Archive for the ‘Podcasting’ Category

The Mayor is Dead. Long Live the Mayor.

November 22nd, 2014

clearytreeIt’s the season or at least a season. The recently retired and more recently dead former Mayor Tom Menino clearly had a big saved spot in his big old heart for Christmas and its leading events. He went by Escalade from one Boston neighborhood to another, shameless in his enjoyment of the holiday trolleys and tree lightings. He seemed to be everyone’s dad or granddad.

I can only recall him once missing the lighting of the Anderson tree in our shared Hyde Park neighborhood. He was too feeble that year. His wife Angela stood on the platform for him and performed his greetings and wishes. That itself was remarkable.

For decades, she had preferred to have her people-loving hubby meet-and-greet. Even on the annual July 12th block party celebrating the city while celebrating Tom’s ascendancy to the mayoralty when Ray Flynn scurried off to the Vatican with delusions of legacy and maybe even closeness to God, Angela absented herself while Tom stood in the street glad-handling and chatting up us all.

Yet when needed, she did not let her husband down. She became the first lady of the city.

Now Martin J. (Marty) Walsh rolls into Menino-land in eight days to figuratively flip the switch and by so doing stake a local claim. I”ll be there to see how he carries himself.

So far, the new version of Da Mare has not been as visible in these parts and certainly has not brought the personable Menino character. I’ve observed him at several events and found him rather dour in contrast to the avuncular Menino.  There may be some jollity in him, but he doesn’t let it out much.

walsh1I admit that to Tom Menino I was a constituent. He treated me as such. I had many contracts with him, at political events, when he was a guest on my Left Ahead podcast, when I advocated for or thanked him for bicycle doings, at business openings, in random meetings, and of course at the annual tree lighting.

He remembered…my name, my precinct, that I was a poll warden, that I shared his love of cycling, that I’d  moved from JP to HP (the proper order of things in his judgment, that I had healed from a badly broken leg when he was having his own nether region problems, what my sons had been about. In other words, he was both an empathetic guy and a skilled pol.

I never saw the allegedly hard-boiled Mr. Mayor. I thought of that recently when a police officer who had been one of his union’s officials involved in contract negotiations fairly snorted at the lore of the late Mayor. He saw the thunderbolts and said there definitely were two distinct sides to him.

So hail Marty Walsh, the obscure state rep following the longest serving, fervently popular chief exec of Boston. He inherited the stereotypical urban ills of crime and unemployment, but primarily a city in very good shape. Now what?

Tom Menino always seems to have been Tom Menino. He was personable and above all else loved both his city and its residents. He seemed to recharge with every moment taking your hand or learning more about you — interests, problems, anything.

So far, Walsh has lacked the tiny, constant Menino touches. For one, as a long-time poll worker, I think of the preliminary, primary and general election days. A few pols, like Rep. Liz Malia, show up at polling places with coffee, doughnuts or sandwiches for those of us who spend 14 or 25 hours there. Menino’s people never missed an election or a polling place.

I thought too of the day of Menino’s sudden death announcement. Coincidentally, Walsh was scheduled to appear on River Street in Hyde Park to dedicate a pocket park, really a dreadful patch of paving stones next to a convenience store, badly in need of what my grandmother would have called a bum bench. Walsh didn’t show. The half dozen of us there in case he did were not surprised. On the other hand, Tom Menino would never have left constituents hanging. He either would have had an aide appear to announce a postponement or would have gotten a cop from the station across the street to do that.

I’ll be fascinated to see how the new Mayor handles hoi polloi.

 

Plots Against Shyness

November 15th, 2013

Yes, I write this personal blog. Yes, I have a weekly audio podcast. Yes, I advocate for marriage equality. Yes, I’ve interviewed and written about many folk in politics, business and beyond over a long time.

I’m still shy, moderately introverted and far more comfortable when the attention is on someone else.

I got a double dash of public yesterday headed to and then in my fiction-writing workshop. I think such surprises can only be good for us shy sorts.

