Sunday, December 28, 2008

Parent/teacher/student conference

This sounds like a logical and good new idea updating the parent/teacher conference - include the student!

Seems like a no-brainer, hopefully the educational establishment won't drag its feet as it does so often on progressive ideas like this.

Making these less formal and more inclusive would have major benefits I think. The more help you get in addressing issues from several angles (including uncles, grandparents and others), while in a low stress environment, the better. It might help bridge the gaps in understanding that can develop.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Lights are off and noone at home

So ... where is the voice of the town right now?

We have no internet presence. Where are decisions being made, communication being performed, meetings being held? I have the feeling there isn't. The police didn't know about school until it was on TV. Who has power, who doesn't? Whats the plan? Who's in charge? What's the 911 coverage? Are emergency paths clear for fire and police?

{Crickets}

As I type this I am on the second day of (luckily) getting a generator going. I say lucky because there were a limited number at the Home Depot here in town, so we ended up getting one (after several hours in line) after hearing about some down near Jewett City CT. And today we got phone and internet. Just no power. Without the generator, I have no other means of heat. With it it's bearable so long as i don't run it all the time and burn it out .... I have the feeling a lot of other folks are in the same shape. Hopefully they can find a place or head to the high school.

This is emblematic of what we need to improve here - in a time of crisis, we need to show a united front, have regular meetings and get one story out to everyone. Other towns do it. And they post it on the web. It's important. It's basic. It's an essential part of modern infrastructure. We need to do it and emphasize using it more.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Pensions strain budgets

Thanks to the market and such. I wonder if our town payments have to rise because of this, have to make a note to ask the accountant.

Monday, December 8, 2008

How to avoid a cold

Hands mostly.

Not sneezing, not airborne stuff.

Those alcohol wipes don't work btw.

As for those increasingly popular alcohol-based sanitizing gels, sorry, but they may not measure up to plain soap and water. "Rhinoviruses like alcohol. They think it's tasty," says Hendley. For whatever reason, adds Zachary of MGH, "cold viruses are not as susceptible to alcohol-based hand disinfectants as other viruses and bacteria."

And what of the common assumption that the same nasty cold virus can get passed back and forth endlessly within a couple or family? Not true. Most of the time, the next round of colds is because of a new virus.

But if you find that you are recovering from a cold, only to feel sick again, it does not necessarily mean a new virus is at work. "Some cold viruses can be biphasic," says Hirsch, which means that the sufferer can feel sick, then feel better, and then feel sick again - all with the same viral infection. In addition, other microbes, including bacteria, can cause secondary infections such as sinusitis and ear infections.

Friday, December 5, 2008

On the other hand ... who's getting laid off? Men, mostly

Men. >1M men layed off last year, and 12K more women have jobs.

Men are losing jobs at far greater rates than women as the industries they dominate, such as manufacturing, construction, and investment services, are hardest hit by the downturn. Some 1.1 million fewer men are working in the United States than there were a year ago, according to the Labor Department. By contrast, 12,000 more women are working.

This gender gap is the product of both the nature of the current recession and the long-term shift in the US economy from making goods, traditionally the province of men, to providing services, in which women play much larger roles, economists said. For example, men account for 70 percent of workers in manufacturing, which shed more than 500,000 jobs over the past year. Healthcare, in which nearly 80 percent of the workers are women, added more than 400,000 jobs.

"As the recession broadens, the gap between men and women is going to close somewhat," said Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University. "But right now, the sectors that are really getting pounded are intensely male."


Probably has something to do with the gender gap in pay - men make more so they are more of a target in cost cutting times ....

Thursday, December 4, 2008

More encouragement - there are jobs out there!

I like this report - jobs are out there. Not that this is a problem here in town, where we have only around 4% unemployment. And not that there's anything new in there but some good old advice - focused training yields $2 more per hour for trainees. They quote this study in there. You need to focus your training to target local industries and employers. Here's the free download for those interested.

More fodder to fight doom and gloom on the part of our fearful leaders - it's what I do ;)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Ma unemployment rate up slightly

We're still below the nation by a point though. Mass rate is 5.5%, national rate is 6.5%. Here's the latest release.

Tech jobs are up for the year actually in the state ... here's a link to the latest rate.

Auburn is 4.1% - pretty low, the area is below the state average at 5.3%.

You can slice and dice the info a lot of ways - including by geographical area and job category.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Study of travel patterns started

I missed the boat on the first one unfortunately.

But there are ongoing meetings continuing in January, a $300000 study of traffic and travel patterns in our immediate region. With the impact of so many crossroads, it's something local residents should be involved in and involved in early, to make sure we have our voices heard.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Not enough male teachers

Yet another in the stories calling for more men in education, particularly early on.

If you read some of the comments, they make the suggestion that there is an institutional bias against it, as well as social stigma, which is probably true. This presents a problem for male children because they have no same gender role models to show them how to learn. It may well explain the declining test scores for boys in recent years.

Compound the issue with the number of single parent female households and I think you have an unbalanced situation getting amplified at home and in the classroom.

In our own system, as I counted we have 1 man as an instructional assistant in the whole district Grades K-2 unless you count custodial staff. Go to grades 3-5 and we have 2.

When I went to school as a child we had more - I want to say at least 2-3 before grade 5 and that was in one school. As the article points out, traditionally there have been more male administrators but because of the paucity of representation in instruction that has been going down. It may have something to do with the obsession with child protection in recent years but it's really a shame if that's the case.

I think this is something that needs obvious improvement and I'd hope the district would seek out qualified male instructional staff to fill the gaps and provide more balance for our children.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Canada's hundreds of wind projects

Hundreds of MW of capacity here. Smart - those Canadians, not conservative like here ....

Thursday, November 13, 2008

How do you lower alcohol-related deaths?

Tax the booze. Seems to work with cigarettes ... get ready for another sin tax if this gets around.

Link

Hitting em in the pocketbook seems to work.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Gore urges Obama to focus on power grid

Link

This is a great idea. I think focusing on efficiency is a no brainer, low controversy idea that has obvious benefits.

Kind of ironic I see this today after the power failure last night. We lost it on Wallace from 530 til around 8.

Couple of observations: Rt 12 area rarely loses power over the years - almost a bullet proof zone. For some reason our side of town loses it almost 3 or 4 times a year. It's causing me to reconsider using VoIP because without cell coverage (which is spotty but does exist for Verizon in my neighborhood), I would be without phone. Not to mention no power, no heat.

Also when I lived in Oxford this almost never happened. I wonder about the state of the power grid in town - seems kind of rickety and antiquated.

It'd be nice to have overlay map capabilities for this - someone mentioned GIS. I think this is good, although working in something like this to Google Earth with muni data would be ideal - I like their interface.

Monday, November 3, 2008

TV's negative effects on teens

The RAND corporation has shown in a 3 year study that there is some link, albeit not proven to be causal directly, linking teen pregnancy to TV shows with sexual content.

The study focused on 23 free and cable television programs popular among teenagers including situation comedies, dramas, reality programs and animated shows. Comedies had the most sexual content and reality programs the least.

"The television content we see very rarely highlights the negative aspects of sex or the risks and responsibilities," Chandra said. "So if teens are getting any information about sex they're rarely getting information about pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases."


Also from the story - here's a stat that ought to wake you up if you're a parent - 1 in 5 15-19 yo sexually active females end up getting pregnant!



TEEN PREGNANCY ON DECLINE

Teen pregnancy rates in the United States have declined sharply since 1991 but remain high compared to other industrialized nations. Nearly 1 million girls aged 15 to 19 years old become pregnant yearly, or about 20 percent of sexually active females in that age group. Most of the pregnancies were unplanned, the report said.


Also, violent video games have been shown to have a negative effect as well

A second study in the journal added to existing evidence that youths who play violent video games -- a worldwide trend with American children averaging 13 hours of video gaming a week -- led to increased physically aggressive behavior.

Researchers from the United States and Japan evaluated more than 1,200 Japanese youths and 364 Americans between 9 and 18 years old and found a "significant risk factor for later physically aggressive behavior ... across very different cultures."


I guess it goes without saying, but should be said - watch what you let your kids watch!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Autumn leaves over Upper Stoneville Res


Just thought I'd post a nice picture of the sun hitting the leaves this morning. Color really stands out that time of day.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Good news lost in the shuffle

We had a higher than expected tax levy thanks to new growth in our bustling little town. It amounted to something like $750K or more.

I know it's not popular among the bean counter hand wringer crowd these days, particularly in light of the "financial crisis" or meltdown or whatever to admit to good news for Auburn. Just how the credit crisis has directly affected the town I'm not sure it has. It's a little light of hope for us I think to have this found money, you can't deny it.

And thanks to the new software we enabled in the meeting it should be easier to track and exact taxes from new sources like this.

It was nice to be able to have a little breathing room for additional oil expenditure for schools and town, although it appears at least for the town we may not need it. It's a shame the contract for the oil price for schools wasn't one of those that go down but not up (which you pay a small premium over current price for). But still and all not bad to lock in to $3.30. Of course Massenergy blows that away right now ... somewhere around $2.50/gallon for consumers.

This revolution was televised

Wow - big step towards a major change in town government was taken last night when we voted to accept (with 3 amendments) the charter review commission's recommendation for a charter change.

If accepted by the legislature and voters in May, we will have a town manager form of government and appointed boards and employees instead of elected ones by the town manager as well as police officers by the police chief.

I was a bit surprised that things went so lopsided for acceptance of this, but also pleased. I think this is essential to modernize the town and create a more efficient, orderly and effective local government.

One criticism that was particularly annoying to me was "this document isn't ready". Being one of the 3 or 4 people who actually showed up to the meetings, I felt they really meant to say "we're not ready because we didn't do our homework on time". There was ample opportunity for all to become part of this process over the past 18 months. They had an internet presence so you didn't even have to attend the meetings for crying out loud! They met with the public, the department heads (which could not have been easy, change is scary sometimes) and the town admin and BOS.

Great job Roger and charter review and good luck in May - let's complete the job and get a strong town manager in here to bring us into the 21st Century!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Kudos to all on the fall fest

It went really well!

Kristin and Eleena pulled off a nice event that brought a bunch of businesses and community folks together. The weather held off and the dunk tank was a lot of fun. Nick Hammond, Wayne Page and Mr Valentine got in for the fun and to benefit fuel assistance. I even got in for a spell. It's kind of amazing how obnoxious you get in that cage. It was OK for the first 10 minutes after getting wet, then got chilly ;). My son was the first to dunk me! But it wasn't too bad actually I think the temps were around 60 or above. The wind was strong but it didn't rain the whole time and we relieved each other once things got cold.

I'm sure they'll work out a few of the kinks for next time and get some more involvement also. Schedules can come together a little more - there were a couple other things going on we can incorporate for next time. There were a few groups notably absent (which I won't note but you know who you are ;) but who I think could really mutually benefit the community by becoming involved.

All in all, everyone gave selflessly and came together to pull it off! Great time folks, look for the pics in the paper and word on the next event. I think they also have some good ideas for 4th of July so stay tuned!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Fall fest is on

Check it out - 1-6 today at Lemansky down by the track

I gotta go help right now

btw - they will have a dunk tank - I plan to get in and so does Nick. Maybe I'll get Doug to hit it. Come early though because it won't be a full 5 hour event! (don't want hypothermia ;)

Friday, October 24, 2008

The world is curved

Just wanted to put in a word for a brilliant new book called The World is Curved, by David Smick, which predicted the financial crisis we are now in. It came out Sept 4th. The title is a swipe at Tom Friedman's modern classic about supply chain in the age of globalism called The World is Flat, which describes a miraculous new age of cooperation, free trade and global prosperity. Ahem ... except for when things like subprime happen! ;)

In the words of Publisher's Weekly

With this illuminating book, [David] Smick revisits Thomas Friedman’s description of the “flat” world produced by globalization, arguing instead that the uncertainty produced by globalized financial markets has created a world that is curved, where events and their consequences are unpredictable. Smick begins with a puzzle: why did the subprime mortgage crisis, an event that directly impacted a relatively small piece of the global market, have such a catastrophic impact on the world market as a whole? From there, the author turns to topics as complex and varied as the potential 21st century Chinese financial bubble and the policy dilemmas currently facing the Fed. Throughout the book, the author returns to the argument that political trends are increasingly at odds with the forces driving the globalized world economy. Smick brings expertise and lucidity to many difficult subjects, and while his book’s appeal will likely be limited to those with some background in the field, it will undoubtedly stir interest and debate amongst investors, policymakers and strategists alike.


Basically the lack of transparency, bad trade agreements and monetary policies are all a part of it as are lax regulatory enforcement.

Should be on the gift list for the holidays (or my birthday, if I can wait that long ... on second thought think I'll be picking it up over the weekend ;).

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

2006 Income tax paid: $17.8M, local aid: $3.9M

Welp ... I finally tracked down the information I was looking for from the state.

Read it and weep should be the caption ...

Here's a pointer to the info...

The income tax receipts for Auburn for the latest year on record (2006) were around $17.8M. This is according to a senior economist for the DOR DLS. By way of comparison, our local aid for the year was around $3.9M according to DOR DLS. So our money DOES go east and never return.

There's a discrepancy/overhead/loss from the state of $17.8-3.9=$13.9M for 6500 taxpayers we would have saved (net) if there were no income tax. The numbers are a little different for last year because we got more aid, but I bet we paid more too. They don't have that yet though. In any event, think about it - if you could have $14 or 15M in your pocket (among 6500 people that's an average of $2138 for 06 numbers) or let's be fair, if we made up for TWICE the amount of money we get back, say $1000 in your pocket with MORE money for a library or a curriculum coordinator or police/fire, wouldn't you do it?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Lights on Swanson?

Anyone notice the lights have been blinking on Swanson since Friday - not sure of the deal here, but obviously it should be fixed ASAP! It's right next to the Middle school and in a high traffic area.

That little spec ... is making money for Holy Name

Its actually hard to see with my phone camera but the new Holy Name windmill is actually visible from the Shoppes over in Millbury.

Let's see if this comes out



Anyway, you can also see it from 290, but despite its size it's only visible for a brief time if you're headed west. Going the other way it's not even visible. Funny because it appears almost like any other building. Every time I see it turning - and it was turning REALLY well over this past week - I think about the money it's cranking out in electricity.

I also noticed the new tower on Millbury St by Worcester envelope. To me I think all the concerns and dire warnings about looming towers are overblown. Oh I guess that's a pun - haha ;). Anyway, to me it really depends on how you "see it" (I'm full of them this AM - sorry was up watching ALCS sadly ...) but I get a good feeling about the windmills, like we're doing the right thing for energy and global warming. I guess if I had one next to my house, not a bad idea actually living next to the water as I do with a seemingly constant breeze, but if it was sufficient size I might be more concerned, but so far they look pretty good.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Biking in the bailout

Cross posted from my fitness blog.

It turns out there are a few good developments for biking in the bailout bill. It'd be nice to have some bike lanes maybe in the Veterans corridor and some trails on town land.

Something for the Rec committee to look into, especially in these days of rampant obesity and high fuel prices. One thing that's becoming an issue is safety. It's one thing to encourage biking it's another to really accommodate them on the roadways, where it's dangerous enough when you're driving, never mind biking or heaven forbid on foot! It should be a goal to make a commitment to this in a real way going forward in the town.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Wind study in Charlton

Other towns are looking into this - power would be used for a school.

Auburn needs to get off its duff and get moving on something for the town. Probably on one of the hills.

Plymouth Rock studios

Interesting development down in Plymouth - a new movie studio.

Link

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

This is precious


Too funny - looks like something off one of those joke websites

Corner of Rochdale and Oxford ... Auburn highway painting project! :)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Mass sliding in energy efficiency rating

Link. Link2 for the report.

Mostly because of delays in adopting new building codes and techniques

Also this - sounds like what Amory Lovins has been touting - energy efficiency

“Energy efficiency is the quickest, cheapest, cleanest way to cut our energy costs," said Ian Bowles, secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, in a statement. "When we tap its full potential, we will protect consumers, reduce our environmental impacts and grow our clean energy sector.”

Get your kids the flu shot

New advice is for all children up to age 18 to get the flu shot.

According to this article, half the children who died from flu were aged 5-17. They also found that staph in conjunction with flu resulted in more difficult to treat complications.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Freecycle

Just wanted to plug this - it's kind of a barter/exchange via web. It works by using a Yahoo group. Here's the website.

You get messages about offers or wanted items in your area - the Worcester one is pretty active - maybe 50 messages a day easily. Here's the pointer to the Worcester freecycle group with instructions.

You need a Yahoo mail account, which is easy and free to setup. It can be addictive though! Don't end up with a bunch of stuff you don't need now! ;)

Friday, October 3, 2008

A sad loss - my condolences

Deanna Goggins, former head of the Auburn District Nursing died this week.

My aunt who works as a home health aide knew and always spoke highly of her. She served the community in so many areas for a long time and will be missed!

100-175 MPG with this aftermarket plugin mod for Prius

Interesting product ... kind of expensive though ($10K).

Link

From the site:


* Designed for Toyota Prius, model years 2004 – 2008
* ~ 5 kWh pack
* 5.5 hour charge time
* ~ 180 pounds
* Up to 100 mpg for 30-40 miles within electrically assisted driving range

* Meets strictest emissions standards in U.S.
* Crash tested to federal new vehicle standards
* $9995 – includes 3 year standard warranty and installation

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Fighting for better school food

Check out this link and angrymoms also.

It's a story (and a documentary) of mothers who demanded (and got) better food at the schools for their kids. It turns out making the switch to better snacks and salad bars is not only quick but easy to do.

Here's a checklist for the school cafe and an action plan. Actually there are too many good links and docs to list - check em out.

New turbine installed at Holy Name

Interesting to see how things pan out. Worth watching for our town too, for the private and public plans for wind here in town.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Fall fest taking shape - October 25

Keep an eye out for the Auburn fall festival. Date is Saturday October 25, 1-6PM, rain date of 26th.

It looks like there will be quite a good representation of non-profit and businesses in the area, with lots of games and raffles - a true all ages event! Watch this space and the town's website and CATV for more in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Parking and the Shing

Well, it's come up at the BOS and among many in town since reopening: the residents of Walsh Ave are upset about the new Yong Shing location and the problems with overflow parking there.

Having attended the opening karaoke night I can attest it was a zoo! They had the mini-searchlights going and there were cars all over Walsh Ave. Luckily I have a friend on the street (and some others not far from there) so I could find a spot and walk.

The thing that I hope is that the BOS doesn't overreact to this. I think the first knee jerk reaction of some to clamp down, start writing tickets and generally chase people away and such is a shame. The place is popular, obviously the owner has run a successful business for years in town and we should try and work something out.

Given the planning board's desires for a more pedestrian-friendly area down there and the existence of all the parking in the area I think something can be worked out. One example is the post office, which would be closed in the nighttime when the parking is an issue. Another - look at the situation with football games, when many park in the Bed Bath and Beyond/Shaws lot to attend a school function, so why couldn't school lots be used for overflow for a business? I know some will argue liability - I'd like to know the concrete dollar difference between using the lot and not. Is this covered by insurance or is it an exclusion? How much would that cost and could that be compensated or even make it an income stream for the school facility. Think out of the box as some would say - in these times we have to be creative!

Also the mall - many places in Worcester use valet parking at night, it seems to me the mall's Auburn St lot which is used by carnivals in the summer would be viable.

One thing is clear - I think paving more permanent spaces for this temporary issue is a mistake. We have the spaces, they just need to be reallocated. Planning has recognized that Rt 12, with all its empty paved lots as a side effect of our onerous parking zoning restrictions, looks generally unattractive. Modern walkable designs and concepts take this into consideration and allow for more orderly, planned, walkable areas which along with transportation plans (shuttles or public transit) save energy and engender a sense of place and community that attracts people and their cash in. The Veterans corridor effort will allay some of that.

The other side of all of these proposals is to make the area really pedestrian friendly with paved sidewalks and snow removal as needed. Then a truly functioning village district concept would be closer to reality.

And hopefully in all of this, schools, business and residents can work something out instead of rule by argument and who can shout down the loudest which has been the typical old reaction of some. I think people can have a voice in this, so long as there's a willingness to work things out, we don't have to get to that level; the town will be the better for it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A shameful stat

Childhood poverty is on the rise in Massachusetts according to the census.

"These 182,000 children would form an unbroken line the entire length of the 138-mile Massachusetts Turnpike," said Jetta Bernier, executive director of Massachusetts Citizens for Children.

"A legislator driving on the Mass. Pike from his or her district to the State House would pass by a child who is poor every four feet, or 1,300 children every mile."

Even worse, in a state with one of the nation's highest median family incomes (about $60,000 in 2006), about 87,000 children lived in extreme poverty, or families of four earning less than $10,600 a year.

Bernier said that Massachusetts has the third widest divide between the rich and poor in the nation and that the divide is growing at the fourth fastest rate.

"The chasm is threatening to undermine our state's bright future," she said.

The report suggested that the Census Bureau focus on the federal poverty line, in effect, conceals the true number of people living in poverty.


Let's remember that when we think of how "we had it tougher when we were kids". For a lot of cases it's worse now!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Some Bryn Mawr history

My son is at Bryn Mawr again this year.

Over the weekend I found out a few pieces of information about it. The first class to go into Bryn Mawr was in 1949. My aunt as it turns out was one of the first. At that time, there was only Bryn Mawr and the 8th (I think or 6th?) grade up went to the new wing on the high school.

Also, my late great uncle Werner Bylund reviewed the plans for Bryn Mawr, as Mrs Cutting, who was on the school board at the time only trusted him with the drawings! He found a few things and told them they might have trouble with the roof, which they did. He also designed blueprints for the old Hillcrest dairy building and the Post home which is across the street from the Farmer's Daughter.

I wasn't aware that the school is 60 years old next year - we should have a 60th party for it ;). I went there in 1970 for first grade.

It certainly can use some updates, and is overcrowded (witness the use of trailers).

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Fish consumption risk/benefit if pregnant: eat your fish

Good story about the risk/benefits of eating fish for pregnant women published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.


It turns out fears of mercury and other issues with fish consumption for pregnant women are outweighed by the potential benefits, at least in this study.


Working with Danish researchers, the Harvard team tracked more than 25,000 women, asking them what they ate and how long they breastfed their babies. (Breast milk is also high in DHA, so its influence had to be measured and taken into account.) When the babies were 6 months old and again at 18 months old, the mothers answered questions about developmental milestones, from sitting up at 6 months to putting words together at 18 months.

