"Prosperity always inflates the imprudent, and worldly peace weakens the vigor of the soul." - Peter Abelard

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Wellesley High School Grads' Documentary Examines Race Relations In Hometown

This story was originally published on the front page of the July 28th issue of The Wellesley Townsman.

Steve Cameron (left) and Jake Sobol (right) goof off for the camera. Photo courtesy of Jake Sobol.
WELLESLEY, Mass. - - After 18 years of feeling simultaneously comfortable and alienated in their hometown of Wellesley, WHS graduates Jake Sobol and Steve Cameron decided to make a film that expressed those conflicting emotions.

The result, a 79-minute documentary called “A Conscious Effort,” painstakingly filmed and edited over a six-week period for their senior project, was released online on July 20, where it received more than 50 views in one day.

“Basically, this film is an examination of racial dynamics stemming out of what we’ve seen in Wellesley conducted through interviews,” Sobol said.

“I would say it’s a study of race relations in the suburbs, asking a variety of different people and getting different opinions,” Cameron said.

Although Sobol and Cameron are two (self-professed) privileged white kids from the suburbs, they say their interests and opinions run contrary to those espoused by most of their peers.

“So many kids want to be just like what they have here in Wellesley and don’t want to stem out or do anything different,” said Sobol.

After taking an African-American Studies class together in the fall of 2010, they said it was a logical extension for them to examine race relations in Wellesley for their senior project.

“We decided to make something that would help the African-American Studies class, more than just a narrative film,” said Sobol.

The film features lengthy interviews with several past and present METCO students, students and teachers from WHS, and Selwyn Cudjoe, a professor of comparative African-American literature at Wellesley College.

“I don’t think what makes it good is that we’re particularly great filmmakers, there’s just a lot of good content with the interviews. It did its job,” Cameron said.

The lion’s share of the filming and editing took place from April 4 to May 18. Sobol and Cameron had to cut it down from the over seven hours of film they initially collected.

The film centers on a few key themes: white privilege, defining “the Wellesley community,” and a debate on what best represents “the real world.”

“I don’t think Wellesley is an unreal world, I just think it’s a world that not many people ever get the chance to see or live in,” said Grant Hightower, a special education teacher at WHS, during his interview in the film.

“In the end, you don’t really know anything. You can never be prepared for the real world. We had to admit that there’s a certain type of racial dynamic that we’ll never understand,” Sobol said.

Sobol and Cameron said they constantly have to toe the line between living in Wellesley and feeling alienated there.

 “My friends are my home, of course. My house is my home, of course. But the town that surrounds it, I don’t feel at home there at all,” said Sobol. “That being said, I’ll admit, I own a pair of Sperry’s.”

“It’s a very comfortable place to live and it’s very easy to get in that bubble. However, I think any kind of isolated environment like Wellesley isn’t really conducive to having a nice, well-rounded personality,” said Cameron.

Sobol, who will attend Hampshire College in Amherst this fall, plans to study filmmaking and radical politics. Cameron will head to Emerson College in Boston, where he’ll study radio production.

Their documentary can be seen online at: http://www.vimeo.com/26678574


Yellow Dot Program Will Help Seniors, EMS Workers In Emergencies

This story was originally published on Page 4 of the July 28th issue of The Wellesley Townsman.

The Yellow Dot. Photo courtesy of NCSO.
WELLESLEY, Mass. - - On July 12, Norfolk Country Sheriff Michael G. Bellotti announced the launch of his new “Yellow Dot” program, designed to help both senior citizens and emergency medical personnel in the event of an automobile accident.

Bellotti described the Yellow Dot program as a natural extension of his “File of Life” program, which encourages senior citizens to place an index card with their crucial medical information in an accessible place.

The yellow dot will simply signify that the owner of the vehicle has a File of Life in their glove compartment. Files of Life had previously been primarily kept inside a person’s home.

“This program will provide greater security for our seniors,” said Bellotti. “It will also help inform medical personnel in an emergency situation, so they can provide the proper care and attention. Seniors are living longer and more independently, and we need to provide them with these types of programs so they can have a better quality of life.”

The File of Life includes information about allergies, medications, and any medical conditions that the owner of the vehicle may have. A photo of the person is also included, in order to eliminate any confusion if someone else is driving the car.

