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A “Barnes Dance” is not a “barn dance.” The latter is an old-fashioned dance involving traditional or folk music with traditional dancing that was once held in a barn, but probably is held in almost any kind of place these days.  But a Barnes Dance  The Barnes Dance (or Shuffle or Scramble) is a street-crossing system that stops all traffic and allows pedestrians to cross intersections in every direction at the same time.

This system was first used in Kansas City and Vancouver in the late 1940s and was then adopted in other cities such as Denver, Colorado, New York, San Diego, Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington, D.C.

I regularly see news stories, like this one in New York magazine, about traffic and pedestrian safety.  That article says that NYC has only one remaining Barnes Dance intersection (where Broadway meets Battery Place and State Street), so it is an idea that has fallen out of favor it seems.

At one of these intersections, the car traffic halts for a bit so pedestrians can cross in all directions — including diagonally. Take a look at the one shown here in the Shibuya part of Tokyo.  It looks quite chaotic, but it works – as long as all the vehicles stop and all the pedestrians make it across in time.

Shibuya Crossing

Click image for video of the intersection in action

In some places, this type of  intersection is called an “X Crossing,” diagonal crossing or exclusive pedestrian interval.

First used in Canada and the United States in the late 1940s, it seems to have fallen out of favor partially because it was seen as prioritizing flow of pedestrians over flow of car traffic.That seems to me to be a plus rather than a negative, but I guess traffic engineers are more interested in vehicles.

Who is Barnes? It is Henry A. Barnes, who was an American traffic engineer and commissioner who served in many cities, including Flint, Michigan; Denver, Colorado; Baltimore, Maryland; and New York City. Barnes came up with a bunch of innovations in traffic engineering, including coordinated traffic signals, actuated traffic signals that are set off by the presence of an automobile or a pedestrian pushing a button, and the introduction of bus lanes.

Barnes actually said that he did not “invent” the concept of the Barnes dance but he did promote its use. The phrase originated with a reporter, John Buchanan, who wrote, “Barnes has made people so happy, they’re dancing in the street.”  I don’t recommend dancing in intersections of any type.


I read that “time” is the most commonly used noun in the English language. I guess we are pretty obsessed with it past, present and future.

Albert Einstein said that time was relative and in the most general sense of that we can say that children experience it differently from adults do, and that it does slow down when we are bored. Does it ever really fly any faster?

A quote attributed to Albert (though many online attributed to him are not things he said) is “Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. That’s relativity.”

It is often said that time speeds up as we get older, though we know that is not possible. But sometimes, time indeed seem “to fly” by.

In Why Time Flies Alan Burdick looks to understand how a sense of time gets into our bodies and minds. Why do we perceive it the way we do?

Subtitled “A Mostly Scientific Investigation,” he visits scientists and considers the most accurate clock in the world (which is still just an idea) and the ways we measure time and its passing.

Burdick says “My interest in the human relationship to time grew partly out of my previous book, Out of Eden: An Odyssey of Ecological Invasion. In it, I came to the conclusion that one reason our species has such a fraught relationship to the natural world is because the timescales across which evolution unfolds and ecosystems develop — thousands to millions of years — are far beyond what we, with our measly eighty-or-so-year lifespan, can really wrap our minds around. Our ability to appreciate nature, and to appreciate what’s at stake, is greatly constrained by our limited perception of time. That left me wondering: What exactly is the difference physical time and biological time? What’s the difference between time “out there” and the time in our bodies and heads?”
Also, historically, I’ve had a terrible personal relationship to time — as in, being perpetually late. My hope was that if I learned a little more about what time actually is, I’d become less afraid of it and maybe on better terms with it. This turned out to be true, sort of.”

Along the way he discovers that “now” actually happened a split-second ago.  He finds a twenty-fifth hour in the day. He spends some time living in the Arctic where you can lose all sense of time.

And for a very brief time, in a neuroscientist’s lab, he gets to make time go backward.

What if you could improve your social credit score by reading this entire article? Would that be motivation? Well, you would have to know what a social credit score meant. And you would have to actually have such a score.

You don’t have such a score now, but you may one day. The Social Credit System is a proposed Chinese government initiative to develop a national reputation system. Though it is still being developed, the intent is to assign a “social credit” rating to every citizen. The score would be based on government data regarding their economic and social status.