The class is in the main Copley public library, starting after dark. I was perking along, head down, when a TV reporter popped out of his van, leading with the innocuous, “Do you live in Boston.” It turns out that along Boylston Street close to last spring’s Marathon bombings, various crews were getting guy-on-the-street quotes about Bill Maher’s provocative attempts at humor on the subject.

Maher surely should have realized how lame he had been when Anthony Weiner, of all people, sitting beside him modulated the situation. When Weiner is the voice of reason, compassion and morality in the situation, Maher seriously goofed up.

I had little to say. I did manage to tell the BZ mic hand and cameraman something like Maher was being a fool. Normally he’s bright and insightful but not then. I was turning into myself in shyness and likely would not have added the Weiner judgment had it come to mind then and not 20 feet later as I headed to the library.

I very rarely watch any TV. I would not have been aware they used my ho-hum clip if chums had not let me know.

Inside, much more intense and prolonged was the psychodrama that was the last half of the class. An out-there writer who joined the class had us act out. She’d don’t corporate training and such. She said she had a useful exercise to help us commit to regular writing schedules. That sounded good but quickly stretched my comfort elastic.

The way it worked for the five of us, her included, was that one after another, we stood in a close circle. The person of the moment identified three obstacles to writing, actually writing. One person would take the role of each, such as the lure of social media drawing us away from creative work. One person would be the support. The subject heard simultaneous bombardment of reasons to procrastinate or doubt, while the lone support person and whatever messages the subject could play internally played. There was four or five very intense minutes.

Each of us came to a sort of denouement, believing that we had a handle on responses to the distractions. That was her intent and we’ll see how it plays out. We have pledged to bring in one to five pages of new work next week as proof…and then each week.

For extroverts, that kind of psychodrama without having to dress up must seem benign. It was about all I could handle. Of course, the hardest moments were when I was in the center of the circle, the focus.

I suspect both events last evening were good for me. I don’t know that I’m ready to seek more like those, but I survived.

He talks!

October 27th, 2013

I have a little less excuse to hide inside my moderate introversion. Yes, I do host a weekly podcast, a.k.a. an internet radio show. Yes, my yellow glasses say, “Look at me.” Yet, public speaking has never been my love or forte. I remain nervous and avoid it.

Somehow while attending my fourth or fifth BarCamp Boston, I did it yesterday. I went ahead and populated a Post-it with a topic I thought I could wing. I also figured maybe a few folk would attend.

For the gregarious and Toastmaster sorts, that is nothing. For us publicly shy types, it’s a big deal. When I went back to school to add a management degree, I found how stunted I was here. While I went to J-school, worked newspapers and magazines for decades, interviewed big shots and small, and represented my department in group meetings, there were safeguards. I had a notepad or PowerPoint to hide behind, to distract. Also, I was not the focus of attention.

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The way these self-suggested sessions work is the crowd mills around those stuck in the WOULD YOU ATTEND? grid. Those that get four or more checkmarks are OK. The suggester is supposed to move it to an open block on the schedule board for a room and time.

Most presenters planned their sessions well in advance. Many created laptop presentations and provided lots of visuals and in some cases audio.

I think of Steve Garfield (pic below). He presented on Storify.

His session was brilliant, professional and accessible. He’d taken a few snaps with his smartphone that morning, posted some tweets and Instagrams and was ready to teach. He plugged his laptop into the overhead connection and created a Storify post in real time. He searched for and pulled in his elements, text, pix, Vine vids and such from various social-media sites. He saved to Storify and embedded it in several of his other sites.

It was a great show and I was one of those who had vaguely thought about using that site. I shall now. That what BarCamp should do.

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In a pale contrast, I was now thinking after Steve’s presentation that I should go back to the WOULD YOU ATTEND? block and remove my Post-it. When I arrived, I had five checks and felt committed. Scary stuff for an introvert.

