Good Luck Balloon Leaves Roslindale

I packed up the last things from the Roslindale apartment on Wednesday morning. To be more precise, they should have been the last things, but I was so tired I probably missed a few things. And a lot of things I threw out.

And one thing, I let float away. We had a helium balloon bearing the slogan Good Luck left over from a weekend potluck. I took it out onto the deck, and let it float away. It too was tired, so it didn’t spring straight up into the air. Rather, it floated across Walworth Street, rising enough to clear wires and rooftops.

May the balloon of good luck float toward you, good people of Boston.

Fun Day, Now For Sunday

Buildings and BuildersThis post is partly a pretext to showcase the photo, of which I am immodestly proud. Maddie is more justly proud of the taller-than-her tower. She built it at the Museum of Science yesterday afternoon.

In the morning, Maddie braved a villain-themed 6th birthday party by herself.
Max and I went to the warm heart of Roslindale. We cut haircuts at the Rialto (I’ve just posted my 5* review at Yelp).

We went to the Farmers Market. It was the last of the year, and, judging by the weather, it’s time for this particular good thing to come to an end for 2009. Kudos to the Creek River String Band (here’s my photo, here’s the band’s MySpace) for providing music despite cold fingers.

We got back to the party just in time for Max to have cake. Then back home for a little rest, then off to the site of the construction in the photo.

Smarter Navigation and Closed Streets

Consider this: social media tools are making it easier for people to get around the places they live. Mashable Josh followed that assertion with “a list of ten great social media tools to help you better navigate your city.” I marked Josh’s post, thinking that I might have cause and time to go back and actually read it.

Then a real live navigation-related problem sent me back to the post and to some of the tools it lists. This Sunday should see the second open house (the first one went well, thankyouverymuch) for our condo. Said condo is about a hundred yards from the route of the 2009 Roslindale Parade. The two events are as close in terms of time as they are in terms of space, in that both are scheduled for Sunday afternoon.

This presents several real-life problems. To make them concrete, let’s imagine that one of the people who would attend the open house is called Robin (a name that could indicate either a female or a male, and one with connotations of nesting).

Problem (0) is the basic navigation problem: how to get to the condo. That’s too easy to qualify as smart navigation, but I list it as the baseline navigation problem. It’s the nail for which the standard hammer used to be MapQuest. Google Maps has, I think, taken over that position; anyway, it is the first tool on Josh’s list of ten.

Problem (1) gets us into smart navigation territory. Robin, on the way to the condo for the open house, finds that some of the roads on the suggested route are closed. A smart navigation tool would tell Robin about a route available at the time – in real time, if you will. Google Maps addresses problem (1), as does Waze, the second tool on the list.

Problem (2) involves smarter navigation. Robin knows ahead of time that certain roads will be closed due to the parade, and would like to be able to print the map ahead of time. Perhaps Robin suspects that real real-time navigation is a bad idea, since it distracts attention from driving.

Perhaps Robin wants a map of the parade route. All right, perhaps I do. The parade’s web site doesn’t provide one. It provides a text description of the route. “Washington St. at Adams Park in Roslindale Village, to South St., to Belgrade Avenue, to West Roxbury Parkway, to Gottwald Rotary, to Centre St., to South St., and ending at Fallon Field.”

Is there a tool that takes text directions as input and gives a route map and directions as output? I’m not aware of one. I tried to use Google Maps to draw the route along a street map, but it kept on taking shortcuts, or going 20 miles north to a different Gottwald Rotary, or…

Then I went to the third tool on Josh’s list. He describes Wayfaring as “a great Google Maps mashup that helps users to easily create their own information maps.” I have to describe it as a service that gave me a “404 – page not found” error during signup, and then could not find a location called “boston massachusetts.”

At that point I gave up on this particular attempt to use these “smarter navigation tools.” My frustration didn’t just come from the web tools. It also came from my overlapping attempts to find out from the police the times at which the parade roads would be closed and reopened. I was transferred from the local station, to media relations, to field services, to special events (I think I have those names right) before I had the sense to give up.

I do have a couple of positive notes on which to end. First, I did get an answer to my street closing times question. I used the contact form on the Roslindale Parade website. I got a prompt response from Tom Donahue, chair of the parade committee, by good old-fashioned email. Tom expects Belgrade Avenue to be closed from about noon to about 3:30pm, by the way. The other good news is that the open house is going ahead (starting at 11:30 instead of noon).

SF Bookstore Within a Mile?

