Thursday, January 28, 2010

USA! USA! USA!



Because clearly we've won the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

( Via Joe.My.God and Civil Rights Movement)

The Dress My Mother Loved.

When I was a child, maybe four or five years old, I was out shopping with my mother when I came across this dress. It was every level of hideous. It had a putrid shade of teal with more sequins and adornments than a Rod Roddy suit. In the center was a genie with these haggard looking fingers escaping from an elongated genie lamp. This freaky looking miscreation was wearing what looked like a pastel turban showcasing a radiant jewel the size of a fist. I don't know who the peasant girl in Vietnam was, but when she sewed up this dress, she was pissed.

But I loved it.

My legs took me dashing over to my mother, where I yelled to her about how much I loved this dress, and in her infinite paternal wisdom, she decided to buy it. Every time she wore that monstrosity I'd be full of vigor and pride. When I would tell her I loved the dress, she'd never secretly dream of calling the fire department and asking them to burn it. She instead would say to me, "Son, I love it too. You've got good taste."

For years I took that compliment with me. As a young second grader, I remember putting on this combination that made me look like an all-inclusive vegetable plate. I had purple, green, yellow, red...every color imaginable in a single outfit. The kids at school looked at me with every variation of shock, awe and bewilderment. But what did I say to myself?
I can wear this, because I have good taste!

My mother, the same one who knew the power of her words with me, had a somewhat similar story. She grew up a singer, one who could never contain her voice because she loved to sing so much. She had a beautiful, genteel tone and sang from a joyous and earnest heart. But one time she was humming a tune at work, and some random bop whose name my mother can't even recall came over to her. This woman said, "Why are you always singing? No one wants to hear that." And then she went on her way.

For three years my mother never sang a song.

Have you ever considered just how powerful your words are? Statements that we make and may immediately forget can stay with a person for days, weeks or in my mother's case...years. Think of how many times in your life someone has said a polite compliment in passing. I can recall time-after-time of people arbitrarily mentioning simple things like, "I wish I had your curly hair", or, "I love reading your writing", and it shapes the decisions I make for months to come! I'll grow out my hair and wear these curls with pride, or I'll go and write five blog posts a day just because I've been told it's worthwhile.

Reversely, how often has somebody with little-to-no influence over your life said a single statement that has made you boldly change your behavior? Someone once told me I didn't look good in collared shirts, and for nearly a year I removed them from my wardrobe. Is it crazy? Yes. It is stupid? Yes. Should we give people that much power over our lives? Of course not. But we do.

Think about it for a moment. Almost every decision you make stems down to the idea that you care about what other people think. From the clothes we wear to the way we decorate our homes, you and I are constantly seeking out approval from every person we come in contact with.

With that thought in your mind, consider for a moment the amount of influence you individually have. While you may not be Barack Obama or Warren Buffet, within your circle of friends or professional network you have people who listen to you and respect you. Why not leverage that for the greater good of these people you care about? Why don't you be the person who says, "Wow, you've got good taste." For the friends you love and hold dear, ask yourself, "When was the last time I told them I loved them? When was the last time I specifically complimented them? When was the last time I made them feel good about themselves?" And then go out to them and do it. Because let me tell you, in a country of recession, war and political strife, everyone could use a little pick me up.

And if done the right way, a simple thing like telling a boy he has good taste will change him and inspire him to believe in himself for years to come.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I Heart Maps!



This may not be too surprising, but Australia is a big country. However, considering the population is just barely over 21 million...it's a really frickin' big country. For comparison, take a look at this graph that compares just population numbers, unadjusted for per-capita country size.



Yeah. Whoa. Big country. I wanna go explore it.

Update on the Ibiza Project.

In case you were wondering what's going on with the Ibiza Project in the short north, Columbus Underground has the full story. (As does The Columbus Dispatch)

Short answer: they're turning into apartments. Sucks to be one of the pre-buyers who put money down and have been waiting since 2006 to move...

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Fresh Prince Needs Salvation!

This was a genuine letter from a lost soul...and the guy wouldn't even respond to him! Oh, that love of Christ is so unforgiving sometime...

More Than Meets the Eye.

What Is This?



It's a tornado, right?

