Emergency, This Way Please

Two years ago my friend was diagnosed with breast cancer, she is Farah's best friend and business partner. I feel we all got diagnosed with cancer.

We were with her at the hospital today for an emergency check up, and while wandering in the cold waiting area that is furnished in bright hues of beiges and sand leather and beach wood, I walked up to the randomly placed water cooler, right behind where the door handle would hit if the door is wide open, and above it was an architectural floor plan of the hospital floor we were on highlighting emergency exits. I would think the only time anyone would give it any attention is when they're waiting for the cooler to fill their little flimsy plastic cups with water. The layout read poorly. I imagined the person who was tasked with getting this done, I imagined them thinking that an architectural layout was to be printed with a green generic exit sign placed on top of the emergency exits, a thing only required by the municipality and the ministry of health. After initially noticing very poor lineweight rendering the drawing non-readable, my eyes adjusted and I spent about two minutes trying to figure out where I was in that floor plan, after that I lost interest and went back to my chair.

As an escape from my temporary extreme discomfort, I was thinking of that layout and how patients and visitors would read it and what would they do in case of a tragic situation. In cases of emergency, we behave very much like primates, we panic, we kick into survival mode, very few people rationalize the best possible solution in very little time, and when it comes time to execute the rapid contingency plan their mind came up with, it is contrasted by the irrational chaos. In these cases, who wants to spend three minutes when they see and smell smoke looking at a flat architectural layout? I believe a group of instructions that are communicated graphically in an innovative way would instruct us immediately how to behave. Text is such a powerful tool sometimes, and a word in that moment would speak louder than a thousand images. While architectural drawings best reflect the spatial dimension, the reality of an emergency is very different from the reality where that layout was produced.

These realities have to be analysed carefully by an authority or a governmental body charged with assessing the graphical communication in public spaces, billboards on roads, schools classrooms, fire emergency staircases, tunnels and pedestrian crossings. Who would want to read fine print on an ad placed on a billboard on a highway? Who is to blame in case of bad emergency measures?

Red Spot

Juno has returned a super high-detail photo of the famous red spot on Jupiter. Three earths would fit in this swirl.

PHOTO: NASA

Analogue Simulation

Could it be that rather than living in a digital simulation, that we're actually living in an analogue simulation? 

Misophonia

Some people believe I have OCD, I always joke that I'm still two steps away. It's been years since I started using this line, I don't know if I've surpassed those two steps yet, does aligning my monitors at the office (and sometimes others, if I like them) using a ruler qualify for OCD? Does keeping the pens in a pencil case pointing in the same direction put me in the OCD group? An ex-colleague once told me that he thinks that I like to think that I have OCD, which I know is true. Not because I pretend, it's because I think it's part of who I am. I am (almost) obsessive compulsive and I really don't care what he or others think.

Misophonia is a different story. If you don't know what 'Misophonia' is, simply put it is the hatred of hearing certain sounds, especially produced by certain people or sources. A lot of people would hate to hear nail scratching on a board, that's not Misophonia, that's the visualisation of pain associated by imagining the nails ripped off by the friction. A misophoniac would hate to hear, as an example, the specific sound of feet tapping on the floor in a nervous tick, or the sound of chewing gum, my friend once failed an exam because the girl behind her was chewing gum and she could not ignore the existence of that sound, and she chose not to endure it by leaving an exam she was perfectly capable of passing.

I have noticed that my hatred of sounds has increased a lot over the years, the first sound I ever hated was the sound my roommate made when he ate, neighbours could hear him to say the least and I hated sitting for a meal with him, and I did hate meals in general for a while because that's all I could think of even if he wasn't around, I would anticipate others slurping or smacking away. I didn't mind him, I minded the sound, so much.

It grew from a sound many people hated to very specific sounds that I could pinpoint, and the list is growing by the day. I remember I was once sitting at a desk for few weeks in the office and the water cooler was nearby, and I would watch colleagues approach carrying their glasses and empty bottles to fill them from the damn cooler, and I would anticipate the fragile sound, the rise in pitch, the sound of drops hitting drops producing a sound that annoyed me to a point that I started hating that water cooler and its place in the office.

It could be that some of these sounds are linked in my brain with the person that originated them, although I doubt in the case of the water cooler because I didn't know who was filling their glass, i just knew somebody was causing me grief. However, in some cases I know it is the person who makes the noises that "triggers" my hatred of that sound.

The sounds of delicious keyboard clicks is a very happy sound for me. I grew up in the culture of the turning point to being familiar with "PC"s in homes, and the first machine we had was an ugly looking piece of shit that ran on DOS, I still remember wanting a Macintosh and wanting to go in that shop that had the glowing "rainbow" Apple logo the night we went to buy the computer, that was end of 1980s or 1990. The sounds of some quality keyboards of that era are still amazing, the thickness of plastic that muffles the mechanisms underneath every key, the kind of plastic, the mechanisms, I don't know what it is, I just know I would love to have a vintage keyboard with delicious clicks with the command button, or a keyboard from the future that produces zero clicks. For some time in that office, I endured a colleague who came in early like me and unleashed her email replies early in the morning, to my misfortune, her keyboard was a cheap specimen that had horrible nasty loud clicks, and she wasn't delicate at all when she typed, I hated her in the morning although she was a very nice person.

The letter "S" is a very sensitive letter to pronounce, some people pronounce it with a delicious lisp that takes away the edge of it, or the "icepick", some don't have the lisp but it comes out so naturally that you would want to hear them talk because of the clarity with which they say the word "superfluous" or "myself" or "sky". Few have what in my head sounds like the chirping of an insect or the sound of high pitch bird chick, and I imagine them marvelling at how well they can make their "S"s whistle and I hate them and the letter S even more. One of those engaged in a phone conversation is enough to drive me out of a building mid-day in July, in Dubai. Can't they just say S without the high pitch dog whistle?

Parallel Projection

I was listening to few recordings that I did over the last few months and there was one which I enjoyed listening to and thought I should share it with others. I do a lot of atmospheric ambient sounds because I play alone and it's not always the case where I'm focused. Sometimes, I just want to repeat two notes that decay, the sound of decay is just wonderful. I will post something later about "Decay" that Farah did, a series of photographs, and something by me as an entree. All in due time.

I decided to name the piece "Parallel Projection", if you could make up the similarities and the reasoning that would be interesting.

What's The Deal With Safa Park?

Safa park in Dubai is one of the old parks like Khazzan park and Jumeira. There's been a bit of a hype around it lately because of the canal project. Dubai Water Canal, as they've branded it, introduced a water canal that runs through the park and completed the loop of Dubai's creek by linking its end to the sea. The creek previously terminated at Ras Al Khor, which is currently a wildlife sanctuary consisting of mangroves and the whole ecosystem that they support. The effect this project will have on the sanctuary is to be found out.

Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary. PHOTO: Mario Guarneros

I'm particularly interested in Safa Park. Some of you who know me know that I'm quite interested in matters of land use and population growth. In fact, I wanted to write my ongoing thesis on a land use planning problem, however that did not materialise so I turned my attention to another problem in this part of the world which is public realm protection.

In a lot of places in the world with strict municipal mechanisms and public integration, dealing with public realm can be a very grueling and a long process. Projects have to be made public and the public gets to participate in deciding the fate of those projects. Some of them never see the light of day and some make it after years of lobbying and negotiation and charrettes and focus groups trying to make everybody happy. In this part of the world, the public is a kind welcoming public, one who believes in the wisdom of the government, they entrust them with the fate of their lives and the lives of their children and their children, and the fate of their cities. The Safa park project was made public in 2012, the canal project, previously called Arabian Canal, was being masterplanned in the quiet as early as 2003.

First, what's the deal with Safa Park? What is happening?

PHOTO: Source and Source

This is how Safa Park looked like before 2014. When I started working at Woods Bagot, the office was a 5-minute walk from Safa Park and I used to park my car under the trees edging it, free parking spaces on the perimeter of the park. A few months in and the trees were getting chopped, orange cones were blocking off the free parking spaces, I used to park in one particular space everyday where the curb on the pavement was slightly bulged because of the tree's roots. That's how old the place was, you don't see curbs bulge because of trees much in Dubai.

The park is (strike that) was 1.2 kilometers long and 600 meters wide. The southern short side is border by Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai's arterial main road, Golden Avenue in marketing lingo. The district it's in is called Al Wasl, adjacent to the Jumeira district which is Dubai's beach ultra posh neighborhood, white villas with tall palm trees is what comes to mind. Around Safa Park, a recent development by Wasl (Wasl Asset Management Group) is Wasl Square, right opposite the park on Wasl Road providing attached townhouses and low-rise residential apartment buildings on top of active retail frontages buffering both Wasl road and Al Hadiqa Street (translating to the Park street, formerly known as Safa street). When the canal project was announced there was a whole lot of infrastructure work to accompany the drastic changes the canal would cause, the Sheikh Zayed Road bridges were what a lot of people who pass by there on their route to work would notice, and the construction pace was unprecedented, they lifted a 75-meter 16-lane highway in months. Another bridge was on Wasl Road which as it went up the retail frontage on Hadeeqa Street suffered a reduction on pedestrian and motorised traffic. According to few shops there that I asked, traffic on their shops went down by 80%, some shops already shut down.

From a commercial point of view one would believe it's a bold project. It will activate water transport in Dubai in a way seen in many great cities where one can get on a boat from Business Bay and cruise down to Deira, retail shops and land value will soar on the banks of the new waterfront, hotels, apartments, villas, new bridges, everybody will benefit. The part of the project my thesis is concerned with is Safa Park, and I think from an academic point of view, everybody won except for one loser which is 'Public Space'.

I could be wrong.

Farewell Rosetta

This is the last photo we will see from Rosetta, taken from only 20 meters above the surface of comet 67P on its way to crash land into the duck. 

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PHOTO: ESA

Black Hole Cleaner

I have this idea, it's called the Black Hole Cleaner. It's doable, and it's going to be big. It sounds stupid and impossible now but my optimistic side is positive this is going to be a reality soon, maybe in a few thousand years.

Now, the concept is a simple one. Basically, what we need to do is to create a small black hole that exists under our control, then use the power of this black hole to do the cleaning for us. It is not far fetched, the vacuum cleaner similarly harnesses a physical condition that is embedded in the rules of the universe we occupy which is rejection of vacuum. It basically pushes out the air in a compartment, creating a vacuum, which has to be replaced by air that carries whatever we need to sit inside the cleaner rather than our floors.

My idea is to create an automatic cleaner in the form of a timid black hole that you just release around the house, and it would gently suck out whatever needs not to be there. When done, a simple tap on a screen would kill its singularity and whatever atoms became one with it.