- Being in the Cast of Listen To Your Mother
- Helping your Child Walk or Bike to School
- Cycling Success Stories Mainly About Women
- Introducing the Durable Human Manifesto
- Meet the DC Cast of Listen To Your Mother
- Replant Native Trees that Turbocharge Nature
- A Prospective Author’s Perspective 2013
- How Free Content Can Boost Book Sales
- Tips for Effective Email Marketing
- Give Some Guidance with that Gadget
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If you’re tired of trying to do it all in this busy digital world and feel distant from what you used to hold dear, this little book helps you to be closer to your loved ones and more in control of your time.
Although The Durable Human Manifesto does contain the word “revolution” (thanks to Foo Fighter Dave Grohl), it comes in peace as a declaration of human awesomeness and sensory celebration of our supremely unique selves.
When replanting a tree, choosing just the right native can turbo-charge the natural environment. So says renowned plant expert Douglas Tallamy who has compiled a list of native plants that deliver a bigger biodiversity bang for the buck because they attract more insects, birds and other animals. “All native plants are not equal when it comes to supporting insect herbivores and thus other forms of wildlife.”
The news comes just in time for the northeast U.S. where thousands of trees destroyed in Superstorm Sandy are being replanted by residents and towns which may be focusing more on trees that are “utility friendly” than friendly to the natural environment. more »
Check out these titles from The Durable Human reading list: more »
In today’s Washington Post I paint a picture of how an edge city near Washington, D.C. can be wired with a system connecting smart phones with self-driving cars, buses and trucks. We hear from robotics expert Robert Finkelstein and consultant Richard Bishop who say we’ll gain productive time if we aren’t driving or caught in traffic. We’ll be safer, too. Smart vehicles have onboard sensors which are being shown to dramatically reduce crashes. Plus they never get tired or distracted. more »
On the week that Sandy hit, to clean up a creek was therapeutic. Only a few days before, Nature had beset us with such wrath. The Washington, D.C. area got off with a glancing blow, but people to the north were not so lucky. While I couldn’t do much to relieve their suffering, I could do something for Nature. By clearing away some of the human detritus from this small corner of the earth, I attempted to narrow the rift that has grown between us. more »
As some readers of this blog may know, I am also writing a book called The Durable Human. It’s not easy to explain what it means to be “durable.” So I was thunderstruck when I heard Garrison Keillor on The Writer’s Almanac read this love poem by Sharon Dunn: more »
Riding my bike to a meeting the other day, I suddenly realized how happy I felt. Being so close to nature was wonderful, amid crimson cardinals darting through the underbrush and the sound of rushing creeks, but there was more to it than that. I had an exhilarating sense of freedom.
Apparently, that’s not a new feeling for women who bike. In fact, we have enjoyed that special kind of autonomy since the late 1800s, when the bicycle was introduced in America. As suffragette Susan B. Anthony put it, having the ability to ride away from the protective atmosphere of the home “changed women.” more »
If you ever hear or see anything about William Shatner’s Shatner Rules, do not attempt to avoid it. You will be powerless to resist the book’s black-hole-like magnetism and relentless cross-promotion.
Shatner Rules caught me with something called a “Klout Perk”. As someone who spends too much time on Twitter, I received a peppy little email asking if I’d like a free book about the “Shatnerverse.” I bit on the bait, it arrived in the mail, and I was hooked from the first page.
First of all, it’s funny. The Shatnerisms made me laugh out loud, like when he said “Few are worthy enough to call me an egomaniac!” and described his kidney stone as “an onyx of agony.”
Then there’s the Wow Factor. Did you know Bill Shatner is 80? If you did the math, you could figure that out. But you have to be a pretty huge fan to know he has recorded three albums in his lifetime. On his new release, Searching for Major Tom, Bill belts out Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” accompanied by renowned heavy metal guitarist Zakk Wylde.
Since Shatner’s been in show business for 75 years, the book is also about acting. If you thought Captain Kirk was his only real role, prepare to be amazed. He’s appeared in productions from major motion picture Judgment at Nuremberg to the 1960s TV series, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Right now, he has not one, but two talk shows including Aftermath where he interviews such notables as Daniel Ellsburg, Bernard Goetz and Lee Boyd Malvo.
Oh, and by the way, Shatner Rules also offers Bill’s heartfelt, upbeat philosophy of life.
