Monthly Archives: November 2013

Ann Arbor City Council Preview for December 2, 2013

A preview of the Ann Arbor City Council meeting for Monday, December 2, 2013; based on the agenda printed on Friday, November 29, 2013 at 6:00 p.m.

The hot issue for December 2, 2013 is the proposed repeal of the Ann Arbor pedestrian ordinance. If passed, city rules for pedestrians would revert to the Michigan state laws.

Another preview, with a lot more words, is at the Ann Arbor Chronicle.

INT-1. We have new firefighters, let’s meet them.

INT-2. A review of Fiscal Year 2013 audit results from CFO Tom Crawford.

INT-3. Philip Deletka is volunteer of the month for work on the CERT program. (Added late.)

Public commentary reserved time! 10 speakers at 3 minutes each. Speakers: Tom Partridge, Henry Herskovitz.

CC-1. Here’s who’s on various council committees.

Briere to Planning Commission. (added late)

Taylor to Greenbelt Advisory Commission. (added late)

Briere and Anglin to the Environmental Commission. (added late)

Council rep TBD to Disabilities Commission. (added late)

Someone to LDFA (added late, not reflected in electronic agenda).

CC-2. Council rules.

MC-1. Mayoral appointments and confirmations. Nothing controversial.

PH-2. An industrial development district at 1901 E Ellsworth, which would suit the needs of http://www.genze.com/ (Mahindra Genze), an electric scooter company.

PH-3. Running Fit wants to build upwards at 121-123 E Liberty and at 220 S Fourth.

PH-1. Repeal of the pedestrian ordinance, a public hearing. Expect a lot of speakers. Reorganized on the agenda to go third, not first. (39 speakers, 36 against)

A-1. Approve last month’s minutes for council.

CA-1. Approve a $58,000 annual maintenance license for ESRI GIS software.

B-1. Repeal of the pedestrian ordinance, second reading. There are 5 sponsors for the ordinance, and it’s expected to be repealed; but there may be last-minute negotiations that lead to some kind of compromise.

C-1. Traverwood Apartments rezoning, first reading.

DC-1. Council calendar for 2014.

DC-2. Policy for removal of street parking spaces; it’s proposed that a street parking space be valued at $45,000.

DB-1. Running Fit wants to build upwards at 121-123 E Liberty and at 220 S Fourth.

DB-2. Donation of 2.2 acres from Bill Martin adjacent to the Traverwood Apartments proposed development.

DS-1, DS-2. Asbestos abatement in floors 3, 4, and 5 of City Hall.

DS-3. An industrial development district at 1901 E Ellsworth, see PH-2.

DS-4. City-University parking ticket processing contract.

DS-5. “Resolution to Approve a Six Month Extension of the Existing Installment Purchase Agreement with Bank of Ann Arbor to Finance the Purchase of 350 S. Fifth Avenue ($3,500,000.00) (8 Votes Required) (Roll Call Vote Required)” This is a surprise. “Whereas, it is in the best interest of the City to extend the maturity date of the Agreement by six months.” The Bank of Ann Arbor is extending the same terms and interest rate as currently held, with no prepayment penalty.

October 2013 Washtenaw County Restaurant Inspections

These documents (in CSV and Excel format) provide a list of restaurants in Washtenaw County that were inspected in October 2013, as well as a count of violations. Also accompanying this data is a press release from the county describing how to interpret the data. I’ve put copies on a2docs.

This was prompted in part by the latest Ann Arbor News publication of this data, which did not have the whole list visible or sortable in any useful way.

A version of the list is embedded here in a Google Spreadsheet. I’ve sorted it by the count of “priority” violations, which is definitely not the only way to sort it. If you’re looking for raw data, the a2docs files are sufficiently detailed that you can draw your own conclusions, make your own maps, etc.

These are only raw counts, and it’s worth noting this sentence from the press release: “Priority and Priority Foundation Violations must be corrected immediately at the time of inspection or within 10 days.”

You can see detailed reports on the Sword Systems website which hosts county inspection data for a number of counties throughout the state. Alas, there’s no way to link deep into this database to connect a given restaurant to its inspection, and no way to run a query like “who has mice in their kitchen”.

The 3d Ann Arbor Civic Tech meetup – a writeup

We had a good time and a lively discussion at the 3d Ann Arbor Civic Technology meetup. There were about 18 people in attendance, including the City of Ann Arbor CFO/CIO, the webmaster from Washtenaw County, several U of Michigan SI students, some townies, a fellow who drove down from Lansing who had organized Code Michigan hackathon, and a number of folks who were drawn in from Meetup. (who did I miss)

After everyone introduced themselves we did a few rounds of discussion of the projects that people were working on with public data as well as some talk about data that wasn’t available in easy formats. Projects included

  • the detailed data from the 1,4 Dioxane plume that is spreading under Ann Arbor
  • traffic crash facts and accident reports to inform pedestrian safety discussions
  • estimating rental property utility costs from crowdsourced data
  • liberating restaurant inspections from proprietary databases
  • data about dangerous buildings and nuisance properties
  • adopt-a-storm-drain
  • report from a “data dive” that looked at non-profit data in a hackathon
  • (what did I miss)

Not all of these projects were actively in development (several were “gee wouldn’t be nice if”) and there was not one single effort that everyone focused on. Instead it was a healthy back and forth about a lot of possible directions.

