Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Why Measure 2 to Expand the Bottle Bill Failed in Massachusetts

I think it's stupid that if you buy a carbonated beverage in a can or bottle you have to put down a nickel deposit, but if you buy water or juice in the same container you don't. So I was initially in favor of Question 2, the Massachusetts ballot initiative to expand the bottle bill. Then I thought about the six months' worth of cans I need to back to the store and run through the machine to get my nickels back. It would be so much easier just to put them in curbside recycling.



And then I read the fine print, which wanted to peg the nickel to inflation so that it will go up to 6 cents, then 7 cents, and on and on. I lived in Michigan for 3 years under the 10 cent deposit regime, and am still bitter about that 30 years later. Then, in the voting booth, I read some more fine print that the minimum handling fee would be pegged at 3½ cents. In other words, 70% of the nickel deposit would be lost to handling fees.

I was not alone, the expanded bottle bill failed 26.6% to 73.4%. I still think the distinction between the different beverages is stupid. If the bottlers put up a question to repeal the entire bottle bill, I'll probably vote for it.

Another ballot idea whose time may not have come, at least in Colorado and quite likely Oregon, is mandatory labeling for GMO food products. The idea is to force food makers to stamp the words "Genetically Engineered" on all the scary Frankenfoods. Of course, we already have voluntary non-GMO labeling. I bought this bag of these All Natural Non-GMO Verified Certified Gluten-Free American Vegetarian Association 0 Grams Trans Fat corn chips to watch the election results come in:



Speaking of the results not coming in, there were a number of close races in New England. My favorite was Massachusetts Governor candidate Martha Coakley calling it a night without conceding even though she was trailing by 30,000 plus votes and all the media outlets had called the race. Instead of a concession speech, the local TV broadcast the union guys dismantling the stage as the room emptied out at the Coakley campaign victory party.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Another Year, Another Bitter Harvest in Boston

First Church in Cambridge (Congregational, UCC) has been tracking gun violence in Boston and Cambridge for the last couple of years. It's a bitter harvest, white for dead and red for wounded:

September 2014:

September 2013:


The death count looks about the same or maybe a little less this year than last, 44 in 2013 versus 35 so far in 2014 with 3 months left to go. The white flags don't tell the whole story. They flag people who died due to gun violence. If you get stabbed, beaten, choked, or bombed to death, you don't get a white flag.

Here on the Cambridge side of the river, there's been one gun death this year and one last year. That puts us at about the national average for violent crime. Most parts of Boston are also relatively safe, and then there are the parts of the city that aren't so safe.

"A Witness Against Gun Violence and Inequality" is how these flags are billed. Guns and poverty are certainly two factors, but other types of violence and crime associated with drug use, drug dealing, and street gangs also factor in. Still, the national media mostly beats the drum for mass shootings, but it's the week-to-week violence of a murder here or there that adds up.

I don't have any magic bullet solution, but I do know an organization, City Year, that is working the other side of the problem to reduce the school dropout rate. That's what feeds the street gangs, and by the time you have violent young men without too much prospect in life wanting to kill each other, it's too late.

Monday, October 6, 2014

If This Boston Police Van Is a Rockin' Don't Come a Knockin'


Parked Sunday near Jamaica Pond in Boston. The picture may not do justice to the flashing blue and red lights that lit it up like a party was going on inside. Special operations indeed!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Well Regulated Summer Being Necessary to ... 2014

I started taking these pictures around our fairly officious city in June and it's grown to quite a collection with summer just ending two days ago. I expect I will be adding snarky comments on each picture. Where to start? That may take all fall.


The 8pm sticker cost me some money a few years back as under it the original sign says 6pm. Yes, on Christmas Day you can safely park to the right of this set of signs even if Christmas falls on the fourth Thursday, but only it is not snowing heavily and you don't exceed 2 hours between 8am and 8pm. Also, no unloading to the left of this set of signs during a snow emergency. Merry Christmas.


Who's up for a $25 barbecue? ...


... No one, the barbecue grill in the public park is chained under lock and key.


If a dog is not leashed, who gets fined $50, the dog? That is not my dog.


Sure the dog is leashed, I just wasn't holding the leash. The dog is off-heel not off-wheel.


I can walk more than 3 dogs, but only if they are on-leash, or running.


Sure, officer, these are the rules for the 2013 community garden season, but I don't see any rules for the 2014 season.


Stay on the path, sounds like good advice, almost zen-like, but I to take the path less traveled.


No climbing this beam faster than 5 mph.


