Cairo, Egypt
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
So, It's 2006 everywhere east of the Azores now. Unless of course you go too far east, and it becomes 2005 again...

I just had to post this photo. I love it. I've been looking at it forever. I think it's the Ibn Tulun Mosque in Cairo, but J hasn't been labeling her pictures, so I can't be sure. Here's a little clip from an e-mail from her that I don't think she'd mind me sharing. I found it interesting:

"The man who gave our tour of Islamic Cairo got his PhD in Islamic art and architecture from Harvard. He had so many interesting things to say about the architecture of the Ibn Tulun Mosque. He pointed out that the arches and the windows behind the arches never perfectly align. But humans always want to align things like that, so it causes the person to move around to subconsciously align the arches and the windows. Therefore, people move around a lot in the structure. He says architecture is really about movement and not aesthetics."

I love Islamic art and architecture. Not allowing the depiction of living things has forced such interesting and intricate detail in the patterns that are used. The Pergemon Museum in Berlin has a great collection of Islamic art, but I didn't really get it at the time. Next time I'm back I'll have to check it out again.

Tomorrow J's off to Alexandria for the day. Her e-mails make Egypt sound awesome. She keeps saying she'll blog. Hopefully she will.



salaam mister camel

Cairo, Egypt
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
having done nothing in the last few days other then read about four books I have nothing much to say othen then that Jessica uploaded a select few pictures from Cairo. how amazing is it that you can find free wireless internet in Egypt? so yeah. look at good pictures.



Computer Mistakes That Rock

Boston, Massachusetts
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
J left last night for Cairo. If I'm not mistaken she'll be wandering the streets of London right now (the picture is actually of Beacon Hill, but you know, Gregorian with cobblestone is Gregorian with cobblestone), and then flying the rest of the way to Cairo tonight.

While we were waiting at the Airport for her plane, we bumped into a friend of Jessica's from France. He said he was messing around online trying to get a good price on a ticket back to Paris. After 45 minutes of trying a window suddenly opened up at STA travel that gave him a ticket for $12. I'm pretty sure it had to be some kind of computer glitch, but oh my gosh. That's what a cab to the airport costs.

Anyway, I'm really excited for Jessica. Cairo is the biggest city in Africa, and from what we here one of the most exciting. I was reading some about city planning in the Islamic world and how it differs from European planning. One of the really interesting things is that in Europe, when there was a dynastic change or someone conquered someone else, they would typically co-opt the old monuments, churches and castles for themselves. In the Islamic world, you didn't do that, you had to start over and build your own power center. Typically, you'd leave the Mosques alone, but you had to build a bigger one, and everything else you'd probably rip down and build anew. I find that kind of stuff really interesting.



Christmas Eve-Eve

Boston, Massachusetts
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
J & I had a nice day opening presents and watching Lost. J had a salon appointment, so I spent sometime walking around (it's a nice 40 degrees). I watched the skaters on the Frog Pond on the Common for awhile.

Presents were fun. I got everything I wanted. New Jacket. Speaker thingy for my iPod. Plenty of books to tide me over until the new semester starts. I got the new biographies of Mao and Pol Pot, a Graham Greene novel, a couple of pop-sociology books, a couple of history books (Liberia and Cold War era Tibet), a book of historical pictures of Mpls, the Lonely Planet guide to India (next year's vacation?) and a book about how politicians, dictators and the rich use architecture, which I started reading already. (and before you think we spent $40,000 on books, a lot of them were remainders).

J is leaving on Monday for Cairo. We were talking about it the other day and realized that after Germany, Egypt will be the country she will have spent the most time in, which is a pretty good way to tell how well you know a place. We thought that was kind of crazy. I'm hoping she'll bring me back a Sphinx paperweight :-) She just wrote some stuff on her blog (which has added an au Caire to the title for the time being). She said she'll try to post some while she's there too.

Oh, we also went to see King Kong a couple of days ago. The New York scenes are awesome. I wasn't that excited about the movie before hand, but I was impressed. Plus, I think it doubled the GNP of New Zealand for the year, and I always root for underdogs.



A Merry Christmas to All!

Boston, Massachusetts
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
A Merry Christmas Eve-Eve-Eve. I hope the season finds you all well. I finished up work today and now I've got Christmas Eve-Eve through Second Christmas (or boxing day for all you Canadians). J & I have a tradition of celebrating Christmas on Christmas Eve-Eve, so we'll be opening presents in the morning. Yea!!!

I have nothing to say besides that.



My Year End List

I've been meaning to write this post for awhile. This is my contribution to the year end list madness. My 12 favorite books published this year.

No. 1: The Fate of Africa by Martin Meredith

By far the best book I read this year. It's a one volume history of Africa in the post-colonial era.

