Posted in Uncategorized by johnsnavely on November 15, 2012

Oh boy, it’s been a long time since I’ve sat down to write anything in this blog. But moving on…

I was reading this post on Marginal Revolution, tipped off thanks to the always interesting T on QofW

I’ll try and summarize:

Under fire about the accuracy of his predictions, Nate Silver offered a bet to his critic $1000 donation to the Red Cross. A NYTimes editor, Margaret Sullivan, called the bet “inappropriate” for a journalist. Alex Tabarrok on Marginal Revolution supported the bet and, moreover, offered a way to make similar wagers blind and thus non-partisan, and calls these sorts of bets a “tax on bullshit”– which is an awesome phrase and one which I wish I could use more often. Overall, I like the idea of responding to critics with a wager. It’s something a former poker player like Nate would find as a friendly and easy thing to do. It’s a lovely gesture of confidence. 

But I was puzzling about something else when I read the article(s). Clearly, Margaret Sullivan has assumed that there’s some sort of shared ethics for journalists and reporters of the news. But she’s also assumed that what Nate Silver does is journalism or reporting.

T says (quite rightly):

“Also, do you really think that Nate Silver is a “reporter?” I’m not sure what that label really means in this context — most reporters, I assume, assemble sources, get quotes, filter facts and assertions, and then craft a coherent story to be printed in limited space.


Silver’s running MCMC-simulations of election outcomes using probability distributions inferred from the confidence intervals (Bayesian posterior distributions, natch) he gets from executing a panel of linear regressions. That seems different from what most reporters are doing, at any time, ever–“

I’m not very good at answering questions like this. Usually I work by assuming that an answer is true, hypothetically and then guessing what might happen. 

So let’s say I’m a reporter. I’m giving an assignment to write about an event (maybe a natural disaster hitting a major city) only I don’t have the budget to actually go the the city. And I need to write the report within hours of the event. All my “sources” (data) are going to come from hundreds of thousands of twitter posts that are being produced by people who are there.

I really could use some computational tools that can help me sort through which twitter posts I should read. Which contain relevant information. Suggested organizations/chronologies for events. Help finding “most interesting” quotes. I need to do this very quickly so I can write a canonical version of what happened with poignant bits culled out, maybe even styled for the particular readership of the publication I’m working for.

A reporter’s software helper can do a lot of scraping and gathering, that’s not hard. But what it needs to do is generate a networked map of all the conversations, condensing like a cloud, around the event. And the representation needs to be structured in such a way that it can be built extremely quickly and help answer some basic but ambiguous questions… like “What happened when?”

What if more reporters were armed with better software? I wonder what the news would be like.


I can bend minds with my spoon

Posted in architecture, Uncategorized by johnsnavely on November 4, 2007

Two new games that you architects have probably already heard of:


(Check out the java and downloadable demos here.)

And Portal

Playing in space never seemed so fun! I’m really excited to play these games. Especially if there’s a co-op mode in portal.

I remember trying to explain to my friend T what it was like to be really really good at an FPS. I told him that the best players play like the walls and floors aren’t even there. They track players through a map as if they could see right through the structure. And they’ve also invested the time in knowing all the possible paths through the space so that moving from point A to point B doesn’t depend on “walking” through the map.

Like the dancer in the last post, it seems that spatial understanding is subjective (interpretive?… I’m not sure what the right word is) at even the most basic level of perception.

I wish I had more time to play games these days. So many have come out that have a lot to offer the design process. The last one I went crazy over but didn’t get a chance to play was Paper Mario. Have any of you played this game?

Paper Mario exploited that odd relationship between 2d and 3d that most side scrollers have. (The intro/credits for the 300 –the only good part of that movie– do the same.)

There are some fascinating parallels between architectural representation and building which paper mario could apply to. I’d love to make a side scroller or Portal like game in which the outcome of playing the game is actually some realizable construction. A project for this summer!

Apologies for the multitude of videos and the matrix reference…

3d Poche

Posted in architecture, Uncategorized by johnsnavely on October 30, 2007

This is nuts.

I was right brained first, but then got her to spin the other way.  Makes me wonder what I could do with a rendering…

Groundhog Day

Posted in architecture, Uncategorized by johnsnavely on October 30, 2007


The statement, again (ty, K, B, and J):

“We are not coeval / With a locality / But we imagine others are, / We encounter them. Actually / A populace flows/ Thru the city. This is a language, therefore, of New York” George Oppen

In 1914, a small theater was constructed in South Williamsburg, Brooklyn New York. While the population went from Dutch to Italian to Polish to Hispanic to Hasidic and back again, the building itself underwent a series of mutations from a theater, to a cinema, to a ball room, to a restaurant, until finally today it has been repurposed as a 99 cent store, apartments, and assorted retail spaces. The fluctuation of the program and the population of the site have to do, in part, with its proximity to several major forms of transportation. The site sits on directly on the JMZ line of the subway (added in , sits at the foot of the new pedestrian addition to the Williamsburg Bridge, and is a block from the BQE. Broadway Avenue a four lane roadway, which runs underneath the JMZ, is the commercial hub; streets running parallel to Broadway have relatively little retail businesses.

