September 2005 Archives

Joke of the day

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Donald Rumsfeld is giving the President his daily briefing.

He concludes by saying, "Yesterday, 3 Brazilian soldiers died in Iraq"

"Oh no" exclaimed the President. "That's terrible."

His staff are stunned by his display of emotion, nervously watching as the President sits with his head in his hands.

Finally, Bush looks up and asks, "How many is a brazillion?"

Skeptics Circle

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Climate pseudo-science

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For some reason, the Senate committee looking into global warming decided that a lunatic writer (Michael Crichton) would make a good witness to talk to. The great climate science site Real Climate does a great job of debunking his crazy claims in his latest trashy paperback, State of Fear. In their latest post, they take apart, yet again, his bizarre "scientific" claims, although this time it happens to be in front of a Senate panel. It's a good article to combat anti-global warming deniers:

RealClimate � Inhofe and Crichton: Together at Last!

Endangered Species Evisceration Act

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There's a stealth effort to gut the landmark, and incredibly important, Endangered Species Act. Begun by a typical California Republican, and couched in typically politico-speak terms, this modification of the Endangered Species Act threatens its very nature, to the point of making it a mere nuisance to be waved off by greedy developers and other corporate interests.

With "Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act of 2005", a promise the conservatives have been making for awhile seems to be coming true. The Endangered Species Act has been an important straw man for these right wing fanatics, and now they have enough power to truly bow to their corporate handlers and reduce this important environmental safeguard to the dustbin of history.

That's the thing that really frosts me most about these rightwingnuts - they can't use rational and objective arguments, so they are reduced to using wishy-washy terms that can mean anything to anyone. They quote ridiculous "experts" who spout off in fields they know nothing about. They have an incestuous relationship, quoting each other's fabrications as if they are proven fact. Personally, I'd have alot more respect for them if they just came out and said "I want to pay back my corporate owners and reduce the ESA to ashes so they can pave over more wetlands" - if you really believe in something, then just say. Show some backbone and stand up for the corporate interests. "Recovery Act" indeed!

I feel isolated from alot of this political discussion. I'm sure none of my representatives would vote for something like this. Living in an overwhelming Democratic state like Massachusetts leaves me comfortable at the House and Senate level that my ideals are protected. So I'm not really sure what I can do to get rid of "Democrats" like Cardoza of California, who says this about the "Recovery Act":

"I am co-sponsoring the Endangered Species Recovery Act because I believe the ESA should be enhanced and refocused on its original goal - species recovery. Since the passage of the ESA over 30 years ago, it has been diverted from that goal, and is increasingly driven by litigation, not science. I am confident that this bill will strengthen the ability of ESA to recover species, while reducing the burden on local economies and landowners."

Give me a break! This act does nothing of the kind. It removes all backbone from the act and forces a snap judgment to happen. With Democrats like this, who needs Republicans?

For more info on issue, be sure to see Orcinus. He gives more background and plenty of links. We need to stop this madness now!

Library Thing

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Here's a cool new web site called Library Thing. You enter your book collection, and it does stuff with the information. Like recommend other books, share your library, show what you are reading. I'm going to enter in a few books as we speak!

LibraryThing | Catalog your books online

Hectic Schedule

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Here's our regular weekly schedule:

  • Sunday:
    • 9:30am - Piano lessons
    • 1:00pm - U6 soccer practice (I'm coach and Adrienne plays)
  • Monday: 5:30pm - U8 soccer practice (I'm assistant coach and Rhiannon plays)
  • Tuesday:
    • 6:30am - I play pickup hockey
    • 4:30pm - Dance class (tap & ballet intro for the girls)
  • Wednesday : 5:30pm - U6 soccer game
  • Thursday : 4:45 - swimming lessons for the girls at the YMCA
  • Friday : 6:30am - Pickup hockey
  • Saturday : morning (time varies) - U8 soccer game

It's amazing we can actually get it all to fit in! No clashes, especially with soccer - that's pretty amazing. We might drop swimming the next time around. And replace soccer with one day a week for ice skating. That should ease things up a bit. The girls are pretty amazing too. They do a great job of getting ready and doing all this stuff; that plus school makes for a very hectic schedule for them too. And we almost never have to poke and prod them to get going. They especially love soccer, swimming and dance. I'd love to get them involved in karate, but I don't see when. Another thing I'd like to try is to get them into a foreign language class, maybe Spanish. From Dora the Explorer, they already know how to count in Spanish and a few other words. I think that a language like that would come in handy some day.

Drinking With Hemingway

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I'm crazy about two things, foodwise - coffee and liquor. I love to mix drinks, try new liquors, and I make a great extra-extra-extra dry martini if I do say so myself.

This story combines two of my favorites - drinks and "For Whom The Bell Tolls", one of the best books I've ever read. It is a very funny tale of someone trying to drink Hemingway under the table. It didn't happen:

For Whom the Booze Tolls

Friday not-so-random 10

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I still don't really have enough ripped songs for a real random set. But here's a representative sample of what I've listened to today:

My Not-Really Random Songs for a Friday:

  • "Devorzhum" - Dead Can Dance
  • "The Boy From Ipanema" - Peggy Lee
  • "Go Ahead and Burn" - Four Piece Suit
  • "It's Only Natural" - Crowded House
  • "Waltzing's for Dreamers" - Richard Thompson
  • "(The System of) Doctor Tar and Professor Feather" - Alan Parsons Project
  • "Middle of the Road" - The Pretenders
  • "Waltzing's For Dreamers" - Richard Thompson
  • "She Makes Me So (Stormtroopers in Stilettos)" - Queen
  • "Brother, My Cup Is Empty" - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

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Austrialian travel book

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Reading this post in Pharyngula (one of my favorite blogs), got me to thinking about our trip to Australia and one of the best travel books I've ever read. In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson is a very good Australia travelogue. He's a bit of a wimp, but either because of or despite it, the book is very funny! One of my favorite passages comes near the beginning:

