Wednesday, December 31, 2008


I'm sitting in my pajamas with the snow falling outside, Jackson playing with his trains on the floor, and watching Nipsey Russell on the $100,000 Pyramid.

What could be better?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What on earth was the Globe thinking?

The Boston Globe is my favorite newspaper. It has been for as long as I can remember caring about newspapers, going back at least to high school. In my opinion, it belongs along side the New York Times, Washington Post, L.A. Times, and Chicago Tribune as the nation's great newspapers.

But who could have ever thought it was a good idea to publish an op-ed by Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, nearly 20 years to the day after terrorists sponsored by his government killed dozens of Americans in the Lockerbie bombing? And why would anyone in their right mind care what advice he would have for the American government?

I'm baffled. And disappointed.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

East Brookfield?!

I've been called for jury service. I have no problem serving on a jury if I'm called, and I don't mind missing a day of work. I know that some people try to get out of it, or see it as some sort of inconvenience, but I'm happy to do my civic duty.

But can someone explain why the court is sending me to East Brookfield to serve?

There are four district courts within 25 minutes of my home yet the commonwealth, in all of it's wisdom, is shipping me an hour away to East Brookfield.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Sentinel is giving me an ice storm headache

It looks like the Unitil power company isn’t the only service unable to deal with the enormity of the recent ice storm. The Sentinel and Enterprise is also starting to crumble. The paper is apparently buckling under the fatigue and stress, as they are reporting stories from the future and carrying on conversations with imaginary friends.

For instance, take this report on one hard-hit Fitchburg neighborhood:
FITCHBURG -- When Highland Avenue resident Kevin Starr looked out of his house for the last nine days he could see neighborhoods all around him that had power. But he and a patch of about 20 houses near his home had been without electricity for 11 days...

Starr said he arrived home Monday to a welcome sight: Utility trucks in his neighborhood working on power lines.

"It's the first time I've seen them since the power's been out," he said.

By Tuesday night his home finally had power again, he said.

"It's a relief," he said. "But it doesn't change how I feel about Unitil."
What makes this story particularly insightful is that it was posted at 6:06 this morning…that is Tuesday morning, before Kevin Starr had been interviewed about his relief in having power restored, which also hadn’t happened yet according to the story.

The ability to report from the future will undoubtedly be the one thing that saves the newspaper industry…congratulations to the Sentinel for getting ahead of the curve.

Less innovative—but no less unusual for the Sentinel—is an editorial criticizing Unitil for their poor response to the crisis. Here is the start:
Twelve days after an ice storm hit North Central Massachusetts and thousands of residents still remained without power, National Grid has taken over power restoration in several Unitil towns and cities, including Fitchburg, Lunenburg, Ashby and Townsend.

National Grid took over power restoration after local officials and state lawmakers -- along with Gov. Deval Patrick -- became convinced that Unitil could not do the job itself because so many people remained without power 10 days after the storm.

Patrick said Saturday he will have the Department of Public Utilities investigate the response once all the power is restored.

"The governor and lieutenant governor are deeply concerned about the lack of progress to restore power to families in the Unitil service area," Sullilvan said in a statement. "Once power has been restored fully, the governor will ask the Department of Public Utilities to conduct an investigation into why it took Unitil so long to restore power."
Who the hell is “Sullivan?” Is he editor Jeff McMenemy’s imaginary friend? An Irish pop star so cool that he only goes by one name? An anonymous source whose first or last name has been omitted to protect his innocence?

No, apparently he is Governor Patrick’s Press Secretary Kyle Sullivan. If you look at this news article from Monday, you’ll notice that McMenemy has again resorted to the practice of taking a news article from the previous day, sticking an opinion on the end of it, and calling it an editorial. But McMenemy apparently left out Sullivan’s first name or position—he probably got confused about whether or not this was a “first reference” because it was referenced correctly in the story he was copying. So exact is the reproduction that this typo from Monday’s story also appears in Tuesday’s editorial:
Officials in Lunenburg, Fitchburg, Ashby and Townsend spoke to Patrick, Lt. Gov. Tim Murray and Unitil officials Sunday morning in a conference calls...
Unfortunately, the copy-and-paste editorial isn’t a reaction to the stress of the moment, its common practice at the Sentinel. Instead of hammering the rag for its incompetence, perhaps we should celebrate its consistency—in these times of great crisis it’s comforting to know that day after day the people of the North County can count on the Sentinel to screw something up.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Putting the icing on a long week

A few stray thoughts about the ice storm, as I slowly die from shoveling the 22 inches of snow we received since Friday…

WTAG was absolutely awesome. The radio station was on the air nearly non-stop with constant updates from local town officials and messages from listeners. It would have been very easy for them to stick with their regular programming and just cover the storm during its local shows, but they have preempted their day time talkers to keep people informed. (OK, Jim Polito and George Brown could recite the Worcester phone book and be more informative than the Glenn Beck Show…but I digress.) And it’s not like WTAG was unaffected by the storm. For quite a while they were broadcasting with only a single cellphone as their means of receiving information—the shows those first couple of days consisted of the anchors reading text messages they were receiving since the station had no phone service. Even so, they kept at it and provided the only source of real time information to most of us in the affected area.


Karma really is a just never know when it’s going to present itself. After riding out the first strike of Hurricane Katrina while we were in Florida three years ago, Michelle and I watched landfall in New Orleans from an airport where we were waiting for a flight home. I remember remarking that we live in just about the perfect place: We’re far enough inland that we are spared the brunt of most hurricanes; we don’t live near a river, so we won’t be flooded out of our home; we almost never have tornadoes; we don’t have to worry about large brush and forest fires; we don’t live in the fear of earthquakes…the worst that ever happens is a huge blizzard, and even then we might lose power overnight. So much for that…


It’s really odd going to the gas station, pulling out the gas can so that you can fill up the generator, and seeing that every other car at the pumps is doing the same thing. No one is gassing up their car.


Ah yes, the generator…I finally decided Monday morning that I’d had enough of living like a refugee and that I was going to find some way to get power if it was the last thing I’d do. I got really lucky. I searched the online sites for stores throughout New England and finally found a Lowe’s in Newington, Conn. that showed the possibility of having some in stock. I called and was told that they were out—all of the generators in the area were being shipped to stores farther north. So on a whim I called Home Depot in Leominster and the woman who answered the phone told me to get in my car and get up there right away as a shipment of them was just pulling into the store.

It took most of the afternoon to set it up and I still wasn't particularly confident about it, so while Michelle and I spent the night at home, Jackson still stayed with my parents. Jackson slept in his own bed Tuesday night for the first time in five days and he was very happy about it. Watching him singing and dancing to a song on "Thomas the Tank Engine" with a huge smile on his face after being out of sorts for nearly a week was worth the $800 or so I paid for the generator.


Oh, and one more thing...anyone who says facing adversity and roughing it and all of that makes one tougher or builds character is full of baloney. It makes one cold and tired and frazzled. I fail to see the upside.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Hour of Power

The Hour of Power was 5:00 pm today. After 124 hours of darkness and cold, we have electricity.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Please, no.

Still no power. Michelle called the power company to see if they had an ETA on getting electricity back and the attendant said our neighborhood was in such bad shape that she wouldn't even try to guess. She told us to call back in a couple days just to get an update.

This can't be helpful:
Forecast for Northern Worcester

Cloudy...snow...mainly after midnight. Snow accumulation of 1 to 3 inches. Lows in the lower 20s. Northeast winds around 5 mph. Chance of snow 90 percent.

Snow...sleet and freezing rain in the morning...then a chance of freezing rain...snow likely with a chance of rain in the afternoon. Total snow accumulation of 3 to 5 inches. Highs in the lower 30s. Northeast winds around 5 mph...becoming north in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation 90 percent....

