Sunday, March 29, 2009

Yes. The South IS That Dumb.

I'm watching a documentary on Independent Lens, The Order of Myths, on PBS. It's about the Mobile, Alabama Mardi Gras celebration which is segregated between blacks and whites. Aside from that fact that this does nothing to assuage my perception that southerners are ugly, and very, very stupid, something else hit me.

During one of the interviews with the numerous Nobel Prize winning white people, the interviewee repeatedly talks about "the blacks" and "the whites" and how they all get along. It just struck me how much it sounded like a dumb, southern version of The Sneetches.

Furthermore, on the website, it says that "Separate but unequal royal courts preside—one queen, from a family of outlaw slave traders, the other, a descendent [sic] of runaway slaves. Beneath the surface of pageantry lies a complex story about race relations and the ever-present racial divide that persists in America today."

Ok, ever-present racial divide? We just elected a black guy president. Granted, I don't really consider him "black." I just think his skin is dark. He's just as much black as he is white. Calling him black is superficial. Moreover, this isn't America. This is Mobile-fucking-Alabama. It's as much representative of America as SoHo is representative of Appalachia.

Global Warming vs. An Old Man

There's an excellent article/biography of Dyson Freeman, a scientist of whom I knew very little up till now. A super-genius and all that good stuff, and, importantly, a global warming skeptic.

I won't go into detail about what he has to say, I'll only go so far as to say that his points are very well made. I still disagree with him, but I actually have an out because the bulk of my views don't come into conflict with his, namely:

  • I don't care about the Chinese. They can do whatever they want. I want change in my country and my country alone. Other countries are free to do anything at all.

  • Whether we're causing global warming or not is irrelevant. We are a rich nation and can afford environmental advances that are good for reasons beyond their being green. As I've said before, the goal is not to be green, but to be efficient.

  • Our course of action is dictated apart from the reality of global warming. Whether it's true or not is irrelevant and we must invest heavily into high-efficiency, green technology.
I also fully disagree with a few of his points.

  • I disagree that there is no such thing as an ideal ecological system. The concept of ideal requires that certain parameters are set. I think that we can, in fact, set those parameters. Yes, in the grand scheme of things, whatever we do doesn't matter since the planet will just change and evolve. Yes, evolution is happening as we speak. Yes, life goes on. Too bad we live and exist on small scales and I would very much like to keep the world as is, if at all possible. I think it's very nice, now.

  • Solar energy will be a viable form of energy in much shorter order than 50 years, and shifting focus away from that to coal is, I think, a terrible error.

Also, he considers himself a skeptic and that's cool. I love skeptics. But some of the best skeptics on Earth all support that theory that human action is having a significant impact on global warming. These are not easily-convinced people. James Randi, Michael Shermer, and the whole of the crew who produce Skeptic Magazine, all of them support the theory. I find this sort of weight hard to argue.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

What Does it Mean to Exist?

A surprisingly nasty problem in philosophy is trying to determine what existence is. Or, perhaps, what I should ask is what does it mean if something exists?

Lots of answers have been tried, such as being extended in space. This means that anything that somehow takes up space exists. Lots of philosophers argue that we can never know what actually exists, because all that exists to us is what's in our own mind.

That's a pretty good argument, I think. Even modern psychology has, under one of its assumptions, a recognition that the world we see is not how the world is. The object we "see" is disconnected from "us" by the object, the light that travels to our eye, our eye receiving that light, the signal of the eye coming to our brain, and our mind eventually paying attention to that signal.

There are FOUR middlemen between the object and us. As far as psychology is concerned, the world appears to us not as the world is, but in such a way as to aid us in making decisions. That's called evolving to correctly interact with an environment. Red is red because it was beneficial to see red as something bright and outstanding. Be it for fruit or blood.

So does anything "exist" if all we can know are ideas in our own heads? While I think this reinforces my support of coherentism, I also think that things actually exist, whatever that means. I think existence might be a primary concept. In the same way that some words are basic words that cannot be defined beyond being a basic concept. Saying that something exists means it exists. It's something of a tautology, I know, but I think it's as far as we can go. Anything beyond that is impossible to define and, importantly, useless. I'll explain.

(UPDATE: I've changed my view on this. I entertained the possibility of existence being a primary concept and have rejected it entirely. All examples I can conjure require sense perception at some point for it to be shown, a hypothetical entity without any sense wouldn't have a concept for existence since the only thing would be what's called the metaphysical agent, i.e. the person or "I." As far as I is concerned, I doesn't exist, I simply is an assumption in the same why that the eye doesn't exist as far as the eye is concerned, it only assumes its existence to explain why it's seeing. Existence is not primary, it must be linguistic.)

