Archive | July, 2013

I Want to Be a Mayor – NYTimes.com

30 Jul

Smaller is better.

In fact, if you want to be an optimist about America today, stand on your head. The country looks so much better from the bottom up — from its major metropolitan areas — than from the top down. Washington is tied in knots by Republican-led hyperpartisanship, lobbyists and budget constraints. Ditto most state legislatures. So the great laboratories and engines of our economy are now our cities. This is the conclusion of an important new book by the Brookings Institution scholars Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley, entitled: “The Metropolitan Revolution: How Cities and Metros Are Fixing Our Broken Politics and Fragile Economy.”

via I Want to Be a Mayor – NYTimes.com.

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How I Found a Home in Jersey City and Got Steve Fulop Elected Mayor, Part 3

18 Jul

When the second installment ended I was photographing graffiti and had started volunteering in the Hamilton Park Neighborhood Association. There I found out that Janice Monson, who taught in the Jersey City schools and was a hardcore activist, used to take her students up on the Newport Wall and take their pictures upon graduation.

Back in November of 2006, before I’d shown up at an HPNA meeting, I was walking around, or perhaps I was in the car on the way back from my Sunday AM grocery run. One or the other, it doesn’t much matter. Anyhow, I spotted some color:

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That’s the stuff, says I, that’s the stuff. When I got closer, I noticed a ramp against a wall:

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And then this:

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Someone was obviously using this site—the floor slab of an abandoned industrial building of some sort—as a park for skateboarding and BMX bike riding. See:

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I took that one in July of 2007. Notice that the art on the walls has changed. It seems that some local, and not so local, graffiti writers used this site as something of an experimental gallery even as the skateboarders and BMXers used it to hone their athletic skills.

All off the books, so to speak. They were trespassing on this land. But no one cared. The cops certainly knew what was going on. Sure, it was a little off the beaten path, but only a little. The site’s not particularly remote or hidden. Oh, they knew, the cops. But why hassle the kids? They weren’t hurting anyone; the land wasn’t being used for anything. Let ‘em use it; keeps ‘em outa’ trouble. Continue reading

Steam Detected at Damaged Fukushima Reactor – NYTimes.com

18 Jul

Lesson: A damaged nuclear reactor is a danger forever. Is there any such thing as a nuclear reactor that’s NOT damages?

TOKYO — The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant stood ready Thursday to inject boric acid into one of its most heavily damaged reactors after it found steam emanating from the reactor building. The preventive measure would stave off criticality, or an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction, in the reactor’s damaged core.

The incident has brought the Fukushima plant’s vulnerable state into sharp relief, more than two years after its reactors suffered multiple meltdowns when its cooling systems were overwhelmed by a powerful earthquake and tsunami.

via Steam Detected at Damaged Fukushima Reactor – NYTimes.com.

How I Found a Home in Jersey City and Got Steve Fulop Elected Mayor, Part 2

17 Jul

By the end of the first part of this essay I’d made my way to Jersey City and bought a point-and-shoot camera. Jersey City was where I lived, but not my home. I had no home, unless it would be the virtual world of intellectual activity.

What that camera allowed me to do was to connect my intellectual world to Jersey City itself. It’s not merely that Jersey City is where I live and so where I conduct that intellectual activity, but that Jersey City itself became the subject of that intellectual activity. And more.

It’s 2004 and I return from my conference in Chicago with a camera full of photographs of Millennium Park. I turned them into an online exhibit that my friend (and one-time teacher) Bruce Jackson put online as a working paper. And I shelved the camera. Except every now and then I’d get it out and walk around taking photos, mostly of this and that.

In the Fall of 2006 I decided to photograph signs: street signs, billboards, signs on cars, storefronts, and, of course, graffiti tags, which were plentiful.

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I decided they might be particularly interesting. After all, this mural was just across the street from my apartment:

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What if there were more like that? Continue reading

Ideas to Bolster Power Grid Run Up Against the System’s Many Owners – NYTimes.com

16 Jul

Our current power grid is a balkanized mess owned and operated by 500 different entities. It needs to be redesigned and rebuilt. But we also need to allow for resilience at the local level so individual communities will have their own power from renewables sources.

For now, engineers in the grid redesign project have determined that conducting business as usual between 2010 and 2030 would require $18.5 billion in new transmission lines in the United States, while a system designed to integrate renewables like wind energy on a large scale would cost $115.2 billion. In some places, however, renewables could cut electricity costs by allowing the replacement of high-cost generators with lower-cost ones.

The technology, the engineering skill and even the money are all available, experts say, but the ability to reach agreement on such a grid is not. Dozens of experts said in interviews that there were simply too many players, both commercial and governmental, and too many conflicting interests.

via Ideas to Bolster Power Grid Run Up Against the System’s Many Owners – NYTimes.com.

How I Found a Home in Jersey City and Got Steve Fulop Elected Mayor, Part 1

15 Jul

On that last, not really. I voted for him and made a small contribution to his campaign and I did one or two others things. But I didn’t spend 10, 20 or more hours a week volunteering for the campaign nor did I bundle big bucks for his campaign war chest. Still...

* * * * *

What is home? That’s a tricky one. I think of Johnstown, Pa. as my hometown. I was born in Pittsburgh, but that’s only where the hospital was located. I spent the first three or four years of my life in Ellsworth, Pa., but I don’t remember those years at all. Johnstown is the place I remember. Actually, a suburb in Richland, Twp. just outside Johnstown proper.

That’s where I went to primary and secondary school and that’s where I returned during summers when I was at college in Baltimore (Johns Hopkins). When I graduated with my BA I remained in Baltimore, summers too, getting a master’s degree and working out my alternative service (those were the Vietnam years) in the Chaplain’s Office at Hopkins. At the same time my father’s job moved the family to Allentown, Pa. No more returning to Johnstown. My hometown could no longer serve as my home.

From Baltimore I moved to Buffalo to pursue a Ph.D. I was as comfortable living there as I’d been since living in Johnstown, and it’s only recently that I’ve felt that kind of comfort here in Jersey City.

Why? There’s an easy and obvious explanation for my comfort in Buffalo. Though I was studying in the English Department at SUNY (the State University of New York), and liked the department, my real intellectual home was in a running seminar hosted by Prof. David G. Hays, in linguistics. Hays and I clicked as I’ve never clicked with any other thinker. Continue reading