No. 2: Dark Age Ahead by Jane Jacobs

Jacobs wrote the Death and Life of Great American Cities back in the 60's. She's still awesome. This book covers a lot of ground and focuses on cities, culture and development and the direction that North America (she's an adopted Canadian) is taking.

No. 3: 1491 by Charles C. Mann

This is a really fascinating book about the Indian cultures in the Americas before Columbus. He focuses on the urban cultures and does a great job forcing you to compare 15th century Indians to 15th century Europeans (I think we have a tendency to compare 15th century Indians to 19th century European/Americans).

No. 4: Island at the Center of the World by Russell Shorto

I read this right before a trip to New York this year. When you hear about colonial history in the states it's always Jamestown and New England, this book gives a you a good idea of the Dutch contribution to the United States.

No. 5: Extremely Load and incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

I don't read much fiction, so I'm probably not the best judge, but this was my favorite novel.

No. 6: Eleanor Rigby by Douglas Coupland

And my second favorite novel. Douglas Coupland is one of the few authors where I get really excited when I see he has a new book. He knows what's going on in people's minds to a degree that amazes me.

No. 7: Up from Zero by Paul Goldberger

If you've ever wondered how the whole development (politicians, public, planners, architects, developers) process works this is a great book.

No. 8: Genghis Khan by Jack Weatherford

Weatherford teaches at Concordia in Minnesota. I met him once when I was working at the Borders in Richfield. Nice guy. It's also a good book. I love learning non-euro-centric history, especially how it relates to the development of the western world.

No. 9: Ghost Wars by Steve Coll

This was the Pulitzer Prize winner this year. It's a great read. Not a happy ending though.

No. 10: A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby

Nick Hornby is another author I'm always happy to see a new book from. This isn't his best (I like How to Be Good the most) but it's still better then pretty much everybody else.

No. 11: Children at War by P.W. Singer

This is a hard one to read, but I think it's a really important book. There have been a lot of changes to the way wars are fought in the past twenty years that a lot of the developed countries have yet to come to terms with.

No. 12: Resistance by Barry Lopez

This one is fiction too. It's a series of short stories and letters from a group of expatriate artists who are forced to go underground after an all powerful "Dept. of Homeland safety" declares them unamerican and bans their work. Really it's a look at the maxim "The Personal is the Political" and how identity is shaped by the mundane. There is a part in there about the difference between innocence and ignorance that I just love.




Boston, Massachusetts
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
We had a crazy snowstorm yesterday. The people at the airport were saying there was thunder and lightning. I didn't realize it could do that and snow at the same time.

We went to see Narnia. I loved the way the witch played her part. Tumnus and both little girls were good too. The boys and the professor not so much. I also missed the people in the beaver costumes from the BBC version. The river scene was not cool, and it bothered me that no matter how long the battle scene went on there was no blood. I also didn't like the luftwaffe scenes at the beginning, i'm not really sure what they were trying to do with them. All in all, it's worth seeing, but I think I'm going to leave the BBC version of my childhood as the reigning version in my head.

Other stuff to notice: I'm pretty sure Santiago Calatrava designed the witches palace (see three posts ago), and if you look closely at all of the thrones at the witches palace and at the castle at the end, you will notice they all seemed to have hired the same interior decorator. Good stuff.



Boston, Massachusetts
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
I got to see this guy speak a couple of days ago. Now, I've seen presidents, chancellors and kings, and I still have to say that Chomsky was impressive. His talk mostly centered around the way both major parties and the media keep us ignorant of what the majority of Americans believe, and focus us instead upon the most divisive issues. An example he gave was that 90% of Americans want the Kyoto Accords signed. In fact, a majority of Republicans thought that Bush was in favor. International Criminal Court and Universal health care were other examples.

I finished up my first paper today. It started out being about the Hiawatha Light Rail Line in Minneapolis and somehow ended up being about the evolution of public participation in post war America. Weird how that works, huh? My second paper, Power, Identity and aesthetics in Reunified Germany, is due next week.

Anyways, my brain was getting a little stewed so I went for a walk and took some pictures, which is generally what I do now a days for stress relief. I got a couple of good shots.

I've got semester break starting on the 20th. J is leaving for Egypt on the 26th and gets back on 12 January. I start school again at the end of January. We go to LA on 11 February and from there Jessica goes to Ho Chi Minh City on the 15th. I think I'm going to be going to Mpls sometime in March or April, and then I'm just waiting until May to go to Asia for 5 weeks.



Snowy Day

Boston, Massachusetts
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
Boston had it's first snowy day, so J and I went for a nice walk about town. We visited the christmas tree that they put up on the common (which we get each year as a gift from Halifax, NS, because we helped them out when their city exploded) and did some christmas shopping. I love snow!



