As you may have heard, Trumpcare—the efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act—appears to be dead. Jonathan Chait attributes the reason to the Republican party and conservatism as a movement because it is incapable of governing and meeting basic public needs. As he writes:
The collapse of the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare is an especially vivid demonstration of the broader problem. The cohesion Republicans possessed in opposition disintegrated once they had power, because their ideology left them unable to pass legislation that was not cruel, horrific, and repugnant to their own constituents.
Frankly, I couldn’t agree more. Back in May, I wrote that the Republican Party is incapable of governing because their ideology is incompatible with government playing any role in most aspects of public life. In other words, they can’t govern because they basically want to abolish government. However, the reality is that government intervention is necessary when the market fails to provide necessary services. For most of the twentieth century, the government has generally balanced private industry and public intervention on the grounds of the “public good,” using a formula that looks something like this:
Allow the market to operate freely and provide whatever it is we need.
Identify areas where market failures do not provide for the public good.
Devote government resources to provide those necessary services.
We’ve done this with labor protections, the environment, civil rights, education, and, in expensive localities, with rent control. But we haven’t done this with healthcare, and that’s why we’re in this mess.
Market-based healthcare is a failure because healthcare providers charge as much as they want and because patients have no idea or control over what those costs are. Insurance providers and government health plans can only negotiate with the providers in an opaque system that keeps costs high for everyone. This is even more true for those who aren’t covered by a group insurance plan, such as those provided by an employer, or by a government health program, such as Medicaid or Medicare.
What is necessary to truly reform healthcare is universal regulation over rates for health services. The free market has failed to control costs, and that’s the real reason why health insurance premiums are higher every year. There’s nothing to control those underlying costs. The Republican Party line—that “Obamacare is a failure”—is true because it didn’t address the cost of health services: it only made it so that health insurance cover more people that couldn’t afford it before, including the poor and patients with preexisting conditions. The Affordable Care Act can’t keep premiums low because it is an attempt to reform from the supply side. Its aim is to give health insurance companies more customers so they could spread healthcare costs over a bigger pool of patients. But what we truly need is a demand-side reform. Regulate the health services markets, standardize the rates, freeze their costs, and reward providers who implement efficiency measures to provide better health services at a lower price. In essence, this is what single-payer healthcare does, but this is not the only possible solution.
Government reform of the health services market would do what we need most in the US healthcare system: cover everyone and keep health insurance premiums down. But doing this requires Congressional leaders to put on their big-kid pants and to actually govern, and we see what happens when we let try to do that.
When Citi Field and Yankee Stadium 2.0 opened in 2009, there were inevitable and exhaustive comparisons between the two. The consensus was, at least among my friends, that the Mets park was much better than what the Yankees had built in that it felt more like a baseball stadium. It seemed that the Yankees didn’t build a baseball stadium as much as they openend an airport shopping mall with a baseball field in the middle of it, peppering it with a few hot dog stands. Also, Citi Field had better food offerings: a pair of Danny Meyer food stands, a beer garden, and vegetarian options.
Although both stadiums were built almost exactly where the old parks stood, the two parks were built as centerpieces of urban redevelopment in the South Bronx and at Willets Point in Queens.
The Yankees opened a Hard Rock Cafe that is open year-round, even when the Yankees aren’t playing. I don’t know a single person that would plan a trip to go there.
At Citi Field, however, there will be a much more compelling reason to schlep to Willets Point during the baseball offseason. Danish brewery Mikkeller is coming to Citi Field:
Mikkeller announced that it’s expanding, and will open its first East Coast Brewery this fall at Citi Field in Flushing, Queens. The forthcoming brewery “Mikkeller Brewing NYC” will be in a non-ticketed part of the stadium, and remain open year-round.
I think the Mets outdid the Yankees here, again. Mikkeller has a sterling reputation among beer nerds with their breweries in Copenhagen, Denmark and in San Diego, California and with two bars—also in California—in San Francisco and Los Angeles. This will be their first foothold in the US East Coast. And although the food options are “safe,” trafficking in established household names of contemporary cuisine, namely David Chang’s fried chicken and Pat LaFrieda’s burgers, it sure beats eating whatever passes for food at a Hard Rock Cafe these days.
