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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.

November 05, 2015

We Wish You a Meta-Christmas

No, I don't want this for Christmas. I don't need one. But wow! The price.

I paid $750 for a color HP Deskjet when they first came out, and it kind of sucked and in fact I took it back. You couldn't do color printing with black; you could print colors and there'd be a pseudo-black, but if you wanted true black you had to take out the color cartridge and install a black-ink cartridge. I sent HP a strongly worded note telling them what they had to do.

About a year later, totally having nothing to do with my note, they released a new one for about $600 and I bought that. It was a lot better. Now they pretty much give them away if to get you to buy their ink cartridges. (see, Gillette).

So it's wonderful that you can buy a da Vinci Jr for $350. Chances are, it'll be out of date in a year, and the materials it uses to make objects are carcinogens.

But if I got one, I'd have to make like a snow-globe with a 3-d printer inside of it.

October 25, 2015

Avoiding Accountability via the Wartime Dialectic of Civilian Death

I was never fond of diagramming sentences, but it has it's place. There's a wave of statements being made in Pittsburgh in the aftermath of a driver causing a chain-collision and killing a cyclist. The statement goes like this:

It's tragic (Susan Hicks) was killed ,but I know a lot of cyclists run red lights.
It's sad (the cyclist) is dead ,but I see a lot of (them) behaving badly. I ride bikes too!

Here's the pattern:
{regret}  (individual)  [outcome]  ,but  {credibility}  (many) of  [other- tribe]  misbehave.

{regret}(individual) [outcome] ,but {credibility} (many) [other- tribe] misbehaveassertion of balance
{It's a shame}(Fireman Jones) [died] ,but {we all know} (many) [firefighters] drink too much Some of my friends are firemen.
{How sad that}(Johnny Gammage) [died] ,but {my cousin the cop says} (the majority of) [black drivers] have drugs & guns in the car. I do support the 2nd Amendment though.
{How sad that}(Andre Gray) [was murdered] ,but {I know that} (so many) [homosexuals] live a risky lifestyle Some of my friends are gay.
{What a loss,}(13 year-old Abdel Rahman Abdullah) [was killed by soldiers] ,but {we all know} (a lot of) [Palestinian kids] throw stones at soldiers.What do they expect?

And we could go on with other examples. It's pertinent to note that the [other- tribe] is always a group that the speaker does not belong to.

What these statements really say in code is:

The death
 of  Susan Hicks
Johnny Gammage
AR Abdullah
 is  acceptable
 because  (many)
[other- tribe]
drink a lot
live risky
throw stones

This is a pernicious bit of rhetoric. It says: What happened to the individual is understandable and not-outrageous because of the way their tribe acts. It says: taking innocent, uninvolved individual lives can be justified by the behavior of other members of their tribe.

The only time Occidental Culture is supposed to justify individual deaths because of tribe-group identity is during warfare. How did we come to this?

Why do we tend to devalue the loss of life based on membership in another tribe? Why do we invoke the rhetoric pattern of warfare in civilian deaths? Because then we don't have to hold a member of our own tribe accountable for it, which would reflect on: ourselves.

October 16, 2015

Who forced the Midfield Terminal, USAir or Allegheny County?

the House that Tom wanted built, and Ed paid for, for a while

Recently the Beaver County Times wrote a story: Promises made and broken: Picking up the pieces left by US Airways' departure from Pittsburgh about the boom-and-bust of the PIT Airport midfield terminal.

In the generally accepted narrative, USAir (later USAirways) forced the County to build the midfield terminal and then churlishly abandoned their committments and contracts to abandon the County's investment to emphasize the Charlotte airport instead.

But did USAir force the County to build Midfield, or was it the other way around? Could it be that the Allegheny County Commissioners drove USAir into accepting the County's Midfield project?

Remember that in the late 1980's with Big Steel gone, the County was desperate for jobs and investment.

In the story presented in the image at right, read Page1 and then read continuation page, a very different story is told: the story of an airline that didn't want to build Midfield, and a County that wanted to leverage the expiration of the airline's lease into a jobs and infrastructure program to boost the local economy.

This Post-Gazette article reports that the County assigned funds for site preparation without USAir's agreement on the Midfield project.

A story written after the death of Tom Foerster quotes USAIrways CEO Colodny as identifying the County Commissioner as the person responsible for Midfield.

Today, three months after [Allegheny County Commissioner Tom] Foerster's death at age 71, county officials, Katselas, family members and others will gather in one of the terminal's two buildings to pay tribute to his vision, determination and perseverance in getting the complex built.

They will rename the Landside building the "Tom Foerster Landside Terminal" building and dedicate a plaque in his honor, one that lauds a "champion of change."

"If there is any name that should be put on it, it's Tom's," said former USAir Chairman and CEO Edwin I. Colodny.

From another Post Gazette retrospective comes a 2012 story on the changes at the airport:

The late Tom Foerster, former chairman of the Allegheny County board of commissioners, led the charge to build a new terminal based on Mr. Katselas' design -- an X-shaped boarding facility linked by an underground tram to a landside building for ticketing and check-in.

At first Mr. Colodny resisted the plan, whether as a negotiating ploy or simply because US Airways enjoyed dirt cheap fees in the old terminal, some of the lowest in the country. But by 1988, his resolve weakened as it became more untenable for the growing airline to stay in its old space.

I'm left to conclude: The Allegheny County political structure chose to persuade USAir to fund their Midfield project as an economic stimulus after the collapse of the steel industry. Eventually, USAirways left because of

  • Mergers that resulted in redundant hubs in the USAir system
  • changes in the airline industry
  • USAirways strategic focus on Europe and the Caribbean
  • the effect of 9-11-01 on USAirways, who suffered like no other airline because of the closure of its DCA hub

When the Airline voided contracts in bankruptcy court and de-focused/abandoned the PIT hub, the Allegheny County political structure needed a narrative to explain the financial debacle. People rarely blame themselves, and especially politicians; the scapegoat for the outcome was USAirways.

This is not to say that the County's Midfield initiative was irresponsible or wrong-headed; in fact, from October 1992 to September 2001 it was a wonderful thing. It was an attempt at economic development that worked for a while.

Now that the airplanes are gone, the County is working real estate development and fracking extraction on the airport property. You try one thing, then you try another. There's nothing wrong with that.

But it seems too facile to blame USAir for the demise of Midfield.

July 13, 2015

Soul Stealing Photography

I remember in grade school, we were told about primitive societies of non-white people that refused to be photographed because they believed the camera would steal their soul. We recognized the inferior nature of those frameworks that were afraid of having their souls stolen, and then did sit-and-cover drills in the hallways to make sure we'd be safe in the event of atomic attack.

Now we have sophisticated facial recognition. A friend takes a picture at an event, posts it on Facebook - and Mark Zuckerberg's minions can identify everybody in the photo, the relationships are stored and cross-referenced, the new info enriches marketing photos, and the Corporate complex monetizes you and your friends without your explicit knowledge.

Maybe those primitives and all the people who don't like to be photographed were right.