Can We See A Bubble If We’re Inside The Bubble?

by Tyler Durden

Authored by Charles Hugh Smith via OfTwoMinds blog,

We want this time to be different so badly, we can almost taste it.

If you visit San Francisco, you will find it difficult to walk more than a few blocks in central S.F. without encountering a major construction project. It seems that every decrepit low-rise building in the city has been razed and is being replaced with a gleaming new residential tower.

Parking lots have been ripped up and are now sprouting condos and luxury rental flats.

This boom is not overly surprising, given the centrality of San Francisco and the S.F. Bay Area in the Hipster-Techie Mental Map which I have sketched here for those who may still suffer from delusions that Washington D.C. and New York matter–(hint: they don’t.)

The influx of mobile/software tech into the S.F. Bay Area has triggered not just a boom in tech but in all the service sectors that cater to well-paid techies. This mass of new people has created traffic jams that last virtually all day and evening, and overloaded the area’s BART transit rail system such that trains at 11 pm are as jammed as any during rush hour.

This phenomenal building boom is truly something to behold, as it has spread from S.F. to the East Bay as workers priced out of S.F. move east across the Bay, driving up rents to near-S.F. levels.

Yes, rents and home prices are starting to soften, but this hasn’t changed the general view that this is only a moderation of a long-term uptrend with no end in sight.

This is of course a modern analog of the Gold Rush in the 1850s, and the previous tech/building boom in the late 1990s: an enormous influx of income drives a building boom and a mass influx of treasure-seekers, entrepreneurs, dreamers and those hoping to land a good-paying job in Boomland.

The same phenomenon has been visible in the Oil Patch states every time oil/gas skyrocket in price.

We know how every boom ends–in an equally violent bust. Yet in the euphoria of the boom, it’s easy to think this one will last longer than the others.

I distinctly recall the mass excitement of COMDEX in 1999, the big computer-tech trade show in Las Vegas. The city was packed, the convention centers were packed, and an enormous banner announcing the then revolutionary slogan “the network is the computer–Sun Microsystems” welcomed the faithful.

I saw Bluetooth demonstrated for the first time in that show (at a Motorola booth), and dozens of other consumer technologies that never quite caught on–kits to turn your PC into a TV, etc.

Now we see the same euphoria in the FAANG stocks, Big Data, A.I., crypto-currency Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) and so on.

A year later the bubble had burst, and a decade later Sun Micro had lost its edge and would end its glorious run in the ignominy of being sold to Oracle for pennies on the dollar.

Rents in San Francisco are now so obscene that there is even a parody in which Hitler tries to rent a flat in S.F.

Across the Bay in Oakland, new relatively large 1-bedroom flats with Bay views are asking $3,300 a month. The same flat in S.F. would fetch $4,000 or more per month. Techies working for free on a buddy’s start-up have famously rented the space beside the washing machine in a laundry room for $400 a month.

How many average workers can afford to pay $40,000 a year in rent? After taxes, even techies earning $80,000/year would have little to show for their labor once they paid $40K after $20K in taxes and deductions have been subtracted from their annual wage.

The current Gold Rush will collapse, and as the newly fired marginalized workers pack up and leave, nobody will be renting the flats for $4,000/month. The owners will try reducing the rents to $3,000/month, and with no takers, they will go bust and the gleaming towers will be auctioned off. Eventually rents will decline to what people can actually afford.

This process will take a few years, as owners are reluctant to accept secular declines in rent and the resulting insolvency. Restaurants and other secondary businesses that arose to serve the techies will hang on, paying insane rents, for a few months and then give up losing money and close…



The Hidden Way Cities Effect The Mood

by Soren Dreier

“We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us,” mused Winston Churchill in 1943 while considering the repair of the bomb-ravaged House of Commons.

More than 70 years on, he would doubtless be pleased to learn that neuroscientists and psychologists have found plenty of evidence to back him up.

We now know, for example, that buildings and cities can affect our mood and well-being, and that specialised cells in the hippocampal region of our brains are attuned to the geometry and arrangement of the spaces we inhabit.

Yet urban architects have often paid scant attention to the potential cognitive effects of their creations on a city’s inhabitants. The imperative to design something unique and individual tends to override considerations of how it might shape the behaviours of those who will live with it. That could be about to change.

“There are some really good [evidence-based] guidelines out there” on how to design user-friendly buildings, says Ruth Dalton, who studies both architecture and cognitive science at Northumbria University in Newcastle. “A lot of architects choose to ignore them. Why is that?”

Last month, the Conscious Cities Conference in London considered how cognitive scientists might make their discoveries more accessible to architects. The conference brought together architects, designers, engineers, neuroscientists and psychologists, all of whom increasingly cross paths at an academic level, but still rarely in practice.

