Cemetery, in general and in particular

Though it doesn’t always seem like it, I think a great deal about my role on the Hope Cemetery Commission and how much to blog about what we do.  It is, admittedly, not a lot, and I don’t know how much to share without boring people.  Much of my volunteer effort on that board has consisted of reading meeting minutes from 100 years ago (for a larger research project); again, I don’t know that anyone but myself would find that interesting.

So I write about the cemetery on occasion, or when I find something of interest regarding burial in general, I’ll post it, but I welcome any questions as well.  I’m still learning a great deal (because, well, I’m just not an expert) but I’m more than willing to ask someone who knows more than I do.

1.

Dianne Williamson had written a great column about green burials, and I’d meant to note it because this is something my husband has felt strongly about for as long as I’ve known him.  The T&G recently published a letter that was critical of this column, and I felt the letter writer missed the real point of the column.  All of us should ask ourselves if it’s a fair tribute or expression of love to the deceased when we fill the earth with foul fluids in the process of burying our loved ones.  The issue’s bigger than one cemetery, but it must start with the individual choices many of us will have to make in an hour of grief.  And that’s all I’m going to say regarding that. 

(For those of you interested in further research, I recommend this interesting listening regarding green burials, along with this Smithsonian article, which I’d mentioned before.)

2.

Someone had recently asked me about plot prices at Hope Cemetery.  If anyone else is interested, they are available on this page (scroll down to “Hope Cemetery”).

3.

From the City website, regarding Fall 2010 Cleanup:

DPW’s Parks, Recreation & Cemetery Division respectfully requests that all Spring/Summer decorations, flowers, fences and/or religious objects be removed from the lots including Babyland/Children’s Garden by Friday, October 1, 2010. Any decorations remaining on the lots after this date will be discarded.

As of this Fall/Winter 2010 please review our Planting and Decorating Policies for the rules and regulations to be enforced. The regulations will also be posted on the outside bulletin board at the Hope Cemetery Administrative Office. Beginning October 9, 2010 Fall/Winter plantings and decorating may proceed.

(Image: 539G888, a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 image from halserad’s photostream of Hope Cemetery)

Ask a silly question . . .

An actual conversation from my house this evening —

Nicole: What do you suppose Guy Glodis will do once he’s no longer sheriff?

husband: He should open a diner.

(At this point, if you could have taken my picture, you could’ve put it in the dictionary to illustrate the definition of “nonplused“.)

Nicole: A diner?  What sort of diner?

husband: One that sells hamburgers.  I bet he’d make good hamburgers.

(Husband looks pensive for a moment.)

husband: I suppose it’s just a coincidence that the local Big Boy restaurants all closed up around the time Guy first ran for office.

The Meanest Post I Will Ever Write

But I feel that it’s justified because I am short.

On what planet is Joff Smith 5’10”?

I know it’s a stretch for me to say I’m 5’3″, when I’m probably 5’2″, but I don’t wear heels, so I figure it’s a wash. 

But, Joff, you look like my brother and you’re about as tall as my brother.  And there’s no way my brother is 5’10”!

Also — I hope that’s a working phone number for Joff.  I am so calling him the next time I watch Zardoz at three in the morning.

(The last is a joke.  I have young children.  I can barely roll out of bed at 6:30am, never mind think that I can be up in the middle of the night and still function.)

(And, yes, I’m just trying to figure out how many times it will take for me to mention my new favorite-movie-of-all-time-excluding-Octopussy before someone who reads this watches it and personally thanks me for introducing it to them.)

Fluorescent Bulb Drop-Off Locations

1.

I was talking with someone about how DPW only takes fluorescent bulbs on Wednesdays and Fridays at the Residential Drop-Off Center.  (Also, I predict that fifteen years from now, a sign of being an old-timer in Worcester will be calling that location “Ballard Street.”)

If you need to find a location to drop off any products with mercury (including these kinds of bulbs), I suggest using this convenient map from MassDEP

As far as I can tell, Home Depot accepts them at every location, as does Rocky’s Ace Hardware.  (I know for a fact that the latter will accept bulbs that are not purchased there, so you don’t need a receipt.)

2.

For those of you who aren’t on Twitter (trust me, that’s not an insult, that’s a compliment to your sanity), there was an exchange worth reading (as Dee mentioned before I finished this post!):

Kate Toomey thanked CSX for various gifts to the city.

4rilla indicated that CSX still had plenty of work to do regarding illegal dumping on their own property.

Kate asked for a location.

4rilla got huffy.

Ditto Kate.

4rilla then provided pictures and locations of the dumping.  (The media may even become involved.)

Illbehavior chimed in with the myth about how difficult it is to dispose of trash in the city (and that there are all manner of items that can’t be dropped off).  I actually found the comment that “I don’t think it’s Upper Burncoat doing the dumping” a bit offensive.  There’s a stereotype that poor folks are the ones who dump, which is what I assume the Burncoat comment is about.  That has not been my experience. 