Mothers who ate more fish while they were pregnant and breastfed their babies longer than other mothers had children who showed better physical and cognitive development when they were 6 months old and again at 18 months old, the study shows. Each practice alone was helpful.

Women who ate at least three servings of fish per week had children who were 25 percent more likely to score high on development at 6 months and 30 percent more likely to score high at 18 months than children of mothers who ate less than one serving of fish per week.

The authors note that the kind of fish most of the Danish women ate -- cod, plaice, salmon, herring, and mackerel -- are likely to have low mercury content.

This can be extended I think logically to fish consumption generally. All those beneficial Omega 3 fats help out cholesterol and even brain function (with the possible exception of tilapia, which has Omega 6s, which we already get lots of in our diets from other animal sources).

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Early childhood ed works! Now stop wasting the money

Little story on Mass early childhood education programs ... and their lack of ability to make progress.

Where'd the money go? Not to open access - to enrich the teacher salaries of course!

There is still a waiting list of 4,400 children seeking state financial assistance to attend preschool.

The report found that the approximately 130 providers participating in the pilot program said improving their teaching staff was their top priority. Roughly half of the grant funding has been used to train and retain teachers by raising salaries.


Meanwhile, this study shows - early access to preschool improves math scores!

An average child of that age who attended preschool scores 27 percent higher on a standard math test than a comparable pupil without the preparation, said researcher Edward Melhuish, a professor of human development at the University of London, in an e-mail on Tuesday.

The finding may buttress the case made by advocates of universal preschool education in the United States, where the federal government provides such programs only for children from low-income families. By contrast, the UK has paid for preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds since 2004, regardless of their parents' earnings.

"Universal preschool would mean higher test scores, less school failure, and probably also increased high school graduation and college attendance," W. Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research, a program at Rutgers University, said in an e-mail.


So it works - we know that, it's been proven time and again! Too bad the adults are busy using the money to help themselves to an extra serving of salary instead of opening up the access to more kids.

The new Superintendent wants to know "What about Auburn schools should NEVER change"? (ie what works). I'd answer - early childhood education and preschool access to all - it's our startup investment money for the students of the future. Never stop that - you can bank on lower test scores if you cut it.

Friday, September 5, 2008

A frugal cornucopia

Good article about Amory Lovins, of RMI (Rocky Mountain Institute) in the Economist.

He's been arguing for resource efficiency and wholistic sustainable design for years. Ironically (or maybe not so ironic) you end up reaping rich rewards ... so by cutting the chaff you ensure prosperity. It used to be thought that cheap energy fuels the economy. But that's not sustainable - actually it destroys prosperity over time through institutionalized waste of resources.

He's kind of an eco-economist - kind of a cross between Adam Smith and Rachel Carson. Interesting stuff - we could learn a lot from these approaches!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

New England harvest time, enjoy some tomatoes!

This next month or so is so great for local produce - it's almost like living in California ;)

Saw this article wrt Pancreatic cancer prevention - tomatoes are a potential cancer fighter of this deadly disease. I've been eating some heirloom variety for the past few weeks thanks to my father-in-law 's green thumb.

Pancreatic Health

One of the deadliest cancers, pancreatic cancer progresses so rapidly that individuals with the disease who are participating in studies often die before their interviews can be completed-so the benefits noted in the following study of a diet rich in tomatoes and tomato-based products are especially significant.

In this 3-year Canadian study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, individuals with pancreatic cancer were age and gender matched with individuals free of the disease. After adjustment for age, province, body mass index, smoking, educational attainment, dietary folate and total caloric intake, the data showed men consuming the most lycopene had a 31% reduction in their risk of pancreatic cancer.

Among persons who had never smoked, those whose diets were richest in beta carotene or total carotenoids reduced their risk of pancreatic cancer by 43% and 42%, respectively.

Friday, August 29, 2008

"Debbie Downer" for student bikers

I think this woman is working for SD/SC



We were perusing the school handbook this year the other day ... trying not to be taken down by things like the warning light not working, busses not showing up for kindergarten orientation and learning of the 10 year bond to buy computers (clearly not a 10 year service item). Oh, and learning that many towns start their kids a week LATER than Auburn, and hours are from 9-3, when our first graders are going 8-240?? Well it's worth it for those great test scores we're getting right? Right???

Then we learned of a particularly restrictive ordinance "Students are not permitted to ride bicycles to school". This is clearly not only anti-green, environment and the like, it's anti-health! I really don't understand this - kids are not just discouraged from exercising and getting vehicles off the road, they are prohibited from it? I guess we should encourage them to head to McDonalds (we have one across from the HS) and play more video games next.

Yet another naysayer/overly restrictive policy IMO from our great town non-leaders! As DD would say - "Wah waaaaaaaaah!"

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Save on groceries and eat healthier too

Came across this link from the FDA about how to save money and eat healthier through simple meal planning and shopping and eating right.

Since starting my new exercise program, I've been preparing meals a lot more. Heck, I need to eat quite a bit to keep up with the program. I've found as a result not only do I eat better but I'm saving money, avoiding the big take-out bills at the end of the month on credit cards.

Here are some more ways to save on groceries from bankrate.com. The topic came up recently that it'd be nice to get a Trader Joes or even Whole Foods market in town for some healthier alternatives to the regular Shaws and Park and Shop.

The new Walmart superstore out on Rt 9 has low prices (not sure of quality, but prices are less).

Also in my experience Market Basket is superior to what we have here for selection and competitive price. Market Basket is locally owned (like Park and Shop unlike Shaws and Wally world). It'd be nice to have that competition out in Auburn for better quality and prices.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Buy Auburn

It'd be nice to have one of these for Auburn to promote our town to prospective residents.

The site's called buyworcester.com. It helps people buy a place in Worcester. Also there are links for lead abatement, solar programs from the state and the like for improving your home. There's even a purchase and rehab program available.

Promoting Auburn needs to be increased (or done at all). People love to tear down the town figuratively speaking, we also need advocates for why we are a nice place to live and communicate that on the web, in media and the like regularly. Otherwise we're left with a lot of negativity, which some in town might like to keep things quiet, but I think most folks are tired of it!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Heat from pavement a good energy collector too

A reader pointed this out:

WPI (my alma mater) is looking into using pavement as a solar energy collection device. Turns out the road is an order of magnitude MORE efficient than photo voltaic cells.

In some countries like the Netherlands, heated water from heat exchangers in the road is already used to heat nearby buildings. They mention a more sophisticated approach might be to employ thermoelectric devices as mentioned below. The exchangers should easily last 10-12 years that pavement lasts.

We've got a LOT of pavement in town. Maybe we could look into volunteering for some research in upcoming pavement contracts (Yong Shing??). We'd have to figure out a good candidate - maybe one of the many vast asphalt jungle parking lots we have. If only we knew of someone who graduated from there who might be able to help ....

Monday, August 18, 2008

Drive for electricity

A little geek news that might have some good implications for electric vehicles.

Interesting new material allows for electric generation from exhaust gas. I've heard previously of Mercedes use of steam to generate electricity in a concept vehicle; this uses an advanced thermoelectric material to generate a voltage. The new material is twice as efficient as the older one.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Part of Chinese Olympics faked for TV

The little girl was lip synching (because the real singer wasn't attractive enough) and the fireworks were computer generated

First hydrogen station opens in Billerica

Interesting development up near my work.

A new hydrogen fueling station for fuel cell cars has opened by a small startup in Billerica.

Apparently these stations are mostly concentrated in Southern California at the present but need to become more prevalent should the hydrogen powered car ever become anything more than a dream. It's got great promise as a technology and the advantage of only emitting water vapor, without the nasty carbon that heats our atmosphere.

