Saturday, October 11, 2008

Todd Palin revs up crowd in Fremont




Todd Palin made a guest appearance today at the annual New Hampshire Snowmobile Grass Drags and Water Crossing competition in Fremont.
Just in case you've forgotten the name, Todd is known in Alaska as the "first dude" ... he's the husband of Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.
Anyhow, he got a warm welcome from many of the racers and fans who turned out for the big event. He wouldn't take any questions from the press, but trust me, we tried. Secret Service people were everywhere, along with lots of his campaign people who made sure we didn't ask anything, especially about the Troopergate scandal involving him and his wife.
All in all, it was a good time. Todd loves snowmobiles, so he seemed to be heaven.
Here's the story I wrote for the New Hampshire Sunday News:

By Jason Schreiber
Sunday News Correspondent
FREMONT - Surrounded by hundreds of snowmobiles and the sound of roaring engines, Todd Palin was in his element.
He may be the husband of a vice presidential candidate, but he didn’t look like one yesterday.
“He’s a blue collar guy,” John Stevens of Newmarket said after Palin took a moment to autograph his program guide.
Stevens was among the crowd of snowmobile fans who were revved up when Palin visited the New Hampshire Snowmobile Association’s annual Grass Drags and Water Crossing competition at the Brookvale Farm. In his first stop in New Hampshire since his wife, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, became the Republican vice presidential nominee, Todd Palin spent yesterday morning chatting with racers, checking out the newest sleds and watching snowmobilers race across grass and water.
The event was Palin’s only stop in New Hampshire before heading off to campaign in Maine later in the day.
Palin’s visit set the stage for his wife, who is expected to make her first campaign swing in New Hampshire next Wednesday.
A champion snowmobile racer in Alaska, Palin, 44, was comfortable with this racing crowd in his blue jeans and black Tesoro Iron Dog jacket. Before the races began, Palin briefly address the crowd and urged support for his wife and Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain.
He said he and his wife have toured the country, listening to the concerns and hopes of Americans.
“One thing is for sure,” Palin said, “voters across America from here in New Hampshire all the way to Alaska are looking for change in how business is done in Washington, and I can say I can’t blame them.”
Palin kept his remarks short because his visit was hardly about talking politics. He was more interested in hanging out with snowmobilers and learning about their cool machines.
Scott Allaire showed Palin the new Arctic Cat line up. Palin told Allaire what he liked and didn’t like about the machine he rode last year in Alaska’s Iron Dog, the world’s longest snowmobile race.
Palin was joined yesterday by his Alaskan buddy Martin Buser, a four-time champion of the Iditarod dog sled race, along with New Hampshire Sen. John E. Sununu.
He took no questions from reporters who trailed behind him every step of the way, even as he grabbed his sausage grinder from the Weare Winter Wanderers' concession stand.
Palin didn’t respond when asked for his reaction to a legislative investigator’s report released Friday that found his wife violated Alaska’s state ethics laws and abused her power as governor by trying to have her ex-bother-in-law fired as a state trooper. Gov. Palin has denied any wrongdoing.
There was no talk of the Troopergate scandal yesterday. Snowmobile fans cared more about the fact that Palin seemed like a “down to earth guy. They said they were glad to see someone campaigning who could relate to their way of life and the sport they love.
“I don’t think he would have been campaigning here if he wasn’t an enthusiast. He’s an outdoors’ guy,” said Allaire, 36, of Essex, Vt., who works as a district sales manager for Arctic Cat.
Palin picked a good event to hit as the crowd seemed largely Republican, though some in the crowd didn't know who he was. "Todd who?" was the response from a few spectators when asked for their reaction to his visit.
While there were some Democrats sprinkled in here and there, even they were leaning toward the Republican ticket this year.
Loyal Democrat Elaine Shuler, 60, of East Kingston, said she’ll be voting Republican this year for the first time.
Shuler said she was excited to meet Palin at the snowmobile drags, a sport she knew nothing about until she researched it online and saw it firsthand yesterday.
Carroll Higgins, 64, of Rochester, had his New England Patriots’ hat signed by Palin. He’s a registered Democrat, but this year he’s likely to vote for McCain.
Higgins, who has no health insurance and recently retired after losing his job at a company that makes car parts, said he just doesn’t trust Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama.
McCain’s decision to add Sarah Palin to the Republican ticket was a smart move, he said.
“She brought a breath of fresh air to the campaign,” Higgins said during his first visit to the grass drags.
Tim Leonard, 46, of Newmarket, is a registered Independent and is leaning toward McCain.
“I’m an avid snowmobiler like (Palin) and I can relate to him. He’s the type of guy that if you had a question you could ask him on a blue collar level and not get any BS,” Leonard said.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Get spooked at Haunted Acres


If you're looking for some frightening fun, you've gotta check out the Haunted Acres Halloween-theme park behind New England Dragway on Route 27 in Epping.


The place is absolutely incredible, if you like being scared out of your mind!

I went there tonight and, man, it was pretty frightening, but so much fun. They have dozens of actors who follow you around, popping out from every dark corner. The park has two haunted houses, a maze from hell, and a 1/4-mile nightmare walk. It is so well done, and the actors are fantastic.

It's definitely the most impressive haunted place I've ever seen. Just a word of caution: Don't bring the kids.

Check out their Web site, http://www.hauntedacresnh.com/.


I wrote a funny atory about a boat that was pulled from the dumped and used as a prop at the place. Here's the story for your reading pleasure.


EPPING - An unwanted speedboat dumped at the Epping landfill has found a new home deep in the spooky woods of Haunted Acres.

After learning about the boat sitting in a heap at the town dump, Haunted Acres co-owner John Tracy decided to put the boat to use in a pirate scene at his Halloween-themed park set up in a wooded area at the back of New England Dragway.

“They were glad to get rid of it,” Tracy said of the landfill workers who planned to simply bulldoze over the boat to bury it along with another boat and other trash.

Tracy stumbled across the boat after mentioning to a town employee that he was on the hunt for a boat to be used in a pirate scene. The worker told him about the boats at the landfill, so he went to take a look a couple of weeks ago.

The boat was pulled from the pile of trash and hauled over to Haunted Acres where it was covered with wooden planks and made to resemble a pirate shipwreck, complete with a large canon that fires puffs of fog as frightened visitors pass by.

“It’s actually a really cool scene at night,” Tracy said.

The shipwreck is now one of the newest features at the large theme park, which is set in an 1860s Western ghost town and includes haunted houses, a maze and a walk filled with frightening encounters.

Robert Gaucher, 19, of Newmarket, helped build the shipwreck scene and said it was his favorite at the park this year. When the fiberglass boat first arrived, Gaucher doubted that it could be transformed into a shipwreck. But after five days of work, the mission was accomplished.

“It came out pretty good,” said Gaucher, a maintenance and security worker at the park.

Some people who read a story about the boats left at the dump in the New Hampshire Union Leader recognized the boat at Haunted Acres and asked if it was the same one they saw in the paper, Tracy said.

Tracy is lucky he snagged the boat when he did because the town won’t be accepting boats in the future, selectmen said Monday. Selectman Dianne Gilbert joked that the dump won’t be taking returns, but Tracy said he has no plans to bring the boat back once his park closes after Halloween. He said he’ll continue using the pirate scene for a few more years, and after that, he’ll either trade the scene to another haunted park or sell it.

Tracy said he’s pleased with how the pirate scene turned out and the rest of the displays at the park, which opened last weekend.

“Everything came out really well. We’re hoping for a good season,” he said.

Haunted Acres will be open Thursday-Sunday until Nov. 1. For more information, visit the park’s Web site, www.hauntedacresnh.com.


Palin Power coming to Fremont


Rumor has it that Todd Palin, the husband of Republican vice presidential pick Sarah Palin, is headed to Fremont this weekend for the New Hampshire Snowmobile Association's annual grass drags and water crossing competition.

As we all know, Palin, better known as Alaska's "first dude," is a champion snowmobiler, so he'd be in his element campaigning for his wife at the biggest snowmobile event in the Northeast, perhaps even the country.

I don't have all the details just yet on the possible visit, but I'll be out there to report on it if and when he arrives. Sarah Palin herself will be in the state next Wednesday, making several campaign stops, so be on the lookout.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Vandals target Seacoast United Soccer Club


Now here's a story that'll get your blood boiling, especially if you're among the many soccer parents who enjoy having Seacoast United Soccer Club's spectacular field complex right in our backyard in Epping.

Vandals hit the complex this week and made a huge mess that'll cost at least $15,000 to fix. It's really sad. Declan's Fremont travel team played there on Sunday for the first time and it was perfect. The next day vandals decided to leave their mark.


Here's the scoop.

By Jason Schreiber
Union Leader Correspondent
EPPING - Vandals caused more than $15,000 in damage to a soccer field complex Monday night when they sliced apart soccer nets and large banners, fired paintballs, flipped over portable toilets and drove across one of the fields.

Police are now searching for the culprits behind the vandalism spree at Seacoast United Soccer Club’s outdoor facility on Shirkin Road.

