A milestone in my career as a bureaucrat!


Woo! I think I just earned my Municipal Employee merit badge!

I now have one person in the City who hates me enough to hang up the phone at the sound of my name and slam the door in my face when I go by in person!

Now, how should I celebrate this achievement?

Let your HDC be your ZBA?

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Zoning is often accepted by planners in a rather Churchillian fashion - acknowledged to be the worst land use planning tool out there, except for all the others. And, the older your building stock, the worse zoning gets - the existing assortment of buildings falls further and further behind current sensibilities of how to use land. One commonly recognized manifestation of this is in older residential neighborhoods where not a single house on the block could be rebuilt under current zoning if destroyed in a fire. (This was the case when the ICC lost Stevens House a few years ago. The emotional response was to rebuild it back, exactly as it was - but this would have violated the existing zoning in a dozen or more ways. We eventually sold the lot, for over $400,000, and it currently sits empty.)

iBook: Yay-but-oh-well

My nearly 4-year-old iBook has 4 times died the same death in that time, - a logic board failure that, thanks to the magic of AppleCare extended warranty, has been replaced swiftly and at no charge every time. The most recent time, approximately one year ago, I asked about Apple's lemon policy - since the same problem 4 times in under three years seems pretty silly. Their response was that the incidents had been too widely spaced to qualify, but one more in the next year, even after the end of my warranty, would get my laptop replaced with the in-production-at-the-time equivalent.

So, earlier this week, when my laptop died in a familiar fashion, I celebrated a bit - but quietly, and under a veneer of frustration, as I was in the middle of taking notes for a Historic District Commission meeting at the time. I called up AppleCare, ready to demand my replacement, but, as I was being transferred to a tech, rebooted once more and found the problem gone! The tech sympathized, and, after reviewing my file, said that I was a few days past my alloted year, but that, if the problem came back within 30 days, he could offer a free repair as in the past. I was given an e-mail address and phone extension for direct connection in that case.

bBlog -> Drupal database migration script


When I first started using bBlog, oh these many years ago, it was a promising young system in active development that I thought would be fun to help on. But that was the same time that I started grad school, and bBlog rapidly stagnated after that. For a while now, the only reason I've kept using it is because I wasn't willing to abandon yet another archive and start over with yet another empty system, virtually no bBlog -> other system conversions were found on Google, and there was always something more pressing to do that translate one MySQL database into another.

If it's greenwashing, it's the least compentent I've seen

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Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) are something I've been interested in for a while. Think of a mutual fund in which the things you hold are buildings - it's much easier to pretend your shares mean something when they're shares in physical buildings than in a corporation. (Remember, under the law, corporations are people. . .meaning that the stock market is a form of slavery? No, no. Don't think about it. Just play the game and ignore the ridiculousness.)

The problem with REITs, in my mind, is that there are exceptionally few real estate developers you could invest in under the mantle of "socially responsible investing", and the ones that do exist tend to be tiny. A socially and environmentally conscious developer will do one building every several years - while Pulte buys windows by the millions. Which one of these is publicly traded? And I can't exactly invest my IRA or 401(k) in small, responsible local developers, so, no real estate for me.

The extent of mod_rewrite...


Because of my desire to have blog.commonmonkeyflower.net and commonmonkeyflower.net/blog point to the same place, the way in which nexcess.net handles that, and my desire to have drupal use "clean urls", and the way in which drupal handles that, it seems a few requests Just Don't Work.

If you go to [www.]commonmonkeyflower.net/blog , you will end up in a page not found error. Adding a slash to the end of that, or a slash and some further internal page request, or going to blog.commonmonkeyflower.net, or anything except those two specific urls works.

Since my rss feed points peo

City Council on the Web

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For some time back, Scott has been pondering the possibility of hosting A2 City Council meetings on the web somehow. The concept is also discussed on the teeter with the other Scott. Certainly the idea is cool (especially Pop Up City Council), but I have my doubts about some of the more extreme hopes being placed in it.

In Ypsilanti, the civic technicians are a little more experimentalist. Steven Cherry posted occasional clips of meetings, alongside the very awesome automated police scanner recordings. Ypsi Councilman-elect Brian Robb has been pushing the idea of podcasting audio feeds of the Council meetings, which, as he notes, are frustratingly not available on CTN.

Surviving peak requires networking, darnit.

There's one really good line in Preparing for a Crash: Nuts and Bolts.

Before action one needs theory. My first suggestion in this regard is, if you’ve read three or more books on oil depletion, stop.

Well said. (And a reminder that I probably ought to stop reading books about how dumb our agricultural system is...)

The author then proceeds deep into Farnham's Freehold-worthy ridiculousness, unfortunately.

You need a place where you can be safe, far from the vast majority of people and out-of-sight, i.e. not a target for marauders (“marauders,” by the way, means hungry, desperate people, not bad people). This means a smallish house in the country with some outbuildings (for storage, food preserving operations, etc.). Yes, it’s hard to see an investment on that level, but see it as insurance. If Peak Oil and Collapse arrive, you’ve insured yourself. If not, you have a vacation house that is off-the grid and therefore has a higher resale value. I can’t go through the intricacies of finding and buying rural property, but look for something relatively isolated, out of view from the road, with a large woods (and swamp if possible) and some areas for gardening as well as an existing structure. Having acted, you now need to return to theory.

Migration to Drupal

You may think you've stumbled across the wrong site, if you're seeing this soon after I'm typing this. I finally got around to migrating my blog to something better than what I was using, and that something was Drupal. Woo. Hooray for supremely overpowered software.

Migrating the posts was the first focus, as I didn't want to (once again) completely abandon my old stuff. (I still have several previous blogs worth of content to salvage...) Appearance hasn't been done yet. Also, by some weirdness of htaccess I haven't hunted down yet, things work at www.commonmonkeyflower.net/blog, but not blog.commonmonkeyflower.net.

Organic is dead, long live local.

I've been reading and thinking a lot about food lately, which is not at all new, but two interesting things have happened recently.

First is that I've re-examined my vegetarian leanings and decided to start eating meat again, under certain, very limited conditions. I expect I'll still refer to myself as a vegetarian in most circumstances that I don't control the food, for simplicity's sake. Since my not eating of meat was always primarily economic/environmental in nature, followed by personal health and animal welfare, I'll eat meat if I know and approve of the conditions the animals were raised in, still with the focus on environmental concerns. (Though the other concerns are pretty highly correlated with the environmental.) This isn't easy, though, as I know enough about the current state "organic", "free range", "cage free", "vegetarian fed", and so forth to find these categories to not generally be well or strictly enough defined for me to base decisions on. Therefore, it takes personal knowledge of growing conditions, by me or by someone within my trust network, for me to eat a particular animal.

The second interesting-to-me food note of late is WalMart's decision to enter the organics market. On the one hand, I'd think this puts to rest pretty finally the idea that "organic food is elitist". (As if wanting to expect a reasonable degree of safety in your food was ever elitist...) On the other, though, plugging "organic" into the WalMart machine that redefines "good value" to mean simply "low cost", and strips away all values in the process, means that organic has completed the transition away from the peripheral meanings it once had. As Michael's been saying for years, there's nothing in the definition of "organic" that would strictly prohibit organic foods from being grown in China by slave labor, and the system has caught up with him.

Okay, cool. Right on. I'm happy that WalMart has gone organic - it means that organic has won its way into the hearts and minds of Americans as a reasonable expectation. Awesome. That means it's time for Phase 2, both to advance the cause of good food, and because most of the producers I consider to be vital to a healthy food economy have been priced out of the "organic" category into "no spray" and other unregulated (but often stricter) euphemisms. Fun.