Sunlit Water

December 31, 2012

A Year Of Northern Cities

Filed under: Personal,Urban Living — by teofilo @ 11:04 pm

For the past few years I’ve done a post on New Year’s Eve listing the cities I visited in that year. Here’s this year’s list:

  • Anchorage, AK
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Highland Park, NJ
  • Homer, AK
  • Barrow, AK
  • Seward, AK
  • Fairbanks, AK
  • Port Alsworth, AK

As in previous years, this only includes cities where I spent at least one night, and includes small towns but excludes truly rural areas. The overnight requirement is particularly unfortunate this year, since some of the most interesting places I’ve gone to in Alaska have been on day trips, but I’d like to keep the methodology consistent with earlier years. As the list shows I didn’t travel very much this year, and in fact spent the overwhelming majority of my time in Anchorage. With my new job I should be traveling a lot more in the future, though.

This was a good year. Finding a job that I like in a place where I can see myself settling down for the long term has put me in a position of stability unlike anything I’ve experienced before in my adult life. I’m still kind of adjusting to this, but it’s definitely a huge relief after the twists and turns of the past few years.


December 31, 2011

The Year Of Many Cities

Filed under: Personal,Transportation,Urban Living — by teofilo @ 7:50 pm

Continuing my ongoing tradition, here are the cities I visited this year:

  • Highland Park, NJ
  • Netanya, Israel
  • Tel Aviv, Israel
  • Jerusalem, Israel
  • Albuquerque, NM
  • Lubbock, TX
  • Shamrock, TX
  • Clayton, NM
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • New York, NY
  • Miami Beach, FL
  • Pittsburgh, PA
  • Newark, OH
  • Chillicothe, OH
  • Florence, KY
  • St. Louis, MO
  • Cape Girardeau, MO
  • Jackson, TN
  • Memphis, TN
  • Little Rock, AR
  • Ft. Smith, AR
  • Erick, OK
  • Price, UT
  • Ontario, OR
  • Huntington, OR
  • Bellingham, WA
  • Haines Junction, YT
  • Glennallen, AK
  • Anchorage, AK

Once again, in keeping with the ground rules, this list only includes places I spent the night, and it includes small towns but doesn’t include truly rural areas or ferries.  Each city is only listed once, and the cities are in the order I first visited them.

That’s a lot of travel.  I’m pretty sure I traveled more in 2011 than I have in any other year.  It was a blast.

In general, 2011 was a good year for me.  After spending so long without much idea of where my life was going, I’ve finally figured it out and ended up in a place I like where I may end up staying for a while.  Even if I don’t, I do have a good idea of what I would be doing if I end up moving elsewhere.  Things are definitely looking up for me at this point, and here’s hoping 2012 will be just as good.

December 31, 2010

The Year Of Few Cities

Filed under: Job Search,Personal,Urban Living — by teofilo @ 3:20 pm

I didn’t travel much this year, compared to the past two, but here’s my annual list of cities I stayed in overnight:

  • Albuquerque, NM
  • Highland Park, NJ
  • New York, NY
  • Philadelphia, PA

I keep thinking I must be forgetting something, but I’m pretty sure those are the only cities I’ve stayed in.  School’s been taking up a lot of my time.

In other news, I’m finally going on Birthright next week.  I’m getting close to the age limit, and my mom’s been strongly encouraging me to do it, so I figured while I’m in school and have this convenient break I should just do it.  I remain skeptical about Zionism and I doubt the trip will change that, but I’m currently rationalizing my choice to go by saying that I don’t agree with the Zionists’ ideology but I’m willing to take their money.  In any case, I think it’ll be fun.  The trip leaves on this coming Sunday.  Since it’s right in the middle of my break, I didn’t go back to New Mexico but was here in New Jersey for the break so far.  It was a nice, restful vacation, and we got a big snowstorm which added some excitement and snow.