“I don’t know if somebody was trying to be vindictive or wanted to have some fun, but it was just sickening. It’s nothing more than just a kick in the teeth,” said Paul Willis, the club’s executive director.

The damage to Field 4 was discovered late Monday afternoon when members of a team showed up for practice. As many as 14 large banners advertising the names of sponsors were cut up with a knife, along with the soccer nets. The field was littered with the banners and trash that was left behind by the vandals.

Willis said paintballs had also been shot at the shelters that cover the area where players sit. The players and staff cleaned up the mess.

“It was disappointing for the kids down at the field to come and see it. I had boys coming up to me saying, “Why would somebody do this?’” Willis said.

Police Sgt. Sean Gallagher said it was the first case of vandalism at the Seacoast United complex since it opened in Epping in 2006. The club, which has an indoor facility in Hampton, draws players from around New England who regularly use the outdoor facility, which includes four fields made from expensive artificial turf.

Gallagher said it was obvious that a vehicle had driven over Field 4. A tire mark was left on the field when the vehicle apparently accelerated. While a gate is locked at the entrance to the complex, Gallagher said he believes the vandals managed to get around the gate with the vehicle.

Police have no suspects at this time, but Seacoast United is offering a reward for information in the case.

“The damage seems more like it was from juveniles, but who knows,” Gallagher said.

The vandalism stunned parents who showed up for practices last night. “I don’t understand it. Why would somebody want to do that?” asked Lise Cheney of Bow, whose daughter plays on a U11 team.

Parent Karen Stevens of Londonderry had the same questions. Not only did they cause thousands in damage, but the vandals also “hurt the kids who play here because it disrupted their time.”

Christine Eichholz of Stratham said the club has done so much for the community, noting how it has tried to be a good neighbor by allowing Epping and Fremont teams to use the fields.

Anyone with information about the vandalism is urged to call Epping police at 679-5122.

Friday, September 19, 2008

All Aboard! GMA coming to Exeter

I'm still trying to nail down the details, but I've heard that the crew from "Good Morning America" will be making a stop in Exeter on Sept. 24 on their "Whistle Stop" tour. They're visiting several states on an antique train in the weeks leading up to the presidential primary. In the end, the crew will have visited all 50 states over the next 50 days. I'm researching the details of the stop for a story I'm writing, so I'll post here just in case someone wants to check out the crew when they arrive.

Coffin for sale: $150

If you drive along Route 107 in Fremont you've probably noticed a very creepy item for sale on the side of the road. For the past couple of weeks a pine box coffin has been sitting outside a residence near the Poplin Cafe, waiting for a taker. It's wide open with a For Sale sign on it. The coffin carries a price tag of $150. I must admit the coffin is tempting with Halloween around the corner, but I don't think my wife would appreciate it sitting on my front lawn. It could make a good birthday gift for someone turning 40. If you're interested, call 895-9470.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Warning to telemarketers: Don't mess with me

I finally did it. I called the cops on a telemarketing firm that was really ticking me off. I'm sure I'm not the only one who's been getting these calls that show up on caller ID as "Chartered Marketing." They started a few weeks ago and they seemed to come at least once a day. The problem is that when I answered to tell them not to call again, there was never another person on the other end. It was completely dead. I put up with this for three weeks, and finally blew my stack. I don't even know why I waited for three weeks to fight back.
Anyhow, last week I called the number back from caller ID and I blasted the supervisor. I told her that if I got another call from them that I would be contacting local authorities to report them for phone harassment. My argument: When there's no one there for you to tell not to call again, it makes it difficult for you to put a stop to the repeated calls, which I now considered to be harassment. The supervisor told me that it could take up to a month for my phone number to be removed from the system. Still, I warned her that I would be calling the cops if another call came.

Well, sure enough, the next day, at 5 p.m., right as I was attempting to sit down to dinner, the call came. I immediately picked up the phone, and when no one was there to reply, I hung up and called police. I never expected an officer to come to my house to take a report, but within 10 minutes he was knocking on my door. You can imagine the look on my wife's face when the police pulled in to speak with me about a telemarketer. "Just don't answer the phone," she'd tell me. Well, I have a hard time letting this type of stuff slide. I was too annoyed not to do something.

I explained the situation to the officer and provided the telemarketer's phone number. He said he would contact them to see about putting a stop to the calls. Whatever he said must have worked because I haven't received a call since. Sometimes you have to take drastic steps to restore order in your house. The constant calls just added to the mayhem in my house filled with the sounds of sibling battles over who got the bigger pancake or the most crackers.

While the telemarketing calls have stopped, the political polling ones are now starting. Tonight I got one from some group of Democrats. I didn't answer. Hopefully I won't have to call the cops on them.

Lawsuit over student's suicide dismissed

For the past several months I've been covering this tragic case in Raymond of a student who killed himself one day after school following his suspension. The case raised many questions about whether a school and its teachers can be held legally responsible for a suicide. Take a look and see if you agree with the judge, who has now dismissed the case.

By Jason Schreiber
Union Leader Correspondent

RAYMOND - A judge has dismissed a wrongful death suit against the Raymond School District and a teacher, saying they can’t be blamed for the death of a middle school student who hanged himself after problems at school.

Rockingham County Superior Court Judge Kenneth McHugh found that neither the school district nor former special education teacher Susan Allen are legally responsible for seventh-grader Joshua Markiewicz’s death in January 2005.

Markiewicz, then 13-year-old student at Iber Holmes Gove Middle School, used a belt to hang himself in his bedroom closet after he was suspended from school. Before the suicide, he wrote notes on his forearm that said, “I hate Ms. Allen,” “Death,” and “I hope she suffers.”

The suit brought by the boy’s mother, Heidi Mikell of Deerfield, accused the school district and its teachers of branding her son as a troublemaker and driving him to kill himself.

“Whenever a 13-year-old child commits suicide that is a most tragic event. There can be many causes for such action and it is difficult to identify them after the fact. There is a natural tendency for loved ones to want to assess blame against any and all persons that may have interacted with the decedent in a negative way prior to his death. However, legal responsibility is something that cannot be left to speculation or wishful thinking. Here the facts as a matter of law do not translate into legal responsibility for either Susan Allen or School Administrative Unit 33 with respect to the death of Joshua Markiewicz,” McHugh wrote in his Sept. 3 order, which was made available to the public this week.

The lawsuit claimed that the suicide might have stemmed partly from an incident Joshua had with Allen on the day before his death. On that day, Allen accused Joshua of referring to two candy mints as “medicine.” Joshua denied making the statement.

According to the lawsuit, Allen “winked” at him as she reported the incident to the school’s vice principal, suggesting that she lied about the medicine statement and the wink was an attempt to make Joshua realize that he had no power. Joshua insisted that it was Allen who referred to the mints as medicine.

The lawsuit also claimed that Joshua had made suicidal threats at school in the weeks before his death, but McHugh found no evidence to suggest that Allen knew about those threats on the day of the incident with the mints. McHugh wrote that Allen could no have reason to believe that her interaction with Joshua on the day before the suicide would have resulted in his death the next day.

Joshua wasn’t suspended over the mint incident and returned to school the next day. “It was the incident that took place on the day of his death … January, 19, 2005, that would seem to have been much more likely to have caused (Joshua) to make the decision to take his life. On that morning the decedent tipped over a desk and allegedly called his teacher a bitch. It was for that conduct that he was suspended and his mother was asked to pick him up. The decedent then committed suicide at his home a few hours later,” McHugh wrote.

The ruling also addressed Joshua’s suicide notes. The fact that Joshua “left a suicide note claiming he hated everyone and further that he wrote Ms. Allen’s name on his arm and professed his hatred for her has no relevance to the court’s judgment in determining whether or not the conduct of Ms. Allen on January 18, 2005, could have reasonably fit into the category of intentional infliction of emotional distress.”

Middle school guidance counselor Lindy Moule had also been named as a defendant in the suit, but the court recently dismissed her from the case. It was unclear yesterday whether Mikell would appeal. Neither Mikell’s lawyer, William B. Pribis, nor Allen’s lawyer, John P. Fagan, returned phone calls seeking comment. Mikell has an unlisted phone number and could not be reached yesterday.

One rough ride in a hot air balloon

The hot air balloon sits on the ground after landing in Sandown Friday morning.

I always thought it'd be fun to take a ride in a hot air balloon someday...then I had to cover a story on a balloon that had an unexpected "hard landing" last weekend and left a passenger with some pretty serious injuries. I still think it could be a great experience, but it's good to know the risks.

By Jason Schreiber

Union Leader Correspondent

SANDOWN - Ralph Avery was given a hot air balloon ride for his Father’s Day gift, but his ride yesterday didn’t end quite the way he expected after he was injured when the balloon landed hard in a resident’s backyard.

Avery, 63, of East Bridgewater, Mass., was one of seven people riding in the yellow smiley face balloon from Derry-based High 5 Ballooning when it landed in an open area behind a home at 105 Main St.