Although at one time Brooklyn was home to dozens of theaters, very few have survived. Though some of those businesses survived the Depression in the 30’s most eventually fled or failed during the 70’s when recession and crime crippled the area. In the last 10 years, the surrounding neighborhood – particularly to the north – has become more and more economically solvent; even so, there is still a lack of public programmatic space near the site. Part of the problem is that this area has remained relatively poor compared to neighborhoods like North Williamsburg, Brooklyn Heights and Prospect Park. The last decade’s influx of cash went primarily to North Williamsburg where developers have been swarming to construct high rise apartment buildings along the waterfront. 

Working within an idea of community and attempting a development that is successful in financial and social terms, this thesis leaves behind bourgeois minimalism (and its associated critical discourse), which has been not been consistently or successfully adopted by the whole population of the site, and replaces it with a revised postmodern, post-critical approach aimed at community building.

An aesthetic which encourages nostalgia, through reference to the past, can endear a design to a community. Robert M. Stern’s practice has used this technique with great financial success to cater to affluent financiers, but it might also be used on a different population. To find this nostalgic beauty, this thesis will revisit antique typologies like that of the movie palace, out-dated architectural techniques like poche and pastiche, and forgotten forms of ornament. Iconography and ornamentation, rather than being mere decoration of the interior, form a membrane which acts as a cultural interface to site the building in a strong, diverse, and ultimately stubborn community.


Under current economic conditions, South Williamsburg could probably not support a large performance complex, like the Brooklyn Academy of Music, for example.

Limping Dog

Posted in architecture, Uncategorized by johnsnavely on October 25, 2007


Pulling an all nighter. I’m up to one a week, which is actually pretty good. I’ll have to start doing more, though.

Approximately six weeks until detonation. The umbilicus will be cut, an omphalos will form and I will gaze at it. I promised myself one week of this (until my eyes bleed) when finish thesis:

btw, Radiohead’s new album is lovely.

Lilacs out of the dead land.

Posted in architecture, Uncategorized by johnsnavely on October 24, 2007

T was kind enough to alert me that Cosma’s genius was now in a delicious new form.

Well, I think it’s paid off already. Stolen from his links is a reference to this new graphic novel:

Martin Rowson, who I’ve never heard of, but wish I had, has rewritten T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land as a hard boiled noirish graphic novel. Hot hot hot. If anyone out there has this and can let me borrow it, I would be grateful. Or if anyone has any of Rowson’s work I’d love to check it out.

Apparently, he’s also done a graphic novel of “The Life and Times of Tristram Shandy” a movie (and novel, ahem)  that I love so much I titled my “retrospective” speech at Dartmouth after it.

I’m still on my books with pictures kick. And I just finished Volume 1 of Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha. The art is nothing special, but the story of the Buddha, which oddly both my parents were happy to tell me about when I was young, is wonderfully reinterpreted.

Just like Columbus

Posted in architecture, Uncategorized by johnsnavely on October 15, 2007

Today’s Mantra “Be Aggressive”

Graphic, but not in a good way

Posted in architecture, Uncategorized by johnsnavely on October 10, 2007

I’ll say this first. Sin City is a not a good graphic novel and a really bad movie.

Buuuut, considering my thesis has been in black and white, stealing some of Frank Miller’s style might not be a bad thing. He knows how to throw down the ink. There are times when it seems like he’s positioned the characters solely to make the composition work in two tones.

Jackson mentioned last night about how black and white (in film) forces shot composition. I think he’s right though I’m struggling to make something similar with architecture.

I’m sorry I don’t speak Spanish

Posted in architecture, Uncategorized by johnsnavely on October 9, 2007


A magazine is featuring the work of some of the students I taught at the last workshop in Chile in a nice spread. You can see the pages here. The students did some awesome work and it’s nice to see it featured.

And the magazine’s online presence is here.

Higher and Higher

Posted in architecture, Uncategorized by johnsnavely on October 6, 2007


I am in bed with the flu today. I’m sick like a dog. It blows.

Yesterday my crit went pretty well. Mostly thanks to the input from my friends Pete, Stephen, and Bryan. One of the results is that I have a new precedent (other than Monticello) and she’s gorgeous:

Such nice hands!

And of course her star turn in this movie, which is what my project is secretly based on. I had a conversation recently with someone, I don’t remember who exactly, who insisted that Ghostbusters II was better than the original. Something so contrarian must be you, right T? The argument (which I think was very quickly abandoned) was that the Statue of Liberty scene was “really uplifting”. Hopefully, my good friend Mason (who’s coming to visit, yay!) will rattle off the countless lines of dialog from the original, all spoken entirely by Rick Moranis. Although in defense of GB II, “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher” is a great song and deserves a cover. Maybe by someone like Cat Power.

Last but not least, I’ve put up a “new” blog for all the Rhinoscripting stuff I work on. It can be found here. And unlike the Invivia blog, it will actually be updated with real content. A workshop at MIT is planned for mid-January. Stay tuned!