August 8, 2009

Jaywalking in Boston "Punishable by a fine of $1"

If you haven't been here before you wouldn't imagine how rampant even blatantly illegal and unsafe jaywalking is in Boston. Here's a taste of why I don't miss driving...especially in Boston.

Punishable by a fine of $1

By Peter DeMarco | August 6, 2006

Bostonians jaywalk about as often as they visit Dunkin' Donuts. Is it any wonder, then, that the word ''jaywalker'' was supposedly coined in Boston?

``The Bostonian . . . has reduced a pedestrian who crosses streets in disregard of traffic signals to the compact `jaywalker,' " reads a 1917 Harper's Magazine article, according to Random House's dictionary division. Back then the word jay was used to describe someone who was unsophisticated, naive , or foolish -- something we still might call a jaywalker today.

But my favorite part of Random House's entry on jaywalking (I found it on their website) is the following line: ``Although jaywalkers have been called aggressive, city officials are equally aggressive against them -- and not only in Boston."

Aggressive enforcement? Now that's funny. When was the last time you heard of anyone getting a ticket for jaywalking? I mean, does the officer ask for your shoe size?

OK, I'll leave the jokes to Random House. But the question remains: Can you get a ticket for jaywalking?

What's the legal definition?

And if a pedestrian disobeys a crosswalk signal or simply dashes across the road, does he -- or you the driver -- have the right of way?

The law says
``Last time I checked, jaywalking was against the law, punishable by a fine," writes reader Morris Norvin of Mission Hill. Well, Morris, you are correct.
Jaywalking is against the law.

And it's punishable by a fine.

Of $1.

Yep. A single dollar.

``To stop a pedestrian -- it's kind of a joke," says Lieutenant Jack Albert, traffic commander for the Cambridge Police Department. ``Do you know what it would cost the community to prosecute that violation? It's like $75 or $80 to prosecute. But there is a law on the books."

The fine is spelled out in Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90, Section 18A, which states that communities can punish pedestrians who break local jaywalking rules ``by a fine of one dollar for the first, second or third such offense . . . and by a fine of two dollars for the fourth or subsequent such offense so committed in such calendar year."

Why are the fines so low? Albert couldn't say for sure, but it stands to reason that legislators have been loath to raise the fine lest they spark a voter uprising.

Face it: As hazardous as jaywalking can be, just about everybody does it. According to a 1999 survey by the Boston Public Health Commission (there hasn't been a follow-up survey), only 12 percent of pedestrians obey ``Walk" signals at crosswalks , while a third of pedestrians disregard crosswalks entirely.

State law allows individual communities to decide what is or isn't jaywalking, but most communities follow this simple standard: If you are within 300 feet of a crosswalk, you must use it. If you're not, you can legally cross the street.

The bad news for drivers, of course, is that pedestrians maintain the right of way even when they walk against the light or dash anywhere across an open road.

``Yeah, the pedestrian is at fault," says Sergeant Larry Fitzgerald of the Brookline Police Department, which hasn't issued a jaywalking ticket in years. ``But if you run over the pedestrian, the judge is going to say shame on you. And that person's family is going to be living in your house."

If you as a driver ``don't stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk , it's a $200 fine," says Albert. ``If our officers are sitting there , they'll get the occasional violation. But there are always hundreds of pedestrians walking all over the street. We've just got to shake our heads."

The Public Health Commission launched a citywide campaign to get Boston residents to stop jaywalking after its 1999 survey, and a year later pedestrian traffic injuries reportedly had dropped 11 percent. Though the campaign is long over, officials from the commission's Childhood Injury Prevention Program continue to visit Boston public schools each fall to teach crosswalk safety.

If police can't curb jaywalking, maybe educators can.

``There's other cities I read about in the Northwest, like Seattle, where you have people waiting to go across the crosswalk," says Erin Christiansen, prevention program director. ``I don't think anyone has the key as to why we got started on our bad habits in Boston."

What drives you crazy about local drivers? Is there a traffic rule you've always wondered about, or a pet peeve that never fails to annoy you? Send us a message about it: We'll check it out.

"Breaking News! Brad Pitt Is Familiar With The Transitory Nature Of Life!"

So...apparently Brad Pitt is human...and he realized time is fleeting. Parts of the interview were pretty positive but the lead-ins for the story were pretty dumb.

Anyway, here's the Onion's take on the article headlines:

Some late nights you'll find yourself tossing and turning, unable to quiet that low, nagging voice that is always whining in some corner of your brain. During the day it's easy enough to drown out with other, more immediate thoughts, and most nights you can ignore it long enough to fall asleep. But some restless nights, the voice is just unrelenting—digging into your thought processes like a knuckle pressing directly into your brain tissue, until you can't take any more. You throw the sheets off, get out of bed, walk over to the open window and shout out the question that the voice in your head endlessly asks: "Is Brad Pitt aware of his own mortality?"
You wait for an answer, but especially considering that there are much more efficient means of both inquiry and communication besides shouting out of windows in the middle of the night, there isn't one. You return to bed, question unanswered, inner voice unquieted, and consider maybe next time googling it or something.  
But now, at last, People has given you relief. They have found the answer to your question:
don't click here
 You can finally sleep tonight! 
Personally, I would have gone with "Brad Pitt Has Heard Of This Thing Called 'Death'" or "Brad Pitt Knows That He Is Mortal" or "Brad Pitt Knows That His Childhood Dog, Snappy, Wasn't Given Away To A Nice Family With A Big Backyard For Him To Run Around In." Or I would have eschewed the entire "time is fleeting" thing and gone with Huffington Post's headline about the same interview:
don't click here either   
Always lead with grotto sex (ALWGS). It's the first rule of journalism.       

