If you like cheap groceries and live in Massachusetts, you may have noticed this weekend that the shelves were bare at Market Basket. Employees of the company staged a walkout on Friday to show their support for Arthur T. Demoulas, the company's recently ousted president. Many people have questioned the sudden change in management. [more inside]
The photographs in this set depict roads and highways in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts from 1892 to 1893. The photos accompany the "Report of the Commission to Improve the Highways of the Commonwealth" published in February of 1893. [more inside]
After a successful campaign to remind Boston drivers to use yah blinkah, the state of Massachusetts is now holding a contest to come up with additional messages to show to the drivers of the state. [more inside]
From 1851 to 1858, Henry David Thoreau noted a number of natural occurrences in detail, including the first flowering dates for over 500 species of wildflowers in Concord. Additionally, Alfred Hosmer, a botanist in the same area, had recorded the flowering dates of over 600 species of wild plants in 1878 and from 1888 to 1902. With that data, Richard Primack, a biology professor at Boston University, and fellow researcher Abraham Miller-Rushing spent years aligning old plant names with current names to study the change flowering patterns from the recorded past to present. Their phenological study concluded that plants in Concord, on average, are now flowering 10 days earlier than they were in Thoreau's time (full article for the journal BioScience). [more inside]
On March 22, 1621, a Native American delegation walked through what is now southern New England to meet with a group of foreigners who had taken over a recently deserted Indian settlement. At the head of the party was an uneasy triumvirate: Massasoit, the sachem (political-military leader) of the Wampanoag confederation, a loose coalition of several dozen villages that controlled most of southeastern Massachusetts; Samoset, sachem of an allied group to the north; and Tisquantum, a distrusted captive, whom Massasoit had brought along only reluctantly as an interpreter. Massasoit was an adroit politician, but the dilemma he faced would have tested Machiavelli. About five years before, most of his subjects had fallen before a terrible calamity. Whole villages had been depopulated. It was all Massasoit could do to hold together the remnants of his people. Adding to his problems, the disaster had not touched the Wampanoag’s longtime enemies, the Narragansett alliance to the west. Soon, Massasoit feared, they would take advantage of the Wampanoag’s weakness and overrun them. And the only solution he could see was fraught with perils of its own, because it involved the foreigners—people from across the sea.
The Indians who first feasted with the English colonists were far more sophisticated than you were taught in school. But that wasn't enough to save them In addition to providing a beautifully written account of what happened, the article does something subtle but incredibly cool in using a Native centered perspective that really illuminates how dramatically silenced and othered Native voices are in other accounts.[more inside]
Ten years ago today, invoking the “dignity and equality of all individuals", the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court declared that the state must allow same sex couples the right to marry. The plaintiffs' attorney was Mary Bonauto.
For the first time since the 1950s, Boston's Charles River opened for public swimming. [more inside]
On this day in 1844, Henry David Thoreau burned down a forest.
What started as a report of a convenience store robbery near the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology last night has sprawled into a chaotic manhunt for the perpetrators of the recent terrorist attack on the Boston Marathon. The deadly pursuit, involving a policeman's murder, a carjacking, a violent chase with thrown explosives, and the death of one suspect, has resulted in Governor Deval Patrick ordering an unprecedented lockdown of the entire Boston metropolitan area as an army of law enforcement searches house by house for the remaining gunman. The Associated Press has identified the duo as Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and his 19-year-old brother Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, who remains at large. Both are immigrants from wartorn Chechnya in southwestern Russia. The Guardian liveblog is good for quick updates, and Reddit's updating crowdsourced timeline of events that has often outpaced mainstream media coverage of the situation. You can also get real-time reports straight from the (Java-based) local police scanner.
A bill to declare "Roadrunner" the official rock song of Massachusetts will be filed on February 14.
"People haven’t been fascinated by this book because the translation is mellifluous or beautiful,” said Michael F. Suarez, a professor of English at the University of Virginia who directs the Rare Book School there. “People haven’t been attracted to this book because the presswork is beautiful. It’s not.” Instead, the Bay Psalm Book is treasured for being the first surviving piece of printing done in the British North American colonies. Only 11 copies, many incomplete, today survive. Remarkably two of those copies belong to the same owner, Boston's Old South Church. This month, the church made the controversial decision to sell one (the first such sale in 65 years), and it could bring as much as $20 million for the church's endowment.
The Tech, a newspaper at MIT, has published a report about MIT students' stress. (via) [more inside]
Thousands of drug-related convictions in Massachusetts may be challenged as investigators learn more about improper evidence handling and testing at a Department of Public Health laboratory. Over 50,000 samples related to 34,000 convictions were tested by a single chemist at the lab, who is alleged to have violated multiple laboratory protocols. Governor Deval Patrick's office has identified 1,141 inmates currently serving time in Massachusetts whose convictions may be affected by the investigation. [more inside]
Question 3 is a Massachusetts ballot initiative concerning the legalization of marijuana for medical use. There are some organizations opposed to the initiative, who failed to register certain domain names. The Massachusetts voter's guide accidentally directed voters to one of the unclaimed domains, now the satirical VoteNoOnQuestion3.org
Archibald Query 's creation, Marshmallow Fluff, followed a winding path to household name. Most famous as a component of the Fluffernutter sandwich, this icon of New England cuisine appears in hundreds of other recipes, including whoopie pies and Mamie Eisenhower's Never Fail Fudge. You can even try making it yourself. . Other homages include the pop-style "Fluffart" of Susan Olsen, perhaps better known to us as the Brady Bunch's Cindy; some video tributes, and the What the Fluff? Festival in Somerville, MA (previously),
... Microsoft made an unobtrusive announcement that brings a degree of closure to a seven year long epic battle between some of the largest technology companies in the world. The same saga pitted open source advocates against proprietary vendors, and for the first time brought the importance of technical standards to the attention of millions of people around the world... [more inside]
Beating the system: The Boston Globe reports how a group of MIT students beat the Massachusetts state lottery by working out that you were almost guaranteed to get a return on the game Cash Win Fall at certain times, and only buying tickets at that point. It's reckoned that they made $48m on a $40m stake over several years, that other syndicates were also involved, and the state 'bent and broke' the rules by allowing them to buy tickets in bulk. The game was closed down after the Globe started to investigate. [more inside]
The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts has ruled for the first time that a civil union must be treated as equivalent to marriage. The full decision is here.
Fenway Park, in Boston, is a lyric little bandbox of a ballpark. Everything is painted green and seems in curiously sharp focus, like the inside of an old-fashioned peeping-type Easter egg. It was built in 1912 and rebuilt in 1934, and offers, as do most Boston artifacts, a compromise between Man's Euclidean determinations and Nature's beguiling irregularities. So wrote John Updike in his moving tribute to Red Sox legend Ted Williams -- an appropriately pedigreed account for this oldest and most fabled of ballfields that saw its first major league game played one century ago today. As a team in flux hopes to recapture the magic with an old-school face-off against the New York
Highlanders Yankees, it's hard to imagine the soul of the Sox faced the specter of demolition not too long ago. Now legally preserved, in a sport crowded with corporate-branded superdome behemoths, Fenway abides, bursting with history, idiosyncrasy, record crowds, and occasional song. [more inside]
In 1984, The Voyage of the Mimi set sail on PBS, exploring the ocean off the coast of Massachusetts to study humpback whales. The educational series was made up of thirteen episodes intended to teach middle schoolers about science and math. The first fifteen minutes of each episode were a fictional adventure starring a young Ben Affleck. The second 15 minutes were an "expedition documentary" that would explore the scientific concepts behind the show's plot points. A sequel with the same format, The Second Voyage of the Mimi aired in 1988, and featured the crew of the Mimi exploring Mayan ruins in Mexico. [more inside]
A new working paper by economists Charles Courtemanche (University of Louisville) and Daniela Zapata (UNC-Greensboro) shows that Massachusetts 2006 uniform healthcare coverage caused improvements for numerous health outcomes. To the degree that the Massachusetts experiment is a guide for the federal Affordable Care Act, this study provides some guidance for guessing which individuals and approximately how much the benefits of the program will be. [more inside]
This past August a murder charge was dismissed against Nga Truong, a young mother who had confessed to Worcester, MA Police interrogators in 2008 that she had smothered and killed her 13 month-old baby, Khyle. A judge later concluded that confession was coerced -- extracted in part by police "deception," "trickery and implied promises" -- and the case was dropped. (pdf). Her case raises questions: What coercive power do detectives have who are driven to extract confessions? Under what circumstances might someone admit to a crime they have not committed? WBUR (Boston's NPR station) investigated Truong's case and has an extensive report, Anatomy of a Bad Confession: Part One and Two [more inside]
What does a day's worth of activity look like for Boston's transportation system? Via bostonography, which has been featured previously.