If we were to dig further into the issue, I'd have to say that existence is predicated on sense. If we sense something, it exists. I know dogs exist because I've seen them. I know small things exist, because through experiments, things like atoms have been confirmed. As such, something can only be said to exist if it has been detected.

An issue I see is with a metaphysical proposition. "There exists a planet with two-headed people on it" is either true or false. This is a metaphysical issue because it is attempting to reach beyond our sense to a greater form of truth.

It is definitely true that a planet with two headed people either exists or doesn't exist. But until we detect that planet, can we actually say that the planet exists? Our language is limited by our being human.

If we detect the planet, we can then say that it exists and that it existed in the past, but it is a post-hoc philosophical statement. The planet did not exist before we detected it since the very word 'exist'
relies on our human condition and what words mean to us.

Existence as a potentiality would fit this problem. Anything that has the potential to be detected exists, as such, the two-headed people planet exists because we could detect it if we were there, but we can't reach past our own sense. The metaphysical issue of the planet's existence is resolved, but it is a solution that is beyond us. We cannot say that the planet exists until we've seen it, even though it definitely exists, whatever that means.

I think in general usage, people will use the word 'exist' in a nebulous way. A good definition for 'exist' in popular use would be that something is "out there." How is something "out there?" Not sure, really. Since trying to explain it further runs into metaphysical issues that are beyond human sense and logic, we can only say that something exists if it exists. How do we know something exists? By sensing it.

So yes, there exists things that we have not sensed, but it still seems to make sense that they exist. It makes little sense to try and say anything beyond that because we are already at the limits of human language, logic, and sense.

I'm a stickler for well-formed logic and meaning, so I'm inclined to say that existence is entirely dependent on sense. Dogs exist because I've seen them. Atoms exist because I've seen the results of particle accelerators. The two-headed people planet does not exist, even if it is somehow "out there" doesn't matter. My word "exist" relies on the human experience and as such it only makes sense if its definition comes back to it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Red light!

I frequently rant and rave about the government and corruption therein, but even this pushes me to the limit.

I am an advocate for the elimination of speed limits on the highways. I am an advocate for the complete rewriting of most traffic laws with real safety in mind. Why do I say real safety? Because many traffic laws have nothing to do with safety. They're either formulated with honest concern for the safety of the citizenry and just wrong, the result of political grandstanding, or for revenue generation.

Six US cities, that I know of at this time, have been caught actually shortening yellow light times in an effort to generate more ticket revenue from the red light cameras that automatically generate citations. I hope you realize what that means. It means that your friendly neighborhood government is willing to kill people for money.

Never trust the government. You don't have to go all X-Files on us, but distrust is healthy. You can even safely assume that most people in government are honestly trying to do good. Unfortunately, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Those intended to look out for your best interests are frequently idiots or tragically uninformed or just straight up corrupt.

Cities Caught Illegally Tampering With Traffic Lights To Increase Revenue Of Red Light Cameras

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Senator Schumer, Welcome to The 21st Century.

Senator Charles Schumer of New York has made his support of Gay marriage official. I'm glad there are rays of light of a few major politcal figures willing to make the move and support what IS AN AMERICAN RIGHT.

American? Yes. Pursuit of happiness, and all that rot, remember?

I certainly hope these days will be looked back upon with self-satisfied amusement. Laughed at by people who will feel secure in their total moral superiority over the past just as we do when reading about a time when women and blacks couldn't vote, or Irish immigrants were beaten to death in the street.

Schumer Declares His Support for Same-Sex Marriages (

Absolute Power

Absolute power corrupts absolutely. I disagree.

I think that absolute power, or positions of almost any degree of power, attract those who are easily corruptible. That's why politicians are so frequently corrupt. They want power. It's the only reason they run. And let's face it, this paradox of rule has been well known for, thousands of years. Plato himself discussed in The Republic, that a perfect society must literally breed leaders. It is recognized that the only good leaders are those who don't want to be leaders, but feel a solemn obligation to do so.

It's that paradox that our founding fathers also recognized, and the reasons why they formulated so many parts of our government as they did. It is also the reason I distrust all politicians, managers, cops, meter maids, and anyone who's name is a sequel to their father.

