31 July 2007

URISA Salary Survey

It is hard to know exactly who the population is in salary surveys like this. But the URISA Salary Survey is out and reveals a few interesting tidbits. For instance, this is helpful but I don't know what to make of it:

According to the results of this survey, respondents’ jobs require them to be at least somewhat proficient with a variety of GIS software. Similar to the results of the 2003 survey, ESRI products were most popular. The leaders included ArcGIS (91.2%), SDE/GeoDatabase (47.9%), ESRI Extensions – Network Analyst, 3D Analyst, Spatial Analyst (46.2%), ArcIMS (37.9%), ArcView (34.3%), and ArcPad (26.7%).

OK, so most of the URISA membership uses ESRI products. Is that just because they are the dominant force in the market? Or is it because they advertise in URISA materials, support URISA events and are, thus, a biasing factor in the survey? These must be power users because 90+% use ArcGIS but only 34% use ArcView.
Certified GIS Professionals (GISPs) earn, on average, nearly $9,000 more per year compared to those who are not certified $66,308 vs. $57,669).
But are those comparable groups? If GISPs need professional experience, then we can assume that every single entry level, unqualified, and student response got lumped in with the "not certified" group.

And education is "in" with this group.

85% have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher. Three-fourths (75.3%) indicated that, at a minimum, a bachelor’s degree is required for their position.

Does that mean they wouldn't hire the young computer genius who lacked the patience to suffer through school? Maybe. GIS is a well rounded field and the survey, with over 2,ooo responses represents an interesting group within the larger area of GIScience.

30 July 2007

A closer look at Torre Agbar

While in Barcelona we got to look at Torre Agbar in some different ways. It really looks different in different light, up close, from afar, at night and even from different sides. As it becomes a respected landmark of the city, it is interesting to watch how it fits into the city and how it sometimes doesn't. We might not have to wait very long to find out if it is ready for its close-up.







David Macaulay: The Art of Drawing Architecture

Just in time for our Fall Field Trip to DC, the National Building Museum is launching an exhibit based on the drawings of David Macaulay. As part of the kick off, Macaulay did a live drawing demonstration.

The Washington Times looks at the exhibit and the implications for architecture at a time when fewer and fewer designers draw by hand (h/t Land + Living).
Picking up a pen or pencil to dream on paper is a tradition worth preserving, if only to encourage visual observation, creativity and literacy. As Mr. Macaulay is quoted in the exhibit, "I honestly think all of us would be better off if everyone took the time to draw, if for no other reason than the better we see, the more inevitable curiosity becomes."

Closer to home, The Hudson River Museum in Yonkers has the older exhibit, The Art of David Macauley, until Labor Day weekend.

Ringwood Superfund Redux

The NY Times posted a viedo story this weekend updating the saga of the Ringwood Superfund Site.

For several years the New Jersey papers have been following the story of the Superfund site at Ringwood. The basic story is that this old Ford Motor Company site was so terribly polluted that it made the superfund list, but after years of clean-up Ford and the EPA declared it clean. Then, people started finding sludge everywhere. It got cleaned it up again and they declared it clean again. Now it is getting cleaned up in a big way and they have removed more toxic waste materials that all of the previous clean-ups combined.

29 July 2007

A 21st Century job title


"a space heritage archaeologist"

I am serious. The Discovery Channel reports on how tourism threatens historic landing sites on the moon.

The sanctity of the first moon landing site is threatened by the dawn of a new race to put tourists in space, according to one researcher.

Beth O'Leary, a space heritage archaeologist from New Mexico State University, said this includes the imprints of man's first steps on the moon, which were made at Tranquillity Base almost 40 years ago, and remain on its surface.

I don't imagine a new major here at Rutgers in the immediate future. But it sounds like a cool career path with great travel potential. On a more serious note, when we talk about social and historic inventories in class, it is yet another reminder of how many different things fall within that domain.

28 July 2007

Walkability online

There is a new service online called Walk Score that attempts to measure the walkability of your neighborhood and score it on a scale of 1 to 100. I think it is a great tool and look forward to finding ways to use it in class discussions about different neighborhoods, but it is also fun to take a new tool like this and test its limits. Here are a few fun results:

Our neighborhood got a 66.
The new Liberty Harbor project gets a 78.
The nice Marble Hill neighborhood in the Bronx, NY got an 85.
The Maryland State House in Annapolis got an 85.
A random address in Seaside FL got a 23.
An address on Treehaven St in The Kentlands got a 75.
A random address in Camden NJ got a 69.

I can't wait to see Version 2.

A bad sports week

Slate looks at a bad week in sports and asks how much worse it could be.

Liberty Harbor

When we start talking in my planning class about the timeline for new developments, many of the students don't seem convinced when I tell them that larger projects can take a couple of decades.

Well, after 24 years of planning, Liberty Harbor in Jersey City is finally going to have its first tenants in a few weeks.

"All finished surfaces, streetscapes, bluestone sidewalks and decorative pavings are being installed at this moment, so the project visually is really coming to life," he said.

The 80-acre Liberty Harbor - which will take a total of about 15 to 20 more years to fully complete - was heralded in the 1980s as a cross between New York's Greenwich Village and the Upper West Side. It was also hyped as the project that would lead the way in the redevelopment of the Downtown area.

27 July 2007

Whose rainforest is it anyway?

Today's NY Times looks at concerns about whether conservation efforts in the Amazon rainforest are really the new colonialism. Brazilians seem to harbor some combination of conspiracy theories that see how corporations work through NGOs to gain control of the resources of the Amazon. But it places groups, like the WWF or TNC, in the particularly awkward situation of being scrutinized as tools of the Western world. One author describes how the Green Mafia is trying to limit Brazil's economic growth and prowess on the world stage by having the NGOs control the potential timber and mineral resources of the region.
“Everything indicates that the environmental and indigenous problems are merely pretexts,” said a recent Brazilian military intelligence report, which was made available to The New York Times by a Brazilian who received a copy and who was concerned at the views expressed. “The main NGO’s are, in reality, pieces in the great game in which the hegemonic powers are engaged to maintain and augment their domination. Certainly, they serve as cover for those secret services.”
Things are so bad that military intelligence reports are using terms like hegemony. Some of this is just a matter of percetpion, but some of it also recognizes a larger concern about the fairness of environemtnal responses and raises key questions about who benefits the most and who pays the highest costs when local solutions address problems that are global.

26 July 2007

Central Park's birthday



Roy DeBoer mentioned that he saw our alum, Doug Blonsky, on TV the other day. I don't know if this is the same clip he saw, but here is Doug on CBS 2 from last week when they were celebrating the 154th birthday of Central Park. I was shocked to realize how long it had been since we had him visit for a guest lecture back in 2004.

When Landscape is Architecture?

Business Week reprints an Architectural Review story on the innovative work in landscape architecture called, When Landscape is Architecture. It seems to be a bit of eco-revelatory, a tad post-industrial, and all eco-aware. In one part the interview D.I.R.T about their work at the Philly Navy Yard:
The studio’s two landscape architects, Julie Bargmann and Christopher Fannin, approach each site design as an investigation of existing conditions, with the goal of reconfiguring those into an emergent, new condition. “These postindustrial places have these echoes and we have to find in them the transformative agent that makes them relevant today,” Fannin says. “We also work with the premise that nothing leaves the site.”

House of Sweden


Another one to keep in mind for our Fall Field Trip, the Weekly Dose of Architecture visits the House of Sweden in DC. Don't stop with the B/W photos, you need to see this in full color. Elsewhere online there are some images of what it was supposed to look like and they are remarkably similar to what was built. There is a shot looking at Georgetown from across the Potomac that really helps see the context. This part of the Swedish Embassy was designed by Gert WingÄrdh and is described on its own website this way:

Designed to rest like a shimmering jewel in the surrounding parkland, the blonde wood, stone, and glass structure is suffused with light, floating at night like an ethereal vision above its sparkling reflection in the Potomac River.

The building is light and airy, with large glass segments. Light is a key element, both outside and in. All around the body of the building is a belt of light, backlit wood, which after dark gives the sense that the building is floating. The House of Sweden stands on white pillars and is suffused with Nordic light. The materials are blonde wood, glass and stone, often in layers.

(The photo is from the House of Sweden website which does a good job of making me want to visit as well. And it is easy to find on the map.)

25 July 2007

GPS in the Amazon

I don't like to post things I have fully explored, but have to make an exception for this. Last week, Jean Feraca had a very relevant show on GPS and Amazon tribes. You can listen to the entire show online.

