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Showing posts from May, 2016

Can regional planning be antifragile?

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Nassim N. Taleb argues that individuals and systems might merely survive chaos, but if they're properly prepared they can actually thrive in it. He calls this characteristic antifragility, which can be thought of as one step beyond resilience (or Taleb's preferred term, "robustness.") Fragile people are destroyed by chaos, robust people ride it out, but antifragile people come out stronger. The same classification can be applied to businesses, governments, scientific research and any number of other contexts (see Table 1, pp. 23-27). In chapter 2 he presents a wide range of examples including body-building, obsessive love, mass riots, ideas and their critics. The book was published long before the U.S. presidential election, but Donald J. Trump, whose support increases the more virulently he is criticized, seems to be a distinctively antifragile candidate. (Hillary Clinton might be, too.)

In Book I Taleb argues that antifragility not only exists, but that to develop…

Post No. 200: Next to the arena

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Theodore Roosevelt is making the rounds lately, which is good to see: As a multifaceted man who recognized the complexities of policy and policy making, and who looked for opportunities to use governmental power to advance the public interest, he offers a lot by way of example to today's political scene.

In particular I've been seeing a lot of this quote, which originates in the time between his presidency and his 1912 bid to return to the office:
This poster is on the wall of the Vault, a co-working space where I'm spending the summer. It's meant to inspire the entrepreneurs and techies who are hoping to use the resources in the Vault to launch their businesses.

I am inspired to take time to salute those in the arena, whether their arena be business, society or politics. As I've been thinking about the poster and this milestone post, I see examples all around me of people who are putting themselves forward in positive ways.

There's Eric Engelmann, the visiona…

MPO Ride 2016

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About 15 bold cyclists had a rather miserable but rather enjoyable time of it on the Corridor MPO Bike Ride Saturday. The riding was complicated by a ferocious west wind, which accentuated the effects of hills and heavy traffic.

We made two stops in Cedar Rapids.

The first was at Veterans Memorial Stadium, home of the Cedar Rapids Kernels minor league baseball team. Community relations manager Ryne George gave us a tour of everything but the dugouts and the playing field, which were occupied by the teams participating in the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference baseball tournament. In the press box they have oversized baseball cards representing nearly all 405 major leaguers who played for Cedar Rapids.
Urbanists want to know: Was the stadium, built with public funds in 2002, a good investment for the city? Hard to say. The Kernels are not privately owned, and their community outreach (to schools and veterans, for example) is energetic. But they've never achieved the 200,00…

Touch My Street and Die

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Tempers flew Wednesday night at a Cedar Rapids Paving for Progress open house regarding the Grande Avenue storm sewer and pavement replacement project at Washington High School. About 30 residents objected, at times forcefully, to design features in the project. City officials, who seemed prepared for logistical questions of the "How do I get little Johnny to his doctor appointment when the street is closed?" variety, appeared taken aback by the subject matters raised.

The discussion revealed consensus on the core of the project: extending the storm sewer the length of the street, replacing 100+-year-old water main and lead water service lines, and completely replacing the pavement. No one at the meeting spoke against any of that, and in fact a few present expressed gratitude for the new storm sewer.


Where there were the sharpest differences arose from the city's taking advantage of the project to add some complete streets features. According to the National Complete…

Bike to Work Week 2016

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Monday, May 16 The Cedar Rapids area got an early start on Bike to Work Week when Cedar Rapids City Council member Ann Poe (above) read the official proclamation shortly after 7 a.m. to about three dozen cyclists gathered outside Red's Public House.

We celebrated the proclamation with a ride up 3rd and Grande Avenues as far as 19th Street.
The approximately 4 mile round trip included three types of bike lanes--protected, buffered and regular (pictured above)--as well as streets of various lanes and widths. Streets like 19th pose the biggest challenge to bicycle commuting: an arterial with narrow lanes and parking on both sides. As our group turned south, another cyclist was coming north trailing a few cars. Is there a solution, or is this even a problem?

The riders returned to Red's, which in addition to the celebratory free coffee was offering breakfast burritos for $5. All riders received a bag containing this swag:

Late in the afternoon, Sag Wagon Deli and Brew hosted a Ha…