Atlanta Bike Challenge

This week kicked off the Atlanta Bike Challenge — a 20 day competition to get people to try commuting by bike. Whether to work, or an errand, or to the gym, the challenge wants to get as many people, especially non-cyclists, to put a little fun between their legs for 10 minutes daily.

I started road cycling for sport over a decade ago while training for a then-impossible two day cycling event — the National Multiple Sclerosis Bike Challenge. I quickly had to learn about cycling on the roads of Atlanta; the first thing I learned was to avoid them. Cycling on Atlanta’s roads is a death wish. Drivers are usually distracted on their phones — usually one hand on the steering wheel and the other holding a phone — focused on a radio program or conversation, or simply ignorant of and/or mean-spirited about road cyclist. All I had between these two-ton tanks and me was a dozen or so pounds of aluminum and a brain bucket of a helmet. The laws of physics inform us that when — not if — a collision occurs there will only be one survivor, and it won’t be me.

So I took to the concrete paths of Atlanta’s PATH Foundation. Every weekend was a visit to the Silver Comet, Freedom Parkway, or Arabia Mountain. But even there there were safety concerns. The paths are great for pedestrians to meander and enjoy but they really weren’t meant to be shared by flesh & bone walkers paced at 2 or 3 MPH, and a speeding missile whizzing by at 20+ mph. Again, the laws of physics tell you collisions will happen, and in this case there aren’t any airbags to protect anyone.

So what options were left for me to stay healthy, enjoy a nice Southern Spring or Fall day, and avoid hours sitting in traffic polluting the air? Commuting by bike! In the past decade Atlanta has clearly invested in creating more bike lanes for commuting. While patchy in most locations — you will often switch between bike lanes and obstacle-strewn shoulders — they are improving. Today, I enjoy a full 3 miles of bike-only lanes in Buckhead along Peachtree Road. It is an absolute joy to cruise along, enjoying the weather and passing all the rush hour commuters sitting alone in their cars. While plenty have a face of anger that I, a lowly commuter cyclist, am passing them, in others I see a glimmer of hope. They want to be out there with me, too.

So, I challenge you to come join me. There is plenty of room to share and enjoy.

8 More Weeks: A Father’s Letter to his Newborn

father-baby-hand

When your mother and I were training for a marathon — yes, your parents once completed a marathon — 8 weeks seemed like forever. That’s two full months, plenty of time to train and prepare. But as your mother and I move into our final 8 weeks waiting for your arrival, there doesn’t seem to be enough time to prepare for you.

Do you know how much you are on our mind? We haven’t even met yet although I can tell you that you respond to food with joyful kicks — you get that from me. And you like to gently kick around 9 or 10pm, but not when I’m touching your mother’s belly. Will you be shy?

Do you know how much we think about you? Our calendar is filled with doctor visits, Confident Childbirthing and Breastfeeding classes, hospital and even daycare tours. When we aren’t investing these hours learning about you we are spending the other hours preparing for you. Your nursery is ready; we selected a jungle theme because we didn’t want it to be too gender-specific. That may sound weird now but once you get to know us it will make more sense. Figuring things out on your own and sharing experiences with others is kinda the whole fun part of life for us. Will you be as curious as us?

But really, we started “nesting” and preparing for you several years ago by buying a house — the house you will probably grow-up in. We even started a college savings fund for you, something that will take nearly two decades for you to appreciate. We just finished a house project in which we built our bedroom; your nursery is our old bedroom. So before you start complaining about how small it is realize that we had half the closet space and double the people in there, sometimes with upwards of three dogs, too!

Do you know how nervous we are? We have been forewarned about the changes that will be required in our lives when you decide to make your grand entrance. We currently enjoy our evenings together making meals — we are trying this pescatarian thing right now. Or we walk the dogs; every once and awhile we enjoy a show or movie on the TV. Your mom plays in a community orchestra and I’m currently taking improv classes. We understand that a lot of this will have to change as we focus our attention and energy on you.

Speaking of the pups, how well will you get along with your fur-siblings — Paprika and Watauga? Those are the two puppies in the photo in your room. Paprika is the one with the really soft velvety fur you will love to pet and Watauga is the one that will stand, well, lay guard with you all day and night long. We have so many adventures planned for you all. Will you remember them?

