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Observations from LA - Arvind Narayanan's journal [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

Observations from LA [Oct. 3rd, 2011|12:56 am]
Arvind Narayanan
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It is impossible not to notice how hostile the city is to walking, and to me this was the characteristic that stood out more than any other. Even in the historic downtown district, the streets are depressingly wide and automobile-focused. 

In particular, the sprawl completely ruins Chinatown, which has a decent share of shopping but is totally missing the vibe. There were way fewer people around than I expected and both tourists and locals seemed apathetic or depressed about being there.

I need to figure out a better way to find a hotel next time. The cheap ones all seemed to be in bad neighborhoods, so I picked one that was moderately priced and had good ratings on Yelp, although some of the reviews described the amenities as "basic." That turned out to be a gross   understatement — "Spartan" would have been closer to the truth. It also had an insane system of not double but quintuple parking.

Santa Monica and Pasadena seem to be very good choices for places to watch pretty people walk by. And the houses in Beverly hills are pretty much how one would imagine them to be.

I had a disagreement with a friend about the fashionability of UCLA students. She said she was impressed; I was rather disappointed and felt they didn't even seem to be making an effort, especially considering the proximity to Hollywood. Other opinions welcome!

Finally, I believe that the story of human progress and civilization — past, present and future — is basically the story of increasing human population density. In this view, the success of megacities is crucial to the continued progress of our species. This is something I'm very interested in. 

Spending time in LA was therefore an interesting opportunity to reflect philosophically. The city (and the Greater Los Angeles Area in general) is an interesting and important data point. It's obviously not an ideal layout, but there's a lot to learn from it. Looking down from the Griffith Park Observatory at dusk upon a million flickering city lights that looked like a giant, pulsating brain was a particularly poignant moment.

Mandatory disclaimer: this is all based on a single weekend. Major cluelessness should be expected.

[User Picture]From: paper_crystals
2011-10-03 02:11 pm (UTC)
Everything I know about LA comes from reading about geology (specifically water supply so really applied geology) and urban planning. And both urban planners and geologists are convinced that if there was a god LA would have sunk into the earth by now. Geologists because of water supply issues with LA and greater S. California in general and urban planners for the reasons you are talking about. I have mostly seen "suburban" LA. I have two cousins who live in Pasadena and I believe my uncle used to or still does live in Hollywood. So I have mostly seen the very nice houses in LA. I have wanted to go to the Las Angeles Country Museum of Art but I haven't been able to go to LA for a really, really long time. So most of my impressions of LA come from the brain of a 10 year old.
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[User Picture]From: Kenny Bentley
2012-06-04 12:35 pm (UTC)

I'm an la native... pretty good observations :)

hi, my name is kenneth. I moved to pasadena when I was 8, and lived everwhere from clairmont to manhattan beach. I now live in spain. I have lived here for about 6 years now, and I am in total agreement to what you say about hostility to pedestrians. I find this hostility to the image of LA of money, fashion and lifestyle. you must live the image or else it's difficult at best to be social (in comparison to spain)

I have never known how to drive in my life, and it's true, the metro system SUCKS. the bus is ok, but leaves much to be desired. there are various conspiracies about GM sabotaging the metro in LA, but like you said, there generally needs to be a species upgrade for this to work. I will now begin a small rant...

in LA it's really easy to see. every person (even the poor) see themselves through their value of money. for example, in spanish you would never say that a person is "worth" $500,000. that person has X, but their value is not this. this is an interesting idea, because first we must all see that money puts a value on a person. it determines their opportunity and their value. people who are opportunists, win.

imagine we lived in such a world in which money didn't exist, and actors could be actors, programmers could be programmers. people wanting to teach could teach, and people wanting to learn could learn, etc. imagine a film where the actors who wanted to work together found a kickass writer, director, etc. and just did it for the fun of it. for example, imagine programmers that want to make the most kickass mobile phone just go and do it, and we all benefit from the results.

one crazy idea I had is that because LA/california is such a large economic/population zone, they could just make one law. we have the right to deport you from california if you are not working or getting decent grades in the class, or between certain ages, or on disability (which you would have to show marked improvement, and worked on by doctors that actually wanna do shit right). essentially, california could just delete it's economy and require everything in california to be free. everything. it would take some hard enforcement at first to ensure the machine readjusts without losing too much productivity, but outlawing money is a potential that california could do.

things would have to be clear too, the government would have to be open with it's money, showing the products that are imported, and the sales tax on exports. it could work, I think.

anyway, I just discovered your blog, and I too have hacked my performance a lot as well. since I was about 17, stopped eating sugar. I regularly take melatonin (and often times very high doses because you cannot absorb more than you have receptors for) and eat large amounts of fruit/vegetables, focusing on a high kiwi and mushroom intake. your blog has highly inspired me today :) thanks man

much love,
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