Clean up: the house, the refrigerator


Today’s task was getting the movables out of the addition, the “play room” that had its wall bashed in by the tree. But that put me in mind of our refrigerator, and the drawers on the bottom, and shelves in the door, stacked with items not getting used.

So we also cleaned out the shriveled or must apples, spoiled cheese, dried carrots, etc. Our compost bin got a windfall.

The playroom had a lot of loose items: papers that needed to be compressed for buring, toys to empty out of a toy chest, items strung here and there.

Getting the youth motivated to do those tasks was, shall we say, interesting.

But after that comes the heavy items.  The old sofa bed we are tossing out the door for the contractor to haul away, or to go in the city’s big item collection. It was the biggest and most used item. Not worth passing on to anyone, and won’t fit our planned redesign of use for the room.

But that leaves the empty toy chest, the half pew (a sample pew for salesmen — the ends are different showing different options{, the corner table, the folding dining room table that was my maternal grandmothers (it survived the tree, close as it was, thankfully for sentimental reasons), and the oversized lounge chair from the living room that has the dropped springs and needs some repairs (but still salvageable enough to not get rid off).

They all have to go somewhere. Somewhere else in the house, but where?

There isn’t a lot of room in the basement, and that is a long way.  Most of the items I am cramming into the office that is the connecting room between the main house and the play room, but it is a small room that probably won’t fit everything, especially since we never got it cleaned out and set up before this need to move all these items in.

I think the folding dining room table will end up in the living room. The pew will end up in the office. We already have our regular dining room table in the office, so whether we can get the corner table and the oversized lounge chair in the office as well.  I’m thinking the table gets the office, and the chair, well, we will find somewhere for it.





A nod, a wave, a honk


When I ride my bicycle, I am much more alert of drivers around me than most of them are of the cyclist around them. I actively watch and make an effort to engage them.

When a driver is coming toward me I will usually lift my hand off the handle bar and give a small fanning wave in their direction and watch to see if they respond back. If it isn’t easy or safe for me to take the hand of the handle bar, I will attempt to nod toward them in a way that will signal them that the motion is meant for them, and not just an unconscious movement on my part.

Part of these movements is my natural social nature to engage (somewhat curious in someone who is by nature an introvert), but much of it is a natural defensive mechanism. If those people are aware of me, they are not likely to try and purposefully occupy the same space on the road that I will be in.

In contrast, most of the time someone honks at me while I am riding my bicycle, it is not for the same reason. Most of the time it is their way of insisting that I am occupying a space that properly is theirs, and should vacate it immediately, if not sooner, without their having to physically collide with me to make them do so, and thus inconvenience them even further.

I know this for a general fact, based on the portion of times after being honked at where those same people who honked pass me and tell me specifically where to go, or suggest suitable sexual actions that I should perform. They seem to have passed their driver’s license tests without learning the traffic laws that give me the right to be where I am, doing what I am, and usually prohibiting me from doing what they suggest.

This is quite different from the horn etiquette I experienced during my very brief time in India. There there is a lot more horn action, but for what I experienced, much more polite. The honking is almost incessant, and yet it is a perpetual part of people’s courtesy to one another. Especially with the amount of motorcycles and small vehicles, it is a way to help each other stay constantly aware of the other motorists around them. In one sense, it creates almost a form of echolocation for drivers.

The action, less prevalent here, that is often counterproductive and annoying (both in origin from the person who honks, and to me, since it serves no productive and legal purpose), in the India context becomes something very positive and social.

And the little children …


I am sitting at a table in Panera, on a cool October evening, and watching one of the truly joyous things of life: the playful chatter of someone else’s child.

Mother has obviously had a more tiring day than the child. He is burbling “hot” and talking about the fascination of the gas log stove here beside us.

Then their food is ready — signalled by the lighted vibrating call device, and they come back with their food. At first he tried spooning his soup onto his chips to eat it, but after some frenetic redirection, he uses the spoon correctly to eat the soup, and reaches for a napkin when necessary.

Mother is a little more concerned than we outside, amused, observers about some of his foibles, but takes it all in a very gracious way.

Reminds me of how much energy it takes to be a parent, especially at the first stages, and how easy it can be to lose sight of the true joy of those times. They go, never to return again, except in memory.

After the Harvest


Is the name of a scrappy “little” non-profit organization here in the Kansas City Area. I had the fun of working with them today, applying the old concept of “gleaning” to a new setting.

The concept of gleaning began in a more agrarian age. Its best formulation can be seen in the Pentateuch and book of Ruth in the Bible, where farmers were forbidden, in the harvest of their fields, to harvest to the very edges, or to go back and pick up crops that they missed going through the first time in the harvest. Instead, what was left, or dropped, was to be available for the poor and needy to come through the fields to gather to meet their needs. Benevolent and socially responsible farmers would leave wide borders around their fields for the poor and needy to glean.

