Monday, July 30, 2012

Considerable gap between transit and auto costs

Microsoft Excel spreadsheet: Percent of income spent on transportation
Cost of travel for transit-proximate and car-dependant households
Source of data: Taras Grescoe, citing Brookings Institute study
From Taras Grescoe, author of Straphanger (Times Books, 2012), comes this amazing statistic about the cost of travel in households that are near public transit versus those that rely upon cars:
“According to a Brookings Institution study, transit-proximate households in the United States devote only 9 percent of their income to transportation compared to 25 percent for the car dependent.”
Book cover: Straphanger by Taras Grescoe
Cover: Straphanger
by Taras Grescoe
The book has accompanied me during my bus commute each day. I used Microsoft Excel to create this chart, which visualizes the considerable gap between transportation costs.

Clearly, the cost of auto travel adds up and I need only compare the monthly cost of my Lake Transit pass -- $40 for the entire month -- and the cost to fill up the tank -- at least $40 a week.

Grescoe cites additional health benefits for relying upon public transit:
“Because every trip to a bus stop or subway station starts with a walk, transit users in the United States average 19 minutes of walking a day -- close to the 22 minutes a day recommended by the U.S. Center for Disease Control.”
Grescoe recommends the use of WalkScore.com, which rates neighborhoods nationwide from 0, completely car-dependent, to 100 for a “Walker’s Paradise.”

My neighborhood, I was pleased to note, rates 75, very walkable.

Straphanger (388.4 GRESCOE) can be found through the combined catalog system of our Lake, Mendocino and Sonoma County libraries. An excerpt from the book’s introduction is published at utne.com.

Mixed review for Sonoma County Fair

We went to the Sonoma County Fair this Sunday and I offer a mixed review. First, the positive:

‘Inspiration Stations’


pom pom attached to backpack
I made this pom pom, taught by Stefany
Perlman, during the Sonoma County Fair.
Sonoma County Fair offered fairgoers a chance to try something new with “Inspiration Stations” set up in its exhibit halls:
“We’re joining the growing interest in the Do-It-Yourself movement with a series of workshops designed to pique your interest in trying new things.”
According to its website, activities and presentations include letterpress printing, rug hooking, working with fused glass, fly tying and more.

Hands-on crafts and do-it-yourself greatly appeal to me, so we timed our visit to coincide with station hours.

In the Kraft Building, I listened for a time to Marilyn Engstrom discuss cosume-making techniques. Our group next made pom poms taught by Stefany Perlman in Finley Hall.

Hands-on crafts offered a unique and enjoyable dimension to our Sonoma County Fair experience.

The fair website displays a complete list of Inspiration Station activities. It cautions, “A few activities may require advance registration or a nominal materials fee.”

Still no refill stations


green Klean Kanteen
Sonoma County Fair
security has decided
Klean Kanteens
are weapons. Seriously?
Image: Klean Kanteen

The negative that we encountered (and I wrote about) last year -- no water bottle refill stations at the Sonoma County Fair -- was compounded this year by our being denied entry with our stainless steel Klean Kanteens.

Apparently security has decided these bottles are potential “weapons.”

Fortunately we had a plastic bottle back in the car -- because we weren’t about to finance the grossly wasteful, rip-off, disposable water bottle concession.

And once again, on fairgrounds, there were no water refill stations.

“Sustainable Sonoma” was not featured again this year, but in its place was an exhibit titled “Greentivities.” It would have been a logical place to locate a refill station.

Among vendors and exhibits, we encountered “Rethink Your Drink,” staffed by Network for a Healthy California's Northcoast Region.

In addition to offering samples of flavored waters, a natural for this group would have been to provide a water bottle refill station.

Another logical place for a bottle refill station would have been the Take It From the Tap! display by the City of Santa Rosa in the commercial exhibitors hall.

Suffice to say, we are deeply disappointed at the absence of water bottle refill stations.

