March, 2004 Archives

Living in South County, I am subjected to the usually boring “South County” section of the Projo. This past week though, with the threat of a big box development, there has been a really interesting series of articles about the citizens of Hopkinton standing up to their town planners and town council about the idea of rezoning their town to ban these big box stores.

From the Projo:

Main Street in Hope Valley is lined with buildings that are typical of small-town New England.

There’s a country store, a one-bay service station, an antiques shop, a First Baptist Church. Sprinkled among them are homes — ranches, capes, and larger styles, most dating back at least 50 years.

These days, in Hope Valley and other parts of town, there are also little white signs. Their message, often just three words, is emphatic: “No Big Boxes”

On Monday, a group called Hopkinton First was getting ready to attend the Town Planning Board meeting and recommend that they “approve smaller, village style commercial zoning that would ban big-box stores at Exit 1 and preserve the rural character described in the town’s Comprehensive Plan”. That night, they and more than 350 “fired-up” residents attended the meeting.

The Board listened to the residents, and voted 5-0 to approve “a mixed-use commercial zone that would limit structures to 30,000 square feet”. Excellent.

However, all of that was useless, because last night, with a vote of 4-1, the Town Council voted to leave Hopkinton’s zoning unchanged, allowing the big box development idea to move forward.

“It’s just disappointing,” added Mary Meher. “It’s pretty clear that this just doesn’t reflect the people’s wishes.”

Yeah, I’d say that pretty much sums it up. Walmart coming soon!

Sad Day for Hopkinton

Go check out this picture from a Massachusetts church on Brian Hull’s site. Now go back and look at this picture. Remind me again which side of the same sex marriage debate is supposedly destroying the fabric of society?

In addition to my old site designs, I found some other cool things buried in my F:\ drive, including something my Prov Development friends might get a kick out of. Here’s what the Providence River may look like once the 195 span is gone (you’ll have to imagine the new bridge in the background, and mentally place a riverwalk on the west bank…)

no 195

I made this in 2001 from some webcam images taken from atop the Fleet Building. For reference, here’s what it looks like now:

yes 195

Neat, huh?

By the time you read this, the Devil Rays and Yankasses will have officially inaugerated the 2004 baseball season. First pitch: 5:16am eastern standard time. Why so early? The game is in Japan.

The rest of the teams won’t get started in games that count until this Sunday, but I’ve decided that it’s very important that I catch the absolute beginning of the Season to Top All Others®. Plus I drank a late cup of coffee and I can’t sleep, so a 4am local start time isn’t really affecting me.

The first pitch of the 2004 season… a strike to Derek Jeter! If that’s not a good omen for Sox fans, I don’t know what is. Of course, Hideki Matsui, Japanes hero, slaps a double, obviously using his Japanese powers strengthened by home soil. A-Rod’s first appearance in pinstripes ends in style: he strikes out. Obviously thinking about Jeter too much. ‘Roid Rage Giambi comes up and of course hits a home run, which just proves that he should eat some bad sushi. I’m not going to do play by play, since a 2-0 lead for Mike Mussina against the Devil Rays doesn’t sound too promising.

I do want to mention that local phenom Rocco Baldelli (who Em and I are convinced will someday play for the Yankees) is a major hit over in Japan. It’s unfathomable to me that a kid who used to play high school baseball against my classmates is a freakin’ rock star in Tampa (and, apparently, the Far East). He strikes out in his first at bat. That one’s for you, Em.

Oh, what do you know, Rudy Guliani is there. I don’t see Billy Crystal… yet. Any bets on whether Ben Affleck shows up in Baltimore this Sunday?

Anyway, the This-is-the-Year Red Sox World Championship Season (vol. 86 and counting) is underway, and I couldn’t be happier. Well, a Yankee loss would make me pretty happy…

Play Ball!

Wow!

I was digging through my labyrinthine file folders, sifting through 3+ years of images and documents, when I stumbled upon all the old versions of this website, from the original design (and original 2 posts!) to the design I made for a website I put up for Emily which I subsequently stole for bil.com, to the precursor to the current incarnation you see today.

I’m really glad I had these saved, it was almost like finding a 3 year old time capsule. In the future, when this website is a flying car, we’ll look back on these old designs and laugh. Ah, memories.

Blasts from the Past

The Massachusetts legislature got back together again to see what they could do about amending the state constitution to ban gay marriage. Earlier today they came up with a compromise amendment that will begin the amendment process. It’s a pretty interesting proposal: “The revised version adopted Monday would ask voters to simultaneously ban gay marriage and legalize civil unions — rather than taking those steps separately. It clarifies that civil unions would not grant federal benefits to gay couples.” (from the AP).

