Friday, November 24, 2017

The MTA just hired a transit mastermind to fix the subway TimeOutNewYork

The MTA has hired one of the world's most renowned transit experts to be the new president of New York City Transit.

English-born, Andy Byford who has managed rapid transit systems on three continents, is now tasked with bringing Gotham's subways, buses, and paratransit services into the 21st century. The announcement comes on Tuesday, just days after The Times published a scathing expose detailing how short-sighted decisions by politicians and transit leaders have allowed the city's subway system to fall into disrepair.

"We are thrilled that Andy is going to lead NYC Transit during this time of great change," MTA chairman Joseph Lhota said in a statement. "Our transit system is the backbone of the world's greatest city, and having someone of (Byford's) caliber to lead it will help immensely, particularly when it comes to implementing the Subway Action Plan that we launched this summer."

That Subway Action Plan will cost upward of $800 million, and Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio are still quibbling where the bulk of that funding will come from. The plan is broken up into two phases: The first aims to address "the key drivers of 79% of major incidents on the subway"; the second is more vague but promises to incorporate winning ideas from this summer's MTA's Genius Transit Challenge, where Byford was a panel member.

Byford's job will not only require him to oversee implementation of actionable fixes for the subway and managing nearly 50,000 NYC Transit employees but also to navigate the personalities, interests, and politics that surround the nation's largest rapid transit network.

But that task is nothing new for Byford. He's a 14-year veteran of the London Underground, where he became the general manager of three of the network's busiest lines. He then went on to be the Chief Operating Officer of Sydney's transit system. He comes to New York from Toronto where he spent 5 years as CEO of the Toronto Transit Commission (TCC). During his time there, the city's subway system saw reductions in delays and record-high customer
satisfaction. His work garnered the attention of the American Public Transportation Association which named the TCC the Outstanding Transit System of the Year for 2017.

"New York City's public transit system has driven New York City to become the bustling, successful metropolis that it is, and it's an honor to be trusted with the huge responsibility to modernize the system and bring it to the high levels of performance and customer service that New Yorkers truly deserve and rightfully expect," Byford said. "I look forward to working with my new colleagues and all the employees of New York City Transit and the MTA, and, most importantly, our customers."

Byford's hiring hopes to be a major step towards re-establishing New York City's subway as one of the best in the world. Expectations are high, and New Yorkers are a notoriously unforgiving bunch. But if he manages to pull it off, Byford will be a name worth remembering for decades to come.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

A Sketch for Autumn by Grant Snider

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Check out the new glowing art installation coming to Madison Square Park: TIME OUT New York

Public art installations at Madison Square Park do not mess around.

This summer, renowned artist Josiah McElheny brought a trio of glass sculptures to the space for his Prismatic Park installation. Last year, a set of life-size gingerbread houses set up shop there during the holiday season. Heck, even a giant inflatable banana that was more of an advertisement for Chiquita than a work of art had the internet buzzing about the park last month.

This fall, a new installation from Erwin Redl will head to the park's Oval Lawn. Titled Whiteout, the piece looks like something straight out of Star Wars. The project is made up of hundreds of white, transparent spheres that encapsulate white LED lights, which will be suspended from a grid of poles and cabling. The “orbs” will dangle two feet off of the ground, swaying with the wind. Redl is also programming the spheres to light up in a trippy pattern, producing a wave-like visual across the lawn. 

The exhibit will be on view from November 16 through April 15, 2018.

Madison Square Park:

This public space was a highly desirable address when it opened in 1847, and is now a verdant oasis. It hosts art installations, food festivals and a popular series of summer concerts. The destination is also home to Shake Shack, a summer favorite (as evidenced by the shockingly long lines) for burgers, fries and, of course, shakes.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

SEEING WITH YOUR TONGUE: Sensory-substitution devices help blind and deaf people, but that’s just the beginning.

According to one scientist, "You don't see with your eyes, you see with your brain."

The climbers at Earth Treks gym, in Golden, Colorado, were warming up: stretching, strapping themselves into harnesses, and chalking their hands as they prepared to scale walls stippled with multicolored plastic holds. Seated off to one side, with a slim gray plastic band wrapped around his brow, Erik Weihenmayer was warming up, too—by reading flash cards. “I see an ‘E’ at the end,” he said, sweeping his head over the top card, from side to side and up and down. “It’s definitely popping—is it ‘please’?” he asked me. It was. Weihenmayer moved triumphantly on to the next card.

