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Friday August 31, 2012

Vultures on a stick weekend

vultures

Your weekend weather: absurdly hot and not rainy. I shall be in an undisclosed location in the Keys and as per August there’s precious little going on anyway, but have at it:

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Wednesday August 29, 2012

Parks Vie For Space In Miami’s Forest Of Condos on NPR. Long story short: the Brickell Green Space isn’t happening. Instead, the city will be creating small parks underneath Metromover tracks(!), highlighting the need to plan for parks ahead of time. The report features an interview with TM‘s Craig Chester.

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Saturday August 25, 2012

BTW, CM is kicking it on Twitter this weekend re. #isaac and you should to follow along.

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Friday August 24, 2012

Floatopia weekend

float

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Thursday August 23, 2012

Taken for a Ride: How the transit tax went off track. I came across this researching for the trolley article, but it deserves an extra mention. A special report put together by Larry Lebowitz and a small team at the Herald back in 2008, it tells the story of how the transit tax passed in 2002 was squandered. It’s interesting to go back and look at now, not least because it harkens to a time when the Herald was at least trying to do ambitious multimedia reports like this.

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Miami Trolley

miami trolley

You’ve seen “trolleys” crop up in other places for sure. They’re buses dressed up to look like “the streetcars of yore” or something, and I’ve never met anyone who finds this to be cute. The idea is that they provide a cheap or free way to quickly and easily get around a dense and compact area. That’s a promising idea, and the trolley concept may make some sense in cities where it aesthetically makes sense and where there’s no better way to provide such a service.

Enter Miami, where I guess our government is running in me-too mode, and our own trolley, running for about four months and now being promoted by an oversized mailer that arrived at my door yesterday. Notice anything about the route? Yep: it’s almost exactly contiguous with the Metromover route. Remember the Metromover? That thing that’s a free way to quickly and easily get around downtown? That thing that actually is fun (I see tourists on there all the time, and everybody loves it) and actually does aesthetically fit Miami’s style? Why on earth do we need the trolley? And why on earth is it painted green and orange and have the same goofy decoration that every trolley service in the country seems to have?

There’s a second trolley route that runs between Jackson Memorial and the new Marlins Stadium that makes some sense, but you wonder why they’d go with the uncomfortable and ugly trolley concept instead of, say, nice mini-busses like the South Beach Local uses.

Hey, you want to hear where the money for the trolley came from? Well, $2 million comes from the half-cent transit tax that you voted for in 2002 that was supposed to fund an ambitious Metrorail expansion. (The tiny airport expansion is the only part built, and the rest of the money is being squandered on shit like this trolley.) $1.5 million comes from the state, presumably from a tourism fund. And $4.1 million comes from federal stimulus money, which presumably they’d have much rather given us for, you know, something useful. (I’m reading the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority’s Strategic Regional Transit Plan from 2008 and believe it or not it doesn’t mention anything about the Miami Trolley.)

But you know what really irks me about all this? It’s the thought that it’s money that could have gone to developing the Miami Streetcar project. That was actually a sound idea: expand the Metromover with street-level trains that’d run further up and down Biscayne Boulevard, Midtown, Wynwood, Overtown, and the Jackson medical district. It was last heard from being pushed from 2008 to 2010, and now it’s a distant memory. Instead, we’ve got this pathetic trolley.

And it’s not that I think the trolley is completely useless, or that it won’t find a ridership. It’s just that it reflects our worst tendencies: our desire to take the politically and intellectually easy way out, and ignore the long-term problems and needs that are clear to see but challenging to address.

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Tuesday August 21, 2012

What's up with my car?

car scar

So, this happened. I walked out of my work the other day to go to lunch and saw that the left rear tire on my car was flat. It actually wasn’t too much of a surprise, because I had a flat on the right rear a couple of months ago. I live in Edgewater across the street from a construction site, and they love sprinkling nails and screws into the street. I guess what happens is that I drive over one leaving the house and cause a puncture that drains the air over a couple of hours, so that I have no trouble getting to work, but after a few hours it’s flat. Point being, I know the drill.

I bust out the works: under the floor of the trunk there’s a toolkit with a screwdriver, a peculiar jack contraption, and a bunch of other stuff. The spare is attached to the bottom of the car in a peculiar German-engineering sort of way, and is actually removed from the inside of the trunk. I pop off a little circular piece of plastic by the rear wheel where the jack attaches by plugging into a semi-circular hole (again: German engineering). Before jacking up the car I set the emergency break and loosen the bolts on the wheel by inserting the tire iron into each one and jumping up and down on it, because it’s considered best practices at any place that works on your car these days to overtighten the bolts.

Then I jack the car up and take the bolts all the way off to discover that the (aluminum) wheel has bonded itself to the (steel) hub. I dealt with this exact situation a couple of months ago when I had the other flat, at which point I tried tapping it around the rim, banging on it with a 2-by-4, putting the bolts back on — but loosely — and lowering it and driving back and forth a few feet, all to no avail. Ended up calling the three A’s that time, who arrived and got the wheel off before I had a chance to see what the proper technique. The point being here, is that I’m officially screwed.

This is the point at which my mind officially went soft. I’ve had the chance to process this and try to figure out what the hell I was thinking, and as best as I can figure it’s that, ok, this is an automatic, right? It’s in fucking park, which means you hardly ever even use the emergency break because, like, the fact that it’s in park means the front wheels don’t move, and all the emergency break is doing is keeping the rear wheel from being able to be turned, which right now is totes not helping.

So, I reach into the vehicle and disengage the parking break.

Well, you know how this movie ends: the front wheels roll, the jack gently bends, and the left rear wheel comes gently down, which hallelujah unsticks it from the hub and causes it to pop off. It sort of gets wedged underneath, so that the wheel and tire, now sticking out at a weird 45-degree angle, are the only thing between the bottom of the car and the ground. This is the, what do you call it? The oh-shit moment.

But actually the way out of this is clear: you just need another (a real) jack to jack the car back up, and you can put the spare on and drive off in victory to World Wide Tire up the street.

(An aside about World Wide Tire: these people are kings among men. They’ve got a divey little shop next to like a creepy halfway house on US-1. Years ago I had a slow leak in a tire and I took it to Firestone, where they told me I needed a new tire because the puncture was was in the side of the tire. I had them fill it up and told them I’d be back later in the day and went to World Wide, where I explained that I needed a tire because I had a leak in the side of mine. They waved off Firestone’s assessment and patched it in about five minutes. $10, and that tire is still fine a year later. I went back a few months ago because my tires are almost bald thinking I’d get a news set, and they refused to sell me anything. “You’ve got six months left on those tires, minimum.” I’d kill for a mechanic that was as honest and good. (King Automotive in Wynwood may be close?))

But where do you find a jack suddenly in the middle of Hollywood? Well believe it or not, I look across the street and in the parking lot of the Publix I see one of those flat-bed trucks pulling through. I run over just as he’s ready to pull out back onto Hollywood Boulevard heading towards the beach and I wave at him with both arms. Do tow trucks even stop if you wave them down, if they have someplace they’ve already been summoned? This one did, and rolled down his window. It was a really high truck, and really loud, and I couldn’t really hear what the guy said back to me as I explained what happened (and he had on these wrap-around sunglasses with the multicolored reflective lenses, so maybe he wasn’t even looking at me) and that I just needed a quick jack. But I gather that he had just gotten a call and needed to be somewhere pronto and where was my car. I pointed across the street, and he said he’d come back if he couldn’t find the call(?) (maybe meaning after he was done?).

But so I thank him and I’m walking back over across the street but then I see him pulling in behind me. Which is totally awesome. He pulls in, and he’s, like, perpendicular to the row of cars, with the back of the truck just barely clearing the back of my car, and he busts out the jack. And admires my handiwork, by the way. All I can do is shrug and laugh. Whatever. He jacks the car and pulls my jack, which is twisted and useless now, and I run inside to grab a twenty to give him, and when I get back out he’s got the spare on there and discovered that it’s flat too, which is odd considering I just used it recently for the other flat. “I’ve got air,” he says, sighing, and adds that he’ll just tell (his next call) them he had to stop and use the crapper. He busts out this brand-new looking, perfectly coiled orange hose and attaches one end to something on the truck. It’s leaking from the valve, and pretty fast. I tell him I just need to get down the street to the tire place. “Ok, I’m going to fill it up as high as I can, but you’d better hurry,” he says. We throw the flat wheel, the jack, and all the other crap into the car and I thank him and he’s telling me to hurry. I jump in the car, and he opens the passenger seat and throws in the big metal contraption that holds the spare to the bottom of the car. “Alright, thanks!” I yell as he slams the door, and back out. Huge metal scraping sound, and I have no idea what that just was. I pull back forward and hop out the car to survey what just happened, and I don’t really remember what my exchange with the guy was. There’s like an extra bar at the back of the flatbed that can come down and out and tow an extra car when there’s another one on the bed itself, and the way he parked it stuck out just far enough that the side of my car scraped against it as I pulled out. There’s of course no damage to the truck at all, so the parameters of the situation haven’t really changed, and I’m back in the car and off.

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Friday August 17, 2012

Lego weekend

Is it still August? The only thing you should “to do” is stay home and drink, or maybe go see a shitty movie. But whatever, here you go:

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Tuesday August 14, 2012

The Miami Martini

martini

The Martini FAQ is pretty fantastic, and I agree with 90% of it and generally endorse and co-sign, etc. It goes without saying that in Miami the phenomena of the “Martini Menu,” bearing such abominations as the “Appletini” and the “Chocolatetini,” is particularly rampant. (To some extent this is just a semantic issue, but also, no. No no no.)

Where I start to have issues with Brad is exactly when he recommends shaking a Martini. Yes, Bond, but the whole point is that Bond was wrong about the shaken Martinis, which I think we’re meant to speculate about. (“He was a spy, see? The shaken Martini is more watered down, which allowed him to stay sharper.”) I learned to make drinks from Tony Abou-Ganim, who says you stir a drink with spirits, shake a drink with mixers. (Brad says so later too, but too little too late.)

But my real beef is this, right there in section 1.2, “How do you make a Martini,” long before the discussion of the freezer: “The glasses should be stored in the freezer.”

I don’t know how it is up there, but if I pull a Martini glass out of the freezer it’s going to have frost all over it when I serve the drink, and the stem and base are going to be wet and slippery. You might as well bust out those freezer frost-covered beer mugs like they love at divey Mexican restaurants (where everything is delicious except that one detail) and crappy poolside bars. For a drink as refined and presentation-oriented as a Martini, this is completely WRONG. And a 9,000 word Martini guide that gets this wrong … well, what else is he screwing up?

For the record, here’s how you do it: start by filling your room temperature glass with ice. Add some water. Then go about making your Martini (or Manhattan of Appletini or whatever). Dump the ice and water right before pouring, and wipe the rim of the glass if you need to. Now the part of the glass that holds the drink is cold, the part that you hold is room-temperature, and everybody’s happy. Anything else would be … uncivilized.

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Dan Hosker

dan hosker

Dan Hosker died over the weekend after four months in a coma. Dan played with the Holy Terrors, and more recently with Boise Bob and His Backyard Band, and in between with a quarter million other bands including the Laundry Room Squelchers, which is of course how I knew him. I spent a couple of hours yesterday searching my archives for the photos I took of him playing with Bob at Dorsch’s, couldn’t find anything, and then I got depressed and went to work. You can read at the NT about his music, and Dan was a truly great musician. But I remember just as much his calm, solid presence. Dan was the epitome of calm reasonableness, and I liked him from the moment I met him. He was the guy you’d want around if something went wrong, because he’d know what to do, and I think actually that confidence is what made him such a great musician.

