Take a jackhammer to your insecurities

The folks at Building 19 don’t seem to like anything that reminds people that the former Spag’s building they’re in was once Spag’s.

Coloring in the recessed letters in this wall just smacks of insecurity (as did painting over the black shingles on the east slope of the Spag’s building roof that once used to spell “Spag’s” for passing aircraft).

Shrewsboro & Westbury

If you’re not from Shrewsbury or Westboro, how can you tell when you driven from one to the other?  One well-to-do eastern suburb with a congested retail strip seems a lot like another.

Signs like this were once useful, though they’ve been made largely redundant in an era when every street in a town bears that town’s choice of color and/or logo.

More questions than answers

Clive McFarlane wrote a column about the case of David Russo.  It should be noted that my familiarity with this case consists of reading stuff in the paper and Facebook.

The column compares Russo’s case with that of Trayvon Martin.  In many ways, I think it’s closer to the case of Henry Louis Gates Jr. (that is, a person spots another person who doesn’t seem to belong in a neighborhood, the cops are called, and testosterone ensues).

I don’t really have an opinion on whether profiling occurred or not, because there’s not enough evidence one way or the other.

However, there are a few issues here, and I think they’re somewhat conflated in the column:

1.  There’s an allegation that a WPD officer told a resident to keep her eyes peeled for young males who were black or Hispanic.  While that has some bearing on what happened to David Russo, it’s a separate issue.  It’s unclear whether the WPD was specifically asked about this when Chief Gemme responded “the department will not and can not comment about the specifics of this case, for all the reasons you know, but especially because it involves a juvenile.”  Either way, I think that specific allegation deserves a followup outside the context of what happened next.

2.  In the case of David Russo, a neighbor saw him entering and exiting his house but didn’t recognize that he lived there.  While I might not know all my neighbors (by name or sight), I’m not sure I’d call the cops unless someone were entering through a window and exiting with a TV.  Regardless, I think it would be pretty stressful if you live in a “very diverse neighborhood with several families of color” and still feel the need to alert your neighbors about the make and model of your Asian friend’s car.

3.  When that neighbor called the police, the WPI campus police responded.  Unless an incident takes place on campus or involves a student in the college’s immediate environs, I don’t feel comfortable with campus police doing what is the WPD’s job.

So, turning those into questions:

1.  Is the WPD going to respond to Susan Puryear’s question?  It’s unclear whether the officer said “watch out for kids who don’t seem like they belong in the neighborhood” and the neighbor took it as “non-white kids” or if the officer genuinely made a statement with profiling in mind.  While she got it secondhand, it should have been looked into while it was fresh in everyone’s minds.

There’s no reason the WPD can’t answer the original profiling question, because it has nothing to do with a juvenile and everything to do with what a police officer told a resident outside of any particular case.

2.  What is the proper forum for that kind of complaint?  Because it seems going through the Mayor and City Council is not that forum.

3.  Under what circumstances are campus police officers allowed to question and detain those not on their campus and who have no association with their school?  This for me is the biggest question of all.

Updated: on the agenda for next Tuesday’s City Council meeting:

REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES Upon the Order of Councilor Konstantina B. Lukes – Request Ethnic & Minority Affairs develop a City policy on racial profiling: recommend adoption of the accompanying Order to Request City Manager request the Police Chief report to City Council the city’s policy on racial profiling.

Let there be paint

Whoever’s in charge of hydrants in Worcester must be a frequent reader.  The hydrant featured on this blog yesterday has already had a makeover:

A bit of excavating, a bit of brush removal, and a liberal coat of paint, all in the space of a day.  Thanks!

Any chance I could bribe you to paint some crosswalks if I buy you a cup of coffee or a can of Tab?  That shade of yellow would look nice at some dangerous intersections.

Identifying Crosswalks in Disrepair

The Worcester PD has been highlighting cases where pedestrians have been struck by cars and have stepped up enforcement of drivers who do not stop for pedestrians in a marked crosswalk.

As many of us — pedestrians and motorists alike — know, one of the problems is that plenty of city crosswalks are in desperate need of a new paint job.

In addition to the enforcement efforts, we need to also start looking at crosswalks that are barely visible to motorists.  It’s not fair — or safe — to either pedestrians or motorists to not also concentrate on making sure all crosswalks are clearly visible.

To that end, I’ve created a Google Doc to list crosswalks that need to be repainted and when those crosswalks make it to City Council and Traffic & Parking Committee.

Over the next few months, I’d appreciate it if readers can note any crosswalks they see (as a pedestrian, as a passenger, as a motorist) that need a repainting.  Note those crosswalks in the comments, or email me to get access to update the document directly.

I’d especially like folks to note crosswalks near schools, playgrounds, or parks that need a repainting.

At regular intervals (once a month or so) I will contact district councilors to get these crosswalks on the City Council agenda and then track them through the political process to completion.


(Image: Hearts & Crosswalks, a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 licensed photo from Spatch’s photostream.)

