Well, I've spent the last 5 hours or so studying for my two finals and large paper that are due this week and, to be honest, I'm lacking motivation to keep moving on. It's kind of been a problem all semester with J gone. I just don't feel like doing much of anything. Luckily, I've got the next two days off, so I don't need to get everything done today.

So, there has basically been two things on my mind lately. First is my trip to Asia which is coming up incredibly fast. We finally nailed down our basic itinerary, although we are booking loose tickets so we can move at whatever pace we decide on the ground. Generally, we are going to spend about two weeks in Vietnam (HCMC, the Mekong Delta and up the central coast as far as Da Nang), about one week in Cambodia (Phnom Phen and Angkor Wat), one week in Thailand (Bangkok and Chaing Mai) and a half a week in Laos (Luang Prabang). I've also got a layover in Hong Kong for three days.

I've been deciding what books I want to bring with to read and I think I've gotten a pretty good mix ready. I've got two books on urban development:

Southeast Asian Urban Environments: Structured and Spontaneous
Postcolonial Urbanism: Southeast Asian Cities and Global Processes,

Two history books:

The Mekong by Osborne
Survival in the Killing Fields by Ngor (this one was recommended by a Cambodian friend)

and two novels:

Burmese Days by Orwell (yes, I reallize I'm not going to Burma, but I like Orwell)
and The Quiet American by Greene (which is one of my favorite novels)

I think the urban development stuff will be fun. One of the best parts of being an Urbanologist (that's Jacobs' term, RIP) is that going on vacation is also a great chance to study new places. This trip will be especially interesting since we'll be in French colonial cities (Phnom Phen, Saigon), British colonial cities (Hong Kong, Bangkok) as well as indigenous cities (Hue, Luang Prabang, Angkor). Colonial cities are interesting because they were often used as testing grounds for planning theories that lacked public support at home. Saigon was basically used as a testing ground for the crowd control theories that Hausmann ended up using in Paris. The indigenous planning was interesting too. In Luang Prabang, instead of grouping the city as one unit, it was built as a series of neighborhoods each with their own temple. Even today, people often associate more with their neighborhood unit instead of the city.

I have been reading a bunch of stuff already too. A Bright Shining Lie by Sheehan was really good, as are the biographies of Ho Chi Minh (Duiker) and Pol Pot (Short). I'd recommend them both.

Other than the trip, I realized this week that I might be graduating much sooner than I really thought. I've got to go in and talk to an advisor to make sure, but it looks like I could graduate in Summer I of next year. That's a pretty crazy thought for someone who has been in college off and on for the last 8 years. I'm really excited that I finally found something that I like studying and that I can be passionate about, but it's still a little intense that I could be done and moving on to grad school so soon. If there is anything I kind of regret about the way I ended up doing college it is that I didn't find anything to really care about until it was too late for me to be a "real student" without having to work 40 hours a week. I'm hoping that grad school will be a more traditional learning experience. Being nomadic, it's also exciting in that there is a pretty good chance we'll end up moving again (that's what that last post was about, by the way).

Well, I suppose I should get back to work now.



Where do we go from here?



And People Complain About Communist Bureaucracy...

I got my visa back today from the Vietnamese Embassy, despite the fact that this
scary passport photo
is the photo I sent in. Typically, I think of myself as a pretty nice guy, but for some reason I always come out of identification photos looking like an axe murderer.

Anyways. I can't believe how fast they got my passport back to me. I sent it FedEx and it was supposed to take it 4 business days to reach them, 5 days to process and then 4 business days to get back. I just sent it last Friday. That means somehow I got the whole process to take 4 business days.

I also got a package from J in Vietnam in the mail today. She sent me a set of Ho Chi Minh post cards (among other things) and I was sitting looking at them on the subway. When I got done I looked up and an Asian guy across from me was giving me weird looks.

I can't wait! Four weeks from Tomorrow!



Jane Jacobs 1916-2006

Jane Jacobs died today in Toronto. Jacobs was the author of the the incredible book The Death and Life of Great American Cities and one of the greatest urbanists of the last half-century. She originally wrote on Greenwich Village, her neighborhood in New York, but had moved to Canada during the Vietnam War not wanting to pay taxes to a government she strongly disagreed with. By the end of her life, she considered herself Canadian and also wrote widely on Canadian issues, including a book about the economic effects of Quebecois separatism (if you're interested, she thought everyone would survive just fine).

I don't think Jacobs' contributions to the American/Canadian city can be understated. In her epic battles with New York City planning czar Robert Moses, she showed what could be accomplished by the mobilization of regular people against the interests of totalitarian city political machines. The Death and Life forecasted the rise of urbanism 20 years before it happened and in many ways spawned many of the major theories of planning around today. You can't understand New Urbanism or Smart Growth with out understanding Jacobs.

Jacobs was also an accomplished economist. In fact, it has been suggested that her theories of import replacement should have earned her a Nobel prize. At least in part, her theories have helped speed the rise of economies like India and China that have learned to reduce their reliance on imports to drive economic development.

