Letter to my landlord:
The super said he has them in his apt and so does the office manager but he’s from abroad and she grew up on a farm and they don’t mind trapping them. I was very upset when the first three got stuck in the gooey trap Cl gave me and the baby one cried.
The new ones are not attracted to the cheese I put out as bait in the “roach motel”  traps where you don’t have to look at them. Not sure if Cambridge mice are smarter than others  or if they just sniff at low -fat feta. EEEK. The guy just ran from under the fridge to under the stove, a foot from where I’m typing.
A friend who used to live in the building said a former super blocked off all holes, which stopped them–but she was able to pull out her stove and refrigerator. Could you please ask D. to have Cl. do that? If not that, could I get an OK to ask Cl  to come up to deal with any mice that get caught in gooey traps? I hate to bother him but I just can’t handle it.
My cat people friends say their animals either just play with mice or rip them up and leave the body parts lying around. DK which is worse. Yes, I do, Lisa says.
None of the cats seem to travel….and one named Claire,  wrote in to explain why she  won’t be available (her comments are included below).

Should I just give the mice names and adopt them as pets?

This morning a woman came into the Charles Hotel while I was having coffee…with a dog that was only a little bigger than these mice.
I am trying to think of them as giant hairy cockroaches but cockroaches don’t cry.
Please advise.
Care the cat


Santa Mouse

Compliments of an Australian client...

Dear G….The  mice are freaking me out. I think there are three  more…ot at least 2. In the last 24 hours, a big one and a small one have come from under the stove and  the refrigerator…and the sink….and the other day one came out from behind the sofa in the living room. I’m guessing they’re  living around  the pipes.

New Cambridge Observer is a publication of the Harris Communications Group of Cambridge, MA. We also publish HarrisComBlog and Ithaca Diaries Blog.
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Dec. 17
Thanks, Gus.
My downstairs neighbors don’t have them…yet…nor do others on my floor.  My cousin says that the smell of cats deters them. I could try that…might be able to borrow one from a friend who has one for a week or so. Unfortunately, the smell of cats also deters me….
Last night, the master of Quincy House said they had an infestation there this fall and called in “Best Pest;” they patched holes and set traps, which cleared up the problem. Anita

Dec. 18

Gus, someone left four sticky traps outside my door. I’m collecting  advice on my blog… so far,  it ranges from wearing a cat costume to sprinkling dried coyote urine around….Eeeew. Anita

From Edna:

Oh my!  If you want to stay at our house for a couple of days, or work in my office until they get rid of the mice, you’re more than welcome.  I’d be freaked out too.  I hate having uninvited critters sharing my space.

Re: Eeeeek!

Edna, thanks–I appreciate it. The guy who owns the building said he can’t do anything because if he poisons them they will go into the walls and smell bad…I’m  asking friends if I can borrow their cats….It’s kind of funny when I think about it…But not when they scoot around, here. Evidently, it’s a common problem. The super says HE has them, and so does the woman who works in our office…but they’re not bothered by them (or by killing them). A friend told me that  her husband had to keep mouse traps under his desk at the New York Times…  Another friend’s said he sees them at MGH…Eeeeek!  I’ll let you know if I need a place to stay…. tho I think that the landlord or the building owner, should pay for a hotel.


From Ann:  Alas, no. My cat is not a traveler: extremely shy and won’t come out when people she’s known for years come to visit! Also I can say (sadly) from experience she’s not a mouser: she’d rather chase, play, batter and torture a mouse than dispatch it.You might borrow a terrier- they’re bred as ratters and can snap a neck so fast you won’t see it.

OR, try my strategy:get some brown paper sandwich bags. bait the traps and set them inside the bags. Check the traps, and roll the whole mess up in the bag and dispose (outside cans). No mess, less fuss and you keep your hands clean.

Dec. 19 From Lisa: GaaROOOsome!! I didn’t see a single one at your b-day party!  When I was at Simmons, the two things that worked were:  1. peanut butter to attract them; 2. steel wool pads to block their entry.  The problem w/ having a cat is that you’ll then have dead mice all over the house.  Don’t know which is worse.  Well, yes, I guess I do.

