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"IBM’s move to make its marquee technology more widely available is the latest effort among big technology companies to make the world’s most powerful computers as accessible as the Angry Birds video game."

IBM to Announce More Powerful Watson via the Internet -

"Both capitalism and bureaucratic administration easily accommodated themselves to the new digital regime; both thrive on information flows, the more automated the better."

Evgeny Morozov on Why Our Privacy Problem is a Democracy Problem in Disguise | MIT Technology Review


The year 2011 has been a historic one for the Arab States region. I am referring to what became known as ‘the Arab Spring’. As early as 2008, the first State of the African Cities report - which covered the Arab States on the Africa continent - issued succinct but accurate advice to the governments of northern Africa that only major political, social and economic reform could avert significant urban unrest.

The report warned that the combination of large numbers of unemployed urban youth, a lack of affordable housing, and the resultant stress on the ability of societies to cater for urban new household formation rates constituted an explosive mixture. The events of 2011 showed the validity of this forecast.


Joan Clos, director of UN-HABITAT

the blurbs are in for Smart Cities. see here.

“Anthony Townsend sifts through the hope and the hype of the latest system upgrade for our growing, and increasingly more elusively managed, metropolises — digital technology — emerging with an ambitiously wide-ranging, admirably clear-eyed, and ultimately humanistic guidebook to the connected city.” (Tom Vanderbilt, author of Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us))

“Today, it’s not the height of the skyscrapers, but the depth of the code that drives the modern city. Anthony Townsend brilliantly frames the new forces shaping tomorrow’s metropolises. Read Smart Cities and you’ll never look at a skyline or walk down a city block the same way again.” (Andrew Zolli, author of Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back)

“Our cities are in the first act of an unprecedented technodrama. At stake is nothing less than the survival of our urban species. Combining technological sophistication, deep humanity, and an urban planner’s sensitivity to the nuances of places, Smart Cities is an essential guide to understanding the technologies changing urban life.” (Andrew Blum, author of Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet)


CitiBike Crash

My @citibikenyc fail this a.m.:

9:05 try to unlock bike at Christopher St, no luck.

9:10 found 1 bike at Barrow St not broken, unlocked

9:18 try to return at Lafayette and Houston. wont take return

9:22 try to return at Mercer and Bleecker. wont take return. call CitiBike support. woman tells me “OK you can keep the bike you have 24 hours to return it or you get charged a fee.” me: “WHAT?! if i cant find a station in 24 hours im driving it over to Brooklyn and returning to your office”. she hangs up.

9:26 try to return at 2nd av and 2nd st. no luck. call again. “we dont know, we cant see which stations are accepting returns and which arent”

9:32 one last try at Lafayette St. nope.

9:40 haul bike to 2nd floor office in Puck Building (elevator was out! good grief!)

9:52 here we are!


UPDATE 10:10 CitiBike called back to say “no you dont have 24 hours. that was false”. they want me to return asap - i said im at work now and can take it back at lunch - they said ok, you will be able to just leave it if it doesnt work. they are going to call back at noon and ask me where the bike is.

i guess that is pretty good remedy. but what a mess!

UPDATE 12:07 tried to return at Lafayette St but rack was full! (fuckers!). ran into a pair of Citibike dudes and apparently the stations are battery powered and the batteries are failing - “there’s another station over on Spring St but you’d better hurry because the battery is low”. jesus christ. finally dumped it at Mercer & Bleecker a few minutes later.

p.s. and of course no one from CitiBike ever called back.

Mumford on Geddes

“What Geddes’s outlook and method contribute to the planning of today are precisely the elements that the administrator and bureaucrat, in the interests of economy or efficiency, are tempted to leave out: time, patience, loving care of detail, a watchful inter-relation of past and future, an insistence upon the human scale and the human purpose, above all merely mechanical requirements: finally a willingness to leave an essential part of the process to those who are most intimately connected with it: the ultimate consumers or citizens.” 

