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October 15, 2010

And another thing…
Posted by Avram Grumer at 05:10 PM * 163 comments

First, hey, Village Voice, I’m checking out your “10 Best NYC Pizzerias” article, and what’s with these addresses?

Village Voice screenshot

Seriously, “688 Sixth Avenue, Chelsea”? What am I supposed to do, wander up and down Sixth Avenue looking for building numbers? What’s the cross-street? We’re New Yorkers here, why you wanna make us waste valuable time looking this shit up?

Second, Google Maps people, what’s with this here?:

Google Maps screenshot

“West 4 St — Upper Level”? “A, C, E”? Really? Let’s take a look at what the official MTA map has to say about that:

Google Maps screenshot

Oh, hey, look, four more whole lines stop at that station! Maybe that station has more than one level, y’think? Maybe people interested in traveling to that area might like to know that some of those trains stop there? Maybe people from Park Slope might want to visit John’s Pizzeria when Franny’s gets too crowded? (Because when isn’t Franny’s crowded?) It’s not as if they could check the website for John’s on their iPhones, since it’s all just one big Flash app, like most restaurants have, because restauranteurs all seem to think it’s 1998. Was it so exhausting listing the top level, you just pooped out before you noticed the rest of the station?

Comments on And another thing...:
#1 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2010, 06:05 PM:

(Okay, this is just here to lighten the tone a little, right? After a while we have move those topics down the page . . . ?)

(Well, I can play I reckon . . . )

And that's another thing: remote controls with buttons that "mash," as they say here in the South, instead of properly CLICKING so YOU KNOW YOU PUSHED the damn thing and don't have to wait to see if your device responded. What is up with that?!?!!!

#3 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2010, 06:24 PM:

Hey, it could have been worse, they could have given the address as 688 Avenue of the Americas.

#4 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2010, 07:07 PM:

Chris Quinones #3: The Voice knows better than that.

#5 ::: Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2010, 07:36 PM:

Google Maps is accurate; the Upper Level at "8th Street" is the A, C, and E; the B, D, etc. are the level below. You got a problem with that?

688 Sixth Ave is technically in Chelsea, which is a whole nine blocks to have to think about walking.

#6 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2010, 08:23 PM:

Google Maps is terrible with public transit. It tells me my commute can't be done via transit, my experience to the contrary, because it doesn't know about the DC Metro system. Oh, the stations are there on the map -- it just doesn't have them in the "public transit" mapping option.

#7 ::: Alan Hamilton ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2010, 08:33 PM:

A peeve of mine is businesses that blindly link their address to Google Maps, without verifying that it actually marks the correct spot. For example, I once stayed at The Lodge at Santa Fe. The map is actually closer than it used to be (it was about half a mile south of this spot), but it's still wrong. Here's where it really is.

At the minimum, mark it so that it's where it actually is, even if you have to use lat/lon. And use the "Report a problem" link.

#8 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2010, 08:42 PM:

I had something cooler happen -- I've been googling maps for where dentists are that accept Kaiser and if you get close in, you see a little red tooth with the dentist's name.

#9 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2010, 08:57 PM:

lorax @6: That's a problem of the local agency not sharing their schedule data with Google. Boston only just recently got Google Maps public transit directions because the MBTA wised up and opened up its data. (Which is *fucking awesome*, by the way, so go MBTA, and may the DC Metro administration wise up soon.)

#10 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2010, 08:59 PM:

Alan @7, check out where you wind up if you ask Google Maps for 161 South Third St, Brooklyn! (At least it offers you the Brooklyn, NY location as an alternative.)

#11 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2010, 09:04 PM:

I was looking up a shop in Scunthorpe (and some offices above shops have High Street addresses while the office entrance door is on a side street) and the Google mapping put the location about 200m from where Streetview showed the shopfront was (right next to a car park entrance, which showed on the map image clearly enough, and Google Earth).

Incidentally, Google Earth now shows alternative imagery, dated, from previous low-level photo passes. One place is definitely the third week of June, because the County Agricultural Show is running, but it's dated April 17, 2005.

#12 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2010, 09:17 PM:

Maybe people from Park Slope might want to visit John’s Pizzeria when Franny’s gets too crowded?

Only if there's a line around the block for Arturo's. Just saying.

#13 ::: cathp ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2010, 09:25 PM:

Try a national highway where the numbers restart from the beginning every time it crosses a suburb.

Okay, so 688 isn't going to reoccur that frequently in a city. But it's a bastard tracking down number 10 without detailed directions such as suburb, cross street, building description and waylaying a postal worker.

#14 ::: Brienze ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2010, 10:17 PM:

I wish restaurants would wise up. Cutesy flash sequences showing their food and decor were all well and good (or at least, permissible) when I was browsing on a desktop, but not anymore. I have my phone in hand; I am ready to come to your establishment and spend money RIGHT NOW, but I can't because I can't see your hours/menu/whatever on my phone. Duh.

#15 ::: Ellen Asher ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2010, 11:49 PM:

You're a New Yorker, and you don't know how to use the Street Finder? Cancel the last digit of the building number and add or subtract the magic number for the avenue in question, which, in the case of 6th Avenue, is minus 12. So Maffei should be on 56th Street -- which isn't in Chelsea, but that's a different problem.

#16 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2010, 11:50 PM:

Private school addresses have been a perennial headache. The map for St. James School south of Hagerstown is finally getting close enough to where you can actually see the school, considering that the town and the name of the road the school it's on are both named after it. I see that St. Andrew's in Delaware, which for years had a note on its website saying "don't use MapQuest to find us", has taken the "give the coordinates" address for Google Maps. To use a GPS, though, you have to tell it that the school is in a different town.

On the other hand, sometimes the road namers are just sadistic. River Road runs on the south bank of the Patapsco under the I-95 bridge, and River Road also runs under the same bridge on the north bank of the Patapsco. They run parallel to each other for about a quarter of a mile.

#17 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2010, 12:29 AM:

Google Maps is not good at verticality. I live under a bridge, and Street View does not know that I exist. You can put in my address, and it'll give you a picture, and that picture was taken from the bridge deck. If you were to walk forward from where the camera was, you'd fall forty feet into my yard (please don't.) It'll also give you driving directions telling you to drive over the bridge and then "destination will be on the right." While technically true, you actually need to take the offramp, then the first right, then the first right after that, then keep going until you're under the bridge, and then take a left. Then it'll be on your right.

Or you could just take that right and fall forty feet, of course.

#18 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2010, 12:48 AM:

Ellen @15, it's actually on 22nd St. At least, according to Google Maps, about which, see above.

Hence my complaint. I shouldn't have to figure it out. In midtown Manhattan, the cross-street should be considered part of the address.

#19 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2010, 01:58 AM:

... If it's that complicated, what do the postal carriers do? Do you actually address mail* using cross-streets?

