Lowell Cemetery Tours – save the dates

Here’s the schedule for this fall’s tours of Lowell Cemetery:

Friday – September 9 – 1 pm
Saturday – September 10 – 10 am

Friday – September 30 – 1 pm
Saturday – October 1 – 10 am

The tours begin at the Knapp Avenue entrance which is right next to Shedd Park. They’re free, require no advanced registration and are conducted rain or shine. Each tour takes approximately 90 minutes and involves a good deal of walking through the cemetery.

“New disaster insurance: don’t go.com” by Marjorie Arons-Barron

The entry below is being cross posted from Marjorie Arons-Barron’s own blog.

My husband, Jim Barron, and I have finally hit on a way to finance our eventual retirement. Let’s call it don’tgo.com. Here’s how it would work. If you’re worried about a pending natural disaster, or even a financial one, pay us a hefty fee, and we’ll cancel whatever travel plans we have on the calendar.

Why, you ask?

There’s a pattern of terrible things happening when we go out of town. It doesn’t matter whether we are travelling for business or pleasure. Here are a few examples.

It started the year we were married. We left for Aruba just before the Great Blizzard of ’78. We were on the first plane to land at Logan, after it reopened. The eerie quiet and the mounds of snow made it seem like landing on the moon.

In October 1987, it was “Black Monday.” We sat in the lobby of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, watching American visitors rushing to telephones to call families, brokers, who knows who else? Their stricken faces said everything about the news of what remains, to this day, the largest-ever one-day drop (22.61 percent) in U.S. stock market history.

In 1992, we were travelling home from New Zealand when a nor’easter socked the state, leaving homeowners without power, surrounded by downed trees, ocean surge and inches of ice on everything. The storm sheared off the tops of several in a row of hemlock trees in our back yard. You can still see the effects today.

My husband was in Brussels and Paris on business while the rest of us suffered through the March 1993 “storm of the century” that paralyzed New England.

The system isn’t foolproof. Sometimes the cataclysm when we’re away isn’t bad. We watched the fall of the Berlin Wall from a newsroom in Quito, Ecuador. And sometimes we stay home and share in the trouble. I do know we were here for the April Fool’s blizzard of 1997 that dumped one to two feet of snow on our daffodils and left us without power for three days. But, on other occasions, I vividly remember returning from trips abroad, our ceilings dripping from ice dams, or our basement flooded and listening to neighbors’ horror stories of what we had missed.

On September 11, 2001 our bags were packed for a flight that very day to Paris from Boston, on American Airlines. Needless to say, the wedding we were to attend happened without us, with 300 present from the bride’s side and just three from the groom’s, a resident of Rhode Island.

In 2007, we were at a friend’s place in Florida, sitting by the pool in 80-degree weather, using our laptops to work from a distance, when heavy rains swelled the Charles River not far from our home. The MWRA pumping station failed, and our neighborhood joined the ranks of others across eastern Massachusetts that were under water. We were at the same (very generous) friends’ home in Florida last year for yet another “storm of the century.”

And last week, as you may have guessed, we had just arrived in California en route to a family wedding when Irene hit the North Carolina coast. We spent the day of the rehearsal dinner glued to The Weather Channel and Sunday, the day of the wedding, when the storm hit Massachusetts, supplementing our TV watching with laptop streaming video of NECN, checking thebostonchannel.com, wickedlocal.com and other websites, or on the phone with neighbors.

You get the idea. We leave. Disaster strikes. So we’ve been thinking: why not capitalize on it and get people to pay us to stay home?

I don’t mean to trivialize these events, most immediately Irene. There have been real tragedies. Lives have been lost and property destroyed. I don’t think the media over-dramatize (well, maybe a little). Dan Kennedy and Howard Kurtz joined a cadre of commentators asserting that it was a tropical storm named hurricane and a category 5 deluge of cable TV warnings.

That may be a question of style. I think the coverage was thorough, and I would rather be over-prepared by information than caught off-guard. Irene was not Katrina in general, but, for some people in the affected areas in several states, it was every bit as disastrous.

The politics of Irene are predictable, if discouraging. Congressman Eric Cantor says that federal aid to victims of Irene should be balanced by cuts in other programs. Presidential candidate Ron Paul goes even further, saying there should not be a federal response at all to a disaster of this ilk.

I guess that’s all the more reason to offer our disaster protection. I’ll let you know when dontgo.com is up and running.

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Photo of blizzard of ’78 by Ric Werme of Marlboro
Photo of Irene in Vermont by Burlington Free Press

Elizabeth Warren visits the Globe

Elizabeth Warren’s pre-campaign for the United States Senate seemed to enter a new phase yesterday. Previously, she’s attended a bunch of invitation-only, off the record house parties that were closed to the media. Yesterday she visited the Boston Globe which has a story by Frank Phillips and Noah Bierman and a column by Brian McGrory who, despite his signature cynicism, was clearly impressed by Warren, calling her a “New kind of contender.” In both the article and the column, the central theme of Warren’s campaign was made clear. Here’s what she said:

“I came out of a hardworking, middle-class family,’’ she said. “I came from an America that created opportunities for people like me, and I now see an America where the government works for people who already have money and power.’’

If Warren does decide to run and if she can overcome the efforts of the right to drown out her message with distracting nonsense, then she clearly could be a serious threat to incumbent Scott Brown.

Guilty plea by Tully

The Globe reports that former Lowell City Manager Joe Tully pleaded guilty yesterday in US District Court to one count of wire fraud in a case that arose out of the closing-then-relocation of the Registry of Motor Vehicles office in the city. While the maximum possible sentence could be up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, prosecutors will only ask the judge to impose home confinement and not incarceration. The defense is expected to ask for straight probation. It’s not clear when sentencing will take place, nor is there any indication that this is the end of the matter or if there is more to come.

Did the media overplay Hurricane Irene?

If you haven’t yet considered the question now being posed by many, “did the media overplay Hurricane Irene?”, just watch the above clip and your answer will have to be yes. That’s because this 4 minute, 26 second clip depicts a Fox news reporter perched on the ocean-front boardwalk of Ocean City, Maryland, being deluged with what he called “brown sea foam.” The inane-sounding anchors back in the studio marvel at this substance which the reporter says, at various times, “is of a sandy consistency . . . is in my face . . . it doesn’t taste great.” Of course, the foam was in fact raw sewage let loose from a nearby treatment plant by the downpours that accompanied the hurricane. If you just stumbled upon this clip out of context, you’d swear it was a Daily Show parody of local coverage of harsh weather conditions. But it is, in fact, the reality of the mainstream media.

That said, however, I still don’t feel that the media exaggerated Hurricane Irene. In the Science section of today’s New York Times, there’s actually an article that explain that even though modern hurricane forecasters can plot the track and location of a hurricane with great accuracy, they still have a very difficult time determining the storm’s intensity. Because the consequences of downplaying the seriousness of a hurricane can be fatal for many, forecasters tend to err on the side of safety and go with predictions of the most intense storm the evidence supports. It’s better to respond to the “there was too much hype” critiques than to the “why didn’t you warn us it would be this bad?” pleas.

My sympathy for the forecasters was perhaps buttressed by the fact that I spent the day of Hurricane Irene reading Sudden Sea, R.A. Scotti’s account of the Great Hurricane of 1938 that killed nearly 700 people in New England and on Long Island. Hurricane forecasting was extremely limited back then and the forecasters at what was then called the US Weather Bureau had tracked this particular hurricane as it emerged from the Caribbean and moved towards Florida. Ample warning was given and much preparation was taken but the storm veered to the north and missed Florida.

Storms following similar paths historically continued to the northeast and died deep out at sea. For that reason, the government weather forecasters gradually erased the word “hurricane” from the reports they issued for use by radio and newspapers in the following days. But a farther north than usual Bermuda High blocked the storm’s path into the Atlantic and it shot up the eastern seaboard, often traveling in excess of 60 miles per hour. Late in the afternoon of September 21, 1938, it made landfall, first on the south coast of Long Island and shortly thereafter on the exposed southern coasts of Connecticut and Rhode Island. It struck those ocean-front communities with winds up to 180 mph and a storm surge that sometimes reached 50 feet in height. Suddenly, whole communities ceased to exist as houses and the families that occupied them were erased from the shore and swept out to sea.

Sudden Sea stitches together the stories of many of the people who suddenly and unexpectedly found themselves in the eye of this killer storm. The individual stories nearly defy belief and you walk away from the book with an enhanced respect for the awesome power of nature.

Sudden Sea is this month’s selection of the Pollard Memorial Library non-fiction book club which meets this coming Thursday evening at 630 in the library’s community room.

Fiscal Climate Challenges Post-Irene

As Irene was developing, landing, damaging the states and communities along the Eastern seaboard and inland as well, officialdom was full of praise for the “new FEMA” – for the planning, co-ordination and ongoing interaction, relief and support. Everyone was in the loop. In a Washington Post story by Ed O’Keefe and Rosalind S. Helderman elected officials noted:

“We have a new FEMA,” Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) declared Sunday, adding that the agency “is much stronger than the one we had during Hurricane Katrina.”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), a frequent critic of federal spending, also said: “So far, FEMA has been very responsive.”

Now in the aftermath as the recovery work goes forward, the reality created by the current fiscal climate is rearing it’s ugly head. The old cliche “robbing Peter to pay Paul” comes to mind as GOP leaders like Eric Canter – whose home state of Virginia was hard hit by Irene – is sounding as if Irene and her wake will be yet another cudgel for budget battling. Will those in the path of Irene, and the recent east coast earthquake and tornado-ravaged areas across the country sit still as FEMA struggles to give the relief its mission dictates while funding for the agency is questionable? Who will lose so the wrath of Irene can be handled?

Read more here at Post Politics at WashingtonPost.com.

Race for Jack Kerouac Scholarship

9th Annual Kerouac Road Race

Race proceeds go to the Jack Kerouac Scholarship awarded to a Lowell High School graduating senior planning a major in literature or the arts.
Time is running out to get your micro-tec race t-shirt!!!
Sunday, September 25th
Be one of the first 400 registered and get a free race shirt!
Post-race party!
Hookslide Kelley’s,  19 Merrimack St.,  Lowell



A Post in Reply to a Comment

On my last post, there were a number of comments, but I wanted to highlight one thing Cliff wrote. I thought that this part of a comment he left was worth a full response. Quoted directly: “We can pound Gov Perry for pandering to those of his supporters who don’t believe in evolution.  But, in fact, if God created the whole shebang six thousand years ago, how would we know?  I don’t think that is the way it came to be, but I would not dismiss someone who did.”

Before I get into how we know the creation hypothesis is incorrect, I would like to address a more philosophical point. We live in a culture that encourages us to have strong opinions, be it about whether politician X should be president or whether Jersey Shore can be considered “culture.” Is this a good thing? Maybe, maybe not. It is good to disagree; it keeps life interesting and ensures that we are exposed to many different viewpoints. Currently in our culture, there are several disciplines of science that are subjected to this type of handling. I would argue that this does a great disservice to our society. Continue reading