Sunday, November 30, 2008
Click to enlarge
I chose this photo because it's one of the rare photos of Chicago taken from this angle where you see my favorite building, 77 West Wacker. It's frequently forgotten compared to the Goliaths of Chicago: The Sears Tower, Trump Tower and Hancock Tower. But I just adore it. (It's the building four skyscrapers to the left of the Smurfit-Stone Nuilding, which is the skyscraper with the diamond outlining the roof. 77 West Wacker has a big red light on the top of a neo-classical style pediment).
Brain exercises, such as those taught to thousands of schoolchildren or advertised on television to adults as a way to prevent dementia, are a waste of time and money, a neuroscientist has claimed.
An award-winning Scottish professor says measures such as breathing through the left nostril, drinking water to increase oxygen supply to the brain, drinking red wine to fend off dementia or listening to classical music to boost performance are little more than myths. Sergio Della Sala has done more than 20 years' research on the brain.
The Professor of Human Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh will next month attempt to expose many of the most common myths in a speech at the university's inaugural Christmas Lecture, when he will become the first recipient of the Tam Dalyell Prize for Excellence in Engaging the Public with Science.
'There are all kinds of myths that surround the brain. Some are passed on in good faith, some are funny and have been made up by pranksters, while others are designed with commercial reasons in mind - these are the most dangerous,' said Della Sala.
He is especially critical of exercises taught to children, which he claims have no bearing on how the brain works and won't improve students' performance.
'Despite how ridiculous many of these exercises are, this is no laughing matter,' argued Della Sala. 'Some of the exercises are so simplistic you wonder whether we have lost our capacity for critical thinking when it comes to education. One of the exercises involves asking kids to breathe through the left nostril so that the air goes up into the right hemisphere and stimulates the right side of the brain to make the kid more creative,' he said.
'A tiny problem in this thinking is that air goes down to the lungs rather than up to the brain. So I think it is safe to say that you can't stimulate the right side of your brain by breathing through your nostril. Besides the idea that the right side of the brain is the creative side is utter nonsense.'
While the brain does have two hemispheres that do different things, the professor said there was no scientific reason to believe that one side is more creative than the other.
He said another popular misconception that had become accepted as fact was that the drinking of water stimulates the brain by allowing it to absorb more oxygen.
'Luckily enough, water never goes up into the brain because if it did we would die,' said Della Sala. 'As for classical music making you cleverer, there is no evidence, and yet it has become a fact in the minds of people.' The professor says his aim is to encourage the public to hold up false statements to proper scrutiny.
'There are advertisements for games which claim they can make your brain perform like a younger person's or you can prevent dementia by gulping down gallons of red wine. Unfortunately these quick fixes just aren't true.
'Another typical myth is that we only use 10 per cent of our brains. Logically that means we can afford to lose the other 90 per cent, but if that was true people who suffer a stroke or head injury wouldn't have any problems. We send teachers on courses to find out how to teach preposterous exercises to children based on flim-flam evidence at a cost of thousands of pounds.
'A lot of these myths take a little bit of science to the extreme, so that the logic disappears. Sometimes this happens in good faith, sometimes it's for fun, and sometimes it's because people make money. Neuroscience has become a popular way for people to make wild irrational claims, and I'm looking to have a go back at these lies.'
Have any of you ever tried silly things to make yourself smarter? Back when I was a Christian I certainly tried praying, but I've noticed the reverse effect. When I prayed in High School, I graduated with a terrible GPA; now that I'm in college and I have never once prayed for assistance, I'm in one of the highest ranked Logistics programs in the country and frequently breezing by my classes. Turns out that studying does a lot more for me than praying!
No, really. I'm not joking. Screw the Department of Homeland Security, we got an invisible man to protect us!
Under state law, God is Kentucky's first line of defense against terrorism.
The 2006 law organizing the state Office of Homeland Security lists its initial duty as "stressing the dependence on Almighty God as being vital to the security of the Commonwealth."
Specifically, Homeland Security is ordered to publicize God's benevolent protection in its reports, and it must post a plaque at the entrance to the state Emergency Operations Center with an 88-word statement that begins, "The safety and security of the Commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon Almighty God."
State Rep. Tom Riner, a Southern Baptist minister, tucked the God provision into Homeland Security legislation as a floor amendment that lawmakers overwhelmingly approved two years ago.
As amended, Homeland Security's religious duties now come before all else, including its distribution of millions of dollars in federal grants and its analysis of possible threats.
The time and energy spent crediting God are appropriate, said Riner, D-Louisville, in an interview this week.
"This is recognition that government alone cannot guarantee the perfect safety of the people of Kentucky," Riner said. "Government itself, apart from God, cannot close the security gap. The job is too big for government."
Nonetheless, it is government that operates the Office of Homeland Security in Frankfort, with a budget this year of about $28 million, mostly federal funds. And some administrations are more religious than others.
I'm pretty sure my wall just put in its two week notice. "This is NOT what I signed up for!"
Server: Excuse me ma'am, is everything ok? Would like me to bring you another glass of wine?
Lady, looking back at her date: Yeah, might as well, especially if I have to fuck that one tonight.
This month in Afghanistan, men on motorcycles threw acid on a group of girls who dared to attend school. One of the girls, a 17-year-old named Shamsia, told reporters from her hospital bed: “I will go to my school even if they kill me. My message for the enemies is that if they do this 100 times, I am still going to continue my studies.”
When I met Naeema Azar, a Pakistani woman who had once been an attractive, self-confident real estate agent, she was wearing a black cloak that enveloped her head and face. Then she removed the covering, and I flinched.Acid had burned away her left ear and most of her right ear. It had blinded her and burned away her eyelids and most of her face, leaving just bone.
