It's been a long time since I posted on this blog. I thought I would bring you up-to-date on what I've been doing as a way of explaining why I post so infrequently.
Unemployment is probably the biggest reason for not posting. I was laid off from my job on July 1, 2009. It was a temporary position that was to end August 1, 2009. Money ran out and I was let go. I have been searching unsuccessfully for a job and it's becoming quite depressing.
I have continued to work on PhilaStories. My hope is that one day it will be a non-profit organization. The stories I collected from the retired firemen who worked at Engine 11 has led to an unexpected project. Working with friends and family and with the support of Scribe Video Center's Precious Places program we have created a short documentary about Engine 11. The film will be shown, with 9 other documentaries, on April 7, 2010 at the Philadelphia International House.
Using the social media platform Ning I started a site for PhilaStories. It's where I hope people will upload their Philadelphia stories. I've used Ning for two other projects: Philadelphia Model Neighborhoods and Philadelphia Ninth Ward Democratic Committee.
Philadelphia Model Neighborhoods was developed as a result of working with people in West Philadelphia who were attempting to have a model neighborhood developed in their neighborhood. Model Neighborhoods is a program developed by the Philadelphia Water Department to decrease storm/rain water runoff. I thought it would be a good idea for people to have a place where they could share information about their experience working with the Water Department. It would allow other communities to learn how to do the same in their neighborhood. Unfortunately I was let go before I had the opportunity to push this idea and try and motivate people to participate. The site now mainly serves as a resource for anyone interested in storm/rain water issues.
The Philadelphia Ninth Ward Democratic Committee site was my attempt to bring transparency to local ward politics. I was asked to fill-in as committee person and I accepted. I realized that I knew very little about the duties of a committee person. This site is an attempt to shed some light on those duties and to get people interested in politics at its most basic level. My hope is that people in the ninth ward will begin to use the site to discuss issues and push for action by their local politicians. I'll be on the ballot on May 18 so please vote for me. Shameless, aren't I?
Some people believe that the Ning platform is kind of corny. I see it as an easy way for people to start a social media site and immerse themselves in managing that site. It really does lower the bar to entry. It's free and very easy to use.
Right now blogging on PhilaPhile is not a priority for me. It's been difficult to justify spending my very limited funds on restaurants and other entertainment venues when I'm not earning any money. Not to mention finding the time to do it. I'm looking forward to having the resources and the time to explore the many fun places in the Philadelphia area.
When I learned about CardStar I immediately downloaded it. CardStar is a free iPhone app that stores all of your membership cards eliminating the need to carry them in your wallet. I was eager to try it out because this was an idea I had many years ago that was going to make me a millionaire. Every time I went to a store and had to pull out one of those cards I would tell the cashier my idea of creating a universal membership card with a unique ID that would work with all companies. We know where that idea went. I tell my friends all of the time the difference between me and people with successful ideas is that when they come up with a great idea they begin working on implementation. After I come up with a great idea my next move is to ask for another beer.
After I entered all of my information into my iPhone I went and tested CardStar at Genuardis. The first mistake I made was taking 14 items into the limited 15 item express lane. I purposely left my membership cards at home for two reasons: 1. my wallet is so much slimmer after eliminating 14 cards; and 2. I didn't want the cashier to have a fallback position. I wanted to force them to deal with this new device.
After she finished scanning my items she asked if I had a Genuardis card. I handed over my iPhone after showing her the replica of the card on the screen. She said, "What's this?" I told her it was a new way to store cards and Genuardis signed-up for the program. She was completely flummoxed. "What do you mean they signed up? What am I suppose to do with this?" You just scan it like you would a regular card. This is where it gets interesting. Handing an iPhone to someone who has never handled one before is tricky. I know from using it that you can't touch the screen because it can sometime easily change screens. It's not something I think about I just do it because of my experience handling it. But it's not something I thought about when I purchased this app. So everytime I handed it to her and she touched the screen, it would change so that she couldn't scan it properly. I glanced at the two people in line behind me who were beginning to fidget. Especially the young man immediately behind me who had only one item to purchase.
After a few unsuccessful attempts at trying to scan the iPhone and handing it back to me, I get it back to the proper screen, hand it back to her, another unsuccessful scanning attempt she finally said, "It doesn't work." I then tried to scan it myself while holding it properly and it didn't work. I'm now hearing sighs from the people in line and the second guy starts to look for another cashier. After my failed attempt at scanning the cashier doesn't say anything, she just looks at me as if to say, "What do you want to do now?". I suggest that we use my phone number. Unfortunately, after two attempts, that doesn't work either. I remember reading the CardStar reviews and they suggested that if it doesn't scan properly you can have the cashier type in the membership number. After a very loud sigh she types in the membership number and it works. I grab my bags and begin leaving when she tells me I forgot one of my bags. I walk back while avoiding eye contact with the people in line, get my bag, and walk out defeated in my attempts to bring these people into the 21st century.
Of course I will continue to use CardStar because I want it to work so badly and, again, I love the slimmer wallet.
Having continual access to all kinds of information in the 21st century can be riveting and depressing at the same time. Being aware of what some people in this world go through daily to survive creates paralyzing anxiety that makes me want to tune them out. I don't know what to do to help and I feel guilty for not doing anything. It's not anyone's fault, but my own, that I react in this manner but that awareness does not provide any relief.
Watching this news report, by CNN's Ben Wedeman, about Somalian refugees dying while attempting to reach Yemen showed me what it means to be a strong, brave human being. A person who somehow survive's the hell that is Somalia, then risks everything to escape, is a life worth preserving. What must life be like for these people if their promised land is Yemen?
For some reason, at this point in time, I'm not allowing myself to become paralyzed. After watching this video I realize that I don't have to save the world to make an impact. Anything I can do will be helpful.
The next First Person Salon will be held on Wednesday, June 11th at the Gershman Y, 401 South Broad Street beginning at 7:00 pm. Meet and listen to documentary filmmaker Ron Kanter, author Lorene Cary, and muralist Donald Gensler.
Hope to see you there.