Sunday, October 29, 2017

Ride your pony, Downeaster lovers! And don’t forget to bring some dog treats!


We don’t know if you’re aware, but Brunswick’s Town Council will hold a Workshop in council chambers at the McLellan tomorrow evening (Monday, October 30th) at 7 pm.  A “workshop” means town officials and their invited participants can speak, and we can’t.  The public’s job is to sit, behave, and listen, unless spoken to by officials with a request to answer a question or clarify a point under discussion.

The subject of the workshop is the collected noise complaints received regarding operation of NNEPRA’s Amtrak Downeaster.  This includes the use of horns and bells for road crossings and other operations, other miscellaneous noises associated with operation of the recently constructed MLF, and train movements within Brunswick town limits.

We posted a formal complaint regarding violations of Town noise ordnances in this recent item:

While this workshop ostensibly relates to that compaint, it will not, as we understand it, formally respond to that complaint or how it will be adjudicated.  It turns out that numerous other complaints have been submitted to the town via emails and such.

Here’s the agenda as posted on the town web site:

Brunswick Town Council
Workshop with Rail Officials
Town Council Chambers, Brunswick Town Hall
Monday, October 30, 2017, 7:00-9:00 PM


Noise from Train Operations


  • Identify existing safety regulations and practices that involve use of train horns, bells andwhistles at railroad crossings and within the Brunswick rail yard and on the adjacent wye
  • Identify measures to reduce their use: quiet zones at crossings and other means
  • Identify measures to reduce noise from other train operations
  • Define next steps with timeline

7:00   Welcome and introductions

7:05   Presentation of constituent concerns by the Town Manager

7:15   Presentation on safety regulations and operations by Rail Officials followed by clarification questions from Councilors.

  • 1.  At railroad crossings
  • 2.  In the rail yard and on the adjacent wye
  • Clarifying questions from Councilors

7:45   Discussion of measures implemented in other communities to reduce train noise and potential for replicating in Brunswick, as well as potential measures that would be unique to Brunswick

8:40   Define next steps

  • 1.  Continuing activities by parties at the workshop
  • 2.  Timeline for implementation and/or reports

9:00   Adjourn

Identified participants in the carefully designed agenda include the following:

Town Council Workshop with Rail Officials
List of Expected Participants

Patricia Quinn, NNEPRA

M. William Hollister, Amtrak

Cyndi Scarano, Pan Am

Ryan Ratledge, Central Maine & Quebec Railway

Norma Jean Griffiths, Federal Railroad Administration

Jim Healey, Federal Railroad Administration

Nate Moulton, Maine Department of Transportation

Brian Reeves, Maine Department of Transportation

Randy Dunton, Gorrill-Palmer

John Eldridge Town Manager

Charles Frizzle, Facilitator

David Watson, Councilor, District 1
Steve Walker, Councilor, District 2
Suzan Wilson, Councilor, District 3
John Perreault, Councilor, District 4
Dan Harris, Councilor, District 5
Jane Millett, Councilor, District 6
Sarah Brayman, Councilor, District 7
Alison Harris, Council Chair, At Large
Kathy E. Wilson, Councilor At Large

As we see it, the gathering has all the ingredients necessary for success in the bureaucratic sense of that term.  A facilitator, which in our experience, ensures lots of diversions and counseling to play well with others; yellow stickies all over the place; and walls covered with flip chart paper covered with magic marker scribbles.  Along with self-esteem building compliments.  “Great idea, Mergatroid!”

Plus, we’ve got initialized first name and three name Federal bureaucrats.  Clearly this is a gathering of high stature where appropriate protocols and dignified behavior will be expected of all participants, and most importantly, public attendees.  Let it be remembered that participants don’t work for us.  Or do they???

The Agenda Packet, in addition to the info above, includes a list of more than 70 questions “on noise and operations.”  The list is too long to bore you with here, and will presumably be provided on a handout as you enter the meeting.  It’s clear that a two hour meeting will not be able to address such a lengthy list, so other than putting them in the official record, we’re not sure what the listing of the questions will lead to.  You can find the entire packet here:

Now let’s talk about related issues.

First, should the eventual outcome of these deliberations result in the creation of Quiet Crossings, or a change to MLF design and operations, or both, rest assured that the costs will be borne by town taxpayers, state taxpayers, and most likely both.  If NNEPRA or any of the other involved players in Downeaster operations are found at fault, it’s virtually inconceivable to expect they alone will have to cough up the shekels to fix things.  They don’t have any shekels unless they take them from us.

Second, be advised that NNEPRA is now considering expanding Downeaster operations for summer season weekend trips up the coast to Rockland.  This sounds very much like the excursions that were run for several years by the Maine Eastern Railroad (MERR,) until they could no longer operate the service on a viable business basis.

But here’s the magic in this situation.  MERR is a private enterprise, and can only operate if the business case is viable.  NNEPRA is a government enterprise, both state and federal, and economic viability of the business case is irrelevant.  NNEPRA currently runs an annual deficit in the $8 million range, so what’s another losing extension of service, especially if it results in bragging rights about the wonders of passenger rail?  Amtrak annual deficits?  One can only imagine the magnitude.

Clearly, the proposed expansion would markedly increase train movments within Brunswick and neighboring towns to the North.  Not to mention bringing into play a number of road crossings, including Maine Street, Jordan Avenue, Cooks Corner, and Old Bath Road, among others, that are not currently subject to Amtrak Downeaster crossings.  Curiously, when we inquired of a then NNEPRA Director why the MLF could not be constructed at the “Crooker Site” in East Brunswick, he explained that the enormous cost of upgrading these crossings to appropriate standards would be prohibitive.

Funny how that works.  If it would be a benefit to town citizens, it’s unaffordable.  If it would be a benefit to NNEPRA, it’s no problem; just a minor detail.


Far be it from us to remind you that in an April, 2015 pitch to our town council, the NNEPRA ED, Ms. Patsy Quinn, stated that there were no plans to expand Downeaster service beyond Brunswick.  In her defense of course, she didn’t say there would NEVER BE A PLAN; only that in April 2015 there was NO PLAN.

Far be it from us to remind you as well that in an Affidavit of July, 2015, the same Ms.  Patsy Quinn affirmed that (BLF is Brunswick Layover Facility):


So, if by chance you are hearing Downeaster trains moving early in the morning or late at night in Brunswick, you must be imagining things.  And all those complaints submitted to the town and included in the materials for the Workshop must represent the ill-considered thoughts of those who don’t recognize “the benefits associated with increased Downeaster service frequency” enabled by BLF construction.

You can trust NNEPRA and Ms. Quinn on these claims, because she isn’t like all the other government bureacrats who issue promises here, there, and everywhere to tamp down whatever objections are raised by unenlightened citizens.  Public servants are noted for their honesty, don’t you know.

Last and not least, we feel an obligation to remind you that NNEPRA is in the process of spending roughly $10 million of your money to build a Royal Siding in the Yarmouth area that has been proven unnecessary by a knowledgeable and very experienced train operations veteran.

You can find the details here:


Be advised that to the best of our knowledge, no TIGER grant was ever approved for the project.  Funds have instead been gathered from a variety of OPM (Other Peoples’ Money) sources, which means you and everyone else are paying out of your pockets to fund a new pork-barrel project that doesn’t do anything the existing siding a few miles south can do.

Such is the magic of government projects.  No second opinions, no oversight, no accountability, and no questioning or objections by sitting NNEPRA Board Members, who you would think, have their job to look after our interests. 

Yah, sure!  You’d think so, but the record proves you wrong.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Brunswick, please listen; this is Alexa beckoning!


We have no idea how many of you have Alexa living in your house, or a similar type device available from Google, Apple, and others.  In this technology obsessed world, where self-validation is a daily requirement to stem budding anxieties, we’re guessing it’s far more of you than we might guess.  Anyone with an iPhone probably speaks to Siri frequently, and she and Alexa are from the same technical gene pool.

If you have children and grandchildren, it’s almost a certainty that somewhere in your extended family, these devices have become a part of daily existence. From our point of view, the less you understand about the underlying technology, the more susceptible you probably are to buying into this “personal assistant” gimmick.

We don’t like to make a habit of bursting bubbles, but in this case we think it’s something we have to do in order to keep our conscience clear.  To do so, we’re passing along this item of ours that recently appeared on American Thinker.


You’ll find the complete article here:

We have two suggestions if you decide to read it, which we of course hope you do.  First, be sure to glance at the comments, which you should find illuminating.  Second, we hope you’ll read the three “laws” with which we closed the article carefully enough to grasp their deeper message as we face the oncoming tidal wave of technology, social media, news targeting and the like. 

We’ll have more to say on this in the future.  The ‘advances’ coming at us from the major players in the field are happening so fast that it’s almost impossible to keep up with them, let alone understand the possible benefits, and more iimportantly, the underlying dangers.  The more you choose to avail yourself of these “wondrous” offerings, the more vulnerable you are.

You can trust us on this, because we’re not like all the others.


We doubt our words will sway you if you’ve already taken the bait, but at least you can say you were warned there’s a barbed hook hidden in the tasty little morsel.

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Thursday, October 26, 2017

Just how dumb can “smart phones” make us?


