God Hates Multitudes

Definitely one of those “truth is stranger than farce” moments from our friends in Kansas.

A group of seven congregants from Topeka, Kan., set up outside Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda yesterday to protest the sexual orientation of the poet for whom the school was named.

While they’re in town, maybe they can go protest at Walter “Big Train”  Johnson High, too … there’s gotta be something up with that name.

Also – I had a double-take on p. 2, where there’s a quotation from a student Maddie Oliver….

via Topeka Church Protests at Bethesda’s Walt Whitman School Over Poet’s Sexuality – washingtonpost.com.

Vapid Lifestyle Stories from the NYT

From the New York Times vapid lifestyle story file, comes From Highly Successful to Unemployed to Becoming Mr. Mom– headlined as “Mr. Moms (By way of Fortune 500).

AS the 3 p.m. bell rang recently at the local elementary school here, there were some unusual faces in the crowd of mothers and nannies outside: a half-dozen or so fathers, part of the growing ranks of unemployed men in this affluent suburb.

I kind of appreciate the shift in tone on these stories. Last year’s story might have been “High Gas Prices Mean No Idling the Limo When Picking Up the Kids at Dalton” – with the year before being “When the Nanny Becomes a Realtor.”

Sewer replacement

OK, so here’s the great sewer replacement of 2009. The very opposite of fun.

Sewer replacement

101 Uses for a Deserted Mall – NYTimes.com

What do you do with a mall that no one shops at?

As the recession deepens, the retail industry continues to take a huge hit. Nowhere is this more visible than in the rising vacancy rate in shopping malls across the country. Mall owners are gambling on various businesses to draw people in, from water parks to educational services. What happens, or should happen, to dying or dead shopping malls?

One of the contributors mentions a catalogue at deadmalls.com, which is definitely worth taking a look at – to see the malls you knew and loved from prior homes or familiar places. The common thread is definitely “the other mall killed me” – though in Amherst, Mass., both Hamster Mall and Mountain Farms are on the list of dead malls … and in Princeton N.J., the Forrestal Village has apparently died without an assassin.

The consequences are ugly… As the deadmalls.com founder Peter Blackbird puts it:

Most developers assumed that if their mall was newer and larger than the competition then they would make money, and for the most part they did. But what many developers failed to consider or neglected to care about was what happens to their project when the next mall is built. The blight that is left behind when one fails is a weight on the community. Lost tax revenue and jobs, increased vandalism and crime and lower property values are just a few of the problems a dead mall creates.

The common theme on this is that malls serve a broader set of community needs than just selling stuff. But when selling stuff isn’t profitable any more, they empty out, sit vacant, and drag the whole area down. So the key is finding out what they could do that serves these other community needs – as housing, public spaces,  really need to be reconfigured and quickly.

Two thoughts. First, for those of us in Silver Spring, City Place comes to mind – though it’s not included in deadmalls.com, perhaps as an urban mall. But it makes me crazy to think about all the greenfields public construction projects going up all around town – the new civic building on top of the “turf,” a new library around the corner, a new park & planning building, maybe – but there’s this big negative energy called City Place in the middle of it all. Why aren’t we putting the library (or M-NCPPC, or both) there?

Second, is that these seem to be “shovel-ready” projects that would be a wonderful target of economic stimulus – a kind of New Deal for malls. They could be libraries, schools, public offices – places with people instead of ghosts.

via 101 Uses for a Deserted Mall – Room for Debate Blog – NYTimes.com.

FiveThirtyEight: Politics Done Right: Will Iowans Uphold Gay Marriage?

More intriguing stuff from good old Nate Silver … this time, estimating when a state’s population might be ready for gay marriage, or at least ready not to ban it. Given the complexity of political processes in a lot of these places – rural domination, different constitutional structures, etc. – I wouldn’t venture to say that by 2012 we’ll really have a majority of states accepting gay marriage, but the snowball is definitely picking up speed.

I then built a regression model that looked at a series of political and demographic variables in each of these states and attempted to predict the percentage of the vote that the marriage ban would receive.

It turns out that you can build a very effective model by including just three variables:

1. The year in which the amendment was voted upon;
2. The percentage of adults in 2008 Gallup tracking surveys who said that religion was an important part of their daily lives;
3. The percentage of white evangelicals in the state.

These variables collectively account for about three-quarters of the variance in the performance of marriage bans in different states. The model predicts, for example, that a marriage ban in California in 2008 would have passed with 52.1 percent of the vote, almost exactly the fraction actually received by Proposition 8.

Unsurprisingly, there is a very strong correspondence between the religiosity of a state and its propensity to ban gay marriage, with a particular “bonus” effect depending on the number of white evangelicals in the state.

Marriage bans, however, are losing ground at a rate of slightly less than 2 points per year. So, for example, we’d project that a state in which a marriage ban passed with 60 percent of the vote last year would only have 58 percent of its voters approve the ban this year.

All of the other variables that I looked at — race, education levels, party registration, etc. — either did not appear to matter at all, or became redundant once we accounted for religiosity. Nor does it appear to make a significant difference whether the ban affected marriage only, or both marriage and civil unions.

It’s intriguing that education, race, and party aren’t particularly useful explanatory variables. I do get a little nervous when there’s a time variable introduced – there’s no mystical force pulling the political transformation along. And students of Roe v. Wade should recognize that these kinds of tides do turn, change course, etc.

via FiveThirtyEight: Politics Done Right: Will Iowans Uphold Gay Marriage?

My Plumbing Albatross

Today’s plumbing adventures – a big estimate for a sewer mainline replacement – makes me want to revisit and recount the plumbing adventures I’ve had over the past 9 years. The upshot is that, after the next phase, the only original plumbing left in the house is going to be the copper pipe that had already been replaced, and most (but not all!) of the waste pipe in the house.

How do I love thee, house plumbing? Let me count the ways:

  1. Leaking valve -> new sink in bathroom #2 (and a collapsed ceiling as a bonus)
  2. Malfunctioning toilet innards -> I drop the lid on the toilet bowl -> broken bowl -> new toilet
  3. Leaking shower base -> destroyed kitchen wall & ceiling -> new master bath w/ new shower
  4. chronic leaks on galvanized pipe -> copper repipe downstairs
  5. Leaking bathtub drain and galvanized pipe -> more damage to kitchen ceiling -> copper repipe upstairs
  6. …and a new bathroom #2 w/ new tub & toilet as a bonus!
  7. leaking water heater -> new water heater
  8. rotten drain behind dishwasher -> new dishwasher
  9. chronic clogs under downstairs bath -> new toilet, new sink, and many snake-outs
  10. chronic main line blockage -> new main sewer line (to come)

Plus a few other things along the way: new master bath sink (the old one was just ugly – nothing really went wrong per se), new kitchen sink, dishwasher, downstairs utility sink, washer – just about anything that has water involved.

When I’m still working at age 85, I’ll know why.

How a Scotland Yard Slip Forced Terrorism Raids in Britain – TIME

This one is extraordinary – the Scotland Yard guy gets out of his car at 10 Downing Street holding important papers about a counterterrorism operation – face-out to the cameras.

So the photographers blew up the picture and could read and report the details. At least in the movies they always have folders that are marked “TOP SECRET” or “CLASSIFIED.”

Assistant Commissioner Robert Quick arriving at No 10 for a briefing with British Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith and Prime Minister Brown, inadvertently showing his papers to awaiting press

Makes me glad that the worst damage I’m going to do is to leave the confidential marketing plan or compensation information out on my desk. Though the latter could definitely have repercussions.

via Action Photo: How a Scotland Yard Slip Forced Terrorism Raids in Britain – TIME.

Southwest to Have Flights Out of La Guardia – NYTimes.com

I got all excited with this one. Alas, there’s less than meets the eye. Full refundable is $318+ tax, w/ biz select at 378+ tax. I guess that’s why the Shuttle flights just dropped $100, which is competitive with that.

SWA in Maryland Colors

One-way flights to Chicago Midway will start as low as $89, and flights to Baltimore-Washington will start at $49 one way.

The bad part is that it just looks like 3 flights a day for now, w/ the first DCA-LGA flight at 9:25 and the last returning flight @ 4:10 pm. TImes are better going the other direction, but still doesn’t work for the day trip.

On the other hand, at $98 (+ tax), that pays for a night in the hotel.

And I still am smarting over the loss of the BWI-LAX nonstop.

via Southwest to Have Flights Out of La Guardia – NYTimes.com.

By popular demand, Truffle and Mo

Well, at least two people have wanted pictures of Truffle, so I go two better and give you video + Mo = antics.

Too small to fail?