Nobody lives there

According to recent census data, 47 percent of the United States’ territory is uninhabited.

A Block is the smallest area unit used by the U.S. Census Bureau for tabulating statistics. As of the 2010 census, the United States consists of 11,078,300 Census Blocks. Of them, 4,871,270 blocks totaling 4.61 million square kilometers were reported to have no population living inside them. Despite having a population of more than 310 million people, 47 percent of the USA remains unoccupied.

Overcrowding in cities and other population centers is more about people wanting to be where the action is than the restrictions of physical or inhabitable space.

The green on the map below shows the all territory where nobody lives.

Nobody lives there

Mixed messages

One of my credit card providers sent me an email this morning promoting some of the ways I can use my membership rewards points.

Here’s a screenshot from the email:

mixed messages

That’s right… This email promoted both discounts on fitness bands for keeping New Year’s resolutions and charity bonuses for using rewards points to eat at McDonald’s.

Unfortunately, I already carry a Fitbit, so I know which offer I am more likely to use.

Through You (Too) is my jam

The albums Through You and Through You Too are incredible works of remix art. The two albums consist of video songs made up of clips from unrelated YouTube videos. Somehow Kutiman–the man behind the music–manages to bring the seemingly random videos into coherent original songs that have enough of a unified sound to go together on an album.

The YouTube clips Kutiman used in his songs come from guitar instructors demonstrating riffs in their basements, members of a brass ensemble rehearsing in a hallway, a kid’s recording of her piano lessons, a high school string quartet practicing in a kitchen, lots of teenagers singing a capella into their computers’ web cams, and many other sources. Kutiman even made the intro video for Through You Too by combining clips of other people talking.

The links at the top of this post are for the two Through You albums, but Kutiman has more of his creativity and talent on display on his YouTube channel.

Augmented hands

I do not want to try this machine that changes how you perceive your hands, but seeing what is possible with augmented reality is amazing.

The “Augmented Hand Series” (by Golan Levin, Chris Sugrue, and Kyle McDonald) is a real-time interactive software system that presents playful, dreamlike, and uncanny transformations of its visitors’ hands. It consists of a box into which the visitor inserts their hand, and a screen which displays their ‘reimagined’ hand—for example, with an extra finger, or with fingers that move autonomously. Critically, the project’s transformations operate within the logical space of the hand itself, which is to say: the artwork performs “hand-aware” visualizations that alter the deep structure of how the hand appears.

The demonstration video is impressive…

Bed time protestations

The wife is at a girls night out this evening. I put older two boys to bed shortly after she left. We had a big day, and they had short naps, so they went down without incident.

The baby girl, on the other hand, made it very clear that she was not yet ready to go down for the night. I wasn’t surprised since she had slept in the car on the way home from the children’s museum in Naples in addition to her regular nap.

I let her stay up while I worked on getting the house picked up and the kitchen cleaned. When I wasn’t looking she had gone into my room, pulled my pillow off the bed, and dragged it to the living room where I was gathering toys.

She then spent the next 15 minutes dragging the pillow to each room I worked on, and laying on it until I moved to the next room. When I finished cleaning, I laid her down in her bed, and she went right to sleep with no protest.

Update: She waited until I pressed publish on this post to resume her protestations.

The world is becoming a better place

Little by little, the world is becoming a better place for the humans who live here, and no amount of bad news seems to slow it down. Improvements in broad economic, health, and security trends are making life better for millions.

Progress is slower than many would want, but there is progress. Poverty and hunger are falling, life expectancy and leisure time are increasing, violence is diminishing, education and literacy are increasing, technology is moving forward fast, and fewer children are dying from preventable diseases.

Dylan Matthews has a post on Vox collecting charts and maps that show many of the ways in which the world is getting better. He leads the post with a short explanation of how the good new often get buried under the bad.

The press — and humans in general — have a strong negativity bias. Bad economic news gets more coverage than good news. Negative experiences affect people more, and for longer, than positive ones. So it’s natural for things like Russia’s incursion into Ukraine or the rise of ISIS or the Ebola outbreak to weigh on us more than, say, the fact that extreme poverty has fallen by half since 1990, or that life expectancy is increasing, especially in poor countries.

It makes sense that bad news gets more coverage. Bad news is what people tune in for, and people tuning in is what advertisers pay for.

But could there be a better way to distribute news? It would be interesting to see advertisers sponsor news outlets dedicated to good news. It seems that would be a more attractive narrative with which to associate a brand. And I’m sure there is a large audience out there who are hungry for the good news of the day.