Rocket Bomber - Links and Thoughts

Links and Thoughts 37: 27 October 2014

filed under , 27 October 2014, 08:05 by

Oscar Peterson – C Jam Blues

Good Morning.

I’m in a backlog-clearing-mode so this is going to be a much longer link dump carefully curated set of thought-provoking articles. All of these would normally post under the Cities and Citizens tag — urban planning and development being one of my more prominent ‘hobby’ interests.

[No diary entry for this post, but there is a book recommendation this week — somewhere down there, after all the links.]

“Restaurants are the leading force behind reclaimed waterfronts and regenerating neighborhoods, and are a key component of mixed-use development and urban retail. When a part of the city puts itself on the map, it’s often because of a wave of trendy eateries have opened there.”
Restaurants Really Can Determine the Fate of Cities and Neighborhoods, Anthony Flint, 22 July 2014, Citylab []

“But Tennessee is one of 20 states with laws on the books that pose barriers to community broadband efforts—laws that in many cases were pushed by cable and telecom industry lobbyists. Thanks to Tennessee state law, EPB is prohibited from offering internet and video services to any areas outside its service area.
EPB is asking the federal government to use its authority to preempt that state law, so that it can bring its service to the underserved, largely rural areas surrounding Chattanooga. Wilson made a simultaneous filing Thursday. “
Two Cities Asked the FCC to Bypass State Laws Banning Municipal Fiber Internet, Sam Gustin, 24 July 2014, Motherboard []

“Some say that cities are on the rise, and suburbs are declining. I don’t think it is that simple. Rather, the new dream is based on the idea of ‘Place.’ When you go to a community with layers of history, with charm and character, where many people gather, you react emotionally and psychologically. That feeling, which everybody has experienced, is known as ‘sense of place.’ That sense has value. After six or seven decades of sprawl, many people seek it. Whether they get it in a central city, small city, suburb, or small town doesn’t matter.”
Why ‘place’ is the new American dream, Robert Steuteville, 1 Aug 2014, Better Cities & Towns []

“Over the past few years, I’ve read a lot of articles and blog posts proclaiming that cities are back: that millenials want to drive less and live in cities, and that suburbs as we know them may even be dying.
“I agree that many consumers demand more walkable development, both in cities and in suburbs. But even in relatively prosperous, safe cities, the political obstacles to meeting this demand are enormous.”
Mission Accomplished? Not Yet, Michael Lewyn, 5 August 2014, Planetizen []

“Almost all movement in a major city now begins with a phone. Mobile apps and interfaces help people do everything from sort through route options to locate an approaching bus or hail a taxi or for-hire vehicle. While cities and transportation regulators have released data and encouraged innovation through contests and hackathons, no U.S. city has aggressively pursued development of an integrated app that enables users to plan, book, and pay for trips across multiple travel modes. Instead, it’s the likes of Uber and Google Maps and CityMapper and RideScout that have demonstrated what is possible, and controlled the movement market to date.”
The Most Important Transportation Innovation of the Decade Is the Smartphone, Eric Goldwyn, 4 September 2014, Citylab []

“However improbable it might have seemed twenty, five, or even two years ago, Detroit could well be on the verge of a major turnaround that could make it one of the biggest success stories in urban America over the next decade. Yes, that goes against conventional wisdom: The standard narrative for Detroit has been about a bankrupt, vacant, decaying, post-industrial wasteland; an environmental, social and economic disaster. Detroit has been the quintessential ‘shrinking city,’ the poster child for everything that has gone wrong with the post-industrial Midwest.
“(I never did buy the ‘shrinking’ part, by the way. What really happened was a hollowing out, as central-city residents fled for the suburbs. The population of metropolitan Detroit has actually been close to stable over the past few decades due to suburban growth offsetting inner city losses. But there has been a lot of truth to the rest of the story.)”
Is it time to change the narrative about Detroit?, Kaid Benfield, 8 Sep 2014, Better Cities & Towns []

“Former Indianapolis Mayor Bill Hudnut used to like to say that ‘you can’t be a suburb of nowhere.’ This is the oft-repeated notion has been a rallying cry for investments to revitalize downtowns in America for three decades or so now. The idea being that you can’t have a smoking hole in your region where your downtown is supposed to be. This created a mental based on a donut. You can’t let downtown become an empty hole.”

“In this model, the old donut is inverted. What used to be the ring of health – the outer areas of the city and the inner suburban regions – are now struggling. Whereas the downtown is in pretty good shape, and the newer suburban areas are booming.”

“We’ve got three decades of experience in downtown revitalization, but much less in dealing with this newer challenge zone. I’ve said that suburban revitalization may prove to be the big 21st century ‘urban’ challenge. This is where it is happening in many cases. These areas have an inferior housing stock (often small post-war worker cottages or ranches), sometimes poor basic infrastructure, and are sometimes independent municipalities that, like Ferguson, MO, are often overlooked unless something really bad happens. Unlike the major downtown, they are often ‘out of sight, out of mind’ for most regional movers and shakers.”
The New Donut, Aaron M. Renn, 14 September 2014, Urbanophile []

