2009 ARDF Championship Partly in Saugus

I know it's been awhile since I've posted here, and there are quite a few topics I have to catch up on. However, I did want to write briefly about an interesting international competition currently underway in Saugus. The 2009 ARDF World Championship is being held in Breakheart Reservation and Blue Hills Reservation. This is the first time it has ever been held in Massachusetts.

Amateur Radio Direction Finding (also called Radio Orienteering, Radio Foxhunting, and Transmitter Hunting) is an interesting sport that at the highest competitive level combines physical fitness, outdoors skills, radio knowledge, and electronics abilities. Each competitor uses a handmade antenna to track a number of hidden transmitters. (There are five such transmitters hidden in Breakheart today.) The better the skill with which the antenna is made (that is, the more one understands attenuation, directionality, etc. and how to apply them in practice) the easier it will to find and track a transmitter. The more quickly one can move through a natural environment while avoiding undesirable local flora and fauna (watch out for the poison ivy in Breakheart) the faster one will be able to get to a transmitter once it has been located. The fastest overall times win. It is organized by the IARU.

The sport has traditionally been more popular in Europe (where it originated) and Asia than in the Americas, but it has a fairly strong local following, with all of North America being grouped into IARU Region II.

The organizers are approachable and eager to spread knowledge of their sport. In wandering around there this morning I exchanged a few words with participants from Europe and Asia as well as the U.S.. I'd remind everyone to (obviously) not bother competitors during the timed trials, but certainly do feel free to give them a few words of encouragement before their competition and show them that we Saugonians are generally friendly folk.

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Happy Birthday Saugus.net

I just noticed it's been over a year since I last posted something here. I've been pretty busy with lots of other projects, some related to Saugus and some not. I had to take a few minutes away though and acknowledge Saugus.net's tenth birthday.

This past Thursday Saugus.net turned ten. When I started building it way back in early 1998 I didn't really think about what it'd be like ten years later. For the most part I'm happy with how it's grown. For the most part it's pretty well liked and pretty well respected. Many ideals we embraced back in 1998 have since become the norm, and we were early adopters of several technologies that have since become more widespread (we also adopted a few that didn't go anywhere, of course, but that's the price of trying to stay in the lead).

There were a series of posts on Saugus.net itself that cover a little bit of its history: see February 15, April 28, April 29, April 30, and May 2. Saugus.net will also be posting readers' photos of themselves wearing Saugus.net T-shirts. The details were posted on May 1.

The posted history of course doesn't cover everything, and in fact there are a few stories in this very blog (like the story of Saugus.net and the Saugus Public Schools after the MEC site was cracked) that weren't mentioned at all. There are also lots of other stories to be told, if anyone is interested. In Saugus.net's ten years we've had interesting relationships with various branches and departments of local government, different business organizations, and numerous non-profit groups. We've gotten to see sides of things that most people don't get to see; sometimes it's due to being in the right place at the right time, sometimes it's due to having been around for over a decade, and sometimes it's simply due to being directly and simultaneously exposed to multiple sides of a situation.

The book Of Time and the River also has an article related to Saugus.net's annual Ghost Story Contest. It was written by one of the volunteer judges (the first and so far only to go public -- we deliberately hide our judges' identities for their own protection) so it gives a unique view of the contest.

Anyhow, enough navel-gazing. Happy birthday Saugus.net, and I hope you have many more.

I'd be remiss if I didn't notice that Saugus.net isn't the only popular local site to turn ten recently. Jim Harrington's excellent Saugus Photos Online is now also ten years old. Congrats to you, Jim, and happy birthday SPO; I'm sure you've got many great years still to come, and I'm looking forward to seeing them.

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Saugus Halloween Writing Contest Deadline Nigh

As has already been noted in one or two places, the deadline for the Ninth Annual Halloween Ghost Story Writing Contest is nearly upon us.

It's hard to believe that it's been a year already. I've been busy on numerous projects ranging from the book Of Time and the River (the sequel to A Gathering of Memories) to the Newton book reader for Firefox.

One of these other projects, Of Time and the River, is particularly pertinent to the annual Ghost Story Contest because one of the judges went public and wrote an article about the contest in the book. I won't say anything more right now... another time I'll devote an entire entry to this new Saugus book and perhaps comment a bit more about this article. For now, hunt down your own copy before they're sold out! Fewer copies of Time were printed than were printed of A Gathering, and the second printing of the latter has long been sold out. It's a reasonable price for a hardcover book, and all proceeds go to a scholarship fund for Saugus High School students.

