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.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

This Tiny Device Could Provide Clean Water for 663 Million People

A tiny, black rectangular device could be the world’s long-term solution for clean water.  The gadget is solar-powered, half the size of a postage stamp, and it disinfects water.

“Our device looks like a little rectangle of black glass,” said Chong Liu, lead author of a paper on the device published in 
Nature Nanotechnology. “We just dropped it into the water and put everything under the sun, and the sun did all the work,” she said.

663 million people in the world not having access to clean water, a device this efficient stands to significantly change many lives. Roughly 800 children die a day due to lack of access to clean water.

The purifier, developed by researchers at the SLAC National Accelerator and Stanford University, contains microscopic layers of “nanoflakes.” When exposed to water and sunlight, they produce hydrogen peroxide, a natural disinfectant. In early testing, the disinfectant killed 99.999% of bacteria before dissipating and leaving behind safe-to-drink water.

“When you see there’s no bacteria growing, it’s really exciting,” said Liu in the report published on Monday. “We didn’t expect it to work that well at first.”

The new device is a substantial improvement over previous solar-powered water cleaning systems. The nanoflakes, which contain industrial lubricant molybdenum disulfide, absorb more than just UV light. Absorbing a wider band of the light spectrum means the nanoflakes utilize 50% of the incoming sunlight’s energy, whereas standard purifiers harness 4%.

The solar-powered reaction should leave the device completely reusable.

Researchers tested the tiny tablet in 25-milliliter vessels containing E. Coli and lactic acid bacteria Enterococcus. It took less than 20 minutes for the water in the container to be cleaned. Larger water tanks can be purified by scaling up the number of tablets used.

For the moment, the still-unnamed device’s ability to clean chemical pollutants like lead is unknown.
Despite the potential limitation, the small rectangle of nanoflakes is a major step forward to providing everyone in water-contaminated areas with a clean source of refreshment.

“As a researcher it’s really exciting for us to see that by developing technologies you have the potential to help a lot of people,” Liu said.

The device will next be tested in real world settings before, researchers hope, being put into commercial production at a price less than $30.

Written by Brandon Blackburn-Dwyer

Brandon is the Managing Editor of Global Citizen. He has lived and worked on 4 different continents and travelled to nearly 60 countries. His first job was with Seton Hall University’s School of Diplomacy, and he has been working in international affairs ever since. From academia (he was a professor!) to development work to business to work on radio and television he has always been focused on global issues. He also loves college basketball.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

THE TELEPHONE NUMBER - Happy Valentine's Day!



MIKE frantically fingers the contents of his wallet.

Where is that business card?

He holds his wallet upside down, watching the waterfall of its contents cascade to his unmade bed.

It was blue.

For the next half hour he inspects each item, discarding the unnecessary. Still, no blue business card. Despondent, he falls onto his bed; the loss of the card summing up his chaotic life.

Think, Mike. Think.

He closes his eyes and concentrates. The first three numbers lept before him as he'd studied her telephone number countless times. But the last a child repeats the alphabet to reach an elusive letter, so he tried with numbers.

One, two, three... Three!

Scrambling for a notepad, he proceeds until seven digits stared back at him; the telephone number he could swear he'd had all along. His digital clock blares eleven o'clock.

It's pretty late.
(pumping himself)
It's now or never!

As he dials, he visualizes the tall, slender blonde in her slinky, red dress, flirting over a martini.

But I'm not in her league.

While the phone rings, he reminds himself that he wasn't half bad looking, and women even commented on how his glasses made him look just as adorable as Clark Kent.

Just as clumsy, too.

A woman answers the phone.


Hello? Danielle?


Um. This is Mike. You may not remember...

I didn't think you'd ever call, Mike.

(spirits soaring)
Would you like to go out for dinner?
You would? I mean, Saturday? Seven thirty?
Sure, I know where it is. Terrific! See you
then. Good night, Danielle.

He dances victoriously around the bedroom, then collapses onto his bed, soon falling asleep.


Mike rushes haphazardly, changing his Hanes underwear at least a dozen times. He would be late if he didn't step up his already frenetic pace.


