Thursday, September 25, 2008

World's Fastest 50cc Bike

Turbo-charged, 6-speed Aprila with a liquid cooled metrakit cylinder. Notice the fairing undulate at top speed...


The Engine
(Yes, that's a 24mm Mikuni...)

The Frame

Burt Munro Style!

In Italy a Redesign of Nature to Clean It


Published: September 21, 2008

TERRACINA, Italy — Before Michele Assunto hauls in his fishing net from the banks of
a reed-lined canal here, he uses a pole to push the garbage out of the way. “They really need to clean this up,” he growls.

Where another canal empties into the sea here at the small community of Porto Badino, the only animals that can survive are giant rats, local officials say. Of course, the sea is not fit for swimming for 200 yards on each side of the outlet, they add with a shrug — yet bathers splash in the Mediterranean nearby.
In many parts of this affluent coastal region southeast of Rome and northwest of Naples, canals dumping effluent into the Mediterranean from farms and factories coexist with fishermen and beachgoers. There is little doubt that this area would need considerable work to return to a more pristine state. For places as far gone as this one, however, a new breed of landscape architect is recommending a radical solution: not so much to restore the environment as to redesign it.

“It is so ecologically out of balance that if it goes on this way, it will kill itself,” said Alan Berger, a landscape architecture professor at M.I.T. who was excitedly poking around the smelly canals on a recent day and talking to fishermen like Mr. Assunto.

“You can’t remove the economy and move the people away,” he added. “Ecologically speaking, you can’t restore it; you have to go forward, to set this place on a new path.”

Designing nature might seem to be an oxymoron or an act of hubris. But instead of simply recommending that polluting farms and factories be shut, Professor Berger specializes in creating new ecosystems in severely damaged environments: redirecting water flow, moving hills, building islands and planting new species to absorb pollution, to create natural, though “artificial,” landscapes that can ultimately sustain themselves.

Professor Berger, who is the founder of P-Rex, for Project for Reclamation Excellence, at M.I.T., recently signed an agreement with Latina Province to design a master ecological plan for the most polluting part of this region.
He wants the government to buy a tract of nearly 500 acres in a strategic valley through which the most seriously polluted waters now pass. There, he intends to create a wetland that would serve as a natural cleansing station before the waters flowed on to the sea and residential areas.

Of course, better regulation is also needed, to curb the dumping of pollutants into the canal. But a careful mix of the right kinds of plants, dirt, stones and drainage channels would filter the water as it slowly passed through, he said. The land would also function as a new park.

Professor Berger was quick to acknowledge that the approach was vastly different from the kind normally advocated by established environmental groups like the World Wildlife Fund or the Nature Conservancy, which generally seek to restore land or preserve it in its natural state, often by closing down or cleaning up nearby polluters. In the Florida Everglades, for example, the state is buying and closing a sugar plant to preserve the environment. But that approach may not work in places that are already severely degraded, Professor Berger said.

“The difference between me and W.W.F. is that when I look at this place, I never think about going back,” he said, referring to the wildlife fund. “The solution has to be as artificial as the place. We are trying to invent an ecosystem in the midst of an entirely engineered, polluted landscape.”

At first glance, Latina does not look like an environmental disaster zone. Bordered by mountains to the east and the Mediterranean to the west, it is a place of spectacular rural vistas and even a few famous beach resorts, like Sabaudia.
But in many ways, Professor Berger said, it is as damaged and distorted as the area around an abandoned mine in Breckenridge, Colo., that he is also redesigning, as part of a Superfund cleanup underwritten by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Indeed, the entire environment here is a manufactured one already — and one that is successful, in economic terms at least.

Two thousand years of “water management” have turned the once-malaria-infested Pontine Marshes into a region, Latina Province, that is among Italy’s most prosperous. It is home to industrial parks, resorts filled with weekend homes, and farms — some of which make Italy the world’s leading producer of kiwis.
Latina’s prosperity is built on drained swampland, kept habitable by six pumps as huge and noisy as airplanes, put in place in 1934 by Mussolini. Each day they pull millions of gallons of water — up to 9,500 gallons a second — out of the soggy ground, directing it into an elaborate system of cement-lined canals that ultimately dump it into the sea.

The entire province would return to marshland in seven days if the pumps were turned off, Carlo Cervellin of the Pontine Marsh Consortium said. He is in charge of maintaining and regulating the immense machines, which are in a pump house at the lowest point in the province, in Mazzochio.

Claudio Palmisano for The International Herald Tribune
Alan Berger, a landscape architect at M.I.T., is designing a wetland to cleanse polluted water before it flows to residential areas and the sea. “We are trying to invent an ecosystem,” he said.