*assuming, one supposes, that you actually wish the mail in question to reach its intended destination within a reasonable timeframe.

#20 ::: Q. Pheevr ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2010, 05:43 AM:

Devin @ 17: I live under a bridge

That's funny; you don't write like a troll....

#21 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2010, 07:36 AM:

New York's the only city I've seen that has both a widespread numbered-street grid system, and an address numbering system that *isn't* tied to the numbered streets in any obvious way. (For instance, in Philadelphia, 3400 Market Street would be at Market and 34th. Not so with New York.)

I realize that lower Manhattan mostly uses a different layout, predating the numbered grid. But there are ways of dealing with that. Most other cities with a similar situation would restart the numbers of north-south avenues that extend below 1st St., and append a "South" to the street numbers on the lower parts of the avenues.

I would guess the main reason New York hasn't done this is because of the inconvenience of changing lots of lower Manhattan addresses. Though lots of other old cities have renumbered their central districts at one time or another (Philadelphia renumbered its center city addresses at least once many years ago, for instance). New York, for better or for worse, never seems to have overcome that inertia.

#22 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2010, 07:40 AM:

Avram #10: Consider it a gentle reminder that NYC is not everywhere....

#23 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2010, 12:05 PM:

In my childhood I was really confused with American house numbering. All there roads must be really long, I thought, because all the building numbers are in the thousands...

#24 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2010, 12:18 PM:

Some of them are. And in rural areas, your actual address is probably a box number on a mail route. ('Take 179 south from 70 two miles, it's the house with a pine tree in a circle in front of the garage, and if you get to 1071 you've gone too far')

#25 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2010, 01:23 PM:

Ellen, you forgot to divide in half -- 20/block is the rule. I used to know a significant number of Magic Numbers, but now do not. My father still insists he knows all of them for N/S streets that exist above Houston, but I haven't tested him.

#26 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2010, 01:50 PM:

P J Evans @ 24: Yeah, I know. But there was that "oh, they re-start the numbering at every cross-street" revelation moment.

#27 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2010, 01:54 PM:

The most rational street numbering system I know is also the most theocratic: Salt Lake City's system. It's centered on the temple, and the grid runs (almost) exactly North-South and East-West. A street address like "xxx South xxx East" tells you exactly where it is. This is, of course, only achievable when a centrally organized group settles a large block of land without previously paved roads. Ironically, the most thoroughly lost I've ever been was in SLC — on the freeways, not the street grid.

#28 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2010, 03:14 PM:

Pheevr @20

This guy does all the trolling for my block.

#29 ::: Neil in Chicago ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2010, 04:39 PM:

So-o-o the ever-growing torrents of free information freely available haven't yet mastered centuries of human arbitrariness, and somebody's cranky about it.

And the web is still so new that bosses who are clueless anyway are clueless about how to communicate to/with it . . .

Excuse me while I go hip Bruce Sterling to this. Boy, is he going to be surprised!

#30 ::: Michael Walsh ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2010, 06:29 PM:

Well, all I can say is: Duty Calls!

#31 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2010, 07:44 PM:

If you zoom in on the google map, it shows what look like two separate stations. One for the IND 8th Ave line and one for the IND 6th Ave line. They do the same thing for Times Square, and if you zoom out far enough, the 7 line vanishes.

I don't get to fashed about this. I figure if tourists get lost, they should know better than to trust the internet, and natives usually know better.

#32 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2010, 08:10 PM:

In the early 1970s they renumbered all of Howard County, MD so that every street address within each of four quadrants is unique. It allows the fire department to know exactly where your house is based on the number alone. Street numbers do run in order (but not sequentially), but for instance my parents' address on a two block long street has a five digit number.

#33 ::: Michael H Schneider ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2010, 09:46 PM:

I've heard that as part of the new sponsorship agreement under which NYC will be henceforth known as Google City, all businesses will be required to be located where Google puts them.

#34 ::: Chris W. ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2010, 10:21 PM:

Of course, this is made necessary by the fact that New York street numbering conventions are insane. (Or more accurately, there are no street numbering conventions.) In Manhattan, the only thing that 534 Yourstreet tells you is that the address is probably between 532 and 536.

I remember when I lived in NJ I had a handy map of Manhattan that fit in my wallet. It was roughly the size and shape of two business cards placed end to end. The front had a clearly readable (to young eyes) map of Manhattan with all of the major roads and subway lines marked. The back was entirely covered in tiny type explaining how to locate an address. When the explanation of how to find an address takes several paragraphs and a large chart and still doesn't cover most of lower Manhattan, you know you have a problem.

One of the things I love about Chicago is that addresses just tell you how far you are from North and Division.

#35 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2010, 11:25 PM:

I think the numbering in the city (and some other parts of the county) of Los Angeles is from Main and 1st. It's about 1000 per mile; my address puts me about 10 miles north and about 20 miles west of that intersection.

#36 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 12:24 AM:

KayTei: No, mail to Manhattan does not include the cross-streets in the address. The letter carriers cover their whole routes anyway, so they'll eventually get to the building in question. It's the rest of us mere mortals who need additional information.

Note that the telephone directory (business white pages) for Manhattan prints the cross streets.

#37 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 10:46 AM:

janetl @27: The most rational street numbering system I know is also the most theocratic: Salt Lake City's system. It's centered on the temple, and the grid runs (almost) exactly North-South and East-West. A street address like "xxx South xxx East" tells you exactly where it is. This is, of course, only achievable when a centrally organized group settles a large block of land without previously paved roads.

Chicago is also Cartesian, with a few other wrinkles (there are large arterial streets about every mile, and smaller but still 'big' ones halfway between them), not because it was a huge unsettled area, but because it burned down and was rebuilt by someone who thought the Washington DC plan was teh ossim.

Before the fire, Chicago had some Boston-like street stupidness, compounded by a lot of recurring street names (over 20 'Washington Street's, for example, not counting Washington Boulevards, Parkways, Avenues, etc). The Post Office approached the planners in charge of the rebuilding and fervently asked them to please please be sure all street names were tolerably unique; before the fire, if you were from out of town and visiting a friend, you not only needed to know cross-streets, you needed to know the nearest 'important' intersection too to get you in the right quadrant of the city.

Now 100 street numbers is roughly a block, and blocks are roughly a furlong each. There's variability, but when you're talking about long distances, it works out pretty evenly to estimate 8 'hundreds' as a mile. And if someone gives you their address, you only need to know either what 'hundred' their street is, or where their street is in relation to the nearest parallel arterial.

Mind, there's still some "you can't get there from here" problems because of streets failing to get through -- most interrupted streets maintain the same name all along, which implies they are continuous when they're not -- but a lot of those discontinuities have to do with things built after the street was platted, like highways, railyards, large properties, etc.

