Ghost Bikes and the Value of Human Life

One year ago today I attended the dedication of a ghost bike honoring Alex Cordero, a seventeen-year-old who was killed when his bicycle was struck by a tow truck. I had seen ghost bikes before, and even helped maintain a couple by clearing weeds and touching up the paint, but this was the first time I’d attended a dedication. Alex was the sixteenth cyclist killed in New York City last year; ultimately there would be twenty-nine deaths. [Note that the link indicates 28. Even transportation-safety minded journalists had a difficult time keeping up. There’s a note at the end of the article that it was updated to show twenty-nine deaths.]

2019-09-05 Ghost Bike Dedication - Alex Cordero SAM_2980
I didn’t realize it when we assembled for the dedication but I was standing near Alex’s aunt (the woman in the grey t-shirt holding a bouquet). Photo © 2019 Karen E. Lund

I was drifting off to sleep the night before, thinking of the day’s news and of my plans for the dedication of the ghost bike to honor Alex. Half asleep, my mind attempted to find a connection between the previous weekend’s gun violence (nine people had been killed in Dayton and twenty-three in El Paso) and Alex’s death while riding his bicycle.

Eventually it fitted together. Not with an answer, but with a question: When did we decide to give more rights to steel than to human flesh? Was it a conscious decision? (Probably not.) Who decided? Continue reading

Replies to My Spam

My spam folder gets more mail than I do. It amazes me what strange comments are offered up from “readers” with names like “best trash removal” and sharing dodgy links to YouTube and Polish websites. Most of them are not worth reading and a few are downright unreadable, as if a dictionary had gotten hideously drunk and puked up random words.

But once in a while there’s something that is almost worth sharing, despite the non-name name and dodgy links. So I’ve collected the highlights from my spam folder for the past few months and will reply to them here.

Hi! I know this is somewhat off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you using for this site? I’m getting sick and tired of WordPress because I’ve had problems with hackers and I’m looking at options for another platform. I would be great if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

I’m happy to oblige. This is a WordPress site.

First of all I want to say great blog! I had a quick question that I’d like to ask if you don’t mind. I was interested to find out how you center yourself and clear your head prior to writing. I’ve had a tough time clearing my thoughts in getting my thoughts out. I truly do enjoy writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are lost simply just trying to figure out how to begin. Any ideas or tips? Continue reading

I Fought Junk Mail and Won (One Battle)

One of my more satisfying accomplishments in 2016 was defeating a junk mailer who had repeatedly violated my credit reporting opt-out. The first part of this post comes from a draft letter I wrote, but never sent, to the three mail credit reporting agencies. It summarizes what happened between February 2015 and May 2016: at least five “pre-qualified” automobile loans sent to me in the mail, despite the fact I have never had a drivers license.

Here’s the story:

In February 2015 I received a notice in the mail that I was “prequalified” for an automobile loan by [Name Redacted] Auto, [Address Redacted].

This was a surprise, as I have never in my life had a drivers license. I called the telephone number on the letter and attempted to explain that they were wasting their time and mine, but was put on hold, transferred to voicemail, transferred to a number that rang but was never answered, and generally ignored. So later that day I called the “Prescreen Opt Out” number on the back of the notice and opted out of such notices.

A few weeks later I received another notice from the same company. Not sure if my opt out hadn’t yet “percolated” through the system or if I had not completed the process correctly on the phone, I again opted out using the Internet address provided. This time I received an on-screen confirmation, so I knew it had been completed correctly.

Continue reading

Advice to New Bloggers

When I shared the news that I’ve given my blog a makeover, it led to a short conversation with Barbara, one of my LinkedIn connections. I asked if she has a blog and she replied, “No, but I’d love to start one for Emergency Management and Public Safety issues.” Well, I happen to be hunkered down in New York City while we wait to see if the forecast blizzard turns out to be the apocalypse they’re forecasting, so I’m going to use my time to share some suggestions for new bloggers.

If it seems like everyone and his brother already has a blog, it may be close; but there are a few who still haven’t joined the party. There’s still room!

I started blogging on a whim–and my goal wasn’t really to have a blog of my own but to help a writer friend start a blog of her own. As I played around with it, I got interested in building a better blog of my own. Most of what I know is self-taught, learned by experimentation and looking at what other bloggers do. In retrospect, that’s a very good way to do it–the online world changes so frequently that any print book you may find on blogging will be slightly out of date. (Though having a print reference at hand might be helpful at first, so if it works for you go ahead–just remember that what you find on your new blogging platform might be a little different than what’s in the book.)

Continue reading