Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday Musings: Women’s World Cup Final; Mean Bostonians; Complete Streets

Welcome back! After a couple of months of adjusting to my current full-time contract, Monday Musings returns!

If you missed the Women’s World Cup final yesterday, you missed one of the best soccer games I’ve ever seen: continuous action; swift and varied attacks from the U.S. side stymied by a combination of gritty Japanese defense, bad luck and an inability to close the deal; great spirit by the Japanese team, who refused to give up and kept working their game plan. It made the 2010 Men’s World Cup final between Spain and the Netherlands look like a bunch of 10-year-olds playing in the dirt.

For some reason, a study from the September 2010 issue of American Psychologist was picked up in an op-ed in this weekend’s Boston Globe, under the title “Boston #1! (for meanest population).” My initial reaction was “Well, duh!” Over my years in the Boston area, I’ve offended local friends more than a few times by opining that Boston is the least friendly place I’ve ever been (even less friendly than NYC).

Because I rarely trust reporting of academic studies, I read the original report. If I’m interpreting the results correctly, this is a tempest in a teapot. People were asked to rate themselves from 1-5 on 24 character traits, which were then grouped into “strengths of the head” and “strengths of the heart.” It’s on this latter measurement that Boston came last among 50 major U.S. cities. However, on the graph shown, Boston’s score is around 3.64 whereas the top scoring city (El Paso) is around 3.80. Hardly seems like a huge difference.

Still, this is a unfriendly place, mostly (I think) because the street design and layout cannot accommodate the number of people and cars, which has led to a kind of aggressive rudeness in virtually everyone.

On that topic, I found an interesting website in the latest Sierra Club magazine: www.completestreets.org. It’s an organization aimed at addressing the fact that our focus on making streets only for cars has made the entire system less safe for everyone (including drivers).

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