Friday, March 29, 2002

Innovation and adaptation keep Mac strong

Published in ComputorEdge

Five years ago, in early 1997, things were looking really bad for Apple and for Macintosh computers. That year, the company lost hundreds of milllions of dollars and Apple nay-sayers everywhere saw a company in its death throes. People I encountered in my daily life as a techie always asked me when Apple would go under.

What I tried to show them was a company that had already taken a major step along the road to its recovery. While 1997 wasn’t a year any Mac friend wants to repeat, it was the “getting worse before it gets better” part of a comeback story. For those who, like me, had done tech support for Macs since the early 1990s, there was a bit of faith and a lot of hope.

We only had to wait a year for something to point to. In 1998, the iMac was the best-selling computer in the world for four months, helping the company post four profitable quarters for the first time ever.

In an industry where corporate turnarounds had previously taken years, even decades, Apple moved quickly and decisively. The company retreated from an overextended development and marketing position, back to its core product line, and further solidified its technology. Then Apple took the battle to the PCs, offering for actual purchase processor speeds and device communications the Wintel world had been promising for years.

In1997, Apple enthusiasts saw several major housecleaning steps that paved the way for the company’s return. The new G3 chip was the catalyst. It startled everyone—including Apple—with its speed superiority over the Pentium II and Pentium MMX chips, released earlier that year.

Mac loyalists were thrilled. No longer were Mac-vs.-PC discussions limited to interface. We could brag that Mac processors handily outdid Pentium-series chips in computing speed tests, even as clock speeds remained very close.

And then Apple leveraged U.S. Justice Department action against Microsoft, scoring $150 million from Bill Gates to make sure Apple didn’t fail and leave Microsoft as an undisputed monopoly. Also part of the deal was a guarantee that Microsoft Office would be available for the Mac, ensuring easier file exchange between platforms.

Further simplification was in the air at Apple. In early 1998, the company cut its product lines, reducing the confusing array of printers, monitors and CPUs to a reasonable level. That move eliminated long explanations to budgetary bean-counters (all using PCs) when you were trying to outfit a lab.

With the release of the iMac in mid-1998, Apple again stepped far ahead of its Wintel competition with a three-prong, one-box attack. The iMac left behind the slow, low-capacity floppy-disk drive. It added Universal Serial Bus (USB) connectivity, with true plug-and-play, features PC makers had been talking about for years.

And the iMac declared the maturity of the computer as a product, by changing its color. Before a product reaches maturity, what it is matters far more than its appearance. But when iMacs were unveiled, with a new form factor and bright colors, computers became items to display in a home, rather than conceal in a drawer or under a desk. Buying peripherals was no longer just a question of finding the right speed for a CD writer. Now you had to match it to your computer, and even your curtains.

Apple’s 15th anniversary year, 1999, kept the upswing going, with the new PowerMac G3 desktop bringing internal design elegance into line with the sleekness of the exterior. The PowerMac G4 and September’s iBook launch made sure the world knew the Mac was growing and changing at the speed of its competition.

Apple also remained true to its art and media loyalists. With FireWire on the desktop, consumers had access to digital moviemaking. New software, iTunes, iPhoto, and iMovie, and now iDVD, made manipulating digital media simple for the first time ever. But these offerings were also becoming more desirable for basic-level consumers, who suddenly had MP3 files and digital still and video cameras to play with. No PC let folks do their own video editing, or make sound-synchronized slide shows as easily as a middle-schooler could do it on a Mac.

And the company kept moving. In 2001, MacOS X finally came out, promising increased stability and the possibility for the MacOS to run on Intel architecture. Mac folks liked the idea that Apple was again expanding its appeal to wider audiences, using existing standards. As wireless networking took off, Airport led the way, allowing schools and small businesses to save money on cabling.

The company has continued to innovate, making everyone curious with its new iMac design, a small dome and 15-inch flat-panel monitor on a movable arm. The reviews are good, indicating that an 800 MHz G4 processor and 40-gig hard drive with a CD burner, 128 megs of RAM and three USB and two FireWire ports just might be good enough for the next little while.

What next? Only Apple knows, and if the pattern continues, they’ll even surprise themselves.

Jeff Inglis is a Mac user and freelance journalist who runs a Microsoft-free computer. He has worked around the U.S., New Zealand and Antarctica. He is now based in Portland, Maine, where he works and hangs out with friendly people and dogs.

Thursday, March 28, 2002

Cape high realigns the science curriculum

Published in the Current

Starting next year, the high school science curriculum will change completely, reversing the traditional order of teaching earth science first to the youngest students, then biology, chemistry and physics, to a new order said by school officials to be more logical and better suited to the Maine Learning Results.

Next year’s ninth graders will take physics. The class also will include earth science material related to physics, such as plate tectonics. In tenth grade the students will take chemistry, with relevant earth, environmental and space science material integrated. And in their junior year, students will take biology, also including relevant concepts from earth science.

In their senior year, students will have a choice of science electives, including advanced physics and chemistry, geosciences, environmental science, marine biology and genetics.