Mike follows the maitre d' who escorts him to a cozy table in the dimly lit corner at which sits a lovely, bespectacled young woman.

(adjusting her glasses)

(mimics her)

While the excitement and anticipation hisses from his ego, Danielle grins.

Seems there's been a little mistake.

Her embracing smile emphasizes her gentleness and sweet face.

It doesn't mean we can't make the best of it.
What do you think?

(grins sheepishly)

After ordering, then pouring the wine, he slowly shares what had happened. Danielle's LAUGHTER, both comforting and lilting, eases his self-consciousness. The hours fly by. When they realize they're the last couple in the restaurant, they exchange warm glances.

I'd love to see you again.

I would too, Mike, but under one condition.

What's that?

(holding his hands)
You give me your telephone number.



As they walk into the crisp spring night, DANIELLE's tresses bounce in sync with Mike's newfound spring in his step.

(to himself, glancing at the stars)
Am I glad I lost that business card!


**written by petra michelle (2/16/08)**

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

5 Things That Can't Be Copyrighted

Modern copyright law can feel extremely broad at times. Every creative work made, whether it is a doodle on a napkin, a photograph or a poem, once it is fixed into a tangible medium of expression, the creator holds the copyright to it. No notice nor any further action is required (though registration with the U.S. Copyright Office has many added benefits).
Still, there are many things that can not be copyrighted. They either don’t fall under the jurisdiction of copyright or don’t qualify for its protection. There are also exemptions and that place some content immediately into the public domain.
So if you’ve ever wondered about the things you can’t copyright, here is a short list of five of the more important ones.

1. Titles and Names

Copyright protection does not extend to titles, names, slogans or short phrases, the Copyright Office has made that much very clear. You can not copyright your name, the title of your post or any short phrase that you use to identify a work.
The reason is that copyright is designed to protect works of creative authorship, it is not designed to protect how that work is identified in the marketplace, the same goes for people and places. Furthermore, such short phrases rarely meet the requisite level of creativity to be considered for copyright protection.
Caveat: Titles may not be copyrighted, but if they are used to identify a business, good or service in the marketplace, they can be given trademark protection. If you use a title in a way that might cause confusion in the marketplace, there could be trademark issues. However, if you want to make a post entitled “5 Things That Can’t Be Copyrighted”, you are free to do so.

2. Ideas

Ideas can not be copyrighted because they are not fixed into a tangible medium of expression. For a work to be copyrighted, it has to be written down, saved to a hard drive or somehow otherwise fixed.
For example, if you give a speech but fail to write it down first and it isn’t recorded, there is no copyright protection. Likewise, if you tell an idea to a friend, you don’t receive copyright protection if they run with it and use it for themselves, that is, unless you write it down.
However, even ideas that are fixed do not receive protection in and of themselves. Rather, it is the expression of the idea that is protected. My “5 Things That Can’t Be Copyrighted” post is fixed, but you can certainly write your own post with the same title and idea. However, you can not use my exact words, unless, of course, you follow my CC license.
Caveat: When it comes to derivative works, there can be a lot of gray area between an uncopyrightable idea and an infringing derivative. You can, for example, write your own book about a boy wizard and a wizard school, but you can’t use any of the characters from Harry Potter. Where the line is drawn is often murky and usually decided on a case-by-case basis. Also, in many cases ideas can be patented, such as inventions, but that enters into another area of intellectual property.

3. Works By the U.S. Federal Government

Works by the U.S. Government are placed directly into the public domain as the Federal government is barred from holding copyright in its work. This is why NASA’s images, which are very popular on the Web, can be freely copied and shared and also why laws and statutes can be posted anywhere online.
There are many reasons for this, the first being that taxpayer money is spent on creating the works so it is fair they should be given back to the populace. Also, it’s a freedom of speech issue as the government can not use copyright to stifle criticism.
Caveat: This is not true in all countries. Australia, Canada and the UK all have crown copyright, that enables the government to hold copyright protection to certain works. Also, the U.S. government can hold copyrights in works if they transferred to it, for example by contractors. Also, the government has other laws, such as state secrecy laws, to prevent the distribution of information.

