Master Plan Gains Traction – The Wanderer

Note: This article ran in print in the August 21, 2014 Edition of The Wanderer. The original online version can be seen here (See pg. 36). This is an excerpt.

 

The Marion Planning Board continued discussion on the proposed town Master Plan. The stated goal of the Master Plan is to provide a framework for how Marion can become a sustainable community in the future by creating a plan of action that addresses the interdependence of economic, environmental, and social issues, allowing the town to grow and prosper without diminishing the natural and cultural resources on which the town depends.

“The point of having the Master Plan is to create a process where the town’s boards, subcommittees, and taxpayers can work together to determine the feasibility of future projects for the town,” Board member Rico Ferrari explained. “It’s important to have a documented process showing the town’s goals and outlining how we will accomplish them.”

“It also makes it easier for the town to apply for grants and funding from the state. They want to know how the money is being used, so it helps to have a detailed plan to show them and makes it more likely that our requests for funding will be granted,” Ferrari added.

 

 

9th Annual Rochester Road Race A Success – The Wanderer

Note: This article ran in print in the August 14, 2014 Edition of The Wanderer. The original online version can be seen here (See pg. 8).

225 runners lined up at the Dexter Lane starting line for the 9th Annual 5K Walk/Run Road Race. The race is held every year to raise money and food for The Food Pantry at Damien’s Place in Wareham.

While the turnout was somewhat less than expected, Director Scott Muller was still pleased with the number of participants, as well as the perfect running conditions. “It’s a perfect day for the race. Not too humid. Plus the course is mostly shaded so it won’t be too hot. I expect to see some personal bests today,” Muller said before the race.

Also working to organize the event were Vice President Chuck Kantner, Secretary Jeff Perry, Treasurer Kevin Cassidy, and Operations Manager Travis Vanhall. The primary sponsor of the event was Costello Dismantling.
As runners gathered before the race, The Food Pantry collected nonperishable goods for the pantry. A representative of The Food Pantry, Richard Straffin, was there to meet and thank everyone who donated. “The race is a great big help. We collect a lot of food and it’s always a great cash donation. We’re so grateful to everyone for their donations. It’s also just a great community event, it gets everyone together,” Straffin said.

To date, the Rochester Road Race, which is incorporated as a nonprofit, has raised over $40,000 and thousands of pounds of food for The Food Pantry, which serves needy families in the area.
Once the race got started, though, it was all about the competition. For the first time in 3 years, a new winner emerged. Thomas Days Merrill of Fairhaven came in first place overall with a time of 16:42. Devyn Pryor of Dartmouth came in first in the women’s group with a time of 18:24.

Some of the loudest applause of the day came for the second place winner in the women’s group. Meg Hughes, age 12, came in second place with a time of 19:46. Hughes won the women’s group at last year’s race.
Rounding out the men’s group winners were second place finisher Jeff Reed from New Bedford with a time of 17:37 and third place finisher Nathan Britto of New Bedford with a time of 17:48. Patricia Carreiro of New Bedford finished in third place for the women’s group with a time of 19:13.

Following the race, Muller thanked the runners and guests and reminded everyone that the race is always in need of volunteers. Those interested in helping next year should email RochesterRR@comcast.net.

Oscar Winner Speaks at Harbor Days Festival – Sippican Week

Note: This article ran in print in the July 24 Edition of Sippican Week. The original online version can be seen here.

Mattapoisett — Ernest Thompson, the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of the 1981 classic “On Golden Pond,” spoke and answered questions before the movie was screened for the Harbor Days Festival crowd on Saturday night.

The Mattapoisett Lions Club hosted the showing, which followed the annual lobster dinner at Shipyard Park. His wife Kerrin is a Mattapoisett native. Thompson brought his Oscar and allowed guests to pass it around and take pictures with it.

“If you’ve ever wanted to make an Oscar acceptance speech, here’s your chance to do it,” Thompson joked.

One audience member asked about Thompson’s Oscar acceptance speech. He said that he had prepared one, but promptly forgot it when he got on stage.

“When you’re suddenly standing up on that stage, knowing that there is 70 million people watching you around the world, it’s hard to even remember what your name is,” he said.

Thompson started his career as a playwright. He wrote the play “On Golden Pond” at age 28 and acknowledged that was his breakthrough moment, noting the production company had faith in him to adapt it into a screenplay.

“I was really lucky that they let me adapt it because I was an unknown writer,” Thompson said. “I assumed they had some Oscar-winning writer waiting in the wings.”

The movie tells the story of Richard and Ethel Thayer (Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn), an elderly couple who spend their summers on Golden Pond.