Lewis Mumford, “Mumford on Geddes,” The Architectural Review 108, no. 644 (1950): 86-7.


Sensing Uninsured Vehicles at Gas Stations

How: Using the same technology that power’s London’s congestion pricing system, the UK government wants to deploy video cameras at gas stations throughout the country. Many stations already have the equipment - presumably for security / counter-terrorism purposes - all that’s needed is to link it up to vehicle registration and insurance company databases to verify coverage. If it doesn’t find any, no fuel can be dispensed.

Why: Government statistics show that 160 people are killed, and 23,000 injured each year by uninsured drivers in the UK.

Issues: On the surface this seems like a win-win situation with real public benefits. The surveillance is already happening, this merely leverages it to address a long-standing regulatory enforcement challenge. But it will put station workers in the role of enforcement which could create potential for violence or vandalism by unhappy drivers. It might make more sense to take a more passive approach, using it to dispatch police, levy fines by mail, or suspend vehicle registration.



douchebags drove the evolution of mobile networks

This is why you’re gonna buy my book:

In particular, it was - to put it frankly, the douchebags of the world - Wall Street Bankers in New York, politicans in Washington, and the entertainment magnates of Hollywood whose incessant, infantile need for constant communication pushed the capacity of analog cellular networks to their limits.

So much for shitty first drafts. :)

Sao Paulo is Bizarro Seoul

Something about Sao Paulo felt so familiar, like I’d been there before. The physical landscape is almost identical to Seoul - 80s/90s/00s high rise and malls interspersed with 60s/70s/80s concrete slab factories, shantytowns and anonymous housing blocks.

But something felt so different - think about it:

  • they are on opposite sides of the globe, almost 180 degrees of longitude and latitude apart
  • Korea is like 98% ethnically Korean - the biggest city in the least diverse country on earth. The only city in Asia without a Chinatown! Sao Paulo is more diverse than any place I’ve ever been - no two people look alike. I could sit all day and watch the parade of Paulistas’s faces
  • Seoul is incredibly safe. Sao Paolo is… not.
  • One physical difference - Sao Paulo is full of barbed wire. In Korea, its all confined to the DMZ.
  • Finally, Koreans have no butt. Sorry but its (mostly true). And as Camille Paglia explains, its quite the opposite in Brazil (thank the wife for this sexist insight)

I have a feeling this list is almost endless.

Everytime I think about driving the Leaf this afternoon, I get a good feeling.I’m still skeptical that EVs can actually make a major dent in carbon emissions, but thinking about my recent switch of my residential power to a 100% wind supplier got me thinking that there could be a real synergy there - imagine being able to power your car solely off renewables? With the Leaf and choice of electricity suppliers, its within reach of a lot of consumers right now.

Everytime I think about driving the Leaf this afternoon, I get a good feeling.I’m still skeptical that EVs can actually make a major dent in carbon emissions, but thinking about my recent switch of my residential power to a 100% wind supplier got me thinking that there could be a real synergy there - imagine being able to power your car solely off renewables? With the Leaf and choice of electricity suppliers, its within reach of a lot of consumers right now.


Top 10 Reasons Why Hoboken is Better Than Brooklyn

There’s a million other things I should be writing right now, but I couldn’t resist the Independece Day inspiration to explain how I declared independence from New York City this year and why I’m glad I did. It was a tough decision to strike out westward from Manhattan into New Jersey, instead of the usual eastward trajectory for over-educated, liberal DInCs like my wife and I, but in the end Hoboken trumped Brooklyn.

Without further adieux, here’s my Top 10 Reasons Why Hoboken is Better Than Brooklyn

1. We are our own city

If it were its own city, Brooklyn would be among America’s biggest. But it isn’t. You’re always gonna be second bench to Manhattan. I run into my mayor at Sunday brunch.

