Thursday, May 28, 2009

Look, Up In The Sky!

Early Sunday evening, the peace and quiet of a beautiful Memorial Day weekend was interrupted by the thwack-thwack-thwack of a helicopter circling the Barret Street Marsh at such a low altitude that at some moments it was below the tree tops.

Here's what I'm talking about

I took that picture with my cell phone, and as I rode down the bike path, along Jackson Street, and then down Barret Street, I saw a lot of other people out watching the helicopter and taking their own pictures with their own cell phones. Seeing the helicopter circling around was thrilling and it got me thinking about possible reasons for why it could be there: manhunt? Bear? Moose? Sasquatch? Missing person?

What struck me as kind of ironic is that so many people had these great little devices packed full of technology, but they couldn't help us at all to answer the one question we had on our minds: what was going on? I had to wait until the next day to find out what all the hub-bub was about. And that kind of took all the fun out of it.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Fear the Typo Because People Like Me Are Watching

I live in fear of the typo. Not so much here on this blog, because they're easy to fix when they occur and I've never really gotten the sense that my readers are the type of people who would take me to task over such a transgression. In my professional life, however, where I deal with words in various printed pieces, I live in fear of a typo getting past me and onto the page where it will mock me until we can redo the piece in question.

So you might think that I'd be more sympathetic to those who put words into print (or other media) only to see a mistake in the final product. I like to think that I am, for the most part, sympathetic, but this one I couldn't pass on: is a big website, in terms of the technology and manpower behind it and in terms of traffic. And of course, since it's such a big website, it can cost a lot to advertise on it, especially if you're doing one of those take-up-the-whole-screen ads like this company is doing. So, with so much at stake, you'd think that someone would have caught the fact that the saying is worn OUT your welcome, and not worn your welcome. Yet, there it is, for all to see.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Early Morning Insult

When I go to the Y and work out, I sweat a lot. I'm not saying this fact is good or bad; I'm just saying it like it is.

And I'm saying it because I think my diaphoresis my have contributed a bit to the look the woman gave me as I left the Y yesterday morning.

Now, I realize that after I work out, I don't really look my best. But I don't think my appearance was really so bad that it warranted the scowl the woman gave me as I was leaving the Y and she was walking in. But the worst part was when she clicked her remote control to make sure her car was locked as I walked by.

I thought exercise was supposed to make you look good?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

My Bike Commute Week Adventure

2009 Bike Commute Week Breakfast

It's National Bike-to-Work week,which is also known around here as Bike Commute Week. It's a great time to promote bicycle usage and safety and for me personally to get back in the habit of riding my bike to work, now that it's May and the weather is supposed to be nicer.

To push myself back in the habit, I marked this week on my mental calendar and told myself that I'd be riding to work all this week. Then, even though I had the whole weekend to prepare, on Monday, I had to abandon my plans because I couldn't find my pannier, my gloves, or other necessary gear. On Tuesday I didn't ride in because I'd run at the Y in the morning, and I was just too tired.

But Wednesday, which was also the day of the annual Bike Commuter Breakfast on the courthouse lawn in Northampton, I was committed to riding to work on Wednesday. On Tuesday night, I made sure that I everything ready to go. Work clothes? Check. Riding clothes, gloves, helmet? Check. Pannier? Check.

And then I woke up later than I wanted to on Wednesday morning and oh, did I mention that it was 36 degrees outside? However, I didn't let those potential setbacks get in my way: I packed my bag, hopped on my bike, and made it to the breakfast, where I ate some banana bread, grabbed an area trail map, and even picked up a bar of soap that was made from a process that involves pedaling a bike.

When I left the breakfast, I knew I was running a little late for work, but I was so full of do-gooder endorphins that I didn't think that much about it--after all, what's more important, getting to work on time or helping to save the planet?

As I rode to work, I had time to think about the day ahead of me. I also had time to go over yet again the checklist of everything I needed to bring with me. I did this because I had a nagging feeling that I'd forgotten something. I had shoes. I had pants. I had my tie, belt, socks, and shirt. And then it hit me: I'd forgotten my t-shirt.

Normally this might not be a big deal, but I'm more comfortable wearing a t-shirt and, frankly, I was counting on having the t-shirt to absorb some of the lingering sweat from my ride. For the ride, I wore a short-sleeved t-shirt, but it was dark green and wouldn't work under my white work shirt. I also wore a long-sleeved t-shirt, and the thought of two long-sleeved shirts all day long didn't appeal to me. So, once I got to work, I did the only thing I could think of: I cut the sleeves off of the long-sleeved t-shirt. And then I set about changing into my work clothes.

By this time, I'm more than 20 minutes late, but that's okay; no one is looking over my shoulder. But then, as I'm getting dressed, I hear my boss's voice outside my door. He's asking my colleague whose desk sits outside my office where I am. I hear her say, "he's here, he's just getting ready."

I think it's worth mentioning that my boss works in a different building, and in the last six months, he has been over to my office maybe three times.

So now, I have to speed up the process and figure out how "dressed" I have to be before I can open my office door and talk to the boss. Can I talk to him without shoes on? Probably not. Without a tie? Yes, that's probably okay.

I get as dressed as I can, as quickly as I can, open the door and greet my boss. We talk about a rather inconsequential matter, and then he leaves. That's when I notice that the large Give Blood logo on my t-shirt is clearly visible through my dress shirt. And I haven't really stopped sweating. So, it' back to the office to take off my shirts so that I can put on my faux undershirt inside-out and backwards, to hide the logo as best I can.

I love riding my bike and I try to do it as often as I can, and I had a pretty good record last year of riding my bike to work, but too many things got in the way, most notably my marathon training which often called for workouts that left me with no time and no energy to ride to work. I'll keep on trying (today I didn't because the forecast calls for rain, and I have to be home right after work to get ready for some Cal Ripken baseball), but I don't think that biking to work should be so hard. Or, to put it more accurately, that I'd be so wimpy about it.

Happy Bike to Work Week everyone!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

May Day! May Day!

I can't really quite believe that it's actually May already. The rainy and cold spring has not been pleasant, more like a cruel tease than a season of renewal. Even those hot, hot days we had in April had a touch of meanness to them, for being too hot, too soon.

But the leaves are sprouting on the trees at a furious pace and we're trying desperately to figure out what the kids will do this summer. And another sure sign of spring happens this weekend with the Jackson Street School Spring Gala. This is a great fundraising event that will take place on Saturday at the Northampton Center for the Arts. Good food, good people, and great items to bid on in the silent auction.

Of course, this fundraising comes during one of the worst years, budgetarily speaking, for the schools and the City of Northampton. Override talk has been growing steadily over the past few weeks, and tomorrow night the City Council will take its second vote on whether to put the override question on the ballot.

I'm not happy about the need for an override, mainly because I can't shake the feeling that we're all fighting over crumbs. The problem is much bigger than the budget gap the City faces right now--it has to do with how Massachusetts distributes local aid and how the biggest budget item the City has--the school system--is funded. But I'm going to vote for the Override, and as part of the Vote Yes! team, I will be encouraging you to do the same, because while an Override won't solve all of our problems, it will give us, I hope, more time and money to figure out a way to solve the problem.

Of course, it's always possible that someone will bid $6 million for the Look Park Family Pack that will be available at the auction on Saturday.