Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Monday, August 30, 2010

Sure Feels Like I Am Being Gouged

Since we are a tourist town, and since we are at the junction of two major interstate highways we have a great deal going for us.  Some already in existence, and more to come.  Some good things, and some things that are not so good.

Case in point:  This past week Mary filled her gas tank in Leominster for $2.45 / gallon.  I filled my tank here in Sturbridge, at the Mobil across from the Picadilly, for $2.79 / gallon.

Thirty four cents difference.  Not three to four cents difference, but thirty four cents.  The other towns in our area are low, too, but not as low as Leominster.  They were at least twenty five cents lower.

Well, the first thing you are thinking is, "Well, duh, Wally, you are filling up at the most expensive place in town."

I know.  No excuse.  When I drive by Cumberland Farms, which traditionally has one of the lowest prices in town, it is usually filled with cars, and so the next place is the Mobil.  Poor excuse, but when the difference is ten cents a gallon I can live with it.   The difference is getting much greater, and now the Pilot gas station on old Route 15 is the least expensive in town, not Cumberland Farms.  One would expect the Pilot to be more expensive since it grabs the tourists right off I-84.

Until now I could justify a "convenience fee" for myself, but no longer, the price difference here in town is too great.

I have to wonder how the Mobil can justify their price.  Doesn't matter really, they will charge what they can for as long as they choose to.  When a products price varies so greatly in a small locale one has to wonder a bit.  I, on the other hand, have to change my ways.

They say it takes thirty days to start, and embed a new habit into your regimen.  I'll let you know how I do around October 1st.  Last evening I took the family out for ice cream at Friendly's, and then for gas at Pilot.

I know, I know, I am just too damn fun.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

So, That's What They're Doing

Well, I found the answer.  Ever since last January I have been wondering whatever happened to the move the Pioneer Brewery was going to make from the Hyland Orchard to the old Basketville, and now I know.

Soon, we will have some suds to go with our subs at Subway in the Millyard.

"Sturbridge Brewery Reworks Plans


A Central Massachusetts brewery with an eye toward expansion has had its “certified project” status revoked by the state Economic Assistance Coordinating Council.
Officially, certified status was revoked because Pioneer did not submit an annual report for 2009 to the EACC.

Basket Case

But that’s because the brewery was using the state’s Economic Development Incentive Program on a project to purchase and refurbish the former Basketville building at 413-419 Main St. in Sturbridge, an effort the brewery has abandoned, according to Jean Bubon, Sturbridge town planner.
Pioneer Brewing is located in the Fiskdale section of Sturbridge on the grounds of Hyland Orchard, but has planned to move away from the orchard since late last year.
Under the EDIP, businesses can take advantage of local real estate tax forgiveness, and an investment tax credit from the state in exchange for job creation and expansion.
Companies that run afoul of the little-used program generally do so by not living up to job creation numbers or failing to submit annual reports.
Pioneer was going to pay about $600,000 for the 12,000-square-foot former Basketville building, but it was going to cost almost another $600,000 to renovate.
The building has been vacant for about three years and has fallen into disrepair, Bubon said.
Instead of taking on that project, the brewery has signed a lease to move into 15,000 square feet at the Millyard Marketplace shopping center, at 559 Main St. Bubon said the move could happen in September, and “the investment they’re going to have to make in the building is minimal.”
Bubon said the brewery has been looking to move from the orchard to a location in the town’s commercial and tourist district for months.
Late last year, it was reported that Pioneer was moving from Hyland Orchard to Main Street and that Chris Damon, the orchard’s owner, would run a separate brewery at the orchard.
That move was supposed to happen in March, allowing Damon to brew beer under the Hyland name, a practice that was discontinued under Pioneer management."

A sports bar at the brewery would be neat.  Hint, hint.--ed

Friday, August 27, 2010

"Marge, They Must Be Running A Special On Stupid Pills Up There In New Hampshire"

Seems that a lot of folks had the dose on their Stupid Pills increased lately.  For instance, there is a couple from New Hampshire, Suzanne and Todd Connell,  that happened to be at SeaWorld back in February with their 10 year old son, and witnessed the trainer, Dawn Brancheau being pulled by her hair into the water by a Killer Whale, and drowning.

I can't imagine being witnessing something as horrible as this as an adult, never mind as a child, and neither can this New Hampshire couple, they are suing SeaWorld  for the trauma the tragedy caused their son.

"There seemed to be no plan as to what to do to save Dawn," the lawsuit said. "The SeaWorld employees were acting in an unorganized and chaotic manner."

Ya think?

Oh, I don't know, maybe Dawns family should be the ones suing since Dawn was obviously the one traumatized the most. No matter how you argue it, the victim is the looser, the witnesses don't even place.

Accidents, and tragedy's are just that.  They happen. It's life.  Unfortunately, a lot of the time they happen when someone is looking.

Give the kid a hug, show him you love him, and be there if he is scared,or has worries.  That's what parents do.  That's what you should continue to do.  Money won't give you the power to do it better, or longer, or with more emotion.  The money would always be the money that the kid was paid because he watched a girl get killed by the whale, and nothing more.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Know Your Audience

When a plan is to be presented for an event, or a project, it must be tailored for the audience it will be shared with.

