- 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
Connect With Me on Twitter
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.
You can print one out for free courtesy of the Family Online Safety Institute’s Platform for Good. PfG calls it an “online safety card,” but there’s more to it than that. You can spell out how much time your child can be online, which sites are okay to visit, and how much money (if any) your child can spend on apps, but you also promise to be supportive of your child’s use of the new item and not over-react if he or she stumbles on something you deem offensive. more »
For their children to be durable, it isn’t enough anymore for parents to merely teach them crucial stuff like manners and how to hammer a nail. Add to the list everything to do with Technology. Yet, many view the vast Internet Ocean with fear and trepidation–especially if their kids have already jumped in. This concerns digital instigators such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft who want everyone to feel comfortable and safe in the water. And that’s why they’ve teamed up with the Family Online Safety Institute to teach swimming lessons on a new website called A Platform for Good. 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 »
Just as they do face to face, kids love to socialize online. Four out of five online teens hang out on social networks. Some of them may like to tweet or dabble in MySpace, but practically all have a profile on Facebook. “No one had any idea how quickly and or how widely this would spread,” says Stephen Balkam, director of the Family Online Safety Institute which sponsored the new report by the Pew Research Center. 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.
Could it be that it’s easier to forget your child in the car than realize your cellphone is missing? A tragic number is telling.
At last count, 513 American kids have died inside hot, closed cars since record-keeping began in 1998. About half were forgotten by a parent or caregiver.
Because the death toll continues to climb, authorities met in Washington, D.C. this week to propose immediate action. “It’s so urgent that we find effective sets of countermeasures that we all can take right now,” said David Strickland of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as quoted in the Washington Post.
And what do experts suggest as a top countermeasure? Put your cellphone in the back seat with your child.
The advocacy group Kids and Cars.org has a there-but-for-the-grace-of-God perspective. Says founder Janette Fennel: “People think these people must be terrible parents, they must be monsters, because if we think that, we can’t relate to them. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
The truth is that any of us can fall prey to a single act of absent-mindedness which could have horrific results. To avoid that, parents and caregivers must be mindful and informed.
Some life-saving advice from KidsandCars:
- Your child gets hot faster than you do – up to five times faster.
- A closed car can reach a broiling 125 degrees in only minutes.
- Cracking the windows does not slow the heating.
Practice safe habits:
- Don’t leave your child alone in a car, even for a minute.
- Look before you lock. Open the back door and check inside before you walk away.
- Instruct your babysitter or childcare center to call you if your child doesn’t show up when he or she is expected.
And, yes – lest you forget: when you buckle up your child, put your go-to things in the back seat, too – which will surely include a cellphone.
On Capitol Hill today, phone lines and websites are buckling under the pressure of so many Americans trying to make their feelings known about the debt ceiling. They’re answering President Obama’s call in a speech last night: “If you want a balanced approach to reducing the deficit, let your member of Congress know. If you believe we can solve this problem through compromise, send that message.”
Mr. Obama wasn’t specific about how to do that, but most people apparently went the traditional route. Thankfully, though, there were other ways to make their voices heard.
According to a new survey – ironically released today – Congress has rushed to embrace social media. And none too soon.
The Congressional Management Foundation, a non-profit group dedicated to improving communications with Congress, found that most members have a Facebook page and are also on Twitter. The 260 House and Senate staffers who took the survey are generally pleased to have the new tools. “By a ten to one margin, they are reaching people they’ve never been able to reach before,” says Brad Fitch, CMF president and chief executive.
But now that there are so many ways to communicate, which method has the most bang for the buck? According to Fitch, “Sending an individual e-mail is 20 points more influential than social media.” In other words, the time you take composing an e-mail has more cred than a 140-character tweet.
And how can your message have maximum impact? Fitch shared two simple rules in a fact-filled interview on Facebook DC Live.
Timing is everything. For heaven’s sake, make sure and get in your dibs before your Congress members make a decision. Check the status of your issue so you don’t waste your time or theirs.
Don’t be wishy washy. “Have a firm ask,” advises Fitch. Determine exactly what you want your Congress member to do, then state it simply and clearly. Start by writing your message in short form on the Subject line.
What if you do all the right things, but your carefully crafted call or note hits a technical roadblock? You may have no choice but to go social. Says Fitch: “The best ways to get through are Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.”
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.
It was reassuring to be at the second-ever Digital Book World Conference, if only to see so many others hurtling forward in the same general direction. We were all a little breathless in the brief time-out from our unexpected digital journeys.
Mine began four years ago, when I had an idea for a book. Ironically, it’s a strategy parents can use to introduce their kids thoughtfully to the online world. I started down the publishing road like everyone else back then: researching the topic, writing a manuscript, sending out proposals. I found out pretty quickly that no one wanted to print tech-related non-fiction – especially by an unknown author.
Then the ground began to shift.
I was at an American Independent Writers conference, cheerless from some face-to-face rejections, when I wandered into a session called “The Online Platform.” We were told that if a writer is going to be successful, she had better have a blog, website and Twitter account. Agents won’t even talk to you, the speaker insisted, unless you come with a posse. Sensing I had no choice (and no posse), I set out to create my digital lasso.
While I was still sorting out the hashtags from the plug-ins, my husband gave me a Kindle and I saw how Amazon was squeezing book-selling like a python. Shortly after that, I stumbled upon the Digital Book World Roundtable.
Each week I would lurk, listening in on Guy Gonzales and his merry band of e-pub pioneers. After a few months, they convinced me the writing on the wall was electronic, so I studded my manuscript with links. Then, last summer – driving between West Palm Beach and Jacksonville – I wrote a script in my head for a companion video. A few months later, as luck would have it, I was able to attend the DBW conference in exchange for doing some interviews and shooting cover footage.
The formal sessions were captivating, as was the time in between. From executives to entrepreneurs – all were happy to share their thoughts. DBW Innovation award-winner, Hillel Cooperman, showed me how his kids and his parents can read books together on the iPad, even when they’re on opposite coasts. And, author and Wired scribe Frank Rose divulged that he too is “groping” toward understanding this strange, new medium (though his book is published).
I returned home grateful for sipping the nectar of a blossoming industry – and encouraged as I grope my way.
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.”
Chalk it up to Reddit, Facebook and Fark for packing them in at the Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert Rally on October 30. That so many people heeded the digital drumbeat so quickly is a loud wakeup call for D.C. event planners, as I pointed out in The Washington Post.
It paid that day to be a local. Heading out two hours before the rally, my cousin and I planned to take the subway, but when we saw the line, kept driving - to a parking space at her office eight blocks from the Mall. Our luck held when, walking toward the entrance, we spied people stepping through a break in the fence and slipped in behind them.
We were one jumbotron back from the stage. The crowd was blissful, but standing up and packed in like sardines. It was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life, but looking around, I couldn’t help but worry: what if something spooked the crowd? The city was not prepared.
When Comedy Central filed for a permit September 8, the network estimated 25,000 people would attend. “It had to do with actual space they [the National Park Service] were prepared to allot to the event,” network spokesman Tony Fox told The Durable Human. “We had no idea how many people were going to show up.”
After seven weeks of negotiations - which included the network’s decision not to pay for extra Metro service - 60,000 was the number approved in the final permit just three days before the event.
But even before the network’s eleventh-hour decision to commit, the electronic outreach started. “Reddit[.com] did a donation push to encourage us to do the rally,” Stephen Colbert acknowledged at the post-event press conference. (Fark.com was ticked off he didn’t give social media enough credit for making the rally happen).
Two weeks into the permit process, 100,000 people had RSVPd on Facebook. Then, on October 20, Andres Glusman of Meetup.com told the Christian Science Monitor, “This is growing faster than any online Meetup we’ve seen.” According to Yahoo News, self-organized satellite gatherings were being planned in 801 cities in 67 nations.
All the while, the coolest guys on TV invited viewers across the flat world to a free party in America’s capital.
Comedy Central kept an eye on the online numbers and made some adjustments. On October 25, the Wall Street Journal said the network ordered extra port-a-potties “suggesting organizers expect a crowd of 150,000 people.”
Metro put some extra trains and personnel on standby, but D.C. authorities were reluctant to go much further. “We did see that there was a large number of people RSVPing on Facebook,” said Park Service spokesman Bill Line. “But we have also found that for prior events, that’s not always an accurate gauge either. People will say they are coming and then don’t.”
In the end, precise aerial images paid for by CBS News showed that 215,000 people attended the rally. That’s not counting the thousands who tried but failed to ride the overloaded public transportation system to get downtown. “It’s kind of fascinating to us,” said the Comedy Central spokesman, “Facebook on the Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert web sites came out to be 300,000.”
Looking back, it’s clear that DC event planners must re-think the way they do business. Besides reacting more quickly to Internet input, they need to better leverage the permit approval process to compel event sponsors to help pay for support services of all kinds – from extra Metro trains to bike valets.
For their part, private sponsors should get a better handle on attendance, perhaps by asking rally-goers to register in advance and charging a nominal entry fee to cover externalities.
Another problem to reckon with is that during big events on The Mall – like the rally and President Obama’s inaugural festivities - cell phone service is overwhelmed so no one can make or receive calls and texts.
To be able to do its job properly, the National Park Service must be fully informed. Congress banned the agency from making crowd estimates following a political dustup after the Million Man March in 1995. But in the new millennium, computer-analyzed imaging eliminates the shades of grey which might have prompted politically-motivated lawsuits.
The Washington Post Ombudsman suggested that a media consortium should share the cost of using such technology to make estimates. But since federal authorities already rely on the same imaging techniques for other purposes, Congress should end the ban and allow the Park Service to again be the crowd-estimating agency of record. (See Comment about capabilities of aerial imaging from AirphotosLIVE.com below)
With enough time and publicity, an event called by a charismatic worldwide figure could end up larger than any one country’s presidential swearing-in.
But Washington certainly isn’t the only place which must cope with increasingly massive crowds. Last summer, Shanghai was hobbled (shanghaied?) by sheer numbers at its World Expo. Waits at exhibits spanned up to nine hours.
Because of the burgeoning world population, designers and engineers from Rochester, Massachusetts and any other Institute of Technology must work to find better ways to fit lots of people into defined spaces. Maybe by going to a modular design, an exhibit could have multiple entrances and a five-hour wait could be cut to one.
Like it or not, the headaches of managing huge communities which come together in real-life spaces are here to stay.
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.
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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.
At this point in the new century, many of us do things to save dwindling resources and make better use of others. But decisions can be tricky. Where do we set the thermostat and still be comfortable? Should we eat the organic imported orange or the conventional local apple? Do we print out the PDF or read it online? Technology helps, but can complicate matters.
Large institutions have a harder time because they must meet disparate needs and demands. Take the example of American University, a school in Washington, D.C., which recently introduced a Green Teaching Certificate. Courses are “Green Certified” if teachers communicate online, use electronic books and readings, and let students use laptops in class, among other measures considered sustainable.
But the system is causing hiccups for the age-old craft of writing. Writing instructors and their first-year students were surveyed for a Literature Department teaching seminar aptly named “Going Green in the Classroom: Balancing Ecological and Learning Environments.”
It turns out that faculty members all do some things green, even if not officially certified. There is general agreement that posting assignments on the document-sharing platform, Blackboard, helps everyone stay organized. But working online apparently has its drawbacks.
Not being able to get their hands on the material is a common complaint of students. “You can’t take notes on readings online so it makes reading harder, ” was one of several similar student comments.
Yet, 95 of the 130 students surveyed don’t print out the readings. Three out of four don’t even read them. “I absolutely hate reading things online,” acknowledged one student. “Having a hard copy of readings is much more beneficial to my learning experience.”
Teachers also like good old pen and paper. One didn’t mince words: “Students who do not print out and mark up readings for e-reserves are completely useless in class.”
