Monday, May 23, 2016
Before I dig into an epic I've been trying to get at for many years, Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, I've recently finished West of Sunset, Jurassic Park, and A Doubter's Almanac.
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton is obviously the most classic of these. Somewhere between horror and science fiction, the book is a page turner that is better than any of the four films in the series, all of which I've since watched with my 8-year-old Jackson, who loves them. The book has more detail about the dinosaurs and several scenes that are left out of the movie, like at the start when a little girl gets pecked apart by mini reptiles on the mainland of Costa Rica away from the island where the human-created creatures are supposed to be contained.
5 out of 5 stars
A Doubter's Almanac, is an epic and every bit as much of a page-turner as Jurassic Park. But it's gripping because it explores the dynamics of a family over generations that has a gift (or is it?) for mathematics. Nobody is better at nuanced characterization than Canin, and this touching story about how we never truly know all that much about our parents' lives is no exception. Not as great as For Kings and Planets, but as good as his most recent, America America, and a must-read.
5 out of 5 stars
West of Sunset. I've always struggled to read The Crack Up and anything else at the end of F. Scott Fitzgerald's life, but Stewart O'Nan makes it easy to dig into and transplant ourselves into the final days of Fitzgerald, which is a fascinating and sad place to be. Still devoted to his wife Zelda and daughter Scottie but separated by the country, the author hunkers down in Los Angles to reap increasingly disappointing returns on his movie scriptwriting. His health is failing as famous characters like Ernest Hemingway and Humphrey Bogart drift in and out of his life. This is impossible-to-put-down fictional history.
4.5 out of 5 stars
Friday, May 20, 2016
This article first appeared at Mobility Lab.
- Making sure it works with existing transportation systems
- Acquiring land rights and making cross-jurisdictional agreements
- Quantifying how regional economies react, and
- Determining its impact on the environment.
- How much will it cost?
- How safe is it?
- How reliable is it? and
- How comfortable will the riding experience be?
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Rolling Stone Magazine recently has a cover feature by my favorite contemporary rock biographer, Mikal Gilmore. Here are the most interesting things the article told us about one of New York's finest, up there with the likes of the Velvet Underground, Lou Reed, The Strokes, Television, De La Soul, Gumball, Steely Dan, Kiss, Beastie Boys, Sonic Youth, Public Enemy, Simon and Garfunkel, Madonna, Talking Heads, and Vampire Weekend.
- All four original members are dead, and guitarist Johnny Ramone rarely ever talked with singer Joey Ramone over the course of the band's 22-year history.
- Joey was diagnosed as schizophrenic in his teens and told he would be a vegetable, but he claims rock totally saved him. Cool.
- Their name originated from Paul McCartney, who used to call himself Paul Ramon when checking into hotels to keep from being detected.
- The reason they sounded so poppy was because they were way more influenced by bands like the Beach Boys and Bay City Rollers than other punkers like the Stooges and MC5.
- Phil Spector produced End of the Century, insisting that the band stay at his mansion during the sessions, and once pulling a gun on Dee Dee Ramone for attempting to leave.
- Johnny's dying wish was that someone would de-Spectorize End of the Century.
- Johnny took Joey's girlfriend away and married her.
- Rolling Stone named the Ramones' 1976 self-titled album the best punk record ever.
- Joey suffered from OCD and, already suffering from lymphoma, had to go retrace his steps one night and in the process fell and broke his hip. That caused his cancer treatments to be cancelled temporarily and it basically killed him at age 49 in 2001. Marky Ramone was the only band mate to come visit him at the hospital.
- In 2002, Dee Dee died of a heroin overdose and in 2004, Johnny died of prostate cancer. Tommy died in 2015, also of cancer.
Thursday, May 5, 2016
Our specialty where I am communications director at Mobility Lab is how people think about their transportation options. Seems pretty straight-forward, right? But really, we've found that people are mostly sleepwalking through these decisions, accepting that they will climb into a car and drive alone somewhere without even thinking there could be options.
We think things like Uber, Lyft, electric and driverless vehicles, and even new trends like bikesharing, the return of carpooling, and working from home are starting to make changes in our societal sleepwalking.
At first glance, this article I was quoted in yesterday in The Daily Dot, a respectable online news source that has been around since 2011 and is mainly geared towards millennials, seems similarly off-kilter. But it looks pretty smartly at one issue policy-makers will surely consider in the years ahead: when we no longer need our hands on the steering wheel and our feet on the pedals, will we do new things while traveling in cars down the road? New things like having sex. And is that a good or bad thing?
For now, our take on it is this:
"Having sex in a driverless vehicle seems like a pretty wacky concern, but it’s actually good foresight by Barrie Kirk [the cofounder of a Canadian autonamated-vehicle research group]. After all, much of the reason car companies and governments are so hopeful about driverless cars is because distracted driving has made car travel so dangerous in the first place," Paul Mackie, communications director at the transportation research organization Mobility Lab, said in an email. "Once driverless cars are fully on the roads, there is no doubt many, many lives will be saved. And if that means more texting, sleeping, and having sex in those vehicles as they move down the highway, well, we as a society will be much better for it.”The article goes on to poll a small sampling of 211 people. And 81 percent of them say they would "have sex while riding in a driverless car." I wonder if those numbers would be any different if we polled Mobility Lab's audience in comparison to The Daily Dot's readers. It seems pretty safe to say you could poll any group and the number would be high for any question that begins, "would you have sex while ______."
In the end, I again agree that this may seem like a wacky issue, but safety is a major focus of the U.S. federal government's $4 billion investment to bring driverless cars into the mainstream. So by the time fully autonomous vehicles are all over the road, it seems that laws will be in place to curtail distracted behavior.
One out of four accidents in the U.S. is caused by texting and driving, way more often than accidents from drunk driving. It’s a national epidemic that isn’t going to get any better as we love our devices more and more. And driverless cars are having an easier time being accepted into the mainstream because future generations are excited about being able to text and be productive while they get places in a car. Better still if it’s a shared car because you don’t have to park it, make monthly payments on it, or take it to the shop for repairs.
Photo by Simon Lefebvre in Flickr.
Friday, April 22, 2016
Take a look at this two-minute video I appear in and co-produced with Astro Cinema for Mobility Lab.
I think it does a good job of describing "transportation demand management," which is an industry that has often had trouble diving itself and reaps bigger societal rewards than it is often given credit for.
As you watch, you'll no doubt easily understand what these transportation experts are talking about, and you'll be inspired to do a little bit of your own TDM (even if you'll never ever in your life actually say that you're "doing TDM").
Further, the video seems to be doing its job nicely, with about 500 views on YouTube and 400 on Facebook in just its first two days of release. Not bad for a "only" little topic.
Friday, April 15, 2016
I recently wrote an article on Mobility Lab calling for transit agencies to launch a full-on effort to make commercials for transit that are as enticing as the many excellent car commercials that the auto industry has been pumping out for decades.
As a communications professional, it's often difficult to show exact influence and results of the blogs, videos, tweets, and other materials we create. But when The Rapidian, Grand Rapid's local citizen-run newspaper, published an article this week, Mobility Lab can be proud to see that our advocacy has had a direct success.
Brittany Schlacter leads off her article this way:
Paul Mackie, one of the nation’s foremost mass transit bloggers and the communications director of the Virginia-based nonprofit research organization Mobility Lab, recently posed this challenge to America’s public transportation industry’s leaders:
“Where are the Super Bowl-esque ads about public transportation? Where are all the transit ads representing freedom to explore and observe, safety, good health, cost savings, sustainability, community, patriotism, and happiness? Transit communications needs to catch up if transit and alternate modes ever hope to catch on.”
At The Rapid, we have embraced Mackie’s challenge. We are launching a new campaign that informs the Greater Grand Rapids region about the merits of public transportation through simple, powerful, consistent and, most importantly, positive messages about the experience.Transit communications needs to catch up if transit ever hopes to catch on. The Rapid presents a start.
Thursday, April 7, 2016
Not that the drivers aren't performing a great service and all. Who doesn't love to get an anticipated package in the mail?
But one way to solve a major source of traffic congestion may just be R2D2. Someone tweeted that the idea of using robots for mail delivery sounds "like a late April Fool's Day joke."
But it's no joke. The robots are on their way. A feature article on this topic appears on the front page of today's San Francisco Chronicle. The full article is here, and, representing Mobility Lab, I get the first and last quotes in the article:
“These R2D2-like drones ... make a lot of sense for particularly dense places, like city centers, where freight and delivery vehicles are simply running out of space on the roads during rush hours and lunchtimes,” said Paul Mackie, a spokesman for the Mobility Lab, which researches advanced transportation options.
“As cities reimagine themselves to become more walkable, livable places, sidewalks have a central role to play,” said Mackie, the transport futurist. “More and more, people are demanding outdoor living rooms like plazas, sidewalk benches, fountains, cafes and street trees. Frankly, these robots fit into such a landscape much better and much more attractively than the delivery vans and trucks of old.”