I'm retiring," pharmacist and store owner Allan Esper said Tuesday. "The only person leaving is me."

The store's post office branch has been closed permanently and the photo center is shut down indefinitely, but Esper, 63, said pharmacy operations will run smoothly
throughout the change.

He said the decision to sell to the major pharmacy retailer wasn't easy.

"I think it will disappoint a lot of customers," he said. "And I guess that disappoints me."

The Brooks takeover won't affect any customers' prescription orders, but Esper said the store will be drastically different.

"Independent drugstores are much more service-oriented than chains," he said. "We have a connection to the community that chains aren't really able to create. But they're doing the right thing by keeping the staff."


Esper thinks ending the post office at the location is a bad idea.

"I think the biggest mistake Brooks is making is that they took out the post office," he said. "People just loved that, it brought them in. They didn't have to drive 20 minutes to go downtown. It was very convenient for them."

We used Adams Pharmacy quite a bit for our prescriptions, cards, stamps, etc. The post office branch was particularly convenient, considering the long lines that often form at the main post office downtown. Having the post office was probably great business for Esper, since it brought people into his store.

And one of the neat things about going to Adams was seeing the little hybrid car out front with the Adams logo that they used to deliver prescriptions to some of their customers. I imagine that was an invaluable service to many elderly and handicapped people in our neighborhood, and losing that convenience may be a hardship on some of those who counted on it.

Mayor Dean J. Mazzarella said he will be sad to see Adams Pharmacy change into a chain store.

"It's one of the last small, locally-owned drugstores in the area," Mazzarella said. "But (Esper) ran a great business, he worked some long hours and built up a great store. He's worked really hard and he's entitled to a happy retirement."

Brooks Pharmacy will stand out on Central Street, because it's an area that has few chain stores now, Esper said.

Looking in the Yellow Pages, there are nine pharmacies in Leominster, and now they are all owned by national chains. Once the city's signature downtown restaurant is razed to make room for a new Walgreens, we'll be 10-for-10.

Mayor Mazzarella may be sad for the loss, but having another chain store set up shop in Leominster fits well with his economic philosophy. He has tied the city's economic future to retail chains, instead of relying on local business and industry.

Esper did run a great business, and his business will be missed. It's too bad that our economic system makes it nearly impossible for businesses like his to continue to be locally owned. He described the difficulties facing a locally-owned pharmacy:

"To get started as an independent is too expensive anymore," he said. "When I got out of school, it seemed like every pharmacist was looking to own their own store. But with HMOs and insurance companies, it's getting harder. You can't get the same deal as the chains when you're working with HMOs."

The era of the corner drugstore ended yesterday in Leominster. Our city is not better for it.


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Blog Update -- new comment and trackback software

commenting and trackback have been added to this blog. Comments that were previously added may not appear with posts.

Monday, June 19, 2006

There goes the neighborhood

In Fitchburg last week, supporters of Ted DeSalvatore, a city councilor who is fed up with the crime in parts of Fitchburg, organized what he called the "Liberty March" through one neighborhood. Here is the description of the march (via Save Fitchburg):
This march is a collaborative effort from a number of people throughout the city to show their support for City Councilor Ted DeSalvatore and his taking an aggressive stance against criminally overwhelmed areas.

Why Liberty Walk? To put it simply, we want to liberate the neighborhoods under siege. These neighborhoods are filled with the criminally minded, aggressive, threatening individuals that make up our present gangs and drug dealers or those that aspire to mimic them. City Councilor Ted DeSalvatore has been trying to get the attention of city officials a number of ways over the last 18 months and has recently decided to step up his efforts and bring it to the attention of the general public through the news paper and at the neighborhood level.

This is not an easy or safe thing to do and Councilor DeSalvatore needs your show of support now and a continued show of support until the job is done!
According to the Sentinel and Enterprise, 300 or so concerned citizens came out to march on the neighborhood. Not surprisingly, they were not greeted as liberators:

FITCHBURG -- Some residents of the troubled 300 block of Elm Street revved car engines, yelled and rode bicycles around an estimated 300 people as they marched through the neighborhood Thursday night.

