Making a Steinway

Steinway and Sons produced this fascinating video showing their process for handcrafting a musical masterpiece. Interestingly, their process has remained so much the same that they were able to pair modern footage with the audio from a previous video, thus the new video is narrated by former chairman John Steinway. Excellence, craft, and attention to detail are qualities that never go out of style.

Via Kottke



Misho Baranovic, on the pesky issue of keystoning in pictures:

This form of distortion is very common across architectural, street and travel photography. It’s most often seen when tall buildings ‘fall’ or ‘lean’ within a picture. This distortion has become so common that most people have stopped noticing it within their pictures or just think it has something to do with the focal length of their lens.

It’s a great overview of what the keystone problem is and the variety of ways it can be fixed.


On Parksify (Updated)

I am particularly pleased[1] to have a piece I wrote published on the brand new Parksify, a site devoted to exploring the various aspects and features of public space. My piece is a celebration of the life lessons to be learned by our children as evidenced by an experience I had with my son while playing at South Park in San Francisco.

This is why we go to The Park. Yes, the park is great for providing kids with a place to exercise and play. Yes, the park is great for getting kids outside exploring their world. But the park is more than that because it is a public place – a social place. The physical benefits of the park can be garnered in other ways, but the social aspect, the learning how to peacefully coexist with others – that only happens in a public place. For our children, the park serves as a proxy for life – a place where kids can get real world interaction with total strangers, a place where kids can explore the limits of their independence, a place where kids can learn life lessons on how to behave in a social world. The world is full of unpleasant people – self-centered bullies who feel better about themselves at the expense of others. But the world is even more full of really great people. People who are friendly and nice. People who spread joy wherever they go. People who enrich our lives. The park teaches kids how to interact with all types of people because the whole spectrum of humanity is represented.

Go read the whole piece and then check out the rest of Parksify.

UPDATE: This article has also been cross-published on Urban Times.

  1. Since starting this journey over a year ago, my work has exclusively been here on this site. This has been my home. And it will remain my home. But just like the real world, it is important to stretch out and broaden your horizons. So I’m delighted to expand my writing to a new site and a new audience.  ↩


Walking Works

Rowan Walker, writing for the Guardian:

At a recent TED lecture, the author Nilofer Merchant said sitting is the “new smoking of our generation”. The phrase has been picked up by public health academics and experts, who warn of a worldwide pandemic of inactivity. Even going to the gym in the evening isn’t enough to offset nine hours of sitting still in the office, according to studies. Walking needs to be part of everyday life – your commute to work, your journey home, your visit to the shops, your lunch break, and even the way you work.


Perhaps the importance of combating our desire to sit still is spreading: estate agents in part of the US and Canada are starting to market homes according to their “walkability” rating. That is a measure of just how many places (pub, shops, post box, cinema, schools, offices and so on) you can reach by foot from your home. My home – in Finsbury Park, north London – is a “walker’s paradise”, according to the website It makes sense. My surrounding streets are close together, with plenty of corners to bump into someone for a chat. If you head out to the countryside your walkscore goes down, because it’s harder to cope without a car. People who live in walkable neighbourhoods are not only healthier and happier, but also 6–10lb (2.7–4.5kg) lighter, says Walkscore.

As I’ve mentioned many times, the best exercise is the activity that comes from living your daily life. It’s integrated and doesn’t need any special accommodation or scheduling. It’s easy to skip an evening workout after a particularly trying day but it’s a lot harder to skip your walk home (although I suppose you could call a taxi).


The End of American Car Culture

Elisabeth Rosenthal, writing for the New York Times, on the end of American car culture:

But America’s love affair with its vehicles seems to be cooling. When adjusted for population growth, the number of miles driven in the United States peaked in 2005 and dropped steadily thereafter, according to an analysis by Doug Short of Advisor Perspectives, an investment research company. As of April 2013, the number of miles driven per person was nearly 9 percent below the peak and equal to where the country was in January 1995. Part of the explanation certainly lies in the recession, because cash-strapped Americans could not afford new cars, and the unemployed weren’t going to work anyway. But by many measures the decrease in driving preceded the downturn and appears to be persisting now that recovery is under way. The next few years will be telling.


If the pattern persists — and many sociologists believe it will — it will have beneficial implications for carbon emissions and the environment, since transportation is the second largest source of America’s emissions, just behind power plants. But it could have negative implications for the car industry. Indeed, companies like Ford and Mercedes are already rebranding themselves “mobility” companies with a broader product range beyond the personal vehicle.

The era of the car being the only option for mobility is fading. I believe the new era will be one of options. The car will be an option, perhaps not the first or best option, but it will still be around. In addition, we will have expanded opportunities for walking, biking, and public transportation to enable our mobility. This will necessitate a shift in the way we build our towns and cities – from purely automobile based to multi-modal in nature. The goal of mobility is not to move machines around but to move humans. The automobile system is not the only way to achieve human mobility.


Main Street Matters in Placerville

Dawn Hodson, for the Mountain Democrat:

Proving once again how much local residents cherish downtown Placerville, it was announced on Monday that the city is one of 20 winners in the paint makeover contest called “Main Street Matters,” sponsored by the Benjamin Moore Paint Company.

The campaign to honor and revitalize Main Street included over 130 cities in the United States and Canada who competed for one of 20 coveted spots. The outcome was determined by how many votes a city received. According to Benjamin Moore, almost a half million votes were recorded during the six-week voting period that ended June 30.

I’m pleased that my hometown made the cut. Good for Benjamin Moore for promoting and supporting thriving downtowns and I can’t wait to see the results.


Canon Introduces the 70D

Jacob Kastrenakes, for The Verge:

In most areas, the 70D is a modest but welcome improvement over the 60D, which it’ll be replacing when it launches sometime this September. The 70D adds Wi-Fi and NFC sharing, it brings touch capabilities to its 3-inch LCD display, and it has a slightly higher megapixel count on its APS-C sensor, bumping it up to 20.2. That all makes for the type of fine upgrade that you’d expect, but it’s the camera’s new “Dual Pixel CMOS” focusing system that Canon thinks will really make a difference.

And that new focusing system really seems like a big step forward for DSLR videography:

Traditional autofocus systems are built around photography: they make one quick jump to get nearly into focus, and then a second small adjustment to perfect it. That works great when speed matters the most, but on video it creates an unpleasant stutter that has long made autofocus unusable for most filmmakers. Canon says the 70D should fix that: the new autofocus system is meant to move into focus smoothly and on the very first try. In our limited testing of the camera, it appeared to do just that.


The Ends of the Road

Speaking of the end of the road, The Atlantic’s Alan Taylor has a great collection of images from Google StreetView showing the ends of the road


The Driving Boom is Over

Robert Steuteville for Better! Cities & Towns:

Total US driving dipped and then leveled off in recent years, and per capita vehicle miles traveled (VMT) has steadily dropped since 2005 — 93 months. Per capita driving is down 8.75 percent, and is now at 1996 levels. The decline has no end in sight. The turnabout wouldn’t seem so remarkable if it hadn’t followed six decades of steady and substantial rises in VMT fueled by cheap gasoline, highway construction, suburban development, and women entering the workforce.

The trend is most pronounced among the young. “Between 2001 and 2009, the average yearly number of miles driven by 16- to 34-year-olds dropped a staggering 23 percent,” wrote Brad Plumer of The Washington Post. This cohort includes both Millennials and Generation X, but the trend is strongest among Millennials.

The car, a symbol of liberty in the 20th century, has now become a symbol of entrapment. What once was freedom is now a burden.


Bait and Switch

Yahoo Contributor Laura Quinn on regretting buying in the suburbs:

I feel as though I was the victim of a “bait and switch” by buying my cookie-cutter home in the suburbs. It’s not that I have anything against the cookie-cutter Florida-style homes. It’s that I didn’t expect the value of my home to dramatically decrease during the housing collapse. What’s even more surprising is the fact that everything I didn’t like about the cities is now happening to my suburbs.

According to a recent article by Fox Business, I’m experiencing the “death of the suburbs,” as more Americans flock to the cities. An article featured on Yahoo Homes illustrated the fact that there are now more poor people living in the suburbs than in cities. In fact, the number of poor people in suburbs rose by more than 63 percent between 2000 and 2011. It’s just an unfortunate reality that most poor people can’t afford to make improvements to the homes in which they live, which is bound to decrease property values.

Suburbia promises the best of both worlds but delivers an experience full of compromise. The suburban ideal is to be close to everything yet live on a private slice of nature – an amalgamation of urban and rural. The suburban reality is congestion, auto dependence, and falling home values.

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