It [Australia] is the home of the largest living thing on earth, the Great Barrier Reef, and of the largest monolith, Ayers Rock (or Uluru to use its now-official, more respectful Aboriginal name). It has more things that will kill you than anywhere else. Of the world's ten most poisonous snakes, all are Australian. Five of its creatures - the funnel web spider, box jellyfish, blue-ringed octopus, paralysis tick, and stonefish - are the most lethal of their type in the world. This is a country where even the fluffiest of caterpillars can lay you out with a toxic nip, where seashells will not just sting you, but actually sometimes go for you. Pick up an innocuous cone shell from a Queensland beach, as innocent tourists are all too wont to do, and you will discover that the little fellow inside is not just astoundingly swift and testy but exceedingly venomous. If you are not stung or pronged to death in some unexpected manner, you may be fatally chomped by sharks or crocodiles, or carried helplessly out to sea by irresistable currents, or left to stagger to an unhappy death in the baking outback. It's a tough place.

Like I said, a bit of a gloomy gus, and a wimp. But the book is very funny and a great read.

We didn't run into any of these, although Gabrielle did come down with an awful rash on her arms. We think it may have just been sun poisoning, as no one there seemed to recognize it. That's one thing he missed - Carns (pronounced "Cans") is at or near the top in skin cancer deaths, due to its proximity to the equator. We did get eggregiously sunburned while on a sailboat, despite wearing t-shirts the entire day. We were voted "most sunburned" by the other passengers:-) Made for a long flight back to Sydney!

I have to post another one of our Aussie photos; perhaps tonight.

Medford Public schools

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Here's a posting I recently made to the medfordmass Yahoo mailing list, in response to an inquiry about the state of the Medford school system:

I'm a parent with two children in the Medford school system. We've only just started our long educational process, as the girls are in first grade and kindergarten, so we don't have too much experience with the system yet. That being said, here's what I have to add:

  • The facilities are incredible. The new schools are very beautiful and functional, airy and optimistic. While that doesn't a respected school system make, it sure is a great foundation to build on.

  • We've been very satisfied with the teachers so far, in an admittedly tiny sample.

  • Full time, free, kindergarten is an amazing thing. While we are blessed with two girls who love school, which makes it easier, I think it is a great idea and am glad it is available here, unlike many other neighboring towns.

  • I'm worried about the "lowest common denominator" problem in public schools. Both of my girls are very very bright and I am already seeing the oldest getting bored. It will probably take a little bit of time for the teacher to get the students sorted out, but even last year, in kindergarten, I could see how a few troublemakers could really drag the entire class down.

  • I don't like the idea of going to a charter school, as I believe they are an unfair drain on the public school resources, but we have to keep it as an option for them. Charter schools have the option of turning down a student, as well as promising more involved parents, as they have already taken a big step. Uninvolved parents are, I think, an even bigger drag on a school system than rowdy kids.

  • Although Medford does not have a great academic track record, esp. compared to many of the surrounding towns, I believe that an influx of parents like us who will demand excellence from the school system, and not be happy with the status quo, will force improvement from within, the best kind of improvement. We're hoping to stay involved and push both the school system and our children to work harder and be smarter.

War on Science author speaking

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Chris Mooney, the author of the new book "The Republican War on Science", is speaking locally at Porter Square Books in Cambridge MA. His blog, The Intersection, is a frequent stop of mine, as well as reading his posts on the Sciencegate blog. I wish I could go, but it starts at 7pm and Adrienne's soccer game doesn't end until 6:30 and we probably won't get out of there until almost 7 probably. Darn it all!

Porter Square Books

Kids soccer

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Adrienne and Rhiannon's soccer season has begun, and now that they are on two different teams for the first time, it is even more chaotic than normal. Rhiannon moved up to the U8 (Under 8) league, while Adrienne remains on the U6 (Under 6) team. So that means Saturday (am games for Rhiannon), Sunday (pm practice for Adrienne), Monday (pm practice for Rhiannon) and Wednesday (pm games for Adrienne) are soccer days!

To add to the work, I coach Adrienne's U6 team (The Stars) and am assistant coach for Rhiannon's U8 team (The Galaxy). I was originally penciled in to coach U8 as well, but, probably luckily, it turned out I didn't have to. But as Rhiannon's coach is going away for 10 days in a couple of weeks, I'll get my stint as coach there too!

I love soccer. It was the sport I played all through middle and high school. We had some good junior varsity teams, but the varsity teams were generally pretty awful. Even after our JV group moved up to varsity, it was still pretty non-competitive. One year, when I was a junior in high school, we had an excellent team, and went 8-1 the first 9 games. But then one of our teammates stopped playing, as he was a hockey player first (he ended up getting drafted by the New York Rangers, so yeah, he was pretty good). Our school was too small (graduating class of about 60) to support two varsity teams, so he had to play in a league in Fitchburg, MA. Well, we went I think 1-8 after he left and there went my only chance to play in the post-season. But I loved playing, and got to play a lot of soccer.

And I really dig coaching the kids. The U6 league is coed, and we don't keep score. It's enough just to keep the little ones pointed in the right direction! I'm on the field with them, turning the around, picking them up, and in general offering as much encouragement as I can. We play 3 on 3, with little goals, no goalies, and have rolling substitutions, so everyone gets to play. It's a blast and I love doing it.

U8 is a small step towards "real" soccer. They play 5 on 5, in a half-sized field with goals that are also about half-sized. As in U6, there are real refs, but they too are just beginners, although, again, they are a step further along. There's still plenty of subs, but it has to be done on a whistle, and each team has a goalie. Again, there is no "official" score, but of course the girls (it isn't coed at this level) know the score. Rhiannon said that with only one goal scored, it wasn't very hard to keep score :)

Yesterday evening, Rhiannon's team had a pretty solid practice. They just work on some drills, like short passes, dribbling and the like. It can be hard to keep 12 girls, ages 6-8, paying attention, but we try hard and they seem to have fun. Tomorrow, I coach the Stars in their first "game", which is probably the most fun of all my soccer involvement.