Mikkeller NYC is due to open this fall, presumably shortly after the Mets have been eliminated from qualifying for the postseason.
Square Cash, the peer-to-peer payment service by Square, has undergone some changes over the years, and some of them I do not like. However, the final straw came when they required me to verify my account by connecting to Facebook to add funds to my Square Cash balance. To echo the sentiment that John Gruber holds towards Facebook, I’d like to tell Square Cash… we can’t be friends!
Square Cash was better than either of these peer-to-peer services because:
You could send money via email. This was so simple. You emailed your friend and cc’ed email@example.com and put the amount in the subject line. After a quick setup, the money was transferred between user’s bank accounts.
Square Cash used debit cards to process transactions, instead of ABA routing and account numbers. This made signing up a lot faster and, also, most banks offers some fraud protection with debit card purchases. I don’t believe they offer such protection with these ABA transfers. How secure can an ABA transfer be, considering that it was developed in 1910?
Most payments were free and instantaneous. When you sent money, it would charge your debit card as a purchase and then withdraw the funds from your checking account. When you would receive funds, it would add the funds to your checking account, as if you had returned a purchase.
But over the years, many of these advantages have gone away.
Most transfers over email fail so you have to use the mobile app or login to your account on a browser to send someone money.
New users reports that they must provide an ABA routing and account numbers when sending money over a certain amount.
Transfers from one bank account to another are no longer instant. Now, you must “cash out” to transfer the money to your bank account. Also, instant transfers to your bank account are no longer free. You can opt for an instant transfer, but Square will deduct 1% of the amount as a fee. Next business day transfers, however, remain free.
When AT&T revamped their unlimited wireless plans earlier this year, they offered a $10 discount to customers who signed up for auto-pay with a debit card or a bank account. (Credit cards are excluded presumably because it costs AT&T more to process these payments.) When I changed to the new unlimited wireless plan, I added my Square Cash virtual card as the payment method for my AT&T Wireless account. This made sense because two other people pay me for their share of the wireless bill through Square Cash, and it was more convenient for AT&T to just bill against my Square Cash balance instead of transferring that balance to a bank account and then paying AT&T there.
Billing against that Square Cash virtual card, however, has been painful.
For the first month, I didn’t have enough funds in my Square Cash balance to cover the transaction so it failed due to insufficient funds. This seemed counter intuitive. If I initiate a peer-to-peer payment and don’t have enough funds, Square Cash will charge my debit card to cover the transaction. This was not expected behavior.
To get around this, I had to add funds from my checking account. Since my bill is about $200, I tried to add $100, but when I did, I was surprised to see a request to connect my Square Cash account with Facebook.
No, Square Cash! We can’t be friends.
Dammit, Square! I don’t have a Facebook account! Well, I do have an account, but I deactivated it almost three years ago after Sarah and I split up. While I have long ago recovered from that break up, I really enjoy not having a Facebook account, and I don’t see adding $100 to my Square Cash account as the reason to reactivate it.
There’s no way around this. There are only two options: selecting “Continue,” which takes me to a Facebook login page, or tapping on an “x,” which only returns me to the previous screen. If I tap on that “x,” I’m back trying to add $100 to my Square Cash balance, thus requiring me to connect a Facebook account. I’m caught in a loop.
I asked Square on Twitter about this. However, I forgot to include a screenshot, although I did link to Gruber’s post about Facebook.
But I am not starting out. I’ve been using Square Cash for several years and have transacted thousands of dollars in that time.
The ironic part of all this is that I am encountering this problem because I am trying to let Square Cash make money. Assuming a 1.5% debit card processing fee, Square stands to make about $3 from my nearly $200 monthly wireless bill.
I did find a workaround. Like a criminal, I have to “structure” my transfers, adding small amounts, around $50, each day to build up enough of a balance to cover my wireless bill. That avoids the requirement to connect my Facebook account to my Square Cash account.