All this is wrapped up in a compact 50,000-word hardcover. I wondered why Penguin USA, a foremost publisher of cutting-edge digital products, would send me a little print book. Well, this no-tech tome is a true marvel of multi-platform marketing. Shatner effectively pushes his Facebook page, commercials and shows on YouTube, music on iTunes, and Twitter feed. He and co-writer, former The Daily Show with Jon Stewart comedy scribe Chris Regan, even have a sneaky trick to get you to www.WilliamShatner.com.
Shatner Rules reminded me why print books still work. In this case, the format controls the game through a clever layout which delivers laughs with maximum impact. Punch lines are often perfectly timed with page turns.
For the mere price of one copy plus postage, Dutton Publicity managed not only to get me to read and write about their book, but also to buy more. The sweet thing about paper books is that they are great keepsakes and gifts. As opposed to my somewhat dour gift choice for last Christmas, this year my loved ones will receive Shatner Rules.
All kidding aside, Bill’s an awesome example of how to wring the most out of life, even when you’re 80.
Shatner Rules: Your Guide to Understanding the Shatnerverse and the World at Large. On sale everywhere October 4.
Bike share gives you another way to travel short distances, such as from a Metro station to a nearby restaurant. 110 of the solar-powered bike share stations have sprung up in the busier areas of Washington and Arlington.
Rolling away from the station outside the entrance to the Crystal City Metro, I immediately felt comfortable on my CaBi bike. The weight of the sturdy frame and the three gears kept my progress slow and under control as we negotiated stop-and-go car traffic.
Since I was used to seeing Crystal City from a car window, I thought it wasn’t much more than a drab concrete jungle. But gliding slowly along, I got a closeup view of how much had changed since I moved from the area thirty years ago. Now, beautiful potted plants dot street corners. Graceful shade trees sway in the breeze. Sidewalk cafes beckon.
And bike share stations are located every couple of blocks. That close proximity is what makes the system a viable form of transportation. Our tourguide tells us that lots of people now grab a bike instead of a taxi or bus. They predict that as Metrorail gets more crowded, bike share will become a desired alternative for more people and actually free up spaces on trains.
I liked my bike in D.C. better than the one I rode last summer in Milan. For one thing, a bungy cord secures your stuff in the cargo rack. We were bummed in Italy when our new DSLR camera slid out of the open metal basket and crashed on the sidewalk. Capital Bikeshare maintenance folks report their bikes are much more reliable then the finicky fleet in Paris.
I wore business clothes for the ride and soon realized one’s outfit should rarely be an impediment. Truth be told, if you’re wearing high heels and have to go any distance at all, it’s a lot more comfortable to ride a bike than it is to walk.
Capital Bikeshare is remarkably safe. More than 700,000 rides have been taken on the system since CaBi opened last fall, but there have been very few accidents. In fact, medical assistance has only been necessary in only about a dozen instances. CaBi adds an additional measure of safety by teaming up with the Washington Area Bicyclist Association to offer free classes in negotiating city traffic.
Bike share is a great deal. You’ll need to pay to get into the system. A year-long membership costs $75. It’s $30 for a month and $5 for a day. But having done that, any time you use a bike, the first half hour is free. If you time it right, you could take as many short hops as you want and never pay another dime.
As for tech support, clear instructions and a bike locator map are on the CaBi website. A free smart phone app, www.SpotCycle.net, is an easy way to check as you’re riding whether there is an open spot to return your bike at your destination.
Scores of new bike share stations are planned for new places, including Montgomery County and Alexandria. But there’s no need to wait for a full build-out. If, for instance, you want to go from Capitol Hill to a meeting on K Street, it may be faster and cheaper to check out a CaBi than to wait for a cab and risk getting caught in traffic.
In pre-digital times, parents were the ones who craved time off to recharge their batteries. But in today’s switched-on world, entire families are in need of unplugged rest and relaxation. A spot within easy driving distance from Washington helps everyone get back on a healthier beat.
“Non-ado” is a sweet term I learned from Martin Ogle, longtime Chief Naturalist at Potomac Overlook Regional Park in Arlington, Virginia. He was invited recently to speak to the outdoor education advocacy group, NoVA Outside. Martin says nature proceeds at its own unrushed, regular rhythm. Non-ado, and the Taoist concept of Wu-wei, refer to one’s ability to exist in harmony with that age-old cadence.