Some of the techinical issues are how do you "crack" the hydrogen from the carbon, where do you get it from and how do you store it? Fueling stations are another real world concern, since you can't carry very much of the stuff usually although from the sounds of it they are making progress on all these fronts.

Realistically this won't happen UNLESS gasoline and fossil fuels remain at a high price IMO to help new technologies become more competitive economically.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Pay as you throw could save us money

From the sounds of it Shrewsbury's attempt at encouraging recycling appears to be an initial success.

So-called pay as you throw for garbage pickup, as I understand where each bag is charged, is in effect there.

Anyway to encourage more recycling should be done I think. It cuts down on the amount the town is charged for trash pickup and that would save us all money. The costs of removal are borne by those who have the most stuff to pick up on a bag by bag basis.

I think adding more bins is in order at times also. I have a couple supplementary bins I use but the town could encourage multiple bins for instance. A lot of times the one bin is overflowing, limiting the amount you can recycle.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Invasive species


Asian longhorn beetle has invaded Greendale and is infesting the area. Could have sworn I've seen this around somewhere - have to keep my eyes open though.

Invasive species are a growing problem it seems and for some reason it always seems like they are from Asia. From purple loose strife to giant hogweed they are weed like species that form mono cultures and crowd out native plants as well as do damage to native species with few natural limitations.

Here's a list of problem species.

Here's a list of Massachusetts prohibited plants. Also Federal invasive plants list and Federal invasive animal species list, including things like the "Killer (Africanized honey) bees" and gypsy moths.

Invasive.org has a lot more stuff too.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Rotary to open soon?

Word has it the tests are in and ... there's a great chance the town will be using the Rotary Beach again!

This is great news - the town is doing something proactive for the enjoyment of the residents - BRAVO! And also great news for residents who swim in the water privately.

Kudos to Kristin Pappas for pushing this issue forward ... it'll be great to get swimming lessons over there again for our little ones who need it!

Middle schools often overlooked

Good point here.

Most of the attention and money in our town has been spent on the high school. It's a lovely facility which is now at capacity. Meanwhile the middle school is in need of updates, possibly replacement in the future.

Besides just the building, I think the focus on high school performance and curriculum has overshadowed our lower grades. As the story points out, middle school is a critical time of transition which often can be overlooked.

Ultimately the grammar schools get shorted in the budget the most, and I think suffer the most. The buildings are old and classrooms are crowded (with trailers employed again).

To succeed and improve, we need (and I sound like a broken record) a systemic curriculum coordination among all grades with proper metrics in place to determine the effectiveness of our programs among all grades. This should be a priority for our district.

Keep your doors locked

Looks like another rash of burglaries here in town. No brainer to keep things locked up (car, house, shed etc) and avoid the easy takes.

We seem to be susceptible periodically to these thanks to our easy highway access. Makes me want to get one of those little cameras.

Of course, knowing your neighbors and looking out for each other is one of the best crime fighting techniques and one reason I like living where I do.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

President's fitness challenge and health center week

Next week is health center week - Aug 10-16

Here are some activities you can do here in Ma.

For fitness, you might want to visit the President's challenge or take the adult fitness test.

You probably remember like I do the test kids would take in school and you could get a patch if you completed them. I never got the President's level but I did get one of the other lower ones. It's fun to challenge yourself and set goals and reach or even surpass them when the benefit is your own health!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Forecast calls for pain in oil prices

A new report out today predicts pain this winter for heating oil buyers (as if we didn't know), according to the report, an increase of 30% on average.

Great ... button up and save those pennies if you want to stay warm this year ....

Green initiatives big this year in state budget

The big winner this year at the Mass statehouse were environmental programs according to this story.

I think Auburn should target some initiatives in this area to establish ourselves as a leader and get some good jobs coming our way. I know Nick Hammond and Bob Platukis have been somewhat active in this area and hope the town will be receptive to it, given the potential money savings also.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Smaller towns attracting professionals

Interesting article about some rural areas that are attracting professionals. They're attracted by the pleasant life and enabled via telecommuting.

So access to the highway isn't the only seller (although it's one of Auburn's biggest) to attract residents. Quality of life and proper communication infrastructure is becoming more important for upscale tax paying residents. Something to think about for the marketers of Auburn (where ever they might be ;)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Fuel subsidies fuel high prices

A provocative article in NYT today on energy prices and the link to governments who provide incentives for businesses and consumers to essentially waste fuel.

From Mexico to India to China, governments fearful of inflation and street protests are heavily subsidizing energy prices, particularly for diesel fuel. But the subsidies — estimated at $40 billion this year in China alone — are also removing much of the incentive to conserve fuel.

The oil company BP, known for thorough statistical analysis of energy markets, estimates that countries with subsidies accounted for 96 percent of the world’s increase in oil use last year — growth that has helped drive prices to record levels.

In most countries that do not subsidize fuel, high prices have caused oil demand to stagnate or fall, as economic theory says they should. But in countries with subsidies, demand is still rising steeply, threatening to outstrip the growth in global supplies.


So the high price of diesel ALSO has an effect on the high price of home heating oil. If only we could disengage subsidies in the developing world some of this would end up fixing itself. And there is a ripple effect throughout the economy as well, also encouraging cutting back on consumption.

MIxed use or unused?

A little lesson for those planning new developments: don't try and create something that doesn't make sense. (at least in this market)

Some of the comments are funny: "Condos that look out over Mattress Giant aren't selling?" ;)

Link

I think this stuff can be done, but it's got to make sense - traditionally cities are where these types of areas succeed, because naturally the infrastructure and style of living mesh together. Also there are planned communities where this type of thing has succeeded: Celebration Fla (associated with Disney) is one, my father has worked with the lead architect of this, Robert Stern. Of course, they are adjacent to Disney so there's a bit of an advantage there. I was unaware somewhat of just how addicted people become to the Disney touch until I got married - it's amazing. My in-laws re-introduced me and if you have a family it's just so pleasant. They've figured it out as far as customer service and family fun.

Anyway, the point is you need to have a really serious commitment to a holistic approach to community design, not just plop down condos in a strip mall, to get this stuff to be attractive to people. That means money, political power and will as well as a vibrant market, and the right location.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Little gas incentives

In the light of $4 gasoline, seems a lot of businesses are offering gas coupons to entice business.

Kettlebrook is offering $5 and $10 gas coupons for playing there. It's a bit of a hike from our quaint Packachoag course but at times when I want to play 18, it's a nice place to do it. Of course there's Pine Ridge a bit closer also.

Shaws recently offered money off tanks of gas for buying groceries there. If you have your Shaws card you might be able to not only afford their prices (not an easy task ;) but also buy free gas at Irving gas stations. There's one near Gigueres I know of.

Every little bit helps ... and might hook consumers into paying a visit to your store also.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Booster seats now law

Perhaps in its continuing efforts to nanny-ize every aspect of our lives the Commonwealth has enacted mandatory booster seat law ala the seat belt law to protect us against our own bad judgments, under punishment of law.

So now your child has to be 8 years old or 4'9" to use a regular adult seat belt in your vehicle. Yet another reason to get pulled over was my first reaction ... great!

But to be honest, when our little 6 yo got to be over 48" last year and his child seat broke, we were tempted (and even tried for a short time) to have him in a regular seat belt. Looking at the slack belt and seeing how undersized he really was in it though, we decided it wise to keep him in a booster seat for now. You just figure this stuff out if you're a concerned, aware, intelligent parent. Every now and then if we were going a short distance and didn't have the vehicle with the seat in it we'd revert to the regular adult belt.

No more though, sayeth the mighty and wise Legislature of the Commonwealth. They figure you might not know any better and they are better off making some more rules to live by and punish those who forget. Intolerance thy name is Massachusetts! {Heavy sigh} ;)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Young cyclist killed in DC - traffic!

