Things Boston.

Hublog encourages correspondents to contribute thoughts about local news, particularly criticism of local media.

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Friday, June 27, 2003
Selling Young -- An amusing, interesting, and highly unscientific Autoweek piece on Honda and Toyota's efforts to market cars -- the Element and the Scion siblings, respectively -- to young hipsters. Slate's Gearbox had an entry on the Element that explores the demographic issue. (Go here and search for IKEA.)

Hublog, decidedly not part of Honda's target demo, confesses having a crush on the Element.

Thursday, June 26, 2003
Imagine ... -- What if Porsche, instead of building the ugly-ass, fabulously overweight, albeit spectacularly engineered Cayenne built a perfomance saloon along the lines of the coming Maserati Quattroporte? None of the extra weight and complexity of the off-road systems that will get used by -- maybe -- 10% of the Caynne buyers, even those very occasionally. Imagine the Cayenne engine in the A8 platform, overhauled to deliver Porsche-type ride and handling.

The choice is almost certainly dictated by market opportunity. (Note that Maserati is also building or likely to build the Kublang cross-over.) The real shame is that that market opportunity is actually a market distortion. The regulatory treatment of light-trucks compared to real cars (CAFE among others), drives a manufacturer like Porsche to build the dream car for the citizens of Moronica rather than a true heir to its performance legacy.

Maybe one day. Maybe ...

Friday, October 04, 2002
Ballots and Bullets -- Re: the New Jersey ballot doings, what does it say about Republican confidence in our military and its logistical operations if the GOP thinks it unconstitutionally impossible to print paper ballots, deliver them to servicemen, and bring 'em home (the ballots) in time to be counted on Election Day?

Wednesday, October 02, 2002
Learn with me, folks -- With all that's going on, you'd think hublog would have something more important to 'blog about (and maybe it will), but for now there's a big bee in a little bonnet. On today's episode of Instapundit, the revered Professor Reynolds discusses the latest Flash effort by the House Democratic Caucus and, damning by faint praise, basically says it's pretty good considering the steep learning curve for Flash.

Hold on there, Buster! A steep learning curve reflects an easy topic or a quick study. Hublog will grant you that it's counterintuitive, as steep seems to imply difficult. But, the x-axis of the curve is time and the y-axis is knowledge/skill acquisition. A steep learning curve means that it is easy to get up-to-speed quickly. A shallow learning curve indicates that it takes time to become a master.

Update: Professor Reynolds corresponds, "No, no, no. The guy at Gephardt's office was *displaying* a steep learning curve, i.e, learning quickly." Okay, fair enough. We'll leave the post up anyway because enough people misuse the term and misunderstand the concept.

Wednesday, September 18, 2002
Boblog -- With all the blogging about Bob Greene -- Mickey Kaus has a nice roundup with links, his take, and why the blogosphere has the truest analysis -- nobody's posted anything about why it really matters that Greene's flame out coincides with the era of the 'blog: there's nothing stopping him from starting his career resurrection tomorrow. All you need is a blogger account and a dream.

Note to Bob: For your first posts, you might tackle the is-it-mortality-or-just-a-good-case-of-randiness question.

By the way, count hublog among those who can't believe Greene was fired for having sex with a consenting adult.

Wednesday, September 11, 2002
Listing -- It's some statement on the world we live in when the Herald runs an article listing the names of the people reading the names of the people killed on 9/11. Has it gotten that meta?

I don't know where the article appeared in the print version, but it was prominently linked on the Herald home page at 10:00 this morning.

Sunday, September 08, 2002
Mitt's inspiration -- Mitt Romney's big, bold idea du jour is not only trivial -- he proposes an overhaul of the budget-busting clean elections fund -- it's stolen ... and stolen from one of the least-credible management teams ever assembled.