“The transportation futures of these cities will largely be defined by whether these new efforts pan out or fall flat. Before elected officials and transportation authorities in these cities look too far ahead, they might be wise to glance back. During the past 50 years, citizens in Houston, Atlanta, and Los Angeles rejected transit plans only to see elements of those same plans re-emerge in today’s growing systems. By delaying the development of mass transit within their most densely populated corridors, in some cases for decades, all three cities missed opportunities to expand mobility, contributing to many of the problems they face today.”
What Old Transit Maps Can Teach Us About a City’s Future, Kyle Shelton, 10 October 2014, Citylab []

“One of the myths of Detroit is that it’s a frontier town — wide open, and a place where anyone can make a mark. Like a lot of frontiers, though, fences have already been laid, even if you can’t see them. Much of the downtown that is south of Adams Street is owned by Dan Gilbert. Gilbert made his fortune by starting Rock Financial, an internet-based mortgage company. He sold it to Intuit in 1999, at the peak of the first dot-com boom, for $532 million, and then, after the bubble burst, bought it back for $55 million. By then Intuit had renamed it Quicken Loans, which it’s still called today.”

“Walking around downtown during business hours, you get the feeling that someone has assembled a collection of young white men in v-neck sweaters and stylish eyeglasses and scattered them over the urban street grid. That someone would be Dan Gilbert.”
Behind every crumbling downtown is a billionaire who wants to save it, Heather Smith, 7 October 2014, Grist []
via Can Billionaires Revitalize Decayed Downtowns?, Philip Rojc, 17 October 2014, Planetizen []


“These dismissals, which focus on gentrification as culture, ignore that Lee’s was a critique of the racist allocation of resources. Black communities whose complaints about poor schools and city services go unheeded find these complaints are readily addressed when wealthier, whiter people move in. Meanwhile, long-time locals are treated as contagions on the landscape, targeted by police for annoying the new arrivals.
“Gentrifiers focus on aesthetics, not people. Because people, to them, are aesthetics.
“Proponents of gentrification will vouch for its benevolence by noting it “cleaned up the neighbourhood”. This is often code for a literal white-washing. The problems that existed in the neighbourhood – poverty, lack of opportunity, struggling populations denied city services – did not go away. They were simply priced out to a new location.”
The peril of hipster economics, Sarah Kendzior, 28 May 2014, Aljazeera America []

“Urban scholars rail against the process of gentrification and its destruction of working-class communities. We read about the waves of gentrifiers and the kinds of cafes, boutiques and new amenities that they bring. We express worry to our peers that the city is going to become a bastion of elitism or a generic suburb stripped of diversity. Often, we treat gentrification as a contemporary form of urban class and racial warfare (Smith, 1996). As urbanists, however, we increasingly notice an elephant sitting in the academic corner: many (dare we say most — ‘mainstream’ and critical) urbanists are gentrifiers themselves. As Brown-Saracino (2010: 356) suggests, ‘many of us have firsthand experience with gentrification’. But what difference has this made on our research? Very little. We have created an artificial distance in our analysis because we do not examine our own relationship to the data.”
A Gentrifier? Who, Me?, Aaron M. Renn, 24 July 2014, Urbanophile []

“[T]he billion dollar question for economic developers and planning agencies throughout the United States: is urban revitalization of neighborhoods possible without the subsequent gentrification and displacement of current residents?
“Jared Green asks this important question in a recent post on the American Society of Landscape Architect’s blog, The Dirt. The most recent wave of “urban revitalization” that began in the 1990s to increase wealth in cities is noted by supporters as benefiting everyone, while critics are increasingly calling these initiatives gentrification.”
Is Urban Revitalization Possible Without Displacement and Gentrification?, Maayan Dembo, 18 October 2014, Planetizen []

Atlanta – for better or for worse, my home town:

“However, despite some areas being ripe for development, much of the growth around the airport has been piecemeal, failing to leverage the airport as an economic engine, or to seamlessly connect to the airport or welcome visitors to a world-class city and region. Local residents and workers desperately seek a higher quality of life, better access to transportation options and more livable communities. Complicating the area’s development is the fact that three counties and several municipalities including Atlanta, Hapeville, College Park, East Point and Forest Park all have strong, and often competing, interests in regard to airport-area growth.”
Atlanta’s untapped potential for creating a thriving aerotropolis, Garrett Hyer, 16 July 2014, Better Cities & Towns []

“‘People have been looking at these parking lots for decades wondering why they were just sitting there,’ says Amanda Rhein, senior director of transit-oriented development at MARTA. ‘It’s clear there’s a significant amount of in-town resurgence, based on the development that’s happening here, and the majority of it is within close proximity of our stations. So this is really just MARTA finally participating in that activity.’”
The Atlanta Transit Agency’s Big Plan to Convert Parking Lots into Housing, Eric Jaffe, 21 July 2014, Citylab []

“The highly-anticipated plan to turn Bellwood Quarry into Westside Reservoir Park, a proposed 350-acre greenspace in northwest Atlanta, has been in the works for the past eight years. Once it’s built – whenever that happens – it’s envisioned to include a 45-acre reservoir, fields for activities, and a clear view of Atlanta’s skyline. And one city councilman wants to add another amenity to that list: a new civic center.
“Earlier this week, Atlanta City Councilman Michael Julian Bond introduced a resolution asking Mayor Kasim Reed to consider replacing the Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center, the 47-year-old city-owned arts and entertainment venue in Old Fourth Ward that’s likely to be sold and redeveloped, with a new facility adjacent to Bellwood Quarry.”
Should Atlanta’s next civic center be built near Bellwood Quarry?, Max Blau, 24 July 2014, Creative Loafing []


Today’s Book Recommendation comes to us via a blurb at Better Cities & Towns:

“We drew inspiration from places as diverse as Detroit, Baroda, Marquette, Flint, Grand Rapids and Traverse City in an effort to chronicle the amazing work that is already underway and provide a blueprint for others moving forward. We believe that the book is equally important for those outside of Michigan as it is for those who reside in the Great Lakes State.”

Economics of Place: The Art of Building Great Communities, from the Michigan Municipal League, 20 September 2014, paperback, isbn 9781929923007

From the publisher’s website:
“This book goes beyond placemaking as a concept, to offer real-world examples of economic drivers and agents of social and cultural change in Michigan’s own backyard. They represent some of the many place-based catalysts that can spark the kind of transformational changes that reinvent and revitalize a community, with tangible payoffs in terms of livability, social and cultural enrichment, and economic development. But most of all, they show us that placemaking is an art not a science, and displays itself in as many shapes, sizes and colors as a community can imagine.”

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Links and Thoughts 36: 14 October 2014

filed under , 14 October 2014, 08:05 by

James Gang – Funk #49

Good Morning.

It’s not a new piece but it was new to me (and likely to you as well): a good long read at the Atlantic on just what Columbus and the rest “discovered” in America -
“Before it became the New World, the Western Hemisphere was vastly more populous and sophisticated than has been thought—an altogether more salubrious place to live at the time than, say, Europe. New evidence of both the extent of the population and its agricultural advancement leads to a remarkable conjecture: the Amazon rain forest may be largely a human artifact”
1491, Charles C. Mann, 1 March 2002, The Atlantic []

“Many people blame this process on human population growth, and there’s no doubt that it has been a factor. But two other trends have developed even faster and further. The first is the rise in consumption; the second is amplification by technology. Every year, new pesticides, new fishing technologies, new mining methods, new techniques for processing trees are developed. We are waging an increasingly asymmetric war against the living world.
“But why are we at war? In the rich nations, which commission much of this destruction through imports, most of our consumption has nothing to do with meeting human needs.”
The Kink in the Human Brain— How Are Humans OK with Destroying the Planet?, George Monbiot, 12 October 2014, AlterNet [republished from]

“Apollo didn’t die; it was killed. The Apollo Program might have continued for many years, evolving constantly to achieve new goals at relatively low cost. Instead, programs designed to give Apollo a future beyond the first lunar landing began to feel the brunt of cuts even before Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. By the time Apollo drew to its premature conclusion – the final mission to use Apollo hardware was the joint U.S,-Soviet Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) mission of July 1975 – NASA was busy building a wholly new space program based on the Space Shuttle. Throwing out the Apollo investment and starting over with Shuttle was incredibly wasteful both in terms of learned capabilities and money.”
The Space Shuttle was fantastic, but c’mon.
Dreaming a Different Apollo, David S.F. Portree, 13 October 2014, Wired Science Blogs – Beyond Apollo []

“What’s going on at Twitter? Not the trendmap which shows whether people are more interested in news of Ebola or The X Factor at any given moment but the social media company itself, where the number of top executive exits has started to trend. Last week it was the turn of Vivian Schiller, the high-profile TV executive recruited less than a year ago to the newly created position of head of news and journalism partnerships. Her resignation follows those of chief operating officer Ali Rowghani and media head Chloe Sladden, two executives she thanked for ‘convincing’ her to join the company in three 140-word farewell notes tweeted last Thursday.
“Yet the fallout from internal conflicts is of less interest and importance than what these departures say about the future direction of a service that has become such an important tool for journalists. If anything, the management meltdown has simply served to highlight an ongoing struggle within Twitter over whether it should largely be a conduit for journalism or PR.”
Can Twitter make money out of breaking news or is it a PR platform?, Jane Martinson, 12 October 2014, The Guardian []

Wait, should this get the Media or the Technology tag?:
“In November 2014, YouTube will open the new YouTube Space New York to give creators resources, tools, and guidance. YouTube users with more than 5,000 subscribers to their channel will have free access to equipment, workshops, and other events at the space. YouTube already has similar studios in Los Angeles, London, and Tokyo.”
YouTube to Open New Space in New York City to Give Creators Resources, Tools, and Guidance, Glen Tickle, 13 October 2014, Laughing Squid []

Music & Technology:
“Native Instruments is trying to kill that image — or part of it, at least. Its new flagship DJ controller, the Traktor Kontrol S8, is its first to feature built-in multifunction LCD displays. You still connect to a laptop running Traktor Scratch Pro, but the onboard LCDs take the place of many tasks that would normally necessitate burying your head in your laptop’s display”
Video and plenty of pretty pictures of the deck at the link -
DJs of the future won’t be staring at their laptops, Chris Ziegler, 13 October 2014, The Verge []

Cities and Citizens:
“Today, those roiling factories, trains and even the very rails they rode upon are long gone. However, the rotting cavern persists, just a stone’s throw from downtown office towers, the city zoo, several multi-billion-dollar art collections and a growing residential neighborhood, all underserved by transit.
“The seemingly endless potential of the defunct rail line has inspired years of talk — but little action. Now, a new federal planning study is raising hopes for the tunnel once again and could hold lessons for other cities coping with the difficult question posed by abandoned infrastructure.”
Hopes Rise Once Again for Abandoned Philadelphia Rail Line, Ryan Briggs, 13 October 2014, Next City []

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Links and Thoughts 35: 13 October 2014

filed under , 13 October 2014, 08:05 by

Jerry Masucci Presents Salsa, Fania All Stars Live at Yankee Stadium, 1973 [1hr 17min]

Good Morning.

Our first link (and also the musical embed from YouTube, above) go to a great conversation I heard on NPR last Friday, remembering and celebrating “salsa dura”, the music created in New York in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, by Peurto Rican immigrants (and others) in what was called Spanish Harlem. 48 minutes of audio at the link:
“Crisp, hard, irresistible music for dancing. Not the softer, romantic salsa of today, but the driving, percussive salsa you could have heard any night down at the Palladium Ballroom. These days, Spanish Harlem Orchestra keeps it hot and alive. Old school. Still irresistible. This hour On Point: the music of Spanish Harlem Orchestra and bandleader Oscar Hernandez, with salsa dura.”
There Is An Orchestra In Spanish Harlem, On Point with Tom Ashbrook, NPR, 10 October 2014

Cities and Citizens:
“Richer people, the researchers found, tend to own single-family homes and drive cars even when they live in highly urbanized neighborhoods. In other words, even though there is a diverse range of suburban and urban neighborhoods, the affluent people who live in them lead relatively similar lifestyles. As the rich move back to cities, they take their preferences for and abilities to purchase larger home or condos and private cars.”
The Fading Distinction Between City and Suburb, Richard Florida, 6 October 2014, City Lab []

“About half of the graduating class of 2014 has already found gainful employment. But a survey by jobs site has found about half of those people are working in jobs that do not require a college degree.
“The survey found that 31% are not working at all, while 4% are in internships and 12% are working at temp jobs. Only 51% of those currently working said their position was related to their college major.
“There’s nothing wrong with starting at the bottom and working your way up – as long as you aren’t carrying a massive student loan balance. In some cases, the first post graduation jobs is simply stop-gap employment – on the way to something better.”
Most employed 2014 college grads in jobs that don’t require degree, Mark Huffman, 9 October 2014, Consumer Affairs []

“Only 44 percent of Americans now say getting a college education is ‘very important.’ That’s down from 75 percent in the same annual poll just four years ago. The real answer is: It depends. If you’re a Columbia grad with a computer-science degree, you can probably write your own ticket. But if you’ve spent six years and gone into debt for a degree in hospitality, you probably won’t get the return on investment that would make it worthwhile. The poll numbers reflect this reality, as people see their children coming out of college and then taking jobs that require no more than a high-school diploma.”
Is college worth it?, Post Editorial Board, 22 September 2014, New York Post []

“There is talk about the poor educational outcomes apparent in our graduates, the out-of-control tuitions and crippling student loan debt. Attention is finally being paid to the enormous salaries for presidents and sports coaches, and the migrant worker status of the low-wage majority faculty. There are movements to control tuition, to forgive student debt, to create more powerful ‘assessment’ tools, to offer ‘free’ university materials online, to combat adjunct faculty exploitation. But each of these movements focuses on a narrow aspect of a much wider problem, and no amount of ‘fix’ for these aspects individually will address the real reason that universities in America are dying.”
How Higher Education in the US Was Destroyed in 5 Basic Steps, Debra Leigh Scott, 16 October 2012, AlterNet []

just one more link this morning, an ‘in case you missed it’:

“The sheer size of the [Mobile Suit Gundam] franchise though, combined with all the twists and turns and alternate timelines, is daunting (to say the least) for the casual anime viewer. All the information you need is available from Wikipedia and other sources, but once again, the volume of material is a huge barrier to entry. Where do you start?
“I still can’t tell you where to start – but I can give you a list:”
Gundam Reference, Rocket Bomber, posted yesterday (12 October 2014).

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Links and Thoughts 34: 10 October 2014

filed under , 10 October 2014, 08:05 by

Maynard Ferguson – Chameleon (Herbie Hancock cover)

Good Morning.

“Last year, Jack White’s Third Man Records and reissue specialists Revenant Records released The Rise and Fall of Paramount Records Vol. 1, a doozy of a box set that included 800 tracks from the early days of the Wisconsin label that launched the careers of everyone from father of the Delta blues Charley Patton to a pre-bandleader Louis Armstrong. It was housed in a lovingly constructed oak ‘cabinet of wonder,’ based on the iconic Victrola VV-50, and took cues from the Arts and Crafts design aesthetic prevalent during the label’s beginnings. It included two books, six 180-gram LP records, a thumb drive containing all the music, and all manner of ancillary material. It was the kind of box set that isn’t easily matched, let along[sic] outmatched.
“But that doesn’t mean Third Man couldn’t try.
“It was never a mystery that there would be a second volume. But we weren’t expecting it to be so impressive in such different ways.”
Jack White Just Curated the Ultimate Box Set of Iconic American Music, Peter Rubin, 9 October 2014, Wired []

“Kevin Kelly was an editor/publisher of the Whole Earth Review, the founding editor of Wired, and is the editor of Cool Tools. At this year’s XOXO Festival, he kicked off the event by sharing his approach to making stuff, the real impact of technology on our lives, the benefits of having time, and the benefit of optimizing your life.”
∙ Video at the link and on YouTube; from the description there: “Recorded in September 2014 at XOXO, an arts and technology festival in Portland, Oregon celebrating independent artists using the Internet to make a living doing what they love. For more, visit”
Kevin Kelly Talks About Making Stuff, Finding the Right Tools, and Having Time, 9 October 2014, Tested []

I love this kind of video — really smart people talking about smart things in digestible chunks (10-30min), too short to be considered a ‘class lecture’ but certainly much longer than just the soundbite or 3 paragraph pull-quote (which is what we usually get). That said, there is a danger in these very short introductions — primarily, in that usually just the one narrative (point of view, side of the argument) is presented, and after a TED-like-talk, you can walk away thinking there’s a solution to the problem when in fact we haven’t even finished defining the problem. Read more:

“The key rhetorical device for TED talks is a combination of epiphany and personal testimony (an ‘epiphimony’ if you like ) through which the speaker shares a personal journey of insight and realisation, its triumphs and tribulations.
“What is it that the TED audience hopes to get from this? A vicarious insight, a fleeting moment of wonder, an inkling that maybe it’s all going to work out after all? A spiritual buzz?
“I’m sorry but this fails to meet the challenges that we are supposedly here to confront. These are complicated and difficult and are not given to tidy just-so solutions. They don’t care about anyone’s experience of optimism. Given the stakes, making our best and brightest waste their time – and the audience’s time – dancing like infomercial hosts is too high a price. It is cynical.”

“Perhaps it’s the proposition that if we talk about world-changing ideas enough, then the world will change. But this is not true, and that’s the second problem.”
We need to talk about TED, subtitled “Science, philosophy and technology run on the model of American Idol – as embodied by TED talks – is a recipe for civilisational disaster”; Benjamin Bratton, 30 December 2013, The Guardian []
∙ quote above presented out-of-sequence to give me that wonderful punchline; that’s my prerogative as an editor and fine so long as I do not misrepresent it (and so, the ellipsis and this gloss right here to tell you it’s not quite the original quote)

Three Words:
Star Wars Battlepod

Cities and Citizens:
“Inspired in part by psychogeography theory (which emphasizes playfulness in travel), a group of researchers from Yahoo! Labs in Barcelona in collaboration with University of Torino sought to add a bit of pep to these services. In a newly released paper, they explore how mapping apps could theoretically generate short walking routes that are more beautiful or quiet than standard offerings.”
What If You Could Choose Between the Fastest Route and the Most Beautiful?, Lex Berko, 17 July 2014, City Lab []

Rabbit Hole:
If you follow this next link, be prepared. You’ll lose a few hours.
what are your favorite blog posts of all time?

Tweet by Emily Gould (@EmilyGould), 3:29 PM 9 October 2014 []


Diary entry for 10 October:

If my citations seem especially labored — as in the xoxo-video-on-YouTube-embedded-on-Tested followed by the-editorial-on-TED-at-the-Guardian with the chopped-and-screwed blockquote, above — let me just note two things for you:

1. Yay for citations! Let’s say you saved this post with a ctrl-c,ctrl-v into a text file and didn’t have the hyperlinks—or plaintext link, for that matter—but with the author, date, and source you can certainly google that at some point later.
2. I’m trying — which is more than you get from a lot of folks on the internet.

I also had to figure out a way to cite a tweet this morning. I found some guidance online [] but you’ll note what I settled on does not follow MLA. I like to think I split the difference between repeating what’s in the embedded tweet and giving enough information (and attribution!) to find/read the original. It’s another case of at least trying to accommodate all the readers — web, mobile, touchscreen, read later apps, broken links 25 years from now when someone, gods know who is reading the archived version of this post on’s Wayback Machine, scrapers stealing my content so you’re reading it on a .cz or .ru somewhere and only have the text because lazy scraper didn’t included any images, links, embeds, or context, and all the folks who just click the link while thinking I’m trying too hard to be pretentious.

I am, of course, overthinking it — but that’s what I do best. And maybe I’m being pretentious too, but I *like* the idea of academically rigorous citation in a blog.

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Links and Thoughts 33: 1 October 2014

filed under , 1 October 2014, 17:37 by

Maceo Parker – Shake everything you’ve got

Good Afternoon.

The great thing about link round-up posts is there generally isn’t a narrative through-line to worry about — each post is a stand-alone, so even long delays between posts might as well be no delay at all, really — and raiding my cache for (slightly) older links is also fine, as an old link is still a good read so long as the stories are new to you.

In light of the Ebay/PayPal spinoff and the introduction of Apple Pay, I thought this article was worth revisiting:
“A decade after the idea was first sketched on the proverbial drawing board, Starbucks is poised to finally let its customers order their coffees from their phones. And the company’s plans for building on its wildly successful mobile app don’t stop there.
“The Seattle-based coffee giant, which said in March that more than 14 percent of purchases in its U.S. stores are paid for through its app, will allow customers in one undisclosed geographic test market to start placing pickup orders from the Starbucks app later this year, according to the company’s Chief Digital Officer Adam Brotman. This should not be confused as an experiment, Brotman made clear. Starbucks is determined to eventually roll out the technology nationwide, no matter how long it takes.”
Starbucks Has Bigger Plans in Mobile Payments Than Most People Realize, Jason Del Rey, 17 July 2014, Re/code []

“Of course, it has its limits. Testing sewage won’t tell you who’s using, or even how much, Holcomb says. You can’t measure whether the concentration changes over time because more people are ingesting certain drugs overall or because a few people are just ingesting more.
“But it can tell you some things according to Banta-Green — trends over time, for example, or variation by day of the week. Hypothesizing that recreational users partake more on weekends while serious users go all week long can also reveal patterns. And other things, like certain diseases or even medication use, can be measured by sewage as well. University of Puget Sound Associate Professor Dan Burgard has used the practice, often called sewer epidemiology, to study how students use Adderall around exams.”
What Sewers Can Reveal About a City, Rachel Dovey, 1 October 2014, Next City []

“But that’s just it, there’s no incentive to try. Likes breed laziness. Why should a site bust its balls and budget producing exemplary pieces of writing when posting the same, tired, gimmicky viral content will guarantee the good times will never end? There’s every reason to lower the bar, and no reason to raise it. That’s why the content business is where it is. The truly remarkable writing is being carted off into high-brow ghettos like Byliner that can’t even afford to keep an editorial staff together, not to mention the New York Times’ well-publicized financial troubles.
“The Internet media world is a maelstrom of homogeneity. Every site’s editorial mission has become the same: Appease the Facebook user no matter what, even if it means becoming glorified content re-branders rather than legitimate news and opinion outlets, even if it means becoming a carbon copy of a thousand other websites all racing each other to the very bottom.”
The Internet has a content diversity problem, Matt Saccaro, 11 June 2014, The Daily Dot []

Doomed to repeat it etc etc:
“Once upon a time wars were fought for fun and profit; when Rome overran Asia Minor or Spain conquered Peru, it was all about the gold and silver. And that kind of thing still happens. In influential research sponsored by the World Bank, the Oxford economist Paul Collier has shown that the best predictor of civil war, which is all too common in poor countries, is the availability of lootable resources like diamonds. Whatever other reasons rebels cite for their actions seem to be mainly after-the-fact rationalizations. War in the preindustrial world was and still is more like a contest among crime families over who gets to control the rackets than a fight over principles.
“But times have changed, Krugman points out. ‘If you’re a modern, wealthy nation, however, war — even easy, victorious war — doesn’t pay,’ he writes. ‘And this has been true for a long time.’”
Krugman on the Terrifying Reason Nations Keep Waging War subtitled, “War is a huge money loser. So the motive is not greed”, Janet Allon, 18 August 2014, AlterNet []

“Over the last few years, the cognitive science of drawing has begun to receive some serious attention. Previously, researchers had been more interested in understanding the way we appreciate fine art, from Leonardo da Vinci to Jackson Pollock, but far fewer studies had concerned the kind of everyday scribbles we all produce. Yet it seems that our rough sketches do serve important functions. One study has found, for instance, that far from being a distraction, doodling can prevent our minds from wandering into daydreams about the past or future, boosting concentration and memory”
Are we hard-wired to doodle?, David Robson, 1 October 2014, BBC Future []


Today’s Book Recommendation is Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott; it’s not my recommendation per se (though I have certainly done so many times in the past) — instead, today’s rec comes from C.G.P. Grey:

“I’m going to attempt, for a little while anyway, to make public some of my notes from some of the books that I’ve read. This is partly because people are forever asking what I’m reading, but it’s mostly as a way to try and encourage myself to read both more deeply and more frequently — a target I have been trying, and failing, to hit for all my adult life.” …
“These won’t be reviews, they really will just be some sections of the book with a line or two on why I highlighted them. But I hope that they can give you a good idea of if a book might or might not be for you, and if you should read it yourself. Many non-fiction books can be summarized with a few lines, but Bird by Bird captures, for me, why it still often feels necessary to read the entire thing and why you may want to as well even after reading my notes.”
link to the rest: Book Notes: ‘Bird By Bird’ By Anne Lamott


Diary entry for 1 October:

First, a note on the links: since I am (at least temporarily) linking to some relatively ‘old’ stuff, I’ve switched the formatting a bit — not just a hyperlink, but something closer to the way I cite quotes in my long essays. This isn’t APA, MLA, or Chicago Style (over time I’ve fallen into my own pattern without referencing these, based off of vague 20-year-old memories of MLA and now-ancient high school and college papers) but you’ll note I included the date (for those of you who, for whatever reason, won’t read something unless it’s ‘new’).

Also, for my book recommendations, I’ll be relying on (and linking to) the rich (nigh limitless) trove of book reviews and blogs online, and a bit less on my own personal reading. Indeed, if I get to the point where I’m posting one of these every day, I’d quickly run out of books (or begin to sound like a broken record as many of the books I like are going to be similar to each other, for obvious reasons).

And let me hide this little bit at the bottom of the post: [metablogging] Yeah, haven’t written much for the blog recently and I’m kind of sorry for that but not really sorry and I’m thinking about what to do about that and which direction to go from here [/metablogging]

We’ll both see about that, and what comes next, when it comes.

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Links and Thoughts 32: 16 July 2014

filed under , 16 July 2014, 10:43 by

Tower Of Power – Squib Cakes

Good Morning.

Over time I seem to be drifting from the original outline for these posts, but that’s a good thing. A natural organic process, or something like that. I still find that the primary distraction from writing is Twitter, and even a simple, pared-down blog post like this one suffers — not just from the sunk time, but also from the siphoning of genuinely good links. Twitter makes it so easy to share and the feedback is immediate; if I’m not careful, I can dump all my best material there and feel good about it.

Let’s see what I’ve collected since last we blogged:

Aspect Ratios. Yes, Aspect Ratios:

Data Journalism:

Cities and Citizens:

Why Isn’t Smog-Gobbling Concrete More Popular? : Motherboard

Links and Thoughts 31: 10 July 2014

filed under , 10 July 2014, 11:35 by

A ‘very special’ edition today: Podcast links!

First, a few caveats:

  • I pulled the list out of the OPML export file from my rss feed reader, so any errors/non-working links I blame on Feedly.
  • Second: yes, some of these are YouTube channels. And yes, I know videos aren’t [finger-airquote]“podcasts”[/finger-airquote] but if you don’t recognize YouTube as a podcast platform, you’re missing out. If nothing else your takeaway should be: youtube channels (and individual youtuber’s accounts) have rss feeds and you can subscribe to them outside of Google’s youtube-homepage-framework for use in your reader of choice.
  • I do like bullet-pointed lists. :D
  • There us no four.
  • This list is a work in progress – what I was able to pull together in a single morning. If you have suggestions and recommendations, drop ‘em in the comments or catch me up on twitter.
  • And Lastly: One other reason you might get an error (or not be able to find something on iTunes) (I’m not an Apple/iTunes convert) is in at least one case [Bob Edwards] the audio is available as an embed on the blog but there is no individual audio download or rss available.

General Geek:




Movies, TV, Pop Culture:




Links and Thoughts 30: 7 July 2014

filed under , 7 July 2014, 14:40 by

Just a links round-up for today; I need to post these before they get stale.

Best long read for today:
“To put this in perspective: it was 300 years from Gutenberg’s printing press to the scientific and intellectual re-alignments of the Enlightenment, and to the French and American revolutions that that liberating technology ultimately made possible. These things can take a loooong time to work all the way out.”
Hobby Lobby and the wrong end of history -
Why Patriarchal Men Are Utterly Petrified of Birth Control and Why We’ll Still Be Fighting About It 100 Years From Now : Alternet

Cities and Citizens:

Scientists discover one of the most Earth-like planets yet : The Verge

With Kepler and other astronomy efforts finding exoplanets all over the place (seemingly so many that only the other ‘earths’ out there manage to make the news these days) it’s an excellent time to revist Chris Wayan’s planetology thought-experiments.

Technology and its Discontents:

“Amazon offers a superb shopping experience, if you already know what you are looking for (awareness) and want to buy it (desire/action). Through low prices, ease of use, trust and reliability Amazon has built a platform that is not a discovery portal, but a destination where you mostly buy content discovered elsewhere (the much loathed show-rooming effect).
“Amazon does make recommendations but these are optimized to up-sell or cross-sell (increase your basket value) or are based on re-targeting (reminding you of products you previously clicked on). Up-selling for Amazon means guiding a user to higher margin products, which are typically not books. It is also worth bearing in mind that Amazon’s recommendation engines are optimized to be extremely fast. This comes at the cost of recommendation quality. Any delay would lead to consumers abandoning their shopping basket and hence reduced revenue instead of increased revenue.
“In a nutshell, improved availability alone does not lead to improved discoverability. The critical component to better online discovery experiences are great user interfaces and recommendation algorithms and we have yet to see the power of personalisation, the Internet’s biggest strength, being fully deployed.”
Discovery, User Experience and the Long Tail : Digital Book World

I’m on record as stating that “The Long Tail” is a change in customer *demand*, not something related to online retail — information about books drives the demand, and while Amazon is a large source of that information, it’s not the only one anymore. In fact, if Amazon somehow just went away, it wouldn’t matter. The internet is a self-driving information mill and we can’t re-pack that firecracker, it’s already gone off. In the realms of music and books, it’s a given that everything is available — no matter how old, weird, niche, ‘unmarketable’, devoid of taste, or just plain wrong.

The trick for some customers is finding it. I’ve never had trouble, myself, and I can get pretty far with just the Google search box for company. What do others do? When customers can’t find a book on Amazon, they call a bookstore, hassle some poor clerk for 45 minutes, ‘discover’ (second-hand, over the phone) the exact book that fits their criteria, and then buy it on Amazon. I invite you to work at a bookstore for a week if you doubt me on that.

That Facebook Thing:
“According to new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Facebook altered the News Feeds for hundreds of thousands of users as part of a psychology experiment devised by the company’s on-staff data scientist. By scientifically altering News Feeds, the experiment sought to learn about the way positive and negative effect travels through social networks, ultimately concluding that ‘in-person interaction and nonverbal cues are not strictly necessary for emotional contagion.’”
Facebook altered 689,000 users’ News Feeds for a psychology experiment : The Verge
Facebook tinkered with users’ feeds for a massive psychology experiment : AV Club
“Facebook made you sad for science” Facebook Just Admitted It Tinkered With People’s News Feeds to Manipulate Their Emotions : Mother Jones

It was just the one time though, right? Oh…
Facebook conducted hundreds of psychological experiments with few boundaries : The Verge
The US military is already using Facebook to track your mood : Quartz

Links and Thoughts 29: 28 June 2014

filed under , 28 June 2014, 06:05 by

Electric Light Orchestra – Roll Over Beethoven

Good Morning.