Fire officials said Avery suffered ankle injuries when the balloon landed harder than expected. Avery was transported to Parkland Medical Center in Derry for treatment.

Fire Chief Bill Tapley said he didn’t know the extent of Avery’s injuries. “He was in good spirits. I think he just twisted his ankles,” he said. Avery could not be reached comment.

Tony Sica, the owner of the balloon company who was piloting the balloon, said the winds picked up unexpectedly, causing the landing to be harder than usual.

“Most landings are soft, but when the winds pick in a balloon, you’re going to have a hard landing,” Sica said.

As he prepared for landing, Sica said he tried to slow the balloon by lowering it into the treetops.

The balloon left yesterday morning from Salem. A hot air balloon pilot for 13 years, Sica said he checked the weather conditions before taking off and everything looked good.

“There was no indication that there would be adverse wind conditions,” he said.

Sica warned the passengers to brace for a hard landing when he realized that the wind would make it tough. “When the winds pick up you draw on your experiences as a pilot to get the passengers down as safely as you can,” he said.

Main Street neighbor Jean Martin was inside his house getting ready to work in his garage when the balloon landed. When the balloon finally came to a stop, Martin went over to check on the passengers. He said he saw a man, later identified as Avery, having trouble standing up. “I felt bad for him,” he said of Avery, “but it’s just one of those things.”

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Rescuing lifeguards are revealed

I must apologize for failing to identify the lifeguard in the photo I posted Sunday after the skydiver was rescued during a skydiving demonstration by Skydive New England over Hampton Beach. My story was posted on the New Hampshire Union Leader's Web site, http://www.unionleader.com/, and several people wanted to know who the lifeguards were. Actually, it seems the women who commented were more interested in being rescued by hunky lifeguards.

I have since learned that there were three lifeguards involved in this rescue. The lifeguard in my photo, which, by the way, appeared last night on WMUR-TV, was Nick Africano. He managed to find my blog and posted a comment explaining what happened. Here's what he had to say.
"It's awesome you were there to catch that story and great timing with the picture. I want to give some credit to the guards who got to him well before I did. When he landed in the water two guards swam out for him, Dan Ryan and Pat Murphy. They made first contact and made sure he was OK until I got to him with a rescue board."

Thanks for providing more details, Nick. There was such a large crowd on the beach that I lost sight of the rescuing lifeguards as I was trying to interview the skydiver. With deadline approaching, I had to rush to get the story done and the photo sent in, so I didn't have time to track down the lifeguards that night. Hopefully I'll be able to follow up with them to give them proper credit in the newspaper.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Oops! Winds blow skydiver off course


Here's my shot of a lifeguard high-fiving the skydiver he rescued from the ocean off Hampton Beach.

So I took Kathy and the kids to see the Hampton Beach Seafood Festival this afternoon. I covered it for the paper yesterday and was just amazed at all the delicious seafood at reasonable prices and the entertainment and other fun stuff, so I figured they'd enjoy it. Plus, a skydiving demonstration was planned for the afternoon and I knew the kids would dig that.

The highlight of the afternoon was, of course, the skydivers. Watching them being dropped from the sky over Hampton Beach was amazing. But it seems the news follows me everywhere. With thousands watching on, one of the skydivers got blown into the ocean. It was quite a sight seeing this poor skydiver landing about a half-mile out in the ocean instead of the beach, which is where he was supposed to end up.

Luckily I had my pen, reporter's notebook, and camera to capture it all, leaving the family in the dust.

For more details, read the story below.

By Jason Schreiber
Union Leader Correspondent

HAMPTON - Thousands of spectators watching a skydiving demonstration at Hampton Beach got quite a scare yesterday when strong winds blew one of the skydivers about a half-mile out into the ocean.

Skydiver Fred Cotreau was dropped from the plane buzzing over the crowded beach and said he knew he was in trouble within a matter of minutes. He was supposed to land on the beach like the others, but the wind pushed him too far out.

Many in the crowd gasped as the 43-year-old Cotreau dropped into the rough ocean waters stirred up by Tropical Storm Hanna. A lifeguard rushed into the water to rescue Cotreau, who escaped injury.

Cotreau, co-owner of Skydive New England, was among 11 skydivers who performed in the demonstration around 5 p.m. yesterday as part of the Hampton Beach Seafood Festival.

“I was trying to get home,” a soaked Cotreau announced to the crowd as people cheered his safe return to the beach.

In his 18 years of skydiving, Cotreau said this was the first time he’s ever had a water landing. The incident frightened spectators who feared that he would become tangled up in his parachute and drown.

When she realized that he had missed the landing, Kendra Ferm of Raymond said she worried about whether he could swim, especially in the ocean swells.

Others thought the ocean landing was part of the plan. “Initially we thought it was part of the act, but it was obvious when the lifeguard went out that someone was in trouble. It’s scary stuff,” said Maurice Consoli of Groveland, Mass.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Cell phones and gas pumps don't mix

You learn something new everyday, and last week I was shocked to learn that using a cell phone while pumping gas could create a hazard,

I haven't researched this to find out why it's so dangerous, but I happened to actually read the warning sign posted on the gas pump...you know, the one that warns you to shut your car off when you pump, don't light up ... stuff like that.

Anyhow, I noticed that one of the recommendations was to avoid cell phone use. Can a cell phone really cause a gas explosion if you use it while pumping? If there's an expert out there in cell phone usage and potential gas station infernos, please shed some light.

One batty burglary

Thieves who broke into an Epping residence under the cover of darkness may have a bat to thank for keeping the homeowners sound asleep during their burglary.
Police said the couple didn’t hear a thing when the thieves broke in and stole their 52-inch TV and other belongings, possibly because they closed their bedroom door earlier in the night to keep a bat from flying in while they slept.
The couple usually leaves their bedroom door open at night, but they had closed it on the night of the burglary after they were up late trying unsuccessfully to get a bat out of the main part of the house.
Officers were called to the Jenness Road residence just before 4 a.m. on Sept. 1 when the homeowners eventually awoke and discovered the burglary.
Police Chief Gregory Dodge said the thieves entered the house after removing a screen from a front window.
The homeowners were sleeping at the time of the break-in but were later awakened by their barking dog.
When the husband went to bring the dog outside, he discovered the TV was gone.
“They heard nobody come in and nobody leave. They were reacting to the dog barking,” Dodge said.
Given the size of the TV, Dodge said it appears that more than one thief was involved in the burglary.
In addition to the TV, a knife and digital camera were also taken. The female homeowner’s purse was also found emptied out in the backyard with items taken, Dodge said.
It seems the thieves were careful not to make too much racket. Dodge said they removed items that were sitting on a shelf near the window and placed them in the back yard so that they wouldn’t knock them over. Dodge described the burglary as unusual, saying it’s uncommon for thieves to break in while the homeowners are inside.
Detectives recovered evidence from the scene, including fingerprints that are currently bring processed. Dodge said police have suspects.
Police have received no other reports of either daytime or nighttime burglaries in the Jenness Road area.
Anyone with information about the case is urged to call the Epping Police Department’s Detective Division at 679-5122.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Marketing gimmick is really juvenile

Anyone who's a parent will be able to relate. It's back to school time and we're all hitting the stores to get the kids' fall wardrobe in good shape. Shopping for clothes with young kids is hard enough, but these days it's even more difficult because the freakin' clothes designers have decided to start attaching toys to the clothing to reel the kids in.

While shopping at Kohl's we discovered mini radios, skateboards and other toys hanging from the clothes on the racks. It's crazy. Getting a prize in box of Frosted Flakes is one thing, but dangling a skateboard from a Tony Hawk shirt is another. These toys jack up the prices and attract the kids who, of course, want the toy more than the clothes. Something just isn't right here.

Watch out for West Nile


Time to lather up in Deet.
New Hampshire health officials today confirmed the first case of West Nile virus in mosquitoes found in Kensington. Just when we thought we'd escape the threat of a mosquito-borne illness, West Nile pops up...and you can bet Eastern equine encephalitis isn't far behind.