Random Stuff I Like

No. 1) The part of the green line past North Station reopened a couple of weeks ago, finally putting to an end the use of stupid shuttle busses every time I needed to buy Guinea Pig food. I've always been a dork for new public transit lines. When the Ringbahn opened in Berlin, I was there. When the Hiawatha Line opened in Minneapolis, I was there. So, I had to make an excuse to ride the green line. The work they were doing was to move the train from an elevated track to be underground on the street that runs in front of the Fleet Center/Boston Garden/Banknorth Garden/Whatever-the-Hell-it's-Named-Now. They also added a train yard underground, which is kind of cool. The train jumps above ground in the West End (sigh) and then across the Charles River to East Cambridge. They are going to be extending the train to go to Union Square in Somerville and Medford Square in Medford (which will also serve the new IKEA at Assembaly Square) over the next few years.

No. 2) The twisty icicle on the right (north) side of this picture is the newly proposed Santiago Calatrava building for downtown Chicago. It's about 2000 feet tall. Taipei 101, the current tallest building is 1670 feet tall. The Freedom Tower in New York will be 1776 feet tall (I hope you can hear me rolling my eyes). Which would make this, if it's built quick enough, the tallest in the world for a time (the builders of the Burj Dubai in the UAE have broken ground already, but they won't say how tall the building will be, some people have speculated it will be over 2,500 ft.) It would certainly be the tallest in America. It would also be the tallest building of housing in the world. It's also super cool looking. GO CHICAGO!

No. 3) The Highline in New York broke ground, too. They are turning this elevated train line on the West Side into a city park. I think it'll be awesome. There was a similar project in Paris that's been very successful. The idea of putting a park above street level, especially in a place like Manhattan, where space is at a premium, is a great idea. It runs from Greenwich Village through Chelsea and into Midtown. If you happen to be visiting, Empire Diner on 10th and 23rd is one of my favorite places for breakfast in New York. There is a guy in South America who has suggested building parks and gardens, or even possibly farm land above blocks of tenements. It could really revolutionize the way cities work.



Boston's Modern(ist) Life Pt. 2

Boston, Massachusetts
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
So, I've spent the past week pondering Ryan's comments on my last post. I think he has point. Perhaps the problem has been more with modernist planning then with modernist architecture. It is hard, however, to totally separate the two. I was reading this great passage the other day, and I think it's worth repeating:

"Perhaps the most damaging to the historic city was (the proposal) that modern structures should break with the sculptural system by which individual buildings in European cities became part of a larger urban whole. (sic) Since the Renaissance, European cities had been configured by integrating individual buildings into the larger sculptural mass of the block and allotting the negative space between blocks of buildings to serve as the circulation network of the metropolis. In this system, the front face of each building lines up with its neighbors to form a continuous street wall, and the open space between the street walls is devoted to sidewalks and roadways. Thus each building, no matter how idiosyncratic, is still part of a larger urban design. (sic) Le Corbusier suggested that the whole idea of the historic city block as a unifying sculptural mass should be abandoned - that modern buildings should not adhere to this age-old architectural social contract but should stand in open spaces, disconnected from their historic neighbors. As a result, not only would the design of his buildings be radically different and their size enormous, but the centuries-old dialogue of buildings, wherein each structure's design entered the communal urban architectural conversation, would be ended."
-Anthony M. Tung (2001)

As you can see, the very form that modern buildings have taken has lead them away from traditional urban structure. So, the question is: can modernism be incorporated into the urban fabric, and if it can, is it still modernism?

The Hancock Tower in Boston's Back Bay is a building that I feel has done well blending into the city. The Hancock was designed by I.M. Pei and built about 20 years ago. It's the second tallest building in Boston (and about 4 feet shorter then the IDS). It could not be more different from it's surroundings. It's about 52 stories higher then every building on the surrounding blocks. It sits at a weird angle, instead of on the Back Bay's regular grid. It's made of glass, every other building around it is masonry. Yet, it works. Why? It reflects everything around it. The top half looks like the sky. The bottom part reflects the beautiful Trinity Church across the street. It's gorgeous.

So, in retrospect, build using contemporary forms but respect the ways that cities work. The End.



Street Art on the Green Line.

Boston, Massachusetts
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.



Boston's Modern(ist) Life

Boston, Massachusetts
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
I've been having a lot of discussions lately on the merits (or demerits?) of modernist architecture/planning. Most committed urbanists are pretty firmly set against most forms of modernism. I am, for the most part, one of them. To paraphrase a quote I read once, modernism's greatest failure is it's inability to create communities.

One of the projects that almost always comes up as one of modernisms greatest failures is Boston's Government Center. The Project for Public Spaces actually rates it as the worst square in the world. The centerpiece is the weird-ass-upside-down-concrete-spaceship that is Boston City Hall. I've been hearing a lot of people saying lately that they should just tear the whole thing down.