Both programs are voluntary, but the sheriff’s office claims to have distributed over 90,000 Files of Life, and expects to distribute many more for new automobile placement.

According to David Weber, Communications Director at the Norfolk County Sheriff’s Office (NCSO), the yellow dot is about three to four inches in diameter and should be affixed to the rear windshield of the car. It is designed to be highly visible but not block the driver’s vision.

“It’s really not a major expense, it comes out of our budget, and it’s funny that a program that’s based entirely on a sticker and a card of info is still the best way to communicate with emergency care provider in this technological age,” said Bellotti.

The Yellow Dot program is already being piloted in Cohasset, and Bellotti plans to roll the program out in towns across Norfolk County this summer. In Wellesley, the program will be introduced at the Aug. 19 meeting of police/fire officials, the Council on Aging, and NCSO officials.

Bellotti admitted that it might be difficult to get seniors to sign up for a program that can seem to single them out.

“You know, my dad is 88, good luck getting him to sign up for this,” said Bellotti. “We really need to educate folks – this is a program that helps people.”

You can find out more about the Yellow Dot program and other NCSO initiatives at: http://norfolksheriff.com/programs/



The triumphant journalist.

I thought I'd switch things up a little bit today, and talk about a personal experience instead of just re-posting an article I'd already written.

In my experience, being an intern at GateHouse Media is mostly a slog - budget meetings, interviews, writing stories, editing stories, decoding the office argot,  sitting at your cubicle pretending to work, spinning around aimlessly in your office chair - all that difficult stuff.

What makes this job ultimately pretty cool is the unexpected little moments of insight or surprise that break up the monotony. I had one of these moments earlier this morning.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my editor at the Dedham Transcript/Norwood Bulletin, Andrea Salisbury, approaching the intern cubicles. Usually, this means that she's coming over to give me edits or a new story assignment - not necessarily bad things - but work nonetheless.

Then, I noticed something odd. Andrea appeared to be holding a floral greeting card.

I adopted what I think was a look of cautious optimism, but may have resembled one of constipation

"In all my years at The Transcript," said Andrea, "I've only ever had two thank-you notes from readers. This is the second."

I laughed.

Turns out, I had a big fan. Sean Roche, who was a source for my story about wild turkeys run amok in Dedham's Harmony Hill neighborhood, graciously decided to thank me personally.

His note reads:

To the staff at the Dedham Transcript, the residents of Harmony Hill in Dedham offer our deepest thanks, for your generous help with our turkey problem. The turkey's (sic) are still here, the Animal Rescue League came, (we're sure thanks to you), and Animal Control is on board with a plan. Many thanks. - - Sean Patrick Roche

Although it was assuredly not my muck-raking-est story, I was delighted to hear that something I had written had improved the lives of the people on this street.

Andrea told me that I should keep the note, and I plan to display it somewhere prominent. 

Changing the world, one turkey article at a time.

The note.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Foam-Covered Kids Enjoy Norwood Tradition

This story was originally published, center and above the fold, on the front page of the July 22nd edition of The Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

Norwood Firefighter Mike McCarthy operates "The Bazooka." Wicked Local photo by David Gordon.

“Awesome!” he declared, and so began the annual Foam Day celebration in Norwood on July 15.

The woman behind the magic, Norwood firefighter Jennifer Gover, dressed in heavy-duty rubber waders, stood hip-deep in the blob.

“It’s so fun to watch the kids, they really seem to enjoy running around in the foam,” said Gover, who volunteered specifically for this shift.

Perched on the side of Norwood Engine 3, Gover patiently explained the mechanics of the foam contraption – appropriately nicknamed “The Bazooka” – to a group of kids, the technological details going right over the frosty-topped heads of her young audience.

The blob itself is roughly oval-shaped, and grows to be about 50 feet long and 30 feet wide.

A circle of smiling parents and tentative youngsters surrounded the blob, which inevitably created a game of sprinting out of the blob, covered in foam, to slather up the foam-averse. Little trails of foam spiral out of the blob in all directions as lasting evidence of these mini-missions.

“This is crazy,” yelled one exuberant, foam-covered boy.

“I didn’t even recognize you, silly,” chastised his mother, who cleared the bubbles off his face. He immediately plunged back into the melee, rendering her efforts practically for naught.

