Mostly the New York Times

Good weekend reading over at the NYT

1. A City Where You Can’t Hear Yourself Scream

This is not like London or New York, or even Tehran, another car-clogged Middle Eastern capital. It is literally like living day in and day out with a lawn mower running next to your head, according to scientists with the National Research Center. They spent five years studying noise levels across the city and concluded in a report issued this year that the average noise from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. is 85 decibels, a bit louder than a freight train 15 feet away, said Mustafa el Sayyid, an engineer who helped carry out the study.

But that 85 decibels, while “clearly unacceptable,” is only the average across the day and across the city. At other locations, it is far worse, he said. In Tahrir Square, or Ramsis Square, or the road leading to the pyramids, the noise often reaches 95 decibels, he said, which is only slightly quieter than standing next to a jackhammer.

I was thinking of one brother who spent a very strange year in Egypt and then another who reported back from his trip in South Asia that a typical Thai restaurant had to have a full volume blaring televlsion set that no one paid any attention to. This was particularly galling to him in that, though he shares my distaste for urban noise and especially horrid music in commercial or public areas, he is so indisposed by this that he finds he can only feel calm living in the mountains. And that is where he has been for years, apart from the near annual trip over the ocean to somewhere.

2. Can the Cellphone Help End Global Poverty?

About a Nokia user-anthropologist who travels the world looking for innovative design solutions based on how people actually do things, and see how they use products in unintended ways (naturally focussing on cellphones). Like this but took exception to the statement, which might be true, but kind of sad, that “in an increasingly transient world the cellphone is becoming the one fixed piece of our identity.” This too reminded me of my first mentioned brother’s reports from Egypt, and later Korea, about the cellphone madness in other lands where people obsessed about which model they had, and the topic of conversation was usually the phone itself. Come to think of it, we’re kind of going that way.

In this respect I remain actively Luddite and only when I am dead, or cells actually do become cheaper in which case it will stay in my house almost always, will they pry the landline from me. I have railed before and will again about the tyranny of technology. How it drops ever more filters between us and the life around us, how it fools us into thinking we are more important than the world, that we are the center because we can carry everything with us. I try to limit my labour saving devices, and my access to certain things so that I do go without sometimes, just so that something unexpected might happen. I don’t like a scheduled life and the cell phone is a step in that direction.

4 comments on “Mostly the New York Times

  1. I’m about as inclined as you are, AOS, to get myself a cell phone. The idea of never being far away from a phone leaves me cold.

  2. They make all the new gadgets look like jewelry, like adornment, like fashion, but I fear they are gilding new chains.

  3. I want to use this picture in my website, may I? Credits for? Thanks

  4. I’ll find that information for you. I apologize for not crediting the image…Check back later.

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