Friday, July 27, 2007

Some quick math . . .

In 2003, "President" George W. Bush dedicated $1.2 billion to research on Hydrogen Fuel Cells and their application in the automobile industry.

If that money had been invested into purchasing solar panels, even at today's slightly higher costs, and the government had simply given them away (assuming industries would be willing to assume the slight capital costs of wiring, transforming, etc.) there would now be more than 247MW of free additional clean energy on the market. Thats enough to power somewhere between 160,000 and 200,000 houses according to one site.

That is assuming that the government had just given solar panels away. Without expecting anything in return on a $1.2 billion investment. This is rudimentarily equivalent to investing in hydrogen fuel cells for automobile use when institutions and corporations have both already found better, more efficient, and more economical (and less fantastic) alternatives to modernizing our transportation infrastructure.

But of course when the government gives things to businesses, they can get things in return. Useful things. Like the reinvestment in the American city. Or compromises on more transparent fiduciary practices. Or even a guarantee to wear yellow hats on Thursday. They'd be saving a fuck-ton of money.

non-academic and purely anecdotal sources:

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Why We Love Jim McGreevey

Following the massive blackout on August 14th, 2003 that interrupted 7 states and over 50 million people, we find this little gem in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

"As they awaken this morning, commuters into New York must decide whether going back to work is worth the hassle. Gov. McGreevey urged New Jersey residents to forget it.

'Go down to the Jersey Shore and have a great weekend,' he said."

Now that's leadership.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Philadelphia: City for Hedonists!

It is no surprise when a person decides to follow their ambitions and finds themselves in a roach-ridden studio in New York, or Los Angeles. It is a surprise when their wildest dreams bring them to Philadelphia. New York, the city that never sleeps, is globally known for being the center of business, commerce, advertising, and multitudinous other activities. L.A. is where you go to be famous, and there is no argument that it is almost always the best way. Philadelphia on the other hand, is the center of . . .

Absolutely nothing. And perhaps this is why everyone in Philadelphia hates everything so much. I learned to read cities in New York, where we have an image for being hostile, cynical, depressed and allover unpleasant people. This reputation isn't undeserved--it doesn't take very long in a city with no sleep to get a bit grumpy. Hell, look at the name of this blog! But New York is a veritable candy land (with unicorns and pixies) next to Philadelphia's characteristic 'go get 'em' malice. In my few weeks experience, Philadelphians have been consistantly ruder and meaner than New Yorkers. Even the local news-media wears the sarcastic and spiteful slant of the Philadelphia layperson like some perverted badge. What other city boos their own sports teams, or counts down until they reach a record number of losses? What other city's paper begins an article about a home-town band with an insult, then goes on to tell when they're playing?

Almost unnoticed, however, are a few ambitions particularly well served by Philadelphia's self-loathing pessimism. These are the hedonists. Specifically, those people whose only goal in life is to drink away the part of the day that they cannot sleep away. These people are very well served by Philadelphia's extensive b.y.o.b. restaurant market and odd laws that seemingly encourage buying more beer than one wants. When one realizes that the opportunities open to them are extremely limited because of the city they live in, they are forced to focus their attention on the immediate--the here and the now--so they head over to the bar.

This is not an entirely negative phenomenon. There is some productive industry which may arise out of the ashes of alcohol and drug abuse, dead end jobs, and excessive sleep. For those who self-consciously seek depravity as an art form, or as an expression, Philadelphia may be just the perfect scene. I speak, of course, of the hipsters, the burgeoning resurgence of young middle-class white kids who seek to live in hopeless squalor for irony's sake. The lower east side had them. Williamsburg has them. And sure as shit, Philadelphia's got them.

But wait, I said 'productive industry'! Surely, I don't consider lazing about drinking PleeBR and snorting coke productive industry?! Ah, but ye of little faith. The shadowy forces of 'cool' and 'not cool' are both destructive and life-giving, but they are as fickle as they are quick. Williamsburg is officially 'not cool'. New York's only outerborough whose rents are as high as the village has not been helped by the fungus of high-rise condos and subway ads that advertise them that sprung up overnight. But what did in Williamsburg (and the East Village 10 years prior) was the arrival en masse of Yipsters. Thats right, Yipsters. Yuppie-Hipsters. People with jobs that are actually going somewhere, but in desperate attempt to hang on to youth, live far below their means (at least in the beginning). These people generally work white-collar office jobs and have a good sense for cool, but rather follow cool rather than create it. They also tend to pay more and more rent over time. More importantly, they have ambition. The drive to be something more than what one already is is distinctly missing from Philadelphia, and it has shown.

