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.


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