Archive for the ‘georgia’ Category

This week I’m taking the train a bit more due to much higher gas prices. Getting to work in the morning is usually hassle-free. If the train isn’t at the Doraville platform, I’m greeted by a cool breeze in the early a.m. hours. MARTA whisks me downtown within 30 minutes — even with the change at Five Points which at that time, doesn’t smell like the basement of a KFC.

Going home in the early afternoon is another story. Yesterday, the trains were packed with conference attendees and students. Still, the ride wasn’t too bad except for a strange thing that happened at Peachtree Center. I think a fellow passenger was trying to grab the bar behind me, but ended up almost hugging me instead. Another passenger noticed and said, “I think he tried to hug you.” I replied, “I could always use a little love.”

When the train approached the Brookhaven area in the ATL, I noticed (as I wrote in my recent Tweet) that some gas stations were completely out. Hurricane Ike has definitely left his mark here in the Peach State. The good news is that our temps. are finally going down — hopefully for a very long time.

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Welcome to Peachtree Corners. Our community is in unincorporated Norcross, about 20 miles north of downtown Atlanta. Perhaps we are a community very much like yours.

The name “Peachtree Corners” evokes such a clean suburban image. That is why I and scores of other people moved here over the past decade. We are ensconced in what is left of the lower reaches of the Chattahoochee National Forest. Our neighborhood is festooned with tall pine trees and features a gorgeous Methodist retreat known as Simpsonwood, where two dozen deer roam the tranquil landscape and redheaded woodpeckers tap away heartily on whatever their little beaks can find.

In our corner of the world, we have a lot of churches, a YMCA and an elementary and middle school.

As the school day recently came to a close, I noticed something disturbing: a flurry of automobiles idling in front of the schools during the pickup and drop-off periods of the day.

I had a conversation with one of my neighbors over this issue that instigated a rant: “I cannot believe the number of Ford Excursions and Chevy Suburbans that are sitting there each morning releasing toxins into the air!” my neighbor exclaimed. Then he quickly apologized for “getting on his soapbox.”

I was quick to point out that soccer moms are only a small part of our metro air pollution problem. For now, I said, “Let’s forget about the environmental argument over idling automobiles.” We will leave that up to the metro Atlanta politicians. What I see fewer of in our neighborhood are children riding their bikes or walking to school.

We are only minutes from the elementary and middle schools, and how do the students get from point A to point B? Suburbia’s morning cavalry call includes parents who pack the kids into their mini-vans, sport-utility vehicles, station wagons and pickup trucks and pound the tired pavement with a regular drumbeat under the quiet pines.

At pickup and drop-off times, the schools resemble a war zone or media convergence. Enter at your own risk.

But who can blame the kids? It is almost impossible for many of them to walk or ride their bikes to school. Like most suburban areas, we do not have consistent sidewalks. Could these same children share the road and walk or ride with the traffic? Forget it. The posted speed limit is 25 mph, but it is well-ignored.

The result? Children are increasingly out of shape. Quick-fix metro area lifestyles offer very few incentives for kids to exercise each day.

It is a shame we have constructed the metro area as a one-person commuting town with inaccessible shopping strips and malls, fast-food joints and so-called main roads which are highways with few or no sidewalks.

School administrators and families should discuss this issue and come up with creative ways to limit drop-off zones in front of schools. Teachers can possibly reward their students who either bike or walk to school.

Instead of demonizing developers, let’s encourage governments to offer incentives to them in the form of tax credits to build sidewalks and bike paths in and around the areas where they build.

We must find a way to make our neighborhoods real communities again and get more kids moving.

You can take it with you

Posted: August 7, 2007 in georgia, video games

It was another camp pick-up day for me.

I was sitting in a line of vehicles that was idling in the hot Georgia sun when I noticed a disturbing trend: children addicted to electronics.

“This is camp!” I screamed to myself as I witnessed kids between the ages of 5 and 12 playing Game Boys, listening to iPods and texting their friends. “There’s no safe refuge anymore!”
It was on this day that I officially became my father, who 30 years ago complained that I was playing too much Pong on our Odyssey 300 gaming system located in our basement. But there is a huge difference between my “Pong Passion” on the family’s 25-inch Zenith TV and what kids are doing today. These electronic wonders are strapped to today’s kids. Who said you can’t take it with you? You can take it all with you and then some.

Don’t get me wrong, I love modern inventions and in many ways they have improved and even saved our lives. When I was stuck on the side of the road, I was able to summon AAA right from my car. I couldn’t do that when I first arrived here in the ATL 18 years ago. With my handy mobile phone, AAA came to help me in record time: eight hours. In the old days, it would have taken three days to get roadside assistance. Now that’s progress.

The problem with today’s gadgets is that there are no limits —- even at camp!
It used to be that it was a shame to smuggle an X-Men comic book into the camp’s gymnasium. Now it is accepted practice for a kid to be watching Ludacris bounce around in baggy pants while tuning out the natural sounds of summer. Whatever happened to fun, creative and original play?
It doesn’t look like it will ever get better. With the release of the iPhone, I’m sure that every kid will have this device or something similar to it very soon.

If you have been living under a rock, the iPhone is a combination phone, music player, Web browser, gaming console and missile launcher. OK, you might think that I’m kidding about the last one, but with the sorry state of military affairs, I think the Pentagon might turn to our electronically addicted kids for help any time now.

Seriously, these portable devices make kids smart. That’s good news to me. According to several studies, their logic, computer skills, hand-eye coordination and knowledge of important current events dramatically improves. Thanks to constant Web access, our children can view 24-hour news and find out the latest on their role models like Paris Hilton.

I must confess that I fear for the future. The downside to having this constant source of endless entertainment is that the kids’ attention spans are shorter. With an endless barrage of media tossed at them, it will become even tougher for children to become patient, responsible adults.
As my child jumped into the car, I asked how her day went. After several moments of silence, I turned around and gasped as she was in a trance from listening to her iPod. I’m kidding, of course. The iPod is for me. My daughter was doing something much worse according to some in the community. She was reading a Harry Potter book.