Now, the City Hall fails in a lot of ways, it sits on stilts, so it's hard to access, It blocks the view of Fanueil Hall from Scollay Square, but most peoples problems with it are on aesthetic grounds. I've been reading the book Lost Twin Cities, which is great by the way, and I've been struck by how many beautiful Victorian buildings were torn down in the 40's and 50's on aesthetic grounds. At the time, people saw it as gaudy and ugly. So here is my new thesis on architecture: people will (almost) always see the dominant style the proceeded the current dominant style as being ugly and unworthy of protection. Preservationists (and us) should therefore do everything they can to protect more current building types until such a time as they can be correctly judged, even if that means working hard to save some awful ugly buildings.

The old Gutherie Theater in Minneapolis is another example of a modernist building that people see no use in saving. My father in law once said he didn't see the point, it's just another glass and steel building, which might be the case, the thing is, people aren't building glass and steel buildings in that style anymore. It won't be replaced if you knock it down, and in 50 years, when people appreciate modernist architecture again, they will judge us by our failure to save these sorts of buildings.



Everyday is a good day...

San Juan, Puerto Rico
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
...when you buy airline tickets.

I'm leaving May 25th.

Arrive in Hong Kong May 27th, stay there until May 30th and then on to Ho Chi Minh City.

Travel about Viet Nam, Cambodia and Laos, go back to Boston on June 30th.





Dublin, Ireland
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
I just got an e-mail from Appletree Press out of Belfast (who seem like they are an actual publisher) and they've asked permission to use this photo in an Irish History book they are publishing. Not exactly my best photo, but it's still pretty cool. I'll get credited and everything :-)



Rhode Island Pictures

Providence, Rhode Island
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
I put up my Rhode Island pictures. Click the ballpark at the right.

A bit of Rhode Island trivia for you: Rhode Island had its own declaration of independence which was read from a balcony in Newport in May of 1776 (before the rest of the country declared itself independent on July 4th).



I walked by a bar called the Quahog Lodge...

Salem, Massachusetts
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
...I kind of thought that was a made up name.

but anyways, I'm in Newport, Rhode Island right now for the Southern New England American Planning Association yearly conference thingy. I'm having a good time.

My hostel has internet, which I wasn't expecting, so I didn't bring a cord to upload my pictures (sad face).

Like Wisconsin and Nova Scotia, Rhode Island is one of those places that I can't imagine a reason I'd ever live there, but I still really like it. Providence has a great downtown and Newport is one of the prettiest small towns I've seen in America. One of the best things about Rhode Island is that the city is the city, the towns are towns and the rural is rural (instead of varying degrees of suburb, like most of the country). I think small places (or at least places that are geographically constrained) are so much more aware of what needs to happen to protect their well-being (the Netherlands and san Francisco being two other examples). I'll write more about this when I have some pictures to post.

The conference is good. So far I've had sessions on making design a priority in affordable housing and some stuff about LID (low-impact-development), which is basically about how to build without totally upsetting the watercycle and the natural beauty of a plot (apparently Seattle, Portland and Virginia are getting really good at this stuff).

Tomorrow I've got a session where lawyers from each side of the Kelo vs. New London (eminent domain) will be speaking. It should be really interesting.



Heads up.

Chisinau, Moldova
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
J wrote some about being in Moldova. Go check it out.

A quick heads up to you Minneapolisians, the Walker has some cool exhibits right now. They've got Andy Warhol's silkscreens of celebrity icons juxtaposed with disasters. I'm not a huge Warhol fan, but I have seen some in person before and it's comes off well (some people are like that, they're just better in real life).

The one I'd really like to see is called Some Assembly Required: Contemporary Prefabricated Houses. It looks really interesting. Prefab houses can go either way, but they're still fascinating to me. I'd love to see it, but I don't think I'm going to be in Minneapolis before it ends. If anyone goes, let me know how it is.

Also, I like Farheen Hakeem a lot (other than the lack of stadium funding) If I were still living in Mpls, she'd get my write-in mayor vote this year (in fact, I would have been working the campaign).

