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Friday, February 29, 2008
 Suburbs: The Next Slums? 
The Atlantic has a good article on the rise of popularity of walkable communities and cities and the decline of many suburbs. As more people seek out places where they can live near shops and cultural attractions, the large houses on big lots are losing much of their former appeal.
For 60 years, Americans have pushed steadily into the suburbs, transforming the landscape and (until recently) leaving cities behind. But today the pendulum is swinging back toward urban living, and there are many reasons to believe this swing will continue. As it does, many low-density suburbs and McMansion subdivisions, including some that are lovely and affluent today, may become what inner cities became in the 1960s and 70sslums characterized by poverty, crime, and decay.
There may be a way to reverse the decline of some suburbs; allow more mixed uses that are not currently allowed. Integrate small retail uses among the developments and build some sidewalks and trails. It's probably not feasible in many places where the density is too low and the lots too large. It would require major changes in zoning ordinances, but the change is overdue.


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Monday, February 25, 2008
 New York visit 
Just back from a fun trip to New York City. It's been over 30 years since I was there in the late 60's to see the musical Hair. I don't remember much from that visit, although I recall seeing Picasso's Guernica at the Museum of Modern Art. The painting was returned to Spain in 1981. The main purpose of this visit was to see the exhibit Lucian Freud: The Painter's Etchings at the Modern.

It was an excellent show, including many etchings and several oil paintings related to some of the etchings. I think Freud is one of the best artists currently working, creating provocative paintings and etchings of his many friends and family members. He is said to paint daily, 7 days a week, in two sessions, one in the morning using natural light, and an artificially lit night session.

The Chinatown bus left DC on time at 8am and after a brief ride on the F train to the Lexington Ave/63rd St station I walked along the edge of Central Park on 5th Avenue to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for an afternoon visit. I was a bit disappointed that some of the Modern Art galleries were closed, probably due to a shortage of guards. I didn't care for the Jasper Johns exhibit, Gray, which I thought was very boring. There are some great works of art in the permanent collection.

I stayed at the Hampton Inn Times Square, a relatively affordable hotel in the heart of the theater district and not far from Times Square, MOMA, Central Park and the subway. The staff were very pleasant, the cookies freshly baked, the room large and clean with a good view. A marked contrast to the reviews I had read about the YMCA where I had planned to stay originally. It was worth the $80/night additional that I ended up paying. There was also a very good breakfast.

Upon waking there was a fresh coat of snow covering the city; so much for the planned bike ride on a rental bike from Midtown Metro Bicycles. I checked out the store the night before and their rate of $7/hour is very reasonable. The hybrid bikes they use looked to be in good condition. Since MOMA didn't open until 10:30am I took the subway to Greenwich Village, following some of the stops in Frommer's Memorable Walks in New York. While walking to the subway it was impressive to see the sidewalks being cleared of snow in front of all the buildings. After shoveling the initial heavy snow, some people were using large squeegee's to keep the concrete clear of new snow.

The lines for the check room were long at MOMA. Note to self, leave backpack at the hotel if possible. It wasn't that day as I had already checked out of the Hampton and was carrying everything I brought on my back; reading material, a notebook, a change of underwear, socks, and some toiletries. While the museum was crowded, it was early enough that I was able to spend some quality time at the Freud exhibit, even checking out a free audio guide for a second run through the exhibit while listening to commentary about some of the works.

The bus ride back was uneventful despite the heavy snow on the ground. I don't know how the bus companies can make a profit, charging $35 for the DC-NYC-DC round trip. The longer they are in business the more run down the buses will become. For now it's a cheap way to get back and forth.

It was a fun visit and I'm anxious to return.

Two articles about being painted by Freud:

Lucian Freud: Marathon Man—“After a chance meeting with Lucian Freud, art handler Ria Kirby agreed to sit for him a huge commitment which was to last for 16 months, seven nights a week, on top of her day job. Martin Gayford tracked the work as it progressed.”
Captured by Lucian Freud—“When Britain's greatest artist agreed to paint his portrait, Martin Gayford endured countless hours of staring into space and he can't even afford to buy the result. But for an art critic, he says, the process was bliss.”


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Friday, February 15, 2008
 Green Bikes program at St. Lawrence University 
The Green Bikes program allows students, faculty, or staff to check out a bike from the library for 24 hours for free. The bikes are simple, sturdy, single-speed bikes that require little maintenance. The program was started in 2004 with used bikes. The program wasn't managed well and the bikes were in poor condition. The current system seems to be working well. It should be a model for other universities and colleges.


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Thursday, February 14, 2008
 Nine Cities, Nine Ideas 
The Wall Street Journal recently published the article Nine Cities, Nine Ideas:
Local governments around the globe are coming up with some of the most innovative ways to cut energy use. There are lessons here for places of all sizes. Chicago is planting rooftop gardens to cool down its municipal buildings. New York is working with a private company to harness the power of tidal currents in the city's East River. Amsterdam is using cold lake water to help air-condition homes.


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Tuesday, February 12, 2008
 Tour of California 
The Amgen Tour of California is an 8-day, 650 mile bicycle race along the coast of California, from the Bay area down to Pasadena, February 17-24. Versus will cover the race starting this Sunday, Feb. 17 from 5-7pm. There will be coverage each day, at 11pm on most weekdays. This year there are three U.S. teams, High Road (George Hincapie and Michael Rogers), Slipstream (Dave Zabriskie, Christian Vande Velde, David Millar, Magnus Backstedt, Tom Danielson), and BMC (Antonio Cruz and Jeff Louder).


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Friday, February 08, 2008
 Wheelchair users issued tickets after being struck by motorists 
And in both cases, the tickets were dismissed in court according to The Hook newspaper article Dismissed! Second wheelchair victim cleared.


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 Kevin Kelly 
I came across a reference to Kevin Kelly recently. Kevin is the founding executive editor of Wired magazine, and a former editor/publisher of the Whole Earth Catalog. Adventure Cycling sends out an e-newsletter called Bike Bits, and in the latest issue there is mention of Kevin's This I Believe essay that appeared on NPR recently. He mentions the many times during his cross country bike trip that strangers offered to help him. Each night he would knock on a stranger's door and ask if he could camp in their yard. “I was never turned away, not once,”
I have developed a belief about what happens in these moments and it goes like this: Kindness is like a breath. It can be squeezed out, or drawn in. To solicit a gift from a stranger takes a certain state of openness. If you are lost or ill, this is easy, but most days you are neither, so embracing extreme generosity takes some preparation. I learned to think of this as an exchange. During the moment the stranger offers his or her goodness, the person being aided offers degrees of humility, indebtedness, surprise, trust, delight, relief and amusement to the stranger.
Kevin maintains an interesting website. There is a section called Cool Tools: A cool tool can be any book, gadget, software, video, map, hardware, material, or website that is tried and true. It includes a couple of bike-related articles: Six Great Long-Distance Bike Trails Without Cars and Adventure Cycling, about the many routes developed by that group. He has also published his book of haiku written while riding cross-country in 1979, Bicycle Haiku

Street Use is about “ways in which people modify and re-create technology.” He also contributes to a blog on the Wired site, Geekdad.


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