But I’m not doing this again. I am switching my payment method over to my bank’s debit card. I’m certainly not reactivating my Facebook account just to make Square a few bucks.
I first visited Beacon in February 2005 on a class trip to the Dia museum. I was taking a Video Art class and as part of our curriculum, we were to visit the museum where many works by video artists—not just on video but in a variety of different media—are housed. Our class met on Thursdays, and instead of meeting at NYU, we met at Grand Central Terminal to take a Hudson line train to Beacon.
It would have been a great trip, except that the museum is open Friday through Monday during the winter months. The museum was closed on this particular Thursday.
I have returned to Beacon many times over the years, including a three-night trip in late July 2007. A lot of places that were around then are still there. These include the Bank Square Coffeehouse, Max’s on Main, and BJ’s Soul Food Restaurant. One place that stood largely unchanged was an abandoned brick warehouse on the corner of Main Street and East Main Street. (Yes, Beacon has three main streets: Main, East Main, and, yes, West Main).
Last weekend, I returned to Beacon for a midsummer day trip. It was the first time I had been there since October 2015, and there were a few new places, or at least places I hadn’t noticed before. There was Draught Industries (a craft beer bar), Pandorica (a kind of “New Age” restaurant), and an expansive taproom for the Hudson Valley Brewery.
And like before, there was that abandoned brick warehouse on the corner of Main and East Main Streets. But something was different. The warehouse wasn’t abandoned anymore. It was being renovated for conversion to residential lofts.
As you can probably tell, a big reason why I wrote this post is to share two photos of the same place, ten years apart. So here they are side-by-side, allowing you to get the full effect.
A lot of what I’ve seen in Beacon is what some would call a “renaissance” and others would disparage as “gentrification.” Regardless of what you call it, this process is not a straight line. One place that had shown up over the years was The Hop. I first went in 2013 when it was a beer store with a few seats and a small kitchen.
Over the years, the place had moved up the street, rented out two stores, and expanded to include a full bar and a sit-down restaurant. When I went there in July 2015, the place was busy, and business seemed to be great.
It happened again! Someone used a photo I posted on Flickr for a news story.
KPCC, an NPR member radio station in Pasadena, California, used a photo I snapped in January 2010 to illustrate a story about the rising crime in downtown Los Angeles. The 37% increase in crime, over the last two years, has recently unnerved residents, workers, businesses, and tourists. The area has undergone a “renaissance” over the last decade, perhaps best exemplified by the presence of a Whole Foods Market at Grand Avenue and 8th Street. But the recent rise in crime could undermine gentrification in the area.
I snapped the photo in January 2010 during a Los Angeles Conservancy walking tour through the Historic Core of downtown Los Angeles. The photo shows a bustling street on a Saturday afternoon, teeming with pedestrians walking alongside the businesses on Broadway that largely catered to Latinos. A lot has changed in downtown since I took this photo.
Although this is not the first time that a photo of mine was used for a news story, nor do I mind very much that it was used in the first place, I do find its use to be a bit uninspired. The photo doesn’t really illustrate anything that is discussed in the news story. My photo doesn’t show the relatively new nightlife scene, it doesn’t show any symbols of gentrification in the face of growing homeless camps in the area, and it doesn’t show any signs of crime in the area.
Having used dozens of different bike lights over the years, my current favorites are the Blackburn 100 Front and 20 Rear Light Set. I bought a set back in December, but they were stolen when I parked my bike on a busy street in Park Slope, Brooklyn. I ordered a replacement set, and because I bought them from eBay, I was asked to write a review. Below is an expanded version of what I posted to eBay.
The set comes with a white front light and a red rear light, each with three modes: a mix of steady light and blinking modes. The front, white light is rated for 100 lumens, and the rear, red light is at 20 lumens. In practical terms, these are bright enough to be seen on city streets, where there is some streetlamp illumination, but they also work in a pinch as “see” lights to shine your path on a dark road.
