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Monday, March 10, 2008

5 Floating Utopia and Ocean City Projects: From Seafaring Condos to Oceanic Micronations

Who hasn’t imagined living on their very own floating paradise? For those aboard ResidenSea, a permanent ocean-going residence, this dream is at least a partial reality. Freedom Ship (upon its completion) will take floating cities to a new level and if the Living Universe Foundation has its way the oceans will just be a first stop on the humanity’s path to the stars. This collection is roughly sequenced from most practical (but also most mundane) to most extraordinary (but also least plausible)!

ResidenSea is a (perhaps unsurprisingly) Florida-based company that manages the world’s only mobile and full-time floating luxury community called The World. Think of this as a cruise ship - but on serious steroids. While this project doesn’t claim micronational status it is essentially completely independent of any location. Prices are predictably high, ranging from 2.5 to 7.5 million dollars to own on-board condo spaces. Activities and amenities on board include swimming pools, restaurants, tennis courts, a library, health spa, fitness center and even golf greens. Sure, it sounds a lot like a cruise ship, but it is also a full-time residence (and even tax haven) for many on-board owners. Still, if it isn’t exciting enough, the Freedom Ship (next paragraph) sure should be.
The Freedom Ship project is a serious step up from ResidenSea but also unbuilt as of yet, though 1/5 of the on-board living units have already been sold. The concept? A mile-long, energy self-sufficient floating city with absolutely everything included from parks and playgrounds to apartments, businesses, schools, casinos and shopping malls. It will also be fully networked for phone and internet communications. Rather than docking, aircraft will land to resupply the ship and deposit and pick up residents. At 25 stories high the ship would accommodate 40,000 full-time residents and 60,000 total occupants. More than a floating paradise this is designed to be a fully functioning and essentially autonomous city of relatively uniform architecture. Though funding is still needed, signs still point to the eventual completion of this ocean-going wonderland.
The Living Universe Foundation is a strange organization dedicated to the long-term colonization of the galaxy. In the long term, they envision humans tapping into the vast natural resources outside of planet Earth - from the sun’s energy (of which we get only a tiny fraction of course) to vast mineral deposits on nearby asteroids. In the short term, however, they believe that a series of self-sufficient, semi-autonomous ocean-going cities are the first step on this eight-step journey to galactic conquest. What are to start as sea-faring colonies would form the basis for future space journeys as these semi-independent enclaves could then be transported to the stars as units. Power would be generated by taking advantage of the temperature differentials at the water’s surface versus the deeps. The sea-borne populations would subsist on sea life and tourist trade and the urban design (shown above) would be based in part on managing water navigational issues. The first step in this project? Apparently, the foundation has started with a land-based colony in Texas with one resident in a trailer.
The Celestopia Project is a broad-scoped attempt at colonizing the Earth’s oceans one settlement at a time. According to one source, Celestopean Elemental Separators will (apparently) allow them to mine the ocean’s waters for not only “hydrogen and oxygen” but also for “platinum and gold.” Their more moderate homepage suggests they will use Thermal Energy Converters (OTECs) to harvest power from temperature differentials in the ocean. Life on these oceanic colonies will involve age-extending health practices and domed residences that will be resistant to the forces of nature. Each such floating city will be designed to house 5,000 to 10,000 people and these will slowly cover the surfaces of all of the Earth’s oceans.
So where did this all start? As with many present utopian ideals and building strategies a surprising number of philosophical ideas, building strategies and ecological approaches embodied in the aforementioned floating utopian concepts date back to the famous environmentalist, scientist, designer, philosopher and visionary Buckminster Fuller. In the 1960s he developed a design for something known as Triton City which was to be a floating place of residence for up to 5,000 inhabitants and designed to be resistant to tsunamis and other natural forces that floating cities might encounter on the water. Somewhat amazingly, these designs were approved by the Navy as well as the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the United States. In fact, Baltimore even planned at one point to construct one of these and install it in Chesapeake Bay until governments changed and plans fell through. Many thanks to James Lee of SeaStead.org and be sure to check out these awesome boats and ships as well as this compelling prequel to this post for more strange and remote utopian projects: 3 of the World’s Weirdest Micronations.

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The Virtuous Life: Silence


This is the second in a series of posts about living the virtuous life like Benjamin Franklin.

Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; Avoid trifling Conversation.

Clearly, Ben was not referring to monastic solitude when he presented silence as a virtue. Instead, he had in mind the ability of knowing the appropriate time and words to speak. A gentlemen has always been judged by his manner of speech, yet our modern age presents a host of difficulties in this area that Franklin never faced.

Whether because of selfishness or simple ignorance, many men are drowning as they attempt to navigate the waters of proper communication. Here are four areas in life where men can apply the virtue of silence and make the world a bit more enjoyable for everyone.

The Cell Phone

Applying the virtue of silence with your cell phone

Much of our conversations now take place over the ever ubiquitous cell phone. Just as World War I was especially bloody because the technology in artillery had progressed faster than the development of new military tactics, so too cell phone usage is an unmannered minefield because cell phone etiquette has not kept pace with growth. But cell phone etiquette is an excellent way to show you are a well-mannered gent. Here are some rules to obey:

1. Don’t talk on your cell phone when you have a captive audience.

Remember in high school when you and your friends drove around yelling and laughing and blasting your music? You thought you were the coolest people to ever exist. Then when you reached your 20’s, you saw those same high schoolers and thought “what a bunch of jackasses.” Things always seem far more acceptable when you are the one doing it. This must be why people have loud and obnoxious conversations despite the fact that other people are trapped in proximity to them. Just remember when you are tempted to do this: you’ve seen that guy; don’t be that guy.

2. Don’t talk or answer your cell phone while talking to ANYONE in person.

Don’t answer your phone while holding a conversation with an actual human being. There are no exceptions to this rule. Think about it: if you were at a party conversing with a friend, and someone else walked up, would you immediately cut off the conversation with the first friend and abruptly turn your attention to the new person? Well maybe you would, but you’re probably a tool.

3. Don’t use your phone in any place in which people expect a certain atmosphere.

There are certain situations in which people expect a respectful quiet to prevail. A cell phone should not burst this bubble of ambience. Thus, you should never use your cell phone at funerals, weddings, classes, church services, movies, plays, museums, ect. By even allowing your cell phone to ring, never mind speaking into it, you announce to the world that your conversation is more important that the ruminations of everyone else in the room. It is the height of arrogance. People will protest that their calls are very important. To which I say, what did people do in the 90’s?? For that matter, what did people do for almost the entirety of human existence? Somehow our ancestors kept on living. You will too.

It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt. ~ Mark Twain

Customer Service

Today men are often pressed for time, stressed, and subject to daily annoyances. These frustrations are then frequently taken out on those in the service industry. Often made to feel like peons in their normal lives, these men see their interactions with people in the service industry as an opportunity to finally be treated like a king and boss someone around.

Applying the virtue of silence with customer service

1. Don’t unload your anger on those who are not at fault for your problem.

Uncouth is the man who takes out his frustrations on whoever is in closest proximity whether it is their fault or not. This guy will yell at the waiter if there is a hair in is food. He will yell at the computer support representative because his computer crashed. He will yell at the person at the airline ticket counter because he was late and the plane didn’t wait for him. Save your indignation for the the real cause of your problem, especially if that person is you.

2. Don’t talk on your cell phone while simultaneously talking to someone serving you.

Some people will talk on their cell phone while they place their order and pay for it. These people believe that the person running the register is just an automaton designed to do their bidding, and thus they need only devote ¼ of their attention to addressing this robot. They also believe the person they are talking to on the phone doesn’t mind being ignored periodically. They are wrong on both counts.

3. Have a little patience

In Italy, people linger over their dinner for hours as several courses are slowly brought out. In America, men blow their top when their blooming onion appetizer comes out 5 minutes too late. And they act like their grandma died if their burger has been topped with the wrong cheese. These men believe that paying $8.00 for a meal entitles them to be king for a day. They are in serious need of some perspective.

4. Err on the side of understanding

Before you berate someone for what you believe is sub par service, take a moment to put yourself in their shoes. Is your waiter slow in bringing out your order? His section probably just got slammed, some kid knocked over his soda on the floor, and one of the cooks called in sick. He may well be doing the best he can. We never fully know what happens behind the scenes of people’s lives. The cranky woman making your coffee was just served with divorce papers. The scatter brained woman checking out your groceries is having trouble concentrating because her child is sick in the hospital. You never know the whole story. So cut these people some slack.

Do not speak unless you can improve the silence.

The Internet

The beauty of the internet is that it allows free flowing communication in an unprecedented way. Yet this also means that communication on the internet is not subject to the same rules of etiquette that apply to public life. Extreme crassness and incivility plague forums and blogs. It’s as if there is a competition on who can come up with the most shocking and caustic thing to say. This severe form of incivility creates an environment of hostility that hinders productive dialogue and debate.

Applying the virtue of silence on the internet

1. Never say something to a stranger on the internet that you would not say to a stranger in person.

The internet provides a cloak of anonymity behind which people feel free to say whatever they want. Yet the words which we both write and speak are our creations. We must take ownership for them. Never write something you would not be proud to have attached with your real name. Before you hit “Send” in an email or a blog comment, stop and ask yourself: “Would I use these words if this person was standing right in front of me?” If not, reword your communication. Just taking the time to think before you publish something on the web can help increase the amount of civility on the net.

