Thursday, April 30, 2009

Urban Gardening - Feed the Grid

As I've mentioned before, I think the "parallel world" of metropolitan rooftops is fascinating, especially when it comes to the range of creative uses of space. For example, rooftop gardening is one way city-dwellers reclaim their space and create their own urban oases (and maybe even relieve stress, save money, eat more healthily, and help the environment) by incorporating a little nature. If you're interested in doing some urban gardening of your own, here are some resources.


Urban Gardening Help - A pretty extensive site that aims to make urban gardening easy with simple instructions.

Container Gardening Tips
- a good overview of container gardening. It includes a list of plants well suited to container gardening, which includes varieties of herbs, vegetables, fruits, flowers, shrubs and trees, and "odds and ends" (i.e. aloe, dwarf pomegranate, black bamboo).

AZ: Master Garden Manual: Container Garden - Starts out with an overview and ends with a chart of information on growing a variety of vegetables which includes:
  • light requirements
  • minimum container size
  • inches required between plants in containers
  • number of days from planting seed to harvest
  • tips for a variety of vegetables

Herb Container Gardens (Utah State University Cooperative Extension) - A PDF specific to herbs that covers the following:
  • container-friendly types
  • container sizes
  • potting media
  • planting procedures
  • care and harvest methods
  • as well as a chart with information on herb: type (annual, perennial), height of growth, maintenance, and harvest / uses.

Home Fruit, Vegetable, and Nut Gardening (Aggie Horticulture, Texas A & M) has a series of Gardening Fact Sheets and Guides which cover:
  • varieties
  • soil preparation
  • fertilizing
  • planting
  • watering
  • care during the season
  • insects and diseases
  • harvesting
  • fertilizing
  • storing

Watch Your Garden Grow (University of Illinois Extension) has a directory of many popular fruits and vegetables that provides information on:
  • varieties
  • when to plant
  • spacing & depth
  • care
  • harvesting
  • common problems
  • growing
  • selection and storage
  • nutrition and health
  • preparing and serving
  • home preservation
  • recipes

A post on Raised Garden Beds from Twenty Square Feet: Life as a Container Gardener (A Crash Course on Gardening in a Ridiculously Small Space)


Homemade Potting Soil Recipes for Container Gardens (The Artistic Garden) - Potting soil recipes specific to type of plant (Basic, Acid-Loving, Bulbs, Cacti and Succulents, Alpines, Orchids and Bromeliads).


Companion Planting is the placement of various crops in close physical proximity to another so as to symbiotically compliment the progress of each other. Benefits can include flavor enhancement, hedged investment, level interaction, nitrogen fixation, pest suppression, positive hosting, protective shelter, and trap cropping.
  • Has a chart that covers "good neighbors", "bad neighbors", and miscellaneous notes for a wide variety of plants.

INSTRUCTABLES (Build it Yourself)

Urban Homestead Garden - an adaption on Mel Bartholomew's Square Foot Gardening practices (build up, don't dig down and organize in sq. ft.).

How to make high powered led grow lights

Instructions for building a Zero-Power Self-Watering Self-Regulating Container Garden

If you prefer to have a lot of the work done for you, purchasing an Earth Box is one way to go. You could also use this or this plan for building one yourself.

Don't have adequate space or not ready to take up gardening on your own? Visit "Just Food" to locate NYC farms nearest to you.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Webware 100: who's the best of 2009?

You are invited to vote for your favorites among CNET's 2009 Webware 100 finalists. Voting closes April 30th. These "cool Web 2.0 apps for everyone" are selected by CNET Webware readers and by the users of the products they cover.

There are 10 categories of finalists:
Audio and Music
Infrastructure and Storage
Location-based services
Photo & Video
Search & Reference
Social Networking & Publishing

Finalists range from the hangers-on, the old standbys, the currently trendy yet to prove their staying power, and a few up-and-comings. (These were last year's winners.)

So check it out and vote for who you think should reign supreme, and while you're there, dig around a little bit to see if you can find something new to try out.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Open Art

Pop over to Artists Wanted to help them answer the question: "What shapes our world more, art or design?" You'll be presented with a series images, the work of an artist on the left, and that of a designer on the right, and asked to select the one you find more moving.

The real goal of the competition, and Artist Wanted at large, is to to make the process of breaking in to the professional art world "more welcoming, dynamic and open-ended" by helping to build "new lasting opportunities for emerging talent".

Here are some of the artists and designers I had the fortune of coming across thanks to the project:

1. Melissa Furness
"Throughout my life I have been very aware of myself in relation to environment ... how the places where I have resided have formed my identity, and how human presence forms a place as well. There is an internal sense of feeling either connected or disconnected to the places in which we reside that effects all of our interactions ... The concept of a hybrid reality can be seen throughout my work in painting through a complex layering of space."

24in x 24in

Outlying Positions
24in x 24in

For more of Melissa's work, visit:

2. Olga Nazarkina
"I searched the way to express the feeling of the infinite space being limited by the size of canvas" and to "create a sense of the abstract concept of endlessness."

The Tree of Wisdom
2007, Color Paper
"This is the first art piece in my series of applique' works in colored paper. The thin branches are interlaced with one another, resembling A neuron pattern in the brain. Being dark and light they are life stories that comprise the tree of wisdom."

Sangina/ Paper, 2006


Oil/Canvas, 2006

Color Paper, 2007
"The composition is created from thin strokes of colored paper. 3D quality helps to establish the mood of a poignant rain."

See more of Olga's work at:

3. Mays Mayhew
"In recent work, I am exploring two concepts; one the concept of memory and two the concept of love. Memory intrigues me because it is intangible and fleeting. Existentially recalling a memory is interesting because the more one actively concentrates on a past event, the more that is uncovered. In the brain, the memories look like tiny dendrites."

No Umbrella 1
Oil/Wax Gems/Nylon Thread, (2007)
14 x 11 x 1 in.

Free Fall 2
Oil, cheesecloth, (2009)
50 x 20 x 1.5 in.

Oil, gems, glitter, (2009)
18 x 28 x 3 in.

For more of Mayhew's work, visit:

4. Graham Slick
"I take pleasure in the physical process of image making, be it the discovery of a more precise way to apply wiggle eyes or a new way to drip ink. No matter how complex the construction of my images, my goal is to maintain a spirit of playfulness in my work that resonates with the viewer. "

"A new idea must not be judged by its immediate results." - Nikola Tesla
2009, mixed media on wood
12 x 12 inches

The Lonely Sasquatch

2008, mixed media on found book
12 x 8 inches

See more of Graham's work at:

5. Ania Baran
Young, polish, new to photography

Theatre of Dreams
Nikon D40

Nikon D40

The Morfeusz gifts
Nikon D40

For more of Ania's work, visit:

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Teeny Stuff

Structures and sculptures that are tiny in scale are engaging: dioramas, miniatures, dollhouses, models, snow globes, terrariums ... I think it's because of the range of responses they can create in the observer: on one hand, they can draw you in to a new miniature parallel world ... on the other, they can make you feel like an outside entity: completely removed and all-perceiving.

Take the miniature dramatic art of Lori Nix,

Jonah Samson's (Dark and Dirty) Dioramas,

and the amazing works of Walter Martin & Paloma Muñoz. They include tiny islands:

... and snow globes:

When the sculptures / structures also have a tactile component, there is an added bonus of being able to engage both your senses of sight and touch. For example, it's hard to see a snow globe without wanting to pick it up and shake it, or look at this "Room Box" of a bake shop and candy store and not want to hold one of the tiny cakes:

A closer look:

In a lot of ways, the miniature arts are limited only by the imagination.

Make the world's smallest orange,

a terrarium in a mini Tabasco bottle,

a castle inside a lightbulb diorama,

... or decorate your ceiling with a parallel world, like artist Ji Lee: "People decorate their walls and floors, but most of them overlook their ceilings. It's such a waste of vast space. So I started to install miniature parallel worlds on the ceilings."

Layers of a City

“Most people experience their life in the city in a two-dimensional way ... You know, they go from Point A to Point B along streets and don’t realize there are these multiple layers to the city. By going 20 feet below or 20 feet above, you can go to a place that is practically unvisited, that maybe 100 people get to see a year.” (NYTimes: "Children of Darkness")

Upper Level
Any time I'm on a rooftop in the city, I'm struck by the feeling that I'm on another plain. There's a whole other world going on up there. There are "rooftop neighbors", not just next door, but across the street, and way down the block ... From my roof, I can see how people create their own little havens on their slice of metropolitan rooftop real estate. My neighbors are so comfortable that they frequently come out on their porch in their underwear. When I peer down to the street below, sometimes it almost seems wrong to be looking down over the pedestrians as they pass by, completely oblivious to my gaze or anything beyond their more immediate surroundings.

Truth is, most of us don't even consider some of the things that are actually going on up on those rooftops: there are
amazing views, secret gardens, yoga classes, parties, film screenings .... eh, beekeeping? But we just shuffle by, unaware, on the sidewalk many stories below.

Lower Level
But it's not just what's above our heads that we often fail to notice, it's what's under our feet as well.

