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Year in Review

It was a pretty good year for me in the blogosphere. I managed to publish over 270 posts here at Extraordinary Observations, I blogged for Newsweek's Generation O over the summer, and I wrote a handful of guest posts around the internet.

Just in case you missed anything or started reading in the middle of the year, I compiled a few of my favorite posts from 2009 (organized by topic). Here's to a new decade of great blogging!

Everyday Observations
  • Casino ATM Puzzles - Las Vegas casinos charge a seemingly absurd fee to withdraw cash from their ATMs; but there might be a perfectly reasonable explanation for it.
  • Coffee Shop Squatters - I write a lot of blog posts from my favorite coffee shop and I do it because the coffee shop is very accommodating. I'm skeptical of the claim that coffee shop squatters are actually bad for business.
  • Why Are Beer Companies So Green? - for whatever reason, it seems like beer producers are among the most environmentally friendly businesses in the economy. I'm not quite sure why.
  • In Praise of Southwest's 'C' Boarding Group - many people dread getting a Southwest boarding pass with a big C on it. I appreciate being one of the last to board the plane.
  • The Politics of Fireworks - it really doesn't make sense for individual suburbs to put together their own Independence Day celebrations. But they do it anyway.
  • Why is the MLB Season So Long? - Major League Baseball's regular season is extremely long relative to its post-season. Could a few reforms make baseball more interesting?
Urban Thinking
  • Why Cities Need Singles - some cities seems overly concerned with attracting families; they ought to be investing more resources to attract young singles.
  • Universities and Youth Magnets - Richard Florida often argues that "great universities" attract young people to certain cities. I disagree.
  • Population Density and Baseball - why do tickets for some MLB teams cost so much money while others are dirt cheap? It might have something to do with how many people live around the ball park.
  • How "Rapid" is BRT? - when I finally got to ride the Healthline BRT in Cleveland, it seemed painfully slow. Crunching the numbers confirmed my hypothesis.
  • The Renter's Stigma - we are in the midst of a housing crisis. The stigma that exists against renters might have fueled it and is now making the problem difficult to solve.
  • Lessons from North Texas - the Dallas Cowboys' new stadium in Arlington, Texas can teach us some valuable lessons about parking, transit, and suburban development.
  • Reckless Lawbreakers - I often hear criticism of bicyclists for disobeying traffic laws. The reality isn't so black and white.
  • Seven Questions for Ryan Avent - one of the web's smartest urban bloggers answers a few of my questions.
City-Tour Reports
  • Journey to the Big Apple - a five post series about the city that many people consider the greatest urban place in America.
  • An Atypical Look at Las Vegas - Sin City is infamous in urbanist circles for being a sprawled-out hell; but the Strip is a surprisingly urban place.
  • Next Stop: Philadelphia - Philly is a great city to walk or ride a bike. As far as their civic pride goes, it could use a little improvement.
  • A Stroll Around the Capital - gentrification, million-dollar condos, crime, big-box development, and unpaid interns.. the stuff that makes Washington, DC what it is.
  • Visit to Smart Growth's Headquarters - Arlington, Virginia is famous for its forward-thinking transit-oriented development. As far as suburbs go, it's one of the best, but it wasn't exactly what I expected.


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In Praise of Southwest's 'C' Boarding Group

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Despite the complaints, Southwest has resisted demands to assign seats on its flights, a decision which I personally applaud. I'll admit that I was skeptical when they rolled out the newest boarding procedure, assigning both boarding groups and a line number; but in hindsight it seems like one of the best operational decisions they've ever made. If nothing else, it effectively eliminated the infamous "cattle call" whereby fliers were getting to airports hours in advance and sitting in line on the floor as if they were waiting for the midnight showing of the new Star Wars movie.

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(from flickr user San Diego Shooter)

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(from wallyg on Flickr)
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This is why it can be so hard to be a fan in this game. It's the multi-millionaire and billionaire owners that call most of the shots. They get to decide how much they're willing to spend on players. They get to decide who to hire as the CEO of the company. They get to decide how much t…