No Snark Sunday: It’s World Oceans Day And We Kinda Need Them

If you’ve been living under a rock or perhaps down in Magnolia where they pretty much only have dialup internet or WebTV, you may not know that awhile ago I started working as the Social Media Manager over at Ocean Alliance. It’s been a really, really meaningful and fun experience (with a bonus trip to LA for myself and Jim on a Flying Car/Clam/Ocean Alliance SUPER DRONE PROJECT OF AWESOME), and I get to work in one of the most beautifully historic spots in Gloucester – the Tarr and Wonson Paint Factory out on the edge of Rocky Neck.

Paint Manufactory-058

Pretty picturesque, until the seagull poo gets you.

If you don’t know what’s up at the Paint Factory – listen up. Gather your children and elders, and listen to this tale, my friends. You know how everyone in this town likes to save old buildings? Like a terribly built piece of crap school we have little use for? Ocean Alliance is working to save the old, ramshackle, polluted-as-f*ck Paint Factory (oh so polluted). One of the smaller buildings is fully restored as our company’s headquarters, and others have begun the transformation into an oceanographic research institute that will be open to the public, with an educational component – and (our favorite because nerds) a STEM-heavy robotics lab. A lot of the project is finding funding to complete parts of the building, but there’s always work and plans going on, even if you can’t see them. If you like to fund cool things, donate a little bit – it goes a long dang way and most of it stays here in town.

And it’s not like that’s the only goal of Ocean Alliance, to save the Paint Factory from eventually crumbling into the sea. It’s way, way deeper than that. These folks have sailed around the world in the name of Ocean Conservation and toxicology testing, and are heavily invested in the science behind advocating for our oceans and marine mammals. They’ve spent five years in the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, documenting and testing. They provided the toxicology testing and data for the movie The Cove. Stuff that matters. I started off not knowing much about either whales or ocean conservation when I got here, but now I’m becoming one of those Really Big Environmental Dicks. It happened really quickly and I don’t know who I am anymore.

What this all leads me to is that tomorrow is World Oceans Day, and I want to share with you all the insane stuff I’ve learned in just a few short months, and also things we can do to make sure the ocean keeps doing its thing. This is Gloucester – we are tied to the ocean, it is our reason for being. Every one of us is linked to it. We need it, it needs us – to protect it from a hell of a lot of crap.

1. For the love of god and all that is holy, stop releasing balloons into the freakin’ air. I remember this being a bad idea when I was a kid, and it’s still a terrible idea now. They come back down into the ocean and are mistaken for food and kill wildlife. The ribbons bind up birds and ocean life alike. The worst part is that some companies tout a “biodegradable” balloon, but it’s false advertising so people feel good and buy the stupid balloon, but it takes far too long to “biodegrade”, and animals still eat them or get caught in them. Marketing fail, jerks.

Awesome, good job, fantastic everyone.

Awesome, good job, fantastic everyone.

2. Stop using those damn face scrubs with microbeads. I am guilty of having done this Before I Knew. I still have a travel-sized one on my dresser, mocking me. The truth is, those microbeads are awful. Ocean plastic pollution is terrifying and not only is it going to be impossible and mind-bogglingly expensive to try to clean up, but it’s going to decimate marine species in ways we can’t take back.

3. God damnit, ride a bike or walk somewhere. Again, guilty – I drive an old-ass SUV as an on-island car these days so I’m trying to do better, as well. But our drilling practices really do a number on animals with acoustical sensitivities. We’re really messing up the ocean with this. A deaf whale is a dead whale, and so many species are still endangered. Cool, we can drive places for cheap. We’re just, you know, giant jerks to the rest of the planet. Ugh. And you know, oil spills.

4. Spend a little time cleaning up. Clean Gloucester and the One Hour at a Time Gang are two local groups that meet pretty much weekly to clean shorelines, marshes, parking lots, and pretty much all the trash people in this city dump in stupid places. Think about that – on Saturday mornings while most of us laze around in our underwear, these folks (including the dedicated staffers at Ocean Alliance) are cleaning up the gatorade bottles and empty nips other people toss into the gutter like the garbage humans they are. You spend an hour cleaning up, and you’re going to feel amazing about having done something instead of internet slacktivism.

They cleaned all this gross crap.

They cleaned all this gross crap.

Thanks for listening to my sanctimonious diatribe, Clammers. Basically, don’t be a jerk to the ocean, or an angry kraken will come to shore and eat your family and all the steak in your fridge. Let’s avoid that.

No Snark Sunday: They That Go Down To The Sea in Drones

Couple few days back, our good Clam-friends Marty DelVecchio and Jason Grow shot some spectacular footage of basking sharks off Bass Rocks.

It’s awesome! And now also on as one of the top articles this weekend. Because awesome.

A friend of mine from Boston texted me. “Is that your boss who took the video of the sharks I’m seeing on the front page of the Globe’s website? I know you work at a place that does ocean work and also flies drones.” And then I had to explain that no, we have more than one drone enthusiast here we have like a bunch. Gloucester, with its high school robotics program, robotics lab over at the Paint Factory, and general nerd subculture, is kinda the freakin’ drone capital of the Northeast right now. Yeah, I said it. We do drones. We go down to the sea in drones. Then we chase our children with them. Because it’s fun.

They should re-do our sign at the Rotary now Gloucester: You’ll Hear A Slight Whirring Sound.

Again, that video is the top one on the Globe right now. Because it’s amazing footage of our natural world, just meters offshore, and drones are cool. You’re with me, right? That it’s like, a thing? A popular thing?

Of course, our humble aerial photography drones aren’t always um, embraced by the community. Take this letter to the editor from last week’s Old White Guys Don’t Like Change Daily (aka Gloucester Daily Times).

The real threat posed by the coming flood of drones will be to our granular experience of the outdoors and to our quality of life. Imagine no sidewalk, street, park, river, lake, beach, ocean, or landscape without the presence of moving drones. The air will become cluttered with them… almost everything drones do undermines our direct experience of the natural world, and commodifies our activities. Drones perfectly complement and enhance our orientation and lives as consumers.

We should stop thinking that technological inventions should not be scrutinized, judged, and either actively accepted or rejected. We should stop thinking that all things digital, computerized, or “connected” are simply expanding our choices or are somehow more benign, democratic, empowering, or egalitarian than products of the pre-digital past.


Yeah, too bad drones ruin our appreciation of the natural world. Good point (SARCASM). Like it or not, we have a cool thing going on here in town, and we might as well embrace it. God forbid cool aerial footage goes viral and brings tourists. You can stand in the way of progress and technology shouting into the wind like Grandpa Simpson, or you can roll with the changes and say “Oh, wow. Look what we did. Look what Gloucester’s doing that other cities are behind on.” Your choice.

I’d rather Marty keep shooting hella dope videos.



No Snark Sunday: Holiday Break

A few weeks ago, we had a Gloucester Clam Companywide Meeting and decided to institute some vacation days so we could spend the holidays with our (loud, awesome) families. Today will be the last day of content until January 5, 2015. Probably. We may update here and there, if the mood strikes us.

As we take a look back at this year, it’s impossible not to be proud, if a little terrified, of what we’ve accomplished.

When Jim Dowd and I started the Gloucester Clam on an internet dare, we thought its readership wouldn’t get too far outside our local social circle. Instead, we got nearly half a million hits in the little over six months we’ve been blogging. People stop us in the street and talk to us about the Clam. We are now taken seriously by organizations who want to get their message out via No Snark Sunday. It’s unexpected, but kind of great. Don’t they know we swear? We swear a lot. It’s kind of our fucking thing.

