Tactical Urbanism: It's All Around You

by Claire Vlach

Although you may not have recognized it as such, you’ve probably seen Tactical Urbanism at work in Portland. A prime example are the painted intersections scattered here and there across the East Side. The first of these intersection improvements, consisting of a painted design in the street as well as a tea station, kids’ playhouse, and community bulletin board, was created in Sellwood in 1996 by a group of neighbors, without the city’s approval. The Portland Bureau of Transportation threatened to fine the group and dismantle the project, but the group presented the city with a survey showing that since the intersection was redone, neighbors felt there was more communication and lower crime and traffic speeds. The city eventually allowed the project to stand, and thanks to the work of the City Repair Project, the city adopted an ordinance approving what is now known as “Intersection Repair” in 2000. Now, officially-sanctioned painted and improved intersections dot the city.

Image courtesy of the  Planet Repair Institute

Image courtesy of the Planet Repair Institute

You can see a more recent example of Tactical Urbanism this summer along Naito Parkway. You may have noticed traffic cones blocking off the east-most lane of Naito Parkway along Waterfront Park. This project, known as “Better Naito,” is a collaboration between Better Block PDX and PBOT. It reserves a 15-foot wide space for bicycling and walking, providing much-needed access along the Waterfront during festival season. The project was piloted for two weeks in June 2015, and due to its success is being repeated this summer for three months, from May to July.

Image courtesy of  BikePortland

Image courtesy of BikePortland

Together, these two projects illustrate that tactical urbanism can take many forms. It can be led by citizens, organizations, governments, or a combination. It can consist of temporary improvements such as traffic cones; semi-permanent improvements such as paint; and permanent improvements such as community bulletin boards. Tactical urbanism can lead to localized change, such as opening up a traffic lane to pedestrians and bicyclists, or to policy change that spurs on-the-ground improvements throughout the city.

If you want to learn more about tactical urbanism projects in Portland and around the country, and to put together some ideas for developing your own tactical urbanism project, please join me for How to Change Your Neighborhood: Tactical Urbanism 101, Thursdays in August.

Claire Vlach is an urban planner and designer who focuses on public projects such as streets and plazas. She has Masters’ degrees in both Urban Planning and Urban Design.

How Improv. Theatre Taught Me to Embrace the Unexpected

by Marilyn Divine

Improvisation has given me skills that allow me to *make it work* (it being the surprises, and even disappointments, of life). Onstage, improvisers must be flexible, open, and ready to switch gears if the direction of the scene we have been having suddenly throws us a curve ball. If an airplane in the distance becomes an angry raccoon, we must justify this new information and incorporate it into our play.

Those skills, and that mindset, have carried over into the way I live my life every day. If I am going about my day, thinking that I am on a certain course of action, and something suddenly changes, my first reaction is Ok, make it work. I have learned to easily switch gears and to take my endeavor in another direction without freaking out or getting upset. This practice works wonders for a person's stress level and it often has stunningly positive results.

In improv. speak, everything is seen as an offer or a gift. Especially the unexpected. Learning to accept the events of my life in this way has helped me look at the world and at other people in a much more generous light. For an improviser, the scene is always unfolding exactly as it should. This knowledge has taught me to relax, and to let go of (at least some) pre-conceived ideas. It has made me more interested in getting more information and less interested in judging.

I both am and am not the same person that I was before I started down the improv path.  I invite you to give it a go, and see how it might change your life. Improvisation for Transformation will be meeting Mondays in August.

Marilyn Divine has been an ensemble member of the Brody Theater for 16 years, and an instructor in the Brody's Fundamentals of Improv class for 4 years. She has performed in festivals throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe.


4 Tips To Make Your Life Easier in the Kitchen

By Mark Clayton

Cooking at home, especially cooking from scratch, is not easy. Just the thought of coming home from work only to spend time preparing a meal, cooking it, and then having to clean up the mess, is daunting. Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet or culinary panacea that will ease all cooking woes and make your time in the kitchen a breeze. But there are some very simple things you can do to maximize your efficiency and help make your kitchen life a little easier.

1. Unlock the Full Potential of Your Recipe

You would be surprised how many people do not understand how to best use a recipe. For starters, read the recipe. I know this sounds like it should go without saying, but before you start cooking, take a second and read it. The whole thing. A recipe is your game plan in the kitchen and if you don't know what that plan entails, you will end up following a recipe for disaster.

If you know what's in the plan, you can make sure that you have all the ingredients and tools you will need to successfully make the dish. Don't you want to have at least a general idea of what you are getting yourself into, before you heat up your pan?

After you read the recipe, it can be helpful to rewrite it in your own words. While this adds a little time to your preparation, it might save you precious seconds in the heat of the moment when you do not have time to read a whole paragraph just find out your next step. This leads to…

2. Write a Prep List

After you’ve read through your recipe, and possibly rewritten it in your own words, write yourself a prep list. This is especially important when working on a recipe with multiple components or planning a meal with more than one course. In a restaurant kitchen, the preparation list (or “prep list” for short) is the primary to-do list for the day. Your prep list will detail the specifics of your game plan from the recipe. For example, if you are following a recipe for macaroni and cheese, your prep list may look like this:

  1. Grate cheese
  2. Make bechamel sauce
  3. Cook pasta
  4. Bake mac and cheese
  5. Eat mac and cheese

3. Make Mise en Place your Mantra

Mise en Place is a French phrase that literally translates to “putting in place.” In the kitchen, it is a concept we all strive for. The culinary ideal is to be prepared. This means having everything you are going to need in place before you start to cook anything. This includes, but is not limited to the following:

  • The tool and supplies you will need are readily accessible. 
  • All your ingredients are cleaned, cut or otherwise prepared, and accurately measured out.
  • Your pans are greased, ovens preheated, water boiling, butter softened...

This is another tip that initially seems to add time, but it will save you the headache of realizing halfway through a recipe that you don't have enough of something, or that you can't find the right pan because you let someone borrow it, or that you forgot to preheat the oven again. Having everything in its place streamlines your cooking and makes it less likely that you will forget something.

4. Befriend Your Knife

In the kitchen, your knife should feel like an extension of your hand. (You should be like Edward Scissorhands, but with knives. Except, only one knife and only on one hand.) The more comfortable you are with using your knife, the more confident you will be in the kitchen and the faster you will move from the preparation phase to the actual cooking. More important than increasing your speed, becoming better acquainted with your knife will reduce the chances of getting injured during prep.

I cannot stress enough the importance of knife safety, care, and technique in making cooking a more enjoyable and less difficult task. If you're interested in upping your kitchen game and getting to know your knife, join me Tuesday evenings in August for Culinary School I: Knife Skills at PUGS.

Mark Clayton is a PUGS instructor + the Sous Chef of Cyril's @ Clay Pigeon Winery.