Jun 08

Evolution of Nature in Art

Upon the discovery that the Seattle Art Museum exhibit that I had hoped to see was not in fact on display until 2017, I undertook the task of finding a progression of the portrayal of nature in the SAM’s collection over time.  I hoped to better understand, at least from an artist’s perspective, how the conception of the wilderness that we have discussed throughout this course came into being.

Beginning in this gallery of Joseph Cornell‘s work, I initially thought that I was observing very traditional art, due to the influences that Cornell references and states to inspire his work.  The two works that are most notable for the purpose of determining this place are Tombeau de Caroline von Gunderode (read about Cornell’s work referencing von Gunderode here) and Untitled (which you can find by looking for work 96.86.  I had hoped to find images online, but have been unable to, so if you make it the museum before August 16th, 2015, definitely check them out.  The central idea that defined the portrayal of nature here is that it is secondary to the primary subject of each work: either a person or a human creation.  Due to the de-emphasis of exploration for the sake of discovery (as opposed to political or financial motives), at the pre-19th century historical point which these works reference, there was no incentive to show nature in isolation.  Society, even in a natural context, was what people were actually concerned with.

Forested Landscape with Waterfall and Old Church – Allart van Everdingen

Actually going back to this time period, the most symbolic work in the SAM’s collection on this theme is mid-17th century Allart van Everdingen‘s Forested Landscape with Waterfall and Old Church (left).  An interesting statement regarding this painting is made in its caption at the SAM: that it demonstrates “a powerful sense of nature’s vitality.”  The question that this caused me to raise, particularly with the specific inclusion of a church as the human presence in the scene, was what the connection is between this perception and religion at the time.  Perhaps the simple idea of the sublime must be associated with God because of the distinct power it holds over all things human.  Furthermore, though, the important transitions that this work represented in art from the complete lack of natural representation in earlier works is the capability that was developed by artists to work in the outdoors more consistently due to increasing wealth and the specialization that allowed.  Of course, an important distinction to be made here is that this is of a “countryside” as opposed to what we might consider “wilderness” because of the requisite inclusion of aforementioned human presence.  This was necessary to maintain the relevance of the work to its audience.

Before I transition to the unique stage in this progression,

Buzzard’s Bay – Helen Frankenthaler

Buzzard’s Bay

inspired by exploration, I briefly looked at some modernist work that alludes to nature.  Helen Frankenthaler‘s Buzzard’s Bay (right) illustrates a bay in Massachusetts (left) based on a variety of artistic assumptions and ascriptions.  The bright, contrasting colors, obviously in opposition to reality, present an indication of violence, conflict, or impact.  These are all seemingly human qualities, so perhaps this work does depend on human presence, but they can also act as ascriptions of these qualities to aspects of nature and the emotional significance of this place.

Mount Rainer, Bay of Tacoma – Puget Sound – Sanford Robinson Gifford

The transition which I refer to can be found in the SAM’s gallery of local art.  To the left is Sanford Robinson Gifford‘s Mount Rainier Bay of Tacoma (1875).  There are two essential quotes from the gallery which present an opening to the way nature is portrayed here.  First, William Cullen Bryant in Thanatopsis: “To him who in the love of Nature holds communion with her visible forms she speaks a various language.”  Second, from The Home Book of the Picturesque: “The Hand of man generally improves a landscape.  The Earth has been given to him, and his presence in Eden is natural; he gives life and spirit to the garden.”  With regards to the former, the realization that both Gifford’s and Bryant’s works embody is of the independent importance and beauty of nature.  Entirely aside from the societal and industrial expansion that discovered spaces and places allow, the religious awe that they inspire holds its own inspiration for those who are privy to it.  The culture of exploration in the late 19th century finally brought this somewhat to the mainstream, at least with concerning art.  This presents something of an irony with the second quote, which cites man’s presence as essential to the portrayal of these scenes.  I would argue that the opposite is the reason why artists like Gifford undertook the task of creating these works: that what they observed was so far beyond them that it was necessary to attempt to capture it, while actively knowing that the true scale and impact cannot ever be captured.

Jun 08

Eco-Terrorism and the Wilderness Part 1: Considering Intention

Note: A number of the sources I cite are from ProQuest.  If you don’t have access to them, email me.  I can get you pdf copies.

After 9/11, Americans universally sought to explain terrorism.  We explored the involvement of religion and ascribed jihad as the driving factor behind the actions of al Qaeda and its ilk.  Now, the difficult dynamic for consideration is in attempting to consider perspective.  If we try to look at the context of jihad, parts of it make sense.  Certain actions taken by extremists have positive intentions and consequences that aren’t apparent from an opposing viewpoint.  So what of the opposite situation?  Eco-terrorists, like some of those involved with Greenpeace and Earth First, take extreme, destructive action to make a statement about environmental protection and conservation.  Such statements are fantastic, but are all of their intentions?  More importantly, how is our perception of them flawed?  As I read Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang, I shall try to understand!

Character Backgrounds

The essential premise espoused by The Monkey Wrench Gang is of a group of individuals with different connections to the environment and different backgrounds in eco-terrorism or activism.

Dr. A. K. Sarvis – a surgeon with some rather questionable morals whose resources and lightweight insanity

2005 Dream Garden Press

2005 Dream Garden Press

initially draw him towards smaller acts of Eco-terrorism, like cutting down billboards. Upon the formation of the team, he becomes the main financial provider.

Sgt. George W. Hayduke – one of the stranger characters, an outdoor adventure guide.  Though his direct connection (perhaps emotional, too, in some sense) to the environment is very apparent from this occupation, he’s a very messed up person.

2005 Dream Garden Press

2005 Dream Garden Press

He displays a variety of psychopathic and nihilistic tendencies which seem to drive his actions more than any sort of well-thought-out concern for the environment.

2005 Dream Garden Press

2005 Dream Garden Press

Capt. Joseph “Seldom Seen” Smith – yet another rather extreme, archetypal character, Smith represents more societal problems and individual flaws.  He doesn’t stand by the essential values of his Mormon faith very well, and his primary interaction with nature is recreational.  He has all kinds of memories associated with different places, which also drive his protectionism towards them and lack of concern for those he negatively impacts.

Ms. Bonnie Abbzug – closing out our collection of strange collaborators on Abbey’s fictional example of eco-

2005 Dream Garden Press

2005 Dream Garden Press

terrorism is Dr. Sarvis’ mistress.  Heavily recreationally involved with the wilderness through camping, backpacking, rafting, etc., Abbzug’s activism is primarily driven by Dr. Sarvis’ encouragement.  Like Sarvis, she is wary of Hayduke’s insistence for ever more extreme action.

How They Progress

From here on out, I hope to work chronologically, in part because I am completing this as I finish reading the book.

