A house for all seasons in a changing Chinese village

China has set itself the goal of transforming half of its rural population of 700 million people into productive, comfortable members of urban conglomerations in the next three decades. Thus far, the process has moved along with a great deal of work for civil and mechanical engineers and the construction industry, but very little role for architects in the generically styled concrete and brick urban buildings. Award-winning architect at the University of Hong Kong John Lin and his associates believe that this process of urbanization also calls for a flexible approach to house design in rural areas.

…Lin’s recently completed project looks at the role of the stereotypic village house and attempts to propose a prototype which reaches toward contemporary living styles while respecting the functionality and traditions of the past.

The project won the prestigious Architectural Review House award for 2012

Rural life in China is centered around the domestic courtyard, where much of daily life takes place. Most of a village’s open space is within the walls of the houses, which tends to turn most social customs and rituals inward. The courtyards of a house are designed to be supportive of the activities taking place in the nearest rooms, setting up a relationship that is visual and functional. Basically, the house is designed around the courtyards…

The history of many countries teaches that the process of rural development favors the destruction and abandonment of the traditional in favor of the new, often at a rate that makes the rural population uneasy and insecure. The Shijia Village Houses reflect an attempt to bridge between the two extremes and preserve the intelligence and experience embedded in the use of local materials and techniques.

Functionality, adaptation of the old to new use, simple and cost-efficient, the best of modern architecture serves needs as old as collective society has ever been – and will be – even as regional and national economy changes.

Teen dies after abortion ban delays her chemo for leukemia – exactly the result desired by creeps like Paul Ryan

The mother of a pregnant leukemia patient who died after her chemotherapy was delayed over anti- abortion laws is accusing doctors of not putting her daughter’s health first.

The 16-year-old’s plight attracted worldwide attention after she had to wait for chemotherapy because of an abortion ban in the Dominican Republic.

Doctors were hesitant to give her chemotherapy because such treatment could terminate the pregnancy — a violation of the Dominican Constitution, which bans abortion. Some 20 days after she was admitted to the hospital, she finally started receiving treatment.

She died Friday, a hospital official said.

At the time the treatment started, Rosa Hernandez, the girl’s mother, said she tried to convince doctors and the Dominican government to make an exception so that her daughter’s life could be saved.

“My daughter’s life is first. I know that (abortion) is a sin and that it goes against the law … but my daughter’s health is first,” Hernandez said…

“They have killed me, I’m dead, dead. I’m nothing,” her mother said. ” She was the reason for my existence. I no longer live. Rosa has died. Let the world know that Rosa is dead.”

The patient was 13 weeks pregnant.

Exactly the kind of outcome required by religious nutballs whose blather about life never includes resistance to war, opposition to capital punishment – and especially important in a case like this one – the right of a woman to choose to save her own life.

I have nothing but contempt for these superstitious hypocrites. They lie to themselves, the world and their own children. They reject science and the ever-expanding history of individual liberty.

Theocrats haven’t the right under any modern democratic constitution to force their beliefs and practices upon everyone else in the nation. Paul Ryan doesn’t accept that. He wants you and me and everyone in the United States to obey his religion.

Green cremation open for business in Minnesota

A Scottish company has installed its second “Resomation” machine, in the US state of Minnesota…The new facility in Stillwater, Minnesota, has already processed the remains of 20 individuals.

Resomation involves the dissolution of the deceased in an alkaline solution, and is billed in the US as “green cremation” or “flameless cremation”.

A first machine was installed in Florida last year, and has been used on 10 bodies to date.

Sandy Sullivan, chief executive officer of Resomation Ltd, said the machine was running very efficiently after some fine-tuning…”We’ve developed the process to a stage where it’s running very well. I’m happy with where it is,” he told BBC News.

“There has been refinement in software changes and pipe work changes to make it quieter and things like that, but the machine is running very smoothly.”

