Aesthetics of Everywhere

The urban scene, its people and processes. Based in southern California.

Archive for the ‘New York City’ Category

Sandy in DC

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All in all, Washington DC wasn’t hit too hard during Hurricane Sandy. A few hundred thousand without power for a day or two, some felled trees but mostly small branches, and minor flooding of low-lying areas. The fact that the Bloomingdale neighborhood didn’t flood was a story in itself (on DCist).

Can’t say the same for New York City and surrounding areas. There it’s clear that Sandy’s effects were disastrous. Last I heard, there were around forty storm-related deaths recorded. The east coast saw around 8 million without power. People are working around the clock to pump out floodwater and restore service to get their lives back to normal. We were lucky here, but many weren’t.

Written by Crystal Bae

October 31st, 2012 at 9:56 am

Everyday Lessons Learned: November 2011, Weeks 2 and 3

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Lots of topics the past two weeks about cool research. I’m deep in data these days, so it’s seeping into all of my thoughts…

8: Before the concept of homesickness came around in the 1750s, it was known as nostalgia and categorized as a medical condition – deaths could be attributed to this condition. Francesca Mari reviews Homesickness: An American History: “By two years in, two thousand soldiers had been diagnosed with nostalgia, and in the year 1865, twenty-four white Union soldiers and sixteen black ones died from it.”

9: A mondegreen is a mishearing of a spoken phrase that results in a more interesting take on the intended phrase. Here’s the origin of the mondegreen:

The term “mondegreen” was coined by Sylvia Wright in a 1954 Atlantic article. As a child, young Sylvia had listened to a folk song that included the lines “They had slain the Earl of Moray/And Lady Mondegreen.” As is customary with misheard lyrics, she didn’t realize her mistake for years. The song was not about the tragic fate of Lady Mondegreen, but rather, the continuing plight of the good earl: “They had slain the Earl of Moray/And laid him on the green.” (Source)

10: New research suggests that the middle class eats the most fast food – not the poor.

11: It’s no secret that bicycling keeps you fit. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin found that if residents of 11 Midwestern cities ran just half of their short-distance errands by bicycle for four months out of the year, it would save at least $3.8 billion from avoided mortality and reduced health-care costs, and lower the number of annual deaths by 1,100. Results of the study are posted here.

12: Natural Language Processing: Where linguistics meets computers. Check out some of the work by the Stanford Natural Language Processing Group here.

13: The debate around climate change has changed markedly in recent years. A Harris poll in 2007 estimated that 71% of Americans believed burning fossil fuels led to climate change. That number was only 51% two years later, and then dropped further to 44% by June 2011. But this shift in belief has been very one-sided: 70-75% of self-identified Democrats and liberals believe in climate change, while only about 20% of self-identified Republicans do. (The Nation)

14: Mexico City’s Metro officials reported that 23 to 35 people fall into train pits each year. Mexico City is working to install platform barriers in its stations, starting with just two of their busiest stations (due to budget constraints). From The Atlantic Cities blog.

15: A law student in Austria, Max Schrems, requested his Facebook data – and received a CD with a 1,222-page long PDF of his personal information including deleted private messages.

16: Number of people who have disappeared from cruise ships in the past decade? 171. And 19 people have already gone missing this year alone. Because cruise ships tread murky international waters, and it’s often not possible to stop the ship to search for a person fallen overboard, and there’s also a high incidence of suicide on cruises, many cases are unresolved. It’s true, some are likely to be on-board murders. It’s in the cruise industry’s interests to quiet any of these disappearances. The eerie story of Rebecca Coriam, the first public disappearance from a Disney cruise, is recounted in The Guardian.

17: Apples go through a trial by fire kind of process when they’re bred; the process is narrated in John Seabrook’s piece in the November 21 issue of the New Yorker, “Crunch.” This story’s a lot more compelling than it sounds at first. For instance, did you know that apples are often selected over time for their redness, despite the fact that the redder apples have less flavor? It’s called “red drift” – retailers believe customers buy with their eyes, so growers tend to select for redness while sacrificing taste. An all-red apple also hides its cosmetic defects better, meaning more of your apples will be sold.

18: The Love Parade Stampede was an incident in Duisberg, Germany, on July 24, 2010 in which 21 people were trampled to death and over 500 were injured in the underpassthat led to the Love Parade music festival area. This was the only entrance and exit, and long after the stage area had filled up past capacity, people were attempting to enter through this tunnel. Those who were already in the main festival area had no way of exiting, with the masses of people pressing forward to get in. I first saw video footage of this horrifying scene in the crowd-sourced documentary Life in a Day, which records the happenings of a single day as experienced by people all over the world. Al Jazeera coverage shows footage of the event.

