Saturday, October 22, 2022

Marble Farm Park, Maynard, MA - Groundbreaking Event

On the morning of October 17th, a modest audience attended a groundbreaking event celebrating the creation of a new town park and historic site. Funding for the project comes from a grant by the Community Preservation Committee, which supports open space and historic preservation efforts. The work, to start this fall, will be done by Belko Landscaping LLC, of Salem, NH.

In the early 1700s, the Marble family moved from Andover to land that is now adjacent to the Assabet River Rail Trail, on the north side of town. The family’s descendants lived there until 1919; the house burned down to the foundation in 1924. In time, the land was seized by the town for non-payment of property taxes.

The location is just north of Rockland Avenue and across from Christmas Motors. The site, approximately two-thirds of an acre, encompasses the basement stone walls of the foundation of the house, two lawns, several stone walls, and an extensive planting of daffodils that began in 2018, courtesy of a project called Trail of Flowers (

From left to right, Natalie Robert (Planning Board), Sam Webb (resident at the nearby Marble Farm Road development), D.J. Chagnon (CBA Landscape Architects), David Mark (Maynard historian and Trail of Flowers founder), John Dwyer and Ellen Duggan (Community Preservation Committee), Paul Boothroyd (Maynard historian and author), and Justine St. John (Select Board member), all posed with a motley collection of shovels and pickaxes.

An initial clearing of the site was performed in the spring of 2009 by Maynard’s Boy Scout Troop 130 as an Eagle Scout project led by Jason Shomacker. Volunteers from ARRT and TOF did some site improvement starting in 2018, including creating the lawns. Going forward, creation of the park will include erecting a steel fence around the foundation, and removal of more than a dozen dead trees, two large brush piles, a deteriorating pump house building and a crumbling brick entranceway. All of these actions address site safety issues.

Initial plan led to bids well over budget, so the project was
reduced to essential for safety, with nice-to-have left to a pos-
sible second proposal to Community Preservation Committee
Gregory Johnson, Maynard Town Administrator, led off the event with a mention that town resident David Mark was instrumental in getting volunteers to do initial site improvements, and then submitting a proposal to the Community Preservation Committee. Select Board member Justine St. John added how this becomes a third town ‘pocket’ park on the Rail Trail, joining Tobin Park by the Assabet River bridge, and Ice House Landing. David Mark spoke to the old and recent history of the site. John Dwyer explained CPC’s involvement of seeing the process through from proposal to accepted bid. D.J. Chagnon from CBA Landscape Architects LLC added a few words about the evolution from initial plan to the formal project description, with its prioritization of site safety. 

A construction start date has not yet been set, but is expected to be early November.

Monday, October 17, 2022

Maynard's Historic Fires

There are more than a handful of historic fires that changed Maynard, or at least the architecture of Maynard. These can be roughly divided into businesses and schools. All are well documented in the collection of the Maynard Historical Society, including many photographs.

The paper mill fire was reputed to be arson. At the gunpowder mill, fires caused explosions and explosions caused fires so frequently that the company had its own fire-fighting equipment. A compilation of various records show 24 explosions and 29 fatalities. The wool mill fire of 1920 meant the end of original wooden buildings from 1846.

DATE       WHAT BURNED              BUILT AFTER                THERE NOW

1835-1940 Gunpowder mill                gunpowder mill              Stop & Shop; car dealers

5/14/1894  Paper mill                          ?????                              Tedeschi's/Dunkin Donuts [7-11]

11/26/12    Music Hall                        Tutto's Bowling Alley    recently torn down buildings

9/20/16      Nason St. School               Roosevelt School           Maynard Public Library

2/11/17      Naylor Block                     one-story storefronts      Gallery Seven, Serendipity

1/25/18      Trolley building                rebuilt                             office building

2/1/19        Bent Ice House                 another ice house           that one burned in 1950

8/17/20      Wool mill                          more mill buildings        Mill & Main buildings

1/29/21      Maynard Hotel                  Memorial Park               Memorial Park

