Amherst Life Blog

Welcome to the Amherst Life Blog! Here we will be posting information on activities, events, arts, community concerns, local business, and a variety of other topics related to life in Amherst, Massachusetts. If you are new to the area and looking for housing, please check out our other blog too ------------>> Amherst Housing Blog ::.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Land and Rights: Spread the Word

We at Amherst Life have been covering local Pioneer Valley events for several years. Occasionally we look at national and international news. In this series, Land and Rights, we are going to document the struggles and heroic activities of people across the Americas who are engaged in a very real war against powerful multinational corporations, governments, private military forces, and much more. We feel that these stories mist be spread. We live in a town that is quite safe--our duty is to use that safety. People must know about what is happening on the continent. If that means taking some time to document the unjust activities and human rights violations that make other areas unsafe, it is a cause worthwhile. Sometimes all it takes is a few words, a persuasive sentence, an image for voices to be heard across time and space.

PBS did a remarkable job documenting the struggles in Cauca, Colombia, where an Afro-Colombian community continues to battle massive multinational corporations who, backed by the government, have been trying to remove people from their homes for the past decade. It is a civil war. People are being murdered. Look here at the work of brave women warriors in the community who face death threats daily, have watched all of their male colleagues be murdered, and still fight:

Women, War, and Peace (PBS)

We would like to know what is happening NOW. The PBS special ends in 2011. We will be following this and we hope you will too.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Amethyst Brook

Well, we are more afraid of downtown Amherst when everyone is out of town (notice we've don 5 blog posting is one day?) than dogs running around the Amethyst Brook
(See:, but we do have a few questions for people. We see "no trespassing" signs in a few areas across from the newly constructed greenhouse. Is the private property the river itself? We can't figure out if the river and river bank are privately owned now. We do know, however, that nobody has listened to us about the dangerous barbed wire fence remains that innocent deer probably don't see at night and get cut up by. This fencing is still up and needs to be removed before more humans and animals get hurt.

Protest: The Test in Pro-Test?

Amherst and the valley is known for resistance and protest. We walked around the UMass campus recently and saw two tents set up near the main strip on campus. The vibration of such an encampment looked pitiful. In truth, it looked like those two tent-owners had been paid by higher-up people to make the protest movement look ridiculous. And so, we'd like to hear from our local readers: is this movement CIA funded, an attempt to make a mockery of what it means to resist and protest? The media clearly focusses on the stories of priveleged, mainly middle-class white kids who don't seem to really know what they are doing. Head to areas hard-hit by capitalist greed and the stories that these college kids are telling simply make the harder-hit angry. Is this one of many ways of undoing any effort to resist: show the resistors as a bunch or unorganized, spoiled brats? Make their movement, which is needed and deserved, appear to be a movement of whining adolescents suffering from arrested development? We want to hear your views! Comments please!

LIT: a new posh nightclub-lounge in Amherst?

The folks at Moti's are aesthetic geniuses and they serve a mean plate of food. You will pay handsomely for that plate, but, compared to the choices in the downtown area, your getting your dollar's worth. The owners are also hiring geniuses. They gave managerial responsibilities to one of the most dynamic figures in Amherst and she is shaping a space with multiple trajectories in mind. For now, it seems to be a place for slightly-better-dressed college kids to hear some of the best music in the area in a clean, nicely decorated, beautifully lit (yes, lit) environ. Yet with staff members, the crew at Moti's has privately suggested interest in a Lorca-Rummi poetic exploration night, not necessarily limited to those two giants of the literary world. And so, publicly, we at Amherst Life want to make this clear: you open the stage and mic for poetry, connected to the Silk Road, Spain, the Medditeranean, North Africa... We will get your joint filled. Nightly. Words, thoughts, perspectives will be lit up--and the "downtown" scene will also be alight. We make this public too: get some more non-drinking involved in your space, and we will help fund your endeavors.

