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It’s all the same — a case for curiosity

Typically the first thing I do in the morning is review a bunch of sites with articles of interest. Mostly political commentary, some news. It occurred to me today that I’m not reading them any more. I just skip over and go to my email.  It turns out they are all the same. Same topics, same complaints, same comments, over and over and over.

I’m certain this isn’t valid only for those articles that agree with my point of view, but the other guys are writing the same stuff too.

What has happened to creativity? Where are the columnists that come up with new ideas and concepts. Everything is a comment on ‘the other guy.’ I know its easier to write about something that is going on, than to write about a new idea. I tell my staff that when they come in with complaints, to also bring solutions. These writers and commentators have so few solutions. Everything is a cutsie comment on some misstep from the other guys, but no real new idea to solve a problem.

The writers hide behind the “observation” balloon. They are making “observations” about the passing scene. They see something that catches their eye and then present their sage “observations”. The problem is that those “observations” are the same ones, over and over and over. (Yikes, now I’m using the same phrase, over and over and…)

They have reached the point where they quote other columnists who are saying the same thing. They have become the story.

The problem as I see it is that the pablum they are foisting on us is surrounded by self-effacement and their own prejudices. There is never a question asked that would provoke thought in the reader. And when they do ask questions, they hurry up with the answers.

Einstein was a bright guy, perhaps the brightest ever. His most famous quotes deal with curiosity. Asking questions. Asking the right questions.

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day.”

These writers seem to try to educate, rather than to get you to think for yourself.

A colleague noted that she prefers fiction over nonfiction. Non fiction tells you what’s on the mind of the author, fiction requires you use your imagination and curiosity to fill in the blanks.

Is it possible that there is a good (or even great) idea in each of us, and it only takes the right question to bring it out?

What if, just for a moment, you considered that everything you read or heard in the media was wrong. Not only wrong, but that the exact polar opposite was true. Not just things you disagreed with but things you agreed with. How would that change your outlook on the world?

No, its not scary, its curiosity, and its fun. You may not like it at first because it will require you to rethink virtually every belief you have. You may keep some, but you will throw out others. But in the end, they will be yours, not some airhead who barely made it through J school.

JVH

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MaaS – Why Hasn’t it Caught on

Simply put, Mobility as a Service is a concept that makes it easy for folks to use a single credential to access all sorts of transportation in a given area. What if you had an app that allowed you to use rapid transit, buses, uber, scooters, and bike rental. Wouldn’t it make your life easier?

Well, yes. But frankly, you need to want to ride one or more of these before the app will be of interest. And since the vast majority of us (upwards of 85%) don’t use any of these services, it seems hard to get excited about such a product.

Around 2010 the ‘smart city’ fad was on everyone’s lips, and as a part of it, MaaS was discussed at every convention and seminar as the end all to bring mobility to the masses. Now, a dozen years later, little seems to have happened.

America’s horizontal cities simply don’t lend themselves to MaaS. As much as civic planners and the like want it to happen, we simply don’t seem to have the political will nor the technology to bring to bear on what is considered a ‘problem.’

John Surico writes in the New York Times that Helsinki is working on a pilot program and many European cities are fighting their way through the MaaS complex. But these places, of course, already have a culture that lends itself to this type of commute. In the US, not so much.

If we were unable to develop a MaaS program here after a dozen years, what has gone wrong.

Is it possible that the average commuter simply doesn’t want to be told how to commute? That buses are irregular and dirty, that rapid transit is often dangerous and doesn’t go where you want to go, that scooters and bikes are fun but don’t really solve the soccer mom isues and longer commute problems that occur during the rain and snow.

Maybe its time to rethink the entire transportation issue. In the mean time, don’t sell your parking lot.

JVH

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These Folks are Surprised that People Like to Drive

Bloomberg labs has published an article by Eric Jaffe on a study done by a bunch of Italian statisticians concerning folks preference to cars over other types of transit, even when it costs more to drive the car than take rapid transit or other types of transportation. Their theory is that drivers are operating irrationally in opposition to their personal best interest. How can that be?

