Google Buys, Kill Songza

A few months ago Google announced it had purchased Songza. This should not have had a large impact on music lovers or musicians. The owner of the website that streams their music is not necessarily important to listeners. Unfortunately, Google stopped the streaming altogether.

Songza

The fear had been that Google would treat the property the way Apple treated Lala.com. In that case, after Apple bought Lala, they claimed they intended to incorporate Lala into their larger business and only temporarily. Ultimately, Apple just shuttered Lala.

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Asthma in Atlanta

Atlanta OlympicsJeff Speck’s Walkable City entertains and terrifies by turns. I will review it when I’m finished reading it, but I couldn’t wait to share this fascinating anecdote about the Atlanta Olympics.

“During the 1996 Olympics, nearly 2 million people descended on the city of Atlanta effectively increasing the city’s population by 50%. Most of the visitors – I was among them – spent many hours huffing around the hot, crowded sports venues. Yet, during that time, asthma hospitalizations surprisingly declined by 30%.”

The cause of this drop was not a freak chance or magic, it was a drop in auto traffic. Atlanta had warned its residents against trying to drive through the ultra-crowded city center, and this temporary increase in public transit created an immediate public health benefit. It’s a striking example of the negative externalities of building for car travel rather than walkability or public transit.

Abandoned Corporate Headquarters, Spurned Suburbs, and The End of Sprawl

GE Headquarters

GE Headquarters

The Wall Street Journal ran a story today that highlights the fallout from building sprawl. It explores US suburbs’ struggle to deal with abandoned corporate headquarters.

“Companies from General Electric to Weyerhaeuser are pulling their headquarters out of leafy* suburban campuses and moving downtown.”

The small communities that host these headquarters make huge infrastructure investments to accommodate these employers. They’re also asked to grant tax breaks to woo these companies. Even dinosaurs like Sears, a few years from extinction, can extract this type of benefit by playing one suburb or state against another. Unfortunately for towns like Upper Saddle River, outside of New York, which recently lost Pearson Education, these companies can’t extort the talent they need in the same way they extort the communities they occupy. Read more

Astro City Review – Trade Waiter

Lovers quarrelAstro City won its first Eisner Award two years before the founding of Google.  No wonder it’s recognized as an institution.

When I first picked it up the series, five years ago, it blew me away. The stories are so personal and specific. They concern people’s work and their lives instead of some monster of the week. Astro City, the place, feels like a real city in part because the people there are as likely to be doormen and secretaries as they are to be cosmic juggernauts.

This book is about what it’s like to love a difficult person, what it’s like to get older, and it’s about punching evil doers dressed as chess pieces. Like the rest of the series, it documents details and specifics, it tracks and builds consistent evocative settings without feeling small or atmospheric. It adds to a terrific body of work.

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In Real Life Review – Trade Waiter

Cover IRLThis graphic novel reminds us that the world is crawling with unsavory underground markets. People in the rich world sometimes feel uncomfortable about the existence these grey economies, but they rarely go out of their ways to do anything about them, not because they’re bad people, but because it can be hard to know the right thing to do. This issue sits at the heart of In Real Life.

Writer, Cory Doctorow, and artist, Jen Wang’s, story concerns a middle school gamer girl, who’s a powerful fighter and a skilled player in a male-dominated world of massive multiplayer games. The hero, named Anda, in an oblique reference to Ender’s Game, discovers gold farmers (players employed to acquire and sell in-game items) who she sees destroying the economy of the game. Anda gleefully begins to taking these farmers out and to collect real cash bounties. The moral quandary comes out when she realizes that these gold farmers are people in poor countries who depend on farming for their livelihoods. Read more

Fascinating Visualization of the Relationships Between European Languages

lexicaldistanceielangs

This image comes from a Teresa Elms post on Etymologican, the original post and commentary are well worth a read.

I’d love to see a similar chart for the many Spanishes of the world. In particular I would be interested to know if Mexican Spanish is closer to American English than Spain Spanish is to UK English, I would imagine it is.

Hat tip: reddit.com/r/dataisbeautiful

Jupiter’s Legacy Review – Trade Waiter

Writer, Mark Millar, and artist, Frank Quietly, earned reputations as two of the most exciting and popular creators working in comics over the last decade. They’ve both created Eisner-nominated comics, including The Authority, which they worked on together. So their first creator-owned work, Jupiter’s Legacy comes with a great pedigree. But does it deliver on the promise?Jason-Sampson-in-Jupiters-Legacy-4

Not immediately, but there’s enough ambition in the violent superhero soap opera’s first trade paperback to keep me excited for the next book.

I don’t review comics I don’t like. There’s so much great stuff being written I don’t want to waste my attention on the mediocre stuff. So let me first say that this is a well-crafted comic. The characters want things, the plot chugs and the art is fantastic (nobody in comics draws greasy hair like Quietly).

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The Internet of Things Cannot be Avoided


BabymonitorBBC’s Radio News Hour
carried a story today in which it was said more than once that “the internet of things is coming.” This is not exactly correct. I read recently in Anthony Townsend’s Smart Cities there are more “things” on the internet than people. What are these things: baby monitors, cars, planes, pacemakers, and hearing-aides among other things. You may not be aware of it, but you already participate in the internet of things, and you will not be able to opt out. There’s no user agreement for you to click through and if there was one you wouldn’t read it.

Against the Streetcar

Street carsStreetcars are a bad idea. They embody the worst of the two classic kinds of public transit. They aren’t flexible like buses, which can move between routes and have their routes altered with relatively little cost. They don’t avoid traffic like trains do because they use the streets. To make matters worse, street cars that don’t have dedicated lanes cannot change lanes if there’s something obstructing their path. In this case, streetcars move slower and cost more than busses, without delivering any benefit.

Yet cities are constructing or planning to build streetcars in Detroit, Grand RapidsMilwaukee, and Cincinnati, and
this list is limited to cities in the Midwest. It’s my firm hope that the notion of a streetcar never becomes popular in Chicago. Public transit funds are precious and we need to use them as best we can to make a system that serves the people the best. Bad transit can kill economic opportunity especially for the poor. Read more

Too Many Bus Stops

busCTA buses stop too often.  Commutes could be sped up dramatically if bus lines simply removed some of the stops. This would not only help passengers, but also improve the flow of traffic on some of Chicago’s busiest streets.

Take for example, the 22 Bus. This bus starts at Howard and travels approximately 9 miles down Clark to Polk, making approximately 80 stops along the way. Many of these stops are absolutely necessary. I would not recommend eliminating stops that are more than one block apart or stops that are at major arteries. So, in the case of the 22, it would not make sense to remove the stop at Armitage, where there are tall apartment buildings and where the 22 connects with the Armitage 73 bus, but the stop one short block north on Dickens could absolutely be eliminated and the passengers who get on or off at this stop should be asked to get off a little further north at Webster or further south at Armitage. Read more

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