Roman emperors and popes had tried for centuries to drain the marshes to allow better access to the sea along the famed Appian Way, all with limited success. The draining of the Pontine Marshes was one of Mussolini’s engineering triumphs.

The area was still a sparsely inhabited malarial breeding ground when Mussolini brought in workers from Northern Italy to create a public works project centered on the pumps that in some ways rivaled the construction of the Panama Canal. Many died in the process, and there was no environmental impact study.

“The goal was to pump water out as fast as possible,” Professor Berger said.

What emerged from the swamp was a triumph of Fascist determination as well as one of Italy’s economic powerhouses. Mussolini built the city of Latina on the newly dried-out land, where it became a center of industry and farming.

But prosperous does not necessarily mean sustainable.

Professor Berger came to Rome’s American Academy in 2007 on a yearlong fellowship to study the history of the Pontine Marshes. It was only after he started to collect data on the land and the water that he realized how damaged the area was.

With the help of the local government in Latina, he collected thousands of aerial photographs as well as data from water and soil in an effort to document drainage patterns and the flow of water and pollutants.

“If there was ever a place to know exactly where your food is produced, it’s here,” he said. “I would only eat from uphill.”

Pristine water enters the Latina plain from high mountain streams in the area of Ninfa; it becomes dirtier and dirtier as it heads toward the sea, picking up the runoff from a succession of factories, farms and homes.

Professor Berger found that half of the water in the system was severely contaminated, he said, with phosphorus and nitrogen levels that get worse as it runs through the canals toward the coast.

“In terms of phosphorus, much of the water is in the raw-sewage range, and in terms of nitrates, it was in the swine effluent range — like being right downstream from a pig farm,” he said.

By the time the water reaches the sea at some outlets, Professor Berger’s aerial photos show, it has become a plume of silt filled with pollutants. Pharmaceutical factories and large farms are along the canals. Farmers also use the water for irrigation.

Presented with his research, local officials were surprised at the portrait of pollution that emerged. They were also impressed enough with the solution he proposed that they are continuing to work with him now that he is back in the United States.

“He studied the zone from a different point of view than ours,” said Carlo Perotto, the planning director for the province. “We had different people concerned with water, industry and agriculture. He opened a new way of thinking.”

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Descent Article on the Cutters

Portland mo-ped fans get some big buzz
by Nicole Santa Cruz, The Oregonian
Saturday September 06, 2008, 9:31 PM
Members of the mo-ped club the Puddle Cutters wheel through Southeast Portland on a recent Sunday afternoon. The group is part of a national movement of mostly urban twentysomethings and early thirtysomethings who buy antique mo-peds and fix them up.
They ride in packs that sound like swarms of mosquitoes. They're tough, tattooed and territorial. Initiation rituals are practiced, and their bike loyalty doesn't change with the seasons.
They won't, however, hurt you, and they don't ride Harleys. And while their name is the Puddle Cutters and they call themselves a gang, they are, essentially, just a bunch of self-proclaimed dorks whose bike of choice is -- the mo-ped.
That's right, the mo-ped. Unless you're too young, you remember mo-peds -- those bikes with attached engines from the late '70s that top out at 30 miles an hour, unless, of course, they're tricked out.
Now local groups like the Puddle Cutters are the soul of a nationwide, growing movement called the Moped Army, which consists mostly of urban twentysomethings and early thirtysomethings who buy fixer-upper antique mo-peds in cities such as Portland, Seattle and San Francisco.
The gangs ride for a multitude of reasons: The retro-cool individualism of it, a low-cost and efficient transportation mode amid high gas prices, the need to get dirty and grimy amid friends. Or, just because they like mo-peds.
And they're yet another example of a Portland mini-subculture trying to maintain its authenticity and individualism amid raging popularity. Like cyclists and motorized-scooter riders, mo-ped aficionados are seeing their ranks swell exponentially -- even beyond the gangs and the Moped Army.
Dan Kastner of San Francisco, a co-owner of a national mo-ped shop called 1977 Mopeds and a founder of the army, said that when he and buddies Simon King and Brennan Sang started the first mo-ped gang in Kalamazoo, Mich., in 1997, mo-peds were "pretty much dead."
"They basically were a weird oddity that was really dated to the fringes," he said.
But the new breed of hard-core enthusiasts such as the Puddle Cutters have become like antique hot rod collectors: They pine over ways to fix their vintage bikes. At weekly gang meetings, talk of carburetors, pistons, wrenches and spark plugs fills the air.
And while they welcome the returning popularity of the mo-ped, the Puddle Cutters remain an exclusive and elite group that prefers old-school mo-peds to the modern, high-tech machine. Bob Hansen, a founding Puddle Cutter and a local business owner, said it's getting harder to keep his gang small, since mo-peds are becoming so popular on the streets.
He said his gang and the Moped Army make up a useful network of enthusiasts who trade parts and knowledge of their vintage bikes. And it signifies a camaraderie.
"We're being very selective on who we're going to let into the gang," he says. But "anyone is welcome to come hang out and do whatever."
Though the older bikes are usually unreliable, Puddle Cutters say they have a strong fondness and connection to their rides.
"Because most of the bikes we ride are vintage, each of them has its own problems," says Erica Allison, a 25-year-old Puddle Cutter who calls her bike the "indestructible little mo-ped."
"It's kind of like owning a car where you know exactly how to start it and that sort of thing."
The Puddle Cutters like to meet up a couple of times a week and "swarm" -- or ride in a pack -- around town. They usually meet up in Southeast Portland but say "the sky's the limit" as to where they will ride. Whether it's Clackamas or Troutdale, the streets near Mount Tabor or hilly neighborhoods around Milwaukie, they have probably swarmed it.
But they don't cause trouble.
"They hardly wreak havoc," said Cathe Kent, a Portland Police Bureau spokeswoman, who said the gang is basically harmless. And though the mo-ped enthusiasts say they don't necessarily hate anyone on a bike or scooter, their choice of transportation is a little against the grain.
"In a city such as Portland where bikes are all the rage, they're rebellious," said Adrian Melnick, a 28-year-old waiter/artist/musician and a Puddle Cutter.
But it takes more than just an interest to get a vintage mo-ped, said Hansen, who said that when people ask him about mo-peds he questions them right back.
"I ask them the same thing every time," he says. "Are you looking for a hobby or are you looking for transportation?"
If they answer transportation, a new mo-ped may be the thing.
But if they have time for a hobby, go vintage, he says.
The neat thing about them is the plethora of different makes and models, Hansen said. Every company that made bicycles and motorcycles back in the '70s made a mo-ped. "I think it's more of the aesthetic and the look of the really older bikes that are really cool."
But the newer models such as the Tomo, a mo-ped that is usually out of stock at scooter and mo-ped shops around town, doesn't require the will to fix.
Jim Smith, a co-owner of Ptown Scooters off Southeast Division Street and 33rd Place, says many are looking to the mo-ped as an alternative means of transportation.
"We get folks who have never ridden before and want to be comfortable," he says. People are also turning to mo-peds because of their 100-miles-to-the-gallon fuel economy and the ease of riding them.
But of the Puddle Cutters, he says they just like to have fun.
"It's one thing to go have a reading club, and its another to grab six friends, load up your bikes and go to Kalamazoo for a rally."
It definitely appeals to the aesthetic of something that's goofy and retro, said Eric Sabatino, the only certified mo-ped mechanic in town and an employee at Ptown Scooters. "Retro-hilarious stuff like big hair and fanny packs and brightly colored shoes is becoming cool again, too," he says.
But he still insists the club is just a group of best friends.
"We all like punk rock music and being kind of dirty," he jokes. "We're all of that sort of school and mindset. We were all the weird kids with black fingernail polish in high school."
But it's still exclusive. "You're not going to be a Puddle Cutter unless you're our best friend."

San Francisco Rally Promo

The CREATURES of the LOIN present.... from graham french on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Juicy Tidbits from Walker Percy

Faith, I would think, is the actual belief that what one hopes for is attainable. A man dying of thirst in the desert may hope for water and have no faith that he will get it. But suppose there is a second man, who stands atop the next dune and makes a signal to him, perhaps with semaphores, signifying two H's and an O. Now the first man is entitled to faith.

I would agree with Flannery O'Connor that if she spends three hours in the morning writing, she has to spend the rest of the day getting over it. This doesn't leave much time for square dancing. Bourbon is better anyhow.

From an Interview by Robyn Leary, 1984

Sir Edward Strachey's Introduction to Lear's Nonsense Songs and Stories

By Sir Edward Strachey, Bart.

What is Nonsense? I know when you do not ask me. I know that in infancy it is as the very air we breathe; that it cheers and strengthens us in the long weary working ways of manhood; and brightens and gladdens our old age. But how can I bring it within the words of a definition? If the question is pressed, I must answer it with another. What is Sense? Sense is the recognition, adjustment, and maintenance of the proper and fitting relations of the affairs of ordinary life. It is a constitutional tact, a keeping touch with all around it, rather than a conscious and deliberate action of the intellect. It almost seems the mental outcome and expression of our five senses; and perhaps it is for this reason, as well as because the sense of the individual always aims at keeping itself on the average level of his fellows, that we usually talk of sense as Common Sense. If we call it Good Sense, it is to remind ourselves that there is a right and a wrong in it as in everything human. But it is not Bad Sense, but Nonsense which is the proper contrary of Sense. In contradiction to the relations and harmonies of life, Nonsense sets itself to discover and bring forward the incongruities of all things within and without us. For while Sense is, and must remain, essentially prosaic and commonplace, Nonsense has proved not to be an equally prosaic and commonplace negative of Sense, not a mere putting forward of incongruities and absurdities, but a bringing out a new and deeper harmony of life in and through its contradictions. Nonsense in fact, in this use of the word, has shown itself to be a true work of the imagination, a child of genius, and its writing one of the Fine Arts.

From the days when Aristotle investigated the philosophy of laughter, and Aristophanes gave laughter its fullest - I might say its maddest - expression on the stage at Athens, down to this week's issue of "Punch," Nonsense has asserted and made good its claim to a place among the Arts. It has indeed pressed each of them in turn into its service. Nonsense has found the highest expression of itself in music, painting, sculpture, and every form of poetry and prose. The so-called Nonsense Club, which could count Hogarth and Cowper among its members, must have been worthy of the name, for so we have the "March to Finchley" and "John Giplin" to testify; but as far as I know, Edward Lear first openly gave Nonsense its due place and honour when he called what he wrote pure and absolute Nonsense, and gave the affix of "Nonsense" to every kind of subject; and while we may say, as Johnson did of Goldsmith, that there was hardly a subject that he did not handle, we may add with Johnson, that there was none that he did not adorn by his handling. His pen and pencil vied with each other in pouring forth new kinds of Nonsense Songs, Nonsense Stories, Nonsense Alphabets, and Nonsense Botany. His visit to India supplied him with matter for what I might call Nonsense Philology and Nonsense Politics; and ever since his death I have been able to add two new forms of his Nonsense, an Eclogue with the true classical ring, or the Heraldic Blazon of his Cat Foss; the music to which he set the "Pelican Chorus" and the "Yonghy Bonghy Bo" is worthy of the words to which it is wedded; and those who remember the humorous melancholy with which the old man sat down at the piano to play and sing those songs, will give his Nonsense Music a place too.
But "pure and absolute" as Edward Lear declared his Nonsense to be, he was no mere buffoon. His own sketch of his life, given in another part of this volume, and fully confirmed by all that he has left behind him, shows him to have been a conscientious lover of hard work, from the time when, at the age of fifteen, he began to earn "bread and cheese" by selling his "queer songs and sketches," at prices from ninepence to four shillings. This love of hard work is so characteristic of genius, that a great man has (no doubt with some exaggeration) made the capacity for taking infinite pains a definition of genius itself, while the individual humour which is shown in Lear's pictures is itself the sufficient proof of his genius. He was a landscape painter of individual power. The mere list of the books of Natural History which he illustrated; of the many and distant lands which, poor and weak in health, he visited; and his journals and records of these places, "with such a pencil, such a pen," is enormous; and all this while he was carefully cultivating and training himself in the proper work of an artist, which was the real business of his life. And while it is true that, without all this preparation, the Books of Nonsense could not have been written, it is true also that they are only the outcome and overflow of a life which was no less serious and noble than genial and loving. Like Shakespeare, he understood that all merriment should be held "within the limit of becoming mirth," and this limit he found for himself in his fondness for children, - "he loved to see little folks merry," - and in that habit of doing conscientious and finished work which characterises the true artist. He gives an account for the beginning and growth of this work in the Introduction to his "More Nonsense," to which I refer the reader. I have myself said more elsewhere on a subject which has for me a never-ending interest. I will rather give here an account of a visit paid by my son Henry to our old friend:-