2. Our waterfront

It’s not that Brooklyn’s waterfront doesn’t have nice parks. Compared to the late 90s when I used to mountain bike on the slag heaps at the foot of North 7th Street in Williamsburg, its a veritable paradise. But for the vast majority of you, its a multi-mile trek to get there. Anywhere in Hoboken is less than 15 minutes walk from a lovely revitalized waterfront with a dozen parks. (And the best views of Manhattan anywhere in the region)

3. Our politicians more entertaining (and sincere)

You have coma-inducing Michael Bloomberg who rarely lets his true intentions known, we have YouTube maniac Chris Christie. You had Eliot Spitzer, who paid for sluts he could have gotten for free. We had Jim McGreevy who’s “I am a gay American speech” was possibly the most endearing and entertaining sex scandal to rock American politics.

4. The Cake Boss

Does it get any more real than Buddy Valastro? C’mon this guy is an American icon in the making.

5. Lower taxes

Property taxes are higher than in New York, but stepping free of the New York City income tax more than makes up for it. In Brooklyn, fuggedhedaboutit. You’re subsidizing the High Line and every other plaything for the Manhattan elite.

6. The PATH is better than the subway

I could set my watch by these trains, and they cost about half of what you pay the MTA. We’ve got touchless payment cards too, put it in your purse or wallet and just bump and go.

7. Less hipsters

I left Williamsburg in 1998 thinking that it couldn’t possibly become more overrun with skinny jean, single gear biking trendoids. Little did I know it was just a beachhead they were establishing to take over the rest of the borough. Sure, Hoboken has 8000 pizzerias and not much else in the way of food, but at least I don’t have to listen to debates about the meaning of Arcade Fire lyrics while I’m eating my slice.

8. Maxwell’s is the best kept secret in music

Yo La Tengo’s “8 Days of Chanukah” annual fest, in which the hometown trio play eight nights in a row for charity is just the start. I go to Bowery Ballroom for the spectacle - I go to Maxwell’s when I want to meet the musicians after the show.

9. Biking and walking

I can get anywhere in town in less than 5 minutes by bike, walking bumps it up to 20 but that’s a slow meander.

10. The mutz

The downside of getting your city water from a pure upstate aquifer is that its relatively soft water (meaning a low dissolved mineral content). Water in New Jersey is so hard, you can practically walk across it. But the upside is that it gets into everything made here, and it brings a saltiness to the mozzarella cheese that makes Hoboken the epicenter of “mutz”. Plus just saying “mutz” is super fun.

my 1995 homage to leon panetta

during the move i unearthed an Anthony Townsend riding the Rutgers College bus 1995 special.

leon panetta

i want to buy you a drink

i’d like to sit in our suits

your fine suit tailored to your fine job

and mine to mine

yet we’d say the same things

and after 3 or 4 drinks

i’d have you whipped into a frenzy of youthful rebellion

then i’d stop stark and ask you…

where did you lose your lust?

if you ever regain it

you ought to be president

you work much harder than Bill.

"Men and women in the prime of their professional lives, who may have been responsible for the lives of scores or hundreds of troops, or millions of dollars in assistance, or engaging or reconciling warring tribes, may find themselves in a cube all day re-formatting PowerPoint slides, preparing quarterly training briefs, or assigned an ever-expanding array of clerical duties,” Mr. Gates said. “The consequences of this terrify me."

US defense secretary Gates

"Even as Goldman takes a stake in Facebook, its employees may struggle to view what they invested in. Like those at most major Wall Street firms, Goldman’s computers automatically block access to social networking sites, including Facebook."

Where’s the literature of this lost generation?

This caught my eye in the NYT today, because it sounded like a preamble to a review of a a host of books from left-behind, trodden-on, excluded authors:

The United States grew more quickly than Europe in recent decades, but many of the gains flowed to a small slice of the population. Median household income, adjusted for inflation, actually fell from 2000 to 2007 — and has fallen more since the financial crisis began in 2007.