In my experience, there’s a very small segment of the population who behaves towards trash in the same manner as a toddler who doesn’t want to use the potty.  They’ll go to an area where they don’t think anyone is looking and dump.  There are a few contractors who will gladly take a fee for disposing of your trash and then dump that in some woods, or along the railroad tracks.  The contractor who dumped in our woods is from Auburn.  I’ve found mail amongst bags and bags of trash that looks like a landlord cleaning out an apartment — mail that indicates that the property’s on the East Side.

It’s not difficult to dispose of things in a responsible manner, and it’s not expensive.  There are some people who would just prefer to dump. 

These people are few and far between.  The problem is that they tend to dump big items, and it feels like there are a lot of people engaging in this behavior.  In reality, it’s not that many. 

It’s one person dumping five bags.  Then an animal rips open the bags, trying to get at the food bits located therein, spreading the contents over a large area.

It’s one person dumping a mattress and box spring.  And couch and chair and coffee table.

And between those two people, it can look like a devastation area.  And if no one picks things up, more people feel they can dump, it looks even worse, on and on.

3.

I think the exchange I discussed above (see especially this, this, and this) is why Twitter isn’t really the best tool for either customer service or constituent relations.  I spoke with someone close to me who used to do constituent relations for a living, and she said that there are many cases where 140 characters just don’t cut it, and you just need to pick up the phone and have a five-minute conversation.  I think in all forms of electronic communication, it’s easy to misunderstand someone’s tone and for things to escalate to a point where they might never have gone in person or on the phone.

By the time someone’s tweeting to Kate Toomey, they’ve likely already gone the route of their district councilor multiple times, tried hunting the city website for who to contact about dumping on non-city land (easier said than done), and probably told your story to half a dozen people, all of whom haven’t helped.

To be fair, Kate is the only city councilor who actively uses Facebook and Twitter.  Just by being there, I think she gets the brunt of the complaints in the virtual arena.

Tonight, we’re going to be hearing the details — finally — of the closed-door negotiations for the City Manager’s contract.  Let’s hope some of the Council’s goals for the Manager include an increase in digital communication — back and forth — with the citizenry.  Or — at the very least — continued emphasis on keeping Worcester clean.

Library privatization

Someone had asked my thoughts on this article about library privatization.  I tend to be skeptical of anyone (in this case, Frank Pezzanite of LSSI) who describes librarians in the following way:

You can go to a library for 35 years and never have to do anything and then have your retirement. We’re not running our company that way. You come to us, you’re going to have to work.

(I also suggest reading this Library Journal article for a bit more information/rebuttal of some of LSSI’s claims.)

To me, it sounds like many advocates of privatization (here’s one) highlight things that are already going on in our public library system: electronic catalogs, databases available outside of the library, early childhood literacy programs, ESL programs, etc.

In FY2005, the per capita expenditure for the Worcester Public Library was $23.51.  (Source: WPL FY2007-2011 Strategic Plan).  That was nearly $7 less than the state average per capita municipal library expenditure. 

The FY2011 library budget is $4,293,155.32; there are approximately 182,596 people in Worcester.  My calculator says that the per capita expenditure remains at $23.51.

If the per capita nationwide expenditure in 2007 was $38.62 (according to the report Public Libraries in the United States: Fiscal Year 2008, page 99, on this site), then we’re spending about 60% of that.  (Even if you look at the local per capita — $31.94 — or the MA local per capita — $35.24 — we’re still very, very low.)

(Would you like it put another way?  In FY2005, we were roughly $7 less than the state average.  Now we’re nearly $12 less.)

Could privatization get us library services any cheaper than we’re already getting them?

I doubt it.

Where you can find me

Friendly reminder to put wrcstr in your feed reader!  I’ve been trying to put up a post every day or so, as have Mike & Tracy.

Also, I was interviewed for this article.  I don’t have much to add (except that, while I did have about 25 volunteers show up in the spring, there were nowhere near that many this past Saturday).

I do try to stay positive about the whole trash situation (mostly because no one really wants to hear me whine!) and I’d like to remind people that it’s really quite cheap to dispose of all manner of waste via DPW’s Residential Drop-Off Center.  (Three dollars for a tire, seven dollars for a mattress.  Not that I’m pointing any fingers, former-owner-of-a-king-sized-pink-mattress!)

Did you know that asphalt roof shingles can be recycled?  My friend C., who helped me with a whole roof’s worth of those very items this weekend, said there’s a place in Fitchburg that will take them.  So — to the person who dumped them (and, incidentally, I have all your contact information from the manilla folder’s worth of invoices you conveniently left for us to find!) — I don’t want your roof shingles, my neighbors don’t want your roof shingles, and the wee beasties who live in these woods really don’t want your roof shingles…but Recycle America does want your roof shingles.

For those of you who have been waiting to hear how easy it is for DPW to help with a cleanup, here’s what I did:

1) I called a DPW mucky-muck’s office, described what I wanted to do (have a fall cleanup) and left a message.

2) Received a call back approximately two or three hours later from Jim.  He told me just to let him know after the cleanup occured, and to collect the trash in a place where his trucks could reach.

3) We had the cleanup on Saturday.  My wheelbarrow and I took care of a few loose ends yesterday morning (and this morning).

4) I called Jim yesterday afternoon and told him he could pick things up whenever.

