xthread: (Bicycle)
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A collection of interesting things from the outside world..


As always, good night, and have a pleasant tomorrow.

Date: 2010-07-28 06:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] plymouth.livejournal.com
which has the result of transferring wealth from people who pay cash to people who pay with credit but pay off their cards every month

Haha, guilty as charged! I use my card for damned near everything, pay it off each month, and still collect the $25 Amazon.com gift certificates it gives me for using it. I win! It's only a 1-2% transfer... but I'll take it!

Date: 2010-07-28 01:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] johnromkey.livejournal.com
I do the same thing. And I just noticed that Chase doesn't think the grocery store that I usually shop at is a grocery store, so I'm probably getting half the points on that than I should... must remember to poke them about it.

Date: 2010-07-28 07:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] apostle-of-eris.livejournal.com
re: real estate market
The only thing that can account for the current semi-solidity of the market must be the banks having the sense not to flood it with their foreclosures. I'd really like to find some numbers on how much empty housing is being deliberately kept off the market.


How about Conway's Game of Life in HTML 5?

Date: 2010-07-28 01:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] johnromkey.livejournal.com
I think the Goldman settlement was $550 Mn, not Bn.

Date: 2010-07-28 01:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] xthread.livejournal.com
You are correct, correction saved.

Date: 2010-07-28 03:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jeffpaulsen.livejournal.com
The Portland streetcar is very nice, very practical, and was super cheap compared to MAX (our light rail system). The reason it is so cheap is that the cars are quite small and light. There are big sections of existing streetcar-grade track already in place in Portland, because when the old lines shut down in the early 1950s, they just paved over them. I don't know that the tracks themselves were reusable, but whatever reinforcement goes under them probably was.

I read over some of the Oakland proposal, and I think they have some things backwards. My wife was working for the main developer of the Pearl District back when that started, and I got to follow it closely. The Oakland proposal makes it sound like the streetcar made the Pearl, and that's exactly backwards.

It's kind of amusing to see the Oakland streetcar faq on gentrification, pointing out that the Pearl has a large percentage of below-market rents. Yeah, because new buildings down there were hit by the housing market collapse before they were filled. The Pearl *is* the end state gentrified neighborhood, but it got there in 10 years with nobody complaining, because it started as a railyard, not a neighborhood.

Don't get me wrong - I'm all for Oakland having a streetcar. I think that streetcars are a practical and efficient way to handle certain transit use cases. I also think that urban redevelopment is great. I'm just saying that once you've got a place people want to be, the streetcar becomes a natural way to get around. The Pearl District version of "where people want to be" involves retail, office, and residential tenants, as well as design features like parks and pedestrian zones.

* I can't speak to the proposed routing, as I've never been to Oakland.

Date: 2010-07-28 03:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] xthread.livejournal.com
From the Urban Planners point of view, Max is a streetcar.

A study done about five years ago in Florida suggested that light-rail / streetcar systems may be the only urban redevelopment strategy that we've ever seen reliably succeed - in particular, building stadiums spectacularly doesn't work, which apparently people often suggest. I was going to post links off to that set of studies along with the Oakland article, but I need to go track the original source data again. The most interesting finding from the study was that putting in a streetcar / light-rail system (something running at street grade level, that is effectively increasing the geographic range of walkers) reliably creates local economic activity and concentration. The second most interesting finding was that this works even for very short segments of track - as little as a half mile or some such is enough to start the process rolling.

SF is presently running this set of experiments, having recently installed the Third Street muni line, running from the main in-city subway system down the east (bay) side of the city. The launch was good, but I haven't been closely enough following the development story over the last year. Well, beyond the fact that this is San Francisco, so everyone wants to have their say, whether or not they have anything new to say or whether having their say is likely to increase the likelihood that they'll get what they want.

Date: 2010-07-28 05:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jeffpaulsen.livejournal.com
thinking of it in terms of geographic range for walkers is very cool. However if MAX is a streetcar to an urban planner, then there seems to be a need for another category... distinctions between MAX and the portland streetcar:

MAX cost a metric buttload to build per mile
you have to wait a lot longer at a stop for the MAX you want
MAX largely connects suburban park&ride lots to a walkable downtown, whereas the streetcar connects different walkable areas into one awesome whole that you couldn't easily cover on foot yourself

I like stadiums as a place to have events, but I agree they don't drive development. Portland is going to run a zillion more streetcar lines in the next 5 years, some of which will even go through our "Rose Quarter" stadium district. It will be interesting to see if the streetcar development effect can overcome the stadium effect that it is its opposite.

Date: 2010-07-28 08:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] xthread.livejournal.com
Re: Max - well, sorta - Max was intended to be an alternative to additional freeways. So it acts like a normal rail system outside of downtown, and a streetcar in downtown. Whereas the streetcars are an alternative to owning a car, because they extend the geographic range of a pedestrian.

But even a max system, as expensive as it is per mile, etc, can still be a strong improvement over one more high-rise parking lot in the central city and trying to figure out how to shoehorn one more lane of traffic from the suburbs to the city. Full disclosure: I loathe suburbs, as you may have guessed. I'm all for genuinely rural spaces, but suburbs are a barely mitigated evil.

Date: 2010-07-28 09:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jeffpaulsen.livejournal.com
I've got a mixed opinion on suburbs in theory. In practice they suck utterly, yes. With a couple of tweaks, the idea can work, though. What makes suburbs suck is largely the lack of walkability, forced by zoning usually. Mixed-use retail / office / residential mini-downtowns, sensibly sized (ie small) no-car zones coupled with underground parking, transit hubs -- scatter those every half mile, and suddenly it makes sense to leave the car at (or near) home for a good long time. You have reasons to interact with your neighbors, &c. After that the biggest problem with suburbs becomes the horrible curse of acyclic road layout. Grids are good, honestly.

re: freeways: I figure we're less than 20 years away from workable computer-driven driving systems that let freeways run at 4x their current capacity, provided there aren't too many dumb cars in the mix. You can do things like intelligently redivide lanes into eastbound and westbound in realtime, run bumper-to-bumper at 70 mph, make way for emergency vehicles without slowing down, stuff like that. My point being that once that happens, there will be much less need to widen the freeways -- although there may be some transitional demand for 'no manual driving' roads and 'no automatic driving' roads.

when auto-driving becomes commonplace I think the next step is a blurring of the line between taxis and car rentals. Why drive yourself on a commute if the car can do it for you? and then: why own a car if you can have a perfectly good unmanned transport show up at your door every morning? (and the flip side: why keep your car in the garage when it could be out renting itself to commuters?)

Date: 2010-07-28 04:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] draggonlaady.livejournal.com
Question on the instapaper--Do you have to be browsing through their site, or does it add a "read later" button to articles on other websites?

Date: 2010-07-28 05:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] xthread.livejournal.com
In effect it adds a read later button to any website your browser can load - they provide you with a url that you can bookmark, the bookmark is a little chunk of script that sends the url you're currently browsing to the instapaper server, where it's logged to your instapaper account.

Date: 2010-07-28 08:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] draggonlaady.livejournal.com
Excellent. I may have to play with it. Thanks!

Date: 2010-07-28 05:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] malabar.livejournal.com
Asteroids and Pac-Man for free! Woo-hoo! It's nice to see video games I can actually play for a change!:)

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