Archive for August, 2010

Dunces in a Confederacy Against Him

One of my absolute all-time favorite books is A Confederacy of Dunces. I laugh aloud at Ignatius. It’s an amazing thing to me for a book to actually make someone laugh aloud, to the point of eye rolling by others in the room. (Which may or may not have happened repeatedly the last time I read it). For those who haven’t read it, the book is a first novel, written by John Kennedy Toole and published posthumously, about a great blasphemous child-man who knows that he is simply too smart for his own good, but isn’t really. Him and his momma, and a seedy bar, and a pants factory. And it’s set in New Orleans, in the 60’s, with characters that are despicable and pitiful or conniving and hilarious, or all four.

I was thrilled to see that a stage adaptation of Confederacy is running right now at um, Theatrical Outfit, a group that I’m ashamed to say I had never heard of.  Even though they have been on Luckie Street in downtown since 2004, and has been running since 1974. Information on the show is here – warning, video automatically starts streaming, and CL review is here.  They’ve extended their run to September 12th. I plan on attending that last weekend – has anyone seen the show? Planning on it?

Gwinnett, your genius is showing!

If this was on The Onion, I’d laugh. But it’s on the AJC.

Next summer, commuting will change for thousands of I-85 drivers in Gwinnett County.

For the first time in Georgia, an interstate lane will have a toll, and the computerized price will change moment by moment, rising when congestion in the main lanes rises.

It’s good news if you’re a solo driver willing to pay to get to an appointment a little faster.

But it’s bad news if you’re in a two-person car pool used to a free HOV lane, because you’ll be paying a toll, too.

In a couple of weeks, state Department of Transportation contractors intend to start closing parts of I-85 to construct an electronic toll in the HOV lane. The toll is to run from just south of Spaghetti Junction in DeKalb County to Old Peachtree Road in Gwinnett County.

If state officials have their way, it’s the first leg of a metrowide network of such lanes.

It is a huge innovation in transportation, one of just a handful of such projects nationwide. On the flip side of that coin, it’s an experiment. State officials readily admit they don’t know if it will work. And can drivers figure it out? The AJC got a look at the freshly designed road signs. Some of them may hinder more than help, judging by the reaction of drivers interviewed this week.

On Wednesday and Thursday, the DOT is holding events to launch the lane’s construction. A public meeting is from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Gwinnett Center.

HOV toll lanes — now called “express lanes” — have advocates. They marvel that even in metro Atlanta, even at rush hour, a driver who is willing to pay will be able to find free-flowing highway traffic.

“I think that’s pretty cool,” said Darryl Harden, a Norcross plumber who drives a lot for his work. “If I can get in that — hey, I’ll go for it.”

And the concept has detractors.

“The taxpayers have already paid for this” HOV lane, said Sabrina Smith, chairwoman of Gwinnett Citizens for Responsible Government. She was concerned that more tax dollars are being invested simply to force out taxpaying two-person car pools. “That’s what’s frustrating for people who play by the rules and try to do the right thing.”

Others note that the reliable traffic flow relies on keeping out people who can’t afford the toll.

Express lane drivers tend to have higher incomes than average, but advocates say the lanes are valuable for working-class parents late to pick up a child from day care.

The lanes may or may not make money. A traffic and revenue study done for the state predicts the lanes may bring in from $3 million to $7 million the first year, and several times more in years after that. But officials say the point is to create one place on the highways where rush-hour traffic is reliably mobile.

There are no reliable examples to show what exactly the effect on the regular lanes will be, experts at a conference here said earlier this year. On the one hand, the toll lane might move more cars, if the toll lane moves faster than the HOV lane. On the other hand, whenever government builds a new road project, people make trips they’ve been putting off, adding to the traffic.

One undeniable fact: Traffic on I-85 needs help.

The state says it’s on the way.

Invest money in expanding MARTA, thereby increasing ridership, lowering fares, and eliminating traffic?… Hell no!

Punish people who carpool by making them pay a toll to ride in the HOV lane, thereby causing more people to drive alone and therefore create more traffic?… Hell yes!

Face, meet desk.

Sauce: http://www.ajc.com/news/gwinnett/for-i-85-drivers-600705.html

Reading the paper

Most mornings I sit down in front of a computer screen and have an entirely unproductive 20 minutes while the coffee is steeping and getting cold. Then the day is peppered with emails and tweets and newsflashes and blog checkings, all of which are definitely 100% work-related. Still, though, I’m surely missing something – I’m just curious to see if there’s a good source of information for Atlanta culture and goings on.  What blogs should I be paying more attention to?  Is there a google calendar someone put together floating around out there? Does your friend have a hilarious weekly email that he sends to 30 people?  Where do you guys get your Atlanta-based intel? I’ll go first.

I love Scoutmob, like Thrillist (as a stingy female I’m not their primary demographic), and read Creative Loafing blogs and features pretty religiously for things to do/buy and cheap places to eat.  I read CL’s Omnivore blog (love Cliff) and actually go to the AJC for John Kessler’s food column.  For business news I turn to the Atlanta Business Chronicle and Global Atlanta, for Georgia politics I skim Peach Pundit, and I click through Paste Magazine for music and various culture (not Atlanta-specific but based here and such an awesome publication). For neighborhood news I’m on a listserv or two (I think most of the intown neighborhoods have these) and look to the EAV Buzz as well.