Wrong. It's steel, wool, cotton, ground parsley and moss. Constructed by Matthew Albanese, a man who is smarter than I could ever imagine myself to be, this is a meticulously-woven image of a real life event, except on a infinitely smaller scale. The artist has plenty more of his masterpieces on his website, Strange Worlds on the Behance Network. His work is certainly worth a marvel. Here's another image, but I'll let you take a guess at what it's actually made of.

History of Street Food.

A radio interview of Roosevelt University professor Dan Protess gives us the simple explanation of the social good that comes from street vendors, as well as the historical background on the limitations and restrictions of these vendors. Here is one statement that particularly stood out to me:

INTERVIEWER: Why do we outlaw street vendors in Chicago?

PROTESS: One, we have a very powerful restaurant lobby that did a lot to shoot down the smoking ban, if you recall a few years back and put that off for several years. And obviously they don't want the competition on their doorstep. I also think historically it's wrapped up in anti-immigrant sentiment. Historically, people looked down on Italians or Greeks were eating, and it was one thing for them to be eating their strange olive oil and garlic in their house, but it was another thing for them to be eating it right in front of us."

I won't lie, I don't eat food from street vendors. But then again, I'm a vegetarian, so what am I going to order? A dry bun?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Early Planning: Bahubali of Western India.

You've heard of the mysterious people who built Stonehenge, the Egyptians who constructed the Pyramids and the mighty Aztec civilization who built immense religious structures. Each of these civilizations had vast and massive undertakings to worship who they believed were the gods. But what else is out there that you haven't heard about? Take a moment and view this image with a sense of awe and wonder at the accomplishment.



These are the 620 steps one must take to reach Bahubali, a colossal 57-foot tall sculpture crafted in the 10th century in Western India. To this day it remains one of the largest freestanding sculptures in the world. From to Britannica Encyclopedia...

According to the traditions of the Indian religion Jainism, the son of the first Tirthankara (Ford-maker, i.e., saviour) Rishabhanatha. He is said to have lived many millions of years ago.

After winning a duel with his half-brother for control of the kingdom, Bahubali is believed by the Jains to have realized the transience of temporal affairs and renounced the world. According to legend he then stood immobile, with feet straight ahead and arms at his side, meditating for an entire year in the Yogic position of kayotsarga (“dismissing the body”). He was so unmindful of the world around him that vines grew undisturbed up his arms and legs and anthills rose around his feet. His meditation led him to true victory over human passion and, according to Digambara belief, enabled him to become the first human of this kalpa (world age) to gain liberation.

Several works of sculpture depict Bahubali, including an outstanding 9th-century bronze in the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India in Bombay. A colossal 10th-century sculpture stands atop a hill at Shravana Belgola (“White Lake of the Ascetics”), a centre for the Digambara sect in Karnataka state. Cut from a single block of gneiss, the figure stands 17.5 metres (57 feet) high and is one of the largest freestanding images in the world. Every 12 years, in one of the greatest Jain rites, the entire image is ceremonially bathed in curd, milk, and ghee before crowds of nearly a million people

Here is a map of where the Bahubali is located in Western India:




View Larger Map

Imagine the care and effort it would take to assemble a project like this. Consider the planning that would have to precede such an endeavor. How did they create, move and place these 620 individual slabs of stone? How were the people able to bring such an enormous amount of weight to the top of the hill to build such a piece of work? How many hundreds, if not thousands, of people were involved in this process? And all of it was in reverence to what we today would consider a primitive religion.



Yet think of it today--our society does this all the time. People spend thousands on Ebay for a piece of toast because it has the burnt image of Mary. Even here in Ohio we have that gawdy piece of gargantuan kitsch on I-75, lovingly known as "Touchdown Jesus". The people in this country--and all over the world, too--are doing the exact same things they did over a thousand years ago. The only difference is back then they built them to last.

While not a work as grand as the pyramids, the Bahubali is still an excellent example of the early minds of planners and engineers. In some ways we have come so far in a thousand years...and in other ways we haven't even budged.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Culture and Psychology.

While perusing the internet, I found this interesting article about a controversial psychologist, Richard A. Shweder, whose work focuses on cultural psychology.



Scenario one: A man is in a serious car accident is transported to a hospital where he is refused treatment because he cannot afford to pay.

Scenario two: The day after a man dies his first born son gets a haircut and eats chicken.


Which do you think is a more serious moral transgression?

Gut reaction tells many of us that No. 1 is the obvious choice.