2. Don’t attack people personally

Certainly here at AoM, and on the internet in general, you are free to disagree with the ideas of others. But do not personally attack the people behind those ideas. Many a blog user will make a valid comment only to end with “You’re an idiot!” And some will dispense with the valid argument part altogether. Using personal attacks adds nothing to the conversation and only shows that you do not have anything insightful or intelligent to offer.

3. Don’t just debunk things

Here on the internet postmodern deconstruction is alive and well. Many an internet user’s energy is devoted to poking holes in every idea that crosses their path. But cynicism is easy. Chronic debunkers don’t do any of the hard work it takes to create something, yet they barely lift a finger to tear things down. Digg users are notorious for this. There could be a post about a man saving a bus load of lavender smelling babies from a river and some digg user would find a way to make a snide, caustic comment about it. There’s nothing wrong with criticism, but be constructive with your criticism. If you have nothing substantive to add to the conversation, it is better to be silent.

4. Stop the excessive vulgarity

Nothing shows a juvenile mentality and a lack of class like excessive vulgarity. While salty language has been on the rise in normal conversation as well, the proliferation of profanity on the internet is excessive. Because of the information glut on the internet, men feel they must pepper their comments with over the top language to keep them from being lost in the shuffle. But if such additions are needed to get attention, you clearly did not have anything meaningful to say in the first place. Before you publish a comment with the F-bomb used as every other word, try to find another, more respectful way to say it.

Original here

Girls and young woman are now the most prolific web users

The internet began as an almost exclusively male preserve. Now young women, from primary school age upwards, are now making it their own


When 12-year-old Clover Reshad gets home from school, she will have something to eat and say hello to her dog Hector. She might shout at her annoying brother and watch some television, then she will head upstairs to her bedroom to do her homework. This is when the computer goes on.

“I use the computer a lot. At least a couple of days a week to help with my homework and I keep an eye on [the social networking sites] Bebo and Facebook every day to see who’s on it,” she said. “I’ll check shops to see if I can buy things I want cheaper online or to make sure they have something in my size.

“I MSN [instant message] my friends. The computer also makes it easy to stay in touch with my dad because he lives in Los Angeles.”

Reshad sees her activity as no different from using a mobile phone or television. It is intrinsic to her life and friendships. “There are a few girls at school who don’t use Bebo and Facebook but it’s not because they don’t want to - it’s because their parents won’t let them,” she said. “I do feel sorry for them.”

Reshad’s activity in her bedroom in Godalming, Surrey, echoes that of millions of girls around the world. New research suggests it is time to rethink the stereotypical net user as a pasty-faced male geek in Joe 90 specs, or the furtive spotty teen looking for zeppelin breasts online. The most prolific net users are now girls and young women.

A recent study by the Pew Internet Project in America on teens in social media found that blogging growth among teenagers is almost entirely fuelled by girls, whom it describe as a new breed of “super-communicators”. Some 35% of girls, compared with 20% of boys, have blogs; 32% of girls have their own websites, against 22% of boys.

Girls have embraced social networking sites on a massive scale, with 70% of American girls aged 15-17 having built and regularly worked on a profile page on websites such as MySpace, Bebo and Facebook, as opposed to 57% of boys of the same age.

John Horrigan of the Pew Internet Project says these figures are likely to be echoed throughout the West. “The internet is a very expressive medium and you’re looking at times in a girl’s life when they are very socially expressive; the internet, and social networking particularly, enables that need,” he said.

Figures from the UK back up Horrigan’s hunch. A survey done by Hitwise, an internet research company, in January found that almost 55% of all British users of social networking websites were women. Similar research by Nielsen Online shows that women aged 18-24 account for 17% of all users of the social sites, while men in the same age group account for 12%.

What has caused a phenomenon that one academic has hailed as “the feminisation of the internet”? Are girls really the new cyberpioneers? THERE is widespread agreement that the prime driver behind the enthusiastic uptake of the internet by young girls is their desire to gossip. Activity that used to take place on the telephone, to the frustration of many parents who were often hit with painful phone bills, now happens online.

“If you look at young girls, they do more communicating than young boys and that’s what they are doing on the web,” said Professor Anthony White, a lecturer in the school of computing science at Middlesex University. “It’s just natural for them.”

Few would disagree. Yet to stereotype these girls’ activity as all gossip and fluff would be unfair.

Anna McCleary is the editor of Slink, the BBC’s popular website for 13 to 16-year-old girls which receives 1m hits a day. She is constantly surprised by what catches her readers’ attention.

“I don’t dare to assume anything about the girls that visit the site,” she said. “Their interests are amazingly diverse – from dinosaurs to the Foals [a popular indie band]. We’ve had 1,000 unsolicited responses to a piece on first-choice schools in the past three days alone.

