Monday, July 9, 2012

Top Urban Documentaries

I've updated my other blog, about urbanism (and my interests since being back from Peace Corps - though I had them there, too).  The latest post is the Top Documentaries about Urbanism and Suburbia.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Form-based codes

I've been doing a lot of reading about urban planning for grad school. And one of the latest things I've come across is form-based codes. I'd heard about them before, but didn't explore them ... too much. Pues, I think getting back to caring about the form of buildings and their impacts on the public realm would do the US a lot of good. Here is a visual:

Original location:

For more info, visit the Form-Based Codes Institute website.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I'd like to change the title of my blog ...

I've been back from El Salvador for a while and I'm now going to Portland State University for a Masters in Urban and Regional Planning. I can see why it's so highly praised in the professional community.

I've realized a lot in the Peace Corps. I've learned that you can do amazing things that you don't want to do. When I first arrived, I felt as a tourist. I felt odd in a place without basic furnishings (potable water, non-leaking roof, glass windows, shower, clean out house, privacy, language I knew). Now, I'd feel right at home. And I met some great people whom I'll know my entire life.

There were times during training, when I wanted to quit. I remember my APCD Carlos saying, "Peace Corps isn't for everyone. If you don't want to be here, now is the time to leave." I felt like I was lying by not speaking up.

I made some amazing friends in the Peace Corps and have strong ties to El Salvador that will last my entire lifetime. I met Isabel during my service and we now have Alejandro. My son. He has dual citizenship. When I think about his life, I feel to a responsibility to ensure he knows both of his cultures. I've become a lot more awaken to racisimin the United States. This makes me think about living in another country - likely El Salvador, at least part time, but perhaps another Latin country.

I feel grateful to have the opportunity to be where I am right now. I am very excited about urban planning(!) and am stoked about what I'm learning. I think I'm going to start a blog about planning issues (that explains the title). How do I start a new blog? I want to write about my idea for a book. I am curious about different cities in the world and what makes them great, but on a comparative perspective. Kind of like Jared Diamond. I'd be interesting to compare two different cities, at a point in time. What makes Paris great? Amsterdam? Brussels?!?!? Brussels, not so much. They have the peeing boy and the UN and the best airport I've been in in my life, but I don't think it's a GREAT city. Why not? Is there another city that could have been Paris? or Buenos Aires? or Billings, MT? A tale of two cities, sort of deal. Did one succeed and the other fail?


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Montana legislature this year ...

I got this off a comment bubbagun posted on the Billings Gazette website. I thought it summed it all up so well that I'd post it here. This is what I've been missing in Montana while all this has been going on up in Helena. They've proposed the following:

1. Legalize hunting with hand-thrown spear (Senate Bill 112)

2. Create fully-armed militia in every town (House Bill 278)

3. Allow legislators to carry weapons in the Capitol (Senate Bill 279)

4. Create an 11 person panel with authority to nullify all federal laws (House Bill 382)

5. Allow guns in schools (House Bill 558)

7. Lift nuclear ban for purpose of building a nuclear reactor in the Flathead Valley (House Bill 326)

8. Withdraw the United States of America from the United Nations (Senate Joint Resolution 2)

9. Eliminate all state incentives for developing wind power (House Bill 244)

10. Omit Barack Obama’s name from the 2012, ballot because his father was born outside of America (House Bill 205)(this guy was on CNN this week)

11. Compulsory marriage counseling for people seeking a divorce (House Bill 438)

12. Give sheriffs authority over the federal government in terror investigations (Senate Bill 114)

13. Legalize hunting with silencers (House Bill 174)

14. Lift the prohibition on carrying concealed weapons in bars, churches and banks (House Bill 384)

15. Eliminate law that requires landlords to install carbon monoxide detectors (House Bill 354)

16. Require the federal government to prove in court that the National Parks were lawfully aquired. (House Bill 506)

17. Officially designate the “Code of the West” as the “Code of Montana” (Senate Bill 216)

18. Declare that global warming is good. (House Bill 549)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Long time w/o an update...

and a lot has happened in my life, but I'll start with today.

Today was a good day. I've been feeling down lately; I think, mostly, because of the situation I'm in in my personal life. However, I went to the alcaldia today and we went and watered trees all day long in the hot sun (I just cut some aloe off my plant for the sun burn). I remember having a moment, sitting on top of the water tank on top of a large truck while collecting water with others from the nearby stream, and thinking "I'm really glad that I'm here, right now." It's been the first time I've thought that in a while.

On a general basis I tend to just go through the motions. There are moments of true happiness in being here, but they are few and far between. Today, on top of the large tank while ensuring the large hose stayed in place, I looked up the road and all around. I saw some small houses made out of salvo-style brick w/ teja roofs, some horses in a field, trees, the stream flowing at it's low level, my amigo in the water keeping the hose under water ensuring not to suck up fish, and another compañero controlling the pump; I was happy. Happy to be in El Salvador and happy to be doing what I was doing. Happy that I saw ciclids in the stream.

