A bit of real change is underway in urban planning - a big rethink of what is best for an area that is based on real measurements rather than the gut feeling approach that drove us to the automobile dominated city/suburb model. Mixed transportation models are often more efficient and often produce more "liveable" areas that do better economically. One measure of this is the walkability of a city (although the measure is not well defined), which is sometimes related to bicycle use.
Memphis, like many American cities, is very hostile to bikes - but this is changing (via the NY Times).
A few people have created some very readable books and papers on the subject. Jeff Speck has an excellent new book - Walkable City - that is filled with counter-intuitive real world observations. It is the sort of book one wished every mayor and city council could read. Focusing on the bicycle, John Pucher of Rutgers has produced a body of work that not only details the costs and benefits of making cities friendlier to "active transportation" (eg - using human muscles for short trips), but examines the changes that were necessary where this has been done. He has authored numerous papers, but this on the state of cycling in North America and an earlier piece detailing the different approaches used in the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany, are great places to learn some of the basic findings.
Kallustyan's in Manhattan's Murray Hill (or the Curry Hill portion as it is wall to wall Indian restaurants) is one of the more amazing spice shops. Spices from all over the world all in one place and a regular haunt of chefs from all over. They have a not terrible useful website and will do mail order, but it is a much better place to visit.
Taste is poorly understood and varies widely, but there are areas of agreement. A reasonable question is what does a creative chef do? Is this an interesting problem for computational creativity? (note - even the concept of flavor pairing is controversial)
A map of people who have permits for concealed handguns. Gun incidents at home for those who keep guns, and particularly handguns, tend to be higher than those without, so insurance companies may be interested. Also I would like to know if there are very paranoid people in the neighborhood - while it isn't a perfect filter, it isn't a completely meaningless one either.
When Ms. Pu was hired at thisFoxconn plant a year earlier, she received a short, green plastic stool that left her unsupported back so sore that she could barely sleep at night. Eventually, she was promoted to a wooden chair, but the backrest was much too small to lean against. The managers of this 164,000-employee factory, she surmised, believed that comfort encouraged sloth.
But in March, unbeknown to Ms. Pu, a critical meeting had occurred between Foxconn’s top executives and a high-ranking Apple official. The companies had committed themselves to a series of wide-ranging reforms. Foxconn, China’s largest private employer, pledged to sharply curtail workers’ hours and significantly increase wages — reforms that, if fully carried out next year as planned, could create a ripple effect that benefits tens of millions of workers across the electronics industry, employment experts say.
Other reforms were more personal. Protective foam sprouted on low stairwell ceilings inside factories. Automatic shut-off devices appeared on whirring machines. Ms. Pu got her chair. This autumn, she even heard that some workers had received cushioned seats.
The changes also extend to California, where Apple is based. Apple, the electronics industry’s behemoth, in the last year has tripled its corporate social responsibility staff, has re-evaluated how it works with manufacturers, has asked competitors to help curb excessive overtime in China and has reached out to advocacy groups it once rebuffed.
Possibly an interesting book - I caught a KERA Think interview of Jeff Speck (mp3) on his new book Walkable City. Many counter-intuitative findings on getting away from useage monocultures that only work for cars.