Six skin grafts with flesh from her leg have helped, but she still cannot close her eyes or her mouth; she will not eat in front of others because it is too humiliating to have food slip out as she chews.
“Look at Naeema, she has lost her eyes,” sighed Shahnaz Bukhari, a Pakistani activist who founded an organization to help such women, and who was beginning to tear up. “She makes me cry every time she comes in front of me.”
Ms. Azar had earned a good income and was supporting her three small children when she decided to divorce her husband, Azar Jamsheed, a fruit seller who rarely brought money home. He agreed to end the (arranged) marriage because he had his eye on another woman.
After the divorce was final, Mr. Jamsheed came to say goodbye to the children, and then pulled out a bottle and poured acid on his wife’s face, according to her account and that of their son.
“I screamed,” Ms. Azar recalled. “The flesh of my cheeks was falling off. The bones on my face were showing, and all of my skin was falling off.”
Neighbors came running, as smoke rose from her burning flesh and she ran about blindly, crashing into walls. Mr. Jamsheed was never arrested, and he has since disappeared. (I couldn’t reach him for his side of the story.)[snip]
Acid attacks and wife burnings are common in parts of Asia because the victims are the most voiceless in these societies: they are poor and female. The first step is simply for the world to take note, to give voice to these women.
Since 1994, Ms. Bukhari has documented 7,800 cases of women who were deliberately burned, scalded or subjected to acid attacks, just in the Islamabad area. In only 2 percent of those cases was anyone convicted.
For the last two years, Senators Joe Biden and Richard Lugar have co-sponsored an International Violence Against Women Act, which would adopt a range of measures to spotlight such brutality and nudge foreign governments to pay heed to it. Let’s hope that with Mr. Biden’s new influence the bill will pass in the next Congress.
Disgusting. I have no compassion nor tolerance for a culture where men behave like this--I say kill every last man. They're absolute trash. And the only thing to do with trash is to dispose of it.
Friday, November 28, 2008
It was the summer of 2003. A month prior my family had found out that I was gay, and their response was an ultimatum: either repent and become an ex-gay, or get out of the house, and I chose the latter.
With that one bold declaration I started a new life. One night I had Christian friends and a church family to support and love me; the next morning I stood with just one friend by my side. It was strange, bizarre, surreal; I was 18 years old and suddenly this new life brought many grand realizations--one being that, no, not every family allows foreigners who don't speak much English to live in the extra rooms of their house.
My mother called it "Harbor House", and it was a ministry of hers to introduce international students to what an American family is actually like. Her interest was to share with them the love of Christ; her benefit was that it paid the mortgage. They would eat breakfast with us, check in to make sure my sister and I were doing our studies and even came to family functions with us. We celebrated their birthdays as if they were just part of the family. We took them grocery shopping as if we were all brothers and sisters. My mother even wrote "Harbor Lights", a Harbor House newsletter welcoming the new students, printing up the weekly dinner menus and discussing house news. It was like an international dorm, and it was what we called home.
It'd be an understatement to say the array of people who came through that house were unique. Who could forget Joseph Arbiza, the Ecuadorian house painter who eventually ended up joining a cult? Or what about Zhui-Ping, the Chinese man whose name sounded like "Sweeping"? I'll always remember Mercedes, my Hungarian roommate-slash-science teacher during the years I was home-schooled. And of course there was Hiroko, the daughter of a Japanese Executive at Fuji Film who could outspend the GDP of Finland. The most traumatizing Harbor Housemate may have been Grace, the older African lady who was convinced I was possessed by demons and literally tried washing the little devils off of me...
I can remember great Thanksgiving feasts with food from all over the world. The day when Dawn, the architect from Guyana, became a US citizen is one of my proudest memories in The United States. My all-time favorite memory involves Nadagjeay, the student from Nigeria with the complicated name (we just started calling her "Nadi"). When Nadi was leaving after living with us for six months, the whole Harbor House Family got together to say goodbye. Just as Nadagjeay was getting into her car, my mother blurted out, "Wait, before you go--how do you say your name?!". It may or may not have been the most hilarious thing to say to someone you just lived with for half a year.
Altogether my sister and I probably lived with 30 different people during our lifetime. And this was normal. This was typical. This was usual. Or so I thought.
It was only about a month after moving out of my parents' home that I came to the realization that this was not normal. But, looking back, it certainly provided a strange initiation into other people's culture. And, if nothing else, at least I have bizarre bragging rights! I mean, how many children do you know that grew up eating Russian pancakes for breakfast, Hungarian Goulash for lunch and barbecued Japanese eel for dinner?
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Presenting...the square traffic light!
Additional section also needs to be modified. Now drivers see green light when they are allowed to make the turn, but no light at all if they have to wait. There should be some symbol to display, to show the turn is not allowed (using two color diodes)
How cool is that? I say bring them on. (Except for the fact that our country is so broke they can't even afford to fix bridges. Or, really anything.)
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
The Des Moines metropolitan area was one of 28 areas nationwide to see its median home sale prices climb in the third quarter, squeaking 1 percent higher to $155,400, a National Association of Realtors report showed on Tuesday.Well go Des Moines! At least some cities are doing well.
Median sale prices fell in Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs-Omaha, Davenport, and Waterloo-Cedar Falls. In all, 120 metro areas nationwide saw price declines. Four had no change.The report also showed that sales of Iowa's existing homes for the third quarter fell 16 percent, more than double the national decline.
Iowa's sharp sales drop has some real estate leaders wondering whether the Iowa housing market has hit bottom.