I sat at lunch and was not sociable much to the rest of the folk. I sketched my session ideas on four index cards. I wanted to speak to such things as:

  • recap of my background, why I am at all qualified
  • traits of bad online manuals and help systems
  • two kinds of tech writers (the majority being literal sorts incapable of thinking like naive users)
  • elements of good docs
  • down-and-dirty usabilty

I fretted and even thought of removing my Post-it from the block where I’d stuck it — Mattapan Room, 155 at 2:40 pm. By then though, I figured I’d goof up, no one would show, people who drift out during, or just maybe it would be OK even without visuals and prep.

It was the latter. About 20 folk came in and nearly all stayed. I had the good fortune to have three who were interactive, commenting and questioning.

At the end, They applauded. I confessed my introversion. One of the active participants said if I hadn’t told them, they wouldn’t have known.

I’ll never be as smooth as Steve. Yet, I think I might do this again. I have to year to come up with a topic and then produce a show. Even a shy guy should be able to do that.

Bike Seconds, Car Minutes

May 21st, 2013

The widespread, irrational hostility toward bicycles continues. Despite the slowly growing number and percentage of Americans cycling — for fun, exercise, commuting, shopping — an astonishing clot of us have visceral, anecdotal reactions to two-wheelers.

happybikesIn fact, as a long-time marriage-equality blogger, I see clear parallels in attitudes. As surely as bicycling and same-sex marriage are the future in the world as well as this country, reactionaries hate those realities. They seem not to care whom they hurt in their process of protesting and impeding progress.

While not the time and place for marriage talk, yet another death of a Boston cyclist and in particular, a crackpot column in today’s Herald are apropos.  In our winger tabloid, Margery Egan builds from the false premise of her first sentence, “Boston’s streets aren’t wide enough for bikes and cars. It’s as simple as that.”

Of course that’s crap. Traffic studies by city, state, academicians and other repeatedly prove a little planning makes room for all, pedestrians included. The more than clever head of bike programs, Nicole Freeman, has judiciously added bike lanes, paths, racks and such where they don’t disrupt, as has her Cambridge counterpart, Cara Seiderman. Their successes are invisible to or ignored by bike haters.

The comments to Egan’s column are almost exclusively what one expects in the Herald. Some even literally wish death on cyclists, a.k.a. those who are reducing congestion by removing their cars from the road while they spin.

What’s most telling is how Egan and many comments use anecdotes and unprovable generalities to justify reckless driving and operating to endanger. You see, wrecks and even deaths are the cyclists fault because if a driver has to slow down, well, that’s what makes them go fast, buzz cyclists, and hit them.

In the real world though, those us who are multi-modal perceive differently. In particular, drivers are clearly irritated at having to wait behind a cyclist or even slow a little to pass safely. The same driver on the same roads at the same time invariably waits much, much longer behind other motor vehicles. They seem to accept waiting through one to four lights as a cost of driving, so long as it is a car or truck and not a bike ahead of them. What’s up with that?

For whatever good it does in no-blood-no-ticket Boston, such driver behavior is governed by state law, not local traffic regulation. That is on the side of the cyclists.

There is no legal justification for j-hooking or claiming, “I just didn’t see her.” Instead, read MA General Laws Chapter 90 and particularly Section 14. That includes plain command, “In approaching or passing a person on a bicycle the operator of a motor vehicle shall slow down and pass at a safe distance and at a reasonable and proper speed.”

There are no built-in excuses, like unless you’d have to slow down or except where the road gets narrow. The onus is entirely on the driver to pass safely. That’s that.

There again, what kind of denial or emotional pull makes drivers accept waiting behind cars but not slowing for a cyclist? Are they so identified with motor vehicles that they lose all reason and judgement?

There will be more cyclists on our roads. At a slower pace, there will be more enforcement, and not just at the Egans would it on what they see as crazed scofflaw bike types. It’s likely that as more drivers lose their licenses and pay big fines for hitting cyclists that they’ll catch a whiff of their responsibility.