Well, that certainly makes sense.  Tell a fairy tale to a toddler, and one presents it a bit differently than if a similar story is told to a seven year old.  Different understandings.  Different expectations, and different responses.

Same is true when explaining about a municipal project.  A presentation to a bunch of engineers would go one way, a presentation to local residents would be presented another.

Know your audience.  This is a basic.  Adapt your information for your particular audience.  Engineers won't have the same questions, as residents would.

Something else to keep in mind about large public projects is what are the  cost/benefits.  Will the benefits from the completion of the project justify the cost, and just what are those benefits?  Will the project correct a poor situation, a problem, a bad design, poor construction, or just be an overall good improvement?  Each part of the project must be addressed.  The project, as a whole, can be summarized, but specifics are then needed, otherwise it will come back to bite you on the arse.  Those specifics must be tailored to the audience.

A historically bad intersection will be rebuilt along with several other during a large road rebuilding project, and we assume that it will be rebuilt better, and will have a better design, and function just as all the other intersections are being built.

We all know about assumptions, and we all know what assuming anything without asking questions will get us.

It will get us into a jam similar to the one we are in now.

We need to keep in mind a couple of things.  One is to ask for information in order to fully understand something.  We don't do that, though.  Goes back to grammar school, and many of us didn't ask questions then either.  The other thing we need to be aware of is that besides asking questions is that those folks in the know need to be fully aware of every aspect of the project in order to accept it, and  explain it thoroughly.

It is obvious that a few years ago, when the Route 131 plan was presented to the Town, that those in the know failed to ask certain questions, and assumed that the engineers had addressed issues, and problems.  After all, they were engineers.  We now know what happened.

That all being said, and being unable to change it, what do we do know?

We wait.

I know, it is hard, but we need to give the TA time to follow through with our concerns, and demands for a fix.  It took years to assume things would be right, it will take a little bit of time to plan a fix.

What should we expect?  We should expect that the issue will be addressed by the town in short order, and that they will keep the residents of the town in the loop as to what will be done, and when.  We should also expect that the permanent fix will be more than stop lines pushed twenty feet back, warning signs, or blinking lights.  The fix will involve cutting into the embankment in front of the Center School, possibly having to move the Veterans Memorial a bit, installing a retaining wall, and redesigning the intersection to allow for access onto, and egress from Haynes Street for all size of vehicles, and it will all be done in conjunction with the current road construction.

These are expectations, they are different from assumptions.

In 2010, as in 1758, and our roads need to reflect our usage, and commerce,  but reflective of modern times.

Now, in the meantime, the town needs to look across the street to Maple Street.  Maple Street is an actual street, not a driveway to back of the Town Hall, and the Church as many using it would have you believe.  It has always been narrow, and drivers have not treated it as an actual road.  The diagonal parking alongside the church makes the road that much narrower.

Oh, crap.  Scratch all that.  One SNAFU at a time.  We are still bantering about bricks around the Common.  If we are fed anything else our little heads will explode.

I don't want to be responsible for that.  Unless, of course, we have the right audience.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Seeing With More Than Your Eyes

Pool in Brimfield.
My brother, Kirk, came over on Saturday afternoon.  We had planned to get together for a while so that we could go out on a weekend morning, and take some photographs of the area.

Kirk is a lot like I was years ago.  Boston, Framingham, Worcester, Albany, and then Los Angeles, in that order, and with nothing in between.  Central Massachusetts was a term, not a location.  Although, my brother has lived in the most southern town in Worcester County for 25 years, he seldom ventured out west.  Now he does since his job transferred him to a different facility in Worcester this summer.

A whole new world has opened up for him since the transfer, and as it did for me since my moving to Sturbridge ten years ago.

Yesterday morning we woke up very early in order to catch the sunrise with our cameras.  It was dark.  Really dark.  In recent days it has stayed darker, longer in the morning.  Another sure sign of change, and it will be accelerating.

I took Kirk to Quabog Pond in Brookfield, and we pulled into the parking area at the boat ramp and waited for sunrise.  Well, daylight did come, but the cloud cover prevented the glorious sunrise one would expect for a Sunday morning.

Heron at Quabog Pond
in Brookfield
No worries though.  After the grey sky revealed itself, it also revealed what else was on the water waiting for daylight.  The Great Blue Heron at the left is something we see out here all the time, and is common as pigeons in Milford.  After we left the parking lot we found this one standing in the shallows, so we pulled over and watched him fish for sometime.  They may be common, but they are still wonderful to watch, especially if the curtain of night was lifted from them just for you.

After our encounter, I took my brother on a tour of Brookfield, West Brookfield, Warren, Brimfield and Sturbridge, and along the way I gave the required tour guide speech, my favorite part.  We stopped along the way to capture the scenery in our lenses.

Boston may have their Citgo Sign overlooking Fenway Park,
but Warren has one overlooking their sunflowers.
When one is unfamiliar with what we have at our fingertips here in Central Massachusetts, they will sit back in their seat in their vehicle they are in, and flip their head back and forth like they just left Shawshank for the first time in 30 years.  I love watching those reactions.  This weekend was no different.  Kirk enjoyed himself a great deal, and learned a lot more about the area where his brother's family have made their home.

