Don’t scrutinize beauty too much…just enjoy it when it occurs.
Earlier this week Rosie and I watched Notorious C.H.O., because we like Margaret Cho, even though she has possibly the dirtiest mouth of any comedian, ever, bar none. Rose and I don’t usually go for the performers who “work blue”, but Cho is so smart that we can’t resist her (plus, she really knows who she is). I believe we were first introduced to her through Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist.

Anyway, amidst all the raunchy jokes, some incredible truth emerged—not only about her life, but also about humanity. I’m quoting from memory here: “If you are a person of color, if you are gay, if you female, if you are a person of intelligence, if you are a person of integrity, you are a minority in this country.”

It made make think: It's true; racism and classism are alive and kickin’ in 2002 in the U.S. of A.

P.S. – Be sure to watch I’m The One That I Want, her first movie; it’s even better than Notorious.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about something that disturbs me just a bit. I’m not sure if it disturbs me because I’m afraid the thought is elitist, or because I’m afraid the thought might actually be true.

Here’s the thought: There are places, both natural and man-made, that have more dignity than their inhabitants. In fact, although they are not living things, these places and buildings seem to be more human, to have more spirit and character than the homo sapiens who inhabit them.

To me, it’s sad when a building has more life than the people in it. I seem to be observing this all to often recently. Perhaps it’s because I keep interacting with people who have a hollow space inside them where substance, caring, the human spirit should be.

What A Difference A Day Makes

Or, Friday Was Better Than Monday. Or, When It Rains, It Pours.

Consider this scenario: You go to sleep at 11:59 PM one night, and things are as they have been for half a year. You go to sleep twenty-four hours later, knowing that you’re going to be a father, and knowing that the job you’ve been trying to get for the past year-and-a-half is now yours. Life is funny. Right now, life is also very good.

So I had an interesting time in New York City yesterday. Into LaGuardia at 7:30 AM, out at 10:00 PM—it was a long day. Here are a few events that were of some note:
  • On the flight in, the Dash-8 had about 12 people on it (a full flight by Ithaca standards), and we were graced by the presence of Cornell University President Hunter Rawlings, who is exactly like Spalding Gray. (Incidentally, my favorite regional aircraft is the Embraer 145.)
  • The shuttle I took from LGA to Grand Central Terminal ran off the road and knocked down three trees and a light post shortly after leaving the airport. All forty of us exited the bus at that point, no one hurt fortunately, had amusing conversations in the light rain, boarded the next shuttle and were on our merry ways again in about a half hour. I was only fifteen minutes late to my first meeting.
  • I had something called “Ipswitch Clam Panroast” ($13) for dinner at the Oyster Bar & Restaurant at Grand Central Terminal. This was perhaps the highlight of my day.
  • The flight back to ITH was delayed 3 times, finally putting me back home around midnight. While annoying, this did give me the chance to have a nice drink with a friend from Cornell's Real Estate Program. Fortunately, I am married to a woman who is willing to pick me up late at the airport even when she isn’t feeling well.
Typical crappy Monday.
Siegfried & Roy: Masters of The Impossible Plastic Surgery TechniquesThe harsh fiery altar of probability that is Las Vegas:
  • Tuesday, at Caesar’s Palace: Gambled $10, won $35, up $25 for the day.
  • Wednesday, at Treasure Island: Started with $25, gambled $20, won $60, up $65 for the week.
  • Thursday: No gambling.
  • Friday, at the Venetian: Started with $65, gambled $20, won $80, lost $60 doing more gambling, still up $65 for the week—held at par from Wednesday.
  • Saturday, at the Luxor: Started with $65, gambled $30, won nothing, still up $35 for the week.
So, we left Las Vegas with a stunning $35 more in our pockets than when we arrived. Take THAT, city of sin.

Sidenote: If you ever try to call gambling "gaming" in my presence, I'll smack you.

What you are shouts so loudly that I cannot hear what you say. --Ralph Waldo Emerson
Last night Rose and I had a very entertaining dinner with a law professor from Cornell who, interestingly enough, found himself—completely by chance—at a poker table with Redd Foxx at the MGM Grand in Vegas in the ‘70s. Now that’s rich.
...He slept the sleep of the conscience-free and the weary.

