In the last decade, some cities have created unusual municipal projects using personal and institutional technologies and Open Data, to keep things running smoothly. In Chicago, there’s a text-based pothole tracker. Pittsburg, Chicago, NYC and other cities have snowplow trackers during winter storms. Boston asked people to adopt-a-hydrant and shovel them out after snowstorms. In Honolulu, you can adopt a tsunami siren. In 2013, the city of Melbourne assigned email addresses to 70,000 trees as part of their Urban Forest Project, so citizens could report problems. Instead, people wrote thousands of love letters to their favorite trees, and in many cases, the "trees" wrote back. [more inside]
Some Paths to the True Knowledge[*] - "Attention conservation notice: A 5000+ word attempt to provide real ancestors and support for an imaginary ideology I don't actually accept, drawing on fields in which I am in no way an expert. Contains long quotations from even-longer-dead writers, reckless extrapolation from arcane scientific theories, and an unwarranted tone of patiently explaining harsh, basic truths. Altogether, academic in one of the worst senses. Also, spoilers for several of MacLeod's novels, notably but not just The Cassini Division. Written for, and cross-posted to, Crooked Timber's seminar on MacLeod, where I will not be reading the comments."
Portrait of a Young Man with Down Syndrome. A father reflects on his son's search for employment.
In 1971, the newly-created US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hired a bunch of freelance photographers to collectively document environmental issues around the country. They were given free rein to shoot whatever they wanted, and the project, named Documerica, lasted through 1977. After 40 years, the EPA is now encouraging photographers to take current versions of the original Documerica photos and are showcasing them on flickr at State of the Environment. There are location challenges, and a set has been created with some of the submissions, making side-by-side comparisons. [more inside]
The Quality of Life: As Macaulay once noted: “If men are to wait for liberty till they become good and wise in slavery, they may indeed wait forever.”
Her encampment is 'an old patio umbrella draped in a white plastic sheet secured with binder clips. It is flanked by two large boards with messages in capital letters: BAN ALL NUCLEAR WEAPONS OR HAVE A NICE DOOMSDAY and LIVE BY THE BOMB, DIE BY THE BOMB. This rudimentary shelter has been positioned outside the White House for more than three decades. It is a monument itself now, widely considered the longest-running act of political protest in the United States, and this woman, Concepcion Picciotto — Connie, as she’s known to many — is its longest-running caretaker.' [more inside]
This past September, Jessica Ann Lum won a "Best Feature" award in the student-journalist category from the Online News Association, for her Master's project: "Slab City Stories." Less than four months later, on January 13, 2013, she passed away. She was 25. "Jessica loved to tell people’s stories. This is hers." [more inside]
The county where no one's gay. The 2010 Census of Franklin County Mississippi shows no same sex couples. (pdf). CNN videographer Brandon Ancil and human rights columnist John D. Sutter tried to determine if the census was wrong, and see if they could find gay men and women willing to speak about "what keeps them hidden." Video
Over a thousand monks and laymen are revered in Tibetan Buddhism as the incarnations of past teachers who convey enlightenment to their followers from one lifetime to the next. Some of the most respected are known by the honorific "rinpoche." For eight centuries, rinpoches were traditionally identified by other monks and then locked inside monasteries ringed by mountains, far from worldly distractions. Their reincarnation lineages were easily tracked across successive lives. Then the Chinese Red Army invaded Tibet in 1950 and drove the religion's adherents into exile. Now, the younger rinpoches of the Tibetan diaspora are being exposed to all of the twenty-first century’s dazzling temptations. So, even as Tibetan Buddhism is gaining more followers around the world, an increasing number of rinpoches are abandoning their monastic vows. Reincarnation in Exile. [more inside]
January 13, 2013 marks the 125th anniversary of the National Geographic Society. The Magazine is celebrating by taking a yearlong look at the past and future of exploration. [more inside]
Ephemeral New York 'chronicles an ever-changing, constantly reinvented city through photos, newspaper archives, and other scraps and artifacts that have been edged into New York’s collective remainder bin.' [more inside]
In 2002, Doug Monroe placed his parents in assisted living. A decade later, he's looking back at "the weighty financial and emotional costs that come with a parent's immortality": The Long Goodbye.
Joyce Carol Vincent, 38, died in her North London flat in 2003; her skeleton was found three years later, on the sofa; the television was still on, and a pile of unopened Christmas presents lay on the floor. The story was mentioned briefly in the press, but then forgotten. Now, filmmaker Carol Morley has tracked down and interviewed people who knew her before she retreated and reconstructed her story, all the more tragic because of the deceptively promising life it showed. [more inside]
In his project A More Perfect Union, artist R. Luke Dubois aggregated language used in the profiles of 19 million single Americans on 21 dating sites. He then organized the data to create "dozens of insanely detailed city and state maps which tell a wonderfully rich story about who we are, or at least, who we claim to be." A Video about the project. (R. Luke Dubois, previously on MeFi.)
Economist Steven Levitt, author of Freakonomics, has long posited a controversial thesis that legalized abortion help reduced crime, by reducing unwanted children, prone to crime. However, a new paper argues that Levitt (& Donohue) made serious errors in their research. Properly analysed, abortion has no significant effect on crime. Levitt disagrees, of course.