What I liked lately on the Internets:
36.1. Poking fun at bad weather while luxuriating in good weather - you call it clever, I call it annoying.
36.2. Why more high-speed rail in China may lead to more traffic. [Hat tip: Marginal Revolution.]
36.3. Going green is for all colors.
36.4. Let John Edwards' extreme self-deception be a cautionary tale for our trust in politicians and our assessment of ourselves.
36.5. Normally I don't get huffy over edgy humor, but Kenneth Cole making fun of the tumult in Egypt is over the line. The blogosphere, which is even snarkier, punishes with cruel efficiency in response.
36.6. Spousonomics salutes Katy Perry for "keeping it hot" in her marriage, and so do I.
36.7. A nice post over at Discovering Urbanism on Michael Sandel on public spaces. In an auto-centric world, the Good Samaritan wouldn't have had the opportunity to help the man in need because he would've whizzed by him at 35 miles an hour.
36.8. Liu Bolin is awesome. Now if I could just find him to tell him that.
36.9. What John Piper felt and prayed when he saw the first printed copy of his best-seller, "Desiring God." Twenty-five years later, Pastor Piper, I can say that God answered your prayers.
36.10. Tetris' Russian roots. The article also notes that playing Tetris can enhance brain function, which may explain why I got such good grades in college.
Here was a little moment last week that typified the headaches all this snow has caused travelers. As I was coming down the hill on 36th Street between Lancaster and Market, I noticed four trolleys stacked up, with a growing line of cars behind them. Apparently, a SEPTA truck was blocking the way, and since trolleys run on fixed lines, none of them could advance. Deliciously, Philadelphia Parking Authority, star of the reality TV show, "Parking Wars," was writing up the truck.
Perpendicular to this, on a small side street, another line was forming, this time behind a poor woman spinning her wheels in the mushy snow. I approached her, made a two-handed shoving gesture, and then got behind her car and pushed her on her way. She rolled down her window and, in a relieved voice, said thanks, and I tapped the back of her car as she proceeded and said, "You stay safe out there."
Maybe it was the snow quieting everything, but even in the craziness of the morning rush, I didn't hear any honking and I detected a general sense of patience. I guess it's hard to have squabbles between people when the weather has ganged up on us and we have to band together to survive it.
(By the way, the photo above is not from that day, but from two days later, when three trolleys were stacked up going in the other direction. It was too cold and sleety to pull out my camera on the day of to commemorate the moment, so I decided to snap this photo two days later instead.)
According to the Texas Transportation Institute's 2010 Urban Mobility Index, the average American is delayed 34 hours a year by congestion. It appears that around these parts, half of that took place this past week: I was adversely affected by traffic, and I didn't even step foot in a car. Here are my adventures in commuting from the past week:
Monday - Easy. Too much snow on the ground to contemplate biking, so I took the kids by foot and bus to their schools, and Amy helped by picking up Aaron, which meant I could just walk home and grab Jada on the way. Taking the bus is much easier in the morning than the evening. See below.
Tuesday - Ugh. I thought I left work early enough to walk to Aaron's school, piggyback him to the bus stop, and take the bus to Jada's school before it closed at 6. When we arrived at the bus stop at 5:35, I was a little nervous. There's two lines that come every 10 minutes, so you'd think the average wait would be five minutes. But during rush hour, paradoxically, the wait is longer, because the buses stop at every stop and also because they are full and so sometimes zoom by and make you get the next one. Sure enough, we wait 10 minutes, and then the 21 zooms by. In another three minutes, the two 42's arrive and the second one stops for us. It is now 5:48, so we have 12 minutes to go a mile, get off, and walk 50 feet and up a flight of stairs before we are officially late. The bus ride takes 15 minutes.
Wednesday - Screw the bus, I'm taking matters into my own hands and using the trusty bicycle. I am helped, strangely enough, by the school delays. Leaving two hours later means I miss the morning rush hour, which allows me to ride in the street instead of the bike lane, of which most is iced or snowed over. Coming home is dicier, as I have to basically wait until all the cars go, and then I can ride on the street after them.
Thursday - The waiting is worse today because the traffic is worse. Normally, in stop and go, I zip through on the bike lane. But because most lanes are blocked, I have to wait like everyone else. Again, we are late in picking up Jada.
Friday - Mercifully, traffic is a little better, and even the weather has cooperated, as some of the snow has melted so a little bit more bike lane space is available.
Who knows what the weeks to come will bring. If you recall, the big snow volume last year was in February. So we've got a long way until commuting doesn't require checking for school closings or not knowing whether biking is possible.
This whole "making NFL playoff picks" thing has been fun, but the two-week gap between the conference championships and the Super Bowl has thrown off my rhythm. The Philadelphia sports pages are dominated with the Eagles' off-season moves, the Phillies reporting to spring training, and the Flyers and Sixers jockeying for playoff position. I've been too busy to get a read on who feels good and who's still injured, and even if I had the time, I'm not sure I want to wade into the circus that is media coverage of a game that has a two-week lead-in. (Questions like "Ben, what did you have for breakfast," I'm just not holding my breath waiting for the answer.)
Add to the fact that it's the Super Bowl, which means anything can happen, and you really got me as to what is going to happen. Defensive struggle? Shootout? Is it experience or the hot hand? Who steps up and who chokes? You got me.
Still, over the course of these playoffs, I went exactly 5-5. So I have to make a pick, if only to break the tie. So here goes: Packers 35, Steelers 27. Some random thoughts:
* I was actually surprised when the line came out and the Packers were favored. All along, the look-ahead bet was AFC giving four against NFC. I guess that was assuming the Patriots were the AFC representative?
* Still, I think, after some early-in-the-game jitters, Aaron Rodgers picks up where he left off three weeks ago in Atlanta, and just starts throwing seeds all over the place. I think there's going to be a fair amount of big plays and not a whole lot of field goal or even red zone situations.
* On the other side of the ball, I think this is where the Ben Roethlisberger show finally comes to an end. Not that 27 points is a bad day at the office against a championship-caliber defense. But there's too much pass rush and too much athleticism in the secondary to keep up with.
* The Steelers will actually have a shot at the end for the tie with a TD and 2-point conversion, but a pick by Charles Woodson will cement the win for the Pack. President Obama, Mr. Woodson and his associates will in fact see you in the White House, and he will deliver said picked ball to you with his signature on it and a note: "You can come watch us play in Green Bay any time you want, Mr. President."
With my subscription of The Economist due to expire next month, and some frequent flier miles also due to expire soon, I decided to change things up a bit - I've been subscribing to The Economist for a few years straight now - and let that subscription lapse and pick up Time Magazine instead. As much as I will miss all I love about The Economist, I figured it would be good to get a different perspective for a year. Besides, I have fond memories of reading Time at my aunt's house, and always found it the more serious of the Time/Newsweek/USNews triumvirate.
Uh, times have changed. I saw a recent copy of Time at my office so I flipped through it during lunch. It is, how shall I put this? My wife described it as "People Magazine for news." Co-sign: more pictures than words, and the words are in very small doses. Some are even yellow-highlighted! And don't get me started on the distribution of coverage.
My wife said I should just get The Economist in parallel, lest I die of information starvation. But I protested that my brain only has room for one news magazine. For the next year or so, it will be Time. Let's hope there's more sustenance in future issues than there was in the issue I looked at earlier this week.
Exactly eight years ago today was my first ever blog post in this space. I had no idea where blogging would take me back then, I just wanted a convenient place to dump my musings, on faith and family and cities and churches and economics and environment.
Eight years later, it’s still a work in progress, as am I. It’s been fun to muse, and even more fun when others chime in with their musings. Who knows what the next eight years will bring, but let's hope there's still benefit to me and others from musing on these kinds of topics. Thanks for your eyeballs and your thoughts.
We four had a great time in San Jose, seeing my mom and dad, hanging out with my sister and brother-in-law, and seeing so many fun California sights that Jada insists that we move there someday. Upon our return, between being sick, it being cold, and inertia setting in, we laid low for most of our weekends; weekdays this month were busy enough to justify this, between our hectic jobs and the kids' long school days. We did get to celebrate Aaron's fourth birthday with friends and family, Aaron landing all sorts of good loot, including Legos, dinosaurs, and cars, the holy trinity of toys for boys.
I will not be able to attend this, due to a prior commitment, but I pass this on to you should you be interested in hearing more about the study we did for the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission and Greenspace Alliance on the economic value of protected open space in the Philadelphia five-county region.
The GreenSpace Alliance and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission are pleased to invite you to hear a presentation of the study Return on Environment: The Economic Value of Protected Open Space in Southeastern Pennsylvania.
Date: Friday, February 4, 2011
Time: 9:00 a.m.
Location: Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, 100 N. 20th Street 5th Floor
The presentation summarizes the findings of the first study to quantify the economic value of protected open space in the five-county area. The study shows that preserved open spaces are more than just pretty places, they contribute hundreds of millions to our local economies and property values, help us save on everything from health care to recreation, and they perform valuable ecosystem services that naturally improve the air we breathe and the water we drink. The PowerPoint presentation is designed to make the study findings accessible to a broad audience. We hope you will join us.
The complete study First Edition is available for download at www.greenspacealliance.org/home/whatsnew.asp and www.dvrpc.org/openspace/value/. The Final Edition will include a new stormwater case study by the US Forest Service as well as the appendices and will be available at www.greenspacealliance.org and www.dvrpc.org/openspace/value/ the week of February 1.
Also note that we have a presentation/training scheduled for stakeholders who would like to give the PowerPoint. We will share presentation tips and discuss effective answers to address common questions we have heard. This meeting will be held February 16th, at 9:00 a.m. at DVRPC, 190 N. Independence Mall West, (6th and Race), Philadelphia, PA 19106, 8th Floor. Another reminder for this meeting will be sent out in early February.