Forecast: January

Eagle Eyes Wanted

Getting an accurate count of the bald eagles in this state takes keen vision and warm coats. Every year, officials at MassWildlife—joined by volunteer bird-spotters—trudge the river valleys and swampy areas where eagles like to roost. It’s a one-day affair (lest the eagles fly off and get double-counted) that last year racked up 71 sightings.
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Keeping Geniuses off the Breadline

Our latest winners of MacArthur Fellowships—the no-strings-attached, half-million-dollar gifts to big thinkers—get the first installment of their “genius grants” wired to their bank accounts today, with payments following every three months for the next five years. This being a fine time to hit the lottery, intellectual or otherwise, we checked in with the suddenly flush brainiacs to find out what they have in mind for their prize money:

John Ochsendorf, an MIT structural engineer and architectural preservationist who works to apply old-school technologies to modern construction:
“I’m going to use it to support students, to help us go to conferences, to help us travel.” He’s not wasting a moment. By the time the cash is deposited, he and some grad students will already be en route to Cambodia, where they’ll study ancient temples. “We’ve wanted to go to Cambodia for years and haven’t had the funds to do it.”

Marin Soljačić, an MIT optical physicist who’s puzzling out how to transmit electricity wirelessly: “I have some laser projects I am going to mostly focus on.”

Rachel Wilson (pictured), a Harvard neurobiologist who’s figuring out new ways to study brain activity by unraveling the neurological mysteries of the fruit fly: “No plans. Given the current state of the world, it seems best to stuff it in a mattress for a little while until the situation becomes clearer.”


Educated Bets For The Weeks Ahead

Who’s fired up for ’09? Well, the Mashpee Wampanoag were: After all, the gaming-kiboshing regime in George Bush’s Bureau of Indian Affairs is leaving, removing an obstacle to the tribe’s casino. But then ousted tribal chair Glenn Marshall cops to charges he misused hundreds of thousands of dollars (under the direction of lobbyist Jack Abramoff) supplied by the tribe’s benefactor, Detroit casino king Herb Strather. With Governor Patrick pulling out his chips, that means 2008’s highly entertaining fight over casinos is now being reduced to questions about the Mashpee’s relationship with their investors, and whether the tribe’s leadership can keep the skeleton that popped out of their closet from scuttling their bid for federal gaming approval.

Holding a better hand is Cape Wind. After eight years of wrangling, the alternative-energy project is poised for the go-ahead; all it needs is the U.S. Minerals Management Service’s final thumbs-up this month. Oh, and for Ted Kennedy to not push back the ruling yet again. Then the easy part: erecting 130 windmills that’ll each reach higher than Boston’s Harbor Towers.

And speaking of fierce opposition, Cantabrigians should prepare for the sound of scraping as Bush-loathing 1/20/09 bumper stickers are rendered obsolete. A tip to avoid scratching your Volvo’s bumper: Wet the sticker with a lubricant. WD-40 works great, but—lucky you—so does extra-virgin olive oil. – GEOFFREY GAGNON

Orderliness Is Next To Godliness
One silver lining to the Catholic Archdiocese‘s relocation to an office park in Braintree was the opportunity it afforded archivist Robert Johnson-Lally to tidy up the church’s files. He’s been at it since June, sorting through 1,400 hand-scrawled volumes of baptisms, marriages, and the like that date back to the 1700s. The newly organized digs should help the genealogists who consult the material—as well as very thorough Catholics planning family reunions—as the archive reopens today for appointment-only public use.
66 Brooks Dr., Braintree, 617-746-5795,


Boston’s favorite oversize metal band, Bang Camaro, is scheduled to appear on Late Night with Conan O’Brien.


Harvard’s Cranking It Up
For all the attention Harvard draws, it’s been decades since anyone gave a toss about its sports teams. Second-year basketball coach Tommy Amaker is changing that. An All-American player at Duke, he landed a class of highly touted, occasionally academically shaky recruits—then cut five players this fall to make room for them. Tonight they face the biggest major-conference opponent of the year, Boston College, in a game that gives Harvard its best chance to show that the new skipper’s tactics are good for more than ruffling Ivy League feathers.
$10, Conte Forum, 2599 Beacon St., Chestnut Hill,