The scenery in anyplace we are accustomed to can become too familiar after a period of time, but every once in a while something we have not seen before will show itself, and renew our appreciation for where we live.  That can also happen when we are seeing things through another's eyes for the first time.  It happened for me yesterday morning, too.

In the rain along the Quinegbaug River in Sturbridge
Opening our eyes wider, every so often, and really looking around us is the cure when our world becomes too familiar.  The renewed appreciation comes naturally from there.

I have been interested in photography for a very long time, but Kirk has only recently taken to preserving the world around him onto an SD card.  He is becoming quite good, and his eye for further artistic manipulation of an image is something that I never had.  Couple that talent with his virginal exposure to world around us out here,  and you have the ingredients for a long lasting relationship with the land.

Old rail station in Warren
I have said before that we all need to sit back,
take a deep breath, and open our eyes wider than usual, and take in what is around us.  Make it a monthly ritual, it doesn't take long. A few moments of seeing will last for a very long time.

When we do this, we are empowered to not only appreciate more things around us, but to see things from an angle others don't have.  That ability is invaluable to not only us, but to those that rely on our vision, and the input it provides.

The photography may not always be great, but the exercise it provides the head is something I have come to need, and that need now seems to be running in the family.

Photo taken in our backyard taken by my brother, Kirk.

Click on photos for larger images

Friday, August 20, 2010

They Knew, Now What?

Since the issue of the Haynes Street intersection was initially brought up by a reader a few weeks ago, I have written about it a few times, received a lot of comments about the intersection, and received an acknowledgment of the issue from Selectman Tom Creamer.  Tom told me he would find out what he could.

I trust that.  Tom is like a Bull dog when it comes to staying on topic, and finding answers.  During the time I was writing about the intersection I did expect a response form the BOS in its entirety, or at least some acknowledgement from the current TA, not just one selectman working solo.

Anyway, Tom did get  answers, but they are not the answers I wanted to see.  In fact, the answers actually are worrisome, and raise a lot more questions.

Below is Tom's latest email to me from yesterday. Read it in its entirety.  I have highlighted some text that I address at the conclusion of the email.


"Wally, I trust this correspondence finds you well. 

As a follow-up to my phone message left earlier today, I wanted to provide (as promised) a written response relative to the issue you identified at the Haynes Road - Route 131 intersection. 

First, let me thank you for taking the time to bring this issue forward and for your patience while this issue was researched. Over the past week or so since you first reached out to me, there has been ongoing correspondence between the Town Administrator, the project engineers from MassDOT, our DPW Director, and myself. As well there have been conversations between the principles listed above via phone, face-to-face interaction, and at our BOS meeting this past Monday; all aimed at gathering the most relevant, factual, and detailed information available.  

The wheels of government can appear to be moving very slowly, particularly considering that the BOS meets but 3 times a month; rest assured however that there has been a great deal fact-finding that has been undertaken in the appropriate manner by the appropriate individuals. Equally, one must bear in mind that public issues such as this cannot be discussed outside of a public meeting by a quorum of Board members, thus any information gathering or discussions outside of a public meeting are so done independently by each member to whatever degree each may deem appropriate for them to address it publicly when the proper time arrives, that being a public meeting. Thus, the time frame between meetings and the public discussion on public issues can lend itself to a sense of nothing being addressed but rest assured the wheels are always turning. To that end, Board members seek input and guidance from a range of sources and over the past week or so I, with the help of the Town Administrator, our DPW Director, and MassDOT have been able to come to resolution in terms of the necessary information with which to address the concern you have raised. 

Based upon a review of all pertinent materials, as well as a review by the project engineers which concluded today, it has been determined that the difference in the intersection now as opposed to before the start of construction can be measured in inches and is in fact "negligible. Correspondence received today from the Area Engineer stated the following: "The survey section has reported back that everything has been installed per plan or within a tolerance of a few inches."  To that end, further review of the original plans for the project as well as reports from MassDOT and our DPW Director are consistent with information received from the Area Engineer that  "the design/intent of [the] work...was to restore what was previously there". 

Greg Morse and his staff have verified this and a review of the design plans and the actual work that I was able to conduct today demonstrates consistency with the Area Engineer's report and Greg's findings. Now, that is not to say things haven't changed, but merely that they haven't changed to the degree it appears when one looks at the intersection. The most notable difference is that now because of more design-appropriate sidewalks which were once tar, dirt, and grass in some areas with minimal edging, we now the appropriate level of curbing, which in effect presents an illusion of a narrower width. In fact, the Area Engineer stated (and it is clearly depicted on the plans) that previously because trucks were short-turning at the intersection, they had eroded the curbing/berm and were actually driving their vehicles upon the walkway, thus creating their own turning radius. Note this comment from the Area Engineer in correspondence received today: "It appears that there are very minor changes to the intersection. I think that prior to construction there was a very small reveal on the curb allowing trucks to drive over the curb onto the sidewalk to make the turn.  They should not have done this as it poses obvious safety hazards. With the new curbing and the establishment of wheelchair ramps they will no longer be able to do this." 

It is clear from reviewing the information received as well as all of the reports generated by MassDOT that their work has been done consistent with the agreed upon plan, which virtually changed nothing in terms of actual road-width. Clearly, however the turning radius has been somewhat reduced as the appropriate corrections have been made to the curbing along the sidewalks. 

MassDOT on a suggestion recently conveyed to me by a resident in terms of adjusting the stop lines on both Haynes Road (east bound side, next to the Center Office Building) and Route 131 North (next to the library), which may help increase the turning radius by reducing conflict with vehicles. Basically, the stop lines would be moved further back from the intersection to help increase the turning radius.

One is unclear if this approach would address the challenges at said location, as such could only be confirmed via a simple engineering review, but it is used in other communities with success when properly designed and of course enforced. This is not to suggest that the "fix" is this simple, but it is to suggest that there are many variables that can and will be considered and evaluated as appropriate. 

I am grateful that you chose to bring this issue to my attention as I welcome and am honored whenever I am presented with the opportunity to serve the residents of this community. Though, I cannot always provide the outcome that individuals seek, I endeavor always to ensure that their concerns are given the consideration they deserve and that they are met with factual, credible, and timely responses. On that note, I have not forgotten the other issue you brought to my attention some time back, it is merely taking a considerably longer time-frame than I would have expected due to personnel changes. It is however on the radar screen of the appropriate individuals.  

Once again I thank you for providing me the opportunity to be of service. "

So, there you have it.  A well researched bunch of information obtained by Tom Creamer.  What is disturbing is the following:
  • The difference between the old intersection and the new intersection is "negligible".  With the old intersection being as badly designed as it was, and by the engineers own admission, trucks were using the soft berm to increase their turning radius before, why would the design of the new intersection not allow for this since this situation was well known?  Why would hard infrastructure such as granite curbing, and sidewalks be placed on the original foot print of the old intersection thus preventing trucks from making those hard turns?  Who was the Sturbridge expert(s) feeding information to the State engineers?  Who were the Sturbridge folks giving their feedback on the design?  Why would the state engineer stay with a bad old design?
  • The work was to restore what was already there without improvement to a bad intersection.  Why?  Look at the other intersections along Route 131 from Route 20 to the Southbridge town line.  The new intersections look like a Boeing 747 could land inside of each one.  At some, such as Wallace Road, where Savers Bank is, there was some land taking to make the intersection wider to allow for a better turning radius. Why was this not done at Haynes Street, especially since the rehab of the Center School was being done at the same time and the work could be coordinated?  Did they feel it would have a negative impact to the War Memorial?
  • There is an admission that the intersection is plain wrong from the engineers, and a solution of moving back the stop lines admits to this.  Yes, that will be a temporary fix, as noted, but what about the permanent fix, since it is alluded to?
I want to thank Selectman Tom Creamer for the time, and energy it took to find the answers to the basic questions asked.  His follow up, and follow through, is not only appreciated by me, but by others that are concerned about this intersection.  Now, that we know that the intention of the intersections design was never to improve it, but to return it to its previous state with the  further restrictions of granite curbing, and sidewalks, what do we do now?

The intersection is a failure.  A bad intersection one, that is admitted to by the engineers, while other intersections along the newly refurbished Route 131 are getting a well deserved make over.

What now?  


New information now posted.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

It Ain't That Hard

With all the discussion about sidewalks, intersections, and all the properly designed infrastructure  are we forgetting about the sidewalks on Main Street in Fiskdale?  You know the sidewalks, the ones with the utility poles in the middle of them.  The sidewalks that at some places do not allow a wheelchair to pass unless it goes around the pole, and onto the street.
Yeah.  Those sidewalks.  Well, I've been hearing for 10 years that the poles were going to be removed from the sidewalk to make the sidewalks ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant. 

Hasn't happened.  

I have witnessed wheelchairs, strollers, and those electric scooters like Larks, and Rascals struggling to get around the poles.  Sometimes they can, but more than once I have seen them going from the sidewalk and onto the street to circumvent the some poles.

This has been an infrastructure failure since those sidewalks went in, and yet, nothing has happened to correct it.  Yes, every few years it is mentioned, and we get some lip service about it, but nothing concrete, and never a follow up.

Somehow the culture with the Town has made those involved in town government feel invulnerable to the lawsuits, and penalties associated with non-compliance of the law.

We can fix that.

The link below is the Federal Governments web site for the Americans with Disability Act of 1973.  I suggest you take a few minutes to read up on the law.  The Feds are very serious about enforcement.  The problem is they have to know about the violations, and that is where the second link comes in.  That link will take you to the official Department of Justice ADA Title II Complaint form.

It's time.  I am tired of being ignored when I bring up safety issues, getting lip service as if I have the IQ of bed bug, and being given a song and dance by folks that don't have the rhythm to do it right.

I've said it recently, I bring things to the attention of those that can affect change.  If after a time the changes are not addressed, and the safety of residents, and visitors is still at risk, then it is time to go a step higher, and that's where the Fed's come in.