We started at 7p and ended at 830p, and people stayed around talking until 9p. I’m happy with the turnout and with the people who showed up, and am hopeful that the next meeting (in January) will be as well received. We had an offer to host it in a Washtenaw County facility for the next event.

Tamber Woodworth to replace Cindy Leaman as Pioneer HS Principal

This letter went out Friday night, but there was no discussion or announcement on the a2schools.org official school website as late as early Monday morning. I first saw the full text of this letter on the excellent Ann Arbor Schools Musings weblog where there’s a good discussion.

Dear Pioneer Families,
I have notified the Pioneer community today that Ms. Cindy Leaman has agreed
to serve as Principal of Ann Arbor's A2 Virtual+ Academy beginning
January 6, 2014.
Ms. Tamber Woodworth will serve as Principal for the remainder of the
school year. Ms. Woodworth has agreed to return to Pioneer where
she served previously as both a class principal and principal prior
to her retirement.
I know we will all work together to support our students at Pioneer.
Thank you,
Jeanice Swift
Superintendent.

Programming your new radio with CHIRP

From the CHIRP web site

CHIRP is a free, open-source tool for programming your amateur radio. It supports a large number of manufacturers and models, as well as provides a way to interface with multiple data sources and formats.

The basic idea is that rather than learning the peculiarities of your radio’s programming interface, you use CHIRP which has access to databases like Radio Reference and RepeaterBook to find the channels you want to have easy access to. Programming the device should just be a matter of loading in the set you want, attaching your radio to your computer via a programming cable, and selecting “Upload to Radio”.

My new radio is on its way, so I’ll update this when I get it to work! So far the application was easy to install (you have to install a Python runtime on OS X before it works) and it was easy to get the Washtenaw county repeater list from RepeaterBook.

UPDATED: It worked the first time! Here’s what I had to do to make it go smoothly.

First, before you upload channels to your radio, you have to download its current configuration. This gets all of the settings out of the system.

Second, after you are done uploading the channels, unplug the programming cable from the radio. This should be obvious? but somehow it wasn’t. Once I unplugged things everything worked just fine.

Third, make sure that you pick the right radio that you are connecting to or else unpredictable things can happen.

I found the walk-through at Miklor’s CHIRP Software Guide to be useful and helpful, and it suggested some additional features (like setting channels to be receive-only) that will probably get me to re-program the radio a few times before I’m done.

Bitcoin at new record highs, trading in China

The price of Bitcoin has soared in recent months, even though the Dread Pirate Roberts was taken offline. A recent graph shows the currency trading above $800.

Screen shot 2013-11-24 at 3.19.37 PM

What has changed that would drive the price from $140 to $800? The only simple answer (right or wrong) is China. The South China Morning Post reports –

A US Senate hearing put bitcoin firmly in the mainstream and triggered fresh support from countries that tend to fall in line with America’s financial regulatory regime.

In the past 30 days, the price of a single bitcoin has quadrupled, with Chinese speculators among the most enthusiastic buyers.

The question now is whether bitcoin can fulfill the goal it was conceived for: a fast, cheap online payment method.

From Want China Times

Bitcoin has become the world’s most heated investment target over the past week, appreciating by US$100 daily on average due to widespread speculation, the Shanghai-based China Business News reports.

On Tuesday, on China’s biggest bitcoin platform, BTC China, one bitcoin could be exchanged for more than 6,000 yuan (US$984.57), an intraday high, with the day’s average at 5,888 yuan (US$966.04), up sharply from 3,226 yuan (US$529.29) a day earlier. BTC China just recently surpassed Tokyo-based Mt.Gox to become the world’s largest bitcoin trading platform.

BTC China wisely warns

Important Bitcoin trading can be considered a high-risk activity, where Bitcoin prices are volatile, and can swing wildly, from day to day. Please use your extreme judgement when making the decision to invest in, or to sell, Bitcoins. BTC China is not soliciting for users to buy or sell Bitcoins, as an investment, or for profit. All Bitcoin trading decisions should be made independently by the user.

Octodroid is a Github client for Android

I’m using Github as a personal issue tracker, still using it in fact for a whole year. It says that I’ve crossed 1200+ things off my todo lists and still have 70+ left to go. Unlike “inbox zero”, I’m resigned to the notion that my todo list will hover somewhere between 60 and 90 things to do at any time.

Octodroid is a Github client for Android. It provides access to a bunch of Github features, most notably the issues feature. I can sort through issues, scroll through them, add comments and mark them as closed. It’s free (free is good) though there hasn’t been an update to the software in the better part of a year.

There are other fancier todo lists in the world, but very few of them come with a complete source code control system and a serviceable wiki. My only complaint with any of the Android tools for Github that I’ve found so far is that none of them are really good wiki editors. I sometimes miss how good Evernote is at providing a simple synchronized text editor, and wish that it had more wiki-nature. Octodroid is just good enough at tracking what I’m doing and not doing to satisfy the need to have a todo list that goes with me everywhere that doesn’t live in my inbox.