Craig Dietrich

I found myself at Los Angeles’ Wilshire Blvd and Fremont Street, at night and without my normal point-and-shoot camera. Therefore I took pics with my iPhone 5 — which produces a certain burnt style — of an area that had me very surprised. Among the South LA community, here were private, gated communities, church headquarters, and a Masonic Temple that can rarely be used because zoning doesn’t permit its use. Continue reading »

Typical Los Angeles “food desert” photo along Figueroa Corridor. Getty Images/David McNew

Walking through the Figueroa Corridor in South Central, Los Angeles, it is difficult to overlook the wave of urban developments. If you haven’t visited the area, you may have already seen it through popularized photos of fast food chains between Jefferson Blvd and Adams Blvd used as an icon for “food deserts.” These so-called deserts are short on healthy food options and high on fatty foods, and the commercial zoning of the Figueroa Corridor coupled by a large mix-used inner-city/university population has lead to a proliferation of prefabricated options. Though the restaurants are iconic of the area, due to a number of factors including the expansion of nearby University of Southern California, the re-emergence of Downtown LA as a cultural and economic center, and the relatively cheap land value of strip-malls, the northwest end of South Central is losing its fast food chains in favor of multi-story housing facilities. Re-enforcing the trend away from the strip-mall towards a more fashionable aesthetic is the style of the new developments: marble-looking columns meet archways at entrances, statues line the walkways, and brick is mixed with stucco.
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It’s not uncommon to see an UFO fly through a home video. Sometimes there are telltale signs of forgery such as fishing lines holding up the ship. More recently computer graphics have removed those strings, but close examination can reveal the ruse — maybe the lighting is off just a little.

Enter Aristomenis “Meni” Tsirbas. Last year he uploaded a YouTube video with a standard CGI spaceship. Except in this case, the aliens think you are fake. Why? Because in Tsirbas’s video, everything is computer-generated:

Wired describes the video in further detail:

But while the highly detailed alien ships were obviously fake, the even more surprising thing about the clip is that nothing else was real either. Every single element in the 39-second clip was computer-generated, from the car the supposed cameraman is driving to the cloudy blue sky where the alien crafts appear.

They go on to quote Tsirbas on his intensions:

The point of the video was to prove that CGI can look natural and convincing,” Tsirbas told Wired. ”Everybody assumes the background and car are real, and that the UFOs are probably fake, especially the over-the-top mothership at the end. The general reaction is disbelief, so I usually have to prove it by showing a wireframe of the entire shot to prove that nothing is real.

Full Wired article at:

Internet, meet hierarchy. As Felix Salmon points out in a timely article from earlier this week, “How capitalism breaks the web,” the dream of an internet teaming with non-professional blogs, open content, and online identity is now lost to a small consortium of “web-hostile” hubs such as Facebook and Instagram. The cause? As Salmon describes, many web contributors would rather go with user-friendly interfaces than explore all that the web has to offer. Continue reading »

Downtown New York City Two Months After Zuccotti Park RaidNew York Stock Exchange, 15 January 2012

This is the third in a sequence of Public Spaces essays that I’ve been compiling here on NMDNet. The first essay began at New York’s Wall Street not long after the police there shut down Occupy Wall Street and noticed how the streets in downtown had become “dead space.” The second visited Florence Ave & Normandie Ave, reflecting on how the site of the start of the 1992 Los Angeles Riots is now a passthrough for cars and gas stations. This third essay gained inspiration from a 2010 blog post and a walk to a neighborhood bus stop. First, I was cruising some keywords in the blogsphere and stumbled on “Downtown Loses Its Cherry Street, Becomes ‘L.A. Live Way’” by blogdowntown‘s Eric Richardson. This was no surprise as Downtown LA, about a mile north from where I live, has seen a massive redevelopment named LA Live that includes the Staples Center arena. After reading the blogdowntown article I didn’t think much of Cherry Street until I walked to the nearby bus stop with a few minutes to spare.
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Last weekend Vanessa Vobis and I took a trip to California City, CA. Haven’t heard of it? You’re not alone. But it happens to be the 3rd largest city in California by area, causing confusion especially when considering other cities on the list include LA and San Jose. So, why isn’t California City as well known? Although an expansive grid was laid out in the 1950s, very few came, resulting in a small suburban core surrounded by 200+ square miles of uninhabited sprawl.

There are many stories and oddities from the trip that I’ll compile into a post for my Public Spaces series. Until then, below is an intermediate post consisting of the seven tweets from our trip, each annotated by an image. I’m hoping to provide an overview of our California City trip while at the same time trying out Twitter’s new “embed this tweet” feature.
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Florence Ave & Normandie Ave
LA Metro 206 bus at Florence Ave & Normandie Ave