So, today you have a choice.  You can either continue to wait for a response from the town about the issues that confront us, or take a step in correcting at least one issue by completing the ADA complaint form.

We need to keep in mind that the government is of the people, by the people, and for the people.  We are the people.  Our representatives answer to us, and if we want something as small as answers, we should get them ASAP.  

As with anything, our actions may not evoke an immediate change, but what this posting, and your actions it does is make the issue a matter of public record so when the issue does come up in the future as a result of a lawsuit, or penalty there is no denying it.

As residents, and citizens, we deserve to be treated with respect, not as annoyances.

Don't ignore us.  It's really simple, when a question is asked, or a concern voiced, or a plan is asked to be discussed then answer it, acknowledge it, and discuss it.

It ain't that hard.

"ADA Enforcement

Through lawsuits and settlement agreements, the Department of Justice has achieved greater access for individuals with disabilities in hundreds of cases. Under general rules governing lawsuits brought by the Federal government, the Department of Justice may not sue a party unless negotiations to settle the dispute have failed.

The Department of Justice may file lawsuits in federal court to enforce the ADA, and courts may order compensatory damages and back pay to remedy discrimination if the Department prevails. Under title III, the Department of Justice may also obtain civil penalties of up to $55,000 for the first violation and $110,000 for any subsequent violation."  -- Source Department of Justice ADA Homepage

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Warnings And Responses

"Low Bridge".

 "Yield" signs.

Brake lights coming lighting up on the car in front of you.

Someone yelling "Fire!" in a apartment house.

A prison tattoo on your date reading "3 Strikes and I'm Out.  C'mon #3!".

These thing are all there to make one aware of something that may be dangerous, and your job is to react appropriately.

Ducking, slowing down, running out of a building, and pretending to be dead with the tattooed date, are all ways to avoid a problem.  The warnings are merely that, warnings.  They are only there to make the one aware so that they can make a decision.

Sometimes I am that "Yield" sign.  I'm only there to make others aware of an issue, or a real, or potential problem.   Sometimes I may be way off base, other times I am right on the money.   I don't have the power to correct it, others do.  I'm just the guy that will tell you your pants are on fire.  What you do with the information is up to you.  Hopefully, you will do the logical thing

The sign to the left is great for a couple of reasons.  It warns you that the bridge is low. If you are driving to fast to read it, or don't believe it, the yellow sign will strike your vehicle if it is too tall.  The words, and the impact should be enough to warn you if your vehicle is too tall, and cause you to change your route.

It should, but as with most warnings, they are largely ignored.

Last week I wrote of the dangerous intersection at Haynes and Main Street.  I am not sure why I wrote about it.  I've written about Arnold and Main, New Boston and Route 20 before, and both of those intersections are treacherous.  One was the scene of a double fatal accident a few years ago.  I've written, and nothing has been done.  No, I don't expect immediate change, but what I do expect as a resident of this town is acknowledgment, and a plan.

I expected it last week when I wrote about Haynes Street.  I got a couple of emails from a selectman, and that was good, but nothing else.  No acknowledgement of the problem from the TA, or the Board of Selectmen as a whole.  I don't need the acknowledgement made directly to me, but something in the paper would be nice.

So far, I've heard bupkis.

I could go on a rant.  I could yell and scream, and not get off the subject ever.  I could become a general annoyance, but that is not what I do.

I offer the warning.  It is now out there.  It's public record.  So, if the intersection is not corrected right now with all the equipment right here, and it is left as it is then where will the Town stand when something bad happens at the intersection?

We know where it will be standing.  Up to its neck in quicksand, probably standing on some bricks.

Warnings, and responses.

Excuse me, Sturbridge, your pants are on fire.

August 18th

Things To Do List

  1. Call Dad and wish him a Happy Birthday.  
  2. Keep iPhone close by, and ringer on, in case I get an email, or call from someone about the what they are thinking at Town Hall about the intersection of Main and Haynes Street, and what the plan is to be.  
  3. Write about it when I get that email/call.  
  4. Write about it even if I don't, but with an entirely different slant.  
  5. Mow the lawn.  
  6. Shopping
  7. Haircut  

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Part II: Home Projects, Happiness, and Cable TV

Ta Da.
"Who's the man?  I'm da man.  Woohoo.  Awright now.  Lookin' fine."

Sorry, did I think that out loud?
Note to self:  Positive self talk is a good thing.  Talking to ones self is not.  

Click Here for earlier post.

Home Projects, Happiness, and Cable TV

I like to have something to do.  I don't like overwhelming, never ending, nothing-I -do-makes-it-better projects.

Been there.

One way to avoid those kind of situations is to stay on top of things as they present themselves. A leaky pipe needs a plumber, or you, if you know how.  Peeling paint,  out of control bushes, uncut grass, cats that need spaying all require attention, and if they are not allowed to pile up, that overwhelming feeling is never there.

Making a to do list and being in control.  It's a great feeling.

Then there are those of us out there that are married to someone that has their own ideas, and shares them.  Sharing.  Lots to be said about that, but one thing that is a given is that it comes with the vows.  Sharing is good in many ways.  It eliminates surprises, and that is good in any marriage.

"Who's the little kid?"
"He's your son."
"Thanks for sharing."

