Saturday, December 29, 2007
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Boston's $14.8B Big Dig finally complete
While I'm here enjoying myself in Charleston, SC, big things are happening back in the Hub:
By STEVE LeBLANC, Associated Press Writer
Tue Dec 25, 4:53 PM ET
BOSTON - When the clock runs out on 2007, Boston will quietly mark the end of one of the most tumultuous eras in the city's history: The Big Dig, the nation's most complex and costliest highway project, will officially come to an end.
Don't expect any champagne toasts.
After a history marked by engineering triumphs, tunnels leaks, epic traffic jams, last year's death of a motorist crushed by falling concrete panels and a price tag that soared from $2.6 billion to a staggering $14.8 billion, there's little appetite for celebration.
Civil and criminal cases stemming from the July 2006 tunnel ceiling collapse continue, though on Monday the family of Milena Del Valle announced a $6 million settlement with Powers Fasteners, the company that manufactured the epoxy blamed by investigators for the accident. Lawsuits are pending against other Big Dig contractors, and Powers Fasteners still faces a manslaughter indictment.
Officially, Dec. 31 marks the end of the joint venture that teamed megaproject contractor Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff with the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority to build the dizzying array of underground highways, bridges, ramps and a new tunnel under Boston Harbor — all while the city remained open for business.
The project was so complex it's been likened to performing open heart surgery on a patient while the patient is wide awake.
Some didn't know if they'd live to see it end.
Enza Merola had a front row seat on the Big Dig from the front window of her pastry shop — stacked neatly with tiramisu, sfogliatelle and brightly colored Italian cookies — in Boston's North End.
During the toughest days of the project, the facade of Marie's Pastry Shop, named after her sister, was obscured from view. The only way customers could find the front door was along a treacherous path through heavy construction.
"For a while we thought we weren't going to make it," Merola said. "But you know, we hung in there."
The Central Artery/Third Harbor Tunnel Project — as the Big Dig is officially known — has its roots in the construction of the hulking 1950's era elevated Central Artery that cut a swath through the center of Boston, lopping off the waterfront from downtown and casting a shadow over some of the city's oldest neighborhoods.
Almost as soon as the ribbon was cut on the elevated highway in 1959, many were already wishing it away.
One was Frederick Salvucci, a city kid for whom the demolition of the old Central Artery became a lifelong quest.
"It was always a beautiful city, but it had this ugly scar through it," said Salvucci, state transportation secretary during the project's planning stages.
Rather than build a new elevated highway, Salvucci and others pushed a far more radical solution — burying it.
Easier said than done.
Those who built the Big Dig would have to undertake the massive highway project in the cramped confines of Boston's narrow, winding streets, some dating to pre-Colonial days.
Of all the project's Rubik's Cube-like engineering challenges, none was more daunting than the first — how to build a wider tunnel directly underneath a narrower existing elevated highway while preventing the overhead highway from collapsing.
To solve the problem, engineers created horizontal braces as wide as the new tunnel, then cut away the elevated highway's original metal struts and gently lowered them onto the braces — even as cars crawled along overhead, their drivers oblivious to the work below.
It was the just one of what would be referred to as the Big Dig's "engineering marvels."
The Big Dig's long history is also littered with wrong turns — some unavoidable, others self-inflicted.
One of the biggest occurred in 2004 when water started pouring through a wall of the recently opened I-93 tunnel under downtown Boston. An investigation found the leak was caused by the failure to clear debris that became caught in the concrete in the wall during construction. Hundreds of smaller drips, most near the ceiling, were also found.
Some delays were unrelated to construction.
The Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge — the project's signature element — went through dozens of revisions as designers labored to come up with the most practical and elegant way to cross the Charles River.
But the project's darkest day came near the end of construction in 2006 when suspended concrete ceiling panels in a tunnel leading to Logan Airport collapsed, crushing a car and killing Del Valle, 39, a passenger in the vehicle driven by her husband.
