Wednesday, October 31, 2007

100 Luquer Street

I walked past 100 Luquer today, taking a leisurely stroll back from an interview with BCAT about the Smith and Ninth renovation and the Culver Viaduct. The project has risen fairly quickly, with about 2/3 of its 11 stories up at this point(see Curbed for current photo).

The project is allowed to grow to this height for two reasons. First, our local zoning is R-6, which does not have the height limit it should (which is why many of us are pushing for a downzoning to R-6B). Second, Hamilton Ave is a wide street (at least 75' wide), which provides a density bonus to a developer. The lot in question extends from Luquer to Hamilton Ave, with the building actually sited up against Hamilton.

All right, nobody is particularly happy about the height of this thing. But to add insult to injury, the front yard of this thing is going to be a parking lot. I figured the deep setback would be a walled off garden space, with a low front wall to preserve the street line. But take a look at the rendering above. It's a surface parking lot. I'm sure the neighbors will be thrilled.

Rendering pilfered from

Smith and Ninth: Averting Disaster

From the comments, the intrepid Cap'n Transit has some creative suggestions for the MTA to mitigate the impacts of the Smith/9th station rehab (station closed for nine months . . . and that's if there are no delays).

First things first: MTA has to do a better job of outreach on a project like this. The Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association didn't have any warning that this was coming: the first any of us heard of it was from the Metro article last week. But it's not too late. The station work is expected to take place in 2010; there is still time to get community input on the necessary mitigation efforts.

First off, running a shuttle bus directly from Smith and Ninth into the Battery Tunnel and out to the Fulton Street Transit corridor is a must. Second, there should be some shuttle service to 4th Avenue for those who are doing a reverse commute. Simply running a shuttle back and forth between Carroll Street and Smith/Ninth is unacceptable.

Long term, as Cap'n Transit suggests, a tunnel would be nice; however the limiting factor (besides the obvious cost) is topography. The train would have to take a pretty massive dip under the Gowanus Canal, and the relative elevations at Carroll Street and in Windsor Terrace are pretty high. Thus, the ride would be a bit of a roller coaster along that stretch, and steep tunnels are tough for the trains to handle.

I could be wrong about that last bit, I understand that to be the problem.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Long Island War Profiteer Finally Indicted

Well it's about freakin' time. David H. Brooks (a far worse person than the execrable but comparatively benign NY Times columnist), he of the $10 MILLION bat mitzvah, has finally been indicted.

$10 million dollars for a teenage daughter's birthday party with entertainment by Stevie Nicks, Don Henley, Aerosmith, and 50 Cent. And all paid for with proceeds from selling . . . defective body armor to our troops!

From the Trentonian:

David H. Brooks, 53, the former CEO of DHB Industries Inc., and Sandra Hatfield, 54, the former chief operating officer, were charged in a superseding indictment with manipulating DHB's financial records to increase earnings and profit margins, thereby inflating the price of DHB's stock.

"Corporate executives who line their own pockets at the expense of their shareholders flaunt the responsibilities they owe their companies and the investing public," U.S. Attorney Benton J. Campbell said in a statement.

The former DHB executives are accused of falsely inflating the value of the inventory of DHB's top product, the Interceptor vest, to help meet profit margin projections. The vest, designed to withstand rifle fire and shrapnel, was made for the Marine Corps and other branches of the military.

This guy should rot in prison (up to 70 years* if convicted), but as the poster at Daily Kos pointed out, in the Bush Administration he'll probably get the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

*and please note, that doesn't include any charges for minor things like, say, war profiteering, defrauding the federal government, and criminal negligence for knowingly selling defective body armor to the armed forces.
UPDATE: Photo removed. Looks like the picture I had was the wrong David H. Brooks.

Smith and 9th Subway StationTo Close for 12 Months

Wow. This is the first I've heard of this . . . although in a way it's not surprising, given the scope of the Viaduct rehabilitation and the total rehabilitation of the Smith and 9th Station that is scheduled.

According to the Metro article that broke the news, the MTA has made the community "well aware" of this development. However, when an MTA spokesman came to speak to CGNA in late August, he mentioned only that Smith and 9th Street was in line for a total overhaul (and the station is in dire need of one). But there was no mention of closing the entire station down for any length of time, as I recall it.

12 months is a long time. If this happens at the same time that MTA closes the stairs at the Carroll Street Station's 2nd Place entrance for Billy Stein's 360 Smith, all hell's gonna break loose.


How the hell did I miss the last paragraph?
There is another silver lining: The G will be extended to Church Avenue throughout the project, and one express track will be rehabilitated — potentially opening the door to a permanent F express in years to come.

And Jen at KensingtonBrooklyn noted earlier this week that an MTA spokesman would be at the Albemarle Neighborhood Association meeting tonight at 6:30. Details HERE.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Congestion Pricing - Brooklyn Presser Tomorrow

Tomorrow at 11:00 there will be a press conference in Downtown Brooklyn to publicize the map of proposed initial transit enhancements to go along with congestion pricing.

As you can see in the photo (click for a larger image), the enhancements are essentially new and bolstered existing bus lines throughout Brooklyn. The only immediate subway enhancement, near as I can tell, is extending C trains to 10 cars (a welcome improvement). Of course, any version of congestion pricing that comes down the pike MUST include enhanced F/V service in its medium-term planning.

Michael Cairl of the Park Slope Civic Council had this to say:
"Immediate implementation of transit improvements is essential to the success of congestion mitigation, and such improvements must occur whether or not congestion pricing is adopted, because of the severity of congestion today. Immediate improvements must include peak-hour, peak-direction express service on the F line between Kings Highway and Jay Street-Borough Hall, accompanied by increased frequency of G service and its extension to Church Avenue. MTA New York City Transit should also give serious consideration to extending peak-hour V service from its current terminal at Second Avenue to Kings Highway, providing local service on the Culver Line to complement F express service. Together, these will speed travel to the Central Business District, improve transit options within Brooklyn, and will contribute significantly to a reduction in congestion."

That's right on the money.

I'll post further details of the press conference when I have them.

Metro's Michael Rundle on the F Express

A good article out from Michael Rundle at Metro this morning.

The article leads with the word that the F express is stalled until the Culver Viaduct Rehabilitation. Buried further down in the article was some good news:
During the project’s next four years, she said, “We would work with the community, do all the analysis and discussion required to contemplate a future F express service,” which would initially run north from Church Avenue.
The latest push for an F express was propelled by Carroll Gardens blogger Gary Reilly, who started an online petition that caught the attention of local politicians and MTA officials. Yesterday Reilly suggested the V could eventually run into Brooklyn on the F tracks.

The other buried gem: "One area will be set aside to test different vendors of automated Communications-Based Train Control equipment."

So it seems like there could be more one-operator trains in our future. If the technology works, this could substantially reduce operating costs.

And if you haven't signed on to the Enhanced F/V Petition, sign on up. Over 4,000 signatures so far.

Gowanus Canal Cleanup Plans

I missed last night's CB6 Environmental Committee meeting, trapped at work . . . but Gowanus Lounge and Brownstoner were on the job, natch.

As GL sums it up, "the problems are as bad as you think and they are going to take a long, long time to address, even if things go well."


The DEP plans to spend up to $125 million--with money coming from city
water and sewer fees--on cleaning up the Gowanus mess. Solutions include the
planned modernization of the flushing tunnel that draws water from New York
Harbor into the canal with "a much more robust, reliable pumping system" and
an upgrade of the sewage pump that directs sewage away from the canal and
toward the Red Hook treatment plant from the current 20 million gallons a
day to 30 million gallons daily. There might also be a "floatables vessel"
that would go around after bad storms and skim "floatables" from the surface
and there could be dredging of 750 feet of the end of the canal past the
Union Street Bridge to remove "sediment" left in the canal when raw sewage
flows into it. Underground retention tanks to hold storm runoff until it can
be handled have been dismissed as costing too much and requiring too much
land. (There was an early proposal to use the toxic parcel known as Public
Place for holding tanks, but the land is now supposed to become a mid-rise,
mixed use project with hundreds of units of housing.)