Rhiannon is turning out to be a really good player. Her last season in U6, she was a real monster out there, taking control of the ball, and really trying for goals. She really began to shine towards the end of the previous season. She broke free from the usual scrum and dribbled down to score. It really perked her up! She did pretty well in her first U8 game, coming close to scoring. It'll be interesting to see how well she adapts to playing with bigger kids now.

Adrienne, on the other hand, is slowly getting into it. She started at the same time as Rhiannon, so she's still pretty young, even for the U6 league. We couldn't keep her away as she watched her big sister play. She's going to need to adapt as well, as her big sister won't be there on the pitch with her. When we had our first practice last Sunday, she did very well. There's a big group meeting in the middle at the start of the practice, where the pros that help out get all the kids together. They run around a lot, and get warmed up. Previously, she was very hesitant, not wanting to get mixed up in a big (maybe 40 kids) group like that, even if her sister was there. But this time she went right along with the rest of the team, without a complaint. They sure do grow up fast, don't they? It will be very interesting to see how she does in their first game tomorrow evening.

My soccer coaching even saved me from a ticket the other day! I was coming home and ran into some traffic, so I turn left at a light where there is a sign that says no left turn. Not really sure why it is there, but it is a well known spot for the Medford police to catch you in the act. I should've known better, and I sure regretted when I turned left right in front of a Medford police car! Well, he pulled me over and came to the door. He said,

"Seeing the hat [I was wearing my Medford Soccer Coach hat], I suppose you know where you are and what you just did?", he said very sternly.

"Yes officer," I said very contritely "I usually go down another block and turn left there, but...".

"Well, I tell you what. I'll give you two choices", the cop explained. "You can either turn around and go back into that traffic, or you can promise me you won't do it again and continue on."

I immediately agreed that I would never do it again, and thanked him for his consideration.

"Okay. I'm going to go back and listen to the Red Sox / Yankees game. Have a good night!", he said as he walked back to his car. Only his trip back was interrupted by another car making the illegal left turn. I got out of there before he changed his mind! Saved by being a local for once!

I'm going to try and get some soccer pictures up. We took a bunch last year, but with the digital camera, it should be easier this year.

Boston Organics

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We got our Boston Organics box yesterday, and as usual it is an eclectic mix of fruits and vegetables. It comes every Friday afternoon in its own plastic bin and includes whatever is available from organic farms, local, national and international. I learned about them from the medfordmass mailing list, and we've been subscribers now for about 6 months, maybe longer.

In today's box, we have:

So a pretty nice selection. It's hard to get a feel if it is "worth it". There are two different boxes, US$25 and US$35. We've been going with the $25 box and it works out pretty well. We usually manage to eat everything we get, and have been thinking of moving to the $35 box. You get it automatically delivered every week and the quality has been good (as you might expect from an organic source!). We are not, by and large, organic buyers, but we try to buy healthy stuff and to keep the girls' intake of sugar and salts to a minimum, so this has been a very happy experience.

Kinda-Sorta-NotReally Friday Random 10

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My Not-Really Random Songs for a Friday:

  • "Breath In" - Frou Frou
  • "Clouds" - The Go-Betweens
  • "Our Way To Fall" - Yo La Tengo
  • "Candy" - Martin Sexton
  • "California" - Flash and the Pan
  • "Beds Are Burning" - Midnight Oil
  • "Sorry Somehow" - H�sker D�
  • "Waltzing's For Dreamers" - Richard Thompson
  • "Stormtrooper in Drag" - St. Etienne
  • "Ambergris" - Died Pretty

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(Thanks to Geeky Mom's Completely Random 10 for the meme)

Friday morning questions

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* Why have milk containers with pop tops, instead of screw top caps? Why would I buy these? Am I a glutton for punishment, just looking for them to get dropped by little hands and explode all over the kitchen?

* Why would a "driver" (and I use that term loosely) put their brakes on when coming up to a green light, only to speed through it when it finally changes to yellow, leaving me holding the bag at the red light?

* How come graham crackers don't come in resealable bags? Ditto with most boxes of cereal.

* What did Bush answer when asked about Roe versus Wade? "I don't care how the blacks get out of New Orleans. Just leave already."

* Why would anyone but a complete moron leave Mike Myers in against a right-handed batter, no matter how poor a RHB he is?

* Why can't Judge Roberts just answer the damn questions?

Right-wing female wingnuts

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My first real foray into the reading blogosphere, especially using RSS, was when Michelle Malkin published her book, In Defense of Internment, wherein she tries to make the case that the vicious attack on Japanese-Americans during World War II, putting them into concentration camps, was somehow justified on national security grounds. I have no idea how I came upon this tempest that blew through the blogosphere, but it seemed to me to be a far-fetched and lame-brained idea and luckily there were many, far better informed, people who took up the cause.

The best analysis of Malkin's shoddy piece of work was done by the internment experts Eric Muller and Greg Robinson. It can be found here, at Eric Muller's It pretty much shreds any thread of correctness from Malkin's polemic, and she's been retreating ever since. Of course, right-wing nut jobs still quote it, and I'm sure there are plenty more books out there that use it as a primary source. Ann Coulter would be proud. Say anything, no matter how wrong or badly researched it might be, and someone, somewhere, will quote it as an authoritative source.

I also began reading Orcinus, David Neiwert's blog. Neiwert is a free-lance reporter who's written extensively on the right-wing conspiracy and is one of the few blogs I've ever actually donated money too. He also does a pretty good job on Malkin in many spots. Malkin is probably second only to the despicable Coulter as far as "right-wing female pundits" go, and is equally shoddy in her journalism. I refuse to put a link to Malkin's site here, but I will link to Malkin(s)Watch, which keeps an eye on her more outrageous pronouncements. I wonder if there is something similar for that blowhard Coulter?

