Monday, August 29, 2011

NSTAR outages

Here are emails I've sent to my distribution list regarding NSTAR outages. Sign up for emails at

NSTAR: 84,000 residential customers without power

August 30, 2011 at 8:15am: NSTAR is making significant progress (by their accounting), having cut their residential power outages by one-half since yesterday. Their website ( indicates that they are down to 16,000 customers without power on Cape Cod.

Still, as of this morning, they are advising a September 3rd (Saturday) 10pm timeframe for repairing circuits for all customers who call in. This is the crux of the problem; if I knew Saturday was an accurate date, I would pack up and leave for a few days. We know from the restoration of power since yesterday that Saturday is not accurate.

I know a number of people who work for NSTAR on the repair crews and they are full out, moving from place to place restoring power. I have no beef with the crews. My complaint is that NSTAR is choosing to keep us in the dark regarding the priorities by town by outage area.

I'm not asking for definitive dates and times for turning the power back on for each customer. I realize that each situation presents its own challenges. What I'm asking for is a priority list with information on which projects are currently being worked, which are next on the list, and the estimated overall time to restore power for all projects. This would give everyone enough information to make decisions. As it is now, no one knows if their power is likely to be back on in an hour or three days.

I'll be looking into best practices for reporting such activities and talking to appropriate utility officials to create a more useful and transparent system for reporting progress to customers.

NSTAR: 162,000 residential customers without power

August 29, 2011 at 8:00pm: According to a chart on NSTAR's website (see, 162,215 residential customers in Massachusetts are without power as of 7pm tonight.

One must assume they mean 7pm on Monday, August 29th. The chart has no date or time and has multiple entries for several towns.

Based on what I know about the situation in Sandwich, the numbers seem optimistic. Their estimate of repair time is "several days."

As soon as I am able to speak with someone at NSTAR, I'll provide an update.

NSTAR is announcing power to be out in Forestdale until Saturday 10pm

August 29, 2011 at 5:30pm: A recorded message at the NSTAR customer service line is telling people that power in Forestdale is going to be restored by 10pm on Saturday.

I was down on Pimlico Pond Road tonight talking with the NSTAR employee sitting in his car (since 1pm) and he thought that this was an area of high priority and guessed that the recorded message was giving a worst case scenario. While I was there, a Bartlett Tree Service truck pulled up to remove a tree hanging on the wires there.

At this point, I would expect that there is a logistical plan in place and that they should have a better idea of when the repairs will be made. I have contacted the chairmen of our Telecommunications, Utilities & Energy Committee (of which I'm a member) to see if I can get a better contact person's name within NSTAR to query. I will let you know what I find out.

If the repairs actually won't happen until Saturday, I would like to know that. I wouldn't be happy with that answer, but knowing that it's a most likely date rather than a CYA response would allow people in the area to make alternate plans.

I will send another email as soon as I know more. Please relay this information to anyone you know who remains without power in Forestdale and please let me know if there are any other areas within my state rep district without electricity.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Governor, it is never time to panic

Today, the AP reported the following:

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said sustained winds today could reach 90 mph in Worcester County and 70 mph on Cape Cod. Winds that strong would shut down the bridges onto Cape Cod, as well as Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant in coastal Plymouth, he said. 
“This is a very, very serious weather event, if the reality turns out to be what the forecast has been,” Patrick said, after a briefing with emergency officials at the state’s emergency management headquarters in Framingham.
“This is not a time to panic, but it is a time to be prepared.”

I feel compelled to advise that there is never a time to panic. Panic immobilizes a person, making it impossible to think rationally. Panic wastes precious time and results in increased risk for the panicked person.

You are correct, Mr. Governor, it is not a time to panic. It never is.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sandwich Citizens Police Academy Alumni volunteer for Hurricane Irene duties

Members of the Sandwich Citizens Police Academy Alumni (SCPAA) met this morning at Sandwich High School with Red Cross personnel, the Cape Cod Disaster Animal Response Team (DART), and Sandwich Police Lieutenant David Guillemette to discuss the regional shelter operation at Sandwich High School.

The shelter, which accommodates people and pets, will open at 6:00 p.m. this evening and will stay open through Monday, if necessary. (Click for a map to the shelter.) SCPAA members volunteered to assist the Red Cross and DART with the shelter, support the Emergency Operations Center, and to be on call by the Sandwich Police Department throughout the storm and its aftermath.

The SCPAA, a 501(c)(3) organization, was formed several years ago by town citizens who completed the 13-week Sandwich Citizens Police Academy and who wanted to remain active as a resource for public safety departments during events and emergency situations.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hurricane Irene: MA South Coast, Cape and Islands MEMA update

Kurt Schwartz, Director of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), led a half-hour update for legislators this morning on Hurricane Irene preparations.

The current, most likely path for Irene puts it crossing Long Island at Smithtown, moving northeast through Hartford, and entering Massachusetts just east of Springfield. Hurricane force winds are projected for 30 miles west of the center of the storm to about 90 miles east.

Director Schwartz pointed out the hazards to expect on the South Coast and Cape & Islands, including rip currents that are already happening on South Coast beaches, storm surges, and 25+ foot seas. Coastal erosion and flooding are likely to be worsened by the new moon tides.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Paving contractors have groupies too

The town is repaving our street. Work started last week with a huge truck/machine stripping the old pavement from the road base and other equipment preparing the surface for new pavement.

I was working in my office, which is part of our house, when a truck pulled up in the driveway and young man jumped out and approached the door. He claimed to be working down at the other end of the street, implying that he had something to do with the repaving project, and that they had some extra asphalt that might go to waste. He could get his crew right over and pave my driveway with this extra material for $3.50 a square foot.

I had heard about these “gypsy” pavers and decided to play along so I could find out more about this scheme. I told him that I’d have to check with my wife first and that she should be back in an hour.

I called our town’s DPW and asked about this company. The director confirmed that there was no contractor by this name doing any work for the town. I then called the town’s repaving contractor and spoke with the project supervisor who also confirmed that they were not subcontracting any of this work to the gypsy paver nor had they ever subbed work to that company.

He said it’s common for these companies to shadow them around the state offering on-the-spot repaving using a cold mix paving process with substandard materials. Cold mix paving is fine for paving over existing road but it needs to cure for a couple of weeks, be power swept, and then chip sealed.

Mary returned from her errands and I told her I was checking out this paving scheme. She said, “Well’s there a guy out there with a pick axe and a shovel tearing up our driveway!”

I ran out to stop the demolition and told the kid to leave my property. Their truck stopped at the end of the driveway a few minutes later scooping up the worker and took off.

Talking with a friend later that day, he speculated that starting the job without permission, no quotation, no contract, and no deposit was actually part of the scheme. “Oh, sorry,” the gypsy paver would say. “My boss told me to get started. I’ll call him right now.” His boss would then show up, apologize and offer a better price because of the screw up.

In my case, I ran the worker off before he and his boss could execute their scheme. Fortunately, he hadn’t done too much damage, though I spent a good part of the afternoon cleaning it up.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Minority leader congratulates Rep Hunt on perfect voting record

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
House of Representatives
State House, Boston, MA 02133-1054

TEL. (617) 722-2100

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Peter Lorenz 617-722-2100  

August 18, 2011

Hunt Casts 104 Consecutive Roll Call Votes This Year

BOSTON-House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. congratulated State Representative Hunt (R-Sandwich) today for achieving an impressive voting record so far this legislative session.

The Sandwich Republican participated in 104 consecutive roll call votes in the House this year, a 100% voting record, casting votes in favor of a number of reforms relative to reversions for local aid and court reform. Representative Hunt also cast numerous votes challenging the Democratic-led House on a number of issues, including a comprehensive Ethics Reform package, an income tax rollback, a permanent sales tax holiday, and a gradual rollback of the state sales tax.

"Randy is an incredibly committed member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, and an extremely valuable asset to the House Republican Caucus," said Representative Jones. "The people of the 5th Barnstable District are fortunate to have Representative Hunt up here on Beacon Hill fighting for them day in and day out."

"I appreciate the minority leader's comments and add that our Republican Caucus, which has doubled in number this year, has had a positive, meaningful effect on the tenor of discussions and debate this legislative session." Hunt continued, "I also want to congratulate other members of the Cape & Islands delegation to the House of Representatives for their perfect voting records: Susan Gifford (R-Wareham), Sarah Peake (D-Provincetown), and David Vieira (R-Falmouth)."

Representative Hunt currently serves on the Joint Committees on Elder Affairs, Mental Health & Substance Abuse, and Telecommunications, Utilities & Energy.  

Formal sessions will resume after Labor Day.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Evergreen Solar: Manufacturing’s last gasp in Massachusetts?

I’m a little skeptical when anyone declares a “new economy.” Back at the turn of the century (it’s interesting to say that now) the new economy was comprised of a slew of dot-coms that seemingly broke the golden rule of the old economy: “Cash is king.”

