Category Archives: Blogging

About blogging in Newburyport, MA

Why Christopher Kolmar is not on my Happy List (and he Shouldn’t be on Your’s Either)

Chris Kolmar first crossed my radar when the website he owns wrote a not so complimentary “info-entertainment” snippet about the city I love so much, Newburyport, Massachusetts.

WANTED--Chris Kolmar

1) This is not Mr. Kolmar’s first rodeo.

This is not Christopher Kolmar‘s first rodeo, his words, not mine. Chris Kolmar appears to be a boy genius when it comes to viral, content marketing.  He has written several terrific articles and got the blog, that the company the he worked (still works??) for, to become a household name. I actually took some of his suggestions and used them in the previous post. This guy is a smart cookie, no doubt about it.  I was wicked impressed by his previous work.  His latest websites — not so much.

2) Chris Kolmar is young.

He graduated from college in 2009. So maybe at this writing he is 27 or 28.

3) In my opinion, his new website(s) demonstrate an uninformed, graceless immaturity.

Mr Kolmar seems to be using his terrific talent, in my mind for money, notoriety and lots of traffic to his various websites (i.e. money, fame and money).

The little info-entertainment snippet on my beloved hometown contained a tweet (as part of the website’s “data”) from a “kid,” probably a very nice kid, who listed their hometown as Amherst, MA (which btw is not Newburyport – an expert? one wonders…data??).

"Thorn in my side", on Flickr, Broo_am (Andy B) Creative Commons License

“Thorn in my side”, on Flickr, Broo_am (Andy B),  Creative Commons License

“Thorn in my side”, on Flickr, Broo_am (Andy B),  Creative Commons License

4) Mr. Kolmar’s website gets its data wrong.

The list is very long of people pointing out all the mistakes in the data on Chris Kolmar’s websites (I refuse to give the name or link to the websites, because that is exactly what Mr. Kolmar would like — it’s clicks, clicks, clicks — links, links, links).  So Mr. Kolmar’s often, in my mind, cruel observations, seem to be based on data that is at times inaccurate.

5) Chris Kolmar has hurt a lot of communities and the people that live them.

Wow, the list of people and communities (especially communities that are struggling) that, in my opinion, he has hurt with his cruel and graceless immaturity is lengthy.  If he ever enters a 12 step program, which in my mind could not be soon enough, the list of amends he would need to make would be in the 100,000s (really).

6) Christopher Kolmar is hurting small businesses.

Yup, the small business in Newburyport that he portrayed in his info-image from Google Maps, a small business that has been loved by our community for decades, was depicted in the most unflattering way (and it’s a great looking place).  And apparently I am not alone in this opinion — that Mr. Kolmar finds the worst images and angles for the places that he writes about — again, cruel, cynical and thoughtless stuff.

NO Chris Kolmar

7) Mr. Kolmar will probably succeed in this new endeavor like crazy.

And Christopher Kolmar will probably succeed in this recent (started in May 2015) endeavor,  because, I believe he is playing on people’s basest emotions in a slick, sloppy, cynical way.  As almost every “news” organization knows, kind, thoughtful stuff doesn’t get readership or viewership like a really good catastrophe, or when someone says something really cruel and mean.

(I would say that Chris Kolmar is the polar opposite of the three young men that give me hope for the future of Newburyport, Massachusetts.)

8) Contact Christopher Kolmar and his partner Nikolaos (Nick) Johnson

You can send them an email, people probably won’t, but this is the email addresses that I used, plus an old one for Chris Kolmar that I found:,,, (email from 2012)

And there is always snail mail.

This is the information that I have on the company:

Our goal is to show you the real side of places that not everyone wants to hear. We use data to create bite-sized snacks of shareable information about places and cities across the country. We call it the ‘other’ side of regional infotainment.

Chasing Chains, L.L.C.
210 Strolling Way
Durham, North Carolina   27707

9) People who have stood up to Christopher Kolmar and his partner Nikolaos (Nick) Johnson (yes, “standing up to” implies standing up to bullies).  And these are just some of the many people who have done this — it is a long, long list.

A)  Dr. Andrew J. Pegoda, Texas,   “An Open Letter to Chris Kolmar and Nick Johnson of RoadSnacks: Please Remember People Have Feelings”

“Additionally, your list, likely not intentionally but the effect is the same nonetheless, embodies and perpetuates racism. It could cause business to avoid areas where such business could really be needed in terms of jobs and services provided. “

B)  Molly McWilliams Wilkins, Georgia,  “In Defense of Small Towns”

“But you need to consider the soul, and heart, of the places you write about. And realize that there are some who not only choose to live in them, but cherish their hometowns.”

C)  Mike Parker, North Carolina,  ” ‘RoadSnacks’ blast gives me indigestion”

“My dad once told me: ‘Son, figures don’t lie, but liars can figure.’ “

D)  Aaron Brown,  Minnesota,  “Warm greetings from Minnesota’s northern hellscape”

“Before you fall over yourselves rushing to see the site, know that it’s click bait. Believe it or not, is not a repository of our century’s finest thinking, but a website that profits when people look at their ads. It lacks the dignity of a site like this one, which has the class and intellectual merit to attract far fewer readers while making almost no profits whatsoever.”

E)  Barry Saunders, North Carolina,  “Rockingham deserves better from RoadSnacks”

“…it’s easier to pick on struggling municipalities in which you’ve probably never et a Vienna sausage than to look into what’s causing the problems you so erroneously and cavalierly catalogue – for infotainment.”

F)  Brian Blueskye, California, “In Defense of DHS: An ‘Analysis’ Recently Declared That Desert Hot Springs Is the Worst Place to Live in California. Here’s Why We Disagree.”

” ‘The two people who run that website, they do one of those lists on every state,” Betts said. “They’re click-whores. They’re just doing that to build traffic. How can they possibly analyze all 50 states?’ “

G) North Carolina, “OUR VIEW: Defy, don’t just deny, county’s ‘worst’ labels”

“That’s what’s really important, after all. Proving provocateurs like RoadSnacks dead wrong is just the icing on the cake.