From Tom Sawyer.

I learned something this weekend about road aggression, baby boomers, and SUVs--all thanks to my Dad.

My parents had come to town for a visit and we were driving to breakfast. My dad was driving (an SUV, I should note) on a two-lane one-way road with parallel parking spaces on both sides. Being a Sunday morning in the city's Primary Breakfast Restaurant Zone ("PBRZ"), most of the spaces were occupied. My dad saw an available parking space, and nose-dived for it across the other lane of traffic, interestingly enough cutting off another SUV in the process. The other vehicle was in fact the same model as his.

Someone (possibly me) made a joke about aggressive SUV drivers (he he), which my dad heard. He laughed, not too enthusiastically, and proceeded to explain something:

"Jas, have you ever noticed that Baby Boomers are really fast and aggressive drivers?" Actually, I had always thought that it was just SUV drivers who were like this, but now that he mentioned it, yes, maybe I had noticed that.

He went on to explain that his generation grew up driving muscle cars, and as they got older, they never really lost their desire for fast driving and road power. Which explains why so many SUVs are owned by Baby Boomers. In their minds, they're still behind the wheel of a '67 Chevelle. Interesting, eh?

Definition. Cafe Americano: American drip coffee--Italian style. Made from equal portions of espresso and boiling water. This results in a stronger version of brewed coffee. ... and I can make one better than any coffee house.
Forget it, Jake.

A couple of nights ago, Rose and I watched Roman Polanski's "Chinatown." Jack Nicholson was at the top of his form--in fact, one is reminded what a truly great actor he is (was?). All throughout this amazing film, I couldn't help but think of the pathetic "A Few Good Men," in which Nicholson also starred. It seems that he and Tom Cruise were cast in that film with the intention of conveying the message, "here's a great actor from yesterday (Nicholson), and a great actor from today (Cruise)." But putting Tom Cruise next to Nicholson on the screen is like putting White Zinfandel next to Grand Cru Bordeaux--a laughable contrast that only makes sense to the simplest of minds. A film like Chinatown (produced by a Hollywood studio, it should be noted) literally makes me want to cry when I think about the wretched debris being turned out by the mainstream studios today. But, as people are fond of telling me, they're just giving the public what they want. And to that I say: my disgust with mainstream American taste is not misplaced. So there.

Now in the job search pot: Chicago-3, New York-1, and Cleveland (again?)-1. I think I need to create some sort of tracking mechanism for this arduous, protracted process.
I don't believe that you should “dance like nobody's watching.” I think that you should remember that people probably are watching, and that you might just look like an idiot as you flail around carelessly.
Earlier this week, Rose cooked the most amazing meal for the two of us. Before I describe it, let me just say that I don’t cook. I am a fierce enjoyer of food, but I really am no good at all at cooking. My point is that while I love to eat wonderful food, it takes a lot before I actually go so far as to analyze and lovingly describe a meal. The other night, I reached that point, so here I go.

Rose prepared artichokes, stuffed with meat and cooked in a tomato-garlic-etc. sauce that she whipped up (she can do that—just whip things up—and they taste good). It’s an old meal, a preparation that’s been around forever, one that she grew up with. It’s “peasant” food; it’s just the kind of meal that’s really good for your soul. Very tactile; eating those leaves you just can’t help but get your hands messy. It’s one of those meals that makes you laugh as you eat it…so good, an experience. Coupled with a great wine: formula for an incredible evening. I was lying in the middle of the floor laughing after dinner; it wasn’t from the alcohol.

A few days ago I drove around campus looking around, saying to myself, "Oh, I've been there," or "Oh, I haven't done that yet." As I was doing this I realized that I'm really going to miss Cornell. It's the combination of the quality of the institution and the sheer beauty of the place that creates this emotion. The large, sprawling campus is nicely broken into smaller exterior spaces, nearly all of them pedestrian-oriented. People walk everywhere--the foot dominates the tire by far. Nearly all of the buildings on campus are fine examples of their architectural style: traditional, modern or post-modern. Vegetation abounds, and views are carefully constructed. It's truly a "human" place.
Today in the Southern Tier the weather was beautifully gray and rainy, and appropriate for remembering things. For me, it was the first day of fall.


