abraham lincoln abraham maslow academic papers africa aging aid alexander the great amazon america android os apple architecture aristotle art art institute chicago astronomy astrophysics aubrey de grey beck beer berlin bernacke bicycle BIG bill murray biophilia birds blogs bob dylan books bourdain brewing brian wansink buckminster fuller bukowski cameras cancer carl jung carl sagan cemetary change charter city chicago china christmas church civil war climate change cologne construction coop himmelblau copenhagen cornell west cps craigslist crime crown hall cyanotype cyrus dalai lama darkroom data dbHMS death design build dessau detail Diet dogs dome dongtan douglas macarthur drake equaation dresden dubai ebay eco economics economy education einstein emerson emily dickinson energy experiments facebook farming finance finland florida food france frank lloyd wright frei otto freud frum funny furniture games gay rights gdp george w bush george washington germany ghandi glenn murcutt goals good google government graphic design guns h.g. wells h.l. mencken hagakure halloween health health care henri cartier bresson herzog and demeuron honey housing human trafficking humanitarian efforts hydroponics ideas iit indexed india industrial design industrial work internet investments japan jaqueline kennedy jim cramer john maynard keynes john ronan john stewart journalism kickstarter kings of leon kittens krugman kurt vonnegut kurzweil lao tzu law le corbusier ledoux leon battista alberti links LSH madoff malcolm gladwell marijuana marriage masdar city math mead medicine microsoft mies van der rohe military milton friedman mlk money movies munich murphy/jahn music nasa nervi neutra new york nickel nietzsche nobel prize norman foster nsa obama occupy open source paintball palladium print paris parking party passive house paul mccartney persia philip roth philosophy photography picturequote pirate bay pirating plants poetry poker politics portfolio potsdam predictions prejudice presidents process photos prostitution psychology public housing q and a quotes rammed earth randy pausch reading reddit regan religion rendering renewables renzo piano restaurants revolution richard meier richard rogers robert frank rome rubik's cube rule of 72 rumi san francisco sartre sauerbruch hutton saule sidrys schinkel school science screen printing seattle sesame street seth roberts sketch social media soviet sparta spider spinoza sports stanley kubrick stanley milgram statistics steinbeck sudhir venkatesh suicide sustainable design switzerland taxes technology ted teddy roosevelt tension terracotta tesla thanatopsis the onion thomas jefferson thoreau time lapse tommy douglas transportation travel truman tumblr unemployment urban design van gogh venezuela vicuna video video games wall street war werner sobek wood woodshop woodworking ww1 ww2

31 March 2009


"Around the hero everything becomes a tragedy, around the demi-god a satyr-play; and around God everything becomes - what? Perhaps a 'world'? -" - Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, 150

I've shown this image repeatedly here and here, but this is my first palladium print of it that I'm actually fairly happy with. In person the palladium print (also called a palladiotype) looks very different from a normal gelatin silver print. It is completely matte and has a much longer tonal range. Once I make some enlarged negatives I'll be able to show off the process a bit better than I currently can with a night photograph.

For those interested this was printed on 8x10 Bergger cotton rag paper using a mixture of palladium salts and ferric oxalate. It was then exposed under a UV lightbox, developed with potassium oxalate, and cleared with tetrasodium EDTA. The internegative and negative were made on Bergger BPFP-18 film which was blown up from a medium format (120mm) negative.

30 March 2009

Chicago's Street Layout Explained

This is something I try to explain to people all the time. Usually without much luck, but least here I can give visuals too.

In Chicago all the streets are laid out in a grid pattern with corresponding numbers that start at State Street (running north south) and Madison (running east west). The address of that intersection is 0,0 or 0 State and 0 Madison. In Chicago 8 blocks equals a mile.* And major roads exist at half mile intervals for the most part.

For example, going north the numbers as they correspond to the major east west streets are:

Madison Ave., 0 N/S
Chicago Ave., 800 N
Division St., 1200 N
North Ave., 1600 N
Armitage Ave., 2000 N
Fullerton Ave., 2400 N
Diversy Ave., 2800 N
Belmont Ave., 3200 N
Addison Ave. 3600 N
Irving Park Ave., 4000 N

... and so on. By looking at the number and dividing by 8 (really 800 I suppose) you can tell that Fullerton is 3 miles north of Madison Avenue.

