Saturday, February 2, 2008

Groundhog's Day in the States, Chandeleur en France, and my Birthday Everywhere Else

I'm late getting to this today because so many of you have sent birthday greetings and I've been answering them. Thanks. It also meant that I started to write you about things that I then repeated to the next one. I finally remembered that that is what I was writing this blog for.

Yesterday, the mayor of Pittsburgh, Luke Ravenstahl, was in Paris to promote Pittsburgh. I went because of our Pittsburgh connection and Jon sent me a question to ask, so I did. Yes, the mayor went to Amsterdam and met with officials from KLM to discuss opening a single direct line between Europe and Pittsburgh with Amsterdam as the European hub. The audience applauded when I asked if they were hoping to reconnect Pittsburgh to the rest of the world, meaning there were several people present who were familiar with the current obligation to connect through Philly or Cincinnati. The thing is that the Amsterdam hub doesn't really change things for us Parisians because we'd still have to connect.

I also learned some things about Pittsburgh. It's a remarkably green city and trying to become even greener. It's growing again - very big in the health-related industry, robotics and sustainable development. I remember him mentioning BPL (making more efficient use of power lines, office in Paris,...) and that Louis should look into them. And for Emma, there are several links: Sustainable Pittsburgh, the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the e-mail address of the person to contact for any interest there. I also spoke with Maureen Guttman, Executive Director of the Governor's Green Government Council.

I read that the mayor is being criticized for this trip; it's being called a vacation. Well, what I saw on Friday morning was not someone on vacation. Looks more like someone on a business trip. He's very curious about other cities and how they manage difficulties. It sounds like he's been getting some flack about the US not having signed any of the international agreements on the environment, but he did a good job explaining that in the US, the movement is bottom-to-top, and that a city, like Pittsburgh, has much more leeway to find its way to becoming a "green" city. In Europe, he has seen much more top-down management. He was so proud to show off the bike paths in Pittsburgh, but he said that, after almost being run over by the bikes in Amsterdam, he realizes that the Pittsburgh bike grid is not that much of a to-do. So, he touted "flex-car", which works like Paris's "velib" except that it is short-term car rental instead of bikes. Someone in the audience asked about public transportation and he explained that it was virtually non-existent, except for the bus lines and a rapid transit project between the universities and downtown. He also explained the need to look for more space for university (Pitt and CMU, at least) expansion and that former steel mill sites were being investigated for that. Someone else in the audience is thinking of returning to the States to live because the dollar has dropped so far as to make it too expensive to continue on here -- she asked about the cost of living. There was a shocked gasp when he told us the low cost of a family home. I'm bad at estimating attendance; I'd say there were about 75 people attending this early morning presentation.

What else is going on? Not much. I'm still drawing - I did a landscape based on a photo Paul took in China. It forced me to work on shading. I don't have the patience. I think I'm more a line-drawing person.

The STC France conference is coming up. I'm still working on it, but I won't be able to attend.

That's it, for now.

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