Rad Geek People's Daily

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What I’m Reading (Mostly March 2024 Lazy Linking edition)

  1. [1]From Plb 1.1: Can any one be so indifferent or idle as not to care to know by what means, and under what kind of polity, almost the whole inhabited world was conquered and brought under the dominion of the single city of Rome, and that too within a period of not quite fifty-three years? Or who again can be so completely absorbed in other subjects of contemplation or study, as to think any of them superior in importance to the accurate understanding of an event for which the past affords no precedent….

That which is not mandatory is forbidden (Atlanta BeltLine Zoning Edition)

I wanted to just post this story here with a quick comment to the effect of, Well, good. Parking minimums are stupid and they’re especially unneeded around neighborhoods that are growing vigorously precisely because of the huge, pleasant walking trail that they’re growing alongside.

Shared Article from planetizen.com

Atlanta Eliminates Parking Mandates Near BeltLine

Developments near the city’s popular greenway will no longer be subject to minimum parking requirements to make way for more effective development.


Of course, municipal government being what it is, the Atlanta City Government can’t just let the City of Atlanta alone; yet another foray into urbanism is immediately moving forward with a deep, abiding and utterly ridiculous suspicion that people in a city can’t just work it the fuck out on their own. We’re doing some City-Building and Neighborhood Planning here, and if cars are no longer required to get around, then by god we’ll take steps to forbid them:

New legislation passed by the Atlanta City Council will remove parking minimums in the BeltLine Overlay District, a half-mile zone on either side of the BeltLine trail and light rail system.

According to an article by Josh Green in Urbanize Atlanta, the new rules, introduced by Council Member Jason Dozier, will also ban new gas stations and drive-throughs.

The theory goes[1] that less space (and less upfront money from builders) devoted to parking will allow more room for less expensive housing, restaurants, shops, offices, and other vibrant uses, while encouraging neighborhood planning focused on pedestrians, not drivers.

— Diana Ionescu, Atlanta Eliminates Parking Mandates Near BeltLine
In Planetizen (2024-02-08).

For God’s sake. If nobody needs gas stations and drive-throughs, they won’t use gas stations and drive-throughs, and you won’t have them to kick around anymore. If gas stations and drive throughs can stay in business within the arbitrary Overlay Zone then city-dwellers must have some use for them after all.

Let it be, let them pass.

  1. [1][Sic. Of course there is no real theory here, just the arbitrary guesswork of neighborhood planners who figure they know ahead of time how people are going to use the places that they live and go. —R.G.]

There were also / Witticisms, platitudes, and statements beginning / “It seems to me” or “As I always say.” / Consider the courage in all that….

From Poetry Foundation’s Poem of the Day podcast (2022-12-25), rather belatedly listened to:

Life Cycle of Common Man

Roughly figured, this man of moderate habits,
This average consumer of the middle class,
Consumed in the course of his average life span
Just under half a million cigarettes,
Four thousand fifths of gin and about
A quarter as much vermouth; he drank
Maybe a hundred thousand cups of coffee,
And counting his parents’ share it cost
Something like half a million dollars
To put him through life. How many beasts
Died to provide him with meat, belt and shoes
Cannot be certainly said.
But anyhow,
It is in this way that a man travels through time,
Leaving behind him a lengthening trail
Of empty bottles and bones, of broken shoes,
Frayed collars and worn out or outgrown
Diapers and dinnerjackets, silk ties and slickers.

Given the energy and security thus achieved,
He did …? What? The usual things, of course,
The eating, dreaming, drinking and begetting,
And he worked for the money which was to pay
For the eating, et cetera, which were necessary
If he were to go on working for the money, et cetera,
But chiefly he talked. As the bottles and bones
Accumulated behind him, the words proceeded
Steadily from the front of his face as he
Advanced into the silence and made it verbal.
Who can tally the tale of his words? A lifetime
Would barely suffice for their repetition;
If you merely printed all his commas the result
Would be a very large volume, and the number of times
He said thank you or very little sugar, please,
Would stagger the imagination. There were also
Witticisms, platitudes, and statements beginning
It seems to me or As I always say.
Consider the courage in all that, and behold the man
Walking into deep silence, with the ectoplastic
Cartoon’s balloon of speech proceeding
Steadily out of the front of his face, the words
Borne along on the breath which is his spirit
Telling the numberless tale of his untold Word
Which makes the world his apple, and forces him to eat.

— Howard Nemerov (1977), Life Cycle of Common Man
From The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov.

Technological Civilization is Awesome (New Epicurean Scroll Just Dropped Edition)

Shared Article from Smithsonian Magazine

Three Students Just Deciphered the First Passages of a 2,000-Yea…

The trio used artificial intelligence to decode sections of the text, which appear to be a philosophical exploration of pleasure

Margherita Bassi @ smithsonianmag.com

    col. -8, ll. 2-14:   
2   ...]ι̣μ̣εν τοὺϲ̣ [πα]ρ̣[ὰ Ξ]ε̣-   
    νοφάντωι το̣ιούτου[ϲ,   
    ὃ καὶ ὑπ’ ἄ̣λλων δοκεῖ    
5   γείνεϲθαι, παραπλη-   
    ϲίωϲ δ̣’ ο̣ὐδὲ παρ̣’ ἑτέρωι   
    ἴδι̣ον το̣ῦ δ̣οκοῦ̣ντοϲ̣    
    εἶναι καὶ παρὰ πλε̣ί-  
    οϲ̣ι̣ν̣ ἥδιο̣ν, ἀλλ’ ὡ̣ϲ̣ καὶ   
10  ἐ̣π̣ὶ τῶν βρω̣μ̣άτ̣ων   
    ο̣ὐ̣κ ἤδ̣η τὰ ϲπάνια    
    πάντωϲ̣ καὶ ἡδ̣ίω    
    τῶν δ̣αψιλῶν̣ ε̣ἶναι̣   
14  νομίζ̣ο̣με̣ν· οὐ γ̣ὰρ̣

