Jan 31, 2013

Rightsizing Streets



Excellent article in the Atlantic Cities about "rightsizing" streets.  A new new guide from the Project for Public Spaces illustrates what the concept might look like in a variety of settings.


Click to read the article.



Confirmation Bias



I went to an excellent presentation by New College of Florida Political Science Professor Frank Alcock. He talked about how polarized our politics is today, although contended that is about the same as in the past.


He talked about Comformance Bias. 


From Wikadpedia


Conformance Bias (also called confirmatory bias or myside bias) which is a tendency of people to favor information that confirms their beliefs or hypotheses. People display this bias when they gather or remember information
selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way


The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs. For example, in reading about current political issues, people usually prefer sources that affirm their existing attitudes. They also tend to interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing position.
Biased search, interpretation and memory have been invoked to explain attitude polarization (when a disagreement becomes more extreme even though the different parties are exposed to the same evidence), belief perseverance (when beliefs persist after the evidence for them is shown to be false), the irrational primacy effect (a greater reliance on information encountered early in a series) and illusory correlation http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illusory_correlation (when people falsely perceive an association between two events or situ ations).

A series of experiments in the 1960s suggested that people are biased toward confirming their existing beliefs. Later work re-interpreted these results as a tendency to test ideas in a one-sided way, focusing on one possibility and ignoring alternatives. In certain situations, this tendency can bias people's conclusions. Explanations for the observed biases include wishful thinking http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wishful_thinking
and the limited human capacity to process information. Another explanation is that people show confirmation bias because they are weighing up the costs of being wrong, rather than investigating in a neutral, scientific way.



Who does this sound like?



Me!!!



And maybe some of you.




Professor Alcock said that smart people are the worst, which is us. We are confident that we are smart and know the truth and can easily search the internet for good looking web sites that prove our point.




Of course none of us do that. Much.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias


http://www.ncf.edu/frank-alcock



Gerrymandering







The Congressional District map above in suburban Chicago is an example of Gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is the process of designing Congressional or State Districts to optimize your parties chances.  In most states the Legislature draws the map, so the party in power following the annual census gets to decide the districts for the next ten years. The party in power draws the districts to get safe seats for their people, usually trying for about a small majority of the voters in the District in their party, while drawing districts for the other party with as many voters from the other party as possible.

The map above is an excellent example of gerrymandering.  This was done in part to create a Democratic District, but also to create a Hispanic District.

One of the problems of gerrymandering is that it creates safe one party districts.  The Congressmen enjoy this since it makes reelection easier, but it polarizes the country, since the primary is the most important election.  The people who vote in the primaries tend to be the most passionate and extreme.  The Congressman must vote to satisfy the extreme wing of his party, and is punished if he compromises.




"The 4th Congressional District of Illinois includes part of Cook County, and has been represented by Democrat Luis Gutierrez since January 1993.

It was featured by The Economist as one of the most strangely drawn and gerrymandered congressional districts in the country[2] and has been nicknamed "earmuffs" due to its shape.[3] It was created to contain two majority Hispanic parts of Chicago.

This district covers two strips running east-west across the city of Chicago, Illinois on the west side continuing into smaller portion of some suburbanareas in Cook County, surrounding Illinois' 7th congressional district. The northern portion is largely Puerto Rican, while the southern portion is heavily Mexican. The two sections are on opposite sides of the city and are only connected by a piece of Interstate 294 to the west; the highway is in the district while the surrounding areas are not."







Guns Prevent Tyranny?


Why the 'Citizen Militia' Theory Is the Worst Pro-Gun Argument Ever


Two out of three Americans see the Second Amendment as a safeguard against tyranny. What?

minutemen-top.jpg

 Stature of the Minutemen statue in Lexington, Massachusetts (Tim Grafft/Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism/Flickr)


Excellent article in the Atlantic.

"The notion that an individual right to bear arms guarantees the American people against government tyranny is of course an old one. Given its apparent validation in the Second Amendment of the Constitution itself, it's not surprising that the notion has survived in some way through to the 21st century. Given its defiance of history and common sense, though, what should be surprising is that it's survived to remain so widespread.

If America experienced a widespread political uprising today, it would bear little resemblance to Lexington and Concord in 1775, with well-disciplined minutemen assembling on the town square to defend liberty against the redcoats. It would more likely be a larger scale reenactment of the "Bleeding Kansas" revolt of 1854 to 1861, when small bands of armed zealots unleashed an orgy of inter-communal violence, unbounded by any laws of war or human decency."





