May 1, 2013 10:30 am
In June of last year, the 100 year old Ghirardi Compton Oak was relocated. The tree is 56 feet tall, 100 feet wide and 135 inches around. The whole thing took about a month. Here’s a video documenting the process:
League City, Texas, where the Oak is from, documented every step:
The contractor started by hydrating, fertilizing and pruning the tree. They have also took soil samples from the current location and the new location. For the excavation process they cut a trench around the tree; an engineered distance from the root ball. The sides of a “tree box” were hand carved and tapered down to create a custom “planter box” for the tree. Crews dug tunnels under the “tree box” so the bottom sections of the box can be installed, one by one. Once all bottom sections were installed, 4 steel beams were placed under the bottom of the tree box and lifted by 2 cranes. The cranes placed the tree on a steel plate that was drug down a grass corridor to the new location. Two bulldozers and two excavators pulled the skid and one bulldozer controlled the back end. Once the tree arrived in its new location, the process was reversed.
But ten months after relocation, how is the tree doing? Often tree location projects fail, when the tree doesn’t take root in its new soil. As far as one local blogger can tell, however, the Ghirardi Oak isn’t planning on croaking any time soon. He writes:
Checked with the city arborist and those keeping an eye on the old tree.
The experts say it’s setting in well.
Getting plenty of rain water (irrigation system used as needed) and nutritious snacks.
The spring leaves are expected soon.
It’s doing OK according to them.
Honestly, the oak tree looks little rough – not just the bark. (But who doesn’t after the holidays?)
But, as with any town event, not everyone is pleased. The Ghiardi Oak is part of a new park that will be built on the site called the Ghirardi WaterSmart Park. The idea is to build three-acres of park that used very little water, to spread the word in water-scarce Texas about some alternative grading techniques. But residents didn’t feel like the park was fun enough, reports Your Houston News:
Councilman Dan Becker called the project a “flawed concept” and opposed using federal grants.
“My concept of a park is a playground, picnic tables, barbecue pits, volleyball nets and things of that nature,” he said. “What we’ve done here is figure out how to take money out of other taxpayers’ pockets, bring it here and essentially waste $685, 000. So we all go deeper in debt and mortgage the children who should be enjoying this park in the future. I’ve got a real problem with that.”
Thankfully, no one seems to be opposed to the oak, since it cost a pretty penny to move and likely wouldn’t fare well on another journey. So park or no park, the Ghirardi Oak is staying, and the transport seems to have been a success.
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April 25, 2013 1:42 pm
The Cold War was a strange time. Fresh off the Manhattan Project and steeped in the race for space, Big Science—or rather, Big Engineering—was in full swing, and Derek Mead is doing an excellent job of documenting, for Motherboard, the weird results. With nothing to do with their stockpiled nukes, for instance, America turned to Project Plowshare, a plan to use nuclear explosions to dig tunnels and dredge ports and do anything else you can think of where making a really big hole would come in handy. And on the other side of the Pacific, Mead writes, the Soviets had their own wacky scheme—a plan so big, so expensive and so replete with likely devastating consequences for the entire planet that it makes it all the more awesome to hear that people were taking the plan quite seriously.
The Russians, says Mead, wanted to melt the Arctic.
You might laugh, but while Soviet Russia was blessed with the largest land mass of any nation on Earth, much of it resource rich, putting that land to use was stunningly difficult.
…Russia was already spending an enormous amount of money combating the ice. Exploiting the vast petroleum reserves of the Arctic and Siberia was crucial to the growth of the Soviet economy, but every well pitted far-flung men against frozen earth and wind.
So, to exploit their trove of resources and beat the Americans, Russia needed Siberia to thaw. And their plan to do so was completely and absolutely ridiculous. The Soviets wanted to build a dam. A really, really, really big dam. A dam from Russia to Alaska, choking off the Pacific Ocean’s access to the Arctic Ocean. They thought that by doing so they could redirect the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean (which brings warm water from Florida up to Europe) to flow into the northern reaches, bringing warm salty water that would nullify the Arctic’s chill.