7/14/34      Riverside Block                same building, fixed      Gruber Bros Furniture [gone]

1/30/36      Riverside CO-OP              brick building                 Knights of Columbus [KoC left]

12/17/52    Woodrow Wilson School  Town hall and library     Town hall and police station

3/13/55      Fraternal Order Eagles      two story building          Masciarelli Jewelry [gone]

7/29/65      Amory Maynard's house   apartment building         apartment building

Not listed above, but Booth's Bowling Alley burned in July 6, 1906. Suspicions at the time were that a pet monkey, which had the run of the place at night and knew how to strike matches, was responsible for the fire (the monkey suffered burns, but survived). 

Naylor Block, corner of Nassan and Main, the morning after the
February 11, 1917 fire (courtesy Maynard Historical Society)
After the trolley's building and rolling stock went up in flames the brick building was rebuilt and replacement cars purchased, but the line was already in financial decline. Trolley service ended with a last run on January 16, 1923. Today, the building houses offices. The back of the parking lot provides access to the Assabet River downstream of the Ben Smith Dam. Upstream of the dam, the Bent Ice House burned in February 1919. A replacement was built on the same foundation. That one burned in November 1950. 

Amory Maynard's mansion is the only private dwelling listed here. It was built on the hill south of the mill in 1873, went up in flames in an early morning fire on July 29, 1965. The Maynard family was long-gone from town and the building divided into apartments. His son's former house still stands at 5-7 Dartmouth Street. It, too, was divided into apartments, but still provides semblance to Amory's even larger mansion. Both were capped with a Mansard roof. Copying this style became quite the vogue for well-to-do Maynard residents. See south end of Maple Street for examples.

In the modern era, the two-story building on Main Street that housed Salsalito's Restaurant and T.C. Lando's Sub & Pizzeria was consumed by flames in 1998, NAPA Auto Parts ditto in 2001, and Gruber Bros. Furniture suffered a smoky fire a handful of years ago.    

To paraphrase Robert Frost, someone there is that doesn't love a school. Often a student. This is not to believe that school fires do not happen by accident. But history records five school fires (two in the table plus Nason Street School in 1879, Emerson-Fowler School in 1977 and Maynard High School in 1992) - and no record of any major church fires.

This write-up was not published in the Beacon-Villager 

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Alexander Calder Forgery

 Calder, Warhol and Dali are among the most frequently forged 20th century artists.

 Alexander Calder (1898-1976) is best known for his mobiles and stabiles, the former made of metal shapes and wire, moving in response to air currents, the later to pieces that stand on the ground – some quite monumental in size – without movement. Auction prices for these one-of-a-kind pieces range from $1,000,000 to $15,000,000. As Calder's professional reputation expanded in the late 1940s and 1950s, so did his production of paintings and of lithographs (prints), the latter typically produced as a limited edition, each copy signed and numbered by Calder. Current prices for signed lithographs range from $1,000 to $10,000.

In 1987, the Calder Foundation ( was established by Calder's family, "dedicated to collecting, exhibiting, preserving, and interpreting the art and archives of Alexander Calder.” The Foundation identifies misattributed works, either complete forgeries or unauthorized lithographs of his art (see Forgeries, often two-dimensional abstracts in the Calder-associated red, blue, yellow and black, are an ongoing problem. Owners of work thought to be by Calder can be submitted to the Foundation for examination and registration in the Foundation’s archive.

A catalogue raisonné (critical catalogue) is a comprehensive, annotated listing of all the known artworks by an artist either in a particular medium or all media. The works are described in such a way that they may be reliably identified by third parties. There have been several serious authenticity issues concerning Calder’s work. In 1993, the owners of Rio Nero (1959?), a sheet-metal and steel-wire mobile ostensibly by Calder, went to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia charging that it was not by Alexander Calder, as claimed by its seller. Klaus Perls, a recognized Calder expert and manager of sales of Calder’s output from 1954 to 1976, had declared it a copy. There were also issues of work supposedly designed by Calder but not created until after his death. For example, stage sets designed by Calder but built after his death were rejected by the Calder Foundation. The Foundation was known at times to err – in 1999 it had declared a hanging glass dove to be fake and had it destroyed; it was later confirmed as a genuine work from 1955.

