Designing My Fair City
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
This is a list I've been building in my mind for a very long time. Basically, every time I engage in urban wanderlust, I end up ruminating on all the things I want to see improved on in my city. If I ever got the big idea to hold my city hostage, this would be my list of demands (barring any assumption that my city can defy the laws of physics)*. But it's important to preface my list by explaining that my city is already quite lovely. We have many walkable neighborhoods, a lot of green space, and a considerable amount of public art and character. Still, there's always room for improvement.
- I want all of my city's waterways to be fishable and swimmable. Water being necessary to sustain human life, I've always considered this to be a top priority and find it fairly unconscionable that we can't even meet this very low standard.
- I want all of my city's green spaces to be connected. I want to be able to wander through our entire park system without ever having to cross a street.
- For every foot of roadway, I want to see triple the space devoted to pedestrian paths, bike paths, and urban railway.
- Whenever road construction interferes with pedestrian/cyclist paths, I want to see a clear, short, and safe detour for pedestrians and cyclists.
- Also, I want more safe ways to cross roads for pedestrians/cyclists, in general.
- I want native plant barriers between roadways and pedestrian/cyclist paths.
- I want commuting by train/bus to be more convenient than commuting by car for everyone.
- I want more public waterfront space. A lot more.
- I want smoking to be eliminated from all public (indoor and outdoor) spaces. Air being necessary to sustain human life, this one seems like a gimme.
- I want roads to be designed for their speed limits and speed limits to reflect the design of the road.
- I want tighter boundaries around my city--an even stronger focus on density as opposed to suburban sprawl.
- I want more and better signage directing me to community/cultural spaces.
- I want a bus schedule at every stop.
- I want an easy-to-find and navigate comprehensive resource enumerating all of the public spaces and events available to me at all times.
- I want more community/cultural spaces open at all different times of the day and night. And holidays too. Presidents' Day should offer me more than the ability to buy a cheap mattress. Public space should be available when the public has time to use it, which often includes after-hours.
- I'd prefer more public amenities: restrooms, public phones, etc.
- And I would love to see wireless publicly available all throughout the city. And actually have it work.
*=The Tick reference:
UPDATE: Interesting commentary on how writing things down can simplify them. After writing this list, it became clear that accomplishing a few of the bigger changes I want would directly obviate many of the smaller changes. I guess that's what planning is all about.
Nothing New byslag at 9:13 AM
The Tao of Going Through the Motions
Monday, March 23, 2009
Yesterday morning's Church of Pugilism started out kind of rough. I was doing pretty well in the first circuit--jumping rope, jumping jacks, etc--but as soon as we moved on to the next circuit, I was losing it fast. My head was floating, my stomach was threatening to relinquish its contents, and (as my pugilism partner kindly put it) I had a less-than-healthy glow. Anyone who's read the Tao of Puke-ilism knows that this feeling is not entirely new for me. It happens periodically and almost always puts a new spin on my workout. Yesterday was no exception.
In the past, I've tended to react to this situation in one of two ways--either sit out for a round or two or punish myself by pushing myself harder. This time, however, I decided to just let it wash. I stayed in the circuit physically, kept it slow and steady, and just sort of mentally checked out. In the second round of the second circuit, my partner and I were sitting back-to-back on the floor, twisting, and passing a medicine ball between us. With each early pass, I wondered how long I'd be able to keep going. "If you puke, you puke;" I kept saying it over and over to myself. But eventually things got a little surreal, and my mind started to let go while my body just kept passing the ball. For what was probably about two minutes, I have no idea what I was thinking (if I was thinking anything at all). Nonetheless, the bell signifying the end of the round told me I had got it done and that it was time to move on.
I was surprised to find that moving on to the next round was actually fairly easy. The struggles I had gone through in the previous rounds were steadily receding, and I was almost feeling kind of spry as I held up a shield for my partner to punch. Those nauseous feelings were becoming less and less frequent and, while still fairly slow, I was starting to recompose myself mentally as well. My confidence in my ability to finish the workout improved drastically over the next few rounds, and by the time the whole thing was over and I had stepped foot back out into the open air, I was no more sluggish than when I went in over an hour earlier. Not exactly Richard Simmons but not exactly this guy either.
On the way home, I tried to think back to my previous bouts of exercise-induced affliction and determine which of my current strategies for dealing gets me back on track the quickest. It's hard to say and seems almost always situational. Whether I take a break depends on whether I think it will bring me a fresh outlook on the situation. And whether I push myself harder depends on whether I think there's a level of diminishing returns. And whether I just stay the course and go through the motions depends on whether I think what I'm doing is right and that I just need to keep on doing it--even when I'm not sure I can. Sadly, it seems that when things aren't going according to plan, I don't have a single best solution to the problem. But maybe that's ok. I guess as long as none of my solutions kill me, I can just keep experimenting with them. Or maybe finding new ones through more and more practice. Could be worse.
Nothing New byslag at 8:25 AM
I didn't complete this blog post because...
Monday, March 9, 2009
In the Some of Nothing household, Sunday is a day of rest and pugilism. Sadly for me, however, Sunday at 3am was not very restful (or very pugilistic, for that matter). And as I was lying awake in bed knowing full well that the alarm would sound as soon as I closed my eyes, I started thinking about frustrations I was having outside of my inability to sleep. After wallowing in feelings aimlessness for about an hour or so, I eventually got around to contemplating the issues I'm having with my 12 year-old disciple and her recent progress report.
My disciple and I have been working together twice a week for over 2 months now, and results have been decidedly mixed. It took some time for us to establish solid lines of communication (ie, for me to bend her to my will), and keeping those lines in good working order is an ongoing challenge. But on the positive side of the ledger, she's made some important academic achievements. For example, she's moved from the easiest math group in her class up four levels to the 2nd hardest. She made it into the top tier in her recent class spelling bee and was one of three chosen to participate in a Latinate bee. And for the first time, she's had several examples of her work posted on the board by her teacher. Many of these accomplishments would have been unthinkable a few months ago, so I should probably look on our efforts together as time well-spent. But then there's the progress report.
Finally eschewing the middling grades of Bs and Cs, my young disciple's latest assessment now fluctuates between series of As and Fs--or, more accurately, 100s and zeroes. Missing assignments constitute almost a third of her report. This is unacceptable.
So, at 4:30am on Sunday, I was lying in bed devising strategies to resolve this problem. Earlier in the week, MFP suggested having her, her mom, and me sign a contract detailing everyone's roles and responsibilities in this arrangement. Apparently, one of MFP's kid-having co-workers told him about how this stratagem works in kiddie softball, and Google indicates that the trilateral contract seems to be all the rage for schoolwork too. So, a contract, it is. But given the magnitude of the problem here, I started thinking that a contract is just the beginning. I started thinking that for every assignment my disciple misses, she should be obligated to provide a written detailed explanation of why she missed that assignment. Such as: "I, 12 year-old disciple, failed to complete and turn in my assignment, Triangles: Why They Are a Sign of the Devil, because I chose to play computer games instead. Specifically, I played WoW for one hour, Fallout for 45 minutes, and...".
But then it occurred to me. I should do the same thing for all my own missing assignments. All of the blog posts I started but didn't finish. All of the designs I created but didn't use. All of the ideas I had but didn't follow through on. All of the things that keep me up at 3am.
And the longer I thought about this plan, the more I liked it. And the less I liked it. Because, if I'm honest with my explanations, they would all say something like: "I, slag, failed to complete and post my blog post, The Tao of Overcorrecting, because it sucked. Suckety suck suck sucked". And really, who wants to read that?
Nothing New byslag at 10:33 AM