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Friday News Digest

Welcome to the Friday News Digest.  I’m not exactly sure where the president and founder of Strong Towns ran off to; but according to his calendar he is on “vacation” until Tuesday.  His facebook page tells me he’s somewhere in Canada and in a voicemail he told me that his family’s weekly CSA basket is all mine. Sweet! Enjoy this week’s news. 

The kicker here is that after MNDOT is done making these improvements, they’re going to turn it over to the county to take care of. Yikes, rotten deal for Blue Earth. We now get to manage it for the rest of its life.

  • Speaking of Mn/DOT- they are looking for a transportation director- “Open to current employees in this agency.”  Someone on FB posted, “New ideas need not apply.” Touche.
  • While we’re on the topic of “transportation;” with the funding “issues” going on at the federal level we have the very real possibility of having many projects impacted here locally.  If they don’t figure it out (they will) it would actually be a blessing in disguise.
  • This article has absolutely nothing to do with Strong Towns, urban design or even cities in general but I found it completely and utterly fascinating.  Twelve countries have banded together to plant a nine-mile wide vegetative buffer consisting of drought resistant trees across the continent of Africa. Amazing.

9 miles wide and 4,750 miles long, the vision for the project is as ambitious as it is necessary. Thus far, only 330 miles of greenery stands guard in Northern Senegal, and has cost the Sengalese government over $6 million since the start of digging in 2008. International organizations have pledged over $3 billion to the monumental defense system.

  • It’s becoming more and more difficult to function as a (young?) professional these days without a smartphone.  My own mother is even trying to turn me over to the dark side.  Apparently this GPS algorithm does not have an “app” yet but I suspect it won’t be long before it does.  I guess I’ll just have to pick my own route and hope it’s beautiful.

These guys have worked out how to measure the “beauty” of specific locations within cities and then designed an algorithm that automatically chooses a route between two locations in a way that maximizes the beauty along it. “The goal of this work is to automatically suggest routes that are not only short but also emotionally pleasant,” they say.

  • At my day job I work as a zoner. Often times we get complaints regarding something where the “letter of the law” interpretation of the ordinance doesn’t make sense. These situations are difficult to handle and many times I start with the question, “Have you spoken with your neighbor about this issue?”  More often than not the answer is, “No.” My response, “Try that first.” Not surprisingly, that usually takes care it. This article demonstrates how it’s not always, “the man” that is the problem.

What ultimately takes the spotlight is not buffoonery but brokenness. Not as it relates to systems (in this case, the system worked as intended) but as it relates to people and the relationships that define us.

  • Lastly... I like many types of music.  I’m not exactly sure what niche this band falls into but I discovered them on NPR’s Tiny Desk Series and I just had to share.  The cows appear to have the same reaction as me: Confused and intrigued.   Have a funky weekend everyone.




I'm sick of lame

This has been cross-posted at our sister site, A Better Brainerd.

Is this all we can come up with for a solution to trampled grass? Just pave it all? Is this all the better we can do here in Brainerd? I hope not.I posted this photo of the “improvements” to the BHS south entrance to my Facebook feed. Amid the general disgust with what has been done (seriously – just pave it all?), a few people thought I was “nit picking” and that the pavement was necessary due to the high number of students getting on and off the bus here.

Two things. First, we need a lot more nit picking. It is attention to this kind of details, stuff that isn’t expensive to do right but is simply horrible when done wrong, that separates good places from great. This says to the world, “we don’t really care.”

We do, though. We care a lot about our community. It is pride in the community that should make us all disgusted with this, make us insist that we do better. That we pay attention to details.

Second, we have more imagination that this. “Just pave it all” is what a lame school does. A great school identifies the problem (students trampling the grass) and then comes up with an approach that solves it with class. We’re capable of this. We can do it better using less money, we just don’t demand it of ourselves. We just accept lame. To do otherwise is “nit picking”, and we don’t want to be accused of that.

Let’s get this right. If people are interested in fixing this, I’m volunteering to (a) design a solution for this problem that we can take some pride in and (b) work to get it funded. If twenty of you in this city will step up and help me, I’ll do it.

I’m sick of lame. Who is with me?


Podcast Show 182: CNU NextGen Roundtable

This, our last podcast from CNU 22 in Buffalo, is the NextGen Roundtable, a discussion that began with Chuck Marohn and Gracen Johnson and went in all sorts of crazy directions. 

Show 182: NextGen