5) I spoke with him at noon today…and he told me he’d already sent the trucks to pick up the trash.  They’ve picked up everything (!) but the aforementioned asphalt shingles, which they need a claw for.  How’s that for customer service!

Yes, we still needed to pick up the trash.  Yes, we still needed to put it in a couple of central locations.  There is no magic wand that can be waved to get rid of this much trash.  However, I have found that the only effective way to get rid of it is to stop complaining and start doing.  All the wishing in the world won’t get as much done as Bob Q, me, a wheelbarrow, and a couple of hours.

Boards and Commissions — It’s Not Too Late!

I appeared on 508 last Friday to encourage people to get out there and apply for city boards and commissions.

Someone asked me what the experience of being on 508 is like.  (I’d only previously appeared on the 100th episode, which was a bit atypical, so this was a different experience.) 

I’d heard other people complain about how early they tape.  But when they told me to meet them at 8am, I thought, Gee, the morning’s almost over at that point!  (Because by that time, I’ve already had multiple children jump on me, multiple dogs and cats contribute all manner of animal hair to my pant legs, and dropped a kid off at school.)

The show goes by so quickly.  I actually think it’s worth seeing Mike and Brendan do a show just to see how Mike works the camera (it gets shoved in your face, which causes major deer-in-the-headlights from the likes of me) and how quickly Brendan can come up with all sorts of random banter.

But — again — I’m here to write about boards and commissions.

A week from now, the Citizen Advisory Council will be meeting to review board & commission vacancies next Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 6:30pm at City Hall, 3rd Floor.

Here’s why you should consider applying:

1) Once there are fewer openings, I will never again appear on 508 appealing for people to apply.  What that means for you is…about twenty fewer “ums” per minute on your favorite local podcast.

2) If you’re busy right now, but think you’ll be less busy in three months — now is the perfect time to apply!  By the time the process is over (referral, interview with the City Manager/HR/other people, appointment), two or three months will have passed.  So start the process now!

3) While Tina mentioned that the Worcester Arts Council is very active and involved, there are plenty of boards and commissions that were made for lazy people like you and me!  (Trust me, the whole goal of my adult life has been to do as little work as possible.)  If you are lazy but would like the cachet of being a city official, look through the profile directory and find a board that only meets on an as-needed basis. 

4) Email the City’s HR Department if you have any questions, or just to get on the mailing list for future openings.  They do not bite and they will usually get back to you right away.  Also, the Citizen Advisory Council is on Facebook; you should follow them!

5) As I said on 508, if you get onto the Cable Television Advisory Committee, you get to meet TC.  If you join Trust Funds, you get to meet Tom Zidelis.  I also do not think it will fast-track your application if you say that some crazy blogger encouraged you to apply.  On yesterday’s Left Ahead podcast, Mike said, “Five years from now, if somebody’s applying for the library board, [I hope someone] will look at those applicants and say, ‘This person’s a good blogger.  We could use a good blogger on the library board.'”  While we may get there eventually, I really don’t think we’re at that point right now.  (Though I’d love to be proved wrong!)

So get out there and apply!

(Image: 539G8912, a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 image from halserad’s photostream of Hope Cemetery)

Camou is Rambo’s autumn color

About a dozen years ago, my husband bought and planted some “historic trees” from a company which propagates seedlings from trees that are known to have been associated with (or planted by) some well-known person from U.S. history.  These trees arrived as small seedlings, and are now taller than our home.

One of the trees planted was a Rambo apple tree propaged from one which had been originally planted by “Johnny Appleseed” (John Chapman of Leominster).  For many years this tree just grew steadily, but produced no blossoms or fruit.  In the past few years, though, we’ve been getting blossoms and a few apples.

The fruit of the Rambo starts out growing green, but as they mature, they turn into a mottled assortment of greens, browns, reds & yellows.  Here are some pictures of an apple my family and I shared last night:

It is a firm apple with a mildly tart taste (less tart than Granny Smith).  Quite delicious.

As an interesting aside, according to author David Morrell who wrote the novel “First Blood” (which inspired the film of the same name), the character John Rambo gets his name from the apple.  (You knew I had to get a Stallone reference in there somehow!)

WBUR Gloss

I don’t have time to write anything more than sketchy notes about this WBUR piece about how Worcester is finding out that it can do something besides abrasives

Basically, the message I got from this was:

  • Worcester: it’s a cheap place to live if you’d rather be in Providence!  (No mention of the fact that pushing Worcester to be a bedroom community to various other cities that will remain nameless has made housing prices unaffordable for many residents.)
  • The original Galleria was supposed to be the juggernaut to transform the local economy.  (Really?  Was this ever the case?  Why were the further promises about the Centrum, MedCity, etc., never mentioned?)
  • That John Anderson was mayor of Worcester is not notable in the least.
  • The biotech/medical industries, which I’ve heard mentioned as the future of our economy for a few years now, merit about one sentence when it comes to the city’s economy.
  • We can only find people who are associated with Hanover Insurance to do a piece about Worcester.

(Image: Closed, a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 image from Troy B. Thompson’s photostream)