Anecdote from the 22nd century

We took out the last of the lawns in 2072.

We knew they needed too much water. The St. Augustine grass that was once so common here was a thirsty native of the Caribbean, and its runners were right for sandy coasts. Less so for urban lawns. It wasn’t drought-tolerant, and as the summers got hotter (and our water supply tighter) over the late 2020’s, more and more homeowners converted to Buffalo and Zoysia grass. Eventually, though, the new common wisdom took hold — don’t have a lawn.

Xeriscaping became the new norm. Down in Texas that meant lots of terraced limestone yards, filled with dirt and packed with crushed granite, and busting with cacti and aloe-vera, succulents and century-plants. Further West Saguaros made a comeback, roughly analagous to the grand front-yard oaks and sycamores we once had over here. The deep South, with wetter summers, was able to keep grasses in their front lawns for the most part (except in New Orleans; space inside the flood walls was at too much a premium once the rising waters of the gulf finally surrounded the city).

We didn’t expect the dust-devils.

Grass is mostly roots. The blades that poke up are thin pickings compared to the thick, intertwined root structures that reach deep into the soil under the turf. It helps keep the soil together, especially during the month of torrential rain that comes every summer, late April to early May. From June till September, when it starts to cool again, our lawns had been absorbing some of the intense heat that gets trapped in the city’s asphalt and radiates all through the night.

As the lawns went away, the heat-island effect got worse. Nobody argued with the benefits of our dusty, desertified yards in terms of water consumption. There were some arguments over the carbon-sink effects—whether grass absorbed more CO2 than our mower and weed-wackers spewed—but for the most part, reasonable people had agreed it was a good idea to kill the lawns down here. What really got us was foresight. Or maybe hindsight. Either way, by the 90’s it was too late.

By 2100, urban dust-devils were a regular seasonal terror in Texas and the Southwest. Even parts of California, Los Angeles in particular, had some freak vortexes appear and disappear. The little storms never collided and built the way some of us thought they might. They just stayed small, roaming for twenty or so minutes at a time, ripping apart yards, taking down mailboxes and leaving cars coated (inside and out) in dust. They didn’t cause much damage, less than a hurricane might, but their constant presence inside the city was unnerving. Getting caught in one was, predictably, no fun. Asthmatics began carrying around emergency gas masks (with filters designed for sandstorms) alongside their inhalers.

I’d only seen one. I think it appeared in the old baseball diamond a few blocks away. When I was little, it would’ve been stopped by the dense Juniper around Blunn creek, but it’d been years since that little stream had any water over the lingering summers, and eventually the dry spells were too long for the trees to hold out. Now it was mostly low scrub, which was no trouble to the devils. It migrated up the neighborhood, taking a window out of Julio’s house down the street with some rock it flung, and died just as it was approaching my corner.

I’d heard the glass shatter and came to the door just in time to see the dust cloud dissapate. It reminded me of the way our old fuel-combustion trucks and buses would sometimes belch out a great puff of smoke after they’d sat idling for a while. It was always accompanied by a groan of exertion from the engine, so different from the dust-devil’s great dying sigh.

Marvin Gaye, “I Heard it Through the Grapevine”, a cappella (isolated vocal track)

"Yeah, it’s written for my wife. When I first did that, I did this installation-y art thing at the Barbican with a remote orchestra. [The song] was made on my Disklavier [controlled piano], which was swung from the roof at that gig, and there was this massive Doppler effect. It is pretty mental. There’s a bad cameraphone version of it on YouTube, but in the flesh it’s fucking amazing. To listen to this piano swinging, you almost see all the notes stretching out, so it’ll hit you at different times. I never knew if it was going to work or not, and everyone was like, “What the fuck is he swinging a piano for?” But when we actually got it going, we were just like, “fucking hell.” It was so extreme. My friends were like, “Are the strings stretching?” The pitch deviation is that big, it sounds like the actual frame is contorting. Maybe it is, I don’t know!"

Brutalist buildings: Pilgrimage Church, Neviges by Gottfried Böhm
Amy Frearson,

One of the most revered religious buildings of the Brutalist period is Gottfried Böhm’s Church of the Pilgrimage in Neviges, the crystalline structure that abandoned traditional Catholic architecture in favour of sharp angles and rough concrete (+…

I like big blocks and I cannot lie.

Fitbit pre-Apple Watch / Fitbit post-Apple Watch


While there is a lot of appropriate rage about Ferguson right now, the killing of John Crawford, III is getting less attention than it deserves. I put Shaun King’s tweets and history lesson on the matter in chronological order for easier consumption.


Autopsy and video show John Crawford shot from behind in Wal-Mart

Witness in murder of John Crawford changes story

You really should be following Shaun King on Twitter.

(via frankoceanvevo)

Tragic UI design

“An estimated 63 percent of young men between the ages of 11 and 20 who are imprisoned for homicide have killed their mothers’ batterers.”

Kimberle Crenshaw, in her article Intersectionality and Identity Politics: Learning from Violence Against Women of Color. (via supreme-shieldmaiden)

(via doyouthinkimspoopy)

If this is true I’m giving up on America

(via anarcho-queer)