Timeliness in sharing is optional.

The corner cabinet where the TV will be
Installing a LCD TV under a kitchen cabinet is something I would never have considered.  The kitchen is a one task place for the like of me.  If there is something I want to watch on TV I used to run like heck to the kitchen, and then back to the couch during commercials like most of America.  Now, with DVR technology I just pause the program.


However, there are some people out there that actually multitask in the kitchen, and a TV would be a nice thing.  I wouldn't know about that.  I can open the fridge, wash dishes, make a sandwich, and boil water, all of which take a lot less time than watching a program on TV, so a permanent LCD in the kitchen is something I would never have thought of.

Mary thought of it, though, and onto the list it went.  Right to the top of the list (see vows).

So this is how I will spend the morning today.  Should be simple enough.

  • Determine location.  Mary told me where (again, see vows).
  • Determine easiest, least destructive way to run the television cable.
  • Run the cable.
  • Mount the TV under the cabinet.
  • Connect the power, and the cable.
  • Figure out the remote control.
  • Turn on the TV.
Now, if all goes well, there should be a tiny 10.2 inch Digital LCD TV running flawlessly under the cabinet in time for Mary to view when she comes home from work today, and this tiny project, this little thing, will make her happy.

Seeing her happy does the same for me, and has nothing to do with the vows, but is one of the  reasons I said them.

Monday, August 16, 2010

One Secret To Living Longer

This summer has had some really hot, dry weather.  The water ban was put into effect back on July 5th when the Quinebaug River flow gauge at the Westville dam registered under 47.2 cubic feet per second for three consecutive days.
The ban is still in effect.

So, when the skies get all dark and muddled, and it looks like a tornado is brewing to the northwest of our house over in Warren, I go outside and find a good, safe spot, and wait for the storm.
The rain will do us good is like saying, "...but it's a dry heat". Yep. That's true. Conversation starters about the weather are the most inane.
"Cute baby."
"Thanks, but the heat affects him badly."
"He gets hot with the heat?"
"OK then. Gotta go."

Sometimes, the clouds keep moving due east, and onto Shrewsbury Street, and other times the thunder slowly picks up like some shut in tympani wanting attention.

Those are the days I like. I really enjoy it when the skies open, and the Great Lakes are deposited onto our yard, the thunder scares the whiskers right off the cats, and the lightening is so intense that it casts shadows in the day light.

Times like this are designed to let you know that you are still alive, and part of the world. I don't appreciate being nagged, but reminders like these are welcome. Things like this make life more enjoyable, and may allow me to live longer.

Another reminder that will help me live longer is Mary calling out from somewhere inside the house, "You had better wipe those wet, grassy shoes before you come inside this house".

It's all about enjoying the moments, and doing what you can to have a lot more of them.

I'm better at wiping my feet now, and that is the real secret to living longer.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Kharma.  Yeah, that's it.  That'll protect me.  Kharma.

I'd feel better if MADOT was involved, too.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Some Thoughts Over Coffee

For the past two weeks I've felt it at times, and around the second of August I saw it in a few trees along the turnpike in Weston.  I look for the signs every year, and this year is no different.  I feel the temperature falling at night, the humidity lifting for more than just a day, and I saw a vertical line of reddened leaves in some maples in Weston on the the westbound side of the turnpike one morning last week.

I'm not worried, though.  I'm not saddened, either.  I am glad I am still around to see, and feel the changes.  To be aware enough to pick up on the slightest flicker of color change, to feel the air become lighter, dryer.  Some days I can plow through the hours like everyone else, and get caught up in scheme of the day, the plan of the week.  I try not to overlook the changes about me, and I will eventually recognize them sometime during the day.  It is a game in a way.  It is an adventure moving through one period of my year, and into the next.  In my mind, I see a circle.  Some envision a long line with a beginning, and quite naturally, an end.

I avoid the "end" part with a circle.  I may not be able to  avoid the "end" part forever, but as long as I keep going in circles I'll feel as though I can.

It all depends on where your head is at each day that determines what you'll see, feel, hear, and experience that day.  Those inputs will determine how you react, perform and treat others that day as well.  It all starts with just being aware, and acknowledging what is around you.

It's getting late,  I've got some catching up to do.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Students Are Students

Some things don't take a lot of thought, but some people don't do a lot of thinking so there is a disconnect.  Sometimes those people  deserve to be dope slapped.

Teachers that allow themselves to be found by their students on Facebook, and actually add the students to their friend list deserve that slap.

The line forms to the right.

Why?  Well, Facebook by it's nature is a venue to announce to the world what one is doing at any particular moment, post photos of those moments, and comment on others moments, photos, and videos.

Simple enough.  Kinda neat really, and you can choose just who to share those times with.  You can share with everyone, only friends, or only particular friends.  Just like in the off line world.  And, as in the real off line world a teacher would not roll into class on Monday morning, sit down at their desk, take a deep breath and tell the class all about their weekend with a special friend.

But, some do, on Facebook.  Some teachers actually add their students to their friends list on Facebook, and those friends are privy to all their goings on.  Most are harmless, a lot are private.  Either way they should not cross over the teacher / student  boundary as it recently did in Manchester, New Hampshire.  Now, there are exceptions as with most everything, but for the life of me, I can't think of one.

