Saturday, May 26, 2018

Names (and Signs) that Are Bad for Business

I can't get over this brand name for fresh fruit, which I saw adorning a pile of cardboard trays a supermarket:


Gesex? GESEX? Genetically engineered sex? What?

I was afraid to Google it to find out, but persevered. It's a Chilean company, so maybe there's a translation problem here, kind of like Chevrolet and its Nova model ("nova" means "doesn't go" in Spanish). But really... GESEX?


Then there's this sign for a chiropractor in Highland Park, St. Paul. The name is fine, but look at that sign. You have to spend a lot of money for a lit box sign: maybe you should reserve a tiny amount of cash for designing what the sign looks like.


This shop, which sells vaping products in Northern Virginia, is as unconscious of its odd terminology as the owners of Endwell Animal Hospital. This sign may not be bad for business (the intended audience may be happy to breathe the vapors of liberty), but it's bad for the English language.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Two Options from Tony Carrillo

Another classic from Tony Carrillo and his F Minus daily strip:


I both identify with this and believe it is true of the "other" side.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Car as Weapon, No Consequences

This was shared publicly on Facebook by Carin Mrotz, executive director of Jewish Community Action:

Yesterday I participated in a Poor People's Campaign action at the Whipple Federal Building. This is the building from which van loads of immigrants being deported are transported by ICE, and the goal was to block the parking lot those vans exit from in order to slow down, at least for one day, a few of these vans. To make it harder for ICE to deport people for at least one day.

One of my jobs at this action was to stand in a line to block traffic, to tell drivers to turn around and use one of the parking lots immediately to the right and left of them, before they got to the point where other protestors had the road blocked. To create a second line of traffic blockers to stand 30 feet in front of the line of protestors. This was a necessary role, because before we set up that second line, at least two cars hit protestors. And once we set up the second line, the line I was standing in, folks in my line were hit as well.

I do not believe anyone was hit with enough speed or force to be seriously injured, but to be very clear, people in their cars encountered a line of unarmed, nonviolent people chanting and singing about immigrants’ rights and were triggered enough to immediately drive their vehicles into those peoples’ bodies. The ask, again, was to park in one of the lots immediately to their left or right instead of the one we were blocking, an inconvenience similar to what you’d expect if the lot was full or being re-asphalted (this happens annually in Minnesota). And their response was violent and instantaneous. They drove their cars into people. One man yelled at us, “You break the law, you get what you asked for.”

We can disagree about protest and about blocking roads. Whether it’s useful, meaningful. This is a conversation I have all the time and we don’t all agree. But I simply can not accept the contention that the appropriate punishment for blocking a road should be being hit by a civilian in their vehicle. And it’s part of my greatest concern about the wave of anti-protest legislation, which increases the criminal penalties for actions associated with protesting, like blocking highways. We’ve watched anti-protest laws move across the country and saw one passed in both the Minnesota House and Senate (by Republicans as well as Democrats) before our governor promised to veto it.

Anti-protest legislation itself is redundant – when we block the road we are breaking the law and expect to be arrested. We accept the consequences of that. Most research says that increasing the penalties for a something that’s already a crime isn’t an effective deterrent. So why then? When these laws are introduced and campaigns waged for their passing, what’s happening is that lawmakers are elevating into the public consciousness this narrative: protestors are criminals and they must be punished. And repeating it. And again. It has nothing to do with the law.

And this is the narrative: The people in the street are criminals and must be punished. It is not: Let’s do something to address what’s driving people into the streets. Doing that would get us out of the streets, but let’s not pretend that’s what anyone passing anti-protest legislation cares about. They want us there, because we are a hook to hang their faux exasperation on. They raise a lot of money on their outrage. The current administration uses the same tactics to dehumanize undocumented immigrants. They are not people, they are criminals and they must be punished.

Yesterday I watched a man literally roll his SUV into the bodies of three people who were standing in the street to protest the dehumanization and deportation of undocumented people. He didn’t engage on why we were there, he didn’t care. Our presence triggered him so quickly to violence, and eventually the police came and blocked traffic themselves to keep protestors from being injured. Many people were arrested for blocking the road, none that I saw were arrested for driving their cars into our bodies. We must not all get what we ask for. Maybe we need to ask different questions.
(Emphasis added.)

This protest was covered in the Star Tribune, reporting that both Blue Line trains and the entrance to a parking lot were blocked. The reporter mentioned nothing about people being hit on multiple occasions by drivers of cars (whether intentionally or not). Given that these actions was documented by legal observers, how does the Star Tribune account for that omission? Was the reporter actually present at the protest?

There are 420 comments on the Star Tribune story and I don't dare read them.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Good and Bad Ideas

I have collected a few random images of things that are either a good idea or a bad one.

First, there's a nice design that, in a moment of recursion, is about ideas:


Then there's a bad idea:


Dogs need to be taught... to swim?

