Sunday, January 27, 2008

Barak Obama and 'net hoaxes

This kind of goes along with the phony "Swift Boat" stories about Kerry in 04 which deflected attention from the real issue, a failed miserable policy in Iraq.

Apparently someone (Republicans, Clinton camp, fringe libertarians??) claims Obama refuses to say the pledge of allegiance and is a Muslim in secret (Joe Average American thinks he sounds like Osama so why not) and emails this around. It's complete and utter bunk according to the candidate and his supporters. It's also here on Snopes, a popular fact checking site.

I'm not an Obama supporter, my guy was Richardson (but he's out now). So I'm up in the air. General election I'll go for the best person also, not necessarily a Democrat, although most of the time I have voted that way.

Anyway, just goes to show most of what you hear on the net is just that, hearsay at best and at worst smearing lies targeted to discredit the opposition. It's really hard to track this stuff down though and some of it gets into the subconscious of the electorate as de facto truth. People love conspiracy theories also (look at the Dan Brown phenomenon) and this just fits right into another Al Queda bogeyman around the corner.

With all the chatter online recently I wonder if the same is happening on the T&G board on a smaller scale. Personal smears are increasing as the dirty tricks gangs drudge up whatever they can to hurt the other side. After all there's a Highway Department position at stake and maybe even with the Charter review the spectre of - gasp - a DPW!

Auburn snowboarder dies in a tree well in Colorado

The young man's name is Jared Daniels, he was 22. Condolences and +++vibes to his family and friends.

This goes along with the other death mentioned last month of a boarder from Worcester. A tree well is an area around a tree which is devoid of snow, while the surrounding area has very deep snow. It's a major hazard while skiing or boarding in the deep snow that often exists in treed areas out west, particularly in heavy snow years like this one. What can happen is you end up in there upside down, buried, can't tell which way is up, are covered in snow, no one can hear or see you and you suffocate.

It's been a deadly year out west for avvies and backcountry.

btw - on a lighter note (I hope) I head out to Utah Tuesday for some fun in the pow - have to be safe out there - pray for me! They're getting about 5 feet from a storm today and tomorrow.

Jan 26, 11:27 PM EST

Coroner: Snowboarder may have suffocated after fall at

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) -- A 22-year-old
snowboarder from Massachusetts who died at Steamboat
Ski Area in Colroado may have suffocated after falling
head first into a tree well, Routt County Coroner Rob
Ryg said.

The victim of the accident Friday was identified as
Jared Daniel of Auburn, Mass.

A friend tried but was unable to pull Daniel out of
the tree well, an unstable hole or depression that can
develop around trees after a heavy snowfall.

The area where Daniel died was off an intermediate
trail called Snooze Bar. Others joined Daniel's friend
and got him out after about 15 minutes. But CPR failed
to revive him.

It was at least the seventh skiing or snowboarding
death in Colorado this season, including deaths in the

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

ADNA recognized as top 25% in the nation

Auburn District Nursing was recognized as one of the best in the nation in 2007. Also here in the WB journal.

They really do God's work and there are many who believe home health care can and will save us money over long term care in a facility or nursing home. It makes sense and is preferred by the people under care. Wouldn't you rather be in your own home as you get older and need medical attention? It's the most humane thing to do and ADNA assists in this process enormously. I have two family members who have enjoyed their services and it really helped the family and the individuals involved.

Congratulations to them and keep up the good works you do!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Libraries, quality of information and the internet age

There's been a lot of discussion about the new library plan, saving money by consolidating libraries in the schools and such from the T&G blog. Some have suggested that libraries and librarians are obsolete these days.

Just thought I'd say a word about libraries and reference librarians. As any good researcher knows, there's STILL (yes even in 2008) no good substitute for a good reference librarian. In engineering school I work-studied most of my years at the school library. At that time much of the material was on a variety of media including paper, microfiche, journals, magazines and some of it online. You saved orders of magnitude of time by simply describing your quest for information to one of the reference librarians so they could point you in the right direction. You still need to have a methodology for determining the quality of information which they also help with.

In the past 20 years there has been a great deal of digitization and with the advent of Alta-vista, later Yahoo! and Google, online search has been a great tool for finding information about a variety of topics. But I think it still has its limits. For instance, Google tends to weight your searches on popularity. What if you're researching a topic that few people know about (ie you're an expert). Also libraries have access to many sources of information that are not otherwise publicly available. The reference librarian can help with this even with online searching itself to narrow things down. The other problem is weeding through to find quality information you are interested in.

Wikipedia for instance is essentially hearsay. They do publish "contested" links at times, but the depth of treatment is not really there. It's usually OK, but not enough if you really want to look into a topic in any depth. What's more important is getting the information first vs a rigorous treatment of "peer review".

On that topic, it's easy to find on the internet so-called "proof" of anything from the existence of space aliens to Global Warming denial to 9-11 government conspiracies and claims of cure for cancers. You can really wile away the hours sorting through the chatter. It might be fun, but it's not always effective.

A healthy dose of skepticism rooted in fundamental critical thought needs to be engendered while reading through some of this stuff. Quality information which a reference librarian can guide you to can show scientifically "peer reviewed" literature while developing your own sense of didactic reasoning skills.

In the medical or law professions, finding good information in a timely manner can be a matter of life or death and justice or injustice. In our personal lives, as we prepare ourselves to compete in the workforce, missing outdated or incorrect information can be the difference between finding a job, keeping it, growing a business or going out of business entirely.

In short, I think libraries and reference librarians play an important role in our community by enabling individuals to develop a sense of understanding so we can address the challenges that need to be faced in the new century.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Get the jump on your neighbors

Buy a Patriots AFC Conference Champion hat now before the game tommorrow!