Erik Weihenmayer is the only blind person to have climbed Mt. Everest. He was born with juvenile retinoschisis, an inherited condition that caused his retinas to disintegrate completely by his freshman year of high school. Unable to play the ball games at which his father and his brothers excelled, he took to climbing after being introduced to it at a summer camp for the blind. He learned to pat the rock face with his hands or tap it with an ice axe to find his next hold, following the sound of a small bell worn by a guide, who also described the terrain ahead. With this technique, he has summited the tallest peaks on all seven continents.

A decade ago, Weihenmayer began using the BrainPort, a device that enables him to “see” the rock face using his tongue. The BrainPort consists of two parts: the band on his brow supports a tiny video camera; connected to this by a cable is a postage-stamp-size white plastic lollipop, which he holds in his mouth. The camera feed is reduced in resolution to a grid of four hundred gray-scale pixels, transmitted to his tongue via a corresponding grid of four hundred tiny electrodes on the lollipop. Dark pixels provide a strong shock; lighter pixels merely tingle. The resulting vision is a sensation that Weihenmayer describes as “pictures being painted with tiny bubbles.”

Reading the cards before his climb helped Weihenmayer calibrate the intensity of the electrical stimulation and make sure that the camera was pointing where he thought it was pointing. When he was done, he tied himself into his harness and set off up Mad Dog, a difficult route marked by small blue plastic holds set far apart on the wall. Without the BrainPort, Weihenmayer’s climbing style is inelegant but astonishingly fast—a spidery scramble with arms and feet sweeping like windshield wipers across the wall in front of him in order to feel out the next hold. With the device on his tongue, he is much slower, but more deliberate. After each move, he leans away from the wall, surveys the cliff face, and then carefully reaches his hand out into midair, where it hovers for a split second before lunging toward a hold several feet away. “You have to do the hand thing, because it’s hard to know where, exactly, things are in space,” Weihenmayer explained, as I prepared to tackle Cry Baby, a much simpler route. “Once my hand blocks the hold, I know I’m in front of it, and then I just kind of go in there.”

Weihenmayer told me that he wouldn’t take the BrainPort up Everest—relying on fallible electronics in such extreme conditions would be foolhardy. But he has used it on challenging outdoor climbs in Utah and around Colorado, and he loves the way that it restores his lost hand-eye co√∂rdination. “I can see the hold, I reach up, and I’m, like, ‘Pow!’ ” he said. “It’s in space, and I just grabbed it in space. It sounds so simple when you have eyes, but that’s a really cool feeling.”,

The BrainPort, which uses the sense of touch as a substitute for sight, is one of a growing number of so-called sensory-substitution devices. Another, the vOICe, turns visual information into sound. Others translate auditory information into tactile sensation for the deaf or use sounds to supply missing haptic information for burn victims and leprosy patients. While these devices were design,d with the goal of restoring lost sensation, in the past decade they have begun to revise our understanding of brain organization and development. The idea that underlies sensory substitution is a radical one: that the brain is capable of processing perceptual information in much the same way, no matter which organ delivers it. As the BrainPort's inventor, the neuroscientist Paul Bach-y-Rita put it, "You don't see with your eyes, you see with your brain."

Bach-y-Rita, who died in 2006, is known as the "father of sensory substitution," although as he liked to point out, both Braille and white canes are essentially sensory-substitution systems, replacing information that is typically visual -- words on a page, objects at a distance -- with tactile sensation. He even argued that writing ought to be the original precursor, because it enabled the previously auditory experience of the spoken word to be presented visually......


NOTE: Since the article is pages long, I thought I'd stop here. If you are interested in the rest, please click on the link at the top of page which will take you to the original.

It's fascinating, isn't it?

I noticed after having yogurt for breakfast that even while eating, I was taken at how diluted it was compared to the same yogurt 20 years ago. Wholeheartedly agree with this concept.

Incredible the blind and deaf will be able to enjoy all that the planet and its inhabitants have to offer.