Sci-fi bookstore to invade Centre Street (West Roxbury), proclaims our local bulletin. I saw the headline on the free paper while shopping at Roche Bros this morning, and got caught up via Universal Hub. I’d previously had drive-by glimpses of interesting-looking signs at the retail location.

My thoughts are that:

  • It’ll be tough going for Seek Books. It’ll need to be a destination for folks from as far away as… Dedham, maybe even Jamaica Plain.
  • My hopes for the new store somehow rose when I learned that the owner is a retiring addiction therapist.

Threadless Again

Threadless t-shirts are for the young and trendy (or whatever the hip word for trendy is these days). But they are not just for such people; I remarked on The Graying of Threadless a few months ago.

I’m following up on this for a couple of reasons. The more recent one is that someone whose age seemed similar to (and may even exceed) my own noticed the shirt I was wearing today, smiled, and said “Threadless.” This was in the Roslindale branch of Staples, which I don’t think is usually regarded as a hipster hangout.

The other reason is a week old. Monday is new release day at Threadless. Today’s batch had its highlights, particularly “Let It Flow!” But last Monday saw one of the best new release days ever (or even evah!) with designs like “The Mississippi Phoenix” and “Small Mammal Flying Machine.” The latter provides the image for this post.

Roslindale Public Schools Meeting

The Superintendent of the Boston Public Schools, Dr. Carol R. Johnson, came to Roslindale Community Center this morning to listen to local parents. These are the personal but public notes of one parent. I’ll link to any other accounts of the meeting as I become aware of them.

Nut-Free ZoneI arrived a little after the published start time of 10:30am. The door proclaimed the room to be a nut-free zone. That’s good news, since parents have been known to get nutty (myself included). There was further good news inside in the form of coffee and mini-donuts (yes, Dunkin). I’d say that the room was set up for about 100 people. There were fewer than that when I arrived, and many more than that when CRJ arrived.

Two signin sheets were passed around. One asked for name and some demographics. Most of the people who signed it before me identified themselves as female, 25-54, and looks around the room reinforced that. The other signin sheet had Philbrick in the lead in terms of school affiliation at the early stage at which I saw it. A later show of hands suggested that “Haley wins.”

The superintendent was running late, on her way from a meeting in Dorchester. Councillor Rob Consalvo said a few words while we were waiting for her. At 11.05, she arrived and he introduced her. The message of his introduction was that “Doctor Johnson gets it.” Her opening was appropriate: thank you all for being here; sorry for being late; let me introduce some other members of the team. All the Roslindale principals were present.

Here are the questions and points from the parents, in the order they came up. I’ve captured the questions, rather than the answers, because I wanted to listen to CRJ and to her answers. My overall impression is that she good at listening, at appreciating multiple sides of an issue, and at gently giving people a side of the issue other than the one they raise. To illustrate this, I’ll leave in my notes on her response to the first question. The question was about the issue central to the meeting: changing schools from K-5 to K-8.

  • Change to K-8: economic necessity? It would help economically, in that it would consolidate facilities. But some parents prefer smaller, more intimate schools.
  • Advanced work: can it be accomodated in a K-5 school?
  • Assignment policies are inhibiting parental involvement, whereas involvement could be increased with K-8 in Roslindale, more walk zone slots,…
  • What is the possibility of K-6?
  • Boston is divided along lines of race and class: look around the meeting room and see that it’s not representative of Boston families.
  • There’s no real/good school choice, especially for grades 6-8.
  • Why put resources into “the K-8 thing” when we could fix what we already have, especially by making schools safer? (Next parent reinforced the same point.)
  • What’s the process for making decisions about changes to the school system?
  • On the aborted merger of Bates and Mozart into one K-8: it failed because the schools would have shrunk in terms of classes within each grade.
  • What decisions led to the establishment of the new pilot school in the particular form it is taking?*
  • Need more spaces in local schools for autistic kids.
  • There has been a lack of transparency and involvement in the decision-making process.
  • Improving the Irving school, and guaranteeing that the Roslindale elementary schools will feed into it, would be better than the current “scattered to the wind” regime.
  • Let’s be aware that the next few years will be a period of transition. Parents are flexible, but want to know where there kids will end up in the future.
  • City Councillor John Tobin, who arrived during the meeting, reported that he hears a lot of support from his constituents for the K-8 idea.
  • Would like to hear more from CRJ about what is going to happen.
  • Account of how the BTU pilot school* got to be the way it is: the programs, including grade 6, are being designed by teachers who are also parents.
  • The Haley school improved because parents were determined that it would do so: what would it take to make the same happen for the Irving school?
  • 6th grade transition presents “a dilemma and a nightmare.”
  • Fear that the small K-5 schools will become less chosen and hence less viable, leading to question: could 6th grade be added to exam schools, rather than to K-5?
  • Need more “social cohesion,” which is threatened by things like advanced work and exam schools.
  • As a new superintendent, how do you think that the things you’ve seen elsewhere might apply in Boston?

CRJ had to leave at 12:40, running even later than when she arrived. Despite starting late, the meeting was actually a little longer than scheduled. Other members of her team were able to stay on for further discussion (but I wasn’t).

I heard about the meeting through the Haley school, where my daughter has just started in K1. (So far so good, thank you for asking.) I didn’t see any advance notification at the Boston Public Schools site when I checked.

The meeting did turn out to be nut-free, in that the tone of discussion was reasonable. It wasn’t just the parents who were well-behaved: the kids who were at the meeting were very good and patient.

By the way, there is a wireless network in the Roslindale Community Center. But it is secure, and hence not available to the community.

That’s all from me for now. If you have written up your own account of the meeting, or of related issues, please let me know and I’ll link. If you have comments, please feel free to make them here.

* From the Boston Public Schools site: A new K-8 pilot school governed by the Boston Teachers Union (BTU) would open in the former Parkman School building in Jamaica Plain. The same web page gives further details of the recommendations in CRJ’s “Pathways to Excellence” plan.

Photographs in Public Buildings

Little PO BoxesWhen you go in to Roslindale Post Office, you see a wall consisting mainly of Post Office™ Boxes. Since they are rather lovely old boxes, I’ve been wanting for a while to photograph them.

Now, I am of a anxious nature, and eager to avoid a one-way trip to Guantánamo Bay, and Uncle Sam,who of course owns US post offices, is of a suspicious nature these days. So I asked the very pleasant person who served me if I might be allowed to photograph the boxes.

She told me that permission was required to take photos in Post Offices. I asked who I needed permission from, she told me that it was the manager, went to ask said manager, and returned a minute later to say that permission had been granted.

After snapping the PO boxes, I went to the nearby and recently-renovated Roslindale Community Center. As an aside about community/public access, shouldn’t a community center have a web site? There are a few details on various Boston.gov pages, but I was unable to find a site that told me about services, hours, etc.

I went in, asked if I could take some photos, was told that I could and asked why I wanted to. I took one of the front desk (and no, I’m not sure why the word of the day was venal). I also took one outside, although I didn’t feel I had to ask permission to do that. (I actually took more than that, but only posted those two to Flickr. And no, the map image isn’t here by mistake in place of either of them; it’s from Boston.gov).

Rozzie LibraryOn a roll, and having some books to return, it was on to the library. There, I was told that I was not allowed to take pictures inside the library without permission from HQ. I was given a phone number there. I didn’t call the number. Instead, I looked up the photography policy on the BPL web site: We are happy to have you take photographs of our buildings for your enjoyment but… (follow the link to see the restrictions; they seem rather reasonable to me). Anyway, I contented myself with taking a photo of the outside of the library.

It has since occurred to me that I should go to the USPS site to seek the Post Office’s official photography policy, but I find it hard to find simple information (such as the postage to airmail a birthday card to one’s mother in the UK) at that site. But that’s another post…

Birdbrain: Roslindale Ex-Band

I’ve lived in Roslindale for 5 years now, but I didn’t realize until yesterday that there was a song named after the place. I found out via Universal Adam, who linked to Jim’s YouTube slideshow set to the song.

The band playing was called Birdbrain. The Wikipedia entry makes it sounds as though the name was well chosen, or at least, that it described their management.

This management now opted not to have any mention of Birdbrain in the advertising materials for the movie Scream, citing potential negative publicity if the movie should fail. Perhaps hundreds of millions who thus heard Birdbrain play in the movie had no idea who they were listening to.

By the way, I seem to qualify as a “Rozzie Rat,” given that I recognize some of the now-closed businesses in the slideshow.

Snow Day

Boston got another snow storm this morning. The kids’ childcare is closed today, along with pretty much every other school. Here’s a photo, taken from our kitchen, of our deck and the trees beyond it.

I had a search round the web to try to find an MP3 of “Snow Day,” the Trip Shakespeare song. That’s the band that Dan Wilson used to be in, before Semisonic (and the Dixie Chicks). But I couldn’t find one, and so have to deny you the multimedia experience I wanted this post to be.