2011-07-21

#The Glean #2

I’m currently working on a internship in historic preservation for the second consecutive summer, and my masters’ thesis is all about the topic, so I can speak on a small amount of experience when I say that many preservationists are nuts. Apparently some of these people are campaigning against new density standards in DC, and Yglesias is all over it.  The problem with these people is that they want nothing to change, nothing to evolve with the times. They pick some specific time period and decide that it is the pinnacle of all that has been or ever will be done with a space. I’m all for building regulation, and I think that historic preservation is important, as long as it has a brain. Approaching an urban design problem by banning new development is not an elegant solution - it’s lazy.

Prime example of this? The National Park Service. While they’ve been adding structures to the National Mall for years, and especially in the last several with new security measures (why would someone blow up the Jefferson Memorial, again?), apparently a bikeshare station is a bridge too far. God forbid we enhance service to the public in the name of preserving some fiction of integrity. I’m sure L’Enfant would be thrilled by the 5-lane ring around the Lincoln Memorial.

Maybe they should be reading this post, about a woman near Atlanta who’s being charged with vehicular homicide because her son was killed by a drunk driver (who’s only getting charged with a hit-and-run) while she was trying to cross the road. People always talk about how incompetent engineers can kill people, but incompetent planners and landscape architects can do the same - as long as they keep allowing pedestrian-unfriendly infrastructure to be built. They probably advocated for it, though. It’s just that their writing looked like this.

And if more of them (us) put some thought into transit spaces, we wouldn’t have as many people driving around. Being a user of mass transit, I would definitely appreciate a coffee table with some flowers at my bus stop.

But the costs! The costs! Well, if we weren’t spending so much on health care, we might have money for sidewalks (more of which would, ironically, lower health costs). While the Gang of Five/Six is (re)hammering a deal we’ve seen before, Klein opines on the paradox of presidential leadership. He basically says that the president can’t lead, because anything he puts his name on is instantly blasphemous to the opposing party, no matter how identical it may be to their past demands. IMHO, it’s less a paradox of presidential leadership and more a quagmire of congressional idiocy. It’s amazing how quickly their strategy falls apart when a few minutes thought gets devoted to it. Why does it seem that comedy news seems increasingly like real life? Probably because they don’t really have to make up stories any more.

Be thankful, England. At least they can behave and do their job in front of Rupert Murdoch. The last time they were interested in getting the truth was back when they were grilling these guys. In other breathtakingly important issues of national interest, MediaMatters puts together this mashup of various blowhards on Fox wailing about fluorescent lights, and promptly dispels the myths. Apparently no one in the video has actually tried a CFL; I have several in the house and love them. Good color, no heat, and haven’t had to replace one yet. Meanwhile, the Dept. of Energy has made some new ads about the financial efficiency of using CFLs and LEDs that are already being hailed as propaganda. I would explain why it’s important to stop using incandescent bulbs, but didn’t we agree about this in 2007?

Speaking of concepts that need no explaining, pesticides are bad for insects. You know what’s an insect? Bees. And we’re killing them with these pesticides, successfully exterminating the very critters that make agriculture possible (except for corn. It’s wind-pollinated. But we don’t need anything else anyway!). Turns out, herbicides are now taking out monarch butterflies. Not the butterflies themselves, but the milkweed plants they depend on. Once again, thank Monsanto.

I don’t know why they would want to take out milkweed plants. They’re beautiful.

More people would probably be up on the importance of these issues if they had access to academic work, and I agree. If a public university produces academic work, it should be publicly available, not hidden behind a paywall.

Instead of reading papers, though, we watch TV. Felix Salmon proposes a better Netflix business model, one in which studios were paid for every stream. This way it’s a win-win: both Netflix and the studios want as many people as possible to watch Netflix. But why would they do that when they could just set up their own streaming site? Withhold from Netflix, get people to be subscribers (key difference over pay-per-view: we all know how long DVDs sit at the house. A subscriber is almost guaranteed to cost you less money than a PPV customer, and they’ll make up for the heavy users), and you have yourself a streaming service. Bonus? It’s content-driven. If you put out movies that suck, no one will pay you to stream them.

And finally, China thinks Nepal overestimates the size of their mountain. How long will it take to measure? Two years.


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Access v. Preservation on Half Dome Preservation on Half Dome My buddy Kyle sent me this, wondering what I thought. Quick rundown: A lot of people like going to Half Dome