Jawdropping views of cozy homes built in an abandoned office tower, a lagoon, a recycling heap and more

TED Blog

In Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, nearly seventy percent of the population lives in slums that seem to drape over every corner of the city.  In Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, nearly 70 percent of the population lives in slums that appear to drape like silk over every hill of the city.

[ted_talkteaser id=1846]Iwan Baan is not as interested in what architects build as he is in the beautiful ways that people appropriate the spaces once the planners are gone. In today’s talk, Baan — whose breathtaking image of lower Manhattan after Hurricane Sandy hangs on at least one of our walls — shows incredible images from communities thriving in ways that seem quite opposite to the uniformity of suburbs. First, Baan takes us to Chandigarh, India, where people inhabit buildings created by modernist architects Le Corbusier in very different ways than expected. Then, Baan takes us to Caracas, Venezuela, where an abandoned 45-story building has become a miniature city. From there, Baan  takes us to a Nigerian slum built on water, to a…

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I love when my dog digs random spots for no reason.

– Ninjas used to use special ninja letters to write to each other. Always so sneaky. What did they do for fun? I hope they cut loose from time to time.

– I hope they never decipher the Voynich Manuscript.

– Dolphins bite on puffer fish to enjoy their narcotic-like effects. Puffin’ on dat fish shyt. Hittin’ dat puff. And having so much recreational sex. Those dolphins sure know how to have fun.

– Days are getting longer. Each day is a tiny, tiny bit longer than the one before. Because Earth is spinning slower and slower.

– The moon keeps spinning further away from us, at the same speed as our fingernails grow. It must’ve looked even prettier from Earth a long time ago.

– The fact that people use cell phones a lot nowadays sucks in terms of aesthetics in movies. They’re so ugly, but have to be included in modern pieces or it wouldn’t seem realistic. They’re worse than TVs because most  people have cell phones on them at all times and use it to communicate, whereas a TV can just be sitting in the background.

– If you were on the equator and kept moving at the same speed in the opposite direction as the Earth spinning, your day would never end.

– “Temporal provincialism, our difficulty imagining times unlike our own.”- Arno Karlen

– So glad the GoldieBlox commercial played during the Super Bowl. Crazy thinking how far it’s come since the idea was first created.

“Today is the oldest you’ve ever been and the youngest you’ll ever be.”

– “Today is the oldest you’ve ever been and the youngest you’ll ever be.”

– Some babies aren’t named until they are 1 or older, because the chances of him/her dying is so high.

– Getting rid of the last vial of small pox, which might sound like a great idea, will actually be the first time that humans will have voluntarily extinguished a species.

– How do film critics rate movies without fully understanding every cultural difference?

– Lyme disease is so closely related to syphilis that it could cause a false positive.

– A woman was injected with testosterone because she wanted to become a man. Although she considered herself a feminist before the transformation, she could not help but to envision aggressive pornographic scenes whenever “he” encountered females in public once the testosterone shots started taking effect. It made him feel like some sort of a monster.

– Monetary value of your life increases with the number and quality of relationships you have with others (family, friends, husband/wife). Boyfriend/girlfriends are worth less than married couples.

– “An eye for an eye will make us all blind.” – Mahatma Gandhi

– Camps are sort of like cults. They strangely have kind of brainwashing effects. Whenever you’re at a camp, it allows you to be this other person that you’re not back home.

– Coincidences are crazy. They are so surprising and unlikely that sometimes they have a frightening aspect to them.

End of Funemployment

– Counterfeit drugs. Not too big of a problem in the U.S., but imagine not being able to trust medicines that are supposed to be making you healthier. You take it to feel better, but instead the drug contains toxic chemicals that make you feel worse. I would much rather be unemployed than have some forms of work, and a maker of counterfeit drugs would be one of them.

– If your medicine cabinet is in the bathroom, it might not be the best place for it. Some drugs need to be kept away from heat and moisture. These drug thought came from the drug development course I took online on edX.

– 7 generation thinking. Thinking that puts into consideration and learns from the 3 previous generations, looks ahead 3 generations into the future, and applies all of that to the present generation. I thinks that’s a pretty good coverage of the generations. Some things can’t be planned or even imagined if the timescale was any narrower. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BFzEI1rZG_U

Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals by Charles Darwin. I want to read it.

– By observing you’re altering, already participating. You’re already there. It’s resolved. You don’t think. Thinking thinks, no I’s involved. Don’t get attached to your thoughts. Don’t rewind, just let it go. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A1YRsyInIY4

– Be healthy for your future kids. Your body is your own but if you plan to have kids in the future, they’re gonna need you too. Good point pointed out to me by Louis C.K.

– Biography of a Germ by Arno Karlen. Just started readin it.

– People who read off of teleprompters, like news anchors and the President, are kinda like singing karaoke with no music. Talking karaoke.

– Paleomagnetism. “Permanent magnetism in rocks, resulting from the orientation of the Earth’s magnetic field at the time of rock formation in a past geologic age. It is a source of information for the paleomagnetic studies of polar wanderings and plate tectonics.” So the magnetic field of the Earth tends to move around over time, and it’s direction and intensity can be read from how certain minerals form in rocks.

– Chimps are more closely related to humans than to gorillas. This and similar thoughts come from the human evolution course I’m taking online.

– People can look at the past by digging the ground and finding fossils or looking up at a star. You stand in the present.

– The movie Holy Motors was nice on the eyes.

– Civil forfeiture. Shit’s fucked. Can’t believe things like this can happen in the U.S.. The article’s a bit long so I forgive you for not reading the whole thing. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/08/12/130812fa_fact_stillman?currentPage=all

– The words ‘willy nilly’ and ‘blab’. Especially ‘blab’. In various forms too… ‘Blabbing’. ‘blabbed’.

– I miss having a pen pal. Writing letters in general.

– When you see that some event in the past/future happened/will happen on your birthday, you’re like, “That’s my birthday!” But also a lot of other shit happened/will happen on that day all over the world forever ago and forever in the future. Not just your birthday. You are still the most special though, don’t worry.

– Lucy the fossil hominid is about 3.2 million years old. Think about THAT.

– Big brains and bipedality are nice things, but they sure made giving birth pretty tough.

– It’s cool that we still have canine teeth. Makes me feel WILD.

– My dog has a basket full of her toys. Sometimes she digs deep down to find certain toys. How does she choose which one she wants? Does it vary depending on her mood? What are the criteria she considers? ‘NOT feelin Mr. Fox today… Maybe something a bit chewier right now. Minnie? HELL yes.’

– Got a job in Japan with a drug development company. I haven’t accepted the position yet, because I’m still interviewing with a couple of other companies. More info coming up in the near future.

Animal Dreams

Animal Dreams

This is Angel taking over my bed. Sometimes when she’s sleeping she starts to move her paws and make strange sounds that resemble barking a little bit. There’s no doubt that she’s having dog dreams, and I’ve always been so curious as to what her dreams are like.

Is she dreaming about barking at mailmen/ dog neighbors? Maybe about eating meals out of never ending bowls of food? Do dogs have nightmares? Does she have nightmares where she’s given a bath by anyone other than dad? Is her facial recognition enough to recreate our faces in her dreams? Is her brain able to incorporate commands into her dreams? Are the dreams based more on smells rather than visuals like our dreams? Is it in color? What other animals dream? Do hummingbirds dream? What do rabbits dream about? If a sea creature had experienced being caught by a fisherman and returned to sea, can it dream about that? Do animals that live longer have a wider range of dreams? Do they dream about their families? Do they ever remember their dreams upon waking up? Does it affect their behavior while they’re awake? Is there a reason that dreams seem to be pretty widespread among mammals? Were our dreams more similar to other mammals’ before we started to speak and became more civilized?

I’ve always been fascinated by dreams. We don’t have too much control over what we dream about, and we’re pretty much forced to participate in whatever scenario that unfolds in our minds. They can make us feel so much, and yet are also easy to forget. There are dreams that are recurring and you swear that they must have a deeper meaning behind them but they just might not. Some dreams are so shocking that you remember it for years after. Some dreams are so happy/sad that it affects the rest of your day. I like that the possibilities of dreams are endless. You can be in a different place in the world, another time period, or a totally different being altogether. You can dream about people that have passed away, people you can’t meet up with in real life, people who don’t exist. You can act in a way you usually wouldn’t. You can dream in different languages (I increasingly dreamed in English and less in Japanese the longer I lived in the U.S.). There can be made up objects, places, languages, time scales. It can be illogical and confusing. Sometimes you can tell you’re dreaming, other times you’re convinced it’s real. Sometimes you can incorporate sounds you’re actually hearing into the current dream.