Do you know how scared we are?

We are told we shouldn’t be — your mother is as healthy as can be and you are the pinnacle of normalcy when it comes to prenatal tests! Let’s agree and not be so normal later when it comes to other tests, OK?

Besides, worrying now won’t change what has already been set in motion. We’ve done nearly all our homework; we are ready for this next challenge — “the hay is in the barn.”

See you in 8 short weeks.

Center for Civil & Human Rights: A Special Preview

Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta

I attended a special preview of the Center for Civil and Human Rights yesterday. My digital marketing firm, SHERPA global, proudly designed & developed the Center’s website; our team was granted a special opportunity to preview the Center with key stakeholders.

The Center is far more than a museum, which would merely capture and catalogue artifacts. Rather, the Center is an interactive, immersive experience of the region’s fight for civil rights, and mankind’s continued struggle for human rights. I predict it will be Atlanta’s landmark exhibit for the world — both for its visual elegance and inspirational content.

Get ready to be inspired, world.

A Landmark for Atlanta

The 43,000-square-foot Center for Civil and Human Rights is located in Centennial Olympic Park, rounding out the nearby museum options for trivia-filled infotainment (World of Coca-Cola) and immersive education (Georgia Aquarium). The Center’s tagline “Inspiration Lives Here” is brought to life juxtaposed on this campus of options. Luckie Marietta District has something for everyone; it is truly a “must-see” place for Atlanta tourists and natives alike.

The building appears firmly rooted in its place, made elegant yet bold with modern lines and organic materials and colors. The design reminded me of a slightly metallic albeit wood-textured shell surrounding or protecting something important but ethereal inside. Design architect Phil Freelon and The Freelon Group and Atlanta-based architect-of-record HOK said the design was based on “a concept of unity.”

The current design evokes the image of two cupped hands holding and protecting something precious: respect for human dignity.

rendering of the Center for Civil and Human Rights

Original rendering of the Center for Civil and Human Rights

Once inside the building — unfortunately photos were explicitly forbidden — you are put at ease with white, rounded surfaces and clean lines from dark brown wood floors. While the stories of civil and human rights are harsh, filled with the violence & death that can erupt from the inequalities of dreams deferred, here the the environs promote reflection and hope. In short, it puts you in the right mind as you prepare for what will most certainly be an emotional journey.

A Landmark for our Times

Upon its grand opening this June 23, the Center will exhibit four galleries. I was only able to visit two of them.

I don’t want to ruin your own visit with spoilers of the actual exhibits but I can share my thoughts on my experience.

Rolls Down Like Water

“But let justice roll down like waters And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” – Amos 5:24

The title of this exhibit is based on a biblically-inspired quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.. This exhibit is, however, far more than just the story of one man; it captures the many stories behind the brave fight for equality in The American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s — from the brave, young teens called the Freedom Riders to the 253,000 that peacefully assembled for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedoms to the many heroic, and not so heroic, politicians and figures of power & influence.

When you first enter the exhibit, look left and then look right. Listen to the sounds of the TV’s in the first room. Don the headphones and see if you can withstand the vile, hate-filled words that saturated our society but a few decades ago. These are the sights and sounds that served as the roots of the Civil Rights movement, and Atlanta was key to that story. As you make your way around the exhibit’s rooms, take the time to take in what will be visceral experience. When you make it to Three Hymns prepare for your heart to be moved.

Curated by Tony Award–winning theatrical playwright and film director George C. Wolfe of Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk fame, this exhibition has all the elements of exceptional theatre. Be prepared to be both infuriated and inspired by these many stories.

Spark of Conviction

The Center advises 75 minutes when visiting the Center. But by the time I got to the Global Human Rights exhibit I was already too drained. I was filled with so many emotions — anger, frustration, hope. I had a lot to digest still so I purchased a membership pass to the Center, which provides unlimited free admission for one year.

Instead, I went out for a late dinner nearby to talk through the experience with my colleagues that attended.

Verdict: Inspiration Lives Here

The Center for Civil and Human rights declares the following purpose:

to create a safe space for visitors to explore the fundamental rights of all human beings so that they leave inspired and empowered to join the ongoing dialogue about human rights in their communities

Without question, the Center serves this challenge well.

There was room for improvements. I would have enjoyed a place within the building to rest between exhibits and share experiences over a snack or drink. While there are plenty of options nearby an option for “take-it-all-in” respite would have been appreciated. Also, in this modern day of social networks I really wanted to capture & share my experience with photos; photography was strictly prohibited, unfortunately. I think there is a huge opportunity here for the Center, especially if it hopes to teach and inspire the younger generation of how much came before them, at what costs, and how future change will only come through their own individual courageousness.

The Center has a vital story to tell about us all; it shares it with brave elegance.

The Center for Civil and Human Rights opens to the world June 23rd with a celebratory opening at 10am. All are invited.

Look Up, Look Down. Look All Around.

Enough with the technology hate already. Social media is a tool; it is the use of that tool that is the problem, not its entire existence. Need proof? Consider this: social media…

  • rekindles and strengthens relationships with friends, family where proximity and physical boundaries limit you. This is probably reason enough to value social media, but not for the dreary author of this video.
  • connects you to like-minded individuals. If you are not living in a tolerant, urban location, this is critical to happiness.
  • helps you find a life companion. 20 % of current relationships are estimated to have started with online dating. These relationships are arguably healthier ones, too as they are based on shared interests, not just sexual attractiveness from across a room. For they shy or socially awkward, the value is immeasurable. For this author, apparently soul mates are all walking about in London.
  • provides a venue for artistic expression. Consider what this isolated, lonely World’s Greatest Dad did for his son. What a sad life that kid has with such an inattentive father.

It is not lost on me that the video’s author, complaining about how terrible social media is, used social media to share his message. And people are sharing it on social media. Some, like me, are seeking to discuss it. Why did we do this, when we could have been, as the author puts it, productive reading a book (so social), painting a picture (again, is this normally a group activity?) and exercising? Don’t we realize that no one is listening? We are all too busy reading *other* social media posts, I guess.

The issue is when we, while in the moment with someone, engage with social media instead of that person. The desire to share that moment is understandable. It is, however, possibly poorly timed. This all comes to social media etiquette. Let’s teach and promote that; not the absence of social media, or how isolating it is. Because it is not.

Also, if you have 422 “friends”…maybe the issue is that you consider 422 people “friends” rather than the count you are making them. Maybe consider a “reset” of your Facebook account.

Getting a Schooner for Greece (Day 3)

Today’s Santorini adventure started early as we sailed via schooner around the islets of Santorini.

Jessica: When will the boat get to the island?
David: Schooner or later.

The islands of Santorini are a result of a final volcanic eruption from 3,600 years ago – an eruption that is theorized to have caused an evacuation by all civilization on the island, caused a 90 foot tsunami that hit Crete several days later, and even leave ice core particles as far as Greenland.  And I thought when I got a flat tire I was having a bad day.

The inner islets of Nea and Palea Kameni are relatively new – 430 years old – and recently active as of 1950. We saw (and smelled) some sulfur gasses near seismic monitoring equipment. We also swam in a “hot springs” that was more like a lukewarm mud pond. It required us to jump off the schooner and swim a bit in the chilly clarity of the briny Aegean.

These islets were forming via submarine effusions as early as 1600BC; the Greek geographer Strabo noted their surface emergence in 197 BC.  It is exciting to stand on ground that was so relatively new and yet still connected to ancient times.

After we stopped by for another coffee – freddo espressos are my lifeblood – we joined a friend and colleague for a final day sunset dinner. If only the dinner was as enchanting as the view. Every dish was…unique…but the kicker was a “stuffed kalamari”. I’m not sure what we were expecting but a  latex ballon filled with dry, chalky cheese was not it.  I never imagined dill to pair well with calamari; I still don’t.

Alas, we drowned our meal-time sorrows in local white wine – Assyrtiko – and ouzo – a slightly sweet anise-flavored (think liquorice) apertif.