Unemployed with Four Diplomas in My Pocket

We put the word out as a basic email to our readers---"highly educated, living in your car?" was the subject heading--and the result was an outpouring of stories. Ph.D.s living in their cars? Is this true? "They must be dealing with other issues, their are jobs on this very campus," a staff member at University Career Services stated. This is true. And so we inquired with our readers. "Anyone try to get a job at UMass with your Ph.D.?" Listen to this one: we got a letter from a young doctorate holding, star of the department, teacher extraordinaire with so many amazing letters written by students about her teaching performance that the university gave her a wonderfully written one-sentence letter with her name mis-spelled, naturally... Yes, we received word from this gifted scholar/educator who received B.A.s and a Ph.D. from UMass, who successfully advised hundreds of students, that not even a single response was elicited by her graceful cover letter (we saw it) and remarkable resume to the Honor's College and university advising services. She sent two emails. Nothing. She decided to apply her vast knowledge of international education and went ahead and applied for multiple study abroad positions in UMass's IPO office. Nothing. Not one word. She contacted numerous departments. Nothing. Blank space. Her own university wont even respond to her. So, we have this to say to university advising, academic departments, and study abroad advising: are you prepared to tell your students that you won't even respond to their emails and employment inquiries as you advise them through their fields of studies? Are you explaining that you yourselves wouldn't even hire them?

New Low for Ph.D.'s looking for work: Harvard University

This just in from one of our readers, a guy with a Ph.D. in literature with, oh dear, a social consciousness. That combination is lethal, we have found. Let me get this straight: "you did seven years of M.A. and Ph.D.
studies at one of the top public universities in the U.S. (UMass), you scraped by on 12,000/year for six years before they kicked you out of funding even though you were consistently rated one of the top instructors in the entire university (I'm paraphrasing his email) and you still have a desire to "help out" in the public education system? Well, if we didn't have the same goal, we'd think you had lost it in Ph.D.-land. But no, there are may of us, and there are many places like Harvard who recently turned down our colleague, mostly because he had the audacity to question their salary.

Like me break it down. Harvard's Placement Specialist Position, advertised publicly at 47-74K/year, a position in which, as Harvard HR unabashedly states, requires 50 plus work weeks between November and March, weekends and nights often. Sounds fairly normal. But when our dear UMass grad inquired about the wide range--commonplace now--he was told "high 40s." FYI: Harvard understands high 40s as 42,000/year, before taxes of course. The highly visible pay range for a "055" position, 35 hours per week, is beyond what they were going to pay for this 50 hour/week job. Harvard is fairly well endowed. Yet, they get away with this because "this is a mission-driven position." Mission driven is the new word for under-compensating. It is the new catch phrase for traps for socially conscious, highly motivated, highly qualified people.

Unemployed, Depressed Ph.D.: My Education is Getting in My Way

We have a hard time sympathizing with people who dedicate their lives to research and writing yet can't seem to figure out that universities are basically factories that do not care about the folks on the assembly line unless they bring the university prestige and money. Humanities: unless you are Noam Chomsky, forget about it. Lowest on the assembly line. They are cutting entire language and literature programs daily.

Yet... the number of people we know who are walking around with advanced degrees in the humanities, unemployed, is staggering. We are now collecting stories from these people who are basically saying that entry-level they are only eligible for entry-level positions yet entry-level positions won't hire them.

Check out this guy's story:

"I write to vent. Nothing more. Do you know what it means to work at $12,000-14,000/yr in Amherst, high rent, high cost of living, for five years, while defending myself from a university that took away my outside merit-based grants because they said I didn't have financial "need" (UMASS said this to me as they handed me one of 1000 tiny sheets of paper with the address of the localsoup kitchen) to earn the highest degree possible in my field after dealing with horrific committee interference with my development as a human being, while being a grad student teacher--the folks that run the UMass campus and actaully care about their students... Yes, all of this.... to then graduate and loate academia so thoroughly that I want a non-teaching job even though I won teaching awards... yes... I continue... to the apply to study abroad programs because I believe in the power of study abroad to help transform students' experiences... to be then harassed and questioned, and have my recommnders contacted MULTIPLE times by some insane director at the University of Miami... a lady who told them she thought I was using her for transitory work even after she questioned me over 15 times, hous on the phone, hours of skype interview, demanding answers about using her office as a stepping stone... to then speak badly about my candidacy to my recommenders.... I had to write this email to her...

