.. 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.

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.

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

Posted using ShareThis

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.

Recent traffic accidents on North Street prompted an article in the Hometown Weekly. Based on quotes mentioned in the article, it appears that residents and the police chief are advocating measures that will make speeding safer on North Street. The prevailing opinion is that the road is the problem, not the people driving on it. I find this interesting. I know the location quite well. There is a 30mph speed limit, and most people drive faster there, many significantly faster, and some too fast. Because it is not safe to go faster than 30mph in this curve shown on the picture, even in good weather, we are going to spend money on redesigning the road, so that speeding is safe again. 

It seems that Medfield officials believe that the majority of the Medfield electorate are  members of a secret club – the notorious “I insist on my right to drive 50mph in a 30mph zone and I will vote you out of office if you take this right away” club. I have no other explanation for the reluctance among town officials to do anything that could upset drivers.

Interestingly enough, every other driver I talk to about this issue, neighbors and other parents, is as upset as I am about the relative lawlessness on Medfield streets. Is there possibly a disconnect?

I believe that most people who speed in town, like the Wheelock elementary teacher who races down South Street in a Jeep Cherokee every morning after getting coffee at Lord’s, do it out of habit, not because they want to do something illegal and dangerous. Over time, habits create a sense of entitlement. This is the real danger, and it is not confined to North Street or any other singular spot.

Dover  installed speed bumps on Centre Street last year. They are safe and very effective. If we want to reduce the number of accidents, and especially the number of fatalities, we should be looking into how to slow traffic down, as opposed to how to speed it up. Simply by forcing people to break with their habits. Speed bumps are one way of doing that. Fines are another. seems to be a site similar to Google maps, but without the satellite imagery, Google Street View, and the ability to calculate driving directions. So why bother using it?

For starters, the maps are in the public domain and can be used freely for almost anything, unlike Google’s maps. They get created and continuously improved by the community and are in many cases more up-to-date and accurate than Google’s maps.

I added the location of the proposed Bay Colony Rail Trail corridor some time ago, which was fun to do, but my effort pales in comparison to what Dave Lafreniere of the Friends of Medfield Forests and Trails did. He added the Charles River and other water bodies, and he GPS-traced and mapped every few feet of trail in our town, including Rocky Woods and Noon Hill reservations. This must make Medfield one of the best-mapped communities in the country. Check it out, it is an amazing asset for the town.

Trails behind Wheelock school on

Trails behind Wheelock school on

I love to run, even in the winter. I wish I had the time to be out more often. One of the worst things that can happen on a clear and crisp winter morning is having to run by a car that is idling in someone’s driveway. A sharp pain enters my lungs from the exhaust fumes, and I try to breathe as flatly as I can until I am far away.

Why do people install remote starters so that they can start their cars and let them sit in their driveways for 30 minutes or more?

Here is what has to say about this practice:

Myth: Let your engine warm up for several minutes before driving.

Reality: That might have been good advice for yesteryear’s cars but is less so today. Modern engines warm up more quickly when they’re driven. And the sooner they warm up, the sooner they reach maximum efficiency and deliver the best fuel economy and performance. But don’t rev the engine high over the first few miles while it’s warming up.

Clearly, this makes sense. But they forgot to finish this thought – if it is better to drive your engine to bring it up to operating temperature, it is worse to not do it. So people who start their car with a remote starter and then let it idle, actually reduce the life expectancy of the car. Think about it this way: The most wear and tear for any engine happens right after it gets started, and the lubricant (oil) is cold and has not reached the proper viscosity that is needed to do its job. The longer the engine runs cold, the more wear it will get. So, start the engine and drive away!

check –  Idling cars in driveways – bad for the cars

European governments have made this practice illegal in the 70s, not because they wanted to help people with extending the life of their cars, but because it is so bad for the environment. Not only do engines do a poor job lubricating themselves when they are cold, they also do a very poor job burning gasoline. The gas does not burn completely, and at no other time does an engine blow more residual substances into the atmosphere than when it is cold.

check –  Idling cars in driveways – bad for the environment

Poisonous exhaust fumes from a neighbor’s driveway can enter garages and homes where children live who then develop asthma or other horrible conditions as a result.

check –  Idling cars in driveways – bad for the health of the neighbors, and bad for neighborly relationships

And finally, if you own a vehicle with a remote starter and actually use this feature to start it up before you step into the shower in the morning, watch out. You might get whacked over the head with a snow shovel by your neighbor who’s kids now have asthma.

check –  Idling cars in driveways – bad for the owner

Will you start your car to let it idle in your driveway this winter?

In addition to Rt 27, you can now take a virtual drive along Rt 109, South, North, and Pine Street.

Below is the information for my internet safety class. Click here to download the slide deck in PDF format.

Location—High School Room 119
Date—Thursday, October 15th, 2009

Children and the Internet – a combination that creates fear, resignation, and ultimately denial among parents. Whether you are worried about exting, your kids seeing inappropriate content, spending too much time surfing the web, or introducing Spyware and Trojans into your home network – fear no more. In this class you will learn how to take a proactive approach to managing web access for your children. Technology cannot replace good parenting, but there are hardware and software tools that can help you restrict and monitor how the kids spend their time online. You will learn the needs and risk profiles of specific age groups, and develop a technology strategy that will help keep your family and your computers safe from Kindergarten through Grade 12.

Fatal traffic accidents in Dover, Medfield, Mills, and Sherborn

Fatal traffic accidents in Dover, Medfield, Mills, and Sherborn

National accident data with query options by demographics are available here.

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