And the Gowanus has one heck of a wikipedia page. An accessible historical primer for you.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Salacious GOPer Divorce: Spawn of Satan, Richard Mellon Scaife Gets Some Karma

Wow. This was buried in the Style section of the Washington post. 5 pages of delicious schadenfreude that couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. This guy is the poster child for why we need a robust estate tax in this country. He has over a billion dollars that he never did a thing to earn, and which he uses to oil the GOP propaganda machine. Here's a taste:

Remember him? The cantankerous, reclusive 75-year-old billionaire who's spent a
sizable chunk of his inherited fortune bankrolling conservative causes and
trying to kneecap Democrats? He's best known for funding efforts to smear
then-President Bill Clinton, but more quietly he's given in excess of $300
million to right-leaning activists, watchdogs and think tanks. Atop his list of
favorite donees: the family-values-focused Heritage Foundation, which has published papers with titles such
as "Restoring a Culture of Marriage."
The culture of his own marriage is
apparently past restoring. With the legal fight still in the weigh-in phase, the
story of Scaife v. Scaife already includes a dog-snatching, an assault, a night
in jail and that divorce court perennial, allegations of adultery.
Now we know that Scaife is beneficiary of nine different trusts, including
one called the "1935 Trust," with an approximate value of $210 million, and
another called "The Revocable Trust," valued at $655 million. Altogether, these
gushers are worth about $1.4 billion.
We learned, too, that the Tribune-Review has been a gurgling sinkhole from
Day One; Scaife's lawyers say their client has pumped as much as $312 million
into it over the years. And he's going to have to keep on pumping. The
Tribune-Review's CEO has predicted an annual shortfall of $20 million for years
to come.

New York Times Editorial: Yes to Residential Parking Permits, Taxi Stands; No to Parking Permits for City Employees

Worth reprinting in its entirety, from the New York Times (emphasis added). First on my list wold be eliminating placards for City employees.

October 22, 2007
Mr. Mayor, for Your Consideration
There’s a little dance that visitors and even many longtime New Yorkers do on emerging from the subway. A step forward, two back, one to the side, a glance up the street, then down — until, with any luck, bearings are found. So imagine the simple genius of the city’s latest innovation, directional decals on the sidewalks outside subway exits.
We applaud Mayor Michael Bloomberg for acting on the idea, which was offered by a Times reader last year. Mr. Bloomberg has shown that he’s not afraid to try what works, something he demonstrated again recently with his bold congestion pricing proposal, which would charge a weekday toll to most drivers on Manhattan’s busiest streets. While that complex issue is being hammered out by an appointed commission, we’d like the mayor to consider a few other easy, common-sense changes to bring order to the streets of the Apple:
Taxi stands. Anyone who has tried to get a taxi in New York in the rain, particularly at rush hour, knows that the system is broken. Hailers maneuver along the street, and to alternate corners, to get an edge over other taxi-seekers who have been waiting longer. Taxis waste gasoline, and needlessly spew out fumes, as they cruise for fares. Taxi stands, which work just fine in Paris, could be strategically placed around New York. People and cabs would line up. It would be civilized.
Residential parking permits, for a fee. Relatively few New Yorkers take on the expense and hassles of owning a car in the city — which is good, since it encourages the use of public transit. But there are still plenty of drivers, including many from out of town, who take advantage of the city’s generosity and park on the streets free. The city could get more cars off the street and raise badly needed money for mass-transit improvements if it set aside spots for residents for an annual fee. The mayor has not ruled out residential permits as part of a congestion pricing plan. But as cities from Berkeley, Calif., to Chicago and Baltimore have demonstrated, the idea works on its own.
Take away parking permits from city employees. Those vehicles that cavalierly park in front of hydrants or bus stops all too often do so with the impunity that comes with a privileged card placed on the dashboard. Virtually every city agency issues these permits, and there is no reliable count of how many are floating around. But they number in the thousands, including a lot of counterfeits. It’s time to end the free parking. This is New York, not Monopoly.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Bush Economy

Thanks to The Big Picture.


Screamed myself hoarse at the Rutgers game last night. The record-setting crowd stormed the field in celebration after a nailbiter 30-27 victory over #2 South Florida. Rutgers had -3 turnovers, which hurt; but any team with the stones to pull off a faked punt AND a faked field goal in the same game deserves to win. It was electric.

After the game, the crowd was well behaved, but traffic was a nightmare. The bus system struggled with the sheer volume of red-clad people in the streets. Rutgers will have to rethink some of the logistics that come from having a ranked football program (which we only dreamed of when I was an undergrad). One thought would be to offer shuttle buses to and from the Edison NJ Transit rail station on game days.

More good news though: The College Avenue campus is set to undergo a major rebuilding, including the elimination of two large surface parking lots (replaced with a Quad) and elimination of traffic on College Avenue (replaced with Bus Rapid Transit). After a design competition, Enrique Norton's Ten Arquitectos won the bid to reshape College Avenue as a more pedestrian friendly environment. Here's a rendering of their vision for College Ave. Here's another.

Work could start as early as next Spring.

Photos from last night are available here, here, and here (thanks Juan):

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Redevelopment in Harrison, NJ: A Step In The Right Direction

Via Curbed, a terrific redevelopment project has finally broken ground in Harrison, NJ. One of the earliest industrial suburbs, Harrison suffered from years of blight and large swaths of desolate, weeded brownfields.

But Harrison has tremendous assets: an underutilized PATH station, a two minute ride to Newark's Penn Station, and convenient access to both NYC and the educational/cultural institutions of Newark (don't laugh . . . Newark has a lot to offer).

While the project also contains a large parking component, it is a boon to transit friendly development. New Jersey (my birthplace) needs more of this.

Visit Curbed for the details.

What Might Have Been: Brooklyn - Staten Island Subway

My neighbor worked for the MTA for many years and told me that long ago, the predecessor to the MTA began a subway under the Narrows to Staten Island. Fascinating stuff.

I forgot about it for a while but then came across the part in The Power Broker detailing the many failures of city works under Tammany in the 1920's and there it was. The Narrows Tube,

The Google turned up some interesting history:
The trans-narrows tube would have shot people and cargo across the Narrows
from St. George to Bay Ridge. The proposed two-mile tunnel section, which alone
would cost about $27 million, would have been the longest underwater tunnel in
the world when completed in 1929. But years passed and the tunnel project sat on
the city planners' shelves neglected. Work would halt a year later and petitioning would begin again. The incomplete construction of 1923 would turn out to be the closest Islanders have ever come to getting a rail connection to the rest of the city. (From the Staten Island Advance)

The NYC Roads page for the Verrazano Bridge has a history of the bridge that includes a history of the still-born tunnel from Brooklyn to Staten Island.

Saving the best for last, the NYC Subways page for the 4th Avenue line
details how the R train would have been extended out to Staten Island:
The original Dual Contracts plan provided for a tunnel under the Narrows from southern Brooklyn/Bay Ridge to Staten Island. The tunnel was intended to
leave the 4th Avenue subway at 65th St, Brooklyn, and would have entered
Staten Island midway between St. George and Stapleton, and would have had
branches to each. The 4th Avenue subway has four tracks between 59th and
65th Streets, two of which were intended for the Staten Island connection.
The Staten Island link might have been built in several different ways.
It is likely that a full 4-track subway to Fort Hamilton would only have
made sense if it led to a Narrows tunnel. A different plan, which got as far
as engineering drawings and even some excavation, would have left the subway
just south of 59th St, and you can see tunnel stub headings running straight
from the local tracks immediately south of the station. Several different
plans were drawn up for the Narrows tunnel, including a two track and a four
track option.
Recent discussions of a railroad freight tunnel across New York Harbor from New Jersey via Staten Island may once again bring about discussion of connecting the subway to Staten Island. It is likely that any tunnel built would be designed to tie into the LIRR's Bay Ridge Branch across southern Brooklyn to East New York, Fresh Pond, and via the New York Connecting Railroad to the Hell Gate Bridge.

Put this down on my wish list for transit projects. If anyone knows about traces of these tunnels that can still be seen/explored, please let me know.

