Which is why the news that the pipeline company TransCanada is handing out scratch-and-sniff cards to Canadian farm kids so that they can identify pipeline leaks is both sensible and creepy. Sensible because: These kids and the pipelines occupy the same rural territory, so what kind of a jerk would judge an attempt to make that relationship safer? Creepy because: Children already have to deal with so much from adults -- is asking them to monitor our pipelines for us taking it a little too far?
Much of the computing power that crunches the data for the Bloomberg financial empire lives in a building on Houston and Hudson, in Manhattan. It won't be there for much longer, though. After Hurricane Sandy, having a data center three blocks from the Hudson River no longer feels like a great idea.
"I own my company," former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a press conference Tuesday morning. "I want to sleep at night. I do some things so I can do that."
It's not every day that a Republican finance guy -- one who remembers George W. Bush as a "terrific boss" -- writes an op-ed in The New York Times imploring the nation to set up a carbon tax. Not this year, anyway; just a few years ago, it might've been ho-hum.
Once, the carbon tax was the conservative, free-market solution to the climate problem, as opposed to the big-government, heavy-handed-regulation solution. Now that so many Republicans don't accept that there is any climate problem at all, the whole idea just looks like another evil tax to them. And when a former Treasury secretary under the GOP flag steps forward to advocate it -- to insist that we have no choice, we're crazy not to act fast and act big -- it's news.
It is a question for the ages: How does one go about making solar panels seem fun instead of just noble? This weekend's national celebration of all things solar, which goes by the very Portlandia name of "Put Solar on It," answers that question: in a way that is both dweeby and endearing.
On Saturday, June 21, the longest day of the year, Put Solar on It events will take place in cities and towns around the U.S. (you might be able to find one here or here). Some involve tours of local solar installations, others will have solar-related presentations and talks. If you can't make it to one, you can still play along at home by voting for your favorite solar installation (50 votes = $100 donated to a project).
Back in the olden days of 2005, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, bicyclist and web developer Bryan Hance had his bike stolen yet again in Portland, Ore. In response, he did what web developers so often do as a part of their grieving process: He built a website.
Hance wasn't the only person doing this. The rise of bicycling and everyone crowding onto the internet meant that anyone who had their bike stolen found themselves wading through a plethora of bike forums and Google groups dedicated to tracking down bikes and bike thieves. There were plenty of websites, but there wasn't a widely used database for stolen bikes, the way that there was for cars. While there was a national site affiliated with McGruff the Crimefighting Dog, it charged a stiff fee and only let law enforcement run searches through its database.
But Hance's database was particularly popular, even with people outside of Portland. When Hance announced early this week that his site StolenBikeRegistry.com had joined forces with an another bike registry -- a company named BikeIndex.org, which has ambitious plans to register bikes before they even reach their first owners -- it became, arguably, the closest thing we have to a national bicycle registry. From now on, whether you're looking at a bike in a used bike shop, or in someone's suburban garage, you can post the serial number to @isitstolen on Twitter, and a bot will report back to you on whether or not it's been reported stolen. (I just tried it and the bot told me that my bike isn't stolen, but sent me some depressing pictures of stolen bikes that look like mine.)
Public release of details about oil-train routes and shipments does not pose a serious security risk, the federal government said yesterday.
Earlier this month, I wrote about how the Department of Transportation issued an emergency order requiring railroads to tell states about shipments within their borders of the more-explosive-than-usual Bakken crude, so that those states and relevant municipalities could prepare for the Lac-Mégantic-sized explosions that might be lying in store for them.
Railroads said, "Yeah, sure," and then turned around and drew up non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) for every state they were routing oil through. By the conditions of the NDAs, the states could only use the crude shipment information for disaster planning and response. Any other disclosure and it was lawsuit time.
Last weekend, on June 7, it became official: After an emergency order from the federal Department of Transportation, railroads now have to tell state emergency responders when, and where, they happen to be driving trains full of Bakken crude through their region. Is this good news?
When they did this they were often stonewalled by railroads, who said that, since the crude was so flammable, its movements through the country were a matter of national security. Railroads sometimes revealed the information, but they did it haphazardly, so that some fire departments knew that Bakken crude was passing through and some didn't.
When I was young, I left the Motor City for a city that I would never have to drive in again. Years later, so did my sister.
Television commercials made the relationship between cars and humans look like a romance, but from a kid's perspective, it looked like an abusive relationship. Automobiles had a way of breaking down when you needed them most, taking large amounts of your money without warning, and attracting unwelcome attention from law enforcement officers. Little in the movie 8-Mile feels like a genuine depiction of Detroit life, but one thing feels accurate: the way that no one’s car will start.
I moved to San Francisco. My sister moved to Portland. I love San Francisco, the way that you do, but whenever I visit my sister I cannot help noticing that -- as far as gracious, car-free living goes -- she made the better choice. When I visit her, I don’t have to look at every car that I pass and gauge the risk of being doored, because, in a lot of places, the bike lane is wide enough for both me and an open car door. I rarely have to merge into car traffic and route myself around someone who has double-parked in the middle of a bike lane, because some traffic engineer has thoughtfully placed a barrier between car and bike traffic. All is not perfect; my sister still got doored last winter. But Portland had zero bike deaths last year (and many years before it), which is more than you can say about San Francisco.
How did this come to pass? While Portland has a reputation for being the most uber-millennial of millennial cities, it’s not that different from your average American college town. Bicycling in cities has been on the rise for years now; what made Portland so ready for it, when bicyclists in other cities have had to struggle? I did some digging, and came up with a few theories.
The summer that I learned to drive, it rained almost every day. No one in my neighborhood knew quite what to make of it. Summers in the suburbs of Detroit were brutal, and if you knew what you were doing you spent them cultivating the friendship of someone with a swimming pool or air conditioning, because the alternative was lying on the linoleum with a glass of ice water in each hand, praying for death. "So much," my mom said, "for global warming!" She had just picked me up from driver's ed. I had spent all afternoon trying to learn …