For north south streets it's:

State St., 0 E/W
Halsted Ave., 800 W
Sheffield Ave., 1000 W
Racine Ave., 1200 W
Southport Ave., 1400 W
Ashland Ave., 1600 W
Damen Ave., 2000 W
Western Ave., 2400 W

Here's a more complete list.

I used to live at 1034 west Belmont. Belmont is 3200 north, so I was 10.34 blocks west of State and 32 blocks north of Madison. If you understand how this works you can get anywhere with relative ease as long as you know the numbers of the place you're trying to find as numbers are on all Chicago street signs. As an added bonus you can figure out this distance if you feel compelled to do so as I often am.

One more odd note; even numbered addresses are on the west (on north south) and north side (on east west) of streets. Odd numbers are on the opposite. So again using the example of 1034 west Belmont you now know I lived at 1034 W, 3200 N, and on the north side of Belmont.

This is the Lake Shore path. Its end points are Bryn Mawr Avenue (5600 N) on the north and 67th on the south. Bryn Mawr is 56/8 = 7 miles north of Madison and 67th is... Madison to 31st is 3 miles (see below*) plus 4.5 miles for the remaining 36 blocks giving us 14.5 miles in total... not bad considering the winding nature of the path. It's about 16.5 miles long according to Google Earth which has a distance and path function so you can track distances... yea I know; amazingly simple, useful, and utterly dorky.

*The exception to this is actually where I live now; south of Madison Avenue. Between Madison and Roosevelt 12 blocks equals a mile, between Roosevelt and 22nd/Cermak 10 blocks equals a mile, and between 22nd and 31st 9 blocks equals a mile. Thus, from Madison to 31st Street is 3 miles.

Stuff Worth Reading

Great economic read. This has to do with GM mostly but the main thing I loved was this:

"For the broader markets to bottom and for the economy to bottom, certain cataclysmic events must occur. While the timing or form of these cathartic events are difficult to predict, you WILL know them when they occur. If GM and Chrysler are forced into bankruptcy, that will be the one of the bottom forming events.

Many more, such as the final nationalization of Citigroup (C) and Bank of America (BAC) and the complete unwinding of AIG are still required. Losses must be taken by all stakeholders, not just tax payers. Balance sheets must be purged and legacy liabilities written off. These companies need to be recapitalized and relaunched with pristine balance sheets. Only then can they contribute constructively to the economy and help engineer an economic revival."


The Pirate Bay now has an app on Facebook (not a great read) to allow sharing of torrents. I'm sure that in
many cases it's illegal as hell, but it does beg the question, can't this technology be used to disseminate information freely and legally in some way?

Another money scandal... although this time a company in CA walked out one their expecting (literally) customers who have fetuses growing in surrogate mothers; about 70 in all. Fortunately all of the surrogate mothers seem to be willing to still have the babies even though some of them are no longer receiving compensation. Legally they could abort the fetuses even against the wishes of the donors (biological parents). That's more or less the pinnacle of a moral dilemma.

An internet company works out of a tree house in PA. Just cool. I'd have to imagine that would make you a markedly happier person; at least it would for me. (Hat tip: wired.com)


I just find this interesting, it has nothing to do with anything other than the fact that I happen to like plants, especially vine plants. Bines too.

