What does 2014 have in store on edwardjensen.net? Writing. Lots of writing.
One of the things that I discovered in 2013 as something I like to do is write. With that in mind, I’ve decided that I’m going to try to write 1-2 essays a month that will be on this website. There’s something very pleasing in writing, I’ve discovered, and it’s a great way to begin conversation on issues that are near and dear to our hearts.
What are the topics of these essays, you ask? Naturally, they’ll relate to issues of urbanism, urban policy in downtown Phoenix, technology, and how all three of these intersect in the wild. I’ll write on the arts, especially if there’s a concert of the Phoenix Symphony or the Arizona Opera that I attend that’s worth sharing. And, perhaps, I’ll write one or two personal posts as a means for you to get to know me a little better — the first essay I’m working on for this New Year 2014 is five things I’m going to try do in the next twelve months.
With open arms, let’s welcome 2014. Happy New Year!
The greenest computer is the one that’s already there. Let’s focus on repair, not replacement.
I’m going to take a little break from my discussion of downtown Phoenix issues and talk about another thing that occupies my life (and is, for all intents and purposes, my “day job”): information technology. More specifically, I’m going to talk about sustainability within technology.
One of my guiding philosophies on computer purchases is this: How repairable is the machine? In other words, what percentage of that computer’s parts can be replaced by me? And how easy is it to do that?
Prior to graduating from high school in 2006 and preparing to enter Arizona State University later that year, I received a Dell notebook computer. That machine is still running strong because I’ve been able to replace the hard drive, the battery, and upgrade the system memory as needed. The computer will be eight years old in early 2014 and, with Windows 7 installed on it, my mother uses it for her computing needs.
In 2011, I decided to make the leap over to the Apple world and invest in a MacBook Pro — which, at over $1,500, was a considerable investment. What really pushed me to the land of Cupertino was the longevity of their notebook batteries. A colleague of mine at ASU received as a high-school graduation present a MacBook and, at 5 years in, that battery was still holding as much of a charge as it did when she received it. My Dell notebook (the same one I talked about above) was about to need its third battery in six years.
Fast forward to today: the penultimate day in 2013. I’ve just replaced the original platter-style hard drive in my MacBook Pro with a solid-state drive and about to replace the battery in the machine. I’m thankful to the crew at iFixit for sharing tips on how to make the battery user-serviceable and for selling batteries. In the process, though, I’ve been scratching my head. I’ve noticed that the screws holding in the battery aren’t your normal Phillips-head screws but are, instead, tri-wing screws. Unless you have a computer screwdriver kit (and I do!), you’ll have to head off to the Apple Genius Bar to get them to install a new battery for you. Nope; no, thank you. My MacBook is out of warranty so I’m on my own.
In the process of thinking about this, I’m thinking about how user-repairable computers and other electronic gizmos are. The worst culprit in this is Apple, despite how they claim their computers are environmentally friendly. In the historic preservation world of the built environment, we say that “the greenest building is the one that’s already there.” We can take that phrase and shift it to technology: “The greenest computer is the one that’s already there.” I will refuse to purchase (or authorize the purchase of) the new MacBook Pros with the high-resolution “retina” displays because of the lack of user-serviceable parts. A look at these MacBooks shows that if a component breaks down, you’re stuck with having to get a brand new machine.
That’s silly and irresponsible. Why should I need to purchase or get a new machine just because a hard drive — a part that has been user-replaceable for many years — stops working? Or if I choose to upgrade the memory? Or if I need to replace the battery? I get Apple’s philosophy of having dedicated places to fix their equipment and catering to users with limited IT resources. But what about those places that have IT departments and oversee a fleet of hundreds of Apple computers?
And then there’s the software side of things. I was an early adopter of the iPad. It worked great until I received the third generation iPad (my father now has my original iPad). Apple made the decision to say that iOS 5 will be the last version of iOS that’s supported on the original iPad. Was it a performance thing? My reading of specifications show that the original iPad and the second-generation iPad are really close together in specification; however, the second-generation iPad supports iOS 7.
I get that my viewpoints are certainly in the minority of technology users and that there’s a business to be had in selling computers. I don’t look at a computer as something that I’ll use for a couple years before I upgrade it; I see it as something I’ll use (and possibly abuse) until I have a technological reason to need to upgrade. I’ll be that person with the decade-old MacBook out in the wild. And I’ll be OK with that.
In this finale of four posts, I end on a positive note: looking at downtown Phoenix’s opportunities as 2013 ends and the New Year 2014 approaches.
