Friday, June 26, 2009

A great musician is dead

Let's take today to remember a truly great musician. A man of great honor, talent, and principle. A man whose death reminds us just how fleeting the best things in life can be.

I speak of course of the legendary D. Boon, singer and guitarist for the Minutemen. He died in an auto accident in 1985.

In memorial, here's an old, grainy video of the Minutemen performing "Political Song for Michael Jackson to Sing" (lyrics here).

To the best of my knowledge, Jackson never actually did sing that song. His loss.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Swine Flu (probably) Hits Leominster Schools

There's an interesting article in the S&E today about high absentee rates in Leominster schools. This is most likely an outbreak of swine flu/H1N1, but it seems as if those quoted in the article are reluctant to admit it.

Let's look at the article.
A large number of students have been out sick at Fall Brook Elementary School over the past week, but there have been no confirmed cases of swine flu, according to Superintendent of Schools Nadine Binkley.

"There has been a lot of flu going around, but it's of the fairly light variety," Binkley said.

Binkley said 65 students at Fall Brook were out sick Wednesday. The school has between 20 and 25 absences per day during an average week throughout the year, Binkley said.

Fall Brook has a total of 664 students.
Okay, that's a good chunk of students out. It's about 10% of the total student population, and three times the normal level.

There being "no confirmed cases of swine flu" doesn't actually mean a whole lot, because of the way the word "confirmed" is defined. According to the CDC, here's what it takes to be a confirmed case:
A confirmed case of novel influenza A (H1N1) virus infection is defined as a person with an influenza-like illness with laboratory confirmed novel influenza A (H1N1) virus infection by one or more of the following tests:

1. real-time RT-PCR
2. viral culture
So yeah, to be considered a "confirmed case," you have to actually do lab work to confirm it. You can have swine flu without being a confirmed case, and most people at this stage will not be confirmed cases simply because these tests are no longer being done for most cases.

This was pointed out in the article, though they neglect to give you the background about what "confirmed" means:
Leominster Health Director Christopher Knuth said Wednesday that there have been no confirmed cases of swine flu at Fall Brook, but also noted that the state recently stopped testing for it.

"We wouldn't get notified anymore," Knuth said.
Bingo. There actually can't be any confirmed cases if that testing isn't done. Hell, there probably can't even be any "probable" cases, since those also require a lesser degree of testing.

So when you read "but there have been no confirmed cases of swine flu", it really tells you nothing at all. These cases are going to be considered "suspected," as will the vast majority of swine flu. It's just not practical to test everybody at this stage.

Binkley's statement about there being a lot of cases of the flu going around, but them being "of the fairly light variety" is also telling.

First of all, there's no reason for that "but." H1N1 at this stage doesn't appear to be much more severe than the seasonal flu. Having had the seasonal flu, I'd never refer to it as "light," but if you're expecting H1N1 to be a death sentence you might.

Secondly, if there's a lot of flu going around currently, it's almost certainly H1N1. Here's a chart of flu cases by week from the CDC:

A very good explanation of this chart (including its weaknesses) can be found here, but I'll sum it up for you.

The orange bars represent swine flu, yellow is non-subtyped influenza A, which may or may not be swine flu, and the other colors are not swine flu, but are mostly what we'd consider the seasonal flu.

Knowing that, you can pretty easily see the seasonal flu fading away and the swine flu taking off. The little spike at the end of flu season is probably an artifact of increased testing as swine flu began to appear, but we were near the end of flu season, and subsequent weeks show it falling off.

The important thing to take from this is that the seasonal flu is basically done for this season. The swine flu is likely responsible for the vast majority of current flu cases.

Certainly it's possible that there are other factors at work in Leominster's situation. Absenteeism increases at the end of the year, normal colds and allergies may be getting misidentified as the flu, etc. But if it is indeed the flu, it's most likely the swine flu.

So, it's a possible flu outbreak. What are they going to do about it?
"We're going to sit tight with it for right now," Binkley said. "There are a lot of factors we weigh before we would close a school."

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education advises schools to remain open as long as the absences have not affected teaching and learning, Binkley said.

