Tuesday, March 31, 2020

A simple way to help during COVID19

I was talking with a friend this morning, and we were bemoaning the self-isolation imposed on us all by COVID19, and regretting that there weren't easier ways to help out. For many people, we acknowledged, the best therapy is to go outside and help someone else. That's not possible now. Still, we came up with this idea. I'm sure it's in operation elsewhere, but I'm not aware of it here. It's simple, it's meaningful, and it fosters a connection between both the giver and the receiver. It goes like this ...


What if we started organizing "virtual check ins" for:
  • Seniors -- to check on their health, to check on their needs (food, etc.) and to provide some companionship during this lonely time of isolation. 
  • Young parents -- to check on school/home/life/work balance and offer the opportunity to chat.
  • In addition, we find a licensed therapist/social worker who would be available to talk to a parent/resident/elderly person on an appointment basis, to discuss issues like stress, anxiety or other worries they may have.
It's a perfect opportunity for someone to be a volunteer, and it will be meaningful for the people being called. It makes connections and combats some of the isolation, and, best of all, it's all virtual -- there is no danger of spreading COVID. (It could be a phone call or a video chat.)

Monday, March 30, 2020

The Viral Paradox

We are faced with the viral paradox. It's a public health scourge, both terrifying and deadly. And yet its capacity to teach us much is huge, even as the death toll mounts.

In health and public health. In leadership and political expediency. In organization management and supply chain vulnerabilities. In employment economics and the list goes on. On these, I have little to no knowledge.

But on the urban front, I have an inkling of an idea: the corona virus is allowing us to run the urban planning experiment no one thought possible. What if we shut down an entire city for a day? For a week? For a month?

That question is being asked here in this country and around the globe. What can we learn from this?

Quite a lot, I suspect.

As always, when in doubt, begin with a list.
  • Air pollution/Greenhouse gas emissions. They are greatly reduced worldwide. What can we learn from this? 
  • Transportation. Single car occupancy is again the rule and public transit suffers, but roads are emptier at all times of day and travel times reduced.
  • Working from home. Everybody's doing it. By force. Is it working? Who knows. The distractions are greater, but the focused times are probably more focused. What lessons are employers learning from this?
  • Internet bandwidth.  The virus is causing a huge strain on internet bandwidth. Europe asked Netflix to stop streaming in HD, to relieve some of the. pressure. What is our capacity?
  • Digital divide. If you have access to the internet, you can continue to go to school. If you don't you can't.
  • Distance learning. This is a BIG ONE for the Boston area. With so many colleges and universities, what does it mean to go to the virtual campus? How does an MIT differentiate itself from a Bunker Hill Community College if all classes are available to all people online?
  • Density. Is density our friend or our enemy?
And that is where I begin. And end this blog post. 

Over time, this space will look at each of these areas with greater depth.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

The unimaginable (re)visits us ... again

As to its size and scale, the corona virus experience mimics 9/11. The notable phrase from 2001 was, if you'd written it as a Hollywood screenplay, it would have been rejected as too outlandish, too preposterous.

Covid-19 gives off that same general vibe. Imagine this plot: a strange new virus emerges in the Far East, and makes its way to America via a trans-Pacific air carrier. It starts to infect and then kill people here. We don't understand it, but we see it spreads quickly. We self-quarantine. We are told "don't go out." The economy starts to shut down and governors begin to ban interstate travel. Meanwhile the president dithers ineffectually in Washington as the situation grows more dire with each news cycle. People are left on their own as doctors struggle to care for the rising wave of new arrivals at the emergency room door.

I mean, that wouldn't, couldn't happen here. We would never run out of essential goods. It's too preposterous a script. Thank the screen writers, and express our gratitude, but tell them it's being rejected as too unrealistic.

And tell them, we'd never have to ask China for help to solve this problem.

And yet here we are. Those who sought this outcome should rejoice. We have arrived.

America is clearly no longer the indispensable nation.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

And in other news, Tom Brady leaves on the midnight bus

It occurred to me this morning that Tom Brady, the New England Patriots star quarterback over these past two decades, picked the perfect time to slip out of town. Whether this was by choice or by chance (it was by chance, to be sure), he couldn't have found a more opportune time to exit out the back door while people were looking elsewhere. It's fair to say that most Boston people will be focused on other things over the next six months.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Visual City photos

I have finally started loading up some of my photographs on my website, visualcity.net.