Here's my story appearing in tomorrow's New Hampshire Union Leader.
By Jason Schreiber
Union Leader Correspondent
KENSINGTON - The town will begin spraying today around the school, town hall and a local park after mosquitoes tested positive for West Nile virus.
State health officials announced yesterday that the state’s first positive case of mosquitoes carrying the disease was found in a mosquito pool in a swamp near the town hall.
The discovery has put state and local officials on heightened alert as they hunt for more mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus and Eastern equine encephalitis, both potentially fatal diseases spread through mosquito bites.
Officials said the positive test came a little later than they expected, but that people shouldn’t let their guard down.
“The fact that it’s later in the season gives us some comfort, but at the same time we want people to be proactive and protect themselves,” said Jason Stull, state public health veterinarian and assistant clinical professor at the University of New Hampshire.
While no mosquitoes were found carrying West Nile virus in New Hampshire last year, six mosquito pools, two animals, and three people tested positive for EEE.Kensington is one of many towns across the state with a mosquito-control program to fight the spread of the potentially deadly diseases.
After learning about the positive test, selectmen and school officials met yesterday with Michael Morrison of Municipal Pest Management to prepare a plan of action. The plan will include spraying to kill adult mosquitoes around Kensington Elementary School, the town hall and Sawyer Park.
The school plans to notify parents about the discovery and the protective measures they should take to keep their children safe.
The town took steps to kill mosquito larvae in the spring.
Mosquitoes infected with West Nile virus have been popping up recently in eastern Massachusetts and Connecticut.
“We kind of saw it coming,” said Morrison, who provides mosquito control in Kensington.
The state began testing mosquitoes on June 1. In this case, mosquitoes were collected on Aug. 19 and the positive test was found when the results came back yesterday.As of Aug. 23, the state’s public health lab had tested 5,676 mosquito pools, four animals, and 118 human specimens from across the state for EEE and West Nile virus.
“We have continued our surveillance efforts this year for these diseases and will enhance local efforts as needed through state-sponsored mosquito trapping,” Dr. Jose Montero, the state’s director of public health, said in a statement. “I am hopeful that this (West Nile virus and Eastern equine encephalitis) season will be short and that we will have an early frost, but people should continue to be vigilant with prevention measures such as wearing mosquito repellant until that time…”

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Epping balloon festival taking you to new heights

Some will come seeking a thrilling ride aboard a colorful hot air balloon. Others will come for the wide variety of food, music, and other entertainment.
But everyone who attends the 8th annual Highnote Balloon and Music Festival will come for the same reason: To honor the legacy of Adam McPhee.
The festival will be held Saturday, Sept. 6, from 2 p.m. until dark at the grounds of the Governor Prescott House on the McPhee family farm on Prescott Road in Epping where Adam’s name is grown in the hay field as a memorial.
The festival is held each year to raise money for the Adam McPhee Memorial Foundation and awareness of people with disabilities.
Adam was born with disabilities and was the first student to enter Epping High School with a special inclusion program.
The McPhee family established a fund in Adam's name after he died in 1999, the same year he graduated from Epping High School. Money raised supports local charities and provides scholarships for students who choose a career working with people with disabilities.Over the years, the festival has become not only a celebration for family and friends who knew Adam but a community event that draws as many as 500 people each year to the McPhee farm. The festival has raised about $50,000 for the foundation since it began.
“Adam was very special to the family and to be able to help others in our community and outside our community with the fundraiser is more than enough to keep everybody enthusiastic about it,” said Adam’s brother, Cory McPhee of Epping. “It really has become a staple event in the community, almost like an old home day event.”
Tickets to the festival cost $15 for adults; children and high school students are free. While the music and other events at the festival are held rain or shine, the hot air balloon rides and a fireworks display are weather permitting.
Tethered balloon rides will begin at 5 p.m. Private balloon flights will be available for morning and afternoon departure by appointment by calling pilot Bob Russell at 895-3909.
Music will include performances by Oncoming Traffic, Matt & Howard, and Wayne from Maine with percussionist Jimmy James, the “KoongaBoonga Man.”
Other activities include mechanical bull rides, hay rides, arts and crafts for children of all ages, local artisan exhibit booths, and a horseshoe tournament. Food will be provided by Goody Cole’s Smokehouse and Zampa Restaurant.
For more information, visit the Web site for the festival, www.highnotefest.com.
Additional donations can be made to The Adam McPhee Memorial Foundation, 174 Prescott Road, Epping, N.H., 03042.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tips keep coming in case of teen missing since 1980

The top photo is of Rachel Garden when she was 15 and disappeared in Newton, N.H.
The bottom photo shows store owner Peter Jewett standing next to a missing person poster hung up at his store in East Kingston within the last week. He is believed to be one of the last to see Rachel before she went missing.
I wrote an update for the paper this week on the search for a Newton teenager, Rachel Garden, who went missing in 1980. While it might seem like a cold case, police are still chasing down leads, hoping to find some clues to point them in the right direction. They've even begun posting new missing person posters around the area, even after all this time has passed.

I had a chance to briefly interview Rachel's father this week for the story that appeared in today's paper.

Here's the story:

By Jason Schreiber
Union Leader Correspondent

NEWTON - It’s been 28 years since he last saw his 15-year-old daughter Rachel, but Stuart Garden still holds out hope that she’s out there somewhere.
“If she is alive, she’s not around here, there’s no question about that, and if she is alive, she’d have another life,” the 70-year-old Garden said yesterday as he reflected on the years of searches that have so far turned up nothing.

Rachel vanished without a trace on the night of March 20, 1980, after leaving Rowe’s Corner Market. The young teenager came into the store that night as she often did, bought a pack of Marlboro Lights, handed Peter Jewett a $5 bill, and went on her way.

“I was leaning against the counter and watched her cross the street. She went down Maple Avenue and that’s the last I saw of her,” recalled Jewett, who owned the local convenience store at the time and is believed to be one of the last people to see Rachel before she was gone.

Over the years, the Garden family has hunted for clues along with state and local police investigators who have followed up on countless leads that have led them to dig in Kingston, Newton and other areas. They’ve searched by air and water, and in recent months, scoured a pond in Kingston to check out a tip.

Private detectives and even psychics have been brought in as well, but still there are no answers for Rachel’s family, her friends, and the police investigators who can only wonder what happened.

In hopes of generating new leads, police within the last week have begun posting new missing person posters in the area with information about Rachel and two photographs, one of Rachel when she was a teenager and another generated by a computer to show how she might look today if she were still alive.

The case is still officially classified as a non-family abduction, but authorities have suggested that she may have been kidnapped and murdered. Others speculate that could have run away.

While Rachel’s father appreciates the work of some of the investigators, he raised questions about the way some of the searches have been handled. “I believe some of the searches that they’re doing are not valid,” he said, declining to elaborate.

The recent effort to hang new missing person posters “doesn’t hurt,” he said, but posters were put up when she first disappeared with little luck. During the initial investigation, there was little publicity about her disappearance, but the Gardens tried to get the word out by hanging posters and giving posters to truckers to post across the country during their road trips.

One truck driver who lived across the street from the Gardens actually claimed to have possibly seen her while he was in Florida shortly after she went missing, but the claim could never be confirmed.

“As time goes on you don’t think much of it because you’ve accepted certain things, but there’s always the thing in the back of your mind that she’s out there,” said Stuart Garden, whose family moved from Newton to Center Harbor about five years after Rachel disappeared.

Like others who knew her, Jewett has always wondered where Rachel went after she left his store.

Jewett, 66, sold the Newton store 24 years ago and now owns Jewett’s General Store in East Kingston.

Jewett knew Rachel and her family well. They were frequent customers and lived just down the street. Jewett described Rachel as a “mini Phyllis Diller,” saying she was an outgoing young teenager who was so full of life.

“I would give anything to have the case solved in my lifetime,” Jewett said. “I would really like to know.”

Anyone with information in the case is urged to contact the New Hampshire State Police Major Crimes Unit at 271-2663.

Coyotes on the prowl

Here's yet another warning about wild animals lurking in your backyard. It's not the bears this time...it's the coyotes. In fact, I've got a pack hanging out behind my house and the other day one of youngest members of the family went dashing across our back lawn. I can handle the flock of 15 turkeys, but the idea of a crazy coyote prowling around doesn't sit too well.

In any case, Kingston police are telling pet owners to keep a close eye on their pets and other domestic animals after a coyote killed a chicken and a duck. The coyote attack occurred on Aug. 11 at a home on Exeter Road where a family keeps ducks and chickens in a secure pen.

Police Chief Donald Briggs Jr. told me that the coyote apparently managed to get into the pen and killed a chicken and a duck. The remaining animals were then removed and put into crates inside the house to protect them.

Police occasionally receive reports of coyotes attacking domestic animals. Even when the animals are secured, Briggs said coyotes can still work their way in.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Pond scum can make you sick

A view of Country Pond in Kingston.
This is kinda frightening. The state put out a warning today about swimming in Country Pond in Kingston because of high levels of a blue-green algae known as cyanobacteria. Apparently ponds across New Hampshire are seeing high levels of this pond scum, and it's extremely dangerous if you ingest it accidentally. It can even be fatal, although fortunately no deaths have been reported in New Hampshire.
This is just good information to know if you swim in a pond or lake here, especially this year when the levels are higher than they've been in 10 years.

Here's my story appearing in tomorrow's New Hampshire Union Leader. This spells out just how bad this is and how serious we all should take it.

By Jason Schreiber
Union Leader Correspondent
KINGSTON - Swimmers and pet owners who use Country Pond were warned yesterday to stay out of the water after the state found high levels of cyanobacteria, a potentially dangerous pond scum that’s been more prevalent because of this summer’s morning sun followed by torrential rains.
“It’s very serious,” warned Jody Connor, limnology director for the state Department of Environmental Services. Country Pond is the latest pond in Kingston to show high levels of the blue-green algae that can release sickening toxins into the water.
Since July 22, the state has issued warnings for Greenwood Pond, Great Pond, and Half Moon Pond in Kinston. Those warnings remain in effect and are among more than a dozen warnings that have been issued for ponds and lakes across the state this summer.
“If you’re in an area where (the scum) is very thick, that’s where you’re going to find the most health effects,” Connor said. Fears over cyanobacteria prompted Boy Scout officials from the Yankee Clipper Council to call off water activities on Country Pond. The Lone Tree Scout Reservation is located along Country Pond, which is often used by the scouts. Council members said yesterday that the pond wouldn’t be used by the scouts until tests come back clean.
With excess phosphorus and ample sunlight, cyanobacteria blooms often form surface scums that are bright green or blue-green and resemble paint chips or bright green balls floating in the water. The cyanobacteria carry toxins in their cells which break down and are released into the water or a person who may accidentally ingest them in the water.
Connor said dogs who swim in areas with a high concentration of cells can drink the water or get the water on their fur, which they then lick off when they get out of the water. Some cyanobacteria produce toxins than can cause acute and chronic health effects ranging from skin and mucous membrane irritations, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea to damage to liver and the central nervous system.
Depending on the amount of toxins ingested, a pet or person could experience convulsions, seizures, or liver disease.
While there have been no reported deaths from the toxins in New Hampshire, Connor said they can be fatal. Deaths have been documented in other states, he said. Connor blames this summer’s weather conditions for creating the high levels of cyanobacteria, which he said are the worst the state has seen in the last 10 years.
The cynobacteria has thrived on the sunny mornings and the heavy bursts of rain in the afternoons where runoff has carried more materials into the ponds.
“A lot of lakes and ponds have low concentrations, but when given the right materials and right amount of food everything is ultimate for their growth. They produce at a high rate and that’s when they become dangerous,” Connor said.
More information on cyanobacteria can be found on the Web site for the state Department of Environmental Services, www.des.nh.gov/beaches.

Stroke commercial nothing to laugh at

I'm sure some of you have already seen this commercial floating around on YouTube, but I just had to share it for those of you who may not have seen it yet. It's essentially a public service announcement put out by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to drive home the warning signs of a stroke. I know this probably sounds like a total bore, but believe me, it's worth a look. The commercial has a serious message, but I'll admit, it had me in stitches. You'll know what I mean after you see it. I give the creators some credit for coming up with a clever way to get their message out. Even though I laughed until I cried, the message stuck: FAST (Face, Arm, Speech, Time)

Check it out:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCvIMy_dTmQ

Friday, August 15, 2008

Heads up for possible hurricane

I know I'm probably overreacting, but I just read a blog from one of my favorite meteorologists over at Accuweather (Henry Margusity) and he put out a warning today for New Englanders to be on alert for a possible hurricane late next week. Now I know it's really early in the game and these storms always change course, but New England is long over due for a big hurricane and it looks like conditions could be ripe for a biggie here. Don't forget...the last time I issued my own warning on my blog about a bad weather week here in New Hampshire, we had a tornado.
Here's the link to Henry's blog entry from today where he warns of the threat next week.
http://www.accuweather.com/mt-news-blogs.asp?partner=accuweather&blog=Meteomadness&pgurl=/mtweb/content/Meteomadness/archives/2008/08/east_coast_big_daddy_hurricane_possible_next_week.asp

Bear cub is back in Kingston

Just wanted to give a quick update on the bear sightings in Kingston. It seems the bear cub has returned. He was spotted by a few residents over the past few days in the Main Street area. The mother bear was seen again a few weeks ago around North Road. I figured I'd pass it along just in case you thought the bears had left. It seems they must be making their home in the Kingston area, so if you live in Kingston, you'd better accept the fact that they've moved into the neighborhood because Fish and Game isn't going to do anything about them.

Here's the scoop on Friendly's


Ahhh...summertime in New England. They say we New Englanders eat more ice cream than anyone else in the country, and I believe it. We're always on the hunt for the best ice cream in town.

While I'm a big fan of buying from local ice cream shops, this summer I rediscovered an oldie but goodie: Friendly's Ice Cream in Exeter, N.H. It had been years since I'd stepped foot in Friendly's, but earlier this summer I happened to stop there with the kids and I was amazed at the price. We got three kiddie cones (they're more like a regular small because they had about a scoop and a half of ice cream) for about $3, including tax. I'm not joking. The kiddie cones are a buck! It's the best deal around, especially when you're buying for a family.

Now, don't get me wrong, there's still something special about the local shops. I still enjoy a cone from the Wright Place in Stratham (formerly Hodgie's), Memories in Kingston, and Jimmy Lee's, also in Kingston, but this summer, with ice cream prices on the rise, I can tell you that I've made more stops at Friendly's. And, unlike years ago when I visited Friendly's and it seemed more like Angry's because of the waitstaff, things have changed. The waitstaff at the Exeter Friendly's has been phenomenal. So, if you're passing by, swing in for some good old-fashioned ice cream at a good price.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Breathtaking ceremony now an Olympic disappointment

Like everyone else, I was captivated by the elaborate opening ceremony to the summer Olympics in Bejing. How could you not marvel at the thousands of talented Chinese performers, the extraordinary musical selections, and the brilliant fireworks displays that danced across the sky? It was truly a spectacular event that will be one for the Olympic history books. I read today that it was the second most watched program on NBC after this year's Super Bowl.

Unfortunately, for the past two mornings I've woken up to news reports about how some of the things we saw weren't quite as amazing as we thought. I'm sure you've all heard by now, but just in case you live under a rock and never open a newspaper or flip on the TV news, the fireworks we saw that night were FAKE! Remember those incredible feet walking across Bejing to the stadium? Thank China's version of Hollywood because they were nothing more than computer-generated images for our viewing pleasure. And then, what's worse, this morning we learned that that cute 9-year-old Chinese girl who sang so brilliantly and seemed to be a singing sensation really WASN'T SINGING! What? How can this be? Well, turns out the girl who really sang the song was a 7 year old who just didn't pass China's cuteness test to make it on TV. The music director admitted that in the days before the ceremony it was decided that a cuter girl would have to lip sync the song. Imagine being the parents of that 7-year-old who had to tell her that she could record the song, but that she wasn't allowed to sing on stage because she wasn't cute enough! I wonder what we'll wake up to tomorrow. I'm telling you, if I find out that those 2,008 drummers were all computer-generated as well I think I'm going to call for a boycott of the games.

Now, I can only hope that Celine Dion is really singing when Kathy and I see her in concert in Boston tomorrow night. You can bet I'll be demanding a refund if I notice her mouth moving and no words coming out. Then again, we'll be sitting so far back we won't see her anyhow.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

A freakish fungus find in Fremont

Collin and Brendan Rand pose with the big mushroom found in the backyard of their Fremont home.

I swear, this mushroom is one for the record books.

I got a call this week from Tracey Rand in Fremont who told me that I should swing by her Fremont home to get a shot of the huge mushroom found in the Rands' backyard. She told me it was the biggest she'd ever seen. While I didn't doubt that it was big, I didn't think the thing was THAT big. Well, she was right. I stopped by Thursday night and couldn't believe what I was seeing. This massive puff mushroom measured about 20 inches in diameter! That's right, folks...20 inches!!!!!!! The thing is a monster. Unfortunately, they plucked it from the ground. Had they left it the thing probably would be continued to grow in all this damp weather.

In working on a story about the big mushroom find, I learned that some veterinarians are seeing an increase in the number of mushroom poisonings among dogs. With so many mushrooms sprouting, dogs are biting into them and getting sick. So, it's a good idea to make sure you keep your dog away from all mushrooms, unless you're an expert mushroom hunter and can tell the good ones from the bad ones. To me, they're all disgusting and creepy, so I'd never touch one. I don't even eat mushrooms from the store. I just think they're nasty things. The idea of eating fungus is pretty gross, I think.

Here's a link to my story if you want to read more about the monster mushroom.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Man dials 911 when Subway forgets the mayo

Now this is a story that's gotta be getting some laughs around the water cooler at work this week. If you haven't heard the story yet, here's the meat of it: A guy in Florida goes into a Subway, orders a sub, the worker forgets to put the mayo on, the guy then gets so annoyed that he calls 911. Yes, that's right ... 911! Why he thought 911 dispatchers would be able to help is beyond me. It's not as if the sub had suddenly begun attacking him and he needed to be rescued.

Here's the full story and the news clip with the 911 recording...you gotta see it...when you click on the link you'll see the video clip to the right of the story.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Why is Epping the center of the universe?

Epping Town Clerk Linda Foley holds up one of the "Epping is the center of the universe" bumper stickers.

If you've lived in the Epping area, you've probably heard the phrase, "Epping is the center of the universe."

Well, I'v always wondered how it got that title, so I decided to do a little investigation. I became even more curious when I found a sign at the Epping Town Clerk's Office last week advertising bumper stickers for sale for $1. It's quite an interesting story, so I had to share it.

