The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

April 26, 2009 at 1:52 pm | In links | Comments Off on The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)
  • Article by Bruce Bawer, on why stalwarts of the Left in Europe, gays in particular, are abandoning social-democratic multicultural politics. …But, while things may be ok in Denmark, there are other countries where the backlash is creepy:
    The situation in Spain is a reminder that not all “right turns” are created equal. If the Danes have affirmed individual liberty, human rights, sexual equality, the rule of law, and freedom of speech and religion, some Western Europeans have reacted to the mindless multiculturalism of their socialist leaders by embracing alternatives that seem uncomfortably close to fascism. Consider Austria’s recently deceased Jörg Haider, who belittled the Holocaust, honored Waffen-SS veterans, and found things to praise about Nazism. In 2000, his Freedom Party became part of a coalition government, leading the rest of the EU to isolate Austria diplomatically for a time, and last September, his new party, the Alliance for the Future of Austria, won 11 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections. Or take Jean-Marie Le Pen, who has called the Holocaust “a detail in the history of World War II” and advocated the forced quarantining of people who test HIV-positive—and whose far-right National Front came out on top in the first round of voting for the French presidency in 2002. The British National Party (BNP), which has a whites-only membership policy and has flatly denied the Holocaust, won more than 5 percent of the vote in London’s last mayoral election. Then there’s Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest), formerly Vlaams Bloc, whose leaders have a regrettable tendency to be caught on film singing Nazi songs and buying Nazi books. In 2007, it won five out of 40 seats in the Belgian Senate.

    tags: bruce_bawer, city_journal, immigration, multiculturalism, islam, feminism, europe

  • It starts as a photo-essay, but this being the Tyee, the comments muscle their way in to center stage, too. (An aside: I’m getting fed up with all the negative commentary that craps all over all newspaper – including Tyee and my local paper, Times-Colonist – articles that allude to anything creative, innovative, or full of change. It brings out all the usual suspects, who waste no time burying a good idea under cyncism and negativity. Ugh.)

    tags: thetyee, vancouver, eco_density, architecture, green_buildings, futurismo

  • From the article’s “snapshot”:
    Research proves attractive things work better. How we think cannot be separated from how we feel. The next time a boss, client, or co-worker scoffs at the notion that beauty is an important aspect of interface design, point their peepers here.

    tags: design, aesthetics, beauty, affect, psychology, usability, userinterface

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Comment on Kevin Kelly’s “4 Arguments Against Technology”

April 26, 2009 at 2:33 am | In comments, ideas, innovation | 4 Comments

I just responded to Kevin Kelly‘s 4 Arguments Against Technology. He’s compiling a list, which he wants to flesh out – so that he can write better arguments in defense of technology. So far he has 1. Contrary to nature; 2. Contrary to humans; 3. Contrary to technology itself; 4. Contrary to God.

I added the following, which (in keeping with the “contrary” theme) could perhaps be dubbed “Contrary to staying the same”:

Another anti-technology argument I’ve sensed is that technology brings change, and therefore is destabilizing. Technology is opposed because, by facilitating change, it appears to destabilize important things like community, shared history, relationships.

“Facilitating change” is another aspect of innovation. We can’t live without it, but people love it and hate it simultaneously.

Why would people be uncomfortable about change? (My field is, loosely, urban ecologies, where the change-hating species NIMBY is well-represented, so I run into the anti-change way of thinking all the time…) I think change swings both ways: toward growth or toward decay. The problem is that we reach a certain age and think we can have stasis (no change). But stasis just masks decay (which is bad change). Of course stasis (masked decay) can look so much more comfy than growth (which takes work, but is good change). Growth or decay, life or death: stasis is not an option.

Biology, perhaps, is nature’s technology?

Technology is a constant reminder (because it facilitates change) of the two options (growth or decay), both of which are painful (although growth is better).

What do you think?

Notes: Traffic volume, hormone levels

April 25, 2009 at 2:22 am | In notes, transportation, victoria | Comments Off on Notes: Traffic volume, hormone levels

When I was at yesterday’s Committee of the Whole at City Hall, I listened to the City’s engineers talk about cars and vehicular traffic, and how it relates to the question of whether or not to keep Victoria’s Johnson Street Bridge (also known as the Blue Bridge).

Out of the blue (this being the color of the day), their discussion conjured a crazy image in my head. It was as if, instead of describing cars and traffic volume, they were describing hormone levels. In my mind, I could zoom out, look down, and see the little cars driving through streets as though they were chemical hormones discharging through bloodstreams. Potent teenage hormones specifically, which could at best be placated (with roads designed to accommodate them), but which absolutely couldn’t be controlled (or self-controlled) through any kind of limitation.

In youth, love (well, ok: sex) will find a way, and in the traffic engineer’s heart, cars will …well, find a way. Force of nature, better get ready, it seems. (The grown-ups have left the building.)

Engineers + roads = true love.

Blue Bridge blues

April 23, 2009 at 11:30 pm | In johnson street bridge, victoria | 3 Comments

An interrupted week was interrupted even more when I attended this morning’s Committee of the Whole meeting, to listen to city councilors debate the merits of rehabbing v. replacing Victoria’s storied Johnson Street Bridge (aka “The Blue Bridge”), a bascule bridge designed and built by Joseph Strauss in 1924. Strauss also built the Golden Gate Bridge.

In the end, with plenty of encouragement from the Engineering department, which led the presentation, council voted yes on a motion to proceed with the option to replace the bridge.

The problem is, of course, that no one – and I mean no one – has any idea what to replace it with, and that we may well end up with an ugly-bland bridge that looks like an off-ramp bought at Walmart.

But the boys in engineering want to …well, engineer. They said as much, noting that one of the truly biggest challenges in rehabbing the old bridge will be (are you ready for this?) painting it. Yep, painting it. It would have to be wrapped, to prevent solvents and contaminants from entering the harbor, and wrapping it would slow traffic, etc., so painting is a really big problem.

And tearing it down and replacing it with a new bridge is not, because…? Why, exactly?

I’m beyond tired and can’t add links to this post right now, nor include the long email I wrote at 1am last night (today?) to council, stating my piece that I’d like to see the bridge rehabbed.

But stay tuned, I’m not done with this topic yet.

Myers-Briggs says I’ve changed

April 21, 2009 at 6:17 pm | In just_so | 2 Comments

Change is good, right?

Prompted by Gotham Gal’s post about taking an online Myers-Briggs personality test, I decided to give the test another whirl.

I had taken it several years ago and got an INFP result – that’s Introversion, iNtuition, Feeling, Perception. (I wasn’t especially pleased with that, incidentally. Not for any particular reason, but because it struck me as fuzzy.)

Half a dozen years later, it seems I’ve decided that all that Feeling and Perceiving stuff is a luxury of youth (and money, of which I now have much much less than I did when I “was” an INFP).

The current result says I’m an INTJ – that’s Introversion, iNtuition, Thinking, Judgment. Yep, still introverted and intuitive (mebbe), but now thinking and judging a bit harder. My age is showing, perhaps?

The only thing I really like about this new assessment (as described here) is that “we” INTJ types are – drumroll, please – Masterminds.


The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

April 19, 2009 at 6:39 pm | In links | Comments Off on The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

March article: Victoria’s Urban Forest

April 18, 2009 at 7:24 pm | In FOCUS_Magazine, urbanism, victoria, writing | Comments Off on March article: Victoria’s Urban Forest

It has been up on Scribd for a while, but I haven’t yet given this article a more detailed blog post: Victoria’s Urban Forest, published in FOCUS Magazine last month (March 2009).

My description:

Urban forests are more than just trees in cities: they are the complete ecosystem, including the trees and understory shrubbery and plants, soil conditions, water drainage, and wildlife. Victoria has urban forests in its core neighborhoods, but needs to do more to enrich ecosystems within downtown.

This one was a pleasure to write, and was inspired by two workshops at the City of Victoria last January (see PDF press release). At the workshops, Jeremy Gye (of Gye and Associates Urban Forestry Consultants), Dan Marzocco (Supervisor of Arboriculture at the City of Victoria), and others presented detailed information on what the current state of the city’s “urban forest” system is, and how we can think about improving and enhancing it. (See also this PDF, Factsheet: Trees for the Future: Victoria’s Urban Forest Master Plan, as well as the City of Victoria’s webpage, Urban Forest Master Plan.)