Forget denial, Richmond County. This is a challenge that calls for defiance.”

H) Mark Saal, Utah, “Ogden second worst? That couldn’t be worse”

“— henceforth and forever I wasn’t going to report the source of these vacuous helpings of intellectual cotton candy. Mostly because the companies that compile these lists are what we in the business affectionately refer to as “publicity whores.”

“…an attempt to attract as much media attention as possible.”

“And finally, as authoritative as I’d love to consider RoadSnacks (D’oh! Mentioned it again), it’s important to note that the “company” — possibly just some 20-something with a computer, living in his parents’ basement — is headquartered out of Durham, North Carolina. North Carolina, people.”

I)  Mark Muckenfuss, California, Who asks the question, “Does Nick Johnson want to become the most hated man in America?”

“What’s wrong with Nick Johnson? Does he really want to become the most hated man in America?”

“Johnson has made it his job to tell people they live in terrible places…”

” ‘I’ve had some really sappy letters sent to me that made me feel sad about doing this and we almost stopped. They said ‘You hurt everyone’s feelings,’ and we said, ‘Maybe we shouldn’t do this.’ ”  “…But then he (Nick Johnson) looks at the traffic on the website.”

J)  Steve Urbon, Massachusetts, “Worst? Buddy, you don’t know the meaning of worst — Mayor Jon Mitchell took the printout I had handed him, made a face and held it up like a soiled diaper”

“Some crackpot website in Durham, North Carolina, had messed around with some statistics…”

“You would think that if you’re going to publish something online that serves as cheap “linkbait,” you could at least get the numbers right.”

K)  Tasnim Shamma, Georgia,  Faulty Data Is Behind Georgia City’s Most Dangerous Ranking

This article quotes the FBI which urges people not to use their data.  However, Christopher Kolmar and Nick Johnson do use this FBI  data in compiling some of their lists. The FBI warns against using the data, and this is what the FBI has to say:

“UCR (Uniform Crime Reporting) data are sometimes used to compile rankings of individual jurisdictions and institutions of higher learning.  These incomplete analyses have often created misleading perceptions which adversely affect geographic entities and their residents. Despite repeated warnings against these practices, some data users continue to challenge and misunderstand this position.”

“When providing/using agency oriented statistics, the FBI cautions and, in fact, strongly discourages data users against using rankings to evaluate locales or the effectiveness of their law enforcement agencies.”

The article quotes Robert Friedmann, the director of the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange at Georgia State.

“…the rankings are irresponsible clickbait. It makes people panic and can affect a city’s local economy if it prevents people from moving there.”

This is an article from Jacob Harris, who predicted this way back in 2014.  Jacob Harris is a senior software architect at The New York Times and this article is from the Nieman Journalism Lab, part of the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University.

“Nobody can say exactly when the trend first started, but in 2014 we saw the first major outbreaks of bogus data distributed by private companies just so it would go viral online.”

“To be blunt, all of these stories were unredeemably awful, riddled with errors and faulty assumptions. But accuracy wasn’t the point. All of these examples of “data journalism” were generated by companies looking for coverage from online news organizations. The goal is a viral feedback loop, where the story is reaggregated by others, the site surges in its organic search rankings, and the study is tweeted for days even by haters like myself. For these purposes, they were perfectly designed to exploit the nature of modern news distribution online.”

This is what Distresses me about the Smart Growth 40R Process (and it’s not what you think)

This is what distresses me about the Smart Growth 40R Process.

By sinabeet on Flickr, "Hand say Hand Listen, Creative Commons License

By sinabeet on Flickr, “Hand say Hand Listen,” Creative Commons License

By sinabeet on Flickr, “Hand say Hand Listen,” Creative Commons License

The problem is with the citizens of Newburyport who are not paying attention, not with the elected officials and folks on volunteer boards who made the Smart Growth 40R District happen.

1) This is not new.

The 40R was first proposed way, way back in 2004.  This idea is not new to Newburyport. People are presenting this new zoning law as if it just came out of the blue. They are wrong.

2) No one was paying attention.

  • If people had been paying attention to the 40R as early as January 2014, things might have turned out much differently.
  • I was blogging about it since January 2015, and no one was listening, and I couldn’t get anyone to listen.  I actually went around and talked to people explaining that this was probably one of the biggest long term projects that Newburyport was looking at, and it would affect everyone.  I actually had people turn their backs on me and walk away while I was talking in mid-sentence.  No one cared.
  • I talked to at least one city councilor who had reservations about the project, and they couldn’t get anyone to listen either.  We both agreed that trying to get people to pay attention was like talking to a wall.

3) Do not complain after the fact.

If you do not show up and pay attention EARLY in the process when things are being decided and problem solving is taking place, do not complain after the fact.

4) Pay attention NOW.

This is a multi decade project that will go through multiple administrations and planning directors. The 2 things that are on the docket now is the Graf Road Pump Station and the Minco Building.

5) Stop making excuses.

If you really care about this project, and just don’t want to complain about it, follow those 2 initial projects, the Graf Road Pump Station and the Minco Building.  If you cannot make it to meetings, talk to city councilors and other people who do attend those meetings.  You can find out who is interested by asking around (I do), or reading the minutes (I do), which are online on the city’s website, see who shows up and contact them. Reading the minutes of the meetings helps too.

6) Stop throwing people under the bus because you think that they are not listening to you.

The time to get elected officials and volunteer boards to listen to you is in the BEGINNING of a project when decisions are being made — not after all the work has been done. Stop throwing elected officials and volunteer board members under the bus, because you were not paying attention when this 40R Smart Growth District was being worked on.

Three Young Men that Give me Hope for Newburyport’s Future

What these three young men have in common, to paraphrase President Kennedy, is, “Ask not what Newburyport can do for you, but ask what you can do for Newburyport.”

