From the Chicago area, Kevin is a maker, tinkerer, and programmer.
313 stories
·
0 followers

LURVIG for Pets: IKEA Debuts its First Line of Animal Furniture & Accessories

1 Share
[ By WebUrbanist in Design & Furniture & Decor. ]

Made to be compatible with other IKEA furnishings and fixtures, this new first-of-its kind pet collection has something for all your favorite furry friends.

The 62-piece collection was designed by Inma Bermudéz and aims to fill a market gap with quality, aesthetically pleasing but affordable pet products.

Some of the objects extend existing uses, helping customers save money and space, like kitty-scratching materials that attach to existing IKEA table legs or puppy beds that slot into bookshelf systems already on offer.  A number of the products are designed to pack flat and fold away when not in use.

The designs reflect extensive research into pet needs and behaviors, including a bed designed to be stuffed with old clothes, blankets and towles to help dogs feel comfortable and familiar around their human family.

Aside from pet sleepers and carriers, the LURVIG line features an array of brushes, bowls, leashes, bag dispensers spanning eating, playing, sleeping, traveling, walking.and other cat and dog activities.

Perhaps the biggest surprise in this stellar new collection is that no one at IKEA thought to do this sooner — thankfully, now they have.

Share on Facebook

[ By WebUrbanist in Design & Furniture & Decor. ]

[ WebUrbanist | Archives | Galleries | Privacy | TOS ]


Read the whole story
roofuskit
1 day ago
reply
Share this story
Delete

The Barriers Stopping Poor People From Moving to Better Jobs

1 Share

MERCED, California—Seccora Jaimes knows that she is not living in the land of opportunity. Her hometown has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, at 9.1 percent. Jaimes, 34, recently got laid off from the beauty school where she taught cosmetology, and hasn’t yet found another job. Her daughter, 17, wants the family to move to Los Angeles, so that she can attend one of the nation’s top police academies. Jaimes’s husband, who works in warehousing, would make much more money in Los Angeles, she told me. But one thing is stopping them: The cost of housing. “I don’t know if we could find a place out there that’s reasonable for us, that we could start any job and be okay,” she told me. Indeed, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Merced, in California’s Central Valley, is $750. In Los Angeles, it’s $2,710.

America used to be a place where moving one’s family and one’s life in search of greater opportunities was common. During the Gold Rush, the Depression, and the postwar expansion West millions of Americans left their hometowns for places where they could earn more and provide a better life for their children. But mobility has fallen in recent years. While 3.6 percent of the population moved to a different state between 1952 and 1953, that number had fallen to 2.7 percent between 1992 and 1993, and to 1.5 percent between 2015 and 2016. (The share of people who move at all, even within the same county, has fallen too, from 20 percent in 1947 to 11.2 percent today.)

Of course, it wasn’t simply “moving” that mattered—it was that they moved to specific areas that were growing. When farming jobs were plentiful in the Midwest, for example, people moved there—in 1900, states including Iowa and Missouri were more populous than California. Black men who moved from to the North from the South earned at least 100 percent more than those who stayed, according to work by Leah Platt Boustan, an economist at Princeton. Additionally, for most of the 20th century, both janitors and lawyers could earn a lot more living in the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut than they could living in the Deep South, so many people moved, according to Peter Ganong, an economist at the University of Chicago. With less labor supply in the regions that they left, wages would then increase there, and fall in the regions they were moving to, as the supply of workers increased. As a result, for more than 100 years, the average incomes of different regions were getting closer and closer together, something economists call regional income convergence. Wages in poorer cities were growing 1.4 percent faster than wages in richer cities for much of the 20th century, according to Elisa Giannnone, a post-doctoral fellow at Princeton.

But over the past 30 years, that regional income convergence has slowed. Economists say that is happening because net migration—the tendency of large numbers of people to move to a specific place—is waning, meaning that the supply of workers isn’t increasing fast enough in the rich areas to bring wages down, and isn’t falling fast enough in the poor areas to bring wages up. Why is this? Why have people stopped moving? The reason, economists believe, isn’t that there are the jobs or wages to entice people to move to economically vibrant cities like New York and San Francisco—there are—but that housing prices are so high there that they outweigh any gains people could make from the better wages. As a result, high-income cities are still appealing to many workers, but only highly skilled workers who can command salaries high enough to make it worthwhile to move. Low-income workers will end up spending much of their incomes on housing if they move, and so stay put.

