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May 08, 2010

Cul-de-Sacs Kill Communities

How Cul-de-Sacs Are Killing Your Community -- INFRASTRUCTURIST
The Harvard Business Review has a piece this month on research by Lawrence Frank, Bombardier Chair in Sustainable Transportation at the University of British Columbia, on the effects of cul-de-sacs in neighborhoods in King County, Washington. He found that residents in areas with the most interconnected streets travel 26% fewer miles by automobile than those in areas with many cul-de-sacs. Meanwhile, recent studies by Frank and others show that the higher a neighborhood’s overall walkability, the greater the amount of walking and biking— which means a drop in per capita air pollution, fuel use, and body mass index. DiggSubmit The theory behind cul-de-sacs was that they lessened traffic, since they change the primary function of local streets — rather than offering a way to get anywhere, now they simply provide access to private residences. The problem is that this design inherently encourages car use, even for the shortest trips. It also limits the growth of communities and transportation options. Consider the above maps of one-kilometer walks in two different Seattle suburbs — the first, in Woodinville, is all cul-de-sacs that result in a disconnected jumble of streets with no walking or bike paths, while the second, in Ballard, offers an interconnected network of streets that provide easy access to shopping, parks, and other destinations. The argument that cul-de-sacs increase safety because they limit traffic is also misguided — the more empty and desolate a suburban (and often affluent) street is, the more likely crime is to occur. Also, it’s much harder for emergency vehicles to reach these homes if they’re sequestered in the belly of a web of disconnected dead-ends. . . .

May 07, 2010

Are we still complaining about the way people spell baby names?

Complaint Box | Brittney, Brittny, Brittneigh - City Room Blog - NYTimes.com
I saw a birth announcement the other day and groaned. In recent years, I’d learned to accept the flood of trendy tots named Madison, but this was my first Madicyn. If you care about spelling, my advice is to pour yourself a stiff drink before untying that pink or blue ribbon and reading news of the blessed event. In a similar vein, leafing through the newspaper these days is like crawling through a minefield of makeshift names. An article will catch my eye — say, something about a tornado that just missed ripping through a preschool beauty pageant — and I dread what’s coming next. They’re going to interview the pint-size witnesses, and I’m about to meet little Brittney, Brittny, Brittneigh, Brit’nee, Brittani and Bryttney. If you absolutely have to name your child after a rugged French peninsula, then get out a dictionary and look it up. It’s Brittany. I have a major gripe with the trend of misspelling baby names. On purpose. The parents’ logic runs something like this: “My child is special and unique. Thus, my child deserves a special, uniquely spelled name.” The upshot is that Chloe becomes Kloey, and Jacqueline metastasizes into something ghastly, like Jaq’leen.

Eyewitness reports from the BP Deep Horizon explosion shed light on the horrible explosion

Oil riggers on ship that exploded in Gulf of Mexico describe fateful night
In the weeks that followed, dozens of scientists would analyze the evidence and debate the damage. They would conclude that a gigantic blast of gas, oil and mud had roared up from the drilling zone below, bursting through the floor of the Deepwater Horizon and sparking a historic fire. Coast Guard rescuers who survived Hurricane Katrina would call it an extraordinary disaster. Experts would fly in and determine that oil was leaking into the gulf at the rate of 210,000 gallons per day, threatening wildlife, fisheries and coastline across the southeastern United States. It would be two weeks before many of the men at the epicenter of the disaster felt ready to talk about it. And when they did, they would describe the first moments simply in the terms of sensory terror: two deafening thuds, followed by chaos and confusion. Eugene, who had been drifting to sleep to ESPN, rushed out of bed in his underwear and a T-shirt. He was a cook working for a catering company, not an oilman, and strange noises had always made him nervous. He reached into a closet for his life vest and hard hat -- a habit instilled by the rig's weekly fire drills -- and ran out the door without socks or shoes. A shrill alarm rang over the loudspeakers, followed by an announcement for the 126 men to make their way to Lifeboats 1 and 2, the sole ones that remained intact after the initial explosion.