Four Ways Bike Commuting in Chattanooga is Different than DC

Jasmine biking on Pennsylvania Ave in Washington, DC
Me in the bike lanes in the center of Pennsylvania Ave, Washington, DC

I’m a big fan of bicycling. It’s basically my favorite way to get around. I first got into it when I lived in Alexandria, VA, when I first started biking on the Mt. Vernon trail and eventually flirted with commuting into DC via bike. When I moved to Capitol Hill, I rode to work sporadically for about a year.

Now that I’ve moved to Chattanooga, TN, and have been riding my bike to work almost every day for four months, I can’t help but think about the differences between my commute now vs. in Washington, DC.

  1. Hills. Chattanooga has some pretty dastardly ones. I thought I was in shape in DC, but turns out I was wrong! My thighs have about 30% more muscle now, thanks to powering my heavy steel bike around the hilly terrain here. Chattanooga’s awesome pedestrian bridge also has an almost imperceptible incline that I definitely perceive when I’m trying to bike up it!
  2. Traffic. I stopped riding for a while in DC because the traffic (especially around construction sites) got so scary, but downtown Chattanooga is nothing. Because there’s so little traffic here, most cars just go right around me–they give me a wide berth and everything!
  3. Number of bike commuters. Days when I see two other people riding their bikes in the morning are remarkable, because hardly anyone does it here in Chattanooga. In DC, it was getting really popular and I would often be at a stoplight with 3-5 other cyclists in work clothes.
  4. The smells. I honestly had never thought much about smells on my commute before, other than someone cutting their grass or after it rained, but Chattanooga? Chattanooga smells delicious. In the morning, I smell fresh donuts. On my commute home, it’s BBQ. Is it possible to gain weight from smelling the air here??

Bike commuting in Chattanooga = awesome. I loved it in DC, but it’s even more enjoyable here. People smile and say hi to me in the mornings, and there’s a group of cyclists that has breakfast on the pedestrian bridge on Fridays. It’s given me a whole new list of things to appreciate about my new hometown.


Why I’m Not Changing My Name When I Get Married

The letter Z is awesome.

Here’s my deal: I’m keeping my last name when I get married. Actually, I’m keeping everything about my name. Title, first name, middle name, and last name.

I’ve been Jasmine Zick my whole life–why would getting married mean that I change that part of who I am? My name is my identity. That’s what I learned to write in print and pretty cursive for my signature, that’s the reason my assigned seat was in the back corner of the classroom, and why I got to walk across the stage to thunderous applause during graduation. Turns out, there are some perks to being at the end of the alphabet.

I also had to defend my name (all of my name) against people who thought Aladdin jokes were funny in the 90s, those who thought my middle name should be something like Jean or Marie instead of my mom’s maiden name, and all the jokers who figured out that Zick rhymes with a lot of other words. Adversity makes you stronger, you know? I’m kind of attached to it at this point.  Continue reading

Bigger, Better Things

I’ve been a little busy lately, but I have a good excuse: I’m moving. Not moving like two-doors-down kind of moving, but I’m picking up and moving from Washington, DC to Chattanooga, TN.

If you’re wondering why a digital media professional would leave a big city like DC for a southern mountain town like Chattanooga (population: 167,674 as of the 2010 census), here are a few reasons:

  • Bigger is not always better. This is something that I’ve heard come up a number of times in interviews lately, both referring to the market and to the size of their business. Smaller markets can be untapped gold mines of opportunity. Small businesses in these markets still need good people to help them grow and navigate these digital media waters.
  • Chattanooga is positioning itself brilliantly to attract smart young talent. Not only does it have naturally gorgeous scenery and outdoor activities, but it has the fastest internet in the country. Check out this initiative to attract entrepreneurs.
  • Chattanooga is bringing in some of the coolest parts of DC, like food trucks and a bikeshare program that even uses the same bikes DC’s Capital Bikeshare does.

So even though my move is technically to a smaller place, it’s on to bigger, better things for me. I’m excited to become a part of such an exciting growing city. (And maybe get a dog.)


Is Mobile the Future of the Internet?

I already know that Patrick Pho thinks that the wave of the future is held in the palm of our hand, but I came across this article on HuffPo by the British Ambassador to the U.S. that, while mostly skimmable (sorry, Sir Peter: TL;DR) had this little gem towards the end:

Just when governments are – admirably – looking to invest in high-speed broadband so that no-one is left behind by the digital revolution, here are these twenty-something CEOs saying it might be better to skip fibre optics altogether and go straight to mobile. At General Assembly, one young inventor told me how his $300 a month membership and rented desk, and the opportunity to bounce ideas off others with similar innovative ideas, had allowed him to create a box of tricks which will modernize and accelerate computer systems so effectively that hard-up governments and hospitals will no longer have to throw out their obsolete equipment every 4 years. I asked whether the invention would make money. He seemed surprised by the question and simply replied: ‘it’s going to change the world.’

OK. First things first: he’s right, governments (and private companies) are looking to expand broadband so that everyone can have access to it. While the digital divide has shrunk considerably, it still holds true that lower-income Americans get online less than the well-off, partly because many low-income households do not have a computer with high-speed internet. A slightly different problem is that there are willing customers in far-flung areas who would pay for broadband but the network hasn’t expanded to their area.

The problem is that building out a superfast wired network is expensive. Companies like Verizon who rolled out FiOS in select markets are choosing wireless instead. Putting up a tower is much cheaper than running wires to every house, and an increasing number of Americans are accessing the internet via their phone, especially minorities.

Mobile networks may indeed be the answer, but I think it’s more likely that it’ll be a combination of wired and wireless networks that eventually cover the globe. It’s cost-prohibitive to run fiber optic cables to every mountain shack (although mine will have it!), but you don’t have to be cut off anymore if you have a mobile device. If high-speed internet is important to you or your job, you may need to move somewhere that has the network you need, just like many people have to move to where the work is.

On another note, thank goodness people are thinking about how to update our freaking governments and hospitals. I can’t think of a better area to invest your time, energy and ideas. They need it.

What do you think? Is mobile the future of the internet?

Breaking News: Everyone Hates Facebook Timeline

Well, this doesn’t surprise me at all: everyone else is just as annoyed by Facebook’s new profile format as I am. I was an early adopter, mostly because I thought the big new banner was kind of cool, but once I started looking through the rest of it, I immediately regretted switching.

I knew that large parts of my life were documented on Facebook, but now I can pick a date (say, December 2007) and immediately see all the pictures I posted and things people wrote on my wall. I didn’t know wall posts from exes were considered “highlights.” Not only does it strike me as more invasive than ever, it feels like I have less control over the amount of information I reveal.

A SodaHead poll (via Mashable) finds that 70% of survey respondents would get rid of Timeline if they could, and it annoys both men and women equally. U.S. users hate it more than the rest of the world does, but that could be because we’ve had it the longest and gotten used to the old way. I’m sure that discomfort with change is a large part of it, but I think it goes deeper than just a cosmetic change. Timeline reminds us that everything we do online is public and permanent, and we’re uncomfortable with the loss of privacy. That may take some time to get used to.

Taking a Leap

Today I thought I’d write about something decidedly non-ridiculous: trusting yourself and taking a leap.

Some of us may be lucky enough to be in a very encouraging and empowering work environment, but I know there are a lot of others out there who are…not. It can be tricky to be in a changing field like communications/PR, and you may find yourself surrounded by naysayers (always makes me think of this: “What is this, Horseville? Cuz I’m surrounded by naysayers. Wordplay!” —Tracy Jordan) and people who just plain don’t like change.

You know what? Scratch that. That applies to way more than just communications/PR–just check out how many titles there are about dealing with and instituting change in the Business section of your local bookstore. Or Amazon, whatever.

This post is not those books, and I am no expert. What I’m saying is that sometimes you just need a little reminder that you’re on the right track. You’re doing the right thing. In fact, you’re awesome. Without risk, there is no reward. You have a goal? Go for it. What’s holding you back?

Take the initiative and do something that makes you happy, advances your career, and/or improves your workplace. You can do it!

Keeping Up With New Media: Pinterest

Keeping up with all the new tools and networks that come out can be a really overwhelming task for some people (but not social media professionals….er…never).

I’d like to introduce you to my New Favorite Thing: Pinterest. Pinterest is basically a huge, lovely online magazine: users populate the site by grabbing images from the internet (with a handy “Pin It” button for your bookmark bar) or repinning images other users have posted. Those images are organized onto boards like “Wedding Ideas,” “For the Home,” and “Recipes to Try.” If you’re noticing a trend in my example board ideas, you’ve got the right idea: this is a place that appeals to the ladies. My Pinterest homepage is dominated by lofty DIY projects, aspirational style photos, and lots and lots of dresses. It’s really pretty.

Of course, as soon as the business world heard how popular it’s gotten–site visits increased by 4,000% in six months–everyone wanted to know how to use it as a marketing tool. While there are a lot of tips out there, the best one I’ve seen came from the American Express OPEN Forum blog: use Pinterest to promote a lifestyle, not necessarily a particular product. Pinterest etiquette actually forbids blatant self-promotion, so marketing there requires a broader view. Instead of posting a picture of a bracelet for sale in your shop, think about what kind of person your brand appeals to. Uber-fashionista? Retro-chic?

Your Pinterest boards can also reflect many different sides of your brand: just because you’re selling clothes doesn’t mean you can’t have a food board. Or a board of cute fluffy animals (Pinterest users love fluffy animals).

Check out some of the examples on the OPEN blog post to see how other brands are using it successfully, and of course, you can always follow me!