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Friday August 10, 2012

Shakespearean weekend

martini

Tonight

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Tuesday August 7, 2012

This weekend I binged on the third season of Louie. The third episode is set in Miami, and it’s pretty fantastic. You guys have probably been watching all along, but if not, you should beg, borrow, or steal your way into seeing it.

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How South Beach really runs: code enforcement extortion crackdown

Jose L. Alberto Here’s a partial peek behind the curtain, curtesy of the FBI. Since it’s a press release, I’m going to cut ‘n’ paste just like I wrote it (just like the Herald would), and I’m going to delete out the boring bits:

Jose L. Alberto, the former lead code compliance officer for the city of Miami Beach, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right for his participation in a scheme to extort cash payments from a South Beach nightclub. Alberto faces up to 20 years in prison.

Alberto was indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right and 22 counts of extortion under color of official right and induced by the wrongful use of actual and threatened fear of economic loss. Alberto was the second most senior official at the Miami Beach Code Compliance Division and oversaw and managed all the Miami Beach code compliance officers.

Alberto admitted that in June 2011, he solicited a cash pay-off from a Miami Beach nightclub owner in exchange for not enforcing a large fine for a code violation.

The nightclub owner reported the alleged extortion to the FBI, which commenced an undercover investigation. During the undercover investigation, Alberto accepted 22 separate cash pay-offs for a total of $16,600 from either the nightclub owner or an undercover FBI agent posing as the manager of the nightclub. These cash pay-offs were made in exchange for Alberto’s protection from potential code violations and to permit the nightclub to continue operating.

In court, Alberto also admitted that while the pay-offs were being made, he introduced various other code enforcement officers to the undercover FBI agent to help protect the nightclub. These code enforcement officers, like Alberto, also received cash pay-offs in exchange for their protection of the nightclub. Two of those officers, Vicente Santiesteban and Orlando Gonzalez, have pled guilty to conspiring with Alberto to extort cash from the Miami Beach nightclub and are scheduled to be sentenced in the coming months.

So there you have it — a pretty substantial criminal conspiracy run from inside Miami Beach city hall gets shut down. We’re left to speculate what this really means. Is it that the system is working? We’ve all heard about how the Beach is run by the mob, right? Is it that these guys didn’t have the permission of the official extortion ring (which surely would involve the Miami Beach Police Department, after all) to be doing this?

The $16,000 figure is interesting. Maybe Alberto hit up the nightclub as an experiment, and the FBI steered the direction towards high pay-offs to make a better case (in other words, he was only extorting this or a couple of other nightclubs). Or Alberto was determining the amount of the payoffs, which would suggest he had his own fee structure and that he has had been doing this a long time? If he made $16,000 from one club between June 2011 and March 2012, imagine how much you could rake in on the beach with a little ambition. It’s not like the money is that much to the club in exchange for getting to ignore the code with impunity.

I hope somebody follows this a little, because I’d love to hear what club this was, just to see what happens to them going forward. Not willing to play the game? I doubt that’d very good for business.

Photo from Flickr, via Random Pixels, where there was good reporting on this back in April, after the arrests were made.

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Monday August 6, 2012

Catching up Miami Monday links

miami river

I’ve been reacquainting myself with the Miami Internets a bit, and here is some stuff, a lot of which will be old to you. By the way, I have been using the snot out of the CM Twitter feed, so stuff like this will be retweeted there moreso than collected here going forward, I think.

Oh yeah, and I monkeyed with the design over the weekend. Wider. Coming soon: Twitter and FB share buttons for each articles. Eyesore I know, but we gotta get the word out…

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Friday August 3, 2012

In case you have more Miami performance art money burning a hole in your pocket, my friend Catalina is having a Kickstarter for her piece in the Miami International Performance festival. The event was last weekend, but the benefits make this totally worth it anyway. “The artist will do her best.” I’m in.

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Drums and beats weekend

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Wednesday August 1, 2012

It’s August one. Do you know where your tropical formations are?

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