Newsrooms are fond of “top 10 stories of the year” lists to fill space during the holidays, when everybody’s on vacation. In no particular order here are some of my favorite stories that I reported in 2017 – not important stories, not breaking stories, but favorites:
- The fight over the Manchester city flag, which displays (among other things) a centrifugal governor as a nod to the millyard’s industrial past. After I wrote that the flag should not be replaced with one of a proposed set of vapid, content-free logos, city voters soundly agreed and kept the flag. I’m sure it was because of my column.
- The state’s oldest short-line railroad (which is a real thing, not just something from Monopoly) turned 35. How in the world does it stay in business?
- A display of mayoral photos leads me to ponder a great mystery: Why did facial hair disappear when the 20th century began?
In April I wrote about a group in Keene that back in 1993 pondered what was needed to make electric cars a reality, because most of their suggestions are still on the planning board a quarter-century later. My fondness for this story is increased by the play it got on the Monitor’s front page, shown above: it included a picture of the original column I wrote about this group back in 23 years ago, a bit of time-traveling journalism that might be self-indulgent but really tickled me.
- Have you ever wondered how those overhead signs on the turnpike know that Exit 1 is 19 minutes of driving time away? Yeah, me too.
- Considering how small our mountains are, New England hiking trails are notoriously rugged. I pondered that fact in perhaps my favorite story of the year, responding to an Alabama woman who thought our hiking trails were a disgrace, in desperate need of handrails and stairs.
- What’s it like to live in a house made out of plastic Quonset huts all stuck together?
- No, a meteorite didn’t start that big wildfire in New Hampshire, because they’re not very hot by the time they hit the ground. White Mountain National Forest says it was “human caused” although “beyond that, the exact ignition source has not been identified.” I’m re-running this column partly because the original item drew frantic outrage from a certain subset of the space-loving crowd who really, really wanted it to be caused by a meteorite. One of them left a half-dozen voice-mail messages accusing me of every journalistic sin in the book.
- There’s a place in New Hampshire that’s halfways between the equator and the North Pole. Don’t ask exactly where it is.
- And my favorite story of the years is: Mathematicians really love their blackboards!