Dreams are like movies except you don’t choose them, it’s free, you always watch alone, you’re forced to watch it, you never know how long they actually are, you’re often taking part in them and they’re so vivid that your body can have physical reactions while you’re sleeping.

There was a summer when I used to write down everything I dreamed about right when I woke up, which was when I remembered the most. Everything from where I was, who I interacted with, how I felt, to how the scene changed abruptly and any transformations that occurred. It was a painstaking task, because “a picture is worth a thousand words” and a whole dream that usually made no sense logically took tens of pages at a time to delineate. I tried to figure out why I had certain dreams and where the inspiration came from. I listed the possible sources, and sometimes it would surprise me how random events from the past seemed to pop up out of nowhere, even when the awake-me hadn’t even thought about the events in years.

Although I would like to know more about dreams and their importance, I also like the mysterious aspect of them a lot. Rather than knowing exactly what dreams are, what I would appreciate even more would be an invention that allows someone to share their dream with others, because describing a dream is almost impossible. I wonder if there will be a time in the future when people will be able to use their dreams to their benefit, perhaps being able to watch whatever type of dream you choose, or even study during sleep, which could maybe somehow be helpful in the same way that studying right before you sleep helps to store the material into long term memory. Or a machine that allows tandem dreams so two or more people can participate in the same dream. Until that happens, I guess Angel and I will have to dream about eating never ending meals separately.

Things I’m Thankful For

– My mom’s cooking abilities

– My ability to taste, as well as see, hear, feel, smell

– People who have a good sense of humor (people who think I’m funny)

– That I don’t know everyone so I can still talk to strangers/meet new people

– That there’s still nature left

– Trust-worthy medication when I need it

– Naps/sleeping in

– Humans don’t have predators

– I can say what I want

– People who care about others

– Memory

– Diversity and ability to appreciate it

– People who recorded stuff from the past

– Ability to learn new things

– Internet (keeping up with friends around the world, applying to jobs, learning new things, directions, etc.)

– People who don’t quite get me but try to

– That I’m not allergic to anything

– Public transportation

– People who are understanding

– Comfy clothes

– Anyone who has taught me something

– Cafes without obtrusive music when I’m trying to read

– Seasons

– Great headphones/speakers/camera

– Colors

– “The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment” aka science

– Words and numbers

– Critical thinking

– People who love me, or have at some point

– People who increase the quality of my life just by knowing

– Kind strangers

– Moments when nothing can make you feel bad because you’re so happy

– That I can tell when I’m hungry/hurt/have to go to the bathroom

– That I have the basic necessities of life

– Quality conversations with friends

– Unconditional love

– Ability to feel emotions

– Beautiful things

– Happiness of others who I’ve had an impact on

– No more homework/studying for exams

– Morning coffee, afternoon tea, nighttime drinking

– Any means to keep in touch with family and friends abroad (letters, e-mail, packages, Skype,  traveling)

A Clockwork Orange

Found a copy of this book in a thrift store in Newburyport and decided to buy it (usually only rent books from the library but made an exception because it was used and I had just finished my last book). I didn’t really know what the book was about before starting it, and I still didn’t quite get it for a while after. Many of the words used were made up by the author, Anthony Burgess, and I had to learn what they each meant as I read on. It was a tough process, but I was surprised by how much I could understand without knowing the words. I used the same technique as when reading Spanish, which is to skim the sentences and try to just get a gist of what is happening, filling in the unknown words with my best guess. The actual meaning of the words became clearer as I continued this process. I read later that the author had wanted to use language that could express the slang used by the characters, but would have a timeless limit to it, which would be difficult when using actual slang of any given time. So he decided to create his own slang.

*Spoiler Alert*

At the beginning of the story, the main character, Alex, is a violent, selfish teenager who commits unthinkable crimes with his gang of equally evil youngsters. I was both disgusted and terrified by his behavior, but what was surprising was that I found myself feeling sorry for this same person toward the end of the novel. It might be just me (with my belief that no one is inherently bad) that felt this way, or it could’ve been the author’s convincing depiction of the terrible ways he was treated and how hopeless his life becomes.