Under Mitt's proposal, ten percent of the money regularly-financing Candidate X raises would be put in a fund available to clean-election-restriction-abiding Candidate Y. Sound familiar? It should. It's a ripoff of baseball's laughable mechanism to cure what ails the major leagues: the luxury tax.

Friday, July 19, 2002
Segways and byways -- Two interesting columns in the Herald about alternative transportation, and they both missed the same point. Cosmo Macero takes on low-speed "glorified golf-carts", which the Registry is going to have to license and allow on public roads with speed limits less than 35 mph. (The category is actually referred to as Neighborhood Electric Vehicles.) Thomas Keane argues that the Segway electric scooter should be allowed on a a sidewalk near you.

Both columns address essentially the same issue: Whether our roads/sidewalks are suited to NEVs/Segways. Macero says that the underweight and under-powered NVs are incompatible with our Ford Excursion-clogged roads. Keane seems to concede that the Segway is a bit much for the sidewalk, but says its potential for revolutionizing urban transportation depends on keeping them off the road -- where the'll get croaked by many times faster and larger cars and trucks -- leaving the sidewalk the only option.

The debate is too focused on how new vehicles fit into the existing infrastructure and its use and not enough on what the infrastructure ought to support. Despite Macero's very droll image of grandpa buzzing down to the early-bird special, isn't a cheap, lightweight, less-polluting vehicle better suited for a huge portion of the driving people do? Hublog's stop-and-sometimes-go trip to Bread & Circus would be not noticeably longer in a car with a 30 mph top end. Let's figure out how to make room for NVs (if they deserve it), where they don't have to compete with cars. Macero's biggest issue -- the problem of radically dissimilar mass and speed (a GEM two-seater weighs a third of a Toyota Camry) -- goes away if regular cars don't share the same roadway with NVs.

Ultimately, that's the Segway's problem, too. It could be a great option for trips to long to walk and too short to justify getting in the car. But, it's too heavy and fast for sidewalks. It's too slow and light for roads. It needs its own pathways.

What the debate over NVs and Segways demonstrates is the need to radically rethink transportation infrastructure to acknowledge the drawbacks of the automobile and accommodate alternative transportation. It shouldn't be sufficient to argue that bicycles, NVs, Segways, etc. aren't compatible with cars or pedestrians. We've got to find ways to make them viable.

Monday, July 15, 2002
The Right Thing -- Like Cosmo Macero, hublog is cheered by Coca-Cola's decision to report options as expenses in future financial statements. But, could the decision be the victim of the law of unintended consequences?

Will opponents of regulations mandating that options be expensed point to Coca-Cola's voluntary decision as proof that no regulation is necessary and that the marketplace should determine how options are accounted? It's easy to imagine W. earnestly citing Coca-Cola as an example of how markets can function best without regulation.

The regulation opponents have what seems to be a good argument: let companies like Coca-Cola earn a premium for transparency. Unfortunately, there's no evidence that the markets are routinely capable of punishing companies that lack transparency.

Friday, July 12, 2002
Not so fast -- Hublog yields to no one in his enthusiasm for the Segway HT, except maybe the nuts who paid over $100,000 at auction for each of the first three consumer units. He can't wait to try one. If the price ever drops to within shouting distance of reasonable, he'll propose buying one at the next meeting of the Family Council Ways & Means committee.

But, this campaign to give Segways and their operators complete right-of-way to the Commonwealth's sidewalks is just plain nuts. Before a single unit is in civilian hands, the Public Safety Committee is considering legislation that would grant, according to this Globe article, "access to every Bay State sidewalk, trail, and low-speed road, and would bar cities and towns from imposing any restrictions on the Segway."

It may be that we are at the dawn of a new transportation era, like the debut of the automobile at the last turn-of-the-century. If so, we're going to have to make some changes to accommodate Segways on existing infrastructure or build new routes. (Hublog loves the idea of dedicated bike/Segway lanes.) But, let's slow down and see how things shake out a little before we decide that the sidewalk is the appropriate place for a scooter that can go up to 12.5 miles per hour, according to Segway. (The Globe says an eye-popping 20 mph.)

