Friday, December 31, 2010

Saul Williams' Got a List of Demands...

Just finished re-reading Saul Williams' groundbreaking work, The Dead Emcee Scrolls. I first saw Saul Williams live at UW's Kane Hall when I was a wee freshman, having no idea of what a poetic firestorm I was about to witness.

Williams' poetry can best be described as a tongue-lashing, luscious harmony of hip-hop Zulu NYC Afrocentricity. He is also the only artist who is commercially successful as a slam poet and hip hop star. For more of a sampling of his poetic beats set to rap music, check out his hit single, "List of Demands." It was used as the soundtrack to a Nike commercial several years ago. Can you top that, Sherman Alexie? I think not...

My favorite quotes from Dead Emcee Scrolls could go on for days...suffice it to say his writing packs a punch!

Let me mold a guitar of your bodily bazaar. Strap your tongue, chord your lungs, string your toes. And bows that precede the rain shall serpent symphonies in your name.
Mother of countless daughters. The tricks of time. It is your thrust and grind that defines us. We are the offspring of your decapitated head. The bastard sons of Father Time.

Dance. Even when your feet hurt. Dance like the fires of hell are upon you and you’re dodging every flame. 

Dance when it tastes good. Dance when the spirit moves you.
Dance because you feel it and you don’t have to be taught how to count, how to step and slide, how to twirl and jump and land on a good foot before taking off to fly,
NGH, dance. Dance, nigger. Paint your faces. Shine your shoes. Pop that collar. Shake it. Wind it. Kick fight scratch rip kill BREAK.
Neck back jump back kiss BREAK. Uprock freeze pop lock BREAK. Don’t stop don’t stop snap BREAK.
Into ferocious song and dance. Calculated movement. Gestures of prayer and invocation. Dance. Your life depends on it.
Cakewalk. Lindy. Charleston. Mashed potatoes. Camel walk. Hot pants. Hustle. Electric boogaloo. Patty Duke. Steve Martin. Pee-wee Herman. Prep. Wop. Rooftop. Cabbage Patch. Chickenhead. Ragtop. Wobble. Crump. Snake. BREAK! 

