Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Sad Dad

A few months ago when John Travolta's son died, I blogged about how I thought that the John Travolta we knew was gone, that he really wouldn't be the same after losing his son.

Today there's an article that he is, in fact, having a tough time with his grief. So much so that he is unable to help promote "The Taking of Pelham 123," with Denzel Washington.

He's is such a sweet, sensitive man and that boy was his world. I'm hoping that he gets through Fathers Day and then, maybe, a little at a time, he can get beyond it as much as he possibly can.

Letter To Editor And Town Officials

May 11, 2009

I was dismayed, but not surprised, when the small bridge over the Hunts River on South Road was closed on May 1st because the surface of the bridge had dropped.

Living just one house away from the bridge, I have been constantly amazed at the amount of traffic on South Road since I moved here. On a daily basis there are assorted sizes of trucks traveling through the neighborhood, many of which far exceed the capacity weight of 12,000 pounds posted on the signs at either end of the road.

I would presume that the daily traffic has taken its toll on the bridge. However, the real culprits who caused the beginning of the end of the little bridge, in my opinion, are the logging trucks that National Grid used when removing hundreds of trees to make way for the power lines that were added in the fall of 2007. The logging company cut a wide swath of trees all the way down to South County for the high voltage wiring that was installed at the end of this massive project.

On a daily basis, once the tree cutting was started, empty logging trucks would travel over the bridge, line up on South Road, right in front of my house, and wait to be filled with the cut trees. Then, once their trucks were filled, they would then travel right back over that bridge. I can’t even imagine the weight of one of those logging trucks empty, never mind once they were loaded with trees.

During that same time, National Grid was also trucking in large railroad ties that were laid down in the marsh areas and used as temporary roads for the other heavy equipment that was used to install the huge stanchions that the wiring was eventually added to. These railroad ties looked to be approximately 12" x 12" and they were very long. I’m sure the weight of moving them in and then out again put much added stress on the bridge.

Now, having read the article in the Journal yesterday that stated the Town of East Greenwich would be financially responsible for the repair and/or replacement of this bridge, I’m pretty peeved that the taxpayers in the town would be required to cover the damage that National Grid no doubt caused, or, at the very least, contributed to.

The work on South Road by National Grid started during the last week of October, 2007 and continued through the end of January, 2008. The reason I know these dates is because I have a blog and I blogged about the activities that took place right outside my windows. I also took some before, during and after photos that I used in my blog postings.

You can see that there is no doubt in my mind that National Grid and the logging companies that they used should be responsible for some of the cost of the bridge repair. They ignored the posted weight restriction signs on a daily basis, and that, along with daily traffic, has now caused the bridge to fail.

I hope that the town has some success in getting National Grid to accept their responsibility in all of this.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Random Thoughts

Here's something that I never thought I'd ever say; I feel bad for Mike Tyson. His little 4 year old daughter died by accidental hanging and, no matter how I feel about him as a person, no parent should ever have to go through that kind of loss.

I love our (my) president. That's something else that would seem to be pretty foreign to me. Each and every day I watch the news, or read the internet, or just think about what President Obama has to deal with, how much he's already started to get done and how much work is still ahead. I like his choice for Supreme Court; a strong, smart woman who just happens to be a minority.

After having total diarrhea of the mouth lately, Dick Cheney seems to finally be shutting up. Let's hope it lasts. Even the GOP is turning against him.

Lil, Jason, Kyle, Chelsea and I had a seafood feast Saturday afternoon. Chels took a picture of the food which I will try to post soon.

Miserable cold and crappy cough since Saturday - thank you Mike for the germs. I'll try to return the favor sometime soon.

A 5 year old girl is missing in Michigan - how does this keep happening?

I love my dog.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Lovely Little Hummingbird

Late spring signals the arrival of special spring visitors — those flighty little jewels called hummingbirds.

If you haven’t put your hummingbird feeder out yet, you may want to do it in the next few days, because those gorgeous birds will soon look for food and nesting sites.

Hummingbird experts recommend this recipe for your feeder: Use one part white cane sugar to four parts water. Some say boil the water, some say don’t boil the water, so take your pick.

Never use honey or artificial coloring, and store unused portions of your recipe in the refrigerator.

Always keep the feeder clean, not only replacing the sugar solution but washing all parts of the feeder every couple of days, because disease-causing mold appears quickly during hot, humid weather. (Would you eat food that had been left out for two days in summer heat?)

In addition to a feeder or two (a second one is needed if you have male hummingbirds engaging in territorial battles), fill your yard with plants that entice them. Although red flowers are supposed to attract them best, hummingbirds are enticed to many other colors, including blue, yellow and purple. Hummingbird flowers often have long tubes for their long bills and tongues.

Hummingbirds like to be around people and have no trouble flying close to where you sit, so put feeders and flowers close to where you can sit and enjoy them.

Their nests, on the other hand, are not easily seen, because they are so small and in out-of-the-way places like a small tree branch 10 to 20 feet tall. Shaped like an open cup, the nest of a ruby-throated hummingbird is fashioned from thistle and dandelion down, all secured with spider web and covered with lichens on the outside.

If you like to put out dryer lint, twine and other soft material for songbirds to use as nesting material, you may want to try the new Hummer Helper ready-made nesting material. One member of The Hummingbird Society testing it found 15 active hummingbirds nests within 100 feet of the bright-red wire frame holding the soft, fluffy stuff. You’ll find Hummer Helper and similar nesting products at local birding stores and online at sites such as

Butterfly bush
Chaste tree (vitex)
Glossy abelia
Hardy hibiscus
Bee balm
Black-eyed Susan
Butterfly weed
Cardinal flower
Coral bells
Flowering tobacco
Purple coneflower

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Four Forty AM

Every morning, exactly at 4:40 the birds start tweeting outside! Not at 4:39 or 4:41, but 4:40 right on the dot. It's almost like an alarm goes off somewhere in nature and wakes all the birds up.

I noticed this last year as well, and may have even blogged about it. Now that I'm on the 2nd floor I'm much closer to the tree tops and hear them even better. Thank goodness they don't get the birds inside started, they wait for sunrise.

Something to look forward to. Chirping and tweeting birds.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Dick Cheney - Just Shut Up

In the 8 torturous years that Cheney was VP to President Idiot, we heard him speak about a dozen times. Thank goodness!

Since he's been out of office, it's like he has diarrhea of the mouth. "Obama has made us less safe" seems to be one of his favorite lines.

My thinking is that when he opens his mouth and lets all that crap come out, it is so he can say "I told you so" if and when we have another terrorist attack.

What he doesn't realize is that he is making us less safe by opening his pie hole. As his buddy would say "You're either with us or with them!"

I rarely say the words SHUT UP, but it seems so appropriate now.

Shut the eff up, Cheney! Climb back into whatever hole you belong in.

Let Obama undo all the mistakes you reptilian republicans did, and leave him the eff alone.

Is that clear enough?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Castle Looking For King, Queen or Princess

It's finally happened!

The Castle is now for sale, and I couldn't be more excited. Here's the link if you're interested:

It's listed for $120,000 which isn't much more than my father bought it for back in 1976.

However, it's not in move-in condition as it was then. This house needs some serious attention. The present owner hasn't lived there in a couple of years. The copper was stolen out of it not too long ago. Some of the walls and ceilings have fallen down. The kitchen is just as it was, along with some of the carpeting, when my father sold it in the late 1980's.

The good news is that the house is a one-of-a-kind dwelling that could again be a showplace. The built-in furniture and shelves are absolutely gorgeous and they would only need to be cleaned and polished once the other work had been completed.

I'm so glad that I can finally do something to help this house get into the hands of someone who will love it.

Monday, May 4, 2009

It's Not Delivery...

it's DiGiorno's!!!

Okay, you know those TV commercials, I'm sure you've seen them. I always wondered if it were true, but never tried one.

On Friday night Vanessa and Jae were here. Vanessa had been craving DiGiorno's for a few days, so her way here (to visit) Veronica picked up a supreme DiGiorno's pizza and we heated it up. O M G! That pizza is absolutely delicious. I mean really, really, really delicious. The veggies tasted really fresh. There was a good amount of toppings and the crust was as good as fresh dough.

DiGiorno's is so much better than the Domino's pizza's I've ordered lately, for sure. Vanessa said they were only about $7 which is a bargain if you've ordered a pizza from just about anywhere lately.

Today Patrick, Emilee, Matthew and I went to BJ's. Thank goodness Matthew remembered that I wanted to get DiGiorno's pizza while we were there, because I forgot to write it down. And if I forget to write something down, it certainly doesn't stay in my memory.

We got two 3-packs, so for about $25 I got 6 pizzas. Three supreme and three pepperoni. So the next time Vanessa and Jae are here, I will be able to offer them a choice of which DiGiorno's pizza they want to eat.

I will never order delivery pizza again. Really.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Buying Minutes = Contentment (for me at least)

I just spent a couple of hours on the phone talking with my friend Bob Stevens who I have found jst two weeks ago after losing track of him when he left Rhode Island and moved back to Pennsylvania in 1997.

We've had a few phone conversations in the past two weeks and I cannot explain how happy that makes me. We've lots to catch up on and each and every conversation covers a little more ground.

Bob doesn't have a house phone, just a cell. I'm not sure how it works, but he buys minutes to add to his cell account, and until I came along he was doing just fine. The other night he bought 900 minutes and I'm afraid our two conversations since then have used up most of those minutes. He may be broke before long if we keep talking!

After we hung up tonight, I was thinking that I should just buy another phone to add to my T-mobile account. It's just $10 per month with unlimited T-mobile phone to phone. I could give him the phone and then he wouldn't have to worry about buying any additional minutes. I'm going to have to mention this to him when we talk next!

Again, the words are hard to find to describe how I feel now that Bob is back in my life. Somehow it seems that my life is more complete now or just more correct, I'm not sure how to put it. All I know is now that I've found him I'm never going to lose track of him again!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

P's And Q's

There is a benefit, I find, to living on a road where the bridge is closed.

No cars!

Just a few times today did people drive down to go to the bridge. They then turned around and floored it to go back.

Other than that, it's been very, very quiet.

I like quiet.

Peace and quiet.

Friday, May 1, 2009

An Inconvenient Route

Town officials Friday afternoon shut down a 20-foot-long bridge on South Road just east of Route 2 after discovering that its support structure had rotted and its road surface had dropped two to three inches.

The state Department of Transportation inspected the bridge Friday afternoon and agreed to the town's decision to shut it down. Concrete blocks were placed at either end of the bridge by mid-afternoon Friday.

Public Works Director Joseph C. Duarte said the steel and concrete bridge, which goes over the Hunt River, will be closed indefinitely.

"It's got to be repaired, which will take months and months," he said. The bridge is on a town road, so the town will be responsible for fixing it, he said.

The town received a call just before noon that something seemed wrong with the bridge, which officials say is about 30 years old.

Town Manager William Sequino said the School Department and the bus company that busses local students had been notified.

South Road is just south of the intersection of Routes 2 and 4, near Richard's Pub. It feeds the Woodland Greens Golf Club.

Seeing that I live just one house down from this bridge and it is the route I take to get to the highway, it should be an inconvenience every time I go out. I knew this would happen after all of the trucks that were used to transport the hundreds of trees that were taken down last year by National Grid. I should have called the town and/or the state at that time so this problem could have been averted.
My plan is to write some letters and see what can be done to get National Grid to pay for some of the repair.

Pandemics In Perspective

This is the best article I have read regarding the H1N1 flu. acdc

How bad can a flu epidemic get? The raw numbers indicate that over the past 90 years, far more people have been killed by relatively run-of-the-mill seasonal flu viruses than by the exotic bugs that have grabbed most of the headlines - such as bird flu or the current strain of swine flu.

But to get a more useful perspective on a flu epidemic's potential impact, you have to go back to the mother of all pandemics: the "Spanish flu" of 1918.

Newly published research supports the view that the H1N1 virus behind the current outbreak is a distant cousin of the virus that sparked the infamous 1918 epidemic. But all the signs so far indicate that the 1918 flu was much more lethal. In fact, some researchers report that today's headline-making microbe lacks some of the molecular machinery that made past versions of the virus deadlier.

Citing such reports, the Los Angeles Times noted today that the current outbreak "may not even do as much damage as the run-of-the-mill flu outbreaks that occur each winter without much fanfare."

So far, the raw numbers bear that out. Typically, about 36,000 Americans die each year due to flu complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The worldwide toll is estimated at 250,000 to 500,000 annually. If you go back to the most recent officially recognized flu pandemic, the 1968-69 Hong Kong flu, the death toll is about the same: 34,000 in the U.S., 500,000 globally. The figures for the 1957-58 Asian flu pandemic are 70,000 U.S. deaths and 2 million deaths worldwide.

