What a week

Not much to say, only what I can spit out how exhausted the week has proved to be.


Wall Street Meltdown

You never know the timing of how these things pan out, but I've suspected that the financial markets have been operating on borrowed time for several years now.  It's not what I know, it's who I read, and I've been following Krugman, Roubini, Duncan Black, and Ritholz for a long time now.  There might be a full blown panic unfolding this week, but I've miscalled this before. 

We'll see how this shakes down to the architecture world, but my first thoughts are very dark indeed about this.  Clients almost always rely on credit markets to finance their construction, and I know that the clients we have now currently at the firm rely on the financial markets for their income.  I'm already hearing from friends from school who are looking for jobs now that the jobs out there have completely dried up.  I've heard of big layoffs at design firms in NYC. This wild ride could mean some frightening shake outs in the architecture job market.

And looking to Philadelphia, what proposals are out there that would be most threatened if the credit markets completely froze?  The American Commerce Center, with its ambitious spire really smells like it's dependent on a healthy office rental market and financing to meet its scale.  Walnut St Capital claims that it has secured its financing for this enormous project, but I'll speculate that enormous projects like this one might be most at risk in a rapid slowdown.


Pedestrian Pushback

Few things upset me these days. Back in 2004, out of school and with my first career oriented job at a little luxury homebuilder called Toll Brothers, I had a lot of stress come out of the ordinary things I did in my life. My commute sucked, 45 minutes, I had no money and i had to keep filling up the gas tank every week. I had no idea what I was doing and I was insecure, so I had an irrational fear of getting called into the office to be told that my hiring was a mistake. Traffic sucked. Stressing about being late to work sucked. Gaining weight because my only lunch options were fast food places in Morrisville.

So fast forward to 2008. I'm happy at my job, I only live 10 minutes away by bike. I don't deal with traffic - actually the thought of being late because I got stuck in traffic feels like something I used to do but have now forgotten about, like watching Thundercats after school or eating Campbell's Soup. Yes, I get pissed when cars cut me off on the streets, but I feel like it's more like a challenge for me to bike faster.

But there is one thing these days that absolutely gets me angry every time - seeing red, thinking about writing my congressman, organizing a protest, shouting match kind of angry. I'm sick of construction sites in the city taking over the sidewalks. It's completely disrespectful to pedestrians, and quite often it's dangerous. The one I most often see is on 2nd street in Queen Village around the block from my house. Punks!

So I'm glad to see pushback like this. Seriously, it's time to make these kinds of conditions unacceptable in this city.


Philadelphia's Budget shortfall.

Is 450 million over 5 years. I didn't realize until now that Philadelphia's yearly budget is on the order of 3.5 billion. and that the biggest chunk of it comes from wage taxes and something called a "net profit tax." I'm intrigued, so I might dig a little more to learn where the money comes from, and where it goes.

Anyway, I read Nutter's speech about this. I love this guy's priorities. He says things that are so measured and judicious, but always has this tone of passion and urgency when talking about these really dry issues.


More bicycle nonsense.

Aaah. I can't stop fussing through the internet, looking for cheap bicycle frames. My very latest obsession is chrome plating old steel frames, documented beautifully and tragically here. This has only distracted me slightly from my other 2008 obsession: the Miyata Team Titanium bicycle I bought this past spring.

I've swapped out a few more components, so I thought I'd document the latest snapshot of my work in progress:
This is where you'll usually find her - in the only spot she will fit on the first floor in my tiny trinity. I actually don't mind the bike as a focal point for the living room - it very well may be the most valuable thing I own.

Here's a craiglist gem - 3ttt Prima 220 handlebars I got from a really nice guy in Chestnut Hill. $30 including the price of Phillycarshare to get there. They're incredibly lightweight. I also found out recently that this no name stem I bought back in April for $35 is actually an old Trek System 1 stem. I think it's a fairly standard issue item.

Also from the man in Chestnut Hill, a Prolink selle italia seat. $35 including phillycarshare. It's very nice. The seatpost I bought from bikeline the very first week I had the frame. I hate it - I've fallen in love with the aesthetic of raw metal, so the black painted aluminum zones on this post gross me out.

