Saturday, April 19, 2014

Farmers Market Marks The Big 43

Amherst Farmers Market Spring Street parking lot

The weekly Amherst Farmers Market opened for business today, a sure sign spring has arrived.

As for Amherst institutions the weekly Sunday afternoon anti-war vigil in town center dates back a bit further, to 1966, but since they took a hiatus from 1973-1979 the Amherst Farmers Market 43 continuous years in operation sets them apart.

The Farmers Market seemed less crowded this afternoon than usual, but it may take a while for consumers to get used to them being back in operation after a l-o-n-g winter.

Also, some aficionados for locally grown food may have adopted All Things Local as their go to place since it opened last November.  And since it's a bricks and mortar operation, bad weather is never a concern.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Gimme Shelter

 New shelters have large signage and overhead lighting

The Amherst DPW has installed shelters to enclose the parking payment machines around town, making the system a tad more user friendly.  The town switched over to the machines (which take credit cards) in the winter of 2011, but to a rough start.

 All around DPW installing machines in the downtown on Thursday

The directions were a tad confusing -- especially since the machines do not spit out receipts -- and the tiny screens, which are not backlit, especially hard to read at night. 

The shelters cost $13,000 but since the system generates $8,500 per week in parking meter fees, they should pay for themselves in only a couple weeks.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Above All Else, Do No Harm

I think before the Community Emergency Response Team takes their final exam, the entire class will also swear allegiance to the Hippocratic Oath.

On Wednesday night the CERT team learned basic firefighting skills, and by basic I mean little fires.  But, like the mighty oak, many monster fires start with a combustion point not much bigger than an acorn.

And if you can get to it before it has a chance to feed, the voracious dragon is more easily slayed.

As a lightly trained volunteer the first thing a CERT member does is to sizeup the situation and decide if there is anything they really can do, safely, to help the scenario.

 Hadley fire 10/27/13.  Not your basic fire

First rule, Rule #1, is protect yourself, second rule is protect your family and third rule is to then help those in need, until the professionals arrive.

But only if you can do it without violating rules #1 and #2.

 Streaming Cinda

To drive home the point, powerfully, the class watched a five-minute film with a somber final scene.  The instructor asked before hand if anyone wished to leave the room.  Nobody did.

A police officer on a rural dirt road arrives on an accident scene involving a car and a farm truck, each vehicle coming to rest on opposite sides of the road.   A large body is laying face down halfway between them, directly in the center of the road, but partially obscured by what appears to be smoke.

The truck on the right has a diamond shaped placard attached, although due to heavy fog-like conditions which are getting noticeably worse, it's not easily discernible.

The officer radios dispatch to report the scene, requesting fire and EMS response with a push, and before getting out of his vehicle requests their estimated time of arrival.

He's told, "5-7 minutes." 

His dashcam records the officer quickly move to the victim in the road.   By now both are almost obscured by the mist and you can hear the officer say loudly as he kneels by the victim, "Are you okay?" No answer. 

Then a series of loud hacking coughs.  The officer is no longer kneeling ...

For the next few moments his personal microphone kicks on and off rhythmically, as the officer draws his final breaths.

A firetruck appears from the opposite direction, pulls up close to the scene and firefighters can be seen gearing up for what seems like agonizing minutes, but in fact was probably less than a minute. 

A couple firefighters run a hose to the truck and start spraying it down with water while others scoop up the officer on a portable stretcher.  The film ends.  They both died.

In fact the initial victim the officer desperately tried to save, giving up his own life in the process, was already dead.  The white "smoke" was deadly chlorine gas.

When I took the APD citizens police academy 15 years ago they had a newfangled LaserDisc that stored a 1,000 or more interactive training scenarios projected on a large screen to practice "shoot or don't shoot" situations.  

In the last scenario of three, I died (but took the perp with me).  I was so distraught I asked the instructor the next day what had I done wrong?  "Nothing," he responded. "There are 3 or 4 scenarios on that disc designed to ensure you die."

Thus sending a humbling message any professional first responder knows all too well, as they don't always have the luxury of abiding by Rule #1:  You can do everything right, tapping decades of skills and experience, motivated by the best of intentions ... and death can still win.



Aidan 1 Fire 0


Start of WBC protest 12:15 p.m. just after I was thrown off the median strip

While I completely understand the heavy-handed approach UMPD took with "protecting" the Westboro Baptist Church trolls yesterday, it was still a clear  infringement on the "freedom of the press" to report a newsworthy item (slow news day or not).

Amherst College can do whatever it damn well pleases with visitors, including the press, because it's private property.   The University of Massachusetts is a publicly funded institution which should value above all else, academic freedom -- which goes hand in hand with the First Amendment and freedom of the press.