Overall, 2010 was a very good year for me.  I feel like I’ve developed much more of a sense of what I want to do (and, perhaps more importantly, what I don’t want to do) with this degree once I get it.  I’ll start applying for jobs in January, since I really want to have something lined up before I graduate in May.  Right now I’m mostly looking at federal jobs, and maybe private-sector environmental planning stuff.  Geographically I’ll be looking all over the country, partly because while I know I’m tired of living right where I do now I’m not quite sure what I would most prefer instead (and also to keep my options open, of course).  Sometimes I think I would prefer to live in a bigger city, on the east coast or elsewhere.  Other times I think I would prefer to go back west or somewhere else entirely.  So I’m mostly just leaving it up to chance and following the jobs wherever they lead.  Other aspects of my life are also very positive, and I’m much happier and more confident than I have been at some points in the recent past.  So yeah, things are pretty good for me right now.

December 31, 2009

Another Year In Cities

Filed under: Personal,Urban Living — by teofilo @ 9:21 pm

Continuing a tradition I began last year, here are the cities I visited in 2009 and stayed in for at least one night:

  • Albuquerque, NM
  • Show Low, AZ
  • Winslow, AZ
  • Flagstaff, AZ
  • Cortez, CO
  • Blanding, UT
  • Bicknell, UT
  • Kanab, UT
  • St. George, UT
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Lone Pine, CA
  • Bishop, CA
  • Carson City, NV
  • Reno, NV
  • Santa Cruz, CA
  • Barstow, CA
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Roswell, NM
  • Austin, TX
  • Houston, TX
  • Highland Park, NJ
  • Kayenta, AZ

Once again, this list doesn’t include truly rural areas like Chaco, although some of the places on the list are quite small.  It also includes each place just once, in order of my first visit there during the year.

Clearly, I visited a lot more cities this year than last, mostly on my big road trip in February and March.  I’m pretty happy with that.

January 24, 2009

Ithaca Parking

Filed under: Transportation,Urban Living — by teofilo @ 12:12 am

Via Yglesias, I see that the city of Ithaca is considering a proposal to significantly increase both density and the cost of parking in Collegetown.  I think this is a good idea, of course.  I lived in Collegetown for my last two years of college.  It’s an odd neighborhood.  There’s a certain amount of urban-ish density, especially in the area right around the bridge that leads to the Cornell campus, but it drops off rapidly within a couple blocks in any direction.  There are a few mid-to-high-rise apartment buildings right in that area, but the apartments in them are very expensive and most students live in the considerably cheaper apartments and houses that form the majority of the housing stock in the neighborhood.  Even there, though, the rents are quite high for the area, largely because the Cornell student body is significantly wealthier on average than the non-Cornell population of the city.  Parking is always a problem; my senior year I lived in an apartment fairly close to campus and rented a parking space, and it cost a fortune.  It was worth it, though, because on-street parking in that area is virtually impossible to find.  Making the whole area denser and more urban would largely be a matter of continuing existing trends (those big apartment buildings are pretty new), and removing regulatory hurdles to that would be a major step in the right direction.

December 31, 2008

A Year In Cities

Filed under: Personal,Urban Living — by teofilo @ 10:56 am

Interesting meme from Yglesias, which I figured I’d pick up on.  Here are the cities I visited this year and spent at least one night in:

  • Washington, DC
  • Albuquerque, NM
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Budapest, Hungary
  • Santa Fe, NM
  • Durango, CO
  • Boulder, CO
  • Colorado Springs, CO
  • Cambridge, MA
  • Flagstaff, AZ

Not a long list.  I didn’t do a whole lot of traveling this year; most of my time I spent in Albuquerque and at Chaco (which I didn’t include on the list because it’s not a city).  I did get to see some interesting places I hadn’t been before, though, which was nice.

June 8, 2008


Filed under: Politics,Urban Living — by teofilo @ 12:00 pm

On this day in 1692, a massive riot broke out in Mexico City.  The ultimate cause of the riot seems to have been the failure of both the wheat and maize crops the previous autumn and the resulting shortage of grain, but to call this event a “corn riot,” as many have done, is to simplify things overmuch.  The viceroy of New Spain, the Conde de Galve, did in fact go to great lengths to supply the city with grain, often at the expense of outlying areas.