What I have learned this summer: to respect slugs. Here you see a California Banana Slug in the bottom photograph, and a Standard-Issue New York Slug on top. We say hello to the gray slugs every night coming home (very careful not to step on them!) and in the morning we observe the beautiful trails they have left across the sidewalk, which look like strands of crystal.
There is a fine line between showing one's pride and abusing the flag.Rose: simultaneously showing her undying patriotism and expressing the irony of sitting on a flag that has been fashioned into a patio-chair with beer-cozies.
Holding patterns in life are just like holding patterns in airplanes: You go around in circles and it makes you sick.
I've talked about this before--I have scale problems. I suppose it's a product of being raised in an era when interconnected thinking is prevalent. My parents, Baby Boomers, grew up under the strict umbrella of industrial-age thinking. Things and phenomena were examined by dissecting them into pieces. Those of us called "Generation X" have grown up with at least some exposure to more holistic methods of thinking. This is good, because as we all know by now it's a closer parallel to the manner in which the world truly operates.

For me, however, it causes problems. I absolutely find it mind boggling to separate one event or thing or person from another. When I analyze situations and try to problem-solve, I find it difficult to put outer boundaries on the domain of the problem. I want to keep connecting everything to everything--leading me to endlessly complex and insoluble situations.

I became better at putting edges on things during my four years of practicing architecture, and during my two years at business school. It's no surprise--both architecture and industrial-age business theories (which, yes, are still part of the contemporary MBA) have at their core a mechanistic view of the world, one that encourages piecemeal analysis.

I don't want to define edges. I don't want to have my problems neatly encapsulated. (Well, maybe I want to, but it seems against my nature to do so.) As a result, I'll continue to live with my scale problems--perhaps some day they'll actually come in handy.

"You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life." Albert Camus, 1913-1960
Today: I saw a dog being pulled in a red wagon by its owners (an older couple). The dog was not injured.
We're moving today. The movers are here right now. My goodness--it's much better to have movers than to move yourself. It's worth every penny.
I come from a special family, with special talents--like my Grandpa, who can do this:


David Lynch Moments

Rose and I operate under certain principles that we constantly keep in the back of our minds. They condition what we do, and how we respond to things. Some of the principles are very serious, and some serve only to underscore the delightful absurdity of life. One example of the latter is something we call “A David Lynch Moment.”

Put simply, a Lynch Moment is any life occurrence that seems to be plucked directly from a David Lynch film. Here’s an example: Last Thanksgiving, Rose and I were driving home from Cornell to visit her parents—it was the beginning of the university’s fall break. We decided, as we often do, to take a non-interstate route once we entered Ohio. It would take us about twice the time to arrive at our destination, but we use any excuse we can to go on a roadtrip. (Interstate driving doesn’t qualify for roadtrippin’.)

On State Route 44, somewhere south of Painesville (aptly named), we came across a car stopped on the side of the road. Since it was Thanksgiving Day there wasn’t much traffic on that route, so we decided to stop and be helpful. We were a little wary—you know, you just don’t approach strange cars these days—but we did it anyway.

As I approached the car, an older woman got out, slowly. At first it seemed like she could barely walk. She was wearing one of those plastic medical identification bracelets they give you during a hospital stay. “Are you alright?” I asked.

She had a flat tire and it turns out she’d just been released from the hospital, having undergone heart surgery. “My son was supposed to come and get me today, but I guess he’s already gone to the house for dinner. So I decided to drive myself home.”

We let her use a cell phone to call her son, who arrived about ten minutes later as I was changing the tire. He looked twenty-five or so. “You guys can go,” he said. “Bein’ from New York and all you’re probably in a hurry.” Well, we were now.

So we went on, slightly more awake, slightly more aware of the world around us, hoping that this kid had it in him to escort his mother to Thanksgiving dinner.