Participants in Thursday's 'Liberty Walk' -- aimed at showing city residents they were united to fight crime -- couldn't believe what they saw.

"I was shocked at what I saw. I was actually a little nervous," said Sara Melanson, 29. "There were children yelling profanity. And I heard one girl yelling -- she was only 13 or 14 -- and she was yelling, 'You've got today, but after today you can never come back down here.'"

Melanson, a lifetime resident, said she "didn't realize it had gotten so bad."


Mark Melanson, who brought his two young sons, expressed as much astonishment at the neighborhood's reaction as his wife Sara.

"It just seemed like they controlled that entire area. They owned the neighborhood," he said. "They were putting off fireworks when there were police around. There was such fearlessness. It was amazing."

Now, I've never been to the 300 block of Elm Street in Fitchburg, so I cannot say how bad it is or isn't. I trust that is a particularly rough part of town. But one has to be pretty naive to be surprised that the folks in that neighborhood would resent the march. If 300 people from across Leominster were to show up in the South End and march down Central Street to highlight problems in this neighborhood, you can be sure that I would resent it.

It just seems to me to be particularly confrontational. Forty-five years ago, when a mayor, city council, police chief, fire chief and hundreds of Concerned Citizens marched through neighborhoods in the south, they meant to intimidate. That may not have been the intent of the marchers in Fitchburg, but they should not be surprised that the neighborhood reacted the way it did.

Hey, two Fitchburg posts in a row, I don't know what's got into me.


This plan won't fly

The Sentinel this morning reports that a Fitchburg city councilor wants to close the Fitchburg Airport and replace it with something...anything...but an airport:

City councilor suggests closing Fitchburg airport
By Kyle Alspach

FITCHBURG -- A city councilor is proposing that Fitchburg investigate whether to close its municipal airport and use the land for a different purpose, such as a commercial or industrial venture.

Ward 5 City Councilor Stephan Hay recently filed the proposal with the City Council. He said Friday that there might be better options for the sprawling site.

"The airport serves a small number of people in our community," Hay said. "If we can find something that serves more people, or generates more revenue for us, that would be something we should consider."

The Fitchburg Municipal Airport sits on 335 acres of land near the Leominster border, according to the airport's Web site.

The airport is less than two miles from Route 2, and Hay says Fitchburg might reap more economic benefit if the land housed a shopping plaza, industrial park or a minor league baseball stadium.

The article goes on to suggest that the proposal is most likely dead on arrival. I don't think the airport should close, but if it did, the ensuing fight over the use of the land might be entertaining enough to be worth it.

One snarky commenter on the Twin Cites Blog suggested that they build a "300 acre Walmart" on the site. That might be Mayor Mazzarella's worst nightmare: having Leominster ringed by Wal-marts in Lunenburg, Lancaster, and Fitchburg to remind him of his failure to saddle our fair city with the project.

Failing that, I say let Fitchburg build a baseball stadium there. The plan to put a ballpark on Leominster's old landfill isn't a good one as it's currently described, so I say let Fitchburg co-opt it. Leominster can sneak in and claim the Revolution's new stadium as its own.


Sunday, June 18, 2006

Happy Father's Day

Saturday, June 17, 2006

The circle of life

Michelle and I took Jackson up to visit my grandmother yesterday. We had planned to go to Vermont in hopes that Papa would improve so that he could see Jackson, but he died Thursday night. We were going to wait to go up until things had settled down, but when I called Friday morning, Grandma said she was still looking forward to us coming.

It was good that we went. Gram was thrilled to hold Jackson. She also was counting on me to go with her and some of our the other family members to help make the arrangements at the funeral home. She has always leaned on my father to help her make some of those decisions, and with him out of the country, I guess she had confidence in my ability to stand in for him.

