Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for March 15th, 2012

Computerized management of municipal parking

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Goal: at least one empty space in each block. Tool: flexible pricing. Net revenue impact: interesting question.

Here’s the story. I found it quite interesting.

The maddening quest for street parking is not just a tribulation for drivers, but a trial for cities. As much as a third of the traffic in some areas has been attributed to drivers circling as they hunt for spaces. The wearying tradition takes a toll in lost time, polluted air and, when drivers despair, double-parked cars that clog traffic even more.

But San Francisco is trying to shorten the hunt with an ambitious experiment that aims to make sure that there is always at least one empty parking spot available on every block that has meters. The program, which uses new technology and the law of supply and demand, raises the price of parking on the city’s most crowded blocks and lowers it on its emptiest blocks. While the new prices are still being phased in — the most expensive spots have risen to $4.50 an hour, but could reach $6 — preliminary data suggests that the change may be having a positive effect in some areas.

Change can already be seen on a stretch of Drumm Street downtown near the Embarcadero and the popular restaurants at the Ferry Building. Last summer it was nearly impossible to find spots there. But after the city gradually raised the price of parking to $4.50 an hour from $3.50, high-tech sensors embedded in the street showed that spots were available a little more often — leaving a welcome space the other day for the silver Toyota Corolla driven by Victor Chew, a salesman for a commercial dishwasher company who frequently parks in the area.

“There are more spots available now,” said Mr. Chew, 48. “Now I don’t have to walk half a mile.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 March 2012 at 5:20 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Military on the edge of breakdown

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Fascinating post in James Fallows’s blog that is a must-read. Begins:

A reader with a military background writes in response to my claim that “chickenhawks” are overrepresented, and U.S. military leaders underrepresented, among those clamoring for a strike on Iran:

An issue that I do not see being discussed nearly enough if at all in all the talk of further war in the Middle East is that the American military is probably very near the edge of breakdown, both in terms of material and in terms of leadership. My sense is that the senior leadership is well aware of these issues, but reluctant to spell it out in public.

One can look back at the aftermath of almost any war and see the degree to which the force needs to reconstitute before it is really able to execute more operations other than in a dire emergency.  We have now been burning through people and equipment for ten years and exhaustion is setting in. Back in the day (Viet Nam era), as a planner for the Air Force we would think in terms of as much as a three to one ratio for serious force reconstitution. Given the present wars that could mean up to 30 years to put everything back in place–I don’t think the equation will necessarily work out that way, but it will take a good bit of time.

By reconstitution I mean not only . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 March 2012 at 2:22 pm

First Fitbit merit badge

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Today I climbed 10 flights of stairs (well, 2 flights over and over) and achieved a (pre-set) goal, thus putting a little merit badge on my Fitbit.com home page.

Pretty cute, actually. And good only for the day, but of course once you’ve done it, you know it can be done and that it’s (relatively) easy: just as with out-of-class accomplishments, getting an accomplishment predisposes you to getting more: now I want the steps badge, but that’s 10K steps per day—which, as I understand it, is more a marketing ploy by pedometer manufacturers than solid scientific findings—those generally state the required walk in terms of duration rather than steps: 30 min daily at a moderate pace, for example. That would probably be as easy to program as a step counter, but we’re bound to this (time-consuming) 10K figure. End of rant.

I can definitely see wanting to better, if only by a little, the previous day’s performance (particularly when it’s still easily done). I found the “Historical” tab on the dashboard, so I can see what I did yesterday and where I stand today: useful in avoiding overexertion.

Watching Assassination Games (on Watch Instantly), a Jean-Claude van Damme film, expertly done, so far, with intriguing plot. Shot in eastern Europe (Romania is the claim), it does allow for a smaller budget to have a much bigger impact, and so far the money seems wisely spent. Update: Rather more explicit violence than needed (or desired).

Written by LeisureGuy

15 March 2012 at 1:58 pm

Food note and Forks Over Knives

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I’m just starting to watch Forks Over Knives, which turns out to be quite interesting and illuminating. It’s fascinating how one researcher found a food trigger that enabled him to turn cancer on and off as he wanted by a simple change in diet. [The take-home for me from that is this: the body responds immediately to changes in diet. That means if you switch to eating healthful foods and a plant-based diet, your body will begin to respond immediately to the changes in your diet. That means: Do it now, and see what happens over a week, a month, … – LG] Well worth watching.

It turns out that we know a lot about food and its effects on our bodies and health, and that little of the information is new: it’s been known for years. So why all of a sudden are we getting word out about the degree to which red meat degrades your health? Or, perhaps, how is it that this time the beef industry was not able to kill the findings? They’ve always been able to control the message before, even to convincing people that it would be dangerous to public health to test cows in the food chain for mad-cow disease. (One producer wanted to test each animal slaughtered—for the Japanese market, which more or less insists on that—and since the test is cheap (about $8/animal, as I recall) and is easily done, the producer wanted to test. The beef industry was terrified and somehow convinced the USDA to disallow the test because of the danger to public health if all animals were tested. I kid you not.)

So now the word on food is getting out, all over the place. What’s causing that? Could it be Michelle Obama’s campaign on eating healthful food that is pushing this? The impact of campaigns by president’s wives has in fact been quite strong: before Lady Bird Johnson’s “Beautify America” campaign, the landscape and urban scene was indeed ugly and littered, and that has changed a lot in that a new social norm was established. Maybe that’s what’s going on here, with respect to food: a new social norm.

