Hobbies and Special Interests


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.

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

Our town has a lot of potential for the development of bike paths and trails, but for now there seems to be potential only. I have not heard of or seen evidence of any actual projects. I am particularly interested in the Millis-Medfield-Dover-Needham rail corridor (I believe this is part of what was formerly called the ‘Bay Colony’ line).
Does anybody have information about existing plans or prior initiatives for converting the rail corridor into a multi-use trail? This trail would be a hit. Imagine being able to safely bike to the Needham train station … this would be so much fun with the kids. Having used the Minuteman bike trail in Arlington and Lexington almost daily for some time, I appreciate the recreational value of a multi-use trial.
According to maps on massbikeplan.org, the MBTA has ownership of the Right of Way for this section. The line is desolate, though, and no longer seems to be usable. Particularly the bridge over the Charles no longer seems to be passable, not on foot, let alone for a train. I would actively support and participate in an initiative with the goal to convert the Bay Colony line between Millis and Needham to a bike path. Are there any other supporters? Anybody who can educate me about why this has not already been done?

Realizing that such projects face many obstacles in other communities (see Holliston, for example), I am enough of an idealist to at least educate myself a little bit about the possibility.

You have probably heard that on Febrary 17, 2009, all analog TV stations in the country will stop broadcasting, and analog TV sets will no longer function without a so-called digital converter box. The government is issuing up to two $40 coupons per household that can be used towards the purchase of such converter boxes. These devices sell between $50 to $70 at local retailers. Here is a link to the government’s website where you can sign up for the coupon program.

What you may not have heard is that you don’t have to wait until February 2009 to switch to Digital TV, because stations in the area already broadcast digital channels today. I made the switch yesterday, and I am so impressed with this technology that I decided to share my enthusiasm.
For the past several years I have been using indoor antennas sitting on top of the TV sets to receive the basic local channel lineup, with modest results. The image was often grainy and it was not really a pleasure to watch TV at all, which was fine with me and motivated the kids to do other things – a not entirely unintended side-effect of not signing up for cable or FIOS-service.
I did make the decision to buy a 160 inch outdoor antenna and install it in the attic for the switch to DTV. The house is only 3 years old and wired for cable, so it was an easy task to feed the antenna signal into my home’s cable wiring and get rid of the unsightly indoor antennas (I have yet to work on the proper grounding – yes, even attic-installed antennas need to be grounded).
I purchased this one at Radioshack and it took no more than 30 minutes to assemble it, install it on top of the collar beams, and connect the lead-in cable to the input connector of a splitter that was already present in the attic. Even without using a converter box, the resulting picture is substantially better than it was before. I am not using an antenna amplifier and have 7 cable outlets in the home. I did terminate all unused outlets, though.

Antenna installed above collar beams

Antenna installed above collar beams


One thing to note is that the correct cable must be connected to the splitter’s input connector – the one that carries the antenna signal. I had to switch the connectors around so that the antenna lead-in is connected to the attic splitter’s “in” connector, and the attic feed is connected to the other splitter’s input in the basement (where normally your cable feed is hooked up).

A 4-way antenna splitter

A 4-way antenna splitter


Once the converter boxes were connected and configured, I was blown away by the picture quality and the number of channels that I am now able to receive. Here is the lineup of all channels that I am receiving today:

For a convenient overview of what’s on, I go to tvguide.com.

Some of these channels broadcast in Standard Definition (SD), some in High Definition (HD). Note that with Digital TV there are up to 4 sub-channels for each primary channel. All channels have on-screen programming information.

Digital TV over the air is free, there are more channels than with conventional over-the-air TV, and the picture quality is the same as with cable service – full HD (1080). If you are happy with basic channel line-up, there is no longer a need to pay for cable while still enjoying top-quality picture quality.

The only drawback: If the signal falls below a threshold, there will be dropouts in the audiostream and artefacts in the picture that make it impossible to watch that channel. It is not longer possible to watch channels with poor reception.

One more word of advice: There is no such thing as a digital TV antenna, or even a ‘digital-ready’ antenna. Digital broadcasts use the same transmission technology as analog and are all in the UHF band. Convential TV antennas work perfectly fine, and everybody who claims otherwise is either misinformed or attempting to profit from spreading misinformation.