Their estranged daughter Chelsea (Jane Fonda) visits them and introduces her parents to her fiancé, Bill (Dabney Coleman) and his son Billy (Doug McKeon). Richard and Ethel agree to take Billy in for the summer while Chelsea and Bill leave to have time to themselves. The movie follows the developing relationship between Billy and Richard – at first distant and brusque, then as the two bond over their fishing adventures, they become close. Chelsea, upon her return, notices this and is envious of Billy for his bond with her father that she never had.

One guest pointed out that the relationship between Richard and Chelsea is similar to the one Henry Fonda had with his daughter Jane Fonda. Thompson replied that the Fondas chose to work on his movie for that very reason.

“Jane immediately saw it as a chance to bond with her dad. They had an extremely tumultuous relationship all of their lives,” Thompson said.

When asked how he could create such a diverse group of memorable characters for his story, especially the elderly Richard and Ethel Thayer, at such a young age, Thompson said: “I get asked that a lot: ‘How can someone so young know so much about old people?’ I just use my imagination. I’ve written scores of films and that’s what artists do. It’s like asking Picasso why he put the two eyes on one side of the nose. It just occurred to him to do it.”

Beyond his imagination, Thompson’s stories come from his own life experiences.

“My fear. My joy. My excitement. My insecurity. I just graft them onto other characters,” he said. “I just assume that our life conditions are the same for anyone no matter who they are.”

Marion Resident Celebrates 100 Years of Life – Sippican Week

Note: This article ran in print in the June 19 Edition of Sippican Week. The original online version can be seen here.

Marion — If you ask Marion O’Connor what it takes to live to be 100, she might tell you that all you need is a positive attitude and a glass of Andre Cold Duck champagne every now and then.

Cheer and humor, hallmarks of O’Connor’s life, were evident during the course of her birthday celebration, as guests laughed and took photos with her on June 13.

“She’s always in a good mood,” said Patricia Normand, O’Connor’s daughter.

Born June 14, 1914 in Jamaica Plain, the 100-year old O’Connor celebrated her birthday at the Sippican Healthcare Center. She was surrounded by her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, friends, healthcare staff, and well-wishers.

Through her life, she was an avid tennis player (where her competitive side would come out) and loved taking long walks with her dogs. She worked for many years in the foreign currency department of a Boston bank.

She moved to Marion 11 years ago after her husband passed away. Here, she continues her long walks, searching for conch shells at the local beaches.

O’Connor’s devotion and love for her daughter, grandchildren and great grandchildren stood out the most, family said.

As the celebration continued, her family recalled stories that painted a picture of O’Connor as a playful, loving mother and grandmother, giving O’Connor herself a few laughs as well.

“When I was young, I remember her as my playmate,” Normand said in a speech at the party. “We would go to Boston to ride the Swan Boats, go to lunch, to Filene’s Basement, then to Bailey’s for a big hot fudge sundae.”

Her eldest grandson, Ron, remembered his grandmother’s generosity at Christmas.

“We’d open all our gifts on Christmas. Then my grandparents would come down from West Roxbury around 11 a.m. or 10 a.m. that morning. It was exciting because we knew more gifts were on the way!”

“You know how grandparents are,” said Elizabeth, the youngest granddaughter. “They love to spoil their grandkids.”

Even after 100 years of an active O’Connor isn’t slowing down. Healthcare center staff said she is very involved in the day-to-day activities.

“Even though Marion’s 100 years old she doesn’t just sit in her room all day,” said Activity Director Anne O’Connell-Bishop. “She gets dressed, cares about her appearance, and comes down to activities every day. She socializes with her peers and participates in all of the activities.”

Other than enjoying a glass of her favorite champagne and her upbeat nature, O’Connor’s secret to longevity may be her competitive nature.

“My mother is still so competitive,” Normand joked. “There’s another man here who’s 104 years old. She’ll live to 105 just to beat that!”

Planning Board denies contentious request from development – Sippican Week

Note: This article was originally printed in the June 3 Edition of Sippican Week. The online version can be seen here.

Mattapoisett — The controversy surrounding an amendment to the Brandt Point Village housing development was resolved Monday night with the Planning Board denying the development’s request.

In 2006, the Planning Board approved a proposal from the Brandt Island Realty Trust for a 41-house development off of Brandt Island Road. The permit, as initially given, allowed for the construction of two- and three-bedroom houses for a total of 90 bedrooms.

The developer recently submitted a request that would give every home three bedrooms to meet a change in market demand, said Trust attorney John Williams.

While the footprint of the house would not change, Williams said that many buyers would use a room designed as an office or a den in the two-bedroom houses as an extra bedroom anyway.

The increase in the number of total bedrooms in the development, from 90 to 123, would require an increase in the size of the septic system, which has already been installed.