The fact that for two years, the Sonoma County Fair has failed to offer water refills while promoting sustainability and environmentalism, makes a mockery of these values.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Voices must speak to be heard

Person in crowd holding laptop computer
With laptop and webcam, protesters at Occupy Seattle
broadcast live feed to the Internet.
Photo by Mik Nei/Yes! Magazine
In the spring 2012 issue of Yes! Magazine, Joseph Torres urges support for independent media as part of the issue’s “9 Strategies to End Corporate Rule.”
“We need policies that decentralize control of our media system and allow the voices of ordinary people to be heard rather than giving greater power to corporate gatekeepers.
“This is critically important for people of color. We have seen the damage caused to our communities when other people tell our stories -- they often get it wrong.”
For the phrase “people of color,” substitute “adult on the autism spectrum” or, even more specifically, “woman on the autism spectrum,” to understand my vested interest in telling my own story -- and empowering others to do the same.

I disagree, however, that “media reform” is necessarily the crucial factor.

People must be willing to speak and write for themselves using forums that are already available, as well as any additional forums that media reform may provide.

Media reform won’t solve the unwritten letter to the editor, the blog that is never updated, the radio talk show with a darkened switchboard.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Game Boys on its way to being read

Cover: Game Boys by Michael Kane
In the break room at work a few months ago, I found Game Boys by Michael Kane (Viking, 2008), just in time to read and critique it for a class discussion board about books for young adults.

I thought the book would be of interest, particularly among teen boys who enjoy playing first-person shooter or Massive-Multiplayer-Online-Role-Playing-Games.

The book was not already in the catalog of the Lake, Mendocino and Sonoma County libraries.

I gave it to Middletown Library director Gehlen Palmer and recommended that it be added to the library and that it might appeal to young adults.

When I went to volunteer today at the Middletown Library, I found out from Palmer that it had been added to the system and was en route to another library to fill its first hold request.

This must surely be a highlight in the career of a collection development librarian: to know that a book she has selected for the library is on its way to being read.

Game Boys (794.8 KANE) will be shelved at the Middletown Library. As of this writing its status in the catalog is shown as Transit Request with one hold against it.




Digital literacy promotion for libraries

In a library, surrounded by book-laden shelves, Cynthia M. Parkhill's Bitstrips cartoon avatar and another cartoon woman sit at a table that has laptops arranged at each of the table's four settings
Cartoon image created with Bitstrips and added July 13, 2016
Highlighting libraries’ important role in promoting digital literacy, the Public Library Association via Twitter encouraged libraries this week to register with a national database.
“In partnership with the Ad Council, Connect2Compete (C2C) will be launching a national campaign in 2013 to promote the importance of digital literacy and encourage individuals and families to access free community resources and training. The campaign will direct visitors to an innovative zip-code locator tool that identifies free computer access and digital literacy training course sites in their area. In collaboration with the American Library Association and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, C2C is asking libraries nationwide to submit their information to help populate the database for this tool.
 “If your library offers any facilitator or trainer-led digital literacy training courses (e.g. Computer and Internet basics, How to search and apply for jobs online, Internet safety tips, etc), or offers access to self-paced learning resources or one-one-one training, please input your library’s current information below. Keep in mind that you will be able to update your entry or opt out of the database at any point. By entering this information, you will ensure that your library is included when community members search for a site in their area to develop digital literacy skills.”
I encourage libraries to register with the Connect2Compete database. From personal experience, libraries were crucial to my early access to information online.

Perhaps Digital First Media community media labs ought similarly consider registering. They too provide computer access and social media training.

Favoriting ≠ endorsement

A Poynter report on the Associated Press updated social media policy highlights an exchange on Twitter that addresses its position on retweeting.
“The update to the policy resparked a debate about the AP’s restrictions on retweeting information. The policy says staffers should go out of their way when constructing each retweet to make it clear they’re not expressing a personal opinion or endorsement.
AP Social Media Editor Eric Carvin got a lot of questions on Twitter about the retweet policy from counterparts at Reuters (Anthony De Rosa), NPR (Eric’s brother, Andy Carvin), and The Wall Street Journal (Neal Mann).” 
The dialogue is curated via Storify in the Poynter report and represents an ongoing issue in digital journalism. Does retweeting constitute an endorsement?

I admit I prefer Digital First Media social guidelines as expressed by CEO John Paton.

My personal practice for my Twitter account bio is to identify what is important to me. People who choose to follow me will know what I am about.

But in the spirit of the debate and re-debate of the AP retweeting policy, I would like to address a practice that can similarly be misunderstood. I wish to be on the record and state that “favoriting” is not an endorsement.

I use “favorite” to bookmark links or posts so that I can refer to them later: whether to read and possibly blog about, maybe to Storify or simply to ponder at length.