One of the conference speakers, Alison Brooks, an architect who specialises in housing and social design, told BBC Future that psychology-based insights could change how cities are built. “If science could help the design profession justify the value of good design and craftsmanship, it would be a very powerful tool and quite possibly transform the quality of the built environment,” she says.

Greater interaction across the disciplines would, for example, reduce the chances of repeating such architectural horror stories as the 1950s Pruitt-Igoe housing complex in St Louis, Missouri, whose 33 featureless apartment blocks – designed by Minoru Yamasaki, also responsible for the World Trade Center – quickly became notorious for their crime, squalour and social dysfunction. Critics argued that the wide open spaces between the blocks of modernist high-rises discouraged a sense of community, particularly as crime rates started to rise. They were eventually demolished in 1972.

Pruitt-Igoe was not an outlier. The lack of behavioural insight behind the modernist housing projects of that era, with their sense of isolation from the wider community and ill-conceived public spaces, made many of them feel, in the words of British grime artist Tinie Tempah, who grew up in one, as if they’d been “designed for you not to succeed”.

Today, thanks to psychological studies, we have a much better idea of the kind of urban environments that people like or find stimulating. Some of these studies have attempted to measure subjects’ physiological responses in situ, using wearable devices such as bracelets that monitor skin conductance (a marker of physiological arousal), smartphone apps that ask subjects about their emotional state, and electroencephalogram (EEG) headsets that measure brain activity relating to mental states and mood.

“This adds a layer of information that is otherwise difficult to get at,” said Colin Ellard, who researches the psychological impact of design at the University of Waterloo in Canada. “When we ask people about their stress they say it’s no big deal, yet when we measure their physiology we discover that their responses are off the charts. The difficulty is that your physiological state is the one that impacts your health.” Taking a closer look at these physiological states could shed light on how city design affects our bodies.

One of Ellard’s most consistent findings is that people are strongly affected by building façades. If the façade is complex and interesting, it affects people in a positive way; negatively if it is simple and monotonous. For example, when he walked a group of subjects past the long, smoked-glass frontage of a Whole Foods store in Lower Manhattan, their arousal and mood states took a dive, according to the wristband readings and on-the-spot emotion surveys. They also quickened their pace as if to hurry out of the dead zone. They picked up considerably when they reached a stretch of restaurants and stores, where (not surprisingly) they reported feeling a lot more lively and engaged.

The writer and urban specialist Charles Montgomery, who collaborated with Ellard on his Manhattan study, has said this points to “an emerging disaster in street psychology”. In his book Happy City, he warns: “As suburban retailers begin to colonise central cities, block after block of bric-a-brac and mom-and-pop-scale buildings and shops are being replaced by blank, cold spaces that effectively bleach street edges of conviviality.”

Another oft-replicated finding is that having access to green space such as woodland or a park can offset some of the stress of city living.

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Famous For Being Indianapolis

Resultado de imagem para images Famous For Being Indianapolis

How cities are like Kim Kardashian.

When Kim Kardashian was 4 years old, a University of California economist named Moshe Adler wrote a six-page paper explaining the means by which she would eventually attain worldwide renown. Published in the The American Economic Review, “Stardom and Talent” made the unsettling claim that fame could just be a matter of luck. Even an insignificant incident (like the unauthorized release of a sex tape) could escalate into superstardom by a sort of positive feedback loop: The more famous an entertainer becomes, the more readily you can talk about her with your friends; the more she gets talked about, the more her fame expands.

The underlying phenomenon is not unique to Kardashian or entertainers or even humans. Other researchers have shown that random noise can get amplified in businesses and ecosystems, explaining the otherwise inexplicable dominance of a company or species. Sociologists call it “preferential attachment,” and it seems to be nearly universal in hierarchies. Superstars simply make their milieu more efficient, facilitating gossip, and while some (such as Kate Winslet) are bolstered by talent, quality is no requisite.

The same is true of cities. San Francisco and Boston have natural harbors, and New York is built on the Hudson, but you don’t need good geology to attain geographic celebrity. Indianapolis, for instance, is the metropolitan equivalent of Kim Kardashian. Just as Kardashian can’t act in the traditional sense, the nation’s 13th most populous city is devoid of conventional geographic merits, such as a major waterway or safe harbor. The city came into prominence for reasons nobody could have predicted, any more than Moshe Adler could have guessed that he was describing the future life of Kim Kardashian. Famous for being famous, Indianapolis provides an opportunity to appreciate why cities in general are so special.

Indianapolis was founded by decree. In the summer of 1820, 4-year-old Indiana sent a delegation of 10 men to the middle of the state, some 8 million acres of wilderness recently “purchased” from the Native Americans for several thousand dollars. The delegation was given the task of locating a replacement for the temporary capital of Corydon—a small town located at the southern border of Indiana—following the logic that the state’s legislative center should literally be in the center, equally accessible to all Hoosiers. Beyond that, the State Assembly was vague (understandably enough, given that most Indianians had never ventured into Indian territory, and less than 1 percent of Hoosiers had ever lived in any town or city). Locate the capital wherever you “deem most proper,” they instructed, “having specially in view the health, utility, and beauty.”