Snow likely. Heavy snow accumulation possible. Cold with highs in the upper 20s. Chance of snow 70 percent.
I'm afraid that if we're not back online by Friday, it could be a very long time.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Nothing new

LEOMINSTER -- We are still without power, going on 72 hours since it cut out early Friday morning. Very little has changed. No word on when power will return. Speaking with neighbors today I heard one report that we were still four days away, but another said he'd heard it would be two weeks before the entire town was back online.

We spent much of the day clearing debris. It will be a long haul to get all of the branches cleaned up. Hopefully we don't get any heavy snows until mid-January. Burning season starts January 1 and if we can get a bonfire or two before everything gets covered with snow it will help quite a bit.

We're still in Leominster for another night. Temperatures may hit the mid- to upper-fifties tomorrow and if we can get the house warmed up, we might try to stay there tomorrow night just to attempt to bring a little normalcy back to Jackson's routine.

Here are some pictures I took in Sterling this morning. We still have a long way to go...

Power lines down at route 62 and Chocksett Road.

A utility pole and wires down on route 62 at Wiles Road. Route 62 is still closed at the Sterling-Lancaster town line.

The telephone/cable line that is still suspended over Redstone Hill Road.

The catalpa tree is still heavily covered with ice even 48 hours after the end of the storm.

The view beyond our back yard. Only a handful of trees remain unscathed. Everything over 25 or 30 feet tall has been snapped off.

The front of the house faces north and do not get sun during the winter. The ice on these bushes has hardly receded since the end of the storm.

This bush still shows the full thickness of the ice.

The north and northeast facing side of this evergreen bush is still heavily encased in ice. The south facing side is clear.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Don't want to live like a refugee

LEOMINSTER -- With apologies to Tom Petty, the refugee life is already getting old, and we've only been out of our house for two nights...

We've moved out of my parents' place in Clinton and into my brother-in-law's home in Leominster. While half to three-quarters of Clinton are still out of power--including my parents' neighborhood--the southern part of Leominster is back on power and on-line. It was nice to take a warm was nicer to take a warm shower and have the room also be warm, instead of stepping out of the shower and into the cold.

Jackson has been holding up pretty well. He woke up in the night during the storm and was pretty worried while he laid with Michelle and I--every time another tree would snap or ice would fall he ask "What was that noise, Daddy?" Still, he was OK until we awoke Friday morning. He was very upset after he woke up...when I asked if he was afraid, he said "I'm afraid of the ice on the house."

He had heard Michelle and I talking about how the ice had knocked over some of our trees and when he looked outside and saw the ice covering the windows, I think he was afraid the same thing was going to happen to the house. We talked about it and I explained that the ice can be very pretty, but that sometimes it gets so heavy that the trees fall. Even so, I explained that the ice wouldn't hurt him and that he'd be OK. He calmed down and seemed to get it, but it was heartbreaking to hear him be so upset about it.

Even though it was cold last night, Jackson did pretty well because he was sleeping the bed he stays in when he has sleepovers at Mimi and Buppie's house. Tonight he had a much harder time going to bed because he's not in a place where he is familiar. We're trying to keep things as normal for him as we can, but it's hard. He probably would have done better at Mimi and Buppie's again tonight, but the temperature in the house was below 50 by dark and a night of dropping temperatures probably would not have been healthy.

Tomorrow, we're planning to do as much cleanup of yard debris as we can. We're also trying to plug away in setting up Sara's room. Even though we don't have power, we still need to get the room ready. We've only got six weeks to go, so she could come any time.

A couple of other notes from the last couple of days...

  • Gas has been scarce as most gas stations are without power. I believe there is no gas available in Lancaster at all. The one station in the center of Sterling has also been down, although there may be power there by this evening as the center of town has had power restored. There are only two stations open in Clinton. Even at 7:30 this morning, I had to wait in line for 20 minutes to fill up.

  • While the stations that were open were not gouging customers, they weren't being entirely benevolent. The stations in town that were closed had prices posted from $1.63 to $1.67 per gallon. At the two open stations, the price had been jacked up to $1.78. On the one hand, they probably could have stayed busy at $3.78...on the other hand, they didn't need to kick it up the 11 cents.

  • My sister-in-law waited two hours for gas Friday afternoon in Leominster at what she was told was the only station open on the route 2 corridor for miles in either direction. She said she was in line in front of a woman from Phillipston, who had been told by the state police that this station 35 miles away was the nearest station that had power.

  • A neighbor said things are so bad in the northern part of Sterling that the the National Guard has been called in to help remove trees and limbs from roads in that area.

  • Thankfully, help is on it's way. While I was on I-495 heading back from Marlborough, I passed a caravan of seven utility trucks from North Carolina.

Powerless to do anything

MARLBOROUGH -- The situation has not improved in the last 24 hours. In some ways, it may have even gotten worse, if learning that my early indications of what to expect were incorrect.

The area of Clinton where my parents live--and where we spent last night--is still without power. Part of the town does have power, and has apparently been online through the entire storm. last night I went down to get grinders for all of us and ran into an elected local official who was taking pizzas to the firehouse in Sterling. He said that word in town was that it would be seven days until all of Sterling is back online.

Our neighborhood is still a disaster area. Route 62 from Redstone Hill Rd. in Lancaster to Sterling Road at the sterling town line is still closed as of 1:30 this afternoon. Traffic heading from Clinton to Sterling is being rerouted up Redstone Hill, but that area is still very treacherous. There is a cable TV or telephone line that has been ripped down and is hanging about six feet over the road as one passes Wiles Rd. Cars can get by, but a truck could easily catch the line. There are a handful of broken poles on Wiles Road and Route 62, with power lines down in multiple places along the roads.

Lancaster is also without power in some places, as there are a number of power lines down along Mill Street.

much of the area looks like a tornado blew through about 20-30 feet off of the ground. In many spots, every tree taller than that has been snapped off; only the younger trees have survived.

It still appears that our home did not suffer any damage, although there is a large limb resting on our power line from the street to the house which may have pulled it far enough off the siding that it will have to be reattached. Otherwise, we are unscathed. below are some photos I took yesterday morning at around 8:30. While they show much of the damage at our home, they do not show all of it. even in the 10 minutes I was out shooting these pictures four or five large branches or tops of trees crashed to the ground. The damage to our yard was noticeably worse when we surveyed it later yesterday.

Michelle's brother has reported that power has been restored (although not TV or internet) to his home in Leominster, so we may head there for tonight if the power is not restored to Clinton soon.

Limbs down in front of the house.

Our Birch tree has been destroyed.

The phone lines in have survived, despite the heavy ice. If you look at the back corner of the house you can see the power line pulling away from the siding.

The downed limbs of the catalpa tree.

The entire north and east side of the catalpa tree has been destroyed. This is the case with many trees, as the storm was a "Nor'easter" and the rain came from that direction, causing the heaviest accumulation on that side of the trees.

Tall grass.

Our blackberry patch.

Ice on the play set.

No game today. As you can see, the ice was so thick that it essentially tripled the thickness of the basketball hoop.

Post filed from Panera Bread in Marlborough, as it's the only place I could find with internet access.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Disaster Area

I have never seen an ice storm quite like the one I saw when I awoke this morning in the 37 years I have lived in Northern Worcester County.

Each of the five big trees in our yard were significantly damaged. The birch tree in the western yard was completely destroyed and the majestic catalpa tree that provides an incredible canopy of shade in the summer was at least half destroyed. The two maples and the beechnut were also heavily damaged. Luckily, none of them are close enough to the house to damage the structure.

We also dodged a bullet with the catalpa. Even though it was heavily damaged, for the first time in I can't remember how log we did not park one of the cars underneath it. Not because of any foresight--we had guests last night and had to pull farther into the driveway than usual. Very fortunate indeed.

Many of the roads in and around Sterling, Lancaster and Clinton were closed this morning because of downed limbs and powerlines. When I awoke at 8:00, traffic on route 62 had been routed up our hill because the main road was closed. When we left our house at 9:00 to find a place with some heat, a tree had fallen across our road and traffic that was using it to get from Clinton to Sterling was being forced to turn around. Not sure how long it was until the road to Sterling was again opened.

Update 2:00 pm -- Just got a call that Route 62 between Lancaster and Sterling is still closed.

We lost power last night sometime after midnight. It was a very eerie night. There was no light at all (street lights, neighbor's homes, etc. were all out) and the only noise was the regular crashing of limbs reverberating around the neighborhood. There was a crash nearly every couple of minutes--some close by, some from a distance. It literally sounded like the world was crashing down around us.

The power company told us that we should not expect power for a couple of days. While driving this morning, WBZ radio reported that the governor warned most of the 300,000 or more people in the state without power that they probably wouldn't have it restored until Monday.

I took a number of pictures this morning shortly after first light (a harrowing experience in itself as I saw five limbs and tops of trees crumble in the ten minutes I was out) and will post them once I have a combination of camera, USB cable, computer with power, and Internet. Hopefully that will be sooner rather than later.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008


I was listening to classic country music this afternoon at work and heard The Charlie Daniels Band's hit "The South is Gonna Rise Again." It got me wondering, doesn't "again" imply some sort of dominance in the past?

When was that? What am I missing?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Jackson's November

A few photos of Jackson from the busy month of November...

Thanksgiving 058a
All dressed up for Thanksgiving dinner.

K and J
Staying warm with Kayla at a soccer game.

moms  camera 358
Self-portrait with Kayla and Auntie.

Jackson's first time bowling. After one attempt at the traditional between-the-legs toddler style. Jackson decided his best bet was to throw it two-handed from his chest--sort of like a shot put--which makes it look like he's actually making a bowler's approach.

bowling 10
Kayla and Jackson watching one of his throws.

Thanksgiving 036
Jackson and his Buppie having dessert at Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving 073
Jackson dancing at Thanksgiving.

Jackson was the life of the party dancing at a relative's wedding.

Family portrait.

Fits and starts...and a baby

Part of me envies bloggers who get to do it as a job--they get to read news, blogs, and other things all day, and when something catches their fancy, they write about it. For the rest of us, when we come across something that is interesting, we make note of it and hope that we’re still awake enough and motivated enough to write about it after we get home, have dinner, play with the kid(s), put them to bed, clean the house (OK, so I don’t lose a lot of time cleaning...but someone else must), walk the dog, put out the get the idea.

Even when I'm blogging a lot, I lose a lot of posts in my head because I’m just not as fired up about something when I get home as I was when I first came across it at lunch or whenever. But recently, it’s been almost impossible to get a thought from my noontime brain to my nighttime keyboard. It just hasn’t been happening.

In part, I think I’m suffering from political fatigue or burnout or whatever you want to call it. It was a very long election season and now that the good guys have won I’m having a hard time keeping my interest at such a high level. I know it will pick up again, but lately a lot of political items and opinions have been ending up in the waste bin of my mind.

I guess what I’m getting at is the recent trend of blogging in fits and starts as opposed to writing almost daily will probably continue. I may go on a two- or three-day blogging binge followed by a week or two of inactivity. It’s not like I will be getting less busy--once our daughter arrives in seven weeks or so I can only imagine how much less time I will have.

You know, now that I think about it, I’m not sure I ever announced on the blog that we are having another baby. Well, if I didn’t, here is the announcement:

We are expecting a daughter, Sara Elisabeth, to be born sometime around January 28. With just seven weeks to go, everything is on track for a healthy baby girl. Michelle is also doing well, thanks. We’re thrilled, and Jackson is also excited. He says that when Sara comes, he wants to help tuck her in. I think he’ll make a great big brother.

Anyway...if you’ve followed this stream of consciousness this far, I hope you’ll keep checking in. If you’re lucky, you just might find another new post or two. If not, keep stopping never know when something might make its way out of me head and onto the Internet.


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