News You Can Use

May 10th 2018

In February I posted about the ways we can identify fake Amazon reviews, particularly the tool Fakespot.com. Earlier this week Buzzfeed published an article about the business of fake Amazon reviews, which includes these staggering statistics: 87% of Amazon shoppers surveyed said a positive Amazon review was critical in their decision to purchase a product, but fewer than 10% of Amazon customers write reviews of items they've bought. However, getting positive reviews is essential to... Read Post

May 2nd 2018

"Fake news" is a phrase we've been hearing a lot over the past year. The barrage of half-truths and outright lies seems endless. At times it seems we live in a fog of rumors and fabrications. A conversation with a casual acquaintance can open a window into a world of alternative facts (A national fast-food chain serves burgers made of human flesh! There's an ebola outbreak in your hometown! A Muslim mayor has outlawed Christmas!).

Fortunately we've got an increasing number of tools... Read Post

April 10th 2018

As of March 26, when anyone goes to the RMV to get or renew a driver's license, state ID, or learner's permit they will need more documents than in the past. In a nutshell, they'll have to have documents that:

                1) Prove they live in Massachusetts;

                2) Prove they have a Social Security number, and...

               3) Prove they're legal US residents.

What do these requirements mean in practice? Various kinds of documents are... Read Post

February 4th 2018

Have you ever bought a product online because of great reviews and customer ratings but ended up disappointed with it? You're not alone: the problem is common enough to warrant news coverage. Many of the rave reviews on retail websites are fakes: written by paid reviewers who've never used the product or service in question. In some cases the reviews aren't even written by actual people.

Fakespot.com can help you identify dishonest reveiws: simply paste the url of a product (for... Read Post

December 27th 2017
"Winter is here"--Sansa Stark, Game of Thrones, Season 6, Episode 10.

The Boston area's white Christmas has given way to bone-chilling cold. According to National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Simpson, local temperatures are and will be 20-25 degrees colder than normal into the next week. Frostbite is possible after as few as 30 minutes outside. Tomorrow the wind chill will be -13.

Here's what you need to do to stay warm and safe:

Make sure your heating system is working... Read Post
November 30th 2017
subway stock photo

Recently the MBTA filed a Notice of Project Change for the Green Line Extension. You can find the document here. The original closing date for the comment period was Nov. 28, 2017. The comment period has been been extended to 5:00 pm on December 12.

Comments must be addressed to:

The Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
MEPA Office
Attn: Erin Flaherty, MEPA Analyst.... Read Post

November 28th 2017

Today (Nov. 28) was Giving Tuesday, a day designated by the United Nations and New York City's 92nd Street Y as a universal day of giving, as a way to establish a contrast to the consumerism of the holiday season. But despite that rampant consumerism, the month of December is when Americans are most likely to donate to charities. According to some sources, a third of all charitable gifts in any given year are made in December: partly due to cultural pressures and partly due to deadlines for... Read Post

October 31st 2017

The state Department of Transportation has just issued a Notice of Project Change for the Green Line Extension. The extension from College Avenue in Medford to the Mystic Valley Parkway has been delayed for fiscal reasons. The Notice of Project Change is intended to initiate further Massachusetts EPA review of the Mystic Valley Parkway Extension and give the public opportunity to comment on proposed design changes for Mystic Valley Parkway Station. You can find the complete text of the... Read Post

September 12th 2017

In a recent blog post I advised people to go to the website www.equifaxsecurity2017.com and input their name and part of their Social Security number to find out if their personal information was compromised. The current consensus is that the site itself is dysfunctional, returning conflicting reports to the same people at different times. In other words, Equifax itself is currently incapable of telling you if you've been put at risk.

So what can you do? First place a fraud alert... Read Post

September 7th 2017

The private information of as many as 143 million Americans (as well some Canadians and UK citizens) has been exposed in a cybertack on Equifax, a company that, ironically, sells protection against identity theft. To find out if you've been affected, go to  https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com, click on "potential impact" at the bottom of the page and input your last name and Social Security number.

If the resulting message says your personal information  may have been compromised,... Read Post

August 8th 2017

We're past the late spring/early summer when many of us are beginning to think about what to plant on our back decks or in our window boxes. But there's no reason we can't start planning what to grow indoors. Plants are beautiful, they make us feel better, and they can even clean up our environment. Some plants are great for removing chemicals such as formaldehyde, benzine, carbon monoxide, and ammonia from the air. And even plants that aren't top of the line air-purifiers release oxygen,... Read Post

June 27th 2017

Decades ago, when people were looking for jobs, they answered ads in the jobs section of a newspaper or a trade magazine. Sometimes they walked down streets looking for businesses with "Help Wanted" signs in the windows.

Then the Web came along and upended all that. Soon job seekers were going to Craigslist, or web sites for businesses, schools, or governments.  And then databases like Monster and LinkedIn appeared.

And now you can just Google.

Yes, Google. As a... Read Post

June 20th 2017

Many Somervillians (such as the members of our thriving community of artists and writers) have specialized interests and undertake projects that might benefit from access to an academic library. However, many of those same people are neither students nor employees of any of the local universities.

Fortunately, Harvard now offers adult researchers with no academic affiliation access to its special collections: Houghton Library, The Harvard Map Collection, The Harvard Yenching Library... Read Post

April 24th 2017

Read all about it here (or watch the news clip) at CNN.

January 18th 2017

Players of all ages and abilities are invited to join the Chess Club!  Players should be familiar with the game, though some limited instruction may be available. Monday, February 6th 7:00 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. in the library auditorium. Generally, Chess nights are on the first Monday of each month. We hope to see you there!

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