Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Left is tearing itself apart.

The Right is tearing itself apart.

Soon we will come jumbling together to redivide ourselves, split as bitterly as we were before:

between the mindless and the soulless.

Friday, September 11, 2015

What Three Words I: Galaxy Logic Dame

Remember Nambers? That thing that gave every IP address a DNS name made up of four words behind

Well, doesn't remember, either.

Anyway, now the same thing has been applied to the real world: What 3 Words, which assigns three words to 3x3-meter square-ish divisions of the Earth's surface! The open area next to my apartment building where I work on my bike is galaxy.logic.dame. Galaxy Logic Dame! The only dame that can save the galaxy... using logic!

“But Al,” Galaxy Logic Dame protested, “aren't galaxies made and broken by forces far beyond the grasp of any one dame? Logically I am powerless to affect their salvation!”

And Galaxy Logic Dame was no more.

Monday, July 27, 2015

2015 Voting Guide for Seattle Techies

“How cool is it that in our brief lifetime we get to participate in Seattle's first council elections by district? This feels momentous!”

“Not as momentous as it would feel if we'd been born in time to be optimistic about space exploration or liberal Twitter...”

“Whatever, anyway, I'm so informed about local politics, I know who to vote for in every council position. They should let me vote for every position. Maybe I should take up residence in every district.”

“Even if that was how voting worked you still wouldn't get to vote for position ten.”

“Which one is that?”

“The sky.”

“The sky?”

“By the 1869 Charter Doc Maynard was recognized as sole owner of the sky. He subdivided and sold it to people he knew—”

“—let them in on the ground floor—”

“—yes, as it were, and its ownership has remained a fairly small, though gradually growing, group.”

“Your Boeingses, your Kenmore Airs—”

“—and, typically enough, Ma Bell. Its portion of the sky passed down to Century Link, whose only remaining profitable business is charging cellular providers for easements.”

“Well, that and tricking out-of-towners looking for football parking into entering their company garage, then fining them.”

“Sure. Anyway, until now most of the owners have been businesses, and businesses can't vote, but I figured out how to suspend a hammock from an array of drones, and I'm claiming residence in the sky for this election.”

“Who sold your ass sky? You've lived here like eight months.”

“I'm renting... well, technically it's sort of a squatters' rights situation...”

“How long does that take to kick in exactly?”


“Fine... so who are you voting for, then, for position ten?”

“Myself. I'm the only one that meets the residence requirement.”

“... What's even, like, your ZIP Code in the sky?”

“That would be nine-eight-one-go fuck yourself—”

“—hey, now—”

“—not you, personally. The postal service would like to establish a branch up—”

“—and I suppose you're still a two-oh-six, or did they stick the sky in four-two-five?”

“Six-five-oh. I got my phone in college.”

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Going Theory

Until today, my going theory was that my performance improvement in running this year was due to more consistent training and the sequence of a few years of minimal/"barefoot"-style running (which improved my turnover and body control) followed by going back to regular trainers and adding some new stretches (thanks, Tom Cotner!) that helped lengthen my stride. Turnover plus stride length equals speed; the body control helps keep me consistent and healthy. Also, though I mostly train in cushy trainers now, I'm continuing to forefoot-strike and use minimal shoes occasionally, so that I can race in minimal shoes (providing an advantage similar to racing flats) at any distance I want.

Then I read some articles citing studies claiming that typical doses of caffeine can improve performance by perhaps up to 3% in endurance athletes. This is my first season where I trained remotely well since becoming a coffee drinker. 3% more than covers my 5k improvement, and of course I'm racing in much lighter shoes than in the past. That really popped my balloon. I thought I was doing all this smart stuff to improve, outsmarting my younger, dumber self. Turns out it's just coffee and shoes.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

, and the banker said, "Do you have savings anywhere else?" and I said, "Yeah, shoeboxes," and he said, "Shoeboxes?" and I said, "Under my bed, filled with solid gold bars, which is pretty space-efficient," and he paused, and I continued, "It's not like I was making much use of the space under my bed anyway. In the interest of diversification I bury some of the boxes secretly on other peoples' property; this adds some risk. But there's growth potential, too, because who knows, someone might put more gold in 'em!"

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Broken Promise on Mercer

Everyone hates the Mercer project. Activists campaigning for district-based city council elections attacked it as a symptom of the at-large council's downtown-centrism. Meanwhile, everyone hates an enormous parking-lot of a road, no matter how they're trying to travel along or across it. And it's an expensive parking-lot of a road -- no matter how much money we spend, “Mercer” will still be a code word for bad traffic, and we're spending a lot of money on it.

Complete streets rules, however, require that projects like this take into account bike and pedestrian access. Since bike and pedestrian routes across Aurora in the vicinity of Mercer and Broad were so horrible before the project started, almost anything would count as an improvement. So there's some promise at least. The removal of the worst parts of Broad Street and an Aurora underpass with sidewalks that are more than an afterthought will be great improvements when they're finished. And what's the plan for biking through east-west in the corridor? Instead of trying to build a cycletrack along the expanse of Mercer, plans called for a route mostly along Roy. OK, so it'll use a cycletrack along the expanse of Mercer for a couple blocks to get under Aurora, and east of there Roy will turn into Broad for a block and then Valley as it runs south of Lake Union Park, for reasons that I'd describe mostly as historical -- anyway, I'm going to call it the Roy route for the rest of this post.

