Tagged: walking

The beautiful road not yet taken

Remember when, before pervasive phone GPS, you actually asked for directions? You know, stopping a stranger on the street or pulling into a gas station and asking somebody working there and trying to write it down on a mapkin? If you’re not an american male, that is. Maybe it was awkward or ineffective, but the directions were personalized, and you could ask for all sorts of things not precisely shown on maps.

Via The Atlantic’s CityLab blog, I just learned that Yahoo! labs (!) has released a paper exploring “how mapping apps could theoretically generate short walking routes that are more beautiful or quiet than standard offerings.” Color me intrigued, and also excited about mapping that’s pedestrian based. Could a future mapping app plot me a course that optimized not for shortest distance or quickest time but for maximum beauty, minimum chance of an accident, or maybe even one that only uses the shady side of the street?

Yahoo! maps. Who knew?

The sub-head, “In the future, GPS directions may not always be destination-driven.” might be the most interestingly subversive idea in the piece. Who even says that a trip has to have a destination? Maybe the journey is the destination. Maybe you want your GPS to give you a scenic drive or walk of some duration or level of beauty. Maybe you want to explore Somerville and see as many Bathtub Marys as possible along the way.

Who knows when or if such things will ever become available, but I’m excited by the possibilities.  Until then, I recommend taking random walks when you can and also checking out some maps of imaginary places.

Aiming for aimlessness

In what passes for a breathless lede on the BBC, Finlo Rohrer writes,

A number of recent books have lauded the connection between walking – just for its own sake – and thinking. But are people losing their love of the purposeless walk?

It seems to me that if there’s a positive link between walking and thinking, then it’s not really so purposeless anymore, is it? Roher’s article lists all sorts of famous folks who are known to have enjoyed a good walk, and that’s not for the exercise value.

It’s hard for the modern overscheduled multitasker to accept the idea of “for its own sake” so I’ll make the observation that a random walk can deliver random insight, or on a more modest scale, a chance encounter with a new place or a new point of view.

a random find on a random walk

And for the modest price of admission, a small insight is more than good enough for me.

A random waddle

Sometimes I get excited about small things.  Some would say that’s the point of this blog.  Others would say, “that’s what she said.”  Today’s little fixation is the Random Redirect WordPress Plugin by Matt Mullenweg. I have implemented it near the top of the sidebar with a version of Det. Harry Callahan’s famous inquiry.  So give it a spin.  You gots to know, don’t you?

That’s a pretty thin post, even for me, so here are a couple of other random items.

World Run Day

Today is World Run Day, a global virtual event in which people so inclined run as far and as fast as they fell like, and some even raise money for charity doing it.  Some Boston-area folks are taking a 3.8-mile loop around the Charles River Basin today. I’m more likely to walk it, but I was pretty excited to learn about MapMyRun, an ad-ridden but still cool map mashup that lets you plot your route and share it with friends while compiling statistics on the route and your progress along it.  The elevation feature is exceptionally cool and (so I hear) useful for those in marathon training. Kudos also to the Librarian on the Run for having a cool blog and for starting her fundraising for Mass Eye & Ear for the 2009 Boston Marathon.

Things to Worry About

I discovered Jeff Cutler’s blog of things he claims we worry about via a random twitter encounter.  I have to suspect these might actually be Jeff’s own fears, but I can’t say they don’t often resonate.  It’s a bit like those Worst Case Scenarios books, but without any actual solutions or preventions for the disastrous scenarios.  For example:

Slotter Slaughter
That when you go play the slot machines in either Vegas, CT or RI, the new slot where you feed in money will grab your tie or handkerchief and strangle you unceremoniously. Which also leads me to wonder why anyone would have a ceremony for a strangling or any such event.

My general diagnosis is that Jeff should switch to wearing bowties.

Park and Pray

I noticed Park and Pray’s inaugural post, The Five City Parkers you Meet in Hell, via Universal Hub.  To my pleasant surprise, they have kept it up with a nice mix of parking news.  too bad they weren’t around when I did unsuccessful battle with lousy parking maps and poor signage at the Cambridge-Somerville neutral zone.  They describe Park and Pray thusly:

Chronicling the adventures of urban street parking, Park and Pray started in the unparkable jungle of cow path built spaghetti-grids that make up the Boston neighborhoods. A voicebox for the adventurous spot-hunter, we’ll report on just about anything with a cursory relationship to car ownership in the city.

They welcome tips – the informational kind – so check them out and share your parking stories.

Bead Babe Roz

As I’ve mentioned, I have a theoretical affection for Etsy, but haven’t yet been a customer.  Recently, I helped L photograph some jewelery for her mom’s Etsy site, which is now up and running.  So if you’re interested in some beady goodness for yourself or for a gift, head on over to Bead Babe Roz before she’s sold out for the holidays.

Power to the peds

Via ever-alert procrastinator N comes this bit on Environmental Graffiti: America’s Most Pedestrianized Cities. Much to my shock, Boston is rated #1, with 13% of the population walking to work. I’m not sure what definition of city or metro area they used, but I’m pleasantly surprised. Maybe its because public transportation is generally so lousy, or maybe they counted all the students.

Having only recently chucked a car commute for a subway one, I now wonder if I should consider hoofing it to work. The benefits – and the drawbacks – are pretty evident. A quick jaunt to the MBTA website and google maps netted me some data upon which to geek:

A drive to work (above) is 2.9 miles and theoretically 11 minutes. A trip on the red line (below) is ten minutes, plus 14 minutes walk time to and from the station (and apparently no waiting time?) totals 24 minutes according to the MBTA.

Assuming that I walk the driving route of 2.9 miles, I’d guesstimate it would take me around 45 minutes, maybe up to an hour, approximately twice the T time, with some exercise and a saving of $3-4 a day depending on the type of T pass I buy. A close call in nice weather, a no brainer in the dead of winter or dog days of summer.