elbales: (Typewriter keys)
Originally posted by coffeeem at Mayor Nutter's Unexpected Gift to Philadelphia
In which Pope Francis unintentionally reveals the joys of a pedestrian- and bike-friendly city, and Kyle Cassidy muses wisely and asks questions that are worth considering. With pretty photos.

Originally posted by kylecassidy at Mayor Nutter's Unexpected Gift to Philadelphia

Sometimes a disaster produces beneficial side effects that could never be otherwise experienced because of the terrible cost. When the FAA shut down all airline traffic after 9/11 scientists got their first chance to study the effect of airplane contrails on temperature.

This weekend the Pope came to Philly and the city shut down virtually every bus, train, and street for three days -- the bridge between New Jersey and Philadelphia was closed, concrete barricades went up at major intersections, "Walking Dead" jokes abounded on the news media and the city got a chance to see what a life without cars might be like. Runners and cyclists spilled out onto the streets, joyfully running and biking in places that are normally both unsafe and illegal.

Running across the bridge to New Jersey.

When the Pope's visit was announced, Philadelphians were on the whole very happy about the idea. But as plans progressed and the city announced seemingly more and more bizarre security measures people got either outraged or incredulous, depending on the makeup of your Facebook feed. One of the most baffling was the plan to shut down the Benjamin Franklin bridge and have pilgrims park in Camden and walk three miles in to see the Pope and then three miles back. Early plans were to install TSA style screening on the bridge which the city said would be performing more security checks than the airport during that time.

Clever people mocked the city's planning producing things like this map:

Certainly if terrorists had been able to shut down every street in the city, block traffic, and cut it off from New Jersey for three days they'd be pleased with themselves. We got our car free experience at a significant cost to businesses who lost untold amounts of money, some closed because workers couldn't get in to the city and others who did open found that nobody was shopping.

I'd been initially planning on locking myself into my house and watching Netflix for three days, but when initial reports started to come in from runners about the multi-million dollar limited time playground open in center city, I jumped into my shoes with the West Philadelphia Runners and we ran an amazed route through the city, proverbially slack jawed with disbelief at the pedestrian wonderland which had opened up.

No wait at the Genius Bar.
Employees at the completely empty Apple store
stand at the window and wave to people.

The city's newly formed Indego Bike Share shined during this time, setting up permanently open kiosks with people to check in bikes even if all the racks were full. The able bodied rejoiced while the most Catholic people I know stayed home, scared off by the through of trying to push a wheelchair for six miles, navigate closed streets and go through unknown TSA security checkpoints.

Route 76, the normally jam-packed beltway around the city was shut down.

It was a runner's paradise in many ways, one of which was the installation of thousands of portable toilets all throughout the city as well as massive icebergs of free bottled water at strategic locations. These are things that runners want often, people walking miles want eventually and homeless people want constantly. By providing public amenities in vast quantities our eyes were open to how much we were missing constantly. Runners map water fountains and plan their runs around them -- access to public water is a sadly rare thing.

The race course everybody wants.

We saw for the first time how long it actually takes to get places on foot without traffic lights. I'd recently just experienced this in Wyoming, where you can point to a spot three miles away and know pretty much exactly how long it will take you to get there. I discovered that things were much closer to my house than I'd realized, that the density of the city and, especially the impact of cars, stretches miles. That much of our time moving in a city is actually spent standing still in an incredibly inefficient way. Our run to the bridge, which I think of as "There be Dragons" far from me took much less time than I'd expected.

The shutdown brought things closer together, it brought us together, even if as gawkers, to meet one another, we got to see a city as it could be, and as a lot of people have envisioned a city as being -- truly walkable, truly bikeable, uncongested.

You may have seen this photo from the Australia Cycling Promotion Fund showing the amount of space taken up by pedestrians, busses, bicycles, and cars:

This is the world we live in and for a moment, we got the chance to see other options. Years ago, playing Sim City, I designed a city with only public transportation, cars were parked in a ring outside. My city had extremely low pollution levels but the rents skyrocketed and eventually I was hung in effigy, but I do imagine this type of world where streets are limited to mass transit, delivery and emergency vehicles. I've never known though if it would work -- and I still don't. If this persisted would the Mayor become a hero or would the city just die? I don't know.

All traffic in and out of the city, shut down.