We’ve had our share of detractors since we began, naturally. One of the more irritating complaints we occasionally get is “Why are you complaining about our city instead of making it better?” Seriously? Jim, myself, and the other contributors to this blog work tirelessly to make this city a better place for ourselves, our kids, and everyone else’s kids as well, across the board. You can like a place and make it better as well as occasionally call out the hot mess of ridiculousness that exists within the city limits. Jim, for instance, donates his many hours of free time (ha) to so many school and neighborhood projects, it’s fucking unbelievable. I’m not sure he actually has time to sleep at night. I spent years as a business owner, donating to a TON of local causes, despite barely bringing home enough to stay afloat. We’re both here to make this place better, and anyone who thinks otherwise is a total garbage person.

A few folks, as well (probably the same 3 people) have been irrationally bothered by our irreverent tone. “How dare you make fun of MY city?” was one of the comments we got from someone who decided their Facebook profile picture should be themselves shirtless and sunburned, drinking Twisted Tea. Of course his baseball hat was backwards, you shan’t need to wonder about that. The thing is, it’s not your city, porkchop. It’s EVERYONE’s city. I think we’ve done well at pushing back against the idea that only the voices here since birth matter, and that we can’t make fun of ourselves here as a collective. We emanate from our core a self-deprecating style of humor that 99% of people get, but a few folks will never understand. It’s not our job to reach those folks, unless we take out ad space on cartons of Hot Pockets, and that’s far beyond our marketing budget.


We call him Satire Stan.

We call him Satire Stan.


I’m proud of the ragtag, hipster, nerd community the Gloucester Clam has built. It’s brought so many like-minded folks together to not only laugh, but also really take a deeper look at issues – to really think. I’m proud of our voice: opinionated and brash, but witty, smart, and empathetic. And I’m proud of every contributor who’s added their two cents to the pile o’ change we’ve got going on.

Enjoy the holidays, everyone. We’ll be back soon!



No Snark Sunday- Tired

A bunch of years ago I worked on a research project for a major auto manufacturer. It was a simple survey around what people wanted in a new car. One of the questions read: “Would you like a full-size spare tire in place of the smaller “temporary” tire currently included with most cars?”

We're good, right?

We’re good, right?

Would you believe that over 90% of respondents said “yes”?

So a huge ad campaign was built around ‘full sized spare tire!’ And for some reason, even though there was so much positivity in the research, the campaign failed to move the sales needle at all. The whole thing turned out to be a massive waste of money.

What the Hell?

It was a classic view into the stark difference between what people say they want, and what they are willing to trade.

You see, in subsequent research we learned the buyers of this car (overrepresented by young, professional women) were more likely than others to just call a tow truck if they got a flat tire. Yet even though they had no plans to ever even so much as look at it they still said, “Sure, full size spare tire. Sounds great!” The dynamic, however, changes significantly when we later asked them to trade that against other features at a similar price point, such as an extra cup holder or an improved sound system. In the full matrix, a full sized spare tire fell to the very bottom of the priority list.

Pumpkin spice on yoga pants in 10, 9, 8....

Pumpkin spice on yoga pants in 10, 9, 8….

This happens in Gloucester a lot. Like every day. People say they want things, but when you dig deeper you find that the places they are willing to sacrifice are starkly different. You want better than average schools? Terrific. Who’s willing to spend the cash and time it takes to getting them there? You want a vibrant business community? Great. Ready to sacrifice some of our existing 20th century infrastructure for it? Nothing is free, if you want something there will be associated costs. Who pays?

More obnoxiously, there are many times when dedicated people are making trade offs, and the “We want everything for nothing” chorus starts griping. We seem to specialize in this particular archetype. “I expect Gloucester Schools to be at the top of the state rankings!” So you propose spending the money to get there and suddenly there are “Red Flags” and “Troubling Questions.” Or worse yet there is a fantasy solution not backed up by anything like research or experience. Man, we really love that one.

We’re like the asshole who keeps driving around on the donut tire. You know it’s going to fail, but it’s there so…donut tire.

You can’t have everything for nothing. And there are only so many efficiences and hacks you can make to an existing system to squeak more resources out of it. At some point, you need to start making trade-offs that you hope will get everyone to a better place.