Essentially it’s a put up or shut up to both sides. Are you really for gay rights but against “marriage”? Well here’s your chance to prove it. Are you really interested in legal protections and not grand social change? Here’s your chance too. I haven’t worked out all the implications in my head, but this seems to me a very crafty piece of legislation.

I’d vote against it, of course, but I am against any sort of amendment to any sort of constitution on this issue. The question is, what will the Jesus people do (wwjpd)? This could be their only chance to block gay “marriage,” but it comes at the expense of what they see as legitimizing homosexual relationships. Same sex marriage backers don’t have much to lose, though, because if the amendment fails, the SJC ruling that homosexuals can marry their partners would be in effect. If it passes, well at least there’s the state rights and protections they gain from civil union legislation.

Should be interesting to see what the reaction is to this proposed amendment. It still has to pass this legislature (which, I assume it will) and the next session before it will even be put to a vote among Mass residents. The ride continues…

Very Eeeenteresting

Name the top three newscasters you trust the most to give you the straight facts. Is Jon Stewart on your list? He’s on mine. That certainly says something about the times we live in, doesn’t it? Frank Rich has an article in today’s NY Times about how deeply involved the government is in the Fake News Industry (and that’s not even including Faux/Fox News Channel). It’s not too long, definitely read it. Since I follow the President pretty closely, I tend to lose focus of the big picture on how Americans are “handled” by the government, this is a good reminder.

Infoganda

The Red Sox start playing the games that count in a scant 9 days. It’s getting spring-y in New England, daylight savings time begins next weekend, and baseball starts the next day… how awesome is that?!

There’s not much going on in Spring Training, Trot Nixon’s out for a while, there’s not a lot of drama as to who will make the team, everyone’s pretty much ready for the season to start. Since that’s all boring, here’s a picture of a girl in ads for some online travel site. The ad is an animated gif that changes to a couple more pictures of scantily clad coeds, but everytime I see this ad I think how hot this girl is. Then it occured to me that I’m attracted to her hat more than her other “qualities.” That, ladies and gents, is a true sign of a fan. Or something.

Nine Days and Counting

I get impatient sometimes when I hear about how we should stop subsidizing public transit or Amtrak. I don’t think I have ever heard of highway contruction being referred to as “subidizing personal transit.” A NY Times editorial, and that post on the general ridiculousness about pills and obesity from the other day, got me worked up about this. The editorial:

The transportation bill that’s now before the House of Representatives is likely to be controversial for all sorts of reasons, given President Bush’s concern for symbolic cost-cutting and Congress’s love affair with road-building. While that debate goes on, we hope that someone focuses on this oddity: at a time when the nation is obsessively worrying about obesity, the bill seems to do everything it can to make sure that Americans continue sitting in their cars for as much time as possible.

Some 80 percent of the six-year $300 billion bill would go to road-building projects, with most of the rest financing mass transit. Less than 1 percent would be allotted for pedestrian and bicycle paths.

By giving Americans more reasons to pick up the car keys instead of their sneakers, the bill gives new meaning to the word pork.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, a national nonprofit group focused on the environment and public health issues, has been urging Congress to do its part and require state and local transportation planners to consider how they can address the problem of obesity. Most outings in and around cities are less than three miles, but the way cities and suburbs are structured practically begs residents to take those short trips behind the wheel.

Expending calories instead of gasoline flattens stomachs and strengthens legs. Having fewer cars on the road would also lead to cleaner air. The nation would be thinner and healthier and would breathe easier. Perhaps lawmakers should take a walk and think it all over.

Americans love their cars, of course. I love my car. But what I think most people don’t understand is how almost every part of our environment is mercilessly dominated by the automobile. It should strike us as weird that for most people there’s nothing but other houses within a 10 minute walk from our front door. When people talk about how they love Walmart because it’s so convenient, they don’t mean they don’t want to walk around in more than one store, or stand in the check-out line more than once; they’re really talking about having to get into the car to drive a mile, navigate frustrating parking lots and turning lanes, park, shop, get back in the car, drive 2 minutes, park, etc., all the while burning too much gasoline. It seems as if everyone is charmed by old, walkable neighborhoods with shops on the sidewalk, yet it seems all new construction is done out on former open space that you can only get to by car. This is because we pay out the nose to build roads everywhere we can, and everyone gets fatter and fatter, but that new gym in the strip mall down the road is such a pain to drive to…

We don’t have to sit in traffic. We don’t have to be overwhelmed by road rage. We don’t have to put up with 80% of our transportation dollars going to pay for more pollution, alienation, and waistline expansion.

