Memo To Self:

When broccoli is really cheap at the Farmer's Market, there's probably a reason.

Oh well: three heads of broccoli into the compost bin. I had been trying to trim away the nastier parts on previous ones… probably a level of not wanting to waste food imbued in me by my mom. She was born in 1934, so her formative years were during- and post-war Japan, which was a pretty bad period of privation for the civilian population: she told stories of her family roasting grasshoppers for food. But as I was trimming off some of the mushier flower tips, I noticed that there was still brown inside of that cut. [slice] still brown [slice] still brown [slice]. Hmm. [Toss].

Ah the compost bin… the physical manifestation of my failures in pantry planning. Note that it's been cold enough all winter that there's basically a freeze-thawed pile of recognizable vegetable scraps in the compost bin… I can make out carrot peels, apple cores, the guts of a butternut squash, turnip skins, and… wait… is that a finger?

Kidding. Sorry.

The weather for the past two days has been spectacular—highs of 60 F/16 C yesterday; high close to 70 today. However, it's way outside of the climate norms. A bit worrisome.

As for getting things done, the conference paper review is done, on time--one item down. I think I overdid the job: I wrote about 3000 words of criticism on a 4400 word paper. Hope it makes it a better paper though--they had some ridiculously bad figures. They were an example of 'it makes sense to us running the research, so it must make sense to everyone else.' Thus, a set of electrical panels labelled 'Panel 1,' 'Panel A,' and 'Panel 1A.' (As opposed to having useful labels like, say, 'House Loads' or 'Experimental Equipment Panel.' Grr). I guess this is what happens when engineers write papers. Also, I found some of the papers that I need for my project, and hell, it's Friday night: I guess things aren't that bad. And the gin & tonic doesn't hurt.


List Goes Up, List Goes Down

Knocked a few things off my list, but dstress/dT is positive now, since we're winding up the term.

As for items off the list: finished grading the quiz for the class I'm TAing, and put together the solution set. That was a nice weight off my back. Literally--it was getting annoying to lug that pile back and forth between home and school.

Another item off my list: went to H&R Block this week; submitted my taxes for completion (both US and Canadian)--but I'm not looking forward to either the H&R Block bill or the IRS bill. I made a fair chunk of money doing consulting last year, so I know that a significant part of that (1/3 to 1/2) will be going away.

Although classes are officially over at my school, I am by no means off the hook for the semester. First of all, there's a final assignment and final exam to grade for my advisor's class.

Second, the conference I've submitted a paper to has the review deadline and the revision deadline within this window. Grr.

Third and most importantly, the class I'm taking in Toronto doesn't wrap up for a few weeks yet: it has a final project and an exam. The professor is an emeritus, so he put all the eggs into those two baskets... yikes. I'm psyched and interested in my project (Retrofitting older masonry wall assemblies with interior insulation, and the hygrothermal effects--see this CMHC website for sample papers), and I'm pretty sure I'll do a good job. The project is an example of why I came to grad school--it is a topic that I've always been interested in, and this project has let me explore it in more rigorous detail. But given that it is due in two weeks, of course I'm stressing about it.

Enh. End of term always sucks. I find it hard to believe that in three weeks, I will have taken all the classes I need for my master's degree. Yikes. Then, on to writing my thesis...


Little Victories

It's always surprised me how much a little turn of productivity, or lack thereof, can have on my overall mood. For instance, on Wednesday, I took about two hours to do fifteen minutes of work, wasted time reading nytimes.com in the office, and simultaneously broke a component I was working on and put a gash in my thumb. I then went home, started drinking, and cursed at my spreadsheets into the evening.

In contrast, I spent this morning putting together solutions for grading exams in the class I'm TAing. Then, all the pieces came together on project that I've been working on, and as of that evening, it was up and running.

In case you're wondering, it's a temperature and humidity-controlled enclosure that we use in our lab for materials testing. Yes, it's a Coke fridge--that plus ABS plumbing pipe, lights, a muffin fan, a fishtank heater, and a $150 controller get you an environmental testing chamber. It has been on the back burner of my project list for close to a year; it's a little surprising how much of a relief it is to be done with it.