The crowd that had gathered on the other side of Massachusetts Avenue outnumbers the WBC protesters 30-1, but other than being vocal did not represent any sort of threat.  And there were at least a dozen uniformed officers present to keep things from getting physical.

So why prevent reporters and photographers from crossing the street to interview the "church" members?  

The WBC performers wrap themselves in the freedoms represented by the American flag, perhaps why they use Old Glory prominently as a prop.  I find it disconcerting my rights guaranteed by that flag were infringed upon in order to overly protect these outliers. 

Of course I couldn't help but notice as they packed up to leave a few minutes before 1:00 p.m. they allowed the stars and stripes to touch the ground.

Red, White and Blue on green grass

Considering the disrespect shown by their signage, not overly surprising. 

DUI Dishonor Roll

Alcohol and driving don't mix

Police arrested Christine Cummings, age 23, on Saturday at 5:45 p.m. on Meadow Street in North Amherst for Driving Under the Influence with a .12% Blood Alcohol Concentration, 50% over the .08% state limit. 

Considering the time of day, on a busy weekend in Amherst (Extravaganja had attracted 6,000 to the town common) and that location near UMass where foot traffic is high, this could have been a lot worse.

Especially since Ms. Cummings first drew attention to herself by having an "extremely overloaded" vehicle. 

Police also arrested Eamon Connor, age 19, over the weekend with a BAC almost twice the state limit.  In Eastern Hampshire District Court on Monday (with his dad present) his case was continued to May 13 so he could hire an attorney.

Eamon Connor, 19


And Saturday afternoon at 2:45 p.m., right around peak moment for Extravaganja, police arrested Jeremy Lopez, 19, for DUI drugs (pot) about a mile away from town center.  

Belchertown Rd (Rt. 9) Saturday 2:50 p.m.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

UMass 3,000 Hate Church 5

UMass was indeed united today

Gotta have cute kids

UMass students, high school students and bevy of locals turned out by the thousands to offset the five (5) members of the Westboro Baptist Church who actually did show up this afternoon to spread their hateful anti-gay message.  Not that anyone was listening.

 Huge crowd at Fine Arts Center 11:30 a.m.

UMPD was out in force and did a good job of keeping the groups separate.  The UMass United crowd first formed at Fine Arts Center at 11:30 a.m. and marched to the Student Union, while the WBC arrived at 12:15 p.m. at the intersection of University Drive and Massachusetts Avenue near the Southwest Towers.
The WBC 5

How many signs can one hater hold?

A good crowd formed on the opposite side of the road numbering in the hundreds with plenty of media present, but UMPD kept them from crossing the road.  And a little before 1:00 p.m. the five church members packed in their signs and called it a day. 

 Adjacent crowd with plenty of media

Adjacent crowd shot from the rear

UMPD and Office of News & Media Relations keeps watchful eye

At least two signs per person 

Live tweeting their own protest

Calling it a day at 12:55 p.m.


Guess I got their attention

Blarney Blowout Surcharge?

Blarney Blowout confrontation near Pi Kappa Alpha frathouse

In Eastern Hampshire District Court on Monday one of the more egregious Blarney Blowout arrestees, Zach Bodine, age 23,  came before Judge Payne for a, hopefully, final disposition plea deal.

 Zach Bodine, age 23

The prosecution read the charges to the Judge as though the case were going to trial:  Mr Bodine was arrested at the "infamous Blarney Blowout" at the scene of the largest confrontation in and around Pike frathouse on the corner of North Pleasant and Fearing Street.

After police had given an order to disperse they came under fire from projectiles including cans and bottles, some of them launched from a 3rd floor balcony. 

Mr. Bodine, who was intoxicated at the time, was given a direct order to disperse which he responded to by challenging the officers and then getting into a physical wresting match.  He lost.

His court appointed attorney told Judge Payne the facts presented by the prosecution were indeed "egregious," but they represented an uncharacteristic, "once in a lifetime incident."

Mr. Bodine had been a UMass student majoring in Physics (with a 3.2 GPA) and worked as a PVTA driver, but dropped out last winter.

He would like to return to UMass and finish up his degree.

Judge Payne first asked the prosecution if the town and officers involved were aware of the settlement agreement?  The ADA responded, "Yes".

The Judge then handed down the sentence:  Six months probation with all charges continued without a finding, $50/month probation fee, 40 hours community service, no alcohol during probation period, and finally a $200 "restitution fee" paid to the town for police reimbursement.

Should Judge Payne institute that restitution fee on all 53 Blarney Blowout arrestees it would go a long way towards covering the $13,000 in overtime costs incurred by the APD that ignoble day.