The April 2011 edition of Harvard Business Review was dedicated to “Failure” and “How to Understand It”, “Learn From It” and “Recover from It”. In the article “How to Avoid Catastrophe”, authored by Catherine Tinsley, Robin Dillon and Peter Madsen the authors noted that “Near misses preceded every disaster they studied and most were ignored”.

Aerial view of the location

Yesterday, we had a near miss in Medfield, when an elderly woman floored her Jaguar after dropping a letter into a mailbox at the post office. Various reports of the incident quoted the daughter of the driver who was in the passenger seat as saying “We mailed our letter in the post, stepped on the gas and we rocketed.”

The car crossed the adjacent parking lot at 50 North Street and then continued past the building over a steep drop where a stone wall caused the vehicle to overturn (see red arrow in the picture). Unimaginable grief could have been inflicted on this community, had the children been playing outside at the time. This patio is usually bustling with kids.

It takes about 5 seconds for an accelerating car to travel the 200 feet from the mailbox to the patio. The driver had 5 seconds to realize that she had stepped on the gas pedal instead of the break, and to make a correction by putting the foot back onto the brake. 5 seconds are an eternity, but it was not enough. Nobody with a 5 second reaction time should be driving on public roadways, regardless of age.

Let’s make sure that this near miss is not ignored.

.. and then he goes on and on about how “Big Goverment” should not tell our children what to eat, because it infringes on their freedom to chose.

I have seldom read a more misguided opinion piece. The article is labeled “a humorous look at area life”. The humor evaded me. In fact, Mr. McInnis seemed to be very serious about our childrens’ right to chose. To support his point that the freedom of choice must be valued above everything else, McInnis brings to his aide other examples such as mandatory car insurance (he is against it), mandatory health insurance (he is against it), and a few other conservative favorites. Have we not heard enough complaints from people fearing the loss of their freedom to chose – not to buy health insurance, that is?

It troubles me that so many conservative commentators fail to see the real dimensions of the challenges that we face as a society. Mr McInnis, freedom of choice (or the lack thereof) is not the issue here. There are so many ways in which our society restricts your freedom of choice already – for a greater good. Aren’t you glad that people are not able to chose to run around with an assault rifle and randomly fire at bystanders? I don’t own a $200,000 car, but I know people who do and occasionally get rear-ended – hopefully by a driver who carries mandatory liability insurance.

See the pattern here? The purpose of these rules is not to restrict the choices of the individual but to protect the rest of us from individuals who make the wrong choices.

The freedom to not buy health insurance is about as justifyable as the freedom not to buy car insurance – not at all. Both are designed to protect the people around us. We don’t let our uninsured neighbor die if he comes down with cancer or some other incurable condition, of which there seems to be an ever-growning variety. As a society, we haven’t fallen quite that low. But my point of argument is not a soft ethical one, it is a hard economical one. There is a safety net for people who are not insured, but it is fragile and has big loopholes, and it is more expensive than having insurance in the first place. We simply cannot afford people who are not insured.

Should homeowner insurance be mandatory? If a house burns down, who else is affected other than the homeowner? Since it is only his problem if he failed to protect himself, shouldn’t he have the freedom to chose not to buy fire insurance? It can be argued that a fire ruin in a neighborhood is not a desirable thing to have, and if the homeowner did not have insurance coverage and the funds to rebuild after a fire, that’s most likely what will remain. But the picture changes again if this homeowner carried a mortgage. Lenders require a homeowner’s policy not because they want to restrict the individuals right to chose, but they want to protect their shareholders (and other policy holders) from the risk, and the higher cost that the risk would come with. I don’t want my mortage interest to go up because my lender has uninsured properties in his portfolio, do you?