"We don't have a high number of teachers out, and we feel that the classroom environment is still productive," Binkley said. "We don't think it's serious enough to close the school."
This is probably fine. There are indeed a lot of factors to consider before closing a school. A closure doesn't just affect the students, it affects the whole community. Sick kids means parents staying home to take care of them, which means those parents aren't at work, which means your plumber can't come fix that leak because he has to cover for his coworker whose kid is sick. The impact reaches a lot further than you might first imagine.

Since Leominster's last day before summer recess is tomorrow, it's probably more reasonable just to finish up the year than to close early and make a mess of things.

The article gives several good pieces of advice about what to do if you have the flu, most of which you've heard before. Most importantly, if you're sick, and especially if you have a fever, stay home.

Let me repeat that: stay home. That doesn't mean going to the grocery story instead of work or school. It doesn't mean hanging out with friends. It means sitting around in your house, feeling crappy. (If you want to kill time, I suggest playing this flash game about sneezing on people. It's oddly satisfying.)

When school gets out on Friday, any student who does have swine flu will suddenly have a lot more opportunities to infect others in the community. Even on vacation, staying home and not becoming a disease vector to those around you is important.

Finally, if you're healthy, don't worry. Yes, there is flu in the community. There's not much you can do about it outside of normal disease control measures (hand washing, careful with sneezing, etc). If you get it you'll probably feel pretty lousy, but unless you have underlying medical problems you're unlikely to die from it.

It's nothing to panic about, and it sounds like keeping the school open is a perfectly reasonable decision. But let's call a spade a spade. Yes, this is probably swine flu, and there's no reason to pretend otherwise. Now let's deal with it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Fitchburg's Bond Rating Improves

This is actually pretty important news, but holy crap is it boring.
The Standard & Poor's bond rating agency increased Fitchburg's bond rating, Mayor Lisa Wong's office announced Tuesday.

Wong credited conservative budget practices, including increasing the stabilization fund and negotiating lower health care costs, with the improvement.

The bond rating was BBB minus with a negative outlook.

S & P officials upgraded the bond rating to BBB plus with a stable outlook, Wong's office announced.

Yay! Good news!

This is also news that is pretty much impossible to say anything funny or interesting about, so you're just going to have to make do with that picture of Timothy Dalton. We're nowhere near Connery level yet, but at least things are moving in the right direction.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Conservatives embrace political correctness, stupidity

One of the more profoundly annoying things to come up in recent weeks has been the whole manufactroversy about David Letterman (a comedian) making a joke. If you're not familiar with it, consider yourself lucky.

If you're one of those people and want to maintain your blissful ignorance, please stop reading now.

See, I would have happily avoided writing about this if it weren't for yet another neuron-apoptosing editorial by (unbylined, but presumably) Jeff McMenemy, wittily titled Liberal media slow to scold Letterman for Palin comments.

Okay, let's get this over with...
If you don't believe a double standard exists in much of the mainstream media when it comes to how inappropriate or tasteless comments are treated, just consider the case of late-night talk show host David Letterman.

Letterman, before referring to what he described as Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's "slutty flight-attendant look," made a truly tasteless and classless joke early last week about the governor's 14-year-old daughter, saying she had been "knocked up" by Alex Rodriguez during a trip to watch a New York Yankees game.
Wow, lies right off the bat. That didn't take long.

Let's look at the actual joke, delivered as part of a top-10 list about Sarah Palin's trip to New York:
One awkward moment for Sarah Palin at the Yankee game. During the seventh inning, her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez.

I don't know about you, but when I first heard about that I assumed it was about Bristol Palin, who is Sarah Palin's famously knocked-up daughter. That is, in fact, who the joke was about, according to Letterman.

Clearly, it's also about a baseball player that I know little about, but I guess he's sort of sleazy? Arguably, the joke is more at his expense than Palin's. I wonder why nobody is coming to his defense.

But since Palin was at the game with her 14-year old daughter Willow (a fact that wasn't exactly common knowledge), all the deeply politically correct conservatives decided that Letterman was actually making a joke about statutory rape. Even though he wasn't. But when has the truth ever stood in the way of manufactured outrage?