"When staying at Cannes at Christmas 1882, I was invited by Mr. Lear to go over to San Remo to spend a few days with him. Mr. Lear's villa was large, and the second he had built; the first became unbearable to him from a large hotel having been planted in front of it. So he put his new house in a place by the sea, where, as he said, nothing could interrupt his light until the fishes built. The second house was exactly like the first. This, Mr. Lear explained to me, was necessary, or else Foss, his cat, might not have approved of the new villa. At breakfast the morning after I arrived, this much-thought-of, though semitailed, cat jumped in at the window and ate a piece of toast from my hand. This, I found, was considered an event; when visitors stayed at Villa Tennyson, Foss generally hid himself in the back regions; but his recognition of me was a sort of 'guinea stamp,' which seemed to please Mr. Lear greatly, and assure him of my fitness to receive the constant acts of kindness he was showing me. Being an art student, my interest in Mr. Lear's paintings was as great as in his Nonsense, and I can vividly recall the morning spent in his studio, a large room upstairs. He was then at work on a series of water-colours, and his method seemed to be to dip a brush into a large wide-necked bottle of water-colour, and when he had made one or two touches on the drawing, to carry it to the end of the room and put it on the floor, the performance being repeated until quite a row was arranged across the room. Downstairs he had a gallery lighted from the top, which had many beautiful water-colours along the walls, and one great canvas of Mount Athos, which seemed finished, but which he was always making experiments upon in white chalk. At the end of the gallery stood a huge canvas, I think it was 18 feet long, covered over with lines in squares, but no drawing on it. This, he told me, was to be a picture of Enoch Arden on the desert island. My remark that this would be a great undertaking roused Mr. Lear to declare warmly that an old man must never relax his efforts or fail to attempt great things because he was seventy. I could not, however, but feel that there was some inconsistency between this and his habitually saying he was going to live two years longer, and no more. Mr. Lear as an artist was by sympathy a pre-Raphaelite; he was not one of the original brotherhood, but considered himself a nephew of the originators of the movement, and he told me he had written to his friend, Sir John Millais, 'My dear aunt, I send you a drawing of my cat to show you how I am getting on.'

"Mr. Lear told me that, as a boy, his voice being a good one, he used to be taken to sing at artists' parties, and he was very proud of once having heard Turner (whose art he worshipped) sing a song. Apparently there was no great matter in the ditty, and the note was very untuneable, for Turner had neither voice nor ear. The refrain Mr. Lear remembered, and used to hum, chuckling to himself, 'And the world goes round a-bound, a-bound.' Mr. Lear told me that he approved of the saying of some one, 'Study the works of the Almighty first, and Turner next.' Once meeting a friend who had stayed in a house where Turner was painting, Mr. Lear anxiously asked, 'Cannot you tell me something the great man said?' 'He never said anything,' was the reply.

"Mr. Lear's household arrangements were peculiar. Three brothers, young Albanians, - sons of his old servant Giorgio, - did all the housework and cooking, and the youngest, a youth of seventeen, he looked after with fatherly care. He had taught him to say the Lord's Prayer with him every evening, telling me how he felt it his duty to prevent the young man growing up without religion, and expressing his horror of a godless world.

"Mr. Lear was by temperament melancholy; it was not the grave air assumed by a humourist to give his jokes more point, but a gentle sadness through which is humour shone. He felt keenly the neglect of the world for his pictures, but he seemed anxious to prevent all but the nearest friends seeing them. When I was staying with him, it happened to be the afternoon on which he was supposed to be at home to show his pictures to possible buyers. Early in the afternoon he told me that he sent his servants out, and was going to open the door himself. He explained that if any one came he did not like he could send them away, and also keep out Germans. He seemed to have a great horror and fear that a German might be let in by accident. What caused this fear I was not able to discover. As the afternoon advanced a ring at the door-bell was heard, and Mr. Lear went to open the door. Sitting in the gallery, I heard the voice of a lady inquiring if she could see the pictures, and I could hear Mr. Lear, in a voice of the most melancholy kind, telling her that he never showed his pictures now, he was much too ill; and from his voice and words I have no doubt the lady went away with the idea that a most unhappy man lived here. Mr. Lear came back to the gallery with much satisfaction at the working of his plan, which was so far superior to the servant's 'Not at home,' as by his method he could send away bored and let in people he liked. Later on, some friends he wanted to see came, and the melancholy old man, too ill to show his pictures, changed into the most genial host. In the evenings he often sang; the 'Yonghy Bonghy Bo' was inimitable. His voice had gone, but the refinement and expression was remarkable. His touch, too, was finished and smooth; unfortunately his playing was by ear, so that many of the really beautiful songs he composed were lost. One such still haunts me; the words, Tennyson's 'In the Garden at Swainston,' were set to most touching and appropriate music. I think he felt the words very strongly; they echoed his own feelings; he had outlived many friends, and many dead men 'walked in the walks' with him. He showed me a long frame with photographs of his friends in it; it hung in the drawing-room, but there were several blank places. He told me when a friend died his picture was taken out and put into a frame hanging in his bedroom. This melancholy never soured his mind nor stopped his matchless flow of humour and bad puns; but it coloured them all. My visit to Villa Tennyson coming to an end, on the last evening after dinner he wrote a letter for me to take back to my father, sending him the then unpublished conclusion to Mr. and Mrs. Discobbolos; and when this was done he took from a place in his bureau a number of carefully cut-out backs of old envelopes, and on these he drew, to send to my sister, then eight years old, the delightful series of heraldic pictures of his cat. After he had done seven he said it was a great shame to caricature Foss, and laid aside the pen.