The plan isn’t necessarily ridiculous from a scientific standpoint. Changing the ocean currents would certainly have consequences. Indeed, 50 million years ago, when Antarctica was still connected to Australia with a long land bridge and the Antarctic Circumpolar Current didn’t exist, Antarctica had palm trees. So consequences, yes. Controlled consequences, probably not. Unintended consequences that could devastate the rest of the world? Certainly.
From pretty much every perspective other than “this might potentially work,” the Russian’s plan was crazy. Which makes it all the more suprising that America were almost on-board.
Borisov dreamed of enlisting the US, Canada, Japan, and Northern Europe in the plan, as all would theoretically benefit from a warmer climate. Surprisingly, the US was intrigued by the idea. In fact, in a response to a series of questions sent in 1960 by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists to presidential candidates Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy, Senator Kennedy noted, as part of a larger point about the value of innovation in fostering cooperation, that the Siberia-Alaska dam was “certainly worth exploring.”
Big Science of today is big, but it is also certainly much more careful. Mead’s story explores a time when engineering dreams quite nearly ran ahead of engineering caution.
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April 19, 2013 12:55 pm
On Monday afternoon, four hours after the annual Boston marathon began, two bombs exploded in the area just around the finish line, killing three and injuring nearly 200 people. Four days later, one suspect in the bombing attack is dead, and, as of this writing, the city of Boston is in lockdown mode as a manhunt is underway for a second. Authorities have identified the bombing suspects as Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, two brothers who moved to the area roughly a decade ago from Makhachkala, Dagestan, a region that is part of the North Caucasus that forms southwestern Russia.
The area has been a hotbed for conflict in recent decades, including terrorist bombings carried out elsewhere in Russia. Starting in 1994, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the First Chechen War broke out. It was during this time that the Tsarnaevs would have grown up. The Council on Foreign Relations:
In the early 1990s, following the Soviet collapse, separatists in the newly formed Russian Federation Republic of Chechnya started an independence movement called the Chechen All-National Congress. Russian President Boris Yeltsin opposed Chechen independence, arguing that Chechnya was an integral part of Russia. From 1994 to 1996, Russia fought Chechen guerillas in a conflict that became known as the First Chechen War. Tens of thousands of civilians died, but Russia failed to win control of Chechnya’s mountainous terrain, giving Chechnya de facto independence. In May 1996, Yeltsin signed a ceasefire with the separatists, and they agreed on a peace treaty the following year.
But violence flared again three years later. In August 1999, Chechen militants invaded the neighboring Russian republic of Dagestan to support a local separatist movement. The following month, five bombs exploded in Russia over a ten-day period, killing almost three hundred civilians. Moscow blamed Chechen rebels for the explosions, which comprised the largest coordinated terrorist attack in Russian history. The Dagestan invasion and the Russian bombings prompted Russian forces to launch the Second Chechen War, also known as the War in the North Caucasus. In February 2000, Russia recaptured the Chechen capital of Grozny, destroying a good part of the city center in the process, reasserting direct control over Chechnya. Tens of thousands of Chechens and Russians were killed or wounded in the two wars, and hundreds of thousands of civilians were displaced.
The First Chechen War (so-called, though not actually the first) broke out in 1994, causing more than 300,000 people to flee the region as refugees. The Second Chechen War added to this emigration.
The Chechen’s (or Nokhchi in their own tongue) bid for independence, however, has stretched back hundreds of years. “The Chechens have evidently been in or near their present territory for some 6000 years and perhaps much longer,” says University of Berkeley professor Johanna Nichols. “There is fairly seamless archaeological continuity for the last 8,000 years or more in central Daghestan.”
PBS has a detailed look at the history of the region, tracing the lands change of hands from the 1400s onward, from the Mongols to the Ottoman Empire to the Russians under Ivan the Terrible in 1559.
In 1722, says PBS, “Peter the Great, ever eager for trade and military routes to Persia, invaded Chechnya’s neighbor Daghestan.”