The workshop exercise again illuminated the problems around municipal / local government amalgamation. Why? Because the data presented was of course only for the City of Victoria (that’s one municipality embedded in the Greater Victoria region, which in turn is embedded in the Capital Regional District [CRD], which in turn is not what you think because you forgot about the Census Metropolitan Area [CMA]… Note: interesting PDF on revised population statistics for the CRD and the CMA, and here’s a PDF map of what’s the CMA and what’s the CRD outside the CMA [remember that everything within the CMA is also part of the CRD anyway – but now we’re getting away from forests, urban or otherwise!).

Anyway, in this article I had the opportunity to reference Jonah Lehrer‘s recent Boston Globe article, How the city hurts your brain …And what you can do about it, which received a lot of play on the blogs and was even Slashdotted.

What the comments routinely missed was the last part of Lehrer’s extended title, “…And what you can do about it.” As usual, too many folks were jumping up and down that cities are hateful and country living is good, disregarding all the environmental benefits of city living (and the harmful ecological impacts of sprawling far and wide across countrysides). Most of all, they missed that cities are engines of innovation, and that – as per the “…And what you can do about it” teaser – it’s quite possible to design cities so that your brain is rewarded.

That’s definitely the direction I’m interested in moving in.

February article: Housing 2.0

April 14, 2009 at 1:18 am | In affordable_housing, architecture, cities, FOCUS_Magazine, housing, writing | 3 Comments

It took a while for me to catch up with my own goal to blog about the articles I’ve posted to Scribd, but here (finally) is a quick pointer to Housing 2.0, the piece I published in the February 2009 issue of FOCUS Magazine.

It’s a funny title in some ways, but this brief introductory description, followed by the first paragraph, might clarify the intent:

Using the Wikipedia model, along with modular housing, to solve homelessness: As web 2.0 development has shown, people are able to unleash creativity and energy when they see how to move forward and get things done from the bottom up.

Vancouver architect Gregory Henriquez wants to tackle Vancouver’s crisis of homelessness with temporary modular housing. Homelessness, he points out, is growing at a much faster rate than housing can be built, which basically means that housing production should speed up. The problem is that traditional housing construction can’t.

So, the gist is that it’s another attempt on my part to shift our thinking away from “let government do it” to “let the people do it.” If we have a group of people who’ve become systematically beaten down (sometimes through their own bad choices, sometimes through the bad choices others made for them), does it make sense to keep them passive and in a state of learned helplessness, or is it better to help people move – step by step – toward autonomy? (That’s a rhetorical question, by the way. I know what my answer is.) Henriquez tried to make a case for what he called “Stop-Gap Housing,” and it makes a lot of sense in our housing market (which is both imploding in some ways, while still incredibly unaffordable at the same time).

I also, in this article, try to get a “2.0” kind of thinking focused on bricks and mortar (literally), which is something that’s badly, badly needed in land use and development. There have actually been some great historical precedents for that kind of fluid thinking, in particular Archigram’s DIY City concepts (I blogged about this and my ideas and responses around “housing 2.0” here).

I’m not sure the Victoria readership appreciated all the weirdo references I threw out in this piece, but everyone should get out of their comfort zone occasionally, right? 😉

Note: The March article, Victoria’s Urban Forest, is also up on Scribd, and I’ll blog a short post on that one tomorrow.

Time tread

April 13, 2009 at 1:35 pm | In just_so | 4 Comments

Latterly battling a major case of the blues, I’m not helped by what locals refer to as “island time,” a peculiar warp-mode prevalent to Victoria. It eats initiative, lets responses (feedback) fall into the black hole of never-never-land, and generally bogs down any and all projects. The other day in the locker room, I overheard a young woman tell her friend that in Victoria we tread water. The implication was – and she spoke from experience, having worked in Asia and on The Mainland – that in other places all that activity of moving your legs about actually gets you somewhere.

Ok, that’s my grumpy mood in a nutshell. I’m treading water, too. It feels more and more like a really dumb thing to do.

In other news, I am catching up on a couple of things, including posting my FOCUS articles to my page. More on that later.

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