I've seen some discussion about the Saugus teachers on the Saugus political forum lately, and it brings us back to the Ghost Story Contest. Personally I've always used the contest to get a rough feel for how motivated our kids are in school -- more entries mean more motivation. This year (so far, and there is still a little time before the deadline) we have more school-aged entries from Revere than Saugus; it'll be interesting to see if the numbers hold through the deadline Thursday. Some teachers in Saugus really get involved, but most don't.

Regardless of the outcomes this is always a fun (but extremely busy) time of year for me. I'm keeping up with the e-mailed responses for stories that we've received, but I'm falling more behind on the story processing (removing author's names and making copies for the judges). I've not yet had the time to read any; as per usual though I'll read them all after the deadline has passed.

Saugus Flooding and Real Estate Development

It's been mentioned on Saugus.net, too, but if you're driving around Saugus or any of the surrounding towns today be careful. Many streets are flooded, and quite a few are outright closed. It's a good day to telecommute if you have the option (and it's a good time to broach the subject with your employer if you currently don't).

When I first tried to drive out this morning I discovered that the roads have actually gotten worse than they were yesterday. There's basically no safe way out of the Golden Hills area now for an ordinary car: both Bay State Road and Windsor Street have been completely blocked off by the City of Melrose, and Sweetwater Street has been half-heartedly closed by Saugus (it looks like it was intended to be fully closed off but someone moved the barricade). Howard Street at the intersection of Sweetwater has been reduced to one lane for two directions of traffic.

With a two-year-old in the house and not having any way to get milk over the wires, I donned my trusty swamp boots and set out for the nearest market; with the swamp boots I can comfortably walk through pretty deep water, so I was able to go directly through some of the flooded areas and directly measure the water depth and not have to risk the car.

What I found was that portions of Golden Hills Road were under 12 to 15 inches of water. In one spot the water was over 17" deep. The nearby flooded section of Howard Street was under a little less than foot of water. SUVs and vans can make it through without too much trouble, but with regular cars it's a bit more problematic; a car may or may not make it through on a given pass, and that's no guarantee that it'll make it through again on the return trip. Back in the '90s I personally had a car get stuck in such a situation after a storm that flooded Golden Hills Road and Bay State Avenue. The electronics had apparently gotten wet causing it to stall out. While I was able to push it far enough out to let it dry and eventually got it started again, it did have a funny odor about it for the rest of its days.

As I was walking back and forth to the store I was naturally thinking about not only that time I got stuck in a prior flood, but also the other times in recent history I've seen flooding conditions in Saugus.

It turns out that there have been a few just since the '90s. If one widens the scope a bit to include periods of massive snowfall, extended periods of rain / snow actually seem to be fairly common. Each time we get one of these events portions of the infrastructure in town fail, in spite of the fact that all real estate developers and engineers are supposed to be designing against a hundred year storm event.

I guarantee that numerous local real estate developers (and lawyers representing them, of course) will be referring to this as a hundred year storm. I served on the Saugus Planning Board for around seven years (I served not just my own term but an extended interim period to enable them to find a replacement for me) and during that time I heard developers label a few events as hundred year storms. Other real estate developments I've followed since that time have poorly weathered yet more hundred year storms. With some of those storm events I actually checked to see if meteorologists shared developers' opinions, knowing that it's in a developer's best interest to exaggerate weather events. What I found was that while most of them were really just twenty or fifty year events, some actually really were hundred (or hundred-plus) year events.

Now, to be fair, a hundred year storm event isn't something that's guaranteed to happen once every hundred years -- it's instead something that has a one percent chance of happening in any given year. It's possible that a hundred year storm event could happen every year ten years in a row, but the odds weigh against it.

As mentioned, I have observed a trend where certain parties unofficially "promote" storm events to hundred (or even hundred-plus) year levels, but this doesn't explain away everything. The recent plethora of hundred year storms strikes me as unlikely, and leaves me wondering if perhaps the tables comparing amount of precipitation to likelihood of occurrence are in need of adjustment. Some have even pointed to increased levels of rainfall in this area as being a sign of global warming.

Locally though we're left with another question: how come a hundred year storm (or even a twenty year storm) causes us so much trouble, especially in areas that have been recently developed? For this I can only see a few possible answers: either the discipline of civil engineering is flawed in some areas (and looking at some of their formulae from a mathematical perspective I find this very easy to believe); some developers are cheating the town by not really engineering against hundred year storm events (and since the town has only a part-time engineer on staff to check all developments, it isn't really possible to check them all thoroughly); or our existing core infrastructure has already reached its capacity.