At any rate, I highly recommend the movie, which is available on Netflix Watch Instantly.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 March 2012 at 1:12 pm

GOP’s war on women—and a cool parallel example

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First some comments via video:

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And then an interesting parallel: In TPM2012 Pema Levy reports on a bill in the Ohio Senate:

On Tuesday, Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner (D-Cleveland) will introduce a bill aimed at cracking down on prescription drugs like Viagra that treat erectile dysfunction. Turner’s legislation would make men jump through certain hoops — such as psychological screenings — before they could obtain the meds. The bill follows FDA recommendations to determine the underlying causes of erectile dysfunction — but that’s certainly not the only reason Turner is putting the measure forward.

“All across the country, including in Ohio, I thought since men are certainly paying great attention to women’s health that we should definitely return the favor,” Turner told TPM. Her bill is one of several pieces of legislation offered over the past several weeks by women lawmakers eager to prove a point about the raging contraception debate.

Their bills seek to regulate men’s sexual health, from Viagra to vasectomies, just as Republican-led state governments and Congress have zeroed in on access to abortion and family planning care.

Turner’s bill mimics language found in Ohio’s so-called Heartbeat Bill, which passed the Ohio state House and is now pending in the Senate. The bill would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, sometimes as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. Turner’s bill, she says, offers men a taste of their own medicine — it would require physicians to inform patients in writing of the risks involved in taking erectile dysfunction drugs and requires men to sign a document acknowledging the risks, just like the anti-abortion bill does.

“I care about the health of men as well, and I thought it only fair that we illustrate that and make sure that a man is fully informed of the risks involved in taking these drugs and also the alternatives such as natural remedies or also celibacy,” Turner said.

Women legislators in other states have been making similar efforts.

Over a month ago, when the Virginia Senate was debating a bill to require women seeking an abortion to get an ultrasound, state Sen. Janet Howell introduced an amendment to the bill that would have required men to get a rectal exam and cardiac stress tests before obtaining a prescription for erectile dysfunction medication. Her amendment failed 21-19 while the ultrasound bill ultimately passed. But Howell believes she made her point. “This is more of a message type of an amendment,” Howell told the Huffington Post, “so I was pleased to get 19 votes.”

Turner said the bills and amendments targeted at men represent “a universal mindset across this country among women, especially those of us who are policymakers, to really point out the hypocrisy in terms of women’s equal access to health care.”

Highlighting hypocrisy is precisely what Georgia state Rep. Yasmin Neal (D-Jonesboro) had in mind when she proposed a bill in February to limit men’s access to vasectomies. Her legislation, which would only allow vasectomies for men who would die or suffer serious health consequences without one, was introduced in response to HB 594, a bill being considered in the Georgia state House to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. “Thousands of children are deprived of birth in this state every year because of the lack of state regulation over vasectomies,” Neal said in a video message.

Last week, nine women lawmakers in the Missouri Legislature proposed a similar vasectomy bill in response to a symbolic vote taken by the state House objecting to the Obama administration’s contraception coverage mandate. . .

Continue reading.

UPDATE: And from today’s NY Times an article by Jonathan Weisman on GOP opposition to the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, which only recently enjoyed bipartisan support until the GOP went in its current direction:

With emotions still raw from the fight over President Obama’s contraception mandate, Senate Democrats are beginning a push to renew the Violence Against Women Act, the once broadly bipartisan 1994 legislation that now faces fierce opposition from conservatives.

The fight over the law, which would expand financing for and broaden the reach of domestic violence programs, will be joined Thursday when Senate Democratic women plan to march to the Senate floor to demand quick action on its extension. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, has suggested he will push for a vote by the end of March.

Democrats, confident they have the political upper hand with women, insist that Republican opposition falls into a larger picture of insensitivity toward women that has progressed from abortion fights to contraception to preventive health care coverage — and now to domestic violence.

“I am furious,” said Senator Maria Cantwell, Democrat of Washington. “We’re mad, and we’re tired of it.”

Republicans are bracing for a battle where substantive arguments could be swamped by political optics and the intensity of the clash over women’s issues. At a closed-door Senate Republican lunch on Tuesday, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska sternly warned her colleagues that the party was at risk of being successfully painted as antiwoman — with potentially grievous political consequences in the fall, several Republican senators said Wednesday.

Some conservatives are feeling trapped.

“I favor the Violence Against Women Act and have supported it at various points over the years, but there are matters put on that bill that almost seem to invite opposition,” said Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, who opposed the latest version last month in the Judiciary Committee. “You think that’s possible? You think they might have put things in there we couldn’t support that maybe then they could accuse you of not being supportive of fighting violence against women?”

The legislation would continue existing grant programs to local law enforcement and battered women shelters, but would expand efforts to reach Indian tribes and rural areas. It would increase the availability of free legal assistance to victims of domestic violence, extend the definition of violence against women to include stalking, and provide training for civil and criminal court personnel to deal with families with a history of violence. It would also allow more battered illegal immigrants to claim temporary visas, and would include same-sex couples in programs for domestic violence.

Republicans say the measure, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 March 2012 at 10:17 am

Jimmie Lunceford: Tain’t What You Do

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A truly great swing band. And check out the snapshots of the dancers.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 March 2012 at 10:10 am

Posted in Jazz, Video

Shaving a single hair

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Here you see a diamond-edged blade slicing several layers off a length of human hair. If anyone sees one of these in double-edged standard razor format, let me know posthaste.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 March 2012 at 10:03 am

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