In Boston, I'm sticking with Menino. Hennigan's policies towards housing are poor, and she's weak on neighborhood rights. Menino is too much of a machine politician for me, but despite that, Boston as a whole (and Boston's neighborhoods individually) are improving. "Affordable Housing" (at least for Boston) is protected and it's clear that Boston will do everything it can to keep on top in culture and education. The types of development that are happening are assuring that Boston will retain it's urban feel, it's great public transit and it's walkability. Plus we'd have to change all the signs if Menino lost.



the calm

Istanbul, Turkey
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
I just turned in the midterm paper that marks the halfway point of the semester for me. It feels great. Now I've got almost nothing due until my two big papers in December. I'm writing one on the process of building the Lightrail in Minneapolis from a sociological perspective and one on the types of working class housing in Friedrichshain in Berlin. I haven't developed the first one very much, but the second one is going to focus on how the "crisis" housing that lead to the social unrest of the industrial revolution became the desirable housing of the post-industrial city. I may need some photos for presentations, so if I can get a Minneapolisian and a Berliner to volunteer, I'd appreciate it.

New week I'm going for a couple of days to Newport, Rhode Island for a conference with the Southern New England branches of the American Planning Association. I've got sessions on low income housing, low impact development, neighborhood density, eminent domain and (best of all) historic mill reuse! (there was nothing interesting happening that session time). I'm looking forward to it. Newport should be pretty too. I'm taking public transit down there. Rhode Island has one bus system for the entire state. How cool is that?

J's turning 24 next week. I'm married to an old women. How'd that happen? The picture there is another one of hers from Istanbul. The foreground is Europe and the other side of the bridge is Asia. I find that crazy. A bridge that runs between continents. Maybe will have the opportunity to drive to Russia before the ends of our lives.



Istanbul, Turkey
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
My globetrotting wife is happily back home (and sleeping soundly). I've been working on uploading her pictures. The link to the right with the sunset is for pictures of Moldova and the flowers are from Istanbul. There are some great pictures in both sets. J said she'd blog over the next few days.



Favorite Cities

Berlin, Germany
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
After considering for a day Ryan's recent list of his favorite cities I came up with my own list of my 10 favorite cities that i've visited, in order:

1. Berlin!
2. Rome, Italy
3. New York
4. Chicago (tie)
4. Boston (tie)*
6. Copenhagen, Denmark
7. Dublin, Ireland
8. Minneapolis
9. Brussels, Belgium
10. Washington, DC (tie)
10. Prague, Czech Republic (tie)*

I've also been to Amsterdam and San Francisco, and I have a feeling that they would be on the list, but I'd need to visit them again. In SF I don't think I understood enough about cities to really enjoy it. In Amsterdam I was travelling with my parents (which isn't the best way to do Amsterdam).

I encourage you all to post your favorite places.

*If all things were equal, I'd like Boston better than Chicago. Boston wins food and culture. Chicago gets housing prices and weather. Both have great architecture and public transit. I couldn't pick a winner. With Prague and DC, I think I'd pick Prague as a place i'd rather visit, but I think i'd be more likely to live in DC long term. Likewise, Minneapolis rates high as a favorite place because I love the people and culture, however some things like public transit make me feel like it's unlikely I'd want to live there again.



Days Three and Four: San Juan

San Juan, Puerto Rico
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
Day three it was my mission to go and see the new Tren Urbano that just started operation. I got a bus to Sagrado Corozon in Hato Rey to meet up with the train. Along the way, the bus passed though the Miramar, the neighborhood that is right across the lagoon from Condado. I didn’t get off, but it looked way cooler. Next trip.

The Tren Urbano is the first of three planed subway lines in San Juan. Unless I’m mistaken, it’s the first heavy rail line to be built in “America” since the Metro in DC and the BART in San Francisco were built in the 60’s. Students from MIT planned it, at least in part. Unfortunately, the construction ran waaaaay over budget and years late. Who knows if they’ll find the money for the other lines.

The stations and the trains were great, but they were really empty. It was a Sunday, I guess, but it probably also has something to do with the price of tickets being 500% more then the buses. They also had heavily armed guards on all the platforms. You defiantly got the feeling that they were trying to exclude certain classes. The trains were Siemens and were pretty wide, bigger then NY and Boston. I think they were about the same as the S-bahns in Berlin.

I started by taking the train to the University of Puerto Rico to visit the museum of anthropology, but it was closed (misread the guidebook). I wandered about the campus for a while, which was really nice. I then wandered into the Rio Piedras neighborhood, which adjoined the campus. It reminded me of Spanish Harlem. There was a small market going on which I shopped at for a while but then it started raining.

I decided to take the train out to the end of the line, both because I like trains and because my map said there was a mall, and I was almost done with my book. A lot of the train stations were really nice, with good public art. They had both elevated and underground stations, as well as recessed ones (sunken into the ground but not covered). They also had several stations that used really dense greenery instead of walls. I thought that was pretty cool.

The mall was like malls everywhere, but without a bookstore. Actually, the only book I could find was the latest Oprah book (belch). They had a movie theater though, and since it was midday and the heat was getting bad I watched Wallace and Gromit. Not Bad, but not my favorite movie ever.