Ironically, after Perls death in 2008, the Calder Foundation sued his estate for $20,000,000, accusing it for holding and selling hundreds of Calder works that were not known to the Foundation, then channeling the proceeds into his Swiss bank account, and also knowingly or unknowingly selling counterfeits. The lawsuit was dismissed in 2013, with Judge Kornreich of the New York Supreme Court describing it as “An incoherent stew of irrelevance and innuendo.”

In 1995, questions arose about another purported Calder, Two White Dots. Calder had created a model for a stabile in 1973 and sent it to the Segré Foundry in Connecticut, a business that had for decades created the full-size stabiles and mobiles so submitted. In this instance, the Foundry constructed a full-size version in 1982 and sold it in 1983 for $70,000. Subsequent sales, all claiming it was a Calder artwork, ended with a purchase for $1,000,000 in 1995. It was subsequently submitted to and rejected by the Foundation. The gallery that had sold the work refunded the million dollars and sued the Foundry. The suit was settled out of court.   

Alexander Calder "Squash Blossoms"
unsigned, not numbered, circa 1972
Back to lithographs, and specifically to Squash Blossoms, a lithograph print I purchased for $125 in 1974, shortly after starting my first post-college job as a lab technician at Harvard Medical School. Mine is signed and marked a/p, signifying artist’s proof, a term applied to test copies run for the artist’s approval before a numbered run is printed. This artwork was created by Calder in 1972 for a book titled XXe Siecle - a Homage to Calder, published in Paris by San Lazzaro. Each copy of the book came with an original lithograph in color, unsigned and unnumbered. No information on how many books printed. There was also a numbered run. The lithograph was done by Mourlot Printer, Paris, France.

And here is where the question of forgery arises. A Google images search on Calder "Squash Blossoms" yields many examples of the lithograph either for sale now or previously sold by galleries or at auctions. One identifies that particular lithograph as being number 6 out of production run of 100. Other are unsigned (likely separated from the book), or signed and indicated on the left lower corner as a/p, E.A, or H.C. As noted, a/p signifies artist’s proof; E.A for épreuve d'artiste, meaning the same in French. Unnumbered prints that are gifted to someone the artist knows personally or are for some reason unsuitable for sale are marked "H. C.", meaning "hors de commerce", i.e., not for sale. My guess is that some (all?) of the E.A. and H.C. prints were separated from the books and have forged signatures. (There are copies of the book for sale which indicate the lithograph was removed.) It is also possible that fake prints were made at a later date. Sales prices appear to be under $500 for unsigned and $500 to $2,000 for signed

Monday, July 18, 2022

Surgery for Peripheral Neuropathy

Disclaimer: I am not a physician. I researched this topic for reasons of my own health.

SUMMARY: Surgery for diabetic peripheral neuropathy of the feet and lower legs – with the strongest evidence being for pain relief – is considered when there is diagnostic evidence that the nerves are enlarged in cross-section and compressed by thickened surrounding tendons, ligaments and other support structures, and when non-surgical treatments are not providing adequate relief. In contrast, the evidence for surgery as treatment for idiopathic peripheral neuropathy (IPN) of the feet and lower legs is weak, as pain is not the dominant symptom of IPN, and the evidence comes from three uncontrolled clinical trials: Valdivia 2013, Siemionow 2006, Valdivia 2005. It is possible that Valdivia 2013 represents adding more subjects to those already reported on in Valdivia 2005. 

PERIPHERAL NEUROPATHY: refers to symptoms of nerve cell damage to nerves in the legs and arms. Nuclei of these cells are in the spinal column. Axons of these cells extend to legs and arms. Axon length matters, so feet and legs are often affected before hands and arms. Sensory nerves are typically affected before motor nerves, so symptoms of pain, numbness, burning sensation, tingling, etc., appear before poor motor control. People may complain that it feels as if there are pebbles inside their shoes, or contrariwise, that they have little-to-no sensation from their feet, contributing to loss of balance. Foot injuries such as blisters, cuts and bruises may go unnoticed. 

Diabetes is a major cause of peripheral neuropathy. Nerves are enlarged. Ultrasound can be used to confirm that the cross-sectional diameter of nerves is increased by 25-50%. If the nerve is traveling through a restricted area, this increase in size can result in construction of the nerve and increased symptoms of numbness. Some researchers believe that roughly 30-60% of patients with diabetes suffering from neuropathy have a component of peripheral nerve compression. 

Other causes include autoimmune diseases, viral and bacterial infections, inherited disorders, tumors pressing on nerves, vitamin B12 deficiency, kidney disease, lover disease, and others. If no known cause is identified, the condition is referred to as idiopathic peripheral neuropathy. 

HISTORY OF DECOMPRESSION SURGERY: Starting in the early 1990s. surgery has been proposed as a treatment for peripheral neuropathy. The theory is that the nerves are compressed. For legs and feet, the surgery sites are peroneal nerve at knee, tibial nerve at ankle and peroneal nerve at dorsum of the foot. A review (Nickerson 2017) took the position that medical ‘ownership’ of treating symptoms of nerve disorders became prejudice against surgeons ‘trespassing’ where they did not belong. Nickerson referred to the opposition as “common and committed.” Reviews published circa 2006-08 that a surgical approach was “unproven.” Nickerson concluded that based on more trial results and reviews, was that the surgical approach “may deserve reassessment.” 

Per Nickerson, the strongest positive evidence is for diabetic sensorimotor polyneuropathy (DSPN), and within that patient subset, for pain relief. To a more modest degree, there are clinical improvements in sensation, balance, control of sway with eyes closed, etc. The evidence for surgery for DSPN also includes lowering risk of leg/foot ulcers, amputations and improved life expectancy (Rinkel 2021). 

There is much less surgery evidence for non-diabetic neuropathy, i.e., idiopathic peripheral neuropathy. IPN is much less likely to have pain as the major symptom, whereas pain relief is the strongest result for diabetic surgery. If surgery is to be considered for IPN, there should first be a confirmation nerve compression, followed by a progressive surgical strategy, for example, one leg, ankle only, rather than both legs, knee, ankle and foot. 

EVIDENCE FOR SURGERY: See references. Not included are several older clinical trial reports that enrolled only diabetic patients. Rinkel 2021, Rinkel 2018, Nickerson 2017 and Tu 2017 are reviews of long-term follow-up of diabetes patients. Maurik 2015 and Maurik 2014 are diabetes clinical trial reports. Valdivia 2013, Siemionow 2006 and Valdivia 2005 included both diabetic and IPN subjects. Valdivia 2013 reported on 96 subjects with diabetic neuropathy and 62 with idiopathic neuropathy, and reported “There was no difference in outcomes between patients with diabetic versus idiopathic neuropathy in response to nerve decompression.” Valdivia 2013 may have incorporated subjects from Valdivia 2005.

The clinical trials were not placebo controlled via sham surgery. Instead, there is analysis comparing before to after, or operated leg to not operated leg. There is a known strong placebo effect for pain relief across many conditions, for example, osteoarthritis or migraine, so pain relief results may in part be a placebo effect. 

DIAGNOSIS: Pain is measured with a subjective Visual Analog Scale (VAS) ranking zero to ten. Touch sensation is measured in several ways, including increasing pressure until touch is perceived, and with the ability to distinguish between one-point and two-point touching. “Tinel Sign” is considered positive if finger tapping on a nerve elicits tingling. Temperature perception (cold or hot) can be impaired. All of these can be improved after surgery, but pain is the most sensitive marker. 

A skin biopsy can determine whether nerve cell endings are present. Nerve conduction velocity and electromyography are tests. Ultrasound checks for nerve enlargement, and can be before and after surgery for change. Mysteriously, surgery on one leg has been shown to reduce nerve cross-sectional area and pain in the non-operated leg, perhaps suggesting a reduction in circulating inflammatory compounds. 

NON-SURGICAL TREATMENTS: There is a long list, with varying degrees of efficacy: Aspirin and other NSAIDS, topical products such as capsaicin, Transcutaneous electronic nerve stimulation, anti-depressant drugs can relieve chronic pain, corticosteroids, opiods, dietary supplements, etc. 

REFERENCES (chronological) 

Abstracts for these refs can be seen by searching on "PubMed" and within PubMed, on PMID # 

Rinkel WD, Franks B, Birnie E, et al. Cost-Effectiveness of Lower Extremity Nerve Decompression Surgery in the Prevention of Ulcers and Amputations: A Markov Analysis. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2021 Nov 1;148(5):1135-45. PMID: 34705790. 
Rinkel WD, de Kleijn JL, Macaré van Maurik JFM, Coert JH. Optimization of Surgical Outcome in Lower Extremity Nerve Decompression Surgery. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2018 Feb;141(2):482-96. PMID: 29068902. 
Nickerson DS. Nerve decompression and neuropathy complications in diabetes: Are attitudes discordant with evidence? Diabet Foot Ankle. 2017 Sep 6;8(1):1367209 PMID: 28959382. 
Tu Y, Lineaweaver WC, Chen Z, Hu J, Mullins F, Zhang F. Surgical Decompression in the Treatment of Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. J Reconstr Microsurg. 2017 Mar;33(3):151-57. PMID: 27894152. 
Macaré van Maurik JF, ter Horst B, van Hal M, Kon M, Peters EJ. Effect of surgical decompression of nerves in the lower extremity in patients with painful diabetic polyneuropathy on stability: a randomized controlled trial. Clin Rehabil. 2015 Oct;29(10):994-1001. PMID: 25381348. 
van Maurik JFMM, van Hal M, van Eijk RPA, Kon M, Peters EJG. Value of surgical decompression of compressed nerves in the lower extremity in patients with painful diabetic neuropathy: a randomized controlled trial. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2014 Aug;134(2):325-32. PMID: 24732651. 
Valdivia Valdivia JM, Weinand M, Maloney CT Jr, Blount AL, Dellon AL. Surgical treatment of superimposed, lower extremity, peripheral nerve entrapments with diabetic and idiopathic neuropathy. Ann Plast Surg. 2013 Jun;70(6):675-79. PMID: 23673565. 
Dellon AL. The Dellon approach to neurolysis in the neuropathy patient with chronic nerve compression. Handchir Mikrochir Plast Chir. 2008 Dec;40(6):351-60. PMID: 19051159. 
Dellon AL. The four medial ankle tunnels: a critical review of perceptions of tarsal tunnel syndrome and neuropathy. Neurosurg Clin N Am. 2008 Oct;19(4):629-48, vii. PMID: 19010287. 
Ducic I, Taylor NS, Dellon AL. Relationship between peripheral nerve decompression and gain of pedal sensibility and balance in patients with peripheral neuropathy. Ann Plast Surg. 2006 Feb;56(2):145-50. PMID: 16432321.
Siemionow M, Alghoul M, Molski M, Agaoglu G. Clinical outcome of peripheral nerve decompression in diabetic and nondiabetic peripheral neuropathy. Ann Plast Surg. 2006 Oct;57(4):385-90. PMID: 16998329. 
Valdivia JM, Dellon AL, Weinand ME, Maloney CT Jr. Surgical treatment of peripheral neuropathy: outcomes from 100 consecutive decompressions. J Am Podiatr Med Assoc. 2005 Sep-Oct;95(5):451-54. PMID: 16166462.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Egg Yolk Color Can be Synthetic, Shell Color is Genetic

Egg shell color is genetic by breed. If you want brown shells, own Rhode Island Reds. Interestingly (and mysteriously), brown is the preferred shell color in New England, whereas the rest of the U.S. prefers white. The color decision is not absolute – in New England roughly 50% of consumer-bought eggs have brown shells, dropping to 11% in the mid-Atlantic states, and lower in the rest of the country. In general, white eggs are preferred in South America and the Middle East, whereas brown is preferred in Africa, Europe, China and Japan.

