Whitey's secret


Why No Newton North Alumni Association, or Alumni Fund?

I've been thinking about this even before people started talking about rebuilding Newton North. Why is it that private high schools and public colleges, and even a few public high schools, have alumni foundations and alumni associations, but Newton North has neither?

An alumni association seems like such a natural thing to have, like Brookline High. Alumni giving is also possible -- as this Boston Latin School Association webpage demonstrates.

Newton North has a huge alumni population. My class had over 600 people, and I've heard in the early 80s it was over 800. The school opened in the late 1960s, so that's a lot of alumni who have come through its doors. And whether we had a good North experience or not, I think everyone has to admit that the school had a huge impact on our social development, and for many of us, our academic, trade, or career success. I still keep in touch with some friends from North across several classes, and one thing we like to do when we run into each other is talk about sightings of other friends from North. But outside of this informal network, class-based reunions, and maybe classmates.com, there is no way to reconnect with lots of people that I knew at North. So why not an alumni association, to organize events, maintain an email list, etc.?

Talk about rebuilding or renovating Newton North makes the issue of starting an alumni fund relevant too. $1 million dollars would help a lot, would give back to the next generation of North students, would keep us involved in the school's future, and take a little bit off the tax burden that will otherwise be shouldered entirely by Newton taxpayers. A fund could help other academic programs and facilities improvements going forward, and perpetuate itself as the alumni population grows.

I'd be willing to pony up $100. Get 1,000 more alums like me, and there's $1 million.

Thoughts, anyone?


What's right, wrong with NBC Olympics coverage

Watched the women's Snowboard Cross event last night. Like the men's event, it was exciting and had a spectacular ending, when American Lindsey Jacobellis, far ahead of the Swiss snowboarder and within a few hundred meters of the end of the course, decided to show off and ended up crashing, handing the gold to the Swiss.

NBC did a good job analyzing what went wrong, had some great camera work, and was able to snag Jacobellis several times after the event for interviews.

But the network also screwed up big time. It's not surprising that it concentrates on the American athletes, but it's complete avoidance of talking about the foreign athletes borders on disturbing. For instance, in the same event, both Canadian competitors wiped out, one of them so badly that she had to be taken down the mountain in a stretcher. Yet NBC never revealed what happened to her -- it would have taken 10 seconds to say "Canadian snowboarder _______ was taken to the hospital and is reported to be in _______ condition." Yet, nothing. The Olympics is an international event, not an American event, and one of the hallmarks of good sportsmanship is showing concern for athletes who are injured, regardless of their origin. That's why when the Chinese pairs skaters Zhang and Zhang wiped out, the entire auditorium got on their feet and gave them a supportive round of applause. Why does NBC not get it for the other events?

One other thing about the NBC Olympic coverage that bugs me is the constant focus on the American "stars" and avoidance of lesser-known U.S. teammates. Case in point: The Men's 5000 meter skating relay. The camera was on Ohno 90% of the time, while the other three American skaters on his team were ignored.

At least NBC is not pumping up the show with special effects/music video fluff like in Salt Lake City. They seem to have realized that most people who are serious about watching the Olympics could care less for flashy glitter -- they want the camera on the athletes most of the time, with solid commentary in the background, and everything else kept to a minimum.


A cool new Olympic sport - and it ain't Curling!

I've never tried snowboarding, and always kind of dismissed it as skateboarders on snow, but I have to say, the "Snowboard Cross" event in the Olympics is awesome to watch. It's fast, difficuly, and very physical -- these guys are jostling each other as they speed down this crazy course in the mountains.

That being said, the "half pipe" snowboarding event is not in the same league. Sure, it's challenging, but it just seems like showboating. I have to ask, if they let half pipe snowboarding in the Winter Olympics, why not half pipe skateboarding in the Summer Olympics?


Updated school designs presented at stealth meeting

I hate when this happens. An important meeting about a neighborhood school takes place, and neighbors aren't even told about it. No flyers dropped off in mailboxes, stapled to telephone poles, or posted on the fences surrounding the school. Borderline only found out about it after seeing the lame account in the News Tribune.

The school is Whittemore Elementary. Readers of this blog may remember Borderline's account of the June 2005 meeting at the school in which designs for the school's rebuilding were presented. A major complaint: how the design would impact traffic. It seems that no one in the city had done a proper traffic impact study.

The new plan takes traffic complaints into account, apparently. It's hard to tell because the News Tribune article by Carrie Simmons about the unpublicized meeting doesn't bother mentioning the reaction of the parents and neighbors who showed up at the meeting. It doesn't even say how many were there. Only "official" voices are quoted -- a school administrator and an architect. Are their opinions the only ones that matter?

The other important fact revealed at the meeting is the timeline. Based on the closing and building periods cited in the article, it looks like construction will start later this year, and won't be finished until early 2008. That's if everything goes to plan -- and, judging by what's happened with the Big Dig and Newton North timelines, public work projects around here seldom do.


Main Street vs. Moody Street restaurants

Moody Street gets all the attention when it comes to dining in Waltham. For a lot of people, especially out-of-towners, the only worthwhile places to eat start at the intersection of High and Moody and end a four or five blocks north at the banks of the Charles.

But there are some stellar choices on Main Street, too. Last night we ate at one of them, Elephant Walk. It's Cambodian and French food, and it is the best new restaurant I have tried in Waltham in a long time. They have an eye for blending tastes and textures and presentation that is absolutely stunning. Borderline is not the only one who feels this way, either -- the place was packed when we went in, and packed when we left, around 8 pm.

There are a couple other places that look interesting too in the vicinity, including that little cafe on the north side of Main Street where Moody Street starts (or ends) as well as an Italian restaurant that a friend recommended -- can't remember the name, but it's not too far from the intersection of Main and Newton Street.

In fact, that may be one of the things that's holding back the dining scene on Main Street. You have to walk farther between restaurants, whereas Moody Street makes for easy browsing, because there are a few restaurants on every block, of all types and price ranges.

But if you are looking for some gems a little off the beaten path, give Main Street a try.