Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Would zoning have helped Houston?

While rains continue to fall in eastern Texas and western Louisiana, the city of Houston now appears to be through the worst of Hurricane Harvey, though the storm dropped record amounts of rain on America's fourth largest city.

The impact of that deluge will be felt for years. While no urban area could cope with that kind of water, Houston is unique among American cities in that it has no zoning code, which begs the question, would zoning have helped Houston better respond this kind of catastrophe?

It's a question planners and city officials should study. At first blush, it is not hard to imagine a comprehensive land use vision with far-sighted planning and enforceable zoning could have better shaped both the natural and the built environment in Houston to preserve the earth's natural capacity to absorb and channel water. As Houston struggles to make sense of this flooding of biblical proportions, zoning is one of the areas they should turn their attention.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

If I tweeted, this is what I would say ...

1/3 @Potus. I always thought you were a complete fraud. But I was mistaken. You are very authentic. An authentic supporter of Nazis and Klansmen.

2/3 This makes you very un-American. You should resign. Immediately. And stop doing such great damage to this country.

3/3 #MAGA

Ah, 1938 was such a good year ...

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Three quotes for a Tuesday

First, from the arch-conservative Edmund Burke, on manners ... (this quote is dedicated to our president, Donald J. Trump) ...
Manners are more important than laws. Upon them, in a great measure the laws depend. The law touches us but here and there, and now and then. Manners are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase, barbarize or refine us, by a constant, steady, uniform, insensible operation, like that of the air we breathe in. They give their whole form and color to our lives. According to their quality, they aid morals, they supply them, or they totally destroy them.
Letters on a Regicide Peace, Letter 1, 1796

Next from Thucydides, the ancient Greek historian, on the contributions of ordinary men ... (this quote is dedicated to the citizens of Cambridge) ...
Ordinary men usually manage public affairs better than their more gifted fellows. The latter are always wanting to appear wiser than the laws, and to overrule every proposition brought forward, thinking that they cannot show their wit in more important matters, and by such behavior too often ruin their country; while those who mistrust their own cleverness are content to be less learned than the laws, and less able to pick holes in the speech of a good speaker; and being fair judges rather than rival athletes, generally conduct affairs successfully. These we ought to imitate.
The History of the Peloponnesian War, ca. 400 B.C.

Finally, from Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., doctor, writer and Boston Brahmin, on choosing a direction ... (this quote is dedicated to myself) ...
I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving: To reach the port of heaven, we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it -- but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor.
Autocrat of the Breakfast Table, 1858

All of these quotes come from a calendar that got stuck in my drawer many years ago and has traveled with me on a few moves and a few life changes. The cover says "Best Wishes for 1995."

Monday, August 7, 2017

Cars: Tutto Italiano, 2017

Tutto Italiano, the Italian car extravaganza at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum, came to town yesterday, and here are a whole bunch of red Italian cars (with names when I know them) for your car viewing enjoyment.

Lamborghini Countach

Alfa Romeo Giulia

Ferrari F12 tdf

Ferrari 488 GTB

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

More about my Chevy Volt: Cruise Control not consistent

I had a strange experience driving my Chevy Volt on a recent road trip.

I could not get the car to go into cruise control. I'm not sure if I was doing something wrong, or if the car simply did not want to go into cruise mode, but either way it's a little bit disappointing to have a problem with a simple task such as this. The car after all barely has 2000 miles on it.

Normally, any problems of this nature are diagnosed on the internet by some intelligent person who then writes about it or posts a video, but on this issue, I wasn't able to find anything. I'll keep exploring. Meanwhile, if you know anything, please feel free to share it.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

More about my Volt; Remembering Alger Hiss

Today is a bit of a Grab Bag day, though it isn't a Friday.

Cost of Driving a Chevy Volt
First, a follow up to my blog post about the cost of driving my Chevy Volt. I have since found out that if I had subscribed to the On Star program, General Motors would be sending me monthly information about my car and its driving habits, including mileage, how many Kilowatt Hours and gas I've consumed, etc. As it turns out, I haven't signed up for it, but maybe I will.

Remember Alger Hiss?
Now that Jared Kushner has spoken to Senate investigators, it bears remembering that in 1950, Alger Hiss was sentenced to five years in prison. The crime? Perjury. How did he perjure himself? He failed to disclose information to a congressional panel about his contacts with an agent of the Soviet Union. The stakes keep getting higher.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Net metering is switching our economy to electricity

The greening up of our economy takes many forms. In a recent conversation with my neighbor, I found this out ...

Long ago, he installed solar panels on his roof. During the summer time, his panels produce a lot more energy than he can consume. The excess energy gets sold back to the energy grid, and his utility Eversource then credits his account for the value of that energy. He runs a negative balance these months, where Eversource owes him more than he owes them.

During the winter months, when the sun is lower in the sky and the days are much shorter, my neighbor can then spend the credits he earned during the summer. This entire process is known as "net metering." 

Factoring in everything, over a 12 month cycle my neighbor still produces more energy than he consumes, but here's the kicker ... 

Because his credits are accumulated by producing electricity, the only way he can spend those credits is by burning electricity. Therefore, my neighbor is massively incentivized to transform all his power needs into electric. This includes warming his house with electric heat in the winter, and powering his car with electrons rather than with petroleum all year round. 

He tells me that as soon as his lease is up on his BMW X3, he will be in the market either for a Chevy Volt or Bolt, or for a Tesla. 

Electricity is replacing fossil fuels as our preferred power source.

Just another chapter in how the world is changing.