Another good spot for Malkin-watching is The Liberal Avenger. There you can find an expose of her and her spouse's subterfuge here?.

Personal Disaster Planning

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I suppose it is hard to think about, but personal disaster planning is a very good idea, and one I hope to act on in the near future. This post at the excellent blog, The Well-Timed Period, got me thinking about it, and it makes alot of sense.

By personal disaster planning, I just mean a few simple things, as mentioned in the post. Put together a box of goods, and store it away. Of course, you have to both remember you have it and remember where you put it:-) And even though we live in New England, away from the coast, an area not prone to huge disasters, it still makes sense. It is very conceivable to lose power for a few days after a big snow storm, and we have been known to have minor earthquakes, so why not be ready?

Here's a list off the top of my head:

  • Canned, ready-to-eat foods (and can opener!) like soup, beans and the like.
  • Flashlight. Maybe get one of those "forever" flashlights that charge by shaking it, as batteries have a shelf life and we're trying to make a "file and forget" box here
  • Radio - one of those hand-crank ones for the same reason
  • Swiss army knife
  • Wipes. A friend of mine gave me a couple of boxes of "adult" wipes that they use at the Boston Marathon for body cleansing. Not sure where you buy these. And maybe throw in a box of regular wipes.
  • A couple of gallons of water
  • Small bag of dry dog food, as we have a dog and probably always will. And we're not going anywhere without him, either!
  • Granola bars. Those sealed packages probably will last a long time too.

See, nothing huge and everything pretty much something you can put away and forget about. Find some kind of box to put them in - not a cardboard one, though, something a little sturdier. Stash it in the cellar or attic and you'll be ready to hunker down for a few days.

Adrienne's First Day of School

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In a continuing theme, Adrienne headed off to school today. Her sister, Rhiannon, goes to first grade, and this is the beginning of her second week at school. They (wisely) start the kindergartners a couple of days later, as things are crazy enough the first week even without another 100 5 year olds adding to the chaos.

Adrienne has been looking forward to her first day of kindergarten since her sister started last year. She wasn't happy that Rhiannon got to go a whole day, five days a week, while she only went for a couple of hours, two days a week to preschool. We have a model kindergarten system here in Medford, where they go the full school day, five days a week, something that other communities are beginning to do. It's a long day for the little ones, I'm sure, but Adrienne's been looking forward to it.

She surprised us too. The big concern was what to do with PJ, her main "guy". She's never gone this long without him, but they aren't allowed "guys" in the classroom. We figured that we would just put him into the (huge!) backpack, keeping him at the bottom, and at least knowing he was nearby would be enough for her. At breakfast, Adrienne announced that she would do that for four days, and then on the fifth day she would leave him home. But as we were climbing out of the car, and her big sister was leaving her guy (Bubbles, the fish) in the car, she decided at the spur of the moment to do the same. So PJ stayed in the car - I hope she doesn't regret that decision!

Here's our little girl as she heads out to class. Big backpack, with a big snack and lunch on board. Luckily (I think!), she has the same teacher Rhiannon had last year, and both the teacher and her aide were looking forward to having Adrienne in their class. I'm not convinced it's a great idea going forward, as teachers may have preconceived notions based upon Rhiannon, but I think for this first year, it will add some to the comfort level, which can only be a good thing.

Adrienne on the steps

Here's our two little girls, walking to school - gulp! School is a few miles away, so they get driven and then we walk over. Generally, Gabrielle will be doing it, but for now, because the kindergartners have a different entrance, I'll go with them and stay with one while we get the kinks worked out of our morning routine. Are they too cute or what? Rhiannon is taking her job as the school veteran very seriously, offering Adrienne all kinds of useful tips, and ways to avoid "getting a strike". Probably doing a much better job than I ever did, as the oldest brother to three sisters.

The Witch is Dead!

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The Bush Stops in New Orleans

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Hey, you never know. It seems possible to me, right?


More Katrina Notes

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  • The best commentary on the criminally inadequate Federal response, dead from the head down, is, by far, found on The Daily Show. You absolutely need to see many of the posted vignettes from the show, found here on the Comedy Central web site. I suggest you view them in this order:
    1. Inarguable Failure -- Was there bureaucratic bungling? The short answer is: yes. The long answer is: YEEEEEESSSSSS!
    2. Meet the F**kers -- An introduction to a new breed of public servant.
    3. Bush's Timeline -- As Katrina's waters broke through New Orleans' levee, Bush headed into the eye... of San Diego.
    4. Beleaguered Bush -- Ed Helms takes a look at the efforts to save our beloved and beleaguered president.
    You'll need to be able to play Windows Media, but trust me, it's worth it!
  • Did you know that yesterday's grand prize on the Price is Right was an all-expenses paid trip to New Orleans? And if that wasn't rich enough, they also gave the "lucky" winner a powerboat - doh! Of course, it was filmed months ago, but talk about bad timing..

Katrina eyewitness

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Here's a harrowing account of a pair of EMS paramedics who were in New Orleans for a conference when Katrina struck. It is a sad tale of official imcompetence and blatant racism. I'd say the ones who sank the lowest were the law enforcement, not the poor lost souls stuck in New Orleans:

Hurricane Katrina - Our Experiences

Medford Clothing for Katrina Drive

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Posted to the mailing list today:

The clothing drive scheduled for Sunday September 11, 2005 is on. 
Arrangements are now being made so that the clothing can be 
transported down South. We are carefully monitoring the Federal 
Emergency Management's activities in Massachusetts so that we can 
actively participate as the opportunities allow. At this time we ask 
for clothing donations only because there are no organizations 
looking for food donations.


Place:  Camuso Household
           107 Century Street Ext. (Across from Playstead Park)
           Medford MA

Time:    Sunday September 11, 2005 from 3PM to 6PM	

Please follow the guidelines listed below when dropping off clothing:

Clothing has to be separated into different bags. (new with tags and 

New clothing (with tags) will be delivered to "Boston Lends a Hand" 
for the Hurricane relief effort down South. They will be delivered by 
us to Marine Industrial Park on 6 Drydock Ave in Boston. 