Below is the story that appeared in Monday's New Hampshire Union Leader explaining why Epping is considered, at least in some minds, the center of the universe.

By Jason Schreiber
Union Leader correspondent

EPPING - The town clerk’s office has always been the place to go for car registrations, but in Epping, you can get your official “Epping is the center of the universe” bumper sticker as well.
A sign next to the clerk’s window advertises the dark blue bumper stickers with white lettering at a bargain price of just $1.

The stickers have been a hot item since the clerk’s office started selling them a few years ago. In fact, the sample sticker attached to the sign at the clerk’s window has been swiped several times and has had to be replaced.

As many as 134 stickers were sold last year, and sales this year have averaged about 10 a month, according to Deputy Town Clerk Joyce Blanchard, who bought bumper stickers for her sons, but they refused to put them on their cars.

Town Administrator Dean Shankle got two bumper stickers for himself when he was hired earlier this year, but he keeps them at his house.
“I think it’s nice for the town to have an identity,” Shankle said. “It’s a memorable brand.”

The idea for the bumper stickers began in the early 1970s when longtime resident Howard Phelps owned what was then known as Freddie’s BP gas station.
Phelps’ brother-in-law and high school buddy, Rick Wells, worked at the station and is believed to be the first to coin the phrase, “Epping is the center of the universe.” It was a statement he made while joking with a cynical resident who liked to stop by to complain about town politics.
Wells, who lived in Epping at the time but has since moved to New York, later decided that the gas station ought to start selling the phrase on bumper stickers, just for fun. The first batch of stickers was printed up by a printer in Dover.

“We sold quite a number of them and we had to get a subsequent order,” recalled Phelps, who is now 65 and works as a nurse’s aide at the Rockingham County Nursing Home after running the BP for 30 years.

As more and more bumper stickers were sold, “Epping is the center of the universe” was a phrase that stuck and soon it became a sort of motto for the town among locals. But as the stickers were displayed on bumpers and people in other towns began to see them, Epping became known as the center of the universe to outsiders as well.

Phelps will never forget the day when he and his wife were at a supermarket and overheard a conversation between a cashier and a customer about how Epping was geographically the center of the universe.

“We sort of grinned to ourselves, but didn’t say anything,” Phelps said with a laugh.
The bumper stickers eventually sold out and the gas station stopped printing them, but the idea was revived a few years ago by Epping resident Kim Sullivan. He was a selectman then and decided to have the stickers reprinted and sold at the town clerk’s office.

Old-timers who remember the origin of the phrase like to buy them along with newcomers who think they’re funny.

As bumper sticker sales continue, the phrase “Epping is the center of the universe” is making its way to the Internet. The phase now appears on the Web site for the popular online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Epping is listed on the site as one of 16 places around the world that claim to be the center of the universe, mostly as a joke.

Phelps still gets a kick out of the phrase when he hears it around town.
“It brings a little smile to my face whenever it’s mentioned,” he said.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

A blog bungler

Sorry if some of you had trouble accessing my blog yesterday. Apparently the sitemeter program that allows me to track hits on the blog malfunctioned, blocking access to the blog. I deleted the sitemeter and that seems to have corrected the problem.

Cell phone's got me buzzing

OK, so I'm starting to freak out over the dangers of using my cell phone. I keep hearing more and more about the cancer risk, and the more I hear the more I'm getting worried. Now I know I tend to overreact every time a new study comes out. Just ask my wife. She's had to learn to live with my doom and gloom attitude. I always blame it on all the heartwrenching stories I've had to write about diseases over the years.

In any case, a few months ago I was watching Larry King and he had some experts on who were talking about cell phone dangers and how there have been no concrete studies done yet linking cancer and cell phone use, but that over time studies will eventually show that there is a connection. The cell phone is still a relatively new device, so it might take another 10 years before we know whether it really carries a risk. The studies need to be done over a longer period of time.
To support my fears, a prominent doctor at a cancer research center recently warned all of his staff about the dangers in a memo. Check out the story here: http://www.macon.com/274/story/412509.html

After watching the recently Larry King interview, I rushed right out the next day to buy a headset. That worked great, but it was a pain trying to haul it out and get set up every time someone called. Then I forgot the thing was in my pants' pocket and it went through the washing machine two weeks later. I ran out and got another one, but after a week the microphone that hangs off the headset snapped off. So now I'm sticking to the speakerphone, which is OK when I'm in a private place, but I don't enjoy having the entire world listening to my interviews and chit-chats if the call happens to come when I'm in a public place.

After my bad experiences with headsets, I'm now left wondering how to safely use my phone. If you've got any ideas, I'm all ears!

Meantime, if you want another reason to worry, check out this insane video showing how the radiation from cell phones can pop kernels of popcorn. This is sickening and another reason to keep that phone away from your ear. http://sorisomail.com/videos-comicos/1963.html

Epping Mobil gets drive-thru window


The photos above showing the crash were supplied by the Epping Police Department.

Has anyone noticed the boarded up front store window at the Mobil on the Run on Route 125 in Epping this week?

Apparently on Thursday a pickup truck operated by a teenager from a local masonry company attempted to park in front of the store, but he told police that the gas pedal stuck. Oops! He ended up jumping the curb and crashing into the front window, sending shards of glass flying into the store near the front counter where store clerk Barbara George of Brentwood was working. Fortunately no one was hurt.

Just imagine what would have happened had someone been walking on the curb in front of the store when the truck came charging forward. I get gas at that Mobil all the time, but luckily at the time of the crash I was down the road bicycling with the kids to Walgreens to get some soda for a soda geyser experiment, you know, the one you've seen on YouTube where you drop Mento candies into the soda bottle and it creates a 25-foot geyser. Well guess what, our experiment fizzled out...literally. More on that later with a photo of the big flop.

In the meantime, check your gas pedals to make sure there's nothing sticky.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Watch out for some brazen burglars

Police in Plaistow are looking for some jewelry thieves who were startled and took off when the homeowner came home and caught them in the act.

I wrote a story for last week's New Hampshire Union Leader about the thefts, and I thought it might be a good idea to post the story just so people are aware and remain alert. The theft was pretty scary for the homeowner who arrived home to find the getaway car in the driveway with the burglars still inside.

Here's the story:
PLAISTOW- A homeowner arrives at his house on July 22 and spooked some jewelry thieves when he caught them red-handed.

Police said the burglars began their heist when the Partridge Lane resident left his home for less than 20 minutes. The resident returned home to find a man sitting in a getaway car in the driveway. The man eventually honked the horn, alerting two thieves inside that they had been caught.
Moments later two men darted from the house, hopped into the car, and the three sped away with jewelry and other items in hand.

Police responded to the residence just after 10 a.m. The home is located on the Route 108 side of town, about a mile from the Haverhill, Mass., border.

According to police, the resident left his garage door open and the entryway from the garage to the house unlocked when left briefly. When he returned, police said the resident noticed a white Toyota Corolla parked in his driveway with a man sitting in the driver's seat. He also saw that the Massachusetts license plates on the front and back were covered with duct tape.

While entering the driveway, the man in the Toyota began honking the horn. The homeowner then approached the driver to see what he was doing. At that point, police said, the driver told the resident that he was trying to find Fox Hill Road.

Deputy Police Chief Kathleen Jones said there is no road named Fox Hill Road in Plaistow. However, she said the driver might have confused the name with Fox Hollow Road, which is located in the area of Partridge Lane.

After hearing the horn, two men quickly ran from the garage and jumped into the car, which took off at a high rate of speed toward the road, police said.

The thieves made off with two jewelry boxes, though the type and amount of jewelry wasn’t known, police said. The homeowner was checking to see if other items were taken as well.

Jones said homeowners need to make sure to lock up, even when they know they’ll only be gone for a short time. “Don’t make yourself a viable target,” she said.

The driver was described as a white male, in his mid- to late-30s, with a large build. He was clean shaven with a dark skin tone.

One of the men who ran from the house was described as a white, 5-foot-11, in his late 20s, with a large build and a complexion similar to the driver. He was wearing a dark sweatshirt and shorts and was carrying a backpack. The other man was described as a white, 6-foot-1, 170 to 180 pounds, with dark hair. He was wearing jeans and was carrying a camouflaged colored backpack.

Police said the vehicle was described as an early model 4-door, white Toyota Corolla, possibly around 2000. The vehicle was in good condition and the homeowner noticed no stickers, decals, damage, or rust.

Anyone with information about the burglary is asked to call Plaistow’s investigation unit at 382-1200.

Mama bear is baaaaack!

Just a friendly reminder...if you live in Kingston you might be interested to know that the mama bear that was spotted a few weeks ago has returned to the area of North Road near Church Street, the same area where she was seen before. A resident on North Road in Kingston saw the bear last Saturday.
Meanwhile, it looks like her cub is no where to be found. He was last spotted in Fremont, but that was two weeks ago.

Every little bit helps tornado victims ... even $18

Declan and Dacey did their part to help the victims of last week's tornado by setting up a lemonade stand. They raised $18.

Sales weren't brisk at Declan and Dacey's lemonade stand on Tuesday, but they still managed to bring in $18 to donate to the vicitms of last week's tornado that left a path of destruction through 11 New Hampshire towns.

We were watching the news Monday night and saw the heart-wrenching story about how Brenda Stevens of Deerfield died while trying to hold onto her stepson's 2-month-old boy when the tornado hit. At the end of the segment there was mention of a fund set up to help the tornado victims. Declan quickly asked, "Oh, can we donate something?" In no time the kids were planning a lemonade stand the next day, preparing the stand and making signs. They sold lemonade and cookies and raised $18. It wasn't a lot, but it'll help. What was most important was that the kids realized that people are in need and that they should always try to help, even if they can't offer much.

If you're looking to donate specifically to the Stevens family, you can make checks payable to:
Jeremy J. Stevens Relief Fund
TD Banknorth
50 Glass St.
Suncook, NH
03275

What's bubbling up in the Squamscott River?

Officials in Exeter have a mystery on their hands. It's thick and it stinks.
They're trying to find out what's behind a mysterious tar-like substance that's bubbling up through the river and can be seen clearly on the river's bed during low tide. It covers a 20-foot by 30-foot area near the Swasey Parkway pavilion.

Don Clement, chairman of the conservation commission and the Exeter River Local Advisory Committee, and Ken Berkenbush, the town’s health officer and assistant fire chief, made the discovery while investigating complaints in recent weeks about a possible oil slick on the river.

Berkenbush and Clement walked along the river and searched by boat at high tide, hoping to find the source. Today they decided to investigate the substance at low tide. That’s when they saw it literally bubbling up through the topsoil.

Samples of the substance are now being tested at a state lab. Hopefully the results will come in soon and they'll get to the bottom of this potentially toxic situation. Until then, a boom was placed around the area to trap the substance and filter it out... good thing since the river is used for recreational boating, fishing and clamming and is also home to ducks and birds prey such as eagles, osprey, and hawks, which feed off the fish.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Kingston Days will have something for everyone

If you're looking for something fun this weekend, a visit to Kingston Days might be the perfect way to entertain the kids. The 14th annual festival, held on the Kingston Plains along Main Street, will dish out something for everyone with everything from a corn eating contest and magic shows to music, games and hot air balloon rides.

If you're thinking about going, check out the complete schedule. You'll be amazed at all the stuff planned over the three days. Here's a link.
http://www.kingstonnh.org/community%20news/K_days/Schedule%20of%20Events.pdf

The festival kicks off Friday night (Aug. 1) with food, music and hot air balloon rides on the Kingston Plains and a steak and lobster bake at the Kingston Fire Department. Friday’s activities will be capped off with fireworks at the Bakie School on Main Street around 9:15 p.m.

The festival is held rain or shine and continues Saturday with a full day of activities, including a pancake breakfast, road race, flea market, children’s parade, hay rides, a horseshoe tournament, various demonstrations, craft fair, and corn-shucking and corn-eating contests. A climbing wall an bungee jumping will also be available, along with a presentation by the Sanborn Regional Middle School, dancing by members of Steppin Out Dance Academy, and music provided by various bands. Magician B.J. Hickman will be on hand as well.
Several area restaurants will also serve up food Saturday and Sunday during the annual “A Taste of Rockingham County.”

Sunday’s events include an antique car show, a canoe and kayak race, puppeteer Martha Dana, a performance by the University of New Hampshire’s Little Red Wagon, children’s entertainer Wayne from Maine, Dan Grady’s marionettes, karate demonstrations, and a pie-eating contest.

The festival was held for the first time 14 years ago to mark the town’s 300th anniversary and it’s been going ever since thanks for a committee of 12 volunteers who put in long hours to pull it off.

So carve out some time to check out some of the events. I'll be there covering for the Union Leader, but I'm planning to bring the kids along as well. I love these reporting assignments where I can have some quality family time while getting paid.

See you there!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

On the trail of the New Hampshire tornado


The photo above is a shot I took this morning of the home in Deerfield that was demolished by the tornado on July 24. Brenda Stevens died in the home.

I just returned from a visit to the scene of the killer tornado that tore through southern New Hampshire on July 24. The roads around Deerfield and Epsom were clear enough to get through, but there's so much clean up left to do. It was amazing to see first-hand the path of this tornado, which weather officials now say was an F2 tornado with winds up to 135 mph. The tornado traveled for 40 miles at a speed of about 50 mph.

Standing along Route 4 we could look across Northwood Lake to see the devastation. We saw the home in Deerfield where Brenda Stevens died while holding her stepson's 3-month-old baby, and looking around you could clearly see the path the tornado took. It was like a scene from Kansas, not New Hampshire. The only difference here is that it's so wooded, so the tree damage is extensive.

Here are some of the photos I shot today while taking a quick tour of the scene.




The statement below was issued Saturday by the National Weather Service, confirming that the damage was from a tornado. There's some interesting stuff in it for weather junkies like me.

PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE GRAY ME
600 PM EDT SAT JUL 26 2008
...EF2 TORNADO CONFIRMED IN NEW HAMPSHIRE...
AFTER SURVEYING DAMAGE FROM THURSDAY`S (JULY 24 2008) STORMS IN NEW HAMPSHIRE, THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE HAS DETERMINED THAT DAMAGE THROUGHOUT A LARGE AREA WAS CAUSED BY A TORNADO.
TORNADO DAMAGE WAS OBSERVED IN 11 NEW HAMPSHIRE COMMUNITIES INCLUDING (IN ORDER OF THE TORNADO PATH) THE TOWNS OF DEERFIELD, EPSOM AND
NORTHWOOD, PITTSFIELD, BARNSTEAD, ALTON, NEW DURHAM, WOLFEBORO, OSSIPEE, EFFINGHAM, AND FREEDOM. THE TORNADO CUT A DISCONTINUOUS PATH OF DAMAGE OF ABOUT 40 MILES IN LENGTH WITH A MAXIMUM OBSERVED
WIDTH OF ABOUT 1/3 OF A MILE. BASED ON THE STORM FORWARD SPEED DURING THE EVENT, IT IS ESTIMATED THAT THE TIME BETWEEN THE INITIAL TOUCHDOWN AND FINAL LIFT OFF WAS SLIGHTLY UNDER AN HOUR. MORE PRECISE MEASUREMENTS WILL BE DETERMINED OVER THE NEXT SEVERAL WEEKS
BASED ON AERIAL SURVEY IMAGES AND RADAR DATA.
MANY THOUSANDS OF TREES WERE DOWNED BY THE TORNADO. NUMEROUS HOUSES AND OTHER STRUCTURES WERE DAMAGED BY FALLING TREES. ONE FATALITY OCCURRED IN THE TOWN OF DEERFIELD IN A HOUSE COLLAPSE.
BASED ON OBSERVED DAMAGE, THE FOLLOWING RATINGS (BASED ON THE ENHANCED FUJITA SCALE) HAVE BEEN ASSIGNED FOR EACH TOWN.

DEERFIELD - EF2
EPSOM - EF2
NORTHWOOD - EF1
PITTSFIELD - EF2
BARNSTEAD - EF2
ALTON - EF1
NEW DURHAM - EF1
WOLFEBORO - EF2
OSSIPEE - EF2
EFFINGHAM - EF1
FREEDOM - EF1
EF1 RATINGS INDICATE WINDS IN THE 86 TO 110 MPH RANGE.
EF2 RATINGS INDICATE WINDS IN THE 111 TO 135 MPH RANGE.
MOST OF THE DAMAGE OBSERVED IN TOWNS WITH EF2 RATINGS INDICATED WINDS
IN THE LOWER END OF THE EF2 RANGE.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE ENHANCED FUJITA SCALE, PLEASE VISIT:
HTTP://WWW.SPC.NOAA.GOV/EFSCALE
NEW HAMPSHIRE AVERAGES ABOUT TWO TORNADOES A YEAR. THIS IS THE FIRST CONFIRMED TORNADO IN NEW HAMPSHIRE FOR 2008.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Sunny the cockatiel came home

Sunny spends some time with her owner, Deb Nadeau of Kingston, after they were reunited on July 23. In top photo, Ed Jean, the Epping man who found Sunny, stands next to the area where he picked her up.

In case you're wondering, yes, Sunny the missing cockatiel from Kingston, N.H., is now home safe and sound thanks to a welder who found her and took care of her before she was eventually reunited with her owner.

I'll take the credit for Sunny's return home. It was my story that appeared in the July 23 New Hampshire Union Leader about how Sunny was missing that led to her reunion.

Here's the follow up story on Sunny appearing in the July 26 edition.

By Jason Schreiber
Union Leader Correspondent

KINGSTON - Ed Jean was kneeling on the ground welding at Northland Forest Products last week when a little shadow caught his eye.