The problem, however, at least for the urban poor, was how to get that grain.  While supplies in the city were not severely impacted by the overall shortage, prices certainly were, and they climbed dramatically throughout the course of the spring.  The system of grain distribution in Mexico City at the time was based on a public granary (pósito) and accompanying grain exchange (alhóndiga).  As supplies came in from the agricultural hinterland they were deposited in the posito, which the government put a high priority on keeping stocked.  Consumers could then come to the alhóndiga to buy grain from the pósito.

While the pósito and alhóndiga were maintained and overseen by the government, however, much of the grain kept and sold there was not actually publicly owned.  Instead, the owners of the rural haciendas where it was grown shipped it to the city and sold it through agents.  These agents agreed each day on the price to charge for grain, and they were all bound to stick to that price throughout the day.  The alhóndiga, then, though government-sponsored, functioned more or less as a real private market, and was vulnerable to severe price swings such as those that occurred in the early months of 1692.

The government could, of course, change the operating procedures for the alhóndiga if it chose to, and a special meeting the viceroy called with the main city officials on April 29 considered instituting a price ceiling for maize.  This proposal was not ultimately accepted, however, and the viceroy ended up following the advice of one of his advisers who suggested a more laissez-faire approach, under which the government would not interfere with prices and would simply let them rise, which would benefit farmers and encourage urban consumers to be more disciplined in their purchases.

While the economic logic here sounds eerily modern, the viceroy’s decision did nothing to help the struggling poor.  By early June, supplies at the alhóndiga began to run out, forcing it to close early on June 6 and 7.  On June 7 there were some injuries in scuffles between desperate consumers and overwhelmed vendors, so the viceroy ordered one of his major officials to oversee the proceedings the next day to keep things in line.  When the grain inevitably ran out early on that day as well, the official was able to keep the peace by showing the restive crowd the empty bins in the pósito to prove that, contrary to persistent rumors, the authorities were not hoarding grain to benefit from the high prices.

Later, however, an angry crowd marched to the plaza.  After asking for help at the archbishop’s palace and being rebuffed, the crowd came to the palace of the viceroy, who was away celebrating the Octave of Corpus Christi and was therefore not around to hear their grievances.  This was the last straw, and the angry protesters soon began throwing stones at the overwhelmed palace guards and setting fire to the palace itself.  The chaos soon spread to the other government buildings on the plaza, and as the riot progressed the participants turned from burning buildings to looting shops.  The authorities were eventually able to regain control, but not before there had been significant destruction and theft.

The next morning, the authorities began to take stock of what had happened.  The widespread perception, confirmed by the demographics of those killed, wounded and arrested in connection with the riot, was that the main instigators of the riot were Indians, who were widely distrusted and suspected by the Spanish elites despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that their labor was essential to the smooth functioning of Mexican society.  The authorities cast a wide net and arrested Indians based on the mere possession of suspiciously nice clothing or other goods (or coins of higher value than ordinary workers generally earned).  A court was hastily set up to try cases, and the normally strict rules of evidence were relaxed, especially for Indians, who could be convicted of looting based merely on being caught with apparently stolen goods.  For those accused of more serious offenses, such as arson, torture was used to extract confessions, though with strict limitations and the chance to disavow such confessions later.

As a result, over the next few weeks 86 people were tried.  Despite the atmosphere of public hysteria surrounding the trials, the most common outcome was actually acquittal, generally of those rounded up on little to no evidence in mass arrests.  This result was likely helped by the fact that all of the accused were allowed legal representation.  Of those who were convicted, the largest number were sentenced to the traditional penalties of corporal punishment and forced labor, in keeping with the Spanish judicial system’s preference for useful punishments.  Ten, however, were executed, and the bodies of five more who had died in jail were publicly hanged.  This is an extremely high proportion given the judicial system’s usual distaste for capital punishment, and it reflects the unusual circumstances under which the trials arose.

The vast majority of the accused, regardless of the eventual outcome of their cases, were Indians.  This seems to confirm the sense among Spaniards that Indians were the main instigators of the riot, and while this feeling may well have led to a propensity to arrest Indians more than others, similar proportions hold for those killed in the riot and those who were wounded and went to city hospitals.  The remainder of the accused were a mix of mestizos, blacks, and Spaniards, the other main groups in the city.

More surprising than the racial makeup of the rioters, perhaps, is their economic status.  A considerable majority of those convicted of crimes were skilled artisans such as shoemakers, hatters and tailors, while the rest were unskilled workers such as porters.  These were not, therefore, the poorest of the poor, despite the fact that most of them were Indians, who were generally the poorest group in Mexican society.  Rather, they were those members of the poorer ranks of society who were relatively prosperous and not dependent on charity in their daily lives, and thus the people who were, in some ways, hardest hit by the grain shortage.  They were the people who were usually able to afford food, but now suddenly could not.  Coming from a group that was largely marginalized in society as a whole but also given certain privileges by the secular authorities and often represented in their disputes by the Church (note that the protesters went to the archbishop first and only went to the viceroy after getting no help there), they may also have felt entitled to more than they were getting.

This is a class of people, in fact, that is often thought to be instrumental in revolutionary movements more generally.  It is usually not the most desperate peasants who overthrow tyrannical regimes, but the better-educated, more prosperous members of marginalized groups who have a little more time on their hands and who are used to a little more in terms of both material well-being and political respect.  When times are tough and they feel like their socioeconomic status and political voice is slipping, they are apt to have both the motive and the means to do something about it.

These issues are not of mere academic interest.  The rising prices of staple grains, particularly wheat and rice, have recently led to much concern over social stability in many poor and middle-income countries such as Egypt and India.  This is a very difficult problem for governments to solve, and the experience of the Mexican authorities in 1692 is instructive in this respect.  The viceroy’s decision not to set a price ceiling was unusual in his time, when the more common response of authorities was to try to control the economy as much as possible.  These days, the viceroy’s decision is what most economists would recommend, since price ceilings generally just lead to runs on supplies and resulting shortages and black markets with even higher prices.  Since this isn’t what happened in Mexico, the viceroy’s judgment could, in some sense, be lauded.  The outcome, however, was not actually all that good, and it’s hard to see what the government could have done to prevent it.  Economic liberalism does not always lead to universal prosperity, especially in times of crisis, but times of crisis are hard for any other economic ideology too.  Sometimes bad things just happen and there’s nothing you can do.


My discussion of the riot is based primarily on the account in R. Douglas Cope, The Limits of Racial Domination (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1994), supplemented by Natalia Silva Prada, La política de una rebelión: los indígenas frente al tumulto de 1692 en la Ciudad de México (Mexico City: El Colegio de México, Centro de Estudios Históricos, 2007).  While Silva’s account differs from Cope’s in certain ways that I find unconvincing, on many subjects she includes more detail from the archival sources that both use than he does.

(Cross-posted at EotAW.)

May 11, 2008

University City

Filed under: Personal,Urban Living — by teofilo @ 8:11 pm

On my way back from Budapest I spent a night with a friend of mine who’s a grad student at Penn.  I took advantage of this to take a few pictures of a part of Philadelphia I don’t usually see much of.

May 8, 2008

96 Tears

Filed under: Culture,Personal,Urban Living — by teofilo @ 5:14 pm

According to legend, the Magyars, as the Hungarians call themselves in their language, entered the Hungarian plain in 896 AD. They were pagan invaders from the east at the time, and they terrified the settled Christian inhabitants of eastern Europe until they began to settle down and convert to Christianity in the late tenth and early eleventh centuries, a process that culminated with the reign of King Stephen I, canonized as St. Stephen after his death.

