25 January 2008

Ideas for a World-Class City, no.6

Wind power in urban settings? That's the next frontier. As City of Sound explains:

Wind turbines, as with other renewable energy sources, are only likely to increase in number throughout urban space...

Still, the portrayed settings for these turbines are often the ex-urban 'object in the landscape'-style houses familiar to photogenic regions of Australia, California, Scandinavia etc.

This is perhaps due to their unwieldy size thus far but also, I think, a cultural association between renewable energy and 'the great outdoors', which is entirely false and actually problematic... I'd like to see small elegant turbines intended for domestic use in tighter urban context.

The new generation of wind turbines are not the "windmill" type design. New designs are cheaper, smaller, can be mounted on buildings and residences, and do not need omnidirectional wind. And they're bird-friendly.

Here's a model from Mariah Power that looks more like a Martin Logan speaker than a wind turbine.

And here's a model from Helix (video) that looks more like an Alexander Calder sculpture.

Australian Open

If you haven't been watching, you've missed some good stuff.

Watching Federer is always great, but watching him come THIS CLOSE to being dispatched in week 1 was edge-of-your-seat stuff. Kudos to Janko Tipsaravic, the latest name to come out of Serbia's secret tennis robot factory (how do you explain 4 top players from a war-torn country with no facilities?).

What, you've never heard of Tipsaravic? Well then you obviously do not remember my August 28 post recognizing his ability.

Now remember this name: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. That's the new name to know. I just finished watching him blow Nadal off the court. You read that correctly. Nadal, who made it to the semis without losing a set, did not even win a set against Tsonga. He lost 6-2,6-3,6-2. That, my friends, is a blowout. Tsonga played the best tennis I've seen since Federer in the 2006 U.S. Open final. Truly amazing.

If he plays like that in the final, Federer/Djokovic is going to be in a world of trouble.

On the women's side, the story is one word: BORING. I didn't see one good match. I'm glad that my two least favorite players, the sisters Williams, lost to my two favorite players, Ivanovic and Jankovic (also from the factory). But then both of them lost in the next round.

If you want to see a beautiful Russian woman with zero personality crush a beautiful Slovakian woman on an emotional roller coaster then watch the women's final. I'll skip it and watch Tsonga again. It's that good. And he's got more personality than the entire women's tour combined.

22 January 2008

Is the CPD Really THIS Bad?

It is according to this letter (click on “Get Documents” in the top right) sent to Councilman Thomas. The letter relates one family’s experiences with crime and paints a picture of the CPD as grossly incompetent and uninterested. Truly unbelievable.

Two bets I would not make: local corporate media will investigate and report this; and the city manager and mayor will follow up and demand accountability.

21 January 2008

NFL Playoffs: Some Thoughts

Executive Summary

Overall winners: Mr. & Mrs. Manning
Overall losers: Norv Turner, Brett Favre

Full Report

Everyone expected (and I think it's fair to say, wanted) a Pats-Packers final. I did, too. It might have been the highest rated Super Bowl ever. But both playoffs were closer than most predicted. We were closer than we would like to think to a Chargers-Giants final. Just pause for a moment and imagine the difference in excitement between those two possibilities.

Here's what I don't understand: why did Norv Turner keep Philip Rivers in the game? Does anyone else think that a one-legged QB is better than a two-legged backup who has proven himself up to the task? Does Norv Turner even remember what it's like to throw a football? You need two legs to be an NFL QB. A person needs to be able to put all his weight on both legs to throw or hit a ball properly. Anyone who has been through ACL recovery can appreciate the difference it makes in being able to properly balance one's weight.

Don't underestimate the importance of the lower body in the throwing process. Nolan Ryan was once asked what advice he'd give young pitchers and he said strengthen the legs.

In my mind, what little chance the Chargers had was erased by Turner's poor decision. Philip Rivers missed half his passes and threw 2 interceptions. What is the point of having a backup if you're not going to use him when you need him? What are they paying him for? Why bother even scouting for a good backup?

I don't get it.

In any case, I'm hoping the Super Bowl will be good. It does have that annoying history of boring, lopsided games. And let's face it: if ever there was a year for that to happen, this is it.

Is the Banks Plan a Bad Idea?

I guess it's all relative.

I'm no fan of the current Banks plan. It's a small-minded idea from small-minded people who think expertise is proportional to the number of business suits in the closet.

But it sure looks better when compared to this nugget of absurdity.

17 January 2008

Rich Black Man on Welfare

Thanks for checking in, the sparse posting will continue for a bit longer.

Meantime, TDB reports that Ken Blackwell can't seem to find a real job. He continues to be economically dependent on the kindness of others. But it's not welfare; only liberals and the poor are on welfare. When Republicans get money for doing nothing it's called the free market.

08 January 2008

Ideas for a World-Class City, no.5

In a sort of follow-up to Idea no.3, here are links to articles about traffic engineer Hans Monderman.

Why are his ideas interesting? As this blog post tells us,

His challenge to rational traffic planning principles? Remove the signs and traffic-control lights...

He posited that congestion, traffic jams and rush-hour could be alleviated if not eliminated by taking away enforced flow-control. He also stated that traffic should be slowed down, in order to have it be able to move quicker...

Monderman was told he was crazy, and that his ideas would increase traffic accidents between people and cars. But he was allowed to conduct a few trials, in the Netherlands. The results have revolutionized traffic control, and have also reduced traffic fatalities significantly.

It's a radical notion, or at least it seems like it compared to what we're used to. The ideas work in Europe. But would they work here?

More at Wired.com and the NYTimes.

03 January 2008

What the World Eats (Photo Essay)

Sixteen pics of families around the world and what they eat and spend on food in a week.

02 January 2008

Ideas for a World-Class City, no.4

Can a parking garage be one of the coolest structures in a city? It can if it's something like this one.

Or this one.

It's expensive technology, no question. But as urban real estate becomes more precious, things like this begin to make sense. Decreasing the area used for parking garages (and worse, surface lots) makes land available for more worthwhile options. It certainly makes sense (or it will, eventually) to extend garages vertically instead of horizontally.

01 January 2008

Is Smoking Just Another Word for Nothing Left to Lose?

Kicking off 2008 with a soupcon of sarcasm...

The last time I opined on this topic our blogosphere colleague Jackie D. blew a gasket here and there. So I hope she's unarmed and sober when she reads about the continuing march to ban smoking freedom here and abroad.

The latest:

Illinois to ban freedom in public places.
Germany gets on the anti-freedom bandwagon of tyranny.
Even France (!) has slipped past the event horizon and into the black hole with a spaceship full of liberty.

Let's face it: everybody is restricting smoking. Universities, cities, states, and countries. You know it's serious when Europe gets on the train (England, Ireland, Spain, & Italy also have bans). Is this a worldwide trend against personal liberty?

No, it's part of the worldwide trend in recognizing scientific evidence, in this case public health. Smoking itself is not the target of the bans. If it was, they would just classify tobacco as a drug and make it illegal. The goal is to reduce the harmful health effects on others. That's why the bans are specific to public places. No one is prevented from lighting up; they are only prevented from affecting others. In this sense, the bans are analogous to noise ordinances: we are not prevented from listening to music, just from playing it loud enough to bother neighbors (something I wish my neighbor understood. Interestingly, she is a smoker).

Another thought: the "smoker's rights" coalition is considered a libertarian philosophy. I don't think it is. True libertarianism says individuals should be free to do whatever they want as long as it doesn't infringe on the liberty of others. Smoking harms non-smokers and therefore crosses that line. So what the "smoker's rights" coalition really believes in is the acceptability of harming others. The word for that is not "libertarian."