Archive for July, 2007

The Air Car

Last Wednesday I read a post on Jim Bacon’s blog, Bacon’s Rebellion, about new developments in transportation. Jim highlighted something called the Air Car — a mini-car that runs on compressed air. According to Jim “the vehicle reaches top speeds of 68 and has a driving range double that of the most advanced electric car…The cost of re-filling the “gas” tank is about 1.5 Euros (less than $3). Oil changes are needed only once per 50,000 kilometers. Oh, and did I mention that it has zero pollution?”

BusinessWeek also featured the Air Car, and it reported that “the first commercial compressed air car is on the verge of production and beginning to attract a lot of attention, and with a recently signed partnership with Tata, India’s largest automotive manufacturer.”

So far four models have been made: a car, a five-passenger taxi, a truck and a van. I’ll bet Tokyo is the first city to adopt these cars. Furthermore, I hope American car makers are paying attention.

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This only works in little league.

Simpsonize Me

As part of a promotion for the new Simpsons Movie, Burger King has teamed up with the Simpsons to create a “Simpsonizer.” This application allows user to upload a headshot and create their very own Simpsons character. So far this website seems to work very well, but sometimes it gets overloaded with traffic. Additionally, you need to have a clear, high resolution head shot to generate your character. Overall, it’s fun and easy to use.

In today’s Daily Progress Brian McNeill reports that UVa’s Darden Graduate School of Business Administration has removed the high tech company Pmints from its business incubator. Pmints, is an online pay-service similar to PayPal. However, unlike PayPal, Pmints allows user to perform transactions for online porn and gambling.

The Darden business incubator was set up by a $60 million gift from Frank Batten Sr in 1999. The incubator is part of the Batten Institute, and it was established to help young entrepreneurs launch their fledgling businesses.

According to McNeill “Having lost its spot in the incubator at UVa’s Darden Graduate School of Business Administration, Pmints must forgo its office space, stipends, access to faculty advisers and legal support.”

On July 7, Brian McNeill first exposed the “e-wallet” company in his article “UVa student aims to fill online payment void.” This article caught the attention of many alumni and community members, and the administration at Darden received many letters and complaints.

“‘Honestly, it appears to be more opportunist than innovative,’ wrote UVa alumnus Oliver Asher in one such letter to Darden Dean Robert F. Bruner. ‘PayPal could have offered this service long ago if they had chosen too; however, they chose the high road. I believe this goes against the principles of servant leadership in considering the value of people over profit.'”

Although Pmints has been booted from the incubator program, the student that started the online business, Rafael Diaz-Tushman, plans on continuing the business after his graduation from the Darden program.

The federal minimum wage has officially been increased from $5.15 an hour to $5.85 an hour. The seventy cent increase is the first change in 10 years, and since the last increase in the federal minimum wage, “bread prices have risen 25 percent, health insurance costs have risen 97 percent, and the price of regular gasoline jumped 149 percent” according to KansasCity.com.

This wage increase will earn the average worker (40 hours a week) an extra $28 a week. More good news — the minimum wage will be raised to $6.55 by July 2008 and $7.25 by July 2009.

Staunton, VA currently has a free trolley system that services residents, tourists, and workers. The system runs year round and it has three routes: Green, Silver, and Red.

Green Route 10 a.m. to 10 p.m Monday through Saturday. The Green Route includes the downtown area, the Wharf and Gypsy Hill Park.Silver Route 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. The Silver Route serves many areas of the city connecting senior citizen communities, apartment complexes, the YMCA, stores and Staunton’s Visitor’s Center.Red Route 6 p.m. – 10 p.m Friday and Saturday. The Red Route connects the downtown area, Gypsy Hill Park, the Main Post Office area, and the YMCA.

Today Seth Rosen of the Daily Progress reported that the City of Charlottesville has given the go ahead to the Coal Tower development project.

“City staff have given preliminary approval to a 315-unit development – spread out over 62 townhouses and four buildings – that will run from about Tenth Street Northeast to Meade Avenue, just north of the CSX railroad tracks. The property’s owner, Dave Matthews Band manager Coran Capshaw, plans to keep the coal tower, site of a notorious double murder six years ago, while adding offices, retail and several restaurants on the 10.7-acre tract.”

“Because it is a by-right development, the project does not have to be approved by the Planning Commission or the City Council. Instead, it just needs a final site plan approval by city staff, which should be granted in the coming weeks. Construction would then likely begin this fall.”

The Coal Tower project “fulfills the city’s goal of clustering high-density, mixed-use development near downtown. The result, city planners and the developer say, will be hundreds more residents who can get to the Downtown Mall for work and recreational purposes without having to use a car.”

“The development will be built in several stages. Residents should begin moving into the townhouses by the end of 2008, with three mixed-use buildings, ranging in height from two to nine stories, opening in early 2009, Baynes said. An eight-story tower and two-story building, along with several more townhouses, will be built at a later date.”