Fast-forward to today, and we have After the Harvest. This non-profit organizes volunteers to go through farmers fields to gather left-over food to donate to area food pantries and other area organizations that provide food to the hungry in our metro area. They team with area farmers, who, like the benevolent and socially responsible farmers of Biblical days, open their fields for gleaning of unharvested food to be used to provide for the needy in our communities.

Modern agriculture processes produce a lot of food that gets harvested, but also a lot that is not aesthetically salable in grocery stores or suitable for long-distance transport. Rather than have it simply rot in the fields, the farmers, in partnership with After the Harvest, and its volunteers, bring that food to area food pantries where it fills the same social need gleaning did in days of yore.

With the above description of After the Harvest, when I volunteered to glean today, I expected to be gleaning in a farmer’s field somewhere. Instead I found myself in another location, experiencing another piece of the food sufficiency puzzle in our metro area — A community garden.

Tuesday’s Glean was at the WIC-sponsored community garden in Olathe. I was there with the field organizer and several After the Harvest volunteers, along with volunteers and organizers of the WIC community garden itself.

It was a cold morning, upper 40s and lower 50s, and very windy. But we put to work with a will, and gloriously soaked in the warmth sunlight when it finally made its appearance.

We are near the end of the season, but it was amazing how many pounds of food were left, and how many things are still growing.  We dug potatoes and sweet potatoes, pulled radishes, picked cabbage, broccoli, peppers (2 kinds). We also weeded, tilled and collected vines for composting. Once all the harvesting was done, we processed the food, cleaning dirt off potatoes, for example, and weighing it and getting it ready for distribution.

I had an enjoyable time, and felt a sense of satisfaction doing something physical to help others, being part of the very organic network that makes our metro community thrive as it does, by how we care for the environment and the people around us.

If you are interested in knowing more about After the Harvest and their gleaning project, just click on the link above. In the meantime, enjoy the pictures from today’s glean below:




Social Media does not promote ‘full disclosure’


People seldom truly post the full extent of what they believe on social media. That’s true for a lot of reasons. I’m going to reflect, more indirectly than normal, on that fact, why it is, and how social media affects how people do or don’t state what they believe. That’s a big topic, and I’m only going to skirt a few general issues and concepts.

My first foray, is to say that I believe, and hope, that the main reason most people don’t post the full extent of what they believe on social media is that they are polite. They don’t want to offend others by saying extreme things that others will feel compelled to object to and respond to. They reserve their comments to things that others can agree to in polite social commentary.

And these same people, when they do choose to foray into debatable areas, don’t choose the most extreme points of difference to discuss.  Those interested in a dialogue usually don’t start with their most extreme positions either. Like any campaign, one usually starts on the borders before making forays into the heartland. If you aim directly for someone’s core beliefs, you can expect and extreme response. The polite person will try to find less drastic and dramatic ways to persuade someone. Polite people also learn to find ways to agree to disagree.

Another reason, foray two, that people don’t post the full extent of what they believe on social media, is the contraction of their various social personas. Each of us has multiple personas: employee, parent, spouse, church member, etc. Outside of social media, those personas tend to be separate, we present a different face to each of them. We aren’t being deceptive when we do this, but  fulfilling the various roles required of us to make our lives and our society function successfully.

Social media, by its nature, contracts these. People from each of our various personas get to see all the items we post on social media. Did I really need to see my coworkers live post on Facebook where she was putting on her “face” before going to the grocery store? Yet that items goes to everyone, not just the closer friends that such an items is intended form. That is a rather innocuous item, but it portrays the difficulties of using social media effectively.

When our personas contract, we have to make the decision which persona, or parts of personas, we portray on social media. This lends us to weigh which persona’s influence is most important to our lives, and being able to continue to live the way we want to.

Many of us weigh our work situation, our work persona, and one of the most influential. For many of us, this has the influence of actually hiding our work influence from social media. I am going through a significant event currently at my place of work, but because work frowns on anything said by its employees on social media without the approval of their own public relations bureau, this significant facet of my life will never make an appearance in social media.

It also means that anything in my other personas, that I think work might look upon negatively, or that might negatively affect my work environment, are unlikely to show up in my social media anywhere. Employers have this significant impact on their employees social media presence. We may object all we want to this form of indirect “control” but if there is any chance our behavior might be linked to our employer, they will do their best to control it, and prevent the damage it might cause their business reputation. For savvy businesses today know how social media can have a quick and detrimental impact on them.

Another reason, foray three, that people don’t post the full extent of what they believe, is more negative: they don’t want to draw the attention of certain people who will use what they say against them to destroy their lives. I am not talking about just on social media either. People will use items mentioned on social media to get them fired from their employers, or to get people to actually physically attack them or stalk their families.

