The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, February 8, 2008


Old-fashioned paper and pencil

The Super Bowl and Super Tuesday are history. Now we can move on.

The heartache of 18-1 has begun to ease (hasn't it?). By the time Carlisleans cast their votes on Tuesday, cheerful faces in the Town Hall parking lot had replaced the sullen demeanor seen around town after the Patriots' defeat. Despite intermittent rain and some downpours, a party atmosphere prevailed outside Town Hall. At midday, moms with toddlers joined seniors in slogging through the muddy parking lot, while dodging cars waited to park. People were all smiles. Inside, in the Clark Room, election officials kept things moving briskly and efficiently.

Some polling places in the other 23 Super Tuesday states had previously suffered from voting machine glitches, computer malfunctions and balky touch screens, forcing election offices to switch to paper ballots. Several counties in California made the switch — in Stockton election officials were so concerned about computer hackers that they decertified their touch-screen computers and moved to paper.

For the most part, paper-balloting went smoothly across the country, although in one Chicago precinct, when voters complained that their marks didn't show up, they were told the "pens had invisible ink." The "pens" proved to be styluses meant for touch-screen machines, and now at least 15 votes are still unrecorded. In Colorado, the all-paper ballot system was termed "a tried and true election method that has worked for decades," by Governor Bill Ritter, whose state decertified its electronic voting machines last December because of technical problems.

Carlisle has always used paper ballots and our #2 stubby pencils would never be mistaken for styluses. Voters are proud of our old-fashioned but totally reliable system with its decidedly retro wooden ballot box. The most enviable position in town on any election day must be the official who cranks the handle allowing the box to swallow your ballot and count your vote. (This writer was voter #982 at 1:15 p.m.). This is a town where every vote counts.

Carlisle does have one automated balloting machine in the Clark Room. This is not a sign of future technological change; it is a machine to make voting more accessible for those with vision problems or other physical challenges. It was first used in Town Elections last May, and even its ultimate output is a paper ballot fed into the ballot box.

Elections are the truest expression of democracy and a dependable system of casting votes is fundamental to free and fair elections. With other states abandoning their expensive but often unreliable election machinery, it seems that Carlisle, with its paper ballots and tiny pencils, is in the avant-garde of election methods. Now onward to November 4!

In praise of the rotary and deer?!

We've lived here for 22 years, and all that time, I have wistfully considered myself a displaced urbanite. I lived in Manhattan for seven years as a young adult. The wildlife consisted of drunks and crazy people who occasionally strayed across my path.

Our move to Carlisle in 1985 was a shock to my system. The first night, the silence was deafening. I'd never seen such darkness. Every movement outside was a beautiful but menacing panther. I realized it was the first night in years I had not drowsed to the whine of sirens. For the next few years, I longed for an apartment building between our next-door neighbors and us. The neighbors were lovely, to be sure, but they were so far away!

Two kids through the schools and a move to a second address in Carlisle, I've grown to love my space and my big garden and to appreciate the charms of small-town life. But I nonetheless, quietly, thought myself simply on sabbatical from the big city.

Ha! The other day I carpooled with Superintendent Marie Doyle and School Committee Chair Nicole Burkel into Boston for our much awaited meeting with the Massachusetts School Building Authority (which went pretty well, by the way). I drove, and Nicole brought her GPS so we could find the Broad Street office. The poor GPS must have been exhausted after "her" constant "recalculating" of the route. My shifting ankle (the one I broke last year) got a stunning workout as I dodged the jaywalkers and lawful crossers alike. It was nerve-wracking in a way it simply never used to be.

Hours later, I was grateful for the simplicity of our rotary (and tolerant of those clueless passers-through who run the yield signs), the two-wayness of the roads, and the relative predictability, nay, orderliness, of deer crossing the road.

When the Mosquito came, I settled into John Bakewell's informative treatise on deer and their habits. And to my great surprise, after years of cursing their voracious appreciation of my landscaping, I found myself on the side of the deer. Sort of.

I've made and used some of the stinky repellents John mentioned. I've spread cuttings of hair. I've grown supposedly deer-resistant plants. I've tried without success to encourage the males in my family to relieve themselves outside. I've sent my dog out to scare away the herd; he's useless unless the deer approach his tennis balls (turkeys and woodchucks, similarly, do not impress him, but we think he growled at the bear once).

What has worked is our installation two years ago of an eight-foot high plastic netting deer fence. Deer broke through it the first month; they had got into the yard, by way of the driveway probably, had been spooked and run out the fence. After we repaired the break, I put up the recommended strips of visible tape all along the netting; the strips are gaudy, but they work. I've had no damage (from deer anyway). My beloved neighbor, with whom I worked for months to surround our adjoining yards, has seen deer walking up the driveway. But it seems they were just doing reconnaissance.

So I think this good fence has made me a better neighbor to the deer. I no longer have the desire to speed up as they cross the road (woodchucks are another matter). This, and my day in Boston, lead me to believe that maybe, just maybe, this is home.


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2008 The Carlisle Mosquito