Jay Rockefeller Sells Out to AT&T, Verizon

Glenn Greenwald has the gory details, but Jay Rockefeller, who has taken money hand over fist from telecom interests, has rewarded his bribers by writing immunity from prosecution into the Senate spying bill.
Just think about what is really happening here. AT&T's customers sued
them for violating their privacy in violation of long-standing federal laws and
for violating their Fourth Amendment rights. Even with the most expensive armies
of lawyers possible, AT&T and other telecoms are losing in a court of law.
The federal judge presiding over the case ruled against them -- ruled that the
law is so clear they could not possibly have believed that what they did was
legal -- and most observers, having heard the Oral Argument on appeal, predicted that they will lose in the Court of Appeals, too.
So AT&T and other telecoms went to Washington and -- led by Bush 41
Attorney General (and now Verizon General Counsel) William Barr, and in
cooperation with their former colleague, Mike McConnell -- began
paying former government officials
such as Dan Coats and Jamie Gorelick to
convince political officials to whom they
give money
, such as Jay Rockefeller, to pass a law declaring them the
victors in these lawsuits and be relieved of all liability -- all based on
assertions that a court of law has already rejected. They are literally buying a
judicial victory in Congress -- just like Carothers warned that third-world
countries must avoid if they want to become functioning democracies under the
"rule of law" ("Above all, government officials must refrain from interfering
with judicial decision-making").

Chris Dodd, who has admirably been railing against immunity, has pledged to do what he can to stop the bill. Dodd has the ability to place a hold on the bill, blocking amnesty. Let him know he has your support.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Cross-Harbor Freight Tunnel Awakes From Bloomberg-Induced Coma

Well, Jerry Nadler has to be beaming today. The NYT reports that moribund plans for a Cross-Harbor Freight Tunnel are seeing new signs of life:

Two years after turning its back on $100 million in federal funds for planning better ways to move freight, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has spun around and decided to accept the money.

This is good news. The CHFT would provide a much needed way to efficiently move freight east of the Hudson River. Currently, rail freight has to go hundreds of miles out of the way (north, and back south) or be barged across the harbor, which is inefficient. The unfortunate result for us is excessive truck traffic on our roads and bridges, which severely damages our infrastructure, creates traffic jams, and leads to health problems due to exhaust levels.

This is a plan whose time has come. The tunnel would run from an existing rail yard in Jersey City to an existying rail yard in Sunset Park.

And wikipedia has a good primer on the proposed tunnel here.
For rail geeks, here's a pdf on the history of the CHT idea.

John Edwards Poll Numbers

This sentence from drunken hobo Joe Klein sparked a thought:
The fact that the two leading Democratic candidates, Obama and Clinton, are
essentially running moderate campaigns--and that John Edwards' populism hasn't exactly caught fire--is an indication that the Democratic base isn't nearly as partisan as the Post seems to think it is.

I've said before and I'll say again, I think John Edwards platform and rhetoric is dead on. Edwards, I fear, hasn't had that special something, charisma, magnetism, je ne sais quoi, whatever, to make it resonate.

But maybe it's just the timing. Watch the housing market. We are headed into a recession in this country, though most people have no idea it's coming. The economic situation is going to get steadily worse between now and the election . . . and as it does, Edwards' star might start to shine a little brighter.

And apropos of nothing, my prediction is, Hillary will not be the Democratic candidate in 2008.

Monday, October 15, 2007

No To Phone Company Amnesty

Glenn Greenwald explains, in a way I don't have the patience to, why Congress must not approve any kind of amnesty to the phone companies for selling us all out to the Bush Administration.

It's also a useful look at just how intertwined the telcos are with our spying and military institutions.

If it weren't for the ACLU and the EFF, we wouldn't know any of this. It's truly mindboggling; it can be depressing if you're willing to sit back and watch it happen while sitting on your hands. But it doesn't have to be:

Tell the House and Senate leaders, NO AMNESTY! Firedoglake has a list of important numbers to call and let the committee members hear it, loud and clear. Use your voice. Call the Senators. Call the Congress.

Drunken hobo Joe Klein has a perch at Time magazine; you have your voice and toll-free numbers to call. Make your voice louder than his.

UPDATE: BoingBoing also has a good post up on this:

The administration's attempt to stop the litigation based on the secrecy
argument failed before the U.S. District Court, and the administration's appeal
is pending before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Unnamed sources have
informed reporters that the government and the telecommunications carriers are
deeply concerned that the 9th Circuit will allow the case to proceed, and now an
army of telecom lobbyists and administration officials is trying to stop the
litigation by persuading Congress to grant full immunity to the carriers.
The Hepting case, along with companion cases pending in District Court,
represent the country's best hope to test the administration's extreme view of
executive power in the crucible of judicial scrutiny, and to allow the courts to
determine whether we are truly a nation governed by law or by people.
It is
imperative that our society gets answers to crucial questions raised by the
warrantless surveillance program on the separation of powers and the scope of
executive authority. The courts must not be pulled from the fight, whether by
the state secret privilege or immunity legislation. It would be a travesty to
deny the opportunity for justice to those whose privacy has perished under a
presidential program, and to prevent the courts from determining whether the
Constitution supports the president's claim of unbridled executive power.