A theme that came up all day as relatives came and went was that although we had lost one Ronald (Papa) we had gained another (Jackson). When I talked to my father, he said he had been thinking of that a lot. Both Gram and her cousin Elaine noted that as well. The theme was most stark today, as both Jackson's birth announcement and Papa's obituary ran in today's Brattleboro Reformer. Here are the texts:

In Lowell, Mass., (Saints Memorial Hospital), June 2, 2006, a son, Ronald Jackson Harris, to Michelle and Lance Harris of Leominster, Mass.; grandson to Ronald J. and June Harris of Clinton, Mass., and Joseph and Leslie Carr of Lancaster, Mass.; great-grandson to Ronald J. and Mabel Harris of Jamaica and Lucille Haddock of Melrose, Mass.
Ronald Junior Harris

JAMAICA -- Ronald Junior Harris, 82, a longtime resident of Jamaica, died Thursday, June 15, 2006, at home in East Jamaica surrounded by his family.

He was born on June 13, 1924, the son of the late Guy E. and Ella (Bratton) Harris in Athens.

Mr. Harris was a logger and a truck driver working for himself and other companies as well.

On Aug. 1, 1944, he was married to Mabel Henderson. He served his country during World War II in the U.S. Marine Corps and was a proud patriot.

He enjoyed driving his truck, telling stories with his friends over a cup of coffee, reading Louis L'Amour books, playing the harmonica and the annual family reunion at the Townshend Dam.

He was a former stock car driver who always enjoyed racing.

In addition to his wife of more than 61 years, Mr. Harris is survived by two sons, Ronald Jay Harris and his wife June of Clinton, Mass., and Duane H. Harris of Wasilla, Alaska; two daughters, Darlene E. Harris of East Jamaica and Annette E. Beekman of Sutherlin, Ore.; a brother, Derwood Harris and his wife Marion of Townshend; three sisters, Thelma Neff of Yucca, Ariz., Bernice Bratton of Sutherlin, Charlene Libby of Cripple Creek, Colo.; 11 grandchildren; 21 great grandchildren; and many nieces, nephews and cousins.

He was predeceased by five brothers, Kenneth, Oliver, Bernard, Rodney and Gerald, and two sisters, Theda Pike and June Martocci.

A memorial service will be held on Friday June 30, at 11 a.m., at the White Funeral Home in Townshend.

Burial of his urn will follow at the East Jamaica Cemetery in the family lot.

There are to be no calling hours at this time.

Donations in Mr. Harris' memory may be made to the Grace Cottage Foundation, Townshend, VT 05353.

Arrangements are under the care of the WHITE FUNERAL HOME AND CREMATION SERVICES of Townshend.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Ronald Junior Harris, June 13, 1924 - June 15, 2006

Papa died this evening. He was a veteran of World War II, a truck driver, a husband of 61 years, a father, a grandfather, and a great-grandfather. He was 82 years old.

He was a good man.

I was not really close to him, certainly not as close as most of the other grandchildren were. Growing up, my cousins, aunts and uncles all lived in and around the homestead in Jamaica, Vt., while my brother and I would only visit occasionally, perhaps go with my parents once a month or so for Sabbath dinner. And even then, he was gone as often as not, on the road somewhere between here and California, driving his truck on another cross-country run.

Scott and I called him Papa. I've never asked why that was--perhaps it was just an arbitrary way to identify one set of grandparents from another (as we are doing with Jackson)--but as I was growing up, I learned that all of the other cousins called him Gramp or Grampy. Since I was closer to my Grampy here in Lancaster, I assumed it kids always called the grandfather that they are closest to "Gramp" and the other "Papa," and I perceived that they had a closer relationship with him.

I wouldn't have traded the life my parents provided for me in Lancaster for the opportunity to grow up in and around the family, but I wish I had known him better.

Now that I am an adult, I regret that I never rode in the truck with him on a cross-country trip. Many of the other cousins my age would travel with him over the summer. When I was in high school, I toyed with the idea of traveling with him one summer, but the chance never came and I probably would have chickened out even if it had.

In some respects, there was an artificial wall built between us. Papa died of lung cancer, and he got it because he smoked. A lot. But I never saw him smoke as a kid. I must have been 16 or older the first time I ever saw him smoke, and even that was an accident--I had gone from my grandparents' place across the street to my aunt's house for some reason and Papa was there at the table with a cigarette. I think he kept it from Scott and I out of respect for my parents and the decisions they were making about how we would be raised. There were probably other things about him I never knew because they were kept from me out of respect for the way we were being reared.

I appreciate the respect Papa had for my parents and their choices. Yet I feel like I missed knowing the man. My cousins who grew up with him in their life had a love and devotion for him that I didn't. And I think I missed out.

Papa was a simple man. I mean that in the most admirable and respectful way. Life, as he described it, was not complicated. There was a right way and a wrong way, and no amount of discussion or argument would change that. Not that he wouldn't discuss and argue--I loved to listen to him and Uncle Curly argue politics after dinner on a Sabbath afternoon--but the discussion wouldn't change the truth.

As I think back on his life, I have some fond memories. As a young child, he used to bounce me on his knee and sing:

To Boston, to Boston to buy a fat pig,
Home again, home again, jiggity jig.

To Boston, to Boston to buy a fat hog,
Home again, home again, joggity jog.

I have no idea where that song came from, but I remember it vividly. In fact, when I hold my niece in my lap, that song is always the first that comes to my mind.

When Michelle and I were married, we had a dance at our reception where each of the married couples there were asked to come out onto the dance floor. As the song played, the DJ would ask those married for less than five years to sit down, then ten, then 20, and so on until the couple married the longest was the last one standing, then Michelle would give a bouquet to the winning couple. We knew that it would be Grandma and Papa. When it was over, the DJ asked Papa to say a couple of things. I remember that he was so proud of the fact that he and Gram had been married for 58 years. And he made sure everyone knew that he was my grandfather.

It was the first time that I realized that he was proud of me. He'd never said so. That wasn't his style.

The last time I saw him was last fall, when he and Gram and Aunt Darlene came down for my father's surprise 60th birthday party. Michelle and I had found out a month before that we were expecting a baby, but we had decided not to tell my grandparents until they came down for the party because we wanted to tell them in person, rather than over the phone.

Papa's health had been failing for some time and when he and Grandma arrived he was walking with a cane, having to stop every few steps to catch his breath. As Michelle and I greeted them we gave them the good news, and Papa swung his cane in the air, let out a holler and did a little jig. It was as happy as I'd ever seen him. For a moment, it was as though he was young again.

I'm glad that is my last memory of him. When Aunt Darlene called this morning to tell us Papa was failing, Michelle and I decided that we would drive to Vermont tomorrow, in hopes that Papa might be alert enough to meet Jackson. While I wish he'd been able to meet his great-grandson, I'm glad I didn't have to see him fail.

Across the room, Jackson is stirring. It's time for him to eat, then I'll head off to bed. I think I'll tell him about his great-grandfather--one of the men he is named after.

And I'll sing "To Boston" while he sits on my knee.

Scott has previously written a couple of essays about Papa: "The Silences Between" "Impressions of Home"

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be...Selectmen

There are few things that I am absolutely sure of, but one thing I can count on is that my mother would never call me a coward in the newspaper. Not everyone is so lucky:
CLINTON-- A furious Council on Aging yesterday blasted the selectmen for what they described as a cloaked decision to squash a proposal to have the town buy the American Legion post for a senior center -- a plan that has been under consideration for years, and in the works for months.

"They did not give us the respect we deserve, and it's disappointing, to say the least," said COA Chairwoman Claire M. Agnitti at yesterday afternoon's meeting. "We did everything we could, but we didn't get any respect from the selectmen."

Three of the selectmen -- Chairman Steven Mendoza, Joseph P. Notaro Jr. and Robert V. Pasquale Jr. -- held a special meeting Saturday and voted to remove an article from the June 21 annual town meeting warrant that would have asked voters to approve buying the Legion property at 239 Chestnut St.


Mrs. Agnitti and Council on Aging Vice Chairwoman Rose M. Pasquale -- who is Mr. Pasquale's mother -- said they are particularly miffed that the selectmen didn't even inform them of Saturday's decision.

"They are cowards!" Mrs. Pasquale said. "Those three selectmen: Notaro, Mendoza and Pasquale."

Good thing they waited until after Mother's Day to kill the proposal.

(via the Telegram and Gazette, emphasisis mine)


Monday, June 12, 2006

SLA Graduation, Telegram style

One of the nice things about the Telegram and Gazette is that they go out of their way to cover virtually every high school and college graduation in their area. They certainly don't need to do that, and if they didn't show up at SLA one year, most of their readers certainly wouldn't notice.

However, if they are going to cover this or any other event, they might as well make sure they get it right. A couple of items I noticed from today's article:
The Rev. Luis Gracia urged the graduates to "face their fears firmly ... and do what you know to be right, even if it means standing alone. Forget your failures, learn from your mistakes and look to the future with a positive attitude."

"You know, the only ones who don't do anything wrong, don't do anything," continued Rev. Gracia. "Never allow your failures to make you quit. And focus ... if you don't have a reference point, a true north, you will not know where you are going."
Pastor Gracia apparently was looking to cement a place in the record book in the "Most Cliches, Speech" category, but it's a graduation address and that's "par for the course." (ta-da-boom)

That's not what bothered me. It's the "Reverend" thing. Referring to an Adventist pastor in print as "Reverend" has always been a peeve of mine. "Pastor Luis Gracia" or "Elder Luis Gracia" would be correct, but not "Reverend." The Telegram (and many other newspapers) always refers to Adventist pastors as reverends. It irks me.

Senior Kathryn Kalmansson said to the audience, "It has been my mom's dream to have our family play 'Presto from Octet in E flat Major by Mendelssohn' ever since she first heard it. Since we only have four kids and you need seven, and only a couple of us have musical talent, we did the next best thing and got our friends to join us."
That's lovely, but if the copy editor had cross-referenced this paragraph with the list of graduates printed at the bottom of the article, he or she would have realized that it is "Elizabeth M. Kalmansson," not Kathryn. Not sure how they mixed it up, there isn't a Kathryn on the list (there is a Katherine).

I dunno, it's not like a "Dewey Defeats Truman" mistake, but I think they should get it right.


Saturday, June 10, 2006

Jackson's first week

A few pictures from Jackson's first week:

Posing for a portrait.

Watching his first Red Sox-Yankees game. While Dad is able to muster a smile for the camera, Jackson cannot mask his dissapointment in seeing Josh Beckett allow eight runs in the first two innings.

Sleeping after a long day.

"It's an Adventure Story" (Friends and Neighbors in the News V)

If I could have been a fly on the wall in one place this week, it would not have been in the halls of congress, or at a sporting event (although being in Bud Selig's office when the Jason Grimsley story hit might have been interesting).

No, it would have been wherever the often clueless Karen Nugent interviewed the always entertaining Brad Booth for the following story in Friday's Telegram and Gazette:
Prof writes tale of Moses' time
By Karen Nugent

LANCASTER-- Bradley S. Booth initially thought the main character in his new children's adventure book--the first in a series--could be a time traveler.

But the idea was scratched when he decided it might be a bit too outlandish for his somewhat conservative bosses in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

"Anyway, I wanted to make it believable, and you just can't do that with time travel, at least not yet," said Mr. Booth, a professor and chairman of the education and psychology departments at Atlantic Union College, an Adventist college.
Nope. Not yet. Unless he were to send Marty McFly back in time.
His latest book, "Plagues in the Palace" is a story about a young Israeli boy who watches as plagues destroy the Egyptian kingdom of the pharaohs during the time of Moses. One of those plagues involves frogs--all over the place--causing a lot of trouble for worshippers of a frog-headed goddess, not to mention the pharaoh himself.
"All over the place." As opposed to the vicious "plague of the lone frog." I wonder what inspired Nugent to mention the plague of the all over the place frogs as opposed to any of the other nine plagues.
The next four books in his series, he said, will focus on David, but he will tone down the conclusion, when David slays Goliath by chopping off his head. Mr. Booth said he takes a dim view of graphic sensationalism so prominent these days in books, films and music--even Christian music, he said.

Mr. Booth also sings in the men's a cappella Christian group, One Voice.

"I really don't think there is any value in being so grahpic," he said.
I guess the oddly-placed note about Brad singing in "One Voice" is meant to validate him as an expert on the graphic sensationalism of Christian music...which has absolutely nothing to do with the story of David and Goliath. The fall of Jerhico, maybe...