Personally, I feel that I learned from Jacobs' writing how to look at cities. Jacobs has a way of making you look beyond economic indicators to find the health of a neighborhood by looking at its people. It's a healthy reminder that even the poor can have good neighborhoods, even if the bankers don't realize it. Actually, my neighborhood, East Boston, is relatively poor but has low crime and a vibrant street life. It was Jane Jacobs who showed me how to look for that when I was choosing where to live.

All in all, pretty much everything Jacobs wrote is worth reading. My favorites are The Death and Life and Dark Age Ahead.



The New Suburbanism versus The New Urbanism versus The Creative Class

Originally uploaded by Dean Terry.
I just finished listening to the latest Planetizen podcast, which featured Joel Kotkin, who wrote The City: A Global History, but has recently been more controversial for his new theory of "New Suburbanism. It's interesting, worth a listen.

Kotkin basically believes that the greatest space for economic growth lies in the suburbs and therefore we should focus economic development there. You may be wondering to yourself how that differs from the status quo. Kotkin suggests that there are good suburbs and bad suburbs. Good suburbs are ones that have ample public space, a good balance of residential and commercial uses and public goods, such as libraries and schools.

New Suburbanism and New Urbanism don't actually seem to go against each other all that much, when it really comes down to it. New Suburbanism allows more for cars and doesn't mind single family houses as much. Maybe I'm mistaken, but it seems that most New Urbanism is taking place in suburbs or greenfields anyways. It's really more about building denser suburbs than it is about repairing the problems of the city.

Kotkin actually seems to be responding to Richard Florida's The Creative Class. Florida believes that the rise of the information based economy has given rise to a new class of workers that he calls the creative class. His thesis is that companies move about the country trying to find the creative class which moves about the country trying to find the best urban environments. It's interesting work.

Kotkin argues that demographically, the suburbs are still growing faster than the cities and that those who prefer the city are just a minority (he gives the figure 20%). I think Florida would argue that, first of all, 20% preferring the city is a whole lot more then you would have gotten 10 years ago. Second, that 20% is more important to the economy then the other 80%. Florida actually addresses in his work that it's the service (read lower paying) jobs that are growing the fastest in the suburbs.

I don't think it's any secret that I prefer the city, so my tendency is toward Florida's work. I do, however find Kotkins ideas interesting. The suburbs are around for now (at least till we run out of oil), and there is no reason that they shouldn't be as good as possible. I also think that Kotkin's ideas are best applied to inner suburbs rather then new sprawl.



Boston, Massachusetts
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
A few weeks ago I commented that I came across a crappy movie being filmed here in Eastie... well it turns out that the old factory that it was being filmed in collapsed a couple of days ago. From what I hear it was destablized due to the constuction across the street at Maverick Gardens. Always a good reminder not to play in abandoned buildings. Saves a lot of money if you need to demolish something, though. More space for condos!!! EaBo for everyone!!!



NGOs or the Class Struggle

les années sans lumiere
Originally uploaded by izarbeltza.
So, if this doesn't give you an idea of the random stuff that I spend my time thinking about I don't know what will.

I came across an interesting perspective regarding the role of NGOs as a sort of on the ground spokesperson for neo-liberalism. I'm not sure what I think about it yet, but I've been spending some time pondering it.

A lot of people have been arguing for a long time about the reasons that the US has never had a Marxist movement. My personal opinion is that it is because of one of the greatest of America's achievements: the democritization of land ownership. According to good 'ole Senator McCarthy, "No man who owns a home can be a communist." I think that's a fairly correct statement. Probably one of the only smart things the man ever said.

To opposite side of that theory though, is that lack of ability to own land (as the greatest measure of capital) is the driving factor behind Marxist ideals and the reason that Marxist and Maoist organizations still exist (and probably should) in the developing world.

The quote I came across is from an activist from Mumbai named P.K. Das regarding NGOs:

Their constant effort is to subvert, dis-inform and de-idealize people so as keep them away from class struggles. They adopt and propagate the practice of begging favours on sympathetic and humane grounds rather than making the oppressed conscious of their rights. As a matter of fact these agencies and organizations systematically intervene to oppose the agitational path people take to win their demands. Their effort is constantly to divert people's attention from the larger political evils of imperialism to merely local issues and so confuse people in differentiating enemies from friends."

So basically, NGOs play the role for the neo-liberal order that the church played for the land-holding class of feudalist society. My thoughts are that even if they are playing this role now, it doesn't mean it's the role that they have to play. The church eventually played a role in class struggle in Latin America (Liberation Theology) for example.




come on...

So, a group of evangelical pastors, including Purpose Driven Life author Rick Warren, have come together (finally) and signed a document that says that they believe global warming is real, that it is being caused by people, and that we should do something about it.

Falwell, Colson, and Joseph Farah, on the other hand, said that the signers were being mislead and strongly implied that their salvation was at risk in an op-ed on the conservative website WorldNetDaily.net... good thing they won't be making the final call...

I was just having a conversation about this last week in my Environmental Sociology class. It annoys me to no end that the people who are supposed to be the stewards of God's earth are the first to stand up and protect corporate polluters and automobile culture. To me it is one of the major places where American Individualism has completely replaced Christian teaching (and common sense). I don't think I'm going to say anything else about this, but I thought it was a good story and it's nice to see.



Photos from Last Weekends Touristing

Newport, Rhode Island

Boston, Massachusetts

Newport, Rhode Island

Newport, Rhode Island

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts



Palazzos, Papers y mi Padre

Newport, Rhode Island
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
I didn't write much this week, due mostly to a visit from my dad and the older of my younger brothers. We spent a few days in Boston doing the Freedom Trail, Fenway Park Tour, and generally walking through Cambridge and the Back Bay, among other things.

Fenway was super cool. I know it's sad, but it's the first time I've been in there. Unfortunately, it's usually cheaper to go New York for baseball then going to Fenway. But what an incredible place to watch a game. I only wish you could walk up on game day and pay $3 like you can at the Metrodome.

We also took a Zipcar down to Rhode Island one day. We visited Newport and toured a couple of the gilded-age palazzos of the super rich. It a really cool little city and the architecture is great. We drove a Prius. It was nice. We got about 48 miles a gallon overall and it didn't really drag when it was accelerating like I expected it to.

Other then that, I've mostly been doing work on that big paper on urban agriculture. My draft is due next week. I think it's coming along pretty well. My plan is to post some brief summaries here and see if I can get any good comments. We'll see.

J posted again on her blog and uploaded some more pictures. Just six weeks and I get to see my wife again. yeah! I can't wait. I've been starting to get ready for my trip. I bought a carnet de voyage for use there. It's been awhile since I've travelled without a laptop. My thought is that instead of retyping parts of my journal to blog I may just scan or photograph the pages and post them. That way you can get my drawings and maps too. Probably no one really cares, but I'll amuse me.


Good Friday Alarm Clock

Boston, Massachusetts
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
I woke up this morning to someone shouting the Lord's Prayer and several Hail Mary's through a loud speaker as several hundred catholic school children marched past my building.

Never a dull day in the Hub.



iSubway Maps.

Boston, Massachusetts
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
Mikee C just sent me this link and i find it both amusing and useful.
iSubway Maps are tiny little subway maps that you can put on your iPod. Really a great idea. They've got Berlin, NYC, Boston, Hong Kong and more. Personally, I think i'm going to download them all so that I can pretend I actually need them.



Central Viet Nam Photos

J uploaded about a hundred new pictures from central Viet Nam. Go check them out.











The Internet is Weird Man...

Boston, Massachusetts
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
John and Stephie have this thing on their site that lets you check what websites have links to yours. So, about two weeks ago, the Japanese version of Boston.com said something like: ねひしうツスシニハZAKCQ. Should I be concerned? There was also a link to an op-ed in the Springfield, Mass newspaper (named The Republican, which is a little scary in and of itself) that quoted my blog a few weeks ago about parking and highways. So I guess I should start spell checking huh? Put something on the internet and all the sudden your an expert. No wonder the country is going to the dogs.

ps. i was hitting random japanese characters there, so if I said anything offensive I apologize.




I found this This via Z. Korb, and it's about the most fun thing I've seen in a long time. I sat around playing with it for like an hour. It a collection of strange maps. Ryan, you'll enjoy this. I especially like the subway maps. This is one of all of the North American urban rail lines.

These are all to scale too. Notice how small the New York lines are as compared to Dallas and some of the other western cities. You can really see how sprawl effects public transit as you move west across the map.

I also like the one that moves through time and shows how college friends disperse across the country over time. It was a really interesting visual.



Boston, Massachusetts
Originally uploaded by Zakcq.
There have been way too few people posting on their blogs this week. I'm very disappointed people.

Spring came with a vengeance this week. It was 70 yesterday. Last night I walked down to the waterfront to take some pictures of the sunset behind the skyline, which didn't come out very well, unfortunately. The sky wasn't the pretty colours it is sometimes.

Anyways, I noticed really bright lights coming out of one of the abandoned warehouses on the waterfront. Turns out they were filming a movie. When we were living in Berlin we used to come across film sets a lot, but it was always TV shows like the German version of ER, "Krankenhaus Berlin-Mitte." This one looked like a mob sort of thing, so I was hoping it'd be something cool like the Sopranos, but I asked a cop and he said it was something called "The Way." I looked it up on imdb and this is the description, "An influential New England gang loses its mob boss and turns to witchcraft to handle its criminal enterprises." That's got to be a winner, right?

I watched the movie Paradise Now last night. It's amazing. Everyone should see it. I'm not going to say anything else, since I think it's probably one of those movies where the less you know the better, but see it.

Seven and Half weeks and I'll be on a plane to Asia! Woo Hoo!


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