#38 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 12:52 PM:

What confuses me, as an Outsider (West Coast, actually, with only one brief visit to NYC), is the "Chelsea" part. Is it a town, a city, a borough? Is it on Manhattan Island? is it some kind of subdivision of New York City, or an independent entity surrounded by NYC? Yeah, I assume it's just a Neighborhood, but that doesn't seem right or adequate for a written-down address, even though practically all New Yorkers probably understand it just fine.

#39 ::: Elizabeth Coleman ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 01:35 PM:

Ooh, do we get to bitch about our own city layout? In Bellingham, WA, where I am, our streets are complicated by the fact that streets are often cut into two or more sections by Whatcom Creek and/or I-5, not to mention a couple of industrial zones. So you'll be going along, counting numbers, and suddenly, bam! There's a wall of trees/concrete/chain link fence in front of you, with no indication of how to get around it.

However, there are several sections where non-numbered streets are sequenced alphabetically (though you have to remember that in the downtown, State Street used to be Elk, and Railroad used to be...something that started with D.)
And I won't even get into the joys that arise from fusing four towns, each with their own layout, into one big city.

#40 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 01:56 PM:

I recently used Google Maps to find the courthouse in a distant city where I had to appear on a case. Following the instructions, when I got within a mile of the courthouse, I was told to make a left, then 5 right turns in a row on a series of back streets, some of them unpaved. This put me back at the original intersection, going in the same direction as originally, and the directions then took me to the courthouse without further incident.

#41 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 02:16 PM:

Don Fitch @ 38

It's a neighborhood, but New York neighborhoods are more codified than most cities. Here in Seattle, it's hard to say exactly where Fremont ends and Wallingford picks up, and that's one of the clearer lines in the city. In New York, you know what neighborhood you're in. It's a much more useful geographical identifier, which is why it's in a lot of informal addresses. You still wouldn't put it on mail or in a phone book, though.

#42 ::: Neil in Chicago ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 02:20 PM:

Chris W. @34
I think you mean State and Madison. State is zero for east-west, and Madison is zero for north-south. And eight blocks/hundreds to a mile makes a kilometer five blocks, for practical purposes.
This does give us one street which I believe is unique: Wacker Drive follows the bend of the river around downtown, so there's East Wacker, West Wacker, North Wacker, South Wacker -- and, since downtown was lifted above the swampy ground level in the mid-19th century for better drainage -- Upper Wacker and Lower Wacker.

#43 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 03:32 PM:

Devin @41, well, you usually know what neighborhood you're in. The exact boundaries sometimes fluctuate. For example, the eastern edge of Prospect Heights (my neighborhood in Brooklyn) used to be Washington Avenue, but now some people say it's Classon Ave, as we absorb the western edge of Crown Heights.

And in Manhattan, Chinatown's pretty much eaten and digested Little Italy, save for a three-block stretch of Mulberry St.

#44 ::: Alan Hamilton ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 04:48 PM:

I've had to do a lot of programming to feed addresses to cranky old mainframe systems. The chief issue I've encountered is the assumption that all addresses can be expressed with A-Z, 0-9, and maybe a hyphen and period. This leaves out anyone living at 123½ -- you can't even do 123 1/2 (official workaround is 123 HALF). It also means you can't send mail to La Cañada Drive (a major street in Tucson). I'm guessing 80% get mail to La Canada, and the rest get La Canyada.

La Cañada Drive is a little odd in itself in that it uses an English suffix on a Spanish name. Another issue is systems that expect the suffix to always be after the street name. These choke names like Camino Allenada.

#45 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 05:04 PM:

I suspect that system would have worse problems with something like '123 1/4 North 56th Street East #7' (which is possible, in my area; the address system where I work has fields for all of those parts).

#46 ::: oldsma ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 05:59 PM:

The street-naming convention in Washington DC (and near Maryland suburbs) makes sense when you study it or break your brain on the wheel of it, but it's not clear to newcomers. There are three overlaid systems: the one around the capitol, the radial state-named avenues and streets, and the cartesian numbered (north-south) / alphabet (east-west) streets. With NE, NW, and SE quadrants; the alphabet sequence repeating with incremental number of syllables; and the odd circle named after a historic figure thrown in for seasoning and tourist terror.

Most of what would have been the SW quadrant is in the part of the original square that was given back to Virginia because there was no way the city could ever grow so large. There is no J Street, because the French alphabet didn't have one when the city was laid out. The late-added states have been stuck with odd little streets in dusty corners of the grid. And the special streets Tuckerman and Sheridan run way across the map, except cut into little segments. (I used to live on a 2-block segment and spent a lot of time giving directions to people who were looking for other segments.)

In practice, people tend to give directions based on nearest big state avenue, federal building, or Metro station.

#47 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 06:49 PM:

Avram #10: Fortunately, there isn't a South 3rd St in Brooklyn, CT as well.

#48 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 06:52 PM:

No one has, so far, mentioned the "Peachtree problem" we have here in Atlanta.

#49 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 07:22 PM:

Even small towns aren't immune. I regularly have to give directions to delivery drivers looking for 1 Main Street. This is complicated slightly by the fact that my town has never had a Main Street.

#50 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 08:34 PM:

Alan Hamilton @ 44 - and then there is the inconsistency about where the directional marker gets placed. I grew up in an area where the standard format was "123 Oak Street SW", and now live in an area where the standard is "123 SW Oak Street."

#51 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 08:42 PM:

The single most confusing set of street names I've ever encountered is in downtown Chicago. North Wacker, South Wacker, East Wacker, West Wacker, Upper Wacker, Middle Wacker, and Lower Wacker -- all cheek-by-jowl with each other as we were trying to get to the Chicon V hotel. Thank ghod I'd been there on a business trip a couple of months earlier and had driven thru the same area with some friends, because that meant I had some visual markers for where we needed to go.

#52 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 08:50 PM:

Fragano @48: I was about to mention it myself.

#53 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 09:03 PM:

Fragan @48 and Ginger @52, is the Peachtree problem in Atlanta like the Lee problem in Northern Virginia? (nothing personal, Lee) Namely, way too many streets named that?

#54 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 09:42 PM:

OtterB (53): Exactly. Atlanta is further confused by the fact that there's nothing even remotely resembling a grid, and very few* straight streets. Plus the streets that change names periodically, not to mention the ones that have more than one spelling (e.g., Clairmont Road, also spelled Claremont and Clairemont on various street signs). Oh, and things like North Decatur Road being an east-west street (it runs on the north side of Decatur)--not to be confused with Decatur Street, which is an entirely different street.

*My mother is wont to remark that Atlanta has no straight streets: the ones that don't curve from side to side go up and down, and most of them do both.

