Thursday, March 8, 2012

Connect and Disconnect (Thursday LINKS)

"American Masterpiece" recently put out a special on the Amish that I found fascinating.  Most interesting to me was the fact that the Amish prohibit technology primarily because of their belief that it is bad for the community.  I had always understood that the Amish looked to preserve some 1860 version of the world due to some underlying concerns linking electricity with Satan.  (Full Disclosure: I never gave this much thought, approaching the Amish with the dual American perspectives of "quaint" and "weird", with a subconscious connection to apple butter.)

The thought is that when you have a car, your time is no longer yours.  The ability to effectively be anywhere you want brings with it the responsibility to go anywhere people want you to be.  Similarly, the telephone shortens and cheapens human interaction.  If you visit your Aunt Velma, you will talk about everything and nothing for the entirety of your visit.  If you call Aunt Velma, chances are you will have an itinerary of things to discuss and, if male, an end goal for the conversation (i.e., Mom's Meatloaf Recipe).

It is difficult to argue with this theory.  Technology has multiplied our connections, but seemingly cheapened their worth.  Think of this blog.  While I would like to think I have met over 60% of those who read here, there are 40% of which I have a daily "connection" without ever knowing their name.  In fact, there are those who find some worth in posting anonymously to ensure that this connection is as cheap as possible.

As our government and community meetings go online, I wonder if we are taking a further step back.  I am a strong advocate for increasing accessibility and transparency; however, as has been apparent with the Board of Ed, it is easier to yell into a telephone than across a table.  There is no innovation without detraction, even if those downsides are not readily apparent.  I'm not one of those who advocates deleting your Facebook account or finding two hours a day to go without Internet, but I always believe it is important to reflect back on "what's happened."  E-mail has increased the perceived value of a phone call, which at one time was the substitute of sitting in the same room.  I have to wonder where the priority on those visits has gone.


Jessica Anderson writes that the neighborhoods affected by Council re-districting map are not particularly enthusiastic about the final result.  There may have been some over-selling and under-valuing of some community concerns, which has led to a map that only the members of the Council could love.

A Baltimore County teachers union is considering legal action after County Exec Kevin Kamenetz introduced a pension bill that would end the practice of using overtime wages to calculate pension benefits.  The administration said it would save the County $502,000 a year.  It is interesting that we don't see more measures to address how pensions are calculated in the midst of a pending shift of those costs from the State to the counties.

National advocates against the Death Penalty have targeted Maryland in their efforts to repeal the practice across the Country.  The Maryland State Senate held a hearing yesterday on a repeal bill yesterday.

Interestingly enough, as an effort to create a "Towson Swim Club" fails due to a lack of interest, Howard County Swim Clubs received a boost via Council-member Courtney Watson's bill that would allow them to sell their development rights for a one-time inflow of additional revenue.  Simultaneous to all of this, the CA Board will be accepting a presentation on the new Aquatics Master Plan this evening, with what is expected to be a large showing from members of the community concerned about "losing" their pool.  You have to wonder about the sustainability of the community pool in light of all of this.   (Disclaimer: I am not advocating for anyone to "lose" their pool.  Just noting the congregation of related events).

Featured Blog Post of the Day: Sarah looks at the future of biking in Columbia and observes that our current connectivity is almost entirely geared toward the car, with slight consideration for the cyclist.  New grants may change that as CA looks to improve Columbia connectivity for both pedestrians and cyclists.

That's all for today.  Have a great Thursday doing what you love!