But on Thursday, Shweder will likely take people to the small town of Bhubaneswar in Orissa, India, where he has worked from time-to-time since 1968. It was there that Shweder learned that the first born’s actions in the situation above would be tantamount to throwing his father’s body in the garbage, thus putting the father’s soul in jeopardy.

“I’m going to try and take people into different worlds…worlds where they think that shame is a virtue, worlds in which they are more concerned about pollution and sanctity than about free choice,” Shweder said.

Shweder is a professor of human development and one of the founding fathers of cultural psychology.

“Cultural psychology is the study of the way cultural traditions and social practices regulate, express and transform the human psyche," writes Shweder in his book Thinking Through Cultures.

Through cultural psychology, Shweder challenges the one-size-fits-all path of general psychology. He also said cultural psychology runs counter to a “the West is best” assumption grown out of the Enlightenment.

He said the field has been staging a comeback since the 1980s as globalization has grown and cultures have begun to collide with regularity.

“It’s one thing to simply study differences, but once we come to moral values…the assumption is that you know what’s good for everyone else and he’s questioning this,” Katia Mitova said of Shweder. Mitova is coordinating the cultural center lecture series for The Chicago School of Professional Psychology.

Yet recently Shweder has run head-first into criticism for his views on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), also called female circumcision. In the West, the surgical procedure is often viewed as a human rights violation with serious health risks.

Shweder said he believes the U.S. media have told only one side of the FGM story—an ethnocentric side that demonizes cultures, such as some African cultures, which practice the circumcision as an initiation rite.

“He does not shy away from controversy,” said Bettina Shell-Duncan, a professor of anthropology and global health at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Much of this debate is playing out in TierneyLab, The New York Times science blog by John Tierney, where Shweder has been contributing to a recent online dialogue about FGM. Reader comments are spilling in—at last count there were more than 450 of them— many with the kind of quick-fire repulsion that Shweder warns against. (Go to http://tierneylab.blogs.nytimes.com .)

“We all have very socialized or culturally-informed judgments that we make," said Shweder. "They happen rapidly…they often can be guiding us poorly.” At the heart of cultural psychology, he said, is an attempt to show how morally descent and rational people can make judgments with which you would disagree or even find morally repulsive.

For some in the West, the issue of female circumcision is simple: human rights trump cultural practices.

Shell-Duncan, who said she does not always agree with Shweder, said she believes the debate over female circumcision has been unbalanced in the U.S. “What Rick has done in these blogs is to open up a more nuanced debate,” she said.
The lecture referenced has already passed, but I'm still intrigued to learn more about how we as a society view certain acts.

George Bush Sr. once declared, "There is no compromise for the American way of life", and it is this way of thinking that has permeated our entire culture. We think our way is the best, and because of this mindset we don't even stop to think about how a different culture would view a certain action. However, this framework of thinking proposed by Shweder really helps put things into perspective. While clearly there is still plenty of reason to debate issues such as female circumcision, it is still worthwhile to approach the topic from every angle in order to best know and understand it.

The Gentleman.

He guides her up the stairs, lightly holding her hand as she takes each step. She's in her late 80's, hooked to a respirator. The gentleman carries it for her so she can focus all of her energy on making it to the door.

She slowly lifts each foot and trudges just a few inches. While only steps from the entrance, the gentleman reaches out to pull the door wide open for her. Her puts his arm around her and gently leads her into the restaurant. What would take a few second takes her a minute; yet she looks out into the world with the most poignant, devoted eyes.

Without letting go of his lady, he smiles and says to the hostess, “Table for two, preferably somewhere close.” He lets out a wink and a chuckle as he says it. He’s tall with a loud and commanding voice; yet he holds her with the care of the kindest soul.

When they arrive at their table, he lays down her respirator and begins to unbutton her jacket. Her eyes continue to dance around the restaurant, mesmerized by the flickering candles and variety of people. He takes his time to get every button out of its loop. “There’s no need to be hasty,” he explains to the hostess with a smirk.

Once unbuttoned the gentleman begins to slide her arms out of her jacket for her. She has no strength, and is visibly exhausted from making it this far. It is an effort just to move her hands. But she still continues to smile. A contagious smile. A smile that radiates and embraces the attention of everyone in the room.