I took my time getting back to Old San Juan and then did a bit of shopping. It was my last night, so I had to go out for good food, so I settled on an Indian-Caribbean fusion place. It was really good. I had some kind of Indian chicken, but using Caribbean fruit and spices. mmmm.

Day four I took the bus out to Ocean Park (another ritzy Atlantic bordering neighborhood) to transfer to the bus to the airport. I had a little time to walk around. It was better then Condado, but still not great. I then flew back. The End.



Day Two: San Juan

San Juan, Puerto Rico
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
I woke up late and walked a few blocks to Plaza de Colón on the east side of Viejo San Juan to a little place called Café Berlin with outdoor tables. I had yogurt with fresh fruit and musli. I love Latin (by which I mean Italian/Spanish/Latin American) plazas. They have a way of making brick and concrete and fountains and statues and building facades and greenery all blend together in a way that seems so natural. It’s almost like they just grew there, which I guess is why Gaudi existed.

After breakfast I walked to San Cristóbal, the other fort. It was less impressive then El Morro, but did have some nice views of the newer parts of the city skyline. The new city is a lot of midrise condos near the oceanfront and then gets shorter as it moves inland. The whole city is pretty dense and traditionally urban until you get out to the gated suburbs. Anyways, I lingered a while and then went to walk through the old city some more and visit the museums and churches. The Cathedral was ok and I found an old church on Calle de San Francisco that had beautiful wood-carved stages of the cross. The Church that I really wanted to see, Iglesia de San Juan, was closed for repairs. It was the only colonial church in the new world that was old enough to be built in gothic style. The museums I went to were ok, it was mostly nice to stand in some air conditioning for a while. Most of the museums were also free or extremely cheap which was nice too. I also walked though Casa Blanca, which is the family house of Ponce de Leon.

I found it best to retire in mid-afternoon for a short nap, while the heat was the worst.

After lunch and my nap I decided to check out some other neighborhoods. I walked east to Puerta de Tierra, which was originally the neighborhood where the mixed race people who weren’t allowed to live within the city walls lived. A lot of the neighborhood was taken up by the Capitol building and some government offices. The rest was pretty run down housing. The Capitol was pretty cool. It looked like a Romanesque version of the US Capitol building. I guess the US paid to have government buildings built in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines when then took them over in the Spanish American war, so they all have buildings that mirror the US Capitol, but in slightly different architectural styles. Incidentally, that’s why they all have flags that are red, white and blue and look kind of the same. The north side of the neighborhood had some nice Atlantic beaches, so I waded a bit and watched some surfers.

From there I kept walking into Condado, which is an upper class neighborhood that’s wedged between the Atlantic and the Laguna Los Corozos. It was mostly resort hotels and six to twenty story art deco condos. I’m told that it’s a lot like Miami Beach. There was some okay architecture, but overall it kind of sucked. For such a dense neighborhood it was extremely unvital. I guess it’s a kind of urbanity for people who don’t really like cities.

It started to rain, so I took the bus back to Viejo San Juan (I had found a map) and did a little shopping. 25 cent buses. How cool is that?

Puerto Ricans are total foodies. Part of Old San Juan is called SoFo (South of Calle Fortaleza) and is just packed with high-end NYC style designer restaurants. Unfortunately it also means that good restaurants are really expensive. I don’t really care to eat alone in nice places anyways, so I was planning on just going out once. As I was walking, looking for a place to eat dinner, I heard some salsa wafting though the air. I followed it and came upon an open air Salsa concert. There were all kinds of elderly Puerto Ricans dancing the night away. I bought some food from a street vender (some kind of Pupusa, but stuffed with pizza stuff) and enjoyed the show. It was one of the highlights of my trip.

*That's the end of the journal for the day. I’m actual Zakcq talking now. I finished uploading all of my pictures. If you click on the angel at the right, it’ll talk you to the photo set.

I talked to Jessica this morning in Istanbul and she says she’s having a great time. She finished up her work in Chisinau. She said she’s got lots of great pictures and hopefully she’ll blog her journal when she gets back. She also said she had a great run in with a strawberry flavored hookah. Awesome.



Day One: San Juan

San Juan, Puerto Rico
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
I landed in San Juan at about 11. I was planning on taking the bus to my guesthouse in Viejo San Juan, but I couldn’t find anyone who knew bus routes, or the bus stop for that matter, so I ended up taking a cab. Conversation with my (red-haired and freckled) cap driver:

cab driver: vacación?
me: que?
cd: vay-cay-shun?
me: ahh, si.
cd: uno dia?
me: quatro.
cd: bien. Friday… Puerto Rico… Party… Saturday… Puerto Rico… Party

So anyways, I got to my guesthouse, which is the most ghetto I’ve ever seen. How ghetto? The lock on my door is a padlock.