The version of the book I read included the final chapter that is not included in some of the versions published in the States. The movie is based on the US version of the novel, so it also does not include the events from the final chapter. I thought the last chapter changed the whole outlook of the book, so some of the US versions and the movie do not do the story justice. It gave hope for the future, an unlikely ending to such a dark novel. I know that not everything leads to a brighter future in real life, but the last chapter just left me with a better feeling than if the book had ended the chapter before. It also acted as a great closure to a novel filled with chaos. I know it’s a selfish desire as the reader to want a happy ending, but I feel like I could understand, to some extent, why Burgess wrote the final chapter.

My Grandparents are Farmers

My Grandparents are Farmers

My grandparents on my mom’s side of the family are farmers in Iwate, Japan, where I was born. They own a rice paddy or two and also grow things like corn, cucumber, tomatoes, radish, spinach, cabbage, pumpkin, potatoes and eggplant. I used to help out a bit when I was younger, and in return I was constantly spoiled with fresh vegetables.

Yesterday, a package my grandparents had sent us arrived. What took up most space in the box was rice from their farm. My mom had helped them plant the seedlings into the paddy when she visited in April. We’re waiting to have the rice until my brother and sister come from for Thanksgiving.

There was also dried seaweed produced in the area heavily affected by the tsunami two years ago. Resiliency amazes me. Tasted so good in miso soup.

Also included in the package was monaka, which is a staple item in every package sent by my grandparents. It’s a Japanese sweet made of red bean paste filling covered with a thin layer of crisp wafers. There are different kinds of filling, like sesame seed and white bean paste. They usually send us way too many of them that we end up giving them away, but we don’t have the heart to tell my grandpa who is convinced that it is our favorite. He always buys them from the same store and tells the workers there about his grandchildren who live in faraway America. We had the honor of finally meeting these workers, who had been proving us with quality monaka for years now, the last time we visited Japan.

The grandparents also sent us Kamome no Tamago, which translates to Seagull’s Egg. It tastes way better than it sounds. It’s white bean filling covered with a thin layer of cake coated with a really thin layer of white chocolate. But THIS time, they sent us the limited edition seasonal version. They were chestnut-flavored. I love everything chestnut-flavored.

My grandma sent us taro stem, tofu, and dried radish, all of which were made and grown by her. Also miso paste, but not made by her. Miso tastes different depending on where you go in Japan, and they sent us the local miso from the area we’re from.

Last but not least, their letters. My grandma usually writes a short, funny letter that expresses her easygoing personality. This time was no different, but she had written her letter on the back of a printed notification stating that her radish had won third place in the local vegetable festival. She was sure that her pumpkin would place pretty high, but it didn’t win anything, while the radish that she hadn’t been paying any attention to did great. My grandpa, on the other hand, writes detailed, beautifully written letters that show his serious and precise nature. His is the one in the photo. His letters are my favorite part about their packages. This time he mentioned that thanks to their source of health, alcohol, they’re still doing very well. He takes some days off, while grandma does not.

My grandparents on my dad’s side are fishermen.

This is Angel

This is Angel

She is an 11-year-old shiba inu. We were shopping at the mall when I was 12 and we stopped by the pet store we usually stop by to play with the cute, sad puppies. That’s when we met her. We took her out of her cage and played with her for a bit and decided we should keep her. So my dad went through the adoption process and she came home with us. My mom, who had been doing her own thang that day, got a nice surprise when she got home. I decided to name her Angel because I thought it was the best name I could give her or any animal at the time. She ate everything. I never got mad because she was too cute but I had to pretend to be mad for training purposes. She attended puppy kindergarten but she was made into the “bad example.” She sucks at socializing to this day. In person form she would be that bitchy girl who’s too good for everyone and eats her own shit. Cold and gross. One time when she was a puppy she stumbled into the sleeping bags my siblings and I were lying in and cuddled with us. It was the cutest, most affectionate thing she would do for the rest of her life. She howled along with my clarinet practice when I was still cool enough to be in band. She worships food above all else. She used to run off and we would chase her around in our car and the neighbors would help us out. I missed her when I was at college, but she probably didn’t miss me. She pretends she’s happy when we come home, but who knows how she really feels. She uses me for my bed a lot of the nights. But I let her because she’s cute and lets me pet her while she drifts off to sleep. She’s one of the best things to have happened to the Fuchino family. If you don’t like her, you might not want to follow my posts, because I feel like she might be a frequent topic of future posts. And she also doesn’t like you so it’s all good.