Saturday Dec  19  At Haymarket, I told the cheese vendor that the mice won’t touch his low fat feata. He told me to forget the cheese. “Use pate,”    he said.   (Well, this IS  Cambridge).

Sunday Dec. 20:

Last night, I was watching TV when a little dark brown one ventured from behind the sofa (again). I jumped; he jumped back.  I got up and opened a box of sticky traps. Put them in big Trader Joe’s paper  bags, which I laid out near the sofa and stove. This morning: nothing. Eeeeeek!

Thursday, Dec. 24. Still nothing. I’m hoping that its being Christmas eve, not a creature will be stirring…not even…

Monday, Dec. 28
Last night, returned  from weekend away. Nothing in gooey or “hotel”  traps, despite non-fat cheese. Bought “bounce” per Judy’s suggestion– put sheets of this fabric softener under sofa, stove, fridge; smelled so bad I had to put it in a ziplock bag to store. Saw mouse scurry out of closet toward corner wall, so put one in there, too.  This morning, nothing in traps; my eyes watering, sore throat due to Bounce smell–so forget that. Today I am calling the health department.

January 7, 2010

Dear g:
Yes, [50 F… ]is still a great building but, FYI, we’ve had no heat or hot water for two days.  Evidently there were 7 pipe leaks and there’s still a problem with the boiler. Someone put up a sign saying they’re working on it, which I believe because the first floor is completely torn up.  We have to climb a small mountain of dirt to get to the mail boxes! For awhile, this morning, the elevator was out of service…
RE mice…only one, so far this week (perhaps the others have retreated into the walls to stay warm).  I called the Cambridge health department, which said that the property owner is required to bring in an exterminator…Would it be OK if I bring one in,  have him find and block the mouse holes in 512 and you bill  [D] for the service?
Thanks, Anita

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Url for  LaDanse Trailer on U-Tub: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1iU2l0XFrek&feature=player_embedded

My friend E. and I made it a point to sit in on the aisle in the last row when we went to see Frederick Wiseman’s latest film, La Danse, last night at the Brattle Theater in Cambridge–in case we needed to leave in a hurry.  We’d heard it was very long (120 minutes) and that it needed some editing.

But we ended up staying through to the end–partly because we wanted to take part in the question and answer session with Wiseman,  but mainly because, despite the film’s  length and some imperfections, we found it quite beautiful.

It’s cinema verite, shot by Wiseman with a handheld 16MM camera, of  practice, dress rehearsals, and behind the scenes discussions  at the Paris Opera Ballet, over 13 weeks in Paris in 2007.

I was fascinated by the sessions in which choreographers and coaches viewed and critiqued dancers  such as  Nicolas Le Riche, Marie-Agnès Gillot, and Agnès Letestu, among others.  In those scenes,  Weisman provides the rare opportunity to understand what emotions the dancers are asked to convey and how they do it; the  detailed movements that go into that; and  the occasional difficulty some dancers have in translating direction into specific action.

A photographer myself, I enjoyed the interspersing of arty still views of stairwells, window casings but,  because some outside shots of Paris and the Opera House seemed to repeat, I wondered if Wiseman had come away with too little covering footage.

It was also great to see some of what happens behind the scenes: the painstaking sewing of sequins into costumes, one by one; the serving of  apparently overcooked broccoli and fish with sauce in the cafeteria; the cleaning of the performance hall, and,  especially, meetings of administrators discussing their fundraising efforts–which, combined,  give some sense of what’s involved in producing some 250 performances a year.

Wiseman did a wonderful job of filming rehearsals for seven ballets: Genus by Wayne McGregor, Le Songe de Mede by Angelin Preljocaj, La Maison de Bernarda by Mats Ek, Paquita by Pierre Lacotte, Casse Noisette by Rudolph Noureev, Orphe and Eurydice by Pina Bausch, and Romeo and Juliette by Sasha Waltz.  Some of the more modern pieces seemed to go on  and on but most  were mesmerizing–and unlike any I’ve seen in the US.

