Posts Tagged ‘massachusetts’

At Public Radio International, Jason Margolis and Ari Daniel reported recently on a Massachusetts business incubator focused on helping green startups by providing them with inexpensive space and shared tools.

“A few years ago, when Sorin Grama had just finished graduate work at MIT and was looking for a place to build his new solar electricity startup, he came across an old abandoned warehouse.

“ ‘My partner and I were looking at it and said, ‘Well, it’s a lot of space here, maybe others can join, it’s kind of lonely,” Grama says. ‘We put out a call to the MIT community.’

“Within weeks, a handful of startups were sharing that cavernous space.

“ ‘And we bonded. All the companies created a nice community, and we started sharing tools, people and ideas, and reading each other’s proposals for funding, things like that,’ Grama says. ‘We had a great Christmas party one year.’ …

“Today, their home is a massive old mid-19th century pipe factory in Somerville, just outside of Boston. It’s called Greentown Labs, and it’s one of the most successful in a new wave of what are called green business incubators, clusters of startups looking to build a business by helping cut carbon emissions and fight climate change. …

“They’re saving money [by getting started] at Greentown. If you need a power saw or an industrial press, no need to buy your own — just sign up for a time slot in the machine shop. The incubator also brings shared intellectual resources, like software, human resources, even PR help. …

“Outgrowing the incubator is part of the point, showing there’s money to be made tackling the world’s climate and energy challenges.

“It’s a growth area that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is betting on, putting millions in grants and loans toward a network of green tech incubators. Steven Pike, interim CEO of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, says it’s an efficient way to spend.

“ ‘We can try and go out and try to support individually 50 different companies,’ Pike says. Or, Massachusetts can invest in an incubator that supports 50 companies under one roof.

“He says Massachusetts has an audacious goal: ‘We want to be the Silicon Valley of clean energy, renewable energy.’ ”

More here.

Photo: Greentown Labs
Shared workspace at Greentown Labs.

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There are so many interesting cultures in the world! For example, when I was editor of a magazine about lower-income issues in New England, I heard for the first time about the Karen from Burma (Myanmar). Who? Soon after, I managed to acquire an article on Karen refugees in Waterbury, Connecticut, so I was able to learn something along with my readers.

Recently, I heard of another new-to-me minority, members of which are being resettled in Massachusetts. They are called Mandeans, and their pacifist religious beliefs had subjected them to persecution in Iraq and Iran for millennia.

Here is what Brian MacQuarrie writes about them at the Boston Globe.

“The Mandaeans have found safety and acceptance since they began arriving [in Worcester] in 2008, freely practicing a monotheistic religion that predates Christianity and Islam. But they still do not have a temple — a ‘mandi’ for baptisms, marriages, and birth and death rituals — and whether one is built could determine if they continue to call Worcester home.

” ‘Work is not the anchor, living in an apartment is not an anchor, the mandi is the anchor,’ said Wisam Breegi, a leader of the Mandaean community. …

” ‘It really is a culture that is in danger of disappearing,’ said Marianne Sarkis, an anthropology professor at Clark University. ‘If you don’t have a way of preserving the culture and traditions and even the language’ of Aramaic — what a temple helps provide — ‘it is not going to survive very long.’ …

“ ‘We really don’t have the expertise, the know-how, the connections,’ said Breegi, who also has founded a scientific firm that is developing a low-cost, disposable, neonatal incubator for use in developing countries.

“To help forge the religious connections, Breegi and Sarkis are preparing an application for a nonprofit organization to help raise money for the temple. Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty said in an interview he is willing to help the project where he can.

“ ‘They’re all doing what everyone else is trying to do — working hard and getting their kids a good education.’ …

” ‘It’ll just help make Worcester stronger in the long run,’ Petty said of his city’s embrace of Mandaeans and other immigrants. ‘You can’t build walls between people.’ ”

Worcester held a ceremony of welcome in April that “represented the first time — anywhere, at any time — that Mandaeans had been recognized as a valued, important minority group, Sarkis said.” Wow.

More here.

Photo: Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff
The Kalmashy family (left to right) Lilo, and her husband Mahdi and their daughters and Sura and Sahar, shared lunch at their home in Worcester.

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Among the sights I’ve wanted to photograph in the last few weeks is a sculpture outside the Umbrella Community Arts Center. It invites you to look through and focus on an aspect of the view.

Next up, the old house where Ephraim Bull developed the Concord Grape. Another sign there told me that there was a “Sale Pending.”

My friend Meredith is a featured artist at Concord Art’s new juried show. She has done several treatments of her fica plant, but the one in the show is a lovely collage of painted paper.

I recently discovered on a morning walk that the Providence Preservation Society has generously opened its multilevel garden to the public during certain hours of the day. What a peaceful place to just sit and think! Not far away is the What Cheer Garage (I like the name). Across Providence, you can discover a fine-looking hen on the wall of Olga’s Cup and Saucer, and a street art stencil recommending Speak no evil, See no evil, Hear no evil.

I also like the alley alongside the Providence Performing Arts Center and a hilly street that looks more like Europe than New England.
















































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This healthy sunflower is at the Old Manse in Concord. The Trustees of Reservations always plant a big garden there, with pumpkins growing between the corn rows.

The lantern-like seed pods in the next photo embellish a tree beside the Providence River. The leaf shadows on brick were spotted not far away, along a grubby Providence sidewalk.

Can you read the plaque on the Providence Journal building? It shows the crazy height that the water reached in the infamous Hurricane of ’38. Golly!