Recently I’ve been reading two books on the future written in the early-1980s. Both of them are quite good, and impressively prescient: Megatrends by John Naisbitt and The Third Wave by Alvin Toffler. It’s interesting to note how the early-1980s seemed to necessitate the creation of such forward-looking works. There was an “irrational exuberance” that arguably eclipsed that of the dot-com-bubble economy of the mid- to late-1990s. The eighties were exploding and, man, the future looked hot. Then the U.S. had a recession and then another boom, and now another recession. But boom times call for predictions of the future, and I can’t help but think how much better the two aforementioned books are than the ridiculous New Rules for the New Economy by Kevin Kelly.
Nothing to say.
You know, I love coffee. It has to be good coffee. But sometimes, you just need to drink some bad coffee. You know. To remind you how lucky you are to have good coffee. That is what I did this morning.

You find so much good stuff on the road.

Always stop.

One week ago, possible job candidates: New York City (1), San Francisco (2), Chicago (1)
Today, possible job candidates: New York City (2), San Francisco (3), San Diego (1), Cleveland (1), Chicago (1)
"You need a lotta shoe leather..."
Guilty pleasures: Watching the A-Team at 4:00 PM every day. Have you ever thought, as I have, what the world would be like without Stephen J. Cannell?
6. He wasn’t the kind of guy that people wanted to give a nickname.
5. Rainy days are better than sunny days. On rainy days one feels free, and not bound to do anything. Wasting away the entire day, sitting by the window sipping coffee is completely acceptable. Sunny days are terrible. One feels the burden of going outside and enjoying the nice weather. After all, it’s a waste to spend such a day inside, is it not?
Our Weird Neighbor update: On May 25, 2002, the day before Cornell’s Commencement Day, Our Weird Neighbor (O.W.N.) stopped by our apartment to borrow some coffee…relatively normal, except she wanted us to brew it for her on the spot. My entire family was, at the time, sitting in our living room (they were in town for graduation). Even stranger is the fact that we actually did it for her. What were we going to do? Deprive her? Rose took care of the matter and for about fifteen minutes engaged in possibly the most awkward conversation of her life.

Today, I was coming home after a busy morning of doing nothing, and I heard O.W.N. singing (at the top of her lungs and very off key, which is her true style), “DON’T CRY FOR ME ARGENTINA; THE TRUTH IS I NEVER LEFT YOU…”

There was no music accompanying her—the a cappella melody carried through the hallway like nails on a chalkboard. I just want to point out that Rose and I experience and observe mildly strange behavior from this person on a daily basis. I only feel inclined to report that which I find particularly interesting or disturbing. Thank you, this concludes the update.

4. The paper felt wonderful when he wrote—just a little bit of friction against the gliding flow of liquid ink. It had the same effect on him as drinking cold beer late in the afternoon, or washing his face in the morning.

The women of Cornell Real Estate:

Photo by Kooyoung Kim.

Commencement Day, May 26, 2002.

3. The café attracted types who enjoyed being seen—mildly obnoxious folks who made the most of the small stage created by the space between the bar and the entrance. Nearly everyone who came to the café subconsciously understood this, and were happy to play their part. There were a few others present—observers—intentionally lingering to enjoy the little performances.
It’s starting to look like a good party when:

a. The number of wine bottles opened and consumed is greater than the number of guests;
b. People stop caring whose glass they’re drinking from;
c. Every—yes, every—dish in your home’s inventory has been used;
d. Your bedroom vanity is being used as a bar;
e. You have “smoking” and “non-smoking” sections in the apartment;
f. Tears are shed when it’s time to go home.

Last night, we had a good party.

2. Driving away she thought, “The future of America can be seen in Las Vegas.”
1. The young man who worked behind the counter in the café was loud and liked attention. The older woman whom he worked alongside emulated him in a sad sort of way—she wanted to be like him but didn’t have the character to pull it off.

So, I have graduated. Well, actually it was a week ago—it’s taking me a while to reenter the reality that most of the non-academic world enjoys. I’m not quite there yet, and for the past week I’ve had trouble doing anything that requires the slightest amount of brainpower. Video games, movies, staring out the window—these are all very enjoyable things for me right now. I expect the reentry process to take about two months, but I should be mostly functional by early next week. Thank you for your concern.

In Cornell University’s commencement speech, Pres. Hunter Rawlings (who bears a striking resemblance to Spalding Gray) quoted a graduation charge given in the previous century by none other than Bob Hope: “I have some advice for all of you who are now planning to enter the real world—don’t.”

Separated at birth?

So that was a good start. The next thing I did was to pull out of the job offer I had accepted a week earlier, thus removing most of the sense of future security I had established up to that point. It was one of those situations where it was a big company and the money was good, but you just couldn’t wake up and feel good about what you did every day. Yes, during the first week after graduation things were shaping up to be quite exciting already.

Now, I move forward, revisiting the job contacts I’ve been neglecting since I accepted that offer. Shucks, now I have to work again—I didn’t want to do that. On top of it, hindsight reassures me of what I’ve been afraid to admit to myself for the past academic year: I picked the worst time in a long time to graduate with a master’s degree. Last year at this time, the economy was still fairly healthy in most parts of the country. By this time next year, the recovery will likely be well-established. Right now, though, graduates need to work their asses off—especially to achieve the combination of desirable position and salary levels we all think we deserve. Well, I suppose I should think of the situation this way: finding my ideal job in a mediocre economy will be a great, toughening experience.

This concludes the update for the 4 people who read this site every day. Wish Rose and me luck, and feel free to send a graduation gift to:

Jason R. Carroll
107 E. State St., Suite 307
Ithaca, NY 14850

This and this remind me of a HBR article I read last month. Yes, this fits in very well. I'll have some comments on this later.
“You can either buy clothes or buy pictures,” she said. “It’s that simple. No one who is not very rich can do both. Pay no attention to your clothes and no attention at all to the mode, and buy your clothes for comfort and durability, and you will have the clothes money to buy pictures.” –from A Moveable Feast.

Today I thought I'd do an entry about my Real Estate thesis project, which I just finished a week ago. It's a proposal for a mixed-use development for one of the last remaining parcels of developable land on Baltimore’s waterfront. The entire report is nearly 100 pages, so I won't link to it from here. What I will link is the executive summary of the report and the animated fly-through I created to sell the owner on the project.

Click here to view the Executive Summary.
(79K PDF - Acrobat Reader required)

Here's an excerpt from the report: Celebrating the city’s past, but with a decidedly forward-looking attitude, Canton Marine embodies the essence of everything that is wonderful about urban life in Baltimore: waterfront living, 24-hour recreation, a mix of fine retail and dining, and a place to work where you won’t mind staying late in the evening. In fact, bring the kids to the office—they’ll find plenty to do here.

Click here to view the fly-through animation.
Click to view fly-through animation.

(2.54 MB - Windows Media Player required)

It was a lot of work, a lot of fun, and at times a serious emotional strain. It was a semester full of blood, sweat, and tears. Through it all, I realized that making team dynamics work is often more difficult than developing a good project. Thanks to James, Koo, Charles and Jaekil for all their help, skepticism, critical thought, financial wizardry, marketing genius, and of course, hard work.
Human beings need to create a space of existence that is their own. The world has too much information for one person to begin to comprehend, and in fact it is not necessary to attempt to understand everything. Ideas and things that are simple—that help individuals establish their place within the universe and understand the chaos around them—are quite valuable.
I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Every May 4th while I was in architecture school, hundreds (sometimes thousands) of people would congregate around our building to remember the horrible incident. Sadly, we were too busy working on our projects to really care. Academic life can be a sad existence at times.
Work work work work work work work work work work work work work work work work work work work work. Almost done almost done almost done almost done almost done almost done almost done almost done almost done almost done.
GDP grew at 5.8 percent in the first quarter? Thank you, I'll call the recession officially over. (NY Times; user name: opensewer; password: iswatching.)
Clichés are true. This semester: My "eyes were bigger than my stomach." It's the old "bit off more than I could chew" thing. Thankfully, there is the ability to cancel and withdraw.
This is one of the funniest photographs I've ever seen... Stunned French react to the news that extreme rightist Jean-Marie Le Pen defeated Lionel Jospin, the prime minister of France, in the race for the opportunity to face President Jacques Chirac in the upcoming election on May 5 (from the New York Times).

Look at this face!