These trolls and attack personalities are one of the banes of social media. They know they are right, and nothing you say can persuade them otherwise. They will stop at nothing to destroy the people they disagree with. Many of these people fit in the category of “Social Justice Warriors”, but others are just plain mean, domineering personalities. You don’t want to draw their attention.

Some people have enough insulation to ignore their influence, but most of us are quite aware of how vulnerable we are.

Most people have special communities in social media, private groups, like on Facebook, where they share more “extreme” views than they do in general, with people of like persuasion. But even here, the rules of “don’t share anywhere else”, can be vulnerable to the troll that comes in disguise to try and break the group and destroy the people who disagree with them.

I’ll call this item foray four, though it might be in a slightly different category. Sometimes we go overboard in stating things more than what we believe, just for the shock value.

A small example was this site for women that put up two stories: things wives should never do in front of their husbands, things husbands should never do in front of their wives. The gist of the stories made sense, but as I read them, the ridiculous extremes about how preachy they were about things like men belching, showed the way social media makes many people take more extreme positions than they otherwise might. Extremes draw bigger responses — and it is the size of the response, more than the what or why of the response, that is the main thing for many people on social media.

The overarching truth of this situation, is that none of us intend for all of our views to be available to all of the people we know, much less people we don’t know who might disagree with them. The contraction of personas is a dilemma of social media that most of us are still dealing with, and we only subconsciously are aware of how it is changing how we interact and reveal ourselves to others.

I personally had a policy to not have Facebook friends that were coworkers, and only friended them after we were no longer coworkers. I still don’t invite coworkers to be friends, but found myself in a quandary about what to do when certain coworkers invited me to be friends. They started finding me through the common friends we had, and inviting me. So if someone invited me, I accepted them.

(I should mention, my no-coworker policy was for co-workers who lived in my same geographic locale. I always encouraged ones who lived in other locales, especially cross-cultural ones, because I was always for increasing cross-cultural understanding. Sometimes it seems they and I understand each other better on social media than the people of my same geographic location and social milieu.)

Personally, this contraction of personas has two major impacts. First, it makes me consider what and how I post, being aware that everyone, from all personas, will see what I say. Second, it makes me express more compassion towards others and their social media postings. If a posting isn’t meant to be for me — the social persona that I share with the person — I need to allow the person the freedom to express that view, and not let it adversely impact the persona that I do share with them.

I think that second principle is one that some people — especially the troublemakers and self-righteous — are unable to comprehend. To ignore certain items, to live and let live, is not in their nature. Which doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be a part of ours. Ultimately, it is a part of civility and civil discourse that will be essential if social media is ultimately to survive as social discourse, instead of a division of camps.

As a final note, I am trying to find a reference I have a vague memory of, something from the Orient, about how people in their densely populated society have the polite tendency to avoid any accidental glimpses of nudity, as if they didn’t see them or didn’t exist. Social Media is similarly a crowded, densely populated society including everyone, and we need to exercise this same tendency to ignore certain things rather than let them upset the true social decorum and discourse that is social media’s greatest strength.

One sidewalk done (almost); now how about another …


Getting in and out of where I live has been a little more interesting the past couple of months. They did a lot of utility work on Winn Road and now are just about finished putting in the sidewalk that made all the utility (mostly for storm-sewer drains) work necessary. All that seems to be left to me is the landscaping around the sidewalk (unless they actually repave the entire street — with all the potholes — which have gotten worse because of the construction equipment — I think it really needs it).

So now I am going to put it my plug, again for the other sidewalk that means as much to me, and one that would need less utility work.

A few years ago there was a big project on Chouteau Trafficway between North Kansas City (as the southern end of the zone) and I-35 (on the northern end of the zone). It was broadened and turned into a park-like boulevard. All the old, cramped businesses along that stretch were given good money (I presume) and relocated. Our favorite donut place, Donut King, moved into North Kansas City (loss of tax revenue for Kansas City) ontor Armour Road/Route 210.

But donuts isn’t the reason for my sidewalk request.  This stretch of Chouteau Trafficway has two main sub-units: Parvin Road splits it in two near the middle. North of it it is much broader and parklike. south of it is is park-developed but not as elaborately. Parvin also divides the neighborhoods that have access to Chouteau trafficway.

There are several streets given access to Chouteau to the North of Parvin, most of them on the East side. A stream runs along the west side of that part of Chouteau, limiting access there to one street. But the access to Chouteau by the neighborhoods is basically the same before as after the development.

The same cannot be said of Chouteau south of Parvin. The stream crosses to the east side of Chouteau when it goes under Parvin, and there was, and still is, one road, a dead-end, accessing Chouteau from the East. To the west, there were two streets with access prior: one near Parvin that was the entrance/exit for an apartment complex, and 34th terrace, that did a wicked twist to come down a hill. They entirely eliminated 34th terrace, and not the apartment complex entrance can only be entered going south and exited to the south.