And now I have to say, I'm angry that offices like this can be run so horribly and I think parents should know their kids have absolutely no organizational structure behind them, and the type of people running these programs are insane... So I found the UMiami provosts information and may even write to him."

Our reader withdrew his candidacy with an email that we have urged him to publish on his own. It is so critical of the state of study abroad and the way administrators are abusing their power that it deserves its own blog.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

UMass Health Services: Not Diagnosing Swine Flu?

People, UMass-Amherst's Heath Services Center is not diagnosing students with Swine Flu nor are they keeping track of the numbers of students with swine flu... They don't seem to think that knowing/having the number of students with swine flu matters. We find this troubling. More troubling is the fact that they are now asking that people with the flu/swine-like symptoms "just go home." So, nobody knows how severe the outbreak is at UMass. This is not good. We welcome your comments.

Lincoln Street Closes, Still no Parking

Um, excuse us, but did the town vote to SHUT DOWN the entryway from Lincoln Ave. onto the UMass Campus? For the first few weeks of school, barricades were set up, police were patrolling and ticketing anyone who tried to go around the barricades, traffic was altered, and all of this without much notice at all. So, our question is the following: why does the town act so quickly to do some radical street alterations and, at the same time, drag their feet when it comes time to offer center residents a 24-hour parking space during the winter? The answer: people who don't have driveways/off-street parking are the ones renting apartments in buildings. Those on Lincoln are the landed gentry. Come on Town Hall! It is NOT THAT HARD to open up 24 hour parking for the center residents. You shut down an entire street, you can do this. The spaces are already there.

Moti Restaurant

Well, we don't want to boast, but it does look like the owners of Moti saw our business prospects in Amherst posting (along with two new taxi companies) and they are doing very well. The moral of the story: if Amherst Life calls for a new business in town, one might act on it.

We are still looking for music venues! Live and recorded music -- something other than the bars in town please!

We will keep posting our ideas for new businesses in the area. Right now there are two prime spaces in the center of town, perfect for a music cafe.

Moti is definitely worth a visit -- good food, very friendly staff. The only thing is that if they are going to serve to a university crowd, more food on the plates is necessary for the price! But good quality and finally some Persian/Mediterranean cuisine!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Business Folk: Free tips!

OK, you might ask, "what's in it for you?" Our response: a more dynamic town and more places for the non-binge drinking inclined. So, for what it's worth, we'd like to give entrepreneurs a few tips:

In Amherst, one kind of business thrives: the cafe/restaurant. Yes, that is it. There are multiple, but none of them have concocted the "perfect" mix of cheap food, good coffee, nice & clean space, and good MUSIC on Friday's and Saturday's. This is not rocket science but for some reason, nobody around here can put it into action. Amherst needs a cafe with god rice and beans, hummus and pita, coffee and tea, basic vegetarian (and well-done) grilled vegetables, some "top picks" books for sale (cheap), some good prints for sale (artwork), weekly music (quality, please, don't be cheap or we will trash you forever!). So there you have it: trust us. You will make a lot of money here and you will improve our lives. Donations accepted.

Holyoke PVTA!

We would like to propose an express bus route from Holyoke Center (not the mall) to UMass-Amherst. There are thousands of students and faculty-members who live in Holyoke and commute to Amherst, and Holyoke is the only affordable place to live in the area. You open a bus route, Holyoke gets more students, that means more money flowing into the city, that means more life in the city, that means grad students can actually live without going to the local church for free food. We would like to hear your ideas about an express bus route. Please post them below.

Cultural Bazaar in Amherst

Could someone please explain what does not count for "indigenous" cultural objects, please? We went to the bazaar, and (though many folks came in the interest of cross-cultural exchange), there were some vendors selling mass-produced products. So, is a factory-produced mask an "indigenous" cultural representation. Probably. But that forces the "real" vendors -- those who are crafting by hand -- to lower their prices and not get the money that their work deserves. You comments are welcome!

Unethical landlords!

Ok, this is not the space to trash your landlord! This is the space, however, to get even! If your landlord has been unethical and you have the documentation to prove it, post your case and let the public know! We do not want made-up stories! We want real cases that have legal documentation so that us renters know what we are getting into! Posts can be posted below.

Translating architectural forms: more for you housing seekers!

This is another piece of advice that international students and folks from warmer climes often forget to consider....

If you are interested in a 1st floor apartment (ground floor) always ask if there is a basement or if the apartment is right on the cold earth! If you have a basement, heating prices can be affordable. Sometimes there is even a furnace beneath the unit (and that is good!). However, if your unit is not above a basement and rests upon a slab of concrete that is right on the ground, you can expect to pay HIGH prices for heating in the winter. Around 150/month, at least...

So, something to consider! We believe the first floor apartments at Colonial Village are an example of units without a basement below... We have to confirm that, though... Someone let us know!

Housing in Amherst

We know... the UMass housing page is down and now you are limited to "craigslist western mass." But that makes the search a little easier, and hopefully the people who post on UMass will realize that a "vacant" 1-bedroom apartment is not a room in a private home! We are so tired of these people! So, for the record, and for all of the landlords out there, a room in an apartment or home is just that: a room! Wow.

We have also come across multiple scams that out-of-town folk should know about.

1) Be weary of craigslist ads that use "Western Massachusetts" as a town name. Western Mass. is a huge area and there are probably 40 towns and cities in this part of the state.

2) If you are renting a "room" or a vacant apartment that includes heat, you should ask WHO controls the heat. You will be surprised (or maybe you won't...) that some of the landlords in the happy valley keep daytime heat regulated at 68 degrees in the winter months. That may not sound cold to you, but think about the cold winter draft that may enter your abode at night. Something to consider.

3) Beware of folks who say they will pay the agency fee on the apartment you are about to lease! They might say that they will cover the fee, which is nice, but get the money in cash then!

4) Check the PVTA schedule and call PVTA for bus route info. Some landlords are calling a 2 mile walk "close" to the major bus stops. That is good for exercise-sake, but not so good when you have to get to campus in a hurry.

5) We'll keep posting! Come back. And tell us your stories as apartment searchers!

Our intention is to make the move into the area smooth and to do that we like to keep landlords and homeowners in check! This is your space to keep the pressure on and to let us all know about unethical landlord practices. So, post away below!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Jason Vassell Meeting Tomorrow

This just in...

We are writing to remind you of the community-wide organizing meeting that
is taking place tomorrow, Monday, November 24th, at 6 PM. It will be held in
the lower level meeting room of the Bangs Community Center. The Bangs
Community Center is located at 70 Boltwood Walk in Amherst, behind Rao's

Our rally last week was very successful. Despite the freezing temperatures,
several hundred supporters came to voice their support. We presented over
4500 petition signatures to District Attorney Scheibel's office. We received
favorable coverage in all of the major local newspapers and on all of the
local TV channels. The newly formed Western Massachusetts Coalition for
Justice for Jason is growing by the day. We are gaining momentum."

Your attendance is needed!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Art Exhibit at UMass -- "In Other's Words"

An interesting exhibit by students at UMass-Amherst.

"The Student Union Art Gallery, located in the Student Union Building at UMass Amherst, presents "In Other's Words," curated by farm members Susie Nielsen, Claudia Middendorf, and Christine Gallagher. The exhibition is about the power and reinvention of language, defined as a pattern used by a particular group within a community (usually occupational) or a special pattern created for communication: "a body of words and the systems for their common use." What happens when you take one language and ask it to describe, unite, react or interact with another?

