Anglophilic aliens welcome once again

For many years the owners of the Stop & Shop Pep Boys Savers Plaza near Webster Square used to have its entrance & exits arranged British-style so that one had to drive on the left to get in or out of the plaza.  This failed to attract much international commerce, unfortunately, so they turned their attentions to domestic and interstellar commerce.  A short while ago the owners swapped the in & out signs to conform with American driving standards, but conveniently pointed the exit sign skyward to help those bargain-hunting extraterrestrials  get back to the mothership after a long afternoon of shopping the plaza for cheap tools and second-hand earthling shoes.  Evidently aliens only shop on certain days of the week, so the landlords took to straightening the sign angles once in a while. 

Unfortunately, the sign-swapping machinations may have alienated the extraterrestrials — whether because they prefer consistent signage or maybe they prefer to drive their space shuttles on the left like the British.  Perhaps Savers & Harbor Freight Tools experienced a downturn in sales without the left-driving aliens stopping by.  Worcester landlords are nothing if not accommodating, however, and the signs have now been swapped back, complete with rakish entry & exit trajectories indicated. 

Out-of-this-world bargains at Savers & Harbor Freight Tools


If you spot any strange looking creatures wandering the streets of Worcester in need of a wardrobe upgrade, tell ’em the plaza’s back open for business.  Or if their warp drive is on the blink, I’m sure Harbor Freight can sell ’em what they need.  We’re all about getting the tourist dollars here in the Dirty Woo.  They can even get their space suits laundered & enjoy some Asian cuisine while they’re there. 

Have we finally reached the 21st Century?

Or have we just gotten to a point where Konnie Lukes reads my mind?

I keep procrastinating about petitioning the City Council regarding government 2.0 stuff, but that’s ok — Konnie just did it for me.  (See this week’s Council agenda.)


11d. Request City Manager report on the development of a “crowdsourcing” program to be initiated on a pilot basis on the City’s website as a web based collaborative for polling and problem solving based on citizen input. (Lukes)

11e. Request City Manager provide a legal opinion as to what controls, if any, can be used by the City regarding inappropriate responses to a “crowdsourcing” project and whether the identities of responders can be required. (Lukes)

11h. Request City Manager report which city departments and officials use social media, such as Facebook, Twitter etc., and the process and criteria used in determining which department or individual uses social media and what purpose and accomplishments result from the usage. (Lukes)

So, I guess I’ll try to make some sort of public comment at that Council meeting, where I will say something along the lines of, “IdeaScale is free and awesome, people!”

Let’s do a rundown of the City and Social Media for Konnie, though —

The Library is on Twitter, Facebook, etc.; you can text or chat live with a librarian as well.

The Police do press releases via Twitter, and you can text an anonymous tip.

DPW&P has an excellent Twitter/Facebook feed, along with their winter parking ban text service.  You can also chat live with a customer service rep during business hours.

Worcester Emergency Management is on Twitter.

Worcester Arts Council is on Facebook, as is the Citizen Advisory Council.

Worcester Cultural Coalition is on Twitter, and has an excellent email newsletter you can sign up for

You can also sign up for emails from the City of Worcester’s Economic Development office or the Planning office (or both).

Does anyone else have anything to add?

Library Books of the Week

I haven’t done a post like this in a while (out of sheer laziness), but I feel it’s a good exercise (that I should continue on a more regular basis) and perhaps people will either be inspired to read one of these (or give me recommendations).

Recently finished
A Happy Marriage by Rafael Yglesias.  Incredibly moving story of a marriage (at times happy, at times not so much); the story alternates between earlier parts of the relationship and the last few weeks of the wife’s life.  Highly recommended.

Your six-year-old: defiant but loving by Ames & Ilg.  I love the Ames & Ilg parenting books; they invariably say things like, “Your previously nice 5-year-old has suddenly turned into a 6-year-old monster.  The solution?  Wait a year!” or “Try to find someone else to do dinner time.” 

A copy of Paris-Match from a year ago.  I love that the library allows me to take out Paris-Match magazines, which I use to keep up my (horrible) French and my complete obsession with Johnny & Laeticia Hallyday (which I’ve had since I started reading Paris-Match in high school).  (Also, I actually like Johnny’s music; I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not.)

Backseats Saints by Joshilyn Jackson, on audio.  Woman attempts to escape abusive husband by trying to shoot him; she misses, hitting her dog, but continues her escape.  Pretty good, though a little weird.  I do enjoy her books on audio, as she does an excellent job of narration.

In process
Make Love – The Bruce Campbell Way (by Bruce Campbell, obviously).  The plot makes absolutely no sense (Bruce Campbell hired to do a rom-com directed by Mike Nichols), but just go with it.  Funniest book I’ve read since Larry’s Kidney.  (And the latter is really, really, really funny.  You should read them both.)

The Christians as the Romans saw them by Robert L. Wilken.  I think the title says it all.  Just started this, but so far, so good.  Getting my fix of Pliny the Younger at present.  (I’m reading this because the author wrote a book that was referenced in the interesting The Sabbath World, which is an easy-to-read meditation on the Sabbath.)

First Light by Charles Baxter.  (Note: Every time I read Charles Baxter with my eyes, I love his writing; every time I listen to one of his books on audio, I think, “meh!”  I find him hit-or-miss, though all the misses have been on audio.)  I haven’t been able to put this book down — it’s the story of a brother and sister, he a car salesman, she an astrophysicist; he stays in Michigan, she goes here, there, and everywhere; told backwards in time.  I am always impressed with Baxter’s narrative control; spareness with beauty is something I value the most in contemporary American lit, and it’s something Baxter excels in.  My copy is a beat-up paperback I got on the free bookshelf at the main library; if anyone wants it, they’re welcome to have it when I’m done.

How’s War and Peace going?
It’s not.  W&P is on hiatus, because I had to read The Charterhouse of Parma and Emma for Great Books Book Group; I particularly find Jane Austen very hard going (yes, harder than Tolstoy; Tolstoy is a joy, albeit a joy I can only enjoy in 10-page chunks; I prefer JA’s movies to her books).

McKeon Road, Holy Cross, PILOT

According to Tuesday’s Daily Worcesteria, Councilor Clancy said (quote from D. W., not directly from Clancy, so I’ll italicize instead of using quotation marks) that when Holy Cross can receive taxpayer money to fix McKeon road, one wonders why the college shouldn’t have paid for something that benefits it.

I decided to take a look at the history of McKeon Road for the past twenty years.

Let us recall the following:

Holy Cross donated the land for the fire station in 1991.  According to that article, the fire station was going to be paid via  “$2.4 million … from federal Community Development Block Grant funds.”  (This was not going to cover the cost of the whole fire station, but they were going to apply for more grants.)

From an article in 1993, “[then-City Manager] Mulford said that in addition to the fire station, $1.5 million in [federal] block grant money is being spent to widen McKeon Road and improve drainage. Quinsigamond Street is being replaced at a cost of $8.5 million, of which 90 percent will be reimbursed by the state. The $150 million Route 146 improvement is being paid with state and federal funds.”

From the same article:

“The joy of being a public official is moments like this,” said Paul P. Clancy Jr., District 3 city councilor. “This is a concrete example that government is able to accomplish things.”

Yes, Holy Cross received $750,000 — in federal funds –a couple of years ago for McKeon Road improvements.  According to the article, “McKeon Road is widely used by commuters to get to Interstate 290 or Route 146 and borders 2,900 linear feet of the college. The road has had increased use and also serves as a parking area for baseball fans cheering on the Worcester Tornadoes at Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field.”  (Because Clancy also seems to be peddling the myth that the only one who benefits from any improvements to McKeon Road is the College.)

So it seems to me that if Holy Cross owes anyone PILOT, it’s the federal government — not the City of Worcester — because that’s where the vast majority of money has come, for both the fire station and any road improvements along McKeon Road.

Boards and Commissions update

I spoke with Jeannie at the Worcester HR Department.

She told me that at Wednesday’s Citizen Advisory Council meeting, thirteen (!) people applied for boards and commissions and all of them were nominated for at least one of the boards they applied.

I’ll continue with my recruitment efforts (obviously), but I’m so excited we had such a great turnout!

As always, let me know if you have any questions about the interview process or what it’s like to serve on a commission.