Posts Tagged ‘inspiration’

Five ideas for buying local holiday gifts in Baltimore

December 7, 2013

I’ve never been big on shopping, but I enjoy holiday shopping. Perhaps it’s because the challenge of buying for others turns it into a quest, instead of just a transaction. Since moving back to Baltimore two years ago and embracing local living, I’ve enjoyed it even more. Getting lost — literally or figuratively — in a neighborhood is a welcome escape from the frenzy we’ve let this season turn into, whereas getting lost at the mall makes it seem like you’re trapped in it. And, if you’re lost about what to buy, with local merchants, you can often get help directly from the person who picked, or even who made, what’s for sale.

Bmore3D Store (Canton)

_baltimore3dAny gift the recipient has to model for is difficult to make a surprise, but the delight anyone will feel upon seeing his or her face on a bobblehead should more than make up for the lack of suspense.

If you’d rather keep the surprise, or appeal to something other than vanity, the Bmore3D Store, a pop-up shop next to Sip & Bite in Canton offering 3D-printed trinkets by local artists and 3D-scanning and 3D-printing services, caters to their modernity, creativity and hometown pride (Baltimore-themed items are among the jewelry, vases, and other items for sale) as well.

While novelties like the bobbleheads may be the first to grab consumers’ attention — the shop offers personalized figurines, pencil toppers and holograms as well — the power to deploy a desktop army of plastic and ceramic mini-mes isn’t what makes 3D printing revolutionary.

That you’re not limited by the store’s inventory — staff will print items from 3D models customers made or found online, where thousands are available for free — hints at the technology’s true potential.

By enabling rapid prototyping as well as building, and by reducing waste from production errors and scrap material, digital fabrication makes development, production and distribution vastly more efficient than traditional methods. Efficiency? With hundreds of millions of children to serve, Santa’s probably already on board.

Even if it’s just a bobblehead, by giving a taste of the industrial future, espcecially for the younger ones on your list (be sure to mention the Santa thing), you’re giving more than just a present.

WHERE: 2150 Boston St.

WHEN: 
Open 1 p.m. to 9 p.m daily through the end of the year

WHILE YOU’RE THERE: Hopefully catch a demo, workshop, or even live music. Check the store’s calendar if you want to try to time your visit right.

The Gift Cellar (Lauraville)

_gift-cellar

Photo courtesy of The Gift Cellar

Anyone who’s ever stayed at their grandparents’ house knows that the cool, if slightly quirky stuff, is in the basement. An original LITE-BRITE and homemade dinner buzzer are among the items I remember fondly. Stepping down off Harford Road into the aptly named The Gift Cellar, you’ll experience a similar sense of anticipation. Once inside, cool, quirky, and Maryland-made is what you’ll find.

If there are ladies on your list who favor funky, over fancy, jewerly, the Cellar is definitely worth a visit. While it’s a relatively small space, you’ll be surprised by all else that’s there. The shop’s more than two dozen vendors also make scarves, bath and beauty products, cards and prints, candles, pottery and sculpture, stuffed animals, T-shirts and decor.

And if you can’t find it, don’t be afraid to ask. Seeking a Bawlmer rat shirt for my uncle, I lamented that they were out of his size, and, straight out of the Smalltimore script, the local — in this case, hyperlocal — vendor behind the design just happened be in the store. He was back with the size I needed faster than I could finish a cup of coffee next door.

WHERE: 4337 Harford Road

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday (through Dec. 22.)

WHILE YOU’RE THERE: Take a coffee break next door at Red Canoe. While you sip, window shop the bookstore-cafe’s shelves.

Canton Games (Canton)

If you get the season’s hot toy, the replay value, in gaming parlance, isn’t likely to be very high. Just ask this mom where last year’s Furbys are now. The offerings at Canton Games, catering to children, adults and families alike, meanwhile, are designed, and tested, to last, not just to sell.

From traditional games like Rummikub, to collectible games like Magic the Gathering, to role playing games like Dungeons and Dragons, to party favorites like Cranium, if it’s a game, and you can think of it — heck, even if you can’t — Canton Games is likely to carry it. Did you know there’s an unofficial Cards Against Humanity expansion pack called Crabs Adjust Humidity?

Oh yeah, you can get comic books, graphic novels — excellent for nudging a  young, reluctant reader without bumming him or her out  — and action figures here, too.

WHERE: 2101 Essex St.

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

WHILE YOU’RE THERE: Sticking with the games theme, head down to Bar Arcade on Boston Street. Enjoy the video games you grew up with, but with beer.

Sixteen Tons/Doubledutch Boutique (Hampden)

_16t2The ability to earnestly say — to the help and to yourself — that you’re “just looking,” helps take the pressure out of shopping, holiday or otherwise. It’s harder to say that when you’re obviously looking for a gift, and obviously not going to be tacking on anything for yourself, like the bug-eyed husband wandering the lingerie department on Christmas Eve.

Let’s hope things don’t get that desperate for you this holiday, but, let’s face it, at least from a man’s perspective, browsing a store with wares, especially clothing, exclusively for the opposite gender, can get uncomfortable.

Sixteen Tons and Doubledutch Boutique on The Avenue help take some of the edge off by housing men’s and women’s clothing stores, respectively (Oh, could you guess from the names?), under the same roof, guys downstairs and gals upstairs.

What also helps are that both shops favor vintage-inspired looks. Sixteen Tons stocks “Classic And Contemporary Men’s Apparel & Accoutrements,” Doubledutch “Modern lines and indie designs.” With the sales staffs’ counsel — “Oh I was just looking downstairs/upstairs, but since I’m here…” — if it seems like a hit, it probably will be, and it still will be this time next year.

If you’re still unsure, or on a budget, soaps for her or shaving products for him are always a safe, and less expensive bet.

WHERE: 1021 W. 36th St.

WHEN: Sixteen Tons is open noon to 5 p.m. Sunday and Monday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Doubledutch Boutique is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

WHILE YOU’RE THERE: Venture into some of the many antique shops along The Avenue. Finding a full gift can be hit or miss, but be on the lookout for fun stocking stuffers. The other year, for a few dollars, I picked up vintage postcards for members of my family whose scenes carried special meaning.

Food experiences (Fells Point, Hampden, various neighborhoods)

Creative Commons photo by Flickr user gfhdickinson

cooking

The shortest route to a gift recipient’s heart is through their stomach, right? Perhaps. If you want to give something especially memorable, though, you might want to enter through the brain. For that, try these high-minded food experiences.

“So, that’s how to cut an onion!” they’ll cry out, possibly in tears, after a cooking class at Pierpoint or Waterfront Kitchen. “So, that’s what kangaroo tastes like!” they’ll shout after sanpling exotic foods as a member of Corner BYOB‘s Gastronaut Society. “I never knew this neighborhood had a place like this!” they’ll exclaim after a Dishcrawl restaurant tour.

COOKING CLASSES

Many of these fill up fast, so don’t delay. Fortunately, I asked for them in time to receive two of Pierpoint’s more popular classes as gifts last year. The French cuts taught in the knife skills class and seafood safety tips from the fish cooking class are things I’ll use the rest of my life. How many gifts can you say that for?

Pierpoint cooking classes by chef Nancy Longo, $75* each, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays or Sundays, 1822 Aliceanna St. (Fells Point)

Classes still available as of this writing included Low-Fat Cooking, International BBQ, Knife Skills, Fish Cooking, Essentials of Indian Cooking, Modern Italian, and Essentials of Gluten-Free Cooking.

*$10 early-bird discounts available

Waterfront Kitchen cooking classes by chef Jerry Pellegrino [pdf], $59 each, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays, 1417 Thames St. (Fells Point) 

Classes still available of this writing included The Art of Making Sauces; The Art of Baking Bread; Aphrodisiacs; Bacon, Sausage, and other Pork Products; Molecular Gastronomy; The Art of Making Sushi; and A Tribute to Julia Child.

DISHCRAWL RESTAURANT TOURS

It’s like a bar crawl, but a restaurant crawl. Dishcrawl‘s monthly walking tours, offered in dozens of other cities in addition to Baltimore, stop at four restaurants in one evening. At each stop, diners sample a few dishes (the last stop is always dessert), hear from an owner, manager or chef, and socialize with fellow crawlers.

