The city council in Palo Alto, California, unanimously voted Monday night to make a small change to the city’s building code that signals a big shift in the future of private transportation. Now, every new home constructed in town will have to come pre-wired with the ability to charge electric vehicles, a move designed to ensure the city that’s home to cutting-edge car-maker Tesla will also be home to the EV industry’s early-adopting consumers.
Charging infrastructure currently poses one of the biggest obstacles to broad EV use (besides, you know, designing the cars themselves). If you’re the first tech-savvy guy in town with Google Glass, then you get to glimpse the future before all your friends, and they’re probably jealous. If you’re the first guy in town with an electric car – well, you likely can’t drive it that far.
Electric vehicles as a concept require at least a limited critical mass. Without enough drivers, there isn’t demand for charging infrastructure to serve the cars. And without the infrastructure, who would buy one of these things?
Many cities are already at work installing charging stations in public places. But Palo Alto’s idea addresses the location where EV drivers are likely to spend the most time juicing up: in their own driveways and garages. The technical requirement isn’t actually that onerous. As Wired explains, the kind of voltage you’d need to fully charge a car in eight hours (a 220-volt line) already comes standard in many homes that power a washer and dryer.
But while it costs about $200 to build this capacity into new construction, retrofitting a property to accommodate an EV can run four times as much. And that’s separate from the cost of the EV charging station itself (as much as $2,000).
Catherine Sherman | Zillow Blog | September 12, 2013 | link
No one wants to sacrifice their dream home. One way to make ends meet is to rent out part of your property. Whether a finished basement or a guesthouse that’s only used around the holidays, it’s about seeing potential in a space you could live without and making it a compelling option for renters. For some inspiration, here are a few for-sale properties with enough room to rent.
No Kids Allowed: How Our Street Design Is Killing Play
Sarah Goodyear | The Atlantic | August 8, 2013 | link
Somehow, we find ourselves living in a world where children playing on the street are considered a nuisance, and where parents feel timid about letting their children outdoors.
More than a quarter of the 1,000 United Kingdom parents polled in a recent survey — 28 percent — said they feared letting their kids play outside because of “intolerant attitudes” displayed by their neighbors.
The survey was commissioned by a group called Playday, which encourages kids getting outside to have active fun around the UK. It revealed that significant numbers of parents were concerned about neighbors being disturbed by their children’s outdoor play. More than a third were worried neighbors would disapprove if children “made a noise outside”; 32 percent thought that ball games might offend. Twenty-eight percent thought that the folks in the neighborhood would disapprove of them if they let their kids play outdoors.
But fear of traffic was parents’ top reason for keeping their kids in the house, with 53 percent naming it as an issue. “Stranger danger,” or fear of abduction, was another concern. All these things are connected – the prevalence of cars, the distrust of strangers, the intolerance of normal childish behavior. And the Playday survey results gave some insight into the psychological vicious circle that keeps kids indoors in many neighborhoods around the world.
While 59 percent of parents polled said they felt more comfortable letting their kids play outside if there were other children doing the same, 25 percent said they thought that children “hanging out in groups” could be a problem for the neighbors. “Lack of community spirit” was cited as a barrier to children’s play by 23 percent of parents, yet at the same time, 41 percent felt that kids playing outdoors could improve community spirit. Read more…
Novelist Elizabeth Fremantle, author of “Queen’s Gambit,” offers a snapshot of Katherine Parr, the sixth wife of Henry VIII, and her life at Hampton Court Palace.
Elizabeth Fremantle | Wall Street Journal | August 1, 2013 | link
Getty ImagesRoyal Wedding: Hampton Court Palace in West London, where Henry VIII married Katherine Parr, in 1543.
When I first considered writing a novel about Henry VIII’s last wife Katherine Parr, I spent months reading about her. But it wasn’t until one gloomy English afternoon, I arrived at Hampton Court Palace, the site of Katherine’s third wedding—the one that ensured her place in history as the wife who survived—that she began to come alive in my imagination.
Hampton Court was originally built in 1514 by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey to demonstrate his wealth and position, but passed to Henry VIII on Wolsey’s fall from grace. The symmetrical plan, grand, first-floor staterooms and red brickwork were an innovative blend of Northern Gothic with Italian Renaissance—the perfect statement of aesthetic sophistication for the young Tudor monarch. It became one of his favorite residences.
A portrait of Katherine Parr.
When plague was raging in London, the Tudor court would abandon its main residence, Whitehall Palace, for one of the many palaces along the Thames where the air was cleaner. Hampton Court, just 12 miles up river, was a favorite of Henry VIII’s, where he would hunt, hawk and even play tennis on the courts he had built there. The palace was popular, too, with later generations of English monarchy, but it ceased being a royal residence in the 18th century and is now open to the public.
The place was deserted as I walked toward the crenelated facade, its turrets and brick chimneys, twisted like Christmas candy, silhouetted against a leaden sky. Entering through the gatehouse arch I found myself in the vast space of the palace’s Base Court, a perfect square surrounded by the two-story buildings that once housed the favored courtiers. Perhaps it was the absence of people that day that allowed me to imagine the place teeming with life: the clatter of hoofs on the cobblestones, the chink of bridles, the earthy stench of dung and the grooms calling out to one another as they helped people from their horses.
If you’ve ever spotted surreal street art featuring 1950s pin-up models with kitten heads, chances are it’s the work of Macarena “Macay” Yañez. The Chilean artist has spent a good portion of the last four years covering urban walls with her hybrid creatures, which she says are meant to “reintroduce the colors of nature in the city.”
Macay is one of the better-established female street artists working today, and a crusty old (male) writer might say there’s something distinctly feminine about her aesthetic, which brings in bathing beauties, butterflies and colorful birds from the tropics. The artworks of Macay, who is 30 and lives in Santiago, are both playful and disconcerting, as you never quite expect to encounter on the street a group of humans frolicking on the back of a mutant bird, say, or a field of flowers with screaming, lipsticked mouths.
The artist has a show opening on August 9 at the Shoreditch’s Red Gallery. For folks who don’t live in London, here’s a glimpse into her Bosch-like universe of rainbow birds and twisted humanimals. These first few photos show how she recently transformed neglected storefronts in Saint Étienne, France, into hallucinatory orgies of wildlife. Before:
MARCELLE S. FISCHLER | New York Times | July 31, 2013 | link
Herman Wouters for The New York Times
A restored 17th-century house on the Prinsengracht, one of Amsterdam’s main canals, is $3,652,592 million. More Photos »
A FIVE-BEDROOM HOUSE ON AN AMSTERDAM CANAL
$3,652,592 (2.795 MILLION EUROS)
From the front of this quintessential 17th-century Dutch home — looking across its canal, the Prinsengracht — you can see the Anne Frank House and the crowned spire of the 1620 Westerkerk bell tower. A 12-room building with landmark status, it was renovated and restored more than a decade ago. It has a new foundation, original wide floorboards and ceiling beams, and two fireplaces with large antique tile surrounds.
Through the front door is a large entrance hall with an Italian marble floor. It connects with a hallway running along the left side to the kitchen, which is tiled in ceramic with a radiant-heated floor, white wood cabinetry, granite countertops, an oversized range and a breakfast area.