Not until you listen to Rakim on a rocky mountaintop have you heard hip-hop. Extract the urban element that created it and let an open wide countryside illustrate it.
The trains and planes could corrupt and obstruct your planes of thought so that you forget how to walk through the woods which ain’t good cause if you never walked through the trees listening to Nobody Beats The Biz then you ain’t never heard hip-hop.
And you don’t stop. And you don’t stop. And you must stop letting cities define you. Confine you to that which is brick and cement. We are not a hard people. Our domes have been crowned with the likes of steeples.
The wind plays the world like an instrument. Blows through trees like flutes. But trees won’t grow in cement. And as heart beats bring percussion fallen trees bring repercussions. Cities play upon our souls like broken drums.
We drum the essence of creation from city slums. But city slums mute our drums and our drums become humdrum cause city slums have never been where our drums were from.
Just the place where our daughters and sons become offbeat heartbeats. Slaves to city streets. Where hearts get broken when heartbeats stop. Broken heartbeats become break-beats for NGHs to rhyme on top.
Cop car swerves to the side of the road. Hip-hop takes its last breath. The cop scrawls vernacular manslaughter onto his yellow pad, then balls the paper into his hands, deciding he’d rather freestyle. 
You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to remain silent. And maybe you should have before your bullshit manifested.
Song is the invitation from the primordial unseen to become one with that which is seen. To nod your head is to agree that the moment is godly: communion. To dance is to become God. There are many ways of dancing. Follow your heart.
The buck and gully. The native son. Bigger and Deffer. The freshest one. The sewed-in creases. The flavored twills. The confidence snorted through dollar bills.
The “Fuck I care for?” The boldfaced lie. The been there and done that. The do or die. The dirty dirty. The filthy clean. Thugged out and nerdy. No in between. The blackest berry. The sweetest juice. That complex NGH born of simple truth.
A wealth of violence. A violent wealth. You caught up, NGH, better watch your health, the beat is dope though. The junkie nod. The use of breakbeats to beat the odds.
God and pussy. Objects of desire and ill repute. Some’d rather seek up high than dig and grind that inner truth. The angel of my eye a bit too fly to substitute with any other form than the messiah’s.
Shower me with blessings. No second-guessing. ‘Cause God, herself, is sitting on the edge of my bed, slowly undressing. A night symbolic as the resurrection. I’m about to slide up in the kingdom of God with no protection.
And I can hear a second coming. ‘Cause I already hear the drummer boy barumpumpum pumming. A host of angles look at me through your eyes. My first communion with my hands on your thighs. You’re catching the spirit, the Holy Ghost and the fire. Yo, this is wild.
I’m every Jay-Z album played in reverse. I’m risen from blunt ash and stashed in a purse. I’m smuggled over borders, contraband, ‘though I rock. I paper. I scissor. Nah, NGH, no Glock.
Pay me cash. Simply ‘cause what money means to you. Your currency has currently devalued what is true. When freedom rings through costly bling, it’s overdrawn, past due. The bankroll of an empty soul kept vaulted. Code and clues:
NGH WHT, I represent the truth you claim to be. The hero of the eastern sky, the storm’s eye, westerly. Rough, rugged, raw, eternal law recited over beats. Some poetry to oversee the dance floor and the streets.
Your evolution stopped with the evolution of your technology. A society of automatic tellers and money machines. NGH WHT? My culture is lima beans. Dreams manifest. Dreams real. Not consistent with the rational.
I dance for no reason. For reason you can’t dance. Caught in the inactiveness of intellectualized circumstance. You can’t learn my steps until you unlearn your thoughts. Spirit/soul can’t be store bought. Fuck thought. It leads to naught. Simply stated, it leads to you trying to figure me out.
Your intellect is disfiguring your soul. Your being’s not whole. Check your flagpole: stars and stripes. Your astrology’s imprisoned by your concept of white, of self. What’s your plan for spiritual health? Calling reality unreal. Your line of thought is tangled.
The star-spangled got your soul mangled. Your being’s angled, forbidding you to be real and feel. You can’t find truth with an ax or a drill, in a white house on a hill, or in factories or plants made of steel. 

Thursday, December 30, 2010

XBox Kinect's Dance Central is My New Crack...

I have to apologize for not posting as much as I should be lately. I do have a good excuse though!

For Christmas, I took home the new XBox Kinect and got the Dance Central game the next day. One word: HOOKED!

The game is beyond addictive. True, you could say the same thing about many video games. Somehow I had avoided the craze of video games for my entire life before this moment - never owned a console of any kind, never succumbed to this addiction. Ok, you got me, I was kind of a freak in junior high :)

It was a combination of factors that caused me to never catch the video game stupor like everyone fucking else on the planet. 1) the controllers - They are awkward to hold, I don't like using them. End of story. 2) Time committment - don't have it. I never understood how my friends could have "Halo parties" for 8 hours plus when we were 14, 15, 21??? Too much screen time, too much weed, too many crushed Cheeto stains on my carpet. No thanks. 3) Arcade games are more fun, and because you're dropping quarters on them each round, you get more of the thrill of gambling to get to the next level. It's like slot machines for kids. As a young whipper-snapper in downtown Kirkland, I loved going to Quarters every chance I could and blowing all my allowance there on Tekken 2 and Jones Soda. Like I said - freakkkkk :)

Kinect has totally changed my take on video games. For the first time, I don't feel guilty at all for playing them. I actually feel like I'm getting a workout (of sorts) just by playing them. If you really work at it, you can legitimately break a sweat. The Dance Central game has a great line up of dance, hip hop, and funk music that can keep you going for hours doing actual choregraphed routines. I have to admit that so far I suck at it for most songs - I can only get to "Easy" 3 or 4 stars most of the time, but I'm working on it.

So in case you were wondering, I've been plugging away trying my best to not look like these dorks:

EV Charging Stations Coming to...A McDonalds Near You?