Hublog is an avid bike commuter and knows what it's like to travel 13 mph in the city. It's way too fast for the sidewalk. Before the legislators get too starry-eyed from their demo rides inside the statehouse, they should try a different test. The committee members ought to walk up and down the sidewalk in front of the State House with Segway riders zipping by at top speeds. I'm betting that'll dampen their enthusiasm.

Critics of the legislation are inevitably going to be labelled anti-progress Luddites. Not fair. Bring on the Segways, just not on the sidewalk, please.

Thursday, July 11, 2002
Shanley the Opportunist -- Hublog correspondent Larry Fay draws attention to a troubling Globe feature on the "search for the real Paul Shanley" in the Living Arts section. The piece suggests that there is a struggle to make sense of Shanley as crusading hero and Shanley as molester, as though the good that Shanley did might mitigate against his crimes or that there is a separate body of good that lives independent of his crimes. The ambivalence is summed up by a quote from former nun and current Boston City Clerk Rosaria Salerno. "He may have done horrific evil, but he also did a lot of good."

The ridiculousness of searching for the "heroic" Shanley is revealed in a paragraph buried more than two-thirds of the way through the article. Carmen Durso, an attorney for some Shanley victims explains that Shanley's created "a pool of kids he could go after." Shanley's "crusading" work gave him opportunity for and cover to his unforgiveable offenses. To commit the kind of child sexual abuse Shanley committed, the perpetrator has to gain the trust of children -- to lure victims -- and respect in the community -- to discourage victims from reporting and to encourage authorities to ignore or discredit reports. All the better if the children are already outcast or marginalized, have no one else to trust, and are unlikely to be credited by authorities. Shanley's "good" was a necessary platform for his "evil." Anyone who tries to separate them is kidding themselves.

The real Paul Shanley is a predator. Paul Shanley is not a hero and never was.

Wednesday, July 10, 2002
Endorse this -- Mitt Romney's sicced the lawyers on Jim Rappaport for distributing Romney/Rappaport bumper stickers, though Rappaport is the officially endorsed Republican lieutenant governor candidate. Yet, he won't debate Robert Reich because Reich is not the officially endorsed Democratic gubernatorial candidate.

Mitt, hublog's confused. When does official endorsement matter?

Thursday, June 27, 2002
Kaffiyeh Land -- There's an Atlantic Monthly story on Yassir Arafat that comes close to verifying the my-kaffiyeh-is-Palestine legend peddled by Jeff Jacoby with which we took issue.

Hublog remains skeptical, but Mr. Jacoby's off the hook.

Wednesday, June 26, 2002
On Track -- The Amtrak collapse story has a huge local angle. The Boston to NYC to DC run is among the few profitable or near-profitable lines Amtrak has. And, much of the MBTA's commuter rail service is sub-contracted to Amtrak and/or runs on Amtrak lines. Good columns by Cosmo Macero and Jon Keller. Unfortunately for hublog's loyal following, the Keller column ran in the Metro, so is not available on-line. (Hublog has e-mailed Keller to see if it's okay to quote extensively.) Also, interesting pieces in Slate here and here.

Mr. Macero's take is that

Nit-picking -- Hublogger Robert Paci asks if his favorite blog shouldn't have a feature much like the "New York, Lack of Familiarity With" feature of hublog inspiration Why not?

To launch the new feature, Mr. Paci's submission of a minor, but telling error in the Globe's report of the recent South End fire. The article describes the fire scene as a "triple-decker," of which there are exactly none in the architecturally distinctive neighborhood. Lots of sub-divided three-story townhouses (some with fourth-floor additions), but no three-unit, three-story wood-framed homes.

Of course, the story was about something much larger: yet another example of how firefighters regularly put their lives on the line for the safety of others.