While in this day and age, the possibility of the government every becoming tyrannical is next to zero, the possibility is still there. That fundamental distrust of the government is an irrevocable part of a healthy society. And while this should not evolve into paranoia, thus preventing the government from working well and providing things the government can and probably should provide, such as socialized health care, it should nonetheless be present.

George Bush and his "reign" did more to convince me of that position than anything else that has happened in the last fifty years. Even Nixon was just stupidity. But Bush... Bush came closer to tyranny than I honestly thought possible in our country. Obviously, he was still far, far away from actual tyranny, but he still got closer than I thought anyone could, and that scared the hell out of me.

Monday, March 23, 2009

RROD is the new BSOD

I am apparently the luckiest person in the world.

Just to let you know, I'm a raging geek. Not a nerd. That's a different species that implies I was good in school. No. I'm the other kind of social outcast that was terrible in school but could program in C++ in eighth grade.

As such, I bought an Xbox 360. I pre-ordered the sucker some six months before it came out. That means that I got one of the very first systems off the line. I have never had any problems save for a game freezing now and then. That's it. The system has been the very definition of bulletproof for the past three years.

I've had my fair share of problems, usually ideologically, with my sist... whoa, Freudian typo, SYSTem. Nothing hardware. SOooo, yeah. Good show, Microsoft.

Is "E74" the Xbox 360's new Red Ring of Death? (Yahoo! Games)

UPDATE 7/30/2009: I ran out of luck. My Xbox RRODed a couple of months ago. I sent it in and Microsoft duly replaced it. I'm very happy with my service. It has been running fine ever since.

Don't Taze me Bro.

I just read about the Michigan teen who was killed by police tazers. Now, at this time, there's little meat to the story and I don't know the details, but I'm going to use this as a chance to jump off into a rant.

I wouldn't trust most cops with a potato gun. Especially the beat cops. They're usually dumb as rugs and on a power trip. I've had one friend and one acquaintance killed by police, one of which came across as outright murder. Now, I'm not some black guy living in the ghetto. I'm 6 feet tall. Fit. Healthy. Wealthy. College educated. White. And I drive a nice car. Yet I have never had a good experience with cops.

Oh, I separate out detectives and higher ranking police, I've had good experiences with them.

But not the troops. In my eyes, very little separates them from the slavering, violent masses from which they're supposedly protecting us. I can say this truthfully, I fear the police more than I fear my neighbor. The only advantage to tasers is that idiot cops would have otherwise used their guns and instead have this cool toy to play with.

But problematically, the tasers are seen as safe, as opposed to a weapon of last resort. I see them as a replacement for guns, not a supplement. A gun is more than a weapon of last resort. It's the last last resort. But no. Cops across the nation are replacing ordinary physical tussles with the taser. You're a cop, you lazy bastard. We pay you and give you a gun to face these trials. We don't pay you to whip out a tazer at the first sign of a cantankerous suspect.

I know how this sounds. The ranting of some anti-police loony. I am anti-police, but I'm not a loony. At least I don't think I am. I am anti-police because these men and women are stupid. Not all of them, obviously, but I would wager a majority of them. They are stupid people put into a position of extreme power. I don't want life to be easy for them. I want cops dying in the streets. I want them to fear going out to work. I want them to feel the cold stare of death on their backs at all times. I want them to understand as deep down as their pitiful intellects allow that the gun and badge they carry is a heavy, heavy burden. I want the job to nearly break them, every day.

Now, I don't want it to be said that I don't understand the police perspective. Many beat cops deal with more assholes in a day than a proctologist. I respect that. But you are being paid to deal with it. It's your job. The nanosecond you step out of line, for whatever provocation, you should be stripped of your badge. There is no room for error. No room for leniency. You are fired on the spot because a supposedly free system cannot allow its constituent parts to malfunction. Sounds like that makes the job too hard? Yeah. It makes the job sound pretty sucky. Which is why I'm not a cop, and why you shouldn't be either.

If you have a deep-seated belief in truth, justice, the American way, and service and protection, by all means, join up. I want someone like you as a cop. In fact, I'd like someone like you in public office. In fact, what are you doing Friday night? For all you other "cops," I wish you nothing but stress and ulcers in your hopefully short tenure as a police officer.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Old Sci-Fi rocks

I try to avoid the generational error whereby a generation considers itself superior to all generations before and all generations that have come since. You know the phrases, "Kids these days!" or "Things were different back in my day" and "my parents live in the stone age."

It's obviously a self-centered predilection, where the world is as you see it, everyone you know sees it similarly, thus that is the correct way. So, I try to avoid that way of thinking and instead search for similarities between generations, because they usually outweigh the differences.

That in mind, as far as pop-culture goes, we were so ridiculously naive not that long ago. I love watching Sci-Fi movies from the 1940's and 1950's. Mystery Science Theater 3000 is also a verdant garden of ripe crap from similar eras to pick apart and laugh at.

The comically overt sexism, racism, and blunt political statements. The ridiculous ways of dress. I love how the men in those Sci-Fi's were so hilariously stereotypical of the ideal, 1940's man. For God's sake, he almost always wore a two piece suit, tie, and smoked a pipe. All that was needed was The Beave (Off topic, but the Beave is going to turn 61 this year. That's just weird.).

And while Science Fiction has always been a mirror on society, in the 1950's it was just silly. They talked, walked, dressed, and acted like us. Hell, they even helpful, yet quiet and demure women on these other, super-advanced worlds! How alien!

My aforementioned generation-centric error applies full well to these works, as well. They assumed that Human life, as it was then, was so already close to perfect that aliens wouldn't be too different. Yes, I can understand that for entertainment purposes, the authors couldn't go too alien for fear of, um, alienating the audience. But still. The audience ate it up. Didn't they bother looking at it with an even remotely incredulous eye?

A good example is one of my favorite movies of all time Forbidden Planet. I can forgive the archaic ideas about how future technology would look; they didn't really have technology, per se, at the time. They were designing blind, so we'll give them a pass. But don't you think they would think that by the year 2200, we might have at least a few women in the space exploration corp? Just a few!? Nope. The only woman in the movie is that aforementioned helpful, but quiet and demure female who is also, thankfully, the damsel in the distress.

Yes, it was based on The Tempest, and yes, there was only one female in that. But last I checked, there wasn't an energy monster, alien civilization, or Frank Drebin. And if source material wants to get involved, in the pilot for Star Trek, future Gene Roddenberry wife Majel Barret played the second-in-command of the Enterprise, and spent most of the episode in control. The network, and apparently the audience, felt that this was unrealistic and that only a man should be in control.

Oh, how far we've come... seriously. I'm not being sarcastic. Well, maybe a little. But hey, Angelina Jolie killed a whole lot of people in Wanted. That's got to be worth something.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Not Sure

Ethics is a class that everyone should be forced by law to take. Perhaps even two semesters of ethical studies. Why? Because so much of how we see ourselves and the world is seen through ethical and moral glasses.

Religion is founded on the assumption of a universal, objective moral structure of what is fundamentally "right" and fundamentally "wrong." We see "bad" people in the world, e.g. Hitler, and "good" people, e.g. Mother Theresa. But what makes these people good and bad? Why was Hitler bad? He killed a whole fuck-load of people, but then we have to explain why killing people in huge numbers is wrong.

Now I'm not saying that killing people is right (in my rather bizarre view of morals it and lying are really the only things that are morally wrong), but why is it wrong? What is it about human life that is fundamentally valuable? Religion takes the easy way out, I think, by simply saying that it's so because God decrees it.

I got on this tack after reading a New York Times article about an upcoming book outlining all of the torture, dehumanization, abuse, and other good stuff that the US inflicted on prisoners. The underlying assumption of this is that torture is bad. In fact, the very international law the US espouses the view that these actions are war crimes.

We won't even bother discussing the absurdity of war crimes, which assumes that there can be such a thing as law in war. But regardless, doesn't it make sense that if US officials thought they could get even an iota of intelligence from prisoners, isn't it their obligation to slaughter everyone in their path if needed? Their charge is the defense of the country, not the defense of prisoners.

Let's look at that. If every Iraqi on Earth died tomorrow, who would care? Not many people. The Iraqis are all dead, so they can't care. Family members in this country and others would be sad for awhile, but they'd get over it. What I'm saying is, in the United States, I don't care about Iraqis. I care about my "tribe." My family is paramount, neighbors next, then town, state, and finally country... and I guess continent, then by language spoken, then, ummm, by favorite movie, hair style... what I'm getting at is that a grand recognition of the brotherhood of mankind is damn near the bottom of a list of determinants of whether I feel a sense of camaraderie with a person.

As such, I see little problem, from that perspective, with going in to Iraq and killing everyone to get the oil our country needs. We're a tribe of people, with a government charged with out care, and we need oil. It's pretty obvious that much of the Iraq war's motivation was oil, and the only problem is that people continue to balk at that statement. Well why not?! We need the oil, they have it, let's take it. The discussion is instead focused on the absurd idea that oil either did or did not motivate the Iraq war.