And how do you tone down the slaying of Goliath? That was the point, after all. Will the toned down version have the Hebrews shipping Goliath off to Guantanamo in lieu of killing him?

The whole thing is an absolute hoot.


Friday, June 9, 2006

More Lancaster NIMBY (Friends and Neighbors in the News IV)

In addition to the battle over the upcoming Wal-Mart, Lancaster is facing another NIMBY issue. Should they build a cell-tower on town-owned land near George Hill? Some abutters don't think so:

Landowners take town to court
By Patty Angevine, Staff Writer
Thursday, June 1, 2006

LANCASTER - Two controversial projects have resulted in two lawsuits filed by property owners who are not happy with decisions made by the Board of Appeals.

Bolton resident Linda Oetman has appealed the board's approval of special permits, waivers and variances made in conjunction with the proposed construction of a cell tower on town-owned land located at the end of Winsor Road. Linda and her husband, Roger own property that abuts the proposed site and have already received approvals to build a home and a 12-lot subdivision there.

In the lawsuit, which was filed with the Superior Court in Worcester on May 16, Linda Oetman contends the board approved the application in violation of the town's zoning bylaw, in spite of objections that were raised at public hearings. The Oetmans expressed safety concerns regarding the nearby tower at several meetings they attended this winter, although they were not present throughout the lengthy public hearing process.

Concerns raised by Winsor Road resident Bruce Warila last summer, led the board and Cingular Wireless to propose relocating the cell tower closer to the Oetmans' property.
I've come to terms with the idea that if we as a society want all of the good things in life, we need to be willing to make whatever sacrifices go along with that. If we want government to provide good roads, police, etc., we need to be willing to pay taxes. If we want criminals off the streets, we can't complain if a prison is located in our region.

And if we want the convenience of cell-phones, we need cell towers to be erected somewhere.


Thursday, June 8, 2006

Rem-dawg debate rages in Worcester

A debate over Jerry Remy's grasp on reality continues to rage among Worcester residents.

A couple of weeks ago, a Worcester woman wrote to the Telegram and Gazette to complain about NESN telecasts suggesting, among other things, that Jerry Remy " has lost all touch with reality" because he doesn't realize the Wally is "just a doll, and not the true mascot."

After allowing that attack to stand for nearly three weeks, one of the Rem-dawg's defenders has finally struck back:
Letter writer too hard on Remy, Orsillo

This is concerning a letter to the editor complaining about Jerry Remy and Don Orsillo (Telegram & Gazette, May 20). I felt more than compelled to write this letter.

Apparently the letter writer is not aware of Mr. Remy's history with not only baseball but especially the Boston Red Sox. He is a former player and has played with some of the really great players in baseball history. He also recently wrote a book on how to watch a baseball game, and both Mr. Remy and Mr. Orsillo are educated on the players on both teams which makes it informative and entertaining when watching the game.

As for Wally, he is the team mascot and has been a dear friend of Mr. Remy's for some time.

The letter writer should lighten up.


Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Friends and Neighbors in the News III

From Friday's Clinton Item:
Spragues of Lancaster recall dental service in Kenyan clinic

By Kathy Tamburri

LANCASTER-- A visit to Sprague Family Dentistry, 240 Main St., is more than a visit to the dentist. It's a step into one aspect of a family's life together, where any piece of furniture or art could start a long conversation about the Spragues' encounters with people and places of different cultures.

In an interview at the Spragues' home (upstairs from their dental office) recently, Dr. Howard Sprague and his wife Rosemary talked about their most recent adventure - a four-month missionary trip to Kenya, where they worked at a Seventh-day Adventist Church-run dental clinic in Nairobi, the capital city.

They said the clinic had two other full-time dentists, and another was coming, but the third dentist's wife had been diagnosed with throat cancer and so that couple was delayed. The Spragues were asked to fill in part-time during that waiting period. Rosemary, a registered nurse, assists her husband in their Lancaster office and performed the same job - along with many other clinic tasks - at the Nairobi clinic.

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

I knew it!

There is, in fact, a Podunk, Vermont!

When I was a kid, I remember riding with my Grandmother near her home in Southern Vermont when she told me that we just drove through a village called Podunk.

That didn't mean much to me at the time, but years later when I was a high schooler, I had a discussion with my Physics teacher about the hamlet. I tried to explain that there was a Podunk in Vermont. He was pretty sure that my Grandmother had been pulling my leg. I tried to prove it, but could never find "Podunk" on a map.

I still can't, but finally, after all of these years, I have independent verification thanks to today's Washington Post:
Life Goes On in a Town Called -- What?

By David A. Fahrenthold
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 6, 2006; A02

PODUNK, Vt. -- Yes, this is really Podunk. In other places, the word might be a generic put-down, a concept, a mythical map dot somewhere between Hick Town and Nowheresville.

Here in Vermont, though, it's a real somewhere.

"This is the center of Podunk," Dan Hescock, an auto mechanic and local historian, said after stopping on a dirt road here one recent morning.

He was looking at an old outhouse without a door, a schoolhouse whose last pupil departed about 90 years ago, and a whole lot of trees. To an outsider's eye, Hescock was in the middle of the woods. But he really was in Podunk, a hilly crossroads in southern Vermont.


Vermont's Podunk, an area of the town of Wardsboro, is one of five current "populated places" with the P-word as their primary name, according to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names. It's still not clear how the name caught on in Wardsboro: It may have been the Indians, move-ins from Podunk, Conn., or, according to one probably unreliable local story, the "poor Dunkles," a family whose name eventually was corrupted to Podunk.

Hescock estimated that, in the early 1800s, perhaps more than 100 people lived here. They were primarily farmers, raising sheep, cows and crops along steep, often deforested hillsides.

As the 19th century wore on, Podunk began to fade, the victim of a mass migration from northern New England to industrial cities farther south and better farmland out west.

"Vermont was exporting its people," said Arthur G. Woolf, a professor of economics at the University of Vermont. "It's much more fun to be a farmer in Ohio, where you actually don't starve, than on a rocky hill farm in Podunk, Wardsboro."

In Wardsboro as a whole, the population shrank from a high of 1,125 in the 1850 census to 322 in 1960. Podunk's schoolhouse closed down about 1916, Hescock said, as the number of students dwindled.

This is like finding out that the Easter Bunny is real!


Monday, June 5, 2006

Opposition to Lancaster Wal-Mart heating up

As expected, opposition to the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter in Lancaster is organizing. On Thursday, the Sentinel and Enterprise looked at some of the people speaking out against the Wal-Mart.
Wal-Mart facing protests
by J. J. Huggins

History appears to be repeating itself, as a group of local residents are opposing the Wal-Mart store planned for Lancaster.

Arthur "Jay" DiGeronimo Jr., the businessman who backed a group that in 2003 opposed a planned Wal-Mart store on Route 117 in Leominster, is involved this time as well.

The corporate giant eventually withdrew its plans to build in Leominster amidst a lawsuit filed by the group, which was called Leominster First.

"I will lend any help I can," said DiGeronimo, the former president of Victory Supermarkets. "I have not changed my position one iota in three years. That company is not good for our economy. They pay sub-standard wages, they don't really provide full 40-hour jobs, they don't provide the kinds of benefits that other retailers provide."
Philosophically, I agree with DiGeronimo. I do not think bringing big-box retailers into the region is a good thing for the economy. One can argue that in Leominster all of the local department stores are already gone, and Wal-Mart will only be competing with other big-box retailers and national chains such as those located at Searstown, Water Tower Plaza, Twin City Plaza, Orchard Hill Park. But even if Wal-Mart isn't putting anyone out of business, they are not bringing the sort of jobs to the area that will enhance our economy.

I also appreciate that DiGeronimo was on board with the opposition of the original Wal-Mart plan for the rte. 117. It's apparent that he opposes these types of development wherever they are located, not just those that are in his neighborhood. I wonder if the same is true for some of the others interviewed for the story:

Harvey lives on the eastern side of Mechanic Street, near Lancaster and the site where Wal-Mart wants to build.

Harvey opposes the project because she is afraid of an overflow of crime and traffic into her neighborhood, because there are already plenty of retailers in the area, and for moral reasons, she said.

"I think they're ruining American jobs," she said.