We've all heard the old, tired line before: environmentalism is an affectation of the rich; only latte-sipping liberals care about their carbon footprint; my personal favorite - urban planning is a socialist Obama conspiracy against the suburban neighborhoods where real, red-blooded Americans live.

Some of these pathetic arguments may be put to rest by one of the more surprising developments in EV charging infrastructure. They're installing EV stations at, you guessed it, the McDonalds near you. Specifically, two Level 2 charging stations are being installed at this McDonalds in Huntington, West Virginia.

You know electric vehicles like the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf (and Ford Focus electric, hitting the market in 2012) have arrived when any given McDonalds will have spots for drivers to plug in their vehicles.

McDonalds charging station in the Netherlands, courtesy of
If we can corner the fast food market with EV stations - that is, make them an easily integrated and functional part of our fast-food/strip-mall landscape - we just might have the shot in the arm needed to kick our addiction to fossil fuels.

Photo courtesy of The Happy Hospitalist
 The map of McDonald's locations across the US begs the question of "where isn't there a micky dees near me?" Could it one day lead to the same question about charging stations? Let's fucking hope so!
Via: CityFix

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Feral Houses of Detroit

When you think of the word "feral", is it a rabid dog or cat that first comes to mind? Or, perhaps a feral Gypsy child running through the slums of Calcutta, surviving on only heroin and garbage snacks.

But a feral house? This is an entirely different category of bizarre. In the city of Detroit, long a poster child of American urban decay, things have gotten so bad in many of its wards that thousands of houses - entire neighborhoods, even - can now be described as "feral".

Due to decades of industrial decline, economic disinvestment, political corruption, and failing city services, Detroit's population has declined from over 2 million in 1950 to just 900,000 today.

According to a recent article in City Journal, the mayor of Detroit, Dave Bing, plans to "shrink" the city even further to 700,000 to allow it to thrive. As it stands today, nearly 70,000 houses stand abandoned - many to such an extent that they are completely engulfed by vegetation in the summer months. Nonetheless, the city msut still provide services to the few remaining residents of these feral districts at great cost.

Under Bing's plan, nearly one quarter of the city's land area would be returned to forest and woodland, fully depopulated of its residents, who would be relocated to other areas. With the exception of certain areas like the Lower Ninth Ward in post-Katrina New Orleans, this is almost unprecedented for any American city.

These feral areas of Detroit may be the closest thing America has to a truly 3rd World standard of living, outside of Indian reservations. Places where only arrests are made on only 37% of murders (compared to 65% nationally), and police coverage is so irregular that many residents no longer call 911 to report crimes because the police simply don't bother to show up.

Detroit's Dave Bing, a former NBA star, has often been compared to Newark's Mayor, Cory Booker, a reformist who has taken charge against the staggering odds in a "crime capital" of America. If his redevelopment plan of Detroit works, hopefully these "feral neighborhoods" will become a thing of the past, a marker of the worst of deindustrialization in the Rust Belt. In the meantime, these houses are as increidble as they are sad.

Click here for a full map of the Detroit feral houses.

Via: Sweet Juniper

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

San Francisco Bike-Share Makes More than a Few Enemies

Last month we took a peek at a bike-sharing pilot project in the works in the San Francisco Bay Area to nearly 1,000 public bikes on the streets of San Fracisco and points south by late 2011.

The system is aiming to replicate the success of European bike-sharing, with automated charging stations and annual, daily, or monthly subscription fees for users, along with hourly rates. Like many of the most famous systems, the first 30 minutes would be free of charge, to encourage riders to use the system for short trips close to home.

The pilot program would begin with about 500 bikes and 50 stations in the San Francisco city center, focusing on the City Center, Tenderloin, Market Street, and Transbay Terminal areas. An additional 400 bikes would go into the urban centers of CalTrain corridor south of the city.

Now that we have a better take on the foundations of this exciting program, it bears asking the dreaded question of all multimodal projects in the US: will people use it? will we look like assholes for thinking this type of bike transit infrastructure was even a good idea?

Is this what San Francisco was going for? So hipster...
In a scathing critique of the San Francisco bike share program, Matthew Roth of SF Streetsblog argues that the city is setting itself up for failure with an inadequate starting number of bikes that won't serve people's needs.

According to Roth, "bicycle sharing program’s greatest assets are ubiquity and ease of use." The Paris Velib program, considered the vanguard of bike-sharing worldwide, began with 750 stations and 10,000 bikes before quickly expanding to 1450 stations and 20,000 bikes, enough to make the stations more than three times as ubiquitous as the city's subway network, also the world's most dense. The Velib program is surprisingly inexpensive to run, even given the city's notorious problem with theft and vandalism of the bikes. User fees pay for the city's expenses of running the program, and the remaining $4.3 million is paid for in advertising space.

With only 50 stations at its inception, San Francisco's system would be the smallest in North America. When DC Bikes opened in the capital two years ago with 120 stations, a spokesman for the District DOT regretted that the system had not opened with more stations: "Knowing what we know now, we would've launched it bigger."

So just how many bikes would San Francisco truly need to have an effective bike-share system?

According to Colin Hughes, a planning grad student at UC Berkeley, exactly 5328 bikes. Colin first suggested that any bike-share system should be thought of as a form of mass transit, like light rail or a bus route. Without regular, intuitively placed stations and high frequency, no one is going to use the damn thing!
The Paris Metro is the densest subway network in the world, with 300 stations within the city. The trains run from about 5 am to midnight, and users might have to wait about 20 minutes for a train in off-peak hours. In comparison, the city also has 1451 bicycle stations - a transit network almost 5 times denser than its subway system. Users can access these bicycle stations 24/7, they can ride them wherever they like, and the cost is free for the first 30 minutes.
Paul DeMaio, one of the world's only "bike-sharing consultants" based in DC, writes that the ideal bike-share systems need approximately one bike per 150 residents of the service area. This equates to 5328 bikes at 605 stations if we're using the Paris-based metric, or 2960 bikes at 484 stations if we're using more modest metrics from the Barcelona system.

The San Francisco bike-share system was originally announced back in 2009 with only 50 bikes at 5 stations - now the most recent plan calls for ten times that number, 500 bikes at 50 stations, at a cost of $7.9 million.

Bixi bikes from Montreal, on display at Golden Gate Park in a recent expo promoting the SF bike share program

Hopefully more public pressure on the city to make a truly workable number will get things in gear. If you are asking SF residents to ride 50-pound bikes through the rain, you need to make the system easier than catching a bus, hell easier than catching a cab! There should be enough stations that riders won't have to worry about finding a place to park their bike at the end of the ride. 

The Dream of the 90s Lives on in Portland.

I should concede that although I consider myself a born-and-raised Seattleite, technically I was born in SW Portland and lived there until I was a year and a half old. Still, I am sometimes guilty of the Seattle superiority complex, if there is such a thing, a.k.a. thinking that Seattle kicks Portland's ass at any and all things important. Regardless, Portland still manages to hit the very highest echelons of hipster cachet in ways even Seattle can't match. Portland is like Seattle's free-wheeling hipster little sister, a parallel universe where Belltown, Amazon and Microsoft never happened.

This is a promo video for the new IFC series Portlandia that hits the nail right on Portland's hipster, fixied head. Do you know anyone who gets the IFC channel? Fuck, I sure don't. Is that the one that comes with the HBO package? Either way, hopefully the episodes will be streamed online somewhere - if so, I'll be sure to post the link.


-"People grew up wanting to be clowns. You could go to clown school!"
-"I gave up clowning years ago."
-"Well, in Portland you don't have to."

Even Santa Claus Likes Bike-Sharing

The Santa population of London has taken to the streets in favor of the new bike-sharing system there, Boris Bikes. 