As the bazooka starts to wind down, the kids divided into two camps.

Hailey Roberts, 9, and others carefully rinse off all traces of foam in a shower protruding from the back of the fire engine. Their male compatriots, however, determinedly plunk down in the middle of the shrinking foam blob.

“I don’t want to leave,” said one boy.

“I’m finally clean, so don’t touch me,” Hailey said.

Eventually, the foam gets downright grimy, and even its steadfast supporters have to leave it behind, reluctantly.

“It’s a simple concept that kids really enjoy,” said Linda Berger, Recreation Program Director for the Town of Norwood. “You can just see it in their faces.”

Appropriately, most faces on this day were covered in foam.

Maggie Curran, 8, emerges from the foam pit covered head to toe on Friday afternoon, July 15, 2011 during Foam Day. Wicked Local photo by David Gordon.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Working On A Miracle

This story was originally published in the July 21st issue of The Wellesley Townsman.

The Massachusetts Miracles' Barbara Cherecwich, left, sets a pick on Wellesley's Jane Mooney, center, for Colleen Barton, right, during Saturday's practice at Regis College in Weston. Wicked Local photo by Sean Browne.
WELLESLEY, Mass. - - The Massachusetts Miracles senior women’s three on three basketball team started out with two basketball novices and one registered cyclist competing in the 2006 Massachusetts Senior Games. 

Five years later, the Miracles are national champions.

On June 19, the team founded and coordinated by Wellesley resident Jane Mooney defeated the Colorado Long Shots, 39-26, to claim the gold medal in the 50-plus age bracket at the 2011 National Senior Games in Houston.

The five members of the championship team are Barbara Cherecwich of North Attleboro, Kris Krablin of Stow, Megan Ladd of Stoneham, Tina Quick of Winchester, and June Walton, from East Hartford, Conn.

“It was fabulous,” said Krablin. “I think it his you more a week later. It was really a great time, especially as we were getting into the last few minutes of the game. For me, I’ve been playing in sports for a very long time, and this is the first time I’ve won a championship.”

Though winning the gold was a thrill for these athletes, they have now directed their competitive fire toward securing greater awareness for their sport, long neglected by the general public, and doubly handicapped by the age and gender of its participants.

The Team

The Miracles, made up of roughly 20 New England women all over the age of 50, come to the game of basketball from almost every conceivable angle. Krablin, for example, grew up with a hoop in her backyard, was a star athlete in high school and college, and says the game is “in her blood.” Mooney, on the other hand, never even played sports or picked up a basketball until she was over 50.

“We come from all different walks of life,” said Mooney. ”We have lawyers, teachers, all kinds of professional women on the team, and they all come together on the basketball court. It’s an exciting thing.”

The team actually consists of women who participate in two different age brackets, 50-plus and 55-plus, and Mooney said the Miracles are currently building a 6o-plus team too. The Miracles play in 8 to 12 State Games up and down the East Coast every year and, of course, the National Senior Games, which happen once every two years. The women practice together at Regis College in Weston once a week.

Krablin described the 50-plus team’s style of play as very aggressive and centered on a ferocious defense that tries to take advantage of the transition game inherent in three on three, half-court play. Madeline “Mal” Lannin-Cotton, who plays in the 55+ bracket, said her team is still working on developing a distinctive style of play, but works well together, utilizing a lot of screens and pick and rolls.
The Miracles’ 55-plus team, which has nine members, including Cotton and Mooney, placed 7th out of 18 teams at the same Houston games, which Cotton described as a “great accomplishment.”

The Game

The Miracles have no delusions of grandeur. Mostly, they play for sparse crowds at modest events, and even have to cover their own travel expenses for tournaments. All that said, many members of the team feel that the attention and awareness that they receive does not match up with the increasingly high level of athleticism and competition they see in their sport.

“It’s sort of this hidden thing,” said Mooney. “There are a lot of people involved in this and until you become a part of it you don’t realize how much activity there is in this sport at the senior level.”

“Senior athletics should absolutely get more coverage. The effort that the athletes put in, you’re sometimes talking about athletes in their eighties and nineties, it’s just phenomenal. We need to find ways to make it more visible. Many of us really just stumbled on this. I was 53 when I heard about it,” said Krablin.

When Title IX was enacted in 1972, it opened up funding and thus greater awareness and participation in women’s high school and college athletics. Many of the current members of the Miracles just missed the effects of Title IX, but they are seeing younger women filtering in nowadays that have been playing sports competitively for their whole lives.

“I think that women’s basketball has progressed tremendously in the past few years” said Krablin.

The Gold, and The Future

Though the 50-plus segment of the Miracles were undefeated, both in pool play and the medal round, the games were not without intense moments.

The Miracles downed their archrivals, the Maine Triple Threat, by a score of 42-30 in the first round. The Miracles also defeated teams from Arizona, Texas, Arkansas, Nevada, and Tennessee en route to their first national championship.

Only a few weeks later, the Miracles are back at work, practicing together for several hours a week during the summer.

“Of course we’re practicing,” said Mooney. “We have tournaments in the fall and we don’t want to get rusty. Plus, we have a championship to defend.”

You can find out more about the Miracles' run to the title, and the National Senior Games, which featured over 10,000 athletes this year, at www.nsga.com.

The Miracles work on their shooting at Saturday's practice. Wicked Local photo by Sean Browne.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Legality of Credit Card Minimums/Maximums

With a dazzling headline like that, how could you not read this entire article? All kidding aside, I contributed research to this article which was primarily written by Townsman reporter Julie Balise. It was originally published in the July 14th issue of The Wellesley Townsman.

 Laws surrounding the use of credit cards can be quite murky. Photo courtesy Flickr.

WELLESLEY, Mass. - - It’s been a year since the nation’s leaders approved a sweeping financial overhaul bill aimed at improving the country’s fiscal stability. One change prevents credit card networks from inhibiting merchants’ ability to set minimum or maximum purchase requirements.

Known as the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the nearly 900-page law includes sections on financial stability, real estate, hedge funds and credit cards. One change applying to credit card networks prevents them from setting minimum or maximum purchase requirements.

Minimum purchase requirements cannot differentiate between credit card issuers and must not exceed $10, according to the act.

Previously, credit card issuers prohibited merchants from setting such minimums or passing transaction fees onto customers.

A Townsman survey of 13 Wellesley shops showed that many continue to abide by the old regulations. Eleven did not implement a minimum charge requirement for credit cards. One required a $10 purchase, and stated so on a sign. Another required a $5 purchase.

Quebrada Baking Co. of Wellesley Hills tried to implement a minimum purchase requirement years ago, said Catering and Events Manager Katy Curtin. The minimum upset a lot of people, she said, and appeared to be in violation of credit card regulations.

Eliminating the requirement has worked well for them.

“We’re a small business and we were trying to expedite things,” she said. “It’s more expeditious to just to take the card no matter the amount.”

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act’s section allowing merchants to use credit card minimums appears on page 698 within section 1075.


Friday, July 15, 2011

WIld Turkeys Run Amok In Dedham

Much to the dismay of residents, motorists, and animal control professionals, a small flock of wild turkeys has taken up residence in this quiet, residential corner of Dedham adjacent to I-95 and Washington Street.

“It’s been really bad,” said Harmony Hill resident Sean Roche. “The biggest (male) turkey was in front of my back door the other day, and I couldn’t get out of the house. I tried scaring it away by making noises with my iPhone, but that didn’t work. Eventually, I had to use my dogs to scare it away, which I hate to do.”

Roche estimated the size of the flock to be around four with several poults (young turkeys), and said the turkeys show very little fear of humans or cars.

“They have been causing commotion in the Washington/Harmony Hill intersection for over a month,” Roche said.

Animal control authorities are now involved in Harmony Hill’s turkey situation, and trying to resolve the problem without ruffling too many feathers, according to town officials.

“Typically, turkeys don’t pose much of a problem,” said Dr. Andrew Cartoceti, a veterinarian at the New England Wildlife Center. “They’re usually spooked by humans, so this is perplexing for us as well.”

Last Saturday a representative from the Dedham Animal Rescue League and Christina McKee of Dedham Animal Control tried to capture the turkeys for over an hour. McKee said they plan on returning with more volunteers later this week to make a second attempt. Once captured, they plan to release the birds in a more secluded, wooded area.