We need to stop subsidizing driving. Imagine what we could build for the money it takes to add another lane of traffic to the interstate.

(I should say, the 80% number is slightly misleading, as all sorts of stuff gets lumped into “road construction.” The river relocation and creation of the Providence Riverwalk, for instance, was largely paid for through federal road building funds. The overarching point remains, however. The ratio of actual road building to pedestrian/bike/sidewalk projects is just way too high.)

Driving Me Nuts

In case you hadn’t heard, a highschool teacher in Florida euthanized a couple baby rabbits the other day more or less in front of her class. Em had sent me a link, and Chuck and James are talking about it on their blogs.

The reaction I wanted to have was something along the lines of “our military is right now doing much worse things to actual human beings, and these kids are disturbed by mercy killings of 5 inch rabbits?! Stop sheltering America’s youth!!”

I can’t really have this attitude, though, because honestly I get sad when things die. Em and I had a discussion about pets and euthanasia, since I’ve had a couple little animals die slowly on me. When I was younger I had a hamster who developed some awful disease or something, and went through the throes of death for hours and hours. I really contemplated doing exactly what that teacher did, taking a shovel and quickly breaking the animal’s neck. You should have seen it, a hamster, laying on its back on the floor in my room, trying desperately to fend off death.

Then a few weeks ago, my new fish came from the store carrying a deadly parasite. As it started to show symptoms, I tried to treat it, but it was obviously too late. Should I have taken it out of the water and left it to suffocate? Should I have flushed it and let the septic system do my dirty work? Em and I later had a conversation where I decided putting the fish in a tupperware container of water in the freezer to freeze to death would probably be the best way to go, if fish die like people (I knew they made you read “To Build a Fire” in highschool for a reason).

It would certainly be more humane to kill them quickly, but I could never bring myself to be the actual cause of death. We both decided it’s much easier to “let nature take its course.” This is, of course, a less humane cop-out, but we’re modern Americans, dammit, and we don’t deal with icky stuff.

Of Bunnies and Shovels

Remember that Digital Bulletin I mentioned yesterday? I was just making a cute comment on how sensational some of the first reports can be. It turns out, though, that this was the first hints at an awful and tragic story.

A by all accounts stable and successful guy (who, however, lived with a 20 year old girlfriend 13 years his junior) strangled his girlfriend to death at his home. Then, gruesomely, he cut her head off, put it in a plastic bag which he put in his car, and called a friend and asked to meet her, telling her he had “something to give you.” Confronted by police at the meeting place, he sped off, beginning a high speed chase which ended in Cranston after his car struck a jersey barrier and two other cars. Upon being approached by the police, he shot himself in the head, denying us any answers as to what the hell happened. Is there any way to fathom this sort of thing? It makes me really sad, for everyone involved.

That reminds me of another suicide recently (without the awful surrounding events). At URI last month a man struck a pedestrian with his truck and in a panic fled the scene. The girl he hit was bruised but ok, but he didn’t know that. Fleeing into the surrounding woods, the man, a father of a little girl and described as shy, rigged up a rope to hang himself. His body was discovered days later.

It’s frustrating and saddening that these tragedies occur among our neighbors. I don’t really know what to say.

Horrific

When I was in High School, once or twice a week I would get on the PA system and lead the school in the Pledge of Allegiance. Despite not being especially religious, I always said every word, under god, indivisible, and so on without giving it much thought. There’s a case in front of the Supreme Court now about whether or not to cut the under god part out. This is very important to some people. I have trouble caring too much.

If the decision was mine, I’d take it out, if for no other reason than the fact that it was forcibly inserted into the pledge in the 1950’s. I figure that if the pledge today did not contain the phrase “under god” and someone wanted to add it, that would seem silly. We have a lot of deistic traditions in this country, which I am ok with, but adding god to the public sphere, in say, an Alabama courthouse, is something that I couldn’t get behind.

OK, I don’t have the energy to address all the issues (some think the pledge is the equivalent of state sponsered christianity, some think removing under god would be an affront to the vast majority of Americans who are “religous,” etc.). I just wrote 5 separate paragraphs that I digitally crumpled up and threw in the recycle bin, so I’ll just link a blog entry I especially liked: Volokh. James is also talking about this with typical thoughtfulness, and so on and so forth.