Arbitrary Stupid Goal: a memoir of growing up under the tables of the best restaurant in New York

To call Shopsin's "a Greenwich Village institution" was to understate something profound and important and weird and funny: Shopsin's (first a grocery store, later a restaurant) was a kind of secret reservoir of the odd and wonderful and informal world that New York City once represented, in the pre-Trumpian days of Sesame Street and Times Square sleaze: Tamara Shopsin grew up in Shopsin's, and Arbitrary Stupid Goal is her new, "no-muss memoir," is at once charming and sorrowing, a magnificent time-capsule containing the soul of a drowned city.

New York Public Library turns subway cars into mobile ebook libraries

Ten MTA cars have been outfitted as Subway Libraries by the New York Public Library: the in-car wifi connects riders to an e-reading repository containing "books, short stories, chapters and excerpts donated by publishers to the New York Public Library." Read the rest

"Hole Roll": blackout curtains with trompe l'oeil cityscapes cut into them

Hole Roll is (was? the post dates from 2014 and their website is down) a Ukrainian blind company that published some early designs for blackout curtains cut into intricate nighttime cityscapes that let you create the illusion of being in a skyscraper penthouse after dark in the middle of the day in a suburban tract home. (via Colossal) Read the rest

The Building Shaker: a thumping gadget for annoying your noisy neighbors

The Chinese media report on a man called Zhao from Xi'an who took revenge on his noisy upstairs neighbors whose boy wouldn't stop jumping on his ceiling by buying a "building shaker" -- a gadget that thumps your shared walls until your neighbors capitulate -- and leaving it on while he went away for the weekend. Read the rest

Dallas's 156 tornado sirens hacked and repeatedly set off in the middle of Saturday night

If you've ever witnessed an emergency siren test, you know how terrifying these things are: engineered to be bowel-looseningly urgent, to pierce through any sense that it's probably just a misfire, to motivate you to drop everything and rush for the emergency shelters, equally useful for tornadoes and incoming ICBMs. Read the rest

40% of households in Philadelphia can't pay their water bill

America is in the midst of an "invisible water crisis" as the post-war water infrastructure reaches the end of its duty-cycle and cash-strapped public utilities struggle to find the money to rebuild it. In cities like Philadelphia, Atlanta, Seattle, and Detroit, families increasingly find themselves in water debt, and in Detroit, 50,000 households have had their running water cut off because of delinquency. Read the rest

Beyond the Trolley Problem: Three realistic, near-future ethical dilemmas about self-driving cars

MIT Professor Emeritus of Robotic Rodney Brooks has published a thought-provoking essay on the most concrete, most likely ethical questions that will be raised by self-driving cars; Brooks is uninterested in contrived questions like the "Trolley Problem" (as am I, but for different reasons); he's more attuned to the immediate problems that could be created by selfish self-drivers who use their cars to get an edge over the people who drive themselves, and pedestrians. Read the rest

Folding Beijing: the 2016 Hugo-winning novelette about the obsolescence of labor and the preservation of privilege

Belatedly, I've finally read Hao Jingfang's novelette "Folding Beijing," which won the Hugo Award last summer in Kansas City: it's a story about a future in which the great cities continue to be engines of economic power, but where automation eventually makes most of the people in the cities obsolete -- a problem solved by dividing the city's day and geography up by strata, using marvellous origami buildings that appear and disappear, and suspended animation technologies that whisk away great portions of the city's unneeded proletariat for most of the day. Read the rest

Trump Tower has two "privately owned public spaces" that anyone is entitled to visit

In order to get permission to add an extra 20 floors to Trump Tower's plan, Donald Trump had to promise to build public amenities, "including access to restrooms, an atrium, and two upper-level gardens." Read the rest

Rich people can afford to buy more sleep than poor people

In Rich do not rise early: spatio-temporal patterns in the mobility networks of different socio-economic classes, a group of transportation engineers analyze an open data-set about the commutes of people in the Colombian cities of Medellín and Manizales, concluding that the rich and the poor commute the furthest distances, but that the rich have much shorter commutes, thanks to private transport and superior routing, which translates to substantially more sleep for the wealthy. Read the rest

Tour New York's invisible, networked surveillance infrastructure with Ingrid Burrington's new book

Writer/artist Ingrid Burrington has published a book called Networks of New York: An Illustrated Field Guide to Urban Internet Infrastructure, which sketches the physical extrusions of the internet into New York City's streets and buildings, and makes especial note of how much of that infrastructure has been built as part of the post 9/11 surveillance network that NYC has erected over the past 15 years. Read the rest

Geographically representative map of the London Underground

The Transport for London tube map, building on Harry Beck's pioneering work in 1931, is rightly hailed as a masterpiece of simplification and clarity in data visualisation. Read the rest

The 2017 Ikea Catalog considered as dystopian urban microapartment futurism

The new Ikea Catalog is making a big bet on very small living spaces -- the kind of place that costs more than half your monthly salary but is too small for a dinner-table, let alone a separate room for your kids, who are supposed to sleep in a bunk-bed in the living room ("Why would a child on the verge of pubescence need privacy anyway?"). Read the rest

It's pretty easy to hack traffic lights

Researchers from the University of Michigan EE/Computer Science Department (previously) presented their work on hacking traffic signals at this year's Usenix Security Symposium (previously), and guess what? It's shockingly easy to pwn the traffic control system. Read the rest

Residents of Silicon Valley homeless camp clear 48,000 Lbs of garbage from creek, ask for housing

Silicon Valley's legendary housing crisis -- now several decades old -- has led to the establishment of semi-permanent homeless camps on public lands, including a notable camp on the banks of Coyote Creek, on Santa Clara County Water District land. Read the rest

Textiles printed directly from sewer covers

Berlin's Raubdruckerin ("Pirate Printer") roam the world's great cities -- places like Paris, Amsterdam and Lisbon -- and apply ink-rollers directly to the prettiest manhole and utility covers they can find, then print tees, hoodies, posters and bags to sell with them. Read the rest

San Francisco's bike lanes have become Uber's pickup/dropoff zones (and the cops don't care)

It's no secret that San Francisco's cops hate cyclists -- they won't investigate hit-and-runs, they blame cyclists for accidents and harass them, they run them down in bike lanes -- so it's no surprise that they stand by idly while San Francisco's busy biking lanes are turned into pick-up and drop-off zones by Uber and Lyft drivers, forcing cyclists to swerve into traffic. Read the rest

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