101 small ways you can improve your city

Patrick Sisson and Alissa Walker with a great list for Curbed. A few I think are particularly interesting (and/or I might do):

13. Begin a guerrilla garden uprising. Green thumbs often have private plots and backyards to grow, but they can also get on the front lines. Surreptitiously filling in unkempt lots or small patches of untendered land with plants and flowers, or tossing a “seedbomb” at a hard to reach patch of land, turns lost space into lush greenery. Richard Reynolds, one of the leaders of the movement, maintains a blog with invaluable tips on how to reclaim “unloved public spaces.”

30. Open a gallery in your living room. If you think your apartment is cramped, maybe all it needs is a few paintings on the wall: Paul Soto turned his 300 square-foot apartment in Los Angeles into a functioning gallery.

90. Start a mobile produce market. Running a new route through the city’s food deserts, a decommissioned Chicago Transit Authority bus now moves market-fresh produce, not riders. The Fresh Moves project helps underserved neighborhoods get access to the same farmer’s market finds sold in other parts of the city.

98. Map your public produce. After noticing how many figs hanging over property lines remained unplucked, Fallen Fruit started making maps to help neighbors discover unharvested edibles growing on sidewalks and alleys. For bumper crops, Food Forward will show up and pick unwanted fruit, distributing it to those in need.

Nintendo 64 turns 20

Scott Meslow for GQ:

But no home console was so deliberately engineered to deliver well-crafted, compulsively replayable multiplayer experiences like the Nintendo 64—a quality that eventually came to distinguish it from the rest of its competition. When you look back on the Sony Playstation, the games that stand out—Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy VII, Resident Evil 2—were entirely single-player, designed to deliver an experience that was groundbreakingly immersive but essentially solitary.

The Nintendo 64, of course, had its own single-player masterpieces. (I’d submit Banjo-Kazooie, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, and two of the all-time great Zelda games, Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask). But the majority of the N64’s truly memorable titles were best when you played them alongside a few friends. In short, the N64 was the first great social console—and 20 years later, it still hasn’t quite been surpassed.

I grew up in a staunch Nintendo household (I’ve still never owned a PlayStation or Xbox) and can attest to the multiplayer thrills of the N64. I’ve got some great memories of me and my teenage friends competing on Goldeneye or Mario Kart. Particularly when we should have been revising for exams. I must dig it out again—I’ve been wanting to revisit the Zelda games.

Housekeeping: subscribe by email and follow on Twitter

Two short updates:

  • You can subscribe by email. You’ll get posts emailed to you immediately—even before I’ve corrected typos. On a desktop, laptop or tablet, use the signup box on the right-hand side. On mobile, scroll to the bottom.
  • There’s a new Twitter account that (only) tweets new posts. These are collected and spread out over the day (UK time) rather than being instantly published.

The effect of wolves in Yellowstone

Wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in 1995 after a 70-year absence. The changes were more far-reaching than anyone expected.

It started with them thinning the deer population, and the resulting chain reaction saw a huge increase in biodiversity and even unexpected changes in physical geography. The wolves changed the rivers!

Apple Music’s new personalised playlists

Reggie Ugwu’s Inside Apple Music’s Second Act for Buzzfeed:

The other big change is the addition of two new personalized playlists: My Favorites Mix and My New Music Mix. The playlists are generated by algorithms, a first for the service, which has largely relied on human curation for its playlists up to this point. Revealing how the mixes operate for the first time to BuzzFeed News, Apple claimed a potential advantage over similar algorithmically personalized playlists, including Spotify’s Discover Weekly and Pandora’s Thumbprint Radio: deep historical knowledge of individual users’ tastes and habits, based on years of data carried over from iTunes.

If you gave high ratings to a song or album in your old iTunes library, or just played it a lot more than others, you’ll find that behavior reflected in your My Favorites Mix. Meanwhile, the My New Music Mix algorithm serves recently released songs — as well as songs that Apple Music knows you haven’t played before — that the service’s music experts have flagged as similar to others in your taste profile. Apple Music executives suggested even more personalized playlists will follow in the series; but only after prototypes have been vetted, with all possible outcomes — intentional and otherwise — given careful consideration.

I’m still using Spotify’s Discover Weekly and Release Radar on a daily basis, but the two Apple Music playlists are a good start. Looking forward to seeing more.

Update: Spotify are rolling out Daily Mix, similar to Apple Music’s My Favourites Mix.

Follow the white ball

Sam Knight’s profile of mercurial snooker player Ronnie O’Sullivan for the New Yorker:

When discussing O’Sullivan’s game, commentators and rivals often talk about his unusual sequencing—the way he links shots together around the table. Phil Yates, who was the snooker correspondent for the Times of London for twenty years, compares O’Sullivan to a savant, able to perceive mathematical solutions without knowing how or why. “I don’t think he can break down why he is as good as he is,” Yates said. “He just is.” According to [artist Damien] Hirst, O’Sullivan often comes off the table in a fugue state: “I go, ‘What about that pink you potted?’ And he’ll go, ‘What pink?’ He’s blank. He’s totally startled. It’s like van Gogh. I go, ‘You did brilliantly there.’ And he goes, ‘Did I?’ ”

Foldscope: an origami microcope

Hannah Yi, for Quartz:

Foldscope is an origami microscope made with a single sheet of paper that’s embedded with electronics and lenses. It costs less than $1 to build. Manu Prakash is the inventor of this low-cost scientific tool. He wants microscopes to be as ubiquitous as pencils and plans on shipping one million Foldscopes by the end of 2017.

Prakash is a 2016 MacArthur follow, winning $625k to continue his ‘frugal science’ work.

Smart quotes for smart people

A cheat sheet for using the right quotation marks in your writing:

“Smart quotes,” the correct quotation marks and apostrophes, are curly or sloped. “Dumb quotes,” or straight quotes, are a vestigial constraint from typewriters when using one key for two different marks helped save space on a keyboard. Unfortunately, many improper marks make their way onto websites because of dumb defaults in applications and CMSs. Luckily, using correct quotation marks and apostrophes today is easier than you think.