The new structure solves several problems the high school’s science department has been wrestling with, and also provides more opportunities for seniors to take electives.

A major philosophical issue is that physics is often seen as the basis for all sciences, with chemistry dealing with the physics of interactions of various substances, and biology the chemistry of life. The three then are combined in various ways to address earth, environmental and space sciences.

“The current sequence puts the conceptual cart before the horse,” high school Principal Jeff Shedd told a School Board workshop Tuesday.

The science department, he said, now finds that earth science teachers have to introduce physics to explain some concepts, while biology teachers introduce chemistry. The new program will remove that reversal, Shedd said.

The Maine Learning Results, he said, have a physical science component students cannot pass without studying physics. At present, about three-quarters of the high school students take physics, Shedd said.

Also, based on what he hears from the school’s guidance department, “colleges like to see physics on a transcript,” Shedd said.

One concern Shedd said had been voiced by several teachers and parents was the math-intensive nature of physics. But, he said, about 300 schools around the country, including some of the country’s top science and technology schools, have been teaching science in this order with good success.

Science teacher Michael Efron said the planned curriculum will allow him and his colleagues to teach physics with no math, some math, or a lot of math, depending on the ability of the students and the plan for the course. He gave the board a demonstration of how he could introduce the concept of acceleration of a ball on an incline without using any math at all.

Efron said this also will help reinforce concepts students learn in math class. Shedd also said the physics class would reach more students more easily, with an emphasis on visual and hands-on learning.

Shedd said parents of current eighth-graders were asked to comment on the change in February and were receptive to it.

Also coming down the pike may be increasing the science requirement at the high school, from two classes to three. About 95 percent of students already take three science courses, Shedd said, so staffing would not be significantly impacted.

He said he would ask the School Board to discuss increasing the graduation requirement at some point in the future.

It’s play time again at Cape Middle School

Published in the Current

The Cape Elizabeth Middle School Drama Club will be putting on the musical, “Peter Pan,” this year, with a cast of 125 middleschoolers.

The show will be up April 5, 6 and 7 at the middle school cafetorium.

It’s the sixth musical and the seventh production the club has put on in as many years. It began when the middle school renovations were finished in the mid-1990s, putting in performance space along with the cafeteria. Before that, there was a stage at one end of the gym, but that was less than ideal, said teacher and Drama Club advisor, Stephen Price.

At that time, kids said they wanted to get involved in dramatic productions, even though there was not much equipment in the school – not even a curtain over the stage or a good lighting setup, Price said.

Price grew up around the theater, and did set work in college. He now works with the local stagehands union, working backstage at events at Merrill Auditorium and the Cumberland County Civic Center. And he’s an eighth grade science and math teacher.

Things have worked out well at the middle school, with a lot of help from parents and town residents.

“The wonderful thing about this community is the support for the arts,” Price said.

After the first year’s success with a small show adapting some of the stories of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table, Price was approached by student musicians who offered to play their instruments if the next performance was a musical.

“This was kid-generated,” Price said. The middle school’s principle of inclusiveness applied to the Drama Club as well: if you want to be a part of it, you can be.

This year there are 40 Indians and 30 “lost boys,” groups normally much smaller on stage but expanded to involve everyone who wanted to perform.

Parents volunteer to help supervise rehearsals, which are done in smaller groups to minimize disruption.

Teachers also get involved, helping with everything from printing programs and posters to rehearsing the musicians.

Several parents also have come in to help sew costumes, and equipment for the production is borrowed from local companies and schools, Price said.

“It’s got a community element that goes beyond the school,” he said. And the school budget has found room for the middle school play as well. Last year they bought a $35,000 lighting system. In the past, purchases have ranged from a curtain for the show to a large ladder to use while rigging sets.

Price also is getting a hand in his classroom. Last year was the first year the school’s principal, Nancy Hutton, hired a substitute teacher for two weeks to allow Price time to work on the show and clean up afterward.

This year, instead of a sub, three local parents will step in to fill Price’s shoes. Two medical doctors, Hector Terrazza and Robert Winchell, and Bob Harrison, a chemical engineer. It means Price won’t have to stay at the school all night working on the play after a full day in the classroom.

But neither can he take his students down to the cafetorium to help him out, while they work math problems dividing pieces of plywood into the right shapes for the set.

“I don’t get a chance to teach using the play anymore,” Price said.

The performance takes commitment from the students, too, and includes people in all the grades at the middle school. They sign up in December, audition in January and then start rehearsal in February.

“They’re kids who really care about doing this,” Price said. Including the cast, crew and musicians, the performance involves about one-quarter of the school’s population, Price said. Its pervasiveness is catching. Price said he sometimes hears kids walking down the hall singing songs from the play, and then realizes those kids aren’t even in the show—they’ve heard it from their friends.

He said he considers theater a “lifetime sport,” something the kids can do at any age in any community.

But, he said, the middle school drama efforts put pressure on the high school’s drama program, which has smaller casts. More kids are coming to the high school with acting experience, and are finding they don’t have outlets for that, Price said.