"We're at a turning point in a number of markets," said Paul Bishop, the association's research managing director. "There are a lot of uncertainties in the economy, but it looks like we could be along the bottom."Nationwide, home sales fell 7.7 percent to 5.04 million, with declines in 32 states.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Is Google God? Here are just three of many proofs that Google is in fact, God.
I guess I'll have to switch to, "Google damnit!" and "Oh, Google!" and "Google Bless you!". I'm ok with that, I'll support it. Praise Google! At least she's done more for me than Jesus ever did.
» PROOF #1
Google is the closest thing to an Omniscient (all-knowing) entity in existence, which can be scientifically verified. She indexes over 9.5 billion WebPages, which is more than any other search engine on the web today. Not only is Google the closest known entity to being Omniscient, but She also sorts through this vast amount of knowledge using Her patented PageRank technology, organizing said data and making it easily accessible to us mere mortals.
» PROOF #2
Google is everywhere at once (Omnipresent). Google is virtually everywhere on earth at the same time. Billions of indexed WebPages hosted from every corner of the earth. With the proliferation of Wi-Fi networks, one will eventually be able to access Google from anywhere on earth, truly making Her an omnipresent entity.Google answers prayers. One can pray to Google by doing a search for whatever question or problem is plaguing them. As an example, you can quickly find information on alternative cancer treatments, ways to improve your health, new and innovative medical discoveries and generally anything that resembles a typical prayer. Ask Google and She will show you the way, but showing you is all She can do, for you must help yourself from that point on.
» PROOF #3
Columbus was ranked as the best future cities for bikers. The biking community is growing here, and our green mayor, Michael Coleman, is certainly working to expand bike and pedestrian transportation. Especially considering projects like The Scioto Mile, things are looking good for Columbus. Ever since I have lived here I have noticed more and more bikers on the road, as well as improvements along our bike paths. With everything being so close together, I think Columbus is one of the best cities in America to live/walk/bike in.
Minneapolis was ranked as the second highest percentage of people who commute to work by bike and a runner-up for most improved. (Portland, Oregon took the number one spot with 3.5% of their work force commuting by bike.) Minneapolis has an incredible system called The Greenway, which is set up like a highway for bikes. Although I haven't spent much time on it, my friend Lindsey has and she swears by it.
The cities named the best for bikers were Portland, Seattle, Chicago, San Franisco and Boulder. Among the most improved were Boston, New York and Washington D.C.. Across the board there has never been a better time to be a biker!
And with this information comes the call for Barack Obama to try axing the tradition of Daylight Savings altogether. Originally implemented as an energy conservation policy back in World War I, the act has shown to not conserve energy, but tedious and even increase the rate of traffic fatalities. By reducing the hours of sleep for drivers in the spring, think of the countrywide impacts--304 million Americans all with an hour less of sleep. While on the local level it seems like a negligible argument, on the aggregate scale it is worth considering.
What do you think? Should we get rid of Daylight Savings Time? Here is one opinion. I'm not sure what Dr. Levinson would have to say about this, though.
Obama Win Causes Obsessive Supporters To Realize How Empty Their Lives Are
In light of the horrible economic crisis we're in, I give it any day til George W. Bush says, "Ahhh, screw it. The country's fucked and I'm not President for much longer. No more of this sobriety crap--GIVE ME THE BOTTLE!"
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Anything but writing this damned paper. (The one I'm not working on because I just wrote this)
--Robert G. Ingersoll
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Thursday, November 20, 2008
In my planning classes I've always found this hilarious. I cram into a room of 60 students, learn about the importance of reducing our carbon footprint and living green, then watch as 59 other students walk out of the class, across the street...to a parking lot. Although funny, it's concerning that even those who are well-educated in the perils of the oil crisis, the coming effects of global warming, the horrors of car-living and suburban sprawl still cannot give up their cars.
Almost daily, I promote smart growth - alternative transportation choices, reduced greenhouse gases, increased housing densities.
It's my business to help Canadians understand and adapt to a future that is different from the past. I am a 21st-century city planner.
Along with fellow futurists, I advocate less vehicle travel, more cycling and transit use, smaller cars and sensible energy consumption. The terms "eco-density," "high-occupancy vehicles" and "environmental footprint" are common currency.
By day I'm committed to radical societal change. But my lifestyle is suspect because I really like to drive. Mostly by myself. Pedal to the metal. Wide-open spaces. No boundaries. Zoom, zoom, zoom.
It doesn't matter whether the vehicle is turbocharged, comes with a GPS or has leather seats. It just needs to be peppy and have a tight turning radius. It's about the essential pleasure of driving, regardless of make, model or colour.
I understand the disconnect between the extravagant past and our frugal future. My lifestyle is unsustainable and I need to change my patterns. But I subtly resist the shift. Perhaps it's the curse of the baby boomers. For our generation, driving has been a lifelong love affair, one that isn't easily surrendered.
My formative years were spent cruising small-town Ontario on sweltering summer nights in my mother's flashy turquoise convertible. A few years later, I was circumnavigating North America in a Volkswagen "shagging wagon."
As a responsible adult, driving became shuttling giggling, gossiping children to preschool, dance lessons and soccer tournaments in an all-purpose passenger van. But whenever possible it also meant navigating 16-lane California highways. Zipping through European roundabouts. Pushing through Albertan blizzards. Always plotting the next trip, whether 200 or 2,000 kilometres.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Here's a quick preview.
Bike sharing seems like a fantastic idea, but here in the US? Please. Americans complain about having to pay a gas tax, I can't imagine the whining that would ensue if they'd have to--gasp!--pay for someone not to drive. It yet again reminds me of how far ahead the rest of the world is compared to us in The United States (...sigh...)