Used clothing (In good condition) will be delivered by us to the 
Greater Lowell Family YMCA which is working to get the items shipped 
also to the victims down South.

The remainder of the used clothing will be donated to the Salvation 
Army here in Massachusetts.  

Katrina timeline

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An excellent, seemingly objective and chilling timeline of Hurricane Katrina. Note especially Bush's "response" while the situation rapidly deteriorated on Sunday and Monday....


Baby Turns Five

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Baby Turns Five

Adrienne Christine Arnold turned five years old today, which means she has begun her sixth year here with us. I guess in some places (like Japan?), they would say she turned six today, which in some ways makes more sense. Hard to believe it was five years ago that we began this journey together! Like the hoary cliche goes, it feels like it was only yesterday that we were rushing off to the hospital.

It was a little after 1am when Gabrielle said she felt we probably ought to go to the hospital now. Rhiannon was already at Grammie's, so we were ready to just head out. We grabbed our bags and jumped in the car. Luckily, traffic is pretty light at that time of the morning, so the trip south into Boston was a breeze. We pulled up to the front door of Brigham and Women's Hospital and turned the car over for valet parking. Gabrielle will never let me forget how I originally turned down the offer for a wheelchair. She had been very quiet on the ride in, as the contractions were coming very quickly, so I mistook the silence for complacency, not urgency.

Well, we got a wheelchair and began the process of registration and getting checked in. The hospital staff shared my complacency, and moved along at a sluggish pace. However, Gabrielle understood the time pressures and kept insisting we'd better move along. Of course, I'm sure the staff has heard it all before, so I'm not sure the pace quickened at all.

Finally we were in our room and a doctor came over to take a look. Gabrielle was wondering about the epidural, as the process with Rhiannon was long (nearly 24 hours) and painful. She had decided to not try to tough it out this time, and was ready for all the help modern medicine could throw her way.

The doctor glanced down and finally the things began to happen. She told Gabrielle to not worry about the epidural, as the baby's head was already on its way! A couple of pushes later and I was cutting the umbilical cord for a very healthy little baby girl. We were checked in at 1:50 and Adrienne popped out at 2:09. And she hasn't stopped flying around since!

And so she turns five today. I took a few quickie pictures and actually updated Adrienne's photo album, which can be found here.

Adrienne with Care Bear

Press Your Luck

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Funny page on a man destined to be a born loser:

Press Your Luck

Ben Stein's Brain

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There is a laughably inept article by Ben Stein (yes, that Ben Stein) in The American Spectator, entitled "Get Off His Back". In it, Stein leads the apologista charge, and scribbles a whole laundry list of ways we should let Little Georgie off the hook for being an incompetent boob. You can read it here, but be warned - you're going to need a strong gag reflex to get all the way through it.

As it trots out nearly every strawman the right-wing press has, I thought it might be kinda fun to look at it, point by point. Here goes:

A few truths, for those who have ears and eyes and care to know the truth:

I'm going to start off at the top, as it shows perfectly how the conservative press (which, despite claims to the contrary, nearly all news media is to one extent or another) starts by immediately going on the offensive. There is no black and white in their world, just absolute truths, which gives it a particular resonance to many people who don't want to be faced with gray areas. You're not allowed to respect any other viewpoint - my way or the highway in today's political arena.

1.) The hurricane that hit New Orleans and Mississippi and Alabama was an astonishing tragedy. The suffering and loss of life and peace of mind of the residents of those areas is acutely horrifying.

Let's show our compassionate side! Glad to see you have one Ben, although many of the points later on will give lie to this sentiment. But by saying this, he lays ground for any retreat he may have to do later.

2.) George Bush did not cause the hurricane. Hurricanes have been happening for eons. George Bush did not create them or unleash this one.

It's also important to trot out truths that are incontrovertible, no matter how bleeding obvious they may be. By mixing in these kinds of truths, you can obscure other, more specious claims, making it much harder to parse. Of course, he maybe he's trying to be funny. Bad joke, then.

3.) George Bush did not make this one worse than others. There have been far worse hurricanes than this before George Bush was born.

Not too many, though Ben. Really, not too many. Maybe his debt with the Devil to steal away the presidency is now being called in? But no, I guess we can let this one go too. It's important to these sorts of pieces to bring out the easy claims first, because the later ones are on much shakier ground. By bringing out claims that smash you in the mouth with their obviousness, it makes you think how "fair" the article is.

4.) There is no overwhelming evidence that global warming exists as a man-made phenomenon. There is no clear-cut evidence that global warming even exists. There is no clear evidence that if it does exist it makes hurricanes more powerful or makes them aim at cities with large numbers of poor people. If global warming is a real phenomenon, which it may well be, it started long before George Bush was inaugurated, and would not have been affected at all by the Kyoto treaty, considering that Kyoto does not cover the world's worst polluters -- China, India, and Brazil. In a word, George Bush had zero to do with causing this hurricane. To speculate otherwise is belief in sorcery.

Ah, now we're getting so something we can disagree on. And the tactics change slightly. This is another important facet about conservative demagoguery - trot out speculations that are either completely, demonstrably false, or maybe ones that have some tenuous hold on facts and declare anyone who doesn't believe in it are fools, idiots and/or charlatans. Attack opponents viciously enough and they will decide the fight isn't worth it. There is some pretty solid global-warming evidence (as evidenced by the Union of Concerned Scientist paper, but the rest of the paragraph veers off like a wobbly hurricane.

Although he is couching it in terms that make it hard to specifically deny the claims, and again, he throws in the tedious claim that "George Bush had zero to do with causing this hurricane.", like anyone is out there saying it was him throwing the switch that sent Katrina slamming into the Gulf Coast. But he still on solid, logical, grounds by claiming (for the fourth point in a row) that GWB didn't cause the hurricane. Alright already, can we agree on that point and move along?

