February 2010 Archives

Concordian's Project in the NY Times

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heinrich.pngConcord resident Heinrich Hermann was the architect on a project that recreated a mid-Century  masterpiece off the Maine coast fully destroyed by fire in 1999. An article about this house and its rebuilding entitled "Catching the Wave" and can be found in the New York Times' "T Magazine" online. It inaugurated their new series called "Domesticities": http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/24/t-magazine/design/24burden.html?adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1267200213-+aSlBdd3i+I0I8lbnyChmg

It took seven years to painstakingly recreate this 1947 National Register dwelling, originally designed by Wallace K Harrison with important contributions by Isamu Noguchi. See the Times' slide show here: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/02/24/t-magazine/20100219_burden_edit_slideshow2.htm

Hermann is Associate Professor of Interior Architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design and principal of the Hermann Design Studio.

Ultra High-Speed Internet in Concord's Near Future?

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By Concord resident Bob Kusik

Google recently announced (http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/02/think-big-with-gig-our-experimental.html):

19075172.thb.jpgWe're planning to build and test ultra high-speed broadband networks in a small number of trial locations across the United States. We'll deliver Internet speeds more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have access to today with 1 gigabit per second, fiber-to-the-home connections. We plan to offer service at a competitive price to at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people.

Our goal is to experiment with new ways to help make Internet access better and faster for everyone. Here are some specific things that we have in mind:

Next generation apps: We want to see what developers and users can do with ultra high-speeds, whether it's creating new bandwidth-intensive "killer apps" and services, or other uses we can't yet imagine.

New deployment techniques: We'll test new ways to build fiber networks, and to help inform and support deployments elsewhere, we'll share key lessons learned with the world.
Openness and choice: We'll operate an "open access" network, giving users the choice of multiple service providers. And consistent with our past advocacy, we'll manage our network in an open, non-discriminatory and transparent way.
A number of us in Concord think that our town might be an excellent collaborative partner in this experiment.  The fiber network that we're building as part of the Smart Grid project would be an excellent foundation on which to build.  This would reduce Google's cost and construction time considerably.  Our town is home to a number of people who are involved with the development of the Internet itself, as well as several companies which are leaders in Internet-based applications.

Think about how much the transition from dial-up to broadband Internet access has changed our lives.  An Internet 100 times faster than today's will likely have a similar impact on us and our society.  Wouldn't it be interesting to participate in this experiment?

As a first step, Google issued a Request for Information to help identify communities with whom they might collaborate.  Concord is seriously considering responding if there is a sufficient level of interest.  We've created a Google Group called the ConcordGig as a forum in which we can disseminate information, share ideas, etc.  The size of ConcordGig's membership, and the level/quality of participation in this forum, will be a strong indicator to Google of our interest.

If you would like to join the ConcordGig Google group and already have a Google account (e.g. use Gmail, etc.), visit http://groups.google.com/group/concordgig and click "Join this group" which you will find along the right side of the page.  If you don't have a Google account you can join by sending eMail to concordgig+subscribe@googlegroups.com.  The Subject should be "Subscribe" and the body of the eMail can be left blank. 

Send questions and report problems with the mechanics of the ConcordGig Google group to me at bkusik@alum.mit.edu.

I appreciate your help in spreading the word.  This could be a really exciting experiment!

Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream

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Saturday, February 27
Parish Hall, First Parish, Concord
9 AM-1 PM (Registration begins 8:30 AM)

You are enthusiastically invited to participate in the Pachimama Alliance's Symposium entitled "Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream."

The Symposium represents an effort to bring faith communities and other local groups together to consider how we can jointly work for more environmentally sustainable, socially just, and spiritually fulfilling communities.

For more information about the Symposium, go to www.awakeningthedreamer.org/. Please register online, or let Bob Andrews of ConcordCAN know you are coming: bob.andrews3@verizon.net.

This event is co-sponsored by ConcordCAN and the Concord-Clergy Laity Group.

Butterfly ID'd

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1082420_cabbage_white.jpgThanks to members of the Concord Discussion List, we have an identification!  The February flyer pictured below (another at right) is the White Cabbage Butterfly, Mamestra brassicae, also called the Cabbage Moth.  It loves to lay eggs on members of the cabbage family (the Brassicae family) so its caterpillars can eat its preferred food upon hatching.  They cause quite a mess in the cabbage patch! They are often the first to hatch out in spring, so the warmth of the house must have hurried things along.

