Corn syrup is the new opiate of the masses

January 9th, 2006 § Comments off § permalink

For anyone who’s not reading the New York Timesseries about diabetes in New York City, here’s a typically distressing excerpt from Tuesday’s article:

Mr. De La Vega said: “People ultimately feel powerless about a lot of things. People think about bigger things. They think about survival. Kids grow up fighting in the streets, so you want to raise big, strong kids. So you give them three pork chops, a nice tall glass of soda to make them strong.”

Shockingly, no lifeguard was on duty

January 4th, 2006 § Comments off § permalink

This was the highlight of my day: A woman was searching for her shopping companion in Berkeley Bowl‘s cavernous produce section. She didn’t see him, so she yelled, “Marco!” Several people immediately replied, “Polo!”

Pimp my density

November 13th, 2005 § Comments off § permalink

I decided to apply a little city planning analysis to my current residence. Here’s what I learned:

I live in a 16-unit apartment complex, with 12 studios and 4 one-bedrooms. There are 10 parking spaces, or 0.63 parking spaces per unit. It’s built on a 9,757 square foot parcel, according to Oakland’s parcel map, for a net density of 71 dwelling units per acre. (For comparison, a typical suburb with detached single-family homes would have about five dwelling units per acre. North Beach, in San Francisco, has about 100 dwelling units per acre.)

The buildings in the complex have two stories and are about thirty feet tall. The buildings’ total footprint on the ground is about 4,610 square feet; since they’re all two stories, its floor-area ratio is 0.94.

In a typical apartment building, 20 percent of the space on each floor is used for shared hallways and the like. Assuming that’s true in my complex, the average unit would be about 460 square feet. My own apartment, which is a studio, is about 400 square feet including the closets.

Based on a quick look at Oakland’s zoning ordinance, my apartment complex conforms to most of the current zoning regulations, even though it’s about 70 years old. That means that it could be rebuilt more or less as-is if it were destroyed (although the owners would need a conditional use permit for a multi-family building, and they would almost certainly change the floor plans to remove some of the buildings’ less-charming eccentricities).

This is why we can’t have nice things

October 24th, 2005 § Comments off § permalink

These days, miners need at least 30 tons of ore to get an ounce of gold, and extracting that gold causes cyanide, lead, mercury, and cadmium to ooze all over the place. (It also displaces anyone who was unfortunate enough to live on top of the ore before the mining company arrived.)

Meanwhile, in case you hadn’t heard already, our old computers often wind up in enormous, overseas garbage dumps, where the unlucky recipients, who use brute-force methods to salvage parts from the old machines, are poisoned by the toxins they contain.

Earthquake-safe

October 23rd, 2005 § Comments off § permalink

A model of San Francisco, made of Jell-O. Would that the city’s actual buildings were so resiliently gelatinous.

Then again, plenty of churches serve cheap wine from a jug

October 19th, 2005 § Comments off § permalink

My sample ballot for California’s upcoming Colossal Waste of Taxpayer Money Special Statewide Election says that my polling place is the “Shattuck Ave Meth Church.” Something tells me they’re about to get their tax-exempt status revoked.

Aptronyms

October 19th, 2005 § Comments off § permalink

According to the occasionally-reliable Wikipedia, an aptronym is “a name that is aptly suited to its owner.” I don’t know too many people whose names are aptronyms, but I do work with a city planner whose last name is a homophone for “charrette.”

Fortunately, Wikipedia also claims that “[t]here does not yet seem to be a standard terminology for this linguistic curiosity,” so perhaps there’s still time to replace the word “aptronym” with something that isn’t an overly precious neologism. Not that I’m particularly exercised about this issue, mind you.

Other songs include “One of My Protected Left-Hand Turns” and “Waiting for the ‘Burbs”

October 17th, 2005 § Comments off § permalink

I’m working on an epic rock album and film about a troubled city planner’s descent into madness. It’s called The Mall. Here are the lyrics for two of the songs, titled “The Happiest Allees of our Lives” and “Another Brick in the Mall, Part II”:

When we got into planning school
There were some professors
Who would change a streetscape any way they could

By putting London planes and benches in the right of way
No matter what the well-intentioned traffic engineers
Had to say

But in the studio, we knew when they got home at night
They led sad suburban lives
At strip malls in the SUVs they drive

We don’t need no Lewis Mumford
We don’t need no William Whyte
No traffic calming for the locals
Robert Moses had it right
Yeah! Robert Moses had it right

All in all, it’s just another brick in the mall
All in all, you’re just another brick in the mall

Sacrilicious

September 29th, 2005 § Comments off § permalink

Henceforth, I intend to refer to all oddly-named items used for religious purposes—tefillin, chasubles, and the like—as “churchamacallits.”

Turning pro

September 23rd, 2005 § Comments off § permalink

The past week has been incredibly hectic, but because of something positive—I’m starting a job next week! I’ve been hired by a consulting firm in Berkeley that does city planning work for various Bay Area cities. My job will focus on urban design, which is a tough field to summarize, but I’ll try: Urban designers focus on making cities attractive and functional for the people who use them. At a small scale, that could mean adding trees and benches to a street or requiring the first floors of buildings to have windows instead of blank walls. At a large scale, that could mean using height regulations to sculpt a city’s skyline or organizing new development around major transportation corridors. Sorry if that sounds nebulous; I’m still working on my elevator story for urban design.

Anyhow, I’ve taken advantage of my last week of unemployment to run as many errands as humanly possible, including the acquisition of what amounts to an entirely new wardrobe (and yes, a great deal of it is black; surprise, surprise). But I’ve had fun as well. On Wednesday, my friend Paula and I went to the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco to see Sean Hayes and Jolie Holland, both of whom were excellent. Last night, a bunch of friends and I went to the Latin American Club to celebrate my new job. And today, my friend Thomas and I took a walking tour of hidden public spaces in downtown San Francisco, about which I’ll post more later.

Now I’m going to spend a few minutes adjusting to the idea that I’m going to be in an actual office all day on Monday. I’ll hold off for now on thinking about Tuesday through Friday, since I don’t want to shock my system.