Free Admission to Worcester Historical Museum – January 24

Not sure how I missed this — but there’s free admission to both WHM and the Salisbury Mansion on Saturday:

Celebrate the 140th anniversary of the founding of Worcester Historical Museum on Saturday, 24 January with FREE admission from 10 to 4 at 30 Elm Street and 1 to 4 at Salisbury Mansion.

Activities for historians of all ages from 10 to 3 include a scavenger hunt, valentine-making workshop, birthday cupcakes, a time capsule…and more!

CWW: Holy Cross Seelos Film Series

Free and open to the public…Holy Cross has posted the Seelos film series schedule for the spring. As per usual, the artsy movies Nicole likes to see are in the Wednesday afternoon and evening slots.

For parents, take especial note of:
“The LEGO Movie”
Fri., Feb. 13 and Sat., Feb. 14: Showing at 7 p.m. Rated PG. Starring Will Arnett, Elizabeth Banks, and Alison Brie. An ordinary Lego construction worker is recruited to join a quest to stop an evil tyrant.

“Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb”
Fri., April 17 and Sat., April 18: Showing at 7 p.m. Rated PG. Starring Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, and Owen Wilson. Larry unites favorite and new characters while embarking on an epic quest to save the magic before it is gone forever.

Messed-up McGrath

As some of you have probably noticed, Worcester recently removed the parking meters in the McGrath lot next to Worcester Public Library. Library patrons and other downtown visitors must now remember the number of the space they park at, walk over to one of two pay machines (at the corner of Salem Street and Library Lane), and pay for however much time they think they’ll need.

But be careful — the lot is now divided into two areas:
McGrathMap

You can tell you’re in the “orange” section when you see these blue signs:
OrangeBlue
However, each space in that section, helpfully, has an orange number tag:
BlueOrange
…and the same number is stenciled onto the pavement in a yellow square, because you needed more color in your parking experience:
Yellow

The “green” section starts off sensibly enough with a green sign:
GreenAndOrange

…but the parking spaces there have orange number tags:
"Green" Section Spaces

Confused yet? Wander over to the pay machines at Salem St. and check out the helpful instruction sheets:
Doc3
Doc1

Despite all the color confusion, we can infer from the information sheets and the signage in the lot that paying parkers should park in the Blue/Orange area, while someone who has a green permit on their car should park in one of the spots with orange tags but near green signs.

What if you have a McGrath parking tag like this one:
PLVtag

These tags are used by some volunteers with the Friends of Worcester Public library, who are at the library volunteering their time in one way or another. The new parking system says nothing about such tags.

One Friends volunteer (not me) recently received a ticket at the McGrath lot while using one of these “PL V” tags:
TrespassTicket
…for parking 15 minutes in the (barely used) “green” section in front of an orange number and over a yellow square — instead of taking up a spot in the paying section. That ticket is currently being appealed on the basis that the parking lot sections and their usage is rather unclear despite the multi-color signage, and the information sheets at the payment machines don’t address the issue of “PL V” tags at all (see above).

(Side note: on another occasion, I was able to take a look at the few cars parked in the green placard section, and the placards indicate that they are Quinsigamond students.  It warms the cockles of my heart to know that we saved all those parking spaces for the WBDC’s tenants’ use!)

The Friends of WPL have also heard questions from patrons who have handicapped parking placards who were visiting a recent Friends’ book sale at the library. Even on a good day, the handful of HP spaces can fill up quickly, and they often do on book sale days. Where should people with the HP placards park in the McGrath lot when the accessible spots are full, and if they park somewhere else, do they have to pay? The instructions don’t address this.

The 2014 changes to the McGrath lot don’t seem to have been well thought out or well executed. They might be improved by:
1. Green number tags in the “green” section
2. Orange signage (instead of blue) in the “orange” section
3. More comprehensive information (including info for “PL V” tag holders) at the payment station

There are certainly more improvements wanting — such as allowing people with disabilities to cross directly from the lot to the library instead of going over to Salem Street for a curb cut (though I know that this would cost tens of thousands of dollars), or having the 10-hour spots further away from the library instead of right next to it.

All of that would be forward-thinking, but the changes made in 2014 seem to have taken us a step backward instead.

Art of Science Learning Innovation Launch on Thursday

This is an event I won’t be able to attend — but an FYI for those who are interested, it’s on Thursday, January 22 from 5:00-7:30pm at Union Station —

Seven cross-disciplinary and multi-generational teams of area residents will introduce and present their novel solutions to Worcester-area transportation challenges, which they have developed over the past year.

This event is free and open to the public. Registration is requested since seating is limited. Post-event, complimentary refreshments will be served and a cash bar will be available.

The Art of Science Learning is built on more than 15 years of work by Harvey Seifter and colleagues, exploring the impact of artistic skills, processes and experiences on learning and the innovation process. Seifter is the New York City-based founder, director and principal investigator of the Art of Science Learning.

Two years ago, the Art of Science Learning selected Worcester, Chicago and San Diego to host Incubators for Innovation as part of its Phase 2 initiative, funded by a $2.6-million National Science Foundation grant. The purpose of the grant was to explore innovation at the intersection of art, science and learning. The Worcester Incubator, hosted by the EcoTarium and Clark University, has focused on developing innovative solutions to the area’s urban-transportation challenges.

Dozens of volunteers drawn from across sectors of education, sciences, business and the arts have spent the past 11 months learning about innovation and working as innovators, using a cutting-edge, new arts-based curriculum to spark innovation in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and STEM learning. Supported by national experts and local mentors, these Art of Science Learning Fellows have been developing transportation solutions to enhance Worcester’s economic activity, connect its communities, and improve the quality of life for its residents and visitors.
Innovation descriptions

Here are brief descriptions (alphabetically, by team name) of the innovations created by the Worcester teams, which will be unveiled during the Worcester Innovation Launch on January 22 at Union Station:

• PedSim route modeling is a new geospatial big-data tool that allows urban planners and private developers to model and quantify the potential impact of site selection and infrastructure improvements on pedestrians and cyclists.

• Secret City Interactive is a new service that uses augmented reality and social media to create a visually engaging, interactive pedestrian experience designed to encourage neighborhood, historic, and cultural exploration, and the creation of user-user generated content to foster community learning and connections.

• Smart Transit for Healthcare is a new service that improves the ability of patients reliant on public transportation to access healthcare through a database/ application/web-based interface. The system allows service providers to optimize patient-transportation efficiency when scheduling appointments and provides patients with clear routing and timing information.

• Sprezza is a dynamically routed, multi-modal, demand-driven system that is built on a novel algorithm that integrates use patterns with real-time traffic and weather information to determine optimal bus and shuttle routes, hub locations and frequencies.

• STEM Unplugged is a new middle-school science curriculum that uses the arts to teach transportation-related subject matter, as the focus of a series of lessons and classroom experiences that align with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

• Tasks for Transit is a new process that increases the ability of low-income community residents to gain access to public transportation, while stimulating support for community-based social services. The process leverages the sharing economy by recording hours worked by non-profit volunteers into bus passes, which partnering non-profit organizations dispense to individual clients in need.

• Wires Over the World is a new project-based, NGSS-aligned, high-school science curriculum that consists of a MOOC (Massively Open On-Line Course) about urban-transportation alternatives coupled with an engineering and design competition focused on aerial-transportation technology and systems.

For more information

To learn more about the Art of Science Learning and the Worcester Incubator for Innovation, visit http://www.ArtofScienceLearning.org/ Or, contact Joyce Kressler, director of the Worcester Incubator for Innovation, at JoyceKressler@ArtofScienceLearning.org, 508-929-2774 or 508-826-3866.

Municipal Election Schedule – 2015

If the City Council approves the proposed municipal election schedule for 2015, candidates would be able to pick up nomination papers as early as March 3 at 9:00am, and need to return them all by May 19 at 5:00pm.

As anyone who’s gathered signatures knows, that is not a lot of time to get 300 signatures (for an at-large Council seat or School Committee seat) or 100 signatures (for a district Council seat).

As I have done in past election cycles, I am offering my services in signature-gathering for ANY AND ALL candidates for office.

And please pass this along to anyone you know who’s thinking of running for office.