No longer was cash flow the critical factor in determining success of a company. Growth in subscribers had replaced cash flow as the most important metric that drove share prices. It didn’t matter that companies were paying huge amounts of money to obtain new subscribers or to subsidize purchases of goods and services online.

Unfortunately for this new economy, the promise of eventual success was not enough to buoy businesses that were losing millions of dollars month after month after month. Eventually the bubble burst, shareholders lost billions in stock value, and we recognized once again that cash is king.

At this point, I’ll skip pointing out that the mortgage crisis traces its roots to an unrealistic expectation of people without sufficient cash flow to repay their mortgages.

Now we’re watching the latest “new economy” take some uppercuts to the chin. The “green economy” is supposed to move us from the fossil fuel stone age to the renewable energy renaissance age. Green jobs will replace oil field and coal mine roughnecking. It’s the future.

What are green jobs, by the way? After you get past the cheerleading jobs of advocacy groups, lobbyists, think tanks, politicians and bureaucrats, the rubber meets the road on the manufacturing plant floor and the installation of renewable energy systems.

Installers will be electricians, plumbers, engineers, and other skilled people required to erect a wind turbine, assemble a solar array, etc. These will be jobs that go mostly to local workers.

Manufacturing is a different story, as has been demonstrated by Evergreen Solar, based in Marlboro with a mothballed plant in Devens and one on its last legs in Michigan. After receiving $58 million from the state of Massachusetts, Evergreen filed bankruptcy this week with the objective of reorganizing around manufacturing solar modules in China.

Wait a sec. I thought that the promise of green jobs included manufacturing plants sprouting up all over the country bringing us back to our heyday of “Made in America.”

It doesn’t quite work that way. For the same reasons we lost our textile industry to the southeast states and eventually to offshore plants; for the same reasons we lost our heavy and most light manufacturing capacity to Mexico and eventually to China; we cannot expect that renewable energy equipment manufacturing will magically buck the old economy rule: Cash is king.

Fully loaded manufacturing labor cost in Massachusetts—meaning wages, taxes, benefits and overhead—comes in at around $15 to $20 per hour. In China, it’s about $1. On top of that, land is cheap, buildings are erected with $1/hour labor, electricity from the one-new-coal-plant-a-week generation program is next to nothing, and the government controls the value of its currency to ensure that these cost advantages remain in place.

Do we want China-like conditions here in Massachusetts? Of course not.

That begs the question, however: How could we ever compete with China for manufacturing jobs? Green manufacturing jobs?

The answer is simple. We cannot.

Evergreen Solar’s advantage, for awhile, was that they had engineered solar panels that used less polysilicon. That reduced their cost of manufacturing and allowed them to be competitive as production was ramping up worldwide. When polysilicon prices dropped from $400 a kilogram to $55 a kilogram, Evergreen’s bill of materials cost advantage evaporated. At the same time, production of solar photovoltaic cells more than doubled in 2010 over the prior year’s output, pushing prices for solar modules down by about 30%, a typical result of supply starting to satisfy demand in a new technology arena.

All of this requires that we rethink the future of Massachusetts in terms of an economic model that will be sustainable in the long run. Yes, we still have some pockets of success in manufacturing, medical devices being one of the more prominent of them, but how long will we be able to maintain our appeal as a viable host to manufacturers?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Extended release naltrexone: Addiction’s silver bullet?

Roxicodone aka Roxies and Perc 30s
Perhaps the most important testimony I’ve heard this year as a member of the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse was that of Dr. Joshua D. Lee from the New York University School of Medicine.

We are seeing no end to the increase in addiction to opioids, primarily oxycodone (aka OxyContin, Roxicodone and Percocet) and heroin. Dr. Lee has been working with an extended release adaptation of the drug naltrexone (XR-NTX) with great success.

XR-NTX essentially inoculates an individual from the euphoric or sedating effects of heroin and oxycodone. Even when using large amounts of opioid drugs, a person being treated with XR-NTX does not get high. It becomes a waste of money to attempt getting high.

Is this new therapy too good to be true? I hope not.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Time to lead, Mr. President

Instead of taking the podium and dumping on Congress and the Tea Party, could our president have, instead, declared that he would LEAD the way out of this financial morass? Stop campaigning for a few minutes and be president for a change.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Going to the movies: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

I was eleven when Charlton Heston was captured by the apes. Unfortunately, he was unarmed at that moment.

Tonight, it's back to the big screen to see the prequel to Planet of the Apes. (I've added my review below.)

Randy’s Review of Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Right from the start you see a stark difference between the way actors play their parts in Rise of the Planet of the Apes compared with the original Planet of the Apes.