Now, well, back to the semester--lots of grading, and the term project is due in three weeks--time to get my ass in gear.

Oh yeah... first, time to start drinking. It is Friday after all.

Where to Live: Short, mid and long term

I'm continuing to spend unhealthy amounts of time speculating about my living arrangements when I return to Boston. I checked in with Judy (my former landlady) to determine the upcoming status of her tenants; she said the people currently living on the third floor (my former digs) are moving out at the end of May. However, that won't work with my schedule--unless, for some reason, somebody needs a two-bedroom Cambridge apartment for June through December this year. So, I'll likely be renting in the Cambridge-Somerville area, relatively close to Porter Square.

In the middle term, as I mentioned earlier, I am considering buying in Somerville, in the area of the proposed Green Line extension. Mapping software helped me start to narrow down my search, by adding various data points to the map: walking distances, proposed subway stops, etc. I needed some background metrics to scale my distances: for instance, the walk from the Roost to either Porter or Davis is about a half mile (narrow red lines). The twenty-minute walk I do to school every day is about a mile, and I would be happy doing a walk like that as a commute. My company is opening an office in Somerville near Porter, so that forms the basis of the 1-mile radius circle (shown in blue).

I then cross-referenced this map with a map of rental prices in Somerville, from the Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership website. Assuming that rental prices and property prices follow similar trends, it seems like the area near Highland is pretty promising. I do have some worries about being stuck in a wasteland for many years before gentrification starts to set in; the next step would be walking around areas of the map, to see how they look nowadays. Of course, there are a lot of 'what ifs' here, including when the Green Line extension actually happens, where the stops are placed, whether I end up in a comfortable rental situation, and the state of the housing market.

Speaking of which, the current news ("New Home Sales Plummet in February") suggests the bubble is notably slowing down, and actually contracting. Not surprisingly, the Economist called it pretty accurately in June 2005: "It is impossible to predict when prices will turn. Yet turn they will. Prices are already sliding in Australia and Britain. America's housing market may be a year or so behind." Sounds like a good time to wait it out, and see what happens.

Incidentally, does anyone understand the housing market and mortgages enough to answer this question: (and this is coming from someone who listens to Marketplace all the time): to a homebuyer, in terms of overall cost, will a drop in house prices typically get eaten up by the (usual) associated rise in interest rates? Has anyone seen good calculations or trend projections? I assume it might depend on the type of mortgage, down payment, etc. My Google-Fu was weak, given that having 'mortgage' in your search field causes a major increase in spam factor. I'm mostly just wondering whether looking forward to a drop in net housing prices is just fooling myself or not, given the conflicting effects of price and interest rates.

Finally, in the very long term, another article on global warming gave me general pause ("Climate Data Hint at Irreversible Rise in Seas"):

One team, using computer models of climate and ice, found that by about 2100, average temperatures could be four degrees higher than today and that over the coming centuries, the oceans could rise 13 to 20 feet.

I've long ago digested the whole global warming-rising sea levels relationship: check out these maps showing the effects of sea level rise from the Nova/Frontline documentary "What's Up with the Weather?" But thinking about buying property makes you ponder the long-term viability of a location. I actually bothered to briefly look up Somerville elevations; Google gave me answers from 12 to 46 feet. Also, there's an EPA website that has some cool maps. However, it's all a bit irrelevant: does it matter that your first floor is above water if your basement, not to mention everything that makes Boston a great town, is flooded? Based on that map, it seems like a 1.5 meter/5 foot rise in sea levels would wipe out the Back Bay, the Institvte, Logan Airport, and Revere Beach.

As a final note, the idea of living in a city that I love, with easy access to mass transit, and a great job within walking distance sounds just too ideal to be true. Perhaps my sights are a bit low—many people would point my lack of getting hooked up as a great big negative. However, I have to return to my zero-sum world philosophy—if one portion of my life sucks that much, the rest of it should be pretty good to make up for it. It's like Click and Clack's French car ownership theory: the massive misery caused by the maintenance, breakdowns, and strandings from owning a French car means that the rest of your life will be pleasant and stress-free. It feels like tipping that balance, by adding one more positive item, would tempt karma to piss in my Cheerios.