Even those figures pale in comparison with the 1918-19 flu pandemic: At least 550,000 people died in the United States alone. The worldwide death toll was estimated at 20 million to 40 million, or perhaps even as many as 100 million by some accounts. The flu killed more people than World War I (which may have contributed to its spread).

Compared to past pandemics, the current swine-flu outbreak is hardly a blip on the chart. (Speaking of charts, you can click onto a couple that show you mortality rates since 1900 and since 1950.) Last year, MIT researcher Peter Doshi pointed out that not all pandemics turn out to be as serious as the annual seasonal flu. And in its swine-flu FAQ, the Canadian government makes a similar point.

So does that mean the current outbreak is just a piddling pandemic? Not necessarily.
For one thing, it's far too early to assess how this outbreak will end up. For another thing, the pattern of the deaths so far is distressing. Both those caveats draw on the lessons learned from the 1918 flu.

The age factor
"The big difference between seasonal flu and pandemic flu is that when you move to pandemic flu, you get a pattern that the older people are not affected," said Lone Simonsen, an epidemiologist at George Washington University who is also the founder and president of SAGE Analytica. The age distribution curve for a typical seasonal flu looks like a "U," while the distribution pattern for the 1918 flu was more of a "W," as seen on this chart.

Experts worry that the distribution pattern for the current outbreak looks similar. Every death from the flu is a tragedy, but it's particularly tragic when a significant number of the fatalities come in the 20-to-50 age bracket rather than the over-85 bracket.

"That's a lot of life years lost," Simonsen said. "It has another flavor to it."

Simonsen and her colleagues are still trying to figure out why the 1918 flu hit people in the prime of their lives so hard. One hypothesis is that the virus could somehow push a healthy immune system into such a violent response that the body suffered irreparable damage. Another idea is that the older people had acquired immunity from a previous flu epidemic, while younger people missed out. Simonsen said a third possibility is that some sort of bacterial co-infection made the flu worse. Or it could have been a combination of factors.

Wave of the future
Even if the current outbreak turns out to be relatively mild, that's not necessarily the end of the story. "When you look at the past pandemics, you observe that they often come in waves," Simonsen said.

She said a review of the records from 1918 show that the year's first flu flare-up actually came in the spring and summer, in the form of a less lethal but highly transmissible infection. That appears to have been the precursor for the deadlier waves of influenza that swept across the world that fall.

If the current outbreak turns out to follow a similar pattern, that would be "good and bad news," Simonsen said. It's bad news because a worse outbreak could conceivably follow. But it's good news, she said, because we'd have "more time to defend ourselves," using all the defenses that have been developed since 1918.

Patrolling the pigs
In recent years, the biggest concern on the minds of epidemiologists has been avian flu, not swine flu - but the current outbreak is a sign that experts will have to pay attention to the pigs as well, said Juergen Richt, a veterinary researcher at Kansas State University.

He and his colleagues infected pigs with the 1918 "Spanish flu" virus, as well as a virus from 1930 that is thought to be a descendant of the 1918 strain, under Biosafety Level 4 lab conditions. The experiment, described in the May issue of the Journal of Virology, showed that the swine suffered mild respiratory disease but recovered from the infection.

"A virus which is lethal to monkeys, ferrets and mice, and was lethal to people [in 1918], is not lethal to pigs," Richt told me. That suggests that swine could have played a role in maintaining and spreading the 1918 flu, he said.

It also suggests that swine populations might have to be monitored more closely for evidence of potentially dangerous disease strains, perhaps through diagnostic screening. It's not enough to wait until pigs drop dead, he said.

Richt said swine-flu strains appear to be undergoing mutations more rapidly today than they did a decade ago. "Something happened 10 years ago, where the whole evolution of swine flu changed and became very dynamic," he said. Why? Richt said the reason is unknown, although it may have something to do with a genetic change enhancing the virus' ability to jump between pigs, birds and people.

Richt is a big advocate for research that bridges the gap between human medicine and veterinary medicine, and he told me the current flap over flu viruses just underscores the point.
"It's not only bird flu and swine flu," he said. "There are lots of zoonotic diseases - tuberculosis, Rift Valley fever, Lyme disease. ... We have to realize that only together can we solve these problems."

Alan Boyle covers the physical sciences, anthropology, technological innovation and space science and exploration for He is a winner of the AAAS Science Journalism Award, the NASW Science-in-Society Award and other honors; a contributor to "A Field Guide for Science Writers"; and a member of the board of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.