Monday, May 21, 2007

News from Boston

Sent: Sunday, May 20, 2007 11:40 PM
Subject: forward: news from Boston

My neighbors finally heard a bit more from their son. He didn't have time to say anything but "I'm all right" til yesterday. Since his summer research job was cancelled and he couldn't afford to come home, he had to get really busy as soon as finals were over at the end of May. Now that his medical school classes have resumed, he's actually less exhausted than he was all summer.

He put big baskets on his bike and uses it for a couple of part-time jobs. Until they shut down, he delivered for Boston Organics in exchange for food, which was a real break. He's also doing deliveries for the Bike Collective which has been building a network to move parcels around within the city limits. Since UPS and Fed Ex collapsed (excuse me, merger and cutbacks) the new service has been doing pretty well serving a few of the green zones, they also employ "stranded" students to hand-carry smaller packages on the T subways between the green zones. Over the summer he also worked part-time for a pedi-cab company, and has learned an unbelievable amount about bicycle maintenance and conversion.

He and his girlfriend have moved in with her parents, who live a short way out of town, but in bike distance of a commuter rail station; which he says now employs "pushers". I remember seeing that in a National Geographic article about public transit in Japan: "pushers" shove overflowing passengers inside the train doors so they can be closed when it's time for the train to leave the station. He's trying to get a part-time pusher job on the subway this winter, but they're hard to get since pay is partly in transit passes, and the work is all inside the stations, out of the snow, sleet and wind.

His girlfriend's parents live in a really old house, so it was built in the time of 'natural' climate control, with a small garden, a working fireplace, and a basement. They actually found an antique coal stove which they are working to hook up to the chimney. They say it will burn BBQ charcoal as well as coal, and has a flat surface on top which works for one-pot cooking. I guess coal will become more available next year since the feds relaxed all the EPA rules. They put in double windows a long time ago, and put a lot of solar on the roof in the last three years, but there are a lot of stretches in the year back there when solar doesn't do much. Shelves have been added to the basement for canned goods, and the potatoes, onions, carrots, rutabagas and turnips are being packed away into the root cellar area, as well as the last of the apples. Good thing he already had a down quilt and jacket, because the prices for those have gone through the roof. His girlfriend has been doing pretty well selling the wool hats and gloves she knits, as well as the knitting class she just started. Her brother who lost his woodworking job just finished rigging up planters for all the south-facing windowsills inside the house, and a few facing west, too. He worked out a deal with a plant nursery that formerly did ornamental landscape stuff, all the plastic windowsill planters are long gone, and customers keep asking for them...

Word is that the large Liquified Natural Gas terminal accessed from Boston Harbor has a heavy military guard now, and instead of Coast Guard, the Navy brings the LNG ships in and out.
As for news from elsewhere:

I see online at BBC World news that Zimbabwe is running out of food and flour, and starving refugees are pouring over the border int South Africa, Reuters and Voice of America say China is saying little about the epidemic of a lethal disease in pigs

Good news from elsewhere: article on solar powered dentist office

And finally good news from Houston: a Bike Shop program in a city neighborhood that teaches kids to work on bikes and allows them to earn bikes by working on them.

My beekeeper friend didn't hire his hives to the growers in the central valley this year, figured that if the bee disease is something contagious, how better to spread it than put bees in the almond orchards from all over the country, then send them all back to their home states after the 'season', and his bees are still fine.

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