And for me, these three young men honor Newburyport, they link the stories of Newburyport’s past to what will be the story of Newburyport’s future.

Tom Salemi

Tom Salemi

Tom Salemi

I first got to know Tom Salemi when he became a fellow Newburyport blogger, the editor of The Newburyport Posts.  Tom had been a reporter for the Newburyport Daily News in the early to mid 1990s, left Newburyport and then returned to our wonderful city.

Much to my surprise (and I was somewhat alarmed for his sanity), Tom jumped in feet-first  into the world of Newburyport civics, and became a member of what I think of as Newburyport’s most toxic committee, the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority (NRA).

Tom became a member while the NRA was exploring the possibility of putting some buildings on Newburyport’s Waterfront.  The chaos and hostility that ensued was mind-boggling, I was sure that Tom would step down.  But Tom Salemi did not, instead he became chair of the NRA (I worried for his sanity), and has throughout his tenure conducted himself with grace and dignity, listening to the overall call for the Waterfront to remain “open,” and withstanding the onslaught of Citizens for an Open Water Front (COW) and calls by members of the Newburyport City Council for the NRA to disband.

You got to really love your city to preservere and work as a member of the NRA and to look  for a solution that has alluded the city for 50 years. This young man, Tom Salemi, self deprecating, funny, and without a hint of entitlement, gives me hope for Newburyport’s future.

Jared Eigerman

Jarred Eigerman

Jarred Eigerman

I first got to know Jared Eigerman during the push to have Newburyport have a Local Historic District (LHD).  And then, much to my delight, Jared decided to run for Newburyport City Council for Ward 2, and he won.

Jared was born in Newburyport, left our city and has now come back. He is a native son. Jared is one smart cookie, and again, self deprecating and without a hint of entitlement.  He wanted to become a city councilor not for power or to one day become mayor, but, in his words to me, “to write good laws.” And the first law/ordinance that Jared sponsored, was to protect downtown Newburyport and Newburyport’s Historic District, something that people had been trying to do for 50 years. It passed the Newburyport City Council unanimously, with the support of the “No LHD” folks and the “Yes LHD” folks.  No small accomplishment.  Yes, Newburyport historic preservationists still fight on, and people find ways to maneuver around the ordinance, but still, what an accomplishment.

Jared Eigerman honors Newburyport’s past, its stories, and wants to make sure that its history is intertwined with the story of Newburyport’s future.  And Jared Eigerman is one of the young men in our historic city that gives me great hope for our future.

Alex Dardinski

Alex Dardinski

Alex Dardinski

I don’t really know Alex Dardinski except through Facebook and talking to him while he takes his young son in his very cool bike, riding around our historic city.  Alex was born and raised in Newburyport, his family moved here in the early 1970s when real estate could be bought for $9,000. Alex has witnessed the change in Newburyport and can envision its future. And Alex is passionate about a vision to make Newburyport more walkable and pedestrian friendly, and reducing a reliance on the automobile.  He is involved in Newburyport’s Greenway and Newburyport’s Open Street Event.

Alex has also written a very thoughtful post for The Newburyport Blog on historic preservation in Newburyport, and his own personal experience of renovating an historic home.

As many people know, I love walking in Newburyport. I do it every day, and I also love historic preservation, and that may be why I resonate with Alex Dardinski so much.  And Alex is one of those people who links the stories of Newburyport’s past to what Newburyport’s story will become, and he gives me great hope for the future of Newburyport, Massachusetts.

The Newburyport Blog, What Makes Newburyport “Tick” and Google Search


What Makes Newburyport "Tick?"

What Makes Newburyport “Tick?”

The Newburyport Blog has all but disappeared from Google’s search engine, and I wanted to figure out why, I always have liked that question, “Why,” and got me to thinking, “What exactly is The Newburyport Blog anyway??”

The Newburyport Blog is not a place to find out where to eat or shop in Newburyport. There are many Newburyport websites now, including Google (which is almost becoming a website itself instead of a Search Engine), which would give answers to that question.

The fascination that I have, is not where to eat or shop in this wonderful historic city, but the fact that over the years the kind of restaurants and shops have radically changed (The General Store, the hardware/lumber store  have  been replaced by high end restaurants, spas, boutiques and very expensive furniture stores), and “Why” is that? and what does it say about Newburyport and how the culture in Newburyport is changing. What makes Newburyport “tick?” (the definition of “tick,” a verb, is “The motive and explanation of behavior” — that is what engages me.

The question of what makes Newburyport “tick,” was one of the reasons I was so hooked our once local political journal, The Undertoad.  Despite Tom Ryan’s very often, in my opinion, offensive, bombastic, childish and sometimes just downright sadistic approach to reporting the “underside of Newburyport,” The Undertoad’s basic premise was “What makes Newburyport tick?”

When Ulrika Gerth was editor of The Newburyport Current, she had an underlining theme, “What makes Newburyport tick??”

And Tom Salemi, the editor of The Newburyport Posts, with his journalist education, and his light, amicable, often deceivably “simple” posts, also had an underlining theme of “What makes Newburyport tick.” (Come back to blogging Tom Salemi!!)

And Jerry Mullins, God bless him, with his long, researched, valuable content (that Google  seems to ignore, so much for Google valuing “valuable content”), over at Brick and Tree, has that same theme too, “What makes Newburyport tick??”

And there are also the blogs by many Newburyport Councilors that address that very same question in a variety of ways.

The Newburyport Blog does have stuff on “gluten free,” but have you noticed the changes in restaurants, etc, gluten free has roared into out culture.

Where to park in Newburyport?? earlier post. Well, I never, ever thought we would have paid parking, but we do. It says something about our town (good stuff for a blog post).

And lots of Google search changes:

Ask for “Newburyport restaurants.” Google itself, not the webpages it “represents” in its search engine, will give you an answer.

Ask for 20+10, you will get an answer from Google, no need to go looking for a calculator on a website anymore.

Ask for information on “zucchini” and you will get Google’s answer. No need to look for a webpage anymore.

Ask for “Following Atticus,” Tom Ryan’s (Undertoad Tom Ryan) book.  Google will tell you all about it, need to got to a website?? Maybe.

Look for “Newburyport,” Google will give you an answer, maybe not a good answer, but an answer. That answer will get better, more refined, and pretty soon — no longer need to go to a website anymore.

Look for “Why Newburyport is the way it is today, culturally, socio-economically, architecturally, politically?”  That is not a simple question.  And if that sort of question is important, maybe check out The Newburyport Blog, the Newburyport City Councilors’ websites,  or go over to Brick and Tree and get Jerry Mullins take on what makes Newburyport “tick,” and maybe Tom Salemi will come back and blog again one day.

Inn Street, Newburyport, MA

Inn Street, Newburyport, MA

You Can go to Jail in Florida for Buying Hearing Aides Online

You can go to jail in Florida for buying a hearing aide online. How do I know this obscure and weird piece of information, one might ask? circuitous research that has oddly led me to pass on some very helpful information to other people–so, why not pass this information on, on The Newburyport Blog?


Behind the ear hearing aids are becoming stylish and are the size of a dime.

Back in my 30’s (oh, so long ago) I was told that I had some hearing loss. I was told this along the way by an astute physician. I did nothing for decades. And yes, eventually it became obvious that something needed to be looked into.

Very short version. If you go to an audiologist, hearing aids (and yes, those of us who are “younger” sometimes need them) can cost between $4,000-$6,000 and up for a pair. And insurance doesn’t pay for them. Whoowza. The price of a number of brand spanking new laptops or a used car. Good grief.

However, several things have conspired to help those whom, “You’ve gotta be kidding,” is their fist and final remark.

First, the internet happened. Second, the FDA did something (which I really don’t understand) that makes it possible to sell hearing aids through folks other than audiologists. Third, some very bright young men were horrified that either their family members or patients were forced to do without, or take out a loan to buy hearing aids, and they went and did something about it (creating hearing aids that vary from $500 to $1,400 a pair). Fourth, Costco, of all places, has gotten into the business of selling hearing aids in bulk big time (for around $2,000 for a pair).

What I went looking for was a first step version of a hearing aid. The equivalent of going to CVS and buying a pair of reading glasses, before eventually making the big leap and going for the more expensive prescription version.

After copious amount of research I found a young Otolaryngologist (a hearing doctor) based in Chicago who was upset that so many of his patients couldn’t afford, and therefore didn’t get the hearing aids that they needed. Dr. Cherukuri came up with a generic, “one size fits most,” that are  apparently not cheap in quality, hearing aid for his patients and now for anyone who wants to buy them. MDHearingAids–starting at $360 a pair to $600 a pair to $1,000 a pair, with a 45 day trial period. Unbelievable rave reviews. Sounded good to me.

Reading a New York Times article on this same dilemma, I found out about Audicus. You send in a copy of your hearing test, that insurance does pay for, and then they customize your hearing aide to fit the prescription, and then mail it to you for $1,200-$1,300-$1,400 a pair, with a 45 day trial period. They are also trying to take away the stigma of having a hearing aid by making them look sexier (not your grandpa’s hearing aid any more).

And then there is Costco, rave review everywhere. They do the hearing test right there, they work with major hearing aid manufactures, they have their own line, and pair goes for around $2,000, with a 90 day trial period.

And you can imagine that audiologists all over the place are having a fit about this. And that’s how I found out that some are having such a fit that in a state like Florida, buying a hearing aid online is a second degree misdemeanor and you can get up to 6 months in jail (although apparently that has never happened to anyone). Who knew that the editor of The Newburyport Blog would discover such an amazing tidbit of information. It makes me wish that I had the talents of someone like Carl Hiaasen because, Whowza, what a fun satire on all sorts of things someone could make out of that small little soupcon of information.

Newburyport WordPress Blog Hacked and What I Learned



It was Christmas Eve, and I was looking at The Newburyport Blog on a friend’s mobile phone, when yes, “Oh dear,” the blog had been hacked!

It was subtle, a spammy link to a “payday loan” right underneath the top menu.  Looking back at Google caches of the website, “payday loan” links were looking downright classy compared to some of the other kinds of links that had been formerly left behind in that one particular spot.

In 8 years, this was the first time (I now consider myself lucky) The Newburyport Blog had been hacked.

So to my fellow WordPress bloggers in the Newburyport area and beyond, this is what I learned.

1) After initially installing the WordPress blog, I think I updated WordPress maybe once in 8 years. Not so good of me. For my fellow bloggers, yes, we know about those pesky notices at the top, that show up when logging-in, urging us to “update” our blog, that seem to arrive at a ridiculously regular basis. It never occurred to me that those were “security” updates, I just thought that it was “lovers of computer code” showing off. How very, very wrong of me, and I will now religiously update WordPress.

2) There is something called “plug-ins” that perform all sorts of nifty tasks behind the scene. Who knew that those plug-ins need to be updated on a regular basis, not moi.  A place, apparently, for pesky, nasty code, to be placed in hiding, that triggers noxious actions from unseemly folks.

3) Another place that hackers apparently leave polluted notes to make one’s blog do all kinds of unpleasant things, is in the “themes” — those are “things” that create the way different blogs look. They may look “pretty” but underneath all that prettiness, they are all code (an example of what WordPress code looks like is in the image in this post). And, yes, that is where I found at least one place where my harmful hackers had left there corrupting “notes.”

And when WordPress is updated, themes can be updated, and the new “updated” themes, at least, momentarily wash away unwanted coded nastiness.

4) And locking the doors. Changing the password (which seemed pretty sturdy), to see if it would prevent hackers from picking the locks to The Newburyport Blog one more time.

When I updated the blog, updated the plug-ins, updated the themes, and removed all previous themes, miraculously, and to my relief, the spammy link disappeared.

I have no idea if it will return. It has been 3 days and nothing yet, so here’s hoping. But if any of the faithful readers of The Newburyport Blog see any “unsavory” links, or weird blog behavior, would you please let me know. And I will see if I can go back and do some more sleuthing into the compelling world of computer code.

Market Basket Update, Continuing PR Disaster, and Real Time Info from Twitter and Facebook


Outside Newburyport’s Market Basket

On this gorgeous summer day, in the middle of Newburyport’s Yankee Homecoming, what am I doing? I’m tracking Twitter for the latest updates on the Market Basket Story, going up to Market Basket, not for groceries, but to find out what’s going on and taking photos.

Customers grocery slips from other stores on Market Basket's door

Customers grocery slips from other stores on Market Basket’s door

And what one of the things that is so fascinating to me, is that this Market Basket story is unfolding in real time on Twitter and Facebook. And many of the sources that I now have, are the same one’s that the news media has. I’m hooked.


Aisles are empty of customers at noon.

So this is what I’ve picked up: Arthur T’s original bid was turned down by the Market Basket’s Board of Director’s (unconfirmed), and then there were 4 other bids that were withdrawn after all the chaos started (unconfirmed), for chaos, see previous posts. That’s all in all likelihood, probably right, but, again, “unconfirmed.”


No produce at Market Basket

What is confirmed is that a major player in the family, Rafaela Evans Demoulas, Arthus S’s sister-in-law, arrived back in Boston yesterday. What is also reported, as I write, on Twitter, and on Save Market Basket’s Facebook page, is that Arthur T’s offer is now the only one on the table, and that both sides are working, “around the clock to hammer out a deal; #MarketBasket losing millions of dollars a day amid turmoil.” (From a Boston Globe tweet that can be read here).


No checkout lines at Market Basket at lunch time.

And at our very own local Newburyport Market Basket, people are out protesting in force on Storey Ave. The door to Market Basket is littered with receipts from other stores put up by customers. Inside, the store is virtually empty of customers. No produce has been delivered to the store since last Tuesday. There has been no delivery of any dairy products except ice-cream. And as you can see from the photos, although there are other things on the shelves, the customers, by and large, have seemed to boycotted Market Basket in favor of other stores. And there are no baked goods, but on the wall behind the empty display cases, there is a picture of Artie T and a sign that says “Artie T We Support You,” (press photo to enlarge).


The bakery, empty, with a picture of Artie T and a sign that says “Artie T. We Support You.” (Press image to enlarge.)

Market Basket/Demoulas Dysfunctional Family Threatens Jobs, Economy, Food in New England

I went foraging for food today.  I went to Shaw’s. On my way past Market Basket there were employees that I’ve known for a long time out on Storey Avenue protesting with signs. And I honked like mad in support.

Market Basket, Newburyport

Protesting for Market Basket on Storey Ave in Newburyport

I talked to one of the employees at Shaws.  The grocery store is scrambling to keep up with demand, and the gentleman thanked me for being patient and supportive of their effort to get food on the shelves for the folks in Newburyport. He also said that he fully supported the workers at Market Basket, and I quote:

“Once it’s no longer in the family and it becomes public, it’s all over.”

(And I remember Shaw’s when it went public.  The prices there are now a whole lot higher than at Market Basket. And as I remember it, it didn’t used to be that way.)

Market Basket, Newburyport

Protesting for Market Basket on Storey Ave in Newburyport

Then I went over to Market Basket and took photos of the people protesting.  Their spirits seemed to be much better today than they were yesterday.  I think they really appreciate the local support, and the larger support for their effort.

Market Basket, Newburyport

Protesting for Market Basket on Storey Ave in Newburyport

I put my Shaw’s grocery slip in the window at Market Basket, I hope other folks do the same.

Market Basket

Shaw’s grocery slip taped inside Market Basket by a customer

And one of my favorite photos is of a really sweet young lady holding a sign inside Market Basket, next to the photo or Arthur T, that says, “More for your dollar Family.”

Market Basket, Newburyport

Protesting inside Market Basket

For an explanation of what’s going on, my favorite is still Buzzfeed, “Mind-Blowing Pictures of Empty Shelves As Employees Protest Corporate Greed,” which can be read here. Yesterday’s post on the Newburyport Blog about Market Basket, “Newburyport, Market Basket, a PR Disaster,”can be read here.

Market Basket, Newburyport

Sign outside Market Basket in Newburyport

Late to the Instagram Planet

I find myself often late to many planets.  Late to the David Sedaris planet (my discovery of David Sedaris, or the “scull guy,” Christmas 2008 here), who has now become probably my most favorite writer, and “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” probably my most favorite book.


(An Instagram portrait of my son, Hal, who always, graciously, seems to acquiesce to his mother’s instinct to create yet another portrait of him.)

In my rebellion about being chained to a cell phone at all times, I was one of the last people on earth to get a “smart phone,” and probably the very, very last person on earth to text (I still do not like texting. I find it to be yet another handy way to avoid human interaction.)

Although, as my son pointed out, I did “tweet,” long before others (including my son) “twittered,” and blogged, low 7+ years now, when people, in general, thought blogging to be a weird and unnatural thing.  So I have actually been on some planets on the early, rather than almost late/last side of the equation.

And Instagram, who knew, not moi. (You have to have a smart phone, or a tablet, or something to Instagram, so, of course I was wildly late-ish to the Instagram planet.)  And along with reading David Sedaris, Instagram, at least for the moment, has become one of my favorite occupations (this is a vast understatement).

And I am so new to the Instagram planet, that it is instantaneously instant, so it may fade after a time. But for this time, I am most definitely “hooked.”

My at the moment, obsessive Instagraming can be found here.

(I am hoping that this is a nice change of pace from the subject of plastic bags — see a lot of earlier posts.)

New Digital Images–A Traditional Painter Aims for the 21st Century

Digital Painting, Plum Island Spring, Mary Baker © 2014

Plum Island Spring, Mary Baker © 2014

Jeff Ives, the husband of Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives, did the nicest thing.  He put the first four images of the new digital body of work by yours truly, up on Tumblr. I was very moved.

Way, way, way back in December 2012 I wondered out loud on The Newburyport Blog, if traditional painting was going the way of the buggy whip and the typewriter. And way back then, I decided to learn “digital stuff,” and have come up with, what I hope, is the first 4 images of a new digital body of work.

Although The Newburyport Blog got a recent mobile device friendly facelift, my traditional art website languishes in a less well coded world, soon, one day, to be updated with the new digital images.

For the moment, this new art foray into the 21st century, by moi, a traditional painter for so many decades, I don’t even want to say, is on Facebook, and the new images as they get created can, for the moment, be found on the “New Work “Album here (and if you would “Like” the Facebook page here that would be most awesome!!).

Editor’s Note:  My apologies, my hosting server redirected the blog to another place, it has now been corrected.  Thank you so much for your patience.

Have an Opinion and Make People Angry

I came across something to the effect on Facebook of, “Want to make people angry? Have an opinion. Wait.”

This is now my 8th year writing The Newburyport Blog, and I’ve had lots of opinions, on lots of things, and pissed a lot of people off at one time or another. I piss off “Conservatives,” “Natives/Townies,” and, yes, “Progressives.” Conservatives and Townies have one way of reacting, and Progressives have another, equally pesky, way of reacting.

Conservatives and Townies will call me things like “vicious” and “foul,” send me stormy emails, or leave me ranting Facebook messages ALL IN CAPS!!!!!  And accuse me of outrageous felonies and misdemeanors, in print, to the point where I might have a very good case for suing them for libel.  However, since I am among a whole string of fairly illustrious folks that have been accused of libelous actions, I’ve decided to let that one go, at least for now.

Progressives, on the other hand, seem to take to the phone.  I’ll get long and very “intense” phone calls, and when I say, “I think I’ll hang up now,” they call back and continue. An attempt to reduce me to tears is sometimes pursued, and not to rule out possible threats of lawsuits. And sometimes follow-up, guilt-trip emails from young children and college students, in an attempt to get me to change my mind about whatever.

The people who don’t pull these various and sundry maneuvers, interestingly enough, are our local politicians.  Either their possible displeasure is left up to surrogates, or they have developed a thick enough skin, having been in “the game,” to know that people having opinions about things, issues, campaigns and candidates, is part of the democratic process. It’s called free speech.

(And P.S. whether it’s a Conservative, townie or a Progressive that pulls one of these vagaries, believe me, I do not forget.)

Miss Manners has a Few Things to Say on her Facebook Page

Miss Manners, moi, has a few things to say on her Facebook page.

The tone of this election season (don’t even get me started about an illegal, destructive and anonymous flyer and robo-call that happened this weekend) has been so off the charts, that I sat and thought long and hard before putting up the most recent Facebook post about the NRA and the Waterfront. How to make it so that there wasn’t a collective meltdown, uncouth, brawl. Passion about issues is one thing, complete un-civility on the part of the electorate is quite another. It can happen other places, but not on my Facebook page.

And as for setting a “tone” for the upcoming election, the “male” who survived the mayoral primary, has, in my books, done one lousy job. Maybe “chivalry,” in this day an age, is way too much to ask for, even, apparently, in a local election. And I guess being a “gentleman” would be completely out of the question. But being that “uncouth,” as someone who would like to be the leader of Newburyport, our small New England city–you have got to be kidding me.

To show up at a press conference, that one would suppose to have been agreed upon, a press conference that was, I thought, supposed to be about denouncing the underhanded, destructive, anonymous and illegal political tactics that took place over the weekend. To then say that the press conference didn’t seem necessary, and use the opportunity to bash one’s opponent… if I was mayoral candidate Dick Sullivan’s mother, I would have taken him by the ear, not caring how old either one of us might be, and given him a good whoop’n.

Some of the candidates this electoral season have set a tone of “classiness.” Mayoral candidate Dick Sullivan, has not been one of them.

I digress.

So what do I, the editor of The Newburyport Blog, do about setting some boundaries on The Newburyport Blog’s Facebook page?

As of this morning a “comment policy” is now in place:

“If you do choose to comment on the Newburyport Blog’s Facebook page, please be civil, polite (which could be perceived as a radical concept), and constructive, otherwise your comment will be deleted (even if it slightly crosses the line) and you will be banned (something I really would not like to do); you may (or may not) get a “warning” if I feel that “banning” from this Facebook page is warranted. (How about that for a disclaimer!!) Mary Baker Eaton, Editor of The Newburyport Blog.

(One of the ways to make your comment “polite,” is to use “I,” as in “I feel that this would….” instead of “You,” as in, “You are…” or to have no preposition at all, which can come across as not being “polite.” )”

And I, Miss Manners, mean it.

We Didn’t Have the Green Thing Back Then

I pissed off a lot of people with the “Please Leave My Plastic Bags Alone” post.  I was even asked not to write anything more about the subject (democracy, free speech anyone??), so, at least for now, technically I won’t.

This has been making the rounds on the internet for months and months and months (the source unfortunately is unknown – wish I knew!!), so if you haven’t seen it…

We Didn’t Have the Green Thing Back Then

“Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman, that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.

The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days.” The young clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”

She was right — our generation didn’t have the green thing in its day.

Milk Bottles, Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Milk Bottles, Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were truly recycled. But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags, that we reused for numerous things, most memorable besides household garbage bags, was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our schoolbooks. This was to ensure that public property, (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribblings. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags. But too bad we didn’t do the green thing back then.

We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. But she was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throwaway kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that young lady is right; we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana.

In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.

Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But she’s right; we didn’t have the green thing back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But we didn’t have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger joint.

But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the green thing back then?”

Baby It’s Cold Outside and Cafe au Lait

Pretty fancy, huh, “Cafe au Lait?”  But really, cafe au lait.



So today we actually get snow. I feel we are blessed, because at least at my house, there is only the 3 of the 5 inches promised, and my wonderful neighbor appears in my driveway with their snowblower.  I have named this wonderful beast (the snowblower, not my neighbor), “Horatio Horn Blower.”  Neither my neighbors nor Horatio seem to mind the moniker.  I was told last night that Horatio, waiting patiently in the shed all summer, was in very good spirits, and in working order. This made me happy.

However, even with Horatio’s heroic undertakings “vis-a-vis” (getting very “european” today) my driveway, there is still shoveling to be done.  And I am glad that it is only 3 inches, because I am not in winter shoveling shape.

I come in out of not being in snow shoveling shape, after an hour or so of cleaning up my dwelling, from snow and ice, with my trusty, at least, 10 year old, ground down, well loved, in need of a replacement, snow shovel.

And I’m starving and want something warm and yummy to drink, but have no hot cocoa in the house, and do not want to go out in search of any.

One cup coffee maker

One cup coffee maker

And my mind wanders back to my mother, and a trip she and my father took me on to France at the impressionable age of somewhere around 14.  I vaguely remember drinking something warm and yummy and very grownup, at the time, called “Cafe au Lait.”

And I bless the World Wide Web and its recipe making capabilities.

I get out my way older than my ancient shovel, one person Melitta one cup coffee brewer, make a strong half cup of coffee with cinnamon and nutmeg added to the grounds (feeling very creative here), fill the rest with milk and a little vanilla extract, and nuke the whole thing in the microwave.

coffee or in this case "Cafe au Lait"

coffee or in this case "Cafe au Lait"

My mother and father’s sprits seem to fill the room, as if I am suddenly 14 and in France with them again, and it is a good feeling, plus my spur of the moment cafe au lait tastes awesome.

And then on the World Wide Web, I find a year’s wrap-up by one of my favorite writers, Dave Barry.  It is good to laugh and to have things put into perspective, drink cafe au lait with such fond memories of my Mom and Dad.  And Dave Barry’s awesome year end “wrap-up” can be found here.  (I’m thinking that “WHAP” may make its way to the Newburyport Blog – you gotta read Dave Barry.)

Plagiarism – Photoshop Take Off

Photoshop Flight

Photoshop Flight

I never, ever would have considered using other people’s images that are in the public domain in my art work, it would be plagiarism for me.  Plagiarism – I would have felt it to be “immoral,” “originality” the only acceptable device. But blogging, doing content for people’s websites, the World Wide Web has radically and slowly changed my whole idea of how to use images. Before starting the Newburyport Blog I never knew about stuff/images that are in the “public domain.”  I now bless the public domain, it makes what I do here and what other people do all across the web a whole lot more interesting. So why not use images that are in the public domain in my own art work? These are images I could never take, either because they are in a geographical location that I would never get to, or with equipment I would never buy.

Photoshop Bird 3 (thanks Bobby)

Photoshop Bird 3 (thanks Bobby)

And photoshop (see earlier entry on fine art, painting in particular, going the way of the buggy whip and typewriter), what one can do in photoshop in a few minutes would take me years to do as a painter. It’s irresistible. So I’ve started experimenting. And how fun!! Like being in a candy store for this artist.  A photoshop take off, a lovely New Year’s present for moi.

Newburyport LHD Political Reality

I am now going to piss off Newburyport preservationists!  Ooops!

The final report of the Newburyport LHD Study Committee (LHD = Local Historic District) is absurdly fair.  The five members did backflips to accommodate feedback from the community and from the Newburyport City Councilors. Backflips, cartwheels, you name it, right from the get go. And despite all of that, on an up and down vote it’s not going to fly. That’s just the existing political reality.

The leading member of the “Say No to LHD” group, its heart and soul, who got up in the first informational meeting a year a go, disrupting the entire meeting and storming out, vowing to stop the LHD, has done a remarkable job. It’s definitely a “Wow.” It appears that the end most certainly justified the means. Trashing people’s reputations and character, personal attacks, threats of law suits (most recently in a comment in the Daily News), presenting information early last winter (good tactic starting early) that was and is simply not true, has worked. Congratulations.

The final version of the LHD ordinance has finally gone to the Newburyport City Council, a meeting will take place this Thursday, October 25, 2012, Newburyport City Hall at 7PM.

As I see it, the political realities. (The boundaries of the proposed LHD are High Street, the gateway to the city, and downtown Newburyport from Winter Street to Federal Street.)  Lob off the North End of High Street at the Kelly School, and put those folks out of their misery.

There is unanimous support along the South End of the “Ridge” to Willis Lane (which is roughly across the street from Fruit Street).  Shorten High Street from Willis Lane to the Kelly School, maybe include St Paul’s Church on the other side (but, good grief, don’t cross the street!).

And protect downtown Newburyport.  After all that HUD Federal money, please, does anyone dispute that the restoration of downtown Newburyport is the reason that Newburyport has become the thriving place that it is today?  Really, not to protect downtown, good grief.

When Governor Deval Patrick came for a visit at Cafe Di Siena (February 2010), I asked Newburyport City Councilor Tom O’Brien if he would vote for the Newburyport LHD, and his response (this was before all of the hullabaloo), “Of course Mary, there’s been too many tear downs.”  This statement was witnessed by Newburyport City Councilor Barry Connell, who with a wink and a smile by both Newburyport city councilors, pretended to write down this vote for the LHD by Councilor Tom O’Brien on the back of his hand.

So why not have have a “No Demolition” zone/overlay for the entire Newburyport Historic District, that would also include “interior demolition for exploratory purposes,” which, for example, lead to the unfortunate creation by a developer on Pine Street, for which the neighbors are suing the developer and the Newburyport Zoning Board of Appeals.