In these past couple weeks, I’ve been thinking about the things that have happened in 2013 in downtown Phoenix and how they shape its present as well as the next year in our community. Re-read my observations on downtown’s strengths, weaknesses, and threats first before reading this finale post.
A DOWNTOWN PHOENIX YEAR-IN-REVIEW 2013: IV. OPPORTUNITIES
1. Arizona Center for Law and Society — As part of the growth of ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus, ASU administration is planning to move their Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law to downtown Phoenix in a new building, the Arizona Center for Law and Society. The building will be a great asset to the growing University District in downtown Phoenix. While many people bemoan the design of the building including its placement of an alumni-run law firm on the 1st Street sidewalk-level elevation, my chief concern is about how public the building will remain given ASU central administration’s desire to clamp down on access to their buildings, especially downtown. Let’s get this building built before somebody changes their mind.
2. 1st Street Redesign — It is nice that the City is starting to think creatively about what to do with downtown streets. The redesign of 1st Street from Washington to Hance Park is certainly eye-opening and also includes Phoenix’s first parklet (miniature park) near Garfield Street, outside Matt’s Big Breakfast. The narrowing of one of downtown’s widest streets has made it possible for more non-automobile users to take advantage of that street but the stock of buildings and their non-engagement to the 1st Street streetscape makes it curious why that street was chosen as a demonstration project. Still, though, progress is progress and it’s good that the City is looking at streets in a different light.
3. Rising Interest in Bicycling in Urban Phoenix — As 2013 closes, we are inching closer to becoming a good place to bicycle. The City’s Street Transportation recently seated a twelve-member Bicycling & Pedestrian Ad Hoc Task Force (of which I am a member), of which one of its charges is to at the City’s new bicycling master plan in parallel with two national engineering firms specializing in bicycling infrastructure. In addition, bicycle share is coming to central Phoenix in 2014. While I believe that downtown’s adequate bicycle infrastructure should have been installed before bicycle share, I hope that this new citywide look at bicycling will usher in the much-needed improvements to downtown’s bicycling infrastructure.
4. New City Council Representatives for Districts 4 and 8 — Two of Phoenix’s council districts containing urban Phoenix will have new representation in January: Laura Pastor in District 4 (Midtown, Maryvale) and Kate Gallego in District 8 (Downtown East, Sky Harbor, South Phoenix). I had the great opportunity to interview both of these women and so I am hopeful for what they will seek to accomplish in their first term. Both Districts 4 and 8 contain neighborhoods that are truly coming into their own identities and I would hope that the new councilwomen can find the best way to work with the neighborhoods and celebrate the progress that has happened.
5. Setting the Stage for the 2015 Super Bowl — In February 2015, the world will descend to metropolitan Phoenix for the 49th annual playing of the NFL’s championship game. It’s a foregone conclusion that the game will be in Glendale at the University of Phoenix Stadium. But it is supposed to be announced that the NFL’s major events will take place in downtown Phoenix and all that is happening here will be on the national and international stage. This is a major opportunity for everyone here to put their best foot forward and I think everyone understands the stakes that are at hand. I would hope that we look to tell downtown Phoenix’s story as this: urban living is celebrated here.
As 2013 winds down, let’s look back on the year that was in downtown Phoenix. In this third post of four, I’ll look at downtown Phoenix’s threats.
In these past couple weeks, I’ve been thinking about the things that have happened in 2013 in downtown Phoenix and how they shape its present as well as the next year in our community. Yesterday, I discussed downtown’s weaknesses; in the finale tomorrow, I’ll share my assessment of downtown’s opportunities. On Thursday, I discussed downtown’s strengths.
A DOWNTOWN PHOENIX YEAR-IN-REVIEW 2013: III. THREATS
In the traditional SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis, on which this quartet of posts is modeled, a weakness is defined as something of internal origin that is harmful to organizational mission. I had a difficult time categorizing items that are weaknesses or threats (external origin) so this afternoon’s post should be read in concert with yesterday’s post.
1. Fallout from 2nd Street / Knipe House RFP — Like any good project downtown, the saga has been documented in many blogs, tweets, and Facebook posts. (NB: I was retained by one of the proposing teams for the original RFP to provide technical advice.) I won’t chime in too much on the topic because of that involvement but I know that time will certainly tell what happens with the project and how it might impact the Roosevelt Street district. There has been a petition launched by one of the main people behind one of the non-selected projects to call on the City to reject the selected project. Tempers and tensions are very high, understandably, but I hope the language being used surrounding this project (e.g., “the end is nigh for Roosevelt and downtown Phoenix”) is brought to a more civil — and reasonable — level.
