Some thoughts while bingeing 99% Invisible on a bus

The Mojave Phone Booth: a rando phone booth in the desert. This guy got obsessed with it, eventually found where it was, made a website for it, and then it got totally overrun with visitors and callers. But there must have been a sweet moment in between where it was not 100% obscure or 100% known, when this guy and some friends could call it or make trips out to it and random people around the world would call it, and it was this beautiful thing connecting people but not overrun beyond what it can handle.

Ok gentrification ok and every story about gentrification ends up with “be nice to the community, care about them, get to know them; don’t move into a poor community in order to ‘be the change’ and hipsterize it and make it all fancy and rich.” What if you move into a rich community and attempt to “be the change” to make it more diverse and interesting and welcoming? (obviously thinking about myself and Tati and Noe Valley; not that we’re amazing people who could do that, but is it a reasonable goal?)

OH MY GOSH CELEBRATE MAINTAINERS. We are all about the innovation, the new thing, the “unicorns” that get a huge success in a short time, the people who launch the new feature… but what about the people who keep the old feature working? There’s a famous column by Joel Spoelsky about how Netscape really shot themselves in the foot once by throwing all their code out and starting over. And yet, that’s what everyone wants to do. Celebrate the people who keep the old thing running and improve it; make it work better, not just newer. Forget Steve Jobs, celebrate Alice from engineering who keeps your iPod Actually Just Working.

And this holds beyond software! Listening to an episode about Soul City, one of 13 ill-fated attempts to start a new city in the 60s, backed with federal money, because our old cities were so hosed and nobody knew what to do with them. They all failed except one that just happened to be near Houston in an oil boom. Not super surprising; you can’t just plant your flag in the ground and say “new city here!” (well, plus Soul City, the only one started by black people, was hosed by plain ol' racism too, which never helps)
I think now we’re seeing that we better fix what we’ve got instead of start a new thing, usually, mostly. And screw Tony Hsieh and his big plan to make Vegas cool; props to the million unnamed city council people and PTA board members and garbagepeople who keep our existing cities working the way they are.

Taiwan’s Taipei 101, a big building featuring a huge tuned mass damper, which is usually an annoying thing you’ve gotta stick into your supertall building, but they decided was going to be a feature and tourist attraction. And then they made “Damper Babies”, cartoon characters to get people excited (!) about this tuned mass damper. I … want to buy some Damper Babies merch now.

I had no idea “Temescal”, Oakland, was a newfangled realtor manufactured BS name like NoPa or Lower Nob Hill. Insidious, eh?

When you travel, you kinda ghettoize: Chinese travelers stay at the Chinese guesthouses, Tibetans with their Tibetan friends and family, Anglophone laowai at the places that have signs in English. (non-Anglophone foreigners? haven’t met a one yet :P) This is ok, I think. I’ve made way more real connections with people at the Anglophone guesthouses than the Chinese ones. Language matters.

blog 2023 2022 2021 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010