Little Things

Hello. A number of little things:

1. For a year now my house has been wind-powered. I use Con Edison Solutions on the highest setting. This means even my energy-guzzling roommate Daniel is supporting wind turbine development in the Northeastern states. At least, if you trust the certification system.

2. I was saddened to discover recently that New York City has not been recycling most of the plastic I’ve been putting in the recycling bin (particularly yoghurt and Thai take-out containers). Thankfully, I made an uplifting discovery shortly thereafter: the Park Slope Food Co-op, a frequent target of my ire, actually runs a recycling drop-off for things otherwise not recyclable. Its impressive list far surpasses what I would expect the city to handle; for instance, they accept plastic bags. I will test this out at the next opportunity.

3. I saw an extremely aesthetic (i.e. provoking non-verbal thought) movie the other night, Manufactured Landscapes, which I’d recommend for anybody who enjoys investigating huge systems of material exchange and processing. In short it’s about the work of the photographer Edward Burtynsky, with a focus on huge infrastructural work in China. The footage and sound samples are GREAT, but the occasional voice-over from a lecture by Burtynsky himself is disappointingly reductive. Yet another artist who proves the value of art critics, I suppose! I like his work for the shear density and quantity and form of the landscapes he shoots, but it was the other footage of the film that really impressed me, wandering outside the too-precious frames of his still shots, tracing connections and characters with an open curiosity. If you admire Koyaanisquatsi and Herzog’s “Lessons of Darkness”, then this film is for you. Of course I saw the final showing at the Film Forum… but you could probably get it online easily enough. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was produced by the good old Film Board of Canada, as well as TVOntario.

4. I have stopped using Google as my default search engine, following the simple rule I have set myself of not supporting bodies that operate at scales so large that I cannot hope to understand them. In other words, Google is clearly too big — a quasi-monopoly of search — so I have decided to share as little of my own search-story with them as possible. For the most part I have switched to Clusty (“the clustering search engine”), and occasionally Ixquick. Clusty seems to be getting better, but in general I get no value out of its clustering because I really just expect the results to come up in the first list of entries (through the genius of its search algorithms Google has cultivated this incredible expectation). As for Ixquick, while I value its lofty attitude towards privacy, I generally don’t find the results I want as quickly as I would like. What really hurts is when the search is obvious (like, I know this company has a website but I’ve forgotten the URL so I’ll type in the name of the company…) and the first few results are totally obscure. Are there other good non-Google options out there? I find the idea of an open-source search engine, as Mozdex dubs itself, to be provocative… but I’m not clear yet on what the implications of that would be. Search algorithms are inherently hierarchical, or at least differentiating, are they not? Is it possible to combine democracy and fast search?

Of course Google maps still dominates my geo-searching.

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