The (very late) Sunday (Tuesday!) Diigo Links Post (weekly)

November 29, 2011 at 6:12 pm | In links | Comments Off on The (very late) Sunday (Tuesday!) Diigo Links Post (weekly)
  • Thinking about this article in relation to what Virginia Postrel wrote about design panels (as stifling)…
    “The U.S is the most conservative country that there is in terms of supporting design,” said Schwartz, who now practices in London and primarily works in Europe and the Middle East.

    Indeed, panelists noted that both the High Line and Millennium Park were heavily influenced by community members and parks advocates, rather than coming from officials or civic leaders.

    And often, it is the cities themselves that hold back the creation of new and exciting projects. Waldheim noted how cities across the country have been emphasizing the importance of their historic character, and how that may be holding them back.

    “They’ve spent so much time betting on their heritage, their cornice line, their streetlines and their facades,” Waldheim said. In terms of marketing, he says, this has been a success for places like Boston, but it hasn’t helped the city draw in contemporary designs that may be more attractive to younger people, especially the large amounts of college students that move into and then out of the Boston area.

    But as Cox notes, there tends to be a fear of change among residents in cities.

    “Communities generally understand what they have,” said Cox, “and they’re uncomfortable about losing it.”

    tags: design atlantic_cities innovation

  • This is a must-read article about Linda Katehi’s shameful UC Davis fiasco, and about the Occupy movement generally.
    If I had to sum up the attitude of America’s governing classes in one word, I would say: contempt.
    People say that the Occupy movement has not been clear in its demands. I would say that their demands could not be more obvious.
    They want a fairer tax system. They want a sane energy policy that addresses climate change and searches for cleaner ways to power our civilization. They want a government that is not wholly owned by the rich. They want access to justice and education. They want a reasonable hope of getting and keeping a job that gives them a living wage and the ability to invest for the future.

    They want a rational health care system that they can afford. They want government policy that is driven by thoughtful attention to rational research, not ideology. They want a transparent government that holds the powerful accountable. They want a government that understands the importance of investing now in human capital and infrastructure.

    tags: psychology_today michael_chorost ows socialtheory socialjustice uc_davis police

  • Great article by Eric Ries on how Silicon Valley works its biases – without necessarily even knowing it does…
    One last suggestion, which is a technique I learned from my IMVU co-founder Will Harvey. When it’s possible, I always believe in giving a promising candidate who interviewed poorly a chance to demonstrate their skills with a real application exercise. At my last company, for programming jobs, we’d give some candidates a chance to prove themselves by writing a real working program in just a day or two (usually, to write a version of Tetris from scratch). We’d do the evaluations of that code blind – without the person in the room. In some cases, we’d dramatically revise an opinion formed during our live interview. The work product is a more realistic test, although it requires much more work on the part of the candidate.

    tags: eric_ries lean_startup diversity gender_gap race entrepreneurship management

  • Great article, must read. Basically, capitalism disrupted. A small excerpt:
    So for the publishers, the next step was clear: Make the book destroy itself.

    An ebook sold to a library will thus delete itself out of existence after a year, or after X number of times it had been lent out. This is a big source of controversy between publishers and public libraries, maybe because both of them know they’ve found the loose thread that can unravel all of society. After all:

    A. Why can’t the library just buy as many digital copies as are needed for the customers, and keep them forever, if they don’t naturally degrade?

    B. Wait a second. It’s just a digital file. Why not just buy one copy, and just copy and paste it for every customer who wants to read it?

    C. Wait a second. Why do you need the library at all? Why can’t a customer just buy a copy from the publisher and “lend” copies to all of his friends?

    D. Wait a second. If no printing and binding needs to be done, why do you need the publisher? Just buy it directly from the author.

    E. Waaaaait a second. Why buy it? Once the author makes one copy available, why can’t everyone just grab it for free?

    Stop and think about everything that just vanished there. Skyscrapers full of publishing company employees, warehouses full of books, book stores, libraries, factories full of printing presses, paper mills, all the stuff the author bought with his writing money. Gone.

    tags: david_wong cracked futurismo bs socialtheory

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The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

November 20, 2011 at 9:40 pm | In links | Comments Off on The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)
  • Fantastic. Putting imagination back into infrastructure. (How much we could have needed that in Victoria BC, both with regard to the Johnson Street Bridge and with the View + Vancouver streets intersection…
    “The strategy is how to integrate the entire community so that in the end they feel that it is theirs, that they own it. The city and the developers start to fall away in the background. If that happens then you’ll probably have a successful project.”

    Aquino says that these strategies haven’t really been figured out yet. Public-private partnerships seem to be important for maintaining new parks, but initial funding can be hard to come by. When infrastructure projects are necessary, Aquino says the money will come through. Making that money work harder to create more than a new alleyway or drainage canal is a strategy more cities are likely to take.

    tags: landscape_architecture landscape_infrastructure infrastructure cities urban_renewal urban_parks

  • More on Amazon.
    One thing is certain, however. Publishers are in trouble. They think their problem is that they are losing their retailers. But the real danger is that, over time, they are going to lose their authors as well. No wonder they are afraid of Amazon.

    tags: virginia_postrel amazon books publishing

  • Cool. Customer service. Niche. Go.
    Daniel Goldin, the owner of the Boswell Book Company, lavished her with advice over dinner at Beans and Barley, a health-food cafe on the city’s East Side. Put the children’s section as far away from the front door as possible. Hang signs from the ceiling, and customers will buy whatever is advertised on them. And make your store comforting and inclusive, smart but not snobby.

    “The world has changed so much — it’s sort of everybody against Amazon,” Mr. Goldin said last week. “The customer relationship is way more important than it used to be.”

    Parnassus, like hundreds of other independents across the country, will also sell e-books through Google, to lure the many customers who have shifted to Nooks, Kindles and iPads.

    tags: bookstores ann_patchett karen_hayes nashville nyt books commerce

  • Nice shout-out to Victoria BC architect Franc D’Ambrosio’s Atrium building:
    A transparent ground floor, housing cafes and restaurants, invites people to approach, look in and stay a while. Rain gardens edge the site, a first for a private development in Victoria, catching and cleaning polluted street run-off, and softening the cityscape. The building is organised around the seven-storey wood-clad interior atrium, which introduces daylight into the heart of the structure. The wood, visible from the street night and day through a full-height glass wall at the atrium’s south end, distinguishes the building and invites the public to animate this urban room.

    tags: victoria franc_dambrosio architecture atrium urbanism

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

The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

November 13, 2011 at 2:13 pm | In links | Comments Off on The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)
  • What a huge load of baloney. Iconology at its WORST.
    The critic and columnist Frank Rich wrote about [THIS PHOTO] in the New York Times. He saw in this undeniably troubling picture an allegory of America’s failure to learn any deep lessons from that tragic day, to change or reform as a nation: “The young people in Mr Hoepker’s photo aren’t necessarily callous. They’re just American.”

    In other words, a country that believes in moving on they have already moved on, enjoying the sun in spite of the scene of mass carnage that scars the fine day.
    You’d get an F in my class for this.

    tags: 9_11 the_guardian photography iconology

  • Great idea.
    Though he’s less than a year away from holding two master’s degrees, Tomasulo is planning to stick with CityFabric. He says the t-shirt business is good, but also that he hopes to expand its reach in other ways to help communicate about cities and development.

