If you look in the dictionary for a definition of “Tour de Force” you will find one word. “Gravity.” Writer and Director Alfonso Cuaron spent $100 million of Warner Bros money and spent it well.
This movie grabs you from the first moment and doesn’t let you go until the last scene. There is never a second that the characters, and through them the audience, aren’t at risk.
Medical Engineer Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Astronaut Matt Kolowski (George Clooney) are, with the rest of their space shuttle crew, on a repair mission to the Hubble telescope. While Kolowski shows off with a jet pack, Stone is making repairs. They are warned from mission control that space debris from a Russian Satellite is coming their way and to abort the mission.
Of course there’s not time and the debris hit the shuttle, blowing Stone into space and killing the rest of the crew. Kolowski makes a hail Mary save, but if you think the problems are bad now, just wait.
They decide to head to the International Space Station since the shuttle is damaged beyond repair. Things go from bad to worse and well…see it for yourself.
This is the best acting you will ever see from Bullock and if she doesn’t win an Oscar, the Academy is more screwed up that we already know it is. There is no scene when she is not in the middle, whether reliving the loss of a child or deciding to give up and shut off her oxygen. For Clooney, this was a walk on.
Gravity is visually stunning, with the best special effects you will ever see in a space movie. This isn’t really scifi, since virtually all of it is possible, if not plausible. There are no aliens, no “save humanity from the invaders. This is a woman who against all odds…
When the action stopped, and a black screen with the title appeared, the audience was sitting in stunned silence. Virtually everyone sat through the credits, if for no other reason that they needed the adrenalin to subside a bit before they could stand. Incredibly, you extremities are still tingling when you get home.
Gravity tells me that Hollywood can make great movies, tell strong stories, and entertain. All it not lost.
Go see this film.
Some people who get laid off sit around crying for a few days, sign up for unemployment, and then begin the endless slog of finding a job. A Manchester, England man added a step: become a superhero. While he can’t leap tall buildings in a single bound, he does pay for expired meters, saving many a motorist a hefty fine. It was reported:
He has also been helping ladies carry their shopping, handing out umbrellas while it was raining to shoppers and aiding people moving furniture.
Captain Manchester, who has over 3,000 followers on Twitter, leaves a business card at the scene of his good deeds.
It’s a story that warms the heart and annoys the parking authority. It also makes you wonder what kind of woman this guy’s dating. He hasn’t told her what he’s doing with his time off. He says:
“I told my two best friends what I was doing and they were very supportive but my girlfriend has no idea, she’d kill me.”
Read about it here.
As the City of Seattle tries to carry out a program to enforce parking laws on its worst offenders, city officials have acknowledged some major legal loopholes have severely hindered their efforts.
It was reported that in Seattle:
- More than 10,000 people or businesses have three or more unpaid parking tickets;
- 502 car owners have ten or more unpaid tickets;
- The 502 top offenders have a combined total of 9,077 unpaid parking tickets;
The first loophole allows drivers with out of state licenses to rack up fines without the threat of the ultimate punishment. They are expected to resolve their tickets, but the city cannot boot their vehicles as an inducement.
The second loophole gives the truly devious the option to register their car under and different name and, in one fell swoop, clear their record of all parking infringements.
“I think there are still some loopholes we’re working on trying to close because it’s obvious we’re not getting some of the biggest violators out there today,” said SPD Parking Director William E. Edwards.
He said the department has lobbied, unsuccessfully, to close the holes in city and state law.
There are about a billion laws in our country – and a lot of them contradict each other. Leaving these loopholes open undermines the parking authority and shows the general public that its city’s policies are convoluted and ineffective.
Read the article here.
I guess it shouldn’t surprise one. The District of Columbia, our nation’s capital, can’t seem to get residential parking permits straight. That shouldn’t surprise a careful reader, since Washington hasn’t gotten anything else right for decades, but there you go. Read about it here.
There is a need for a residential program in many cities. They put up signs and then send out permits to local residents so they can park on the streets. Sometimes the program is in effect full time, sometimes only in evenings. Whatever makes sense. Residents must provide proof of residence. That seems right.
After all, if I worked at a nearby store, what is to keep me from applying for a permits a block away on a residential street. But then, why shouldn’t I be able to do so. And what about visitors to the residents. How do you handle them?
I can understand why DC wants to give parking permits free to residents. Their argument is that they pay taxes, they should be able to park. Whoops — hold on there. What about Mazie who lives in an apartment above a garage and doesn’t have a car. She pays taxes through her rent. Why should she pay for the parking on the street to subsidize her landlord’s parking his $45000 1957 cherry jet black Ford Thunderbird — you know, the one with the portholes – but I digress.
Then there are visitors. In DC, everyone gets a visitor’s permit, free. Of course that’s open to rampant abuse. Why not rent the permit to someone working nearby? And then there’s fraud.
I don’t think that residential permits should be free for anyone. If you live there and have off street parking (say in a garage or under an apartment) then you don’t need a permit and don’t pay anything. If you have three cars and only two spots off street, fine. Buy a permit so you can park your extra car on street. Maybe that would motivate some folks to clean out their garages and use it for what it was intended.
The charges don’t have to be onerous, but they should be enough to remind folks that parking isn’t free. The money should also go back into the neighborhoods to repair streets, curbs, and the like.
“But that isn’t fair” say the residents of DC. I pay taxes, I should park for free. Well, then you should get your garbage picked up for free, your water for free, while we are at it lets do away with building inspectors, well you get the idea.
But what about visitors. The residents should be able to get permits for them so they can party the night away or whatever. Simple – let them pay for them. If I drive to a downtown area to visit a friend in an apartment, I most likely have to pay for parking. So why not on a residential street? They can go on line, pay the fee, and get a permit they could print out. It would be good only for the period paid for and could have a QR or Bar Code that is unique so that enforcement staff could scan it and ensure that no hanky panky was going on.
I know why all this is so difficult. Cities are run by politicians and they need to be elected. Who is going to vote for someone who made you pay for parking in front of your house? Politicians get elected by giving stuff away, not charging for it.
I’m sure DC will come up with a wonderful plan that will provide free parking for everyone and be impossible to administer or enforce. Why not? Virtually everything else that originates there is impossible to administer or enforce.
We’ve all seen those commercials – the ones where a sad-faced young adult talks about how he killed three members of one family because he was texting and driving. We don’t want to watch, but we do because even though we are glad we’re not the ones who have to live with that burden, we could be. We’ve all sent a text while driving.
During the summer, New York police went after texting drivers to the tune of a 365 percent increase in citations. Now Governor Andrew Cuomo is introducing the second half of the program, some 300 blue signs across 91 rest stops and parking areas where drivers can stop and safely attend to their phones and messages away from traffic.
The signs will carry messages like, “It can wait. Text stop 5 miles.” Cuomo said: “With this new effort, we are sending a clear message to drivers that there is no excuse to take your hands off the wheel and eyes off the road because your text can wait until the next texting zone.”
It’s a terrific idea, because some of us would never drink and drive or take drugs and drive, but because the cell phone and all its charms is pretty addictive, we might try to sneak in a message while stopped at a red light. Not I, of course.
Read the article here.
I have been losing my hearing for upwards of 20 years. It is insidious. You don’t know its happening. People may notice you don’t hear, and you blame them for mumbling, or turning away when they are talking, or that damned accent, but in the end, it is you that is suffering.
My hearing loss is in a frequency that is in the middle range of the human voice. I can hear you, I just can’t understand what you are saying. It drives people nuts, and frankly me too.
So, why not hearing aids. Hell, when you get them you are acknowledging that you are dare I say it — OLD. My father had hearing aids. Grandmothers have hearing aids. You get hearing aids just before you go into the ‘home.’
Robyn has been subtle. She would tear ads for hearing aids out the the paper and leave them on my desk. Finally I decided to make the leap. There are these devices that fit entirely in the ear and then others that fit behind the ear. I went to a local company that fits them and tried a few out.
