Monday, April 30, 2007

Springfield Clean Up Day

Springfield Cean Up Day 2007 was scheduled to commence on Saturday, April 28th, come rain or shine. Thankfully, we were spared the former. But as I drove to my appointed meeting place, a heavy fog draped the buildings of downtown, and I remember saying to myself, "come on, give us a break...."


Below is a short video of the day as we cleaned up sections of the South End.

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(info from Keep Springfield Beautiful)

Recap of the Great American Clean Up on April 28th:

- 47.25 tons of miscellaneous trash picked up by the DPW.
- 2.83 tons of televisions and monitors.
- 4.5 tons of metal to be recycled by Jos. Freedman.
- 4.5 tons of tires brought to Jos. Freedman dumpsters for recycling.
- 108 tons of bulk waste in the Waste Management dumpsters.
- 3.42 tons of litter collected by the Parks Department.

Grand Total - 170.5 tons (341,000 lbs) of trash removed from the streets and vacant lots of Springfield on Saturday, 4/28/07 (reaching the target).

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Friday, April 27, 2007

Shriners in the City

I was on one of my walks downtown yesterday (Thursday) when I came upon a detour sign blocking off Main Street as I crossed Falcons Way...

Initially, I have to admit, I was a bit annoyed. "What kind of public relations show do they have going on now?" I thought. Politicians love their face time with the media. Luckily, I had my camera on me, so I decided to investigate while taking a few photos. As I got closer, I saw a tent up ahead of me. But I still wasn't sure what was going on...

As I drew up beside the event, however, its purpose became clear: It was the Shriners Circus guys! My cynicism quickly evaporated and I took a couple of more photographs as I walked on by...

The Shriners is a great organization that has done a lot of good things for a lot of people - especially kids. They'll be performing this weekend, in fact, at The Eastern States Coliseum.

Sadly (for me), I would have no problem getting into that little car, above, and driving away.


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Thursday, April 26, 2007

U Say "Web Site" - I Say "Website"

A couple of weeks ago, I pondered to myself, "what is it with everyone referring to a website as a 'Web site' [two words] lately?" Many, many years ago - back in the mid-nineties - I remember folks using "Web site" at a time when most people had no idea what one was. Back when I started creating webpages (1996), the single-word usage was just starting to be used, and I had always used it that way ever since. But now the two-word usage seems to be making a comeback. This is puzzling to me, and so now every time I see website spelled as two words, a little "what the fuck?" thought balloon floats over my head.

After all, if "webpage" is one word, and "homepage" is one word, then how did "website" suddenly morph into being a two word noun again?

So I decided to look it up. And what I found out is that both spellings are correct. So - whoop-dee-do - I'm sticking with the one word spelling. It's more consistent in relation to other 'tech' words like "homepage" and the now popularly spelled "email." (Note the loss of the hyphen in email.)

Here's the notation that I found at
"Usage Note: The transition from World Wide Web site to Web site to website as a single uncapitalized word mirrors the development of other technological expressions which have tended to take unhyphenated forms as they become more familiar. Thus email is gaining ground over the forms E-mail and e-mail, especially in texts that are more technologically oriented. Similarly, there is an increasing preference for closed forms like homepage, online, and printout."

There are many other words that started out as two words and morphed into one. "Dumbass" and "jackass" come to my mind immediately (sorry). "Dumbass" can still be spelled "dumb ass," but "jackass" evolved into one word a very long time ago. And then there's a bunch of words whose usage depends on whether they are nouns, verbs, or adjectives. Before my brain fogged over, I decided I'd just link to this nifty little webpage here that gives several examples. I also found this other site which helped me out (or confused me more, whichever).

There are some words, too, that I could never picture as ever being spelled as a single word. Ethnic references, for example, will probably always be hyphenated - at least in my lifetime. I just can't imagine "African-American" as ever being "Africanamerican." (And I've always considered the two-word usage of African-American to be "black person.")

Well, before I get totally lost in my own explanation of how confused I tend to get at times, I think I'll bring this post to a close.