Anyway, Letterman apologized and made clear his intentions, but Bible Spice was more interested in using her 14-year-old daughter as a political tool (which is totally not unethical) than accepting that it was a joke that went a little wrong and moving on.

So there's the background. It pretty much invalidates McMenemy's entire rant, but let's just check out what he has to say anyway. I'm sure it's enlightening.
Palin called the liberal-leaning Letterman "pathetic," and her husband quite rightly said that "any jokes about raping my 14-year-old are despicable."
Well yeah, that would be despicable. Not really relevant though, since Letterman didn't make any such joke.

And if you think such a joke is harmless, please take a moment to consider how you would react if someone made a joke about "knocking up" your teenage daughter.
I suppose that would depend. If it was about my very knocked-up 18 year old daughter, I don't think I'd have a whole lot to complain about. But I'm not desperate to keep my name in the news for a 2012 presidential run, so maybe that would change things.
But while other less liberal talk-show hosts, like Don Imus for example, have been summarily fired from their job and attacked by the liberal media when they made tasteless comments, many were slow to respond correctly to Letterman's tasteless joke and basic lack of decency.
Here, McMenemy is whining about not enough people whining. About a joke on a late-night comedy show. Which didn't mean what he has decided it means.

I wonder how quickly McMenemy condemned Bill O'Reilly when he said this:
And if Al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we're not going to do anything about it. We're going to say, look, every other place in America is off limits to you, except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead.
... and then later dismissed it as a "satirical riff."

I bet Pope McMenemy, scourge of tasteless jokes, was right on top of that!

It hurts to go on...
But as slow as much of the mainstream media was to respond to the incident, Letterman was even slower, waiting a full week before he apologized for a "bad joke" that couldn't be defended.

But when he apologized on Monday night, Letterman still insisted he was making the joke about Palin's 18-year-old daughter.
Well, yeah. Of course he was. That's why people laughed (jokes about raping 14 year olds don't get a lot of laughs). That's how it was intended, and that's how it was taken by virtually everyone who heard it. The manufactroversy came later.

Also, it's worth noting that the apology a week after the joke was the second apology. The first came pretty quickly, but I guess Palin wasn't ready to stop exploiting her daughter for political points yet.
We find that claim to be unbelievable, but even if it is true, does that really make things any better?
"Unbelievable" is used in a nonstandard way in this sentence. It doesn't mean something that can't be believed, it means something that McMenemy chooses not to believe. Because he's a dipshit.

Anyway, yes it makes it better! Bristol Palin was knocked up! That's widely-known, and is the reason she goes on tv advocating... ummm... abstinence. Because it worked so well for her!

I'm also pretty sure that 18 is the age of adulthood (and consent, many places) in this country. That makes a huge difference. It's not a joke about a girl having sex, it's a joke about a woman getting knocked up. Even though she actually became pregnant before she was 18. Hmm... Levi has some 'splaining to do!

Enough of the intentionally-misrepresented comedy bits though, let's get to intentionally-misrepresented media response.
The big issue here is not whether Letterman should be fired -- that's up to his advertisers and his viewers -- but why so many in the media think it's OK to cross all lines of decency and verbally attack 14-year-old girls, as long as they're the daughters of Republicans.
Oh, there was still some intentionally-misrepresented comedy bit in there. Oh well.

Regardless, nobody in the media thinks that! Even this joke, which wasn't about a 14 year old, has gotten all kinds of media attention. Far, far more than it should have.
We're glad that Letterman has finally apologized, but we find it troubling that the same liberal pundits who have gleefully attacked conservatives when they make tasteless comments, remained silent after Letterman's comments.
Damn right! Those faggy liberal pundits should recognize the difference between a late-night comedian making a joke that went wrong, and prominent conservative pundits using eliminationist rhetoric that they later dismiss as "satire."

See, when Ann Coulter includes a line like like "I think our motto should be, post-9-11, 'raghead talks tough, raghead faces consequences.'" in a speech to CPAC, and then follows it up with "You know, ok. I made a few jokes — and they killed 3000 Americans. Fair trade." that's an hilarious joke! Ha ha ha!

But when David Letterman (an actual comedian) makes a joke that right-wingers interpret incorrectly, that's a terrible affront to civility. People should be outraged!

Stupid liberals, don't they know that the only funny jokes are ones that denigrate Muslims or feature some sort of violent rhetoric? Jokes about celebrities having sex are just wrong!

Of course, no McMenemy piece is complete without an appeal to "civility":
And we hope that all political discourse, whether it's a serious political debate or just late-night jokes, will remain civil above all else.
Yay, civility!

Here are McMenemy's allies in the fight for civility. Enjoy.

Now that's funny!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Yet More Streetlight Nonsense


Just yesterday I was complaining about the lack of stupid scaremongering articles in the S&E of late. I even said I wanted "something about scary loud noises caused by kids exploding soda bottles, or about unlit streetlamps coming to life and killing everyone."

Obviously, Jeff McMenemy is a devoted reader, because today he delivers another steaming pile of stupid about streetlights. To wit: Editorial: No fiscally bright side to turning off streetlights.

Having had several months to refine his arguments down into a light paste, let's see if he does any better with the scary "Unlit streetlights will doom us all!" rhetoric.

It doesn't start off very well:
Leominster Mayor Dean J. Mazzarella made it clear before he recently released his fiscal 2010 budget that he would not cut core city services, and we applauded the mayor for producing a budget that didn't call for any layoffs in the middle of a recession, although it did include a 2.5 percent tax hike.

That's why we were disappointed to learn that his budget does call for turning off about 200 of the city's 3,000 streetlights, in a move that would save about $20,000, according to Department of Public Works Director Patrick LaPointe, who talked about the plan during a budget hearing Monday.
Hilariously, McMenemy has just falsified his own title. Saving twenty grand is definitely a "fiscally bright side to turning off streetlights."

Following this poor start, the editorial includes quotes from Leominster city officials talking about how they're going to be careful about which lights are included in the less than 7% of the city's streetlights that they're considering shutting off. Which is reasonable, but I'm more interested in the arguments against turning them off at all.

Like this:
Turning off streetlights is a bad idea for many reasons. First, it makes the city less safe, both from a crime standpoint and just for kids playing at night or residents walking, jogging or bicycling.
Well, that's an interesting argument by assertion. Too bad it's not supported by facts. The evidence itself is inconclusive at best, which may be why the FBI doesn't list lighting under its review of variables affecting crime.

Two can play this game! I assert that leaving 93% of Leominster's streetlights on constitutes an attractive nuisance for invasion by space aliens. If they were to turn off all the streetlights, then the alien invaders would have more difficulty finding the town from their hiding place in the troposphere.

In other words, turn off all the streetlights or get ready for a lot of anal probes.

You've been warned!
When lights are turned off near homes, the value of the homes can also drop.
Can they?

I don't actually know, but probably. Lots of things can happen. That doesn't mean they do, and some quick searching didn't lead me to any evidence that turning off street lights makes home values drop. Admittedly, such evidence would be almost impossible to collect. Home values are affected by a lot of things, and I'm betting that an unlit street light is pretty unimportant in the bigger picture. But who knows?

It's probably not going out too far on a limb to assume that McMenemy didn't even bother with this sort of quick search, so we have another argument by assertion. There are few people whose fact-free assertions you should trust less than McMenemy's, so I guess this one fails too.

Perhaps another?
And even in great neighborhoods, fewer streetlights can encourage more property crimes, even if it's just car break-ins.
Okay, yeah, every one of these claims is an argument by assertion.

This one is a throwback to the first crappy argument. Less streetlights equals more crime. This assertion is still not supported by the evidence, so let's move on.
And turning off streetlights sends the clear message to residents and businesses that the city is in trouble, which Leominster is not.
No it doesn't. Most people wouldn't even notice this small number of streetlights being off. Futhermore, only a lunatic jumps from "the city shut off a few street lights to save money" to "OMG Leominster is DOOOOOOOOOOOOOMED!!!"

If streetlights and crime are as tightly connected as McMenemy seems to believe, then we should be able to eliminate crime just by adding ridiculous numbers of streetlights so that everything is lit up. After all, it's not like crimes ever occur during the day.

Oh, wait. The FBI disagrees.
# Offenses for which time of occurrence was known showed that 57.4 percent of burglaries took place during the day and 42.6 percent at night.

# Offenses for which time of occurrence was known showed that more residential burglaries (63.6 percent) occurred during the daytime while 56.4 percent of nonresidential burglaries occurred during nighttime hours.

Dang. I guess we'd better start keeping street lights on all day.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Beware of Scary Flowers!

It's been awhile since we had a good fearmongering article in the Sentinel. You know, something about scary loud noises caused by kids exploding soda bottles, or about unlit streetlamps coming to life and killing everyone. Those are great articles, and I've been missing them.

Luckily, today we get this article, ripped from the pages of the Lowell Sun (which has the same parent company and is just as terrible a newspaper as the S&E).

It's about the horrors of Morning Glory abuse, and how "teens" are looking to get high on them. Oh no!

Let's see what our intrepid mountain-of-a-molehill reporter has to say:
Groups of young teenagers would ride their bikes to the garden store to buy packets of morning glory seeds.

Their specific interest in the small black seeds wasn't for gardening, but rather a hallucinogenic high similar to taking LSD.
Teenagers eating legal plant seeds so they can convince themselves they're high? This is trouble!

This is also a topic that pops up every couple of years, when some heroic reporter realizes that yes, some people stupidly try to get high off morning glory seeds. Said reporter then tries to draw public attention to this huge problem and writes a dumb newspaper piece about it.
The chemical is Lysergic Acid Amide (LSA), the same chemical used to make Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, commonly known as LSD.

LSA is derived from ergot, a type of fungus that grows on grains, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Well, if the National Institute on Drug Abuse talks about it, then this must mean it's a dangerous drug, right?

I would have just checked Wikipedia myself, but that's why I'm not a newspaper reporter. Of course, I'd have found out that each seed contains about 10 µg of ergine/LSA, which is sort of interesting.

Anyway, it's well-known that Morning Glory seeds are a source of LSA, and that stupid kids try to use this property to get high (whether they are successful or not is a different story). So why should we, as a society that freaks out about drugs, care? What's the danger?
While LSD has been widely studied and documented, information about LSA isn't listed on the National Institute on Drug Abuse or U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Web sites.

However, because LSA mimics the hallucinogenic effects of LSD, doctors say it could be dangerous.
Know what else "could" be dangerous? Jumping to idiotic conclusions that aren't supported by facts.

LSA is not LSD, just like Ethylene glycol (antifreeze, basically) is not Polyethylene glycol (used in a bunch of stuff, including toothpaste and eyedrops). Little differences matter quite a bit when you're dealing with chemicals.

Furthermore, there are plenty of things that produce hallucinogenic effects, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're dangerous. Unless you think hallucinations themselves are dangerous, which I suppose they are in some situations. Luckily, most of those situations are not ones in which a Morning Glory junkie is going to find himself in.

So, "doctors," care to elaborate?
"LSD is a potent hallucinogenic; not only is there an acute effect, but people get all sorts of flashbacks and psychological damage," said Dr. Wayne Pasanen, vice president of Medical Affairs at Lowell General Hospital and medical director for Habit Management in Lowell.

So far, Pasanen has not seen any cases involving LSA, but Mike Miles, a Dracut School Committee member and Lowell police patrolman, has counseled two teens who have used morning glory seeds to get high.
Okay, so LSD is potentially bad news, because of the highly-scientific dangers of "all sorts of flashbacks" and other vague stuff. I can't argue with those facts!

LSA, which is what we're actually talking about, apparently isn't a huge deal. Dr. Pasanen hasn't seen any cases involving it, though this School Committee cop guy claims that he's known two (2) dumbasses who used it "to get high."

How'd that go?
Miles, a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in child and family therapy and drug and alcohol counseling, said both teens said they became sick to their stomach.
Oh, so those two didn't actually get high. They got sick. From eating a bunch of seeds. It's a drug epidemic!

Maybe someone else can provide better scares?
Other local law enforcement officials in communities surrounding Dracut say they haven't seen any incidents involving morning glory seeds, but are aware that it can be used as a drug.