I have some concerns about this project. I love the Downtown Mall, and I love projects that celebrate this area and make it more accessible to citizens. However, the eight and nine story buildings might be “out of scale” for the community because Charlottesville’s downtown area isn’t home to many tall buildings. I’ll give Dave Mathews and company the benefit of the doubt and trust that they’ll do their best to make the buildings “blend in” with the surrounding community.

Earlier today the Washington Post’s David Nakamura reported that negotiations to build the Poplar Point soccer specific stadium for D.C. United in Southeast Washington have collapsed.

“Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s administration had been negotiating for months with D.C. United’s principal investor, real estate magnate Victor A. MacFarlane, over the team’s proposal to build a 27,000-seat stadium in Ward 8, just across the Anacostia River from the Washington Nationals’ new ballpark.”

“But the negotiations stalled over the financial terms. Although United offered to pay for the $150 million stadium, it asked for about $200 million in city subsidies, including roads, tax incentives and the right to develop additional land.”

“Administration officials have decided to look at other options for the site, which is part of a 110-acre piece of federal land known as Poplar Point that is scheduled to be transferred to the District in the fall. The city will seek proposals from interested developers over the next two months, the sources said, with the focus on housing and retail. A soccer stadium still could be part of the mix but is not a top priority.”

“During the negotiations, D.C. United officials suggested they would consider moving to Maryland or Virginia, possibly the Baltimore or Loudoun County areas, if the District was unable to help build a new stadium…Another option that had been discussed is construction of a soccer stadium next to RFK, which would then be torn down.”

After reading some posts on Steven Goff’s Soccer Insider blog, the complications with the Poplar Point deal were not surprising to many. The local DC government has a reputation for being difficult to deal with, and many blame city officials for the Washington Redskins’ departure to Landover, Maryland. Will it happen again for DC United? Will they move to Arlington, Crystal City, or Reston?

Many fans are upset with the failure of the stadium deal, and have vowed to forfeit their season tickets if the team moves out of DC. Certainly a move outside of the DC city limits will deter a portion of the fan base, but I’m certain team officials are looking for areas close to the city that can be accessed via the Metro. DC United has one of the best fan bases in the MLS (17,000 average attendance per game), and I’m sure the Barra Brava and company will follow the team wherever it ends up.

The other losers in the scenario, besides the fans, are the residents of Anacostia and Ward 8. DC United officials had talked about creating a mixed-use development that would include youth soccer fields, housing, commercial space, and employment opportunties. If city officials award the area to the highest bidder, then this area will probably fill up with high-priced luxury condos and penthouses.

I hope that Mayor Fenty’s administration takes another look at DC United’s proposal before officially killing the deal.

JMU to Grow 24%

Yesterday, Heather Bowser had an article in the Daily News Record about JMU’s current plan for expansion. According to Bowser “over the next six years, James Madison University plans to expand its enrollment to more than 21,500 students, a 24 percent increase from last fall…JMU plans to wrap its arm around 4,100 more students than it did last year.”

“Although JMU has grown by 177 percent since reaching university status in 1977, the planned growth is the largest in the school’s 99-year history, the data show. If JMU reaches its goal in 2013, the school will have more than tripled in size in less than four decades.”

“JMU will continue to have the sixth-largest headcount in Virginia. By 2013, George Mason University plans to have the most students – 34,700 – while Virginia Commonwealth University plans to have 33,900 and Old Dominion University and Virginia Tech plan for 29,800.”

A couple months ago I posted about JMU’s plans for admissions and expansion, and in those posts I was a little concerned about the direction the school was headed in. JMU is exponentially growing in popularity, and school officials are constantly looking for ways to add more students and expand the campus. I think that JMU should move in the opposite direction — keep the student population the same, raise admission standards, and preserve/renovate the current campus.

Why does JMU feel the need to add more students? Currently, JMU has a parking crisis — everyone wants to drive to campus and the traffic congestion makes the campus impossible to drive through. The school is still using modular trailers for class room space, and two years ago they had to purchase a dilapidated hotel to house incoming students. JMU should focus on improving the quality of life for its current students before bringing in new ones.

Additionally, its time for JMU to distant itself from George Mason, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Old Dominion. The University has the opportunity to cement its place with UVA, William and Mary, Virginia Tech, and Richmond as one of the best schools in the state.

University spokesman Don Egle said “the university believes it has a responsibility to serve the commonwealth to help meet the demand. The university is not willing to sacrifice quality for quantity.” I’m glad to hear someone from JMU say that, but only time will tell if this statement rings true.

The following is CNNMoney.com’s best places to live in the U.S. in terms of weight. These counties’ residents have the lowest average body mass index. Here’s the top ten:

  1. Marin County, California
  2. Blaine County, Idaho
  3. La Plata County, Colorado
  4. Teton County, Wyoming
  5. Garfield County, Washington
  6. San Francisco County, California
  7. Boulder County, Colorado
  8. Los Alamos County, New Mexico
  9. Summit Count, Ohio
  10. Alexandria City, Virginia