It sounds like some science-fiction horror story of the future. When I first heard about this real plan, I thought of the 2016 episode titled “Nosedive” from season three of the British science fiction anthology series Black Mirror which is shown on Netflix.

‘Black Mirror’ – Netflix

In that episode, people can rate each other from one to five stars for every interaction they have. The scores impact their socioeconomic status. The protagonist, Lacie, is obsessed with her ratings and through a series of interactions with different people and has a rapid reduction in her ratings.

In this future-that-looks-like-today society, they use eye implants and mobile devices so that everyone shares their daily activities. You can also see someone’s current average and that has significant influence on the way they are viewed.  Lacie’s 4.2 rating prevents her from getting a luxury apartment which requires a 4.5 or better rating. Lacie tries her best to game the system.

The proposed China system is not only a mass surveillance tool that uses big data analysis technology, but is also a way to rate businesses operating in the Chinese market.

A Chinese “super app” called Alipay is already assigning users a three-digit score that works as “credit for everything in your life.” This “Zhima Credit” scale of 350-950 assesses people’s worth beyond finances and is meant to serve as a “credit system that covers the whole society.”

The Chinese government’s “Planning Outline for the Construction of a Social Credit System (2014–2020)” focused on four areas: honesty in government affairs, commercial integrity, societal integrity and judicial credibility. The rating of individual citizens is considered to be “societal integrity.” The plans are to have credit scores for all businesses operating in China.

In news story I heard, it said that you can gain or lose points for how well you separate and recycle your trash. It was unclear how this is monitored – trash collectors, your neighbors, credit police?

Eight companies were picked by the People’s Bank of China in 2016 to develop pilots to give citizens credit scores, including the giant Alibaba Ant Financial Services, which operates Sesame Credit. Ant Financial CEO Lucy Peng has said that Zhima Credit “will ensure that the bad people in society don’t have a place to go, while good people can move freely and without obstruction.”

In an example of one person who started with a 600 score and was able to rise to 722, his higher score entitled him to “favorable terms on loans and apartment rentals, as well as showcasing on several dating apps should he and his wife ever split up, and with a few dozen more points, he could get a streamlined visa to Luxembourg.”

Though scores are not visible on a person (an augmented reality vision) and you can’t currently access other people’s scores on the app, your score is nicely color coded, so a 710 sees a “calming” blue background and a 550 will be greeted by an “alarming” orange tone.

Social credit also involves looking at your friends, and if they are all high-score people, that helps you. Bad credit friends are not a good thing.  Sorry Lacie, but we can’t be friends any more. Your score is bringing me down.


credit score

An “alarming” score on Sesame credit score


I was once criticized when I was much younger for being “too sensitive.”  The criticism made me wonder: Can you be too sensitive? I decided that you can be too sensitive about certain topics. I know people who seem to me to be too sensitive about politics, for example. But can you be too sensitive about the abuse of children, women or people in general?

What is the difference between highly sensitive people and people known as empaths? An article that popped up in my reading feed was by  Judith Orloff who has also written The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People.

“Empath” comes from empathy which is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. I don’t think anyone considers empathy to be a bad thing. But some people say that highly sensitive people can cause problems for themselves and others.

These people have a lower threshold for stimulation than most people. They have a need for alone time and an aversion to large groups. They can be physically more sensitivity to light, sound, and smell. Their ability to quickly make a transition from high stimulation to being quiet is slower. It will take them longer to unwind from work or stressful situations.

“Empath”is a term I actually associate more with science-fiction as a person with the paranormal ability to apprehend the mental or emotional state of another individual. You’ll find them in some of the writing and film versions of Philip K. Dick’s future worlds, such as Minority Report (with its “precogs”) and Blade Runner.

The two Blade Runner films ask us to empathize with artificial intelligence. That is a strange thing to ask in a time when we might question the lack of empathy many people seem to have for other people.

In HBO’s series Westworld, the ask is something very different. Set in an AI  amusement park for adults, the new series is quite different from the Michael Crichton original novel. In that book and film, the robots are clearly the bad guys and they take control of their intelligence and begin killing guests. The new version focuses much more on the growing sentience of the androids. The humans are the bad guys who wildly and gleefully mistreat the robots sexually and in the many violent scenarios.

The newest Blade Runner 2049 also brings the story into our time by making the protagonist, K (Ryan Gosling), be a replicant himself, but one charged with hunting down his own kind who break the laws that control them.

Steven Spielberg took on some of these issues in his film AI Artificial Intelligence. In this future, there are already robots called Mecha that are very advanced humanoids that are capable of thoughts and emotions. One Mecha, David, is like a human child and is programmed to love his owners, a couple who want a replacement for their real son who is in suspended animation waiting for a cure for his rare disease. What happens when human treat a robot as if it is real?

The TV series HUM∀NS also explores the psychological impact of  anthropomorphic robots (called “synths”) on their human owners, and the growing sentience of the robots.

This is not to say that we should connect sensitive people to AI robots. These questions go back to Enlightenment philosophers. The point is to examine how empathy may have changed in society.

Highly sensitive people and empaths are not mutually exclusive; you can be both. There is a kind of spectrum with empaths on the far end and highly sensitive people further down, and at the other end of the spectrum are narcissists, sociopaths, and psychopaths who have “empath-deficient disorders.”

In researching this area, I found books on a range of related topics, including dealing with being highly sensitive, as well as enhancing these qualities and making it part of your life’s work (counseling, teaching, mental health and healing).

I would never have guessed that a query on YouTube for “empaths” would turn up 179,000 results.

Take all this another step into New Age territory and you’ll find a kind of energy (called shakti or prana in Eastern healing traditions) that empaths can actually absorb from other people and from environments. This is far from just being highly sensitive and enters into spiritual and intuitive experiences .

Sensitivity and empathy are qualities we should respect and encourage, but we should be aware of what areas of relationships and society can be embraced and which ones can harm us.

Doc Searls sends out the warning that “Google Condemns the Archival Web.” What web is that? It is the one when the URL is HTTP rather than HTTPS – the “S” for “secure.”  Google’s Chrome browser will mark all those older pages as “insecure” this summer, possibly striking fear in the clicking fingers of many users.

Google says:   “For the past several years, we’ve moved toward a more secure web by strongly advocating that sites adopt HTTPS encryption…Beginning in July 2018 with the release of Chrome 68, Chrome will mark all HTTP sites as ‘not secure’ on every current Chrome browser.”

So many “legacy” websites created in the days of yore, though they will still exist, will have a kind of Google crime tape around them. Will people dare to enter, or be scared off? I would assume all those insecure sites will see a drop off in visitors.


So why doesn’t everyone just fix what Google says to fix and make their site “secure?”  Well, there is some cost in money and/or time. For plain old folks who aren’t web wizards, they may not even know what needs to be done. There are old sites that no longer have an owner or webmaster but still exist on the World Wide Web that becomes more of a museum each year. For many sites -like blogs – there is no “cost benefit” to upgrading.

You’ll note that this site is HTTPS, thanks to the folks at WordPress doing the heavy lifting.


What happens if you use another browser like Firefox or Safari? I assume all will be well. For now. And you will be able to sneak under that police tape to those other sites – but you have been warned.

Google trumpets that developers have been transitioning their sites to HTTPS and that “progress last year was incredible” – Over 68% of Chrome traffic on both Android and Windows is now protected and over 78% of Chrome traffic on both Chrome OS and Mac is now protected. I am a bit surprised that though they trumpet this stat: “81 of the top 100 sites on the web use HTTPS by default”  I would have thought that 100% of the top 100 sites would have complied.

This in the same week that it is announced that Wikispaces is shutting down. Soon young kids will ask what you mean when you say “Internet.”

Make a mental note for July so that you’re not shocked when you see some warning signs on the information superhighway.



The Chinese zodiac moves in a 12-year cycle, and those born in 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, and 2018 are born in Years of the Dog. Today starts another Year of the Dog.

The twelve animals get their turn every dozen years, but there are variations. For example, 2018 will be the first Year of the Earth Dog since 1958.

Unlike the Western new Year, the Chinese New Year takes place on a different date each year because it is based on the lunar calendar, but it normally falls between January 21 and February 20.

Around the globe, celebrations are an explosion of light and sound, But  long noodles are also eaten for the new year. “Longevity noodles” (which are also eaten at birthday celebrations) are what I am eating tonight. These long noodles will be stir fried and never cut or broken in the cooking. If we can eat them without biting through the strands, it’s considered even more auspicious for the new year.

longevity noodles


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