Framingham Blog Posts
Massachusetts Facebook Challenge
There is a survey on Facebook right now asking people to "Name a Massachusetts town/city that does not have the letter 'o' in it. I bet you can't."
There are 352 city and towns in Massachusetts. 186 of them have an 'o', while 166 do not.
Here's the full list of Massachusetts city/towns without the letter 'o':
Acushnet, Adams, Agawam, Amesbury, Amherst, Aquinnah, Ashburnham, Ashby, Ashfield, Ashland, Auburn, Ayer, Barnstable, Barre, Becket, Bellingham, Berkley, Berlin, Beverly, Billerica, Braintree, Brewster, Bridgewater, Brimfield, Buckland, Cambridge, Carlisle, Carver, Chatham, Chelsea, Cheshire, Chester, Chesterfield, Chilmark, Clarksburg, Danvers, Dedham , Deerfield, Dennis, Dracut, Dudley, Dunstable, Duxbury, East Bridgewater, Eastham, Erving, Essex, Everett, Fairhaven, Fall River, Fitchburg, Framingham, Franklin, Gardner, Gay Head, Gill, Granby, Granville, Greenfield, Hadley, Halifax, Hampden, Hardwick, Harvard, Harwich, Hatfield, Haverhill, Hawley, Heath, Hingham, Hinsdale, Hull, Ipswich, Lakeville, Lancaster, Lawrence, Lee, Leicester, Leverett, Leyden, Lunenburg, Lynn, Lynnfield, Malden, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mansfield, Marblehead, Marshfield, Mashpee, Maynard, Medfield, Medway, Merrimac, Methuen, Middlefield, Millbury, Millis, Millville, Nahant, Nantucket, Natick, Needham, New Braintree, New Salem, Newbury, Palmer, Pelham, Pepperell, Peru, Petersham, Pittsfield, Plainfield, Plainville, Quincy, Raynham, Reading, Revere, Russell, Rutland, Salem, Salisbury, Sandisfield, Sandwich, Saugus, Scituate, Sheffield, Shelburne, Shirley, Shrewsbury, Shutesbury, Spencer, Springfield, Sterling, Sturbridge, Sudbury, Sunderland, Swansea, Tewksbury, Tisbury, Tyringham, Uxbridge, Wakefield, Wales, Waltham, Ware, Wareham, Warren, Warwick, Wayland, Webster, Wellesley, Wellfleet, Wendell, Wenham, West Bridgewater, West Newbury, West Springfield, West Tisbury, Westfield, Westminster, Whately, Whitman, Wilbraham, Williamsburg, Winchester, Wrentham
Skitch and Evernote
If your looking for a productive Macintosh screen capture tool, I highly recommend checking at Skitch by Evernote. This is a free tool that works very well with your existing Evernote account. You don't need Evernote to use Skitch, but they work so well together, why wouldn't you?
Use an existing image or capture a new one, then add shapes, write on it, draw on it, annotate it any way you like, and save it to your Evernote account so that it is available everywhere Evernote is.
Evernote is a notes application designed to help you stay organized that goes far beyond what you'd typically think of as a notebook. You can add text, images, audio, scanned documents, files, and more to your notebook, synchronize everything across all of your devices in Evernote's beautiful, free apps, and then quickly find anything with powerful search that can even recognize text inside your files and images.
Your Screen Capture on Steroids
The key thing to remember is you can "quickly find anything with powerful search." This means that when you use Skitch and save the screenshot in your Evernote account, you can search for text that is in your screen shot.
That's the power of Evernote and Skitch.
Skitch has all the image annotation that you come to expect from a screen capture tool. You can add arrows, Text, Shapes, Highlights, predefine stamps, Pixelate, and crop images. You can easily export the image out of Skitch so that you can add it to a Jira issue.
The good thing about Skitch is that it will create a notebook to store all the images, so the screenshots won't clutter up your default Evernote notebook. In addition, you can manage the notebook how you want, so if you don't want the files, simply delete them. You can tag the notes so that you can find them even easier.
I have plenty of space in my Upload Allowance.
Image/Shape Library - This would be a personal library of shapes and images that users could add to the screenshot. Knowing the image was issue happen in Firefox or Chrome could add a lot of value to the screen shot.
UFO Quadcopter Stuck in Tree
On Saturday, I got my new UDI RC U816A UFO Quadcopter 2.4Ghz stuck in a neighbor tree while demonstrating the drone to some family members. I should have known to keep the drone to a low altitude. This is the second time it has gotten stuck in a tree. The day after Christmas it got stuck in a tree on Cape Cod.