Martin joins spiritualist Thomas Merton and author Walter Kerr, who contend that our hyper-busy, high-tech society is out of sync with the rhythm of nature, causing us maladies ranging from anxiety to depression. In other words, we are suffering because we no longer go with Nature’s flow. Spending time outside helps rectify new-age angst. Or, in Martin’s words, “there are a lot of questions that being outdoors helps answer.”
Recently, our family went in search of spring break tranquility. It might have been the rustle of spanish moss on the massive live oaks – or the hammocks beckoning beneath - but it was easy to slip into a state of non-ado at Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort.
Comfy porch rockers invite you to chill out at this warm South Carolina hideaway only six hours from the Nation’s Capital.
But Walt Disney would never be content with only DIY amusement. Helpful employees called “cast members” assist with all kinds of activities which have an emphasis on nature.
Working with paintbrush and paper at large wooden tables, kids have plenty of elbow room for gyotaku, the ancient Japanese art of fish rubbing. Teens head out with the cast to play mini-golf or games on the beach. When they want to be together, families can don rubber boots for outings such as exploring the marsh at low tide with a naturalist.
The resort’s flat, white sand beach is located about a mile across the island, but there’s no reason to get in the car. Take the free shuttle or ride the flat, protected bike trails instead. Try to BYOB (bring your own bikes) because rentals are pricey.
Each unit has at least a cook top and fridge, if not a full kitchen. Remember to pick up provisions on the way because the gift shop carries only the basics. If you want to splurge for dinner, many restaurants are just a short stroll past the gleaming yachts docked in Shelter Cove.
While it’s true that price can put a Disney resort out of reach, there’s no harm in borrowing Walt’s ideas. Creating Wu-wei in your own back yard or nearby park doesn’t take much - just some creativity and the will to put the gadgets aside and let Nature set the tempo.
Terrifying nuclear crises, ominous cyber-wars, oil and food prices in a race to the top – if there is a Plan A for saving us from simultaneous global catastrophies, it’s not working. But there is another option.
Enter Lester Brown, esteemed Big Thinker and founder of the Earth Policy Institute. In his new book, World on the Edge, Brown unveils “Plan B” – a sweeping vision to retool the world economy and re-balance earth’s ecosystems so its people can survive. For Plan B to come to the rescue in time, he proposes an immediate about-face in U.S. security policy. Struggles in the Middle East are what could catapult America into action.
Brown calls his plan ”the new defense budget, the one that addresses the most serious threats to both national and global security.” It costs $187 billion, or about one-fourth of the current U.S. Defense budget.
These are the basic building blocks of Plan B:
Keep water flowing and farmland fertile. Right now, many countries are draining the last precious drops from their water supplies. Water tables are dangerously low for half the world’s population. To prevent widespread deaths and mass migrations due to thirst and starvation, Brown’s plan would assist dry countries by helping them conserve water and grow food through efficient irrigation systems and water-efficient crops.
Because so many forests have been cut down and grasslands are being heavily overgrazed, precious topsoil is gone or disappearing in many areas. To prevent future wars over dwindling food supplies, Plan B ends deforestation worldwide and calls for restoring grasslands and the planting of billions of trees. It would also create marine reserves in oceans around the world to provide sustainable and vast supplies of edible fish. In the meantime, an international food reserve would help stabilize prices so everyone has at least something to eat.
Within 8 years, reduce carbon emissions by 80%. This would be achieved by speeding the shift from worldwide dependence on fossil fuels to the use of the renewable, safe, and limitless energy sources of wind, waves, solar and geothermal. The plan would lower taxes on incomes but raise them on carbon-producing fuels like gasoline. This would push the world toward transportation and manufacturing practices which use less oil and coal. That way, world output of carbon dioxide will drop, slowing the rise of sea and air temperature. Less melting of arctic ice means fewer people and livelihoods would be inundated by rising water.
Stabilize the world population at 8 billion people. Slowing runaway population growth will make it easier to conserve earth’s remaining resources and stretch food supplies. Recent history shows that educated women have fewer children. So, in countries where birth rates are highest, Brown’s plan calls for the education of all young people, especially girls. Providing access to decent healthcare and reproductive services would also shrink family size.