But Price sees in theater a chance for everyone to work together, in areas of their own expertise, from music to set building to sound, lighting and costume design. “It’s the perfect whole-school, whole-community project,” he said.

Cape schools look at possible staff, program cuts

Published in the Current

The Cape Elizabeth School Board has decided to look at cutting at least one teaching job at the middle school, and possible elimination of poorly attended extra-curricular activities, to deal with a state funding shortfall.

Board members expressed their frustration at cuts in state funding at a budget workshop Tuesday night. Board member Jim Rowe said he would vote against the budget in protest of the state’s acts, even though he thinks the expenses in the budget are responsible and should not be cut further. Another suggested town residents should make their voices heard in Augusta.

“The residents of Cape Elizabeth need to get off their fat and happy rear ends,” said board member Kevin Sweeney.

The school district had been looking at a $589,598 reduction in state funds, but $142,000 is expected to be restored by the state, though the figures were not final as of press time.

Superintendent Tom Forcella said there is not much more to cut in the budget. “(Cutting) anything else would have a significant impact,” he said.

He warned of the danger of delaying planned expenses, such as classroom furniture replacements. “At some point we’re going to have to pay,” Forcella

The next step could be staff cuts. The board was reluctant to revise its policy on class sizes, but may reassess staffing needs for classes that are below the
numbers in the policy.

“We have no choice but to have a very conservative budget this year,” said board member Marie Prager, suggesting the district administration look at what impact cutting a teacher at the middle school would have on the classroom experience.

Board Chairman George Entwistle warned, “Class size is not something that you determine when you’re doing a budget,” but said that a stricter adherence to the class size policy could be a way to keep costs down.

Forcella said one fifth-grade teaching position has been questioned since the beginning of the budget process.

Sweeney, who has been requesting a lot of information from Forcella about the possible impact of special education staff cuts, said he does not see room for reductions in that area, especially with what he sees as a lack of professional development support for special education teachers.

“We have not spent a dime of our professional development money on our goal of reaching all students,” Sweeney said.

He also said he was reluctant to cut staff if he didn’t have to. “Given the choice of anything and a teacher, the teacher wins hands down,” Sweeney said.

Board member Susan Steinman asked if there was room to cut the stipends for school staff involved with extra-curricular activities.

Entwistle said the people are paid for the work they do. Forcella said it might be possible to eliminate some activities that have low participation.

Activity fees also were discussed, with the board requesting a public hearing be held on the issue. No hearing date was set.

If introduced, the fees would be there for the long term, rather than a quick funding fix in a tight budget year, Prager said. Most members of the board expressed their philosophical objections to the fees, seeing them as barriers to participation in valuable activities.

“The community is a better community because these programs are available to the kids,” Steinman said.

Rowe raised the issue of fiscal responsibility. “Sometimes you can’t afford to continue things that you have been doing,” he said. He expressed disappointment with the state legislators who represent Cape Elizabeth, for voting for a budget that was projected to significantly cut funding to Cape schools.

“We’re in a mess right now,” Rowe said. He said he would vote against the budget not as a protest against the expense side of the budget but to protest the revenue side, in which state funds were decreased significantly.

Other board members agreed with Rowe that the state funds were unsatisfactory, but didn’t see that voting against the budget would make that statement effectively.

Cape speeding tickets add up

Published in the Current

If everyone who has received a traffic ticket in Cape Elizabeth this year pled guilty and paid the fines, the money heading into state coffers would be $5,907.

Of that, Cape residents would pay $3,792, or 64 percent.

The town does not get any of the money from traffic tickets, according to Town Manager Michael McGovern.

The Violations Bureau in Lewiston collects the ticket money, and a spokeswoman there said nearly all of the money collected goes into the state’s general fund.

Two-thirds of Cape’s traffic tickets are for speeding, according to police records. Other summonses are issued for offenses like driving without a current inspection sticker, failure to register a motor vehicle and failure to produce insurance.

Traffic stops occur most often on the town’s major roads, including Route 77, Mitchell Road, Spurwink Avenue, Scott Dyer Road and Shore Road. And the police watch certain areas.

“There’s regular spots that we have problems with continuously,” said Police Chief Neil Williams. “We try to concentrate on residential areas.”

But the fact that there are only so many officers on duty at once means most of the stops happen while they’re just driving around town.

The cars are equipped with moving radar, which means police can check your speed without having to stop their own cars.

“It makes us mobile,” Williams said.

The town has problems with speeding especially during spring and when school starts again, but there are always people driving too fast, Williams said.

Nobody really knows what towns are the toughest on speeders. The Violations Bureau does not compile statistics of which towns send in the most tickets or the largest number of fines. The Maine State Police said they have no idea.

At the Scarborough Police Department, they asked around the office and came up with Saco and Biddeford as tough towns. But the Biddeford Police Chief was surprised to hear it. He did say his patrol cars have front and rear radar that can catch speeders ahead of or behind a police car.

A web site called the Speed Trap Exchange ( lists user submissions identifying Falmouth, Yarmouth and Oakland, near Waterville, as towns not to speed in.