Curious, the Epping man stopped welding and lifted his shield protector to get a closer look. That’s when he noticed a yellow cockatiel with bright orange cheeks walking toward him.
Right away, Jean knew this cockatiel had lost her way.
“I thought it was strange seeing this bird out in the wild,” he said.
Without hesitation, the cockatiel jumped onto Jean’s hand and he took her home, bought some cockatiel seed from Walgreens, borrowed a friend’s bird cage, and hoped that her owner would come forward.
When a story about the Nadeau family’s search for their missing cockatiel named Sunny appeared in Wednesday’s New Hampshire Union Leader, Jean put the pieces together and it wasn’t long before Sunny was returned home safe and sound.
“The minute she heard my voice she started whistling from his car. I knew instantly it was her,” Deb Nadeau said, recalling the moment on Wednesday when she was reunited with Sunny a week after she took off from Nadeau’s Rockrimmon Road home.

The search for Sunny began on July 16 when she flew off of Nadeau’s shoulder after Nadeau was stung by hornets in her yard. While Sunny’s flight wings are clipped to prevent her from flying away, she managed to get air under her wings as she was perched off the ground on Nadeau’s shoulders. If she had been on the ground, Sunny never would have been able to fly off, Nadeau said.

The disappearance led to a week-long search that involved Nadeau, her husband, Bruce, her sister, Kathy Gagnon and niece Jessie who walked for miles looking for Sunny, and police officers who were told to be on the lookout for the bird during their routine patrols.

Neighbors knew Sunny liked fresh popcorn, so they put kernels on top of their bird feeders, hoping to attract her.

Sunny was spotted by visitors at Kingston State Park on July 18, but then she took off. There was no sign of her again because later that day she ended up less than a half-mile away in the yard of Northland Forest Products on Bartlett Street and then in Jean’s Epping home.

“It’s amazing she survived,” Deb Nadeau said Thursday as Sunny rested comfortably in her cage.

Fortunately, Sunny ended up in the hands of an old pro when she found Jean, a 44-year-old kiln operator and maintenance manager at Northland Forest Products. Jean’s had his share of parakeets over the years and his father used to raise canaries.

Sunny did pretty well while in Jean’s care for the week, though she wasn’t too fond of his rottweiler named Dale.
Dale and Sunny didn’t develop much of a bond, but Jean said it was still nice having her around.
“She kept my dog company for a while,” he said.


Escaping the tornado terror

This photo shot by New Hampshire State Police shows the devastation after a tornado ripped through nearby Deerfield, N.H.

What a wicked week it's been here in New Hampshire. We've had nothing but constant thunderstorms with torrential, tropical rains, and then yesterday a massive tornado touched down just a short distance from the Raymond Shopping Center where I was shopping with Declan and Dacey just after 11:30 a.m. I took the kids to the Dollar Tree for a quick look around while we waited for Kathy to get home from summer school in Stratham.

When we left the house all was quiet. The rain had stopped and the skies were brightening up. We got to the store and looked around for about 15 minutes before running into one of Dacey's friends and her mom. We chatted for a few minutes and then, just before noon, we noticed the black clouds rolling in suddenly and they just opened up with more torrential rains. We didn't know it at the time, but a tornado warning had been issued for the area and then, after the storm passed over the shopping center, a tornado formed in Deerfield, the next town over from Raymond.

The tornado cut a path of devastation through nine New Hampshire towns as it headed north into Epsom, Barnstead ... all the way to Ossipee. Sadly, a grandmother in Deerfield died when her home was obliterated. She was holding her 3-month-old grandson at the time. He made it out alive when rescuers heard his cries and pulled him from the rubble.

Tornadoes aren't common here, but this summer has been a particularly active one in terms of severe weather. It's felt more like Florida than New Hampshire with all the humidity and the tropical flow from the south.

I haven't heard the official word on how this tornado will compare to others over the years, but based on pictures of the mangled wreckage, flattened homes, uprooted trees and shredded powerlines, I'd say it's probably one of the worst we've seen, at least in recent memory.
You can check out some of the photos on this slideshow from WMUR-TV
http://www.wmur.com/slideshow/weather/16981648/detail.html

Ever since the tornado, I haven't been able to stop thinking about how lucky we were yesterday. We were so close to this. Had the tornado formed just a few miles to the south in Raymond, we could have been right in its path. And being in the store at the time, we would have had no basement to run to to keep safe. We'd dealt with so many thunderstorms over the last week, but no one expected tornadoes. When the storm came, it seemed like just another thunderstorm. Now we know it wasn't, and we know just how vulnerable we are even though we live in New Hampshire, thousands of miles away from Tornado Alley.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Big Mac goes rap as contest winner is picked

Let's give a big round of applause to Jason Harper! He's the rapper from Florida who won a contest to sing McDonald's new jingle about the Big Mac...two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese...you know the rest. Gotta love his song. He's now heading to L.A. to record the final version that we'll now start hearing in TV and radio ads for McDonald's. I'm not a big fan of rap, but I think it's pretty catchy.

Here's the link to the contest page...you can listen to the song here and hear the other four finalists who didn't win.
http://www.myspace.com/BigMacChant
Now, check out the song by finalist Tamien Bain. There's an interesting story behind this guy. Apparently he robbed a McDonald's in 1994, spent 12 years in prison, was released and decided to enter the contest to sing the McDonald's jingle. I guess he was up front with McDonald's about his conviction when he entered the contest and I guess it was OK because he became a finalist. Hard to believe, but it's true. You just can't make this stuff up.

Good-bye, Sophia

I couldn't believe it when I heard the news today. Estelle Getty, who played wise-cracking mother Sophia on the hit 80's sitcom "The Golden Girls," died today at the age of 84.

I have always been, and will continue to be, a fan of this show. I know, I know, I'm a guy and I probably shouldn't be watching the GG reruns, but I can't help it. The show was such a hoot, and Sophia was a classic character. I mean, how could you not get a charge out of her sarcasm. She had a zinger for just about everyone who appeared on the show.

Here's a link to one of my favorite scenes, where Sophia threatens to punch Mr. Pfeiffer, a man who sells caskets and whose name DOES NOT have a silent "P". It cracks me up every time.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3SMxIMmJrms

Estelle will certainly be missed. Now, if Bea Arthur (she played Sophia's daughter, Dorothy) would stop appearing in those hideous PETA commercials that expose the use of horse urine in the prescription drug Premarin, I'd be golden.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

All Points Bulletin for Sunny the Cockatiel

The cockatiel in the photo above looks just like Sunny, who disappeared last week.
Anyone seen a yellow cockatiel with orange cheeks flying around the Kingston area? If so, please contact her owner, Deb Nadeau, at 702-2509. Deb is desperate to get her little Sunny back on her shoulder after the bird flew off last week when it became startled by hornets.

Sunny has been seen (and heard whistling) around Kingston State Park,. but so far Deb hasn't been able to track her down.

Here's my full story on Sunny's disappearance, and the $300 reward that's being offered.

By Jason Schreiber
Union Leader Correspondent

KINGSTON - Deb Nadeau has spent the last week walking for miles in a frantic search for her family’s missing lutino cockatiel named Sunny.

She’s called out Sunny’s name around her home on Rockrimmon Road and on the grounds of Kingston State Park behind her house. She’s walked up and down Main Street, hoping Sunny would hear her and return home.

So far, all of Nadeau’s calls have gone unanswered, and now she’s offering a $300 reward for Sunny’s safe return.

“I call to her every 20 minutes or half-hour. I’m sure everybody on Main Street has heard me,” Nadeau said yesterday, nearly a week after 5-year-old Sunny got spooked and flew away.

Sunny always enjoyed riding on Nadeau’s shoulders, but to keep her from flying off, her flight wings were regularly clipped. Like she always did, Nadeau was walking across the yard with Sunny on her shoulders on July 16 when hornets suddenly began to sting Nadeau. Sunny became frightened and managed to get out her gentle grip. Despite having her wings clipped, Sunny took off into the air and hasn’t been seen since. Nadeau said Sunny’s wings were likely not clipped back enough or they grew back too quickly, allowing her to fly away.

“I thought she was going to fly four feet and land on the ground, but she got enough wind under her and she flew up over the hedge of the forsythia Visitors at the state park spotted Sunny, a yellow bird with orange circles on her cheeks, on July 18 and have heard her unique whistle, but when Nadeau arrived and called her name, Sunny was nowhere to be found.

This isn’t the first time Sunny has taken flight. She flew off four years ago, and after spending two nights away from home, she was found flying around the state park. She eventually landed on an oil tank outside Clark’s Oil on Main Street and was captured and returned home.

Nadeau is hoping that Sunny’s second disappearance will have a similar ending. Though she’s heard no response to her hours of calling, Nadeau is hopeful that Sunny will be found. “I’m hoping she lands at someone’s bird feeder,” she said.

Sunny is the Nadeaus’ first bird. The family got the bird after their golden retriever died of cancer. While Sunny officially belongs to her 18-year-old son, Ross, Nadeau said the bird has become most attached to her.

“She’s very, very affectionate and has so much personality,” she said.