Readings: Shrinking Cities, Oldest Federal Judge, Exercise

A few interesting articles I’ve read over the last couple of days…

1) “How To Shrink a City” [Boston Globe] – many American cities are shrinking in size:

Over the last 50 years, the city of Detroit has lost more than half its population. So has Cleveland. They’re not alone: Eight of the 10 largest cities in the United States in 1950, including Boston, have since lost at least 20 percent of their population. But while Boston has recouped some of that loss in recent years and made itself into the anchor of a thriving white-collar economy, the far more drastic losses of cities like Detroit or Youngstown, Ohio, or Flint, Mich. — losses of people, jobs, money, and social ties — show no signs of turning around. The housing crisis has only accelerated the process.

And so what is to be done? This article offers a glimpse of what some cities, like Detroit, are doing:

In Detroit, a city that now has more than 40 square miles of vacant land, Mayor Dave Bing has committed himself to finding a way to move more of the city’s residents into its remaining vibrant neighborhoods and figuring out something else to do with what remains. A growing number of cities and counties are creating “land banks” to enable them to clear the administrative hurdles that previously prevented them from taking control of blighted blocks of abandoned homes.

2) “At 103, a Judge Has One Caveat: No Lengthy Trials” [New York Times] – an intriguing look into the life of Judge Brown (no, not that Judge Brown), who is the oldest federal judge in the United States:

Born on June 22, 1907, in Hutchinson, Kan., Judge Brown, who had become a prominent local Democrat, first sought appointment by President Harry S. Truman to the federal bench while serving as a lieutenant in the Navy during World War II (at 37, he was the oldest man in his unit). He failed, but in 1962, after a stint as a bankruptcy judge, he was appointed to the district court by President John F. Kennedy He earned a reputation as a pragmatic jurist whose middle-of-the-road rulings reflect a desire to apply rather than make the law.

Judge Brown is still working, probably because he loves his job (or is totally dedicated to it).

The Constitution grants federal judges an almost-unparalleled option to keep working “during good behavior,” which, in practice, has meant as long as they want. But since that language was written, average life expectancy has more than doubled, to almost 80, and the number of people who live beyond 100 is rapidly growing. (Of the 10 oldest practicing federal judges on record, all but one served in the last 15 years.)

You can thank Judge Brown for this gem of a quote:

“At this age, I’m not even buying green bananas.”

3) “Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin” [The Guardian] – perhaps a heretical perspective on trying to lose weight, but worth highlighting:

Most of us have a grasp of the rudiments of weight gain and loss: you put energy (calories) into your body through food, you expend them through movement, and any that don’t get burned off are stored in your body as fat. Unfortunately, the maths isn’t in our favour. “In theory, of course, it’s possible that you can burn more calories than you eat,” says Dr Susan Jebb, head of nutrition and health research at the Medical Research Council and one of the government’s go-to academics for advice on nutrition. “But you have to do an awful lot more exercise than most people realise. To burn off an extra 500 calories is typically an extra two hours of cycling. And that’s about two doughnuts.”

While the article is UK-centric, it’s worth reading. Are we confusing cause and effect in the relationship among dieting, exercise, and weight loss?

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