My claim is that ambitionless scene-obsessed trust-funders could save Philadelphia, or at least they could set off the chain of events which leads to her rejuvenation. The influx of a young 'creative class' would reverse the old trend of flight to the suburbs caused by a 5% income tax and unnecessarily high crime. The mechanism by which this might work is the peculiar desire of well-off young people to look poor. Perhaps it is a passing fad--this decade's style. Perhaps it is an instinctual rejection of omnipresent corporate advertising or the cloying materialism of middle class life. Who knows?

Sunday, July 8, 2007

New: Campaign!

Sometimes things are truly broken and need to be fixed. Sometimes things don't really matter that much, but people choose to fix them anyway. In the latter case, the opportunity is open for a good old fashioned campaign!

The way I figure it, campaigns have a storied history of much ado about nothing, but for some reason stay popular. Since we're not going to band together to solve (or even rationally discuss) the problems of climate change, world poverty (unless you call doing what George Clooney or Bono says 'solving'), growing ethnic conflict, and the increasing gap between the rich and the poor, we may as well target things that mildly annoy us. With this spirit of self-righteous vigor, I officially announce my campaign against redundant multi-lingual cognate signage!

This is not an attack on multi-lingual signage per se; it is important that public instructions function for the public that they are intended for. Furthermore, it is better to be inclusive, as anything which merits saying must have enough value to be heard (at least so we'd hope . . .). Rather, this campaign is against signs which might, in the interest of universal accessibility, blatantly and egregiously disregard human intellect. Specifically, if a sign repeats in a second or third language a word so close to the original that it actually hurts your mental development, I ask you to campaign against it. What methods of campaigning should you engage in? Be creative! Perhaps a smug chortle, or a disrespectful "p'shaw" would accomplish the goal. Carry around a sharpie for offenders whose scale and isolation lend themselves to mocking graffiti. In some cases, you might find it necessary to chain yourself to the infractious signage with an equally redundant sign (for ironic purposes) stating your complaint hung about your neck. After all, no campaign is successful until the attention it draws completely overshoots the legitimacy of the complaint.

An important (importante) note regarding this campaign is the rule by which we judge which signage is helpful, and which signage is actually destroying your brain. Signs, by nature, are made available to prevent you from having to think. Telling you which way to the bathroom is handy in an airport when people don't have time to get inside the airport designer's head and deduce where he might have thought ideal bathroom locations might be. Even more, the sign on the huge industrial machine that says "don't press this button unless you intend to spill thousands of gallons of acid into the river which serves as chief source of drinking water for greater Philadelphia" serves as an extra reminder to the machine's operator, even if he has been operating the machine for twenty-five-odd years and knows full well every last in and out of the machine. In the latter case, there is less evil done, as even a thousand years of exposure to such signage would not outdo the horrors of one mistake.

This is not true of all signs, however. When we become trained to be dependent upon signage, we forfeit that part of our conscious that is constantly exploring. By assuming that there will be signs to tell us the right way to go, or thing to do, we cease to consider which way would make the most sense, or even allow new inputs to change what we had previously set out to accomplish. In the case of multi-lingual signage, the effort that it may take to interpret a word that is off by only a few characters will certainly flex parts of your brain in beneficial ways, even if it is done subconsciously.

Where do we draw the line for the case of translation? Clearly, the huge machine should be labeled in Spanish as well, but the sign that directs one how to mount toilet paper need not say "IMPORTANT/IMPORTANTE." When does a sign encourage you to think, and when does it bug you? The choice is yours! Sure a structured approach could probably find a rule based on the degree of similarity between two words might make a sign easily translated or not, but this is a campaign, and if we actually accomplished our goal, we'd have nothing left to be angry about! Reason and discourse have no place here. Sharpies out!