Some Signs of the Times

Last Friday I celebrated PARK(ing) day for the first time. This idea started in San Francisco and has since caught on worldwide. A friend of a friend rented some sod, enough to fill the parking place outside his store in North Beach — these are apparently good times for the sod business, because when a house is foreclosed on there’s an attendant obligation to keep the environs looking nice…

A fence, a tree, a flamingo lawn ornament and some deckchairs were set up, and a few of us hung out in the newly lawn-ified parking spot with our daughters. A chance to look at a parking place in a new way… well, maybe you had to be there. The first time I’ve ever formed the mental association: slower, more relaxed pace of life <-> San Francisco parking place. It was, however, an experience that used up many quarters.

Meanwhile Google have partnered with On Demand Books to make two million out-of-copyright digitized texts available on the Espresso Book Machine — see Anthony Grafton’s comments here. Maybe one day, machines of this type will be available on street corners — one will just be able to go outside and buy any text one wants in book form? An earlier Grafton article about progress towards a universal digital library contains the estimate that between five and ten per cent of known books are currently in print. That reminds me of an estimate I once saw that about five to ten per cent of human beings who ever lived are currently alive.

Also last week, Andrew Sullivan blogged an appeal to his readers to subscribe to the print “Atlantic Monthly,” thus supporting their decision to put his open letter to George W. Bush about torture on the front cover. It turns out this appeal was strikingly successful, this even though the open letter can also be read online.
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