Los Angeles Testing Reflective Roads to Keep Neighborhoods Cool

LA Street Services via Twitter
LA Street Services via Twitter

The urban heat island effect is a well-documented part of city living. Cities are simply hotter than their surrounding regions, thanks to their miles and miles of dark surfaces like asphalt roads, brick buildings, and black tar roofs that absorb heat during the day. When night falls, these hard surfaces release the heat they’ve been taking in all day, keeping cities several degrees hotter than their greener neighbors long after the sun has set. Green roofs and more parklands help, but they can't cancel out the enormous areas of paved surfaces in most metropolises.

In Los Angeles, authorities are combating the hot temperatures of the park-poor city by installing California’s first reflective road coatings designed to reduce temperatures, according to the Los Angeles Daily News and Curbed Los Angeles.

City workers spread CoolSeal coating on a street while residents look on
LA Street Services via Twitter

Called CoolSeal, the gray, reflective coating is designed to keep roads from absorbing heat, cooling their surroundings accordingly. So far, it has been installed on a half-block of road in Canoga Park, and 14 other Los Angeles neighborhoods will be piloting CoolSeal-coated roads by the end of June. To deploy it across the city will cost $40,000 a mile, according to current estimates, and the coating will last about seven years.

There is plenty of asphalt to cover, making the endeavor both expensive and very worthwhile. Los Angeles County has more than 21,700 miles of roads and 200 square miles of parking spaces, resulting in the greatest urban heat island effect in the state of California—increasing temperatures by up to 19°F in some places.

Earlier this year, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced an initiative to lower the average temperature in the Los Angeles area by 3°F over the next two decades. In a two-year test by the city and CoolSeal's manufacturer, the coating decreased average summer temperatures in the parking lot of a sports complex in the Sepulveda Basin recreational area from 160°F to 135-140°F.

A few gray roads could help make sure no one ever tries to fry an egg on the sidewalk again.

Why You Should Never Charge Your Phone in Public USB Ports Without a USB Data Blocker

Creative-Family/iStock via Getty Images
Creative-Family/iStock via Getty Images

The USB charging ports that have popped up at airports, coffee shops, and even outdoor stations around cities in recent years are definitely a lifesaver when your smartphone is down to its last bit of juice. A dead phone is annoying at best and downright dangerous at worst, so it’s totally understandable why you’d jump at the chance to revive it at your earliest opportunity.

However, those public ports might not be as benevolent as they seem. According to Afar, hackers can load malware onto those stations—or on the cables left plugged into the stations—which can then deliver passwords and other data right from your device to the hacker’s. If you have used a public port recently, don’t panic; TechCrunch reports that these cases are fairly rare. Having said that, it’s definitely better not to risk it, especially considering what a nightmare it would be to have your identity stolen.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office explains that the easiest way to prevent becoming a victim of this type of scam, often referred to as juice-jacking, is simply to abstain from using public USB charging ports. Instead, invest in a portable charger, or plug your own charger into an actual AC power outlet.

But unoccupied power outlets are notoriously hard to come by in public places, and portable chargers themselves can also run out of battery life. Luckily, there’s a small, inexpensive device called a data blocker that will enable you to use public USB charging ports without worrying about juice-jacking. It looks a little like a flash drive with an extra slot, but it lacks the two wires usually found in USB chargers that can download and upload data. That way, your device will charge without transferring any information.

You can get two of them for $11 from Amazon here.

[h/t Afar]

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Scope Out the Best Christmas Light Displays in Your Neighborhood With Nextdoor's Cheer Map

can72/iStock via Getty Images
can72/iStock via Getty Images

For many people, driving around the neighborhood to admire the gorgeous light displays (or laugh at the garish ones) is a beloved holiday tradition. But if you live in a big city or only want to check out the most impressive displays, you might not know where to look. That’s where Nextdoor’s Cheer Map comes in.

Nextdoor is a free and private social network that lets you interact with other people in your neighborhood. It’s used in more than 250,000 neighborhoods around the world, and if yours happens to be one of them, you can use the Cheer Map to find the nearest Christmas light displays in your area. The map is crowdsourced and voluntary, so your neighbors can mark their own homes with a holiday lights icon. And if you're eager to flaunt your own festive decorations, you can mark your home on the map, too.

The results will look something like this:

A woman uses Nextdoor's Cheer Map app
Netxtdoor

You can access the Cheer Map online, or via an iPhone or Android device. To get started, click the Cheer Map link, and you’ll be prompted to create a free online account with Nextdoor if you don’t already have one (signing up is quick and easy). Once you’re logged in, a pop-up window will ask whether you plan on decorating for the holidays; select “I will” or “Not this year,” then click "Continue." If you don’t want to participate, you can also select “Skip” to jump ahead to good stuff and access the map of decorated homes in your neighborhood. And that’s it! If you selected “I will,” a colorful light icon will mark your home on the map.

For those who live in small towns, there’s a chance you’ll be the first person in your neighborhood to join the site. Unfortunately, that means your neighborhood won’t be officially “launched” on Nextdoor unless you get nine of your neighbors to sign up. But even if you aren’t able to use the Cheer Map this holiday season, you could help spread the word (and holiday cheer) to get your neighborhood on the map for next year.

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