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I have a long list of things to do, most of which I don't feel like doing. But one of them is "Update LJ" (no, really). So here I am.

Via [livejournal.com profile] spacing, interesting article on the future of suburbs.
In the first half of last year, residential burglaries rose by 35 percent and robberies by 58 percent in suburban Lee County, Florida, where one in four houses stands empty. Charlotte’s crime rates have stayed flat overall in recent years—but from 2003 to 2006, in the 10 suburbs of the city that have experienced the highest foreclosure rates, crime rose 33 percent. Civic organizations in some suburbs have begun to mow the lawns around empty houses to keep up the appearance of stability. Police departments are mapping foreclosures in an effort to identify emerging criminal hot spots.

The decline of places like Windy Ridge and Franklin Reserve is usually attributed to the subprime-mortgage crisis, with its wave of foreclosures. And the crisis has indeed catalyzed or intensified social problems in many communities. But the story of vacant suburban homes and declining suburban neighborhoods did not begin with the crisis, and will not end with it. A structural change is under way in the housing market—a major shift in the way many Americans want to live and work. It has shaped the current downturn, steering some of the worst problems away from the cities and toward the suburban fringes. And its effects will be felt more strongly, and more broadly, as the years pass. Its ultimate impact on the suburbs, and the cities, will be profound.
I'm in a bit of a slump at the moment myself, although not of epic proportions. I spent Tuesday home sick and I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed and Februaryish and lacking motivation. Also, time has been behaving really weirdly; I keep being surprised by how much or how little time has passed since event X. But I'm chipping away at work, I bought lipstick and got a Clinique bonus (hey, whatever works), today is sunny and gorgeous, my dog seems to feel all is right with his world now that Jen and Tilde are home, and the family birthday is tonight. So life could be much worse.

It's been ages since I did a book update, so here's one, although it may be missing some items.

Cut to spare those who really don't care what I've been reading since the start of January )

Sheesh. I should be an Amazon affiliate.

Incidentally, the library's new hold/account interface is up and running. I have to say I hope they continue tinkering with it because, while the options to change the pickup location and put items on hold for a specific length of time are cool, it's missing some functionality that I really appreciated in the old version, specifically:
- items ready to pick up showed in a different section of the Holds page
- holds could be sorted by title or expiry date
- renewals showed up instantly (in the new version you have to log out and log in again, although it's possible this was due to startup bugginess)

It would also be good if its privacy certificate checked out properly. Just sayin', TPL.

What was interesting while they were switching over and the hold system was down was how empty the hold shelves in the branches got after just a couple of days. Really an impressive reminder of how many books cycle through there!

More lists of media consumed, just for completeness )
electricland: (Hufflepuff auryanne)
I am so thrilled about this year's Nobel peace prize. The Grameen Bank is such a brilliantly simple and simply brilliant concept, and it's helped so many people. I hope we don't see the same sort of grouching as we did when Wangari Maathai won two years ago. I'm interested and pleased that the committee seems try and take a broad approach to the concept of "peace" -- the prize doesn't just go to people who try and end conflicts, but sometimes it goes to people who try to address the roots of conflict in the first place.
electricland: (Betan Astronomical Survey)
Via [livejournal.com profile] makinglight, the source of many good things, comes news of the $100 laptop. (I've heard about this before, but this is a nice summary, and it sounds like they're making progress.)

In November 2005, Nicholas Negroponte, head of the MIT Media Lab, unveiled a prototype of a laptop that could be sold -- in minimum orders of one million -- at a cool $100. While Negroponte now projects the price somewhat higher, around $110, he also sees the project's completion soon -- in late 2006.

How can a computer be manufactured so cheaply? According to the project's Web site, they will use "high-resolution black and white displays commonly found in inexpensive DVD players [that] can be used in bright sunlight -- at a cost of approximately $35." They also plan to save money by running open-source code like Linux and selling their computers in a minimum order of one million to governments.

The project, run by the nonprofit group One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) formed at Davos and backed by companies like Google, Red Hat, and Advanced Micro Devices, could have monumental consequences for the education and material improvement of poorer nations. Historically, technology facilitating the cheap and easy spread of information has often taken centuries to be directly seen in material progress -- from the printing press to "Poor Richard's Almanack" for example. But One Laptop Per Child, by connecting poor, rural farmers to everything from weather forecasts to educational resources to medical information, shows how this process can be sped up exponentially. Commentators have also suggested alternate uses of the OLPC laptops as cash registers and a method to document transactions or to provide the formal titles to land necessary for the poor to obtain loans.

You can visit the group's website for more info about the $100 laptop. (They have a wiki and everything!)

Perhaps not surprisingly, Bill Gates thinks it's a silly idea. (Makes me want to send them a cheque right now.)

Microsoft Corp. Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates mocked a $100 laptop computer for developing countries being developed with the backing of rival Google Inc. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

...

"If you are going to go have people share the computer, get a broadband connection and have somebody there who can help support the user, geez, get a decent computer where you can actually read the text and you're not sitting there cranking the thing while you're trying to type," Gates said.

(Then he said "You should by my new laptop, which will cost between $600 and $1000, instead!")

You know, although I curse Bill Gates on a regular basis, I think he's done a lot of good with his money -- the AIDS foundation and so on. I'm surprised to hear something so out of touch from him...

Anyway, it all reminded me of the National Farm Radio Forum, something my dad was involved with in his early days at the CBC:

The broadcasts were aired every Monday night from 1942-1965. The weekly themes of the broadcast were developed by a national planning group made up of farmers from across the country. Topics ranged from agricultural policy and international trade to community and family life. Families would gather in each others' homes, community halls, school houses or church basements to listen to the broadcast and discuss the issues presented. They were aided with a publication called the Farm Forum Guide which they received prior to the broadcast. The guide presented different sets of questions for both adults and youth to discuss. Following the discussion, the participants were encouraged to report to their Provincial Farm Forum Office the results of their discussion and these were tabulated and reported for five minutes of the following week's broadcast. This allowed the listeners to take part in their education by sharing views and ideas across the country.

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