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

17 June 2009

16 Year Old Circumnavigator

Zac Sunderland, of SoCal, set out when he was 16 to sail around the world. He's almost finished and is now working his way up the Mexican coast. He should finish in the next few weeks, making him the youngest person to ever sail around the world solo.

This is a view of Intrepid, a 36' 1972 Islander that he bought for around $6,000 and fixed up with the help of his father.

A view from the mast of Zac Sunderland’s home at sea, the Intrepid.

Here's his blog and website.

Here's an ESPN article about him that's really good (longer).

16 June 2009

Jon Voight - Totally Confused

This is hilarious.

Answers (and questions):

Holocaust... what?

The Israelis will defend themselves...

Force for good... yeah, we've been so great in the last decade and now that Obama is president he's screwing it all up!

"We and we alone are the right frame of mind..." That one's the best.

15 June 2009

Stuff Worth Reading

Great pieces on taxes in America and income distribution. I don't think most people fully appreciate just how pressing of an issue this is, and to top it off I have heated debates with my conservative friends and parents about this contstantly. Stow your emotion, look at the data; the rich are getting richer and we're cutting their taxes.

This is just, awesome. A cop in Austin, TX tasers a 72 year old lady.

Cell phones that charge themselves off of ambient waves.

GOOD Magazines list of upcomming films about food.

This is an interesting blog I found called War and Health. They have some good links to data on there.

More from GOOD - one of my favorite words, laconic, is the 4th most looked up word on the NY Times site. To look up a word just highlight it then click the question mark on any NY Times article.

Wired - a bet about horses feet touching the ground sets off some technical inovation to the camera and Facebook allows users to grab URL's.

And Chinese, Indian, and Korean families in the US tend to have more male children.

11 June 2009

More On the Beginnings of Life

I first reported a few weeks ago that scientists had recreated the basic ingredients of RNA in a laboratory setting similar to that of primordial earth.

Well now some scientists have recreated tPNA, "a transitional stage between the lifeless chemicals and the complex genetic architectures of life."

"'Ghadiri’s important and highly innovative new work potentially relates to the origin of life as we don’t yet know it,' said Sutherland. Life’s emergence took billions of years, a process now being compressed into the passage of a few human generations. 'The possibility that humans could come up with an alternative biology that outdoes that which produced us is a mind-freeing and mind-bending concept,' he said."

What I assume he's talking about here is the rise of computers and AI. One day, 2045 according to Raymond Kurzweil, computers will be autonomous and smarter than human beings. This event is inevitable and it's easy to be somewhat scared by the idea. I once read that Kurzweil said that these machines will look at humans as their ancestors. Much like how we think of chimps Which is good or bad depending on how you look at it.

"Asked how long it would take before fully synthetic life could be coaxed from an inert chemical mixture, Ghadiri said, 'Soon. If not in our lifetime, then the next. In my opinion, it shouldn’t be longer than that.'"

Yeah, that's pretty mind-bending.

10 June 2009

Work Video

Google updated its Android OS (which resides on my phone) and they added a video camera function, so I now have a video camera of sorts. This is my first upload to YouTube. It's me scrapping a 55 gallon stainless steel drum by cutting off the steel with an oxy acetlylene torch. You have to get rid of the steel as the stainless is worth a lot more.

09 June 2009

Stuff Worth Reading

Here's an interview with Pan's Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro. He says some really great stuff later in the interview.

Hollywood thinks art is like Latin in the Middle Ages—only a few should know it, only a few should speak it. I don't think so."

In the next 10 years, we're going to see all the forms of entertainment—film, television, video, games, and print—melding into a single-platform "story engine." The Model T of this new platform is the PS3."

Extended Reading - A doctor set up his own gold backed online currency called E-Gold because he thought a gold standard was direly needed. Yeah... he was arrested a few years later after criminals began using his system to move, launder, and hold money without oversight.

The Hawthorne Effect gets debunked by Steven Levitt. HT: Joe

Afghanistan Embassy to home: "Send more money, you need it to buy influence in DC."

What many crash investigators are saying may have caused that Air France airliner to go down.

The Onion on "getting into" photography. HT: Sandy

Disaster Housing

MIT students got a hold of a leftover FEMA trailer and turned it into some sort of composting, plant growing, rainwater catching art project - interesting, but... what problem does this solve?

After Hurricane Katrina these trailers were offered up as temporary housing. The trailers cost $18,620 a piece, (which the surplus of which are now selling for an average of $7,400) but their maintenance costs pushed the real costs closer to $229,000 in some cases. In an economic double-whammy this should hurt companies who sell trailers. Selling a new trailer, even one that is priced aggressively, can't compete with a market flooded with trailers market down some 60%.

Of course I would have the government build some sort of mixed use commercial residential monolithic dome community powered by a district energy system, but perhaps my, engineer and ex-military, father was right. The military has all sorts of bases in the South that are empty and being torn down at great expense. Why didn't we send the hurricane victims there? The military knows how to hold; feed; and house thousands of people, and when it's all done there won't be leftover toxic trailers.

Stuff Worth Reading

Mockingbirds teach us a better way to live for a second time.

I've heard a few murmurs of hope in the news, but not in the best economics and finance blogs I read. This one is scary, but he's also usually right.

Paul Krugman on health-tourism.

Econ and finance dorks only. Germany, China, and Japan are more or less screwed economically speaking in the long run. Basically those economies are net exporters and the countries that buy from them are now saving their money. Now their currencies are appreciating against ours so their exports fall further...

A private company in California called Space X is trying to send rockets with payloads into orbit. They've already launched one rocket successfully and are almost done with a second larger one. The whole idea is to do what NASA does at 1/10th the cost, and so far it seems to be working.

08 June 2009


"There is a wild spirit of good naturedness which looks like malice." - Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, 184

This is another photo I picked up (for $3 no less) at the Printer's Row Book Fair. It's an almost 100 year old gelatin-silver print of an artillery shell exploding in no mans land during WWI.

Stuff Worth Reading

Almost all this stuff comes via Freakonomics.

Fixing bank embezzlement; Frank Abagnale style.

The evolutionary psychology behind elevator rides.

Amazing sulfur mine photos.

I started to write about the backlash against macroeconomists but the stuff I say just isn't that relevant. Alas, someone smarter than me wrote about it.

And finally - a real plug-in hybrid car will hit the market later this year (only 500 of them, but it's a start). And it's a Toyota Prius (50 city/49 highway).

Honda released a new version of it's hybrid car called the Insight (40 city/43 highway). I've been telling people for a while now that hybrids are actually a bad buy. You never recoup in gas savings the money that you originally spent on the more expensive car. Instead you can go out and buy a Corrolla, Focus, Fit, Civic, Etc. for $16,000-$20,000 and get around 35 mpg no problem. Priuses are supposed to cost $22,000, but they're scarce so buyers tend to pay a few grand above sticker price. The Insight is supposed to cost less than $20,000. It also features an eco drive mode and an eco assist which is basically an interactive dashboard that makes hypermiling a game. The testers in the Wired article were able to get over 65 mpg while using both.

And here's a fun video of a smart car ($12,000-$21,000 31 city/41 highway) crashing at over 70 mph into a concrete wall.

07 June 2009


"I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." - Albert Einstein in a letter to Harry Truman

I went to the Printer's Row Book Fair yesterday scouring the area for old platinum prints. I found one. This is a 12 inch coastal gun being fired. You can see the round moving just beyond the barrel. I'm not sure where or when it's from, but my guess is that it's Great Britain around one of the world wars.

Obama's Speech in Cairo

Even Wolfowitz approved of Obama's much hyped speech in Cairo.

The whole thing is 55 minutes.

What is Your Life Worth?

Or, different ways of visualizing money.

This gets a little fluffy but stick with me here - sometimes when I'm at work I wonder how quickly whatever we're building would get built if it were just me working. By extension of that idea I sometimes wonder how much I could physically produce in my lifetime, and of course we can assign a monetary value to that work. Here:

Median Income x Career Length = Lifetime Earnings

$28,600 x 40 years = $1,144,000

Or $13.92 an hour assuming 2,000 hour years (40 hours a week x 50 weeks).

The income figures were procured from the US Census Bureau here and represent the median income of anyone over the age of 15 who worked in the US in 2005. I based my 40 year career length on the fact that that is how long most pension plans for the military, police, etcetera require you to work to receive full benefits.

So what does this mean? It simply means that at present value (in 2005 dollars, inflation changes this number over time) the average person produces 1.14 million dollars in their lifetime. Why I like to think like this is because it helps me visualize the true cost of a construction project or political plan. It's easier for me to visualize 100 people working for their entire lives than it is to be told X amount of dollars and try to grasp what that really means.


Millennium Park cost $475 million to construct (it was supposed to cost $150 million). Thus, it cost about 415 human lifetimes of work. As opposed to 131, so 284 peoples lives got lost in that one.

What about a trillion dollars? How many lifetimes does it take to accumulate that kind of wealth?

$1,000,000,000,000 / $1,114,000 = 874,126 lifetimes or lives

So next time someone talks about spending a trillion dollars just remember - what they're really talking about is the allocation of almost a millions peoples' lifetime labor.

On a separate note, I remember reading last year that the EPA slightly devalued their estimation of what a human life is worth to $6.9 million from $7.8 million. I'm not going to go into it here too much, but trust me, this number does need to exist so that policy can be drawn up. If a human life is worth a billion dollars imagine what highways and cars would look like. We'd be driving bumper cars at 5 MPH surrounded by bails of hay - at $10,000 we'd look like China. Anyways, why the disconnect between the reality of $1.14 million and our estimation of $6.9 million? Well, my figure is the cold hard monetary value. The EPA's represents all sorts of court cases, what people are willing to pay to extend their life by another month (huge number), etc. The point is that there is this odd disconnect of about 600% between what we're worth monetarily, in the "you're just a number" sort of way, and what we think we're worth.

If only I could somehow get people to project their estimation of the value of human life onto something I could sell...

01 June 2009


I've been pretty lazy on here lately. Yeah...

But I have 12 drafts that I'll be publishing as soon as I get home from my travels, so you (who ever the hell that is) have that slightly outdated info to look forward to.

Till then...

At 2:20 no ones organs are damaged and at 3:20 Mancow says water boarding is torture.