It shouldn’t be so hard. If you were brought up right, you’d know not to put other people’s bodies and even lives in danger because you’re impatient or choose to be unobservant.

No Need to Keep Tamerlan Alive

May 8th, 2013

stonebonesWhile it might amuse those who know me to read it, I sometimes feel I lack self-control…st least in stifling myself in commenting.

I’ve been pretty good staying away from the brothers Tsarnaev matters, despite my many thoughts and feelings. Ryan and I did riff a bit on it at the very beginning of our most recent Left Ahead show, which actually introduced the Boston mayoral contest.

I can quickly get my fill of spite and bile from protesters interviewed on the news in Worcester or Boston, or if I can stomach it, reading the comments in any related Boston Herald article. More surprising have been the preemptive moves by the nearby government officials. The Worcester cops are piling (can we say pig piling?) it on Peter Stefan, the noble funeral director who has had the guts to take the body and work for its burial by saying he owes them $30,000 for doing their jobs. That is, they directed traffic and such around the protests by his establishment. This has whiffs of when the Boston police encouraged attacking the Sacco/Vanzetti corpse transfers from the North End to Forest Hills for cremation. Self-righteousness has no place behind badges and guns.

Stefan has a long career of such as burying AIDS-related corpses and those of gang-violence victims when no one else would help their loved ones in fatal crisis. He deserves respect, not reviling. He’s one of the good guys.

Then in Cambridge, City Manager Robert Healy and in Boston, Mayor Thomas Menino each preemptively said publicly not to consider asking those cities to find a burial spot. Eh? I don’t know Healy, but I do know and like Menino. Such a position is beneath him.

At least some at the Globe have a more historically and humanitarian and reality based view. Consider Adrian Walker’s column today that in effect says bury the elder Tsarnaev brother, let the story fade from the news and give some peace and a little closure to those affected. A fitting companion piece by Peter Schworm cites how other hated mass murderers, child molesters and such were quickly and quietly planted without endless public drama and ceaseless coverage.

The classic message for no rest to the wicked is holding around here. Think the multiple places in Isiah, such as 57:20, But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.

If MA history holds, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will be convicted of the Marathon bombings, he will get life without possibility of parole instead of execution, and he will die in prison not too long away — either by his own hand or that of another inmate. That’s what we do here with the infamous and despised.

Given my classics background, my first thoughts when so many began making so much of the disposition of the corpse was to reflect on Plato’s Phaedo, describing the last hours of Socrates’ life. The philosopher had the long view and made sport with follower Crito over what he viewed as petty concerns about his corpse.

With death pending for Socrates, Crito tried to be helpful and respectful, going for the mundane details. He even asked, “How shall we bury you.” The old wag started with a joke — “Just as you please. if only you can catch me, and I do not escape from you.”

Then he got more to the point. He said not to refer to the body as Socrates. It will be just a body and not the person. Thus usual or customary disposal is fine. “You must have a good courage, then, and say that you bury my body, and bury it in such a manner as is pleasing to you, and as you think is most agreeable to our laws.”

So it is here. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died three and one half weeks ago. Only those who involve themselves in keeping him alive to the public through their arrogant and self-centered proclamations cannot let him die.

Sweeping Options for Boston Schools

October 15th, 2012


It could be huge, could be quashed, could be diluted, but right now, those in charge of the Boston public schools have a seminal plan to consider. We’ll be talking about it was the driving force behind it.

Spend a half hour with City Councilor John Connolly tomorrow, Tuesday, October 16th, from 2 PM Eastern here. If you can’t catch it live, go to that URL, to Left Ahead or our iTunes page any time afterward to listen or download his show.

As a parent who had nudged three sons through BPS start to finish, I believe in public education and have gotten the worst and the best of bureaucracy in evaluating schools, assignment games, dealing with teachers, and doing whatever was necessary to see my guys got the good end of the stick. I’m invested.

In the literal world of school boards and superintendents and teachers’ unions, the focus is almost always on discreet chunks, such as student assignment plans. Instead, what Connolly, along with another Councillor and four state Reps, have thrown into the process is a serious effort to drop the lines on the maps. Instead, they propose schools in every district with the features parents crave and a whole new set of 16 citywide schools.

This is big stuff, which you can see in detail here.

In our half hour, we can’t go through every detail, but as head of the Council’s education committee (and a parent of two young children), Connolly has put a lot of mind and heart into this plan.

Oh, Yeah, Bloggers. Why Not?

March 2nd, 2012

Creeping bloggerism continues. Here in MA, the Grand Poobahs of justice, a.k.a. the Supreme Judicial Court, ruled on their rules today to bring citizen journalists into their news media fold.

To most, that is between small and nothing. To internet writers, it’s hot stuff.

Universal Hub’s Adam Gaffin was quietly, politely, as is his wont, in the scrum from the beginning. He was quick to note that he helped draft the update, upgrade to SJC rule 1:19. As innocuous as it might seem, the change by the whole SJC brought the body into this century. This likely will lead other sleepy atavistic judges in other MA courts to attention. Oh, they will think, the SJC says bloggers are journalists. How about that?

The salient point in the rule ruling is the new definition:

The “news media” shall include any authorized representative of a news organization that has registered with the Public Information Officer of the Supreme Judicial Court or any individual who is so registered. Registration shall be afforded to organizations that regularly gather, prepare, photograph, record, write, edit, report or publish news or information about maters of public interest for dissemination to the public in any medium, whether print or electronic, and to individuals who regularly perform a similar function upon certification by the organizations or individuals that they perform such a role and that they will familiarize themselves or their representatives, as the case may be with the provisions of this rule and will comply with them. 

Sure, blah, blah and sure, the Poobah proprietary continues — no stealth recording or photography, advance permission from the PIO and judge and so forth. Yet, it’s a welcome and overdue change.

I think of a certain MA Governor, a Deval Patrick, who five years ago to the month dubbed bloggers press. He held a town meeting at Boston Latin School, replete with the likes of Mayor Tom Menino speaking before him. Then he squirreled up in room 023 of the basement with a few dozen of us reportorial bloggy types. He held a full press conference, yes, press conference. He had use netroots and new media to get elected and had not forgotten.

He continued and keeps involving us in his media communication. He’s come on Left Ahead several times. In short, he acknowledged from the beginning of his first campaign that bloggers could be news media if they reported and analyzed.

Such is pragmatism and realism.

In contrast, I think of the treatment by more traditional media even recently. Many seem to resent bloggers in puerile and competitive ways. They should mature a bit.

Locally, the likes of the Boston Globe rarely mention a blog’s name, even as they quote them without attribution. (Video god Steve Garfield has been splendid in calling the Morrissey mob on that.) In my own petty concerns, I think lately of BUR’s Bianca Vasquez Toness using me, quoting me for a piece on Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley…without citing my blogs or podcast. She had been reading my stuff, but defined me as “a political blogger in Hyde Park.” Try to imagine how BUR or NPR would react to their material being quoted with the only reference being to “a  college radio station in Boston.”

Likewise and worse, during the prolonged frenzy about US Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren and me bantering about right wingers calling her a hick for being from OK and an elitist for teaching at Harvard Law, most newsy types avoided attribution. Some cited Left Ahead, but not by URL. There was nationwide (and beyond) coverage but none of the major media provided the professional courtesy of linking to the source. Even in multiple Youtube excepts of Warren and me, they treated the clips like their own material.

As an amusing aside, my wife laughed at ABC News’ typo in its coverage, where “Host Mike Ball” was rendered at “Hot Mike Ball.” She may be one of the few in the world who agrees with the error, but many other outlets repeated the typo though cutting and pasting. So for a couple of days, I was hot.

I feel newsy as a blogger for having come out of journalism school, working in high-school and college papers, before daily and weekly newspaper jobs and on to magazine writing. I quote sources. Whenever possible, my newsy blog posts include links as well as identification for those cited.

There’s no reason beyond childish competitiveness and bad training that MSM folk can’t, won’t or don’t credit bloggers and podcasters.

When we have an elected official, candidate for office or any expert on the Left Ahead show or as part of a post, if it’s good enough to quote, we should be good enough to cite. I’ve heard my stuff quoted locally as well as on the networks. The likes of GBH’s Emily Rooney treat that material like it’s theirs, public domain or maybe original.

I can’t control that kind of abuse. However, in the future when Vasquez Toness or other newshounds sniff around, I’m making it plain. the SJC acknowledges that bloggers and our ilk can be news media. I expect the professional courtesy that I extend to them. If they quote me, any of my blog posts or any of my podcasts, I require a full citation with a URL. If their J-school profs, editors or program directors or their mammas for that matter didn’t teach them that, I can provide that service.


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Fat Eddie Koch

October 15th, 2011

kochI have known Ed Koch casually and intermittently for a shockingly long time. He remains, at 87, a grand icon for us former New Yorkers. He’s still at it and got my attention recently because he and his sister wrote a diet book for little kids.

Eh? Diet book for 4 to 8 year olds?

You betcha and he both remembers what it was like to be in kindergarten and elementary school, as well as be a fat kid.

I attach a bit grainy pic I took of him in (ta da) 1979. He’s been bald for a long time and trim enough for many decades. He’s even thinner now, as commonly happens by the time people close in on 90.

The pic is a scan of a print article I did on then Mayor Koch’s program to professionalize the management of the City. He brought in private execs (forced volunteerism) to analyze and optimize programs. It worked well, saving lots of money and delivering services better as a result.

He came to mind today when I noticed that he was a guest on a BlogTalkRadio show on Fitsmi for Moms. I’ll embed the player for the show below. It’s only a half hour and is great stuff, but his phone connection is not the best and you may have to crank your speakers a bit. Highlights from the show are in text here. Click the player below to hear the show.

BTR disclaimer: The podcast I co-host is on BTR. I’m prejudiced for the service.

The book, Eddie Shapes Up, is with Pat Koch Thaler and has a forward from a certain Bill Clinton. In it, he’s non-guilt-spewing and delightfully frank as always. He talks about how his family, friends and others worked with him to change his eating and exercise habits to make him a new boy. No more chubby or stout clothes. No more girls refusing to dance with him. No more being the kid no one picked for a team.

In the interview, you can hear why I’m so fond of him. He starts by correcting the host, Linda Frankenbach. “I was fat,” he said plainly as she struggled for euphemisms. People called him “Fat Eddie.”

He speaks and writes with compassion and experience, shared with his sister then and now. He is about how tough and how possible it is for kids and their families to do the right things.

For another anecdote from way back, the first time I met the, fairly slim, Ed Koch was in the rain early one morning. I think it was 1972 or 1973. I lived in the West Village, as did he. About to get out of the rain and into the IRT at 14th Street, I got accosted by this guy standing under an apartment marquee. He said, “Good morning. I’m your congressman, Ed Koch.” Headed to work, I was still amused and stopped. No state rep had ever sought me out for anything.

He asked if there was anything about state government that bothered me and I wanted changed. Oddly enough, I don’t remember what they were, but of course, I had several answers. Then the miracle happened. As I spoke, he pulled out a little pad and a pen. He wrote down what I said and repeated it for clarification. My congressman not only asked what I thought, but he gave a damn. He cared enough to record it. You can be sure he subsequently had my vote for the House and each time he ran for mayor.

Ed Koch has long been one of the good guys.


Impossible Bike Lanes in the Works

April 15th, 2011

I was wrong (not unusual) and impatient (usual). Last evening’s presentation of the proposed Mass Ave bike lanes proved both.

By the end of 2011, the allegedly intractable problem of adding lanes from the oddly named Harvard Bridge (crossing the Charles at MIT) South to Roxbury seems solved. The always chipper, relentless efficient Boston Director of Bicycle Programs Nicole Freedman brought on the consultants and wowed maybe 150 jammed into and pouring out of the Copley Library ground floor meeting room.

readmassaveThe show-and-tell largely fell to Senior Planner (and cyclist) Nick Jackson of Toole Design Group. As an update on 4/19, Freedman sent the proposal. I extracted the real proposal diagram and reproduce it here.

The idea is to claim two five-foot cycling lanes by removing parking from the West side of Mass Ave in the stretch. Then it’s 5′ bike, 11′ travel (bus/truck), 10′ travel, 10′ travel, 11′ travel (bus/truck), 5′ bike, 8′ parking.
This is where I was particularly wrong. I have been sure this city lacked the political will to take parking. Even though numerous U.S. and European cities have done that for years, we have seemed to have been short on the guts. No more.
Of course, this being oddly suburban-ish automobile-centric Boston, it did not approach the ideal of isolated cycle tracks, so motor vehicles, pedestrians and bikes each got safe, separate paths. Hey, this is still a huge advance and again, a solution to the insoluble.
We should note that NYC does it far better, but it has considerable advantages we lack. Most obviously, its avenues, the North/South arteries, are almost entirely much wider and either one-way or two way with a wide median of some sort. There’s a lot more real estate for redevelopment.
Here, the city and the designers headed off the big problems. They surveyed the devil out of the abutting businesses and residents as well as the commuters. They also worked internally and with cycling groups to count who uses Mass Ave throughout the day and week and overnight. They know when cyclists are up to 16% of all traffic, when and where the LOS (level of service for traffic) was great (A, B or C) or sucky (D, E or F), and how filled the parking spaces were when.

The stretch runs from the river South past Symphony (connecting the heavy blue existing bike lane streets). With only 60 feet in play, solutions that worked elsewhere didn’t in this stretch. However, they found that overnight parking took a quarter or fewer of the spaces, permitting removing them from one side.
They also knew that Mass Ave is the location of 10% of bike crashes and EMS reported from Halloween to Halloween 2009-2010 that they hauled away 25 cyclists, mostly hit or doored.
There are issues to resolve, such as enforcement of bike-lane parkers and stoppers, loading zone times and locations, HP spaces and such, but last evening’s hearing got a great response from the almost entirely cycling audience. The residents and businesses seem to be at ease after all the outreach and study.
This effort is only the latest and most visible of Freedman/Tom Menino’s to continue and complete Boston’s transformation into a bike-friendly and 21st century city. She said we have 50,000 regular cyclists now, but she is aiming for five times that in the next decade. That would be 10% of all trips here.
Freedman returned repeatedly to a theme I have heard her sing many times (including our Left Ahead podcast with her and a similar one with her Cambridge counterpart Cara Seiderman). Real and imagined the number one complaint of motorists and some pedestrians is a perception that all cyclists run every read light, endanger walkers, and otherwise act as scofflaws — while of course, all motorists are safe, considerate and law abiding.
She was quick to poll the audience and lump us together as jay walkers, red-light runners and so forth, regardless of our mode of transit.
However, she said during this expansion of cycling, it behooves cyclists in particular to behave legally and respectfully. As cycling-oriented cities have seen, when enough cyclists use the roads, everyone obeys the traffic laws and regulations much more.
The local D-4 police captain, Paul Ivens (also a cyclist), backed her up. He was jolly but firm. Along with their regular duties, his officers have issued several hundreds of tickets to bike-lane car parkers since July. He noted that they would likely be handing out non-ticket tickets to cyclists soon as warning educational devices.
Freedman added that the city had already expanded its educational efforts with info in auto excise tax statements. She added that as more cyclists participate in the pending bike-rental program and otherwise feel comfortable enough with bike-lanes and other safety features her department will be expanding its how-to-bike safely (and legally) efforts.
The car culture certainly is entrenched here, with many non-cycling drivers clinging to fantasies that they are safe and bikers and walkers are all idiot scofflaws. Yet advances like these Mass Ave bike lanes hearten me. I’m a constant cyclist who drives weekly for major grocery shopping and such. I am a very law-abiding and safe driver, who never runs a red light, always signals lane changes, turns and rotary exits and such.
I’m getting there with cycling. I do signal unless it is patently unsafe to remove a hand from the bars. I stop and yield like I was in a car. Now, if I can made the emotional sacrifice to wait for every red light to change…
Cross-post: This being political and avocational for me, I post it at Marry in Massachusetts as well.