My husband says the barrier at Fox Point will prevent flooding like that from ever happening again. I don’t know. Were the engineers aware of global warming when they started construction in 1960?

New Shoreham (in the next picture) was also battered in the hurricane of ’38. In fact, the storm wiped out the island economy on land and sea. The fishermen and farmers were not insured against such a catastrophe. No wonder people there remember that hurricane!

One thing that is different since 1938, as I learned in a splendid book called A Wind to Shake the World, communities in the path of a hurricane now get plenty of warning. But in 1938, when houses on Long Island, New York, were washing out to sea, no one up north knew it.

A few other shots of New Shoreham: a Wednesday farmers market, the Little Free Library, a view through a stone wall, a rumpled morning sky, and the North Light.












083026-sign-re-hurricane-of 1938


































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My childhood friend Caroline, now living in Colorado, writes, “As a person who has spent her life designing and building housing, I am pretty convinced that we need to figure out how to house more people closer to downtown areas rather than contributing to endless low density sprawl and destruction of open spaces.

“To this end Tom and I attended the first ever YIMBY (yes in my backyard) conference that was held here in Boulder in June. It is a movement driven primarily by millennials and I am forwarding this invitation to a lecture in Cambridge in case it piques your interest.”

It does pique my interest.

As anyone who has read the incredibly moving Evicted (by MacArthur award winner Matthew Desmond) knows, housing is one of the most critical issues, if not the most critical, for domestic policy today. Housing ties to everything else.

So here’s the opportunity for people in the Greater Boston area: Jesse Kanson-Benanav (chairman of A Better Cambridge) is giving a talk September 14 at 6:30 p.m. for the Cambridge Historical Society on the Yimby movement.

Click this EventBrite link to sign up.

This month we’re asking ‘What is a YIMBY?,’ with the help of Jesse Kanson-Benanav, Chair of A Better Cambridge.

What’s our goal?

The Cambridge Historical Society wants to facilitate dynamic conversations about the housing issues facing Cambridge residents today with a historical perspective.

Where and why?

We are heading out to meet you in the city. The historic Hong Kong in Harvard Square is the perfect setting to bring your friends (or make new ones), grab a drink, and settle in for some engaging conversation about our 2016 theme, “Are We Home?”


$5 members/ $10 non-members


Email us at rprevite@cambridgehistory.org

or call 617-547-4252

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I had an awfully nice lunch yesterday, and I’d like to tell you about it. It involved two nonprofits — the mostly Caucasian conservation group Trustees of Reservations and the mostly African American community-outreach enterprise called Haley House.

The trustees had a really great idea recently to do meaningful art installations on a couple of their properties and chose one next to the Old Manse in Concord. The Old Manse is most often associated with 19th Century novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne, but the grandfather of Ralph Waldo Emerson was also a resident and saw the historic events unfold at the North Bridge on April 19, 1775.

Artist Sam Durant wanted to draw attention to the presence of slaves in the early days of Concord and launch a discussion, so he constructed a kind of big-tent meeting house, with a floor made of the kinds of materials that might have been in slave buildings.

The Trustees conferred with him on a series of “lyceums” that might bring races together at the site. They decided that at the first one, they would encourage races to break bread together and talk about food traditions.

From Haley House in Roxbury, they brought in a chef, a beautiful meal, and singer/educator/retired-nurse Fulani Haynes.

I ate a vegan burger, sweet-potato mash, very spicey collard greens and wonderful corn muffins. Also available were salad and chicken.

Haynes sang a bit and talked about the origins of Haley House, how it helps low-income people and ex-offenders and local children, teaching cooking and nutrition and gardening, among other things. She invited attendees to tell food stories from their early years, and several brave spirits stood up.

That participatory aspect of the activities helped to reduce the impression that African Americans were making entertainments for a mostly white audience (art, food, music entertainments).

I loved the whole thing and learned a lot. (For example, Grandpa Emerson had slaves living upstairs, and “the embattled farmers” who “fired the shot heard ’round the world” were able to go marching off because slaves were working the farms. I really didn’t know.)

African American artifacts are on display next door at the Old Manse. The art installation will be up until the end of October 2016.

More here.

Photos: Artist Sam Durant offers the crowd a new lens on history. The chef from Haley House keeps an eye on the African American cuisine. Fulani Haynes demonstrates how a food can become an instrument.











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Here are some recent Rhode Island and Massachusetts photos. (Connecticut is also considered Southern New England, but I haven’t been there in ages.)

I wonder if other people have preferences for seeing certain kinds of photos on certain kinds of social media. For example, unless it’s a picture of one of my grandchildren, I really don’t like seeing people pictures on Instagram, but on Facebook, people pictures are the only kinds of photos I want to see. I’m still figuring out Ello, which is more likely to have art or gifs. I like almost any kind of photo on twitter or on blogs.

My own pictures are mostly from my walks. I’m starting off here with the plant sale at the New Shoreham library fundraiser and a typically short-lived scene on the island’s famed painted rock. Also in Rhode Island, an intensely serious heavy-equipment operator in a sandbox, the alley beside the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, fancy church architecture, and a plaque commemorating H.P. Lovecraft, a popular Providence-based horror writer with some regrettable character flaws.

From Massachusetts, yellow iris in a meadow that is more often than not under water — or ice. Also a clematis, a remnant of a once-spectacular garden at a house that got sold. (Too spectacular for the new owners to live up to. Kind of like the garden in Woolf’s To the Lighthouse.)



































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