Well of course it did! Oil is the blood in the veins of the world. It is the single most valuable resource we have. If we instead turned the argument to whether it's the government's responsibility to acquire the oil its people need or not, the national discussion would be much more interesting and not nearly as black & white as the current framing. From that perspective, I think both sides have good arguments, as opposed to keeping of a masquerade.

Now, all that being said, I do not subscribe to that argument. Not because of some grandiose idea of humanity and its value, but because of practical considerations. Morals, as I see them, are rules for behavior without which society could not work. Killing is immoral because if everyone killed society couldn't work. Stealing is immoral because if everyone stole the economy would cease to function. Lying is immoral because if everyone lied social interactions would fail.

War crimes work because it's like a pre-nup agreement. Everyone agrees that, even though we're cool now, if we're ever not cool we agree to not do this crazy shit. That eliminates a great deal of possible tension (no worries of mustard gas) and actually acts like a pressure-release valve, preventing outright conflict. There will always be the loony who will rise to power and ignore this laws, and at that point the laws are pointless since I think their primary purpose is the prevention of war. (EDIT: I didn't really finish my point. Even after that loony has arisen, the laws must be obeyed or else possible future opponents won't trust you to follow those laws, thus eliminating the benefits of trusting that your possible future opponent won't open up a can (literally) of mustard gas on you and you on them.)

This recent controversy is nothing new. I assume most people don't realize that the United States has never been the good guy. No one has. The good guy doesn't exist. It's a great ideal that I hope the US can achieve within my lifetime, but we're a selfish species. We don't care about Iraq because if our ancestors had made a habit of caring for their neighbors, they wouldn't have survived. Selfishness is good. Greed is good. It's good that we want to take Iraq's oil. Our self-important sense of morals is the opposing force, and that's also good. Morals are what has allowed our advanced civilization to arise. A sense of right and wrong resulted in structured society.

These gray areas, this moral ambiguity that is at the root of the actual argument is what we should be discussing. Everyone in the country should be thinking about this because it directly applies to our sense of nationalism. The United States is the "good guy," but how? And if we aren't the good guy, is the country the problem or the expectation of moral superiority? I think these are questions we should be discussing.

On Torture and the Rule of Law (

Blunder from Down Under

I've talked about freedom a lot, and how I love the United States because, even though we're retarded, we do not have systemic censorship. I juxtapose the States with other "Western" countries, and how ridiculous they get. Australia is really bad.

They've been on this silly anti-internet crusade for years, now, and a really big card just got uncovered in the ongoing game. Namely, the secret list of internet websites to be blocked by the government has been outed. Yes. Secret. As in, the same secret shit that Bush pulled every single day of his presidency. See! We're retarded, too, but Bush doing it was such a controversy precisely because it was anathema to the country's ideals.

Australia, on the other hand, appears to be run by nothing but wannabe Bushes.

Why Are Australia's Would-Be 'Net Censors So Opposed To Transparency? (

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The new iPod Grain

Buy the new iPod Grain! The size of a grain of rice, it fits into your ear canal, where, after orienting itself, it bores directly into your ear drum. The NervSync control scheme allows you control all your music with your thoughts, and allows Apple to pull a Manchurian Candidate on you when they call upon the slavering, Apple masses to form into Steve Jobs' unholy army of the night.

I've talked about design before, but this is the first time I've ever mentioned Apple. I probably should have gotten around to this sooner. Apple is, I think, the United States' premier design studio. They just happen to only design for themselves.

I'm really glad that Apple is succeeding. The number of high-profile design and engineering firms in the US is shrinking while they're growing in the rest of the world. To have an American company really competing in the cell phone space is really fantastic. Especially after Motorola drop-kicked the market to other companies following the success of the Razr. Granted, Apple outsources all of their manufacturing to Taiwanese firms like Foxconn, but that's more or less the gruntwork (not to take anything away from Foxconn. Great company).

I find the new iPod Shuffle dangerously close to the above parody. In general, I've always liked Apple's quest for simplicity. I also think, and suspect Apple also thinks, that it's the reason for Apple's meteoric success in the less-than-technically-inclined consumer market. Reduce the number of buttons, reduce the confusion.

