Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holidays!

And have a Merry Christmas - Peace for the New Year.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Found: It just keeps getting better...

Disclaimer: I warned you! Absolute bike mayhem and crazyness follows:

Typical over-the-top CGI'd cutesy Japan music video. But the 5-seater bike is cool...

And.. .yea. lowrider trikes. With sluts. Oh yea! Fucking priceless.

I feel so wrong in posting these two vids together, but it just couldn't be helped. Spotted on bikeportland.org

Found: Bike phenomenon

I'm just speechless... makes me feel a bit sheltered living here in Portland. This is a huge step away from the stereotypical hip-hop/rap artists pimped-up Escalade - even though they look loosely based off of the wheel spinners and stereo systems. And it looks a lot more fun, too.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The first step...

...to fixing a problem is the recognition of it. The New York Times has a good opinion piece about the state of America's economy, and the relationship between the ultra-wealthy and the rest of the people.

The fundamental problem, the problem that is destroying the dream, is the extreme inequality pounded into the system by the corporate crowd and its handmaidens in government.

When such an overwhelming portion of the economic benefits are skewed toward a tiny portion of the population — as has happened in the U.S. over the past few decades — it’s impossible for the society as a whole not to suffer.

Its also nice to know that there are at least a few news publications in the US that don't pull their punches, and are still operate outside the influence of the corporate entertain-a-news, ala Rupert Murdoch and friends.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Found: Freeway Fantasy

spotted on streetsblog

I think whoever was developing the original interstate freeway plan must have been on crack. Sure, I've seen the GM Futurama exhibition in 1939 - which largely did come to pass as reality - but this just takes the cake! I'm not sure if I would want to drive a nuclear-powered "Atom car" - a dirty bomb on wheels!

Ugh, it all just reminds me too much of Corbu's Paris plans.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Found: Design Blogs

For your convenience, a rundown list:

MoCo Loco

...and, of course, there's Portland's very own Just Be Complex in Oldtown.

Found: Panoramas

Check it out! Cool 360-degree pics.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

EPA Trumps California's emissions rules

Including 16 other states that had adopted it, such as New York and Oregon. The new smackdown by EPA administrator Stephen L. Johnson states that no state can impose its own gas mileage regulations to combat greenhouse gas emissions:

The emissions standards California proposed in 2004 — but never approved by the federal government — would have forced automakers to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent in new cars and light trucks by 2016, with the cutbacks to begin in 2009 models.

That would have translated into roughly 43 miles per gallon for cars and some light trucks and about 27 miles per gallon for heavier trucks and sport utility vehicles.

I think we also just heard a lot of shit hitting a very big fan, which will likely be cleaned up with one of the largest lawsuits in American History.

To quite Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, “It is disappointing that the federal government is standing in our way and ignoring the will of tens of millions of people across the nation.”

And I completely agree. The Bush administration, though in its final throes of its 8-year lifespan, just continues to keep on giving to the American people.

PDX Transport #1!

Not really very surprising, considering that Portland has for awhile not been a poster child for urban planning in the United States, but more of a reassurance that what we've been doing is 'right.

The American Planning Association has given its 2008 National Planning Award for Best Practice to Metro's Transit-Oriented Development Program for efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Now Portland just needs to figure out how to cram new housing into existing 'historic' neighborhoods without destroying the stock of cool old architecture, not piss off the neighbors, and retain that Portland quality that entrances so many.

Now, if only they'd improve bus service and build light-rail and streetcar lines to actually serve parts of the city that need it. Either that, or we need a subway - and stat!

As nice as the city is, it seems like all the cool transportation projects go to the burbs; the streetcar is not even considered a transportation project! Of course, nobody really circulates between the Lloyd District along the MLK/Grand corridor as a destination... but then the West Side MAX line (Hillsboro) was largely built through farmland.

To address the transportation needs of the residents, workers and visitors traveling within the Portland Central City, providing a Central City transit circulator, achieving additional economic development, all in a way that gains strong public support.

A counterpoint to this would be the SOWA --> Lake Oswego rapid streetcar line under planning.

At least the Portland Streetcar's website posts some sane and balanced-sounding goals:

  • Link neighborhoods with a convenient and attractive transportation alternative.
  • Fit the scale and traffic patterns of existing neighborhoods.
  • Provide quality service to attract new transit ridership.
  • Reduce short inner-city auto trips, parking demand, traffic congestion and air pollution.
  • Encourage development of more housing & businesses in the Central City.

On a related note, seeing the development boom in Portland over the past five years makes me wonder if we really need to encourage more of it... some developers, such as Weston, who have purchased around 20 blocks worth of land around Sandy Boulevard, are just waiting for the national economy and housing market to improve before bringing in the tower cranes.

Subsidies for most projects are therefore not really needed; I just hope that we are able to have dramatically improved transit service to move people around without traffic going to hell - along with open space and schools. As some have noted, bus service has almost completely gone to shit in this town.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Beer nirvana on the rocks?

Or a starving America? Shortages of hops, barley, and now demand for ethanol is driving up the prices for beer - and even food and dairy production.

Besides the obvious disappointment of rising booze prices, seeing staple food prices of grains, dairy and meats rising ~10% or so each year is going to really make it difficult for people in this country to survive.

The question will become, especially for those poorer Americans, a simple choice: drive or eat?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Biodiesel, take 2

So... as spotted on Blueoregon tonight, there was some concern raised as some of the posters identified a key issue with commercial biodiesel production - namely, that of Palm Oil production in Malaysia and Indonesia in satiating the demand for oil in the Netherlands, the world's thirstiest biodiesel producer.

I believe that the efforts by Oregon's Senator Ron Wyden in securing funding to help Oregon support its burgeoning biodiesel industry is vital to diversifying the fuels used for transportation, heating, and industry. For cleanly grown low-impact feedstocks, such as grass, they can be relatively organic and carbon neutral in their production.

As far as Palm Oil is concerned, however, which is increasingly becoming a very popular fuel and is mostly being driven by the huge demands of the European Union (including nations like the UK and Netherlands) stipulating Biodiesel.

Unfortunately, they did not discriminate as to their sources. Luckily, they are rectifying that as new information has come to light as how third-world nations have been using TERRIBLE, environmentally-damaging methods for producing oil for biodiesel production.

However, there are other, far more environmentally sustainable oils that can be used for biodiesel - this is because you can use a huge variety of vegetable oils in the conversion process.

Luckily, the Netherlands - the world's largest consumer of biodiesel - is demanding oil that is less damaging to the environment. That country also has a pretty big stake in global warming - the country could be off the map even before 2100 if global warming causes sea level rises.

Here are some very interesting quotes:
The world's centres for oil palm production are Indonesia and Malaysia where rapid deforestation and the drying out of asssociated peatlands are, Greenpeace claim, releasing huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and thereby speeding climate change.
BUT - good news also:
In Africa, the situation is very different compared to Indonesia or Malaysia. In its Human Development Report 2007-2008, the United Nations Development Program says production of palm oil in West-Africa is largely sustainable.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Miller Time?

Luckily, I'm not too dead to post this completely awesome commercial for Miller High Life beers. Although I've been a PBR drinker on the side in addition to my love of the microbrew (not to mention darker-than molasses beers), I have to hand it to Miller - these commercials are an outstanding work of art. Just don't watch them all at one sitting, they'll grate on your nerves after awhile - they are definitely meant to grab your attention from the typical broadcast programming.

Delving further, it turns out they are all the work of a certain Errol Morris, documentarian and whom I would consider a film artist (wiki agrees). It's really too bad that we don't see more commercials of this caliber, although the chaff certainly helps us know a gem when we see one.

List of all his Miller commercials here (there's a bunch!). Enjoy.

spotted at bikeportland.org


Fall Term 2007 - c'est finit.

I need a few of these now:

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Smart Car

Crash testing! We've all wondered how well these tiny cars would far in a head-on collision... now you know.

Makes me feel a lot better about driving small cars... particularly since I don't actually plan on running into a concrete wall at 70 mph.

Here it comes...

Can anyone say tidal wave?
First peak oil, and now the kicker: poor and industrializing nations are rapidly increasing the amount of oil they consume, and many major oil-exporting nations within 10 years may become net importers. Since the US currently imports 65% of the oil we consume, where is our oil going to come from?

The US is so screwed... our obsession with the automobile is rapidly meeting its doom. It seems our future may be defined by bicycles and electric cars. Hell, I live in Portland - and we've already been touted as the trend-setter for urban policy, as far as land-use planning and transportation, for around 20 years.

Course, there are all sorts of other interesting technologies being developed that have the potential to supplement and fill in various roles for energy usage and transportation...

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Books and bombs in Baghdad

I'll admit I have been neglecting some of the more important issues, especially China, the Iraq/Afghanistan wars, environmental issues. Hopefully I'll find time to delve into the complexities that they present, especially as I find myself more and more aware of how people view the world in light of the changes they bring on.

So, without further ado...

There has been good news in Iraq. Sectarian violence is down, the number of civilians killed is down three months in a row to 718 in November, and people in the cradle of civilization seem to be peeking their heads out of their doors and starting to even get on with their lives.

Of particular note is a famous Baghdad book market, the al-Mutanabi Street book market, has reopened from a 2006 suicide bombing that killed many and wreaked devastation upon one of the city's main cultural centers for intellectual thought. A $5.7 million reconstruction project is underway to rebuild the bookstores, shops, and repave the street into a pedestrian-only zone. Some of the scholars who ran bookstores - and suffered from loved ones who died in the bombing - are quite dedicated and optimistic since the violence has gone down and progress has been made towards rebuilding.

Someone should start a wiki; it is fascinating to learn about the resurgence of such an important aspect of the lives of these people - whom we barely know anything about. When I first started hearing about the reconstruction projects following the so-called "end of the war," I was highly skeptical that it would be of any use at all, since there was a high - and growing - amount of violence in the country.

However, I feel a great deal of sympathy for the Iraqi and Afghani people, and wish them the best of luck towards rebuilding their nations and bringing them into the modern era. Although I am very for us withdrawing as soon as we can, at the same time I can't help but notice that without these kinds of efforts by the Iraqis and our troops to try to help rebuild their country, it would probably be a total loss by now - even if Rumsfeld's post-invasion plan was a total bag of shit.

Now, if only they can avoid a total meltdown and civil war in the future, things just might work out in the long run.

It's officially winter

If there is one thing I've noticed the past 5 years living in Portland, its that the weather will always keep you on your toes. I remember a multi-year drought when I was a kid, but the weather just keeps getting funkier and funkier... and I'm not talking about El NiƱo, either:

Oregon's first-ever Hurricane is forecast to hit tonight through Monday - bringing winds of over 90 mph on the coast, around 50 mph in Portland for Sunday and Monday - as well as 1-1.5 inches of rain per day.

The upside to all this is that the storm will dump tons of snow in the mountains - this year is turning out to be a truly excellent ski season!

Wise Words

Stumbled across this old and insightful video. Not only is he an eloquent speaker, but Eisenhower offers some sage advice... that has certainly been all but ignored for the past 27 years. Reagan and the Bush family are the perfect model of what he warns us against!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Party time @ Solo Dec 6th

Sweet news: Benny Benassi comin' to town December 6th!!


Northwest Tekno's got the scoop.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Driving in the snow..

Considering that Meadows has already opened - way ahead of the normal season - and we're getting cold weather, we very well might get some snow this year!

Just ran across this old youtube video - and its got me pumped! I remember living in the NW neighborhood in Portland and breaking out the snowskate/snowboards/skis when we actually got some snow on the ground. Great times!

But don't drive.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Sustainability experts?

Ok... sounds good!


A great speech

One of the strongest, most powerful running speeches I have heard - probably since Clinton.

He offers an excellent rundown of the issues he is focusing on:

  • withdrawal from Iraq
  • healthcare for Americans
  • climate change
  • dependency on oil
  • rolling back bush's support of torture and the chiselling away of our civil rights
  • cooperative leadership

But his progressive, not reactive, stance is exactly the kind of leadership the Democratic party needs - nothing from Hillary or any other Democrats over the past 7 years has filled me with any confidence that we would be able to think itself out of a paper bag, let alone outmaneuver Bush or any other Republican.

No, Obama offers the promise - and displays it well on stage and in many interviews - of his unrelenting passion and pursuit of what is right and needs to be done (ie, 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emission). I believe Hillary has just taken the wrong boat in the wrong direction in her adoption of the Bush Administration's policy stance.

Many have argued that his lack of experience in politics makes other candidates better qualified... but in fact I believe that not only does his record refute the charge that he is incapable of leadership, but that he will bring a freshness to our party that is currently decaying and withering away. The Democratic party has just been hunkering down and moving to the Right as it has been capitulating to Bush and the Republicans.

Anyways, now that the House and Senate are both majority Democrats, why do we need to follow the lead - or even compromise - with the right-wing wackos? We'll have control over the House, Senate, and presidency - sounds like a slam-dunk win for the American public to me.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Flashback 1994

Saw this on the Portland Mercury's blog... so hilarious! Takes me back to the days when I first got online as a kid (circa '95). The guys that made this are geniuses.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Groundwork for Iran war?

Just ran across this piece of amazing work:

Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate passed the Lieberman-Kyl amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill last month by a 76-22 vote. The amendment, which calls for the use of "military instruments" to "combat, contain, and roll back the violent activities" of the "Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran," is viewed by many as a call to arms against Iran. Democratic presidential hopeful Hilary Clinton voted for the amendment, while fellow senators and presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and John McCain chose not to vote at all. Oregon's Sen. Ron Wyden voted against the amendment.

Anyways, So basically Hillary and all the republikons want to nuke Iran... alright! Sign me up! Oh darn, I'm too old now. :(

The most ironic part of this is that most Iranians love America and our culture (go figure...), and there continues to be a secular movement that just won't go away. While it is by no means on par with Turkey, Iran is a Republic - and with the majority of its population under the age of 30 and infatuated by the US, one would think a better pro-democratic strategy for Iran would be to encourage these youths - it won't be too long before they're running the country. Free Britney Spears DVDs for the kiddies?

Anyways, great stuff! Almost as good as the vote in September by Congress to condemn Moveon.org for criticizing (gasp! Free Speech?!) General Petraeus. Something about this just reminds me of ancient Rome... and yes, our Senators are just as spineless (brainless?) as they were during the Roman Empire.

Oregonians, take note for which Oregon Congressman voted for it: Peter DeFazio, David Wu, Greg Walden (an R), Diane Hooley (another R).

The big Blue and Wyden voted nay (cheers!)

Monday, November 5, 2007

hell freezes over!

Unbelievable news - the Senate just passed a 6-year, $11 billion funding package for Amtrak! Compared to the paltry $1.3 billion Amtrak received last year - and contrary to Bush's plan to break it apart and force privatization - this new plan gives Amtrak about $2 billion a year to play with. This is the first time in many years that Amtrak is being provided with multiple years of stable funding - and without the threat of politicians trying to kill the organization. And, considering that last year 25 million people rode the rails - using one of the most energy efficient forms of transportation available, this is going to be one of the key methods to mitigate environmental damage from transportation.

However, it might help to keep things in perspective - the 2006 federal transportation funding levels broke down to $40 billion for highways and $14 billion for the airlines - so this is just a drop in the bucket. However, it certainly has the potential to be a jumping-off point for expanding passenger rail service in the US, much like we have seen with the resurgence of light-rail urban transit systems in the US (something like 30+ cities have light rail under planning or construction, whereas 10 years ago only a handful of lines were operating.).

The interesting thing is that Amtrak is going to be focusing primarily on the intercity rail corridors that have proved so popular over the past decade - city-to-city travel, such as the Northwest's Cascades (Eugene - Vancouver, BC) and California's ever-popular Pacific Surfliner (San Diego - San Luis Obispo). Both of these routes are medium length, 467 miles and 350 miles, respectively, and have enjoyed steady growth in ridership over the past decade or so. In fact, the Pacific Surfliner has the second-highest ridership levels for an Amtrak route outside of the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak's Acela high-speed rail line (DC - Boston).

Unfortunately, unlike Acela's electrified and heavily-urbanized corridor, most of the rail lines in the rest of the country connect disparate locations, oftentimes rust belt cities with dwindling populations (Detroit, Cleveland, etc), or urban-sprawl oriented low-density metropolises (LA) that are much harder to serve with a centralized point-to-point system. On the other hand, statistics speak for themselves - even Los Angeles, the King of Cars, has major plans for rail transit. At the same time, Puget Sound has established its ultra-popular Sounder commuter rail system, and Portland will be opening its Wilsonville - Beaverton commuter rail line in 2008.

The longer-distance Amtrak trains give riders unique - and incredibly beautiful - perspectives on the vast interior wilderness of our country that few get to see from the Interstates. Hopefully these lines won't be put on the chopping block and will be preserved for future generations to experience - even if they aren't very useful for transportation.

Of course, when I heard about the news, my thoughts turned to Europe and my experience riding the rail systems that they have - long established with dedicated lines, conducive transit-friendly land use patterns, centralized stations, and massive investments in dedicated high-speed trunk lines (the Chunnel ride was particularly notable). However, as depressing as it is to compare the US to Europe, Japan and other industrialized nations, it probably won't be too long before we're investing billions and billions into new infrastructure projects - California's High Speed Rail project just got a shot in the arm recently, and the proposed HSR lines to Vegas and Florida still live on in someone's dreams.

And we can't just let France have all the fun!

Thursday, November 1, 2007


Trick or vote!

There's always a first time for everything - in this case, made it down to the Multnomah County Elections office before the dealine, did the always-required address change, filled out the ovals and dropped off my ballot.

This was perhaps the simplest election on record - it didn't even require the Mercury's comprehensive voting guide to tell you how to swing!

Such a novel idea - I'll have to do it next time!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

After a bit of a hiatus...

Just couldn't resist this tidbit they had on the Oregonlive website:

Portland Barbie!

The LO and Hawthorne barbies are especially appropriate...

Monday, September 10, 2007

the OTHER streetcar

I was perusing the skyscrapercity forums today, and couldn't help but notice a thread on the new Seattle streetcar that is being built. Like Portland's streetcar line and the Hoyt Street Yards which redeveloped the heart of the Pearl District, it is being built in conjunction with a massive real estate redevelopment effort, that of Paul Allen's Vulcan Inc. investment company.

I visited the area a few years ago when my friend Htoo was living in Bellevue; you could see all these brand-spanking new midrise buildings along what used to be major freight-route streets (which you don't really find in Portland), with beautiful
Lake Union and the view it provides right there. It pretty much blows away almost every urban vista you'd find in Portland (with the exception of the view from Pill Hill or Vista ave above Goose Hollow) - see for yourself:

photo by Tim Knight

I've always thought that Seattle had an excellent urban environment; one that in some parts of its downtown approached the complexity, layered history, and edginess of cities like New York, Boston, or San Francisco - albeit lacking the rich vitality of the street that even Portland has more of - despite the fact that Portland is smaller and less dense.

Perhaps this new streetcar line will help reinvent more of the city, making it a place people can call home.


Apparently those Seattlites have been hard at work on a new acronym - now it's called the SLUT. Ironically it sounds quite proper spelled out.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

time to scoot

Yaaah! It's that time of year again: school's coming up and summer is coming to an end; the perfect time to tune up my scooter!

Although not exactly something I look forward to doing, it can be a bit of fun - as long as I don't break anything or cut/smash/jam any digits too badly. There's also the issue of not having the right tools or liquids, which I might run into. Then there's the issue of the scooter sporting a customized performance engine. woohoo!

Although I was able to successfully rebuild the engine on my old Honda Civic, the last time I worked on my scooter, the speedometer wasn't working when I put it back together! Hopefully I'll have better luck this time...

  • change air filter
  • change spark plug
  • lubricate stuff
  • check tires
  • reduce oil flow to engine
  • fix speedometer
  • clean engine
  • wash & wax!

and finally, the directions to the Honda motorcycle parts dealer, Beaverton Motorcycles:

View Larger Map

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Alternative Wheels

There has been a lot of talk lately about alternative fuels for transportation, particularly George Bush's hydrogen economy and Portland's Biofuels law that recently took effect last week... but what about alternative transportation?

Sure, here in Portland we've got bicycles, buses, MAX, streetcar, aerial tram, and not to mention a pretty decent walking environment.

However, while our streets are filled with hybrid Priuses, motorcycles, and scooters galore - the vast majority of people in our city are still commuting via single-occupancy vehicles. In case you haven't heard, using a three or four thousand pound chunk of plastic and steel (up to 5-10,000 pounds for SUVs like the Hummer, Land Rover, or Mercedes G55) to transport yourself and a few bags of groceries a mile or two from the grocery store isn't exactly the most efficient means of transportation: the majority of the energy in the gasoline burned in your engine is used to move the vehicle and air condition the vehicle, not actually move you.

Unfortunately, this means that for the average person in the US, a large percentage of the energy used in transportation (gas burned in your car) is essentially wasted. What if we could simply drive more efficient cars?

As you may have heard recently, Congress recently passed a new set of CAFE standards, designed to legislate an improvement in manufacturer's overall fuel efficiency in the cars they sell. Although this topic is probably better covered by some of the other transportation blogs, suffice it to say that the improvements are too little, too late - and are not likely to be too effective: whereas in Europe they promote fuel efficiency by massive gas taxes, cheap gas in the US has encouraged car manufacturers to waste the efficiencies they have gained in engine and drivetrain technologies by simply increasing the power of the cars they make. As a result, fuel efficiencies in American cars has actually decreased overall since about 1988.

Although there are a growing number of motorcycles and scooters on the streets of Portland today, all but the die-hards will choose to garage them during the winter months. So although they win the gasoline fuel efficiency contest, they will probably never become a primary transportation option for most people due to exposure to the elements while riding. And trust me, I know well from experience! There's nothing like having to don rain pants, jacket, and gloves before each ride - it is somewhat constricting on your winter wardrobe.

There are alternative, efficient vehicles that are now in development that are something of an automobile/scooter hybrid - achieving high fuel efficiences coupled with climate protection:

Enter the Tango

The Tango, a small electric car developed by Commuter Cars, a company based in Spokane Washington, is an extremely narrow vehicle. It features a jet-fighter like cockpit arrangement (driver sits in front of the passenger, not beside) - even narrower than some motorcycles (some jurisdictions even allow the vehicle to lane-split).

Its specs are even more impressive: with a top speed of 150 mph and 0-60mph time of 4 seconds, it will beat the pants off of most cars on the road - although, at its current cost of around $100,000, it is equally priced - although different versions are planned to be released at more affordable price points.

The specs:
  • Width: 39 inches (~99 cm)
  • Length: 101 inches (~257 cm)
  • Weight: 3000+ lb (1360+ kg)
  • 0–60 mph (0–96 km/h): 4 seconds
  • ¼ mile (0.4 km): 12 seconds @ 120 mph (193 km/h)
  • Top speed: 150 mph (240 km/h)
  • Range: 60–80 miles (96–128 km) (Lead-acid batteries)
  • full charge from a dryer outlet (220 volt) in 3 hours; 80% charge in 1 hour

Personally, however, I wouldn't mind driving the Carver - even though its slower and uses an internal combustion engine, it sure looks like a lot of fun to drive!

maybe its just the rockin' jamiroquai tune tho?

Of course, the ultimate in efficiencies for transportation in urban areas would be won by dramatically expanded and improved mass transit in conjunction with safer and expanded bicycle facilities, such as bike lanes. However, we're going to need all the help we can get in curbing global warming.

The Hydrogen Hoax

Read an excellent article on the feasibility of the Hydrogen economy, written by a person whom I consider somewhat of a genius: Robert Zubrin, an aerospace engineer whose qualifications include "a B.A. in Mathematics from the University of Rochester (1974), a masters degree in Aeronatics and Astronautics, a masters degree in Nuclear Engineer, and a Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering — all from the University of Washington." [wiki]

The Hydrogen Hoax

The science-based argument states how inefficient the hydrogen production process is, while also pointing out that there is no viable way of efficiently storing liquified hydrogen or compressed hydrogen. In fact, according to Zubrin, to store 20 kg of hydrogen (comparable to 20 gallons of gasoline), would require either a 70-gallon cryogenic tank, or a 162 gallon tank at 5,000 PSI tank - the compressed hydrogen gas tank along would weigh approximately 2,800 pounds (without the 20 kilograms of fuel); the cryogenic storage tank would be prone to failure due to the nature of cryogenic hydrogen, which causes metal fatigue and brittleness and 'boils off,' which could be a serious safety issue in confined quarters (such as parking garages).

The most important points he puts forth, however, are the inefficiency of burning hydrogen as compared to gasoline (hydrogen has a lower energy density); as well as the need to produce hydrogen - as 100% of the hydrogen on the planet earth is already bound up in chemical compounds... requiring enormous amounts of energy to free up the hydrogen from these bonds:

The spokesmen for the hydrogen hoax claim that hydrogen will be manufactured from water via electrolysis. It is certainly possible to make hydrogen this way, but it is very expensive—so much so, that only four percent of all hydrogen currently produced in the United States is produced in this manner. The rest is made by breaking down hydrocarbons, through processes like pyrolysis of natural gas or steam reforming of coal.

Dispensed in compressed gas cylinders to retail customers, the current price of commercial grade hydrogen is about $100 per kilogram. For comparison, a kilogram of hydrogen contains about the same amount of energy as a gallon of gasoline.

...then he gets down to the actual chemical reactions used commercially to change hydrocarbons to pure hydrogen, and the extra energy needed to compress or refrigeration to cryogenic temperatures - which could sap up to 40% of the original energy potential in the original hydrocarbons. As for hydrogen production via electrolysis - where would the energy come from? Pick your poison: coal or nuclear.

Thursday, July 5, 2007


Looking over this rather nascent blog, I realize that there are so many things that have happened since I started this that haven't been posted yet. So, a brief trip through recent memory...

Beginning of May, I packed up my belongings and left my old pad down off of Division Street. While it was a nice change of being schizophrenically couch surfing from month to month since I arrived back in town following last year's escapade to Europe (still need to post those pictures!), the dark, dank, mouse-infested leaking basement was hardly passable as 'inhabitable.' Still a bit of a sore spot for myself...

However, the new spot I have here on 28th in Southeast, right off of Stark, is pretty nice. It has all the accouterments of home: 3 diverse and interesting roommates, cheap rent, a functioning kitchen, and we keep it pretty clean. Oh, and did I mention that I do not live in a basement anymore? Thank god I don't have to wear a coat and 3 pairs of underwear when I go to sleep!
Flying high with the birds, my attic view gives me some respite from the city... if I squint enough, the only thing I can see are leaves and clouds; not too bad considering how much traffic there is outside.

Finishing up Spring Term at PSU was a real bitch. Let's just say that 'stressful' earned another notch on its belt when Clive's history class showed its ugly head when the rest of my life hit the shitter and then the fan. But then, running out of money while you have taken on a full load at school and being forced to take a couple weeks out of your studies to look for a job - and move - will do that to you. Oh well, I look forward to taking Clive next year under better circumstances... especially while not being poor.

Which leads me to my current quandry: broke, bored, and broke again. A wonderful combination... so its time to be looking for a nice internship downtown and finally ditch the shitty tech support job. Even though it is the easiest work I have ever done.

Racing a swarm

Okay, this is one of the more interesting online videos I have seen of late. Not only is it an extremely well edited video, with a soundtrack that accompanies the animation and setting an intriguing mood for this demo.

Which brings us to what this actually is... a demo, to be sure, of what is possible in the application of swarm theory with simulated semi-realistic phenomenon. It reminds me of the swarm theories explored by Kas Oosterhuis, but in this case a process as viewed through the lens of a video game.

Although I was extremely skeptical of Oosterhuis' design methodology when reading about his ideas and seeing the videos of the application of his formulas that are used to transform a mathematically descriptive function, this video really hit home as to its potential applications.

What is rather interesting about this is how video games are typically used to closely represent reality as much as possible, sticking to what is essentially a very lifelike and conservative physics modeling and representation of reality.

Yet this experiment in swarm behavior, in applying these kinds of rules to a car race creates a dramatic new reality, in which its primary purpose is to represent and illustrate the resultant forces that are present in the algorithm that make up the programming inherent in the swarm demo itself. Ie, the paths the cars take show us the paths of least resistance present in the computer program - in an extremely visceral way.

Perhaps this kind of methodology could be applied to architecture more (sans the motion), where the building itself describes the complex and myriad forces present. And it need not only be limited to physical forces: there are social, geographic, tectonic, and contextual. After all, one of the defining characteristics of modern society is the plasticity in our dynamic world.

Of course, we already are seeing this kind of design from designers and products such as Greg Lynn and Marcel Wanders' Carbon Chair.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The unpacking story

More youtube! this one kind of explains why I still have 3 cardboard boxes full of junk in my bedroom, a month after I moved in. :P

I think this blog is becoming a repository of my favorite vids...

Monday, June 18, 2007


Guess the title didn't work so well, but I spied this vid while blogging today:

Monday, June 11, 2007

Sunday, May 13, 2007

History of Oregon's economy

Perusing the BlueOregon website tonight, I ran across an excellent article on the economic history of Oregon - and how the development in the past 50 years is particularly unsustainable.

Cheap petroleum, cheap land, cheap mortgages, low-cost college education and unionized wages were the rocks on which Oregon’s post-World War II prosperity was built. They no longer exist. These conditions are derided by self-styled conservatives as "the Welfare State." The housing patterns that served the post-World War II affluent middle class will no longer serve the shrinking middle class. The global economy as we understand it will not survive rapidly rising petroleum prices. That will alter the way we live in ways we do not foresee.

A couple of comments on this particular conclusion:
  1. I believe that the global economy is one that will most likely survive peak-oil and rising petroleum prices. Globalization is a phenomenon that is as old as civilization; it wasn't until the 20th century that ships were powered by petroleum: goods were shipped for thousands of years by sail, and then coal-fired steamships in the 19th century. Even today, shipping companies are investing in wind-assisted ships, utilizing large kites to achieve modest 10% energy savings. This is, of course, not to say that strip-mining resources from other countries is necessarily a good thing...
  2. Since rising wealth is usually equated with increasing one's consumption of goods and services - and hence your environmental footprint, such as by buying more cars, material goods, and larger houses - perhaps a trend towards lower wages will in fact cause a decreased environmental impact? Unfortunately, the flip side is that innovation in sustainability as far as architecture, product design, and transportation is concerned might be easier the more money is available for it...
  3. Lastly - Portland, whether we like to admit it or not, is one of the five principal cities situation on the west coast of North America with a direct trade route to the largest economic powers of the world: China, India, Japan, and the rest of the Asian Tigers. Even if transportation costs increase and unionization falters, there are still over 2 BILLION people across the Pacific who are very intent on trading with us.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Famous Quote

It just so happens that I have a special place in my heart for famous quotes... especially those that make you just stop dead in your tracks in surprise. Kudos to Philip Johnson, who many hears ago put out this bit of food for thought:

"Architects are pretty much high-class whores. We can turn down projects the way they can turn down some clients, but we've both got to say yes to someone if we want to stay in business."

From Esquire, Dec 1980 -

Tuesday, May 1, 2007


So, it's been war in the Taggart household for the past week or so. Since the initial sighting of a mouse hunting for food scraps around the floor in the kitchen has turned into a full-fledged insurgency: I have spotted no fewer than three mice perusing the countertop in the kitchen. Hiding behind blenders, cutting boards, and dirty dishes, a long time passed before anyone noticed we had an infestation.

Myself, on the other hand, see mice almost every time I go into the kitchen - especially when I get home late at night from school! Things took a turn for our side, however, when two days ago I was able to nab one of the suckers after I caught him hanging out in the bathroom. After shutting the door and cramming the rug underneath the door, I grabbed the toilet plunger and, after chasing him all around the tiny space, was able to catch him under it. Picked him up with a piece of cardboard, and dropped him in a deep bucket.

However, with fears of hantavirus and the idea of putting the little enemy combatant to death seemed a bit extreme (particularly considering my own views on Gitmo), I decided to give him a little trip around the 'hood. After letting him go several blocks away (and across a busy street), I'm sure he's quite happy in his new home. Until the neighbors let their cats out, of course...

Mice: 8
Humans: 1

Friday, April 27, 2007

First Post!

Welcome everyone! Although I'm not exactly on the cutting edge of the internet trends, this first post kicks off what I hope to be my own little site to post interesting news, articles, insightful thoughts, and introspective essays. As I'm a design (architecture) student, sustainability, design, technology, and sociological topics will likely be my key topics.

Feel free to give a shout if you have something constructive to say!