Then again, I could probably find someone who makes me miserable, and that should keep it all in balance. Heh.


Food Geekery: Roast Garlic

I recently bought a bunch of garlic at the farmer's market, and was wondering what to do with it. Then I remembered that roast garlic is very tasty, and it works both as a spread on bread as well as an ingredient in other dishes.

Second, I realized that the toaster oven is a pretty easy method to make roast garlic--you're not cooking enough mass to warrant heating up the whole oven, and you can quickly prep it--an hour later, yummy. It was an 'oh duh' moment to me--I think I will be doing this more often from now on; I'm hoping I lower other people's activation energies with this suggestion.

For those of you who don't have a recipe, I use the one from Kimball's Cook's Bible:

1 head garlic
1 teaspoon olive oil

Heat oven to 350 F. Remove loose, papery outer layer of skin. Cut a half-inch off the top of the garlic head. Place garlic in a square of aluminum foil, and drizzle with the oil. Close the foil tightly, place package in oven, and cook for about 1 hour. Remove from oven. When pressed, the roasted garlic cloves will emerge from the top of the head.

[Note: in addition to squeezing out the heads, Jen pointed out that you can extract them pretty well using a butterknife.]


Yeah, What They Said...

There was an article from MarketWatch magazine (Bigger houses bring energy woes: Efficient materials, appliances have limited cost effects) that echoes things that I wrote about in my post on house energy efficiency: efficiency measures are good, but first, build your house smaller if you want to have an effect. Also, it seems like consumers are still pretty clueless about this truth. As it states in the article:

Research suggests utility costs rank low among homebuyers' priorities. But after a winter of bigger bills, some spring buyers may want to consider the additional long-term energy costs they may incur by going big and look for energy-efficient features.

"I don't think the average homebuyer is considering that," said Marshall Eames, assistant professor of environmental science at DePaul University in Chicago. "They're more worried about does it have a deck or an island in the kitchen."

Then again, most of my readers are probably in agreement with my line of thought, so this really doesn't change much.

In other news, it appears that Blogger has broken its photo posting feature: I've been trying to send photos of the biggest power strip I've ever seen, with no success. [Edit: looks like they fixed it. Will post matching descriptions to the photos soon.]

Finally, in an astoundingly wonderful piece of news, I had a conversation with my former employer, and they are planning on opening a 'satellite office' in Somerville. Since I'm planning on returning to work for them, so this made me incredibly happy. The single thing that I was dreading the most about returning to my old job was going back to 45 minutes of driving each way, instead of 20 minutes of walking. I have gotten used to my low carbon/low car use/high walking lifestyle here in a Canadian university town, it has been great for environmental, financial, mental health, and physical health reasons.

Kensington Market

I have class once a week at the University of Toronto; my colleagues and I usually go out to lunch after class. This week, we headed over to the Kensington Market part of town, which is west of Chinatown. A somewhat overenthusiastic writeup of the area gives a good pocket description:

Kensington Market is Toronto at its best: ferociously independent, enchantingly eclectic, culturally diverse, touristically tolerant, racially inclusive, class sensitive, ever changing. Savour the spirited open-air commerce now almost vanished everywhere but here, in the densely peopled, hectic retail and residential district of Kensington. There is a place – and a taste – for everyone in Kensington.

The Market is no neat theme park of Shopping Past. It is a living, bruising, sweaty history. Elbowing your way through the mob on a sunny Saturday morning is probably as tough today as it was in the early 1920s, after Jewish merchants had established the thriving open-air market.

My reaction: it's a neat market neighborhood, and it feels like a chunk of 'real city.' It was a good place to pick up fresh cheap produce from streetside stalls, and to find specialty foods (mmm… tasty stinky Stilton). We ate at an excellent taqueria (El Trompo): the platter of tacos reminded me of the ones I had in a Mexican eatery in Tucson—four small soft corn tortillas, with chopped pork and melted cheese. It's definitely a neighborhood I want to walk around in and explore in the future.