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Becker Badgers Beeb Style

August 17th, 2010
Beyond winger media, the BBC style of guest badgering seems rampant. This very morning, I was surprised to hear WBUR’s Deborah Becker play silly adversary with Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral. Eh?

If you watch or listen to the Beeb TV or radio, you get the behavior that subsequently became the norm of FOX and more recently even MSNBC (think Hardball). The ill-bred plug uglies like Bill O’Reilly make their living at nasty irrationality and Chris Matthews is not far behind in exhibiting British-tabloid sensibilities.

The routine is to bring on knowledgeable guests, ideally one at a time, and hassle the devil out of them. This is asking a pointed question and then talking over the attempted answer. When the guest does state facts or positions, contradiction is in order, fast, repeated and at high volume. The talking head should act like the expert revealing hidden truth.

Yet what we should have learned from hearing and watching our parents, teachers and clergy sorts holds. Silencing someone with shouted, iterative gainsaying does not mean you are smarter or right. It means you are loud, repetitive and ill mannered.

I want the ideas and information out there. If the host’s aim is to end up feeling smug, that is a huge failure.

While it’s not daily or two hours at a stretch, we do our interviews at Left Ahead. For the past three and one half years, we’ve had someone join our podcast about every other week. We tend to have one guest at a time and explore in depth.

Even with those whose political and personal views are quite different, we aren’t in the business of gotcha. Perhaps that makes us wimps in contrast to the current style.

Nah, nah, nah

This morning’s example related to the Philip Markoff suicide was not as strident as a FOXNews segment, but close enough. You can catch the six-minute segment here.

Becker started out like a real journalist and quickly went tabloid on Cabral. She clearly came in with her conclusions and was not about to let truth or knowledge interfere.

The sheriff said several times and clearly that:

* Markoff had been on suicide watch over a year ago and exhibited no behavior to justify it since
* The sole psychiatrist for the jail, holding over 700 prisoners, had cleared Markoff
* Guards check on inmates every 30 minutes
* The jail has numerous mental health professionals in addition to the psychiatrist
* Suffolk’s suicide rate is less than half of most other jails – five in eight years
* Markoff exhibited zero signs verbally or otherwise that he wanted to do himself in

Becker’s increasingly hostile questioning showed her bias. One psychiatrist was not enough. 40% of inmates have “some sort of mental health” issues; I’d say that the general population is higher and criminals may arguably be nearly 100%. Becker somehow linked the hypothetical that Markoff might have been married for a year had his fiance not quit him after his arrest to his needing extra attention, even absent any acting out or statements. Becker clearly liked the concept of and term trigger.

To her credit, Cabral was cool in the face of iterative implications. When Becker seemed not to hear her stats and judgments, returning to Becker’s view that Markoff was somehow shortchanged of counseling and monitoring, the sheriff calmly said there might be a misunderstanding or that she (Cabral) was not sure “exactly what you’re asking.”

So it goes with the badgers. Don’t listen, come in with conclusions and stick to them, contradict when possible, talk over answers you don’t want, and above all, show that you know better than the expert.

It’s tiresome and I wish it would run its course. I don’t want my ideas pre-digested.

Cross-post: This also appears at Marry in Massachusetts.

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