February 2nd, 2013

Clever POS system with a weird name


Simple idea for a tricky situation. We're obviously approaching a major transition from folding green stuff and payment cards (debit/credit with magnetic stripe) to new payment systems. What isn't clear is which of those new systems will win: NFC (near field communication, probably in your phone), QR codes, payment cards with chips in them, or Other. It's also not clear what is going to be happening behind the scenes, but I think it's fair to believe we'll be inventing something lighter weight than the existing schemes used by payment cards, ACH and so forth.

What this device is attempting to do is Be All Systems, so a shop only has to have one point of sale system and never have to worry about turning away a customer.

I don't know if it will work. PayPal did a deal with Discover so you could pay with PayPal (at some point in the future) wherever Discover card is already accepted, so there's a chance that we'll incremental our way through this morass. A lot of people are very reluctant to commit to any change before knowing where the Really Big Guys (Wal-Mart, Apple, etc.) come down. I, personally, think we need some legislation to happen before anything makes sense, but I could be wrong. The recent decision to allow merchants to kick some of the credit card cost back to the customer changes the landscape in pervasive and subtle ways that won't become clear for months or years.

But if I were a shop looking at POS systems, this one would be kind of tempting.

_Living in Sin_, Ginger S. Frost

Subtitled: Cohabiting as Husband and Wife in Nineteenth-Century England
Published by Manchester University Press

Ginger Frost is "Professor of History at Samford University, Birmingham, Alabama"

I got this when I was in the throes of divorce research a few months ago. I have a great-grandfather who was divorced twice and a grandmother who was divorced three times; each married 4 times in the course of their lives. When I was first collecting their decrees, I was not entirely certain I would find them -- I thought there was a chance that they had moved and remarried without getting divorced. However, in the end, I found all the decrees; there was no bigamy.

Divorce laws in the first half of the twentieth century, when my ancestors were ending their marriages, made divorce much more available to working class and poor people than they ever had been before. It wasn't just extending the grounds for divorce; it was a reduction in costs as well.

Frost's focus is the "long nineteenth century", and she works with a variety of evidence: criminal records, lawsuits, probate and so forth, using newspapers to cast a wider net. She attempts to characterize, if not quantify, how many opposite-sex couples lived together as husband and wife without being legally married to each other and why. The most common reason across the time period was inability to marry, either due to affinity (and in that group, men wanting to marry their deceased wife's sister is the most common case, by a lot) or prior marriage. Many times, the couple married anyway, and got into trouble with perjury/bigamy statutes, or difficulties arose when one of the couple died and the will became a problem. She does a great job explaining the effects of changes in the marriage law and the Poor Law.

The people most likely to live together without being married were working class/poor. Frost tries to understand the gradations of working class/poor (respectable, rough, criminal), while recognizing the difficulty of doing this given the sources and contemporary commentators inability to understand the people they were prosecuting/describing/criticizing/attempting to advocate fore.

This is not narrative non-fiction; it is chronological, and suffers from the catalog-of-relevant-items problems typical of this sort of monograph (that is, that's _the point_ of the book, even tho it affects readability for a general audience as a result). I had some issues with Frost's analysis, particularly when she was describing Engels and the Burns sisters. While I recognize there are significant problems with the documentation of these relationships, the relentless cataloging of the children that resulted from other relationships in conjunction with no mention of children for either of the Burns would seem to be worth _some_ kind of commentary. I also felt that Frost created an impression of continuity in the relationship between Engels and Mary Burns that is not justified by the evidence.

Frost also appears to have some beliefs about emotional attachments being disproportionately on the woman's side that I don't necessarily agree with, and which her evidence, particularly towards the end of her time frame, does not really support. A lot of her evidence from nineteenth century judge's comments also suggest alternative interpretations for decisions that she only barely considers. Notably, in the turning state's evidence case where the not-wife and her child receive the share of the robber who flips, the explanation seems simple: the state wanted the criminal to make possible prosecution and this was his compensation -- it has nothing to do with "recognizing the relationship".

But it is a surprisingly readable book, and very interesting. If you've ever suffered from the mistaken belief that marriages used to last because they were happy, this'll clear that right up, and prevent you from getting suckered into any nutty ideas that making divorce hard will somehow improve things for families/women/children/wtf. (I'm not saying there weren't happy marriages, just that a lot of marriages lasted despite vast unhappiness because the alternatives were really, really limited.)

ETA: I read this in paper form. I bought it used.

Slow News Weeks

It's been a bit slow lately. One of the recent non-news controversies involved Obama saying he shoots skeet at Camp David. The right wing demanded photographic evidence. Photographic evidence has been produced.

Yes, Virginia, he really is left-handed.


There was a great quote about how photographic evidence would calm everyone down, which the Daily Show or Colbert or whoever said, yeah, right, black man with a gun, _that_ will definitely calm everyone down.

Weird seeing someone shoot a long gun left handed. Not sure I ever have before.

The skeet shooting association's how-to page says that lefties do as well as righties.


"Left handed shooters do just as well as right."

I have never participated, altho it does seem like it would be fun.

Bus Rapid Transit is Trendy

Chicago is thinking about some for Ashland and Western. Portland is even thinking about some, because it has corridors it wants to develop and the federal government is not as forthcoming with money as it once was. This is by no means a complete list, but I have to say this surprised me a little:


NYC is thinking about BRT. Who'd'a'thunk?

The whole thing has gotten so popular (as a planning exercise, at any rate) that rail boosters are trying to argue that True BRT isn't really any cheaper than light rail systems. They like to point to Boston's Silver Line as an example of just how expensive BRT can get, which hardly seems fair (http://www.railwayage.com/index.php/blogs/lyndon-henry/research-study-brt-can-truly-be-pricier-than-lrt.html).

Other communities contemplating BRT: Twin Cities,






Looks like San Diego has a real project: http://www.pomeradonews.com/2013/01/31/sabre-springs-transit-station-work-to-begin/



Comparing Seattle's Rapid Ride to True BRT:


more recent coverage of tiny apartments

Expect update/link fu:




The official (?) response to demands for a moratorium on micro-unit apartments:


I find a lot of the opposition to this kind of building mysterious. On the one hand, a bunch of people seem to want rent control and for someone to build an enormous amount of "decent" housing so the supply catches up to the demand, producing sub-$1000/month 1 bedroom units in desirable areas. On the other hand, some of the objectors in the local area seem to be objecting to more density in already dense areas.

It would seem to me that the two groups objecting are not compatible with each other and thus doomed to both lose out to what the market is currently producing. (Additionally, the two groups objecting may not be all that hooked up to reality, either.)

Which is fine with me.

ETA: Meanwhile, in Worcester:


Building from the 1880s is going to be renovated to something closer to what it used to be like (connecting floors) -- I don't think it was residential before but I don't really know. It didn't need a variance because they were planning on the minimum apartment size (300 sq ft) allowed, but there was a frontage issue (seems like in Massachusetts there's _always_ a frontage issue. You would not believe the way lots wind up laid out as a result).