Can we build public spaces for more Creation, and not just ReCreation?

I just watched Amanda Burden’s Ted Talk, and we obviously have a lot to thank her for here in NYC. The Dumbo waterfront, The High Line, Battery Park, etc.

But her insistence that commercial interests so often conflict with the public good, made me think. Public spaces are often made for recreation – sitting, walking. With the exception of spaces for sports, they are rarely designed for creation, without some over-arching commercial interest. 

It seems like artistic, entertaining, informational and small-scale commercial activities in public spaces often happen despite and around the design of the space, not thanks to it.

What if we built more places designed for ordinary people to perform, work, practice, build, teach, talk, trade, construct, experiment … Would we do those things?


Speak slower

I’ve been told for a long time that I need to slow down when I speak, but I haven’t really made a committed effort to do so. Recently, however, someone told me that speaking too fast is probably the number one thing holding me back, so I’m going to give it a real shot.

But how? Based on a little research, this will be the method I start with: 

Unsurprisingly, the secret to speaking slower seems to be awareness and practice.
How to build awareness?
Here is one technique for how I can become aware of how fast I speak, even if I can’t always keep it top of mind:
  • Listen to people speaking, e.g. talk radio, Ted talks
  • Make an effort to notice speed and energy.
  • Calibrate my mind to categorize and instantly recognize:
    • low speed + high energy
    • high speed + high energy
    • low speed + low energy
    • high-speed + low energy 
  • Notice the impact each has on me.
  • Recognizing the category and recognizing the impact – in others and myself – will become two cues that trigger awareness.
How to practice actually speaking more slowly:
  • Don’t practice on family or close friends and colleagues. They know me, read me and understand me, and will think I am acting weird.
  • Instead, practice with new people (or speaking to groups). That can become a cue in itself: Meeting new people triggers awareness. My own theory, based on that, is that I’ll get disproportionate results from simply rehearsing a few slow introductions: Hi ____, I’m Christian. It is nice to meet you.
  • In order to remember to keep the pace down, tap out a slow, relaxed beat. I’ve downloaded a metronome to my phone, which will be offscreen at my next Hangout, blinking at 35-40 bpm.
Other advice includes:
  • Actually listen to my own words (through my ears, not inside my head).
  • Picture my words leaving my mouth, travelling through the air, and being heard by the listener.
  • And, of course, record myself – but who really does that?

About 18 hours and two new meetings in, at least the technique for awareness seems to give results. We’ll see…

Cool! Ella’s Wool in New York Times Style Magazine. 

Please hold

  • Customer service: Please hold.
  • Me: I will
  • CS: Yes?
  • Me: Yes?
  • CS: Can you please hold for a minute?
  • Me: I will
  • CS: (hesitating) H...?
  • Me: I can.
  • CS: Yes?
  • Me:
  • CS: Can you hold?
  • Me: Yes.
  • (Lesson? If you don't use the exact words and intonation people expect to hear, their brains may actually overheat.)


Dagbladet bedriver skremselsjournalistikk på nett.

Barns risiko for å få narkolepsi er ni ganger så høy hos dem som har fått vaksine mot svineinfluensa, enn hos dem som ikke er vaksinert, viser en fersk studie.

… heter det i ingressen. Men artikkelen sier ingenting om hva vi skal gange med ni.

Det er selvsagt uansett ikke bra, men journalisten burde ha nevnt at narkolepsi finnes hos mellom 0,025 og 0,05 prosent av befolkningen. Da har vi noe å gange med ni.

Hvis vi tar i litt, vil det si at en som har tatt vaksinen har maks 0,5 prosent sjanse for å få narkolepsi, men til gjengjeld tilnærmet 0% sjanse for å få svineinfluensa.

En som ikke har tatt vaksinen, derimot, har maks 0,05 prosent sjanse for å få narkolepsi, men betraktelig høyere sjanse for å få svineinfluensa, som visstnok har dødelighet omtrent som vanlig influensa, 0,1%.

Når alt er regnet inn, så er det altså veldig liten sjanse for at noen av delene skal skje, og valget står mellom minimalt større sjanse for å få narkolepsi eller minimal sjanse for å dø av svineinfluensa.