Along the crazy hill where they eliminated the 34th Terrace access, there had been a motor pool for some sort of construction equipment. They eliminate it, cut off the street, and tried to landscape the slope, but it never grew grass, just eroded. Apparently the soil was contaminated by the equipment enough that it resisted all attempts to grow grass.

So this spring they brought in piles of dirt, and left them there, until they had wild, moderately sparse, tufts of grass all over them. In just the past couple of weeks they broke those piles up and re-sloped the hillside again, replacing all the dirt that had eroded away. I was wondering what they expected to do to get grass to grow.  Last Friday I discovered that they took rolls of sod and covered the whole thing that way.

I guess they expect the sod to root itself in the short growing season we have left and continue to grow next spring.  Me, I’m wondering how long the soil beneath the soil they spread will work its magic up into the soil they added and knock this grass out.  That’s just the perverse part of me, of course. Hopefully the grass grows.

So, how does this connect to a sidewalk? Well, when they put in the new parklands along the trafficway, and cut out 34th Terrace, they created a great place to use, and then eliminated all access to anyone who lives to the South of Parvin and West of Chouteau. Parklands that would be great and safe for walking.  All they need to do is put a comparatively short sidewalk across that now-sodded hill from Cleveland Street, somewhere between 34th Terrace and 35th street, to the sidewalk along Chouteau. Simple, and all of a sudden a large neighborhood is granted access.

But apparently no one with influence or authority to make a decision is thinking of this.  And I don’t know our city power structure to know which departments do what, or how to talk to anyone who can make a difference. So, I guess I need to find out.


Bike Lane as the trash lane


Today’s post is possibly a sort of hodgepodge of images and reflections, rather than a really structured logic.

Slightly over a year ago I gave myself a note for a blog post item: Wooden  pallet in middle of bike lane on Chouteau bridge. I had been riding across the Chouteau bridge, using one of the two bike/pedestrian lanes (Yes, one on each side — luxury), when I had to pause to make sure I could get around the wooden pallet that was sitting in the lane.

What truck or other vehicle had just happen to spew a wooden pallet, I never did know, it was all conjecture. But that pallet was perhaps the largest and oddest object I had ever found as litter in a bike lane.

Speaking of litter, There is a bike lane downtown near the River Market, on Cherry Street between Third and Fifth streets.  It usually has sand down the out half of it, and for half the distance it has a seam that splits it into two slightly different levels (a definite hazard for a cyclist). A week or so ago, someone was mowing the grass next to the road, between it and the raised viaduct for Oak Street/Route /Heart of America Bridge.

The grass was tall, and despite the heavy duty power of the mover, it still threw a lot of heavy grass over the bike lane, hiding it totally from view. The unique and relevant point is that the tall grass being mowed had also housed a significant amount of trash that people had thrown out  while passing by. This trash was added to the grass occluding the bike lane.

I would have been more put out by this flagrant elimination of the bike lane, except for two things: 1) the person mowing stopped to let me go by (no grass being blown at me), and 2) the next day the lane was actually clear. I’m not sure by what means, but they had picked up both the grass and the trash. The lane was clearer that it usually was — though the seam and uneven levels still remained.

Returning my focus back to the Chouteau Bridge area, I  will note that there is an in-traffic bike lane directly after Chouteau Trafficway crosses the bridge.  When you ride you bike you have two lanes to your left headed north, the bike lane, and a turning lane to your right. The structure of lanes is similar heading south. You ride with larger-than-you motorized vehicles on both sides of you.

But the important item is that this section of road is poured concrete, and the seam for the various large blocks of concrete goes right down the center of where they painted the bicycle lane. These seams always create a slight difference in pavement levels, and such differences create a hazard for bicycles — especially when these level differences follow the direction of motion for the bicycle. How they managed to put a seam in the concrete down the center of the bicycle lane going both north and south is a marvel of misapplied engineering.

The best example of level differences is back downtown, from River Market to Crown Center — The recessed rails for the Downtown Kansas City Streetcar. They even have signs for those in a couple of sports warning cyclists about the potential for getting a wheel stuck in them and spilling. One section of Third Street with the rails has a separate bike line on the same side that the Streetcar uses so there is a safe lane for the bike to ride on.  The other direction the bicycle doesn’t get its own lane, I presume because there is no rail to protect from.

Yet I have seen Google recommend routes where the cyclist would have to ride down the street right down the middle between the pair of recessed rails.  Google doesn’t accurately pick up all the hazards.

I could come up with more examples, but as with most things ubiquitous, since so many of the bike lanes are trash lanes, you tend to not notice the specifics and they begin to blend together. But hopefully these few examples give a good enough impression of the sort of obstacles and treatment cyclists get, even when the terrain is allegedly designed to be in their favor.