This is the conclusion of Ganong and Daniel Shoag, a professor at Harvard and Case Western Reserve University, in a recent working paper. They find that though janitors still earn more in the tri-state area than in the Deep South, the move no longer presents an obvious opportunity because the costs of living in New York have gotten so high. Janitors in the New York area now spend on average 52 percent of their incomes on housing, the authors find, compared to lawyers, who spend just 21 percent of their incomes on rent. Their research finds that because of these factors, the migration patterns for low-income households are beginning to diverge from the migration patterns from high-income households for the first time in American history. High-skill workers are still moving to places that offer them high incomes, but now, low-skill workers are moving away from places where average wages are high.

This has enormous implications for the country as a whole, leading to a stratification of America, in which the wealthy and skilled live in certain amenity-rich cities and low-income people are increasingly stuck in places with few opportunities. “The American Dream is, at its core, that people who are looking for economic opportunity can pick up and move to that opportunity,” Ganong told me. “That is cast into doubt when places with economic opportunity also have crazy expensive housing.”

I spoke with a woman named Veronica Cantu, who recently left San Jose, where she made $26 an hour as a home health aide, for Merced, where her hourly wage was $10.65 until she lost her job in September. The differences in rent and quality of life made the move worth it despite the lower wages, she told me. Her family had been paying $1700 a month for a three-bedroom duplex in the town of Morgan Hill near Silicon Valley. In Merced, they’re paying $800 a month for a four-bedroom house. “For us, I guess, money wasn't the biggest thing to chase after,” she said, when explaining her motivation for leaving Silicon Valley behind.

Of course, high-income cities have always had higher housing prices than low-income areas. But prices in a handful of areas have gotten astronomically higher in recent decades, enough so that they offset the relatively higher wages they offer to low-skilled residents. Though historical Census data does not exist for home values at the city level, there is data showing growing disparities among states. Between 1940 and 1980, housing prices in California were, on average, just 35 percent higher than those in the rest of the country, even though millions of people were pouring into the state, according to another recent working paper by the economists Kyle Herkenhoff, Lee Ohanian, and Edward Prescott. By 1990, though, prices in California were 262 percent higher than those in the rest of the country.

What changed? According to Ganong, the reason is that certain cities have increased regulations on development, slowing the construction of new units. “It used to be when a lot of people move to places, we build more houses,” he said.  “Now, we don't build more houses, and instead, poor people move out.” Ganong and Shoag find that places where the term “land use” has become more and more frequently used in state supreme and appellate court cases—an indication of when cities implement controversial new tactics to restrict construction, and those tactics are then litigated—are also those with the largest growth in housing prices.

These building restrictions are varied—they may increase the amount of time it takes to get a building permit, mandate that housing has space set aside for parking, or simply restrict the number of units that can be built on a certain parcel of land. They both make the cost of construction more expensive and restrict the number of units that can be built. These restrictions are a relatively recent phenomenon, the result of what Ed Glaeser, an economist at Harvard, calls a “property-rights revolution” since the 1960s in which homeowners increasingly oppose development in their neighborhoods, and pass regulations to limit growth.

These restrictions might not have mattered a few decades ago, when many cities across America had good job opportunities for people of all incomes. But the twin forces of globalization and automation have dramatically changed the mix of jobs available, concentrating economic growth in a handful of cities. Cities like New York, San Francisco, and San Jose, which have a large number of educated workers and innovative companies, have experienced the strongest growth in jobs and wages in recent decades. In 1979, the median wage in San Francisco was 30 percent higher than the median wage in Montgomery, Alabama, according to Census data. Today, it’s 104 percent higher. These dynamic cities tend to have certain sectors of extreme growth—say tech or media or finance—and those sectors spur growth throughout their economies. According to Enrico Moretti, a Berkeley economist, every new high-paying job in the “innovation sector,” as he calls it, creates five new jobs in other industries, many of which are for low-skilled workers. All workers do better off in these dynamic cities, Moretti says, but these places also happen to be the ones that have adopted the most restrictive land use policies, Moretti says. “What has changed is that the places that are now the engines of growth in terms of highly paying jobs are much less welcoming places,” he told me.

Texas shows that when places are affordable, people will move. The state has infamously eschewed zoning laws, and allows more building than states like California and New York. As a result, Texas added the most people in the nation between 2015 and 2016, nearly half a million, as cities like Austin and Dallas continue to grow.

Housing costs notwithstanding, there are reasons that people don’t move to high-opportunity areas. I talked to a woman in Merced named Mary Kelly who had worked as a certified nursing assistant in Eureka, California, where she said she could work a lot more hours than she could at home, and where she had free housing through her employer. She was earning good money, but she missed her daughters and grandchildren, and so decided to return home. People make their own choices about where they want to live and why. The problem is when high housing costs mean they can’t earn enough more in high-opportunity areas to make it worth it to leave behind family and friends.