I got settled and took off to start getting my bearings. My guesthouse was in old San Juan, which was the colonial Spanish part of the city. Like Boston, San Juan is definitely a city of neighborhoods. You can spin in a circle and tell by the architecture and feel of place where you are. Viejo San Juan has tight cobblestone streets and beautifully colored buildings with gorgeous balconies. The neighborhood is on a peninsula with walls on two sides (they demolished the other two sides in the late 19th century) and two big forts in the two corners on the Atlantic side. A couple quick notes on some interesting planning things: The peninsula is on a hill, with the highest point being in the northwest and the lowest being in the southeast. If you walk on any of the north-south streets you climb at a pretty steep grade, however if you walk east-west and then back west-east and continue doing that, you can make it to the top without ever walking up hill. The second cool thing was that the heights of the buildings made it so that at least one side of the street was shaded all day.

I walked around for awhile and then made my way to a cemetery that I saw on a map, where I was joined by an old fellow from Tennessee who was in San Juan on a Caribbean cruise. He had the annoying characteristic of using good-ole-American-common-sense to point out the stupidity of other cultures. Example: “Why’d they put a cemetery here? Don’t they know it’ll fall into the ocean the first hurricane they get?” Yeah, the 500 year old Puerto Rican cemetery has never weathered a hurricane. grrr.

From there I went up to El Morro, the bigger of the two forts. It was pretty impressive. It ran about six stories in the cliff at the edge of the peninsula. It was run by the (US) national park service and they had this hilarious video that they showed. The whole thing was about all the times that El Morro had been attacked and repulsed invaders. They finally get to the Spanish-American War and they talked about the Americans taking the fort. The video was from the perspective of the defenders and the music was all ominous. So anyways, the Americans won and took over Puerto Rico, and then the video has this terrible transition to a picture of the American flag and it starts playing the star-spangled banner and the narrator comes on and says, “Now the stars and stripes flies over El Morro as a symbol of protection.” hmmm.

My foot was getting to me by that point, so I bought a copy of Bartolomé de las Casas’ Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies at the gift shop, found a shady rampart and spent most of the afternoon reading.

I uploaded some more of my pictures, and I’ll get the rest up over the next few days. Stay tuned



I'm back...

San Juan, Puerto Rico
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
and I'll blog my journal over the next few days as I upload my photos.

I had a great time. San Juan is a very cool city. I'm not really sure what I was expecting (actually I am... I thought it would be like San Jose, Costa Rica, the only other Latin American city I've been to) but San Juan is much larger, older and more cosmopolitan.

My foot did well. I took it easy the first day and after that it was fine. The weather also cooperated. Apparently when they predict rain in Puerto Rico what they mean is really really hard rain for 10 minutes twice a day, not 30 days straight of drizzle like we get in Boston.

Anyways, must get to bed, more tomorrow.



A Slight Change of Plans

Boston, Massachusetts
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
I ran over my foot with 700 pounds of books yesterday, so it looks like i'm going to be visiting Puerto Rico on crutches (please imagine sad-faced Zakcq).

On the bright side, the weather looks like it might be good enough for me to elevate my foot on a beach instead of in the hotel and I don't have to work the next few days, so i'll have more time to study for my midterm.



last blog for awhile...

Trip Planning
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
... mainly because i've got little to no time in the next week or so. I've got a couple papers and a midterm and work, but it's not so bad because next friday I leave for San Juan. I promise plenty of pictures and bloging when I'm there (or just back at the worst). Jessica leaves next Thursday for her business trip to Moldova and Turkey as well, and she's said she'll make sure to blog and post pictures when she gets back too (speaking of which, she just confirmed that she gets to go to Egypt for three weeks right after Christmas for work too).

Have a good week.



Wahl 2005

Well, it seems that Angela Merkel finally was able to throw together a grand-coalition between the CDU and the SPD in Germany.

I can't say I'm super excited about this outcome. SPD will retain control of the foreign, finance, labor, justice, health, transport, environment and development ministries. Union gets economy, defense, interior, agriculture, family and education portfolios. Which means, in rough terms, that everybody ended up with the portfolios that they are most likely to screw up.

The bright light is that the FDP seems to have been left out, although it also means that the Greens (who frankly have done a very good job in government) are also sitting in opposition.

I was really hoping that everybody on the left would have been able to work out their bickering and bring in an SPD-Green-Left Party government.

Here's hoping that they can't get anything done and a new election gets called soon. Prost.

Completely different topic:

J & I just went to see Good Night, and Good Luck. Best movie I've seen so far this year. See it.




Boston, Massachusetts
Boston, Massachusetts
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
For my readers who actually live in Boston (which I think are unfortunately few in number). J and I ate at a restaurant that we loved last Friday.

