Tuesday, March 27, 2012

ACME for Mayor

It's been way too long since I, as founder and self-appointed president of the ACME Fan Club (syndicated chapter), have offered a post dedicated to the object of my adoration, Andrea Carla Michaels (Eisenberg). I would like to correct that oversight here and now.

I've complained here recently about a change in the atmosphere of Rexville, the virtual community that has formed around the blog that Rex Parker writes about the NYT Crossword puzzle. While I still maintain that major change (I don't like change) is afoot in the community, there is one aspect that remains constant - ACME continues to be positive, upbeat and uniformly entertaining. Andrea, it seems, never met a puzzle she didn't like and when our host, Rex, pans one she is quick to rise to defend it. Here's an example of a recent comment about a puzzle that Rex actually liked: "So glad @rex thought this was nice, or i was going to have to fly across the country to kick him(lightly) in the shins, because i think this puZzle is FANTASTIC!" She then went on for several paragraphs in praise of the puzzle and it's construction, and included an additional 33 exclamation points to show the level of enthusiasm of her love (a subsequent commenter remarked that this was a new record on the Acme Exclamation Point Scale). ACME is nothing if not passionate about crossword puzzle construction. And as the maven of early week puzzles, the Queen of Mondays, she knows whereof she speaks.

I wrote recently about a void that seems to exist in terms of leadership in the comments section of Rexville, and I would like to suggest a solution. ACME should be proclaimed the dominant voice of the community - she is already well-loved and respected, and I think most (but not all) of the Rexites would welcome her positive outlook and technical knowledge of puzzle construction as a keystone to set the tone for the comments section on a daily basis. I'm confident that under her loving and benign guidance the community would regain its sense of shared enjoyment, which seems to be lacking lately.

So I hereby nominate ACME to be Mayor of Rexville, endowed with all of the privileges and respect attendant to that high office and charged with the duty and responsibility to maintain an overall positive and upbeat morale among the population. Her credentials are impeccable and her attitude is unmatched in enthusiasm and positive outlook - who better to guide a discussion among cruciverbalists who, like the girls in the Cyndi Lauper song, just want to have fun?

Will anyone second the motion?

My thoughts on "Pink Slime"

"Pink slime" has been in the news lately, with not much good being said about it. For those of you who missed it - don't you people read the newspaper?! - here's what wikipedia has to say about the product: "Pink slime is a slang word for a type of mechanically recovered meat product. It's also known as boneless lean beef trimmings or lean finely textured beef, and is an industrial byproduct created from low quality beef trimmings treated with ammonia gas to render it acceptable for food health standards...According to The Washington Post, the process involves taking USDA-approved beef trimmings, separating the fat and meat with centrifuges, then squeezing it through a tube the size of a pencil, during which time it is exposed to ammonia gas. The combination of the gas with water in the meat results in a reaction that increases the pH (lowering acidity) and killing pathogens such as E. coli. At the end of the process, the beef is at least 90 percent lean. It is used in meat supplies across the U.S. It rarely comprises more than 25 percent of the final meat product that consumers purchase and eat."

So there you have it: "pink slime" is 90% lean finely textured beef that has been rendered safe to eat through a chemical process which kills the bacteria. Somehow that doesn't sound so bad.

I started thinking about this topic this afternoon as I was browning some ground beef (pink slime content unknown) to make a batch of my world-famous, award-winning chili. It occurred to me that what I was doing was not terribly different from the process that produces "pink slime". I used heat instead of ammonia gas (I don't have any) to kill the bacteria, and since I don't have a centrifuge either I used a spoon to take the fat out of the pan, but otherwise the processes seem remarkably similar.

There's an old saying that making sausage and passing legislation are messy businesses and neither one is pleasant to watch. When I was in "junior high" (now called "middle school") we went on a field trip to the Kirschner plant in Augusta to see how hot dogs are made - it was several years, maybe decades, before I could eat another hot dog. I think we can now add "pink slime" to the list of items that the less we know about how they are made, the better. But if the processes utilize products that would otherwise be thrown away or fed to the pigs to produce a food product that is nutritious, safe to eat, and tasty to boot - is that really a bad thing?