But, judge, I was parking for park use. I was only parking to park.


Someone at the U.S. Composting Council has the job of certifying the acceptability of food-soiled paper products.


Live parking is restricted to 15 minutes, but St. Peter allows dead parking for an eternity.


No fair stopping to read the no parking signs. I've always wondered, where do you park Sundays, if you have a permit?


A pessimist says the road is closed, an optimist says the "park" is open.


5 parking signs on one post must be some kind of record. There will be no Saturday night hootenanny, out-of-town farmers must clear out by 4pm.


The neighbors don't want you playing loud music, unless you go acoustic.


Dog pollution can be prevented using this handy contraception dispensary.


There was a problem here with people picking up after their dogs and feeding it to the birds.


No, I did not know that Canadian geese can produce 1.5 pounds of waste per bird per day. That would be around 500 pounds a year. Don't feed the birds, Marry Poppins.


Sewer rat: a busybody who calls the cops on their neighbor's unauthorized use of the city storm drain.


What has it come to when you need a permit to use not only the grill but the picnic table? I see a loophole. No private grills are allowed, but what about private picnic tables?


Drats, nothing I like more than taking my golden retriever down to park to fetch while I hit a few golf balls. Then I retrieve while he tees up a few.


I hear the plants don't like these summer "hours of operation" and are picketing for an 8 hour day.


This emergency no parking barrel from May was still around in July. That must have been some emergency.


The apex of civilization, credit-card operated parking meters. Where is Cool Hand Luke when you need him?


Imagine that, a handicapped person finally comes along to park in one of the seldom-used handicapped spaces, and can't get out of the vehicle because some diabolical bicyclists have chained their bikes to the handicapped sign post.


Wait a minute, it's not actually a handicapped space. The adjacent music venue has manage to score a special permit, but at midnight the band loses its ride home.


I hate Pay & Display. You get out of your vehicle, lock it, go to the machine, wait in line, go back to your vehicle, unlock it, stick the ticket in the window, and only then do you get to go one about your business.


But my bike likes to run and frolic!


Shared Street. And just what do you share the street with? ...


... Potted plants.


The dreaded moving van no parking barrel. Legal when you parked, but two days later and they've towed you away at your expense.


I hope you're moving out of town. Good riddance!


Riding on Sidewalk. Oh, you mean No Riding on Sidewalk.


The underground bus station doesn't even admit all buses. Hit the road, CNG.


And why would you walk in the bus lane? ...


... Maybe to get close enough to read the sign on the other side.


In all other places in Massachusetts, yielding to pedestrians is not so strictly enforced.


Here only the turning vehicles must yield to pedestrians, the ones going straight can run then right over.


Yep, traffic signs on the Charles River.


This is the sign boaters this summer see after coming under the "restricted" bridge.


The "Vehicles Excluded" sign on busy Memorial Drive always gets the out-of-towners.


No trucks or buses is what that really means.


More discrimination against trucks and buses.


Hello, 911, I am seeing some suspicious activity between two geese in the wildlife habitat area.


"Ahead" means a sign for a sign you haven't gotten to yet.


But warden, the sign said the pedestrians would be walking up ahead, not running right there.


How do they get away with the school crossing image of the big boy heling the little girl cross the street in this day and age? Retro, subversive.


Keep the speed of that teeter totter you're driving down to 20 mph. Really, if there's danger of your kids getting run over on your teeter totter, you might want to move it off the street and into the backyard.


The city has issued tens of thousands of these big blue bins. Best heed the directions ...


Rip the covers off those books, Cambridge! And what, pervert, are you doing with "large rigid plastics"?


First they put up the active loading only sign, so all the delivery trucks leave their engines running to prove they are "active." Then they put up the "idle free zone" but the graffiti artists take exception.


No bathing in Radcliffe Yard! There goes my Saturday night bath.


Shit, that's a lot of rules for a boat ramp.


Oops, Rule 11 says no swearing.


Stop the spread of nuisance aquatic weeds, complete with pictorial instructions on where to wash your boat. I'm not parking, I'm washing.


Officer, officer, would you please ticket that drowning man! Sorry, Ma'am, he's in season for the river herring. And besides, he's no longer aboard a canoe or kayak.


Danger shallow water, that has got to hurt.


No fishing beyond this point? I guess I can cast from here.


Visitors must abide.


No dogs allowed to climb this tree.


No inground planting at the cemetery.


Risk a $25 fine for using the trash can or just litter and hum a few bars of Alice's Restaurant.