Jan 30, 2013

Wear Your Seat Belt




Check out this remarkable ad. 

This is the new "wear your seatbelt" ad the UK is doing - started by some fella not hired to do it, but because the cause is important to him, he came up with this idea, and now it's being hailed across the world as a "beautiful commercial.

And now the video has become so popular with the general public that people are forwarding it to friends/family on their own so quickly that it has spread all over the world in a very short time.


youtube.com/embed/h-8PBx7isoM



Thanks to Charles Van Liere for sharing.


Jan 29, 2013

Chicago - Mayor Rahm Emanuel


Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago is a dynamic leader and is making great strides in improving the city. 


Click to Read the Article



Rahm Emanuel - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rahm_Emanuel




Nik Walenda Sarasota Wire Walk






Nik Walenda walked a high wire today without a net over State Highway 41 in Sarasota, Florida. He is fine but I am still nervous.

He walked over 450 feet across a wire suspended 180 feet above ground on Tuesday, wowing several thousand people below in his hometown of Sarasota.

Without a safety net, Wallenda was the lone figure against a blue sky, aided only by a balancing pole.

The morning was windy and Wallenda dipped down to one knee on the wire frightening the crowd.






Click to see more photos

Click to read the article

Nick Walenda

SNN: Nik Wallenda Sarasota wirewalk ...

video.heraldtribune.comNEW1 day ago - 6 min
Highlights of daredevil crossing 200 feet above U.S. 41 on downtown bayfront.

Pinterest

Pinterest is a nice way to share photos and stories.

Economy Trending Up




http://image.exct.net/lib/ff2f1c717066/i/3/90ecccd7-e.gif


Monday, January 28, 2013

Durable Goods Orders Suggest Return of Investment

Durable goods orders jumped 4.6% in December, the seventh increase in eight months. Gains were widespread across sectors. Transportation led with orders for vehicles still robust. Hopefully, there are some heavy trucks in there, given the poor condition of the fleets I see on the road these days...

Non-defense capital goods orders, which most closely track business investment, accelerated at a 3.8% pace...

The shipments data, which tracks current spending, has also been trending up...

Read the full article on our Economic Minds blog.



Jan 28, 2013

PlannersWeb

The PlannersWeb is a very nice site for Planning Commissioners. This is the on line version of the Planning Commissioners Journal which was published for many years. There is a charge for the service - well worth the price when you purchase it for the entire Planning Commission.




Jack Kennedy Assassination - 50th Anniversary


This is the fiftieth anniversary of the Kennedy Assassination.  It is hard to believe it has been so many years. I was 15 years old at the time - I remember thinking that we might be attacked by the Soviet Union - that the assassination was the first step in a war.

I listened to a presentation / discussion on the Jack Kennedy Assassination at our local University, USF (University of South Florida in Sarasota).

The presenter was of course a believer in a plot.  We watched the Zapruder Film numerous times, which is pretty sickening. It does appear that he was hit from the front, which implies that there were more shooters than just Oswald.


A plot is of course a possibility. I have always been inclined to believe the Warren Commission, which was a true blue ribbon Committee with esteemed leaders - Jerry Ford, Earl Warren, Hale Boggs, and a number of other respected leaders.


Before the session started I talked to a gentleman who believed the assassination was the work of an evil cabal or rich people. He believed they control our country and we do not have a democracy.  I asked him who he was talking about - Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, Fords, Kennedys?  He replied yes.  I think that highly unlikely - most of our rich blue bloods are law abiding folks far removed from assassinating people.  I asked him if this was so why did we toggle from Republicans to Democrats and back? Apparently the evil cabal did this so we would not know we were being controlled.

The presenter gave a number of possible candidates for the Assassination. The Soviet Union, China, Cuba, the Mob, the CIA, the Secret Service, the FBI, the US Military.

He believes that Oswald was a fall guy and did not even shoot. He was set up and then killed to silence him. This seems very unlikely to me. If he was a dupe why kill him?  And what did Jack Ruby hope to get other than a lifetime in jail?

Our presenter thinks organized crime probably did it. His theory is that they had made a deal with Joe Kennedy to steal the election for JFK and then when RFK began his aggressive prosecution of the mob they were angry and organized the hit. That is a possibility.

It is also possible Castro did this.  Kennedy was trying to kill him and Castro may have known this. And the Soviet Union and Communist China were certainly evil empires who routinely killed many people.