The interesting thing is that I've got about 20 different members of the Brassicae family germinating in the room where the butterfly is hanging out.  But given that it's just one and I doubt that they're hermaphroditic, I don't think it will lay any eggs that'll hatch out to anything destructive.  I'm hoping this little guy/gal is just a dead end street. 

February Flier

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febflyer.jpgI found this little guy flapping around our "plant room" -- the extra bedroom we use for different purposes, including growing seedlings for outdoor planting.  Which is the use the room is in now.  This -- butterfly? moth? -- appeared over the weekend and we only just were able to snap this photo today.  It's wings are about 1+" long. What does it think it's doing, coming out to party in mid-February?!

Do you know what this is? If so, please let us know!  

rochescreen.pngI just received my first home grocery delivery order from Roche Brothers. As a very longtime customer of Stop and Shop's Peapod service for -- what: 10, 12 years? -- I found Peapod to be generally adequate -- not stunning, not fabulous, but adequate.  And a lot better than actually bringing myself to shop in person. So why the switch?

Besides being the publisher and editor of this blog, I'm also the director of the Concord office of Caring Companion Connections, providing home care to elders and the disabled. One shortcoming about most home care work is that it's difficult to keep stocked all the necessary supplies needed to smoothly run the home and care for the client.  We don't allow our companions to handle a client's cash, credit cards or checks, which is fine as long as the client is present when purchases are made.  But the logistics involved when the client is unable to come along can be fraught. And besides: if a client is home bound, when an alternative exists to the caregiver leaving them to go shopping, I believe it should be found.  Sounds like another natural for home grocery delivery, right?

21805641.thb.jpgI need our companions to be able to place grocery orders for delivery via their Blackberries. This makes sense since they all use smartphones to document everything about their visits, with the data going to a secure website that -- with the client's permission -- their family, physician and other caregivers can view, often in real-time.  So, if they've just started on the last quart of milk in the refrigerator, they can just whip out their Blackberry, browse on over to Peapod, and put some milk in the client's shopping cart, right?

Wrong. Peapod's website isn't accessible by smartphone, and they say they don't know when or if it will be in the future.

But it turns out that Roche Brothers' delivery service is accessible via Blackberry (http://www.RocheBros.com).  Their store in Acton is very nice; they have a high quality, broad inventory, so I was happy to try out their delivery service. 

A couple of times in the past I tried ordering through Roche's website, but I had found certain aspects so confusing that I finally gave up in despair. However, over time they seem to have made their site more intuitive and I had no problems whatsoever this time. (To set up my next order, I will use only the Blackberry; I used lap- and desktop computers for this first one.)

So, what's the bottom line with this service? I found the variety of Roche's offerings to be better than Peapod's.  Another plus: Roche's order came in a very few, large, good-quality, unmarked, thoughtfully-packed, clear plastic bags. Peapod always sent my order in far too many small plastic grocery bags -- sometimes each containing just one item, which is just too wasteful by half. Roche has just one delivery price, however, the same as Peapod's under-$100 fee. But between their stated no-tipping policy, and lower prices than Peapod on many items, I think it more than evened things out in Roche's favor.

Everything arrived in good condition; the only missing items were out-of-stock.  Neither service has a way to figure out what will be out of stock in advance so something else can be ordered instead, though both allow the customer to open the door for a substitute item to be sent (something I don't trust to an anonymous shopper's choice, thank you).

In the final analysis, I'd use either Peapod or Roche Brothers, with the leading advantage at the moment going to Roche. 

What the Heck WAS That Thing, ANYWAY??!

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For folks who have had trouble figuring out what "the thing" in the previous post is, it's a big ol' rock poking up through the ice, which has a little snow on top of it. 

When the ice at the edge of the Concord River formed, the water level was probably above most of the rock.  When the water level dropped, the ice dropped, too, and that rock busted right through the ice. Pretty dramatic stuff, huh?

We also forgot the photo credit: © 2010 Rich Stevenson, Local Color Images

A Local Friend for Nessie?

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Seen off the Lowell Street Bridge this week. (Boaters might want to remember where this rock is...)


Editorial: Sky High Credibility for the West Concord Task Force

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For an FAQ article that explains the Formula Business Restriction warrant articles, see this guest commentary from the Chair of the West Concord Task Force in the February 11, 2010 Concord Journal.

wc5&10.jpegA variety of opinions are in the air about the proposed Formula Business Restriction (FBR) articles coming up at this April's Annual Town Meeting.  We will be responding to one published on February 4, 2010 in the Concord Journal.

Selectman Greg Howes, the board's liaison to the task force... said he worries the repercussions could hurt the credibility the [West Concord] task force has built up to date in their work aggregating and community viewpoints and pushing through the Interim Planning Overlay District [IPOD] currently protecting the West Concord Village.

"They've shepherded through some real temporary changes that have made some people feel better about what's happening," he said. "And now, all of a sudden, something like this could shake that credibility. ... They're working to respond to what they've been hearing in the community. I'm not sure this is the right tool, but I think their goals are still the right ones."
This publication's editor was a participant in the creation of the West Concord Task Force (WCTF). She took part in the formation of their purpose, composition and goals.  As far as we are concerned, the credibility of the Task Force has been elevated even higher by their proposal of an FBR for West Concord.

The WCTF had two overarching goals: to create a master plan for West Concord, and then to implement it.  They are in the final stages of formalizing the former, and now they are working on the later; new zoning bylaws and/or amendments to current ones have always been tools in their toolbox.

This task force has been truly impressive.  Typically there are one or two members of any committee who do the majority of the work. But in this case, the entire task force has consistently put in long hours of study, research, discussion, talking with residents, Town staff and consultants.

Thumbnail image for bradfordside.jpegMr. Howes is totally correct: the task force has been listening -- listening very closely to what many, many residents have said.  Over nearly two years they've conducted many public meetings, hosted an in-depth public design workshop, and issued a public survey. They proposed and had passed the West Concord IPOD, educating the public so thoroughly that they had unanimous positive vote at last year's Town Meeting.  The plans they are proposing are truly a reflection of the voice of the people.

The goal of the WCTF isn't to make "real temporary changes that have made some people feel better about what's happening" -- we don't recall "serving pabulum to calm the people" being mentioned in their charge.  The task force exists to create real and lasting solutions in anticipation of the West Concord village's potential destruction through unfettered redevelopment.

The IPOD is only temporary: a total of two years , we're now half-way through that already with its expiration scheduled for Town Meeting 2011. It was put into place specifically so that more permanent methods could be studied, prepared and implemented.  The proposed FBR is just the first step to more long-term regulation; there will be additional as yet unidentified zoning measures to follow.  

Proposing initiatives like the FBR is the voice of the people writ large.  Well done, West Concord Task Force!

The Boston Globe Doesn't Know Beans!

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A staff editorial in the February 7, 2010 Boston Globe (http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/editorials/articles/2010/02/07/ecology_thoreau_ly_different_at_walden_pond/) is another indication of the downfall of a once-great paper. There are several problems with the "facts" in this piece, but we will focus only on this assertion found therein: "[Thoreau's] work was scattered and mostly forgotten until it was reassembled by Bradley P. Dean, a leading Thoreau scholar." 

619728_walden_pond.jpgHuh? Dean, who died a couple of years ago in mid-life, was indeed a leading Thoreau scholar.  But that he is solely responsible for the collecting of Thoreau's works is utter pap. (A knowledgable commenter agrees, saying, "...Dean's important contribution involved rediscovering and editing two not-quite completed manuscripts on natural history; editing a volume of letters between Thoreau and a friend; and editing a set Thoreau's field manuscripts. It may also have been Dean who rediscovered materials related to a book or calendar Thoreau planned on Concord flowering times.")

There were Thoreau scholars before Dean was born. The Thoreau Society holds one of the major collection of Thoreau's work (now housed in the Thoreau Institute in Lincoln where he used it in his own work).  That collection was amassed before he became a scholar. (In life, it appeared to us that BPD as ardently self-promoting and protective of his position at the top of the Thoreauvian heap -- it's as if he's reaching out from the grave for more of the same now.)

There have been those since Thoreau's death who have kept the torch of his memory burning, collected his work and ephemera, published scholarly papers, and gathered to celebrate him. The Globe (and it's source(s) of this information) insults all those who came before. Issac Newton said, "If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants." Certainly, we can honor more recent scholarship and collecting without denigrating that which came before.

Photo: Walden Pond. © Nicole Lawton www.nicolelawtonphotography.com

"It was a singular experience that long acquaintance which I cultivated with beans, what with planting, and hoeing, and harvesting, and threshing, and picking over and selling them, -- the last was the hardest of all, -- I might add eating, for I did taste. I was determined to know beans." -- Thoreau, Walden

christmaslima.jpgDo you read heirloom seed catalogs? Having spent many happy hours doing so both as an education and in preparation for ordering seeds, I've noticed that some list dozens and dozens of old bean varieties.  They have great names and the text sings their praises but I always thought, "They're just beans, right? Besides different colors outside, what  does it all amount to? Not much of a hill of beans, right"

Wrong: it turns out that dried beans can be a revelation! A wonder to eat and a delight to smell, they display a great variety in texture, firmness and flavor. And they can be easy to digest. Whodathunk? 

This winter I have climbed to the mountaintop and I have had my revelation... and here it is: we have been robbed. Yes, robbed -- yet again -- by the industrial agriculture practice where we get crap for dried beans: stuff that is as dull as dust but easy (and profitable) for the farmers and grocers. We no longer know the flavor and the savor of dried beans.

Our next-door gardening partners last year bought a bunch of seeds, including a box of 6 different types of dried beans from SeedSavers.org -- 1 lb each.  They puzzled the heck out of me all year because for some bizarre reason, they didn't have any planting or growing info on them -- just how to cook them. 

linacisco.jpgI planted several of them out over the summer and got poor germination on all but one variety: Good Mother Stallard.  Good Mother grew wonderfully and made absolutely marvelous string beans -- the best I've ever had -- and I accidentally set a lot of seed.  You know -- you don't find the pods until they're too big to eat as snaps or strings... so why not let them set  beans for drying?

Finally this fall it dawned on me: these beans weren't packaged for planting, they were packaged for cooking! I'm guessing Seed Savers Exchange took leftover seed that was not fresh enough to sell for planting, and they sold it for eating. Thus the lack of planting info on the packaging.

So, that's what I've been doing: getting to know beans by eating them.  Each time I made a different variety, preparing them identically so we can tell what the beans themselves taste like.  I presoaked them in boiled water for some hours. I fried a little bacon, onion, carrot, green pepper, celery leaf, and thyme.  Add the beans and their soaking water (there's a lot of nutrients in that water; don't throw it away), and cook covered until fork tender. I often made cornbread and greens to eat along side -- the cornbread and pot liquor from the beans being just heaven together.

The first ones I made were Lina Cisco Bird Egg beans.  They were the best beans I'd ever tasted!  I've been giving a bit to our gardening neighbor each week so she could see what she thought about them, too. She asked me if I had added some exotic Indian spices to the Lina Ciscos, because there was so much amazing flavor -- she loved it!  Even her 5-year-olds loved it. She was as astonished as I was to find out that the "exotic" flavor is in the beans themselves!

This coming year I will be growing bean for drying not just in our gardens, but in the Thoreau Farm kitchen garden I'm starting at the birth house (all varieties there will be pre 1878, the date of the house exterior restoration). Some of them have New England histories. Here are the varieties I will be growing for dried beans in one or both locations.

beans1.jpgGood Mother Stallard • Irish Creek Annie • Mayflower* • Christmas Lima* • Hutterite Soup* • Scarlet Runner • Vermont Cranberry

I've made five varieties of beans already.  Irish Creek Annie and the Lina Ciscos were my favorites so far -- I still have the Good Mother Stallards to try, as well as the Scarlet Runner beans we also grew.  Oh, and not one episode of gassiness for any of us after eating beans as the main course of these meals.  Amazing grace, indeed!

* Boarded on the US Slow Food Ark of Taste. All Ark members are outstanding in terms of taste--as defined in the context of local traditions and uses; at risk biologically or as culinary traditions; sustainably produced; culturally or historically linked to a specific region, locality, ethnicity or traditional production practice; produced in limited quantities by farms or by small-scale processing companies. See http://www.slowfoodusa.org/index.php/programs/details/ark_of_taste/ for more info about the Ark.

"Floral Design Star"... the Reality Show?

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helenperformance.pngHelen Halloran of the Concord Flower Shop on Thoreau Street had the creative idea to star in her own reality series -- in the store's front window! Her January performance art was a hit, and a story about it appeared in the magazine Floral Management, which can be seen here:

The point of this piece of performance art -- besides it being a lot of fun for staff and for surprised passers-by -- was to demonstrate just how local a business they truly are. There so many other so-called local florists one can find in the phone book and online who do not have any presence anywhere nearby whatsoever.  They are doing misleading mass marketing, hoping customers will think they are local businesses, and then drop-shipping from whatever distant place they do business.

Just let them try to drop-ship this kind of living window display - ha!

Image: As it appeared in Floral Management.

Debra's Natural Gourmet is "Best of New England"

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debra_headshot.jpgYankee Magazine's Heather Atwell called Debra Stark at Debra's Natural Gourmet in West Concord to tell her that their readers selected her take-out kitchen with its wonderful chefs as a favorite establishment and attraction as "Best of New England - Readers' Choice" winners for 2010.  The store's deli was a winner along with only two other delis -- one in ME and one in NY.
Wow.  This hometown little deli made a big impression.  And they didn't even know it. In their cheerful way, the deli has made converts over the years.  Using as many organic ingredients as possible, as much local as possible, the kitchen at Debra's Natural Gourmet prepares foods with heart and soul.  The aromas wafting out across the store as people come through the doors make people feel happy and make them go "Yum!"
This honor coincides with the release of Debra's third cookbook, Blue Ribbon Edition: From Our Kitchen to Yours (Lightning Source, 2010).  This book, she says, is for everyone who feels that food, like life, is an adventure to be shared.  Debra writes, "May your kitchen be full of those you love.  May your kitchen be a place of light and laughter."
eactwellcookbook.jpg"For 75 years, Yankee Magazine has served as the authority on New England travel. Our readers are passionate about exploring this region, and we asked them what places they'd nominate as 'Best of New England,'" says Heather Atwell, communications manager for Yankee Magazine. "They answered enthusiastically, and we're happy to share their top choices."
This is the first "Best of New England - Readers Choice" list in Yankee's 75-year history. Yankee Magazine is the only magazine devoted to New England through its coverage of travel, home, food, and features. It has a paid circulation of more than 350,000 and a total audience of over 2 million. For 33 years, Yankee Magazine's Travel Guide to New England, published every May, has been the most widely distributed and best-selling guide to the six-state region, providing readers with a comprehensive vacation-planning tool and daily reference. A hallmark of that issue is Yankee's "Editors' Choice" picks, in which their editors and contributors share their favorite travel establishments with readers. For the "Best of New England - Readers Choice" list, it's Yankee's readers who, for the first time, get to share their favorite picks.

Wine Tasting for the Concord Scout House

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Feb. 6, 2010 6:30-9:00 pm at 74 Walden Street, Concord
SNOW DATE: Sunday Feb. 7th - 6:30 - 9:00 pm

snowy-house.jpgTickets are available for a Wine Tasting Social and Fundraiser at the Concord Scout House featuring light refreshments, and music by renowned pianist Jacqueline Schwab (below, right).

Help the Concord Scout House be prepared for the future, come and learn about precious community resource, and its Building Preservation Plan.

Advance ticket purchase recommended; space is limited. Main Event Tickets $35.  Special Seminar Tickets $15 . Sponsored by West Concord Liquors. Net proceeds benefit the Concord Scout House Preservation Fund and the Rotary Club of Concord.

Main Event Tickets $35 - limited to 200 people.
Special Seminar Tickets $15 - limited to 25 people per seminar
(requires purchase of main event ticket)
  • 6:45 PM - 7:30 - Discover the wines of Spain, with Len Presutti
  • 7:45 PM - 8:30 - Single Malt Scotch with Gary Keimach

schwab.jpgWeb Page: http://www.concordscouthouse.org/wine-tasting-body.html
Flyer: http://www.concordscouthouse.org/wine-tasting-flyer.pdf
Article in Concord Journal, Jan 22, 2010:

Advance Tickets available at:
  • West Concord Liquors, 1216 Main Street, West Concord - 978-369-3872
  • Middlesex Savings Bank, 64 Main Street, Concord - 978-369-8112
  • Concord Scout House 74 Walden Street, Concord - 978-369-3455
  • ONLINE: http://www.concordscouthouse.org  (Online, click on Paypal, select gift and use email address  info@concordscouthouse.org; in the message box, please type your name, address, number and type of tickets you are purchasing. Email confirmation will be sent. Tickets will be held at the door.)

7636508.thb.jpgWhat you get for $35!  A guaranteed fun evening out on the town without driving into Boston! More importantly, it's a chance to be a part of preserving Concord's history.

75 different wines to taste, 10 - 15 different beers, light refreshments from some of the area's best caterers and our favorite desserts from the best bakers in town.  In addition to the main event, there are two 45 minute seminars and tastings being offered, one on. Discovering the Wines of Spain and another on Single Malt for an additional $15.  Wine and Spirits tasted and displayed may be ordered, to be picked up at West Concord Liquors.

Fantastic silent auction!  Bid on packages to Beat the Winter Doldrums, Kid's Night Out, or plan ahead and bid on the Valentine's Day package.

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