There's a huge down side to this as well. I don't know if anybody will ever be able to accurately figure out how much this experiment cost the city. I've read that among the hidden costs, 75% of the babies born that weekend weren't able to be born in the hospital of their parents choice because of transportation difficulties.

The West Philly Runners on the Ben Franklin Bridge.

Philadelphia's expanding it's bike and pedestrian trails, we have miles and miles of them along the Schuylkill river, though for the most part, they go to nothing -- they're recreational rather than functional paths. What would it be like to be able to easily and safely bike to center city? Having seen free and open streets, can we now be satisfied without at least protected bicycle lanes? Is it the job of a city to encourage people to adopt healthy lifestyles? There are obvious financial benefits To encourage walking and biking

This thing wasn't the thing that the Mayor thought he was giving us. But having seen it, we want it, I want it anyway. I know that the thing we have now isn't the thing that I want.

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elbales: (BadCat)
So on Saturday, Hardi went to hang with our gaming group, and I stayed home because — not that I've mentioned it in any of my online spaces — I'm still hoarse and coughing from a cold that I came down with on the 11th. (People, it is the 20th. Colds suck.) I was home by myself, and I seized the chance to do things that I wanted to do: one episode of Sense8, some kitchen puttering, some trying on and winnowing of clothing, and even hemming up a pair of trousers. By the time Hardi got home around 6, I had two chicken breasts poaching with some veg and lots of herbs and was quick-soaking some beans. So, you know, it was a pretty damn awesome day. I like puttering, and I like decluttering my closet and cupboards, and it's always nice having a kitchen that's better organized and tidier.

Anyway, one of the things that turned up in the shuffle was Hardi's ancient Thermos. I think he already had it when we got married, or maybe he bought it soon after (there might have been a Thermos I dropped? Maybe?), and it's been sitting forgotten on top of a cupboard since we moved to this apartment more than 10 years ago. Dismaying! The outside was super filthy and I didn't want to store it dirty because gross. I tried getting it open, but it was stuck, so I shrugged and set it by the sink for cleaning later.

Later came this evening, after Hardi made himself a big batch of stroganoff to take for lunches this week. (People, I cleaned the heck out of that kitchen. The cutting board, which whiffs strongly of garlic, got a vinegar wipe and is now sitting covered in coarse sea salt until tomorrow, when I will procure a lemon and use it as a scrubber.) The Thermos was last.

Still wearing my rubber gloves, I took it into his room and asked, "Could you please open this?" It took a bit — it was really stuck — but he got the lid, which is one of those old-school detachable cups, to come loose. He handed it to me, and I caught a whiff of something. "Ghost of chocolate past?" I said, and watched as he started turning the stopper.

There was a hiss of escaping... something... and my eyes got big. Hardi's eyebrow did the Spock thing. We stared at each other for a sec before he set to again. He got it open and turned it to the lamp.

"Yep," he said. "Chocolate." And he loosely set the stopper on the jug and handed it back to to me.

"What an amazing new smell you've discovered," I said as I turned to go back to the kitchen.

(I cleaned the heck out of that Thermos, too. There was some soaking first, you betcha. Gah.)
elbales: (Destiny)
Today I was at Book Buyers in Mountain View with a friend, and I noticed that their 2016 wall calendars had started to come in. I grabbed my usual mindfulness calendar to hang by my desk and then went looking for one for the kitchen. (Yes, they're like 15 feet apart. I actually use them both. Don't judge.) Then I stumbled on this one and my head exploded. "Oh my god, this is so aggressively girly that I have to have it," I told my friend. Seriously, look at those photos, it's ridiculous. I love it. So next year I get to look at all these heteronormative gender-normative versions of romantic imagery, and I'm going to enjoy the shit out of it. The mindfulness calendar can hang out by the phone table, it's all good.

And ha! They were 40 percent off.

p.s. Support your local independent bookstore, yo.

p.p.s. (O HAI STUPID BRAIN TRICKS, VERY FUNNY, I've been misusing heteronormative for like freaking ever because I obviously misremembered the proper definition. Yay?)
elbales: (Geek Dualla - BSG)
Well, okay, not an actual Viking; he was not so much with the pillaging and slaying. But a young man in a Viking helmet, yes. Actually I caught sight of him in the waiting area when I first got to the platform, and I noted on FB that there was a dude in a Viking helmet nearby. "I'm tempted to ask him if he likes Spam," I wrote, but didn't.

And then I met him on the train. Clearly it was fate.

"But do you like Spam?" I asked him.

"Whaaat?" he said, clearly wondering what the weird lady was on about.

"Do you like SPAM?" I repeated.


"Ohmygod, you've never seen the Monty Python Spam sketch?!"

"No, but I love Monty Python."

"YOU MUST YOUTUBE IT. Monty Python. Spam."

And we went our separate ways, happy.

elbales: (WTF cat and tortoise)
So for the last few days, half of everything I eat tastes wrong. Sometimes subtly, sometimes OH DEAR GOD WHAT IS THAT, IT LOOKS CORRECT BUT CLEARLY SOMEONE HAS PUT BIZARRO WORLD SUSHI ON MY PLATE. No changes to meds, either. I have no clue, people, but it is seriously harshing my squee.

(p.s. Non-DW LJ peeps, I have made this a public entry. Could you try commenting here with OpenID? Thankee.)
elbales: (Proserpina)
And to all a good night. ♥
elbales: (OMG!Ten)
So I heard a new group on NPR today: Pentatonix. They apparently won something called The Sing-Off, which I had never heard of because I watch neither broadcast TV or reality TV.

Behold the awesomeosity:

That's one more of the five new artists I wanted to find. :)
elbales: (Find someone to carry you)
A couple of weeks ago I was finishing up my lunch at the food court in Westfield Center, SF. You know, the one near Bloomingdale's and the swanky little supermarket. The one full of people who have everything they need; who are, some of them, rich, and even the ones who aren't are fine.

I scooped my leftovers into a carton and then stood up; I pulled my scarf out of my messenger bag and wound it around my neck; I slid my arms into my raincoat.

Suddenly I realized that a woman had come near. She asked the man at the next table if he could help. His face closed up and he shook his head curtly.

And then she turned and looked at me.

It had been a long time since I'd seen so much weariness and misery on a person's face. She was fairly clean and wasn't carrying bundles or wheeling a cart. She wasn't dressed warmly enough for November. She looked so sad.

"Are you hungry?" I asked her. She nodded. I picked my my carton of leftovers and put it in her hands. And she burst into tears.

"I'm sorry," she whispered, trying to calm herself. I wasn't sure she would want me putting my arms around her: everyone deserves their dignity. So I put my hand on her shoulder and just stood with her. "Bless you," I offered, feeling how very weak and useless the words were, but hoping they might give comfort.

"Do have someplace to go?" I asked her. She shook her head. "Is there a shelter?" Another headshake. "I don't have enough money," she said through her tears.

I took out my wallet and I put a ten-dollar bill in her hand. "It's all I've got on me," I told her, and her face crumpled and she put her arms around me. I don't like strangers touching me, but I didn't mind; when someone is falling apart in front of you, when they hug you because they just need human kindness, you hug them back.

"Are you gonna be okay? Do you need it?" she asked.

Christ. This woman, this woman who had nothing, wanted to make sure that my giving her that money wasn't going to cause me hardship.

"No, honey," I said gently. "I'm fine. I'm fine."

Ten fucking dollars. To me that's so little, but to her it was everything. Treating her like a human being instead of a lazy, useless, damned soul was like offering her the moon on a string.

What are we doing, when ten lousy dollars and half a carton of leftover Thai food can be the only hope someone has all day? What the fuck are we doing?

elbales: (Happy cat)
Irene: @ElBloombito mimics Michael Bloomberg Spanish

A Twitter feed set up by one New Yorker has become a surprise hit by caricaturing New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's efforts to speak Spanish.

Go have a giggle. No Spanish skills actually needed.
elbales: (Girl Reading - Perugini)
Normally I don't update just to say that someone famous has passed away, but I know some of my flist are tremendous fans of hers.
elbales: (Not good!Turlough)
My visit to the doctor established that I have neither bronchitis nor pneumonia, not that I really thought I had pneumonia. Last night I started seeing intermittent signs of a sinus infection, so I have some antibiotics, but otherwise it's just a series of annoying colds. Suckage. Major suckage.
elbales: (Kaylee  :D)
UC class melds photography, protest

Debra Levi Holtz, Special to The Chronicle
Monday, December 27, 2010

Think of it as a crash course in the culture of protest at UC Berkeley, or as an antidote to teenage apathy.