The tubing badge - It says "Titanium Miyata exclusive APA Aluminum Pressurized Adhesive." This would be a good time to note that I paid $200 even for the frame, but add $20 for gas and dinner that I bought my friend for going up to check it out with me.

Here's the red lug and aluminum fork. Also, the calipers are old shimano 600 taken from the centurion I had previously cannibalized. By the way, the centurion is doing just fine - I rebuilt it after acquiring the components from the guy in Chestnut Hill.

How do I know this is a 1992 Team Titanium, and not a 1991 Team Titanium? This little logo on the fork matches the one shown in the catalog

The wheelset I bought for this build was a pretty good deal. $135 for Dura ace hubs, 28h in front, 32 in back. Mavic CXP33 rim in back, and some weird no name rim in the front. All it said was "Matrix Heat Treated 700c." It was a charcoal grey, which sucked because the CXP33 is raw aluminum and matches the frame. Nevermind, I replaced it (myself, thank you very much) last weekend with a sun M14A, pseudo aero rim, also raw aluminum and $30. It looks 1000 times better. By the way, I built it after watching the bike tube guys. They're actually pretty entertaining.

And here's the rear rim.

Can't forget the pedals - mks-gr9 platforms. I bought it now on eBay, I think I paid $25.

Finally, I musn't forget the drivetrain, which I'm not super excited about, but it was another craigslist gem. I bought a sora group for $60 with STI shifters, triple crank, and pretty much everything but the bottom bracket. At the time, used sora brake shifters were going for $80 alone, so I think I did okay. Cosmetically, they're not in the best shape, but they shift fine. I do find the triple crank useless. I went up the manayunk wall with my biopace double crank just fine, so I can't imagine I'll find much use for the granny gear in Philly.

So, what's next? The headset looks like crap - it's big, bulky and black. I'd like to switch it out with a new Tange Levin or similar. I really want to get rid of the seat post, but it's an odd size - 25.8mm, which leaves my options really limited for now. And I'd really like to upgrade the drivetrain. The sora stuff feels a little unrefined. And to top it all off, I'm eyeing some beautiful leather trim for the handlebars from Velo Orange, which I'd probably try to match with a Brooks Swallow Saddle.

So far, I've spent close to $600 for all the items. At this point, it feels like I won't be happy until I spend $600 more.


Foxwoods Moving

This philly inquirer story that just broke seems like great news, but of course with these casinos, the devil is in the details. I opposed the two waterfront casino proposals, partly because the idea of gambling in Philadelphia was so transparently conceived as a way to scrape up some revenue and nothing else, and partly because the proposals were both junk for the city. For urbanists, this is now well accepted, but insular car oriented developments are always dead spots. They're the ugly, uninteresting and dangerous. Think Pier 70. Think Dockside. Think the paperboard condos up by the Sugarhouse site. I go to these places when I want to feel bleak and disconnected. It's an ignorant remnant of the twentieth century that big power player developers still try and foist this nonsense on Philadelphia.

Okay, s0 the possibilities that come from this resiting are terrific. I've always had a soft spot for the Gallery. I'm not sure if it was genius or negligent to put a mall over one of the biggest train hubs in the region - frankly it's a little of both. It's actually a good thing to have a mall accessible to center city, I use it and so do a lot of other people. The problem was that as it was developed, the gallery missed opportunities that would have made it great. It's tone deaf as an urban project - no real street presence, and it's got a location that easily would have accommodated much higher density. It could and should have 20 stories of residential or office or both above it.

So I'm hoping that the owners -PREIT and a group of others take this most recent news as an opportunity to do a major reboot of that whole area. I can easily imagine a high end shopping mall with major entertainment infrastructure becoming the seed of a vibrant center city. Face it - right now all the new construction that's happening there is the convention expansion or related to it. And conventions alone won't bring strength to that part of the city.

And maybe Sugarhouse will take this opportunity to stop being wrongheaded and think about locating next to Foxwoods on that big, empty lot. I mean, cities are made for agglomerations.


That last post was as pointless as it was ineffective.