I read today that the uproar caused by media reports on the topic have resulted in a substantial loss of orders for the primary producer of "pink slime" and that as a result they have had to lay off workers. That really is a bad thing given the tough unemployment situation that continues to hamper our economy.

So here is what I would like to see the media do: forget about sensational stories (with accompanying disgusting video) concerning the production of safe, nutritious food products and shine a light on the equally disturbing, even more disgusting process by which our laws get made. Believe me, what goes into hot dogs and pink slime is nothing compared to the total bullshit that goes into the legislative process, and they don't even bother to sterilize it!

"Pink slime" may be unsavory but it's way better than anything produced by Congress lately.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

"The Van"

In early 1996 I was a newly-single dad with two young sons and one of the things I needed sooner rather than later was a new car. I had given the situation some thought and had decided on the optimal features of our new vehicle: an all-wheel drive (because we live in Maine) conversion van (because it would have captain's seats front and back and a TV/VCR - extremely rare in those days - to make our frequent trips to visit friends in the Boston area more pleasant. All other options were unimportant; we wanted a used AWD conversion van with a TV/VCR - this is not a easy vehicle to find.

So when on my daily commute to the office in South Portland I spied a conversion van on a dealer's lot right on my way, I had to stop and check it out. It was a 1994 Chevy Astro AWD high-top conversion van with 51,000 miles, recently returned from a two year lease and it was perfect for my needs. Of course I bought it, and so began a love affair that lasted for 12 years (longer than any of my marriages) and 300,000 miles.

"The van", as it came to be known, became our means of escape and our home away from home. Want to go camping with Grandma and Grandpa at Beaver Brook? No problem, we'll take the van. Trip to East Boston to visit Josie and the family - what movie do you want to watch on the way down? The van was more than our transportation, it was our escape. Snow boarding at Sugarloaf, paintball tournaments in New Hampshire, Boy Scout camp, school trips or just ramming around - the van was the way we rolled.

My older son learned to drive in the van and used it to take his driver's test to get his license. And when he borrowed it to go to a friends house shortly after he obtained his license, but decided instead to take a joy ride with some unallowed passengers, the van called home to rat him out (that's a classic story worthy of its own post). The van was truly a member of the family.

Most of the miles wracked up on the odometer were due to my daily commute to work in Augusta, a round trip of more than 80 miles. All those miles were not trouble free, but the few breakdowns that I experienced were generally at a time and place that minimized the inconvenience. The exception to this was on a trip back to Maine from Maryland, when the fuel pump (which had already been replaced previously) failed while we were on the Tappanzee bridge in New York. When you break down on the Tappanzee bridge and call 911 to report your problem, the push truck (it's faster than towing) is in your rear-view mirror before you hang up from the call. With the assistance of AAA, the repair was made quickly (because it's a Chevy) and we still arrived home the same day. And because the previous fuel pump replacement was a "Mr. Goodwrench" repair with a lifetime warranty, I was reimbursed for the cost of the new fuel pump! God, I loved that van!

But all good things must come to an end - by mid-2008, more than 12 years after it came into our lives, the van was tired. With 350,000 miles on the odometer it still ran like a champion but there was a cancer in it's belly. Rust had rendered it uninspectable and my mechanic pronounced it time to let the van go. And so I did.

I scoured the used car (I don't buy new) ads until I spotted a vehicle that seemed to fit my new requirements: a 4WD regular cab pick-up with a short box (a Chevy, of course). (The boys are grown and my needs have changed.) I took it for a test drive but I knew, just as I had known when I first saw the van, that this would be my next (and maybe my last) vehicle. I picked it up on January 20, 2009, the day President Obama was inaugurated, and I think I'll keep it for a long time. Maybe someday it will get its own post here - but I doubt it will ever have as many stories to tell as the van.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Evil Doug

I frequent another blog, Rex Parker Does the New York Times Crossword Puzzle, which I have written about here previously. I go there daily to read Rex's (Michael Sharp's) write-up of the puzzle which is always educational and entertaining, and to read the comments, often 100 or more, of the other denizens of "Rexville", as the on-line community has been dubbed. Prominent among those commenters is one who calls himself "Evil Doug".

Evil Doug (real name Doug Wolff) is a retired commercial airline pilot who appears to be intelligent, articulate, and very opinionated. His comments on the blog are often funny, insightful and original. When he limits his remarks to the puzzle they are almost always entertaining and some times enlightening. As I said, Evil Doug is a smart guy. But there's a problem, at least for me - he seldom limits his remarks to the puzzle.

As I said, ED (if I may abbreviate) has some very strongly held opinions and he feels free to express them while commenting on Rex's blog. This, in and of itself, might be OK as members of Rexville often express their point of view regarding issues that come up in the context of discussion of the puzzle, but ED takes it a step further. He monitors the on-going discussion and immediately jumps in to respond to any comment that takes issue with his expressed point of view. From my perspective as a "syndicated solver" reading the comments five weeks after they were posted, ED looks like the blog bully, replying to every comment that challenges his opinion or offers another point of view. He seems to need to be "right" in every argument (even though in most instances he is the only one "arguing"). And like most bullies, it is not beneath him to resort to stereotypes and questionable generalizations to make his point - ED, it seems, does not like people who think differently that he does.

Rexville used to be a place where all comments were welcome and diversity of opinion was the cornerstone of its success. Evil Doug has changed that by trying to impose his point of view as the dominant standard for comments on the blog, and none that dispute his stated point of view are left unchallenged. I should point out here that ED is able to conduct his cyber-bullying only because Rex recently abdicated his oversight of the comments section, which has unwritten rules that if enforced would prevent ED's abuse.

I've identified a problem, at least for me, so I feel obligated to offer a solution and here it is: Evil Doug should start his own blog where he can freely express is own point of view and thoroughly excoriate any who disagree with him. Doug is a talented and entertaining writer and I'll bet he would have a lot of followers - I might even be one of them. And he could denigrate posters who disagree with him to his heart's content because it's his blog! He gets to be his evil, entertaining self and Rex Parker's blog can go back to discussing the NYT crossword puzzle without worrying about the bully lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce on any objectionable (to ED) comment.

I suspect that some who visit here occasionally will know what I am talking about - feel free to agree or disagree, I welcome your comments.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

"Pity lay"

The phrase as I understand it refers to a situation whereby one has sex with a person that they would not otherwise be inclined to grant sexual favors but does so out of a sense of pity for how bad the recipient seems to feel. Perhaps it's an otherwise platonic friend who's feeling really down on life, or an ex-lover who needs some serious cheering up, but for whatever reason you think some sexual attention is just what they need to help alleviate their blues. I'm not sure where or when I first heard the term, but once I learned that the possibility existed it was not beneath me to use it to my advantage - if being sad and despondent is going to get me laid, I can be as pathetic as I need to be.

I'm telling you this now because last night I did something I have never done before - I gave someone a (metaphorical) pity lay. Who knew I could be so sensitive and sympathetic to someone else's needs?

My favorite radio station, WMPG, is having a pledge week ("Begathon" they call it) to raise funds for their operating expenses, and I have already contributed generously - probably more than I can afford, to be honest. So as I listen to the DJ's, all of whom I love, making their pitches for listeners to call in to donate I can smugly think I don't need to call because I have already done more than my part.

That changed last night while I was listening to Suzanne host her Red, White and Blues show. She was making all the usual pitches for listener contributions, giving out the number to call and describing the various incentives, depending on how much you donated - and she was playing some smokin' hot blues, as she always does. Of the six volunteers who host blues programs in this time slot, she is my favorite because of the passion she brings to the show. But things seemed not to be going well for her donation-wise.