The walking, talking and behavior of the humans in this version is far better than Charleton Heston’s portrayal of a human in the 1968 movie. No one walks around in a loin cloth emoting epithets with a constant grimace. I suppose that was just Moses coming through.

This is a prequel to Planet of the Apes, which requires the writers to connect a few dots for us so we’ll say “Oh, so that’s how the head of the Statue of Liberty ended up poking out of the beach.” The principal ape character, Caesar, plays with a toy Statue of Liberty for about three seconds in one scene. Dots connected.

The writers did steal a line from the original Planet and gave it to the 20-something-year-old loser who works in the Alcatraz-like ape sanctuary: “Take your stinking paws off me you damn dirty ape.” That line spoken by Heston’s character, Colonel George Taylor, shocked the ape onlookers because they had never heard a human talk. It gets the reverse treatment in Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

You get the feeling that the producers ran out of money and/or time during the editing phase. There was a classic editing faux pas when one shot of a gorilla in a cage cut directly into another shot of the same gorilla, but the camera had “crossed the line,” creating very confusing back-to-back shots. You can read about crossing the line in any beginning filmmaking textbook.

Though I was totally entertained from beginning to end, the portions of the movie seemed odd. Most of the movie dealt with Caesar growing up, beating up the next door neighbor, and being sentenced to primate prison. Scenes of evil corporation scientists experimenting on helpless chimpanzees in an effort to make huge money for their shareholders and hide the proceeds in offshore banks while filing U.S. tax returns showing no profits were interjected from time to time.

The epic battle scene was pretty cool. Buck, the gorilla, turned out to be a hero. Then they all ran into the woods and everyone lived happily ever after. You get the feeling that an hour of film was left on the cutting room floor but there was no budget to trim down the first 90 minutes of the movie in order to come up with a better, more balanced ending. Real potential here for an uncut version on DVD.

All in all, a fun flick that will keep your attention from start to finish. By the way, don’t get up when the credits start. There is a last bit of dot connecting that you won’t want to miss.

Randy’s Rating: 3½ Bananas

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

“Terrorists” demand balanced budget

People say stuff they regret when their brain-to-mouth filters fail them. Such was the case yesterday when some politicians forgot the President’s February 8th call for more civil discourse.

Mike Doyle, D-PA
Imagine “civil discourse” being a football field, say Cowboys Stadium. Accusing the Tea Party members of Congress of being terrorists is like being out of bounds, but not in Cowboys Stadium, more like Three Rivers Stadium.

Mike Doyle, (D-PA) said: “This small group of terrorists have made it impossible to spend money.”

That pretty much sums up his political agenda.

I can’t think of anything to add except to comment on Doyle’s mismatching of his subject and verb.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Volunteers needed for tornado clean up effort

The news cycle for natural disasters is short. Have you read anything lately about the recovery efforts from the earthquakes and tsunami in Japan? How about the devastating floods along the Mississippi in the spring?

That is a problem for people affected by these events who wake up each morning knowing that they are months and perhaps years from getting their lives back to normal.

Cosmo Casamassa and Mark Forsman recognized the need for a sustained effort by volunteers to help those recovering from the tornadoes that took lives and destroyed property on June 1st in western Massachusetts. They formed Recover, Repair, Rebuild Tornado 2011 to match people willing to lend a hand to those who need a hand.

The first “marriage” of volunteer laborers and property owners took place last weekend, drawing hundreds of people with chainsaws, backhoe loaders, and just plain muscle to clean up huge amounts of debris and fallen trees.

I was joined by Sandwich Selectman Frank Pannorfi on Sunday. We didn’t know what to expect, so we brought tools and nearly 125 years of experience.

Our assignment was to help a Brimfield landowner clear a fire road that ran the perimeter of his 10-acre site. What we encountered was incredible and, quite frankly, disheartening. Mounds of fallen trees and brush stacked eight feet high blocked the road.

With the help of two chainsaw operators, a small backhoe loader, and a half-dozen manual laborers, we cleared about 50 yards of the road. Unfortunately, the landowner still has a half-mile to go.

To find out how to assist in this effort, visit

The pre-existing fire road was so covered up with fallen trees, we decided to cut a new path around it. This large downed tree was the path of least resistance.

Mark, from Worcester, manned his chainsaw for hours without taking a break.

John's backhoe loader proved invaluable in dealing with uprooted trees.

The fire road from where the grass ends was covered with downed trees and brush.

Janet, Mark's wife, and Frank celebrate the clearing of about 50 yards of the fire road. (Notice the trees in the background that were snapped off in the tornado.)