#55 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 09:45 PM:

KayTei, #19, in our condo development, the post office gave some of the buildings out of order numbers. So when we get a new or temporary delivery person, they'll drive back and forth until they find the clusterbox for that building. One of the women two buildings down from mine has to use an electric chair in the condo (only gets out on ambulances now), so clearly doesn't get her mail. The new/temp drivers end up coming back to her condo to deliver it instead of doing it on the way.

#56 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 10:32 PM:

On my way home from Atlanta, I was reminded of the North Carolina problem: roads that go North and South at the same time.

#57 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 10:57 PM:

OtterB, #53: Internal-LEE! External-LEE! Fraternal-Lee! Eternal-LEE!

(So you can have the earworm too, TYVM. *g*)

#58 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 11:22 PM:

Portland, Oregon has addresses sensibly broken out into quadrants: NE, NW, SE, SW, ... and N? That's what happens when your north-south line is a river, because rivers don't do straight.

One lovely thing in Portland is that for major roads, there will often be a sign a block or so ahead of time saying something like "Burnside next signal", so you don't see the name of the street you want to turn on only as you're sailing across it in the intersection.

The downtown of Pinehurst, NC is a series of concentric circles, so you can never just tell someone to "turn right on Main," and "turn north" doesn't work very well either. All discussions start with "Where are you coming from?". The residential developments outside of the downtown are just the traditional American post-war twisty turny cul de sacs. Finding your way after dark is enhanced by no street lights, and street signs that are set far back from the road, with non-reflective letters, so they are impossible to read by the light of you headlights.

#59 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 12:04 AM:

Hyper local feline news:

The kittens have been here 4 months now, and they're accepted as members of the family by large grumpy cat. There 's even been mutual grooming and sleeping in a pile without hissing.

What amazes me though, is that even when hissing was a daily occurrence, it didn't happen when the kittens would steal the big one's food. That was met with stoicism.

Now, the little kittens have spent a night on the bed with only a couple incidents of pouncing, and one of them has beheaded her first rodent (a field vole) and left it on the door mat. Very positive signs, since we needed a mouser, especially one that would leave the victim outside.

The only issue, I think we need to take them in for a tune up. They run rough at idle, and diesel on quite a bit after they're turned off.

#60 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 12:05 AM:

Doh. that's openthread material right there.

#61 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 01:42 AM:

janetl, #58: Houston does the "next signal" thing too, and very useful it is! However, they balance it with a surprising number of intersections for which the corner signs are very well hidden. When I first moved here, I thought of this as "If you don't know where you are, you probably don't belong here anyhow," but now I think it may just be over-dependence on those "next signal" markers.

#62 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 04:30 AM:

There are two streets in the Village (Manhattan neighborhood) both named Waverly Place, that intersect. There used to be a restaurant there called Waverly Waverly.

oldsma 46: There is no J Street, because the French alphabet didn't have one when the city was laid out.

J was not considered distinct from I (even in English) until comparatively recently. The same is true of U and V. Different ways of writing the same letter.

Not sure how the timing of that matches up with the timing of the layout of DC, but certainly having both an I Street and a J Street would have caused confusion, even if it had been generally accepted by then that I and J were separate letters.

#63 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 08:58 AM:

Alan Hamilton: I live on a half-street. It has gotten to the point that I just automatically fill in the comment field whenever I order something online: "Yes, it really is 'ninety-sixth and a half street'". The really fun part is that my county's property registration website doesn't recognize my address.

I live in a fairly old city of many hills, and a lot of the streets follow, essentially, contour lines. This leads to there being very few places where going "around the block" will put you back where you started, many intersections featuring both a "sharp" and an "easy" left or right, and things like outdoor stairs up hillsides being formally part of the street layout.

#64 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 09:01 AM:

Fragano @ #48--Well, it didn't seem like a nice thing for someone from out-of-town to bring up. I have to say, burning Atlanta down should have given the city fathers an excuse, but they don't seem to have realized that. I have an acquaintance who says he's decided the interstate system around Atlanta is deisgned to keep William Tecumseh Sherman away, in case he ever shows up again, and the streets are the backup in case he manages to make it across all the lanes of traffic to an exit.

Nashville started out with a nice, tidy little grid downtown, in line with the Enlightenment love of Cartesian street grids, and then completely lost touch with that as soon as people started building things outside of that area. The presence of a large river and several rail lines didn't help much, nor did the imposition of an interstate highway convergence near downtown. We'll just skip over the terrain, except to note that sinkholes don't open up in major streets very often at all, really.

The most deeply annoying tendency though, is that magically-changing-street-name gimmick that appears in other localities as well.

#65 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 10:25 AM:

fidelio #64: The problem is everybody wants to be on Peachtree, and even though it is the longest street in Atlanta it isn't long enough for that. In consequence we have an abundant supply of Peachtrees.

#66 ::: Michael Walsh ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 11:16 AM:

Most of Northern Virginia is madness ... street wise.

Consider that 8th Rd N. Next road south of it is 8th St N. And it goes on ...

#67 ::: JCarson ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 11:28 AM:

My NC city has standard parallel numbered downtown streets - except for that part where 1st St. and 4th St. cross each other.

Ginger also mentioned the NC problem of North/South highways - there's a moment on the drive up to Washington D.C. where you're on a highway that's North, South, and West simultaneously,

#68 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 12:00 PM:

Elizabeth Coleman #39:

To tie this into the geek metaphor thread, we call the known-only-to-insiders [1] methods of getting across these barriers [2] "wormholes".

[1] I started to say "known-only-to-cognoscenti" and realized that it seemed entirely redundant

[2] In general; we've been in Bellingham several times but have never lived there

#69 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 12:03 PM:

Carrie S #63:

Austin has any number of half streets, so I'm used to that. What really floored me (long ago) was driving around at night in Galveston, in the middle of a section of alphabetic streets (A, B, etc.) and finding "O 1/2 Street", as in letter "O". This just seemed deeply wrong.

#70 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 12:14 PM:

Marilee #55:

In our housing development, there are two (shortly going to be two more, with others planned for the future) things called garden courts, in which houses face each other across a common greensward, bwetwwen two streets. (Imagine the houses and the geeen as a very thick crossbar on a capital "H".)

There are six houses on each side of the green, and the house numbers are not pegged to that, but to the side streets, so that coming up the left cross street, the numbers increment for three houses into the garden court, *cross* the court, increment back toward the street, and then continue up the street. Same for the other side of the whole assemblage.

In my year and a half of living across the street from one of these things, I have encountered more lost Fedex guys than you could possibly believe--all because nobody ever put up a sign connecting street names with house numbers.

Now that the next phase of construction has two of these garden courts back-to-back between the same streets, something needs to be done: more signage, at a minimum.

#71 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 12:24 PM:

JCarson @ 67: If I hadn't been by myself, I'd have tried to photograph that highway sign just to prove that it's possible to be going north, south, and west all at once.

#72 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 12:31 PM:

Ginger... Can you go North by Northwest, as long as you ignore that cropduster?

#73 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 12:55 PM:

Serge @ 72: It gives me Vertigo...

#74 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 01:34 PM:

Ginger... Just don't land in the Family Plot.

#75 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 01:48 PM:

In Venice, there's at least one place, maybe more, where's there's a sign reading "Alla Ferrovia" (to the railway) with arrows pointing both left and right.

#76 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 02:18 PM:

fidelio, #64: Hee! Briley Parkway / Thompson Lane / Woodmont / White Bridge / Robertson (for about a block) / Briley Parkway -- and it's all the same road. Not to mention Old Hickory, which goes all the way around the city -- in non-contiguous sections. When I wanted to blow somebody off, I used to tell them that I lived "a few blocks from Old Hickory".

Here in Houston we have a lot of those too; my partner says they're often the result of formerly-unconnected streets getting put thru as a result of some construction/expansion project.

#77 ::: JCarson ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 02:51 PM:

GInger @71 - Ah, but it's the future now - you don't have to take a photo when Google Maps has been there already: Google Street View proof (may require some zoom). And I'd remembered wrong - it's north/south/east, not west. but the concept stands.

#78 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 03:06 PM:

joann @#75: Makes me think of the bit in the late Wimsey novel where Peter laments that the road signs have been taken down, because he wanted to show Harriet the crossroads with two signs saying "Duke's Denver, 9 miles" and pointing in opposite directions.

#79 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 03:24 PM:

joann @68 said: To tie this into the geek metaphor thread, we call the known-only-to-insiders methods of getting across these barriers "wormholes".

My brother-in-law coined the phrase 'hyperspace jump' for getting onto a highway for only one exit, to circumvent some silliness of the street grid.

There is a particular pair of exits in Toronto that he regularly did this with, because it was extra useful for places he went a lot, but I forget which; I think one may have been Avenue Road.

... Speaking of silly street names that make you feel embarrassed when an outsider points them out. :->

#80 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 03:45 PM:

JCarson #77:

Google Maps appears to have invented a time machine, and it's not to the future. Our neighborhood got some of those new-fangled super-hi-res pictures recently, and much to my bemusement, they were from a month or so earlier than the previous regular-res bunch, as evidenced by a lot under construction two doors up from me, that started building forms last October, and began framing over US Thanksgiving week. What I could see up to last week was the framing version; the new pictures showed the forms. At least they didn't remove the street from the map.

#81 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 04:05 PM:

JCarson @ 77: Then there's another one with North, South, and West, because I just came up on I-85 from Atlanta (to I-95), and didn't have any one of those three highways in your link. When I have time to vacuum the cats, I'll go through 85 on street view (excellent idea!) and find the sign I saw.

#82 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 04:07 PM:

Xopher (62): I used to live in Casper, Wyoming, which has an M Street, and N Street, and an Elm Street. Those are very hard to tell apart on the phone! The town I now work in has a Pine, a Penn, and a Pennsylvania, just to be confusing. Also, it's a beachfront community, but Beech Street is spelled like the tree (it's in a set with Walnut, Olive, and the aforementioned Pine).

#83 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 04:14 PM:

Well, DC was laid out by people who were more sensible, clearly.

#84 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 04:20 PM:

Also, I hope Casper is a friendly town...but even if it is, I hope it never becomes completely deserted.

Everyone knows why. Don't say it out loud.

#85 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 04:39 PM:

There's a chunk of highway in Berkeley which is 80 East and 580 West. It runs north, of course (and the southbound direction is correspondingly 80 West and 580 East.) (80 East goes to New Jersey, 80 West to San Francisco, 580 Wast to the Richmond Bridge and Marin County, 580 East to Livermore and beyond.)

#86 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 06:44 PM:

Lee @57 So you can have the earworm too

"For it's here a Lee, there a Lee..."

I love that show.

#87 ::: J Greely ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 08:06 PM:

USPS Publication 28 looks like insane overkill, until you have enough customers to discover that there's a good reason for every single rule in the standard. We had a lot of fun adding support for Puerto Rico to an existing system that knew nothing of Calle and Urb.


#88 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 11:26 PM:

I'm the proud maintainer of an internal standard that's even more complex than USPS Pub 28.

#89 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 11:30 PM:

janetl@27: I believe SLC also has the advantage of not having natural features (on a scale suitable to interfere with civil engineering at the time the city was built) that might get in the way of the grid -- rivers, lakes, ravines and hills and so forth. Or at least not as many as Ithaca, say, or Pittsburgh.

#90 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2010, 12:50 AM:

J Greely@87, it's a very interesting document. In the phone company some of our people had to develop addressing for rural areas (because the phone wires actually have to get to your house, so Rural Route numbers aren't super-useful, and box numbers at the post office in town aren't useful at all, and one of my friends got to name the main streets of lots of small towns in Alaska when they put in the satellite dish systems because the databases needed an address even though the residents knew where the street was.)

However, it irritates me a bit to see the title of "Appendix E5 Spanish and Other Foreign Words". Puerto Rico isn't Foreign, it's Domestic, and Spanish isn't foreign, it's just Not English (even here in California where some of it's Spanglish or RealEstateDeveloperSpeak, like the nearby street "Arroyo Vista" aka "View of the Ditch".) There are probably also some French-language street types in Louisiana and and maybe formerly French-speaking towns in Vermont and Maine, though I don't know how many of the Pennsylvania Dutch or Texas/Mexican German ares have German-language street types except for RealEstateDeveloperSpeak.

#91 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2010, 12:54 AM:

Forgot to add, I used to live on a street in New Jersey called "Via Ripa", and people used to keep asking if that was "Via Ripa Street" or avenue or what...

#92 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2010, 01:02 AM:

RealEstateDeveloperSpeak is the kind of street name that sounds Spanish, but doesn't make any sense to Spanish-speaking people either. ('Via Ulmaria' comes to mind.)
Some of the street names do inspire hilarity, though: there's a street that, IIRC, is named 'Paseo de Cerveza'. ('Cul De Sac Avenue' is also good; it really is a cul de sac, but not an avenue in any usual sense.)

#93 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2010, 06:18 AM:

Apparently the term for routes that are both northbound and southbound (for example) is "wrong-way concurrency". There used to be a list of these on Wikipedia, before it fell to the deletionists.

#94 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2010, 08:05 AM:

RealEstateDeveloperSpeak is the kind of street name that sounds Spanish, but doesn't make any sense to Spanish-speaking people either. ('Via Ulmaria' comes to mind.)

For a while in San Diego I lived on Avenida Navidad. We discovered through experimentation that neither Christmas Avenue nor Birthday Avenue would get us our mail, and were crushed.