Unfortunately, nowhere else does this society have a greater need to protect itself than when it comes to school lunches. With obesity soon taking over smoking as the #1 cause of death in this country, with health care spending rising fast and already being 50% higher than in other, more developed countries, there is no time to lose. Research is lagging quite a bit in the area of how food, food production, and health are linked, but this cannot be an excuse for inaction. We don’t need to be rocket scientists to make the more obvious connections.


So, again, Mr McInnis, I’d take the limitation on my children’s choice to eat Twinkies over a healthier society any day. You say that “kids will find a way to eat junk food, no matter what”? Nonsense. My 7-year old will not find a way to eat junk food, unless I feed it to her.  When 7-year olds are conditioned to eat junk, they will continue to do so into their teenager years and with high probabilty for the rest of their lives. I want my children to be conditioned to eat a healthy diet.

There is a cost to feeding our children junk food that I am not willing to pay. The health care system in this country cannot sustain itself indefinitely. We cannot all work in healthcare and treat each other and make a living from that. Someone actually has to do real work, produce something, create value. Mr. McInnis, we need our children to be healthy and ready for this challenge in a few years. Fatalism is definitely not the right attitude in the face of these challenges.

Read the full McInnis piece

Tuesday, February 15, at 5:30 PM
Needham Public Library, Community Room
1139 Highland Avenue, Needham
• Accessible via the Needham commuter rail line
(Needham Heights Station) or MBTA bus Route 59

The Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is developing Paths to a Sustainable Region, the next regional Long-Range Transportation Plan. Paths to a Sustainable Region will guide federal investment in the transportation system over the next 20 years.
One of the first steps in developing the Plan is to assess the transportation needs of the region. A series of workshops will be held
in February to present the MPO’s draft needs assessment and seek input from the public.
The MPO will use the final needs assessment in developing a set of projects and programs to address the region’s needs.

Need for safe walking and riding propelled rail-trail activist.

(Article about the Iron Horse Preservation Society’s project in Danvers)

Airsoft guns are popular among Medfield teenagers as well. As responsible parents we should make sure that our children understand that an Airsoft gun is not a harmless toy:

Wilmington High locked down after student brings BB gun to school.

Wilmington High School was placed in lockdown today after a student brought in a BB gun that looked like a 9mm handgun, authorities said.

Superintendent Joanne Benton told reporters during a news conference that the student displayed the Airsoft BB gun to other students and faculty at about 9 a.m.

This is the conclusion of this analysis of the NHTSA accident fatality database by The Daily Beast. (more…)

Ski Swap

83 Morton St, Needham, MA, 02494
(781) 449-7701

The Mass Ski & Snowboard Club is holding its annual SKI SWAP November 21 at the Village Club 83 Morton St, Needham. Equipment will include new and used downhill skis, boots and clothing, skates and some cross country equipment. The SWAP runs from 10am-3pm

Used equipment may dropped off between 9am-noon on the 21st. Used equipment is sold on a consignment basis. All sales are final.

A retired Harvard Law School professor whose car allegedly struck and killed a woman riding a motor scooter in Newton last summer has been cited with motor vehicle homicide, prosecutors said today.

Retired Harvard professor cited in fatal Vespa crash – Newton – Your Town –

I am organizing a Cache In – Trash Out Event (CITO) for the conservation land behind Ralph Wheelock School in Medfield. If this sounds complicated, fear not. It is a simple cleanup effort that uses the power of GPS devices and the community of geocachers to bring a group of people together at the same time and place. The event is scheduled for 9/26/2010 at 2pm. Bring the entire family, trash bags, a rake, and any other tool you may find helpful. 

Specifically, I want to target the area behind the gravel pit, on top of the hill, that is the location of frequent parties and the site of camp fires and BB gun practices. Unfortunately, the people engaged in these activities do not show much appreciation for the land, and at the end of this summer there is an extensive mess that is too much for one casual dog walker like myself to clean up. I am counting on the support of like-minded Medfielders and geocachers. 

