Thank you, US Taxpayers!

Thank you all for the sacrifice and work put into the Recovery Act. I’m very thankful for the millions of dollars that taxpayers across the USA are (or will be) paying to help improve the infrastructure, and especially the roads, here in eastern Massachusetts. Our commonwealth government is putting the money to work right now resurfacing plenty of roadways and repairing some of our elderly bridges – and they even have a nifty map showing you where your money is going.

I now can thank you every day, since there are some key stretches of Rt. 2 and a handful of roads in Belmont that had been pretty bad, which are now beautifully smooth and bump-free thanks to these extra-special Recovery projects. Although, I’m not sure if I should thank you, the taxpayers, or if I should really be thanking your children for their future contributions. I’d better thank some other of our descendants now too, I suppose, just to be sure it’s covered – thanks!

A big shout out to the town of Belmont, which just this week took the Recovery money to heart. I’ve been enjoying the super-smooth new curve of Blanchad Road, even with it’s new traffic calming devices. (Make that Blanchard – but one of the construction signs used to say “BLANCHAD RD UNDER CONSTRUCTION” for so long I kind of got used to it.) And parts of Park Ave and a few stretches near down town are much much better than they’ve been for years.

No, what I really have to hand it to Belmont is for going all out – right down to the dirt. Yes, about half of my drive through Belmont on the way home tonight was on dirt roads. All the way dirt – nice and dusty, with plenty of leftover gravel to jump up at the windshield, and big ruts to make for an interesting ride. I’ll be sure to remember to avoid driving in Belmont for the next week or so until they can bring some major routes back up to paved status. 8-(

Happy Evacuation Day!

Well, at least to those of you living in Suffolk county, which is the only place it’s officially celebrated. Huh – I didn’t realize that Cambridge and Somerville schools also have it off!

HT2UH.

I sense an imbalance in the force

A couple of unusual things have happened in the past two days which make me suspicious that there’s an imbalance in the force. That, or I’m just stressed and tired from overbusy $dayjob work, ApacheCon planning, and social events coming at the same time.

  • The Lexington (MA) Stop & Shop has no smoked salmon. OK, they have a little: two brands, one of which is out of stock and the other had 3 four oz. packages left. How can a major Lexington Stop & Shop not have smoked salmon to go with my bagels?
  • When googling “zeff photo coupon belmont, ma”, one of the top 10 hits was to the Star Bulletin, the online version of a Hawaiian newspaper. How in the world did a listing for a local Belmont, MA photo store get into a newspaper in Hawaii? Even so, why would it be relevant?
  • Trying to choose between a super-compact point-and-shoot camera with at least a 5x zoom lens, it turns out that none of the local camera shops carry the camera I think I want, the Sony DSC-T500. Sigh. And of the other models I’d consider – the Nikon S60 and one of the ELPH’s – no camera shop nearby has both models in stock to see in person.

Color me curious that something odd is going on today.

I take back my night is dark posting

Wow – what you get for not reading the news is not realizing that about one million of your fellow New Englanders are still out of power from yesterday’s ice storm. Between that and reading tales of woe in Boston-area commutes (just heavy rain here, not ice), I’m really thankful we stayed around home today!

I thank the gods for the sea breeze. We live close enough to the coast around Boston that we get Boston weather, which is notably different from Metrowest weather a mere 6 miles to the west. Summers are cooler, and winters are warmer than just on the other side of the ring of hills. Hey, isn’t there a historical/geographical name for this ring of hills (most of them drumlins)?

Score one for Ning – some locals have created the Ice Storm Help Network already. Neat. Sadly, if your power is out, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to participate in the network, at least sans iPhone. And even then, I wouldn’t be surprised about cell towers being out.

As for us, we got our christmas tree this morning at Mahoney’s in Winchester, and the weather was cool but nice. They have all the usual holiday displays and plants – it’s actually a great place to walk around in the winter, since you can meander through the warm greenhouse when it’s cold outside. And this year they have a couple of really cute displays of stuffed animals from Hansa. Not only are the stuffed animals very detailed (and cute), they’re laid out in a couple of spots complete with plants all around, almost like a jungle (in potting supply greenhouse) or christmas wonderland. It took a while to get our little one away from all the fun.

Vote TODAY! / Are you kidding me?

What’s all this fuss I hear about the youth of today saying don’t vote in today’s election?
It’s their civic duty to vote right now! They’ve got to get out to the polls and make their voice heard. Who cares about a little snow today, you can walk to the polls if you have to, I’ve done it in my day. But there’s no excuse for not casting your ballots today – you need to…

{Chevy Chase} Uh, excuse me; Miss Litella. The election is NEXT Tuesday, not today.

{Miss Litella} Pardon? I thought I saw that Ohio was voting today.

{Chevy Chase} No, presidential elections always occur on the Tuesday following the first Monday of November. It’s still October.

{Miss Litella} Oh. Never mind.


Yes, I’m planning to vote absentee today, since on election day I’ll be volunteering at ApacheCon. But looking at the ballot questions we have here in our great Commonwealth, I wonder: are you kidding me?

Question 1: Are you kidding me? Sure, you could vote yes on 1 if you:

  • Don’t have children
  • Don’t ever plan to have children
  • Don’t need an well-educated workforce in 10 years
  • Don’t drive across many bridges around here
  • Don’t plan on getting sick

While the MA government machinery could use improvements, I’ll go so far as to say it’s reckless to blindly chop 40% of it’s budget in just two years.

Question 2: Are you kidding me, dude?

