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Posts Tagged ‘epic failure’

…On New Urbanism.

Posted by Steve on October 19, 2008

In his alernate history novel 1824, the writer Eric Flint has a character (one Zachary Taylor) musing about the ever loathsome John C. Calhoun. To wit:

It sometimes seemed to Taylor that John C. Calhoun’s madness had no limits. Had the former senator from South Carlina suffered from simple dementia, the dementia itself would have conscribed his sphere of action. But Calhoun’s disease was a mania, more than maniacalism as such.

So – Heaven grant mercy – it possessed theories. Notions. Schemes. Delusions of certainty, and convictions that were unshakable in direct proportion to their lack of bearing on reality.

I absolutely adore that last sentence. It’s a wonderful sentence: charming in its wording, and applicable to so, so many living people.

Like Peter Calthorpe, Andrés Duany, and their disciples in the Congress for the New Urbanism. Any group that calls for the rejection of functional classification is suffering from “delusions of certainty, and convictions that [are] unshakable in direct proportion to their lack of bearing on reality.” Ditto any group that thinks “context sensitive design” means you put road diets everywhere, regardless of what the context actually is. Ditto any group that thinks having streets operate at LOS F is going to improve the pedestrian experience and increase pedestrian activity, as if threading your way between gridlocked cars as you listen to their idling engines and inhale their exhaust is somehow more pleasant than the alternative of flushing them out of the area quickly while waiting an extra twenty seconds for your turn to cross the street.

Theories and notions have no place in the design of the built environment. Dogma has no place in the design of the built environment. Philosophy has no place in the design of the built environment.

In short, architects have no place in the design of the built environment. Especially as regards any more of the built environment than the facade and interior layout of a single building.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

On an All-Bad Decision by Congress

Posted by Steve on September 28, 2008

The “Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008” appears likely to pass, and that is a very, very, bad thing. The people of America are being put close to $700 billion further in debt in order to bail out elements of the financial sector that should instead have been hung out to die. Mark my words: there is nothing good about any bailout, including this one. “If you fuck up, you die,” is supposed to be the one iron-clad rule of life: that there is never a second chance, that there is never a margin for error, and if you can’t live your life flawlessly you suffer because any and every mistake you make can mean your ruin. Apparently, that’s not the case if you’re part of Wall Street. Thing is too, there’s no benefit from this. Catastrophic collapse of the financial sector (which isn’t happening – regional banks and financial institutions, which made sound lending decisions, are going gangbusters) is a good thing. The markets are friction loss in the engine of the economy: they drain a resource (money) without doing any productive work. Look at commodities markets: you’ve got oil well people and oil refinery people involved, who have a tie to the procurement, distribution, and use of the oil and thus a legitimate reason for being involved, and then you’ve got commodities investors who have no tie to the procurement, distribution, and use of oil, and thus no legitimate reason for being involved in the market. But they are, anyway, investing in oil futures. They’re nothing but middle-men, driving up the price without producing value. Cut them out of the process and they’re ruined, yes, but things improve for everyone else.

Hell, the touted “limits on executive compensation” don’t actually strip away golden parachutes or institute a salary cap on executives. They’re a sham, a facade of meaningful legislation. Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

There is nothing good about this legislation. It is all costs and no benefits, and it is likely going to pass.

Posted in Economic Activities, From the News, Here be Politics! | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

…On Some Awesome Shit.

Posted by Steve on September 9, 2008

The City of San Antonio, Texas, has just given the world yet another reminder of how much unadulterated awesomeness engineers impart to the world. In this case, it looks like it was mainly environmental engineers:

“The citizens of San Antonio produce about 140,000 tons of biosolids each year,” said SAWS Chief Operating Officer Steve Clouse. “Treating these biosolids generates an average of 1.5 million cubic feet of gas a day – that’s enough gas to fill seven commercial blimps or 1,250 tanker trucks each day.”

That’s right. The San Antonio Water Service has signed a contract with a company in Massachusetts giving the company 20 years of access to the sewer treatment facility, and more importantly to a certain raw material there. The company gets to install processing equipment on-site to collect the methane, and the water service gets a 12% cut of the methane sales.

They’re collecting and selling natural gas that’s been refined from human excrement! Take that, biodiesel! In your face, cellulosic ethanol! Your appointment’s been scheduled with Dr. Kevorkian, corn-based ethanol!* This is awesome!

Seriously. Sewage is about to be, at least in one city in Texas, nigh unto 100% recycled. How cool is that? Very cool, that’s how cool. They’re turning shit into something useful!

*Corn-based ethanol (more specifically, mandates and subsidies for its production and distribution) really does need to be taken out back and shot. The only way I can think of for one policy to do a more thoroughly destructive job of simultaneously harming the environment, the economy, and the U.S. and world fuel, water, and food supplies would be to pump petroleum directly onto cropland and light it up. Subsidizing corn to the detriment of other foods’ production and pricing is harmful enough, but subsidizing corn that – after it’s grown through the extensive use of land, water, and fertilizer – is going to get refined – at high energy cost – into a fuel that burns less energetically than gasoline, so you can use it to cut gasoline… can you even do a cost-benefit analysis for something that has no benefits? It’s bad energy policy, bad environmental policy, bad economic policy, and bad food policy.

Posted in From the News | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

…On Being Asked for Support

Posted by Steve on July 24, 2008

This may be something peculiar about me (though I hope not, as it’s a good way to be and thus should be common), but when someone asks me to support something, I like them to answer some questions for me:

  1. What, specifically, do you want me to support?
  2. How, exactly, do you want me to support it?
  3. And this deserves supporting why?

Just recently was I led to the website of these people. Now, I’ve clicked every link on their website, and read everything there, but I couldn’t find answers to something it seems fairly obvious to ask about: what is their proposed text for this “National Service Act of 2009” they intend to see passed, as stated in their “Strategy” and “Timeline” tabs? It seems odd that they ask for support and don’t specify this. It seems extremely peculiar that they don’t provide their proposed legislation’s text especially since they have that big notice on their front page about how they don’t support mandatory programs. After all, the text of the “Universal National Service Act of 2007” that Representative Rangel proposed very clearly was setting up a mandatory program, and you’d think they’d want to make the distinction between that proposal and their own as clear as possible – which would entail spelling out the differences. A lot harder to not distinguish things properly when their differences aren’t detailed. Not to mention, a lot harder to succeed in deliberately misrepresenting someone’s ideas when they’ve clearly stated those ideas in explicit detail.

Furthermore, you’d think they’d want to do as much as possible to clarify how their affiliation to these folks doesn’t include agreement with whichever one’s responsible for including vested enfranchisement in their “Lexicon of Service” glossary and “Choose Your Own National Service Act” poll. I mean, “do this if you want to be allowed to vote” doesn’t meet any definition of “voluntary” that I’ve ever heard of. For that matter, “You’ve been drafted into the military, like it or not, but if you don’t like it, we’ll make you do civilian work instead” also doesn’t leave that civilian labor meeting any definition worthy of the word “voluntary”.

Also, opprobrium unto to who wrote the poll on the second site, as it’s heavily laden with leading questions. The first site just has an abysmally short “poll”.

Oh, another thing: Rangel’s bill there? Way too much delegation of decision-making to the executive branch. The executive is there to do just that: execute. As in, “implement policies determined by others, carry out instructions given by others, and implement the will of others.” Not form policies with legal force or promulgate regulations for the citizenry-at-large. President of the U.S. shouldn’t be a policy-making office, it should just be the world’s most glorified Assistant Manager job. To allude to sci-fi I don’t like, you know how on Star Trek Patrick Stewart always said “Make it so” to people? Yeah, the President isn’t Patrick Stewart. The President’s the guy Patrick Stewart’s telling to make it so.

Posted in English according to me, Here be Politics! | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »