Wordcamp Boston

Today I’m geeking out with my fellow WordPress fans here at Wordcamp Boston, host by Microsoft’s NERD Center (New England Research and Development) on the MIT campus. Now that I’ve moved my blog to WordPress and have used it for several other projects, I’m glad to have a chance to get more acquainted with this great open source community.

Here’s the view of Boston and the Charles River from our 14th floor room:

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iPhone App for Municipal Complaints

The city has released an iPhone app that enables residents to report problems as they encounter them on the ground:

“The Citizens Connect iPhone App that provides a lightweight interface into the City of Boston’s Constituent Relationship Management System (CRM). The intention is to help constituents easily report a variety of different service requests including

  • Removing Graffiti
  • Filling Potholes
  • Fixing Traffic lights”

http://www.cityofboston.gov/mis/apps/iphone.asp

All you have to do is take a picture, describe the issues, and send it off and the city will have a geocoded record of your request.

On a recommendation from neighbors, I went out this morning and reported the sidewalk that connects our neighborhood to Forest Hills cemetery, which is basically just gravel and garbage at this point. It’s so bad that people with strollers usually have to walk in the road.

This clearly won’t be enough in itself to get this problem fixed, but it sends a signal to residents that the City is trying to listen and is willing to invest in tools that make it easier to voice our concerns.

Boston Globe:  Municipal complaint? There’s an app for that

Jumping the Tracks

Tonight my neighbor Andrew emailed me a last-minute invitation to see a screening of the documentary “The Greening of Southie” (http://www.greeningofsouthie.com/), and since I didn’t have any firm plans, I decided to go.

By the end of the evening, I had:

  • Riden my bike to Coolidge Corner after work
  • Eaten Pizza at Upper Crust
  • Browsed for half hour at the Brookline Booksmith
  • Watched a great documentary that telled a story about green building in Boston
  • Listened to a stimulating Q&A with the filmmaker and the director of Nexus
  • Run into two other friends, Saundra and Rhonda.
  • Biked home on a mild summer evening.

These are a few of my favorite things, and I seems right to acknowledge how many of them fell together in one ordinary Monday evening.

I’ve been noticing how often I get myself into mental ruts where I cycle through the same negative thoughts, looping through my familiar anxieties, self-criticisms, pessimism, and so forth, until it’s hard to remember exactly on which track my passions and beliefs really lie.

But tonight I jumped the rails a while and when I got on my bike to ride home, I was flush with clarity. Biking became an idea I was glad to think over and over again from Brookline to JP. Without the distractions of shifting, my single gear bike gave me a one-track mind freed up to peddle outside my customary routes.

It won’t be long before I find myself riding the old rails again, but I figure the more times I stop to pay attention to nights like these, the better I’ll get at derailing.

The Language of Biking

Thanks to everyone who donate to my Bikes Not Bombs ride. We raised much more than last year–over $100,000 dollars after pledges come in. It was a hot day–97 degrees–by the time I rolled back into the city via Blue Hills Ave in Dorchester, but it was a fun ride nonetheless.

bnb_ride_2008

At the beginning of each leg, we formed a fairly cohesive group, and I was reminded how important communication is when riding like this. Being primarily a commuter cyclist, I don’t often bike with others on longer rides and I had forgotten the many hand signals and rules of etiquette that groups of riders use in order to function as a safe and efficient units.

While biking in the city, I’m usually just looking out for myself and I don’t communicate as much as I probably should with those with whom I share the road. Occasionally I manage a half-hearted hand signal to indicate a turn or to acknowledge someone who has stopped let me pass; more often I just dole out dirty looks to drivers who cut me off or edge too close.

But riding in a group of 20 or more cyclists required more deliberate communication, and I enjoyed picking up the finer points of the language as we went along. Often hand signals were passed back to make others aware of potholes to avoid or upcoming stop lights. At other times, we created a verbal form of vision, a collaborative seeing that kept us aware what was happening behind use without having to look.  Those at end of pack (which was usually me) would tell the rest of the group a car was coming from behind by yelling “Car back,” which then would be repeated by those ahead until it was passed up to the front of the group.

As the ride went on, the group would attenuate and break into smaller units, but good communication remained important even when riding with just one other person.

Now that I’ve brushed up on this biking lingo, I’m trying to be better about communicating as I ride, whether I’m riding in a group or just trying to make my way to work. I figure the more I can stay on the same page with others around me on the rode, the safer we’ll all be.

Chia Piano

On our way to Cambridge on Saturday, we drove by a piano sitting in front of a large apartment building on the corner of Monmouth and Canton in Brookline. It was an older Chickering with keys missing and with a sign for “Death Wish Piano Movers” on the bench. A bed of plants had taken root on the top, prompting Cathy to suggest the title “Chia Piano” for this post. I thought it was perfect.