The problem it seems to me is that Eric and Co haven’t asked the right questions. It’s not that drivers pay a tad more to drive than take the subway, its why do they do so. They comment on the fact that sometimes congestion makes travel times longer when one drives, even though most times driving takes less time than other modes.

Is it remotely possible that folks don’t want to be told when to go, when to arrive, and when to leave? The schedule of trains and buses take a lot of freedom of movement out of the process. Is it also possible that drivers actually LIKE driving their own property hither and yon. Malcolm Gladwell put it simply “In spite of everything, and against all logic, I just like to drive.”

I’m sorry to sound cynical, but is it remotely possible that people actually like the freedom private vehicles give them? And they are willing to pay extra for that freedom?

From Barbara Chance:

 But much of the public transit literature about reasons why people don’t ride transit focuses on safety and convenience.  Particularly for women, public transit is fraught with difficult situations around the world.  I quote some of the studies in the book several of us did with David Feehan.  Plus women with children or who must do household tasks consider transit much less viable, let alone convenient.

So “best interest” to me is in the eye of the beholder.

So lets review the bidding –

  • Scheduling — Freedom to come and go as you wish
  • Security – Women don’t feel as secure on Transit
  • Convenience – difficult to deal with kids and shopping
  • It’s simple — I like to drive

If the folks that write the article have an agenda, that’s what the article will say. One person’s “irrational” is another persons “desire.”

JVH

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Thanksgiving 2021

As I read all the ‘Happy Thanksgiving’ messages we receive, I wonder if we are missing the point. Virtually all of them have a reference to eating, gaining weight, or football. Sure, there is a nod to “being thankful”, but it seems almost an afterthought.

The story of the first thanksgiving when the Indians and the Pilgrims got together to thank their respective Gods for the bounty they had received is probably apocryphal but its meaning transcends whatever errors and omissions it has taken on over the hundreds of years since those fall days in the early 1600s.

Here we have two opposing forces, the locals on one hand and those who are moving into their land on another. There is little doubt that there had to be some underlying concerns and mistrust on both sides. However they were able to overcome all that and sit down and give thanks.

We seem to think we have “evolved” from that rather tribal time when everything we did came from our own personal work. We were farmers, we worked the land, raised the food, and God willing, were able to have enough not only for our own survival but also to share with others. I wonder just how much evolution has taken place, and if it has, if it was in the right direction.

Those Puritans had a work ethic that transcends their very lives. They got up in the morning and went to work. They worked while the sun was up, and every day, except Sunday, when they worshiped. They would look askance at our ‘9 to 5’ philosophy and wonder just where they went wrong.

Our lives are so easy, compared to theirs. We ‘hunt’ at Costco, we ‘farm’ at Whole Foods, we are “entertained’ on our smartphones and televisions. If we get sick, we run the ER and the chances are very great that we will be healed. In the days of the Pilgrims, the smallest scratch could be a death sentence. Our biggest panic is the breakdown of the ‘supply chain’ that might possibly disrupt our Christmas spending.

My challenge to you this Thanksgiving is to think about that first time folks sat down at a dinner table and gave thanks. Think about how difficult and different their live were. And then give thanks to your deity that you don’t have to live surrounded with the difficulties they did. Sometimes I wonder if our lives are truly better.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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Frustration VS Acceptance

This is probably one of those blogs I should write then delete. Let’s see how it turns out.

I am deaf. Well not totally deaf, but my hearing loss is in the exact frequency of speech. I can hear the plane overhead, or the car in the street, but I can’t understand you when you talk to me. Hearing aids help a lot and when I wear them, I can get by in most situations. Fair enough.

It can be frustrating to me, and frankly to people talking to me, when I simply can’t understand and ask them to repeat themselves, sometimes over and over. Oftentimes Robyn is tempted to throw something at me. The frustration level reached a point that sometimes I say “I understand” when I don’t, simply to get past the moment and move on. You can imagine just how dangerous that can be. It’s not just eating something you hate for dinner, it can be much more problematic.

The frustration is that I forget sometimes just how bad my hearing is. I think I can live my life just as everyone else. Frankly, I can’t.

