Ripples from an Ugly House

A friend, in response to an article in the LJS, said:

...Is part of being in a neighborhood with others mean they have to conform to the standards of certain people in the group? In the new article the end mentions someone who said, They said the property owner should be left alone as long as he doesn't bother anyone. Is there danger to the neighborhood if this house is left as it is?

I tried to respond in the forum where this took place, but length limits on responses made a thoughtful, complete response impossible, so I moved it here:

A hundred people, many with reservations about liberty, individuality, and social justice, turned out to demonstrate that the owner is bothering them, so the initial premise of the resident quoted at the end of the article is simply flawed. The owner, by allowing his property to fall into disrepair, dilapidation, and blight, is bothering someone, so now what?

...And that was the main theme of the evening: So now what do we do, not only about this house, but the problem of decaying and dilapidated properties in general?

I can think of a few dangers the neighborhood faces resulting from properties like this, causing us to consider the question So now what?

  • There are actual physical dangers like vermin infestation, mold, problems with sight lines on the intersection in question, and attractive nuisance.
  • The neighbors across the intersection are trying to sell their house. Are potential buyers more or less likely to purchase their house with the problem house sitting just across the street? What effect will this have on surrounding property values?
  • Anyone who has lived in Lincoln for any length of time knows that there's a stigma attached to the north side (north of O), and the core neighborhoods (around downtown, both north and south). Does blighted housing stock aggravate or mitigate this perception?

Blight and the perception of blight drive decreasing economic diversity in Lincoln's core, as more affluent residents — those who can afford it — opt to live in the suburbs or on acreages. This has all sorts of negative consequences, such as continuing decline in the core as it's starved for resources, pressure on critical services to cover an exponentially increasing area (increasing costs and decreasing effectiveness), and increased natural resource consumption.

A lot of hay has been made about things like paint colors, because its easy to point at that by both those calling for change and those saying live and let live. The real issues are more profound.

Wed, 02 Sep 2009 15:25


Remove Experts Exchange from Google Search Results

About once I week I do a google search, usually regarding the vagueries of C++ destructors or something, that produces a raft of hits from and the top of the results. Since hooking you with questions, then hitting you up for cash before it actually gives you the information you're looking for, these bogus results are a distraction from the task at hand.

Usually I just hold my nose and scroll by these results, but then a tweet reminded me of the Three Virtues. Why the hell isn't the computer doing this work for me?

So after teaching myself a little javascript and a little xpath (again), I rolled a greasemonkey user script to remove these pesky obstacles to real information.

The script can be found here. You will need to install greasemonkey (and firefox) before you can use it.


  • UI for adding domains to remove from the searches.
  • Support other search engines.

Sun, 30 Aug 2009 10:32


Door-to-Door Magazine Scam

We've enjoyed vists from two young men in the last week, each with with well-rehearsed pitches about some National Communications Award and dog-eared lists of magazine titles with no prices. Their appeals were emotional, and they turned up the pressure when I said, No, thanks.

According to the FTC and other sources these come-ons are a scam, and you end up paying many times the cover price of the magazine and will probably never receive an issue.

The officer I spoke to with LPD last night suggested that, when such people knock on the door, we should ask to their peddler's permit. If they cannot produce one, the officer asked me to call LPD (441-6000) and report it.

The police are very interested in this, and I gather there may be abusive labor practices involved along with the fraud.

FTC page on magazine sales scams:

Wed, 24 Jun 2009 09:14


Quick and Dirty Text-to-Speech in Python

I looked around for some python bindings for Festival, but neither pyfestival nor pyfest seem to be maintained. I was too tired to use swig or similar to wrap the C++ library. Instead, I wrote a thin shim between python and the Scheme-based command interpreter. (You must have festival installed.)

import os


class Festival(object):
    def __init__(self):
        self.p = os.popen("%s --pipe" % BIN, "w")

    def eval(self, scm):
        self.p.write(scm + "\n")

    def say(self, text):
        text = text.replace('"', '')
        self.eval('(SayText "%s")' % str(text))

Import the module, instantiate a Festival object, and call its "say" method to create utterances.

>>> import festival
>>> tts = festival.Festival()
>>> tts.say("Hello, world.")

It's quick. It's dirty. It works.

Sat, 20 Jun 2009 23:25


Building cURLpp 0.7.2

I want to use cURLpp for a project I've been working on, but there's no package for Ubuntu.

I downloaded the tarball, but discovered that example 18 would not compile. It would fail with the following error:

example18.cpp: In function ‘int main(int, char**)’:
example18.cpp:85: error: ‘BoostWriteFunction’ is not a member of ‘cURLpp::Options’
example18.cpp:85: error: ‘test’ was not declared in this scope
example18.cpp:85: error: expected type-specifier
example18.cpp:85: error: expected `;'
make[1]: *** [example18.o] Error 1

I discovered that usage of the Boost libraries was an option, and wasn't being tested for in example 18. boost::bind is one of the tools I frequently use in C++, the Boost support seems less optional to me, so I cleaned and ran configure --with-boost. Still, I got the error.

It became clear that the configure-generated config.h was not being included. This patch fixed that, and fixed the compile:

--- ../../curlpp-0.7.2-orig/curlpp/global.h     2007-09-22 09:31:10.000000000 -0500
+++ global.h    2009-04-05 10:57:58.000000000 -0500
@@ -26,6 +26,8 @@
 #ifndef HAVE_CONFIG_H
 #include "config.win32.h"
+#include "config.h"

Sun, 05 Apr 2009 11:02


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