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In 2008, my hometown of Wilmington, Ohio was in the midst of an economic hurricane. The small rural town was in the early stages of confronting the loss of more than 8,500 jobs after DHL Express announced that it would be ending its operations at the Wilmington Air Park.
Like many young people from small, rural communities, Mark Rembert and I (co-founders of Energize Clinton County) had left Wilmington immediately after high school. We went away to college and then worked and lived on the east coast in Philadelphia and New York. In the fall of 2008, when the departure of DHL began, we both found ourselves crossing paths in Wilmington. I returned after my Peace Corps program in Bolivia was evacuated and encountered Mark, who was home preparing to depart in February of 2009 for his Peace Corps assignment in Ecuador.More
I’ve attended leadership classes and listened to my most empathic friends explain that a critical element of all successful collaboration is finding middle ground or meeting people part way. No kidding. They also tell me earnestly that neither reasonable discourse nor clearly stated expectations nor chest thumping yield maximum results. I appreciate their good intentions, but that’s about as useful as being reminded I need the “right tool for the job.” Platitudes aren’t the correct tool for any job. What I’d really like is a trail map, however crude, that reveals the hallowed “middle ground.”
A full-on map is probably asking too much. So how about some waypoints? Those you can find. For example, it turns out that a person's perspective about time will influence their choices and behavior. In a May 2010 presentation to the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA), Dr. Phillip Zimbardo, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Stanford University, explains that perspectives on time can shape an entire nation. How people organize personal experiences, their perspectives about how long things last, and pace, among other factors, influence whether people are future oriented, past oriented or present oriented. Dr. Zimbardo suggests “many of life’s puzzles” and even conflict “can be solved by understanding your perspective of time and that of others.”More
From within the soft body of a squid emerges a hard tooth-like beak, as described in this report from the journal Science. This beak enables the squid to eat mollusks and is apparently one of the toughest organic materials around, and yet it’s somehow merged with what the report calls the squid’s “soft buccal envelope”—the soft, fleshy part of the creature. How does this work? How does something so sharp and pointy connect to something so squishy? It turns out there’s no specific place where the hard part ends and the soft part begins; rather, the beak is composed of materials that exhibit a gradient from hard to soft. It is this essential adaptation that enables the squid to eat what it needs to survive.More
When I woke at 4:57am today in rural Vermont, I realized I had been woken by birdsong. The air was so packed with it you couldn't distinguish one call from the next. There was no starting and stopping; it was full on, full-throated and loud, startlingly so. My two-year-old woke up asking for milk and a spot in my bed. Neither of us fell back asleep.
Lying there in the half-light, I remembered waking up in New York City when I lived there a decade ago and what that sounded like: traffic, traffic, store front shields scraping up for the day, sirens, more traffic—a tinny, grinding, cacophonous din, which sometimes, for reasons I never figured out, became a hum that could sound like surf if you forgot where you were (which was never easy). Heavy snowfall was the only thing capable of muffling the City into, not silence, but a constrained quietude. And for a few hours—if we were lucky…the spell could be broken in minutes—all of Manhattan became a blanketed leviathan, a feverish heart in the chest of a submerging whale, an entombed anthill writ large. That’s when we’d get out our skis and slice right down the center of 2nd Avenue or up Broadway to the sparkling stretches of Central Park bordered on all sides by the city, uprising enormously in all its geometric force and certainty. But it was soft in the middle, and we sluiced along.More
Many cities and towns are looking to Form Based Codes (FBC) as a way to combat the woes enabled by traditional single use zoning (e.g. the loss of historic neighborhoods, sprawling development patterns, increasing reliance on the automobile, to name a few). In a nutshell, FBC regulates how a building relates to its surrounding environment and less so on the building’s actual use (I’m oversimplifying here…for a better definition check out the Form Based Code Institute).
Many great communities share a particular DNA—the scale of the buildings, the width of the streets, the mix of uses, etc. Just as slight variations in DNA result in different people, slight variations in land use regulations can lead to different places. These differences can be essential to retaining what makes our cities and towns unique.More
For most Denverites, summer weekends involve a Subaru or Toyota, a tent and a two-hour drive to the mountains. Last weekend, I threw my tent in the “way back” of my friend’s Four Runner and headed to South Park, Colorado.
I trust that you’ve all seen an episode or two of South Park—the irreverent adult cartoon that gained infamy as a result of one of the Internet’s first viral videos. But did you know that South Park is indeed an actual region of the Colorado Rockies? Host of a handful of towns that boast a combined population of about 1,500, South Park is also home to several thousand cattle, gold medal trout fishing, fabulous camping and beautiful mountain vistas.
Last Saturday afternoon, we stashed our fishing rods, peeled off our waders and headed to McCall’s bar in Fairplay, Colorado. With a year-round population of 610, Fairplay is the booming metropolis of South Park. What could make us abandon the abundance of rainbow and brown trout just begging to be caught on the Middle Fork of the South Platte, you ask? The answer is simple: USA vs. Ghana.More
This morning I sat down with my two-year-old son to read a book called Harry and the Lady Next Door. Though I’ve been familiar with the story since my own childhood, a hidden story within the story revealed itself to me today. But let’s start with the basic premise:
Harry (our protagonist) is a small, friendly, spotted dog of the terrier variety, who loves “all his neighbors…all except one.” The neighbor in question is the infamous Lady Next Door (antagonist), who sings incessantly, very high and very loud, which of course hurts Harry’s sensitive ears. She sings higher than the peanut man’s whistle, louder than the siren on the fire engine, higher and louder than all of the neighborhood cats put together. So Harry sets out to make her stop.More
The Maine Arts Commission has launched a new initiative called Creative Communities = Economic Development, which makes “substantial awards to communities that will allow cultural organizations to become strong partners in their communities’ development, leveraging collaboration between cultural, municipal and economic development interests.” Executive Director Donna McNeil says she was “tremendously inspired” by the Foundation’s Heart & Soul work in Maine (and by Bill Roper’s talk last year at the Friends of Midcoast Maine’s annual meeting). McNeil wants to give the arts and culture sector a voice in larger community economic development planning, where they are usually undervalued or overlooked.
The project will help put the State’s Quality of Place Initiative into action, “putting your money where your mouth is,” so to speak, by offering two $50,000 grants to Maine cultural organizations in partnership with a municipality. Successful applicants, “should be on the precipice of redevelopment with culture as a central player and demonstrate that these funds will function as a ‘tipping point.’” Other criteria include a commitment of leadership, collaboration, and public engagement, including youth.More