Rabu, 31 Desember 2008

0 I win for "Grossest New Year Anyone Can Probably Be Experiencing"

Happy new year!

Contrary to the false alarm on my wikipedia entry that proclaimed I died on Xmas day in Dallas, I am alive, kicking, and apparently, blogging too!

More about that later.

As I was saying, Happy New Year!

You know who is NOT happy today?



Me.

You know who is even more unhappy than me today?




The thousands of maggots that lived in my fridge and just got killed.








Bon Appetit! May I tempt you with some nuggets perhaps?


(Although maggots probably do not know it's New Year today... But still... Generally an unhappy day for them.)


Yup. Disgusting.


You are probably wondering why my fridge was in this state. Maybe one day Mike and I will look back upon this story and laugh about it, but not right now.


So anyway... As you already know, we left on 10th of Dec for Dallas, and just reached Singapore on NYE at 1am. That's 22 days including time zone differences.

Before we left the house, we made sure all windows got shut and turned off all our electrical applicances.

Mike said, "Let's just hit the braker, make sure everything is off."

"Okay!" I chirped.

So with that, we turned off the main power supply and left the house with no electricity on - at all.


Two hours later, we were seated on the plane to Korea when I gasped.

"What?!" Mike said.

"The fridge. Oh my god," I replied.

"Oh shit... It's off isn't it? Oh shit." Mike sighed. "I'm so sorry baby... I just didn't realise..."

"Me neither... Oh well, it probably would just go bad... Flies can't go in and lay eggs, can they? It's sealed shut..."



WELL APPARENTLY THEY CAN!


Little fuckers!!!!!!!!!


The moment we opened our door, the stench was so overpowering it seriously like... knocked me backwards. The entire house stank so bad, I had gagging reflexes as I ran to open the balcony door and all windows.

The fridge had a pool of ambiguous brown liquid leaked out underneath it.

That brown liquid had flies on it.


"Maybe it's melted chocolate. I have some chocolate inside," I said hopefully. Doesn't smell like it though.

"I'd bet it's the ground beef..." Mike being ever the pessimist.


We knew we had a packet of nuggets (sealed) some hot dogs (sealed), and some ground beef (not securely sealed in cling wrap). That's all the meat we had.


We were both wrong.

We turned on the fridge to freeze whatever vermin which might be living inside to death first, and finally worked up our courage to open the fridge door the next morning.

Armed with insecticide, we opened it and jumped away in case anything would hop out and leech themselves onto us.

A cloud of opaque air gushed out of the freezer...

OMG....... The smell...... The wiggling of thousands of worms......


I've never been more disgusted in my whole fucking life!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


"Are you taking a picture?!!" Mike said indignantly at me as I clicked away. Yeah... Good blogging material what!

"Do you really want to remember this moment?" He asked amidst making gagging noises.

"Might be funny later,"
I shrugged.


No such thing as 'bad time for camwhoring'

And in case you are wondering, the white towel is my gas mask for the day.


So we started cleaning it - Throwing away EVERYTHING inside.


The brown liquid came from a hugeass packet of frozen (once upon a time) chicken breast fillets that we both forgot existed.


It is so muthafucking soggy and disgusting.

The ice trays had ice in it and dead maggots UNDERNEATH the ice.

I only took one picture of the maggots because I ran away after that. Those you see is just a small part of what was actually there.

The inside of the fridge had way more, and there was a palm-sized area that was soooooo full of eggs stuck there, the entire area was just brown in colour.


The smell... Did I already talk about the smell??

It smelt exactly like how the lizard that dead in my computer cables smelt like. Like a somewhat salty, sour smell. A little like dried sotong but 1000 times worse.

And... It goes deep into your nose canal and stays there so that you can still smell it hours later. If you breathe through your mouth, you can even taste it somewhat.

Mike shoo-ed me away to hose all the maggots away... He is so goddamn brave, I tell you.




My hero. He told me to mosaic his ugly clothes.


One hour later Mike cleared most of the stuff off. Maggots 101: They are sticky!

My turn. I scrubbed "egg marks" off with a toothbrush, wiped down all nooks and crevices with a soapy hand towel, then wiped down all surfaces with a dettol-infused hand towel (burns like bleach), then wiped everything with soap again.

All while gagging consistently at the horrible smell.




Dismantled the fridge to clean everything out. The maggots even got inside the back plate of the fridge, those little fuckers!!


Poured Dettol down every possible surface

Dettol is awesome!


And then I squeegeed maggot eggs and excess water off the wet floor into the drains.












There.

We thought after few hours of slogging (mostly Mike slogged coz he reckoned it is his fault) the fridge is spanking clean, even though it still stunk like hell.


So we let it air-dry, went out for lunch, and brought charcoal deodorizer and baking soda.


When we went back home, to my horror, I saw a maggot crawling on the goddamn door! WTFWTFWTF!!! How is that possible?!

(I sprayed it with insecticide to watch it die first. That felt good.)


The answer was that the insides of the rubber flaps that sealed the fridge shut was still bloody infested with eggs and maggots!!! Muthafuckers!


Honestly man... We should've just thrown the bloody fridge away and bought a goddamn new one for our landlord. He can't possibly mind... This fridge is so old and small anyway.

About $400 for a fridge like that... I'd pay double that amount to not have to deal with this shit!


Imagine that.

Some unknowing fucker would open that fridge door, thinking he might be able to get a free fridge from the rubbish pile... AND HAPPY NEW YEAR! It won't be us getting that gush of maggoty fragrance! Orh bi for being a greedy poke!


Sigh. If the smell doesn't clear up, I'm really gonna get a new fridge. I honestly cannot imagine eating any food out of that fridge, ever again.

Cheers!Aren't you happy you are not me?!


Well... The good thing is... my year can only get better!


********************************

So yeah... Someone edited my wiki page to say that I died in a car crash during Xmas day when I was driving alone in Dallas. The person even included the time - approximately 5.30pm!

Creative, huh?!

At precisely that time I was actually in Mike's mom's place eating a sumptuous Xmas dinner of Alaskan crab legs dipped in melted butter.

I was aboard the plane on NYE and was just about to turn off my phone before the plane took off, when Ming called me all the way from Bangkok to USA through Singaporean phone lines.

"Are you ok?" he asked. "Someone wrote on your wiki page you died!"

"Of course I am ok lah! Won't it be fucking scary if I am dead and talking to you now?" I laughed.

After I hung up I felt a bit scared. What if my plane crashed and I died on NYD? Won't it be infinitely morbid?!

But I survived the flights even though they were not very pleasant.


Good joke, whoever you are!!!!!!


I hope you die in a car crash too! :) Remember to let me know during your last surviving moments so I can update your wiki page also, k? What do you mean how? Email me lah! Xiaxue! Oh right... You don't have a wiki page because you are not important enough. Oh well...


But honestly though... I quite understand.