Do you have any thoughts or ideas? Do you have any other explanations for why Saugus has been hit harder more frequently by weather in recent years? What do you think about civil engineering in general and local developments more specifically?

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Saugus Spotted Salamanders

This little linked photo shows what I believe to be a spotted salamander (I don't claim to be an expert in such things, so if you know for sure one way or another please comment). As you can probably tell from the picture it's black with yellow spots; what you probably can't tell is that it's probably around six and a half to seven inches long (the oak leaf to the far right of the picture is a little misleading and actually makes the salamander look bigger than it really is, IMO).

I took this picture in the Golden Hills region, not too far from Spring Pond (a.k.a. the Third Lake). I discovered the salamander while wandering around collecting firewood (with permission, of course) in an area that had been freshly cleared by a local developer. The salamander was hiding under a pretty big oak log.

I'm a little late in posting this. In fact, I'm so late you're probably going to laugh. My recent schedule with work on the new Saugus book, the Newton book reader, and other miscellaneous projects has been keeping me more than busy. Anyhow, do you remember the unseasonably early snow squall we had this past October? This picture was taken on that very day, a little bit before the snow started. After getting a few photos I replaced the log and left the salamander alone. I checked again the next day to see how he'd held up to the snow, but he'd left.

I figured I'd post this because in all my years in Saugus I'd never before spotted such a large salamander. I see plenty of turkeys, foxes, deer, and other animals that many are surprised to learn still inhabit Saugus, but this was a first. Anyone else have any interesting Saugus animal stories or photographs?

On a completely different unrelated note, the discussions on the Saugus political forum have been pretty interesting lately. There have been comments from parents, Town Meeting members, and other interested parties; I'm surprised that none of the teachers have gotten involved yet.

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Come See Anything Goes

The Saugus High School Drama Club proudly presents:

Anything Goes

Thursday, March 30 @ 7:30 PM
Friday, March 31 @ 7:30 PM
Saturday, April 1 @ 7:30 PM
Sunday, April 2 @ 2:00 PM

Presented at the Belmonte Middle School auditorium. Please come support the drama club and have a delightful, laughter-filled time.
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How to Kill a Popular Event

Obviously I should have written about this a month ago, but I've been pretty caught up with various projects lately (the biggest three public ones being the annual Saugus Calendar, the new Newton book reader extension for Firefox, and the sequel to A Gathering of Memories).

Anyhow, I'm of course writing about the event known as the Hammersmith Holiday Stroll. This used to be one of the most popular events in Saugus; trolley buses on two different routes would shuttle "strollers" from one event to the next all over town, and many Saugus businesses, a handful of Saugus non-profit organizations, several Saugus churches, the Saugus Chamber of Commerce, the Saugus Town Government, and the Saugus Public Schools would get involved and work together to make what many considered to be the premier Saugus annual event. Each trolley stop featured its own attractions, and crowds would look over the pre-announced schedules of events and plan their own personal routes according to their own interests.

Over time this all started to break down. This most recent Stroll was something of a disaster, although few have actually dared to come out and say as much. Attendance was way down at most of the participating locations; many locations that traditionally participated either didn't bother at all or held their own independent events (even Santa went his own way this year at a separate event held by the Friends of Breakheart, although curiously some of the literature listed this event as part of the Stroll when it most definitely wasn't); media coverage of the event was weak; and there simply wasn't as much going on -- walking through Cliftondale during the Stroll one wouldn't even know that anything was supposed to be happening. For the second year in a row there were no trolley buses, and there was essentially no travel between the different sites.

I personally covered the event from 1998 through 2005, and as someone who made an earnest effort to visit each participating location each year, I have some observations. Now I'm certainly not going to claim in a fit of hubris to be wise enough to simply step in and address something that others have tried and failed to fix, I think my perspective on the Stroll is somewhat unique and may give me a little insight that others lack, and I think I have a few ideas that may help a little.

The first thing that must be noted is there has been a gradual breakdown of the various groups working together, and it stems from the basic fact that in some cases they really started seeing each other's efforts as hurting more than helping.

For example, lets look at the trolley buses. They were really at the heart of what made the Stroll work in its successful days. Unfortunately they are very expensive.