Plan of the Erik Road Extension Subdivision (click to enlarge)

Plan of the Erik Road Extension Subdivision (click to enlarge)

When we moved into the Green Street area last year, I soon found out about the trail system that starts at the end of Erik Road and ultimately lets me take my kids on a 2-hour walk through Rocky Woods without having to get in the car. We have been taking advantage of this all year round. Obviously, when I recently noticed survey markers in the area off Erik Road for a new development going in, I became concerned about losing access to the trails. I decided to research the details of the project, and what I found is interesting enough to be made available to others. It turned out that my biggest concerns are addressed:

  • The plans for the new subdivision explicitely require that there will be no connecting road between Eric Road and Rt 109 (through the “Woodcliff Hills” subdivision)
  • Trail access to Rocky Woods will be preserved through trail easements and pedestrian easements

Here are all the details. First, I stopped at city hall. While neither the Zoning Board of Appeals nor the Building Department were able to give me any specific information (I was particularly interested in maps that showed any existing easements), I learned that there is quite a history about this new development planned at the end of Erik Road, and that the Planning Board had tried since 1993 to prevent this development from going in, but ultimately lost the case against owners Edward & Bonnie Musto in a 2002 court decision (see below).

Next, I researched the Erik Road Extension development plans at the Norfolk Registry of Deeds web site. Luckily, I found the plan that I was looking for (click on the image at the top of the article for an enlarged view).

Here is a word of caution: In order to view documents on the Registry’s web site, you must install a browser plug-in called BrownTifViewer (an ActiveX control). The intent of the component is to prevent you from saving any document images, taking screen shots using the PrintScreen key, or from printing documents. It contains a keyboard handler that remains active even after you leave the Registry site, and it will therefore mutilate your environment. This can be fixed easily, though – either by uninstalling the BrownTech Image Plugin application from the Control Panel (Add or Remove Programs), or by disabling it temporarily using the Internet Explorer’s Add On Manager.

The map shows that there will be two trail easements at the end of the cul-de-sac that will connect Erik Road Extension to the existing trail system in Woodcliff Hills. This made me very happy.

Since I had been using the trails in Woodcliff Hills for a while, and since I had been concerned about trespassing for a while (some of the trails run very close through the backyards of the mansions in the subdivision), I decided to continue the research and check for easements in Woodcliff Hills, too.

Woodcliff Easement Map

Woodcliff Estates Easement Map

I found this wonderful easement map on the right (click on the image to enlarge the map). It shows that there are indeed easements on all northern lots of Minuteman Road that provide two continuous trails into Rocky Woods. One (easement #12) connects to the trail east of Flint Locke Lane and leads to the Wilson Swamp Trail in Rocky Woods. The other (easement #5) provides access to Cheney Pond Trail and Ridge Trail from lots 32/33 through Minuteman Road, Vine Brook Road, Sturbridge Road and lot 9. All these trails are well-maintained and clearly visible. The easement between lots 32 and 33 consists of a gravel trail that leads from the woods up to the sidewalk on Minuteman road.

Woodcliff Easement Map

Easement on 78 Flint Locke Lane

There was only one thing left to do. There is a section of the trail that runs up behind lot 5 on Flint Locke Lane (extension) and then ends in the backyard of 78 Flint Locke. As the subdivision plan reveals, there is indeed a pedestrian easement on this property. It is not difficult to find. The map shows a 20′ wide strip along the border of lot 6. In the “Inventory of Medfield Trails & Recreational Lands”, a leaflet published by the Friends of Medfield Forest & Trails, I found the following description: Access between #78 and #82 Flintlocke Lane – walk down the hill keeping to the left of the white fence.
This easement allows us to leave our bikes at the end of Erik Road and walk a shorter loop from Erik Road using the trail that leads around the pond up to Flint Locke Lane, then back to Green Street, Partridge Road and Erik Road.

Thank you Planning Board, Map & Trails Subcommittee, and whoever else was responsible for making sure that trail easements are part of the Woodcliff subdivision plans.

For your reference, a trail map of Rocky Woods Reservation is available on the The Trustees of Reservations web site.

Property ownership and assessment information for Medfield is available here.

(more…)