This dynamic is bad for individual people—and for the economy as a whole. Certain regions are more productive than others, and contribute more to economic growth. The more people they can absorb, the greater the contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP) these cities can make. I talked to a man named Zach Morbeck, who moved to the San Francisco Bay area, where he makes $29 an hour working at a golf course, more than double the $14 an hour he made back home in Wisconsin. He’s already planning to buy a car and invest in his education with his extra wages, all things that will contribute to the economy. This is only possible because Morbeck pays about the same in rent as he paid in Wisconsin. He now lives with roommates, rather than living alone in a two-bedroom apartment, a tradeoff many people wouldn’t be willing to make.  

High real estate prices in booming cities are also bad for businesses. When there are land regulations on residential land, there are usually regulations on commercial land too, which makes it cost-prohibitive for firms to set up new businesses or invest in commercial buildings or factories. It’s good for the economy if competing companies locate near each other—economists call it agglomeration, and find that those companies learn from each other, helping one another become more productive. Places like Silicon Valley and Massachusetts’ Route 128, for example, are known as tech corridors, and this reputation then attracts more similar companies there, and workers who are best-suited for their jobs. But businesses increasingly can’t afford to locate near these hotspots, and miss out on opportunity. If they move somewhere else, they may not be able to find the right set of workers in their new location, or may not be able to access the same supply chains. “When a state like California puts up a lot of regulations on land use, they’re depressing economic activity and jobs in the state,” Ohanian, a UCLA economics professor, told me. “But they’re not just shooting themselves in the foot, they’re shooting the country in the foot too.” He estimates that deregulating California and New York alone back to the land-use regulation levels of 1980 would increase nationwide productivity by 7 percent, and consumption by 5 percent. A separate paper by Moretti and Chang-Tai Hsieh of the University of Chicago found that lowering housing regulations in San Francisco, New York, and San Jose, to the level of regulation in the average U.S. city would increase GDP by 9.5 percent.

Were housing prices lower in California, it’s possible that many of the people displaced by automation and globalization in the Rust Belt and the South would be able to pick up and move for better opportunities. Calls for a new Homestead Act that would subsidize moving expenses for people who want to relocate from depressed areas to regions where there are jobs don’t take into account the high housing prices low-skilled workers will encounter even if they have help relocating.

The solution to reversing these trends, economists say, is clear: Build more housing in high-opportunity areas. Actually doing this is challenging, though. Some companies have taken it upon themselves to supply housing for their workforce; Google is spending $30 million on modular homes for some employees, for example. But individual efforts won’t make much of a dent in housing supply. Instead, cities need to reverse some of the most stringent regulations on development. This will be a difficult, if not impossible, task. Some states, like Massachusetts, have ordinances that allow developers to get around regulations in areas with small shares of affordable housing, as I’ve written about before, but implementing such a policy on a national level would be all but impossible. The problem is that current homeowners want prices to stay high so that they can sell for more than they bought. They’ll oppose the construction of new units and push back against changes to zoning. Through a variety of policies, including the mortgage interest deduction, America has long encouraged citizens to use housing as a place to store their wealth. It turns out that doing so may be detrimental for everyone else.  

Read the whole story
roofuskit
6 days ago
reply
Share this story
Delete

Movies Anywhere: Watch all your Amazon, Google, and iTunes titles in one place

1 Share

Enlarge (credit: Movies Anywhere)

A new service launched late yesterday promises to make streaming your favorite purchased movies easier by putting them all in one place. The new free app Movies Anywhere acts like a digital locker for the movies you've paid for through various online retailers, including Amazon Video, Google Play, iTunes, and Vudu. Signing up for a Movies Anywhere account gives you access to the digital locker, which you can then populate with purchased or redeemed movies by logging in to the accounts you have with those online retailers.

It takes a lot of behind-the-scenes work for a service like this to flourish. It's not easy to access movies you've purchased from an online retailer from another service. Typically, users have to go back and forth between Amazon, Google, iTunes, and Vudu to watch the titles they purchased through each outlet. According to a report from the Verge, Movies Anywhere can collect all those titles in one place because it's built off of the same digital rights system architecture (called Keychest) that Disney first developed for its service Disney Movies Anywhere.

