Cherry Pit Storage

When eating cherries, what do you do with the pits? You don't want to swallow them, but spitting them out one by one is inconvenient. The answer: use your upper lip.

Eat the cherry as normal, separating the pit with your teeth and tongue as usual, but once the pit is free use your tongue to tuck it up under your upper lip. Once it's there, it will stay safely out of the way while you chew and swallow the rest of the cherry. You can repeat this several times; depending on your mouth geometry you can probably hold six to ten pits.

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Come Build Affordable Housing!

With the new Affordable Housing Overlay District (ordinance 2020-27) here in Somerville, affordable housing construction can be very profitable. For example, below I estimate someone could spend ~$220/sqft and sell for ~$550/sqft, all while helping fix the housing crisis. So: come build!

The new affordable housing rules, which went into effect in December, allow higher density construction on the condition that the housing be permanently affordable. This is solid politics: affordable housing is very popular here. Below, I'm going to try to estimate how much you could make if you invested in creating additional housing as efficiently as possible.

The first question is how much you would be able to earn from creating additional units. The ordinance defines "affordable dwelling unit" (ADU) as a "dwelling unit sold, leased, or rented at a price affordable to a specific household income specified by this Ordinance or other Federal, State, or local affordable housing program." (2.1) For expediency I'm just going to look at the definition of "affordable to a specific household income" in Somerville zoning, and not also dig into Federal/State regulations. This means there's potentially an option for less restrictive pricing that I'm not getting into.

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Housing Without Street Parking: Implemented

In 2017, I wrote:
What if, in places like Somerville where all parking is already by-permit-only, we added a new category of housing unit, one that didn't come with any rights to street parking?
It turns out this was included in the 2019 zoning overhaul (I missed this among all the other great changes):
11.2.7: On-Street Parking in Transit Areas
  1. Upon the adoption of an official policy limiting on-street residential parking permits in transit areas, the review boards shall require the following as a condition(s) of any discretionary or administrative permit:
    1. that the applicant complete and file formal acknowledgment that all dwelling unit(s) are ineligible to participate in the Somerville Residential Permit Parking program with the with the Middlesex South Registry of Deeds or Land court prior to the issuance of a building permit;
    2. that all dwelling units are advertised as ineligible to participate in the Somerville Residential Permit Parking program; and
    3. that all buyers grantees, lessees, renters, or tenants are informed that all dwelling unit(s) is ineligible to participate in the Somerville Residential Permit Parking program.
By transit area they mean everything within half a mile from a subway stop, which with the Green Line makes most of the city:

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Fire Law Incentives

Pacific Gas & Electric is planning to spend $15-30b to bury power lines. I see why they're doing it: PG&E equipment sparked some of the worst fires in California history, including the 2018 Camp Fire which destroyed Paradise, but I'm not convinced that this is good for California overall.

Historically, the area used to burn periodically. We haven't allowed this for about a century, and flammable materials have been building up. It's all very likely to burn at some point, and burying power lines mostly just reduces the chance that it will be triggered by PG&E. Prescribed burns, spreading out the combustion and moving it to safer times of year, would reduce fire risk far more for the money. Even though when PG&E pays for something the money comes from their customers, CA residents, this isn't a tradeoff PG&E is in a position to consider.

The problem is that CA law puts too much focus on sparks: if you start a fire, you are fully liable for its damage. This approach makes sense in most places, where a "we will never let it burn" policy is practical. In ecosystems adapted for periodic burning, however, where flammable materials build up over time, it means everyone is trying not to be the legally recognized cause of the inevitable fire. And it makes prescribed burns look expensive because when one goes out of control, which there is always a risk, that puts the fire control organization on the hook for the full costs.

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Pi Sound Box

In an effort to reduce clutter, simplify setup, and avoid damaging my gear, I've packaged up my whistle synth and rhythm stage setup into a box:

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Essentialness of Data

In discussing online privacy, people will sometimes say things like "if the data isn't required to operate, you don't need it." If I can turn on tracking protection, stop sending data, and nothing breaks, then clearly it wasn't needed, right? But consider these three cases:

  • Learning from implicit feedback: dictation software can operate without learning what corrections people make, or a search engine can operate without learning what links people click on, but the overall quality will be lower. Each individual piece of information isn't required, but the feedback loop allows building a substantially better product.

  • Incremental rollouts: when you make changes to software that operates in complex environments it can be very difficult to ensure that it operates correctly through testing alone. Incremental rollouts, with telemetry to verify that there are no regressions or that relevant bugs have been fixed, produces better software. Even Firefox collects telemetry by default.

  • Ads: most websites are able to offer their writing for free, without a paywall, because they can get paid for showing ads. Collecting more data makes ads more efficient, which makes them more profitable for the sites, which translates into more competition to provide users with things to read. (more)

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