I guess blogging about the fact that I had a truly happy moment is pretty telling. Life has been difficult for me, as of late. I don't want to go into too many details, but I'm going to be a father and it's complicated. It turns out luck does run out and it's difficult when the local woman with whom you are with becomes pregnant, stops talking to you, and doesn't want to live in the US.

El Salvador ---

El Salvador recently became the number one place in the world for murders per capita. So, that's interesting. I'm such a peaceful guy that I never imagined I would live in a country with so many murders. I'm also amazed how normal every-day life really is. I mean, you get used to not going out at night and separating your money / not carrying expensive stuff, etc. It becomes normal.

Quick things on life in general, then Peace Corps activities:

- I moved to the pueblo. That's like the big community with the mayor's office and such (maybe 1,000 - 2,000 people, max, probably more like 500)

- I bought a weed eater - or trimmer as some prefer. Something i never thought I'd do in Peace Corps.

- I have a sweet garden w/ lots of peppers and a lemon tree.

- I was on a bus that was robbed at gun point in San Salvador in the middle of the day. Interesting, but not as bad a friend had it.

- A 9 year old boy was killed in front of my house when hit by a car a couple of months ago. The community liked to joke about it for a couple of days. I was in shock and felt nobody else shared my empathy and core disbelief.

- I have high speed internet and Claro has the worst customer service and general service, ever. Lots of problems, but it is Peace Corps and I do have high-speed internet.

Peace Corps acitvities:

- I had guitar classes, which were awesome, for about 4 months and then people stopped coming.

- We planted a garden at the school, which was awesome, and then the chickens and iguanas ate it all

- We planted 5,000 tree seeds of various types - mango, lemon, marañon (cashew), and some forestales. Most of them grew and we gave them away to people. I saw a field with 1,500 of these trees planted in it and being watered daily during the dry season - TOTALLY FREAKIN' AWESOME! It's really, really dry and hot this time of year.

- I've done some environmental skits at the school about garbage and recycling.

- Did some English classes for a while, which were fun and involved a lot of culture on Montana.

- We have a recycling campaign that's been ongoing. It's in many of the communities around us and collected every 2 months, or so. However, it surprises me how much dirt can get in with recyclables. I'm just started pushing for separated garbage cans in the city hall, but they're not too receptive. I'm gonna work out a presentation w/ pictures and such. The Unidad Ambiental (enviornmental position in the mayor's office) wants to start a curbside recycling program. I'm trying to give him guidance and keep it realistic. I'm actually the one saying, we should start with a pilot project. I used to hate that, but there is a reason.

Well, we'll be doing a bunch more tree watering this next week. I'm going to bring my hose and we're gonna try and syphon from the pool of water so we don't have to go bucket-by-bucket to each of 100+ trees in the heat. We'll see. I'm also going to remember to put the freshly charged battery in my camera. Fo' sure.

Ok. I'll update this blog on a more regular basis. I know I've been really slacking ... I'll also get pics up.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


So, I haven't updated my blog in a little while. But I've been in Panama for about a month. I had to have surgery inside my nose. They had to cut a bunch of stuff, etc. It's healing, but at least I've had a wonderful environment to have such an operation done. The first three plus weeks I was here with other volunteers and we had a blast. Unfortunately, I lost my little camera and don't have pics. But here's some highlights.

One of the first nights w/ Edson we went to a corner bar and sat outside on a second level patio and watched the crazy busses and lit up flashing lights - the call them "diablos rojos" or "red devils" - drive by and make the car alarms go off with their high power engines making so much noise.

A week later, after surgery, another volunteer came from English Giana. The three of us hung out a lot. There was also another volunteer here from Panama, but she was in the city for a couple weeks. Her and I went to a ballet, which I really needed, in Casco Viejo - old town. We also went to the beach, which rocked. They had lifeguards. It was clean and fixed up with cabanas and such. Big change from El Salvador.

We also went to Panama Viejo, which was destroyed by Captain Morgan for the silver, I'm told. It's pretty cool and a friend has pics of that on her camera. I'm not sure if she'll get them up on Facebook, or not, but I'll link them. That same day, we went to a Super Bowl party. It was $20 all you can drink. What a deal. I won $5 with a friendly bet - yeah Saints - and then we went to the casino where I won and then lost quit a bit of money on slots and playing Black Jack.

Well, now they're all gone and I've been here alone in Panama City for a couple of days. It certainly changes the dynamic. I enjoy the A/C, pool, cable, and high-speed internet, but I'm ready to get back to El Salvador. It's Carnival season, here, and I'll be here through that. I have one more Dr.s appointment the 22nd and hopefully I'll go back to El Salvador the next day.

I'll try and get some pics of this awesome city up! It's so pretty with such an awesome skyline, not to mention, culture and vegetarian restaurants and grocery stores with veggie burgers and all the good stuff we have in the States.

ok. adiós

Saturday, October 31, 2009

2 Days in the Life of...

First of all, Happy Halloween! I hope you all had a wonderful one. I'm not celebrating, at all. They have it here, but it's not a deal in the campo (countryside) where I live. I have however done other stuff and decided to update my blog with a list of things I've done the last two days. I received a comment on Facebook to my video that this person would like to see a video of the day in the life of a PCV (Peace Corps Volunteer). I don't have that, yet, so I've decided to do the next best thing.

Yesterday, Friday, October 30, 2009:

6:30am: Wake up
6:40am: Read the newspaper online and eat breakfast
7:00am: Chat with mom for a bit over the internet
7:27am: Bucket bath
8:00am: Arrive at Alcaldía to leave for a farm
8:45am: Leave for farm
9:30am: Arrive at farm
9:35am: Start tour of farm where Israel grows bananas (4 types), coffee, mango, oranges, tomatoes, coconut, lemon, watermelon, sugar cane, hot peppers, jalepeños,plantains, papaya, zapote (no English word), beans (3 types), and matizano (no English word)
10:40am: Go inside Israel's home, eat some fresh bananas (check'd off the list of things to do before I die), and eat some blue boiled bananas from the Caribbean with an orange drink.
11:00am: Driver received call that his daughter had an emergency and was on the way to the hospital
11:30am: Arrive at Alcaldía (notice the 15 minutes less time, we cooked it)
11:33am: Talk with my friend from Mexico for a minute about soccer
11:40am: Eat sugar cane with others from the cane Israel gave me
11:50am: Explain that I don't eat animals, eggs, or dairy to Catholics because I want to live how they did in the Garden of Eden.
11:55am: Help move tables behind the City Hall - the office closes for the mayor's birthday.
12:00pm: Go inside and surf the net about the harm rodeos cause animals while people eat dead crabs. Eat some more fresh bananas.
12:25pm: Go outside and join the party after most everyone is done consuming crabs in soup.
1:10pm: Pass on cake because it has eggs
1:15pm: Accept some of the rum everybody's drinking / dance
1:45pm: Mayor opens gifts including a pair of women's undies with "Arena" (conservative political party) patched on
2:00pm: Go inside. Party is done and the City Hall (Alcaldía) is open
2:10pm: Convince others I work with to help me, this Sunday, to clean out the drain near the bridge on the road so water will drain.
2:11pm: Decide to help them clean the cemetery for a celebration this Monday.
2:15pm: Leave for cemetery.
2:2opm: Arrive at cemetery and begin cleaning up the old fake flowers and used cans (coffee cans, infant milk cans, plastic soda bottles, etc.) they used to put the flowers in last year. Watchpeople scrub off some of the graves.
3:40pm: Leave the cemetery.
3:45pm: Arrive at Alcaldía and empty the truck into the garbage truck that always sits in the back of the Alcaldía.
4:00pm: Leave for home with my friend's bike
4:02pm: Run into someone I know and live by while I'm buying some breakfast food.
4:10pm: Convince an 11 year old girl that is the daughter of my landlord that it's not a good idea to litter and have her pick up her plastic water bag she just threw on the ground.
4:15pm: Arrive at home.
4:20pm: Play with neighbor kids - baseball (way better than soccer, IMO, I'm better at it)
4:45pm: Play with parrot. Hold parrot. Scream and get rid of the parrot when it bites me REALLY hard and draws blood.
5:00pm: Eat dinner: bean soup (red beans, water, salt) and tortillas while listening to NPR News
6:00pm: It's dark. No more going outside
6:01pm: Listen to podcasts about animals and research vivisection. Spend some time on Facebook and looking at e-mails. Think about the poor animals. Chat with mom.
10:00pm: Mom calls. Talk to her on the phone.
11:11pm: I'm beat, up way too late. Go to bed without reading.

Today, Saturday, October 31,2009:

9:45am: Wake up and get out of bed. It's HOT in my house!
10:00am: Eat breakfast and dink around on internet
10:10am: Wash dishes, decide not to do laundry today.
12:00pm: Eat lunch: beans, corn tamales, squash, and tortillas.
1:00pm: Go outside and check on my worms - they've been inundated with maggots!
1:01pm: Take down worm bin and dump bucket onto some plastic I saved.
1:20pm: Put part with the most worms and no maggots in a guacal (big bowl thing)
1:35pm: Feed maggots to chickens - they love 'em.
1:40pm: Clean out the bucket at the pila.
1:50pm: Put worms back in bucket and hang.
2:20pm: Notice that the stacking option for Leopard isn't working on my computer.
2:30pm: Download a program to customize and restore the dock options - SuperDocks.
4:00pm: Plant some sugar cane with my neighbor
4:45pm: Help my neighbor put up some more sticks across some trees for the chickens to roost> in at night
5:10pm: Eat dinner: bean soup and tortillas
5:30pm: Update blog

To the right, in the last photos you can see the process of planting the sugar cane, in the back yard. We'll likely have some sugar next July. I'm stoked to watch 'em grow.

Happy Halloween! It's creepy because all the dogs are howling for the first time ever. Spooky.