If the restaurant serves it, alcohol is available for purchase, and the host will give a warning before moving to the next destination so drinkers can settle their checks. Since I and fellow attendees were wondering going in: Know that the sample plates are far from just a few nibbles. When the night was through at the crawl in Mount Vernon in August, I was filled! (If you saw my Thanksgiving plate, er, plates, that’s saying a lot.)

To purchase a Dischcrawl gift certificate — each Baltimore tour is $35 per person — call Nancy Judy Miel, the national Dishcrawl employee in charge of gift certificates, at 415-523-0477.

CORNER BYOB GASTRONAUT SOCIETY

When going on a food exploration, as Corner BYOB calls it, it’s best not to go alone — even the bravest diner at least needs witnesses to attest, “Yes, she really ate that.” At Gastronaut Society meals, that can mean things like rattlesnake, muskrat, duck tongue, scorpion and crickets. That cousin who was looking up recipes the last time the cicadas surfaced? Yeah, this might be for him.

A $50 Gastronaut Society annual membership gets the recipient discounts — typically around 25 percent off the over $100 regular price — on three prix fixe dinners throughout the year and 10% discounts on “special adventurous fare” featured on the restaurant’s regular menu.

Corner BYOB is located, yup, on the corner, of 36th and Elm streets in Hampden.

WHILE YOU’RE THERE: At Pierpoint, Waterfront Kitchen, or Corner BYOB, give yourself something to look forward to by making reservations for a Saturday in the spring, just because. You earned it. You were good this year, right?

Get more gift tips

This is but a sampling of how to go local with your gift giving in and around Baltimore. For more inspiration, in addition to my post last year, I recommend Bmore Art’s roundup of holiday bazaars, The Baltimore Chop’s “Where To Do Your Christmas Shopping in Baltimore,” and HowChow’s Gift Week series.

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Kevin ‘KAL’ Kallaugher’s wall to fame

December 13, 2012

Wall-paper

Editorial cartoonist Kevin “KAL” Kallaugher‘s work has appeared all over the world and in several different mediums, including real-time 3D. But it may never have had it not appeared on a British school’s old wallpaper first.

Or if the English were fonder of basketball. With playing and coaching in Brighton not as lucrative as in Boston

He even worked as a maintenance man tearing wallpaper off the walls of a local school—but not before illustrating the walls with cartoons. One of the teachers saw his drawings and put him in touch with an art director who, in turn, suggested he tried pitching his work to the newspapers and magazines up and down Fleet Street.

After a successful tryout, he was hired by The Economist, where he’s entering his 35th year. Not quite “Good Will Hunting” (Kallaugher graduated from Harvard). But, how about that?

KAL, also a longtime cartoonist for my employer, The Baltimore Sun, whom he started drawing for again this year, obviously had the talent, and someone probably would have seen it sooner or later. The point is, sharing, even indirectly, made it sooner. If you don’t know where to start, start with what’s in front of you. Tack it to a wall. Put it down on paper. Or, yes, draw it on wallpaper.

The ins and outs of introversion and extroversion

December 6, 2012


Susan Cain’s widely shared TED talk challenges extroverts — and introverts themselves — about introverts’ role in modern society.

Just because I’m introverted doesn’t mean…

This blog post is an answer to a prompt from the post “Introverts unite” on the [Witty Title Here] blog.

Just because I’m introverted doesn’t mean I lack energy. I’m glad you mentioned energy, though.

Extroversion and introversion are not about being sociable or shy, about being loud or quiet, or about being aggressive or passive. They are about where one draws his or her energy.

Why people have trouble with this, I’m not sure. It’s right in the words, which is Lesson 1.

Inside energy versus outside energy

The prefix “extro,” from the Latin extra, means extroverts primarily get their energy from the outside — conversations with others; music, lights or other stimuli; bustling crowds.

The Latin prefix intro means introverts primarily get their energy from the inside — thoughts to themselves, and enough peace, quiet and space to mentally hear those thoughts.

What’s that? “But I’m an extrovert and I need downtime, too!” Of course you do. Read on to Lesson 2.

