30 December 2008

Can I ask a favor?

In this, my last post of 2008, I am going to ask for your help on something that I really think is important. I am reposting this from an Archinect thread that I started earlier and an email that I sent, so some of you are going to see this more than once. I realize it's been a bad year, but if we can look forward to innovative ideas like this in 2009, then I think next year will be much better.

So, can I ask you guys to vote for this?

The 2030 Stimulus Plan


It involves you going to Change.org, signing up (it's free, of course), and voting. It's pretty simple. Normally I wouldn't bother everyone but the goals of this plan could be a game changer....briefly, here's a description:

Essentially what happened is Architect Ed Mazria (a dude behind some important work on climate change initiatives in our profession) went to the Obama transition team and laid a simple idea on the table: what if we give mortgage rate reductions to homeowners if they agree to drastically improve the energy efficiency of their homes? In my opinion, the idea is pretty awesome - it ultimately lowers expenses for homeowners while providing jobs to thousands of people who work on the renovations. Check out the example they cite in the plan, I think you'll be as impressed as I am....

So, if you don't mind signing up for the Obama Change machine (which is cool in and of itself), please vote! And please pass this on so it will make it to the next round. (I should mention that if you are tempted to vote for any of the other "Global Warming" ideas on Change.org, that basically cancels out your vote for this idea....)

Thank you for your time, and I hope everyone has a great 2009!

29 December 2008

Seat Warmer

Since I've returned home to Cincinnati for Winter Break this year, there have been a few themes:
  1. Getting to see everyone that I don't normally have the money to see the rest of the year.
  2. Actually getting work done! Achieving pre-determined goals = awesome.
  3. Catching up on movies I wanted to see, and movies I didn't know I wanted to see, and movies I never wanted to see....
That last category is really a great time-waster. Since arriving, I've managed to see...
  1. The Incredible Hulk: Good. But I'll watch anything with Edward Norton.
  2. Burn After Reading. Do NOT believe the ads! This was not great, it wasn't even funny.
  3. The Spirit: Terrible, but Gabriel Macht is sweet and full of potential.
  4. Slumdog Millionaire: Great, but perhaps not as super-great as the ads say it is.
  5. Shutter: Not as bad as the 7% it got on Rotten Tomatoes but borderline laughable.
  6. The House Bunny: Awful. Just awful. This one was against my will.
  7. Marley & Me: Very cute, with a wonderful story, but if you are prone to crying, you should bring a whole box of tissues. Seriously.
There are still movies that I want to see, and a whole bunch that I missed this year that I'm still trying to catch up on, so if there's any on video that you want to recommend, let me know. This list includes:
  1. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It's supposed to be good, right?
  2. Valkyrie. I'm hoping to see this without paying for it so I guess I'll have to wait.
  3. Australia. I'm a fan of Baz Luhrman.
  4. Milk. Yep.
  5. Quantum of Solace. Argh! How did I miss this?
  6. Tropic Thunder. Was it really funny? Not Burn After Reading, faux-funny?
  7. Hancock. I know, I know, I'm way behind...
I can recommend a few myself....if you have not seen these, in my humble, movie-fan opinion, go...
  1. The Dark Knight. Duh.
  2. Ironman. This was such fun.
  3. I Am Legend, from last December. I know some people didn't like this but I thought it was totally amazing; maybe it has to do with the portrayal of the intersection of Manhattan and nature. Also it both scared the crap out of me and was compelling enough to see a second time in the theater. The only other movie I've ever done that for was Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and, well, Strictly Ballroom. But I digress.
  4. The Departed. Ok, so I know this is old but I just watched it a couple of months ago and it was great! I was so surprised. Especially since I don't normally like gangster movies and I really dislike Jack Nicholson. But this was great.
And then there are the movies that have yet to come out that I want to see, namely, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Why won't they just release this already!?

Anyway, that's how I'm spending my time here. I'm trying to enjoy it because I'm fairly certain I won't have any days off in 2009...

22 December 2008

Why am I still talking about this?

I realize it's not a popular position to take - I'm a progressive who's not terribly bothered by the Rick Warren invocation thing - but this Huff Post blogger puts it in perspective pretty well. Also, I think it's strange to throw the President that everyone worked so hard for, and who I expect many great things from, under the bus before he even takes the oath of office. We have a LOT of huge problems in this country, and I just wish - for once - that we could put the culture wars on the shelf and work to get some of them done. Because at the end of the day, Rick Warren's beliefs are his beliefs, and everyone else has their own, and unfortunately, the ones starting this round of cultural battles are on my side of the aisle. The culture wars will not be won or lost over an invocation - but we might actually achieve peace in the land once we calm down and talk to each other. You can't argue with Melissa Etheridge, can you?

18 December 2008

Pick your battles

So I'm back in Cincinnati for the holidays, and I'll be in the Midwestern "tundra" until the new year. Before I left LA, I shipped my computer to Apple for repairs, and they received it, repaired it, and shipped it back to me in Northern Kentucky in the same day. It was a 5-day turn around. And it was totally covered by AppleCare!!! For the record, I cannot say enough good things about Apple. Spending time on Vista in the interim reinforced this opinion.

Anyway, I'm sitting here worrying about things, like I usually do - I mean, 2 million jobs lost this year. An economy in shambles. The job market crumbling. High-powered investors bilking charities and towns for 50 billion dollars. And just today, a real stunner - the United States, under the "leadership" of "still-President" Bush, has refused to sign a declaration presented Thursday at the United Nations calling for worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality! And I'm sitting here, worrying, and yet all I hear on the television or on various blogs is how progressives are disappointed in Obama's decision to invite Rick Warren to give the invocation at Obama's inauguration.


Rick Warren - probably less douchey than the evangelicals in Borat: image courtesy of ocregister.com

Seriously, is this as far as we've gotten since the election? This country is faced with gigantic problems created largely by the most incompetent and corrupt administration in the history of our country, and people are hemming and hawing over what preacher Obama invited to the inauguration!?! Has everyone forgotten that Obama ran on a platform not only of hope and change, but of bringing the country together? Last time I checked, there were a LOT of evangelicals in the country - more so than there are gay people, possibly - and Obama needs to reach out to them just as he needs to reach out to a lot of different groups. This doesn't mean that he agrees with Rick Warren, but as far as evangelicals go, the guy's less offensive than many. And according to Wikipedia:
Including the results of the 2008 general elections, two states (Massachusetts and Connecticut) allow same-sex marriage, five states recognize some alternative form of same-sex union, twelve states ban any recognition of any form of same-sex unions including civil union, twenty-eight states have adopted amendments to their state constitution prohibiting same sex marriage, and another twenty states have enacted statutory DOMAs.
That means 40 states either ban same-sex unions outright or adopted amendments to their state constitutions prohibiting it. 80% of the states in this country are currently on the same side of the issue as Rick Warren! Does that make it right? No, of course not! It just means that there's a heck of a lot of work to do, and attacking your new shiny President-elect for reaching across the aisle, or calling this preacher names, is not productive - it's self-destructive. It's subscribing to the same cynicism that left the Republican party in "rebuilding" mode this year. Lucia Brawley recognizes what Obama is trying to do in this situation, and I agree with her when she suggests that "if we can enfold (Rick's) numerous followers into our political dialogue, let them get to know us of all stripes, perhaps we can begin to wear away some of the myths and misconceptions that disconnect us."