  • Vanilla beans, actually seed pods, are derived from the vanilla orchid which grows as a vine. Great pictures of the whole process here.
  • Although there are 110-150 species of vanilla orchid, only two are grown commercially. The Mexican or Bourbon (they're really similar) vanilla plant is native to the Atlantic side of Mexico while the Tahitian vanilla plant is either a mutation or hybrid of the Mexican vanilla plant that occurred in the last 50 or 60 years.
  • The bloom of a vanilla orchid only opens for one day. If it hasn't been pollinated then it drops and will not produce a bean.
  • The seeds of a vanilla pod or really any orchid will not germinate (sprout and grow) without the presence of a certain fungi, mycorrhiza. Orchid seeds have almost no stored nutrition so the seed and fungi form a symbiotic relationship whereby the orchid obtains carbon from the fungi.
  • Although orchids are self pollinating the flower can only be pollinated in the presence of a specific stingless bee, the Melipona, native only to Mexico and parts of South America. Because of this the beans must be hand pollinated as most beans are grown outside of Mexico. This is what makes vanilla so labor intensive and expensive.
  • Almost all vanilla plants are cultivated within 10 or 20 degrees of the equator with the world's largest producer being Madagascar.
  • Once pollinated the pod takes 9 months to mature.
  • Each vanilla plant will produce about 50-100 blooms per year, but only 5 or 6 flowers out of about 20 on each raceme (single vine) of these are pollinated to ensure higher quality.
  • Vanilla plants remain productive for 12-14 years but take at least 2-3 years to become productive.
  • About 97% of all vanilla that is consumed is synthetic. Which is scary because although vanilla can be synthesized in many ways (even from cow dung) presently it is usually made from guaiacol, a petrochemical.

Is Our Economy Recovering?

Short and kind of boring video.

Some people seem to think so, there are many indicators that say so too, but I call BS. 2009 will not be a pretty year financially.

Also, before I remember that I hate blogging about the economy because I don't even know where to begin and it's depressing... here's a truly good read on the Public-Private Investment Program (PPIP) plan by Geithner.

My last two posts have content from The Big Picture.

29 March 2009

Interesting Charts

As an odd point of clarification that has almost nothing at all to do with this post; when I took economics classes in college we never really discussed political views regarding economics. Things like "The Chicago School" of economic thought and free market versus socialism were really just never discussed. I suppose we did talk a bit about government intervention. Mostly we figured out how changing one variable in any given situation would trigger a change in other variables. On tests we would be expected to know how to "create an economic story" and show the changes graphically. Most of it was just studying the history of economics which is really like... the last 100-150 years. I'm sure economists will be better prepared for future crisis's in the next 100 or 200 years when they have better data. Then again by that time I'm sure computers smarter than our (current) selves will be running the show (another subject I know).

Here's a typical page of my notes... don't worry, they're confusing to me (now) too. These 3 charts, that are really one, has to do with floating currency.

This is interesting just because I consider myself to be somewhat "informed" in terms of economics and what not yet was unaware at just how much the various indexes have lost in value. Aside: look at the REIT's (real estate investment trusts) in pink!

This is interesting on several levels. The red line in the center gives the inflation adjusted cost of buying a home. Thus, if you purchased real estate in 1979 it's worth about the same as what it's worth today plus inflation... think 3% a year. This of course isn't the case if you bought in a "hot" area where prices increased dramatically. There are positives (tax deductible interest payments, you get to live there, one of the few investments that's protected from inflation) and negatives (upkeep, generally poor appreciation, highly illiquid, and high transaction costs if you sell) to owning a home, but it is worth mentioning that it isn't a crazy idea to rent and invest the excess money you would have been paying on a mortgage. Then again, in a country with a (previously) negative savings rate, who has the will power to do such a thing?

20 March 2009


This is a take down of the New York Times columnists. I found it interesting because it seems that journalism is trying to report on this whole economic genocide thing but they are just failing... really they are. Not to be all negative. Here are some people that don't: Krugman's blog, The Big Picture, Freakonomics, and The Financial Ninja to name a few.

The Thugz on AIG. Hilarious, scary, and true.

Cows cause more global warming than cars, the steel industry, plus some others... now smokers? Smokers put as much particulate in the atmosphere as half of the cars in America.

Google is truely amazing... now you can unsend email on Gmail.

19 March 2009

Everything is Amazing, Nobody is Happy

Bernacke Hits the Easy Button

I'm not going to get too into this, but "Helicopter" Ben Bernacke has finally lived up to his name. As an aside, he was given the nickname in 2002 because of a speech he gave about deflation. Deflation used to be a huge problem (it was during the Great Depression when we were still on the gold standard), but now that we're on a fiat money system the solution is simple. If the US dollar begins to deflate we just print money making each individual note less valuable. If we print too much then we cause inflation... which erodes government debt... hmmm I wonder what's going to happen after all of this is over? Anyways, Bernacke used to famous example used by Milton Friedman of dropping money from a helicopter.