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Missing Persons in New England

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Newly Found World May Have Water

I stopped by earlier tonight and I just wanted to pass along this news link: New Planet Could Harbor Water and Life.

The story concedes that neither water nor life has yet been detected on the newly discovered world, but that it does orbit around its parent star in the so-called "Goldilocks zone" - the distance from a star that is both not too far and not too close to support liquid water. The planet is 50% larger than the Earth and five times as massive. The parent star, a red dwarf, is much dimmer than the Sun and only about one third as massive. The system is approximately 20 light years away from us.

I love this stuff!


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Trash Fee Bill: English Speakers Only

Well, I received my trash fee bill a couple of weeks back and I've finally taken the time to give it a good look before signing over my money to the City of Springfield. The instant I examined the notice, however, I found myself shocked - stupefied beyond all comprehension, actually - by the fact that the bill came in a mere single language - ENGLISH!

Of all the insensitivities!

Was this some terrible plot on the part of the City government? Some inexcusable administrative blunder? How could this have escaped the leering gaze of our community PC watchdogs? Perhaps, I pondered then, my Latino and Vietnamese neighbors received their bills in their native languages? (But no. I later found that a single line located at the top of the notice, which appeared in three languages - Spanish, Vietnamese, and Russian - actually instructed non-English speakers to get an translator, of all things.Thanks a lot!)

The truth to this insulting omission, I suspected, was something far more mundane than some evil conspiracy: Budgetary constraints. Nowadays, however, in our "progressive" and ethnically sensitive society here in the hinterlands of Western Massachusetts, one should reasonably expect to see all our government correspondence delivered to us in every single language in the Western World, as well as Vietnamese, Laotian, Arabic, and Somali. Expenses be damned! Doing anything less would merely display our Western-chauvinistic, Euro-centric Imperialist bias.

How dare we!

What happened, by the way, to the brightly colored bill - like the one we received the first time? My new bill was on plain white paper. Sheesh. I did think the new name for our city service, "City Haulers," was pretty catchy, though. We should get a roller derby team named after them!

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Missing Persons in New England

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Human Brain Has Origin in Worm

At last, my long-held suspicion has now been confirmed: According to a recent article, scientists have determined that the human brain originally came from a common ancestor of our (very) distant kin, the worm.

Researchers once thought that the central nervous systems of vertebrates and invertebrates evolved separately, after our evolutionary split. But new research on the marine worm Platynereis dumerilii, whose nervous system has gone unchanged "for eons," has shown that the developing central nervous system in both the worm and we vertebrate folks are identical.

From the LiveScience article: "Our findings were overwhelming," says study team member Alexandru Denes. "The molecular anatomy of the developing CNS [central nervous system] turned out to be virtually the same in vertebrates and Platynereis. Corresponding regions give rise to neuron types with similar molecular fingerprints and these neurons also go on to form the same neural structures in annelid worm and vertebrates."

"Such a complex arrangement could not have been invented twice throughout evolution, it must be the same system," said Gáspár Jékely, another team member. "It looks like Platynereis and vertebrates have inherited the organization of their CNS from their remote common ancestors."

This is exciting news for me, as I have often pondered the distant kinship of we humans and those squirmy little thingies that borrow through the soil. Sure, they got stuck with neuron strands for brains while we got these big, complex organs with which to contemplate our place in the universe. But in the end, we are all just mere creatures of the Earth. It's kind of humbling, actually.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Adventures in Gardening

The Latest from the New England Rogue Journal:

"Well, Springtime is here! And that means it's time for me to screw up my garden again. Each year brings me new challenges - and new disappointments - in my quest for a pretty good harvest."

Read The Story Here

- Strange Sites, Indeed
- Dead Blog Cemetery
- More stories from the Rogue Journal

At New England Rogue Journal

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

"" Coming to Springfield

So I fired up my computer this morning and I found this e-mail from the folks of "". It's from their Media Coordinator, Wayne Andrews, who just wanted to let me know that representatives are coming to Springfield during the month of April.

