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Everything posted by TheNiche

  1. 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.
  2. Even in Idaho, cyclists are supposed to treat stop signs as yield signs and red lights as stop signs. Although I'm unsure how well a four-way yield plays out, it does sound like a reasonable enough public policy.
  3. Up until today, I hadn't posted on this thread in many weeks, probably months. And I think that the last time that I had posted, I mostly just wanted to know when the opening date was. If there is a "worst bridges" ranking, I missed it. That's how involved I am in this subject. Would you mind re-posting it?
  4. Look in the mirror. You wouldn't know about the bridge or be vocal about the bridge unless Wal-Mart had prompted you to give a damn. There are lots of bridges in poor condition, but you don't care about those. You care about this one. Why? Wal-Mart. That's why. Wal-Mart trucks have several approaches to their store available to them. They don't need the Yale Street bridge except for the traffic count of passenger vehicles.
  5. I was all set to blame their athletics departments, but if they're thinking in these terms then that would most assuredly would explain their budget problems and ever-increasing tuition.
  6. Actually, I became keenly aware of just how many people noticed me on the streets and that were being excessively cautious. I had to ride along San Jacinto briefly to find a viable crossing over the light rail tracks. An LRT vehicle passed me closely, blaring its deafening horn. Meanwhile, drivers were shifting two lanes over to go around me. Knowing that I was the cause of their worry and consternation made me aware that I would do the same thing as a driver. People that ride their bikes on major thoroughfares are obviously crazed and thoughtlessly suicidal, after all, but if you hit them, then you're probably presumed to be at fault. This reminds me, I had been trying to stick to neighborhood streets...but light rail disrupted the grid and forced a detour onto major thoroughfares. I tried taking a sidewalk for a block, but vegetation kept grabbing my sleeves and striking my head. It wouldn't have been an encumberance if I'd been on foot, but it was very inconvenient for myself and others as a cyclist. The world is more constrained when you've got a pair of wheels under you.
  7. I just finished effecting repair on a 'rescue bike' today and took it out for a spin. I hadn't ridden a bike in many years, so I was pleasantly surprised that the old adage is true, that you never forget how to ride one. As a driver, I dislike interacting with bikes in traffic. They're slow and either hog the road, creeping along, or invite me to pass them closely (and dangerously) by staying off to the side. Many fail to follow traffic law, running stop signs, running signals, jumping on and off of narrow sidewalks unpredictably, and failing to signal their turns or intentions to rapidly oncoming traffic. And then I got onto the road. Very quickly, I figured out why cyclists do things that piss me off when I'm a driver. It takes focus, attentiveness, and physical exertion to play nice when you're on a bike. Humans don't like doing these things. We're lazy. And just so it doesn't seem like I'm being preachy, I don't mind saying that I'm lazy too. I'm a horribly irresponsible cyclist, par for the course. I also don't mind that I am taking up an activity that I shall do poorly and that would piss me off if I had to interact with a cyclist like myself from the perspective of a driver. I need the exercise, so screw the principle of the thing or bothering to be apologetic about it.
  8. I know that I wouldn't want highrises all rising right along the boundaries of Discovery Green. A few gaps above lowrise buildings will let through some light and prevent a sense of claustrophobia. It also opens up view corridors to existing or future development, just so as though one can still see the forest from the trees. In response to your question, though, I doubt that they've given this any thought. They're surely more interested in the experience of people inside the building than outside it. I like this rendering. I hope that it gets built as such.
  9. This is one of Jack Wang's several properties in Houston. The hotel was targeted by City Planning for many years because it was semi-abandoned, rotting into oblivion, and had become very unsafe for occupancy. There was another hotel that Wang similarly ran into the ground at the Gulf Freeway and Wayside, on a site that Wal-Mart has acquired and will be building a store on. And then Wang also had owned an abandoned office highrise downtown, the Melrose Building. Not sure what's going on with that...
  10. I've seen layouts for single-unit 20-foot shipping containers (160 sq. ft.) that were tight but livable. The trick, I think, is to approach a floor plan in three dimensions...to think like a naval architect.
  11. Does the idea of 'daytime population' as it is applied to urban areas and business districts apply with validity to a university campus? Many students and professors are only there some of the day for twice a week. Many of the staff are part-time, too.