"New Yorkers go about unaware of what is happening just beneath their feet: Power pulses, information flies, and steam flows. The city’s infrastructure starts just below street level, but it doesn’t stop there. " (National Geographic: NY Underground)

Go to the National Geographic "NY Underground" site where you can actually interact with the layers in the image above and get more information and (photo, text, and audio) tours.

Also check out NYC24's feature on Exploring NYC's Underground.

See stunning visuals captured by a "Guerrila Historian in Gotham" at Undercity.

Want to see some of this stuff in person?
In a post-9/11 world, much of what was once somewhat accessible is off-limits, so it can be challenging.

  • For a more legal route, join in on the annual openhousenewyork weekend: "America's largest architect and design event ... discover new neighborhoods, explore with friends and family, and experience NYC's architecture and design in all five boroughs through special talks, tours, performances and family-friendly workshops – all free of charge...". This next one will be October 10 & 11, 2009.

  • For the other route, check out what the LTVsquad us up to.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Webby Favorites

You have until April 30th to vote for "the best of the net" among the Webby People's Voice nominees. The Webby Awards are a series of awards presented by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences and cover the categories of Web and Mobile Sites, Interactive Advertising and Online Film & Video.

Even if you don't want to vote, be sure to check out the nominees and honorees in some of the categories of interest to you among the Web contenders (i.e. Services & Applications, Lifestyle, Events, Guides/Ratings/Reviews, Weird, Travel, etc. ). There are lots of them, so you've probably missed out on something new this year on the web that you'll find either useful or entertaining.

Here are some of my personal favorites in the Web categories:


Picnik - "edit photos the easy way, online in your browser"

The Very Short List - "Great discoveries + short, sweet e-mails + 5 days a week"


Marvel's Create your own Superhero

Crappy Cat (Join Crappy Cat in the Interactive Theater)

Puma Lift (have fun with advertising)

Dream Grove - "a database of dreams accessible in a webpage an an interactive garden ... Based on theories of memory and mental mapping, Dreamgrove merges the digital and the botanical, transforming text into public space."

20x200 - " Find Art for $20 - Really"

[adult swim] Games: Rock Paper Scissors Extreme Deathmatch

Indexed - (personal blog) described as "a little project that allows me to make fun of some things and sense of others without resorting to doing actual math.”

Coraline: Explore a Hand-Made World.


Thrillist "Do you like eating, drinking, doing things, or going places? Really? You do? Then you'll love Thrillist ... "


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Omniscient NYC

As one of the "World's Worst", it was no surprise that the U.S. was labeled as an "Endemic Surveillance Society" by Privacy International (an ACLU London-based partner) when its State of Privacy Map was released a couple years ago.

Some of this surveillance is imposed upon us by authority figures and some of it is self-imposed. Some of it is helpful and some of it is potentially harmful. Here are a few tools that can be beneficial in letting you know what's going in your world on a very local level (and in many cases contribute content). There are also a few resources here to arm you with a little more information about surveillance and your rights.

EveryBlock, which aims to answer the question "What's happening in my neighborhood?" is a pretty comprehensive resource. It's "a new experiment in online journalism", and "the most granular approach to local news ever attempted."

EveryBlock currently offer a news feed for every city block in Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami-Dade, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle and Washington, DC — with more cities to come.

Info is provided from public records, news articles and other geographically relevant content.

As an example of what kind of information it can provide, by inputting my address, it gave me relevant information (organized by date) on media, street conditions, geotagged photos (from Flickr, Yelp, and Craigslist), crimes, political news, business reviews, restaurant inspection ratings, newly granted liquor licenses, and places where graffiti was recently cleaned.

See here for a full list of content covered and resources of information for NYC.

Gothamist has a map of "incidents" (crimes, missing persons, accidents, arrests, fires, etc.) to show you "whats going on and where right now".

You can hear what's being said in your neighborhood with the Google Maps mashup of "Overheard in New York", "Overplot". Who knows ... maybe you said something so incredibly asinine that someone felt it warranted repeating.

Find the political districts you live in, who represents you, and what they're up to via "Represent", still in beta.

The "City that Never Sleeps" does, in fact, switch to power-save mode, so if you want to know what's open 24-hours a day in your neighborhood, hit up "America All Night".

Put in your location to get a map with plotted points and details for the restaurants, delis / markets / grocery stores, convenience / drug stores, and "everything else" that's always open for business.

Freaked out by all the info available on the web? Use iSEE to plot a surveillance-free walk from one point to another. iSEE, from the Institute for Applied Autonomy, is a web-based application charting the locations of closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance cameras in urban environments that helps you find "paths of least surveillance".

The NYC Surveillance Camera Project provides a map and breakout lists by community board.

For more information on surveillance in NYC, see news and resources at New York Civil Liberties Union's Surveillance Camera Project.