A little over-confident? Nah! Pats will rule, I'm not worried. Go PATS!

Green schools initiative

One sore spot for me is the new HS extravagant use of energy, around $100K in electric bills the first year for instance. It appears that conservation and saving power and heat were not considered in the design.

In the future, as energy costs escalate and oil rises above $100 a barrel (not to mention the ethical questions of carbon neutrality in a warming world) we'd be wise to consider efficiency and alternative energy sources for school buildings. The Middle school and crumbling elementary schools are possibilities for this.

It turns out there are programs for this in our great Commonwealth - green schools is one small program and a start for looking at this issue. Here are some more links regarding this issue from the northeast sustainable energy association, including many ideas for making schools greener. Energy cost should be one of the factors we consider seriously for any projects going forward; whole building design link is here.

Thinking and acting progressively in this area will not only save the town money, it will show our commitment to leaving the children with a better world in the future as well.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Computer chaos and a spending freeze

The MIS dept has been in shambles for the town for weeks now. The MIS director is more like MIA and it has to be affecting the ability of the town to do it's daily business.

As the T&G reported, there's a spending freeze right now thanks to lawsuits and other issues. Is the town out of money? Not according to town officials, but it bears watching the finance committee to see what the accountant and administrator have to say about all this publicly.

Hmm ... not exactly a good feeling coming from the town government - last one out shut the lights off.

FDA warns of cold medicine for children under 6

Apparently side effects can be life threatening for many cold remedies for children under 2, maybe even up to 6 years old. Something to keep in mind for parents during cold and flu season. They point out, all cold remedies by definition treat symptoms and do not heal the child any quicker since it is a virus.

The reason: There's no evidence that these oral drugs actually ease cold symptoms in children so young -- some studies suggest they do no good at all. And while serious side effects are fairly rare, they do occur.

Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last year reported that more than 1,500 babies and toddlers wound up in emergency rooms over a two-year period because of the drugs.

The medication culture has its limits ....

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Register for the primary - last day!

Today's the last day to register for the upcoming primary on Feb 5th (so-called SuperTuesday).

Here's the calendar from the state.

Get up there to the town hall and register if you haven't already!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ridgeline protection

Interesting but I think useful for those who appreciate our Auburn hillsides. Some towns are now acting to protect their sightlines, hills and ridges from grading away to development. Just a further example of the ability of towns to protect what they hold dear as "character" if you value it.

In Precinct 2 significant grading occurred last year across the way on Upper Stoneville Res for instance as well as the so-called "Auburn Hills" development. It'd be a shame to lose our character as a whole and sell out for the profit of a few.

Here's a good doc from 2005 with an overview of various regs from around the country and their effectiveness.

One example is the town of Wilbraham, although not a particularly effective one. Stowe Vt is also mentioned as an ineffective version. Telluride Co is a better example as well as Lyme and Newbury NH.

In some places in California they have been done very well in terms of preserving ridgelines, although there is also the issue of mudslides out there so there's a very real safety impact as well. The two in NH are closer to our situation so it demonstrates a good model for a town like Auburn.

Here's an example where such laws were upheld in California:

The “Ridgeline Ordinance,” as it is sometimes known, imposes special permit requirements on grading projects in the Santa Monica Mountains. It was adopted to provide additional protection to the Santa Monica Mountains after a spate of unregulated grading projects caused significant environmental damage.

The Court of Appeal decision, Land Use Preservation Defense Fund v. County of Los Angeles, No. B190846, puts an end to efforts by objecting landowners to overturn the ordinance on legal grounds. The plaintiffs specifically contended that the Ridgeline Ordinance conflicts with a so-called “Grandfather Clause” in the County’s Santa Monica Mountains North Area Plan, a section of the County’s general plan. According to the plaintiffs, the “Grandfather Clause” exempted all existing legal lots in the mountains from new regulations such as the Ridgeline Ordinance. The Court of Appeal found the plaintiffs’ interpretation of the Grandfather Clause “unreasonable,” noting that plaintiffs’ interpretation would effectively nullify many policies in the North Area Plan calling for more stringent regulation of grading and ridgeline development. The Court of Appeal also rejected arguments that the intent of the Grandfather Clause could be distilled from an ambiguous conversation between several supervisors at the time of enactment, rather than by reading the clause in the overall context of the Plan.

The Court of Appeal also rejected the plaintiffs’ claims that the County should have prepared a new or supplemental environmental impact report rather than rely on a previous EIR certified at the time the North Area Plan was adopted. The Court found that substantial evidence supported the County’s conclusion that the Ridgeline Ordinance would not have any environmental impacts that had not already been fully evaluated in the previous EIR.

Worcester airport access via Rt 56

There's a story in the T&G about resurrecting the idea of an exit on MA 90 (Turnpike) at the intersection of Rt 56 in Leicester. The intent is to make access to the Worcester airport easier. I couldn't agree more with this.

There are several reasons why - if you look at a map as the crow flies it's one of the closest points that 90 intersects a major roadway. There's also room on Rt 56 to do things properly with little disruption of the denser populations in Worcester and Auburn. Selectman Brennan in Leicester is looking at this as a potential to drive business and investment in Leicester.

Hopefully this gets explored further because it's a logical place to do it. I applaud selectman Brennan for courageously proposing this!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Another tainted milk death

Pretty scary stuff - listeria deaths from drinking Whittier farms milk.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Whittier milk

This came out a few days ago - Whittier Farms has shut down operations due to contamination with listeria. Two people have died from ingesting contaminated milk from the dairy according to Mass Department of Public Health.