Daily Archives: April 5, 2014


Sturbridge Selectman Election Debate

On April 4, 2014, I attended the debate between two candidates for the one year term for the  Sturbridge Town Board of Selectmen.  There is one issue that I found indicative of an aspect of the debate that I will cover in this post.

The issue was about the wisdom of going ahead with the Sturbridge Commercial Tourist District Improvement Plan. There was a presentation of the plan at  Community Meeting Three on December 4, 2013.

At the debate there was doubt expressed about the feasibility of upgrading one section of the downtown to fit two 8 foot sidewalks, two bike lanes, two automobile lanes, and a median. I went back to the Meeting Three document linked above to get a better understanding.

I found that the section with 8 foot sidewalks did not include a median. This is a drawing of how the street would be laid out.

Planned Street Layout

The issue was how all this was going to be crammed into the space that was there. Obviously there was going to be a lot of land taken from the existing businesses.

Well, let’s look at how obvious this is. I didn’t want to spoil the surprise by displaying the answers until you had a chance to think about the question. Clicking on the items below, will end the suspense, and show you what I was able to find.

If you open up the picture of the street as it is, do you think there is an obvious problem?

View of Existing Street

Google Street ViewExisting street Layout

Well, it looks like it might fit in what is already there.

Rather than going to the location and trying to pace off the distance from the outer edge of one sidewalk to the outer edge of the other sidewalk, I tried to find some kind of diagram where I could make an approximate measurement.

Existing Plot Plan with approximate street width measurement

GIS Street Measurement

I used the measurement tool of the application that gave me the plot plan for this section of Sturbridge. You will see a line drawn across Main Street between Hinman Street and Arnold Rd. It says 49.97 feet. I don’t think this is a coincidence. I vaguely recall that at the meeting’s Q & A session, it was explained that the plan was laid out on the existing street dimensions. So my measurements seem to me to be plausible.

I found this issue to be indicative of the attitudes of some in the audience and one of the candidates. The assumption is that if the current people involved in government would only study these issues, they would make better judgments. In the cases where I knew anything about it, it turns out that the people currently active in local government had already studied the issues in great detail. The results of the studies have been presented to all the citizens who could spare the time to attend the meetings that were held for them. As I have shown here, the material is available on-line (perhaps the town could do a better job of making it easier to find. I found it because I had a pretty good idea what I was looking for, but it did take some effort to find it.)

There will always be people who assume the information is hidden even though they have not made any effort to find the information. (I know first hand, because I do that myself sometimes.) The people who make the information available get frustrated with how much effort they put out to make the information available and yet people still complain.

I have tried to act as the go-between. I present the information that people think is unavailable by putting it on my blog as many times as I can. I tell the people who try to get the information out, that they should put their feelings aside when people still don’t know about their efforts. The information providers should use every opportunity to tell people the things that the providers think they have gone out of their way to provide.

There is no better time to tell something to someone than when they want to hear it.

There are hurt feelings on both sides, but it would be good if at least one side could ignore all this and keep trying – no matter how demeaning it appears to be from their own point of view. (These feelings on both sides are not limited to Sturbridge. I find instances of it in many places. I experienced it in my professional career. Does RTFM ring a bell? As a provider of many an FM, I knew that RTFM was a completely silly attitude.)


April 7, 2014

I asked for some input on this post, and I got some good feedback.

The link to the Commercial Tourist District Revitalization Plan is on the Town Of Sturbridge home page in the current issues section.

Link On Town Home Page

My problem is that I had forgotten the name of the project. Since I use searches to find things, it took me a while to figure out the proper phrase to search for.

On the Sturbridge Commercial Tourism District web site they have an overlay map that shows the concept plan within the limits of what is existing.

Overlay map

I was not clear on what I inartfully described as hurt feelings on the part of the proponents of the plan. I commented to one proponent at the meeting that we had missed an opportunity to tell people at the debate that there was a plan that they could look at to see if the criticisms heard at the debate were merited or not. This was not meant to be an attack on the people who favored the proposal, but only a suggestion that despite what the opposition does we should just treat every public occasion where the topic comes up as an opportunity to make sure people know that there is a well documented answer to all the questions. The feedback I got on this blog post is that I should be positive about the plan and not say negative things about the proponents of the plan. I try my best, but sometimes my best is not good enough.

The people who are against the revitalization plan (and I don’t know how many there are) may have their reasons which I probably don’t fully understand. All that I ask is that people look at the plan itself, and factor this information into your decision. Don’t just assume that people who are proposing we take action to solve a problem have not thought through their proposal with great care and effort. You can be skeptical, but please don’t be dismissive.


The #GlobalPOV Project: “Who is Dependent on Welfare” With Ananya Roy

Is UCal Berkeley at it again? Are they trying to foment protest among their students? Maybe they are just trying to educate them.


I came across this video via a circuitous route. Cedric Flower posted a link on his Facebook page of an Upworthy posting If You Think Only Poor People Need Welfare, Wait Till You See What Really Rich Folks Do With It. The YouTube video above was the basis of the Upworthy post.


Why Do YouTube Software Engineers Do This?

I have noticed the strange bug introduced by YouTube in the code they give you to embed a video on your own web pages.  I have just been manually fixing the code, but today i decided to see if anyone else has noticed this strange blunder.

A Google (believe it or not) search led me to a YouTube video (believe it or not) that explained what is going on.


I posted a comment on this YouTube video.

I just complained to YouTube about this before I decided to search the web to see if anybody has remarked about this.

The missing protocol does not seem to work for me on the latest version of Firefox which is 28.0 as of this writing.

At least, your video explains what is going on. I don’t know why YouTube does not just insert https: in the embed code. As you pointed out, this will always work. Why would YouTube take the chance that their stuff won’t work in many cases? They are not going to force me to use Google Chrome instead of Firefox. Also, it doesn’t make any difference what browser i use, I am concerned about all the peope who will visit my website. I want it to work for them no matter which browser or version that they choose to use.


Turns out that it may not have been in the Firefox browser where this broke, but it was actually when I was viewing an HTML email in the Thunderbird email reader. Think about how this relates to measuring risk in software as mentioned below.

As an engineer and a software one at that, I always believed in risk minimization in my projects. I could never understand why others believed in risk maximization. I could never give into the fact of life that people who wrote defective software and then heroically fixed it were better rewarded than people who wrote software that just worked reliably from day one.

Maybe I have hit upon an idea for a new app that is bound to make me a fortune. I’ll create software that will insert bugs into your code. It will tell you exactly where it put the bug and exactly how to fix it. That way, when your newly released software fails, you can pretend that you are putting in a heroic effort to fix it. Miraculously, you will always be able to fix your code in the nick of time. Maybe such a software app was used on the ACA signup web sites, but they forgot the step of how to take the bugs out.


The Three Parts of an Economy

The following slide show with audio is the clearest and simplest explanation of how understanding the three parts of an economy leads to startling insights on getting the economy working again.


Anything more I could say about this slide show would be a spoiler.

Spoiler Alert - open this if you can't take the time to view the slide show
This slide show was embedded in the article Joe Firestone: Is the MSM Blackout on Inequality, Plutocracy, and Oligarchy Ending?. Joe Firestone’s comments about the slide show are excerpted below.

There are many takeaways from this presentation. But perhaps the most important is that austerity budgeting harms people and that the “radical” thing we have to do is to budget to benefit most people, including to maintain full employment and price stability without worrying about or targeting the size of the deficit or the debt-to-GDP ratio. If we care about reducing inequality, then we will do the things Jamie Galbraith has mentioned, supplement those things with budgeting for people, and forget about CBO deficit/debt projections and targeting deficit reduction. In short, stop playing the fiscal austerity game, and start worrying about REAL fiscal responsibility.


There is much more in Joe Firestone’s article, but if you can get your mind around this slide show first, then the rest of the article will be much more meaningful.