5.) George Bush had nothing to do with the hurricane contingency plans for New Orleans. Those are drawn up by New Orleans and Louisiana. In any event, the plans were perfectly good: mandatory evacuation. It is in no way at all George Bush's fault that about 20 percent of New Orleans neglected to follow the plan. It is not his fault that many persons in New Orleans were too confused to realize how dangerous the hurricane would be. They were certainly warned. It's not George Bush's fault that there were sick people and old people and people without cars in New Orleans. His job description does not include making sure every adult in America has a car, is in good health, has good sense, and is mobile.

Cold. That's all I can say - cold. Here's a guy with a car, in good health and is mobile (as for good sense, well, let's reserve that discussion for later) - easy to cast stones now, isn't it? I find the use of the word "neglected" to be particularly harsh. These types of people find it hard if not impossible to "travel a mile in someone else's shoes", and so he has to say they "neglected" to evacuate, not even leaving open the possibility that maybe they couldn't.

And we finally get somewhere that I will disagree. It is George Bush's fault that the people running things didn't have a better plan. We'll get into specifics later, but a huge evacuation like this is not a city or state problem - it is a national problem, and needs to be dealt with at a national level. And if, as we might agree, it was important to evacuate more people, then he, as Commander In Chief, should have had the people in place who could come up with a plan to get everyone out of there, not just the mobile. You can read about how Cuba evacuated 1.5 million people in the face of Hurricane Ivan, to suffer no deaths, here. It seems to me that if you tell a population of nearly a million people to leave somewhere, and 80% of them do, then you are doing pretty well. For the rest, you need both transportation and, even more importantly, somewhere to go. Neither of which the Feds supplied.

6.) George Bush did not cause gangsters to shoot at rescue helicopters taking people from rooftops, did not make gang bangers rape young girls in the Superdome, did not make looters steal hundreds of weapons, in short make New Orleans into a living hell.

Except that if he and/or his minions had done a better job all around, no-one would have been left there to do any of this. And if they had done a better job of getting in there, many of these vicious acts could have been prevented. Instead, he played guitar while New Orleans drowned.

7.) George Bush is the least racist President in mind and soul there has ever been and this is shown in his appointments over and over. To say otherwise is scandalously untrue.

Whoa, where did this come from? And exactly what proof does he have of this? Note again the attacking, aggressive posture. It is important to do this when you don't have a leg to stand on. Then you might defend against the attack, rather than against a totally specious, outrageous claim. Note also he doesn't say that George Bush isn't a racist - no, that's not enough. He needs to pull out the superlatives and postulate that he's the least racist President ever! Nice work!

Also note how Stein gradually segues from the pointless ("Georgie didn't cause the hurricane") to the arguable ("There is no such thing as global warming") to the totally outrageous ("Georgie is the least racist president ever"). You're lulled into thinking Stein is trying hard to be fair and then he slaps you upside the head with this whopper. And then has the unmitigated gall to say anyone who claims otherwise is being "scandalously untrue"! Again, a typical tactic of the right-wing press. Make whopping, unsubstantiated claims and then say you're an idiot, fool or worse if you have the temerity to disagree.

8.) George Bush is rushing every bit of help he can to New Orleans and Mississippi and Alabama as soon as he can. He is not a magician. It takes time to organize huge convoys of food and now they are starting to arrive. That they get in at all considering the lawlessness of the city is a miracle of bravery and organization.

Of course, just a few points ago, he was saying that Georgie had nothing to do with the contingency plans and now he's saying he's doing everything to help out. Nice to have your cake and eat it too, isn't it? Of course, any level-minded person would wonder just why, a week after Katrina hit, that they are still "organizing" and just "starting to arrive". Nice emergency response. Of course, Louisiana isn't a Bush stronghold, unlike some other, hurricane ravaged states...

And you also might wonder about Georgie's state of mind. Obvious pictures like him playing the guitar while New Orleans drowned might lead someone to worry about his demeanor, but not the right-wing press. Georgie's attitude is much better skewered here.

For instance, Stein might want to read this story on, to see if Bush and his cronies really are "rushing ... help .. as soon as he can": The big disconnect on New Orleans

9.) There is not the slightest evidence at all that the war in Iraq has diminished the response of the government to the emergency. To say otherwise is pure slander.

Again, note the aggressive offensive attack - brook no quarter, realize no opposition. It's also important to use words that offer no gray area, like "not the slightest", "to say otherwise", etc. Again, there are plenty out there who would disagree, even if it is slanderous. Heck, he might even try reading The Wall Street Journal to see a differing "slanderous" opinion: Behind Poor Katrina Response, A Long Chain of Weak Links

10.) If the energy the news media puts into blaming Bush for an Act of God worsened by stupendous incompetence by the New Orleans city authorities and the malevolence of the criminals of the city were directed to helping the morale of the nation, we would all be a lot better off.

Here's yet another tactic of the conservative apologists that are everywhere in the media these days. You take the high road by blaming someone for something that didn't happen and claim you are doing better. So he blames "the media" (presumably the "liberal" medai, which is, again, a false canard trotted out time and time again to explain Georgie's total failure of leadership), for something nobody is saying - that the President is responsible for the hurricane. But it is always important in these diatribes to lash out at the media, or it wouldn't count.

11.) New Orleans is a great city with many great people. It will recover and be greater than ever. Sticking pins into an effigy of George Bush that does not resemble him in the slightest will not speed the process by one day.

Now he's not even defending Georgie, Ben is just whining about how hard they are on the poor fellow. Again, note the double standard - he's a great leader, but don't blame him if things under his watch are going wrong. It always seems to be Somebody Else's Fault when things go completely wrong, but "You can count on me" if it goes right.