The Roy route looked pretty good in the plans' overhead views. Not a centerpiece of our AAA (All Ages and Abilities) bike network, perhaps not always a ride full of delights, but a reasonably direct and safe way to get from A to B. In fact, by these standards, the lines drawn on the ground today are already pretty good. The temporary version of the Aurora underpass path is a little tight, and on the wrong side of Mercer for people riding through, but considering that it's an active construction zone, it's not so bad.

So what's the problem? Two things, and without fixing them the Roy route just won't live up to its potential to sew up the fragmented neighborhoods all the way from Fred Hutch to Lower Kinnear.

  • Signal timings. Too many of the signal cycles, particularly at 9th Ave N and Westlake, are way, way too long. Maybe, maybe, this can be justified during peak hours as a way to maximize vehicle throughput on Westlake. Personally I don't think any possible throughput that could be gained extending cycle lengths from kinda long to extremely long is worth delaying the bike route or pedestrian access to the park and bus stops... especially because the peak-hour queue for Mercer often extends past Valley. I think prioritizing pedestrian, bike, and transit access over vehicle throughput aligns with the city's stated policies. But even if SDOT disagrees about the relative value of peak-hour vehicle throughput, there is no possible justification for these cycle lengths off-peak, when there just isn't much traffic trying to use Westlake at all. If Seattle wants to develop a jaywalking culture, this is how it will develop a jaywalking culture.
  • Construction closures. There's a lot of construction coming to this corridor in the next generation or so, especially east of Aurora. If the Roy route is going to fulfill the promise of a pedestrian/bike route in the Mercer corridor, it must be continuously open, both ways, all the time. Currently construction on a building has closed the route eastbound for a single block between Westlake and 9th (it hasn't just closed the bike lane, it's actually closed the street to eastbound traffic generally). There's not really a great detour route, and the lousy one that exists (taking Dexter north to Aloha, crossing Westlake at the north crosswalk after a stupefying wait, and taking one of the various paths through the park) isn't indicated. The closure of sidewalks and crosswalks has had typical effects also, especially at intersections with long signal cycles and especially near bus stops. Making the Roy route one-way for a block is, for people biking, just like making Mercer one-way for a block would be for people driving, and the city needs to start thinking about it that way when it issues construction permits.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Seattle BMP Implementation plan!

So, now, a clearer look at what the Bike Master Plan's lines on a map will actually mean for the next five years. Here are the big takeaways for me:
  • It's weak in West Seattle. This isn't all that surprising, as the BMP has always been weak in West Seattle, but this plan throws it in relief. The two greenway routes in the eastern residential neighborhoods are great, but there's little help in here for access to businesses in Alaska and Admiral Junctions, and little help for getting between the junctions (and adjacent hilltop neighborhoods) and low-lying destinations (primarily the bridge and Alki). These connections are menaced by a junction without a name, the junction of Fauntleroy, Admiral, and the high bridge, and that doesn't look to change.
  • It's not totally clear that a plan has cured SDOT of opportunistic bike planning. Opportunism is a problem when it becomes a game of, "We'll build bike access where there's room," rather than, "We'll build bike access where we need it." Nothing in this implementation plan looks like the great routes needed between the U District and three key destinations to the south: downtown, Capitol Hill, and the Central District. There's growth coming to Northgate and Alaska Junction and still these are places the bike network goes to die. And we've continued to allow retail, entertainment, and even residential incursion into industrial areas like SODO and Interbay while transportation planning remains exclusively freight-oriented.
  • Paging Mr. Newmark, we'll have some missed connections. Northeast Seattle is probably the worst. The recent NE 75th St bike lanes stopped just short of Roosevelt to the west and 39th to the east, and will stay that way. New lanes on 130th make it to the Interurban but stop at I-5, a few blocks short of both Roosevelt and lanes on 125th. The 68th St greenway will end into nothing at both ends, even though it's just a few blocks from other routes. Elsewhere, the plan for existing ROW on 6th and Airport to extend a good bike route south from the end of the SODO trail is fine, but what happens in the east-west jogs? In particular, the jog on Spokane from 6th to Airport? There isn't a lot of room among the highway ramps... and this is a route filling one of the biggest gaps in our cycling network, so it's one we really should get right.

    EDIT: There are a few things to be happy about regarding connections. The plan includes work on N 34th and Fremont Ave in Fremont, an opportunity to fix some of the awkward turning situations at 34th/Fremont and 34th/Stone, to patch a short gap in the Interurban Route, and to improve wayfinding between the Interurban Route and the Burke (or even to suggest alternate Interurban Route connections for people that find Fremont Ave too steep).

  • Neighborhood greenways will prove their worth in SE and Central Seattle. What's awesome about the plans to blanket these parts of town with greenways is how easily they connect together, at simple side-street intersections, while separated arterial routes require more complex connections.
  • Don't sleep on the suburbs. During BMP discussions some people expressed concerns about planned routes near the edges of the city, especially the southern edge near Boeing Field -- "Will these routes be useful if they drop off at the city limits?" Yesterday I saw some new bike lanes out the window of the train on the way home from mountain biking and went down to check 'em out this morning. Tukwila has recently built a half-decent bike route using East Marginal Way, parts of Boeing Access Road and its ramps, and Airport Way, and they're waiting for that connection from Seattle that, by this plan, won't be complete until after 2019. It turns out Tukwila's lanes really lose a lot of their usefulness because the connection north into Seattle is so bad. The ball is really in Seattle's court when it comes to connecting to several neighboring cities, especially to the south, where routes are affected by the SODO gap as well as gaps closer to the borders.