A new freshman seminar that combines photojournalism with political awareness was inspired by recent conflicts on campus over rising tuition and funding cuts. It is designed to teach students about the role of photography in political activism.

I love it!

Cold #2

Dec. 1st, 2010 05:51 pm
elbales: (nap time)
Hack hack, etc.

Yeah. Not much more to say about that.

And my arms still suck. There's a reason I haven't updated in forever. But I still love you guys, and I read LJ pretty much every day.
elbales: (nap time)
And if so, could I get it over with please?

Uggggghhhhgg *thud*

ETA: Okay, you know? This is a cold. Oh goody.
elbales: (Kaylee  :D)
... being told by one of your students, "We want you to be our teacher forever."

elbales: (Alone!Ten)

That is all.
elbales: (cupcakes to share)
Well, 2009 was pretty rough for some people I know. I wish you, one and all, a happy, peaceful, healthy, and productive 2010, for whatever values of "productive" you may wish for.

I love you all.
elbales: (Tiger-yawn)
For breakfast:
Blueberry pancakes with fresh fruit on top

For the week:
Black beans w/ wild & brown rice
Four days' worth of chicken stir-fry and rice for H's lunches, plus extra rice
Banana bread
Lazy E French bread (baguette dough poured into a pan to save me having to shape it)

Tomorrow's dinner:
Imam bayildi (mmm, eggplant)
Quinoa with golden raisins
Broiled Niman Ranch marinated lamb chops... hoping to use these to use up some lemon-cumin-yogurt sauce I had in the fridge; we'll see if the sauce works with the marinade

I'm too tired to want to eat much. Had some imam bayildi and a slice of toast w/ goat cheese and sundried tomatoes warmed on top. Lazy person's pizza.

Did I mention I was tired?

(And I still managed to get my class prep done. Go, me.)
(Hardi's just as glad he spent the day hanging with the guys, I'm sure. I think I'm going to need to start doing the big cooking days on Fridays. Or possibly making him help. Actually that sounds nice. Actually he just rang to tell me he was going to stop at the store for me ♥ and said he'd be happy to help me cook. Win!)
elbales: (Typewriter keys)
The New York Times has a great article on race relations on college campuses.

As a freshman at Ohio State University, and the only black student on his floor, Sam Boakye was determined to get good grades — in part to make sure his white roommate had no basis for negative racial views.

“If you’re surrounded by whites, you have something to prove,” said Mr. Boakye, now a rising senior who was born in Ghana. “You’re pushed to do better, to challenge the stereotype that black people are not that smart.”

Several recent studies, at Ohio State and elsewhere, have found that having a roommate of a different race can reduce prejudice, diversify friendships and even boost black students’ academic performance. But, the research found, such relationships are more stressful and more likely to break up than same-race pairings.

It's quite interesting and heartening to read.

(In other news, my tooth still hurts.)
elbales: (cupcake - shiny!)
I'm ridiculously behind on updates. So, randomly:

1. Teaching summer school. Last week was 2 of 6. It's going amazingly well and my students are both awesome and happy.

2. Saw Star Trek a few weeks ago. It was a giant steaming plate of meh with a large dollop of lamesauce and a generous side of crunchy-fried plot holes.

3. Summer fruit season. Mmmmm, fruit. Ooh, and there's the microwave announcing that my apricot crisp is done. It's better in the oven, but it's way too damn hot for that. Also there's corn cooling on the stove and my fridge is fully of excellent produce. I loves me some farmer's market.

4. Speaking of the oven, we've been baking bread pretty regularly. Niiiiice.

5. Hardi and I celebrated our twelfth anniversary last weekend. It was lovely. ♥

6. I've been reading a ton of good books lately. *is happy*

7. My container garden is flourishing. Some good lengths of chicken wire wrapped around the benches where the pots are sitting are keeping the cats out, so stuff is finally getting the chance to grow undisturbed. My first johnny-jump-ups and nasturtiums are blooming. Squee.

8. The cats are very well. Such a relief after the last few years of Locke's and Kiri's lives.

9. I haz an iPhone.

10. My arms are much of the suckage. :/

How's by you?


elbales: (Default)

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