Sunday, June 29, 2008

Smart Town #3

Bike lanes that go nowhere will not be a part of the transportation infrastructure in Smart Town.

(If there are any urban or transportation planners out there reading this, can you PLEASE explain bike lane routing to me? I don't even begin to understand what is up with the bike lane on Mass Ave. in Porter Square, Cambridge (our fair city) that starts at Porter and runs to Walden Street - and then JUST STOPS! Why lull me into a false sense of security, why lead me to believe that you are making me safe from other (larger) cars on the road, only to make my safety buffer randomly disappear?)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Look what I did at work today

I'm sweet - it says so in the paper!

Click here for an article in the local paper about a tree hit by lightning. In the story I'm referred to as "sweet."

Hoo dog!

I do believe that this quote is going on my resume, or at least in my next performance appraisal!.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Not something I can believe in

I'm watching Stonehenge Decoded on the National Geographic Channel (which I will NOT call Nat Geo because I think it is a stupid nickname they made up for themselves to sound hip). The program uses dramatized simulations to tell a story of Stonehenge. I'm currently watching a segment in which they are attempting to explain how each 45,000 ton stone was brought from the only place in modern times where the stones found, which is 25 miles from Stonehenge. (Why no one has imagined that maybe there were stones CLOSER to the site is beyond me...perhaps the landscape looked different 4,000 years ago?) The archaeologists are inferring that each stone is alleged to have deep spiritual meaning, and the process of bringing the stone part of a spiritual pilgrimage. While explaining this supposition, the narrator suggests that the supposed engineering process could have taken anywhere from months to YEARS to bring EACH stone to the site.

What a minute.

Maybe YEARS? To bring ONE stone? Out of an estimated 60 stones that made up Stonehenge in its hengey-hey day? So at least 60 years to just get the stones to the designated spot?

I'm not sure there is anything I believe in that much that I'd be willing to put that much physical labor into, for a payoff that I most likely would not benefit from. Maybe that is ego speaking, or laziness. But I cannot imagine living in a time where that would be considered a plum spiritual assignment. Give me Unitarian coffee hour duty any day. Coffee hour, that is something I CAN believe in.

Social Networking

The Boston Globe published an op/ed piece this morning focused on the "end of privacy" with the advent of social networking and our society's insatiable desire for information. In the piece the author writes that social networking sites like Facebook, and the availability of donor lists on line, for example, are among the factors that contributes to a lack of privacy in our society.

I have several reactions to this piece.

1. If one is so concerned about privacy, then one has choices. You can choose to not have a Facebook profile, you can choose not to affiliate with people or causes that may be potentially embarrassing to you, you can make a donation through a donor-advised fund or a bank to shield your privacy. If someone chooses to engage with social networks - virtual or otherwise - by definition one is choosing to forgo privacy. If I join a bowling team, I can't expect that my participation on the bowling team will remain private, if only by virtue of the fact that there are other people on the bowling team who know me.

2. I also wonder about the people who choose affiliations that may be damaging to them in some way. I am careful about my social networking; I don't accept friendship invitations from anyone who I am not actually friends with. Why? Well, I don't want the responsibility, nor do I want to give time, to friendships or connections that don't have honest meaning for me. It is my impression that many people make frivolous choices because they think it will inspire a reaction among others - it will be funny, or shocking, or make them look "cool" or enigmatic. I don't think this has integrity, and I don't respect it. Particularly in an information age where our Internet choices follow us forever.

This changes the social dynamic for young people - who by definition are seeking their niche in society and experiment with different personas. I don't envy teens and young adults nowadays. If I wanted to be a goth when I was 17, I could do it without potential long term repercussions; no future boss was going to google me and find my online profile expressing my lifelong devotion to Marilyn Manson, killing chickens, and black fingernails. This may happen for a teen who is going through a goth "phase" en route to her or his adulthood.

Regardless, all of our social networking calls for a sense of awareness of the potential implications of our actions - which is a social skill that anyone can develop.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

All America City?

I've been in Tampa, FL at an extended municipal pep rally for the last two days, as part of a tiny and cynical delegation from my town to the All America City competition. All America City is a program of the National Civic League that recognizes cities, towns and counties for engaging citizens in sustainable improvements to its sense of community, infrastructure, and municipal programs.

I've never been a group think person. In fact, I find group think to be a little scary. But, I can definitely play the act for the team. So, with a motley crew of other urbane cynics, I've been chanting city slogans, wearing the same outfit as the other travelers from my town, and rehearsing a 10-minute song and dance number to perform for a group of judges who will decide if our town will be named "All America City."

I've watched with amusement the 50-person delegations from other parts of the country in their matching outfits, coordinated accessories, and midwestern peppiness. I've listened with amazement to the Southern groups waxing on philosophically about pancake houses and Jesus, and wondered what lies beneath the illusion of demographic borderlessness among the groups of blacks, native americans, hispanics, whites, seniors, children, families, and disabled people. And, I've seen more American flags than I really can process. American flag birkenstocks, sequined headbands, bandanas wrapped around denim-clad legs, cowboys hats and embroidered polo shirts.

What is it that makes a city an All America City? What does it mean to be an American? I think to the history of our nation and the current presidential administration. Hubris, religiosity, secrecy, scrappiness, disingeuousness, inequality sanctified by the social order.

Don't think this is what the National Civic League is looking for. I think they are looking for a set of democratic ideals applied to municipal governance - most importantly citizen engagement and liberal advancement.

If I were king of the universe, what would I be looking for? Authenticity, willingness to name problems, and concrete and compassionate solutions for addressing them, leadership and leadership development.

What would you look for?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Smart Town Part 2

More details on the road etiquette in Smart Town.
1. People in Smart Town all take Driver's Ed and they all realize that the rules of the road exist to keep people safe, and to facilitate predictable behavior and communication between drivers of motorized vehicles.
2. Because bike riders epitomize environmental responsibility and efficiency, they have separate rules of the road that allow them to zip through red lights if no cars are coming, and to turn left on red if it is safe for cars and pedestrians.
3. Sidewalks have pedestrian sensors at crosswalks that cause lights to change fairly rapidly to ensure neither pedestrians nor drivers and bikers have to wait too long for the pedestrian to get across the road.
3a. Because pedestrians know they can quickly and easily get across the street at crosswalks, they don't jaywalk and drivers NEVER stop in the middle of a street for a pedestrian, thus interrupting the flow of traffic.