Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I've got a secret

So don't get me wrong I love Northwestern DA Elizabeth Scheibel: a successful woman, as such a great role model for my young daughters and of course that rarest of breeds in this state--a Republican.

But damn, she can be ultra-conservative when it comes to releasing information. And my friends at the Springfield Republican are correct when they editorialize that letting public documents like the Fire Department incident reports see the light of publication can possibly help with the investigation as readers may remember something in their neighborhood that occurred around that time.

Besides, the audio tapes of the emergency dispatch are already on the web. Here we are days later and she will not even confirm the names of the two dead citizens long ago confirmed to the media by family members.

Long time readers of this site may remember me breaking the story of the investigation into the horrific bus accident in Amherst that claimed the life of a two year old. My ultra-reliable sources confirmed both Amherst PD and State PD accident reconstruction teams concluded it was an accident and by mid-May the DA had both reports on her desk, yet she waited until September to officially close the case.

The Springfield Republican speaks:

Larry Kelley reported:

And many months later:

Monday, December 28, 2009

A night of terror

Okay I'll admit it again as I did a couple years ago on the floor of Amherst Town Meeting: The only opponent I have ever engaged over the course of my entire combative life that still haunts me to this day--over twenty years later--is FIRE.

I can still taste the smoke, hear the crackle of the beast as it consumed the formerly safe walls of my world and vividly recall the loud flashover explosion that momentarily froze the combatants on both sides.

The conflagration that destroyed my apartment on the morning of Friday the 13th in the winter of 1987 consumed no souls. And, it was an accident.

Unlike the terror attack this past weekend in Northampton with multiple homes and cars torched in the dead of night, resulting in the murder of two innocent people. Like the cowardly terror attacks of 9/11, this too is an act of war.
A closed off crime scene.
Union Street: just around the block

Friday, December 25, 2009

And so this is Christmas...

My God...thanks to Comacast I'm out of Internet for a few days and the Anon inmates take over. Yikes!

Be thankful for what you have. After all, you could be cowering in a cold wet cave in Afghanistan waiting for a 1,000 pound smart bomb to drop on your head.

Monday, December 21, 2009

And so this is Christmas...

Another successful season for Christmas tree sales by the Amherst/Pelham Boy Scouts. And this year, no $1/tree tax from the Town Mangler.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

But their flag is still there

So the Cowls family is calling it quits on their signature sawmill operation that represents nine generations of family blood, sweat and tears. The fundamental business model (and anybody who ever took a Business 101 course knows the 80/20 Rule--where 80% of your profit comes from 20% of your product line) of doing what you need to do in order to survive triumphs, as well it should.

Their main business, the building supply store, will continue on (and with the added value expertise of owners and skilled employees will continue to thrive.) And their vast holding of woodlands are not going anywhere anytime soon.

Alas, whatever the industry--it is simply impossible to compete with folks who sell $10 bills for $7.

The Springfield Republican reports

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Do they really have to ask?

My friends at the Springfield Republican are doing a survey looking for the "top local news story of the decade." One of the many possible responses is: "The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 claim the lives of at least 18 people with ties to Western Massachusetts."

You don't need a journalism background to figure out the correct answer.

The Springfield Republican reports

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Let the scare tactics begin

So just as he did three years ago to lay the groundwork for an ill-fated $2.5 million Proposition 2.5 Override, the Town Manager is already threatening to take a meat cleaver to public safety items. This time it's that most basic of safety measures a civilized government provides to The People: streetlights.

The Town Mangler plans to snuff out half of them to save $50,000. Of course one accident, rape or murder occurring in that new zone of darkness will result in a lawsuit costing 100 times that amount.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

"The sun will come out tomorrow," and 5 years hence

Image borrowed from:

Life in the news delivery world five years down the road will be: a narrative told by a genius, full of the sound and fury, signifying everything (to everybody). Or, a Hell of a lot of data/information from which a viewer can write their own narrative.

Like the previous decade, technology will continue to lead the way, opening doors-although not battering them down-- for innovative, cost effective ways to engage the citizenry and allow them to return engage .

Internet usage by average citizens worldwide will now be as ubiquitous and routine as running water.

Apple computer will dominate the (just now emerging) lightweight portable tablet market as they did with iPods and the iPhone, so consumers will have the best aspects of smart phones, MP3 player, netbook, video camera and e-reader all packaged in a sleek, sexy, easy to use gadget, with almost unlimited battery life.

Google will continue to dominate as an internet search engine and their Wave software allowing for live web streaming of information and real time interactions between providers and consumers of news and entertainment will be standard protocol.

Comcast will continue to dominate as an Internet /Broadcast service provider, but with government regulation will not become some rogue corporate superpower capable of taking over the world. High-speed wireless Internet will blanket the globe.

Newspapers will have survived, but most certainly not thrived. The gatekeeper role of the Fourth Estate is almost completely extinct. Big players-Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Times-will still be cranking out print editions, but more and more of their readers will be viewing them on their portable tablets via the Internet.

The war between Google/Yahoo/search engines and newspapers will have ended with a strategic alliance allowing readers worldwide a "fair use" of a newspaper's website, thus continuing to drive traffic to them--but readers wishing more than casual perusal will pay a reasonable amount for the content.

The clash between Citizen Journalists/Bloggers and Professional Journalist will FINALLY be over, as more and more of the crotchety, ink-in -their -veins editors/publishers die off a la Thomas Kuhn's 'Structure of Scientific Revolutions' prediction.

Professional journalists will be far fewer but they will be cream of the crop, and legions of Citizen Journalists will fill in the gaps-especially with local news. Those Citizen Journalists will have rudimentary training and certification from a private non-profit (Knight Foundation?) giving them increased credibility with readers.