She was originally from the area - Northborough Mass.

Link

I was just talking with friends over the weekend about traffic in town and the reason I don't bike anymore - used to a lot when I was younger. Also makes jogging or running difficult or dangerous. In fact Sheldons owner Orville got in an accident on Rt 20 last year or year before for the first time in his 60+ years (most riding) because of someone making an illegal left turn right near Sheldons.

It'd be nice for towns folks to have an alternative like bike or even running paths, not even going into sidewalks, which are mostly in disrepair around town. Quality of life is what will attract good people to our town who can afford to make things nicer.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

FDA warns on Cipro, Levaquin

Tendons can rupture - apparently the antibiotics can produce inflammation of the tendons severe enough to rupture them. Don't want a ruptured Achilles (or ACL etc)!

Link

Thursday, June 26, 2008

66 gas saving tips

What the heck - here's a few tips I found for us many beleaguered commuters. And before you say "move closer to your job" or "get a local job big shot" I carpool, so at least I'm cutting the bill in half (and saving $140/month).

Not that you would say that ... ;)

RKBA upheld by SC

A big win for gun rights today.

It's the first time Second Amendment has been used to rule a gun law unconstitutional in federal court. Until now, they have avoided the question.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Well at least things aren't this bad

As in Wrentham, where two BOS members filed assault charges against eachother.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Something to think about in executive session

Interesting story/lesson from Vallejo Ca.

You know all those negotiations that none of us hear about, for municipal worker contracts for instance, the "secret" meetings they seem to have so many of which NH claims he'd put an end to ... well it's possible to bankrupt yourself if you're not careful, which appears to be happening in this California town.

It happened over there because they over promised to fire, police and other unions and then a slowdown occurred, limiting revenue.

General fund revenue is expected to be $77.9 million, less than the $79.4 million needed for labor contracts, not to mention other costs....

[Mayor Osby] Davis said Vallejo's situation should be cautionary in another way. He said a citizens committee reported in 1993 that if employee-benefits trends continued, they would exceed city revenue in 2010.

The mayor said the warning was ignored by the City Council and city managers. He said the projected day of reckoning arrived three years early, accelerated in part by the economic downturn.

"Municipalities that are looking at us ought to say to themselves, 'We need to start now finding a way to fix it, finding a way to negotiate with our employee unions,' and let them know we are headed on a collision path -- and clear evidence of it is Vallejo," Davis said.


Rosy projections of revenue don't always come true. We can only hope that in those oh so secret meetings that TA and BOS are a part of that they show some foresight and don't give away the farm, because we pay for this stuff ad infinitum.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Mercury fillings change for FDA

The FDA now has changed their opinion on mercury used in mouth fillings. The mercury is used in what's called an amalgam. Great - and my kid has a few of these in his mouth (thanks in part to use of an over the counter allergy medicine).

Bottom line is if you are a child, pregnant mother or fetus mercury in fillings might not be the best idea as exposure to mercury can make your nervous system and developing brain have problems.

My mom who worked for a time in a dental office always claimed gold was the best. There are other plastics used now too as alternatives - I recommend you talk with your dentist about alternative filling materials.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Rockefellers seek to change Exxon on environment

Today they'll vote at the shareholders meeting to oust the un-green Exxon CEO.

Yes it's those Rockefellers.

Sometimes large actions by well-connected people can do as much as a billion smaller ones by the little people.


Why come out now? As Neva R. Goodwin, a Tufts instructor (and the great-granddaugher of John D. Rockefeller), told Alex Beam earlier this month: "I am 63 and I've tried to live quietly, but this issue seemed to me tremendously important. ... There is real concern that Exxon could run into real trouble and may be ignoring opportunities as well as ignoring risks to its future."

Monday, May 19, 2008

Computing pioneer dies

Arthur Burks, who was 92 died. His obit is here. This isn't akin to anything in particular about Auburn. He embraced, promoted, developed and overall touted the potential of technology and computers in modern life. He made great contributions in the field, helping develop ENIAC, working with Von Neumann and creating brand new courses of study of the fledgling science back in the post WWII era.

Technology is something we need to continue to embrace as a town going forward - get our data online, utilize and enhance communications and shine light on the information and workings of the town for everyone.

Friday, May 16, 2008

State budget numbers finalized

Here

Auburn's numbers are here.

Looks like pretty much the same as what we knew on Mar 20 for local aid.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Recycling event in Worcester

No residency requirement. Pretty good for those who missed Auburn's event.

Notes: Individuals can drop off only during the public event on Saturday May 17, 2008.
Cost: There is no cost to the participants.
Limit: There are no weight limits for individual drop-offs.
Residency: There are no residency requirements.
Packaging: Please remove equipment from cardboard boxes and Styrofoam.

Materials Accepted: Computers, monitors, televisions (including big screen and wood consoles), LCD/flat panels, laptops, printers, copiers, keyboards, other computer related equipment, stereo equipment, cell and other phones, power supplies, cords, electronic games, VCRs, circuit boards, and other household electronic devices.


Link

Monday, May 12, 2008

Vote smart

Kind of an interesting website - has the positions of all the candidates across the nation - including state levels at least for Mass.

If you don't like the big 3 Presidential candidates, you can even check out the rest here.

Here's a query for 01501 zip.

Among other things you can find evaluate our state Rep Paul Frost on various issues.

Migraines not just a pain

There's some evidence they are a risk factor for stroke and heart attack according to this story.

As someone who's suffered from them in the past (my mom had them, Eleena also gets them from time to time) it's concerning. Apparently blood vessels pulsate during the headache and they may lead to other more serious issues as they get damaged. As they put it in the article, it's likely a risk factor like smoking, obesity, cholesterol etc for heart and blood pressure problems.

At the least the headaches can be debilitating. When I had them bad I just had to sit or lay in a dark quiet room sometimes for hours until they passed. At this point I only get the "lights" portion; fortunately the pain part of it is passed for me.

There's a group on Myspace for support here.

New England Regional Headache Center is in Worcester. The link is here.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Win for Marlboro - renewable energy company

Link

With the new gateway district we have the opportunity to attract businesses like this. Auburn could position/sell itself this way and needs to do so.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

We're done finally

We finally got through all the items on the warrant tonight.

I was a little surprised that the new gateway district breezed through. This is more significant zoning changes than the "Villagzhe" district for Drury Sq the other night. It's certainly got the right intentions to try and attract new business to revitalize that area of town. But I wonder if the new regs might have the opposite affect. I voted for it though, I think we need to encourage this type of forward planning in zoning regs.

Anyway - got my obligatory questions answered - learned what a "trac vac" was - sucks leaves. Also why $500K from general funds was not available for highway maintenance.

Good meeting and an eventful first May series of TM for me.

Is no place sacred from cell towers

Story today about how Framingham residents are fighting a cell tower in an old New England cemetery.

Interesting that it's the archdiocese who is looking to do this - not unlike a situation on Oxford St a few years ago. St Joe's was looking to locate one right in the middle of an area which is prohibited in our zoning. Although the Telecom act of 1996 expressly enables cell tower construction over local objections in areas where wireless services are not there, there is also indication that aesthetics justify cell tower rejections.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Another TM another budget discussion

We got through quite a few but not all the items. There was a lot of discussion on zoning bylaw proposal changes from MPIC.

The glaring item that won't go away is the school budget of course. We beat the horse again but I don't think anyone was comfortable with enough detailed information in hand to re-appropriate the budget on the fly. I half expected SC supporters to have a ready counter-proposal because several SC members and others had good suggestions. I thought someone would step up but I guess everyone remembered last time when Dennis Natoli DID propose adding in $500K from the free cash and surplus accounts and he was shot down. When we got to raiding the pension fund I think some people got nervous like what are we doing? In the end the old vote stood.