Consider getting old. A man has been the breadwinner and the ‘muscle’ in his family all his life. He is the one to fix things, to drive the car, the one who makes his family safe. Now, in his later years, he can do none of those things. A branch falls on the roof. He can’t simply climb the latter (he can’t lift the ladder) to pull it off. His daughter comes over to do it. The father bursts into tears in frustration. A simple task. He can’t do it. He knows the light at the end of the tunnel is a train coming straight at him.

My mother was one of the wisest people I have ever met. She faced adversity head on and simply never gave up. When the time came to place her in “the home.” She wasn’t happy. She fought it tooth and nail. When she had been there a week, she asked me “I’m not going home, am I?” I said the hardest words I have ever spoken: “No, mom, you are not.” She nodded her head and patted my hand. She accepted what must be. Her initial frustration was replaced with acceptance. She spent her last months happily disrupting the folks around her. And loving it.

Don’t get me wrong. There are things you can change and certainly things you don’t need to simply accept. But there are things a ninety year old cannot change. Or a deaf person cannot fix. There comes a time to accept what’s what.

The Father above who broke into tears because he couldn’t do a simple task, didn’t realize that his frustration was also affecting those around him. There was little they could do to help him, and his frustration became theirs.

My gift to you this holiday season is to temper my frustration with my faulty ears and to simply ask you to slowly repeat things I don’t hear. Hopefully not too often.

JVH

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Dog Bites Man Story — Parking at Trader Joe’s

I blasted through a headline over at Parknews concerning parking at Trader Joe’s. It was, I thought, a ‘dog bites man’ story. After all, we all know that Trader Joe’s is a small store with a large clientele, and a correspondingly small parking footprint so you know if you drive to Trader Joe’s, you have a parking issue. My first response was ‘meh’.

Suddenly I was bombarded by a dozen emails from people horrified about the article. I figured I had better go back and actually read it. Boy was I surprised.

Seems an automotive reporter for the LA Times did a deep dive into Hollywood Trader Joe’s parking issues and did something few of us ever do, he actually read the 4000 word terms of service attached to the parking app that is required if you wish to park at this particular venue. (Note: Trader Joe’s had nothing to do with the parking, they are simply a tenant in the building.)

Basically the terms of service gives the app creator the right to collect tons of information about you and then to provide (read that sell) that information to whomever they like. This came as a surprise to those of us who download parking apps all the time.

If you want to read the whole article log on to parknews.biz and search for ‘privacy’.

Let’s face it. We know that Amazon et al collect our data on a daily basis. How many times have you bought a plane ticket to Florida then been faced with weeks of ads for Disney world and Orlando Hotels. We know that happens and acknowledge it. But information about our parking? Is that a step too far?

I was even more surprised to learn that I use the app to park at my doctor’s office. She is a specialist, and it would take very little research to understand what her specialty is and then to learn just what I am doing there every few months. I wonder just how that conflicts with HIPPA rules. My health is my business, and certainly no one else’s.

Just what does this mean to our industry? Sure an app that enables me to enter and leave a garage seamlessly and to pay automatically is great. And I laud it. But one that allows someone, anyone, to collect data about me and then provide it to a third party is problematic at best. I wonder if the landlord at the Hollywood Trader Joe’s knows that data can be collected and (shudder) sold. Is that building owner getting a piece of the action? Is the operator?

This is going to take more research and a swim in some murky waters. Stay tuned. I have some pretty powerful folks on the case.

JVH

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Focus, Can you do it for four minutes?

SWPTA’s annual meeting was a fantastic event. There was something for everyone, and it was a great place to talk about parking. But I glanced over at the fellow sitting at the next table and he was playing a game on his phone. Granted he wasn’t a parking pro, he was the head of a county in a nearby state, and yes, he was there to hopefully make is myriad parking issues go away. But he wasn’t focused.

I don’t really blame him, I blame the environment he brought with him. When Cindy Campbell spoke, there wasn’t a person in the room that didn’t focus like a laser beam on her. She was articulate, she was engaging, she brought her topic right home to the people sitting in the room. She changed that environment and people listened.

