Sunday, March 23, 2008

Old bikes rule!

I am really digging the old vintage styled classic 1950s-era English bikes. Even found one on Craigslist in Portland - although I'm not sure if I would ever want to service one, apparently it can be a real pain.

Although with companies like Bianchi offering retro versions of these, and new internally-geared hubs offering between 8 and 14 gears, maybe its just time to bring the urban bike renaissance to fruition!

US doesn't have the highest debt rate!

I thought we had it bad. But apparently not - in the UK, personal debt exceeds their GDP!

I guess if we're going down, Britain will be even worse...

The future really is here

Cows are back, and better than ever. Remember Mad Max: Return to Thunderdrome?

That's right folks, we're already collecting methane from livestock manure to generate energy - although it also has a positive effect of eliminating one of the worst causes of global warming gases, that of animal-generated methane.

Seen on Inhabitat:

The manure from the cows in the article are from a dairy farm, not for meat consumption. So even if every US citizen became a vegetarian, everyone in the US would have to give up milk and we would have to kill every cow in the US to otherwise eliminate methane released into the atmosphere from cows in the US.

There is a lot of cow manure that is generated in the US, and it has a severe impact on global warming: dairy farms in California produce more greenhouse gas emissions than every car in the LA metropolitan area. This is largely because molecule per molecule, Methane is 21 TIMES more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2. Thus, eliminating 1 pound of methane gas from the atmosphere eliminates the equivalent of 21 pounds of CO2. If all you do is burn that Methane and release the CO2 into the atmosphere, it will eliminated 95% of the greenhouse gas effect!

Frat boys have nothing on bovines, as it's estimated that a single cow can belch out anywhere from 25 to 130 gallons of methane a day.

Additionally, all this Methane is generated from food and grass, which grabbed its carbon from the atmosphere anyway. So it is carbon neutral - except for the small amount of oil that is used as pesticides/herbicides/fertilizer in growing the corn. However, that is already a sunk cost, as Americans consume a lot of milk.

"Livestock are responsible for 18% of greenhouse-gas emissions worldwide, according to the U.N. -- more than all the planes, trains and automobiles on the planet."

See source:'s_Long_Shadow

Pretty bad:

Also, total happiness:

Saturday, March 15, 2008


...are not so final. Oh, but the joys of designing!

see my other blog for details on this past term of architecture studio... once I finally finish updating it.

sneak peak:

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Trains rule in Iraq

This is crazy. I had no idea the Iraqis had passenger rail service only 2 weeks after we overthrew Saddam - and recently reopened a new major line between Baghdad and Basra.

Apparently it is also the most secure method of travelling in this violence-wracked nation:

Passengers are searched before boarding the train and the railway company's guards in blue uniforms patrol the carriages.

"When the train goes by, people feel safe and feel that things are going back to how they were," said Colonel Ali al-Tamimi, the railway company's head of security.

And apparently gives the people a semblance of a modern, non-sectarian society - something they have been ironically missing since the invasion by US forces and the subsequent rise of sectarian violence:

"The railways are for all of us ... Do you think passengers declare their sect when they get on the train?"

Women jiggled children on their knees and men chatted as the gleaming carriages pulled away from a spotless Baghdad platform, a picture of cleanliness and order in a country racked by chaos.
"Truth be told, we never really stopped the service," said Hashem. "Even when the situation was at its most dangerous, we kept going. It's our job."

Here's hoping...

The housing bubble: the beginning of a new era is already here

Sometimes you can just be too close to the flames to see the fire.

For several years now, doomsday theorists have been predicting the fall of suburbia as the "age of cheap oil comes to an end." The theory went that edge city housing stock in the exurbs would be the first to become devalued, as its only actual value relied on its newness and affordability for the original buyers, while still being within commuting distance to (most likely suburban) job centers.

However, this could already be happening. In an article by Christopher Leinberger brings to light the fallout of the subprime housing bubble. As housing values around the nation fall - and gas inches towards $4 a gallon - perhaps we have been too myopic: the predictions of the peak oil theorists may already be well in motion.

What connects the two is that housing values are falling the most in the outermost suburban ring - the latest tracts of land to be developed on the traditional suburban model. As has always been the case, suburban tract housing has been marketed to the middle class home buyer as the affordable housing option: big yards, big garages, lots of bedrooms.

It is unsurprising, then, that the subprime mortgage bubble - which helped those who were on the margins of being able to qualify for a mortgage, at best - would affect those most likely to purchase homes in these exurban areas.

By comparison, housing prices in centralized urban areas with actual employment centers have stayed much steadier. Portland and Seattle are the two leading cities in the USA for being the least hit by the bubble bursting - although we must not overestimate the degree to which "flippers" and speculative investment has played a part.

Although not very prevalent in Portland to nearly the degree as witnessed in other major cities, there has been an almost insane amount of appreciation in home values, particularly California. However, they are not facing the crash that the exurban areas are facing - there is still a massive demand for housing in this country, after all (the United States population is still increasing, after all).

credits to the Overhead Wire for the Atlantic story

Architectural Criticism

This is an awesome article, which holds tremendous relevancy in today's world of post-modern "cities" - it seems that we are so out of touch, so insular in our approach to the built and experienced environment, by focusing on individual projects we are in many ways losing scope of what really matters.

No surprise that many people are heralding the landscape architect as someone who really holds influence - as isn't that what we are making? Cities exist somewhere, in a landscape, an environment; the spaghetti-noodle twist of freeway ramps mixed with parks, farms, and tracts of houses, interspersed with pockets of urbanism; downtowns, shopping malls, and main streets, all interwoven together that is experienced not as separate and discreet moments, but as a continuous terrain in which we move and dwell.

Thus, criticize we must - and nothing should be safe from our sights. Of course, there is nothing wrong with delving into the deeper philosophical and academic insights in the better projects that are built - and indeed, they offer a sort of 'grand-prix' of the architectural world - but recognition that the other dreck of the modern city must also come under scrutiny. Thankfully, organizations like Portland's design review commission and the Congress of the New Urbanism exist, albeit with varying degrees of success.

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