Somehow your humble correspondent has managed to get by without tethering himself to a “smart phone.”  We do have a last-century flip-phone for infrequent use when out of the house,

Otherwise, we find ourselves in that bemused and confused demographic that watches clusters of humans – sometimes families, sometimes friends – enjoy each other’s company at various public places.  As long as you define “each other’s company” as simultaneous, individual fixation on their handheld micromasters.

For some time now, we’ve been telling friends and acquaintances “you don’t own a smart-phone; the smart-phone owns you.”

Given our graduate degrees in computer design and computer science, we are conversant in the basic technology inherent in such devices, and do not in the least consider them magical or anything similar.  At the same time, we marvel at how easily and deeply they take over the essence of a person’s humanity, especially as it relates to fundamental human interaction.

So, when we ran across this little doozie in the Scrapbook section of the latest edition of The Weekly Standard, we decided it shows just how far “smart” technology can take one in the direction of cluelessness, and we dare say, stupidity.

We hope it inspires you to download another 100 or so time-saving/convenience apps to your little electronic servant.  And please take a selfie of yourself for the record as you do so.  You never know when you could become the star of a similar article. 

Maybe even here on Other Side.  Wouldn’t that be special!


Not Very App-etizing

Oct 30, 2017 | By THE SCRAPBOOK


The Scrapbook has a smartphone, but we are sorely tempted to go back to a flip phone. Or maybe something with a dial. Smartphones were supposed to make everything easier, but we’re not so sure.

Take the craze for ordering takeout food and drink products via mobile app. You still have to go, physically, to a store location to get your item—say, a grande Americano at Starbucks—but you’re led to believe it’s more convenient to order and pay for your latte via mobile app. That way you just waltz through the store and pick it up. No waiting in lines!

It sounds so simple, so efficient, so modern. That is, until you actually try it. As we learned from a lovely piece in the Wall Street Journal recently, all sorts of problems arise. Chief among them: Customers order their items from the wrong store. Their phones assumed they wanted their items from the store nearest to them when they placed the order, but in fact they were headed to a different store—meaning they now own a grande Americano in a coffeeshop five blocks from where they happen to be. Another problem: long lines of mobile-order customers. Ordinary, non-mobile customers see the long lines and assume the store’s overcrowded; they turn away, resulting in lower overall profits for the store. Yet another problem: Mobile-order customers feel guilty about grabbing their items while others wait in line. So they wait in line anyway, defeating the whole point.

Lost revenue, purchases of faraway Americanos, guilty feelings .  .  . good grief. We appreciate the need to improve products and shorten delivery times, and we are committed free-marketeers. But we can’t help laughing at companies that try to enhance their profits by developing smartphone-friendly purchase options that demoralize and confuse their customers. If the coffee’s good, we’ll wait an extra 90 seconds. We don’t mind. Just don’t make us download your idiotic app.


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Are you ready for this? Scratch that; it doesn’t matter.

Whether you’re ready, that is, because it won’t make any difference.  The powers that be have decided what your new property taxes will be, and that’s that.

Brunswick residents should be aware that the town has been undergoing a complete revaluation in the last year, and that the results will determine the property tax bills arriving in our mail boxes any day.

If you don’t already have the information necessary to figure out what your new bill will be, this should be enough to let you do that.  All information presented here was found on the town’s official web site.

First, the new tax rate:


Now  you’ll need to know your new property valuation, if you don’t already have that info.  Go to this web page, and you should find the information you need:

And that’s all we have to say about that.  At least for now.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Brunswick Town Government to address noise violations at Downeaster layover facility


Since the overwhelming majority of town residents don’t read The Ostrich, unless you’re directly effected by the noise issue referred to above,  you probably aren’t aware that a formal complaint has been filed, and that the town council will soon hold a formal workshop on the subject.

The passage below is copied from the official agenda for this Monday’s regular town council meeting:

Town Council workshop with railway officials

Notes: A Council workshop with railway officials has been scheduled for Monday, October 30, 2017 at 7:00 pm in the Council Chambers. The objective is to identify measures to reduce noise from train operations and establish an implementation plan. In the interest of having adequate time to define specific actions to be taken on train noise, in lieu of public comment, constituent concerns will be summarized and presented by Town Manager Eldridge. Any additional comments or concerns regarding noise received by October 17th will be added to the list presented to Council and the railway officials in advance of the workshop. Comments received later can be introduced by Councilors or the Town Manager at the workshop.

The image above is a snip from the complaint filed in August.  It contains detailed noise data collected adjacent to the layover facility.  You can find the full report here:

Here’s an example of the data presented, which will be easier for you to look at and understand if you download the actual document.


Friday, October 13, 2017

Oh you kids!


We find much that goes on at Bowdoin to be absolutely maddening, insane, and dissonant on any number of levels.  Thankfully, those precious little Polar Bear Teddies are also capable of tickling our funny bones, especially when their antics invite interpretation in the context of their privileged, elite, super-bright qualities.


Herewith the latest example of Friday Night Funzies, Fresh from Friday’s edition of the Bowdoin Orient.  In the official campus Security Report, no less.

Sunday, October 1

  • Students in Osher Hall reported that someone threw a poutine container at a first floor window.

We don’t know whether this outrageous act will be referred to Brunswick’s Human Rights Task Force, but the ethnic and cultural appropriation implications of the act certainly raise a red flag for attention by elected and appointed Municipal officials.

Tuesday, October 3

  • A fire alarm at Fairley (sic) Field House was apparently caused by shower steam and overpowering men’s cologne.

Here again, the HRTF may want to take a look at this incident, and the insensitivity of Bowdoin’s security personnel.  The use of overpowering fragrance is troubling enough for its microagressive potential, but the stereotypical characterization of the fragrance in today’s gender non-normalized world is particularly troubling.  This one may call for bringing in specialized consultants to conduct language sensitivity training, along with a fragrance desensitizing class.

Friday, October 6

  • An officer checked on the wellbeing of an intoxicated student sleeping on the front lawn at Quimby House at 1:00 am.

Finally, the kind of good old-fashioned campus hi-jinx we can relate to.  No word on whether the responding officer asked if the student found a towel over the door-knob to his room, and in keeping with age-old roomie messaging, felt he had no other choice but to hit the lawn.


Monday, October 9, 2017

Have you renewed your National Geographic subscription?

Having grown up in the 40’s and 50’s, before television became the all consuming distraction for the entire family, we remember magazines and newspapers as the dominant forms of media in our house.

Side’s parents subscribed to and/or purchased multiple newspapers.  We lived within eyesight of the New York skyline, and numerous dailies were available.  They held little interest for us in our elementary school years; way too adult and serious.


Magazines, on the other hand, were glossy and fascinating, loaded with high quality photography and carefully composed ads for all sorts of glamorous products and post-war breakthroughs in domestic convenience.  The Saturday Evening Post even featured cartoons.


We’re guessing that at the age of 3 when WW II ended, we probably learned to read by thumbing through these magazines, along with help from parents and older siblings.

Then there was that more refined looking magazine – National Geographic – that looked like it was intended primarily as an educational journal.  It had a consistent and highly recognizable cover theme, and was considered an item to be saved for future reference.  There were stacks of them all over the house.                  


We think this is where we first saw horrible images from The Holocaust, and truth be known, is also the first place we saw bare-breasted women, albeit from places far, far, away.

We subscribed to “Nat Geo” in our early married years (the ‘60’s), but before long, too many other things were taking our attention, and we never could get around to reading the saved stacks, so we gave it up.  None-the-less, we continued to think of the monthly as a high-tone, semi-academic journal of exotic places, fauna, and flora.

Fast forward to last week.  We had a routine Doctor’s appointment, and arrived a bit early.  The magazine selection in such waiting rooms seems intentionally biased away from male interests, especially for those of us in our golden years.  We resigned ourselves to other distractions, until we noticed the telltale yellow binding of the old reliable National Geographic.

We pulled it from under the stack of other periodicals, and what to our wondering eyes should appear but this:

To say we were stunned by the apparent change in National Geographic editorial focus would be an understatement of ginormous proportions.  You’d think our habit of staying abreast of the interests of the Bowdoin College student body and administration would have prepared us for this.  But it didn’t.  Clearly the world is changing around us, not least because the attitude formation industry is force-feeding us with the latest cultural restructuring and linquistic transformation.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you, as they used to say on Seinfeld.

Above is an illustration that accompanied the cover article, and below is a secondary cover visual.

Suffice it to say that based on this single sample, National Geographic has re-invented itself, no doubt in a last ditch attempt to find relevance in the bizarre media climate spawned by rampant social justice warfare.

And disdain for objective reality, as emphasized primarily by academia, like the faculty “teaching” at our very own highly selective, elite, liberal arts college here in town.

We had a brief chat with our Doctor on our find, and it’s probably best that we spare you the details.

But make a note to yourself; if you’d like to buff up your smarts in the area of world geography, National Geographic may not be your best bet.

And chances are good that there isn’t a single horse in the race at this point in the history of humanity.  (Please pardon our use of that sterotypical term; we hope it didn’t trigger you.  We just didn’t have an alternative term approved by Big Brother handy.)