From the perspective of the businesses, they provided the vast majority of the funding for the trolleys. The amount that the schools contributed tended to cover only Chamber of Commerce expenses. The schools appeared to be the primary beneficiaries of the trolleys as they enabled people to park safely away from the schools limited (and overly congested) parking lots and attend multiple school events throughout the day. As the years passed, the happenings at the various school sites built up, and more and more people would just go to the schools and ignore the businesses entirely. For most of the participating schools, however, the Stroll became their number one annual fundraiser. Why couldn't they share some of their gains to help cover some of the expenses? It only seems fair. Furthermore, trolley usage started to drop. Why bother with the trolleys at all? Why bother with the Stroll at all? Each year, fewer and fewer businesses participated. In 2004, there was no longer enough funding to keep the trolleys, and the Stroll transformed from a big town-wide event to a bunch of separated smaller events.

From the school side, the trolleys were not seen as incredibly important. Each school in fact tended to somewhat go into competition with its peers (and the other Stroll sites) to monopolize people's attention, because that is the way to get the most out of the event as a fundraiser. The individual schools instead looked at the pre-event promotion of the Stroll as being their most tangible benefit, and thought they were already paying too much. As this promotion started to get weaker over time (last year the Stroll organizers didn't even bother to list it in the free Saugus calendar, let alone all the papers and commercial alternatives) the schools had to step up their own efforts to promote themselves. If we have to do all the work ourselves, what are we paying for? Why bother participating in the Stroll at all?

The churches provided the majority of the free parking for trolley access. As with some of the schools, the Stroll became a pretty significant fundraiser for some of the churches, and they likewise found themselves doing most of the promotion work directly. The same sorts of arguments thus apply to the churches as to the schools, but the loss of the trolleys affects some of them more deeply as they no longer get traffic by virtue of offering trolley access parking.

From the perspective of the non-profit sites located outside of Cliftondale, without the trolleys there's basically no reason to be part of the Stroll without the trolleys. If the trolleys are no longer bringing strollers anywhere near the sites, why should we have to participate? We have nothing to gain.

Some of the Cliftondale businesses think that making the Stroll Cliftondale centric helps balance things out (considering that Founders' Day is Saugus Center centric). Some of the businesses outside of Cliftondale don't agree.

Looking at it from the Chamber side, the Stroll overall seems to just be seen as an overly expensive event that produces few gains. The money it takes in from site fees is used for advertising and for overhead (the Chamber employs / has employed multiple people, pays for an office, etc.). Remember that the trolleys were sponsored directly by businesses; the fees that sites pay to be part of the Stroll just goes back to the Chamber. As the Chamber, though, if the Stroll completely consumes the time of one or two full-time employees and another part-time employee for however many days, the money it takes in has to cover those salaries for that period in addition to the advertising expenses if is to stay in the black. One can only assume that the apparent decrease in promotion efforts from year to year are probably due to the Chamber weighing these factors.

Viewing it all from the perspective of an actual stroller, things got pretty bad when the trolleys stopped being free (and it was even a little difficult during the Stroll itself to purchase a pass button). This one change (although necessitated by the dropping of trolley sponsorship) in return resulted in significant dropping of trolley usage. (This in turn led to more dropping of trolley sponsorship, but I digress.) When the trolleys were gone, it made it much harder to travel from site to site. Parking at the schools is a nightmare; out-of-the-way sites tend to no longer be worth the effort. Why bother with the increased hassle of strolling around from site to site when most of what I want to see is now in one place anyway?

Anyways, just looking at this situation with the trolleys from the different points of view hopefully makes it clear that the problems are a little bit complicated; it's not simply a matter of anyone being right or wrong. Rather each party has reason and argument to feel that they're the ones being taken advantage of.

If the Stroll is to ever succeed again as a town-wide event, the trolleys have to return and there has to be reason for strollers to move from site to site. This means that the trolley sponsors have to feel that their spending is not completely in vain; they have to get some sort of increased recognition or something in return. It also means that there has to be some sort of centralized plan covering attractions; if one site is too complete, there will be no reason for strollers to ever leave it to check out other locations.

My few suggestions are as follows; I hope others will comment with still more suggestions.

  • There should be some restrictions placed on popular and traditional characters. For example, the entire Stroll should just have one Santa, one Mrs. Claus, one Rudolph, one Frosty, one Scooby Doo, and one whomever-is-popular-at-the-moment. This makes for less confusion for the kids going from site to site and fewer explanations from the parents. It also potentially provides a reason for people to stroll to smaller (and possibly less interesting) sites. I would think that all such characters could be distributed via a random drawing of sites that want one; possibly this drawing could be limited to the trolley sponsors for some (or even all) of the characters. Some characters could potentially even have predetermined shifts at multiple locations.