The Stunned French

Embrace the place where thou sit.
Better than TV: Sitting in the cafe of the Olin Library, looking out the enormous wall of glass, watching students traverse the Arts Quad.
'We had the best of educations--in fact, we went to school every day--'

'I've been to a day-school, too,' said Alice; 'you needn't be so proud as all that.'

'With extras?' asked the Mock Turtle a little anxiously.

'Yes,' said Alice, 'we learned French and music.'

'And washing?' said the Mock Turtle.

'Certainly not!' said Alice indignantly.

'Ah! then yours wasn't a really good school,' said the Mock Turtle in a tone of great relief. 'Now at ours they had at the end of the bill, "French, music, and washing--extra."

'You couldn't have wanted it much,' said Alice; 'living at the bottom of the sea.'

'I couldn't afford to learn it.' said the Mock Turtle with a sigh. 'I only took the regular course.'

'What was that?' inquired Alice.

'Reeling and Writhing, of course, to begin with,' the Mock Turtle replied; 'and then the different branches of Arithmetic-- Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision.'

When Rose and I eloped to Italy two years ago, we ate here a couple of nights. Good memories. I didn't know they had a website.
In the shower
the only thoughts of meaning occur --
and life slips away.
Neither poet, nor scientist, nor artist, nor carpenter, but possessing small amounts of each of these qualities, the traveler wandered on, ever restless, ever searching for the place within which he fit.
Is there such a thing as being too self-aware?

How do you stay in touch with your dreams?

When you’re bored with something, is it time to move on, or are you just lacking discipline?

If your work really is part of who you are, what do you do if it doesn’t make you happy any more?

Where is the line between being rigorous, and forcing yourself to do something you don’t like?

How much time should one spend in reflection?

What does an epiphany feel like?

I want to like the internet, I really do. I want to read all of the very witty personal websites out there on a regular basis, but every time I try, I fail. I just can’t pretend to be interested anymore. It’s a mortal wretched cacophony. Even the good stuff. Will someone please tell me why I can’t stay interested? It’s good stuff, isn’t it?
Scary northern NY stuff.Apportez Votre Vin

Oh, my goodness, it’s amazing what a little get-a-way will do for the soul. Equally powerful is the difficulty in resuming daily ordinariness when one returns. Rosie and I spent the last four days “carrying our wine” to the fantastic little French restaurants at which we dined each night of our stay in Montreal (roll down to #4 in the article).

After a job interview on Wednesday, we drove north from NYC along the eastern edge of New York State, along route 87 through the Adirondacks. Gorgeous—it’s one of the most peaceful, billboard-lacking stretches of road I’ve ever seen. Of course, it’s not lacking in upstate NY strangeness, as Betty Beaver here attests.

Notre Dame in Montreal.Pictured here is the interior of Notre Dame Cathedral, located in the lovely, although somewhat vacant, neighborhood called the Old City, from which the city grew. Also of interest is the near-1000-foot high “mountain” situated right in the middle of the city, just north of downtown. It’s for this, Mont Royale, that the city was named. The city has a great energy, dozens of great neighborhoods, and the friendly tension between Francophones and Anglophones makes things even more interesting. To the west of Rue St. Laurent (“The Main”), most people speak French, and to the east English has more of a stronghold. Unlike Paris, where you are made to feel guilty for not having perfected the language, simply start speaking English here and most of the bilingual locals will happily switch tongues.

Wonderful streets.We stayed at a B&B on Rue St. Hubert called Le Traversin. It’s run by two wonderful guys, Sylvain and Jean, who seem to understand exactly what people are looking for when they’re on vacation. The house is beautiful—each room is a different color, and the amenities are fantastic. Everything is in balance. It’s in a great neighborhood, with spiral staircases reaching down from second-story flats to embrace the street, and little restaurants around every corner.

Many things do not translate well from English.It seems like rural and suburban Quebec are much like the U.S., just in French. The built environment appears very similar, with similar patterns of growth and sprawl…and yes (unfortunately), all the old familiar faces. We found this PFK in a strip shopping center near the border between Quebec and Ontario. Like everything else, to the nasal American ear, sprawl is a bit more palatable in French. Yeesh.

Sigh…back to work. Send me an email if you want some restaurant suggestions when you visit.

