Sat, 09 Sep 2023

Carmageddon by Daniel Knowles: A Brief Review


Daniel Knowles’ Carmageddon: How Cars Make Life Worse and What to Do About It is an entertaining, lucid, and well-written “manifesto” (to borrow a term from the author) aiming to get us all thinking a bit more about what cars do to society, and how to move on to a better outcome for all.

The book alternates between historical context and background, lived experience (as the author is a foreign correspondent who had the opportunity to travel), and researched content. It is refreshingly free of formalities (no endless footnotes or endnotes with references, though I would have liked occassional references but hey we all went to school long enough to do a bit of research given a pointer or two). I learned or relearned a few things as I was for example somewhat unaware of the air pollution (micro-particle) impact stemming from tires and brake abrasions—for which electronic vehicles do zilch, and for which the auto-obesity of ever larger and heavier cars is making things much worse. And some terms (even when re-used by Knowles) are clever such bionic duckweed. But now you need to read the book to catch up on it.

Overall, the book argues its case rather well. The author brings sufficient evidence to make the formal ‘guilty’ charge quite convincing. It is also recent having come out just months ago, making current figures even more relevant.

I forget the exact circumstance but I think I came across the author in the context of our joint obsession with both Chicago and cycling (as there may have been a link from a related social media post) and/or the fact that I followed some of his colleagues at The Economist on social media. Either way, the number of Chicago and MidWest references made for some additional fun when reading the book over a the last few days. And for me another highlight was the ode to Tokyo which I wholeheartedly agree with: on my second trip to Japan I spent a spare day cycling across the city as the AirBnB host kindly gave me access to his bicycles. Great weather, polite drivers, moderate traffic, and just wicked good infrastructure made me wonder why I did not see more cyclists.

I have little to criticize beyond the lack of any references. The repeated insistence on reminding us that Knowles comes from Birmingham gets a little old by the fifth or sixth repetition. It is all a wee bit anglo- or UK-centric. It obviously has a bit on France, Paris, and all the recent success of Anne Hidalgo (who, when I was in graduate school in France, was still a TV person rather than the very successful mayor she is now) but then does not mention the immense (and well known) success of the French train system which lead to a recent dictum to no longer allow intra-Frace air travel if train rides of under 2 1/2 hours are available which is rather remarkable. (Though in fairness that may have been enacted once the book was finished.)

Lastly, the book appears to have a few sections available via Google Books. My copy will good back from one near-west suburban library to the neighbouring one.

Overall a strong recommendation for a very good and timely book.

/books | permanent link

RcppFarmHash 0.0.3 on CRAN: Small Update

A minor maintenance release of the RcppFarmHash package is now on CRAN as version 0.0.3.

RcppFarmHash wraps the Google FarmHash family of hash functions (written by Geoff Pike and contributors) that are used for example by Google BigQuery for the FARM_FINGERPRINT digest.

This releases farms out the conversion to the integer64 add-on type in R to the new package RcppInt64 released a few days ago and adds some minor maintenance on continuous integration and alike.

The brief NEWS entry follows:

Changes in version 0.0.3 (2023-09-09)

  • Rely on new RcppInt64 package and its header for conversion

  • Minor updates to continuous integration and

If you like this or other open-source work I do, you can sponsor me at GitHub.

This post by Dirk Eddelbuettel originated on his Thinking inside the box blog. Please report excessive re-aggregation in third-party for-profit settings.

/code/rcpp | permanent link