Boston Olympic Bid

I just read an NY Times article titled, In Boston Olympic Bid Vote, More at Stake than Games. I have a lot of feelings about this article, this topic, and the debate in general.

The article seems to delve into bizarre and (at least to me) secondary, if not tertiary issues related to Boston’s bid. If the USOC lost the Boston bid to a referendum due in November 2015, it would :

  • Lead to reductions in television rights fees and corporate sponsorships–the US market is a key supporter of the games
  • Undermine considerable efforts to overhaul a dysfunctional American Olympic committee and repair a once-tattered relationship with the IOC

Those aren’t even in my top 3,000 reasons I do not want the games held in Boston. Perhaps the strangest part of the article is this:

Mr. Davey said one of his goals was to show that the bid organizers are listening to [resident] concerns and that someday residents will feel they own the Olympics the way they own the Boston Marathon.

“No one has suggested that we should cancel the Boston Marathon in two weeks, which has three times as many athletes and as many spectators on the highest day of the Olympics,” Mr. Davey said.

“That’s because the city owns the Marathon,” he said. “Where we need to get to, and this is where the public process comes into play, is that the city of Boston needs to own this, not a small group of individuals, and we’re beginning that now.”

Okay, first, the Boston Marathon was established in 1897, it is the longest-running Marathon in the world. Second, the city does own the Marathon, it is an important civic event that brings people from across the Globe to our little city to watch a road race and enjoy the triumph of spring over winter. The entire 23-mile stretch is shut down, it is, in fact, a city-wide holiday in Boston-proper–Patriot’s Day–which commemorates the beginning of the American Revolution.

Second, while the Marathon “has three times as many athletes and as many spectators on the highest day of the Olympics” the Marathon lasts the length of a long weekend–the Olympics lasts three weeks. It’s fun to have the city bursting at the seams for a few days, it would get tiresome quickly, however.

The passing acknowledgement of the resident concerns, specifically the opacity of the process, grave issues with the city’s public transportation system, and the lack of public engagement appear to be written off as obstacles that must be overcome rather than as fatal or even legitimate flaws.

The Olympics is a fantastic sporting event, but from a planning perspective it constitutes a catastrophic tornado that destroys cities–both physically and financially–leaving them with hulking infrastructure that can not possibly be effectively reutilized or maintained.

I am part of a growing number of people who would like to see two permanent sites for the games: one for summer and one for winter. This would allow a local industry to grow up around the games and provide world-class training facilities to athletes whose nations cannot support the cost.

I do not support the Boston 2024 bid, and I hope the residents of the City voice their concerns loudly this November.

The Tempeh District

While at work, I was compiling a list of Muni Metro stops for a project. It turns out that Muni has no useful comprehensive list of stops, but Wikipedia does. Going to Wikipedia is never a good thing to do when you’ve got work to finish. I dove down the rabbit hole, and wound up on the page for the Tenderloin District. Last night at a BBQ we were talking about the Tenderloin, and none of us knew when the Tenderloin became the Tenderloin. That is, is the Tenderloin a center for the homeless and addicted because of its proximity to social services and the plethora of SROs or did those services locate in the area because the population existed there?

As it turns out, it seems to be a bit of a self-reinforcing process. However, that is not the point of this tale. After reading about the history of the district, I got to the bottom of the article where it says the following,

In March 2011, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Vice President Tracy Reiman sent Mayor Ed Lee a letter proposing for renaming of the neighborhood and suggesting alternative name like the Tempeh District, claiming “the city deserves a neighborhood named after a delicious cruelty-free food instead of the flesh of an abused animal”.

I feel like this very interaction sums up everything that is wrong with San Francisco. I actually clicked through to the sources for the article, since this seems like some sort of satirical/pseudo-performance social commentary art piece. The Onion couldn’t have come up with something better.

Battle of the Parking

Blizzards in Boston are a normal enough that we have a protocol. While the folks on the Weather Channel act like it’s the four horses of the apocalypse, most New Englanders pull out the flashlights, the shovel, and if they’re lucky, they light up a fire in their fireplace. I like to whip up a big batch of chili, I make sure I have emergency rations of gin and beer, and I dig into a book.

One thing I have loved since moving out into an apartment is that I am no longer responsible for shoveling the family driveway, my landlord takes care of that. I also no longer have a car, something that I have genuinely enjoyed, but never so much as the morning after a blizzard.

People take shoveling out parking spaces quite seriously, and why shouldn’t they? It can take a good thirty minutes of digging heavy, wet snow just to free the car, never mind deicing the windshield or busting open the frozen-shut doors. That is in addition to clearing public walkways in front of the home, something required by all the cities comprising Boston-metro.

It is unclear when parking savers were first instituted, but like many New England winter traditions, it has been embraced with a matter-of-fact, “Why of course, this is how it’s always been done.” The neighbors drag out the space saver of choice, whether it is an old, busted vacuum, a repurposed beach chair, or a big packing box left over from that last toilet paper purchase, it is a reminder to all, it’s mine ass holes.

Space savers aren’t actually public policy, they’re unofficial policy that comes “into effect” when the city declares a snow emergency. The golden rule is: you shovel it, you keep it. For 48-hours following a snow emergency, the public works department won’t remove or ticket anyone placing a space saver in whatever spot they have shoveled out.

Naturally, the space savers can cause some tension. In one recent altercation, a man arrived home to find a sawhorse in a parking space; he removed it and parked his car. Later that night, he witnessed a man shooting out his tires with a nail gun. Welcome to Southie. It is generally accepted that you can move a space saver, but you must be willing to accept what happens to your car.


I have the best friends. I really really do.

It’s hard sometimes to articulate what I do all day and why I find it interesting. In my Turkish class last week (yes, I take Turkish) we were talking about our weekend plans. Unfortunately, mine centered around working on a paper on parking and transportation demand management (riveting– and no that’s no sarcasm, I LOVE PARKING.) The conversation went something like this–all in Turkish:

Me: I am spending the weekend researching a paper.
Prof: What is the paper about?
Me: Uh, parking.
Prof: Parking? Do you mean parks?
Me: No, I mean, when you are driving a car, and then when you stop driving the car.
Prof: [In English] Parking?
Me: [Also in English] Yes. Parking, I study parking.
–Awkward silence–

I have similar experiences in bars, when people hear I study city planning they’re usually perplexed but intrigued in a positive way. Then, I promptly put my foot in my mouth by talking about one of my two favorite things: 1. Buses or 2. Demand-pricing. There’s plenty sexy about transportation planning, like Elon Musk’s Hyperloop, Google’s Self Driving Cars, or depending on the week, Tesla’s fancy new tech. Unfortunately, I like buses and I like parking. Womp, womp.

So, when a friend sent me this article, it warmed my heart. It’s a new musical about city planning which is pretty much just the very best news I have heard all week (I mean, it is only Tuesday.) And, with a quote like this, I need to figure out how to see this show:

There were some awkward moments when I burst out laughing only to realize everyone around me was silent. Doesn’t everyone think the line, “Teaching city planning in Phoenix is like teaching breathing on the moon,” is hysterical? What about, “They should never loan $150,000 to an urban studies major”? Or an exchange where one character suggests, “You’ll be happier in Albany,” and another responds, “Nobody’s happier in Albany.”

Ahhh, truth Truth.

Tourettes without Regrets

I was invited to “a stand up comedy thing” by a friend this week, and wanting to mix it up I said yes. “Stand up” doesn’t even begin to explain what happened last night in downtown Oakland. Toruettes without Regrets is best described as a variety show on crack, we walked in during the Haiku poetry slam battle, which was then followed by non-white people throwing meat in the faces of white people, which was followed by open mike story-telling.

In attempting to find any of my three favorite today, hoping someone had posted it somewhere on the interweb, I stumbled on an old-ish video that I saw about a year ago when it made the rounds. If you haven’t seen it, here it is below (get ready for your mind to explode):

It seems he had done some shows with Tourettes and I have to say, kid’s talented. This is one from a few years ago:

If I can find videos of last night, I know they were filming one for Snap Judgement, I’ll post it. But, next show is December 5, and man oh man, will I be there.

All the buildings

I listened to the newest 99% Invisible podcast “All the Buildings” where Roman interviewed artist James Gulliver Hancock who draws buildings in New York.

I like the idea of the way in which he has chosen to interact with cities he encounters. He talked about being in Berlin and drawing all the bicycles he encountered, not because Berlin is most about bicycles, but because that was what struck him about the city. I think it is somewhat poetic that he draws the buildings of New York, they’re the most immediate thing about the city.

Shipping with Amtrak: An Update

Blogging fell by the wayside for a while, but now that I’m more settled, I’ve resolved to get back to it. Then, I realized that I hadn’t done a post about my successful shipping via Amtrak.

It was awesome!

The shipping depot in Boston is super weird. It’s down behind South Station, over by tracks 11 and 12, and is only accessible by car via a street that looks like a non-street that spits you out in a security zone where some guard has to bring down the barrier for you to drive through (see below). BUT beyond that, it was super easy.

South Station Map


Once you get to Oakland, it’s really easy. You can just back right up to the door and load the boxes up. It took everything 5 days to get out here, they gave me a ring and were willing to hold my stuff for a few days if I couldn’t get a car to get out there (a great friend helped me out.) I moved my stuff for a total of $88.

Eighty-eight dollars. (I then proceeded to spend about $1,000 on crap at Ikea, but that’s another story.)

Brake Pads!

So I’m still fairly clueless when it comes to bike maintenance. I mean, I know how to screw a bell onto my handlebar, and other stupid stuff like that, but I’m still really intimidated by more intensive things like changing a flat. I know the logic is, you try and if you can’t do it, then just bring it to someone who knows what they’re doing. But I have a crazy amount of pride, and I would feel like an idiot if I seriously f-ed something up.

I think I get it from my mother. She rides in the PanMass Challenge each year as a cancer survivor (!!) and her first year, she bought a bike online and put it together herself. She trained on the bike and then while riding, she needed a flat changed. The PanMass has a whole hoard of mechanics that follow everyone and offer free tune ups and other assistance asa needed. Her mechanic took one look at the bike and said, “You can’t have been riding this the whole time.” As it turns out, she had screwed up the gears and only had use of one set rather than three. Also the handlebars were on backwards. Oops. 

So when I nearly careened into a parked car the other day, and I decided maybe my brake pads needed changing, I was a little intimidated… until I actually googled it. It is so comically easy. I feel like an idiot that I was so worried before. 

oldvsnewSo the top is a new brake, the bottom is my old one. Thaaaat’s why I nearly killed myself.

I went to Cambridge Bicycle and made sure that I was buying the right pads. I got some chain oil as well. I should be oiling my chain a lot more than I do. New Year’s resolution. Oil my bike chain with some regularity. It’s really easy, it’s just messy. 

image_1 image_2 
Old, then new. So easy. Just unscrew the piece holding the brake on, slide the used one out, then slide the new one in, screw it back on, repeat. Done. 

I also took it for a test ride to make sure I hadn’t really screwed anything up, and we were good! Maybe some day I’ll advance to changing my tires. At some point.