Mounting the lights is easy. Just stretch the rubber strap over your handlebar and seat post, and fasten the strap over the notch. The lights are also easy to remove and are portable. This is important because you should remove your lights when parking your bike, otherwise you might find that someone has stolen them. That’s exactly what happened to me, as I noted above. However, these lights are a little bigger than most other lights I’ve used, but they’re still small enough to fit in your bag or even your pocket.
The other great thing about these lights is you can use them for a long time between charge cycles. The lights are a bit bigger than the Knog Blinder lights that were my previous choice, but the increased bulk presumably supports a larger battery. You only need to charge these lights about once a week in the dark, winter months, and significantly less often during the summer.
There are a few of minor drawbacks, however. First, the package includes only one Micro USB charging cable. Unless you have other cables lying around, you can only charge one light at a time. However, you can buy short Micro USB cables for a few bucks. Second, if you have a handlebar with an oversized, 31.8mm diameter, you have to really pull on mounting strap to wrap it around your handlebar. I’ve done this for months, and as long as you uniformly stretch it, it won’t weaken or break.
One of the things that you’ll find if you buy bike lights is that there are so many bad ones out there. At the moment, these are the best ones because they offer bright illumination and portability, are easy to remove without tools, cost about $60 for the set, offer a long burn time, and can be charged via USB.
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I finally had a chance to see the New York City 2017 Bike Map, and it took me a while to realize that the cover pays tribute to longtime New York Times fashion photographer and cultural icon Bill Cunningham. Cunningham was a well known bicycle enthusiast and was known to enjoy riding his bike to photograph New York street life in his weekly “On the Street” columns for the New York Times.
Film still from Bill Cunningham New York. First Thought Films/Zeitgeist Films.
There are a few giveaways that show the cover illustration depicts Cunningham:
it’s an older, white-haired man on cruiser,
he’s snapping a photo from his bike,
he’s wearing his trademark blue jacket and grey pants,
most obviously, the map indicates a credit of “Cover illustration of Bill Cunningham, used with permission of the Estate of William J. Cunningham.”
If you ever participated in a research survey or a focus group, you’ve likely had to answer a question about your age. But have you had to answer three?
This is a screenshot of a survey from a major focus-group market-research company based here in New York. It asks for your age in three different ways:
Enter your age in a text field.
Select your age range.
Input your date of birth.
In other words: what’s your age?, how old are you?, and when were you born?
It could be that they do this to ask so you don’t lie about your age. But I think they do this so they can filter the results in their spreadsheet and quickly find the subjects they want. For example: find people who were born before 1990, find people who are less between 28 and 34, or find people who reported to be between the age range of “28-34 years old,” etc.
Someone should show them that even in Google Forms, you can add calculation columns to help you find respondents within certain age ranges, respondents of specific ages, respondents who were born during certain years, or whatever combinations of these data. Honest. I’m not making this up. Isn’t Technology Great?!?
I won’t show them how to do it, but someone should…
The area is very industrial so there are a lot of trucks and commercial vehicles. Those vehicles are commonly double parked in the “bicycling margin” part of the roadways, forcing a cyclist into the middle of the road where motor vehicles travel. From my own observations, commercial vehicles also seem more likely to speed and engage in dangerous driving behavior for two reasons: First, commercial drivers are in a hurry to do their jobs and make their delivery schedules. Second, they also appear less cautious than other drivers often because they are driving someone else’s vehicle. And, as we know, because trucks and similar commercial vehicles are so heavy, they pose a greater danger to cyclists, pedestrians and even cars than a passenger vehicle in otherwise similar collision.
But it’s not just the trucks and commercial vehicles that make cycling so harrowing. Even private passenger vehicles engage in this kind of behavior, possibly because they are mimicking the behavior of their commercial counterparts. These drivers speed on side streets; they roll through stop signs, even when there are pedestrians present and are crossing the intersection; they make unsafe turns, failing to yield to traffic with the right-of-way; and on two-way streets, they will often cross the double-yellow line and speed against the direction of traffic in order to pass one of those double-parked vehicles that I mentioned earlier.
It’s not much better on the one-way streets. These streets, such as Scholes St and Montrose Avenue, are very wide. Cars will frequently drive side-by-side as if it were a two-lane road, except that it’s not a two-lane road. Those roads are designed to carry only one lane of traffic.
Every traffic engineer knows that road width determines driving behavior, especially speeding, and these wide roads encourage some very dangerous driving behavior. Cars constantly race each other, as one tries to pass a slower vehicle to get ahead of it before the road narrows back to only accommodate one lane of cars. Every single time I bike along this corridor, I hear a car zooming past me with the sound of an engine in full throttle. When the car does overtake me and the other slower vehicle, it will pass me with as little as a foot of clearance. What’s even more infuriating is to see that almost every time a car does this, it will reach a red light and have to stop anyway. I usually arrive at that same red light a few seconds later. Congratulations, asshole. All that dangerous behavior resulted in no decrease in travel time.
And if all this wasn’t bad enough, the road conditions in this area are atrocious for cars and bicycles alike. Potholes, debris, and even deteriorated railroad tracks plague users of these roadways.
Cyclists especially feel all of these pain points on the east-west streets that funnel traffic between the Williamsburg Bridge and East Williamsburg–Bushwick, specifically the corridor along Scholes and Meserole Streets.
Bike Lanes and Road Diet
Earlier this year, the NYC Department of Transportation planned a redesign of this corridor in anticipation of the looming L train shutdown in 2019. The DOT reasons that based on prior subway shutdowns, such as those after Hurricane Sandy and during the 2005 Transit Strike, the number of commuters crossing the East River by bicycle exploded as much as three-fold after Sandy and four-fold during the transit strike.1 The DOT is anticipating an increase in the number of cyclists in light of the L train shutdown and the the needs of commuters in neighborhoods between Bedford Ave and Myrtle-Wycoff stations on the L train route, specifically Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Ridgewood.
On Wednesday night, I began to see the new bicycle lanes on the aforementioned corridor along Scholes and Meserole Streets take shape. I am thrilled to see that this is coming to my neighborhood!
I can already imagine the reaction of area drivers who will claim that the narrower roadways will increase travel times. But this is simply not true. These lanes were only designed to carry one lane of traffic in each direction, and drivers will finally have to use them as they were designed. Just because some drivers once used the roadway to pass another vehicle—and now they can’t—didn’t help anyway. As I mentioned earlier, cars would race and pass each other only to arrive at the same red light within seconds of each other.
However, the efficacy of a bicycle lane and putting a roadway on a diet is only as good as the police enforcement. Although the new bicycle lane is not yet official, over the last two days, I already saw the most common problem plaguing bicycle lanes: cars using a bike lane as an automobile parking lane.
The DOT went through all this trouble to add a bicycle lane to improve traffic flow and increase safety, and all it takes is a few drivers to clog it up and force cyclists into the vehicle travel lanes, which then angers drivers who now must slow down for the bicycles that have to go around the parked cars.
This is why we can’t have nice things.
Anecdotally, the lower increase in bicycle commuters after Sandy compared to the increase during the transit strike is because a lot of people had the week off work as many businesses in Manhattan couldn’t open. ↩
Their conclusion is based on two claims. Unfortunately, both are wrong.
“Because AirPods use Bluetooth, and Bluetooth ‘Is Terrible,’ Thus AirPods Sound Terrible”
First, they claim that AirPods will produce terrible audio because they use Bluetooth, and Bluetooth produces terrible audio. In both theory and in practice, sending an audio signal over a wire is much better than sending one over a wireless connection. As the article notes, “Audiophiles have long been repulsed by Bluetooth audio. The frequency range is limited, the sounds are distorted, connecting can be a nightmare and audio can stutter or stop mid-stream.” But Apple might have overcome many of these challenges, not by sending a raw audio signal over the wire, but instead sending a digital audio stream that is decoded by the new W1 chip.
In practice, these standard criticisms against Bluetooth headphones aren’t there with the AirPods. The quality of the audio is about the same as what you get with the wired EarPods. I wouldn’t have expected any less (or any more) than that. However, there are some issues with audio dropping out from time-to-time. I notice this mostly when I’m streaming audio in busy areas, such as Union Square in Manhattan, for example. I’m not sure if this is because my iPhone can’t stream the audio, using the cellular radio, and send the digital audio signal to both AirPods, in a crowded area with a lot of radio interference.
Also, while it is true that pairing a Bluetooth audio device, such as headphones or a speaker, can indeed be difficult, connecting these AirPods take no time. I opened the case with one hand while I had my iPhone in the other, and after one tap to connect my AirPods, I was listening to them in a matter of seconds. This process also invisibly paired my AirPods with my other devices: my iPad, my Apple Watch, and my MacBook Pro. This was the ultimate Apple experience: It Just Works.
In short, compared to the wired EarPods, AirPods sound just as good, and they work almost as well for keeping an audio stream going. However, there’s one difference between AirPods and EarPods: there’s no tangled wire that becomes a white bird’s nest in your hand.
“AirPods Require a Wired Connection for Charging”
Second, they claim that although AirPods are wireless, they require a charging case that is wired. They write, AirPods “have an internal lithium ion battery that works for a whopping 5 hours (so like, maybe a couple days), and then when they die, you need to put them into their special ‘charging case,’ which then needs to be plugged into a power source via a cable.”
This misrepresents how one charges AirPods. While it is true that you have to use the case to charge the AirPods, the case itself has its own battery. The charging case itself does not have to be connected to anything to charge the AirPods. However, because the case has a battery, which does become depleted after about five AirPods-charging cycles, it does need to be connected to a Lightning cable and a USB power source. You can use the same charging cable as the one you have for your phone. Moreover, charging the case takes a very short amount of time, less than an hour.
At some point, yes, charging AirPods requires a wired connection. But this is similar to what you have to do with just about any mobile device but less often. If you have an iPad, you normally don’t have to charge it on a nightly basis like you have to do with your phone. This is similar to what you do with the AirPods charging case. An occasional wired charge will suffice. But otherwise, using and charging AirPods is a wholly wireless experience.
This is the danger is writing a review of a product before it is released. Having used AirPods for a little more than two months, I can tell you that this is the best new Apple product the company has released in a long time. The audio is comparable to what you get with wired EarPods. Apple has produced wireless, Bluetooth earphones that sound as good as the wired ones. No doubt, EarPods provide a more reliable connection, but the convenience of going wireless outweighs those occasional connection issues.
Ultimately, consumer goods succeed not just on quality but on convenience. CDs provide superior audio fidelity than MP3/AAC files, but carrying around CDs is inherently inconvenient. And if you don’t believe that Bluetooth can succeed in the consumer space, I will admit my early skepticism about WiFi nearly twenty years ago: “isn’t Ethernet more reliable?” It is, but imagine what a smartphone would be like if we were tethered to a network router, untangling bird’s nests of Cat-6 cables.
And, no, they don’t fall out of your ears.
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Home | TripMode | Your mobile data savior.2017/03/01 MacSparky suggested this to help you save data transfer when tethering. Looks reasonable for those of us considering switching to an unlimited plan with tethering.
The Jobs Americans Do - NYTimes.com2017/02/24 An enlightening set of portrayals of nine job Americans do now. An old college chum, Eric Steuer, penned on of the portraits in the series.
Underground New York2017/02/22 "A rare behind-the-scenes view of the exploding New York “underground” in the late sixties, a turbulent time and place that was to change American culture forever. A German TV crew, led by journalist Gideon Bachmann, explores the epicenter of the sixties revolution in art, music, poetry and film and interviews the main players in the “New American Cinema,” that was born on the streets of New York. Against a backdrop of cultural upheaval in all of the arts and growing political agitation against the Vietnam War, Bachman interviews the most prominent figures in “underground film,” including Jonas Mekas, Shirley Clarke, the Kuchar Brothers and Bruce Connor, and visits the most notorious location in the New York art world of the era - Andy Warhol’s Factory - to conduct an interview with the genius of Pop Art himself."
– Scott Hammen