Olympic Games: Greece's Gold Medal For Debt

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Although I cannot imagine that it will have much appeal in the ratings beyond C-Span 2, a terrific new reality program, Euro Bomb, could be produced around the survival of the Greek economy.

The founder of both the ancient and modern Olympic games is in the midst of a debt crisis that threatens not just to send a few bondholders off the island, but has the potential to blow up the European Union’s currency zone.  read more »

The 10 Percent Solution to Urban Growth

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What if we achieved the urbanist dream, with people deciding en masse to move back to the city? Well, that would create a big problem, since there would be no place to put them. Many cities hit their peak population in 1950, when the US total was 150 million. Today it is over 300 million, with virtually all the growth taking place in the suburbs.  read more »

What is the Answer to the Suburban Question?

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We have recently assembled a special issue of the journal Cities with the title “The Suburban Question”, and we assume that many readers will assume the answer is “who cares”? The term ‘sub-urbs’ connotes a lesser form of urban life, and for decades it has been used dismissively to denote anything plastic, even hypocritical. Novelist Anthony Powell described one of his unsympathetic characters possessing a ‘‘face like Hampstead Garden Suburb”; the New York Times recently described architect Robert Stern as ‘‘a suede-loafered sultan of suburban retrotecture”. In the old days, record stores had ‘urban’ bins full of gangsta, but nothing marked ‘suburban’, although it is always easy to use the suburbs as a backdrop for duplicity, as in American Beauty, or the first series of Weeds (set in a gated community, a double score!).  read more »

Welcome to Ecotopia

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In this era of tea-partying revolutionary-era dress-ups, one usually associates secessionism with the far right. But if things turn sour for the present majority in Washington, you should expect a whole new wave of separatism to emerge on the greenish left coast.

In 1975 Ernest Callenbach, an author based in Berkeley, Calif., published a sci-fi novel about enviro-secessionists called Ecotopia; a prequel, Ecotopia Rising, came out in 1981. These two books, which have acquired something of a cult following, chronicle--largely approvingly--the emergence of a future green nation along the country's northwest coast.  read more »

Ethics, Banking And The Coin of the Realm

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Many years ago, I wrote for a New York investment bank whose name has been semi-obscured by the epidemic of shotgun marriages on Wall Street in the intervening decades. Thus, the news that Goldman Sachs enabled the miserable financial accounting habits of Greece did not surprise me, nor, I feel sure, anyone who ever worked for one of the banks. As many characters on “The Wire” put it over five years of exquisite television, “All in the game, yo.” Or, in the words of a previous era’s television icon — JR Ewing, Texas oilman on “Dallas” — “Once you give up your ethics, the rest is a piece of cake.”  read more »

MILLENNIAL PERSPECTIVE: Kindle 101

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The rising Millennial Generation has been cast as the leading force in teaching current technological advancements, and in predicting what will come next. Labeled “Digital Natives” because of our familiarity with digital communications and media technologies, the rise of the Millennials has run parallel with the rise of the cell phone, the computer complete with Internet, and the launch of MP3 players. In keeping with expectations that we’ll provide leadership on the digital media world, here’s what to expect of the sophisticated technology of Kindle, the digital book:  read more »

Subjects:

The Nile Flows North

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"How can a river flow north?" the real estate lady asked me. "I mean, it's impossible." The offending river, within whose watershed I proposed to buy a house, is the Wallkill. It rises in Northern New Jersey – near Sparta – and passes by Middletown, NY, and through Montgomery, Walden, the eponymous town of Wallkill, New Paltz, Rosendale, and finally (with a complication) drains into the Hudson River at Kingston, NY – approximately 100 miles north of its source.

In defense of the American public school system, I add that my realtor was born and educated in Europe.  read more »

Subjects:

The Heavy Price of Growth Management in Seattle

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The University of Washington Study: Economist Theo Eicher of the University of Washington has published research indicating that regulation has added $200,000 to house prices in Seattle between 1989 and 2006. Eicher told the Seattle Times that “Seattle is one of the most regulated cities and a city whose housing prices are profoundly influenced by regulations.”  read more »

Creating a Pearl River Delta Megapolis, The Growth Story of the 21st Century

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In Southern China, the Pearl River Delta is giving rise to an urban super-power in the first rank.

In 2005, the wealthiest metropolises were still led by the thriving urban agglomerations of the leading advanced economies in North America, Western Europe and Japan; that is, Tokyo, New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Paris and London. The scale economies of these metropolises are as significant as those of many national economies. For instance, the estimated GDP of Tokyo and New York City, respectively, was not that different from the total GDP of Canada or Spain, whereas London’s estimated GDP was higher than that of Sweden or Switzerland.  read more »

Land Planning: Put Tech and Team on The Same Page

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Technological advances allow Civil Engineering and Land Surveying professionals to perform, in minutes, tasks that would have taken days or weeks before computer usage became widespread. I have been fortunate to have been part of the technology industry from its humble beginnings. In the 1960s, working for a Land Planning firm, I began inventing devices to reduce the time it took to draft plans. These contraptions would hang on the wall, jokingly labeled Rickometer1, Rickometer2, etc. My systems allowed me to get the plans out faster, but the designs were no better because of these devices.

Fast forward four decades and nothing has changed.  read more »