Feeds:
Posts
Comments

clark_portland_pandhandlers_083018_051

Photo: Erin Clark for The Boston Globe
Cities as different as Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Providence, Rhode Island, are paying people experiencing homelessness to do maintenance of public spaces. In the photo, two men are cleaning up gardens along the Back Cove Trail in Portland, Maine.

Three cheers for cities that come up with creative ways to address homelessness! I’ve written about the practice of offering public-service work to people experiencing homelessness in New Mexico and Rhode Island. Now a city in Maine is testing the concept.

Brian MacQuarrie writes at the Boston Globe, “Seven men, stooped and sweating, tear fistfuls of crabgrass and milkweed from a tangle of overgrowth in a large public garden. It’s dirty work for $10.90 an hour, the minimum wage in Maine’s largest city, but there’s not a complaint to be heard.

“ ‘People are always coming by and telling us, “Thanks for helping — it’s looking good,” ’ says Jeff Vane, 49, standing knee-deep in urban brush. …

“Portland officials are inviting panhandlers to put away their signs and put on a pair of work gloves. They clean parks, beautify public gardens, and even place flags at the graves of veterans in exchange for a small paycheck and a possible path to better, lasting employment.

“ ‘It makes you feel good about yourself, makes you feel that you’ve still got it,’ Frank Mello, 49, says of the job. ‘It shows I’m not the homeless bum that people think I am.’

“Portland’s program, nearing the end of its second year, is not intended to erase panhandling, city officials say. Some men and women who ‘fly their signs’ at Portland intersections, most of them homeless and desperate for money, will never be persuaded to put them away.

“But it’s an effort that passes legal muster. Both Portland and Worcester, Mass., for example, had banned panhandling with ordinances that were overturned by federal courts, which ruled that they infringed on free speech. …

“Panhandlers are pitched on the program as a way to leave the streets, connect with benefits such as housing vouchers and food stamps, and find work in the future through a day-labor agency that partners with the city. Participation is voluntary — workers can drop out of the Opportunity Crew program at any time. But so far, no one has been asked to leave for failing to do the job or follow the rules.

‘I’ve always kind of believed that if you give someone a hand up, and if they’re so inclined, that’s all they’re asking for,’ City Manager Jon Jennings said in an interview. ‘I just don’t see as many people panhandling now.’

“The Opportunity Crew has a budget of only $40,000 per year, but the benefits go far beyond dollars and cents, city officials said. Through [late August], 281 bags of trash had been collected this year and 121 syringes removed from public spaces, said Aaron Geyer, who supervises the program. A total of 936 hours had been logged by crews of 6 to 10 people who work Wednesdays and Thursdays from April until October

“ ‘They show up on time in the morning, and they’re ready to work,’ Geyer said.

“The cost of a crew is pegged at $1,300 per week, and business sponsors that help pay for the program are promoted on city signs at the cleanup sites. …

“So far, 17 men and women have found jobs after participating in the Portland program, which Jennings said he hopes to expand. …

“Frank Mello [gives] each of his teenage daughters $40 a week from his Opportunity Crew earnings. The children’s mother died three months ago from a heroin overdose, he said.

“ ‘Basically, I’m working for my children. They need me right now,’ Mello said in a gravelly voice, straightening up as sweat poured from his face. …

“ ‘We all know each other, you know,’ Mello said, smiling and nodding toward his fellow panhandlers. ‘Now, we want to work.’ ”

Read more at the Globe, here. A previous blog post on the concept is here.

 

A Silly Experiment

ed_dag_color_mttd_3002bdpi_16x20

Photo: Amherst College
Amherst College holds the original of the only currently authenticated photograph of poet Emily Dickinson, a daguerreotype.

A follower of this blog is Romanian and has a blog with a feature I hadn’t seen before. When you click on an individual post, you get a drop-down menu on the right for choosing any language you want the post translated into. I have used English, of course, but I’ve also tried French and Esperanto.

This got me thinking about Google Translate, a terrific service but imperfect. And I thought, What if we played a game of Telephone with Google Translate? You remember Telephone, I’m sure. A group of people sit in a circle, and the first person whispers a phrase in the ear of the second, the second whispers it in the ear of the third, and so on. When you get to the end, the phrase is usually mangled in an interesting way. and everybody laughs about what they thought they heard. (I had fun playing Telephone with an ESL class last year. You can just imagine!)

