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Pound Confusion

The Pound Sterling (GBP) is a peculiar currency union. There are English, Scottish, Northern Irish, Manx, Jersey, and Guernsey Pounds. And not only that, but the Scottish and Northern Irish pounds are issued by a total of seven commercial banks. So there are eleven different entities issuing GBP notes!

UK law requires that Scottish and Northern Irish banks keep a Bank of England note in their vaults for every one they print. On the other hand, the Manx, Jersey, and Guernsey Pounds are just issued by their respective governments. They hold their pounds pegged 1:1 by promising to exchange their notes for Bank of England notes.

Which leaves me with a bunch of questions: more...

Replace Infrastructure Wholesale?

Things used to be a lot cheaper to build than they are now. There are a lot of contributing factors, but a big one is that we already have a lot of things, and new things have to work around the existing ones. For example, the early subways were built with cut-and-cover, where you dig up a road and then cover it up. These days people generally bore tunnels instead. Why? Because it's much less disruptive. With cut-and-cover, not only do you lose the use of the road while you're putting in the tunnel, you also have to figure out what to do about all the other underground infrastructure in your way. There's water, sewer, gas, electric, cable, and you can't just dig through them. While cut-and-cover is much cheaper if there isn't existing infrastructure, at this point there are a lot of things under our streets.

Here's Marohn of Strong Towns writing about Lafayette LA:

When we added up the replacement cost of all of the city's infrastructure—an expense we would anticipate them cumulatively experiencing roughly once a generation—it came to $32 billion. When we added up the entire tax base of the city, all of the private wealth sustained by that infrastructure, it came to just $16 billion. This is fatal.

This is the same problem: building things for the first time is much cheaper than rebuilding them while they're in use.

Can we replace infrastructure wholesale? more...

Python Navigation in Emacs

I'm now working full time in python in a medium-sized existing codebase, and I've started using jedi-mode for code navigation. What I really like about this package is that I can press C-c . to jump to the definition of something, and then C-c , to jump back again. What's especially cool about jedi is that it parses the python syntax tree, understands type hints, and can show you the definitions of things like attributes on arbitrary objects. Consider: more...

Frozen Lunch Pucks

Now that I'm no longer at Google I'm making my own lunches. One thing I've been doing that I'm pretty happy with is making single serving "pucks" that I can freeze:


How to make housing cheaper

Big coastal American cities have a problem: too many people want to live there. Overall this is much better than the reverse, but lots of people wanting to move in drives up housing costs, and people get forced out. What can we do?

Overall, the best way to bring down the cost of housing is for there to be more of it. This can mean any combination of more housing space, more units, and more bedrooms. Here are ideas for how we could do this: more...

Loft Idea

Currently when we have a guest spend the night we have a fold-out couch available in the living room. It's a good one so it's reasonably comfortable, but it's kind of in the middle of things. This means you can't really go to sleep while others are still up, or stay asleep after others wake up, you don't have much privacy, the bed needs to be folded away during the day, and you can't leave your stuff out. So I've been thinking about making a loft: more...

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