Re-tool U.S. defense and security. When states are in turmoil, they can’t perform basic functions like collecting taxes, paying their bills or providing jobs. Such instability also threatens global security. As Brown points out, “Efforts to control international terrorism also depend on cooperation among functioning nation states. As more and more states fail, this cooperation becomes less and less effective.”
Brown envisions a new cabinet-level U.S. agency called the “Department of Global Security” which would help shaky countries get back on their feet by providing sustainable security, economic and environmental solutions. In Yemen, for instance, the U.S. and other nation partners could help set up methods for sustainable farming, generating renewable energy and conserving water.
At this time, a large part of the U.S. defense budget is spent on costly conventional weapons. Brown questions the continuing success of this strategy, asking: “What if the next war is fought in cyberspace or with terrorist insurgents? Vast investments in conventional weapons systems will be of limited use.” Indeed, those days are already upon us. As Michael Joseph Gross writes in April’s Vanity Fair, unprecedented, ultra-sophisticated cyber-attacks waged in 2009 on nuclear facilities in Iran were “the Hiroshima of cyber-war.” That’s why Brown says now’s the time to re-think defense priorities.
To find out more about Plan B, you can read World on the Edge or watch the film special streaming on PBS. If you think the idea has merit, share this post with your Congress members and Senators. It might save billions in the Defense budget, and maybe the planet, too.
I’ve been skeptical about reports that body contact with cell phones can cause problems, but a strange sensation and a new book have changed my attitude.
I first noticed the whooshing sound in my right ear after I spent a few days in October visiting my parents. I’d talked a half hour or so each night with my husband, the phone nestled between my ear and a pillow. I took a decongestant to see if it was a sinus problem, but the strange sound has continued since I’ve been home: when it’s quiet, I can hear the blood pulsing on the right side of my head.
Then, a few weeks ago, I came across a review in the Washington Post. A new book claims there is definitive proof that radiation from cell phones, cordless phones and even blue tooth devices can be harmful over time. In Disconnect, author and epidemiologist Devra Davis reviews four decades of research, explaining complicated technical concepts in clear and simple language. She concludes there are enough disturbing findings and unanswered questions that we should actually pay attention to the warnings manufacturers stuff into the box with their wireless products – not to press them directly onto the body.
Davis cites compelling evidence that microwaves created when phones send and receive signals can painlessly interfere with the brain’s natural defense mechanisms. Other studies indicate it’s not a good idea to hold a phone in the front pants pocket – as most males do. Children apparently are at special risk. In some European countries, cell phone use is banned for children younger than 16.
My son’s time studying at Rochester Institute of Technology has taught me that a group of motivated designers can solve almost any problem. So I’m fully confident cell phones in the future will be much safer. But for now, people may not be getting enough protection.
Thus, I have depleted the stock in two Radio Shacks of the PointMobl Stereo Earbud Headset with Mic. The relatively low-tech device lets you talk on the phone where it’s supposed to be – away from your head. I like the design because the wires don’t tangle, it has a universal phone plug and an adapter for an iPod – plus the writing on the packaging is very clever. I passed along Davis’s advice to my boy relatives not to carry a phone in the front pocket – but if they do, to face the keyboard inward because the antenna is embedded in the back.
This explains why holiday gifts this year to my loved ones are merely practical. But I must say that whooshing noise has gotten quieter since I’ve been texting more and using a wire or speakerphone to talk.
Technology can come to the rescue at D.C. events such as the October 30 Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert Sanity rally – where huge crowds fueled by social media come together in a real place.
That’s according to Curt Westerphal of Digital Design & Imaging Service Inc., also known as AirPhotosLIVE.com. The Falls Church, Virginia firm was hired by CBS News to count heads at both the Comedy Central and Glenn Beck rallies. Curt got in touch after reading my Sanity rally followup in the Washington Post.
From a balloon tethered high above the Air and Space Museum, AirPhotosLIVE took pictures with an array of high-resolution cameras, combining the images with photos taken from atop the Washington Monument and a GeoEye satellite. In the same way a person looks down on a busy ant hill, these sophisticated eyes in the sky watch how people swarm and surge. Stunning photography and 3-D views of the Sanity rally can be seen on the Photosynth website.
“We are looking at patterns of movement and demand,” Curt wrote. “The crowd movement patterns we see from the air are valuable since they help transportation, security, first-responders and even Porta-Potty planners locate and track the flow of the crowd.” For instance, if the National Park Service used AirPhotosLIVE imaging, officials could see in nearly real time which subway stations were being overrun and let Metro know where to direct riders to less-crowded stations.
Soon, information could go directly to the crowd via their smart phones. We’re one inch away from having everyone there see the info,” Curt told me. “We already have a wireless downlink to our trailer. The issue is getting it out to social media. We could post it to a website right now. The limitations are really less technical and more political.”
That would be great if the cell phones actually worked, which they didn’t inside the Sanity rally. But, with enough planning, that problem can be solved, too. That is, if COWs roam the Mall. Cells On Wheels are mobile cell phone towers which temporarily stretch available bandwidth allowing phones to keep working. COWs were used successfully at the Obama inauguration.
Curt’s balloon also serves as a relay for walkie-talkie and 911 communications between emergency responders, even if they are on different frequencies. “The aerostat at 800 feet could allow a person at a distant station, say Greenbelt Metro, to talk to someone at the Reston Metro.”
But what happens if weather or something else grounds the amazing inflatable? “I joke about ‘one if by land, two if by sea’,” Westergard said in an email. “But two simple flag colors can tell a lot. Think hurricane warning flags or smoke signals. A flag at 500 feet can be seen from Tysons with binoculars. This city unfortunately may need that level of mass communication one day.”
As of last week, all the windows in the Empire State Building have been replaced…using the existing glass…repurposed right on site. Please excuse the ellipses, but this is really exciting.
As Kevin Surace of Serious Materials tells it — Tony Malkin, owner of the New York City landmark, wanted to save money on his energy bills, but didn’t want to waste his existing glass and Kevin said, “I can do that.”
So there, in a temporary shop on the fifth floor, Kevin’s crew remade each of the building’s 6,500 windows, crafting them into a new product which is 400% more efficient than what was there before.
The windows are part of an energy-efficiency retrofit that will achieve the astounding feat of making the Empire State greener than 90% of other office buildings. Tony expects it will save him $4.4 million a year.
Kevin Surace is a game-changer. He’s one of those rare individuals who give humans a good name because they’re so darn smart – not just in book learning (his degree is in Electrical Engineering Technology), but about how to influence other people to do what’s best for humanity at large.
As Inc. Magazine’s Entrepreneur of the Year, he was featured speaker at the 2010 Rochester Institute of Technology Entrepreneurs Conference, giving a rapt crowd his ten secrets for building a great company:
1. Identify a problem. Buildings and making the the stuff they’re built from generate 52% of the world output of carbon dioxide.
2. Provide great solutions. Since dual-pane glass is basically ineffective at reducing heat and cold transfer, Kevin’s company has come up with something better.
3. Recognition by peers is important. Kevin showed two videos of President Obama extolling the fact that Serious re-opened a shuttered factory and put hundreds of people back to work making energy efficient products.
4. Hire the right people for the job. Most of his come from Silicon Valley not from the building industry.
5. Have a vision for the next 5 to 10 years (at least) into the future.
6. Amazing client references help a lot. 3.5 million people visit the Empire State Building every year. My guess is Kevin will find some way to tell them about the windows.
7. Disruptive innovation. Stand up and knock over the table of existing practice. Kevin believes nothing happens if no one takes risks.
8. Disruptive marketing. Be there the moment the customer needs you. Monthly newsletters don’t cut it any more. Own the online conversation about your product category.
9. People notice when you’re nice. Smiling faces of people you put back to work: Priceless.
10. Don’t be afraid to change everything we know.
Building Industry Business Advice economy Empire State Building Energy Efficiency Entrepreneurship environment finance Glass local economics New York City personal sustainability Rochester Institute of Technology Serious Materails sustainability technology Windows: environment technology
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If you live near the Nation’s Capital and don’t care whether the Potomac River runs dry, prepare to get very thirsty. That’s because the water for every person, business and industry in the area comes from that single source.
Every day, a small number of intake dams near northern Virginia’s Great Falls National Park suck 400 million cubic gallons of water from the river. But, if we aren’t careful, the thundering falls could go silent.
According to Dr. E-an Zen, world authority on Potomac River geology, if the local population continues to grow and water usage is not managed wisely, demand will exceed supply and the Potomac could become “a series of semi-stagnant pools connected by trickles of water.”
There have been ominous signs of that trajectory. During the drought of 1999, for instance, water flow dropped dramatically, the river temperature increased and a large number of fish and other wildlife died. If local governments had asked people to use a little less water, the fish kill might have been averted. But, only Maryland issued an appeal for water conservation, while the state of Virginia refused.
At least three fairly severe droughts have occured locally in the past five years. According to Dr. Zen, “A couple of times we had droughts, the governors refused to declare emergencies because it’s not politically wise.” He contends that states should at least “show some concern. Don’t say ‘We have plenty. Don’t worry’.”
The typical Washingtonian uses about 150 gallons of water every day. Dr. Zen tracked his own usage and found he consumes one-third of that amount and could easily cut back more. Measuring water usage is a good way for everyone to become more water-aware, especially kids, Dr. Zen told The Durable Human in this video.
Keith Tomlinson, a fellow of the National Academy of Sciences and manager of northern Virginia’s Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, recently organized a walk and talk with Dr. Zen through Great Falls Park. Keith pointed out that the April 2010 issue of National Geographic Magazine is entirely devoted to worldwide water issues. Blog Action Day focused on the topic this year and has many useful links.
At the end of the sojourn, Dr. Zen was asked how long it will take for Washington to be in a full-blown water crisis. He answered with only this question: “How fast do you think humans will change behavior?”
For weeks I dreaded World Carfree Day, held this year on September 22, when we’re all supposed to find other ways to get around. I live near Tysons Corner, a traffic-clogged suburb of Washington, D.C., in one of America’s most congested regions. Trying to walk the walk for a whole day would not be easy.
The closest bus stop to my house is about two miles as the crow flies, and I’d need to be a crow to get there without driving. I don’t have the guts to walk or bike because the short stretches of sidewalk don’t connect and most of the streets don’t have shoulders. So, Step One was to rationalize I wasn’t cheating if I drove my son the short hop to his high school carpool. Returning to my home office would keep me off the roads a while, but only until his afternoon football game.
The idea of parking and taking transit the four miles over to school seemed fine until the Metro website told me the bus went in only one direction. Service on the 15M line stopped in the middle of the fourth quarter.
Then, in a desperate and underhanded move, I called and asked my cousin if she’d like to come to the game, never disclosing my ploy to get a ride back to my car. Luckily, I went undetected because she had allergies and didn’t want to go outside.
My last chance to go carless was to an evening meeting, three miles from home. But, after more investigation, I found that by the time I dropped off my son, drove to catch the first of two buses and walked the rest of the way, the meeting would be over.
Finally, the Day dawned and it was clear the message hadn’t penetrated the public consciousness as the radio reporter chirped, “Crazy traffic day! We’ll begin in the District – listen up!”
Feeling rather dejected later that night, I wandered over to worldcarfree.net. Turns out Carfree Day is actually a year-round effort to “remind the world that we don’t have to accept our car-dominated society” and “to put it on city planners and politicians to give priority to cycling, walking and public transport, instead of to the automobile.”
Then it hit me. The meeting I had driven to earlier was held by the non-profit Fairfax Trails and Streams. There, a person from the Fairfax County Park Authority talked of plans to make trail connections between communities, parks and transportation. Afterward, an attendee informed the group about a public meeting to dicuss the new Tysons Corner bicycle master plan. And tomorrow, a blurb I wrote about the public buses which serve my son’s school would appear in the parent newsletter.
It was good to realize that even those who have to drive can be part of Carfree Day.
This blog is dedicated to my sister multi-modal maven, Fionnuala Quinn, who lives in the North Virginia car haven known as Fair Oaks.
Bike share programs are springing up all over the world. For an idea of how they work, a system in the bustling, northern Italian city of Milan provides a good example.
There’s no confusing a colorful bike share bike, which is clearly marked with municipality and conspicuous I.D. number (an effective theft-deterrent).
Bike stations are conveniently located around the city.
Kiosks contain a screen and keypad where you enter a password created when booking online. Sliding your credit card, your bike space number appears on the screen.
Automatically unlocked, the bike easily lifts off the rack.