By “favoriting” your link to your latest blog entry, I am in no way implying that I agree with you. If I consider what you have to say worth sharing, I might blog or retweet the link but even then I may not agree with you.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

What do we still do in public libraries?

Cynthia Parkhill shelving books at Middletown Library
Still plenty for me (and Michelle McLean) to do at our public libraries
 What is information and what is it we still do in public libraries? Quite a lot according to Michelle McLean, blogging at Connecting Librarian:

“Some of the ways my library provides information as well as access to it include:
  • Non-fiction lending collections including DVDs and audio-books
  • Magazines
  • Daily newspapers
  • Internet connectivity, both via PC and WiFi to access the wider world of information (amongst other things)
  • Electronic resources
  • Short seminars on a wide range of topics
  • Library staff, who help people find the information they need, either in our collections or on the Internet
  • Library staff who share local knowledge to help people find what they need in the local community
  • Local history collection
  • Outreach visits, to not only promote the library, but to help those being visited fulfill their needs – with that resource the library has
  • School visits to again showcase what they library can do, but to also help with information literacy skills
  • Teaching our users information literacy skills
  • Teaching our users computer skills
  • And much, much more ...”
My thanks to ALA Techsource for sharing this essay on Twitter.

Temple Grandin: ‘Autism Spectrum Disorder, through my eyes’

Temple Grandin meme: Autism Spectrum Disorder, through my eyes
Temple Grandin: Autism Spectrum Disorder, through my eyes
I couldn’t resist re-posting this image, shared by Dr. Temple Grandin on Facebook:
“What would happen if the Autism gene was eliminated from the gene pool? You would have a bunch of people standing around in a cave, chatting and socializing and not getting anything done.”
Thank you, Temple, for your inspiring and tireless advocacy for our dignity and value.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Public relations officers: Take time to learn your job

Elizabeth the cat sleeping on Toastmasters portfolio
The dear, departed, Miss Elizabeth pillowed against my Toastmasters portfolio
 With the beginning of July, in Toastmasters clubs (and in other clubs and groups), new vice presidents of public relations have started serving their terms.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Blanket condemnation of people with autism

List of people with disabilities who were killed by parents or caregivers
Photo from Twitter user @AspieSide during March 30 #vigilforgeorge
List of people with disabilities who were killed by parents or caregivers
 In a Monday morning broadcast, Joe Scarborough of MSNBC grossly stereotyped people (like me) who are on the autism spectrum.

“As soon as I hear about this shooting, I knew who it was,” he said, referring to Friday morning’s tragic shooting in an Aurora, Colo. theater. “I knew it was a young, white male, probably from an affluent neighborhood, disconnected from society -- it happens time and time again. Most of it has to do with mental health; you have these people that are somewhere, I believe, on the autism scale ... I don’t know if that’s the case here, but it happens more often than not. People that can walk around in society, they can function on college campuses -- they can even excel on college campuses -- but are socially disconnected.”

Scarborough’s statement has been reproduced in a petition at change.org that demands a retraction from Scarborough and from MSNBC.

“These statements are ignorant and potentially damaging to people who already struggle against stigma and prejudice,” the petition author, Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg, states. “There is absolutely no link between autism and criminal behavior; in fact, people on the autism spectrum are far more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators. Study after study has proven these facts.”

To these studies, I could add my direct experience following news reports and social media activity surrounding a March 30 vigil in memory of George Hodgins. Hodgins, 22, was shot and killed by his mother, Elizabeth Hodgins, who then killed herself.

The nationwide vigil also honored the memory of 12-year-old Tracy Latimer, who was killed by her father Robert Latimer.

One of the most poignant images from that gathering is a poster displaying a distressingly long list of names of people with disabilities who were killed by their parents or caregivers.

The change.org petition continues:
“While people on the autism spectrum struggle with social cues and a variety of neurological issues, autism is not a form of sociopathy. People on the spectrum are fully capable of the full range of feelings, including distress at the pain of other human beings.”
I added my signature and included a statement that Scarborough’s “diagnosis” of suspected shooter James Holmes is an unwarranted, blanket condemnation of people on the autism spectrum.

This is hate speech, pure and simple, and the worst part of Scarborough’s bigotry about autism is that it deflects attention from the fact that people were senselessly killed on Friday.

Published July 24, 2012 in the Lake County Record-Bee

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Completed presentation: Yarn Bombing @ Your Library





And with that, the completed PowerPoint presentation, “Yarn Bombing @ Your Library,” is uploaded to SlideShare. The chapter closes upon my summer course through Cuesta College in Microsoft Office Professional.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Ashland library levy slated for November vote


Library in Ashland, Ore. Image by Curtis Cronn
Library in Ashland, Ore. Image by Curtis Cronn
Licensed for use under Creative Commons with some rights reserved

As reported by Vickie Aldous on July 18 for the Ashland Daily Tidings, Ashland voters will decide this November whether to renew a levy that provides additional funding to the Ashland Public Library

The Ashland City Council unanimously voted on July 17 to put the levy renewal on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Aldous states that without the money from a levy approved by Ashland voters in November 2008, Jackson County budget limitations would cause the Ashland library to be open 24 hours per week instead of the 40 hours per week that it is open now.
“The levy also pays for the equivalent of three full-time employees and library outreach programs to children, teens and seniors, according to city officials.”
According to Aldous, the November 2008 levy is set to expire in the summer of 2013. “Renewing the levy would continue the supplemental funding until the summer of 2017.”

As a library supporter, I hope Ashland residents will vote to renew the levy. Libraries have been crucial to my ongoing access to information that I need to know. A library that is closed to the public does no one any good.

I appreciate the optimism reflected in a statement by Ashland Councilor Carol Voisin: “Our community really rises to the occasion when it comes to our library.”

Aldous states, the levy would cost up to 21 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value: $50.51 for the owner of a home assessed at $241,000. “However,” Aldous adds, “the city of Ashland has levied $0.19 of the possible $0.21 in the past. City officials said they will only levy the necessary amount to maintain existing services.”

Press releases are not published ‘as is’

Guest-blogging for Paradux Media Group, internet marketer Jeff Gross states that press releases are published “as is.”

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Value of ‘buy local’ journalism in action

Kevin N. Hume reads to elementary school students
Lake County Record-Bee Staff reporter Kevin N. Hume reads during a
children’s summer program at Kelseyville Elementary School.
Photo by Denise Crawford
 Record-Bee staff reporter Kevin N. Hume made a guest appearance yesterday at a children’s summer reading program. I think it illustrates the value of  “reading local” that journalist Mandy Jenkins recently blogged about.

Jenkins is digital projects editor for Digital First Media.

In her recent blog entry, Jenkins cites a story, broadcast by This American Life, about the “hyperlocal news company” Journatic, which uses a “largely foreign workforce to assemble local data, rewrite press releases and parrot online obituaries for eventual publication on local and hyperlocal news sites from likes of the Chicago Tribune, Houston Chronicle and Newsday.” She suggests that as outsourced news grows, local newsrooms should promote buying (and reading) local.

The role of outsourcing in journalism was also explored this week during the weekly #DFMChat among Digital First Media journalists.

I posted a response to Jenkins’ piece that summarizes her recommendations for engaging with the community: sharing observations on social media, writing or contributing to a blog, holding live chats with readers and meeting readers in person. An in-person appearance like Hume’s certainly advances that aim.

As Jenkins states:
“‘Buying American’ and ‘Shopping Local’ have become a priority to some American consumers on goods from clothes to veggies – so why not newspapers? We should encourage our readers to ‘Read Local’.
“For local journalists, there is no better time to show our readers that we are them. We live in the same neighborhoods. We shop at the same grocery stores. We attend the same local festivals and root for the same football teams. Our kids attend the same schools. We may have even gone to high school together.”
Jenkins’ complete post can be viewed at ZombieJournalism.com. I also created a Pinterest board that shows Record-Bee employees engaging with their community.

Published July 31, 2012 in the Lake County Record-Bee

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What does your professionalism look like?