"The next day ended my visit - one which I shall ever remember. The touching kindness which marked all his actions towards me I shall never forget; and I still see the tall, melancholy form, with loose clothes and round spectacles, leaning over the railings of the San Remo railway station, though happily I did not then know that I was looking on that kindly figure for the lasy time. H. S. "

In conclusion, and as counterpart to this account of the good old man and his household, let me commend to the reader the autobiographical sketches, to one of which I have already referred. They were published "By Way Of Preface" to a former edition of the present volume and are here reprinted.

Edward Strachey. Sutton Court, September 1894.



MEANING:noun: An isolated hill or mountain that, having resisted erosion, rises above a plain.

ETYMOLOGY:After Mount Monadnock, a peak in New Hampshire, whose name in Algonquian means isolated mountain. Also see peneplain.

USAGE:"Almost every Concord street has one: a household that leaves a monadnock of trash bags beside the road each week."Pay-to-throw is Right Way For Concord to Go; Concord Monitor (New Hampshire); Feb 1, 2007.

From Anu Garg's wonderful Word A Day

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Temple of Vespasian

The purpose of this analytique is to provide a way of looking at ancient buildings and taking them apart in such a way that we understand why and how they were put together, and how their construction demonstrates their purpose. In this analytique I attempted to analyze the Temple of Vespasian in the Forum Romanum. The one whose only remains are three columns...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Quote of the Day:

This corn is well grown and Carthage must be destroyed. -Cato the elder

Sunday, September 14, 2008

.....Wini Widi Wici on the Weekend

Italians vote for ugliest English words

By Nick Squires in Rome Last Updated: 5:31PM BST 09 Sep 2008

For years it was the French who worked themselves into a lather over their native tongue being infected by English.

Now it is their southern neighbours across the Alps who are wringing their hands at the growing incursion of Anglo-Saxon words and phrases into every day use.

From 'il weekend' to 'lo stress' and 'le leadership', Italians increasingly sprinkle their conversations with English terms, some of them comically mangled and bizarre sounding to a native English speaker.

'Baby parking', for example, is a strange conflation which means child care centre or nursery.
A 'baby gang', on the other hand, is a more sinister construct. It means a group of young criminals or hoodlums.

As with the French and their use of Franglais, Italians sometimes throw in English words to appear worldly and cosmopolitan, and at other times to describe things slightly alien to the Italian mindset, from 'il fitness' to 'il full immersion training'.

But now a cultural guardian of the Italian language is saying 'basta!' – enough.

The Dante Alighieri Society, a less strident equivalent of France's Academie Francaise which promotes Italian culture and language around the world, has called on Italians to reject Anglo-Saxon linguistic imports, 'Anglitaliano', and return to the true lingua italiana.

Over the last four months the society, named after the Florentine poet Dante, author of The Divine Comedy and regarded as the father of the Italian language, asked visitors to its website to nominate their least favourite Anglicisms.

The results judge the ugliest imports to be 'weekend', 'welfare' and 'OK', followed by 'briefing', 'mission', 'know how', 'shampoo' and 'cool'.

The worlds of business and politics contribute many of the alien words, from 'question time' to 'premier' and 'bipartisan'.

Other English words regularly used by Italians which escaped the ire of the society's correspondents include 'sexy', 'webmaster' and 'water', short for water closet or lavatory.
"Italians unite against il weekend", the society declared on its website. "In short, it is clear that Italians are calling for more respect and more protection for correct language."

Many Italians are unlikely to be swayed by such exhortations.

"I don't think it matters if we use English words," said Alessandra, 25, a secretary in a Rome travel agency. "It's part of globalisation. Often it's faster – like using 'il weekend' instead of 'fine settimana'."

But her boss, Maria, disagreed. "People think it's chic to use English words but I don't like it at all. I want to speak either Italian or English, not an Esperanto mix of the two. It's important to keep language clean."

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Train Station Project

The evolution continous:

Bridge? or Zeppelin...?

Civic Marginalia?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Obama & Solzhenitsyn...


Train Station

My first design project this fall is a small train station in southern Michigan.
In this design we are supposed to begin to integrate building systems, accessability and structures into our design.

Here are some of my ideas:

The asymetrical

The Columns

And, the brackets (my favorite)

It also includes a bridge.