Most Cape Elizabeth ticket recipients reached by the Current did not want to talk about it. “Why would I do that?” asked one Cape man when he was asked if he would speak about his ticket.

But Jeff Curran of Mitchell Road is a ticket recipient who was willing to talk. He got pulled over for speeding on Route 77 in February. Curran has lived in town all his life and has a landscaping business that takes him all over town with his truck and trailer.

“I almost feel I have the right (to speed), but I know I don’t,” he said. Part of it comes from familiarity with the surroundings.

“Most people that live here know the streets,” Curran said. But he knows people complain on residential roads, where houses are closer to the street.

And part of the urge to speed comes from seeing other drivers. “I know all the cops. I see them going fast too,” Curran said.

But traffic has increased in town, and that means speed limits have to be more strictly enforced. “Now that there’s more traffic, you have to slow the traffic down,” Curran said.

Tuesday, March 26, 2002

N.H. PUC opens copper to ISPs

Published in Interface Tech News

CONCORD, N.H. ‹ Bringing closure to a three-year-old controversy, the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission has ordered Concord-based Verizon New Hampshire to provide so-called "dry copper loops" to the state's Internet Service Providers on a trial basis.

The case arose in 1999 as a result of telephone network congestion that prevented residential phone customers from dialing 911 in an emergency. The cause for the congestion, which appears to no longer be a problem, was believed to be increased use of dial-up Internet connections.

One proposed solution to the congestion was giving ISPs access to copper circuitry already installed throughout the state, over which they could deliver high-speed Internet service off the telephone network.

The state's ISPs are happy about the development, with Brian Susnock, president of the Nashua-based Destek Networking Group, trumpeting "a landmark decision" that is "a major turning point" in the abilities of ISPs to offer high-speed Internet accesss at low prices.

"We're very excited about it," said Jeff Gore, CEO of Londonderry-based FCG Networks. Gore said he expects to participate in the trial as soon as it begins.

The new product will be part of a revision to the Verizon's existing Series 1000 tariff, governing BANA or alarm circuits, which currently cost $32 per month. Susnock said he hopes the dry copper offering will cost less.

Monday, March 25, 2002

Cerylion draws investors, eyes customers

Published in Interface Tech News

WOBURN, Mass. ‹ Surpassing its own expectations for second-round fund-raising, Cerylion raised $7.6 million ‹ $2.5 million more than it had projected ‹ from investors supporting its development of what the company calls "personal Web services" for wireless communications networks.

The new funding will be used to increase marketing efforts and continue research and development, according to company CEO Ilan Rozenblat. The company's R&D section is primarily in Israel, where Rozenblat got his start in the technology sector.

The basic thrust of the company's services are connections between specific events and activities. The company's example is that booking a flight could trigger automatic rental-car and hotel reservations and e-mail notes to people at the destination asking for meetings.

Cerylion's major customer prospects are mobile telephone companies, but the company has only one major customer at present,, an AOL-TimeWarner subsidiary based in southern Louisiana.

Rozenblat said the company is hoping for an "upsell" to other AOL-TimeWarner companies, and is also targeting Verizon Wireless in the tier-one range of mobile services companies. But most of the prospects, he said, are tier-two, in keeping with the company's philosophy of moving in small steps.

"We are building a sustained business for the long run," Rozenblat said.

The challenge, according to Delphi Group senior analyst Larry Hawes, is two-fold. The space is ill-defined, Hawes said, and may be heading in another technological direction: wireless Web services.

"Web services is quickly becoming more accepted," Hawes said. That makes Cerylion's technology harder to sell, even though Hawes thinks it is actually better at relating objects to each other.

Hawes said the company primarily needs customers, and needs to expand its growth beyond the word-of-mouth means it has relied on so far.

With an early-March launch of a new version of its suite, and with the additional capital injection, the company said it is ready to take on the marketing challenge.

Thursday, March 21, 2002

Planning board approves Cape community center

Published in the Current

The Cape Elizabeth Planning Board unanimously approved the plans for the town’s new community center, adding three minor conditions to its approval.

The community center will be in the old Pond Cove Millworks property on Route 77 in the town center.

The site plan, developed by Oest Associates and SMRT, both Portland architecture firms, needs only small revisions, according to a review by the Planning Board Tuesday night.

The main concern of the board were the light fixtures in the parking lot that will be created just south of the community center building. On the original plan, they were similar to the ones at the high school parking lot.

The board, especially member Andy Charles, wanted them to be more like the lighting along Route 77 in the town center. The lights there are not as tall and therefore spread light over less area. To compensate for the change to shorter lights, the parking lot will require about six additional light fixtures, which would cost between $5,000 and $10,000 more.

Charles was concerned about the progressive improvement of the lighting around the school area, which he said was one of the most highly trafficked areas in town.

Board member John Ciraldo said he felt parking lot lights could be different from the town center lights.

Board Chairman David Griffin said he, too, wanted to see the nicer light fixtures. “I certainly would like to see the continuation of that style of fixture if I could,” he said.

Town Manager Michael McGovern said the town, acting as the applicant in this case, would do what it could to make the board happy as long as approval of the community center happened at the meeting and was not delayed. McGovern said bids already were coming in and action was needed.

Board member Karen Lowell suggested that the lights be upgraded, but proposed a trade to help pay for them, which became the second condition of the project approval.

The plan called for a small grassy island in the parking lot to the north of the community center, where school buses now are parked. The exact placement of the island within the lot had rankled Charles and board member Barbara Schenkel.

Charles wanted to move the island slightly, to be closer to the specifications in the town’s ordinances.

Schenkel said that even the moving of the island would not bring the parking lot up to code, and suggested the lot be treated as an existing condition and exempted from requirements to install any island.

Lowell proposed that the island be omitted and the money saved from that part be applied to the lighting upgrade.

In response to a question from the board about whether the project’s bid could be changed, McGovern said bids had already been accepted, but had not yet been awarded. He said negotiation on smaller issues could take place with bidding companies.

The third condition was proposed by Patty Flynn, representing SMRT. At the last meeting, it had been noticed that the site plan contained a small clerical error indicating where azaleas would be planted along the main walkway into the front of the building. Flynn said the error would be corrected in a final site plan.

In other business, the board:
Delayed further discussion of the Blueberry Ridge development until April 22, at the request of developer Joseph Frustaci.

Approved a request by Romeo’s Pizza owner Dimitrios Mihos to relocate the propane tanks behind his building. The original location was legal, but would have become illegal upon installation of a cooling unit, which Mihos plans to do within the next few months. The new location of the tank will still be behind the building, and will have appropriate concrete shielding to prevent cars from colliding with the 1,000-gallon tank. Mihos also said the pizza restaurant is expected to open in late May.

Youthful steps lead to Scotland

Published in the Current

A Scarborough seventh-grader is on his way to the World Irish Step Dancing Championships in Glasgow, Scotland, this week. Alexander Schelasin, 12, is taking his first trip to Europe for the competition, in which his biggest triumph, according to his mother, will be not making any mistakes.

But his challenge up until now has been to practice hard while entertaining a growing number of media interviews, including one with the Current. He has been on television twice, the radio once and in the local section of the Portland daily.

“I’m not used to all the attention, but it’s really cool,” Schelasin said.

His mother, Jacqueline Seguin, said the moment an article ran in the Portland Press Herald, the media frenzy began. “That day, the phone started ringing,” she said.

He deserves the attention he gets in Maine, but getting this much press in Scotland is unlikely. He’s largely unknown in the Irish dancing world, and his teacher isn’t well known either, Seguin said.

The Irish dancing world is an intensely competitive one, with parents spending hundreds of dollars and kids dozens of hours to perfect their technique. Teachers, like martial arts instructors, can trace their instructors back several generations. And competition judges are often related not only to the teachers, but to the dancers themselves.

In Ireland, kids start dancing very early and are sent to intensive dance schools and camps to improve their skills. The dancing itself is demanding, requiring a ramrod-straight upper body and stiff arms above rapidly moving legs and fast-tapping feet.

Dancers are judged on such diverse criteria as the sound their feet make, posture, complexity of the steps they do and fluidity of movement.

Schelasin has been dancing for just over four years, since he saw “Riverdance” and “The Lord of the Dance.”

He has performed on stage with Cape Breton fiddler, Natalie MacMaster, and one of the dances he will perform at the worlds was choreographed for him by a member of the original production of “The Lord of the Dance.”

When he dances, his whole body is tense but somehow relaxed at the same time. And while his head barely moves up and down, his feet kick above his waist, and then hit the ground in rapid staccato.

Schelasin’s success so far is due to his dedication and to his skill on stage. “He’s just a performer in every way,” Seguin said. But he’s not just a dancer.

“I play almost any sport you can name,” Schelasin said, listing an impressive array of team and individual athletics.

He dances both solo and in group step dances, and will be competing as an individual in Glasgow. His mother, who will be accompanying him, hopes they will be able to visit her grandfather’s birthplace near Glasgow.

He has another teacher helping him now, Karen LaPointe, who has just moved to the area from Australia, where she was a world-class Irish dancer as well.

After placing third in the New England championships in November, he has been preparing for the worlds. And after he returns from Scotland, he has to start learning new steps for the North American competition, to be held in Boston in early July.

Security increased for Beach-to-Beacon race

Published in the Current

With less than five months before the starting gun, Cape Elizabeth already is planning for the Peoples Beach to Beacon race, to be held Aug. 3, and security will be tighter this year than in the past, probably including assistance from the U.S. Coast Guard.

Police Chief Neil Williams said there is a greater focus on security this year in light of Sept. 11, the increased number of racers and fans expected and the international makeup of the field.

Top-ranked runners come from all over the world.

“We are going to tighten up security a little bit,” Williams said.

He said he will ask for the assistance of the Coast Guard to help boost security along the shoreline near the race course.

This will be the first time the Coast Guard has participated in Beach to Beacon security,Williams said.

He also has asked for assistance from the Portland office of the FBI, specifically any tips or suggestions they may have to improve security.

An initial planning meeting was held Feb. 25, and a second meeting will happen later this month, said Williams. The race director again will be Dave McGillivray, who heads the Boston Marathon.

This year is the fifth anniversary of the race, founded by Olympian and Cape Elizabeth native, Joan Benoit Samuelson. The field of racers will be expanded to 5,000, up from 4,000 last year, on the 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) course stretching from Crescent Beach to Portland Head Light.

Williams did not want to go into specifics on security, and pointed out that the planning is only in the preliminary stage. He did say he expects security to be tighter at the start and finish areas, and there will be a greater police presence along the course.

In past years, Cape police have been augmented by officers from South Portland and motorcycle officers from Portland, Williams said.

He expects to ask for a few more officers from each of those departments and may approach Scarborough for some additional help as well.

Other procedures, which he described as “technical aspects,” also will be expanded, Williams said.

Of particular concern is traffic at the corner by Spurwink Church, Williams said. “There’s a lot of traffic that comes in at that particular point.”

He recommends all racers leave their homes early and get to the starting line early. There also will be a shuttle service for racers who want to park at the high school or the middle school and take buses to the start.

Williams stressed the security will be precautionary, and that he plans for it to be fairly unobtrusive, “not take away from a fun event,” he said.

Roads will be closed along the race route, and traffic will be diverted, as in the past, Williams said, adding that carpooling to the race and planning ahead for road closures can reduce delays for everyone.

Signs will be posted in the weeks leading up to the race, reminding residents about traffic changes for race day.

Friday, March 15, 2002

CWRP invests in wetlands

Published in Interface Business News

PORTLAND—Taking advantage of federal grant money and their own corporate resources, about 15 Maine companies have invested nearly $500,000 in cash and services for the Maine Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership (CWRP), to protect, rehabilitate and protect Maine’s wetlands. The benefits are not just for the environment, but for the businesses themselves.

Jeff Simmons, senior environmental scientist at the Yarmouth office of Bedford, N.H.-based Normandeau Associates, said he gets to work with firms he might otherwise compete with or not interact with very much.

“From a business perspective, it’s a smart thing to do,” Simmons said. But it also has personal and professional payoffs.

“As a resident of Maine and as a wetlands scientist this is something that’s near and dear to my heart,” he said.

The CWRP is part of larger regional and national efforts to protect wetlands, and is supported by large federal grant budgets, matching every private dollar with up to $3 in federal money.

While a good matching deal, currently worth $2 million overall, the private dollars can be hard to come by.

The lead company in Maine is Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline, based in Boston, Mass. Patrick Hester, senior vice president and general counsel for Maritimes & Northeast, said the program started in Massachusetts in the past couple of years, and expanded to Maine shortly thereafter.

Hester was able to raise support among companies Maritimes & Northeast has worked with in Maine.

They have started with the “easy wins,” projects Hester described as nearly complete. “If we or somebody else didn’t come along, the project would still be sitting there,” Hester said.

“It is good community involvement and good corporate stewardship,” according to Bill Hubbard of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, one of sixteen federal agencies that are involved in wetlands preservation under the federal Coastal America program.

David Warren, managing partner of Verrill & Dana in Portland, agrees. “We have a very strong desire to contribute to the community,” Warren said.

Gil Paquette, senior manager of Duke Engineering and Services in Portland, said not only does it feel good too do a project like this, but through contact with agencies and regulators, “it strengthens our ability in the permitting arena as well.”

Even Verizon Maine, based in Portland but a subsidiary of New York-based Verizon, got involved, though the environmental nature of the CWRP falls outside its normal commnunity focus on literacy programs.

Dan Breton, director of public affairs for Verizon Maine, said the company’s employees and customers care deeply about the environment, providing a major impetus for the company to spend money on wetlands.

Cito Selinger, managing partner of Curtis Thaxter Stevens Broder & Micoleau, a law firm in Portland, said that not only are they able to use their firm's specialization, but they can simultaneously support a major initiative of a client company, Maritimes & Northeast, and do some good as well.

“Development has got to be done sensibly,” Selinger said. “We don’t want to see the state developed in a bad way,” Selinger said.

Charles Hewett, vice president of Pittsfield-based Cianbro, agreed with Selinger.

“It’s something that we’ve done to be a good corporate citizen,” Hewett said.

Companies wanting to get involved in the Maine Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership should contact Marylee Hanley at Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline at 1-617-560-1573.

Thursday, March 14, 2002

Cape parents asked to fight substance abuse

Published in the Current

The Cape Elizabeth School Board bid farewell to a longtime teacher and asked parents to assist with the enforcement of substance-use bans for athletes at its regular monthly meeting March 12.

Superintendent Tom Forcella noted the resignation, effective at the end of this year, of longtime teacher and coach Anine Burgess, who has been out on medical leave all of this school year.

Middle school Principal Nancy Hutton described Burgess as “a great question-asker.” Board member Kevin Sweeney remembered Burgess’s efforts to promote civil rights and diversity. Board chair George Entwistle said of her, “There was just so much energy and excitement, and certainly she’ll be sorely missed.”