After visiting the few farmsteads in the region and imbibing plenty of local corn whiskey, the commissioners chose a swathe of woodland called the Fall Creek settlement, where a dozen families were living in log cabins. They were mostly squatters, getting by as subsistence farmers, but the commissioners put great stock in the fact that their settlement was the spot where the Fall Creek met the White River. There was big talk of mills and shipping, yet so little understanding of either that nobody bothered to check the depth of the water.

Indianapolis came into prominence for reasons nobody could have predicted, any more than sociologists could have predicted the fame of Kim Kardashian.

The noble new capital needed a grand new name. Down in Corydon, the legislators considered pseudo-Indian monikers like Suwarrow and Tuwarrow, all of which were ridiculed and dropped. Finally Judge Jeremiah Sullivan, a man who evidently remembered his grammar school Greek, had an epiphany: Why not call it Indianapolis? (The suffix polis means “city.”) Already exhausted by the Suwarrow/Tuwarrow debate, the legislature accepted it, inducing a new round of mockery. (“Such a name, kind readers, you would never find by searching from Dan to Beersheba,” sniped the Indiana Sentinel.)

Of course the former Fall Creek settlement also called for a grand new plan. To lay out the town, the legislature appointed Alexander Ralston, who’d previously assisted Pierre L’Enfant to design Washington D.C. As L’Enfant had planned D.C. to resemble Versailles, Ralston planned Indianapolis to resemble Washington. Four avenues radiated from a central circle, intersecting a grid of 18 streets at a 90-degree diagonal. One of these, named in honor of George Washington, was designated to convey the new National Road from Cumberland, Md., through the middle of town.

Within this geometric grid, superimposed on one square mile of the Fall Creek settlement woodlands, full blocks were designated for the state house and courts. The remainder were broken into a dozen lots each, and offered to the public in the fall of 1821. Exactly one was bought on the first day. To sell off the rest took two decades.

By then a number of things were obvious about the Indiana state capital, and none were positive. First, no governor was willing to live in the middle of town, where an ostentatious mansion had been built according to Ralston’s grandiose urban plan. Second, the unpaved roads were snowed in or flooded much of the year. Third, the Fall Creek was good for little more than mosquitoes and malaria. Fourth, the White River was too shallow for big boats and shipping, and an attempt to augment it with a Central Canal—dredged like the Erie—sent the state into bankruptcy. The 90-mile trail from Madison to Indianapolis—still Indiana’s most populous town—took three days by stagecoach in the best of conditions.

Health, utility, and beauty? In the words of one Indianapolis local, the centrally located state capital was “an almost inaccessible village.”…



Mesmerizing GIFs Illustrate the Art of Traditional Japanese Wood Joinery — All Done Without Screws, Nails, or Glue

Traditional Japanese carpentry, whether used to build a dinner table or the entire house containing it, doesn’t use screws, nails, adhesives, or any other kind of non-wooden fastener. So how do its constructions hold together? How have all those thousands of wooden houses, tables, and countless other objects and structures stood up for dozens and even hundreds of years, and so solidly at that? The secret lies in the art of joinery and its elaborate cutting techniques refined, since its origin in the seventh century, through generations and generations of steadily increasing mastery — albeit by a steadily dwindling number of masters.

“Even until recent times when carpentry books began to be published, mastery of these woodworking techniques remained the fiercely guarded secret of family carpentry guilds,” writes Spoon & Tamago’s Johnny Strategy. If you find it difficult to grasp how simply cutting two pieces of wood in a certain way could unite them as if they’d grown together in the first place, have a look at a Twitter feed called The Joinery, run by a young enthusiast who has collected a great many of these carpentry books. He’s used them, in combination with mechanical design software skills presumably honed in his career in the auto industry, to create elegantly animated visual explanations of Japanese carpentry’s tried-and-true joinery methods.

Archdaily points to the work of architect Shigeru Ban as one example of how this “uniquely Japanese wood aesthetic” has survived into the modern day, but the man behind The Joinery imagines even more ambitious possibilities: “3D printing and woodworking machinery has enabled us to create complicated forms fairly easily,” he tells Spoon & Tamago. “I want to organize all the joinery techniques and create a catalog of them all,” so that anyone with the tools might potentially make use of their beauty and sturdiness in hitherto unimagined new contexts. And so another traditional Japanese craft that has looked doomed to outmoded oblivion, what with all the more advanced and efficient fabrication and construction techniques developed over the past 1400 years, may well thrive in the future. To learn more about the art of joinery, you’ll want to explore this 1995 book, The Complete Japanese Joinery.

梨くずしの逆組み継ぎ Nashi-kuzushi-no-gyaku-kumitsugi

via ArchDaily