But I think they've gone and reinvented the wheel on this one. I can't think of anyone who has a hard time controlling music. Let's face it. The basic control scheme has been around for fifty years. Anyone who would have a hard time with it are only vaguely aware that Red Skelton is no longer on the air.

I have a Nokia cell phone that has a control accessory. It has play/pause, forward, back, and pick-up/hang-up buttons. It's about 10-20% smaller than an original iPod Shuffle, weighs nothing, and allows usage of my own headphones. The control box plugs into the phone and the headphones then plug into the control box. It also has a built-in microphone for talking on the phone. (UPDATE: Apple will sell an adapter to use third-party headphones. Solves one problem, even though it costs extra.)

Why couldn't Apple do this instead of the unintuitive design they chose? I have no clue. As it stands, I see no way for the Shuffle to go back. All you can do is skip forward. Bad design. The elimination of buttons doesn't work if it necessitates the elimination of functionality. (UPDATE: You can skip back. You have to TRIPLE click within six seconds of the track start. So if you're more than six seconds in, you have to click SIX times to go back a track. That's just dumb.)

Press and hold is also a bad idea. One of the tenets of technology design is to reduce the time a user has to directly interface with a product to achieve a desired end. They try to make it simple, but holding the button for what appears to be five seconds or more is an annoyance. And then, when attempting to select playlists, if you miss the voice-over, your out of luck. The user should be able to control the list.

I like the hyper-simplistic design of the body. But 4GB is a lot of music to try and manipulate without a screen. And while on that, the lack of a screen results in a super-sleek design, but it still doesn't have a bloody screen! The Sony NW-E series of players managed to be sleek and seamless when off, but when activated a previously invisible OLED screen shone through a translucent skin. Too bad it failed because of Sony's "features" like only being compatible with Sony's music format, and only allowing access through Sony's (crappy) proprietary music program. Obviously all an attempt to copy Apple's success with iTunes, which only works because all of Apple's software is excellent. Good design can overcome restrictions. The Shuffle's restrictions are not overcome.

And if you don't care about amazing aesthetic design, the Sansa Clip is superior to Shuffle in all other ways. From a user finger standpoint, as opposed to a user eye standpoint, the Clip mops the floor with the shuffle. I think Apple has lost it's focus on the user finger with the Shuffle, and that's a critical design error. The voice tech has also missed a big opportunity for voice-controlled, as opposed to just voice announced, features. The commands could be easy and monosyllabic, like "skip," "back," and "list." If they had included that, the one-button feature would have been much more manageable since it wouldn't require the elimination of features.

As it stands, the Sansa Clip is a much more reasonable small player solution. Even the old Shuffle is more reasonable. I think the drive to make it smaller was an unwise direction for the design since it was already as small as anyone could need. A much better plan would have been an increase in features a la the Clip. And in regards to the Clip and the Shuffle's format compatibility from the above-linked AnythingButIpod comparison, the Clip now supports the two big open-source formats, FLAC and Ogg Vorbis. That gives yet another win to the Clip. Oh, and you can get a 4GB clip for $50.

Monday, March 02, 2009


In urban engineering, there's the concept of a bioligical city. The Discovery Channel ran a show called Ecopolis that touched on many of the ideas.

Fundamentally, the concept of a biological city comes from the ideal of a "living" city. Where the infrastructure we build is self-sustaining, to at least a degree. So that means plant life integrated with the design of the buildings and the urban layout; renewable energy in multiple forms; and a person-centric perspective on the layout of the city itself.

Discovery Channel chose Ecopolis because of the current green movement. The biggest concepts of the biological city have environmental friendliness as a result, but the vision is much larger than merely being ecologically sound. In fact, the perfect biological city would be something akin to an Arcology, just like the ones you could build in SimCity. Unfortunately, there are few who think arcologies are feasible in even the distant future. As such, engineering better cities as they are, now, is an achievable goal. It as close to an ideal city as we can manage, at least for now.

Detroit is the opposite of that ideal city. In this article from the Chicago Tribune, they put Detroit's problems into terrible focus. In it, they discuss the potential for Detroit to become America's city of the future, because everything is so bloody cheap. But being cheap isn't necessarily all that's needed. Because frequently, all that cheap attracts is the human detritus of society. Crime rates are high. Economic progress is low. Detroit itself needs a massive bailout.

But as the article points out,

"On a positive note, Detroit's homicide rate dropped 14 percent last year. That prompted mayoral candidate Stanley Christmas to tell the Detroit News recently, "I don't mean to be sarcastic, but there just isn't anyone left to kill."

At least he's honest.