And then one final good idea to balance that out:


I am also pretty sure!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

What We Have Done?

From Damian Carrington, an environmental editor at the Guardian, some facts on life on Earth.

To start, the human race is just 0.01% of all life but has destroyed over 80% of wild mammals.

Bacteria are a major life form – 13% of everything – but plants dominate, with 82% of all living matter. All other creatures, from insects to fungi, fish to animals, make up just 5% of the world’s biomass.


60% of all mammals on Earth are livestock, mostly cattle and pigs, 36% are human and just 4% are wild animals. Farmed poultry makes up 70% of all birds on the planet, with just 30% being wild.



Since the rise of human civilisation, 83% of wild land mammals, 80% of marine mammals and 50% of plants have been lost.


Viruses alone have a combined weight three times that of humans, as do worms. Fish are 12 times greater than people and athropods (insects, spiders, crustaceans) 17 time more. Bacteria outweigh humans by 1200 times.

Oh, and life in the oceans turns out to represent just 1% of all biomass. The vast majority of life is land-based and a large chunk – an eighth – is bacteria buried deep below the surface.
The full article can be found here.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Hope Community, 40 Years!

I recommend to you the work of Hope Community, a 40-year-old community development corporation in Minneapolis. They are unusual among CDCs, however, since they don't actually build housing themselves, for the most part. Instead, they partner with other CDCs and even management companies to run the residential aspects of their buildings... and spend their time creating community among residents, providing youth programming, and working with immigrant adults on reading and other life skills.

This is not supportive housing, however. All programs are optional and therefore have to be attractive enough to exist without a forced audience. They have a great community garden program, for instance. They have a summer camp program geared particularly to kids who live in their four large, new apartment buildings and dozens of duplexes and single-family homes arranged around the city block where they started decades ago.

Here are three quotes from their history that are now part of a large collage on one wall of a gathering space in the building they call the Children's Village Center:






Shannon Jones, their recently named executive director, was herself a Hope resident about 15 years ago. I look forward to seeing what she, the staff, and community can achieve together in the next 40 years.


Shannon Jones (left) and Hope founder Char Madigan (right), with an image from decades ago showing what is now the Hope Community neighborhood.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Twenty Is Plenty

Hey, did you know that a pedestrian hit by a car going 20mph has about a 1 in 10 chance of dying, while a pedestrian hit by a car going 40mph has a 4.5 in 10 chance of dying?

And did you also know, given that those are averages, that an older person hit is much more likely to die than a young person (a 70-year-old has a 7 in 10 chance of dying in the 40mph scenario)?

That's why I like this sign:


It's an unauthorized use of a city pole, but it looks totally official. Good job, guerrilla sign-makers!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

This Is Minnesota

It's not a great photo or a particularly charming setting, but it represents life in Minnesota these days:


Note the business name, Midwest Market, which features Halal meat. Then on the left door, there's a sign that says Hot & Fresh New England Coffee Served Inside.

I find that sign much stranger than the Midwestern Halal meat. Coffee doesn't come from New England and I don't even know what those words mean as a marketing phrase. Are they supposed to make us think of Dunkin' Donuts or something?

New England coffee. What is that?

Friday, May 18, 2018

Puzzle Picture

My awareness of light and shadow is not that great compared to my artist friends. But I did manage to capture this last night:


A not-bad puzzle picture, if I do say so myself.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Safer Streets

Today, I have the confluence of two posts about street safety.

First from Streets MN, Unsafe Streets Are Unequitable: For Vulnerable Road Users, "Doing Everything" Isn't Enough. It's the story of a white, male attorney who was hit by a car while riding his bike, and how hard the process was even with all of his advantages.

Second, there's Jason Kottke summarizing a New York Times article called What America Can Learn from Europe About Redesigning Urban Traffic Patterns. My favorite points that Kottke excerpts:

  • The best way to slow cars down is to throw away all the techniques that traffic engineers developed to make traffic flow quickly.
  • When drivers slow down to 20 m.p.h. or below, they are less likely to hit people and much less likely to seriously injure or kill people if they do hit them.
  • Improving public transit gets you the result of fewer cars. Quoting Bogata mayor Enrique PeƱalosa: “A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transport.”
My only argument with the original post is that the writer uses the term "congestion pricing," which is in common use, of course, but he should know that it makes a lot more sense to call it "decongestion pricing" since that is the result.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Well Said

From today's Star Tribune letters to the editor, just one sentence from letter about CIA director nominee Gina Haspel's history with torture:

It is hard for me to understand that we could survive the existential threat of a world war with a certain level of humanity and then when presented with a threat (terrorism) that is not existential, we would begin to mirror our enemies.
Well said, Dana Post of Minneapolis.


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Free Food in Minneapolis

I didn't realize the Chef Shack Ranch restaurant in Minneapolis had this little red box on one side of its building:


The words on the box say "FREE STREET PANTRY."

Some people take the sharing economy more seriously than others.