New York Daily Photo Analytics

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


When I was in high school, I used to enjoy a game called WFF 'N PROOF - The Game of Modern Logic. This 1961 classic, developed by University professor Layman Allen, was said to have the "complexity of chess and the excitement of poker." Not everyone felt that way of course, and I must admit that the circle of friends enjoying the game was rather small.
I liked the study of logic but I never realized these skills would be necessary to understanding something as mundane as New York City parking regulations. Often, multiple signs are placed on one block with rules of inclusion and exclusion. Some throw up their hands and just take other parked cars as a sign of permissibility. At times, I see nervous visitors puzzling over the arcane and cryptic signs, worried if they are legally parked. Depending on their apparent level of angst, I usually try to throw out my interpretation of the signs to allay their fears. They would be much more worried if they new the consequences of being towed in New York City - the outrageous costs of the parking ticket and towing (at least $255), not to mention the nightmare of traveling to the car pound and retrieving your vehicle.
I was surprised and pleased to see this graphic solution to making the parking regulations understandable. This, in tandem with the relatively new Muni Meters (replacing coin operated parking meters), makes parking less painful than it used to be. However, getting a spot still requires the same set of skills - patience of a saint, luck of the draw, tenacity of snapping turtle, aggressiveness of a badger and often the skill of a surgeon and understanding of geometry to parallel park in spots only slightly larger than the vehicle itself. I have seen many flustered drivers actually abort and abandon a parking spot which was in fact large enough.
However, these signs only simplify an already daunting and nearly impossible task - parking here will never approach the relative effortlessness found outside the city. When in very rural areas, I never cease to enjoy just parking at the curb wherever I need to go - I stand outside my car and marvel at the ease. Somehow, I feel something is wrong - there must be some local parking ordinance I am violating that everyone knows except me. And where I am to use my skills in geometry or WFF 'N PROOF?

Note: You can see WFF 'N PROOF at their website here.


Karlo said...

Your reference to WFF 'N PROOF brought me to this blog. This game was on my Christmas list as an elementary school child years ago, but there was the rare friend who would even give it a look with me.

A long time high school friend of mine graduated from college and moved away, so I developed a version of the game that we were going to play by mail, like some old time chess players were wont to do. These were the days before desktop publishing software, and I laboriously created the template by applying rub-on lettering and labels. I believe we had completed but one move before losing interest.

Anyway, loved this blog posting -- especially the elegant, graphical solution for portraying the parking rules. Yes, very much reminiscent of WFF 'N PROOF. You may be interested in more of the same by looking at Edward Tuft's seminal book "The Visual Display of Quantitative Information" and Visualisation Magazine
where people of like interest contribute some especially interesting graphic information.

All the best!

PS: Intrigued to see that you, too, are interested in juggling.

tct said...

I was a student at the Yale Summer High School in the mid 1960's and played in a tournement at the school. Almost won! Ha!
I still have my original version.