Wiseman could, perhaps, have left out a few–and, because it’s hard to stare at a screen for three hours straight,  I’d have appreciated an intermission. (And,  no doubt, so would those who got up to go to the rest room in the middle, blocking our view of the screen).

I  found Wiseman’s fly-on-the-wall technique a bit disturbing–mainly because it showed almost no verbal interaction among the dancers, who were portrayed as objects to be molded and by teachers and administrators.  But perhaps that’s how it is in the dance world and in the company, described by artistic director, in one segment, as  “hierarchical.”

In the Q&A, Wiseman seemed reluctant to answer questions about content or meaning.  (When someone asked why he’d included a scene involving beehives on the roof of the opera house, he said that’s for the viewer to figure out–perhaps, I thought,  because it’s too obvious a metaphor).

Nor was Wiseman  forthcoming about his thought processes (or lack, thereof)  in structuring or editing  the film.  He spent a day looking around the building, then started shooting, he said. After 13 days, he returned with 130 hours of film; spent a year reviewing, culling, editing, reviewing, adding, cutting–and here we were.

It seemed to me that  the film could use more structure and that some scenes were repetitive–but given the beauty and grace of the dancers, I’m hard-put to say which sequences I’d leave out.

—–Anita M. Harris

New Cambridge Observer is a publication of the Harris Communications Group of Cambridge, MA. We also publish HarrisComBlog and Ithaca Diaries Blog.

Last night’s reading in Lincoln went well.  People laughed. In the right places.

That’s Neil O’Hara, facilitator of The Write Stuff, my wonderful writers group, in the background. The reading was held  held  in the beautiful  Lincoln, MA, public library, which along with the Lincoln Review, sponsors our group and the occasional public event.

Other readers included Susan Coppack, Mary Ann Hales,  Ellen Morgan and Manson Solomon.   Here’s a link to the Write Stuff Blog, http://lincolnwritestuff.blogspot.com/ which, in turn, links to this and other write stuffers’ blogs,  courtesy of  blogmeister Geoff Moore.

Mark S. Hoffman took the photo. Thanks, Mark!

New Cambridge Observer is a publication of the Harris Communications Group of Cambridge, MA. We also publish Harriscomblog and Ithaca Diaries blog.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending the debut concert of Aljashu, a group formed by vocalist Julia Madeson to perform songs sung  in the Ladino language, a combination of Hebrew and Spanish spoken (and sung) by Jews in Spain and Portugal before the Spanish Inquisition,which began in 1492.

The group’s name derives from a Turkish-Jewish Passover dessert of matzoh (unleavened bread) piled with dried fruits and nuts, drizzled with honey. With this metaphor of an often afflicted past wherein Jewish populations have been forced out of various places over their history while adopting sweet and savory local gifts, Madeson writes in the program notes, the group hopes to bring Ladino’s modal infused music to a wide audience.

photo credit Adeline Goldminc-Tronzo;

For several centuries before their 1492 expulsion, it is believed,  90  percent of all Jews lived in Portugal and Spain a multicultural environment that after included Catholics and Muslims.  After 1492,  some  Jews remained on the Iberian peninsula, openly converting to Catholicism but secretly practicing Judiasm (Conversos, or Moranos).  Many others traveled  by ship to the welcoming Ottoman Empire,  to live in cities such as Istanbul, Izmir (then Smyrna) and to locations in and beyond the Greek Islands, such as Rhodes, Salonica, and Morocco–carrying their language, music, customs and traditions with them.

Yesterday’s concert, at the Berkelee College of Music, t featured songs and music several centuries old; modern compostitions by the late Judy Frankel;  and instruments played by students and graduates of the Berkelee  Guitar Department, where Ms. Madeson is employed.

The music–which  sounded like yiddish or kletzmer melodies at some points–like Latin or flamenco  at others, and quite frequently, like a mix of both–was played on the Turkish oud (a lute and guitar relative), the lute-like saz, the banjo-like cumbus–manufactured only in Istanbul, and on fretted and fretless guitars. The percussion instruments represented the cajon–widely used in Spain, and the dumbek, riq and zils, played extensively in Turkey.

Julia’s operatic voice blended beautifully with the instrumental sounds of Tev Stevig, on strings, Brian O’Neill, percussion, and  Berkeley students Sabi Saltiel on guitars and saz, Cagri Erdom, Jussi Reijonen, and Jean-pierre D’Alencon, on guitars, and with the voice of guest vocalist Sarah-Jane Pugh, who, with Madeson  performed a lovely duet called Shaba.

The concert was performed in honor of  Chanukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights.  A spring concert, entitled “Everlasting Spring,” is in the works.

Photo credit #1David Buckman,
Photo credit #2, 3,4,  Adeline Goldminc-Tronzo

I’ve been impressed with Michael Capuano’s record, his forthright rejection of the war in Afghanistan, his progressive stance on health insurance reform, and his staunch support of Massachusetts’ biotechnology industry. 

But all running in today’s Democratic Senatorial Primary–Michael Capuano, Martha Coakley,   Alan  Khazei,  and Steve Pagliuca –have great backgrounds and are outstanding progressive candidates.

Khazei, a Harvard grad, founded the grassroots nonprofit City Year; Pagliuca, a Celtics co-owner,  built a lucrative career in business consulting; Coakley and Capuano are both established public servants–with Coakley elected to Massachusetts Attorney General, and Capuano having spent years as Somerville’s mayor.  

 All  favor abortion rights (against the Catholic Church of which all but Pagliuca–an Episcopalian– not that I care)  are members). All favor the Obama health insurance legislation–tho Coakley and Capuano have said they’d vote against any bill ruling out out abortion funding. 

On last Monday’s Greater Boston, on Channel 2, host  Emily Rooney struggled to get the candidates to differentiate their positions on major issues.  

Capuano seemed most adamantly opposed to prolonging the war in Afghanistan, suggesting that the American mission there, of routing out Al Khaida terrorists, has been accomplished.

Khazei tried to articulate a complex program of economic reform.

Pagliuca focused on the need for  job creation but had difficulty, when grilled, about whether he had suffered as a result of the current recession (I don’t understand why he was singled out on this point, when everyone already knows he’s a successful businessman). .

Coakley has made it clear that she’s a peoples’ candidate–who would readily take on Wall Street cheats. She  came out well when her economic acumen was called into question. (Supposedly, she has only $12,000 in savings–she explained that always been a public servant who is not in it for the money but she’s not stupid;  her funds must be in trust or in the name of her husband, who is a retired Cambridge cop). .

So–how are we to choose? If  not by positions on the issues, is it by background, knowledge, personality or style?

Khazei comes across as earnest, softspoken, a nice guy, smart, well-reasoned, a Harvard grad with nonprofit background, who, from my perspective, also seems  amateurish, and a little bit of an “itch.” (Whose idea was that TV ad featuring babies with adult voices in which Khazei evidently changes a diaper, then holds it up saying, “Someone’s got to clean up the mess in Washington?” Gross!)

Pagliuca is smart, but does not seem comfortable or convincing in his  proposed political role. (There’s that strange ad in which he says he really wanted to be a teacher but by somehow–by mistake?– fell into a lucrative career in business consulting).  I believe he understands the economy and would do well in a position that involved creating businesses and jobs– but that he’d  face a large learning curve  on the national, policymaking  stage.

Capuano is impressive, brilliant, outspoken, in an up-by-the bootstraps sort of way. His ads are geared toward an ultra-liberal, antiwar audience of  Cambridge/Somerville liberals–but do they address the concerns of others across the state?

At the start of Greater Boston, I was in his camp–but when he called Pagliuca  on the carpet, saying   “Steve, you have to read the bill,”  he seemed like an arrogant know-it-all with a humiliating style. While some believe his feisty manner would bring fresh air into a Senate filled with windbags,  I question whether he has the respect for others and the statesmanship needed to get things done.

That Monday night, Coakley hung back, listening, staying out of the fray, coming in to sum up, makin intelligent points. She’s been an elected official, taken unpopular stands. I disagree with her vow to vote against health reform legislation that includes an abortion ban, but believe she’s got much needed practical, statewide experience in enforcing laws, and in taking difficult stands.   I find her ads about growing up in Western MA  tasteful and convincing, and those who know her say she has a firm, but compassionate hand.

I’ve not studied the Republican field because it’s so clear that one of the above will certainly win–and, given the similarity of the Democrats positions on the issues,  I’d be happy with any of them.

In voting, this time around,  I’ll be deciding based on which candidate has the background and talent to hit the ground running–to effectively translate ideas into action with credibility and sophistication at a time when so many major issues are at stake.

The polls are about to open– gotta go.  Coakley’s got vote.

Today at Harvard’s Joan Shorenstein Center on  Politics, Public Policy and the PressProPublica  “distributed reporting” editor  Amanda Michel described a new form of newsgathering in which a few editors solicit and manage thousands of volunteers who research and write stories on a myriad of topics.

ProPublica is the nation’s largest nonprofit media organization to focus on investigative reporting. Founded in 2007, it is supported  mainly by a $10M a yearly grant from the Sandler Foundation.

The  method was developed by the Huffington Post during last year’s presidential campaign for a series entitled “On the Bus.”  Michel directed that effort, which employed 5 journalists who worked with some 12,000 citizens.

Michel was hired in May by  the New-York-City based  ProPublica, which employs 32 journalists and is led by Paul Steiger, the former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal. Its managing editor is Stephen Engelberg, a former managing editor of The Oregonian, Portland, Oregon and former investigative editor of The New York Times.

As ProPublica’s “distributed reporting” editor, Michel first used “crowd sourcing” and collaborative journalism methods to report on the impact of the federal stimulus bill. She is now integrating those newsgathering techniques into ProPublica’s other investigative efforts.

 To do so, she places queries on the ProPublica Web site, requesting assistance from the organization’s members, who are scattered throughout the US (and, possibly, abroad). They contribute their time “much as they would to a church or the humane society,”  Michel said.  

 ProPublica editors collect information from  the Internet and from members in the field–relying on journalists and volunteers for interpretation, analysis, and writing, Michel said.

 To maintain quality control, the editors set forth certain reporting requirements and “play the numbers game”–that is, they may ask several people to look into the same topic or report on the same event.  

Completed stories are  provided at no cost to ProPublica’s newspaper partners. One story about wrongdoing on a California Nursing Board first appeared in the Los Angeles Times and later ran on the ProPublica Web site.

Current  investigations described on the ProPublica Web site  include “Buried Secrets, Gas Drilling’s Environmental Threat”; “Contractors in Iraq Are Hidden Casualties of War;” ” Strained by Katrina, Hospital Faced Deadly Choices” and “Problem Nurses Stay on the Job as Patients Suffer.”

Other news organizations such as the Wall Street Journal and  WNYC radio, have recently hired journalists to serve as “putreach editors,” to develop “networked” or  “citizen journalism.”  The Cable News Network  and  Yahoo use similar techniques to engage the public in newsgathering, Michel said.

At today’s seminar, when a BBC editor cautioned that the “networked”  method could easily be subverted by unsavory forces seeking to present disinformation,  Michel  countered that that’s already a problem in traditional newsgathering. “Reporters are often ‘played’ by sources,” she said.

Based on my  background in the alternative press, (the Harrisburg Independent Press, AKA “HIP,” was a nonprofit) I think it’s exciting that members of the public can now help the media enhance understanding of the world we live in.  However, like at least one  seminar participant, I wonder  how long people will remain interested in contributing their time for free. 

Still,  for journalists concerned about losing their jobs to unpaid competitors,  not all is lost:  ProPublica is one of the few news organizations that is now actually hiring!

Here’s a link to another writeup about the seminar. http://www.hks.harvard.edu/presspol/news_events/archive/2009/michel_12-01-09.html

Let me know what you think!

—–Anita Harris

New Cambridge Observer is a publication of the Harris Communications Group of Cambridge, MA. We also publish HarrisCom Blog.