The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, March 7, 2008


The answer is blowin’ in the wind

The wind turbine has blown into town on the winds of March and is stirring up lively discussion.

One homeowner’s desire to become more energy independent by constructing a single wind turbine on his property has alarmed some of his neighbors who fear it could topple onto their property and are concerned about steady noise. Early in February, a permit to construct the wind turbine was revoked by the building department which had issued it weeks earlier. Town counsel then advised the Selectmen that a modification to the town’s bylaw on height exemptions would be required before a permit could be reissued. After concerns were raised that new language favoring wind turbine heights could bring challenges from wireless companies seeking to erect taller cellular towers, the Selectmen withdrew an article on modifying the bylaw from the Town Meeting Warrant.

Now around town and on line, the buzz is about wind systems as an alternative form of energy. Carlisle is hardly in the vanguard – reportedly more than 50 towns in Massachusetts have bylaws on such systems or are working on them. In Harvard, a citizens group bypassed the Planning Board which had dragged its feet on a wind systems bylaw, drafted a bylaw itself, and collected signatures for a citizens’ petition that has placed the bylaw before Town Meeting voters on March 29.

At the Carlisle Board of Selectmen’s meeting on March 4, advocates for alternative energy urged the Selectmen to form a study committee to draft a bylaw modification that will allow residents to take advantage of wind systems. The committee and its charter will be discussed at the next Selectmen’s meeting on March 11.

Wind turbines are the 21st-century heir of the pre-electricity windmills that once dotted Carlisle farms when this was a small rural town. The windmill used wind power to pump water for livestock and to grind grain. Welcoming wind turbines to Carlisle would be a link to the past while contributing to its future as a green town.

To these eyes, wind turbines are graceful, attractive and deliver a message of self-sufficiency and concern for the planet. I have seen wind farms in central Europe and found them visually appealing. I look forward to the forthcoming dialogue on wind turbines and no, I would not mind living next to one.

It is exciting to see the interest, energy and enthusiasm that wind power is generating in Carlisle, but the issues are complex and challenging. The new committee’s work will be intense, but it has the potential to bring the community together in a bold look to the future.

L33terally speaking

It was three lone keystrokes – a colon followed by a hyphen and a parenthesis – posted 25 years ago by professor Scott E. Fahlman on the electronic bulletin board at Carnegie Mellon University, that laid the foundation to an emerging web-based lexicon. The digital sideways “smiley” aka :-) was born.

Since then, a plethora of emoticons (icons depicting emotions) evolved, alongside a new dialect that branched away from computer labs to hackers’ lingo and web games to the chatrooms, forum talkbacks, blogs and text-messaging realms. That digital lexicon, called and pronounced Leet (derived from the word “elite”), can be spelled L33t, l337 or 1337, and uses numbers, letters and diacritics. A total of 68 character keys on an English-based keyboard gives the common user an expanded range of possibilities to which only screen size is the limit. Well, you probably get the picture, which in this case can be worth more than a 1,000 characters.

However, in a digital era in which smaller is better – mobile phones with integrated video capabilities, web and e-mail services, are becoming smaller and slimmer – we find ourselves forced to communicate and keep in touch within a screen frame that keeps shrinking.

Commonly dubbed as Leetspeak, this mixture of words is intentionally misspelled (most commonly derived of typos), cuts down vowels in favor of phonetic pronunciation and may use adjectives instead of verbs – thus creating a literally foreign jargon used by our uber-techy younger offspring.

Children today are exposed to the Internet early on, sometimes even before they can read and write. Universal symbols and emoticons make it a friendlier environment for them to take their first steps into cyberspace, as well as into reading and writing. They use social networking sites to connect and communicate with their classmates as well as with virtual friends half way around the world.

A series of essays titled “Microsoft speaks L33t” on Microsoft’s web site offers parents guidelines and suggested rules for Internet etiquette and online communication.

The 2005 independent film You, Me and Everyone We Know, in one of its sub plots, touches upon these issues. Left home unattended, a teenage youth strikes an online IM chat with a stranger, which consequently leads to his seven-year-old younger brother getting himself naively involved in a scatological dialog with that stranger through a series of copied and pasted cybersex chat excerpts, keyboards icons and words he can barely spell.

The scene, which might have won the film its Camera d’Or Award at the Cannes Film Festival, as well as roaring applause from the audience, clearly highlights the environment and jargon into which today’s children grow with such ease. Furthermore, and not in so many words, it depicts the ease of access of children to cyberspace, the potential danger of unsupervised Internet chats and Instant Messaging, and the consequences of lack of parental control and communication (when in a later scene the young boy actually meets the chatroom stranger in a park).

Some two and a half years ago, in a parents’ orientation session at our then-freshman daughter’s university, in her first question to the dozens of parents that filled the large lecture hall, the dean of students asked how many of us had heard of MySpace, Friendster or Facebook. Judging by the show of hands, not everybody was familiar with these social networking sites, and so we were all urged by her to ask and talk to our children about their world wide web.

At this digital age, parental awareness and open communication are still key elements in our relationship with the next generation.


© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito