31 July 2010

Mystery Poles

Still trying to figure out how 200,000 solar panels will power 64,000 homes?

Well, here's another PSE&G mystery for you.

What the heck are these poles that went up earlier this year roughly parallel to the PSE&G transmission line - the one that passes near the Middle School.

Any ideas?  They appear to be in pairs, one on either side of a road or parking lot - as if they were meant to temporarily carry a ground-laid cable over an obstruction.

30 July 2010

Solar Celerity?

I woke up one morning last week, looked out the window, and solar panels had descended on Hillsborough.  It almost seems like they arrived overnight.

Actually, it was one year ago today that I first wrote about PSE&G's plan to install 200,000 solar panels on utility poles throughout Central Jersey.  At that time, PSE&G announced that it had awarded a contract in the amount of $200 million to Petra Solar to install the panels which would supply enough electricity to power 64,000 homes.

I immediately had some questions about the math,  If 200,000 panels can supply enough electricity to power 64,000 homes, then doesn't that mean I could power my own home with three or four panels?  Also, does the $200 million cover the cost of the panels as well as the installation?  I certainly hope so, as the guy on the lift and the guy smoking a cigarette easily could - and surely did - put up dozens in a single day.  That would mean just $1,000 per panel - installed.  Hey, what do I need PSE&G for - I can get off the grid for $4,000!

In the story in this week's Courier News, a PSE&G spokesman mentions how the benefits of the solar installation "will be returned to all ratepayers".  Funny, since one year ago, PSE&G was honest enough to tell us that the ratepayers were actually paying for the project through rate increases that would continue until 2028!

29 July 2010

What Goes Up...

With apologies to the Solbergs and QuickChek, Central Jersey's worst kept secret has got to be that you don't have to go to the Balloon Festival to enjoy the Balloon Festival.

Whether you camp out at the Shop Rite parking lot in Branchburg, or make your way behind the Dunkin' Donuts in Readington, some of the best seats in the house, aren't in the house!

As long as you have a driver who isn't tempted to take his or her eyes off the road, you can have a lot of fun "chasing" - trying to figure out where the balloons will come down.

Sure, you can go out to the airport and watch the spectacle of the massed ascent, but isn't that a little predictable?

There's much more chaos and excitement in the landing!

Raritan Valley Community College provided a fantastic spot to touch down, and a convenient spot to get an up close look at the balloons.

Setting the balloons down safely requires a lot of teamwork, and a lot of muscle.

I've been to the actual Festival of Ballooning a handful of times over the years - but I must say, this is just as fun.

Besides, I've always kind of been a WaWa guy!

20 July 2010

Opposition to Claremont Pump Station Location

There was an interesting story in the Courier News last week concerning the proposed location of the pumping station for the new Claremont development sewer system.  If you're not familiar with the details, you can still read the story online here.

Claremont - along with Green Hills, Country Club Homes, and Village Green - was one of the first post-war Hillsborough developments, and was built with residential septic systems, not sewers.

View Larger Map
An aerial view of the Claremont development which straddles Millstone River Road, just north of the Boro.

In 2007, township health officer Glen Belnay advised the township committee about water quality issues and failing septic systems, which prompted the current sewer project.

The majority of affected homeowners were pleased to be part of the $5.5 million project which will be paid for by an assessment on their future sewer bills - but not all.  Some homeowners felt that they were fine with their current septic systems and did not need sewers.

As it turns out, the only suitable location for a necessary sewer pumping station is on a small piece of township owned land that sits right between two homes on Onka Drive.  And it just so happens that those homes are owned by residents that were opposed to the whole project - and certainly are opposed to having the pumping station next to their homes.  Ouch!

Here's a closer look at the houses in question.  The township lot is designated on Google Maps as "Alley Dr."

View Larger Map

I have to tell you, the more I look at this image, the more questions I have.  Look closely and you may form a few of your own.

14 July 2010

Pack 89 Wants YOU!

Hillsborough Cub Scout Pack 89, based at Hillsborough Elementary School, is looking for new members.  If your son will be entering first, second, or third grade at HES in September, it's not too late to get started in Scouting.  Even if you're going into fourth grade, we can get you caught up in no time!

Take a look at some of the fun things we did the past year.

Entertained the residents at Avalon Assisted Living.

Built and raced our Pinewood Derby cars

Hammed it up at the annual Blue and Gold Dinner.

Checked out the big rigs at the Hillsborough Rescue Squad.

Camped out at Washington Crossing State Park and built an awesome survival shelter.

As well as....

  • Camped "in" overnight on the Battleship New Jersey
  • Carved Jack-o-Lanterns for our Halloween Party
  • Cleaned out and spruced up the flower beds at HES
Interested in joining the fun?  Check out the flyer below.

Click on the image to view and print the flyer.

13 July 2010

New Route 206 Bypass Map

With the announcement last week that a local Hillsborough company - Carbro Constructors Corp. - has been awarded the contract to begin the construction of the first phase of the Route 206 Bypass project, I decided to take another look at the official plan that I posted here about a year ago.

And then I decided to create a simpler version highlighting the portion of the roadway that will begin construction this year and be completed in 2012.

In the age of Photoshop when I can start with a scrap of a Hillsborough zoning map and turn it into this in just a few minutes, there is no reason that a map of this type shouldn't at least occasionally accompany a newspaper story about the Bypass.

But what do I know?

09 July 2010

Hillsborough Family Campout August 6th

There's still time to patch the tent and air out the sleeping bag - Hillsborough's annual Family Campout is coming to Ann Van Middlesworth Park on August 6th.

Click the image to view and print the flyer.

08 July 2010

Ride the Ducks

I know of only one way to get a seven-year-old and a four-year-old to willingly board a sightseeing tour bus - tell them it turns into a boat.  In cities like Boston, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, you'd be telling the truth!  The tragic collision this week of a duck boat with a barge in the Delaware River brought back memories of my own experience with the Philadelphia "Ride the Ducks" tour in 2006. 
Before climbing aboard the amphibious craft, everyone receives a duck-billed noisemaker.  The kids loved it - but the sound of thirty-seven quackers sounding nearly non-stop for the duration of the trip can only be compared to the noise level in a Johannesburg soccer stadium during the World Cup.


The first part of the tour takes place on the streets of Philadelphia, where you will see such historic sights as this gigantic image of Philadelphia native Larry Fine playing the fiddle....

.... and Alfreth's Alley - the longest continuously occupied residential street in the city.

Then it's out onto the water, where you will get a close-up view of the old Municipal Pier, and the Ben Franklin Bridge.

The accident in which two tourists were drowned appears to be just that - an accident.  As long as maintenance records for the two vessels involved come up clean, I can't see how blame can be properly assigned.   A boat that becomes disabled on the water - in the channel - is at risk for being hit by another craft.  It's really as simple as that.

One observation I will make is that the duck boats ride very low in the water.  It's almost like being out there in a canoe or kayak.  This probably has nothing to do with how seaworthy the boats are, but I could see how, after this accident, tourists might feel a bit squeamish about being right down there IN the Delaware.

07 July 2010

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today...

Look who made their debut twenty years ago today!

The Three Tenors performing together for the first time in Rome.

And this married couple!

04 July 2010

Central Jersey's Hero of the Bourgogne

When Mrs. Victoire LaCasse, returning by train to New York after one of the most notorious maritime disasters of the 19th century, was asked by reporters how she came to be the only female survivor of the sinking of the French liner La Bourgogne, a tragedy that took the lives of 535 of the 700 aboard, she replied with one of the great lines in nautical history:
"Don't ask why I am the only woman who was saved, better to ask why my husband was the only man aboard who was man enough to save a woman".
New York Evening Telegram front page, 6 July 1898

In the pre-dawn hours of July 4th, 1898 aboard the passenger steamship La Bourgogne, Mrs. LaCasse thought she heard a sound and aroused her husband Adrien. A foreign language teacher in the Plainfield, New Jersey school system, Adrien and his wife had set sail for a summer vacation in his native France. The ship was making 17 or 18 knots through a dense fog 60 miles south of Sable Island, Nova Scotia, with the crew sounding the foghorn at intervals, and keeping watch through the night.

La Bourgogne at port in Le Havre circa 1895

But Mrs. LaCasse thought she heard something else, and wouldn't rest until Adrien went on deck to investigate. Before he left their second-class cabin, he told his wife to put on a life vest.

The English three-masted iron-clad sailing ship HMS Cromartyshire.

LaCasse wasn't on deck for more than a few minutes before the liner was struck amidships by an English sailing ship, the three-masted, iron-clad HMS Cromartyshire.

Illustration from The Royal Magazine, 1911

The ship began taking on water immediately. LaCasse ran back to the cabin, told his wife she had a minute to dress, and brought her up on deck.

Le Petit Parisien, 17 July 1898

What they witnessed during the thirty minutes it took the ship to sink, and during the eight hours they spent in the water before being rescued by a boat from the Cromartyshire, is almost too terrifying to recount. Amidst the utter chaos of the sinking ship, scenes of unimaginable ruthlessness and brutality played out before their eyes. Crew members brandished knives to keep passengers away from the lifeboats. Men were clubbed and beaten to death in the melee. A lifeboat with forty women aboard would not be cut free from the davits. Once in the water, swimmers were beaten away from boats with oars and boathooks. One man watched his mother driven away from a boat and drowned.

July 1898 Harper's Weekly

The Lacasses went into the water and were briefly separated, Mrs. Lacasse having lost consciousness. She was pulled by her husband onto a partially submerged raft, where they huddled for hours waiting for rescue.

The Royal Magazine, 1911

As recounted by Mrs. LaCasse, the officers of the ship behaved admirably, but could not control the unruly crew. All of the officers went down with the ship, and all perished save the purser, who went under but managed to swim away from the wreck.

6 July 1898 Courier News

The Cromartyshire was badly damaged but survived the collision, sending out boats to pick up survivors. Another steamship, the Grecian, responded to the Cromartyshire's distress flares and took the English ship in tow to Nova Scotia, where the survivors boarded another ship and returned to New York. At the port in New York, La Bourgogne crewmen were cursed and spat on - news of the tragedy having preceded their arrival.

The LaCasses returned by train.