It is a bit about privacy, but in the case of the New Hampshire teacher and how she shared herself with students on Facebook, it is about safety, too.

Something to think on this morning.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tap, Tap, Tap... (Ahem) We're Waiting ...

One way to know if you are taken seriously, or not,  is how others respond to what you think, write, or say.  Some choose to ignore the obvious.  Blocking is a defense mechanism that many people use everyday.  It helps one to cope through stressful times.  Another way is the response time, or reaction time. This is the time it takes a person to respond once they have received data, or a stimulus.  When only one answer is possible response time is almost immediate.  When the receiver of the data, or stimulus takes longer, they are reviewing their options, or other possible answers before responding.

This can be very telling.

When a particular situation about public safety is presented in an open forum, and acknowledged by local government, one would expect a response as to when the situation would be addressed, and just how the situation would be addressed.

This is only a normal expectation.

When a response is not made, then one has to determine if the issue is just not being taken seriously, or those that you expect to respond are just blocking.

It does matter.

One thing that does not change is the fact that the situation has been brought to their attention, as well as the publics, and when a bad thing happens as a result of the situation not being fixed it will all fall on those that chose to ignore it, and the town will pay.

Sharing information has a way of attaching responsibility to those that rightly own it.

Sturbridge, we own this problem, and we need to fix it.


Who Wants To Be The Host For This Game Show?

Badly designed intersections are all over the world, we don't hold a candle to what India, and some other countries deal with, but some designs do.   Preaching to drive defensively, and "eyes on the road driving" is still the right, and best thing, but we also need to make sure our infrastructure doesn't hamper the very safety we preach.  When we are aware of an error, or mistake in our design we need to correct it, not put up signs to deal with that  bad design.  Anything else would be unforgivable if a tradgedy occured.

In the video below, who do you imagine would be responsible for spinning the wheel here?  If we act now,   and correct the problem, despite the cost, we are back to not enabling tragedies, and preventing them.

This public service video is from New Zealand. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Dear Mr. Suhoski, Welcome To Sturbridge. Tag, You're It.

After I wrote the posting about the intersection of Haynes and Main Street I  forwarded the posting to Selectman Tom Creamer with an "FYI". Sometime later that day Tom forwarded an email to me he had received from Shaun Suhoski, and Greg Morse:

Message Mon, Aug 09, 2010 3:08 PM

From: Shaun Suhoski
Greg Morse
To: Tom Creamer
Cc: Greg Morse

Subject: Haynes Street intersection width

See the background from Greg below on the width concern you forwarded earlier. I'll share the background with the entire Board as they may also receive questions.
Please consider the environment before  printing this email.
---- Original Message -----

You have a limited Right of Way width that the State owns and you introduced twelve feet of sidewalk where there was once eight or less and that is where the conflict begins. This coupled with a sewer line air release chamber (in ground) and a existing traffic signal make the widening of the intersection difficult and extremely expensive. The Town may well need to adjust trailer truck traffic patterns on Haynes Street if safety/pedestrian concerns dictate the change. This project is approaching $800,000 dollars to 1,000,000 dollars over cost as is, without changing sewer lines (high point) and traffic light signal poles. If you were to address all design problems/issues you would need to take the abutting home by eminent domain to correct the opposing turning issues. There was a public meeting for plan review prior to the work going out to bid. Complaints could have been brought  to Town or MADOT at that time. Please note the project has been on the transporation T.I.P. for many years prior to bid making for a tight budget.


Well, now we're getting somewhere. The road IS more narrow because of the sidewalks on both sides of the road, a sewer line air release chamber, and an existing traffic light. It would be "difficult and extremely expensive" to fix.

Looks like where we are today was known way back when the plans were first out.  Why was it allowed to progress, and not be corrected back then?

Greg also makes note of the public meeting prior to the work going out to bid, and that complaints could have have been made to the Town, or MADOT then.  I'm not a civil engineer. I would have no clue what the blueprints showed, or how that information would affect me. That is why we have experts in the towns employ that have the education, and experience to look at a plan and see that it was going to be four feet more narrow than it was before.  Obviously it was know back then, but for some reason the experts felt that it wouldn't be an issue.


How did the experts think emergency vehicles, school buses, RV's and trucks were ever going to access that road? It is very obvious that the experts missed  the boat.  Since the experts were aware of the road narrowing back when the plans were first being discussed, and chose not to address it then this sounds to be a bit more than just "missing the boat". They did not correct what is now a major mistake, and is going to cost even more money for the town to correct.

The house on the corner, I believe, is part of the National Register Historic Places, and the Historic District, and cannot be taken, or torn down.  So, that leaves moving the sewer, the traffic light, and taking a piece of the Center School front yard in order to fix the problem.

Or, we can ignore it, and just put up a sign prohibiting RV's, School buses,and trucks from going down Haynes Street from Main Street, and vice versa. We also need to tell the residents, and business owners down there that emergency vehicles may be a bit delayed in getting to them as well.

Bottom line is that a fix is needed. It will cost money. Best time to do it is now while everything is torn up, and the equipment is here, and accept the fact that we will be paying for it for awhile.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Free Admission to Old Sturbridge Village Friday, Aug. 13

Highland Street Foundation sponsors “Free Fun Friday” at OSV
(Sturbridge, Mass.) August 9, 2010:  Free admission to Old Sturbridge Village is offered to all this Friday, Aug. 13, part of the “Free Fun Fridays” sponsored by the Framingham-based Highland Street Foundation.  Based on record attendance at other museums participating in Free Fun Fridays this summer, OSV is adding extra staff and resources for the day, and anticipates many first-time visitors to the living history museum, located in Sturbridge, Massachusetts.
The Highland Street Foundation began “Free Fun Fridays” last year to benefit children and families, and to celebrate the foundation’s 20th anniversary. This summer, the foundation has arranged for free admission at 25 different museums around the Massachusetts.
Old Sturbridge Village, famous for its historians in costume and heritage breed farm animals, has more than 40 antique homes and buildings, three water powered mills, a working farm, heirloom gardens, and two covered bridges. Admission is free on Friday, Aug. 13, and the Village also offers stagecoach and riverboat rides for $3 each, and a variety of hands-on “make and take” crafts, starting at $5 each. Old Sturbridge Village has a full service bookstore, gift shop, and two on-site dining locations and is open from 9:30 – 5:00 p.m. Details:
“This is a wonderful chance for families from beyond the region to experience the entertaining and educational hands-on fun we offer every day at Old Sturbridge Village,” notes Ann Lindblad, OSV vice president of communications. “We applaud the Highland Street Foundation for its generosity, especially in this difficult economy.”
The late David J. McGrath, Jr. started the Highland Street Foundation in 1989 after growing his staffing firm, TAD Resources International, from a one-man operation to a global company that sold for more than $380 million after his death.  Since its beginning, the foundation has awarded more than $100 million in grants for initiatives in the arts, education, the environment, and housing.
Normally, admission to Old Sturbridge Village is $20 for adults, $18 for seniors, and $7 for youth 3-17. Sturbridge residents and children 3 and under are always admitted free.

Old Sturbridge Village
Contact: Ann Lindblad 508-347-0323

Sturbridge, We've Got A Problem


Someone sure screwed up.  Really screwed up.

Looking south onto Haynes Street the intersection does not
have enough width to allow turns onto, and from Main Street.
A couple of weeks ago, during all the hullabaloo about bricks, stonewalls, concrete someone made a comment about the intersection of Haynes Street, and Main Street being too narrow to allow a large truck, or a tractor trailer unit turn onto Haynes Street from Main Street.  The reverse is true as well.  A large vehicle, or trailer coming out of Haynes Street does not have the space to make a turn onto Main Street in either direction.

The radius needed to turn is just not there.

How can this be?  There is no restriction as to what vehicles can use Haynes Street so it must be designed to accommodate all vehicles.

This is very strange.  The road designers went by the book for a rural intersection since Haynes Street is not a freeway that would require them to design a wider "mouth" for the intersection, but they ignored two important facts that would have mandated a change in the design:

  • Haynes  Street was built wider, with a wider shoulder years ago when it was no longer Route 15, and  I-84 was built.  It had become a "feeder road" for I-84 for car, and large truck traffic.  As a feeder road the design for its intersection would be different.  A rest area was built for cars and trucks that houses Sbarro's and Roy Rodgers, and years later a much larger truck stop was built on the road, Sturbridge Isle, now Pilot.  It is natural to assume that large vehicle and local truck traffic would use this intersection since they use the road constantly.
  • The re-construction of the Center School at the this time that Route 131 was also being rebuilt would have been an excellent time to redesign, and build a wider intersection at Haynes and Main Street.
So what do we do now?

Well, unless we address the mistake immediately we will be living with it forever.  They will place will place a large yellow sign on Haynes Street warning truck drivers not to drive any further toward the center of town, and advising them to turn around or get off onto I-84.  There will be trucks that drive to the end of the road, and attempt to make a turn.  There will be knocked over signs, traffic light posts, and flipped over granite curbing, and that is only the minor things that will happen.  What you can guarantee will happen is a tractor trailer will attempt to make the radius going into, or coming out of Haynes Street, and not be able to pull it off.  It will be stuck.

Shades of Storrow Drive.

Tire marks, chipped and displaced granite curbing indicate that
there have been problems with the turn already.
The curbing has already been damaged by the tires of heavy trucks and has been knocked out of place.

I think we need to solve this brick/concrete sidewalk issue ASAP so that we can put our energy towards this intersection dilemma even faster.

It would also be interesting to hear from local government, and Mass DOT regarding this intersection right about now.  I think some explanation is forthcoming.  Who knows, there may be an excellent explanation.

Maybe, but I don't think so.  I think they are flummoxed by this as we are, and will have to think hard, and run fast in order to fix it.

I'll be waiting to see what comes next.

Click on photographs for enlarged view.

For more information about road, and intersection design here in Massachusetts go to:

MassDot Project Development & Design Guide  Chapter 6 Intersection Design.  
Download print version for review, the web version does not work as well.