Google labs has launched a neat new feature called City Tours. The idea is similar to other sites (like Microsoft’s BING!) in that you can enter in a destination and the site will give you a bunch of things to do there. What’s nice is you get it all laid out on Google Maps, with travel times by foot and the estimated visit time. The site tries to give you a couple of days worth of stuff, but it only has so much material in its databases. That’s why the feature includes some crowd sourcing so the public can add more attractions. I punched in San Diego for our upcoming UC trip and found a couple of places that might be worth checking out!
As many long-time listeners will know, I exceptionally intersted in broadband adoption world-wide. The US has long been behind the ball on broadband adoption and this latest report does nothing to reverse that trend. The US is ranked 20th, behind even places like Singapore, Denmark, and even Estonia, all places I’m sure most Americans wouldn’t peg as being so technologically advanced relative to the US. What is exceptionally intersting about this study is that they claim past reports have been using the wrong metric; that in fact the household is the better study unit rather than per capita.
I should start by saying I’m not even going to pretend to not be biased on this issue. The community of Wilson, NC decided that they were tired of paying so much for so little with regard to broadband and cable. So what’s an industrious community who’s tired of their contractor to do? Well do it there darn self, that’s what. Turns out they offered a better product for less than either major cable company could. So what’s a cable company to do? Lobby the state legislature to make that type of stuff illegal! Personally, I’m a big supporter of community broadband, especially in markets where the cable companies don’t want to complete. I find this trend rather flustrating and disappointing. I understand the point about private/public competition, but if the private isn’t willing to compete, why should the public be prohibited by law from doing so?
Digg had an interesting link to a pretty cool visualization technique. I like the addition of actual people into the “livable” street, as well as the architectural improvements. I think the use of a real world place transformed in easily identifiable ways is incrediblly powerful to the public. You can really see what they’re talking about quickly and efficently. The flash annimation links to the Livable Streets Initiative, which includes a series of videos, a wiki, and a means of interacting with people in areas trying to make their streets more livable. If you’re interested in this sort of thing, it’s worth taking some time to go through the site.
Something most people (especially in the US) don’t spend a lot of time thinking about is world demographics. I’m sure everyone has heard some variation of the “if there were only 100 people on the planet”, but most might have heard it from second or third hand sources. The website minature-earth.com features a neat video laying out what the planet would look like if there were only 100 people on it. It’s a continuation of the work done by Donella Meadows in 1990. There’s a downloadable version you can use, but it costs money to download (toward the costs of maintaining the site). There’s also a blog, although it doesn’t seem to update often. One bit of irony – you’re going to need a fast connection to view the short video. According to the video, if there were only 100 people on the planet, only 3 of us would get to view the thing anyway.
Gizmodo has a pretty cool post about MIT’s Word’s Eyes Project. The idea behind the project is to look at the world through the photos posted on Flickr. What they’re trying to capture are the ways we – mostly as tourists – capture the world around us. Of course there are lots of projects and products out there to do this sort of thing, but I’m attracted to the rather “unauthorized” nature of this project. In some ways, it seems like those that put their pictures up for purposes other than documenting a place might, completely inadvertantly, show us things about that place we might otherwise miss.
Ars Technica has a nice discussion about nuclear power discussions that took place at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago. The short of it is that several prominate scientists are arguing that nuclear power has a place in our future power needs. Coming from a coal state, I’ve often wondered about which is the lesser of two evils – nuclear power or coal energy. I’m certain strong and informed opinions can be made both in the pro and con column for each technology. What I believe this strongly underscores is the notion that we will most likely use a mix of technologies to power ourselves in the future.
The New York Times has a nice interactive map (flash based) of unemployement rates by county. It shows that areas with housing booms, lots of manufacturing, and high existing unemployment got hit the hardest this last year, which isn’t a huge suprise. However, you can use the map to see some regionalization to this stuff.
If you’ve been curious as to exactly how bad a problem this foreclosure business has become, perhaps this heat map might give you an idea of the severity and location. It’s published by RealityTrac and gives a good indication of county by county level data. However, sometime more interactive might be nice. Well, if you live in California, Foreclosure Radar provides a Google Map interface, but you have to subscribe to do anything useful. The USAToday published an interactive map of the Denver area to give an idea of how hard certain areas were hit. I hope we’ll see more and more of this type of mapping thing in the coming months, as this stuff if perfect for geographic analysis. Understanding the underlying geography to these massive housing failures might help us understand who to target to help mitigate some of these effects on certain areas.
Hot Hardware (a most excellent computer/techie site, by the way) is reporting an interesting proposition by the Governor of Oregon. Apparently Oregon is having a bit of financial difficulty, what with all the people trying to save on gas and the associated decline in gas tax revenues. Governor Kulongoski’s proposal is fairly simple – let’s tax based upon how many miles driven rather than how many gallons of gas purchased. It’s not a new idea per se, but it’s a new application of technology to help with the idea. The notion is to fit cars with GPS units which record the number of miles traveled since the last fill-up. When you go to the gas station, a reader will automatically read the number of miles, calculate the tax, and add the appropriate amount to your bill. This won’t replace the gas tax – at least not at first – because it will take some time to fit all the cars in Oregon with the necessary equipment. As the article points out, the idea is just something the Governor is suggesting. It’s up to the legislature to make it happen.
It’s an interesting idea, but I’m not sure tax payers are going to get on board. You also have to wonder about the people traveling from other states and are unlikely to have the GPS system installed. It will get people to focus on driving less distance (as opposed to consuming less gas), which would seem to be counter to environmental concerns. All in all, it is a pretty radical experiment. We’ll have to keep watch to see if its ultimately implemented.