— Field Notes


From Mike Davis’s crucial book (2006)

shape of the city:
“the cities of the future, rather than being made out of glass and steel as envisioned by earlier generations of Urbanists, are instead largely constructed out of crude brick, straw, recycled plastic, cement blocks, and scrap wood. Instead of cities of light soaring toward heaven, much of the twenty-first-century urban world squats in squalor, surrounded by pollution, excrement, and decay.”


informal workers:

“a billion people currently live in slums and more than a billion people are informal workers, struggling for survival…the entire future growth of humanity will occur in cities, overwhelmingly poor cities, and the majority of it in slums.”

"The informal sector generates jobs not by elaborating new divisions of labour, but by fragmenting existing work, and thus subdividing incomes." 

Benefits of density:

“Urban density can translate into great efficiencies in land, energy and resource use, while democratic public spaces and cultural institutions likewise provide qualitatively higher standards of enjoyment than individualized consumption and commodified leisure.”

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I have been doing a lot of thinking  about Where We Live Now. The places between city and country, inner cities, suburban landscapes there are many versions of “here”, the classic city of our imagination is really that an imaginary place. No one can close their eyes and visualize their city or town with out seeing the “downtown”, the classic city center around which most cities radiate, but these city centers are just a very small part of the city we live in.

There are numerous ideologies and interest groups vying for  control of the future of where we live now, the developers, the speculators, businesses such as Wal-Mart, Costco, Home Depot, ecologists, neighborhood activist, governments. Each of these see where we live now differently, if where we live now is to succeed and to be a viable community we need to synthesize the disparate visions and work together. Community implies cooperation and harmony, finding ways to bring the different visions together is a great challenge, our politicians don’t seem up to the task.  We need new modes, new eyes, and a new appreciation of where we live now. The beauty and aesthetics of the in between places, the awareness of what is close, our neighbors, businesses, families, wild life, all these need consideration.

Planning is necessary,  local government is good at designing building codes, street safety and some transportation planning but where we live now transcends boundaries, the in-between places are seldom planned well and no group or government is taking responsibility for the WHOLE.


 Where We Live Now: an annotated reader edited by Matthew Stadler


(image via: animatedGIF)

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I am a long time user of Last.FM, the music database and social network site. Most people who use the service know they were purchased some time ago by CBS Records, for around a $100 million US Dollars. That didn’t surprise me since Last.FM was successful and major corporations love to buy success. What has surprised me is the story in the news over the last week that Last.FM, via their parent CBS, handed over their users listening habits (i.e. the database of the songs played on their computer) to the RIAA.

The facts in this story are somewhat in dispute, Last.FM pleads innocence, and CBS is stonewalling. There was no court order or legal case that warranted the transfer of data, these are two friendly parties sharing corporate intelligence. TechCrunch claims inside knowledge and was one of the first to break the story; these are some of Michael Arrington’s conclusions:

We believe Last.fm and CBS violated their own privacy policy in the transmission of this data. We also believe CBS and Last.fm may have violated EU privacy laws, including the Data Protection Directive, and should be investigated by the appropriate authorities.
And to the CBS employee who was fired and threatened based on this story – we believe certain U.S. Whistle Blower laws may protect you from retaliation from CBS in this matter. We’d like to provide you with legal counsel at our cost.

There has been a lot of tweeter about how the data is useless to the RIAA; I don’t know about that. What this story has made me think about is the theory of the Panopticon and how the threat of surveillance mediates the surveiled’s actions. If you think someone is watching, you are going to change your behavior. So just having the story circulated in the press is going to impact some Last.FM users behavior, they may be less likely to play music obtained through pirate networks.

Users of Social Networking sites offer them selves up to surveillance, Facebook, Twitter, Last.FM and many more sites are designed to keep track of their users. All that data about our personal lives is accumulating in the data bases of private corporations. Who knows where it will end up and what might be done with it; what can you do about it anyway, not much at this point.

The “Commons” or the places for community use, have been privatized, be it Shopping Malls or Virtual worlds, ala Second Life or social networking sites. Our traditional freedoms don’t apply in privatized spaces. That includes corporate databases like those of CBS Records. It is time to get serious about Privacy in the 21st Century and the laws that may be needed to protect that privacy. Why are no politicians talking about this, maybe because there is a terrorist or a drug dealer under every bed.

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The War in Gaza between Hamas and Israel has a very uncertain end game. The Israeli elections in February will be a turning point as important as the November election was in the US. If the Hawks take charge in Israel we can expect to see hostilities increase not decrease.

Iran is an elephant in the room that we tend to be  ignore. If Likud come back into power with Binyamin Netanyahu as Prime Minister the course Israel could pursue might be preemptive strikes against Iran and maybe Syria. This initiates the nightmare scenario.

US President Barak Obama could be backed into a corner by Israel and  the US forces that remain in Iraq could be in great jeopardy; we have massive kilotons of bombs but the Shiite presence in Iraq, Iran and Lebanon will not sit quietly if Iran is attacked, they will react. If Shiite populations across the region are mobilized bombs won’t be enough.

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Google explains the current efforts by an industry coalition to free up a large part of the wireless spectrum. The FCC is currently looking at the spectrum that has been used by analog TV, in February 2009 this spectrum will be available for different uses.


From the Free The Airwaves Web Site:

Remember that fuzzy static between channels on the old TVs? Today more than three-quarters of those radio airwaves, or “white space” spectrum, are completely unused. This vast public resource could offer a revolution in wireless services of all kinds, including universal wireless Internet. The FCC will soon decide whether to open this unused spectrum for general usage, and your voice matters — a lot. So if you agree that freeing the white spaces represents a vote for the future of the Internet, please sign our petition and help spread the word about this campaign.

This is a very democratic initiative, it will need mass support from the public to succeed. There is no good reason why this spectrum should be given to or leased to a small group of businesses. Traditionally this has been a space a set aside for the public good and this initiative could continue that tradition.

It deserves your support.

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In this video an English computer hacker, Gary McKinnon discusses his search for information in US government computers for evidence that the government has proof of UFOs. 

Uploaded by deekdeekster

The gentleman seems intelligent and sane, he claims he has seen proof that secret government groups have alien technology. Crack pot ideas from a cracker. He seems very reasonable, he could be a con man, either way the story is very interesting. He is facing a 60 year sentence for breaking into and damaging government computer systems. He claims no damage was done and the US is trying to save face. Mr McKinnon’s lawyers  claim he could be sent to Guantanamo Bay if he is treated as a terrorist.

Near the end of the interview he offers advice to PC users on securing their computers. His top advice is do not use blank admin passwords. Finding PCs with blank passwords was his way in. McKinnons hacking was done in between February 2001 and March 2002; security has improved since then. We hope.

Thanks to Dean for the link to this interview.

More information:

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