|There's a fascinating variety of wheeled transport in Saigon, human as well as gasoline-powered. The amount of stuff that gets moved around the city per calories of human energy or gallons of fuel is unbelievably economical. I'd sit in cafes and be endlessly amused at the ingenuity of transport. Twice I've seen five people on one motorcycle (mom, dad, 3 kids). Several people told me they've spotted six people on one moto. Think of the fuel consumption comparison between that and the American one parent and two kids in an SUV. I just ran across a wonderful photo book by Hans Kemp called Bikes of Burden (A Tribute to the Motorcycles and Drivers as the Backbone of the Vietnamese Economy). It's a high quality photo book and is $40:
|The beach resort of Mui Ne, about 100 miles north of Saigon, has a lot of nicely-designed bamboo-roofed structures. At left is the interior of a hyperbolic paraboloid bamboo shop; at right is the Gecko restaurant.
Above and below: The Bo Resort on Ong Lang beach, on Phu Quoc island, which is off the coast of southwest Vietnam in the Gulf of Thailand. These bamboo cabins were $15 a night. Swimming (night as well as day) was great, there's a great restaurant down on the beach. The cabins were designed by Marie (Mrs. Tran Thi Duy My) and she and her husband, Frenchman Régis own and run the resort.
I better stop with the pix. I could go on and on, just from this trip. I didn't even get to my trip to Laos and going up the Mekong in a boat to see the Pak Ou caves with their 4000 Buddhas and visiting silk weaving villages and rice whiskey distilleries along the river bank. More later...
Very Together Builders' Website
This is a great website for builders, and also for designers and architects, put together by experienced architect John Raabe: http://www.countryplans.com. It has excellent architectural plans for small buildings at low cost. For example, $50 for full plans for building three small houses (10x14, 12x18 and 14x24): http://www.jshow.com/y2k/listings/29.html. There is a great forum on indigenous building with info, ideas, and pictures.
Tiny Houses Website
Kevin Kelly turned us on to this website. It has photographs of tiny houses and cabins: http://www.tinyhouses.net/directory.html. This does not seem to be related to Lester Walker's excellent book Tiny Houses Or How To Get Away From It All, which includes drawings of each house: http://www.overlookpress.com/design/tiny.shtml
Beautiful poster of the alphabet rendered by butterfly wings:
Believe it or not these letters are all sections of butterfly wings. $18.00 from http://www.butterflyalphabet.com
Is this stuff good! I like it better than sugar or honey, and it's pure. It's nectar of the Nopal (prickly pear) cactus. Good in coffee, on cereal, toast, yogurt, etc. You can get it in quantity (3 flavors, from light to dark [the latter molasses-flavored]) from: http://www.sweetcactusfarms.com. Or you can probably find it or other brands in Whole Foods or other natural food stores.
Fleetwod Mac's Blues Phase
||I heard a hot rendition of an Ellmore James song on the radio recently and tracked it down to an album cut by Fleetwood Mac in their earliest incarnation, in 1969. It was an all-boys band then, and they paid tribute to the blues roots of their music by assembling a bunch of the best black blues musicians in Chicago (Buddy Guy, Otis Spann, J. T. Brown, Willy Dixon, Honeyboy Edwards) and in 2 days they put together 2 remarkable albums. Rough and raw in places, but an amazing collaboration, with stunning performances of real blues by these young Brits, as well as inspired songs by the black Chicago bluesmen. Blues Jam in Chicago, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2.
Killer Bee Guy
||This beekeeper, Reed Booth, has a shop in Bisbee, Arizona. He actually seeks out killer bees and raises them. He says they produce more honey than any other bees. He's written a great book: Confessions of the Killer Bee Guy, has a cool website, and sells honey butter, honey mustard, and killer bee pollen: http://www.killerbeeguy.com
Google Satellite Maps
Google has a little-known satellite mapping feature. You can get to it either by going to http://maps.google.com/maps or by clicking on the asterisk-looking icon (next to the red book for dictionary search) under the URL. Type in the location and once it comes up, you can enlarge or decrease size and drag around the location with your mouse. You can ask it to find businesses ("hotels near LAX," or "pizza"), or get directions ("jfk to 375 w. 72nd st., new york").
I learned about these shirts via Stewart Brand in Cool Tools a while back. They have large pockets underneath the regular pockets, with velcro closures -- perfect for passport, visa, and airline tickets when doing the endless gavottes at airports. When I need to go light, it's the one long-sleeve shirt I take. Then when I start roaming I keep a small digital camera, reporters notebook, glasses, etc. handy and reachable in the pockets. It's nylon and has a breathable vent in the back. $59.99. www.ActionWear.com
1. Royal Robbins, 1-800-587-9044, has a lighter polyester version of this shirt but for some reason it's not listed on their website. This shirt is what I take to the tropics.
2. I've mentioned Kevin Kelly's weekly Cool Tools email newsletter several times, but once again, it's the electronic Whole Earth Catalog, immensely useful in this day and age: http://www.kk.org/cooltools/.
7 Megapixel Canon PowerShot SD500 Digital ELPH
This looks to be a terrific little camera, the latest ultra compact from Canon. It fits in the palm of your hand and can shoot 3 megapixel images. About $450. I'll probably get one soon, to replace my 3-year old Fujifilm 4700. Here's a very thorough review of it:
The Tyranny of Email
It's very demanding. It's the first thing I do every morning. When I think about it, it sorta shapes my day. When a message is open it's expedient to reply right then. Emails invariably lead me into checking other things -- pulling out files, gathering data in order to reply. It's a hard habit to break. The immediacy of it is compelling. A few times lately I've forced myself to leave it unopened for a few days, say Monday and Tuesday. Whooo-eee! Let the good thoughts roll. It's really a different mindset to start the day (say, writing or doing layout) without first having to take care of the fucking email.
Hunter Thompson on the Rise and Fall of Triumph Over Evil
This seems so appropriate as we watch the Bush administration make all the wrong moves. 40 years ago we thought this kind of greedy, planet-destroying, short-sighted leadership was on its way out, but we were wrong. Way wrong. Thompson wrote this in 1971:
"There was madness in any direction, at any hour...You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning....
And that, I think, was the handle -- that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn't need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting -- on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave....
So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look west, and with the right kind of eyes, you can almost see the high-water mark -- that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back."
-Hunter Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
And to not end on such a sad note, we got a letter from Mr. L. V. of Palm Springs, California, who said "I love HOME WORK...it is definitely my absolutely favorite building oriented publication..." Attached to his letter was a handwritten sheet that said:
Do Not Have-Do Not Want-Do Not Need - Can't Use:
1. Telephone or cell phone
2. TV cable or satellite dish
3. Computer-have no idea how to use one
4. Fax machine. Why?
5. Microwave - Never
6. Credit Cards - Cash/money order only
7. ATM card - Never used but have one
8. Library card - Have my own library w/reference books too
9. California State I.D. card
10. Any kind of insurance - no money
11. No newspapers - read a neighbor's
No Debts/Worries/Problems/Obligations/Concerns/Lacking Anything
Happy/Satisfied/Contented/Pleased/Financially secure/Emotionally, Mentally, psychologically damn well off/Always pay with cash or money order/"Never Cheques"/"Never Fly" or travel
And lastly: I'm going to try blogging from my trip to Vermont and New York City at the end of May. I'm excited about going to New York, it's been about 3 years. As soon as I cross the river on the way in from one of the airports (this time La Guardia), my pulse starts racing. I love the place! It always grabs me and sends me off in new directions.
I should have some new blog-stuff up by early June: