community · health · Nature · play · Social · technology

Draw A Walking Route In Whatever Shape You Want | PSFK

Looking to have a little fun with your walk? Now you can use mapping technology to do so…

The Trace app will let you turn a sketch on your smartphone into a physical walking route around a city. You can share your route with a friend, and the recipient gets step-by-step directions. Eventually, the app will reveal the shape on a map.

The walk creator can add signposts along the way—images, audio recordings, messages—which will pop-up at specific places in-route. Walkers can begin their walk anywhere in the city, and pick the duration of their walk. The app adjusts the size of the shape accordingly.

Sixteen walkers in Seattle, Boston and Chicago tested out Trace for a week, drawing over 150 shapes. They sent the walks to friends or tried the routes themselves. The results were presented in a study in Seoul, at the Association for Computing Machinery’s CHI conference last month.

more via Draw A Walking Route In Whatever Shape You Want.

architecture · behavior · community · creativity · design

Route Planning For The Happiest Walk, Not The Quickest | Co.Exist | ideas + impact

I am often focused on efficiency walking from place to place. But cyclists, runners, and other athletes talk about taking the more scenic route on their commutes or exercise routes, and maybe we should all follow suite.

Route Planning For The Happiest Walk, Not The Quickest | Co.Exist | ideas + impact

We’ve all [probably] taken a detour because the path is pleasant and scenic, even if it takes longer. But Google Maps and the like aren’t set up for that. They’re solely about speed and efficiency.Recent research led by Yahoo Labs shows how a planner-for-happiness might work. Using crowdsourced impressions of streets, Flickr data, and survey responses, it looks for a balance between “people’s emotional perceptions of urban spaces” and getting them to a destination in a reasonable amount of time.

more via Route Planning For The Happiest Walk, Not The Quickest | Co.Exist | ideas + impact.

behavior · brain · creativity · environment

How Acting Like a Scientist Can Help You Play

playing in the woods and acting like a scientist look pretty similar
I heard this story on NPR recently, and I think it’s the best advice I’ve heard in awhile on how to get out in the woods and explore, relax, and as they say in the article, take time to smell the roses! The answer: make an exploratory game out of it. “Pretend” to be a naturalist. Yes!

In this permanent state of hyperventilation, the issue for us all is not stopping to smell roses. It’s not even noticing that there are roses right there in front of us. Joseph Campbell, the great scholar of religion, hit the core of our problem when he wrote, “People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive.”

But how can we experience “being alive” in the midst of the crushing urgencies that make up modern life?

Well, it might seem strange, but one answer to that question is “science,” at least science with a lowercase “s.” Science, you see, is all about noticing. This is where it begins, with simple act of catching seeing the smallest detail as an opening to a wider world of wonder and awe. And here is the good news. You don’t need a particle accelerator or well-equipped genetics lab in your basement to practice noticing (that would be science with a capital “S”).

You already are a scientist. You have been since you were a kid playing with water in the tub, or screwing around in the backyard with dirt and sticks and stuff.

If you want to rebuild your inner-scientist-noticing-skills, the best place to begin is with a walk in the woods.

There are lots of reasons to take a walk in the woods. To get away from it all, clear your head, smell the fresh air. The problem, of course, is that even if we get ourselves into a park or a forest, we might still be so lost in our heads that we miss what’s right in front of us. Practicing noticing, like a scientist, can change that by binding us to experience in ways that are thrilling, even in their ordinariness.

Noticing can take many forms. One trick is to count things. Scientists love to count stuff. How many trees are there on the sides of a steep hill compared with its crest? How many leaves are there on the stalks of the blue flowers compared to the yellow ones? How many different kinds of birdsong do you hear when you stop and listen, (by the way, this requires really stopping and really listening, which is awesome). Counting things forces you to pay attention to subtleties in the landscape, the plants, the critters.

Other things scientists love: shapes, colors, patterns. Do the rocks at the stream’s edge look different from the ones near the trail? Do the big cattails have the same color as the small ones? Get your naturalist on and bring a notebook. Pretend you are or John Muir. Jot down your findings, make little drawings and always, always ask your yourself those basic questions: why, how, when?

Read the full article.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but scientists are all about creativity and exploration, and noticing things outside of the ordinary, so acting like a scientist is great way to see the world in a whole new way by playing with things, seeing what happens when you mess with something. Kids are natural players/explorers/scientists, so you can even bring one along as it might be helpful to get you in the explorer mode.

I would also argue that it doesn’t have to be “the woods” necessarily to get the same playful/exploratory benefits, it can also be short walks around the block, whatever works to get your observational juices flowing.

community

Seattle gets OK to build Burke-Gilman Trail’s ‘missing link’ in Ballard | Seattle Times

Burke-Gilman trail in Seattle, WA
Burke-Gilman trail in Seattle, WA with the "missing link" shown.

 

I love cruising down the scenic, flat (which in a city of hills is wonderful), and also pedestrian friendly Burke-Gilman trail on my bike, passing parks, restaurants and coffee shops, trees, and amazing water views all the way from my home (kinda) near Lake Washington all the way to Golden Gardens beach. I have also experienced this “missing link” myself; a spot where the trail just disappears and you’re forced to share the road with giant trucks moving cargo in and out of ports. I always wondered why there was this gap, and I’m glad to see the city pushing to finish the trail.

After months of appeals, the Seattle Department of Transportation SDOT can finally begin construction on the “missing link” of the Ballard portion of the Burke-Gilman Trail, a Seattle hearing examiner ruled last week.