19: Pierogies are made in essentially the same way as Korean mandu (dumplings), except the filling’s a bit different and you add sour cream to the flour. Our first batch came out decent, though the process was kind of long. It’s a learning process. I’d say every culture has their own form of dumplings – one of my favorite things to do at family gatherings is sit around with my mother and grandmother and form the mandu by hand, adding special flourishes to mark them as yours (like signing a work of art).

20: There’s a proposed plan to turn an abandoned trolley terminal in NYC’s Lower East Side into an underground public park: Delancey Underground, or “the LowLine”. It’d be like the subterranean equivalent of the High Line.

21: According to XKCD’s notes on the Money Chart, the EPA’s current dollar value on a human life is $8.4 million. Go spend some time exploring that chart.

Hope everyone enjoys their few days of rest and feast. Happy Thanksgiving!

Written by Crystal Bae

November 21st, 2011 at 9:07 pm

Irene visualization

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A nice visualization from the WaPo on Irene’s progress along the eastern shore, and some of the measures taken in preparation so far, including evacuations and the shutdown of the NYC transit system. Click on the image to go to the Washington Post website and view full size:

Irene at 2pm Saturday August 27, 2011

Plus one more, from NOAA.

Written by Crystal Bae

August 27th, 2011 at 2:13 pm

Everyday Lessons Learned: August 2011, Week 1

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1: Painting the roofs of buildings white is one strategy for reducing energy costs. In the summer, this allows more sunlight to reflect off of the roof (as opposed to a dark-colored roof) keeping it cooler inside the building.

2: Labor omnia vincit is a Latin phrase that is also Oklahoma’s state motto. It means “Labor conquers all” and appears in a work by Virgil in encouragement of Caesar’s back to the land policy (to promote farming as a profession). According to USDA’s Economic Research Service, almost 80% of Oklahoma’s land area is farmland.

3: As we know, there’s a great disparity in America in terms of transportation. Lack of good mass transit in the U.S. is one critical barrier to employment. A recent report on transportation states that for Americans in the lowest income bracket, approximately 42% of their annual income goes to paying for transportation. For middle-income Americans, that number is only 22%. And those lowest-income Americans tend to have the longest commutes – many of the poorest NYC residents have a commute of more than an hour each way. Transportation policy affects access to healthcare, to economic opportunity, and to affordable housing. (Source)

4: Via the Washington City Paper, here’s a great oral history of Fort Reno, an institution of local music: [Your Band] Played Here. For those who don’t know, Fort Reno is a park in the Tenleytown neighb DC that’s been putting on free summer concerts (punk, hardcore, indie rock, and other genres) on its outdoor stage on and off since 1968.

5: I haven’t had to search for housing in New York City before, so this is what I hear from friends living there: apparently it’s pretty common to hire a real estate broker to help you find a place to rent. No one I know has had to use a broker to find housing in DC, but then again the real estate market is much more competitive in NYC than in DC. For some of my friends, it’s taken three months just to find an apartment rental in New York.

6: The Guggenheim Lab is a traveling lab that is “part urban think tank, part community center and public gathering space.” It’s in NYC until October 16th of this year, and we saw an interesting demonstration of edible water by a culinary performance group called a razor, a shiny knife (these are the same people that put on a 6-course brunch for 50 people on the L train).

Written by Crystal Bae

August 7th, 2011 at 7:33 pm

Everyday Lessons Learned: March 2011, Week 4+

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22: This is a relearn: “Generative systems are systems that use a few basic rules to yield patterns.” I remember playing around with Conway’s Game of Life in a population geography course. Might the Chrome app Isle of Tune be considered generative music?

The results of my first time playing around with Isle of Tune.

23: There are long-term travelers out there in the world who travel with zero baggage – “Total Nada” mode, pretty much the clothes on your back, your passport, a toothbrush. I don’t think I could do it without carrying ANY kind of bag (I even carry a messenger bag to the office), but it’d be neat to try traveling for over a week with just one messenger bag or daypack. Read more on modes of travel sans baggage. That’s the minimalist spirit!

24: My coworker taught me some more about SQL and even lent me his textbook to read. I’m only one chapter in, but at least I’m not lost.

25: DC has a Victims of Communism memorial. Has anyone considered erecting a “Victims of Capitalism” memorial? Just curious.

26: I was in NYC this weekend. See my previous post, NYC: Around Battery Park, and Graffiti.

27: Google Maps traffic information uses data from a variety of sources, but perhaps the most interesting portion comes from traffic data collected from the users of Google Maps on their smartphones. They can track where you’re going and how long it takes you, and that info is aggregated into their database to figure out how much traffic is on that particular route. For main roads, Department of Transportation (DOT) sensors in the road give Google data on traffic, but for the smaller roads, there aren’t any sensors. And those are the routes for which Google can still provide traffic estimates through other means (such as from mobile users).

28: I’ve been working my way (slowly) through Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media. Here’s a direct quote:

“The Greek word ponos, or “toil,” was a term used by Hippocrates, the father of medicine, to describe the fight of a body in disease. Today this idea is called homeostatis, or equilibrium as a strategy of the staying power of any body. All organizations, but especially biological ones, struggle to remain constant in their inner condition amidst the variations of outer shock and change. The man-made social environment as an extension of man’s physical body is no exception. The city, as a form of the body politic, responds to new pressures and irritations by resourceful new extensions – always in the effort to exert staying power, constancy, equilibrium, and homeostatis.” (98)

29: Oysters are strange beings. Not all kinds are edible, and even those that are are pretty odd. I grew up near the Chesapeake Bay… Can’t remember for certain, but I must have seen an oyster reef at some point in my childhood.

30: Haptic refers to the tactile – the faculty of touch. First encountered the word on my phone when I disabled the keystroke vibrations, and explained in McLuhan’s writing later in the day. Funny how learning a word causes you to instantly notice it everywhere you go.

31: From David Brooks’s description of concepts worth using in everyday life:

Clay Shirkey nominates the Pareto Principle. We have the idea in our heads that most distributions fall along a bell curve (most people are in the middle). But this is not how the world is organized in sphere after sphere. The top 1 percent of the population control 35 percent of the wealth. The top two percent of Twitter users send 60 percent of the messages. The top 20 percent of workers in any company will produce a disproportionate share of the value. Shirkey points out that these distributions are regarded as anomalies. They are not.

Written by Crystal Bae

March 31st, 2011 at 4:59 pm

NYC: Around Battery Park, and Graffiti

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Spent the past weekend in New York City. One of the main reasons we went this weekend was to take in Infinite Variety, the quilt exhibit presented through the American Folk Art Museum. Here are a few factoids I learned in the (almost) two days spent in NYC:

  • NYC’s bedrock lies only about 50ft underground, so skyscrapers can be constructed directly on top of the bedrock foundation, which gives these enormous buildings a boost in stability.
  • Battery Park City is completely man-made. What’s Battery Park City now used to be part of the Hudson River, but they extended this part of Manhattan using excavated material from the World Trade Center site. Amazing to learn that as recently as 50 years ago, none of what I saw there existed.
  • Many of the skyscrapers of the Financial District stretch really high close to the sidewalk and block out a lot of sunlight because they were constructed before the city implemented setback regulations, which state how high the building can be at certain distances from the road. The result is a kind of “stepped” look to the building. (I’m doing a poor job explaining this because I don’t really have the architectural lingo for it… hope my description makes some sense.)

Of course, I also took a few photos to post on the blog:

Battery Park


Cool NYC imagery after the cut.

Written by Crystal Bae

March 30th, 2011 at 7:14 pm

American Folk Art Museum presents ‘Infinite Variety’

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Infinite Variety

Infinite Variety: Three Centuries of Red and White Quilts, displayed beautifully in the exhibition space of the Park Avenue Armory in NYC. Only two more days to catch it!

The American Folk Art Museum has dramatically transformed the Park Avenue Armory’s historic 55,000-square-foot Wade Thompson Drill Hall with the installation of 650 red and white American quilts, all of which are on loan from the collection of Joanna S. Rose. It is the largest exhibition of quilts ever held in the city. As an extraordinary gift to the public, entry to this unprecedented event is free.

Written by Crystal Bae

March 28th, 2011 at 8:38 pm

Wired Pop-up Store in NYC

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I had a chance to play around in the Wired store this weekend in NYC. Fun stuff to geek out about, free drinks, and unexpected interactivity. Yes, it’s still OK to be surprised by things, and it’s much better than acting (or are you acting?) jaded.

More photo fun.

Written by Crystal Bae

December 20th, 2010 at 11:05 pm