4. Works Without Authorship/Facts

Though the photos that come with your calendar are probably copyright-protected, the calendar itself is not. Likewise, you can’t copyright the lines on a notebook-ruled paper or, sadly for the phone companies, even telephone directories are not protected.
The reason is that a work has to have a requisite level of creativity in order to qualify for copyright protection and if a work is just a repetition of facts without any creativity, it isn’t protected. This is true even if a great deal of effort went into making the product, as with a phone book.
Likewise, facts and information can’t be copyrighted though the expression of those facts often can be.
Caveat: The level of requisite creativity is actually fairly low. A phone book may not be copyright protected, but a top ten list of the funniest names in the phone book might be. Also, other countries, including the UK and Australia, follow a “sweat of the brow” doctrine that says a collection of facts can be copyrighted if the collector underwent a great deal of effort to compile them (and didn’t merely copy from another source).

5. Fashion

This may surprise many, but fashion designers, currently, enjoy no copyright protection in their work. Their designs are not covered under the current code even though architectural and even vessel hulls are protected.
The reason is because fahion pieces are considered useful articles and, as such, only enjoy copyright protection for certain elements and “only if, and only to the extent that, such design incorporates pictorial, graphic, or sculptural features that can be identified separately from, and are capable of existing independently of, the utilitarian aspects of the article.”
In short, a pattern on a shirt might be copyrightable, but the shirt itself is not. Likewise, an intricate belt buckle design might qualify for protection but not the belt itself.
However, the overall cut, colors and style do not enjoy any protection at all.
Caveat: Fashion designers can, if they wish to go through the time and expense, paten their designs. Also, as mentioned above, elements of a useful article may qualify for copyright protection separate from the work itself. Finally, this is not universally true and legislation is almost constantly being circulated to weigh the possibility of expanding copyright protection to cover fashion. Finally, do note that trademark still protects the names of the companies that make and distribute the clothing.

Bottom Line

Copyright is everywhere. Every video, every picture, every written piece, every audio file, every sculpture, every building design created this year will be copyright protected, at least initially and at least to some degree.
However, there are places that copyright’s protection does not reach and those places are worth noting just as strongly as what it does protect.
Regardless, the next time someone says that everything is copyrighted these days, here are five examples of things that aren’t and, in most cases, likely never will be.
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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Sharing Popcorn with God -- Dedicated to Paul Newman

   (January 26, 1925 – September 26, 2008)



GOD and a male ANGEL are relaxing and sharing a bowl of popcorn; enjoying film images on a row of small clouds before them.

This is my favorite part.

INSERT IMAGE: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid are on their horses jumping off the cliff into a river.

My favorite too.
(reads the cloud guide)
Looks like there's a marathon today.

What's next?

The Sting.

Engrossed, CRUNCHING popcorn and gun SHOTS break the silence.

They had a full-proof code which helped them get away with the heist.


A sublime sunset engulfs them; they, too absorbed to notice it and the time.

You've seen it all, haven't you?

Not Hombre.

The Angel smiles.

The hypocricies and prejudices!

A fair protrait.

As they begin to reveal themselves, the Angel savors the stars' brilliance, then returns to the guide.

There's a few more in the marathon?
Do you have the time?

I sure could use the day off.
Elizabeth Taylor.

A Cat on the Hot Tin Roof.
(turns to God)
Are you sure you should be watching these?

Are you suggesting I watch PG-13?

No, of course not.
(returns to images)
The Verdict!

I haven't seen it.

It's about a heavy drinking, down-on-his luck lawyer who makes a come back.

Good for him.
(glancing at the next cloud)

The man with the barbed wire soul.

I see we're out of popcorn. I'll make dinner.

The Angel watches the serene figure admiringly as He carefully prepares their meal. Upon His return,

God, thanks for having given me a such a blessed life.

I'd say it was the other way around, Paul.
What's next?

Absence of Malice.


Originally published 10/03/08

**written by petra michelle**