May 21st, 2008

LAUSD High School for the Visual and Performing Arts

So, a few weeks ago, I was driving through the Downtown Slot, when I passed underneath a spiral shaped structure like some kind of amusement park ride.


From Flickr, by alossix

I couldn't figure out what it was, particularly while driving down the freeway, so a couple of weeks later I went back and walked up the hill from Union Station to see whether I could identify it. It's kind of a long climb.

I couldn't get close, because the thing's still under construction, but I did manage to read the signs. Turns out it's the new LAUSD High School for the Visual and Performing Arts.

Anyone have any idea what the function of that spiral thing off the roof of the theatre is? Or is it just decorative? I'm reading that it's "a spiral ramp in form of a number 9", but not that it has any purpose.

(http://www.arcspace.com/architects/coop_himelblau/high_school/high_school.html, and http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=529012 have more photos, if that helps.)

Taking advantage of Pemex's subsidized fuel prices.

When I was in Tecate recently I saw that gasoline prices in were significantly cheaper than they were across the border, and I was wondering if Americans were crossing into Mexico for gas.

Duh.

From http://www.brownsvilleherald.com/news/fuel_86316___article.html/gas_pemex.html:

With gas prices climbing, Texans fuel up at Pemex
May 1, 2008 - 11:43PM
By Laura Tillman/The Brownsville Herald
Over the past year Pemex gas station attendant Juan Alvarado has seen a jump in the number of motorists with United States license plates crossing the border the fuel up.

As of last year, he estimates that about 30 percent of his clients at the station, located on Calle Sexta in Matamoros, were from the United States. Today, he says that figure sits somewhere between 60 and 70 percent.

Ordinarily, the price differential might not be worth crossing the border for, since a roundtrip ticket to cross the B & M International Bridge costs $4.00.

But with gas in Mexico at $2.70 per gallon - compared to $3.49 in the Brownsville on Thursday - even after the expense of crossing the bridge, a driver with a 30-gallon tank can still save $20.

One after another, currencies are breaking through milestones.

From http://www.xe.com/news/detail.htm?articleId=13870:

Will the Australian Dollar Hit Parity?
John Kicklighter, Currency Analyst and Jamie Saettele, Technical Currency Strategist strategist@dailyfx.com
2008-05-21 19:08 UTC (GMT)
Who could have imagined that the value of one Australian dollar could be equal to one US Dollar? As recently as the beginning of this year, parity or an exchange rate of 1.0 still seemed like a far fetched idea because at the time, the Australian dollar was trading at 0.88 against the US dollar. Five months, 800 pips and 9 percent later, the AUD/USD is now within an arms reach of parity. Both the Canadian dollar and Swiss Franc have taken a stab at the same price level in the hopes of becoming more valuable than the US dollar, but only one of these currency pairs have been managed to be successful.

What is most impressive about the Australian dollar’s rally is the fact that it is coming at a time when the US Federal Reserve has reached the end of its monetary easing cycle. The AUD/USD pressed on to a new 24-year high above 0.96 thanks to rising commodity prices, a roaring economy and favorable yield differential. The big question now is if a move to parity is a done deal.

As a culture, we don't consider our highways haunted.

It's not for lack of people dying there. Sometimes you can see crosses by the side of the road, decorated with flowers. But the memorials don't last long, and people put those deaths out of their minds.

I'd thought of this before, and I remembered it as I drove down I-5 from Bakersfield. There was an accident last October that closed the Newhall Pass interchange. So I deliberately took the southbound truck bypass through the tunnel where it happened, and tried to imagine the collision that happened there. It wasn't hard; I was in the only passenger car, boxed in by tractor-trailers, all of us rolling along at highway speed. It's downhill, and the approach has a slight left turn. Somebody makes a mistake, and there's a very big problem. That night, someone did, and three people died.

I spent some time afterwards on the drive into Los Angeles thinking about the dead. In America, forty to fifty thousand people have died every year on the roads for as long as I've been alive. The cumulative number as of 2003 is over three million, according to this saferoads.org pdf. The DoT says there's only a little over four million miles of road in the US, so there's a death for every mile and a third, obviously not particularly evenly distributed.

Maybe if we really thought about it, it'd be harder to keep driving. But if you believe in haunted places: the roads are full of sudden, violent death, so why shouldn't they be full of ghosts?
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