Yesterday the Fed, for the first time ever, used a tactic known as quantitative easing. Quantitative easing means that the Fed, to put it simply, creates money out of thin air, credits it to bank's accounts, whereby they are allowed to loan it out at ten times that amount because of the fractional-reserve banking system. What? Pretend I'm the Fed, you're the bank. I don't even print the money, it just shows up in your bank account at my behest. Since you're a bank you only have to keep 10% of the money you have in reserve (this is different than those crazy unregulated "financial institutions" that were 30 and 40:1), so the $100 I gave you turns into $1000 of lending while the $100 sits in your electronic bank account. So what does this all mean? Lots of stuff, but who wants to read about that crap... this is much more insightful:

"We’ve arrived at this unfortunate juncture in our nation’s financial history because of reckless behavior in both New York and Washington D.C. Interest rates were too often kept too low, lending standards were whittled away until they were non existent, and borrowing too much for one’s own good (both corporate and personal) reached the point where it carried no negative stigma. Our nation’s elected officials consistently spent far more than was collected in tax revenue and our nation’s regulators were so poor they wouldn’t have been able to cut it as mall cops.

We learned nothing from the foreshadowing events brought about by the reckless behavior on display at Long Term Capital, Enron, and WorldCom. Bill Fleckenstein neatly summed up the last 15 years in one his best-ever Raps back in January of this year. Anticipating today’s events, Bill wrote, “…initially, in the late 1990’s, we attempted to speculate our way to prosperity via the stock bubble. And then, when that didn’t work, we attempted to borrow our way to prosperity during the real estate bubble. Of course, those two ended the way they did, in an epic disaster, and now we’re trying to print our way to prosperity…” Well said, Bill. Let us all hope the U.S. experiment with pushing the button on Quantitative Easing is more successful for us than it was for the Japanese. But given all the behavior that brought us to this point, we will need to be both lucky and good from this point forward." - Jack McHugh, on The Big Picture

18 March 2009

Disappearing Money

This is the article that brought this up again. I think about sustainable asset value often (I just made that term up)... hm, it's almost like green spending. The article talks about where the money goes when the stock market goes down 50%; it literally disappears. This is because the current value of a stock reflects the companies expectations for future earnings... earnings forecasts are, in short, shit right now. Hence, stock prices fell and tend to reflect the explicit value of the company as opposed to its explicit (concrete) plus implicit (earnings potential) values. This is true of goods you purchase too. A good has its use (implicit) value and its scrap (explicit) value.

EDIT: I've been told this is concept is confusing so here's an example. When you first buy a couch it it has the potential to be sat on maybe a grand total of say 10,000 hours which is the implicit or potential value of the couch. The longer you own it the less potential it has to be sat on, it just wears out. Its implicit value thus decreases with use. Potential uses for an old couch... firewood, if it has steel in it you could scrap it, lawn couch, etc. The point with explicit value is that if you were to scrap it right now or in ten years it would still be worth roughly the same. Combine those two values at any point in time and you end up with the price of your car. A stock can be viewed in the same way, although it's a bit more abstract. A stock's explicit value is harder to gauge and is constantly fluctuating as the actual tangible assets of the company fluctuate. Again, the implicit value is the expected future earnings of the company. Combine these and you get the current stock price.

If the US produces about 13 trillion dollars worth of goods and services every year (GDP/GNP) how much of that value still exists a few years down the road? I have no idea, but I bet the Bureau of Labor Statistics does. Here's the data I'll be using. It's from 2007. There are 120 million "consumer units" (a.k.a. families, with the average consisting of 2.5 people) in the US and their average yearly spending equals $50,000. Of that $50,000:

$6,100 for food
$16,900 goes to housing
$1,900 to clothing
$8,800 goes to transportation
$2,900 for healthcare
$2,700 for entertainment
$5,300 goes to insurance and pensions
$1,000 for education
$600 for personal care
$500 towards alcohol
$300 for tobacco
$800 misc.
$1,800 for cash contributions (does that mean your drug dealer?)

If you follow the link to the data concerning spending behavior you'll find that it breaks down further into categories. Food breaks down into dairy, meat, etc. Housing breaks down into rent, utilities, finance charges, insurance, etc. This is what the list looks like if you remove the non-perishable goods from it:

$3,900 dwelling, unfortunately this includes interest and surcharges
$1,800 household furnishings
$3,200 vehicle

This list is given in descending order as to how fast the good depreciates. This means that only about $9,000 out of the $50,000 (18%) that people spend every year goes towards goods that hold some portion of their value after one year. Of note is the fact that in recent years the savings rate in the US (since 2005) has been negative. Ponder that one for a moment. I remember learning that when I was still in school (3 years ago) and no one thought too much of it... seems obvious now.

So what counts as something that holds its value? This is a bit hard to define. It's something of a grey area because the things that count, non-perishable goods, tend to depreciate over time. For example, a car. When a car is new its combined implicit and explicit values are quite high. As it gets older the implicit (potential for further use) gets smaller while the explicit (scrap, steel) value stays somewhat stable. Perishable goods such as groceries are worthless after just a few weeks. There are of course some goods that don't depreciate much at all. These might include bullion, guns, jewelry, art, etc. Basically things that don't require inputs and never wear out. I'm taking a quick look around my room right now... most of the value of my possessions will approach zero in the coming years. Here are a few of them:

books - these lose substantial value initially but then hold fairly steady.
high end film camera - bought it cheap, could actually increase in value one day.
jars full of change - depreciating slowly.
liquor - holds value perfectly (I never thought of this) as long as I don't drink it.
computer - almost worthless in just a few years.
furniture - may retain some value, especially the nicer stuff.
clothing - small tax deduction in a few years otherwise almost worthless.

Part Two

"Almost any man knows how to earn money, but not one in a million knows how to spend it. If he had known so much as this, he would never have earned it." - Henry Thoreau, Journal entry, undated, age 20-30

Thoreau says something here that is hard to verablize in any other way. To me it means that often the stuff you buy isn't worth the tradeoff you made to get that good.

So what can we do to maximize the long term value of our spending? The easy answer is of course to buy things that hold their value well or not spend as much. The broad and hard to attain answer is that our society is transfixed with the present and we desperately need to start thinking long term. I've had talks with a few friends about this recently. Although, not as it relates to this subject. We spoke about it more as it pertains to corporate and political leaders. It's something I plan to write about in the near future. As it relates to this subject, it would behoove us as a society to build and consume (buy) things that are less disposable (concrete homes!). Not everything of course, but some of the major expenses must be rethought. Look at that data set. Over half of the expenditures in the US are on shelter and transportation ($17,000 and $9,000 making $26,000 of the $50,000 total). More than half of our money goes towards moving you around and housing you. That's kind of crazy. Why? Because during one of the better periods of my life my rent was $375 (Lakeview, Chicago) plus utilities brought it to about $430 and I rode a bike exclusively which maybe cost me $50 a year. That's $5,200 a year. So according to this data set $10,000 would be enough for me to live an "average" lifestyle. Where is all that other money and effort going?

Coal Gasification

First, here's the 4 minute video on coal gasification. It's not quite layman's terms but it's not too bad.

There's been a lot of really boring nerdy talk about turning coal into natural gas (methane). The beauty of this is that coal is a really dirty fuel source; it gives off mercury, CO2, sulfur (sulfur dioxide), etc., but natural gas on the other hand burns so cleanly that we can use it in our homes. The US is "the Saudi Arabia of coal" according to that companies spokesman. His other claims include:
  • 80% of the energy in the coal is passed on in the form of natural gas.
  • It's cheaper to gasify coal than it is to acquire natural gas conventionally.
  • All pollutants (mercury, sulfur, etc.) are sequestored.