“The single biggest thing you can do to get rid of turkeys is actually to minimize the factors that attract them to an area,” Cartoceti said. “That means no feeding, because these animals will pick up on patterns and recognize food-rich areas.”

Roche said he knew someone who was feeding the birds in the surrounding neighborhood, which he thinks could be the root cause of the problem.

“As much as possible, we encourage people not to directly interact with wildlife and enjoy the animals from a safe distance,” Cartoceti said.

“I trust Animal Control, and I just really want to see this resolved,” Roche said.

MassWildlife has compiled an exhaustive list about dealing with wild turkeys, here are a few tips adapted from that list that Dedham residents should find helpful:
  • Get rid of any bird feeders or shiny objects in your backyard. Both of these things attract turkeys.
  • Don’t let turkeys intimidate you. Don’t hesitate to scare or threaten a bold, aggressive, or territorial wild turkey by spraying it with a hose or making loud noises.
  • Do not allow turkeys to become habituated to people. Wild turkeys that become conditioned to human foods and/or habituated to people are likely to cause damage or to attempt to dominate people.
  • Remove or secure all potential sources of food away from the reach of turkeys.
  • Call Dedham Animal Control at 781-751-9106 if turkeys become problematic in your neighborhood.

    Tuesday, July 5, 2011

    Wanted: A Home

    This story was originally published on the front page (!) of the June 30th issue of The Dedham Transcript. It was co-written with Tyler Baldwin, a fellow intern at GHMNE.

    The Dedham branch of the Animal Rescue League of Boston is stressing the needs for cat adoptions before it undergoes renovations. There are currently 18 cats, including this one, ready for a new home. Photo by Tyler Baldwin.

    “These last two weeks have been really slow,” Lisa Lagos, branch manager said on a recent Tuesday afternoon, “Now is the time we really need (foster parents).”

    In mid-July the Pine Street facility will undergo a $2.7 million-facelift. During this time, Lagos said, the animal storage capacity will be cut in half.

     The building will be closed during renovations, but the center will remain functional. Animals ready for adoption will be transferred to customized trailers in Dedham, and surrender animals will go to the shelter’s headquarters in Boston, according to Jennifer Wooliscroft, director of communications for the league.

    The shelter is currently a temporary home for 18 cats, seven dogs, two guinea pigs, one pig, one horse, and one parrot. Some animals that aren’t adopted will be sent to other shelters, a process, Lagos said, the shelter would like to avoid. Others will be moved to a 25-foot by 60-foot trailer, where space will be limited.

    “Adopting will help us have a much smoother transition to our new home. Most of the animals that are left have been here the longest; they are our ‘lifers.’ They need a home the most,” Ashley Arseneau, livestock liaison for the branch, said.

    Arseneau has been working with the Animal Rescue League for 6 years. She said in that time she’s experienced may different cases.

     “For me, the best part of the job is when we get law enforcement cases,” she said. “These are severely neglected animals, skin and bones, and we run this re-feeding program to get them nourished. It is a 24-hour shift, and I love doing that and then finding them homes.”

    Lagos joined the league right out of college 17 years ago. She said her work is, “really meaningful. There’s a sense of satisfaction.”

    The Dedham shelter is currently experiencing what Lagos described as the “summer doldrums,” the recent roadwork and construction detours on Dedham’s streets has kept many prospective adopters away.

    Despite the lull in business, the facility buzzed with activity last Tuesday afternoon. Several families browsed the building’s cat wing, while others strolled about the kennel, all amidst the noise of more than 25 animals that inhabit the small building.

    Outside is open and quiet. A large red barn, spacious livestock enclosures, and a wooded pet cemetery occupy a hilltop along with the central facility and offices. Come mid-July, the area will be transformed into a construction zone and the remaining animals will be relocated.

    “How many people have brought us a stray cat or dog, and we helped you out? Please come full circle and help us out now by adopting in our time of need,” said Beth Finn, assistant manager of the branch. She’s been with the league for almost 10 years. “If people adopt them out, then we can take them in. It’s contingent upon our public,” added Lagos.

    The facility at 238 Pine St. is open for pet adoptions from 1 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, and noon to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Potential adopters must fill out an application and interview with staff member before bringing the pet home. Necessary paperwork and information can be found at www.arlboston.org.

    Photo by Tyler Baldwin.