I selected a pair that fit behind the ear with a very small wire that goes into the ear. They are individually programmed to my particular frequency loss and have four different settings (regular, conversation in loud bars or restaurants, auditorium or theater, and anywhere super noisy) and twelve volume settings. They are controlled by a little hand held device you can carry in your pocket.
They connect to the TV so I can hear it directly through the aids. They also, and get this, connect by Bluetooth to my cell phone. I can hear phone calls through the hearing aids. Also, the hand held gizmo has a little mike so I can speak on the phone hands free, just like in the car.
But you know the best part — I can hear again. When the dog walks across the floor I can hear her toenails click on the hardwood. I find that the cat announces himself when he enters a room, and I’m told, has been since we got him. I found that the fountain in the back yard actually makes a sound and its beautiful. I haven’t said “pardon me” or “what did you say” or “excuse me” in a month. I can go to a restaurant and actually carry on a conversation and don’t have to care where I sit.
It has been years since I have been to a movie and could actually understand the dialogue. Today we went to see some romantic comedy (Enough Said) and I heard every word clearly, and actually understood the plot.
I didn’t tell anyone when I got them and went to see a friend who has complained bitterly about my lack of hearing. I talked with him for a few minutes and then told him that I had gotten the hearing aids. He asked me when I was going to pick them up. He couldn’t see them. Maybe he was been a really good friend, but frankly I didn’t care. They were just the words I wanted to hear.
He then asked me how they worked in noisy bars and I said that for the first time I could actually understand the person talking to me. He smiled and said that maybe I could send him the address of the place where I had gotten them.
Robyn seems to be talking very loud all the time now. I try to get her to lower the volume and she says that I should be patient. After all, I have been training her to talk loud for years.
My recommendation is that you swallow your pride, and go get your hearing tested. If you have a loss it will show up and you can get it fixed. This technology is not cheap, but then you will find that the talk you have been missing isn’t either.
My business associates and friends, when they discover that I’m wearing hearing aids (usually after I tell them) have been super supportive. Words like “its about time” and “thank heaven” seem to populate the conversation.
Are they perfect. Of course not. But they are making a huge difference in the quality of my life. Technology is an amazing thing. Wow!
Can a parking spot be unlucky? A woman in England has had a pretty bad run with the spot out in front of her house. One car and its replacement were both totaled during the last 5 weeks. A motorcyclist took out the first and a speeder demolished the second. Read the rest of the article here.
It’s a question we all ask ourselves when we park: “Is this spot going to be good for the well-being of my vehicle?” We don’t want door dings, kamikaze shopping carts, or bird poop spoiling our paint jobs, to say the least.
But two major collisions in the same spot? Is it coincidence or is it just a matter of time before it happens again? Some other English drivers have had bad luck with some parking spots that are categorically bad luck: read here. But that’s an extreme case.
I think some spots are inherently more problematic than others. Take the spot in front of my house. It looks like it would be fine, but because the neighbor across the street doesn’t look behind her when she backs out of her driveway, we are talking about two crunch jobs in the last 5 years – one of them was our car.
How does the industry measure this kind of thing?
When you think about it, driving a car must be easy. We drive billions of miles each day in the US with around 32 000 traffic fatalities a year. That’s down from 54,000 in 1972 and we have 100,000,000 more people today than 40 years ago.
When you consider that many (maybe most) of the people you see on the road you wouldn’t trust to mow your lawn, the fact that we can drive a couple of tons of metal over 70 mph 20 feet from others doing the same and walk away it seems miraculous. AND many of those people are talking on the phone, putting on their makeup, eating, drinking (coffee, soft drinks), or daydreaming at the same time. Plus many barely passed their driver’s test, on the third try.
I propose that all this is due to a lot of people involved in transportation doing their jobs very well. That includes the people who design and build cars, the folks who are in charge of the roads and signs, and the police that keep it all under some kind of control.
I haven’t purchased a car in nearly a decade, but I rent often. New technology is amazing. The best part is that a Luddite like me can safely negotiate the new electronics and get from point A to point B safely and in relative comfort. That tells me that those designers in Detroit, or Tokyo, or Stuttgart think about not only what the car is supposed to do, but also about the nincompoops that have to drive it.