Resomation involves the heating of the remains at some 300C in a pressurised vessel containing a potassium hydroxide solution…The process takes around three hours and reduces the body to skeletal remains which are processed into a white powder which can be given to the family, like ash from crematoria…

Its makers claim it produces a third less greenhouse gas than cremation, uses a seventh of the energy, and allows for the complete separation of dental amalgam for safe disposal.

Mercury from amalgam vaporised in crematoria is blamed for a proportion of airborne mercury emissions worldwide.

If they can keep the cost comparable to or below conventional cremation, I’m all for the idea. Though I live in a county which permits home burial and I may end up someday tucked away in a burlap sack out in the back meadow.

Tampa abandons efforts to evict Romneyville protesters


Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Protesters who have set up a camp dubbed “Romneyville” in a restricted area near the site where the Republican National Convention will be held later this month in Tampa can stop worrying about being evicted.

City council members agreed on Thursday to abandon their efforts to look into potential violations of land-use laws or other ordinances with a view to evicting the protesters from the restricted so-called event zone near the convention site.

City officials told the council that they had issued zoning violation notices to some property owners two days earlier, warning that camping and tents on the site were not permitted.

But the property owners have 21 days to act, meaning that any actual evictions would not occur before the August 27-30 Republican presidential nominating convention is over.

In addition to the “Romneyville” camp, the city council ruling affects a West Tampa private park outside the event zone where members of the Occupy Tampa protest movement had been expected to camp out during the convention…

Occupy Tampa member Heidi Halsworth told the council the park would only be used as a base for protesters to get water, food or information, however, and that only several hundred demonstrators would be there at any one time.

“Romneyville” is a play on the term “Hooverville,” the popular name for shantytowns built by homeless people during the Great Depression. They were named after President Herbert Hoover because he was widely blamed for letting the nation slide into depression.

As we all know, today’s Republican Party is run by ideologues whose understanding of history, economics and society are roughly up to the 1920’s and Herbert Hoover – at best.

Google buys newspaper ad to show that newspaper ads don’t work

Here’s a nice bit of multi-faceted irony for you: On Thursday, Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper ran a print ad for Google’s (directly competitive) search advertising business.

You know who needs a haircut? People searching for a haircut,” the ad reads. “Maybe that’s why ads on Google work.”

The ad was tweeted by media reporter Steve Ladurantaye with the caption, “An ad for Google ads in today’s Globe demonstrates the value of print ads, yes?”

Google’s ad ran in both the Globe‘s print and digital editions, as well as in the National Post, the Globe‘s main competitor, Ladurantaye tells us.

Impolite, funny, probably overdue.

Blackpool junkie dies from heroin infected with anthrax

A drug user has died after being infected with anthrax, health experts said…The Health Protection Agency said that a person who injected drugs died in hospital in Blackpool.

The news comes after a spate of cases in Europe since early June. The HPA said the source of the infection is presumed to be contaminated heroin.

The HPA said it is “unclear” whether the case in Blackpool and another case in Scotland – which was confirmed at the end of July – are linked to the European outbreak…

Dr Dilys Morgan…said: “Anthrax can be cured with antibiotics, if treatment is started early. It is therefore important for medical professionals to know the signs and symptoms to look for, so that there are no delays in providing the necessary treatment.”

Since June there have been seven confirmed cases of the infection – one in Scotland, three in Germany, two in Denmark, and one in France.

These are the first cases of anthrax among drug users in Europe since the outbreak during 2009 and 2010. That outbreak saw 119 cases in Scotland, five cases in England and two cases in Germany.

Although the two outbreaks have not officially been linked, European health experts say that the recent cases could have come from the same batch of contaminated heroin in the 2009 to 2010 outbreak.

Phew! I don’t have a lot of sympathy for junkies. I’ve known a sufficient number of them in my lifetime.

But, catching something as nasty as anthrax from smack – proves there can be something worse than being an addict.