I mean this fucker, whoever he is, actually was online during Xmas day, went to the wikipedia page of a virtual stranger, and entertained himself by editing it with my death.

That about sums up the Xmas Day plans of the biggest loser in the world.

Honestly, shouldn't you be eating turkey with parents who love you and opening presents from people who cared about your existance??


I sound like I am angry, but I actually found this whole thing pretty funny.

Shin Min also called me to ask me to comment about this! They must have found it funny too. :D


I'll update with USA pics soon!!


p/s:

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Just a friendly reminder not to ever turn off your fridge!!

Selasa, 30 Desember 2008

0 3 Key Lessons We Can Learn From the One Minute Manager

The One Minute Manager, by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson, is a remarkable book about management. It is about a young man who is in search of an effective manager and is willing to work for one.

In his search, he meets some ‘autocratic’ managers who are only concerned about the results. Their organizations gained while their people lost. He also meets ‘democratic’ managers who are concerned only about the people. Their people gained while their organizations lost. He was looking for an effective manager who was interested in the people as well as the results so that both the people and the organization gained in his management.


Then the young man comes across a manager who calls himself “the one minute manager” as it took very little time for him to get big results from people. The one minute manager shares the secrets of his success with the young man, which are as follows:

FIRST SECRET: One Minute Goals

One minute goal setting is about being aware of what is expected from the beginning. When deciding upon the desired goal and the performance standards, it is recorded on a single sheet of paper. One minute goal setting is so called because it should take only one minute to be able to read it.

Why One Minute Goals work
One minute goal setting is an important tool for management because it provides immediate feedback to the worker; this feedback turns into motivation. If you are playing football and you are not aware of how many points you scored, you would lose interest in the game after a certain point. On the other hand, if you know you need 5 points to win and you have scored 3 points, you will try your best to get the other 2 points.

Unless you are sure of what is it that you need to do, you keep beating around the bush without producing the accurate results. Say, for example, if I ask you to clean the room, you would not know whether to sweep the room, place everything in order, arrange the books in the shelf or do all the three. On the other hand, if I ask you to sweep the room and arrange the books, you know exactly what you need to do. As a result, both you and me are satisfied with the job.

One minute goals work in a similar manner, where both the employee as well as the employer knows what is expected from the beginning of a task. Writing is important so that you can periodically view your performance against your target and check your progress. Thus, one minute goals help you to perform better and produce efficient results.

SECOND SECRET: One Minute Praisings

After the one minute goal setting, the second step in one minute management is to catch people doing something right. This is when the one minute praisings are given. One minute praisings are so called because it hardly takes a minute for you to tell someone that he or she did a good job. There is no need to elaborate when you can simply say that he or she he did something good and you noticed it. One minute praisings include praising the people immediately, telling them what they did right, how you feel about it and encourage them to do more of the same.

Why One Minute Praisings work
Let's consider a very simple example. A child does not learn to walk straight away. When you teach a child to walk, you don’t expect him to start walking as soon as he stands up. He first toddles, and then he tries to stand up and falls in the first few attempts. Then he wobbles a few steps and you cuddle him and hug him, making him feel that he has done something worth praising. He then tries to do more of the same and finally learns to walk. In the same way, one minute praisings is a way of encouraging your staff.

One minute praisings show that you are genuinely interested in your people and care for them and their success. One minute praisings aim at catching people ‘doing something right’ rather than catching them ‘doing something wrong’ like most other organizations. Although the two might seem to be the same thing, there is a lot of difference. If you emphasize on catching people doing something wrong, their main aim is simply to do no wrong, not necessarily go above and beyond and produce great results. This produces mediocrity because everyone will tend to walk the middle line. For exceptional results you need your people to put in their best.

THIRD SECRET: One Minute Reprimands
One minute reprimands are given as soon as an employee does something wrong. One minute reprimand has two parts. The first half includes telling the people that what they did wrong, how you feel about it and then let it sink in with a few seconds of uncomfortable silence. Then in the second half you tell the people how much you think they are capable of and how much you value them. One important aspect of one minute reprimands is that it criticizes the work not the doer. The employee is not blamed as a person, only his work is accused of not being up to the desired level. And once it's over, it's over.

Why One Minute Reprimands work
One minute reprimands are highly effective because the feedback is immediate, unlike the annual reviews where you are charged for things committed several weeks or months ago. If you were being scolded for a mistake you made 7-8 months back, it would hardly make any impact on you, whereas if you are being scolded for a mistake you made yesterday, it will surely affect you. If a mistake is pointed out as soon as it is made it can easily be corrected. Since one mistake is pointed at one time, the people hear it seriously and your message is easily conveyed to them.

Now that you know all the three secrets of one minute management, implement them in your work style and be a one minute manager for yourself!

Written on 12/31/2008 by Manish Pandey. Manish is a tech-enthusiast and blogs about social media and technology at manishpandey.com.

0 20 Places to Find a Top Notch Virtual Assistant

The phone has been ringing off the hook, you have a paper that needs to be edited, and you don't remember when you had an inbox contained fewer than 100 emails. The to do list is just out of control and it's to the point that you can't tell where to start.


Although you have aspirations of a tremendously successful year, perhaps it's time to admit that you can't do it all alone. Whether it's a blog, a business, or both, how can you seek out opportunities for growth and expansion if you are chained to a desk all day? The answer my friend, is finding someone that can seemingly appear, get you caught up, and then disappear until you need them again. The answer is a virtual assistant.

The only problem is finding someone that you can rely on and trust with, what could be, your proprietary information. that remains is locating this superhero that will save you from your dreaded "busy" work.

I'll show you all the hot spots where these tech-friendly, business-savvy, superheros hang out. With a little work, you'll find someone that can take over your busywork thus allowing you to focus on more strategic initiatives.

Best Places To Find Virtual Assistants
  1. Twitter - This is where I found my VA and you can too. All you have to do is tweet about it. Instantaneously, you will receive messages from VA businesses and others who can recommend one. You will definitely have some new VA followers. If you're a Twitter fanatic, your VA can send you tweets on the status of your projects. This is also a great way to check if your VA is being productive or twittering away.

  2. Assistant Match - They match busy professionals with off-site assistants by taking care of all logistics from interviewing to reference checks. They place virtual assistants in part-time positions which can be completed in their home office.

  3. Office Details - Hires VA's which they refer to as Preferred Partners. The independent contractors are paired up with small businesses looking to higher a virtual assistant. This company requires at least 5 years of administrative experience.

  4. Craigslist - You can post a free ad under 'gigs' when searching for a virtual assistant. Be sure to include an accurate description of what you are looking for. This is a great way to screen possible applicants. Remember to look for clues in their mail response. Did they answer all your questions? If not, that's definitely a red flag and shows they do not pay attention to details.

  5. VA Networking - If you never worked with a VA, this is a great place to start. This is a place where many VAs network and brainstorm together finding the most efficient and effective solution. They provide lots of valuable information for clients seeking to work with a VA. You can submit an RFP and receive hits from many qualified members.

  6. Resource Nation - This place is as easy as 1-2-3. All you have to do is describe your project and they match you with pre-screened qualified applicants for free. You will not be overwhelmed with quotes because they will connect you with the top five vendors to select based on their price and other factors you may take into consideration when hiring a VA.

  7. Virtual Assistants - Specializes in matching skilled freelance, contract, off-site and virtual workers to your position for free. They have over 7 yrs. exp. in the contract staffing and placement services industry.

  8. International Virtual Assistants Association - Dedicated to educating the masses about the virtual assistant industry. The nonprofit organization connects qualified VAs with clients who submit an RFP.

  9. Virtual Assistance U - This organization certifies virtual assistants based on their testing results from the learning center. The VAs who successful complete the graduate program are connected to clients who visit the site and submit a RFP.

  10. Tasks EveryDay - Their team of VAs work around the clock, day or night, just for you. They even provide a local number you can call to connect directly with your assigned VA. All you have to do is pick a monthly plan and submit your assignment.

  11. Virtual Assistance Chamber of Commerce - In order for any VA to be part of this fine community, they must go through a process of essays and screening. VACOC provides a client center with lots of helpful resources and the ability to submit a RFP to connect with a qualified VA.

  12. Team Double Click - Assesses your needs and matches you with one of their highly-skilled and trained virtual assistants.

  13. AssistU - Many VAs start their career with training from AssistU certificate program. The qualified individuals connect with you once you submit a request for services on their site.

  14. Staff Centrix - Company developed a highly-successful Portable Career & Virtual Assistant Training Program for US military spouses and The e-Entrepreneur Training ProgramTM for the U.S. Departments of State Foreign Service Spouses -- helping you connect with men and women at bases and posts around the world.

  15. Elance - All you need to do is register and post your project. The offer many tools and features such as a time tracking tool and user profiles that compliment your search in locating the ultimate VA. This is a great way to stay on budget since you set the price and they bid to work for you.

  16. Find Virtual - Social networking site for VAs that provide information about the virtual assistant industry. They can help you find a virtual assistant and hire them.

  17. Get Friday - Their staff of VAs and team members can help you. All you need to do is pick a monthly plan and fill out the membership form and they will guide you from there.

  18. Longer Days - Once you choose your monthly membership plan, they will connect you with a VA that is employed by them. Even though they have a team of VAs, they make sure you work with the same individual each time.

  19. Hire My Mom - Provides businesses with top talent for temporary and permanent projects while enabling mom professionals to capitalize on the freedom and flexibility to do top-rated work from home. You can post your project and connect with a qualified work at home mother.

  20. Guru - You can find a freelance virtual assistant to assist you with any project by browsing profiles or submitting your project. You will receive many quotes within hours. Based on your criteria, you can choose a VA and pay them through an escrow account.
Also see 5 Ways to Find, Hire, and Use a Virtual Assistant.

What are your favorite services from the list above, or what have I missed that you love to use?

Written on 12/30/2008 by Alex Shalman. Alex does for personal development what Chuck Norris does for the world, and he's got a very bad (to the bone) Podcast on self-improvement. Photo Credit: orangeacid

Senin, 29 Desember 2008

0 The Six Nations of 2010

[Image: Professor Igor Panarin's six-fold vision of a disintegrated United States; I love how it will precisely follow today's existing state lines – and that Kentucky will join the European Union].

In what sounds to be very obviously an act of wishful projection, a former KGB intelligence analyst turned public intellectual named Igor Panarin has explained to the Wall Street Journal that the United States only has about 18 months left to live. In the summer of 2010, it will "disintegrate" into six politically separate realms – and, conveniently for a thinker who clearly leans to the right, the borders of these realms will coincide with a new racial segregation. The fantasy of living amidst people who don't look like you will come to an end.
Best of all, from Panarin's perspective, Alaska – Sarah Palin included, looking out with alarm from her office window – will "revert" to Russian control.
Quoting at length:
    [Prof. Panarin] predicts that economic, financial and demographic trends will provoke a political and social crisis in the U.S. When the going gets tough, he says, wealthier states will withhold funds from the federal government and effectively secede from the union. Social unrest up to and including a civil war will follow. The U.S. will then split along ethnic lines, and foreign powers will move in.

    California will form the nucleus of what he calls "The Californian Republic," and will be part of China or under Chinese influence. Texas will be the heart of "The Texas Republic," a cluster of states that will go to Mexico or fall under Mexican influence. Washington, D.C., and New York will be part of an "Atlantic America" that may join the European Union. Canada will grab a group of Northern states Prof. Panarin calls "The Central North American Republic." Hawaii, he suggests, will be a protectorate of Japan or China, and Alaska will be subsumed into Russia.
"People like him have forecast similar cataclysms before, he says, and been right," the Wall Street Journal continues. Panarin then "cites French political scientist Emmanuel Todd. Mr. Todd is famous for having rightly forecast the demise of the Soviet Union – 15 years beforehand. 'When he forecast the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1976, people laughed at him,' says Prof. Panarin."
In some ways, I'm reminded of Paul Auster's newest novel, Man in the Dark, in which a civil war has set multiple regions of the United States against one another and against the so-called Federal Army. Or, for that matter, there's also Rupert Thomson's Divided Kingdom in which the UK has been split up along emotional lines.
But surely an ex-CIA operative, now milking the lecture circuit for all its worth, could also propose a realistic scenario in which the entire Russian east has been sold off, say, to a combination of Euro-American agribusiness firms and the Chinese government, who them embark upon an elaborate, generations-long act of industrial deforestation? Leaving Moscow a kind of irrelevant, feudal city full of Bulgari and handguns, its governmentally terrorized tower blocks populated almost entirely by unemployed and half-drunk retro-Stalinists?
I don't mean to imply that I think the end of the United States is somehow politically unimaginable, but that, in a still-bipolar, post-Cold War international imagination, surely either side could convincingly outline the other's demise?

(Via Alexis Madrigal. Earlier on BLDGBLOG: North America vs. the A-241/BIS Device and The Lonely Planet Guide to Micronations: An Interview with Simon Sellars).

0 Archinect Sees 2009

Archinect has posted its 20 Predictions for '09.

They're all worth reading, but here are a few highlights:
Bryan Boyer hopes there will be more time for drawing: "Less building and more drawing," he writes; "more time for drawing." Architects must pursue their ideas across a more diverse array of media:
    It doesn't matter how this new media is produced – with a video camera, computer, pencil, or a giant ball of fire – they will eschew the recent trend towards glowy photorealism in favor of idiosyncratic authorship... If we can find new ways to manifest architectural ideas that are both accessible to the public and meaningful to a discussion amongst experts this economic slump will have been a fantastic investment in the future of architecture.
In case you missed it, earlier this year Boyer brilliantly redesigned the U.S. Capitol, including a new look for federal currency.

[Image: A new $50 bill, by Bryan Boyer].

Javier Arbona points out that, as whole cities and states go bankrupt, falling short with both tax dollars and government funding, "there is a raging battle between cities and their home states over funds for everything from schools to redevelopment as states try to plug budget gaps. This will lead to a reorganization of power between cities and states." He suggests that cities might even "dissolve" themselves into larger regional entities – simultaneously expanding to include more residents, more land, and more resources. "Lest we forget," he adds, "New York annexed the five boroughs only a few years after the panic of 1893, a utopian proposition like no other."
Enrique Ramirez steps out of the authorial role to resurrect the Depression-era spatial prophecies of Norman Bel Geddes, in what I suppose could be called an act of found theory:
    What we are really doing is starting from the bottom, with our minds clear of the traditional styles and conventions of the past, and, starting from a purely utilitarian basis, trying to create a type of architectural beauty which reflects the spirit of the age and which will not soon be outdated.
"Every roof will be a garden," Bel Geddes wrote back in 1931. So what domestic transformations might Bel Geddes still be calling for today, on the cusp of 2009?

[Image: The "house of the future" by Norman Bel Geddes].

Meanwhile, Marcus Trimble predicts – quite accurately, I would think – that "websites collating and publishing the press releases of designers and architects will continue to thrive." I might even say that certain design blogs will simply fire their editorial staff altogether and publish RSS feeds direct from the offices of designers, architects, and Middle East tourism boards, collecting ad revenue along the way.
Why think at all when you can just re-post images of towers built by virtual slave labor in Dubai? Perhaps you could publish an official RSS feed for the UAE government on your design blog and be done with it.
Jeffrey Inaba – whom BLDGBLOG interviewed a few years ago – predicts "a domino effect of operational failures that will to lead systematic breakdowns of infrastructure and services in [the] urban center."
Unperturbed, he points us to Barack Obama's Urban Prosperity plan. Inaba writes (emphases added):
    Though it is packaged as a recovery plan it is really a new cities plan. In its most immediate sense it seeks to improve the depressed economy through urban development: to prop up markets by creating jobs to build infrastructure, transportation systems, public facilities like libraries and schools and to implement clean building technologies. But the plan is more ambitious and far reaching. It does more than try to improve cities as a means to an end, it aims to transform what cities are. Instead of calling for maintenance repairs and incremental upgrading, it looks to make a new kind of living environment where cities operate efficiently at a regional (rather than municipal) scale with advanced forms of collective transportation and sustainable infrastructure systems. The declaration of such a plan in itself expands the horizon of possibilities for what we as architects can design, and more importantly, it offers a historically unique opportunity for a developed nation to have a second chance to make a smart form of city. Hopefully, it won’t come down to an additional series catastrophic of events to realize such a plan. But it probably will.
Meanwhile, don't miss predictions by, in no particular order, Dan Hill, Quilian Riano, Michiel van Raaij, Emily Kemper and her superpowered TCHeroes, Fred Scharmen, Nick Sowers, Orhan Ayyüce, Donna Sink, Markus Miessen, Nam Henderson, Mimi Zeiger, Evan Geisler, Benjamin Ball, and Barry Lehrman.

0 Architects of the Near Future

[Images: From a short film by Michael Aling, produced for Nic Clear's Unit 15 at the Bartlett].

A few days ago, Ballardian posted a long, well-timed, and very interesting interview with Nic Clear, from London's Bartlett School of Architecture. I've long been a fan of Clear's work with his students; I wrote a short article about him for Dwell last spring (see image, below), and Clear organized last month's Science Fiction and Architecture panel in London.

[Image: A short article about Nic Clear from the March 2008 issue of Dwell].

Huge sections of the interview, in which they discuss the value of extra-architectural ideas in helping to shape the "near future" of spatial design, are worth quoting in full; but I'll stick to a few specific moments here, and you can then go read the rest.
What I like about Clear, though, is that he's 100% comfortable with – and seemingly relentless about pursuing – architecture not as a system of codified ornament or as a closed universe of citational conformity open only to grad students, but as a resource for ideas of every kind, whether or not they apply to your own local building codes or will ever lead to an act of construction.
Want to write a novel? A screenplay? An essay about landscape and climate change? Want to direct a music video? Start a blog? Architecture offers fuel – and amazing visuals – for all of these things.
The field becomes almost infinitely more exciting when you realize that architectural projects, by definition, entail the reimagination of how humans might inhabit the earth – how they organize themselves spatially and give shape to their everyday lives. Architecture is, within mere instants of discussing any idea or project, real or imagined, something with anthropological, economic, legal, libidinal, seismic, and even planetary implications.
In fact, if architecture can be viewed as the material alteration of the earth's surface, then it is not a stretch to say that architecture has astronomical consequences: it can alter the very shape of a planet.
Little wonder, then, if we do decide to go in this direction, that there appears to be a growing cross-over of interests between architecture and science fiction – as in, for instance, the work produced by Nic Clear's Unit 15.

[Images: From a short film by Dan Farmer, a tour through a landscape of abandoned hospital equipment, produced for Nic Clear's Unit 15 at the Bartlett].

In any case, it shouldn't be surprising that Ballardian would then focus specifically on the architectural value of J.G. Ballard.
When asked whether Ballard is a growing influence on today's practitioners, Clear answers:
    I’m not sure how many architects are being influenced by Ballard in their work, especially within ‘commercial’ architecture – maybe the forthcoming recession will make architects aware of the Ballardian possibilities of architecture. Within academia and architectural criticism, if such a thing still exists, there is a general disdain for ‘popular’ fiction – writing on, and about, architecture is still very elitist – and I have met quite a bit of resistance when discussing Ballard as a serious subject. However, I think that there is a desire to face up to a future that deals with a system in crisis, which Ballard articulates so brilliantly. I was recently reading Mike Davis’s breathtaking collection of essays, Dead Cities, and was constantly thinking ‘this is so Ballardian.’ Also, writers like Frederic Jameson and Jean Baudrillard, who have been influenced by Ballard, are still incredibly important and influential. Obviously Ballard’s early identification of global environmental issues also makes him incredibly pertinent to many people. However Ballard does not give easy, or even any answers and this puts off many people. Given the current economic and environmental conditions, he seems more prescient than ever, not simply because of the situations he describes, but because he offers a mindset for dealing with these issues.
Asked to define "Ballardian space," if such a thing exists, Clear says: "If you take Jameson’s postmodern hyperspace, remove the post-structuralist jargon, add some dark humour and set it on the periphery of any declining western industrialised city – especially London – then you are pretty close [to Ballardian space]."
Finally – because you can simply read the interview itself in full – Clear sums it all up: "We have to stop thinking about architecture simply in terms of building buildings – that’s why I am so interested in looking at other models and disciplines to draw inspiration from."

0 How to Play Hard: Tips for Workaholics


"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."

This proverb, made famous in the 1980 horror film The Shining, is a valuable tidbit to take from the silver screen to your real life.

Balance is a critical element to just about everything in life. This is especially true when navigating the path of hard work and leisure time. Even more so, if you work significantly hard, you must, in turn, play equally as hard. Read on to find tips on transferring your fervor in the working world to more recreational activities.

Reflect
If you happen to be a workaholic, chances are you may not even know it. Some people become engrossed in their work because they truly love it. Others simply must work hard to pay the bills. In either case, it's important to balance your workload with time for play. Tear yourself away from that report and reflect upon the amount of time you spend working and the quality of that time. If you categorize yourself as someone who works particularly hard, it's necessary to maintain equilibrium between your work-related activities and your personal life. Otherwise, all of that toil will eventually become overwhelming.

Reward Yourself

This one is a no-brainer. When you work hard, you deserve a reward! Just as you may reward your children when they do their chores with stickers on a chart or a weekly allowance, you deserve a treat when you get your job done as well. Many people think of their salary as their reward for working hard, but salaries are often spent on necessities or socked away for a rainy day. Find a way to compensate yourself for hard work aside from your paycheck. You'll find that your rewards will serve not only as a much-needed prize but an incentive to continue working at such high levels of excellence.

Reinvent Your Passion

When you love what you do for a living, it's easy to throw yourself into it wholeheartedly and lose track of the time you spend at the office. Loving what you do and being able to earn a profit from it is certainly a blessing, but try not to let your passion for your career overshadow other interests you may have. Instead, use some of the energy you would normally put into work to delve into a new hobby. Chances are if you are the type of person who becomes absorbed in your vocation, you will easily channel that same enthusiasm into something of a recreational sort.

Reserve Time for Play

The bad thing about working hard is it can be extremely time-consuming, leaving little room for anything else on your plate. While demanding jobs are oftentimes satisfying, you must intentionally set aside time for fun if you're going to play as hard as you work. Schedule a monthly happy-hour get-together after work on Fridays or have a power lunch with some of your like-minded coworkers (but don't spend the whole time talking about work!). Wake up thirty minutes earlier in the morning to participate in a yoga class or watch morning cartoons with your children. Whatever you decide to do, make sure it is a priority on your agenda. Playtime deserves just as much priority as work!

Working hard is often required of us, but taking time out for fun is taken for granted. There is nothing wrong with working your heart out as long as you are able to maintain a balance with playing your heart out! Start by reflecting upon your living habits, and if you determine yourself to be a workaholic, take measures to ensure that you include some R&R in your daily planner, as well!

Written on 12/29/2008 by David Bohl. David shares the viral message Slow Down FAST and helps people raise the roof on all facets of their lives without risking implosion. Get some must-haves here.Photo Credit: Zach Klein

Minggu, 28 Desember 2008

0 Dark Sky Park

[Image: The dark skies above Galloway Forest Park, Scotland, via the Guardian].

Note: This is a guest post by Nicola Twilley.

2009 has been designated by the United Nations as the International Year of Astronomy (IYA), marking the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s telescope. The excitement is starting early, with Galloway Forest Park in Scotland announcing its plans to become Europe’s first “dark sky park.”

The forest, which covers 300 square miles and includes the foothills of the Awful Hand Range, rates as a 3 on the Bortle scale. The scale, created by John Bortle in 2001, measures night sky darkness based on the observability of astronomical objects. It ranges from Class 9 – Inner City Sky – where "the only celestial objects that really provide pleasing telescopic views are the Moon, the planets, and a few of the brightest star clusters (if you can find them)," to Class 1 – Excellent Dark-Sky Site – where "the galaxy M33 is an obvious naked-eye object" and "airglow… is readily apparent." Class 3 is merely "Rural Sky," meaning that while "the Milky Way still appears complex... M33 is only visible with averted vision."

[Image: The Pleiades, photographed by Thackeray's Globules, photographed by Hubble].

Nonetheless, Galloway Forest Park contains the darkest skies in Europe, and Steve Owens, co-coordinator of the IYA plans in the UK, is determined to gain recognition from the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) as a lasting legacy for the 2009 celebrations.

The certification process is challenging. According to the Guardian, "to earn dark sky park status, officials in Galloway will submit digital photographs of the night sky taken through a fisheye lens. Their application must be supported by readings from light meters at different points in the park, and a list of measures that are being taken within the forest to prevent lights in and around the handful of farm buildings from spilling upwards into the sky and ruining the view."

The IDA website itself contains everything that "locations with exceptional nightscapes" need to know to submit their application to be certified as "International Dark Sky Communities (IDSC), International Dark Sky Parks (IDSP), and International Dark Sky Reserves (IDSR).” Currently, there is only one dark-sky community in the world (Flagstaff, AZ), and just two dark-sky parks (the first, Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah, and the slightly less well-known Cherry Springs State Park in northern Pennsylvania). There are no actual reserves yet; indeed, the concept is still being thrashed out in partnership with UNESCO (who issued their own Starlight Reserve framework in 2007).

[Images: The "center of the Milky Way," photographed by the European Southern Observatory at al.; the galaxy NGC 281, photographed by Ken Crawford of the Rancho Del Sol Observatory; and the Pleiades, photographed by Philip L. Jones].

The idea of a human-created dark sky park is fascinating, of course, as are the architectural and landscape modifications that must be undertaken by town councils and park management services in order to secure a qualifying Bortle score. For example, Observatory Park in Montville Township, Ohio, has been awarded provisional IDSP status (Silver Tier), contingent on "the completion of the park’s outdoor lighting scheme, visitor’s center, and enactment of outdoor lighting ordinances in surrounding townships." The Geauga Park District submitted their 34-page Lighting Management Plan (read the PDF) in August 2008, detailing various proposals for the reduction of local skyglow (as opposed to natural airglow), light trespass, and glare. These include full shading for all light installations and lighting curfews, as well as strategic tree planting.

The concept of shaping the ground to frame and enhance the sky is not new (for instance, James Turrell’s Skyscapes are an architectural attempt to achieve "light effects and perceptual events" centered on a complex reframing of the sky). Nonetheless, the idea of rebuilding and landscaping an entire community specifically for the purposes of experiencing darkness is an exciting one – as is the idea of UNESCO, official protector of World Heritage Sites, attempting to safeguard dark skies as a "natural and cultural property."

Scotland, with its northerly latitude and constant rain (which cleans the atmosphere of dust), has perhaps discovered its global tourist niche: A spokesman for VisitScotland, which is working closely with Dark Sky Scotland, ventured that "the night sky could be as important for tourism as the landscape."

0 Ten Simple Things We Should All Say More Often

How many words do you speak during an average day? No, I am not talking about text messages, emails, or slang chatroom words, I am talking about words that actually come out of your mouth.

