Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Fwd: from commencement speech by david foster wallace

GrittyPretty just sent me this amazing excerpt:

This, I submit, is the freedom of a real education, of learning how to be well-adjusted. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn't. You get to decide what to worship.

Because here's something else that's weird but true: in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship -- be it JC or Allah, bet it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles -- is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It's been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.

Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they're evil or sinful, it's that they're unconscious. They are default settings.

They're the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that's what you're doing.

And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving and [unintelligible -- sounds like "displayal"]. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.

That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.

I know that this stuff probably doesn't sound fun and breezy or grandly inspirational the way a commencement speech is supposed to sound. What it is, as far as I can see, is the capital-T Truth, with a whole lot of rhetorical niceties stripped away. You are, of course, free to think of it whatever you wish. But please don't just dismiss it as just some finger-wagging Dr. Laura sermon. None of this stuff is really about morality or religion or dogma or big fancy questions of life after death.

The capital-T Truth is about life BEFORE death.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

You need a square

GrittyPretty and I are always daydreaming about moving to a farm within a bicycles' ride of an old town square with a clock tower. The absence of such important public, pedestrian spaces in our communities is awful: Not just because we feel their absence like a gaping whole in our hearts, like something lost, but because it denies us an important space to engage one another - to share our desires for our communities:

From: Discovering Urbanism
All the tweets and texts flying through the airwaves have not changed the fact that a physical place, a public square in the most literal sense, will always be a necessary stage for any kind of action...
..."The government of Hosni Mubarak could shut down the internet. It could shut down cell phone service. It could force Al Jazeera, which has been providing superb coverage of the events in Egypt, to close its Cairo bureau. It could arrest journalists and seize their equipment....But the streets of Cairo themselves have been the medium that has carried the message of the Egyptian people


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Huntsman: the greenest GOP presidential hopeful?

Although I'm not a Republican, pretty much anything I hear from Gov. Herbert makes me deeply miss our old governor.
From: Grist - the latest from Grist
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman is looking like the most climate-cognizant contender for the Republican presidential nomination. In fact, he downright looks like a climate hawk...
... Huntsman said he found it "enormously frustrating" that Republicans had not been working toward a national climate policy. "We would not need the Western Climate Initiative if it were not for the foot-dragging nature of Congress," he said. "If Republicans had identified this problem earlier and tackled it aggressively, we would all be working together...

Building an Earthbag Dome

From: No Tech Magazine
Earthbag dome
"Domes are the strongest form in nature... The feeling inside is magical..."
Step-by-Step Earthbag Building Instructable. Via Make

Monday, January 31, 2011

absent public places

Here is an interesting point raised about the fact that in the US, we have phased public squares/pedestrian plazas out of public planning in favor of superhighways...
"...To pluck a story from the Christian tradition, when an injured Jewish traveler was lying along the side of a road, it was the Samaritan, his sworn ethnic enemy, who decided to lend a hand. This scene was Jesus' response to the question "who is your neighbor?" We may like to think of ourselves as similarly generous, but we forget that the Samaritan had to actually walk past the injured man in the first place just to be presented with the dilemma.
...this can't happen if we don't build places to facilitate these interactions."

does our tech make us happy?

It's true... my bike does make me happier than my car did. And though I prefer an express bus to a car commute, I'd rather be on my bicycle. -if only I could cycle 45 miles in an hour... Although, if this list is right, I need to be thinking about getting a horse ( since I don't think that sailing up and down the Jordan river would quite work).
..."In this age, 'judging technology' means one of two things: reviewing a particular tool for how well it satisfies the consumer, or doing deep thinking about Technology as a whole. I don't think there's any such thing as 'technology'. Every tool, every system of tools, every use of every system of tools, is a different animal. And instead of judging a clothes dryer for how well it dries your clothes compared to another clothes dryer, we should also judge it for how it affects the meaningfulness of your life, the society it is part of, and the rest of life on this planet."
...here are the preliminary results for the more common transport means:
  • sailboat 85 - 74,
  • horse 79 - 70
  • bicycle 77 - 63
  • private jet 58
  • airliner 45
  • passenger train 44 - 30
  • automobile 25
Note that energy use and ecological damage are not the only criteria.

Monday, January 24, 2011


Rethinking the way we live in the world, re-envisioning a world that provides a happy life for all children, and sending out butterflies to promulgate the dream, and show others the doorways to possibility.

From: The Great Change

"... say your electricity came not from a dirty coal-steam plant but from algae that grew in a wetland cell that treated the effluent from your kitchen and bathroom? Suppose that once you had wrung out the algae mat for its rich gardening nutrients, you separated the oils from the biomass and refined those into fuel for your car. Then you took the leftover biomass and fed it to a pyrolyzing stove, which cooked your meals, heated your house, made your electricity, and left you not with ash but biochar — recalcitrant carbon ready to enrich your garden for the next 1000 years, staying out of the atmosphere all the while. Cool food, cool fuel, cool waste treatment, cool climate.

 ...From San Pedro you go up the Columbia Branch of the Rio Grande in a cedar dug-out poled by a dory man. The site is 2 miles (1 hour) up river at a shallow bend with tall stands of bamboo on the starboard shore.

...This is where we choose to teach permaculture. The place is its own best instructor.

...You could live quite comfortably on the breadnuts, avocados, corn, bananas, coffee, fish, beans and all the rest. You could drink from the river, although Chris harvests water for the kitchen from a spring farther uphill.
We are hosting introductory permaculture trainings outside CancĂșn through January, in Spanish, but for those interested in getting the whole design methodology at one location, in English, we direct you to our course in Belize. If you want to eat local organic food, sleep in dorms powered entirely by renewable energy, and bathe in a sparkling pure river, please contact Chris or visit his web site."

View article...

Tea Party Blues

Here is a good reason to get your Darjeeling Tea from Equal Exchange:

From: Grist via WorldWatch Institute blog

"Unhappily, simply buying tea labeled Fair Trade doesn’t much affect conditions on the ground in Darjeeling...

...this is devastating. Even Western consumers who try to do the right thing by buying Fair Trade are financing ecological damage and poverty cycles in Darjeeling.

But ...he also points to an alternative: a cooperative project started by families who took over a tea plantation abandoned when the British left India in 1947. For decades, Kane writes, they shunned the global tea market and supported themselves through subsistence agriculture. Then 10 years ago, with the help of NGOs, they formed a dairy cooperative called Sanjukta Vikas Cooperative (SVC) to sell milk locally. Later, they revived the old tea bushes and began to produce organic tea, marketed in the United States by Massachusetts-based Equal Exchange under a Fair Trade label...

With increased profits, SVC has also been able to expand beyond tea and dairy. With the help of DLR Prerna, many SVC farmers have developed permaculture operations, integrating their tea bushes into agroforestry systems in which they grow cardamom, fresh vegetables, and raise cows and chickens. Trees prevent soil erosion and maintain habitat for animals that reduce pest pressure, and cows and chickens provide manure that can be used to fertilize crops. By diversifying their production, farmers are also creating more markets for their goods, giving them added financial security...

These farmers have turned their involvement in the global tea trade into hard assets: schools, clinics, and food-production infrastructure...

I think the lesson here is that global trade in food and agricultural products works best when it’s done in a limited fashion."


View article...


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Wearing Your Heart/Lungs on Your Sleeve

It's a little ironic that sometimes it takes a clever piece of technology/art to drive the point home that the filthy air we are breathing is actually infiltrating our lungs...


From: Plenty/All MNN Content
Lam and Ngo's shirts use tiny carbon-monoxide detectors to detect pollutants. When the detectors sniff out pollutants, a microcontroller sends electrical currents through the shirts, heating up wires that run under the internal organs (lungs or heart, depending on the shirt).
The shirts are made of thermochromic fabric that change color as the temperature changes. In this video, Ngo and Lam laser-cut organs out of the fabric:

via: FastCompany

Tree House for a Child

From: architechnophilia

Originally conceived for a site in Monte d'Oro, Rome the Tree House for a Child designed by Italian architect Francesco Gatti captures the imagination of all with its form and unique approach towards structure.

View article...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Coyote Urban

From: Landscape+Urbanism

A few weeks back, on my way home I spotted in my neighborhood a lone coyote crossing busy 33rd Avenue just north of Fremont.  While urban coyotes are not necessarily that out of the ordinary (such as the adventurous multi-modal coyote that boarded MAX light rail a few years back) but the neighborhood I live is not in proximity to large patches of habitat - even though as you can see from the breakdown of the grid, it is adjacent to the Alameda Ridge - which is not necessarily known as a significant habitat corridor.

:: image via OPB

Our neighborhood newsletter jogged my memory, as I was only half convinced that it had actually been a coyote I spotted.  Turns out, it's not odd, and this particular guy seems wary, but mostly unafraid of humans.  Some info from the Portland Audubon Society offers some context to the sightings:

"Coyotes have lived in Northeast Portland's Alameda Neighborhood for years. Audubon periodically receives reports from neighbors who have observed a coyote hunting mice at dawn in Wilshire Park or stealthily slinking down a neighborhood street as night approaches. It is no surprise that coyotes are there — coyotes, an animal that Navajo sheepherders once referred to as "God's Dog," have established themselves in neighborhoods across Portland just as they have established themselves in cities across North America. Although they are often observed alone, coyotes are pack animals and a pack will establish a territory over an area that can cover several kilometers. Normally they are shy and secretive, and neighbors often do not even realize that they are around."

The map below shows a shot of the neighborhood - the spotting occurred around the center of the map - to the southwest of Wilshire Park - the rectangular green space in the upper right quadrant which is about two blocks from our house.

I typically imagine a large(r) predator needing more significant habitat patches, but as mentioned in some factoids from Audubon, coyotes are particularly adaptable and "have demonstrated an ability to survive in the most urbanized environments in cities across North America. Most urban coyotes go about their lives without ever raising awareness of their presence among their human neighbors."

:: image via KATU

The coyotes in Alameda are somewhat interesting and have elicited some very Portland-like responses, such as this elementary school project.  It's curious - as I wonder how these aren't spotted, and where they live, as they obviously don't travel to less inhabited places.  Due mostly to fear from residents, removal is sometimes recommended - but for the most part it's an issue of humans and wildlife living together, as the coyotes seem to be here to stay:

"There will likely always be coyotes in the Alameda Neighborhood. New coyotes quickly replace coyotes that have been removed. The only real question is whether human residents will make changes that minimize conflicts with these wild dogs. Kudos to the Alameda residents for responding to their wild neighbors with a balance of caution, appreciation, and most importantly, proactive efforts to address potential conflicts."

In addition to some more coverage on OPB, there's also a short news blurb from local station KGW.

View article...

the Cocoon

Feed: architechnophilia

DUS Architects has created the Cocoon- an interactive lounge that inhabits the lobby at the Delft Faculty of Architecture. The flexible skin, measuring 32m3 is constructed of 150 inner bicycle tubes, measuring 20 meters each that can be inflated separately, responds both to user and spectator, adding to a new dimension to all types of environments.

View article...


From: architechnophilia


Designed by architecture collaborative Lead Pencil Studio (Annie Han | Daniel Mihalyo), the site specific art installation built along the US-Canadian border takes the concept from the many billboards located in the area. The edges that give emphasis to an open rectangle advertising nothing, but cleaner air.

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Vertical Zoo

From: Veg.itecture
Subject: One more from the Zoo


Another proposal that I really liked from the Vertical Zoo competition was recently shown on Arch Daily - 'Hollow Tower' by the French firm Oglo.


:: image via Arch Daily

From the architect's description: "In opposite of the strong external shape, the inside space is designed by the digging of the rocky mass. This void is moved in levitation above the ground of the ecological reserve, like a vertical receptacle of life, of the fauna and the flora, like a reserve in the reserve. The tower's cavities receive the different animals species of the zoo, matched in independents ecosystems around the central void."



:: images via Arch Daily

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

FW: Architect's Brother

Feed: Landscape+Urbanism
Posted on: Tuesday, December 28, 2010 6:24 PM
Author: noreply@blogger.com (Jason King)
Subject: Architect's Brother


Stunning work by artists Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison worth checking out (link via the always great Landezine).   Not a whole lot of descriptions around to place these - so just soak them in - more at the artists website.  Happy New Year!




:: images via Landezine

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blog wunderlust : 17 January 2011

Feed: architechnophilia
Posted on: Monday, January 17, 2011 10:26 AM
Author: mad.architect@gmail.com (mad architect)
Subject: blog wunderlust : 17 January 2011


My work is not about "form follows function," but "form follows beauty" or, even better, "form follows feminine."

Oscar Niemeyer

View article...

Not So Brutish?

via No Tech Magazine by kris de decker on 1/10/11

Research led by economists at the University of Warwick reveals that medieval England was not only far more prosperous than previously believed, it also actually boasted an average income that would be more than double the average per capita income of the world's poorest nations today.
Summary & full paper (pdf): "British Economic Growth 1270-1870", Stephen Broadberry & others, University of Warwick.
Previously: they did not work that hard in those days, either.