Pictures from the Blizzard: Blizzard Blog…

This was the February Nor’Easter from start to finish in my neck of the woods.  First, a “gratuitious” not very well photographed self portrait.  The iPhones are a bit heavy to hold out at the focal length required to get a clear picture. But I do like the two faced camera so that self portraits, however badly shot, are possible.  I just won’t tweet or instagram the bad ones, promise! 😉

Anyway, this is about 9:15 am.  on Friday Feb 8.

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Here’s his Mama’s snowy  boy!  Chewy loves to be outdoors with us, We have to check him carefully and limit his time outside because the snow tends to ball up and stick to the fur between his footpads. And that hurts.
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Below, puppies on patrol.  The top of the dike is paved and gets a lot of foot traffic.  Sophie (back at the fence) and Chewy (mid pic) make sure to greet all pedestrians, cyclists and fellow pooches as they walk past.  Theres about an inch on the ground, approx 10:30 am Feb 8

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An afternoon culinary project  for Jillian and me.  Homemade Mac and Cheese with Ham. Recipe is easy:  2lbs elbow mac. Cook in salted water for 7-8 mins until al dente. Drain. Bechamel Sauce:  1 stick unsalted butter, melted  1/4 to 1/2 c flour add to butter and mix. cook on med until roux turns golden brown ( maybe 3-4 mins)   add 4 cups milk and stir with whisk over med heat.  Whisk constantly till sauce begins to thicken, add 1 tsp pepper., 1 tblspn brown mustard, 1 tsp grated nutmeg , then add 4-5 cups grated cheese (we use a gruyere/cheddar/monterey jack mix) and continue whisking until cheese has melted.  Add the elbow macaroni and diced ham and stir till combined.  Spray a nonstick coating (Pam) into a 9X13 casserole dish (or butter it) and pour the mixture in, spreading it around evenly.  Sprinkle more grated cheese and bread crumbs on top. Cover with tin foil and bake at 325 for at least one hour –  or until bubbly.  Uncover and bake for 15-20 minutes more until the top becomes golden brown and crispy.  Remove from oven, and dig in.

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Below, our street at what passed for twilight – about 5:00 pm.  Wind had kicked up and it started snowing moderately.

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Our backyard about 9:30 pm – at least 6 inches of snow piling up, wind howling.

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10:30 pm  Whiteout conditions – taken with iPhone with flash on. Wind definitely out of the Northeast.

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Below, a view from my bedroom window (it faces NNE) 11:30pm (ish) Please note that  is NOT fog or mist surrounding the streetlight.  Despite it being an iPhone pic I think its one of the better ones I took during this event.  Snow was heaviest between 10pm and 3am.  At this point we had at least 10-12 inches on the ground. The wind made it hard to tell. In fact, the NOAA later classified this storm as a blizzard for Westfield – we had sustained winds 30 mph or more for at least 3 hours.

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Aftermath.  We measured in 4 different places and averaged to get 23″ at our house.  Some spots were drifted to at least 4 ft.

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Oh hey – THERE’S  my car!

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This is the south side of the house. Small kitchen window with those thick glass blocks. LOVE how they let the light in – especially in summer. But look at these killer icicles!  By Monday the melt had created a small ice dam and the roof started leaking through the canister light directly into our shower. Fortunately the girls and I were home because another storm came through (sleet and freezing rain this time) and our roads were a MESS! (They remained a mess through Wednesday the 12th)  I got up on a ladder and raked more snow off the roof. When the Viking got home, he broke up the ice dams and Voila – no more leaks.

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Oh snap!  iPhone screenshot from our local newsstation website:

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Can you find Nemo?  Hahaha!

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My older daughter was “stranded” with her boyfriend and his family during the storm.  They had quite a scare with power surges that literally melted many of their electronics, caused some minor soot damage and the Hatfield Fire Dept had to come out and check their walls for hot spots.  A transformer blew right outside their house.  She told me that their lights started flickering and glowing brighter and she felt like she was in an episode of “Supernatural”.  Other houses on the street were doing the same.  Then she heard a “pop” and smelled something burning.  They were all very fortunate not to have had a fire. Sadly, there were also some tragic but completely preventable deaths in the area.

Storm Safety Tips:  NEVER run a generator inside your  house, EVER. Run it outside, ALWAYS.  Several people (Darwin Award Nominees for 2013) died of CO poisoning in Springfield because they fired up their gennie inside their house.  “Ladies and Gentlemen – the city of Springfield regrets to inform you that your family members are dead because they were stupid”.  NEVER sit inside a vehicle whose engine is running  to “warm up” unless it is parked in a cleared street or driveway and the exhaust pipe is COMPLETELY UNOBSTRUCTED.  An 11 yr old from Boston died from this during the storm. Completely shut down and unplug any valuable electrical equipment, game consoles, computers, etc . If your lights flicker, dim, or brighten: Shut off what you can,and monitor your walls for hot spots. Call your FD immediately if you smell smoke or anything burning. Take the usual storm related steps and precautions. Batteries,flashlights, blankets.  Make sure you have enough of any medications you take for at least 3 days. Keep important papers etc on hand and ready to take with you if you have to go to a shelter.  Keep a roof rake handy and make sure you clear off your roof – or get someone to do it for you.  Leaks are no fun, and costly. Roof collapses – even less fun, more dangerous and wayyy more expensive.   Winters not over yet here – so stay prepared my friends.  That’s all the news fit to print for now….. Love and Hugs from the Great White Northeast!

A Sorry State of Affairs

I’m back after digging out from the first major snowstorm of 2013. Not happy, our tax refund was held up because we claimed education credits. God forbid we aspire to a college education for our progeny… The IRS wont accept our return until Feb 15. All because they did not do their jobs in Washington. Aggravating, to say the least – especially when we were not notified until AFTER we had filed that the return would not be accepted. And we can really use the money NOW. Not that anyone cares, but we have a leaky roof, and plumbing that needed fixing – in addition to the regular bills. So it would’ve been awesome for the feds to actually give us the money they owe us in a timely fashion. I mean really – if WE owed THEM then you bet your sweet bipp -y that they’d be attaching wages or whatever. but when THEY owe US …. nothin…..

But anyway – Massachusetts is in a bad way. Much waste and abuse. I have discussed this before. Folks who are friends on FaceBook or followers on Twitter have seen my posts. I’ve provided links to relevant information below.

It never ceases to amaze me how the bureaucracy fails to standardize itself. Gotta tell ya: one of the first things I learned when I transferred to the Administration Department where I work is standardizing a filing system. This involves creating an index, so that if I look in any file for a specific piece of information I will find it in the same place in each and every file. For example, in any one of the 300+ case records at our agency I can quickly find social security numbers because the cards are copied and filed first in the legal/administrative section of the record. Filing is standardized and documents are kept in order in the record so that 1. They are easy to find; and 2. Conversely, it is easy to discover when information is missing. We also conduct periodic QA “peer audits” to assure we have what we need in terms of required information.

Apparently all this is optional at the state level, at least in the TAFDC Department. (Lord only knows what the federal requirements are). I have to work frequently with the state -with two different  Area Offices in regard to contracting and service provision. I’m flabbergasted at the differences in what is required for responses to needed information on THEIR standardized forms. One A/O requires the forms to be filled out with “X”. The other A/O – same contract type, same type of service provision, same location; requires the same form to be filled out with “Y”.Not only that, but  how each office goes about doing things can be quite different. What’s good for one AO gets returned to us by another.

I have self-diagnosed OCD. Discrepancies like this drive me flippin NUTS. For example: The paperwork for the same activity code (same type of service) should be required to be completed in a standardized manner. Same answers for the same questions (different numbers/budgets obviously – but the methodology should be the same). Not so. Doesn’t make any sense at all, but certainly goes a long way towards illuminating some reasons why the state financial situation is in such disarray. No set standards.

Which brings me to a sorry conclusion. Much of what is wrong with this country right now is our inability to hold any elected official, any office, any department, any group, or any person to a set standard. There’s always an excuse. Out of the 381 welfare cases reviewed by the MA OIG just under 2% of them were found to be out of compliance/suspect/receiving benefits fraudulently/abusing the system via loopholes. Lack of documentation of school attendance, immunization records and some cases even receiving benefits without a social security number.  Cultural practices of naming children (last names/hyphenation and using the mothers last name) creating confusion because again no standardized requirements on birth certificates, social security card applications etc.  Switch the two last names around and bingo – collecting for two kids instead of one.  Anyway – the whole mess translates to more than $24 MILLION dollars per year wasted on people who were not actually eligible for benefits, or utilized them improperly. Heck, we are sending money to people we can’t even verify a current address for…. (see related article with video below from a local Boston station) Some might say 1.8% is within acceptable statistical limits. I say NO. 24 million dollars wasted per year is by no means acceptable by any standard.