—Author Unknown, possibly Philodemus; decoded by the Vesuvius Challenge project

. . .

    col. -7, ll. 4-10:   
    λ̣ει παρὰ τὰ δαψιλῆ.    
5   θεωρηθήϲεται δὲ τὰ    
    τοιαῦθ’ οὕτω{ι} πολ̣λά-    
    κιϲ πότερον ὅ̣ταν πα-    
    ρῇ τὸ δαψιλέϲτερον    
    ἡ φύϲιϲ ἥδιον ἀπαλλάτ-    
10  τει το̣ύ̣τ̣ο̣υ̣ καὶ πάλ̣ι̣ν̣ ̣ ̣    

—Author Unknown, possibly Philodemus; decoded by the Vesuvius Challenge project

. . .

    col. -2, ll. 2-8:   
2   ἑ̣κάϲτηϲ κριτηρίων    
    θεωροῦνται. πρὸϲ δὲ    
    οὔτε καθόλου περὶ    
5   ἡδονῆϲ ἐχόντων τι    
    λέγειν οὔτε περὶ τῆϲ    
    κατὰ μ̣έ̣ρο̣ϲ̣, ὅ̣τε ὡ-    
8   ριϲμένον τι, ἀλλ’ οὖν    

—Author Unknown, possibly Philodemus; decoded by the Vesuvius Challenge project

. . .

    col. -1, ll. 1-6:    
1   ὰρ ἀπ̣εχόμ̣ε̣θ̣α̣ τὰ    
    μὲν κρίνειν, τὰ δὲ   
    κατέχειν καὶ ἐμφαί   
    νoιθ’ ἡμῖν ἀληθῆ λέ-    
5   γειν ὥϲπερ πολλά̣κιϲ   
    ἂν ἐ̣μφανε̣ίη̣{ι}.

—Author Unknown, possibly Philodemus; decoded by the Vesuvius Challenge project

The text has to do with some notable Epicurean themes, in particular the relationship of pleasure to the scarcity or abundance of goods, perhaps especially aesthetic goods or goods of sensory experience (Per the translators: … As too in the case of food, we do not right away believe things that are scarce to be absolutely more pleasant than those which are abundant.)

The in-house scholars at the Vesuvius Challenge have confirmed that the text is new, unattested text from an ancient writer. Right now they seem inclined to think that the author might be the Epicurean philosopher and poet Philodemus (ca. 110 BCE – ca. 40 BCE).[1] He wrote extensively on ethics, music, and the philosophical controversies between the Epicureans and the Stoics.

It is hard to express just how immensely exciting this is. This is the first major passage to come from a cache of books that, in a series of really horrific disasters and insane accidents, has been preserved down to our present distant future, where we can use frickin’ X-rays, 3-D modeling and artificial intelligence to peer through the body of burnt, sealed scrolls and read off the letters from their carbonized insides without unrolling them. This would be an awesome enough story as it is, but the technological feat also has a lot of promise to heal a real and massive loss. Most — the vast majority — of writing from the ancient world is lost to us.[2] For the next phase of the project, ]Vesuvius Challenge’s goals are](https://web.archive.org/web/20240209172423/https://scrollprize.org/grandprize):

In 2023 we got from 0% to 5% of a scroll. In 2024 our goal is to go from 5% of one scroll, to 90% of all four scrolls we have scanned, and to lay the foundation to read all 800 scrolls.

The primary goal for 2024 is to read 90% of the scrolls, and we will issue the 2024 Grand Prize to the first team that is able to do this. More details on the exact grand prize judging criteria will be available in March.

&#8212Vesuvius Challenge 2023 Grand Prize Awarded

Every lost scroll that is recovered shines new light into the corners of a world covered in deep shadow, which we have only seen with the briefest, strobe-light glimpses. The Villa of the Papyri is a lost library from the high point of classical civilization; there are more than 800 carbonized scrolls which the project may be able to recover. It offers once of the most exciting chances in decades to recover lost works and add new primary sources for understanding and debating ancient history and ancient philosophy.

Technological civilization is awesome.

Shared Article from web.archive.org

Vesuvius Challenge 2023 Grand Prize awarded: we can read the scr…

The 2000-year-old scroll discusses music, food, and how to enjoy life’s pleasures.


  1. [1]This is a pretty good bet even aside from the topics in the passages decoded; the scroll was taken from the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum, which seems to have had a really large collection of Philodemus’s work.
  2. [2]This is true even of the most famous and celebrated authors. All of Aristotle’s dialogues and the second volume of the Poetics are famously lost; volumes of Livy; every poem by Sappho except for one or possibly two which were preserved in the work of others who quoted or translated them; etc. etc.

hunched as though deciding / some minor point …

Turkey Vultures

Since the wind knocked down power lines
and lightning set a birch aflame
from within, three turkey vultures roost
along the topmost branches,
matted black feathers with small red heads,
unfortunate harbingers of death,
though really, almost comically alive—
hunched as though deciding
some minor point before slipping off
on the umbrellas of their wings to rid
the roads of evidence of violence not theirs.

— Maya C. Popa (2022), Turkey Vultures
In The New York Review of Books (January 13, 2022)

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