On the Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism, blogger Zoe Gross presents “Business-NOS: A Standard of Professionalism” to define her Autistic professionalism. I think it worth sharing because, I too approach professionalism from a place on the autism continuum:
Logo: Thinking Person's Guide to Autism
“You’ve heard of business casual; this is business-NOS.
“Business-NOS is when your stim toy matches your suit.
“Business-NOS is elbows on the table, head in your hands.
“Business-NOS is being floppy at work because you’re going to be floppy anyway and you may as well get some work done.
“Business-NOS is flats only because you don’t have the gross motor skills to walk in heels. It’s trying heels anyway because you believe in the dignity of risk.
“Business-NOS is networking using only scripts and echolalia.
“Business-NOS is stimming and spinning in the Senate building, flapping in meetings, rocking in hearings, headphones everywhere.
“Business-NOS is a standard of professionalism which does not require eye contact, stillness, or median abdominal strength. Business-NOS means putting your passion and energy into your work, not into trying to look normal. Business-NOS is knowing you do good work, and not buying into the lie that someone like you couldn’t possibly do the good work that you are doing.”
Occupying a similar position, I draw strength from this quote attributed to Dr. Seuss: “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

I echo Gross when she asks her concluding question:
“This is what my professionalism looks like. How about you?”
Gross blogs at http://illusionofcompetence.blogspot.com/.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Digital media workshop with Steve Buttry

My education this year has been on two fronts: the formal course of study in Library and Information Science through Cuesta College online and independent training in social media tools for journalism.

Incredible transformation from former Walmart to library

Mosaic depicting sunflowers
McAllen Public Library: Photographic tour of new main library
While shelving at the Middletown library today, library director Gehlen Palmer showed me an amazing slide show produced by the McAllen Public Library in Texas. The slide show presents a photographic tour of its new main library.

The photos depict the incredible transformation of what Palmer said used to be a Walmart.

According to a year-in-review blog on the McAllen Public Library website, the opening of its new main library “was the event that effectively transformed MPL from a neighborhood library into something like a regional attraction. We continue to believe that New Main is the largest single floor public library in the nation – ample space for the 3000+ people who attended the grand opening [Dec. 10, 2011].”

With our new Middletown library under construction just across the street, I share in the excitement of a new and larger facility for the McAllen Public Library.

An information page about the new main library cites library dimensions at 123,000 square feet, containing 355,794 items. The page includes links to stories by area publication The Monitor that document the former Walmart’s transformation.

Texas yarnbombers, this is your opportunity: how would you commemorate a repurposing of this magnitude?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

‘Victim blaming never helps’

With explicit language, the writer of an unambiguously-named blog delivers the forceful message that victim blaming never helps.
“Whenever something tragic happens to someone there is always someone who says ‘This is why I do this…’
“As if tragedy can’t strike them because they are SO smart and superior.”
According to the blogger, you hear this message even more when someone has been violated: “[T]his is why I never go outside in a dress/drink/talk to strangers.”

The post resonates with me because I am a survivor of childhood peer abuse. From experience, I can corroborate: people really do blame the victim.

The blogger concludes:
“I know people do it because it makes them feel safe but when something tragic happens to someone, it sounds like you’re victim blaming (because you are) and that does no one any good at all.”
I credit Angie Tupelo with bringing my attention to this post.

Monday, July 9, 2012

‘What Does Happy Look Like?’ helped me share feelings about bullying


Cover image: What Does Happy Look Like?
On the U.S. News Education blog, “High School Notes,” Kelsey Sheehy reports that “School Buses Breed Bullying.”

Sheehy cites a statistic from the U.S. Department of Education: that roughly 30 percent of middle school and high school students are bullied, and nearly 10 percent of the abuse happens on the school bus. Sheehy adds that “the problem is likely much worse, since nearly two thirds of the incidents are never reported, the department estimates.”

Count me among the 30 percent.

But rather than simply rehash what took place during my bus rides to school, I’d like to highlight a book that, several decades later, helped me to talk about it: What Does Happy Look Like? by Joseph and Silvana Karim (Autism Asperger Publishing Company, 2010).

As I relate in my January 2010 reaction to What Does Happy Look Like?:
“‘What Does Happy Look Like?’ If you asked me, I’d agree that sunshine yellow is a good match for this emotion: but a school bus would not be on my list of images that articulate happiness. If you painted a prison transport bus with bright sunshine yellow paint, you would more closely approximate what school buses represent to me.”
When responding to the image of that bright yellow bus, I took my cue from instructions that the book offers to parents and other adults:
“Emotions are difficult for many children to understand and describe. They experience them but often can’t say why or express what they mean ... As you read the book and look at each illustration, ask the child what she is feeling. Have her comment on Joey’s words and then ask her to describe the picture in her own words, with as much detail as possible. This helps make the child aware of the nuances of emotion and to secure the understanding in her mind.”
 Short version of my response: the school bus brought me each day to a place where I was taunted and shunned. If the bus arrived late, the entire day cascaded downhill from there.

