Dear Mayor Arakawa – One lane bridge on the Haleakala Highway

[Posted to AskTheMayor@mauicounty.gov]

Dear Mr. Arakawa,

The Haleakalā highway winds past Pukalani High School and, before starting up the mountain, passes through a one-lane bridge. There are yield signs for approaching traffic in both directions, but I’ve seen several near-head-on-collisions as someone sails onto the bridge without paying any attention to the yield sign, frequently without slowing down at all. This highway sees a lot of traffic between tourists and those of us who live up the mountain; sooner or later there’s going to be a major wreck on that bridge, which may lead to injuries and will most likely close that road for some amount of time.

Are there any plans to make this part of the road more safe? Perhaps add flashing yellow lights to the yield signs, or better yet widen the bridge to provide for two-way traffic?

Respectfully,

David Phillips
Kula

Dear Mayor Arakawa – Bike Tours on Haleakala

[Posted to AskTheMayor@mauicounty.gov]

Dear Mr. Arakawa,

I’ve managed to find very little documentation of any policy addressing the vendors that run bike tours down Haleakala. There was some mention of requiring a 10-minute spacing between groups, and I found one article that indicated Maui Police had declined to enforce any policies concerning these tours.

The vendors running the bike tours have taken advantage of the lack of regulation, and in doing so they are becoming somewhat of a nuisance on the highway:

  • I’ve encountered, more than a few times, up to five groups forming a near-continuous hazard all the way down the mountain. People become frustrated and pass the bikes, and the vans, at dangerous points in the road. I’ve witnessed this many times.
  • I’ve followed company vans driving down the center line, nearly causing head-on accidents with oncoming traffic.
  • I’ve followed company vans pulling trailers without working tails lights or brake lights.
  • I’ve had to avoid bicyclists riding against traffic in the wrong lane, or weaving all over the road while the company staff ignores them.
  • I’ve come around a corner to find a dozen people, off their bikes, standing in the middle of the highway watching a rainbow as the vendor sits in his van and looks on.

It seems to me some common-sense regulation, and enforcement, would be appropriate here. We’re going to see more tourists rather than fewer. More people will be living upcountry. It’s only a matter of time before we have a major incident with injuries. This shouldn’t be too complicated:

  • Vans and trailers must have current vehicle inspections and be in proper working order.
  • Vans and trailers must be clearly marked with company information on the sides and on the rear, including telephone numbers for reporting complaints.
  • Lead riders must wear clothing and helmets that clearly identify them as the company’s guide.
  • All riders must ride between the leading guide and the following van. No stragglers or racers.
  • A maximum of 5 riders per guide. If the group is larger, more guides must be riding spaced throughout the middle of the group.
  • Tours must allow 15 minutes between departures from the top of the route. 10 minutes is not sufficient, as the groups stack up lower on the mountain. Maui Police should occasionally audit this behavior.
  • There should be a central hotline for reporting incidents, or perhaps a website where people can provide photos of the vendor being reported. Maui Police should review both of these.
  • There should be real penalties for violating regulations – fines, suspension or revocation of tour operator’s license.

I don’t think any of these suggestions would be unreasonable to responsible tour vendors, and it would certainly make things safer for the people on bikes, and less frustrating for those of us who drive that highway every day.

Of course, an alternative solution would be to restrict all such tours to a single company to control the usage, similar to what they did on the Big Island in Kealakekua Bay. This would put other tour companies out of business, but would also provide a more consistent, safer experience for those who take those tours. If the current abuse continues, and traffic increases, I could see us getting to that point.

Respectfully,

David Phillips
Kula

Grace

Me and Akeakamai

I was diagnosed with prostate cancer last year. I’ve taken the necessary steps, gone through the necessary treatments, and AFAIK, until told otherwise I will consider it taken care of.

All the same, I spend a bit more time these days pondering goals. Where do I want to be in ten years? What would my perfect life be like?

More interesting questions, to me, flow along other lines: what impact can I have on my world, socially and in my community? And what do I want that community to be?

Over time the path along most of them has been defined by a single concept:

Grace. In all it’s forms. Movement, relationships, work, society.

Summonsed

So, I was “summonsed” (yes, Virginia, that is a word) to jury duty this week. I went in naively expecting drama and tension, and what I got was quite different. For a large part, the selection process is, well, pretty boring (I can’t speak to actually sitting through a trial because that didn’t happen). But the chairs in the juror’s room are amazingly comfortable, and the wifi is actually pretty good. The coffee, on the other hand, was even worse than the staff warned. But the atmosphere was chill, they worked hard to keep us all informed, and while there was a lot of waiting around, it felt, overall, purposeful.
That was the juror’s room. Then I was called two different times, in a group, to go up to a court and participate in the selection process.