  12. Not precisely. When wasteful spending is avoided, it is indeed true (as you suggested on Swamplot) that some fraction of that spending will likely be repurposed to another wasteful end; however, it is also possible that an alternative expenditure will not be wasteful. Therefore, identifying and reducing wasteful expenditure is still better than the do-nothing alternative. I used education because most people of any given political affiliation can think of some kind of pet project related to education that they would like funded, even if wasteful spending on education (e.g. athletics, special ed) cannot be defunded to offset the increase in expenditure. The nurturing of children is a less polarizing a subject matter than the military. But the point is that whatever one's preference that they consider not to be wasteful, there's plenty that can be done with un-wasted resources that is at least worthy of consideration...whether it is having to do with private or public purposes. I like your taste in obscure travel destinations, btw. There are licensed salespersons and licensed brokers, and they serve a purpose in a world where real estate can be a complex and not very transparent endeavor for consumers that might only interact in that market a handful of times. Such persons can choose to be good or very very evil...and many are plainly incompetent. It takes all kinds. However, Realtors (note the capitalized 'R' because the word is trademarked and copyrighted) are a class of malcontented lobbyists that impose a cartel upon the public and a system of agency whereby expectations are low and information is tightly-held. Lawyers by contrast are a poorly organized sort. They can't even organize as a profession to effectively limit the number of new lawyers...the way that accountants and architects and Realtors have. Their profession is indeed miserable, but that is the nature of the law. It doesn't reflect on them. If they're good at what they do, then they keep you from doing things that you have no comprehension of as being stupid, but that are. And you feel resentful that they know that it's stupid, keep you from doing it, and perhaps cannot explain why it should be stupid. I've come to really appreciate lawyers. When you get caught being stupid, with your pants around your ankles, and they get you out of the mess, they are redeemed for being asinine...with money. And that's okay. I like that you included Paul Krugman on your list, though. Brilliant.
  13. The reality is that our collective inefficiency and waste, once captured and saved for another purpose, is not wholly expended on another inefficient or wasteful activity. (I would opt to travel to obscure international destinations, however the additional wealth might just as likely be captured for some kind of government-sponsored educational policy.) This is not merely an argument for economic growth, but for the betterment of mankind, for happiness. I'll argue against Halloween or Christmas just the same, and deservedly so, but at least holiday expenditures are undertaken without any appreciable public policy incentives. I am not suggesting that it should, merely that it should not actively undertake a mission to distort markets and suppress economic growth for the benefit of a special interest Realtor-class. Forms of wasteful spending that people opt into can only be combated with education and countercultural influences.
  14. Well isn't that a fancy thing, that one government entity can wish another government entity's capital expansion plans into existence and have anonymous people on the internet using that proclomation as a talking point?
  15. It depends partly on the extent of repairs that are necessary. Also, if you wouldn't build it the way that it's currently configured in the first place, then there will either be some rent loss or additional operating expenses that reflect functional obsolescence. Sometimes that is curable, other times not. Other considerations in the outcome of buildings like these that can determine whether they're saved or demolished will be the price of underlying dirt, its configuration, and demolition cost of the structure. So for instance, if it's a tall building on a small parcel of land that is six inches away from another structure, then it probably won't get torn down because the cost of doing so would be prohibitive. (There are exceptions, of course.)
  16. I'd imagine that the political intricacies of de-funding traditional school libraries would be more difficult than funding their conversion to "museums of the tangible realm". There's plenty of money out there for stuff like this, and many willing volunteers.
  17. Both the Energy Corridor and Westchase (the Philips 66 site is in Westchase) have management districts whose charters provide for expenditures on improvements to transportation infrastructure. I'm sure that METRO would welcome that they desire to contribute funds to the cause, if their interest is sufficient to warrant them putting their money where their mouths are.
  18. So, pretty much artists' studios wherein art is broadly defined to include any variety of creative professional. Sounds good. Someone should develop some of those. It might work as a component in a redeveloped Central Square Building, but such an endeavor could be put in many different structures. Is this the best structure for such an endeavor, or are we only desperately seeking a means to back-fill an obsolete structure?
  19. I don't want to talk about this on Facebook. Facebook sucks. I'm going to talk about it here. Tell me more about the necessity of serendipitous connections. And tell me how an individual or a building might contrive them. I do not understand.