Several abutters complained at the board’s May 19 meeting, saying that the existing septic system and construction had already caused the water table to rise, affecting their wells.

“The aquifer was definitely changed when the lots went in,” Geoff King said at the prior meeting. “You’re putting a larger system in the ground. It’s going to affect it again.”

Neighbors also said runoff was causing flooding on adjacent properties.

On Monday, the board voted 3-2 to deny the developer’s request to increase the number of bedrooms. The board reasoned that the existing drainage and runoff issues would only be further aggravated by a larger system. In addition, the board noted that more bedrooms would mean more residents and traffic in an already dense area.

“I feel it was sufficient to have 90 bedrooms in this dense area surrounded by wetlands,” said board member Karen Field.

Planning Board Chair Thomas Tucker said the developer could have reduced the number of houses and made them all three bedrooms while remaining within the permit limits.

“I gave him (the developer) an option. Thirty three-bedroom houses. Go with 30 and get the 90 bedrooms. He didn’t want that option,” said Tucker. “We did everything based on 90 bedrooms and after the fact he stated that two-bedroom homes don’t sell. Why even make two-bedroom homes? He never answered that.”

Tucker pointed out that the board hasn’t taken anything away from the developer, saying the trust can still build the homes with the previously approved 90 bedrooms.

“He asked for 90 back in 2006. He still has 90. We didn’t take anything away.”

On Project Books

Freddie deBoer has a great post up about what he calls “project books.” A project book, according to deBoer, is a book that stretches you beyond your current intellectual capabilities. It’s that book you’ve always wanted to read, one that you know you’ll benefit from having read, but have been too intimidated to start. (DeBoer’s examples: Godel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter for nonfiction, The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco for fiction.)

deBoer’s post covers a lot of ground and is well worth the read so I won’t rehash what he already said (better than I ever could), but I want to point out something about project books that he didn’t quite hammer home enough:

The most important part of a project book, to me, is the sense of humility it instills in the reader. It’s not something you can breeze through and feel like you’re smarter than everyone else for a little while. (See: most pop-science/pop-psych) It stops you dead in your tracks and forces you to feel your intellectual inadequacies at full intensity.

The best project books, after humiliating you, will let you in. You piece the puzzle together yourself, do the ancillary research as needed, and slowly come to terms with it. The best project books should do more than teach you about a subject. They should show you that you’re smarter than you thought you were at the start.

The “read at whim” advice is fine for a lot of books. A lot of what we read is fairly easy to get our heads around. It’s generally a good idea to read what you like and what interests you. It’s a good idea to put a book down if it’s not appealing to you.

But don’t use the “read at whim” excuse as a cop out when the going gets tough. It’s almost too easy to confuse what you’re interested in with what’s readily understandable, so don’t lie to yourself, saying “I’m just not that interested in this,” just because you’re stuck and getting frustrated. Stay with it and you’ll be rewarded twice: first with a deep understanding of a subject and second with a knowledge that you’re capable of more than you knew.

Pleasure, Deprivation, and Indifference – Stoicism and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

This post originally appeared on Stoicism and the Art of Happiness, Donald Robertson’s blog on Stoicism and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

One of the most common questions that newcomers to Stoicism have is, “What pleasures should I avoid?” They want to know, specifically, if things like alcohol, video games, gambling, and the like, should be avoided in pursuit of a happy life. This is a fair question, but it’s ultimately the wrong one. Stoicism, contrary to what some may say, is not about depriving yourself of everything you enjoy. It’s not about seeing a beautiful painting or sculpture as a colorless mass, or eating a delicious meal and tasting nothing, or refusing to go out with friends.

No, the Stoics didn’t look at pleasure as something to be avoided. If the goal is a happy life, then we must understand where and how pleasure, certainly a big part of happiness, fits into the big picture. The role that pleasure plays in life according to the Stoic conception is that it must follow virtue. Without virtue, life’s pleasures are hollow traps. They can enslave you and make you dependent on their constant presence. Without these pleasures, life becomes unbearable, leaving you weak and despondent.

What Stoicism is about is giving you the emotional and mental armor to steel yourself against the ups and downs that life inevitably puts you through. It gives you the means by which you can experience pain and pleasure and weather both, because both can lead to ruin if you haven’t trained yourself to handle them properly. In the case of pleasure, a well-trained mind would be able to see the pleasure as an “indifferent” in the words of Diogenes Laertius. That’s part of the work of the Stoic practitioner: to understand that pleasure (and pain) are ephemeral. What you love can be taken away, or even turn on you.

Fortune is Fickle

Seneca reminds us that we can enjoy the pleasures that come to us as a result of good fortune, but that we should always view them with suspicion and a willingness to part with them if needed. As Diogenes says, we must be indifferent – enjoying the pleasures when we have them and not allowing their absence to break us.