Today is the 20th anniversary of the LA “Rodney King” Riots that began, visibly, on television news showing footage from helicopters of rioters attacking cars at the intersection of Florence Ave & Normandie Ave in South Los Angeles (at the time more commonly called South Central). Two weeks ago I visited the intersection to experience the location and reflect on the event, taking the LA Metro five miles South from where I live in West Adams. The intersection is a typical cross roads with franchise stores on the corners, about six lanes per street converging, and cars alternatively lining up as green lights turn to red. I tweeted the experience while sitting for a while on Downtown New York City Two Months After Zuccotti Park Raidthe Northwest side of the intersection, at a grassy plantern area that surrounds an AutoZone sign. I had meant the trip to be an isolated personal experience until Adam Liszkiewicz, who was following my tweets (and photos I was linking to), pointed out a relationship between the intersection and my last essay, here on NMDnet in January, 2012, about downtown New York City “dead spaces” that were created by police in response to Occupy Wall Street. This trip was now the second in a series.
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People look upon One World Trade Center under constructionPeople look upon One World Trade Center under construction (flickr)

On the first day of my visit to New York City last week — timed to attend the Occupy Wall Street events and actions on Martin Luther King Jr Day — I found myself in Downtown’s Financial District. I came out of the subway at the World Trade Center expecting to see the various WTC buildings under construction, but I didn’t know that construction had progressed significantly since my last visit and (as I learned from an architect friend) the WTC buildings are incorporating advanced glass technology that result in ultra-shiny, ultra-efficient exoskeletons. It is difficult to look away from the WTC buildings at this late stage in their development, marking them monuments as per the Port Authority’s intentions but also foreshadowing a collective gaze by future onlookers staring up at the offices of financiers, lawyers, and New York State employees.
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John Bell and I have pointed out that version control — systems widely used in software development for logging the incremental versions of an application as its being developed — would have benefits for all creative production if adopted by other disciplines:

Part archive, part message board, and part management tool, sites like meld project development with open access and documentation. Version control software like git and subversion facilitates asynchronous collaborations between contributors by standardizing how their work integrates. If the creative community documents their work in as structured a manner as coders have, and with the same eye toward future integration with the work of others, it will be a boon to those trying to preserve and build upon the cultural artifacts created today.

But as this article by The Daily WTF founder Alex Papadimoulis points out, the are many types of version control systems representing different philosophies. For there to be a boon, picking the right one for each discipline (or knowing which one not to use) is critical.  For example, systems specific to code creation might not be the best for storing essays.

But source code – though just a bunch of text files – is a special kind of data: it represents a codebase, or the living blueprint for an application that’s maintained by a team of developers. It’s this key distinction that makes source control a special case of revision control, and why we need an additional dimension for managing changes in source code.

At the same time, Alex’s article does a great job of explaining the technical aspects of version control system. For anyone interest in GitHub, but having trouble understanding its Forks and Repos, this is a great primer.

A fork copies a three-dimensional repository, creating two equal but distinct repositories. A commit performed against one repository has no impact on the other, which means the codebases contained within will become more and more different, and eventually evolve into different applications altogether.

Full text at

Ya know when you’re in charge of a software application, sometimes you get to the point where you just keep piling on quick fixes because you don’t have time to rewrite the code properly? It’s called programming yourself into a corner, and it’s not good. In another installment of Wall Street mimicking bad software,

In a piece of legislation recently passed by the House and the Senate to revamp patent law, a tiny provision was inserted at the last minute called Section 18.

The provision, which my colleague Edward Wyatt detailed in an article ahead of the House’s vote on the bill last month, has only one purpose: to allow the banking industry to skirt paying for certain important patents involving “business methods.”

Even more reason to invest in alternative networks.

Full text at

This is a tough time to be a government in the U.S.  Ranging from municipal to federal, governments are under attack by conservatives and liberals alike for overspending, budget shortfalls, and service shortcomings.  Now, corporations make sure that they can’t do anything right, either. Continue reading »

Unlike a past Microsoft rumor I mentioned, this is a real deal: as reported by a few news sites including MSNBC, Microsoft is closing a deal to purchase Skype for $8.5 billion. From a New York Times analysis, the big winners are current Skype investors,

Now, several investors stand to benefit from Microsoft’s planned $8.5 billion acquisition of Skype, which was announced on Tuesday. Skype’s hodge podge of owners, including a private equity firm, a pension fund, and a venture capitalist reflects its changing fortunes over the years.

NEW YORK CITY,  19 Nov 2010 —

MYFOXNY.COM – Some might say there is a ‘war on cars’ going on in New York City.
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Don’t believe what you hear — contracts with banks do go both ways: Continue reading »

In one of the primary hubs for Pacific Ocean intercontinental internet traffic, residents consume what many would consider “old media.” Continue reading »

Dear Jules Dervaes,

Urban Homestead


Believe it or not, that line/link above may land me a trademark infringement letter. Continue reading »

Want to beat out a few more of your peers looking to get into graduate school? Now you have the chance, given an extra hour soon to be tacked on to the GRE, Continue reading »

Edward Tufte has pointed out that PowerPoint and other presentational software reduce rather than enhance knowledge transfer from experts to audiences. His solution is technical documents—distributed before a presentation—explicit in their methodology and outcomes. Continue reading »

Just in case you were wondering…

Researchers are sure that they can put lab-grown meat on the menu — if they can just get cultured muscle cells to bulk up.

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What do a 15th century mural, performance art documentation photo, and Google Maps screengrab have in common? Continue reading »

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