What the hell is ""? Well, in the press release that was included in the e-mail, they say they are the "online home of the homeless," and that they travel the country talking with street folks and featuring them on their website. So now, apparently, it's Springfield's turn. I surfed on over to their website looking for some updated news. There they had a "Street People Invade New England" story where they mention that they are scheduled to make an appearance on the "Bax & O'Brien Show" on April 20th (8:05am). So I'd look for them to be roaming our streets at about that time.

As for the website itself, it has a blog style to it, with updates from folks chatting with the vagrants they've met up with. The most recent post was for March 4, 2007. And naturally, they have a "PayPal" donation button there. I was tempted to donate 50 cents, but then I figured that - like all good vagrants - I would only be encouraging the website to spam my inbox begging for more.

They also mentioned in the press release that the group had been on "Good Morning America," which led me to believe, of course, that they had actually been guests on the nationally broadcast morning show. This turned out to not be the case. At the site, I clicked on the "Good Morning America" link to find that they had simply put up posters and signs around an outdoor stage area where the GMA folks were prepping a broadcast featuring Justin Timberlake. Oh well... some kind of exposure is better than none, I guess.

Anyway, it was good to see from their GMA post that Springfield is not the only city plagued by an oftentimes overzealous population of vagrants: "We showed up at 4:15 a.m. and there were already a hundred or so people standing in front of the stage, though a good portion of people were still out and drinking from the night before. And of course there were a couple of street-people hanging around, asking for cigarettes, change, etc. You can't sling a dead cat in this town without hitting a homeless person...unless you're actually looking for one and then you can't find them. They're sneaky that way."

The website was actually created by two office workers from Memphis, Tennessee, and was meant to add a little satire to the subject of street people, while at the same time getting word out about the "social phenomenon" of homelessness. The press release went on to say, "Being panhandled is something everyone that lives in a city understands. Our site is an outlet for that part of our culture showing that some people really need aid and others are just scam artists."

Well, I know all about the scam artists. In the City of Springfield, fifty cents won't buy you a cup of coffee - but it will get you accosted by the folks I sometimes refer to as "the roaming residents" of Springfield.

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Missing Persons in New England

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Brianna Couture - Spfld Elks "Citizen of the Year"

I had the privilege of attending a Springfield Lodge of Elks event which honored 15-year-old Brianna Couture as their "Citizen of the Year." Brianna is a very brave, well-spoken, and intelligent young lady who offers her time as a spokesperson in the fight against Mitochondrial Disease, an affliction that she herself suffers from. In a time filled with so much bad news and sorrow, Brianna's story reminds us that there is still much good in the world. She is an inspiration to everyone - children and adults alike.

To learn more about Brianna and Mitochondrial Disease, stop by the below links.

- Springfield Lodge of Elks "Citizen of the Year" Brianna Couture
(the above link includes a video)
- (Mitochondrial Disease Action Committee)

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Yet Another Balancing Act

I learned this little routine - not actually a trick, because there is no slight-of-hand - back when I was a just a kid. This means, of course, it's been around a while, so many of you may already know it. You can't just do it anytime - you have to have the right utensils handy. But it's a good eye-popper for those who are easily marveled ;-)


Okay, let's start with the props:
- One drinking glass (it must be glass, not plastic or paper).
- One spoon.
- One fork.
*The fork should be the same weight - or close to - as the spoon.
- One toothpick.
- One lighter (or a match).

The execution:
First, interlock the spoon and fork as shown in the photo, below - with the two inner fork prongs below the spoon (as you are looking at it), and the outside prongs on top.

Next, insert the toothpick so that the spoon and fork are balanced. You may need to adjust your spoon/fork assembly to get the proper balance. You will then need to balance the toothpick on the rim of the glass. (Your glass can be smaller than the one pictured, as long as it can hold the weight of the spoon/fork assembly without tipping.) Try to get the spoon/fork assembly as far out as possible, to add to the dramatic effect.

Now, some people marvel at the mere balancing act itself. But we're not finished!

Take your lighter (or match) and light the inside end of the toothpick, as shown in the photo, below. The toothpick should burn all the way to the rim of the glass and extinguish on its own when it gets there. (You can tap away any charred embers.)


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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Of False Alarms & The Litter Bug

Wednesday morning, the sound of sirens alerted me to the possibility that something was a-miss in my neighborhood. Firetrucks sped onto my street, and - what do ya know? - parked just a few houses down from my house. Quickly, I pulled on my sneakers, grabbed my camera, and ran out the door...

Fortunately (or unfortunately, if I were a member of the paparazzi), the call turned out to be a false alarm. The call had been for the white house, seen above. By the time I got there, the firemen and police at the scene were already relaxed and chatting. I asked one fireman if it was a false alarm, and he nodded and said "yeah."

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Meanwhile, Springfield's saga with overflowing dumpsters continues. I could take photographs of illegal dumping and overflowing trash bins every day and never have a problem seeking out subjects. It is not that the dumpsters are occasionally overfilled and I just happen to get opportunistic photographs. The dumpsters in my 'hood are almost always overflowing just a couple of weeks or so after being emptied. And they stay overflowed for another week or two thereafter. The one pictured below is on Central Street, just up the road from the neighborhood's worst litter offender, the Northern Heights apartments. I could take a picture of this same dumpster each month, and it would look the same each time.

Overflowing dumpsters are a nag of mine because it leads to scenes like the one below. That littered lot is the result of weeks of nearby dumpsters and trash bins being left over-filled, where the loose trash on top just blows around to the neighboring streets and yards. Practically every day I have to police my yard for trash blowing in from neighboring bins and dumpsters - primarily the ones being stuffed over-full in the parking lot of the Northern Heights apartment complex on Central Street.

The dumpsters in Springfield need to be emptied when they are full, not when some arbitrarily set pick-up time comes along. Repeat violators of the city's litter ordinances need to be fined. The dumpster companies or property owners need to be told that their dumpsters must not be filled beyond the brim of their containers - period. And if they are repeatedly overfilled, then fine the company or property owner. And fine them for every housing unit that uses the dumpster. So if an apartment complex has 20 units, we fine the company or owner $500 x 20 = $10,000.

That's what I would do, anyway. But I've been told I'm a meanie when it comes to ordinance violators. Either that or my expectations of city ordinance enforcement - you know, the laws the city wrote, for whatever reason - are just entirely unrealistic, gosh darn it. ("We can't do that..." [sob])

I think if the City took such strong action in these matters, the mass violations would end immediately. We need to send a clear and strong message to trash container providers and/or property owners: If you do business in Springfield, or utilize trash containers or dumpsters on your property, then you will do so responsibly. If the City does not take such action - if we refuse to crack down on repeated trash offenders - then any efforts to reduce the immense litter problem in this city will only have temporary, short-term results. And the massive illegal trash dumping and disregard for littering in our communities will continue.


Springfield's Clean-up Day is slated for Saturday, April 28. I tried a few months back to get involved with the "Keep Springfield Beautiful" group that's organizing trash pickups throughout the city, but their meetings were on weeknights, when I'm working, so I was unable to attend them. Recently, I called to inquire about joining up, but all I got was their voicemail. I left a message, but they haven't got back to me yet. In any event, from reading their website, it looks as if they're looking for groups of people to sign up, as opposed to individuals. Oh well. If anything else, I can just grab a couple of trash bags on my own and walk down my street. They'll fill up quick enough.

I'll send you'all a picture!

UPDATE! I recently received an invite to join up with the "Keep Springfield Beautiful" folks. That's great news! I even get a T-shirt and a free lunch out of deal, too. (I wonder how many homeless people will be helping out?)