When I began to communicate in adulthood about what I had experienced, I learned that adults who were closest to me during the time that I went to school were unaware of the extent to which I was bullied on the bus and at school. I believe this book could help with conversations about what a child is feeling.

So, just as I did in my earlier reaction to What Does Happy Look Like?, I encourage parents and caregivers to make use of this book. But I repeat my caveat:

Don’t be surprised if any of the images, like the bright yellow bus, elicit a reaction from your child that is different from what the book’s authors anticipated. Your child may have a different idea of what “happy” or another emotion looks like.

What Does Happy Look Like? is available from Autism Asperger Publishing Co., www.asperger.net.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Paper circulation beats blog analytics

Now that I blog regularly, I decided to revisit a poem that I submitted a few years ago to the Lake County Arts Council website. Originally written in 2006, the poem addressed people who actively blog (or otherwise electronically distribute their work) but never submit letters to the newspaper.

Biased Media: An Argument

“Media bias” has nothing to do
with your absence from the first draft of history.
Was it “media bias” that prompted you,
once you had set up your blog,
to cease writing letters to the editor?
And is it “media bias” that restricts your writing
to the members of your yahoo group
or your e-mail address book?
Newspapers don’t censor the opinions
of people who refuse to share them,
who entrench themselves and limit their reach
to the members of their cyber-cocoon.
Stop blaming the “media bias”
and look in the mirror instead.
Copyright © August 2006 by Cynthia M. Parkhill
To start with, I like blogging. I like it a lot. And the librarian in me loves the subject tags that make my entries accessible:
“bias,” “blogging,” “censorship,” “communication,” “email,” “hashtags,” “journalism,” “Lake County Arts Council,” “Lake County Record-Bee,” “letters to the editor,” “MediaNews Group,” “newspapers,” “poetry,” “Twitter.”
Any and all of these access points will direct readers to this entry in my blog.

Back in 2006 I wrote the poem because I was aware that people communicated among their own entrenched groups but appeared to have no interest in engaging with a larger community.

Even more troubling were people who claimed that “biased media” refused to print their views when there was no evidence that they had ever submitted a letter to the local papers’ newsrooms.

I thought then that people should make use of the forums that are provided via local media. In 2012, an active blogger myself, I still hold to this view.

Because as much as I like blogging, my site analytics show a very small audience compared to people who read the print edition of the Lake County Record-Bee. Media News Group circulation figures for the Record-Bee show an average circulation of 6,291, citing ABC FAS-FAX circulation averages for six months ending Sept. 30, 2009.

In comparison my most widely-accessed post,“I edit for people-first language”, drew 132 views. The next most widely-accessed posts were “Evaluation role is natural for curation team” with 85 views and “Useful questions for information literacy” with 81.

(These posts are unique because they were part of a collective online dialogue. Hashtag use and influential re-tweeters helped to boost their views.)

So Record-Bee print circulation clearly has my blog site analytics beat.

Factor in the Record-Bee website, which publishes letters to the editor, and how many more thousands of people will read my submissions than if I only blog?

So even though I am now an active blogger, I continue to believe that people who blog should also submit writings to the media. The local news source may decline to print my submission, in which case there is still my blog -- but it may accept it, in which case how many more readers with whom to engage in dialogue?

Published July 17, 2012 in the Lake County Record-Bee

Saturday, July 7, 2012

‘Straphanger: Making a Case for Public Transport’

Cover art: Straphanger
Cover image: Straphanger by Taras Grescoe
To my list of must-read books, add Straphanger by Taras Grescoe (Times Books, 2012). An excerpt from the book’s introduction is published at utne.com.

Grescoe, like me, is a straphanger,” defined as “somebody who, by choice or necessity, relies on public transport, rather than a privately owned automobile.”

