Friday, September 21, 2012

Existential Time

In two days I will turn 40. Half my life ago I was insecure, yet confident in my ability to overcome it. As long as I got my work done then I would achieve. I've contributed - but don't felt like I've led. My skills continue to be limited only to the point where I have been able to teach myself. No conference in the past 17 years of work has taught me skills of actually writing development codes or to design. I've missed out on a technical collaborative process by externalities of lack of resources both in money and time. I've used many a work around to accommodate those limitations.

But what have I achieved professionally?

Awards from the previous decade? Affected change in the way people think about their built environment? Educated someone on the value of long-range planning?

Does this matter in an environment where your personal wealth is the measuring stick?

I'm not wealthy. I can't point to something physical on the ground and say - I built that. My heart lies in the need to be a maker and a doer - but my limited skills allow me to write and cobble together other's ideas into somewhat coherent thought.

The problem is that any confidence I exhibit professionally usually get the placating response of "Stephen's just passionate."

I am passionate. I want to contribute and be part of the group. I think I lead well.

I just have problems seeing the positive results. My boredom leads my mind to wander to examining my deficiencies. It's my fault that I'm bored. It's my fault that I'm not seen as an innovator - just a troublemaker who, if we just tolerate his spouting language enough - we can get him to do his work. He's a pushover. He doesn't take risks.

The worst I've ever felt about this kind of thing happened when I was working at a major airline at DFW Airport. I had left France early from the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Normandy Remembrance so I could keep my job instead of taking the summer to travel around. It was 1994 and that summer Woodstock '94 was occurring. We saw a lot of people my age travelling to New York state and back for the festival.  A young attractive woman came off of the plane and asked me where her connecting flight was located. Her t-shirt proclaimed her recent visit to Woodstock. I asked her how the festival was.

"It was fantastic. You should have been there."

She said this with the disdain in her voice that said to me - 'I can see you have sold out to have a job in a white button down shirt and a polyester tie.'

To this day, I'm not sure if I have sold out. I've sacrificed a lot of free time and potential experiences to chalking them up to being "too expensive, too time consuming. I have responsibilities." No risks involved. The most massive risk I've taken was to quit a job without another one lined up. Providence with with me on that one.

We're constantly bombarded with notions from religion and self-help books, that we need to be happy with our blessings, our lot in life. Yet, we are looked at through the lens of our accomplishments, our productivity, our usefulness get others what they want.  I have my own ambitions and my own doubts. The hypocrisy in my own self and recognizing it in others is almost unbearable. I want to rage against it, but I don't because I'll be told to "suck it up." That's just how the world works.

It shouldn't though.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Midnight on the Firing Line

There is ever increasing worry that once you make a plan, that there is really no ability to guide or control it. I was once asked how could one plan a community/society/etc in a capitalistic environment. Truly you can't. There is inherent freedom to make choices, mistakes or innovations in our environment or society in which nothing can absolutely control. Therefore we're back to the guiding question - how can one plan?

You have to rely on the decisions that you make. You have to let go of the points in your life where the pain of a decision has cost you emotional time. Where the plan has failed. The organic nature and chaos of the event can only seek to control you through embedding into your memory. You have to look at the point as an event where two conical surfaces meet - each ever expanding outwards from the event. One leading to the past. The other to the future. The choices we make determine where on the conical surface our lives take.

Memory is our ability to mark time of the past. Planning is our attempt to mark time of the future.

There are many memories that I would like to remove - in such a way that is similar to the movie "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." I have too many emotions tied up with them. In another vein, I have too many daydreams that distract me from getting things accomplished - becoming more successful - tapping into my creative side which has been buried quite significantly.

As a futurist or a planner, I cannot allow myself to believe in predestination. If I allowed myself to believe that there is a pre-determined destiny for any of us then looking to the future or attempting to plan for it doesn't seem to be very worthwhile. We succeed or fail based on our decisions within our own path. I will take or choose not to take a path. I may (and will fail) - but it will be of my own choosing.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Is There Anything Left to Say?

There is nothing left to say. Sounds have been muffled by frustration or embarrassment. Silence will speak for those who are too afraid or too lazy to speak.

Written words have lost their meanings into pixelated ellipses into the end of the margin.

Surrounded by communication at every opportunity, we are becoming ever increasingly isolated behind artificial glow.

Ending transmission...

Monday, November 28, 2011

Planners Must Speak for the Disadvantaged

Quotation from Dwight H. Merriam, FAICP - former president of APA.

The planner's clients, Merriam said, "are the poor, they are the disenfranchised, they are people who live far away but wish to be our neighbors, they are the old, they are the young, they are the people working two and three jobs who have no time to go to public hearings or run a blog, they are the people who need our help in processing and applying complex information, they are the generations not yet born, they are the people who will live on this earth 50 years and 100 years and 200 years and 500 years from now."

Monday, November 21, 2011

Just Give It a Rest

A city I used to work for announced this week that they need an overhaul of their tree preservation ordinance after studying the issue for over eighteen months. I think that's great. The previous three that I had worked on there had been diluted and not implemented to such a degree that they weren't going to get the goals of the program accomplished.

The goals were simple: Save big, healthy trees. Preserve wetland areas. Focus on original Cross Timbers Old Growth Forests. Design new development in such a way so as to save trees rather than plant new ones.

But, you could pay your way out of doing this. Paying a fee cost less than paying for a designer, an arborist and an engineer to look at best way to design around trees.

So the committee has new goals - which sound similar to the old goals, but with a new mission to implement them with a new ordinance.

The problem comes from the "don't touch my property" nutjobs out there.


For once and for all give it a rest. The invisible hand of economics saying that if you let the market dictate - then the altruism of the market will save us from ourselves has been thoroughly slapping us in the face for the past three years and was digging out our wallets prior to that.

Regulations on design and preservation must be part of the development process. Otherwise we will grade our land to look like the endless wastes of the inner city interstate system. There will be no places. Only commerce. There will be no shade or habitat. Only vast stretches of turf and concrete. One generating more heat, the other sucking down water we can't afford to raise a crop we harvest once a week and throw away.

Arguments against regulations are like asking for the government to leave only you alone and bother everyone else. You are not special. Your property - for how much it is worth - is not unique and special. We all have to live with rules. You live with the regulations of a City and pay the City taxes because you enjoy the amenities that a City brings. Paved roads. Sidewalks. Street lights governing traffic. Police protection. Fire protection. Ordered and managed water and wastewater systems so we don't drown in a cesspool of our own making. Your trash is taken away somewhere you don't have to look at it. You play on the recreation fields and shop in the stores that are close by because the City worked hard to make sure they are there instead of going down the road by thirty miles.

We live in a managed and ordered society by our own tacit agreement. Your freedoms are not being taken away. Your freedom is to leave at anytime. Our freedom is to make sure that there are such things as Cross Timbers Old Growth Forest to be preserved for the future. That is what marks a great society instead of a selfish one.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Time-Space Synaesthesia

Remember this post: Time That was written in 2006. In it, I described my ability to visualize time. Recently however, I've been able to place that ability into some perspective. In 2009, some researchers in Scotland have been able to test for this ability and label it as a form of Synaesthesia. Roughly defined, its is a neurological condition in which regions of the brain may have a hyper connectivity resulting in multiple senses intertwined and mixed. Almost 54 types of these conditions have been noted and researched.

But we're here to talk about time. This article: The Cognitive Benefits of Time-Space Synaesthesia summarizes the research and also makes some connections to other visualization abilities which I have including internal mapping and the ability to visualize two dimensional drawings in three dimensional space.

Like the subject of the article, I visualize my location within a frame of reference. If I'm thinking of Sunday then across the divide is Wednesday/Thursday. I do have a heightened ability to remember events in my life and have significant recall of very specific items within that event, however I am not hyperthymestic. I cannot have total recall of everything which occured on a particular day. I remember enough as it is. Further information clogging up the bandwidth would be too much.

Nothing is Quite What is Seems - In the City of Dreams

It is not easy explaining the impressive heat to a four year old who wants to go outside and play in the park. We have to change our language to fit the situation as it is presented to us. Our vocabulary must, by necessity change in order for us to be first, understood - and then to impart some comprehension to the four year old. This ability we as a communicative species to change our language must be able to be scaled to any other situation. Professional jargon, sports, spontaneous discussions of minutia. How do we filter it all and present it cognitively to others?