Disney launched its service in 2014, and it allowed users to get access to all of the company's titles in one place. Movies Anywhere is using the same architecture with the blessing and collaboration of five Hollywood studios: Walt Disney Studios (which includes Disney, Pixar, Marvel Studios, and Lucasfilm), Sony Pictures Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Film, Universal Pictures, and Warner Bros. Entertainment. While discussions are ongoing with Paramount Pictures and Lionsgate to join the service, Movies Anywhere will not launch with any titles from those studios. However, that still means the service has more than 7,300 titles in its library already.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read the whole story
roofuskit
6 days ago
reply
Share this story
Delete

At $50 a barrel, billions in tax breaks keep many oil projects profitable

1 Share

Enlarge / MIDLAND, TX - JANUARY 20: A pumpjack sits on the outskirts of town at dawn in the Permian Basin oil field on January 21, 2016 in the oil town of Midland, Texas. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images) (credit: Getty Images)

At $50 a barrel, the low price of crude oil has slowed some of the oil production in the US, especially in regions that are costly to develop, like the Arctic. But US oil producers aren't bearing the whole brunt of low prices, because federal and state governments provide tax breaks that stimulate oil production despite low prices.

The tax situation isn’t unique to the US—China, the EU, and India also offer a variety of flavors of tax breaks to fossil fuel producers, despite their recognition of the need to address climate change. Although the US has signaled its intent to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, tax breaks that fund more fossil fuel production don't help the rest of the globe to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius.

The latest research offers some hard numbers on just how much tax policy is supporting extra CO2 emissions. “Federal tax subsidies to the oil and gas industry alone cost US taxpayers at least US$2 billion each year,” write researchers from the Stockholm Environment Institute and Earth Track in a recent Nature Energy article. That $2 billion in uncollected taxes is helping some oil fields go from "unprofitable" to "profitable," increasing the amount of oil that's available for consumption. (The researchers broadly used the term "subsidies" to indicate different types of tax-based support that "confer a financial benefit from government to oil producer.")

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read the whole story
roofuskit
9 days ago
reply
Share this story
Delete

Tesla says world’s largest battery installation is halfway done

1 Share

Enlarge

At a Jamestown, South Australia event on Friday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced that the company was halfway done installing a 100MW/129MWh utility-grade battery bank near the site of the 100MW Hornsdale Wind Farm.

The battery bank will be the largest grid-tied system in the world when it’s complete. (Currently, the largest grid-tied system is a 30MW/120MWh facility built by AES Energy Storage in Southern California.) The project grew out of a Twitter bet between Australian software billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes and Telsa and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. In response to Cannon-Brookes’ incredulity about the speed that Tesla was claiming it could install grid-tied batteries, Musk promised to deliver a system to South Australia, a state that’s suffered debilitating blackouts in recent summers, “in 100 days or its free.”

But "100 days or it’s free” didn't include time negotiating contracts, and after the bet Tesla went though a competitive bidding process with the state of South Australia for access to an A$150 million ($115 million) renewable energy fund to cover the cost of the batteries. Earlier this year, Musk gave estimates on Twitter that suggested a 129MWh system would cost $32.35 million before taxes and labor. Tesla won the bidding round and partnered with French company Neoen, the owner of the Hornsdale Wind Farm in the mid-north region of South Australia. Musk later commented that if Tesla missed its 100-day deadline, the company could stand to lose "$50 million or more."

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read the whole story
roofuskit
9 days ago
reply
Share this story
Delete

Puerto Rico in talks with Tesla for batteries; Sonnen to help build microgrids

1 Share

Enlarge / SAN ISIDRO, PUERTO RICO - OCTOBER 07: People sit in their home lit by a single donated solar lamp more than two weeks after Hurricane Maria hit the island. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images) (credit: Getty Images)

Tesla CEO Elon Musk pledged to send hundreds of energy-storing batteries to Puerto Rico to help the island recover from the devastating hurricane that took all of the island’s 3.4 million residents offline. Although no numbers have been announced yet—it's unclear exactly how many batteries Tesla will send, how much they will cost the country, or when they will be delivered—a tweet from Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello late Friday night said that a team from the Puerto Rican government was in talks with a team from Tesla to make the project happen.

Tesla announced last weekend that a 100MW/129MWh South Australian Powerpack battery installation was halfway complete. That project grew out of a Twitter bet between Australian billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes and Musk—the Tesla CEO promised that his company could install a battery system in 100 days to help South Australia in the wake of widespread blackouts the summer before. If Tesla missed the 100-day deadline, the system would be free of charge.

Tesla has also built solar-and-battery systems for Ta'u and for Kauai. “The Tesla team has [built solar grids] for many smaller islands around the world, but there is no scalability limit, so it can be done for Puerto Rico too,” Musk said in a tweet. He noted that moving forward would be in the hands of the Puerto Rico government, commercial stakeholders, and the people of Puerto Rico.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read the whole story
roofuskit
9 days ago
reply
Share this story
Delete
Next Page of Stories