2012 Byzewski

2012 Byzewski – Glen Canyon Dam & Bridge

A discussion of the Gang’s intentions is initially provided in the introduction, which also preliminarily names their ultimate goal: the destruction of Glen Canyon Dam (a real place along the Colorado River!).  Through the destruction of a new bridge across Glen Canyon, they succeed in making their statement that it was simply the change being made by others that violated their own values, no matter the immense damage done through their own actions.  The group also introduces its resilience to negotiation leading up to their final action, with the goal of restoring their “home” to its natural state.

Before I move on to the details of this form of disobedience, I want to briefly introduce a real-life parallel.  In

2011 Earth First Journal

2011 Earth First Journal – Craig Beneville

an LA Times article titled “Monkey-Wrench Gang Sequel Earth First! Just Rude, Not Violent, in Attempts to Stop Local Projects,” Jeffrey A. Perlman introduces some of the more extreme actions of Craig Beneville and Mike Scott, early members of extreme environmental activist group Earth First! in Orange County, California.  Of course, the title opens with the statement that these actions aren’t violent in the same destructive sense (whether in the form of the destruction of bridges or the sabotage of construction equipment) as those described in The Monkey Wrench Gang.  However, they fulfill the same sense of action simply for the sake of statement, ignorant of impact.  “At another [Orange County tollway agency] board meeting, they dumped cow dung in the aisles” (Perlman).

The idea of rudeness that Perlman uses to describe Beneville’s and Scott’s styles of activism are quite similar to the Abbey’s characters, particularly Hayduke.  Perhaps the best explanation of this is a conversation between him, Smith, and Doc Sarvis regarding litter.

“I throw beer cans along the fucking highways,” Hayduke said.  “Why the fuck shouldn’t I throw fucking beer cans along the fucking highways?”

“Now, now.  Don’t be so defensive.”

“Hell,” Smith said, “I do it too.  Any road I wasn’t consulted about that I don’t like, I litter.  It’s my religion.”

“Right,” Hayduke said.  “Litter the shit out of them…  It’s liberation.” (Kindle Location 1177/7176)

What makes this more distanced, fictional statement even more meaningful is a quote on civil disobedience by Greenbelt member Elisabeth Brown in Perlman’s aforementioned article: “We commonly think of it as people laying down in front of a bulldozer, or chaining themselves to something… But a developer who destroys some sage scrub on purpose or who grades some land without a permit is also civil disobedience.”

So the intention of the civil disobedience being enacted by such groups as Earth First was to counteract opposing civil disobedience, on the part of those responsible for development, construction, and other methods of impacting nature for human causes.  The core philosophy behind them, then, must have been a definition of “civil obedience.” In an article on Lowbagger.com titled “Earth First! A Founder’s Story,” Earth First co-founder Howie Wolke alludes to Aldo Leopold’s work as a basis for what he and his colleagues saw as the true environmentalist values that modern organizations, such as the Sierra Club, had lost.  The central component of Leopold’s work is the idea of a Land Ethic: responsibility people hold to the environment because of the benefit it poses for them.

As Wolke continues to describe the inspiration Rachael Carson’s Silent Springprovided for Earth First, he makes reference to the overarching theme of wilderness consideration that has inspired my personal view regarding this topic.  Before I begin to examine this more deeply, if you would like to gather my context, read this piece: The Trouble with Wilderness by William Cronon.  I, of course, have Dr. Olsen and Mr. Uzwack to thank for introducing the Experience: Arches National Park class in which I participated to this groundbreaking work, but it provides an essential analysis (arguable, of course, as demonstrated by a number of subsequent works we’ve read) of the concept of wilderness.

Here’s what Wolke says: “wildland conservation was subsumed by a bigger, rapidly growing environmental movement that appeared to have more immediate relevance to urban America.”  Now, to establish said context, it is necessary to define wilderness and provide an appropriate contrast with Wolke’s “wildland.”  As Cronon defines it, it is a societal construct that encompasses land “preserved” for the sake of recreation and justification of further exploitation of natural resources elsewhere.  It has the seeming appearance of being isolated from human impact, but this is simply an illusion.  Wolke argues that this is the concept of wilderness that environmentalists at the time (during the 1960s and 70s) believed in protecting.  Cognizant of the hypocrisy in this, he harkened back to the idea of nature discussed by Leopold and Cronon: something that is all-encompassing; something with which human interaction is inevitable; something which we, as humans, have a responsibility to respect, even in its minutest forms around us in daily life.  This is why Earth First and the crew in The Monkey Wrench Gang focus their actions on minimizing large-scale destructive impact by others on land (through persistent use or roads resulting in air pollution, noise pollution, light pollution, the whole lot, etc.), but not on minimal, individual actions as one would expect most environmentalists to.  They are not the WWF, or the Washington Environmental Council, nor are they you or me (assuming you’re in a similar place as me where positive environmental impact means not littering and planting native species in parks).  They believe in a greater cause and commit themselves to it.

Ok… I got kind of lost in my own train of thought there and got somewhere, but there are a few important notes to make…

First off, an important note by Wolke in the above article is that The Monkey Wrench Gang “wasn’t a primary impetus in the founding [of Earth First], despite media reports to the contrary.”  So, while its characters may embody the ideals held by the neo-environmentalists that Earth First and their like were (and in the way they pushed the rest of the movement to be, if you read more of Wolke’s article), The Monkey Wrench Gang certainly doesn’t set a standard for real life based on the sheer crudeness and extremism of its characters’ actions.

However, in thinking of The Monkey Wrench Gang as representative of reality, at least one more parallel is essential to consider.  In a 1996 interview for Denver Post, Jim Carrier heard about the life and adventures of Edward Abbey and his environmental activist friends from the supposed inspiration for Seldom Seen Smith, Ken Sleight.  To begin with, Carrier includes a length quote of Seldom Seen which describes more essential background for understanding both his and Hayduke’s intentions.

“You know and I know what it was like here, before them bastards from Washington moved in and ruined it all. You remember the river, how fat and golden it was in June, when the big runoff come down from the Rockies? Remember the crick that come down through Bridge Canyon and Forbidden Canyon, how green and cool and clear it was? Remember the cataracts in Forty-Mile Canyon? Well, they flooded out about half of them. And part of the Escalante’s gone now” (qtd. Carrier).

