WWVB : What Would Vannevar Blog?

NextBurgh, PA          @VannevarB      About      Pittsburgh Murals
December 13, 2015

Best Internet Truth of 2015

Best Internet Truth of 2015:

I still think we love our white savior stories
more than we love our black neighbors.

by Sue Kerr, who blogs at PghLesbian.com

December 06, 2015

Scared of Sarah; Carnegie is the next Lawrenceville

Saturday night I went to see a play in Carnegie - and left thinking that Carnegie is poised to be the next Lawrencevile.

My wife Karen and I went to see Scared of Sarah at the Carnegie Stage's Off the Wall Theater (website).

The three-actor plot begins with: Lily is putting husband Sam through college. They might be upwardly mobile and successful but it's tenuous; financially they're on the edge. Lily's older sister, Sarah, has a high-functioning autism that sometimes people don't recognize.

When Lily and Sarah's father dies, Lily steps into a semi-guardian role for Sarah. When Lily has an unexpected pregnancy, she fears that the child may be autistic (since her sister is) and struggles with the potential challenge.

Family differences, lost and found journals, past history and uncertain futures, security and dreams, all come into play in a deft, tightly woven narrative. This was an excellent play, in a great theater, with wonderful performances by the three actors: Erika Cuenca, Shaun Cameron Hall, Sara Silk.

One of the three characters has autism, but she's not "the autistic" as much as she's a character with autism along with her other dimensions. I have to say that Sara Silk's performance as Sarah was the best of the evening; a lot of physical work and an excellent portrayal without falling into caricature. All three actors turned in excellent performances. The play just shot forward and never let go.

The theater is a smaller house, very comfortable and accessible. I was really impressed that this was going on in Carnegie; this set, music, lighting, and performance would have easily stood among the downtown performances. (In fact, Ted Pappas was seated in the row behind us.)

The Off The Wall Theater has it's own key points: at least half of the plays are written by women, at least half of their plays are directed by women, they pay union wages starting at $15 to give their people a living wage. Twice a week they offer women a Gender Equity discount of 28% to reflect the disparity in incomes by gender.

"Scared of Sarah" was written by Laura Brienza, directed by Ingrid Sonnichsen, an Associate Professor at CMU.

Lots of folks talk about: What's the next Lawrenceville? and I think it's going to be Carnegie. First: it's located on the I376 Aerotropolis Artery, and I79. The other pleasant surprises I've had in Carnegie recently were brunch at Bakn and dinner at 131 East Main. Looks like an excellent coffee shop on the East Main Street plaza. Just saying.

December 02, 2015

Donald Trump and the Convention Delegate futures market: the biggest real estate deal ever

What does a real estate developer do? They purchase a significant property and either sit on it until it becomes much more valuable, or work on the property and environment until the property becomes much more valuable. Then the developer sells to a buyer at a premium. The Buyer believes that they will get more value out of the property than the purchase price.

Why does the developer sell to the Buyer, rather than keep it and just do whatever the Buyer is going to do? The developer has different skills and goals from the Buyer.

Why do both the Developer and Buyer participate and exchange fortunes for the property? Usually because there is a limited supply of it, and a changing economy makes it more valuable. Hence: land, which they're not making any more of.

Donald Trump is a developer who has pivoted into a new market which is also based on a commodity of fixed supply: Presidential Convention Delegates. Delegates are important, get to select the Party's candidate for the Presidency, and there's only a fixed supply of them. Imagine the economic advantages of cornering the market in Convention Delegates. It's a niche market but lucrative.

Consider if you will, that Trump is just building out his property (his share of the electorate) and developing it as an investment. He really doesn't want to be President; he's much better off simply selling the Presidency.

One of the advantages of running as a Developer rather than as a potential President is: you don't have to worry about delivering on promises, or about leading in an environment shaped by your statements. You can say things like "register the Muslims", "deport the Mexicans", etc - nothing's going to come out of that other than appreciation of the property.

Right now, the grueling Republican presidential primary is a slugfest - Rubio, Cruz, Dr. Carson, Trump bleeding each other. Imagine a walk-on candidate that arrives in the later stages of the primary (for instance, Mitt Romney). By skipping most of the slugfest, he's undamaged, serene, "tanned, rested, and ready" and he's been isolated from gaffes like "companies are people, my friend".

The Republican establishment - which is more interested in their organization than the United States, just like the toadies of any organization - is scared of Trump. They're going to want somebody to replace Trump. The stage is set; all that's to be done is negotiating the price.

Whoever meets the Donald's price will have a majority of convention delegates. Trump doesn't have to win the election; in return for about 18 months of speechifying, he'll get a large amount of money. Even if he only gets half of the Republican's advertising budget it's a great return on 18 months of self-indulgence and brand-building.

It would make sense to a financier like Romney. Trump is building a futures market for convention candidates. He's bundling them up, just like bundled derivatives. The Buyer, Romney, will find sufficient value in Trump's offering; he'd rather Trump did that work for him, and he believes he can do more with the Presidency than Trump.

Financiers are funny people, always working arbitrage on subtle effects at a grand scale. Once the Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United that Corporations could buy elections, it makes sense that one or more financial entities would start investing in election deliverables, offering complex products like bundled Convention delegates.

Trump will offer the Buyer a prepared theater; after Trump, Brand-X will seem like a reasonable, civilized Regular Joe. It's just like a Pro-Wrestling Tag Team (another TV product). There's no way that Jeb! Bush has prepared to beat a market developer like Trump; Bush is fighting last century's campaign while Trump is defining this century's campaign.

It doesn't have to be Romney; the great thing about real estate and mindshare is that eventually, somebody will pay you more for it than you paid, because they believe they can do more with it. The Donald is playing the game that Citizens United defined, and he's making it look easy. That's what Donald Trump does.

In a way, Trump is a real estate developer selling the biggest project ever: the United States.   Like a lot of Developer projects, this one will result in Gentrification - but Gentrification of America. The first Republican primaries are in nine weeks.

November 30, 2015

White-washing Pittsburgh's Yinzer version of Colorado Springs

On Thanksgiving, a cab driver picked up a fare at a casino and was driving him home to Hazelwood. The passenger started asking the brown-skinned driver, Are you a Muslim? Are you one of those Pakistani guys? Then the passenger made comments about the driver's religion. At the destination, the passenger said: please wait a minute, my wallet's inside. So he waited. The passenger came back out with a rifle. The driver took off, and was shot by the passenger.
  • How could this Thursday event not be covered in the media until Sunday? Could it be that it took a national press release by CAIR to call Pittsburgh media's attention?
  • There's video in the cab. The police know the address the cab-shooter lives at.
  • You might think the next point would be: how can this happen in Pittsburgh? but of course there's no surprise there. Pittsburgh is one of the least diverse cities in America.
  • Saturday night, a St. Clair police officer was killed in the line of duty. Monday morning, the shooter is in jail. Why the difference in response and arrests?
This is our own Yinzer version of Colorado Springs. The call by CAIR for federal inquiry means they don't trust local authorities to do it right. That's a wake-up call if anybody's listening.
November 25, 2015

Game Theory and Presidential Primaries

November 11, 2015

A Modest Proposal to fix Oakland Traffic using Existing Procedures

In the wake of three recent fatalities and known deficiencies in car traffic flow through Oakland, resulting in injuries and death for both cyclists and pedestrians, there have been many proposals to improve conditions. It's a complicated problem space because there are State roads, City roads, and once options start being described they may over-extend the scope and accrue political resistance.

Rather than inventing a new wheel, suppose we could use existing procedures to bring significant benefit to Oakland car safety? What if we could find an existing process that slows cars down around schools?

This defines school zones:

This bit of PA law 212.501 establishes school zones within the scope of 3365(b):

This is what 3365b says:

Fascinating to note that school zones are not limited to elementary or high schools, that they include areas where one side of the street is a school building, and that they extend to include bus stops students use for school.

This leads us, then, to ask: why not use existing laws and procedures to declare school zones around Pitt, CMU, and Carlow? Granted, it would only take effective for the hours when students are walking to-and-from class: probably Monday-Friday, 8am to 9pm (night classes). It might extend to Saturday if the analysis warrants that.

This would bring major improvement without the need for any new legislation or construction budget. Nobody would lose any existing parking. It would only need signage.

If Pittsburgh can legislate sick-days for large employers, and decriminalize marijuana, we can surely do this.