2. Suburban vs. Urban Council District Divide — In recent years, and especially manifest in 2013, there has been a major divide in urban vs. suburban interests on the City Council. The council has become, unfortunately, more anti-downtown and anti-urban. The original plans for a large downtown biomedical campus have been retooled to share with all parts of Phoenix, especially near north Phoenix’s Mayo Hospital. Mayor Greg Stanton was the lone dissenting vote to approve a large Circle K at the southeast corner of 7th Street and Roosevelt. The proposed downtown observation structure, “The Pin,” was championed by a north Phoenix council representative. To those people, our downtown is a playground for suburbanites. While that might be okay to some point, it does very little for those who try to make and celebrate the urban experience in Phoenix. (I’ll write an essay on this in 2014.)
3. Phoenix’s Community & Economic Development Department (CED) Asleep at the Wheel — In 2013, we’ve learned of several major economic development projects that have gone to Phoenix’s suburb cities: a major Apple component subcontractor locating in southeast Mesa, State Farm and USA Basketball to Tempe, among others. No mention was made of Phoenix, especially downtown Phoenix, even being in the running for these major endeavors. If not, where was CED? And, if so, what broke down?
4. Location and Site of “The Pin” — To great relief, it’s been announced that the proposed “The Pin” observation deck at Heritage & Science Park will not be happening. This is a good thing, right, so why is it on the threats list? People involved with “The Pin” have been scoping out other sites in downtown including, perhaps, as part of Hance Park’s redesign. I would hope that this project has seen its last light: I am not a fan.
5. Relationship with the State of Arizona — At best, Phoenix has a tenuous relationship with our state government. In recent months, though, it would seem that the relationship between Phoenix and Arizona has soured. After Phoenix passed its LGBT non-discrimination ordinance in March, the State Legislature took up debate on trying to overturn Phoenix’s law. In 2012, the State Legislature passed legislation that forced cities to have their municipal elections in even-numbered years; this year, a court overturned this law. We’ve seen the ongoing sagas with the debates over solar power, women’s health rights, immigration reform and immigrants’ rights, and almost every other debate out there. And then there’s perception. Arizona is still plagued by the fallout from SB 1070 and all of the baggage that went along with that. That perception is still alive elsewhere: as Washington State Representative Joe Fitzgibbon (D-Wash. LD 34) tweeted after the Arizona Cardinals upset the Seattle Seahawks last week: “Losing to a desert racist wasteland sucks a lot.”
As 2013 winds down, let’s look back on the year that was in downtown Phoenix. In this second post of four, I’ll look at downtown Phoenix’s weaknesses.
In these past couple weeks, I’ve been thinking about the things that have happened in 2013 in downtown Phoenix and how they shape its present as well as the next year in our community. Yesterday, I discussed downtown’s strengths; tomorrow, I’ll share my assessment of downtown’s threats. The finale is on Sunday where I’ll share downtown’s opportunities.
A DOWNTOWN PHOENIX YEAR-IN-REVIEW 2013: II. WEAKNESSES
In the traditional SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis, on which this quartet of posts is modeled, a weakness is defined as something of internal origin that is harmful to organizational mission. I had a difficult time categorizing items that are weaknesses or threats (external origin) so this afternoon’s post should be read in concert with tomorrow’s entry when that comes online.
1. Still No Downtown Grocery Store — It’s been decades since downtown Phoenix has had its own grocery store. For downtown denizens, our nearest grocery store is a Safeway at 7th Street and McDowell Road, a trip that almost certainly requires a car to travel to safely. In September, a Whole Foods Market opened in the Town & Country shopping center at 20th Street and Camelback, even more removed from downtown. To create density downtown, the literature would suggest that a walkable grocery store is required; however, this is the classic chicken vs. egg paradox.
2. Still Not Enough Downtown Density — Since the Great Reset, we’ve had about a dozen new “destination” restaurants open in downtown and about a half dozen new coffeehouses open (which is seen by many as good; my judgment is still up for grabs) but we still don’t have decent density in downtown. Some new projects have opened on the edge of the downtown core (including several age-restricted projects in the Roosevelt neighborhood) but there are still miles to go.
3. Too Much Talk vs. Not Enough Action — Almost every day in 2013, I seemed to read about yet another organization that has popped up to try to leave its mark on this community. In skimming through the “about us” descriptions and mission statements, one trend has become alarmingly clear: a lot of these new groups don’t fully understand the wider context for why things are the way they are. I’m not saying that this youthful naïveté is not instrumental in making things happen; what I am saying is that a thorough understanding of history, nuance, context, and setting is important so that the right decisions are being made instead of the decisions with the most support. There are great organizations in downtown to be sure — Downtown Voices Coalition, the Roosevelt Row CDC, Grand Avenue Arts & Small Business District, and the Midtown Museum District to name a few — and I would think that we should focus on these established players in town that have already effected great positive change in our communities and in city government.
4. Designing the Micro vs. Designing the Macro — In Phoenix, we have a bad habit of looking at areas under a small lens with great focus instead of a broader picture. We look at streetscape design improvements for several blocks of one street instead of improving a much greater portion. The Adams Street redesign concerns the two blocks of Adams between Central Avenue and the Convention Center. Why doesn’t it stretch over to 1st Avenue to include one of our downtown’s most-urban sections of street? Or why not over to 3rd Avenue to include the Orpheum Theatre and Phoenix City Hall? (One of my first essays in 2014 will address this very project.) We forget that two of the tenets of urban design are connectivity and connectedness: something that is hard to achieve when one looks at the micro scale instead of the bigger picture.
As 2013 winds down, let’s look back on the year that was in downtown Phoenix. In this first post of four, I’ll look at downtown Phoenix’s strengths.
In these past couple weeks, I’ve been thinking about the things that have happened in 2013 in downtown Phoenix and how they shape its present as well as the next year in this community. Over the next four days, I’ll share my assessment of downtown Phoenix’s strengths (today), weaknesses (tomorrow), threats (Saturday 28 December), and opportunities (Sunday 29 December).
A DOWNTOWN PHOENIX YEAR-IN-REVIEW 2013: I. STRENGTHS
1. Downtown Phoenix, Inc. — Formed at the end of 2012, this was a new way in which to coordinate the major operations in downtown Phoenix. While the organization has its initial kinks to work out, the group of people in place to lead Downtown Phoenix, Inc. (DPI), is a great group that can be a unifying force for downtown advancement. In my conversations with DPI’s CEO, David Krietor, I am assured that he knows the tasks that are at hand and will surround himself with the best possible people to get the job done. And, even more assuring, he knows that there’s more to downtown / urban Phoenix than the central business district: there are the emerging urban areas along Lower Grand Avenue, Roosevelt Street, and in the Garfield and Eastlake Park neighborhoods. I think DPI is something that we need to get behind and support however we can.
3. Adoption of LGBT Non-Discrimination Ordinance — In an unnecessarily contentious City Council policy session on 26 February 2013, including a change of venue to the larger Orpheum Theater building, the Phoenix City Council approved by a vote of 5-3 new language to make it illegal to discriminate against members of the LGBT community within the City of Phoenix. Opponents from Arizona’s conservative community, including the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, curiously challenged the bill as a “bathroom bill,” saying that it would open the door for child predators. Their accusations have been wrong. A bill was taken up in the State Legislature to overturn Phoenix’s legislation but that, fortunately, failed. As I say, urban design is one thing; good urban (and inclusive) policy is even better.
4. Opening of Downtown’s First Dog Park — Those who know me (and know me well) might find it interesting that I’ve included this item on the list and especially as a downtown strength. I was a most vocal critic of the discussions surrounding the dog park (including a misguided proposal to install a linear dog run on 1st Street south of Hance Park). I felt that those discussions distracted from the bigger issue at hand: the renaissance of Hance Park. But it’s heartwarming to see that there has been a lot of community involvement both in construction and in the ongoing operation of the dog park, including a “Friends” group dedicated to funding the dog park’s continued operation. It’s shown that people in Phoenix love their parks and will advocate for them.
5. A Nationwide Renewed Interest in Downtowns — Perhaps not solely a 2013 issue, there has been a renewed interest in downtowns and urban areas. People are seeing the benefits from living in central cities: reduced costs of commuting, better health, and more amenities within a short walk’s distance. As an urban dweller since 2006 (and an observer of downtown Phoenix since 2000), it’s great to see the strides being made. In urban Phoenix, there is a long way to go but we’re getting there…even if it’s slowly.
Here is a replay of my conversations from earlier in 2013 with Phoenix City Council members-elect Laura Pastor (District 4) and Kate Gallego (District 8).
Earlier this year, I embarked on a series of one-on-one Google+ Hangouts with the four finalist candidates for Phoenix City Council. I thought that I’d replay my conversations with the two winning candidates, Laura Pastor in District 4 and Kate Gallego in District 8.
IN CONVERSATION WITH LAURA PASTOR / recorded 4 October 2013
Laura Pastor is the Director of the Achieving a College Education program at South Mountain Community College and is the daughter of U.S. Congressman Ed Pastor. She serves on the Governing Board for the Phoenix Union High School District.
IN CONVERSATION WITH KATE GALLEGO / recorded 13 October 2013
Kate Gallego works in strategic planning and economic development at Salt River Project. She serves on the City of Phoenix Central City Village Planning Committee and is also the Vice Chair of MyPlanPHX.
The year was 1962. A brand new building arrived at Phoenix’s fledgling Sky Harbor Airport: its second terminal building. The building was made for jets — the old Terminal 1 (opened 10 years previously but demolished in 1991) saw the golden age of propeller aviation. Toward its end, Terminal 1 was home to Southwest Airlines before they moved into the just recently opened Barry M. Goldwater Terminal 4 at the east end of the airport campus.
Fast forward just over half a century from Terminal 2’s opening in 1962 to 2013. The airport is now a regional hub for two major airlines – Southwest Airlines and U.S. Airways – and ha nonstop international service to cities in Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, and the United Kingdom. But Terminal 2, at 51 years old, still plays its part in Phoenix aviation.
Walking in to Terminal 2 is a different experience than its more modern — and more austere — counterparts. At the west end of the terminal headhouse building (now over the security checkpoints) is a mural by the late French-American artist Paul Coze. “The Phoenix” is one of Phoenix’s best midcentury murals and the phoenix bird is also replicated in his sculpture outside the Town and Country shopping center at 20th St and Camelback. In 2000, artwork from Terminal 3 was also placed in the Terminal 2 headhouse – a series of two paintings by the Western artist Billy Schenck and a 3D copper piece by Jose Bermudez.
When the Phoenix City Council signed off on new Sky Harbor Terminal 3 expansion project, it was mentioned that Terminal 2 would be closed. Many in the historic preservation community thought that by “closed,” the airport meant that it would be demolished. The Arizona Preservation Foundation wrote on its Facebook page that “[n]ot only will it close, it will be demolished.” A column in the East Valley (Phoenix) Tribune lamented that “The airport announced this past that it intends to spend millions of dollars to expand Terminal 3 to the east of Terminal 2, the latter destined to be torn down. It was only a matter of time.”
I’m here to say this: The demise of Terminal 2 is greatly exaggerated. While it will certainly close in the wake of Terminal 3’s westward expansion, the headhouse — the building with midcentury charm, the Paul Coze mural, and 51 years of history — will not be demolished. I have had conversations with high-ranking airport officials as well as those who work at Sky Harbor’s Airport Museum, the largest airport museum in the country and one of the largest in the world. Even if the building was slated for demolition, there is a great team (including myself) in place to protect, preserve, and conserve all of artwork that is in Terminal 2. The rumors on the street, while completely unofficial, are that the terminal headhouse will be converted into offices.
As we go forward, we need to get the facts straight and our stories correct. Nostalgia is an important part of place, placemaking, and propinquity: Terminal 2 is one of those wonderful structures in Phoenix’s history as well as in aviation history. But we need to be mindful that there are systems, teams, and people working on protecting the Paul Coze mural as well as the other portable art works in that building. Nobody wants to see those works damaged or destroyed.
It is necessary that we do not let our guard down. In addition to the artwork in Terminal 2, there are spectacular pieces of non-portable art in Terminal 3. I am thinking of the award-winning terrazzo floor by the baggage claim carousels designed by Teresa Villegas or the stained glass that is above the main escalator well (look above the hanging airplane!) designed by Ken Toney in collaboration with the architects (see picture at right). But again, I am confident in the team that has been assembled in the preservation and protection of these works of art.
A great city doesn’t need great art, it requires great art. So, too, does an airport: A great airport requires great art. It’s great that Sky Harbor has some of the best airport art out there.
With a couple edits, one of the things I’ve learned in 2014 is that passwords are evil. Learn how to overcome the inherent problems of passwords.
[Editor’s note: The below post, “Living post-password”, was originally posted on this blog on 2 April 2013. It’s been reposted below with several updates and new insights as part of this blog’s ‘Marching Toward 2014’ series of posts.]
Passwords and passphrases. I (still) hate them.
Yes, I used the ‘h’ word. Passwords and passphrases give people the illusion of safety and security when they are one of the easiest things to crack. I cringe when I come across major banks whose login mechanisms are weaker than, say, Facebook’s mechanisms.
I’ll admit that the inspiration for this post came in November 2012 after reading the story of Mat Honan in WIRED Magazine. The article’s linked but I’ll summarize: Mr. Honan had his entire digital life wiped away because a hacker could defeat his email account password.
Do I have your attention? Good. Because for the next few paragraphs, I’ll showcase some alternatives and addition to passwords and some questions that you need to ask yourself about your own computing practices. Continue reading “Replay: Living post-password”