The idea argued by Seldom Seen is made even more impactful by Sleight’s statement on the same topic.  While he certainly was an activist, he was not admittedly a “monkey-wrencher” (though his answer regarding that in the above interview should be left up to the reader’s interpretation).  The inspiration he provided for Seldom Seen was rooted in his ideas: “Glen Canyon sure made an environmentalist out of me, because you don’t destroy the very thing that people come to see. That was tragic… look what the government did just by building Glen Canyon Dam. Lots of beautiful things went under. It ruined a hell of a big ecosystem… those who destroyed Glen Canyon never served a day” (Carrier).  Of course there was some connection to the idea of nature and the importance of nature and a responsibility to nature (a land ethic), but the connection was personal.  When Glen Canyon was dammed, prompting the opposition which the characters of The Monkey Wrench Gang and the early members of Earth First! embody, the memories which defined part of these individuals’ identities were destroyed.  So much more than an environmental responsibility, they feel an obligation (or perhaps simply a strong desire) to restore the land, the formations, the ecosystems, to the form which had personal significance to them in the past.  They act in the same thread as any conservative aiming to preserve the past they love.  Maybe their intentions are just those of ordinary people.

An excellent closing thought is found in an Abbey quote embedded within this quote of Earth First! founder Dave Foreman from an article by The Washington Post’s John Lancaster about Foreman’s ideology: “`Be a halfhearted zealot, a part-time fanatic’ … I really think fanatics who can’t laugh at themselves are dangerous, and I look at the Fortune 500 as an example of that.”  It isn’t necessarily a bad thing that the characters of The Monkey Wrench Gang and the early members of Earth First! are/were rude and crude and blunt and hedonist (in a certain sense).  It is simply a component in their way of achieving their goals in a way that doesn’t require giving up on the seemingly worthwhile parts of life.

 

Works Cited

Abbey, Edward. The Monkey Wrench Gang. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1975. Overdrive. Overdrive, Inc. Web. 11 May 2015.

Carrier, Jim I. “”Monkey Wrench’ Figure Sees Promise, Danger of Tourism.” Denver Post (pre-1997 Fulltext): 08. Nov 17 1996. ProQuest. Web. 12 May 2015.

Lancaster, John. “The Green Guerrilla; `Redneck’ Eco-Activist Dave Foreman, Throwing a Monkey Wrench into the System.” The Washington Post (pre-1997 Fulltext): b01. Mar 20 1991. ProQuest. Web. 12 May 2015.

Perlman, Jeffrey A. “Monkey-Wrench Gang Sequel Earth First! just Rude, Not Violent, in Attempts to Stop Local Projects.” Los Angeles Times (pre-1997 Fulltext): 1. Jul 04 1992. ProQuest. Web. 12 May 2015.

Wolke, Howie. “Earth First! A Founder’s Story.” Lowbagger. Lowbagger, 6 Apr. 2006. Web. 06 June 2015.

Apr 19

Rebellion vs. Love: Wannabe Adults?

As a teenager, so much of the prospect of adulthood embodies compliance, loss of purpose, and settling for much less than one could hope for.  We live in a complex epoch, and persistently being told that we can be whatever we want to be inspires within us only obfuscates our views of our personal futures.  We are told to dream greatly, but somehow, some might say naturally, we also intrinsically hope for the things every generation of Americans has had and does have: stability, family, property, accomplishments within a system, a place in society.  Which way do we, as teenagers, turn when these seemingly inherent ideas contrast against our convictions of rebellion and individuality?

Who We Could Be

Rebel Without a CauseThe truth is, I certainly don’t know.  More so, though, I don’t think anyone ever has. Take, for example Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause.  In some ways resembling James Dean’s own personal experience, Jim’s conflict is rooted in his attempts to establish his identity.  The man he wants to be certainly doesn’t include the submissive nature his mother has instilled in his father. However, this doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to be an adult. At least he feels like his actions are with a central purpose. When, then, his “relationship” with Judy begins to develop, he hangs on to it as a demonstration of his dominance, perhaps his conquest of Buzz.

Love

The grand culmination of Jim’s internal conflict comes towards the end of his story, when Judy confesses her love for him in the mansion they’re hiding out in.  His reaction is best described in a quote about a kid named Sam from a 1950s film titled Teens: The Age of Turmoil: “Sam feels safer saying nothing.  At least then he can’t say the wrong thing.”  Jim simply mumbles gibberish and kinda looks away.  The fear of failure as adoption of aspects of adulthood like complacency prevents Jim from following through with the situation which he may hope for.  The feelings of helplessness that characterize the teenage experience encourage rejection of norms: rebellion.

Knowledge & Understanding

Perhaps the greatest deficiency in the teenage quest for adulthood is the necessity of the teenage mind to adapt to the new ideas and environments to which it is exposed.  While many aspects of the adult lifestyle stay consistent for extended periods of time, childhood and adolescence are full of frequent change.  Thus, even in a rebellious move towards adopting the romanticized component of love of the adult lifestyle, Jim’s “mind needs adjusting to its new learning” (Age).  He mumbles and looks away because he wasn’t expecting to have to deal with something so much deeper (and thus less enjoyable) than just the kiss that would follow.

Of course, Jim’s actions perfectly mirror those of teenagers today.  As a manner of demonstrating our independence and capability of individual thought, we seek to expose ourselves to situations for which we aren’t ready: for which there are “prerequisite experiences.”  When we realize the expansive nature of necessary considerations which come with these experiences, we try to get out of them simply by feigning response and “running away,” at least mentally.

Arrogance of Values

Prof. Michael Goldberg states the following in a set of notes for a class on Modern Youth Culture at UW Bothell in 1999: “One [historian] view [of 1950s youth culture] attacks the counterculture as being the [product] of overindulged suburban brats, while the other view celebrates the counterculture as saviors of an America that was fast approaching a failure of its soul due to the massive buildup of hubris and smug material self-satisfaction in its ever-more restricted veins.”  While most of those involved with the counterculture movement would argue that the latter view better represents their own intentions, I would argue that Jim’s actions demonstrate the former.  In pursuit of an ideal of rebellion (for example, by becoming the man his father isn’t), Jim begins to associate his own “self-satisfaction” and pride with living up to this ideal.  Thus, when Judy proposes to subject him to a new form of “emotional surrender” in the form of love (with seeming expectation of reciprocation), he feels an inherent need to reject it in order to stick to his values.  His rebellion places him back in the category which it aimed to oppose: “an America that was fast approaching a failure of its soul due to the massive buildup and smug material self-satisfaction in its ever-more restricted veins” (Goldberg).

Where does all this lead us?  Perhaps to the conclusion that, in the end, every generation, despite innovation and progress, believes in the same ideals.  They attach themselves to new ideas, often in opposition to those of the past.  They follow these with all their effort until they realize that neither is this sustainable nor does it allow them to live lives that fulfill the most basic purpose of life: reproduction.  Perhaps each generation is individually aware of this, but now, more than ever, rebellion is conscious of this perspective.  Does it mean it’ll stop?  No.  Does it mean that perhaps it’ll have more purpose?  Tumblr and Twitter could be pretty good arguments for this.  If our rebellion is against oppressive ideas of the past towards other groups, then maybe there is an advantage that rises from it.  Either way, we’ll look back at our teenage years in twenty years and who knows what we’ll think.  We’ll see.