12.) The entire episode is a dramatic lesson in the breathtaking callousness of government officials at the ground level. Imagine if Hillary Clinton had gotten her way and they were in charge of your health care.

Here you have one more conservative bogeyman (or woman, in this case). It isn't a real "defense on the offense" right-wing article unless there is at least one shot at the Clintons, especially Hilary now. Note the hyperbole; the "callousness" is "breathtaking" - well, he's certainly right there. But he has to go and quantify it by saying "government officials at the ground level", whatever the hell that means. So, again, everything that went wrong is the "ground level"'s fault, but the "miracles" and "bravery" exhibited are all His Man's contributions.

As a famous rabbit once said: "What an ultra-maroon!"

First Grade

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My oldest, Rhiannon, headed off to her first day of school this morning. She's really looking forward to first grade, although most of her friends from kindergarten are in different classes, much to her chagrin. She just loves school and we're going to do our best to keep her enjoying it.

She goes to public school, and it seems to be going pretty well. We were faced with a tough decision last year; heck, it is a tough decision every fall, and an incredibly important one - where do our kids go to school? Medford schools do not have a very good reputation; much like the city itself, they are solid yet unspectacular. My wife, an Arlington (a next door town) native, spent her life looking down on Medford, as Arlington has a very high scholastic reputation.

But it seems like Medford schools are improving. Nearly all the schools themselves are brand new, having been built over just the past few years. Of course, buildings are only part of it, but still a good base. And, being a (relatively!) inexpensive place to live so close to Boston, there are plenty of educated, motivated yuppies like ourselves who will push both our kids and our schools to be better. So we're going to stick with the public schools for the immediate future.

I've always felt like the home environment was more important than the school environment, given some base level of competency. But as I get more involved with it, I'm not so sure any more. Here in Massachusetts, we have charter schools, which are privately run schools that are publicly funded. The local school district pays a set amount for every student that goes to one of these (an amount that many call onerous and unfair, btw). This is an interesting option for us, as we have a pretty highly regarded one not too far away. And as we drive the kids to school anyway, it wouldn't be that big a change. But I'd like to support our public schools, and we'll continue to do so.

One thing that a charter school has over a public school is that it doesn't have to accept a student. And even in kindergarten, there are very disruptive kids who make learning difficult. Rhiannon had a pretty good class, but towards the end of the year, some of the kids got out of hand and had a real detrimental effect on everything. And in a charter school (or a private school), the kid or kids could be kicked out. In fact, that is what happened to one of the troublemakers, thus he ended up in Rhiannon's class. And that's a powerful tool to keep things positive at school.

Another, less concrete, advantage charter schools and, to an even greater extent, private schools have is that the parents have made a real effort to send them, as opposed to public schools which happen by default. So presumably, you'd have a more generally committed group of parents, which makes all the difference in the world.

But we'll stay involved and keep the whole learning experience a positive one. Gabrielle is involved in the PTO (the Parent Teacher Organization, a community involvement group), while I coach both girls' soccer teams. So I'd like to think we're giving back. Of course, we can do more, and I think we will.

Anyway, here's a picture of her heading out to school. Her mom takes great pride in having dressed up kids, and that includes nice clothes and, just as important, pretty bows. Rhiannon is six years old and is growing up too fast!

Malice Aforethought

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Katrina from a satellite

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Here's a page from the NOAA (finally, our tax dollars at work) with links to amazing satellite imagery of Katrina's aftermath:


Alabama, meet Katrina

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My parents have been wintering down in Alabama for quite some time; maybe 8 years or so. There's a very nice stretch of beach just west of Florida, and it has better prices. The weather, while not summer-like, is very moderate and the crowds are small. They liked it so much that, two years ago, they bought a new house just north of the Gulf Shores beach. It was a small "slab" house, with a couple of bedrooms and in a nice little neighborhood, all new houses in a new development. House building there is a real boom industry and demand is high.

We visited them in February of 2004 (perhaps I can scrounge up some pictures). We had a great time, and got very lucky with the weather, as it had been pretty miserable up to that point - 70s and sunny. It's more of a summer time beach place than a winter beach place, so it is pretty quiet in February. We had been thinking about using the house for a week or so during the summer and seeing what the beach life was like. The house was a few miles from the beach, but still pretty close.

Last September, Hurricane Ivan made landfall right at Gulf Shores as a Category 3 hurricane. Luckily, my parents had not yet made their annual migration south, so they were in no danger. But Gulf Shores itself took an appaling beating; many of the places we had hung out at just six months before were totally gone, and lots of the high rise beach condos were destroyed. The storied bar The Florabama was washed away, as was one of our favorite bars, Fat Tuesday (a bar chain originating in New Orleans, I think). All along the Ft. Morgan Road, off which was my parents' development, was debris and destruction. Fortunately, their house itself only had minor damage - a few shingles off, some roofing problems, etc.

My parents had been concerned that the neighborhood was falling away already, as people were buying up the houses as rentals. Ivan was the last straw for them, so in June they sold their house at a tidy profit. As they didn't have any new place in mind yet, they put all their furniture in storage at a place in Foley, Alabama.

They called the storage place the other day, and to their relief found that their stuff was okay. An expansion that was getting built had been destroyed by Katrina, but the original buildings were still okay. The owner there complained that all the coverage was about New Orleans and, to a lesser extent, Biloxi and Gulfport, but that Alabama had taken a pretty hard hit as well. In fact, he said that the area of my parents' house had been "completely devastated". So it looks like they got out in the nick of time.

Here is a picture taken at the beach on Dauphin Island, a pretty little island between Gulf Shores and Mobile, in Mobile Bay. It had already taken some serious damage thanks to Ivan, but Katrina seems to have finished the job. When we visited out there, we took a long drive all the way around Mobile Bay. There used to be a small ferry that would take you from Gulf Shores, across a short stretch of the bay, and put you on Dauphin Island. Ivan made short work of that, and I don't think service had been restored even yet. It was a beautiful place, and we drove all the way out to the end of the island, admiring the pretty beach houses up on stilts. Well, Mother Nature put the smack down on that:


Also, here is a link to the WPMI home page, which is a TV station in Mobile, Alabama, covering the area. Suffice to say, it's going to be a long effort even there:

NBC 15 :: Close to Home

Dire Predictions

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Interesting article predicting dire consequences if the Louisiana bayous aren't taken better care off - from the Oct. 2004 National Geographic. George Bush says:

"I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees."

Some day soon, he'll learn to read too....

Louisiana's Wetlands @ National Geographic Magazine

Nagin is one angry man

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An angry Mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, in an interview with WWL-AM. I particularly like the "no more press conferences until we have resources promised" line:

New Orleans Mayor Interview

Katrina help - direct

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David Weinberger, over at Joho the Blog, points out a PayPal donation account to donate directly to a local person helping out in Lake Providence, just outside of New Orleans. If David says Brendan is okay, he's okay with me. Sounds like some place where money might get to someone more directly than just a Red Cross donation:

Lake Providence Help

The Sporting Life

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Another morning freshly back from hockey. We play every Tuesday and Friday mornings from 6:30 to 7:30 in the morning. Just pick-up hockey, with new teams every skate, but the players are pretty good and it's a good time. I play at being a goalie and playing with these guys over the past 5 or 6 years has really given my game a boost. I hope it isn't a poorly timed homily, but as they say, a rising tide floats all boats, so I play better against better skaters.

This morning proved another theory of mine - the team that has the most shots wins nearly every time. We played them pretty closely for the first 45 minutes or so, even though I was getting peppered with plenty of shots. I was moving pretty well and making some nice stops, but we were missing some good opportunities. But at this level, if you can put shots on the goal, you're going to score and they eventually started getting by me, in all kinds of ways; great shots, shots I tipped in myself, shots my defense tipped in for me - sigh. Ah well, we do it again next week.

I'm also an avid golfer, although that takes much more time than hockey, so I don't get to play as much. During the summer, I meet a friend at a small nine hole course up the road every Tuesday morning, so I'm back by 8:30 or so. Hockey, of course, gets in the way of that once it starts up, and, as a goalie I can't just not go or a whole bunch of folks will be mad at me. Luckily, Sunrise Hockey has 2 regular goalies, and a third one shows up every skate and usually gets to skate out, but in an emergency he fills in. Works out well for all of us, cuz you never know. There's only been a small handful of times during the past few years that they've had to play with only one goalie.

But I'm a real hack golfer. If I break 50 for 9 holes, it's been a good morning. When we played the other day (I try to get the third goalie to play for me on Tuesday for a little bit), I shot a 54 - ouch. Bad off the tee and bad putting makes for a long morning. But whoever says there's no exercise in golf is all wrong. Playing early in the morning means no backup at the tees, so you move right along. It's 3200 yards, so given my propensity for driving long and wide, I probably walk a couple of miles. Combine that with swinging a golf club and the mental strain that makes golf "A Good Walk Spoiled", means it is a pretty decent workout.

I'm also an avid sports fan. I'm part of a group that has 6 season tickets to the New England Patriots (a waiting list of like 50,000 now), and I get to see a few Red Sox (and minor league) games during the year. One of the greatest 2 days of my life (save for the births of my girls) was being at the storied games 4 and 5 of the 2004 ALCS against the hated Yankees. 16 out of 30 hours spent at fabled Fenway Park. My girls already know "Yankees Stink" by heart now. Watching the DVD of last year still chokes me up, having truly suffered through '75, '78 (in upstate New York, no less) and '86. It's nice being on top for once!

I'm looking forward to NHL hockey again too. Pretty much the only real TV I watch is sports. The Red Sox are nice because they are on virtually every night, so they will usually be on in the background. Sports are nice to have on TV because they don't demand 100% attention, so you can usually get something else done, like read, play a game or something, while it is on. But during the winter, there's not much on TV except the interminable basketball (especially college basketball) season. I'm not a basketball fan. Too much celebrating of the individual and not enough teamwork, I think. So with the NHL on, I can get the Center Ice package and always have a hockey game on. For some reason, I can watch neutral hockey games with much more interest than baseball without the Sox or football without the Patriots.

Aerial pictures

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Incredible slide show of aerial photos detailing Katrina's destruction:

Hurricane Katrina - Aerial views of the destruction -


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Amazing - live web video from downtown New Orleans:


See also the live blogging going on there:

The Interdictor

I love the understated strength found in the note on the DirectNIC home page:

Due to Hurricane Katrina we have an usually high volume of support requests. Please be patient and we will be back with you as soon as possible.

(from Broken Toys)

Econmics of Katrina

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Nice post on the after effects of Katrina and why it some folks didn't leave:

wicked_wish: Disjointed thoughts on the socio-economics of disaster

Once again, President Boffo has no clue. He shows up a day late, a dollar short, and talks about nothing in particular, guitaring away while New Orleands floods. Even the New York Times gave him a bad write-up. Alright already, he's clueless, okay?

(thanks to Geeky Mom for pointers)

Dawkins & Coyne weigh in on evolution

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I have an earlier post (found here in an earlier blog) about "Intelligent Design" and some other sources for evolution truth. One thing I can say is the Richard Dawkins is my kind of writer and he adds more fire to the scorching heat that should be burning any "Creationist" out there:

Guardian | One side can be wrong

Medford Primary results

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Here are the results for the primary here in Medford. Probably not too surpringly, Medford as a whole went for the local guy. I have to admit, in previous local elections, I too would vote for the guy from Medford. I wonder if the candidates address should be on the ballot at all?

We are in District 2-2, which went for Callahan in a big way. We were number one in both number of votes and near the top at the very least in percentage. Only one district, 6-1, went to the eventual winner, Jehlen.

Medford Primary 2005 results (PDF)

(thanks to 'medfordjared' of the medfordmass yahoo group for the scan)

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