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Posts posted by TheNiche

  1. No we couldn't, because we don't control the assets of this Silver Eagle benefactor and his rich friends.

    We could, though. All it takes is an organized effort, coupled with the sale of naming rights to the pocket parks. Give them a little plaque and some bricks with donors' engraved names in them. Publicize it well. The program would easily make national news if done properly. Then turn around and solicit old people and their estates for donations of land; give naming rights there as well, where appropriate. Pick up some of the lots from out of tax auctions and constables' sales to stretch the budget.

    The name of the game is organization. It would take the right person. Someone like myself, properly compensated.

  2. This seems really cheesy. For $32 million to expound upon culture, we could've purchased...more culture.

    Imagine if the funds were used to purchase a single lot in each inner city neighborhood for a pocket park built around a sculpture comprised of defunct oil & gas scrap metal, welded together (or some such other unifying theme). There you have it. Culture. Something worth exploring Houston's nooks and crannies to see. It'd be the sort of thing that can be sold in miniature at an airport gift shop. "Collect them all!"

    • Like 2
  3. I look at it as the only one endangered by a cyclist running a light is the cyclist. A motorist running a light endangers everyone. And, honestly, complaining about cyclists running lights and stop signs just makes you sound like a grumpy old man. Live a little. Don't get so upset at those who ignore government's rules. Get a little anarchy in your life. You may enjoy it.

    Perhaps the law regarding cyclists should be tweaked, however let's not pretend that a bicyclist cannot endanger others by their irresponsible actions. (Running over a suicidally irresponsible cyclist is probably more distracting to a driver than a windshield crack.)

    If a cyclist is too lazy to come to a stop and to have to regain momentum, then they're not just suicidal and irresponsible, those are girlie men. They deserve ridicule.

    • Like 1
  4. Would a moderator please move the tangential comments starting with 'totheskies' post over to the University Line thread, since that was the subject of an old post that he was responding to? Thanks.

  5. Ask anyone that ever has to park on UofH campus. They'd probably say it would help a hell of a lot.

    Okay. A UH student lives in Cypress and schedules his classes to coincide with the availability of Park & Ride service. This means putting up with 8:30AM or 10:00AM classes. But never mind that those are unpopular.

    The trip from Cypress P&R to the Northwest Transit Center takes 25 minutes.

    Continuing into downtown takes another 10 minutes, and then the student can transfer (averaging, say, 4 minutes) to the Southeast Line and continue 3.4 miles to Scott Street or 4.0 miles to Wheeler Street (the student's choice, no transfer necessary). Light rail averages 19mph, so that'll be about another 12 minutes. The student's trip from the Northwest TC to the campus border took 26 minutes.

    If they had attempted to use the Uptown and University lines from the Northwest TC, that would make for a 12-mile trip on light rail. So that's 4 minutes for the transfer plus 38 minutes for the light rail ride: 42 minutes.

    Upon approach to the UH campus you can anticipate some combination of transfers and/or walking the remaining one, two, or three quarters of a mile to your classroom. That can vary a great deal, but let's just call it 8 minutes.

    A commute can be done in either 59 minutes on the Southeast Line or 75 minutes on the University Line at the same cost to the individual. Choose one.

  6. I think so too, but unfortunately the city simply refuses to spend money to fix sidewalks. Montrose area has some really awful ones.

    METRO is bound to abide by the City's codified standards for sidewalk widths. That means that METRO should have paid for them. The City of Houston waived that requirement.

  7. Trees are great things. I love tree-lined streets.

    But in a city like Houston where we have a government that just washes their hands of busted up sidewalks, we can't afford to be planting trees. Functional sidewalks are more important than aesthetics, and if the city or some other entity won't take responsibility to maintain them, we can't have roots busting them up.

    Trees spaced out ever so often can provide a psychological barrier between pedestrians and vehicles as well as provide shade, with their roots being accommodated by the extra width of an appropriately-large sidewalk zone as they mature. These are functional enhancements that promote walking and transit use.

  8. Those sidewalks do suck. However, they are perfectly fine for a normal pedestrian. 100% better than what was there before. I wish all sidewalks in Houston were that good.

    I do agree that the electric lines need to be buried though. Not only are they obstructing the sidewalk for disabled pedestrians, they are an eyesore.

    I'm not advocating for buried power lines. That gets to be really expensive, and only affects the aesthetic environment. If its that big of a deal to some people, then I'd sooner have the power lines moved to sacrificial side streets (like Uptown did) than pay for burying them.

    But let's take a step back from that debate because we can both agree that wherever the power lines go, there will be vertical obstructions in a sidewalk that abuts the curb of a street. Between trees (which will mature), signage, light poles, power/telephone poles, garbage cans, and other pedestrians, a narrow sidewalk abutting a major thoroughfare with light rail is a busy place. Abutting means that it starts at the edge of the pavement, where the cars go past at high speed. The extra width in a configuration like this is a mechanism toward safety and the comfort of use. It is not perfectly fine for a normal pedestrian.

  9. I noted a comment on the Swamplot post about the botched sidewalks along the Green Line (fmrly. Brown and/or East) from user Local Planner. It follows:

    Please know that the City government had the power, through its consent agreement, to require wider sidewalks. Put another foot or two on a sidewalk and suddenly an intrusive fixture, like a power pole, become less of an obstacle. However, elected officials at that time were freaked out about right-of-way takes. Also, the mayoral administration at that time decided that the City should not burden METRO with more costs, a position with which of course METRO heartily agreed. There was no other funding mechanism (like the recently created East End TIRZ) to fill the cost gap. There were those of us who tried very hard to express our concern, but it was decided otherwise. So when you are dismayed at the photos above, rest assured that when the City officials made their choice, they knew full well that we would end up with those results.

    October 1, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    That the city would pay for the sage advice of constituents as mediated through professional planners, and then deliberately ignored it by cutting METRO a break, has managed to piss me off immensely. What is the point of transit without adequate pedestrian infrastructure? How can we fund an underpass and ignore sidewalks? How is it that now that there's a revenue source, we're hearing about streetcars, the most expensive fix to the 'last mile' problem that could possibly be conceived? This is just pitiful.

    Where is the accountability?

  10. During Hurricane Ike, the winds in The Woodlands were sustained, at least according to a Texas Tech study, of 80 mph. Usually you can get gusts 20 to 30% higher. In the absolute worst case scenerio (a category 5 hitting just south of Galveston), The Woodlands would see *sustained* winds in excess of Cat 3 (111 mph to 129 mph) with gusts beyond that.

    The orange bubble near Spring is 84 mph sustained. The dotted dashed line is 74 mph (minimum threshhold for a hurricane).


    Also keep in mind that wind increases exponentally as you increase you altitude---usually a full category for every 1,000 feet.

    NOAA was citing the Harris County Appraisal District as its source!? I call BS on that. HCAD gets everything it does wrong. It is an eight-story temple to convoluted wrong-ness. The data is bad. It has to be.

    Regardless, the odds in any given year of an full-intensity Cat 5 making landfall (meaning that the eye is overland and its still a Cat 5) within Texas and along such a narrow stretch of coastline are sufficiently low that I don't think any reasonable person should attempt to prepare for it. What happens happens. The macro effect of such a storm on the local economy would be so potentially devastating that it may not matter whether an office building could physically sustain the storm because it may not be capable of financially sustaining the aftermath.

  11. The roof of that building is going to be ripped off in the next hurricane. It'll be like a giant sail to catch the wind. Anybody remember what happened to the Pavilion?

    What are the typical gusts so far inland from a hurricane strike? I'm not saying that they couldn't possibly be damaging, but I would think that they would be lower and that structural engineers could ensure that physical tolerances are adequate.

  12. So, bringing us back on-topic. I rode about 12 miles today. The only thing better than a cool sunny day is a cool overcast day. Keeps the sun out of my eyes, off my skin.

    I noticed something. Cars approaching a two-way stop where they are not required to stop have a tendency of stopping anyway if they see me coming from the direction that is required to stop. I come to a stop at the sign and wave them past to get them moving again. It happened multiple times. I don't get it. It's kind of frustrating, actually. They shouldn't be stopping for me. Am I perceived as that unpredictable? Or is it that cyclists are just that irresponsible in general?

