Archive for July 2009

Koan: Xiangyan, the monk, said …

July 26, 2009

Xiangyan said: 75px-Yin_and_Yang.svg`It’s like a man hanging in a tree by his teeth over a precipice. His hands grasp no branch, his feet rest on no limb, and at the bottom of the tree someone stands and asks him: `What is the meaning of Bodhidharma’s coming from the West ?’ `If the man in the tree does not answer, he fails in his responsibility to the person below; and if he does
answer, he falls and loses his life. Now what shall he do?’

No answer? I am confused.  … Mu?


worrying, the Montagne Sainte Victoire?

July 19, 2009

100 years ago, in Provence county (southern France), earth quakes. 45 people died, 250 were injured. The worse toll in France known seismic history. Lambesc city (20 km northern from Marseille) was the epicentre. Magnitude 6 on Richter scale. The local fault is called Trévaresse.  A thrust type one. Is it a real worry? “Not really” an urban planner  said, “the likelihood of such a seism is 1 each 475 years”. Physicians do not agree: magnitude 6 seisms happened each 3 years in Italy, each 300 years in Southern France. What about buildings seism resistance in the area? Well, only some critical emergency and public services buildings are earthquake-resistant. The seism likelihood is not enough for others builders to pay the 1,5% higher price that cost seism resistant structures.

Nowadays, the 8000 Lambesc inhabitants can perhaps take a look, as Cezanne then Picasso did, at the Montagne Sainte Victoire.  Lately, the famous mountain quakes on June 1909, then on february 1984. It grows up 7 mm each year. Which fault is involved?

(technical facts are taken from S.Menu article in TechniCités july 2009 issue)

A hope: how to live many lifes in one.

July 16, 2009

We have a poor existence, we are born, we grow, we become sick, we die. Short living. So why not having many livings, specially full livings? How do we do? Thanks to culture and knowledge. If we want to know what are a courtesan’s feelings, let’s read Flaubert. For ambitious man’s feelings, let’s read Balzac. Culture enriches us with what others (authors, characters) have lived. Biography, for instance, allows us to compare ourself with famous people. A way to get wiser. Admiring some great fellow is the best education.

Well, have I to write a love letter? I just rush at Mme Scudery’s Map Of Tendre.

(Inspired by a Gonzague Saint Bris’ talk)

a new worry: because of the car uncontrollable expansion, loose housing is a fate. To be moderated.

July 10, 2009

In some places in Belgium, loose housing stems from the 19th century old dense narrow railways called “vicinaux”, not from the recent car expansion. Viewed in that way, loose housing becomes an alternative between current residential areas and dense historic downtown areas. Moreover, residential areas is closer to polarization than dispersion.

After all, recent  trams mapping is intended for structure territories, as old “vicinaux” did.

Well, in my own recent residential area, I lack a good old “vicinal”. Fortunately, a new tram line is planned if the local governement find some funds despite the present crisis.

(Freely inspired by a summary of B.Grosjean’s thesis entitled “la ville diffuse à l’épreuve de l’histoire”)

Information wants to be free in the same way that life wants to spread

July 5, 2009

I am relaying below,  one of the Gardian’s John Naughton’s clever appraisals.

603px-Serpiente_alquimicaAccording to Chris Anderson’s last opus that is entitled “Free”: “Information wants to be free in the same way that life wants to spread and water wants to run downhill. But information can’t actually want anything, can it?”

John Naughton finds this assertion rather vulnerable: “the cost of distribution of information goods is indeed low, it is not always zero. Think of the storage and bandwidth costs that Google incurs to provide YouTube, not to mention the environmental costs incurred by massive server farms. And the costs of creating information goods – whether university courses, novels, songs, films or images – are definitely not zero.”

My personal touch:

As a man with a simple mind who has not read the entire book yet, Chris Anderson’s assertion is self-referencing. Making the “information” a nearly human character that wants to be free is a practice that belongs to literature or marketing design. Opportunely, I am fond of literature and marketing design. “Information”: a character in search of an author?

Fortunately, Chris Anderson’s quote ended with a healthy question (see above). I am back in phase.

A new worry: Twice more vehicles on an urban expressway than on a inter-cities motorway.

July 5, 2009

Trafic on French urban expressways is still higher. It is worrying.  Twice more vehicles on an urban expressway than courb_debit_vitesse, Certu.fron a inter-cities motorway. Congestion is growing on urban expressways. According to the curve flow/speed, the speed must stay above the 30 km/h to avoid congestion. The best capacity of the urban expressway is obtained when the speed is 70Km/h. The maximal acceptable speed to control the flow of vehicles is 90 km/h. The theoritical rules are thus enacted. Now what to do in the real word? To cope with this issue a new star is born: the “70 km/h high service level urban expressway”. Compact interchanges, minimal sites areas, no more ugly acoustic walls, improved performance for public transport Vs personal car, better integration in an urban landscape. Well, are there any drawbacks? First, I will lost 2 mn of my precious time on a 10 km long route. Bearable. Second, my old barrel-chested car will become dispensable. Bearable (I will take it to the car cemetery, not without nostalgia). Times are changing, let us be nostalgic but  inventive. (Freely inspired from a Certu publication)

A school room with real teachers, professors and students is the best answer.

July 3, 2009

Human knowledge has two faces: content and method. To succeed in learning, we need first to acquire some basic techniques: reading and calculus. The step ahead is the acquisition of abstraction. The learning of any content leans on these incontournable basis. Computer science is a very complex discipline that only a few MIT’s geeks are aware of. Yet, main computer uses are fun like games. Thus, pupils and others trainees may be fooled by using so easily computer apps. For instance, a search app displays the content, without explaining the drilling method. No need to scrutinize various books. Unfortunately, the easy computer game stops here. The trainee needs reading, calculus, sense of abstraction to explore and consolidate the numerous results  of his search. He will need references, strength of conviction, to outline his work in front of an audience. Where will he acquire reading, calculus, abstraction, references, strength of conviction? And you, reader, where do you acquire these skills? I guess a school room with real teachers, professors and students is the best answer. (freely inspired by Marcel Gauchet, a french philosopher and historian).