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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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.

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.