“What I do know is that we are part of their real lives.”

In this there is an observable difference between the sexes. Even at 12 Reshad has noticed it.

“Girls use the internet for gossiping and finding things out about friends and people you know. Boys use it more for useful things like games,” she said.

Matthew Bagwell edits a website for girls called My Kinda Place and Monkey Slum, a similar magazine site aimed at teenage boys.

“Girls consume online very differently to boys,” he said. “Monkey Slum forums are just dead; on My Kinda Place the forums are extremely popular. Girls will browse, take a real journey around the site. Social networking has really captured a young female audience.

“I put this down to girls being open to communicating, having longer attention spans and more widespread interests. We have to be inventive and diverse in our female content. Boys are easier, they will download pictures from galleries, viral ads and videos, but they’re in and out again.”

Indeed, the YouTube phenomenon, where users share video material, is still used more by boys than girls – the Pew report found that they were twice as likely to post videos online.

Yet women are starting slowly to make inroads. One of the top 50 most popular contributors to YouTube is Bryony Matthewman, 24, the British artist and graphic designer who is better known to her millions of fans as Paperlilies. Her video sketches of impressions of damaged celebrity fodder such as Amy Winehouse and Britney Spears have brought a celebrated female face to the site.

“It is still quite awkward to admit to making videos online as a woman,” said Matthewman.

“People’s immediate thought of a girl in an online video is ‘porn!’ so it’s taking a while to get away from that stereotype.”

However, stereotypes are being thrown away every day in different digital areas. A recent poll by Game-Vision showed that 30% more women bought computer games in the six months to July 31, 2007, than in the same period in 2006. The survey also found that there were more female owners of Nin-tendo’s handheld DS console in the UK than men (54% against 46%).

Blogging used to be the preserve of men with obsessive interests in particular subjects, notably sport, cars and politics, but young women are increasingly entering this arena.

Kelly Needham, 21, a student in Newcastle, started posting her thoughts online in her teens. She said that for her, as for many other young women, the blog was a means of getting her opinions heard more easily. “It’s a way of publishing who you are. In the real world a lot of people are inhibited. They can be more confident online with their opinions,” she said.

“My personal blog gave me a lot more of a chance to express myself. It was the most freedom I ever had.” YET while they are becoming the primary consumers and producers of the internet world, young women are not yet translating this dominance into financial gains.

“The majority of people behind the web, who programme sites and create the new technologies, tend to be men for whatever reason,” said Matthewman. “Those are the people at the back end of the web, who control it and who stand to make money from it. More women may be using it now but they aren’t making the money from it.”

There are, of course, exceptions. In Britain, Martha Lane Fox, the co-founder of Lastminute.com, and Natalie Massenet, who set up the popular shopping site Net-a-Porter, have both become multi-million-aires through their web-savvyness. But many new internet opportunities in the current so-called Web 2.0 era require real IT expertise and in this area women still lag behind their male contemporaries.

Figures for female enrolment in IT degree courses remain low. While not as pitiful as admissions for engineering, in the 2005-6 academic year there were 75,360 British male home students on computing courses at university, compared with 23,370 women, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

This is a figure that depresses Sarah Blow, a 26-year-old software engineer who is better known for her popular Girly Geekdom website and blog.

“Even though both my parents worked in IT I was told to look at marketing and law by my school careers adviser,” she said. “[But] the message is slowly getting across to girls that the industry isn’t all about that clapped-out stereotype of geeky guys with glasses.”

Among the youngest girls there are signs that the message is working. A recent survey by Tesco, which has a voucher scheme to provide computers for schools, found that from as early as seven years old, girls are beating boys when it comes to using computers. The research found that 44% of girls aged 7-16 were able to create a networking profile on the internet compared with 35% of boys; and 52% of girls knew how to download photographs from the internet, compared with 44% of boys.

On the computer courses that he teaches at Middlesex University, White says that women are beginning to outperform men.

“In actual fact [the courses] are oriented towards what women like doing. They just don’t know that before they enrol. The last time I checked the figures, female students were doing better than men in the courses,” he said.

He also noted that the proportion of female student numbers was improving as well. “There would not have been any female students doing computing 20-30 years ago,” he said. WITH a new generation of young women who have grown up with computers these figures will surely continue to rise. Yet still there are entrenched attitudes to be overcome.

Back upstairs in Reshad’s bedroom she is giving her Bebo page another makeover and uploading more photographs for her father to check out in LA. She says she feels comfortable with technology.

“I understand a lot about computers because I spend a lot of time on them,” she said.

However, this does not translate into an ambition to generate the software that is so essential to her life: “Girls are creative, they are more into history, English and art – it’s the boys who are more into the techie things.”

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