Voir dire revolves around the concept of telling the truth under oath. It’s Anglo-Norman, for crying out loud. Basically, the prosecution and the defense vet the jury by asking a bunch of questions to try to get  a feel for who they want and who they don’t want. Sort of a more sophisticated version of choosing sides for dodgeball, evolving into something more like a game of chicken, or poker, as each attorney uses up their last challenges, trying to shape the jury to be sympathetic to their respective side. After two selection experiences, I’m hardly an expert, but there were consistencies across those two experiences:

  • Can you support a law you don’t agree with?
  • Do you understand the concept of reasonable doubt?
  • Are you bringing any prejudices with you into this court?

While the first two sorts of questions met with a fair amount of confusion (in no small part because of the way the counselors presented them), it was the last one that elicited surprises; we may have gone through full airport-like security to get into the courthouse, surrendering all weapons, but there were plenty of axes to be found grinding once the jurors started answering questions: there was the juror/lawyer whose native american family had seen their share of abuse. The asian juror who’d been mistaken for someone who didn’t speak english – 30 years ago. Many jurors who’d had their property stolen and felt they would tend to convict anyone charged with such a crime regardless of the evidence or presence of reasonable doubt. The Vietnam-era conscientious objector who still needed to vent. The elderly juror who turned a question about a lost tourist couple into an story about a driving lesson for their niece, because that’s what was on their mind at the time. The people who felt compelled to declare their position and the people who went to great lengths to avoid having a position, even when pressed.

All up, the process impressed me by how intensely personal it was. This wasn’t the grim set of folks from Twelve Angry Men, this was a bunch of normal, conflicted, vulnerable people who’d been pulled into the court system to decide the fate of someone, and many of them were uncomfortable with that. Some of it was interesting, some of it boring and even tedious, but if you took it as an honest cross-section of our community, it was quite a reality check.

During the process, I discovered that there is no provision in our legal system for allowing a person to volunteer for jury duty. It precludes the advent of the “professional juror”, and it’s a pretty effective means of guaranteeing a certain amount of randomness and, so the theory goes, a lack of collective bias.

Make your case and then throw the dice.

SXSW: interactive 2010

dfp_20100313_SXSW_0017

SXSW Interactive 2010 is over. I spent most of that time in Austin, and came away with some surprising impressions. On the flight down from Seattle, I’d say 80% of the passengers were headed to SXSW. Lots of “design-y” folks, obscure t-shirts, spools, mustaches, tats, hats and obligatory hair. It was a cool crowd, not the hyper let-me-prove-myself-to-you vibe one finds in crowds headed to purely tech events.
Still, SXSW Interactive has a lot of tech to it. Which made it surprising that the tech side of the event seemed like it needed life support, or at least a triple espresso. The website was a bit tangled, the official SXSW iPhone app never fully synced with the data on the site (twitter hashtags never made the jump). And there was the “profile merge” problem: if you set up a my.sxsw account before you actually registered, the photo you uploaded never made it to registration, and your account via the iPhone app never recognized you as an official attendee, meaning no QR scanning, or messaging, or any of that coolness. To fix this took asking specifically for a “merge” wherein your data were munged together. Then manual account setup at 1-2 other external sites to get the QR stuff online. Argh.

Once at the event, there were lines for everything.  Coffee, bathrooms, swag, entry into talks, drinks, dinner, clubs, music. Granted, a lot of these things were worthwhile, but you get tired of waiting. At the same time, the constant thrum of thousands of people circulating in the same space to talk about design and tech is intoxicating.

Content-wise, SXSW Interactive was a mixed bag. Few of the talks made much use of the big screens, leaving them to roll through the sorts of advertisements one normally finds when waiting for a movie to start. Speakers ranged from the awesome (Clay Shirky rocked it) to the mundane. And while I’d expect a some level of lack of preparation from newbie speakers (the zero waste panel had a member who actually said “what the fuck”), it was surprising how flat the keynote speakers were, people you’d normally expect to bring it.

Favorites:

  • Again, Clay Shirky kicked ass talking about changing the systems to enable changing our paradigms.
  • Robert Fabricant inspired with his examples of world-changing processes in action right now like Project Masiluleke (full disclosure: I’m a frog, but I think Project M is cool).
  • Making snow outside the convention center.
  • Sampling single malt Macallan at the frog party.
  • “Is WordPress killing design? No, lack of imagination is killing design.”

Further thoughts:

  • “Futurist” presentations should be 45 minutes rather than an hour – and no Q&A; these sessions seem especially prone to the “do you actually have a question?” phenomenon.
  • People posing as having questions when they’re standing up to promote themselves/their companies should be gently encouraged way from that  (LifeSize).
  • Biofeedback is not a form of mystical kinesthetic awareness.

Favorite quotes:

  • “augmented mindfulness” – Robert Fabricant
  • “believability is an extremely ductile process” – Bruce Sterling
  • “rainbow unicorn mode of sharing” vs “jackhammer sharing” – Clay Shirky
  • “abundance breaks more things than scarcity” – Clay Shirky
  • napster == “bit torrent that didn’t work very well” – Clay Shirky
  • word for “not sharing with someone when it would make their lives better” == “spiteful” (in relation to the recording industry institutionalizing spitefulness) – Clay Shirky