The show dates are November 12 through December 5. The opening reception will be held on November 20 from 4:00-6:00 p.m. Gallery hours are Mondays-Thursdays 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. and Fridays 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. For more information, call (413) 545-0792.

Directions & Parking

Located on the 2nd floor of the Student Union building. Parking is available in the Campus Center Parking Garage located next to the Campus Center with a passageway leading directly from the garage on the 2nd floor."

More Info @:

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bush Risks Endangered Animals

This just in from Yahoo news: "Animals and plants in danger of becoming extinct could lose the protection of government experts who make sure that dams, highways and other projects don't pose a threat, under a regulation the Bush administration is set to put in place before President-elect Obama can reverse them. The rules must be published Friday to take effect before Obama is sworn in Jan. 20. Otherwise, he can undo them with the stroke of a pen."

What other things can the man do before he leaves office? S

Jason Vassell Trail

Northampton, MA -- A crowd of approximately 80 students, professors, community activists and members rallied outside of the Northampton District Attorney's office in support of Jason Vassell, who will face trial for events that occurred last February when he was attacked by two white men at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. After being verbally threatened and physically beaten, Vassell allegedly defended himself against his white attackers with a knife, injuring one. Though it seems to be a case of clear self-defense, our justice system has turned the star student and community member into a felon who is now facing thirty years in jail. His white attackers face 1.5 years in jail, and the other, none. The difference in the sentences speak volumes. We would like to encourage all of you to write letters to international and national newspapers, columnists, news centers, alternative news organizations, and civil rights organizations. The word has to get around and out of the community!

Rally for Jason Vassell



On Wednesday, November 19, at 3:30pm,
we will be meeting with supporters of Justice for Jason at Pulaski
Park in Downtown Northampton. We will then march together to the
District Attorney's office demanding Justice for Jason. Thousands of
petition signatures, statements of support from community
organizations, and letters from concerned supporters will be submitted
to her. The more supporters present the less she can ignore us!


**SIGN THE PETITION** petition/ J4JDismissalofcharges/


Elizabeth Scheibel
1 Gleason Plaza
Northampton, MA 01060



We're back!

It's been a while, but we read a post on the (UMass Journalism blog and were inspired to get back at it! Thanks!

So, first thing: YES WE CAN!!!! Amherst cars were beeping, people were running in the streets, a whole crew from Amherst College rushed the center in celebration, and folks were happy! There is hope!

Second: You must hit la noche latina at the Iron Horse on Tuesday nights at aroud 10:30pm -- great latin music, people dancing, nice crowd.

Third: Amherst Town Management has still done nothing about on-street parking for handicapped & elderly folks who live on Amity street and other areas where there are apartment buildings that do not allow for on-site (driveway) parking. That is a big issue for people who have to move their automobiles all over the town in search for a space. And when it gets icy, it is dangerous for many. So, put some pressure on this rich-serving town hall and tell them that their b.s. has gone on long enough. Would you like your grandmother going in and out of her nice apartment to move a car in the middle of the winter, and then walk back 30 minutes through the snow. We think not. Speak up. These people in town hall have been notified for years now.

Fourth: We need reviews on the new Vietnamese restaurant in Amherst center. And whatis happening with the Souper Bowl? Can someone get the word out that the owner needs to have some live music at night? He has a great spot for dancing. A bar. And what do they do? Soup. And crackers. Not cutting it! You have a great space -- use it!

Fifth: Raos employees need a serious overview of cleaning procedures that should begin with sponges. More precisely, employees need to know that MULTIPLE/Different sponges are used for different surfaces. You don't use the same sponge for every surface. You see them doing that, let the manager know or post a comment.

Sixth: UMass continues to abuse it's email system by allowing vendors to sell their goods to students via the college email account. Some corrupt official/administrator is making a killing on commissions. We have to speak up about this!

Seventh: Thanks for reading and sorry for the long hiatus!