Not having anything to write on also takes its toll on the writing process. As a teacher understated, “The revision process is much more productive, in my experience, when students have hard copy in front of them.”
When material is printed, faculty members don’t like the university’s suggestion to make single-spaced, two-sided copies because there’s no space for notes and revisions.
But printouts—or lack thereof—have a price. One student explained the predicament: “While green courses may intend to help the environment, it really puts more of the burden of cost on the student. I am currently in 3 “green” courses and have had to use ALL my printing bucks…and have gone through two ink cartridges in order to print out all the readings I am required to do.”
To protect students, some teachers bear the burden, but shift the cost. “It’s either them or me, and for what they pay in tuition, I’ve decided it should be the university’s paper and Xerox machine.”
One teacher has a partial workaround: printing handouts for in-class use only. “I number them (making no more than ten—and requiring them to look on with a classmate) and collect them at the end of a class period.”
Laptops present another quandary. “There’s no way they’re not gonna check Facebook!” despaired a faculty member. Many students readily admit checking email and doing other “personal research” in class. The distraction factor is so high, one out of three teachers ban laptops. That’s fine, says a student, because some people don’t have one. “I think there should be some degree of understanding if the course is ‘green.’ ”
Beyond the ethical dilemmas is the irony that classrooms assigned to most AU College Writing Professors aren’t equipped with computers (but do have projectors). The Literature Department recently received its first scanner. But if the scanner is used so materials can be copied, then paper-using has only been perpetuated.
In the end, for faculty and students alike, decisions about eco-rules are personal and pragmatic. “As much as I would like to help the environment and not print out all the readings,” one student lamented, “the most effective way of learning is to read the paper copy and highlight and take notes rather than attempt to read on a computer screen.”
A teacher questioned the very nature of going green. “Blackboard is a great resource, and I like the way it has allowed me to save paper, etc., but it does not appear to me intentionally or pointedly green. All of this is peanuts compared to the real carbon footprint of driving to and from school.”
It would be instructive to know whether Lit is the only AU department, or AU the only school, which struggles with green policies. If you have some experience—please share your thoughts.
December 19, 2009
The snow just keeps on coming. In front of my house, a lone pair of tire tracks fades with each falling inch. Yet, under the drifts at the end of the driveway, is a plastic bag with today’s Washington Post. It’s as if it’s 1999, when everyone got the paper and the day couldn’t start unless you devoured those words along with your toast and coffee. But the bag is skinny now and fewer subscribers are on the street, yet someone still managed to bring my paper in the worst December storm on record.
The front page tells of another endangered habit. People complain about empty mailboxes and no festive cards to make their day. But others are glad to be done with the tradition. They love using Facebook because they can send quick, paperless greetings and a steady supply of family snapshots all year long.
I, too, am toying with discarding the card idea. In the few days our grown-up kids were together this summer, no one thought to take a perfect picture. But we’ll hang in for another year and send a generic photo. Whatever goes in the mail, I know I can depend on a slew of hard-working humans to get it where it needs to go.
Amazon depends on humans, too. I never thought much about that until I stumbled on a link to their holiday help-wanted ad. Amazon hires walk 10 to 15 miles a day and “repetitively lift, bend, stoop and squat”. I suddenly realized, when I order on Amazon, a great effort will be made on my behalf – not by robots or machines – but by living, breathing people.
I had an ache of thanks just then, for all those durable humans—striding miles to schlep my selections; driving through the snowy dawn; hoping they’ll be there next year to haul my self-styled greetings.
So, for the holidays still before us, let’s remember the unsung heroes of the Internet age. And, when we finally have a few precious moments with the people we know and love, let’s stand down our digital devices so we don’t end up like this Facebook message:
“Pre-Thanksgiving dinner w/the Martins at a Mexican restaurant: sister on Blackberry with friends. Brother on Blackberry with Asian office. Sister in law on Blackberry with Washington D.C. Me on Blackberry checking emails and texts. Niece reading Vampire book. Meanwhile, Dad is eating chips and salsa, wondering what happened to his dinner companions…”