    “It’s not necessarily just for people who are urban planners or designers or people who live in downtowns,” he says. “The core focus is to engage people in conversation about their place.”

    tags: atlantic_cities t_shirts design cities matt_tomasulo

  • Fascinating documentary video (just 6 1/2 minutes long) on the rise of cycling infrastructure in Holland.
    Besides of the historical resume of the process, it is really important to see that there are critical situations in which we have to change our ways of doing. The key for the Dutch bicycles were the amount of car deaths, the first oil crisis and a past history of bicycle use.

    tags: history cycling infrastructure urbanism cities holland

  • Amen.
    We now know what they didn’t in Eisenhower’s day: it’s possible to remove highways from city centers without ruining either the city or the highway. In fact, both can emerge stronger than before, as they did when Embarcadero Freeway in San Francisco was replaced with an inviting waterfront boulevard. Many other cities now hope to duplicate that success. Earlier this fall the Urban Land Institute released a list of ten urban highways whose days are numbered. Many of these usual suspects have appeared on similar lists released by the Congress for the New Urbanism over the past few years. Moving east to west across the country, here’s a look at ten roads that may not be cutting through cities much longer, as well as some of the plans that might replace them.

    tags: highway_system cities urban_renewal infrastructure traffic atlantic_cities

  • I don’t know about this. Seems too one-sided…
    “Parks,” she says, “can solve the urban real estate crisis.”

    tags: atlantic_cities urban_renewal parks

  • How to run:
    The 100-Up consists of two parts. For the “Minor,” you stand with both feet on the targets and your arms cocked in running position. “Now raise one knee to the height of the hip,” George writes, “bring the foot back and down again to its original position, touching the line lightly with the ball of the foot, and repeat with the other leg.”

    That’s all there is to it. But it’s not so easy to hit your marks 100 times in a row while maintaining balance and proper knee height. Once you can, it’s on to the Major: “The body must be balanced on the ball of the foot, the heels being clear of the ground and the head and body being tilted very slightly forward. . . . Now, spring from the toe, bringing the knee to the level of the hip. . . . Repeat with the other leg and continue raising and lowering the legs alternately. This action is exactly that of running.”

    tags: running jogging health nyt video

    One Millionth Tower is the result of unique collaboration between apartment residents, architects, animators, filmmakers and web developers to re-envision what a declining highrise neighbourhood could be. Through a close collaboration with the Mozilla Foundation – Mozilla, developer of the open source Firefox browser and a pioneer in promoting openness, innovation and opportunity on the web, the HIGHRISE team has created a lush visual story unfolding in a 3D virtual environment. Visitors to the online documentary can explore how participatory urban design can transform spaces, places and minds.

    One Millionth Tower re-imagines a universal thread of our global urban fabric — the dilapidated highrise neighbourhood. More than one billion of us live in vertical homes, most of which are falling into disrepair. Highrise residents, together with architects, re-envision their vertical neighbourhood, and animators and web programmers bring their sketches to life in this documentary for the contemporary web browser — one of the world’s first HTML5/webGL documentaries. And it’s got music by Jim Guthrie and Owen Pallett.

    tags: highrise_movie high_rise movie video documentary architecture katerina_cizek urbanism

    an interactive documentary experiment
    by Katerina Cizek, Mike Robbins + friends
    music by Jim Guthrie, Owen Pallet

    You see them all over the world. More than a billion of us live in highrises. But most of these low- and middle-income buildings are now aging and falling into disrepair.

    Could life in the global highrise be different?

    Take an interactive journey through a virtual landscape, where the power of imagination transforms spaces – and lives.

    tags: high_rise highrise_movie urbanism wired_magazine nfb katerina_cizek video documentary architecture

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

Why seasonal mash-ups are a rip-off

November 9, 2011 at 6:44 pm | In advertising, authenticity, just_so | Comments Off on Why seasonal mash-ups are a rip-off

Yesterday, Sara White tweeted seeing her first Christmas tree in a shop window. She wrote that, coming on so early in the season, it felt like an assault on the eyeballs. I responded that I too intensely dislike marketing’s jump-the-gun approach to flogging “seasonal” wares.

In fact, I really dislike it. (Curmudgeon alert!)