For my experiment, I decided to use a bit of poetry by Emily Dickinson and translate it into different languages and back into English between languages. I stopped when I got a translation that was kooky enough for my taste.

Let me know if you can think of other ways to play the Google Translate game.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all

“Esperanza” es la cosa con plumas –
Que se posa en el alma
Y canta la melodía sin las palabras –
Y nunca se detiene – en absoluto (Spanish)

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul
And sing the melody without the words –
And it never stops – at all

“Hope” est la chose avec des plumes –
Qui se perche dans l’âme
Et chante la mélodie sans les mots –
Et ça ne s’arrête jamais – du tout (French)

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
Who perches in the soul
And sing the melody without the words –
And it never stops – at all

“Hopp” är saken med fjädrar –
Vem perches i själen
Och sjunga melodin utan orden –
Och det slutar aldrig – alls (Swedish)

“Jump” is the case with feathers –
Who perches in the soul
And sing the melody without words –
And it never ends – at all

chicago-illinois-a-mural-on-a-building-in-the-largely-mexican-american-fx446e

Mural in Little Village, a Chicago neighborhood with a strong Latino presence. Most research shows a correlation between immigrants moving into communities and an improvement in safety for all residents.

Despite lots of reliable data that immigrants tend to improve the safety of communities where they live, misperceptions persist. Naturally, anyone who is a dangerous criminal, whether a US citizen or immigrant, must always be dealt with, but people who come here just for a decent life are as likely as anyone else — maybe more likely — to try to make communities better.

Chiraag Bains, a senior fellow at Harvard Law School’s Criminal Justice Policy Program, talks about the issue at the Marshall Project.

“A trove of empirical research contradicts the notion that immigrants are [a] violent criminal horde. … In fact, studies consistently show that they commit significantly less crime than native-born Americans, and although the data are difficult to untangle, this appears to be true of both authorized and unauthorized immigrants. Even more, new findings suggest that immigrants may actually cause crime to decline in the areas where they live.

“In a study published recently in the Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice, researchers analyzed Census Bureau and Federal Bureau of Investigation crime data across 200 metropolitan areas in every census year from 1970 to 2010….

“The researchers found a reduction of almost five violent crimes per 100,000 residents for every 1 percent increase in the foreign-born population. Analyses of city- and neighborhood-level data in ‘gateway’ cities such as New York, Chicago, Miami and El Paso have similarly found that violent crime rates — homicide rates in particular — are not higher, but actually lower in areas with more immigrants. This might help explain how violent crime dropped 48 percent over the same period that our undocumented population grew from 3.5 million to 11.2 million.

“One example of this effect in action is the Canarsie section of Brooklyn. Researchers with the Americas Society and Council of the Americas found that as white residents fled the neighborhood during the 1990s, the threat of depopulation and disinvestment was countered by an influx of immigrants, mostly from the Caribbean. Today, Canarsie has below-city average rates of poverty and housing vacancy, and its crime rate dropped from just above the city average in 1990 to 44 percent below the city average in 2010.

“There are logical reasons immigrants would be less likely to commit crimes. They may represent those among their countrymen with the most motivation and the greatest ability to seek a better life abroad. They may also have the most to lose, especially if they entered illegally or have family back home counting on their income.

“There are also explanations for why immigrants help bring down violent crime — apart from the fact that they commit less of it. New immigrants often repopulate hard-hit neighborhoods and increase the labor market opportunities of native-born workers. They also tend to create and strengthen social institutions in their neighborhoods, leading in turn to communities that are more stable and safer. This is the explanation scholars find most likely.”

More here.

111118-Art-Ramble-Concord-MA

I finally got to this year’s Art Ramble in Concord’s Hapgood Wright Town Forest — site-specific creations from the Umbrella artists planted among fallen logs and leaves.

There were quite a few other visitors on the cold, sunny day. One couple shared a laugh about their madly yapping dog, who had been spooked by the recumbent figure of Thoreau in the woods. Another couple discussed with me the best way to avoid a shadow on the chicken-and-egg-sculpture. And a friendly woman who was a United Church of Christ minister and artist herself joined me for half the walk. We helped each other spot pieces that blended in so much with the surroundings that at first, when you saw a descriptive sign but no art, you would think the work had already been removed.