#95 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2010, 10:39 AM:

Xopher@84: Okay!

#96 ::: Kevin Reid ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2010, 10:51 AM:

rm #1:

And that's another thing: remote controls with buttons that "mash," as they say here in the South, instead of properly CLICKING so YOU KNOW YOU PUSHED the damn thing and don't have to wait to see if your device responded. What is up with that?!?!!!
(I'm going to indulge Geek Answer Syndrome for a minute here...)

It's cheap. (The buttons are actually funny-shaped rubber domes with little conductive pads on the bottom that complete a bared circuit on the main board of the remote.)

But if they added clicky buttons, they'd still be cheap, and cheap clicky buttons often have a failure mode of going “click” and yet not actually making contact (because the contacts have gotten dust/crud/oxide between them, or because the clicky bit no longer clicks over quite strongly enough) after long use, and you find you have to push till it clicks and a little further (giving a false indicator rather than none). Rubber-dome buttons don't tend to have this failure mode that I've noted; I suspect it's because your finger makes the conductive pad wiggle around and clean the interface. (Not that I've made any actual study of the matter.)

#97 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2010, 12:03 PM:


I appreciate Geek Answers, so thank you. I indulge in such conversation here so I can fight the urge to do so among family and coworkers, none of whom enjoy it properly. Also, I love it when a thread comes full circle.

I knew about the cheap part. I was trying to exaggerate a little as a joke, taking Avram's post as humor, and hoping we might start a thread of performance-art pet peeves. The actual thread is much better, of course.

So, I knew buttons used to have metal springs that made the click, and no longer do (keyboards too! That's why they used to make a clackity-clack sound), but I didn't know about their glitches or the mechanics of rubber domes. I am sincerely glad to know about this.

Two devices in my life, in particular, give me fits. One is the outside keypad for my garage door. The buttons are made of a very gelatinous semitransparent rubber that squishes beneath a finger. And to make contact you have put a LOT of pressure on the far left side of every button. And you have to finish the whole sequence and wait a beat before you know if any button didn't press.

The other is the model of remotes that control the ceiling- mounted projectors in classrooms where I teach. Squishy buttons, and a very long wait between the signal to turn on and a warmed-up projector, which is also too high to turn on directly.

I oughtta be grateful, and am when I am reminded, that I live such a life of privilege and comfort that the mechanics of buttons are one of my problems. I am blessed --- but )@^^' those ^^¥}#€{* squishy buttons!!!!

#98 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2010, 12:25 PM:

I used to deliver pizza in Encino/Studio City, much of which is in the hills.

My most amazing "you can't get there from here" was the odd numbered side of I forget what street (off of Havenhurst.

I couldn't find it; this was in the days before cell phones, and so I went to the Gelson's, and called. They told me to go to the end of the block, and they were up a drive between two houses.

I find such a drive, and it goes back... forever. The monastery at the end of the drive was not the place I was looking for.

The October sun has now set, so I am looking up the number in the dark; from the side of the box. They tell me it's the wide driveway between the cactus (which turned out to be plastic). I

I get to the top of the drive, and suddenly am on a street, forty feet above the other, and about 100 yards back.

It is, in fact, the odd-numbered side of the street, completely out of sight from the road.

#99 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2010, 01:11 PM:

Bill @90, PJ Evans @92, my all-time favorite Spanish street name is Calle Sin Nombre, in Tucson.

#100 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2010, 06:59 PM:

Ah, yes, the lovely 401: I remember floating through Toronto one day on the permanent merge lane (between the express and the collectors). And yeah, Avenue Road always caused a brain needle-skip.

There's a bridge tournament in St. Catharines, Ontario. Instructions from the north state: "S on QEW until you reach St. Catharines, then take Ontario Street East (exit xxx). Make sure you are in St. Catharines before you turn; there are several Ontario Street Exits."

And my embarrassment when I was told, my first month in Waterloo, ON, "xxx Cedarbrae". "Cedarbrae what?" "<boggle>" "Avenue, road, street, place,?" - he didn't know, he only lives there (it turns out it's Avenue). There is only "Cedarbrae". Being from Calgary, of course, that didn't make sense (of course, there are only Cedarbrae Drive and Cedarbrae Crescent, in the community of Cedarbrae. Unlike, for a random instance, Silver Ridge: Way, Road, Green, Rise, Court, Drive, Place, Crescent, Close. Frequently, there are 100, 200, ... Place, or Close, or Park, as well. One of my goals in buying a house was that it was to have a numbered address...

#101 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2010, 08:38 PM:

I can't believe nobody's even mentioned the borough of Queens, with its numbered streets intersecting numbered triads of Avenue, Road, and Drive! Not to mention street addresses incorporating the number of the cross-street... or sometimes of the street that "ought" to be crossing. Here's where I used to live, 104-60 Queens Boulevard; The other buildings in its group are 104-20 and 104-40 (circling around a courtyard), plus (iirc) 104-50 off in a corner, with offices. 104th Street doesn't make it through the tangle below Corona Drive, well north of there.

An abundance of one-way streets just adds to the fun for drivers.

#102 ::: J Greely ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2010, 10:14 PM:

Bill Stewart@90, Eh, beats having them write "unassimilated loanwords of Spanish and other origin". At least they make it clear that systems must accept them as-is, and that translating them to English is incorrect.


#103 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2010, 10:20 PM:

Baltimore has a street whose name is "The Alameda". It also has a bunch of different grid patterns which all try to converge on downtown, but from several different angles, Jones Falls cleaving in from the north, and a completely useless disconnected piece of highway that cuts across the west side of the city. There is one triangle just NW of the downtown are which I believe can only be entered by one street: all the others point out.

#104 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2010, 10:43 PM:

Lorax, do they have a 'Calle de Paseo'? (I've seen that one, too. Really makes you wonder....)

#105 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2010, 12:02 PM:

The region around Waterloo Ontario, has King St and Weber St. They merge at the north and south of town, and cross in the middle. Pan the map and enjoy.

King St has N and S segments, Weber has N, S, W, and E segments.

#106 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2010, 12:18 PM:

105: Old U(W) student here, and yeah. Remembering whether King was East or West of Weber in "this" part of town was always a challenge.

However, both King and Weber (and a couple other logical North-South, taking the 401 as E-W) streets have N,S,E, and W segments. In Waterloo, logical North-South streets are North or South of the middle of town; south of Union, in Kitchener, they're East or West of the middle of town. Took me years to figure that out (which I realize shows a more-than-momentary lapse of reason).

I always loved the 401 sign for the Highway 8 Exit. As I said several times: "Highway 8 East; Highway 8 West. Which one goes North?"

#107 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2010, 01:17 PM:

re 46: The three main problems with the DC system are that (a) as I mentioned before, there is a section along Rock Creek where it disintegrates; (b) there are large areas of NE and SW which don't use it, and (c) the diagonal streets are not numbered in any consistent pattern, and they are the main routes through various parts of the city. There are also a few roads which have nothing to do with the grid, though in practice they fit into the system as if they were diagonal streets. But it's the minor irregularities that drive you mad, starting with the fact that the most famous address in the city is on a part of a diagonal street that isn't diagonal.

#108 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2010, 02:30 PM:

A block away from my old house in Grand Rapids was Inlet Street, prominently marked with a "No Outlet" sign . . .

#110 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2010, 05:16 PM:

In Montreal, we have The Boulevard (apparently, there can be only one...).

In QC in general, odd numbers are North/South, and even numbers are East/West. The 20, the 40, are East/West Highways; the 13 and 15 are North/South. At no point will there be a sign saying 15 NW, even if that's geographically true.

I don't know if it's objectively better, but it's what I'm used to, so I get very confused when I see all this other stuff on the signs.

#111 ::: Mike McHugh ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2010, 06:28 PM:

The best street name I ever saw was the Rue du Pourquoi-Pas in Saint-Malo.

#112 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2010, 06:43 PM:

C. Wingate@109

Google maps denies that you can drive on I-66 in N. Virginia

Although from what I've heard, that's not all that far from the truth.


#113 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2010, 07:15 PM:

C.Wingate@109, Many years ago, when maps were made of paper instead of Googleness and road signs were mostly in English but transitioning to icons, I was down in DC on business and had to stay at a hotel out in Virginia because the hotels in town were full of travelers, school tours over spring break, etc., and the rental car map made of paper said I should use 66 to get where I was going.

When I got to it, there was a sign saying something about HOV, all lanes, during certain hours, and there were lots of diamonds on the road, but they obviously must mean something other than in New Jersey, because having all lanes be carpool-only certainly couldn't make sense. I later found out that, had the sign been written in English, it was saying that all lanes really were High Occupancy Vehicle lanes, which meant that you couldn't drive in them at rush hour without multiple people in your car, and that one of the local sports was having manikins in your car so you could drive on that road without getting caught.

So yeah, I think Google's probably right in telling you you just shouldn't go there, in case you print out your map today and want to drive tomorrow morning.

#114 ::: Janet Kegg ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2010, 09:14 PM:

C. Wingate @109: I first came across that Google fluke about I-66 inside the Washington Beltway a couple of years ago. And really it makes sense because it can be illegal for single-occupancy cars to use that bit of I-66 depending on time of day and direction traveling.

But I'm surprised that GPS devices using Google maps aren't smart enough to know what time it is and direct a driver onto I-66 when it's legal.

I pity the tourists driving into or out of DC.

#115 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2010, 09:36 PM:

There's a Quien Sabe Road near Hollister, CA. Maybe the two street-namers should have gotten together?

#116 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2010, 11:08 PM:

re 112/114: The "HOV only" section is inside the beltway only, so theoretically you can use the portion outside the beltway at any time in either direction. Mapquest will use I-66, but if you tell it not to take the turn to get on it it will use about the same route that Google maps uses. It will allow you to drag the route to go out US-50 and then go up to I-66 for the rest of the route, though.

The US-50 route goes through Seven Corners. It means exactly what it says.

#117 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2010, 12:14 AM:

Last weekend I complained, yet again, to long-suffering Minneapolitans that it's impossible to dead reckon your way across the Twin Cities because lakes LEAP OUT IN FRONT OF YOU. No matter where you're going, you can't get there from here because there's a LAKE in the way. Or sometimes the lakes' insidious ally, a highway with no obvious way across it.

I grew up on a grid without lakes. Ok, with one REALLY BIG lake off east. But it had the courtesy to not skulk around and put itself in my way all the time....

#118 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2010, 12:49 AM:

A hovercraft would help with that problem; see a lake and just keep going.

#119 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2010, 12:57 AM:

But then you spend all your time clearing the eels out.

#120 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2010, 01:19 AM:

abi @ 119... clearing the eels out

...aka eelective surgery?

#121 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2010, 02:35 AM:

abi @119: but might that not be considered eelitist?

#122 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2010, 07:08 AM:

Earl Cooley III #118: A hovercraft would help with that problem

Oh, is that what the "HOV" lanes are for?

#123 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2010, 09:37 AM:

abi @119 But then you spend all your time clearing the eels out.
Serge @120 eelective surgery
Syd @121 eelitist
David Harmon @122 (re hovercraft) is that what the "HOV" lanes are for?

Thank you all. A series of chortles, precisely what I needed this morning.

#124 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2010, 04:11 PM:

My husband (originally from NYC) thought it was annoying enough that Oakland has both numbered Streets and Avenues (we live near 14th and East 14th), until we had the following conversation:

Me: I need to swing by the library branch on El Embarcadero to pick up a book that's on hold for me.
Him: Library branch on the Embarcadero? What branch on the Embarcadero?
Me: Not on the Embarcadero, on El Embarcadero. Two miles away.
Him: *headsplode*

(Eel Embarcadero, of course, would be the channel between Lake Merritt and the estuary. If there are eels there, which I don't know. There are bat rays, if that counts, not that I've seen one in person.)

#125 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2010, 09:13 PM:

After watching this in-conger-ous conversation, I know that eel be back -- for one reason only, and that's a moray.

#126 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2010, 10:27 PM:

C. Wingate, #116, no, you can't use just any I-66 lane outside the Beltway. There's one HOV2 (CF, Motorcycles) lane in and one out between the Beltway and Route 50 (Fair Oaks Mall).

#127 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2010, 12:06 AM:

Ginger @ 125... O Tempura, O Moray...

#128 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2010, 03:02 AM:

Lexica: I lived a mile away from that library branch for ten years (shopped at the Trader Joe's near there, went to the farmer's market on Saturdays when I could get myself out the door early enough) and although I've walked and driven on that dinky little street I never knew it had a name, still less a ritzy thing like El Embarcadero.

#129 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2010, 03:10 AM:

Hyperlocal news: woman conducts Google search that she might link to an image of Gary Larson's illustration, "Social Morays". Search unsuccessful. Pun participation falls flat.

#130 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2010, 03:28 AM:

A Note From Gary Larson RE: Online Use of Far Side Cartoons

#131 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2010, 04:53 AM:

Earl Cooley III @130: well, that would explain it, wouldn't it? And since I was checking images, it's no wonder I didn't find that page...thanks!

#132 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2010, 08:01 AM:

Mike @ #111

There's always this.

#134 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2010, 04:02 PM:

Xopher @ 133: Do you happen to have any idea why the Proto-Indo-European version is written in numbers as well as letters? (Is it a way of representing a laryngeal, for example? Or did the Proto-Indo-Europeans use an early f0rm of leet-speak?)

#135 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2010, 04:21 PM:

Serge #127: Let me be the Firth to point out that Lady Mondegreen must also be present.

#136 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2010, 04:22 PM:

Fragano, 135: And after two other people have agreed, I'll be the Forth.

#137 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2010, 04:36 PM:

Mike McHugh @111 - on French street names.

My father claims that, when working as a student teacher in France he lodged for a while at 6-bis, Rue Dix.(Unfortunately, he was living in Caen and not, as poetry or a good story would require, in Nice.)

#138 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2010, 04:39 PM:

praisegod, I only see the number 1 after some of the aitches. I think there are two different ones, one called 'h' and one called 'h1'.

#139 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2010, 04:58 PM:

Xopher - OK, that does seem to be right. But it does make me wonder what two different 'h's might have sounded like in practice.

(I'm also wondering how on earth could anyone have pronounced a (putative) word represented as 'hxVnghel'? It sounds more like Vogon than a possible human language, let alone a distant ancestor of a language I actually speak...)

#140 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2010, 05:07 PM:

praisegod barebones #139: I suspect those represent the linguist's attempts to deal with sounds where we don't know what they sounded like then, but we have a general idea of where they went later.

#141 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2010, 05:13 PM:

praisegod barebones #139: Proto-Indo-European must have been a very poetic language, in that case.

#142 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2010, 05:14 PM:

praisegod, 139: I imagine it had something to do with the position ("loch" vs. "here," maybe).

#143 ::: D. Potter ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2010, 05:21 PM:

Lexica @ 124: Has your husband ever been to Queens?

(PS: El Embarcadero used to be two parallel dinky streets, but in the interest of messing up traffic, one was removed.)

As for the eels: At least they don't shriek.

#144 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2010, 08:04 PM:

TexAnne, in that case they would get the same letter. Positional variants are considered part of the same phoneme, even though they may diverge later.

#145 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2010, 08:54 PM:

Xopher, not if they're a minimal pair. Not having clicked on the link (bad Internaut, no cookie) I don't know if they are or not. But it's not impossible.

#146 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2010, 11:52 PM:

They can't be both a minimal pair AND positional variants. Positional variants are in complementary distribution, and a minimal pair requires that only one phoneme be different...and all phonemes must be in the same order.

#147 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2010, 03:09 PM:

praisegod @#189: But it does make me wonder what two different 'h's might have sounded like in practice.

Yes, so does everyone else. :) It's a big question in Indo-European linguistics.

If you want a pretty good basic overview, Wikipedia's article on "laryngeal theory" is reasonably thorough.

#148 ::: Alan Hamilton ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2010, 08:47 PM:

@130: Whoops. I have some original newspaper clippings of The Far Side on my fridge, where any visitor to my house can see them without Larson's authorization. I guess I better take them down, as his point seems to that he doesn't want them displayed in any location without his authorization, not just that they're competing with his published books.

#149 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2010, 10:05 PM:

Too bad there's not a bounty, or I'd have to turn you in for that.

#150 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2010, 10:13 PM:

yeah, i understand larson's concern, and i respect his decision - but i gotta say, that's the fastest way to get your work consigned to the dustbin of history. even if dilbert or calvin&hobbes go out of style, the next generation will at least know what they are; the far side will just be forgotten.

#151 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2010, 10:21 PM:

Earl 149: You might get some mutiny on that.

#152 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2010, 11:03 PM:

Avast there, you Bligh-ters!

#153 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2010, 12:30 AM:

Xopher, I was annoyed at Alan's snarkiness in the face of my desire to respect Larson's wishes. Not quite annoyed enough to immortalize the moment with a double dactyl, though. Or to start cursing in FORTRAN.

#154 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2010, 09:49 AM:


Just another example of the problem of internet piracy...

#155 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2010, 10:36 AM:

re 126: The thing is that there are times when you can't use any of the I-66 lanes inside the beltway, unless you are HOV-ing. At least outside the beltway there's some place on the road where you can legally sit in the stopped traffic.

(wonders how he can make a filk involving the local phenomenon of slugs)

#156 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2010, 11:47 AM:

C. Wingate @ 155 -- I don't know who wrote it, but Mary Ellen Wessels regularly sings the "Banana Slug" song at filk cons, especially in children's song sets.

#157 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2010, 05:22 PM:

Fragano Ledgister @135 said: Serge #127: Let me be the Firth to point out that Lady Mondegreen must also be present.

I'm a member of Lady Mondegreen, does that count? :->

#158 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2010, 08:24 PM:

Earl 153: Oh, I know.

Mutiny. Bounty. Get it?

#159 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2010, 03:00 PM:

Carrie S. @ 147: Thanks - that started me off an absorbing evening's reading a week or so ago (when I should probably really have been doing something else...but if I never did anything when I should really be doing something else I'd rarely do anything at all.)

Elliott Mason @ 157: having read the Lady Mondegree FAQs, I'm wondering whether you - or anyone else in the fluorosphere might be able to help me track down the words of an Ogden Nash poem which ends with the line 'MORAL: Child, if you have a rummy sort of name/remember to be thankful for the same'.

(The text of the poem is about a gnu who is saved form being hunted by the fact that no-one could figure out how to pronounce 'gnu'. As a child who did indeed have a rummy sort of name - and whose children have names which are, as far as I can tell, technically illegal in their country of residence, I found it comforting; and would like to be able to pass it on to my daughter.)

#160 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2010, 03:02 AM:

praisegod barebones @159: As someone whose name used to be Eloise Almeda Beltz-Decker (who lived on Clybourn Avenue, just to add further Things That Must Be Spelt On The Phone), and whose current name is STILL apparently very misspellable, I think I need that poem too. :->

My google-fu is l33t today; apparently it is not Nash, but Hilaire Belloc, from his 'A Moral Alphabet', and it is entitled G for Gnu. With extra bonus illustration (I know not if it is original or not).

Now I think I need a whole printed copy of A Moral Alphabet from somewhere. :->

For potential Historical Interest, the search string I used was poem gnu hunt name rummy, though looking at the actual poem, a search for the exact string "rummy kind of name" turns up quite a few confirmatory corroborating sources. "Rummy sort of name is not nearly so helpful.

#161 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2010, 03:04 AM:

Apparently my most recent comment about gnus and comic poetry contained Worrying URLs Or Other Content; consider this a placeholder, or perhaps a mild plea on its behalf to the relevant patron saints^H^H moderators.

#162 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2010, 03:25 AM:

Elliot Mason:

Actually, it was a broken <a> tag.

Check at preview when you have links.

#163 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2010, 09:46 AM:

Abi @162: ARGH! I coulda sworn I did, so sorry.

Ok, that should have been (for the tl;dG crowd) G For Gnu.

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