Repulsed by the Daghestanis and Chechen mountain warriors, Russia fell back again, but would press on for the next 50 years with sporadic raids on Chechen and Daghestani territory. In 1783, Russia finally gained a strategic toehold in the Caucasus with the recognition of Georgia, Chechnya’s Christian neighbor to the south, as a Russian protectorate.
In 1784, led by Muslim leader Imam Sheik Mansur, the Chechens took back their land. This struggle went back and forth through the 19th and 20th centuries. Starting in the late 17th century, says Berkeley professor Nichols, the Chechens largely converted to the Sunni branch of Islam. “Islam is now, as it has been since the conversion, moderate but strongly held and a central component of the culture and the ethnic identity,” according to Nichols. Muslim beliefs are common throughout the region, as well as in nearby Turkey.
In 1944, in the midst of World War II, “Soviet leader Joseph Stalin ordered the Chechens and their Ingush neighbors — some 400,000 people — to be deported to Central Asia and Siberia for “mass collaboration” with invading Nazis.” Evidence to support Stalin’s charges,” however, “remains limited.”
Over the centuries, the motivations for war have varied, from invaders wanting a trading path through the mountains to religious holy wars to pure political oppression.
*This post has been updated for clarity.*
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April 12, 2013 10:58 am
Sports aren’t exactly known for being inclusive to gay people. But on Thursday the N.H.L. announced a partnership with the You Can Play Project, a group aimed to up the acceptance of LGBT players and fans.
The National Hockey League says it’s always been committed to the LGBT community. Their press release, announcing the partnership, writes that the move “formalizes and advances their long-standing commitment to make the N.H.L. the most inclusive professional sports league in the world.” The players of the N.H.L. support the partnership, they say, and are ready to help the sports world move beyond discrimination against gay people.
In fact, the You Can Play project was founded in a large part because of a gay hockey player. The son of Brian Burke, one time general manager of both the Toronto Maple Leafs and the U.S. Olympic hockey team, came out in 2009. He was tragically killed in a car accident the next year, and his death spurred the formation of You Can Play to further Burke’s memory.
The N.H.L. isn’t the only place with a policy against discrimination against gay people. But policy and practice are often two different things. Robbie Rogers, former U.S. National Soccer team member and professional player in England, came out of the closet this year to much discussion. Many have wondered whether he will continue playing. It would make him the first openly gay athlete to play in a major American team sport. Many athletes have come out after their careers. Kwame Harris, an offensive tackle who played in the N.F.L. for six seasons didn’t come out until after he retired. The same goes for former running back David Kopay, one of the first American professional athletes to come out at all.
Players stay in the closet during their careers for a lot of reasons. Sports are still grappling with not just homophobic players, but coaches and owners as well. Last year, when a Ravens player spoke in favor of gay marriage, a Maryland politician sent a note to the team’s owner chastising him for allowing the player to speak up, promoting this now notorious response from Vikings punter Chris Kluwe. But even the N.F.L. is making moves that at least indicate willingness to try. Here’s the New York Times:
In the N.F.L., the league’s security department would monitor public reaction, looking for potential threats from fans in the event a player comes out. Troy Vincent, a former player who is now the league’s executive charged with player engagement, and Anna Isaacson, the league’s community relations director, have been designated to cull ideas from gay advocacy groups and to build relationships with the groups that the N.F.L. might then use to help them address players.
Wade Davis, a former N.F.L. player who’s now out of the closet is on You Can Play’s advisory board spoke recently about some of the challenges of gaining LGBT acceptance in the locker room, beyond the common homophobia the resides in the United States. Many athletes are quite religious and find it difficult to reconcile their beliefs with their potentially open teammate. Other players, however, just have one question. “Can someone help us win?” asked Robert K. Kraft of the New England Patriots. If they can, he told the New York Times, they should play. End of story.
For their part, the N.H.L. hopes to focus on that mentality, one that points out that gay players are not any different on the ice (or field) than straight ones. That has been You Can Play’s philosophy all along, that gay or straight, if you can play, you can play.
