December 1, 2006

E-Voting and Cuyahoga County

Filed under: Information Politics, Newton — marcstober @ 11:43 am

Interesting article (via EFF) that Cuyahogo County, Ohio may replace their new e-voting machines. Interesting personally because it’s where my wife’s family is from, and I’ve been to the county courthouse myself to get my marriage license. Interesting politically for two reasons:

1. This is the greater Cleveland area which, on its own, is much closer to being a “blue state” than the rest of Ohio, so it does affect Ohio’s electoral college vote and the national election.

2. The article says they may be using more optical-scanner machines. I’ve voted with these in Newton and Brookline and, as I found in the last primary, they can actually be pretty high tech – it took less than a second for the machine to read and reject my ballot because I’d accidentally voted twice in the same race. The optical systems could be best of both worlds – an inherently paper system that also has the benefits of an electronic system.

Note that in Brookline and Newton you use a marker to fill in a circle on a card; this is not the punch type of system with “hanging chads.” What makes this system ideal is that the electronic ballot box gives the voter immediate feedback as to whether their ballot is valid (and there is a procedure to destroy and replace the ballot in the voter’s presence) so there is no gathering up the ballots and guessing at what a partially-punched circle means later, as there was in Florida in the 2000 election.

November 9, 2006

Gordon and Alperin

Filed under: Food, Judaism, Newton — marcstober @ 9:21 pm

I made my first trip to the new Gordon and Alperin kosher grocery store.

The first thing I noticed is that their meat department is full service. That means no reaching in the case for meat on foam trays: you order at the counter. It’s no different, really, than a deli counter (in fact their deli is the other end of the same counter), and you can get more exactly what you need, and you have some options of how they pack it for you. It’s great, but I’ve never shopped this way. (Actually, they don’t use foam trays; they vacuum pack your order in plastic. I’ve seen meat packed like this for restaurants. Just don’t expect to see the plastic-wrapped trays of hamburger you get elsewhere.)

I do wish they would put up some signs at least. Maybe they have something, or have a good price on something, that I’d like but I don’t know about. (Seems to be a pattern among small shops in the area. I go to Lincoln Street Coffee a few times a week, and can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard them recite their muffins and bagel selections until they finally put up a small sign.)

I tried a couple new items. I bought both Country Apple and Smoked Andouille sausage from Neshama Gourmet (these were in a self-serve freezer case) because I’ve never seen kosher versions of these varieties before. I also bought some Osem bread crumbs from Israel that looked better than the leading brand of pareve bread crumbs.

The meat is glatt kosher, which is never cheap, but the prices on groceries seemed good. They have a produce case, but no produce. I asked about it and was told (by who I assume was the owner) that because of the cost of electricity, he can’t compete with larger stores. That’s too bad; I’ll end up elsewhere when I only have time to make one stop. Everything is shiny and new, and there’s lots of space for growth.

November 3, 2006

Nahanton Park

Filed under: Newton, Parenting — marcstober @ 5:56 pm

Hannah didn’t have school, so I took the day off and we went on a “nature walk” in Nahanton Park. I drive by this park every day and have wondered what’s there.

Nahanton Park

First we had a (small for me; big for her) climb up a hill. For the top you could get your bearings: in one direction, the “Eiffel” radio tower (off Needham Street) rose above the trees, and in the other direction you could see the JCC’s clock tower.
A number of trails lead down to the Charles River, including one along the river on which you could push a stroller or wheelchair (except for a spot where a tree had fallen). Hannah had far too much fun just picking up pebbles off the ground and throwing them into the water, but really how often do you get to throw pebbles into the actual Charles river?
You can hear the traffic of Route 128 in the background; but if you can ignore it, it feels like you are much further out in the country.

There is a trail map and other excellent information about this and other parks at the Newton Conservators website.

September 11, 2006

New England Mobile Book Fair

Filed under: Business, Newton, Software Blog — marcstober @ 4:04 pm

We finally stopped into New England Mobile Book fair this past weekend. (Perhaps motivated by a comment I made about independent bookstores recently on another blog). I can’t believe I’ve never been in there before! (Admittedly, we just moved to the neighborhood.) It’s a typical old Boston sort of place: one part erudite, one part improvised, making you feel like you’re in college regardless of your age. Just stacks and stacks of unfinished wood shelves in which some sense of order had evolved, but not from any sort of master plan-o-gram.

I bought Jeff Nathan’s Family Suppers cookbook. I’m especially excited to try his recipe for cooking kielbasa and sauerkraut; hopefully it will be a good kosher way to keep alive the Polish-Catholic part of my heritage. I was also looking for Beyond Fear by Bruce Schneier, but couldn’t find it—they have a lot of books but not necessarily easy to find just one.

(You know what? I’m not going to link the above titles to pages or anywhere else. I gave you the author and title. That used to be enough—you can look it up yourself! Maybe even at the library.)

Anyways I wonder if these independent bookstores are doing themselves in. Most books here are 20% off. How do they handle that? By scanning the books and having the discount price display automatically? By have a “20% off” button on the register? No…the cashier has to look up the price for each book on a tiny little card that translates list prices to discount prices.

I still wonder if the store has anything to do with those mobile book fairs that would come to the school cafeteria a couple times a year when I was a kid.

September 7, 2006

We’re Celebrities!

Filed under: House Blog, Newton — marcstober @ 11:18 am

Our picture is in a Boston Globe article published today about assessed home values!

I spoke to the reporter on the phone for a while and the only quote they had from me was three words, “a good deal.” But if we go with the rule “a picture is worth a thousand words” (which doesn’t even seem like a cliche in this situation) we come out pretty good.

July 21, 2006

Shalom, Shalom Beijing

Filed under: Greater Boston, Judaism, Newton — marcstober @ 5:18 pm

Now that Shalom Beijing is closing its (kosher) doors I feel really bad that I never went there when we lived in Brookline. We were big fans of Chef Chow’s House which was a little closer, a lot more inviting from the outside, but of course not kosher. We kept say we should try Shalom Beijing but with a two year old (who might be mildly allergic to peanuts) trying new places is never really appealing.
On the other hand, a new Kosher chinese restaurant just opened in Newton near our new neighborhood! So maybe it’s just evidence of some demographic trend. Of course I’d rather a kosher butcher follows this trend–not only because I personally do buy kosher for cooking at home but because for everyone, carrying grocery is bags from the Butcherie without a parking lot is a lot more of a schlep than carrying Chinese leftovers!
I do like jabbett’s comment that when they changed from Shalom Hunan to Shalom Beijing they changed the meaning of Shalom from “Hello” to “Goodbye.” 🙂

July 14, 2006

Breakaway Synagogue

Filed under: Judaism, Newton — marcstober @ 10:16 am

The Jewish Advocate reports that some families are leaving Temple Emanuel to form a new congregation with Cantor Osborne: Cantor forms breakaway shul after bimah walk-off

I think this will make parking easier.

Seriously, I don’t think we’ll be leaving, but — cool! This is one of the reasons I moved to Newton. The town I grew up in could barely keep its two synagogues going. Here there are enough people who take their religion seriously that we already have more Jewish congregations than I can count on one hand, and there are people willing start another. That’s the sort of community I want to live in.

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