Deck-Bumper Guy

Roaming the wilds of the western suburbs is Deck-Bumper Guy:

He is what Worcester’s own Log-Bumper Guy wants to be when he grows up & gets some mad skills.  This D.I.Y. bumper features a pressure-treated 4×4 post mounted to the truck with galvanized lag bolts.  Many local cheapskate handymen would have stopped there.  Deck-bumper guy has capped the ends of the 4×4, which protects the end-grain and gives things a “finished” look.  He then installed a pressure-treated 2×6 atop the 4×4, thereby creating a larger deck on which to stand as he accesses his tools & such in the bed . . . but it also creates a protective overhang for his snazzy Patriots license plate.  To complete the look and keep things legal, he has installed lights on either side of the plate, which is something that he’ll need when it’s time for an inspection sticker.  (This slick guy is also rocking the byways with some bright yellow Monroe shocks and a kickin’ trailer hitch.)

Is a wooden bumper a good thing?  Well, assuming this one replaces a metal bumper, the wooden one is a bit of a step down in quality of collision protection.  Better than a rusty metal bumper, I guess.  It’s nevertheless light years better than the plastic & styrofoam that pass for bumpers on 90% of the passenger cars on the road today.  And if this guy does decks for a living — a distinct possibility, given all the tools in the truck bed — then this little beauty is simply good advertising for the quality of his work.

CWW: Home Surplus Center

If you’re the sort of person who shops at Home Depot or Lowes, I’m sure you’re aware how expensive home renovation/repair supplies can be.  What’s a Cheap Yank to do?

Every so often you can find what you need by searching on Craigslist , but unless you’re patient & persistent, you’re going to need to go shop for your supplies.

If you’re about to start a project, stop by Home Surplus Center at 265 Grafton Street in Worcester.  It’s run by Howlett Lumber of Charlton, but unlike the parent store, Home Surplus Center isn’t a brightly lit hardware/lumber/home improvement store.  Home Surplus Center is an old warehouse that gets all the odd lots, discontinued items & overstock that they don’t want or need at the Charlton store.  The prices are quite often better than at Home Depot & Lowes, but if you have a major project planned, it might be best to shop both of those stores before visiting Home Surplus Center, so that you know what’s a good price.

Let’s take a look at some of the sorts of things you’ll find at Home Surplus Center.  When you first enter, it’ll probably be by the side door nearest the parking.  At the top of the stairs you’ll find boxes of tile & laminate flooring:

These tend to be smaller lots — useful for a small room, or maybe you’re just trying to match some tile/laminate flooring already in your home.  You’ll also occasionally find other things in this section; the day these pictures were taken, they had a sale on rock salt:

It’s also not uncommon to find windows or doors in this section, though there are many more further inside the warehouse.

From that section, if you enter the warehouse in the colder weather, you’ll do so via a small door to the left of a large garage-style door.  In warmer weather the large door will be up and you can just walk through into the next section of the warehouse.

As you enter, glance to the left and check out all the kitchen & bathroom cabinets for sale, all sizes & styles (come armed with the dimensions you need for your project!)

Some are pre-assembled & ready for countertop or vanity top, while others are boxed kits that will need assembly.

Home Surplus Center has a huge selection of doors of all sorts of sizes/styles, most located along the right wall as you enter the second section of the warehouse:

In this section there are also lots of random stuff like pavers:


pipe insulation:

sinks & vanity tops:

hardwood flooring:

and windows/skylights/screens:

If you still haven’t found what you’re looking for, there’s still one more section to explore at the very rear of the warehouse.  There you might find lumber of various dimensions, both kiln-dried & pressure-treated:

Need to repoint a chimney?  They might have some bricks for you:

How are the prices?

In general, the prices at Home Surplus Center are usually lower than the big box home improvement stores.  But a knowledge of the prices for the things you’re looking for is essential.  Here are some photos of random pricing signs to give you a sample of what things cost:

Not pictured is a small section at the front of the store (facing Grafton Street) where you’ll find the register when you’re ready to make your purchases; in the same room are display set-ups showing some of the cabinets, counters, sinks, etc. that are in the warehouse, but shown assembled as they might appear in your home.  This is helpful for folks who have difficulty visualizing how something might work aesthetically.  There’s also a small selection of hardware & tools in the room, but plan on buying that sort of stuff elsewhere, as the selection is very small and the prices on these are nothing special.

The Home Surplus Center is definitely worth a visit if you’re planning a renovation and looking to save some money.  Inventory changes frequently, so you may need to stop in at regular intervals to see what’s on offer.  And be sure to show up forearmed with the knowledge of what things normally cost at the the big box competition.

When every minute counts

If you live near a hard-to-find hydrant, you might want to clear away the nearby brush (if it’s your property), or perhaps request something more noticeable than a red stick (paint job? signage?).  The extra few minutes it takes the WFD to find your hydrant are minutes longer your house will burn or minutes longer your loved ones may be trapped inside.

This faded/peeling yellow hydrant blends in quite nicely with dead oak leaves & nearby soil.

First Street