As the show progressed Suzanne became increasingly desperate for callers - she apparently had set ambitious expectations for herself in terms of the number of callers and the dollars pledged, and it seems she was coming up short in both categories. Near the end of the two hour program she was practically begging for callers, and I succumbed. I didn't pledge a lot of money but I hope my call made her feel a little better about herself - that's what a "pity lay" is supposed to do, right? I hope it was as good for her as it was for me.

Creationism, Intelligent Design, whatever you call it

The universe is, from where I sit and considering what little I know about it, a remarkable place. Honestly, thinking about its vastness, and its immense age, and the fact that it's still apparently expanding at the speed of light (which I can't even imagine), and the fact that we even exist here on our little minuscule, inconsequential corner of a solar system that is itself minuscule and inconsequential in the grand scheme of things - well, honestly it gives me a headache.

Now I would love for there to be a simple explanation for how all of this came to be. We are told it all began with the "Big Bang" - what caused the big bang, and of what I wonder, and where did all that matter come from to begin with? And who wrote the laws of physics, anyway? How could random chance produce an organism as complex as man - or an amoeba, for that matter? And what force gave "life" to it all? Come on, people, I need some answers here!

Of course one possible explanation, one that is held dear by many, maybe most, of the inhabitants or our little orb is that there is some higher power, a Supreme Being maybe, who somehow directed the forces that produced the Universe as we know it (and I suspect what we don't know is vastly more abundant that what we do know). I for one would love for this to be the case - it neatly explains all the things that can't possibly be explained otherwise and removes all the anxiety about our worth as part of the big picture. It would truly be comforting to know that the human race is a product of some intentional plan. If we are that special to the force that created the whole shebang, then surely we will continue to exist for eternity, right? I'll bet the dinosaurs thought that, too.

But here's my problem with the whole creator/intelligent design/call-it-what-you- will line of thinking - where did he/she/it come from? Believe in a Supreme Being if you like, but even if it's true it doesn't answer the question which is, what was there before our universe came into being?

But random chance - really? Here's what I think - we won't be around as a species long enough to even begin to answer the question - or to even learn what the real question is. If we don't blow ourselves up or poison our planet to the point of making it uninhabitable, I'll bet there an asteroid with our name on it headed in this direction from the far reaches of the galaxy.

Or maybe it will all be made clear when we depart this life and move on to whatever is next. I just don't know, but I think it's a good reason to have a drink.

Monday, March 19, 2012

"Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose..."

That's a line from a Janis Joplin song I was just listening to, and every time I hear it I think there is a lot of truth to it. We live in a materialistic world that values possessions above all else - "The one who dies with the most toys, wins".

Wins what, I wonder? And at what cost? If we spend our lives in pursuit of "stuff" instead of happiness, can that be a good thing? And if we give up our freedom to live a joyful life in order to protect our "stuff", is that commendable? Because really, we can't be truly happy or free if we have to worry all the time about losing our "stuff". And if getting more "stuff", or bigger and better "stuff" than what we already have is our focus, then I'd like to suggest that our priorities are seriously screwed up.

"Feelin' good is good enough..." according to the same song. So if you have your health, a roof over your head, food on the table, and can afford a good education for your kids, maybe with a few bucks left over for a night out with your sweetie, relax and feel good. You already have it better than many folks. If "too much" is never enough, you will never be free, or happy. And that's just sad.

Of course Janis Joplin also sang, "Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz...?" so maybe she's sending a little bit of a mixed message there, but I'm going to stick with what I said above - I drive a Chevy that I bought used, and I can barely afford to pay the excise tax on that (if you live in Maine, you know what I mean). But I am a happy man.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Nakedivity 2012

Yesterday was St. Patrick's Day and that means that the vernal equinox, which ushers in Spring here in the northern hemisphere, is still a few days away. But you certainly wouldn't know that by the day we experienced here on the 43rd parallel today.

