17 November 2010

Fiat Cinquecento Unveiled to North America Today

Today is the day that Fiat Officially announces its return to the United States.  The U.S. version of the Fiat 500, a.k.a. Cinquecento, was debuted at the L.A. International Car Show.  The car will be showing up at dealerships, called Fiat Studios, in December and will be available for sale in January.  Fiat also sent out letters of intent to 150 dealerships that applied for franchises.  Within the Fiat information released is that the EPA fuel economy
ratings for "City" and "Combined" ratings will exceed 40 m.p.g.  I am excited to see that the Fiat USA website has pricing, build configurations and Fiat paraphernalia.  More information is available on Facebook and Youtube.  Fiat has indicated that more versions will be available in the next two years.  They include convertible, four door people mover, and full electric power (already available in Europe).

11 November 2010

Milwaukee Alderpersons Support High Speed Rail

Despite what Governor Elect Walker wants, the majority of Milwaukee Alderpersons support the federally funded high speed rail system.  The Governor Elect wants the federal money to be spent on Highways and not mass transit.  The allocated money, if Wisconsin refuses it, will not go to Wisconsin, it will be re-allocated to another state.  We will also become the brunt of jokes nationwide as is already beginning - many states want this money and many of them are jealous we have it.

I want to make a simple point that everyone (including republican politicians) should be able to understand.  If I give my my money involuntarily to another entity, and there is an opportunity for some of it to come back to me, I want it.  For example if I pay Uncle Sam a $1000 (this is an example, not the actual amount) and he decides to give me $50 back for a darn good reason, I will not refuse; because if I refuse it, Uncle Sam is going to give it to another guy in a different state.  I certainly don't want some newly elected dimwit telling Uncle Sam that me and 5.6 million other Wisconsinites don't want our share of a few billion dollars.  Especially after our current Governor and many Mayors worked very, very hard to get it.

As far as job creation goes - I have one neighbor who is very busy setting up the manufacturing facility to build the high speed rail cars.  I am sure if it proceeds as planned many people will find themselves involved, even I could be involved with designing one of the train stations.

I do not know why the manual on "How to be a Good Republican" says "thou shall hate high speed rail and all forms of mass transit".

27 October 2010

Urban Tree House, er Urban Recreation Equipment

Great article from the AP (via Yahoo) Artist builds a tree house in her backyard in a historic district in New York City's Greenwich Village and at least one neighbor apparently doesn't like it.  It is a townhouse neighborhood so the tree house can not be seen from the street.  If there was a Better Tree Houses and Tree Gardens or Tree House Digest this would definitely be a prize winning design.
As the article mentions, it was legally defined as "recreational equipment" to avoid building code compliance and historic district conformity.  This was after five years of fighting the city.  It is unfortunate that when one is designed and built this well that most municipalities can usually find a way to fine the owner and order its removal.  Hooray to NYC for allowing it to remain.  Now, can I legally pull this off in my massive maple tree in Milwaukee?  Guess I would find out what neighbors didn't like me because the code compliance inspectors here are to busy to discover it on their own.

05 August 2010

Lorelei's House Hunting Adventures

"Daddy, the front storm door needs to be replaced - just look at that aluminum corrosion near the bottom. I think we should get a wood one, it will last longer. Also the bleach blonde flush solid core door is completely inappropriate for the Craftsman style entry. And by the way, did you get a picture of that crack in the foundation wall?"

27 July 2010

Principles of Urban Design

The following is copied from the City of Milwaukee's Website.  It is a good, breif explanation of what has been called a lifestyle to many, a demographic trend movement to others and essentially the correct way to live for most of us humans.  Although this is in Milwaukee's website it is not just about Milwaukee, these are principiles that are shared and embraced amonst most urban centers.  Also many of our suburbs enjoy these qualities - suburbs such as, but not limited to, Wauwatosa, West Allis, Cudahy and Whitefish Bay.  From my house I can walk to Lake Michigan, a marina, South Shore Park, Humbolt Park, retail shops (like Outpost, Rushmor, etc.), restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries and banks.  I can also walk to a few bustops, one of which is the #15 that will go to north to Bayshore, past UWM, through Downtown and all the way South to South Milwaukee. The four Principles of Urban Design are as follows:


Cities possess a singular appeal. The proximity of people and activities in cities facilitates efficient use of land and transportation systems and creation of convivial public spaces. Milwaukee must encourage development of housing, commerce and transportation systems that embrace its urban heritage. The city must recognize its unique assets and build upon its strength as the core of a major metropolitan area.

Milwaukee County Library - Central Branch
Coordinated planning and development effectively integrate many elements. Quality housing that enhances a sense of community among neighborhood residents; attractive customer-friendly commercial streets; greenspace offering recreational amenities and a diverse array of transportation options represent only a few of the many elements that, when well designed, contribute to good urban form. Milwaukee must promote urban design practices that emphasize the public qualities of buildings and creation of places with lasting value and civic meaning.

New buildings should be designed in ways that retain the traditional qualities of Milwaukee’s architecture. This does not mean that new buildings should nostalgically imitate historical styles. In fact, to do so would be contrary to the creative design traditions that produced Milwaukee’s rich architectural legacy. Timeless design principles should be followed that produce architecture that fits with its context and is human scaled. New buildings should be designed to be compatible with neighboring structures, spaces and activities. Visually interesting and human-scaled building facades should prevail over sterile, windowless walls - especially when facing public spaces.

Diversity is the city’s unique strength. The rich mix of uses found in Milwaukee’s neighborhoods provides convenience, vitality and individual identity. The transportation network binds the city together. Milwaukee must be organized around a transportation network that offers mobility choice. Needs of pedestrians and automobiles should be balanced to create a legible, walkable and memorable public realm.

Combining good design with the city's rich architectural heritage will maintain its unique, attractive, "people-friendly" environment and further enhance Milwaukee’s residents' quality of life.

The following design principles articulate those unique qualities that characterize Milwaukee’s neighborhoods, and are meant to promote development and redevelopment that reinforce and preserve these characteristics.
Principle #1: neighborhood compatibility

A cohesive neighborhood environment depends on buildings that compliment one another. The size, shape and location of buildings as well as the uses contained within them, create "patterns" that define neighborhood character. New development should be compatible with the pattern of its surrounding context.

Development that adheres to this principle will:
A. Relate to the physical character and scale of the neighborhood
B. Enhance linkages to surrounding uses, especially public services and amenities (schools, parks, mass transit)

Principle #2: pedestrian friendly design
Cities are for people, and an environment designed to accommodate the pedestrian heightens human experience and sense of place. New development should be designed to create attractive, comfortable and safe walking environments.

Development that adheres to this principle will:
A. Locate buildings to define street edges and corners
B. Enliven street frontages to enhance the pedestrian experience
C. Create memorable places for people

Principle #3: land use diversity
Many Milwaukee neighborhoods are comprised of a rich mix of land uses. Such diversity uses land efficiently, provides for neighborhood convenience and contributes to unique urban experiences.

Development that adheres to this principle will:
A. Encourage a compatible mix of uses at the neighborhood scale
B. Identify opportunities for shared uses

Principle #4: transportation diversity
Milwaukee’s neighborhoods are connected by a functional circulation network of streets and blocks. This system should be maintained and improved in ways that accommodate various modes of transportation balanced with needs for pedestrians.

Development that adheres to this principle will:
A. Create a balanced circulation system that accommodates mobility choice (pedestrians, automobiles, bicycles and transit)
B. Enhance public transportation by making it more comfortable and convenient to use

City of Milwaukee, 1898

21 July 2010

Gas Tax – Do It!

Politicians have to accept the fact that funding for paying for transportation projects needs to come from increased gas tax. We need to stop paying for transportation projects out of our income taxes, sales taxes and user fees.

It is time to make the people and corporations that CHOOSE to use the roads the most pay for it in every gallon of fuel they use.

1. This will penalize those who chose to drive less fuel efficient vehicles.
2. It will benefit those that choose to drive more efficient vehicles and/or use alternative fuel.
3. It will penalize those who chose to drive more miles per year than the average person.
4. It will benefit those who drive less and seek alternative modes of transportation.
5. It will penalize those people and corporations for choosing less efficient means of product transportation – i.e.: truck transportation vs. train transportation.
6. It will benefit those that choose train transportation and those that purchase and produce locally.

Other countries believe in using the gas tax as the only source of transportation funding. These are the countries with the best railroads and mass transit systems. They are also the countries with the most fuel efficient cars. These are often the countries where people have the freedom to choose to buy a car – they are not required to be dependent on a car as their only source of transportation.

Of course I will be looking for all those reductions in my other taxes and fees.  It should be very noticeable.

Political Strategy Memo on High Speed Rail Offered to Gubernatorial Candidates

From: City of Milwaukee, Ald. Bauman's Office Press Release

City of Milwaukee Alderman Robert J. Bauman has offered a blow-by-blow political strategy script (see attached memo below) that could (literally) be followed to the letter by candidates running for Wisconsin governor. The alderman said he believes the candidates have most likely already adopted many of the memo’s suggestions for their playbooks, but he wanted to “make sure their idea tanks were topped off in time for the fall and then into the next few years.”

Memo to GOP Candidates for Governor
RE: Political Strategy re High Speed Rail

Phase 1: Campaign
Continue relentless condemnation and ridicule of Milwaukee-to-Madison high speed rail investment. Continue to emphasize that rail transportation is a socialist plot to rob Wisconsin residents of their freedom and sovereignty. Use rail as prop for all the evils of big government.
Avoid any talk about the billions of tax dollars spent on expanding freeways or the decades of public subsidies that have been directed to highway travel. Never mention the economic benefits of rail investments, the jobs these investments can create or the fact that many Wisconsin residents do not drive cars because of disability, age or economic circumstances. Never mention that gasoline prices may increase significantly in the near future.
Avoid any mention of the fact that the $823 million federal investment in high speed rail cannot be redirected to freeway expansion or highway projects.
Remind voters that freeways are free and rail transportation will end civilization as we know it.

Phase 2: Inauguration (January 2011)
Lead off inaugural speech with solemn pledge to stop Milwaukee-Madison high speed rail construction. Repeat evils of rail and emphasize that you will save civilization from the scourge of rail travel and the big government it represents. Repeat pledges to cut taxes and slash public services including corrections, aid to public schools, the University of Wisconsin system and shared revenue to all those cities incapable of living within their means. Make sure everyone understands that none of this cutting will include freeway expansion or highway building since cheap gas and free roads are a fundamental right of every true American.

Phase 3: Progress Report (news conference one month into administration)
With a very serious and somber tone report that over the last month you have asked the best legal minds in the state to find a way to stop Milwaukee-to-Madison high speed rail construction and cancel all contracts let to date -- but that the legal experts have informed you that it cannot be done unless the state agrees to reimburse the federal government for all funds expended to date and to reimburse the contractors for all the lost profits and cancellation penalties contained in their contracts. You report with great reluctance that construction must therefore proceed because the state cannot afford to stop construction. Be sure to emphasize over and over that this is the legacy of Jim Doyle who has saddled the citizens of Wisconsin with a multi-million dollar federal investment in new infrastructure. Finally, note that President Obama and big government are really to blame and that you did everything you could to stop this investment in Wisconsin’s future.
Do not mention the phone calls from the CEOs of the Wisconsin consulting firms and contractors who were awarded rail contracts and do not mention the fact that they urged you to keep construction moving forward because this project will employ thousands of their employees. Deflect any media questions about campaign contributions from employees of these consultants and contractors. After all, you know that these contributors are only interested in good government.
After the news conference, call your former campaign operatives, Charlie and Mark, to conduct phone interviews on their radio shows. Again, emphasize how angry you are in being unable to undo the high speed rail project. Be sure to lay all the blame on Jim Doyle and President Obama. Don’t worry, Mark and Charlie won’t be too hard on you, for you know you are “their guy” and you can do no wrong.

Phase 4: Ribbon Cutting (January 2013)
Organize ribbon cutting ceremony at the new Madison train station. Make sure hundreds of workers who have been earning family supporting wages working on the rail line over the last two years are in attendance. They will be very appreciative.
Your remarks should emphasize that with gasoline prices at $6 per gallon and the Wisconsin unemployment rate at 12%, you are pleased that your administration was able to deliver this $823 million stimulus project on time and on budget. Read a long list of the jobs created by the project and the amount of wages paid to Wisconsin workers. Single out the Talgo factory in Milwaukee and congratulate the 300 workers who have built the six train sets that will begin operating in the Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison corridor. Be sure to mention that the gleaming Talgo trains are a shining example of what private enterprise can produce when the restraints of big government are lifted from the entrepreneurial spirit.
Make a surprise announcement, to wit: that you have just signed a full funding agreement with the federal government to begin construction of the high speed rail line from Madison to the Twin Cities. Emphasize the thousands of construction jobs that will be created and the economic development that will occur in Wisconsin communities along the line. Mention that this new line will make the Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison-Twin Cities corridor the economic engine of the Midwest and the five hour travel time between Chicago and the Twin Cities will revolutionize travel within the state. Make frequent references to your priority of “jobs, jobs, jobs” and that your administration’s prime directive is putting Wisconsin residents back to work. Show that this project is all about jobs.
Following remarks board the train for the one hour trip to Milwaukee. Sit down and enjoy the beautiful Wisconsin scenery, relax in the comfortable seat (check your emails using the on-board WiFi) and make repeated remarks about how smooth, quiet and fast the ride is (be sure to wave to the thousands of well wishers along the line, some of whom have been out of work since your inauguration and would love to work on the line to the Twin Cities). You might want to reference the blizzard that the train has encountered in Waukesha County just as lunch is being served (add humorous comments about Wisconsin winters). Point out how rail travel is a great all-weather mode of transportation (do not mention the cars in the ditch along Highway 16 that you see from the train window).

Upon arrival in Milwaukee (on time despite blizzard) repeat program.

In Milwaukee you may get some media questions about your campaign promises and your inaugural speech. Deflect the questions. Just point out that circumstances have changed and it is your responsibility as governor to get Wisconsin residents back to work and that is exactly what you intend to do every hour of every day. You might want to mention that we need to invest in our future and that we cannot rely on cheap gasoline anymore. Don’t worry though; no one remembers campaign promises or inaugural speeches anyway.


10 July 2010

Fiat Introduces Lowest Polluting Gasoline Powered Car

On July 7th, Fiat introduced the 500 TwinAir.  It has the lowest carbon dioxide output of any production car.  The .9 liter 2 cylinder 85 hp engine is capable of providing the 500 with a top speed of 108 mph and 0 to 60 mph time of under 11 seconds.  Nothing earth shattering here but the 500 will get over 57 mpg and a CO2 output of 92 to 97 g/km. 

To put this in perspective, a Harley Davidson motorcycle gets less than 40 mpg and some models can't break 100 mph but their engines are about 1.3 liters (and are 2 cylinders).  And judging by the smell of the exhaust, they pollute substantially.  Also many sport utility and full size v-8 powered trucks can not exceed 105 mph.  The Smart car, a two passenger car, has a three gas cylinder engine and does not acheive these stats.  The Fiat 500 is a four passenger car, somewhat larger inside than the new Mini.

Think of Cities filled with cars like this - the pollution will be extremely reduced.  Rumors are around that Toyota is prepping a competitor.  Also rumor has it that this engine will not be available in the 500's sold in the U.S.  Well we can hope that the future will change this.

See Fiat's Think Twin website

Also a Fiat 500 update.  The last Chrysler PT Cruiser rolled off the assembly line in Toluca Mexico.  That plant wil begin retooling for production of the Fiat 500 bound the North, Central and South American markets.  We should be seeing Fiat 500s by the end of this year.  Fiat is begining the process of selecting franchises in 41 states and having them upgrade for special showrooms and other facilities.  Most of the Fiat dealerships will be within major Urban Centers.

09 February 2010

Official Site for World Wide Climate Data from NOAA - climate.gov

A prototype web site has been launched by our Federal Government to allow us average folks access to an incredible amount of climate data from around the world.  Information available ranges from historic data to current data and also provides predictions.  Normally information such as this would require research and special access via professional, govermental or educational permission.  The subject tabs include "Climate Watch Magazine", "Data & Services", "Understanding Climate", and "Education".  You can browse the Global Climate Dashboard, News, Videos and Images.  All the information that you need to fatten your brain sponge and be the life of the party!  Or great browsing for that rainy day lunch at the office.  Or better yet, include data in your own research and improve you products and projects.

30 January 2010

Pizza Man Fire Ruled Arson

Below is a press release from the City of Milwaukee and and a link to the ATF (Federal Government) Press Release.

"Attached please find a joint release from the ATF along with the Milwaukee Police Department and other agencies investigating the fire that destroyed Pizza Man and other North Avenue businesses on January 19, 2010.
We hope you will share this information with all in the hopes that someone will come forward with information to help solve this crime.
Thank you."
Anne E. Schwartz
Office of Media & Communications
Milwaukee Police Department

Click for ATF Press Release

 I generally never place blame but I am going to place bets that the source of arson is the Black & White Cafe.  My gut instinct comes from a couple of on site TV interviews with one of the owners.  The owner was sitting inside his car and appeared to be expressionless and nervous, not the distraught, devistated condition that most people would be in.  Personally you wouldn't find me in a car staying warm - you would find me outside in a panicked and emmotionally drained stupor.  And like most people in a similar situation I would not talk in a mostly calm manner.  I have heard from a cousin of mine whom knew somebody that lived upstairs, that preson heard exlplosions after the smoke was discovered and the alarm went off.  I knew from the very start that there was foul play, as an architect I can confirm that a building such as that, with occupants such as theirs and close proximity to more than one fire station, could not have been totally devistated by a real accidental fire.

I, as well as thousands of others out there, hope that the arsonists are found and prosecuted to the fullist extent of the law.  It is a sick mind of anyone that willfully wanted to do that much damage and at 4 a.m. put that many human lives at risk.  Fortunately the fire alarm system worked in the building and everyone left safely.

28 January 2010

East Side Fire Devistates Community

About a week ago a fire destroyed a Milwaukee East Side Landmark, four businesses and ten apartments.  It is sad for the businesses, one of which has been in the same location for over twenty years - Pizza Man Restraunt.  The building was also the ideal urban mixed use building on a busy street corner with retail at sidwalk level and apartments above.  It was originally built in the 1920's in the Mediterranean Revival style and was in above average condition.  The building has had a long time owner who apparently kept the lease rates modest and because of this the restraunts that occupied the building were local, family owned establishments. It is sad to see the devastation and hopefully the businesses will either rebuild or locate nearby.  For more information please read the from The Daily Reporter "Fire Takes a Slice Out of Milwaukee Street".  For a Google map click here.