What say you guys?

Vote Again Already!

Today’s the primary runoff, guys, a day where voters decide the players in major races but traditionally sees less than half the turnout of regular primaries and a fraction of regular elections.

Just a reminder, if you voted in the primary you must choose the same party ballot today. If you DIDN’T vote last month, you can choose either party today. That’s not binding – you aren’t declaring yourself a registered party member by voting or anything dramatic like that.

Today’s major race is the runoff between Republican candidates Karen Handel and Nathan Deal, but there are a few other statewide races (and congressional ones) still up for grabs in both parties. Take 15 minutes and inform yourself this morning – I’ve used the AJC’s voter guide, as it has candidate responses, but does anyone have any other (non-biased, please) suggestions?

And one last reminder, though you ought to already know where it is, you can find your polling place here through the Secretary of State’s office. Happy responsible citizening!

Saw something, said something

I called the MARTA police yesterday.

When I got off the train at Civic Center, there was a large shopping bag from World of Coca-Cola sitting on the northbound platform. Hardly unusual, as it’s the closest station to there. But this bag had been placed right against a column at the north end of the platform, and rolled up clothes and a blanket were stacked up around three sides of it. No one was anywhere near it. At least two trains came and went from the platform,  still no one came for it.

The operator sounded a touch skeptical when I called. She asked a couple of times whether the bag had any wires protruding from it, whether it had a strange odor or was ticking. I didn’t see any wires and I passed within a couple of feet of it and didn’t smell anything, but do explosives actually tick any more? Besides, as loud as it gets down there with trains going in and out, that thing could have been playing the 1812 Overture and I wouldn’t have heard it. She said they’d send someone by. I waited a while. I never saw anyone come.

The chances that it was something dangerous are nearly nothing, of course. I almost didn’t call. It’s not as if it was purple and green with question marks all over it, like something from The Joker would leave. A “suspicious package” is only suspicious because someone is suspicious of it.

Maybe a homeless person left it there. But I can’t imagine why. When people own very little, they tend to always keep it with them and usually where they can see it. If they can’t keep it with them, they tend to put it behind or under something, or stuff into a bush or even up in a tree. I can’t imagine a homeless person just leaving their things where they’re sure to be stolen or thrown away. It just didn’t make sense, sitting there so neat and conspicuous.

I really hope that those clothes and that bag weren’t all that someone has in the world and that they weren’t thrown away by the MARTA police – if they ever came.

Atlanta Beltline: still 99% gravel paths

The latest installment in the ongoing saga of our beltline funding is that we are grasping at federal money, as surely they have plenty to spare. The Atlanta Beltline is applying for the TIGER II grant and wants us to help demonstrate that the people of the city back the project with an online petition. They’re hoping that a swell of popular excitement and support will help convince federal officials in charge of handing out free money that the Beltline’s the place to invest. The petition, making the rounds on twitter and FB, has had more than 1400 signatures at the time of this writing, which was within a day of posting.

Over at CL, Thomas Wheatley points out that this is the same funding for which the Atlanta streetcar project is applying – see the Saporta Report on their proposal here. Interesting. Can I sign something supporting both?

Read about and sign the petition here. I may bitch about it, but I’m a fan of the Atlanta Beltline (see? So much a fan that I even call it the Atlanta Beltline like they want us to, instead of just the Beltline!), and think that its development will be a large part of our city growing into its city-ness. Paved paths and rail will make a difference in my daily commutes, entertainment and exercise, and hopefully would encourage more people to take advantage of alternative options. This grant would mean 11 miles of multi-use trails within 3 years – 2013 is a LONG ways away, but I think we ought to take progress wherever we can get it.

Check, please! Bundle says Atlantans love their restaurants

Bundle's restaurant spending infographic

Ever wonder how that just-okayish restaurant in your neighborhood stays in business, or why optimistic entrepreneurs keep setting up shop in the same location that’s already chewed up and spit out five other diners, cafes, bistros and lounges in five years?

According to Bundle, a site that collects and analyzes spending data across the country, Atlantans did 57 percent (click the circles to see stats and maps) of their food and drink spending at restaurants last year on average – more than any other major city. The average for the U.S. is 37 percent.

That might explain the longevity of some lackluster establishments and restaurateurs’ willingness to keep rolling the dice around here. We’re going to eat somewhere, and for some of us, it’s often not at home.

The statistical breakdown makes it a bit clearer what’s going on. The first three merchants on the top-10 “Where They Spend” list for Atlanta are Starbucks, Chic-Fil-A and McDonald’s. So, it appears to be a matter of a lot of people spending a little money fairly frequently, rather than going out to $50 dinners twice a week. The most expensive establishments in the top-10 list – Cheesecake Factory, Longhorn Steakhouse and Outback Steakhouse – came in at fifth, seventh and ninth place, respectively. Waffle House was number 10.

There are some significant limitations on just how informative the data are, though, as they’re generated only from credit card transactions. The list might look quite a bit different if cash sales were factored in.

By the way, the Number 4 on the “Where They Spend” list is Trop, Inc.

Never heard of it? It’s the corporate name of The Pink Pony.

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