Whenever it's warm enough to sit out on the deck on a Sunday morning it's my custom to take my coffee and the paper outside to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air, and today was such a day. By mid-morning the sun was high enough to raise the temps to a tolerable level so I ventured out, fully clothed. But as I sat there reading the paper and sipping my coffee I began to feel too warm, so I shed a layer of clothes (it's still winter in Maine, so I had multiple layers on). And a while later, as I was in the direct sun and sheltered from the breeze, another layer had to go. And so it went until all I had on was my baseball cap and sunglasses - nakedivity had been achieved for the first time in 2012!

By the time I started on the crossword puzzle it was after noon, so it didn't seem unreasonable to enjoy a glass of Guiness, which I had left over from yesterday's celebration of all things Irish. When I had completed the puzzle and finished my third and last glass of beer the deck was in the shadow of the house and the temperature had started to drop, so it was time to don my layers of clothes and move back inside. All good things come to an end, but today was not the end of nakedivity for 2012 - it was just the beginning.

I can hardly wait for Spring to arrive!

Friday, March 16, 2012

"Supplements, Suppositories and Shakespeare"

The title of this post is an honest-to-God not made up by me headline of an article in "Senior News", a newspaper published by the Southern Maine Agency on Aging. I do some volunteer work for them so I receive their monthly paper as a "perk".

I have no idea what the article was about - I didn't want to ruin my enjoyment of the headline by finding out it dealt with some mundane topic like "ways to avoid depression as you age", or some such drivel. I mean, with a headline like that the article could go any number of interesting ways - if it had appeared in just about any other publication it would have riveted my attention and forced me to read what the writer had to say.

Maybe I should have read the article, and maybe I wouldn't have been disappointed but I'm not willing to take a chance of spoiling my sheer joy, my total love of the phrase "Supplements, Suppositories and Shakespeare" to risk associating it with something less awesome than the image it conjures up for me.

Jimmy Buffett is 65 years old - I'll bet he could write a fantastic song with that title. Dave Barry would probably say it would be a terrific name for a rock band. I just know it deserves a better fate than to headline a story in a paper for us "senior citizens".

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Freeport Flag Ladies

Every Tuesday morning a remarkable thing happens in Freeport, Maine. Three women, know collectively and affectionately as "The Freeport Flag Ladies" stand on Main Street and wave the American Flag. They have been doing this for over 10 years.

Here's the story of their beginning, in their own words: "The Freeport Flag Ladies began their mission a few days after the horrific events of 9-11 when President bush asked people to stand outside their homes holding candles. Since there was little traffic where the three women were standing with friends the decision was made to walk up the hill to Main Street in Freeport Maine. Elaine ran into the house to grab the large American flag which stood in the hallway and brought it with her. At first she just stood with the flag at her side but she felt nudged to hold it out. As soon as she did the passing motorists began calling out "God Bless America" & "We can get through this." She knew that this was the answer to her prayers to be shown a way of helping her country and the decision was made to stand at this same spot every Tuesday morning waving the flag. This has continued for over 9 years."

But what started out as a modest act to show love of country and support for those who responded to the terrorist attack of 9/11 has grown to be more than that - much more. The Flag Ladies are on a mission and here it is, again in their own words: "The mission is to support our troops and veterans. We meet flights heading to Iraq and Afghanistan as they stop to refuel in Bangor and at Pease Airport in New Hampshire. Photos are taken and put on a website for the families. Packages are sent to the troops and help is given whenever asked for our veterans." And of course they still wave the American flag on Main Street every Tuesday morning.

So here's what I'm asking you to do: go to their website (http://www.freeportflagladies.com/), read their history, look at their photos, and if you agree with me that what they are doing is a truly amazing display of love and sacrifice on behalf of our country, contact them and let them know. You don't have to send a contribution but I'm sure they would be very appreciative if you did and they would use it to further their good works. Tell them Dirigonzo sent you.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Life on the 43rd Parallel

It's almost 7:00PM on March 11 as I write, and it is still light out. This wholly unnatural situation is due to the early onset of Daylight Savings Time as mandated by Federal legislation. I don't think I like it.

Living half way between the equator, where the days are the same length all year round, and the North Pole, which enjoys six months of daylight and six months of night, I have gotten used to a certain predictability in the amount of daylight I can enjoy on any given date. Days and nights are of equal length on the equinoxes, the longest day is on the summer solstice and the shortest day is on the winter solstice. Congress cannot change those astronomical facts.

So why, I wonder, do they feel the need to mess around with the clock, dictating that daylight should last an hour later (note: NOT longer - they can't change that) during Daylight Savings Time than it does during Standard Time? Whose cockamamie idea was that, anyway? Oh, wait - wikipedia can answer that question:

G.V. Hudson invented modern DST, proposing it first in 1895. Modern DST was first proposed by the New Zealand entomologist George Vernon Hudson, whose shift-work job gave him leisure time to collect insects, and led him to value after-hours daylight.[8] In 1895 he presented a paper to the Wellington Philosophical Society proposing a two-hour daylight-saving shift,[26] and after considerable interest was expressed in Christchurch, New Zealand he followed up in an 1898 paper.[27] Many publications incorrectly credit DST's proposal to the prominent English builder and outdoorsman William Willett,[28] who independently conceived DST in 1905 during a pre-breakfast ride, when he observed with dismay how many Londoners slept through a large part of a summer's day.[29] An avid golfer, he also disliked cutting short his round at dusk.[30] His solution was to advance the clock during the summer months, a proposal he published two years later.[31]

So apparently we have a Kiwi bug collector and an English golfer to thank for this atrocity against nature. It figures. Goddam foreigners can't leave well enough alone.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Screen Names, Alter Egos and Aliases

"Dirigonzo" is, of course, a made-up name - you can even read about how it came to be made-up if you peruse the early posts on this blog. I prefer not to post here, or anywhere else on the Internet for that matter, using my real name. And if anyone were to scrutinize my posts here or elsewhere for clues as to my true identity, a little research might lead them to "Guy Mainer", Dirigonzo's alter ego but of course not my real identity, either. I take these precautions to protect my identity not so I can write anonymously to say outrageous or untrue things about anybody or anything, but simply to stay off the radar of those who cruise the Internet in search of names to harvest for whatever commercial, political or ideological interests they represent. When you put your real name out there, you have no control over where it may wind up or for what purpose it may be used - so I don't do it.

I mention this now because I recently completed an on-line survey for a group that is working to improve the political process in my home town. I support what they are trying to do and want to help them in any way I can, so I answered the questions honestly but when it came to providing my name I balked - not because I don't want them to know who I am (they already do, from other correspondence I have had with them) but because the information on the survey is available to anyone with a computer and a little tech savvy, most importantly including Google, which is the web site that hosts the survey. The extent to which Google collects, correlates and utilizes data about its users is nothing short of Orwellian. If "Big Brother" had a screen name it would be "Google".

So here's my point: There is a real person writing these musings and I am perfectly willing to take ownership and responsibility for them. But I am not going to associate my real name with what I write here or with on-line surveys I complete elsewhere out of an abundance of caution concerning the potential for misuse of my "real" identity. There is a reason that Google and facebook offer all of those really cool applications that you love so much for free - the information that you provide when you use them is worth $Billions and $Billions to them.

So if you really need to know who writes this stuff, just ask me via email and I'll probably tell you - I'm not "anonymous", I'm just cautious.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Rush Limbaugh doesn't scare me...

... what does scare me is that he has a huge audience of devoted listeners who think everything he says makes sense! I know some of these people and they are otherwise intelligent, rational men (I suspect most of Rush's followers are men). Rush, it seems, gives voice to their worst fears and (sorry but it's true) prejudices.

This morning I had a conversation with two of Rush's listeners, both of whom I like and respect for their intelligence, common sense and family values, and I was troubled by their remarks. Rush's most recent debacle was precipitated by his remarks concerning a young woman who supported President Obama's move to make health insurance coverage of birth control measures mandatory - I won't bore you with the details, but "slut" and "prostitute" were terms that he used to characterize her.

So when Rush came up in the conversation this morning (business is slow, we were bored and had nothing else to talk about) my friends, and I use the term advisedly because they are my friends, rose to his defense by doing what he would do: attacking the woman whose views offended Rush (and by extension, them). They parroted Rush's remark that "she wants to be paid to have sex", and augmented the argument with, "...if we have to pay for her birth control pills, then someone should have to pay for my beer."

Here's what scares me: Rush successfully reframed the issue for my friends from "should women's birth control expenses be mandatorily covered by health insurance?", to "should we have to pay this woman to have sex?"! Rush Limbaugh's outrageous commentary derailed the rational argument concerning legitimate issues involving health care coverage and replaced it with discussion of a loaded question about paying someone to have sex, and these otherwise intelligent people don't realize that they have been duped.

Or maybe they haven't been duped - maybe they understand that Rush is an entertainer who says outrageous things just to gain an audience but they agree with his remarks anyway. That would really scare me.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

A question for the Town Planning Board and Economic Development Committee

A leader of those two groups, which help steer development and commercial growth in our community, recently wrote:

"I’ve watched this most recent Seacoast Soccer item unfold for approximately 2 years and witnessed in person Tuesday evening the close of the issue, at least on the land near the transfer station. Personally, I was not opposed nor for their proposals, but was interested in discovering facts, weighing out the benefits and the costs and assessing Freeport’s sentiments in light of their requests through due process. As a person that owns an independent business in town, I did see tertiary benefits to having Seacoast in our community, as an indoor facility might bring some economic benefit in our very seasonal annual sales landscape. As a resident, I was interested in making sure that the location fit with the neighbors and the surrounding uses. Finally, as the chair of the Planning Board, I am tasked with looking at Zoning Ordinance language change requests and how that relates to our comprehensive plan, without actually thinking of the entity that is making the request.

"What I got out of all of these discussions and presentations is that there were valid reasons, valid legal opinions, and valid voices – on both sides of the issue.

"I have very close and dear friends, business associates and neighbors on both sides of this issue and it would be ludicrous to vilify any one of them, as a person, for their beliefs and sentiments. I appreciate a passionate presentation and I applaud a grassroots mobilization effort, but I beseech you, as you move forward, please do so with decorum – don’t divide this town. Respect all of your neighbors, even if you might disagree with their ideas at times.

"We did gain some benefits from all the time dedicated to this process; public awareness was raised to a point that a neighborhood coalition was formed and we have many new opportunities to meet and converse with various councilors.

"As a planning board member, I have said, the most intelligent planning a town can do is visionary, and conversely the most challenging planning we do is in response to a request – both happen, because zones and uses are not static and they shouldn’t be. I heard almost everyone say that the Seacoast project wasn’t the issue, it was the location. It’s easy to rail against proposals as they organically bubble up; the hard work is mobilizing an effort to create infrastructure that welcomes growth where you’d like it to go. I pose a question to this coalition now as a Planning Board member: What efforts will you pursue to accommodate future requests in appropriate zones?"

This was written in reaction to the recent decision by the town council to reject a commercial development proposal based on zoning restrictions. The comment was directed to the leaders of the group that was formed to oppose the development, known locally as "the 70%", based on their claim that they represent residential property owners who pay 70% of the community's property taxes. The writer is, as she states, a local business owner, member of the planning board and I believe, although she does not say so, a member of the local economic development board.

So I have a question to pose to her, in all of those capacities: We need to create an infrastructure that welcomes growth while protecting and supporting the quality of life of all of the town's residents; what efforts will you pursue to address the needs of our community's neediest and most at risk citizens? There are among us families that struggle just to provide the bare essentials of life, including heat and food, and they deserve as much support in the town's planning process as any other group, even if there are no lawyers in the room representing them.

Come to think of it, I guess I'd like to address the same question to the leaders of "the 70%", too.