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Miscellaneous Rambling


I've started something new: hybrid reading. That's my own term to describe digital reading in traditional book format. I decided to try it out when I found myself wanting to know the history of Poland better. My first thought was, "I'll buy a book," but then took stock of my limits and said, "You'll never read the entire thing." So I instead printed out the Wikipedia entry (23 pages of it anyway), three-hole punched it, and put it in a sturdy three-ring binder. The binder now sits with my other current reading projects. I've also added a 9-page symposium about Jane Jacobs that I found at The American Conservative (a search triggered by my post yesterday).


And yes, newer TDE reader, I am a big fan of Wikipedia. I know, I know: it slants left and the conventional wisdom is that it's not reliable. With respect the left allegation, I simply don't see it. I'm not saying it's not there, but I don't see it and, trust me, I see leftist bogeymen everywhere. With respect to reliability, I think that contention was put to rest years ago when a study showed that Wikipedia was as reliable, or even more reliable, than the average print encyclopedia. It turns out that hundreds of mini-experts are at least as reliable as one major expert. Granted, you have to watch for the whopper that a troll might insert into the article (which isn't deleted before you get there by the page moderator who gets notice every time the page is modified), but otherwise, as far as tertiary sources go, it's very good . . . and excellent for giving you an overview of a topic that interests you, but not enough to spend $20 and 30 hours of your time reading about it in a book.


In that symposium on Jane Jacobs, one contributor dedicated his entire post to the importance of streetcars:

[T]he ripping up of streetcar lines and their replacement with buses also ripped the urban fabric. Most people like riding streetcars, but almost no one likes riding a bus. The substitution of buses for electric streetcars drove most former streetcar riders to drive.
When people took the streetcar to town – and every American city or town with 5,000 or more people once had streetcars – they also spent a lot of time on Jane Jacobs' all-important sidewalks. There, they performed multiple functions: eyes on the street, office worker, restaurant diner, shopper, theater-goer and more.
Once they drove into the city, their time on sidewalks dropped and with it shrank the number of roles they filled. They drove as close to their (usually single) destination as they could, parked, and walked only as far as necessary. When their business was done, their car drew them like a magnet and as soon as they could press the starter pedal they were gone. Stores, restaurants, and theaters moved to the suburbs where parking was easier. In time offices followed, and the city's sidewalks emptied except for the occasional beggar or wino. My home city, Cleveland, lost its streetcars in 1953, and the downtown's decline began. If Ohio had tumbleweeds, they would now blow down Euclid Avenue.
Cities such as Portland, Oregon and Kenosha, Wisconsin that have brought streetcars back have found the sidewalks come to life again. So have shops, theaters and restaurants. Streetcars are pedestrian facilitators, more so than subways. People walk, take the streetcar, then get off and walk some more.
Cities need streetcars.

Fascinating stuff, that. Just one thing = a big (and negative) thing. I then remembered that Detroit brought back the streetcar last year along its central corridor (Woodward Avenue). I gotta believe they subscribe to the importance of the streetcar.