Fun (and precise) German words:

Schadenfreude: Taking joy in another's misfortune.
Weltschmerz: Mental depression or apathy caused by comparison of the actual state of the world to an ideal state.

On the sidewalks, encased in spotless plastic bags, the remains of yesterday’s Leonia await the garbage truck. Not only squeezed tubes of toothpaste, blown-out light bulbs, newspapers, containers, wrappings, but also boilers, encyclopedias, pianos, porcelain dinner services. It is not so much by the things that each day are manufactured, sold, bought that you can measure Leonia’s opulence, but rather by the things that each day are thrown out to make room for the new. So you begin to wonder if Leonia’s true passion is really, as they say, the enjoyment of new and different things, and not, instead, the joy of expelling, discarding, cleansing itself of a recurrent impurity.

—from Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities, 1972.

Tonight is one of those nights when a milestone was passed... X days is behind and only T-X days remain... Tonight was the "mid-term" presentation of the equivilent of my thesis. I can't say much about it, because it's "real," in a way, but the cat's out of the bag now, and I want to record something for posterity. Plus, I must admit that I'm proud of the work that my team has produced so far. They're great people: Jaekil, Chulhwan, Kooyoung and James. Behold:

R.O.E. 30%

Wish you could see the flyover animation...file's too big for the web.
Everybody in the Cornell class of '02 is lookin' for, as my friend says, a Phat job. P-H-A-T.
I love reading zoning ordinances at 1:30 AM.
Rose and I traveled in opposite directions this past Friday, which happened to be my birthday. Sometimes life just works that way. I went east, to Philadelphia, and she went west, to Cleveland. We each carried with us differing reasons for the journey—a mix of business and personal matters. Here’s what I have to say: it’s very nice to come home after a trip like that and see enthusiastic eyes greeting you. Happy.
Skyscrapers have never been just a fad. They've never faded to the margins—and probably won't—because in their American way they continue a much deeper tradition of upward striving, from East Asian pagodas and the ziggurats of Mesopotamia to the pyramids of Egypt, Central America, and Angkor Wat. (Thanks, Rose.)
The United States was not always the world’s economic leader. History looks more like a long-distance race in which one county assumes leadership for some time, only to lose it to another and return to the pack or disappear from sight. For much of the first millennium, and until the fifteenth century, China probably had the world’s highest level of output per capita. For a couple of centuries, leadership moved to the cities of northern Italy. It was then assumed by the Netherlands until around 1820, and then by the United Kingdom from 1820 to around 1870. Since then, the United States has been in the lead… If history is any guide, the United States will not remain in the lead forever. –Oliver Blanchard

What will life be like then? None of us have known any other world.

Housing affordability is one of the key issues facing contemporary America. According to HUD, 12 million renter and homeowner households paid more then 50 percent of their annual incomes for housing in 1999—and this was at the tail end of one of the strongest economic expansions in history. When a household uses such a disproportionately high percentage of its income for housing, it becomes very difficult to meet the other basic needs of living.

Here’s my question: Doesn’t that fact that we (collectively) are even having a national discussion about affordable housing imply that we believe there are systemic problems in the American capitalist-democratic system that can never be cured? In other words, if laissez-faire capitalism works, then the invisible hand of the market would allocate scarce resources efficiently and all types of housing needs would be met, including affordable housing (because there is a demand for affordable housing). However, this does not happen. Therefore policy, a “band-aid,” becomes necessary to modify the natural behavior of the market.

In short, my assertion is that the mere existence of policy (of any sort) supports the notion that an unrestrained market doesn’t really allocate resources efficiently, or equitably.

Given: the U.S. consumes much more than its “fair” share of per capita world resources (read this if you don’t believe that statement). How can we bring our consumption down? We are a nation of consumers, and trying to slow consumption is like trying to move an iceberg with a tugboat. Here’s an idea:

Increasingly, U.S. multinational corporations are turning overseas for cheaper labor. This behavior has been reinforced by various U.S. trade policies. Cheaper labor enables U.S. companies to sell goods at prices below what would be achievable with U.S. labor. If companies were restricted from using foreign labor, prices of certain goods would rise beyond the point where consumers perceive value in those goods—i.e., a consumer may not purchase a pair of Nike shoes if the price was $300. In other words, being dependent on/accountable to our own labor and resource supplies could help reduce our proportion of global consumption by increasing prices of the many luxury goods that we Americans now incorrectly view as necessities.

An “isolationist” labor policy, if it increased the prices of U.S. consumer goods, would also have negative short-run economic impacts (inflation, possible recession, increase in unemployment). However, in the medium-run, the Fed and the government could use an appropriate mix of fiscal and monetary policy to bring the U.S. economy back into a state of lower inflation and reasonable growth (this policy mix would necessarily be too complicated to discuss in these short paragraphs). The government could also enact policies that encourage economic growth via services rather than consumer goods, since services do not have nearly as large an environmental impact as goods.

Whaddaya think?

At Cornell (and indeed much of the rest of the world—but I’m focusing on my cultural frame of reference right now) people like to call major assignments that are due “deliverables.” Right now, I have many deliverables due, I’m grading some deliverables, and I’m worried about future deliverables. It’s quite driving me mad.

Amerika the beautiful.

Well, one week of the semester down and fourteen to go. How did two years (almost) go by this quickly? When you’re in the middle of something this intense, it seems like it’s lasting forever. But when things calm down, you realize how quickly time has slipped by. Cliché cliché. True, however.

For me, it takes about two years to get acquainted with a place, to establish strong relationships and a good group of friends. Now that this is finally starting to happen in Ithaca, it’s time to leave! Those are the types of fun tricks life likes to play on you, I suppose.

The other frustrating part is—how do I choose my final courses? Certain ones—the ones I know I need—are easy. But there’s so much good stuff here that it hurts when you must choose to not take a class. It’s a giant smorgasbord, and you can’t eat it all—unfortunately. I’ve taken so many finance courses that I feel one more won’t add any additional value. So, I think I’ll round out the experience by stepping back and fitting everything I’ve learned into the big picture. Let’s try some macroeconomic theory, a bit of urban land use planning and some intense discussion of affordable housing and sustainable development. I can’t leave without having some fun, though. So perhaps I’ll keep making photographs this semester (pure joy), and take the Hotel School’s wine-tasting course. Who can think of anything better than a university course in wines?

My last semester at Cornell starts today. Yikes!
People are starting to come back to campus after its brief winter sleep. It makes me happy to see younger students showing their parents around for the first (or second) time. There’s so much amazement in their eyes--it reminds me how beautiful this place really is. One gets used to things, you know? Not appreciating your surroundings is one of the small tragedies of life.
Have you seen the new Winter Sports postage stamps? They're very nice looking, in my opinion. I quite like them. In fact, I went so far as to purchase some yesterday.

Today I am thinking about how thankful I am for family and good friends. This sounds like a cliché, but really it’s an axiom: When you are surrounded by people who love you, the pain of life’s difficulties is diminished, and the joy of life is magnified one hundredfold.

After spending wonderful time with both of our families this holiday, Rose and I have now come to rest for a few days at our friend Suzi’s house on beautiful, gray, endless Lake Eire. Suzi is the kind of friend who gives even when she doesn’t have. There’s one word to describe her: unconditional. When you have people in your life who love and care for you unconditionally, you are truly fortunate.

We celebrated the new year last night at a restaurant in Tremont, the gentrified old steelworker’s neighborhood just south of downtown Cleveland. The restaurant, Sage Bistro, was created by Rose’s cousin Marisa, her husband Nick, and their friends Michael and Linda. The place did smashingly well last night—a fully packed house! We’re so happy for them. And of course our dear friend Bill surprised us by showing up just after midnight, placing his ice-cold hands on Rose’s neck to announce his arrival.

I think of all of my new Korean and Chinese friends whom I’ve met a Cornell. How much I’ve learned about their cultures! And what hospitality Rose and I have experienced from them! They are all so kind, genuine and gracious. (There seem to be so few people in the world who are truly gracious.) I take comfort and pride in the fact that I know that I will be friends with them for the rest of my life. I look forward to visiting them in their home countries.

There are many others I could mention that are just as important to Rose and me. The people here are simply the ones currently in my consciousness. I’m so thankful, and so happy. I pray that this feeling is a sign of things to come this year.