"It's definitely on our radar," said Chelmsford Deputy Police Chief Scott Ubele.
So, even though they've never seen a case, and even though there's nothing illegal about Morning Glory seeds, the Chelmsford police are aware that some people might use them to try to get high. Hey, so am I! So is everyone reading this blog post. So what?

Maybe another cop will have more information?
In Billerica, Sgt. Roy Frost hasn't seen any cases, but is familiar with the ways morning glory seeds can be manipulated.

"These kids can smoke it (morning glory seeds), they can chew it, or cook with it just like traditional marijuana," Frost said. "With a lot of these drugs, kids unfortunately think it's OK because it hasn't been criminalized."
Again, no cases. Why was this article printed, exactly?

Still, at least Frost knows that this drug, which is nothing like marijuana, is "just like traditional marijuana." He also thinks you can smoke it and cook with it. Since LSA breaks down at high temperatures, either of these techniques will just leave you with seeds that are worthless both for getting high and for growing flowers.

In other words, Frost is totally talking out of his ass. Just like everyone else in this pathetic article.

One more cop!
However, the legality of LSA in morning glory seeds remains murky, said Richardson.

The use of morning glory seeds as an illicit drug is not listed under state law, only under federal law, [Dracut Police Chief Kevin] Richardson said. Local officers do not have the authority to enforce federal statutes, Richardson said.
Allow me to clear up the legality of Morning Glory seeds for this police chief.

They're legal.

There, that wasn't so hard. LSA is indeed a Schedule III controlled substance, but LSA is not the same thing as Morning Glory seeds. The seeds aren't rendered illegal just because eating several hundred of them might get you high. Opium is made from poppies, but that doesn't make poppy-seed bagels illegal.

Okay, enough of this fact-free article full of totally clueless cops. If this is the best they can do to drum up scary outrage about seeds, that's pretty sad. Hell, they didn't even mention that some of the seeds might have been treated with antifungals, which could make you feel lousy if you eat them! Lame.

As for the actual subject of using Morning Glory seeds to get high, it's idiotic. If some dumbass tries it they're not going to die, they pretty much can't overdose, they most likely won't even get high, and they stand a decent chance of ending up with some pretty unpleasant diarrhea.

It's also not the kind of thing anyone's going to do very often, because it's a giant pain for very little reward. Plus, anyone with half a brain is going to make fun of them for doing it in the first place, because it's incredibly lame.

In the end, this is a non-story about something that doesn't seem to be happening very often (two kids with tummy aches does not really support a whole article). It's full of logical fallacies and outright falsehoods, and it lacks any firm grounding in the real world. It also interviewed way too many cops, who are apparently all idiots.

In other words, it's almost a perfect Sentinel Lowell Sun article.

Way to go, MediaNews Group! I eagerly await your expose on the danger of smoking banana peels.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

More people running for things!

Yeah, I've been really lazy about the blogging lately. Mostly, this is due to there being no interesting news (there's news, it's just dull) to write about. Today's news isn't super-interesting either, but at least it's something.

The "something" in question should be obvious from the title of this post. People are running for office in Fitchburg, so let's see who they are.

This information comes from the Sentinel & Enterprise, in this article. So who's running?
There are now 10 candidates running for the city's five councilor at-large seats, according to City Hall records.

Councilors Stephan Hay, Marcus DiNatale and Dean Tran have already signed in to run for reelection.
No surprise on any of those, though it's interesting to note that Tran is running for reelection as a City Councilor and not making a mayoral bid. Ditto for DiNatale. Guess the local anti-Wong crowd is going to be disappointed about that (which is fine with me, fuck those jerks!).

We already knew about some of these, though it appears that Conry's supposed reelection bid from that old post has been abandoned. He and Annie DeMartino are not seeking reelection. Councilor Solomito is, though he apparently hasn't filed the paperwork yet to get his name at the top of the article.

That old post also has a few names that appear in today's article. McNutt, Reynolds, Bernard, and Hartman were all previously mentioned.

Also previously mentioned is former mayor Dan Mylott, who is still in the "has pulled papers" stage and is taking his sweet time getting to the "candidate who will lose" stage. Oh well.

So, who are the newcomers?
New candidates that have filed papers within the last six weeks include Robert Boutwell, 57, a Longedge Avenue resident and former member of the Airport Commission.

Boutwell, who's also running for at-large councilor, said he wants to dig into the city finances.

"I believe at this point that everything needs to be looked at and reviewed," he said. "Reforms are needed in policies and procedures, and if at all possible, we need to do more with less."
Standard stuff, really, but that's about all we can reasonably expect at this point. Make with the websites, people!

Who else?
Linda Nicholopoulos, 55, will be running for councilor at-large after she's served on the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Planning Board, the Cultural Council and the Friends of Senior Center.

"I would like to promote a positive image of Fitchburg," Nicholopoulos said. "I've lived here for 31 years and I see the good in Fitchburg."

Nicholopoulos said her priorities would be public safety, the seniors and the schools if she gets elected.
Okay, that's fine. Positive images are nice, and Nicholopoulos has clearly devoted some time to public service already. Good for her.

Sprauge Street resident and current Planning Board member Michael DiPietro has also pulled papers to run for councilor at-large.
Well, that's sort of content-free. He's run before though, and here's how Jason at the now-defunct Save Fitchburg characterized him in a liveblog:
Michael DiPietro: Live-long resident, seen the good and the bad. Dad was a school teacher, grandfather long-time caretaker at Crocker Field. Wants to give back to the community... Wants to erase negativity and move Fitchburg forward. Nice... Financial issues: Conservative spending, encourage biz and residential development. Mentions city image again... Says one of the reasons people move here is the school system. Uh, that image adjustment can't come all at once, Michael... Says Fitchburg can be better than ever, and the "pre-eminent community in the Montachusett" area. Not too shabby.
Which sounds okay, though it's still standard "I'm running for office and not going to say too much" boilerplate.

So far, so boring. But here's where it gets interesting! Lovable leprechaun, former mayoral candidate, and personal favorite Ron Dionne is running for City Council!
Also running for councilor at-large is former mayoral candidate Ron Dionne.

Dionne said he would bring an "outsider" perspective.

"If this is going to turn around, it's going to turn around from an outsider perspective," he said. "Someone not in politics needs to get in and say this is the way to go."
Well, Dionne is certainly "someone not in politics"!

Will he spend more than 30 bucks on his campaign this time? Who cares? All that matters is that he's in the race, and I'm glad to see him.

We also get a bit more information on some of the people running, like this from Ward 4 candidate Ryan McNutt:
Other new candidates that have filed for election include Ryan McNutt, 32, who is running against incumbent Kevin Starr for the Ward 4 seat.

McNutt said he regularly attends City Council meetings and has worked as an intern in the mayor's office and Board of Health.

"I see things in Ward 4 where I live that really, seriously need to be addressed," McNutt said. "And I don't see any action or plan."

McNutt said, for example, he would like to see a "long-term plan" to address foreclosure issues on Elm and Marshall streets.
See all that new information? McNutt is 32! (Also the internship & meeting-attending stuff is new, I suppose.)

The rest is the standard stuff, as usual. He does have a pretty decent website up already though, which will be reviewed at a later date, once I'm sure Starr's website has been made current.

Who else?
Juan Rosado, 30, a Madison Street resident, is running against Ward 2 Councilor Norman Boisvert. He said he's lived in the city for six years and he wants to see more action to improve Cleghorn.

"We need to have a better environment for the kids," he said.
Oh man, a guy with an Hispanic name looking to improve Cleghorn? The local wingnuts are going to hate him. I don't think they're too crazy about kids either.

Personally, I like him if only because Boisvert sucks so badly. We'll have to see what he's all about later, though. A single non-controversial sentence in a S&E article isn't much to go on.

Here's something else from the article that I wasn't aware of:
Councilors serve two year terms and are paid $9,000 a year.
Man, that sucks ass. I knew they weren't paid much, but had somehow gotten it in my head that it was eleven or twelve grand. Nine is just terrible.

So there you have it! People, running for office. I'm going to put together a post in the near future listing everyone who's running and providing links to their websites, so if anybody knows where websites for these new candidates are, please give me a hand in the comments.

In the meantime, these are the people for you to stalk.