Tuesday, July 1, 2008

I like systems

I took some 300-level classes in "environmental studies" in college. Oddly enough, there was not one lesson in the proper way to hug trees; there was some basic stuff about how the earth worked as a system, but mostly the classes were about humans. Land use patterns, migration patterns, cultural patterns, things that one might not associate with "environmental" studies at first glance.

Side note, Morris Uebelacker was the man and was one of two professors I rate as exceptional in my 4-year college experience. The second you can't find online.

I like systems, as I said above; I like learning about them and understanding them. In this context a system is a pattern; a method for getting something done. One of the reasons I started into naval research is that I had to learn the Navy Filing SYSTEM; I do I.T. for a living because there are computer and network SYSTEMS, and I like working in the small-business side because it puts me in contact with a variety of companies, each with their own SYSTEM for doing things.

I also like finding weaknesses or flaws in systems and trying to figure out ways to remove or mitigate them. A lot of that involves seeing where confusion happens.

So, let's take a turn-of-the-century town; one or two story buildings, with the building right up on the sidewalk. No parking, because cars aren't part of that system. Fast forward 50 years, and you start to see things like fast food restaurants and strip malls, buildings with large open spaces for cars to park. Cars have become part of the system and you can just look at a McDonalds, for example, and innately KNOW that there is parking in front of the doors, and a drive-through around the side and back.

Now let's take a look at today, with the higher costs of land. At least in Bellevue, where I work, we're seeing a lot of those one-story large parking lot buildings go away, replaced by multi-story "mixed use" units with commercial space on the ground floor and residential above that. A Safeway recently moved into a new building of such design, and it struck me today that I don't entirely understand that system.

Once again we have a building run out to the sidewalk, so you have to search around for an entrance to a parking garage. Is the parking free? Does it cost? Or does it run in some sort of hybrid where a merchant will validate you for a certain period of time?

This is a much more complex system because it's harder to identify at a distance or in advance; you have to commit and physically drive into a garage like this before you can see prices, whereas the open lots usually have signs you can see as you drive up, or are readily identifiable as free lots you can just park and go in.

There's no real point to this other than saying I get confused sometimes, but I can't wait until cars are completely automated to the point that you just state an address and sit back.

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