A Tale of Two Presentations

Bad Powerpoint presentations annoy me. Do you get mildly annoyed when you sit though a presentation that could have been a handout?  Do you feel like getting violent when people read off the screen?

Check out this photo from this photo from Presentation Zen of one of those moment in progress.

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Lawrence Hargrave Drive PresentationIf anything in this picture looks good, (except for the Mac if you are that way inclined), check out any of the posts at PZ for tips, you need them.

I don’t get to present as much as I’d like, but I sit though lots of patched together presentations.  This morning was an exception, the Newcastle Civil/Structural branch of the Institute of Engineers hosted a breakfast presentation by Peter Stewart who was Senior Project Engineer for the design and construction Alliance Poject of the Lawrence Hargrave Drive reconstruction south of Sydney. There were parts of his presentation that were not the greatest stylewise, but generally the content was clear, the images were useful and the text was kept to a minimum. His manner and content were engaging and pitched well to a predominately technical audience.  I’m sure this was a well practised talk on Innovation in Engineering with some case studies from his career, but it was refreshing to see an Engineer present with style!

Sit in a PARKing spot

Some cities have very little green space. The guys over a Rebar, a group of designers and activist in San Fransisco have started a day of action that you can read about here…

PARK(ing):

One of the more critical issues facing outdoor urban human habitat is the increasing paucity of space for humans to rest, relax, or just do nothing. For example, more than 70% of San Francisco’s downtown outdoor space is dedicated to the private vehicle, while only a fraction of that space is allocated to the public realm.

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Cul-de-Sacs and Turning Heads

Some people love them, others hate them. Personally, I think they are useful to maximise the lot yield of terrain dependant sites, but when used to attempt to create private roads and spaces with no regard to the form of the land, Cul-de-Sacs become pretty tiring. (If you can’t access the NY Times article, there’s a pdf of it here.

Why Some Towns Place Roadblocks on Cul-de-Sacs – New York Times:

Highly popular after World War II, the cul-de-sac is essentially a dead-end residential street, often but not always ending with a large circular patch of pavement allowing vehicles to turn around. The form was initially embraced as something that promoted security, neighbourliness and efficient transportation…

Homeowners found that the cul-de-sac limited traffic, creating a sense of privacy, while encouraging ties among neighbours, who could hardly avoid one another. Developers liked the cul-de-sac because it made it possible to build on land unsuited to a grid street pattern and because home buyers were willing to pay a premium to live on one…

…while people within a cul-de-sac may know one another well, they are less likely to know people who live on other streets. “What was lost is a sense of community,” [Michael Lykoudis, dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Notre Dame] said.

What I dislike more than Cul-de-Sacs are

Water – The New Pedestrian Control Device

29-08-06_0749.jpgNewcastle City Council has been busy fixing some of the inner city intersection, to improve pedestrian safety, and in one case to realign a blocked stormwater pipe. The images below are from one of the intersections, you can see the new kerb blister to shelter pedestrians contemplating the crossing, the new stormwater pits, and most obviously, the large puddle on the corner. Check out these three photos taken on my way to work.

It’s a fair embarrassment when the city council, responsible for approving engineering development’s drainage designs, is permitted to leave a design like this in use. I will admit that the options are few, but it is not impossible to fix.

Solar Powered Biofuel Service Station

One of the awesome things about watching growth in sustainability, is seeing mainstream, traditional industries such as gas stations make inroads to sustainable outcomes.  In Australia BP recently incorporated solar panels to several of their stations in Sydney, with a graphic display of energy savings and even carbon offsets they were acheiving.  This story from Oregan takes the concept one step further and shows that big companies see value in investment in these technologies, whether from an attempt to improve public perception, or perhaps from a cost benefit, environmental analysis perspective.  Either way, this article over at treehugger outlines some of the “innovative”, (I use that term loosely, as this really is inovative for a traditional industry!).

Treehugger: First Solar Powered Biofuel Station Opens

The biofuels are only part of the story behind this unique business, however. From first glance at the SeQuential retail site one can see that this is no ordinary pit stop.
The site considers the role of the automobile while integrating the belief that commerce and the natural environment can co-exist. Renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable design elements are themes throughout the site.

Freeways for Sydney?

The Sydney Morning Herald recently ran this story about the US transportation and planning expert Wendell Cox who is arguing for more freeways in Sydney to allow for greater home ownership.  (H.T. Planetizen).

Back to the ‘burbs – the case for the car – National – smh.com.au

…if inadequate public transport is not the reason, why does Sydney have such transport problems? Cox says the city needs more freeways. Of 30 urban areas in the developed world with a population of more than 3 million, “Sydney ranks 29th for lane kilometres of freeway per square kilometre. Only London has fewer. Sydney is also relatively poorly served by arterial roads.”

You can read my comments on this issue, as someone who occasionally has to navigate the back streets of Sydney to get anywhere, at Planetizen, check out the other comments about Cox’s credibility too.

Some dubious traffic statistics questioned

An interesting traffic discussion over at Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space. Richard had a set of figures on urban traffic densities, (rules of thumb), that he realised were not applicable to the project he was looking at, a freeway…

Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space: Freeway vehicle capacity

In spouting those mode capacity figures, while talking with the people who ambled by (and being questioned about the numbers!), I realized that the vehicle capacity numbers I knew weren’t relevant to the freeway part of I-66 (or the Wilson Bridge).

Newcastle Transport corridor for Sale

Imagine the headlines:

Newcastle Transport corridor for Sale

The State Rail Authority today announced the sale of the rail corridor land between Hamilton and Newcastle stations, freeing the way for Newcastle City Council and local developers to join the foreshore and the city at last. The Newcastle Rail Alliance and Hunter Rail Heritage groups have begun a joint legal challenge in the courts, but finding little support from the Novocastrians who travel into the city and harbour foreshore region for work and recreation.