"If a Wal-Mart goes in, well, we'll be moving, because we don't want to be near that," Harvey said.

Paul Gove, owner of Gove Farm at 925 Mechanic St., as well as Christine Perez of 1025 Mechanic St., plan to join the group.

"We have a mall right down the street," Perez, 37, said.

She noted that there is also a Wal-Mart in nearby Lunenburg.

Both Perez and Gove said they don't want more cars driving on their street.

I would be interested to know whether or not Harvey, Perez, and Gove were members of Leominster First when they were organizing opposition to the Wal-Mart, or if they are on board against the project because it is going in down the street from them.

There were "plenty of retailers in the area" when the development was proposed here on rte. 117, and there was "a mall right down the street" and "a Wal-Mart in nearby Lunenburg" at that time as well. Yet the opinion at the time from many other Leominsterians was that the Wal-Mart would be a good thing for our city.

Certainly Mayor Mazzarella thought Wal-Mart would be good for Leominster, despite the fact that he argued years ago that a Target store slated for the same Lancaster area as the current proposal would hurt Searstown. Funny that when the same Target store was proposed for Orchard Hill Park less than a mile away, it was suddenly good for business.

It is this perceived hypocrisy by city leaders that has rankled Lancaster's town officers.

Lancaster Town Administrator Orlando Pacheco said he isn't surprised to hear a group is forming to oppose the Wal-Mart.

The town can't stop the retailer from building there if the company follows all the guidelines, he said.

The opponents have "legitimate concerns," but being near the highway will help the flow of traffic, Pacheco said.

"People who live in Leominster don't seem to have a problem with people speeding through Lancaster to get to Leominster businesses," he added. "What about the businesses in their town that have a negative impact on us?"

I don't think it's fair to paint everyone who lives in Leominster as indifferent to our neighboring towns, but the Mayor and other city officials have fed the perception that Leominster has no interest in Lancaster's concerns. When the Wal-Mart project was proposed for the rte. 117 site, the developers' traffic studies did not account for any traffic traveling to the site from rte. 117 to the east, only looking at traffic coming west from Leominster and North and south from rte. 190. As though people from Lancaster, Bolton, and Clinton would not shop there.

Ultimately, I think this proposal will be successful where the Leominster site was not. Two big differences at this point are the site and the nature of the opposition. While there are some homeowners in Leominster who live down Mechanic Street from the site, the spot of the development is neither in a residential area nor does it abut one. The opposition to the Leominster site (and to Orchard Hill Park) was in large part due to the close proximity to established neighborhoods.

And the lack of close neighbors means that there may not be a significant outcry from Lancaster residents against the proposal. Lancaster's nearest neighborhood is nearly a mile away in the Spec Pond area. Without the direct impact on neighborhoods, Lancastrians might decide that the project is a net plus for the town.

They would also find the chance to turn the tables on Leominster too sweet to let pass.


Welcome Home, Jackson

Jackson came home with us from the hospital Sunday afternoon, and we just got back from his first doctor's appointment a few minutes ago. He passed with flying colors and it appears that he is healthy and happy. He has a mild disposition and even let us sleep for three or four hours at a time last night. Here are a few more pictures from the hospital Friday night and Saturday:

Jackson getting ready for his first night of sleep.

Jackson and Papa.

Jackson and Nana.

All dressed up and ready to come home.


Kayla welcomes Jackson home.

Not to overdo the cute thing, but when Kayla and Nana came to visit after we got home from the hospital, Kayla made sure to formally introduce herself. Kayla walked over to Jackson, pointed to her chest and said "I'm Taylor Morning" (that's what she calls herself, she hasn't gotten her name down yet), then pointed at her grandmother and said "This is Nana."

Saturday, June 3, 2006

Good Morning, Jackson

Ronald Jackson Harris was born Friday morning at 6:42. He weighed in at 7 lbs. 13 0z. and is 19 inches long. Both Jackson and Michelle are doing well. Below are some pictures of our son:

Jackson at birth.

In the recovery room.

Looking around.

The Harris family.

Jackson and Daddy.

Jackson and Mama.

Getting a hug from cousin Kayla.

With Grammy.

With Grampy.


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