He tenderly takes off her snow cap and does the same to his own. “Alright, ready to sit down my lady?”, he asks her with a grin. He then takes both of his hands and slowly helps her into her seat. Once she is taken care of, he then begins to think of himself. He quickly unbuttons his jacket and hangs it on a nearby hanger. He walks back, pulls out his seat and plops down into to it to look over the menu. She has yet to say anything at all.

The server walks up to them and welcomes them to the restaurant. "I'll have a Manhattan on the rocks, and the pretty lady over here is going to have a cola." Once the server departs he looks over the menu deciding what would be best for her. "Are you in the mood for fish today?", he asks her. She doesn't respond. Once the server returns, the gentleman says to him, "I think the two of us are ready to order. I'm gonna have the chef's Pasta Louise," pronouncing it 'lou-wheez-ee', "...and my lady is going to have the tilapia," pronouncing it 'til-ah-puh-ta'. The server walks away and suddenly it's just the two of them.

He extends one hand out towards her. She trembles for a moment and begins to lift her fingers and move in closer to him, inch-by-inch. Her entire body shakes as she draws near to him. And once she reaches him, they then sit, staring at one another, hands interlocked across the table, reminiscing of the good old times. The server is around the corner from them and overhears the gentleman say, "My lady, we've been one heck of a couple. You're my pal." He doesn't say, 'I love you' for one simple reason--he doesn't have to.

The server later stops by the table and the gentleman pipes in, "Did you know the two of us have been in Ohio for the past 50 years? We don't look it, do we!" She looks at the server and rocks her head back and forth. "Yup, me and this pretty lady met many, many years ago in Kentucky. We've had one heck of a journey."

When their food comes, before even looking at his own he reaches across the table and begins to cut her 'til-a-puh-ta' for her. He then patiently, effortlessly, wraps his fingers around her hand and guides her fork to her mouth, all the while not giving his own plate the slightest thought. When the server comes back and asks if there is anything he could give them, the gentleman answers, "Well, another 20 years sure would be nice."

They finish their meal and leave in the same way they arrived. The gentleman supports his lady in every way that she is immobile, and he does it all with such exuberant joy. The love the two of them share is so palpable that the entire restaurant is in tears. And as they walk towards the door, each slow step at a time, it becomes clear to those who saw them that every day is a gift, and what a gift it would be to spend a lifetime with a gentleman like him.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Yes, Jesus Can Save you from Vampires!

I believe, I believe! I do believe in Jesus! Why? Because He raised this woman from the dead! SHE'S TELLING THE TRUTH, TOO! The vampires took out her lungs but Jesus SAVED HER!!!



Praise His holy name! A lie would never be told on the internet! Never!

Vancouver: Has it Achieved its Dream?

Traveling to Vancouver was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I consider it a world city on par with London, Paris, New York City and Chicago. It's a city planner's dream: dense living with mixed-use developments in every direction. However, as the term 'Vancouverism' has spread, how has the actual plan of Vancouverism worked out? Is it the urban utopia that it is heralded to be? The LA Times reports that not all is harmonious in British Columbia.

He and one of his students at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver in the 1990s pioneered a way of measuring the connection between human population and its consumption of resources. It's known as the "ecological footprint." Ominously, Rees found that the 2.2 million people who live in the Vancouver region would need an area 57 times larger than their own city to sustain them. Indeed, if everyone on Earth lived as people in Vancouver did, Rees calculated, it would take four planets to keep them alive.

That message resonated, and it changed Rees' adopted city. To a degree probably unmatched anywhere else in North America, the city of Vancouver has tried to impose notions of sustainability in its decisions on what, where and how to build.

The result has come to be known as "Vancouverism," an urban motif of public transit instead of freeways, a low-carbon energy infrastructure and gleaming high-rise condominium towers in sunlit, walkable neighborhoods laced with urban parks.

The 2010 Winter Olympic Games next month provide a showcase for how Vancouver is trying to evolve. A $1-billion development that houses the athletes' village generates up to 70% of its power from converted sewage, and the vaulted ceiling of the Richmond speed-skating venue emphasizes that most renewable of resources, wood.

Over the last 20 years, Vancouver has managed to more than double the number of people living downtown while also reducing its carbon emissions per capita to the lowest levels of any big city in North America. The central city has refused to allow a single freeway and recently began to further tighten the noose around automobiles, closing lanes on crowded streets in favor of buses, bikes and sidewalks.

The city has hit up developers to build parks, recreation centers, libraries, day-care centers, and open, public waterfronts to a degree almost unknown anywhere else.

When other cities were erecting warehouse-style retail outlets in the hinterlands, Vancouver built its Costco right downtown -- the first urban Costco in the world, with four 40-story residential towers rising from the top. There's a boutique Home Depot not far away and a Safeway that squats on a second floor, above smaller street-level shops.

The 1908 Woodward's department store building is being revamped into a mix of high-priced condos, housing for the homeless, a contemporary art institute, grocery store, drugstore and day-care center -- all on a single city block, topped by a mini-replica of the Eiffel Tower. "Be bold," said a sign erected at the site, "or move to suburbia."

"We've become the North American model that you can't ignore," said city planning director Brent Toderian. "We're the only North American downtown to have opened a new elementary school -- think about it -- and we're about to open another one. And it's not because we're all utopians here. It's a willingness to have vision, and then back it up with regulation and willpower."

But the new Olympic athletes' village -- a lower-slung eco-village with narrow, European-style streets and green-planted roofs that hardly resembles the city's famous high-rises -- demonstrates the degree to which Vancouver planners have discovered shortcomings in their own magic.

Forests of glass high-rises are a bit monotonous, many residents now complain.

The new downtown is also a victim of its own success: the condos with the good views are so sought-after that they often cost several million dollars. Even the cheaper studios routinely hit $350,000. How can young families afford those kinds of prices?

The city recently suspended new condo conversions in some areas until job centers catch up. The region's top four employers are various agencies of the government -- troubling in a region that long ago shut down most of its resource economy, such as logging.

With downtown housing costs so high, the suburbs have grown relentlessly. For every new downtown resident, four others have moved to the vast, Orange County-like expanse of the Fraser Valley.

And then there's the traffic: Without freeways, auto commuters are confined to endless queues until they hit the Trans-Canada Highway outside the city. Transit use is high and getting better, but riding in from the far reaches of the Fraser Valley, 35 miles from downtown, can mean one or two long bus trips before reaching the first rail station.

"If you look at the real numbers . . . you'll discover that Vancouver's share of growth uptake in the region is actually diminishing as a proportion," said Lance Berelowitz, who edited the city's Olympics bid package and wrote the book "Dream City: Vancouver and the Global Imagination."

The whole article delivers far more insight into the dichotomy that faces Vancouver, but the effort of Vancouverites shouldn't be dismissed. While they are working towards uniting a city towards environmental efficiency, most cities in North America are just acting as if there isn't a problem at all. And in general, the problems posed towards the Vancouver region really aren't dilemmas with city planner, but with economics. Simple supply-and-demand curves are what are causing the housing prices to go so high--and, as a broad statement, this is a good thing. Housing is expensive in places where people want to live. Why do you think the cost of living is so low in Cleveland, Detroit and St. Louis?

Vancouver is at least taking the active role, instead of the passive role. They are quite aware of their impact on their region and the world and are diligently working to improve their city's efficiency. How many American cities can say the same?

I Didn't Catch The Song Title...

Pants on the ground! Pants on the ground! I don't know what I love more: the fact that he's 62, the song itself, or the fact that's he's the new American Idol!!!

The Love of God Kills 100,000.

You've got to be fucking kidding me. Pat Robertson blames the loss of 100,000 Haitians on the wrath of God. Because they're vile heathens who don't worship Jesus. Does he need the ratings that badly?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Google to Introduce Streetview Advertising.

Most people loathe advertising, and generally with good reason. It's annoying, time-consuming, distracting and frankly a major deterrent to most forms of media. However, you have to admit Google's recent patent to advertise using streetview is just damn brilliant.

According to a new patent that was just granted to Google, the company could soon extend the reach of its advertising program in Google Maps to Street View. This patent, which was originally filed on July 7, 2008, describes a new system for promoting ads in online mapping applications. In this patent, Google describes how it plans to identify buildings, posters, signs and billboards in these images and give advertisers the ability to replace these images with more up-to-date ads. In addition, Google also seems to plan an advertising auction for unclaimed properties.

In Google's example, the software could identify the marquis and individual window posters on a theater property and replace them with new information. Through this, a theater could promote a new play in Street View, even if the actual Street View image is completely out of date.The patent describes a two-step process for identifying potential advertising real estate in these images. Google's software first identifies interest points in the image (e.g. the edges or corners of an object) and then generates features around these interest points. Google can then augment this region of the image with a link or replace a part of the current Street View image with a new image.


It's genius. Sure, advertising is still annoying, but if done correctly this could be a milestone in how marketers convey products to their customers. Think about the future generations of this--will movies that show Coke cans or other subtle branding be able to manipulate this as the years go by? Will TV shows be able to change their characters clothing to reflect current trends? Whatever the outcome, Google continues to lead the forefront in technology and innovation, and its a trend that seems to have no end in sight.

Conan: Stick That Time Slot Up Your (gasp!)

In the spirit of the battle between Conan and Jay Leno, it's time to consider the life-span of talk shows. Remember the awful "Dennis Miller Show"? Or "The Magic Show" featuring once-famous basketball star, Magic Johnson? Let's not forget that the winner of celebrity apprentice also was a loser when she hosted the short-lived "Late Night Show with Joan Rivers". Arsenio Hall had a run at a talk show, as did Chevy Chase, Pat Sajek, Rosie O'Donnel and even Keenan Ivory Wayans. And you know what? They all failed.

But what's different about this battle is that Conan and Jay Leno are not fighting over a new start-up--this is over a piece of history. "The Late Show" has been on for over 60 years and has always aired immediately after the 11 o'clock news. Pushing it back to a time slot of 12:05 will dramatically change its audience and will effectively push away the people who have grown to love what the show delivers.

I fully support Conan's stance on the issue, and I hope NBC listens to him and the viewers.

"I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction," he said in a blistering attack on the network's execs. "I worked long and hard to get that opportunity, passed up far more lucrative offers, and since 2004, I have spent literally hundreds of hours thinking of ways to extend the franchise long into the future," he wrote. "My hope is that NBC and I can resolve this quickly so that my staff, crew and I can do a show we can be proud of, for a company that values our work."

Well-spoken, and you gotta give the man credit for sticking by what he has worked towards for so many years.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Settling of America.

Did you know that in 1950 nearly one-fifths of Americans moved every year? Considering the housing market of then and the market as it is now, it makes sense. Our men had been off to wars for many years and only recently had they returned to a home of seemingly endless opportunity. But when our boys returned from war, we were missing something fundamental--houses. So our boys either shacked up with the parents or moved in with friends until a house was built.

These lack of constraints provided an opportunity for men and women to go to anywhere in the country. Without responsibilities--or even home--to tie them down, they were very easily able to re-create a new life in a different part of the country.

Right now the nation's mobility rate is the lowest it's been since pre-World War II, indicating that there has been a huge change in how our culture is operating. What will the long-term implications of this new mentality mean upon society? What does this mean from an economic standpoint? Some of the leading sociologists and economics have provided their commentary on such topics, and here is a snippet of their thoughts. The full article is available here.

  • Katherine S. Newman, professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton University, is author of “The Missing Class.”
One of the virtues of being stuck is that we can continue to rely on the friends and family nearby to help us get through hard times. “Social capital,” the stock of trust and support we draw on in daily life, is especially important when families are under stress. A child care emergency can be patched up if grandma is next door rather than 2,000 miles away. Borrowing $50 to get by is easier if you have someone close to turn to and much harder if you are a newcomer.

Crime tends to be lower in communities where people know each other well enough to intervene when they see something amiss on the street. This may help to explain why, despite very high unemployment and a great deal of social stress, we are seeing record low crime rates. Divorce often declines as well because people just cannot afford to stretch the same income over two separate households. Staying put may mean that we retain the strength of our ties to one another.

Of course if staying put means doubling up -– packing in relatives who have nowhere else to go -– frayed tempers can be combustible. Americans at the bottom of the income structure lack the reserves needed to hold tight, so they have to move in with the (only slightly more) fortunate members of their families.

During the Great Depression, my grandfather was the only person in an extended family of 13 who had a job. They piled in with one another and were fortunate they could lean on him, but nobody remembers that time as a joyous reunion of a big happy family. It was hard on everyone, just as it is hard on poorer Americans now.

  • Lawrence F. Katz is a professor of economics at Harvard University. He is the author (with Claudia Goldin) of “The Race between Education and Technology.”

Relative to those in other nations Americans have always been highly mobile and their moves in pursuit of new opportunities have enhanced U.S. economic dynamism. High rates of geographic labor mobility have allowed the United States to recover more rapidly from adverse economic shocks and to have smaller regional unemployment differences than European nations with less mobile work forces.

But American geographic mobility has declined over the last two decades and has fallen sharply in the Great Recession since 2007. Part of the decline is a natural consequence of the aging of baby boomers. In addition, geographic moves can be expected to decrease temporarily in a deep recession. Nevertheless, several factors make the decline in mobility in this recession worrisome and may contribute to an extended jobless recovery.

First, large declines in housing prices in many regions generate a lock-in effect, causing homeowners with negative equity to hesitate to sell their houses, thereby reducing mobility from distressed areas.

Second, the subprime crisis has created economic distress in typically fast-growing areas, such as Florida, California, and Nevada, further slowing the labor mobility to expanding regions that ordinarily helps drive U.S. job recoveries. Third, lingering credit market problems, especially for potential new start-ups, hinder job creation in economically vibrant locales slowing labor mobility to these areas.

Finally, greater educational attainment has been the traditional way young Americans acquire the skills demanded by growing occupations and regions. Greater federal aid to higher education may be necessary, given the budgetary problems of most states and many families, to maintain access and allow young Americans to gain the skills to move in pursuit of their American dreams.

  • William H. Frey is a demographer and a senior fellow in the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution.
America has long been one of the most mobile countries on the planet. There is no doubt in my mind we will return to more normal migration levels, though I don’t foresee it anytime soon. The return will be especially delayed for long-distance migration, which has plummeted so low that Florida and Nevada are now attracting fewer in-migrants than those moving out. Long distance migration has sunk to historic lows because it is facing a double whammy — downturns in the job market and a near frozen housing market.
I have always imagined myself as an adventurer hoping to experience life in cities all over the world. But if the economics are not in place for such a lifestyle, what is the alternative like?

I don't particularly think living in one area for your entire life is necessarily bad, I just feel it can be somewhat limiting. The best way to develop yourself is through exposure, and seeing the world through the eyes of someone else is significant for developing your own personal understanding of the world. That is why traveling and city planning are so important to me. I want to see the world through the eyes of the Japanese, the Russians, the Canadians...I want to see the world they see and pose it against the world I see. What are the differences? What do they value that I overlook? What do I value that has little-to-no importance to them?

To me, this is the best way to grow and develop.

Avahontas.

I don't care! I still loved the movie!



(Via Joe.My.God and Boing Boing)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Dubai: A City Planner's Nightmare.

Planning is a process. New York City did not spring up over night. In fact, parts of the city began as a putrid quagmire that few thought ever would turn into a livable conditions--much less one of the world's premier cities. But that's what good city planning is about: creating a plan so that the world will transform from where it is to where it ought to be.

Dubai, however, is an example of a city that has taken the planning process and thrown it out the window. To hell with conventions, we'll dazzle 'em with big architecture and no one will ever notice the abysmal transportation system... Well, now that the Burj Dubai (renamed the Burj Khalifa) towers over the UAE like a might trophy for all to see, people are beginning to notice Dubai--and what a disaster it is.
Your polite, epaulette-wearing cabdriver screeches down a 12-lane highway and -- with the tower in plain sight -- he goes miles past it, leading you to wonder whether he's lost his way or is ripping you off. Only when he finally reaches an interchange and then doubles back to the tower do you realize what's going on: Dubai wins no medals for urban planning.

A tour of this once-booming Persian Gulf city-state, which has shifted into low development gear from hyper-drive, reveals a disturbing disconnect between its architectural spectacle and its short-sighted development practices. Dubai's ultra-modern transit line, which opened last year, is a significant exception. Yet the emirate and its leaders appear obsessed with architectural superlatives at the expense of the fundamentals -- or even the fine-grained art -- of making livable cities.

Take the palm-shaped, artificial island (above) that adds to Dubai's short supply of lucrative coastal real estate and forms one of the emirate's iconic images. The island is a miraculous engineering achievement, formed by dredged sand and constructed with the aid of a global positioning system. Yet the only way to get a pleasing overview of its thin, frond-like strips of sand is to look at a map or charter a helicopter

At ground level, the fronds are packed with high-priced villas while the stemlike road leading to them is lined with monolithic rows of hulking apartment buildings. These look as though they were designed by architectural refugees from East Germany who added a few Islamic touches.

Multiply this gap between image and reality a hundredfold and you have the Dubai that was taking shape before the global recession of 2008 and the emirate's debt crisis. It is a city of isolated enclaves, lacking convenient connections to one another, and brutal linear strips, exemplified by the eyesore high-rises along the emirate's main drag, a superwide highway called Sheikh Zayed Road.

...

It is not as though Dubai doesn't know how to make good cities. Its old downtown, located along the creek that bespeaks the emirate's fishing village and trading post origins, is a charmer, with arcaded old marketplaces, or souks, and picturesque wooden water taxis ferrying Dubaians back and forth across the creek.

Here are age-old lessons of walkable streets, mixed uses and the use of aged buildings that form still-relevant models for planning cities. The trouble is that these models have been trampled upon in the rush to create the ugly, Houston-style, car-oriented city of office parks and commercial strips that stretches for mile after mile along Sheikh Zayed Road. The patches of the urban quilt desperately need to be stitched together.
Dubai has fascinated me for years, but I have never had the yearning desire to see it for myself. Perhaps it's because a gay atheist won't fit well in a country where Islam is the official religion and homosexuality is punishable with prison time. That might have something to do with it. But even more so, I've wondered for a few years now--is it sustainable? As Dubai has soared up in the past decade, can it take a turn like a bell curve and crumble at the same speed it went up?

The Act of Praying is Simply Bizarre.

So it goes kind of like this. You close your eyes, sway your head around, and it seems like the more emotion you flesh out in your verbiage the more likely "god" will answer your appeal. But to me, it just looks like utter insanity. I haven't said a prayer once in the past four years, and yet my life maintains itself in the same way as it did when I prayed to "god" incessantly. Actually, I may argue that in fact it's gotten better. Instead of waiting on some invisible man in the sky to fix my problems, I realize that I am in control of my life, my actions and my destiny, and thus it is up to me to get shit done, not some invisible deity who feels like playing his interactive version of The Sims.

Anyway, all this to say, here is our American Government hard at work...praying. They've forgone actual debate and thrown their hands up to the heavens begging "Father God" to annihilate health care reform. Because, of course, Jesus wouldn't want the poor and disadvantaged to receive treatment and care for their illnesses. Nope, that's just not Christian.

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I Broke Down...

...and finally gave into technology. Say hello to my new cell phone, Sylvia, the Google Phone Nexus One.



I just hope I don't lose this...I have a bad habit of losing EVERYTHING....

Oh, and it arrives tomorrow. One more day of using a retro cell phone!

Columbus: The Home I Never Expected.

Usually a 3 AM post is an enormously terrible idea. But I'm going for it.

For years I have loathed and lamented about Columbus. I've said it's too small, too homogeneous, too close-knit, too commercialized, etc. etc. But as my days come to an end here, I'm beginning to realize that perhaps Columbus isn't that bad. I mean, yes, it is lacking in certain big city aspects, but at the same time it's a city that functions so well as a small city with the amenities of a big city. From strictly a city planning perspective, Columbus is great as a place to get around. Pretty much the entire city can be reached within a 20 minute drive of anything that is going on. The downtown and surrounding neighborhoods are easy to navigate, yet they still have a distinctive charm. The city fulfills the necessity of a big city--major sports teams, great restaurants, unique and lively nightlife, culturally-diverse museums--yet it still maintains the charm of a city that is approachable.

Over my years here, I have overlooked this. I have only looked towards the next step; that is, getting out of here. But as that day approaches, I'm beginning to appreciate Columbus more. I'm realizing that it may not be my dream city, but it certainly could be worse. Memphis has nothing on the C-bus.

So with my last days here in Columbus before me, I am trying to make the most out of it. I am enjoying the friends I have made here (they are GREAT!) and embracing the city as it is. I am trying out not restaurants and experiencing neighborhoods I have never indulged in before. And you know what? I'm finding out that Columbus really isn't that bad. While I'll still never laud it as a world-class destination, I will always look back on it as a place that allowed me to succeed. I mean, how many other cities feature a top-ranked school with a ridiculously low cost of living? Very few, that's for sure. But Columbus provided that for me. It allowed me to receive one of the best logistics education in the world, yet I was able to do so without breaking the bank. And believe me, in this day and age, that almost means more than the education itself.

Chicago will be good for me. I am thrilled and excited to start a new life there. But, still, Columbus will always be the place where I become an individual, the place I grew up. It will always be the home that I never expected.

Badder Romance.

This was wildly entertaining.