Everywhere we go, we take our environment with us. We have our iPad, our smart phone, our laptop and they consume us hour by hour, day by day. It becomes impossible to focus on the task at hand.

When Michelangelo was asked by the Pope to fix the architecturally poor ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, at first he couldn’t do it. He had no focus. Then he read the bible about the creation and his focus was clear. He spent four years working on the ceiling. He had his focus and kept it. No distractions.

How many of us can say we are clear in our focus? Many of us, women particularly, talk about multi-tasking. They work on many things at once. Some are even proud of the fact that they can be on a zoom call, check email, review a spread sheet, and complete a report, all at the same time.

(At this moment, I glanced down at my mail icon, saw there was mail waiting, and went to look at it. Now, I’m not sure I’m back to where I was in this blog when I left.)

I doubt sincerely if a multi tasker can truly do as good a job as someone who focuses on one task and truly is involved in it.

I think instantaneous news, social media, email, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and their ilk have numbed us to the point that we simply cannot focus, no matter how important the task at hand. To get someone’s attention takes more and more effort. You are fighting big media, silicon valley, and all the tech an iphone and android can throw at you.

When I speak before a group, I attempt to get its focus with two things. First, I ask them to take their phones and turn them face down on the table. Then I ask a question that requires a ‘shout out answer.’ I walk around the room and force people to follow me with their eyes. I’m not always successful. Once I saw a fellow working on this cell phone. I stood directly in front of him and stopped talking. The room was silent for a full minute before he looked up. Even then he didn’t understand the problem.

We have not only lost our ability to focus, but we have lost our understanding of just what focus is. Trust me, its not found on your phone or computer. It’s the ability to maintain a subject in our minds to the exclusion of all else. At least for a period of time. Michaelangelo was able to do it for four years. Can you do it for four minutes?

JVH

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Maybe Its Not Just the Payroll…

At the SWAPTA conference last week we were overwhelmed with wonderful conversations with people who seemed to know about what they were talking. One was Maria Tamayo-Soto who is a parking administrator with the economic and urban development department with the City of Las Vegas.

It seems she worked for many years for the Las Vegas Convention Center and was responsible for staffing and managing much of the parking and shuttle operations for the center. She was laid off from that job due to Covid 19.

She had plenty of time to consider her position, her job, and her future. When I asked her about the difficulty of finding people to fill non senior level positions (and some senior positions) her answer came as a surprise.

She told me that often it wasn’t a question of pay. There were many other factors. First of all, perhaps a ‘change over’ was in order. That is, now the husband was at home and got to like taking care of the kids, so when things loosened up, the wife entered the job market and perhaps wasn’t looking to fill the same kind of job the husband left.

In many cases, she said, people had the time to consider their future and perhaps went back to school to hone a new skill and really do what they wanted, rather than what they had to do in life. They were able to restructure their lifestyle in such a way so they weren’t forced to work to make money, or that the income wasn’t as important.

She commented that all the time off gave people an opportunity to rethink their lives and future. They didn’t have to flip burgers, maybe they would rather work in health care or at a university. Education is not a bad thing. You can get ‘stuck’ in entry level jobs, driving shuttles or directing traffic, or waiting tables, or in retail and if you are suddenly out of that job, and nothing else is on the horizon, you have time to think about what you really want to be when you grow up, even if you are in your 40s or 50s, or 60s.

Maria told me that folks aren’t just rushing back to work to make money. They are moving more slowly and frankly, aren’t attracted to the same jobs they had before.

She said that if companies want to attract people, they need to look at the requirements of those people. Maybe its split shifts (so they can be home with the kids) or more time off. Maybe the person wants more training, or mentoring, or the like. Companies, she said, need to look to the workers wants and needs, not just the payroll.

Smart woman, that Maria.

JVH

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What Happens if there is no Risk?

Nothing…

All advancements society has made since its beginning have been involved with risk. Consider some synonyms: danger, hazard, imminence, menace, peril, pitfall, threat, trouble. It sounds like a definition of a horror movie. Perhaps it is.

