Tag Archives: Apple

Urban Patterns | The Center of Our Terrestrial Universe

“Thoughts meander like a restless wind, Inside a letter box,
They stumble blindly, as they make their way, Across the universe.”
Across the Universe, The Beatles

Urban Patterns | The Center of Our Terrestrial Universe | Chanute, Kansas USA
by Dr. Mark David Major, AICP, CNU-A

NOTE: Urban Patterns will focus on more obscure and/or extreme locations in a number of posts over the next few weeks.

According to the Mac version of Google Earth, the center of our terrestrial universe can be found in the City of Chanute of Neosho County, Kansas. When you open Google Earth on a Mac, allow the globe to stop spinning, then only zoom in on the Earth and you’ll eventually find yourself in Chanute, Kansas. Dan Webb, a software engineer for the Mac OS X version of Google Earth, programed the software this way; he explains his charmingly flippant reasons here. Incidentally, if you do the same on the Windows version of Google Earth (you know, fifteen minutes after the PC has started up and Windows has downloaded all of its updates), you’ll actually end up in Lawrence, Kansas. However, since Apple is infinitely superior to Windows, then the Mac version of Google Earth must be correct about our ‘terrestrial center’.

Satellite view from 5 km of Chanute, Kansas USA (Source: Google Earth).

“Neosho” is a Native American word generally accepted to be of Osage derivation. It is translated variously as “water that has been made muddy”, “clear cold water” or “clear water”, the last being the most accepted. Chanute was formally founded in 1873. When the Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston Rail Road crossed the Missouri, Kansas and Texas state limits within Neosho County, four rival towns initially sprang up in the vicinity of the junction: New Chicago, Chicago Junction, Alliance, and Tioga. The four towns were consolidated in 1872 and the new town was named Chanute in honor of Octave Chanute, a railroad civil engineer. Chanute has a population of approximately 9,100 people (Source: Wikipedia). The urban pattern of Chanute is characterized by several typical – but still interesting – components of the American landscape. First, there is a predominant regular grid aligned to the cardinal directions, consistent with the method of land division established by the 1785 Land Ordinance in the United States; Second, this regular grid marginally shifts from perfect orthogonality. For example, West Main Street (the primary east-west route toward the top of the above image) marginally shifts northward along some distance before shifting southward again into alignment with East Main Street on the other side of the railroad tracks. Third, this regular grid has evolved over time around the railroad line passing through the center of Chanute in a southwest to northeast direction (from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Kansas City, Missouri). This generates a significant interruption to the orthogonal grid in the town, introducing differentiation from east-to-west by privileging those routes crossing the tracks to link both sides of town. Indeed, the interruptions (e.g. the railroad tracks, the large block to the south defining the Neosho Community College campus, and 215th Road/E. Elm Street angling into the regular grid from the east at the upper middle right of the above image) to the regular grid of Chanute characterize the town as much as the regular grid itself. Finally, the western edge of Chanute is defined by State Highway 169, which mirrors the Tulsa-to-Kansas City alignment of the railroad. However, this is not an interstate highway. Chanute is almost exactly at the center of a ring of interstates, more than a hundred miles in any direction to 35/335 to the north and west, 498 to the east, and 44 to the south. Because of this, and the fact that its population has remained relatively stable over the last 100 years (only variation of +/- 1,000), Chanute has maintained its small-town persona as an American farming community.

(Updated: July 3, 2017)

Urban Patterns is a series of posts from The Outlaw Urbanist presenting interesting examples of terrestrial patterns shaped by human intervention in the urban landscape over time.

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BOOK REVIEW | Think Different, Be “Insanely Great” | Steve Jobs | Walter Isaacson

Think Different, Be “Insanely Great”
BOOK REVIEW of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

by Mark David Major, The Outlaw Urbanist contributor

FULL DISCLOSURE: I am writing this review on my MacBook Pro with Retina Display with my iPhone and iPad Mini sitting near at hand while I listen to a shuffle of classical music in my iTunes Library. When I started writing this disclosure paragraph, I noticed my apps were syncing to all of my devices via iCloud, which finished well before I had completed this paragraph. I have been an unapologetic member of the Apple Cult since 1993.

