Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Progress

Mayo has finally installed automatic door closers, those spring arms that pull a door shut, on the stairwell doors. These aren't just for convenience. They make sure the fire resistant doors to the stairwells are always closed to prevent fire and smoke from quickly infiltrating other floors. Without them smoke can quickly travel to upper floors through the stairwell making it very hazardous for residents to find and navigate the stairs to get out. Eventually the flames will find their way up as well since there isn't anything to block the fire. I don't think the average person can truly appreciate the danger of smoke unless you've actually been in a burning building environment. I have. Once you experience it you never forget it, and you never want to ever again.

The absence of these closing arms was first reported back in August. The fire prevention department actually cited Mayo Group and has been fining them for non compliance since September. I suspect the fine must not be too big since they've ignored it for this long. Unfortunately in our litigious society if I had put those closers in place and not done it properly if there were a fire I would be liable. Sad. Well, regardless of the reason I'm glad they are there, but obviously I am not going to compliment Mayo for doing something that should have been done before a single unit was sold. Actually, the building should not have even gotten it's certificate of occupancy. This indicates Lynn's inspectional services missed it, but that does not excuse Mayo, because they were informed later by the Fire Prevention Department. Obviously, to Mayo life is cheap. Check your stairwell doors. Especially those of you looking at 7 Central Condominiums. It could save your life.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Police

I like Lynn police officers. I was driving along in west Lynn when I was stopped for going too fast. I was actually lost and spending so much time looking around trying to figure out just where I was that I didn't notice my speed. Luckily I was only 5 miles over the limit. Luckily the police officer noticed the glazed look in my eyes that signaled, yes, this man is indeed lost. I got a warning. The officer was professional courteous and gave me directions. I suppose I could have stopped earlier and asked for directions, but I'm a man, and we just don't do that sort of thing.

I've had many encounters with the police in my years, and I have to say 99% of the time I walk away feeling a great sense of respect for their profession. The other 1% I'm left wondering how such a rude and inconsiderate moron ever got into the force. It's difficult to stomach that 1%, but given some time the nasty impression vanishes. When the police are on your case it's a most unpleasant experience, but that's their job. It's what we as tax payers hire them to do. We ask them to keep us safe. To take a bullet - for us. They may spend 99% of time enforcing traffic and just walking around. There will be crimes that they just can't manage to solve. Might make one believe they're overpaid. But then there will be that one time: that one time when a police officer pulls your sorry drunk ass out of your burning car that you inconveniently wrapped around a light pole. It will impress upon you just how underpaid they really are. And, no, that did not happen to me.

So here's to the policeman outside the new Dunkin Donuts in Central Square this morning. I smiled at him. He returned a smile and a nod, sipping down some joe. A Norman Rockwell moment. Respect - it's earned.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Dunkin Donuts Open for Business

The Dunkin Donuts at the corner of Union and Central Square is open for business. I walked passed it this morning and not only were the racks full of bagels and donuts, but there was a bright cheery employee tending to customers. It's a nice little one perfect for it's location and volume of customers. I'm curious to know if they make their donuts on site or if it's currently being shipped in from another store. Just my curiosity. It's a fine addition to the square. As much as I prefer independent shops it's still nice to see a well regarded brand too. It will attract a main stream crowd that in the right quantity only helps to add to the sense of diversity in the neighborhood.

My hope is that the mix of shops will be much like Davis Square where the franchises are elbow-to-elbow with independent establishments. The twist is that it will most likely cater to an older crowd since we don't have the benefit of Tufts nearby to influence the local vibe. North Shore Community College is nearby, so perhaps it will become a bit more of a college hang-out once establishments make an effort to appeal to the after school study crowd and provide an environment more conducive to group study, conversation, and fun for students on a budget.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Lights, Camera, Lights? Lights?

If you have recessed ceiling lights in high ceilings be very careful when changing light bulbs. Recessed ceiling lights, or can lights, have essentially three sections. The can which mounts to the joists, the socket which accepts the bulb, and the trim that attaches to the bottom that makes the whole outfit look nice and tidy. The socket is wired to the can and the trim attaches to the socket and the can. Many of you will attempt to change the lightbulb using a nice device on the end of an extension pole that grabs and manipulates the bulb. The contraption is essentially a little basket with a spring that pulls the opening close around the bulb. Mine is a visually stunning yellow and black number.

One day while attempting to unscrew a bad light bulb using my hornet-on-a-stick I had great difficulty in getting the damn basket around the bulb. You have to push the basket against the lightbulb just hard enough for the spring to stretch open around the bulb like a giant spincter and grab the stem. On closer inspection I saw that when I pushed the basket against the bulb, the bulb was actually popping up into the can. That's not good. So, I put my spincter down, got my ladder and took a look.

Turns out the builders didn't attach the socket to the trim. There are these clips on the sides of the socket that attach the socket securely to the trim so when you decide to change the lightbulb the socket doesn't pop into the can. Examination of the setup showed why the socket wasn't attached. To get the socket on you must clip off these little notches on the trim, clearly marked, so the socket can be inserted and then twisted securely into place. Since this is an extra step requiring brain power of course Mayo Group workers didn't do it. I checked each light in my ceiling. About half popped into the can when touched. So it appears there was at least one worker paying attention or the same worker paying attention half the time.

The wires are attached to the socket by screws. These contacts are exposed. So if the trim is metal, the light switch on, and the socket mispositioned - you may be in for a jolt when prodding the opening with a metal pole waving metal fingers around the electrically charged trim. Be sure the light switch is off and taped off. Better yet, turn the breaker off and use a proximity voltage detector before you touch the can. I have this nice little green number that was $10. It's 10 bucks. Even if it's $20 - Get one.

Lofters Check Your Microwave

Building inspectors do not care about your microwave, or your oven, or your dishwasher, or a whole manner of other things. The architect or construction manager on site has the job of tending to all the details. This means, generally, that they really don't bother with details. They do enough to get the job done. That's it. Things like usability and proper installation tend to fall through the cracks in the rush to meet deadlines and budget constraints.

I have a brand new microwave. High wattage, well, more than what I'm accustomed to. If I open my mouth near the door during operation my fillings spark. Some would call this a problem. I call it fun. It's an over-the-range unit, GE. Quite the space saver. I like it a lot. Like all over-the-range units it has incorporated into it a vent hood with lights, a fan and the obligatory oil filter. I was looking at the fan, and I knew from the conspicuous absence of a vent shaft that the hood did not vent to the outside. Like most apartments built around here the microwave recirculates its air back into the kitchen - smoke and all.

After an exhausting afternoon chasing down spiders with my Dustbuster I sat down with a cold beer and started reading my appliance manuals. You do read your appliance manuals, don't you? Specifically the microwave oven. Since I never had such a fancy unit I wanted to thoroughly understand what it could do. The folks at Mayo Group were thoughtful enough to leave both the installation manuals and the operation manuals. I decided to peruse through the installation manual since my experience with other aspects of my new home indicate that Mayo Group workers don't really read them even though they are also in Spanish, French, and German. To my great surprise the microwave was installed correctly. Then I noticed some fine print. Under a configuration diagram there is a note that the vent filter is not part of the standard installation kit. It's something one must order separately if installing the microwave in a recirculation configuration since the standard configuration is for attachment to a vent shaft. Since I know Mayo is cheap and Mayo workers have no attention to detail my suspicion said that the vent filter is missing. I removed the vent cover to inspect my filter - nothing.

The vent filter is a charcoal and fiber filter that fits into the exhaust cavity behind the vent fins above the microwave door. It is not the metal panels that fit into the fan intake beneath the microwave. Those are the cooking oil vapor filters. To access the vent filter you must remove the vent grill. Upon its removal you'll see that the filter sits at an angle inside a center cavity, and notations embossed into the sides indicate how it should sit. The manual has a part number for the filter, but you'll never find the item in the store. Instead just pick up the generic rectangle of a filter at Home Depot that says it will fit most GE microwaves. Hotpoint is essentially the same design. The filter will remove a noticeable amount of smoke and save you from getting oil vapors blown onto the vent fins where they'll slowly turn into mother natures version of brown sticky plastic. It's not as good as having a real vent, but it's better than the alternative.

Check your microwave.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

All The Basics

There was a recent article in the Globe about Jamaica Plain and how its center is a bit disfunctional because it is lacking basic services. Basic services by this definition is easy pedestrian access to public transportation, groceries, and common services such as laundry, dry cleaner, post office, and pharmacy. You shouldn't have to walk 20 minutes to buy some eggs, although the walk will do you good. This article got me thinking about what we're missing in Central Square. My answer is - not much, really. Don't get me wrong, I want more interesting shops in the square, but all the basics are a 10 minute leisurely walk at most. The Shaws is the furthest away and I bet I can walk there in 5 minutes at a brisk pace. Right next to it is the dry cleaner and Bank of America. Across the parking lot is a European/Russian grocer, Radio Shack, and another bank. Everything is essentially within 3 blocks. Blocks heading northeast are smaller than those going southwest. Here's a short list of what's within 3 blocks of Central Square :

"b" means block

Absolute Must Haves (plug)

  • Live Music - Gulu-Gulu - less than 1b
  • Cafe - Gulu-Gulu - less than 1b
  • Euro Pub - Gulu-Gulu - less than 1b

Must Haves

  • Train - it's in Central Square
  • Shaws and Osco Pharmacy - 3b
  • Dry Cleaners - next to Shaws - 3b
  • Laundry - 3b
  • Post office - 1b
  • Police Station HQ - 2b
  • Bank - we have 4 - Sovreign 2b, Eastern 2b, Bank of America 3b, local bank 2b
  • Medical Clinic, 2b

Nice to Haves

  • Dunkin Donuts - the donut racks are in, so should be done soon - 1b
  • Convenience store - we have 2 - 1b
  • Barber Shop - I lost count 1b
  • Hardware Store - 1b
  • Video Store - Russian Video Store (I forget the name) - less than 1b
  • Music Store - there are 2, 1 latin, one used music - 1b
  • Deli - I saw 2, there are probably more - 2b
  • Fast Food - Tacos Lupita, Latin - 1b
  • Bakery - Petite Bakery - 1b
  • Asian Food - Pho Lynn - 1b
  • Upscale Eatery - Oxford Grill - 2b
  • Pubs, Sports Bar - several - 1b to 3b
  • College, North Shore CC - 2b
  • Diner, Capitol Diner - less than 1b


Places Of Interest

  • Raw Arts - - less than 1b
  • Lynn Arts - 1b
  • Zimmans - a sea of fabric and also some furniture
  • Beach - 6b


Useful Places Within 1 Mile

  • UHaul
  • KFC
  • Walmart
  • Several Furniture Stores ( a few within 3b)
  • McDonalds
  • Stop and Shop


Useful Places Within 3 Miles

  • Whole Foods - 2.5 miles, also a nice liquor store next to it
  • Trader Joes - 2.5 miles, near Whole Foods
  • TJ Maxx - 2.5 miles, near Whole Foods

Useful Places Within 4 Miles

  • Target
  • Home Depot

As you can see, there is a lot here. The store fronts aren't glamorous, but that will change over time. So, this leaves the question of what does Central Square need. Well, something I would most certainly like to see is a nice little Wine shop. Not a liquor store, but a wine shop. Someplace small and cozy with a modest but complete collection. A little whole foods like grocer would be great. I'd also like to see the Russian video store expand its collection into mainstream choices, otherwise NetFlix and I are to be good buds for the forceable future.

Open your eyes and you will clearly see that change has a firm grasp on Central Square. A casual glance will merely pan this place. A hard look, however, reveals excitement. Blues Cabaret playing live at Gulu tonight! See you there!

Is it Just Me Or...

Is Mayo Group having problems selling units in 7 Central Condominums. I remember seeing something like 5 "RESERVED" signs in the windows 4 months ago, now it appears there are only 2, and I wonder if they are accurate. I wonder if word is getting out about their unresponsiveness to fulfilling their warranties. I believe in Karma. Karma works. I'm sure the units will get filled eventually, but probably not at the profit level they hoped for. Unfortunately this may impact the assessed value of other units in the area, but I'm not too worried about it, because a strong argument can be made that the 7 central units are not comparable to other buildings in the Square, which is true. Each building has it's own character. Seven Central has character, but it's really close to the tracks, which means LOUD train noises from 5 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. The units on the end further from the tracks will be much better, and I hear the skylights are really nice too.