I wonder what would happen if the folks that built the latest Ford or Chevy used the same engineers that built my Sony Vaio. Consider
How would it be if your car just suddenly stopped working and you had to turn off the key and then turn it back on to get going again, on the freeway of course? What if you went to your garage and found that you couldn’t start your car until it had been ‘upgraded’ and that could take half an hour. I suppose newer cars would have a different ‘dashboard’ than older ones and it would take two week’s training to be able to turn on the radio (By the way this is true today, but then I found out the Radio was provide by Microsoft so I understood immediately.)
Yes cars are easy to drive, safe, and useful. So when you see that guy in front of you texting and not moving at the green light, remember, it could be a lot worse.
Over at Paul Barter’s Reinventing Parking, he goes into detail about the call for more parking in Hamilton, ON. Seems that although the city has plenty of parking now, there is a potential for a parking shortage in years to come.
Paul’s point is that Hamilton has many unused arrows in its parking quiver, like demand pricing and other tools, and makes the point that forcing people on to public transit isn’t the only solution to growth in central cities. To wit:
And anyway, he is making the false assumption that managing parking demand is only about shifting people to ‘walk, or take the bus or ride a bike’.
In fact, managing and pricing parking is ALSO about nudging parking demand around in other ways that do not necessarily involve a shift in mode choices.
For example, what could we expect in Hamilton’s problem areas if Performance Pricing were tried. Some motorists would park for slightly less time, increasing turnover. Some would park a little further from their destination, easing pressure on those problem spots. Valet options might emerge. Some will share a car rather than have each member of a group drive separately to a meeting or lunch. Some employees will choose off-street facilities rather than shifting their cars around in the streets.
To achieve at least some reduction in parking demand, we don’t actually need to shift anyone to other modes or reduce total demand for trips in cars. Of course, mode shifts would also help but they are just part of the story.
So has Hamilton already maxed out on parking pricing and management? Has it done everything else it could cost-efficiently do so that more parking supply is the only option?
I chuckled at the quote from the local parking manager, and Paul’s response:
Hamilton’s manager of parking operations was also quoted as saying:
To have a vibrant area, you need parking. Not 100 per cent of the people headed to the core will walk, or take a bus or ride a bike.
Wow. What a comment. It sounds like he has already decided the supply option is the right one.
I wonder if the parking manager wanted more supply, read that more parking decks, because it would make his job more secure. Strangely, using better parking management, and the many tools available to managers, would it seems to me make the downtown parking executive a more important cog in the city planning wheel, rather than someone who oversees construction.
Oh, and thanks to Paul for the reference to our Facebook Page.
OK, I gave Don a bit of flack in the last post, but I have to throw a few roses in this one. A blogger in Utah got all excited about the problems with bundling parking with other costs and how it cheats everyone. The words were really right of Don’s book “The High Cost of Free Parking.”
This blogger (Jim Dalrymple) went to a movie and was surprised to be offered a parking validation (he walked).
And that’s when it hit me: I was paying for parking whether I was using it or not. And that’s a terrible arrangement.
Parking at the Gateway costs $3 for three hours — about the time you’d need to walk from the parking lot, buy a movie ticket, watch the previews and the movie, and get back to your car. A validation ticket makes that parking seem free, but of course it is not; the costs of building, maintaining and securing parking lots are incredibly high and are always passed on to building owners, tenants and, finally via prices, customers.
In other words, we pay more for goods and services that come with “free” parking because the costs of that parking are rolled into the prices of whatever we’re buying. This is true of all parking, of course, but the validation transaction emphasizes that parking was never free to begin with, it’s merely an obligatory add-on when buying something else.
So in my case, the movie ticket was more expensive because it came with $3 worth of parking. It’s like I was forced to buy a concession that I didn’t want.
It was pointed out that this ‘bundling’ was caused by cities requiring a certain number of parking spaces so the landlords simply passed the costs along to the users, whether or not they parked.
But then we in the business know all this, right?