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 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 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. 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.