The tunnel was shut down for months as each of the remaining panels was inspected and a new fastening system installed. A federal investigation blamed the use of the wrong kind of epoxy and the Massachusetts attorney general indicted the epoxy manufacturer.
Four workers also were killed working on the project. During peak construction, more than 5,000 workers labored daily on the project.
The project's escalating budget also became an unwanted part of its legacy.
In 2000, former Big Dig head James Kerasiotes resigned after failing to disclose $1.4 billion in overruns. A frustrated Congress capped the federal contribution.
"It never should have taken so long. It never should have been so expensive," said former Gov. Michael Dukakis, who left office just as major construction was to begin.
For those who grew up with the noise and clutter of the old Central Artery, the transformation of downtown Boston is still a wonder to behold.
The darkened parking lots under the old elevated highway have been replaced by parks, dubbed the Rose Kennedy Fitzgerald Greenway after the mother of Sen. Edward Kennedy, who grew up in the North End. Buildings that once turned their backs to the old Central Artery are finding ways to open their doors to the parkway.
Mayor Thomas Menino, who presided over the city during most of the construction, said that for the first time in half a century, residents can walk from City Hall to the waterfront without trudging under a major highway.
"When I came into office in 1993, people said your city isn't going to survive," he said. "Now we have a beautiful open space in the heart of the city. It knits the downtown with the waterfront. All those dire predictions by the experts didn't come true."
Drivers also give the Big Dig a big thumbs up.
A study by the Turnpike Authority found the Big Dig cut the average trip through Boston from 19.5 minutes to 2.8 minutes.
"Before we drive bumper to bumper, but now they are moving very well," said Gamal Ahmed, 38, who has been driving a cab in Boston for seven years. "Sometimes we are stuck, but not like before."
For Salvucci, who warns gridlock could soon return without a major commitment to public transportation, the Big Dig — for all its whiz-bang engineering — was always second to the city itself.
"The Big Dig is not a highway with an incidental city adjacent to it. It is a living city that happens to have some major highway infrastructure within it and that highway infrastructure had to be rebuilt," he said. "This was not elective surgery. It had to be done."
Associated Press writer Rodrique Ngowi contributed to this report.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Saturday, December 22, 2007
SNMR 4.7: "Anger Management"
Tonight's SNMR feature is "Anger Management" (2003, PG-13, 101 minutes), starring Adam Sandler, Jack Nicholson, Marisa Tomei, Allen Covert, John Turturro, Luis Gonzales, Woody Harrelson, January Jones and Krista Allen. The film was directed by Peter Segal.
The first time I watched this movie was in 2004 after it came out on DVD. I hadn't really heard about it before then. Since that time I've watched it several times and laugh every time.
Dave Buznik (Sandler) is a quiet and shy corporate man with a beautiful girlfriend (Tomei) and a confidence problem which results in a lot of surpressed anger. When a misunderstanding occurs on a plane, Dave is sentenced to anger management therapy or jail time. He chooses the therapy and the counselor is none other than Dr. Rydell (Nicholson), who sat next to him on the plane. Rydell engages Buznik in intensive therapy which includes moving into the patient's apartment and dating his girlfriend, nearly driving him crazy. In the end the patient is cured and we all go home happy.
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS MOVIE:
Two words: Jack Nicholson. Need I say more?
The supporting cast is excellent but this movie would not be as funny as it is without Nicholson, who elevates everyone around him including Sandler, who submits his best performance in a career filled with average or forgettable roles. The script is good but not great. The direction is good because the story moves along at a nice pace. Former NY mayor Rudy Giuliani has a memorable line in a cameo appearance.
WHAT I DID NOT LIKE ABOUT THIS MOVIE:
Allen Covert's character is purposefully annoying which is good and bad. Other than that I really can't think of anything I really didn't like about this film.
**** out of *****
Winter Solstice 2007
Today is the winter solstice, which is depressing because it officially kicks off winter (even though we've almost matched a record for December snowfall in the Southern New Hampshire/Northeastern Massachusetts area), which is never a good thing in my book.
However, looking on the bright side, the amount of daylight we receive will now progressively grow for the next six months or so.