When you google images for "trade" you get this image of a farmer trading his cow to aliens. We live in a time of wonders

When you google images for “trade” you get this pic of a farmer trading his cow to aliens. We live in a time of wonders

Last week I spend a great evening with young, vibrant movers and shakers in this town, all under 40. These are exactly the people we need here to bring the energy and ideas to our city. Way, way too many of these folks essentially live in poverty so they can keep living here and making our community stronger. 30 years ago these people would have have been starting normal, middle class lives but because of the job market, housing market and oppressive educational debt they can’t along with millions of others in their age cohort.

You know what’s going to happen? The economy is going to recover, the national housing stock is going to roll over as our senior generation ages out and we’re going to lose these kids. They’re going to get a call from Cambridge or Austin or Portland or somewhere real estate looks less like Dubai, as it does here. The person on the other end of that phone is going to say, “Hey, you did great things in Gloucester. You want to come here and make a real living?”

It's $150K and there is a pool out back

It’s $150K and there is a pool out back

We need to trade something. We need to keep offering them something they want, more important than a nicer car and a Qdoba. Since they’re going to start families soon they are going to need schools, they are going to need interesting things to do, they need investment in their projects and mostly they need to be listened to and included. They need to be given room to try and even to fail.

But what matters is what we’re willing to give up for it.




NSS: Look For The Helpers, Always.

“There’s only one rule that I know of, babies – Goddamn it, you’ve got to be kind.” – Vonnegut



One week ago it was announced that an American, Abdul-Rahman (formerly Peter) Kassig, who had been captured by ISIS in 2013, had been killed.

My heart broke, as just a few weeks prior my friend Erin had written a beautiful piece about their friendship during her time in Beirut. Her article also goes into detail about his aid work before his capture. It’s an amazing, but painful, read – I truly hope you take the time to read it. I’m proud to know Erin from her time in Boston before travelling for her PhD – she’s bright, amazing, and caring. And it cuts to my core that she’s suffering, and his friends and family are suffering, in the worst way possible. I’m a parent, and I can’t imagine how his parents are even sitting upright in the morning. How anyone survives day to day in the face of such unimaginable grief is a thing my brain cannot even comprehend.

Erin and Peter, Lebanon, 2012

Erin and Peter, Lebanon, 2012

What struck me immediately about Abdul-Rahman’s life was his sheer selflessness. He wasn’t a tourist. He wasn’t in this for selfish reasons. In the face of a horrid war, he was not satisfied until he helped get medical supplies and help to the wounded civilians who needed them most. How many of us would take that risk? How many would have done what he did? He put his life on the line to help people he didn’t know. He knew the risks, and he did it anyway. He knew he had a higher calling.

After horrible incidents of unspeakable evil, there is always the refrain that Mr. Rogers (patron saint of generation X and now the millenials) popularized – look for the helpers. Instead of wallowing in the unfairness, the pain, the violence, the hatred – turn that focus on the helpers. The folks who made a difference. The people who care about the most vulnerable of humanity so much that they are willing to put their lives on the line for it.

And Kassig was that person. He didn’t have to take those risks. He could have stayed home and helped here. He could have remained in college, remained an Army Ranger. He could have stayed helping Palestinians at a refugee camp as he had been doing, but he knew there was nearly no one helping injured Syrians. And he knew they needed help. He went out on a limb to tend to the most vulnerable. He was a helper to the utmost degree.


Pete, Bourj al-Barajneh. 2012 (Courtesy of Erin Cory)

Pete, Bourj al-Barajneh. 2012 (Courtesy of Erin Cory)


His life is an amazing legacy. You can kill a person, but you cannot kill the light they brought to the world. You can’t erase their love, their mission, or their determination. ISIS killed Abdul-Rahman Kassig, but they can’t destroy who he was. They can’t take back the lives he touched, the lives he changed, or the friends he made.

We could all learn so much from his legacy.

If you want to help, Peter’s family has made the following statement:
“In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions in honor of Abdul-Rahman Kassig be made to the Syrian American Medical Society, which is working to meet the medical needs of Syrians displaced and injured by war:
SAMS Foundation
3660 Stutz Dr. Suite 100
Canfield Ohio 44406