  13. I know the history quite well, and it is a sad one. It is. There's no disputing it. But you know, it's been 150 years since the civil war. I don't pretend that it's been an easy progression of increasing civil liberties, much less a steady one. Reversals of fortune have been too common. However...the trajectory of the black community has been internally divergent both nationally and regionally for a long time, and especially since the waning of the influence of crack cocaine.

    Many from the prior two generations of black youth have realized upper- and middle-class affluence by their own well-directed efforts. Once affluent, the differences between black and white melt away. I think that this is why we are witnessing a redirected use of the N-word, such that it expresses within the black community that there is a better way to be. It's a kick in the butt from people that can get away with dishing it out. It's a good thing.

    White folk could learn a thing or two, IMO. We're like a Baskin Robbins' 31 Flavors of redneck, hillbilly, cracker, coonass, gringo, whitey, white boy (that was me), wiggers, yanks, and all the various sub-ethnic categories (pollack, dago, et al.) that exist regionally but that have by and large been folded into the broader categories. You can drive out of Houston in any direction and encounter a markedly unique flavor of poor white households. But even then, it's not just that they're poor. There will always be poor. The ones that cause the problems are those that lack ambition and that engage in broadly anti-social behavior. We just aren't that different from black people...except that we're so divisive, polarized, segregated, de-massified, we've lost comprehension of the scale of our own problems and have no mechanism to communicate them across partisan lines.

  14. Where were you? Do tell. You weren't camping on the seasonally-deserted Scout Ranch in the Davis, were you? We stayed there once. Either there was no gate or it wasn't locked. Lovely creek.

    Perhaps your date reacted badly to your calculating of the odds.

    I've only ever awakened, when sleeping out in the open in Guadalupe Mtns.NP, to find a skunk on the edge of my sleeping bag, so I am very thrilled by the mountain lion story. That is a rare occurrence. Mountain lions choose whether to be seen. Did you actually see it? I've heard people who've lived in West Texas twenty years say they've seen a lion once, or never. And if you didn't open the tent how did you know it was a lion and not a bobcat? Did you hear it scream, and did it in fact sound like a woman? The last time we were in Big Bend they mentioned that only a few days previously a child had been attacked by a lion in the parking lot behind the motel dining room in the Basin! His parents beat it off, but he was injured. Please give more details, and in return I will tell you my top West Texas travel secret, make that two secrets. You may already know them, but you might not; and it's a long way to drive and miss anything.

    It was the mountain across from Davis Mountains S.P., where the facilities and trails are very minimal. Technically it is also part of the state park. I know that the Boy Scouts use it from time to time, and it does have a creek at the base and a forgettably diminutive gate, so that might be the place you're referring to.

    I did not exit the tent in an attempt to see a mountain lion in the darkness, however I am confident of what it was based upon the audible sound of the padded paw against rock at close range. It plodded past the tent quickly enough but with a slow gait, then circled back more cautiously before taking some audible sniffs and then wandering off. And it was certainly feline rather than canine; there was no click of claw against rock. Unfortunately, there was no dirt and so there were no tracks to photograph in the morning. I suppose that it could've been a bobcat with a pituitary disorder. It definitely had a four-legged gait, so it wasn't a bigfoot or the ghost of a barefoot Native American. (We have to rule these out because producers from the History Channel might think to contact me otherwise; they might still get me on the possibility of alien bigfoot. We'll see.) But a mountain lion seemed the most plausible.

    So you've got me curious. I've been thinking about taking the Amtrak Sunset Limited out to Alpine and renting a car from there. I'd probably go sometime in early November. Would love to know your secrets.

  15. First, I was intimidated by the length of the video - I have an MTV-generation attention span - but I did watch it, most of it - not quite finished - and found it very on point. Thanks for finding it.

    You can traffic in stereotypes all you want; that does nothing to increase incivility in the world. I believe that epithets do. That young black comics have embraced the "N-word," or tried to defang it, has no application to the rest of us.

    And since no one can fail to notice your glee in provoking people and exposing their hypocrisy in some fashion (though I don't find these reactions as endlessly diverting as you do, I usually prefer inanity over snark, and I find you more entertaining when you are just thinking out loud, not trying to catch people out) -- I will give you what you want. One of my objections to the word you so casually drop, beyond simple distaste, is that I associate it with a white socioeconomic class from which I will always, always want to distance myself.

    Overall, The Niche, I think you will find that I am not a very satisfying target for these brinksmanship games. Now, I know it is probably hard to keep different posters straight, but try to remember this about me: I am often a reactionary, though I'm not fond of that word - the "R-word" - given its origins, but I will never be guilty of faux outrage.

    Next I'll try to wade into that Wittgensteinian stuff, if I'm not too sleepy.

    As long as you got to the big speech, that's what mattered most.

    Some words communicate ideas that are uncomfortable. All the more reason to ponder them, to use them with deliberate infrequency so that the meaning is not lost or despoiled. They should command attention and scrutiny. Their use should be cause to reflect upon oneself, to examine our character, that we might express them with hesitance but without guilt.

    As I washed up on the rocks, shipwrecked, blind, calling out for help, being refused it--not simply ignored, but expressly refused--it is a pattern of behavior that demands a summary description, an idea contained by a word. The word fit, more than a senseless epithet.

    Mind you, I do not wish anybody ill will. On the contrary, I wish them well, that those fitting the description of a word might contemplate its meaning and use when they feel the pang that it might describe them.

  16. Please, out of nothing more than consideration for me, make this the last day you use that word, or allude to it. Your use of it strongly suggests that you didn't grow up with black people, and I don't say that it suggests anything more; but for those of us who did, it is hard to hear. It contributes nothing, and heaven knows it was an emblem of the sort of "groupthink" you despise.

    I am glad the Gulf didn't swallow you.

    I didn't grow up with black people, it is true. There simply weren't any on the border. I was the only white kid in my elementary school, save one that was adopted by Mexicans. I have witnessed racism and been subjected to it all through my youth. As I got into high school and the pool of diversity grew, I fell into the diverse clique, was friends with both Indians and the Sino-Mexican mulatto, along with many Mexicans and one or two of the several-dozen over-privileged white kids.

    Thank goodness for Houston. I like the dark meat, but especially after it has been somewhat tenderized by the affluence and ambition of whiteness, along with the general geographic openness; the sense that is imparted that anyone of means can live wherever they like (except The Woodlands, apparently). I could never have made it as well off in such a white-dominated town as Austin or College Station, and Dallas seems too willing to embrace the cagey nature of a midwestern city.

    You might've noticed a manner of speaking that I use. It is ornate with much embellishment, yet punctuated by the occasional staccato. I do the same with my meaning, including brash language, testing the envelope of my audience's politeness. It is to move past politeness, to invoke emotion, to make them attack or defend, but to react genuinely. I do not pretend to mislead you, however, in order to incite genuineness. I feel no remorse at attempting to apply a label to a subculture of a people if that label has a meaning that is commonly understood. The common understanding is what makes it a word. The word is not bad. It is only a symbol.

  17. Well, The Niche, you tried:

    "Every man thinks meanly of himself for not having been a soldier, or not having been at sea. "


    "They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters;

    These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep."

    Moving water is absolutely overpowering. Once took child, about four, to New Braunfels, stopping on the way at Academy to buy him a little life vest; we went in the Comal and then, with him in my arms, through the tube chute through which the whole of the river is funneled. Predictably, we lost our tube. I managed to hold tight to him, but we were both carried along underwater for about 500 feet. The current then spread out and a lifeguard fished us out.

    They blow a horn whenever they see anyone struggling, then one of the lifeguards jumps in. I asked the child's father, "Did they blow the horn for us?"

    Him: "They blew the horn before you even entered the chute. They saw your ridiculous hat."

    Child did not seem unduly stressed, but when we got back to our picnic spot, he said to me, "Thank you for buying me that life vest," which caused me to then burst into tears.

    Maybe the men who didn't help you when you were in peril were not themselves able to swim. Remember, we've learned recently that Galveston has never had a public swimming pool in which people might learn.

    Here is the article about stop signs -- I find things so easily ever since I outsourced (or do I mean offshored, hmm?) my brain to Google. You'll like it. Very Malcolm Gladwell-ish. An economist looks at traffic, comes to some unconventional conclusions, and is ignored.


    The military didn't want me. Did not fit their medical specifications in a year during the recession that they had their pick of younger more impressionable recruits. It's not that I didn't try really hard for them to take me, though.

