News of the Road

Yesterday during my lunch break I noticed at least a half-a-dozen news vans from competing TV stations parked on the grassy bank of the Charles River off Soldiers Field Road. If it was one news van I’d figure they’re just filming location scenery for the weather report, but with so many vans on the scene it had to be something big. What the big news was I could not determine, and finally decided it must be geese-related.

As it turned out, I missed quite a bit of excitement. A driver who may have had a seizure collided with another car and then he and his SUV plowed into the river. The most touching part of the story is that passersby jumped into the river to try to help rescue the driver. They commented that the water was cold and I personally consider it a blessing that the weather has been so mild for this time of year. Usually by this time the Charles is frozen over which could have caused almost instant death to the driver and his rescuers.

Another Boston Globe article suggests that driving could be made safer if there were fewer signs telling drivers what to do.

According to some researchers who study the psychology of driving, an overabundance of traffic signs makes drivers less likely to pay attention to any of them. And yet at the same time, drivers also pay less attention to their surroundings, secure in the knowledge that there will be instructions quite literally at every turn.

The researchers say the solution to this problem is to reduce — or perhaps even eliminate — traffic signage. It’s a solution the European Union, for one, is giving a try.

It immediately puts in mind of Leonard Wibberley who writes in The Trouble With the Irish that one of the differences between the English and the Irish is respect for signs. His example is that in Hyde Park there are no signs that say “don’t throw rocks at the swans” and no one throws rocks at the swans, but in St. Stephen’s Green there are signs and yet people do throw rocks at the signs. Since Boston is an “Irish” city I figured this might explain Bostonians casual indifference to road signs. But perhaps psychology explains it better.

The final road-related note comes from the Newton Streets and Sidewalks blog where Sean Roche makes a good case for why bicyclists need to be nice to motorists even though they tend to be careless and hostile toward bicyclists.

Objectively, we cyclists are far more put upon than putting upon. But, practically speaking, it’s irrelevant.

It’s a tough pill to swallow, but if we want to live in a world that is more bike friendly, we really have to be model citizens. Being model citizens is not enough. We have to be active in our communities to create a more bike-friendly infrastructure and culture. But, if we want allies (or at least neutrals) in our activism, we also have to be nice to motorists. The world is generally hostile to us. Nice people like my mother-in-law are looking for reasons to dismiss our concerns.

It isn’t fair. It isn’t right. It just is.

Last night, I dropped my bike off for a tune-up with the wonderful people at Broadway Bicycle School so I won’t be on two wheels again until after I return from my holiday travels, but it is something to think about for the new year.

News of the Spiritual

Three articles regarding faith, religion, and spirituality I’ve recently read, all from The Christian Science Monitor.

First, a story on the “common cathedral”, people who gather together by the fountain on Boston Common to worship al fresco. I’ve often seen this gathering after celebrating Mass at my own church which is in a building facing Boston Common. I hadn’t realized that the outdoor worship services actually are a ministry for the homeless, which makes it more interesting to me.

Second, an article on the little town of Bethlehem, where the ongoing Israel-Palestinian conflict and the security wall have kept away Christian tourists who usually benefit the community where Christ was born.

Finally an article on how humanitarian aid helps combat terrorism. Ryan Beiler comments on this article in his post on the God’s Politics blog, The Sermon on the Mount Actually Works.

And now a bonus article from the National Catholic Reporter, Ten mega-trends shaping the Catholic church by John Allen

Book Review: Cow Poetry by M. Frost

My friend from college and former housemate M. Frost is possibly the most talented person I know. She is a veterinarian, a photographer, a science fiction writer, and a poet among other things. Finishing Line Press just released her first chapbook of poems Cow Poetry as part of the New Women’s Voices Series.

Forget the concept of the pastoral, idyllic images of cows ruminating, or the anthropomorphic ideal of cows. These are cows as they are, down to their sinew, amuck in their own manure (in one case dried amusingly in the shape of a map of America). These are not “pretty poems” yet medical terminology dances lyrically across the page. M. Frost finds inspiration in death and decay and the occupational hazards of anthrax as well as in Edgar Allen Poe and the Irish epic The Cattle Raid of Cooley. I wouldn’t call these morbid poems though. Undergirding them all is the constant effort to learn from life as well as hope and healing.

If this type of poetry appeals to you go and buy many, many copies of Cow Poetry.