Among the early Magyar settlements was one on the west bank of the Danube at the site of the ancient Roman city of Aquincum. This was at first merely a provincial town, but in the late middle ages the kings of Hungary noticed that one of the hills to the south of it had an excellent strategic position right by the river, and they decided to fortify it. A town called Buda grew up around the fortifications, and the older settlement at Aquincum became known as Óbuda (“Old Buda”). Buda soon became the capital of Hungary, and under King Matthias in the late fifteenth century it flourished as a wealthy, cosmopolitan city, with a diverse population. Many minority groups, including Jews, lived in the city under the tolerant regime of Matthias, and each had its own street. This happy situation didn’t last long, however, for soon after the death of Matthias Buda was conquered by the Ottoman Turks along with much of the rest of the Hungarian kingdom. This was not actually much of a problem for the minority groups, who flourished under the tolerant rule of the Ottomans much as they had under Matthias, but for the Hungarian kings and nobility it was a devastating loss of power. The city was finally reconquered by a combined force of Christians in 1686 with the support of Pope Innocent XI, and the victors immediately expelled the minority groups and took possession of what was left of the city, which had been greatly damaged in the fighting.

Buda was rebuilt and recovered some of its prosperity, but it never regained its prominent position within the kingdom, as political and economic power was shifting to the newer city of Pest across the river. Under the Habsburgs, especially, Pest became the capital of Hungary and a bustling, wealthy city with some of the finest architecture in Europe. Then, in 1873, Pest was combined with Buda (along with the oft-overlooked Óbuda) to form a new capital city, Budapest.

And what a city it is.  Buda, composed these days largely of residential neighborhoods and tourist attractions, forms a pretty (though not actually very old) counterpoint to the modern excitement of Pest, with its broad boulevards and grand buildings, including the Parliament building and the Basilica of St. Stephen, both of which culminate in domes exactly 96 meters high in commemoration of the date of the entrance of the Magyars into what would become their country.

And, indeed, they consider it very much their country, and are extremely nationalistic.  Reading a Hungarian account of the history of Hungary is like seeing a montage of the great humiliations visited upon the Hungarian people by various oppressors, starting with the Turks and the Habsburgs and culminating with the Treaty of Trianon in 1920, which, from the Hungarian perspective, robbed Hungary of a massive portion of the territory it had held under the Double Monarchy and reduced it to its present size.  They’re still incredibly bitter about this; I saw many maps of pre-Trianon Hungary in bookstores, and I even saw a holographic one where you could see the loss of territory just by moving your head.  I suspect the residents of the areas that were taken away from Hungary, including all of Slovakia and Croatia and a substantial part of Romania, have a different perspective on this event.

Still, it’s an interesting country, and Budapest is a fantastic city.  I took a lot of pictures, but they really don’t do it justice.  I highly recommend a trip there for anyone, though it would probably help to either learn some Hungarian first or know someone there who can guide you around a bit.

May 4, 2008

As It Happened, He Couldn’t

Filed under: Personal,Politics,Urban Living — by teofilo @ 4:38 pm

I normally don’t say much about current politics here, but I do like Obama, as does my mom, so when we got into Philadelphia and learned that there just so happened to be an Obama rally planned for that very night we were glad to get the opportunity to check it out.  It was outside on the lawn in front of Independence Hall, so even though we were too far back to see him, we had no trouble finding a place to stand.  It took a long time for him to show up, but when he did he was electrifying.  The man’s a damn good speaker.  While he did have some harsh words for HRC, with whom he was then locked in a tight struggle for Pennsylvania, I found it interesting that he started out by blasting McCain instead, and only moved on to the primary fight toward the end of the speech.  He definitely seems to be positioning himself for the general.  While the speech he gave was clearly just his normal stump speech, he did manage to weave in a theme of “declaring independence” throughout, a nod to the specific location.

It was pretty exciting to be in Philadelphia just before the primary.  The city was abuzz with political fervor, mostly pro-Obama in the areas we saw.  While he did end up losing the state, of course, it was pretty cool to see how fired-up people were in his support.

The real reason we were in town, of course, was for the seder, and it was very nice.  We actually went to two, on Saturday and Sunday nights, then flew out on Monday (my mom and sister back to Albuquerque, me on to Budapest).  During the downtime I took some pictures.

Next Page »

Blog at