Here's the video of the drone taking off on my porch and then getting caught in the neighbor's tree.
Here's a video of me and my brother getting the drone out of the tree. We used a combination of my Pool Telescoping Aluminum Pole and the roof rack. Based on the size of the tool used, we estimate that the drone was at least 20 feet up in the tree.
If you are playing with the UDI RC U816A UFO Quadcopter 2.4Ghz (Model NO.U818A) make sure to test flight in an open field. Buy plenty of extra batteries, Li-Po Battery 701855 500 mAh 3.7V. Each battery only last 7 minutes of flying time and that's hardly enough time to learn how to maneuver the drone. You can find extra batteries on Amazon and eBay.
Dictograph Smoke Alarm
In the inside roof of our attic are a couple of metal devices with the name, Dictograph Products Inc. N.Y. These are place in a couple of areas in the old part of the attic. Our house had a couple of new additions in the past 20 years.
The Dictograph Model "F" was how the original owners of the house was able to be alerted if the temperature in the attic was over a certain amount. There is a sticker on the label that mentions 185 degrees as the fixed amount. This was otherwise known as a smoke sensor that would be attached to anouther unit that was installed someplace in the house.
Click on the image to see a larger version.
I am not going to remove the device as it doesn't have any potential risk to the house. It's a pretty cool thing to see when ever I am up in the attic. I something think what the original owners of the house had up in the attic and what were their worries as homeowners.
10 Best Twitter Accounts To Follow For Framingham Commuters
If your new to the fun world of MBTA commuting, there are some Twitter accounts that you should absolutely be following. Not only will you be informed on what's going on in the world of Framingham MBTA, but you may get some real live feed on why delays are happening.
So without further delay, here are the top 10 best Twitter accounts for Framingham Commuters:
- @N42_21_W71_04 - Dave seems to have the inside knowledge of what's going on. He has a great Blog and sometimes seem to know more about what's going on than the people running the individual trains.
- @mbta_cr - Live Feed from the MBTA control tower!
- @mbta_alerts - Breaking news about MBTA
- @drummosa - Tweets about train issues from Worcester to Boston.
- @framinghamline - CodeforBoston runs this active Twitter feed.
- @SethDRobertson - from #Maine to #Boston, from #Science to #HigherEducation. He catches the train around Newtonville.
- @theFram - Framingham Patch tends to have some MBTA coverage
- @universalhub - Gets some information from various riders on train delays. They cover general Boston things, but usually will have good coverage on the MBTA when things go bad.
- @VPCloudCarl - Good Tweets about the MBTA status.
- @noladrex - Tends to tweet late train arrivals.
In addition, should you be stuck on a train that isn't moving, you could use the twitter feature to show who is posting near your current locations. Mashable has a great post about 9 Ways to Find Twitter Users in Your Town.
Commuter Rail Parking
Parking at the Framingham MBTA station has picked up. All of a sudden, there isn't any available parking before the 7:44 train. I am not sure what has spark the increase demand, especially at the middle of month.
This morning I saw a few commuters drive away in frustration, while other drivers were parking illegally just so they could catch the train to get to work on time.
Before getting off the train this morning, the conductor told the people waiting to get off that she remembered when it was very crowded last winter and she was unable to move. Perhaps more people are now taking the train because the weather is getting colder.
If your new to the Framingham MBTA - Welcome! Your best bet for monthly parking is still at the Pearl Street Garage which is located next to the Eagles All-American Grill.
Currently there are plenty of parking spaces - the first floor does even fill up. As an added bonus, you don't need to worry about the shoveling off snow after a long day at work.
You can find out all about the Pearl Street Parking Garage on the Town of Framingham website.
p508 Train Adventure
Taking the P508 from Framingham can be an adventure - sometimes.
Today was my first day on how this can be a frustrated commute. (Based on Twitter post by other users, it appears that the P508 is cursed.) This morning started with this 4am tweet from the MBTA:
Framingham/Worcester Train 508 (7:00 inbound) delayed 10 to 20 minutes out of Worcester.— MBTA Commuter Rail (@MBTA_CR) September 29, 2015
When I arrived at the Framingham platform, about 4 minutes before the train was to arrive, I saw that the train would be 45 minutes late.
Instantly I thought that I better stay on track 1, and wait for the p507 train. The p507 train normally scheduled to arrive at 7:51, it waits at the track for 15 minutes and then becomes the p510 to Boston.
I tweeted several people, some on the p508 train and they all confirmed my theory. Dave, N42_21_W71_04, sent me a great link to watch the two incoming trains to see what train would be arriving first. While the
The P507 train was the first to arrived at the station, however the conductor told everyone that the P508 train would be the next train into Boston. This caused the crowd to rush over the pedestrian bridge back to track 2.