The introversion-extroversion spectrum

Notice above that I wrote “primarily.” Introversion and extroversion are not binary traits. While too much will put them to sleep (what energizes introverts drains extroverts, and vice versa), even extreme extroverts need time to themselves. Likewise, while too much will wear them out, even extreme introverts need time with others.

Introversion and extroversion merely describe which side of the spectrum you favor. If you fall toward the middle and talk a lot, you and society may have labeled you an extrovert. If you fall toward the middle, and don’t talk a lot, you and society may have labeled you an introvert. Once such tweeners, if you will, learn what extroversion and introversion really are, it’s not uncommon for them to feel they’ve been mislabeled.

Wherever you fall, channel your inner indie musician and don’t obsess over the labels. Extroversion and introversion are not about what other people think, they’re about you, and where you get your energy, and how you manage that energy to live the best life, and to help others do the same, or, in short, to keep the music metaphor going, to sing (or shout, or strum, or hum) your song.

Shopping in the city

November 21, 2012

Holiday gifts in Baltimore that are fun to give, receive and get

For decades suburbanites descended on the city to complete their holiday shopping. In Baltimore’s case, they likely took a streetcar to Howard and Lexington streets. A generation after Hutzler’s rang its last sale, the flow has reversed, with urbanites taking their own cars to malls in Towson, Hanover and Columbia. If, somewhere between parking lot section Z-89 and “Ma’am, the line starts over there,” you have a Frank Constanza moment, and think, “There’s got to a better way,” there is.

This sampling of city shopping options will lead you to distinctive (read: thoughtful) gifts that are as fun to give as they are to receive — and even fun to procure.

Charm City Craft Mafia’s Holiday Heap (Charles Village, Dec. 1)

_holiday_heap


Photo courtesy of Charm City Craft Mafia

Per capita, it’s, admittedly, probably more packed than the mall, but it’s hard to call this juried craft show inside an old Victorian church anything but cozy. Maybe it’s the intimacy of meeting the people who made — handmade — your gifts. Maybe it’s the homeyness of sipping hot cocoa while you shop. Maybe it’s the novelty of buying stuff never seen on TV. Maybe it’s the community of being among others who appreciate such things. Whatever it is, the annual fair is a can’t miss. If you get a little too cozy, step out on 27th Street and recharge at the food trucks.

Browse a list of vendors on Charm City Craft Mafia’s site. More than 60 artists and craftspeople will be selling clothing, accessories, beauty products, housewares, cards, prints, woodworks and more. Many accept credit cards via mobile payment systems such as Square.

WHERE: 2640 Space (St John’s Church), 2640 St. Paul St.

WHEN: Saturday, Dec. 1, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

WHILE YOU’RE THERE: Take a coffee or hot chocolate break. As you sip, drink in the beautiful building as well. When you’re done shopping, take a food truck lunch home with you, or, if it’s nice, dine alfresco on the churchyard’s ledge.

aMuse Toys (Fells Point)

amuseCreative Commons photo by Flickr user HAMACHI!

aMuse Toys sells toys that get the young and young at heart playing with the original killer app: Our imaginations. Some are so whimsical you could say they were made by elves, and sound convincing. The 123 Baltimore counting book journeys through the city along with the numbers, visiting pink flamingos, blue crabs, and painted ladies. Non-sticky, non-gritty tactile modeling compound Bubber lets kids — and parents — just worry about creating. The Robot and Rocket Flipbook kit — well, come on, its robots and rockets and cartoons! At the shop in Southeast Baltimore’s historic Fells Point, you’ll find the types of toys worthy of Santa’s sack.

WHERE: 1623 Thames St.

WHILE YOU’RE THERE: Warm up with holiday spirits just up Broadway at Rye, a bar specializing in craft cocktails. Then, erase these calories, at least, from your holiday surplus with a stroll to the end of Broadway Pier. Or, if it’s the weekend, swoop up Broadway and over on Fleet to peruse the wares at The Antique Man, which is closed during the week.

Zeke’s Coffee (Hamilton)

Creative Commons photo by Flickr user jbtaylor

Packaged in brown paper bags with black and white stickers, Zeke’s’ more than 30 small-batch-roasted, bold-but-not-bombastic blends are an ode to coffee joy. Even the busiest list-making-hall-decking-cookie-baking bees will savor this time out from the tinsel. Traditional and speciality varieties, including a sustainable line, are available at Zeke’s’ shop in Hamilton, as well as several other spots around town.

WHERE: 4607 Harford Road

WHILE YOU’RE THERE: By all means, treat yourself to a cup, then head about a mile farther up Harford Road and stroll Hamilton’s Main Street area, concentrated in the 5400 and 5500 blocks, home to cafés, pubs and art galleries.

CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share

_farmers-market-02Photo by Steve Earley

Think of it as the jelly-of-the-month club, but fresh, non-smashed-up fruit, and vegetables. It’s the gift that keeps on giving all growing season long. A weekly share of a farmer’s harvest simplifies shopping, promotes healthy eating and encourages creativity in the kitchen. CSA members get well over a month’s worth of food starting at little over the cost of a month’s worth of Double Quarter Pounder With Cheese Extra Value Meals. Which would you rather have?

Most f
arms bundle members’ shares for them — based on what’s growing well or what they have a lot of — but some give customers the pick of their stands. Either way, recipients can expect the strawberries, corn and peaches everybody craves as well as lesser-known crops that will stretch their culinary reportoire — kholrabi, anyone?

If the price (around $300 for a half share and up to $600 for a full share) exceeds your gift-giving budget, ask the farm about gift certificates, or simply make your own. (Since many farms have buyers choose pick-up times and locations, it might be best to have the recipient buy anyway.)

WHERE: Below are three of the many regional farms with pick-up locations in Baltimore. Inquire online or find them at farmers markets. Both One Straw Farm and Real Food Farm are at the Waverly Farmers Market (Saturdays) and Calvert Farm has a stand at the downtown Baltimore Farmers Market (Sundays).

WHILE YOU’RE THERE Explore the farms websites’ and their links, or, if you’re at a market, chat with farmers themselves to learn more about local and sustainable food. Did you know many of Baltimore’s vacant lots are being reclaimed as small farms and that urban heat markedly extends the city’s growing season?

Baltimore Museum of Art Gift Shop (Charles Village)

Photo courtesy of Baltimore Museum of Art

Curated as carefully as the galleries around it, the Baltimore Museum of Art’s gift shop offers an eclectic — but focused — complement of items that all do what a gift should do: Express something, and inspire the recipient to do the same. Find books, CDs, DVDs, cards, prints and posters featuring or inspired by the museum’s art as well as jewelry, clothing, creative supplies and more.

WHERE: 10 Art Museum Drive

WHILE YOU’RE THERE: Explore, for free, the just-reopened contemporary wing, where street artist Gaia has two temporary murals, including one featuring residents of the nearby neighborhood of Remington.

A wonder-filled game

September 27, 2012

The ballpark anthem is true. We are young. And there is no place like the ballpark, and no people like its young people, to remind us that.

To paraphrase Peter Pan, we are young as long as we wonder. At the ballpark, wonder is contagious.

It’s on the face of a “Hardy’s Heroes” kid the second he steps through the gate. “Just wait until you go in,” an attendant tells him.

It’s in 30,000 pairs of ears as a 10-year-old sings spellbinding renditions of two national anthems, Baltimore fans’ multiple “O!” chants and the whirring of a Shock Trauma helicopter seemingly welcome accompaniments.

It’s in the prodigy’s giddy embrace of the Oriole Bird immediately after concluding her performance.

It’s on the 20-something’s tongue as he takes his first sips of Natty Boh.

It’s in the rookie third baseman’s swagger as he struts around the bases, again, his second two-homer game of the year helping ignite a record team slugfest.

It’s in the leaps of another rookie’s family member as she scurries down the seating bowl for a better glimpse of his first major league at bat, a half inning after the scoreboard announced him as the organization’s minor league player of the year.

It’s in that rookie’s texting thumbs as he tweets a greeting to fans, who extended a rousing ovation after that first plate appearance, a groundout to short.

It’s in me.

It’s in you.

It’s in baseball. A wonderful game. A wonder-filled game.

Spoiler alert: Users will win Knight’s mobile News Challenge

August 15, 2012

3169478287_92831fd261

Think of it as the Race to the Top for news. This year, the Knight News Challenge is putting its money where its mouth is, leveraging its annual grants behind what it believes are journalism’s biggest opportunities.

By limiting entries to three areas — networks and data, now closed, and, opening Aug. 29, mobile — Knight is not only concentrating the $5 million in funding, as well as support, it directly awards, it is also focusing the attention of the hundreds drawn by the chance for a share of such a large prize, just like Race for the Top.

With apologies to Red Sanders, here, winning is not the only thing. Wikileaks, for all its impact, was a News Challenge runner-up in 2009.

And, with apologies to those still recovering from Olympic spoilers, spoiler alert, the real winner of 2012’s final Challenge round will be users.

Users win because mobile gets content creators, developers and designers to focus on them.

When screen space and bandwidth are at a premium, publishers cut out the editorial fat and silence the interactive bells and whistles.

When the platform travels with the user, publishers steer content to them rather than luring them to the content.

When, almost whoever you are, your friends, family and neighbors are likely fellow users, the generative benefits of community increase.

When traditional technological followers, who, due to their lack of infrastructure, leapfrog traditional technological leaders in the mobile revolution, a larger, more diverse population of users tests ideas sooner.

When publishers create for devices that are increasingly young users’ first, and sometimes only, exposure to the greater outside world, they gain insight into the expectations and behaviors these users will manifest when they become participatory consumers.

So, congratulations users. As a user of at least six CMSes who assists end-users when their gears start to grind, trust me, you’ve earned it.

Now that you know who wins, this time, aren’t you even more excited to watch the race? I know I am. I might even run in it.

Creative Commons photo by Ken Banks, kiwanja.net

Late-inning anthems

June 21, 2012

Stretch

Few stadiums have organists these days. But ballpark musical traditions endure. Here are songs Major League Baseball teams regularly play (or at least used to) during the 7th inning stretch or in the middle of the 8th or 6th innings. Feel free to stretch, air guitar, polka, “Shout,” sing and dance along.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – Build Me Up Buttercup
Washington Nationals – Shout
Kansas City Royals – Kansas City
Seattle Mariners – Louie, Louie
Cincinnati Reds – Twist and Shout
Baltimore Orioles – Thank God I’m a Country Boy
Houston Astros – Deep in the Heart of Texas
Texas Rangers – Cotton Eyed Joe
St. Louis Cardinals – Here Comes The King
Boston Red Sox – Sweet Caroline
New York Mets – Lazy Mary
Colorado Rockies – Hey! Baby
Tampa Bay Rays – Fins
Milwaukee Brewers – The Beer Barrel Polka
Toronto Blue Jays – OK Blue Jays
Los Angeles Dodgers – Don’t Stop Believin’
New York Yankees – God Bless America
Chicago Cubs – Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Modified Creative Commons photo by Flickr user arcaneraven

What educators can learn from yoga

April 9, 2012

5391772798_983d649f58

Rather than food, animals or Dr. Seuss characters, perhaps the alphabet strips over grammar school whiteboards should illustrate the letters with yoga poses.

Certainly, apples, bears and cats in hats would better engage students, but contorted bodies would prod teachers to follow Baltimore city schools’ Jess Gartner‘s sage advice: That school should be less like school and more like Bikram yoga.

At once rigid — every yogi does the same series of 26 postures (just enough for our alphabet strip!) every class — and loose — there are no levels or grades and the instructor does not lead the routine — Bikram yoga, Gartner explains, empowers students and teachers to pursue personal mastery, rather than arbitrary standards, and to pursue that mastery together, rather than in isolation — or worse, in opposition.

The middle school social studies teacher applies the yoga metaphor to fundamental challenges and opportunities facing educators in the accountability and digital age, from the limits of one-off, all-or-nothing tests to the seemingly limitless applications of new technological tools.

In the information age, many teachers are rightly moving away from direct instruction models that position teachers as the sole arbiters of information. With increased instantaneous access to information, the purpose of school is shifting away from memorizing finite amounts of knowledge and beginning to focus more on the skills of finding, analyzing, manipulating, and creating content. With the new function of education, so to should develop a new function of teachers as guides and facilitators on the educational journey, rather than solitary gatekeepers of knowledge.

