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Squared Earth…a can of squirms… & our way of thinking. April 17, 2011

Posted by @Karen_Fu in change, creativity, design, environment.
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It’s past midnight.

As a typical mid nite owl staring at her news for the day,I’d like to think we have a spherical earth. Well physically it is. But in reality, I really think it’s squared —cuboid in form with eight sharp corners, cutting others while it cuts itself.

We are so rigid and dogmatic in many ways more than we are supposed to be round and flexible, adaptable to different needs and social economic climates. That is, when we look at the the macroeconomical side of things. I often stand squished on train rides thinking about why we have these problems. And if we care to think a little longer, the similar problems we find here appears to be found in  many other cities too.Yet our human intelligence in skills and knowlegde fail to solve them.

Elfinically, there are a couple of problems worth tinkering:

1. Why do we have energy problems in cities? Could a lap pool of water quench our thirst?

We are short of natural fuels. So we are looking at alternative fuels. Nothing wrong with alternative energies, but the actual nip of the energy crisis is that we, the smartest of all living beings alive on this planet, are utilising energy in very irresponsible ways unimaginable by even ourselves. It doesn’t really solve that much of a problem even if energy could be generated for the world could just come  from a lap pool of water. Prof Daniel Nocera, Professor of Energy at MIT developed personalized energy that could help us to sustain in the long term. Regardless that I feel that we have not actually hit the base core of the problem, I love his ideas from an product innovation standpoint. Very creative ! And he delivers the hard core science in a simple and fun way that everyone enjoys it. I often feel that if we have more people like him, we’d solve plenty of other problems too. (We are way too silly in being complex creatures.)

Nocera also liked the idea of Solar energy and he plans to make it a very feasible alternative energy

I don’t usually like Chemistry more than Physics. But I honestly want to take his classes if I get the chance to. It’s often at such situations, that I often feel that hard core sciences are vital. Then again, when I often feel that the root problem is very much on the humanities perspective — that we are the genuine problem factor to solve. However, if we could sort our living habits together with Nocera’s energy innovation, our world would be in nirvana. When would that happen? I don’t know. But I would like to think its soon. We need it.

2. Why are we jam packed with people or cars ? Sometimes its a sardine packed sort of jam that consists of both people and vehicles.

Do we need cars in the first place? In many big cities in the world, it is so damn easy to get terrified by the stream of vehicles stuck in limbo. So stagnent that our roller blades may take us further than what our cars could take us. Yet we still want cars. Cars that drink both our money and energy; drive us not to our physical destination but drive us up the wall. Yet we give great business to car manufacturers. Strange isn’t it?

3. Social life trends. Relationships between people have changed. More complex in cities where different attractions are available. People tend to wonder between status and money most of the time. Even in marriages, it is common in the west to have pre-nups. Asia is catching up and I hope we will not surpass the divorce numbers in the west. It has a serious negative impact on the society as a whole. The west has a falling marriage rate because of the high divorce rates. As a result, more people choose to have partners and cohabit instead. I think it is a sad case. People may not realised it as such a culture has sunk in naturally as a whole, but if we start to compare cultures, it is easy to see how the high divorce rates link to a change in culture.

Also, in most urban areas, the genuine friendship at work, school or other general public areas; people have become to be more superficial in their manners and ethics. Often such leads to stress problems and many develop psychological problems that require professional help.

Why do you think new professions like psycholigsts, stress trainers etc come from? They emerge as we fail to simplify our thoughts about what life is and how our goals should be achieved. Health pays in the process. What goes around, comes around. Even if it needs to travel around all eight pointed corners.

We live in a strange world alright……but we can choose not to. Appropriate idiosyncracies is fine. Overdo it, and we’ll get a huge can of crazy worns which will make anyone squirm. Cheers for now…- Karen Fu

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Design for the New Climate March 29, 2011

Posted by @Karen_Fu in climate change, design, environment.
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Recently, I saw The Ideas Economy’s website and posted 2 ideas that I thought it would be useful. One was to design modular mobile smart housing that acts as a self sustainable unit; and the other a kind of ‘lead net’ that covers the entire nuclear plant in several layers before it actually explodes.

It just came to me after reading and following up the number of natural and man-made disasters that seems to erupt in a short span of 3 years. Regardless if the Mayans had been right about 2012,  we have to prepare for a definite real climate that is today and the near future.Highly populated areas, usually in cities, do not have much open space for  escape. As such, I am thinking of the many possibilities of designing the units and the ‘safety net’.

Climate change does not confine to the natural environment, about melting ice caps and the rise of sea levels. We are now facing another impending problem that is more instaneous and dire: terrorism. While we can add in rows of CCTVs, sending police and guard dogs to patrol at stations, airports, and sub stations; we must first eliminate any possible attack inland. For that reason alone, nuclear plants, oil rigs in danger points should be seriously considered for a permanent removal.The energy that we should use must be some form that we can contain in a much higher possibility. With the recent Fukushima Nuclear accident, signs are begining to show that the spread of radioactive pollution is going world wide. I think that is itself an expensive lesson to take and we have yet to see the full impact of the disaster.