About 10 minutes later the P508 train pulled into the Framingham train station. I boarded the second to last passenger cab and discovered plenty of available seats on the train. In fact, as we continue to the the next couple of stops all the passengers were able to find seats.
When I was on the train, I saw this tweet and I don't know if this was one of the reasons for the delays this morning:
The p508 train arrived at Back Bay around 9am, about 30 minutes late. Dave tweeted:
#MBTA Framingham Worcester P512 arriving South Station at 9:40 AM, ~32 min late. But Wor, Grafton, Wboro original P508 pax are ~72 min late— Dave (@N42_21_W71_04) September 29, 2015
My lesson learn this morning is to pay attention to the signs at the train station. The sign indicated that Track 2 would be the next train to Boston. Even thou that another train was going to arrive on Track 1, the MBTA was going to hold that train so the express train would go ahead.
The late train caused a lot of problems for the remaining peak trains on the Framingham/Worcester schedule. Not only were all the passengers on the 508 trains late, but so were those awaiting for the p510, p512 and p514.
Propane tank exchange services
During this past Labor Day weekend, I needed to get some propane for our gas grill. Normally I would just go down to Monnick Supply and refill my tank but they were closed due to the holiday. So I had resort to using the tank exchange.
Refilling propane is a much better value, not only is it cheaper but you actually get more propane. Thus prolonging the next trip to the store. The downside is that you have to go to specially stores that have the tanks. (Usually you find out that you need a tank at the worst possible time.)
Also, propane places will check your tank and can refuse service if it has expired. Whereas, in the tank exchange process, you'll never worry about old tanks. In Framingham, it cost $5 for the town to recycle old tanks.
So back to my experience on getting new propane. I stopped by Lowe's in Framingham thinking that they might have a tank exchange. Their website wasn't really clear if they had any services.
The garden cashier told me that they didn't have any propane tank exchange services. He then informed me of all the places that I could go; Home Depot in Natick, Stop and Shop in Framingham just to name a few. I asked him why they didn't and he told me because they were too close to the post office.
That kind of surprised me. I didn't know that the post office had that much control in what the store next to it could sell.
So there you go. If a Home Improvement store is next to a Post Office, you can bet that they won't have a propane tank exchange program.
I ended up getting my tank exchanged at the Home Depot in Natick. The whole process was very quick.
Talking on the Phone on the Train
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that phone call that you had on the train - ya everyone else around you heard it too. We all know about the medical problems that your father had and we wish him the best in recovery.
Yes, there is no privacy on the train. You are not sitting in a private car cabin - at least not on the MBTA. We are all pretending to not hear you talk on the phone. Yet we hold on to every word that you say - trying to make sense of the conversation that you are having.
What to Do?
Whatever call you have to deal with, it can wait until you get off the train. Every passengers that travel the same route in the 60s, 70s and 80s had to do away with being out of touch on their commute. I am sure whatever issue that comes up, it can wait.
If you do need to be on the phone, just keep in mind that everyone around you can hear what you are saying - so be careful of what you say. Try not to dish any dirty laundry.
MBTA Train Doors
The MBTA commuter rail is looking to improve their image after the dabocile service this past winter. Here's one way they can make a difference without having to spend thousands of dollars and will make taking the train a bit easier for everyone.
Every morning thousands of Massachusetts commuters, from Lowell to Providence, RI, line up to take the morning train to Boston. Everyone is playing the guessing game of, what's my commute going to be like today.
Many of the commuters stand by the platform hoping that they are standing where they think the conductor opens the doors. Many riders are disappointed when the train arrives and finds out that their are only 2 conductors, or its a shorter train for their time, and people have to run to the nearest available door.
I understand that it doesn't make sense to announce conductor train coverage over various social media channels since it may prevent people from seeing more important information. One way to solve this problem is to have a numerical indicator as the train arrives that the train only has 2 conductors, regular commuters can change where they are standing and move to the front or rear of the train.
A more practical solution would be to put a 'star' indicator on the door window if that door will be open when the train stops. This also could serve as a benefit to those on the train that are looking to get off, they will know that it is an active door. There has been many times when I am standing by a door, and someone will ask if it's a door a conductor will open.
I believe having a universal symbol letting people know which door will be open at stops, can make taking the commuter rail stress free. It should also help those that don't take the train everyday understand the process.
Every morning commuters get a fresh first impression of the MBTA commuter rail, it would be good if the MBTA did something to help start the day off right. Until then, we'll all just hope that we are standing in the right place.