  20. The photo you just linked to of the MCM bannister was one that I took about five years ago. It is the awesomest thing about the entire building, hands down. (I was there with permission, btw. The building isn't worth a breaking and entry charge.) You know a lot more about dorm life, business incubation, and hip things like that than I do. I only know about this building and real estate development and being a business owner and being a student. I'm not with it at all. So I'll defer to you on what's cool. You obviously know better than I. The Rice Graduate Apartments are within walking distance of the campus and also connected by shuttles, just like many of UH's dorms. This system makes sense to me as a mechanism to balance cost, the student experience, and the potential for growth of both the student body and the academic facilities. Placing dorms miles apart from the campus and in a completely different neighborhood with a completely different character seems nonsensical to me unless they're going for some kind of satellite campus or research annex. [bite my tongue!] Sorry, I keep forgetting that you're the expert. The apartment complexes in Austin that you're talking about--I've secretly-shopped most of them--they're appealing to a small proportion of UT students. Whose numbers are greater. Who reside in a smaller city. Who aren't as geographically dispersed within that smaller city. Who received more scholarships. Who came from higher-earning families. Whose parents gave a damn, worked the system for their kids, and saved for their kids' college funds. Who were by-and-large in the top 10% of their high school graduating class, who bumped peons like myself into second- and third-tier institutions, most of them in their hometown and close to family. The demographics are different, and so the apartment market dynamics are too. An apartment operator that has a lot of small spaces in Houston's downtown or midtown area should concentrate their efforts on young professionals, recent college graduates. It should operate like an upscale for-profit co-ed frat house...and if they want to get creative, then they might very well should be marketing heavily in Austin, because that's where the UT grad will move into when the UT grad figures out that Austin has a crappy labor market. Cheap talent can catch the bus. When I was at UH and talking with a future business partner about starting a creative business...which we ended up actually getting bank financing and doing (regrettably), our incubator was One's A Meal on West Gray. We just drove there and talked and ate and drank coffee. It wasn't very close to where either of us lived, but it was open 24 hours without being a Denny's and wasn't too expensive. In general, Houston isn't expensive. It's wonderful like that. Poor people own cars and drive them, and they rent what they need because the rent is affordable. Maybe we're so inexpensive that we don't need incubators like they have in Silicon Valley. Maybe we're so engineering-heavy and devoid of coastal venture capital, that we don't want it either...except as some sort of a fashion statement. [bite my tongue!] Sorry, I keep forgetting that you're the expert. Well, anyway. Just a thought...but, you might check into Boxer Property's business model. They basically serve the need for business incubation in Houston such as I perceive it to exist.
  21. If there's any single impediment to the redevelopment or tearing down of this structure, it is the current owner's unwillingness to accept reasonable offers. To his credit, I'd suppose that asshole property owners are par for the course up in Bronxville, NY. Then there's the asbestos and the physical condition; every building system requires major repair. But those things are curable, and in the grand scheme of things this building isn't in as bad a shape as some of the other abandoned highrises. The biggest obstacle is that the floorplans are bizarre, narrow in some places and deep in others, resulting in a high ratio of common area to rentable area. Views to the east, south, and west are encumbered by massive concrete walls and the building's parking garage. When natural sunlight is at a premium inside of a highrise, then there's limited aesthetic benefit of it even being a highrise. At one point in time, Morris Architects had gotten very far along in planning to make this their corporate headquarters. They would've modified portions of the structure in ways that cured the incurable. The plans were really something to behold. But again...the building owner was reticent to accept a reasonable offer. Morris leased space in First City Tower instead. To address the issue of the building's highest and best use, I agree that some kind of specialized use would probably be best. (I'd like to see a second design center, like exists off of Woodway, but with the Cork Club restored on top.) I'm hesitant to endorse the idea of it being dormitories because to the extent that Rice or UH are going to build new dorms, it should be on their campuses. Business incubator space seems like an interesting idea, and if students want to start a business in such a facility, then they should be welcomed to; but the focus should not be on students.
  22. This sentiment may not be popular in particular quarters but...since Google and Wikipedia have made K-12 librarians' jobs obsolete, perhaps the best use of school libraries (to the extent that they aren't filled with computer workstations) is as a display space for cultural artifacts and relics, which might be defined as anything that loses relevance when converted to a digital media. These displays could be put together and moved around between libraries by anthropology students, since their time is apparently worthless. Yeah, I like that idea. You should pitch it to KISD or to the TEA, but obviously with more tact and diplomacy.
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