I particularly liked the tiny people — one hermit in contemplation under a root, others peeking out of the bark or cavorting on a dead log.

A man with a top hat and frog face was standing next to the pond — a Slavic water spirit and trickster that I am happy to know about.

My favorite this year was the spirit emerging from the earth at the base of a tree. At first I thought, Caliban, but then looked at his gentle face.

My report on the 2016 Art Ramble is here, and the one on the 2017 Art Ramble is here.

If you live in Massachusetts or are visiting Walden Pond, which is nearby, the Art Ramble is up until Nov. 30 this year. It will make you feel like creating some art yourself — especially with leaves and sticks and mud.

111118-Thoreau-sculpture-in-woods

111118-chicken-egg-sculpture

111118-Slavic-spirit-caled-Vodnik

111118-cruel-shoes-Slavic-legend

111118-artist-plaque-town-forest

111118-contemplative-hermit-under-a-root

111118-tiny-persons-on-a-log

111118-earth-spirit-emerges

 

Waiting in Wartime

062518-flag-in suburbia

For Veterans Day, I want to give a thought to the people who wait, the families left behind, the people who love the service member and who try to stay upbeat and keep their worry from showing.

There’s a song that captures what the person left behind feels when alone and not obliged to put up a brave front. It’s called “I’ll Be Seeing You.”

Let’s start with what Wikipedia has to say about the song’s history.

” ‘I’ll Be Seeing You’ is a popular song, with music by Sammy Fain and lyrics by Irving Kahal. Published in 1938, it was inserted into the Broadway musical Right This Way, which closed after fifteen performances. …

“The musical theme has emotional power, and was much loved during World War II, when it became an anthem for those serving overseas (both British and American soldiers). The lyrics begin, in Bert Ambrose’s and Vera Lynn’s recorded versions, with a preamble:

Cathedral bells were tolling and our hearts sang on
Was it the spell of Paris or the April dawn?
Who knows if we shall meet again?
But when the morning chimes ring sweet again

I’ll be seeing you
In all the old familiar places
That this heart of mine embraces
All day through
In that small cafe
The park across the way
The children’s carousel
The chestnut trees
The wishing well
I’ll be seeing you
In every lovely summer’s day
In everything that’s light and gay
I’ll always think of you that way
I’ll find you in the morning sun
And when the night is new
I’ll be looking at the moon
But I’ll be seeing you
I’ll be seeing you

 

5b527e6903b4a-image

Large-scale solar “farms” are becoming the norm across the country. It’s best to put them on places that are already treeless. We need trees to absorb carbon and give us oxygen.

There’s an organization I follow on twitter, @ecorinews, that has made me more cautious about the renewable energy I advocate. I love that people are using more solar energy, but it should not be at the expense of trees, which are also important in controlling climate change. There are plenty of buildings and already empty spaces where panels could go.

Still, it’s heartening to see communities embracing sustainable energy, and I liked a story from Vermont about strange bedfellows getting the message and working together on solar — on a landfill.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling wrote about the collaboration at the Valley News in September.

“As Vermont’s ever-shifting energy landscape continues to shake up the renewable energy sector, a community solar array coming online this month will showcase a new twist on existing financial models.

“ ‘This is a hybrid,’ said Dori Wolfe, whose company, Wolfe Energy in Strafford, has purchased two shares — at a cost of $2,784 each — of the 185-kilowatt array, which is sited beside a closed landfill site just off Route 113 in Post Mills.

“Community solar arrays — those which serve multiple customers, some of whom might not have solar-friendly homes — are nothing new in Vermont. …

“The nearly finished ‘Thetford-Strafford Community Solar’ array is designed to generate 230,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity during its first year, enough to power about 35 average Vermont homes.