According to Grescoe, for the vast majority of the earth’s population, getting around involves taking buses, ferryboats, commuter trains, streetcars and subways:
“Half the population of New York, Toronto, and London do not own cars. Public transport is how most of the people of Asia and Africa, the world’s most populous continents, travel. Every day, subway systems carry 155 million passengers, thirty-four times the number carried by all the world’s airplanes, and the global public transport market is now valued at $428 billion annually. A century and a half after the invention of the internal combustion engine, private car ownership is still an anomaly.”
“And yet public transportation, in many minds, is the opposite of glamour — a squalid last resort for those with one too many impaired driving charges, too poor to afford insurance, or too decrepit to get behind the wheel of a car. In much of North America, they are right: taking mass transit is a depressing experience. Anybody who has waited far too long on a street corner for the privilege of boarding a lurching, overcrowded bus, or wrestled luggage onto subways and shuttles to get to a big city airport, knows that transit on this continent tends to be underfunded, ill-maintained, and ill-planned. Given the opportunity, who wouldn’t drive? Hopping in a car almost always gets you to your destination more quickly.”
Grescoe argues that it doesn’t have to be like this: 
“Done right, public transport can be faster, more comfortable, and cheaper than the private automobile. In Shanghai, German-made magnetic levitation trains skim over elevated tracks at 266 miles an hour, whisking people to the airport at a third of the speed of sound. In provincial French towns, electric-powered streetcars run silently on rubber tires, sliding through narrow streets along a single guide rail set into cobblestones. From Spain to Sweden, Wi-Fi equipped high-speed trains seamlessly connect with highly ramified metro networks, allowing commuters to work on laptops as they prepare for same-day meetings in once distant capital cities. In Latin America, China, and India, working people board fast-loading buses that move like subway trains along dedicated busways, leaving the sedans and SUVs of the rich mired in dawn-to-dusk traffic jams. And some cities have transformed their streets into cycle-path freeways, making giant strides in public health and safety and the sheer livability of their neighborhoods — in the process turning the workaday bicycle into a viable form of mass transit.”
Bus rider's pass in hand-made brocade ID pouch on laniard
Hand-made brocade ID pouch
on lanyard holds my bus rider’s pass
As someone who abandoned automobile use in favor of public transit, I appreciate the optimism with which Grescoe approaches his subject. Rising gas prices made auto commuting unaffordable and, at the same time, I wanted to reduce my impact on the environment.

One of the best investments my family makes each month is my Lake Transit rider’s pass.

According to Grescoe, a revolution is going on in the way people travel: “It is rewriting the DNA of formerly car-centered cities, making the streets better places to be, and restoring something cities sorely need: real public space.”

I am proud to be a part of that revolution.

Read the excerpt from Grescoe’s book at http://www.utne.com/print-article.aspx?id=2147493211.

Straphanger can be found through the combined catalog system of our Lake, Mendocino and Sonoma County libraries. Copies are shelved at the Lakeport and Petaluma libraries (388.4 GRESCOE).

Friday, July 6, 2012

Cat portraits on exhibit to benefit SPCA

Cat paintings by Sheila Bowen Soderlund at Art House Gallery in Clearlake
Cat paintings by Sheila Bowen Soderlund at Art House Gallery in Clearlake
Photo by Denise Rockenstein/Lake County Publishing
A story by Denise Rockenstein in today’s Lake County Record-Bee details an exhibit of cat paintings by Sheila Bowen Soderlund at the Art House Gallery in Clearlake.

The Art House Gallery is located at 15210 Lakeshore Drive and is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.The article states that Soderlund, who died in June, was an avid cat lover. The exhibit features 18 portraits of cats:

“‘Sheila and her husband never turned away a lost cat and always had six to eight living in their barn and around their home,’ Soderlund’s sister, Carolyn Hawley, said. ‘While running their antique and collectibles shop for 50 years, she found time to paint and the bulk of her paints were portraits of her beloved cats.’”
I can relate to this exhibit because of my own love for cats.

According to the article, a portion of sale proceeds will be directed toward the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in an effort to reduce the cat euthanasia rate in Lake County. For more information, call 707-994-1716.


Published July 10, 2012 in the Lake County Record-Bee

Middletown library project halfway toward completion

That the Middletown Senior Center/Library project is near its halfway point toward completion is welcome news to this library volunteer.

Lake County Record-Bee staff reporter Denise Rockenstein reports in today’s newspaper that the project is approaching 50-percent completion. She cites Eric Seely, deputy county administrative officer.

I often walk past the construction site of the dual-use facility, which is located at 21256 Washington St. Each time, as I approach the site, I look for a bright-yellow crocheted tag that announces a “New Library.” I am happy that the site’s caretakers have allowed it to remain in place.

From the existing library, I have a clear view of the new Middletown Square Park.

According to Rockenstein’s article, the park is being developed by the Lake County Public Works Department in cooperation with a volunteer park committee.

As stated in the article:
“Seely said the building is expected to be completed this winter and the park is expected to be completed next spring.
“‘The western side of the park was completed in time for Middletown Days in June,’ Seely said. ‘The park and building will provide the community with an attractive gathering place in the center of Middletown.’
“The dual-use facility comprises a total of 12,377 square feet, including 4,400 square feet of senior center space, 5,450 square feet of public library space and 2,527 square feet of common area. Plumbing, electrical, heating and duct work is completed.”
The article states that the cost to construct the building is approximately $3,700,000 and the cost for the park is about $140,000. It cites Seely stating that the bulk of funding comes from the Lake County general fund.
“Additional funding for the building includes a $545,000 Community Development Block Grant; $40,000 in Indian Gaming Mitigation funds; and $50,000 from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Community Facilities Program.”
To this list, add proceeds from the recent Friends of the Gibson Library (FMGL) sale. During Middletown Days I was at the library to shelve but found time to fill a bag with books.

A letter from David Petri, president of FMGL, states that the sale during Middletown Days raised $877.50. “[T]he money will be used for learning materials for the new library, currently under construction.”

According to Rockenstein’s article, additional park funding came from public donations. I’ve seen notices at Hardester’s Market in Middletown inviting shoppers to donate their change for the park. In the article, Seely credits Supervisor Jim Comstock for donating park topsoil.

Read Rockenstein’s article online at http://www.record-bee.com/ci_21016612/senior-center-project-nears-halfway-point.

Published July 10, 2012 in the Lake County Record-Bee

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Kate Wolf Festival has ‘green’ emphasis

Jonathan spent this past weekend at the Kate Wolf Festival, where he worked in our friend Evan’s clothing booth. The festival takes place each year at Black Oak Ranch in Laytonville, home to the Hog Farm and Camp Winnarainbow circus camp.

Journalism Accelerator: social media post worth bookmarking

Journalism Accelerator logo: "JA" white on green background
The “four-step guerilla guide to social listening” on the Journalism Accelerator blog is an entry worth bookmarking. The author, Jacob Caggiano, presents an overview of social “listening” tools.

From the moment I set up Google Alerts for online mentions of my name, I was engaged in social “listening.” And as detailed in the overview, there are many more tools at a social media manager’s disposal.

Caggiano divides social media monitoring into a four-step process, with tools reviewed at each step of the way: Discover, Analyze, Manage and Integrate.

Among those mentioned, I use Tweetdeck when managing Twitter activity for two Northern California newspapers. It helps me track staff reporters’ tweets and designated hashtag activity, alerts me to mentions and allows me to post updates as one or both of the newspapers.

I look forward to experimenting with some of the other tools that are detailed in the blog. I think the JA overview will be of value to people in a variety of industries who wish to monitor social media more effectively.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Zombie Journalism: Newsrooms should promote ‘reading local’

Blogging at Zombie Journalism, Mandy Jenkins suggests that as outsourced news grows, local newsrooms should promote buying (and reading) local.

Jenkins cites a story, broadcast by This American Life, about the “hyperlocal news company” Journatic, which uses a “largely foreign workforce to assemble local data, rewrite press releases and parrot online obituaries for eventual publication on local and hyperlocal news sites from likes of the Chicago Tribune, Houston Chronicle and Newsday.”

Having similarly argued for the value of supporting journalists who live and work in the communities they cover, I agree with Jenkins that exposure of Journatic provides a tremendous opportunity to people who work in local news: “It is up to us to show our readers where we’re coming from.”

As Jenkins states:
“‘Buying American’ and ‘Shopping Local’ have become a priority to some American consumers on goods from clothes to veggies – so why not newspapers? We should encourage our readers to ‘Read Local’.
“For local journalists, there is no better time to show our readers that we are them. We live in the same neighborhoods. We shop at the same grocery stores. We attend the same local festivals and root for the same football teams. Our kids attend the same schools. We may have even gone to high school together.”
Jenkins offers several suggestions for journalists to engage with their readers: sharing observations on social media, writing or contributing to a blog, holding live chats with readers and meeting readers in person.

“Being there,” Jenkins states,  “will give us more than any outsourced news factory could ever hope to replicate. This is our strength – and we need to take better advantage of it.”