Now That's a Power Strip

Hope this one is a smile for a Friday for most of you: I was at the local electronics geek store yesterday, and saw this twist-lock 220 V power strip on the shelf. It would have very high alpha-geek appeal... for those of you with 220 V twist-lock plugs in your house.


Going off on a Light Tangent

During Bird and Jen's visit, Jen asked a question about lighting and efficiency (incandescents, fluorescents, and halogens). It got me reading through some of the background material on lighting efficiency; I thought it was interesting enough to warrant another energy post.

Jen's original question was, "how efficient are halogen bulbs, and can I feel a little less bad about using them instead of compact fluorescents?" I didn't know the answer offhand--I thought they were a bit more efficient than regular incandescents, but didn't know the number.

First, a bit on the technology of halogens, which I found pretty interesting (you might not find it interesting, but hey, it's my blog). Instead of having a tungsten filament in a vacuum (say, the same old technology from 1906), or in an inert atmosphere, the bulb is filled with a halogen gas, such as bromine or iodine. As a result, when a portion of the filament gets thinner (due to evaporation of the filament material) it is preferentially re-deposited at those thin spots, making the filament 'self healing.' This lets you run the bulb at a much higher temperature (that would destroy normal bulbs too quickly), thus, the nice pretty white light that you get out of halogen lamps. This was gleaned from a Wikipedia page, incidentially.

So, what's the efficiency, then? Well, that's not typically the metric used for lighting. A good explanation-in-a-nutshell is further down that same page (efficiency and efficacy of incandescent light bulbs). It has a table with efficacy of lights, in terms of lumens (visible light energy units) output per watt (energy unit) of input, which is pretty much what we want to know. So, typical values are:

Incandescents: 12-18 lumens/Watt
Halogens: 16-25 lumens/Watt
Fluorescents: 45-60 lumens/Watt
Light-emitting diodes: 60-100 lumens/Watt (prototypes)

So it seems to me that my original guess was right (halogens are a bit more efficient), but that the difference between them and fluorescents is huge.

To look at it another way, incandescent bulbs are turning 2% of the incoming energy into light, and fluorescents are up at 8%. So incandescents are basically space heaters that also produce a little bit of light on the side. This is assuming that the theoretical maximum efficacy is 683 lumens/Watt.

Also, to think of lumens/Watt in another useful sense, the maximum efficacy (according to that Wikipedia page) would be 95 lumens/Watt, given that any real material would radiate in the infrared and UV spectrum, as well as visible light. However, that would require a filament the same temperature as the sun... a slight engineering challenge.

Another problem that I have noted with halogens in use is the fact that they are often used to crank up the lighting to higher levels than used before. Just think about those 200-500 Watt halogen torchieres, and what wattage lighting was in that room before. So if you're a bit more efficient, but you're burning more light, you might end up with the same performance, or even worse. It's a bit like the way that people hear that cream cheese has fewer calories than butter, so as a result, they slather on a 1/2" thick slab of cream cheese on their bagels.

Of course, the problem with compact fluorescents is the light quality; it's sometimes referred to as color temperature (in degrees Kelvin: equivalent temperature of radiating body), or in CRI (color rendering index)--I think the latter is a more useful metric. The CRI is a scale from 0-100; an incandescent bulb is around 95, while a sodium vapor highway lamp is near 20. One noticeable things is that there's more of a range for fluorescent bulbs: see that CRI page--they range from around 60 to close to 90.

That's one important thing to realize when criticizing CFLs: the cheap ones really do suck, trust me. But nicer ones, like GE Genura (for recessed cans, see picture below), and Panasonics are much better than Happy-Elephant-Brand-Made-In-Mainland-China-And-Sold-At-Big-Orange CFLs. I installed these Genuras (82 CRI) in the can lights back at Pemberton Street, and I was very happy with them--pretty similar color to the overhead halogen in the kitchen. I also had the misfortune of installing cheaper CFLs in my current apartment, and the color rendering is just bloody ugly ("daylight bulb" my ass, thank you very much.) Therefore, my kitchen has one incandescent and one CFL bulb, to keep from being completely depressing.

As a final note about CFLs: when trying them out, you should realize that they take a little while to warm up--maybe about 30 seconds to a minute. So the wan initial light is not what you should be evaluating them on.



Yay! Bird and Jen are coming to visit me! It's Jen's spring break this week, so they'll be up today, Monday, and Tuesday. I figure I have a little bit of free time, so I'll actually be able to blow off work for a few days, hang out with them, and show them this town and Toronto.

Bank Fraud

Yesterday, on my way to the local farmer's market, I stopped by an ATM to grab some cash. The message showed up, "You have exceeded your limit for withdrawals." WTF? I tried this at a second ATM and got the same answer.

I looked up my recent transactions online when I got home, and found that there were two unauthorized withdrawals: one from an ATM for $500, and an 'account transfer' for $481. I immediately called the bank, and they put a freeze on it.

I think that I will get the money reimbursed all right, after they do an investigation.

It just scares me, because right now, I don't know where my security was compromised. I have never lost a bank card; I don't know if some merchant might have done a double-swipe of my card to get the account number, then saw me type in my PIN. Or it is also possible that my computer account is compromised, which has me really worried. I guess I'll check in on this on Monday, when I will head into the bank and try to straighten everything out.

A bit creepy, and a bit annoying. But I figure it should turn out all right. The wife for one of my coworkers works for the bank where I have my account, so I'm sure she can help me out, within reason.


Crudsicle #5

Crudsicle #5
Anonymous (Canadian)
Ice, crud, mixed media (really... we don't want to know)

A pretty big thaw has come to the area: the past few days, even nighttime temperatures did not go below freezing.

<Wallace Shawn>Inconceivable!</Wallace Shawn>

That's ridiculously warm weather for the beginning of March for this area. Don't worry--according to the forecast, though, we'll get our butts kicked again in a week or so. But it goes in the catalog of continued-anecdotal-evidence-of-global-warming.

I looked through personals section of the local CraigsList, and saw the following one:

White female looking for Asian or Black men (casual dating) - 30: Athetlicly [sic] built white female, 5'4", blonde, looking for casual dating with guys of Asian or Black heritage. Prefer decent looking and decent shaped guy for general dating fun (nothing serious and sex not necessarily a guarantee, but may be an option!)

First, anyone who dates based on ethnicity like that gives me the willies. Second, I was wondering--am I being paranoid when I read this ad as:

Local race-hatred group looking for potential Black or Asian victim. Must be available for beat-downs and possible maiming or mutilation (not necessarily a guarantee, but may be an option!). Weekend and night availability a plus.

Well, perhaps not too paranoid, considering this article in the local newspaper on a 2001 racially-motivated murder.


Nonlinear Rooster Sauce Consumption!

Back this past September, I wrote a little story about how I could track time spent in-country via my consumption of chili-garlic sauce. I concluded that another 8-oz bottle should last me another year.

Oops. Evidently, my rate of consumption has increased: this one only lasted five months. I will be here another ten months or so.

I guess I need to buy a bigger bottle. Anyway, if I have some left over, I'm sure Dan and Daniel will take it--right guys?

As a random aside: my digital camera just came back from repairs! It's actually been gone since New Year's--I don't suppose people have noticed the large fraction of scanned documents and web-sourced graphics for the past two months...

How Many GM Executives Does It Take...

When I read the paper, I mentally collect stories of how Ford and GM are going down the toilet. My reaction is, well, not happiness, but a sense that they well and truly deserve their fate. There have been loads of stories on how GM is straining under their pension and health care obligations, how their products are not selling despite incentive offers, and how SUVs (i.e., the profit base for the Big Three) are declining in popularity, thank god. The story I saw today was "G.M. to Sell Bulk of Stake in Japan's Suzuki".

Basically, GM is selling about $2 billion of shares in Suzuki Motor of Japan, which drops their stake in Suzuki from 17% to 3%. They are doing this, obviously, to increase their cash supply during their current difficulties: To get cash to rebuild in North America, GM has been selling off assets, including equity alliances made with Asian carmakers during better days back in the 1990's. In October, GM sold its entire one-fifth stake in another Japanese automaker, Fuji Heavy Industries, maker of Subaru autos.

One quote stood out to me: Troy Clarke, president of GM's Asia-Pacific operations, said the sale would reap GM a pre-tax profit of $550 million to $750 million. Considering we have been hearing about how GM has lost money at astounding rates (equivalent to hundreds of dollars a second, if you average it out over the quarter), this seems to be a promising way for GM to make money: invest in other car companies. Ouch.

Okay, a cheap shot, but I have historical reasons to dislike Ford and GM. Exhibit one, below: the original BatMobile: a sky-blue, 1979 four-cylinder piece-of-crap commuter model Mustang. Well, with four cylinders, it was honestly more a gelding than a mustang.

Note: the cattle horns were not a permanent fixture; they were a temporary loan from Beef

This was my car for high school and college; it ate up transmissions on a semi-regular basis. One memorable failure was when the headlight switch on the drive from New York to Boston went intermittent. I spent the entire drive hunched over, pressing on the switch to keep the headlights on. The car also left me stranded on two separate occasions: once in Connecticut (slept in the car overnight; broken timing belt), and on Soldier's Field Road at 3 AM on the way back from IHOP (gave up on the car after that).

My family owned another Ford: a 1976 Granada (V-8, power steering, boat). It had a pretty similar reliability record; as a kid, I remember the route we took to the dealership repair shop all too well. The only reason my family didn't think that we were getting ripped off is that we had a goddamn French car before that.

So… my parents bought themselves a Toyota Camry in 1986, and it's still in good shape (twenty years later). I know that the Big Three automakers have vastly improved their quality. But I still feel justified in holding a grudge.

Most of my experience with GM has been via rental cars, and I have frankly been underwhelmed. I don't know how many of my readers are old enough to remember how GMs used to have two different keys: one for the door and trunk, and the other for the ignition. I always thought this was idiotic: you'll need to give a valet both keys; it doesn't really help security. I found out the reason why: GM used to make all of their steering columns at a central plant, complete with the ignition assembly. They could not manage the logistics to key the ignition the same as the body locks—thus, two keys. Oy. Also, I think they were the last automaker left using single-cut keys (notches on only one side, instead of up-down symmetric). Just another example of their flair for competence. But don't worry—they managed to catch up after a few decades or so.

In a related vein, one of my friends got his master's degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan. He told me that there were typically a group of engineers whose sole ambition was to go work for the Big Three. And they were typically the ones at the bottom of the class, who he wouldn't trust to design plastic cutlery molds.

The Big Three automakers always seemed to be the paragon of corporate arrogance and blindness. For instance, Toyota and Honda threw their energies into developing hybrid cars, while GM dismissed them and concentrated on cranking out profitable SUVs. Well, it's looking a bit like a dinosaurs-and-mammals situation at this point: if you don't evolve... (mmm... tasty dinosaur eggs...)

As a final point, my childhood was in the 1970's and 80's, which was probably the height of the anti-Japanese sentiment in automaking cities and the UAW. The degree of racism and threatened violence in the prevalent attitudes had a lasting impression on me, as captured on picket signs, slogans chanted by striking workers, Japanese-car-demolition events, etc. I don't suppose many non-Asians are familiar with the Vincent Chin case: Chinese-American beaten to death with a baseball bat by two unemployed autoworkers who thought he was Japanese. They each received three years probation. Given the degree of hate displayed by some the workers of the auto industry, I don't have many qualms about avoiding their product.

As a postscript, I don't know how "randoms" read my blog; it's quite possible that there's a reader who is from an autoworker family or something. If it makes you feel better to write a pissed-off screed, well, feel free. But it's not going to change my mind, or the mind of the majority of my friends: I flipped through my address book, and could associate only a small handful of US-made cars (mostly Saturns). That pattern is unlikely to change.