The answer to funding for the SC might come from another override (which is a tough sell, unless we lose accreditation or something), or savings from medical insurance or ??? (more state funds, not sure). It's clear no one has the stomach to look at cutting other areas of the budget or town departments like police fire, highway etc.

The one thing I realized that I had presumed everyone had is but that few TM members did other than Eleena were all the numbers of the proposed budget in hand. I forgot she searched for and obtained the itemized budget from the committee. I probably should have brought it to show people. I think if they had released this to TM they might have had something to go on.

OTOH we didn't get the same itemized breakdown from finance which is what I brought up last time. I don't know if such a list even exists.

I think this type of detailed information might have made the difference of a few hundred thousand at least. Well it's something Eleena would have stressed - open up the process so people can understand where things are going. I know they had meetings but they should have released it to TM members somehow - at least in a powerpoint presentation or better a handout.

Anyway, we still have a balanced budget, it's still an increase, hopefully SC will spend it wisely in accordance with the strategic plan objectives while they look for other revenue sources.

Major Taylor article

Kind of an informational/educational column today in the paper about Major Taylor.

If you don't know of him, he was a champion bike rider who happened to be African American who broke ground for black riders and lived in Worcester in his later years. The city has honored him with his own street downtown and at several gatherings.

Bike riding was huge in his time (late 1800s to 1920 or so) - there was a velodrome at White City and crowds used to attend races like they do for football or baseball now. Lynn Tolman is a big advocate for him and does some great work with the Major Taylor association. I believe she's planning to create a museum in the area as well.

My grandfather George Rhodes was a competitive rider in the area at the time (grandmother used to comment he had the nicest legs in Worc County ;) who trained with the "Major" as he was referred. My grandfather led/was grand marshal for a race in his honor back in the early 70s - think it was 1972 - I remember as a kid attending the race on Chandler st.

The association has a race my grandfather, his buddy Joe Cote and Major used to do on George St in Worcester. If you don't know it - it's quite a grade and real test for a sprint - kind of an interval. They have an event coming up for those who are up for it.

I used to bike a lot myself - at 15 I did my longest ride in a single day of 125 miles from my aunt's place in S Londonderry Vt. Gotta get lighter if I want to try that race up George St. ;)

The lesson of racial tolerance and working together with people of all types was impressed in me at an early age by my grandfather's actions. Major Taylor endured a lot of racial epithets and hostility in his time but commented favorably on the treatment he enjoyed here in Worcester and I think it's a great legacy we should be proud of. He's a lesser known athlete by most who was really the Jackie Robinson of his time and sport.

Big ole gobbler

Wow - a guy bagged a 28 1/2 pound turkey in Hardwick the other day.

Interesting about the pow-wow shoot coming up too at Century's.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Strange town meeting

Kind of dysfunctional and disorganized I thought if anyone saw it. If you were there in person you felt it.

I as usual asked a difficult question (seems to be my role in life) that no one dared answer. I think the finance committee and admin expected everyone to buy into the "gee times are tough, thanks for being here, now sign here" speech. Actually it was a fair question I ask of everyone (highway whoever) SHOW ME, with respect to the proposed SC budget. I thought the lack of line item breakdown displayed an inability to deal with or suggest where to cut so I balked, it's just an instinct. Trust and verify, it's part of my nature as an engineer.

The bigger problem was the school committee's proposal and their recommendation was so far apart that I think TM felt that it was unfair to allow such a disparity without at least acknowledging it.

I for one was part of and agree with the strategic plan effort underway. As a TM member though, a 20% increase was out of line with economic times and just reality. In a sense I think if the SC wanted that much more they should try for another override. Whether it passes or not well that's another story. We obviously have to do something to improve things there's no question. And the numbers for Auburn look pretty bleak, both in terms of the trend for funding the schools over the past 5 years and the test scores and bad marks for our system.

Luckily a senior TM member moved things along and we adjourned til Monday. Funny because some of the original presenters had contingency plans in place for subsequent meetings. I don't know if they were prescient or just figured there was so much on the warrant (39 items).

Just glad to get out before midnight because I feared it would drag on til the wee hours.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

3 candidates


I can't take credit for this but thought it was good enough to be blogworthy ;)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Berlin St again

Berlin got paved for the first time in a long time (20 years?) last year, coincident with Dave D's company doing some work for him at his development on Wallace. So Lynch did a nice job (I might add) on Wallace and Berlin last year while they were working on his place. Finally my cars shocks might have a chance to last more than a year or two ;).

Well it turns out our HWY department "forgot" to curb this road in the area of Dark Brook, which you figure, happens from time to time.

Only issue is, THIS road has terrible drainage (actually no storm drains or sewer, with a lot of sand etc running right into Dark Brook) which leads to and is already leading to undermining of the newly paved surface. If you're not familiar with it, "Berlin hill" is a pretty hefty grade and there is a small stream at the bottom of essentially a natural gully.

Our TA was down there the other day it turns out, which is nice. Maybe something will get done about addressing it. Otherwise, all that money the town just spent (with some overruns) will be for a crumbling road.

The core issue is it would have been nice to do storm drains on this road to address some of this. Maybe once the storm water plan comes out we can get some commitment from the town on this because otherwise everything deteriorates rather rapidly. But at least they should address the need at hand or we'll have a bad situation in another year or two.

Monday, April 28, 2008

No charter change for TM

I for one as a TMM am disappointed the charter change isn't on the warrant.

Its been a year, but it looks like it could be ANOTHER year before we vote on this. Another year of business as usual and stonewalling?! Yarg ... the wheels of gubmit don't move very quickly do they? Maybe they'll propose a special town meeting for this and get things moving but don't hold your breath - could be next May before anything happens.

Sorry folks it's Monday ....

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Central Mass day at Fenway

Here's a link to register for Central Mass day at Fenway, May 18. Drawing is held next week and is limited to people in our geographic area.

Sox tickets are so hard to come by these days so if you're a fan like me you're always looking for a chance for tickets. Here's your chance to cheer on the champs!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Dump your clear plastic baby bottles

Apparently all the major retailers are for fear of toxins leeching into junior's drink. Time to recycle em I guess ....

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Short note of congratulations to Mario Fraioli

Auburn man finishes 51st in yesterday's 112th Boston Marathon!! That's world class!!

Fraioli finishes in 2:30:24
Mario Fraioli of Auburn led the Sunday Telegram’s five “Faces in the Crowd” across the finish line yesterday.

Fraioli, the former Auburn High standout and Stonehill College All-American, ran a 2:30:24, good for 51st overall and 29th amongst American men.

Earth day

This day for what used to be called ecology has actually had quite an effect since it started in 1970. Before the first Earth Day there was no EPA, no Clean Air act, and little focus on protection of drinking water. In the US this really put us ahead of places like Europe which for the longest time had no equivalent of the EPA for environmental considerations like we did in the 1970s. They did eventually when the German Green Party(and later around the world) the brought issues of nuclear proliferation and pollution as well as social injustice to the forefront in the 1980s.

Consider the world before and after in a few examples - with the advent of ban on lead paint and gasoline and car catylyzers (all of which were fought tooth and nail by the big 3 auto makers) our air quality and lead levels (measured in children's blood and environment) were much worse than today. Our cars are more efficient and safer also now.

Bald eagles were near extinction thanks to DDT, and wolves and other species were also endangered. Both of those are now off or soon to be removed from the endangered species list.

With the focus now on global warming thanks to Al Gore's 20 something years of advocacy and Nobel prize we stand at the dawn of a new era in global cooperation, both out of necessity and when you read the data determined self-interest.

