Adventures in local blogging, 2006

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A few weeks ago, I was interviewed by Dan DuChene of the Ypsilanti Courier, who is apparently working on a story on the Ypsi blogoverse. I expect to merit about half a sentence as an also-ran, after the laundry list of much more worthy Ypsi luminaries. I am, after all, fairly new to the scene, and I could probably be considered "in retirement", relative to my ArborUpdate level.

At any rate, Dan asked some questions that got me to considering recent changes in Ypsi/Arbor blogland. This really ought to be a year-in-review sort of post, but it's not the end of the year, and I won't remember that long. So.

GIS grants for redevelopment of vacant/abandoned properties

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Mark H. just tipped me off to a grant program by ESRI, Magellan, and the National Vacant Properties Campaign to provide $50k in GPS and GIS hardware, software, and training to 10 governmental agencies to develop applications for "producing or enhancing property inventory and encouraging redevelopment of vacant or abandoned properties within the United States." Applications are due December 1. Who wants to help me develop a proposal for Ypsilanti?

I think we've got a pretty good shot:

  • We've got some vacant and abandoned properties

ArcMap frustrations of the day

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I really hate discovering silly problems in ArcGIS, especially as ESRI's documentation is not the easiest stuff in the world to use. Many of the solutions are things I discover by inference from the documentation. Here's this week's two:

Problem: I would like to Join a Table to a Shapefile / Layer. (Specifically, I'd like to Join a table that has tax parcel id / address / owner address records, exported from the City Assesor's database, to the County's parcel Layer.) Obviously, I right-click the Layer, and use "Joins and Relates -> Join..." I receive no error message, and the Layer has all of the fields from the Table included in it. With no data. Just blank fields.

The effect of a campus' built form on adjoining land uses

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Over on Mark Maynard's page, a discussion of the proposed pedestrian malling of College Place seems to have veered into a critique of on-campus businesses, with the complaint that they don't pay property taxes. The larger issue that I see with housing bookstores and restaurants on-campus - and this holds true across most super-block campuses I've spent time on - is that providing these services on-site helps to emphasize the town/gown dividing line.

"What are they doing to the roads *now?*"

Some of my Ypsilanti readership might have the same question that I did. "So, if MDOT went through and dug up and patched Huron/Hamilton/W. Cross two weeks ago, why are they going back now and milling the whole surface off those roads? What was the point of the first go-round?"

I have unearthed The Answer. The first pass was to saw out sections and patch cracks in the underlying, concrete layer of the roads. They then patched asphalt on top to provide a smooth driving surface until they got around to the second phase, which involved milling off and repaving all of the asphalt top layer. Apparently, this is the method of doing all the necessary work that involves the least disruption of traffic.

Malthus in RSS

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Over the past few weeks, I've been deriving low-level geeky pleasure from the fact that the US Census Bureau has an RSS feed for their US and World estimated population clocks. Everytime I check Bloglines, the US is a few thousand people closer to the 300 million mark.

Now, if only this were somehow useful information.

Read: John Perkins, "Confessions"

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Yesterday, I read Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, the memoirs of John Perkins, who served as the Chief Economist for MAIN, a now-defunct Halliburton rival of the 1970s. I wouldn't say much of the "how the US treats other countries" material was new to me, nor is Perkins necessarily the best writer. I do recommend the book, though. You probably won't find any other non-fiction treatment of post-World War II international finance that reads like an episode of Alias. It's interesting to note that the US Department of State has printed a refutation of the book that doesn't actually challenge any of the claims Perkins makes - "Sure, all that destabilizing of foreign governments stuff is routine, but this guy thinks he was somehow working for the NSA! What a nut job, are we right?"

Calthorpe honored by ULI

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Peter Calthorpe, thoroughly fawned over architect turned New Urbanist planning and urban design principal and the name brand on Ann Arbor's recent well attacked downtown development steering plan, is apparently set to receive the Urban Land Institute's JC Nichols Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development.

If Calthorpe feels the slightest awkwardness at being honored by an industry that many intellectuals instinctively loathe, he isn't letting on.

"It feels great," he grinned after a breakfast conversation that caromed from topic to topic. "I find a lot of developers to be a lot more progressive than bureaucrats and neighborhood groups."

Searching for secular congregation

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A few weekends back, we were visiting the ex-housemates at Jorvik 2, and wound up at a North Campus Co-ops bonfire, talking to some of our further-ex-housemates. Since I'd last visited or paid much attention to what was happening up there, a few members who had caused long-term friction within the house had left (not really voluntarily), Ren had filled up (though O'Keeffe was still rebuilding from the trauma), Falstaff appeared to be experiencing a new Golden Age, there had been notable physical improvements made to other suites, and the bonfire was the best attended I've seen in years. I spent the rest of the weekend being incredibly nostalgic.

Charming young scholar seeks ride to Detroit

Locals: A phd friend of ours is coming in from Boston for a week at the end of October to do some research at the Reuther archives at Wayne State. His original plan was to couch-surf in A2/Ypsi and take transit into Detroit, but we quickly disabused him of the notion that Southeast Michigan is a civilized area, so he's looking for a carpool.

If you or anybody you know commutes from Ann Arbor or Ypsi into the Wayne State area and would be willing to offer a ride for a few days, let me know, and I'll put you in touch.