Nicknamed after London's mayor, Boris Johnson, the system began this past July, with 5,000 bikes at 315 stations in Central London. Boris Bikes has the enviable distinction of being the only public transit program in decades to actually make a profit. So far the program has been exceedingly popular - over 90,000 Londoners are now members, and one million rides were taken by the end of September - a great start for this brand new program.

If you are with your family this Christmas season, you may want to hide ya kids, hide ya wife...because there's no good way to explain 30 Santas riding bikes to your six year old!

Drury Lane station, with 27 bikes

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Digital Story of the Nativity

I was having one of those oh-so-crummy days at work (in my windowless office behind the loading dock), and  my good friend Jamie Stroble sent this hilarious video to cheer me up!

It really captures the spirit of Christmas in the age of Twitter @Jesus.

Thanks, Jamie!

Feds Give $184 Million to Green Vehicle Development

Another reason to thank the Obama Administration: there is more money available for green vehicle research than there has been in recent memory.

The Department of Energy is slated to dole out $184 million for green vehicle research, with specific focus in the areas of advanced materials, combustion research, hybrid electric systems, fleet efficiency, and fuels technology.

This announcement comes on the heels of the US release of the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf, two models that mark the first mass wave of commercially viable electric cars in the American market.

The deadline for proposals is Februrary 28, 2011, so there's still time to get your ideas into the running for federal cash!

For more info, check out the DOE's Vehicle Technologies Program, which is administering the grants.

Friday, December 17, 2010

What Does Facebook Look Like from Space?

Have you ever wondered what the world of Facebook would look like if you plotted friendship ties along a map? Well, neither had I, until I read about this Facebook INTERN's amazing project.

The method to the intern, Paul Butler's, madness?

I defined weights for each pair of cities as a function of the Euclidean distance between them and the number of friends between them. Then I plotted lines between the pairs by weight, so that pairs of cities with the most friendships between them were drawn on top of the others. I used a color ramp from black to blue to white, with each line's color depending on its weight. I also transformed some of the lines to wrap around the image, rather than spanning more than halfway around the world.
Interesting how all of China, nearly all of Africa, and most of Russia are almost entirely dark on the Facebook map. Censorship, anyone?


New York City's Sadik-Khan Hits Another Home Run

New York City's Transportation Commissioner is not only responsible for the city's biggest expansion of bike lanes in history and the largest (planned) bike-sharing program in the US.

She's also taking charge of one of the simplest infrastructural changes you could think of, one that turns out to have a dramatic influence on the quality of our experience as pedestrians.

In a Lower Manhattan pilot project, Sadik-Khan has installed "pop-up" cafes that take up the space where parked cars would normally sit. Because land uses in cities are generally determined by what developers call the 'highest and best use,' it bears questioning whether having a six-foot swath of highly-trafficked streetscape devoted to parking our cars is truly the highest and best use.

It comes down to a question of priorities - do we build our cities to move traffic or to move people? Increasingly, progressive leaders like Sadik-Khan are choosing the latter.

The locations in Lower Manhattan were so successful that this pilot program is being expanded to 12 additional locations across the city. Each pop-up cafe is just six feet wide - the width of an ordinary parked car - and roughly five cars long.

Each pop-up cafe is sponsored and maintained by a neighboring business across the sidewalk, generally a restaurant or coffeeshop. These stores are reporting a 14% increase in business when the sidewalk tables and chairs are installed. Although they are privately financed, the spaces are considered as public as any park.

Originally inspired by similar "parklets" in San Francisco's Castro and Potrero Hill neighborhoods, this type of "guerrilla park design", if you will, is destined to become a permanent fixture wherever it's installed. Simply by provoking thought about the purposes of our street space - how much space for parked cars, and how much for people - seems to be enough to provoke people to take back the public space that is rightfully theirs.

A similar transformation, albeit on a larger scale, took place in NYC's Madison Square Garden. Take a look!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I'm a Sucker for Beats Like This...

Check out this new album called Maximum Balloon, the new funk-oriented project from TV On the Radio's producer Dave Sitek. Heard them first several weeks ago on KEXP, and now I'm hooked!

Monday, December 13, 2010

ChargePoint Launches EV Charging Stations in Bellevue, WA and Washington, DC

One of the latest and most promising developments in EV charging station technology has been launched right here in the Seattle area!

ChargePoint America, a $37 million grant program run by Coulomb Technologies, has recently opened public charging stations in Bellevue, WA, as well as Washington DC. The program was funded in part from a $15 million Department of Energy grant from the ARRA stimulus package of 2009. Thank you, Obama!!!

The ultimate goal is to set up 4,600 stations across the country, in nine regions: Austin, Texas, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, Orlando, Fla., Sacramento, Calif., the San Jose/San Francisco Bay Area, Bellevue/Redmond, Wash., and Washington DC and is a strategic partnership between Coulomb and three leading automobile brands: Ford, Chevrolet and smart USA. If ChargePoint succeeds, maybe we won't be so apt to relegate such dinosaur status to our dying Detroit brands. 

Already ChargePoint has set up stations at the UW Bothell campus, Bainbridge Island, and the ultra-pricey Aspira condo building in Downtown Seattle (sadly, for Louis Vuitton-toting residents only). 

These latest two stations have been installed at the Bellevue City Hall and are open to the public. In order to promote ChargePoint stations for EV drivers in the Northwest, they established a sub-contractor, ChargeNW, where subscribers can get discounted home charging units and even find the nearest station on their Smartphone app. 

Top 10 Youtube Videos of 2010

Some of the videos on here are predictable, others wildly unexpected.

1. Old Spice - who could resist?
2. Antoine Dodson - "Hide ya kids, hide ya wife..."
3. Double Rainbow - probably the most famous acid trip ever captured on camera.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Soccer Stadium to End All Soccer Stadiums

The recent announcement that the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar will host the 2022 World Cup has caused this tiny Arab country to become an architect's wet dream, as dozens of fantastical designs for the World Cup stadium seem to push the limits of the imagination.

One of the main concerns surrounding the logistics of the World Cup was how this country of 115-degree temperatures would accommodate hundreds of thousands of soccer fans.

According to GOOD, "all of the stadiums will utilize the region's solar energy through solar panels which will help keep temperatures cool. Energy will also be collected from the 12 stadiums when they're not in use, and will be stored for later use." The ultimate goal is to make the 2022 World Cup completely carbon-neutral, piggybacking on efforts to make the 2012 London Olympics the "greenest games ever". This is no easy feat given the lack of water, transportation, and energy infrastructure in Qatar in place to handle crowds large enough to fill multiple stadiums.

Here's a look at each of the designs and some of their unique features:

Qatar plans to host the opening and closing matches for the 2022 World Cup in the Lusail Iconic Stadium (in the city of Lusail), which boasts a seating capacity of 86, 250.

Doha Port Stadium will be on an artificial peninsula in the Gulf and will have water running over its outer surface, aiding in the cooling process. 

Al-Gharafa Stadium is one of three stadiums set for remodeling in Qatar. Colorful ribbons will decorate the outer walls, symbolizing the various nations to qualify for the 2022 World Cup Games.

With its flexible roof and seashell shape, Al-Khor Stadium will offer spectators a wonderful view of the Gulf—right from their seats.

Umm Slal Stadium's design is a modern interpretation of traditional Arab forts.

Located in one of Qatar's oldest cities, Al-Wakrah Stadium takes inspiration from the city's local heritage in fishing and pearl diving.

The Al-Shamal Stadium is modeled after a "dhow" fishing boat commonly used in the Gulf.

 Al-Rayyan Stadium is one of Qatar's current stadiums and features a "media membrane" on the outside walls where updates and news on current matches are projected.

Inspired from traditional Arab tents, Sports City Stadium has plenty of retractable seating, making it ideal for future sporting events and concerts.

The Qatar University Stadium will feature a facade with traditional Arabic geometric patterns. After the World Cup games, the stadium's seating capacity will be downsized for use by university student athletes.