Bikes are tough and sturdy, yet easy to steer. The ride is remarkably comfortable, even over bumps. Having only three to choose from takes the guesswork out of shifting gears.
No need for special cycling clothes. People in this fashion capital wear just about anything when they ride, including business suits and high heels. You can’t exert yourself too much or go too fast amid the traffic lights and other forms of transportation. Helmets don’t come with the rental and aren’t typically worn.
Best of all – the cost is only a few euros for a two-hour period – and the first half hour is free!
I give the Milan system an A-, due to some very minor quibbles. The heavy bikes develop so much momentum they’re somewhat tough to brake. While having a bungee is helpful, the metal bike basket is slippery and heavy objects are hard to secure. My husband’s new SLR camera slipped out and broke at our first sight-seeing stop. We’ll stow our stuff in a bag next time. Booking the bike was somewhat cumbersome because the system did not allow multiple bookings at one time, nor did it retain information from prior bookings.
But, all in all, bike share is a cheap and enjoyable alternative to taxis, a good bridge between different types of transport, and a great way to burn off the fantastic pasta and frequent gelato stops.
The humble flip phone may revolutionize the way we experience theme parks. It’s all happening at Disney World’s Epcot, courtesy of a girl named Kim.
“The Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure simply gives guests something that they want. People want to be active, physically and mentally,” Jonathan Ackley – who directs Walt Disney Imagineering’s Interactive Division – told The Durable Human.
My 8-year-old cousin, Tess – like many girls of a certain age – loves Kim Possible. Kim stars in her own Disney Channel animated series as a high school cheerleader who turns secret agent. On our recent trip to Disney World, Tess heard on the bus from the airport that there was Something Kim at Epcot and I knew I wouldn’t hear the end of it until we found her.
With a little effort we tracked down one of the low-profile Kim Possible Recruitment Centers scattered throughout the park. Pressing a button on the self-serve display, out popped a ticket with our Adventure appointment. A half hour later, we reported to a kiosk outside the Norway Pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase. A smartly-uniformed Kim Team member asked Tess if she was ready for the mission. After a deep and serious nod, Tess was handed a “Kimmunicator”—the retooled ‘06-era cell phone which would serve as our guide.
When Tess pressed the OK button, Kim’s brainy cartoon side-kick, Wade, appeared on the phone’s tiny screen and instructed us to go straight to Mexico. Inside that pavilion, Tess again activated the Kimmunicator and we were startled to see our first clue: an Aztec blaze briefly appeared on the back wall of a nearby artifact display case. We continued to range through the building, solving puzzles and discovering clues for our eyes only. Here, a pinata near the ceiling momentarily flashed a code number. There, a guitar strummed out a clue. I don’t wish to disclose all the details, but suffice it to say that by the time we were done we managed to save the world.
Our exploits were exhilarating. We actually felt like secret agents, sliding unnoticed through the crowds, surrounded by people totally unaware of our stealthy business.
Ackley, former Lego designer and creator of the Kim experience, says people love the free-range approach. “Visitors have really been enjoying the attraction, some playing for hours on end. That’s high praise considering all the other fantastic things at Disney World. Kids love being secret agents, triggering high-tech gadgets and uncovering mysteries. Parents love the humor, and most importantly the time spent playing with their families.”
But kids aren’t the only takers, says Ackley. “I’ve also seen retired couples enjoying the attraction without any children in tow. And I’ve seen teens and twenty/thirty/forty-somethings enjoying the experience as well.”
Although Ackley says the Kim Adventure incorporates play patterns “as old as human history,” Tess and I felt like cutting edge, active controllers of our own amusement, which he says is by design.
“Today, people can play fantastic video games sitting at home in front of their TV sets. But when they come to the park, they get immersed in ways they can’t at home. You can play a super-hero at home. But at Disney, you really are a super hero, and super-heroes have to do some leg-work now and then.”
Could free-range adventures ever replace typical theme park fare? “I don’t believe that this kind of attraction will replace dark rides or roller coasters,” claims Ackley. “But it’s a new color on the palette.”
There is one other similar adventure elsewhere in the world – at Tokyo’s DisneySea park. As in Kim Possible, guests are the main characters of the story, but in “Leonardo Challenge”, a magic map leads them through an enchanted Renaissance fortress to unravel clues left by Leonardo Da Vinci.