Tennis player and coach Bob Hewitt is a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame who has held all the men's doubles and mixed doubles Grand Slam titles. Hewitt, who was born in Australia but became a South African citizen by marriage, also captained the 1974 South African Davis Cup champion team. The Boston Globe reports that Hewitt's lengthy coaching career in the US and South Africa has long been accompanied by allegations that Hewitt sexually abused his female students, mostly adolescents but one as young as 10. Hewitt denies the charges.
Cash WinFall, or how to turn the lottey into a real moneymaker. In Massachusetts, one state-sponsored lottery has become a game you can't lose....if you know the trick. A tale of math, grinding and grifting in the Boston Globe.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick recently decided that the state would not participate in a federal program to deport illegal immigrants accused of crimes. Several Republican state Representatives have been very vocal about opposing Patrick's decision. One is Ryan Fattman (really), who says that all illegal immigrants should be deported. When asked if a woman who was raped and beaten on the street should fear deportation, Fattman replied, "“My thought is that if someone is here illegally, they should be afraid to come forward." [more inside]
Bostonography is the study of Greater Boston, Massachusetts through maps and graphics. This site is run by a pair of cartography geeks; Andy Woodruff of Axis Maps, and Tim Wallace. [more inside]
Rick Hill was vacationing in Hawaii. So was Joe Parker. The two lived within one town of each other in Massachusetts, but discovered on that Hawaiian beach, when Joe offered to take a picture of Rick with his fiancee, that they have the same father.
A girl and her room. Photographer Rania Matar has taken dozens of pictures of teenage girls in their bedrooms, in both the US and the Middle East. (Slightly NSFW) (via)
The dark red fishing shack on Bearskin Neck wharf in the artists' colony Rockport, Massachusetts "is one of the most famous buildings in the world and instantly recognizable to any student of art or art history." America's most-painted building received its name in an impulsive exclamation by famed illustrator, etcher and art teacher Lester Hornby. Its name? Motif No. 1 "One day when a student brought for criticism a pencil drawing of the house, Hornby exclaimed, 'What-Motif No 1 again!' It has been that ever since." [more inside]
Massachusetts has recognized the Pirate Party as an official political party and voters may register their party affiliation as "Pirate" effective immediately. The Massachusetts Pirate Party follows in the footsteps of the Swedish Pirate Party, which ran in 2006 in response to the ongoing copyright infringment struggles between the Pirate Bay and the Swedish government, and has spawned a larger global political movement. The Massachusetts Pirate Party sees its platform extending beyond copyright issues to include working against corporate personhood, increasing transparency in government, and maintaining personal privacy in the wake of the PATRIOT Act and other civil-rights-diminishments.
Fruitlands was a Utopian agrarian commune established in Harvard, Massachusetts by Amos Bronson Alcott and Charles Lane in the 1840s, based on Transcendentalist principles. An account of its less-than-successful activities can be found in Alcott's daughter Louisa May Alcott's Transcendental Wild Oats.
This song is called Alice's Restaurant, and it's about Alice, and the restaurant, but Alice's Restaurant is not the name of the restaurant; that's just the name of the song, and that's why I call the song Alice's Restaurant. [more inside]
"People want to think that there's always legal accountability where there should be moral accountability."
What Really Happened to Phoebe Prince? Six teens remained charged--down from the original nine--in the death of Phoebe Prince, who committed suicide after bullying at school. Legal writer Emily Bazelon of Slate.com continues her investigation of the case with a new three part series: I've wrestled with how much of this information to publish. Phoebe's family has suffered terribly. But when the D.A. charged kids with causing Phoebe's death and threatened them with prison, she invited an inquiry into other potential causes. The whole story is a lot more complicated than anyone has publicly allowed for. [more inside]
The federal Defense of Marriage Act has been ruled unconstitutional by Judge Joseph Tauro of the District Court of Massachusetts.
The FBI has released their extensive files on US Senator Edward M. Kennedy to the public, covering their relationship with him between 1961 and 1985. The seven files, totaling more than 2,200 pages of documents reveal (among other things,) the perhaps unsurprising news that the late Senator received "scores" of death threats from radical groups, including the Ku Klux Klan, “Minutemen” organizations, and the National Socialist White People’s Party. The release was initiated by a Freedom of Information Act Request from Judicial Watch on May 3, 2010, (Complaint pdf) but the FBI gave the Senator's family the "rare opportunity" to raise objections before releasing the file.
Boston water emergency: millions affected by break in aqueduct and ordered to boil water before drinking.
9 Teenagers Charged After Classmate's Suicide. In April 2009, an 11 year old in Springfield, MA killed himself after enduring relentless anti-gay bullying. In January of this year, Phoebe Prince--a recent immigrant from rural Ireland to South Hadley, MA--killed herself after months of harassment from her high school classmates. And now, 10 days after the Massachusetts House of Representatives unanimously passed an anti-bullying bill, 9 teenagers have been charged in Prince's death.
The Wolffs At The Door An interesting story about a couple of elderly grifters in Massachusetts. The Boston Sunday Globe published a follow-up article today. [more inside]
The Fore River Shipyard was in service between 1886 and 1985, first under the management of the Fore River Ship and Engine Building Company, then Bethlehem Steel, and finally General Dynamics. She helped to close out the age of sail with the construction of the largest sailing vessel in history without any kind of engine. Besides providing a substantial number of liberty ships, surface warships of various classes, and submarines during WWII, it may also be the source of the "Kilroy was here" graffiti. [more inside]
A Day in the Life of a Blacksmith (start here) is the 1869-70 diary of an apprentice blacksmith in Medfield, Massachusetts, in blog form. Brought to you by the American Antiquarian Society and its new blog Past is Present.
Massachusetts witnesses the end of Greyhound Racing. Today is the last day of Greyhound racing at The Revere, Massachusetts Wonderland Greyhound track. After a 2008 referendum vote put on the ballot by Grey2K and others the 74 year tradition of Greyhound racing at the former Victorian era Wonderland amusment park will end with a slate of 12 races tonight. Some say this is a great day to be at the dogs, some say this is a great day for the dogs. Still others say that the majority of dogs will be moved to other states and lose out on the hoped for opportunity to be adopted. In the end hundreds will lose their jobs in a state with 9.7% unemployment. The fate of the dogs is uncertain, and Boston's famed Revere Beach loses its final attraction.
This weekend the Obama family arrives on the Massachusetts' island of Martha's Vineyard for a week-long vacation. While known as a summer colony/destination for New Englanders, tourists and the famous1 the island has a storied history from its early pre-colonial days to today. The Obamas' visit highlights the island's proud connection to its deep African-American heritage as a "well integrated" community (especially Oaks Bluff)2 from the days that freed slaves and retired black whalers settled and established homes and businesses on the island. [more inside]
A website has been launched to preserve the history of Danvers State Insane Asylum. The Asylum, which opened in 1878 in Danvers, MA (site of the Salem Witch Trials) and closed in 1992, was featured in the horror movie Session 9, and may have been the inspiration for HP Lovecraft's Arkham Asylum. Its Kirkbride Wings, which once held the institution's living quarters, now house a 400+ unit apartment complex. [more inside]
Into the black. At nearly five miles, it's the longest transportation tunnel east of the Rockies. Built in 1874, its construction took 200 lives, nearly bankrupted the state of Massachusetts, and served as a crucible for modern engineering. Journey into the Hoosac Tunnel, urban exploration destination and the most haunted place in New England.
Just as a California campaign for a Constitutional ban on same-sex marriage (allowed since June 16, 2008) is heating up the Connecticut Supreme Court has followed suit and overturned bans on same-sex marriage in that state. [more inside]
Two years since Massachusetts instituted major statewide healthcare reform, the statistics are coming in. 340,000 residents, roughly half the state's previously uninsured, are now insured. The state says that 95% of its population is now covered, based on Department of Revenue estimates. However, a large portion of them are enrolled through state-subsidized insurance programs, and those program's rate of enrollment have far outpaced estimates. This has led lawmakers to forsee a budget shortfall. Premiums and co-pays are going up, cigarette taxes have increased, and a cost control proposal is making its way through the legislature. Assessments have been all over the map.
Pregnancy Boom at Gloucester High As summer vacation begins, 17 girls at Gloucester High School are expecting babies—more than four times the number of pregnancies the 1,200-student school had last year. Some adults dismissed the statistic as a blip. Others blamed hit movies like Juno and Knocked Up for glamorizing young unwed mothers. But principal Joseph Sullivan knows at least part of the reason there's been such a spike in teen pregnancies in this Massachusetts fishing town.
Tests reveal that an animal killed in Western Massachusetts was a gray wolf. The species has not been seen in the state for 160 years.
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