 

Works Cited

Age of Turmoil. Perf. Lorne Greene. McGraw Hill Text-Films, 1953. YouTube. YouTube, 2 Mar. 2013. Web. 19 Apr. 2015.

Goldberg, Michael. “Lecture Notes for Youth Culture and the Culture of the 50s.” BLS 467: Modern U.S. Youth Culture. University of Washington – Bothell, Autumn 1999. Web. 19 Apr. 2015.

Feb 26

AutoPap as a Pathology Template

In a world centered on information, knowledge about ourselves and the conditions that affect us are the greatest medical tool we can wield.  When it comes to diagnosis, modern technologies are continually creating systems that are easier and cheaper to implement, and vastly more accurate.  Developed in the mid-1990s and now used nearly universally for the rescreening of pap smears (the primary method of diagnosis of cervical cancer), Redmond-based NeoPath’s AutoPap system exemplifies the application of digital image analysis to this field.  The algorithms developed for this purpose have served as the basis for the development of a wide array of more recent automatic digital cytometry and detection tools, such as Deus Technologies’ system for the detection of lung nodules.  However, the most significant development that the use cases presented by AutoPap have led to is that of the advanced system of flow cytometry.  Through a more accurate and consistent approach to the same issue addressed by AutoPap, flow cytometry has the potential to serve as a low-cost method of pathology for a much wider range of situations and diseases in the near future.

The application of image analysis to the situation of automatic cytometry, that is, the computerized measurement of various properties of individual cells (size, morphology, coloration, and a number nucleic properties, among others), represents the unique challenge of presenting high levels of uniformity in the background that must initially be eliminated (this process will be further discussed below).  The background referred to above consists of precisely those cells and other materials which result in the high rate of false positives in manual pathology (particularly of pap smears).  The greatest confounding factor in visual cancer diagnosis is the Atypical Squamous Cell of Undetermined Significance (ASCUS).  In the pursuit of pre-cancerous Low-Grade Squamous Intraepithelial Lesions (LSIL) and High-Grade Squamous Intraepithelial Lesions (HSIL), as well as actual cancer cells, pathology technicians frequently encounter ASCUS’, which can skew conclusions erroneously (Imperial).  As such, given the widely diverse applications of image analysis (from motion tracking to “computational photography”), the development of specific algorithms that appropriately lower the error rate caused by the aforementioned confounding factor became necessary.

The first step to AutoPap’s algorithmic method to achieve this was the filtration of images gathered.  As described by Randall L. Luck and Richard Scott in their patent titled “Morphological Classification System and Method,” prior art for AutoPap, this began with repeatedly determining cells larger and smaller than the “approximate size of a malignant or premalignant cell” (Luck).  Having done this, these images were subtracted from the original to form an output solely consisting of cells fitting the parameters being sought.

Following filtration, images were fed through a set of algorithm consisting of decision trees to complete two tasks: 1) rank samples on a scale of 0 to 1 based on risk of abnormality, and 2) determine specific locations with high risk of abnormality.  As described by Dr. Michael J. Seo, a former employee of NeoPath who collaborated on the development of AutoPap, in an online interview, “[NeoPath] had the leaders of cytopathology and trained [their] algorithms on their feedback.”  Further factors considered in NeoPath’s algorithms, aside from simple size and shape (the latter being further flushed out by the successive lung nodule detection system by Deus Technologies described below), were later discussed by Dr. Seo.  These primary factors were “nuclear to cytoplasm [ratio] and hyperchromasia” (Seo), though over a 100 correlated factors were considered by the decision trees.  Of course, there are many other distinct factors considered by manual cytopathologists in distinguishing pre-cancerous cells (as cancerous cells themselves have more distinct differences from their environment).  The online Eurocytology Training Package lists these for cervical cancer (pap smears): “nuclear size, nuclear shape, structure of chromatin in interphase nucleus, chromatin content of interphase nucleus, hyperchromasia, multinucleation, nucleoli, cohesiveness, and mitoses” (Imperial).  A number of these (nucleoli, mitoses, both factors concerning chromatin) are unfortunately infeasible in the context of static snapshots of slides (whether based on scale, requirement for movement, or non-visual analyses).  However, the rest certainly hold the potential to act as differentiating factors in determining the scale of risk factor and specific high-risk regions through automatic image analysis.

The next step undertaken by researchers, this time at Rockville, Maryland-based Deus Technologies, LLC, was to apply the methods developed by NeoPath to a larger scale: detection of lung nodules in radiological images.  The most significant addition to the procedure utilized by Deus Technologies was a technology which NeoPath had been unable to use because of patent issues: neural networks (Yeh).  Neural networks transcended the capabilities of decision trees because, as an Artificial Intelligence system capable of continuous machine learning, they transitioned the process of filtration from a sequential, taxonomical analysis to a more efficient synchronous consideration of factors according to a highly flexible system that inherently increases its accuracy over time.  Interestingly, the greatest result of this flexibility was the fact that, despite radiological imaging still having a consistent scale, this system allowed baseline comparisons to be individually calculated for each sample.

Deus Technologies’ patent for the lung nodule detection system discussed here describes the final imaging phase, focused on classification: “the data is first analyzed using background correction, followed by an edge operation, histogram generation, marginal distribution generation, standardization, and neural network classification and integration” (Yeh).  Of course, the applicability of these custom evaluative distributions for each iteration, and the efficacy of the decision flexibility allowed by neural networks, is rooted in the consideration of a variety of truly innovative factors considered by the algorithm.  Beyond simple morphological filtering in the same style pioneered by AutoPap, this system drew off of the 3D characteristics of their distinct situation from cytopathology, and created an even more significant technique for testing the sphericity of nodules.  Once again dependent on the median of a calculated distribution, and capable of classifying based on this comparison, this distinctly added to the role of image analysis in not only rescreening, but even accurate diagnosis as a whole.

A final technique utilized here succeeded in achieving what is referenced by the patent as “body part segmentation” (Yeh).  This is a technique called Image Block Segmentation which adds an even greater level of accuracy to group analysis based on divisive factors.  In a paper titled “Strategic Approach to Image Block Segmentation,” Avanish Shrivastava and Mohan Awasathy describe this technique as follows:

Many image processing tasks require to know the meaning (e.g. object or background) of the image pixels.  Image segmentation is an important process to furnish such information to many image processing applications such as pattern recognition and object identification.  Image segmentation is a process of dividing an image into different regions such that each region is nearly homogeneous, whereas the union of any two regions is not (Unnikrishnan R. et. Al. 2007)

Of course, the applicability of this to situations like AutoPap is difficult due to the fact that these are dependent on massive-scale analysis for very small amounts of suspect cells, and thus segmentation primarily results in empty areas, and thus a potential skew in the percentage of suspect cell presence.  However, it is an essential precedent that establishes an efficient method to approaching a wide variety of such analytical tools in the future.

Present research, such as that being done by Clemex, is attempting to create universal methods that would allow simple customization for the detection of varying irregularities in differing environments, by non-technical personnel.  In fact, even from the top of their description of their Vision PE Multipurpose Image Analysis System, they claim that “even without image analysis expertise, the short learning curve means you’ll be performing analyses within hours of setup” (Clemex).  As an integrated microscopy system, it is capable of being customized to examine virtually any visual parameter of a sample, including “cell count, fiber length, grain size, layer thickness, nodularity, particle size, phase area, porosity, shape analysis, and surface roughness” (Clemex).  With “automatic object separation [and] multi-layer grab” (Clemex), the best techniques demonstrated by the previously discussed tools have been implemented to allow individuals with absolutely no digital image analysis background (many manual cytopathologists) to easily utilize their existing knowledge to form automatic, large-scale automatized versions of themselves.

The primary reason AutoPap remains a mechanism purely for re-screening is the inherent unreliability of its basis technology: pap smears themselves.  Dr. Seo discussed the inescapable presence of confounding materials in the images analyzed by AutoPap:  Despite the elimination of many such factors through AutoPap’s high-speed imaging system and image filtration algorithms, the possibility for cancerous/pre-cancerous cells to be hidden in a non-visible area of a smear remained.  Through the combined use of liquid-suspended cell samples and an analysis technique known as flow cytometry, this issue can be overcome.  Note that, though AutoPap’s present-day counterpart, BD’s SurePath, requires storage and transport of full samples in liquid form, analysis persevered in slide form, as opposed to a fluidic imaging system (BD).

As stated by Dr. Seo, “Flow cytometers allow… researchers to focus cells one at a time… through a fluidic system.”  In contrast to AutoPap’s methods of analyzing groups of cells, flow cytometry purely relies on gathering large amounts of data on individual cells, and allowing interpretation of this based on the context of sample size.  Due to the universality of this method, it can easily be adapted to virtually any pathological application.  Given appropriate sample collection techniques, this can also relegate the jobs of visual analysis algorithms like AutoPap’s cell group analysis (to reduce confounding by ASCUSs) to purely data-based [formulaic] methods.  As such, users would avoid the more distinct, more physical issue of healthy cells literally burying the highly limited number of suspect cells, resulting in false negatives.

One of the leading companies in the field of Flow Cytometry at present is the Seattle-based Amnis Corporation.  The three major foci of Amnis’ unique development of the tool have been Time Delay Integration (TDI), Extended Depth of Field (EDF), and Multispectral Imaging.  The first of these works to allow Amnis’ devices to “[image] 1000X faster than standard imaging systems without loss of sensitivity” (Amnis, “Breakthrough”) by synchronizing the conversion of image photons into photocharges (the technique used by digital cameras to record images) with the velocity of cells in the fluidic system.  The second factor, EDF, is rooted in “[projecting] all structures within the cell into one crisp plane of focus” (Amnis, “Extended”).  This allows for more reliable analysis of smaller scale “spot counting” (Amnis, “Extended”) based analyses, such as nuclear translocation, or, in the case of AutoPap, multinucleation.  Finally, the goal of multispectral imaging is to increase ability to analyze nuances in morphology and function by facilitating spectral decomposition of images.  Thus, the output actually becomes separable into three distinct modes: “brightfield, darkfield, and fluorescence” (Amnis, “Multispectral”).  This has great potential for considering unique parameters within samples without the use of additional hardware, such as spectrophotometers.

Of course, the true efficacy of Amnis’ tools can only be gauged by records of successful use for advanced, innovative purposes.  With the enormous list of research utilizing Amnis flow cytometers available on Amnis’ website, it was ideal to select a case that involved a future pathological application.  Such a case turned out to exist in the form of a J Immunol article by researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center, titled “Characterization of platelet-monocyte complexes in HIV-1-infected individuals: possible role in HIV-associated neuroinflammation.”  In essence, the conclusion of the study was that HIV-1 infections trigger an increase in the presence of “complexes between inflammatory monocytes and activated platelets” (Singh).  These complexes express a distinct platelet marker apparent in flow cytometers.  With such information, not only could researchers initially determine the presence of an HIV-1 infection, but they could further use it as basis for inhibiting platelet activation vital to the negative feedback loop that the aforementioned complexes are known for.  Having done so, risks of neuroinflammation and neurologic deficit are reduced (Singh).  Not only are pathologists able to diagnose a disease, but they are able to do so in such a way that gives them a direct initial treatment path.

With applications ranging from radiological analysis of not only the lungs, as described here, but also the brain, cytopathology, and any other form of cytometry or small-scale microscopy, image analysis holds great potential in terms of the greatest rising medical innovations.  At present, with a basis in optimized algorithms for very specific conditions, such as AutoPap for cervical cancer, a universal goal in the industry is to facilitate customization by non-experts.  The idea is to allow researchers with experience in entirely distinct disciplines to make use of this great equipment.  Nevertheless, with ever cheaper and more efficient techniques of both diagnosing and treating diseases, it is essential for such research to serve as the next generation of innovation.  By considering the question of whether costs can be lowered to the point of accessibility in the developing world, the increasing necessity for said tools provides a definitive future in this light.  Development not only indicates more unique uses here in a research environment, but true change for healthcare internationally.  Continuous development in this direction could someday entirely evolve pathology internationally.

 

 

Works Cited

Amnis Corporation. “Breakthrough Technology.” Amnis. Amnis Corporation, 2015. Web. 25 Feb. 2015.

Amnis Corporation. “Extended Depth of Field: How It Works.” Amnis. Amnis Corporation, 2015. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.

Amnis Corporation. “Multispectral Imaging.” Amnis. Amnis Corporation, 2015. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.

Amnis Corporation. “Time Delay Integration: How It Works.”  Amnis.  Amnis Corporation, 2015. Web. 25 Feb. 2015.

BD. “BD FocalPoint™ Slide Profiler.” BD. Becton, Dickinson and Company, 2015. Web. 22 Feb. 2015.

Clemex Technologies Inc. “Clemex Vision PE: The Most Complete Image Analysis Solution.” Clemex Intelligent Microscopy. Clemex Technologies Inc., 2015. Web. 25 Feb. 2015.

Imperial College, The Karolinska Institute, and Pomeranian Medical University. “Cervical Cytology.” Eurocytology. Eurocytology, n.d. Web. 08 Nov. 2014.

Luck, Randall L., and Richard Scott. Morphological Classification System and Method. Neuromedical Systems, Inc., assignee. Patent US 5257182 A. 26 Oct. 1993. Print.

Nelson, Alan C., and Shih-Jong J. Lee. Method for Testing Proficiency in Screening Images of Biological Slides. NeoPath, Inc., assignee. Patent US5797130 A. 18 Aug. 1998. Print.

Seo, Michael J. “AutoPap and Flow Cytometry.” Online interview. 10 Feb. 2015.

Shrivastava, Avanish, and Mohan Awasathy. “Strategic Approach to Image Block Segmentation.” International Journal of Scientific Research Engineering and Technology 2.10 (2014): 604-09. IJSRET. Jan. 2014. Web. 21 Feb. 2015.

Singh, M. V., D. C. Davidson, J. W. Jackson, V. B. Singh, J. Silva, S. H. Ramirez, and S. B. Maggirwar. “Characterization of Platelet–Monocyte Complexes in HIV-1–Infected Individuals: Possible Role in HIV-Associated Neuroinflammation.” J Immunol 192.10 (2014): 4674-684. PubMed. Web. 25 Feb. 2015.

Yeh, Hwa-Young M., Yuan-Ming F. Lure, and Jyh-Shyan Lin. Method and System for the Detection of Lung Nodule in Radiological Images Using Digital Image Processing and Artificial Neural Network. Deus Technologies, LLC., assignee. Patent US 6760468 B1. 6 July 2004. Print.

Jan 26

Don Quijote: ¿Una comedía o una obra seria?

Por supuesto Don Quijote de La Mancha por Miguel de Cervantes usa los elementos de una comedía, particularmente la absurdidad absoluta de las acciones e ideas de Don Quijote (ejemplificado por Rocinante y su casca de cartón, y la obra fue escrita con el propósito de ser graciosa, pero tiene algunos mensajes importantes y únicos que distínguenla como una obra sería necesario para ambos el tiempo de Cervantes y la época moderna. Por un lado, Cervantes usa el personaje de Don Quijote para parodiar a la cultura de los caballeros y la nobleza. Enfatiza el cambio que ya está aparente en su época al consumismo. Por otro lado, usa Don Quijote como un ejemplo de lo que la imaginación puede lograr, aun cuando cualquiera persona, como el lector, no sea un autor (quienes requieren la imaginación para escribir).
El ejemplo de la crítica de Cervantes de ese consumismo es el personaje del ventero de quien Don Quijote busca el título de caballero. El narrador describe lo que él dice con “En caso de necesidad él sabía que se podían velar dondequiera, y que aquella noche las podría velar en un patio del castillo; que a la mañana, siendo Dios servido, se harían las debidas ceremonias” (485). Es obvio que está explotando a Don Quijote, pero sus razones son los que importan. Aun en la época de Cervantes, el dinero ha empezado sustituir la cultura y las tradiciones. Es una cuestión difícil y problemática en que Cervantes reflexiona.
Además de este, Cervantes diferencia Don Quijote de otros héroes de la literatura clásica por su dependencia en su imaginación y su vista de la realidad “con fallos.” Aquí, el narrador describe lo que Don Quijote dice al ventero cuando llega a la venta: “Esta noche en la capilla deste vuestro castillo volaré las armas, y mañana, como tengo dicho, se cumplirá lo que tanto deseo, para poder como se debe ir por todas las cuatro partes del mundo buscando las aventuras, en pro de los menesterosos, como está a cargo de la caballería y de los caballeros andantes, como yo soy, cuyo deseo a semejantes fazañas es inclinado” (485). Solo es por esta imaginación que a Quijote le puede ser explotado, pero también provee un propósito para su vida. Él tiene una imagen de lo que quiere hacer más concreto que casi cualquier héroe de la literatura de esta época. La base que uso para este es, de hecho, exactamente el tipo de libros que Quijote lee. Tienen un meta muy específico: ganar el honor y la respeta. No hay espacio de incorporar ideas nuevas y únicas aquí. Podemos ver este en muchos ejemplos de la literatura de esta época, como Rey Arturo y Señor Gawain y el caballero verde. Hay un énfasis en la potencial de la imaginación y como todas las personas pueden beneficiarse de su usa.

Jan 25

Combating Resegregation

As a whole, resegregation is most certainly something which our society must do all it can to avoid. With a rapidly increasing wealth gap across the board ethnically, such efforts are a core aspect of ensuring that the future American education system truly enables social mobility and the growth and sustenance of the middle class.

Of course, the first step towards this end would be basic efforts of addressing the issue “solved” by Brown v. Board of Education: state-enforced segregation. While many would argue that much of the resegregation that is now occurring is being triggered by natural factors, as opposed to the sort of explicit legislation that established all-white schools pre-Brown, the sort of gerrymandering that prevents white neighborhoods close to majority-black schools from attending said schools could certainly count as such. Explicit prevention of this would be an ideal first step, though it might not foster the sort of city-wide integration that the next step should entail (as it did in 60s-80s desegregation efforts).

Beyond legislation in the same thread as that which initially addressed this issue, the modern educational environment begs a variety of other solutions that can serve as factors in preventing re-segregation (or at least its negative effects). The primary of these would be the provision of financial incentives and funding for specific resources in low-income (and thus often containing large minority populations) areas. The first of these would be providing high-quality training to teachers in these areas, and incentives for high-quality teachers (not Teach for America; this has plenty of problems, too), such as competitive salaries.

One seemingly effective approach to a funding structure that could accommodate these greater demands would depend on flexibility. Since wealthy areas often have the capability to boost funding for such resources through levies that aren’t nearly as effective in low-income areas, this could be a more significant consideration in state fund allocation, which could be skewed in favor of such low-income areas.

With any such equalization of funding, additional programs could also be emphasized in these areas. The two categories into which these would fall are college and career counseling programs, and exposure concerning these. The job of former is made additionally difficult by the fact that, as discussed in the case of D’Leisha in the above ProPublica article, even the most successful of students at these schools face marginal prospects for higher education. As such, counseling resources create a feedback loop with the overall quality of education: of course, it is necessary for such programs to excite students about the prospect of college and educate them about truly accessible opportunities, but in turn this has the potential to positively impact other classroom experiences and contribute to an improvement in their inherent perception of further education.

My reference to an increased focus on exposure to college and career opportunities is based off of research that has demonstrated the lack of minority representation in STEM fields. As such, after-school programs that aim to provide students with basic skills in these areas and, as above, excite them towards the prospects of being involved with them at a higher level, can begin to address a significant aspect of the negative effects of resegregation. Finally, the implementation of all of these has the potential to begin destroying public incentive to stand by segregation (in the form of this inherently creating better schools where low-income students are less common). If ideal resources are universally available, convenience, beyond ethnic or socio-economic isolation, becomes the most important factor in school-choice. The problem fades into obscurity.

Nov 13

ReachVote

Nov 13

My Role in Democracy

What role in and what impact on the election process do party politics, campaign finance law and the media have?

In essence, all of these serve to polarize the opinions represented in politics.  Because of the fact that alternating, yet close, majorities arose in the form of two parties, a system has been generated, via redistricting, that entirely prevents accurate representation of ideas from outside those of the GOP and Democratic Party.  As Fiorina states, 5-10% of the populace votes Independent, but the fact that this does not constitute a majority in any district (besides, perhaps, Vermont and the other district that currently has an Independent Senator) means that not nearly this percentage is represented in Congress.  As for campaign finance law, this has achieved a similar end.  Because a majority of the population has come to support one of the two parties, particularly wealthy individuals, these groups get distinctly uneven amounts of funding.  This means that there is absolutely no possibility for an independent candidate to lead a campaign that could at all match up to that of a Democrat or Republican.  Finally, the media, too enforces this by assigning every stance on an issue a distinct partisan identity.  While bipartisan efforts are lauded, they are mentioned rarely enough that the impression that the media provides is one of definite polarization.

  1. Do you think party politics have a more positive or negative impact on elections in America?  Why and what evidence do you have to support your position?

I think they have had a negative impact on elections in America because of exactly the above point regarding representation of Independents.  Not only is this indicated through voting patterns, but more importantly by the number of people who consciously choose not to vote because they don’t feel that their ideas can accurately be represented.  I don’t have a substantive statistic to back this up, but it’s a sentiment I have not only heard referenced frequently in this class, but also something that often comes up elsewhere, as well.  The greatest goal the organizations with which I’ve phonebanked has been simply to “get out the vote” more: make our government as representative as possible.  Inherently, it’s the expression of individual ideas that is far more important than the actual “politics” of politics, that is, classifications and the negative effects that result.  In fact, a very interesting position on this is presented by BitCongress.  Their Axiomity system seeks to essentially eliminate Congress as it is, instead replacing it with a digital system in which bills are proposed by citizen activists, and immediately voted on by the populace.  As such, every law is passed by popular vote through an online interface, rather than having middlemen that can easily be manipulated with money.

  1. Do you think campaign finance law has a more positive or negative impact on elections in America?  Why and what evidence do you have to support your position?

Even more than party politics, I believe that modern changes to campaign finance law have had a significantly negative impact on elections in America.  The greatest reason is that the result has been a situation in which voters can easily be “bought,” or, more straightforwardly, manipulated, by wealthy interests.  As advertising is often focused on either slamming opponents or presenting skewed “facts” regarding hot-button issues, this money simply fuels the movement of politics away from issues that truly affect voters to these morally-charged debates that are relatively irrelevant.  Examples of such issues include Abortion and Gay Marriage.  Both of these are vital issues to discuss, but when they become the focuses of campaigns and Congressional debates, the harm they cause because of the avoidance of more important issues that they trigger is fairly significant.

  1. Do you think the media has a more positive or negative impact on elections in America?  Why and what evidence do you have to support your position?

Though media does have some element of objectivity, it is certainly another facet of society that is fairy heavily affected by the aforementioned wealth held be a select few in society.  Furthermore, because of their commercial intentions, media companies focus on sensationalizing news such that they maintain the attention, and thus the value, of consumers.  This entails a focus on political conflict rather than collaboration, and thus triggers disillusionment with politics.  This results in decreased involvement of citizens and the degeneration of politicians into extremists that don’t represent the large population of moderates or believe in compromise.  Thus, we end up with the standstill we are presently witnessing in Congress, and the difficulty that is caused for legislators who intend to collaborate anyways or push legislation that is much more relevant to their constituents.

  1. What changes would you make to the American election process to better reflect your own values?

The largest of these would be an elimination of the electoral college.  I can vaguely see the intention of this in a nation that intends to main elements of a confederacy by having the federal government simply be representative of the states, rather than the population as a whole (the idea that the issues individuals face in these different locations vary immensely, which they likely did prior to the sort of connection that exists today).  However, I obviously, per that communication, believe that that is an outmoded view.  Instead, reliance on the popular vote for presidential elections is the best way to create a federal government that is truly representative of the people.  Of course, in an ideal society, an idea like BitCongress that entirely eliminates the necessity of a legislative body through the use of modern technology would be most logical, but is dependent on many philosophical assumptions which may not yet be met.

Aside from that, the disestablishment of unlimited campaign funding (especially by corporations) and redistricting (gerrymandering) would avoid the aforementioned problems and create a much fairer system.  Of course, voter ID, as well, is an issue that is important to consider (since it’s a good idea, but not in its proposed method of implementation).  It is my belief that it would not be problematic to implement (even though fraud is very uncommon; a systems approach is the essential method for problem solving), as long as this ID were made universally available for free, and the systems be unified state-to-state.

How can I act as a civically engaged citizen?

I assume this is the larger question which the following attempt to address.  It’s a very vague question.

  1. Taking into consideration everything you have learned about in this class, what do you identify as the biggest impediments (or challenges) to your meaningful participation in our democracy?  Why and what evidence do you have to support your position?

While meaningful participation in our democracy doesn’t inherently necessitate fundamental change, it is these systems which serve as the greatest impediment to our participation. Since there are distinct opinions and issues that are addressed by the mainstream parties and politicians, it isn’t possible for citizens to participate as meaningfully in government as they could should they have the opportunity to present ideas that more accurately address their personal concerns.  Even so, due to freedom of speech and the access that the Internet provides to large groups of people, this is more possible outside of direct political action than ever before.  The only matter that remains is that of reputation, which is more scrupulously considered than ever before, as well, thanks to social media.

  1. In light of any impediments to your participation in our democracy, what do you think is the most meaningful way you can participate as a citizen in our democracy?  Why and what evidence do you have to support your position?

In order to solve the root problem addressed here, the only possible line of action is direct involvement with politics, at any level, though preferably one at which it is possible to advocate for this change (i.e. Congress).  While this was my ambition once upon a time, I doubt it a likely path for me at this point in time.  Even so, it isn’t entirely out of question, and is certainly something I’d consider more strongly if I were to create a concept for a system that could flawlessly work better, and had other supporters.  Anyhow, until then, it’s my responsibility to work towards this by involving myself in political action, continuing to sign petitions and speak with my representatives, and discussing politics with others, particularly of different leanings.

  1. Please complete the following statement: I commit to act as a civically engaged citizen by voting, advocating, thinking critically, and discussing/debating.

Nov 07

Bicycles for Cultural Change

To an urban planner, one of the most essential components of a successfully designed city is ease and sustainability of transportation: particularly through public transit and bicycle accessibility in non-walkable circumstances.  However, the greatest hurdle that designers with such priorities face in the United States is an American mentality that opposes the reduction transit facilitates in the individuality that independent automobiles have fostered throughout the last century.  For apparent change to occur, societal perceptions of these more sustainable modes of transportation must evolve.  When it comes to bicycles, this progression is well underway.  The co-founder of World Bicycle Relief, Leah Missbach Day began her keynote speech at the Women’s Bicycle Summit by explaining that “the bike is a tool… that helps generate economic stability, community cohesiveness, and gender equality” (Addison).  As exemplified by the Empact Long Beach bike-sharing project at the Women’s Shelter of Long Beach, widening access to bicycles for underserved populations has the potential to begin a revolution in the American approach to alternative forms of transportation.

Bicycles provide the ideal epitome of the independent capability that cars do without the detriment to community of the latter mode.  Tatiana Séré, an advocate for the Empact LB project, describes this idea in the context of Empact LB’s clientele by saying “’when you are able to make decisions for yourself, it builds a sense of inner strength and responsibility…  Freedom is powerful; it can change your entire outlook on life’” (Addison).  Even if these are impacts that can be achieved with cars, the further potential of Empact LB and its ilk is the community that it builds.  Of course, on one hand, simply involvement in biking fosters this, as demonstrated by the community that has formed around the promotion of legislation and civil projects that are advantageous to bikers.  On the other, this project goes even further to teach bike safety workshops and organize community bike rides, creating trust and awareness.  Just as the simple de-emphasis of cars in walkable neighborhoods inherently creates these impacts, such bike-sharing programs offer the chance for communities to begin reaping the benefits without the resources and capital that complete redesign requires.

In places like Seattle, a secondary factor that adds to common rejection of public transit is an often unconscious (or at least taboo) concept: race relations.  Due to the fact that King County’s Metro system primarily caters to the lower-income population, it has greater ethnic diversity than many ideal Metro users experience in their workplaces and communities.  Because of the unification of values that bike advocacy and programs facilitates between races, it is possible that it could be a basis for a more inclusive public transit system that more individuals are comfortable using.  Head of Cali Bike Tours and partner on the Empact LB project Elizabeth Williams says “bicycling within the black community is viewed as child’s play: it isn’t for adults.  Leaving one’s bike behind represents… graduation into adulthood… It’s because we choose as a community not to normalize it through images and advertising that cater to a specific, limited audience” (Addison).  In working to make appropriate changes to such media such that representation is equal and thus identification with such advertisements is more equal, Williams offers a start to a cultural shift that could use biking as a basis to not only reduce the aforementioned discomfort with public transit, but improve race relations as a whole.

Finally, bicycle accessibility, either through free bike-sharing programs like Empact LB or through Williams’ proposal of a free distribution system for bikes with the condition of each receiver completing a bike safety and knowledge course, offers significant improvements to communities that both act as a catalyst for automobile use and trigger for the avoidance of areas by certain groups (primarily from different East Side Riderssocioeconomic classes).  Brian Addison poses the perfect example in his discussion of John Jones’ program East Side Riders in a blog post titled “Long Beach: Bridging the Racial Inequalities within Cycling”: “cohesive engagement—such as Jones’s work with local gang members to create Life Lanes that permit kids to ride in certain parameters in Watts with no fears of being attacked or confronted—with everyone from the Long Beach Police to neighborhoods overseers will override [the] fear [for children’s safety]” (Addison).  In making such changes, not only is car use decreased by the provision of this alternative method, but a reduction is facilitated in the belief that Addison cites as being that “all that bike lane did was remove parking and limit the ability to drive faster down a street” (Addison).  Furthermore, with a reduction in violence, not only are children safer, but also visitors to the neighborhood: new customers for local businesses and thus greater diversity as a whole.

By creating free bike-sharing or distribution programs in underserved communities, it is possible to change the face of the city, from both the perspective of transit and that of diversity and comfort of all citizens.  It makes communities safer, cleaner, healthier, and better integrated.  It makes individuals better capable of fulfilling their own responsibilities, making them better civil citizens.  It generates a sense of community by providing a unified “hobby,” and a frequent opportunity for events.  It has the potential to re-invent American paranoia surrounding alternative transportation, and make cities better places to live as a whole.

More Information

http://www.planetizen.com/node/72041

http://www.empactlb.com/

http://www.empactlb.com/empact_long_beach_in_the_long_beach_post

http://la.streetsblog.org/2012/02/14/activist-profile-the-east-side-riders-riding-for-love/

Oct 26

My Fatal Flaw

There’s a new project I’ve been considering after hearing about an idea a classmate is pursuing for his Ethics & Entrepreneurialism final project. This project would be a fulfillment service for charities that would automate the resale of goods from a fundraiser to maximize impact. The problem that this is rooted in (as cited by James Rimmer) is the fact that in developing countries like Kenya, much of the charity provided is in the form of items that are useless in the environment, like shower heads in places without running water, or digital photo frames. The first facet of this project would be an educational campaign, perhaps through such a course as Serve Smart, but more likely through a more widespread publicity campaign to the groups that often facilitate this sort of fundraisers: churches, schools, community centers, etc. This campaign would aim to teach the facilitators in these communities the need for participatory charitable engagement: providing what those one is helping actually need. After this, the service would buy all the raised goods from the group at retail price, with a commission, and sell them via Amazon or the like. While solving the problem of unnecessary charity, this service could then also provide access to appropriate resources, or connections to existing organizations.

Anyhow, this isn’t what I had meant to write about in this post: that, rather, is an aspect of my actual implementation of such a project, should it ever take place. This problem is one that I’ve faced significantly with MoneySense, and faced both the advantages and disadvantages of in the planning of TEDxEastsidePrepYouth: the difficulty I have with working with a team. On one hand, I recognize the enormous advantages of being part of a group with diverse skills, but on the other hand, I have a difficult time disseminating the mission of a project to others. Furthermore, I often develop a conviction surrounding my own ideas that, being mine, it’s my responsibility to develop every component of them. TEDx is the perfect example of when I’ve been able to accept something otherwise because the original idea wasn’t my own.

In mentally discussing this idea, I’ve struggled to conceive of how I might face such an issue. Knowing that I likely couldn’t devote myself entirely to this pursuit at any given point in time, it’ll be essential for me to avoid doing so by indeed relying on a team. As difficult as this may be, it’s an issue that I’ll have to face, so I thought I’d recount it here for the sake of the said internal discussion.

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