Michael Walch

Where the Trees Are: NASA Earth Observatory

Posted in Uncategorized by michaelwalch on 15 January, 2012

Where the Trees Are: NASA Earth Observatory

Directed by the Woods Hole Research Center, a herculean effort over the course of years has yielded an absolutely beautiful and precise measurement of the biomass of the continental United States. This mapping will be an invaluable tool in monitoring our natural resource use. More info here.

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Election Results: The Print is too Damn Small

Posted in Uncategorized by michaelwalch on 3 November, 2010

I can only assume that the ballot design of the 2010 election in NYC was actually a vision test – you know Bloomberg loves those health stats!  The sans-serif print, much of it in ALL CAPS, got down to about 4pt height.  The text was completely dominated by the useless ‘icons’ of the various political parties (Democrats are represented with a star, Republicans with a bald eagle – what happened to Donkey and Elephant – although I have to admit I smiled at the Anti-Prohibition pot leaf), and the cells of the grid were taller than their width… just TRY to vote for a write-in.  Let alone the fact that if a candidate was supported by multiple parties, they actually appeared under each party’s (see previous sentence) stupid icon.

The ballot design wasn’t helped by the “poll-workers” of dubious training and the various efforts (or not) for privacy in voting… but I’ll leave that rant to the rest of the blogs.  This post, including the image, is essentially a repost of this Gothamist post.

Mapping NYC Bus Cutbacks

Posted in Uncategorized by michaelwalch on 29 June, 2010

This interactive map from the NYTimes includes a great geographic analysis of the bus system of New York City, on the dawn of big service cuts.  It’s a rare opportunity to see in per-rider numbers the type of operating decisions transportation agencies have to make.  Since most New Yorkers take public transit, there are also clues about demographics in these maps as well.  Enjoy.

the best box is no box

Posted in Uncategorized by michaelwalch on 14 April, 2010

Puma has worked with Fuseproject to rethink the shoebox… the result?  a shoe bag: (‘clever little bag’ in Puma-terminology)

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Initiatives trample rights, Justice Moreno says

Posted in Uncategorized by michaelwalch on 16 February, 2010

Here is the SF Chronicle article.

Finally, someone from within has pointed out that the initiative system in California is a disaster.  In California anyone (with enough money and a few thousand signatures – in a state of 36 million) can put anything on the ballot for a simple majority vote.  If it passes, it is an Amendment to the State Constitution.  The gay marriage battle (Prop 22, now Prop 8, among others) has highlighted that the state constitution is up for sale by way of advertising budgets.  Beyond individual rights, the state of California has had growing budget shortfalls ever since the passage of Prop 13, which slashed property taxes and crippled budgets at every scale (municipal, county, and state).

Constitutional Law is a very specialized field of both the academic and professional practice of law – not to be crafted by amateurs and voted on by the populace at large.  Rights cannot be voted on.  Their strength is in their unpopularity (interracial marriage, segregation, abortion), their cost to business (minimum wage and working conditions) and individuals (taxes), but in long-term and often intangible ways they reward us with a more equitable, productive society (I don’t have a reference off the top of my head but these are generally correlated), and provide for our health, safety and welfare.  The value of these is difficult to define in dollars, but as they are largely intangible, I suspect they are invaluable.

OMG Soil

Posted in Uncategorized by michaelwalch on 15 February, 2010

The International Union of Soil Sciences has a soil song.  It’s pretty amazing.

I promise I’m doing real research into Amazon soil horizons, but since I’m not finding much specific information yet, here’s the song:

The Soil Song

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a big red-stained day

Posted in Uncategorized by michaelwalch on 5 February, 2010

It’s a big day for design!  You can squeeze or dip.

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Maybe a new NASA

Posted in Uncategorized by michaelwalch on 2 February, 2010

Obama is proposing scrapping the Constellation program in his budget for NASA.

Coverage at the New York Times – Billions for NASA, With a Push to Find New Ways into Space

It’s profoundly odd to think that the US will not have human spaceflight capability by the end of this year.  The last scheduled Shuttle launch is early September.  Oddly, this could re-create the space race of the 1960s – Russia will be the only country with the ability to launch humans to Low Earth Orbit, including the International Space Station.

It is definitely a step back in terms of NASA’s capabilities.  However, it is a possible rebirth and re-envisioning (really, a return to origins) of NASA’s role in aeronautics and space.  NASA is a laboratory of engineering and science – it commands a huge budget largely devoted to R&D, which then is transferred to industry.  Relieved of its operational duties, the new agency could rededicate itself to new frontiers of exploration and research, relying on technology transfer to private companies for the execution and especially marketability of space technology.  This already happens, from ‘spin-off’ products, materials, and methods to the award of contracts to (nominally) private companies like Lockheed and Boeing.

Perhaps this will create more room for people like Burt Ratan and Scaled Composites to innovate with government research money, and get closer to providing the broad public access to space.  On the other hand, the space industry is hugely important, both economically and politically, and thus far NASA has been one of the blanket agencies which help ensure that its exploration and utilization is carried out for the greater good.

Good-Night Moon.

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The start of something

Posted in Uncategorized by michaelwalch on 24 January, 2010

Hello World!

I’ll be using this blog primarily as I round out my Masters of Architecture degree at Columbia University GSAPP.  From there, who knows!

Michael