But then he added way to many people to his conspiracy theory. The Dallas cops did not have their motorcycle cops next to the car, but to the front and rear. The Secret Service guy was driving too slowly. The route was published.  The autopsy was blown. Evidence has been lost.  Someone from the Federal Government took the rifle to Dallas into the funeral home and got Oswald's corpse to hold the gun so they would have fingerprints.

The plot he outlined involved way to many people.

I commented that I had worked for the US Military for 32 years.  I got a few laughs when I said,  "Believe me, your Federal Government is not competent to do all this."

Many years ago I talked to Gunnery Sergeant Hathcock.


He was a renowned Marine sniper in Vietnam. He told us some amazing stories about sniping. But he also said that he could not have made the shot that Oswald did with the rifle that Oswald used. Too poor a weapon, too far, against a moving target.

Oswald was a former Marine and not a very good shot - a marksman I believe, not expert or sharpshooter. And a very strange guy who was a Communist and went to Russia and talked to the Cuban embassy. Interestingly he was in Marine air control in the same MOS that I was in in the Marines. 


So what to believe?  I don't think a large conspiracy is possible. But could it have been two or three shooters ordered by the mob or communists?  That is possible.

And it is also possible that one day we will learn.  The people that did this are very old or dead. Someone may spill the beans. Or perhaps the Warren Commission got it right and Oswald acted alone and made some lucky shots.

The web site below contains the Warren Commission report.

archives.gov/research/jfk/warren-commission-report

The site below has a lot of info about the assassination.


One thing one must remember following a presentation on the assassination is that you usually hear one side of the story for an hour or more.  You have not heard the other side.  The blog below makes a persuasive case that the Warren Commission got it right and that Oswald acted alone.





Jan 26, 2013

Global Leadership and Trust

A survey found that only 18% of people trust business leaders to tell the truth. For politicians, the figure is 13%.

Click to Read More

econ.st/11ZAq0t

Jan 24, 2013

Bird Links



  1. Bird Identification | Sarasota Audubon | Sarasota, Florida

    www.sarasotaaudubon.org/birding/bird-identification/

    More than 2500 Audubon-designated Important Bird Areas identify, prioritize and protect vital bird habitat from coast to coast, supporting the species and their ...

  2. Sarasota Audubon | Sarasota, Florida | Sarasota Chapter of the ...

    www.sarasotaaudubon.org/

    Meetings, field trips, birding news, projects, bird count results, children's section, and newsletter.

  3. Birding | Sarasota Audubon | Sarasota, Florida

    www.sarasotaaudubon.org/birding/

    The location of the site, the large number of diverse bird species, and its public ownership by Sarasota County make the Celery Fields an ideal location.

  4. Birding Sarasota - The Official Website for Visit Sarasota County on ...

    www.visitsarasota.org/article/birding-sarasota/

    Birding in Sarasota County offers a wealth of sightings. ... sight along Florida's shoreline, yet it is always a thrill to see the birds perform their aerial acrobatics.

  5. Sarasota Bird Guide & Photography Tours

    www.sarasotabirdingguide.com/

    Sarasota birding guide and photographer Rick Greenspun shares his birding knowledge to enhance other birders experiences.

  6. Sarasota, Florida Nice Sunset Last Night Birds in the Backyard in ...

    https://plus.google.com/.../posts/3tU2MW3hRyX

    Dec 13, 2013 - Sarasota, Florida Nice Sunset Last Night Birds in the Backyard in Sarasota, Florida

  7. Birds - Discover Natural Sarasota

    www.discovernaturalsarasota.org › wildlife

    10+ items - Florida is home to one of the richest diversity of bird species in ...
    Turtle Beach Park and Boat Ramp.
    This beach park has a tidal lagoon ...
    Urfer Family Park.
    Experience a bit of Old Florida by touring ...

  8. Save our Seabirds, Inc | Rescue, Rehabilitate, and Release

    www.saveourseabirds.org/

    Save our Seabirds Wild Bird Learning Center is a non-profit wildlife ... on the former site of The Pelican Man Bird Sanctuary on City Island in Sarasota, Florida.

  9. Birding Is Fun!: Birds of the Sarasota Area

    www.birdingisfun.com/2012/12/birds-of-sarasota-area.html

    Dec 2, 2012 - Many beautiful birds can be spotted where we reside on Longboat Key, as well as in the city of Sarasota and its surrounding suburbs..