It is difficult not to get upset about this mess, which is entirely unnecessary

I created a CITO event on that can be used by geocachers to locate the site. It is also very close to an existing cache (A Stop along the Bay Circuit Trail).  Let’s meet at 2pm on Sunday 9/26 (the day after Medfield day) at the site. Parking is available at the Wheelock school, although during soccer games and practice, which is likely to be going on on a September Sunday, it may be necessary to park some distance away from the gate that is the entrance to the soccer fields, but also marks the beginning of the paved trail that leads to the site. 

A 10-15 minute walk from the Wheelock parking lot

The trash consists primarily of bottles, cans, and BB gun artifacts such as CO2 cartridges and millions and millionss of plastic pellets that are strewn all over the area. I am not sure if it will make sense to try cleaning up the latter, since they are so small and there are so many. On the other hand, if left alone, they will soon be covered by leaves, so this is the last opportunity to collect them. I am thinking of using leaf blowers and shovels, but the resulting material will be a mix of soil, wood, and plastic pellets, it will be heavy, and there will be a lot of it – probably too much to be hauled away by volunteers on foot. Let me know if you have a better idea.

Plastic pellets cover the entire area

Link to an article in the Medfield Hometown Weekly

Dave Atkins of the Westwood Bike & Pedestrian Safety Committee reports an accident involving a 10 year old boy and an Audi convertible. This happened in front of a Hanlon School. Luckily the child only suffered broken bones. Follow the story on Facebook.

I have been wondering for the past 5 years what an odd/even water ban is. If you have, too, I have good news, because the PWD handed out flyers at the transfer station today that explain it. It means that you can water on odd or even days only, depending on your street number. Even street number = water on even days.

Unfortunately, my sprinkler system cannot be programmed to only water on even days. Westwood is doing this differently – you can water on certain days of the week. This would be too simple for Medfield, I suppose.

Anyways, the problem with my lawn is that it dies from the heat, not necessarily a lack of water, so there is no point in continuing to water in the summer. I cannot justify the amount of water that it would take to keep it alive – I’d have to have the sprinklers running 24/7. With only being allowed to water every other day, the difference will not be noticable. So I will probably just turn the sprinklers off entirely and enjoy the savings on my water bill. The grass will come back with the rains and the cooler weather in the fall – it always has.

The price of electricity in Massachusetts doubled in 2005, then remained very high util late 2009. We saw a 25% decline in 2009, and since then the price is holding steady again. I switched from Mass Electric to NStar when we moved in 2005, but I doubt that this had any influence on the bigger picture.

6 Years of Electric Bills

The price of natural gas is much more volatile due to seasonal demand, but it has come down recently to levels not seen since 2004. Good new for home owners – the trend seems to continue.

6 Years of Gas Bill

I discovered Cabot “Greek Style” yoghurt at Shaw’s today – 10% fat and sooooo good. The taste immediately brought back the memory of eating breakfast at 1 pm, when the little village you are in is void of any shade (and the temperature has already crept past the 100°F mark) while suffering from a serious Metaxa1 hangover… – and the subsequent feeling that one cup of 10% yoghurt is all the “solid” food you need for the day.

This totally makes up for the fact that our Shaw’s no longer carries Irish butter (the only thing in the store that tasted, smelled, and looked like actual butter). I am just going to have to substitute Greek yoghurt for the butter on my bagels now.

Even if you do not share my memories of eating Greek yoghurt in Greece, you may want to try it out. And please ask random employees at Shaw’s to bring back the Irish butter, or any other imported butter for that matter – the Danish butter (Lurpak) is even better.

1Greek brandy

Arlington parents wrestle with idea of kids biking to school – The Boston Globe

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Last November, the board of selectmen decided to move forward with the appointment of three new members to the Safety Committee, which is now 5 members strong. The intent was to expand the scope of the work and put a larger focus on pedestrian and bike traffic. The organizational meeting of the group was held in February, and the committee will meet monthly. The public is invited to attend.

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