The average figure is 16,000 words. Even then, much of what we say can be meaningless chit-chat, brisk, necessary exchanges or even angry rants. Here are ten things that we could all do with saying more often. While reading, I'll bet you believe the list is pretty simplistic. However, the positive impact they will have on your mood and your day is pretty dramatic.

  1. “Hello.”
    How often do you sit silently next to someone on a train, or in a waiting room? How often do you stand tapping your foot in a line at the post office or bank? Just saying a simple “Hello” or “Hi” to the person next to you, and offering them a smile, could give you an instant mood-boost. And you might even get into a conversation to pass the time while you’re waiting.
  2. “Thank you.”
    It’s hard to say “thank you” too often. Even when you feel someone’s performing a service that they should do by the nature of their job, thanking them will make both of you feel good. How about saying “thank you” to your employees or subordinates when they carry out a task for you, “thank you” to the girl at the checkout when she packs your bags for you, “thank you” to the waiter who brings your meals… Those two small words of gratitude can mean a lot.
  3. “Please.”
    A word which we often associate with “thank you”, perhaps because we were taught to say both as young children, is “please”. Using this little word turns a demand into a request – and makes people much happier about fulfilling it. When you queue up for a coffee at Starbucks, don’t just bark “Venti Mocha Frappuccino” at the barista – add a “please”. When asking your partner to pass the salt at dinner, put in that “please”. It doesn’t just set a great example for your kids, it sets a tone of politeness and mutual respect.
  4. “Here, take my seat.”
    Most of us are lucky enough to be fairly able-bodied and can easily stand on trains and buses without risking falling over. If you see someone elderly, pregnant or struggling in any way (perhaps a mother with a small child), offer them your seat. If you’re worried you’ll accidentally offend them, add a “I’m getting off soon” or something slightly jokey like “I could do with stretching my legs.”
  5. "This one’s on me.”
    Out for drinks with a friend or acquaintance? Rather than insisting on splitting the bill straight down the middle, offer to buy for both of you. It’s nice to feel generous, and to feel that you’re receiving a gift – and your friend can reciprocate next time, if s/he wants. A note of caution: if you are a lot better off financially than your drinking partner, be sensitive about this.
  6. “Let me help you with that.”
    If you see someone struggling, offer to help. They may rebuff you, but most people will be touched and grateful – you’ll get to make their day a little bit easier, which will put a dash of joy into yours. You might offer to help someone who’s:

    • Struggling with getting a wheelchair up or down steps
    • Lifting heavy luggage onto a train
    • Carrying an overladen tray across a café
    • Having difficulties reading a notice or leaflet
    • Keep an eye out for other situations where you can make yourself useful!

  7. “I don’t think we’ve met. I’m [name].”
    Many of us aren’t great at introducing ourselves. If you meet someone new, don’t just mumble about the weather or say nothing but “hi”; tell them your name, and ask theirs. It’s awkward to talk to someone for ten minutes before having to say “Sorry, I didn’t catch your name,” so be confident and upfront when meeting new people.
  8. “What I’m really passionate about is…”
    So often, conversations revolve around matters of little consequence to both the speaker and the listener. If you feel that most of what you say is just small talk, try going deeper. Obviously, this doesn’t mean boring the person next to you on the bus with your entire life story – but when you’re getting to know someone, share some of your hobbies and interests, or tell them about your big life plans. You never know, you might have found a kindred spirit.
  9. “Have a great day!”
    Although phrases like “have a nice day” can be overused by shopworkers and telesales staff, it’s still worth wishing people a good day, evening or weekend when you part. Speak with genuine enthusiasm, and you’ll almost certainly get a smile and a “thanks, you too!” in response – a great way to end a conversation on a high note.
  10. “I love you.”
    Lastly, those three most important words; “I love you.” Do you say these enough to the people who you love? Don’t just think about your partner here – how about your kids, your parents, your grandma? It’s easy to assume that people “just know” we love them, but sometimes hearing those little words can really make someone’s day.
What phrases do you think we should all be saying more often? What do you make an effort to say in order to bring a smile to someone's face?

Written on 12/28/2008 by Ali Hale. Ali runs Alpha Student, a blog packed with academic, financial and practical tips to help students get the most out of their time at university.Photo Credit: AnyaLogic

Jumat, 26 Desember 2008

0 9 Year End Tax Tips that may pay for your Holiday Shopping!

Tax StatusChristmas has come and gone - well, at least until that credit card bill comes. Before you begin the tradition of fearing the mail carrier and the inevitable sticker shock that awaits, why not take some preemptive measures and make it a little simpler to pay your credit card bill, your mortgage, or simply start that emergency fund that has alluded you.

This is indeed the time of year where planning pays. Consider a couple of year end tax saving strategies for perhaps a larger tax refund or smaller liability, depending upon your situation.

  1. Consider sending in some additional money towards your mortgage. The extra interest you pay will be deductible in 2008.

  2. Clean out your closet or attic and give clothes, old furniture, and books, to a charity like Salvation Army and the local library. Ask for help to determine the value and get a receipt. If you itemize, this can really add up and save you hundreds and perhaps even thousands.

    "You may deduct charitable contributions of money or property made to qualified organizations if you itemize your deductions." (IRS Publication 78)

  3. Make any cash charitable contribution by the end of the year. You can use your credit card therefore making charitable deductions deductible in 2008.

  4. Make certain you are getting your tax credits. Earned Income credit, Child credits, Education credits, etc. Credits are better than deductions and can save you hundreds. You can even get these credits before you get your W-2 in late January, early February. Many people fail to take them at all!

  5. Consider an IRA. If you have never invested before, this a great time to start and IRA’s are a great vehicle for tax savings. Traditional IRA’s help with saving taxes today and Roth’s will save you taxes in the future. Here is a good primer on how to start an IRA.

  6. Consider selling investments that are trading at a loss. For tax purposes, you are better off taking a loss in order to take advantage of either offsetting against gains or ordinary income of up to $3,000.00 a year. Make certain you stay out of the investment for 31 days in order to avoid the Wash Sale Rule.

  7. Consider paying your state and local taxes by the end of the year so they are deductible in 2008. This is where good year-end planning can really add up.

  8. If you have a high net worth or just have some cash sitting around, consider gifting some money to your children. The IRS allows you to give up to $12k per year without triggering estate/gift tax liability ($13k in 2009). This makes more and more sense with a Democratic majority and estate tax thresholds decreasing. The smaller your estate, the less you will have to pay in estate taxes.

  9. Consider changing your withholding. If you are consistently getting money back from the IRS, you may be withholding too much. This freed up cash can help us budget our money better.
Remember that a good tax advisor/preparer can really be worth their salt and getting your taxes done early can also create some savings too.

Many CPA’s offer an early bird special if you get them your information in February. This also allows for a better dialogue between you and your tax advisor. I can speak from experience from preparing taxes that the clients that got their information into the office in April did not get the same deductions that the client got in February and March. Simply, this is because there is no time for phone tag when you wait until the last minute.

Written on 12/27/2008 by Bob O'Brien. Bob has been a financial advisor for 14 years and is a Sr. Instructor at Mywealth.com. Photo Credit: rick

0 Sludgecore

[Image: Sludge makes itself at home in Harrimann, Tennessee; photo by J. Miles Carey/Knoxville News Sentinel, via Associated Press/New York Times].

Earlier this week the retaining wall of a massive sludge dam gave way 40 miles west of Knoxville, Tennessee, resulting in a coal ash spill that now lies "thick and largely untouched over hundreds of acres of land and waterways."
Houses and business have been buried whole or swept off their foundations by the potentially toxic material; amidst its unnaturally concentrated ingredients are selenium, arsenic, and lead, all of which produce "neurological problems" and cancer.
"The breach occurred," the New York Times explains, as if describing a painting by from a little-known Appalachian Series by Caspar David Friedrich, "when an earthen dike, the only thing separating millions of cubic yards of ash from the river, gave way, releasing a glossy sea of muck, four to six feet thick, dotted with icebergs of ash across the landscape. Where the Clinch River joined the Tennessee, a clear demarcation was visible between the soiled waters of the former and the clear brown broth of the latter."
An updated aerial survey now suggests that more than 5 million cubic yards of this possibly neurologically-active waste has been released – "enough to flood more than 3,000 acres one foot deep" – forming a new self-organized landscape of industrial byproducts, a future stratigraphic surprise for our next millennium's archaeologists.
Or perhaps this is the metallization of the world long ago dreamed of by the Italian futurists. Adventures in metallized deterrestrialization.

Kamis, 25 Desember 2008

0 21 Excellent Web Apps For College Students


There is no doubt that college students depend heavily on the internet for a lot of their needs. And it's not only the entertainment quotient of the internet (movies, music, torrents, games) which attracts them. There are also useful web based tools available which helps them immensely in their day to day lives.

The following list includes 21 great tools/sites for school and college students. The tools are completely web based and almost all of them are free to use. Some of them are general tools useful for every internet user while others are specific to the needs of college students.

Wikipedia
This has to be the first tool when we talk about web based tools for college students. Wikipedia, as we know is an online encyclopedia and easily the most important site to consult when it comes to research and get more information. Just be sure to keep it legit - it's very simple for people to locate plagiarized works.

Gmail
Another general tool and should be the primary web based email for every college student. With the introduction of some great features in Gmail Labs, this email app has now become indispensable. So if you are still with Yahoo or Hotmail, shift to Gmail immediately. Seriously.

Zoho Suite
Although targeted towards professionals and web workers, Zoho has some very impressive tools which could be used by college students too. Be it planner, email, organizer or spreadsheets, it has all of them. You definitely need to take a look if you haven't so far.

Evernote
A superior web based note taking app which also provides a desktop software plus you can use it through and sync it to your cell phone. It's a must have of you take frequent notes while surfing the web.

Remember the Milk
RTM is an amazing web based task management and reminder app which syncs with your Gmail and Google Calendar too. It's loaded with features and you could create to do lists and tasks from just about anywhere. And it's not complicated at all.

Google Docs
Since it is a part of your Google account, Google Docs could serve as your primary tool for creating documents and presentations online. Although Zoho provides similar tools and I'd say when it comes to comparing both the sets, it should be a very tough competition.

Google Calendar
By far the best web based calendar app which has the ability to sync with desktop calendar apps like Outlook's calendar.

Soshiku
Soshiku is a very cool tool to keep track of your assignments and homework. It can save notes, manage tasks and even notify you about the due dates via email or SMS.

Bookfinder
Bookfinder lets you compare prices on a huge number of books offered by online retailers and hence lets you find the best books at cheap prices.

Drop.io
Drop.io is a very useful free tool which allows private file sharing via web, email, phone or fax upto 100 MB in size ( that's a major plus point ). So you can share big documents and files easily using this tool.

Ottobib
Ottobib is a simple but very effective tool which lets you make bibliography pages by allowing you to enter ISBN numbers and get the bibliography in multiple formats.

Last.fm
A no-brainer, isn't it. Last.fm, if you don't know ( which is highly unlikely ) is a free tool to listen to great music via radio stations. It's a favorite of college students too.

Meebo
Meebo is online web IM for Gtalk, MSN, AIM and Yahoo and is useful if these tools are blocked by the college authorities.

Rate My Professors
If you are studying in an university and want to run a check on the popularity of professors before deciding on whose class you should take, then this tool is the right one to proceed with.

PDF Notes Generator
PDF notes generator is another very simple but useful online app which helps you generate printable note taking sheets within seconds.

Bookmooch
Bookmooch is a site which lets you save money on books by helping you swap them with others. A great site for any book lover who wants to read a lot of them but doesn't have enough money to spend on buying them.

Delicio.us
Delicious is the most popular online bookmarking tool and could be an important tool for every college student.

Encalc
A free web based advanced scientific calculator to help you with long mathematical equations.

Flowchart.com
Flowchart.com is a cool site which houses a flowchart software which can be used by many users at the same time to create great flowcharts. Hence students can collaborate on flowchart creartion using this site.

Notesake
Notesake is a nice tool to create, store, organize and share lecture notes online.

Instacalc
This is an amazing online calculator which displays results as you type. Also converts units easily for you.

I hope you like the aforementioned tools. If you are a college student and know about other nice web based tools then lets hear about them in the comments.

Cheers,

Abhijeet

Written on 12/26/2008 by Abhijeet Mukherjee. You can catch him at Jeet Blog where he blogs about different Web 2.0 apps and online tools and how they can help you become more productive.
Photo Credit:
adpowers

Selasa, 23 Desember 2008

0 Forest Camp San Francisco

[Image: By Craig Hodgetts, from his prospective drawings for a film adaptation of Ecotopia].

Over on the Architect's Newspaper Blog, Ken Saylor takes a look at the novel Ecotopia, recently discussed by The New York Times. Amusingly, that novel's key phrases, according to Amazon.com, include "extruded houses," "ritual war games," "forest camp," and "San Francisco."
However, what the NYT fails to mention, Saylor adds, is that, in 1978, architect Craig Hodgetts "produced a wondrous set of drawings for a Hollywood movie adaptation of the pulp classic. With plenty of savvy and pop-culture sensibility, the script was translated into awe-inspiring architectonic visuals. The drawings were exhibited and published, but alas, the project never made it to the silver screen."
The images include solar-powered, high-speed maglev trains that "utilize a 'lifting body' profile to reduce gravity forces at speed, allowing lightweight bridges that act in tension rather than compression," as well as "balloon generators over San Francisco Bay," complete with their associated "maintenance gondolas."
Check out the original post for more images – with captions by Hodgetts himself – and more information about the unfortunately undeveloped film adaptation.
However, I have to add, briefly, that architecture is by its very nature a specific form of science fiction: whether we're using it to design luxury high-rises, modular refugee camps, solar towers, or complete urban ecotopias, architecture gives us the means, on par with literature and mythology, through which we can re-imagine the world.
Architecture, by definition, is speculation about the future.

Senin, 22 Desember 2008

0 Nuclear Urbanism

A Google Maps mash-up by Sydney-based design firm CarlosLabs has us looking at what nuclear explosions would do to cities all over the world.

[Image: London nuked, courtesy of CarlosLabs].

"This mapplet," we read, "shows the thermal damage caused by a nuclear explosion. Search for a place, pick a suitable weapon and press 'Nuke It!'"
The image you see above is London as decimated by an atomic bomb equivalent to the freakishly terrifying Soviet Tsar Bomba test of 1961. Everything as far as Guildford has been damaged – the entire center of the city simply gone.
Below, we see Chicago obliterated by the same size of explosion. Looking closely, we see that the difference between a first- and second-degree burn – and this information is explained a bit more, below – passes directly through the distant suburban town in which I was born, Highland Park.

[Image: Courtesy of CarlosLabs].

Waters along the shore of Lake Michigan would be instantly evaporated, forming radioactive rainstorms over northern Indiana, perhaps for days.
The size of the bomb can be varied, of course; here we see Los Angeles hit by any typical nuclear warhead carried by an American fighter jet, circa 1991; and, below that, we see New York City hit by a bomb equivalent to Fat Man, the device dropped on Nagasaki.

[Images: Courtesy of CarlosLabs].

And here, below, is Rome hit by Little Boy, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima – and the first nuclear device ever used as an act of war.
If it's any consolation to Catholics – or architectural historians – the extreme, northwestern fringes of the Vatican would escape immediate harm.

[Image: Courtesy of CarlosLabs].

Alternatively, let's drop Little Boy on Edinburgh.

[Image: Courtesy of CarlosLabs].

All of this is visually arresting – seeing vast bruises like bull's eyes consume whole cities – but what does it really mean? What is each colored circle supposed to represent?
In the following image of Mumbai being hit by a nuclear missile equivalent to those used by the Chinese military, we see concentric rings of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree burns expanding outward from the detonation – a geometry of necrosis, suffocation, and death. Blisters and cancer would affect tens of thousands of people for miles in every direction (depending on prevailing winds).

[Image: Courtesy of CarlosLabs].

For some unexpected astronomical context, though, CarlosLabs has added a bizarre final option: seeing how asteroid impacts might compare with inter-urban nuclear war.
Tokyo – where the following image is centered – is not merely erased; struck by an asteroid, it's been placed at the heart of a planetary event, complete with rings of sunburn-equivalent injury spreading out across whole continents.

[Image: Courtesy of CarlosLabs].

Returning to the realm of historical likelihood, the image that somehow clarifies this the most for me – if, for no other reason, because I live there – is the following glimpse of San Francisco. The entire peninsula has been blasted into absolute, smoking oblivion by an explosion equal to Tsar Bomba.
The fact that you would be more or less screwed as far south as Fremont – and well east of Oakland – seems sobering, indeed.
You could be sitting in the west-facing window of an Oakland high-rise, watching an atomic fireball explode over San Francisco – which quickly expands to melt the glass you're looking through.

[Image: Courtesy of CarlosLabs].

A few quick points, meanwhile:

1) This will mean very little, and have no effect, but I am 100% behind complete nuclear disarmament. The U.S. taking the lead in this seems like something well worth pursuing.

2) In this context, I have to say that the books of Richard Rhodes cannot be recommended highly enough. His The Making of the Atomic Bomb – which I have to confess to having read only partially – is required reading for anyone interested in what intensive, well-funded efforts of design can – in this case, unfortunately – produce. The bomb as an act of national infrastructure.

3) Michael Light's book 100 Suns, a photographic survey of nuclear weapon tests, is as horrifying as it is visually spectacular, especially for anyone with an interest in human history (and its explosive intersection with enriched geology).

4) Gary Snyder has a great poem that I still think of now and again, 17 years after first reading it, called "Bomb Test." Originally written, I believe, in Kyoto in 1986, the poem presents nuclear weapons as a kind of new terrestrial element, something geologically unprecedented both in and on the surface of the earth – highly processed samples of mineral chemistry (uranium, plutonium) put into military service by rival superpowers.
"The fish float belly-up, for real," Snyder writes. "Uranium in the whites / of their eyes.
    They've been swimming
    Deep down where it's black when a
    Silvery snow of something queer
    glinted in
    From cirrus clouds to the seamounts,
    Through all the food chains,
    Shrimp to tuna, the currents,
    Riding the waves.
This "silvery snow," he suggests, is something outside biological experience altogether. Ironically, though, this is exactly what makes radioactive fallout perhaps the only true, long-term marker of human presence on the earth. It is our greatest fossil, so to speak.
Even now, the globally nomadic residues of nuclear weapons tests form a ghostly stratigraphic marker that can be found literally around the world, an all but permanent part of the earth's sedimentary record.
So, in the images that illustrate this post, we see what effects this geological discovery – the explosive power of rare elements – could have on the built geography of our species.
Nuclear war thus poetically equates to hurling enriched fragments of the earth's surface at your rivals. Call it weaponized geology: minerals made altogether unearthly, if not post-terrestrial, through anthropological intervention.

5) Here is a random assortment of nuclear bomb photography. These were all Cold War-era tests – but, someday, perhaps soon, architects and architecture bloggers will be looking at similar images, images that have captured the obliteration of constructed environments from Mumbai or Karachi to New York, London, or Tehran. This will happen, I would say; it might well occur within our lifetimes, or at least within the next century; and any even partially accurate future assessment of global urbanism must still take nuclear weapons into account.
Nuclear weapons present us with a kind of demonic skeleton key, capable of catastrophically unlocking any city in the world, no matter how dense or well-fortified, in mere seconds.

Finally, here is what would happen if a nuclear bomb was dropped on a relatively non-urban environment: in this case, the town of Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

[Image: Courtesy of CarlosLabs].

But this could just as easily have been Ann Arbor, Santa Cruz, Austin, Shrewsbury, Castleton, Aberystwyth, Marburg – it could just as easily have been anywhere on earth.
The overwhelming obliterative power of nuclear weapons turns them into a kind of ubiquitous anti-landscape, something that no geography, built or natural, can successfully resist.
All of which is simply a long-winded way of saying that while we now tend to measure threats against our cities in terms of armed gangs or contextually minor moments of staged terrorist assault, it's still interesting to remember that, hovering over all of this, is something that could simply annihilate cities altogether.
If we're going to study cities, in other words, then we should also study that which is radically anti-city.

(Spotted via Alexis Madrigal and Wired Science).
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