What it comes down to according to clever folks like Amory Lovins from Rocky Mountain Institute is that unclean practices usually indicate waste, and an opportunity for saving resources (including money). I think if we're wise we'll get out in front on global warming, energy conservation and cleanup issues locally and as a nation. We can't afford to pollute, squander and waste like in years past.

I'm encouraged by even local candidates who seem to get it on these topics, and when I speak with community activists like Bob Platukis (you need to be online Bob in this day and age!), who has been investigating wind energy for the town. Change does start small, but the effects scale and can make a global difference.

There's still work to do also on the health front - the rise in asthma may be linked to increased ozone levels due to air pollution. There's evidence an increase of smog leads to premature death according to recent information. Being at the crossroad of so many highways we should take note of this.

On a town level, don't forget btw to bring your mercury to the BOH (daily) and other household hazardous materials on Saturday May 3.

Here's a couple more links:

The Freecycle network is a networking site for promoting reuse.
Find recycling centers near you with this link.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Patriots day, marathon day

It's been a few (12) years since I ran it. Good day for it too - kind of cool and light breezes.

Here's a link to how things are progressing. Looks like it could be a record. Funny but they used to start things at noon, they started at 10 this year.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Pentagon report calls war in Iraq a debacle

Here's the story and the Pentagon report.

It was published by the university's National Institute for Strategic Studies , a Defense Department research center.

It's amazing they would admit this.

Maybe they are preparing the way to bow out. I just hope and pray for a speedy resolution to this conflict which has cost us so much blood and treasure ....

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A mess in Holden caught on tape

Quite a fiasco has gone down following the HS fight broadcast on the internet.

Now there's threats of retaliation - given their ages these kids will be lucky if they're not charged with assault as adults.

I think it demonstrates the power of video in our culture especially when posted publicly on the net. Youtube is littered with videos like this. I'm sure law enforcement and prosecutors lick their chops when something like this happens because I'm pretty sure it prejudices people against the aggressors.

I'm glad we don't have any of this in OUR town ... (yeah I know it could happen anywhere ;).

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A word on Eleena's candidacy


My wife's blog is at

http://education4auburn.blogspot.com

I've added a link on this site.

In short, check her out. She's bright, inquisitive and has some good ideas for improving the schools, effectiveness of the school committee as well as getting the town to work together with respect to school issues. She's a mom, Simmons College alum class of 90-somethingmumble with double major in graphic design and advertising. I won't pretend to speak for her nor really promote specific ideas of hers explicitly as she's her own person and an independent woman.

I will say that communication of information and managing processes (like the long term strategic plan) are two of her strengths.

Definitely give her a look and listen. Frankly, she was a little nervous at the Camp Gleason event. I thought the questions were clearly geared for the incumbents. But that's just an introduction anyway - check her site out and give her consideration with your vote.

New wind power in Auburn? Yup - all 385 feet of it!

Worcester Envelope is considering a huge windmill tower on their property.

I'm very encouraged in one sense, but cautious. A 400 foot tower would be a potentially VERY imposing structure. I think we need to see a rendition of the views from around town for this - with a balloon test at a publicized time at the proposed height to see where it could be seen around town. After all the "Auburn hills" are part of what gives our town its character and inviting nature.

I'd also like to see the TOWN get out in front on this, to save us taxpayers money. The article claims it would be cash flow positive in 10 years. If rates go up that could be sooner ... and then you're making money after that.

This is something our public sector should take a cue on from this private sector company. On the whole - I think we can demonstrate real leadership as a town on green power and renewable energy with proposals like this!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Salmonella warning from Mass DPH for certain cereals

Got this from another town's website.

Malt-o-meal, which has been linked to salmonella recently.

Foreclosure city - Youngstown story

Things are worse than here out there - foreclosures up 178%!

In a related story, they're considering a registration of scrap metal down in Rhode Island to prevent some of the ransacking and removal of copper pipe and wire in unoccupied homes down there. Check this link for more.

Apparently this is the new currency among thieves because the price has quintupled in recent years and it's easy pickings to get rid of the stuff at scrap yards for some quick cash.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Income by zip shows Auburn up slightly

Interesting to compare towns wrt income in this link. It covers from 2001-2005.

Our town fell here (lower middle in increase, up 13%):

Zip codeCity or townNumber of returns, 2001Average income, 2001Number of returns, 2005Average income, 2005% change in avg. income, 2001-5

01501 Auburn8,080$48,0828,059$54,45213.2

You can sort by various factors. Kind of depressing to sort by largest increase in income you get something like this (Rich getting richer)

02205Boston226$50,5351,101$196,593289.0
02465Newton (West Newton)3,941$97,7075,455$207,217112.1
02111Boston2,089$90,0232,595$167,96086.6
02479Belmont (Waverley)22$37,59125$69,12083.9
02468Newton (Waban)1,703$126,1092,685$230,40082.7
02467Newton (Chestnut Hill)5,417$133,0017,167$239,38080.0
01965Beverly (Prides Crossing)228$236,066233$414,50275.6
02459Newton (Newton Center)5,864$107,7778,649$177,31064.5
01931Gloucester444$42,633308$69,41662.8
02481Wellesley (Wellesley Hills)4,576$226,1806,625$364,28161.1
02461Newton (Newton Highlands)2,193$81,2023,360$129,61559.6
02457Wellesley (Babson Park)126$11,44497$18,26859.6
02493Weston3,350$334,0375,126$531,37459.1


Remember 2001-2005 did have a period of contraction thanks to the 2000 stock bubble (my case) and 9-11 and Katrina aftermath.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Pancreatic cancer awareness

Good article today about this.

This is a killer disease, easily one of the most deadly forms of cancer you can get. My mom died from it back in '99 as well as my dad's ex college roommate, who was the president of American University in Cairo.

Basically when they tell you you have it, you can make funeral arrangements. As I understand, it goes undetected until it's too late. Your pancreas is near your liver and spleen and usually tumors form in the head of the pancreas and quickly grab major blood supply from a nearby artery. From there it's very hard to remove and keep it away. Once it metastasizes to liver or lung you're in a losing battle.

Something needs to be done to combat this and any gifts you can give or awareness we can bring is certainly needed and appreciated by those of us who have known its horrors. My mom was in excellent health for her age when she got it, exercised, ate right, and wasn't overweight.

The doctors at Umass prolonged her life for quite a while, enabling her to make my wedding. They are creating a fellowship for research on the disease at Umass from the funds raised.

Roger Belhumer's place will be participating next week:
Participants and dates for this year’s Pansies for Progress campaign include:

Auburn: Bells Lawn and Garden, 201 Southbridge St., April 12 and 13.

Here's the pancreasalliance also.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Evergreen solar growing, house off the grid locally

The Marlboro-based solar energy supplier plans to expand and add 350 new jobs!

We should get out front in the new "green" economy here in town.

Along those lines, here's an example in Westport of a house that's completely off the grid. Between geothermal (not hot springs btw) and wind energy the place cost more up front but will pay back in about 7 years. After that the extra power generated is all gravy ($$ in the bank).

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Shrewsburied

I'm often referring to our neighbor to the east of Worcester - well here's a blog aimed at town issues there. I added a link to it also on the side.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Want a smarter kid? Talk to them

Babies who are spoken to more develop better verbal skills

Link

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Congratulations for an old friend

Kudos and congratulations are in order for one of my lifelong friends, John Maclean, for being selected (from quite a list btw) as a candidate for the Auburn police.

He's been quite accomplished in his 10 years at the DOC and is very deserving of selection. We're lucky to have guys like him as policemen. I know he's been waiting quite a while for this opportunity to come up.

He's also a nice guy too!