The show had on Mark Plotkin who has worked to teach Amazon Indian tribes to use GPS. You've probably seen the battery commercial on TV. The show describes them as telling the government that they wanted their lands and the government responded by asking for the map of their lands. Map? What Map? So, they used Dr. Plotkin's GPS lessons to start staking out territories. Then they used it to map sacred spots, but they didn't share that one with the government. They've also used it to fight mining and illegal timber cuts.

The show also had on Rebecca Moore who is the head of Google Earth Outreach. Google Earth has been a valuable tool for the tribes as they have worked to map out the changes in their landscapes.

This isn't news anymore. National Geographic covered it earlier this year. I even mentioned it in a paper in First Monday. But this goes beyond breaking news and offers depth in describing a great example of PPGIS in action.

While it is always nice to listen to Jean and Wisconsin Public Radio, it is even better to hear something like this on WPR. While I'll admit that I haven't had the time to finish the show yet, I heard enough to know it was good and I thought I was better off posting it now to make sure that you heard it before the deleted it off the Internet.

It is all about the vision


I love this. A southern California couple found themselves worried about the future of privately owned lands around Joshua Tree National Park. Even as they were busy trying to use the court system to prevent a massive landfill on an old mining site, they turned to design as a tool of activism. Specifically, they created a design competition (pdf) within which design students developed visions for the privately owned site. Not that the owner was supportive or actively participating:
Terry Cook, executive vice president and general counsel, says he would have thought the Charpieds and the Emerging Green Builders would have consulted his company before making plans for their property. "It would be like me submitting your house for redesign without your permission," he says.
Since many local residents didn't view the former mining site as an asset, one of the goals was to illustrate how the site could become a valuable and integral part of this desert landscape. The vision of the winning student teams may have portrayed it as less profitable uses, like a wilderness heritage center, but their visions may change the view of members of the community who can now understand that there are appealing alternative uses. These alternative visions serve as a much more optimistic and positive tool for change. Will it be enough to change the future uses of the land? Dunno. But I like the idea of showing how good things could be with the intentions of getting people more motivated to make it so. And it sounds like it might have been a fun party, too. (Mapped)

24 July 2007

Dry Tortugas

We were reading a tiny bit of Spanish animal names tonight and I was reminded of a place I have always wanted to go: the Dry Tortugas. Tortugas are turtles. Pretty soon I was looking around, reading their newsletter (pdf), and looking at photos. Definitely one for the life list, I hope I get there someday.

What does a landscape architect do all day?

The New York Post takes a quick look at Landscape Architecture as a career path. (H/T to ASLA 's DIRT)

23 July 2007

GPS and phones

We've been talking for a long time about location-based services and personal GPS tools that go beyond simple "you are here" toys. For instance, one of the industry leaders is Where.com who just came out with a widget that lets your phone tell you what beaches are closest to your current location. For runners, Bones in Motion Inc. will turn your cell phone into a tracking device that monitors your pace, distance, and calories burned with the BiM Active tools.

The NY Times technology section did a run-down of the major services available now, and they are cool enough I suppose. But it really gets you imagining what will be available in just a year or two. It would be extremely interesting to see Google Map release an API that let map hackers post their own LBS phone tools.

Borers against baseball

Even as the Yankees reach the point of being 5 games over .500 there is a tiny insect threatening baseball - Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire. Garden Design Online posted a story about this tiny threat to America's pastime:
The emerald ash borer is also causing concern in the professional baseball world. Eighty percent of the "Louisville Slugger" brand bats are made from ash, and most of the wood comes from Pennsylvania. The company manufactures about 850,000 bats a year, and it supplies more than half of the bats used by major league players. While a few top sluggers, including Barry Bonds, prefer bats made of maple, others -- including Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter -- always use bats made of white ash.

I've been keeping a very close eye on my old ash tree, worrying about these little creeps. Now they take a whack at #2 and A-Rod?

Andrea Cochran

RU alum, Andrea Cochran, is being invested as a Fellow of the ASLA. This is truly a great honor and presents a nice opportunity to mention some of her outstanding work. Her firm, Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture, has been very successful and is recognized widely for their design work.

A comprehensive survey of her work seems unnecessary. Here is a Monday morning sampler:
Enjoy.

22 July 2007

Mapping the web

For many people -- whether spatially skilled or not -- maps become a meaningful metaphor for understanding space. Within that metaphor, familiar maps make more sense than new ones, even if the terrain is changed. So it is interesting that several cartogra-artists are using subway maps to describe complex non-spatial relationships. A while back some buzz was created by a map of the London Underground that captured 100 years of music history and influences. This week some buzz has been created by one that maps the web trends as a subway map. It is interesting to see how they linked certain hot spots and how disconnected some ended up being.

More valuable is this serious reminder of how compelling a content-rich map can be if it is designed well. Since a map like this requires much more cartographic creativity and can can't be slapped together in GIS, it should be a reminder of how seriously we should be taking the cartographic design processes. Instead, we simply seem to end up accepting the standardized software outputs with slight variations and celebrating the very occasional exceptions, like this.

20 July 2007

Xeriscaping

As we continue to feel the heat, the NY Times has made a video looking at the use of xeriscaping in Las Vegas. One of the keys has been paying people $2 for every foot of lawn that they remove, another has been "humorous" TV ads. But they also recognize how important it is to change the expectation of the imigrants moving in from lusher places, like the East Coast.

19 July 2007

DIY air photos


Google Earth begs the question, "Why hire a mapping firm when you can make your own?"

Now, someone is asking, "Why hire a plane why you can tape your phone to a kite?"

What's next? DIY Homemade GPS receivers made from forks, tinfoil and lint?

Rybczynski interview

The blog Where has posted an interview with Witold Rybczynski as a follow-up to a review of his recent book, the Last Harvest: How a Cornfield Became New Daleville. Readers may be more familiar with his Slate Slideshows (on Seaside, McMansions, or FLWright) or his biography of Olmsted, A Clearing in the Distance. Oh, we've mentioned him a few times too.

18 July 2007

Green Roof TV

Lots of videos this week. This time it is a local news story in DC covering the green roof at ASLA. There is also an article on the roof that includes a nice graphic. (Mapped)

Art in the Garden Tour

The Edison Arts Society is holding their 2nd Annual Art in the Garden Tour, from 10am to 5pm on August 18. The tour will include gardens throughout Edison and Metuchen with a full range of settings from shade gardens to vegetable gardens, with refreshments at each site. For many of the gardens this may be your only chance to visit and see them. Tickets are $20 per person in advance and $25 on the day of the tour. Tickets can be purchased at Kreans Gallery and the Brass Lantern in Metuchen. They also may be ordered by mail through August 10. Checks, payable to the Edison Arts Society, may be sent to Joanne Stern, Center 4, Middlesex County College, 2600 Woodbridge Ave., Edison, NJ 08818.

17 July 2007

Back taxes and clear title

In my Environmental Planning class I find myself using slightly shaded descriptions of things that sound factual. I might describe how, after you pay off your mortgage, you usually have a clear and unencumbered title. "Why is he hedging?" Well, I don't want to mention unusual things like an upaid liens, which seem pretty uncommon after 30 years of mortgage payments.

But I also know that there are some unusually unusual problems that I can't possibly imagine. Still, I was really surprised to read about a Louisiana couple who had a property tax exemption on a house they had paid off long ago and still have been forced through a terrifyingly complex legal ordeal to keep it:
In 2000, the Atwoods learned their four-bedroom home had been sold in a tax sale three years earlier for the $1.63 in unpaid taxes, plus 10 cents interest and $125 in sale costs.
As the Washington Post reports, the courts overturned the sale (they never received the notice of the taxes due because the house was readdressed for 911) but it came too late to clear the title, which remains contested today. It is a painful lesson in the complications of property ownership and how a little, temporary SNAFU by the local government can force people into a FEMA trailer and very possibly force them to give up their only asset. It also demonstrates one more little way that Hurricane Katrina crashed into the lives of gulf coast residents. As hard as recovery has been for people that were already in a good place, think how many people were living in complicated and difficult situations the day before Katrina; many of them are truly lost now.

The Times-Picayune has a very emotional video of an interview Ms. Atwood. At this point you would think that some people -- like Jamie Land who is suing for their rights to the property or St. Tammany Parish sheriff's office who never delivered the tax notice to the couple -- would be shamed into making it up to the couple that has been forced to live separately.

Privacy video



Slate has a new video posted that explores the dark side of privacy violations in Google Earth. It ends very darkly, but I don't know how much of that is a statement about privacy risks and privacy loss and how much is just a twisted perspective on modern life.

It is an artistic endeavor, so we overlook the geomatics shortcomings, but it is a tad unrealistic, since you can't find out when the photos were taken - this is a real sore spot with those of us in the GIScience community. Many students and semi-professional users of the photos assume that the year of copyright is also the year the photos were taken, but careful exploration will debunk that theory quickly.

Dictionaries

According to the NYTimes, Dictionary.com just sold for $100 million. As the Times points out, they aren't buying a great set of words, they are buying the address. People use Dictionary.com because it is very easy to remember and they constantly need the info.

But if you want some real dictionary help, my favorite online source is OED.com. But I'll warn our readers that this works on lots of campuses (e.g., RU is a subscriber) or at libraries but it doesn't work at home much, unless you subscribe yourself.

16 July 2007

Geosimulation in the news

PC Magazine included a short piece featuring the Geosimulation work of GIScientist Paul Torrens.
Livesource recently posted a video on his simulation work, too.

Korean landscape architecture

In an effort to connect the earlier post on World Heritage Sites and my recent meeting with the President of Sangmyung University, I will mention that Jongmyo Shrine is definitely a World Heritage Site that I want to see some day. More details here.

More UNESCO World Heritage Sites

I've become a bit of a fan of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Aside from the idea of trying to recognize the value systems and heritage of all peoples, it is just a cool list of special places. Having visited a few World Heritage Sites this summer (the photo above is one I took of Tarragona back in June), I have it on the brain. So, I was particularly interested to see the newest entries on their list. They also dropped one because Oman failed to protect its value for the world.

12 July 2007

Newark Arena

In one of those fascinating insights into development, the Star-Ledger reported today that the Newark Arena (which has been under construction for about 2 years) was being constructed on land owned by just about everyone in Newark EXCEPT the City. It will be remedied today with a complicated land swap designed to promote redevelopment of the areas around the arena while ensuring the ability to secure financing for the ongoing work. The printed copy of the paper also had a before and after map that wasn't available online.

It is amazing to realize how far this project has gotten without finalizing an issue as seemingly fundamental as the property ownership -- I mean, Bon Jovi opens the building with his concert on October 26th. This also shows another reason why urban projects can be so utterly complex.

11 July 2007

Designing for the other 90%

I started out the year thinking about some of the changes in who designers are targeting and how they try to change their world. But things are ramping up as the Cooper Hewitt recognizes this movement with an exciting exhibit on "Designing for the other 90%". The LA Times explores what it will take for this movement to take off:
The main question "Design for the Other 90%" raises, then, is whether the humanitarian design movement can reach its full potential without stars — without media darlings who can attract attention and money as former Vice President Al Gore has done with global warming and Microsoft chief Bill Gates has with malaria. I hope it can: The new ethos of responsibility often seems to have seeped so completely into the design schools, and many young designers seem to wear its mantle so easily, that the profession — and the planet — may change simply as a result of a massive philosophical shift.
If you can't visit the museum and you don't want to buy the book, you could watch this 24 minute video of Cameron Sinclair who is the leader of the group Architects for Humanity.

FIeld work for designers

During our summer studio abroad, we ended up getting pretty creative about some of the techniques we used in the field. But here is one that I wish we had explored a little more, the design flip book. For our site at La Sagrera it would have really forced each designer to slow down and think about human scale, movement, and linear relationships in a way that was otherwise hard while drawing on the hotel floor.

10 July 2007

Green, green grass


NASA's Earth Observatory has published a national map of what I would call "turfness". I cropped it to show those areas of the mid-Atlantic with high levels of "Lawn Surface Area in the United States", where NJ, Boston and Long Island all stand out as very turfy. In New Jersey, lawns have been determined to be an impervious surface which performs roughly the same ecological function as asphalt. But the national trends are equally fascinating:
For example, lawns appear to cover more than three times the number of acres that irrigated corn covers.
The research was led by Cristina Milesi at Ames Research Center who described lawns as the largest cultivated crop in the US.

09 July 2007

Olmsted's Brain

The latest issue of Harvard Magazine has published an article in which FLO is psychoanalyzed. What was really motivating him? Michael Sperber, MD, takes a stab:
It is not far-fetched to suppose that Olmsted came into his calling because he sought with every fiber of his being to realize that vision. By introducing nature to the urban scene, he offered respite from the pathogenic influences of city life, “the symptoms of which,” he wrote, “are nervous tension, over-anxiety, hasteful disposition, impatience, [and] irritability.” Such symptoms could be reversed through exposure to pleasing rural scenery: “It is thus, in medical phrase, a prophylactic and therapeutic agent of value….”

Endangered Places

It is that time of year. The National Trust's 20th list of America's most endangered historic places has been released. As usual, this Top Ten list goes to 11. And several are new places to me, which I always like. Interesting entries include the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail which is threatened by a Spaceport and the vacant home of Henry Hobson Richardson.

MAPPS lawsuit

In a decision that is not a big suprise, the courts decided against MAPPS in their lawsuit to limit who could engage in federally-funded mapping. UCGIS has a press release that links to further details. The court dismissed the case on the grounds that MAPPS lacked legal standing to pursue the matter. The full decision is still interesting reading as it examines the different Federal jobs that MAPPS' firms didn't get and why they were insufficient for moving the case forward.

08 July 2007

Will the Wonders never cease?



All of the major news outlets are anxiously reporting this non-news story: There is a new list of the 7 Wonders of the World. I've only been to one, so I can think of the others as all being on my lifelist of places to see.

06 July 2007

Toledo, not in Ohio

On our recent visit we found Toledo to be one of the real highlights. It was a shame that we were unable to spend even more time there. While there a number of great sites and sights, the continued exposure to El Greco enhanced the whole experience - especially The Burial of Count Orgaz. Now I want to go to the Met and see El Greco's painting of Toledo. Toledo is also on the Spaces and Places map.

Weekend fun reading

For those familiar with Thomas the Tank Engine and NJ Transit, these stories provide a fanciful exploration of the intersection between the two.

04 July 2007

OPRA

The Home News has republished some numbers on the OPRA requests received by different state agencies. I've resorted the numbers by number of open records requests filed. It is really amazing to see how many requests the DEP gets.


Public Advocate 1
Military and Veterans Affairs 104
Commerce Commission 205
Agriculture 241
Commissions and Agencies 276
State 312
Office of the Governor 350
Education 847
Corrections 854
Personnel 1038
Labor 1098
Community Affairs 1159
Human Services 1234
Banking and Insurance 1990
Transportation 2352
Health and Senior Services 3686
Law and Public Safety 4090
Environmental Protection 41972

Happy 4th!

It is no secret that we are interested in the revolutaionary landscapes. So, for your 4th of July perusal, here are some various maps of the Revolutionary War in NJ. They've been pulled together and posted online by Mike Siegel of Rutgers' Cartography lab. It was immensely helpful for the Adv Geo students in assembling their map of the Revolutionary War sites in NJ.

03 July 2007

Improved levees expose French Quarter

As the photo above (from the Advocate) shows, work on New Orleans levees is moving ahead. But, what I find interesting, is that the stronger levees shift increase the risk of something happening to the French Quarter during the next major storm event. The COE largely dismisses the notion:

Cecil Soileau, a corps consultant and former corps engineer who designed many of the levees, said alarm over the threat to the Quarter is overblown.

“We’ve had people in the past saying Jackson Square would be inundated with 26 feet of water and only the steeple of the cathedral would be sticking up,” Soileau said. “And I don’t think that’s a realistic situation.”

Of course, lots of scientists had forecast how damage to the levees in a Category 4 storm would cause the city to get nearly destroyed and we can see how seriously the feds took those warnings.

02 July 2007

Bill McDonough video

Someone has taken Bill McDonough's 6-hour long Monticello Dialogues and created a very short summary video that expresses some of the key points of his design philosophy.

http://www.youwerehere.com/mcdonough/

NOLA Pioneers

New Orleans is slowly rebounding. Much of the work is being undertaken by people that the NYTimes describes as "pioneers". In this article, which is the first in a series on the patchwork recovery of NOLA, it becomes clear that the improvements are happening in one house here and one house there without any sense of a rapid improvement.

Statistics — fragmentary and loosely bandied about by civic boosters here — nonetheless support the idea of tentative rebirth. In Gentilly, a door-to-door survey by a Dartmouth College professor this spring found 31 percent of homes either renovated or occupied, and an additional 57 percent gutted or under construction. That meant that only 12 percent of the houses in the neighborhood had been abandoned; a year ago, block after block appeared forsaken and silent.
You really get the sense that the reporters weren't so sure New Orleans would ever bounce back. They seem to see this small, piecemeal improvements as an important step, but not enough by itself.