I'm thinking about something like this (which is inspired by Subiaco):

Monday, September 8, 2008

Motorcyclist Dies in 2 Stroke Speed Record Attempt

Sep 5, 12:41 am EDT

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (AFP) – A motorcyclist was killed after losing control of his bike at 385 kilometers (239 miles) per hour and crashing on Utah’s famous Bonneville Salt Flats, authorities and reports said Thursday.

The American Motorcyclist Association said in a statement on its website that 49-year-old Cliff Gullett of Montana was killed in an accident during a time trial at the location, around 185 kilometers (115 miles) west of Salt Lake City.

The AMA said Gullett was competing in the 500cc class during a time trial speed racing event when his bike crashed. Reports said Gullett was aiming to set a record for the fastest two-stroke, two-cylinder motorcycle.

The Salt Lake Tribune cited police investigators as saying Gullett was travelling at 239 miles per hour before the crash.

The Bonneville Salt Flats have been used as a speed testing ground since 1896 and became famous in 1935 when British motorsport legend Malcolm Campbell broke the world land speed record at the site.

Eat my dust, Obi-Wan

From The Sunday Times
September 7, 2008

When Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman completed Long Way Round - their 19,000-mile motorcycle ride from London to New York, via Europe, Asia and Alaska - the actors raised the bar for gap-year travellers the world over. Their epic ride was filmed for TV and young men fantasised about following in their tyre tracks, leaving everything behind and hitting the open road with nothing but a bike and a buddy.
Sitting at his desk in the City of London, Tom Smith, a recently graduated economist in his early twenties, was one of them. Not content with just watching and wishing, he and two friends decided to recreate the second of McGregor’s great adventures - Long Way Down - a 15,000-mile journey from Britain to South Africa, shown on BBC2 last year.
Only Smith wanted to go one better. Whereas McGregor and Boorman had been followed by a team that included two off-road vehicles, their drivers, a couple of cameramen, an editor and a producer, Smith and his friends would do it properly. That meant no cushy support team, even though they faced collisions, breakdowns, hungry lions, temperatures as high as 50C and weeks when bad food and upset stomachs saw them dropping several jeans sizes.
“We thought doing it unsupported would give us more freedom and make it more of an adventure, but it was also a financial necessity,” said Smith, as he neared the end of his three-month journey last week. Part of that adventure has been a series of breakdowns that meant he’d just spent an uncomfortable 1,800 miles riding pillion over rough ground.
“We wanted to do it off our own backs but there have been times when if someone had said, ‘Here’s a shiny new bike to ride,’ we would have accepted that with open arms. If something went wrong with our bikes - and it has done - we had to either fix them ourselves or find someone who could, which, when you’re in the middle of nowhere on a dirt track, isn’t always easy.”
It was June 3 when Smith, on a well-timed sabbatical from his job at the Bank of England, set out from London on his specially adapted Kawasaki KLR650, leaving an “out of office reply” that must rank as one of the coolest. It said simply: “I’m not in the office at the moment - I’m riding across Africa.”
He was joined by two Canadian friends he had met a couple of years before while studying for a masters in economics at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Yarema Bezchlibnyk, 33, - known as Jerry - had learnt to ride only nine months before, while Tyson Brust, 30, studying to be a doctor, had been riding for about two years. “Tyson’s the navigator, Jerry’s the linguist and I’m the money man,” said Smith. “Thanks to my job I know all the exchange rates.”
It had taken a couple of years to assemble enough money for the trip (about £15,000 each), to kit out their bikes with tougher suspension, crash bars and stronger bolts, and have some basic off-road training.
They planned to travel across Europe, through Syria and Jordan, then down through Africa, roughly following the Long Way Down route, via Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia and Botswana, arriving in South Africa early this month.
All their gear, including tents, sleeping bags, first aid kits, spare parts such as tyres and brake pads, a video camera and clothing for all temperatures had to be carried. “Food had to be found along the way, often from small roadside stalls, sometimes from generous families,” said Smith. “Goat meat, or, more accurately, goat gristle stew, lots and lots of rice and camel stew.”
The new diet didn’t agree with them. “After leaving Turkey our bowels developed a bipolar disorder, flipping between a dammed state and one of uncontrollable flooding,” wrote Smith in his blog. “It’s when the dam bursts that you run into trouble. In that situation it was not uncommon for one of us to yell ‘campo’ at the others - our code word for telling the other two to carry on ahead while business was taken care of in the nearest bush.”
The cries of “campo” went on for weeks. “We could definitely move our belts up a few notches tighter after that.”
In Ethiopia, where the roads were a bustling mix of cars, bicycles, donkeys, horses, dogs, carts, people and farmers moving herds of livestock, they were dicing constantly with disaster. “Ethiopian roads are very dangerous; we all came off our bikes there and there were lots of near misses. We met up with a couple of other bikers along the way and we saw one of them crash into a small child who ran out in front of him without looking. The kid was okay - he broke his leg but he’ll make a full recovery. It was a horrific sight to see.”
A few hundred miles up the road, Brust collided with a dog in similar circumstances, flying off his bike onto the tarmac and injuring his shoulder. “I was doing maybe 30 or 40mph and I barely had time to touch the front brake and my front wheel went right over the dog,” he recalled. “The dog actually got up and ran off, but after that kind of impact I doubt it would have survived. It left me pretty shaken.”
Bezchlibnyk, the least experienced of the group, once lost control of his bike while riding up some steps into a hotel courtyard and crashed into the lobby. Temperatures peaked in Sudan, where it was 50C in the midday sun, and the trio had to take breaks in the shade to recover.
“We were wearing jeans and T-shirts and still sweating buckets and drinking water constantly - you’d have passed out in leathers,” said Smith.
In Kenya they biked across the Masai Mara national park, spotting wildebeest, cheetahs and elephants - all from a safe distance. “On our way there we were riding around looking for a campsite and it was pitch black. When we found one, we were warned about driving around in the dark as there were elephants about, which may have explained the huge piles of dung in our path - apparently they are quite dangerous,” said Smith.
On a good day they managed to cover 250 miles; when they needed to make up ground they travelled as far as 450 miles, but on some days, particularly in Tanzania, where the unmade roads were bumpy and sandy, it could take 12 hours to cover just 100 miles.
“In one 150-mile stretch full of rocky terraces and deep sandy ruts, Jerry dropped his bike at least 14 times. Tyson and I fared slightly better, we only came off about three or four times.”
The following night, after another arduous ride, they were struggling to make up time. With darkness falling, they were warned that lions had been spotted close by, so the team pushed on for another 30 miles, Smith nursing a sprained ankle from a tumble and Bezchlibnyk struggling to steer his bike, which had been damaged by his many falls.
On closer inspection the following morning it was clear Bezchlibnyk’s bike had a cracked frame and could have split in two at any moment. Remarkably, they found a local mechanic who welded it together, but the next day Bezchlibnyk was so preoccupied with his frame, he didn’t notice one of his panniers drop off - the one containing his passport and all his papers. “He didn’t notice his case was missing for 60 miles,” said Smith. “And since our cases look exactly like those that drug dealers might use to haul vast quantities of cash around, it’s almost certain it was being prised open in some Tanzanian village by then.” Bezchlibnyk headed off to Dar es Salaam to get new papers, hoping to rejoin his friends further along the route. Smith and Brust set off alone but within a few hundred miles they, too, had ground to a halt. “I forgot to check my engine oil - a cardinal sin in the motorcycling world and one that I paid for dearly,” said Smith.
Starved of oil, his Kawasaki broke down north of Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, and there was no getting it going again. No local garage could get the parts quickly enough, so the plan was to get the bike trucked to Johannesburg for repair while Smith carried on the trip on the back of Brust’s bike. They covered almost 1,800 miles like this, including a few hundred miles across the Botswana salt flats - “like riding across the surface of the moon and pretty hard when you’re riding two-up”.
With his Kawasaki still languishing in Malawi, Smith rented a BMW F 800 GS to cruise the last few hundred miles in style. Then, as if the trip hadn’t been eventful enough and with just two days’ biking left, he and Brust decided to do “the world’s highest commercial bungee jump” – throwing themselves 708ft off a platform on the Bloukrans River bridge near Plettenberg Bay in South Africa.
They finally made it into Cape Town on Friday with Bezchlibnyk not far behind. After 15,000 miles in the saddle, Smith admits he’s going to find it hard to go back to his desk at the Bank of England, though thanks to a diesel shortage in Malawi, there has been no truck to transport his bike to South Africa and his ailing Kawasaki is still stranded. “I’m going to have to go back and get it at some point,” he said.
The trio are raising money for two charities: Riders for Health, which provides and maintains motorcycles for healthcare workers in Africa, and Dignitas, a charity that aims to improve access to treatment for HIV and Aids in Africa. For more information or to donate, go to

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Wearable Motorcycle


"Fascinating" is what I said to her. "Positively fascinating." Three glasses of wine and five cigarettes seemed so recent; almost as though I hadn't begun at all. And yet there it was, plain and sleek in the evening light, barely detectable through the long, off-white curtains which were always floating out in just such a way that I could not quite tell what it was. "I mean it simply isn't even boring at all." At those words she rose quite quickly and disappeared amongst a row of urns from which spouted rather illegal looking ferns. "Fascinating" I repeated to myself slumping forward to pour another glass of Rioja.