The board also gave first readings to several athletic policies, and suggested adding a new contract for parents and students to sign which would include a promise not to use drugs and alcohol.

It would be similar to the one presently required, but would include reference to abiding by the rules and supporting their enforcement, rather than a simple acknowledgment that they had been read and understood.

Other new policies laid out the philosophy and beliefs behind the athletics program, codified existing practices, set rules for booster clubs and admission charges at sporting events, and defined the framework for coaches’personnel records.

While budget discussions did not play a role in the business meeting, at the finance committee meeting preceding it, some members of the board indicated their sense that there was too much cut, while others said they may need to do more.

In other business, the board:
– heard a report from the high school representatives that the student government is working on a new policy for spectator conduct at sporting events, following inappropriate behavior by three Cape students at a hockey game in Yarmouth last week. There is also a new study hall policy under development.
– heard a report from the middle school representatives that the eighth grade band has been asked to perform for the state Legislature in Augusta later this school year.
– heard and praised a presentation from the organizers of Cape Play to improve the playgrounds at Pond Cove and the middle school.
– heard a report from middle school Principal Nancy Hutton that several parents have volunteered to teach Steve Price’s classes for a couple of weeks so he can work on preparing the school play. Also, the Wonder Years day was a big success.
– heard from Pond Cove Principal Tom Eismeier the school has nominated second-grade teacher Kelly Hasson for the Maine Teacher of the Year 2003 award.
– heard from high school Principal Jeff Shedd that he is expecting high demand for the new Latin course at the school. Shedd also noted that the Cape one-act play will continue to statewide competition, as will the jazz band.

Thursday, March 7, 2002

Cape blames state for budget woes

Published in the Current

The Cape Elizabeth School Board projects its budget increase will be twice the amount requested by the Town Council, and councilors and board members alike are blaming state funding cuts for the fiscal crunch.

Town Council Finance Committee Chairman Jack Roberts delivered a letter to Superintendent Tom Forcella March 1 stating the town budget would be
capped at a 3 percent rise in expenditures, and expressing the hope that the School Board would exercise “similar restraint.”

The School Board, at its workshop March 2 and in prior meetings, has characterized its budget – up 5.7 percent – as “responsible” and “conservative,” and blames a lot of the budget pain on a loss of $589,598 in state funds.

The state funding formula takes into account a town’s property value increases and the number of students in a district. The state cuts are particularly painful for cities such as South Portland, which is projected to lose nearly $2 million in state aid.

Cape’s school budget request is up $815,583, and includes no new programs. Several planned staffing increases also have been cut, with the only remaining personnel increases related to enrollment increases or additional needs for special education students.

“Some people think we cut the budget too much,” said School Board member Kevin Sweeney.

“We made every effort to keep a tight hold on spending,” Forcella said. The letter from the Town Council, he said, “just reinforces the tight budget climate that we’re in.”

At the budget workshop, Forcella said, a major concern was about the items that are not in the budget, including the district’s Future Direction Plan and five-year staffing plan.

“There’s a lot left out of this budget,” he said.

Sweeney is among the most outspoken of the critics of the state government, saying the education funding system is designed to cause problems.

“Because of the way the state funding formula is set up, it creates divisiveness,” Sweeney said. He added that while representatives in Augusta are working hard for their constituents, “they are not working hard for education in the state of Maine.”

Board member Jim Rowe also voiced his concern. “Anytime you have something like that pulled out from under you, it really affects what you’re doing,” he said.

Rowe and Forcella both wish the state cuts could have been phased in, rather than coming all at once this year. Forcella said he doesn’t see much of a cushion coming from Augusta to soften the blow, and expressed concern that the legislature had “never funded education as much as they said they would.”

Rowe sent an e-mail to state Sen. Lynn Bromley, D-Cumberland, and got a response that indicated to him “nobody in Augusta wants to hear about” the problems in Cape Elizabeth, Rowe said.

“I think they have to hear that we have needs,” Rowe said.

Bromley said she has trouble getting sympathy for Cape Elizabeth in Augusta, and said she has been called a “thief” by at least one senator from the northern area of the state, who was opposed to her efforts to bring more money to her district.

Bromley said she and other senators have promised to vote against the governor’s budget unless it is revised to give more funding to schools in their districts. “The formula does not work,” she said.

“I encourage people to make their voices heard,” Bromley said, suggesting that people describe exactly what will happen if funding cuts continue.

But, state Rep. Janet McLaughlin, D-Cape Elizabeth, said, there must be perspective. “I cannot sit here in the house chamber and cry ‘poor’ for Cape Elizabeth,” McLaughlin said. She said she is trying to increase the amount of money to be spent on schools, no matter what method is used to determine how much each school gets.

Several of the town’s councilors, too, blame the state for the hardship and are stuck trying to make up the difference from the property tax.

Councilor Jack Roberts, who attended the budget workshop, said the drastic cut is too much. “It’s just wrong, wrong, wrong,” Roberts said. “We’re getting hammered by the state.”

He said he was hoping the schools could keep expenditures below 3 percent, regardless of revenue. The state cuts only make things worse.