Can the Newburyport City Council come up with the equivalent of the “Wisdom of Solomon?”  Can they do it in one night?? And what will they say, now that they get the chance have to have a say.  It will be really fascinating to watch.

Walking with Dogs in the Greater Newburyport Area

First it was learning about the Happy Chickens blog, and now learning about a blog about dogs – “Walking with Dogs in Greater Newburyport, (off leash experiences in the Newburyport area),” by Kim Kudym.  Kim’s blog is an an exploration of the area’s gorgeous places that can be shared with a canine friend. How fun!

Indian Hill Reservoir in West Newbury, courtesy of Kim Kudym

Indian Hill Reservoir in West Newbury, courtesy of Kim Kudym, press image to enlarge

And how fun not only for dog owners, but anyone who would like to explore the area, with dogs, children, family, friends or just on your own.  Very cool!

Woodsom Farm in Amesbury, courtesy of Kim Kudym

Woodsom Farm in Amesbury, courtesy of Kim Kudym, press image to enlarge

Kim has started to post photos of outings in various places. Woodsom Farm in Amesbury, and Indian Hill Reservoir in West Newbury – and they just want to make you go out there and start exploring!!  There are also many Newburyport favorites including Cooper North Pasture and the Little River Nature Trail Newburyport, to name a few.

Woodsom Farm in Amesbury, courtesy of Kim Kudym

Woodsom Farm in Amesbury, courtesy of Kim Kudym, press image to enlarge

A great addition to the Newburyport blogosphere!!  Thanks Kim!!

Gluten Free BLT – Bacon Bowls – No Bread

Bacon Bowl - Megan Reardon, of "not martha"

Bacon Bowl, courtesy of Megan Reardon, of "not martha"

In my web-searching for nothing in particular, I came across this “thing,” this amazing “thing” that I’ve never heard about before.  And for folks who are looking for gluten free stuff (or just anyone), well how cool is this, a BTL bowl, a bacon bowl, a BLT without bread!!

I encountered this amazing “thing,” bacon bowl on a blog called “not martha.”  And from what I can make out the idea has zipped around, (I am late to the bacon bowl world, but I bet lots of other folks may be late to the bacon bowl world too!), but it looks like, from what I can make out, it all started with Megan Reardon, or “not martha,” (not Martha Stewart??).

This is not my photo, it belongs to, and is courtesy of Megan Reardon, who lives in Seattle, and writes “not martha.”  To learn how to make these amazing bacon bowl wonders press here.

George is Grinning and Orren Fox



George is grinning, huge wide smile, and those of you who have been readers of the Newburyport Blog for any length of time know that George is usually a glum sort of fellow, even with his passionate romance to Georgiana Tadpole (if you really would like to know about any of this frog stuff please press here).

Instead of telling the readers of the Newburyport Blog what is making George smile so hugely right off the bat (although he’s not smiling in the picture, I couldn’t get one of him smiling), I’m going to start at the beginning.

Way, way back (“in the day,” I’m not sure if it’s that far back) in 1990 I painted a whole bunch of paintings for a major New York show, oil on panel, and the panels warped (I used the wrong kind of panel – never did it again).  Panic city, you betcha.  I went to what was then Wendover Woodworks on Liberty Street in Newburyport, and one of the owners, Andy Willemsem saved my sorry soul by making some absolutely gorgeous frames that solved the warping problem and saved yours truly.  It was then I met Andy’s partner in this wonder furniture creating place, Henry Fox.

About 15 years ago, wandering around my Newburyport neighborhood, I ran into Henry Fox, who told me the harrowing tale of his son, born 3 months early with a host of medical problems who had been saved by the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at MassGeneral in Boston, and had just been moved to one of the more local hospitals.  I later shared this story with other families who had critically ill new borns, including my most wonderful neighbors, who found themselves and their newborn son also at MassGeneral. (The young man is now happily running around our neighborhood.)

Andy Willemsen moved on and Henry Fox named his wonderful furniture business after his two sons, “Fox Brothers.” (Still there on Liberty Street in Newburyport, still amazing.)

Fast forward to 2012, yesterday, a “new” or “new” to me, George and I being 5 years late to the story (not quite as bad as my late arrival to the David Sedaris planet, see earlier post, but not so good)  local Newburyport blog called “Happy Chickens Lay Healthy Eggs,” by a fifteen year old young man called Orren Fox.

I’m thinking Fox?? Fox?? Henry Fox?? The timing’s right.

And sure enough this blog is written by Henry’s son Orren, the one in intensive care 15 years ago.  How cool is that, but it gets so much better.

Scrolling down the blog’s sidebar the young man has been interviewed/written up by the Huffington Post, NPR, Yankee Magazine, the Boston Globe to name a few, and has been to the White House, March 7, 2012,  for “Know Your Farmer Event.”

I’m beginning to join George in grinning from ear to ear about this young chicken farmer and organic food activist.

“Margaret Mead would have loved Orren.  A soulful and gifted young man who has done more to help make a positive impact by 15 than most folks do in a lifetime.” From Do Lectures.

And Orren has added bees, in “Bee Happy” – check it out here.

AND Orren has serendipitly gone into business with his brother Will (with a little help from Dad) making “FoxBoys” longboards, skateboards in the most glorious shape, a little like a boat, read and see all about them here.

And Orren Fox is so media savvy as to make grown “social media” folks weep – along with the Happy Chickens blog there are the Facebook pages that one actually enjoys looking at and reading, and twitter accounts.  But it may be in the blood because his Mom, who gave birth to him all those many 15 years ago, is Libby Delana, the founding partner of Newburyport’s Mechanica, the next generation branding firm.

So if you are discouraged by the news or local or federal politics, life in general, go investigate Orren Fox, a young man who transcends the sustainable movement.  It doesn’t matter if you are dark “green,” light “green,” in-between or orange; right wing, left wing, moderate or independent.  When you read about this fantastic story, you like George, will be grinning from ear to ear and doing a dance in the end zone of your choice.