Judge for yourself: just after midnight every day, Meh will offer one new item for sale, the write-up for which should generate as many laughs as it does sales. Rutledge talks about running the site the way Trey Parker and Matt Stone run South Park, with as little lead time as possible, so that Meh can comment on current events. There will be no social media, no liking, no sharing, no email sign-up. He thinks email is a brand-damaging annoyance. The site should be compelling enough that people won’t need to be reminded to go to it. Repeat visitors who don’t buy stuff can click a “meh” button that will increase their prestige in the Meh community. He says, “Many people will be like, ‘But it’s a store. Why would you do that?’ That’s the fun part.”

This Internet Millionaire Has a New Deal For You : D Magazine, via The Feature

Lots of Tech Links:

Screen Time:
How to Stream TV Shows Now That Aereo’s Dead : Wired Gadget Lab

“Note that none of the scenarios above involve removing free videos from YouTube altogether. Even people who want to pull videos away from YouTube for exclusive windows assume that the world’s biggest video site will remain the world’s biggest video site and help create demand for paid products. But it will be very interesting to see how much, if any, video YouTube users are willing to pay for. If they can pay at all — YouTube’s core users are teenagers who have lots of energy but may find it difficult to make online payments.”
How Much Would You Pay to Watch a YouTube Video? : Re/code

The Impact of Soccer:


Diary entry for 28 June:

American’s new-found love of soccer may seem like a sudden, surprising (or even nefarious) thing but anyone who was born after 1964 knows why soccer is big (big enough) and getting bigger every year: we all played soccer as kids — OK, so not *all* of us; chunks of the US are [gridiron] football and always will be until more medical evidence about concussions passes peer review and gets published, and a lot of cities and small towns are into basketball for one of two reasons: it’s easier to pull together teams of five, as opposed to eleven, and b-ball courts are small (and grassless) making b-ball the better choice — literally, a better fit — than huge suburban soccer fields.

But soccer is here, and maybe after this World Cup, MLS can get a few fans to think about watching more than two-games-in-a-decade (especially if the national team can win one more game — or hell, 2 games and make it to the semi-final). There seems to be a huge opportunity: sitting-in-bars-and-watching-soccer-while-drinking has proven to be awfully popular this World Cup (more popular than the soccer?) so maybe the league and a few local pubs or sports bars in each MLS city can figure something out. If nothing else, there may be a few new stars to emerge from the tournament and that will help a few of the MLS clubs (over half of the US roster plays abroad, though).

MLS will expand to 21 teams in 2015; this latest version of US pro soccer has been operating since 1996. Any 18-year-olds signed up to play for the 2015 season will be younger than the league.

The Daily Beast released a list of 11 ‘great books’ about soccer — an excellent place to start (wikipedia works too, I guess) — but to their list I would add Outcasts United, as Today’s Book Recommendation:

Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refugee Team, and One Woman’s Quest to Make a Difference by Warren St. John (paperback, 9780385522045)

“Clarkston, Georgia, was a typical Southern town until it was designated a refugee settlement center in the 1990s, becoming the first American home for scores of families in flight from the world’s war zones—from Liberia and Sudan to Iraq and Afghanistan. Suddenly Clarkston’s streets were filled with women wearing the hijab, the smells of cumin and curry, and kids of all colors playing soccer in any open space they could find. The town also became home to Luma Mufleh, an American-educated Jordanian woman who founded a youth soccer team to unify Clarkston’s refugee children and keep them off the streets. These kids named themselves the Fugees.
“Set against the backdrop of an American town that without its consent had become a vast social experiment, Outcasts United follows a pivotal season in the life of the Fugees and their charismatic coach. Warren St. John documents the lives of a diverse group of young people as they miraculously coalesce into a band of brothers, while also drawing a fascinating portrait of a fading American town struggling to accommodate its new arrivals. At the center of the story is fiery Coach Luma, who relentlessly drives her players to success on the soccer field while holding together their lives—and the lives of their families—in the face of a series of daunting challenges.”

Outcasts covers two very important aspects of US soccer: the importance of soccer to most of the 21st century immigrant communities (like baseball in the 1920s, or at least, like baseball in the movies about the period), and the strong influence of youth leagues.

I’ll get my to-buy links sorted out eventually. In the meantime, you can still use most readers’ preferred option.


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Yes, all the links are broken.

On June 1, 2015 (after 6 years and 11 months) I needed to relaunch/restart this blog, or at least rekindle my interest in maintaining and updating it.

Rather than delete and discard the whole thing, I instead moved the blog -- database, cms, files, archives, and all -- to this subdomain. When you encounter broken links (and you will encounter broken links) just change the URL in the address bar from to

I know this is inconvenient, and for that I apologise. In addition to breaking tens of thousands of links, this also adversely affects the blog visibility on search engines -- but that, I'm willing to live with. Between the Wayback Machine at and my own half-hearted preservation efforts (which you are currently reading) I feel nothing has been lost, though you may have to dig a bit harder for it.

As always, thank you for reading. Writing version 1.0 of Rocket Bomber was a blast. For those that would like to follow me on the 2.0 - I'll see you back on the main site.



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