The process of assembling an egg is interesting. Yolks, surrounded by a membrane, increase in size in the ovary, and are then released into the oviduct. Egg white, contained inside a membrane, surrounds the yolk. That process takes about four hours. Next, the egg enters the shell gland. Adding a shell – layering hour after hour – takes about 20 hours.

Range of eggshell colors
Shell pigment is added last. The amount, translating to darkness of brown color, appears to be constant per egg. Given that as laying hens get older, they lay larger eggs, those shells will be less brown than when the same hen was younger. Shell thickness averages 0.30 millimeters, and decreases with age. Shells are made almost entirely of calcium carbonate crystals. A laying hen in good health needs 4-5 grams of calcium per day, typically provided as crushed oyster shells. (By way of comparison, the Estimated Average Requirement for adult humans is about one gram.) Hens tend to start laying eggs at 18 weeks of age. Productivity peaks at about one year, on the order of 250 eggs per year. By year three, approximately 70% of peak, by year four, 60% of peak. Hens will live 8-10 years, but egg production is not expected after year six.

“Pigment last” is not really last. As each egg leaves the oviduct, it is covered in a protein and lipid layer referred to as bloom or cuticle. Before this has time to dry, the egg will be sticky to the touch. The purpose of bloom is to prevent bacterial access to the eggshell contents. In the U.S. commercially sold eggs are washed, removing the bloom. For this reason, eggs must be refrigerated. In the European Union, eggs are not washed, and can be packaged, displayed and sold at room temperatures. In the U.S., people who raise their own chickens for eggs can do either, depending on state regulations. Unrefrigerated eggs last only about 21 days, whereas refrigerated eggs last about 50 days.

Egg yolk color depends on what the laying hens eat. Caged, and fed a diet of predominately corn will result in a pale yellow yolk. Hens with access to an area that has wild plants and insects will lay eggs with a yellow-orange yolk. This comes from carotenoids compounds being passed to the yolk. The orange hue does not mean healthier chicks if eggs are allowed to hatch, nor healthier for humans who consume those eggs. However, eggs from “free range” chickens are perceived as healthier, and priced higher, accordingly.

Egg yolk color choices offered by DSM, a Dutch-based
multinational corporation that acquired the vitamin
division of Roche in 2003
“Money is the necessity of invention.” The classic version of this belief is “Necessity is the mother of invention.” But as egg farmers consider money a necessity, the first version holds true, too. Pasture-raised hens are eating seeds and insects that contribute natural color compounds – carotenoids – will lay eggs with an orange tint to the yolks. Chrysanthemum or rose flower petals, also red bell peppers or chili pepper, can donate a darker hue. However, as an alternative to these natural methods or affected yolk color, chicken feed companies publish a yolk color chart which allows egg production companies to pick a yolk color derived from amounts of synthetic carotenoids added to the feed. The only downside to using synthetic carotenoids is that the eggs cannot be labeled organic.

While talking chicken, lets dip into “Free Range.” FR usually defined as the laying hens being outside at least six hours per day, but only requiring two square feet of outdoor space per bird. A typical set-up for the outside space is concrete, covered in sand, shredded bark and straw. The covering material is removed on a regular basis so the concrete can be hosed clean. While still a higher density habitat than most people image FR means, it is still a huge improvement over the factory farm conditions still dominant in the U.S. “Battery cages” are a few feet square. Between four and ten birds are held in each cage. Industry guidelines recommend each bird having floor space roughly the size of a piece of printer paper. This is where they live for years. Several states, including Massachusetts, have banned caged hen practices.

Trivia: Ostrich eggs are about 2.0 mm thick. Shells from the extinct elephant birds of Madagascar were about 4.0 mm thick. These flightless birds could approach ten feet in height and exceed 1,000 pounds in weight.