Pop-up Housing

July 7th, 2014 by matt

An interesting article on Atlantic Cities — er, “Citylab” — about the DC Office of Planning trying to eliminate “pop-up housing”. I hadn’t heard the term before, but the photo at the top of the article is illuminating.

It’s fascinating to watch people try and cheat the laws of supply and demand, and always fail. If you continue to keep people from building housing in a high demand area, you know what you get? San Francisco. Have fun trying to run a city when nobody making the median salary can actually afford to live there.

“Hand on the bars!”

July 3rd, 2014 by matt

Like many places, Germany has laws regarding the safety equipment that must be present on a bicycle. Unlike most places, they actually enforce those laws. Even to the point of absurdity: such as ticketing a one-armed man for having a bicycle with only one brake lever.

Germans are just so good at following rules, aren’t they?

Harborcenter Construction

June 30th, 2014 by matt

Harborcenter, the new hockey-and-some-other-stuff-too development in downtown Buffalo, is coming along swimmingly. In fact, they’ve hoisted the last piece of structural steel into place and they’re planning to have “phase one” of construction complete by the end of October.

One problem — this is going to be the new home ice for the Canisius Golden Griffins, and the college hockey season begins in _early_ October.

Fortunately, they have an agreement in place; if Canisius has any home games that need to be played before their rink is complete and ready to go, they can play them on the Sabres home ice in FNC. I’m honestly kind of hoping it comes to that. How much of a thrill would that be for these guys to play on an NHL rink?

Spokeless Sada Bike that folds to the size of an umbrella

May 13th, 2014 by Dan

I hear it’s bad luck to open it indoors.

Kindergarten, Redux

April 21st, 2014 by matt

So, here it is, six months after my original post about getting Dean into kindergarten. Here’s how everything shook out in the end.

Public schools: We applied for two different public school programs as part of the general lottery, as well as taking the test for the district “gifted and talented” program. Dean was not admitted into G&T, and the public district lottery couldn’t place him in either of the other schools we wanted, either. The only spots left were in “failing” schools on the other side of the city, which means putting my five year old on a bus for two hours a day to go to a suboptimal school. That was not an ideal option.

(We also had a bunch of communication issues with the district, many of which were caused by our choice to keep Dean back a year due to his late birthday — they were very insistent that he should be going into first grade this year and kept trying to place him in a first grade classroom despite our application.)

Catholic schools: We put down a significant deposit to register him for the Catholic school in our neighborhood for the fall. Registration for that school fills up LONG before parents hear back from the public or charter schools, so the deposit was necessary to have any chance of sending him there if nothing else panned out.

Charter schools: We applied to two charter schools, Tapestry and Elmwood Village. Admission for charter schools is by lottery — there were hundreds of applicants for each, and a limited number of spots. Dean was something like 159 on the waiting list for Elmwood Village, but was the first name pulled for the lottery at Tapestry. There were about 20 spots for more than ten times as many applicants.

So, he will be going to Tapestry in the fall. It’s a great program — everyone we know who has has a child there or who has taught there has loved it. And it has sibling preference, so Owen and Monica can also go there without having to go through this whole lottery experience again.

That said, I think it’s really unfortunate that the second-largest city in the state, with a well-funded public school system as well as a wealth of private and charter schools, is utterly broken unless you’ve either got money or luck. If there was this much stress and work for us, I can’t imagine how bad it must be for students whose parents don’t have the free time or motivation that we do. The bureaucracy is terrifying.

Custom Bicycles

April 7th, 2014 by matt

An interesting article over at The Atlantic about the world of hand-built, custom bicycles, including some gorgeous photos from an annual convention and trade show in Charlotte. I think I’m actually drooling at my desk.

Shirt Design Contest 2014

March 11th, 2014 by matt

It’s that time again — time to get out your Sharpies, your generic Chinese drawing tablets, and your pirated copy of Photoshop Elements to put together a shirt design for this year’s ride.

Same rules as every year:

  • Must include either “Super Atomic Pedal Squadron!” or “SAPS!” lettering somewhere in the design. Can’t have a team shirt without a team name.
  • Can be no more than three colors, not including the background. These are going on shirts, and stuff that’s really colorful is also really expensive. The background color is “free” because it’s just the color of the shirt coming through.
  • All entries must be received by April 21. Then I’ll post everything I’ve received and we’ll use the voting booth to pick a winner.

Please send submissions in PNG, SVG, or some other common format. They can be emailed to me at “contact@roadflares.org”. No warranties expressed or implied. Not valid in all fifty states. All right reserved, all wrongs reversed. And so on.

Mencken Break!

March 6th, 2014 by matt

“The most erroneous assumption is to the effect that the aim of public education is to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence, and so make them fit to discharge the duties of citizenship in an enlightened and independent manner. Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all; it is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States, whatever the pretensions of politicians, pedagogues and other such mountebanks, and that is its aim everywhere else.”

Water Mains

February 24th, 2014 by matt

An interesting article in this weekend’s Buffalo News about the high cost of repairing the century-old water mains in Erie County this winter. With the extremely cold weather we’ve had, most of the local water authorities are seeing twice as many breaks as usual.

Our entire area is serviced by gas lines, sewer lines, water mains, and other public infrastructure that’s a hundred or more years old. And nobody’s even planning to replace and upgrade this stuff; it’s all just break-fix to keep it together for another year. As in so many things, we’re living with the infrastructure that our great-grandparents built. Let’s hope it doesn’t all start failing at once.

I-81

February 18th, 2014 by matt

Syracuse, our somehow even snowier neighbor to the east, is having an interesting argument about Interstate 81 — should it stay or should it go? This mirrors the discussions about the Skyway here in Buffalo, the Inner Loop in Rochester, the Robert Moses Parkway in Niagara Falls, and the other urban freeways that were installed to enable suburban existence at the expense of the cities themselves.

It will be interesting to see what they do.