17 March 2009


"We are cooling. We are not warming. The warming you see out there, the supposed warming, and I am using my finger quotation marks here, is part of the cooling process. Greenland, which is now covered in ice, it was once called Greenland for a reason, right? Iceland, which is now green." - Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele

Hilarious and kind of scary... Here's why they're actually named as such.

This image has nothing to do with anything, I just like it. This is the view off my rooftop.

14 March 2009


Happy Pi Day! It's also Albert Einstein's birthday.

In one of the sections of his book The Tipping Point Malcom Gladwell shows how suicide can be "contagious." When one person does it it in a sense gives others a sort of permission to do it themselves. There are apparently even fads... the detergent method.

This is interesting as hell. Some scientists found that they could make nickel particles self assemble in water by inducing small amounts of electric current... and then they moved around like a snake... and avoided objects as if they could think. Of course it's a bit early to draw specific conclusions as to how this may have affected the origins of life but it certainly is an interesting avenue to pursue.

Jim Cramer, of CNBC's Mad Money, takes a beating via John Stewart. Full episode here, starts around 5:30. I just feel kind of bad for Cramer in this... he just gets eaten alive.

12 March 2009

Making Jobs Obsolete

This is going to be one of those posts that I trudge through unable to explain many of my thoughts. I don't think I have a single friend that agrees with me on this subject. The subject is of course getting rid of unneeded professions from the labor force. That is, putting people out of work! Go to hell Logan. This seems to upset almost everyone I've ever brought it up with. I think technically it would be somewhat akin to structural unemployment.

This is the article that got me thinking about this. It talks about how a large group/organization of graphic designers is upset because companies are more and more holding design competitions for logos; that is, crowdsourcing. The result is one winner who makes very little, and everyone else gets nothing. The professional graphic designers are upset because this cuts into their work and what they can charge for work. Dear graphic designers, these competitions are not evil. They merely make the market more efficient by bringing together people with needs (companies who need logos) and designers willing to give it to them. All participants are willing and if the professionals design is really so much better then they will continue to have a niche somewhere in the marketplace.

There is often this (misguided) feeling in society that putting someone out of work because their job is no longer relevant is a terrible thing. I'm not talking about cyclical unemployment. That is, unemployment that fluctuates according to the business cycle. That should be avoidable, at least theoretically, and it has been to some degree for the last 25-30 years... let's not get into why that is. What I'm talking about is jobs that no longer need to exist. The example I always give is that of a blacksmith. Back in the day that was a highly regarded job, now they barely exist. Why? Because it is more efficient to let a machine do that work. In the short term sure that person is out of work and they need to change careers, but in the long run that person can become more useful to society by doing something else. I'm not discounting the pain that this brings on the individual. I'm merely saying that the pain imposed on the individual is less than the "pain" felt by society for allowing that person to keep their obsolete job. Milton Friedman, who right now is taking a beating (which I think is somewhat unfair in that his ideas are actually quite liberal), used the famous example of loom operators in India (near the beginning, interesting read too).

I have mixed feelings on unions. I like that they raise wages for me. Although overall I think the practice of it is a form of collusion which is illegal. That and it artificially limits the number of people who can get jobs. A union's best quality is that they act as a collection of trade professionals who train apprentices. They essentially act as a trade school. This alone may justify their existence. One of the problems I see with unions is that they sometimes employ construction techniques that purposely take more time and are not necessarily better. As an example, in Chicago you have to use conduit (conduit can have some advantages but it also adds enormously to the cost) around all electrical wire instead of romex, and copper tubing (which goes bad over time and is expensive) must be used for water over pex, a plastic form of piping that never goes bad. Both of the unused examples are employed in the South where unions are more or less nonexistent.

Protecting jobs by passing on the cost to consumers doesn't really help anyone. It hurts demand for the product and doesn't allow as many people to consume the good. If putting in pex saves installation time, is cheaper, and requires less maintenance then wouldn't using it over copper pipe allow plumbers to service more homes thus lowering the cost of plumbing... allowing more people to have it? The point is that people should be put to use in an area where their work is of better use to the collective good. Essentially, in this example technology has made it possible for one person to do the work of many, but for various reasons we hold back this technology to keep people employed. The result is expensive plumbing. Plumbing shouldn't be a luxury. It improves people's health and makes needless labor unnecessary. The problem is what to do with those unemployed plumbers. Ideally they would get retrained at another career. Possibly even something similar, but reality isn't always that nice.