Also, for more great videos from e2 about sustainability, click here.
The question arises: Can the city handle it? Can millions of people fit downtown?
Or, could there be another Meltdown of '76?
That year, a million spectators were expected on the Mall to celebrate the Bicentennial. Transit officials urged people to take public transportation and promised special service. But there was nothing special about the Fourth of July traffic jam, which stranded cars and buses for hours.
District and federal officials blamed a flawed and smaller mass transit system for the 1976 embarrassment. They expressed confidence that they can handle this January's events. At the same time, they know that Inauguration Day 2009 will be one of a kind.
Now, as a huge Logistics dork, I'm curious how this is going to pan out. Washington D.C. as it is has horrible traffic congestion. But with 4 million more people in the city? This is like nothing they have ever seen before. For the annual July 4th celebration about 1 Million people come out and it's usually chaos. But 4 million? Expect hell.
From my understanding, ground has not been broken for it. Also, on the skyscraper's website, there hasn't been a "news" update in nearly two years--same thing for the blog. So I e-mailed the sales associate and I'll hopefully find out the info. But until then, enjoy their website! :-)
*UPDATE* So I heard back from the Sales associate. The Nicollet is going through a redesign and it should break ground in 2010. Considering the market, 2013 is a reasonably expectation for this skyscraper.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Explain to me why we invade a country, spend over $1 Trillion on an unnecessary war, rebuild their Government and now we have to watch them introduce subways into their cities?! Here in The United States, the Chicago El routinely has trains derail, Cleveland's Rapid is thirsting for people to ride it, commuter trains crash in LA, Minneapolis has to fight to get a second light rail line approved, Columbus won't even let a $100 million Streetcar be built...and yet Baghdad can pull it off. BAGHDAD! The city that years ago was in utter turmoil, the city that today still has frequent bombings and mass-murder in the streets, the city that has thousands of troops planted there just to maintain the peace, the city that for quite some time didn't even have running watter. THEY can pull it off yet America can't?
BAGHDAD – Iraq plans to build a subway in Baghdad to help cut pollution and ease traffic on the city's chronically clogged streets.
Baghdad Mayor Sabir al-Issawi said in statement released Monday that Iraq's Cabinet has earmarked $3 billion for the project.
The subway is the first in Baghdad and will have two lines.
One would run 11 miles from Shiite-dominatedin the east to the predominantly Sunni neighborhood of Azamiyah in northern Baghdad.
The second line would be cover 13 miles and link the mixed neighborhoods of central Baghdad to the primarily Sunni western suburbs. Both lines will have 20 stations.
Al-Issawi did not provide a timeline for the project.
*bangs head against wall*
I'm moving to Canada.
However, the flagrant stupidity I saw the other day was absolutely appalling. It was 10:30 at night and a biker was going the wrong way on a busy one-way street, with no front or rear lights, wearing all dark clothes, no helmet...and she was text messaging. It's one thing to ignore a rule, but it's another thing to actively ask to be killed. Text messaging on a bike? While going the wrong way on a one-way? While biking with no front or rear lights? While wearing all dark?
Missy, if you're reading this--you are an idiot!
So it's no surprise that a recent study informs that traffic is so congested in Tyson's Corner that there is now a third rush hour--when lunch time hits.
A lunchtime shuttle? Props to the planners for introducing a solution, but this problem shouldn't even exist in the first place. It's amazing how one can go to London, which is one of the world's largest metropolitans, and yet experience no problem like this whatsoever. You can thank General Motors and our policy makers of the 1950s for willfully destroying many public transportation systems throughout the country and thus putting us into the car-dependent society we live in. Today, as GM is asking for a multi-billion dollar bailout, I'm desperately hoping they don't get a cent from the Government.
Having so many of the approximately 115,000 Tysons workers on the road, often driving less than a mile to grab a sandwich, is complicating construction plans for a Metrorail extension and Capital Beltway toll lanes that will rip up the streets around the area. An analysis of traffic counts shows more than 23,000 vehicles on the major Tysons thoroughfares, routes 7 and 123, between 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., surpassing the morning rush by 24 percent.
Things are so bad that traffic planners are introducing a lunchtime shuttle to try to get some of the vehicles off the road.
However, a tradition sprung up many years ago, and that was Mirror Lake Jump-In. On the Thursday before the game, in the middle of 20 degree weather, die-hard Buckeyes strip off their clothes and dive into our calm and tranquil Mirror Lake in an attempt to send good fortune towards our OSU Buckeyes.
So we jump, get frozen and make a fool of ourselves. But boy is it fun. I just have some tips that I'd like to share. They're from the OSU Student Wellness Center and I'm glad I reviewed them before taking the plunge on Thursday.
Alcohol significantly affects judgment and reaction. Not all students choose to drink before the event, and that is a decision that should be respected. The more you have to drink, the greater the chances that you will:
- Injure yourself (last year about 25 students were treated at the emergency department for cuts, sprains and other injuries)
- Magnify the shock effect of cold water (alcohol is not antifreeze, it actually increases the shock to your body).
- Lose valuables, such as cell phones and room keys ($100 cost to replace your residence hall room key).
- Become a victim of sexual violence
Mirror Lake is cold and dirty and the depth varies greatly from one end to the other:
- Never enter head-first
- Never push others into the lake
- Wear shoes
- Get out quickly and dry off-your body will quickly lose temperature and you could develop hypothermia (signs are shivering, slurred speech, fatigue, cold pale skin, abnormally slow breathing)
- Cuts are likely to become infected from the bacteria in the water
- Use the buddy system to make sure everyone gets home safely
- Ask a "designated dry person" to hold your valuables if you plan to go in the water
- Obey police orders
- Be careful walking or driving
- Seek medical care if you are hurt or show signs of hyperthermia
Friend: (blank stare)
Woman waiting for coffee: Yeah! She sends me the pictures. I mean, she’s beautiful but I don’t wanna see that. And my brother, HE looks at those!
Friend: (blank stare)
(Via Overheard in Minneapolis)
Thursday, November 13, 2008
This would be the first of its kind in America. Now, not to squash any hopes here, but look at High-Speed Rail in Europe. It's far superior.
Click Image to Enlage.
One day I'd love to see America like this. Is it likely? Probably not. But it still can't hurt to hope.
(Via Trains for America and Changing World)
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Think about that number for a moment. If you had a penny for every person in Congo that has been murdered, you'd have over half-a-million dollars. If you had a book, just a regular sized paperback, for every person murdered, you could fill 10 downtown Columbus libraries. If you had a beer bottle for every person killed in the Congo, you could fill Ohio Stadium's bleachers to the point where there would be no Scarlet or Gray left.
6,000,000. Each one of those numbers is a life lost, and a life lost in the most brutal, horrific, terrifying way possible. 75% of surviving women in some of the eastern provinces of Congo have been raped. The women who have not been killed have often been kidnapped and forced to be sexual slaves for the soldiers. Millions of children are without parents and are on the brink of death from starvation, malaria, AIDS, malnutrition and of course the rampant, incessant gang-violence and murders that are happening in the republic.
45,000 deaths per month, half of them small children. 5.4 million killed as of January 2008; that number any day will strike 6 million.
6,000,000. What gets to me most about this is that our two Presidential nominees said time and time again, "We can never let another Holocaust happen", yet it is happening right now. In some way, it's looking to be worse. We are in the midst of the deadliest conflict since World War II, and no one is doing a thing to stop it. No one. Not the United States, not Canada, not even the fucking United Nations. The world has lost nearly 6 million people, equivalent to the size of Denmark, and no one cares. No one cares at all.
I have two immediate reactions. First, I think of every stupid American who walks around complaining about the most asinine things. "I ordered my Filet Mignon MEDIUM-RARE and what happens? IT COMES OUT MEDIUM!!!" Or, "Are you kidding me? Starbucks is OUT OF PUMPKIN SPICE SYRUP?! My drink is going to be free, and it will be free until I get what I want." I hear the whines and cries of every American--yes, me included--ranging from "my life sucks" to "my feet hurt" to "I'm so bored" to "I'm tired" to "no one loves me" to "I'm broke" and yet I look around me and I've still not had to witness a murder break out in my neighborhood. I haven't watched a women getting raped in the streets. I haven't started stacking children's dead bodies because there is no place to put them. We live in a country of such golden opportunity, and yet so many of us waste it away. What would those 6,000,000 people have given to be alive right now? What would they have given for just a single day in America? What would they have given for just the simple luxuries we forget about everyday--clean water, air conditioning, ice cream? I can imagine any single one of the 6,000,000 willing to work everyday for the rest of their life just to be in America. We are so ungrateful to the beauties of security.
The second thing that comes to mind is the fact that Christians throughout the country have spent millions and millions of dollars and hours on removing gay rights, yet what have they done to stop this nefarious evil? Wouldn't God rather see Christians working to save lives in countries that have been decimated by the most agonizing form of terror in the world?
Californians spent $75 million Prop 8. Couldn't that money have saved thousands of lives in Congo? Apparently it is more convenient to tear apart communities and take away rights than to save lives and possibly change the world. Apparently that is too much for Christ and his followers.
Christ isn't in the business of helping people; he's in the business of marginalizing communities and building fences up between people. Christ isn't about loving one another; he's about arguing over laws until people hate each other so much they won't even speak to one another. Christ isn't about making the world a better place; he's about taking happy people who are in love and doing everything to ensure they fail. This is the message that Prop 8 sent. Christians had the moment to rewrite their own story--they could have taken that money and worked to save the lives of those in need. Instead, they used it to destroy people's homes, crumple and spit on the image of The Cross, and forever keep people away from the so-called love of Christ. You "saved" marriage, but you stand with blood on your hands. I hope your fucking God is proud.
But back to Congo. As thousands die every single day--literally thousands--what are we to do? I'm alone in this. There is nothing I can do. Someone will do something. This is what every single one of you--and me included--has been saying for the past ten years. We have all been crying out to help save Congo, yet nothing has been accomplished. Are we going to keep turning a blind eye to this? Are we going to keep pretending like everything in the world is perfect? Are we going to continue to drink our lattes and live with shutters on our eyes?
Unfortunately, I believe the answer is yes.
I love Google, but I find this utterly useless. "Hey, guess what? When Decemeber comes around, people get the flu more often. Big revelation!"
But, err, thank you?
"FAT PEOPLE: Hard to Kidnap."
Well that's one way to look at it. Who cares if you'll die 20 years earlier than your life expectancy, at least that large chance of kidnapping is reduced!
Monday, November 10, 2008
Have you ever noticed that our measurement of love is entirely in the loss? We sit and try to quantify this silly self-imposed emotion and it comes down to an equation of arithmetic: how long we spend together plus the good times and multiplied by the bad ones. We next factor in the special moments and begin to minimize the mundane ones. And from there, we take this number and put it up against every other fiasco we've endured with another lover, and try to compare, as if we can.
And we travel on, disillusioned, barreling effortlessly towards the exchange of the three most unoriginal words ever composed--"I love you". Have you ever realized how pathetic those words are? It's as if we've reduced ourselves to mindless boars on the hunt, and instead of searching for substance to secure our survival, we battle over the most banal, meaningless, forgetful, overused words ever to come across any human language.
But how arresting those words can be. How they can make your heart leap out of your chest. When they tickle your ears, it's like a warm sensation surrounding your body and silently cascading down your skin. Time will stop every time you hear them; and time will shatter when the words come no more. These three basic words have the power to heal, the power to embolden and even the power to destroy. There is no other feeling like it in the world.
And so I fell. Not a mere stumble but a direct and boundless dive into what I thought would be the most magnificent moment of my life. It was as if I were dancing and paid no attention to anyone else in the room. It was as if I were watching the sunrise and embraced the rays of light as they showered upon my face. I walked as if every destination was going to be next greatest encounter with the unexpected. My own smile radiated in a way that was harmfully contagious. When I woke up he was the first thing I thought of; when I went to bed I couldn't fall asleep dare I live a moment without him.
I don't remember him that well. But I remember the pain. I lied in bed for almost three days. The tears somehow felt soothing. I would find myself slamming the radio off for every song somehow brought me back to him. I disappeared from my friends. I watched three straight seasons of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. It was not that he completed me; it was that life knew no reason outside of him. I’d often have to pull the car over for I was fighting a losing battle between driving and crying. I was an abysmal, pathetic mess, utterly lost in this most unusual predicament called love.
He taught me how to slow-dance. He took me out to dinner. We would lie around for hours talking, staring into each other's eyes. We would walk through the park singing, holding hands. When we would gather with friends the energy would spread rampantly throughout the room. When it was just the two of us, I could feel the Earth slowing down just to give us a few extra minutes before the sun would set.And yet today all I long for is the pain. I have to pause to think of his last name. I have no idea what he is even doing anymore. But yet that damned pain remains. After all these years the indelible agony still lingers over me reminding me of what I once had—not necessarily what I had shared with him, but what I had allowed myself to experience.
Sometimes I wonder what I would be like if I still lived today so free from inhibitions. I am so far removed from loving another that when I say goodbye to someone, it’s almost as if they were never there in the first place. I live with no concern but for my own. And yet sorrow over an ordinary love affair clings to me stronger than almost any other memory in my vast repertoire of experiences.
His eyes. Oh, it was his eyes for certain. I yearn for the time when eyes alone could love me, mold me, complete me…and destroy me. I yearn for just one more time when I would allow myself that most unusual predicament called love. Just one more time.
Vancouver is dense; really dense. So much it's eclipsed Manhattan as the densest residential area of North America. Really clinging to the Jane Jacobs idea of a mixed-use 24-hour city, downtown Vancouver has transformed itself in an exemplary city of mixed demographics, an affluent arts capital, a city to conduct business in and also a place to live, work, eat and play.
An interesting proposal is coming to the city that seems to balance Urban life so well--residential units in a stadium.
I'm single. I like noise. I like Urban life. But I'm not too sure if I'd willfully sign up to live in place where nearly 100,000 people show up on my lawn once a week.
Vancouver has never seen a neighbourhood like this. While the city has managed to balance residential and entertainment land uses in areas such as Robson and Davie streets, Vancouver city planning director Brent Toderian says that the future housing development at B.C. Place Stadium will break new ground in redefining livability.
Some 1,200 residential units are expected to rise at the stadium’s site at the northeast end of False Creek, a district that Toderian noted will become an entertainment, sports, and cultural centre. At present, this area houses GM Place, the Edgewater Casino, and the Plaza of Nations, which will soon be the new home of the Vancouver Art Gallery.
Noise, traffic, and lack of community amenities are some of the challenges future residents will face. Obviously, these housing units aren’t for everyone.
(This photo includes B.C. Stadium's Upcoming Retractable Roof)
Atlanta has a sprawl problem. People just seem to love to move farther and farther away from the city. In fact, sprawl is so bad that Atlanta is renowned as having some of the worst highway traffic in the nation. (Father away=more driving).
However, according to author Christopher B. Leinberger, Atlanta is seeing a change in the suburban sprawl. He believes that walkable communities will continue to spring up and inevitably bring people back to the city.
Props to the shout out to my hometown, Washington D.C.! I can say that Washington D.C. is entirely walkable, and most my friends who live in the city live car-free. While I grew up just outside of the city and had a car, if I ever moved back I'd most likely forgo owning a car. It's just not worth the hassle considering the efficiency of The Metro.
We are witnessing the beginning of the end of sprawl. Like much of the rest of the country, the overproduction of automobile-driven suburban development at the fringe of the Atlanta metropolitan area has reached its limits. The combination of outrageous commutes, environmental degradation and the increasing number of consumers preferring a “walkable urban” way of life have combined to start the end of the geometric increase in land consumption of the past half century.
The subprime crisis and the energy price spike of the past 18 months have just accelerated an underlying market trend.
Evidence of this structural change comes from many sources:
> The city of Atlanta had been losing population since 1960 in spite of rapid metropolitan growth. That changed in the 1990s and has phenomenally accelerated this decade. The city is now among the top 10 fastest-growing cities in the country.
> The city of Atlanta’s share of office market demand had been falling for at least a half century; it stabilized a couple of years ago. If you follow trends from other metro areas that are ahead of Atlanta, the office market share and the employment that comes with it should start gaining on the suburbs during the next upturn.
> While the national housing depression has not affected metro Atlanta quite as badly as many other regions, it has followed national trends in one important respect: Homes in the center of the region and close to job centers have not suffered much, if any, price declines. Prices on the fringe are down twice the regional average, losing on average at least 14 percent of value. The highest-price housing on a per-square-foot basis is now in the city and close-in suburban job centers, a fundamental change from 20 years ago.
Metro Atlanta is following a national trend in creating and growing high-density, walkable urban places. The two-week party that was the Olympics in 1996 first showed you how exciting a temporary walkable urban place could be, and you set out to make it permanent over the subsequent decade.
But it definitely is not confined to downtown.
Midtown, Atlantic Station, Virginia-Highland, Buckhead, Vinings and Decatur have also emerged as walkable urban places. There will be many more.
The metro area that has the most walkable urban places, per capita, is the region surrounding Washington. It has 20 such urban communities today and 10 more are emerging; 20 years ago there were just two. Given that metro Atlanta has exactly the same population as metro Washington, if you follow the Washington model, you will be growing 15 to 25 more walkable urban places in the next decade. This represents tens of billions of dollars in investment over the next decade and will be home to thousands of jobs and housing.
I hope he's right for Atlanta. I've been three times, and I was never in love with it--too spread out, inefficient transit, terrible traffic congestion and the downtown area was lacking. However, if in the next 10-20 years it becomes anything like Washington, it'd be a city that I'd easily fall in love with.
Minneapolis' Uptown is kind of like Columbus' Short North: a small yet bustling area for artists, students and young professionals to hang out. There are plenty of bars and restaurants, yet it still has a rather subdued aura to it. I haven't spent much time in Uptown, but I have dined at The Uptown Diner--and boy is it good. Get the Tex Mex--I got three meals out of it!
(All Photos from Uptown Mpls Blog -- Thank you!)
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Since I am gay and thus a second-class American citizen, I have a proposal. After watching the "love of Christ" in California with the hateful, anti-family, anti-American, bigoted, fear-mongering, deceptive and downright evil Proposition 8, I'll give in--fine. You win. I am just fine being a second-class citizen. I will never ask to be viewed as "equal" in the eyes of the states. I will never fight for my right to marry, or to adopt children, or to serve in the military. I will make my life completely separate from yours.
But I want you to stop living off of the fruits of my labor.
Since you value-voting Christians tell me that I am dirty heathen undeserving of the right to a happy marriage and children of my own, I'm going to stop paying for your schools. I'll do the math and figure out how much Franklin County gives to our schools here, and I'll be deducting that from my taxes. Since roughly 30 million Americans are gay, I doubt the schools will notice the few billion dollars they lose.
Now I work in a restaurant, so if you happen to be in my station, let's work something out from here--don't tip me, because you won't be getting service from me. I will not answer questions about the menu. I will not greet your table. You can get your own drinks. The computer system is pretty easy to navigate, so once you're ready to order just walk up and start punching the items in. (Don't make a mistake, though! You'll have to pay for that if you do.) And there are a few soda machines throughout the restaurant, so you should be fine topping off your own Diet Coke.
When your son knocks on my door and asks me to donate for new uniforms for the basketball team, I hope you'll be prepared to watch the door slam in his face. And when your little Girl Scout tries to sell me cookies, imagine her running back to you crying saying, "He said he won't buy cookies because you hate him!"
Oh, you best believe I won't be buying from them.
Also, as part of this contract, you'll never be able to see a Broadway Show again. Sorry. The symphony is out the window, too. You cannot go to The Ballet, you cannot see Cats for your anniversary again, and you will never be able to even play the Wicked CD in your car. Never. Because, I hope you know, these joys that you delight in are the fruit of gay Americans, and since you do not want to believe those kind of dirty people exist, we'll work it out for you. I'll round us all up and put us on an Island.
We'll call in Manhattan.
You cannot read David Sedaris, Anne Rice, Gregory McGuire, Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, Christopher Rice, Truman Capote, Oscar Wilde or Walt Whitman. You cannot listen to Tchaikovsky, N'Sync, Clay Aiken, The Village People, Luther Vandross, Melissa Etheridge, or Jean Baptiste Lully. And I'm sure Cher and Madonna will make it so you can't listen to their music, either.
Also, do you remember the fundamental Keynes Economic Theory? A major foundation of the American economy? You'll have to give that back, too, since he was a big old fag.
You cannot watch Will and Grace, The Simpsons, Ugly Betty, South Park, Sex and the City, 30 Rock, Arrested Development, Sordid Lives, Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, Brothers & Sisters, Six Feet Under, Ellen, Dawson's Creek or The View. In fact, you might as well turn off your television and never watch it again, since the gays pretty much run the media too.
And your children can never read Harry Potter, since Dumbledore is gay too.
When you buy your new big house in the suburbs and you're looking for the best interior designers, your quest is going to be awfully long. When you're sick and the Doctor tells you, "so sorry, not you,", it's going to be a painful extra few hours sitting in the waiting room. And if war ever comes to this country, I hope you know, and that your children know, that I will do nothing to help you. I won't sign up to serve and protect you. I won't even shed a tear.
You win. We will leave you alone. Gay America will disappear. This is what you wanted.
Or is it?
There are a lot of pretty shots of New York. For the video, scroll down and it's on the left side of the page. Good stuff.
Gone are the days when cheap electricity, primitive lighting technology and landlords’ desire to showcase their skyscrapers kept floor after floor of the city’s highest towers glowing into the night. Now, rising energy costs, conservationism, stricter building codes and sophisticated lighting systems have conspired to slowly, often imperceptibly, transform Manhattan’s venerable nightscape into one with a gentler glow.
Instead of tower after tower shining at all hours — the World Trade Center stayed aglow long after its occupants went home — the skyline is becoming a patchwork of sparsely sparkling buildings decorated with ornamentally lighted tops.“The tall tower with the illuminated floors on all night long is probably a thing of the past,” said Randy Sabedra, the owner of RS Lighting Design, who is helping to create a new map of the city’s most prominently lighted buildings. “You’re not relying on the glowing floors to have the building presence. It is relying on the crown of light.”
High-Speed Rail Coming to California!
Steel-Rail Transit Coming to Hawaii!
Passenger Rail Gains Favor in Congress!
A great day for transportation, indeed.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Oh, I'm not talking about Barack Obama winning the election--I'm talking about the day when I finally stop receiving text messages from him! Gosh, on election day alone I received four phone calls and five text messages! You Obamaphiles are crazy! Don't you have jobs? Families? Lives?
As happy as I am that our country has turned in a new and promising direction, I'm so much more elated to know this campaign is over. Now I won't have to read FiveThirtyEight three times a day. I'll no longer have to dig through the babbling at TalkLeft. No more chewing on the pieces at The Daily Kos. I'll be able to forgo the speculation of Prop 8, the Minnesota Senate Race and all of the swing states in the Presidential Election. And, lordy, I thankfully won't have to ever hear about Sarah Palin again! (Or Elizabeth Dole either!)
Luckily I don't live like some other bloggers. I can imagine Pam Spaulding and Joe.My.God with piles of laundry, heaps of trash and a stack of unopened and unpaid bills. I wonder how many unreturned phone calls they'll have to start dialing. "Yes, Mom, it's me. I know it's been 19 months, but I've been busy. Yes, real busy."
I'm sure they'll enjoy this far more than I will.
But, as just an everyday regular citizen and part-time blogger, I'm happy to know it's official. I can kick back my feet and say, "I love the USA!" We won't have weeks of fighting for a recount nor will we have a news media pointing fingers and screaming "Voter Fraud!". Our nation has elected Barack Obama to lead us, and what a fantastic declaration that is, what a monumental proclamation! From everyday henceforth, no person can ever say they have a limit. When a son of a goat herder can become the President of the greatest country in the world, Democracy can pause to take a deep breathe and say, "We are truly free at last".
But are we? For you, probably. For me, not really. On the same great day when Americans sent a message and said 'no' to racial inequality, they also sent another message--Americans are just fine with gays and lesbians not being equal.
The saddest part of Proposition 8 passing is that the voters made the decision to take away an existing right. The wording was specific--it asked voters if they want to take away gays right to marry, and they said yes. Voters also said yes in Florida. They also said yes in Arkansas, and they also said yes in Arizona. Just as they have said it in Ohio, Minnesota, North Carolina, Illinois, Texas, Idaho, Georgia, Kentucky, Virginia, Alabama, Louisiana, Alaska, Tennessee, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, South Carolina, Washington, Oregon, Iowa, Missouri...and this list isn't complete.
My step-father served in the military, and yet I will never have this opportunity because I am gay. My mother has been happily married for nearly 20 years now and yet I will never have the same chance because I am gay. In times of crisis I can't even sign up to give blood to help my fellow Americans. This is the great country, the one I want to say I love? This is the land of the free, the country of opportunity?
Sure, Barack Obama's election shows how far country has come, but it also says how far it has yet to go. And after being told yet again, "You're not wanted", I'm just not sure if I can continue to say, "But I want you". I hope the best for America and her battle for change. But, after taking the final blow and yet again hearing that I am not wanted in the country, I'm not positive that I want to stay.
To clarify, of course I will still go to University of Minnesota. But once I graduate, if the country's message has not changed...I will say goodbye to The United States of America. Mark my words. I refuse to live in a country that does not believe in its own citizens. I refuse to be in a country where its population will grossly abuse a right and yet proudly remove it from an entire class of people. And I refuse to pledge my allegiance to a flag that won't even acknowledge my existence.
Barack Obama, congratulations. I am so proud of you. I just wish I was proud of my country.
Obama campaign volunteer getting out the vote: Sir! Have you voted today?
Drunk incoherent man on the street at 5pm (slurred): I ain’t even had sex in 10 months!
(Via Overheard in Minneapolis)
Also, Prop 8 has passed.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Monday, November 3, 2008
Spain to help build Russian railways.
Russian Railways is seeking Spanish expertise in a multi-billion dollar investment project. Spain is ready to help build high-speed railways in mountainous areas and supply trains with an automatic gauge changing system.
Welcomed by the King of Spain and the country’s top officials, the head of Russian Railways, Vladimir Yakunin, went to Madrid as an old friend and a trusted partner.
Russian Railways has a multi-billion dollar investment plan for rail infrastructure - a vital project in times of economic turmoil, according to Yakunin.
“The problem is not only the liquidity of banks, but also the support of the demand – the market, the real economy. So, because of that, we consider it is absolutely essential to keep the infrastructural investment programmes in tact,” he says. Russian authorities are considering co-operation with Spain’s INECO to build a high speed railway that will carry passengers from Moscow to Sochi in less than 24 hours.
As for international cargo, even high-speed trains have to cope with a variation of track gauge among different countries. Spain has a solution - Talgo carriages that can alter the gauge on the go.Mario Oria, Talgo’s export and marketing manager says: “We are hoping that the Russian market becomes the biggest in that share. Ideally, we’d be talking about 20-30 % of overall sales.”
Talgo’s trains can boost cargo volumes from Russia to the EU countries and significantly cut delivery times. Russia has already finished testing the Talgo system and is likely to buy the first ten trains, worth 15 million euros each, as soon as 2011.
Wow, if Moscow gets High-Speed Rail before Los Angeles or San Francisco, I think Ronald Reagan will dig himself out of his grave and begin writing an apology to the American people. (As if he shouldn't already do that, but that's another story...)
(Via Trains for America)