In a 7-sentence story, the UK's Mirror went with the headline "Brad Pitt admits to being a "doughnut" when younger due to dope-smoking" and then mentions that he "also revealed" that he's not homophobic and wouldn't be bothered if one of his children were gay.

"Maybe we'll get married when it's legal for everyone else." With all the ultra-religious nutjobs out there it takes some guts to say it. Hopefully soon acceptance will be something to be encouraged...not something to be "revealed" in the same breath as admitting to using illegal drugs (even in the British tabloids). Thank you Brad.

Brad Pitt: I'm Aware That 'Time Is Fleeting'
By Stephen M. Silverman
Originally posted Wednesday August 05, 2009 03:45 PM EDT
Brad Pitt
Photo by: Michael Muller / PARADE

Even though he's only 45, Brad Pitt is starting to feel his own mortality.

"As I've gotten older I've become aware that time is fleeting," the leading man tells "I don't want to waste whatever I have left. I want to spend it with the people I love, and I want to do things that really mean something."

And while he happily acknowledges that he enjoys being a family man with Angelina Jolie, Pitt views the relationship as follows: "I have love in my life, a soul mate – absolutely." As for marriage, he sticks by a response he gave some time ago: "Maybe we'll get married when it's legal for everyone else."

That stance, he says, has not proved popular in all quarters. "I took a lot of flak for saying it – hate mail from religious groups," Pitt says. "Just the other night, I heard this TV reverend say that Angie and I were setting a bad example because we were living out of wedlock, and people should not be duped by us! It made me laugh. What damn right does anyone have to tell someone else how to live if they're not hurting anyone?"

In his mind, "I believe everyone should have the same rights. They say gay marriage ruins families and hurts kids. Well, I've had the privilege of seeing my gay friends being parents and watching their kids grow up in a loving environment."

As for his own kids, they "are a dominant value in my life now, and they weren't before. They were always something I thought I'd get around to having when the time was right … In a way, I think I had to go and exhaust me before I could be good at being a parent."

August 6, 2009

The Dog Days of Summer

I came across the term Dog Days of Summer recently and didn't know really what it meant or what its roots I looked it up. It turns out that, according to The Old Farmer's Almanac, July 3-August 11 are the "most unhealthy" days of the year.

Dog Days

Definition: These are the hottest and most unhealthy days of the year. Also known as Canicular Days, the name derives from the Dog Star, Sirius. The traditional timing of Dog Days is the 40 days beginning July 3 and ending August 11, coinciding with the heliacal (at sunrise) rising of Sirius.

This Too Shall Pass: Modest Mouse- Float On

Modest Mouse- Float On

I came upon this song on the way to work with my iPod on shuffle and it reminded me of something from my youth. I don't remember exactly the words exactly, but it roughly resembled

"When life is great- don't take it for granted...things will change. When things are terrible- don't feel badly, things will change."

Actually, I'm fairly certain the words were "This too shall pass". It has humbled and comforted me, but until today I did not know the origins of it. This isn't history class so I'm going to be incredibly lazy and not find the original source and instead quote from Wikipedia. I hope you'll forgive me. Here goes:

"This too shall pass" (Hebrew: גם זה יעבור‎, gam zeh yaavor) is a phrase occurring in a Jewish wisdom folktale involving King Solomon. The phrase is commonly engraved on silver rings.
Many versions of the folktale have been recorded by the Israel Folklore Archive at the University of Haifa. Heda Jason recorded this version told by David Franko from Turkey:
One day Solomon decided to humble Benaiah Ben Yehoyada, his most trusted minister. He said to him, "Benaiah, there is a certain ring that I want you to bring to me. I wish to wear it for Sukkot which gives you six months to find it." "If it exists anywhere on earth, your majesty," replied Benaiah, "I will find it and bring it to you, but what makes the ring so special?" "It has magic powers," answered the king. "If a happy man looks at it, he becomes sad, and if a sad man looks at it, he becomes happy." Solomon knew that no such ring existed in the world, but he wished to give his minister a little taste of humility. Spring passed and then summer, and still Benaiah had no idea where he could find the ring. On the night before Sukkot, he decided to take a walk in one of the poorest quarters of Jerusalem. He passed by a merchant who had begun to set out the day's wares on a shabby carpet. "Have you by any chance heard of a magic ring that makes the happy wearer forget his joy and the broken-hearted wearer forget his sorrows?" asked Benaiah. He watched the grandfather take a plain gold ring from his carpet and engrave something on it. When Benaiah read the words on the ring, his face broke out in a wide smile. That night the entire city welcomed in the holiday of Sukkot with great festivity. "Well, my friend," said Solomon, "have you found what I sent you after?" All the ministers laughed and Solomon himself smiled. To everyone's surprise, Benaiah held up a small gold ring and declared, "Here it is, your majesty!" As soon as Solomon read the inscription, the smile vanished from his face. The jeweler had written three Hebrew letters on the gold band: gimel, zayin, yud, which began the words "Gam zeh ya'avor" -- "This too shall pass." At that moment Solomon realized that all his wisdom and fabulous wealth and tremendous power were but fleeting things, for one day he would be nothing but dust.
The phrase "This too shall pass" and the associated ring story were made popular by Abraham Lincoln in his 'Address Before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society, Milwaukee, Wisconsin' on September 30, 1859:
It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: "And this, too, shall pass away." How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!
And here's the song: