Everything I Need to Know about Driverless Cars I Learned from Toonces

If you’re reading this, you’re probably too old to remember Toonces the Driving Cat, a Steve Martin / Victoria Jackson skit written by the fantastic Jack Handey (in two parts) about a family who discovers their cat can drive. 

If you’re too young to have seen it, or even if you aren’t but haven’t watched it recently, go ahead and check it out:

Now let's re-write the skit with robot cars instead…

[open on Husband running into the kitchen ]

Husband: Honey! You won’t believe it! The Tesla can drive itself!

Wife: Tesla, our car?!

Husband: Yeah! Come on! I’ll show ya!

[cut to Tesla taking his owners for a drive through the country ]

Husband: What a perfect day for a drive.

Wife: Isn’t that pretty?

Husband: It’s a fantastic day.

Wife: Yeah.

[Tesla narrowly avoids running over a bicyclist.]

Husband: See! I told you it could drive!

Wife: Tesla, look out! [ screams ] 

[show car slamming into a pedestrian or highway median]

Wife: I thought you said it could drive?

Husband: Well, I thought it could – I saw it out there and took my hands off the steering wheel, and I.. I guess I just assumed it could drive.

Wife: It’s okay, honey. Anybody would think that..

Husband: [ pointing ] Hey, look! It’s driving away!

[Tesla peels away ]

Wife: I guess it can drive!

Husband: Yeah! Just not very well!


He drives around
all over the town.
Tesla the Driving Car.

I don’t have more to say other than, don’t let your cat behind the wheel!


Noteworthy Parking Lots of Downtown Minneapolis II is Tomorrow at 3pm!

After many fits and starts, and more than one postponement, the bike tour of Noteworthy Parking Lots of Minneapolis II is finally happening. I'm excited about some new inclusions and some parking lots that have disappeared since I last led this tour.

Here's the writeup:

It's been six years since the last one, , and some things have changed while other things have not. So I think it's time, while the asphalt is still warm, to go out and take another look at some of the finest and most notable parking lots in the great city of Minneapolis.
We'll be biking around about 5 miles in total, retracing most of the route from last time (with one minor modification) to see what has changed and how the parking lots are faring in today's modern world.
SPOILER: Some of them are gone, others are not.

[Facebook link is here.]

I hope to see you tomorrow at 3pm at the Lake Street K Mart parking lot!  


Booklets Back in Print! - Staircases of St. Paul, Dives of the Midway, Overlooked Parks of St. Paul

Good news! 

I have *finally* got some of my long out-of-print booklets back available in my online store

What's more, both the Noteworthy Dives of the Midway booklet and the Public Staircases of St. Paul booklet are NEW and IMPROVED with updated information about things like the Midway Saloon, the Black Hart of St. Paul, and the (temporary) closure of the Walnut Street staircase.  

You can now purchase:

Noteworthy Dive Bars of the Midway

Featuring fun information about Tracks Bar (long gone), Hot Rods (for sale), the Trend Bar (in limbo), the Midway Saloon (formerly Big V's), and the Black Hart (formerly the Town House).

Overlooked Parks of St. Paul

Featuring fun information about Hampden, Desnoyer, Newell, Union, and Merriam Parks in the northwest quadrant of the city.

and Public Staircases of St. Paul

Featuring maps and fun information about 17 different public staircases (past and present) in all corners of the St. Paul topographical region.

Get them ASAP and I'll ship them your way. And there's plenty of other stuff in there too...


Parking Lot Tour featured on MPR with Angela Davis

Join the tour on Saturday!

In case you missed it, I was interviewed on Angela Davis' show about interesting tours in Minnesota. I was on to discuss tours, and fun ways for people to get out the house after the long  shut-in COVID year. It was fun to discuss parking lot history on the radio. Even though Angela Davis was probably confused, she did a good job asking me questions about my tours, and I fumbled through some answers.

To kick off the series, Angela was joined by a tour guide from Duluth and a Twin Cities urban geographer who offered up their own ideas on how to enjoy Minnesota this summer.

Check it out.

Also, after a year-plus hiatus, there's a tour coming up on Saturday. Mark your calendar and stay tuned for a further post on the plan.


Signs of the Times #178



stress Balls

[Post. Summit-University, St. Paul.]








[Window. Frogtown, St. Paul.]

Thank you

COVID 19 workers

clerks EMT Drs. nurses

Bus Drivers any one who

waits on the General Public

[Yard. Frogtown, St. Paul.]




[Yard. Como, St. Paul]





[Porch. SE Como, Minneapolis.]

Wild and Free Be Happy

[Wall. Summit Hill, St. Paul.]






[Tee shirt on a stump. Hamline-Midway, St. Paul.]

ONE Client At

A Time. Thank you!

[Door. Delano.]


Lampposts #28


[Arden Hills.]

[Park Rapids.]


[Highland, St. Paul.]

[Northeast, Minneapolis.]

[Highland, St. Paul.]

[Somewhere in Japan.]

[Tokyo, Japan.]


Signs of the Times #177



[Window. Cedar Avenue, Minneapolis.] 









[Chalkboard. Location forgotten.]


Side Walk


[Boulevard. Location forgotten.]






[Wall. University Avenue, St. Paul.]


is Misused


[Van. Frogtown, St. Paul.]




[Snow shovel. Location forgotten.]

Life is Good

[Pole. Frogtown, St. Paul.]



[Boulevard. Frogtown, St. Paul.]


Notable Quotes #26: Doug Gordon calls the Minneapolis Skyways "Car Infrastructure"


In a recent episode of the War on Cars podcast, hosts Sarah Goodyear and Doug Gordon mentioned the Minneapolis skyway system as an example of car infrastructure. They were talking about the incredibly stupid Las Vegas convention center tunnel project, and someone asked what they would think about the tunnel project if it was intended for bicycles rather than cars.

Here's the relevant discussion:

Sarah: I gotta say, I would not want to see this project regardless of what was moving through it. It if it were for bikes and peds, it’s so over-engineered. Bikes and peds can move along the surface of the planet quite easily. If  it’s there, in the Las Vegas area, maybe it’s a question of if it’s too hot? Maybe there could be shade structures, I don’t know. But the idea that you need to bore a tunnel through the earth for people to walk across a 2 mile expanse I do not support this idea.

Doug: I tend to think that things like tunnels for bikes, or like the skyways in Minneapolis, even though they’re billed as infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians, ultimately they’re just another form of car infrastructure. They just keep the pedestrians away from the roads. They done’t have a right to be there, so let’s build this really expensive pedestrian bridge for them. For example, I would watch something like that and just say, “fix the streets.” 

How hard can this be? Why are we spending $50M digging a tunnel when I have to take a ramp down there and build this narrow thing, when I probably could just take a straight shot across on the nearest roadway. But Vegas like so many sunbelt cities is just car sewers everywhere. 

I think this is right on. Skyways were pitched and built as car infrastructure in the 1950s, and they remain that way today, forming an excuse for downtown Minneapolis leaders to continue to ignore the street.


Editorials Transformed #2

[In which a dumb editorial is run through a GPT-2 machine-learning AI to generate new text. Lines from the actual editorial are marked in red; everything else is written by the computer program. This one is from Joe Soucheray.]

In our year of hanging on, we followed all the rules, just like other businesses trying to make a buck. We have the sign on the door about masks. And we encouraged social distancing, although that is not difficult with our crowd. In this era of change, we should be able to get everyone we like into your organization, whether it is a business, a party or just a group.

A couple decades ago, there was no problem of being in your organization at all, if you so chose. What is your goal now? What is your goal in life that no person can reach, who does not see life through the eyes of their fellow human beings and who is capable of doing what needs to be done? 

This is a tough question, because this society is really becoming very socialized and is so much like ours. People who are not socialized yet become very socialized. To say, "I am not socialized, but if I see your beautiful faces, then I will make sure they will be welcomed by this community because I will be helping create the socialization that will lead to a truly inclusive society."

I hope that the first person that comes up for that invitation is a strong young lady. She will be the first person that comes up for my invitation. I hope that that is the story of the year, and maybe of future generations. She will be welcomed from all over the world and we will be able to be part of a movement.

The people telling us to get vaccinated are smarter than the people who think it’s a Bill Gates chip-in-the-brain scam. This is the real cost of vaccination — the same one that keeps our kids at risk every single day.

It's the people who buy our vaccines saying: "Look I need a $200 check. I need them, they have my personal information." They don't care about health care, they won't care about vaccine coverage. They're talking about what people on a local doctor's office call "risk."

That sounds good. That sounds like the kind of message they would like the public to take away from their health care. But this email did not come from a state officials representing any of this. In fact, it came from a state agency just like the one we'll be talking about after the election.

We will be there with or without our hut. This state could not survive two summers in a row without the Fair. It would have done us in. We would lose our being, lose the very sense of ourselves. No politician, dials be damned, would take that risk. We don’t know why, and that unanswered question is part of the magical mystery, but the Fair is who we are. One and only our head lies on the grass, alone, in the forest. Each year, at the end of these two winters, our race starts out the same:

And then comes winter. The days are lengthening, each year, just a little longer.

It might be the most unselfish summer of a generation. Each one of them's parents came here, and there were other families, too, of that time. There used to be an old woman in the town square here, with a long-bellied hair, the best of whom had come back from her day journey to live in a little country house in the backwoods of a great county, so, the two summer children, had seen the fair. And it was the first summer that the Fair never came for them, with any wonder. Because now the people in the village don't call them witches. On their feet, they wear the black or white hoods that now go down to their necks on the white.

We are still waiting for our State Fair application approval. It is unlikely to arrive. Over the years, some of us have applied to sell a variety of concoctions, including my famous bologna, tomatoes and onions served in a paper boat. That didn’t pan out.  We are already looking to be sold the rest. A new website has been created, and it is going to be fun work.  It has been a very interesting experience getting to taste, and to try some of the very latest, very new fruits.

This weekend, I will be working at my local store to make this amazing ice cream. I will be trying to make this delicious ice cream with just a few ingredients.  A single piece of bacon from the shop—and I think this bacon should be—with more bacon in it to add some texture. Here in [Saint Paul], bacon is hard to find. It comes from a land of fat, and meat does not come easy!  While cooking, I cook on an egg and the bacon will fall out. This is so easy, you do not have to wash your hands often!

 Also, I will try to cook one piece of bacon a day and serve it up warm. That would be fun. 


Open Letter to the St. Paul Planning Commission on Eliminating Parking Minimums

[City regulations forced Metro State University to tear down three homes here and expand their parking lot, even though they did not need or want to do so.]

Dear Commission:

To work towards equity in St. Paul, we need to eliminate parking minimums. Full elimination is the simplest choice on the table, and I think the Commission should approve it and send it to the City Council with strong support. Doing so will help our city become more equitable and resilient and a leader on social justice, affordable housing, and climate action.

Removing parking minimums will cost the city of St. Paul nothing, and in fact free up lots of time for city staff to address many larger problems. Here are six key reasons why we need to remove these requirements to help make our city more just, fair, and equitable. 

1. All the people who do not drive

There are so many people who live in St. Paul who do not drive a car. Some cannot due to the high cost of ownership and maintenance, and others due to age, disability, or other barriers.

Each time we require a home or business to provide a parking spot, it adds a hidden tax burden for all of these people. We should not be asking the most vulnerable people in our city to subsidize those with the most wealth and mobility. 

2. Reduce housing costs

Providing housing for people must always be a priority when compared to providing housing for cars. And yet requiring expensive parking spaces for every new home in the city adds a huge cost for renters and homeowners in St. Paul, something like $15,000 per parking space. 

St. Paul should not have laws on the books that make our homes more expensive. In order to reduce housing costs across the board and across St. Paul, we need to give people the flexibility and choice about how to provide car storage. With home prices skyrocketing, this is one easy step the city can take to help out people struggling to afford a place to live   

3. Make it easier for small businesses

Over the years, required parking minimums have surely stopped thousands of small businesses from getting off the ground in St. Paul. These requirements are a barrier to small business owners, and instead make it more likely that large corporations and chains will dominate our city's economy, as these companies can more easily afford to buy and maintain the required large parking lots. Forcing every entrepreneur to spend tens of thousands of extra dollars, or go through the time consuming process of land acquisition, keeps many business from starting up or expanding. This is especially true for communities of color trying to start businesses in St. Paul.

If we can get rid of this costly regulation, and make parking more flexible for entrepreneurs, we will make it easier for people across the city to start shops, restaurants, or other businesses that can help our city thrive and give people a fair chance at making their own livelihood.

4. Help the tax base

St. Paul needs a robust tax base to pay for basic services like libraries, rec centers, and to fix our streets. Parking lots are the lowest possible value for our city's land. Each time we knock down a home or business to pave another lot with asphalt, we are driving up the taxes for everyone else in the city.

It should not be city policy to make our land less valuable and to raise taxes on everyone. Ending these requirements will help increase the value of the city’s taxable land and make sure St. Paul can afford to keep up with its basic needs.

5. Climate change harms people in the Global South

Globally, it’s people living in poor countries that are going to experience the vast majority of impacts from climate change. By doing what we can in a globally privileged city like St. Paul to reduce our greenhouse gas pollution, we can begin to reduce the harms to the most vulnerable people around the world. 

Each bit of carbon pollution we can eliminate will make it easier for families struggling to survive around the world. Requiring parking spaces is a hidden subsidy for the pollution that is displacing, starving, and impoverishing millions of people. Eliminating these harmful requirements is the least St. Paul can do to being to create a more equitable and just planet.

6. The city can focus on real problems

Having served on the Planning Commission for 9 years, I saw first hand out much city staff time is spent regulating parking minimums. We have dozens of cases per year where variances or other parking-minimum issues come up, and it takes hours and hours of time for our overburdened employees to study this.

There’s a long list of projects these staff could be working on instead of focusing on car storage, everything from economic development to affordable housing policies to incorporating more equitable practices in city approval processes. Let’s free our city workers to address more fundamental problems than requiring parking.


Bill Lindeke


Other Cities of Lakes

Around these parts, everyone says "Minneapolis: City of Lakes” like it's no big deal. After all, we have a few lakes and they are pretty nice. We even put the motto on our stationery.

But did you know there are many claimants to this honorific title? In fact, Minneapolis might not even be one of the top five Cities of Lakes, globally. Let’s look at some of the other contenders.

Place: Pokhara, Nepal - City of Lakes

Population: over 500,000

Number of lakes: At least four good ones

Other distinguishing features: The second largest city in Nepal and the center of its tourism industry, this city has a lot of lakes, including Phewa Lake and Begnas Lake, which both seem awesome. As a bonus feature, they are surrounded by the tallest mountains in the world (!), which seem like a rather striking amenity. People flock to these lakes from all over the world to enjoy them in fancy lakeside hotels before trekking into the mountains.

Not bad for a city of lakes if you ask me! Literally hard to top.

Place: Hyderabad, India  - City of Lakes

Population: at least 8,000,000, and probably many more

Number of lakes: Thousands of lakes (!), but fewer every year

Other distinguishing features: This city is super duper old, over a millennium at minimum. It’s on something of a plateau, and civic leaders went on a tremendous lake-building spree hundreds of years ago where a river or rivers got dammed up and lakes were created willy nilly. Back then, if you threw a rock in the air at random, chances were pretty good it would fall into a lake! 

People seem quite fond of the many many lakes, and some are notable indeed, like Hussein Sagar. But the people of Hyderabad have so many lakes that they seem to have started taking them for granted. The city is growing so fast and unpredictably that the lakes are drying up and all the fish are disappearing. Fewer and fewer lakes each year.

Place: Sudbury, Canada  - City of Lakes (or Ville de lacs)

Population: 160,000

Number of lakes: More than 300

Other distinguishing features: Home of North America’s largest nickel mine and the second-tallest smokestack in the world (which is NOT something you really want to have, by the way), this city has a crap-ton of fine lakes, especially measured on a per capita basis. Lake Wanapetei by itself really puts it on the map: it’s a freakin’ meteorite crater and is ten miles across at one point. Ramsey Lake is almost as big, but like many of the lakes in Sudbury, had the problem of being polluted AF due to the fact that the city itself is predicated on super-toxic mining. In other words, you probably don’t want to swim in it.

Place: Dartmouth, Canada  - City of Lakes

Population: 65,000 

Number of lakes: two dozen

Other distinguishing features: Some excellent lakes in a nice, scenic spot. Dartmouth seems like a nice place. The only catch — it’s not a city any more. Canadians are quite fond of amalgamating things, and cities are no exception. Dartmouth became part of greater Halifax about twenty years ago, at which point it lost any claim to proper municipal status. 

In sum, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia - we’re all good on the lakes front; not so much with the whole city thing any more. 

Place: Hanoi, Vietnam  - City of Lakes

Population: at least 8 million

Number of lakes: at least four or five good ones

Other distinguishing features: This city is kind of a big deal! Not only is Hanoi the capital of a pretty cool country, it has a wild history that involves defeating the United States in a very long and horrible war you might recall. 

Its most popular lake, Hoàn Kiếm Lake, is just wild. It’s surrounded by temples and parks and amazing spots to hang out, and is the site of a 600-year-old national legend where a king found a magic sword there that turned him into a giant that could defeat the Chinese army. There are also other lakes that seem quite nice, with lotus ponds and patios where you can enjoy a beverage and sunset.

Place: Bhopal, India - City of Lakes

Population: almost 2 million

Number of lakes: between two and twelve

Other distinguishing features: This is a cool city that — fun fact! — was home to one of the worst chemical disasters in human history courtesy of Union Carbide corporation. 

Lesser known facts: an ancient king made a bunch of lakes here a thousand years ago and people in Bhopal really like them. While lacking in great names for their lakes (e.g. Upper Lake and Lower Lake) they seem quite nice in other respects. People hang out by the lakes in the daytime and nighttime and there are lots of boats. There are lake festivals, fishing and lots of wildlife. Not bad!


Twin City Message Boards #20

[Somewhere in Japan.]

[Yakushima, Japan.]

[Somewhere in Japan.]

[Somewhere in Japan.]

[Somewhere in Japan.]

[Somewhere in Japan.]

[Kyoto, Japan, probably.]

[Kyoto, Japan, probably.]