I understand that the gay community is hurt by this. But we face many huge problems in this country, and we need all hands on deck, so I hope that people learn to start picking their battles. Gays and lesbians should and will gain equality, with time, and with understanding, because it's the right thing to do.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go back to worrying, probably about global warming, and the snow that it's causing in Malibu, Seattle, and Las Vegas. Especially since I just watched a Discovery Channel show about tornadoes. Tornadoes have become more and more destructive in the past several years ... in fact, while you've probably heard about Greensburg, Kansas and their efforts to rebuild the town with "green" buildings, I'm sure you've never heard of Manchester, South Dakota. That's because it's now a ghost town after a tornado totally wiped it out on June 24, 2003 and its inhabitants never came back. They never came back! How can we go on fighting about things when global warming is already wiping towns off the map!?! Hello!

Needless to say, I'm picking my battle ... with carbon emissions!


the tornado that destroyed Manchester: image courtesy of silverliningtours.com

10 December 2008

Calling in Gay

It took me a while to figure out something fun to write about again ... after all, my last indignant episode was crushed almost as soon as I wrote about it. Plus last week was a little crazy for me. But this is just cool.

Today is officially Day Without a Gay, the day that gay people are encouraged to call into work to protest the state of gay civil rights and do some community service instead. It is being referred to as "calling in gay", and if I didn't need the money for Christmas gifts, I would have totally called in "gay-friendly". Alas, I am here. But I have a gay coworker who called in!

Next up, I will be pushing for a "Day Without a Thesis Student". It probably won't go over well, but I can try...

01 December 2008

What a bunch of turkeys.

I would like to thank my friend Jason for giving me something to be indignant about on this otherwise quiet Monday morning.

Apparently the Cincinnati Zoo has entered into a joint marketing agreement with the Creation Museum, and the two entities are selling "combo tickets" to get into both for one price.

(UPDATE! Monday, 3:25 pm, EST. Wow, that was fast. The promotion has been pulled due to public outcry. Most of what I said here still applies though, sans the Zoo-boycotting part.)

A lot of things came to mind when I first read this:
  1. Maybe the Zoo was enchanted by the live nativity at the Creation Museum.
  2. OMG! Thayne Maynard is a crazy Christian!
  3. Is this a joke, or maybe a blog rumor gone wrong?
  4. Seriously though ... WHAT were they THINKING?
Unfortunately that last one is a bit hard to answer. Mainly because entering into any agreement with the Creation Museum requires a certain lack of thinking. Either you believe that the Earth has been around for billions of years, OR you don't. Either you believe that dinosaurs walked the Earth millions of years ago, as evidenced by the carbon dating of their fossilized bones found in the ground, OR you think that they hung out with Adam and Eve 5000 years ago (cough cough Sarah Palin cough cough). Either you agree with all known scientific teachings about biology, or you don't.

This is what has always struck me as completely incomprehensible about fundamentalist Christians. From what I understand, they take the Bible at face value, rather than interpreting it as a series of lessons or instructive stories, if you will; and then, often, but not always, they try to force these views on everyone else. Sometimes it comes in the form of seemingly innocuous entities like the Creation Museum, which I have no intentions of ever giving money to (and don't need to, thanks to Clair). But it's really more insidious than that. Their rejection of science, and their propagation of fairly ludicrous concepts presented in the Bible is, to me, not unlike the strict adherence to the Koran practiced by the Taliban in Afghanistan. The difference, thankfully, is that the Bible's 10 Commandments list "do not kill" amongst them, or else the fundamentalist Christians might go around killing and terrorizing for their cause like the Taliban. But do fundamentalist Christians still believe in slavery, as the Bible says? Or in stoning people who commit adultery? And how about those Mormons out in Utah with their multiple wives, just like the dudes in the Bible? Has anyone asked them lately, how closely they follow the Bible? Or should we just wait for the "Old Testament Museum" and exhibits devoted to the oppression of women to pop up?

I like to believe that most fundamentalist Christians are well-meaning, if misguided, people. But I'm a science nerd and frankly I'm going to side with my fellow science nerds pretty much all the time. And in this case, that means boycotting the Cincinnati Zoo. (And Utah, too.) C'est la vie.

On a side note ... I like animals enough to eat them, as I did with a turkey that I helped prepare on Thanksgiving a few days ago. Turkeys, as most of us are aware, are probably descendents of pterodactyls, which were giant flying creatures from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods millions of years ago. Our turkey was 12 pounds and was only scary-looking after we carved it:

25 November 2008

I'm sorry I'm so boring.

I really haven't been doing much lately that merits a blog post. The things I have had to say have all related to school, which is why I put them on my school blog over at Archinect. You might find that interesting. Otherwise, it's just been me, here, at my computer, working on my web site for thesis, and freaking out about all the jobs lost in the architecture world and beyond in the past couple of weeks. Has anyone you know lost a job recently because of the economic downturn? By all means, let me know, I like to maintain a healthy level of anxiety, it keeps me motivated.

And I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving! We'll be making turkey and all the fixings here in my apartment, despite partial nausea induced from watching the Governor of Alaska give an interview in front of a turkey being slaughtered. Blech. Anyway.

16 November 2008

Firestorm

I debated for a long time over the title of this post. I thought about using the line from "Total Eclipse of the Heart" ("...living in a pony keg and giving off sparks...") and then I thought I might use the word Flaming, but neither of those addressed the seriousness of the situation.

So here's what's been going on in the City of Angels these past few days: yesterday morning there was a huge protest in front of City Hall against the passage of Prop 8, which essentially wrote discrimination into the California constitution with the words "a marriage is between a man and a woman". I tend to try to be a moderating voice in this conversation: I am not gay, but I support my gay friends and their desire for gay marriage, and obviously they are very offended by this passage. However, I think people's reasons for voting for the Proposition in question might have been a lot more nuanced than the gay community realizes. Nonetheless, I was disturbed by the fact that the Mormon church poured so much of its money into the Yes on Prop 8 effort, including people taking money out of their savings to "benefit their children's future"? Huh? By taking money out of their college fund? Also, I was angered by the fact that it affected the state constitution, in that even if people need time to warm up to the idea of gay marriage, well, tough, because it's already in the constitution! Can't change your minds ... or can you? The legal challenges abound here and I suspect the issue is not anywhere near being resolved. Here are some photos....


Lots of people, probably more than reported


Good sign


At least the Times staff didn't have to go far

Mayor Tony came to the rally and spoke, and when he was done he said he had to get back to the fires. "What fires?" I asked. I thought he had gone up to Santa Barbara to help them out. Then I heard....more fires broke out overnight in someplace called Sylmar. And then there were some in Orange County, and someplace else. I heard that there were hurricane force winds and that the fires had jumped a couple of highways. With a high of 95 degrees on Saturday November 15, a relative humidity of 9%, and a dew point of 21 degrees (you'd have to freeze the air to get any moisture out of it), conditions were ripe for a fire. You might even say we're living in the greatest pile of tinder in the United States, and once you add the Santa Ana winds into the mix, you get what we got: a firestorm. Many fire chiefs have been quoted in the news as saying that the fires never used to be this bad, or this often; well, I suspect it never used to be this dry, either. But that's what global warming has gotten us. Here's some photos of the air around Downtown LA today, November 16 - it's absolutely awful, it stinks of smoke, and my eyes are burning a little. Notice how blue the sky is in the photo above, just a day earlier.


No this is not smog, it's smoke


This is in the middle of the day! 1 pm! Not early evening as it looks....


This is normally a much nicer view. Today, yuck.

12 November 2008

July 4, 2009?

Look at what they were handing out on campus today....it looks and feels like a real, albeit very short, New York Times. A classmate brought this into studio a little bit ago, apparently he got it from some random people on campus (near Tommy Trojan!). Basically it's supposed to be from July 4, 2009, and it has a bunch of great headlines for events that haven't happened yet ... but it might be really great if they did! At the bottom are stories about how Bush is being prosecuted for war crimes, and about how the oil industry is funding climate change initiatives. Other headlines read, National Health Insurance Act Passes, All Public Universities To Be Free, New York Bike Path System Expanded Dramatically, and my personal favorite, American Evangelical Churches Announce New Policy of Sanctuary for Iraqi Refugees.

It also has fake ads inside, like one from DeBeers, that says "You know it ... we know it. Your purchase of a diamond between now and 2026 will help fund the creation, fitting, and maintenance of a prosthetic for an African whose hand was lost in one of that continent's brutal conflicts over diamonds." An ExxonMobil ad says "Peace. An idea the world can profit from."

I don't know what group did this but ... wow. It feels so real. Seeing this on a newspaper, even one from July 4 in the future is jarring. It may be better than getting the real thing from the day after the election. Wouldn't it be great if we could actually get some of this stuff done?

I'm going to go read some more fake stories now.


FAKE NY Times: "All the News We Hope to Print"

***Update*** The Huffington Post has a story about the folks behind this massive prank. Good stuff, if I ever meet one of these dudes I'll give them a high five ...

10 November 2008

Party's over ... Is it time to panic now?

Obviously I am still excited about Obama being elected last week. However I decided it might be time to think about my own life and future plans again, which, for me, inevitably leads to blogging:
Oh and if that wasn't enough, I started another blog. Crazy, right? But this one will be affiliated with the web site that I am working on for my thesis and, as such, I will be intentionally cagey about it until it is ready to go. So you can't see it yet! But you can see a picture of my roommate's new kitten, who is ADORABLE. Cheers.

05 November 2008

November 4, 2008: History

Wow! Remember yesterday ... it's a day that will go down in history as the day that America stood up and rejected the politics of division, of cynicism, and of fear. With our new leader, President-Elect Obama at the helm, let's see if we can't all band together and work harder to make this country energy independent ... let's see if we can make health care a right for every American, not just a privilege ... let's create more jobs, reconcile with our allies, and promote peace around the world. Yes, we can and ... yes we did!

Here are some screen shots from major news outlets last night, after it was announced. Absolutely amazing. Happy history day, everyone!


NY Times


MSNBC


CNN


LA Times

Update: Here is a web site displaying most of the newspaper front pages from around the world for Wednesday, November 5. Awesome!

04 November 2008

Please vote today.

So I don't have to go into therapy. Thank you.


03 November 2008

RIP Hootie, 1994-2008

I turned 30 at the beginning of October and I can't say that this age has treated me very well so far. Three years ago on my birthday I brought home a feline fluffball named Hootie; she came to me from an acquaintance who was moving to Ireland and couldn't take the cat with her. I knew next to nothing about Hootie except for her name, her presumed age (11?), and the fact that she came with two litter boxes (but no Blowfish, thankfully). I brought her back to my apartment in Over-The-Rhine in Downtown Cincinnati where she promptly hid in one of the many nooks and crannies of this loft space and did not emerge for a week. This was OK because the morning after I got her I had to go on a business trip for four days, which later became the "how I got a vacuum cleaner in Boise, Idaho" story.



Hootie was a great cat. She was low maintenance, aside from that two litter box thing, and aside from the fact that she peed in places that she shouldn't when she didn't feel well (like the roommate's suede couch!). She was also loyal and would often follow me from room to room and just sit there because I was there. She hated to be held or to sit on my lap, but she made up for this obvious cat deficiency by BEING INCREDIBLY CUTE and very photogenic.


Kitty yoga

The annual ritual of getting Hootie shaved for the summer months proved to be comedic relief for nearly everyone involved. One hour of discomfort for her yielded days and days of laughter and photos for the rest of us. It was called a "lion cut" because she looked like a tiny lion when she was done. A tiny, very peeved lion. With boots!


Before






After

This year, right before my birthday, Hootie started peeing in all the wrong places. I took her to the vet and we got her some anti-biotics for a urinary tract infection. I also found out that she had kidney disease, and that this struck persian cats at a high rate. She had also lost almost half her body weight, which scared me. Things started getting a little hairy after that. She wasn't eating regularly, and she wasn't going to the bathroom regularly. She wouldn't eat the prescription food, then she wouldn't eat her regular food, then she wouldn't even eat her favorite food - peanut butter - in the tiniest amount. We tried to give her fluids, we could tell she was dehydrated, but she just deteriorated quickly from there. She stopped drinking water and she started wailing constantly. It was heartbreaking. So I had to make the excruciating decision put her down.


Hootie stretching out during a nap

I don't know why this cat affected me so much. Maybe it's because she kept me company in my last three apartments and made the gigantic move to the West Coast with me, a long ride that she handled like a champ, even when we dragged her to the Grand Canyon. Maybe it's because she was so fun to take pictures of ...so fun, in fact, that she is now internet famous because I've plastered her picture all over the place. Or maybe it's because she was just a great pet.


Hootie at the Grand Canyon!

In any case, she's gone now and I'm a wreck. She may have been just a cat, but she's been there with me for the last three years, through thick and thin. And today I'm really sad.

This blog is an outlet for me and a way to communicate with many people that I don't see very often; most of the time, I'm thinking about issues that relate to my studies or those that I just find important. Today, I'm just really missing my cat and putting up pictures of her here made me smile. Rest in peace, my little kitty.

28 October 2008

Country vs. City

I'm just returning from an unexpected trip to a rural area of the East Coast - aka "Real America" - near the state line of Maryland and West Virginia, and I wanted to share some observations that I made while I was there.

First off, I am impressed with and amazed by the connection to the land that the people who live there forge. Really you don't have a choice ... if you grow up there, or if you make the choice at some point in your life to move away from civilization, you are confronted with the trees, animals and earth nearly every time you step out of the house. It is breathtaking. And you have to improvise as well. Every time we wanted to go somewhere, we had to cross a one-lane wooden bridge over a large creek that many people I know would simply balk at. But there it was, and it even had a toll booth.

That said, I feel a little wiser for the experience. What troubles me about these rural inhabitants is that no one is truly disconnected from the grid, and drawing resources so far out in the middle of nowhere, I feel like many of these dwellings are doing a disservice to the landscape. I wish I had seen a house that was really integrated with the land, that used solar power or wind for energy, that collected and filtered its own water, and that had its own thriving vegetable garden for food. Unfortunately I did not see such a house, and few of the homes I did see were actually attached to farms. I don't think I could ever live so far away from civilization without making my home completely self-sufficient. We have infrastructure for a reason and until we can figure out how to make these types of self-sustaining homes, the fringe-dwellers are only stretching our already-thin resources.

I come back to my idea of living in the city then (as if I had ever left). And I love cities, many of them, for reasons such as those presented by this article in the NY Times, which discusses an "an election contingency clause" presented by the owners of two condo developments in Manhattan which allows buyers to back out of contracts signed between now and Election Day if Barack Obama fails to win the presidency. No, I'm not kidding. Does anyone else think this is brilliant? I mean, fair play to their marketing department for getting themselves free press in the New York Times, not to mention facing reality.

So upon my return from the "Real America", where I did see many McCain-Palin signs, but also many Obama-Biden signs, I thought I would give a shout out to all of my people in "Fake America" who know that life will get better for ALL Americans if Obama is elected. Seven days before the most anxiety producing election I have ever known, my fingers are crossed.


The Awesome Obama HQ in "Real America", aka Cumberland, MD

21 October 2008

Sea change

sea change –noun
  1. a striking change, as in appearance, often for the better.
  2. any major transformation or alteration.
  3. a transformation brought about by the sea.
I like that last definition. I think we can change it to read "a transformation brought about by the sea of people".....

I wish I could vote today. This Presidential election has gone on entirely too long, and caused me entirely too much anxiety. Especially when I'm in the middle of trying to complete a Master's thesis. For someone as interested in politics as I am, the excitement of this campaign has been a heady distraction from my thesis work.

But it has also awakened the country from its complacency and exhaustion after 8 years of enduring an incompetent Commander in Chief. And it's caused me to put some things in perspective:
  1. For a long time, I've been having a lot of angst about the generational gap in the U.S. I look at Bush, Cheney, and that whole band of loonies and think, "my goodness, their generation ruined everything...and what it didn't ruin the first time, it's trying to ruin now." And I've been thinking that my generation has been trying to make things right again all by ourselves. But that discounts my own parents, who are good, hardworking, sensible people; and, although they have never aspired to the presidency, I think that they could have run this country a hell of a lot better than the current administration. They, like many other sensible parents, are looking forward to sea change in this country.
  2. This campaign has also caused several of my friends who previously had no interest in voting or even talking about politics to both register to vote and to talk about politics. Imagine my surprise when I'm having political conversations with those close friends who have never breached the subject with me before! They, too, are looking forward to sea change in this country.
  3. What disturbs me most about these final weeks of the campaign is the ugliness and latent hatred that is starting to come out on the other side. It's also made me realize how glad I am that I know so many good people who reject this type of hatred. The "win at any cost" approach is pretty much the opposite of what this country needs right now as it faces down economic turmoil like we have never seen in my lifetime. And because of this economic challenge, the country desperately needs a sea change.
All of this leads me to reiterate that which Jon Stewart mocked so freely in last night's Daily Show: the idea that somehow, some parts of this country are "anti-America" because they do not support the McCain-Palin ticket. Governor Palin's comments last week, coupled with the lunacy of Minnesota congresswoman Michelle Bachmann declaring that members of Congress should be investigated as to whether they are pro- or anti-American, and McCain's top advisor Nancy Pft-whatever-her-name-is saying that southern parts of Virginia are "real Virginia," are completely and utterly disturbing. Not only are they divisive, the last flailing desperate remarks of a campaign that has watched all of its other cynical campaign tactics fail, they are dangerous. They suggest an America divided and hearken back to the passion that I imagine was felt on both sides of the country during the Civil War. Those of us who support Barack Obama and Joe Biden do so out of a hope that this country can be repaired, re-energized, and rebuilt, and comments like this threaten not only our hope, but they threaten us personally. If I'm anti-American because I've sacrificed a few dinners out so that I could give some of my meager graduate student's budget to support the best hope of my generation to make this country better a better place, then so be it. But the truth is, I'm not anti-American. My thesis, my life's work for the next year is dedicated to teaching people - in America - about how to save energy in their homes. And no, I'm not dividing the information between people in some parts of the country and people in other, "more real" parts of the country.

The truth is that the McCain-Palin campaign is spiraling into a pattern of fear-mongering, latent racism, and divisiveness that we, as a country, need to put behind us, once and for all. The U.S. is not only ready for a sea change, it is hungry for it. One needs only to see the staggering $150 million that was donated to the Obama campaign - during the month of September alone - to understand that.

So these are just things that I've been thinking lately and I needed to get them off my chest. I will leave you with a video of General Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama which I found to be eloquent and inspiring. That is not stopping the lunatics on the other side from using racist remarks to smear the General (a 4-star general, for god's sakes), but it's worth watching, nonetheless.



If even a decorated war hero, formerly of two conservative administrations, is ready for a sea change, I think it's time.

Update, 3 November 2008: Even MSNBC agrees with me ... sort of.

16 October 2008

Taking off the rose-colored glasses

Los Angeles is such a strange and funny place. A year ago, my internet buddy Geoff wrote an ode to Los Angeles that I love, but that I have come to disagree with to a certain extent. To be completely honest, I don't think I would have moved here on my own, on purpose, had it not been for graduate school, and the school that I ended up in was not my first choice originally ... until I visited and discovered USC was pretty great.

And so I did move here, over a year ago now, and it was such an exciting journey. I got to see so much of the country that I had not seen before, with a good friend and my cat in tow. It was tough but really wonderful, and the rewards have included not only going back to school and finding so many new opportunities, but also realizing that I have another great friend - in addition to some existing really awesome ones - that I can rely on.



This is where the "but" comes in. BUT ... now that I've been here a year, I feel like I have some perspective. There is something to be said for first impressions, and while they are not always appropriate, my first impression of LA, on my first trip here in 1999, was that it was a massive, dangerous, and generally unpleasant. And of course the city has changed so much since then, with new development, improvements in public transportation, and real inroads into making the city a more sustainable place. But, the longer I live here, the more I start to see evidence of that first impression creeping back.

The thing that I find most amazing, in my own experience, is the similarities between LA and the city that I left behind, Cincinnati. On paper you might not find a clear comparison. But on paper, you might not find a person that has lived years in transitional Downtown areas of both of these cities, as I have. Cincinnati, like LA, had race riots, and both cities struggled to heal from those tumultuous times. Cincy and LA have both recently seen efforts to resurrect the residential districts of their Downtowns that suffered greatly after "white flight" to the suburbs decades ago. Both cities have intense vehicular traffic and public transportation systems that should be functioning much better than they currently do because of their reliance on the automobile. And both cities are trying to remedy that, each with its own version of resistance.

The part where it gets amazing is when you look at the scale of these cities. Cincinnati is a city of around 350,000 with a metropolitan area of 2 million. Los Angeles is a city of 4 million with a metropolitan area of 15 million. So the problems that I saw in Cincinnati are multiplied, theoretically, by a factor of roughly 7 in Los Angeles. And the thing that troubles me the most in this scenario is in the issue of evolving race relations. Cincinnati still has lingering issues with race relations, more than 7 years after its race riots. The primary source of conflict, in my opinion, was the distrust of the urbanized and typically less-well-off African-American population by the middle-class, suburban white population. There were good people and many misunderstandings on both sides of this debate in Cincinnati when I lived there. Most of what I saw had to do with perception and misconceptions.


I wish I could have brought some of the trees from my old street in Cincinnati with me to LA. It's too dry here for them, I think.

Fast forward to Los Angeles, and my life a few blocks away from Skid Row. The thing that troubles me here is that there is not just one cultural group that may experience conflict with one other group ... it's that there are so many cultures, and when you increase the number of cultures, you increase the potential for conflicts. The way NOT to handle this, I would say, is by insulating yourself from other people who are your neighbors, as the Latino community did last weekend in Downtown LA. Regarding this event, Blogdowntown wrote "And if I am allowed to dream on a long weekend; in a city that boasts cultural diversity, why isn’t there a parade that gives everyone a chance to be represented on one day, on one street? Parades are segregated. There is no Cultural Diversity March that has, say, two entries from the best of L.A.’s ethnic and holiday parades." I don't know why this particular situation struck such a chord with me, but it led me to write this post, and I think it's indicative of the state of cultural relations in this city. And this is where I start to really have problems. Because even Cincinnati - little, sometimes backwards Cincinnati - knew how to throw a parade, and a festival, and a block party that included everyone.


Over-the-Rhine, just north of Downtown Cincinnati, threw darn good block parties.

So I know this is really super long and kudos if you are still reading, but this has got me thinking a lot lately. I could be wrong but it doesn't seem like other major cities in the U.S. experience these issues, or if they do, they deal with them a lot better. It just seems to me that if Los Angeles wants to survive and not render itself functionally obsolete, it needs to encourage its citizens to live with each other, not just next to each other; to work together, not apart. And in return, these citizens need to learn to take care of their community, and eventually give back. Since LA's problems are multiplied by a factor of 7, it's got a lot more at stake. Geoff Manaugh writes in his ode, "... the huge irony is that Southern California is where you can actually do what you want to do; you can just relax and be ridiculous." But how much longer can LA continue on its current path before even relaxing becomes ridiculous? I may just be asking the question now, but LA needed the answer yesterday.

12 October 2008

Back from hiatus

In my last post I talked about things that keep me up at night. It turns out that wasn't even the tip of the iceberg. Today I'm going to talk about things that keep me away from blogging, or, "where I've been the last two weeks."

So, I had this birthday. It was a milestone as far as birthdays go - 30. I've been waiting for it for a few months, most of my friends are older than me so I was prepared. They tell me that I am now allowed to do whatever I want and my excuse will simply be "because I'm 30." I am fine with this.

I am able to forgive those of my best friends who forgot my birthday because they were probably too busy watching the stock market tumble off a cliff. A year ago on my birthday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit an all-time high - over 14,100. Two days ago it was below 8600. That's a loss of 40% of its value. I believe that they said this translated to a cash loss of trillions of dollars.

And as far as the market goes, I'm sure we all took a hit somehow. The same day it closed below 8600 I received a piece of paper from the financial firm that manages my 401k. Thinking it was my new statement, I opened it, and expected to see losses. What I didn't expect was a bunch of negative numbers and a zero balance. Turns out that my account was transferred to a different company (they forgot to tell me about this) and this terrifying piece of paper was simply a reflection of the money being transferred. My 401k is still there! Smaller, but still there. Thank goodness.

Meanwhile at home, my cat has been sick. Sorry, this is probably a totally bizarre thing to discuss in the midst of a financial crisis, but coming home every day to the question of "did she or didn't she pee on my bed" will have an effect on how you live your life. It wouldn't have been so bad but she lost a lot of weight and that was a little scary. In fact, like the stock market, my cat lost 40% of her value. She went from 10 pounds to 6! I think she is now on the road to recovery. Jury is still out on the "pee" question though.



So the cat has me worried, the state of our economy and our future in the world as a result has me worried, and oh by the way, a generation-defining election is in its last rounds right now. Has anyone been watching the debates? Of course you have. My mind was made up so long ago that they have done nothing for me but I am amazed to see that people are still deciding and that these debates have an effect. I am also glad to see that many people are starting to come around to what I said when she first appeared on our TVs six weeks ago....



Last but not least, I participated in an exhibition on Friday with an idea that I have been working on that is tangential to my thesis work. I blogged about this on Archinect so I won't repeat myself but I will point you to that post. It was a beautiful day and I got a lot of great feedback, and who knows, I may be turning it into something sometime soon.

ANYWAY ... I'm still here in Southern California, just trying to get through the year. Drop me a line when you get a chance. Cheers.

29 September 2008

Things that keep me up at night.

The following issues don't REALLY keep me up at night...but they are good motivators.

So, in case you missed it, our greenhouse gas emissions are actually accelerating. This is surprising - and ultimately quite scary - because a lot of people thought that the economic downturn would result in less energy consumption. Nope! We are barreling toward the point of no return even faster now! And more than half of carbon emissions are now from developing countries ... which will be even harder to slow down.

If you want to see proof of climate change, watch this time-lapsed video of Alaska's northern coast eroding. Also, we already passed Earth Overshoot Day...I would try to explain it myself, but just visit the link.

So the world is facing a big crisis. In the meantime, one of our presidential candidates nominated a VP so grossly underqualified, and so wildly embarrassing that I can't stand to watch this interview myself...it's like watching a Ben Stiller movie. It makes me cringe. It reminds me of the time Bush tried to dance with that tribe in Africa. Jeez.

Oh and there's that whole "the sky is falling credit crisis" thing. We're damned if we do pass the $700 billion bailout package, and we are ROYALLY SCREWED if we don't. So I guess we'll pass it then, huh?

All I can say is, I hope the rest of the country comes to the same conclusion as this small paper, who is endorsing the Democratic candidate for president for the first time in 72 years. Because if things go the other way November 4th, I forsee many sleepless nights ahead.

24 September 2008

Ranking the 50 most sustainable cities in the U.S.

This has been getting a lot of play in my online circles recently so I thought I would share it with anyone paying attention here.

A group called Sustainlane, the "people powered sustainability guide" has recently ranked the 50 most sustainable cities in the US.

....And the winner is.....

ding ding ding, Portland, Oregon. Big surprise! I like this quote: "If you live in Portland, you might want to think twice before complaining about the 40-plus inches of rain dumped on your head every year. It might be the only thing keeping the entire country from moving to your city by the Prius-load."

The cities were ranked by a number of factors that contribute to urban sustainability including air quality, innovation, commuting, local food and agriculture and more. It's disappointing but I guess not surprising to me that my old neighborhood (Cincinnati) doesn't even show up on the list, and my new 'hood (Los Angeles) is ranked 28th. It's nice to see that all my friends are living in sustainable places though (Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Chicago, New York). It's tough trying to lead a sustainable life in a less-sustainable place. But I think I deserve an A for effort!

21 September 2008

EnviroHint #3c: ...Recycle?

Well, you can't say I didn't try. My previously mentioned attempts at upcycling one of my favorite t-shirts into a reversible bag have fallen a bit short. Although the photo below makes it LOOK like I finished the bag, the reality is, I can't quite figure out how to finish sewing the sides, and with school going full blast, I don't have time to try. So, I'll finish it eventually.

The good news is, I get to use this opportunity to introduce you to the concept of upcycling. Upcycling basically means that you take something old and instead of recycling it the traditional way, you actually make it better in its second life. There are very few materials that can be upcycled on a mass scale; one example might be tires, which can be ground up and used in rubber flooring for playgrounds or athletic facilities. (Of course, that's if you agree that flooring is a better product than tires for cars ... but I digress).



One quick note before I go ... have a look at my Archinect blog for photos from the Park[ing] Day event I helped organize this past Friday at USC. Fun times!

17 September 2008

All quiet on the Western Front

I'm here today to tell you that I have nothing to say. I apologize for not being more interesting but the events of the last couple of weeks have rendered me basically speechless. I have been dividing my time between voraciously reading the news and working on my thesis. I would tell you about my progress on that but it's pretty boring. I'd like, instead, to talk about the three big storms consuming the Eastern half of the country.

1. Hurricane Ike.
My god, what a monster storm this was. At its biggest it was about as wide as the state of Texas - I couldn't believe those satellite images. I can't remember the last time a storm entered the country and then "boomeranged" around like that. The really amazing thing is that it separated ... the winds went northeast and the rain went east. I know that the winds went northeast because as of today, many people in Cincinnati are still without power from the 70 mph gusts of wind that Ike sent in on Sunday. And without rain, the wind threw a bunch of debris into transformers which then set things on fire, including Grammer's and Findlay Market. I hope everyone gets their power back soon.

2. In the meantime, you can't find anything about the Great Midwest Blackout of 2008 because of the tornado on Wall Street. (On the 24-hour news channels, everyone has been using bad storm analogies, so I will too.) There are now only 2 major brokerage houses left in the United States, and late last night, the Fed decided to extend a loan to AIG, a big insurer of banks, among other things. Before you ask the Fed to rescue you from your bankruptcy (I think we all should), check out the latest interactive graphic explaining the mess from the NY Times. It's brilliant, and a little terrifying.

3. Typhoon Sarah.
In the past week, the favorability ratings for Governor Sarah Palin, aka John McCain's ill-advised pick for Vice President, have swung an unprecedented 10 points to the negative. This is, presumably, because the people who don't check the news every 5 minutes like I do are starting to realize that this person should not be a heartbeat away from the Presidency. I dare say she shouldn't be 5 or 10, or probably even 50 heartbeats away from the Presidency. I pay attention to who the Governors of many of the states in the country are, and I struggle to think of a Governor who would have been a worse choice for this position than Sarah Palin. And I'm a woman, and I want to see women succeed as much as the next girl, but not a woman who politicizes everything in her state government by firing those who disagree with her (just like George W. Bush). Not a woman whose primary foreign policy experience is being able to see Russia from land in Alaska. Not a woman whose hypocrisy is so broad that she wants to take away the option of choice from women everywhere, even though she offered it to her own daughter ... or who was for the Bridge to Nowhere before she was against it ... or who accuses Senator Barack Obama of multiple budget ear marks for his state when she requested more, per capita, than he did.

At the end of the day, the people of Texas (and Cincinnati) will recover. The banks will be OK. And luckily we have at least one competent choice for President. This is all assuming we make the right decisions in the next few months ... let's not screw it up, people.

09 September 2008

Goat-scaping

This is too much fun to not share.

There are goats in Downtown LA right now.
About 100 of them, 4 blocks from me. They will be here for two weeks. They were brought in to clear brush and weeds from a steep site in the small Angels Knoll park next to Angel's Flight. At $3,000, they are cheaper than human labor (about $7,500). For those of you not from LA, they have been using goats around here for a while to help cut down on fire risk. But, you don't often see them in the middle of the city!

Go go gadget Goat-scaping!







04 September 2008

Trying to be "useful"

This is another one of those days where I'm trying to make a big decision, and I have this blog, and so I'd like people's input.

I've said all along that the reason I went back to graduate school was to improve my skill set in order to become a better environmental designer, and ultimately, to do something useful with my thesis.

At this point, I'm trying to decide where exactly that thesis is going to go. I've been researching web sites, including the Department of Energy's site, and I think what is missing is a greater understanding by homeowners of how architecture itself can improve their houses. There is already a web site that details how homeowners can reduce their energy using mechanical means, and yield a cost savings, and it's here. It was also put together by a team of like, 25 people over a number of years, and I don't have those kind of resources! But I think what I CAN bring to the table is a web learning tool that presents simple design options to people who could remodel their homes; something that diagrams how architectural elements could help people reduce energy in their part of the country ... something that gives them tangible solutions for doing their part to reduce global warming.

So ... what do you think? It is a little "pie in the sky" but I see a void - I don't think anyone else has done something that really explains the why part of architecture to the public. Please leave comments or suggestions below!

01 September 2008

Addicted to Blogging

Instead of finishing the special project that I started a couple of weeks ago (see EnviroHints #3A and #3B), I apparently thought it would be easier to start a third blog. OK, not really, but the lack of Archinect school blogging in 2007 was ultimately what prompted me to start this blog, and now that Archinect has brought school blogging back, I decided to go legit and try to talk strictly about my school experiences there.

So ... by all means, please feel free to visit my school blog at Archinect, where I will discuss, in more meaningful detail, what I am attempting to do with my Master's thesis. As always, comments and suggestions are encouraged and appreciated (as long as they are not "anonymous").

26 August 2008

Apparently I'm an "enviromaniac"

I listen to Marketplace on NPR religiously, and yesterday's show had a segment that I loved. Kai Ryssdal (whom I heart) started off the segment by mentioning that some people identify themselves as "red" for Republicans and "blue" for Democrats, but how there might be a new color in the political spectrum - green. "That's me!" I thought. They went on to talk about offices in which people are designated the "green cop," and although I have not yet achieved badge status in my part-time job or studio, I am a fervent recycler and constantly encourage people to use public transportation or bikes.

So if anyone wants to refer to me as an "enviromaniac", I'm fine with this. Just for the record.

25 August 2008

EnviroHint #3b: ...Reuse...

Last week when I started this project, I began by cutting out the pieces that I thought I was going to use, in the corresponding sizes, and then I started to pin things together. I (wisely) walked away for a few days, thought about it, and did some Google searches for inspiration. When I came back to the bag, I decided how I wanted to do things, and the construction will be fairly straightforward. Not necessarily easy, but straightforward at least.

So this is a picture of the panel of the bag with the graphic from the t-shirt sewn onto the side. This is the whole point of the project so I went ahead and got that out of the way. Next to it is the strap, which I folded, ironed, pinned, and then sewed on each edge. I will come back to this later.



This is a photo of the reverse side of the bag with a big pocket that I made. I'm a fan of pockets and I couldn't imagine making a bag for myself without one, so I did. I attached it to the patterned fabric because it is more sturdy than the green corduroy ... all told, both fabrics are quite heavy and this won't be the lightest bag in the world, but it will be one-of-a-kind. This photo also shows the attachment of the fabric together at the top this is the only edge of the panels that will be exposed.



It's difficult to explain how I'm putting the whole thing together, so I'll include photos in the final post after I finish it, but the final step will involve sandwiching the edges of the panels between the two fabrics on the strap and then sewing the whole thing together. This will be the hardest part of the whole bag and I'm a little leary of how skinny it is so I haven't started yet but soon enough! I always finish what I start :o)

19 August 2008

EnviroHint #3a: Reduce.....

The last time I blogged about a clothing salvage project, the Los Angeles Times copied off me a few months later. (Incidentally my version was for those ladies who prefer to have their whole bottom covered, not just half.) Undaunted, I present to you another constructive way to keep a favorite item of clothing in your life by repurposing it and giving it a new use. This will be Part One in a ?-part series ... I've just started and I don't quite know how long this will take, or when I'll be done!

So I have this Threadless t-shirt that my old roommate gave me a couple of years ago. I absolutely love the graphic on the front ... the big "ball" of city plus the tree on top. However, I've never been able to wear it comfortably, mainly because of what goes underneath the graphic when I try to wear it. So I decided to save it.



I knew I wanted to keep the graphic, but what to do with it? First, let's cut it out.



I use that pink marker because it's easy to see on anything and it's got 3 different tips.



I decided at this point that I would put it on the side of a satchel that I made. My roommate suggested maybe putting it on the back of a hoodie, but I'm not all about spending money lately and I didn't have a hoodie that I wanted to violate like that. So I rummaged through my cache of fabric spares and found not one, but two fabrics that I wanted to use. I will make a reversible satchel! How exciting! Below are the beginnings of the panels that I started to cut out.



It should be said that somewhere in between that last picture and this one I realized that I didn't really know what I was doing and that this might take a while. It's OK - I mean, I know how to measure and how to sew, how hard could it be, right? Putting it together will be the easy part, but getting it to be really reversible will be tricky. I think have all the pieces cut out though, including a pocket and the over-the-shoulder-sized handle (below).



Stay tuned for what happens when I try to put the whole thing together!

18 August 2008

FYI: the wonderSphere is not interested in your anonymity.

Call me exceedingly irritable lately - it would be the truth - but I've recently instituted a policy of only publishing comments on my posts from people who identify themselves, either by their Blogger ID or in the comment. I realize that some people are afraid to provide any link to themselves on the internet, but the truth is that a Blogger ID hardly gives me any information about you; it doesn't even allow me to email you. And if you don't have a Blogger ID but I know you, then you won't be afraid to tell me who you are by signing the comment. I apply the same philosophy in Facebook ... I won't add or engage you if I don't know you. Basically I think that if I'm putting myself out there with my posts every week, people who respond can at least have the courtesy to identify themselves.

We can now return to our regularly scheduled programming....

13 August 2008

You know what's awesome? The Olympics

There are so many things to talk about with these Olympic Games, one hardly knows where to begin, so I'm going to start off with Michael Phelps' daily diet, because it's amazing. The other day on NBC, they said that Phelps is supposed to eat between 8,000 - 12,000 calories a day. Every day! That's ridiculous! They also said his typical breakfast looks like this:
  • three fried egg sandwiches
  • a five-egg omelet
  • a bowl of grits
  • 3 slices of French toast
  • three chocolate chip pancakes
It's official, I'm going to start swimming.

Ok, so in all seriousness, the real story in this Olympics, besides Phelps of course, is China. As in, look at that awesome Olympic park China built. As in, look at those 15,000 performers that China used in the Opening Ceremonies. As in, holy hell, those road cyclists are racing next to the Great Wall of China. There are disturbing stories as well, like the father-in-law of the American Men's Volleyball Team coach who was stabbed to death while on a tour on the first day of the Games. Or the fact that Joey Cheek's visa was revoked because the Chinese didn't like his work on behalf of refugees in Darfur. Or the fact that the young "ladies" on the Chinese gymnastics team are probably actually middle-school age children.

And now, despite the fact that they are the world's most populous country, China is having trouble filling the seats in their venues. Some less reputable sources seem to think that people are staying away because of China's human rights record and lack of "freedom." The mainstream media is blaming ticket scalpers - some of whom traveled to Beijing from Houston, Texas, of all places - to rip people off on tickets to the events. The real reason may perhaps be a nuanced combination of both situations.

There are so many reasons to fault China's stifling politics. Its record of human rights, the fact that it quells dissent so fiercely, its lack of a free press ... and no one thinks that a government should massacre its own people, as China did in Tiananmen Square less than 20 years ago. But I like to think that with this Olympiad, China is trying to show that they are becoming worthy of sharing the world stage. Many times in history, governments of major world powers have made bad decisions that resulted in unnecessary loss of life (cough cough Iraq cough cough), but this being the Olympics, we have to rightfully put aside our past grievances and move forward. No one is suggesting we forget the protesters at Tiananmen Square, but maybe we can honor them, just a little bit, by showing up and giving our best in the world's most public sporting arena.

And whether you buy this line of reasoning or not, it seems a little irrelevant at this point. What does it matter what we think when China is becoming more prosperous, their people have jobs, and the country is functioning reasonably well under the Communist government. One can scarcely imagine how they might govern a country of 1.3 billion people, because one can scarcely imagine that many people to begin with. America has a hard enough time holding elections in a country of 100 million voters, how would a country of 1 billion voters go to the polls? (Hanging chads, anyone?)

That said, this is a mighty impressive Olympics, and whether you agree with the politics of the host country or not, you can't discount the effort of the athletes who are breaking records daily. And you have to admit, the Opening Ceremonies were pretty bad-ass. If you don't think so, why don't you try to get 2008 dudes to do Tai-Chi in a perfect circle and get back to me?

12 August 2008

On Hypocrites

I had several things that I wanted to talk about on the blog today, not the least of which was another "EnviroHint," but actually I think I need to get this out of my system first.

I can't quite figure out why men in high-profile politics think it's OK to have extra-marital affairs in this day and age. Maybe it's because it used to be so easy for their predecessors (Thomas Jefferson? FDR? JFK?). Maybe it's because everybody was doing it (Newt Gingrich was doing it while he was trying to get Clinton impeached for doing it). But it's really just the men, isn't it? And it's not limited to one group of men geographically or a certain age group...but it really does seem that the higher the podium they put themselves on, the farther they fall.

I was shocked when Eliot Spitzer admitted to hiring a prostitute. Mainly because the guy was so righteous in his political life, you'd think he was a living, breathing moral compass. Not so. And now there's John Edwards. Talk about disappointing. Here's a guy that I thought was so noble, and such a family man....and he depicted himself as such, and his wife supported this image as well. And I could not be more disgusted with this guy. And for me, and for many others I imagine, it's not because we care who they had sex with or whatever...it's just that they weren't honest about it. They were hypocrites. Looking back on the long line of American philanderers in politics, I can't imagine a bigger hypocrite than John Edwards (except for maybe Gingrich). At least Bill Clinton didn't tour the country, while running for president, and talk about a lack of morality in our society. And Edwards had the gall to emphasize, in his interview on ABC, that his wife was in remission. How tacky!

I thought about trying to post a list of men here who had affairs while in office or running for office, but I decided that I don't care. Because when it comes down to it, I don't care who you sleep with, but if you have such poor judgment in the first place, and you continue that poor judgment by trying to cover it up (when everybody knows you can't anymore), you don't deserve my vote, or anyone else's for that matter.

08 August 2008

An excuse to post on 08-08-08

The Olympics began today in Beijing at 8:08:08 pm on the eighth day of the eighth month in the year 2008. The Chinese believe - as I do - that the number 8 is lucky, in part because "their names sound similar to words that have positive meanings" in Chinese. So ,while I love that the Chinese really embraced their "eight-ness", if you will, what I find ironic is that according to the Chinese calendar it may actually be the year 4705. No eights there!

Read about the number 8 here, and have a look at why everyone is getting married today here. (Many years ago, probably 8 even, I decided that I might like to get married on this day. It's good to have goals but I guess I didn't try hard enough, LOL)

More on 8s from the NY Times.

And finally, today is exactly 2 months before another "lucky" event...my birthday! :o)

07 August 2008

My Happy Place

Many eons ago, several of my college friends and I traveled through Europe for 3 months. About halfway through, I started experiencing travel fatigue. It wasn't that I wanted to go home, it's just that I wanted to stay in one place for more than 4 nights in a row, I think. Anyway, one afternoon, on the train from one gorgeous place to another, it was raining and gloomy outside, but in my cabin I decided to sketch my happy place. A "happy place", for those of you unfamiliar, is a mythical place that you go to in your mind when you need to be calm. Incidentally it's from the movie Happy Gilmore. But I digress.....here is my sketch from that train ride. (Disclaimer: I was cold, tired, on a train, and perspective was never my forte.)

Funny how the house I conceived in 15 minutes on the train was half Arts-and-Crafts, half Neuschwanstein. And all weird. Anyway.


Fast forward to this past weekend, when I went to Seattle to visit one of my traveling buddies from that same trip for her birthday. I've been to Seattle before, for business, but it was hard to get a good sense of it on my own and not knowing where to go or what to see, and in a limited amount of time. This weekend reintroduced me to it, and I dare say I may have found my happy place. Observe:


Now there's no goofy house in the foreground, thank goodness, and there's no flying cars (not my fault) but they look fairly similar, you have to admit. And of course when I drew the sketch I knew what the Space Needle looked like, and I think I included it because it was iconic. But everything else is there....the trees, the hills, the skyline, the architecture. And as a bonus, Seattle has a behemoth volcano looming over it just to the south. I think Mt. Rainier exists to keep the city humble.

Suffice it to say that my reintroduction to Seattle was magical. It's a truly lovely city, populated with nerds and bikers and bookworms after my own heart. Their hipsters even remind me a little of the grunge types that started Pearl Jam and all of the great alternative bands of the early '90s, when I really started to love music. Er, as a baby. In the early '90s. *cough cough*

So here are a few more photos of my "happy place." I am such a lover of cities, it's wonderful to revisit one with a refined sense of what makes a city truly great, and find that it fits the bill in all categories. Well done, Seattle.

In the Rem Koolhaas-designed Seattle Public Library




At the locks....like the bridge in my sketch


Mt. Rainier is still huge, even when seen from my airplane window

31 July 2008

EnviroHint #2: Pay Attention to the Thermostat

Unless you are still operating a wood-burning stove or use blocks of ice to cool your living space, chances are you have a modern, programmable thermostat. Many people already realize that programming their thermostat to maintain a higher temperature for AC or a lower temperature for heating during the day while they are at work will save money on energy. Think about it - the less the unit has to kick on during the day, the less energy it expends, and therefore you pay less money. But when you come home from work, think twice about cranking the air conditioning all the way back down. Do you really need every space in your home to be that cool, all evening? If you are only occupying the first floor of your home for the majority of the night, try leaving the air up a few degrees....remember that warm air rises, so chances are you can cool a first floor with less AC and with a small fan, if you are a little warm (a floor or table fan still uses less energy than a full-blown air conditioning unit).

One thing you might not realize is that anything you place around your thermostat also impacts its sensors. A modern thermostat is quite sensitive, so if you have a lamp or electrical equipment near it, it might think the room is warmer than it actually is, and force extra air out to make up the difference. The opposite effect will occur if you have something near or around the thermostat that would act as insulation. It might think the room is perfectly fine while you are either freezing or burning up.

So, in short, pay attention to your thermostat! It needs maintenance just like any other piece of technology in your home, and when dealt with carefully, it could save you lots of money.

29 July 2008

5.8

I was trying to decide what to write about today, and then we had that little earthquake about 40 minutes ago, and I thought, "well why not!"

The first earthquake I ever experienced was a 2.6 in New York in the Fall of 2001. It felt like someone had thrown a large appliance off the top of our apartment building. It was already a rough year for NYC and when we had that earthquake, it was kind of like, 'really? Earthquakes too? Anything else, God?'

Of course I moved to LA last summer so I wasn't around to experience the Great Midwest Earthquake of 2008.

So the 5.8 earthquake today was my first Southern California earthquake, it seems. At first I thought someone was wheeling something heavy down the hall, and then my coworker darted out the door, and I was like, 'oh earthquake, OK.' Having never done this before, I jumped up and yelled, "What do I do?" HA. We evacuated the building with our emergency kits and now we're all back at work. Well, I'm getting back to work now.

Yay building codes! ;o)

Update, 8:12 pm: I had to post this hilarious picture from CurbedLA. The earthquake really wasn't that bad but that doesn't stop the media from talking about it.