Ramblings & ephemera

A mummified body in front of a TV

From Reuters’ “Mummified body found in front of blaring TV” (17 February 2007): Police called to a Long Island man’s house discovered the mummified remains of the resident, dead for more than a year, sitting in front of a blaring television set. The 70-year-old Hampton Bays, New York, resident, identified as Vincenzo Ricardo, appeared to […]

A summary of Galbraith’s The Affluent Society

From a summary of John Kenneth Galbraith’s The Affluent Society (Abridge Me: 1 June 2010): The Concept of the Conventional Wisdom The paradigms on which society’s perception of reality are based are highly conservative. People invest heavily in these ideas, and so are heavily resistant to changing them. They are only finally overturned by new […]

Should states track cars with GPS?

From Glen Johnson’s “Massachusetts may consider a mileage charge” (AP: 17 February 2009): A tentative plan to overhaul Massachusetts’ transportation system by using GPS chips to charge motorists a quarter-cent for every mile behind the wheel has angered some drivers. … But a “Vehicle Miles Traveled” program like the one the governor may unveil this […]

San Francisco surveillance cameras prove useless

From Heather Knight’s “S.F. public housing cameras no help in homicide arrests” (San Francisco Chronicle: 14 August 2007): The 178 video cameras that keep watch on San Francisco public housing developments have never helped police officers arrest a homicide suspect even though about a quarter of the city’s homicides occur on or near public housing […]

Virtual kidnappings a problem in Mexico

From Marc Lacey’s “Exploiting Real Fears With ‘Virtual Kidnappings’ ” (The New York Times: 29 April 2008): MEXICO CITY — The phone call begins with the cries of an anguished child calling for a parent: “Mama! Papa!” The youngster’s sobs are quickly replaced by a husky male voice that means business. “We’ve got your child,” […]

Origins of the interstate highway system

From Robert Sullivan’s “An Impala’s-Eye View of Highway History” (The New York Times: 14 July 2006): Another traveler, Dwight D. Eisenhower, spent two months in 1919 driving a military convoy across the country; the shoddy roads left a lasting impression on him. After World War II he studied Hitler’s autobahn and concluded that the American […]

Favelas, the slums of Rio De Janeiro

From Alex Bellos’s “Coke. Guns. Booty. Beats.” (Blender: June 2005): In the slums of Rio De Janeiro, drug lords armed with submachine guns have joined forces with djs armed with massive sound systems and rude, raunchy singles. Welcome to the most exciting—and dangerous—underground club scene in the world. … Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is the […]

Unix vs Windows: NYC vs Celebration

From David HM Spector’s Unfinished Business Part 2: Closing the Circle (LinuxDevCenter: 7 July 2003): The UNIX world is the result of natural evolution, not the outgrowth of a planned community. UNIX is a lot like New York City: dynamic, always reinventing itself, adapting to new needs and realities. Windows is a lot like Celebration, […]

The Vitruvian Triad & the Urban Triad

From Andrés Duany’s “Classic Urbanism“: From time to time there appears a concept of exceptional longevity. In architecture, the pre-eminent instance is the Vitruvian triad of Comoditas, Utilitas, e Venustas. This Roman epigram was propelled into immortality by Lord Burlington’s felicitous translation as Commodity, Firmness and Delight. It has thus passed down the centuries and […]

Joan Didion on life in Los Angeles

From Marc Weingarten’s “The White Album“: Among the many piercing flashes of insight to be found in [Joan Didion’s] The White Album’s essays, many of which were written between 1968 and 1979 for publications like Esquire, The Saturday Evening Post, and The Los Angeles Times Book Review, is one overarching fact of L.A. life – […]

It’s easy to track someone using a MetroCard

From Brendan I. Koerner’s “Your Cellphone is a Homing Device” (Legal Affairs: July/August 2003): Law enforcement likewise views privacy laws as an impediment, especially now that it has grown accustomed to accessing location data virtually at will. Take the MetroCard, the only way for New York City commuters to pay their transit fares since the […]

Smallest state park in the USA

From Gideon Lewis-Kraus’s “The Water Rush” (Oxford American): Anywhere else, the four and a half acres of muddy, flat grass cross-hatched by asphalt paths and crowned by a green-pink-and-white gazebo would be the town park. Here in Berkeley Springs[, West Virginia], population 663, “the country’s first spa,” it is a state park. It is, in […]

The Creative Class & the health & growth of cities

From Richard Florida’s “The Rise of the Creative Class“: [The key to economic growth lies not just in the ability to attract the creative class, but to translate that underlying advantage into creative economic outcomes in the form of new ideas, new high-tech businesses and regional growth. To better gauge these capabilities, I developed a […]

Feral cities of the future

From Richard J. Norton’s “Feral cities – The New Strategic Environment” (Naval War College Review: Autumn, 2003): Imagine a great metropolis covering hundreds of square miles. Once a vital component in a national economy, this sprawling urban environment is now a vast collection of blighted buildings, an immense petri dish of both ancient and new […]

Secret movies in the Paris underground

From Jon Henley’s “In a secret Paris cavern, the real underground cinema” (The Guardian: 8 September 2004): Police in Paris have discovered a fully equipped cinema-cum-restaurant in a large and previously uncharted cavern underneath the capital’s chic 16th arrondissement. Officers admit they are at a loss to know who built or used one of Paris’s […]