For this reason, we “must be attentive to all the advantages that adorn life, but with over-much love for none — the user, but not the slave, of the gifts of Fortune.”

Virtue as the Leader

The Stoics saw areté or virtue as being the highest good. According to Robin Campbell, this supreme ideal “is usually summarized in ancient philosophy as a combination of four qualities: wisdom (or moral insight), courage, self-control, and justice (or upright dealing).” The Roman Stoic, Seneca, in his essay “On the Happy Life” argues that virtue is like the leader in a battle. Real virtue, like any good leader, must lead from the front. Everything else is subordinate.

We can only experience pleasure and happiness if we make virtue the ultimate pursuit in our lives. Seneca states that by pursuing virtue, happiness and pleasure will naturally ensue as a by-product. It doesn’t work the other way around, pursuing pleasure before virtue. Virtue is the vital tool that allows pleasure to be a rejuvenating force in our lives by ensuring that it doesn’t take over everything else.

Additionally, practicing virtue in a haphazard or fake way will not work. Virtue cannot be faked. It’s something you have to cultivate by actually practicing it in the real world. Stoicism and virtue can only exist where failure and ruin are a possibility. Seneca uses the image of the flowers that sprout in a field that a farmer has tilled. They are pleasant – a welcome addition to the scenery, but they aren’t why the field was plowed in the first place. According to Seneca: “Just so pleasure is neither the cause nor the reward of virtue, but its by-product, and we do not accept virtue because she delights us, but if we accept her, she also delights us.”

Goals and Purpose

A corollary to the pursuit of virtue is that you actually have to be striving for something meaningful in your life. Working toward a chosen task or goal where you are challenged along the way – in your career, family, relationships – will naturally lead to setbacks and disappointment. This is where the Stoic begins to practice what he preaches.

Seneca, in his letters, reminds that we should always be working toward something greater than ourselves. This gives us direction and keeps us grounded. Where pleasure comes into the picture is when we need to take a break from our work for sanity’s sake. “I’m not telling you to always be bent over some book or writing tablets,” says Seneca, “The mind has to be given some time off, but in such a way that it may be refreshed, not relaxed until it falls to pieces.”

Ask yourself: “Am I using my leisure time to refresh myself, or am I running away from my responsibilities?” Very often, people use pleasure, whether it’s video games, drugs, travel, etc, to escape the difficulties of life and the expectations placed upon them as members of society. “If one accomplishes some good though with toil, the toil passes, but the good remains; if one does something dishonorable with pleasure, the pleasure passes, but the dishonor remains,” says Musonius Rufus. If you are at a point where you neglect the more nourishing parts of life: family, friends, career, hobbies, etc. in order to tend to your pleasures, you will find that when the pleasure fades, it leaves nothing worthwhile behind.

Living with Pleasure

The great preservers and transmitters of Stoic philosophy, to my knowledge, never strictly forbade their listeners from engaging in a specific pleasure. And even if they did, so what? They weren’t deities or prophets. Stoicism isn’t a religion, where salvation is promised to devoted followers and damnation to those who ignore the teachings. You don’t have to follow any of it if you don’t want to. But, speaking from personal experience and the experiences of others, your life will improve if you do.

Stoicism takes into account that we will fail, and often, we will fail repeatedly. We will get too attached to something that doesn’t really belong to us and be distraught when we lose it, we will get overly emotional when something unpleasant happens. That’s okay, as long as you can reflect and recognize what you can do better next time and constantly be striving for improvement.

When you read the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, you might notice that Marcus tends to go over the same themes and ideas over and over again. This isn’t by accident. Each day, when Marcus sat down to write what was essentially his journal/diary, he would reflect on the situations and problems he had during the day and how he dealt with them or should have dealt with them. When we see the same issues cropping up, such as dealing with praise, we know that he was probably not as gracious and stoic as he would have liked and had to give himself a reminder.

Marcus wrote of his adoptive father: “One might say of him what we’re told [by Xenophon] of Socrates, that he could abstain from or enjoy those things that many people are not strong enough to refrain from and too much inclined to enjoy. But to have the strength to persist in the one case and to abstain in the other is typical of a man with a perfect and indomitable mind.” For Marcus, his adoptive father was the living model of Stoic indifference – to avoid being trapped by the pleasures that other men allowed to take over their lives and instead to view them with indifference.

Stoicism doesn’t ask us to live without pleasure. It teaches us how to live with it. To be able to have the things that make us happy, whether they are just little pleasures like a glass of wine before bed, or the bigger things like a vacation, and understand that they are transient, temporary, and not fully belonging to us, but rather a gift a fortune.