class tonight (4/21) CANCELLED

Hi everyone — I have strep throat and need to cancel class this evening. There will be a notice on the door at Baruch, of course, but I’m hoping to catch you so you don’t have to go in person to find out.

I’m really sorry for the inconvenience. On Thursday we’ll talk about shrinking cities — I’ve got some really interesting stuff for you to see that I’ll post here.

Email me at if you need to get in touch before Thursday.

I emailed both sections using the  “mail everyone” function in Blackboard — hope it worked!

— Rose

Fantastic article about regional Mexican music on cell phones

The New York Times just ran a great article about the enormous cell phone market for regional Mexican music.

Because fans of regional Mexican music tend to be working-class immigrants and their United States-born children, they don’t fit the typical musical consumption patterns of the digital age. They most likely don’t own a home computer, don’t use a credit card and don’t have broadband at home, all prerequisites for an iTunes account. Instead they buy prepaid phone cards with cash and use their cellphones as mobile, personal jukeboxes, often downloading ring tones from their cellular providers for about $3 each, three times the price from iTunes or Zune.

Yet another example of an unexpected use of mobile technology!

Reading assignment for Thursday, April 2nd

Hi — I’m posting late on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning — my scanner at home is nearly dead, but I managed to get one more chapter out of it!

Our reading for Thursday night is the 2nd chapter of bell hooks’ recent book, belonging. I recommend having a glance at hooks’ wikipedia page; it’s not 100% up-to-date, but from that you can get a sense of her background.

She grew up in Kentucky, in the Appalachians, near the part of Virginia that Barbara Kingsolver moved to with her family. In this chapter we hear about how being from Kentucky felt complicated to her even though it continued to partly define her during all the decades she stayed away.

There’s a lot for us to discuss in this chapter, about race and class and gender. I’m looking forward to hearing your reactions to her biographical writing. Even though bell hooks is speaking in the first person, she’s talking about things that a lot of other people have experienced.

Reading assignment for Tuesday, March 31st

More tomatoes!

Barbara Kingsolver wrote a whole chapter in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle about the tomato harvest in their family garden. She describes being overwhelmed by trying to cope with 20% of a ton of tomatoes (400 pounds, or about 180 kilos). We heard in the Gourmet article about tomato harvesting in Florida that one worker picks a ton of tomatoes per day — which gives us some perspective both on how many tomatoes she is dealing with, and how many tomatoes an industrial farm handles.

U.S. Government Agencies and Web 2.0

Some of you might enjoy reading an article on about how the General Services Administration of the U.S. government is working to put government content on the websites that everyone already uses.

The GSA ,which led the effort for 12 agencies over the past nine months, has finally worked out arrangements with Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo and, saying these are “representative of high volume and innovation on the Web.”

All of this information is already in the public domain, and it’s available through other websites and offices, but having it on the “public web” will make it more accessible to the community at large.

Do you think that this will help ordinary citizens become more engaged in government? Do you see any potential problems? What sort of government content would you like to see on the internet?

White House garden!

Lots of you already know about this, but here are some links in case you hadn’t heard!

Last week the NYTimes wrote about the plan for the garden.

Starting a few months ago, though, a group called the White House Organic Farm project (WHOFarm) started petitioning the White House to plan to plant a garden this year. They are thrilled, as you can imagine! If you look on their website, you can find lots of articles and videos.

My perennials have started to bloom — I’ve got daffodils and hyacinths in my tiny front yard. But I’m looking forward to planting herbs and tomatoes — and getting to know some of my neighbors who are doing the same thing.

Reading assignment for Thursday, March 26th

I told you that we’d have a chapter from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle to read for Thursday, but the scanner at home wouldn’t cooperate, and I want you to have enough time to read. So next week we’ll have that chapter, and also a chapter from bell hooks’ wonderful recent book, Belonging: A Culture of Place, which is about the same area in Kentucky.

For tomorrow, Thursday, March 26th, I’d like you to read an article about the Ed Roberts Campus, a building project in the San Francisco East Bay area that will house several different agencies that all support people with disabilities.

If you get curious and would like to do more reading, there’s a wonderful article about the history of the disability movement in Berkeley. More information about the Ed Roberts Campus is on their website.

Many of our class themes will come up in this reading — I’d like you to think particularly about how disability affects social class, and how social class affects access to resources to help people with disabilities.

See you on Thursday!

“On D.C. Streets, the Cellphone as Lifeline”

I just read a really smart short article on mobile phone use in the homeless population in Washington, D.C.

“Having a phone isn’t even a privilege anymore — it’s a necessity,” said Rommel McBride, 50, who spent about six years on the streets before recently being placed in a city housing program. He has had a mobile phone for a year. “A cellphone is the only way you can call to keep up with your food stamps, your housing application, your job. When you’re living in a shelter or sleeping on the streets, it’s your last line of communication with the world.”

Advocates who work with the District’s homeless estimate that 30 percent to 45 percent of the people they help have cellphones. A smaller number have e-mail accounts, and some blog to chronicle their lives on the streets.

I know most of you didn’t need convincing on this topic — but this article is even more eye-opening than the first one we read!

Urban farming!

Clive Thompson wrote a great short article at about “Why Urban Farming Isn’t Just for Foodies“.

[Urban farming] could relieve strain on the worldwide food supply, potentially driving down prices. The influx of fresh vegetables would help combat obesity. And when you “shop” for dinner ingredients in and around your home, the carbon footprint nearly disappears. Screw the 100-mile diet — consuming only what’s grown within your immediate foodshed — this is the 100-yard diet.

I’m looking forward to growing cherry tomatoes and basil this year!