A new “game changer” for Baltimore post-Grand Prix

With the end of the Grand Prix in Baltimore, maybe we should seize the moment to propose some new models for encouraging visits, business, and better quality of life for all Baltimore. What are your ideas? Can you think of one or more events or programs that would cost the city little and greatly enhance our surroundings?

Here’s one idea to kick it off:

Turn Charles Street between North Avenue and Pratt into a no-cars playground for Labor Day weekend. Run busses in a loop around the area. Let the existing businesses sprawl on to the sidewalk. Fill empty storefronts with pop-up galleries, handicrafts, etc. Give arts and community groups space as well. Food trucks and restaurants will serve everyone. Create pop-up parks and games along the way.

Your thoughts?

Grand Prix of Baltimore canceled through 2015, and likely beyond
Race cars may have burned rubber on the streets of Baltimore for the last time earlier this month, as Grand Prix of Baltimore organizers announced Friday calendar conflicts doomed the event for the next two years.


Do you like ironic reclamation of negative symbols? Do you dislike decaying vacants and urban blight?

If you are a fan of Baltimore Slumlord Watch and/or ironic reclamation of negative symbols, you may be interested in this shirt/fundraiser:
The city is trying to demolish dangerous vacants, and there’s a program to help renovate those that can be restored, but more needs to be done.Fight Baltimore Blight
Throughout Baltimore (and many other cities), decaying vacant homes have been marked with a white “x” on a red background. Fire departments, wary of losing their brave firefighters, have determined these buildings are so unstable that they should not be entered unless lives are at stake. It’s a haunting icon of decay and resignation.

Let’s reclaim this symbol of despair and send a little support to the people fighting blight by ordering this T-shirt. The modest proceeds of these sales will be donated to Housing Policy Watch.


Episcopalians in decline, Hindus on the rise

For armchair sociologists, haters of the NY Times, and the flat out envious, the Times’ wedding announcements is a revealing projection and a finely-tuned barometer of what high status people think is high status. Of course the results are often unintentionally funny, irritating, or depressing, but what has changed over the years?

WASPs and debutantes have declined precipitously (Whit Stillman was right) and “bourgeois bohemian” values have made an appearance, but here are the trends over time as documented by word frequency analysis:

ATodd – When Harvard Met Sally: N-gram Analysis of the New York Times Weddings Section
The New York Times’s wedding section is a perfect natural experiment designed to answer the question: What do the world’s most self-important people think is important


Bridging Kindle books and print

This seems like pretty big news for those of us who are still heavily invested in print. Of course, I will always collect quality hardcovers of classic literature and other “keepers.”

Amazon’s Kindle MatchBook will let you buy cheap digital editions of print books you already own
Summary: Amazon’s new service, Kindle MatchBook, will let users buy discounted digital versions of print books that they’ve already bought from Amazon. But the service isn’t available for every book.


Teaching in the ether

Michael Roth is the president of Wesleyan–a college that values teaching first. In the Wall Street Journal he writes about his experience teaching a massive online course on a subtle, sophisticated topic. His verdict?

Wesleyan's Russell House
Where Wesleyan philosophers usually teach

When I mention online learning to my colleagues at Wesleyan University, most respond initially with skepticism. But based on my experience, I know that real learning can take place on the Web.

I am currently teaching a massive online open course, or MOOC, on Coursera. Most MOOCs have great attrition, and mine is no exception: There were almost 30,000 students registered at the start, yet 4,000 remain active as we near the end of the semester. Unlike most MOOCs, which focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, mine is a classic humanities course. “The Modern and the Postmodern” starts off in the 18th century with Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Immanuel Kant, and we work our way toward the present.

Read on: Michael S. Roth: My Global Philosophy Course


It’s been a long, long, long time since I fancied myself an athlete, but on May…

It’s been a long, long, long time since I fancied myself an athlete, but on May 11 I’m running the Maryland Half Marathon in memory of my dear friend Matt Hilburn. If I can wheeze my way through 13.1 miles, can you help me raise money for people fighting head and neck cancers?

In Matt’s Memory | Andrew Hazlett’s Fundraiser on CrowdRise
In July 2012, I lost a very dear friend to cancer. In his memory and to help others who are in the same struggle, I am running the Maryland Half Marathon on May 11 and raising funds for an outstanding…


Plea of the introvert

A plea on behalf of introverts in an era of triumphant extroverts. I find this analysis clarifying and downright therapeutic. via +John Hagel

Caring for Your Introvert

The habits and needs of a little-understood group

…Science has learned a good deal in recent years about the habits and requirements of introverts. It has even learned, by means of brain scans, that introverts process information differently from other people (I am not making this up). If you are behind the curve on this important matter, be reassured that you are not alone. Introverts may be common, but they are also among the most misunderstood and aggrieved groups in America, possibly the world.


On sexism, privilege, and tech

My post at on sexism, privilege, and “diversity” vs.”inclusiveness” in the tech community.

An inclusive innovation scene?
Baltimore’s tech scene looks like most cities’ – it’s overwhelmingly male. Are techies sexist? Is it outright chauvinism? A result of subtle exclusionary signals? Or is this imbalance simply a symptom of deeper, global problems?

These questions are perennial and much-debated at the national level. At the moment, there’s a local outburst of frank discussion…

Culture / World

French incursion may be saving Mali’s cultural heritage

The presence of French troops in Mali may help to protect a priceless cultural legacy which has been under siege by Islamist fighters. The BBC reports on the fate of the ancient city of Timbuktu:

The historic city is a World Heritage site, renowned for its architecture, manuscript libraries and centuries-old shrines to Islamic saints – revered by Sufi Muslims but which the Salafi militants consider idolatrous.

Many of these shrines, mausoleums, and other treasures have been destroyed just as the Taliban waged war against Afghanistan’s Buddhist monuments.

Mali crisis: ‘Timbuktu joy after life of fear’
Following France’s intervention in Mali last week, a Timbuktu resident, who asked to remain anonymous, tells the BBC about reaction in the city to the Islamist fighters’ apparent withdrawal.

Sadly, in other areas they control, Islamists continue to silence Mali’s vibrant musical culture.



Sounds like a lot more damage has already been done: Timbuktu mayor says Islamists burned texts (AP)


Ghosts of Detroit

Some ghosts of Detroit – a more humane form of ruin fixation that actually features some human beings who once filled these spaces with life.

Beautifully Mashed-Up Photos Show The Glory And Wreckage Of Detroit
Several years after the original Cass Tech High School in downtown Detroit was abandoned, a local photographer sifting through the ruins found decades of the school’s storied history…