Excellent map

October 11th, 2004 § Comments off § permalink

This is so cool: An aerial photo that shows a superimposed street map when your mouse hovers over it.

Virtual cities

August 22nd, 2004 § Comments off § permalink

The new videogame Half-Life 2 has by far the most realistic simulation of a city that’s ever been created. It would be great if city planners could take advantage of this technology. Imagine, for example, if San Francisco hired a game company to create an ultra-realistic digital version of its downtown. The city could produce simulations of how its plans would change neighborhoods, making the plans more intelligible to residents; meanwhile, the game company could earn millions on its hit new title, Lombard Street Funny Cars, or whatever.

The problems, of course, are myriad. Models would take time to produce and go out of date before they were finished, and it would cost a fortune to keep them current. (This problem could be mitigated by drawing from GIS data, such as the locations of fire hydrants and street trees, to build and update models.) Advances in technology would make even the most advanced models look antiquated in five years. Also, small cities couldn’t afford this technology—a model of, say, Des Moines wouldn’t make any money for game companies, and Des Moines wouldn’t be able to pay the entire cost of the model by itself.

But it would all be worth it if someone made a real game called Lombard Street Funny Cars. I would totally play that.

HOV and pavement: a natural combination

April 30th, 2004 § Four comments § permalink

If you liked The Grey Album–a mashup of Jay-Z’s Black Album and the Beatles’ White Album–you should definitely check out The Slack Album, which combines Jay-Z with Pavement’s Slanted and Enchanted. Super-cool stuff.

Incidentally, when The Grey Album came out, I was delighted to learn that Jay-Z also calls himself “Hov’,” which has a rather different meaning in transportation circles. That discovery led me to rewrite some of the lyrics to Jay-Z’s “Public Service Announcement“:

My name is HOV, H to the O V

I drive cars with high occupancy

I guess even back then you could call me

So concerned with air quality. HOV!

I could probably be a bigger dork than I am, but I’m not sure how.

Like piles of spaghetti

March 13th, 2004 § Comments off § permalink

Subway systems of the world, presented at the same scale.

Blither Blather v. Jabbety Blah Blah Blah

March 6th, 2004 § Comments off § permalink

My youth is far too valuable to be spent reading nonsense like this:

Reversal of the judgment will require the entry of a judgment to the opposite effect in action No. 39640. The new judgment must explicitly order the issuance of a peremptory writ of mandate commanding the County to vacate the decision approving the tentative map of the proposed Waunita Meadows subdivision. Whether it should incorporate other provisions from the judgments in the other actions (as modified below) is to be determined by the trial court upon application by any party to action No. 39640. Reversal of the present judgment in that action will also revive appellants’ request for an award of attorneys’ fees. The new judgment may also dispose of that request if appellants pursue it. Proceedings in these respects are to be conducted on the remand ordered below.

And yet here I am, sitting indoors on a beautiful day, plodding through Camp v. Board of Supervisors. I should be going for a hike, or learning to identify wildflowers, or cooking an elaborate meal, or any of a thousand other things.

The moral of this story is that at least in the short term, graduate school is not the key to personal fulfillment.

A radical notion

February 19th, 2004 § Comments off § permalink

Urban design critic John King in the San Francisco Chronicle: Buildings should be for people.

Planning “humor”

February 14th, 2004 § One comment § permalink

Q. Why did the Indian restaurant get kicked out of the residential neighborhood?

A. Because it was a naan-conforming use.

(If you’re confused, read this. If you’re not amused, clearly you have better taste than me.)

Green dwellings

February 13th, 2004 § Comments off § permalink

Every time I see the odd green house at the corner of Dwight and Martin Luther King in Berkeley, I think covetous thoughts and ponder the advantages of homeownership. There are some condominiums going in next door with roughly the same design, and as it turns out, there’s an open house to view them on Sunday afternoon. Obviously it’s meant for people who are actually interested in buying them, but I’m sorely tempted to go anyway.

Both buildings emphasize green design, with recycled materials incorporated throughout in surprising and beautiful ways. Who would have guessed, for example, that old highway signs would make such attractive siding? The builders also use more conventional techniques, like making doors and paneling from reclaimed wood and adding fly ash, a waste product from coal-fired power plants, to their concrete. It takes real skill, though, to incorporate someone else’s trash into a building in such visible ways. (Rural Studio, an Auburn University project that builds houses in a poor part of Alabama, is probably the master of the art.)

Leger Wanaselja Architecture designed the green house and condominiums, and their other work is also spendid, both environmentally and architecturally.

I’ve got bags of amchoor powder, I’ve got sumac, who could ask for anything more?

December 16th, 2003 § One comment § permalink

My last final for the semester was on Friday, and I turned in my last assignment on Saturday. I am officially done with my first semester of graduate school. Hooray!

I kept myself entertained during finals week by writing a top ten list of horrible, horrible pickup lines for first-year city planning students. Here’s an example: “Why don’t you come up to my studio and we’ll overlay our natural resources.” Trust me, if you were in my graduate program, you would find this hilarious.

Today, reveling in the glorious gift of free time, I biked to the Halal market on San Pablo to pick up some Indian and Turkish spices. The proprietor was using a band saw to slice a huge slab of lamb for an Indian woman and her Iranian friend. After he wrapped up their meat and pointed them towards the 20-pound sacks of basmati rice, he looked at me, the white guy from the suburbs, and grinned. “You see all kinds of people in this place,” he said. “I love it. I love it.” So do I.

“Long range” meaning, apparently, next week

September 4th, 2003 § Two comments § permalink

Emeryville is hiring a city planner, and the beginning of the job listing tells you everything you need to know about Emeryville’s planning process: “The City of Emeryville is seeking to fill a journey level position to perform professional planning and building work in support of the Planning/Building Department. The successful candidate will function independently performing routine to difficult assignments in current and long range planning. The principle [sic] duties of the current opening involve the processing of development applications.”

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