Now my mixed feelings. As I talked about a while ago things change faster now (it's near the end of the post), so its not crazy to think that people's jobs could become obsolete just a few years after starting them. The Department of Labor doesn't really know (boring) how often people switch careers. They do however know that they tend to change jobs about ten times between the ages of 18-38. The point is that I'm not sure where all this is going. It could be the case that someone spends more money on their education than they could possibly make by working in that field while it exists. In the plumbers example it could also be the case that twice as many plumbers exist but they take half as many hours; essentially a reduction in work and pay. That's all good and fine, but then you have to compete with "hungry" people who are willing to work 60 hour weeks.

I found this passage by Andre Gorz in the Wikipedia article on structural unemployment, "The connection between more and better has been broken; our needs for many products and services are already more than adequately met, and many of our as-yet- unsatisfied needs will be met not by producing more, but by producing differently, producing other things, or even producing less. This is especially true as regards our needs for air, water, space, silence, beauty, time and human contact..."

Now, how to employ that in the free market... (hint: you have to change the lifestyle, opinion, and general habits and thoughts of the "average" person)

11 March 2009


"Socialism is no more an evil word than Christianity. Socialism no more prescribed Joseph Stalin and his secret police and shuttered churches than Christianity prescribed the Spanish Inquisition. Christianity and socialism alike, in fact, prescribe a society dedicated to the proposition that all men, women, and children are created equal and shall not starve." - Kurt Vonnegut

Today I'm making a collaborative art print with my friend Justin. Pictures to follow.

10 March 2009


"Cultivate poetry like sage, like a garden herb. Do not trouble yourself to get new things, wether clothes or friends. That is dissipation. Turn the old; return to them. Things do not change; we change. If I were confined to a corner of a garret all my days, like a spider, the world would be just as large to me while I had my thoughts." - Henry Thoreau, journal entry age 33

This is the front of my families warehouse. When I was a little kid it seemed huge and dark and was full of wonderous machines whos purpose was a mystery to me. Now it seems small. It's a place where I go to work, to find useful purposes for the unuseful.

09 March 2009

The Future of Cameras

"The best camera is the camera you have with you." - Ansel Adams, The Camera I (great book by the way)

This is a concept I came up with a while ago and it's not really all that crazy original. Although I haven't heard anyone else mention it. Cameras will eventually be insanely tiny, or rather camera phones will dominate the market at be of better quality than any professional camera that currently exists.

There are two main components to a camera; the lens and the image sensor (film). Film is analog, essentially it has infinite depth and is only limitation in enlargement are the instruments used to do so. In order to duplicate film digitally and enlarge (print bigger) it without any perceptible loss in quality you need a 10-15 megapixel sensor. I find that 3-6 MP is adequate for the vast majority of people/occasions. My camera phone is a little over 3 MP and I know some exist that are 5+. Over time sensors will become more and more powerful all the while becoming cheaper. Lenses are a slightly different story. High quality lenses are expensive and in my opinion the most important part of the camera. As image sensors (CCD's) get smaller the lens required becomes smaller. That's why your pocket camera has a tiny lens and my medium format camera's lens is bigger than your entire camera. Phone cameras use a tiny image sensor, so the lenses can be very small. In fact there has been some research done on lenses that utilize a bead of water for the lens and focus (change the shape of the droplet) by passing small electric currents through the water droplet. Crazy stuff. Lenses will become of higher quality and cheaper as image sensors get smaller and as they are further mass produced. Even Zeiss, one of the finest lens makers in the world, has made some lenses for Sony phones. Zeiss makes lenses for the legendary camera manufacturer Hasselblad. They aren't cheap.

Basically my prediction is that camera phones will one day dominate the camera market and their quality will be extremely high. How soon? Camera phones will eclipse point and shoot pocket cameras in just a few years. In the mean time here are some moments when I wanted a real camera but was at least lucky enough to have my somewhat-impressive-for-a-camera-phone 3 MP G1 camera phone.

Evan inside a steam pit we just designed/built in Joliet, IL.

Susie holding a Remington 700 rifle... don't ever expect to see that again.

Thanksgiving '08

The burners of an atmospheric scotch marine boiler. Oh, the irony (I'm Scotch).

A store in Lakeview in Chicago... 3300 N Sheffield-ish.

36"-10" Ridgid pipe wrenches. I find them to be one of the most elegant designs ever conceived.

Evan preping a boiler door for insulation.

Parking Meter FAIL, Round 2

I first blogged about this here. What's really funny is that at the end of that article I say that we have to stop spending so much (so that we don't have to do things like sell off parking meters to private companies in order to pay our debts... it makes Chicago seem like a drug addict), but of course now the name of the game is for government to spend as much as possible. Oh how so much can change in not quite three months!

Chicago finally raised the rates of meters in my area and increased the hours in which you have to feed them. This picture is a broken meter, broken because it's so full of quarters it can't accept any more. I did a quick survey on my 2 block walk. Two meters were still functioning out of about 30.

Okay, now the fun part. HAHAHAHA!

"A tax is only as good as your ability to collect it." - I thought that was Benjamin Franklin, but I couldn't source it.

So here's what happened. The meters in my area went from $1 an hour to $2 an hour. In addition to that the east west streets used to stop charging at 6 PM, now it's 9 PM. Also, Sundays and holidays are no longer free days. It went from $1 an hour for 60 hours a week to $2 an hour 91 hours a week on the side streets. That's an increase of roughly 300%... how does that break down in quarters? From a max of 240 to a max of 728... I know, it's terribly complex. It's so complex that The Man forgot to triple the size of the workforce that collects the quarters from the meters. I wonder if they've figured this out yet? In the mean time raising parking rates has led to free parking.

Here's a few other interesting things I've noticed. The meters for the most part still stay full all the time. I thought doubling the rates would have more of an impact but it really hasn't. Parking spots are only marginally easier to find now. I wouldn't have guessed demand was so inelastic (the change in demand was not equal to the change in price, signaling that there are few substitute goods). The amount of cars circling for parking has definitely been reduced. The streets around my area are less busy now; not that I have numbers to back that up but it's noticeable. All in all I think it's an improvement, but I'm still upset that the city sold the rights to it's meters. It could have all been done better.

02 March 2009

What the Hell is Happening?

... With the economy of course. I'm pretty convinced no one really knows (go to that link, it's short). That's why I haven't been posting about it. Just to scare you though here's a sobering video.

Here's a link explaining this video, but first skip to 2:10 and watch this:

Somebody threw us into the middle of the Atlantic Ocean without a life raft and we're trying to determine what's the closest shore and whether there's any chance in the world to swim that far. We. Don't. Know." - Rep. (D-PA) Kanjorski

Here's a good look at predicting financial collapse based on trading of the S&P in the futures market.

01 March 2009


"If you want to really hurt your parents, and you don't have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I'm not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something." - Kurt Vonnegut from A Man Without a Country

These are two 8x10 gelatin-silver prints I just made of the Art Institute's south garden last winter. It's quite possibly my favorite garden in the city.


I'll be back to blogging a bit more now that I finished applying to grad. school. I kept tweaking out over little details in my portfolio. I think next time I'll just go to a real printer and pay up instead of visiting Kinkos... they really don't know how to utilize their expensive machines there. I read over my professional statement for the 569th time and found that I forgot to include an "of" in a sentence, so now I feel mentally disabled. Oh, well. I wish I could have an interview with the admissions people. There's a lot that just doesn't come across in an application. Although the portfolio was a great help.

On the up side that's over for this year, and I solved a Rubik's cube in 4:15.

Here's what I ended up including in my portfolio. It's the directory or whatever:

Man, after reading that again I realized that I have a really hard time removing the informal voice out of my writing style. I'd be worried about putting my info out there but I doubt too many identity thieves are trolling my blog, and if they are; hey, thanks for stopping by! Don't forget to tell your friends!