Friday, June 23, 2000
It's Time for Answers
Are you as confused as I am about the whole debate regarding walkways in Carlisle? Wherever you turn, there's a passion that seems disproportionate to reality. Even the terminology is loadedit's "sidewalks" if you're against them and "pathways" if you're for them. For dispassionate purposes, I'll refer to them here as "walkways."
The two sides in this debate are comprised of intelligent, rational people, so something substantial must be getting them riled up. Perhaps it's the aesthetics. The pedestrian/bike safety committee's first endeavorthe sidewalk in the center of townlooks like your typical sidewalk, that is, pretty ugly. However, given the area they had to work with, there seems to have been no other option. They assure us that any other proposed projects will not look like that. Has anyone seen the walkway alongside Barrett's Mill Road in Concord? It seems to be made of the same stuff, but since it winds in and out, around trees and stone walls, it's certainly no eyesore and is a treat to walk.
Could it be that walkways threaten the rural character of Carlisle? I notice that whenever the walkway debate heats up, someone usually writes a letter that ends in the vehement suggestion that anyone who favors a walkway should move to Bedford, Concord or some other such citified location. Do walkways have such power to change the town's character? I would think that being able to walk comfortably from market to library to post office, rather than hopping in the car and driving from parking lot to parking lot, would be far more in keeping with a "rural character."
Some walkway opponents have voiced concern over the costs of such a project, and there I believe they have a valid and persuasive argument. Anyone who has followed the Town Meeting coverage, as well as read any reports on the FinCom meeting, will know that the town must tighten its fiscal belt. In a time when the whole town is feeling the pinch, installing a school loop pathway might not seem like a top priority.
But the town is in a unique position now to get some answers in a confusing debate. At Town Meeting last May, the selectmen proposed using $30,000 from the town's $134,000 in Chapter 90 funds (usually used for road repairs) to fund a study of the feasibility of a walkway from the center of town, down Bedford Road and up Church Street to the school. Town Meeting members approved the selectmen's suggestion by a vote of 256 to 13, and it's important to keep in mind why it passed. This was no mandate from the town to build walkways. For some voters, it was simply a way to accept the road repair funds. For many, it was a way to get answers. Practical questions such as, "Can you build a walkway through the wetlands alongside Bedford Road?" and "Just how much would this proposed walkway really cost?" can finally be answered. If the cost is too great or the logistics too insurmountable, the whole issue of a loop pathway may be moot and go no further. Or it may be discovered that it can be done cheaply and beautifully. We'll never know without a study, and if we can use state funds to pay for it, we should do it and get some answers. Now's the time to take this bewildering discussion and either raise it to a higher level or put it to rest.
Backing into the Computer Age
For over 25 years I've used a pocket-sized week-at-a-glance type organizer. Some years ago, my children gave me one of the first electronic organizers. Data was entered on a small keyboard. It was bulky, would not fit into the breast pocket of my lab coat and could not perform all the functions of my paper organizer, For these reasons, I never used it.
In the past few years, these hand-held machines have become smaller and more functional. Recently, a colleague of mine started using a new device, the Palm V, and suddenly my interest was re-awakened. It is small enough to fit into my pocket along with my pens. Data entry is by use of a stylus and a simple shorthand alphabet called "graffiti." It is possible to load the entire format into a personal computer (PC), and data can be easily transferred back and forth between the PC and the device. I decided to purchase one, but was advised to buy a newer model with more memory. This would allow the downloading of programs I am particularly interested in, which require significant memory. For example, a program called "Epocrates" is a drug compendium which includes medications by brand name, generic name and class, and provides indications for use and dose recommendations.
Much to my surprise, I found that the model I wanted was not in stock anywhere in the local area. My son explained, "By the time someone like you decides to buy one, they've become such a hot item they just can't be manufactured fast enough." I persevered, however, and a month later was the proud owner of a Palm Vx. It took a while to enter all the data from my paper organizer into the Palm Vx, but it has performed beautifully. In some ways, it is not as simple as my old organizer, but so many features are better that the positive aspects far outweigh the negative. My 25-year-old paper organizer has finally been retired.
Despite my state-of-the-art organizer, I am probably a member of a unique minority in this town. Although I have a PC on my desk at work and use it every day in my practice, I still do not have a PC at home. Acquisition of a PC has been on my to-do list for some time, but I've been dragging my feet on an actual purchase. Is this an indication that I am computerphobic, as many of my generation are? Hopefully not. In fact, this very article is being typed on my office computer and will be sent by e-mail to the Forum editor. One cause of hesitation has been the lack of high-speed access to the internet here in Carlisle, as was recently discussed in another Forum article. However, my success in adapting to the Palm Vx has encouraged me to stop procrastinating and to purchase and install a home PC this summer. Wish me luck.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito