Friday, January 25, 2008

The Next Post

Sorry about the lack of communication this week. I was creating a performance art piece for a class of mine. I started on Friday and I got 2-4 hours of sleep every night this week except the last two: I always try to work hard so I can sleep a lot the night before a presentation, it helps, but not as much as a blessed 12 hour rest the night after the presentation. A lot of work to get it all done, but I did it and it went splendidly. Although apparently I have to restart my computer every time I plug a projector or second monitor in. Interesting.

Anyways, I created a site to give you an idea of what the presentation was: Go here and follow the instructions.

I also created another site for a short write-up by me, a copy of the read piece, and a comments section to discuss the piece with me or others or whatever. We'll see if that later use gets off the ground, but this second site is here.

Fridays Webcomic post is coming soon. I have to read them all first though. That post will appear below this one.

Best Comic(s) Of The Week 4

A lot of good ones again this week. It has been two great weeks in a row. Instead of having one favorite, this week I have two. They are the first two.

Hijinks Ensue: The Mackbook Air is Pretty and Dumb

XKCD: Journal

Basic Instructions: How to Get the Most Entertainment for Your Video Gaming Dollar

VG Cats: Left Behind

Dueling Analogs: Draining the Snake

Extra Life: Kirby's Lament

Digital Unrest: In the Year 2080

The Warehouse: At Least it's not Family Circus

Ninja Ken: A Guy Shot Through Space one, two, and three.

And this one wouldn't work for me, but it was funny when somebody emailed it. Hopefully the site is back up and running soon. And I found a new webcomic: Strange Gods.

Considering Cyanide and Happiness is so funny and there are four writers there, I introduce another aspect of the Best Comic(s) of the Week feature:

The Best Cyanide and Happiness(s) of the week: Innovative Running

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Another Side Of Architecture

A definition of architecture is a lifelong search for me. Currently I believe architecture is everything: from a conversation to a building to a path, all acts and objects receive a process of design. Peter Nabokov and Robert Easton defined their study of Native American architecture this way:

"In our view, the term "architecture" refers to more than just the design and decoration of buildings. It embraces what happens whenever human thought or action makes order and meaning of random space: naming places, designating sacred parts of "wilderness," clearing village areas and garden plots, claiming food-gathering areas, planning and constructing buildings, and arraigning the spaces that surround and connect them. Finally, it includes the often unseen social and religious meanings which are encoded into buildings and spatial domains."

Friday, January 18, 2008

Best Comic(s) Of The Week 3

If someone says Air and isn't talking about a French band or an environment, I think I'm going to cry. Yes it's thin. But it doesn't have an optical drive and has very little battery life. Also, a 13.3 inch ultraportable? That's just a small laptop, not an ultraportable. Get an EeePC: its open source and smaller - 7 inches - with 3.5 hours of sweet surfing or word processing goodness. And it's not $1800. It's under $500. If you can't tell, I am so far not a fan of the Air. I absolutely love the fact that the Air has the multi-touch of the i-have-no-battery-life-Phone. That software and hardware is awesome. So on that note we'll start with my favorite this week.

Hijinks Ensue: The Omega Directive

XKCD: Redwall

Basic Instructions: How to Listen to Other People Talk About Their Vacations

Of Noobs and Men: #24 It's Undiluted Fun

Extra Life: Little Known Downsides of the Writer's Strike #45434

The Warehouse: Jokes About Staying in the Closet Start Now and Flash Photography

There they are. And here is the hilarious picture of the week: a table full of Airs. So I decided that seven will be the max number of comics for this little Friday feature. Today there were three others that were close, but these seven made me laugh the most.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

NY Times Wrong Again

On September 11th, 2007, the NY Times Health section published this article claiming that a bowl of hookah is equal to smoking an entire pack of cigarettes - as far as the adverse effects are concerned (Carbon Monoxides and Tar mainly). This report was based on the widely published, 2005 WHO TobReg "Advisory Note: Waterpipe tobacco smoking: health effects, research needs and recommended actions by regulators." Besides the fact that the NY times is 2 years late here, they also do not do any research other than reading the WHO report. I'm not a journalist, but I assume journalists should not just read a report and report on it, they should like, check their facts or something too, right?

Well, it turns out that Kamal Chaouachi, who has studied the effects of hookah smoking since 1997, published a lengthy rebuttal to the WHO article in 2006: available here.

For those who don't know, to smoke hookah you fill the bowl with shisha - usually around 20g-30g - and cover the bowl with Aluminum. Then fill the base with water, put a coal on the aluminum over the shisha, and pull the smoke through the bowl, the water, and a pipe to your lungs. It is a lite smoke so most people inhale deeply. To prevent burning the shisha, which creates one of the worst tastes known to me, using high quality coals rather than the "Quick-Light" kind and moving them around the bowl provides a much more pleasurable smoking experience. Like I said, the smoke is very light, but it is also fruity and you can get a ton of different fruit flavors. The coals I use are 100% condensed olive seeds.

The WHO tests and NY Times article ignored all this common sense and tradition. The tests described in the NY Times article used a mechanical smoking device, quick-lighting coals, and only 10g of hookah. These are unusual smoking situations: only noobs use quick lighting coals, and 10g of shisha is a tiny amount. You want more shisha in there partially to prevent burning, but also so the session lasts longer. The 10g of hookah and quick-lighting coals produced average temperatures in excess of 600 degrees Celsius. This obviously burns the shisha quite badly, but the mechanical smoking device smoked on. I don't know a single person who smokes burning shisha - and this is the key to the report. The report suggest that a single bowl of hookah is equal to a pack of cigarettes and in my non-scientific opinion this is absolutely true - even an understatement - if the bowl is burning the entire time.

Hookah smoking by people does not conform to the outlandish and unscientific conditions present during the tests the NY Times reported. Nobody smokes burning shisha - the shisha is heated, usually around 100 to 150 degrees Celsius, not burnt. Two to three times as much shisha is typically used in the bowl than the tests did - less shisha allows the shisha to burn a lot easier. Most people stay away from the quick-lighting coals because they are designed for burning incense and have an unknown chemical composition. Though the WHO report does raise some great points - water is a less-effective filter for burning shisha than previously thought and smoking burning shisha quickly (or at all) is bad - their unrealistic lab conditions created chemicals and gasses through the burning shisha that are not present in hookah smoking. Therefore the entire report is a very interesting report of what would happen if people did smoke burning shisha. And that's it. This report is not valid for anyone. Nobody likes burning shisha. In short, in my opinion, the NY Times article shows their usual over-generalization (I am generalizing here) and lack of research into their articles. Now pass the hose.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Boxwood Architect's Waters Winery

Joe Chauncey of Boxwood architect's designed these two buildings for Waters Winery in Walla Walla. Currently I am designing a remodel of a two-building winery in Zillah so I took a keen interest in this building once I found it. Here is my rambling and opinionated review:

Things I like about the building:

1. The way the space between the Tasting Room and the Winery works. It reminds me of a James Turrell in its simplicity and peace. I think that it works nicely as an entry-way or mediating space. This picture especially:

2. The thought given to every aspect of how the building would work with the wine: In the aging rooms the walls are 17 inches thick to mediate temperature fluctuation and the need for a lot of temperature mediation (AC or Heat running all the time); The skylight in the Winery and its sheer size to mediate the amount of artificial - or even worse, the dreaded fluorescent - lights.

3. The balance between mod and vintage. I mean, come on, who else but Boxwood would have thought of putting that much curl in a script on that CMU wall (above)? More generally though, I think the reuse of recycled materials is almost there - most work for me, but some really don't. Also, the polished concrete floor is something that has been in my design for the smaller building since you showed them to me, and I think this winery proved that materials don't necessarily define experience or "feel" of the building. In normal terms, I love the way the floor and wall materials work together. Also, the way the concrete floor in the Winery works for both dinners/special occasions and the yearly Crush.

Things I don't like about that building:

1. Cost. 2 million dollahs?

2. The building comes off as trying a bit to hard to be both familiar and fancy. Again, the flowery logo on a CMU wall? It seems like the aesthetic of the winery and wines doesn't fit their winery perfectly.

3. The rusted metal siding and roof. I love using recycled materials - it often works really really well. This one doesn't. I think why it doesn't work is because everything else is so clean - the wood, the concrete, the CMU wall (which I hate how that looks if you couldn't tell already) - and the rust just doesn't work. I think it actually may not work because there are a lot of materials - CMU, concrete, glass, wood trusses, wood siding, vinyl, steel - and a lot of treatments - black paint, stain, rust, floor polish, et cetera. Too many textures and too many materials. Now a lot of materials can work, but it is easier to make it work if each building has a focus. Here they try and unite the building too much.

As a rating I'll give it a 3.7/5 overall. I think the "feel" or experience of the building is a 4.3/5, but materials usage is a 3.1/5.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Best Comic(s) Of The Week 2

So it looks like this Friday Feature is getting off the ground considering I remembered to do it this week. Sweet. A lot of good ones this week.

ActionTrip: Have you tried deleting it?

XKCD: Fandom

Cyanide and Happiness: I got a Facebook!

Dueling Analogs: Potty Emergency

Hijinks Ensue: New American Gladiators and HD-DVD Press Conference

Ninja Ken: [Ken <3's Keena] and Myxboxspacelive

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

mewithoutYou Update!

A week and a half before the writing process begins on a new album! Sweet. Longtime readers of this site know that I have a teenage girl's obsession with three bands: mewithoutYou, The Mars Volta, and Architecture in Helsinki. mwY holds a special place in my heart because of the honesty and openness and evident humanity-striving-to-be-better-ness of the band, as well as their music. So I guess it's time I shared my first mwY story/how I discovered mwY story.

I was working a job in the Seattle area real estate market and had just gotten paid. This was like, high school sometime. I guess summer between Junior and Senior year. After all my bills I had $30 so I did what I usually did with it and went to a record store. I don't even remember which one. I grew up listening to Tooth & Nail Records so if it had the T&N logo on it I usually ended up with it. It was a Tuesday, or more appropriately, new music day. I had heard a lot about Four Walled Blackmail by Dead Poetic so I picked that one up, then I found this CD case with awesome cover art (above). I hadn't heard of the band, I just new they were on T&N and had awesome cover work. So I picked up the album. Blew me away. From the fourth listen on I was taken. The organization, the energy, even their flirtations with conventional music had me hooked. That album was the soundtrack to my senior year of high school but luckily it kept growing on me. Now I cannot pin it down to a specific place or time. [A-->B] Life is a part of me - a big influence on everything I create. But everything hinged on their second release - if a band doesn't continue to grow I usually abandon them. Catch for us the Foxes delivered in a big way, as did Brother, Sister and I will always be there the day the stores open to buy their newest album. Which brings me back to yesterday's announcement that a new album is coming maybe this year.

ATY's status: Giddy. A new Mars Volta and mewithoutYou in the same year? Giddy. Definitely giddy.

Photocredit: theshutterdistrict.

Racing Rant: Dakar 2008

This post is selfish. It is in no way meant to insult or demean the victims and families hurt by the actions which occurred on December the 24th. My condolences go out to the friends and families of those killed and I hope we can all work towards a future where this doesn't happen anymore.

But come on ASO! What the fuck? canceling the world's greatest rally for a few terrorist threats and the tragic events of Christmas Eve? So what went down?

Dec 27 - Rally organizers travel to Nouakchott to assess security concerns for the upcoming rally.

Dec 31 - The cabinet ministers of Mauritania are able to convince the Dakar organizers that this event was isolated and they will beef up security. The race is declared ON.

Jan 1 - The organizers recommend French citizens stay out of Mauritania for the time being.

Jan 4 - The race is canceled due to terrorist threats. ATY weeps. As do hundreds of people in villages along the route that rely on this race and the tourism it brings for their winter food.

"Based on the current international political tension and the murder of four French tourists last 24th of December linked to a branch of Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb, but also and mainly the direct threats launched directly against the race by terrorist organisations, no other decision but the cancellation of the sporting event could be taken by A.S.O.

A.S.O.’s first responsibility is to guarantee the safety of all: that of the populations in the countries visited, of the amateur and professional competitors, of the technical assistance personnel, of the journalists, partners and rally collaborators. A.S.O. therefore reaffirms that the choice of security is not, has never been and will never be a subject of compromise at the heart of the Dakar rally.

A.S.O. condemns the terrorist menace that annihilates a year of hard work, engagement and passion for all the participants and the different actors of the world’s biggest off-road rally."

Yes, safety is important. But how is canceling the race condemning "the terrorist menace"? It condones it. So when did this announcement come? THE DAY BEFORE THE RACE STARTED. You think, after meeting with government officials for a week they could have canceled a couple days before, but no, January 4th.

I like the word choice "annihilates" though, that's a nice touch. The greatest rally in the world is annihilated on its 30th anniversary.

Link to Motoblag's article. Hilarious.

Monday, January 07, 2008

2nd Annual Cypress Trees Awards: Best & Worst Racing Moments Of 2007

Worst Racing Moment of 2007:
Colin McRae.

Sniff. The death of all those in that helicopter still makes me sad.


Best Racing Moment of 2007:

This still gets me excited and that's why it wins. After a clusterfuck of a Le Mans - with the top three teams only taking a single podium place, two LMP2 cars finishing, wheels falling off, rain shorting out systems, et cetera, et cetera - Rollcentre Racing, a privateer team with only 6 members, took fourth. Badass. I still haven't worn a hat since then because my hat is still off to that team. That is a legendary achievement.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

2nd Annual Cypress Trees Awards: Best Racing Car Of 2007

Ford Focus RS WRC 06

Ford has finally won the manufacturer's championship - and rightfully so. They stepped away from the pride and elitism the company has shown since the 1966 GT40 and enlisted the help of Yamaha. They stuck with their superb 4 Wheel Drive system. They showed incredible honesty by admitting that they couldn't tune their engine properly, but could get the power on the road best. This is what racing needs. It needs multi-billion dollar teams to admit mistakes and shortcomings. Who cares what the sponsors think - everybody makes mistakes.

The car does not look the best of the WRC cars, but the teams decision to swallow their pride and hire out major portions of development is a step towards making WRC as exciting as Le Mans. The WRC has faced more challenges than F1, but they still produce a great show. Why? Because of teams like Ford pulling stunts like this, and actually pulling it off. And not only pulling it off, but trouncing their opponents: 212 points to Citroën's 183, a single non-podium race (Portugal - and Subaru deserved that podium), four drivers f(Marcus Grönholm, Mikko Hirvonen, Jari-Matti Latvala, and Henning Solberg) in the top eight with Marcus and Mikko in the top three and Matthew Wilson at 11th, and only two retirements the entire season for the Ford team and five for Stobart. That is unheard of. And if those two retirements didn't happen to Grönholm in races 14 and 15 he would have had that championship. Okay, that may just be the huge Grönholm fan in me talking but still, that car is splendid. And I never thought this award would go to an American car.

YouTube Links:
Hirvonen onboard in Japan
Grönholm in his last race
Grönholm onboard in the snow in Norway

Runner Up: Peugeot 908 RC
Check ALMS Fan for a write-up of why and for the award Best Racing Moment of 2007.

Best Comic(s) Of The Week

I feel like starting a new feature today. We'll see if this one gets off the ground:

2P Start #047

Basic Instructions: How to Keep From Losing Your Temper

Cyanide and Happiness: "Dude I hate you so much" and "Oh God I cut a main artery"

A Day

This day contained the following three momentous occasions:

1. I gots me a new video game.

2. I gots me another haircut.

3. A woman who owns a quarter of an establishment I frequent frequently asked me to walk into a room full of moms and small children - some under a month old - and light up a cigar because they had reserved the smoking room but forgotten to pay and their reservation was up. I didn't. But I did think of the below picture and crack myself up all over again.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Die Fetten Jahre Sind Vorbei: 93% Perfect


The film, The Edukators in english, follows a week in the lives of three Germans, Jan, Jule, and Peter. The three of them share intense anti-capitalist ideals and end up in the same household after Jule gets evicted. There, while Peter is away in Barcelona DJing his "big break," Jan and Jule "hit it off." Jan reveals to Jule what him and Peter are doing when they are out all night: breaking into villas and rearranging the furniture. (They leave a note that reads "Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei," or "the fat days are over," and sign it, The Educators.) Things go wrong when Jule and Jan break into the house of Hardenberg, a wealthy executive whose S-Class was totaled by Jule, causing her 100,000 Euro debt.

Focusing neither on politics or relationships, the film takes the role of watcher that both Jule and Jan embrace. After they kidnap Hardenberg, he sets out to educate the three young revolutionaries and ends up doing so brilliantly. From the moment Peter gets back from Barcelona until the end, this movie is perfect. From fake escape attempts to simply sitting in the back of a car in a suit, Burghart Klaußner (below) steals the well-acted show. His intensity, familiarity, and reactions create a character so accidentally sinister and earnest that this film quickly transforms from another good foreign film to an unforgettable study of politics, relationships, and personal accountability.

The sounds are ideal: a soundtrack featuring Leonard Cohen and Nada Surf punctuates the lengthy periods of silence throughout. The sound of a mug being put on a chair, Hardenburg chopping vegetables for pasta, the van driving away - these noises take rightful precedence over the soundtrack. The pacing is a bit slow for the first five minutes, then perfect through the rest. The acting and cinematography is spot on. The shot of the moon over the silhouette of mountains is breathtaking. It's all so natural and meaningful the movie sucked me in quickly.

As to the puzzling end:

There are two ways I took the actions of Hardenburg throughout the kidnapping: either he is the smartest and luckiest hostage ever, or he is an honest man forced into a sort of mid-life crisis. I like to believe the later based on the PAL ending of the film with the three Edukators on Hardenburg's boat taking out the TV feeds to Europe. But even in the NTSC version this seems more likely because of Hardenburg's earnestness throughout and the Waiver of Debt he gives Jule near the end. So if Hardenburg is displaying Stockholm Syndrome throughout like I think he is, then the raid on the Edukators apartment could mean two things:

1) Hardenburg is testing the Edukators to make sure they meet the standards he set in his radical days of youth.

2) Hardenburg is taking the Edukators advice and giving his money to the poor, namely the Edukators, and helping them gain notoriety before their raid on the TV feeds: Hardenburg is the Edukators supporter.

Who knows? Either way this movie is a must watch. But I am starting to believe the second options. The Edukators are in a hotel around the same time their apartment gets raided. I think Hardenburg set them up there and had their apartment raided to clear his involvement in the TV raid. The note supports this theory: "Some people never change." But more appropriately, people change, but some people hit the Restart Chapter button.