What happens to society if we become risk adverse? What happens if we reach the point where we wrap ourselves in cotton wool and tell ourselves that the only way to live is to have no risk, to rely completely on some central control that ‘fixes’ everything and removes all danger, hazard, peril, pitfall, threat, and trouble from our lives.

When I was in the Army, I felt I was in the center of the risk adverse universe. OK, if we had to go into battle, we took tremendous risk, the rest of the time, there was none. We were told what to wear, where and when and what to eat, when and where to sleep, what movies we could watch, what TV shows to see, when and where to go on vacation. We were told what to buy (at the commissary or PX), when and where to live and when to move. Schools were provided for our kids, and churches in which to worship. We were even told who should be our friends and when and where to play with them.

Except in battle, the military is a risk adverse institution, and one that has little creativity, almost no leeway in decision making. There are manuals for everything and ‘leaders’ who ensure you follow them.

Although I enjoyed my three years in the Army, I couldn’t wait to get out. I wanted to confront life where I could make decisions, good or bad, that affected me.

In olden days, there were no ‘safe places’ where I could go to be completely without fear. I rode bicycles without helmets, in cars without seat belts, climbed trees, and fell out of them. My friends and I hiked through the hills filled with ticks, snakes, coyotes, and deep canyons and somehow survived. There was risk with everything we did.

We went through epidemic after epidemic – Polio, swine flu, Asian flu, kids died of measles, whooping cough, smallpox, mumps. I can’t give blood today because I was in the UK during the mad cow crisis. We had depressions, recessions, and survived. Just think of the risk we took going to school when the flu was rampant. We did and survived.

What are we facing now? We are twisting ourselves into pretzels with social distancing, masks, vaccination requirements, and fear of any risk. Each winter since time immemorial we have had flu outbreaks. We all go and get vaccinated to mitigate the results. Many still get the flu but it isn’t as bad if you had your shot. You skip the vaccination at your risk. You take the risk. So be it.

We have become so risk adverse that we can’t hear about certain beliefs if they don’t agree with us. Words cause us to panic. We reach the point where common sense is replaced with “woke.” After all, if we all believed the same, there would be no risk.

Its risk that make life worth living. You find an opportunity, you take a chance. You roll the dice. You swing for the center field fence. Remember who had the most strikeouts. Nothing happens if you don’t take a risk.

The problem I have is that those who make decisions for us, who tell us how we must live, take no risk themselves. They are in positions where they can live as they please, have plenty of money, and if their decisions are wrong, they simply move on, with no consequences.

The rest of us take actual risk, and win or lose, do so with honor. So be it.

JVH

 

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I guess we got our answer

A few weeks ago, I wrote of the heroes on flight 93 and asked what would happen today. Would we storm the cockpit?

Last week, a woman was raped on a train in Philadelphia. She was in plain view of a number of passengers during the rape. In fact, a number of them “Videoed the incident on their cell phones.” But no one came to her aid. No one even called 911. Police are investigating, not only the rapist, who is in jail, but also those who “stood by.”

Frankly as I write this, I am getting sick to my stomach. What kind of people were they? They didn’t even dial 911 or hit the emergency call box in the train. They did nothing.

Was there no one to say “Let’s stop this.” Or “Hey you, stop it”, or “Come on, Let’s get this guy.” Oh please. We aren’t talking terrorists or certain death here. We are talking about a lone rapist accosting a woman.

Unfortunately, this type of thing happens more and more.  From my earlier blog:

What has the last 20 years done to us. Somehow we came to tolerate death and destruction. People are killed daily in our cities and we do nothing. We celebrate the criminals that take innocent lives and release them to kill again. We accept horrors with a shrug and cower in our living rooms behind smart phones and tv screens. We demand others sacrifice as we hide in fear from an endemic virus. All for our own comfort.

If that is what we have become, then when we ask the question that began this piece, the answer must be a resounding and sniveling NO!

We can only pray that when the moment arrives, we will have the strength to join Todd Beamer and storm that cockpit. If not, all is lost.

Well – I guess, last week in Philly, we got our answer.

JVH

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