“But it differs from projects in neighboring towns because it will be the first solar farm to serve a mix of customer sectors — the array is a partnership between residential customers, a commercial farm, and the town of Thetford itself. …

“Wolfe said that, among the 25 member-owner shareholders, the commercial entity — Dave Chapman’s Thetford-based Long Wind Farm — acts as the anchor, and purchased enough of the roughly 185 shares on offer to create a critical mass that allowed area residents to buy into the entity, ‘Thetford Strafford Community Solar LLC.’

“The shareholders (who live in Thetford, Strafford and Norwich) expect to recoup their investment and then some through reduced electric bills — about 85 percent of the electricity produced at the site will be sold to Green Mountain Power through the state’s net-metering program, which guarantees customers a minimum rate for feeding solar energy back into the grid.

“The remaining 15 percent of the power will be sold to the town of Thetford at 90 percent of the normal utility rate, which Wolfe said will exert downward pressure on the property tax rate. …

“Wolfe said she hopes that the Post Mills project will lead to a second phase in which more solar is installed on top of the adjacent landfill.

“Though having more solar options is expected to help more Vermonters access renewable energy, a report released earlier this summer by the Energy Action Network suggests that more regulatory action will be needed to get the state on pace for its ambitious goal of achieving 90 percent renewable energy by 2050.

“The state has made progress — in 2017, Vermont energy use was 20 percent renewable, up from 12 percent in 2010. But it is significantly off pace. … In 2017, the rate of newly added capacity was down 30 percent as compared to 2016, and new wind generation has seen an even steeper decline, according to the report.

“There are several reasons for the slowdown. … A new, 30 percent federal tariff on solar panels produced overseas [has] affected pricing, leaving solar projects looking for new ways to make the numbers work.” More.

If you are interested, click here to see what Rhode Island is doing to encourage siting of solar arrays on developed lands, like the landfill used in the Vermont story.

Does your community have a policy to spare forests from being taken down for the otherwise worthy purpose?

Photo: Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News
The Office of Administration, featuring the solar array below, is one of three Rhode Island government buildings to join the Lead by Example initiative.

img_20180424_155613

Butterflies Remember

34224912476_b47a3dd0d1_k-1200x600

Credit: Tjflex2/Flickr
Inside the pupa (or chrysalis), the caterpillar actually turns to liquid during metamorphosis. Despite such an extreme transformation, the butterfly or moth can retain learning from its caterpillar days.

Do you remember being a newborn? I don’t think our species is capable of that kind of remembering. What about other species? Recent research suggests that butterflies have a kind of muscle memory from the good old days of their caterpillar-hood.

An article from Curious Kids — a series that gets experts to answer questions that kids send in — has the scoop. Evan, age 5, asked the question.

“We have caterpillars at home. I would like to know whether they will remember being caterpillars when they are butterflies.”

“Dear Evan,

“I think it is highly unlikely that a butterfly or moth remembers being a caterpillar. However, it may well remember some experiences it learned as a caterpillar.

“That fact in itself is especially amazing because inside the pupa (or chrysalis), the caterpillar actually turns to liquid as it transforms into a butterfly or moth (the adult stage).

“The transformation from the pupa to the adult is the most dramatic change in the life cycle of a butterfly, and scientists refer to this change as metamorphosis. During metamorphosis, the body tissues of the caterpillar are completely reorganised to produce the beautiful adult butterfly that emerges from the pupa.

“Scientists have known for a long time that caterpillars can learn and remember things when they are caterpillars, and adult butterflies can do the same when they are butterflies. However, because of metamorphosis, we were not sure if an adult butterfly could remember things it learned as a caterpillar.

“This ability to remember caterpillar experiences as an adult was tested in a study by a team of scientists at Georgetown University in the US.

“The researchers trained the caterpillars to dislike the smell of ethyl acetate, a chemical often found in nail polish remover. They did this by giving the caterpillars little electric shocks every time they smelled the chemical. Soon, these caterpillars were trained to avoid that smell because it reminded them of the electric shock.

“They let the caterpillars transform into adult moths, and then tested the moths again to see if they still remembered to stay away from the ethyl acetate smell.

“And guess what? Most of them did! The scientists had shown that the memories of avoiding the bad smell experienced as a caterpillar had been carried over into the moth stage. …

“Thank you for sending in this very interesting question.

“Yours sincerely,

“A/Prof Michael F. Braby”

More at the Conversation, here.

%d bloggers like this: