The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Shared space in Manchester suburb

Instead of a bunch of stoplights and crosswalks—and a bunch of accidents involving pedestrians—the village of Poyndon, 20 km north of Manchester, created shared space at its busiest crossroads:

Now, a year after construction wrapped up, a video called "Poynton Regenerated" makes the case that the shared space scheme maintains a smooth flow of traffic while simultaneously making the village center a more attractive and safer place for pedestrians, leading to increased economic activity downtown.

In the "Regenerating Poynton" video, several people who admit to having been skeptical of the plan say that after it was put in place, they came to see it as a dramatic improvement. A local city councilor says that the main street no longer seems like a dying place, as it had for years before the change. Some 88 percent of businesses in the area are reporting an increase in foot traffic, and real estate agents say they're seeing new interest in buying property in the area.

Here's the video:

The Lesser Depression, summarized

Paul Krugman takes a quiet moment to meditate on the economy:

If you think the problem is that wages are too high, your solution is that we need to meaner to workers — cut off their unemployment insurance, make them hungry by cutting off food stamps, so they have no alternative to do whatever it takes to get jobs, and wages fall. If you think the problem is the zero lower bound on interest rates, you think that this kind of solution wouldn’t just be cruel, it would make the economy worse, both because cutting workers’ incomes would reduce demand and because deflation would increase the burden of debt.

If, on the other hand, you believe that the problem lies in a shortfall of demand due to the zero lower bound, you believe that government borrowing needn’t drive up rates, because it puts unemployed resources to work; that monetary expansion won’t be inflationary, because the money will just sit there; and that fiscal austerity will be strongly contractionary.

I leave the adjudication of these competing claims as an exercise for readers.

After four years of a depressed economy, and what appears to be the economic hobbling of the entire Mediterranean, there might be some evidence to support one of these views.

Things I might have time to read this weekend

Too much going on:

Now, I will go back to drafting documentation while I wait for AT&T to reconfigure my DSL and kill my landline. I've had a POTS ("plain old telephone service") twisted-pair line longer than most people on earth have been alive. After today, no longer. I don't think I'll miss it, either. I only have it because I have a business-class DSL, which I don't need anymore, and the only people who call it want money from me.

Uh oh...

Via Sullivan, the European Union has given Cyprus the weekend to get itself put together...or else...

Cypriot negotiators have lots of perfectly sensible things they can tell the European purse-string holders about why this obsesssion with debt sustainability is silly. They can point to future natural-gas revenues, for instance, which give Cyprus the potential ability to pay of debts which seem huge right now. They can also point to the denominator here: if failure to reach a deal results in GDP collapsing, then the debt-to-GDP ratio will soar even if the debt level doesn’t rise at all. But the Europeans aren’t acting like impartial judges: by all indications, they’ve made up their mind.

Which leaves Cyprus in a very, very tough position. It can accept the idea of taxing bank deposits — or it can find itself tossed unceremoniously into the Mediterranean, left to fend for itself. Essentially, the EU is telling Cyprus that it can come up with any plan it likes, so long as the plan involves nothing but fiddling around with the Breakingviews deposit-tax calculator. You want to preserve all insured deposits? Fine, raise the tax on uninsured deposits to something over 15%.

In other words, the only real solution to this crisis is for the EU to go back in time and stop it from happening in the first place. And the next-best solution would be for the EU to stop being so self-defeatingly stubborn on debt ratios. But if that doesn’t happen, the Cypriot parliament is going to face an unbelievably tough vote at some point in the next few days. Will they essentially cede their sovereignty to unelected Eurocrats, and rubber-stamp a deal which looks very similar to the one they’ve already rejected once? Or, standing on principle, will they consign themselves to utter chaos and a very high probability of leaving the Eurozone altogether? Such decisions are not always made rationally.

Could Cyprus end the Euro? It's possible, and it could happen next week. Krugman has even more depressing analysis.

Exhaling mentally

That's the problem. People inhale and exhale mentally, and right now, I'm exhaling. This means I get a lot of work done, but not a lot of reading. This, in turn, means more lists like this:

Lunchtime!

The efficiency of working from home

Principally, it means not having to commute in 15 cm of snow. It also means several uninterrupted hours of working on stuff. And, unfortunately, not reading all this yet:

Now to walk Parker in the snow, and keep working...

The reading list expands...

Two guys on vacation, new guys not starting yet, my day began at 7:25 this morning. At least Parker got a taxi to day care, sparing me the need to drive home tonight in a blizzard.

So I'll just add these to Instapaper and hope I have to fly somewhere soon:

Oh, and don't miss Jennifer Lawrence answering stupid questions after her Oscars win Sunday night.

Hacking the Vatican

Security guru Bruce Schneier examines Papal election security:

Probably the biggest risk is complacency. What might seem beautiful in its tradition and ritual during the first ballot could easily become cumbersome and annoying after the twentieth ballot, and there will be a temptation to cut corners to save time. If the Cardinals do that, the election process becomes more vulnerable.

A 1996 change in the process lets the cardinals go back and forth from the chapel to their dorm rooms, instead of being locked in the chapel the whole time, as was done previously. This makes the process slightly less secure but a lot more comfortable.

There are also enormous social -- religious, actually -- disincentives to hacking the vote. The election takes place in a chapel and at an altar. The cardinals swear an oath as they are casting their ballot -- further discouragement. The chalice and paten are the implements used to celebrate the Eucharist, the holiest act of the Catholic Church. And the scrutineers are explicitly exhorted not to form any sort of cabal or make any plans to sway the election, under pain of excommunication.

Of course, no amount of security in the world will prevent the electors from replacing Joseph Ratzinger with someone at least as out-of-touch and reactionary as he is, given the constitution of the cardinality these days.

Holy shit

The Pope has announced his resignation:

Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday that he would resign on Feb. 28 because he was simply too infirm to carry on — the first pontiff to do so in nearly 600 years. The decision sets the stage for a conclave to elect a new pope before the end of March.

"After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths due to an advanced age are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry," he told the cardinals. "I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only by words and deeds but no less with prayer and suffering.

Ratzinger is the person most directly responsible for the office accused of covering up priests abusing children for decades. I cannot wait to read Sullivan...

Update: I was not wrong about Sullivan.