And we have about 7 or eight weeks until the start of Spring Training, in preparation for the 2008 Boston Red Sox to defend their World Series Championship!
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Another Recipe from Green's kitchen.
CHEESY ITALIAN CHICKEN PIE
prep: 20 minutes, bake: 43 minutes, cool: 5 minutes
You will need:
1/3 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
3 or 4 boneless chicken breasts, cut in half
1 1/4 cups (5 oz) shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 tsp dried oregano leaves
1/2 tsp dried basil leaves
1/2 tsp garlic powder (or cloves, if you prefer)
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
1/2 cup Bisquick Reduced Fat baking mix
1 cup milk
1/4 tsp pepper
1. Heat oven to 400F; grease pie plate or pan 9" x 9" x 1 1/4"; Sprinkle Parmesan cheese in pie plate. Mix chicken, 1/2 cup of the mozzarella cheese, oregano, basil, garlic powder and tomato paste; spoon over Parmesan cheese.
2. Stir baking mix, milk, pepper and eggs until blended; pour over chicken mixture.
3. Bake uncovered 35 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese. Bake uncovered 5 to 8 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes. 6 to 8 servings
Serve with a green vegetable or a tossed salad.
[High Altitude (3500 to 6500 ft.): Increase first bake time to 35 minutes.]
I love cheese, so I usually am quite liberal with it and use more than the recipe calls for. This meal really is easy to make and is quite tasty. Try it and tell me what you think!
Saturday, December 15, 2007
SNMR 4.6: "Dances With Wolves"
Tonight's SNMR feature is "Dances With Wolves" (1990, PG-13, 236 minutes), starring Kevin Costner, Graham Greene, Rodney A. Grant and Mary McDonnell. This film was Kevin Costner's directing debut. The film won 7 Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director, and was nominated for five more Oscars. I'm watching the two-disc special edition.
I believe that the first time I watched this movie was in college, when I worked at the campus cinema. It was one of the movies that I at first had no interest in seeing but once I got involved in watching, liked what I saw. Since then, I've watched this movie a few times.
Kevin Costner plays civil war era US Army Lieutenant John Dunbar, who fails at committing suicide and is rewarded for bravery with his choice of assignments. He chooses to go out west, to the frontier and into Indian Territory. When Dunbar arrives at Fort Segwick, he is the lone soldier there. Dunbar falls in love with the prairie and befriends a lone wolf and eventually a tribe of Sioux Indians. After many encounters with the Sioux, he learns their language and becomes a part of the tribe, becoming Dances With Wolves and leaving his identity of John Dunbar far behind. As the movie ends Dances with Wolves and wife Stands With a Fist leave the tribe to go and attempt to reason with the white man's government.
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS MOVIE:
This is one of Costner's more believable roles and I think, one of his best in what has turned out to be a so-so career. The supporting cast is superb and the use of subtitles adaptation from novel to screenplay is seamless, since the author of the novel also wrote the screenplay. Despite the special edition's near four hour length, this is a very watchable movie. I think that the subtitles are helpful to the progression of the story. I think that it portrays a realistic view of Native Americans as a whole in that they just wanted to be left alone and only resorted to violence as a means of defense against the white man's aggression and that a peaceful relationship could have developed if given the opportunity.
WHAT I DID NOT LIKE ABOUT THIS FILM:
I think this film was a bit too long overall . The film drags for the first hour or so but eventually picks up. Other than that I have nothing to complain about with this film.
****1/2 out of *****
Friday, December 14, 2007
What color crayon am I?
|You Are a Blue Crayon|
Your world is colored in calm, understated, deep colors.
You are a loyal person, and the truest friend anyone could hope to find.
On the inside, you tend to be emotional and even a bit moody.
However, you know that people depend on you. So you put on a strong front.
Your color wheel opposite is orange. Orange people may be opinionated, but you feel they lack the depth to truly understand what they're saying.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Must be my lucky day!
What kind of an idiot do these people think I am, anyway?
POWERBALL ONLINE LOTTERY
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM.
This is to notify you that your email address has been
selected in our end of year online email lottery program
conducted November 1st,2007 and was attached to ticket number
32-111-790-88 with Serial number 5390/06 drew the lucky number
: 33 and have won you £200,000.00 here in our Corporate headquarters
in United Kingdom.
You are to immediately submit a confirmation email immediately to
email addresses below :
The following details below are required to clarification.
1. First & Last Name
2. Contact Address
3. Tel Numbers
7. Country of residence
Mrs. Maureen Whyte
PBL Online lottery Promotion
Besides, what would I do with £200,000.00?
In case you were wondering, that's $403,962.88 in good ol' US Dollars.
Or 45,758,894.76 Japanese Yen.
Or 1,611,459.41 Israeli New Shekels
Or 2,245,528.64 Egyptian Pounds
Or 71,238,853.15 Hungarian Forints
Or 9,976,671.14 Russian Rubles
Or 4,376,331.82 Mexican Pesos
Or 279,907.90 Euros
You get the idea...
Saturday, December 08, 2007
SNMR 4.5: "La Bamba"
Tonight's SNMR feature is "La Bamba" (1987, PG-13, 108 minutes), starring Lou Diamond Phillips, Esai Morales, Rosana DeSoto, Danielle von Zerneck, Elizabeth Pena and Joe Pantoliano. The film was directed by Luis Valdez.
This is the biopic film tribute to the late Ritchie Valens (born Ricardo Steven Valenzuela), who died in a plane crash at age 17, on February 3, 1959. Also killed in the crash were Buddy Holly, J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson and the pilot - 21 year old Roger Peterson. The film chronicles the eight months of Valens' life from humble beginnings in Pacoima, California to his death in an Iowa cornfield in 1959, minutes after the four passenger Beechcraft Bonanza took off.
I'll never forget the first time I saw this movie. It was the summer of 1987, just after it was released in the theater. I was working at The Salvation Army's Camp Wonderland. One night in early August, I borrowed another staff member's car to go to the Showcase Cinema in nearby Dedham, MA. I had wanted to see "RoboCop" that night but it had just been released and was sold out. So I settled for "La Bamba" instead. At that time I was not even aware of who Ritchie Valens was, much less that he had died in a plane crash at age 17. When the movie ended and the plane crashed, I cried. I was shocked and depressed after thoroughly enjoying the movie up until that point. I must admit that, watching this movie tonight, I got a bit teary-eyed during the end.
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS MOVIE:
What's not to like, aside from the ending? Lou Diamond Phillips is fantastic in the lead role, in his big-screen debut. Esai Morales and Rosana DeSoto do admirable jobs as big brother Bob and mother Connie, respectively. What can I say about Joe Pantoliano as the sober Bob Keane, the talent scout that discovered the unknown Valenzuela? The script is excellently written and directed by Luis Valdez, who evidently has reverence for the subject. Los Lobos does a great job covering Valens' songs and providing the majority of music for this movie. There is a making of featurette in three parts on the disc which talks about Ritchie Valens, his music and his family. What I thought was interesting is that his family was present during the filming of the movie, so the on screen characters got to interact with the real family members that they were portraying. I think that interaction helped to inspire the actors to give top notch performances in all aspects.
Interesting side note: this film was released on July 24, 1987 and Ritchie's mother Connie died on October 18, 1987. It's almost like she hung on long enough to see her son immortalized in film before she was able to rest in peace. (Grave site at San Fernando Mission Cemetery, Mission Hills, California)
The plane crash event is said to have inspired singer Don McLean's popular 1971 ballad "American Pie," and immortalized February 3 as "The Day the Music Died." The event also inspired the Eddie Cochran song "Three Stars," which specifically mentions Holly, the Big Bopper and Valens.
WHAT I DID NOT LIKE ABOUT THIS MOVIE:
Aside from the depressing ending, there is not a bad thing I can say about this movie. It's a good length and doesn't drag for any length of time.
***** out of *****
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Hello and Thank You for calling...
My sister emailed this to me a few days ago. You may or may not have seen it before. I hadn't and I thought it was funny. I have no idea if next week is National Mental Health Care week or not (probably not, I'm guessing).
"Hello and thank you for calling The State Mental Hospital.
Please select from the following options menu:
If you are obsessive-compulsive, press 1 repeatedly.
If you are co-dependent, please ask someone to press 2 for you.
If you have multiple personalities, press 3, 4, 5 and 6.
If you are paranoid, we know who you are and what you want, stay on the
line so we can trace your call.
If you are delusional, press 7 and your call will be forwarded to the
If you are schizophrenic, listen carefully and a little voice will tell
you which number to press.
If you are manic-depressive, it doesn't matter which number you press,
nothing will make you happy anyway.
If you are dyslexic, press 9696969696969696.
If you are bipolar, please leave a message after the beep or before the
beep or after the beep. Please wait for the beep.
If you have short-term me mory loss, press 9. If you have short-term
memory loss, press 9. If you have short-term memory loss, press 9.
If you have low self-esteem, please hang up - our operators are too busy
to talk with you.
If you are menopausal, put the gun down, hang up, turn on the fan, lie
down and cry. You won't be crazy forever.
If you are blonde, don't press any buttons, you'll just mess it up."
This coming week is National Mental Health Care week. You can do your
part by remembering to contact at least one unstable person to show you
(Well, my job is done .....Your turn)
Saturday, December 01, 2007
Books of the Month - December 2007
This month, I thought I'd do something a little bit different with the Books of the Month.
In November, the eleventh and last book in the "Sword of Truth" series was published. The selections this month are the first and last books in the series. I've been reading this series for several years now and have eagerly snatched up every installment as it has been published.
Terry Goodkind has invented a world filled with intelligent, flawed, compelling characters and a level of realism that rivals the best that the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre has to offer. Each book in the series has a satisfying conclusion to it but also continues the overall story along from book one through eleven.
The "Sword of Truth" Series by Terry Goodkind
Wizards First Rule
Stone of Tears
Blood of the Fold
Temple of the Winds
Soul of the Fire
Faith of the Fallen
The Pillars of Creation
Debt of Bones (prequel)
Labels: Books of the Month
SNMR 4.4: "The Bourne Supremacy"
Tonight's SNMR feature is "The Bourne Supremacy" (2004, PG-13, 109 minutes), starring Matt Damon, Joan Allen, Bryan Cox, Karl Urban, Julia Stiles, Franka Potente and Gabriel Mann. The film was directed by Paul Greengrass.
Matt Damon is back as super assassin Jason Bourne in the second installment of the Bourne trilogy. Jason and Maria have been together for two years when Bourne's cover is blown. In their hasty escape, Maria is killed by a bullet meant for Bourne, who unbeknownst to him has been accused of two murders in Berlin. When Bourne discovers that the CIA is still chasing him with intent to kill, he tries to regain more of his past memories, while narrowly escaping several close calls.
After last week's mild disappointment and scribe's whining that i dissed one of his favorite movies in the process (1-2-3 awwww), I thought I'd give the sequel a go 'round. Who says sequels are worse than the original? Who? I can't hear you...
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS MOVIE:
Now that's what I call action! Pretty much from the beginning of the movie, right up until the end, we've got action, action and more action. Throw in a few fights and car chases and you've got one happy camper. I thought the adaptation from novel to film was much better here. The story was tighter and better written. The direction and editing were fantastic. Matt Damon was again very believable in the lead role. Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) was good as the new agent heading up the pursuit of Bourne.
The ending nicely leaves open the possibility of a third film...
WHAT I DID NOT LIKE ABOUT THIS MOVIE:
I thought it was disappointing that Marie (Franka Potente) gets killed in the first 15 minutes of the film but I can understand it from the perspective of not bogging down the action-hero with a love interest, but I would have liked to see them try. I was also disappointed that they killed off Chris Cooper's character sometime between films. It would have been nice to see he and Damon duke it out, Mano-e-Mano at the end.
***** out of *****