Once upon a time, boys and girls, there was (in the US) this great non-religious always-on-a-Thursday holiday called Thanksgiving, which – pace, ye critics of consumerism – was followed by a Friday that kicked off the official “Holiday Season” (including frenzied shopping, but also – thanks to Martha Stewart – frenzied crafting).

On Thanksgiving Day itself, most stores were closed,  and if you didn’t work in retail, you could look forward to a 4-day weekend because businesses other than retail shut their doors till Monday. While Thanksgiving involved a lot of food preparation (and often travel), which could get hectic, a key point (imo) was that it slowed you down for a brief period. At least it did so for a short spell, before unleashing the concentrated fury, …er, pardon me: excitement, of the December season.

Well, no more.

Not only are most stores open on Thanksgiving, which, in a thankless race to the bottom, they must be to “compete,” but the start of the Holiday Season (ok, let’s call it the Christmas Season) is signaled earlier and earlier.

Some years back when I still lived in Boston, I walked into Lord & Taylor and was confronted by cheap Hallowe’en decorations on one side of the aisle, Christmas do-dads on the other, and a few Thanksgiving centerpieces in …well, the center. Talk about an assault on the eyeballs…

Why is this a rip-off?

The reason these seasonal mash-ups are a rip off is this: they rob you of cadence and of a sense of time.

Sure, our sense of time is likely just some weird construct that’s as artificial as anything else – we all seem to age at different rates, we experience time differently, we’ve all experienced periods when time flew and also others when it seemed to stand still.

So why do I think there’s a cadence – or sense of this likely-fluid thing called time – to which we might want to adhere, at least sometimes? Why not celebrate an 18th birthday when we’re 45, or Christmas in summer, or Thanksgiving in October? The Australians don’t have a problem with Santas on beaches, and Canadians seem to manage with Thanksgiving in October – on a Monday, no less. How do they manage? They pretend it’s Thanksgiving all weekend and just have their “special” meal, like, whenever, man – some do it on Saturday, most on Sunday, a few traditionalists on Monday. It is a seriously boring and disappointing holiday, but American Thanksgiving has gone the same route because of retail pressures: you can’t count on everyone being “free” to celebrate it on Thursday late afternoon anymore.

When we get a big enough group to agree on a time concept, it does make time feel more real, though. Thanksgiving used to be a real time marker: it signaled a brief family time and slowing down, followed by a starting gun for the race to the Holidays. Then, after New Year’s Eve and Day were over, the Season was officially over. If you were Martha, you left for the Bahamas on Dec.26 and came back to the office on Jan.2. (Well, one can dream… And, oh, I plan to celebrate my 18th birthday at the end of next month, heh.)

The freedom to experience time at one’s own pace is great – it’s terrific if you can “do” Thanksgiving on any day of the long weekend! Except it’s not as intense because the tension has gone out of the thing and it feels slack.

But also irritating, because you’re bombarded with a lot of media to “celebrate” the …um, what were we celebrating again? And are we doing it alone or with others?

Well, I posted a “curmudgeon alert” at the outset. Let me know if you think fluid holidays let you dance to your own beat or whether you miss the cadence of fixed Seasons.

Sunday bonus links: all about Occupy Wall Street

November 6, 2011 at 12:30 pm | In crime, guerilla_politics, links, politics | Comments Off on Sunday bonus links: all about Occupy Wall Street

I’m neglecting my blog again, lately just posting my weekly Sunday Diigo Links posts, but on this Sunday, here are a couple of extra links that deserve a spotlight.

These articles focus in some way on the Occupy Wall Street groundswell, which is in danger of being squashed by the stirrup-holders of the financial system (to repurpose a phrase). But the OWS message needs to be heard (and sharpened, versus diluted), as it’s the best bet we have to effect much-needed change.

…Oh, change – that word. Wasn’t that what Obama promised? Whatever happened to that?