  • The schools (and other major beneficiaries) have to help somewhat with the trolley expenses. It's really not fair that the businesses shoulder all the load for such an essential Stroll-wide resource. The exact amount that they contribute is of course up for discussion, but clearly they should contribute something.

  • The Chamber has to ensure that the word gets out properly. The announcement of the Stroll (and when possible, the detailed schedule) should be (at absolute minimum) on Saugus.net, in all the papers, on the local access cable channel, on the street banner, and in relevant local newsletters. There's no reason why they couldn't even post something about it on this very blog. They have to make the effort to reach as many Saugonians as possible.

  • Stroll sites have to be clearly marked. People randomly driving by should be aware that something's going on. The trolley stops did a pretty good job of this, but I'd argue that participating sites should get some sort of temporary marking even if they don't have their own trolley stop.

  • Sites should strive not to be boring. There are quite a few talented individuals and organizations in town that don't normally have the opportunity to showcase their stuff -- why not invite some of them to perform or exhibit at some of the sites? Besides helping them get exposure and experience, it'd help attract strollers.

Clearly these suggestions won't fix everything and won't make all the bad feelings that have already engendered go away. Equally clearly these suggestions are pretty raw and require a lot of work in the details. Still, I hope that everyone involved can work together and make the Hammersmith Holiday Stroll successful again.

Please do comment with your own observations and suggestions. Do you think I'm totally right, completely wrong, or somewhere in between? Do you agree with me that the Stroll's sliding into obscurity is generally a bad thing for the town?

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Of Time and the River

We are nearing a publication date, probably early 2006. Our goal is to honor our past by remembering the men and women and the events of that period, sufficient in number and diversity to join with A Gathering of Memories in leaving an authentic picture of that era.

In addition to the major concentration we are considering a look at what might be fun to incorporate in this new book: a brief segment listing words, phrases, and events that were once part of our daily experience, which have disappeared in this century (or are in the process of doing so).

Here are some samples: bulkheads, jitneys, fountain pens, beach wagons, knickers, honey wagons, clinkers, etc.

Care to help us? Include your favorite lost words and phrases in a comment below.
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Election Day in Saugus

Another Election Day is nigh upon us. Saugus.net is again running its regular "Questions to the Candidates" feature, in which candidates get to answer a small representative selection of questions taken from a larger pool submitted by Saugus.net readers (throughout the year by e-mail or in person on Saugus Founders' Day). Strict word limits are enforced to ensure fairness and maintain readability.

Prior to yesterday, average readership of the answers was over 500 per day. There were over 900 readers of the answers yesterday alone. I suspect that today and tomorrow there will be even more readers as people check out how the various candidates answered their questions prior to voting.

I'm usually amazed at how few candidates actually respond considering how many people read the answers. Plus, it's one of the very few ways a candidate for Town Meeting or Housing Authority can get a message to the public; there are certainly no candidates' nights or public debates for such offices. If candidates took better advantage of such free resources, they wouldn't have to be as reliant on expensive (and sometimes obnoxious) methods of getting their name out (like political signs). Some elections have seen as high as 75% participation (and more than once there's been a definite correlation between answering and winning); this election though looks like it may have the lowest response rate ever. In the extremely competitive School Committee race, only about a third of the candidates have participated (as of this writing, answers will continue to get posted through tomorrow). Only one of the candidates for Selectman has participated!

The Saugus Public Library provides free access to Internet-enabled computers for those who need them, plus answers are accepted by FAX, snail mail, and drop slot in the Town Hall, too, so it's pretty hard for a candidate to argue that he or she couldn't submit answers. Likewise, the feature has been being held for local elections since '99, so it's pretty hard for a candidate to argue that he or she had never heard about the "Questions to the Candidates". While the more cynical might suggest that candidates don't like answering questions in a relatively permanent forum (one can still read the answers posted in '99, for example), I tend to think it's more a case of candidates either not realizing that people read stuff online or not caring about that particular demographic. A lot of Saugonians are technophobes and/or Luddites.

Whatever the reason, you can read the answers from the candidates who cared enough to answer in the "Questions to the Candidates" section.

