07/28/16 5:45pm

FRIENDLY LOCAL BOT NOW CONTINUOUSLY TWEETING ABOUT HOUSTON’S ELEVATED AIR TOXIN LEVELS Kuukibot screen grab, July 28 Benzene levels have been relatively high near the TCEQ’s Channelview and Galena Park sensors today, according to the Twitter account of Kuukibot, the air-quality-obsessed automated program which Neethi Nayak, James Van Dyne, and some of the other civic-minded tech types at Sketch City launched last week with the Houston Air Alliance. (They were high yesterday, too — and the day before that, and the day before that.) Upon launch, Kuukibot’s feed immediately started filling up with short, sunny notes about levels of the carcinogen in those 2 neighborhoods; the lung-irritating 1,3 butadiene makes an occasional appearance in the feed as well, though few other places have shown up so far. The tweets, generated on the hour, don’t necessarily mean there’s a specific health hazard or legal violation occurring — just that the sum of the last 24 hours of TCEQ data for a particular sensor has crossed a certain threshold the team picked for each chemical as a reference point. The team is still working up public notes on the methodology, but according to Sketch City founder Jeff Reichman, the program wouldn’t be too hard to expand to most of the other chemicals (and other locations across the state) that the TCEQ monitors. [Previously on Swamplot] Capture of Kuukibot tweets: @kuukihouston

12/18/15 10:45am

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE LATEST TECHNOLOGY FOR EXCEEDINGLY WELL-CARPETED MEGAMANSIONS Riding Vacuum Cleaner“Do they make riding vacuums? Like riding lawn mowers but with a vacuum? Feels like you’d need one of those just to keep up with a place like that. Gotta be at least an acre of carpet in that place.” [Toby, commenting on Katy Home Listing Photo of the Day: The Unstaged Stage] Illustration: Lulu

05/28/13 12:21pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE COMING AUTO-AUTO UTOPIA WILL SAVE THE GALLERIA FOR WOODLANDSERS “. . . I think you have a good point. Except that ‘travel is good for the soul’ bit. It is, but commuting isn’t travel, and I defy you to find more than a dozen people who think commuting from the Woodlands to the Galleria is good for their souls. (I work with a couple, their descriptions are more along the lines of ‘the soul-crushing hell of my day.’) But this actually becomes a driver for density. If you have really fast trains and you pair that with dense destinations, commuting by the maglev from Columbus to Houston becomes practical — you have to be able to get somewhere when you hop off that train. And technology changes will figure into this, which is why ‘freeways vs transit’ is a busted argument. Take a look at the self-driving car technology that’s developing really fast. When that hits usability, and you turn the roads into smart networks, you have a situation where they can handle a lot more capacity (because networked smart cars can use it far more efficiently than distracted primates). You also have the possibility of breaking the one-car-per-person paradigm, when you can order up a self-driving car to show up at work and take you home — cars no longer need to sit unused 95% of the time, and can be parked farther from destinations (‘Car — leave the parking structure to be at my door at 5PM, please’) which also makes density more practical — you don’t have to account for all those cars and junk up the streets with parking.” [John (another one), commenting on Comment of the Day: First We Crowd]

03/25/13 10:00am

NOW ON YOUR MOBILE DEVICE: WHY YOU CAN’T BREATHE A team comprising researchers at UH, Air Alliance Houston, and the American Lung Association have launched OzoneMap, an app that “monitors chemical weather,” reports John Metcalfe of The Atlantic blog Cities. And whether the app helps explain your coughing fit or alerts you to the chance of a really pretty toxic sunset, the best part is that it’s only available in Houston! And why Houston, of all places? Besides the industrial flares, that is? Here’s Metcalfe: “The Houston/Baytown/Huntsville region comes in eighth place for most ozone-polluted cities in America, as ranked by the American Lung Association. Persistently sunny weather, a battalion of petrochemical facilities and scads of fuming cars on the road make Houston a nightmare for anyone who’s chemically sensitive. For these folks, walking outside is like playing a lower-stakes version of Russian roulette, with 30 to 40 days of the year fogged with hazardous levels of ozone.” [Cities; previously on Swamplot] Map: Cities

03/18/13 2:00pm

POOP SCIENCE COMES TO FAIRMONT MUSEUM DISTRICT APARTMENTS And one of the “amenities” that the doubling-in-size Fairmont Museum District wasn’t ready to announce would seem to be that poop detection service picking up steam in Dallas: Houston Chronicle’s Carol Christian reports that the Richmond and Dunlavy apartment complex that’s right beside Ervan Chew Park has already asked tenants to submit their pets’ DNA to hasten the resolution of these mistakes most foul: The main reason we decided to try [PooPrints] was because we had a specific issue on one of our floors with accidents,” Fairmont manager Molly Kalish tells Christian. Still, the whodunit service seems to have a few bumps, since it provides no way to sniff out a motive or track a rogue agent: “ . . . DNA testing did not identify any [Fairmont] tenant’s dog as the recent accident-prone culprit,” reports Christian, “suggesting that a visitor might have been responsible.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Fairmont Museum District: Allyn West

03/13/13 2:00pm

GARBAGE PROGRAM STILL ‘ABSOLUTELY DOABLE,’ SAYS MAYOR PARKER So Houston’s “One Bin for All” idea didn’t win the $5 million grand prize in Mayor Bloomberg’s philanthrophic challenge — but it did tie for second. And that means $1 million will be coming Houston’s way, along with $50,000 extra for being so darn lovable and winning the “fan favorite” vote online. And what’s the city going to do with all this dough? The Houston Chronicle’s Carol Christian reports that the consolation prizes might be just enough to get the program off the ground: Though the idea to combine garbage, recycling, and yard waste into one big bin for mechanized sorting later has been around for awhile, Mayor Parker says, “This award will allow us the seed money to begin the process . . . We have thoroughly researched the technology. It’s absolutely doable.” Construction on a new sorting facility could begin as early as 2014, reports Christian. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of recycling bin in the Heights: Charles Kuffner

02/24/10 2:23pm

WIRELESS BROADBAND: HOUSTON IS NEXT Clearwire is set to launch its Clear 4G wireless broadband service in Houston “within several weeks.” That’ll put this city just slightly ahead of New York, San Francisco, and Boston on the company’s schedule — but behind Amarillo, Abilene, and Austin, where the service became available last year. The home version of the service is priced comparably to DSL and cable — but uh, doesn’t require any wiring. Its high-speed mobile version costs $45 a month for unlimited data. Comcast and Sprint will likely offer rebranded versions of the same service — as they have in other cities. [DSLreports, via LeasingHouston]