First up, two articles by Rolling Stone‘s Matt Taibbi. On October 25 he posted Wall Street Isn’t Winning – It’s Cheating, which (aside from arguing a range of critical points, such as that it isn’t “envy of the rich” that’s driving the OWS movement) offered the following nugget of information. This, folks, totally threw me for a loop:

One thing we can still be proud of is that America hasn’t yet managed to achieve the highest incarceration rate in history — that honor still goes to the Soviets in the Stalin/Gulag era. But we do still have about 2.3 million people in jail in America.

Virtually all 2.3 million of those prisoners come from “the 99%.” Here is the number of bankers who have gone to jail for crimes related to the financial crisis: 0.

Millions of people have been foreclosed upon in the last three years. In most all of those foreclosures, a regional law enforcement office — typically a sheriff’s office — was awarded fees by the court as part of the foreclosure settlement, settlements which of course were often rubber-stamped by a judge despite mountains of perjurious robosigned evidence. [emphasis added]

That means that every single time a bank kicked someone out of his home, a local police department got a cut. Local sheriff’s offices also get cuts of almost all credit card judgments, and other bank settlements. [emphasis added] If you’re wondering how it is that so many regional police departments have the money for fancy new vehicles and SWAT teams and other accoutrements, this is one of your answers.

What this amounts to is the banks having, as allies, a massive armed police force who are always on call, ready to help them evict homeowners and safeguard the repossession of property. But just see what happens when you try to call the police to prevent an improper foreclosure. Then, suddenly, the police will not get involved. It will be a “civil matter” and they won’t intervene.


The point being: we have a massive police force in America that outside of lower Manhattan prosecutes crime and imprisons citizens with record-setting, factory-level efficiency, eclipsing the incarceration rates of most of history’s more notorious police states and communist countries.

But the bankers on Wall Street don’t live in that heavily-policed country. There are maybe 1000 SEC agents policing that sector of the economy, plus a handful of FBI agents. There are nearly that many police officers stationed around the polite crowd at Zucotti park. (more)

Please read the whole article. Breathtaking.

Call me naive, but I had no idea that local (US) police forces were benefiting from this crisis – and that this means, as per the ever-useful “follow the money” mantra, they are corrupted by the financial crisis. I had heard that private corporations “contract” police services in NYC (with the tax-paying public holding the bag for police insurance, no less), but I had no idea that police departments were effectively skimming off the top of the foreclosure/ eviction crisis. This is so wrong.

…If the cops wore logos on their uniforms that identify all the corporations overtly or covertly paying for their services, they too would look like race car drivers…

Well, that’s a real nail in the coffin of democracy. You have to wonder whether the financial industries realize how dangerous their game is. As Taibbi points out in his article, Americans have never resented the rich – we’ve adulated them. We love Horatio Alger stories, we believe in bootstrapping. And we believe in winning. But we hate cheaters – and by making cheating into their actual modus operandus, these guys are shaking down the whole country. What a dangerous and rotten game, and how unworthy of America.

Taibbi’s other article of note is his take-down of NYC’s Mayor: Mike Bloomberg’s Marie Antoinette Moment. This is another breathtaking read – Taibbi isn’t just a great writer, he’s absolutely fearless. I guess my take-away from this piece was that it isn’t the “anonymous” protesters who are wearing the masks – it’s people like Bloomberg. And Taibbi’s article reveals Bloomberg’s true face (one that’s beholden to the banking industry and its friends, not to the people he’s supposed to be serving). As Taibbi puts it:

Well, you know what, Mike Bloomberg? FUCK YOU. People are not protesting for their own entertainment, you asshole. They’re protesting because millions of people were robbed, by your best friends incidentally, and they want their money back. (source)

Seems it’s time to stop mincing words. President Obama, where are you in all this?

