Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Appreciating Juglandaceae

There are black walnut trees all over downtown Traverse City neighborhoods. This tree does not appear to be native according to the US Forest Service: Juglans nigra L.

-Native range of black walnut

but it sure has naturalized itself wonderfully.

I've often thought about collecting these walnuts but was never sure about how they compared to the English variety you get in the store.

Supposedly they are wonderful as Hank from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook discusses at TheAtlantic: Black Gold: The Pleasures of a Hard-to-Crack Nut

Looks like I have a foraging project for next Fall!

Monday, December 27, 2010


In his Mars Trilogy, Kim Stanley Robinson wrote about a company named Dumpmines which was bought by "Praxis". This company made money by mining old landfills to recover valuable materials.

Sounds like a great idea.

American Waste will soon be doing something like this. They are building a Material Recovery Facility (Facebook link) which will be able to mechanically separate recyclable materials from the incoming trash stream. What this means is even if you forget to sort your recyclables from your trash then ostensibly some of those missed items will still get sorted.

So if Traverse City is going to move ahead with a single waste hauler (though I am not sure this is something that needs to be done) then this ability alone would make American Waste my preferred choice. But add the option to opt-out and to have curbside yard waste pickup and they become the top choice in my opinion. And I have to admit that by allowing niche operators like Bay Area Recycling for Charities to conitnue to operate my ire about this program has been dramatically reduced.

The three proposals only vary by $7.20 per year; but in terms of the time each person needs to dedicate to thinking about and dealing with trash and recycling then this does not seem to be unreasonable as I believe dealing with American Waste will save me over an hour per year (in other words, I'll trade more than one hour of labor at home for paying an extra $7.20 per year to a waste hauler).

Kelly at RecycleChicken has put together a comparison table of the three proposals. Note that the only advertiser at the RecycleChicken web site is American Waste so this may not be a totally unbiased recommendation on their part but this is a good starting point.

The City has more information on the Single Hauler program at their site.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

What is Hinge Line?

For a long time this was a quasi-anonymous site, shared with only a couple people. The only intention I had was to provide a place where I could share interesting things that related to northern Michigan.

But recently things have changed so I feel as though I should explain things.

What is Hinge Line?

A hinge line is the axis where on one side of the line the land is rising, and on the other side sinking, due to post-glacial isostatic rebound. It is slow change, but after the glacier retreats and that weight is gone the land rises back up.

In other words, remove an overburden and you can rise again.

There are multiple geological hinge lines in Michigan. (find the book 'Geology of Michigan' for more on the topic)

I chose the name Hinge Line because I see Traverse City and northern Michigan slowly rising again. Hinge line as metaphor for the rise from the weight that was lifted after the early 1990's when houses in Central Neighborhood were falling into disrepair and the State Hospital stood vacant. By the end of the 1990's it was clear Traverse City was developing a new persona, a new way of viewing itself as a community. That trend has continued and what I want to do here is spread those ideas that work. Be pragmatic. Be philosophical. Be reasonable.

I do have an agenda. It is to provide information and ideas that work. Because I want this place to keep rising. I want northern Michigan to achieve its full potential and rise as high as it can and lift us all with it.

Someday I'll move this site to its own domain. But for now this is not my job, just an interest, and I have no time to police what people say and respond to questions so no comments yet. But I welcome the change and will attempt to keep this going.

Andy Olds

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

This Place Is Nice

Talking about Traverse City and northern Michigan.

It is good to take the time to appreciate what is here. Where else is there a city with a downtown lake that hosts loons, buffleheads, red fox, and bobcats? Where else is there a downtown where can you fish for so many different fish species? Where else can you start on a downtown trail and hike to the North Country Trail? Or bike for hours? Where else is there such a density of craft fermenters and high-quality restaurants?

And this list is just a start. I love this place. It is why I am here.

A few more things that I have recently come across:
-the previously mentioned wine scene.

-Gary Fisher came to the Iceman Cometh race which is an indication of how this race is seen nationally.

-Local writer Keith Schneider writes about The Commons in the NYT: From Ex-Mental Hospital to a New Mixed-Use Life

-and statewide, here is a remarkable statistic via MLive: Michigan leads nation in rail-to-trail conversions

Thanks to everyone who makes this place so special.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

News For Bicyclists

Here are a couple of recent items that may be of interest to bicyclists:

PhysOrg: Preliminary study suggests frequent cycling could affect male fertility
A study of men attending fertility clinics has found bicycling for five or more hours a week was associated with low sperm count and poor sperm motility

TH: Bike Glow. If You're on The Go, Let Cars Know

Friday, December 10, 2010

Thoughts On The Proposed Boardman Lake Avenue

[this is the email I sent to Traverse City officials]

Dear City Officials,

I live in Old Town, on Ninth St between Lake Ave and Cass St, and I strongly oppose building Boardman Lake Avenue.

My opposition is based on the fact that the proposed street will only create the problem it is seeking to solve. As a daily pedestrian I see a traffic speed problem, especially on Lake Ave, but not a traffic volume problem. Building a new road will only exacerbate the speed problem and cause traffic congestion.

Because building more roads will always lead to more traffic by definition - this is why traffic gets modeled as a gas - it expands to fill the space given to it.
Does the city want to build roads or fix the traffic issues? - you can't do both.

The neighbors I talk to want to fix traffic issues, not build more roads.

I understand things have been said to long-time residents of Old Town about the traffic in our neighborhood. But that was before Tom Vanderbilt wrote 'Traffic' in 2008. Before the Braess paradox (i.e., "in a network in which all the moving entities rationally seek the most efficient route, adding extra capacity can actually reduce the network’s overall efficiency") was understood to apply to traffic models. And in the last 10 years many communities tried to build their way out of traffic congestion only to fail; while communities that have closed streets have improved the flow of traffic.

Why would Traverse City try the failed road building solutions of the past?

Here are my questions for everyone to consider before Boardman Lake Avenue is built:

- Has a traffic study ever been done to indicate that this new road would work as intended? Or does the preponderance of traffic use Cass St as a north-south corridor into and out of downtown. How much traffic is related to St. Francis school pick-ups and drop-offs?

- Is there an example anywhere, of any town, ever successfully decreasing in-town traffic by building a new road? The answer I have found is No, more roads always create more traffic within five years. The lesson other cities have learned is you cannot build your way out of traffic problems and more streets always lead to more traffic.

- Does Traverse City want to spend so much money on a new road without trying much less expensive traffic calming measures first?

- What would be the environmental impact on Boardman Lake from more road salt and sediment?

- How will pedestrians safely access the Boardman Lake trail? I heard a person say at an Old Town neighborhood meeting that the Boardman Trail bridge was built so pedestrians could avoid walking next to busy Eighth St. But now we might put a new high-volume street between the neighborhood and Boardman Lake? So instead of having to walk next to a busy street we'll have to cross one?!

- Wouldn't this road simply move the traffic problem elsewhere such as...

- Would Boardman Lake Ave cause dangerous backups on Eighth St as vehicles attempted to turn south?

- Would Tenth St become a favored east-west route?

- How much more traffic would all of Old Town see?

Finally, as conditions exist now it is almost like being caught in a perceptual three-sided box. What I mean by that is that there are three boundaries that are perceptually hard to cross as a pedestrian- 14th Street, 8th Street, and Division Ave. Let's not complete the box with a high speed cut through that will not solve anyone's problems.

Thanks for your consideration.

Additional reading:

'Traffic: why we drive the way we do'

Removing Roads and Traffic Lights Speeds Urban Travel

Braess Paradox

Friday, December 3, 2010

Why Traffic Engineers Don't Get The Braess Paradox

Or traffic calming ideas.
It isn't in "the book".

See Grist:
Confessions of a recovering engineer

An engineer designing a street or road prioritizes the world in this way, no matter how they are instructed:

1. Traffic speed
2. Traffic volume
3. Safety
4. Cost

One Person's Trash

Some thoughts on trash.

There were many complaints about the rail cars parked on the private rail lines behind Boardman Lake condos. Apparently they blocked the view of the Cone Drive parking lot. I was surprised by the complaints as I find the means of industrial production to have its own beauty. Things like rail cars, bridges, skyscrapers, and freighters. What makes rail cars an eyesore yet a freighter in our beautiful bay an attraction? Why did people complain about rail cars yet seem to miss the trash scattered around Boardman Lake and the acres of invasive baby's breath next to the condos? In fact, I was saddened yesterday when the cars were no longer there.

Perhaps it is because working on a single issue (that really isn't a problem) is easier than fixing real problems.

Like Traverse City's single-hauler waste removal proposal. What problem are they trying to fix? What will this do to innovative business like BARC that want to offer comprehensive recycling and curbside compost pickup? As it is now I pay $10 per month to Waste Management based on a voluntary program Christine Maxbauer spearheaded. That's the way it should be - let neighborhoods get their own deals but don't get city government involved.

In other words, if you like having one cable company you're going to love having just one trash hauler (and told you can't use anyone else). That would be like telling everyone they have to use Charter or they can't have television and Internet.

Or it may be the city is working on a single-hauler trash program because that is easier than dealing with real issues that are hurting businesses and citizens. How about fixing a real problem like that recently highlighted by the Northern Express and craft a "BYOB" ordinance so the tiny restaurants can succeed?