I particularly liked the idea of solar energy. Many may not for the actual costs of producing them as compared to nuclear energy. But recently I have accidentally stumbled upon a paper by the late John O Blackburn, who wrote ‘The Historic Crossover:Solar Energy is Now the Better Buy’.(see reference below)

I really wouldn’t want to try nuclear in the long term given the change of climates now where there appears to be a rise in the number of
earthquakes.Naturally people may doubt about statistics. Despite the nature of hard core research stats, we live under the sky to know what is really happening. Sometimes, a better trust is within us. Within me, myself, I do not believe that nuclear is the solution. It has never been. With the Fukushima Nuclear incident, I am more than adament to vote against nuclear energy. You know how the Japanese work. They are very merticulous and responsible people. If this could happen, I think its serious enough to make a resolution. — Karen Fu, adapted from my own post to PhD forum.

Reference:

(A) The late John O. Blackburn, Duke University’s Professor Emeritus of
Economics and former Chancellor,
Solar and Nuclear Costs—The Historic Crossover: Solar Energy is Now
the Better Buy’ http://www.azocleantech.com/details.asp?newsID=11407

Obituary of  Dr John Blackburn, which reflects his personality:
http://news.duke.edu/2011/01/blackburn.html

Prof Blackburn’s paper:
http://www.ncwarn.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/NCW-SolarReport_final1.pdf

(B)  Nuclear waste recycling problems:
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=rethinking-nuclear-fuel-recycling
http://www.nuclearwasterecycling.com/

(C) Nuclear reactors in quake zones: http://tinyurl.com/4kxux8u

Aftermath of a Great Reset & Sex & the City – what it means for design of cities / societies (episode 1 – Intro) July 9, 2010

Posted by @Karen_Fu in creativity, design.
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I have been reading books of a different genre. And I am watching films that bear a different genre. I have lots to write and share. But I think  breaking this big chunk into smaller episodes will a better & quicker choice. I think this is really getting interesting.

Well maybe not all that different; just that its in a different style and taste.Something that I rarely would like to touch but realised that I have to because you can’t exactly design/plan or execute anything without a good knowledge of politics and economics. You can’t make fine changes when you don’t understand a wide variety of different ideas & how minds work. Fundamentally, I am more into American style after being Asian and European. I think its a special class on its own.
So what does it mean for new cities to become great cities ? What makes a place really nice to live in? I thought it was chiefly about great people,with essentially fine thinking of gutsy characters. (hence the title of this blog).  It’s really different from the views of an urban planner, an economist, a politician, an engineer or a designer. The personalities among these professions again makes a new multiple of mixes. However the combinations are, the common ground is to improve the quality of living.  The definitions may be different again in different cultures. I’d like to quickly write about 2 items that I have found interesting: a book and a film. The former is a book by Richard Florida’s ‘The Great Reset’ which I have waited for 2 months for the real physical book to swim over when an ebook could have saved the day..(whatever the reason why it can’t be virtually zapped over is another story to be amicably reckoned with…) and a film called ‘Sex & the City 2’ (which actually teaches us a lot of useful lessons apart from the fact that the film has lost a lot of its original flavour that fans like). The former is about discovering new ways of living and working after an economic crisis. The latter is more about new ways of living as a family/view in social life which is really very different to what I know and what I believe in.From an Asian brought-up, European-educated Singaporean, all these appear to be really interesting and on my grounds perplexing. Thus seeing things differently. I might open a can of worms. But after much thought, I think I’d rather open the can of worms. It may be real benefit to share than to keep. So here’s a candid piece of uncensored opinion for everyone to read:

I often day dream about how  a society should be like. In my elfin’s perspective of a cute world, my very first idea is that great cities must be in an optimal state. That optimal state must bear a few chief fundamentals, from namely a low crime rate;  sustainable economy with little or no national debt, a high domestic income without an over reliance on credit facilities of any kind; to low cost of living that yet supports a  high quality of living. Peace & safety within the nation & with other nations and multicultural/ multiethnicity societies are placed high on my ideals of a fine sustainable city.The ability to assimilate and tolerate different ideas without conflict should always be on anyone’s top priority list.

Values may be different and they carry different ideas to point into various solutions. Hence different cities. Some values are controversial. An example would be Confucian values. Confucian values may not be as palatable in the west for many reasons. But Confucian values have merits in where a high sense of order can be achieved through respect in various levels of relationship. No value system is perfect, but what we could really learn is to pick out the best of various worlds and make it our own. Western values value individualism and liberty, which opens minds out for aggressive & quick execution. The values show in the way we live and the way we see the world and the universe. In any way. culturally we are different and by different cultures we can also see different flaws and merits clearer in others to improve our own. The  economic downturn has not only effected the US but almost every nation felt the shock. Should Americans move to a rental society? I think to a certain extent, his ideas and solutions to the problem is valid. But I was wondering for those who start off renting & get mobile. Would this may well increase the income gap between owners and renters? And thus struck up another eminent problem?

Circumstances may need to put in order. On the other hand, I am thinking how long and how values will effect the quality of thinking and creativity that is required to grow as an innovative city. From a Singaporean perspective, will we be great as a tiny dot on the equator in another 10 years time ? Dependent on several factors.

Afterall, creativity involves finding ways to improve or create ways that have never existed before; and this particular skill cannot be taught. It can only be experienced.

More on this episode later.