Fortunately, some people in our state government agreed, and the head of the Welfare Department was asked to give his resignation. That doesn’t fix the problem though. Did you know there are currently only 3 Welfare Fraud Investigators in MA? WAY too few if you ask me…. So, MA will “harrumph” around for awhile, make a few ineffective and minor changes, appoint several more high level bureaucrats at six figure salaries to oversee these changes- and go back to wasteful business as usual. Too many bosses and far too few workers. Same old song and dance. I just don’t know what it will take to effect true positive and lasting change in the hulking morass of inefficiency and waste that constitutes Government.  We are constantly expected to do more with less, make do with less. I submit that we would not have to do that on such a constant basis if things were run more effectively and efficiently by those in charge. “But that’s just me….” (Thanks Barney! 😉 )

Old State House, Boston, MA, USA

Old State House, Boston, MA, USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Welfare Chief steps down

Welfare Statistics

Massachusetts OIG TAFDC Report

The OIG report takes awhile to load so be patient, thanks!

Red vs Blue: The Difference between TX and MA -and a US problem

Warning: This is an adult-themed post. If you find this offensive, please do not read further, thank you.

Last week it was all over the news about the young Texas father who beat his 5 year old daughter’s rapist to death with his fists. Way to go Daddy-O! Seriously. Parents always say how they’d kill to protect their children. Here’s a guy who walked the talk. The situation is tragic all the way around without doubt. This heroic dad has to live the rest of his life knowing he killed someone, and a little girl is potentially scarred (emotionally at least) for life; her innocence irretrievably lost forever. She has this comforting thought to hold onto though – her dad was there for her – 100%. I pray for this family and trust they find the peace and healing they deserve.

Texas State Flag Photo Credit: Wikipedia

The Texas grand jury got it right when they decided not to prosecute the dad. I think I like Texas – a lot. The state with a well developed sense of chivalry and justice for the weak. Call them a bunch of rednecks if you want to, but I say God Bless Texas! I was not able to determine whether or not the family of the monster who raped the little girl could bring a civil suit against her father. The only states that I could find that have an immunity clause within their castle doctrine laws were Minnesota and Wisconsin. I can only hope that Texas does in fact have such an immunity clause. Massachusetts – in its inherently cyanotic “wisdom” does not. Further, MA law does NOT specifically cover incidents occurring on one’s property, just within the “dwelling”. Dumb…..

“Castle Doctrine

Massachusetts has a castle law that does not require a duty to retreat. Persons in Massachusetts can be criminally charged if they injure or kill an intruder. However, using force necessary to stop an offender who is reasonably believed to be intent on causing physical harm to anyone inside the residence is a justifiable defense. The statute states:

Section 8A. In the prosecution of a person who is an occupant of a dwelling charged with killing or injuring one who was unlawfully in said dwelling, it shall be a defense that the occupant was in his dwelling at the time of the offense and that he acted in the reasonable belief that the person unlawfully in said dwelling was about to inflict great bodily injury or death upon said occupant or upon another person lawfully in said dwelling, and that said occupant used reasonable means to defend himself or such other person lawfully in said dwelling. There shall be no duty on said occupant to retreat from such person unlawfully in said dwelling.”

Source: CivilLiberty.about.com

Massachusetts State Flag Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Here’s how this might play out here in MA:

Family hosting picnic. A guest sees a hispanic man (I’m going with the facts of the actual case for a scenario, not trying to be racist) forcibly carrying off the property owner’s five year old daughter and tells the father. Dad catches this man raping his daughter behind a barn on the property. Beats rapist with his bare hands, calling 911 for assistance, rapist later dies from injuries inflicted by his victims father. Father is immediately arrested and charged with homicide, thrown in jail overnight or until he can make bail. Family must put their house up as collateral so that the father can make bail. Family begins to be harassed by local gang members and need to relocate to protect themselves. Younger family members are harassed at school. Grand jury indicts father – reluctantly – for second degree homicide in part because the killing did not occur within the four walls of their dwelling. The case goes to trial. The reputation of the daughter/rape victim is called into question during the trial by the prosecution attorneys (she was dressed “provocatively” in a bathing suit during the picnic). The father is found guilty, but only sentenced to community service. – as the jury understands he was acting to protect his daughter. However, the family of the rapist decides to bring civil suit against the father. They go to court and win millions in judgement, partly due to how the castle doctrine laws are worded in MA. Sound fair? Nope. But its a reasonable potential scenario here in the bluest of blue states. Sigh.

Here are some of my other concerns and questions as regards the case itself:

The rapist (I won’t dignify the degenerate monster by using his name) was 47 at the time of his demise. Was here in the US legally with a green card. I find it impossible to believe that, at 47, this was the first time he had acted out and raped a defenseless child. This pervert HAD to have a criminal history, so how did he get a green card? Apparently, we do not have any transparent exchange of information with Mexico. This also leads me to question whether or not many of the illegals here in the US are here to escape capture and prosecution for crimes in their country of origin. Just look at what Castro did in the 80’s with the boat people – emptying his prisons and “allowing” Cuban criminals to mix in with legitimate refugees. (“say hello to my little friend…”)

And this is what it comes to, with gravest apologies to Emma Lazarus:

“Give me your tired, your poor, (your child molesters, rapists, murderers and takers of innocence)
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free (your criminals escaping justice) … Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door! (I’ll give them driver’s licenses, free medical care, a job with unlimited access to children, and the opportunity to continue their horrific, reprehensible behavior…unchecked – until a victim’s dad steps in to stop them)

God Bless America….land of opportunity for all – regardless of race, creed or criminal history….

Flag of the United States of America Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Related Articles:

http://hosted2.ap.org/CAANR/162267dc0689421dbbd940e1d89c4eeb/Article_2012-06-19-Texas-Father%27s%20Justice/id-9b1aa9c1e0114b799cebf75eebaa95bc

https://plus.google.com/110038350445855508357/posts/cj6GwTiNXvN

Chasing Waterfalls

As you may know, I took a hike with the husband up to Sanderson Brook Falls on Saturday. I got many many lovely pictures; and I really can’t decide which ones of them I should be posting. So I am going to try to do a few at a time. I am so very pleased about how they all turned out & excited to share them with you all. Here’s 5 I really like, & I hope you all do too!

Those of you from New England Part 2

I realized this morning that there are quite a few other words and phrases that make living in this area unique- like I said you don’t hear them anywhere else. And I realized I forgot a biggie in my list yesterday. Anyway, here’s some more just for fun.

1. “Bang a U-ey” – make a u-turn while driving your car. “bang” basically means go or take.

2. Statie – Massachusetts State Police Officer. Interesting fact: Hitler visited Massachusetts after he became Chancellor in the Thirties. He was so taken with the uniform of the state police that he asked for and received the pattern. He had the uniforms made for the SS in black. Check it out next time you get pulled over on the Pike. (see below)

3. “The Pike” – The Massachusetts portion of Interstate 90. Abbreviation of The Massachusetts Turnpike. It runs from Boston to the New York line. The worlds largest parking lot on Thanksgiving Weekend.

4. “Breakdown Lane” – The far right lane of the highway (where you actually don’t want to be if your car breaks down, but where you’re supposed to go.)

5. “Hoodsie” – also known as a Dixie Cup in other regions. Small container of vanilla and chocolate ice cream, eaten with a wooden spoon. Made by the Hood dairy company – hence the name.

6. “Down” – location, to go to a specific place. as in “I’m going down the Cape this weekend.” Never EVER say I’m going to Cape Cod, or I’m going out to the Cape this weekend – they’ll peg ya for an out of towner (recognize you as a visitor)- immediately. And, “The Cape” ALWAYS refers to Cape Cod. Cape Ann (Gloucester) is usually just referred to as Glaw-stah). Or, “I gotta run down t’the store and get some milk”.

7 “Can’t get” – another example of the negative positive (like “So don’t I!). For example : “Let’s see if we can’t get that fixed for ya!

8. “Jimmies” – sprinkles you put on top of your Ice Cream cone.

9. “Nuh -Uh!” or “Huh-uh!” – exclamatory meaning incredulous-ness ie Really?! No Way! The proper response is “Yah-huh!”

10. “Book” – move very fast. as in : “I booked it to work because I was late, and I got pulled over by a statie. I had to use the breakdown lane”

11. “Whip” – throw something very hard. as in: “I was wicked pissed and I whipped the ball right at his head.”

12. “Barrel” – Trash can – where you put your garbage before pickup by the city. We also have burning barrels for burnable trash disposal on your own property. You need a permit from the city to do that , though.

13. “Av” – street, road as in Avenue. abbreviation. No one in MA says Avenue.

14. “Elastic” – rubber band.

15. “Dunkin Run” – going out to get coffee at Dunkin Donuts for a group of people.

16. ” Ta” or t’ – – meaning “to” “I had t’ go shopping” or”I had ta go shopping” if spoken very fast the t becomes a d – as in “I hadda go shopping”.

Also, please note that those of us living in Western MA do not drop our “r”s when we talk. That’s strictly an Eastern MA thing. They live on a whole ‘nother planet when it comes to that…..

And the biggie I forgot. The one that my out of state friends and family wonder why we even have the word, because they can get theirs right in any grocery store or convenience store:

“PACKIE “- liquor store, (abbreviation of “package store“) Apparently at some point someone decided that they didn’t want anyone to know what they were buying, so these stores became “package” stores. The staff by MA state law must put the liquor in a sealed bag or box (package it) so there ya go…Used in a sentence: “I gotta make a packie run – bang a u-ey up here and head up Mass Av.” Interestingly – there’s a chain of packies in the Salem area that are called “The Bunghole”…. I don’t ask – I just laugh and shake my head.

A Packie in Salem