It's a tapas place called Tasca in Brighton on Comm. Ave by Washington St. (B line on the T). It had great atmosphere, great food, great wine... mmmmm

I highly suggest the following: Plato de Quesos, Patatas Bravas, Carpaccio de Buey, and the Jamón Serrano although the menu is long and everything looks great.

I just got myself really hungry and all I have at home is mac and cheese.



At Home

Boston, Massachusetts
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
Today, 4 October 2005, marks 14 months and 4 days that J & I have lived at 110 Chelsea. Unless I'm wrong that means that I have had this address for about 4 days longer then I've ever had any other. I lived at Auerstr. 44 for 14 months and 233 Oak Grove Street for 12.

Since I turned 19, I've had seven addresses. I'm kind of a gypsy. It's actually kind of weird thinking that I'm going to be here for at least 10 more months.

That said, it is nice that 110 Chelsea finally feels like home. I don't think we've ever taken such a long time adjusting. In both of the other apartments that we've lived long term, we got to choose exactly what neighborhood we got to live in. Walking around Berlin or Minneapolis, I was never like, "oh I want to live here." Because I already lived where I wanted. Loring Park and Friedrichshain were both exceedingly cool neighborhoods. In Boston it's so expensive that East Boston is basically the only place that is near the city center that we could afford. Walking around Boston I can find plenty of places that I wouldn't mind living instead (in order: North End, South End, Fenway, Back Bay, Beacon Hill). It's kind of tough to get really attached when you feel that way, but sometime in the last few months we finally started feeling at home in Eastie. It helps that it's been cleaning up a lot. We painted our apartment and bought some new furniture.

In celebration for our 14 month anniversary, I've uploaded a photo tour on to flicker. Click on the picture and then try out the Home slideshow for our apartment and the East Boston one for our neighborhood.




Boston, Massachusetts
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
J & I went to Octoberfest last night at the Harpoon Brewery. They had all kinds of good old school Germanic events like chicken dancing contests, keg bowling, wheelchair basketball and cake eating. The Jolly Kopperschmidts were oomph-ing for us.

I uploaded a few blurry photos.



Iowa? I don't owe ha' nothin...

Boston, Massachusetts
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
I just read this op-ed in the Des Moines Register (that's right, baby, the Des Moines Register) that suggested the solution for Iowa's population leakage problem is to become more like Portland, OR. Progressive planning, transit-oriented development, investment in the arts, ect. I gotta say that seems a better idea then repopulating with south americans like they've been trying. (of course if you really want to be like Portland you've really got to build a mountain, pine forests and and ocean an hour away... but i guess you work with what you've got, huh...)



An Ode to the iPod on Public Transportation.

Boston, Massachusetts
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
I just had to write about how much I love it when my iPod picks the perfect song for a given moment. I'm sure drivers feel this way too, but to me it feels like trains and iPod's go together like Macaroni & Cheese and Cut-Up-Hot-Dogs.

My top song/spot combos:

Madvillian - accordion (Fourtet Remix): Exiting the Orange Line at Chinatown Station outbound and walking up the stairs.

Laura Veirs - Secret Someones: When you are on a Green Line train at State and watching everyone run for trains.

Tiki Obmar - Lillypads A: On the Orange Line outbound when the train goes above ground for the first time after New England Med. Center and MassPike and the Back Bay are on the right.

Postal Service - Brand New Colony: (I want to take you far from the cynics in this town...) When the Commuter Rail Train speeds up for the first time outside of North Station.

I'd make a mix tape, but i don't think it would work as well.



New Camera and J's Parents in Boston

Saturday we went to Concord, Mass for a little cemetery hopping and revolutionary history site visiting. Concord was the sight of the first real battle of the American Revolution. It is now the sight of tourist art shops and ice cream cafés. Pretty town though and many literary graves.

Boston, Massachusetts
Today we went for a whale watching cruise, which was really quite enjoyable, other then the whole seasickness thing. We got really close to the humpbacks. There were three frolicking ahead of us. Tonight was also Boston's 375th anniversary, so cool fireworks over the harbour. Very cool. J described this picture as a dragon attacking boston. but that was after two beers.



Gated New Urbanism

Foremost on my list of developments that get me angry at the moment is this:

This is a housing development called "Aqua" in Miami Beach. It is interesting for a number of reasons. a) It was laid out by New Urbanist gurus Duany/Plater-Zyberk. b) it's the first time a new urbanist development has used modern architecture instead of neo-traditionalist. c) it's may be the first time ever in Miami beach that there have been buildings that share walls.

But who cares? First of all, it's a gated community. How can that possibly further an urban lifestyle? Second, there is NO retail, so how can it even really be called New Urbanist?

Do we really have to sell our souls in order to get stuff built?


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