What I Learned From Blogs This Week

I’ve put up a couple of items on the Virtual Assignment Desk for the coming weeks.  I am going to the Council meeting, but won’t be able to make the inauguration.  I’m also thinking of keeping a scorecard of important Council votes for the next couple of years that could be spun into a voting guide, so I welcome any thoughts about what might constitute ‘important’ votes. 

Tracy reminds us to contact School Committee members with our thoughts on the state’s RTTT MOU.

Dee Wells posted some thoughts from Virginia Ryan on Worcester retirees’ increased Medicare costs.

Bill discusses more rumors of Best Buy’s impending move here and here, with Sam’s Club thrown in for good measure.  (Also, Worcester compared to the usual suspects here and here.)  More rumors about the former ShBooms site from Paulie.

Jeff on Pharmasphere; you can get more analysis from him for free than you can from the Telegram for a dollar.

Sean is going to begin regularly analyzing Robert Z. Nemeth’s columns; if he succeeds in convincing Rose to use spell check, however, I’m not going to have anything left to talk about!

 Daily Worcesteria (Jeremy) updated his pictures of North Lake Ave to show where it’s wearing away.

Cumberland Farms has an updated logo.

I would love to see more people blogging, especially about topics and events that the news media doesn’t cover.  (Yes, Emily, I’m talking to you!)  So, if you’re on the fence about whether to start a blog, consider taking an event from the Virtual Assignment Desk (or something from this wonderful list) and writing about it.  Be sure to contact Jeff so that you can be included in the Worcester Blogroll.

Comparison of WBUR and WGBH morning lineups

This is for T-Traveler, who recommended The Takeaway.


From 6am-7am, ‘BUR offers Morning Edition and ‘WGBH offers The Takeaway.  This is, however, before I wake up in the morning, so I’ll discuss The Takeaway when it appears again at 9am.


The ‘BUR and ‘GBH morning schedules overlap from 7am-9am (Morning Edition), so it’s really a matter of whether you prefer Jordan Weinstein or Bob Oakes (Delores Handy sometimes subs).  I think I can speak for all of humanity when I say that Delores Handy‘s continued employment at WBUR is proof that miracles exist, because nothing else can explain her presence in a medium that relies solely on clarity and quality of vocal presentation.  Also, I don’t understand why Oakes cannot pronounce his own last name correctly.  (My husband refers to him as “Bob Eukes.”)

Advantage: WGBH, because of the Handy factor.


At 9am, ‘BUR offers BBC Newshour and ‘GBH offers The Takeaway.  I tend to listen to the World Service for half the day via podcast, so the presence of Newshour on WBUR does nothing for me unless I’m in the car.  The Takeaway (also available by podcast, although I find their RSS offerings a bit confusing) is hosted by Celeste Headlee and John Hockenberry, though Hockenberry was on vacation this week, so I also listened to a show from last week in addition to a couple from this week.  The show has some interesting stories that are marred by one host or the other wrapping up a segment with, “So, what’s the takeaway?” or “The takeaway is…”  I get it.  The show is called “The Takeaway.”  Enough with the branding. 

But the frequent use of the word “takeaway” is a small price to pay for the quality of the content.  This program is what the blah Day to Day wished it could be.

This is a tie.  It really depends on whether you prefer a lot of world news in your day (BBC Newshour), or if you like an interesting take on the day’s news that will have 5-10 minutes of world news content (The Takeaway, which frequently uses BBC correspondents).  


From 10am-noon, ‘BUR offers On Point with Tom Ashbrook and ‘GBH offers The Diane Rehm Show.  I’d never heard the latter and actively avoid the former.  I also hate the interview-for-the-first-half-hour-and-then-take-some-callers-who-fawn-over-the-guest-and-add-nothing-of-substantive-value format of both of these shows. 

I never understood why WBUR chose a show hosted by Tom Ashbrook over a show (The Connection) hosted by Dick Gordon; I’ll just blame it on Delores Handy.  Alex Beam refers to Ashbrook as “yappy.”  He’s more like a know-it-all tween who interrupts the conversations of adults; occasionally he contributes something of value, but mostly he tries to prove how much more he knows than his guests, and he has none of Dick Gordon’s talent at drawing the best out of callers.  Where Dick Gordon would smoothly move a caller to some sort of point, Ashbrook can only cut off people mid-sentence and continue in a run-on fashion himself.  That I was able to listen to him for two hours for the past two days is a testament to the same will that has allowed me to listen to five minutes straight of Metal Machine Music.

Within the first few minutes of listening to Diane Rehm, I started wondering how old she was.  Her halting voice is due to spasmodic dysphonia, and she also has the best hair of anyone on radio.  I’d take her slowish speech and pretty interesting guests over the blowhard that is Tom Ashbrook, but I’m not a fan of this format, so I’d likely never listen to this unless there was a guest I wanted to hear more from, or unless I was in the car.

Advantage: WGBH, because of Ashbrook.  (In reality, this is the point where I’d start listening to Gareth Mitchell and Mark Coles on the World Service.)


Emily Rooney is going to be starting a radio program to compete with Robin Young in the noon to one slot, but in the meantime, you get to hear Radiolab.  Radiolab reminds me a little bit of This American Life, except it’s about science and the hosts aren’t annoying in the least.  (Sorry, not a TAL fan; every story sounds like urban legends told late at night in dorm rooms across the country: “Did you hear about that girl in the cafeteria who never had anything but chicken for dinner?”)  Radiolab is pure radio magic, and I’ve already put it my RSS reader in anticipation of Emily Rooney replacing it.

I’ll reserve judgment on this hour until Emily Rooney debuts, but she’s going to have a really tough time competing against Robin Young.  I think Robin Young’s warm voice and personality really work in the noontime slot, and I enjoy listening to her.  So — I’ll give you my review of Rooney in a few weeks’ time.

Committee Agendas redux

So I took Tracy’s advice and emailed the City of Worcester webmaster.

He recommends clicking on the City Council Agendas link from the Stay Informed menu on the right part of the page.  That will cut out one click in the path to get the agendas.

He also let me know that the calendar feature allows them to attach a .pdf (like the Inauguration information) but not to link to .htm (which is the format of the agendas).  This is a bummer; I really like that the agenda is in .htm format, mostly because it’s easier for me to view it on our Mac at home, which hiccups whenever it tries to open a .pdf from our (very beta) browser.

The Senate and Governor’s Race

Jeff Barnard asked:

Has the Republican Party become such an unfocused mess that they can’t even mount a campaign in one of the most important contests in Massachusetts that’s come up in a whole lifetime? 

I don’t necessarily have an answer to this.  I’m not a Republican and don’t follow their internal party activity.

But I think that they may be focusing their efforts on the Governor’s race, and rightly so.  The Senate race is to replace Ted Kennedy, whom a good amount of the voting public looked upon favorably; those voters likely want “more of the same” (liberal, bring home the bacon to MA, etc.) and aren’t as likely to pick someone who’s more conservative and who would not be a part of the Democratic majority in the Senate.  Why should Republicans focus efforts on something they know they won’t win, when they could pour money into a race that they have a much greater chance at?

Especially with an appealing candidate like Charlie Baker, who seems to have some sort of handle on what to do with health care.  (Disclaimer: I will not vote for Charlie Baker, so the previous sentence should in no way be construed as an endorsement.)  Let’s see how much money the RNC will throw Baker’s way.

And where would that leave Tim Murray?  Yvonne Abraham had a great column a few months ago about Murray — how he wasn’t going to leave the Patrick administration and that he was definitely going to run for re-election.  In Abraham’s words:

That’s how it usually goes with our state’s second fiddles. They show up where the governor can’t, leading unglamorous working groups, presiding over those somnolent Governor’s Council meetings on Wednesdays. They all want to be governor one day, and Murray admits he is no exception. But their fortunes are directly tied to their number ones. That’s good if your governor is insanely popular. Patrick isn’t. 

It’s been interesting that a columnist in the Globe — and not the Telegram — expressed exactly my thoughts.  The coming governor’s race is going to be brutal.  Not only is Deval not popular, but he’s perceived as incompetent.  I think Tim Murray has hitched his wagon to a bum horse, and I don’t know where one can go after serving one term as Lieutenant Governor (with previous weak mayor experience).  I could be wrong — perhaps Murray’s loyalty will serve him well — but let’s see how much support the Republicans throw Baker’s way and how that will affect Tim Murray’s political career.

Update, 10.14am– Appropos of nothing, did anyone else see this article in the Globe today, which mentions Murray’s campaign has not reported occupation or employer information for 28% of donors?

I Brake for Trolls

Darlene, we’ve got to stop meeting like this.

I can’t tell whether you’re Rose Tirella, Q’s best friend, or if you just hate Hall & Oates with a passion that rivals my husband’s.

In any event, please keep commenting, because I love writing whole posts as riffs off your comments.

To one of your comments — “So what’s the point of this rant?” — I believe that you mean this wonderfully well-written letter, and not this post, which is a reminder that I need to do more library tips

“Do you think that anything you or anyone else says about this matter will influence any decision on what happens?”  I believe I actually said in the aforementioned awesome letter that I didn’t think it would convince anyone but that I found writing the letter cathartic.  Thanks for asking! 

Now, if it’s a question of why to blog at all…Tracy and I were discussing  blogging last week, and she said that her husband hears far fewer rants about educational policy now that she has a blog.  Similarly, my husband doesn’t have to listen to me whispering sweet nothings about Mike Germain into his ear right before we go to bed.  Now I write posts for the world to read, and instead I not only get feedback like yours, but I also receive one-sentence emails from my husband like, “Don’t you ever use spell-check?” and “Less, not fewer.”

In other words, blogging saves marriages.  (Also, keeping thoughts like “If Albert Southwick were 60 years younger and could do major plumbing repairs, you’d have no shot with me” to yourself will add at least a year to any marriage.)

To your comment “It’s in the hands of lawyers… they’re a lot more savvy in such matters than any mis-informed and know-it-all blogger”  — I will say this: one of my parents is an attorney, and one of my siblings is finishing the last year of law school.  So, that makes me a lawyer twice removed.  Or a know-it-all blogger.  You decide.

And finally, “You and everyone else have to get over it. There’s more important things to worry about. Right?”  No matter what the decision regarding One Montvale, I am sure that the City of Worcester will provide new examples of suckitude for me to continue to write about for weeks to come. 

On a more serious note, thanks to everyone who has commented on my posts.  I continue to be overwhelmed by the kindness, respect, and constructive criticism so many of you have shown me.

The Power of Wishful Thinking

I agree completely with Jeff regarding the PharmaSphere situation.

I don’t know when “If You Wish It, It Will Come” became the mantra of the City Manager’s Office, but this reminds me of one of my most unfavorite Dianne Williamson columns of all time (September 19, 2006), in which Dianne extolls the wonders of Tim Murray:

Not one for grandstanding, he often operates under the radar, but his fingerprints are stamped on Worcester’s most important initiatives: CitySquare, the promotion of commuter rail, the successful partnership between the City Council and City Manager Michael O’Brien.

More than three years ago, Tim Murray was getting a big “mission accomplished” on CitySquare, credit for “promoting” the commuter rail (note that Dianne couldn’t lie and say that more trains were running, or that the service was more reliable), and a wonderful relationship between the City Council and the City Manager.

A wonderful, non-combative relationship between the Council and City Manager has gotten us to the point we’re at now: CitySquare is still just around the corner, three years from the writing of the column quoted above; the City Manager continues to receive high marks in his review despite the people of Worcester not having the right to know about what Officer Mark Rojas may or may not be accused of; the City has invested $2.5 million (not to mention $2m in road improvements, and selling a building for $1) in a project that may generate 40-50 new jobs, 51% of which are supposed to go to Worcester residents.  At least the train schedule is a bit better!

So, let’s talk job creation.  The City of Worcester has paid $2.5 million (excluding loss on the building, road improvements, and any money from the feds or the state) for 50 jobs (I’ll be generous) that have not yet materialized.  That’s $50,000 per job. 

But wait!  Only 51% of those 50 jobs need to go to Worcester residents.  So, for 25.5 jobs that may or may not ever come to fruition, we have paid approximately $98,000.  That’s not counting road improvements, and that’s not counting federal and state dollars.

Anyone want to go in on creating Pyramid Investments?  Or at least starting a countdown to Spring 2011, when PharmaSphere will be “selling product“?  (Does anyone else think their whole business sounds and looks like Logan’s RunCarousel!)

Finding Committee Agendas on the City website

I’m not a big fan of a lot of the navigation within the City of Worcester website, and my feeling was confirmed last week when I spoke with a fellow attendee of the Economic Development Committee and she said that she couldn’t find the agenda on the city website.  

I can’t blame her — as far as I can tell, it takes five non-intuitive clicks to get to a committee agenda. 

The city should provide the link to the agenda in the “More Information” section of the calendar item — see this calendar entry for the Inauguration for an example of what should happen for every meeting.  You should also be able to click on Mayor & City Council, then Standing Committees, and get an agenda for a selected committee.  Alas, that’s not the case, either. 

Here’s how you find the committee agendas: 


Step 1: Click on the Mayor & City Council link in the City Government section of the left menu. 







Step 2: When you are brought to the Mayor & City Council page, click on the Agendas & Minutes link in the Related Pages section of the left menu. 






Step 3: When you are brought to the Agendas & Minutes page, click on the Standing Committee Journal Archive link in the middle of the page (right part of the screen).    


 Step 4: When you are brought to the Standing Committees page, select the committee of your choice in the Related Pages section of the left menu.  (Note to the city: the completely undescriptive “Related Pages” should not be the heading for half of the left-menu items.) 








Step 5: You’ll be brought to the Agenda & Minutes page of the committee you selected.  Click on the link for Current/Upcoming [Committee Name] Agenda to get the agenda for the latest meeting.  The drop-down lists by year contain minutes for the committee meetings.