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Missing Persons in New England

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Monday, April 09, 2007

A Visit to 52 Westminster Street

Last week, Jim Boone, President of the Springfield Preservation Trust (SPT), invited me to come along on a tour of the house at 52 Westminster Street, in Springfield, Massachusetts. The visit was scheduled for Saturday, April 7th, at 1:00pm, and our tour was to be hosted by the Rev. Maxine Moore, the Paster of St. Mark Methodist Episcopal Church, which is the the owner of the 52 Westminster property.

I arrived shortly before 1:00pm, and I was met there by Jim Boone. Soon afterward, about a half dozen other members of the Trust arrived to join us. While we waited for our host to arrive, we talked and snapped pictures, and we also took a little stroll around the exterior of the property.

And so 1:00pm drifted by...

A couple of neighbors noticed us at the property and stopped by to talk with us. Both were entirely uninterested in any restoration of the old house. Their sentiment is entirely understandable - who would want to walk out each day to be greeted by such a neglected and blighted property? Still, the SPT was there to gather information about the house's interior, and also to urge the church to either sell the property or take action to renovate it.

1:15pm went by....

The house at 52 Westminster had been used as a church for much of its history. Jim showed me a photograph of the house from the 1930s, back when it was in fine condition. It's a shame that owners of such properties - with such rich histories - feel the need to let them fall into such a dire state of disrepair.

1:20pm went by....

The neighbors complained that drug dealers often park in front of the property to sell their drugs, and that drug users will use the back-side porch to do their drugs. The neighbors said they have repeatedly called the police on such occasions, and the only way they felt that such activities would stop is with the demolition of the old house. The property is actually on the City's list of buildings targeted to be brought down. So the clock is ticking on this small piece of Springfield's history.

1:30pm came along - but unfortunately, our host did not.

Jim Boone received a call on his cell phone. It was Bill Devlin, an SPT member, who had just had a conversation with the Reverend Moore: Who are all those people [attending the tour]? she had asked him. (Bill had called to inquire about her whereabouts, mentioning that a lot of folks were waiting.) Unfortunately, the Reverend said she had just plum forgotten all about our visit, and she wasn't dressed yet, and she hadn't checked with the trustees of the church to OK our tour of the house, and... well, you get the picture. There would be no tour.

Oh well. Below are some photographs I took of the property while we waited for our no-show host. And at the bottom is a brief video tour of 52 Westminster Street. You can also check out a video done by Joseph Fountain last month at the site. Mr. Fountain is an interested buyer, but the church, unfortunately, has not returned his calls.

rear view of the house

side-rear view

front view

St. Mark Church (owners of 52 Westminster)

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Missing Persons in New England

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter Bunny Deemed "Too Christian"

In an act of PC stupidity too ridiculous to even rant over (for long), the Tiverton Middle School in Tiverton, R.I., has banned the Easter Bunny, and instead installed the name "Peter Rabbit."

The superintendent of the school, William Rearick, was apparantly worried that children of other religious backgrounds might be offended by the bunny. Typical of secular warriors from all over America, Mr. Rearick did not wait for any complaints of any kind to herald forth from the children (or their parents) themselves. Instead, he bravely took up the cause of Progressive Elitism and made the stand on his own.


Personally, I could care less if a public school has an Easter celebration. But either have an Easter celebration, or don't have an Easter celebration. And if you do have one, and a bunny rabbit shows up, he would be the Easter Bunny.

What are they going to call the Easter eggs?

Happy Easter Everyone!

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Outside The Springfield Museums

A quick tour of the Springfield Museums, in Springfield, Massachusetts. Springfield is the home of The Dr. Seuss Museum, The Seymour Planetarium (which is "the oldest American-built planetarium in the world"), and The Basketball Hall of Fame, which is located nearby the Museums, on East Columbus Avenue, next to Rt91 North.

Approaching from State Street, a stroll around the inner courtyard (detouring to see the Dr. Seuss Memorial), and finishing at the Museums' front entrance on Edwards Street.

The Springfield Museums will be free for Springfield residents beginning May 1st, 2007. Visit the Museums website here.

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Missing Persons in New England

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