A few times in Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, the biographer and his subject admit there will be a lot that Jobs won’t like in this authorized biography. Once again, Steve Jobs was right. Isaacson’s biography is not a great product. The writing is often repetitive, even diverging into triviality on occasion, with the biographer/interviewees (except Jobs himself) all too eager to engage in ‘Dime Store’ Freudian psychoanalysis about the book’s subject. At 656 pages, Isaacson’s biography would have benefited from the same zeal for simplicity and minimalism (in terms of editing) that characterized so many of Apple’s products during Jobs’ two tenures at the company. In fact, Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson reads like Simon & Schuster rushed the book to market months ahead of schedule so it could financially capitalize on Jobs’ death in late 2011. The release date is a mere two weeks after Jobs death on October 5, 2011. This is something Jobs would have never tolerated while he was alive. Isaacson’s biography is not a bad book but it could have been “insanely great” like its subject. There are many useful, some wonderful insights (usually originating from Jobs himself) contained within, so it is well worth your time to read. In the end, what shines through in the book, despite its problems, is the genius and greatness of Steve Jobs.

Isaacson’s fairly ridiculous thesis is Jobs was driven to greatness by a desire to prove his natural parents were wrong to put him up for adoption, which begs the question why there aren’t more industry leaders with adoptive parents. Jobs is fairly dismissive of this line of thought. Isaacson’s equally ridiculous aim is to get his subject to admit, “He is an asshole.” We are all angels and assholes (some, more one than other). It is called being human so it’s unclear why this is important. Jobs was a perfectionist but he never (thankfully) claimed he was perfect. Many of Jobs management techniques are tried, tested and effective even if Jobs’ form of brutal honesty lacked a ‘politeness’ filter. Anyone successful, who has been in a leadership position, will recognize these techniques.

Isaacson devotes a considerable amount of words to Jobs’ tendency to construct a “reality distortion field”, an ability to weld or ignore reality to his wishes but also compel designers and engineers to do the seemingly impossible. We all construct “reality distortion fields” in an attempt to warp reality to our wishes. Some are more successful and ambitious at it than others. It is unclear why Isaacson finds this distinctive human trait so compelling other than the fact Jobs changed the reality of the way things work in this world. The fact is there are many people in the world, who simply cannot abide greatness in their presence. They seek to bring genius down to their level, a sort of “stupidity distortion field.” Jobs would describe this as Grade C people bringing down the Grade A people around them to the average, “the ugly”, or the “totally shit”. Isaacson could easily devote an entire book to how otherwise seemingly intelligent people (like Bill Gates, who comes across as a decent and pleasant schmuck but a schmuck nonetheless) adopt stupid arguments, decisions, and positions to distort the greatness or genius of individuals around them. The fact is there are more like Steve Jobs out there but the herd is too busy trampling them under foot to recognize them. In the end, Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson is best when all aspects of Jobs (the good and the bad) filter through the biographer’s gaze. Was Steve Jobs perfect? No, he was human. Personally, I never asked for Apple products to be perfect. I only asked that Apple products be the best in the world and, usually, they were. I never asked Steve Jobs to be anything than what he was: a brilliant businessman, an insight artist, and a (sometimes) source and (often) shepherd of technological innovation. In the end, what was remarkable about Steve Jobs was not that he changed the world but he changed the world in the face of the ‘conventional wisdom’, which is often polite code for the stupidity of the consensus. Frankly, I prefer to live in Jobs’ reality. Along the way, he lived a remarkable life. Surely, that is enough. The world seems smaller without Steve Jobs in it. We have Jobs’ Apple to thank for it but it is also a testament to the legacy of Steve Jobs. He will be missed.

I’m attaching video links to a couple of seminal moments in the life of Steve Jobs. First, the famous 1984 MacIntosh commercial, directed by Ridley Scott, which aired during the Super Bowl (above in the body of the review). Many in the trade (including TV Guide) say it is the greatest commercial ever. Second, is the famous commencement address Jobs gave at Stanford University in 2005 (see below). Remember: think different.


Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
Simon & Schuster
Hardcover, 656 pages
Available from Amazon here.


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