Showing posts from July, 2014

Filling in an Empty Quarter (III)

There's a story making the rounds this week about an apartment complex in New York City that has separate entrances for poor and non-poor residences. I don't know if it's true or not, and don't much care. It's such a perfect metaphor for America's struggles with difference and inequality. (For the record, research on mixed-income housing developments in Chicago by Robert J. Chaskin of the University of Chicago, published in the May 2013 special issue of the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, documents strong re-segregating tendencies, though maybe not at the door level.)

These struggles color my reading of the Cedar Rapids MedQuarter Master Development Plan, rolled out this week after much planning and consultation. The plan contains a lot of good ideas and hits a lot of the right notes. After all that, I'm not sure to what extent the group is making a priority to integrate with their surroundings, or even is concerned whether o…

Urbanity Playlist II: More Urbanity

In the year since I posted my Urbanity playlist, I've thought of enough songs that should be on there that I'm ready for a Volume II. These are songs that celebrate urban living, not pinned to a specific place. Why not pinned to a specific place? Good question. That sounds like the goal for Volume III!
Bus Stop -- HolliesDancing in the Street -- Martha and the VandellasWhat Colour Are You? -- Danny MichelSomewhere Down the Crazy River -- Robbie RobertsonThe Old Part of Town -- James McMurtryWhite City -- Erin McKeownLet the River Run -- Carly SimonThe Boys are Back in Town -- Thin LizzyLate in the Evening -- Paul SimonSteppin' Out -- Joe JacksonDon't Ever Change -- Amy RigbyMarrakesh Night Market -- Loreena McKennittOnly a Song -- Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin MooreSunset Grill -- Don HenleyJoy to You Baby -- Josh RitterSaturday in the Park -- ChicagoColes Corner -- Richard HawleyPearly Blues -- Roger ManningI'm Staying Here and I'm Not Buying a Gun -- John Wesl…

Yonder comes the train?

It had been a few years since I'd ridden Amtrak, what with the nearest station being 75 miles away and me always coming up with some reason to drive. But driving and parking in Chicago are getting old, and Eli was game, so the two of us took the train to Chicago and back last week. The pleasant and unpleasant aspects of the journey leaves me with no clear answer to "Is there a future for passenger rail travel in the United States?" All I can say is, "There could be."

The positives: It was a very pleasant mode of travel, far more relaxing than driving in metropolitan traffic jams, and more with more room to move around than a car affords. Certainly trains are far more spacious and comfortable than flying in a commercial airplane.There's more room for luggage, and you can bring your own drinks.
As the usual driver, I had the luxury on the train of reading, looking out the window, or fiddling with my iPod. Once we arrived we could be on our way, with no parki…

Book review: "Dark Age Ahead"

The title of Jane Jacobs's last book (Random House, 2004) might well be punctuated with a question mark, because the articulate ur-urbanist manages to be both prophetic about America's present and hopeful about America's future.

She describes five signs of crisis as our culture enters the post-industrial era, which must be addressed to prevent slipping into a "dark age" like the prehistoric hunter-gatherers, ancient Romans, or modern farm belts. These are "pillars of our culture" which are in serious decay, and of which other widely-acknowledged bads like economic inequality and environmental destruction are mere symptoms (pp. 24-25):

community and family (ch. 2): atomized and stressed as incomes haven't kept up with the costs of (in particular) housinghigher education (ch. 3): real learning has given way to intellectually and spiritually empty credentialingscience and technology (ch. 4) have been misused to validate prejudices or serve powerful…

While you were denying... (part 2)

As promised in part 1 of this post, these are items I've noted in the last few months' news that show scientists (as well as businesses) who are using the accumulated knowledge about climate change in their own research and planning. The point: people who deal with climate change in their work have moved well past the debate over its existence in which contemporary politics is stuck.

While you were denying...

Climate change continues to be a prominent political issue in the United States, with the debate in large part remaining focused where it was 25 years ago: Is this, or is this not, a real phenomenon? Rod Blum, the Republican congressional candidate from this district, told Iowa Public Radio before his June 3 primary election victory:
I remember the 1970s, and there was a cover of Time magazine that showed the polar ice caps of the planet. And it said that scientists were thinking that we should spread ash on the polar ice caps, and that dark color, that black color would absorb the heat because we were heading into a period of global cooling. They were afraid our planet was going to be frigid and frozen. That was in the 1970s, during my lifetime.
We go from that, to now global warming, and that’s been changed to climate change. I’m not a scientist, and I know most scientists’ paychecks come from the federal government, and so right away that makes me a bit skeptical.  Thirty  …