Suburbia, Movies, and Downtown

There was a showing at the University of the film The End of Suburbia--I've wanted to see it ever since it came out. It was mostly information that I was pretty familiar with (the suburban way of life is completely dependent on cheap oil; peak oil will put a damper on that; there is a huge amount of infrastructure invested in the suburbs; New Urbanism as an alternative). But it did a pretty nice job of presenting all of that information succinctly and understandably, with a fair amount of entertainment. It featured talking heads that included James Howard Kunstler, author of Home from Nowhere, Matthew Simmons (Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy), and Steve Andrews (an energy consultant in Colorado that I've worked with before--nice guy). If any of you want a primer in the current train of thought on peak oil and development, it's definitely worthwhile. It might be an extreme viewpoint, but I don't think it can be completely dismissed.

My advisor takes a slightly contrarian view: sure, fuel prices will rise as we pass peak oil. But there won't be some calamitous loss of available energy: economics will pull other sources forward. The larger problem that he sees, however, is that the rise in energy prices will be used as an excuse to use some of the most polluting forms of energy without restraint (e.g., coal). As another example of how oil prices might not affect everyday living, he pointed out that the cost of crude oil makes up only a portion of the price of gasoline (less than half, according to this Energy Information Administration website).

But still, the movie definitely makes me want to buy a place in a walkable/public transit available downtown city area sometime soon. And maybe pull a bunch of my money out of the stock market, just in case.

Speaking of downtown cities, this graph was in The Atlantic Monthly's Primary Sources section, originally based on this study:

U.S. downtowns—roughly, the central section of a city—started regaining inhabitants only fifteen years ago, but they’ve been getting younger and better educated for a generation, according to a Brookings Institution study of forty-four cities. The share of downtowners with a bachelor’s degree climbed from 15 to 45 percent between 1970 and 2000, and the proportion of those aged twenty-five to thirty-four rose from 13 to nearly 25 percent. ... These trends vary wildly from city to city, however: for example, nearly 65 percent in Boston’s “fully-developed downtown” boast a bachelor’s degree, but in Phoenix’s “slow-growing downtown” just 15 percent have one. And for every “emerging downtown” like Denver’s, where the home ­ownership rate in 2000 was over 35 percent, there’s a “declining downtown” like Cincinnati’s, where only 1 percent of residents own their homes.

First, it's cool that "more people like me" are moving towards downtown cores. Second, I think that I have read that educated people are often the belweather in trends--so maybe more people will be shifting in this direction. Here's hoping.


More updates

I am happy to say that the paper for this conference in August is now submitted and in the can; it is off of my plate until comments come back in early April. That means I have a bit of breathing space: my end of term (final and term paper) are not due until mid-April. Not that I'm planning on relaxing that much: although it feels like I'm caught up on laundry and cleaning, I'm sure I'll get busy soon.

I spent this afternoon on a walk around the area; weather was positively balmy (read: above freezing and sunny), so I took advantage of it. I took a bunch of pictures of a warehouse that they're turning lofts near my place.

They're doing a pretty thorough gut job of the place: two of the sides are just the street-side-facade wall, with nothing behind it. But it's pretty cool that they're reusing industrial buildings; they are currently developing a lot of Uptown (the city center), which is promising for this city. However, the building is right next to a brewery, and there was a strong malty cooked-porridge smell today--I don't mind it, but I can imagine it being annoying after a while.

On a different topic, during a previous walk in sub-freezing temperatures, I came across four Canada geese who were honking loudly at each other, standing around the frozen edge of a pond. I could just imagine the goose-to-English translation: ...so I said, let's wait until it gets a bit warmer to migrate, but nooo, he's like, 'Let's get up there early, so we can beat the crowds.' So who's gonna get started pecking through the ice today?..."

Another fun random item: I went to my favorite local bakery for my afternoon get-out-of-the-house coffee and snack break. I was there about closing time, and the baker gave me a free loaf of sourdough bread that they hadn't sold off (it was smaller than normal). Cool!

After taking a slice out of it, though, I had to play with my food:

Well, anyway, back to grading.