    Well, you know that it's interesting that my outings are often close calls, and yet I bother with them anyway. Who needs the military or Samuel Johnson? The semi-submersible ocean kayaking while blind story was only the scariest. I was more scared during all of that than I was when I camped on a mountaintop in west Texas on an evening that spawned a lightning storm and during which a mountain lion investigated the campsite. I had packed a gun, although it was highly illegal to have it or to use it in that location; it was also illegal to camp on that mountaintop. That's the only time that I'd ever bothered to unpack a firearm or to load it with the intent to use it. Naively, I wasn't that scared. Of course, I also wasn't alone on that occasion and so my odds of being mauled were cut in half; but my date (things weren't as hopeless during college) was put thoroughly out of the mood. That was unfortunate.

    But again, there's an element of self-determination in an unfolding catastrophe. A close call in my car at high speed induces a heck of a lot more adrenaline than anything that I've ever encountered in the great out-of-doors. And I do anticipate having some close calls on a bike.

    Maybe the men who didn't help you when you were in peril were not themselves able to swim. Remember, we've learned recently that Galveston has never had a public swimming pool in which people might learn.

    I just needed them to grab the side of the kayak on a swell as it approached and ultimately struck the granite shoals. If it was because they could not swim, doesn't that validate an N-word stereotype? "Whatever, nigga."

    You'll like this:


    Here is the article about stop signs -- I find things so easily ever since I outsourced (or do I mean offshored, hmm?) my brain to Google. You'll like it. Very Malcolm Gladwell-ish. An economist looks at traffic, comes to some unconventional conclusions, and is ignored.

    I wish that the quantitative comparisons had been between different urban areas rather than different countries. I'll bet that there is a fair bit of variety in terms of traffic safety between cities in both countries, and probably with reasonable explanations underlying them. It'd be interesting to try and separate out the factors that can be controlled from those that can't be. Some explanations might be perfectly innocuous. The United States has more traffic fatalities because it has a lot of wide open, flat, uninteresting stretches of road that go on for hundreds or even thousands of miles. The U.K. doesn't. It's geography. Some explanations may not be as comfortable; for instance that the elderly, the relative health of the elderly, the sheer number of young drivers, or that culture and ethnicity, that all play a part in the quantitative outcome.

  18. So sweet that you took in a bike that no one else could see the good in, a bike that's been mistreated, unspeakable things done to it; and you put yourself out there and took a chance. Not to overstep, though, but I have a hunch, with your stated preference for gritty realism, The Niche, that you might possibly have more the soul of a mountain biker. It's Houston -- that's problematic, but there are probably some mountain bike trails somewhere about.

    The gritty reality is that I'm also sort of a loner where exercise, recreation, and...well, just living is concerned. It's not so much a preference as it is a bad habit, a depressing circumstance of introversion and aversion to groupthink that I've come to accept as reality. My reality.

    The craziest thing I've ever done alone is taken a sit-inside kayak out onto the Gulf of Mexico on a day with nine-foot swells (trough-to-crest) and whitecaps. Three or four miles into it, I found myself upside down under water, the paddle ripped from my arms, my glasses ripped from my head. After a frantic ejection and right-siding, I found myself sitting in a craft that was held buoyant only by air trapped in the fore and aft compartments. The waterline was above my belly-button. I was straddling a kayak-turned-submarine, legally blind, with a high center of gravity. One wave after another would topple me back over. I eventually washed up on Galveston's seawall. Lazy black fishermen for whom the N-word must've been coined refused to help me, so it was a hard landing on granite boulders. (Seriously, I'm not racist, but these guys fell within a range of stereotype that deserved some kind of epithet.) Still blind, I dragged my kayak up to the top of the seawall, bummed a phone because mine got fried by salt water, and called in for rescue.

    The nature of self-propelled craft and maritime catastrophe will typically allow several moments to give oneself a fighting chance at survival. Riding down a mountain or through forests on a bike, alone, seems far less forgiving. If I hit a rock the wrong way or too quickly and go airborne, my fate is too completely decided by Newtonian physics. That's too risky. I've heard ghastly stories, even from mountain bikers riding the trails in Memorial Park.

    Consequently, I've outfitted my bike for roads and gravel trails. I want to ride in places where if something goes wrong, there will be witnesses to my eminent demise.

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