Speaking of Obama, we need a Teddy Roosevelt. See Simon Johnson: ‘We Are Looking Straight Into The Face Of A Great Depression’ – not for the faint of heart. Everywhere, it seems, people with brains and expertise are saying: hold on, this can’t continue. The “this” in question is the privatization of profit and the socialization of risk and losses. Why does it continue?

Oh, wait… follow the money… Which brings me to my last link, Guy Dauncey‘s November editorial in his Earth Future newsletter, Nailing the Jello to the Door.

The “door” Dauncey refers to is the door on which Martin Luther nailed his Reformation theses on October 31, 1571. Luther had clear theses, not jello – much of what’s happening with the Occupy Wall Street protests articulates the demand for Reformation (reform) as jello (and that’s where writers like Taibbi et al. are doing such important work, because they’re pointing out that there are clear rallying points – theses – for reform).

Dauncey notes that the #1 demand for OWS should be “get the money out of politics”:

In America, there is clear justification for articulating the Number #1 demand as “Get the money out of politics!”. The corruption of American politics by money is legend. So let’s say it is successful, and Americans achieve what Canada has already done.

Most Americans have no idea that Canadian political parties are publicly funded based on their share of the vote at the last election, and that no-one, whether billionaire or broom-pusher, can donate more than $1,000 to a party.

It is due to controls like this that Canada’s banking regulators are not controlled by the banks, and that Canada did not experience the sub-prime mortgage scandal that is causing such chaos and tragedy in America.

Canada’s tragedy is that Harper’s Conservative government is planning to abolish this very constraint, so one of our demands here in Canada must be “Keep the money out of politics!” (source)

But, as Dauncey notes, Canada has similar problems as America: poverty, inequality, corporate influence. It’s still a follow the money question. Referencing an earlier infographic in New Scientist, Dauncey notes that:

A new analysis by complex systems theorists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology of the relationships between 43,000 transnational corporations has identified a core of 1318 interlocking companies which control 80% of the world’s global operating revenues.

Within these, 147 tightly knit companies (1% of the core) control 40% of the wealth. Most are financial institutions such as Barclays Bank, JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, but the top ten also includes companies that almost nobody has heard of such as FMR, AXA and Capital Group Companies.

Furthermore, most or all of these companies operate with off-shore tax havens where they hide their wealth and avoid paying taxes. They are like Jello – if you try to pin them down, they simply move their money somewhere else, managed by anonymous trusts that no-one has the power to investigate or control. Collectively, they are a three-foot wide lump of Jello, and our regulatory powers are a single thumb. [emphasis added]

So what could crack the core of the problem and nail the Jello to the door? We need to capture the flight capital and close down the world’s tax havens, aided by a Tax Evasion Complicity Law which would make it a criminal offense to knowingly serve as a fund manager, accountant, trustee, lawyer or corporate nominee for a known tax evader.

And that last suggestion – which would strike at the heart of a global ecosystem that now feeds off that lump of jello – is probably what makes reform so difficult. Clamped tightly to the jello teat, weaning will be a challenge.

Infographic from New Scientist, "Revealed – the capitalist network that runs the world "

The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

November 6, 2011 at 10:50 am | In links | Comments Off on The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)
  • Intriguing:
    One of the most memorable lines in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind is Suzuki-roshi’s statement, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.” Suzuki didn’t want his senior students to take a seat on the cushion each morning feeling like Zen adepts who had been there and done that. He wanted them to approach meditation with the open-minded curiosity of an amateur trying it for the first time. Apple devices, you might say, are sophisticated tools for evoking, supporting, and sustaining shoshin, beginner’s mind.

    tags: steve_jobs apple zen steve_silberman neuroscience buddhism

  • Forceful critique of Amazon, not as book publisher, but as book retailer. Eg.:
    Writing has become badly debased when a $4.99 e-book is thought overpriced, but people will line up at six in the morning in front of an Apple store to pay $499 for the skinny tablet to read it on.

    tags: amazon thad_mcilroy publishing e-books

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