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Robert W. Boyd

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Robert W. Boyd last won the day on January 8 2010

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About Robert W. Boyd

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    Exploring Houston by bike, urbanism, Houston's art scene
  1. Yeah, I see the Falun Gong people out front protesting/praying all the time. If the police didn't know it was the consulate, they should have.
  2. I went to the festival and didn't notice people parking on the grass and generally saw a bunch of well-behaved arts-n-crafts browsers. I assume (but don't know for sure) that most of the attendees came by the free shuttle buses provided. One from Northwest mall (I took that one) and one from downtown somewhere. Sorry we spoiled your jog.
  3. Has anyone seen the Fountains at Memorial City? These are new condos going up on Gaylord right next door to the Cemex building just east of Memorial City. They are being developed by MetroNational which pretty much owns everything from Bunker Hill to Memorial Hermann (the president of MetroNational has his office in the "crown" of the Memorial Hermann Tower). Anyway, there is nothing particularly special about The Fountains except that it is unusual for high rise condos to be built so far out. But the parking garage is surprisingly a thing of beauty! (Photos here.) The have put a mural on the side of trees with a neat effect of the more distant trees being paler in the haze. Because there are real trees in the parking lot in front (north) of the mural, it gives it a curious trompe l'oeil effect. Worth checking out!
  4. This isn't true, according to what few stats there are about Houston bike accidents. The problem with suburban streets, especially arterials, are manifold. The obvious one is speed--speed limits are higher in the burbs, and even when they aren't, heavier traffic in the city keeps speeds lower. Another problem is inattentional blindness. There are more cyclists in the city, therefore drivers are more accustomed to actively seeing them. Out in the burbs, people don't notice bikers as much because they aren't trained by experience to notice them. Consequently, it appears that the further you go out from the center of Houston, the more bike fatalities there are, according to research. But htis research has been done in a pretty haphazard way. I would like to see some serious, rigorous statistical research done on this, and would also like better recording of the details of bike accidents (fatal and non-fatal) by the police.
  5. This is an amazingly silly statement. Texas is a large state--of course there's lots of stuff outside of Houston. But the same is true in each of the other states you mention and casually dismiss. I lived in western Massachusetts for several years and still miss its beauty, its colleges (Williams, Amherst, Smith, Mount Holyoke, U. Mass, and Hampshire) and the many excellent cultural events they had, Tanglewood, Mass MOCA, the freaking Berkshires in autumn, etc. (I could do without Springfield, though. But I could say the same about Waco as well, heh heh.)And that's just the western, more rural part of what is a very small state, after all. Most states have a lot to offer outside their major cities. I hardly think Texas is inherently superior (or worse)--its size means that it has more stuff. But when you think about how far apart Houston, Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio are (not to mention El Paso), imagine what you can reach from Boston within a similar radius? (Boston is closer to NYC than Houston is to Dallas, for example.) I'm not saying that you shouldn't be proud of Texas--you just don't need to run down other states to do so.
  6. Peter Moskos suggested that beat cops might help reduce crime in densely populated areas, but worried that there hadn't been enough study. On his blog, he announces that very interesting and hopeful research has been done:
  7. It's a bad time to be a mall. Especially one that was already struggling. I work just down the street from the mall, and I wish it were better. I have shopped at Macy's, but the mall interior struck me as underlit and depressing (I haven't been in it for about a year, though--it may have improved).
  8. I can't speak to what "urbanists" have said about crime, but I can refer to what Peter Moskos said in his great book Cop in the Hood. He said that the rise of policing from cars and 9-11 have turned police from being proactive to reactive. No one responding to a 9-11 call ever stops a crime (unlike 9-11 calls for fires or medical emergencies, in which lives are often saved). The cop on the beat had more of a relationship with the neighborhood, was a visible presence, heard things from folks, etc. (This was also pointed out by Jane Jacobs, of course.) Moskos was writing about Baltimore in particular, and Baltimore is pretty "walkable", especially compared to Houston. Beat cops and even bike cops are just less viable in most of Houston because of its sprawled out nature. (And, Moskos added, cops hate being made to walk the beat--in Baltimore, it was seen as punishment.) But in walkable (or at least bikeable) areas of Houston--i.e., ones that adhere more to "urbanist" concepts--beat cops on foot or bikes make more sense and would possibly have a stronger deterrent effect. The main issue would be how to get the cops on board. If your choice is to be in a safe, air-conditioned car or to be on foot or on a bike in the blazing heat, what would you choose? Moskos's suggested solution was to pay beat cops more. After all, the operation of police cars is expensive, so every cop not in a police car is saving the department money--use that savings as incentive pay to get cops out of their cars and onto the street. Again, this is not remotely practical for most of Houston. But in certain neighborhoods with highly urban characteristics, I think it would help.
  9. As far as I know, riding on sidewalks is completely legal except in "business districts".
  10. According to the Chron, BCM has decided to go it alone. (For now.) If it was Baylor U. that killed the deal with Rice (which is what I have heard), BCM may have had pretty bad feelings towards Baylor, to say the least. BCM also had to wonder what Baylor was bringing to the table. Anything? While I have nothing at all against Baylor U and have known many people over the years who attended or were alums of that school, it seems Baylor acted pretty poorly in this matter, and as a result are ending up with nothing.
  11. I spoke with a professor at Rice who was sort of in a position to know what happened, and he gave me his version of the story of the failure of the Rice-BCM talks and the part in that failure played by Baylor University (a BIG part). At the risk of seeming like a complete blog whore, I'm going to link to my blog post about it. In short, it looks like Baylor U. played a sneaky and decidedly unchristian waiting game, letting Rice do a lot of heavy lifting and then musciling them aside once the bucks were all lined up.
  12. The Chron doesn't have much yet: I wonder what this means for Leebron.
  13. The question of which areas have the most crime (or highest crime rate) is tricky to answer. 1) total crime versus crime rate. Different areas of Houston have different population densities. Also, different neighborhoods are different sizes. So if you add up all the crimes in a big neighborhood and compare that to a small neighborhood, it may make the big neighborhood appear more dangerous when in fact the crime rates are identical or even even greater in the small neighborhood. Consequently, I think one should look at crime rates versus total number of crimes. (That, of course, makes the task harder.) 2) What is the purpose of figuring out the crime rate neighborhood by neighborhood (or zip-code by zip-code, or police beat by police beat)? If it is to figure out the chance that you, as a resident in, worker in, or visitor of a particular location are in greater or lesser danger of crime, then you should look at crimes that happen to random people. So property crimes would be the best measure. 3) For this reason, murder rates are probably not the best way to look at crime in a particular area. For the most part, murders aren't random. Acquaintances (particularly spouses and significant others) are common murder victims. People involved in criminal activities (drug dealers) are often victims. It may be that there is a strong correlation between the murder rate and other crime rates. But I think it is better to look at other crimes than murder. I would definitely like to see a crime map of Houston with crime rates for each census tract (which are divisions used by the census that are smaller than zipcodes). I would like it to include all crimes, and see versions for more specific crimes (assault, burglary, car burglary, robbery, etc.). That would give you a really good idea of which areas are the safest and most dangerous in Houston, and probably would contain a few surprises.
  14. All of you interested in The House of the Century are going to kick yourselves--Chip Lord and Curtis Schreier (two of the surviving founders of Ant Farm) were just in town for the Cinema Arts Festival, which showed a documentary about Ant Farm called What If Why Not. Marilyn Oshman was at the screening and they all answered questions. This is a house that should definitely be renovated and preserved and opened to the public!
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