Court Street Reconstruction

Via Brownstoner,

CB6 voted to make the reconstruction of Court Street the board’s number one priority in their fiscal year ’09 capital budget requests for the second year in a row . . . . The project covers things like repairing the sidewalks and curbs from Atlantic to Hamilton avenues, and it’s supposed to mirror the recent reconstruction of Smith Street, which is partially credited with turning Smith into the retail powerhouse it is today.

No plans drawn up yet. It will be interesting to see what this looks like. Certainly some sidewalk improvements would be a nice addition to the neighborhood. I'm not sure this would be my top priority, but it could be a very nice touch.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Qwest/Nacchio: More DOJ Politicization

There are a few mind-boggling things about this week's news on Joseph Nacchio (former CEO of Qwest, prosecuted for insider trading).

First, this appears to have been another case of political prosecution by Bushco (Scott Horton at Harper's has lately been fantastic tying together these stories).

Second, and more important: this case shows that the Bush administration was already putting it's spying apparatus into place in February 2001 . . . long before "9/11 changed everything." They've been building their spying network since the beginning, and September 11th was just a handy excuse for what they were doing.

And here I thought I'd lost my capacity to be surprised.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Karl Rove's Politicization of the DOJ, and a Miscarriage of Justice in Alabama

Did Karl Rove push the politically motivated prosecution of Alabama Democrat Don Siegelman?

That's what a Republican lawyer has stated in a sworn affidavit. Keep an eye on this story, it's been simmering for a while now, and about to boil over into a national scandal.

Go back and read Scott Horton's (Harper's) earlier posts on the Siegelman case to get a handle on the depth of the corruption at DOJ and in the Alabama GOP. It truly is stomach churning to see that this sort of thing is so pervasive. Also check out this post at The Next Hurrah (good reading, as always, from emptywheel)

Ironically, Mrs. Gary is currently in Montgomery, Alabama for work. And for the past couple of days, it keeps coming up; yesterday it was the bible-thumping preacher who accidentally killed himself during a kinky . . . well, you wouldn't believe me if I told you, so here's the autopsy report. And today, another bombshell in the Siegelman case.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Roger Cohen On The Couch

Josh Marshall takes the unbelievably self-important Roger Cohen down a peg.

F Express in the Daily News

Councilmen Simcha Felder and Domenic Recchia have a solid piece of F Express advocacy in today's Daily News. Check it out.

Also, in another Daily News article on the MTA's congestion pricing impact costs:
The MTA said it would need 309 new buses to serve additional riders, including
12 new express routes in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens, and 46 new subway cars to run more frequently on the 1, E and F lines and to make C trains longer.
More cars for the F line? That's music to my ears. The campaign is working. Keep pushing, people. Keep pushing.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Congestion Pricing & Parking Reform Make a Lovely Couple

Regular readers know that I have an obsession about coupling the proposed congestion pricing plan with improved mass transit (e.g., enhanced F/V/G service on the Culver Line).

There is another ingredient that should be baked into this cake, and that is parking reform. First off, rampant placard abuse must be curtailed. Second, many placards which are currently legitimate should be eliminated; there are way too many city employees today with a license to violate the parking laws. Lastly, residential parking permits should be established in certian outer borough neighborhoods to discourage "park and ride" practices that bring overcrowding and excess traffic to local streets.

Streetsblog has got a good post up toda on parking reform that's worth checking out.

Brownstoner's 3rd and Bond Series

Brownstoner has a lengthy series of ongoing posts by the developers of 3rd and Bond Street.

Makes for some interesting reading from another perspective on a development in progress . . . and of course, some interesting comments on the post. Note this is Part 8 of an ongoing series, and links to the first seven posts are included at the bottom of this one.