This year saw the introduction of another free online resource that some candidates have been utilizing: the Saugus political forum. While this forum has been pretty busy lately, it's again surprising how few candidates have posted (although as I write this about half of the posts there were written by candidates).

Another point to mention about this election is the heavy out-of-town involvement in the Selectmen's race. In particular, I've gotten a couple of mailings about a blog I'd first noticed via the . Apparently this blog has also been advertised in some of the local newspapers, and the only name that appears anywhere on any of their literature apparently tracks back to a fellow in Cambridge. Why is a Cantabrigian getting involved in a Saugus local election? The only answer that comes screaming to my mind is self-interest. While the presumably out-of-town blogger is now claiming to be a Saugonian (although still without having the backbone to back it up with a Saugus name) there are a couple big clues to the contrary in addition to the involvement of a Cantabridgian.

  1. The writing in all of their literature is written from the point of view of someone not local to Saugus. They write things like "your tax dollars" rather than "our tax dollars" as a true Saugonian would.
  2. They apparently didn't even realize that this established Saugus blog (which is open to all Saugonians and currently has a dozen members) that you're now reading exists, and since it has been referenced by most of the larger local web sites and newspapers in town, most locals are now aware of it.
  3. They also apparently didn't realize that the above mentioned Saugus political forum exists. This is suspect for the same reason as listed in #2.

Of course, it may just be that the presumably out-of-town blogger knew of this open Saugus blog and the Saugus political forum and just chose not to participate in them out of fear of getting responses. After all, unlike his blog, this blog and the political forum are completely open to public discussion and public comments.

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Saugus Ghost Story Contest

As has been noted elsewhere, the deadline for the 2005 free annual Saugus.net Halloween Ghost Story is today. It doesn't seem like a whole year since last year's Ghost Story Contest. It seems even more strange that the contest has been running since 1998 and is now in its eighth year.

As the one who strips off names and identifying characteristics from the entries and then distributes them to the judges, I'm in a pretty good position to reflect on how the contest has evolved. It's seen a lot of changes in its history.

In its first year, the winners were all local; the most remote winner was from Peabody, MA. In fact, all the entries (not just the winners) came from around Massachusetts; we saw entries from Wakefield, Lynn, Nahant, and elsewhere (in addition to Saugus, of course) but there was nothing from out of state.

The total number of entries was also fairly small. There was exactly one elementary school entry (a student from Lynnhurst School), exactly three middle school entries (all from Belmonte), and slightly fewer than a couple dozen adult entries.

By comparison, last year saw two winners from outside the U.S., let alone from out of state. Out of state entries first started appearing pretty early, back in 1999 in fact, but none were winners until 2002. In 2003 all the adult winners were from out of state. There are now far more entries from out of state than there are from within Massachusetts.

Not only are the stories coming from a broader area, but we're receiving a lot more of them. These days it isn't too surprising to have over a hundred entries within just a single age category.

The competition at the adult level was tough from the start and has only gotten tougher. Even in its first year, there were a few entries from published authors, and each year that number has increased.

The competition at the high school level has steadily increased since the first year (when it of course was a non-contest), both in quantity and quality.

The competition in the elementary and middle school age categories has gotten much harder since the first year. Curiously there was a rapid increase in number of middle school and elementary school age entries that peaked in 2001, but which dropped dramatically the following year. Since then these two categories have seen a slower annual increase that have not yet caused them to match their 2001 levels. More than one judge though has remarked that they've seen general improvements in quality.

A couple years ago we also opened the contest up to interactive fiction entries. So far, no one has attempted such an entry, though. The combination of both good writing skills and good computer skills required for it have proved to be a bit daunting. We do receive quite a few poems, though, but since there is no specific category for them they get judged against the prose entries. Occasionally one will win.

With the deadline being today, I'll soon be collecting the last-minute entries and preparing them for the judges (I've been trying to process them as they come in). The ones that are e-mailed as attachments are the easiest for me to prepare; the ones e-mailed inline are the second easiest for me to prepare. The ones dropped off at the Town Hall or mailed are somewhat harder to prepare. The ones FAXed are somewhat of a pain to prepare. In any case, to ensure fairness, the judges don't know how the entries were sent or where or who they were sent from. While I'm (of course) not a judge myself, I do read all of the entries. The next several days will be quite busy (but exciting) as I do get to read them all and try and guess the results. The adult level winners tend to be particularly hard to predict as there tend to be so many superior entries; in fact, I confess that I've never once successfully guessed all three adult level winners.

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