Almost every town or city boroughs with a population over 10,000 will have a local portal to provide news, weather, entertainment, and reams of data all packaged on an interactive platform based on Google Wave.

The word "breaking" in breaking news will take on new meaning as almost any event anywhere in the world will occur within eyeshot of somebody with a device to capture and transmit the event to a worldwide audience as it happens with "universal translator" software instantly translating words and text into their native language.

In other words: it will all be good.

Friday, December 11, 2009

David Pollack remembered

So it was one of those serendipitous virtual/real world interactions this evening when my family and I went out for dinner at the Amherst Brewing Company in the heart of downtown Amherst, and the tables next to us became a gathering spot for friends of Dave Pollack commemorating the one-year anniversary of his exceedingly untimely demise.

Earlier in the afternoon a firefighter had dropped off a memorial t-shirt at my Club (that most of the folks sitting next to us were now wearing) to thank me for remembering Dave, when all I did was post a photo and heartfelt text that he had provided.

As friends who knew him better told stories and raised their pints, I remembered that old Irish blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A fitting tribute to Lt. David Pollack, Ph.D.

It has been hung on the wall at North Station since the day Dave graduated. His father accepted his Ph.D. on his behalf on May 22nd.

Dave and his family received a standing ovation from every single person in the Mullins Center... I have never seen anything like it before. Every faculty member, student, family/friend stood and applauded for what seemed like minutes...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

NIMBY Experiment

Two years ago Amherst spent $8,000 on temporary speed cushions for Lincoln Avenue as an "experiment in traffic calming", and they were about as effective as whistling Dixie in slowing traffic from superhighway Rt. 9 over to Umass, the number one employer in the Valley.

Then in September the town placed concrete barricades to outright ban traffic from the final few hundred yards to Umass, the number one employer in the Valley. The response to that "experiment" was almost unanimously negative--to the point of outright nasty.

And unlike snarky cowardly Anon commenters on blogs, these folks (over 100) actually identified themselves.

So I'm a tiny bit surprised Phil Jackson--lead architect of all things Lincoln Avenue--showed up at the Select Board meeting to request official results of the most recent "experiment" that went as awry as anything Dr. Frankenstein created.

Outraged voices

Election snooze

Since Senator Kennedy did me a couple of B-I-G favors over the past 25 years, I should be more excited about voting for his replacement. But I'm not.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Shedding Photons

Lights by Walmart
Electricity by WMECO
Tree by God
Best of all: no tax subsidy.

Never forget.

“I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”
Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto

“With confidence in our armed forces - with the unbounded determination of our people - we will gain the inevitable triumph - so help us God.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Shedding Light (but not a lot)

So I'm far from an art aficionado, but less far from a Yankee farmer with some degree of common sense. The art project "Shedding Light"--sponsored by the Amherst Public Arts Commission--strikes me as pretty dim.

It simply looks like Bob The Builder is inside preparing to go to work.

The Bully reports

Friday, December 4, 2009

Come all ye faithful

So last evening, for a few moments anyway, the seriousness of world and national events--more troops in Afghanistan, Tiger Woods indiscretion, party crashers at the White House--were forgotten. Drown out by a chorus of Christmas songs.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Death Star christened

About a month after it finally opened (a month behind schedule) the gigantic, gleaming $52 million recreation center received a formal unveiling this afternoon with Chancellor Holub and President Jack Wilson (neither of them dressed in work out clothes) doing the honors behind a podium in front of perhaps 85 dignitaries, while all around them a couple hundred students exercised inside and a half-dozen Grad students on the outside protesting a 300% fee increase for their membership.
Jack started his speech with an off-the-cuff joke about Grad students keeping in shape.

Since the center was financed by "student fees", undergrads work out free. Professors, Graduate Students and just plain old Alumni can join for anywhere from $125 to $200 per semester (up from a previous $40).

But these rates are comparably--if not slightly lower--to area private sector health clubs; well, except Planet Fitness but their rock bottom pricing is far from industry standard, although that still can't compete with "free".

Now you know why I call it the Death Star.

Nice to see the local building inspectors mess with everybody!

"Real Revolutions" indeed!

“In real revolutions things get worse before they get better. .. One of the bad things I think is going to happen is, I think civic corruption is just going to rise for towns and regions of under about half a million people. Which is to say, I think the old model of the newspaper is going to break faster than the hyperlocal civic reporting can come in its place.”

I commented to my online journalism discussion group that I hated to disagree with such a New Age Internet/Journalism Guru like Clay Shirky but, Citizen Journalists and Bloggers would indeed continue to shine a spotlight on civic government. After all, most City or Town Council's meet only once a week.

My Professor said we're both right. That in little old Western Massachusetts, Citizen Journalists could help to fill in the void, but almost everywhere else Mr. Shirky's scary prediction is on the mark.

And I could not agree more with my friends at the Springfield Republican: Nobody does investigative journalism better than newspapers.

Springfield Republican provides the perfect example

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The making of a Merry Maple

As they have done seemingly forever, Shumway & Sons Landscaping (a venerable Amherst surname, in business seemingly forever) donate their time and expertise to decorate the official town of Amherst, errr, Holiday Tree.

And yes, now that a Commenter reminded me, the Merry Maple dates back to at least 1968 because--how could I forget?--Hollywood came calling that spring to film "Silent Night, Lonely Night" and turned the town common into a winter wonderland.

The ARHS glee club got to sing, errr, holiday carols around the tree and if indeed Shumway did the decorating, they probably got paid a decent amount that time. The Amherst College Archives & Special Collections even has a box of clippings covering the momentous event.

The Bully reports