If you’re at all vested in K-12 education (and from its effects on property values to crime rates to economic growth, who isn’t?) Gartner’s blog post a must-read, both for all it says about the current state of schools and for the clever way it says it. Even if you don’t have an interest in schools (again, hard to believe) you’re sure to find parallels in your own work and life and how you define and encourage success from yourself and from those around you.

Creative Commons photo by Flickr user lululemon athletica

Beauty in the blight: The accidental art of Baltimore 311 images

March 24, 2012

Beauty is everywhere, even among the blight. The following images were curated from Baltimore’s 311 app.

Dirty alley, Darley Park

Normal

Graffiti, Medfield

Buenavista

Damaged sidewalk, Highlandtown

Tree

Graffiti, Hampden

Chestnut

Dirty alley, Penn North

Clendenin

Parking complaint, Penn Station

Penn

Graffiti, Mount Vernon

Brick

Park cleaning request, Patterson Park

Courts

Open fire hydrant, Canton

Elliott

Parking complaint, Midtown

Preston

Whether it’s halftime, or a whole new ballgame, everyone’s playing for pride

February 12, 2012

Is it halftime in America? Or are we at a different game, on a different team, in a different league, playing a different sport, even?

The most talked about ad of this year’s Super Bowl says that if we brush the dirt off our jerseys and work together, we’ll march out of this economic rut, back onto the field and come from behind, like we have so many times before.

You could almost hear the sources from “Roots of Steel” cheering along. Like Rudacille so neatly summarized in the first chapter, they’ve been rooting for a comeback.

Though they don’t know for sure who is to blame, they do know what they want: a return to the old days, when the jobs that could support a family were plentiful, streets were safe, and workers could take pride in their contributions to the nation’s wealth and power.

Watch the game tape and not just the highlights, however, and it’ll show the good old days weren’t all that good.

Sparrows Point provided tens of thousands with honest pay for honest work and with a comfortable retirement. But it was hard, dirty, dangerous work whose hazards, for many, made retirement less than comfortable — or cut it short.

Sparrows Point provided a path to the middle class straight out of high school. But it also discouraged young people from pursuing higher education or other lines of work — or wasted the talents of those who did.

Sparrows Point supported several fold its payroll through the businesses that fed its supply chain and served its workers. But it also overexposed the area’s broader economic health to the risks of a single industry.

Sparrows Point fostered close-knit communities whose residents looked out for each other and helped their neighbors in times of need. But it also created insular neighborhoods wary of outsiders and helped teach generations the racism we’re still struggling to unlearn.

Sparrows Point enlisted workers in a greater cause: the American war machine. But it also artificially expanded the plant’s footprint based on, no matter how grand, temporary endeavors, rooted in, no matter how politically or morally necessary, death and destruction.

Our author alludes to this double-edged nature of the mill in the title of the book, as she told Urbanite shortly after its release.

The absence of that secure employment, as manufacturing cities such as Baltimore have discovered, has left a terrible void. The book’s title, Rudacille says, “is both literal and metaphorical. There’s this steely will and work ethic. On the other hand, roots of steel will bolt you in place.”

Watch the business report and not just the commercials, meanwhile, and it’ll show our current predicament isn’t all that familiar.

The Great Recession represents a transformative, rather than cyclical, shift. We have gone from a nation that makes things to a nation that buys things to, now that the debt party is over, a nation that will be buying fewer things.

That leaves us with, in essence, the stuff of Super Bowl ads: Ideas. From medicine to mobile apps to homeland security to alternative energy, we are, we need to be, a knowledge economy. We’re not so much trying to come back as we’re trying to build a lead.

There is one thing the Chrysler ad and the old steelworkers have right. It’s reflected by the father in the commercial when he drops his young son off at school. It’s reflected in the “red carpet treatment” everyone who “knew the mill,” even common laborers, received around town — and how that contrasts with the public reception their counterparts might receive today.

No matter what the scoreboard says, what our jerseys say, who our competition is, or what shape the ball is, we’re all playing for pride. It’s not necessarily our old jobs or the old way of doing things we want back. It’s our dignity.

This post was imported from the blog for the now-defunct Baltimore history book club, Read That City.