“Obviously (the School Board has) no control over the $600,000,” Roberts said.

Making things especially hard this year is the increase in special education spending in the school district, Roberts said. The federal government pledged to pay 40 percent of the cost of special education, but is actually only paying 12 percent, Roberts said.

He said there will certainly be a tax increase in town, though he declined to predict specific figures.

“We’re going to try to keep it as reasonable as we can,” he said.

Councilor Mary Ann Lynch, who also attended the School Board’s budget workshop Saturday, said she was glad to get at least an informal look at the budget, but declined to comment on the specifics until she saw a formal document.

Council Chair Anne Swift-Kayatta was at the budget meeting as well, and though she declined to comment on specifics, said she looks forward to working with the School Board and the Town Manager to put together a successful budget.

But the bottom line, many say, is just that: the bottom line, and the effect of the state budget on local spending.

“When you pull that much money in one fell swoop, it causes problems,” Rowe said.

Monday, March 4, 2002

Convergent ready to serve RBOCs

Published in Interface Tech News

LOWELL, Mass. ‹ Moving to offer its products to a wider market of larger companies, Convergent Networks has put its ICS2000 broadband switch through the testing process in order to assure buyers it will properly integrate with new and legacy telephone network equipment.

"Now we can plug-and-play," said Carl Baptiste, Convergent's director of product marketing.

The process, designed by Telcordia (formerly Bellcore) and called OSMINE, is a nine-month sequence of testing and documentation designed to ensure equipment functions reliably as part of the telephone system.

Convergent is now engaged in talks with Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs), and is confident of making sales soon.

Other Convergent customers ‹ about 30 CLECs around the country ‹ are in the process of installing the switches in their systems, Baptiste said.

"We certainly have customers who have money and are spending with us," he said. "Next-gen equipment is one of the bright spots."

The privately held company does not release much financial information, but it has 200 employees and revenues in the tens of millions of dollars, Baptiste said. The company's existing customer base bills three billion minutes per month of telephone traffic on Convergent equipment, he said. But the prospect of a major carrier as a customer has the company thinking bigger.

"Winning one of those networks could be as big as all of the business we've done, over time," Baptiste said. Finding a small bit of Verizon's $17 billion annual capital expenditure budget is one target, he said.

The company hopes to draw big customers not only with standard-compliant equipment, but also with next-generation telephone features and continued inter-working between packet and PSTN voice systems.

Yankee Group senior analyst Mindy Hiebert said the company knows what it is talking about. "Convergent is serious about going after these service providers," she said. The company has been buckled down in the testing phase for several months now, and the company may have to wait until later this year for marketing efforts to really pay off.

Also, Hiebert said, the RBOCs might not make big moves until they are challenged by smaller competitors. But, she said, the possible buyers are big companies that have real money to spend, when they open their checkbooks.

Friday, March 1, 2002

Owning a wooden boat

Published in PortCity Life

Being the owner of a wooden boat isn't easy. It requires constant work and a lot of energy. Fiberglass boats are for folks who want to go out on the water, come back and go home. Not so the wooden boat owner, who is so in love with the boat that hard labor becomes fun.

Marty and Sue Macisso own a 1971 48-foot Egg Harbor flush deck motor yacht, Invincible IV, which they keep at their slip at DiMillo's on the waterfront. They laugh about their efforts to have a life and still give the boat the attention it needs. "You can spend all day stripping it down to bare wood," Marty said, holding a scraper in his hand on a sunny summer afternoon. "You've got to stay focused."

He spent years in the boat business, as an owner's representative to shipbuilders, and knows how rare a good ship's carpenter is - and how expensive. Rather than spend the $50 an hour it can cost to have someone else do it, he takes on a lot of the tasks himself.

They do pay a diver for help with the anodes, making sure the screws holding the boat together remain intact. "You keep (the anodes) up, they'll last a long time," Marty said.

But diving is just part of the maintenance schedule for Invincible IV.

"You can't leave a boat unattended in Maine," Marty said. He and his wife live aboard the boat in the summer. They're both originally from Munjoy Hill, so being close to Portland's downtown is a real benefit, and a good change from their Scarborough winter home.

They take the boat out several days a week. On the days the boat is in its slip, though, Marty is at work somewhere aboard. "It's like doing body work on a car," he said.

But like a car, the key is paint. Keeping the wood protected from the elements is a challenge, and Marty spends more of his time inspecting the exterior of the boat, looking for chipping paint or bare spots. Then he scrapes away any loose paint before going in with bucket and brush.

For bigger projects, Marty and Sue network with their neighbors in the marina. Somebody is handy around motors, while another might be a wizard at on-board plumbing or wiring. It's an informal barter system, in which Marty and Sue get help in exchange for future or past help on other boats.

But most of the effort has to come from their dedication to the boat. They've owned Invincible IV for a year (and bought it with that name, so they have no idea what happened to the first three Invincible boats), but owned a 38-foot Egg Harbor and wanted more room. They knew what they were in for, and signed up cheerfully.

"A wooden boat requires self-sufficient owners," Marty said, "They're a special breed."