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April 12, 2013 9:56 am
Guns are on the minds of Americans. We’re not sure if we should ban them, control them or give them away for free. Politicians are debating what we should do with them. Teachers are worrying how to keep them out of schools or how to train kids to respond. And architects wonder if they can design gunman-proof buildings.
On Archinect, a discussion forum for architects, Peter Normand wondered what he could do to design spaces that reduced the chances of getting shot, writing:
Assuming that a larger portion of the general public will be carrying guns, that we are in the beginning of a personal arms race, what responses should architects consider? Do we need bullet proof doors and windows for schools, Classroom panic rooms? How can we make the built environment safe for the gun packing and unarmed public to interact? Can we expect building codes to address the life safety issues of firearms as thoroughly as fires?
Assuming the political reality won’t change for the next decade what can we do as a designer to keep the public safe in this new gun saturated environment?
The problem of using architecture to keep safe from aggression is actually quite old. Long before guns, cities were designed to defend against attackers with weapons. Those fortresses had high walls, single entry points and layouts meant to confuse invaders.
In the mountains of Idaho, some people are recreating that kind of environment. The Citadel is a planned community in which residents would be required to own guns and defend the compound if attacked. Its founders explain:
The Towers and Curtain Wall providing the town’s primary perimeter defense will be inaccessible to tourists. Each Tower will house condos. The wall sections between Towers will be the location for many of the larger homes. By looking at the Artist’s Concept (left) you can see that housing will be well-removed from tourist foot-traffic. The Perimeter Road follows the Curtain Wall.
Each neighborhood within the walls will have lower defensive walls, dividing the town into defensible sections/neighborhoods. Each neighborhood will have similar housing for visual uniformity and aesthetic appeal.
But The Citadel is a project designed to appeal to only a subset of Americans. Is there a way for architects to design more run-of-the-mill buildings to keep their residents safe, without just building a medieval castle?
In places that faced violence already, like Newtown, Conn., or the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisc., architects might consider not just how to make buildings that are safer in practice but that allow the community that uses them to feel safe. In the New Yorker, Thomas De Monchaux writes:
Shootings, events defined by immediate sightlines and ballistic trajectories, are an especially spatial and architectural kind of violence, and some ineffable part of their violence is to space itself—to the very airspace or geographical coördinates at which shots were fired or taken. The architectural task in the long aftermath of such shootings is not only to repair structural damage but to calibrate a balance between remembering and forgetting sufficient for daily life to continue nearby—and to figure out how the shapes, materials, and details of buildings can participate in that calibration. The architectural task is not only to provide actual security and defensibility but to figure out how the ways you see and move through buildings can affect your feelings of being at risk or at home.
Rebuilding with that sort of security, though, can be tricky. Adding big metal bars on the doors and windows of a school has downsides, especially if you’re trying to construct a place where kids will want to learn. Architectural Record had a story about these challenges just after Newtown, writing:
While fortress-like buildings with thick concrete walls, windows with bars, and special security vestibules may be more defensible than what is currently in vogue, they are hardly the kind of places that are optimal for learning. Edmund Einy, a principal at GKKWorks, says that what’s been done so far in many urban schools in the name of safety—such as slapping bars on the windows—has had a pernicious effect on students’ morale and performance. Einy’s new Blair International Baccalaureate Middle School, in Pasadena, foregoes bars. But administrators must greet students before they are allowed to go inside, which led GKKWorks to create an entry plaza. “There’s not much more we can do,” he says. “What are we going to do, put kids in prisons?”
Others argue that this is not a job for architects; it’s a job for politicians and people. Smart Planet’s C.C. Sullivan writes:
So answering the question posed by architect Peter Normand, perhaps we need to build as many reminders of our “gun-saturated society” and gun tragedies as we need protections against them.
Instead of panic rooms in every home and classroom, we need more symbols of awareness. Instead of new building codes and bulletproof doors, let’s open the shades on who we are.
Feeling safe, Sullivan argues, takes more than just physical design. It takes cultural design, too. Perhaps it’s not the job of the architect to keep us safe.
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