Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Noodling People, Farm Land, Cool Videos and Thanksgiving

Nood-ling (nōōd’lĭng) n. 1. Fishing for catfish using only bare hands, practiced primarily by crazy people who cannot afford proper fishing gear. 2. The intentional annoyance by bloggers who are skeptical of the news as it’s reported, as in “Noodling bureaucrats is more fun than fishing bare hand for catfish and a lot more surprising.” This is now an end of the month feature.
Why People Move – Not Answered
I came across this very cool interactive display from Forbes. The map shows, down to incredible detail, the in- and out-migration from every county in the United States, all based on the most recent census data. CLICK HERE. Click on a few counties, your choice, and try and figure out why anyone would want to move there or for that matter leave. Enjoy.

Recovering Farm Land
There is an old adage that says, “The last crop ever planted, is a house.” Well it seems that recently a lot of land that had been under option, or even outright ownership, by developers is going back to farmland. In an article in the Wall Street Journal (11-14-11), by Robbie Whalen. HERE  Sorry about the nasty subscriber thing but these guys do have to make a living. There is also another interactive series of maps about housing demand and land reversions also at the WSJ. HERE

All the News Ain’t Good
During a time of bad news occasionally it seems like piling on but there was the Chevy Volt catching fire (seems you have to drain the battery after a crash – it might catch fire later) HERE . Then there is the ongoing High Speed Rail debate. They can debate all they want, but like the Super Committee and the budget, the costs will only keep going up, and up, and up. Throwing your hands up and giving in won’t make it free or cheaper. HERE  and SF Gates Politics' Blog.

A Year In New York Video - Must See
Again Aaron Renn (see left column below) has found another great video. While I have not spent a great amount of time in New York City - HERE VIDEO (great story by Andrew Clancy), it’s nice to watch the work of a man that does love NY.

And Lastly if You Love Cities Video
Dominic posted this excellent video on cities (I picked out Chicago, Toronto, LA and a few others), Timelapse- The City Limits. I hope you have a very good screen, you just have to watch it full size. Very cool. 

And what is it about Vimeo and the extraordinary quality of their videos.

And Finally Thanksgiving - A Few Turkeys
Here are two very disturbing videos of that celebrate the holiday; the first reminds me of the old SNL video The Bass-A-Matic. Click HERE if the video doesn't work.

And without a doubt the greatest: “WKRP in Cincinnati: Turkey Drop.” Sadly Fox has decided to shut down any unauthorized version cut from the original and you have to watch the whole show but if you click on the bar to the 18 minute mark its starts – go HERE FOR HULU VIDEO.

Stay Tuned . . . . .

Friday, November 18, 2011

We Ain’t Moving Much and We're Worse For It

In an article posted earlier this week CLICK HERE, the Census Bureau reported that only 11.6% of Americans moved between March 2010 and March 2011. This is down almost one percentage point from previous year. In 1984-85 46 million people moved residences. Last year’s figure was 35 million people. People and their families move for hundreds of reasons: new jobs, divorce, marriage, transfers, moving from college, moving into your old bedroom at home. Each and every one is personal. That’s still a lot of rental trailers and moving vans, yet not nearly at the level of mid-eighties.

What was also noted in the report was that there has been a serious declined in the mobility of homeowners. Well that’s a huge surprise! It seems since no one will buy our current home, we just sit tight (until the market turns) and put off buying that dream house we have always wanted. You know the one: it doesn’t have a leaky roof that needs repair, it has an extra bedroom for the kids, and it can hold both cars in its garage. Yes, the collapse of the housing market has forced many of us to stay put.

We have been a mobile nation since the Pilgrims washed up on the proverbial rock in Massachusetts. Since that day we have packed up and moved every seven years according to some demographers. William H. Whyte in his 1956 book, the Organization Man set the basis for the modern family and its never ending pursuit of the American Dream. We Americans had to move to move up.

This amalgamation of Americans, this stirring of the pot, if you will, created both a nation of strong individuals but also a nation that grew more tolerant. If you and your neighbors just arrived in a brand new community, you had to get along and become more understanding to succeed. You joined arm and arm with your neighbors. This new trend of staying put and not moving seems like a form of agoraphobia. Much of this has been forced by the collapse of the banking industry (or most certainly the lending portion). This does not bode well for our future. We can easily become Balkanized, intolerant, and forgetful. The worse part of this may result in regionalizing this country into inflexible economic groups distrustful of other regions, jealous of their success, fearful of their demands (their debt among other things), and intolerant of their leaders.

The sooner we get out of this mess, burn through the foreclosed and empty homes, and push our kids out of the back bedroom, the better we will be. American’s must “Man UP” and take control. Not like the lackies camping out for free in every large city, but more like the partners down the street who are gambling everything they have on a new restaurant or the techies who wake up in the middle of the night with brilliant ideas and are going to find a way to make them work, and the young couple who won the immigrant lottery and are opening a new dry cleaners – these are the people I’d bet on.

Stay tuned . . . .

Friday, November 11, 2011

Not Enough Words

Sometimes in the blogosphere we get caught short for words. Today is no exception and I have to be short.

For the last few weeks I have been downsizing my office from 5500 square feet to 1200 square feet. And my goal today is to finish. A little paint here and a new graphic there and I’m done. Then we can put back up the demising wall I took down five years ago.

This has been cathartic. Boxes of old files from dead projects line the walls (all marked extremely heavy). More boxes are full of those expensive magazines we professionals feel compelled to subscribe to yet, after one reading, put on a shelf – they are boxed and ready to be gone.

This weekend we'll look at a new and larger storage facility for the boxes of files and records, that of course, will never be looked at again. I’ll leave them to some guy to find in some future episode of Storage Wars.

But this has been a chance to really shrink my carbon footprint. Everything is easily 60% smaller, even my own office – command central is half the size it was. Smaller conference room (took two leaves out of the table), sold a bunch of stuff, and only four computers are left from the original twenty-four. Cathartic, yes cathartic. Then back to work!

In addition I am also caught short for words that describe today’s holiday. Veterans Day was formerly Armistice Day that memorialized the end of World War I.

Veterans Day, formally Armistice Day, is an annual United States holiday honoring military veterans. It coincides with other holidays such as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day which are celebrated in other parts of the world and also mark the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I. The signing took place at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice. (wikipedia)

We have much and many to thank for their sacrifice of both family and for some their lives. It has become sadly irrelevant and irritating to some Americans of the commitment of a few to our safety and the world’s peace. This is sad, very sad. The great wars of the last century are passed; we can hope that only smaller wars lay ahead. But one thing is certain, our soldiers will always be there to defend us and deter those who wish to do us harm.

Stay tuned . . . .

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Biggest Boondoggle – High Speed Rail

If you have been following my blogs (and thank you), you know that I am adamantly against the California High Speed Rail (HSR). Since my first HSR post HERE, I have tried to point out its irrelevancy in this day of independent transportation (the car and bus) and high speed transportation (the plane). The current state of heavy rail (Amtrak) is a joke outside of the dense urban areas of San Diego/Los Angeles and the Bay Area corridors from San Jose and Sacramento. There is a lot land between the two regions and to think that our transportation problems will be solved by building an incredibly expensive new system is a politician’s pipe dream. They even have the airport singing their song since the state and the environmental rabble won’t let them expand as they all need to do.

In reality the HSR system is a parallel to the airline system that has developed since World War II in California. The proposed HSR will do nothing for all the hundreds of thousands of residents up and down the state that will have to accommodate the new tracks and trains. It will have to bypass most of the cities in the Central Valley since they will only slow the train down and where they do pass through town they will inevitably cut them in two. But these HSR boosters will not be deterred!

Yesterday new numbers were announced that send shivers down the backs of the already heavily taxed citizens of the state. The LA Times has a great summary article HERE that highlights the growing resentment to HSR and its effect on hundreds of landowners down the state. It has grown from the initial $33-billion, to $48-billion, to now $98-billion, and it hasn’t even started construction. I guessed at least $100-billion last November and I now believe that it will cost twice that amount, that’s at least $6,000 dollars for every Californian. Insanity has found a home.

Don’t get me wrong, I love trains and the trip from London to Paris on their HSR is the highlight of a European junket. But look at the state of the economies of these countries that built these trains. They are even lumping France into the problem states of Spain, Italy, Portugal, and of course Greece. In 1932 Ballyhoo magazine printed a cartoon by Ralph Fuller that had the caption “Tch, tch! What a way to run a railroad!” HERE Since then the phrase has been twisted and revised to effectively say “They don’t know what they’re doing!” This applies, quite appropriately, to the California High Speed Rail Authority as well.

We do need regional trains. We need to expand the current rail infrastructure such as BART in the Bay Area, and Southern California’s anemic Metrolink (41,000 riders per day in a region of over 22 million). BART carries 341,000 per day in a population that is less than third of SOCAL. BART takes people where they want to go. It even goes (finally) to the San Francisco Airport and an extension to Oakland’s airport is coming.

It is estimated that BART costs about a $100-million per mile, but that’s because we nibble at it, five to ten miles at a time. With a greater expansion to the system in one long phase, costs would go down.

Imagine what extensions to Tracy in the east and Gilroy to the south would accomplish. How many thousands of cars would be moved off the highway? How much growth would be supported along these connections? Just look at the last thirty years along BART’s various lines and the impact that the stations had on these towns. It is impressive.

It’s my belief that Californians want a rail system that supports the region they live in. Not a system that they might, once or twice a year, use to go north or south. We do not need a tourist train. We need train systems that support economic growth, facilitate growth outside of the dense and congested urban cores, and add to the vitality of the surrounding communities. Period.

Stay tuned . . . .

BTW: For last Christmas I posted a simple story about a visit by Sally to Santa and his helpers, I offer it again since Christmas is only 50 shopping days away. Enjoy!  CLICK HERE