Friday, September 30, 2011

I have been a fan of Texas chanteuse Nanci Griffith for about 20 years now. She writes beautiful, poignant songs, and one of her most moving is "Goodnight to a Mother's Dream." It's a testament to why we should live to fulfill our own dreams, rather than the dreams of others.
And the sailors on the water
They all want the captain's daughter
They want her beauty and her youth
To grace their bow out on the sea
Me, I'm getting older
And I'm plain as plain can be
Got a bank full of mother's dreams
Maybe mother just didn't see that love would be the only thing
Her daughter would ever need [...]

Mother, to tell you the truth
I would trade your dream away
Just to hear some loved one say
"I love you, too"
You can hear the whole thing here.

Having been lucky enough to hear two beautiful women say, "I love you, too," I feel truly blessed.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Iranian Hostages Freed!

So, the two Americans jailed in Iran on an espionage conviction are free. It sounds like they suffered some in the Iranian prison system:
"There's a huge burden lifted off of all of our chests — so much joy," she said. "Shane and Josh and I are beginning our lives again, and there are so many new joys that await us; I've never felt as free as I feel today."
But her face darkened when she was asked whether the men had been mistreated in captivity. She said Bauer was beaten and Fattal forced down a flight of stairs. [...]

The two also detailed the difficult conditions in the Tehran prison where they were held in near-isolation.
"Many times, too many times, we heard the screams of other prisoners being beaten and there was nothing we could do to help them," Fattal said.
Added Bauer: "How can we forgive the Iranian government when it continues to imprison so many other innocent people and prisoners of conscience?"
Maybe they can't forgive the Iranian government, but they still have room in their hearts to blame America for the whole sordid episode:
The irony of it all, Bauer said, "is that Sarah, Josh and I oppose U.S. policies towards Iran which perpetuate this hostility."
Iran locks these children up for years, and they still have the presence of mind to immediately blame America for "perpetuating this hostility." Would this be how we perpetuated hostility:
As survivors of Iran’s earthquake scavenged for clothes and jostled for handouts Tuesday, President Mohammad Khatami thanked the United States for aid but played down talk that Washington’s contribution would thaw frosty relations.
Consider this: two American twenty-somethings, who choose to live not in America, but in that bastion of freedom, Damascus, Syria. They hook up with a buddy to hike along a border in a war zone, probably stray across that border, then blame America for their predicament! I hope these tools grow up someday and realize this was entirely their fault, not America's.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Eco Fads

As an architect, I have been lectured, hectored, and brow-beaten for the last decade about "green" buildings. The alleged solutions to "unsustainable" construction practices are myriad. Low-flow toilets, zero-flow urinals, R-30 or higher insulation requirements, moisture barriers, air barriers, air infiltration pressure testing, recycled material content, sustainable forestry practices, occupancy sensors, LED lighting, proximity to mass transit, showers and lockers for bikers, brown water recovery, material transportation distances. LEED Silver, Gold, and Platinum. The list of sustainable considerations is endless, and growing. Never mind that nobody ever demonstrated that traditional building practices are in any way unsustainable (whatever that truly means). The sustainable "green" building fad served as the crowbar by which the environmental movement inserted itself into the construction industry. I have often called the U.S. Green Building Council a make-work program for aging hippies. It is the club used by people who know nothing about construction to tell those of us that do know how we should really do our jobs.

Imagine my delight to find this story, highlighting a new book, Eco-Fads: How the Rise of Trendy Environmentalism is Harming the Environment. An excerpt:
One of the defining characteristics of an eco-fad is that it is sold or pushed not based on what it does for the environment but about what it says about those following the fad: Do others share my concern? Do they praise me for my environmental concern? Does it make me feel good about myself? One eco-fad he dismantles is the green building craze. He shows in multiple instances that green buildings, contrary to the claims of promoters and the expectations of politicians and the general public, often don’t save energy, nor do they improve worker/student health or performance. At one speaking engagement, when Myers presented data outlining the large amount of energy used by supposedly “green” buildings an audience member interrupted Myers presentation; pounding his fist on the table he announced that what Myers was saying was “Immoral!” When the audience member was asked if it was moral to promote policies that don’t save energy, he said “I’m not going to address that.” That, of course, was the very point at issue — but for that fad-follower, questioning the value of green buildings was tantamount to questioning his values.
I doubt the green building fad will go away in my lifetime, but it's nice to know someone else has noticed the nonsense we are foisting upon ourselves.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

United Nations gatherings are thought to be solemn, important affairs. As are gatherings of world leaders. Lucky, our President "gets it" and is up to the task. At least until the Domino's guy stuck his head in the door and asked, "who ordered pizza?"

Is it a photoshop fake? Maybe. Or maybe not.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

This is from a piece celebrating the life of George Ballas, inventor of the weed-whacker:
The emergence in 18th-century western Europe of generally favorable attitudes towards business activity – attitudes revealed chiefly in the way people spoke about such activity and about the men and women who carried it on – unleashed as never before humankind’s innovative genius.

The resulting torrent of innovation is arguably the greatest human achievement since the invention of agriculture.

For the first time in history, in those parts of the globe marked by capitalism parents came legitimately to expect never to suffer the death of a child; men for the first time came to expect never to suffer the death of a beloved wife giving birth to a child; starvation was conquered, as were commonly lethal ailments such as small pox, pneumonia, and dysentery; slavery was abolished; ordinary men and women escaped from flimsy and leaky huts made of mud or logs for sturdy homes with solid floors, roofs, and walls; education became universally available, as did opportunities to earn a living doing something other than eking out survival on subsistence farms.

Today, most of even the poorest Americans are vaccinated against polio, have several changes of clean clothing, own automobiles, communicate in real time with family and friends hundreds of miles away, and, generally, enjoy a standard of living that was undreamed of just a few generations ago by all but the mightiest monarchs and wealthiest nobles.

This astounding prosperity is the result of capitalist innovation so abundant and unrelenting that individual innovators go unnoticed in the crowd of capitalist innovators – a fact that throws into relief the reason why we should also regret the anonymity of people such as George Ballas.
It's important for us in the west to remember how good we have it and how we got that way.