Isn’t the main difference between alcohol and marijuana legislation an issue of social history? From the medical perspective, I’m really not sure I get the “danger” of marijuana, especially compared to alcohol. I don’t necessarily buy the specific ways they wrote the proposed legislation, but I really do wonder why it’s legally so bad to smoke something that’s likely to be notably less bad for you than alcohol will be. (Note: smoking in general – yuck! Feel free to do it downwind.)

Don’t get me wrong: I definitely recognize the larger danger of MA passing 2 and “semi-legalizing” marijuana. I foresee some of the rest of the nation screaming to kick us out of the union, since that’d clearly mean Massachusetts liberals have taken yet another crazy step past equal marriage, and we’d no longer be fit to be seen with. In the short term, this would be disastrous for Massachusetts, given the expense of importing everything across hostile borders, like food (Florida oranges), workers (southern New Hampshire), and sports teams to oppose (New York). But in the long term, this would be a huge blow to the rest of the country, for being deprived of our revolutionary spirit, and the graduates of Harvard, MIT and all the rest.

Question 3: Are you kidding me? What year is this?

Haven’t we done this before? In terms of fundamentals, I’m not sure I see the huge social connection and benefit of dog racing outweighing basic decency to animals. Again, I question the timeline and the details of the legislation, I’d be happier with more details, and thorough plans to make transitions for businesses and dogs alike. But I think I have to plead the dog’s case here, although I have to admit I’m a cat person myself.

In terms of the rest of the races, I’ll just point out a beautiful photo of a ballot (absentee).

A Belmont Coffee Disaster, Entirely Frustrating

Gratuitous Hyperbole Is Just Kinda Like Metaphorically Nebulous Oratory… and then I lose it. Most of you may agree I lost it a little earlier in the alphabet.

One early morning commute recently I stopped in Belmont center to pickup breakfast on the go: venti latte, and next door a bagel with schmear, excuse me, cream cheese (it was Bruggers, not Einstein). Several items in the shopping trip and afterwards caught my attention.

First, it was crowded – which shouldn’t surprise me, it’s morning commute time. But that gave me time to realize that I didn’t quite belong in that particular Starbucks: I was clearly on the wrong side of the highway. With my half-open and scuffed sandals, shorts, and an interesting yet obviously not stylish enough Hawaiian shirt, it was clear my dress code didn’t match up to Belmontian standards. I was glad to realize that the suburban beautiful people – while far more stylish and scented than I – still had to wait in line for their triple venti soy misto extra hot drinks just like I did.

Brueggers was less crowded and less stylish overall, patrons and store alike. They do feature salmon cream cheese, and chewily tasty if not excellent bagels. I was rushed making a decision, and opted for salmon on a pumpernickel bagel, wanting a savory breakfast. The plain (sliced) rosemary olive oil bagel I got for an afternoon snack was better, and is a rare treat in their bagel line up.

Sadly enough, breakfast was not destined to go well. While the pumpernickel was reasonably satisfying, it completely does not go with salmon cream cheese -even when the cream cheese shcmear is disappointingly small, as it was on that day. It was also rather difficult to eat, doing the splooge thing as chewier bagels are wont to do.

More importantly, before I got to work for breakfast, I spilled my coffee! I’d had part of it on the commute, but somehow – and I really don’t have any idea how, since I’ve never done that before – it popped out of the center cupholder and spilled on one floormat in the back of the car. Thankfully the top stayed on, and it was completely caught on the floormat. It was a doubly disappointing disaster, both in botched breakfast, and in cleanliness: I’d just had my car detailed in preparation for selling it.

Did I mention I’m selling my BMW, and looking for a new E36? Yes, it is clean and very shiny, and no, the floor mat (rear on the left) does not smell like coffee anymore.

My Mid Summery-Day Commute

A few observations driving to work mid-day the day before Patriot’s Day (actual).

  • How long does it take to build an Appleton? Seriously: just how long has there been a long row of contractor’s trucks parked atop the peak of Appleton St., on the Boston side? At least 2 years. They coulda built a whole new section of Tory Row by now, and it’s hard enough to drive up that street after shopping at the Fancy Stores for nibbles on my way into work.
  • Who’s getting buried today? Not to begrudge the funeral procession on Mt. Auburn their due respect at all, but I waited for a detail cop (actually doing useful traffic direction work – imagine that!) to wave me on as no less than 4 cycles and one police car (Cambridge, I think) escorted a hearse, limo, and count them: about 3 funeral-marked cars. Musta been someone important.
  • The tourists were out, at least a few. Sadly, there were no where near enough Bostonians jogging Memorial as I would have expected at 12:15p! That’s good, because a pair of construction workers were eating lunch on the bikepath across from Mahoneys, excuse me, across from yet another Harvard building.
  • I did not specifically see people smiling, but then again I was driving to work. I also did not appear to be stuck behind any of the gross of MA licensed drivers who are reportedly 100 years of age or older, nor did I see any buses on fire, Fung Wah or otherwise.
  • I did not eat any Solyent Green. Although I have seen an unusual number of references to it, without having seen the meme until I Googled it just now. Are people worried they’ll be eating a touch of the great Charlton Heston (R.I.P) in their Wheaties this week?
  • I also did not see any electric longboards chugging uphill on Appleton St., either, although this link is worth a read. Although I suppose the Tories discourage that kind of behavior in their neighborhood.

Who’s all going to what Patriot’s Day celebrations? I salute all the reenactors who help bring this important holiday to life, especially the early risers and them’s that celebrate it on the day, as opposed to just doing it right before the Marathon.