Photography Walk

Boston, Massachusetts
I picked up a book a few days ago about travel photography and I feel like I've been learning quite a bit from it. With as much traveling as J & I do, I really wanted to start doing something to improve the quality of the photos that we've taken. Unfortunately, we really don't have time for a class (although I'd really like to do that sometime). So, I guess for now, I'm just going to keep reading and taking pictures.
Salem, Massachusetts
Today I spent a few hours walking just around and taking some pictures. I think in the past one of my problems has been trying to capture scenes that are too large, so I tried to focus down some. There are quite a few that I think came out pretty well (although, as you can tell by the sky, it wasn't the nicest day for it). I also just uploaded a few pictures from Salem a couple of weeks ago.




Boston, Massachusetts
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
I bit the bullet and got a "pro" account with Flickr so that J would be able to upload photos from Istanbul, Moldova, Vietnam and so on.

I just finished uploading all of my Dublin photos, my Canada photos from last march and a bunch of pictures of Boston (which I put under the heading New England). About half of the Boston photos are Mike Caron and about half are mine.




The thought struck me this morning that I'm going to be turning 24 in a couple of weeks. I know that doesn't seem like such a big year, but to me it seems pretty big. It's the point at which you can no longer claim you're in your early twenties. Now it's mid-twenties. I get kind of weird about my birthdays every year. I usually find them to be pretty disappointing (at 21, for example, I'd been living in Germany for about a year, if you know what I mean). But seriously, mid-twenties? Frickin' A.

A few months ago, J & I were coming home from the grocery store on the Blue Line. I was sitting across from her and I remember looking up at her, and then at my reflection and noticing how much older we look. Not really in a bad way (in fact, if anything age has been good for me, looks-wise), but it was still a weird realization.

Beyond all of that, it is strange how much has changed as far as the way I view the world. When I was picking up my books for next semester, I was incredibly relieved that the summer was ending and I was going back to school. It's just the opposite of the way we were when we were kids. At what point did real life get more exciting then time off?



Im August.

up there with compasionate conservative on the list of things that I didn't think existed has always been German romantic comedies (actually, German romantic comedies, or GRC's for future reference, may even be a double oxymoron if that is possible). But I just watched a movie called In July (Im Juli) that was actually pretty good. Who knew?



la bostonienne

j'ai ajouté un lien au blog de ma belle petite épouse. S'il vous plaît lisez et appréciez.



A Chinese House in New England

J and I took a regional train up to Salem yesterday to go to the Peabody (peb-idy in masspeak) Essex Museum. I wanted to see a photo exhibit that they had going on by an artist named Alex MacLean. He's an architect and a pilot and his photos are all landscapes from above that show man's impact on the land by focusing on the unnatural semetrics in the things we do (straight lines). It was pretty cool, but the rest of the museum actually overshadowed it. I had no idea what the PEM was going to be like, but apparently it was founded to house east asian art that sailors out of Salem brought back with them. I'm a huge fan of Asian art, especially Southeast Asian, where the Chinese and Indian elements mixed together. They had a great collection and the temporary displays were also supurb. One of the highlights for me was a temp. display of items from one of the (now abandoned) former royal capitals of Siam (Thailand). It was especally cool because it is one of the places that J and I are planning on visiting when we go-a-travelling next summer. Also, they had a super cool house that they had taken apart in southern china, brought to New England and then reassembled. Chinese houses are built with high walls on the outside that don't have much ornimentation, but then there is a beautiful central courtyard in the middle with all kinds of beautiful latice work on the inside. They build that way because in China it is the family (extended) that is the most important and then the community. It was very cool from a cultural, artistic and architectural standpoint. I'm rating it pretty high on my list of stuff to see if you visit new england.

thursday i have to go to New Hampshire for a meeting. bleck.



Broken Flowers

At the risk of becoming a blog about movies that I've seen... I went to Broken Flowers a couple nights ago and really enjoyed it, but there was a theme there (i think) that I wanted to see if anyone else picked up.

I noticed on his address that the state was NT, which is what made me think about this. Everytime he went somewhere new the license plates were kind of blurry and didn't say a state name on them. So anyways, he keeps flying all around the country, however every place he goes looks the same. I thought that maybe they were using a lack of definition in the places he was going as being symbolic of the lack of definition in his life?

Thoughts anyone?



The Constant Gardener

I got to see a screening of The Constant Gardener last week.

Africa, Berlin and Rachel Weisz all in the same movie? Oh yeah.

Seriously though, it was really good (much better then the previews made it seem). It keeps you thinking long after it's done.



A good time to be a planner.

The American Society of Civil Engineers just put out the US's infrastructure report card that they do every four years. Overall, we rated a D, which is down from the D+ we got in 2001. (click on the title above for a link to the site) We were rated on the following subjects: Aviation (D+), Bridges (C), Dams (D), Drinking Water (D-), National Power Grid (D), Hazardous Waste (D), Navigable Waterways (D-), Public Parks and Recreation Areas (C-), Rail (C-), Roads (D), Schools (meaning school infrastructure, not quality of instruction: D), Security (I [imcomplete assesment], Solid Waste (C+), Transit (D+) and Wastewater (D+).

What is especially unfortunate about these statistics is that they can't be traced to any one administration or policy (it would be far easier to fix if they were). The fact is that infrastructure has been declining in the US for a long time now. Here are a few more interesting tidbits: 27.1% of the nations bridges are "structurally deficient or functionally obsolete." Think about that next time you need to cross a river. 33% of the dams in the country are unsafe. The poor condition of american roads costs motorist $54 billion per year in repairs and opperating costs. Americans spend 3.5 billion hours a year stuck in traffic, at a cost of $63.2 billion a year to the economy. Transit use increased 21% between 1993 and 2002 (more then any other type of transportation), while federal funds in terms of real dollars declined.

The report also showed a little of each states infrastructure, since most of my readers will be either Minnesotan or Bay Staters, I'll give a bit of those reports as well. In Minnesota, 69% of major roads are conjested and 25% are in poor or mediocre condition. Congestion in the Twin Cities costs each driver an average of $740 per person in excess fuel. 57% of Minnesota schools have at least one inadiquite building feature. The population of Minnesota grew by 16% between 1990 and 2003 but the vehicle trafic on Minnesota roads increased 42%. Minnesota also has 40 "high hazard dams" or dams whose failure would cause a loss of life and property damage. In Massachusetts, only 31% of our roads are congested, but 71% are in poor or mediocre condition. Driving on roads in need of repair costs Bay Staters $501 per person in repairs. 75% of our schools are deficient and 51% of our bridges are structurally unsound.

I guess that's job security for me. It reminds me of something that novellist James Howard Kunstler wrote after a trip to Berlin about 5 years ago:

"The great postunification project for Berlin has been the enormous task of simply becomeing a normal city again, as indeed the great cultural task for the German people and nation was to become normal again after all the vicissitudes, horrors, and lunacies of the twentieth century. Normality had to be accomplished without any artificial reinforcement of the national sense of self-esteem. If anything, group self-esteem has been viewed by Germans for the past half-century as a deadly vice, something to be avoided at all costs, the doorway to the abyss. The goal of normalization in Germany, and in the once and future capital city, Berlin, has pretty much been attained now, at the threshold of the twenty-first century.

"Here in America, meanwhile, the attendees of all our conferences and symposia on urban problems tell us that injections of self-esteem will lead to the reconstruction of the American cities. And every day Cleaveland, St. Louis, Baltimore, Detroit, Buffalo, Hartford, Indianapolis, Nashville, Houston, Birmingham, Richmond, Raleigh, Topeka, Des Moines, Scranton, Worcester, Louisville, and other cities of the victorious United States, leader of the Free World, look as if the enemy bombers flew over them yesterday."



Boring Weeks

I haven't had much to write about lately. The last two weeks have been incredibly boring. I honestly feel as though I don't go anywhere except home and work. I have been watching some good TV (on DVD) lately that I'd like to recommend though. Apparently the world isn't ready for for postmodern-canadian television, because these all got cancelled pretty quick, but I liked them. If you are into Scrubs or Arrested Development, you'll probably like them too.


Dead Like Me

-This one is from Showtime. It made it for two whole seasons! It's set in Seattle (actually Vancouver). It's about an 18 year old girl who is killed by debris from a falling space station and then becomes a grim reaper. Sample Dialog:

-I never rush. I see someone running and I assume they're a loser
-unless they're a runner.
-yeah, even then. especially then.



This one aired four whole episodes on Fox before they cancelled it. The DVD's have all of the other episodes that they recorded before they were cancelled (16 in all I think). It's about a girl with an ivy league philosophy degree who works retail in Niagra Falls, NY (actually Ontario). She has some kind of fainting spell after which inanimate objects with faces start telling her to do things. Like the one above, it's got a great sarcastic sense of humour.


Freaks and Geeks

Freaks and Geeks was on NBC for a year back in 1999-2000. It's set in the early 80's in suburban Michigan (actually Windsor, OT). It's about the most brutally honest high school show I think I've ever seen. Unlike most TV shows, it features unattractive people in leading roles doing embarrasing things. It hurts to watch some times, but is really increadable. It's unfortunate that they didn't keep making them.

Here's too a less boring week.

oh, and while I'm recommending stuff, the last book I read, The Fate of Africa: best one volume history of Africa I've ever read. It's a little intimidating at 700 pages, but really worth it if you are interested in that part of the world. I was a bit worried at first, as the author and I seemed to have different opinions of at least two of Africa's founding fathers (Nkrumah and Lumumba) and he seems a pretty big fan of Houphouët-Boigny, but he manages to stay pretty balanced overall.



Ireland Photos

Strangford, Co. Down, No. Ireland
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
I uploaded a few pictures from our trip to Dublin last year. I'll try and get the rest up in the next few days, so check back.

Unfortunatly, I think I let the film sit around too long without developing it, because some of the pictures came out kind of fuzzy.

I also just added a link and moved around the others based on how often they post. The new link is a guy I know from Richfield, MN ("The Urban Hometown" if you believe the welcome signs) where I lived from 1997 through 2001 (it's was only 3 blocks outside of Minneapolis, so I usually used that as my address. I've always been a bit of a city snob). He is very involved in the city politics there and even though he's on the wrong side, it's still interesting conversation. We (usually) keep in civil, and there are places where we are able to agree and find middle ground. At worst, we learn what the other side believe and why, and there is nothing wrong with that.


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