The hearing examiner ruled that the Shilshole Avenue Northwest portion of the “missing link” does not pose a significant environmental risk.

The ruling means the city will not have to conduct a full environmental-impact report for that section of the route, which runs along Shilshole Avenue Northwest between 17th Avenue Northwest and Northwest Vernon Place, and can move forward on its plans for the expanded trail. When that may happen is still undecided, however, said Rick Sheridan, communications manager for SDOT.

“We do fully expect that this will once again be appealed to the King County Superior Court. However, the city is eager to begin construction on a fully funded and fully designed missing-link segment,” Sheridan said.

The missing-link portion of the trail would fill a gap of approximately 1.5 miles between 11th Avenue Northwest and the Ballard Locks on the Ship Canal.

via Outdoors | Seattle gets OK to build Burke-Gilman Trail’s ‘missing link’ in Ballard | Seattle Times Newspaper.

I’m not sure why the city doesn’t have to conduct a full environmental impact, that part is a little concerning. But, considering how built up and industrialized the site already is, I’m also surprised there isn’t one already floating around somewhere they could use or build off of.

I am happy to see cities focusing on making cities more walkable or at least more bike friendly.

environment · Me · mental health · Nature · play · smell

A morning communion

deciduous azaleaEnrichment is…

Waking before dawn, and being called out by the morning birds to go participate in the celebration of dawn.

I lie in bed, awaken from being overheated under my down comforter. I had been cold and left the heat on last night, foolishly, for now I am up and alert, at 5:30 in the morning. I toss and turn a little, and lie on my back, hands resting on my chest and stomach, almost as if in meditation or prayer.

I don’t know how long I lie there, but soon enough the light outside changes from cold, harsh street lamps to a softer natural light. Suddenly I hear a bird announcing his presence in the tree above my bedroom. His song is joined by a second kind of beat, the first lolling, the other more short and chirpy. A third chimes in with his sing-songy notes. For whatever reason, I am moved to join them. Not in song, but a need to be witness to this ageless ritual of the morning, of virility, of male posturing, of spring.

It is spring; after a long rainy winter, it is finally starting to be spring. In the dark of my bedroom I feel for my grandfather’s work shirt and a pair of leggings. I find a pair of Converse waiting by the back door. Slowly, so as not to wake the dog or my husband I left behind both soundly asleep, I unlock the door, tie my shoes, and I am gone.

I could easily just stand out in my backyard, listening, still as a newly budding daffodil in this morning gray. But I must move. I must be a part of it. I want to deeply breathe in the cold wet air, to feel the morning on my hands and face. While it is a warmer morning than I’ve felt in awhile, the air is brisk with only one layer on, but walking keeps me just warm enough. I walk north past the church where last weekend the boy scouts had their gardening fundraiser, the yard now empty, abandoned in this pre-morning gray. There are no cars, no people. Just me and birds, and they are the only ones brave enough to break the silence.

I see fat robins picking at things in the street; they must have better eyes than me to make out anything edible in this pre-dawn light, or maybe just being closer to the ground helps.

A pair of runners and their dog cross my path a block up, reminding me that I am not the only human alive. Gaining momentum before charging up a small hill, they do not see me, they are lost in their own morning meditation.

I pass under a series of pink blooming plum trees, and as I pass their fragrance fills my nostrils. It is glorious. I breathe in deeply, letting the fruity blossom smell reach all the way into the back of my throat. My pace is perfect so that I am able to perform a deep, yoga-like breath under each tree, taking the smell in, considering the slightly different fragrance each tree puts off. One is farther along in its blooming cycle, and the white flowers are less fruity than the pink ones, more subtle. As I walk under them the air temperature changes to just a few degrees warmer. It is a pleasant respite from the cool morning air.

The houses on the street are all darkened, except for the occasional porch light or living room lamp left on. They are still asleep. Wise souls. Foolish souls for missing the morning.

The street dead ends onto another cross street, and I turn, starting to make my rectangular route around the neighborhood. Each garden’s plants are in a different state of bloom, from sticks to buds to a few purple and pink azalea blooms already in full show. Some gardeners have already started their new beds this year, others haven’t touched them, or let them go to weed.

My study of the local architecture is distracted by another human; a homeless man with shaggy graying, sun-bleached hair, in baggy clothes and a plastic bag tied to his shirt is walking down the other side of the street, slowly but with a purpose. He ignores me as we walk towards each other on opposite sides of the street. As he passes from my peripheral view I wonder what he is doing out wandering around the neighborhood this time of morning, then realize he could just as easily think the same of me; what is this strange girl doing in just a large flannel work shirt and leggings doing wandering the neighborhood this time of morning?

I see another runner reach his front walkway as I make the final turn onto my street. The light is finally starting to turn yellow, streaming up under the clouds, lighting them with streaks of yellow and orange. The birds are now in full chorus. My hands are chilled, but I am filled with gratitude that I got to see this morning arrive. I lift my up my back gate and carefully swing it open so it won’t scrape the pavement, still trying to keep quiet.

I take a moment, standing on my back porch, letting the bird song and wet, cold morning air drift over me. I want to share this with my entire household. I want to share this moment of awakeness, aliveness, and sense of being a part of the world. But the secret to this moment’s success is that it is a solitary event, it is alone and quiet. Just me and the birds, the plum blossoms, the rhododendron bushes, and the cold wet air.

I go inside to get warm just as the sun splits the clouds open and it starts to rain.